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Palestinian rights make a rare appearance in Congress

A first-of-its-kind bill introduced this week focusing on the rights of Palestinian children could pave the way for greater transparency and accountability in America’s dealings with Israel.   

Members of Congress on Tuesday introduced a bill requiring the U.S. Secretary of State to certify that funds bound for Israel “do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” The proposed legislation, put forward by Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum, had ten co-sponsors when it was announced.

Although that number may seem small, especially when measured against the 268 current co-sponsors of the so-called Israel Anti-Boycott Act, the “Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act” is further evidence that the Palestinian rights movement in the U.S. is gaining unprecedented ground.

“As the first-ever bill on Palestinian human rights introduced in Congress, we see [this] as a direct challenge to the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces,” said Brad Parker, an attorney with Defense for Children International-Palestine, which has been working to support McCollum and other members of Congress through its No Way to Treat a Child campaign.

According to a statement issued yesterday by DCI-Palestine, in the West Bank alone, some 10,000 Palestinian children — defined as those between the ages of 12 and 17 — have been “subject to arrest, detention, interrogation, and/or imprisonment under the jurisdiction of Israeli military courts since 2000.” And during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, 535 Palestinian children were killed “as a direct result of Israeli attacks,” according to a report posted on the organization’s website.

That all of this has done little to moderate Congressional exuberance over Israel’s policies is no secret. But behind the scenes, a group of activists has been patiently engaging with members willing to question the status quo on Israel. McCollum is one of those members.

Her bill caps a three-year advocacy campaign, spearheaded by DCI-Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee, to expose Israeli abuses against Palestinian children. Although the proposed legislation stands little chance of passing into law, Jennifer Bing, program director of AFSC’s Palestine Israel Program, says the effort behind it has helped build awareness on Capitol Hill about Palestinian rights.

“Three years ago, when we started this campaign with DCI-Palestine, few people in Congress knew about the systematic detention of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system,” says Bing. “Today we have ten champions in Congress who are speaking up for the rights of Palestinian children and asking for accountability. We expect more to join them and for the issue...

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ACLU launches first major challenge of anti-BDS legislation

The lawsuit offers the most stark example yet of how anti-BDS legislation threatens Americans’ First Amendment rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that it had filed suit on behalf of a Kansas public school educator who was asked to disavow a boycott of Israel as a condition for payment. The case comes amid growing concerns that recent state-level legislation across the United States is chilling free speech among proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

The Kansas law, which came into effect on July 1 of this year, directs the state to “require written certification from all individuals and companies with which it enters into contracts” that they are “not engaged in a boycott of Israel.”

“The First Amendment prohibits the government from using its financial leverage to impose an ideological litmus test,” said ACLU attorney Brian Hauss. “This law is an unconstitutional attempt by the government to silence one side of a public debate by coercing people not to express their beliefs, including through participation in a political boycott.”

A member of the Mennonite Church, Esther Koontz “decided not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the ACLU said. Her decision is in line with the church’s July 2017 resolution “to avoid economic support for the military occupation of Palestinian territories.”

The resolution, which also called on Mennonites “to examine the legacy of anti-Semitism in their own history and life,” followed earlier successful divestment motions by the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.

“You don’t need to share my beliefs or agree with my decisions to understand that this law violates my free speech rights,” Koontz said. “The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support.”

A nine-year veteran of Wichita public schools, Koontz, a math teacher, now develops school curricula and trains teachers. She had been asked to sign the anti-boycott certification as part of her engagement with the Kansas Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships program.

The ACLU complaint asks the court to strike down the state law and bar the Kansas Department of Education from requiring the anti-boycott certification. Legal experts cite as precedent a 1982 Supreme Court decision that reversed a hefty financial judgement against the NAACP for its seven-year boycott of white merchants in Claiborne County, Mississippi. Writing on behalf of the...

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In new film, underground Palestinian musicians compose their own identity

He was denied entry to the U.S. for the premiere of his debut film, a short documentary about Palestine’s underground music scene. But director Sami Alalul seems unfazed.

Sami Alalul sounds out every syllable of his Queen’s English, ending most sentences with an almost timid lilt. It’s a manner of speaking that can seem deferential, but listen more closely, and it becomes clear that Alalul’s measured speech masks a more complicated truth. For like many with his “third-culture” upbringing, this 33-year-old filmmaker, born to a Palestinian father in the English coastal town of Poole, has spent a lifetime scripting his way, cautiously, between two worlds.

