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Jews from around the world: STOP THE KILLING — END THE OCCUPATION

Members of Jewish communities around the world are horrified by the violence that sweep the streets of Palestine and Israel. And so they call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. Justice and equality will bring true peace to the people of Palestine and Israel, they say.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

I signed their petition, and so can you by clicking here.

Why is it so important to endorse this kind of statement in public?

In doing so, you side not with a nationality or with a religion at the cost of others, but with the values of justice, equality and a common humanity. It gives us the chance to transcend boundaries and to strengthen the good. Your signature inspires others who still hesitate. It is really a small step for each individual, but the collective value is enormous.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took these photos on 9 August 2014 when Muslims, Christians, Jews and many others marched through the streets of Cape Town to protest against the War on Gaza.

Here is the full statement that asks for our public endorsement:

STOP THE KILLING – END THE OCCUPATION

As members of Jewish communities around the world, we are horrified by the violence that is sweeping the streets of Palestine/Israel, costing the lives of over 30 people, both Palestinians and Israelis in the past two weeks alone.

A two year old girl in Gaza was the youngest of four Palestinian children who were killed in the past two weeks. A 13 year-old Israeli boy is in critical condition after being stabbed nearly a dozen times. Over a thousand people were injured in the same period.

Fear has completely taken over the streets of Jerusalem, the center of this violence. Israelis shooting Palestinian protesters in and around East Jerusalem. Palestinians stabbing and shooting Israeli civilians and policemen in the middle of the streets. Israeli forces killing Palestinian suspects when they are clearly not a threat and without trial. Palestinians throwing stones at passing cars. Israeli mobs beating up Palestinians or calling on police to shoot them. Humiliating strip searches of Palestinians in the streets – all of these have become a daily occurrence in the city in which we are raised to pray for peace, as well as other places in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

While violence is visible on the streets, it is also occupying people’s minds and hearts. Fear is bringing out the worst of people, and the demand for more blood to be shed, as if this will repair the damage done. Fear and racist rhetoric are escalating the situation.

The Israeli government is once again responding in a militarised way: there have been hundreds of arrests; Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound has been limited; parts of the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem have been closed to Palestinians; open-fire regulations have been changed to allow the use of sniper fire against children; a minimum sentence for stone throwing has been introduced, including for over 150 children arrested in East Jerusalem alone in the past few weeks; and now there are talks of enforcing a curfew, or even a closure, of East Jerusalem.

All these constitute collective punishment on the entire population of East Jerusalem with over 300,000 people. In the past, these measures have proven themselves ineffective at ending violence. Decades of dispossession, occupation and discrimination are the main reasons for Palestinian resistance. Further Israeli military repression and ongoing occupation and siege will never end the Palestinian desire for freedom nor will it address the root causes of violence. Indeed, the current actions by the Israeli government and army are likely to create further violence, destruction, and the entrenchment of division. Only justice and equality for all will bring peace and quiet to the residents of Israel and Palestine.

As a group of Jews from around the world we believe that immediate change needs to come from the Israeli government and Israeli people. It is incumbent on all Jews around the world to pressure the Israeli government – and those who follow and support its words and deeds – to change its approach. The military crackdown must cease immediately, Palestinians must be allowed complete freedom of movement. It is also a responsibility of Jewish people worldwide to obligate the countries in which we live to immediately cease the economic and military support of the ongoing Israeli occupation in Palestine and siege of Gaza.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

Sign the petition to send a strong message to Israel to end the occupation of Palestine.

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Palestinian child’s death part of a criminal, terrorist pattern

For Jewish Israeli settlers to kill an 18 month old baby is not an accident or an ad hoc incident. It is part of a criminal pattern. When I used to work in the villages near Nablus settlers routinely attacked villagers’ homes with Molotov cocktails at night.

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family’s house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

On 30 July 2015 settlers attacked a village near Nablus. They threw Molotov cocktails to the villagers’ houses while they were asleep. Ali Dawabsheh was burned to death and three family members sustained severe burns. The baby’s mother Reham together with a four year old brother, Ahmad, were burned on 90 percent of their bodies. The father Sa’ad Dawabsha suffered 70% burn injuries.

The Jewish author of an article in The Times of Israel (31 July 2015) says that this killing will not be the last, for no-one is stopping these criminals. He describes yet another incident that he personally witnessed:

I tried to go back out and shout at the stone-throwers to stop, but they kept on throwing stones at us too. All this time, the flames were spreading.

Some of the Jewish spectators were advising the stone-throwers where to target the trapped Palestinians. They were not trying to halt the attack.

It took 20 minutes for Israeli security forces to reach the house and extricate us all.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody was ever prosecuted over this incident.

It was a narrow escape from death (to the dismay, I might add, of some people who posted comments on my article at the time indicating regret that it had ended without loss of life). The attack early Friday morning ended very differently.

We are not talking here about a tiny group of wild, deranged extremists. Rather, Jewish terrorists who heed no law, and feel empowered to do as they wish.

They are confident that the Israeli authorities will not lay hands on them. And so far, they’ve been proven right.

And no, this has nothing to do with any political stance. Early Friday morning, a family was targeted for no reason. This is a foul crime, and is regarded as a foul crime by the most of the Jewish settler population. But the silent majority has allowed these despicable people to grow and flourish. And the state has demonstrated untenable tolerance and turned a blind eye, time after time.

