Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?

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Updated 26 February 2024

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?
  • Israeli journalist Gideon Levy accuses Israel of dehumanizing and demonizing Palestinians
  • Believes any Israeli leader would choose occupation over normalization with ż
  • Calls on his country to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

DUBAI:With the war in Gaza heading toward its sixth month, some are wondering if there is any end in sight to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. What is certain, however, is that Israel carries out a policy of dehumanization of Palestinians to justify its occupation, according to one of Israel’s most famous journalists.

“Israel systematically, from its first day, dehumanized and demonized the Palestinians in order to maintain their occupation, to maintain even the creation of the state of Israel,” Gideon Levy said.

He said Israel “is very efficient in manipulating propaganda and brainwashing all over the world,” and is “the only occupier in history which presents itself as a victim.”

Levy, who has spent over four decades as a journalist writing for the Israeli daily Haaretz covering mainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made these remarks on the ż current affairs show “Frankly Speaking.”

Gideon Levy has spent over four decades as a journalist and columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He spoke to Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the ż current affairs show. (AN photo)

Levy has been harshly critical of Israel’s actions, particularly those carried out in the wake of the Hamas attack in southernIsrael in October 2023 which resulted in 1,200 deaths and the kidnapping of 240 people. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, nearly 30,000 people, many of which are women and children, have been killed so far in Israel’s retaliatory offensive.

Arab countries, particularly ż, have been putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire or scale back its offensive. The Kingdom has made the establishment of a Palestinian state a prerequisite for any normalization deals, with Israeli officials keen on the idea of improved relations with Arab states.

Levy, however, doubts that any Israeli prime minister, including current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would go that far.

“I don’t see them … putting an end to the occupation,” he told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Israeli politicians might be hoping for a repeat of the 2020-2021 Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (2-R) grins from ear to ear after signing the so-called Abraham Accords with Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani (L) and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (R), brokered by the US government under President Donald Trump (2-R), at the White House in Washington, DC, on Sept. 15, 2020. (AFP/File)

Israel quickly also normalized ties with Morocco and Sudan.

“Maybe they also hope that, like in the Abraham Accords, in which they got quite a good deal without changing the policy toward the Palestinians, only by all kind of lip services for this,” he said.

“I think that all the candidates for being prime minister in Israel, not only Netanyahu but also the opposition, would still prefer to maintain an occupation rather than to have normal relations with an important country like ż.”

Even beyond the Arab world, Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has triggered international backlash, including South Africa’s landmark court case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. However, Levy sees most of this as empty words.

This photo taken on January 26, 2024, shows the International Court of Justice panel assembled in The Hague during the reading of the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel over its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip. (X: @CIJ_ICJ)

“Sympathy toward the Palestinians is very deep rooted among the grass roots, but I don't see many leaders really care about the Palestinians. Unfortunately, they fall between the chairs for many years now, when many statesmen give their lip service about solidarity with them, but finally almost nobody is doing for them anything and they are left quite alone, especially in (the) last years,” Levy said.

“Yes, there is a lot of talking going on; condemnations, resolutions, rulings, rules, hearings, many, many things. There is only one thing lacking, and this is action. That is, taking measures.

“The world never took real measures and the US, in particular, never took any measures to promote its interest, to promote its ideas. The US claims that it wants to see this war ended. And (at the same time) it is supplying Israel with more ammunition and more arms.”

Israel has learned “that you can very easily ignore the talk and stick to its policy, because Israel doesn’t pay any price for its policy,” Levy said.

A shipment of 155mm artillery shells supplied by the US for use by the Israeli army is transported on a truck along a highway between the Jerusalem and Beersheba in southern Israel on October 14, 2023. (AFP)

With Palestinians themselves and leaders across the world calling for peace, Levy is not certain that peace should be the top priority when it comes to talks on Palestine, but rather justice for the Palestinian people.

“I am calling for justice, not for peace … maybe peace will be the bonus that we’ll get out of it. But I am not sure that two people are ready for peace, but there is one people who deserve justice. And this must be pushed by the world.”

From 1978 to 1982, Levy worked as an aide and spokesman for Shimon Peres, the then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982 he began to write for Haaretz, and later worked there as a deputy editor.

