Lessons from the 2022 Knesset elections

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The racist mobs who lynched Palestinians in May 2021 are now a major political force in Israel. The mask is off for Israeli apartheid.

(The following article appeared today in Mondoweiss)

Four consecutive election campaigns in Israel had been fiercely waged around a single issue – for and against the grotesquely corrupt “King Bibi,” a reference to Benjamin Netanyahu. These elections failed to produce a clear verdict among the divided Israeli Apartheid electorate. Though Palestinians constitute the majority of the population under Israel’s rule, they are prevented from any opportunity to democratically influence their fate. While the pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps quarrelled, the fate of the Palestinians was completely excluded from the discussion. Even the word “peace”, that used to be mentioned regularly (without any meaning) in previous Israeli elections, is now completely out of fashion.

But it turns out that Netanyahu’s year outside of the government did succeed in changing the agenda for the November 1, 2022 elections. The opposition led by Netanyahu’s Likud party concentrated all its rhetorical firepower into racist incitement against the idea of a government supported by Arab parties. In return, the outgoing government coalition led by Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz tried to make the public forget the experience of their awkward time at the helm which collapsed into endless internal stifle by frightening the public with the rising power of Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and the openly fascist ultra-right. This reciprocal campaign of hate and fear succeeded in waking up the public from the election fatigue and raised participation levels among both the Jewish Israeli public and the “48 Palestinians” that have the right to vote.

The results, as most of the world noticed, was that the proudly thuggish Ben-Gvir was the hero of the day, with his Religious Zionist List emerging as the third largest party, and Netanyahu received his long-dreamed of majority. Netanyahu can now ride on the back of the racist puma to escape the prison gates that threatened to close on him. In the 80s the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane used to say to Israelis: “I say what you think”. Now it is Israel’s coming out party. It is time to throw away the masks and declare itself the Apartheid state – based on racism, settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing – that it always was.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU RIDES ITAMAR BEN-GVIR, AND THE GHOST OF MEIR KAHANE, BACK TO POWER IN ISRAEL’S RECENT ELECTIONS. (CARTOON: CARLOS LATUFF)

What actually happened in the elections?

The Israeli electorate continued a long one-way journey to the religious racist right. It is a combination of several long-term trends: 

  • The growing orthodox Jewish religious communities and the alliance between the orthodox leadership and the secular right; 
  • The growing number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, where the conflict with the Palestinians is much more violent; 
  • The hijacking of the army and state apparatus by the politically-dynamic settler community with the quiet consent of the apathetic old elites; 
  • And finally, the illusion about the existence of a Zionist-left is slowly but steadily fading.

There was actually no big shift from the voters in this election. In May 2021, one ultra-right party, Yamina (Hebrew for “to the right”), agreed to join the anti-Bibi camp, in return for the appointment of its leader, Naftali Bennett, as prime minister, and the ability to dictate the government’s racist and neo-liberal, anti-social agenda. Now that that government dissolved, Yamina’s voters have returned to their natural place. All the rest of the shifts in the results are due to the self-inflicted injuries from the leaders of the “alternative” camp.

It is all the same old Israeli racist politics, where the Palestinians are not considered a legitimate part of the political game – no thinking about a political solution is allowed, and no Arab can share any shade of power. It is a colossal repeat of the fiasco in 2020, when general Benny Gantz ran away from the prospect of leading a government supported by Arab Knesset members and agreed to support a Netanyahu government which he had promised to prevent. Now in this election, the whole Lapid government ran away from its own shadow in an effort to avoid the accusation of “leftism” or “relying on Arabs”, to the point of self-destruction.

After Bennett’s party members deserted him one after the other, he finally toppled his own government leaving the helm to Lapid. Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, both aspiring to lead the anti-Bibi block, focused their election campaigns on discrediting each other. Each of them tried to burnish his credentials by killing more Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Merav Michaeli, from the disintegrating old Zionist Labor Party, refused to form even a technical block with the similarly decaying Meretz, fearing that her party, that boasts of the 1948 Nakba and the 1967 occupation, would be painted as too leftist. And, finally, Balad claims Lapid conspired with the leaders of the Arab Joint List to throw Balad off the list at the last minute in an attempt to make the list more palatable as partners for a future Zionist coalition. To do this they needed to remove from the Knesset the only voice that dared to speak (in a low voice) about “transforming Israel to a state of all its citizens”. These last two decisions alone, throwing out Meretz and Balad, are directly responsible for the fact that Netanyahu now has a majority and can build his fully right-wing government.

In the ashes after their self-made defeat, all the leaders of this “alternative camp” are blaming each other and destroying whatever remains of their chances to return to power anytime soon.

How dangerous is the new government?

On November 3, as I write this, Israel’s occupation forces killed four Palestinians in the West Bank, one of them a 14-year-old child. According to a report that was published by the UN on the day of the elections, 2022 witnessed more killings of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces and settlers than in any other year since the UN started to monitor such killings in 2005. And this took place under a government fiercely supported by the fake “Israeli Left” of Meretz, and that could exist only thanks to the support of an opportunistic Palestinian politician like Mansour Abbas.

Will Netanyahu’s new far-right government kill more? Sure, they might. But it was never Israeli public opinion that limited atrocities against the Palestinians. The basic fact is that Israel needs the support of the United States (and, to a lesser degree, Western Europe) militarily, economically, and politically to ensure its continuing impunity for performing crimes against humanity. The main power that may restrain Israeli war crimes is pressure by western powers, motivated by the fear of backlash by the Arab masses. One encouraging signal is that there were already some warning signals from Israel’s international backers following the election results.

However, me and many others also have personal reasons to be concerned. If Ben-Gvir were to become Minister of Internal Security, as has been reported, he might send the police knocking on my door. This is the additional threat of the fascists, not only the military occupation, but also targeting political opponents. Thinking about this direct threat, I can’t help but remember that the last time they came to take me for Shabak interrogation, in April 2021, they didn’t knock on my gate but literally knocked it down. So, political oppression is nothing new either. Maybe under the new government more people will finally understand that “Israeli Democracy” doesn’t exist, and hence can’t be defended or saved.

The real struggle

The struggles for democracy, for human rights, for Palestinian liberation, for the right of return, for the establishment of a free, secular, democratic state in Palestine – all these essential struggles can’t take place within the framework of the Knesset – the Legislative Assembly of Apartheid Israel. The Palestinian struggle was not part of these elections – but the elections happened in the shadow of this struggle.

With the ascendance of the Religious Zionism camp, the settlers and racist mobs who were attacking and lynching Palestinians in the mixed cities in May 2021 gained their recognition and place as a major political force in Israel.

Another echo of May 2021 can be seen in these elections. It is the success of Balad as an independent party. The party, which had just a single deputy in the last Knesset, gained 3% of the vote and could have 3 or 4 members if it was not for the 3.25% minimum barrier for representation. Balad received most of its votes from the young Palestinians that defended their neighborhoods against Ben-Gvir’s thugs (and the Israeli police and border guard) in May 2021. Most of the radical youth would not naturally vote in Knesset elections. And now Balad, in spite of all the support it received, is out of the Knesset also. Could it open the road for the development of a new Palestinian alternative, independent of the Israeli-dictated frameworks?

