Bearing Witness

The Dark Corners

Since returning from the Middle East I have set up The Dark Corners [TDC], a fundraising organisation to support small NGO’s around the world that have no existing support networks in Australia and are working with marginalised young people – giving them services, opportunities, skills and most importantly hope for the future. TDC will rase funds by putting on events “Music for the Dark Corners” and “Dinners for the Dark Corners”. Each event will promote awareness of the circumstances and issues facing the young people that the NGO works with, while also rasing funds to help with their valuable work.

It has been a longer process than I expected, setting up TDC, however it would have taken even longer with out the help of Anne Cregan from Blake Dawson. Anne has helped me navigate each step of the way and supported me through an incredibly step learning curve. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Anne and every one at Blake Dawson for their advice and support.

For more information on TDC and to stay informed about up coming events join “The Dark Corners” Facebook group @ http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=113511167451

In recent news the US has back flipped on its demand that Israel stop all expansion of its settlements in occupied West Bank before peace talks could resume. This is disappointing news as Barack Obama promised a change, not more of the same. As Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz, ”U.S. presidents seem to treat the settlements just like the weather: an interesting topic for conversation, but impossible to change”.

The need for a holt to settlement expansion is clear to anyone who followed the, so called “peace process”, during which Palestinians were willing to negotiate an end to the occupation, while Israel continued to change the demographics of the land under negotiation and annex more of the land planned for a future Palestinian state. That is how we have gone from 109,000 settlers – not including East Jerusalem – when the Oslo Accords were signed 16 years ago to more than 300,000 today.

The US backflip on settlement expansion has only strengthened my view that the best hope for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine is the BDS campagin. The BDS campagin is modeled on the strategy that the anti-apartheid struggle used against South Africa very successfully in the 1980s.

“The way I see BDS is that this is a tactic that we are resorting to because of Israeli impunity. There is an absolute unwillingness to apply international law to the Israeli state. Our governments have failed, the United Nations has failed, the so-called international community is a joke. We have to fill the vacuum” – Naomi Klien.

For more information on the Global BDS campagin check out: http://www.bdsmovement.net/

November 9, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boycott L’Oreal

 Why Boyctt L’Oreal ?
 
L’Oreal donates to Israel’s Weizmann Institute, a center for research & development of Israel’s nuclear, chemical & biological weapons.
 
L’Oreal Israel (L’Oreal’s Israeli subsidiary) has a factory in Migdal Haemek, a Jews-only settlement built on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed (1948) Palestinian village of al-Mujaydal.
 
L’Oreal Israel manufactures Dead Sea mineral products sourced from the western shore of the Dead Sea (one third of which lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank).
 
L’Oreal’s brands include The Body Shop, Garnier, Helena Rubinstein, Redken, Lancome, Matrix & Maybelline, Vichy, Softsheen, Carson & CCB Paris..
 
The Palestinian Boycott Divestment & Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on all people of conscience to boycott L’Oreal.
  
* For more information on the BDS Movement check out bdsmovement. net

September 1, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel says shooting of unarmed American activist a justifiable act of war

The Israeli military has declared the shooting of an unarmed American peace activist an act of war. The activist, Tristan Anderson, was critically injured when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at his head in March. Anderson was taking part in a weekly non-violent protest against Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank village of Nilin. The Israeli military says Anderson was involved in a hostile act, which would absolve the military of any liability for his injuries. Michael Sfard, an attorney for Anderson’s family, said, If [an] unarmed civilian demonstration is classified by Israel as an act of war, then clearly Israel admits that it is at war with civilians.

Link to footage of the incident on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjVcluwdCC8

At least their admitting it now, as in my opinion Israel has been at war with civilians since the massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948. For more on Deir Yassin go to http://www.deiryassin.org/  

August 26, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tell me again. Who are the aggressors?

An article produced by the Gaza Defence Committee.

There are Israeli apologists demanding that others ought to read up on history. It is they who ought to do the reading.

In his Complete Diaries, Vol.II, Page 711, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, says that the area of the Jewish state stretches: “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”.

Rabbi Fischmann, member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared in his testimony to the U.N. Special Committee of Enquiry on July 9, 1947: “The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. It includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”

1938

“Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.” –David Ben Gurion, quoted on pp 91-2 of Chomsky’s “Fateful Triangle”, which appears in Simha Flapan’s “Zionism and the Palestinians pp 141-2 citing a 1938 speech.

