Israeli state was cracking down on Palestinian left as NZ junketeers visited

Khalida Jarrar

by Philip Ferguson

In mid-December the Israeli secret police, the Shin Beit, revealed they had arrested dozens of Palestinian left-wing activists, including members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in the previous few months.

Among those arrested was one of the central leaders of the PFLP, Khalida Jarrar.  As well as being a member of the central leadership of the PFLP, she is a renowned Palestinian feminist and lawmaker.  Comrade Jarrar has been regularly subject to bogus arrests and administrative detentions – these give the Israeli state licence to hold people without charge of trial.  As of the end of 2019, there were about 450 Palestinians being held under administrative detention.  At the same time the total number of Palestinians detained and/or imprisoned in occupation jails is 5,000, including 200 children.  Last year, a total of around 5,500 Palestinians were arrested in the Occupied Territories, overwhelmingly the West Bank, almost 900 of whom were children.

NZ junketeers went there despite a new wave of repression against the Palestinian left

The arrests began in late August, well before the arrival of a bunch of junketing NZ journalists in October.  Human rights groups, as reported in no less than the Times of Israel, have noted that some of those arrested were tortured.  (See here.)  News of the arrests was also subject to gag orders for months, another sign of just how anti-democratic the Zionist state is.

According to Sahar Francis, the general director of the prisoners organisation Addameer, “the entire idea of a [gag] order is to censor and prevent talking about torture. . .”  She was specifically referring to the case of Samer Arbeed, but it is true in general.  Arbeed is accused of the killing of two Israeli citizens who are (illegal) settlers on the West Bank, part of the massive civilian settlement programme which is dispossessing the Palestinians of land in the main area of territory where they still live.

Mohammed Shatawi, another Palestinian teen going about his business when opened fire on by the Israel state’s murder forces

On February 10 this year, two actual serious journalists, Jews who know something about critical thinking regarding the Israeli state and Zionism and speaking up in solidarity with the Palestinians, Gideon Levy and the photojournalist Alex Levac, reported on the latest in the litany of state murders of Palestinian civilians.  Four Palestinian teenagers on their way back from the village playground saw a group of Israeli soldiers laying in ambush.  They took cover.  When one of them, Mohammed Shatawi, briefly stood up to see what was happening, he was shot and badly wounded.  He’s currently in a bad way in hospital, hovering between life and death.  That’s what these junketers are helping enable.

And, of course, without the systematic state violence against the Palestinians, and the extraordinary resistance of the Palestinian masses and their fighting organisations, there would be no junkets for these NZ journalists to enjoy, because the Israeli state wouldn’t need to engage in a PR campaign to prettify its blood-drenched existence.  In a very real sense, then, these people were parasitising on the blood of the Palestinian masses.

The alternative

Richard Reilly

Contrast their behaviour to that of a genuine humanist and progressive, like the recently-deceased Richard Reilly.  As a tribute to him by the PFLP last week noted, “During the Zionist invasion of Lebanon in 1982, he was involved in launching widespread media, political and popular campaigns to defend Beirut within the United States. In 1988, during the first Intifada, he led a solidarity delegation that joined a march in Ramallah organized by Palestinian women’s organizations on the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. After that protest, the Zionist occupation forces deported him from Palestine and prevented him from returning ever since. Palestine, however, and the Palestinian people, remained in his heart, mind and actions, as he consistently mobilized against imperialism, Zionism and racism, fighting for a liberated society always.”

Or to NZers who have joined the freedom flotilla to Gaza, like Mike Treen.  In July 2018, when the boat he was on was boarded by the forces of the Israeli state, Mike “was tasered repeatedly by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) while in the wheelhouse of the Al Awda and subsequently tightly handcuffed. He received injuries to his face and head and was bleeding. . .” (See here and here.)

Needless to say, there is no call from the NZ junketeers for the release of the leftists snatched by Shin Beit or for an end to the torture that is routine in occupation prisons.  (About 95% of Palestinian prisoners are subject to torture from when they are arrested and in interrogation and even after being transferred to detention centres- see here.)  And no call for an end too routine shoot-to-kill policies by the Israelis, directed at Palestinian civilians in order to terrorise the Palestinian masses.

No criticism either of administrative detention.  Or of the arrests of children.  Or criticism of the most recent gag orders. Either when they were in Israel or since they have gotten back to New Zealand.

You do have to wonder about people like these.  Are they just totally lacking in human empathy?  Or is that, as residents of the imperialist world, they couldn’t give a shit about the oppressed masses of the rest of the world, like the Palestinians?  Or is their vision one in which they only see themselves – their chance of a junket counts more than anything else and nothing can be allowed to get in the way?

BDS

During the long struggle to develop solidarity in NZ with the liberation movement against apartheid in South Africa, pro-South Africa groups here, all of which claimed not to apologists for the apartheid regime, did exactly that – they made excuses and rationalisations for apartheid, they visited South Africa and wrote rosey accounts of good life was in that benighted society where the black population did not even enjoy the right to vote and were gunned down in the street if they organised mass peaceful protests.

Given the similarities between Israel and apartheid South Africa, it’s no surprise that they operate the same practices of trying to bribe journalists and other “opinion-influencers” to their side.  Unfortunately, at least one group of NZ ‘journalists’ are happy to go along with this state of affairs.

In 2005, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction movement was launched by 170 Palestinian trade unions, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies.  Surely, the very least they can expect is that we not cross their picket lines and prettify the Israeli state.

There is a famous PFLP poster which says “I resist therefore I exist”.  It sums up the life and death daily reality of life for the Palestinian masses.  For these NZ ‘journalists’, however, the motto is “I junket on the bones and blood of others; therefore I exist”.