New from FMEP
As Palestinians commemorate 74 years since the Nakba, FMEP’s Palestinian non-resident fellow Dr. Maha Nassar talks with Dr. Ahlam Muhtaseb, professor of media studies at California State University, San Bernardino, about her award-winning documentary, “1948: Creation and Catastrophe.“
Greenlighting Dispossession & Forced Population Transfer in Masafer Yatta
“Earlier this month, Israel’s supreme court finally ruled in a two-decade-old legal case over the area’s fate: the land can be repurposed for military use, upholding the Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) argument that Palestinians living here could not prove they were resident before the firing zone was established in 1981. The decision – one of the most significant on expulsions since the occupation began in 1967 – paved the way for the eviction of everyone living here. The long-feared demolitions, which UN experts have said may amount to war crimes, have already started. Last week, 11 homes and workshops in Fakhiet were demolished. Another nine structures in nearby al-Majaz were torn down with bulldozers by an Israeli company, to whom the state contracts out the demolition work….“It’s not really about destroying the houses,” said Hamdan Mohammed al-Huraini, a local activist. “It’s about destroying the life.”” See also FMEP’s collection of resources on Masafer Yatta.
“The demolitions have sparked expressions of concern from Washington ahead of a planned June visit to Israel by President Biden, coming at a time of mounting instability in Israel’s coalition government and the recent approval of more than 4,200 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, responding to a question about the high court ruling, beseeched both Israelis and Palestinians to avoid steps that raise tensions. “This certainly includes evictions,” he said…“I don’t think we’ll see pictures of people being put on trucks, because of the optics,” said Dror Sadot of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization that has worked on the case. “What we’ll see will just be more repeated demolitions, which will force the community to leave because they can’t live there anymore.””
“Eighty-three Democrats from the House and the Senate on Thursday urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to actively prevent Israel from evicting more than 1,000 Palestinians from the Masafer Yatta villages in the West Bank …The letter is a rare bicameral warning against Israeli actions, signed by 20 Democratic senators and 63 representatives across the party’s ideological spectrum…”Evicting Palestinian people from their homes is inconsistent with international humanitarian law, according to Articles 49 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and inconsistent with efforts to reach a two-state solution,” they noted, urging the Biden administration to prevent both the evictions and further military training exercises in the area. They further asked the administration to encourage Israel to approve Masafer Yatta master plans so Palestinians can build and maintain homes, schools, and infrastructure as well as sustain their lands.”
“His martyrdom has left a great emotional void here in our small village, and indeed throughout Masafer Yatta, where eight of our neighboring communities are facing imminent demolition after the Israeli High Court approved their expulsion earlier this month. Particularly in this dangerous moment, his death represents the loss of a defender of our people who brought his characteristic nonviolent resistance to all spheres of our life. In truth, we are finding it hard to maintain our resistance: we have not found another person who can do what Haj Suleiman did for us, and I do not think that we will. We have lost a core source of hope for a better future.”
“An Israeli anthropologist contradicts the High Court’s claim that his study proved Palestinian villages didn’t exist when the army declared a firing zone.” See also this Twitter thread from Yehuda Shaul (of Ofek and Breaking the Silence) that details the evidence of Palestinian residency in Masafer Yatta, contrary to the Supreme Court’s findings.
“Between being squeezed off their land, the constant threat of demolition or expulsion, starved of water, vulnerable to rising, brazen settler violence and tired of fighting just to survive, many leave for Palestinian cities or towns – Areas A or B – serving the overarching Israeli political aim: the fewest possible number of Palestinians in Area C. But proof of Area C’s towering importance to Israel is the psychological warfare, in recent years, over the truth itself. The most bitterly fought aspects of the Israeli Palestinian conflict have always been subject to manipulation of “narrative.” Lately, Israel’s narrative is that Area C is threatened by – wait for it – a Palestinian takeover.”
