Israel’s Ever-more Sadistic Reprisals Help Shore Up a Sense of Victimhood

When Israel passed a new counter-terrorism law last year, Ayman Odeh, a leader of the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, described its draconian measures as colonialism’s “last gasp”. He said: “I see … the panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria.” 

The panic and cruelty plumbed new depths last week, when Israeli officials launched a $2.3 million lawsuit against the family of Fadi Qanbar, who crashed a truck into soldiers in Jerusalem in January, killing four. He was shot dead at the scene. 

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Fadi Qanbar (Source: Jerusalem Post)

The suit demands that his widow, Tahani, reimburse the state for the compensation it awarded the soldiers’ families. If she cannot raise the astronomic sum, the debt will pass to her four children, the oldest of whom is currently only seven. 

Israel is reported to be preparing many similar cases. 

Like other families of Palestinians who commit attacks, the Qanbars are homeless, after Israel sealed their East Jerusalem home with cement. Twelve relatives were also stripped of their residency papers as a prelude to expelling them to the West Bank.

None has done anything wrong – their crime is simply to be related to someone Israel defines as a “terrorist”. 

This trend is intensifying. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop paying a small monthly stipend to families like the Qanbars, whose breadwinner was killed or jailed. Conviction rates among Palestinians in Israel’s military legal system stand at more than 99 per cent, and hundreds of prisoners are incarcerated without charge. 

Israeli legislation is set to seize $280 million – a sum equivalent to the total stipends – from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, potentially bankrupting it. 

On Wednesday Israel loyalists will introduce in the US Senate a bill to similarly deny the PA aid unless it stops “funding terror”. Issa Karaka, a Palestinian official, said it would be impossible for the PA to comply:

“Almost every other household … is the family of a prisoner or martyr.” 

Israel has taken collective punishment – a serious violation of international law – to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell’s 1984. 

Israel argues that a potential attacker can only be dissuaded by knowing his loved ones will suffer harsh retribution. Or put another way, Israel is prepared to use any means to crush the motivation of Palestinians to resist its brutal, five-decade occupation. 

All evidence, however, indicates that when people reach breaking-point, and are willing to die in the fight against their oppressors, they give little thought to the consequences for their families. That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Israeli army more than a decade ago.

In truth, Israel knows its policy is futile. It is not deterring attacks, but instead engaging in complex displacement activity. Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis’ attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state. 

If that verdict seems harsh, consider a newly published study into the effects on operators of using drones to carry out extrajudicial executions, in which civilians are often killed as “collateral damage”. 

A US survey found pilots who remotely fly drones soon develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress from inflicting so much death and destruction. The Israeli army replicated the study after its pilots operated drones over Gaza during Israel’s 2014 attack – the ultimate act of collective punishment. Some 500 Palestinian children were killed as the tiny enclave was bombarded for nearly two months. 

Doctors were surprised, however, that the pilots showed no signs of depression or anxiety. The researchers speculate that Israeli pilots may feel more justified in their actions, because they are closer to Gaza than US pilots are to Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen. They are more confident that they are the ones under threat, even as they rain down death unseen on Palestinians. 

The determination to maintain this exclusive self-image as the victim leads to outrageous double standards. 

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Mohammed Abu Khdeir (Source: The Times of Israel)

Last week the Israeli supreme court backed the refusal by officials to seal up the homes of three Jews who kidnapped Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, in 2014 and burnt him alive. 

In May the Israeli government revealed that it had denied compensation to six-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh, the badly scarred, sole survivor of an arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed his entire family two years ago. 

Human rights group B’Tselem recently warned that Israel has given itself immunity from paying compensation to all Palestinians under occupation killed or disabled by the Israeli army – even in cases of criminal wrongdoing. 

This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the west has indulged Israel’s wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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Israel Turns UNESCO Meeting into ‘Politicized Circus’. Resolution Naming Israel an “Occupying Power”

Featured image: Attendees sit during the opening of the 41st session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee at the ICE Krakow Congress Centre in Krakow, Poland, July 3. (Source: Daily Sabah)

Israel, not for the first time, is royally P.O.’ed at UNESCO. The UN organization’s World Heritage Committee has been holding a meeting in Krakow, Poland–and in a session on July 4, the body passed a resolution naming Israel as an “occupying power” while at the same time condemning its tunneling and underground excavation activities in the old city of Jerusalem.