1947

According to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Likud, terrorism can be justified in the service of (Zionist but not Palestinian) national struggle: “Neither Jewish morality nor Jewish tradition can be used to deny the morality of terror used as a means of war…. We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with national struggle. First and foremost, terror is part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today.” – Hazit (Aug.1943, Journal of Lehi, the terrorist organization Shamir led before Israel’s independence

1967

“Let us approach them [the Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories] and say that we have no solution, that they shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave — and we will see where this process leads. In five years we may have 200,000 less people – and that is a matter of enormous importance.” Moshe Dayan September 1967

“Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” General Moshe Dayan, Former Israeli Defense Minister

Before [the Palestinians] very eyes we are possessing the land and the villages where they, and their ancestors, have lived… We are the generation of colonizers, and without the steel helmet and the gun barrel we cannot plant a tree and build a home. – Famous Israeli Army Commander Moshe Dayan

1969

” Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal Al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” Moshe Dayan Date: 4 April 1969

1983

When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle. – Israeli Army Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan, 1983

2002

“We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal – in Israel; and the other – cruel, injurious – in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day. Michael Ben-Yair Article/book #: 3837 Title: The war’s seventh day

There can be only one victor in a war; the only alternative to complete resignation was to do what Israel is doing. And what is that? It is assuring that the Palestianians (in the words of Moshe Yaalon, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces in 2002) “are made to understand, in the deepest recesses of their consciousness, that they are a defeated people.” The more relentless the assault, and indeed the more civilians you legitimately kill, the deeper the recesses of consciousness that you are able to penetrate.

“It’s not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.” — Henry Kissinger

As of 1946 the Arab owned land in Palestine was 94 percent, arab population 65 percent with the Arabs owning almost all of the cultivated land. The 35 percent of Jewish population owned the remaining six percent of the land. Today the Palestinians are crammed into less than 10 percent of their country.

Tell me again. Who are the aggressors?

June 16, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteering

After having some time and space to reflect on my voluntary work for Project Hope in Nablus, I still feel it is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life, however there are some things I would do differently if I where to come back or undertake volunteer work else where in the world – which I definitively plan to do.

Firstly I would spend more time learning the language before leaving, I feel this would have given me a better understanding of the people and culture. While also helping me immensely with my teaching, don’t get me wrong the translators provided to me by Project Hope where amazing and indispensable, however the saying “lost in translation” did come to mind several times during my stay in Nablus.

I also would have better prepared myself for the emotion roller coaster that is voluntary work. I experienced everything from excitement and joy to frustration and despair – all in the one day and some times in the same hour.

Plus also preparing myself to become emotional attached to the place and the people I worked with. I always felt an affinity with the Palestinian cause, but after my time in the West Bank that grew immensely. This was best illustrated by my reaction to the atrocities carried out in Gaza, just I after I had left Nablus. I would have reacted negatively even before my time in the West Bank, however after getting to know the people and the extent of their suffering, so often down played in the western media, the images I saw from Gaza on the nightly news nearly had me in tears.

That brings me to preparing for the realities of situation you are going to work in. This is hard to do as books and documentaries can only tell you some much, but the more knowledge you gain before you leave, will provide a  better base to build your understanding of the situation you find yourself in.

Finally if anyone reading this is considering undertaking voluntary work, my advice is DO IT ! Throw yourself into whole heartily – as it’s like anything else in life the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

To support Project Hope and he wonderful work they do – bringing hope to young Palestinians – go to www.projecthope.ps and click on support us and make a donation, please.

January 31, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t believe the hype

My time in the Middle East has only reinforced my beliefs that there is a double standard when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, not to mention a fair amount of  miss information. This double standard is evident in both media reports and international political responses to the situation and are most clearly evident in reports and responses to the Oslo peace process and 2006 and 2009 invasions of Gaza.

In 2006 after an Israeli solider was “kidnapped” by Hamas, Israel was given cart blanch by the media and foreign governments to address the situation as it saw fit – under the auspice of security. However every night Palestinians live with Israeli incursions and arrests, yet Hamas  are given no means of recourse by the media or foreign governments. Even the language used to describe the same activity – Hamas “kidnaps” Israeli’s and Israel “arrests” Palestinian “suspects”, lets not forget that Hamas is also a democratically elected government. 

