Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ahed Tamimi

Can you Guess from which town the Third Palestinian Intifada (mass civil disobedience) Will Start? This article was posted in 2013.

Note: the first Intifada took place in 1936 and lasted 3 years against the British mandated power for denying municipality elections to the Palestinians, on the basis that the Jew were a minority (about 20%). Britain dispatched 100,000 soldiers to quell this Intifada and trained Jews to fight. Only the start of WWII stopped the intifada

South of the village of Nabi Saleh, you can see the red roofs of Halamish, an Israeli settlement on the hilltop across the valley.

This settlement was founded in 1977 by members of the messianic nationalist group Gush Emunim, and growing steadily on land that once belonged to residents of Nabi Saleh and another Palestinian village.

Next to Halamish is an Israeli military base, and in the valley between Nabi Saleh and the settlement, across the highway and up a dirt path, a small freshwater spring, which Palestinians had long called Ein al-Kos, bubbles out of a low stone cliff.

In the summer of 2008,the youth of Halamish began building the first of a series of low pools that collect its waters. Later they added a bench and an trees for shade.

The land surrounding the spring has for generations belonged to the family of Bashir Tamimi, now 57 of age,

(Years after, the settlers retroactively applied for a building permit, which Israeli authorities refused to issue, ruling that “the applicants did not prove their rights to the relevant land.” Recently, several of the structures have been removed.)

When Palestinians came to tend to their crops in the fields beside it, the settlers threatened them and threw stones at them.

It took the people of Nabi Saleh more than a year to get themselves organized.

In December 2009 they held their first march, protesting not just the loss of the spring water, but also the entire complex system of control — of permits, checkpoints, walls, prisons — through which Israel maintains its hold on the region.

Nabi Saleh quickly became the most spirited of the dozen or so West Bank villages that hold weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. Since the demonstrations began, more than 100 people in the village have been jailed.

Ben Ehrenreich wrote:

“On the evening of Feb. 10, the living room of Bassem Tamimi’s house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh was filled with friends and relatives smoking and sipping coffee, waiting for Bassem to return from prison.

His oldest son, Waed, 16, was curled on the couch with his 6-year-old brother, Salam, playing video games on the iPhone that the prime minister of Turkey had given their sister, Ahed (this young girl that defied with fists the Israeli soldiers).

Ahed had been flown to Istanbul to receive an award after photos of her shaking her fist at an armed Israeli soldier and this resistance won her, at age 11, a brief but startling international celebrity.

Their 9 year-old brother Abu Yazan was in tears in the yard, wrestling with an Israeli activist friend of Bassem’s.

Nariman, the children’s mother, crouched in a side room, making the final preparations for her husband’s homecoming meal, laughing at the two photographers competing for shots from the narrow doorway as she spread onions onto oiled flat-breads. Slide Show

On the living-room wall was a “Free Bassem Tamimi” poster, left over from his last imprisonment for helping to organize the village’s weekly protests against the Israeli occupation, which he has done since 2009.

Bassem was gone for 13 months to prison that time, released for 5 months before he was arrested again in October.

A lot happened during this latest stint: another brief war in Gaza, a vote in the United Nations granting observer statehood to Palestine, the announcement of plans to build 3,400 homes for settlers, an election in Israel.

Protests were spreading around the West Bank.

That night, the call came at about 7:30. Twenty people squeezed into three small cars and headed to the village square. More neighbors and cousins arrived on foot.

(All of Nabi Saleh’s 550 residents are related by blood or marriage, and nearly all share the surname Tamimi.)

Then a dark Ford pulled slowly into the square, and everyone fell silent. 

Is This the town Where the Third Intifada Will Start?Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times. Protesters fleeing from tear gas launched by the Israel Defense Forces. In the background, the Israeli settlement of Halamish. More Photos »

Bassem, who is 45, stepped out of the car, straight-spined, his blue eyes glowing in the lamplight. He seemed a little thinner and grayer than the last time I saw him, in July.

He hugged and kissed his eldest son. Ahed was next, then one by one, in silence, Bassem embraced family and friends, Palestinian activists from Ramallah and Jerusalem, Israeli leftists from Tel Aviv.

When Bassem had greeted everyone, he walked to the cemetery and stopped in front of the still-unmarked grave of his brother-in-law Rushdie, who was shot by Israeli soldiers in November while Bassem was in prison.

He closed his eyes and said a quick prayer before moving on to the tomb of Mustafa Tamimi, who died after being hit in the face by a tear-gas canister in December 2011.

Back at home, Bassem looked dazed. Nariman broke down in his arms and rushed outside to hide her tears.

The village was still mourning Rushdie’s death, but the young men couldn’t keep up the solemnity for long. They started with little Hamoudi, the son of Bassem’s cousin, tossing him higher and higher in the air above the yard.

They set him down and took turns tossing one another up into the night sky, laughing and shouting as if they never had anything to grieve.

Nariman told me that by her count, as of February, clashes with the army have caused 432 injuries, more than half the injured were minors.

The momentum has been hard to maintain — the weeks go by, and nothing changes for the better — but still, despite the arrests, the injuries and the deaths, every Friday after the midday prayer, the villagers, joined at times by equal numbers of journalists and Israeli and foreign activists, try to march from the center of town to the spring, a distance of perhaps half a mile.

And every Friday, Israeli soldiers stop them with some combination of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, water-cannon blasts of a noxious liquid known as “skunk” and occasionally live bullets.

Last summer, I spent three weeks in Nabi Saleh, staying in Bassem and Nariman’s home.

When I arrived in June, Bassem had just been released from prison.

In March 2011, Israeli soldiers raided the house to arrest him. Among lesser charges, he had been accused in a military court of “incitement,” organizing “unauthorized processions” and soliciting the village youth to throw stones.

(In 2010, 99.74 % of the Palestinians tried in military courts were convicted.)

The terms of Bassem’s release forbade him to take part in demonstrations, which are all effectively illegal under Israeli military law.

Thus, on the first Friday after I arrived, just after the midday call to prayer, he walked with me only as far as the square, where about 50 villagers had gathered in the shade of an old mulberry tree.

They were joined by a handful of Palestinian activists from Ramallah and East Jerusalem, mainly young women; perhaps a dozen college-age European and American activists; a half-dozen Israelis, also mainly women — young anarchists in black boots and jeans, variously pierced.

Together they headed down the road, clapping and chanting in Arabic and English. Bassem’s son Abu Yazan, licking a Popsicle, marched at the back of the crowd.

There were the journalists, scurrying up hillsides in search of better vantage points.

In the early days of the protests, the village teemed with reporters from across the globe, there to document the tiny village’s struggle against the occupation.

“Sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t,” Mohammad Tamimi, who is 24 and who coordinates the village’s social-media campaign, would tell me later.

Events in the Middle East — the revolution in Egypt and civil war in Syria — and the unchanging routine of the weekly marches have made it that much harder to hold the world’s attention.

That Friday there was just one Palestinian television crew and a few Israeli and European photographers, the regulars among them in steel helmets.

In the protests’ first year, to make sure that the demonstrations — and the fate of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation — didn’t remain hidden behind the walls and fences that surround the West Bank, Mohammad began posting news to a blog and later a Facebook page (now approaching 4,000 followers) under the name Tamimi Press.

Soon Tamimi Press morphed into a homegrown media teamBilal Tamimi shooting video and uploading protest highlights to his YouTube channel; Helme taking photographs; and Mohammad e-mailing news releases to 500-odd reporters and activists.

Manal, who is married to Bilal, supplements the effort with a steady outpouring of tweets (@screamingtamimi).

News of the protests moves swiftly around the globe, bouncing among blogs on the left and right.

Left-leaning papers like Britain’s Guardian and Israel’s Haaretz still cover major events in the village — deaths and funerals, Bassem’s arrests and releases — but a right-wing Israeli news site has for the last year begun to recycle the same headline week after week: “Arabs, Leftists Riot in Nabi Saleh.”

Meanwhile, a pilgrimage to Nabi Saleh has achieved a measure of cachet among young European activists, the way a stint with the Zapatistas did in Mexico in the 1990s.

For a time, Nariman regularly prepared a vegan feast for the exhausted outsiders who lingered after the protests. (Among the first things she asked me when I arrived was whether I was a vegan. Her face brightened when I said no.)

Whatever success they have had in the press, the people of Nabi Saleh are intensely conscious of everything they have not achieved.

The occupation persists. When I arrived in June, the demonstrators had not once made it to the spring. Usually they didn’t get much past the main road, where they would turn and find the soldiers waiting around the bend.

That week though, they decided to cut straight down the hillside toward the spring.

Bashir led the procession, waving a flag. As usual, Israeli Army jeeps were waiting below the spring. The four soldiers standing outside them looked confused — it seemed they hadn’t expected the protesters to make it so far.

The villagers marched past them to the spring, where they surprised three settlers eating lunch in the shade, still wet from a dip in one of the pools. One wore only soggy briefs and a rifle slung over his chest.

The kids raced past. The grown-ups filed in, chatting and smoking. More soldiers arrived in body armor, carrying rifles and grenade launchers.

Waed and Abu Yazan kicked a soccer ball until a boy spotted a bright orange carp in one of the pools and Abu Yazan and others tried to catch it with their bare hands, splashing until the water went cloudy and the carp disappeared.

Four settlers appeared on the ledge above the spring, young men in sunglasses and jeans, one of them carrying an automatic rifle. Beside me, a sturdy, bald officer from the Israel Defense Forces argued with an Israeli protester. “I let you come,” the officer insisted. “Now you have to go.”

The children piled onto the swing the settlers had built and swung furiously, singing. A young settler argued with the I.D.F. officer, insisting that he clear the protesters away.

“What difference does 10 minutes make?” the officer said.

Every 10 seconds makes a difference,” the settler answered.

But before their 10 minutes were up, one hour after they arrived, the villagers gathered the children and left as they had come, clapping and chanting, their defiance buoyed by joy. For the first time in two and a half years, they had made it to the spring.

