Displaying items by tag: Israel
Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was a leading media voice since the intifada or uprising in Palestine in 2000. For over two decades she reported fearlessly on human rights abuses in the occupied territories. She wrote with anguish at the 74-year old genocide raging in Palestine and the Western world’s callous indifference to the dehumanisation and brutalisation of the Muslim and Christian population of the occupied territories.
But on May 11 her voice was silenced for ever when she was shot and killed while reporting on an Israeli raid on a Palestinian house on the West Bank city of Jenin.
Much sorrow has been expressed around the world about her killing. We, the members of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), in solidarity with the global outcry against her assassination, wish to add our condemnation of her cold-blooded execution. To be silent would amount to complicity with the atrocity of her killing and the degrading and inhuman treatment meted to her in death by the belligerent behaviour of the Israeli forces at her funeral. As the casket was being carried to the Christian cemetery, Israeli police attacked the mourners with batons and stun grenades almost causing the pallbearers to drop the coffin!
For such targeted and senseless killings to cease, a high-level independent and international investigation is called for. Besides the atrocity of Shireen’s killing, the wider aggression against Palestinian journalists must be investigated. It is noteworthy that the International Federation of Journalists filed a complaint against the State of Israel with the International Criminal Court (the ICC) in April. One also notes that Shireen’s targeted killing follows the fourth anniversary of the death of Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein who also fell victim to an Israeli sniper while covering the “Great March of Return” in March 2018.
A bleak reminder of this type of systematic aggression against journalists is recanted by Reporters without Borders which registers the number of journalists who have been killed while covering the plight of the Palestinians. The number of killings is more than 40 since 2000. This is despite the protection afforded to journalists by international humanitarian law.
We note with sorrow that though a multitude of international organisations have voiced condemnation over Shireen’s killing, there is deafening silence from certain states that preach human rights to the rest of the world.
We wish to stand in solidarity with the family, friends, colleagues and the people to whom Shireen Abu Akleh gave her voice. We are adding our small voice to a larger call for justice.
We wish to reiterate that though the global attention these days is focused on the Russia-Ukraine war, the world needs to recast its attention and conscience to the genocide, protracted aggression and injustices in the illegally occupied territories of the West Bank. Shireen’s assassination underlies the daily reality of apartheid in occupied Palestine, the systemic violence against innocent civilians, and Israel’s aggression against anyone reporting these crimes. Preventing the media from conducting its duty is one of the messages behind this atrocity.
Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Vice President, International Movement for a Just World
Dr Jaspal Kaur Sadhu Singh, Asst. Secretary-General, International Movement for a Just World
Published in: Astroawani.com, Thursday 19 May 2022
SEPANJANG dua ribu tahun bangsa Yahudi hidup dalam buangan (exile) akibat dosa-dosa mereka, ribuan ulama ‘Chazal’ yang mahir tentang Taurat telah dilahirkan. Mereka menghasilkan ribuan catatan hukum-hukum agama yang diwarisi setiap generasi. Apa yang menarik, tidak pernah sekali golongan ini mencadangkan penubuhan sebuah negara untuk melindungi bangsa Yahudi yang hidup sengsara di luar tanah Palestin. Yang ada hanyalah amaran mengenai bahaya menubuhkannya.
Mereka hari ini dikenali sebagai Yahudi Haredi, Yahudi Ortodoks dan juga Ultra-Ortodoks. Mereka percaya satu-satunya era bangsa Yahudi dibenarkan untuk memiliki negara sendiri adalah pada dua ribu tahun lampau, pada masa Tuhan meredai mereka. Apabila masanya sudah tiba nanti, walau tanpa bantuan manusia mahu pun kuasa tentera, mereka bakal dikurniakan sebuah kerajaan yang diasaskan atas pengabdian dan keadilan, dan seluruh dunia akan mengakui kekuasaan-Nya.
Menurut ulasan Talmud (Ketubot 111A) dan ayat-ayat Taurat seperti Exodus 2:22, sebarang usaha mewujudkan sebuah negara Yahudi setelah berlakunya ‘exile’ kedua atau sebelum kedatangan Messiah adalah perbuatan melawan Tuhan dan haram hukumnya. Ianya tetap ditegah walaupun negara itu ditadbir mengikut ajaran Taurat. Tuhan masih menetapkan bangsa Yahudi terus tinggal di bawah kekuasaan bangsa-bangsa lain. Sekiranya larangan ini dilanggar, Tuhan akan menimpakan kecelakaan lebih besar ke atas mereka.
Kitab Taurat dan Talmud adalah panduan utama kaum Yahudi Ortodoks. Tanpa keimanan terhadap kedua-duanya, bangsa Yahudi tidak akan wujud sehingga ke hari ini. Bangsa Yahudi percaya mereka adalah ‘bangsa pilihan Tuhan’ untuk membawa keamanan dan keadilan kepada seluruh bangsa. Hanya dengan memenuhi tugas-tugas itu, mereka akan mendapat kejayaan di akhirat kelak. Mana-mana Yahudi yang menolak ajaran Taurat akan terkeluar dari konsep ‘People of Israel’. ‘Israel’ di sini bukan merujuk kepada sebuah negara, tetapi bangsa.
Yang ‘degil’ menubuhkan Israel di Palestin adalah golongan pemimpin Zionis, yang muncul hanya seratus tahun lalu. Zionis menolak ajaran Taurat, bersifat materialistik dan kesemuanya atheis. Sejurus kemunculannya, mereka ditentang para rabbi Haredi ortodoks, yang yakin Zionisme akan hanya membawa kerosakan dan kemusnahan.
Dakwaan Zionis, bangsa Yahudi harus memiliki sebuah negara dan tentera yang kuat. Mereka melaung seolah merekalah bangsa Israel sebenar. Zionislah yang memulakan fahaman anti-Semitisme pada penghujung kurun ke-19, sehingga kaum Yahudi dibenci oleh setiap negara yang didiami mereka. Zionislah yang menyemarakkan kebencian Nazi Jerman terhadap bangsa Yahudi. Melalui penipuan Zionis, bangsa Yahudi diseksa dan dihambat dari negara kelahiran mereka. Kemudian Zionis menampakkan diri mereka sebagai ‘penyelamat’.