And this won’t be the last time that Jewish terrorists seek to murder Palestinians simply for being Palestinians.

Mourners carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set to fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015.  REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Mourners carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family’s house was set to fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Indeed, silence screams complicity. The Jewish Israeli society at large needs to speak up against these and other evils.

The Palestinian Embassy in South Africa together with the human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa strongly condemns the extremist attack. They also say it is no isolated incident:

In recent months there has been increasing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian churches, mosques and other sites of worship. In June of this year the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fish near the Sea of Galilee in Palestine-Israel was attacked by 16 Israeli Settlers. The church is on the site Christians believe Jesus Christ performed the biblical miracle of feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish (click here). Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian sites of worship are now extending to Palestinian civilian homes, at their most vulnerable moments, at night, in their sleep.

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We concur with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation that yesterday’s attacks “is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to [Israeli] settler terrorism”

The Israelis who were responsible for the death of Ali Saad Dawabsha and attack on the family must be brought to justice and face the fullest might of the law. In addition, the Israeli government must be held accountable for the impunity that is provided to Israeli settlers who carry out these gruesome attacks on the Palestinian people.

We must hold both the Israeli settlers and Israeli government accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people through all legal means available including taking Israel to the International Criminal Court and through isolation methods similar to how Apartheid South Africa was held accountable in the 1980s for its attacks on the South African people.

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Not only the people from Nablus and the surrounding villages suffer. Children, women and men – all of them civilians – are routinely injured and killed in the West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem. The United Nations statistics say it all.

Here are some examples of similar terrorist acts that I recorded when I monitored human rights violations in the villages near Nablus in 2011:

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Naja is from the village of Asira near Nablus. The Jewish settlement of Yitzhar is nearby. Her house is routinely attacked by settlers and their Molotov cocktails. Her children cannot play outside and their behaviour show signs of severe stress.

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This girl and her family in Burin suffer from weekly attacks. They too have nothing to defend themselves with other than the stones they pick up in the fields.

 

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These children are from Yanoun where my team and I were based. They need constant, 24/7 protection by internationals from settlers from the nearby settlement Itamar.

It sickens me. What kind of psyche kills a child? Again and again? What kind of government builds more and more homes to house its citizens illegally in Palestine where they create havoc? In the same week Israeli Prime Minister gave the nod for new settler homes – supposedly under pressure of right-wing Jews.

It is a dark moment for humanity. Let us continue to advocate for the dignity of all. Our voice is gaining momentum.

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Gaza as seen by an Israeli soldier and street artist Banksy

A revealing interview

Everyone should hear how a former IDF soldier explains the similarities of what his grandmother experienced in Auschwitz and why he has to speak out against Israel and the USA. Eran Efrati is a former IDF soldier who recounts his experience, assignments and killing protocols along with what he witnessed as a soldier to Aby Martin:

Abby-MartinClick here for the YouTube interview.

 

When Banksy sneaked into Gaza

It is not the first time that Banksy, a street artist revered by millions for his socio-political commentary on the walls of the world, has been to the occupied Palestinian territories. His graffiti are on the segregation wall in Bethlehem and in Ramallah, and now also on the ruins of Gaza:

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This Hurts

Five houses were demolished, yet only the issue of the flattened taboun bread oven serves before the Israeli court. A very dear friend of mine is in the West Bank of Palestine for the third time. To be more specific, she is in the South Hebron Hills. Read her riveting, shocking account of what happened to the community she knows so well.

A Mosaic For Peace

Last week I wrote about my young friend living in a rural village whose home was at risk of demolition.  I deliberately did not include her name or the location of her village so as not to jeopardize the slim hope they held that this demolition could be avoided.

Yesterday, the villagers received word from their lawyers that they had exhausted all legal means to save the 4  homes in the village that were at greatest risk. The only option open to them was to submit a fee of 1000 NIS per house (approximately $350 $Cdn) before Thursday of this week to apply for mercy from a judge.  The villagers were unable to pay the fee.  Today, we were thinking about how we could help them raise this money when we received word that the Israeli military and bulldozers had arrived in their South Hebron Hills village of Um al…

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Dit gaan alles oor die grond

Sou ’n mens die algehele duur van die Joodse koninkryke as onafhanklik beskou, het die Jode vir ’n totaal van net 414 jaar regeer.

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Geen gesprek oor die konflik in Palestina is sinvol sonder om die storie in die Ou Testament te gaan haal nie, skryf Dr. Chris Jones, ‘n teoloog by Stellenbosch Universiteit:

Aan wie behoort Palestina? Wie het die grootste historiese aanspraak op die grondgebied? Waarom is dit so moeilik om die konflik tussen ¬Israel en die Palestyne te besleg?

Om die dekades lange konflik in die Midde-Ooste beter te verstaan, help dit om die historiese wortels wat hiertoe aanleiding gegee het ook beter te verstaan.

In die proses is dit ook nodig om baie van die aanvaarde dogma oor byvoorbeeld die Sionistiese beweging en hul historiese aanspraak op Palestynse grondgebied in heroënskou te neem.

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Die grond waarop die Palestyne vir meer as 1 000 jaar gewoon het, is met die totstandkoming van die Israelse staat meestal met geweld en sonder hul instemming van hulle afgeneem.

