Speaking strongly against the establishment of a Palestinian state, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said, “Jews have had a connection to the land of Israel before anyone else was walking on this land,” in remarks on Sunday at The Jerusalem Post annual conference in New York.
A Palestinian state would place a direct security risk on all the citizens of Israel, Akunis said. “We don’t need another terrorist state in the Middle East. Israel needs stable and defensible borders… I promise you, so long as I am elected in my country, a Palestinian state will not be created.”
Shimon Peres, for years, spoke of a new Middle East, said Akunis. Indeed there a “new” one has developed, but only for the worse, as more and more organizations deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and its homeland. It is an Arab winter and not an Arab spring, he insisted.
Akunis denounced attempts made by enemies of Israel to “rewrite history. Most of the lies come from terror-supporting states.” Among the main lies is that “Palestinians are ruled by Israel,” he said, adding, “the truth is that the Palestinians have been ruling themselves for 23 years already. They run their educational system, health care, security, financial system, justice and the media, under the Palestinian Authority.”
But, said Akunis, the PA uses its influence to glorify violence and death. “Their textbooks are filled with hatred for the Jews and Israelis,” he said.
The minister praised Israel’s bright minds and its contributions to the world as being a “great breeding ground for science, technology and innovation. Compare this to the rest of the Middle East,” Akunis said, and added that he hoped to meet the new US Ambassador David Friedman “in a new embassy in Jerusalem.”
Israel is “ready and willing for peace, but each time we reach out, the terrorists spill more of our blood,” Akunis said. “They must be stopped. I want my children to grow up with peaceful neighbors,” but unfortunately, it is not happening.”
There are no countries in the Middle East who live by the values of democracy, Akunis said. “Instead of fighting with Israel, Arab countries and Palestinians should see us as role model. We want real peace… Israel has no better ally than the US, and the US has no better ally than Israel.”
The new Hamas charter and Palestinian consensus
May 6, 2017 at 10:19 am
Palestine’s Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas – has finally revealed its new charter. The document was launched by the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, at a press conference in Doha, Qatar on 1 May. The charter’s formal title is, “A Document of General Principles and Policies” and Hamas has released an official English translation which can be read in full on its website.
Hamas is one of two main wings of Palestine’s national movement, the other being Fatah (or the Palestinian National Liberation Movement), which is led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The new document comes after several months of press reports that the movement was close to replacing its original 1988 charter, and after a reported two years of internal deliberations and debates within the movement. However, the roots of the new document actually go back much further. It represents a coalescence of the movement’s political thought over the past decade or more. The new charter formalises several evolving aspects of Hamas’s political thought which have been apparent in its public pronouncements for a long time.
Media reports about the new charter have focused on two aspects: Hamas’s accommodation of the so-called “two-state solution”, and the movement’s attitude towards the issue of Judaism versus Zionism. The document envisions a conceptual framework around Israel of colonialism and occupation, rather than a religious conflict in its essence. This is indeed an improvement on the original Hamas charter, which was written by one man in the late 1980s when the movement was still emerging.
The new charter, however, takes nothing away from the essentially Islamic nature of Hamas:
Its frame of reference is Islam, which determines its principles, objectives and means.
While emphasising that “Palestine is an Arab Islamic land,” it also stresses that
the Palestinian people are one people, made up of all Palestinians, inside and outside of Palestine, irrespective of their religion, culture or political affiliation,
and it “rejects the persecution of any human being or the undermining of his or her rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian grounds.”
For this very reason, the charter emphasises the essential Palestinian national consensus, the rejection of Zionism:
The Zionist project is a racist, aggressive, colonial and expansionist project based on seizing the properties of others; it is hostile to the Palestinian people and to their aspiration for freedom, liberation, return and self-determination.
The new charter holds on to the main points of the Palestinian national consensus. These include the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, and their descendants, who were expelled by Israel and the founding Zionist militias which pre-dated the state, expelling the majority of Palestinians in 1947-48’s Nakba, or Catastrophe (an act of ethnic cleansing which wiped Palestine off the map).
Palestine is still defined as extending “from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west.” The right of return, moreover, is noted to be “an inalienable right” which “cannot be dispensed with by any party, whether Palestinian, Arab or international.”
Hamas also emphasises the Palestinian right to bear arms to use against Israeli occupation forces, something which, again, has massive popular support amongst the Palestinian people: “armed resistance… is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people… the liberation of Palestine is a legitimate activity, it is an act of self-defence, and it is the expression of the natural right of all peoples to self-determination.”
As an occupied people living under a colonial regime of oppression, international law and basic morality enshrine the right to resistance and armed self-defence. While Hamas has as much obligation as anyone to engage militarily according to accepted rules of war — by not targeting civilians, for example — the so-called international community hypocritically requires Palestinians to drop the right of self-defence altogether; Israel, of course, is never asked to “stop the violence” and is instead armed to the teeth by the Western states of this “community”.
In recent years the armed wing of Hamas has waged a just and entirely defensive liberation war. Contrary to Israeli propaganda, and in stark contrast to the bloody tactics of the Israel Defence Forces, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades have gone out of their way to target Israeli soldiers and only soldiers.
The previous Hamas charter, now nullified, contained favourable mentions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic forgery concocted by the Tsarist regime in Russia. As well as being wrong in and of itself, this gave soft ammunition to Israeli propagandists to undermine the movement. The new charter sets this right, which is to be welcomed. In reality, though, Hamas leaders have in any case made it clear for many years that the movement’s struggle is not against Jews per se, but against the occupation of Palestine and Israel’s crimes.