A democratic government that Israel and America has stated aims to overthrow, their justification for this is that Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist – pointing to the Hamas charter and ignoring the fact that Hamas has repeatedly called for negotiations on a long term cease fire and a two state settlement. An offer ignored over and over again by Israel and the United States.

When Hamas kill civilians, they are labeled terrorists – and rightly so, as any targeting of civilians is in my book terrorism. Compared to when Israel kills civilians, it’s labeled an accident and justified by security concerns. Who has the  more advanced military and therefor should be less likely to make mistakes ? And who really has security concerns ? Considering a 2007 United Nations report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] reported that since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 until the end of July 2007 at least 5 848 people have been killed as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of those 5848 deaths, 4228 where Palestinians, 1024 where Israeli’s and 63 where foreign citizens. Meaning Palestinians are dying at a rate of over four to one compared to Israeli’s.

In 2008 Israel’s blockade of Gaza – a form of collective punishment outlawed under international humanitarian law – kills  around 300 Gazains as a result of a lack of access to medical treatment, again Hamas are given no means of recourse. However Hamas rockets kill three Israeli’s and the international community again sees this as justification for killing over 1000 Palestinians and injuring many more.

Unfortunately the Australian governments response to the 2009 invasion of Gaza showed this double standard at it’s clearest. While condeming Hamas rocket attacks that had killed three Israeli’s, they only expressed concern over the Israeli military action – which at that stage had killed around 750 Palestinians. What happened to equality ? A human life is a human life, no matter what side of the apartheid wall you live on.

The media so often portray Israel as the innocent victims of this conflict and the Palestinians the terrorist aggressors, personally I have found the opposite. I have heard on several occasions Israeli’s speak positively about Palestinian deaths. While during my time in Nablus and the occupied terrirories I never heard Palestinians speak positively of Israeli deaths. I did though hear many people in Nablus and the occupied territories express their understanding of Hamas actions and in many ways I can see their point of view. Israel as the creator of the extreme situation, must accept some of the responsibility for the extreme behaviour that this situation creates.

Even the reporting on the failed Oslo peace process shows these double standards. It was widely reported that the Palestinians walked away from a generous Israeli offer of self determination, East Jerusalem, all of the West Bank and Gaza. This was not the case, what was on offer at Camp David was 10 small Palestinian enclaves- not connected to one another. In addition to this Israel would still control the population registers of these enclaves – determining who can live where and who can travel and when. Plus the Israeli’s would maintain control of the water, maintaining the current distribution ratio – where in the West bank 20% of the water goes to the Palestinians who make up 80% of the population. In addition to this Israel would still control the air space above the enclaves, fertile farming land was to be swapped for arid desert, Israel would still control Jerusalem and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees – called for by several UN security council resolutions. Does not sound so generous to me and I certainly would not call it self determination, even one of the Israeli negotiating team, at Camp David, latter stated that if he where “Palestinian he would not have accepted the deal”.  Also take into consideration the fact that the whole way through, the so called “peace process”, Israel had expanded settlement construction in contradiction to it’s obligation under the Oslo agreement – settler numbers in the West bank doubled to nearly 500 000 during the peace process.

Even the conditions placed on the Palestinians by the international community, namely the US, to restart negotiations about a two-sate solution show this double standard. The Palestinians have to recognise Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and accept the road map to peace – three conditions that are not placed on Israel. Israel definitely does not except Palestine’s right to exist, the 2006 and 2009 invasion of Gaza clearly show they have not renounced violence and the fact they continue to expand their settlements in the West Bank show they do not accept the conditions of the road map to peace.

The Palestinian refugees are so often the forgotten victims of this conflict, they have in some cases been refugees for over 50 years and as we know from our experience in Australia the physiological effects of refugee status can be dramatic. The effects of living in fear and limbo, of family separation,  of lack of access to rights and services are quite well documented in Australia after only several years, Palestinians have been living like this for  generations, and again are given no means of recourse through international institutions or the media.

So with all this evidence of misinformation and double standards, the question has to be – why ? Who benefits from this miss information and double standards ?

January 25, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zaytoun

Emergency workers said they rescued 100 more trapped survivors Thursday and found between 40 and 50 corpses in a devastated residential block south of Gaza City that the Israeli military had kept off-limits to the ICRC [International Committe of the Red Cross] for four days.