Palestinian loss of land 1946-2005

Van die begin af was dit die Sioniste se doelwit om die nie-Joodse Palestyne van hul grond te vervreem.

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Sionisme was egter op ’n foutiewe kolonialistiese wêreldbeskouing gegrond waarin daar niks gevoel is vir die regte van inheemse mense nie.

Tussen 3 000 en 1 100 v.C. het die Kanaäniete op die grond gewoon wat vandag as Israel, die Wesoewer, Libanon en die grootste dele van Sirië en Jordanië bekend staan. Die Hebreërs het teen ongeveer 1 800 v.C. hierheen migreer.

Volgens opgrawings was Jerusalem teen hierdie tyd reeds ’n gevestigde stad. ’n Baie gesofistikeerde waterstelsel wat in daardie stadium moontlik agt eeue oud kon wees, getuig hiervan.

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Die Joodse koninkryke was slegs een van baie tydperke in antieke Palestina. Die uitgebreide koninkryke van Dawid en Salomo waarop die Sioniste hul grondeise baseer, het in totaal net 73 jaar geduur.

En sou ’n mens die algehele duur van die Joodse koninkryke – vandat Dawid Kanaän in 1 000 v.C. verower het tot die uitwissing van Juda in 586 v.C. – as onafhanklik beskou, het die Jode vir ’n totaal van (net) 414 jaar regeer.

Palestina, die bakermat van die Christendom, het in die 7de eeu reeds ’n oorheersend Arabiese land geword. In 1516 word Palestina ’n provinsie van die Ottomaanse Ryk, maar dit was steeds nie mínder Arabies nie.

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Sedert 1882 het Joodse koloniste in Palestina begin vestig, maar tot en met die lente van 1948 toe Israel as staat gevestig is, was Arabiere verreweg in die meerderheid. Daar was egter steeds ook afstammelinge van die Semiete – die oorspronklike inwoners van die landstreek – wat Christene, Jode, of Moslems was.

In 1858 kom die Ottoman-grondkode van krag wat vereis dat landbougrond in die naam van individuele eienaars geregistreer word. Vir die eerste keer kon ’n landbewoner ontneem word van sy reg om op grond te bly, dit te bewerk en oor te dra aan ’n volgende geslag. Voorheen was hierdie regte onvervreembaar. Hierdie kode het dikwels gemeenskapsregte op eiendom geïgnoreer.

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Ná die val van die Ottomaanse Ryk en die Eerste Wêreldoorlog word Palestina ’n Britse mandaatgebied.

Die Balfour-deklarasie van November 1917 wat deur die Britse regering uitgevaardig is, het ’n Joodse tuisland in Palestina belowe. Dit beteken ’n Europese krag het ’n besluit geneem oor ’n nie¬Europese gebied sonder inagneming van die teenwoordigheid en wense van die grootste meerderheid inwoners van daardie gebied, die Palestyne.

Van 1936 tot 1939 het die Palestyne in opstand gekom, maar is met Britse mag onderdruk.

In 1947 toe die Verenigde Nasies se partisieplan aangekondig is, het dit grond wat onwettig deur Jode bekom en besit is, amptelik aan hulle toegeken.

Die destydse Sioniste-leier David BenGurion was uiters ongelukkig hieroor, want hy wou nog méér grond hê as wat deur die VN bepaal is – ten koste van die Palestyne, natuurlik.

Teen hierdie tyd was Amerika een van die mees aggressiewe voorstaanders van partisie. Die Verenigde Nasies het met die partisieplan een van hul eie kernbeginsels, naamlik dié van die reg tot selfbeskikking vir álle mense, geweld aangedoen.

In Desember 1947 het Brittanje aangekondig hy gaan op 15 Mei 1948 uit Palestina onttrek. Palestyne in Jerusalem en Jaffa het toe ’n protes teen die partisie uitgeroep en gevegte het feitlik onmiddellik in die strate van Jerusalem uitgebreek. In April 1948 was agt uit die 13 groot Sionistiese militêre aanvalle gemik op Palestyne in die gebied wat aan die Arabiese staat toegeken was.

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Met hul sterk militêre mag het die Europese Jode teen 15 Mei 1948 die meeste Arabiese stede in Palestina ingeneem. In teenstelling hiermee het die Palestyne nie beslag gelê op een van die gebiede wat deur partisie vir die Joodse staat gereserveer was nie.

Ná 15 Mei 1948 het die Arabiere toegetree tot die stryd, maar dit was die tweede fase van die oorlog – in reaksie op die massamoorde, uitsettings en onteiening wat oor tyd deur Sioniste aan hulle gedoen is. In hierdie tyd het ongeveer 700 000 Palestyne gevlug – van hulle is uitgedryf.

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index0093Palestyne herdenk die Nakba (Die Katastrofe) in Jerusalem.

In die winter van 1949 was meer as 750 000 Palestyne in ballingskap. In die koue het families in grotte, hutte en tente gebly – uitgehonger, dikwels binne sigafstand van hul eie groentetuine in Palestina, wat tóé deel is van die nuwe staat van Israel.

Sedert die Sesdaagse Oorlog van 1967 het Israel min gevoel vir internasionale wetgewing. Hulle het 52% van die grond in die Wesoewer beset en 30% van die Gasastrook, vir óf militêre gebruik óf die vestiging van Joodse burgers. Tans is dit veel meer.