Zionis adalah ibarat ‘kanser dalam tubuh’ bangsa Yahudi, yang berusaha melumpuhkan agama Yahudi dengan penipuan bahkan kekerasan. Jika diimbas semula, masyarakat Yahudi mengalami lebih banyak kesengsaraan dan pertumpahan darah dalam era Zionis. Banyak sekali kesengsaraan di sana-sini berpunca oleh tangan-tangan Zionis. Sedangkan menurut Taurat, jalan menuju keamanan adalah dengan berbaik-baik, dan bukannya memulakan perbalahan dengan bangsa lain.
Kumpulan Yahudi Haredi ortodoks seperti Satmar, Shomer Emunim, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Mishkenos Horoim, Dushinsky, Edah Hachareidis dan Naturei Karta menggelarkan Zionis sebagai ‘shandah’, istilah Yiddish (Yahudi Eropah) yang merujuk kepada ‘individu atau kumpulan Yahudi yang memalukan Yahudi, bukan hanya dengan berbuat kejahatan, bahkan mengesahkan ketakutan dan kebencian masyarakat bukan-Yahudi terhadap Yahudi’. Golongan ini konsisten dalam perjuangan menentang negara Israel, kerana khuatir Zionis akan menggantikan kedudukan agama Yahudi, termasuk nilai-nilai dan cara hidup bangsanya.
Terdapat juga golongan Yahudi sekular yang mengutuk idea-idea Zionisme seperti Yevsektsiya dan Matzpen. Kedua-duanya pro-Komunis dan beberapa kali mengambil nama lain setelah dibubarkan di Soviet Russia, Mesir dan Israel. Bagi Zionis dan para penyokongnya, golongan Yahudi anti-Israel ditohmah sebagai ‘self-hating Jews’, dan pembelot bangsa.
Yahudi ortodoks tetap konsisten menuntut negara Israel dibubarkan. Memandangkan hal itu hampir mustahil, mereka kemudiannya mendesak Zionis berhenti mengguna-pakai nama ‘Israel’ kerana Zionisme tidak mencerminkan bangsa Israel yang sebenar, dan tidak berhak mewakili dan menjadi jurucakap bagi pihak mereka.
Pengaruh besar Zionis ke atas media Barat bukan lagi satu rahsia. Zionis akan memastikan hanya berita menyebelahi mereka yang akan didengar. Propaganda Zionis memperlihatkan seolah semua masyarakat dan ulama Yahudi adalah Zionis. Memang terdapat kumpulan Yahudi yang menyokong dan berkerjasama dengan Zionis, seperti golongan Hasidik, Sephardim, Ortodoks Moden, Religious Zionists dan lain-lain, namun pegangan mereka tidak didasarkan kepada pendapat asal Taurat. Mereka keluar dengan tafsiran Taurat dan Talmud yang memanfaatkan Zionis. Suara golongan rabbi Haredi dan majoriti masyarakat Yahudi ortodoks sentiasa ditekan oleh kumpulan-kumpulan pro-Zionis ini.
Pelbagai usaha dibuat oleh Zionis untuk menarik lebih ramai Yahudi berpindah ke Israel. Antaranya dengan menjanjikan kesenangan kepada keluarga Yahudi yang hidup miskin di negara-negara asing. Pun begitu sambutannya masih tidak menggalakkan. Ironinya, Israel sendiri pun bergantung kepada sokongan ekonomi dari Yahudi di luar. Sekiranya negara Israel begitu bermanfaat kepada bangsa Yahudi, mereka tidak perlu diajak berhijrah ke Israel. Masyarakat Yahudi yang hidup aman damai di luar Palestin hakikatnya tidak ‘selera’ untuk tinggal di Israel. Hal ini kerana Israel sentiasa diancam perang dan pergolakan. Demi kepentingan politik, Zionis sanggup meletuskan perang yang membahayakan nyawa rakyatnya. Ramai yang dahulunya ‘terpesona’ dengan janji Zionis telah berpindah ke negara lain yang lebih aman.
Nur Iman Ramli, Pegawai Eksekutif Persidangan, IAIS Malaysia.
You and I are human beings, with family, perhaps children and grandchildren, certainly with friends and neighbors. We are of different nationalities, ethnicities, beliefs. We have all seen extreme poverty, and witnessed wars and the killing and the dying, whether firsthand or through the news.
We have similar sentiments. Empathy is a part of us, in our DNA. Unless one can completely block out this aspect of all human beings, it is impossible to view what has happened in the last weeks the people of Gaza without being heartbroken, angry, and feeling helpless.
The country inflicting such disproportionate war on the inhabitants of Gaza is the one that was carved out of ancient Palestine following one of the worst, and one of the most heartbreaking man-made human calamities, the Jewish Holocaust.
As the smoke clears, and as both parties finish their “victory celebrations,” it is on all of us to ask ourselves what we can do.
A mostly barren region of the world, the Israeli and Palestinian land is the holy birthplace of the prophets of the three primary monotheist religions of the world. One would think that with the wisdom of these powerful religions, it would be a heaven of harmony. Instead, we find a hell on Earth, a ground soaked in the blood and tears of far too many innocent victims.
No conflict has consumed so much thought, wisdom and mediation by so many sages. It has produced more “peace plans” and “road maps” than any other conflict of the last century, the writers and planners at times rewarded prematurely with the Nobel Peace Prize, creating false optimism followed by disillusion, more frustration and anger. The hopes of Palestinians have been betrayed by their own leaders, by the rulers of their fellow Arab nations, and by the US.
We have just witnessed a new round of horrors, unleashed by an Israeli state that is apparently without moral constraints, one that believes it somehow has God’s exclusive mandate to be the unchallenged regional power, and one that believes itself entitled to nuclear arsenal that is denied to others in the region. Hamas rockets are easily overwhelmed by the unmatched air force and infantry army of Israel, the world’s 4th world military power.
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.
AS of 2020, the United States had provided Israel $146 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. In 2021, the Trump Administration requested and additional $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel and $500 million in missile defense aid. Israel receives the second largest foreign aid allocation in the US budget, second only to Afghanistan, including ultra-modern lethal weapons, advanced missile shield technology and the most advanced jet fighters.
