The Jordanian Ambassador to the State of Israel was recently denied entry to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – the third-holiest site in Islam. This is an incident that is so severe and so dangerous that not only the Jordanian government but the entire Arab and Muslim world – as well as the West – should have reprimanded Israel severely. The governments of Israel and Jordan decided to downplay this incident, but there must be no mistake; it marks a dangerous new development for the Holy Sanctuary, or Haram Al-Sharif, where the mosque sits. With this “incident,” Israel – and particularly the new czar of national security – the racist thug turned minister – Itamar Ben-Gvir is telling the Arab and Muslim world, “there’s a new sheriff in town.” Preventing the Jordanian Ambassador from entering the Al-Aqsa compound was unacceptable on several levels.
A one-day general strike was declared on Thursday in the occupied West Bank in mourning for the Palestinians who were killed during the brutal Israel aggression on the city of Jenin and camp this morning, the official news agency WAFA reported. The death toll of the Israeli army raid into the northern occupied West Bank city of Jenin rose to nine and the number of wounded to 20, according to the Health Ministry. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that nine Palestinians were killed by Israeli army gunfire and 20 others were wounded, including four seriously wounded, during the violent raid into the city and neighboring refugee camp. The fatalities included an elderly woman, identified as Magda Obaid, 60. Two of the slain youths were identified as Saeb Issam Mahmoud Izreiqi, 24, and Izzidin Yassin Salahat, 26.
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Monday, January 23, near Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank to oppose the proposed Israeli plan to forcefully displace the residents by demolishing their village. The protesters gathered following the calls for demolition issued by ultra right-wing Itamar Ben-Gvir, interior minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. It was also rumored that Ben-Gvir would be visiting Khan al-Ahmar along with his cabinet colleague and settler leader Bezalel Smotrich. Maarouf Rifai, legal advisor to Palestinian Authority (PA), who participated in the protests, told Al Jazeera that Khan al-Ahmar “is Palestinian land. It is private Palestinian land. There is no excuse for the Israeli government, other than to develop the ‘Greater Jerusalem’ plan and to link the settlements surrounding East Jerusalem in order to clear this area from Palestinian Arabs.” He asserted that PA will not let Khan al-Ahmar be demolished.
There is a political crisis in Israel—particularly for Palestinians, minorities and anyone who believes in secular democracy. But US press coverage has had trouble recognizing that the new government of Benjamin Netanyahu is anything other than business as usual. The recent Israeli elections thrust Netanyahu back into power and the prime ministry (Reuters, 12/28/22), prompting major protests that called his new government a “coup d’etat” and urged a “preventative strike against dictatorship” (Jerusalem Post, 1/7/23; i24, 1/8/23). Middle East observers are alarmed, not just at Netanyahu’s own military hawkishness, but the fact that his ruling coalition includes religious and nationalist fringe elements, including followers of the late Meir Kahane, who advocated for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel (New York Times, 11/6/90). While Israeli politics have been on a rightward trajectory for two decades, the most recent election has put the country into a dark zone of outright illiberalism that almost seems irreversible.
Palestine Action Scotland have shut down the Edinburgh factory of Leonardo UK, occupying the roof of the site forcing its closure and preventing the operations of a company deeply complicit in the brutalisation and murder of Palestinians. At 5:00am this morning, four activists entered the site, despite the high security and double fence, and have begun dismantling the site – taking apart electronic equipment, air conditioning systems, windows, while covering premises in trademark red paint, symbolising the blood spilt with Leonardo weapons. The activists intend to maintain the occupation for as long as possible at the factory of Leonardo UK, 2 Crewe Road North, Edinburgh EH5 2XS, to cause maximum disruption against the company which supplies a range of military equipment and targeting systems for Israel’s occupation forces.
One of the most egregious acts was to enforce a ban on carrying Palestinian flags in public, through a directive issued by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. The Palestinian flag has long been recognized as a symbol of resistance to the Israeli occupation. Now people arrested for carrying the flag under the ban can be sentenced to up to a year in prison. Ben-Gvir has ordered police to tear down Palestinian flags wherever they are found in public. Over 20,000 activists joined forces in a “Together against fascism and apartheid” protest in Tel Aviv Jan. 7. A week later on Jan. 14, over 100,000 protesters turned out in Tel Aviv and two other cities, again defying the ban on flags and denouncing Netanyahu’s government as “criminal.” Protesters challenged “reforms” proposed by the ultraright-wing government; these are meant to make it easier for parliament to annul Israeli Supreme Court rulings, including those curtailing West Bank Zionist settlement expansion.
In December, the Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq, released a report accusing major corporations of maintaining Israel’s water apartheid on Palestinians living in the occupied territories. According to Al-Haq, businesses are instrumental in helping Israel restrict water access to Palestinians and destroy Palestinian water infrastructure. Additionally, foreign companies profit from Israel’s system of water discrimination. Al-Haq’s paper named both Israeli and international companies as: Complicit in the violation of the Palestinian right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources, as well as the war crime of pillage and inhumane acts of expropriation of natural resources amounting to the crime of apartheid.” The report detailed the actions of Israeli water companies Mekorot and Hagihon but also included outside firms TAHAL Group International B.V., Hyundai, Caterpillar Inc., JC Bamford Excavators Ltd. (JCB), and Volvo Car Group.