Net tussen 1967 en 1982 het Israel se militêre regering 1 338 Palestynse huise op die Wesoewer vernietig. Sedertdien het hierdie vernietiging voortgegaan.

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Gedurende dieselfde tydperk is meer as 300 000 Palestyne sonder verhoor deur Israel se geheime magte aangehou.

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Die VN se Algemene Vergadering het hom intussen wel uitgespreek teen Israel se besetting van die Wesoewer, Oos-Jerusalem en Gasa – en teen Israel se ontkenning van selfbeskikking en dat dít ’n ernstige en groeiende bedreiging vir internasionale vrede en sekuriteit inhou.

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Die jongste geskiedenis is gekenmerk deur die bou van ’n sogenaamde “apartheidsmuur” tussen die Palestynse gebied in die Wesoewer, Oos-Jerusalem en Israel, met gepaardgaande inperking op die beweging van mense in hul eie staat. Palestynse huise, ander infrastruktuur en grond word in die Wes-oewer en Oos-Jerusalem onteien of vernietig en nuwe Israelse nedersettings brei steeds in die besette gebiede uit.

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Voorts is daar die onwettige verbruik van water deur Israelse setlaars en daarmee saam die inkorting van watervoorsiening aan die Palestyne in die Wesoewer, asook Israelse militêre intimidasie in die besette Palestynse gebiede.

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Dit lyk of Israel hul militêre stewels stewig in die gesig van die Palestyne wil hou. Dít is natuurlik olie op die konflik-vuur in Palestina.

Weerstandsbewegings word gevoed deur diskriminasie en menseregteskendings.

’n Mens kan weerwraak op grond van historiese onreg nooit regverdig nie, tóg sal dit ’n logiese gevolg wees – partykeer tot die uiterste gedryf, soos Hamas wat kort ná hul stigting in 1987 erken het hy wil Israel vernietig. Tog is dít nie genoem in sy Palestynse parlementsverkiesingsmanifes van 2006 nie.

Dit is nie goed genoeg dat politici net hierdie krisis bestuur nie, dit moet opgelos word. En dít kan slegs in ooreenstemming met internasionale wetgewing gebeur. Dit is al hoe ware, volhoubare vrede moontlik is. In hierdie opsig het Israel veral baie werk om te doen.

Soos gepubliseer op 24 Aug 2014 in Weekliks – Rapport.

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EU takes a stand on Israeli settlements

What seems so logic – for the EU to act in accordance with international law in its business with Israel – will only take effect early in January 2014.

Yet for the first time ever Israel now has to acknowledge in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel….

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This means that EU member states may no longer issue grants, scholarships, funding, and prizes to Israeli organizations operating in settlements on Palestinian land.

The European Union’s “territorial clause,” will be a binding rule on all negotiations with Israel. In effect, it determines that all agreements between Israel and the EU will be valid only within Israeli borders recognized by the European Union, meaning the borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

All settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal according to international law as an occupier may not transfer any of its civilian population to the land of the occupied party (Geneva Convention, Article 49, Paragraph 6).

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That the European Union now officially recognizes that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal comes as a shock to Israel.

Israel does not agree with the law or with the EU.

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According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the new ruling, which was published on June 30 2013, as an “earthquake”:

This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies…Until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line [the pre-1967-war border]; now this has become a formal, binding policy.

Says the article in Haaretz:

In the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry there is great tension and anxiety over the new regulation and its implications for Israeli-EU relations. The efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin to stop the move have all failed.

When I watched the news on Aljazeera last night (16 July 2013) Elkin said that this new ruling will slow down the “peace process”.

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In my opinion this kind of remark makes people think that the world (and Palestine) does not want peace between the two countries…..and “as Israel wants peace, they are brave and good”.  It also creates the impression of “complexity” – whereas the law is quite clear.  The kind of peace the Israeli government has in mind, is the kind where Palestinians will not be equal citizens in neither their own nor in a shared country.  Peace in Israel’s language does not imply adherence to international law.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi embraced the EU’s decision, saying that:

“[this] is the beginning of new era. Israel should listen carefully and should understand that this occupation cannot continue without any kind of accountability.”  (IMEMC).

The legally binding directive will come into effect in January 2014.  It is a step in the right direction, but it has taken too long to arrive at this point.  We shall one day have to look back and acknowledge that the world (that’s us) failed Palestine (and therefore human rights).

For peace in Israel and in Palestine, both countries and all world players (including the USA) should uphold human rights not only in their talk, but in their deeds.  It starts with each individual as politicians’ decisions are strongly influenced by what their voters push for.

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Israel’s Wall: Is it legal? Is it secure?

The Israeli Wall is not on a border. It is on occupied Palestinian land and Palestinians need Israeli permits to go to work, to church, to a hospital, to school, or to a wedding.  See for yourself what a check point looks like early in the morning when thousands of people go to work…

The short video in the link could have been filmed in any of the other Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.  In Bethlehem, for example, the dark, cage-like corridor of Checkpoint 300 starts to fill up at 02h00 with the sleeping bodies of those who await the opening of the gates two hours later.  They are mostly Palestinian labourers who risk losing their employer-endorsed permits if they are not on time for work.  Sometimes they buy coffee and tea from the vendors to stay warm in the mornings that are ice cold – even in summer.  (I love their peppermint or sage infused tea.)

