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Palestine: Israel demolishes Palestinian coronavirus testing centre in Hebron

“We Are in Palestine, Habibi, and Palestine Is Heaven”

Friday 24 July 2020, by siawi3


Israel demolishes Palestinian coronavirus testing centre in Hebron

Israeli soldiers watched construction on desperately needed facility go ahead for two months before sending in the bulldozers, residents say

Photo: Palestinian engineer Raed Maswade inspects the rubble of the testing centre after it was demolished by Israeli authorities in Hebron (AFP)

By Akram Al-Waara, Mustafa Abu Sneineh

Published date: 21 July 2020 15:33 UTC | Last update: 1 day 23 hours ago

Israeli authorities have demolished a Palestinian drive-through coronavirus testing centre in the city of Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank.

The West Bank is struggling to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections, after appearing to successfully ward off the pandemic with a strict weeks-long lockdown implemented in March.

Hebron, the territory’s largest city and powerhouse of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) economy, has been hit particularly hard. The PA recorded 65 coronavirus-related deaths in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Hebron municipality has set up a coronavirus crisis centre, but social stigma and the difficulties caused by the Israeli occupation have hindered its response.

Raed Maswadeh, a 35-year-old engineer whose family owns the land in which the drive-through test service was being built, told Middle East Eye that three months ago the municipality had appealed to Palestinians to raise funds to build the facility.

“My family decided to donate our land at the northern entrance of Hebron for the purpose of constructing a Covid-19 test clinic,” Maswadeh said.

It was built in the memory of his grandfather, who died recently due to coronavirus, and Maswadeh said the project cost his family around $250,000.

Read More : Coronavirus-hit Hebron struggles with social stigma and Israeli occupation

The land is located in Area C, a part of the West Bank totally controlled by Israel, which almost never gives out building permits for Palestinian residents. Israeli settlers in the area, however, face no such problems.

Maswadeh said that they started building the centre without a permit, like many properities in the area.

“If we applied for a permit, we would not have gotten it. We thought maybe during Covid-19, there would be some exceptions,” he said.

The idea of the project was to ease pressure on hospitals in Hebron treating Covid-19 patients, which have reached full capacity.

Maswadeh told MEE that construction had been ongoing for two months, while Israeli soldiers patrolled the area. The soldiers watched bulldozers and building equipment enter the site, but said nothing, according to Maswadeh.

However, on 12 July, they received a military order to stop the construction, which was handed to them by an Israeli army commander.

Farid al-Atrash, a 44-year-old human rights lawyer and activist from Hebron, told MEE that the city was suffering from the crisis and urgently needed the facility.

“This way we can get better control over the people coming in and out of Hebron and control of the virus,” he said.

According to Atrash, the demolition could be a way for Israel to pressure the PA into resuming bureaucratic coordination, which it had stopped in protest at Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

“Israel in general makes the process for Palestinians to fight this virus more difficult. Since the PA stopped coordination with Israel, the Israelis have been using all different means to put pressure on the PA to reinstate coordination,” he said.

“They will do everything to make our lives as hard as possible here.”

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.


We Are in Palestine, Habibi, and Palestine Is Heaven: Two Articles

Vijay Prashad and People’s Dispatch

July 5, 2020

Vijay Prashad

It is impossible to be calm about the fate of the Palestinian people. Since 1948, they have been denied their country and denied their right to exist. One United Nations resolution upon another has said that their exile must end, that they must be allowed to build lives of dignity. Between UN Resolution 194 (1948) and 242 (1967) are a string of resolutions calling for the right of Palestinians to have a homeland and for the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland.

During the 1967 Israeli invasion of the West Bank, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan told Lieutenant General Yitzhak Rabin that the aim of the war was to remove all Palestinians out of the entire territory to the west of the Jordan River. When Israel seized that land from Jordanian control, Israel’s Prime Minister Levy Eshkol said that the new territory was a ‘dowry’, but that this ‘dowry’ came with a ‘bride’ – namely, the Palestinian people. ‘The trouble is that the dowry is followed by a bride’, he said, ‘whom we don’t want’. The Israeli plan has always been to annex all of Jerusalem and the West Bank, either killing the Palestinians who live there or pushing them out to Jordan and Syria.

On 1 July 2020, this is precisely what the Israeli government began: the annexation of the West Bank. The Oslo Accords of 1994 provided the basis for a ‘two-state solution’ in which the Palestinian people would control the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza in a future Palestinian state. But Israel was never going to permit such a reality. The imposition of prison-like conditions on Gaza and the punctual bombardment of that congested and impoverished area has left its people bereft. The open annexation of East Jerusalem through land grabs has changed the status quo of that city. The Israeli state-backed policy that sent close to half a million Israeli settlers to occupy Palestinian land in the West Bank – often with the best water sources – has erased the possibility of any sovereign Palestinian state.