Relief agencies said they feared more people remained in the rubble of several shattered houses in the Zaytoun neighborhood. Red Cross officials said that they began receiving distress calls from people in the houses late Saturday but that they were blocked by the Israeli military from reaching the area until Wednesday.

“There are still people under demolished houses — we are sure of it,” said Khaled Abuzaid, an ambulance driver for the Red Cross who treated survivors at the site Wednesday and Thursday. “But without water or electricity, we are sure they will die.”

In an interview at al-Quds Hospital, a Red Cross medical center in Gaza, Abuzaid said rescue workers found 16 bodies Wednesday in a large room of a house in Zaytoun: seven women, six children and three men, all members of the al-Samuni family.

Most had sustained trauma injuries from shelling, but many had gunshot wounds as well, he said. Four children, weak but alive, were found lying under blankets, nestled next to their dead mothers, Abuzaid said.

This article was taken from the Washington Post Foreign Service on Friday 9th January. The article was written by Craig Whitlock and Reyham Abdel Kareem.

The Palestinian death toll in Israel’s 13-day-old offensive has risen to 765,  and over 3,000 people have now been wounded. With the majority of the deaths and casualties being those of civilians who are supposedly protected by international law ? How many more innocent civilians need to die before the international community, namely the United States, force Israel to stop this horrifically heavy hand military operation in Gaza.

UPDATE: In its report on Friday, the United Nations agency confirmed the al-Samuni family’s account, saying that 110 people had been forced into the house on Sunday by the IOF [Israeli Occuupation Force]. “The next day the house was shelled,” Allegra Pacheco, an UN agency spokeswoman said. 

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Media, My Thoughts | , , , | Leave a comment

Thank You Project Hope.

I have notice lately that some of my posts, well lets be honest most of my post, have been quite negative and as depressing as the occupation is to witness. I must say my time in Nablus has been one of the most fulfilling experience of my life. I came to teach, but came away learning and not just about the situation here but how to look at and enjoy life. To make the most of what you have and not to focus on what you don’t. The Palestinian people amaze me more everyday with their generosity and positive nature – I will surely miss Nablus when I leave in several days.
  
However more than the place I will miss the people who have made my time here special. Starting with, and in no particular order; Hakim – who from day one welcomed me in to his home and gave me my first taste of Palestinian hospitality; Anas; my English translator who pulled me out of the deep end so to speak with my English classes and who also helped with the workshops in Askar, I will be forever in your debt; Hassan – who’s patients with my Australian accent while teaching me Arabic was never ending and what little Arabic I now have his all down to him; Tharwa – who made me fell like part of the Project Hope family from day one; Akiel – Always ready with a “hand shake” and a smile; Fino – who showed me Palestinians know how to party and who I hope makes it to Australia one day so I can repay the favour; Maroof – who greeted all my request with a smile; Tawfiq – who’s Nescafe and support got me through my four hours of Bridge to the World classes on Saturdays.
 
Now to the International volunteers; Simon – for his quick wit; Truda – for her positive nature and support; Javier – for his revolutionary ideals; Mike – for also helping fish me out of the deep end, re English, not to mention his crude jokes; Kevin – for his dry sense of humour and baking abilities; Malika – for her commitment to the course.
     
And last but definitely not least to all my students English, Bridge to the World and Askar you where all tullab mumtarse – excellent students – and made my time in Nablus a truly rewarding experience.
   
I consider all of you friends and will miss you all, THANK YOU :]
    
And to everyone involved with Project Hope keep up the good fight, your work is giving young Palestinians hope and as I now know with hope anything is possible !
 

December 21, 2008 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , | Leave a comment

UN: 290 settler-related attacks on Palestinians by November

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Friday that settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank increased this year.

Within the first ten months of 2008, OCHA recorded 290 settler-related incidents targeting Palestinians and their property. This figure, while not comprehensive, “reflects a worrying trend,” the UN office said, “since it surpasses the total recorded by OCHA in each of the previous two years.”

In 2006 OCHA recorded 182 attacks for all 12 months combined, while in 2007 the sum was 243.

Similarly, Palestinian deaths and injuries resulting from settler-related incidents in 2008 exceeded the number of Palestinian casualties in each of the previous two years (131 in 2008, compared to 74 in 2006 and 92 in 2007).

