An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip took effect with no formal announcement, after two days of hostilities that saw the most extensive Israeli air-strike since 2014. Hidden from the headlines, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank meanwhile continues. The day after the ceasefire, Israeli troops forced several Palestinian families to evacuate from their homes in the Jordan Valley, in order to make way for military training. Days before, Israeli bulldozers uprooted some 120 fruitful olive trees west of Ramallah, to pave a settler-only road through the area. A document said to outline Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” to end the Palestinian conflict calls for a reduced Palestinian state on lands not already appropriated by settlement blocs. The areas of the blocs are to expand, incorporating outlying settlements, and will remain under Israeli control—apparently amounting to a de facto annexation. (Photo: Ma’an)
The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference 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.” Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting dominated by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani. (Photo: Ma’an)
Israel demolished 538 Palestinian homes and facilities across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in 2018, leaving 1,300 Palestinians and 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 had issued 460 "stop-building orders" during the same period. (Photo via Middle East Monitor)
The State of Palestine filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) challenging the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a breach of international diplomatic law. In support of its claim, Palestine directed the ICJ to multiple UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions affirming the special international regime that applies to Jerusalem and calling on member states to refrain from recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli territory. Palestine also argued that establishment of an embassy to Israel in Jerusalem violates provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations governing activities in the "receiving state." (Photo: Ma'an News Agency)
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 North Africa and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories face identical issues of cultural erasure, yet the Arab states' support for the Palestinians and retaliatory Israeli support for the Berbers constitute an obstacle to solidarity. The Sahrawi Arabs meanwhile fight for their independence from Morocco in the occupied territory of Western Sahara. But the Arab-nationalist ideology of their leadership is rejected by the territory's Berbers—leading to Sahrawi-Berber ethnic tensions in Morocco. Yet 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. And the new protest wave in Morocco's Rif Mountains over the past year has again united Arab and Berber. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image of Berber flag via Kabylia Information Agency)
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution 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." The US was one of only two countries out of 45 to vote against the resolution. (Image: Maan News Agency)
At least 55 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip 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 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!" (Image: Maan)
Palestinian Christians from around the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel came out in harsh opposition to a visit by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, to Bethlehem for Orthodox Christmas Eve. The patriarchate is accused of selling large amounts of land to Israeli authorities and investors, contributing to Israeli plans to "Judaize" Jerusalem and betraying the church's responsibility to protect Palestinian lands that were handed under its care during the Ottoman period. (Photo: Ma'an News Agency)
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, adding that it "declines to receive" Pence.
We've been told for the past several years now that the depressed oil prices were permanent, thanks to fracking and the surge in US domestic production. Now prices are rising again, due to a convergence of crises in major producers: escalating tensions among the Gulf states, labor unrest in Nigeria, deepening instability in Venezuela. The US was able to contain the price spike after the ISIS irruption in 2014 by boosting its own production. This trick isn't going to work forever.
If Trump is seeking to appease the Christian fundamentalist element of his base with his pledge to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, this should hardly be comforting to Jews. The evangelical fundis see Jewish control of Jerusalem only as fulfillment of Bible prophecies portending the End Times. What makes this wackiness dangerous is that with nuclear weapons, the human race now has the capacity to bring about the foreseen rain of fire and brimstone.
Israeli authorities revoked permits for Palestinians to enter Jerusalem and Israel in response to a deadly attack in East Jerusalem's Old City, rounding up hundreds in mass arrests.