Occupied West Bank, Palestine – At the Hjeiji family home in the occupied West Bank village of Qarawat Bani Zeid, classmates, friends and relatives of Fatima Hjeiji lined up to pay their respects.
One by one, the women and girls hugged Fatima’s mother Dareen and offered sympathetic words.
“She was such a lovely girl. Everybody at school loved her,” said Nadin Imad, 17, who attended the girls’ school in the village with Fatima.
“I was in class with her since the first grade. She had a very strong character and was not afraid to say whatever she wanted.”
The previous afternoon had begun like any other afternoon in the Hjeiji household. Fatima, 16, had returned home from school around 1.30pm and updated her mother on the morning’s events.
“It was a normal day, nothing unusual,” said Dareen Hjeiji.
“She told me about her school day, friends, teachers and her work. I had to visit the doctor so I left the house to go to the appointment. Fatima didn’t tell me she was going to Jerusalem to visit her relatives.”
Fatima’s uncle Salameh Hjeiji told Al Jazeera that he believed the teenager had gone to visit another uncle and aunt who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem.
However, the teenager had not told her immediate family of any plans to do so and did not have an entry permit that would have enabled her to pass through the Israeli checkpoints that separate Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank.
Later that evening a family member received a phone call from the DCO, the joint Palestinian-Israeli military coordination office in the West Bank, informing them that Fatima had been shot dead by Israeli paramilitary police close to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
Soon afterwards, Fatima’s father Afeef received a call from an Israeli intelligence official, asking him to come to Jerusalem and identify Fatima’s body.
He was also questioned by intelligence officers for three hours that evening, he told Al Jazeera.
The Israeli police said in a statement that Fatima had been holding a knife and tried to attack Israeli paramilitary officers close to an entrance to the Old City, who then shot and killed the teenager.
The statement added that a letter had been found on the dead girl, which cited Quranic verses, addressed her family and was signed “martyr”.
But Fatima’s mother could not fathom what had happened the previous evening and believed that the police officers had no justification for shooting and killing her daughter.
“I could never imagine that my daughter would do this,” she said. “I don’t believe what the Israeli police said.”
According to eyewitness reports cited by local media, Hjeiji had been standing around 10 metres away from the police officers when they shot her.
|Men gathered inside a community hall in Qarawat Bani Zeid village to offer condolences to the family of Fatima Hjeiji [Nigel Wilson/Al Jazeera]|
Some accounts noted that the police officers continued to fire at the teenager after she had fallen to the ground and no longer posed a threat.
Since a wave of sporadic violence began in October 2015, mostly involving Palestinian street attacks on Israelis, a number of local and international human rights groups have raised concerns that Israeli security forces have used excessive force when confronting Palestinians who had carried out attacks or been suspected of doing so.
The Israeli police relaxed its open-fire regulations in December 2015, permitting officers to open fire with live ammunition on those throwing stones or firebombs as an initial option, without having to use non-lethal weapons first.
In a recently published investigation, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found that 101 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli security forces in 2016, including 31 minors.
The NGO reported that “these incidents were made possible by an open-fire policy that permits both shooting to kill in instances defined as ‘incidents of assault’ and a trigger-happy approach to demonstrations or stone-throwing”.
DCI-Palestine (DCIP), a children’s rights NGO, noted that Fatima was the seventh Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli security forces in 2017.
“Israeli security forces routinely use intentional force against Palestinian youth,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability programme director at DCIP, said in a statement.
“Such excessive force, without a modicum of accountability, signals tacit approval for killing children with impunity.”
The eldest of four siblings, Fatima had been a strong pupil and enjoyed writing poetry and speeches in her spare time, but she really excelled in mathematics, her family said.
“She was part of a club for gifted mathematics students in Ramallah,” said her mother Dareen.
Dareen described her as quiet, calm and kind, noting that she was popular among her classmates.
The teenager was politically aware and had ambitions to work in the media after completing her education.
“She was a good speaker and a good writer,” said Dareen. “She always watched the news because she wanted to be a journalist when she was older.”
Source: Al Jazeera News
Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author.
When nearly 1,500 Palestinian prisoners declared an open hunger strike on April 17, protesting about unfair and degrading conditions in Israel jails, much of the US mainstream media ignored them.
There was a single exception. The New York Times allowed the leader of the strike, a top Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, to share with a wider audience the reasons behind the strike.
However, the backlash was instant.
So-called Honest Reporting, a pro-Israel media watchdog whose tagline is, oddly enough “defending Israel from media bias”, summarised much of the outrage that resulted from the Times’ decision to allow Barghouti to share his and the grievances of 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Under the title “Marwan Barghouti: New York Times Sanitises a Terrorist”, the media monitoring platform ran a synopsis of many reactions by Israeli officials and pro-Israeli editors and writers protesting about the supposedly heinous act.
Seemingly it had escaped this pro-Israel media watchdog that the New York Times, like most US mainstream media largely accepts Israel’s discourse on Palestine uncontested, had itself taken a pro-Israel line since the very start of the conflict.