And finally, a personal word again… In the grassroots movements that I’m a member of, Herak Haifa and Abna elBalad, we have no illusion that any real change can be achieved through the Knesset. We boycotted the elections as we always do. In these last elections everybody expected that there would be historic gains for the election boycott, with as many as 60% of those Palestinians that are allowed to vote refusing to take part. But the horror campaign had its effect, and Palestinians voted in higher-than-expected numbers, maybe 54%. The boycott movement stayed unusually low-profile. The leaders of the Arab Knesset parties and the fake Zionist “left” turned hysterically to the Palestinian voters to save us all from the fascists. If they ever believed their own words, they wouldn’t have destroyed their election chances by their own actions.

Argentina’s People Protest Assassination Attempt on Cristina Fernandez

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As a person that spends much of his life organizing and participating in demonstrations, I had an extraordinary experience today (Friday, September 2, 2022), taking part in the biggest demonstration I’ve ever seen.

We just happened to be in Buenos Aires in Argentina, in a family visit. Yesterday’s evening we were sitting at Adam’s apartment when, suddenly, his room-mate went in and informed us that some Neo-Nazi tried to shoot Argentina’s vice president and former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Soon we were watching videos of the assassination attempt on several TV channels and social media. Adam said there might be a general strike the next day, but then Argentina’s president spoke to the shocked and angry people and said the next day will be “a national holiday to allow Argentines time to express themselves”.

In the subte

The next day we had to find out what this holiday would mean. Schools were closed and we’ve seen only a few of the endless fleet of buses that are usually buzzing around in Buenos Aires. They said the subway (locally known as “subte”) would run a limited service, but it still seemed the safest bet.

The “A” line to the city center was crowded at its utmost capacity. I had to actually push the people standing near the doors to create some small space for my body. And I was also pushed in my turn into the compressed mass by the people that joined us at the next station.

Travelling in an overcrowded subway, pressed body to body against complete strangers, is not a pleasant experience, bringing to the extreme the alienation of our city life. But then something miraculous happened. Somebody at the other side of the car started singing, and soon most of the people on the car joined. It came out that we were all going to the same demonstration. We were not complete strangers anymore; we had our common cause and purpose.

How big it was?

I thought we were going to demonstrate in Plaza de Mayo – the traditional place for Argentina’s demonstrations in front of Casa Rosada (the Pink House), the president’s office. When Adam said we will go off the subte two stations before, I suspected that he wanted to avoid the crowd. But when we emerged from the subway station to the street, it was already full with thousands of people on both sides, all marching toward Plaza de Mayo.

Usually, when you try to evaluate how many people took part in a demonstration, you measure how much space it occupied. Did it fill the square? If there was a march, how far were the last marchers from its beginning? But today’s demonstration in the center of Buenos Aires didn’t fit into any of these measures. People filled the square from the morning, and filled the streets around it. When we arrived there in the afternoon there were still endless streams of thousands of people coming to join the protest.

When the street was blocked with demonstrators and it seemed we will never make it to Plaza de Mayo, we switched to a parallel street. It was also full of people marching with flags and slogans, singing, shouting, jumping and dancing.

I felt like the kid that was all his life playing football in the neighborhood, and now came for the first time to see a match in the top league.

Some background

I don’t know Spanish and don’t claim to have deep knowledge of Argentina’s class struggle and politics. And this post is not intended to try to summarize what (little) I’ve learnt about it from reading the news… I will just mention here some basic facts, to help the readers that need this background. If you’re familiar with Argentina’s basic politics, you may skip this section.

Argentina is a third world country, suffering from imperialist super-exploitation. It is still traumatized from a murderous CIA-sponsored military dictatorship that ruled and terrorized the population between 1976 and 1983, murdering tens of thousands of political and social activists.

The roit police was hiding on a side-street

Argentina’s politics is dominated by Peronism, a heterogeneous political current named after Juan Peron, who was Argentina’s elected president for 3 (non-consecutive) terms, until his death in 1974. Peron was widely supported by the working class and is identified with important social reforms, but he was not a socialist. In fact, Peron explained that improving the lot of the workers and poor masses was the best way to prevent a socialist revolution. There are many different Peronist political currents, both right and left.

The election of Nestor Kirchner as president in 2003, in the middle of deep economic crisis, and his replacement by his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2007 – 2015, consolidated “Kirchnerism” as the main current of Peronism. Kirchnerism represents a more coherent “left-of-center” approach: staying within the capitalist political framework, but attempting to strengthen the local economy and improve the lot of the working class.

Argentina under the Kirchners saved itself from economic collapse by refusing to pay its external debt, much of which was accumulated by the military dictatorship buying weapons to murder Argentine’s people. In spite of attempts by the imperialist powers to punish Argentina, the Kirchners led it through a decade of fast economic growth and improving social conditions. But finally the tightening economic siege had its effects and the government lost popularity. In the 2015 elections Cristina could not stand again for presidency, after serving two terms. The Peronist candidate lost and Argentina entered a period of destructive neo-liberalism under right wing president Macri.

Before the next elections in 2019, the United State tried desperately to prevent the Peronists from coming back to power. The IMF gave Macri the biggest ever loan in its (the IMF’s) history – 57 billion dollars. This money disappeared without any visible benefit to Argentina’s economy. Cristina, still under constant attack from the capitalist media and elements of the “law enforcement” establishment, agreed to a role as vice president under more “moderate” (i.e. bluntly pro capitalist) President Alberto Fernandez (no family relation). They won the elections, but their government suffers the combined pressure of the IMF paralyzing debt, the economic devastation from the pandemic, the constant resistance of local capitalists and its own internal divisions.

If there was ever a “debt trap”, the IMF’s loan to Macri is probably one of the most damaging types of it. Under Macri, the IMF’s dollars were used to enable the local and international capitalists to draw their money from Argentina in hard currency, driving inflation up and depriving the country of much needed investment. When the new Peronist government came to power, it was paralyzed by the impossible demand to pay back the loan. As of now, after long negotiations, the government reached an agreement to repay the debt gradually, which forces it to perform an austerity program at the expense of the basic needs of the population. The left wing within the Peronist coalition objected to the agreement, but it was approved in parliament with the votes of the right wing opposition.

Thinking about Peronism

Once again, I must emphasis that I only bring my impressions as a stranger that doesn’t speak the local language, and not any studied analysis.

We were slowly navigating along the long columns of marchers that were stuck in the streets and avenues leading to Plaza De Mayo. Moving in the narrow human streams through the crowd, we made it all the way to the center of the Plaza. The crowd was very heterogeneous, bringing together workers, students and the capital’s professional classes.

Looking around I’ve seen many different group of demonstrators, many of them carried carefully prepared flags, slogans, pictures and shirts. I was impressed by the fact that I didn’t see any dominant groups or slogans. Of course, support of Cristina against the assassination attempt was a common theme, and pictures of Peron, Evita, Nestor and Cristina were held by many groups. But you could see also Che Guevara, Chavez, Evo Morales and others. The signs and slogans indicated the presence of trade unions, different political groupings and grass root movements. The slogans were mostly left wing, demanding social justice, speaking about struggle, revolution and people’s power.

