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Being Jewish and critical of Israel can make you an outcast. I should know

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An Australian-Jewish writer details how his support for the Palestinian cause has made him a pariah in his own community.
For 20 years, I’ve been called a Nazi collaborator. Traitor. Self-hating Jew. Terror supporter. Anti-Semite. “I would rather shake Hitler’s hand than yours.” Propagandist. Arab lover.
It’s strange how familiar I’ve become with all these expressions of hatred from people I’ve neither met, nor spoken to; and yet I understand why – the stakes over Israel and Palestine couldn’t be higher, nothing less than a matter of life and death for both.
The vicious comments started appearing as soon as I published my first major article in The Sydney Morning Herald. It was 2003, and I argued that many of the Israeli government’s actions paralleled apartheid-like policies, that its treatment of Palestinians centred around a racist ideology. I was far from the first Jew to write such things in a mainstream news outlet, but the response was explosive. I had touched a nerve that has followed me ever since.
At this point, in my late 20s, I’d never actually been to Israel or Palestine – that was all to change soon – but something in my reading and gut told me that what my fellow Jews were doing in the Middle East was wrong; that the control and occupation of millions of Palestinian lives at the barrel of a gun was a stain on the Jewish people.
Much of the criticism I was to receive in subsequent years revolved around this central question: how could I, as a Jew, who had lost members of his family to the gas chambers of the Holocaust, not automatically side with a Jewish nation that had been born from this monstrous crime?
The answer was – and is – far from simple. Like all Jews, I carry the knowledge of anti-Semitism and its murderous consequences. I carry the fact that, ever since Israel’s birth in May 1948, sections of the Muslim and Arab world have called for the country’s annihilation.
To be Jewish is to be aware of – and constantly fearful of – the harm that can befall one just for being Jewish. I am not immune to this. I grew up on stories of victimhood – tales of exile, wandering, exclusion, pogrom, annihilation – and, finally, redemption and return when the Jews came to form their own state after the end of World War II. (This followed the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states.)
This was Zionism’s ultimate fulfilment; after centuries of persecution, the Jewish people’s right to a homeland in Palestine, its ancient Biblical land, had been realised. We had returned to Zion, the “kingdom of heaven”, and Judaism had come to equal Zionism. To not believe in Israel was to somehow forfeit one’s name as a good Jew. Where else – after the horrors of history – could Jews feel truly safe?
My father, Jeffrey Loewenstein, was born in Melbourne on March 3, 1943, just as his maternal grandparents were being murdered in Auschwitz, the Nazi regime’s most notorious death camp.
Like millions of other Jews throughout Europe during the 1930s, my family had clung to the belief that Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 would be a brief aberration. How could a country that had given the world Bach, Beethoven, Goethe and Einstein be in the hands of an Austrian thug and his gang of criminals?
My dad’s paternal family were from Dresden, the famed city of baroque and rococo architecture on the banks of the Elbe river that was almost completely destroyed by Allied firebombing in 1945 after most of the city’s Jewish population had been deported, murdered or both. Seven years earlier, in September 1938, my grandparents, Fred and Irma, had married in a Dresden synagogue in what was to be its last such celebration before Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass”, when, over two days and nights in November, the Nazis unleashed a wave of violence against the Jewish population.
The mass murder of Jews followed as part of an eradication program that would seek to rid Nazi-controlled Europe entirely of its Jewish population. Anti-Semitism was reaching its apotheosis, even though on my father’s maternal side, the virus of Jewish hatred had already caused great upheaval, forcing my family to move from Poland to Germany in 1915.
On my mother’s side, the pressures were no less calamitous. My mother, Violet Prince, had deep family ties to Austria, Hitler’s birthplace, which the Nazis annexed in 1938, precipitating a cultural, social and economic boycott of Jewish businesses and, eventually, the mass migration of more than 110,000 Jews. The majority of Jews who remained in 1942 were killed.
This is in my DNA, part of my history. As many as six members of my family perished at the hands of the Nazis, but both my maternal and paternal grandparents managed to find refuge in Australia in 1939. They were among the lucky ones because, only a year earlier, T.W. White, Australia’s minister for trade and customs, had told an intergovernmental conference on Jewish refugees in France why “undue privilege” wouldn’t be given to Jews (and non-British subjects) who wanted admission into Australia, despite the perils they faced: “As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one,” he said. Australia did raise its Jewish intake after Kristallnacht, though far from enough to satisfy the need of escaping Jews.
In 2005, I visited Israel and Palestine for the first time and began to see what the occupation of a subjugated people looked like: Israeli soldiers screaming orders at Palestinians at militarised checkpoints. Women and children forced to queue for hours under a scorching sun. Summary arrests. Homes demolished by Israeli bulldozers. Every aspect of daily life restricted and monitored by the state; and, of course, the relentless building of illegal Jewish settlements on land that – according to international law – was earmarked for a Palestinian state.

