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Israel’s Judaisation of Palestine is failing | Israel

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“Everything Palestinian in Jerusalem is targeted by Israeli occupation,” said Palestinian Archbishop of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Church, Atallah Hanna on January 29 during a meeting with a delegation from the medical aid organisation Doctors without Borders.

“The Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments are targeted in order to change our city, hide its identity and marginalise our Arabic and Palestinian existence,” the archbishop added.

Hanna, who has been at the forefront of the Palestinian Muslim and Christian struggle against Israel’s Judaisation schemes, is, of course, correct in his assertion that Jerusalem is targetted. But the truth is that there is a systematic campaign to strip not just the holy city off of its Palestinian character, but also the whole of Palestine.

A few days after the Palestinian Christian leader made his comments, Israeli authorities carried out excavations in the historic al-Bahr Mosque in the city of Tiberias, on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. In its place, Israel aims to establish a museum, a practice it has used many times in the past in order to erase historic symbols of Palestinian existence.

An ‘invented people’

Israel’s disregard for the historical rights of Palestinians is deeply rooted in Zionist ideology. Indeed, from the very start, Zionist ideologues promoted the idea that Palestine was a place bereft of culture or heritage – an arid desert, waiting for Zionist pioneers to make it “bloom”.

For those claims to acquire a degree of plausibility and for the myth of Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land” to be solidified, the Zionist movement needed to erase the very existence of the Palestinian people.

After the establishment of the Israeli state, its leaders never made it a secret that this is indeed their intention. “It is not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist,” Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (1969-74) said in an interview with the Sunday Times in June 1969.

The notion that Palestinians are not a people with a collective sense of nationhood has remained a defining concept of Zionism until this day and has spread well beyond Israel’s borders. American Christian evangelicals are particularly avid supporters of the idea, which has led some American politicians to also publicly embrace it. In 2011, for example, then US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel that the Palestinians were an “invented people“.

The practical application of this idea has meant that the construction of anything Jewish Israeli – whether it is cities, settlements, bypass-roads or numerous edifices of art, culture, religion and so on – has had to take place in parallel to the demolition and erasure of Palestinian cities, villages, streets, homes, cultural and religious sites. 

Erasing Palestinian existence

On July 19, 2018, the Israeli Knesset passed the “nation-state bill“, practically making apartheid official by defining Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and marginalising Palestinians, their history and language. However, that bill was the mere culmination of decades-long efforts. 

During the British mandate, the colonial authorities, for example, were using predominantly Arabic names of localities, towns and villages; there were some about 3,700 of them. By contrast, there were just 200 Hebrew toponyms, most of them being names of Jewish settlements, including new ones that were being built under the patronage of the Zionist movement. This was quite indicative of the demographic distribution and land ownership in Palestine at the time (at the beginning of the British mandate in the 1920s, the Jews, including newly arrived settlers, were just 11 percent of the total population).

However, as soon as the Israeli state was created against the will of the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab population of the Middle East, a vicious campaign to “remap” Palestine was launched.

A 1948 letter sent to first Israeli Interior Minister Yitzhak Gruenbaum read: “The conventional names should be replaced by new ones … since, in an anticipation of renewing our days as of old and living the life of a healthy people that is rooted in the soil of our country, we must begin in the fundamental Hebraicization of our country’s map.”

Soon after, a government commission was created and tasked with renaming everything Palestinian so the new state can lay its claim on towns, villages and various other geographical areas.

Another letter written in August 1957 by an Israeli foreign ministry official urged the Israeli Department of Antiquities to speed up the destruction of Palestinian homes conquered during the Nakba. “The ruins from the Arab villages and Arab neighbourhoods, or the blocs of buildings that have stood empty since 1948, arouse harsh associations that cause considerable political damage,” he wrote. “They should be cleared away.”

For Israel, erasing Palestine and writing the Palestinian people out of the history of their own homeland have always been a strategic endeavour.

“Considered as a major accomplishment of modern Jewish nationalism, the ‘Hebraicization of Israel’ usually refers to the revival of the Hebrew language undertaken by and associated with Zionism as a restorative project of nation-building,” Israeli academics Maoz Azaryahu and Arnon Golan wrote (PDF) in their paper “(Re)naming the Landscape: the Formation of the Hebrew Map of Israel”. 

