Two Palestinian Schoolmates Seek Unity in Cairo

by James M. Wall

A power-sharing Gaza leadership agreement involving two Palestinian childhood friends, Yahya Sinwar (left) and Mohammed Dahlan (right, below) may be “slowly taking shape”.

What led to the reunion of Sinwar and Dahlan is an intriguing story that involves two Palestinian leaders who have known one another since childhood.

Ynetnews reports on that history:

Dahlan, now 55, and Sinwar, now 54, grew up in the same neighborhood of southern Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp. They later attended the same UN school and were students together at Islamic University.

Dahlan and Sinwar took different political journeys. They joined rival political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Those two political factions clashed in the 2006 Palestinian general election. In that election, monitored by former President Jimmy Carter, and others, Hamas won a decisive legislative majority over Fatah.

Both Israel and the U.S. misread the political mood within an occupied population. I was present for that election. Like most observers, it quickly became obvious to me that Hamas would win the election.

Why? Gaza voters resented, or more accurately, hated, control by outside political powers.

In addition, Hamas was a disciplined political party. Fatah was not. Hamas ran slates. Fatah did not. In many districts, Fatah candidates far exceeded available legislative seats.  Hamas understood Politics 101; Fatah did not.

If a party wants to win, it limits its candidates to the available openings. And, oh yes, it must give voters something better than what they already have.

Israel–with U.S. support–refused to accept the results of that 2006 democratic election. Israel blocked Palestinian parliamentary meetings and jailed many Hamas legislators.

A year later, Israel with U.S support, led Fatah in a military assault against Hamas. The leader of that Fatah assault was Mohammed Dahlan (right).

Fatah, the U.S., Israel–and Dahlan–lost. 

Dahlan has been living in exile since he split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Now, seven years later, Dahlan is back,  ready to advance his Palestinian leadership ambitions against Fatah through Hamas.

Ynetnews described this week’s Gaza City rally for Dahlan as the latest indication of a power shift in Gaza which “could lead to big changes in the Hamas-ruled territory, including an easing of a decade-long border blockade”.

Since Ynetnews is an Israeli outlet, those “big changes” are most likely Israel’s preferred outcome.

But, alert warning, based on those 2006 general election results, Israel’s political acumen can be faulty.

In the labyrinth of West Asian politics, the latest corner to turn in Gaza involves a political shift.

Mohammed Dahlan has returned, not to the Fatah-controlled West Bank, but to Gaza. With the endorsement of the Hamas-run government there, Dahlan’s political office in Gaza is disbursing $2 million to Gaza’s poor procured by Dahlan from the United Arab Emirates.

A second labyrinth corner turn takes us to the earlier election of Yahya Sinwar as the new Gaza Hamas chief.  What has Sinwar been up to while Dahlan was making rich friends in the UAE?

Ynetnews writes:

Sinwar helped establish the Hamas military wing in the late 1980s, while Dahlan rose through the ranks of Fatah, becoming chief of a feared Gaza security service that used to shave heads of Hamas prisoners to humiliate them. . . 

By early June of 2017, Sinwar and Dahlan had reached a point of common interest. The two childhood friends had followers, and they must have assumed those followers would work together in Gaza.

By early June, delegations led by Dahlan and Sinwar were negotiating in Egypt.  Participants said the two men established an easy rapport. 

Egypt, which has enforced control for Israel on Gaza’s southern border, “began sending fuel to Gaza’s only power-plant, helping ease a debilitating electricity shortage”.

For its part, Hamas “has been clearing brush to create a security buffer zone on the Gaza side of the border [with Egypt], and pledged not to give refuge to anti-Egypt insurgents from the Sinai”.

Egypt is refurbishing its now largely closed Rafah crossing with Gaza. Egypt plans to reopen it by the fall for passengers and goods, according to a Hamas spokesman.

Of course, this is West Asia, where, “The extent of future Rafah operations remains unclear.”

A month back,  June 22, 2017, Mouin Rabbani wrote an essay for the London Review of Books, Hamas Goes to Cairo”, which provides essential information on what has led to the current flurry of political activity in Gaza, an activity which won Hamas leadership for Yahya Sinwar, and the return of Mohammed Dahlan.

Rabbani, who is co-editor of Jadaliyya, served as head of political affairs in the Office of the UN special envoy for Syria from October 2014 to January 2015. Out of that background, he wrote about the Cairo unity meeting:

The Hamas delegation was led by Yahya Sinwar. A leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who served more than twenty years in Israeli jails until released in a prisoner exchange in 2011, Sinwar was elected four months ago to lead the [Hamas] movement in the occupied Gaza Strip, its main power base.

In May, an election to choose a successor to the politburo chief Khalid Mashal was won by the former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ismail Haniya, a comparatively weak figure. Sinwar is the movement’s de facto overall leader.

He’s known within Hamas as a hardliner, and also for a conviction that the movement should improve relations with Iran to balance its dependence on Qatar and Turkey. Like most of his peers he is also anxious to normalise relations with Egypt, which since Sisi’s coup in 2013 has run an unprecedented vilification campaign against Hamas and sealed Gaza’s only border with an Arab state.

Sinwar’s election and his political views “did not sit well with Qatar”. From Doha’s perspective, Sinwar “threw a spanner [wrench] in the works of the unveiling of Hamas’s new political document at the Doha [Qutar] Sheraton Hotel on 1 May”.

In that document, blessed by Qatar, Hamas formally embraced “a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and defined itself as an organic component of the Palestinian national liberation movement rather than of the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned it”.

Mouin Rabbani suggests that Qatar “may have given the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, a wink and a nod to expand punitive measures against the Gaza Strip”, Qatar’s way of  “reminding the newly-elected Sinwar that Hamas’ relations with Iran “are no substitute for Qatar’s patronage, and that Doha expects him to embrace the new policies and avoid confrontation with Israel”.

Thus the labyrinth continues. Qatar, with its bottomless supply of money, winks at Abbas, and the lights go out in Hamas-run Gaza. 

President Abbas risked world-wide condemnation when he followed Qatar’s not-so-subtle reminder that the Palestinian Authority is on a short Israeli leash. Tel Aviv does not like it when the PA gives too much freedom to Gaza.

To tug on the financial leash the PA has on Gaza, Abbas took a first step: He reduced salaries paid to PA civil servants in Gaza. 

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, “the Fatah-led PA has mostly been paying its employees not to go to work, but there are very many of them and their aggregate income makes a substantial contribution to Gaza’s increasingly desperate economy”.

Since Israel controls the flow of electrical power into Gaza, Abbas suggested to Israel, Palestine’s occupiers, that they reduce Gaza’s electrical supply, an act of cruelty that was morally wrong and politically stupid. 

A dark Gaza is not a recipe for winning the “hearts and minds” of an imprisoned civilian population.

Which brings us back to the political labyrinth of West Asia, which, by the way,  is preferable to the European colonizing term, the “Middle East”.

If Hamas, Dahlan and Egypt can devise a way to turn the lights on again in Gaza, that Cairo meeting may be the start of a new and improved, though no-less confusing, and perilous, journey for an occupied population.

If PA President Abbas has a better idea than his own political advantage, to turn the lights back on in Gaza, this would be a good time to make that idea known.  