Rhetoric and fist-waving aside, Israel has no discernible external threats to its survival. Iran is as close as it comes to a plausible enemy – but with no nuclear weapons against Israel’s 200 nuclear warheads it is difficult to call this credible. The rockets fired by Hamas, most of them destroyed by Israel’s “Iron Dome,” are comparable to a child throwing rocks at an army of tanks in proportion to Israeli might. Yet the Israeli army has continued to wage wars against the Palestinian people, as it has done since the Arab-Israel war of half a century ago.
The recent conflict, ignited by the invasion by Israeli security forces of the most sacred of Muslim sites, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, resulting in hundreds wounded, is only the latest move in a long campaign. It is made even more absurd today by the fact that 44% of the population of Gaza is under 14 years old, a demographic often seen in populations that have been subjected to campaigns of annihilation.
The US is an irreplaceable partner in the region and is critical to is resolution. The Biden Administration is inheriting a legacy of extraordinary blunders by the Trump administration that were received by Netanyahu as a green light and license for a scorched earth war against the Palestinians. It will demand courage and wisdom, and strong international support, to undo.
A path to the resolution must begin with all parties being held to the recognized international standards for crimes against humanity. No alliance with the powerful should shield any state or party from accountability for the violation of these standards. International Standards of crimes against one’s fellow human beings, when applied to Slobodan Milošević or Omar Al-Bashir but not to Benjamin Netanyahu become pointless.
Every conflict in this ongoing theater of insanity, including the “eviction” by armed forces from one’s home, to missiles landing in one’s bedroom in Gaza to a 10-year-old Israeli girl cowering in fear in a shelter, should reaffirm the validity and urgent need for the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. The only other option is a unified state composed of Israelis and Palestinians, with the recognition that Palestinians would be the majority. There are no other options.
The next steps on this vital road must now include unimpeded access to Gaza for international humanitarian agencies, and international support for the reconstruction and compensation for the destruction of infrastructures and human lives needlessly lost and wounded. Our common empathy and humanity demand it.
(Article by Professor Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and José Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
Just minutes after the war between Israel and Hamas broke out, a 5-year-old boy named Baraa al-Gharabli was killed in Jabaliya, Gaza.
A 16-year-old, Mustafa Obaid, was killed in the same strike, on the evening of May 10.
Around the same time, four cousins — Yazan al-Masri, 2, Marwan al-Masri, 6, Rahaf al-Masri, 10, and Ibrahim al-Masri, 11 — were killed in Beit Hanoun, Gaza.
“It was devastating,” said Mukhlis al-Masri, a cousin. “The pain for our family is indescribable.”
Hussein Hamad, 11
Ibrahim Hassanain, 16
Muhammad Suleiman, 15
Hamza Ali, 12
Mina Sharir, 2, and Lina Sharir, 15, sisters
Nearly all of the children killed were Palestinian.
Gaza is crowded and its population skews young, with about half under age 18. So when Israeli warplanes hit homes and residential neighborhoods, the number of children at risk is extraordinary. Sometimes nearly entire households disappear with a single blast.
Israel blames Hamas for the high civilian death toll in Gaza because the group fires rockets and conducts military operations from civilian areas. Israel’s critics cite the death toll as evidence that Israel’s strikes were indiscriminate and disproportionate.
Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza Strip, on May 15.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
Children are the most vulnerable.
In Gaza, they grow up amid widespread poverty and high unemployment, and cannot freely travel in or out of the territory because of the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. They also live under the constant threat of war. An average 15-year-old would have lived through four major Israeli offensives. Nearly everyone in Gaza knows someone who has been killed in the fighting.
“When I think about the children who died,” said Ola Abu Hasaballah, a child psychologist in Gaza, “I also think about the ones who survive, those who were pulled out of the rubble and lost a limb, or those who will go to school and see their friend is missing.”
In the Arab village of Dahmash in central Israel, when the sirens wailed around 3 a.m. on May 12, Nadine Awad, 16, and her father ran outside for cover, said her uncle, Ismail Arafat. But a rocket fired by militants in Gaza slammed into the ground next to their home, killing both of them.
Nadine was a top student, her academic adviser, Sirin Slameh, said. She spoke English proficiently, taught herself how to play the piano and participated in Jewish-Arab coexistence programs, Ms. Slameh said. The week before, she had scored a 97 on a math exam, a subject she had struggled with.
She was very close to her father, Mr. Arafat said, and would follow him everywhere.
“The sad part is she followed him outside when the sirens blared,” he said, “and now she has followed him to the grave.”
Zaid Talbani, 4, and Miriam Talbani, 2, siblings
Hala Rifi, 13
Bashar Samour, 17
The funeral of Mina Sharir, 2.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
While most of the children were Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes, there are exceptions.
At least two of the children killed in Gaza — Baraa al-Gharabli and Mustafa Obaid — may have been killed when Palestinian militants fired a rocket at Israel that fell short, according to an initial investigation by Defense for Children International-Palestine.
And one of the children killed in Israel, Nadine Awad, was Palestinian.
“The rockets don’t differentiate between Arabs and Jews,” said Ismail Arafat, her uncle.
Once the war started, Ido Avigal, 5, was so anxious that he did not want to sleep, shower or eat alone, said Shani Avigal, his mother.
When sirens started blaring in Sderot, Israel, he huddled with his family in a fortified safe room at his aunt’s home. But when a rocket hit a nearby building, shrapnel punctured the thick glass of the safe room, tearing into his stomach and killing him.
Ms. Avigal said her son was caring and loving, and had recently told his classmates that “not all Arabs are bad.”
“I said they all don’t want to kill us,” he told his mother. “I eventually convinced them.”
The same day, May 12, Hamada al-Emour, 13, went with his cousin, Ammar al-Emour, 10, to get haircuts at a barber shop — a tradition among many Palestinians before the festival that follows the end of Ramadan.
They were nearly back home in Khan Younis when an Israeli airstrike killed them both, said Atiya al-Emour, Hamada’s father, who said he witnessed his son’s death.
“I wish I didn’t see what happened to him,” said Mr. al-Emour. “It was awful.”
Mahmoud Tolbeh, 12, was an excellent student, his father, Hamed Tolbeh, said. He liked the sciences and dreamed of becoming a mechanical engineer. He was helpful around the house, making eggs and sandwiches for his siblings, tea and coffee for guests, cleaning the house and picking up groceries.