They headed back along the highway, which meant they would have to pass the road leading to Halamish.

Ahed, her blond hair in a long braid, clutched a cousin at the front of the procession. As they approached the road, a border-police officer tossed a stun grenade — a device that makes a loud bang and a flash but theoretically, at least, causes no bodily harm — at Ahed’s feet, and then another, and another.

Within a few seconds, the marchers were racing up the hill back toward their village, tear-gas grenades streaking through the sky above their heads.

On warm summer evenings, life in Nabi Saleh could feel almost idyllic. Everyone knows everyone. Children run in laughing swarms from house to house.

One night, Bassem and Nariman sat outside sharing a water pipe as Nariman read a translated Dan Brown novel and little Salam pranced gleefully about, announcing, “I am Salam, and life is beautiful!”

Bassem is employed by the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry in a department charged with approving entrance visas for Palestinians living abroad. In practice, he said, P.A. officials “have no authority” — the real decisions are made in Israel and passed to the P.A. for rubber-stamping.

Among other things, this meant that Bassem rarely had to report to his office in Ramallah, leaving his days free to care for his ailing mother — she died several weeks after I left the village last summer — and strategizing on the phone, meeting international visitors and talking to me over many cups of strong, unsweetened coffee. We would talk in the living room, over the hum of an Al Jazeera newscast.

A framed image of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque hung above the television (more out of nationalist pride than piety: Bassem’s outlook was thoroughly secular).

Though many people in Nabi Saleh have been jailed, only Bassem was declared a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. Foreign diplomats attended his court hearings in 2011. Bassem’s charisma surely has something to do with the attention. A strange, radiant calm seemed to hover around him. He rarely smiled, and tended to drop weighty pronouncements (“Our destiny is to resist”) in ordinary speech, but I saw his reserve crumble whenever one of his children climbed into his lap.

When Israeli forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Bassem was 10 weeks old. His mother hid with him in a cave until the fighting ended. He remembers playing in the abandoned British police outpost that is now the center of the I.D.F. base next to Halamish, and accompanying the older kids who took their sheep to pasture on the hilltop where the settlement now stands. His mother went to the spring for water every day. The settlers arrived when Bassem was 9.

Halamish is now fully established and cozier than most gated communities in the United States. Behind the razor wire and chain-link perimeter fence, past the gate and the armed guard, there are playgrounds, a covered pool, a community center and amphitheater, a clinic, a library, a school and several synagogues. The roads are well paved and lined with flowers, the yards lush with lemon trees. Halamish now functions as a commuter suburb; many of the residents work in white-collar jobs in Tel Aviv or Modi’in. The settlement’s population has grown to more than double that of Nabi Saleh.

I first met Shifra Blass, the spokeswoman for Halamish, in 2010. She talked about how empty the West Bank — she used the biblical name, Judea and Samaria — was when she and her husband emigrated from the U.S. in the early 1970s, intent on establishing a Jewish presence in a land they believed had been promised to them. Relations with the surrounding villages, she told me, had remained cordial, friendly even, until the first intifada. (When I asked people in Nabi Saleh about this, no one remembered it that way.) During the second intifada, three residents of the settlement, Blass said, were killed by gunfire on nearby roads. They weren’t near the village, but attitudes hardened.

When I visited Shifra again last month, she was not eager to talk to me about the conflict over the spring and the lands surrounding it. “We want to live our lives and not spend time on it,” Blass said. She dismissed the weekly demonstrations as the creation of “outside agitators who come here and stir the pot — internationalists, anarchists, whatever.” It was all a show, she said, theater for a gullible news media. “I’ll tell you something: it’s unpleasant.”

On Fridays, Shifra said, the wind sometimes carries the tear gas across the valley into the settlement. “We have some grown children who say they cannot come home from university for Shabbat because of the tear gas. They call and say, ‘Tell me how bad it is, because if it’s really bad, I’m not coming.’ ”

When the first intifada broke out in late 1987, Nabi Saleh was, as it is now, a flash point. The road that passes between the village and the settlement connects the central West Bank to Tel Aviv: a simple barricade could halt the flow of Palestinian laborers into Israel.

Bassem was one of the main Fatah youth activists for the region, organizing the strikes, boycotts and demonstrations that characterized that uprising. (Nabi Saleh is solidly loyal to Fatah, the secular nationalist party that rules the West Bank; Hamas, the militant Islamist movement that governs Gaza, has its supporters elsewhere in the West Bank but has never had a foothold in the village.)

Bassem would be jailed 7 times during the intifada and, he says, was never charged with a crime. Before his most recent arrest, I asked him how much time he had spent in prison. He added up the months: “Around four years.”

After one arrest in 1993, Bassem told me, an Israeli interrogator shook him with such force that he fell into a coma for eight days. He has a nickel-size scar on his temple from emergency brain surgery during that time. His sister died while he was in prison. She was struck by a soldier and fell down a flight of courthouse stairs, according to her son Mahmoud, who was with her to attend the trial of his brother. (The I.D.F. did not comment on this allegation.)

Bassem nonetheless speaks of those years, as many Palestinians his age do, with something like nostalgia. The first intifada broke out spontaneously — it started in Gaza with a car accident, when an Israeli tank transporter killed four Palestinian laborers. The uprising was, initially, an experience of solidarity on a national scale. Its primary weapons were the sort that transform weakness into strength: the stone, the barricade, the boycott, the strike.

The Israeli response to the revolt — in 1988, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin reportedly authorized soldiers to break the limbs of unarmed demonstrators — began tilting international public opinion toward the Palestinian cause for the first time in decades. By the uprising’s third year, however, power had shifted to the P.L.O. hierarchy. The first Bush Sr. administration pushed Israel to negotiate, leading eventually to the 1993 Oslo Accord, which created the Palestinian Authority as an interim body pending a “final status” agreement.

But little was resolved in Oslo.

A second intifada erupted in 2000, at first mostly following the model set by the earlier uprising. Palestinians blocked roads and threw stones. The I.D.F. took over a house in Nabi Saleh. Children tossed snakes, scorpions and what Bassem euphemistically called “wastewater” through the windows. The soldiers withdrew. Then came the heavy wave of suicide bombings, which Bassem termed “the big mistake.”

An overwhelming majority of Israeli casualties during the uprising occurred in about 100 suicide attacks, most against civilians. A bombing at one Tel Aviv disco in 2001 killed 21 teenagers. “Politically, we went backward,” Bassem said.

Much of the international good will gained over the previous decade was squandered. Taking up arms wasn’t, for Bassem, a moral error so much as a strategic one. He and everyone else I spoke with in the village insisted they had the right to armed resistance; they just don’t think it works. Bassem could reel off a list of Nabi Saleh’s accomplishments. Of some — Nabi Saleh had more advanced degrees than any village — he was simply proud. Others — one of the first military actions after Oslo, the first woman to participate in a suicide attack — involved more complicated emotions.

In 1993, Bassem told me, his cousin Said Tamimi killed a settler near Ramallah. Eight years later, another villager, Ahlam Tamimi escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed, eight of them minors. Ahlam, who now lives in exile in Jordan, and Said, who is in prison in Israel, remain much-loved in Nabi Saleh.

Though everyone I spoke with in the village appeared keenly aware of the corrosive effects of violence — “This will kill the children,” Manal said, “to think about hatred and revenge” — they resented being asked to forswear bloodshed when it was so routinely visited upon them.  Manal told me, “lost his father, uncle, aunt, sister — they were all killed. How can you blame Said?

The losses of the second intifada were enormous. Nearly 5,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis died. Israeli assassination campaigns and the I.D.F.’s siege of West Bank cities left the Palestinian leadership decimated and discouraged.

By the end of 2005, Yasir Arafat was dead (assassinated by Israeli poison), Israel had pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, had reached a truce with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The uprising sputtered out. The economy was ruined, Gaza and the West Bank were more isolated from each other than ever, and Palestinians were divided, defeated and exhausted.

But in 2003, while the intifada was still raging, Bassem and others from Nabi Saleh began attending demonstrations in Budrus, 20 minutes away. Budrus was in danger of being cut off from the rest of the West Bank by Israel’s planned separation barrier, the concrete and chain-link divide that snakes along the border and in many places juts deeply into Palestinian territory. Residents began demonstrating. Foreign and Israeli activists joined the protests. Fatah and Hamas loyalists marched side by side.

The Israeli Army responded aggressively: at times with tear gas, beatings and arrests; at times with live ammunition. Palestinians elsewhere were fighting with Kalashnikovs, but the people of Budrus decided, said Ayed Morrar, an old friend of Bassem’s who organized the movement there, that unarmed resistance “would stress the occupation more.”

The strategy appeared to work.

After 55 demonstrations, the Israeli government agreed to shift the route of the barrier to the so-called 1967 green line. The tactic spread to other villages: Biddu, Ni’lin, Al Ma’asara and in 2009, Nabi Saleh. Together they formed what is known as the “popular resistance,” a loosely coordinated effort that has maintained what has arguably been the only form of active and organized resistance to the Israeli presence in the West Bank since the end of the second intifada in 2005. Nabi Saleh, Bassem hoped, could model a form of resistance for the rest of the West Bank.

The goal was to demonstrate that it was still possible to struggle and to do so without taking up arms, so that when the spark came, if it came, resistance might spread as it had during the first intifada. Bassem said: “If there is a third intifada,we want to be the ones who started it.

Bassem saw three options:

1.  “To be silent is to accept the situation, and we don’t accept the situation.”

2. Fighting with guns and bombs could only bring catastrophe. Israel was vastly more powerful,

3.  “But by popular resistance, we can push Israel power aside.”

As small as the demonstrations were, they appeared to create considerable anxiety in Israel. Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told me that while the West Bank demonstrations do not pose an “existential threat” to Israel, they “certainly could be more problematic in the short term” than a conventional armed revolt.

Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the I.D.F., took issue with the idea that the weekly protests were a form of nonviolent resistance.

