The Trump administration is to announce a suspension of funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and rejection of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. According to Hebrew-language news outlets, the US administration is expected to announce its new policy early September, recognizing the existence of only half a million Palestinian refugees, out of the total of 5.3 million estimated by UNRWA. The administration intends to form a plan that rejects the United Nations designation under which millions of descendants of the original refugees are also considered refugees. Sources reported that the administration's new policy would "essentially cancel the right of return." (Photo of war-torn Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria via PTI)
Tens of thousands of marched in Tel Aviv to protest Israel's new "nation-state law," which officially establishes Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people" and downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing. The march, led by Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, follows a similar mobilization in Tel Aviv one week earlier by members of Israel's Druze community. Both rallies filled the city's Rabin Square. Under the banner "Abolish Nation-state Law – Yes to Equality," the Arab-led march was organized by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and allied groups. In a joint statement, participating organizations said the Nationality Law "will turn racism, discrimination, humiliation and segregation into an inseparable part of our lives…. Our statement is clear: All citizens—all of them—are equal." (Photo: Druze elders from the Golan Heights, via LookLex)
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for greater protection for the Palestinian people following weeks of the "Great March of Return" protests on the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. The resolution also denounces any use of "excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate" force by Israel against Palestinians. The Algerian-sponsored resolution was adopted by a vote of 120 in favor, eight against, with 45 abstentions. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the vote is "a victory for Palestinian rights, justice and international law." While the UNGA—in which every member country has an equal vote —has historically stood in support of Palestinians, its resolutions are generally non-binding. A similar but binding measure in the UN Security Council days earlier was vetoed by the United States. (Photo: Ma'an News Agency)
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to send an independent commission of inquiry to investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the context of large-scale civilian protests in the occupied Palestinian territory." The Council "condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, including in the context of peaceful protests, particularly in the Gaza Strip." The US was one of only two countries out of 45 to vote against the resolution. (Image: Maan News Agency)
At least 55 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip as Israeli army snipers opened fire on "March of Return" protesters. Six of the slain Palestinians were minors under the age of 18, including one girl. The Gaza Ministry of Health said at least 1,204 Palestinians were injured with live ammunition. The massacre along the Gaza borders came exactly as US and Israeli dignitaries inaugurated the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump among those officiating. Just outside the new embassy, Palestinian demonstrators were brutally attacked by Israeli security forces—eliciting cheers from Israelis who came out to support the embassy’s opening. The Israelis reportedly chanted "Burn them, shoot them, kill them!" (Image: Maan)
Local activists in Gaza announced that they have moved tents set up along the border with Israel as part of the "Great March of Return," relocating them 50 meters closer to the border fence. The committee in charge of the Great March said they had moved the "tents of return" closer to the border "as a message of persistence from our people to the world that we are moving forward towards our rightful goals." The announcement came on the 20th day of protests since the Great March of Return began in the besieged Gaza Strip, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians demanded their collective right of return to their homelands in present-day Israel. Since the demonstrations began, at least 36 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Among the dead are two minors and a journalist. (Photo: Ma'an)
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called for an end to the violence along the border of the Gaza Strip, and raised the possibility of ICC prosecutions against Israel and Hamas. In her statement, Bensouda cautioned about the "deteriorating situation" that has engulfed the region. Bensouda reminded both parties that her office is in the midst of a preliminary investigation into allegations of war crimes, which has been ongoing since 2015 when Palestine was admitted as a member of the court. While Israel is not a member of the court, Israeli citizens who commit war-crimes or crimes against humanity on the territory of a member could fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. (Photo: Maan News Agency)
Human rights organizations have come out in full condemnation of Israel's violent response to massive unarmed civilian protests in Gaza, which left 16 Palestinians—one farmer and 15 protesters —dead along the Strip's border. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, released a statement condemning Israel's use of military snipers against the civilian protesters. "The Israeli military's use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal," the statement said, adding that "live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants." (Photo: Maan News Agency)
Two UN rights experts expressed serious concern regarding the arrest and detention of Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who became famous for slapping an Israeli soldier during a physical confrontation. The statements came as Tamimi appeared before an Israeli military court for the first time. An Israel military judge, who prohibited the media from entering the courtroom and began the trial behind closed doors, ruled that Tamimi should remain in detention until the end of her trial and adjourned the hearing until early March. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Palestinian Christians from around the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel came out in harsh opposition to a visit by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, to Bethlehem for Orthodox Christmas Eve. The patriarchate is accused of selling large amounts of land to Israeli authorities and investors, contributing to Israeli plans to "Judaize" Jerusalem and betraying the church's responsibility to protect Palestinian lands that were handed under its care during the Ottoman period. (Photo: Ma'an News Agency)
Pope Tawadros II, leader Egypt's Coptic Church, has cancelled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Cairo later this month, in protest of the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump's decision "did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people," the church said in a statement, adding that it "declines to receive" Pence.
If Trump is seeking to appease the Christian fundamentalist element of his base with his pledge to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, this should hardly be comforting to Jews. The evangelical fundis see Jewish control of Jerusalem only as fulfillment of Bible prophecies portending the End Times. What makes this wackiness dangerous is that with nuclear weapons, the human race now has the capacity to bring about the foreseen rain of fire and brimstone.