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From Jonathan Cook 


Palestinians Need More Than Grudging Unity to Save Them
Jonathan Cook 

If You Want to Make Peace.....
Basam Derawi

If you want to make a cake, you whisk sugar with some butter, eggs, vanilla extract and milk. Then you add flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Mix it well and put it in an oven to bake until it becomes nice and fluffy.

Similarly, if you want to make peace, you need peaceful “ingredients.” The Israeli government always says, "We work for peace and push hard to achieve it." But let's stop for a minute and think of its peaceful ingredients: three wars, a blockade of Gaza, illegal settlements in the West Bank, an apartheid wall and detention without trial or charges. A peaceful “cake” is not possible with such ingredients.

As a Palestinian, I know what I want. I want to live with dignity. I spend half of my day in the dark—no lights, no internet, no TV. It feels like the Middle Ages. I want to be able to travel. I want to be free of the haunting memories of my friend, Haytham, who was at a market when he was killed in the last war.

With every rumor or sign of another assault, my fear of loss washes over me again. I want better economic conditions, because the high rate of unemployment in Gaza scares me. I have a job, yes, but I don’t earn enough to support me and my family. The daily struggles we Palestinian are forced to face pains me, deep in my stomach. I will keep fighting for our basic human rights.

So, what does Israel want?

Israelis say peace is what they want, while oppressing and abusing us. They have always claimed a need to defend themselves, but they can’t fire missiles and expect flowers in return. They say, “The Palestinian resistance fired rockets at us! Don’t they know how we’ll react? Why would the resistance harm their own people?”

They should think instead, “How would the resistance react if Israel stopped its oppression?"  There is a difference between the occupier and the occupied. Living in Gaza is like living in a box with jail bars. If you were forced into such a small box, what would you do?

Israel is the one that imposed a blockade that starves us of our ability to live with dignity, forcing us to beg for handouts. Israel is the one who colonizes what little land it doesn’t control with its own, hostile settlers who call for “death to Arabs.” Israel is the one who imprisons children and denies them access to a lawyer, much less their parents.

Have you heard of Shadi Farah, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy imprisoned for two years? He was detained, then “confessed” to intent to stab an Israeli soldier after several days of abusive questioning with no lawyer or parent present. Who wouldn’t?

If Israel truly wants peace, then it should change the ingredients they contribute to the cake. It can end the blockade of Gaza and treat Palestinians and Israelis equally, with everyone free to practice their own religion and allowed to live in dignity. Only then will real peace be possible. But if they hide guns and handcuffs behind their peaceful smiles, there can be no cake for anyone.

Posted: January 14, 2017
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22 January 2017
The National 
Without fanfare, Palestinian arch-rivals Fatah and Hamas announced last week that they intended to set aside years of power struggles to begin in earnest the process of forming a unity government.
Palestinian officials said a disastrous international arena had underlined to both factions the pressing need to end divisions between the West Bank and Gaza. The statement was issued as a peace summit in Paris fizzled out ineffectually and Donald Trump prepared to enter the White House. Unity – if it finally comes – will reflect not a shared vision nor strategy, but a reluctant admission of the dire conditions facing Palestinian struggle over the next four years.
The warning signs for Hamas intensified this month, as winter deepened, with mass protests in Gaza over electricity shortages. Donations from Turkey and Qatar, combined with a crackdown from local security services, bought a little quiet. But the enclave is simmering and in desperate need of relief from the decade-long throttling of Israel’s siege.
Over in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas is faring little better. He has invested his credibility in diplomacy. But the signs suggest that a Trump administration will not tolerate Palestinian moves at international forums such as the United Nations.
Mr Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has declared his support for Israel’s illegal settlements. And the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, another donor to settler causes, is to be Middle East envoy. During the inauguration ceremony on Friday, Mr Trump enthused improbably about Mr Kushner: “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” All this has occurred against a drum beat of intent to move the United States embassy to occupied Jerusalem, threatening to inflame Muslim and Arab opinion.
The one tangible hope for Palestinians, a French-hosted peace summit, proved a damp squib. Foreign ministers were chiefly concerned about not starting off on the wrong foot with the incoming Trump administration. Britain exemplified this approach, blocking European Union efforts to adopt the summit’s tepid conclusions.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shrugged off the summit as the “last gasp of the past before the future sets in”.
Israel has lost no time in preparing for the future, one in which peace talks and a two-state solution look obsolete. The new order is being crafted at Amona, a small settlement the courts have ruled is in violation of Israel’s own laws because it is built on privately owned Palestinian land. All settlements are illegal according to international law.
Faced with this impediment, the Israeli government is furiously devising new military regulations that would empower the settlers to seize more West Bank land from Palestinians and end legal oversight.
Separately, ministers are rallying behind legislation to annex Ma’ale Adumim, a large settlement east of Jerusalem in a strategically vital location in the West Bank. If approved, this would be Israel’s first formal annexation of territory since the Golan 35 years ago.
Ma’ale Adumim’s municipal borders include an area known as E1 that Israel has been quietly trying to settle for years. Until now, the US and Europe have vehemently opposed any development there, warning that it would strike a double blow against prospects for peace. It would complete East Jerusalem’s encirclement with settlements and effectively split the West Bank in two.
Exploiting the change of mood in Washington, however, Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the settlers’ Jewish Home party, has pushed annexation of Ma’ale Adumim to the top of Israel’s agenda, as a prelude to seizing other parts of the West Bank.
So futile does the case for Palestinian statehood seem in Israel that even prominent liberals, such as the writer A B Yeshoshua, have come out in hesitant support of annexation. Mr Yehoshua has argued for annexing so-called Area C – some two-thirds of the West Bank – on supposedly “humanitarian” grounds. A change of status, he says, would entitle its 150,000 Palestinian residents to more rights than they have now, without threatening Israel’s Jewish majority.
The annexation trend was underscored by a little-noticed law passed last week by the Israeli parliament. For the first time, the rulings of Israel’s military courts against Palestinians will be admissible in Israel’s civilian courts. Ostensibly the measure is designed to assist settlers who wish to sue Palestinians for damages in Israeli courts by allowing them to rely on the verdicts of West Bank military courts.
Aside from issues of justice – military courts operate on low levels of evidence, accept secret information from the army, and have high conviction rates – the new law blurs the existing separation between the legal systems of Israel and the West Bank. It is further evidence of a creeping process of incorporating the West Bank into Israel.
Those few “relics” who object are being purged. Israel’s deputy attorney general, Dana Zilber, was this month stripped of her authority over law enforcement in the West Bank after attempts to rein in the settlers. The readying of the infrastructure of annexation will only accelerate under the blind eye of a Trump administration. Palestinians will need more than grudging unity to withstand the birth of the new order.