“He was the backbone of our family,” Mr. Tolbeh said. “We could rely on him for anything.”
On the last night of Ramadan, he went to help a cousin at his barber shop. Mahmoud was steps from the shop’s entrance, his father said, when shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike hit his head and neck. He died two days later.
His sister Nagham cradled his body.
“He had a bright future,” Mr. Tolbeh said. “But it was buried with him in the grave.”
Nagham Tolbeh mourned over the body of her brother, Mahmoud.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
Yahya Khalifa, 13, enjoyed riding his bike, had memorized several chapters of the Quran and hoped to one day visit the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“He was an innocent and sweet boy,” his father, Mazen Khalifa, said.
He went out to run a quick errand, promising to pick up yogurt and ice cream for the family, his father said, and was killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Four brothers: Amir Tanani, 6, Ahmad Tanani, 2, Ismail Tanani, 7, and Adham Tanani, 4 (not pictured).
The identities of the children killed, their photographs and the circumstances of their deaths came from their parents and other relatives, teachers and schools in Gaza and Israel, international rights organizations, Palestinian officials, social media, and news organizations in Gaza and Israel. Most of the details were corroborated by multiple sources.
Khaled Qanou, 17
Ahmad al-Hawajri, 14
The Israeli military says that it takes rigorous precautions to prevent civilian deaths. It says a major part of its bombing campaign was aimed at Hamas’s underground tunnel network, a military facility that runs underneath civilian neighborhoods.
Many people in Gaza, however, say that the number of civilians killed proves that whatever precautions Israel may be taking are tragically insufficient.
“People think there has to be some rationale,” said Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, “but the bottom line is they want to inflict pain and suffering.”
The mother and brother of Yahya Khalifa, 13.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
The low toll on the Israeli side also reflected an imbalance in defensive capabilities.
Hamas and other militant groups fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, also indiscriminately. But most were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, which Israeli officials said stopped about 90 percent of the rockets. And many Israelis have safe rooms in their homes.
In Gaza, most people have no access to safe rooms or shelters. Many people seek refuge in the United Nations schools, but they too have been bombed, reinforcing a feeling that anyone could be killed anywhere.
Even in Israel, Arab citizens don’t always have equal access to bomb shelters. Ms. Awad, who was killed by a rocket from Gaza, lived in an Arab village with no bomb shelter.
Lina Issa, 13
Fawziya Abu Faris, 17, woke up early every morning in Umm al-Nasr, a Bedouin community in northern Gaza, to milk her family’s sheep and make fresh cheese and yogurt, said her father, Nasser Abu Faris.
Muhammad Abu Dayyeh, 9 months
Hoor al-Zamli, 2
Ibrahim al-Rantisi, 6 months
It was shortly after midnight in Beit Lahia, Gaza, and the three terrified children were huddled in their mother’s arms. Muhammad-Zain al-Attar, 9 months, sat in the middle, his sister, Amira al-Attar, 6, and brother, Islam al-Attar, 8, on either side.
The first strike hit the entrance of their ground floor apartment, trapping the family and making it impossible to flee, the father, Muhammad al-Attar, said. The second, moments later, brought the three story building down.
Mr. al-Attar dug himself out of the rubble and survived. His wife and children were crushed under a concrete pillar, their bodies found still together.
Abdullah Jouda, 12
Mental health experts and independent organizations who work with children in Gaza say they commonly suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fear and anxiety. Those feelings can produce debilitating nightmares and self-destructive or aggressive behavior.
A Palestinian boy next to the remains of his home in Gaza City.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
“Gaza is already a very violent and terrorizing experience for children because they are under constant military rule,” said Karl Schembri, a spokesman for the Norweigian Refugee Council, which runs a psychotherapy and education program for children in Gaza. Eleven of the children the group works with were killed this month, all of them in their homes.
“They were getting assistance and care to try and put behind them their nightmares and their trauma,” Mr. Schembri said. “Now they are buried with their dreams and their nightmares.”
Butheina Obaid, 6
Suheib al-Hadidi, 12, lived with his parents and four brothers in the crowded Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. He was fascinated by birds, which had a freedom he could only imagine. He owned a cockatiel, trained it to sit on his shoulder and envisioned a future as a breeder, his cousin, Abdullah al-Hadidi, said.
His brother, Yahya al-Hadidi, 10, was a shy boy who liked riding his bike and playing with cats, Mr. al-Hadidi said.
Osama al-Hadidi, 5, was considered one of the most stylish members of his family. He changed clothes frequently and took pains to perfect his looks, Mr. al-Hadidi said. “He would shower and change his clothes every two hours.”
Abdurrahman al-Hadidi, 7, studied English, dreamed of traveling to Turkey and liked playing with remote-control cars, his father, Muhammad al-Hadidi, said.
The four brothers were asleep at their uncle and aunt’s home, Muhammad al-Hadidi said, when an Israeli bomb ripped through the ceiling, killing them, their mother, their aunt and four cousins.
Yamen Abu Hatab, 5, Bilal Abu Hatab, 9, Miriam Abu Hatab, 7, and Yousef Abu Hatab, 10
Palestinians carrying the bodies of children from the Abu Hatab family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
Mohammad Bhar, 17
The al-Qawlaq family owned two adjacent apartment buildings on Al Wahda Street, a main thoroughfare in Gaza City. At around 1 a.m. on May 16, Israeli strikes reduced both buildings to rubble, killing more than 20 members of the extended family, including eight children: Yara al-Qawlaq, 9, Hala al-Qawlaq, 12, Rula al-Qawlaq, 5, Zaid al-Qawlaq, 8, Qusai al-Qawlaq, 6 months, Adam al-Qawlaq, 3, Ahmad al-Qawlaq, 15, and Hana al-Qawlaq,14 (not pictured).
“It’s unimaginable,” said Waseem al-Qawlaq, who survived. “It’s beyond torture.”
Searching for victims from the al-Qawlaq family.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
Dima al-Ifranji, 15, far left, was the oldest child and the apple of her father’s eye. She was one of the top students in her class, spoke English and French, and dreamed of studying medicine, her father, Rami al-Ifranji, said. “She was brilliant,” he said. “She was a master of foreign languages.”