Said excavations, presumably for archaeological purposes, started up several years ago. I first put up a post about them back in 2014 after it was reported that they were causing structural problems with Palestinian homes in the area, so it’s good that UNESCO is addressing the issue. But the resolution angered the Israeli representative, who threw a temper tantrum by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews.” And this is what we see in the video below:

As you can see, the representative from Cuba charged the Israeli–rightfully in my opinion–with turning the meeting into a “politicized circus.” She then reciprocated by calling for a moment of silence for Palestinians who have died. As the video shows, the overwhelming majority of people in the auditorium rose to their feet. It did not sit well with the Israelis.

According to a report here, one Israeli official accused the UNESCO committee of being “detached from reality,” while the Zionist state’s Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying,

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and no decision by UNESCO can change that reality.”

That all was, as I say, on July 4.

Three days later, on July 7, Israel again had a hissy fit over a resolution–passed by the same committee. This time the measure had to do with Hebron, specifically recognizing its old city as an endangered World Heritage site. Hebron’s old city includes a site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (or Mosque of Abraham) and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs. In that regard it has significance to both religions. But the committee voted to recognize the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site–rather than an Israeli one. This of course makes perfectly logical sense because Hebron is in the West Bank and the West Bank is internationally recognized as rightfully belonging to the Palestinians. But again Israelis resorted to tantrums.

“Not a Jewish site?!” thundered Netanyahu. “Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah – our patriarchs and matriarchs!”

Of course, the committee didn’t say it wasn’t a Jewish site; they just said it was a Palestinian site–because the site is, after all, in Occupied Palestine. In fact, according to a report here, the resolution–which passed by a vote of 12-3 with six abstentions–“emphasized the importance of the site to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli charged the committee with attempting to “appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people,” and she went on to further accuse the UNESCO delegates of maliciously spreading lies.

“This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, who time after time chooses to stand on the side of lies,” she is quoted as saying.

You might recall I put up a post about Hotoveli a week ago. This was after she did an interview with 60 Minutes Australia in which she expressed the view that “it’s not because of the Israelis” that Palestinians live under such abject conditions. No, “it’s really dependent on them,” she insisted, adding that “their leadership doesn’t give them the ability to live under democratic values.”

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

By the way, in case you missed it, Israel recently confiscated an array of solar panels that had been donated by the Dutch government to a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Despite being surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, the village in question, Jubbet al-Dhib, is not connected to the national electric grid. The Dutch government has called the action “unacceptable,” and Holland’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, has reportedly now lodged a formal protest. The solar panels cost approximately $600,000.

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Palestinian Resistance and the Israeli Terror State

Hasan Breijieh is a Palestinian activist and spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He participates in weekly protest activities against the Israeli military presence in the West Bank (aka occupation), the illegal Jewish colonies turned into townships on stolen Palestinian land (aka settlements) that choke off Palestinian villages around Bethlehem and elsewhere, and the illegal Apartheid wall that Israel has constructed, much of it on Palestinian lands. 

The Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a Palestinian leftist political party, a member of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO ). Like the Palestinian Islamic political party Hamas, it is classified as a terrorist organization by both the United States and Israel.

Hasan Breijieh was quoted recently in Mondoweiss in his capacity as a spokesperson for PFLP responding to an Israeli statement accusing Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) who is currently “administratively detained” – i.e. imprisoned by Israel on “secret evidence” without charge or trial.

In her latest arrest, Khalida Jarrar was seized in a pre-dawn Israeli military raid from her family home in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on July 2, 2017.

“Jarrar was arrested,” says the Israeli spokesperson as quoted in Haaretz, “following her involvement in promoting terrorist activity through the PFLP and without any connection to her being a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.”

Hasan Breijieh’s matter-of-fact response, as reported in Mondowiess, is:

“Israel’s statement is false. Khalida’s work within the PLC as an elected member of the legislature is as a representative for the PFLP party – the two are explicitly linked.”

As usual, it is Israel’s “official statement” about Khalida Jarrar, rather than what Hasan Breijieh says, that gets the coverage in the mainstream media, and is generally presumed to come from a “legitimate” source, whose veracity is not seriously questioned.

Israel’s strategic framing of this picture of Palestinian Arabs as terrorists, even members of the Legislative Council, was intensified after 9/11, when global security fears regarding “Islamist terror” began to proliferate. After all, most, if not all, Palestinian Arabs are Muslim.

One of Israel’s most effective steps in framing Palestinian resistance as terror was mounting a successful case that designated both Hamas and PFLP as terrorist organizations. In doing so, Israel drew on an already existing general syndrome in the United States, in which some people’s humanity is somehow obscured from view while that of others is always in full view in the media.

Way back in 1985, for example, two terror killings took place in the same week, one of an American Jew (Leon Klinghoffer, killed by four Palestinian hijackers on board of the cruise liner Achille Laura) and the other of an American Palestinian Arab (Alex Odeh, killed by the Jewish Defense League in a bomb explosion mechanism attached to his office door in southern California).