At top, Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is attending the opening of a new mosque in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on February 24, 2017. (The image is by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90). 

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Palestinians | 2 Comments

The Long Fight Against TV and Movie “Bad Arabs”

by James M. Wall

Jack G. Shaheen, retired professor of communications at Southern Illinois University, died Sunday, July 9, after a short battle with cancer. He was 81.

His death brought to a sudden end, his five-decade fight against the stereotyping of “Bad Arabs” in movies and television. 

I have maintained regular contact with Jack since our first encounter in 1978. My most recent email from him arrived in March of this year, informing me that he had once again sent this blog’s link to his list.

Our first encounter came in August, 1978, when I was the editor of The Christian Century magazine in Chicago. Jack sent me a manuscript “over the transom”, media jargon for “unsolicited”.

We immediately accepted it, using Jack’s title, “The TV Arab”. 

In October, 1978, the Wall Street Journal published an expanded version of The Christian Century essay. In 1984, Jack expanded that article into a book with the same title.

Dr. Shaheen’s writing career and numerous public lectures brought him to the attention of Hollywood, where film producers sought his counsel on how to overcome their “bad Arabs” material.

Jack told me how long it had taken him to bring public attention to his “Bad Arab” essay: 

In the Fall of 1975, I completed the essay you published in August 1978. I had just returned to Southern Illinois University from Beirut where I had been teaching as a Fulbright scholar.

I tried for three years to have someone publish “The TV Arab”. Somewhere in my hidden files I have all the rejection letters I received from 50-plus magazines/newspapers.

The most memorable rejection came from the editor [of a prominent publication]. She refused to publish it, using an excuse that it was too well-written. She told me other ‘minority’ writers would want her to publish similar essays, but their essays would not be as ‘good’ as mine. Honest!

After three years of waiting and 50 rejections, “the TV Arab” appeared–for the first time–in The Christian Century in August, 1978.

The Washington Post announced his death: 

Jack G. Shaheen, an Arab American scholar, author and activist who devoted his career to challenging venomous stereotypes of Arabs in film and television — usually depicted, he once said, as ‘billionaires, bombers and belly dancers’ — died July 9 at a hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Dr. Shaheen, [the son of Lebanese Christian immigrants], spent decades teaching mass communications at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He was at the forefront of efforts to expose and question ethnic stereotypes in popular culture.

He was best known for his books, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” (2001), which later became a documentary film; “Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture” (1997); “Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11” (2008); and “The TV Arab” (1984), an eight-year study that examined hundreds of shows.

Dr. Shaheen wrote in The TV Arab:

Television tends to perpetuate four basic myths about Arabs. They are all fabulously wealthy; they are barbaric and uncultured; they are sex maniacs with a penchant for white slavery; and they revel in acts of terrorism. . . . These notions are as false as the assertions that blacks are lazy, Hispanics are dirty, Jews are greedy and Italians are criminals.

Albert Mokhiber, a past president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) who frequently worked with Dr. Shaheen on specific projects, said of him that he  “brought intellectual and academic credibility to the issues that we raised.”

In one of those projects, Dr. Shaheen helped persuade Walt Disney Studios to change song lyrics in the 1992 musical film “Aladdin” that had called an Arab homeland “barbaric.”

In an opinion piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, he was critical of the way the media depicted Arabs as thieves, unscrupulous vendors, “dastardly villains and harem maidens.”

That message from Jack Shaheen is especially timely at a moment when Islamophobia is returning to segments of the American culture with its perspective of fear and anger directed at Arabs born in the U.S., or residing here through immigration. 

It is an ominous sign when President Trump uses the term “barbaric” to describe “others” in countries whose populations are predominantly Arab and Muslim.  

The President’s speech in Warsaw, Poland, which he delivered the day before the recent G-20 in Hamburg, Germany, revived the racist call for a Clash of Civilizations.

That Clash, from President Trump’s perspective, is currently being fought between the white, Christian “West” and those “others” in the world who are neither white nor Christian.

Children are being raised by parents who have a limited, or non-existent, grasp of the democratic values of tolerance and diversity. In such an environment, the Clash of Civilizations has shown itself to be an easy sell.

To combat this, we urgently need more passionate activists like Jack Shaheen, who, for five decades, identified racism in popular culture, and through extensive research exposed it as Islamophobia.  

Jack Shaheen left us a mighty legacy to employ in the fight against that insidious, destructive evil. 

Posted in Cancer, Donald Trump, Movies | 2 Comments

Who to Believe, Your Lying Eyes or the Truth?

by James M. Walltwitter

Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump have one thing in common: They both have as much credibility as the man who killed his parents and then begged the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.

Why should we believe what they say? President Trump is an accomplished prevaricator in a job he is clearly not qualified to hold.

But we know that already.

What concerns me at the moment is the way in which Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu follows the classic colonial playbook by living a lie and inducing the colonized to fight among themselves.

The current internal Palestinian conflict involves a severe drop in medical care and adequate electrical power in Gaza, two essential elements which must be provided for a civilian population.

Instead of providing, Bibi Netanyahu greatly reduces these elements from Gaza and then lies that he is not to blame. The harsh truth is that Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza for fifty years. 

Occupiers are responsible for the occupied whether for one year or fifty years.

If you feel as though you are just now arriving to see a movie that has been running for an hour, it’s because this current movie, a Gaza-West Bank blame game, has been evolving on the screens of the Israeli and Palestinian media.

Preoccupied with the Donald’s twitters and threats, the American press has largely ignored the story of lies about Gaza. To our media, it is a conflict waged within a distant land between “long-time foes”.

To Palestinians, it is not a conflict. It is an occupation that blames the occupied.

To catch you up on the latest set of Bibi lies, here is some background:

Israel’s occupiers “withdrew” from Gaza in 2005.  But the occupiers did not “withdraw” Israel’s control over what is now an outdoor Gaza prison in which essential ingredients of life–food, water, medical care, and electrical power–remain completely in Israeli hands.

To remind Gazans who holds the power, Israel stages vicious military attacks and periodic wars against Gaza citizens.

The 1993 Oslo Accords looked at the time like a good stop-gap measure. It was, in reality, a moment in history when Israel sold the world and occupied Palestinians a package of wampum disguised as a “peace process”,

The Accords were never intended by Israel to bring peace. That was an Israeli lie.  The Accords were decorative beads, intended as a cover to pretend reaching for peace agreements while Israel remained busy expanding its settlements, and tightening its control over all aspects of Palestinian life.

Then, as colonialists are wont to do, they sold that same peace process wampum to the U.S. congress and its Israeli allies in American media and cultural institutions.

The lies that sustain the Israeli–driven “peace process”,  are rooted in greed and control, which derive from the evil twins of racism and religious bigotry.

You wish to see racism and religious bigotry? Both are on display in this week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a Trump ban against all travelers from six Muslim nations to stand.

The caveat that the ban would not apply to travelers who had U.S. family or institutional ties, is sheer racial and religious bigotry.

The Trump ban tells us to ignore these words engraved on the Stature of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

It is that same spirit that rejects Liberty’s call and leads Bibi to blame the medical and electrical shortage in Gaza on a Gaza-West Bank struggle for political leadership.