On Shireen Abu Akleh's Life & Death
“But an investigation by CNN offers new evidence — including two videos of the scene of the shooting — that there was no active combat, nor any Palestinian militants, near Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death. Videos obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, suggest that Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces…CNN reviewed a total of 11 videos showing the scene and the Israeli military convoy from different angles — before, during and after Abu Akleh was killed…Even without access to the bullet that hit Abu Akleh, there are ways to determine who killed Abu Akleh by analyzing the type of gunfire, the sound of the shots and the marks left by the bullets at the scene.” See also: Review suggests Israeli fire killed reporter, no final word (AP); Unravelling the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh (Bellingcat); New video shows no fighting before journalist Abu Akleh’s killing (Al Jazeera); Israeli Investigation Into Killing of Palestinian American Journalist Ends Before It Begins (The Intercept); Palestinians: Al Jazeera Reporter ‘Deliberately’ Targeted, Bullet Won’t Be Handed Over to Israel (Haaretz); Shireen Abu Akleh: Weapons expert concludes Israeli soldier targeted veteran journalist (Middle East Eye); Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist (NYT)
“The United States and the rest of the international community must ensure that there is full accountability for her death. For too long, Israeli political and military leaders have fostered an environment in which Israeli soldiers apparently consider the lives of Palestinians disposable. The very least that I, others who loved her and those who care about justice and fundamental human decency can do is demand that those responsible be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“Following Abu Akleh’s killing, Israeli politicians, the media, and the wider public have raised two main claims in response to the CNN investigation: that Israeli soldiers do not, as a rule, deliberately shoot journalists, and that the Palestinian refusal to hand over the bullet not only impedes a transparent investigation, but also implies Palestinian responsibility for her death.The first claim is simply untrue. The Israeli army has killed and wounded numerous journalists in Gaza, and consistently arrests, beats, and opens fire at journalists in the West Bank…The second argument rests on the belief that Israel has reliable and trustworthy mechanisms for investigating the killing. But this, too, is simply not true. The only authority investigating the Israeli military is the military itself — something it does very poorly…But by and large, the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division, better known by its Hebrew acronym “Metzah,” which probes Palestinian deaths at the hands of army gunfire, serves to whitewash the actions of the IDF…In Abu Akleh’s case, the army isn’t even bothering to open a proper investigation, reportedly out of fear of upsetting the Israeli public…Knowing all this, why should Palestinians, or anyone for that matter, ever trust an army that occupies and oppresses them, that consistently spreads mistruths and whitewashes its own investigations, and entrusts an inquiry into the high-profile killing of a world-renowned journalist to the commander of the soldiers who may very well have killed her?”
“Israeli police attacked mourners carrying the coffin of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 13, 2022, beating pallbearers with batons and kicking them when they fell to the ground. Yet those who skimmed the headlines of initial reports from several U.S. media outlets may have been left with a different impression of what happened…There is no mention in the headlines of these articles about who instigated the violence, nor any hint of the power imbalance between a heavily armed Israeli police force and what appeared to be unarmed Palestinian civilians…But as a scholar of Palestinian history and an analyst of U.S. media coverage of this topic, I believe using neutral terms such as “clashes” to describe Israeli police and military attacks on Palestinian civilians is misleading. It overlooks instances in which Israeli forces instigate violence against Palestinians who pose no threat to them. It also often gives more weight to official Israeli narratives than to Palestinian ones. U.S. media have long been accused of misleading their audience when it comes to violence committed against Palestinians. A 2021 study from MIT of 50 years of New York Times coverage of the conflict found “a disproportionate use of the passive voice to refer to negative or violent action perpetrated towards Palestinians.” Using the passive voice – for example, reporting that “Palestinians were killed in clashes” rather than “Israeli forces killed Palestinians” – is language that helps shield Israel from scrutiny. It also obscures the reason so many Palestinians would be angry at Israel.”
“When it comes to Palestine, the sacred laws of journalism are bendable. Optional even. Passive voice is king. Omitting facts is standard. Fabrication is permissible. Journalists become stenographers, and reporters become state secretaries. The courageous industry that proudly boasts of speaking “truth to power” is actually just a bullhorn for the powerful—if, that is, the villain is Israeli…Of course, stories of desecration and death are not the only ones that bubble from the ground in Palestine—and go unreported by the mainstream Western media. There are other stories—of resistance and joy, strength and camaraderie—that even the most sensitive international media rarely get right. These kinds of narratives also went untold in the aftermath of Abu Akleh’s death, even though they were among the most salient. While activists and media watchdogs in the US and West were rightfully outraged by the media’s failure to objectively report Israeli abuses at Abu Akleh’s funeral, back in Palestine, away from those newspapers, the Arabic conversations and essays were highlighting a very different storyline: Shireen Abu Akleh—even if only for a fleeting moment—liberated Jerusalem.” See also: Pedro Almodovar, Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo Demand “Full Accountability” for Killing of Palestinian Journalist (Hollywood Reporter); To know why the killing of Shireen Abu Aqleh was so devastating, you have to know what it is like to be Palestinian (The Guardian); Israel knows it will get away with the attack on Shireen Abu Aqleh’s funeral (The Guardian, by Elizabeth Tsurkov); Opinion | Why Israel’s ‘Hasbara Queen’ Failed Miserably to Explain Shireen Abu Akleh’s Killing (Haaretz); Opinion: My friend Shireen Abu Akleh told the stories no one else wanted to tell (CNN//Dalia Hatuqa); Shireen Abu Akleh raised my generation. Now, we’re breaking through the dam (+972); The Voice of a Generation, Silenced (Tareq Baconi, Zaha Hassan, and Mezna Qato in Jewish Currents)