For years, Israeli settlers have encroached upon Palestinian land with the full backing of the Israeli state. Now, Israel has begun to incorporate these settlements – which the United Nations has called illegal – into Israeli territory. Since UN Resolution 237 (1967), the United Nations has cautioned Israel not to violate the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which sought to ensure civilian protections in war zones, in the areas that Israel seized from the Palestinian people in the 1967 war. UN Resolution 2334 in 2016 said that the Israeli settlements were a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law and had ‘no legal validity’. The current annexation by Israel shows disregard for international law and for the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

What does this annexation of the West Bank mean? It means that Israel has grabbed the land that it had formally ceded to a future Palestinian state and it means that Israel is willing to incorporate the Palestinian natives of this land as non-citizen residents of Israel. The land grab violates international law; the second-class status of Palestinians affirms Israel’s status as an apartheid state. In 2017, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission of West Asia published a report called Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid. The report showed that all Palestinians – regardless of where they live – are impacted by the apartheid policies of the Israeli state.

Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, and that they face restrictive zoning laws and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents who must constantly prove that they live in the city. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report. And those who are exiled to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan have been permanently denied their rights to their homeland. All Palestinians – whether those who live in Haifa (Israel) or in Ain al-Hilweh (Lebanon) – suffer the consequences of Israeli apartheid. This indignity is punctuated with laws that humiliate Palestinians, each one meant to make life so miserable that they are forced to emigrate.

The annexation of the West Bank will only deepen Israel’s apartheid policies. The Zionist state will not permit Palestinians full citizenship rights. There is no intention to incorporate the Palestinian people into Israel with full citizenship nor to cede even a threadbare Palestine. This is barefaced colonialism of the old type. Inside this kind of colonial aggression comes the demolition of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem (such as Wadi Yasul) and the destruction of olive groves (such as in Burin Village). In the few months of 2020, the Israeli state has arrested 210 Palestinian children and 250 students, as well as 13 Palestinian journalists. These moves are reported by human rights groups and condemned by Palestinian civil society organisations but are otherwise ignored. This is the attrition of dignity.

All of this is illegal: the demolitions, the settlements, the apartheid wall that encircles the West Bank. UN resolutions, International Court of Justice rulings, civil society condemnations: none of it seems to make an impact. Since 1948, Israel has acted with impunity as it has sought to annihilate Palestine and Palestinians, to steal the ‘dowry’ and dispose of the ‘bride’. Not far from the wall that Israel built surrounding the West Bank to humiliate the Palestinians are the traces of walls that Israel has knocked down to turn homes into dust. Those walls, which once held up roofs, were shelters for a people who have been thrown off their axis, made to walk at a tilt, always afraid of the settler’s bullet or the soldier’s handcuffs. Prison walls are made of stone. Settlement walls are made of stone. But the walls of the homes of a Palestinian are made of that odd combination of fear and resistance. There is fear that the cannons of the coloniser will blast through them, but there is resistance that acknowledges that the walls of the home are not the real walls. The real walls are the walls of fortitude and perseverance.

Wretched states are hollowed out by their insensitivity and by their injustice. In the absence of moral conviction, it is impossible for the Israeli state to make its case except by the arrogance of guns. When a bulldozer comes before a home, it is the bulldozer that will prevail, but it is the home that remains alive in the hearts and dreams of the people. Bulldozers produce fear, but not humanity. A humane society cannot be built by fear. It must be built by the enthusiasm of love. Wretched states – such as Israel – cannot build a utopia of love on land that has been scarred by brutal theft. Even after olive trees have been uprooted, their groves still smell of olives.

After the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza, the Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon wrote ‘Afterwords’. The poem imagines a child walking with a grandfather (sidu).

Are we going back to Jaffa, sidu?

We can’t


We are dead

So are we in heaven, sidu?

We are in Palestine, habibi

and Palestine is heaven

and hell.

What will we do now?

We will wait

Wait for what?

For the others


to return

There is no time to wait. It is time for the world to deny Israel its impunity, which is provided by the full-throated backing by the United States of America.

(Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist.)


Global Protests Against Israel’s ‘Annexation Plan’

Courtesy: Peoples Dispatch

Protests, both on the ground and on the virtual platforms, were organized on July 1 across the world to denounce the proposed Israeli annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. Several organizations are also demanding international sanctions against Israel if it goes ahead with the move.

Civil society movements, including the Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS), organized protests in countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and Spain, among several others.

Israel had announced that it would start the process of annexation of the parts of the occupied West Bank including the Jordan Valley on July 1, as per Donald Trump’s so called “Middle East Peace Plan” proposed in January this year. The Trump plan had proposed that 30% of the West Bank be put under Israeli sovereignty in return for an ‘independent Palestinian State.’ Palestinians and most of the world community have rejected Trump’s plan as unilateral and biased towards Israel, and had warned Israel to not go ahead with its proposed annexation as it would kill the two-state solution and end the prospects of peace in the region.