If this spirit is not racism/religious bigotry, then what is it?  I first encountered this racist/bigotry nonsense in my childhood in a racist White-controlled American South.

That same racist/bigotry began with American colonialism conquering a continent against the resistance of Native Americans. It now extends to all facets of our American life and culture.

The embedded racism in our nation makes Bibi’s racist lies an easy sell in the land built on the backs of Native Americans and African Americans.

Two sources from the front lines explain the conflict Bibi has cultivated. The first report from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, demonstrates how the PA and Hamas have allowed their own quest for power inside the prison to control their actions. It begins:

While much attention has been focused on the cutbacks to Gaza’s electricity, testimonies from the Strip indicate that for the past two months the Palestinian Authority has also been blocking Gaza patients from leaving the Strip for medical treatment.

Gazan Palestinians are reporting unexplained delays in receiving permits from the PA in Ramallah to leave the Strip for treatment in Israel, Jordan or the West Bank. These testimonies have been reinforced by data received by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, indicating that the PA Health Ministry has stopped facilitating this treatment for Gazans.

To whatever extent these are true reports, and not completely fabricated, it reflects the poor leadership  that has evolved among the Palestinian factions. What goes on between Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas, the long-reigning PA president, is never an equal interaction.

Abbas runs a vassal state under Israel’s absolute control.  What little he gains from Israel in his role as PA president, it is granted because Bibi expects subservience in return.

I envision that relationship with Bibi as a Mafia boss allowing deliveries to Mahmoud Abbas’ neighborhood stores.

Is Abbas getting what he can from his Boss by trying to undermine Hamas in a conflict inside the prison?

I saw that same desperate subservience unfold with Christian leaders desperate to help young students leave Communist East Germany for education elsewhere.

A second source on this story is this Palestinian Ma’an News Agency report, which rejects the Hamas accusations and denies that the Palestinian Authority (PA) “has been preventing Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip from leaving the territory for medical treatment”.

Bassam al-Badri, who directs the PA’s medical referral department in the southern district, told Ma’an that Israel was accountable for the deterioration of the medical situation in Gaza. He said Israel was responsible for denying Gazans exit permits.

These denials “have had fatal consequences in recent weeks”.

Whom are we to believe, statements from the Occupier with absolute power, or Bassam al-Badri, who is responsible for Palestinian medical referrals?

There is no doubting the facts that health care inside Gaza “has greatly suffered as part of the decade-long Israeli siege, with Israel limiting medical equipment allowed in and restricting travel for doctors seeking further medical training and specialization”.

Closely related to the reduction in medical care is the reduction in the delivery of electrical supply to Gaza. Palestinians there are reduced to a few hours of power a day. This had caused a “devastating” impact on hospitals.

Bassam al-Badri also told Ma’an that the Palestinian Ministry of Health that among transfers of between 1,600 and 1,800 patients to the West Bank and Jerusalem every month, one-fourth are cancer patients.

Exactly who is to blame? It is clear that the Palestinian factions are squabbling over internal control, but final decisions over the lives of the Palestinian people under occupation, are made by Israel. 

Israel, alone, has the power and the responsibility as the occupier, to serve the human services needs of the Palestinian citizens of the West Bank and Gaza. 

The picture of a Palestinian waving a Palestinian flag is an image by Pixabay. The Oslo accords image is from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Posted in Cancer, Donald Trump, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Netanyahu | 3 Comments

Wolves in the Gaza Chicken House

by James M. Wall

Have you seen the Hollywood film that flashes back to February, 2006, when Palestinians elected a Hamas party parliamentary majority.

I didn’t think so, because there is no such film available.

An honest film on Palestine’s current situation would begin in present-day Gaza. A Palestinian baby lies in a tiny crib, dying because the hospital lacks sufficient electricity to keep her alive.

The poorly-maintained portable generator outside in the yard, would have run out of fuel. 

Then, in a flashback, the film would show long lines of voters in occupied 2006 Palestine, waiting their turn in an election monitored by outsiders including President Jimmy Carter.

Hamas won that 2006 general election, defeating the Fatah party which had been in power since Yasir Arafat was allowed by Israel to return to Gaza in the summer of 1994.

Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Arafat as head of the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority in November, 2004.

Israel and the US agreed to the holding of that 2006 parliamentary election, a year after Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the state of Palestine May 8, 2005.

The Israel/US combine and the Fatah leaders had assumed a Fatah victory. The voters thought otherwise, handing a national parliamentary majority to the Hamas party. And it was a “political party”. Once Hamas emerged as a formidable adversary, thanks to Israel’s control of its own narrative, the “terrorist” label was hung around its neck.  

Indeed, the first time I ever heard of Hamas, was from a member of the Israeli foreign ministry who told me to “keep an eye on this Hamas. They are doing good work for the poor”. The purpose of that praise, I later realized, was to build up an enemy against Arafat, a long-time Israeli foe.

As the ancient proverb reminds us, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

To correct its 2006 political venture into democracy, Israel and the US instituted a war to defeat Hamas in 2007. The Fatah army was trained and guided by the George Bush-run CIA.

Fatah lost the war to Hamas just as it had lost the parliamentary election one year earlier.

Tired of trying to resolve its pesky Gaza problem with proxies, Israel arrested 25% of the Palestinian legislators and sent them off to jail, many of them with no charges, just indefinite jail sentences.

Throughout modern Israel’s history, its focus has remained on doing what it takes to control the land from the sea to the river. Its concern for the indigenous Palestinian population is to hope it will dwindle away. 

At the start of the recent prisoners’ hunger strike in Palestine, Daoud Kuttab anticipated Israel’s 50-year celebration of its seizure of all Palestinian land in 1967.

He wrote in the Washington Post:

Palestinians have lost hope in an internationally sponsored negotiated settlement. But this discontent has not turned off their desire for freedom and independence. Instead, more and more Palestinians are using nonviolent acts of resistance to keep the flame alive and to remind the Israelis and the world of the importance of a peaceful solution that will end the occupation.

The hunger strike was the latest nonviolent resistance employed by Palestinians, protesting, at personal cost, the imprisonment of Palestinians.

Palestinian nonviolent resistance moved into Israeli jails, where 6,500 Palestinians are being held, including 300 children, 500 prisoners detained without trial on administrative orders and 13 elected Palestinian legislators. Fifteen hundred of the detainees have begun a hunger strike.

Initiated on Palestinian Prisoner day, April 17, and led by Marwan Barghouti, the most prominent leader of the PLO’s Fatah movement and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the prisoners are demanding basic visitation rights and an end to imprisonments without charge or trial.

The strike ended after 41 days as Israel offered a compromise deal to meet some of the strikers’ visitation demands. 

When the strike ended, on May 28 Richard Falk wrote his analysis,  Two Sides of the Palestinian Coin: Hunger Strike/Gaza, which included this wise observation:

It is appropriate to merge in our moral imagination the ordeals of the prisoners in Israeli jails with that of the people of Gaza without forgetting the encompassing fundamental reality—the Palestinian people as a whole, regardless of their specific circumstances, are being victimized by an Israeli structure of domination and discrimination in a form that constitutes apartheid and different forms of captivity.

Falk also called attention to a “poignant dispatch” from a “leading intellectual resident of Gaza, Haider Eid, from the front lines of continuous flagrant Israeli criminality”.

Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years.

Less than a month later, the Electronic Intifada’s Charlotte Silver describes how Israel controls the electric grid supplying power to the Gaza civilian population of over 1.8 million.

Israel reduced its supply of electricity to the occupied Gaza Strip  Monday morning, (June 19) in spite of warnings from human rights groups that the move violates international law.

The cuts come despite dire warnings in recent weeks from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization and UN officials that the induced electricity shortage is causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Electronic Intifada continues with the human impact of Gaza’s reduced electric supply:

Today, Gaza is even more dependent on Israel for its electricity than it was in 2008. Gaza’s sole power plant no longer operates at all.

The power plant has not operated at full capacity since 2009, when Israel stopped allowing the “humanitarian minimum” of diesel fuel to enter Gaza.

It completely shut down in April after it ran out of emergency fuel supplies paid for by Qatar and Turkey.

While the electricity crisis imposes severe hardships on daily life, it is catastrophic for hospitals, which lack sufficient backup capacity and are already canceling critical surgeries and shutting down entire wings.

A generator powering an intensive care unit at a children’s hospital stopped working three weeks ago because it was overloaded.

Gaza’s health ministry is warning that more than 50 operating rooms that perform around 250 surgeries each day may be closed unless Israel fulfills its obligation to guarantee basic services to the population, including fuel to operate Gaza’s power plant.

Israel does not call its military control an “occupation”. According to Israel, it is “administering” the lands of Judea and Samaria (AKA by the non-Zionist world as the West Bank and Gaza).

As for the electricity, well, to hear Israel tell it, the shortage is not Israel’s “fault”.

As the wolf told the farmer from inside the noisy chicken house, “there ain’t nobody in here but us chickens”.

There are wolves in those “administered territories” and they are in total control of the hen house.

Israel hauled out its number-one major media ally in the US. the New York Times, to print Israel’s version of the hen house “truth”. 

Under the headline, Challenging Hamas, Palestinian Authority Cuts Electricity Payments for Gaza, the Times blames the chickens for bickering among themselves.

It is not our fault, Israel whines, the Palestinians are doing it to themselves. “Ain’t nobody in here but us chickens.”

The Times’ Isabel Kershner dutifully wrote:

The Palestinian Authority informed Israel on Thursday that it would no longer pay for the electricity that Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip, in an extraordinary push by the authority to reassert some control after years of rule in Gaza by the militant group Hamas.

The schism between the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank and led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, which seized full control of Gaza in 2007, has left Palestinians deeply divided and has hurt efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel.

Israel and the Times expect us to believe the Gaza electric grid is turned off and on with the consent of the Fatah wing of the Palestinian government? The wolves expect us to believe such nonsense?

Of course, Israeli spin-masters do not say they condone the power reduction. They blame President Abbas for “using” the reduction for his own political benefit.

A check of international media confirms that it is buying the Israeli nonsense.  The Israelis are media-savvy. They know internal political conflict is sexier than babies dying. 

Responsibility for a territory under occupation always lies with the occupier. It would be foolish to let Netanyahu get away with blaming Abbas for those Gaza deaths.

Which calls to mind a scene in Bonnie and Clyde when Clyde shoots a shop-keeper he has just robbed. Clyde keeps driving and laments to Bonnie, “Why did he make me do that”?

The picture of the children with candles is from the Bethlehem-based Ma’an.

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Jimmy Carter, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu | 5 Comments

“This Meddlesome Priest” Troubles Trump

by James M. Wall

At 2:30 in the morning of June 17, 1972, forty five years ago this weekend, five men were arrested as they attempted to place wire taps in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Washington, D.C. Watergate hotel and office complex.

Those arrests are being recalled after 45 years, as President Donald Trump faces his own potential Watergate scandal. Both ABC News and MSNBC are airing Watergate specials this weekend.

History has shown that the Nixon-authorized break-in was a colossal act of paranoid misjudgment. Nixon did not need the break-in to win. Utilizing his presidential platform, Nixon campaigned vigorously as a foreign policy expert, traveling in 1972 to China (February 21) and the Soviet Union (May 22).

The 1960s frightened insecure politicians like Nixon, but the radical passions of that era made even more voting enemies than it did adherents.

In spite of the slowly growing media attention to Watergate, Nixon won an easy victory, trouncing his Democratic opponent, South Dakota Senator George McGovern (below), sweeping the national electoral college, except for the state of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Trump had more reason to stretch outside the law to win, if indeed, that is what he did, because unlike the incumbent Nixon, he was a nobody from reality television.

Still, the suspicion grows daily that “Watergate Two” threatens, thanks to news stories like this one Thursday from The Washington Post

​The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice​”​, officials ​said.​

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at top) to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Then-FBI Director James B. Comey, starting in January, told President Trump that he was not personally under investigation. Current officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Interview requests are believed to have been issued by Mueller to “Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledget”. Others may have been questioned, as well.

In his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee Comey testified “that he had informed Trump that there was no investigation of the president’s personal conduct, at least while he was leading the FBI”.

If Mueller decides to pursue an obstruction of justice case against Trump, testimony from Comey and other officials, the Post writes, “could become central pieces of evidence.”

As the Mueller investigation continues, Comey is expected to return to the national spotlight.  Who is this man with his calm demeanor and towering 6 foot 8 inch frame?

To gain a better perspective on former FBI Director James Comey, we should start with his appointment as the new FBI director by President Barak Obama in September in 2013.

Neill Caldwell​, editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate magazine, wrote 
 a story for Religious News Service July 31, 2013, under a headline that said:​ ​Next FBI Director is a United Methodist.

That was news to me and it also pleased my John Wesleyan heart. (We Methodists can also be tribal). Here is the start  of the story:

The next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a former Sunday school teacher at Reveille United Methodist Church in Richmond, Va.

President Barack Obama’s nominee, James B. Comey Jr., breezed through a U.S. Senate hearing on his nomination and was approved July 29, as the seventh director of the FBI.

He will follow current FBI leader Robert Mueller, who has been director for 12 years. Comey, a Republican former deputy attorney general under the George W. Bush administration, won praise from members of both parties on the Senate Judiciary Committee for his extensive resume.

Comey, 52, was born in Yonkers, N.Y., where his grandfather rose from cop walking the beat to police commissioner. Comey grew up in Allendale, N.J., attending public schools, and went on to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. There he majored in chemistry and religion, and met his future wife, Patrice Failor.

In 1983, after his first year of law school, he was visiting Patrice in Sierra Leone, where she was in the Peace Corps. He came down with malaria. Only her quick action in getting him to a hospital saved his life.​

Comey was born and raised in Yonkers, New York. Comey is of Irish heritage and his family was Catholic. His family moved to Allendale, New Jersey, in the early 1970s. He later became a United Methodist. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1982, where he majored in chemistry and religion.

For his senior thesis, Comey analyzed Reinhold Niebuhr and the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action.  Steven Weitzman examined that senior thesis for Christianity Today.

I tracked down his senior thesis to see what lessons there might be for understanding the FBI director’s run-in with President Trump.