Two years ago, the outgoing U.S. administration of Donald Trump did some bureaucratic realigning of what countries fall under which military command groups. Israel, which had been part of the EUCOM (European Command) group was transferred to CENTCOM (Central Command), which encompasses the Middle East and some of South Asia. It was the sort of boring detail that doesn’t generate headlines, and many who do hear about it yawn and move on quickly. But when it was announced on January 15, 2021, it was celebrated by pro-Israel groups in the United States and by Israeli officials.
While all eyes are currently and justifiably on the incoming, monstrous Israeli government, there are a few leftovers from the previous administration that are worth mentioning. The previous Israeli government is seen by many people as a kinder, gentler and more reasonable government than the one in place right now. However, while it is true that the current government is more frightening than anything we have seen the Zionists produce until now, we would do well to look at the policies enacted by that previous government so that we refrain from the mistake of seeing any Zionist government as reasonable or favorable in any way. While the numbers of Israeli atrocities and crimes are far too many to count, from time to time we come across something that stands out. This time it is the decision by Israel’s outgoing Minister of Interior to deny asylum to a woman who, if she returns to her native Sierra Leone, will have to undergo female genital mutilation.
A historic United Nations vote on December 31 called on the ICJ to look at the Israeli Occupation in terms of legal consequences, the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the responsibility of all UN Member States in bringing the protracted Israeli Occupation to an end. A special emphasis will be placed on the “demographic composition, character and status” of Occupied Jerusalem. The last time the ICJ was asked to offer a legal opinion on the matter was in 2004. However, back then, the opinion was largely centered around the “legal consequences arising from the construction of the (Israeli Apartheid) wall.” While it is true that the ICJ concluded that the totality of the Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are unlawful under international law – the Fourth Geneva Convention, the relevant provision of the earlier Hague Regulations and, of course, the numerous UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions – this time around the ICJ is offering its view on Israel’s attempt at making what is meant to be a temporary military Occupation, a permanent one.
Two trials are starting this week, of people who took direct action against Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. Elbit supplies the majority of the drones that the Israeli military use to murder Palestinians. Last year The Canary wrote: Elbit manufactures around 85% of Israel’s drones which have been used to massacre Palestinians in Gaza.For example – during Israel’s 51 day attack on Gaza in 2014 – Israeli drones killed 840 Palestinians. Drones were also used extensively in Israel’s 11 day attack on Gaza in 2021. People have long tried to push the company out of the UK. And, the campaign to shut down Israeli arms companies operating in the UK stepped up after Palestine Action launched in 2020. nit This week the case of two people who blocked the doorway of Elbit’s London office is underway. Their protest was one of a series of disruptive actions that eventually contributed to the closure of Elbit’s London HQ.
Protesters gathered in Habima Square in central Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the government's plan to reduce the powers of the judiciary and policies of far-right and ultra-religious government partners. Demonstrators also reacted to officials, including Netanyahu, one of the government's partners known for his far-right and racist policies, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Between 8,000 and 10,000 people participated in the demonstration, which also included Israeli lawmakers, according to media reports. In the square, demonstrators holding banners that read, "Crime Minister," with a picture of Netanyahu, chanted: "Israel wants equality", "Netanyahu is dangerous, corrupt and racist" and "Ben-Gvir and Smotritch are a disaster."
Even before the new Israeli government was officially sworn in on December 29, angry reactions began emerging, not only among Palestinians and other Middle Eastern governments but also among Israel’s historic allies in the West. As early as November 2, top US officials conveyed to Axios that the Joe Biden Administration is “unlikely to engage with Jewish supremacist politician, Itamar Ben-Gvir.” In fact, the US government’s apprehensions surpassed Ben-Gvir, who was convicted by Israel’s own court in 2007 for supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism. US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reportedly “hinted” that the US government would also boycott “other right-wing extremists” in Netanyahu’s government.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in for his sixth term as prime minister of Israel. While his prior tenures resulted in the commission of war crimes against the Palestinian people, Netanyahu’s new regime promises to be the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history. Netanyahu won reelection despite facing criminal charges for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In order to secure a sixth term, Netanyahu made a devil’s bargain with the extreme right-wing religious elements in Israel. Aside from Netanyahu’s largely secular Likud Party, all other parties in his new coalition are religious, with two of them representing ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, or Haredim.
The Russia-Ukraine war starting in February, pressured many political entities, including Palestinians, to take sides or, at least, to declare a position. Though the Palestinian Authority (PA) and various Palestinian political parties insisted on their neutrality, Russia’s deviation from the US-led political paradigm in the Middle East opened up new margins for Palestinians to explore. On May 4, a delegation of Hamas leaders met Russian officials in Moscow, and a few months later, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas defied Washington by holding a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Astana, Kazakhstan. Despite US anger at Abbas, Washington could do little to retaliate against the Palestinian leadership, considering the delicate geopolitical balances in the Middle East and around the world.