Her brother, Yazan al-Ifranji, 13, was a bright child, often the first to answer questions in class, Mr. al-Ifranji said. He liked playing soccer and listening to music, and hoped to become a computer engineer.
Mira al-Ifranji, 11, imagined a future as a dentist. And Amir al-Ifranji, 9, was a polite child with a vibrant smile who loved playing soccer and video games on his phone.
An Israeli airstrike on May 16 killed all four children and their mother.
It was late at night and even though the feast celebrating the end of Ramadan was over, Dana Ishkontana, 9, and Lana Ishkontana, 5, wanted to dress up in their new holiday outfits. Their uncle, Raed Ishkontana, snapped pictures on his phone while their two brothers, Yahya Ishkontana, 4, and Zain Ishkontana, 2, watched, Mr. Ishkontana recalled.
Then he stepped out to get snacks for the family, chocolate candy bars and potato chips.
The four children and their mother were killed in an Israeli airstrike, he said.
“I wish I never left,” he said.
Riad Ishkontana, who survived an airstrike, mourning the loss of his wife and four children.Hosam Salem for The New York Times
Her father called her “Galaxy.” Tala Abu Alouf, 13, he thought, had skin the color of a Galaxy chocolate bar. She was quick with a joke and her father, Dr. Ayman Abu Elouf, adored her, said Alaa Abu Elouf, her cousin.
Her brother, Tawfiq Abu Alouf, 17, was a serious student, intensely prepping for the standardized tests Palestinians take in their senior year of high school, Alaa said.
Brother, sister and father were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Al Wahda Street in Gaza City on May 16.
Yousef Al-Baz, 13
Rafeef Abu Dayer, 10, liked to draw. She had sketched one of the high-rise buildings that an Israeli airstrike destroyed in Gaza City two days earlier and had started to color in her drawing when her mother called her for lunch.
“You can go back to drawing after you eat,” her mother said.
The girl sat down for lunch with 13 relatives in a private residential garden. Minutes later, Israel attacked a building nearby. Shrapnel and rubble struck Rafeef, killing her and her uncle.
The drawing Rafeef Abu Dayer, 10, was working on before she was killed.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
Nagham Salha, 2
On May 19, the day before Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, Dima Asaliya, 10, was walking home from her older sister’s house carrying an electric pizza oven. It was a small one, her father, Saad Asaliyah, said, the size of a soccer ball, that the family used to bake bread.
An Israeli surveillance drone had been hovering overhead, and Mr. Asaliyah now wonders if Israeli soldiers mistook it for a weapon.
“Maybe their alarms went off because of the stove,” he said. “But did they not see how small she was?”
There was an explosion, and his youngest child was gone.
“Do you see her picture?” he asked. “She’s worthy of our grief.”
BANGSA Yahudi pernah diberi tanah percuma untuk mereka bina negara sendiri. Tanah atau wilayah yang dimaksudkan ini umurnya 14 tahun lebih tua daripada negara haram Israel, bahkan ia masih wujud. Justeru apa sebab Zionis masih mahu renggut tanah Palestin?
Wilayah yang dimaksudkan ini adalah ‘Israel’ yang tidak ditubuhkan dengan merampas tanah sesiapa, dan memang ditubuhkan untuk menempatkan kaum Yahudi seramai mungkin dalam sebuah wilayah. Ia dikenali sebagai ‘Jewish Autonomous Oblast’ (Wilayah Autonomi Yahudi) di wilayah Birobidzhan, Rusia. Letaknya di bahagian paling timur (Russian Far East) bersempadan dengan Republik Rakyat China (PRC). Oblast bermaksud ‘wilayah, zon atau provinsi’ dalam bahasa Rusia. Keluasan tanah yang indah dan aman ini adalah 36,000 km persegi, hampir seluas negeri Pahang Darul Makmur dan 14,000 km persegi lebih besar dari Israel.
Ditubuhkan secara rasmi pada 6 Mei 1934, JOA masih satu-satunya wilayah autonomi di Rusia sejak zaman Kesatuan Soviet lagi. Bandar Birobidzhan (sebut Birobijan) menjadi bandar pentadbiran JOA sehingga ke hari ini.
Individu yang mencetuskan idea penubuhan JAO ini adalah Vladimir Lenin, pemimpin parti Bolshevik yang memperkenalkan polisi ateisme. Idea Lenin mahu beri ‘homeland’ untuk bangsa Yahudi kedengaran agak ganjil. Tujuan utamanya adalah untuk menunjukkan kerajaan Bolshevik pimpinannya mengamalkan sikap toleransi. Lenin sebenarnya mahu meraih sokongan kaum Yahudi dan mengekang pengembangan ideologi Zionis Sosialis dalam kalangan Yahudi haluan kiri, yang dilihat mampu menyaingi Marxisme di Rusia.
Lenin juga dikatakan berimpian memajukan wilayah paling timur Rusia itu dengan mengumpulkan kaum Yahudi (dan lain-lain etnik Rusia). Beliau mahu mewujudkan sebuah penempatan Yahudi yang menurutnya ‘berjiwa sosialis dalam tubuh nasionalis’. Setelah kematiannya pada 1924, idea penubuhan wilayah Yahudi di Rusia diteruskan pemimpin baharu Bolshevik, iaitu Joseph Stalin.
Mungkin juga niat asal penubuhan JAO ini tidak lain hanya bertujuan untuk menyingkirkan kaum Yahudi nun jauh di hujung timur Rusia. Wilayah tersebut sering dicerobohi tentera China dan pemberontak anti-Bolshevik. Sekurang-kurangnya bila ada sejumlah kaum Yahudi di situ, bolehlah mereka ‘menampan’ pencerobohan di perbatasan Soviet ketika itu. Ringkas kata, ini kerja serampang dua mata.
Tiada negara yang mengalu-alukan bangsa Yahudi di Eropah ketika itu. Kaum Yahudi Rusia terkenal dengan kekayaan hasil daripada menjalankan pelbagai jenis perniagaan. Selepas kejatuhan Tsar, Rusia dipaksa menganut Marxisme dan sektor perniagaan milikan peribadi diharamkan. Kaum Yahudi yang dahulunya kaya-raya, tiba-tiba jatuh miskin. Pada 1924, kadar pengangguran dalam masyarakat Yahudi Rusia adalah 30%. Antara penyebabnya adalah tindakan ‘pogrom’ (pembersihan etnik) yang menyasarkan kaum Yahudi dalam Empayar Rusia. Zaman sebelum Bolshevik pun, Tsar Rusia memang tidak suka dengan kaum Yahudi.
