When it voted to upgrade Palestinian statehood status from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state”, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) wanted the enduring Middle East conflict to come full circle. But it failed to take into account the Israeli Prime Minister’s opposition to a state of Palestine that isn’t on his terms.
Ending Israel’s first military operation since the Arab Spring changed the Middle East depended on both the diplomatic blitz exerted on Israel and Hamas and the extent of the military blows exchanged between them. As for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the ceasefire must live at least until his re-election.
Overhead on a bombing mission, an Israeli Air Force F16 screams its way towards Gaza. On the street, the fighter jet’s shriek is covered by a plaintive sound – a “red alert”. Within seconds, an “Iron Dome” anti-missile missile launched roaring in a spark of light intercepts the incoming GRAD rocket.
Four days into Israel’s fierce assault on Hamas in Gaza, the ongoing operation looks on the surface a remake of the Gaza War of 2008-9 – with one unanswered distinction: whether it is aimed at completing what the previous onslaught didn’t achieve – the removal of the Palestinian Islamic movement from power once and for all.
It came like a bolt from the blue on this serene city perched in the hills of Galilee. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Israel’s Channel Two television earlier this month, “I want to see Safed! It’s my right to see it, but not to live there.”
Ali Shuruf turns on the lights, that shine into a gaudy living room. Beyond the window, the dominant colour is uniformly grey: the house stands literally against a wall. Not just any wall – the infamous eight-metre cement wall separates Palestinians from Israelis.
The timing of Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for early elections is no coincidence. The incumbent Prime Minister’s strategy is to receive the Israeli public’s renewed confidence as a new U.S. president takes office, thus making himself immune to U.S. pressure as the debate on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme enters a critical phase.
The annual debate has just wrapped up and, already, the certainty is that if last year Palestinian statehood auspiciously dominated the international agenda, this time, the issue vanished from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and will vanish even further from world affairs.
“See the bullets from the 1948 and 1967 wars,” Badr Abu Ad-Dula says, showing the scars of the old frontline on the outer walls of the building where he and his family of 13 live. “Here’s the Jordanian outpost.” The elderly Palestinian points at a loophole, now a bedroom window.
Filistin Hamdallah looks disoriented, walking without purpose amidst the furniture strewn in the courtyard, as if she was moving home. Only the fresh laundry hanging on wires indicates that the Palestinian family is here to stay, to stay in conditions with Jewish neighbours that show just how difficult the divisions in Jerusalem can be.
In a hamlet of the occupied West Bank, the testimony goes, Israeli troops chase a Palestinian child. “He was about two metres away – the company commander cocked his weapon in his face...The kid fell on the ground, crying and begging for his life.”
“This is King David’s palace!” proclaims the Israeli tour guide with much fanfare, ignoring the cautionary “King David’s Palace?” legend on the sign. Opportunely opening the Bible, he reads from 2 Samuel 6:16, “As the Ark of the Lord came to the City of David…”
“With our spirit, with our blood, we’ll redeem you, O Noble Sanctuary!” the veiled teenagers fervently sing in unison in honour of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. Israeli police officers in uniform and full battle gear sit unimpressed under pine trees; others patrol the compound.
“A prayer knocks till the door opens,” a songster from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sings from outside the door.
During a march Saturday marking one year since social protests engulfed Israel, a man silently set himself on fire, leaving behind him a painful “I accuse!” letter that exposes widespread disillusionment in the face of the immense expectation for change, and the abyss between the people and the State.
A reserve soldier went on hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners last week, vowing to surrender his citizenship and live as a Palestinian in a refugee camp; another activist was briefly jailed. They are Israel’s new dissidents. An e-book now comes to light, shedding light on their raison d’être.
As the threat of war against Iran and its allies in Lebanon and Gaza lingers, questions arise over a war launched 30 years ago. Israel’s far-reaching invasion of Lebanon launched in June 1982 wasn’t an easy choice. Veterans still grapple with this controversial episode of Israel’s history whose name, objectives and legacy were never officially sanctioned.
Kosher, in spoken English, might mean ‘proper’, ‘acceptable’, ‘legitimate’. Yet, sourced in the Bible, the Hebrew word incontrovertibly finds its way in Jewish cuisine. Food is kosher when suitable for consumption – that is, according to a set of religious dietary laws or kashrut.
The imposing stronghold is almost transparent, barely noticeable, in the pitch-black desert. On top of the stands, with a thousand kilowatts at his finger’s tip, Avi Yona Bueno turns the night into lights, revealing sets, sites, and sounds. “I’m god,” smiles the lighting designer. “I’m god to my children.”
As a result of the diplomatic momentum geared to disarm international suspicions over the explosive issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, the one country not directly party to the two-track negotiation process feels more isolated than Iran.
"There is the beginning of my life. My father would call for prayer, ‘Allahu Akbar’," says 72-year old Yacoub Odeh, pointing to a collapsed house perched high on the hill. "The whole village would hear him." Odeh was then eight years old: "I’m the son of yesterday."