Palestinian Youth Speak Out: One State or Two
Pam Baily

The international peace conference held in Paris Sunday to move forward in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was attended by representatives from about 70 countries—but no Palestinians or Israelis. In its concluding statement, the group “affirmed that a negotiated solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, is the only way to achieve enduring peace.”

However, while politicians and diplomats keep holding onto the dream of two states living peacefully side by side, many Palestinians no longer see it as a possibility. In fact, in a December poll in the West Bank and Gaza by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, two-thirds of the public said they believe the two-state solution is no longer practical due to settlement construction.

And many are beginning to say it’s time to focus on one state, with equal rights for all. Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu said on a recent American radio broadcast that, “The international community too often speaks about us and not to us. You see this particularly when it comes to Secretary Kerry’s statement that Palestinians don’t want to see one state. The polls are actually showing the opposite, that people don’t believe in two states any longer, and that many genuinely want to see one state. It’s time for people to start listening to the voices of Palestinians.” 

No Palestinians or Israelis attended Paris Peace Conference.

Voices that are particularly ignored are those of the youth, who make up more than half of the population of the occupied Palestinian territories. So, I asked members of We Are Not Numbers for their opinions, and here is what some of them said:

Basman Derawi

I think Israel diminishes every single solution proposed and the international community should push Israel to take responsibility for its actions. I think, though, that its expanding settlements and other actions means the ‘two-state solution’ is over. Plus it wouldn’t be fair for Palestinians to settle for 20 percent or less of our original land when the power is so unequal. I think what is better is one state, but with a new name and as a democratic rather than religious country to which Palestinian refugees could return.

Israa Sulliman

I think the two-state solution may have been possible years ago, but now it is impossible.  (PA President Mahmoud) Abbas, with the international community’s “help,” has been negotiating for 24 years and nothing has changed.

Israel is still violating our human rights and taking what it wants from Palestine, including water and land, with complete international impunity. In addition, with hundreds of settlements now in the West Bank, we can declare that the two-state solution is already dead. It is hard, to say the least, to make so many settlers evacuate. Many Israeli ministers and other leaders have made it clear they refuse statehood for Palestine.

So, we should think of another alternative: a democratic, binational state with equal rights for all citizens. This alternative should have been adopted years ago; there is so much hate between both sides, it will take hundreds of years to make it a success. But it’s time to see if we can make it work. To get Israel to accept this too, the international community must pressure Israel. It is time for sanctions and for the world to support the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement to push for a democratic, binational state!

Mohammed Alhammami

To be honest, I never believed in the two-state solution. To me, it seemed unjust. The current dilemma was caused by the circumstances in which Israel was created. Why do we have to give up our historical land because the Zionist militias committed massacres against Palestinians and forced our grandparents out of their homes into refugee camps? Why is it us who have to pay for peace and not Israelis? That was the cornerstone of my thinking process early on. 

The toughest issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are: 1) the disposition of the more than 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants around the world, 2) the status of Jerusalem and, 3) the illegal settlements.

The two-state solution does not offer a just and fair solution for disenfranchised Palestinians. People tend to underestimate the sensitivity and importance of the refugee issue to Palestinians. We're taught from a young age where we came from, from which neighborhood, where it’s located. And we're brought up on the belief that we are returning there.

Every single Palestinian refugee, old and young, knows the city or village of his or her origin. 