The document launched in Doha sets this out in black and white: “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”While the new charter promises “no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity” and points out correctly that “rights never lapse,” it offers an accommodation for the “two-state solution”, accepting a Palestinian state based on the 1949-1967 armistice (“Green”) line.While the document does not say so in as many words, this implies a degree of recognition of Israel within part of historic Palestine. This is certainly a tension in the charter:
However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state… to be a formula of national consensus.
Much of the new charter simply reflects Palestine’s national consensus. Nevertheless, the emphasis on accommodation with the “two-state solution” seems anachronistic at a time when calls for a single democratic state are growing amongst Palestinians themselves.
Strike for freedom: Water, salt and dignity
May 4, 2017 at 8:22 pm
Water and salt play an important role in the continuity of Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons and the success of such strikes. Water and salt are all that they consume in terms of food and water. While the benefits of consuming water are well known for the body, prisoners have since learnt the importance of salt in maintaining the longest hunger strike imaginable. It is the only element that is available to them within their cells that can protect their intestines from rotting from the inside. The success of any hunger strike carried out by these prisoners relies heavily on their consumption of a certain ratio of water and salt. The salt is often hidden in their clothes, bedding or even hidden behind walls. Since the beginning of the hunger strike, Israeli officers attacked the cells of Palestinian prisoners in search of salt, making it one of the biggest symbols of protest against the occupation.
Outside of the prison walls, those who have stood in solidarity with the prisoners have also begun to use the slogan “Water and Salt”. Many have even expressed their desire to join the protestors in their hunger strike by only consuming water and salt for one day. It is easy to see that this statement holds a large symbolic weight in the fight against the rotten nature of our institutions and our societies, which is undoubtedly a metaphor for the dangers of rotting intestines facing prisoners who refuse to eat.
“Water and salt” and dignity is what the prisoners are aiming to achieve through their strike in their greater effort to move the stagnant waters around them. Many continue to ignore their plight and their suffering while Israel continues to exploit the Palestinian Authority’s political deficit. Israel refuses to release Palestinian prisoners. In fact, it continues to arrest more and more prisoners every day, every hour and every minute, thanks to the security coordination agreements concluded between the occupier and the Palestinian Authority.
Marwan Barghouthi and his comrades in Hadarim prison are aware of this reality. The Hadarim prison is the location from which the first spark ignited. They have attempted, through this strike, to bring about a big change in the Palestinian arena. Among these changes is the goal to improve the living conditions of Palestinian prisoners. The neglect that many Palestinian prisoners suffer from extends to various aspects of the Palestinian cause.
The Palestinian Authority has placed the question of its survival and its continuity above the issue of countering the occupation. Were it not for the local and international community’s blatant neglect of the situation in Palestine and its lack of action with regards to continued settlement expansion, or its lack of support for a just solution for the conflict, the question of prisoners and their suffering would not have been prolonged until this day. There would be no political prisoners in custody at all.
The decision taken by Marwan Barghouthi and his comrades has not been welcomed by many, in fact, it has been faced with public opposition on the part of the Palestinian Authority and a number of Palestinian factions. Barghouthi and the other prisoners who are held in captivity in the Hadarim prison, released a statement to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other factions, including Hamas, declaring their intention to go on hunger strike nearly a month before the actual start date. The intention behind this announcement was to send a message to the PA and other groups, prompting them to contact various prisons and detention centres. There is no doubt that some factions may have taken the required action; however, others took advantage of this opportunity to discourage certain prisoners from joining the strike.
It is from the Hadarim prison where Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat and other leaders, issued the statement regarding the strike, and it is there that all other prisoners signed up and agreed to take part in the strike. The statement was confirmed by Wasfi Qabha, a member and leading figure in Hamas, who has been administratively held and who was given a date of release a few days after the strike began. Not all of the factors are clear in the few days that have passed since the start of the strike. Nearly 1,500 prisoners out of a total of 10,000 have participated in the hunger strikes. The goal of this strike goes beyond the issuance of statements and it expands beyond asking political factions to call and place pressure on detention centres, it seeks to take the steps that are necessary to escalate the levels of mass solidarity with detainees. It seeks to encourage people to protest and to organise in a number of cities. This call for action applies to all factions and political forces, including Hamas.
The importance of this goal has been made clearer through discussions with several key figures. The Palestinian leadership has requested that certain prisoners refrain from participating in the hunger strikes because it bears negative impact on Mahmoud Abbas’ recent visit to Washington. This is a strange justification, which assumes that the hunger strikes will affect the talks between Abbas and Trump. The strikes should instead be seen as a way to exert pressure on the American administration in the biased Peace Process talks.
The signs coming from Washington are useless and the same can be said for the PA because the talks in question have little to do with bringing an end to settlement expansion. In fact, it does little other than to encourage the PA to accept the current reality and to exchange greater economic stability for Palestinians for their remainder on the political scene. The PA’s continuity comes with the perpetuation of the military occupation and an expansion of settlements. The PA’s statements suggest that it wants to comply with American conditions, which has been reinforced by the PA’s lack of encouragement for the hunger strikes.
The strike for dignity and freedom led by Marwan Barghouthi and his comrades should not pass by unnoticed. It is the spark that will turn solidarity with Palestinian prisoners into a popular uprising.
At this point in time, our people will not forgive anyone who remains silent or refuses or even hesitates to take part in the strike or support it by all means available.
This is a historic moment and it is everyone’s responsibility to carry the torch that our captured comrades have ignited, turning it into a flame that burns the occupier. Will we take action and take back some of our lost dignity through the resistance and through water and salt?
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 28 April 2017.