Though differences between Netanyahu and his coalition partner and defense minister Benny Gantz over the date of annexation were reported in the Israeli media on June 30, it was still not clear whether the government will go ahead with the plan as announced. However, on July 1, Times of Israel reported that the move will be delayed. It quoted Israel’s regional cooperation minister and Netanyahu’s close confidante, Ofir Akunis, saying that the coordination with the Americans over the details of the annexation plan is not over yet, and the annexation would be delayed till the end of the month.

Palestinian response

In anticipation of the Israeli move, numerous protests were organized in the occupied territories in Palestine and by the Palestinian refugees in various other parts of the world. On June 30, several Gaza-based groups organized a protest in the Gaza city.

The PLO-led Palestinian Authority has asked the international community to take effective measures, including sanctions, to prevent Israel from annexing more Palestinian land.

Hamas spokesperson Hazim Qasim said that all Palestinian factions are united against the planned Israeli annexation. He called July 1 the “day of real rage” against Israeli annexation and Trump’s “deal of the century” proposals.

Meanwhile, addressing global media on June 30, Palestinian prime minister Mohammad repeated his earlier proposition of “limited exchange of lands” between Palestine and Israel and resumption of direct bilateral talks. If Israel goes ahead with the annexation, it “will necessarily mean the annulling of all signed agreements” between the PLO and Israel, he reiterated.

The Palestinian Democratic Youth Union (PDYU) released a statement on July 1 calling on broad participation “in the mass movements rejecting the American-Zionist project represented by the so-called deal of the century and the annexation plan that targets the cause and national rights of our Palestinian people and has serious repercussions threatening the dream And the Palestinian right to establish a fully sovereign independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of Palestinian refugees to their villages and cities, in accordance with Resolution 194.”

A group of Palestinian civil society movements and organizations released a statement denouncing the annexation plan as the culmination of Israel’s decades-long policy of colonization and displacement. They also criticize the inaction of the international community with regards to Israel’s historic crimes, “From the Balfour Declaration, to the British Mandate for Palestine, to the UN partition plan in 1947, to the Nakba, to the War of 1967, to the Oslo Accords and the Deal of the Century, the international community has provided Israel with almost limitless immunity by issuing only balanced condemnations and token statements of support for Palestinian rights.” However, they point out, “the same international community seems surprised and astonished by the current state of affairs. It is as if Israeli annexation (and other illegal practices and policies) is not the culmination of a deeply entrenched Israeli colonial and apartheid regime – a regime that has historically been unchallenged by the international community.”

Solidarity protests across the globe

Though the move was announced by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his election campaign last year, it acquired more seriousness when he declared a deadline for the resumption of the annexation process after regaining power in May this year. His announcement triggered global concern and protests by solidarity movements across the globe. Some governments have also taken up the issue at the diplomatic level, while some parliaments have passed resolutions opposing the move.

On June 29, scores turned up in Toronto in Canada to protest against the proposed annexation. More protests were scheduled on July 1.

Similar protests were organized in France on June 28 where thousands turned out in Paris denouncing the annexation plan and demanding sanctions against Israel.

On June 27, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Brussels demanding sanctions against Israel if it goes ahead with its plans to annex the parts of the West Bank. Similar protests were organized on Monday too.

Political campaigns in various countries

In the US, on June 30, Vermont senator and ex-Democratic presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders joined his four Democratic House of Representative colleagues, Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal and Betty McCollum, calling on the government to cut or withhold the USD 3.8 billion annual American aid to Israel if it goes ahead with the annexation move. Last week, 191 members of the House of Representatives had written a letter to Netanyahu to halt his plans.

On June 29, the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs in the UK came out with a statement demanding sanctions against Israel if it moves on the proposed annexation plan. The statement was signed by 25 MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn. Black Lives Matters UK also expressed its solidarity with the Palestinians and opposed the Israeli annexation.

In South Africa, more than 250 prominent individuals, including activists and community leaders, endorsed a statement issued by the South African chapter of the BDS movement, opposing Israel’s unilateral plans to annex the territories. The statement holds the Israeli government responsible, along with the US and its allies, for eroding the possibilities of a just and lasting peace in the region, Quds News Network reported.

A statement was also issued by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council for Churches asking for sanctions and the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The Dutch (Netherland) parliament passed a resolution proposed by the Socialist Party, calling the proposed Israeli annexations illegal and demanding the government and the European Union to take punitive measures against Israel if it moves ahead with the plan. A similar resolution was passed on June 26 by the Belgian parliament.

On June 26, several Palestinians in the US also came out with the list of demands for the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections in the country. The demands included imposing conditions on military aid to Israel, recognizing the right to boycott, and moving the American embassy back to Tel Aviv. The document reads, “support for candidates to federal offices shall be determined by their level of recognition and agreement on these tenets”.

German, Italian and Spanish ambassadors to Israel have announced that annexation would negatively impact their country’s relations with Israel as well.