Justeru, bagi memastikan kaum Yahudi kembali menyumbang kepada ekonomi Soviet, kerajaan menubuhkan ‘Komzet’, jawatankuasa untuk penempatan pertanian kaum Yahudi.
Untuk mendapat kepastian sama ada wilayah JAO itu sesuai untuk didiami, Stalin telah menghantar kumpulan jawatankuasa pengkaji untuk menilai keadaan cuaca dan tanah di wilayah tersebut. Jawatankuasa itu mendapati tanah di wilayah sekitar Birobidzhan agak berbatu, hutan oak, cedar dan painnya agak tebal, banyak juga kawasan berpaya dan pada musim panas, serangan serangga perosak agak teruk, justeru tidak sesuai untuk tanaman mahu pun ternakan. Pun begitu, bagi Kesatuan Soviet, tiada apa yang tidak boleh dibuat atau dicipta. Idea JAO tetap dilaksanakan.
Sebenarnya semasa kajian tersebut dibuat, wilayah Birobidzhan sudah dihuni 30,000 masyarakat etnik Cossak, Korea, Kazakh dan beberapa etnik lain, termasuk golongan bekas pengikut Tsar Rusia.
Dipendekkan cerita, kumpulan pertama Yahudi Rusia yang berpindah ke JAO adalah seramai 654 orang pada 1928. Untuk menggalakkan lebih ramai kaum Yahudi memulakan hidup di JAO, kerajaan Soviet menghadiahkan tanah ladang, haiwan ternakan dan alatan pertanian. Idea berpindah ke JAO disambut baik dengan penuh kesyukuran oleh Yahudi Rusia, kerana Yahudi adalah satu-satunya bangsa di dunia yang tak punya tanah mahu pun negara.
Sekitar tahun 1930an, tauke-tauke besar Yahudi dari USA dan Brazil pun turut berpindah ke JAO. Pada 1932, keluarga perisik terkenal Rusia di kemudian hari, George Koval tiba di Birobidzhan. 1,200 Yahudi non-Soviet memilih untuk memulakan hidup baharu di situ.
Kaum Yahudi di JAO bertambah kepada 20,000 orang pada tahun 1937. Idea penubuhan JAO itu nampaknya menjadi dan berjalan lancar. Kedai-kedai dan perusahaan milik Yahudi tumbuh, kuil Yahudi didirikan, akhbar berbahasa Yiddish juga diterbitkan, manakala sekolah Yiddish juga dibuka untuk anak-anak kaum Yahudi.
Namun populasi Yahudi di JAO ada kalanya menaik dan menurun. Disebabkan cuaca dan faktor bumi JAO yang begitu ekstrem, penduduk Yahudi dan etnik-etnik lain mula menurun. Kerajaan Soviet juga tidak sepenuhnya menepati janji untuk membantu golongan Yahudi membina hidup baharu di JAO. Bagi yang berkemampuan, mereka angkat kaki keluar ke negara baharu. Yang tak mampu, terpaksalah teruskan hidup di situ. Faktor lain yang menyebabkan penurunan jumlah masyarakat Yahudi JAO adalah dasar ‘Red Terror’ Joseph Stalin antara 1936-1938 yang ironinya turut menjadikan kaum Yahudi sebagai sasaran.
Selepas Perang Dunia Kedua tamat pada 1945, idea untuk menempatkan pelarian Yahudi Eropah di JAO mula dilaksanakan. Pada 1948, populasi Yahudi meningkat kepada 46,000 ke 50,000 orang, yakni 25% daripada populasi keseluruhan JAO ketika itu.
Pada 1958, lebih kurang 50% masyarakat Yahudi meninggalkan JAO. Ada yang berpindah semula ke USA dan juga ke Israel. Hari ini, jumlah kaum Yahudi yang menetap di JAO hanyalah 1% daripada lebih kurang 162,000 keseluruhan penduduk JOA. Majoriti penduduk JAO adalah penganut Kristian pelbagai aliran, diikuti penganut ateisme, manakala terdapat juga 1% masyarakat Muslim di JAO.
Ada ura-ura di Moscow untuk menutup JAO dan diserap ke dalam wilayah lain sekitarnya, namun idea itu mendapat tentangan dari masyakat JAO, terutama kaum Yahudinya. Sungguh pun jumlah penganut Yahudinya kecil, terbukti JAO tetap menjadi ‘safe heaven’ kepada mereka berbanding jika mereka tinggal di Israel, atau mana-mana negara lain.
Di JAO mereka bebas mengamalkan Judaisme dan mengekalkan budaya tradisi Yiddish. KeYahudian wilayah JAO bagi mereka harus terus dikekalkan dan dipertahankan. Bandar Birobidzhan kini indah dengan binaan-binaan asal dan baharu, arca-arca artistik dan sekiranya Moscow menyokong pembangunan di situ, JAO mungkin akan terus berkembang pesat. Dengan penggunaan teknologi, sektor perindustrian dan pertanian juga semakin berkembang di JOA.
Hari ini, semakin ramai penduduk Yahudi yang pernah berpindah ke Israel pulang semula ke JAO. Jelas sekali hidup mereka lebih aman di JAO berbanding di Israel.
Presiden Vladimir Putin juga amat mengalu-alukan kaum Yahudi untuk kembali ke Rusia. Pada Januari 2016, Putin berkata di hadapan Kongres Yahudi Eropah: “Mereka (Yahudi) meninggalkan Rusia pada zaman Soviet, tapi kini mereka boleh kembali”.
Jadi bolehlah Yahudi sama ada Ortodoks mahu pun Zionis Sekular pergi menetap dan bina negara sendiri di JAO. Wilayah ini bersempadan dengan China, ada harapan tempias kemakmuran ekonomi di China akan turut masuk ke JAO. Potensi JAO lebih besar dari Israel di Palestin. Jiran-jiran JAO pun ‘mesra Yahudi’ belaka, tak macam negara-negara Arab. Tanahnya kini subur. Cuaca yang tidak menentu bukan lagi faktor penghalang untuk memajukan sesebuah negara. Teknologi canggih memungkinkan padang pasir pun menghijau dengan pelbagai pokok dan tanaman dalam abad moden ini. Tiada yang mustahil.