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During peak time on work days about 2 500 people need to pass through the turnstile, then queue for clearance at a metal detector and finally for a passport check.

Checkpoint 300 is not between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but within Palestinian territory.

At any point in this sequence the gates may close.  Sometimes this happens because a soldier shaves himself in the face of those waiting to earn their daily bread or need to go to a hospital, but more often it happens with no clear reason and for an undefined period.

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Israel started to build (what is commonly known as) the Wall in the West Bank in 2002 and almost 62% of it is now complete. In reality it consists of fences from between three to twelve meters, ditches, razor wire, groomed sand paths, patrol roads, buffer zones, electronic monitors, watch-towers and – of course – checkpoints.

Is this legal?

According to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Israel “has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens the measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.”

Yet the ICJ, in its 2004 advisory opinion to the UN, found that the Israeli Wall violates applicable international law.  It demanded that Israel cease construction of the Wall, dismantle the sections already completed and “repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto”.

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But over the years Israel has extended the route of the Wall, despite the ICJ’s viewpoint. Part of Wall’s route is through the Palestinian city Bethlehem and its governorate. Since its building started here, Palestinians have submitted 520 cases to the court in an attempt not to lose property to the Wall, mostly to no avail.

The city’s surrounding hills offer a clear picture of how the Wall twists away from the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, to grab fertile Palestinian-owned agricultural land in and around Bethlehem. On completion the Israeli Wall will be 709 km long, more than twice the length of the  internationally recognised border.  Moreover, only 15% of the Wall will be constructed on the Green Line (the internationally recognised border) whilst 85% of the Wall will be inside the West Bank itself.

Says Haggai Matar, an Israeli journalist and political activist in +972:

Most countries in the world and the International Court of Justice would agree to Israel’s building a security wall on its recognized border, the Green Line. Yet as long as 85 percent of it is built beyond the Green Line on Palestinian land, as long as it remains transparent to Israelis, as long as it harms (Palestinian) farmers and workers the way it does, and as long as the occupation continues – no solution and no barrier can truly offer Israelis security.

The question, therefore, is not whether or not a wall, any wall, offers security – but rather whether this specific wall with this specific route offers true and lasting security more than other existing alternatives.

The answer to that is almost certainly: No.

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Will South Africans boycott Israeli settlement produce?

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South Africa is the first African country to ban the false labelling of Israeli settlement goods. This is what the new wording looks like:

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(Photo by Open Shuhada Street.)

Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics (sold in Truworths, Stuttafords and Foschini), Sodastream (sold in Pick & Pay Checkers and Spar) and Hishtil nursery plants and others can no longer use “Produced in Israel”.

Shoppers can now make informed choices, and they may also demand that Israeli settlement products be removed from shelves.  Traders who refuse to remove it, will face stiff penalties.

But will  South Africans make a moral choice when buying?

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I know from my own experience that many people simply don’t know that:

  1. the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are Palestinian territories occupied by Israel;
  2. Israel’s illegal settlements in these areas use Palestinian resources (land, water, etc.) to produce products sold to the benefit of Israel; and
  3. both of the above area against international law: (1) Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jersusalem, Gaza are illegal, and (2) using the resources of occupied territory (Palestine) for the benefit of the occupier (Israel). It is also against South Africa’s consumer protection act to label produce incorrectly.

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When the announcement was made earlier in 2013, BDS South Africa supported the country’s Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to change the labels, but they remarked:

The wording of these special labels needs to be made clearer and BDS South Africa will be meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry in the course of the next few months to strengthen the wording of these special labels. However, BDS South Africa welcomes the DTI taking action against these Israeli settlement goods and companies. BDS South Africa further calls on the DTI and the South African government to now initiate a complete ban on Israeli settlement goods and companies.

Click here for the full BDS SA PRESS STATEMENT of 11 April 2013

It is important to realise this act by South Africa is in line with the actions of many international businesses and churches that boycott produce from Israeli settlements.

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The United Nations Human Rights Council, in an official report published earlier in 2013, confirmed the illegality of Israel’s settlements and also called on governments and private corporations to start considering economic and political sanctions against Israel for its illegal settlements enterprise. 

“Boycotts by ordinary people make it possible for international civil society to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and assist – in concrete ways – to put an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. We are calling on all South Africans to join us in the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign by boycotting products such as Sodastream, Ahava and all others Israeli goods sold in South Africa”. (Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, BDS South Africa).

 

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Jerusalem: It is done now

It happened. The people left. The dust settled. But you can still watch the children shouting, the adults trying to calm them down, the soldiers laughing, the grotesque Hyundai bulldozers hovering over the damaged furniture in the dusty rubble.

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You can also turn away – there are after all so much terror and injustices in this world. But there it remains – the flattened Palestinian house in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem.  The boy who doesn’t understand. The unsettled dust.

media_29ebc6919dd74f69ad4b1c1ff51d929e_t607(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

It happened on 5 February 2013 and it is one of thousands of similar stories.  Children returning home after school to see this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_U83yMFVFM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxCX9j230x8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-FySzDyOTI

nushi20130205223614270Photo: press tv

It is not the end.  More demolitions will follow on Palestinian land – in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.  They will be executed by the hand of Israel who occupies Palestine illegally.