Such is the intractable and complex nature of this conflict, however, that the paragraph above this is enough to cause conniptions among many Jews. For them, there are no “illegal Jewish settlements” and there is no “occupation” because the land belongs to the Jews, and it belongs to the Jews because it was granted to us by no less a power than God himself.
To be Jewish is to argue. It is to debate in ways that bring us closer to the “truth”. What did God mean? Are these actions or thoughts right? Are they just or fair? To debate is to be part of a rich and proud Jewish tradition of verbal contest, and yet when it comes to the Palestinian people, much of the Jewish community has no desire to question Israeli actions, even though most have not visited the West Bank – where the majority of Palestinians under occupation reside – nor chosen to break bread with a Palestinian.
I can understand, from my own family history, why. Our suffering as a people had been too great for far too long and it is now our turn to know peace and security. Never mind that Israel has never known this “peace and security” and never mind that this collective mindset prevents us from seeing the suffering of another people.
The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was the result of a spectacular collision of competing historical forces – Zionism versus Arab nationalism. The Jews, who had survived the most murderous regime in modern history, had founded a state of their own; while the local Palestinian population – after rejecting the legal and moral basis for a Jewish homeland on what they regarded as Arab land – was to be rendered stateless.
To debate is to be part of a rich and proud Jewish tradition of verbal contest, and yet when it comes to the Palestinian people, much of the Jewish community has no desire to question Israeli actions.
Growing up as a Jew, I never learnt what the establishment of Israel in 1948 meant for the estimated 750,000 Palestinians expelled or forced to flee. Many Palestinians left with nothing more than a key to their home, a potent symbol that still exists today of their desire to return. Entire Arab villages were conquered, in some cases razed to the ground.
In his acclaimed 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappé uttered the unutterable when he wrote about the massacre of Palestinian civilians in villages such as Tantura. “What took place [on May 22, 1948],” he wrote, “[…] was the systematic execution of able-bodied young men by Jewish soldiers and intelligence officers.” Pappé noted that between 1947 and 1949, more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed and civilians killed or forcibly removed. This is the attempted obliteration of a people and culture that we Jews find almost impossible to discuss.
In 1967, Israel’s size more than tripled following the Six-Day War when, over the course of six lightning days, the young country seized the West Bank (of the Jordan River), including East Jerusalem, from Jordan; the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt; and the Golan Heights from Syria. For Jewish people the world over, this was a moment to savour. Israel had become a regional superpower. It had also become an occupying power, one that immediately concerned Israeli politicians such as then education minister Zalman Aranne
“I do not for one minute accept the idea that the world outside will look at the fact we’re taking everything for ourselves and say ‘Bon appétit’,” he said, in postwar 1967 cabinet minutes released 50 years later. “After all, in another year or half a year the world will wake up; there’s a world out there and it will ask questions.”
Palestinians driven from their homes by Israeli forces and fleeing via the sea at Acre, 1948.
For the Palestinians, the 1967 war added hundreds of thousands more refugees to those already displaced. They were scattered to all corners of the Arab world and beyond, but many Jews had little or no sympathy. The Palestinian plight was blamed on belligerent Arab leaders and the Arab world’s refusal to accept the creation of a Jewish homeland in its midst.
And so, in turn, many Jewish hearts became closed. Closed to the fact that for the next 56 years – up until today – nearly every aspect of daily life for Palestinians in the West Bank, now numbering 3 million, would be dictated by Israel; and, similarly, in Gaza where Palestinians, now at 2 million, would be confined to what is regularly described as the world’s largest open-air prison.
In other words, our redemption and return as a people became another’s people’s catastrophe, which is why the Palestinians have always called the creation of the Jewish state the Nakba – the Catastrophe.
In 2006, my first book, My Israel Question, was published. My main argument – then and today – was that Israel was brutally occupying the Palestinian people and that this occupation was buttressed by an unquestioning Jewish diaspora.
Its publication proved a life-changing event that drew battle lines that exist to this day. Shortly after its release, my parents received emails from four different Jewish couples, most of whom they’d known for more than 20 years. They’d shared Passover meals, enjoyed holidays together and watched each other’s children grow up. The wording of the emails was suspiciously similar and the message abundantly clear: none of them now wished to associate with my parents because of their views on Israel and support for my work; support which had only come after years of often fierce debate. The more my parents had come to understand, the more their views had shifted – from an uncritical pro-Israel position to one where it was possible to both support Israel’s right to exist and the rights of Palestinians. They were not mutually exclusive.
These former family friends – lawyers, accountants and businessmen, all solid members of the Jewish community – tried to pressure others to similarly cut ties with my parents. Soon afterwards, another Jewish couple whom my parents had known for decades ditched them without explanation.
My mother – a gentle and warm-hearted person who rarely raised her voice and cared deeply about helping the less fortunate – was incredulous. She couldn’t fathom how friends could behave this way, particularly those with whom she’d shared so many of life’s precious moments. That was in 2006. In 2016, she became seriously ill and in November of that year, she died. There was not one message of condolence from these former friends, not one gesture of sympathy nor remembrance. “They were never true friends,” my father says now, reflecting on this dark period of our lives.
Soon after my book was released, the Israel lobby sought – unsuccessfully – to have my publisher, Melbourne University Press, pulp it. I was condemned by one Jewish reviewer as a “militant, anti-Zionist dissenter”. At the same time, I received praise from a number of Jews and members of the public telling me that My Israel Question had given them the confidence to express their own disquiet with Israeli behaviour. The book found a broad audience, and an international one.
That was before receiving another message expressing the hope that my parents and I would be at the front of the line being marched into the gas chambers.
Nonetheless, the denunciations levelled at my parents and me hurt. One family friend called my father a Nazi for daring to criticise Israel. I was verbally abused at the wedding of a cousin. My then partner and I were both warned by email that we would be shot. That was before receiving another message expressing the hope that my parents and I would be at the front of the line being marched into the gas chambers.
Perhaps the most revealing interaction occurred the year after publication, when I was invited to the home of a leading member of the Jewish community to discuss Israel and my book with a group of self-described “left-leaning” Jews. My parents joined me for what soon turned into a concerted attack. I was accused of defaming Jews and wanting to see Israel destroyed.
Shortly afterwards, this same person told my parents that it was no longer in their interests to support me, strongly hinting that my father, a barrister, would soon stop receiving briefs from Jewish solicitors.
So much for the love of debate.
In 2016, my non-Jewish partner Ali Martin secured a senior job with Oxfam in East Jerusalem. I was initially reluctant to live in an area that had consumed so much of my professional life, but soon decided that it would be a unique opportunity to regroup after being based for a year together in war-torn South Sudan. Ali’s commitment to human rights was one of the main reasons I had fallen in love with her.
We moved to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, two kilometres north of the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. It was – then and now – a place suffused with tension. Jewish settlers seized property from Palestinians with impunity, claiming ownership of their homes. Israeli police harassed the non-Jewish population. The ultra-religious Haredi Jews lived nearby in insular communities that bore all the hallmarks of a 19th-century Eastern European ghetto, including strict adherence to Jewish prayer, modest clothing for women and long, black coats and hats for the men.
This was a period when my opposition to Israeli policies began to further harden. I could see what the occupation was doing and how it was becoming an immutable fact of life, and this drew me closer to my Palestinian friends rather than to the extremist Jews who wanted to expel them.
Today, the situation is far worse. In December last year, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, returned to power at the head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. Not only had Netanyahu himself been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, some members of his cabinet were convicted felons, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist settler found guilty in 2007 by a Jerusalem District Court of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation.
Ben-Gvir is now Israel’s national security minister, in charge of the country’s police force.
Racism in Israel has begun to soar to new heights. In March this year, Israel’s far-right Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, called for the Palestinian village of Huwara “to be wiped out” in the wake of a Palestinian gunman’s killing of two Jewish settlers. Shortly after the killing, Huwara was subjected to one of the worst cases of mass Israeli settler violence in years when hundreds of Jews attacked the town, setting fire to Palestinian homes, torching cars and terrorising the local population. One Palestinian was killed and dozens more wounded while the Israeli army looked on. (Smotrich later called his remarks a “slip of the tongue in a storm of emotions”.)
As a Jew, I see it as my duty to speak out against actions like these. Yes, anti-Semitism is a real and growing threat, but combating it requires an understanding of how unqualified Jewish support for Israeli behaviour sometimes contributes to it.
A key theme in my new book, The Palestine Laboratory, is how the Jewish state has spent decades developing the tools and technologies to oppress the Palestinians, and how it now exports these tools to well over 100 countries, including dictatorships such as Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The conflict in the Middle East is not a contest between two equal sides and that is not just my view. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, leading Israeli human rights groups such as B’Tselem and Palestinian civil society have all released reports in the last few years accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid and crimes against humanity.
This is not the Israel I care to support, and it’s not the Israel that an increasing number of Jews – both inside and outside the country – feel willing to defend. To me, that is a rare sign of hope, as is the generational shift in thinking amongst Democrats and young Jews in the US. A Gallup poll this year found for the first time that US Democrats sympathise more now with Palestinians than Israeli Jews. Within the American Jewish community, there’s a civil war-of-words over attitudes towards Israel. Barely a day passes without a synagogue finally allowing anti-Zionist views to be heard or Jewish youth groups insisting to their elders that Palestinian voices be listened to and respected.
In Australia, the Jewish establishment remains resolutely Zionist, but cracks are beginning to appear. I’ve heard from a variety of Jewish contacts that many young Jews are voting for the Greens, undeterred by the party’s well-known opposition to Israeli occupation, while at the same time Palestinians are forcefully challenging the Jewish community to view them as equals.
At the recent Adelaide Writers’ Week, director Louise Adler invited at least half a dozen Palestinians to appear, despite outrage from sections of the Jewish establishment and the media. Incensed by inflammatory comments on social media by a Palestinian writer, they demanded more Jewish and Israeli perspectives. Adler – the daughter of “devout secular” immigrant Jews, steeped in Jewish culture herself – refused to back down, despite the withdrawal of some sponsors, and as a result, many Australians heard, perhaps for the first time, the unfiltered voices of Palestinians.
My wish is to follow in the grand tradition of a hybrid, cosmopolitan Jewish identity. When I became a German citizen in 2011 – thanks to the German Basic Law restoring citizenship to descendants of those who’d had theirs removed by the Nazis – I cried as the consular official handed me my new passport. It felt like a final victory against Hitler, a victory against hate.
Even the rabbi who prepared me for my bar mitzvah – and has known my family for decades – has publicly decried his “eternal embarrassment” at being my Jewish teacher.
Daring to speak out against Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians brings with it an endless amount of personal attack. Even the rabbi who prepared me for my bar mitzvah – and has known my family for decades – has publicly decried his “eternal embarrassment” at being my Jewish teacher.
Today, I have two young boys with Ali and we’re intent on raising them with some knowledge of Jewish traditions and history. But it won’t be the fairy-tale version of Israel that I was fed, because that’s a version that seeks to erase the trauma and history of an entire Palestinian nation.
Writing this story has forced me to again consider the emotional cost of opposing Israeli actions. I’m not asking for sympathy; rather, for a better understanding from my fellow Jews that to criticise Israel is not to render oneself a lesser Jew or a traitorous Jew. It is to stand up for what is most noble in the Jewish traditions of enlightened, liberal humanism.
Antony Loewenstein’s The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports The Technology Of Occupation Around The World (Scribe, $35) is out May 30.

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Article source: The Age

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

Beatings, Humiliation, Fear: Israeli Jail, According to a Palestinian Teen

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They would call him “the Christian” to insult him. They would repeatedly beat and humiliate him in jail. In the course of his abduction at the break of dawn from his East Jerusalem home, the black-clad police officers beat him until he bled. They broke his nose and a tooth, after he refused to undress in their presence. Then they dragged him by force, bound and blindfolded, to their van.

When we first arrived at his home, the day after his arrest, the floor of the attractively appointed house was still bloodstained, and his mother, who had seen her son pummeled in front of her eyes, was sobbing and broken.

Two months have elapsed since then and Shadi Khoury, an 11th grader at the Quaker Friends School in Ramallah and a resident of the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, was home again, helping his parents decorate their house for Christmas. Everything looked even more beautiful than during our prior visit. Europe on the outskirts of Ramallah.

The Christmas tree was glittering with a panoply of color, along with the other sparkling decorations in every corner of the spacious living room, reflecting the glow and warmth of the holiday. There were decorated ginger cookies and a marzipan Christmas cake on hand, along with fine French wine. All that was missing was snow on the windows. Shadi had returned home.