Di JAO, hidup masyarakat Yahudi lebih aman sentosa. Keindahan seni bina dan alam semula jadi di Birobidzhan dan daerah-daerah dalam JAO kini sekali lagi menjadi magnet kepada keluarga dan masyarakat Yahudi yang mahukan hidup dan masa hadapan yang lebih terjamin berbanding jika terus tinggal di Israel.
Jadi apa yang menghalang bangsa Yahudi Zionis dari memakmurkan JAO dan memilih untuk merampas tanah Palestin? Zionis ini majoritinya bukan dari keturunan asal penduduk Yahudi Palestin, tapi pendatang Yahudi dari Eropah, India, China, Afrika, Amerika Selatan dan lain-lain. Mereka itu bukan Bani Israel asal dan hanya menunggang agama Yahudi. ‘The Law of Return’ yang mereka laungkan itu hanyalah berdasarkan khayalan semata-mata.
Nur Iman ialah Conference Executive, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
POST-ARAB Israeli wars, Israeli Zionists have been emboldened to expel Palestinians through evictions and land grab, in defiance of international laws.
One can refer to United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2334, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the two-state solution. UNSCRs are binding for member states under Article 25 of the United Nations Charter.
The latest Sheikh Jarrah incident is part of the ongoing, systematic and concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Jerusalem since 1967.
Zionist provocations in response to peaceful protests against illegal and criminal evictions in Sheikh Jarrah by storming and violating the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque on the last Friday night prayers of
Ramadan on May 7 resulted in Hamas, the elected and, hence, legitimate authority in Gaza, to react by firing rockets into Israel.
terrorist outfit, but a resistance movement. Its founder, the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated by Israel in 2004.
The firing of rockets, therefore, can't and shouldn't be construed as acts of terror. Rather it's in self-defence and a moral duty against Zionist intrusion and aggression in a territory under its occupation.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) should convene to issue a fresh resolution to compel Israel to allow UN officials and ICC investigators to enter Gaza to probe war crimes, with priority given to the state of Israel in what's an asymmetric and disproportionate conflict.
In fact, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has expressed intention to press ahead with an inquiry.
Non-compliance and non-cooperation by Israel would result in the enforcement of sanctions.
This would be reminiscent of UNSCR 687 of 1991 (and by extension, UNSCR 1441 of 2002) with specific reference to the demand that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein then, allow UN inspectors to monitor and verify claims of disarmament of the "weapons of mass destruction" arsenals.
In the resolution on Israel, the UNSC should call for Jerusalem to be placed under an international body and call on countries, including the United States, that have moved their embassies to the city to reverse the decision. At the same time, a UN peacekeeping force should be stationed to preserve and maintain the status quo.
In addition, the UNSC must demand for an end to the land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Arab League should take the lead, too, as the blockade, which is stifling life for Gazans, should be part of the agenda of de-escalation and holding Israel to account.
Furthermore, the UNSC has the opportunity to recall UNSCR 497 of 1981 in which the annexation of Golan Heights from Syria in 1973 was declared "null and void and without international legal effect".
With the backing of like-minded countries, Turkey could send its navy to the limits of the exclusive economic zone of Gaza to contain and pressure Israel in the eastern Mediterranean and send a strong signal of its determination to end the blockade, sooner or later.
Now more than ever, Israel is showing the world that it's on the wrong side of history.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't care as his focus is only on saving his skin from corruption charges.
Netanyahu is also bent on annexing the West Bank — pursuing ethnic cleansing and apartheid to its fullest possible — putting the lie to the two-state solution.
Reactions the world over against Israel's atrocities are rising as he drags the nation down to serve his personal and political interests. This may prove to be the beginning of Netanyahu's undoing.
The writer is head of social, law and human rights at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research
KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today lambasted “powerful nations” for their silence over the prolonged Israeli war crimes on Palestinian land.
In expressing his anger towards such atrocities, the interim prime minister said sufferings of the Palestinian people persist despite demands for justice against the oppression.
“I am also angry that powerful nations and self-proclaimed defenders of justice, freedom and democracy are keeping silent or worse, a party to the perpetrations of injustices and cruelties inflicted on the Palestinians, wantonly by the Tel Aviv regime.
“Most hurtful is at times when despair creeps in, and the sense of helplessness overwhelms us. Everyone speaks of justice and freedom but turns a blind eye when friends and allies commit all these wrong deeds. But I hope that such feelings are fleeting.
“While Malaysia wants to be friends with all countries and respect their sovereignty regardless of their ideological beliefs, we must continue to speak against injustices and in defending the rights of the oppressed,” he said in his keynote address at the opening session of the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, themed ‘Southeast Asian Support for the Rights of the Palestinian People’ at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here today.
He said Malaysia reaffirmed its commitment to the cause until the Palestinians were provided with the justice, freedom, peace and security they deserve.
Dr Mahathir also urged Asean member states to continue the pursuit of justice and peace for the oppressed.
“Our collective voice regionally should espouse more than just economic development. We should also extend a united front in supporting the rights of the Palestinians. This is the primary purpose of this peace conference.
“This conference today is a congregation of global representatives – individually and collectively we can utilise all the platforms available, both Asean and non-Asean, for us to continue voicing our concerns and register our outrage over the inhumane and barbaric acts that the Tel Aviv regime has inflicted on the Palestinians.
“We are duty-bound and this responsibility is further amplified when powerful nations that had styled themselves as defenders of justice and freedom choose to be silent while the atrocities are being committed.
“And we cannot afford to practise double standards where gross injustice is concerned.”
Dr Mahathir reiterated Malaysia’s stand against the United States President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan, dubbed by proponents as “the deal of the century”, which was announced on Jan 28.
Malaysia, he said, stands by its position for the creation of an independent State of Palestine through a two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
“The unilateral announcement endorsed and instigated by the Israelis without any attempts for dialogue or negotiation with Palestinian representatives from the West Bank or Gaza is a mockery of international efforts to find a solution to the Palestinian – Israeli ongoing crisis.