“Rashid Khalidi on the colonial logic that devalues eyewitness accounts of the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh…“Israelis are not going to keep winning this war as time goes on. If one compares the situation 40 or 50 years ago with the situation over the last couple of decades, it has changed. One reason is that you can shut voices up, but there’s nothing you can do about images. The image of Israeli soldiers wading into a crowd of mourners carrying the coffin and beating people and almost knocking the coffin down—there’s nothing you can do to contravene that. Even if the mainstream media and the Israeli press attachés and AIPAC and the paid hacks completely black it out, it’s on alternative and social media. You can say anything you want about bullets and Palestinian gunmen and the supposedly murky circumstances under which this woman was murdered, and they’re doing an incredibly effective job at that, but you cannot unsee this image. And that’s why they shot this woman: She was a TV journalist about to broadcast images of their systematic attacks on refugee camps.” See also: Israel’s record on investigating journalists’ killings (France24); Shireen Abu Akleh: Dozens of US lawmakers demand FBI probe into killing (Middle East Eye); Shireen Abu Akleh: Israel arrests Palestinian pallbearer of journalist’s coffin (Middle East Eye)
“The Yamam counterterrorism police that raided the Al-Hadaf neighborhood in Jenin on May 13 fired an anti-tank missile at a building in which 19 people, including 11 minors ranging in age from one to 16, were sleeping. A father and daughter say they were also held by the troops for several hours as human shields during the raid and gun battle with armed Palestinians….The style of the attack on the Al-Dabai house matches the “pressure cooker method” that has evolved since the 1990s, and first in Gaza: besieging a building, calling to the wanted Palestinian inside to come out, shooting and use of anti-tank missiles and also demolition of the house with a bulldozer. But a deliberate strike with a missile while the whole family is still inside the house, and is not yet aware that the house is surrounded, is not supposed to be a part of this arrest method that may also end by killing the wanted person. The use of family members or neighbors as human shields for soldiers is prohibited by international law, and even the High Court of Justice has also ruled that any use of Palestinian civilians in military activity is prohibited.” See also: Only 2% of abuse complaints filed against Israeli soldiers lead to prosecution (Middle East Monitor); Israel arrested 1,228 Palestinians in April: report (The New Arab); 60 Palestinians injured by Israeli violence in Nablus region (The New Arab)
“Two young Palestinian men, who were ultimately convicted of throwing rocks at police, say they were subjected to torture during more than a month of interrogation by the Shin Bet security service: painfully bound to a chair for full days, placed in solitary confinement, deprived of food and sleep and denied bathroom access….In the end, al-Rajbi broke down. He confessed to throwing two rocks in clashes with police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, an offense he was initially not suspected of at all. He said that, following the confession, the torture stopped and he received food and drink.”
“Today marks one year since the General “dignity” Strike of May 18 2021, which mobilized Palestinians across Palestine from the River to the Sea, and the circulation of the Dignity and Hope Manifesto by Palestinian activists. This Month marks one year since what Palestinians are now calling the Unity Intifada. Since the events of last year, Palestinians continue to experience ever-increasing levels of repression, assaults and colonial violence by Israeli forces. Nonetheless, we continue steadfast in our fight for liberation with a strengthened desire and hope as a united Palestinian people. As our revolutionary path continues to evolve, we take a moment now to reflect back on this journey. Here is a compilation of reflections by Palestinians on what happened, where we stand now and where we could go.” See also: FILM: Palestinians in ‘mixed cities’ recount the horrors of May 2021 (+972)
“By the time Zainab al-Qolaq had reached the age of 22, she had already lost 22 people in her life. The Palestinian artist, now 23 years old, displayed her art, which speaks of her devastation and loss, this month in an exhibition in Gaza….Much of her work centres around the psychological impact she has faced but struggled to put into words. For al-Qolaq, the exhibition and working on her art allowed her to express the trauma she went through, and allow people to get an insight into how the Israeli offensive impacted people like herself.” See also Israeli violence is central to Palestine’s mental health crisis (Huck)
“Ending a five-year legal process, the military appellate tribunal has handed down its ruling regarding the request of a historian to reveal historical documents related to the Kafr Qassem massacre in 1956. But due to a gag order, this ruling cannot be published. So despite the fact that it was given, there is no telling whether, when, and which documents will be revealed to the public…The appeal to the court was filed in 2017 by historian Adam Raz, who now works at the Akevot research institute. At the time, he was writing a book about the massacre and sought to publish historical documents written during the military trial conducted in the late 1950s against the perpetrating soldiers.” See here for more on Akevot’s documentary work on the Kfar Qasim massacre and aftermath.