“A lesser known aspect of the ‘Hebraicization of Israel’, however, has been the ‘Hebraicization of the map’, a state-promoted national project whose objective was “To Judaize (sic) the map of Israel and to affix Hebrew names to all geographical features in the map of Israel”.

This is as true in the case of Palestine, as it was in the case of all colonised nations. And like other settler-colonialist powers, Israel is well aware of the important rapport between places, names and collective identities of the indigenous, colonised people.

As Canadian historian Kaleigh Bradley pointed out in a recent essay: “For indigenous peoples, place names act as mnemonic devices, embodying histories, spiritual and environmental knowledge, and traditional teachings. Place names also serve as boundary markers between home and the world of outsiders.” 

The Israeli Zionist campaign to rename Palestinian places, destroy Palestinian heritage sites, claim Palestinian culture, undermine the Arabic language and erase cultural contributions of the Palestinian people has continued for over 70 years now. 

More recently, the Israeli army has used its violent military assaults on Palestinians not only to take Palestinian lives but also to destroy cultural monuments and places of worship of historical significance. According to official Palestinian reports, Israel destroyed 73 mosques in the 51-day war on the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014. 

Some of these mosques, like al-Omari Mosque in Jabaliya, are ancient structures that date back more than a thousand years. Al-Omari Mosque was built nearly 1365 years ago and has served as a symbol of hope for Palestinians in Gaza, a reminder of past grandeur. 

The Israeli authorities have also increased pressure on Islam’s third-holiest site: al-Aqsa Mosque. It has facilitated the forceful incursions of the Temple Mount Faithful, an extremist Jewish group, into the Haram al-Sharif compound, where the mosque is located. The group has declared that it is keen on destroying al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build a “Third Temple on Temple Mount” – something the Israeli government clearly also wishes for.

There have been various attacks on Palestinian cultural heritage in Nablus, al-Khalil (Hebron), Ariyha (Jericho), Yaffa (Jaffa), Haifa and many other Palestinian towns and villages. 

Yet, despite all of this destruction, on intellectual and political levels, Israel still remains insecure about its past and uncertain of its future.

Palestinian ‘sumud’

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, prominent Israeli historian Benny Morris predicted a grim future for his country.

“This place will deteriorate into a Middle Eastern state with an Arab majority,” he said referring to Israel and Palestine. “The violence between various populations inside the state will continue to increase … The Arabs will demand the return of the refugees. The Jews will remain as a small minority in a large Arab sea of Palestinians – a persecuted minority or a slaughtered minority, as it was when they lived in Arab countries.”

“In another 30 to 50 years, they will overcome us, one way or another,” he added. 

It doesn’t matter whether Morris’ offensive prediction was meant to manipulate existing fears among his countrymen, to hype the sense of victimisation that continues to define the collective Israeli Jewish mindset, or to communicate his honest feelings.

Either way, his statement explains why Israel acts against the Palestinian identity with such a great sense of urgency, intensifying attacks on Palestinian culture, speeding up annexation of Palestinian land, expanding Jewish settlements and Jewish-only roads, renaming streets, marginalising the Arabic language or, to use Archbishop Hanna’s, targeting “everything Palestinian”. 

But the foretold demise of Israel as a “Jewish state” will come not as a result of the Arab majority “slaughtering” the “persecuted minority”, but as a result of Israel’s own reckless actions. Before the Zionists, there were many other invaders. Many fled, but many others chose to stay and were naturally integrated into the fabric of the diverse Palestinian society.

Israel refuses to accept the fact that the Palestinians’ relationship with their land cannot be dictated or terminated by violence, Knesset bills or army decrees. To the contrary, the more aggression is unleashed onto the Palestinians, the stronger the Palestinian sense of nationhood grows. The late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in his seminal poem, “ID Card” was able to capture brilliantly this Palestinian spirit of resistance:

I am a name with no honorific.

Patient in a land

Where everything lives in bursting rage

My roots were planted before time was born

Before history began

Before the cypress and the olive trees

Before grass sprouted

Early Zionists were wrong. Destroying Palestinian villages, changing street names and demolishing mosques and churches cannot succeed in erasing a nation’s sense of identity.

Palestinian “sumud” (steadfastness) has turned out to be far superior and more powerful than any and all of Israel’s military and political stratagems. And it is this steadfastness that will guarantee that Morris’ prediction comes true. The great Palestinian sea will swallow the occupier.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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