My EAPPI colleague Jan McIntyre (Group 41 Sept – Dec 2011) returned to Palestine for a second term.  This time she monitors human rights violations in Jerusalem.  She wrote as follows:

Hi Marthie,

…You know how your heart is broken open in this work?  This was one of those times.  I felt physically ill at the sight of all this and my voice broke as I told the young girl how sorry I was that this had happened.  But this isn’t about me….it’s about the ongoing suffering under Israel’s occupation….

I was there yesterday to check on the family.  The scene was beyond horrible. All that is left is a massive pile of rubble.  Iman, the oldest daughter of the Castero family, a very articulate 18 year old first year law student with excellent English, came up to speak with me.  She said that the house had been a 10 year old two storey stone house (typical Arab style), built without a building permit. (Building permits are virtually unobtainable for Palestinians in Jerusalem and so people build without). A demolition permit had been issued only days ago and they had been unable to stop it. The Israeli authorities allowed less than five minutes for the family to get their belongings out of the house, and did not allow neighbours to help.  As a result, they were only able to get a very few things out of the house. The majority of their household goods are buried under the rubble.

This house was home to Iman’s grandparents, their three sons and their families.  In total, this demolition has left 37 people homeless!  They have no access to water, no food, no clothes other than what they were wearing, and no bathroom facilities.  The ICRC (Red Cross) have supplied them with two tents and other agencies have contributed a small amount of food.  Neighbours are helping out as much as they can.

Apart from the obvious physical needs of the family, they also are suffering from considerable psychological trauma.  As well, the grandmother was taken to hospital during the demolition.

I simply ask that you include this Castero family in the prayers of the people of your congregation on Sunday.

Peace,

Jan

It is all done now. The incomprehensible destruction. The shattered lives of ordinary civilians.  Israel’s repeated breaching of international law continues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_U83yMFVFM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxCX9j230x8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-FySzDyOTI

In 2011 almost 1,100 Palestinians, over half children, were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli forces in violation to international law. This is over 80% more than in 2010. What is the world doing about it? Why do we think it does not matter if we pretend to not see it?

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An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man from the anti Zionist Neturei Karta (Guards of the Walls) in solidarity with praying Palestinians against the Jerusalem municipality’s house demolition policy.  (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

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A debate between Jews on land rights in Palestine & Israel: Dr Paul Hendler, an Ambassador & Jennifer Harris

Ever heard a discourse on Palestine/Israel that asks for a “balanced approach” by taking “the other side” into account as the situation between Israel and Palestine is “very complex”? 

Such a viewpoint is usually expressed in terms of “truth”, “peace” and “reconciliation”.  All of this sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it?

On the surface yes, and for many years, these arguments convinced me too.  But that was before I knew that the Palestinians have only 22% left of the land allotted to them by the United Nations in 1948, and before realising that endless talks about complexities without practical peace initiatives create the space for a continued land grab by Israel.

Palestinian loss of land 1946-2005

Not all Jews agree on the same “facts” or on what “peace” and “truth” entail, for example:

  • On the one hand there is Zionism – a fundamentalist position of Judaism that advances exclusion and separatism.  Many Christians endorse this paradigm in the debate on Israel-Palestine and hence feel that Israel is so special that it may ignore international laws and rulings by bodies such as the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. They talk “peace”, “truth”, “facts” and “balance” and say all of the land that used to be a British Protectorate in 1948 (called Palestine) rightly belongs to Israel.
  • On the other hand there are Jews who do not approve of Israel’s  oppression of the Palestinians and the associated illegal occupation and of their land.  They use verified facts from declared sources to remind us of the death and displacement of millions of Palestinians as part of Israel’s institutionalised, systemic oppression, and that the oppression and the land confiscation continue to this day.

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fleeing-1948-nakba-palestine_0061948:  Fleeing Palestine during the Nakba (the Catastrophe)

Dr Paul Hendler, for example, has some strong views on the Palestinians’ struggle to humanize themselves…

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My name is Paul Hendler and I live in Stellenbosch. I am a Jewish South African who is against the demonization of the Palestinians by mainstream Zionism and for a rational discussion about the facts that characterize the history of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom and national self-determination.

 It was on this basis that I responded to a letter by Jennifer Harris (Cape Times 4 January) who purported that the facts showed that the Jewish Zionists were the conciliators and the Palestinians the savages against whom the Jews were left with no option but to fight (against their will or preferred option).

I am familiar with this view: I grew up with it in our community in Paarl and was to some extent imbued with it while participating in the Zionist (Habonim) youth movement during the 1960s.  But even then something wrankled and didn’t ring true about this narrative and I embarked on a search for the true circumstances of the 1948 flight of these people into a semi-permanent refugee status ever since, reading both Zionist literature and literature critical of and in opposition to Zionism. My journey has uncovered more and more questions about the veracity of the Zionist myth – the purpose of this blog piece is to demonstrate why I say this.

I hold the view that there is a truth independent of Zionists or Palestinian views and that reasonable people (on both sides) should be able to debate the facts to start defining this truth.  (I also argue that this is a precondition for a serious non-violent strategy to resist Zionist oppression and domination of Palestinians).

My experience, however, has been that mainstream Zionists get intensely defensive whenever deeper questions are raised and attempt to shut up the questioner by vilifying his/her character; it’s as if they have to stop the investigation into the roots of the flight of the majority of the Palestinian people into refugee status. My investigations indicate that the rigorous historical research and analyses has tended to be conducted by Palestinian scholars and anti-Zionists (or critically Zionist) Israeli Jews.