“What explains the violent Israeli reaction to the sight of the Palestinian flag in the hands of a Palestinian boy in Sheikh Jarrah, or carried by mourners in a funeral procession, or hoisted by students on Nakba Day, or hung on a streetlamp in Huwara? The first possible explanation has to do with the mechanisms of control that Zionism requires for its very existence. From its inception and until today, Zionism has never sought to exist on equal footing with the indigenous Palestinian population. Rather, it aspired to defeat the Palestinians — materially, culturally, and in terms of identity — and to inherit their land…Despite Israel’s unrivaled military, legislative, and administrative power, the Palestinians remain loyal to their identity. Israel has not been able to destroy this deep-rooted national consciousness, embodied in a piece of cloth with four colors. And that is precisely why the Palestinian flag drives it crazy…The second possible explanation comes from Israel’s desperate need to maintain an enemy, which allows it to posit itself as the eternal victim facing an existential threat.” See also Israeli lawmaker warns Palestinians of another ‘Nakba’ if they fly Palestinian flag; (Mondoweiss); Finance Minister Calls to Cut Israeli University’s Funding After Nakba Day Rally (Haaretz)
Commemorating the Nakba
“We Palestinians very much feel the Nakba of 1948 as if it were firsthand experience. It’s an inevitable passing on of trauma, and of course one of the reasons for this is because it’s never been resolved. There’s never been any justice, and also, more importantly, the Nakba, that continuous process of erasure, is ongoing. The repetitive nature of the trauma makes the trauma that didn’t happen to you directly even more acute. If something happened to your grandmother or your great-grandmother which is happening to you now, you are going to feel that pain, because you don’t have to imagine that pain: you are experiencing it yourself. I think this very much characterizes Palestinian memories and collective narratives because of the nature of the trauma; it is a continuous cycle.”
“Over the past six months, I have dedicated much of my time to touring around and documenting the over 500 Palestinian villages across Mandatory Palestine that were depopulated during the Nakba in 1948 and subsequently destroyed by the Israeli state…Within almost every Israeli town inside the Green Line, or at the very least next to them, lies a Palestinian village that was erased by Israel. Walking around the country, I have seen graveyards surrounded by electric fences, mosques that are used as animal barns, homes that were turned into artist villages, and many other forms of dispossession…The photos below should not be viewed as stories about the past — at least as long as Palestinians are forced to remain refugees while Jews from around the globe have the right to settle on their land and receive full Israeli citizenship; as long as forcible transfer and displacement still threatens tens of thousands of those Palestinians who survived the early stages of ethnic cleansing, from the West Bank to the Naqab to Jaffa and Haifa.” See also Five Israeli landmarks built on the remains of Palestinian communities (Middle East Eye)
“On May 12, days before Palestinians around the world marked the anniversary of the Nakba, Berlin police issued a blanket ban on all Palestinian protests and events slated to take place in the city over that coming weekend, deeming them “potentially antisemitic.” Despite the ban, pro-Palestinian activists in Berlin, a city with a large Palestinian and Arab community, insisted on showing solidarity and commemorating the 1948 expulsion and ongoing denial of return to their homeland of over 700,000 Palestinians. By the end of the day, the city’s police had detained over 170 protestors and bystanders who came out to mark the Palestinian catastrophe. The ban — which was appealed by two Palestinian groups, PalestineSpeaks and Samidoun, and upheld by the administrative court on the grounds they posed an “immediate risk” of antisemitic violence — came alongside the separate barring of a vigil in memory of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who eyewitnesses say was killed by Israeli snipers last week as she covered a military raid on Jenin Refugee Camp. The gathering was organized by Jüdische Stimme, a German-Jewish group that stands in solidarity with Palestine.” See also Berlin Bans Nakba Day Demonstrations (Human Rights Watch)
“Pro-Palestine activists have welcomed a bid in the US Congress to recognise the Nakba, a term used to describe the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the lead-up to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The resolution was submitted in the House of Representatives on Monday by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a day after Palestinians marked the Nakba’s 74th anniversary. Co-sponsored by Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Betty McCollum, Marie Newman, and Jamaal Bowman, the resolution calls on the US to reject efforts to enlist, engage, or associate the US government with the denial of the Nakba; encourage education of the Nakba; support the provision of social service to Palestinian refugees, and support the implementation of Palestinian refugees’ rights…Noura Erakat, a Palestinian-American human rights attorney and an associate professor at Rutgers University, said the issue of whether the resolution would pass was not as important as the fact it had been introduced. “Even if it doesn’t pass, it becomes a moment of the historical record and it becomes another seed planted, which indicates the inevitability of its passage, which will continue to take time,” she told Middle East Eye.” See also: US Congress: Rashida Tlaib introduces Nakba resolution (Al Jazeera)
“Mona Mansour discusses her play, “The Vagrant Trilogy,” about the choices a Palestinian scholar makes in 1967, and the heartbreaks that follow.”