Now he’s under house arrest. For its part, the State Prosecutor’s Office had gone all the way to the Supreme Court in an unsuccessful bid to prevent his release. But on November 27, after 41 days of abuse, incarceration and interrogations, the teenager finally returned home to a joyful welcome. But when we visited last Sunday, we saw a youth who was restrained and didn’t seem to feel like smiling.

Shadi is a tall, strong and impressive kid, who like the rest of his family, speaks fine English. He had endured a difficult experience and its signs can still be seen on him. It was an experience he never thought he would face. Nor did his parents ever anticipate it.

His mother, Rania, is the director of the Yabous Cultural Center in East Jerusalem. His father, Suhail, is a musician, composer and director of the Edward Said Palestinian National Conservatory of Music in East Jerusalem.

Shadi’s 91-year-old aunt, Lora Khoury, who lives nearby in her own home, on Engineer Khoury Street, named after a family patriarch, is a loyal reader of Haaretz in English. (At one time, she wrote a furious letter to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for doing nothing to bring about the end of the occupation. Do I sound aggressive and angry? That’s exactly what I’m feeling – she ended her letter to Blair.)

Anyway, it was Lora Khoury who had called us the morning of Shadi’s arrest, on October 18. She had heard his screams from her house. “They came to arrest him, so why beat him?” she asked us at the time. “What army and what police have you created for yourselves?”

This week Shadi unhesitatingly, and fearlessly, recapped in detail what he experienced in an Israeli prison. There were many moments when he didn’t act like a 16-year-old youth. Instead, he seemed to be a level-headed, albeit scarred adult. His mother is concerned that his adolescence has been lost forever.

On Sunday this week, the two were of different minds. She was rooting for Argentina in the World Cup finals, while he was a fan of France. Suhail was rooting for both sides.

That same evening about 40 relatives came by to set up the family’s Christmas tree and decorate the house. On Christmas Day, there will be that same number of people around the holiday table. This year, however, they will have to break their usual tradition of visiting Rania’s mother on Christmas in Bethlehem and they won’t attend Christmas mass – because Shadi is under house arrest.

Israeli police showed up at the family’s home on that fateful Tuesday at 5:45 A.M. They asked for Shadi, who was wearing pajamas – a T-shirt and shorts – at the time. They confiscated his cell phone and ordered him to change clothes. He was embarrassed to disrobe in front of them and they began hitting him until they drew blood.

A CT scan conducted only after his release from jail revealed that his nose had been broken by the police. A trail of blood was left behind as the police dragged him out of the house. His distraught parents didn’t know where he was bleeding from.

He was barefoot when the officers took him outside and into custody. He remained in the same clothes for days, until at a court hearing, his brother Yusef offered to give Shadi his own coat and the prison guards agreed.

In describing his arrest now, Shadi said that 30 seconds after awakening in a fright, he already saw the officers in the house. He remembered being knocked to the floor and beaten.

For their part, the police claimed later that Shadi punched and kicked the officers, “pushing them and running wild, trying actively to thwart the arrest.” They also charged that the Khoury family tried to interfere with the arrest – something that is highly doubtful.

As I wrote, right after the arrest: “One’s heart goes out to the naïve and innocent guys in black from the Israel Police. A boy of 16 ‘attacked’ them, they say – and his father, the composer, and his mother, who runs a cultural center, also joined in. And maybe Lora, the 91-year-old neighbor and relative, also took part in the wild attack on the keepers of the law.”

This week, after hearing Shadi’s description of what happened in his own words – I have not revised my assessment of the events.

Shadi particularly remembered an officer by the name of Moshe, the one who punched and broke his nose as he lay on the floor before being dragged outside. And in the car that took him to Room No. 4 at the Shin Bet security service’s interrogation facility in the Russian Compound in downtown Jerusalem, there was another officer who held him by the scruff of the neck and socked him in the chest.

Room No. 4 is on the top floor of the building. After tripping on the first step, Shadi, blindfolded and with his hands bound behind his back, was dragged up there by his jailers. He has no idea now whether his interrogators were from the Shin Bet or the police. They didn’t introduce themselves.

Interrogations are filmed, and in the three separate sessions he underwent in the Russian Compound, Shadi said that his questioners refrained from hitting him. But his jailers repeatedly assaulted him both before and after he was interrogated.

Prior to the questioning, investigators asked him to give them the password to unlock his phone. Shadi recalled being dazed at the time and therefore gave them the wrong code twice – prompting beatings each time. They also held a container of pepper spray to his face, without actually using it, he said, and slammed his head into a wall, furious that he hadn’t provided them with the correct code.

Shadi said that he briefly lost consciousness after being thrown against the wall and fainted three times while being hit. One of the assailants was a tall man with a reddish beard who also appeared in court; Shadi learned that his name was Avishai. Apparently he had also beaten the other teens implicated in the case, but after Shadi’s lawyer, Nasser Odeh, complained about him, Avishai left the courtroom.

When the interrogations began, Shadi refused to answer without being able to consult a lawyer, as provided for by law. Odeh, whom Shadi’s parents retained on the morning of their son’s arrest, came to see him, but was not permitted to be present during the questioning.

Shadi told us about being questioned about an incident, earlier in October, involving the stoning of an Israeli car in Beit Hanina, in which one woman was lightly wounded by broken glass. He is one of six young people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the case. One of the others implicated Shadi, who denies that he was even present during the incident. Unlike some of the others, he was not accused of actually throwing stones, but of hitting the car, pushing and striking it with his fists.

The boy who named him claimed that Shadi was the ringleader of the group, but Shadi insisted that he did not know the other five. The interrogators repeatedly called him “Shadi al-Masihi” – Arabic for Shadi “the Christian.” They yelled at him and cursed him and his family during the sessions.

He recalled that one interrogator was a man called Chemi. Avishai, with the red beard, would also come and go in the course of the questioning. At one point, Shadi was told that he would face a six-year jail term if he didn’t confess. They also demanded that he sign a form in Hebrew, which he doesn’t read. They told him it was a form giving his consent to having a DNA sample taken. He initially refused, but then a jailer stuck the form on a wall and thrust Shadi’s head into it. He ultimately signed.

One must remember that Shadi is a 16-year-old high-schooler with no record of committing anti-Israeli offenses or any other crime. He was arrested wearing a T-shirt from the Bethlehem marathon, in which he participated with other family members. The slogan on the shirt reads “Run to freedom,” which also angered the wardens. At one point, in his cell, he raised their ire by singing the Arabic song “Ala Bali” (“What’s on My Mind”), and was ordered to stop.

The Israel Prison Service provided this comment to a query from Haaretz: “The claims made against the Israel Prison Service by the detainee are not known to us. In the event that he has further criticism, he is permitted to approach the relevant authorities.”

Shadi explained that he was incarcerated in a cage-like cell in the Russian Compound for 16 days, after which he was transferred to the Damun prison in the north, where there were nine prisoners per cell. Prisoners sentenced to long jail terms are responsible there for juvenile inmates. Arabic-speaking teachers came to the prison from outside to give lessons to the minors.

When Shadi had to go to court, he would undergo the usual ordeal of spending one or two nights at a prison in Ramle and then a drive along the highway to a brief hearing in Jerusalem’s magistrate’s court. When his case reached the Supreme Court in Jerusalem – after the state submitted a petition against allowing him to be released to house arrest, his parents asked that he not have to be brought to the courtroom to spare him the stay in the Ramle facility, and their request was granted. The next court hearing in the youth’s case is scheduled for January 8.

“We won’t let them spoil Christmas for us,” Rania Khoury declared.

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Article source: Haaretz | Gideon Levy and Alex Levac | Dec 24, 2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

Customers claim they were lured into foreign exchange trading and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars

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Customers claim they were lured into foreign exchange trading and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars


/ By Michael Atkin (Australian ABC, 9/1/2023)

Posted Mon 9 Jan 2023 at 11:03amMonday 9 Jan 2023 at 11:03am, updated Mon 9 Jan 2023 at 5:12pmMonday 9 Jan 2023 at 5:12pm )

Former customers of an Australian company claim they were lured into the high-risk world of foreign exchange trading under false pretences and subjected to high-pressure sales tactics which contributed to them losing huge sums.

Two men have spoken exclusively to ABC’s 7.30 about the alleged conduct of TradeFred, which operated a foreign exchange trading platform.

Sales representatives allegedly told the men, who don’t know each other, to download remote access software so they could control their computers and direct the trades they made.

7.30 has obtained recordings of phone calls between TradeFred sales representatives and the men, which they say expose unacceptable conduct.

At the time they had no idea the Australian operation had outsourced its sales and marketing to sales reps working for a company based in Israel and which had other business conducted from Cyprus.

The men believe Australia’s corporate regulator ASIC was too slow to intervene to stop TradeFred, and fear they’re unlikely to get their money back after the Australian operations went bust.