What the one-state option offers, for me, is fairness and justice. If you're a Palestinian, and you want to go back to the city or village of your origin, then you would be able to do so. If you're Jewish, and you want to worship in Hebron, you could do so. It would be our country, together. 

However, a one-state solution must be a country based on equality, dignity and human rights for everyone. It must be a country of law, and the law must apply to all people equally.

The reality right now is closer to apartheid than anything. The Palestinian territories are bantustans (like those in apartheid South Africa). Gaza is a bantustan governed by Hamas. Chunks of the West Banks are bantustans run by the PA. And the rest of the country is controlled by Israel.

But overall, the Israeli government rules everything, just like the apartheid government of South Africa.
I believe that for the one-state solution to be attainable, our struggle must move from a political struggle to a human rights one.

Yasmin Hillis

I agree with [Palestinian attorney] Diana Buttu when she says the one-state solution is the only way that can move us forward. I believe the two-state solution is no longer available, since violence and settlement expansion are continuing. And, in actuality, when we look closely, we see that one state is the situation we have today, de facto. So, we do not have to push for a one-state solution. What we really need to push for is equal rights in this state, regardless of faith or race.

Mohammed Arafat

I am the grandson of two elderly Palestinians who were witnesses to the Nakba, the catastrophe in which they were forced from their homeland so that Israel could be created.

I think the two-state dream has already died, since Israel's aim since the beginning has been to construct its Jewish state over Palestinian lands. Nowadays, we see and hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he supports two states. However, I think these declarations are just a waste of time and ink on paper since he, along with most Israeli leaders, have been saying that for decades and we have seen no concessions—only our own. Israel is still building its settlements on private Palestinian lands in the West Bank, not caring about international law or resolutions that tell it to stop.

Some people think that one state, with equal rights for both sides, can end the seven-decade conflict. I think that would be a very important step if their intention is to solve this conflict, not to use their people as pawns! The one-state resolution is not easy for Israel to accept since its main goal is to have a country for Jewish people only. We can see Israelis’ desire to be rid of us in soldiers' behavior with Palestinian citizens in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, especially children—which is mostly not shown in the media. Their goal seems to be the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, so how can they accept Palestinians living among them?

It is because of this that hatred is found on both sides, likely causing a lot of religious and racist problems inside the state, if formed. And one other thing: There would have to be a name for that one state, and I do not think Palestinians can accept living in a country named Israel, due to their patriotic spirit. The same would be true for Israelis if they were asked to live in Palestine. A new name must be chosen.

We all know by now that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not easily be solved. Still, it can be resolved if both sides are willing. Neither the two-state nor the one-state solution can work without the will.

Posted: January 15, 2017
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Druze Join Protests Against Israeli Home Demolition Campaign
Maan News Service


Israeli forces demolish homes in Umm al-Hiran on Jan. 18

Druze villages in Israel launched a one-day general strike on Tuesday in protest of Israel’s policy of home demolitions, joining protest efforts by other Palestinian citizens of Israel in recent days.

State-run Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that that marches were planned for Tuesday afternoon in the northern Israel region of Galilee, under the slogans “No to the policy of demolitions,” “No to the policy of humiliation,” and “No to the policy of discrimination.”

After devastating demolition campaigns were carried out against Palestinian citizens this month in the central Israeli town of Qalansawe and in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, widespread protests have been underway.Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Monday that demolition orders have been issued against homes in Druze villages as well.  

According to Haaretz, Druze activists who support the Arab Joint List coalition, which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset, also took part in a protest that drew thousands in the town of Arara on Saturday.  A protest convoy was held on Monday over the demolitions, when demonstrators also demanded justice for a Bedouin Palestinian man who was killed by police under widely contested circumstances before demolitions were carried out in Umm al-Hiran.

Druze leaders have reportedly warned Israeli authorities that violent clashes could break out if home demolitions continued, and also are striving to distinguish their efforts from Palestinian activism, Haaretz said.  Palestinian Knesset members are proposing a ten-year freeze on demolitions of homes, and according to Haaretz, Druze leaders are also seeking an agreement to freeze demolitions.Thousands of Druze homeowners have received demolition warnings, and while some have been fined, few demolitions have taken place, the report said.

The state has issued orders to demolish nearly 20 homes in Druze villages since November. A home was demolished in the Galilee village of Hurfeish two months ago, however, Haaretz said that the incident did not inspire resistance because “the house was in a remote area and the owners had somewhere else to live.”

Members of the Druze religion are spread across Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria, and Lebanon. When Israel illegally annexed the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six Day War, about 20,000 Druze there were given the option of citizenship.The Druze community in Israel is estimated to number around 130,000.Israeli law differentiates between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and forms further distinctions between various Palestinians minorities.

For example, Druze are subject to mandatory military service in the Israeli army, whereas Muslim or Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel are not. Israeli identification papers also do not recognize Druze as Arabs, unlike Muslims.The Israeli government has meanwhile been accused of attempting to create divisions among Palestinians in Israel and distinguishing between “good Arabs and bad Arabs,” by providing social benefits to the Druze community not equally granted to other minorities.