U.S. Scene & Elections
“We learned that AIPAC’s UDP [United Democracy Project] was spending millions of dollars to flood the airwaves with anti-Lee ads meant to discourage and confuse voters. And that was just the start of it. AIPAC spent $5 million to defeat Nida Allam and Erica Smith in North Carolina and millions elsewhere. And AIPAC isn’t alone; its Astroturf affiliate, the Democratic Majority for Israel, and tech billionaire Reid Hoffman’s Mainstream Democrats PAC (which shares staff, offices, and web hosting with DMFI) have also poured millions into attacking popular progressives. These groups have spent a total of over $18 million so far—an unprecedented amount for primaries…Why are these groups spending millions to defeat Democrats in a year when Democrats are being outspent by Republicans and risk losing the House? To stop the growing number of elected officials who are willing to speak out for Palestinian freedom. And the damage to our democracy that they are willing to accept along the way is shameful—and revealing.” See also: AIPAC Is Endorsing Candidates, But Progressives Should Turn Them Down (Teen Vogue, by Lily Greenberg Call, the former head of AIPAC’s affiliate group at UC Berkeley); Pro-Israel lobbying group Aipac secretly pouring millions into defeating progressive Democrats (The Guardian); Bernie Sanders Prepares for ‘War’ With AIPAC and Its Super PAC (Haaretz); AIPAC super PAC funnels millions in dark money to attack progressive candidates in Democratic races (Salon); and this recent FMEP webinar: The Weaponization of Israel/Palestine in US Elections Campaigns with Rania Batrice, Peter Beinart, and Lara Friedman.
“When Palestinian-American student Nooran Alhamdan found out that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to speak at her graduation ceremony at Georgetown University, she knew she had to do something. …So, on Saturday, 15 students walked into the ceremony holding posters with Abu Akleh’s photo that said: “Resistance until liberation and return. We honour martyr and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.”…While Blinken spoke, the students reportedly held up the posters for the duration of his speech…In a video that has since gone viral, Alhamdan entered the stage, waved her Palestinian flag and said a few words as she approached Blinken and left without fist-bumping him. “I said only two things and it was: ‘We demand an independent investigation of Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder, and we demand an end to all American funding to Israel now.’ And that’s all I said, it’s frankly all I had time to say.”…At the end of the ceremony, when Georgetown University staff along with Blinken were getting ready to leave, he reportedly approached Alhamdan and told her not to leave. As he exited, he reportedly said: “I hear you and I see you.”” See also Decolonizing the Narrative, FMEP’s May 2021 interview with Nooran Alhamdan, when she was an FMEP-sponsored fellow at the Middle East Institute.
“According to the survey, 61 percent of adults under 30 regard Palestinians at least as warmly as they do Israelis (56 percent). The Palestinian and Israeli governments are viewed almost identically, at 35 and 34 percent, respectively…The findings are largely mirrored by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, who hold equally positive views of Israeli and Palestinian people (60 and 64 percent) and governments alike (34 and 37 percent). Republicans, on the other hand, view Israel’s people and government significantly more favorably than they do the Palestinian people and government (78 percent to 37 percent, and 66 percent to 18 percent). White evangelicals hold disparately pro-Israel views, including 70 percent believing that God gave the land of the modern State of Israel to the Jewish people — more than twice the number of U.S. Jews who responded to a similar question in Pew’s 2020 survey.”
“A group of prominent progressive Jews is calling on Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, to apologize for what they describe as “false smears” of one of its leaders and for equating groups critical of Israel with white supremacists.” See also Open Letter to Jonathan Greenblatt from Members of the Jewish Community (Medium)
“In light of Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s decision to equate a harmless joke about a Jewish newspaper to “extreme right” antisemitism, I thought it might be useful to share a story. I think it will shed some light into just how dependent the once great ADL has become on its relationships with right-wing defenders of Israel. So dependent, in fact, that it undermines its ability to be an honest broker when it comes to combatting antisemitism.”