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ASIC is suing TradeFred in the Federal Court, alleging the company engaged in unconscionable conduct towards its clients, with the case listed for trial this year.

As part of the proceedings, it is attempting to have the net deposits of clients refunded.

‘A devastating effect’

The regulator alleges TradeFred was taking the opposite position on trades to more than 95 per cent of its customers, so the company was making money when its customers were losing and was therefore incentivised to have them keep losing.

Former TradeFred customer Geoff Moodie was very concerned to find out the company could have been betting against him.

“I’m losing all my money and someone is winning on my loss? That, to me, hurts,” he said.

Mr Moodie is a retired grandfather who lives in Ipswich, Queensland.

He says had he known TradeFred could have been making money when he was losing, he never would have signed up.

Mr Moodie’s retirement plans have changed forever.

He’s lodged a claim for losses he estimates are over $140,000.

“It’s had a huge impact. I think losing that sort of money in anybody’s life would impact them,” he said.

“I’m not a millionaire, I’m just the average Joe on the street, and that sort of money has had a devastating effect on the family both emotionally [and] physically.”

The liquidator for TradeFred has told 7.30 there are over $10.5 million in claims for losses.

However, the Australian operation had over 2,000 customers and so far only a small number have submitted claims.

From Bitcoin to foreign exchange

In early 2019, Adrian Goddard was scrolling through social media and saw an advertisement for trading the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

The ad, which was endorsed by a celebrity, said you could start trading with just $US250, and Mr Goddard decided to try it out.

The recordings reveal that on the first call with TradeFred the sales consultant said to Mr Goddard, “I understand you’re looking to extend your income, maybe thinking about the future, retirement, stuff like that?”

“I can tell you you’ve definitely come to the right place.”

The consultant began discussing automatic trading software for Bitcoin, which would be supported by a TradeFred senior account manager, and then a trading account for Mr Goddard was established.

ASIC alleges that TradeFred was mischaracterising the nature of its services by claiming to customers it had an automatic trading platform for Bitcoin, when it was not a service it offered.

During the phone call, the consultant then quickly shifted the conversation away from Bitcoin to making money trading foreign currencies.

TradeFred offered its customers access to the high-risk world of margin foreign exchange.

Mr Goddard said he made it clear to TradeFred that he didn’t understand currency trading and they directed him on exactly how to trade.

“They would basically tell me what to do, tell me what to trade on, and I kept saying to them, ‘Look, I’ve got no idea what I’m doing here, I don’t understand the markets,'” Mr Goddard said.

“They had promised to teach me … but that never really came about.”

‘I was very naive’

Geoff Moodie also signed up after seeing what he believes could be the same social media ad Mr Goddard saw.

On his first call with TradeFred, Mr Moodie made it clear he had no understanding of financial markets and was a complete novice who needed education.

The consultant responded, “Wonderful, most of the clients, and I tell you honest [sic], 90 per cent of them, don’t have any previous experience at all. This is the reason I still have a job.”

He also promised they offer far more than Bitcoin trading.

“We are not just the cryptocurrency software … we are many other things,” the consultant said.

The consultant then talked about how it’s possible to make 10 to 20 per cent on a monthly basis with a “low-risk market”, by trading in the foreign exchange, also known as the forex market.

Mr Moodie said in hindsight the sales pitch was very slick and he believes he was misled.

“They were able to change my thought pattern from Bitcoin to forex, as they call it, without me realising it, or questioning. I thought maybe the Bitcoin would come at a later date, so, you know, I was very naive at that stage,” he said.

Both Mr Goddard and Mr Moodie said TradeFred instructed them to install remote access software on their computers so the sales reps could monitor what was happening on their screens and direct their trades.

This type of software is usually used to fix tech issues from an external site, but is open to abuse.

ASIC alleges TradeFred account managers were using the software to find out how much money customers had available for transferring to trading accounts, and would show the customers what trades they should place.

According to Mr Goddard, sales reps would make sure he was logged in to the software before showing him exactly what to trade on his screen.

“The two main software items that we were using was AnyDesk and TeamViewer, which allows them to get access, obviously, to your computer and therefore they will be able to scroll around with their mouse and show you what they generally wanted … you to do in regards to trading,” he said.

Trader was ‘absolutely panicked’ at losses

While he was prepared to accept some risk, Mr Goddard became increasingly concerned about the extent of those risks and made that clear on a recorded phone call.

Mr Goddard said to the sales consultant, “What I’m saying, I’m not an expert in trades.”

The consultant replied, “No, no you don’t have to be, that’s the beautiful thing.

“That’s for anyone.”

Mr Goddard replied, “I’d rather learn slowly rather than being thrown into what I’m looking at now.”

The consultant persisted and Mr Goddard was pushed to keep trading.

Mr Goddard was trading in a high-risk area known as contracts for difference, where you speculate on movements in foreign exchange rates.

The loss or gain depends on the price when the contract starts and ends, and if the price moves against you it can result in heavy losses.

He estimates having spent more than $130,000 with TradeFred and mounting losses made him feel out of control.

“[It was] devastating, [I was] absolutely panicked about what was going on,” he said.

Mr Goddard’s trading put him in a tough situation where he was suddenly struggling to pay his bills.

Mr Moodie claims that after suffering losses he was then encouraged by sales reps to trade back into the black.

He now believes these were high-pressure sales tactics used on him when he was vulnerable.

“These guys were well trained … and the pressure was, ‘Well, we can get around this, if you put more money in, we can trade this way, and we can trade out of the situation you’re in,'” he said.

“Again, [it was] still new to me, [I was] still learning and I listened to what I thought I was being guided [to do].”

Links to controversial company Union Standard

According to ASIC, TradeFred was aware of customer complaints and made “aware of misconduct that USG (Union Standard) had identified during its reviews of telephone calls”, but the company took inadequate steps to stop the misconduct.

TradeFred was acting as an authorised representative of a controversial Australian company which ran a global foreign exchange empire called Union Standard International Group.

Union Standard is under investigation by liquidators after it collapsed with hundreds of millions of dollars owing to overseas investors and the liquidators have serious doubts about the true identity of a Burmese man, Soe Hein Minn, believed to be its ultimate owner.

Jason Ward is an analyst with the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research.

He’s looked at the company structures of TradeFred and Union Standard and believes there is a concerning lack of transparency over who ultimately benefits, especially with Union Standard.

“The links between TradeFred and Union Standard seem to run pretty deep. TradeFred was operating under a financial services license of Union Standard. For one, they share a common director [John Carlton Martin],” Mr Ward said.

“We don’t know who is behind Union Standard. On paper, there’s a Burmese individual, we don’t know if this person truly exists … and who is benefiting from this.”

Mr Ward argues there is an urgent need for a beneficial ownership register, something currently being considered by the Albanese government.

“Australia’s far behind global standards in terms of public beneficial ownership information,” he said.

Call centres outsourced

The TradeFred sales calls to customers were outsourced to a company based in Israel.

The company Capital Unit Media operated from an office block in Tel Aviv, however its website is no longer active and when 7.30 went to the office the building appeared empty.

7.30 attempted to contact Alex Mishiev, the man who is listed on the Israel company documents for Capital Unit. He did not respond to an interview request or reply to a list of questions.

Mr Mishiev is also linked to a United Kingdom company which owned TradeFred’s Australian operations as its sole shareholder.

He is listed as one of three directors and the person with significant control of TradeFred Holdings Limited.

Another director is Fred Done, the co-founder of gambling giant BetFred. Mr Done declined to comment on the allegations against the Australian operation, saying via a spokesperson: “I do not want to prejudice an ongoing legal claim so cannot comment at this stage.”

7.30 does not suggest that Fred Done had any involvement in the Australian TradeFred business.

The liquidator of TradeFred is Glenn Livingstone from WLP Restructuring.

He is continuing to investigate millions of dollars in payments by the Australian company to two related UK companies which could constitute a practice known as transfer pricing.

Analyst Jason Ward said transfer pricing is a concerning practice.

“There’s … alleged transfer pricing issues and transfer pricing is used to avoid paying tax on money earned in Australia by multinationals and companies,” he said.

“That reduces taxable income in Australia and reduces revenue to pay for public services here in Australia.”

7.30 sought an interview with John Carlton Martin, the sole director of the Australian TradeFred operation, and sent him a list of questions but he did not respond.

ASIC banned Mr Martin from providing financial services for 10 years and from managing corporations for five years.

It found his “lack of understanding or regard for compliance was so serious it justified the making of significant banning and disqualification orders”.

It also said he had failed to address misconduct by TradeFred.

According to the liquidator, Mr Martin advised him he was “responsible for compliance, dealing with customer complaints and monitoring of telephone calls”.