Odeh’s life, though no less peaceful and gentle than that of Klinghoffer’s, was virtually ignored by the national media at the time. Not so Klinghoffer’s.

Again, during the 2014 Israeli onslaught on Gaza when Israel was obliterating whole Palestinian families, there was nevertheless a need for a website called “Humanize Palestine”, which included statements like: “Iman Khalil Abed Ammar was just nine years old. She was killed on 20 July in the Shujaiya massacre along with her brothers, four-year-old Asem and thirteen-year-old Ibrahim.”

Why are such websites needed? Because, as Steven Salaita says (commenting on a Canadian poll regarding Omar Khadr’s law suit settlement for being held and tortured at 15 in Guantanamo Bay):

“People like Omar Khadr—brown, scary, deviant, foreign—are grown at birth, deprived by faith and culture the opportunity of ever being innocent.”

Hasan Breijieh, a Palestinian activist (Source: @HasanBre / Twitter)

The pattern of dehumanizing Palestinian Arabsand/or deliberately obscuring their humanity are factors that have facilitated Israel’s project of designating Palestinian resistance movements as terror organizations.

Terrorism is defined and understood as such by its motivation as well as its violent nature and targets. If one removes the “human” part of this definition (human motivation), one is left with sociopath violence “committed to Israel’s destruction”.

To Israel and the United States, Palestinians have no cause (no motivation) to resist violently or otherwise; their sole motivation is an animus against the Jewish state to be explained by their savage nature. They have no fundamental human rights that either state recognizes.

Israel, on the other hand, has a “right to exist as a Jewish state” (or so Israel and much of the Western world keep barking at Palestinians) and a right to terrorize Palestinian populations openly, proudly and fiercely – a right the Jewish state has been exercising for 70 years with total impunity.

But, in fact, it is the Jewish state that is a terrorist entity.

Here is a definition of political terrorism as expressed by George Lopez and Michael Stohl that exactly fits Israel’s actions:

“the purposeful act or threat of violence to create fear and/or compliant behavior in a victim and/or the audience of a threat.”

Israel has used terrorism as defined above to “establish” itself in part of Palestine in 1948, to occupy the rest of Palestine and annex East Jerusalem nineteen years later, and to brutally maintain the subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Terrorism is a tool used by the militarily strong – like Stalin’s terror regime in Russia – as well as the militarily weak.  The militarily strong have various ways to terrorize – military raids, torture, imprisonment, siege, home demolitions, collective punishment, and “mowing down” people.

Hasan Breijieh knows all about that first hand. He has a brother, Imad, who joined the ranks of thousands of Palestinian “martyrs” – i.e., he was killed in one way or another by Israeli forces. He has a mother whose indomitable spirit has recently won her a seat in the local council in al-Ma’sara village, Bethlehem. It’s worth listening to her, a Mother Courage explaining the human motivation behind Palestinian resistance.

Video clip: Fatmeh Breijieh, mother of martyr Imad Breijieh, al-Ma’asara village, Bethlehem

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“I have decided to continue to resist until the last breath. And to continue to urge people to resist and teach my children resistance, and to instill resistance in their milk .Resist, there is nothing for us but to resist. Peaceful resistance .. any opportunity you have, resist. And the least you can do is resist peacefully. This is what’s in our hands, to expose to the world. The civilized world, what is called the civilized world, is concerned about the smallest of injuries. If a thorn pricks someone, anywhere, they say human rights. The UN says, run to the rescue, there are human rights. Until it comes to the Palestinian people, then no human rights, no UN, nothing. Since 1948, we have had UN resolutions, and today we want to demand these resolutions, and to resist, and through this peaceful resistance, we expose the occupation army and the other side. Today in Europe, they started to think, a little bit, that there is a people, that the Palestinian people exists. Like this guy who is running in the American elections, he says the Palestinian people is a myth. We are a people here. We live here –they say that they were here 3,000 years ago since our lord Jacob – but we were here 7,000 years B.C. We came before them; our roots are firm. We, this land … we are from this land. Look at our dark hue and look at the soil; you will find that the soil is our color. We know every blade of grass; they don’t know anything; they only know to carry weapons and steal. They steal our water; they steal our blessings everywhere.”

Israel, not Hamas or PFLP, is a terrorist organization – a deadly one that has secured funding in US military aid to the tune of $38 billion for the next ten years. The Jewish entity means to use this obscene funding against an unarmed (for all practical purposes) people in order to continue to dispossess and subjugate Palestinian Arabs for the sake of its bogus and unconscionable “right to exist as a Jewish state”.

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

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