Here is Jennifer Harris’ letter to the Cape Times:

J Harris letter to Cape Times

…to which Paul replied as follows:

07 January 2013

Jennifer Harris (letters, 04 January 2013), a mediation specialist, needs to do a lot more homework on the facts surrounding the 1948 Naqba. She claims that Israel was established where 8,6% of land was Jewish-owned, 3,3% Israeli Arab-owned, 16,9 absentee Arab owners (who got out of the way while invading Arab armies intended to destroy Israel) and 71,2 per cent by the mandatory power, which was allocated to Israel as legal heir. She concludes “the contention that the bulk of the land had belonged to Arabs has no foundation in reality”.

The magisterial work, “All that Remains – the Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948”, edited by Walid Khalidi, (1992) (the Institute for Palestine Studies, the Galilee Centre for Social Research and Birzeit University)  referred to the Palestine Index Gazetteer and Village Statistics 1945: a Classification of Land and Area Ownership in Palestine (Palestine Government) to demonstrate that Palestinians owned between 42 and 98 per cent of land – in nine of 16 districts this was more than 75 per cent, in six between 42 and 75 per cent and in one (Beersheba) 15 per cent. Zionists owned between three and thirty-nine per cent – in eight districts between less than one per cent and five per cent, and between 14 per cent and thirty-nine per cent in the remainder. The mandatory government ownership varied between one and 23 per cent in 15 districts – in Beersheba it owned 85 per cent of the land.

Ms. Harris is perpetuating a Zionist myth that the “people without a land returned to the land without a people”, and parading this as Truth.

“All that Remains” chronicles the occupation and depopulation by Palmach (later IDF) brigades of 418 Palestinian villages located within the pre-1967 borders of Israel, based partly on IDF archival sources, partly on eye witness accounts, whereby coordinated moves by the brigades through a swathe of villages per region, resulted in attacks on villages (which were often resisted), the expulsion of most of the inhabitants and the dynamiting of their homes shortly thereafter. IDF documents describe these operations in the north (near Galilee) as “cleansing” of the countryside – presumably to Judaise these areas.

There are also narratives of those who fled before this lot could befall them, but besides Husseini’s pro-Nazi and anti-semitic calls there is no evidence of widespread calls from neighbouring Arab states for the people to flee – if anything, there were calls to stay and although Arab Liberation Army irregulars (largely volunteers) entered Palestine to defend the villages they were no match for the Zionist forces. As Israeli historian Illan Pappe (“The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”), David Gilmour (“Dispossessed”) and Benny Morris (“1948”) have demonstrated there had already been 250 000 to 300 000 expelled in early 1948 prior to the declaration of the State (May). Morris, himself a Zionist, in a frank interview with Haaretz (2004), confirmed the violence inherent in the expulsion of the refugees and justified this as historically necessary in the conflict between civilized Israelis and ‘barbarous’ Palestinians. Pappe has referred to detailed evidence in Ben Gurion’s diaries (in Hebrew) which show him regarding the Palestinian peasants, small farmers and villagers as the real enemy of the Zionist project. Churchill famously said: “the truth is incontrovertible; malice may malign it, ignorance undermine it, but in the end there it is.”

In the end, 750 000 Palestinians lost their homes, their livelihoods, and largely their identities, although they forged a new identity through their national liberation struggle against Zionist colonization. Finding a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and one which can be pursued through non-violent means, will perforce require negotiation and possibly mediation – if Ms. Harris would like to contribute to that process she would make a good start by getting her facts right.

Dr Paul Hendler

Stellenbosch.

A week later, the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa replied as follows in the public domain:

Cape Times Article by Israeli Ambassador

After this reply, Paul could not leave the matter there.  Here is his response to SIX POINTS made by the Israeli Ambassador:

I would like to provoke debate in response to the ambassador of Israel’s article  (Cape Times, 14 January), which responded to my letter (Cape Times, 9 January). The Israeli ambassador makes six points, all of which can be disputed in good faith by reference to at least some of the crucial “facts”.

When there is a dispute about the facts it is useful to delve behind the data to examine how it has been constructed in order to assess its credibility.

Point One – “The oft-quoted 750 000 refugees is a grossly exaggerated figure for propaganda purposes”:

Walid Khalidi’s “All the Remains” (see my letter of 9 January) sets out in some detail a method for calculating the number of Palestinians depopulated from some urban centres in nine districts (which constituted the area that became the State of Israel), parts of Jerusalem 418 rural villages, and also the number of Bedouin that became refugees:

Figures Palestinian Refugees

It appears that the sources the Ambassador refers to might not have projected the population growth rates between 1944 and 1948 and not have included the Bedouin refugees in their count.

Point Two – “The Palestinians fled because they were exhorted to and then to return behind the expected victorious invading Arab state armies, and having driven the Jews into the sea to confiscate their possessions and land.”