However, he said it appears Mr Martin was not a signatory to the company’s bank accounts.

Third party offers to recover funds

For TradeFred’s customers, the nightmare didn’t end when it collapsed.

Geoff Moodie says he received a phone call and emails from a company called Funds Recovery which said it would help him get his money back from TradeFred.

It proposed charging him more than $6,000 upfront and 10 per cent of any funds recovered, but Mr Moodie decided against going ahead.

He maintains he did not provide his contact details to Funds Recovery.

“[I am] very concerned that they knew about me, they knew about my trading, they knew basically everything about me, which surprised and annoyed me and worried me,” he said.

Liquidator Glenn Livingstone told 7.30 in a statement they had “been made aware from numerous sources that there are third parties approaching customers directly offering to provide refunds or assist in the recovery of money on their behalf.

“Any creditor who is contacted by these parties is advised not to provide any information and to immediately report this to the liquidator.”

‘I feel I’ve let myself down’

After Adrian Goddard made repeated complaints, his TradeFred losses were refunded.

But in about April 2020 he claims he received an unsolicited call from another company called EverFx.

According to Mr Goddard the sales rep claimed that EverFx was taking over from TradeFred.

EverFx, which is now trading under the name Axiance, disputes this, saying it has no association with TradeFred and Mr Goddard must have started trading after seeing its marketing material.

According to his financial counsellor Rachna Bowman, he would eventually lose more than $51,000 with EverFx.

Ms Bowman said she was alarmed by what had happened to Mr Goddard.

“Where was the role of the regulator … to step in and put a stop on things that were happening?” she said.

“It just continued on and on and on, till there was no money left in the pot.

“I’m absolutely appalled that something like this could happen.”

In a statement, Axiance said Mr Goddard was warned about the high risk on the EverFx website and an internal review of his trading did not find any evidence of misconduct.

It also states that EverFx offered Mr Goddard a lump-sum payment which he rejected.

Mr Goddard says he rejected the offer because it was far short of his losses.

Mr Goddard says he regrets ever getting involved in trading foreign currencies.

“It’s not a game you want to play … it’s not worth it,” he said.

His modest dream of buying a small property has been crushed.

“For me, the money meant an opportunity … I’d buy a house for myself and have something to leave for my kids in the future,” he said.

“I feel I’ve let myself down and I feel I’ve let my daughters down.”

Do you know more about this story? Get in touch with 7.30 here.

Posted 9 Jan 20239 Jan 2023, updated 9 Jan 2023


Article link:
Article source: ABC 7.30, 9/1/2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

I once ran Human Rights Watch: Harvard blocked my fellowship over Israel

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I once ran Human Rights Watch. Harvard blocked my fellowship over Israel

Kenneth Roth )

I was told that my fellowship at the Kennedy School was vetoed over my and Human Rights Watch’s criticism of Israel

Tue 10 Jan 2023 22.08 AEDT

During the three decades that I headed Human Rights Watch, I recognized that we would never attract donors who wanted to exempt their favorite country from the objective application of international human rights principles. That is the price of respecting principles.


Yet American universities have not articulated a similar rule, and it is unclear whether they follow one. That lack of clarity leaves the impression that major donors might use their contributions to block criticism of certain topics, in violation of academic freedom. Or even that university administrators might anticipate possible donor objections to a faculty member’s views before anyone has to say anything.

That seems to be what happened to me at Harvard’s Kennedy School. If any academic institution can afford to abide by principle, to refuse to compromise academic freedom under real or presumed donor pressure, it is Harvard, the world’s richest university. Yet the Kennedy School’s dean, Douglas Elmendorf, vetoed a human rights fellowship that had been offered to me because of my criticism of Israel. As best we can tell, donor reaction was his concern.

Soon after I announced my departure from Human Rights Watch, the Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy reached out to me to discuss offering me a fellowship. I had long been informally involved with the Carr Center, which seemed like a natural place for me to spend a year as I wrote a book. So, I accepted in principle. The only missing step was the dean’s approval, which we all assumed would be a formality.

Indeed, in anticipation of my stay at the school, I reached out to the dean to introduce myself. We had a pleasant half-hour conversation. The only hint of a problem came at the end. He asked me whether I had any enemies.

It was an odd question. I explained that of course I had enemies. Many of them. That is a hazard of the trade as a human rights defender.

I explained that the Chinese and Russian governments had personally sanctioned me – a badge of honor, in my view. I mentioned that a range of governments, including Rwanda’s and Saudi Arabia’s, hate me. But I had a hunch what he was driving at, so I also noted that the Israeli government undoubtedly detests me, too.

That turned out to be the kiss of death. Two weeks later, the Carr Center called me up to say sheepishly that Elmendorf had vetoed my fellowship. He told Professor Kathryn Sikkink, a highly respected human rights scholar affiliated with the Kennedy School, that the reason was my, and Human Rights Watch’s, criticism of Israel.

That is a shocking revelation. How can an institution that purports to address foreign policy – that even hosts a human rights policy center – avoid criticism of Israel?

Elmendorf has not publicly defended his decision, so we can only surmise what happened. He is not known to have taken public positions on Israel’s human rights record, so it is hard to imagine that his personal views were the problem.

But as the Nation showed in its exposé about my case, several major donors to the Kennedy School are big supporters of Israel. Did Elmendorf consult with these donors or assume that they would object to my appointment? We don’t know. But that is the only plausible explanation that I have heard for his decision. The Kennedy School spokesperson has not denied it.

Some defenders of the Israeli government have claimed that Elmendorf’s rejection of my fellowship was because Human Rights Watch, or I, devote too much attention to Israel. The accusation of “bias” is rich coming from people who themselves never criticize Israel and, typically using neutral sounding organizational names, attack anyone who criticizes Israel.

They don’t want less criticism of Israel. They want no criticism of Israel.

Moreover, Israel is one of 100 countries whose human rights record Human Rights Watch regularly addresses. Israel is a tiny percentage of its work. And within the Israeli-Palestinian context, Human Rights Watch addresses not only Israeli repression but also abuses by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah.

In any event, it is doubtful that these critics would be satisfied if Human Rights Watch published slightly fewer reports on Israel, or if I issued less frequent tweets. They don’t want less criticism of Israel. They want no criticism of Israel.

The other argument that defenders of Israel have been advancing is that Human Rights Watch, and I, “demonize” Israel, or that we try to “evoke repulsion and disgust”. Usually this is a prelude to charging that we are “antisemitic”.

Human rights advocacy is premised on documenting and publicizing governmental misconduct to shame the government into stopping. That is what Human Rights Watch does to governments worldwide. To equate that with antisemitism is preposterous. And dangerous, because it cheapens the very serious problem of antisemitism by reducing it to criticism of Israel.

The issue at Harvard is far more than my own academic fellowship. I recognized that, as an established figure in the human rights movement, I am in a privileged position. Being denied this fellowship will not significantly impede my future. But I worry about younger academics who are less known. If I can be canceled because of my criticism of Israel, will they risk taking the issue on?

The ultimate question here is about donor-driven censorship. Why should any academic institution allow the perception that donor preferences, whether expressed or assumed, can restrict academic inquiry and publication? Regardless of what happened in my case, wealthy Harvard should take the lead here.

To clarify its commitment to academic freedom, Harvard should announce that it will accept no contributions from donors who try to use their financial influence to censor academic work, and that no administrator will be permitted to censor academics because of presumed donor concerns. That would transform this deeply disappointing episode into something positive.

  • Kenneth Roth served as executive director of Human Rights Watch from 1993 to 2022. He is currently writing a book


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Article source: The Guardian, 11/1/2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000
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Struggle between justice and violence

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Dr Adel Yousif wants more done for Palestine ‘I THINK it is true that the fate of the world depends on the people of Israel,” the Canadian psychologist and “anti-woke” self-help guru Jordan Peterson told a cheering Jerusalem crowd in October.

Peterson’s affection for Israel, which is shared by Republicans in the United States, former British Prime Minister Liz Truss, and our very own former Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who described Israel as “an oasis in the desert” (The Mercury, Dec 4, 2022), has become a theme of conservatives around the world. This is in spite of Israel’s well known record of brutal colonisation, disposition of indigenous Palestinians, extrajudicial killings and arrests, administrative detention, home demolitions, apartheid, racism and daily incessant violence against Palestinians.

In the meantime, progressives have been mobilising in solidarity with the Palestinian people. In January 2022, more than a hundred artists withdrew from the Sydney Festival over its decision to accept funding from the Israeli embassy. In August, the University of Melbourne Student Union, citing “the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians”, called on the university “to participate in an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, researchers, and academics to be in harmony with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) as a contribution towards upholding international law.