Barghouti is a “terrorist” from an official Israeli point of view, exactly as every freedom fighter, Palestinian or South African or anyone else who had dared to fight military occupation and colonisation. He or she was almost always deemed a “terrorist” by his or her jailers.
And like other colonial powers in the past, Israel expects, in fact demands, that its unfair designations of the very people it customarily oppresses be embraced and mimicked by the rest of the world.
If seen from the perspective of disaffected, imprisoned Palestinians, the reality suddenly changes.
Militarily occupied Palestinians rightly deem Israel a “terrorist state” and the Zionist ideology that has justified the ethnic cleaning of Palestinians and the occupation of their homeland a ‘terrorist movement’.
Such a view hardly registers in mainstream, especially US, media.
Despite the rising sympathy for Palestine and Palestinians in many parts of the world, Europe and North America included, the media are still following the same line as in the past, with subjugated Palestinians ignored or demonised and militarily powerful Israel painted in the role of the victim, and celebrated for its alleged moral triumph as a democracy among Muslim “hordes”.
Of course, not all media operate with such low journalistic and moral standards. There are still voices, however marginalised, that continue to challenge that galling paradigm.
They refuse to accept how “objectivity” is selectively applied on some nations, but excludes those who are perceived as “American allies”, whether self-declared democracies, like Israel, or outright dictatorial regimes.
It would have been far more productive, and humane to sympathise with hunger-striking men and women in Israeli jails, mostly sentenced in kangaroo courts or held indefinitely with no trials at all or any due process.
An inquisitive journalist should inquire as of why thousands of prisoners are on hunger strike in the first place and should attempt to understand how such an act is part of a larger political and humanitarian context that has affected millions of occupied and besieged Palestinians.
Is it possible that many in the media are wary that such dialectic could lead to more painful questions and equally uncomfortable answers?
|The prisoners held captive in Israeli jails are a depiction of the life of every Palestinian, trapped behind walls, checkpoints, in refugee camps, in Gaza, in cantons in the West Bank, segregated Jerusalem, waiting to be let in, waiting to be let out. Simply waiting.|
Prison within Prison
East Jerusalem is cut off from the West Bank, and those within the West Bank are themselves separated from each other.
Palestinians in Israel are treated slightly better than their brethren in the occupied territories, but still subsist in degrading conditions compared with the first-class status given to Israeli Jews, purely on the basis of their ethnicity.
That is why the issue of prisoners is a very sensitive one for Palestinians – being a literal as well as metaphorical representation of all that Palestinians have in common, and the various facets that characterise the very meaning of a Palestinian existence.
In fact, the protests igniting across the Occupied Palestinian Territories to support 1,500 hunger strikers are not merely an act of ‘solidarity’ with the incarcerated and abused men and women who are demanding improvements to their conditions.
They are, in essence, protests against the very reality of Palestinian life -an Israeli created status quo.
The prisoners held captive in Israeli jails are a depiction of the life of every Palestinian, trapped behind walls, checkpoints, in refugee camps, in Gaza, in cantons in the West Bank, segregated Jerusalem, waiting to be let in, waiting to be let out. Simply waiting.
The 6,500 prisoners in Israeli jails include hundreds of children, women, elected officials, journalists and administrative detainees, who are held without charge and no due process. Yet, these numbers alone hardly convey the reality that has transpired under Israeli occupation since 1967.
According to prisoners’ rights group, Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned under military rule since Israel commenced its occupation of Palestinian territories in June 1967.
That is 40 percent of the male population of the occupied territories. Israeli jails are, therefore, prisons within larger prisons.
The Special Palestinians
But to be fair, there is another important dimension to the story of the prisoners than the Israeli occupation. The ongoing Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike is rooted in a Palestinian political context, as much as it is in Israeli oppression and violations of international law.
Leading the hunger strike is Barghouti, who is by far the more popular figure within Fatah than its current leader, the ageing Mahmoud Abbas. (No wonder why western mainstream media is trying to discredit Barghouti!)
Despite being president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Abbas’ reign is characterised by expired mandates and little popularity. In fact, his leadership has been largely predicated on several pillars: US-Western funding, “security coordination” with Israel and Arab backing.
The reality is that the Palestinian people have rarely ever been a focal point within Abbas’ political equation.
Now over 80-years-old, Abbas is desperate to ensure that the future of the party will continue to favour his brand of politics and sideline his rivals. These include not only the Hamas movement, but also the Barghouti-led branch of Fatah.
The sad and painful reality is that while the status quo is bleak for most Palestinians, it is beneficial to a few. Some had benefited, becoming wealthy after the Oslo Accords was signed. The PA is itself a direct outcome of Oslo, and can only survive as long as the Oslo “wisdom” – “peace process”, “two-state solution”, and so on -prevails.
The reality is that Fatah itself had never recovered from its post-Oslo fiasco and the hurried rearranging of the party, its values, cadres and vision.