I thought about the transformation that happened in many countries around the world, where in the twentieth century the struggle for social justice was dominated by few hegemonic political parties. Mostly it was the pro-imperialist Social Democracy and the Stalinist Communist Parties. In the twenty-first century we witnessed the fast decline of many of those traditional parties, and the emergence of new types of grass-root based wide coalitions, with no single ideology or organizational central control.

Could it be that the Peronist movement succeeds to stay the dominant force in Argentina’s Left because it was such a kind of loose heterogeneous coalition in the first place?

In recent Argentine history, shifts in the political balance were, several times, expressed in shifts in the internal balance within the Peronist movement. In the nineties of the previous century, the heydays of the unipolar world, Argentine was led by Peronist president Carlos Menem, who carried neo-liberal policy. After neo-liberalism led to economic meltdown, the Latin American “Pink Wave” leftward was expressed in Argentina by the shift inside Peronism and the emergence of Kirchnerism as the main tendency. After losing the elections to the anti-Peronist Macri in 2015, and still under pressure from imperialism and local capitalists, the Peronists succeeded to regain power in 2019 by an internal shift to the right, under current president Alberto Fernandez.

Now, that Latin America is experiencing its second Left Wave, with popular struggle bringing more leftist movements to power, from Mexico in the north through Colombia and until Chile, could there be another shift to the left inside the Peronist movement?

The political moment

We were speaking with friends in Argentina, trying to understand how they see the assassination attempt and the public response to it.

From our small sample of opinions, it seems that the strongest feeling was the shock and fear at the prospect that political violence might return to Argentina. The country is still traumatized by the terror of the military dictatorship. Many people came to the demonstration not out of support to Peronism, but in an act of solidarity against the attack.

But the attack was not an isolated act by a loony individual. The attacker, as was found later in the investigation, was part of some wider conspiracy. And it came on the background of endless incitement and hate speech. Now there is danger that the counter-measures would include new laws to limit the freedom of expression. Historic experience teaches us that such laws are likely to be used mostly against people that struggle against oppression and exploitation.

The attacks on Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whether the assassination attempt, the capitalist media’s hate campaign or the endless efforts to criminalize her, are basically not directed against her personally, but are part of the capitalist class attack on the important social gains of the Argentine people.

Now Argentina is faced with a renewed economic crisis. The IMF imposed austerity and the resurgent capitalist class are eroding living standards and social rights. If the Peronist government continues its retreat in front of the international and local rightist pressure, its working class and popular base would be farther frustrated and alienated, and it is likely to be defeated in the election next year. Some of the people we talked with in and around the demonstration expressed the hope that by standing up to the assassination attempt, the leftist forces within and outside the Peronist movement will regroup for a renewed struggle for social justice.

A comment about the BBC

After taking part in a demonstration, I surf the web to see what was written about it in the press. It is a good way to “calibrate” my view of the media, to expose bias and learn from it how to regard reports about events that I couldn’t view in person.

Writing about the assassination attempt, the BBC described Cristina’s supporters, who prevented the attacker from shooting her, as “a mob”!

Nobody knows exactly how many people took part in the solidarity demonstration. I heard different estimations, ranging from the hundreds of thousands to more than a million people. But the BBC reported about it in a few lines, saying only “thousands”…

So far as objective reporting is concerned…

“Thousands” demonstrated (according to the BBC)

In Memoriam: Eli Aminov – Goodbye to a stalwart and stubborn fighter against Israeli Apartheid

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Eli Aminov, 20 April 1939 – 5 August 2022

By: Ofra Yeshua-Lyth

(The original Hebrew text was partially published previously at https://zoha.org.il/114640/ on 14 August 2022. It is fully available in Haifa Hahofshit.)

With the death of Eli Aminov, this week the small community of opponents of the regime of the State of Israel lost one of its clearest and most important voices, a thinker, writer, worker, and political activist whose original thinking influenced multiple generations of activists and writers.

Eli was born in Summayl, a Palestinian village that was transformed into an impoverished Tel Aviv neighbor­hood in the late 1930s, to a father who had immigrated from Bukhara and a mother who had come from Poland. When he was nine years old, when the State of Israel was established, the family’s Arab neighbors, including Eli’s childhood friends, were turned into refugees, and their homes were given to Jewish immigrants, an event that etched itself deep into Eli’s memory. After his military service, Eli worked in various jobs, and in the course of his life he worked, among others, as a jeweler and as the owner of a print shop.

Eli was a veteran member of the Matzpen organization, which he joined in the beginning of 1967. His signature appears on the historic declaration from the summer of 1967, in which political activists called on the State of Israel to withdraw immediately from the territories that were occupied in the war and to strive for a solution of a just peace with the Palestinian people.

In 1975, Eli left Matzpen to join Brit Hapoalim (the workers alliance organization, also known as “Avant­garde”, the name of its theoretical publication). This was a period of rising mass Palestinian struggle that preceded the general strike and uprising of March 30, 1976, the historic “Land Day”. Brit Hapoalim, which was identified with a Trotskyite anti-Stalinist ideology, emphasized at that time the Pales­ti­nian character of the revolution, and called on Jewish activists to join the Palestinian struggle. It called for the establishment of a socialist state in Palestine, emphasized the necessity to dismantle the colo­nial entity established by the Zionist movement in order to create a basis for a shared future for Arabs and Jews, and objected to the recognition of a right of self-determi­nation for Jews in Palestine – a position that Eli had already championed earlier in internal discussions inside Matzpen.

Eli’s activism was not limited to bringing about an end to the occupation and to the increased militarization of the State of Israel. He also saw the need for presenting a comprehensive alternative, and he was among the first to support the one state solution of a single democratic state in all of Palestine. In the 1990s he ini­ti­ated the estab­lish­ment of the “The Committee for one Secular and Democratic Republic
in the whole of Palestine”. The committee’s principles, which were phrased in plain language by Eli Aminov and Dr. Yehuda Kupferman, included the call for the establishment of one democratic secular state in all of Palestine, in which the economic infra­structure and means of production would belong to the entire population as a democratic right and an expression of its sovereignty.

Eli was close to Prof. Israel Shahak and one of the executors of his will, together with Dr. Emmanuel Farjoun. In the afterword that he wrote for the Hebrew edition of Shahak’s Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, he reminded readers that Shahak had been one of the first thinkers who had defined Israel as an apartheid state.

