In Episode 16 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how Berbers, Palestinians, Sahrawi Arabs and other subjugated peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are pitted against each other by the Great Game of nation-states. Berbers in Morocco and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories face identical issues of cultural erasure, yet Moroccan support for the Palestinians and retaliatory Israeli support for the Berbers constitute an obstacle to solidarity. The Sahrawi Arabs are meanwhile fighting for their independence from Morocco in their occupied territory of Western Sahara. But the Arab-nationalist ideology of their leadership is viewed with suspicion by the territory's Berbers—leading to Arab-Berber ethnic tensions in Morocco. Algeria, Morocco's regional rival, is backing the Sahrawi struggle, while denying cultural rights to its own Berber population. But there are also signs of hope. Arabs and Berbers were united in the 2011 Arab Revolution protests in Morocco, and greater Berber cultural rights were a part of the constitutional reform won by those protests. Algeria, facing resurgent Berber protests, adopted a similar constitutional reform in 2016, and has taken other measures to expand recognition of Berber cultural rights. And the new protest wave in Morocco's Rif Mountains over the past year has united Arab and Berber. These developments point to hope for the subaltern peoples of MENA to overcome the divide-and-rule game and build solidarity. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on May 18 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, and called for an immediate cessation of all attacks, incitement and violence against civilians throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."
At least 55 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip on May 14, 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 violence began after Palestinians gathered at the "return camps" established along the Strip's borders, rallying and setting fire to tires near the border fence. At Khan Younis, in the southern Strip, Israeli forces reportedly threw flammable material at the "return camps" in an attempt to scatter protesters. (Maan) 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!" (MEE)
Palestinian Christians from around the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel came out in harsh opposition on Jan. 6 to a visit by Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, to the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Theophilos III, along with several other religious and political figures, were visiting Bethlehem as part of celebrations for Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve. Despite an intense presence of Palestinian security forces who attempted to open roads near Bethlehem's Manger Square for the patriarch's car, angry citizens swarmed around his procession, holding signs, Palestinian flags, and chanting slogans against Theophilus III. People threw stones and smashed windows of the car the patriarch was riding in as they demanded he be stripped of his titles and be removed from the church.
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. "The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence," it said, adding it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar University, also declined to meet Pence.
Well, we hate to say "We told you so," but... We told you so. We've been told for the past several years now that the depressed oil prices were permanent, that thanks to fracking and the surge in US domestic production, the price was now immune to Middle East instability, dramatic spikes and "oil shocks" forever banished. Well, futures for Brent crude just hit $63.37 per barrel, with the spot price for West Texas Intermediate at $57.34. (Panorama.am, Investing.com) Creeping toward the $100 per barrel we were so recently assured was a thing of the past. OilPrice.com blames Trump's announcement that the US will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which has of course unleashed unrest in the Palestinian territories and instability fears across the Middle East. But the jump really began almost exactly a month ago, seemingly prompted by the leadership purge in Saudi Arabia. That brought the Brent crude price up to $62, its highest level since July 2015. (The Guardian, Nov. 6)
Palestinian activists burned pictures of Donald Trump in Bethlehem in response to his Dec. 6 announcement that his administration will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He stated with typical bluster: "While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering." But this time the braggadocio was wedded to a nearly hallucinatory chutzpah: "I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians." (Palestine News Network, The Guardian) Of course precisely the opposite is true.
Israeli authorities revoked permits for Palestinians to enter Jerusalem and Israel in response to a deadly attack in East Jerusalem's Old City—then launched a a mass arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds for being in the city without a permit. At least 350 Palestinians were detained in a single day, with those holding West Bank IDs being forced to board buses and sent back to the occupied territory. A police statement added that Israeli forces are continuing security measures in an around the Old City "to prevent further attacks and respond if necessary." One Israeli police officer was killed in the knife attack outside the Old City's Damascus Gate. Israeli soldiers responding to the attack killed three Palestinians.