Sometimes, like when he moved to Ramallah to help tell the stories of Palestinian farmers, those worlds could seem to enrich each other, playing to Alalul’s linguistic strengths. Other times, what happened in one world was better left unsaid in the other. And on rare occasions, these worlds did something they weren’t supposed to do: they collided.

That’s what happened last Thursday, as Alalul was preparing to attend the Washington, DC premiere of his debut film, From Beneath the Earth. His UK passport at the ready, Alalul was informed by airline agents that U.S. authorities had denied him permission to board his flight. No explanation was given. And according to a post-9/11 protocol that requires citizens of so-called visa waiver countries to seek “travel authorization,” no explanation was required.

Alalul, who had traveled to the U.S. many times without incident, couldn’t explain it either. “I don’t know what to say,” he told me. “But I know this: I don’t want to be defined as the director who got denied entry to the United States.”

To grasp why, one need only watch Alalul’s 21-minute short, in which five Palestinian musicians narrate their own struggles, not just with the day-to-day drudgery of life under occupation, but with their heartfelt attempts to transcend it.

The film begins with a hat-tip to the unmistakable sound of Mahmoud Jrere, one third of the groundbreaking Palestinian trio DAM. In the opening scene, Jrere’s voice overlays images of urban splendor—landscaped roundabouts, glistening high-rises, gated homes—that quickly recede into a shot of graffitied concrete, the infamous Apartheid Wall separating Palestinians from those privileges. This, of course, is visual shorthand for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and we are fully expecting Alalul to introduce us to more of its victims.

But there are no victims in Alalul’s film. We first...

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The 'silent' war on Gaza's hospitals

The director of a hospital destroyed during ‘Protective Edge’ has managed to rebuild part of the facility. Now he has about a month’s worth of fuel left to keep its back-up generators running. Without them, the hospital faces another complete shutdown. 

At the height of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, El Wafa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital was the target of fierce attacks from Israeli positions along Gaza’s eastern border, just over a kilometer away. Speaking to +972 at the time, the hospital’s director, Dr. Basman Alashi, described panic among his patients but insisted that he and his staff would continue to care for them — even if it meant paying the ultimate price.

“I am not going to leave my patients,” he said. “We either stay together, or we leave this world together.”

That kind of fight-or-flight urgency helped drive home the danger facing Gaza’s civilians during Protective Edge, moving thousands to protest worldwide. No matter one’s take on the assault or the reasons behind it, the scale of destruction in Gaza was undeniable, broadcast to the world through livestreams and harrowing images.

The guns, for the most part, are silent now, but for those who survived Israel’s 51-day war on Gaza, the images never fade.

When I caught up with Alashi again this week, he recalled in vivid detail how El Wafa staff evacuated their patients — “one by one on sheets and blankets” — before a July 23, 2014 airstrike leveled the 50-bed hospital, destroying “all [its] buildings, medical equipment, and stored medications.” The aftermath of that attack, which +972 documented here, completed a picture of devastation that needed no further exposition.

But if the airstrike and the events that led up to it evoked clear images of Gaza’s plight, Alashi now struggles to convey the impact of another danger—an ongoing electricity crisis that, according to the World Health Organization, could “leave thousands of people without access to life-saving health care.”

Part of the problem is that speaking about electricity outages can be arduous: power deficits are counted in megawatts, and the impact of sustained cuts is measured in things like raw sewage (which flows in millions of liters from shuttered waste treatment plants). Add to that humanitarian agencies’ year-on-year warnings about Gaza’s dire energy shortages, and it’s not surprising that this latest crisis is garnering less attention than, say, the revamped Hamas charter.

The urgency, however, is real. Although it’s true that electricity shortages in Gaza are nothing...

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When heroes fall far from home

Perhaps I expected some measure of defiance, for him to rage, as Dylan Thomas begged of his father, ‘against the dying of the light.’ But in the end, there was no rage left in my father, even as the core injustice of his life — that he could never return home — remained.

When he first learned the word “Palestinian,” my younger brother used it to name all things broken or not quite right. It was an innocent association—learned, as all language is, by mapping sounds to things manifest.