He has long written of his support for a one-state solution in which Jews, Arabs, and all citizens have equal rights — a controversial opinion among both Israelis and Palestinians.

“There are 700,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Nobody is going to evacuate them. And there is no viable Palestinian state with 700,000 Jewish settlers, part of them very violent, all of them very ideological. I don’t see (a two-state solution) happening.”

Objects are scattered more than a week after Jewish settlers attacked the occupied West Bank village of Wadi al Seeq on October 24, 2023. (AFP/File)

He added: “If not the two-state solution, what is left? Only the one state … the only problem is that it’s not a democracy.

“I have to tell my fellow Israelis, you can’t have it all. If you wanted a Jewish state, you had to pull out from the occupied territories a long time ago.

“If you want a democratic state, you should give up the Jewish state because you cannot have it both, because there are two peoples here. Either you are an apartheid state or you are a democracy.”

As the Israeli bombardment continues across the entirety of Gaza, many Palestinians have begun to lose hope in their own officials. Even one month prior to the start of the most recent Israel-Hamas war, 78 percent of Palestinians wanted the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Feb. 7, 2024, during a Middle East tour, his fifth urgent trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza erupted in October. (POOL / AFP)

Observers now speculate whether there could be a replacement for Abbas, one that could carry out reforms and to revitalize the PA.

For Levy, jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti could be a contender.

“He was the only one who would really unite the Palestinian people, Hamas and Fatah, together. I believed also that he is a man of peace. And he proved it in many ways,” he said.

Barghouti was arrested by Israel in Ramallah in 2002, and two years later was sentenced to five cumulative life sentences on five counts of murder.

“I hope he’s still capable of leading the Palestinians. I don’t have a better idea. I’m not sure Hamas will accept him today. Twenty years ago, yes, (but) I’m not sure today,” Levy said.

“I’m a great believer of him. And because I believe in him, and because so many people believe in him, Israel will never release him. And that’s so tragic.”

The portrait of jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti (R) is seen along with that of the late South African president Nelson Mandela at an office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Barghouti, in Israeli custody for nearly two decades after being convicted over multiple killings during the second intifada, is being compared to Mandela, who successfully led the resistance to apartheid in South Africa. (AFP/File)

Particularly since October, the popular rhetoric in Israel has increasingly turned against Palestinians, something that Levy blames on a combination of racism and dehumanization.

“If you conduct such a brutal occupation over so many years, if you teach your soldiers and your young people, generation after generation, that there is nothing cheaper, and there is nothing cheaper than the life of a Palestinian, I can tell you, if the Israeli army would have killed so many dogs as it did (people) in Gaza, it would be a huge, huge scandal in Israel.”

In addition to this, Israeli news media, which Levy explains “doesn’t cover the suffering of Gaza,” has played a role in inflaming racist attitudes in the country.

“They know Israelis don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear about it. It’s an outcome of decades of brainwashing, decades of humanization; as I said before, decades of demonization of the Palestinians.

“Israelis don’t meet Palestinians anymore at all, because of the barrier of the (West Bank) separation wall. There’s almost no contact anymore between the two peoples,” Levy said, explaining that the Oct. 7 attack has led Israelis to lump all Palestinians in the same category as Hamas and the perpetrators of the attack.

Participants run past a section of Israel's controversial separation barrier during the "Freedom of Movement Palestine Marathon" in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on March 10, 2023. (AFP/File)

“We are in a very, very low moment in history. And obviously the racism is now politically correct in Israel. It's enough to have one attack, like this terrible attack on the 7th of October, to make all the incorrect political ideas as politically correct.

“Because after what they have done to us, most of Israelis think, we have now the right to do and say whatever we want, because of those horrible things they did.

In the minds of Israelis now, Levy said, “all Palestinians must take responsibility for the October 7 crimes, all of them took part in it.”

UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
Updated 4 sec ago

UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
  • Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese discussed the condition of human rights and Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories on Sunday.

Shoukry received Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, in Cairo, where they called for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Gaza in compliance with international laws and demanded the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

They also called for a stop to mounting settler violence in the West Bank, demanding accountability of the perpetrators.

Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories.

He warned of the security repercussions of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which undermines the stability of the broader region.

The foreign minister expressed regret over the reluctance of several countries so far to describe Israeli practices as a flagrant violation of international law.