In his essay “A ‘Binational State’: The New Deception Replacing the ‘Two State Solution’”, published in 2013, Aminov wrote that “there is no practicable political alternative to a single secular democratic state between the Jordan River and the sea.” In his last essay, “From Land Redemption to Apartheid Regime”, which appeared in an essay compilation published this year by November Books under the name The Nation Trap, he surveys the ways and methods by which the Zionist project, for decades before the establish­ment of the Israeli state and during all the years of its existence, dispossessed the Palestinians of their land in order to establish a Jewish nation state. He defined the nation state as an “origin-based meta­physical entity”, and described how the methodical land theft became the basis for the system of Jewish-Israeli apartheid laws, which he described in the essay. Aminov wrote about what characterized Israeli apartheid, as compared to the South-African system. His conclusion was: without a fundamental reform transforming Israel from a state based on ethno-religious origins to a secular and democratic state, a remedy to the apartheid regime is not possible. “Ultimately, the ‘Jewish nation’s’ ownership of the land is the material glue that connects the colonial racism of the Zionist movement with the xenophobic racism of Halachic Judaism”, he wrote.

In his final years, despite a marked deterioration of his health, Eli would arrive every Friday to the vigil in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the company of Nitza Aminov, his former wife, who had remained a close and supportive friend. He regularly posted succinct and pointed comments on Facebook and on various websites, and addressed many current events in local politics. He was a sociable man and an excellent cook who will be sorely missed by his many friends and acquaintances, those who know him personally and those who came to appreciate his character on the internet. May his memory be blessed.

* * *

Eli Aminov in a demonstration – 2017 – from Facebook

So far Ofra’s article. Please allow me to add some personal memories.

I knew Eli when he was a member of “The Revolutionary Communist League” (AKA “Matzpen Marxisti”) in Jerusalem in the 1970s. I had joined Brit Hapo­alim (that had split off from Matzpen in 1970) in 1973, and we held pointed discussions with Matzpen and with the various factions that split from it. In 1975, Eli and some of the other members of Matzpen Marxisti decided to join Brit Hapoalim.

Eli told me how he had become a leftist activist. When he was young, he had been a detective with the Jerusalem Police. Around that time, Uri Avnery and the “Ha-Olam Ha-Zeh” group organized civil protests against religious coercion, and Eli had sent the organizers a letter of support. Instead of a response from the intended recipients, he was summoned to be investigated and reprimanded because of his dangerous views. This helped him understand the character of the regime that he was serving, and soon thereafter he resigned and became a democracy activist. The struggle for the separation of state and religion and against the central role of the Jewish religion in the justi­fi­cation and foundation of the racist structures of the Israeli regime always remained a key interest of his.

In the mid 1980s, the period of the activities of the “Committee for Solidarity with Bir Zeit University”, settler rabbi Moshe Levinger would organize provocative demonstrations opposite Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. The people in the camp asked for our support in holding counter-demonstrations. I remember how we would come from Haifa to Jerusalem and drop in at Eli and Raya’s, his then-partner, enjoy their boundless hospitality, eat, and get organized for the demonstration. From there we would continue to the vigil in Dheisheh, all together, including the children, and after the vigil we would either end up being hosted by activists in the refugee camp and have fascinating political conversations, or we’d end up under arrest at the Bethlehem police compound. And after being released we would know where to go: to Eli and Raya’s.

Later, in the “Abnaa el-Balad” movement, we made a number of attempts to broaden the reach and to recruit Palestinian, Jewish and international partners to the struggle for the Palestinian’s right of return to their land and to establish a secular and democratic state in all of Palestine. Conventions with that goal were held in Nazareth in 1998 and again in Haifa in 2008 and 2010. Eli and the groups of activists that he always collected around him were always our first address when we would look for partners whose loyalty to the democratic route was uncompromising and never in doubt.

After the Munich Conference in support of one democratic state in historic Palestine (July 2012), a communiqué went out, calling for coordinated action in all of Palestine (on both sides of the green line), in the Palestinian diaspora, and in the solidarity movement, around a basic plan that defines the demo­cratic principles of the restoration of Palestinian rights, and to solve the problem of the migrant population that were brought into Palestine in the framework of the Zionist project. Eli and the members of the “Committee for One Democratic State in Historic Palestine” took part in setting up a work group in Jaffa and participated in the coordination meetings with various organizations in Ramallah.

I visited Eli in his home in Jerusalem about two months before he passed away. His body was already weakened by his sicknesses, but his spirit was strong, and his mind was sharp and analytical. We brought up memories from 50 years of joint struggle. Together we analyzed recent international developments and agreed that the increased crisis of imperialist hegemony and the resulting ongoing wars only prove that the democratic solution that we had fought for all our lives was not only the most just solution, but also the only sustainable solution, and that for that reason, the fight will ultimately be won.

Bulldozers repulsed from the Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh

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Activists in Haifa prevented a construction crew from beginning to destroy the Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh, but fears remain the bulldozers may return soon.

(The following report appeared on Feb 16, 2022, in Mondoweiss. You can also read it in Hebrew.)

Last week, heavy machinery arrived to carry out excavation work in the Muslim cemetery in Haifa, but activists who were called to the area managed to reach an understanding with the workers and the contractor, and prevent the attempt to damage the cemetery. The event spurred a protest, and on Friday a demonstration was held at the venue, despite intimidation from Israeli security services.

The story of this recent threat began on Monday, February 7, when the threat to the Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh in Haifa suddenly became very tangible: some heavy machinery for earthwork arrived at the edge of the cemetery, and their operators began preparations to dig.

In early December 2021, when a protest tent was set up on the outskirts of the cemetery, the situation was not clear. Some of the land was expropriated as early as the 1950s, and even though almost 70 years have passed since then, the cemetery continues to exist on the ground. When I reported here on the struggle for recognition of the cemetery, I cautiously wrote that “new building plans are feared.”

The protest tent – guarding the cemetery day and night – photo courtesy of the Waqf Trustees

The precautionary steps and the continuous guarding in the cemetery were proven necessary. When the heavy vehicles arrived, the activists who were called to the scene made it clear to the staff that it was a cemetery. The workers, all Arabs, immediately refused to carry out any work on the site. Following them, the Jewish contractor announced that when he was hired to work on the site he was not told that it was a cemetery, and that he did not intend to carry out the work.

As the whole matter was closed with an understanding between the activists and the workers, the police force that was sent to secure the job was left with nothing to do.

The cemetery, founded in the 1930s on an area of 44 dunams, was used not only by Balad a-Sheikh itself, but by the Muslim community in Haifa and the surrounding towns and villages. Many families in the area have family members buried there.

Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, who was the imam of the al-Istiqlal Mosque in Haifa and a key leader of the Palestinian community, and was a prominent leader of the resistance to the British occupation of Palestine and to the Zionist colonization, was also buried in this cemetery in 1935. For this reason, it has since been called the “Al-Qassam Cemetery” (as opposed to the old cemetery of Balad a-Sheikh itself, named after Sheikh al-Sahli), and has symbolic significance for Palestinian heritage as a whole.

The cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh has been the subject of expropriation, corrupt deals by state officials, and legal and public struggles for decades since the 1950s.

