In May 1948, Israel declared its independence. Palestinians such as Hafida Khatib refer to this moment as the “Nakba” (catastrophe). Hafida and her family fled to Lebanon, a country that has never felt like home.
Hafida remembers her family’s small house. She still has the key, but the house no longer exists. Today, she must contend with renting a dark apartment. Lebanon does not allow Palestinians to own land or housing.
Following the outbreak of the Arab–Israeli War in 1948, 19-year-old Hafida Khatib and her family fled from the Palestinian village of Dayr al-Qassi to neighbouring Lebanon. “I have lived in Lebanon for 70 years, but I’ve never forgotten Palestine,” says Hafida, who is now almost 90.
Today she lives in the Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp, which lies in the south of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Camp residents like to quip that not even a coffin fits through its narrow streets. Many houses are run down and at risk of collapsing. Three years ago, Hafida moved into a small ground-floor apartment after her leg was amputated because of complications resulting from diabetes.
Oregon: A land without a people for a people without a land.
I was asked to speak about my international work at Ainsworth UCC. This piece is what I shared. I want to share with you in an unusual way. Imagine with me. Step into another’s experience. Let’s play “What if . . . ?”
What if the state of Oregon suddenly was designated by other countries as the place to come for hundreds of thousands of people in trouble in Europe?
The rap from those countries about Oregon is that it is perfect. “A place without a people for a people without a place.” Send them there! BUT HEY, WE ARE HERE! WE are the Oregonians! Well, we think, it will be OK. We are good people. We will welcome these strangers who are in trouble. There is plenty of land for the new people to build. We will share.
But, when the new people come from Europe, they come with guns and run out 100‘s of thousands of Oregonians. Now 750,000 Oregonians live in refugee camps in bordering states. The new people set up a government and say Oregonians who ran away are not allowed to come back home. These people are not like other refugees who have come gently and respectfully to live among us. This is very different.
Neither racism nor the violence that results from it can be justified. However, the acceptance of anti-Semitic prejudices among Muslims should be attributed to political and social rather than religious factors. Without the colonial subjugation of the Arab world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the spread of anti-Semitic thought, both there and in other Islamic countries, is almost unthinkable.
Holy books are what people make of them: after all, even the word of God needs to be understood and interpreted. The same applies to anti-Jewish statements in the Koran. Today, it isn’t just so-called critics of Islam who describe them as anti-Semitic; Muslim hate-preachers too like to quote them. In the field of traditional Koranic exegesis, this is a new kind of misuse.
For over a thousand years, Muslims have worked hard to make their word of God applicable as a moral and legal doctrine. Scholars claimed the exclusive right to interpret it. While this process wasn’t democratic, it guaranteed that extreme, isolated interpretations stood little chance.
Verses calling for violence against Jews, for example, are embedded in reports about historical events. When the Prophet emigrated from Mecca to Medina in 622, he formed an alliance with the local population, which included some Jewish tribes. It is said that when these tribes broke the contract, Mohammed and his followers took revenge. Hatred of Jews in the early Islamic tradition sprang from the precarious position of the Muslim community, which was in competition with social adversaries. When seen this way, it was clearly associated with a specific situation.
Let’s look at things a different way. Support of Israel requires deference to legal discrimination, inequitable models of citizenship, and massive displacement based on ethnic background. Can’t Zionists, then, rightly be accused of racism? We never get to ask that question. They occupy a normative position in American political discourses and so their civility is guaranteed.
Author’s note: On May 18, Rabbi Jill Jacobs published an essay in the Washington Post purporting to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and “anti-Semitism.” In the essay, she posted two of my tweets to suggest that I am anti-Semitic [spoiler: I am not]. Since August, 2014, the Washington Post has run numerous articles similarly impugning my character. The paper has never offered me space to write in my own voice, despite numerous inquiries. I submitted an essay to the Post’s Outlook section responding to the issues raised in Jacobs’ piece, but the paper declined to run it. That essay, as submitted, follows.
When Israeli soldiers open fire on unarmed demonstrators, as they have been doing for over a month in the Gaza Strip, Americans are implicated in the violence, for the United States arms and funds those soldiers. Yet liberal supporters of Israel insist on complicating this straightforward proposition.
They often do so by accusing Israel’s critics of anti-Semitism. On the one hand, Israel’s liberal champions brand themselves allies of Palestine; but on the other hand, they defame and sabotage Palestinians. It is no longer tenable to have it both ways.