In an e-mail Eytan described the protests as “violent and illegal rioting that take place around Judea and Samaria, and where large rocks, Molotov cocktails, improvised grenades and burning tires are used against security forces. Dubbing these simply demonstrations is an understatement — more than 200 security-force personnel have been injured in recent years at these riots.” (Molotov cocktails are sometimes thrown at protests at the checkpoints of Beitunia and Kalandia but never, Bassem said, in Nabi Saleh.)

Buchman said that the I.D.F. “employs an array of tactics as part of an overall strategy intended to curb these riots and the ensuing acts of violence. Every attempt is made to minimize physical friction and risk of casualties” among both the I.D.F. and the “rioters.”

One senior military commander, who would agree to be interviewed only on the condition that his name not be used, told me: “When the second intifada broke out, it was very difficult, but it was very easy to understand what we had to do. You have the enemy, he shoots at you, you have to kill him.” Facing down demonstrators armed with slings and stones or with nothing at all is less clear-cut. “As an Israeli citizen,I prefer stones. As a professional military officer, I prefer to meet tanks and troops.”

But armies, by their nature, have one default response to opposition: force. One soldier who served in Nabi Saleh testified to the Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence about preparing for Friday protests. “It’s like some kind of game. Everyone wants to arm themselves with as much ammo as possible. . . . You have lots of stun grenades . . . so they’re thrown for the sake of throwing, at people who are not suspected of anything. And in the end, you tell your friend at the Friday-night dinner table: ‘Wow! I fired this much.’ ”

According to a leaked 2010 U.S. State Department memo, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi of Israel “expressed frustration” with the West Bank protests to American diplomats, and “warned that the I.D.F. will start to be more assertive in how it deals with these demonstrations, even demonstrations that appear peaceful.” The memo concluded that “less-violent demonstrations are likely to stymie the I.D.F.,” citing the Israeli Defense Ministry policy chief Amos Gilad’s admission to U.S. officials, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

Sagi Tal, a former I.D.F. soldier, who was stationed near the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin, which also held weekly demonstrations, explained to me that his unit sometimes conducted night raids to gather intelligence or make arrests and sometimes simply so “that they should feel that we are here and we are watching them.”

After dinner one Sunday, Nariman put on a DVD shot both by her and Bilal, the village videographer. (“From the beginning,” Bilal told me at the march on the previous Friday, filming calmly as tear-gas grenades landed all around us, “we decided that the media is the most important thing in the popular resistance.”)

We watched a clip shot in the house in which we sat: soldiers banged on the door late at night and rifled through the boys’ room as Salam and Abu Yazan cowered beneath the covers and Nariman yelled in Arabic: “What manliness this is! What a proud army you’re part of!” The soldiers confiscated a gas mask, two computers, Waed’s camera and two of his schoolbooks — geography and Palestinian history. (In an e-mail, an I.D.F. spokesman described such night raids as “pre-emptive measures, taken in order to assure the security and stability in the area.”)

We watched footage of Nariman being arrested with Bilal’s wife, Manal, early in 2010. Soldiers had fired tear gas into Manal’s house, Nariman explained. Manal ran in to fetch her children, and when she came out, a soldier ordered her back in. She refused, so they arrested her. Nariman tried to intervene, and they arrested her too. They spent 10 days in prisons where they were beaten repeatedly, strip-searched and held for two days without food before each was dumped at the side of a road. (The I.D.F.’s Buchman said, “No exceptional incidents were recorded during these arrests.” He added that no complaints were filed with military authorities.)

We watched a clip of crying children being passed from a gas-filled room out a second-story window, down a human ladder to the street. Early on, the villagers took all the children to one house during demonstrations, but when the soldiers began firing gas grenades into homes, the villagers decided it was safer to let them join the protests. We watched footage of a soldier dragging a 9-year-old boy in the street, of another soldier striking Manal’s 70-year-old mother. Finally, Nariman shook her head and turned off the disc player. “Glee” was on.

One Friday, shortly after the marchers had barricaded the road with boulders and burning tires in order to keep the army out of the village center, a white truck sped around the bend, a jet of liquid arcing from the water cannon mounted on its cab. Someone yelled, “Skunk!” and everyone bolted. Skunk water smells like many things, but mainly it smells like feces. Nariman wasn’t fast enough. A blast of skunk knocked her off her feet. Moments later, she was standing defiantly, letting the cannon soak her and waving a Palestinian flag at the truck’s grated windshield. An hour or so later, smelling of skunk and shampoo, she was serving tea to a dozen protesters.

Every Friday was a little different. Some demonstrations were short and others almost endless. Some were comic, others not at all. Some days the I.D.F. entered the village, and others they stuck to the hills. Sometimes they made arrests. The basic structure, though, varied little week to week: a few minutes of marching, tear gas fired, then hours of the village youth — the shebab — throwing stones while dodging tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets until the sun set and everyone went home. Or failed to make it home.

It was strange, asymmetric combat: a few dozen masked shebab ranging in age from 8 to 38, armed with slings and stones, against 20 or more soldiers in armored vehicles and on foot, dressed in helmets and body armor, toting radios and automatic weapons. The shebab put a great deal of thought into tactics, trying to flank and surprise the soldiers. But even when their plans were perfectly executed, they could not do much more than irritate their enemies. The soldiers, though, would inevitably respond with more sophisticated weaponry, which would motivate the shebab to gather more stones Friday after Friday despite — and because of — the fact that nothing ever seemed to change, for the better at least.

I asked one of the boys why he threw stones, knowing how futile it was. “I want to help my country and my village, and I can’t. I can just throw stones.”

We see our stones as our message,” Bassem explained. The message they carried, he said, was “We don’t accept you.”

While Bassem spoke admiringly of Mahatma Gandhi, he didn’t worry over whether stone-throwing counted as violence. The question annoyed him: Israel uses far greater and more lethal force on a regular basis, he pointed out, without being asked to clarify its attitude toward violence. If the loincloth functioned as the sign of Gandhi’s resistance, of India’s nakedness in front of British colonial might, Bassem said, “Our sign is the stone.”

The weekly clashes with the I.D.F. were hence in part symbolic. The stones were not just flinty yellow rocks, but symbols of defiance, of a refusal to submit to occupation, regardless of the odds. The army’s weapons bore messages of their own: of economic and technological power, of international support. More than one resident of Nabi Saleh reminded me that the tear gas used there is made by a company based in Pennsylvania.

One afternoon, I visited the family of Mustafa Tamimi, who was 28 when he died in December 2011 after being shot at close range with a tear-gas canister from the back of an Israeli Army jeep. (An I.D.F. investigation concluded, according to Buchman, that when the soldier fired the canister “his field of vision was obscured.”) The walls were covered with framed photos: an action shot of Mustafa in profile, his face behind a red Spider-Man mask as he slung a stone at soldiers outside the frame.

In the weeks before her son’s death, Ekhlas Tamimi, his mother, told me that soldiers had twice come to the house looking for him. When she got a call that Friday asking her to bring Mustafa’s ID to the watchtower, she thought he’d been arrested, “like all the other times.” Beside me, Bahaa, a tall young man who was Mustafa’s best friend, scrolled through photos on a laptop, switching back and forth between a shot of Mustafa falling to the ground a few feet behind an I.D.F. jeep, and another, taken moments later, of his crushed and bloody face.

Ekhlas told me about a dream she’d had. Mustafa was standing on the roof, wearing his red mask. There were soldiers in the distance. She called to him: “Mustafa, come down! Everyone thinks you are dead — it’s better that they don’t see you.”

He turned to her, she said, and told her: “No. I’m standing here so that the Israeli soldiers will see me.”

“This is the worst time for us,” Bassem confided to me last summer. He meant not just that the villagers have less to show for their sacrifices each week, but that things felt grim outside the village too. Everyone I spoke with who was old enough to remember agreed that conditions for Palestinians are far worse now than they were before the first intifada.

The checkpoints, the raids, the permit system, add up to more daily humiliation than Palestinians have ever faced. The number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has more than tripled since the Oslo Accords. Assaults on Palestinians by settlers are so common that they rarely made the news. The resistance, though, remained limited to a few scattered villages like Nabi Saleh and a small urban youth movement.

I sat down one afternoon in Ramallah with Samir Shehadeh, a former literature professor from Nabi Saleh who was one of the intellectual architects of the first intifada and whom I met several times at Bassem’s house. I reminded him of the car accident that ignited the first uprising and asked what kind of spark it would take to mobilize Palestinians to fight again. “The situation this time is 1,000 times worse. There are thousands of possible sparks,” and still nothing has happened.

In the 1980s, youth organizers like Bassem focused on volunteer work: helping farmers in the fields, educating their children. They built trust and established the social networks that would later allow the resistance to coordinate its actions without waiting for orders from above. Those networks no longer exist. Instead there’s the Palestinian Authority. Immediately after the first Oslo Accord in 1993, the scholar Edward Said predicted that “the P.L.O. will . . . become Israel’s enforcer.”

Oslo gave birth to a phantom state, an extensive but largely impotent administrative apparatus, with Israel remaining in effective control of the Palestine Authority’s finances, its borders, its water resources — of every major and many minor aspects of Palestinian life. More gallingly to many, Oslo, in Said’s words, gave “official Palestinian consent to continued occupation,” creating a local elite whose privilege depends on the perpetuation of the status quo.

That Palestinian  elite lives comfortably within the so-called “Ramallah bubble”: the bright and relatively carefree world of cafes, NGO salaries and imported goods that characterize life in the West Bank’s provisional capital. During the day, the clothing shops and fast-food franchises are filled. New high-rises are going up everywhere. “I didn’t lose my sister and my cousin and part of my life,” Bassem said, “for the sons of the ministers” to drive expensive cars.

Worse than any corruption, though, was the apparent normalcy. Settlements are visible on the neighboring hilltops, but there are no checkpoints inside Ramallah. The I.D.F. only occasionally enters the city, and usually only at night. Few Palestinians still work inside Israel, and not many can scrape a living from the fields.