Demonstrators calling for boycott of Kirur Ahzakot – photo courtesy of Nahed Dirbas

In recent years, the court in the Krayot (suburbs North of Haifa) has heard a lawsuit by a company named “Kirur Ahzakot”, which claims ownership of a large part of the expropriated area, against the trustees of Waqf al-Istiqlal. At the end of the hearing, the court rejected the company’s claim to oblige the trustees to vacate the graves. It ruled that if the company wanted to vacate graves, it must first submit construction plans, and if the construction plans required it – submit a request to vacate the graves to the appropriate authority in the Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, the company is trying to “shorten proceedings” and establish facts on the ground, hiding behind contractors and developers. The police, instead of preventing their actions, unsurprisingly focus their attention on those trying to guard the cemetery.

Calling for boycott of Kirur Ahzakot and Gold Line – photo courtesy of the waqf trustees

The attempted attack on the cemetery was broadcast almost real time on Arab media, and provoked widespread reactions on social media. The Hebrew press, as usual, ignored the incident. On the evening of the day of the attack, in the protest tent, there was a gathering of the Waqf al-Istiqlal trustees, representatives of the families of the buried and the tent committee, along with representatives of protest groups and young people from the Arab neighborhoods of Haifa. They decided to hold a protest demonstration on Friday at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Prior to the demonstration, several organizers and activists received calls from people who introduced themselves as police or Shabak (GSS) personnel, who tried to dissuade them from demonstrating. I myself was astonished to receive a call from a person who introduced himself as “Amichai from the Shabak”, and tried to persuade me to “use my influence” to “prevent violence” in the demonstration.

Despite the threats, many dozens of activists came to the demonstration on Friday. Police, reinforced by special forces, surrounded the area and blocked some traffic at the intersection ahead of time. Even before the demonstration began, the police demanded that Palestinian flags will not be hoisted near the main road.

Despite police attempts to prevent it – Palestinian flag appeared in the middle of the demonstration. Photo by Nahed Dirbas.

Several young women carrying flags were stopped by police near the police checkpoint, while the rest of the protesters lined up along the main road, across a bridge that was built over the cemetery. Finally, a large Palestinian flag also appeared in the center of the demonstration. The press later stated that this was probably the first time that a Palestinian flag had been hoisted in the town of “Nesher” (as the area is now called) since the original residents of Balad a-Sheikh were expelled in 1948.

The demonstrators carried signs in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, calling for the cemetery to be respected and not to be damaged. Some of the signs directly blamed the companies involved, “Kirur Ahzakot” and “Gold Line”, along with the Israeli establishment, for harming the cemetery, and called for a boycott of their products.

Some of the calls in the demonstration also referred to the attack on cemeteries as one of the hallmarks of the apartheid state. Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement, who was recently released from a lengthy prison sentence, also joined the demonstration and was enthusiastically received by the protesters.

Sheikh raed Salah joined the demonstration and was enthusiastically received – photo by Nahed Dirbas

On the other side of the road, a small counter-demonstration took place, accompanied by photos of ultra-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir and a large poster calling to join his organization, “Jewish Power.”

Meanwhile, the damage to the cemetery was prevented, and the attempt to damage it only provoked and reinforced the call to stop all demolition plans and the demand for recognition of the cemetery and the return of its entire land to the ownership of the Waqf. At the same time, fears intensified of another attempt to mount bulldozers in the cemetery, which might be backed up by the use of massive force, as the police regularly do in forcing demolitions against the Arab Palestinian population.

At the end of the demonstration, activists gathered in a tent to discuss ways to expand the struggle.

Herak Haifa declaration in support of Shahed Abu-Salama

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(The following declaration appeared on 27.1.2022 on Herak Haifa’s FB page)

We, in Herak Haifa, support the Palestinian activist, academic and blogger Shahed Abu-Salama.

We reject the allegations against her as a smear campaign, organized by Zionist groups in cooperation with Zionist apartheid regime.

Such campaigns take place all over the world, in order to silence the voice of struggling Palestinians, and to oppress any form of Palestinian resistance to the Zionist settler-state, together with anyone who advocates for freedom and justice in Palestine.

Shahed Abu-Salama raises a clear genuine voice, from besieged Gaza and from Sheffield, England. She brings her story and opinions as a Palestinian, a Gaza resident and a young woman activist.

The smear campaign against Shahed Abu-Salama is being held at the same time as the harassment campaign against Palestinian women activists within occupied Palestine, including our comrade Somaya Falah. This campaign is being held by Zionist police and Shabak in the form of detainment, interrogations and incitement via the cooperating Zionist media. Coordinated or not, those cases are parts of an attack on Palestinian women and their right to be involved in the struggle for justice and freedom. With both Shahed and Somaya, part of the intimidation campaign is to sabotage their academic careers, to damage their opportunities to study and teach and to threaten other Palestinian academics.

From occupied Haifa we stand with Shahed Abu-Salama and hold her hands. We join our voice to Shahed’s in the call for ending Zionist apartheid in all parts of Palestine. We stand with activists all over the world who face the Zionist attacks on Palestinians’ freedom of speech.

Together we will exercise our right to call for the end of the siege on Gaza, for the release of the Palestinian prisoners and for the return of the refugees to all parts of their occupied land.

Together we will never stop fighting for freedom and justice in place of the Zionist settler state on all parts of historic Palestine.

Stop the political persecution against our comrade Somaya Falah!

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A statement by Herak Haifa

(This statement was published a while ago on the Herak Haifa FB page. You can also read the original statement in Arabic here.)

The Palestinian freedom struggle never stops, and the Zionist Shabak (“security services”) never stops repressing it…

On the 11th of this month (11.1.2022), the Israeli repressive forces (Shabak and police) broke into the house of our comrade Somaya Falah, confiscated her computer, searched her phone and then arrested her. Comrade Somaya was interrogated by the Shabak bureau in the Haifa police compound for 12 hours, and then transferred to house arrest with relatives, far from her home in Haifa. Moreover, as part of the house arrest, severe restrictions were imposed on her, including preventing her from communicating via the internet and forbidding any contact with her comrades in the struggle.

Over the following days, the Shabak summoned her to various rounds of interrogation, her house arrest was extended for continuous periods and the restrictions and conditions of detention were tightened. In addition, the apparatus of repression initiated a campaign of racist and poisonous incitement against our comrade through the Zionist media, claiming “security” and “dangerous” charges that have no basis in reality.

These brutal methods used by the repression agencies against our comrade Somaya are not new to us. We are also familiar with more severe methods, such as interrogations and isolation for weeks in Shabak dungeons while being prevented from contact with a lawyer. These are routine methods of the Shabak against the activists of the Palestinian struggle, and they have been used before against many activists of our Herak… But they will never succeed to break our resolve or prevent us from continuing the struggle for our legitimate rights.

The occupation systematically uses the accusation of “contacting a foreign agent” to criminalize the communication between us, the Palestinian people in the homeland and the diaspora. This will not change the fact that the foreigners in this region are the settlers who are trying to establish their rule by violent oppression and by various colonial methods. We are the native inhabitants of this land and communication with the daughters and sons of our people is a natural right for us. From here, we assure the enemy before the friend that there is no force that can deter us from exercising this right – not intimidation, nor arrests, nor anything that the Shabak might do.

Freedom for comrade Somaya Falah!

Let our response be to intensify the connections between all the daughters and sons of the Palestinian people in the struggle for our legitimate rights.