Meanwhile, the majority of Palestinians are suffering: they see no political horizon, they are getting poorer and jobs are harder to come by, the Israeli occupation is more enriched, the Arabs are too preoccupied with their own wars and conflicts and the Palestinian leaderships are busy squabbling over meaningless titles, money and hallow prestige.
While former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was holed up in his office in Ramallah for years, until his death in November 2004, Abbas is free to travel. While Israel can, at times, be critical of Abbas, he rarely deviates far from the acceptable limits set by the Israeli government.
This is why Abbas is free and Barghouti is in jail.
If the PA truly cared about prisoners and the wellbeing of Barghouti, Abbas would have busied himself with forging a strategy to galvanise the energy of the hungry prisoners, and millions of his people who rallied in their support.
Unsurprisingly, this is not the case.
|Some had benefited, becoming wealthy after the Oslo Accords was signed. The PA is itself a direct outcome of Oslo, and can only survive as long as the Oslo ‘wisdom’ – ‘peace process’, ‘two-state solution’, and so on – prevails.|
“Abbas is publicly supportive of the strikers, but in private he is said to want the protest over as quickly as possible,” wrote Jonathan Cook, the award-winning journalist based in Nazareth. “Reports … revealed that he had urged Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to intercede with America and Israel to help.”
Mass mobilisation has always scared Abbas and the PA. It is too dangerous for them, because popular action often challenges the established status quo and could hinder his Israeli-sanctioned rule over occupied Palestinians.
Matrix of Control
Not all Fatah supporters are happy with Abbas’ subservience. The movement’s youth want to reassert a strong Palestinian position through mobilising the people; Abbas wants to keep things quiet.
Amos Harel argued in Haaretz that the hunger strike, called for by Barghouti himself, was the latter’s attempt at challenging Abbas and “rain[ing] on Trump’s peace plan”. However, US President Donald Trump has no plan. He is giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu carte blanche to do as he pleases.
His solution is: one state, two states, whichever “both parties like”.
But both sides are far from being equal powers. Israel has nuclear capabilities and a massive army, while Abbas needs to coordinate with Israel every time he wants to leave the occupied West Bank. In this unequal reality, only Israel decides the fate of Palestinians. Why then, should Palestinians be quiet?
Their silence can only contribute to this gross reality, their painful present circumstances where Palestinians are perpetually imprisoned under an enduring occupation, while their “leadership” receives both a nod of approval from Israel and accolades and more funds from Washington.
It is with this backdrop that the hunger strike becomes far more urgent than the need to improve the conditions of incarcerated Palestinians.
It is a call for Palestinian unity against factionalism and Israeli occupation.
“Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor,” wrote Marwan Barghouti from his jail on the first day of the hunger strike.
In truth, his message was directed at Abbas and his cronies, as much as it was directed at Israel.
Dr Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for more than 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
Source: Al Jazeera
Palestinian Family Sues Israel for Arson Attack by Jewish Settlers That Burned Toddler Alive
The arsonists left the following messages on the walls of the house they targeted in their arson attack: “Long live the Messiah” and “Revenge.”
In the hate crime attack by Jewish settlers in the village of Kafr Duma in the occupied West Bank in July 2015, 18-month-old Ali Saad was killed immediately, while his parents were seriously injured in the blaze and died in the hospital months later.
The sole survivor was 6-year-old Ahmed, who also spent several months in the hospital being treated for his severe burns and now lives with a permanent disability.
Nearly two years after the ordeal, relatives of the Palestinian family are filing a lawsuit against Israel, suing the apartheid state for criminal negligence.
“Today we filed a complaint with the Nazareth district court demanding the state of Israel be held responsible for the burning of the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma in the West Bank,” lawyer Hassan al-Khatib, who represents the family, told AFP.
Israel created “a hothouse and place for groups of lawbreakers to plan and prepare to carry out hate crimes against the Palestinian residents of the area,” the suit stated, adding that Israel should be held accountable for “criminal negligence” that led to the attack, reported the Jerusalem Post.
Ahmed’s uncle Nasser Dawabsha told AFP that the family is seeking an admission of responsibility from the state, as well as 16 million shekels, or about US$4.4 million, in damages.
“The child Ahmed suffers from a disability,” he added, as well as “medical and psychological incapacity from the loss of his father, mother and brother.”
In relation to the attack, 21-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel, from the northern West Bank settlement of Shilo, was charged with three counts of murder and one of attempted murder, arson and conspiracy to commit a hate crime.
Another person, a 17-year-old whose name remains under a gag order, was also charged with being an accessory to committing the racially-motivated murder.
An Israeli defense official said the Dawabsha family would be ineligible for compensation that applies to terror victims since it is only open for Israeli citizens, adding that they would have to apply to an alternative committee that compensates people who have suffered from so-called nationalist attacks.
“We will present a complaint against the state, because we view it as responsible for this act of murder — whether in accordance with international law or the law of the state of Israel,” Tawfiq Muhammed from the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, advocating for the family, told Israeli Channel 2.