More than a year and a half after it was launched, the Great March of Return continues to mobilize weekly on the Gaza Strip border. Friday, Oct. 25, saw the 80th such mobilization—and was met with gunfire by Israeli security forces. Hundreds of Palestinians protested at various points near the border fence, with some setting tires on fire and throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at the Israeli forces—who responded by launching tear-gas canisters and opening fire with both rubber bullets and live rounds. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 95 civilians—including 43 children, a woman, two paramedics and a journalist—were shot and injured by Israeli troops.
In Episode 42 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Yoseph Leib Needelman-Ruiz (Ibn Mardachya), author of Cannabis Chassidis: The Ancient and Emerging Torah of Drugs. In this far-ranging meeting of the minds, the pair explore contemporary dilemmas of Jewish identity in both Israel and the diaspora, Zionism and gentrification (drawing parallels from the West Bank to Williamsburg), nationalism and anarchism, and such strange contradictions as the embrace of cannabis by Israel's right-wing political establishment. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip apparently took effect with no formal announcement May 6, after two days of hostilities that saw hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza and the most extensive Israeli air-strikes on the Strip since 2014. A total of 27 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, are reported dead in the air-strikes, which also included the first "targeted killings" of Hamas militants since 2014. Four Israeli civilians were also killed, all in the south. In the hours before the ceasefire, Israeli troops massed on the Gaza border, and a new invasion of the Strip appeared imminent. (Ma'an, Al Jazeera, Ha'aretz, YNet)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to annex areas of the occupied West Bank ahead of the coming week's Israeli Knesset elections. In an April 5 interview on Israeli Channel 12 TV, he was asked about plans to annex Israeli settlement blocs in the occupied territory, and responded: "Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty... I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians." (Times of Israel, NPR)
An Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the besieged Gaza Strip was declared March 26 following two days of Israeli air-strikes and Palestinian rocket fire. Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of strikes across the Strip, while at least 50 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel. Residential and commercial buildings were struck by Israeli warplanes, with at least seven Palestinians reported injured. The escalation came after a Gaza rocket struck an house north of Tel Aviv, injuring seven Israelis. (Ma'an) With the air-strikes underway, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Donald Trump in Washington for the signing of a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. At the joint press conference, Trump said, "We do not want to see another attack like the one suffered this morning north of Tel Aviv," adding, "We will confront the poison of anti-Semitism." Netanyahu called Trump's recognition a "diplomatic victory," adding that "Israel won the Golan Heights in a just war of defense." (Ma'an)
The UN Human Rights Council released the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on Feb. 28, finding potential crimes against humanity committed by Israel. The report focuses on the period from May 30 to December 31, 2018, when the Gaza protest campaign known as the "Great March of Return and the Breaking of the Siege" was taking place. During the seven months studied, 6,106 unarmed protesters were shot by military snipers, resulting in 189 Palestinian deaths. "[B]ullet fragmentation, rubber-coated metal bullets or...hits from tear gas canisters" injured an additional 3,098 Palestinians. The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry found 35 of the fatalities were children, three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists. Four Israeli soldiers were injured at protest sites, and one soldier was killed outside of the protest sites.
The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference that opens today in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: "Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project." (Ma'an) The meeting was first announced last month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his anti-Iran speech in Cairo, and is widely perceived as an effort to rally world powers behind Washington's drive against Tehran. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is to be among the speakers. Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting, underscoring its commitment to the nuclear deal that the US has now disavowed. But as Warsaw's former ambassador to Afghanistan Piotr Lukasiewicz told Al Jazeera: "[Poland] has lost control over the general message of the conference to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia." The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian ski resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran's Hassan Rouhani, officiallty to discuss the situation in Syria and the pending withdrawal of US troops there. (EuroNews)
Israel demolished 538 Palestinian homes and facilities across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in 2018, leaving 1,300 Palestinians, including 225 children, homeless, according to a year-end report by the Abdullah Al-Hurani Centre, an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The report stressed that these demolitions were carried out in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international norms. It charged that Israel "continues its policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem," pointing out that, in addition to the demolitions, Israel issued 460 "stop-building orders" during the same period.