Submitted in 1982, Comey’s thesis compares Niebuhr and Jerry Falwell. At the time, the televangelist had emerged as a central figure in American politics following the election of Ronald Reagan. Comey’s study was an effort to understand how each man would answer the question: “Why should the Christian be involved in politics?”

Niebuhr and Falwell came from opposite sides of the political spectrum. One, a former socialist and—despite his support for the Cold War—an early opponent of the Vietnam War, believing it an obligation to be critical of American actions that were unjust. The other, a staunch opponent to socialism and a supporter of the Vietnam War.

As the co-founder of the Moral Majority, Falwell espoused the kind of America-first patriotism that Niebuhr condemned. Niebuhr rejected moral absolutes, believing they were beyond reach and that their pursuit could lead humans into sinful pride. Falwell embraced them.

Yet, each claimed Scripture as the source for their political doctrines. Falwell believed the Bible to be infallible whereas Niebuhr was sensitive to the ambiguities. And each believed in a politically engaged Christianity willing to seek power, accept compromises, and risk cynicism and cooptation to achieve justice or avoid moral decay.

James Comey understands how religion and politics are intertwined.

The New York Times took note of Comey’s reference to “meddlesome priest” in his Senate testimony.

Asked if he took President Trump’s “hope” that he would drop the Flynn-Russia investigation “as a directive,” Mr. Comey responded, Yes, yes. It rings in my ears as kind of, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”

These words, tradition has it, were those King Henry II of England cried out in 1170, as he grappled with the political opposition of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury.

As depicted in the play by Jean Anouilh, and the 1964 film, Becket, four royal knights rushed off to Canterbury and murdered “the meddlesome priest”.

The Times concludes: “Mr. Comey’s point was that a desire expressed by a powerful leader is tantamount to an order. When Senator James E. Risch, a Republican, noted that the president had merely ‘hoped for an outcome,’ Mr. Comey replied, ‘I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as, this is what he wants me to do’.”

Posted in -Movies and politics, Politics in Religion, Religious Faith, United Methodist Church | 2 Comments

Land of Opportunity for Testing Weapo

by James M. Wall

Fifty years after the June 5-10, 1967, Six Day War, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people offers a business opportunity for some, and massive oppression for others.

We will begin with the business opportunity, as it is seen from the perspective of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We will get to the oppression part a bit later from B’Tselem.

Alex Kane, writing in the alternative publication, Indypendent, sets the stage: “On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York. But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.”

Smart man, that Cuomo; he does business that helps his city, while he makes nice, very nice, with his voters and donors.

After Cuomo arrived in Israel, he was driven on a secure, well-maintained Israeli highway, to Jerusalem’s King David Hotel where he held a press conference to announce “the creation of the New York-Israel Commission, an initiative to strengthen the already-robust ties between Israel and the state with the largest number of Jews in the United States.”

Among its assignments, the commission “will focus on connecting New York law enforcement with Israeli security forces.”

An hour later, “the New York governor stood outside Jerusalem’s Old City police headquarters alongside Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, marveling at Israel’s ability to keep Jerusalem safe”.

Cuomo praised Israeli security forces for its use of technology as “something that we can learn from,” and also said that he wanted New York law enforcement to learn from Israel about combating “lone wolf” terror threats.

The New York Times offered its political rational for the trip:

“The Jewish community, that is still very important in New York electoral politics,” said Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at the State University at New Paltz, “and in the financing of them and national campaigns.” Professor Benjamin was referring to speculation surrounding Mr. Cuomo (left), whose name has come up as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020. 

Stand at a window in the King David Hotel, where Cuomo held his press conference, and look eastward. Out there is the Hinnom Valley, the Gehenna of the New Testament, which the ancients associated with fire, judgment, the Lake of Fire, eternal fire and Hell. The valley was also the place where earlier pagan groups practiced child sacrifice.

Also out there is East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territory Israel captured fifty years ago this week, now occupied land on which’s Israel’s vaunted security forces are testing  technology which it uses to keep “its people safe”.

Cuomo’s New York police department is just one of many American departments whose police officers have flown to Israel, usually, as Alex Kane writes “on the dime  of pro-Israel groups to tour the country and speak with Israeli security forces about how they keep their country safe”.

Israel has a world-wide reputation as a leader in utilizing Israeli-build weapons, and developing successful surveillance companies.  Security is “a core part of the Israeli economy”, exporting “billions of dollars worth of armaments and spy tools to virtually every region in the world”.

Why is Israel so esteemed for its security equipment and techniques?

Shir Hever, an Israeli researcher and author of the book The Political Economy of the Occu­pa­tion, knows why. He says: “All of the Israeli companies would immediately answer the question: We have actual experience, and we have tested these weapons on human beings.”

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the conflict in which Israel defeated Arab armies from surrounding states, and completed its original capture of Palestinian land by overrunning the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, now all known as the occupied Palestinian territories.

That 1967 war also added the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights to Israeli control. Israel has since withdrawn from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Israel has pretended for the past 50 years that its occupation was temporary, part of its false narrative. During those five decades Israel has built an occupation force of its army  (the Israeli Defense Force), border guards and police.

What matters to New York Governor Cuomo are Israel’s security skills. He gives no sign that he is aware that Israel’s security needs are self-inflicted. Palestinians living under occupation know Israel’s security proficiency was developed to imprison the Palestinian people.

For this to change, Israel itself will have to change. Politicians like Governor Cuomo answer largely to what voters want, or what he thinks they want. If Israelis themselves woke up to what the occupation is doing to the Palestinians and to Israel, they would have no problem persuading the American politicians that 50 years of occupation has led to disaster for the Jewish people.

One of the Jewish organizations in Israel that knows this and works to do something about it, is B’Tselem, ​t​he Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

​B’Tselem issued a statement on June 6, which describes how what happened 50 years ago on June 5, 1967, began the creation of a “reality” from Israel’s perspective. Its statement sums up the real-life occupation which Governor Cuomo managed to ignore in his eagerness to curry favor with his Jewish consistency.

This statement of current Palestinian reality, from B’Tselem, is addressed to the Israeli public:

​It is a reality in which a third and fourth generation of Palestinians don’t know what it’s like to live free; and a third and fourth generation of Israelis don’t know what it’s like not to be occupiers.

It is a reality in which Israel controls 13 million people in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but only eight million of them actually count or can take part in determining the future here. It is a reality that no matter how you tilt your head at it means that Israel cannot be called democratic.

How has the occupation managed to reach the 50-year mark?

Perhaps because we manage to convince ourselves that it’s all temporary: it’s just another “bout of fighting”, just another election campaign, just “until there’s a Palestinian partner”, and besides, the signing of a final status agreement is just around the corner.

But Israel’s governments have never considered the occupation temporary. For years and years, Israel has been acting as though the land – without the Palestinians living there – is ours forever, and is there for us to use as we please.

Perhaps it’s because the occupation doesn’t really affect us in our day-to-day lives as Israeli citizens: we created a law enforcement system that ensures that none of those responsible for the continued occupation or its attendant human rights violations will be held accountable.

We’ve also managed to amend the law so that we almost never have to pay out damages to any Palestinian harmed by our actions. Then, so that we can also feel that we’re completely in the right, we get a legal stamp of approval, mostly from the Supreme Court, greenlighting everything that happens under occupation: the land grab, roadblocks, home demolitions, a ten-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, to name but a few.

