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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/23/16

The Open Wounds of Mideast Conflicts

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Palestinians in the West Bank are also under a kind of siege. It's a bit different from Gaza but they are also being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas. And what's the response of the U.S. government? What's the response of Barack Obama, whom everyone thinks is so cool? You know, he's leaving office, and look how cool he is, and we wish he could have another eight years. And you hear this kind of thing from people.

Well, this is the president who signed the biggest military aid package to any country, from any country, in history. Thirty-eight billion dollars over the next 10 years of weapons for Israel, to maintain its occupation, to maintain its apartheid, perhaps to attack Gaza again, in the near future. And that is the reality we're dealing with.

And then, you know, the irony, just the other day the State Department put out this very strong statement about a new Israeli settlement in the heart of the West Bank. The State Department said "This settlement is closer to Jordan than it is to Israel, and we strongly condemn this." And people are saying "What do you mean? You just signed this unconditional give-away of 38 billion dollars, what do you expect from Israel? Why should they behave any differently?"

AA: Yeah. You know, what's also happened is that there has been a huge upsurge in arrests. Over 1,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israel in the past year. The number that are in custody currently is at the highest level in a long time. I think it's over 200 that are currently in custody, including some children as young as 12. And thousands of Palestinians are currently, I think the number is close to 7,000, are in Israeli prisons. And more than 700 are held in what's called administrative detention. This is detention without charge or trial, which is indefinitely renewable. And this is something that is a holdover from British colonial times.

DB: Could you talk a little bit about the arrest and torture of resistors, particularly young people? Are young people continuing to be arrested and tortured, and suffer in this way?

And we've seen [hunger strikes] in the past years, you know, consistently, but this has intensified again in the last year, ... Palestinians undertaking lengthy hunger strikes, against this administrative detention.

So, this is happening again, with complete silence from the rest of the world. I mean, you know, Israel is being praised every day as a liberal democracy. It is a liberal democracy that runs a gulag for a population living under this brutal occupation. It's a liberal democracy, so-called, where Palestinians have no rights.

I mean, we have arrests now [...] since we are in the [San Francisco] Bay area let's call out Facebook [...] who are complicit with Israel in censorship. But Israel itself arresting Palestinians, over 140 Palestinians arrested for so-called incitement, for saying things on Facebook. Just the other day a world renowned Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi, who's been in jail since the spring, was sentenced to seven months for incitement.

Now incitement can mean criticizing Israel, criticizing the occupation. And what the Israeli military prosecutors -- because these are military courts -- did was they introduced as what they called evidence the number of "likes" that his Facebook posts had received, the number of "likes" -- the number of "shares" -- as evidence against him. [...] You know, all these folks who are talking about free speech and "Je suis Charlie" and all of this kind of stuff, when it comes to Israel's crackdown on Palestinians even being able to express themselves on social media, there's total silence.

But people are going to prison for it. There is the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour who is in prison currently for a poem she wrote. The journalist Semite Dway who came out of six months in prison, again for things she wrote on Facebook. And these cases are not being talked about.

DB: I really don't mean to harken back to the campaign, other than Trump's main thing is he's going to build a wall to keep out the dangerous Mexicans. We've seen a wall built on Palestinian land, big wall, tall wall. I guess you can see it from space. What has been the impact of that wall?

AA: Well, it's been devastating. It's cut through Palestinian lands, communities. It has not been about security. That's been a lie. It's been about annexing Palestinian land to Israeli settlements. But you know, here's a dirty little secret the Israelis don't boast about -- they stopped building it. They never finished it, because it was too astronomically expensive. And Palestinians can get around it anyway. So, they never finished it even though it exists in large areas and has wreaked havoc around Palestinian towns and cities and lands.

And, in fact, the connections there are very strong because the Obama administration awarded a contract to Elbit Systems, the Israeli company that operates the surveillance systems along the Israeli walls. Obama awarded a contract of $140 million to Elbit Systems for what's called a virtual wall, in Arizona. This is a system of radars and high tech surveillance of people's movements.

But also another thing, the wall that Trump wants to build is not hypothetical. That wall is already there, I have been to different parts of the U.S./Mexico border to San Diego, to Arizona, to Nogales, and I've seen the Obama Wall. Let's call it its real name -- it's the Obama Wall. A great amount of border militarization has been done by Obama, by the Democrats who always want to be in the position of outflanking the Republicans on the right and saying, "Look how good we are at deporting people. Look how good we are."

And all of that is tested. Who are the guinea pigs for these technologies that Israel is selling in the United States to control Americans, to control Mexicans, to control others? The guinea pigs are Palestinians under occupation.

DB: They've become the model. You want to repress your rebelling population that you've been brutalizing for 50 years? Call on Israel, follow their...

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 

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