Shoukry and Albanese discussed the status of human rights and the humanitarian condition of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Shoukry reiterated the need to stop Israel from implementing policies of collective punishment, indiscriminately targeting civilians, and displacing Palestinians from their lands.

The UN rapporteur denounced Israel’s refusal to allow her to conduct a field visit to the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Albanese expressed her deep concern for the catastrophic humanitarian situation Palestinians are experiencing and called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law as the occupying power.

She also stressed her keenness to continue discussions with Egypt regarding ways to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.


Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security
Updated 57 min 32 sec ago

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security
  • Agreement will develop the Arab Women’s Strategy for Security and Peace

RIYADH: The Arab League and United Nations Women Regional Office for Arab States signed a cooperation agreement, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It was signed by Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Haifa Abu Ghazaleh and Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, regional director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Abu Ghazaleh highlighted the significance of cooperation in the “Women, Security and Peace” program. It will develop the Arab Women’s Strategy for Security and Peace as well as various national strategies across Arab countries, she added.

Eldhagen highlighted the challenges faced by women in conflict zones, including in Gaza. She hailed progress in women’s rights through cooperation between the UN and Arab League.

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex
Updated 21 April 2024

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex
  • Civil defense department alleges claimed that some of those killed had been tortured by the Israeli military

LONDON: A mass grave containing 190 bodies has been discovered by Palestinian civil defense teams at the Nasser Medical Complex in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, Jordan News Agency reported on Sunday.

The civil defense department said the deceased were victims of an Israeli attack on the facility.

Mahmud Bassal, spokesman for the department, claimed that some of those killed had been tortured.

“There were no clothes on some bodies, which certainly indicates (the victims) faced torture and abuse,” Bassal told AFP

Search efforts are ongoing, with officials saying a significant number of victims remain buried at the site.

The department estimates that around 700 individuals have been killed and buried in mass graves within the complex since the Gaza conflict broke out on Oct. 7.

The discovery was made following the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Khan Younis on April 7. 

Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since the conflict began, at least two-thirds of them children and women, according to the enclave’s Health Ministry.

It says the real toll is likely higher as many bodies are stuck beneath rubble or are in areas that are unreachable.

Houthislaunch‘indoctrination’ summercamps

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 April 2024

Houthislaunch‘indoctrination’ summercamps

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
  • Children in Houthi camps taught how to make models for military equipment, sectarian ideas that inspire hatred, violence, says analyst

AL-MUKALLA: The leader of the Houthi militia has called on families in regions under his control in Yemen to encourage their children to join summer camps, a move that has renewed accusations against the militia of child soldiering.

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday, saying they would fill in the free time of the country’s children during the summer and teach ideas rooted in the “faith identity” of Yemen, which would allegedly protect them from foreign ideas and also motivate them to confront their enemies. 

“The enemies are disturbed by the summer courses, and their media outlets usually start organized campaigns attacking the courses and those responsible for them,” Al-Houthi said, urging his supporters not to listen to critics. 

After their leader’s speech, Houthi officials in Sanaa, Hajjah, Hodeidah, and other areas controlled by the militia launched summer camps in their cities and encouraged parents to send their children. 

Similarly to summer camps in previous years, the Houthis have faced accusations from Yemeni government officials, journalists, activists, and human rights organizations that they exploit schools, mosques, and other facilities used for these camps to indoctrinate, recruit, and train children for military purposes against the government.

“The Houthi militia has converted these summer camps into mobilization camps before conscription. This is the initial step in the recruitment process,” Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, told ż.

Instead of teaching children peace, human values, music, and sketching, Al-Fakih said, children in Houthi camps are taught sectarian ideas that inspire hatred, violence, and killing, as well as how to make models for military equipment.

“Unfortunately, all of the ideologies taught in these camps promote sectarianism, instigate hatred and violence, and create time bombs,” he said.

Videos from Houthi summer camps in recent years have shown Houthi figures instructing youngsters how to wield weapons while some children were taken on a tour of the graves of deceased Houthi warriors.

Other children were observed screaming Houthi slogans, professing allegiance to the militia leader, vowing to battle militia opponents such as Israel and America, and participating in mock military parades. 

Critics have warned families living in Houthi-controlled areas not to listen to the militia’s calls to join summer camps, noting that many graduates of those camps have turned their guns on their own families.  