Or perhaps it’s because none of this stands in the way of continued widespread international support for Israel. This international context also plays a role in us not having to bear any costs for the occupation: the fact that there is no price to pay is the basis underlying the past fifty years.

B’Tselem was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members.

Its mission statement describes the work of B’Tselem this way: “It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.”

“The phenomenon of denial” applies as well, to Israel’s enablers in the U.S. This onerous occupation now enters its 51st year. Political leaders like the governor of New York deny the suffering of an imprisoned people. Instead, they laud the occupiers for their efficient, profitable, policing.

The picture at top of a manned-watch tower, and a Palestinian man and boy is from the Occupied Territories. It is by Oren Ziv from The picture of Governor Cuomo is by Kathy Willens, for the Associated Press.


Posted in Human Rights, Israel, Palestinians | 6 Comments

Hillary is Back

By James M. Wall

Hillary is back; the Hillary who ought to be in the White House instead of the man our archaic electoral system gave us November 8, 2016.

The Hillary Clinton who is back, relaxed and at ease, was interviewed for more than an hour on a California stage Wednesday, telling the world in clear understandable language, what she perceives to have happened in her 2016 election loss.

I report on this interview because I want citizens like my grand daughters and my great grand daughters, to look with justified pride at this woman who broke the glass ceiling as the first female nominee for president from a major political party, and who won the popular election by almost 2.9 million votes. 

She is back after taking a few months to reflect on the national train wreck which put Donald Trump in the White House.

The outcome of that train wreck, and the players who toyed with the mechanism of our constitutionally-mandated electoral system, will soon be examined through the courts and in the congress.

This process will hit max speed when former FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify June 8, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Over the weeks and months ahead, we will discover how Russian operatives recruited and manipulated American accomplices in a nefarious scheme to betray their country.

“In the best of all possible worlds”, the election would be nullified. The nation would start over.

But as the elder George Bush might say, “not gonna happen”. There is nothing currently available in our system to make it happen, certainly not with this current Republican crowd in control of all three branches of the government.

What should result next is that Russia’s American accomplices will be exposed for what they did. And Hillary, whom I have known since we first met in the living room of the Arkansas governor’s mansion decades ago, has explained just how she believes the dastardly deed was done.

Listen up, Pilgrims, to the story as she lived it.

Hillary Clinton was a special guest this week at Code 2017, an event sponsored by Recode at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, May 30-June 1.

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, co-founders of Recode, host an annual invitation-only Code Conference “to bring together a global community of the biggest names in the business, executive leaders and startups with bright futures for networking and in-depth conversations about the current and future impact of digital technology”.

After some opening banter that began a one hour-17 minute interview, with the former candidate, former Secretary of State, former Senator, and former First Lady, Clinton signaled it was time to get down to business.

Clinton utilized her decades of high-level political experience to speak the  language of her audience.

She began by describing the findings in a declassified report by seventeen agencies of the U.S. Intelligence community that was made public in early January.

They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election.

How did they conduct this “information war campaign”? Her response:

They did it through paid advertising we think, they did it through false news sites, they did it through these thousand agents, they did it through machine learning, which you know, kept spewing out this stuff over and over again. The algorithms that they developed. So that was the conclusion. . . .I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver?

Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?

Because the Russians historically in the last couple of decades and then increasingly, you know, are launching cyber attacks, and they are stealing vast amounts of information, and a lot of the information they’ve stolen they’ve used for internal purposes, to affect markets, to affect the intelligence services, etc.

So this is different because they went public, and they were conveying this weaponized information and the content of it. .  .  

The Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided. . . . by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.

Clinton offered an example of how coordination between the Russians and their American accomplices, worked. She pointed to the leak of the Hollywood Access tapes, which in earlier presidential elections. would have immediately ended the Trump campaign.

Within one hour of the tapes being leaked, the Russians — let’s say WikiLeaks, something — dumped the John Podesta emails. Now, if you’ve ever read the John Podesta emails, they are anodyne to boredom [laughter].”

John Podesta was campaign chair of the Hillary Clinton campaign. He is a long-term associate and close friend of the Clintons and was President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1998 until 2001.

Clinton describe the Podesta emails as “run-of-the-mill emails, especially run of the mill for a campaign”.

They were personal emails, which made them attractive to the media. Clinton speculates that the Podesta emails had been hacked and were being held for a propitious moment to release.

Since the Hollywood Access tapes, in which Trump bragged that he liked to “grab” female genitals (his word was harsher) as his form of greeting, had leaked, it was the right time for the Podesta tapes to surface.

Clinton explained how she saw what happened next:

Within one hour they dumped them, and then they began to weaponize them. And they began to have some of their allies within the internet world, like Infowars, take out pieces and begin to say the most outrageous, outlandish, absurd lies you could imagine.

Clinton described how an enemy could prepare for future developments: “They had to .  .  .  have a plan and they had to be given the go-ahead, saying, Okay, this could be the end of the Trump campaign, dump [the Podesta emails] now. And then let’s do everything we can to weaponize it.”

And we know it hurt us. Because as I explain in my book, you know, the Comey letter, which was, now we know, partly based on a false memo from the Russians. It was a classic piece of Russian disinformation, which Russians call kompromat [compromising material used to discredit rivals in politics or business], So, for whatever reason, and I speculate, but I can’t look inside the guy’s mind [Comey’s], you know, he dumps that on me on October 28th, and I immediately start falling.

But what was really interesting, since the mainstream media covered that, as I say like Pearl Harbor, front pages everywhere, huge type, etc. And all of the Trump people go around screaming, “Lock her up, lock her up,” and all of that.

At the same time, the biggest Google searches were not for Comey, because that information was just lying out there, it was for WikiLeaks. And so voters who are being targeted with all of this false information are genuinely trying to make up their minds.

The “lightly-edited” transcript of Clinton’s appearance at the Recode conference on May 31 is available here.

And there you have it, your homework to prepare for the summer-long–or longer–examination of how weaponized information in our digital age is targeted to gain media attention, create public distress, and above all, affect election results.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, US govermemt | 9 Comments

“For I was in prison and you visited me not’”


by James M. Wall

The full text of Matthew 25:42-43, condemns the sins of those who neither see, hear, nor care about those who suffer.

.  .  .  For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. (KJV)

Do not think for a single moment that Jesus was referring solely to a “brief, but helpful visit” to a prisoner’s cell. 

“Visit” in this context means attention must be paid and action must be taken. 

With absolute power in its hands, and only scattered opposition from outside, Israel is especially hard on Gaza families.

The picture above of children from those families, is by Joe Catron. It appeared in The Electronic Intifada, over a anger-inducing report by Catron, with the headline, “Children of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are barred from family visits”. 

Catron’s report opens with quotes from one of the children:

“I dream of my father,” eight-year-old Hamze Helles said in his family’s house in Gaza City’s al-Shajaiyeh neighborhood. “I miss him a lot, and am very eager to visit him. For five years, I have never seen him.

Hamze is one of two young sons of Majed Khalil Helles, a fighter in Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who was captured by Israeli forces on 8 August 2008 and sentenced by an Israeli military court to five years’ detention in Nafha prison.