For the thousands of waiters, clerks, engineers, warehouse workers, mechanics and bureaucrats eeking a living in Ramallah who spend their days in the city and return to their villages every evening, Ramallah — which has a full-time population of less than 100,000 — holds out the possibility of forgetting the occupation and pursuing a career, saving up for a car, sending the children to college.

But the checkpoints, the settlements and the soldiers are waiting just outside Ramallah, and the illusion of normalcy made Nabi Saleh’s task more difficult.

If Palestinians believed they could live better by playing along, who would bother to fight? When Bassem was jailed in decades past, he said, prisoners were impatient to get out and resume their struggles. This time, he ran into old friends who couldn’t understand why he was still fighting instead of making money off the spoils of the occupation. “They said to me: ‘You’re smart — why are you doing this? Don’t you learn? Don’t you want to make money..’ ”

At times the Palestinian Authority acts as a more immediate obstacle to resistance. Shortly after the protests began in Nabi Saleh, Bassem was contacted by P.A. security officials. The demonstrations were O.K., he said they told him, as long as they didn’t cross into areas in which the P.A. has jurisdiction — as long, that is, as they did not force the P.A. to take a side, to either directly challenge the Israelis or repress their own people. (A spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, Gen. Adnan Damiri, denied this and said that the Palestinian Authority fully supports all peaceful demonstrations.)

In Hebron, P.A. forces have stopped protesters from marching into the Israeli-controlled sector of the city. “This isn’t collaboration,” an I.D.F. spokesman, who would only talk to me on the condition that he not be named, assured me.“Israel has a set of interests, the P.A. has a set of interests and those interests happen to overlap.”

Bassem saw no easy way to break the torpor and ignite a more widespread popular resistance. “The P.A  have the power, more than the Israelis, to stop us.” The Palestinian Authority employs 160,000 Palestinians, which means it controls the livelihoods of about a quarter of West Bank households. One night I asked Bassem and Bilal, who works for the Ministry of Public Health, how many people in Nabi Saleh depend on P.A. salaries. It took them a few minutes to add up the names. “Let’s say two-thirds of the village,” Bilal concluded.

Last summer, my final Friday in Nabi Saleh was supposed to be a short day. One of the shebab was getting engaged to a girl from a neighboring village, and everyone planned to attend the betrothal ceremony. The demonstration would end at 3.

Four armored cars waited at the bend in the road, the skunk truck idling behind them. Manal pointed to the civilian policemen accompanying the soldiers. “There is a new policy that they can arrest internationals,” she explained. Earlier that month, as part of the effort to combat what Israelis call the “internationalization” of the conflict, the defense forces issued an order authorizing Israeli immigration police to arrest foreigners in the West Bank.

About half the marchers headed down the hillside. Soldiers waiting below arrested four Israelis and detained Bashir, the owner of the land around the spring. Everyone cheered as Mohammad raced uphill, outrunning the soldiers. (Three months later they would catch up to him in a night raid on his father’s house. He was imprisoned until late December.)

I saw Nariman standing in the road with a Scottish woman. I walked over. Two soldiers grabbed the Scottish protester. Two more took me by the arms, pulled me to a jeep and shoved me in. I showed my press card to the driver. His expression didn’t change. Two frightened young women, both British, were already locked inside.

After almost an hour, the soldiers brought a Swede and an Italian who had been hiding in the convenience-store bathroom. More soldiers piled in. I showed one my press card and asked if he understood that I was a journalist. He nodded. Finally, the driver pulled onto the road. As we passed the gas station, the shebab ran after us.

“They were so beautiful a few minutes ago, right?” the soldier beside me said as the shebab’s stones clanged against the jeep. “They were so cute.”

They drove us to the old British police station in the I.D.F. base in Halamish. While I was sitting on a bench, an I.D.F. spokesman called my cellphone to inform me that no journalists with press cards had been detained in Nabi Saleh. I disagreed. (The next day, according to Agence France-Presse, the I.D.F. denied I had been arrested.) A half-hour later, an officer escorted me to the gate.

As I walked back to Nabi Saleh, the road was empty, but the air was still peppery with tear gas. I made it back in time for the engagement party and flew home the next day. The five activists detained with me were deported. Two nights after I left, soldiers raided Bassem’s house. The following week, they raided the village five days in a row.

This past October, the popular resistance movement began to shift tactics, trying to break the routine of weekly demonstrations. They blocked a settler road west of Ramallah, and the following week staged a protest inside an Israeli-owned supermarket in the settlement industrial zone of Shaar Binyamin. Bassem was arrested outside the market — soldiers grabbed at Nariman and dragged Bassem off when he stepped forward to put his arms around her.

Less than two weeks later, Waed was arrested at a Friday demonstration. Soldiers beat Waed “with their fists and their rifles.” When he appeared in court, Waed was still bruised. The judge threw out the charges. But while he was detained, he was in the same prison as his father and saw him briefly there. “When I said goodbye to him,” Waed told me with obvious pride, “he had tears in his eyes. I was stronger than him.”

On the day of Waed’s arrest, a camera caught Ahed shaking her fist, demanding that soldiers tell her where they were taking her brother. The Internet took over: video of the tiny, bare-armed blond girl facing down a soldier went viral. She and Nariman were invited to Istanbul, where, to their surprise, Nariman said, they were greeted at the airport by dozens of children wearing T-shirts printed with Ahed’s photo. They drove past billboards displaying Ahed’s image. Reporters followed them everywhere. Crowds gathered when they walked in the streets. They were taken to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the southeastern city of Urfa, Nariman said, and flew back with him to Istanbul on his plane.

Not everyone reacted so enthusiastically. One right-wing blogger dubbed Ahed “Shirley Temper.” The Israeli news site Ynet took the images as evidence that “Palestinian protesters use children to needle I.D.F. soldiers in the hope of provoking a violent response.”

In mid-November, Israeli rockets began falling on Gaza. Protests spread throughout the West Bank. “We thought it was the start of the third intifada,” Manal told me. The demonstrations in Nabi Saleh stretched beyond their usual Friday-evening terminus. One Saturday in November, Nariman’s brother Rushdie — who worked as a policeman near Ramallah and was rarely home on Fridays — joined the shebab on the hill. He was standing beside Waed when he was hit by a rubber-coated bullet.

Then the soldiers began shooting live ammunition, but Rushdie was hurt and couldn’t run. As he lay on the ground, a soldier shot him in the back from a few meters away. Nariman ran to the hillside with her video camera and found her brother lying wounded. “I wanted to attack the soldier and die with Rushdie right there, but I knew I had to be stronger than that,” Nariman said. “Why is it required of me to be more humane than they are?” Rushdie, who was 31, died two days later. An I.D.F. investigation found that soldiers fired 80 shots of live ammunition and neglected to “control the fire.” The unit’s commander was reportedly relieved of his command.

When the fighting stopped in Gaza, the protests in the West Bank ceased. I went back to Nabi Saleh in January, three weeks before Bassem was expected home. The village seemed listless and depressed, as if everyone were convinced of the futility of continuing. On my first Friday back, the demonstration ended early: the shebab had a soccer match in another village. It rained the next week, and everyone went home after an hour. “We are still living the shock of Rushdie’s killing,” Mohammad told me.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, though, momentum was building. In late November, Netanyahu announced plans to build 3,400 settlement units in an area known as E1, effectively cutting off Jerusalem from the West Bank. Just before I arrived in January, popular-resistance activists tried something new, erecting a tent “village” called Bab al-Shams in E1, symbolically appropriating the methods of land confiscation employed by settlers. “The time has come now to change the rules of the game,” the organizers wrote in a news release, “for us to establish facts on the ground — our own land.”

The numbers were relatively small — about 250 people took part, including Nariman and a few others from Nabi Saleh — and, on direct orders from Netanyahu, soldiers evicted everyone two days later, but the movement was once again making headlines around the globe. Copycat encampments went up all over the West Bank — some in areas where the popular resistance had not previously been active.

The day after his release, Bassem told me that even sitting in prison he had felt “a sense of joy” when he learned about Bab al-Shams. The popular resistance was finally spreading beyond the village demonstrations. “We have to create a sense of renewal,” he said, “not only in Nabi Saleh but on a larger scale.” The village’s losses — and his own — he acknowledged, were daunting. “The price is now higher,but if we don’t continue, it would mean that the occupation has succeeded.” It would take constant creativity, he said, to hold onto the momentum. He didn’t know what it would look like yet, but just talking about it seemed to add inches to his height.

Within days, thousands of Palestinians would protest around the West Bank, first in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strikes to demand an end to the indefinite detention of Palestinians without trial, later in outrage at the death of a 30-year-old prisoner named Arafat Jaradat. Once again, the words “third intifada” were buzzing through the press. Avi Dichter, the head of Israeli domestic security during the second intifada and the current minister of Home Front Defense, cautioned in a radio interview that an “incorrect response by the security forces” might push the protests into full-out revolt.

When I saw Bassem in February, I asked him whether he was worried that the uprising might finally arrive at Nabi Saleh’s moment of greatest self-doubt, that it might catch the village drowsing. “It doesn’t matter who is resisting,” he said. “What’s important is that they are resisting.”

On the last Friday I was there, the wind was against the demonstrators. Nearly every grenade the soldiers fired, regardless of how far away it landed, blew a cloud of gas up the road right at them. A dozen or so villagers watched the clashes from the relative safety of the hillside. Bassem’s cousin Naji was sitting on a couch cushion. Mahmoud, Bassem’s nephew, poured coffee into clear plastic cups. Bright red poppies dotted the hill between the rocks. The way was clear, but no one tried to walk down to the spring.

When the demonstration seemed over, I trekked back to the village with a young Israeli in a black “Anarchy Is for Lovers” T-shirt. He told me about his childhood on a kibbutz bordering the Gaza Strip. His parents were “right-wing Zionists,” he said, “hard-core.” They didn’t talk to him anymore. A group of soldiers appeared behind us, and we ducked into Nariman’s yard as they tossed a few stun grenades over the wall.