Together, until liberation!

There is no going back for the right of return!

The long battle to save the largest Palestinian cemetery in Haifa

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The struggle to save the al-Qassam cemetery is one of the major issues that unites the Palestinian community in Haifa. It is an effort to defend the community’s rights, and reconnect with its pre-Nakba past.

(The following report was published in “Mondoweiss”. You can also read about the struggle to save the cemetery in Free Haifa in Arabic and Hebrew.)

The Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh reminds us of the days before the 1948 Nakba, when Haifa was a major Palestinian city. Since 1948, the state of Israel and private companies have been trying to destroy the cemetery and convert it to commercial property. The Palestinian community succeeded, so far, to prevent its destruction. Now, facing new plans to build on the cemetery, the struggle is entering a new phase.

The Historic Significance of “Al-Qassam Cemetery”

In the beginning of the twentieth century Haifa was a rising city on the Mediterranean shore, with its port, new rail lines that stretched to Damascus and Amman, and developing industry and commerce. This development accelerated under the British occupation (since 1918) with a deep-water port, an airport and the petrol refineries. People from all over the region were emigrating to Haifa to look for work and opportunities. Haifa developed as a center of Arab cultural and political activities. Many Palestinian trade unions, clubs, associations and parties were established or expanded in the city.

An old picture of the entrance to the Balad a-Sheikh cemetery – before 752 street was built (image from the facebook page of the Istiqlal Waqf trustees)

As the city was full of people, its old cemeteries became overcrowded. So, in the thirties, a new Muslim cemetery was established in Balad a-Sheikh, a few kilometers South-East of the city. It was a big cemetery, spanning over 44 dunam (dunam is a thousand square meters), and it served people from Haifa and the surrounding villages and shanty towns.

A central figure in Haifa’s public life at the time was Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the Imam of the Istiqlal mosque and head of the Young Men’s Muslim Association. In the beginning of the thirties, he tried to organized the Palestinian population to wage a war of liberation against the British occupation and against Zionist colonization. In November 1935 his group of rebels was surrounded by the British army near Jenin, and he fought them back until he fell martyr. His funeral in Haifa is described by some historians as the biggest political protest in Palestine under the British occupation. Al-Qassam and two of his comrades in arms were buried in the new cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh, giving it its popular name as “Al-Qassam Cemetery”.

The cemetery bears evidence to the turbulent historical period. You can find there the graves of the revolutionaries from the great Palestinian revolution of 1936-39, as well as the graves of Palestinians civilians killed by indiscriminate British reprisals. You can also find there the graves of the victims of massacres that were performed by the Zionist settlers’ militias, Hagana, Etzel and Lehi, in the run-up to the 1948 Nakba. Sami Taha, the secretary general of the Association of Arab Palestinian Workers, was also buried there.

Zionist attempts to take control of the cemetery

In 1948 the vast majority of the Arab Palestinian population in Haifa was expelled: more than seventy thousand were expelled, and less than two thousand succeeded to escape the ethnic cleansing. The whole population of Balad a-Sheikh, which suffered two massacres before the final military assault, was forced into exile, like the residents of all the other Arab villages and shanty towns around Haifa. The houses of Balad a-Sheikh were given to new Jewish immigrants and the town was renamed “Tel Hanan” (Hanan’s Hill) after the name of a Hagana officer who was killed there while performing a massacre against civilian population in the town.

Israel’s expropriation of the native Arab Palestinian population was not limited to their houses and personal property, but extended also to holy places like mosques and cemeteries.

Confiscation order for 15 dunam of the cemetery’s land, signed in 1954 by Eshkol

In 1954, Israel’s then finance minister, Levi Eshkol, issued an order confiscating 15 dunam of the new Balad a-Sheikh cemetery. The order decreed that, as these lands “were not held by their rightful owners as of April 1, 1952”, and as they “were allocated to vital needs of settlement and development”, they will be passed to the ownership of “the development authority”. The only truthful phrase here is “April 1”, as this is the day for telling lies. The rightful inhabitants of the cemetery didn’t leave it for a single day. And the “needs” for the place were so urgent that today, almost 70 years on, the usurpers, which prevent the cemetery’s guardians from maintaining it properly, haven’t even presented a plan for any other usage.

Soon after confiscating the land, the state’s representative sold 13 dunam out of the confiscated land to a big commercial firm, named “Kerur Akhzakot”. Later on, this firm will play a central role in the attempts to demolish the cemetery.

Dubious deals

The main tool of the Israeli government to expropriate Arab homes and lands is the “Absentees’ Property Law” from 1950. By this law the property of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced people was confiscated. Concerning the holy places, most of them are defined as belonging to some “waqf” (endowment). After some legal wriggling and a new law from 1965, the Israeli “legal” robbery system verified that “god is also an absentee” (or at least the Palestinian Muslim Waqf), and hence took control of most holy places.

The Balad a-Sheikh cemetery was different, as it officially belongs to a local Haifa Waqf named “Waqf al-Istiqlal” – or “Independence Waqf” – after The Istiqlal Mosque whose imam was al-Qassam. As there continued to exist a diminished Muslim community in Haifa, in spite of the Nakba, they could not claim its local waqf was absentee, like they did in hundred of villages and towns that were completely destroyed or ethnically cleansed. So, they had to invent other ways to take control of the cemetery’s land. They did it by appointing a “waqf trustee”, named Suhail Shukri, who was doing his master’s dirty work by betraying the waqf and its community.

The 1970 agreement to exchange 31 dunam of the cemetery’s land – signe on behalf of the waqf by “Oved Yom Tov” from the Israeli land authority

In 1970 the Israeli lands’ authority signed an agreement to “exchange” 31 dunam of the Balad a-Sheikh cemetery (including the 15 dunam that were confiscated before), giving the waqf in their stead a section for Muslim burial in the new Kafr Samir cemetery to the South-West of Haifa. The first question raised by this “exchange” is why should the Muslim community “pay” by giving up land in an existing cemetery for their right for a section in the new cemetery, while all other religious communities in Haifa received their (much bigger) sections free of charge?

The “exchange deal” itself was not signed by Shukri himself. The person that signed in Shukri’s name (in accordance with a power of attorney on behalf of Shukri from 1968) was one named “Oved Yom Tov”, who happened to negotiate the deal (with himself) in the name of the Israeli lands’ authority. The same Shukri also received the sum of 4,000 lira as payment for his effort to transfer 25 graves (an insignificant part of the graves in the cemetery) to the new cemetery – an action that he apparently didn’t bother to perform.

Shukri’s masters knew that, as a “trustee”, he is not empowered to sell, exchange or demolish the cemetery. In order to get more legal pretense to their dubious deal, they appealed for the Muslim Shari’a court in Akka (Acre), which is also subordinated to the state’s authority. The verdict from the court decreed that land from the cemetery can be exchanged, but only land that have no graves in it. The agreement between the authorities and Shukri to transfer graves from the cemetery proves that they knew well enough that the land contained graves, and, by implication, the endorsement of the Shari’a court to the agreement is void.