Approximately half of all Palestinian injuries from settler violence each year since 2006 have been made up of children, women and the elderly over 70 years of age, the UN office found.

Some areas of the West Bank suffer far higher levels of settler violence and related activity than others, as well. While incidents were recorded by OCHA in all governorates during the first 10 months of 2008, they were more frequent in Hebron and Nablus, with 42 percent and 21 percent of all incidents, respectively.

This trend was also witnessed in the preceding two years.

A root cause of the phenomenon is Israel’s decades-long policy of facilitating and encouraging the settling of its citizens inside occupied Palestinian territory, defined as transfer of population and prohibited by international humanitarian law.

* This article was taken from www.maannews.net
This report does not include the settler violence that was sparked across the West Bank in December by the eviction of settlers from Al-Rajabi family home, the house of contention, in Hebron.The other thing worth noting about the OCHA report is that the vast majority of settler attacks go unreported as Palestinians know they are rarely investigated, let alone prosecuted. Around 90% of these documented attacks go unprosecuted !

December 20, 2008 Posted by | Media, My Thoughts | , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t believe the hype – Hebron and Gaza

I have just returned from a day in Hebron and was horrified to discover that the Al-Rajabi family home is not back in the hands of  it’s rightful owners, the Al-Rajabi family – as was widely report. Yes the settlers have been evicted, but the home is now being used as Israeli Occupation Force [IOF] watch tower. Leaving the Al-Rajabi family still homeless, 13 months after their home was first occupied. Did the Palestinians of Hebron and the West Bank suffer the desecration of their Mosques and graveyards, stoning, beatings and shootings for another IOF watch tower in Hebron ? Did the Al-Rajabi family spent a year in the Israeli court system to get the settlers evicted, so their home could be turned in a  IOF watch tower to protect the very settlers who occupied their house ?

While in Hebron I also was shown by my guide Tom, from the International Solidarity Movement [ISM], a Palestinian home that had been fire bombed during the settler violence that followed their eviction from the Al-Rajabi family home. The house was next door to IOF watch tower, but when questioned by ISM volunteers the IOF soldiers stated they “heard and saw nothing”. I found this strange as they noticed me taking photo’s straight away – I have never heard a Molotov cocktail being thrown but some thing tells me it’s louder than my camera.

I was also told how scores of children where arrested for throwing stones at the settler in vain attempt to protect their homes, Mosques and graveyards. While the only settler arrested was the man accused of shooting two Palestinians, and he was only arrested after B’tselem release video footage of the shooting to the media.

These incidents show just a few of the double standards that exist in the occupied territories, of which there are many more. They clearly show that there is one policy for Palestinians and another for Jews, fitting the definition of apartheid – the development of practices and policies of separation along racial lines. While also showing that the IOF, who under international law is responsible for for protecting Palestinians in the occupied territories, rarely fulfill these obligations. 

While where on the don’t believe hype theme lets talk about Gaza, I am sure that every time Israel lets the smallest shipment of food into Gaza, it’s widely reported in the western media as noble humanitarian gesture, but again don’t believe the hype. These shipments are like a small amount of rain in a drought, it’s welcome but it’s not drought breaking. The blockade of Gaza has now forced UNRWA to closed its doors as of Thursday 18th of December, saying it would be unable to provide emergency food aid to Gazans, since Israel continued to refuse to allow aid shipments into the Gaza Strip, UNRWA is responsible for feeding 750 000 Gazans. This another violation of international law, as it is a form of collective punishment. 

Again I ask, why is the world less offended by the oppression of the Palestinians people than it was by oppression of Black South Africans ? where are the boycotts and international condemnation ?

The Al-Rajabi family home, now being used as an IOF watch tower

The Al-Rajabi family home, now being used as an IOF watch tower

An IOF watch tower, next to a Palestinian home that was fire bombed by settlers after their eviction for the Al-Rajabi family home.

An IOF watch tower, next to a Palestinian home that was fire bombed by settlers after their eviction for the Al-Rajabi family home.

The results of the fire bomb

The results of the fire bomb

My guide Tom admiring the rubbish disposal methods of settlers

My guide Tom admiring the rubbish disposal methods of settlers

December 20, 2008 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , | Leave a comment