In truth, it has been difficult to avoid the abject dehumanization of Gazans by the Israeli government and Israel advocates these past few months. In statement after statement, Palestinians have all but been blamed for their own mass murder.
Jacob’s article was written in response to the Israeli military’s killing of over 100 Palestinians in demonstrations in Gaza since March 30, including 14 children, and injured over 3,500 with live fire. Certainly, as the Executive Director of Tru’ah — an American rabbinical organization that seeks to “protect human rights in North America, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories” — one might have expected her to follow the lead of other human rights organizations and protest (or even call into question) Israel’s excessive use of force.
On the very same day as Jacobs’ op-ed, for instance, Human Rights Watch called for an international inquiry “into this latest bloodshed,” adding that “these staggering casualty levels (were) neither the result of justifiable force nor of isolated abuses; but foreseeable results of senior Israeli officials’ orders on the use of force.” For its part, Amnesty International called Israel’s actions “an abhorrent violation of international law” and Doctors Without Borders termed them “unacceptable and inhuman.”
Analysis: An arrangement led by Egypt and supervised by UN and Arab League inspectors, leading to the creation of a joint PA-Hamas civil government, would serve all parties and gradually dismantle the explosive conflict — even without forcing Hamas to disarm.
The [Israeli] defense establishment is interested in . . . a quick implementation of a comprehensive plan for humanitarian and economic aid to the [Gaza] strip. This recommendation from the IDF — and recently from the Shin Bet as well — is based on a simple idea: Humanitarian welfare (water, sewage, health and electricity services) and economic development (reducing unemployment) will calm things down [and forestall further political deterioration and violence].
After 62 Palestinians were killed and thousands were wounded during recent Gaza border riots, and following the harsh criticism against Israel in the international arena, the Gaza affair is far from over. Although neither Israel nor Hamas are interested in war, there is still a high likelihood that the clashes will escalate and deteriorate to another bloody and destructive round of war.
This may be another battle which will end in the exact situation we have today or an even worse one. In such a situation, Hamas won’t be there and we’ll have to deal with a governmental anarchy in the strip that is bound to spill into our territory.
When that happens, we will have no other choice but to return as an occupying force that will have to take care of the needs of two million hostile Palestinians. Security officials in Israel share the opinion that we have no interest in toppling the Hamas rule at this time, as it would lead to the creation of a governmental void in the strip.
Although Israel is not an ICC member, its citizens can be charged by the court if they are suspected of committing grave crimes on the territory or against a national of a country that is a member. The ICC has recognized Palestine as a member.
Accusing Israel of systematic crimes, including apartheid in the occupied territories, Palestinians on Tuesday urged the International Criminal Court to open an investigation that could ultimately lead to charges against Israeli leaders.
Israel immediately slammed the Palestinian move as “legally invalid.”
The referral seeks an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since Palestine accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction in 2014, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters in The Hague.
This includes Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as bloodshed in the Gaza Strip. Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group fought a 50-day war in 2014, and in recent weeks, Israeli fire has killed over 100 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border since March.
“Denying entry to or, worse, deporting people from a country because they are or were in their past critical of its governmental policies is a classic feature of authoritarian regimes. Israel contends to be a liberal democracy, but Omar’s case clearly shows that the government is persecuting people on political grounds.”
— Michael Sfard, Shakir’s attorney.
An Israeli court issued an interim injunction on Wednesday temporarily preventing Israel’s Interior Ministry from deporting Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
Shakir, a U.S. citizen, had his work permit revoked this month based on a recent amendment to the country’s immigration laws aimed at fighting supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
This is the first time that Israel is applying the law against a person already inside the country; in previous instances, BDS activists seeking to enter the country have been blocked. If Shakir is expelled, critics say, it places Israel in a highly undesirable group of nations that have banned human rights activists.
The main obstacle that faces anyone who wants to report on what is happening at Gaza protests from the Israeli side of the border is that one can hear the gunfire, see the smoke, report on the army’s conduct, and estimate the number of protesters — and yet, you cannot get the full story. A journalist from East Jerusalem who often covers the goings on at the border summed it up perfectly: “We can hear the bullets, but we can’t see the blood.” Since Israel placed Gaza under siege 11 years ago, Israeli journalists have been forbidden from entering the Strip, both in times of conflict and calm. This was never Hamas’ decision; it was Israel’s.