But in our diaspora home, Palestine was not a tactile place. Like the horizon, it was where earth and sky met: we could never quite reach it, never taste its citrus fruit or touch its olive trees, never walk its footpaths or swim in its sea.

Bereft of these things, my brother heard in those five syllables a signifier of grieving. “Palestinian,” to him, meant television broadcasts of tear gas and stones. It meant Rabin’s broken bones. It meant the resonant melancholy of our mother’s weeping.

But to me, the most Palestinian of all was our father. For years, it seemed, he spent every evening staring, wide-eyed, at those scenes from the First Intifada. He seldom wept. He often smoked. And when the news hour wrapped, he would reach for his car keys, turn to me, and ask if I fancied a drive.

It wasn’t really a question. Even as a teen, I think, I was my father’s only friend and confidant.

As he drove around Abu Dhabi, burning cigarettes like votives, I don’t remember saying a word, only listening. I sat silently as he constructed—sometimes over the course of hours—impassioned arguments against the night’s news. These he delivered eloquently, as if prosecuting the world’s injustices before a jury of one.

I could offer no verdict, of course. Instead, I learned to nod in deference at the right times, to acknowledge his pain, to internalize the only thing that seemed real to me then—that there was nothing I could do to undo his suffering.

It wasn’t until years later, as I was recounting that routine to a friend, that I began to realize the toll those drives must have taken. It wasn’t that my father needed to talk, or that I was his captive audience. It was the feeling that, if he hadn’t spoken to me about Palestine, my father couldn’t...

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The AIPAC protests from a Palestinian perspective

My mother’s generation might have internalized the notion that AIPAC was all-powerful. But if the protests this week were a sign of anything, it is that America’s Israel lobby is not omnipotent.

Watching the scenes from this week’s AIPAC protests, I was reminded of another, more amiable stand-off — this one with my Palestinian mother. I have tended to cite her more often since the last American election, not least because she is now on Facebook and has developed a habit of sending me short chat lines, like scribbled notes, reminding me to “please tell your children about the Lap Top” (a reference to the latest American travel restrictions) and other assignments I am not to ignore.

“Hands on” could not begin to describe this Palestinian woman’s parenting style, though that quality seems more endearing to me now than it did in my youth. When I was 18 and on my way back to college, she slipped away from the usual family goodbyes to secretly line my suitcase with bagged reminders of home — semolina date cookies, dried figs, and just enough stalks of tea-grade sage to offset the intestinal indignities of both.

But then, she found the book.

Anticipating my mother’s snooping, I had placed my copy of Paul Findley’s “They Dare to Speak Out,” face down, between stacks of neatly folded shirts, hoping that, if she found it, she might at least miss its incendiary subtitle: “People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby.”

She didn’t. And just as sure as she read the cover of the 1985 bestseller — about “the pervasive influence of the American-Israeli [sic] Public Affairs Committee on American politics” — my mother from Bethlehem switched from stealthy to seething, losing her temper as only a Palestinian mother can.

“Samer!” she called out to me from my bedroom.

What is this book?”

She wasn’t looking for a summation, of course. I was about to get a dressing down — about the dangers of wearing your politics on your sleeve, about never underestimating the gaze under which we Palestinians are held, and above all, about the futility of questioning the only thing more powerful than America: what she called “The Jewish Lobby.”

That was then. Today, a quarter-century later, I sent my mother a video of young Jewish-American activists disrupting — peacefully, boldly, beautifully — the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. And this time,...

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With U.S. budget cuts looming, could aid to Israel be next?

Israel’s ‘security assistance’ comes from the same pot of money as economic aid. With the White House promising cuts to that part of the federal budget, could we see a surprise reduction in Israel’s share?

Recent White House statements hint at a massive increase in U.S. military spending and a corresponding cut in the country’s foreign aid, a prospect that has prompted more than 120 top generals, among them former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus, to sign a letter urging members of Congress against the move.

At issue is the so-called 150 Account, the line item in the federal budget tied to “international affairs” — a $50 billion appropriation covering everything from consular services to disaster relief to funding for international organizations like UNICEF. (You can find the entire 2017 budget request here.)

Seldom mentioned in the debate over foreign assistance, however, is the last item in the 150 Account, “Foreign Military Financing,” which alone represents more than 10 percent of the account’s total. And of that, more than half — $3.1 billion — is set aside for Israel.