“Furthermore, to call it the Deal of the Century bespeaks of the ultimate in dishonest brokerage.
“The deal foregoes key issues at stake for a just solution. The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian stand.”
The deal, he said, is contrary to Security Council resolutions and the principle of a permanent two-State solution based on the 1967 borders, the realisation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the right of all States in the region to live in peace and security.
It does not respect previously signed agreements and commitments, he said.
“To suggest East Jerusalem as Israel’s national capital would grant Palestine limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, if at all. At the same time, it would allow Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of East Jerusalem. Thankfully, this has been deemed illegal by the international community.
“Israel will get Washington’s permission to annex all of its illegal settlements, now littered across the West Bank, as well as the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. I believe that under international law, the annexation of an occupied territory is considered a War Crime!
“Israel will continue to have military control over the entire West Bank. In the proposed agreement, Palestine would not be allowed an army, whereas Israel will control its security, borders, coastal waters and airspace. The occupied state would be forced to accept the plan within four years. Otherwise, Israel will have a free hand to start plundering yet more Palestinian territory.
“Malaysia finds the proposal utterly unacceptable and grossly unjust.
“Let us not forget that the international community back then was responsible for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and drowning the existing state of Palestine into anonymity and oblivion.”
He said it was on May 14, 1948, that Israel came into being through a bloody forcible seizure of villages and land from the Palestinians who had lived there from historical times.
The declaration of independence by Israel, he said, contrasts with the fate of Palestinians so much that the latter deems the date as the day of catastrophe.
“The Holocaust lasted six years and the Nakba (catastrophe) has been going on for more than 70 years! The pro-Israel nations were quick to hold a tribunal at Nuremberg to try Nazi war criminals but have any tribunal been established for the Palestinian victims?
“Palestinians have always been advised to forget the past and start anew wherever they may be. The paradox is that they live out the consequences of the past every day as oppressed people under a violent military occupation; as a powerless minority in Israel, or as marginalised exiles in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
“Yet the Israelis will not allow the world to forget the Holocaust and ironically it is the Palestinians who have been made to pay a heavy price.
“Some of you may recall that in November 2013 the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War held a tribunal against the state of Israel for war crimes and crimes of genocide.
“Along with other civil society initiatives across the world, we hope that the International Criminal Court will take note of this blatant case of the injustice of the century and institute proceedings against Israel.”
Published in: The New Straits Times, Satruday 29 February 2020
Kamila Shamsie has said that it is a “matter of outrage” that the Israel boycott campaign Kamila Shamsie has said that it is a “matter of outrage” that the Israel boycott campaign should be held up as something shameful after a German jury reversed its decision to awardher the €15,000 (£13,000) Nelly Sachs prize over her support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The eight-member jury had decided on 6 September to make the British-Pakistani author their latest winner, citing writing that “builds bridges between societies”. But when they learned of Shamsie’s support for the BDS movement, they announced that they would cancel their original vote and withdraw the award.
“With its vote for the British writer Kamila Shamsie … the jury honoured the author’s outstanding literary work,” they said. “At that time, despite prior research, the members of the jury were not aware that the author has been participating in the boycott measures against theIsraeli government for its Palestinian policies since 2014.”
The prize, named for the German-Jewish Nobel laureate Nelly Sachs, is awarded by the German city of Dortmund to a writer promoting “tolerance and reconciliation” who has worked to improve cultural relations between people. Previous winners including Milan Kundera and Margaret Atwood. Its statutes stipulate that the life and work of an author should be included in the jury’s reasoning.
“Shamsie’s political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott as part of the BDS campaign a … is clearly in contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award,” said the jury. “The cultural boycott does not transcend borders, but affects the whole of Israeli society regardless of its actual political and cultural heterogeneity. Kamila Shamsie’s work is also withheld from the Israeli population in this way. This contrasts with the claim of the Nelly Sachs prize to proclaim and exemplify reconciliation among peoples and cultures. The jury regrets the situation in every respect.”
In May, the German parliament passed a motion labelling the BDS movement as antisemitic, calling it “reminiscent of the most terrible chapter in German history”. The motion was criticised by 60 Jewish and Israeli academics, who said in an open letter that it was part of a trend “labelling supporters of Palestinian human rights as antisemitic”. Shamsie, who has put her name to the cultural boycott of Israel, said it was a matter of great sadness to her “that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression”.
She described it as a “matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust”.
“In the just-concluded Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex up to one third of the West Bank, in contravention of international law,” Shamsie said, “and his political opponent Benny Gantz’s objection to this was that Netanyahu had stolen his idea; this closely followed the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces – which was condemned as ‘appalling’ by the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. In this political context, the jury has chosen to withdraw the award from me on the basis of my support for a non-violent campaign to bring pressure on the Israeli government.”
Shamsie, who won the Women’s prize for fiction last year, said the city of Dortmund had refused to publish her statement with their press release. She clarified that she will not allow her work to be published in Israel “on the basis that there is no Israeli publisher who is completely unentangled from the state … If a BDS-compliant Israeli publisher existed (as was formerly the case before the publishing house Andalus closed down) I would be happy to have them publish my work,” she said.
The novelist Ahdaf Soueif said the withdrawal of the award was “a manifestation of a new McCarthyism – on an international scale”.
“What we need to note, however, is that even in Germany there’s still a struggle going on,” Soueif said. “So it really is up to each individual and each organisation to choose whether they’re on the side of freedom of conscience and expression or on the side of a reactionary political censorship. Attempting to shut down a conversation on the issue of Palestinian political and human rights – an issue which so many have taken to their hearts – is simply not going to work.”
Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said that it was deeply disturbing that Shamsie had been stripped of the honour “for her personal opinions. “An award meant to recognise a writer for ‘outstanding literary contributions to the promotion of understanding between peoples’ has been withdrawn because the writer personally supports a non-violent movement that is intended to focus attention on respect for universal human rights,” said Ginsberg.
“Increasingly we are seeing fiction writers being policed for their political opinions and books cancelled as a result. The result will be the very opposite of what the prize organisers seek to achieve: a narrowing of voices and therefore fewer opportunities to promote understanding between people.”
Published in: The Guardian, Friday 20 September 2019