Suheil Shukri asked for 6150 lira to transfer 25 graves. Finaly he received 4000.

The struggle for recognition of the cemetery

After the “deal” about al-Qassam cemetery, and other similar dubious deals, were exposed, Shukri had to leave the country. After a long struggle by the Haifa Muslim community, new, faithful, trustees were appointed to take care of the “Istiqlal Waqf”, and they have taken on themselves to save what may be saved of the Waqf’s mosques, cemeteries and property. Meanwhile, Haifa is resuming gradually its natural role as a central city for the Arab Palestinian community. The struggle to save the al-Qassam cemetery is one of the major issues that unite the community in defending its rights and reconnecting with its pre-Nakba past.

View of the cemetery and the protest tent – December 2021 (Photo: Rashad Omari, al-Madina)

In 1989, the Abna al-Balad movement organized a volunteer work-day to clean the cemetery, which was hidden in a tangle of tall thorns, and for the re-marking of the graves. In the beginning of the 2000s, there was a big struggle against the intention to path a multi-lane street through the cemetery’s land. For several months there was a protest tent in the cemetery and local youth from the Islamic Movement stayed guarding the ground day and night. Finally, this struggle culminated in a symbolic victory, when a massive bridge was built to allow the street pass above the cemetery without affecting the graves.

In 2014, the “Kerur Akhzakot” company (which claims ownership of the 13 dunam confiscated in the fifties) filed a civil lawsuit in the Krayot magistrate’s court against the trustees of the “Istiqlal Waqf”. The company asked the court to declare that the plot on which it claims ownership has no graves. Alternatively, it sought to oblige the Waqf trustees to vacate any graves. The demand for the evacuation of the graves provoked public protest. Contact was made with many families whose loved ones are buried in the cemetery. At all court hearings there was a mass presence in the courtroom and there were demonstrations and protest vigils around the building, with participants carrying pictures of their buried family members. At the end of the hearings, Judge Shlomo Ardman ruled that there are graves in the plot that is the subject of the lawsuit. He refused to issue an order to evacuate the graves on the grounds that it is “too early at this stage”, until a specific construction plan is submitted that requires evacuation.

A delegation from Herak Haifa visiting the protest tent on Decemebr 17, 2021 (Photo: Rashad Omari, al-Madina)

As the families of the buried organized, they decided to apply together to the Supreme Court to re-recognize the cemetery in its entirety. But in a preliminary hearing the Supreme Court judges proposed to the plaintiffs to withdraw their petition, while threatening them in a judgment that would have serious consequences to their detriment. Some of the plaintiffs concluded their impressions from the hearing by saying that “the judges refused to dig in old papers, and think it is better to dig even older graves.”

Meanwhile, news is gathering of new plans for commercial construction on the cemetery grounds and of a new developer entering the picture. In early December 2021, the Waqf trustees, in collaboration with the families of the buried and under the auspices of the High Follow Up Committee of the Arab Public, erected a protest tent in the cemetery’s area. The frustration with the “legal route” has brought back to the center the public struggle to repel the plans for expropriation and destruction. The demands are simple: recognize the cemetery and allow the dead to rest in peace.

Israeli War Criminals designate Palestinian Human Rights Defenders as “Terrorists”…

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ODSC Condemns Classification of Palestinian Institutions as “Terrorist Organizations”

A press release issued by the One Democratic State Campaign in Historic Palestine

October 23, 2021

The decision of the Israeli government to declare six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist organizations” is an extension of Israel’s hostility to human rights in general and to the important function of these organizations in monitoring and exposing the violations by the Israeli regime of the most basic rights of the Palestinian indigenous population. This recategorization of human rights organizations reflects the Israeli government’s concern about their documentation and public exposure of Israeli policies, including the fear that such exposure will result in international condemnations, individual prosecutions before the international judiciary, and other kinds of accountability.

It is clear that Israel is tired of having to deal with the ongoing struggle of Palestinian civil society and therefore is working to provide a “legal cover” to eliminate these institutions. It follows the occupation’s abject failure to neutralize the efforts of the boycott and divestment (BDS) movement to isolate the Israeli apartheid regime; the movement enjoys unprecedented widespread Palestinian and international support.

Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity require urgent intervention by the international community, including steps to isolate the Israeli regime politically, as well as sanctions on individuals and organizations complicit in these crimes. The latest Israeli attack against Palestinian civil society, by criminalizing these organizations, is just one more step in a systematic campaign aimed at silencing the voices seeking to expose the real apartheid face of Israel. The six organizations targeted by Israel are known for their tireless work documenting Israeli crimes and providing support to its victims.

We, in the One Democratic State Campaign, condemn in the strongest terms this repressive attempt to persecute defenders of human rights in Palestine. We also call on local and international civil society organizations to stand together in order to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it perpetrates against Palestinian society. We warn that this criminalization of leading civil society organizations further undermines the ability of Palestinians to resist occupation and oppression in peaceful and non-violent ways.

‘Down with the ignominious authority!’: On the assassination of Nizar Banat

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One Democratic State Campaign: The killing of opposition activist Nizar Al-Banat shows the status quo cannot continue. The countdown on the Palestinian Authority has begun.

Statement of the One Democratic State Campaign on the assassination of Nizar Banat

Down with the ignominious authority!

“There is no liberation without freedom, no liberation with tyranny, corruption, and cooperation with the colonizer.”

Our people are in a state of shock, astonishment and bereavement at the horrific crime committed by the Oslo authorities against the opposition activist Nizar Al-Banat. It has become almost certain that things can’t continue as they were, and that the countdown on the ignominious authority has begun.

These repressive agencies, trained by the CIA General Keith Dayton, deliberately and brutally assassinated Nizar Al-Banat, after they stormed his relatives’ home in al-Khalil (Hebron) and transferred him to their headquarters in the city. This crime has poured gas on the fire that was already burning in the hearts of the sons and daughters of our people. It adds to the accumulated anger towards the Palestinian regime due to the rampant corruption, oppression, and cooperation with the colonizer. This regime is completely isolated from the aspirations of our people and our hopes for liberation, freedom, and justice. This regime has no role in the liberation struggle, as demonstrated in the glorious popular uprising and the continuous mass movements.

This corrupt and criminal behavior – a structural behavior that constantly reproduces a social political class whose existence and continuity depends on external support – confirms that the situation has reached its peak. It is no longer possible to remain silent on this hypocritical regime, which is alienated from the people. It has become a heavy burden that the people can no longer bear and a serious obstacle to the march of liberation and the achievement of human dignity.

This crime, which is added to the accumulated crimes of oppression, corruption, and cooperation with the colonizer, poses a great challenge to all advocates of change, liberation and freedom. How to put an end to the rule of this incurable political class, and how the forces of change can create an alternative path around which everyone coalesces? This new path should capture the imagination of the people, and draw them towards organized and coordinated action. It should not separate resisting the colonizer from resisting the regime of tyranny and corruption.