With all the talk of significant cuts to the 150 Account, some are wondering whether a proportional reduction in U.S. aid to Israel is also in the offing. Despite vows by lawmakers that dramatic cuts to the foreign assistance budget would be “dead on arrival,” The Jerusalem Post, in a December report, cited a senior Israeli military officer who expressed concern over whether the new U.S. administration could backtrack on earlier commitments.

The answer might come down to a legal distinction.

U.S. commitments to Israel, according to the budget’s notes, were set “in accordance with” a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2007, at the tail end of then-President George W. Bush’s second term. A similar 10-year agreement, inked last September by the outgoing administration of Barack Obama, is to take effect in 2018 and would boost the annual aid amount to $3.8 billion.

In both cases, the “understandings” do not rise to the level of law, and since the combined amount pledged by each prior president is to be allocated annually, the White House must “request” Israel’s allotment each year as part of the 150 Account (for more background on recent U.S. aid to Israel, see this Obama White House factsheet).

In other words, the current White House could conceivably propose cuts to that allotment.

The budget request...

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For Gaza's working women, glass ceilings aren't the only problem

Gaza’s working women earn 25 percent more, on average, than their male counterparts, according to a new report. Why are they still trapped under a ‘concrete’ ceiling?

When 53-year-old Clara Zetkin put forth the idea for an International Women’s Day, she was one of 100 or so delegates at the second International Conference of Working Women, its participating “unions, socialist parties, [and] working women’s clubs” gathered in Copenhagen, in the late summer of 1910, to call for universal suffrage and health insurance—including maternity leave for working mothers.

If their platform seemed radical for the time, it was no more so than Zetkin’s prior writings, many of which have been catalogued by the appropriately named Marxist Internet Archive. In these, the German socialist extols the “growing class struggle” from Egypt to India while condemning “the miseries and injustices capitalist exploitation and political rightlessness bestow on the working-class women” of these countries.

Given its origins, it’s not difficult to see how the founding themes of International Women’s Day would resonate with the working women of Gaza, their lives made “rightless” by what the Israeli advocacy organization Gisha, in a report published today, calls a “concrete ceiling.”

The report, according to a statement released by Gisha spokesperson Shai Grunberg, “focuses on women who managed to break through the glass ceiling only to be met by the concrete ceiling of the Israeli-imposed closure.” To illustrate the point, the authors profile six such women, each of whom works in “professional fields previously considered predominantly ‘masculine,’ such as banking, investment and management.”

Read the full report: The Concrete Ceiling

That they have broken through “the glass ceiling” so often restricting those professions to men is as much a testament to their perseverance and skill as it is a symptom of the Israeli closure, according to Gisha, which dubs itself the “legal center for freedom of movement.”

That’s because Israel’s policies, which severely restrict the movement of people and goods to and from the West Bank, have all but obliterated Gaza’s fishing and agriculture sectors, both of which have lost access to traditional Palestinian markets in the neighboring territory.

And with Gaza’s mostly male laborers unable to access work in Israel or the West Bank, they have turned to what’s left of these sectors, squeezing out the majority of women who used to work...

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Two fathers, Palestinian and Jewish, find hope in solidarity

When I first got the news that he had won, the first people I checked on were my Muslim mother and my son.

But then I wrote my friend, Brad Brooks-Rubin.

The connection wasn’t coincidental. When my son was born, Brad was the first to visit him. A year later, I bought a life-sized playhouse and leaned it against the plastic siding of our rented home, just outside of Washington, DC. When my son was skeptical about his new toy, Brad crawled in first, wedged his head through the tiny window, and looked my toddler dead in the eye.

“Listen, kid,” he said. “You’re Palestinian, I’m Jewish—do you understand how this looks?”

It was the kind of humor—about land appropriation, no less—that only a Palestinian and a Jew could get.

Over the course of our friendship, Brad and I have laughed a lot. But when I got in touch with him after the election, neither of us was in any mood to joke. I told him I was worried about my son. He told me he’d been setting his house alarm—because it helps his own son to sleep.

We are two fathers now, anxious about the future. And for the first time since I’ve known him, neither of us knows quite what to do about it.

