-Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine


Still Marching & Dying for Freedom:

One-Year Anniversary of The Great March of Return in Gaza

March 30 marked the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return campaign in Gaza.  Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested, as they had for the past 12 months, at the demarcation fence with Israel, to remind their oppressors that they still existed.  That they had not surrendered their rights or humanity.

Israel snipers responded by killing 3 unarmed young men and wounding more than 300.  Over the past year, up to that point, Israeli occupation forces had killed 266 protestors and injured another 30,000.

The UN’s Commission of Inquiry found that Israel’s attacks on the protesters “may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

Gaza is home to approximately 1.9 million people, of whom 1.4 million are refugees. Israel’s land, air and sea blockade of the territory entered its 12th year in June, 2018.


Netanyahu’s Dirty Tricks

This from journalist Jonathan Cook, reminding us again that Benjamin Netanyahu, recently elected to a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister, will never cease conjuring ways to make life wretchedly miserable, unequal and unjust for Palestinians, citizens of Israel or occupied subjects:

The culmination of his [Netanyahu’s] dirty tricks campaign was an election-day stunt in which his Likud party broke regulations – and possibly the law – by arming 1,200 activists with hidden cameras, to film polling stations in communities belonging to Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Netanyahu justified the move by saying it would ensure the election was “kosher”. Yet again, Israel’s prime minister made it clear that the country’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens were unwelcome interlopers in what he regards as an exclusively Jewish political process.

The PR firm behind the stunt admitted another motive. The goal was for the cameras to be quickly discovered by police and thereby scare the one in five citizens who are Palestinian into staying home. A low turnout by Palestinian voters in Israel would ensure a stronger parliamentary majority for Netanyahu’s coalition.

Political Corruption & Occupation

Despite his election victory, Israel’s prime minister may by indicted soon on multiple corruption charges.

If Netanyahu is charged, what are the chances he can leverage a political way out of his legal mess by negotiating an “annexation for immunity” deal with his far-right coalition?

Once more, Jonathan Cook sheds light on a dark place:

The other option [for Netanyahu to escape indictment] is to arm-twist his coalition partners into agreeing to a retroactive immunity law making it impossible for prosecutors to indict the prime minister while in office. Some of his coalition partners are already on board.

How he might achieve this feat is through an “annexation for immunity” deal. In other words, Netanyahu gives the far-right and the settlers what they want – annexation of parts or all of the West Bank – and in return, they back immunity legislation.

That was why Netanyahu made an unexpected statement in favour of annexation shortly before polling.

Asked about the pressure for annexation from his coalition partners, he told the media: “We will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

A Dangerous Woman: Dr. Ruchama Marton

Dr. Ruchama Marton, the founder and head of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR), received the distinguished Yeshayahu Leibowitz Award from the Yesh Gvul movement in Israel earlier this month. Here are excerpts from a speech (emphases added) that she gave at the award ceremony on April 2, 2019. 

Those who fight for less than political rights for all, fight only to better their own image. Without political rights to all, as we can see in Israel/Palestine, the road is clear to accepting any atrocity: murder; assassinations; mass expulsions; unfettered destruction of houses and entire settlements; collective punishments; lethal withholding of food, water, and medical attention; movement restriction; and killing of unarmed civilian demonstrators.

In 1988, my co-founders in the organization were adamantly opposed to my opening and directing PHR’s founding conference, claiming I was a known extremist and that my name and presence would only damage the NGO’s reputation. “An extremist?” I asked. The answer was yes. …PHR was almost not founded over this spat. …Back then, in the days of the first intifada, the detractors eventually had to give in to the ludicrous proposition that the woman who founded the organization was also fit to preside over it.

Still, the fact remains that they have not changed their minds then, and have not changed their minds today. This is thrown into relief today, particularly the persistence of not having any critical political discussion on any of the several cardinal issues to the Jewish-Israeli society, of which I will mention only one: the Israeli rule of apartheid.

I chose to evoke this loaded term not only because the work it does in shedding light on so much of the political realities between the Jordan River and the sea, but mainly because speaking in candid terms like apartheid with the Israeli-Jewish public today is to truly honor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, whose “extremist” heritage we have come together today to pay our respects, who first used this very term some 50 years ago in relation to Israel/Palestine. Lecturing to a group of students in Jerusalem in 1969, Leibowitz said of the State of Israel: “It will be an illegitimate State. Rabidly nationalistic, heavy-handed, arrests without trials, torture of prisoners, demolition of the houses of suspects, deportation of personae non grata. A New Rhodesia.” And one again, in Tel-Aviv in 1980, “Israel and South Africa are the only regimes in the world currently maintaining states of apartheid.” Back then, perhaps, these were somber diagnoses of realities still-in-the-making. Today, however, they are imbued with the uncanniness of a prophecy come true.

Palestinians were here and will continue to be here. They can and some indeed want to live in peace if only the occupier’s boot were lifted from their necks. They love this land and are connected to it and we, Israeli Jews, must find a way which is not despotic occupation and apartheid to share it with them.

Medicine is not only fighting viruses and germs, or mending arms and legs so that they may be broken all over again, but a struggle against the system and policymakers who enabled and perpetuated this carnage.

As I cannot change from within, I turn outwards – to the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples and to the world beyond, represented in such movements as the BDS [Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions]. Alas, many will not approve. …But if we truly want equality and respect (as in the willingness to share power) – vis-à-vis the Palestinians, if we truly believe this is the only just and effective way to end the occupation, we must forgo these many privileges we sit atop of.

Israeli Jews enjoy privileges spanning all sectors of life: economy, water, lands, planning and infrastructure, education, healthcare, freedom of movement and much more. Ironically, perhaps, the most fanciful of our privileges – that of indulging in a self-fashioned fantastical status of being a democracy governed by the rule of law – our “beautiful face” is the most resilient. And it is one of the BDS’ demands.

I will finish with a verse by Mahmoud Darwish:

“Had the olive tree remembered who planted it, its oil would have turned into tears.”