Fourteen months before its military detained Helles, Israel imposed a comprehensive ban on family visits to Palestinian political prisoners from the Gaza Strip. Addameer, the prisoner advocacy organization, called the measure “part of [Israel’s] policy of treating the Gaza Strip as an enemy entity following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit one year prior.

The ban met wide criticism as an illegal act of collective punishment, Addameer said. “Israel’s policy has been condemned, among others, by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in its report on the 2008–2009 Israeli offensive.”

On Saturday, May 20, Marjorie Cohn, wrote in Truthout, that the prisoner hunger strike, which began on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17, will enter its 36th day on Monday. The strikers consume only salt water.

The 1500 who began the strike are “about a quarter of all Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel”.

The demands of the strikers include:

“increased visitation rights with humane treatment of family visitors; installation of a public telephone to communicate with families; and an end to medical negligence, solitary confinement and administrative detention”.

Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian activist who called for the hunger strike, made his case in a New York Times op-ed, which included this rationale:

Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.  . . .

Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence.

Barghouti added these damning statistics in his Times piece:

Approximately 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population has been imprisoned or detained by Israel at some point. Hundreds of the 6,500 Palestinians who are currently incarcerated are women, children, journalists and elected officials.

“There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members”.

In her Truthout report, Cohn writes that in one its rare public statements, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

Decried the “systematic suspension” by Israeli authorities of family visits for hunger strikers, and of permits for their families. Citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, the ICRC said Palestinians have a right to these visits, which can only be limited on a case-by-case basis for security reasons, not just for punitive or disciplinary purposes. .  .  .

“Family contact must be improved, not further restricted,” said Mr de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, referring to the systematic suspension by Israeli authorities of family visits for detainees on hunger strike, and of the permits for their families. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Palestinians are entitled to these visits, which can only be limited for security reasons, on a case by case basis, but never for strictly punitive or disciplinary purposes.

“The families are paying the price for this situation,” said Mr de Maio. More generally, Palestinians are detained in Israel, rather than within the occupied territory as required by the law of occupation. As a consequence, family members have less access to their detained relatives. They need special permits and have to undertake long trips to see their loved ones, with checks and waiting times when crossing terminals or at the prison.

Palestinian author, grandmother, and political leader Samia Khouri, posted her own witness to the hunger strike, under the title, Starving for Justice. She expresses a pained awareness of how little attention the world pays to the strike. Her posting, in full, is below:

“How would you feel if your son or daughter went on a hunger strike demanding justice for more than a month, and nobody bothered to call you or check on you and your beloved one?

The silence is so loud that our hearts bleed with those mothers who are gathering daily in various areas including the Red Cross offices in the Palestinian Territories. Yet there is no reaction or action from the Israeli authorities or the international community to respond to their demands for basic rights as political prisoners, in accordance to the Geneva Convention.

So many of those political prisoners have been under administrative detention without any charge or trial.

In fact the only action taken was to move most of those prisoners to prisons near hospitals so that they can be hospitalised if need be or force-fed without any intention of starting a dialogue with them. How long will Israel continue to ignore the basic demands of those prisoners, and continue to get away with treating them with contempt void of any human dignity. Do they need to die before anybody cries out Enough is Enough?”

The focus this week has been on the visit of Mr. Trump to the region. And Israel claimed a couple of days ago that it is introducing easier measures for the Palestinians. Is this a gimmick? Or is the occupation authority trying to pull wool over the eyes of the American administration and the international community? How about introducing easier measures for those prisoners, and starting a dialogue with them?

Please, we appeal to you, our friends, to raise your voice before it is too late to save the lives of those young men and women incarcerated for no other reason than for their legitimate right to resist an illegal occupation.”

As President Trump travels through the region, and the hunger strikers suffer each day, our U. S. Congress should hear from us, not in anger, but in a demand for justice. 

Tell your member of Congress to read this basic request for fairness and justice from the strikers:

“increased visitation rights with humane treatment of family visitors; installation of a public telephone to communicate with families; and an end to medical negligence, solitary confinement and administrative detention”.

Then ask them to ask someone under the age of ten if those requests are fair and just. And don’t tell them, “its complicated”. Those requests are not complicated. Any ten-year-old knows that. 

Posted in Human Rights, Israel, Palestinians, The Human Condition | 7 Comments

On Nakba 69, Israel Kills a Palestinian Fisherman

by James M. Wall

His name is Muhammad Majid Bakr. He was a 23-year-old Palestinian fisherman killed by an Israeli rifleman patrolling on a naval boat in the Gaza Sea.

When he was shot, Muhammad Majid Bakr (left) was fishing at 8:30, Monday morning, 69 years since the day the Nakba began. 

Muhammad was shot in the chest when he and his brother Umran Majid Bakr, were in their small fishing boat in the waters of the Gaza Sea.

Bleeding profusely, Muhammad was taken to an Israeli hospital where he died, the latest Palestinian victim whose death came, Israeli officials claim, because his boat had “deviated from the designated fishing zone”.

The Bakr brothers had entered the Gaza Sea the morning of the day Muhammed died, to fish for food to eat, to share, perhaps to sell.

They had traveled from their home in al-Shati, refugees in their own land, a land which has suffered under colonial occupation since the army of a newly-formed state of Israel began its invasion of Palestine on May 15, 1948, 69 years ago.

Al-Shati is now a city with a population in excess of 80,000. It was created in 1948 as a refugee camp for about 23,000 Palestinians, all of whom had been driven from their homes in the cities of Jaffa, Lod and Beersheba. 

Palestinians have designated May 15 as the Day of the Nakba, an Arabic word for catastrophe. Palestinians in Israel and the current state of Palestine, marked Nakba 69 with rallies, marches and candlelight vigils.

Thousands of Palestinians in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem marched in the streets carrying Palestinian flags and keys symbolic of the “right of return” for refugees who lost their homes during the Nakba.

Israel continues to make it difficult for Palestinians to commemorate Nakba. It has passed a Nakba law” that “authorises Israel’s finance minister to revoke funding from institutions that reject Israel’s character as a ‘Jewish state’ or mark Israel’s ‘Independence Day’ as a day of mourning”.

Nakba Day 69 is also the 29th day of the hunger strike of 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, a hunger strike designed to draw world attention to the injustice of Israel’s occupation. The strike has been largely ignored by American media.

Outside the Zionist iron dome that smothers American culture, scattered attention is paid to the occupation. You American readers, raise your hand if your local church or synagogue remembered the suffering of the hunger strikers in their prayers this weekend. Anyone? Didn’t think so.

The capital city of Ireland did more than offer prayers. 

Last month, a Dublin City Council sub-committee passed a motion to fly the Palestinian flag over Dublin’s City Hall.

The action was applauded by BADIL, a Palestinian legal rights NGO. Underlining the importance of this symbolic act of solidarity to the Palestinian people, BADIL quoted Tamir, a 13-year-old child from the Palestinian Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem as saying:

“Wow… imagine what would happen if all people around the world become like Irish people… We will get our freedom”.