It’s a disquieting feeling, perhaps especially for us. Even when we lost touch, for years at a time, Brad and I stayed connected by an extraordinary set of shared experiences. We travelled the West Bank together. We probed, through conversation and work, depths of anger and guilt. We tried to divvy the burdens of responsibility.

And as Americans, we pried protest from privilege, engaging the least pliable among us. We taught an evening class on “the conflict” at the DC Jewish Community Center. We attended service at a Conservative synagogue (where Brad wore his “End the Occupation” t-shirt).

And we shared a meal with my Palestinian mother. It was, as I recall, a hearty spread of stuffed zucchini and rolled vine leaves, recipes she brought with her from her native Bethlehem. She enjoyed the company, and when Brad left, my mother looked me dead in the eye and told me my friend was “a nice boy.”

And that she knew he was Jewish.

I’d like to think I didn’t need her permission. But the truth is, nothing about my upbringing made it easy to...

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Palestinians deserve more than Mahmoud Abbas

At the Fatah Congress this week, Abbas’s followers seem to have affirmed a choice Oslo’s signatories made more than two decades ago: that livelihoods matter more than liberation. Palestinians deserve an alternative to this status quo.

In Hisham Sharabi’s 1988 book, Neopatriarchy, the late Palestinian intellectual posits “a theory of distorted change in the Arab world,” one in which “the paternal will is the absolute will.” When it comes to politics, this paternalism is easy to miss, Sharabi argued, because it uses “external trappings,” like elections, to give the illusion of consensus—all while relying on familiar patterns of “ritual and coercion.”

Such is the impression left so far by this week’s Fatah Congress. The first in seven years, the gathering in Ramallah was billed as an affirmation of unity—both within the party and among Palestinians at large—as well as an opportunity to re-elect Mahmoud Abbas, who has held the party reins since Yasser Arafat’s passing in 2004.

On their first day in plenary, the “relatively younger” delegates unanimously renewed the 81-year-old’s mandate. But the vote itself has already raised more questions than answers about what that mandate actually entails. Part of the problem, to be sure, is that Abbas’s main Fatah rival, Mohammad Dahlan, was absent from the proceedings. But beyond party lines, there are more urgent reasons to doubt the outcome.

First, there is Trump. His election prompted Israeli officials to almost immediately disavow the two-state solution, upon which Abbas’s authority is predicated. Whether the U.S.-brokered Oslo agreement, which created the Palestinian Authority, will survive a Trump administration remains to be seen, but at the very least, the incoming U.S. president has signaled his willingness to let Israel further expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, including Jerusalem—a policy that has arguably done more to undermine Oslo than any other.

And even as the American president-elect sits in the wings, the Israeli prime minister has been stoking his own brand of Trump-like Islamophobia by supporting the so-called “muezzin bill,” which is widely seen as a move to ban the Muslim call to prayer in Israel. The proposed legislation, which technically “would ban religious institutions from using loudspeakers,” would presumably apply to Jerusalem, including its eastern half, where Abbas continues to insist on a Palestinian capital.

His newly re-conferred title will not get him there, though, and no one at the...

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What Trump's new UN envoy could mean for Israel-Palestine

Whatever disruptions are afoot in the balance of international power will eventually be reflected at the United Nations. And when that happens, even a staunch supporter of Israel like Nikki Haley may have to yield to a new order.

When she signed into law the first state legislation penalizing companies that boycott “based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was lauded by the bill’s author, State Representative Alan Clemmons, who made clear its intent.

Citing “tactics employed by the Nazis,” Clemmons called the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement a prime example of “hatred and bigotry” for “its effort to harm our great ally, Israel.”

Haley’s stance on the issue may be the closest thing to foreign policy experience this newly named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations can claim. But as news of her selection made the media rounds, most reports zeroed in on her history of public spats with the incoming U.S. president, who announced Haley’s selection today.

Several outlets recalled a March tweet in which Trump scolded the governor for publicly disavowing his views, including on immigration. “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!” Trump wrote.

And The Jerusalem Post reminded readers that Haley, who signed a 2015 bill removing the Confederate flag from her state’s capitol building, excoriated the then-candidate for “not speaking out more forcefully against white supremacists,” according to the paper.

In the lead up to the Confederate flag legislation, Haley guided her state through the aftermath of a mass shooting by a self-professed white supremacist, who killed nine people at a predominantly African-American church in Charleston.