“To parents in areas controlled by the terrorist Houthi militia, boycott Houthi summer camps to save your children’s lives. Beware of clerics, charlatans, and deceptive phrases,” said Saleh Al-Qutaibi, a Yemeni army officer in the central city of Marib.

In their most recent report to the UN Security Council, released late last year, the UN Panel of Experts accused the Houthis of committing the majority of human rights violations in Yemen, including child soldiering.

It said that Houthi summer camps exist in three forms: open summer camps for boys and girls, model summer camps for children, and closed residential summer camps where boys aged 13 to 17 spend at least a month without seeing anyone, including their families. The report said that the latter camps provide boys with military training.

To get youngsters into their camps, the Houthis offer incentives such as waiving their registration costs for the following school year. Families that refuse to send their children to the camps are penalized by being denied humanitarian help and having their children abducted and sent to the conflict. 

Al-Fakih said this year that Houthis in the province of Ibb would not release students’ school year results if they did not attend summer camps. 

“They tied the submission of results for the last school year to the student’s attendance at summer centers,” Al-Fakih said.

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike
Updated 21 April 2024

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike
  • Baby, weighing 1.4 kg and delivered in an emergency C-section

RAFAH: A baby girl was delivered from the womb of a Palestinian killed along with her husband and daughter by an Israeli attack in the Gaza city of Rafah, where 19 people died overnight in intensified strikes, Palestinian health officials said.
The dead, killed in hits on two houses, included 13 children from one family, they said.
The baby, weighing 1.4 kg and delivered in an emergency C-section, was stable and improving gradually, said Mohammed Salama, a doctor caring for her.
Her mother, Sabreen Al-Sakani, had been 30 weeks pregnant.
The baby was placed in an incubator in a Rafah hospital alongside another infant, with the words “The baby of the martyr Sabreen Al-Sakani” written on tape across her chest.
Sakani’s young daughter Malak, who was killed in the strike, had wanted to name her new sister Rouh, meaning spirit in Arabic, said her uncle Rami Al-Sheikh. “The little girl Malak was happy that her sister was coming to the world,” he said.
The baby would stay in hospital for three to four weeks, said Salama, the doctor. “After that we will see about her leaving, and where this child will go, to the family, to the aunt or uncle or grandparents. Here is the biggest tragedy. Even if this child survives, she was born an orphan,” he said.
The 13 children were killed in a strike on the second home, belonging to the Abdel Aal family, according to Palestinian health officials. Two women were also killed in that strike.
Asked about the casualties in Rafah, an Israeli military spokesperson said various militant targets were struck in Gaza including military compounds, launch posts and armed people.
“Did you see one man in all of those killed?” said Saqr Abdel Aal, a Palestinian man whose family were among the dead, grieving over the body of a child in a white shroud.
“All are women and children,” he said. “My entire identity has been wiped out, with my wife, children and everyone.”
Mohammad Al-Behairi said his daughter and grandchild were still under the rubble. “It’s a feeling of sadness, depression, we have nothing left in this life to cry for, what feeling shall we have? When you lose your children, when you lose the closest of your loved ones, how will your feeling be?” he said.

Over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have crowded into Rafah, seeking shelter from the Israeli offensive that has laid waste to much of the Gaza Strip over the last six months.
Israel is threatening a ground offensive into the area, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said fighters from the militant group Hamas must be eliminated to ensure Israel’s victory in the war.
President Joe Biden has urged Israel not to launch a large-scale offensive in Rafah to avoid more Palestinian civilian casualties.
Palestinian health authorities say more than 34,000 people have been killed in Israel’s assault, which began after Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and abducting another 253, according to Israeli tallies.
The Palestinian health ministry said on Sunday that Israeli military strikes killed 48 Palestinians and wounded 79 others across Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours.
In the larger of the two Palestinian territories, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israel said its soldiers shot two Palestinians who tried to shoot and stab them on Sunday. The Palestinian health ministry said both men had died.
Abu Jehad, a Gaza City resident sheltering in Rafah with his family, said he was afraid the Israelis would invade Rafah unless a ceasefire is reached, and he would have to flee once again. “We are trapped and everyone awaits his turn to die,” said Abu Jehad, who was reached by phone.