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism. In a Mondoweiss posting this week, “On Nakba Day I want the right to be angry“, Elia thinks of Nakba 69 and other milestones of 2017:

I am angry at the fact that this is a year of milestones, each adding to the previous one’s devastation, with none celebrating a major victory.  2017 marks one hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 69 years since al-Nakba, 50 years since al-Naksa.  And yet for many, it is only that most recent blow, ‘the occupation,’ that registers as wrong, as if imperialism, settler-colonialism and genocide were perfectly acceptable.  2017 marks 50 years of al-Naksa, which is Arabic for ‘the setback,’ an assertion of previous harm.

That harm continues with Israel’s continuing “imperialism, settler-colonialism and genocide”.

Muhammad Majid Bakr died because, Israel claims, his fishing boat “deviated from the designated fishing zone”. Who determines the size of that zone? The answer starts with the Oslo Accords, one of those international depraved steps the great powers of the West took to enable Israel to expand its colonial state into absolute control of Palestine.

In their 2003 book, Beyond Intifada: Narratives of Freedom Fighters in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian author Taher Shriteh, and two Israeli authors, Haim and Rivca Gordon, examined the history of Israel’s “designated fishing zones”.

Like every other purely arbitrary imposition Israel establishes over Palestinians, the “designated fishing zones” shift through Israel’s whims. And, the zones are always imposed in the name of that most precious tool in Israel’s control system, “the security of the Israeli people”.

Such an absurdity and such a deprivation of Palestinian freedom, led to the death of Muhammad Majid Bakr. 

In the picture above from Mondoweiss, the granddaughter of 97-year-old Abdul Hadi Qudeh, holds keys that belongs to a house his family were forced to leave after the establishment of Israel in 1948. His granddaughter posed for the photograph in her grandfather’s field ahead of Nakba Day in Khan Younis in Gaza, May 14, 2014. (Photo: Mohammed Talatene/ APA Images).

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Middle East | 5 Comments

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend. . . !”

by James M. Wall

In the Prologue (below) to Shakespeare’s Henry VThe Chorus speaks:

         O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Has there been a moment in recent history like the “swelling scene” which struck with such force May 9?

The headlines shouted, “Trump Fires FBI Director”.

The Chorus speaks of France and Henry’s England. We speak here of the American states, red and blue. We speak of Rachel, Chris and Lawrence against the Mighty Fox. We speak of the Times and the Post. We speak of The Nation confronting Breitbart and Conway.

And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls.

Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:

The chorus knows you can’t re-enact a battle within a “cockpit” (theater), and so he calls  upon us to rely on imagination. 

. . . can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?”

We seek our muse here among the experienced, the respected, and the learned.

Muse the First, the Editorial Board of the New York Times:

By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value.

Muse the Second, the more conservative Chicago Tribune editorial board:

President Donald Trump took office with half of Americans expecting greatness and the other half gravely suspicious of the presidency that would unfold. Generously feeding that suspicion: an FBI investigation of Trump’s moot presidential campaign. That probe is ongoing, but James Comey will not be the FBI director who completes it. And whatever its conclusions, droves of citizens will see them as dubious. All because on Tuesday the president fired Comey — a drastic, legal but highly problematic action.

No matter the justification from the White House, this looks like a politically motivated hatchet job, designed to purge the investigation of the official who ran it and owned it.

Muse the Third, David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP Group:

We have all the makings of a banana republic. But worse, we are showing the telltale signs of a failing state. Our government has ceased to function. Party politics and gross self-interest has rendered the majority party oblivious to its responsibilities to its constituents and the Constitution of the United States.

On a daily basis, Republicans watch their leader violate not only the traditions and standards of the high office he occupies, but through inaction they enable him to personally profit from the presidency, promote policies that benefit his cronies and his class to the detriment of the majority of the American people, and serially attack the principles on which the country was founded — from freedom of religion to the separation of powers.

Muse the Fourth: Dan Rather, veteran CBS broadcaster, now retired, who wrote on his Facebook page,

Future generations may mark today as one of the truly dark days in American history, a history that may soon take an even more ominous turn.

President Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey is a matter that should deeply concern every American, regardless of party, partisan politics or ideological leanings.

The independence of our law enforcement is at the bedrock of our democracy. That independence, already grievously shaken under the brief tenure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is now shattered by uncertainty.

The firing of an FBI Director is always a very serious matter in normal times. But these times aren’t normal. Far from it. The Bureau is engaged in one of the most important and perilous investigations of this or any other presidency—the investigation of connections between the Trump election campaign and the Russian government.

Muse the Fifth: Garrison Keillor, the long-time NPR star now a syndicated columnist, wrote shortly before what he anticipated as the “next shoe to drop”, 

What is so remarkable this spring, as we all wait for the next shoe to drop, is how completely the Republican virtues we grew up admiring — caution, respect for history, attention to the fine print — have been thrown to the winds and the party has united behind an aging New York playboy with no fixed principles except an insatiable urge to be on the front page every single day including weekends and holidays.

Muse the Sixth: Jay Michaelson, writing in the New York-based Jewish Forward.

It’s clear what Donald Trump got rid of in his “midnight massacre” firing of FBI Director James Comey: an investigation into his ties to Russia that is somewhere between pesky and a prelude to impeachment.

Less well observed is what he gained: the weaponization of the FBI, soon to be headed by a Trump loyalist, which will further cement the power of the president to investigate enemies, settle scores, and replace the truth with alternative facts.

At what point, one wonders, will some Trump supporters jump ship? We should force them to say so now, before we normalize, bit by bit, the erosion of our democracy and societal norms. .  .

The Jewish tradition is quite familiar with tyrants, and quite suspicious of them. From Pharoah to Ahasuerus to Nero to Hitler and Stalin, we have suffered under the yoke of authoritarians unrestrained by law.

Moreover, the notion that no one is above the law is perhaps the single greatest contribution of the Jewish civilization to the human race. No one: not a prophet nor a king nor a judge nor a wealthy man.

We close our journey with our chosen muses by asking, how might this weaponization proceed?

One model may be found in Israel where at times the weapon of choice is the computer. If you do not remember Tom Cruise in the 2002 movie, Minority Report, this report from Israel’s Ha’aretz should jog your memory:

Channel 10 reported earlier this month that the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service had arrested 400 Palestinians who were seen as lone-wolf terrorists. They were “arrested before they set out to carry out terror attacks.” The suspects were identified through the use of a computerized program that analyzed social media posts.The station’s military correspondent, Or Heller, attributed the drop in the number of terrorist attacks to the cyberprogram.

 Stephen Spielberg’s 2002 film, Minority Report, was based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. In the film, Tom Cruise is John Anderton, chief of the Department of Pre-Crime in the District of Columbia, where there has not been a murder in six years.

The film is set in the year 2054.  “Anderton’s job is to preside over an operation controlling three ‘Pre-Cogs,’ precognitive humans who drift in a flotation tank, their brain waves tapped by computers. They’re able to pick up thoughts of premeditated murders and warn the cops, who swoop down and arrest the would-be perpetrators before the killings can take place” (Roger Ebert).

What happens in Israel does not stay in Israel. Think American border walls, religious and ethnic border restrictions, and airport security procedures. Then remember to ask if your local police chief has had his or her way paid to study security procedures in Israel.

Shakespeare’s Chorus anticipates what is to come with the warlike Harry: 

Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment.

Posted in -Movies and politics, Donald Trump, Israel, Media, Middle East, Palestinians, War | 2 Comments