In October (2022), B’Selem, Israel’s largest human rights organisation, published Not a “vibrant democracy”. This is apartheid. According to the report, both Jewish and non-Jewish Palestinians throughout the whole of Israel and the Occupied Territories are governed by a single regime that “operates according to a single organising principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Israelis of the Jewish faith – over another – Palestinians.” Israel practices a permit system that restricts the movement of Palestinians very similar to the pass system of the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Controlling the lives of the Palestinian people with 101 different permits for business, study, religious purposes, spouses, access to hospitals, funerals even family visits. Furthermore, Israel is non-compliant with over 40 Security Council resolutions, and 100 UN General Assembly resolutions, making it the most reprimanded country in the history of the United Nations.

In order to separate the Palestinians from the city centre, Israel has built a 202km “Separation Barrier” through the heart of Jerusalem (the Berlin Wall was 155km).

While those on the Israeli side of the wall live in a cosmopolitan paradise of wine bars, shopping malls and hot yoga studios, those on the Palestinian side live in over-policed ghettos, where the air is permanently polluted with the fumes of uncollected burning rubbish, sewage flows in streams across potholed roads, and dilapidated classrooms are frequently filled with over a hundred children.

When Eric Abetz describes Israel as an oasis in the desert, and Jordan Peterson presents a segregated holy city as a model upon which the world depends, they are peddling a future of walls and militarised borders in which those displaced by colonisation, violence, dispossession, racism and apartheid are criminalised by those who perpetrate this injustice upon them.

The American civil rights activist and philosopher Angela Davis in 2019 stated: “Black people, especially, owe a great deal to Palestinians, who have been struggling for decades and decades and refuse to give up.” When asked why she supported the BDS boycott of Israeli government and institutions, Angela said “They are an inspiration to people who are fighting for freedom everywhere on the planet”.

Like the fight of the indigenous people of South Africa against apartheid, the struggle for Palestine is a struggle between justice and violence, apartheid, racism on the other.

Australia has had to face its own dark past of colonisation, and has justly endeavoured to address the related intergenerational effects, still felt to this day by the Indigenous Aboriginal people of this land Lutruwita (Tasmania). It is therefore a wonder that Eric Abetz will not see clear to show heart, compassion by the denouncing or at least dissociating himself from Israel. Dr Adel Yousif, Palestinian Hobart Academic

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Article source: Hobart Mercury

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000
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Palestinians ‘weren’t there at all’– Netanyahu tells credulous Jordan Peterson

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Palestinians ‘weren’t there at all’– Netanyahu tells credulous Jordan Peterson


( )

Conservative scholar/media star Jordan Peterson turned over a new leaf this fall by touring Israel with the ideologue Ben Shapiro and dining with Benjamin Netanyahu. Now Peterson has published an interview with Netanyahu titled “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist?” in which he allows Netanyahu to rant against Palestinians and misrepresent history:

Israel did not create “a single refugee” in 1948. No, neighboring Arab armies did that by telling the Palestinians to flee. This has always been Jewish land, the bible tells us so. Though before Jews returned to it, it was just a “barren dump” and “wasteland” and “ruin.”

There was no such thing as Palestinians. They were “southern Syrians” till Zionism built a “miracle” in the desert and they emigrated to the land.

Peterson has a large following, and the interview has gotten 800,000 views in eight days. Though happily, many commenters on the video have denounced Peterson for his hospitality to racism and historical fictions.

Here are some of Netanyahu’s Zionist fables. On the refugees:

“Seventy five years ago when the state of Israel was declared, you did not have a single Arab refugee…. In fact the refugees are the result of Arab aggression and not its cause. …. The Palestinian refugees… fled in advance of the advancing armies [from five Arab countries] being promised that they could return in a few days, the Jews would be annihilated and driven into the sea, that didn’t work out, thank god.

The Zionists “did not kick out an existing population with a national consciousness.” Because no one was there, it was barren land.

“The Arabs who had conquered the land [in the 600s] basically left it barren. They never made it their own. It was a barren land. Practically it was an empty land…. The Jews came back in the 19th century to the land of Israel. The result of this return was that we started building farms, factories, places of employment. Arabs from nearby countries started emigrating. And they now became– they call themselves Palestinians. They reconstructed history, they said we’ve been here for centuries. No they haven’t. They weren’t there at all, and they didn’t have a national consciousness….

“It’s not your land, it’s been our land for 3500 years. If you took over somebody’s apartment, kicked them out, dispossessed them, and they never gave up their claim… and you left this barren dump, OK? And the families, the progeny of the people you kicked out came back, rebuilt the house… you cannot come back and tell them, you don’t belong here, we’re going to kick them out.

“Especially since your latecomers who have come to live in part of the house, which is what so-called Palestinians are. We say to them you can live here, we can live here, but it’s our land, its our state…”

This is Nakba denial, and hateful to those who respect human rights and history. Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinians are “southern Syrians” is the same line that Sheldon Adelson, his friend and the late Republican donor, used to put out.

Jews have suffered more than anyone else.

“If any people has any right to a state, if any people never gave up their dreams… If any people rebuilt their home from nothing, from barren, wasted land, it’s the Jewish people. To tell them, you who have suffered more than anyone else… you have no right to be there, but the Arabs who are trying to destroy you, they have a right, That is a complete perversion of history…

The land belongs to us.

“The Jews belong to this land, this land belongs to the Jews, the Palestinians are free to live here next to us, among us, but they are not free to demand the dissolution of the Jewish state…

There’s no occupation, Netanyahu says, using biblical terms for the West Bank: “our so- called occupation of the heartland of the Jewish people, Judea and Samaria.”

More ranting about Arabs are not productive:

“We came back to this land to this land that was laid barren by the Arab conquest, brought it back to life, and allowed Arab immigration, what we call now Palestinian immigration, to come back in…

“They did nothing with the land. They built one town. Ramle. That’s it. Hundreds of new sites that we built…. The Arabs did nothing with it… We perform this miracle… it was desert, it was nothing.”

Netanyahu repeats that it’s like being evicted from an apartment and when you come back, there are “no tenants” there.

“They took over my apartment a long time ago…The apartment was left barren and many decades– in this case, centuries later, I come back to this barren mess, this ruin, and I build it up back, I not only improve it, I make my ownership based on improvement, but that nobody else did anything with it. There was no someone else! There practically were no tenants, that’s my argument… “

Peterson never challenges Netanyahu’s lies about Palestinian history and Palestinian refugees. He does not touch on Netanyahu’s corruption trial or Netanyahu’s current plan to take on fascistic coalition partners to gut the Israeli legal system so he won’t go to jail.

So the interview is not so different from PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff, interviewing Netanyahu for 11 minutes a few weeks ago and leaving him off the hook on corruption and racism and apartheid charges (“You see a home for the Palestinians in years to come?”).


Peterson accepts the claptrap surely because he is a Christian Zionist and opposes the American left at every turn, so Netanyahu is a hero. But Peterson offers a rationalization for theft that his own commenters are mocking. There is a “principle of ownership in English common law,” Peterson says, that “if you own territory and you’re doing nothing to it and someone squats on it” and does something productive, that someone gets to keep the land. “You have to do something productive with [territory].. The Jews have actually taken the land and did something with it. … They invited other people to live there… It wasn’t an oppressive regime.” This is high-minded hasbara, or explaining Israel to the world.

In turn, Netanyahu justifies Israeli land theft on the basis of the bible.

“The bible describes how the Jewish people lived on this land, were attached on that land, fought off conquerors sometimes were conquered but stayed on their land… till the 7th century… We were conquered by the Romans, conquered by the Byzantines. They did a lot of bad things to us, but they didn’t really exile us…. The loss of our land actually occurred when the Arab conquest took place in the 7th century. The Arabs burst out from Arabia and they did something that no other conqueror… nobody did before… They actually started taking over the land of the Jewish farmer. They brought in military colonies that took over the land.”

(Military colonies — a wee bit of projection there!)

“So it is under the Arab conquerors that the Jews lost their homeland.. The Arabs were the colonials, the Jews were the natives dispossessed… We were flung to the far corners of the earth, suffered unimaginable suffering because we had no homeland. … We never gave up the dream of coming back to our ancestral homeland.”

This is claptrap. The scholar Shlomo Sand debunks it in his books “The Invention of the Jewish People” and “The Invention of the Land of Israel.”

The claim that there was not a single refugee at the time of Israel’s founding is laughable. Consider that the scholar Ibrahim Abu Lughod and his family left Jaffa in May 1948 before the state of Israel was created because they feared for their lives. Hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians took similar actions.

Many fled because of violence by Zionist militias who sought to take over areas coveted by the Jewish state (like Deir Yassin on the road to Jerusalem) outside the boundaries the U.N. had drawn. Many were trucked away from their villages by the Israeli army so as to create a Jewish majority in the new state. Most importantly, at least 700,000 refugees were not permitted by Israel to return once the armistice was achieved in 1949.