Later that evening, at Naji’s house, I watched Bilal’s video of the same soldiers as they strolled down the drive, lobbing tear-gas grenades until they reached their jeeps. They piled in and closed the armored doors. One door opened a crack. A hand emerged. It tossed one last grenade toward the camera. Gas streamed out, the door closed and the jeep sped off down the road.

Ben Ehrenreich won a 2011 National Magazine Award in feature writing. His most recent novel is “Ether,” published by City Lights Books. Editor: Ilena SilvermanAdvertisem

Dispatch from Palestine: A year in review

Yumna Patel (Dec.31, 2018) is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

Looking back on this year, it is difficult to choose one moment, one tragedy, or one political decision that stands out among the rest.

Palestinians witnessed a tumultuous year in 2018, as they saw hundreds killed from the West Bank to Gaza, their rights slowly stripped away inside Israel, and the heart of Palestinian identity, Jerusalem, pushed further out of reach.

We have seen the Israeli occupation expand its reach through its growing settlement enterprise, increasing home demolitions, and extrajudicial killings of unarmed protesters, all with the full backing of the United States and relatively No accountability from the international community.

2018 marked 25 years since the Oslo Accords were signed, but a fair and just peace agreement for the Palestinians remains far out of reach — the dream of an independent Palestinian state even further.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which was supposed to be a temporary government according to the accords, has developed into a despotic regime, focused more on quashing dissent and policing free speech than achieving liberation and statehood. (Its function is plainly to distribute and allocate salaries)

2018 also marked 70 years since the Nakba, the tragedy that has shaped the Palestinian issue for generations.

But as evidenced by the ongoing fight for the rights of refugees in Gaza’s Great March of Return, the fight against expulsion in places Silwan and Khan al-Ahmar, and the fight for equal rights as citizens in Israel, the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, of the Palestinian people did not end in 1948.

The impact of Trump

President Donald Trump talks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

It goes without saying that perhaps that most defining moment of the year actually took place in late 2017, when President Donald Trump announced that the US would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The decision sparked widespread protests that lead to the arrest of hundreds of Palestinians and the injury of many more.

Even after the initial protests died down, Trump’s Jerusalem decision has continued to be a feature of nearly every demonstration, big and small, across Palestine.

Over the course of the year, the Trump administration has relentlessly unleashed a series of political decisions aimed at harming the Palestinian people and forcing their leadership to the negotiating table.

From defunding UNRWA and USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, to moving the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump’s decisions will have a lasting political impact on the region. The human impacts have already begun to be felt.

More than 60 Palestinians were gunned down by Israeli forces on the Gaza border on May 14th when they were protesting Trump’s decision to move the embassy.

Last week, a three-year old Palestinian refugee boy died waiting for treatment in a Lebanon hospital. (He was actually treated but his case was serious) Many have attributed his death to the UNRWA financial crisis, saying that the family could not afford to pay and that the hospital delayed the treatment because they were waiting for the insurance payment from UNRWA.

As time goes on, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees will feel the effects of UNRWA’s financial crisis in the form of job cuts, reduced healthcare coverage, and the shut down of primary schools across the region.

The existence of UNRWA is truly essential to the lives of Palestine’s most vulnerable communities. Living in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, I have witnessed my neighbors skip doctor visits and unable to purchase necessary medications due to the fact that the current health care they receive UNRWA doesn’t cover all of their needs.

If the already lacking coverage is taken away from them, it is not out of the question that many more will suffer the fate of that young boy in Lebanon.

The UN has reported that despite a rise in humanitarian needs across the occupied Palestinian territory, funding levels for humanitarian interventions declined significantly: only US$221 million had been received (from other donating governments), compared to the $540 million requested in the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan.

Gaza & The Great March of Return

Much of this year’s coverage of news in Palestine has focused on the besieged Gaza Strip, which entered its 11th year under siege in 2018.

With every passing day, the situation in Gaza grows more and more dire. People see only a few hours of electricity a day, unemployment rates are at an all time high, and hospitals are closing their doors due to lack of medications.

In 2018, the UN reported that around 1.3 million people in Gaza, or 68% of the population, were food insecure.

We have reported on a series of stories from the Gaza Strip this year, each one more distressing than the last.

We have seen children with cancer forced to travel alone to the West Bank for treatment without their parents, UNRWA employees set themselves on fire after losing their jobs, and the ever rising death toll from the Great March of Return.

On Saturday, one Palestinian was killed and six more were injured along the Israeli border fence.

UN documentation reported on December 28th that the death toll from Gaza’s Great March of Return stood at 180, and that over 23,000 people had been injured (mutilated and handicapped) in the protests. Among the dead are journalists, medics, women, and children.

This year marked the highest death toll in a single year since the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, and according to UNOCHA,  the highest number of injuries recorded since the group began documenting casualties in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2005.

The Great March of Return has galvanized Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip to demand an end to the crippling Israeli siege.

The Great March of Return in Gaza, August 10, 2018 (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Despite nine months of death and injuries, and no tangible wins for the protesters, the continued participation of Gazans in the march is evidence of the growing desperation in the coastal enclave.

With nowhere to go, no future for Gaza’s young people, and no medicine for the sick, the only remaining choice for many is to try as hard as they can to tear down the walls and fences surrounding them, knowing full well that death awaits them at the borders.

Growing discontent with PA

In the PA-controlled West Bank, there is a growing sense of discontentment with the government and its leaders, who continue to prioritize their consolidation of power and resources over the rights of the people.

The state of hopelessness and frustration among Palestinian citizens is on a steady rise, with polls showing that Palestinians ranked corruption as the second largest problem they face after the economic crisis – higher than the Israeli occupation, which ranked third.

Palestinian economic and social decline has led to higher rates of poverty and unemployment, with college graduates witnessing the highest rates of joblessness.

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), once the most important official instruments of control and accountability for the government, has been dysfunctional for the past 11 years. (And lately dismissed by Mahmoud Abbas with no date for election)

The PA’s executive authority and security apparatuses have continued to impose restrictions on media and journalists through the Cyber Crimes Law, blocking websites that publish dissenting voices, and detaining journalists and activists critical of Mahmoud Abbas and his regime.

Over the summer, PA forces violently suppressed youth-led protests that criticized the government’s policies in Gaza and its security coordination with Israel, which has been denounced as a “revolving door” policy funneling Palestinian activists from PA jails to Israeli prisons.

In the wake of a spate of attacks earlier this month allegedly orchestrated by Hamas, demonstrations erupted in support of the PA’s rival faction, and in condemnation of Israel’s punitive ongoing home demolitions, road closures, and massive arrest campaigns.

Video footage of the protests showed PA security forces using batons to beat demonstrators, many of them women.

Despite widespread public outcry and ongoing protests, the PA is moving forward with a controversial social security law which will see citizens that work in the private sector paying 7% of their monthly salaries taxes to the Palestinian Social Security Corporation (PSCC), with no clauses exempting workers who receive minimum wage.

While the law claims workers will be able to apply for a retirement pension at age 60, it stipulates that widows, orphans, and the families of Palestinians killed by Israel will not be eligible to receive benefits.

Palestinians have voiced their opposition to the law, citing concerns that if subjected to monthly deductions, workers receiving already low wages will not be able to provide for their families or pay off hefty bank loans, which many Palestinians use to purchase homes, cars, etc.

The primary opposition to the law lies in the fact that many Palestinians do not trust the government to uphold its end of the deal, and that under the Israeli occupation and an increasingly unstable PA, there’s no guarantee they would ever see the benefits of their contributions.

Business as usual for the Israeli occupation

According to UN documentation, a total of 295 Palestinians were killed and over 29,000 were injured in 2018 by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Over 459 Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were demolished by Israeli forces, marking a slight increase from 2017. The demolitions resulted in the displacement of 472 Palestinians, including 216 children and 127 women.

In the wake of this month’s spate of attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers, Israel has stepped up its efforts to demolish the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks on Israelis, a policy that has been widely criticized for years as collective punishment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on so-called “deterrence”efforts, instructing security officials to fast track punitive home demolitions, despite previous recommendations from an Israeli military committee that the practice did not deter attacks.

Last week, the Israeli Knesset passed the first reading of a bill to forcibly transfer families of Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis, despite heavy opposition from intelligence and army officials.

If passed into law, it would see that within a week of an attack or attempted attack, the Israeli army would be permitted to expel the relatives of the Palestinian assailants from their hometowns to other areas of the West Bank.

Forcible transfer is considered a war crime under international law.

Since the election of Trump, the West Bank has witnessed a steep increase in the expansion of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

In the 22 months before Trump was elected, 4,476 settlement housing units were approved, according to settlement watchdog  Peace Now. But since his election, that figure has more than tripled to 13,987 housing units.

Earlier this week, Israel advanced plans for nearly 2,200 living units in 47 settlements.

Palestinians in the West Bank have also witnessed a frightening increase in settler attacks on them and their property, with settlers more emboldened than ever before.

In 2018, UNOCHA recorded 265 incidents where Israeli settlers killed or injured Palestinians or damaged their property, marking a 69 per cent increase from 2017.

One Palestinian woman, 48-year-old Aisha al-Rabi, a mother of eight, was killed in October when settlers attacked her family’s car with rocks as they were driving home in the Nablus district of the northern West Bank.

Some 7,900 trees and 540 vehicles were damaged or completely destroyed in settler attacks, the UN reported.

The Palestinians that shook 2018

Amid all the devastation of 2018, several Palestinian faces have emerged from the darkness to offer a sense of hope, inspiration, and resilience for their people.

The following men, women, and children have been iconicized through social media for their roles in combating the Israeli occupation and bringing the plight of the Palestinian people to the international stage.

Ahed Tamimi

16-year-old Ahed Tamimi in Israeli military court (Photo: Tali Shapiro/Twitter)

Ahed Tamimi was propelled on to the international stage when she was arrested by Israeli forces in December 2017 after she slapped an Israeli soldier during a raid on her hometown of Nabi Saleh.