The One Democratic State campaign presents its vision for the future Palestine as a democratic country based on the ruins of the colonial system, apartheid, and internal tyranny; A free homeland and a free human being. Our vision is a pluralistic society, in which citizens are equal, freedom of expression is preserved, human dignity is preserved and women’s freedom is preserved. This is because freedom is indivisible, and it does not accept any violation of the rights of an opponent, or the freedom of citizens in general, under any of the obsolete pretexts and slogans such as “national security”, “warding off strife” or “no voice is louder than the sound of battle,” which are still being used by most Arab regimes.

The rebellious Palestinian refuses to establish a system similar to the regimes of oppression and brutality in his homeland, as is the case with the regimes of the Arab world. These regimes turned their countries into prisons and slaughterhouses, treated their countries as their private farms and subjected them to external forces. As a result, the peoples revolted and broke the barrier of fear.

It has become clear, especially in the light of the popular uprising and the battle of al-Quds, that the new generation and its emerging vanguards, and all veteran, democratic revolutionaries, who are rid of the remnants of the past and its double standards, and the slogans of the outdated Arab regimes, are the qualified force to lead a national, democratic and liberation movement based on the values ​​of freedom, human dignity and social justice. For this qualified force, the murder of Nizar Banat will only add motivation to continue fighting colonialism and confronting its agent, the Palestinian tyrannical regime, and linking this struggle with the struggle of the Arab peoples to recover their homelands from the brutal regimes.

This crime has put a defining moment before our people. Our people deserve life, dignity, security and a decent living.

Shame for the murderers, the corrupt and the collaborators with the colonizer!

Down with the ignominious authority!

Freedom for our people!

Glory to the martyrs of liberation and of free speech!

Palestine, June 24, 2021

Israel renews the use of administrative detention against Palestinian citizens

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Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories under administrative detention. Lately it renewed the practice also in the 1948 occupied Palestine.

(The following article appeared in Mondoweiss)

Israel’s claim to be a democracy is based on many false conceptions. The most obvious falsification is the idea there is a “democratic Israel” existing alongside “temporarily occupied territories”, the West Bank and Gaza. In actuality Israel is pursuing aggressive ethnic cleansing all along the occupied territories and illegal settlers are the strongest force in Israeli politics. The complementary falsification is the idea that Palestinians in the territory occupied by Israel since 1948 are citizens enjoying full civil rights, even if denied national rights. Whenever those Palestinians, who are formally citizens, organize to protest their discrimination, the state reveals it true dictatorial nature as an occupying power.

The area around the Haifa court entrance was sealed by guards and armed police – June 9, 2021

One of the most extreme measures of military oppression is administrative detention. Under Israel’s “emergency laws” — and mind you the “emergency” in Israel has lasted for the last 73 years since its establishment — the military authorities can order the detention of any person without indictment for up to six months, renewable for an unlimited number of times. Administration detention is commonly used against Palestinians in the territory Israel has occupied since 1967, but there is also a long history of it being used in the territories it occupies since 1948, where Palestinian are officially regarded citizens of Israel.

These types of laws were used to crush the “al-Ard” movement – the first Palestinian political movement that tried to organize in “48 Palestine” in the fifties and sixties. In 1988, at the height of the first intifada, some 10 leading members of “Abna al-Balad”, a leftist grass-root movement, were placed under administrative detention. The last cases that I know about were in 2017, and I reported some of them in Free Haifa (here and here).

Now, with the latest popular uprising in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah, against the bombardment of Gaza and against the fascists’ attacks on Palestinian residents in the mixed cities, it is being used again. In addition to mass detentions and violent attacks by police and border guards against the population at large, Israel is resorting again to administrative detention of Palestinians who are formally recognized as citizens.

Herak Fahmawi Demonstration in front of the Haifa court for the release of Zafer Jabareen, June 9, 2021

On Friday, June 4, as part of the mass detention campaign in Umm al-Fahm, the police arrested Zafer Jabareen. A day after his detention Jabareen was brought to the court with the rest of the detainees and his detention was remanded for 3 more days on claims that he should be interrogated for taking part in disturbing public order. He was taken to Shabak (the secret security services) detention – but was not really interrogated. On Tuesday, June 8, instead of releasing Jabareen or bringing him to another remand hearing, he was informed that Israel’s war minister, Benny Gantz, signed an administrative detention order for four months against him. The next day he was brought before Judge Ron Shapira, the head of the Haifa district court for the “judicial supervision” over his detention.

Zafer Jabareen, age 44, was arrested in 2002, at the time of the Second Intifada, accused of membership in a banned organization and activities against the state. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. After his release in 2019 he married and was working in construction. His wife is now pregnant with their first child, and will be missing her husband at this critical period. 

The “United Fahmawi Herak” and the popular committee of Umm al-Fahm called for a demonstration in front of the Haifa court at the time of the hearing on Wednesday, June 9. About a hundred people gathered in front of the court, including leaders from all the Palestinian political parties, the mayor of Umm al-Fahm Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid and many youth activists from the Herak. The police also were present with many heavily armed military-style types, and completely sealed off all the area around the court’s entrance. The demonstrators carried placards in Arabic, Hebrew and English in solidarity with Zafer Jabareen, calling for an end to administrative detention and denouncing the detentions campaign against the Palestinian masses.

Lawyer Mahmoud Jabareen updating the demonstrators and the press at the end of the hearing – June 9, 2021

When Zafer Jabareen’s lawyer, Mahmoud Jabareen, came out of the hearing, he updated the demonstrators and the press about what happened in the hearing. He couldn’t hide his frustration. He tried to ask questions about the accusations or suspicions against Zafer, but was told that all the materials are secret and no answers will be given. He told the court there is nothing he can do to defend his client without knowing why he was detained. He was not even allowed to be present in the courtroom when the Shabak presented “secret evidence” to the judge.

I talked with the lawyer later and he explained that the administrative detention is based on an old “emergency law” and is not subject to the newer law governing criminal detention. In the criminal detention law, the judge is obliged to consider the detainees human rights and, if he finds that there is a legal basis for detention, he still should consider whether there are other ways to supervise the detainee without holding him in prison. In the emergency law that governs administrative detention, even as there is no indictment and no way the detainee can defend himself or disprove “secret evidence”, there is also no consideration of the detainee’s human rights and the court is not allowed even to consider other means of supervision. 

The police and Shabak love to use the threat of administrative detention as a way to break the spirit of people under interrogation. They can tell the interrogated that, if they don’t confess to any crime, and even if there is no evidence against them, they can still find themselves in prison for an unlimited period. So, better close a plea bargain and you will know at least when you will get out of prison. 

Meanwhile, Haaretz, while reporting on Jabareen’s administrative detention, mentioned that there is another administrative detainee from the Nazareth area. This detainee was also detained for interrogation (on May 17th) and later transferred to administrative detention. 

On Sunday, June 13, Judge Shapira issued his decision ratifying General Gantz’s administrative detention decree against Zafer Jabareen. Jabareen’s family and friends, and some political activists gathered outside the courtroom’s closed doors and were not surprised to hear the ruling. Some of them repeated the popular saying: “When your judge is your oppressor, to whom do you complain?”