How can a serious scholar indulge the racism and cultural supremacy of saying that Palestinians “did nothing” with the land? And does it matter whether the people you kick out of your country have a “national consciousness”? Don’t they still have a right to their homes and villages? Records are clear that over 400 villages were erased by the Zionists. This is dangerous thinking, and it’s a sad reflection on Peterson that he humors it.

Peterson characterizes the Nakba as an intellectual fad. Why has the idea of Palestinians being indigenous and displaced “gained such cachet in the west?” Peterson asks.

Netanyahu is clearly nettled by the rise in consciousness of the Nakba in the west. “Intellectual elites have created a fake history that deracinates Jewish roots,” he says. He seeks to counter the “settler-colonial” critique of Zionism with slogans, of which he’s a master.

We are not the Belgians in the Congo, we are not the Dutch in Indonesia, we are not the British in South Africa. We had been there all the time…. We were kicked out of the Congo and nothing happened in the Congo. Nothing. no other people there, no development, nothing..

He reprises Joan Peters’s argument, in “From Time Immemorial”, fully discredited by Norman Finkelstein, that the Palestinians in Israel in 1947 had emigrated there to get in on the great developments of Zionism.

Netanyahu justifies the pro-Zionist Balfour Declaration by the British in 1917, later endorsed by the U.S.– on a similar basis, the bible and Jewish cultural supremacy.

They [western leaders] basically knew that the land was practically empty.. It made sense both from biblical prognostication and also a humanist view that this evil of history, this injustice of history would be corrected. These Jews who had contributed so much to civilization, and morality and history… [the leaders] concluded knowing the history I describe that is so unknown today on college campuses and among so-called intellectuals that Jews had a right to rebuild their national life in their ancestral land.

Reflect that this is the racist political leader, praised by the Democratic establishment, who successfully demolished the possibility of a two-state solution during his first 15 years in office.

Comments on the video are mostly scathing.

Lion Heart. “A quick summarising: If your house is empty and you only put a couch there, someone should come and be in your house instead.” Also judging by Benjamin’s logic, natives should be taking America and Canada back and rule. Right?

theobnoxiousweed”: “Netanyahu’s main philosophy of the entitlement for Israel is based on the inherent superiority of the Jewish people. He repeatedly describes the lands around Jerusalem as barren wastelands. A similar philosophy to my ancestors who declared Australia empty a few hundred years back and thought of the inhabitants as having no entitlement to the land they lived on due to their perceived primitive culture.”

Reid Schwantz: “My great great great great great great great great grand father, the first human on earth posses the whole lands and oceans under the atmosphere where all human live nowadays. inspired by mr. netanyahu, now i’m thinking about to claim it back after 50k years or so.”

Article link:
Article source: Mondoweiss, 14/12/2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

Israelis have put Benjamin Netayahu back in power. Palestinians will likely pay the price

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Israelis Have Put Benjamin Netanyahu Back in Power. Palestinians Will Likely Pay the Price.

Dec. 13, 2022, 5:05 a.m. ET

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By Diana Buttu (New York Times)

Ms. Buttu is a lawyer and former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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HAIFA, Israel — As the prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu finalizes the formation of Israel’s most extreme right-wing government to date, I, along with other Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories, am filled with dread about what the next few years will bring.

Every day since the elections, Palestinians wake up with a what-now apprehension, and more often than not, there’s yet another bit of news that adds to our anxiety. The atmosphere of racism is so acute that I hesitate to speak or read Arabic on public transportation. Palestinian rights have been pushed to the back burner.

We Palestinians live knowing that a vast majority of Israeli politicians don’t support an end to Israel’s military rule over the West Bank and Gaza Strip nor equality for all of its citizens. We are made to feel as though we are interlopers whose presence is temporary and simply being tolerated until such time as it is feasible to get rid of us.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 48 percent of Jewish Israelis agree that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” I look around in my mixed Haifa neighborhood and wonder which of my neighbors voted for the extremist candidates who have voiced similar opinions. “It is only a matter of time before we are gone,” my friends tell me. To add insult to injury, Israelis blame Palestinians for the rise in extremism and racism, rather than looking at how racism has become normalized in Israeli society. It is blaming the victim rather than the aggressor.

Since his recent election, Mr. Netanyahu has been offering important positions in government to vocal anti-Palestinian politicians. The incoming governing coalition includes the extremist and racist Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, party, whose leaders have a history of supporting violence against Palestinians.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a settler who leads the Jewish Power party, has been convicted of incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist group. Earlier this month, Mr. Ben-Gvir reportedly hailed an Israeli soldier who fatally shot a Palestinian young man in the West Bank during a scuffle — an act caught on video and widely circulated on social media — by remarking, “Precise action, you really fulfilled the honor of all of us and did what was assigned to you.” Israel’s current police chief blamed him for helping ignite the surge in violence in May 2021. He will now be minister for national security, putting him in charge of Israel’s domestic police and border police in the occupied West Bank, home to roughly three million Palestinians.

Over the course of decades, and especially since the erection of the wall along the West Bank, Israelis seem to have become immune to how Palestinians live under Israeli military rule and what it is to be Palestinian in Israel. Conversations with neighbors in Haifa about the nakba — or “catastrophe,” in which hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled or were expelled with the creation of Israel in 1948 — or Israel’s military occupation that amounts to apartheid or even racism in Israel are always met with denial or with justification, so we have learned never to speak to one another.

On Dec. 1, Mr. Netanyahu inked a coalition agreement with Bezalel Smotrich, another settler and head of the Religious Zionism party, naming him minister of finance and giving him control over a Defense Ministry department. Mr. Smotrich has called himself a “proud homophobe” and has said that the 2015 firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank by suspected Jewish militants in which an 18-month-old child and his parents were burned to death was not a terrorist attack. In 2016, he said that he was in favor of segregation between Jewish and Palestinian women in Israeli hospital maternity wards.

Last year, Mr. Smotrich mentioned that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, didn’t “finish the job” of expelling Palestinians in 1948. He has also promoted a subjugation plan in which Palestinians (who accept the plan) would be considered “resident aliens” while those who do not would be dealt with by the Israeli Army. As part of his Defense Ministry post, Mr. Smotrich will have unprecedented authority over the policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and over Palestinian construction, and will be able to appoint the heads of the administration responsible for the government’s civil policy in the West Bank.

Both the Jewish Power and the Religious Zionism party platforms are almost exclusively focused on Palestinians and about ensuring that Jewish supremacy reigns. The Religious Zionism party aims to retroactively legitimize settlements in the West Bank.

I fear that Israel’s violent repression of Palestinians will only increase in the near future as I consider the record of Mr. Netanyahu and his previous coalitions — a history of relentless race-baiting and incitement of prejudice against Palestinians in Israel, the passage of the Jewish Nation-State law (which enshrines the privileging of Jewish citizens), the open fire policy, Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian homes, its continued colonization of the West Bank and repeated mass bombings of Gaza.

With Mr. Ben-Gvir, Mr. Smotrich and other extremists in his coalition, Mr. Netanyahu will very likely continue in this path, particularly since he has been the enabler of so many of these policies. Jewish Power and Religious Zionism are natural extensions of Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. Failing to recognize this is akin to putting one’s head in the sand.

If there is any silver lining to our grim situation it might be that the rise of Mr. Ben-Gvir and his fellow extremists will open the eyes of more Americans. Some former State Department officials and diplomats have already called upon the Biden administration not to deal with the most extreme members of the new Israeli coalition. American Jewish groups have also expressed alarm at the new coalition. But American policy is unlikely to change in response to these dark tidings. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken of “equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity” for Israelis and Palestinians, but what guarantees will he be offering to ensure that Palestinians live in freedom and security with this new government?

As Israel lurched further to the right, the United States and other Western governments continued to normalize and legitimize extremists once deemed beyond the pale — from the notorious former general Ariel Sharon, when he became prime minister, to the race-baiting ultranationalist and settler Avigdor Lieberman when Mr. Netanyahu, during his second run as prime minister, made him a cabinet minister in 2009.

At the time, the appointment of Mr. Lieberman — who had called for loyalty oaths for Israel’s Palestinian and Jewish citizens and a redrawing of borders that would strip Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship — was widely criticized. But soon enough American and European officials were meeting with Mr. Leiberman.

There is little hope that this won’t happen this time, too, and what was unthinkable but a few years ago will become a reality, with Palestinians inevitably paying the heaviest price for Israel’s electoral choices.

Diana Buttu is a lawyer and former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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Article source: New York Times, 13/12/2022

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Bungled handling of West Jerusalem makes a tough decision worse

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Bungled handling of West Jerusalem makes a tough decision worse


By Matthew Knott

Updated October 18, 2022 — 7.19pmfirst published at 7.17pm

Changing Australia’s position on a topic as contentious as the capital of Israel was always going to arouse intense opposition and debate.