There is a bona fide dispute about the calls to leave. Gilmour’s “Dispossessed” (1980) refers to Khalidi’s “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948” which refers to Dr Erskine Childers’ (son of Ireland’s fourth president, BBC correspondent and UN civil servant) examination of British and American monitoring of Middle East broadcasts throughout 1948 (available in British Museum), which could not find a single order or appeal to evacuate Palestine from any Arab radio inside or outside Palestine, but that there were appeals for civilians to stay put. (http://zionism-israel.com/his/Palestine_Nakba.htm questions whether it was technically possible to research the content of all broadcasts, which is an interesting question and which could be addressed). Gilmour points to a March 1948 Arab Higher Committee letter to the Egyptian and other Arab governments resolving that it was not in the interests of Palestinians to leave the country. Gilmour also refers to Geofrey Furlonge’s “Palestine is my country” (1969) that Jerusalem leaders Hilmi and Khalidi forbade people to leave the city without a permit.

Even if there were widespread calls by leaders for the population to leave, this does not necessarily constitute the reason why they left: it is reasonable to ask why a settled rural population would suddenly uproot itself in response to calls from foreign urban political elites hundreds (if not thousands) of kilometers away, with whom few of them were acquainted.

Point Three – “The Palestinians title to these lands is questionable and in any event they were migrants first and foremost in search of better opportunities rather than communities with deep roots in the land of Palestine.”

The ambassador presents the refugees as highly mobile illegal immigrants following prosperity. Ms. Harris says that they owned only a fraction of the land, most of which was held by the Mandate authority. Based on meticulous research – including field research – which identified each of the depopulated villages and its history, “All that remains” provides a different picture of a settled population of peasant farmers and small town/village artisans with a historical presence in the area.

We need to investigate the existing land tenure arrangements in pre 1948 Palestine and also keep in mind that prior to the rise of industrial capitalism in the Middle East people occupied their land on a de facto basis as direct producers in agrarian economies and that this de facto occupation conferred both rights and obligations.

“All that remains”, drawing extensively on IDF archives as well as eyewitness accounts, details an extensive military campaign to occupy or take these villages, which is the alternative narrative to the Zionist account, confirmed by eye witness accounts. Mainstream Zionist historians – including Bennie Morris, who has admitted and justified the violent dispossession of Palestinian land – are conspicuous by the absence of any oral history and eye-witness accounts by the refugees and/or their descendants, regarding the events of 1948.

Point Four – “More Jews (850 000) were expelled from Arab countries, also losing their properties in the process, but they at least were taken in by their Zionist Jewish brethren whereas the Palestinians were abandoned by those who should have shouldered responsibility for them, namely the surrounding Arab states.”

Terry-Crawford-Browne (next to my letter of January 9) refers to Zionist-security services complicity in the acts of anti-semitism carried out in the Arab countries and which preceded the relocation of the Jews of colour (the MIzrahim) to Israel. I remember reading this viewpoint by David Hirst (“The Gun and the Olive Branch”) (2003) and I have recently purchased the book (updated) and intend to explore this further. The so-called responsibility of the Arab states for the Palestinian refugees has to be looked at in the light of the questionable assumption that they were instrumental in getting the Palestinians to pack their bags in the first place. There needs to be a lot more looking into this and precisely who said what and when. The sources of such information need to be scrutinized to determine their veracity (e.g. independent or embedded journalists?)

Point Five – “What happened to the Palestinians is simply a part of history, and has happened on a larger scale to other peoples in time of war: for example, the Germans fleeing from the advancing Red Army at the end of World War 2 and the refugees who were displaced during the breakaway of Pakistan from India.”

The Ambassador demonstrates a cavalier attitude to (what he regards as the unintended) “collateral” damage of war and trivializes the suffering not only of the Palestinian refugees and people but also the Indian/Pakistani refugees and fluechtlinge from the Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War. His logic is chillingly close to that of David Irvine, a notorious denier of the Nazi genocide of the Jews – Irvine saw the Jewish deaths (a relatively small part of the total civilian deaths in this war) as unplanned and an outcome of the chaos of the war. Applying this logic to the genocide would reduce this catastrophe for the Jewish people (and also for a similarly large population of Gentiles who were exterminated) to a banal event.

Point Six – “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and its Gentile citizens (largely Palestinians) enjoy equal rights and opportunities with its Jewish citizens.”

Hernando de Soto (UN Commissioner) and Francis Cherval (“Realizing Property Rights”, 2006) identify mechanisms that not only limit the extent of private land ownership in Israel but also ensure that de facto control of decision-making with regard to land is vested in Jewish bodies like the JNF. They conclude that “the Israeli land regime can be said to have produced long-term disparities between the ‘founding’ Ashkenazi group (i.e. Caucasian European settlers), the ‘immigrant’ Mizrahim and the ‘indigenous’ Palestinian-Arab group”.  Israel’s Palestinian citizens are also excluded from social service benefits accruing to people who have served in the IDF because they are excluded from going to the army.

Joeseph Massad (Columbia University) (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/20115684218533873.html) lists the following laws that discriminate in favour of Jewish Israeli citizens against Palestinian Israeli citizens: including the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State’s Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 temporary law banning marriage between Israelis and Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. He makes the further point that it is the very presence of Arabs in the Jewish State that propels the Jewish State to enshrine its racism in all these laws. There is an inherent contradiction in the notion that Israel is both a democratic and a Jewish state.

Having read the above discussion, I want to ask:  Should only Palestinians be freed?  Didn’t someone say that the truth sets one free?

I would dearly like to see free Palestinians and free Israelis living in harmony and in alignment with international law.