As she severed out an 8-month sentence in Israeli prison, she shed a new light on the issue of Palestinian child prisoners and the struggles of Palestinian youth under occupation.

By the time she was released, she had reached star status in Palestine and beyond, and has remained outspoken in her criticism of the Israeli occupation, travelling the world raising awareness about the Palestinian cause.

Yasser Murtaja & Razan al-Najjar

Razan al-Najjar, photo shared by the al-Najjar family.

Yasser Murtaja, portrait from his Facebook page.

During the Great March of Return, Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja and medic Razan al-Najjar, drawing outrage from the Palestinian and international community.

Their deaths highlighted Israel’s widely criticized open-fire policy along the Gaza border, and the ongoing killing of unarmed civilians.

The funerals of both Murtaja and al-Najjar drew thousands of mourners, and their status as heroes of the Great March of Return has been memorialized on Palestinian social media.

The Bedouins of Khan al-Ahmar

Ibrahim Khamees, a member of the Khan al-Ahmar village council, watches as armed Israeli forces guard a bulldozer that razed lands on Wednesday to create a pathway for Israeli forces to use in the imminent demolition of the village (Photo: Akram al-Wara)

As the battle to save their village came to a head this year, the bedouins of Khan al-Ahmarremained steadfast in their nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation’s efforts to expel them from their lands.

Through grassroots efforts, the people of Khan al-Ahmar galvanized international support for their struggle, resulting in the indefinite postponement of the village’s demolition.

Rashida Tlaib

On their way to Congress: Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib (left) of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Omar is the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the United States. (Photo: Twitter/Rashida Tlaib)

Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District made headlines across the US and the world as one of the first Muslim-American women to be elected to Congress, and the first ever Palestinian-American woman to do so.

In Palestine, Tlaib’s win was a form of poetic justice: the descendant of Palestinians from a small occupied West Bank village would now be serving in one of the highest levels of US government.

Since her election, Tlaib has been outspoken in her defense of the BDS movement, and has even announced that she will be leading a delegation of her colleagues to Palestine, as an alternative to AIPAC’s annual Israel trip for new members of congress.

Looking forward

As we enter the New Year, there is little reason for optimism in Palestine.

The Israeli occupation continues to tighten its grip with the help of the US, and the prospect of any reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and free democratic elections in Palestine are virtually nonexistent.

Palestinians in the West Bank continue to see their family members cycled through the Israeli prison system, with 5,554 Palestinians in prison as of November.

The current security situation in the West Bank has created a climate in which Palestinians are scared to drive their cars between cities, fearful that a settler attack or wrong move at a checkpoint could spell their death.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees are bracing for the worst as Israel moves forward with its plans to shut down UNRWA’s operations in the city.

In Gaza, the Great March of Return pushes on into its 10th month, and an end to the Israeli and Egyptian siege is nowhere in sight.

The Trump administration continues to tout its “deal of the century,” which many Palestinians anticipate will attempt to erase any Palestinian claims to Jerusalem, and force them to once again compromise their rights for the sake of Israel and the settlers.

The political future of Palestine is as uncertain as ever, and 2019 will likely see a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation here.

This year, we have interviewed hundreds of Palestinians from the borderlines in Gaza to refugee camps of Bethlehem. Countless people have have opened up their homes to Mondoweiss, to tell us, and show us, the reality of their existence under occupation.

Time and time again, we have asked people what their message is to the world, and to the Israeli government.  And time and time again, there is one common theme to every person’s answer:  sumud, or steadfastness

Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is demand that Palestinians abandon their rights and dreams

Activism

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The following is a report by Richard Falk on “The Arab International Forum for Justice for Palestine,” held in Beirut on July 29, 2018. His report is followed by a personal account to Falk’s blogreaders of a more personal character, describing the style and manner of the gathering.

My note: This “Deal” was discussed during Clinton tenure and it is Not a new plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause and identity.

1. There was bright sunshine throughout the entire Forum thanks to the announcement that Ahed Tamimi and her mother were released on that very day, and boldly reaffirmed their abiding commitment to resistance.

This teenage Palestinian icon from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh had completed an 8-month jail term for slapping an IDF soldier after her cousin had been shot in the face.

Instead of exhibiting empathy for Ahed Tamimi, Israel exhibited its vindictive approach to the Palestinian reality by jailing such a sensitive young woman rather than acting in a civilized manner by exhibiting sympathy for the normalcy of her reactions, indeed their dignity, to being a witness of such brutality by an agent of the Israeli state.

The Tamimi family were prominent resisters before “the slap heard around the world.” It was evident by the frequent reference to Ahed by speakers at the Forum that her show of defiance and youthful exuberance was worth a thousand missiles, expressing not only sumud (steadfastness), but also the conviction that nonviolent resistance can become transformative if adapted to the realities of an oppressive situation.

Of course, not a word in the NY Times about Ahed’s release, while papers in Lebanon wrote complementary feature stories with sympathetic pictures of this heroine, and in every Turkish paper I saw her release was a front page story.

Ahed seems comfortable with the prominence of her role despite being so young. As far as the eye can see, Ahed seems completely unaffected by the dark shadows cast over her young life by the harshness of Israel’s response to her totally spontaneous gesture of resistance.

While celebrating Ahed release, we should also pause to remember Razan Al-Najjar, the heroic nurse tending the wounded at the Gaza Great March of Return fatally shot on June 1st by an IDF sniper in cold blood while apart from the demonstrators, away from the fence, dressed in easily identifiable white medical clothing, working in the vicinity of Khan Yunis.

We should also salute Dareen Tatour, fine Palestinian poet, author of the poem “Resist My People, Resist Them,” sentenced to prison just now for the sin of writing defiant poetry, having only recently been released from years of house arrest, denied access to the Internet, and even to her own village community.

2. There was one feature of the Forum that I admit made me increasingly uncomfortable as I listened to speaker after speaker pour cold water on Trump’s promise, or was it a threat, to end the conflict with “the deal of the century.

When it came my turn to speak at the very end of the day, I started by saying how astonished I was by the attention given by prior speakers to this catchy phrase used by Trump. According these words of the demagogue so much attention gave the still undisclosed U.S. proposal a political weight it didn’t deserve or possess, and could put the Palestinians in an unnecessarily awkward, defensive, and combative position. (This is how Israel was created by non-abiding promises kept by the colonial powers to the Jews and Not kept to the Palestinians)

I pointed out that Trump’s erratic approach to the world since he became president had weakened greatly the U.S. global leadership role, and that his extreme partisanship with respect to the Palestinian struggle had reduced to zero American credibility as an impartial or constructive arbiter in relation to the future of the two peoples. (

Actually, the people in the region never believed in the US credibility as a fair mediator. Mind you that it was the “Christian” Evangelical movement in the USA that precede Herzel, 50 years, in his ideology)

U.S. credibility as a peacemaker had long ago been convincingly challenged, for instance, by the devastating book of Rashid Khalidi, “Brokers of Deceit,” and even more comprehensively by Jeremy Hammond in his important assessment, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” (2016).

It seemed to me that the words “the deal of the century” had entranced and bewitched this Palestinian audience, and maybe others, leading to my fear that Trump had put them on a road leading to a political dead end for the Palestinian aspirations, crushing their struggle by being tricked into entering such a spiderweb of bombastic irrelevance.

What the U.S. seems ready to offer, besides bombast, and what Israeli leaders have been talking about more and more openly, is that if the Palestinians abandon their rights along with their dreams, “peace” becomes possible.

This includes abandoning political goals associated with the right of self-determination. If the Palestinians are so foolish as to do this, then they can become hapless beneficiaries of “an economic peace” courtesy of Israel’s generosity and charitable nature.

The deal of the century reduced to substance is nothing more than “geopolitical bribery,” exchanging the prospect of some dollars for the renunciation of inalienable rights.

In such a bargain the devil is NOT in the details, but is the very essence of what is being proposed.

Of course, there are almost certain also to be humiliating details involving the concrete implications of permanent submission by the Palestinians: acceptance of uncontested Israeli control of Jerusalem, a complete denial of any right of return for  Palestinian refugees or exiles, and a series of master/servant economic arrangements.

My plea at the Forum was to put “the deal of the century” in its proper perspective by ignoring it, or if it must be discussed, then re-frame all references to the deal by recognizing that it is less a deal that an attempted diktat, in actuality a crude attempt to commit “the crime of the century!”

(How many crimes of century have the Palestinians  to deal with? Every decade in Israel existence was a crime of the century committed)

3. I highlighted the second portion of my presentation by quoting the opening line of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I felt this kind of interface well depicted the current situation of the Palestinians. It was the worst of times because the alignments in the Arab world together with the geopolitical forces seemed to favor the success of the Zionist Project to an unprecedented degree. The major Arab governments were moving toward postures of “normalization” with Israel without any longer insisting on the precondition of reaching a sustainable peace with the Palestinians.

This regional setback has weakened Palestine diplomatically, and materially. At the same time the Trump presidency has made no secret of its endorsement of maximal Zionist goals, agreeing to support whatever Israel (and Saudi Arabia) want.

Above all this commitment involves ramping up a dangerous confrontation with Iran. Most of Europe seems unhappy with these developments, but has so far lacked the energy, incentive, and leadership to play an offsetting role to balance Trump’s one sidedness and thus act to keep alive what has become a Zombie solution, the barely flickering flame of “a two-state solution.

In other words, from the international community of states, the best that can be hoped for at this stage, is a rather lame show of support for the two-state mantra, which has been effectively moribund for several years.

In sum, if Palestinian prospects are interpreted through the prism of standard international relations, the outlook is dismal, and not by chance this is the line being pursued by the Middle East Forum, an ultra-Zionist NGO.

Its chosen mechanism to drive the point home is its rather diabolical scheme labeled “the victory caucus,” which is actively recruiting, with a disturbing degree of success, members of the U.S. Congress and the Knesset.