But the messy, confusing way the Albanese government executed its decision to no longer recognise West Jerusalem made a challenging task significantly more inflammatory and damaging than it needed to be.

The bungled handling of the issue stands in stark contrast to the rest of Penny Wong’s successful short tenure as foreign minister, which has been marked by competence and assuredness.

There’s been a flurry of visits to Australia’s previously neglected Pacific neighbours and a symbolically powerful trip to Wong’s childhood hometown in Malaysia. Wong has met twice with her Chinese counterpart, helping stabilise a crucial relationship after years of escalating tension.


Now she faces her first crisis in the form of an infuriated Israel.

The main problem on West Jerusalem is not the policy change itself – which Labor announced in opposition – but the timing of the reversal.

The announcement came as a shock to the Israeli government and Australia’s Jewish community, which had no inkling the issue was on the government’s agenda.

The question of West Jerusalem had faded from attention in Australia over recent years and did not feature in the May election campaign.

The decision was an embarrassment for Israel’s fragile centre-left governing coalition just two weeks before Israel’s national elections.

Intensifying Israel’s anger was the fact the decision coincided with the Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday. On the day the government announced a major change to its foreign policy, the Israeli embassy in Canberra was closed for the holiday, its phone going straight to voice mail.

The Israeli government and its local supporters feel not only disappointed but blindsided by Australia’s lack of consultation and warning – just as Emmanuel Macron did when Scott Morrison axed a lucrative submarine contract with French company Naval Group.

The only reason the issue flared up now is that in recent days the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade quietly scrubbed a reference to West Jerusalem from the Israel page of its website.

According to the government, an overeager public servant got ahead of themselves by updating the website to reflect the government’s stated position on West Jerusalem. The problem was that cabinet hadn’t made a decision on the issue and the government hadn’t announced any policy change.

After the update to the website was revealed on Monday night, the government hurriedly assured reporters and anxious pro-Israel groups that Australia hadn’t changed its position on recognising West Jerusalem.

That was true until, a few hours later, it wasn’t: the Albanese cabinet met in Canberra on Tuesday morning and agreed to reverse the Morrison government’s stance.

As Wong says, Labor’s decision returns Australia to the international mainstream when it comes to the Israel-Palestine dispute. The global consensus has long held that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved only as a result of peace negotiations that lead to a two-state solution.

Donald Trump exploded that consensus in 2017 by officially recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing he would relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

Morrison flagged doing the same in the lead-up to the 2018 Wentworth by-election, a seat that just so happens to have a large and politically active Jewish community.

In the end, Morrison recognised West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but stopped short of relocating the Australian embassy.

According to Middle East specialist Rodger Shanahan, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute, Morrison’s decision was “intellectually incoherent … policy-making on the run” that made Australia an international outlier. The new government, Shanahan argues, was right to overturn it.

But a change of such a sensitive, globally significant nature should be announced in an organised, carefully considered way. That’s not what happened here.

A policy born in regrettable circumstances has died an unnecessarily painful death.

Australia was already grappling with a volatile and complex geopolitical environment; now it has a self-inflicted diplomatic stoush with Israel to deal with as well.

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Article source: The Age, 19/10/2022

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Commission of Inquiry finds that the Israeli occupation is unlawful under international law

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Commission of Inquiry finds that the Israeli occupation is unlawful under international law (UN Human Rights Office)

20 October 2022

New York (20 October 2022) — There are reasonable grounds to conclude that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is now unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli Government’s de-facto annexation policies, according to the first report to the General Assembly issued today by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel.

Underlining that under international humanitarian law the occupation of territory in wartime is a temporary situation and does not deprive the occupied Power of its statehood nor its sovereignty, the three-person Commission called on the General Assembly to request an urgent Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of Israel’s continued refusal to end its occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“Recent statements by the Secretary-General and numerous member States have clearly indicated that any attempt at unilateral annexation of a State’s territory by another State is a violation of international law and is null and void; 143 member States including Israel last week voted in favour of a General Assembly resolution reaffirming this”, stated Navi Pillay, Chair of the Commission. “Unless universally applied, including to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, this core principle of the United Nations Charter will become meaningless”, she added.

In reaching its findings, the Commission reviewed the policies and actions employed by the Governments of Israel to maintain the occupation, and annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Commission’s review was based on interviews with experts and stakeholders, and submissions received following a call for submissions issued on 22 September 2021.

The 28-page report focuses on the sustenance and advancement of the settlement enterprise, including statements made by Israeli officials indicating the intent to maintain permanent control over the land in violation of international law. The Commission concludes that by continuing to occupy the territory by force, Israel incurs international responsibilities and remains accountable for violations of the rights of the Palestinians individually and as a people.

“By ignoring international law in establishing or facilitating the establishment of settlements, and directly or indirectly transferring Israeli civilians into these settlements, successive Israel governments have set facts on the ground to ensure permanent Israeli control in the West Bank”, Ms. Pillay stated.

In producing its report, the Commission reviewed Israel’s expropriation and exploitation of land and natural resources, and Israel’s restrictive urban planning and zoning policies in the West Bank, noting that land is often confiscated for military purposes but is then used for settlement construction. The Commission reviewed statements by Israeli officials indicating that Palestinian construction is seen as an impediment to Israeli settlements, requiring action such as confiscation, demolitions and displacement. The Commission also observed similar processes in East Jerusalem where the restrictive planning and zoning regimes, which have obstructed adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods, have contributed to shrinking space for Palestinians.

The report also points to Israeli Government policies which have had a serious and multi-faceted impact on all areas of Palestinian life, including access to clean and affordable water, which has impacted the entire Palestinian agricultural sector, limiting opportunities for livelihoods particularly affecting women.

“There is so much ‘silent harm’ and psychological trauma, that may not be immediately apparent, resulting from the erosion of economic, social and cultural rights. These debilitating processes have severe short and long-term consequences and must be urgently addressed”, said Commissioner Miloon Kothari.

The Commission dedicated a significant part of its report to reviewing the impact of Israel’s occupation and de-facto annexation policies on Palestinian human rights, noting the coercive environment intended to force Palestinians to leave their homes and alter the demographic composition of certain areas. To this effect, the Commission reviewed the demolition of homes and destruction of property, the excessive use of force by security forces, mass incarceration, settler violence, restrictions of movement, and limitations on access to livelihoods, basic necessities, services and humanitarian assistance.

The Commission emphasised that this ongoing coercive environment has fragmented Palestinian society and ensured that Palestinians are unable of fulfil their right to self-determination among other rights. The Commission also noted the extremely harmful impact of the air, land and sea blockade of Gaza on Palestinian human rights.

The report outlines a specifically damaging impact on children, who experience constant military presence, arrest and detention, frequent attacks and acts of violence, restrictions on movement, home demolition and destruction of infrastructure and property. The Commission emphasised that the cumulative effects of occupation practices, including restrictions on movement, have had a pervasive discriminatory effect on Palestinian women, noting that they experience gender-based violence during their everyday activities.

The report concludes by saying that some of the policies and actions of the Israeli Government leading to permanent occupation and de-facto annexation may constitute elements of crimes under international criminal law, including the war crime of transferring, directly or indirectly, part of one’s own civilian population into occupied territory, and the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer.

“The actions of Israeli Governments reviewed in our report constitute an illegal occupation and annexation regime that must be addressed”, stated Commissioner Chris Sidoti. “The international system and individual States must act and uphold their obligations under international law. That must begin at this session of the General Assembly with a referral to the International Court of Justice”, he added.


The UN Human Rights Council mandated the Commission on 27 May 2021 to “investigate, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up and since 13 April 2021”. In July 2021, the President of the Human Rights Council announced the appointment of Navanethem Pillay (South Africa), Miloon Kothari (India) and Christopher Sidoti (Australia) to serve as the three members of the Commission and indicated that Ms. Pillay would serve as Chair. Resolution A/HRC/RES/S-30/1 further requested the commission of inquiry to “investigate all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.” The Commission of Inquiry was mandated to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly annually from June 2022 and September 2022, respectively.

The Commissioners will present their report to the General Assembly on 27 October.
The full report in six languages and more information on the work of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, can be found at:


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Article source: UN Human Rights Office

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

Sidney Nolan, portraits of the Holocaust

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A few weeks ago, on Tuesday August 16, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, was in Berlin seeking help and support from the German government. The cause of the Palestinian people has of course been rather beleaguered since other Arabs finally realised that they had a lot more to gain from positive engagement with Israel. Even Turkey, which has stood up for the Palestinians in the past, has just restored full diplomatic relations with Israel.