That experience, combined with her Indian roots — her parents are both immigrants from the subcontinent — presumably pit the incoming ambassador against some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, including attendees at a so-called “alt-right” gathering in Washington, DC last Saturday. At the event, avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer evoked Third Reich terminology in celebrating Trump’s victory, prompting his audience to cheer him on with Nazi salutes.

How a child of South Asian immigrants, whose signature act as Governor was to counter the BDS movement — on grounds that it resembled “Nazi” tactics — will fare in a Trump administration remains to be seen. But if Trump’s other appointments to date are any indication, Haley’s...

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Pro-Israel and racist? Palestinians aren’t surprised in the slightest

Though it may have sparked debate in the Jewish-American community, the idea that Israel can be a cause célèbre for white nationalists is hardly news to Palestinians, whose very existence vies with a state steeped in European, colonial racism.

Since his appointment last week as chief White House strategist, sensationalist media maven Steve Bannon—whose editorial sensibilities have spawned such haute headlines as “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy”—has become something of a lightning rod in the mainstream Jewish-American community.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt said his group opposed Bannon on grounds that the alt-right hero is “so hostile to core American values” while Greenblatt’s friend, “America’s rabbi” Shmuley Boteach, defended Bannon by citing the latter’s Jewish employees, who are ever so grateful that their boss lets them “keep the Sabbath.”

At issue is whether Bannon’s white supremacist bone fides point to an alarming strain of anti-Semitism at the highest levels of U.S. government. Given his pedigree, that should be an easy question to answer. But what has people scratching their heads is how Bannon and his former Jewish boss, the late Andrew Breitbart, could have embraced the supremacists among them while, at the same time, singing the praises of “the Jewish state.”

As a Palestinian, I don’t understand the question. Though it may have sparked debate in the Jewish-American community, the idea that Israel can be a cause célèbre for white nationalists is hardly news to millions of Palestinians, whose very existence vies with a state steeped in its founding zeitgeist—European, colonial, and yes, racist.

You don’t need Edward Said to guide you through it. Just spend a single day among the “natives.”

Whether they are refugees who hail from one of the more than 500 villages destroyed by Israel’s founders; whether they are second-class citizens who live in Israeli cities renamed to cover their Arab roots; whether they contend with a network of settler-only roads on their way to work, school, or hospital; Palestinians are no sooner vexed by the state’s whiteness than are Ethiopian Israelis. That they, too, rail against the state’s brutality speaks to a systemic bias, one that—as in Trump’s America—should hardly be surprising.

Ask anyone who has ventured beyond the menacing Hebrew signs warning against entry to the West Bank, as if the latter were some Conradian hinterland—not an identical landscape whose occupiers invade and sequester at will. Ask anyone...

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Al Jazeera video captures horror at Aleppo children's hospital

The attack, scenes of which have been airing all day across the Arab world, comes after a week of relentless bombardment by the Assad regime, during which Aleppo’s battered medical facilities have been forced out of service or underground.

In a devastating video broadcast by Al Jazeera Saturday, two nurses in an Aleppo children’s hospital break down in tears as they rescue emaciated newborns from a neonatal intensive care unit. Moments earlier, the room had filled with dust from a massive explosion, also heard on camera.

The attack, scenes of which have been airing all day across the Arab world, comes after a week of relentless bombardment by the Assad regime, during which Aleppo’s battered medical facilities have been forced out of service or underground, with civilians reportedly too afraid to seek treatment.

The video leaves no doubt why. In it, patients and their families are seen stumbling through dark halls, seeking shelter in case of another attack. The reporter, Amro Halabi, whose frontline reports have made him a household name in the Arab world, can be heard trailing behind, asking between hurried breaths if the people around him are safe.

Warning: Graphic footage.

Toward the end of the footage, Halabi returns to his original story, about a family admitted to the hospital for inhaling “poisonous chlorine gas,” presumably dropped by the regime.

Al Jazeera cites World Health Organization statistics that show 126 attacks on health facilities during Syria’s five-year war.

Aleppo, home to some 2.3 million people, is roughly half the size of the Gaza Strip. During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, hundreds of Palestinian families sought shelter in the enclave’s largest hospital.

Israel did not attack the facility, though it did target another hospital in the eastern Gaza Strip.


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