It wants the world to understand that since international diplomacy is dead and with Trump in the White House the occasion offers Israel the opportunity of adopting more muscular tactics to force the Palestinians to understand that their game of resistance is over, that to avoid collective suicide there is no alternative left to the Palestine other than political surrender.

And by such reasoning, if the Palestinians are wise enough to accept this line of thinking, then they will become beneficiaries of some variant of economic peace as a sign of Israeli gratitude.

Fortunately, these dismal scenarios of defeat do not tell the true or real, much less the whole, story.

Several recent developments have created new and promising opportunities for the Palestinian national movement to move its own agenda forward. These developments involve a welcome shift of the center of gravity of the Palestinian movement from reliance on inter-governmental initiatives, including those pursued at the UN, to a phase of struggle that combines new modes of Palestinian resistance with a rapidly expanding global solidarity movement.

This solidarity movement is receiving a great boost in credibility as a result of the militant support that BDS campaign is receiving in South Africa.

In effect, on the basis of their experience of racism, South Africa is delivering this urgent message to the world: we alone know from experience the full horror of an apartheid regime, and what Palestinians daily face is a form of apartheid that is even worse than what we endured, and finally overcame by a struggle that combined the brave resistance of our people buoyed by the solidarity of the world; although the circumstances are far different, apartheid in Israel can be overcome by a similar shift in the balance of forces due to an intensifying popular struggle neutralizing the repressive capabilities of military and police domination.

I mentioned two developments of particular importance in the emergence of this altered scenario of struggle more encouraging for the realization of Palestinian aspirations.

First, the Israeli nation-state law of the Jewish people that by its bluntness in asserting the exclusivity of Jewish rights in Israel, including that of self-determination, amounts to a formal adoption of an apartheid ideology by Israel in all but name. In effect, this development vindicated the conclusions of the ESCWA report on Israeli apartheid prepared by Virginia Tilley and myself that was condemned so fiercely by the Israeli ambassador, and even more so by Nikki Haley, the American ambassador at the UN, when it was released in March 2017.

As the discourse at the Forum and the mainstream media now illustrate, it is no longer controversial to attribute apartheid to the particular Israeli mode of dominance imposed on Palestinians. What makes the nation-state law so politically and psychologically helpful in this respect is that the relation of the Israeli state to its Palestinian minority was, although discriminatory enough to form one domain of the apartheid system, far less onerous than Israeli policies and practices toward refugees in neighboring countries or Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Thus for Israel to acknowledge apartheid as the modus operandi in Israel itself amounts to a signed and voluntary confession as to the racist character of overall domination.

Such an interpretation of the nation-state law is important for mobilizing popular support for more militant forms of solidarity with respect to the Palestinian people.

Apartheid is an international crime, one type of crime against humanity that is set forth in Article 7 of the Statute governing the operations of the International Criminal Court, and deprives Israel of the propaganda value of claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East, a major pillar of its claimed politic al legitimacy. That pillar crumbled the moment the Nation-State bill became Israeli law.

The second development that creates opportunities for advancing the Palestinian struggle is the exposure of the violent nature of Israel’s control mechanisms, especially its reliance on grossly excessive force in calculated response to the Great March of Return.

These demonstrations at and around the Gaza fence are demands to implement the most fundamental of Palestinian rights as set forth by international law. Killing unarmed demonstrators with live ammunition exposes to the world the violent nature of Israel’s structures of domination.

This use of lethal force at the Gaza border recalls vividly the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, which many commentators identified as the point of no return for South African apartheid, revealing the true racist nature of its governing process to the world.  The Gaza massacre is actually far worse than Sharpeville (although there were other massacres to follow including crushing the Soweto Uprising), as the willful killing at the Gaza border has now been repeated on a series of successive Fridays.

It is the extreme character of these two developments that provides this golden opportunity to civil society activists and their organizations to mobilize wider and deeper support for the Palestinian struggle.

The BDS Campaign, already commencing its 14th year, becomes more central in this effort to isolate Israel internationally and emphasize the criminal illegitimacy of Israeli apartheid. It is appropriate to mention that South Africa sought to demonize opposition to its racist policies by dubbing anti-apartheid activists as “terrorists” or “Communists.”

Israel uses a similar rhetorical tactic by branding its critics and activists as “anti-Semites.” Although Israeli apartheid is different in many aspects from South African apartheid with regard to both internal and international contexts, both instances of apartheid involve structures of subjugation based on race with the overriding purpose of maintaining domination of one race, and the victimization of the other. South African apartheid proved vulnerable to resistance and solidarity initiatives.

It is my belief that the opportunity now exists, more so than ever before, to establish a comparable vulnerability with respect to Israeli apartheid.

It should be appreciated that the great unlearned lesson of the last half century is that military superiority has lost much of its historical agency.

The colonial wars were won by the weaker side militarily. The Vietnam War was lost by the United States despite its overwhelming military superiority. The side that control the heights of legal, moral, and political opinion eventually usually controls the political outcome in contemporary struggles for control of sovereign states, especially if the struggle takes place in a distinct political entity, and not as a secessionist move by a captive nation with an existing large sovereign state (for example, Catalonia, Chechnya, Puerto Rico).

The Palestinians have been winning the legitimacy war to achieve such nationalist aspirations, and now is the time for soft power militancy to get on with the job.

4. Despite the implicit acknowledgement of apartheid by the adoption of the nation-state law as Basic Law of Israel, that is, as not subject to change except by enactment of another law with Basic Law status, it seems helpful to reassert the relevance of the ESCWA Report.

That study, arousing great controversy at the time of release, is no longer as relevant or as needed for purpose of debating whether or not Israel is an apartheid state. Even before the Basic Law was adopted, the evidence of Israeli practices shows, as the Report argues, that Israel is an apartheid state. The Report remains relevant, however, to obtain a better understanding of the distinctive, specific, and comprehensive nature of Israeli apartheid.

For one thing, the Report examines the allegation of apartheid from the perspective of international law as it is set forth in various authoritative places, especially the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the International Crime of Apartheid.

Secondly, it argues on the basis of evidence that Israeli apartheid extends to the Palestinian people as a whole, not just to those living under the dual legal systems of the West Bank or as the discriminated minority in Israel. The apartheid regime developed by Israel applies also to the refugees confined to camps in neighboring countries and to those Palestinians living in Jerusalem, which is governed as if it is already wholly incorporated into the state of Israel.

We reaffirm the central conclusion of the Report that the only valid path to a sustainable peace for both peoples requires the prior rejection of the ideology and the dismantling of the structures of apartheid.

Any other purported peace process will produce, at most, a new ceasefire, most likely, with a very short life expectancy. A secondary conclusion is that as a matter of law, all governments and international institutions, as well as corporations and banks, have a responsibility to do their utmost to suppress the crime of apartheid as being perpetrated by the leadership of the state of Israel.

It also would follow that lending assistance to Israel either materially or diplomatically is now unlawful, aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise.

Conclusion: The time is ripe for civil society to represent the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli apartheid regime. This struggle is just and the means being pursued are legitimate. Resistance and solidarity are the vital instruments by which to challenge apartheid, and its geopolitical support structure. This was the path that led to the collapse of South African apartheid, and a similar path is now available for the Palestinian struggle.

Afterword: Falk’s note on the conference of a personal character.

My initial impression after experiencing a 90-minute airport line for those carrying foreign passports to gain entry to Lebanon was that the conference was incredibly disorganized. There was no program available to the participants even after the Opening Ceremony began in a packed hotel auditorium with a crowded and passionate gathering of persons dedicated to justice for Palestine, hailing from many countries, from as far away as Mumbai and San Francisco, including diplomats, religious personalities dressed in traditional garb, and those who in a diversity of ways had kept faith over the years with the Palestinian struggle.

Not surprisingly, the Irish participants stirred the crowd the most with their fiery eloquence, drawing on their shared experience of a somewhat similar prolonged, and often anguished, struggle. The Forum was a microcosm of Palestinian inclusiveness. I was not really surprised that Ramsey Clark was the beloved Honorary Chair of the Forum, and learned that only a recently broken hip kept him away.

There were many moments of personal satisfaction during my long one day visit (that seemed like three), including a warm coffee chat with Rabi3 Bashour, recalling our ESCWA experiences, and discovering that his venerable father, Maan, was the heart and soul of the Forum, both as moderator of the event and its guiding spirit throughout the entire process from its origins until the present.

The formative idea of the Forum is to establish a platform that is wide enough to accommodate all tendencies in the Palestinian national movement provided only that there exists ample evidence of dedication to justice for the Palestinian people.

This meant Fatah and Hamas in the same room, religious figures and firmly secular persons, representatives of trade unions, student organizations, prisoner and detainee family members, women’s groups, members of parties from the far left and the center (I never became aware of any right wing participation).

It was the central task of the Forum to keep this symbolic expression of Palestinian unity in robust good spirits, and only secondarily, to address matters of substance. The unspoken dream of the occasion was that the success of the Forum would nudge the political leaders of the now deeply divided Palestinian movement to put aside their differences and achieve sustainable unity so as to pursue together the far greater convergence of goals at the common core of their struggle.

There was a call from the podium at the outset for “practical proposals” rather than just “speeches,” but rhetorical style is almost impossible to discipline, and especially so in the Arab world. And so, inevitably, there were an assortment of speeches mainly validated by frequent emotional flourishes throughout their delivery, yet in fairness there were also several promising concrete suggestions for action initiatives.

I came to appreciate greatly the anarchistic style of hospitality, above all by Nabil Hallak, the guiding conference presence, with No observable capacity for conventional organization beyond a restless vitality that made us all feel welcome, appreciated, and well cared for.

Once I overcame my own anxieties about the chaotic logistics enough to go with the flow I enjoyed being in such a setting, and everything important worked out somehow. It turns out Nabil has a beautiful wife, has fought in Palestinian resistance, and as a result possesses a body that was pierced by nine Israeli bullets.

Despite this, Nabil is modest about his past, projects a joy-for-life esprit and manifests day and night an intense dedication to the Forum as an ongoing political project. He is close to Tima Issa, a TV producer in Beirut with whom I had done a program a year ago, who extended the initial invitation and made the social dimension of my brief visit both enjoyable and memorable.

About Richard Falk
Richard Falk is a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”

Other posts by .

It hugely Matters: unnecessary extended trial Experience of Palestinian teenage girl Ahed Tamimi

Israel’s prosecution of Ahed Tamimi under an Israeli military court for putting up resistance to Israel’s occupation regime epitomizes the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive for generations.

It is now known by virtually everyone who follows the Palestinian struggle that a 16-year-old girl named Ahed Tamimi, who is now 17, confronted Israeli soldiers on her family’s land shortly after her cousin, Mohammed, was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, causing a coma.

The video of her actions has gone viral, showing the world a courageous young woman engaging in nonviolent acts of resistance, and then a day later in the middle of the night being arrested in her home and then charged with a series of crimes.

As is standard Israeli practice in the arrest of children, Aden was hauled off to an Israeli prison facility out of reach of her family and then denied bail.

As has been widely noted, Ahed Tamimi is a heroic victim for those in Palestine and elsewhere who approve of the Palestinian national struggle, and commend such symbolic acts of nonviolent resistance. Ahed has also been often called ‘iconic’ because her story, now and before, is so emblematic of the extraordinary perseverance of the Palestinian people who having endured fifty years of occupation, and seventy years since the mass dispossession of 1948 known to Palestinians as the Nakba.

This prolonged ordeal continues to unfold without a decent ending in sight.

The fact that Ahed is a child and a girl reinforces the double image of courage, stubborn resistance, and victimization. It is also notable that as early as 2013 Ahed gained prominence when given The Handala Courage Award by a Turkish municipality in Istanbul, an occurrence given great attention due to a breakfast in her honor arranged by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

While only 13, Ahed opened an art exhibit in Istanbul aptly titled “Being a Child in Palestine.”

The Israeli reaction, as might be expected, was as negative and denigrating as the Palestinian response was affirmative; maybe more so. Israel’s Minister of Culture, no less, Mira Regev referred to Ahed this way: “She is not a little girl, she is a terrorist. It about time they will understand that people like her have to be in jail and not allowed to incite racism and subversion against the state of Israel.”

The internationally known Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, was more precise in describing the punishment that fit Ahed’s supposed crime: “Ahed Tamimi should serve a life sentence for her crime.”

More luridly, Ben Caspit, a prominent journalist, made a rather shocking assertion of how Ahed’s type of defiant behavior shockingly deserves to be addressed outside the framework of law: “In the case of girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark without witnesses or cameras.”

Some critics have read this statement as advocacy of sexual abuse, even rape, but whatever its intention, the fact that such language can be used openly at the higher levels of Israeli discourse, without arousing an Israeli backlash is suggestive of a terrorist style of governance relied upon to break the will of Palestinian resistance.

Mira Regev’s reaction to the Tamimi video clip situates the Israeli reaction to Ahed Tamimi’s in ways that seem to reflect the dominant mood in the country that perversely reverses the realities of oppressor and oppressed, victimizers and victims: “When I watched that I felt humiliated. I felt crushed,” finding the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” (Is this sentence good to Israel or against its brutal actions?)

It is in this strange sense that it is Israelis, not Palestinians, who experience humiliation in the current situation—despite Israel being in total control of every aspect of the Palestinian life experience, which for Palestinians involves a daily encounter with oppressive policies designed to frighten, humiliate, and subjugate.

In contrast, Israelis enjoy the benefit of urban freedom and prosperity in an atmosphere of normalcy with relatively high levels of security in recent years that has greatly diminished the security threat, and in the process, effectively erased Palestinian grievances and aspirations from public consciousness.

When Palestinians are noticed, as in this incident, it tends to be with derision, and expressions of a domineering Israeli political will that considers it entirely fitting to impose punishments on Palestinian children of a severity totally disproportionate to the gravity of the supposed crime.

It is this disparity between the reality of Palestinian resistance and the rhetoric of Israeli oppressive options that gives Ahed Tamimi’s story such symbolic poignancy.

Of course, there are more sophisticated Israeli responses to Ahed’s challenge.

Some commentators claim that what is disproportionate is the global attention devoted to the incident, even suggesting that it was a cynical ploy meant to distract world public opinion due to the failure of Hamas to deliver on its call for a third intifada in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and so move the U.S. Embassy.

Other critics insist that the incident was staged by the Palestinians, with cameras at the ready, and not as spontaneous as the video wants us to believe. Such a contention seems irrelevant, even if correct, as Ahed’s defiance was prompted by the shooting and wounding of her cousin a short time before, which was certainly not staged, but rather a reflection of oppressive and violent Israeli responses to Palestinian demonstrations of resistance.

To belittle her acts as instruments of ‘infowar’ is also to ignore the uncertainty she faced when so strongly confronting Israeli soldiers and challenging their authority. She could not have known that these soldiers would not violently retaliate, as indeed some Israelis wished had happened to avoid ‘humiliation’ on the Israeli side.

Ahed’s bravery and dignified reaction seem to be authentic given the wider context, as does the resistance of the Tamimi family in the town of Nabi Saleh that undoubtedly socialized Ahed into a culture of nonviolent practice.

I think these polarized responses to the incident offer a defining metaphor for the current phase of Israel/Palestine relations.

The metaphor is given a special vividness because Ahed Tamimi as a child epitomizes the mentality and tactics of an oppressive state: the prospect of Ahed’s case being heard by a military court that finds that more than 99% of defendants are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused.

This is reminiscent of South African administration of criminal justice at the height of apartheid racism.

Beyond the legal fate of Ahed’s case is the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive generation after generation.

Related article: Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

This article was originally published at RichardFalk.WordPress.com on February 13, 2018.

Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring 16-year-old Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi?

by 28 Dec 2017

Palestinian activist Ahed with her mother Nariman [Al Jazeera]

Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration.

When 15-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly different. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued a petition entitled “I am Malala.” The UNESCO launched “Stand Up For Malala.

Malala was invited to meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won.

State representatives such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well as prominent journalists such as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of her. There is even a Malala Day!

But we see no #IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. None of the usual feminist and rights groups or political figures has issued statements supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No one has declared an Ahed Day. In fact, the US in the past has even denied her a visa for a speaking tour.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices.

She has been protesting the theft of land and water by Israeli settlers. She has endured personal sacrifice, having lost an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her parents and brother have been arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot in the leg.

Two years ago, another video featuring her went viral – this time she was trying to protect her little brother from being taken by a soldier.

Why isn’t Ahed a beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? Why has the reaction to Ahed been so different?

‘Children of the stones’: the day Palestine was reborn

Ramzy Baroud
by Ramzy Baroud

There are multiple reasons for this deafening silence.

First is the widespread acceptance of Israel state-sanctioned violence as legitimate. Whereas hostile actions of non-state actors such as the Taliban or Boko Haram fighters are viewed as unlawful, similar aggression by the state is often deemed appropriate.

This not only includes overt forms of violence such as drone attacks, unlawful arrests, and police brutality, but also less obvious assaults such as the allocation of resources, including land and water.

The state of Israel justifies these actions by presenting the victims of its injustices as a threat to the functioning of the state.

Once declared a threat, the individual is easily reduced to bare life – a life without political value.

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has described this as a time/place sanctioned by sovereign power where laws can be suspended; this individual can therefore now be made a target of sovereign violence.

Terrorists often fall within this category. Thus, the execution of suspected terrorists through drone attacks without due judicial process ensues without much public uproar.

11-year-old Ahed cries during the funeral of her relative Rushdi Tamimi, who was shot by Israeli forces during a protest in November 2012 [Reuters/Mohamad Torokman]

The Israeli police have deployed a similar strategy here. They have argued for extending Ahed’s detention because she “poses a danger” to soldiers (state representatives) and could obstruct the functioning of the state (the investigation).

Casting unarmed Palestinians like Ahed – who was simply exercising her right to protect her family’s well-being with all the might of her 16-year-old hand – in the same light as a terrorist is unfathomable. Such framing open the way for authorizing excessive torture – Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett, for instance, wants Ahed and her family to “finish their lives in prison.”

Ahed’s suffering also exposes the West’s selective humanitarianism, whereby only particular bodies and causes are deemed worthy of intervention.

Anthropologist Miriam Ticktin argues that while the language of morality to alleviate bodily suffering has become dominant in humanitarian agencies today, only particular kinds of suffering bodies are read as worthy of this care.This includes the exceptionally violated female body and the pathologically diseased body.

Ahed’s father Bassem Tamimi stands inside a waiting cell ahead of the verdict in his trial at Israel’s Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 20, 2012 [AP/Diaa Hadid]

Such a notion of suffering normalises labouring and exploited bodies: “these are not the exception, but the rule, and hence are disqualified.”

Issues of unemployment, hunger, threat of violence, police brutality, and denigration of cultures are thus often not considered deserving of humanitarian intervention.

Such forms of suffering are seen as necessary and even inevitable. Ahed, therefore, does not fit the ideal victim-subject for transnational advocacy.

Relatedly, girls like Ahed who critique settler colonialism and articulate visions of communal care are not the empowered femininity that the West wants to valourise. She seeks justice against oppression, rather than empowerment that benefits only herself.

Her feminism is political, rather than one centred on commodities and sex.

Her girl power threatens to reveal the ugly face of settler-colonialism, and hence is marked as “dangerous”.

Her courage and fearlessness vividly render all that is wrong with this occupation.

Ahed’s plight should prompt us to interrogate our selective humanitarianism. Individuals who are victims of state violence, whose activism unveils the viciousness of power, or whose rights advocacy centres communal care, deserve to be included in our vision of justice.

Even if we don’t launch campaigns for Ahed, it is impossible for us to escape her call to witness the mass debilitation, displacement and dispossession of her people.

As Nelson Mandela said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


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