Bearing Witness

The real Israel-Palestine story is in the West Bank

Israel’s targeting of civilian resistance to the separation wall proves the two-state solution is now just a meaningless slogan.

It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been “occupation as normal”, there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman.

First, there have been a large number of Israeli raids on Palestinian villages, with dozens of Palestinians abducted. These kinds of raids are, of course, commonplace for the occupied West Bank, but in recent days it appears the Israeli military has targeted sites of particularly strong Palestinian civil resistance to the separation wall.

For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalised property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.

Jayyous is one of the Palestinian villages in the West Bank that has been non-violently resisting the separation wall for several years now. It was clear to the villagers that this latest assault was an attempt to intimidate the protest movement.

Also earlier this week, Israel tightened still further the restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency rights in East Jerusalem, closing the remaining passage in the wall in the Ar-Ram neighbourhood of the city. This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians are now cut off from the city and those with the right permit will now have to enter the city by first heading north and using the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Finally – and this time, there was some modest media coverage – it was revealed that the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem would be expanded by the appropriation of around 420 acres land as “state land”. According to Efrat’s mayor, the plan is to triple the number of residents in the colony.

Looked at together, these events in the West Bank are of far more significance than issues being afforded a lot of attention currently, such as the truce talks with Hamas, or the discussions about a possible prisoner-exchange deal. Hamas itself has become such a focus, whether by those who urge talks and cooption or those who advocate the group’s total destruction, that the wider context is forgotten.

Hamas is not the beginning or the end of this conflict, a movement that has been around for just the last third of Israel’s 60 years. The Hamas Charter is not a Palestinian national manifesto, and nor is it even particularly central to today’s organisation. Before Hamas existed, Israel was colonising the occupied territories, and maintaining an ethnic exclusivist regime; if Hamas disappeared tomorrow, Israeli colonisation certainly would not.

Recognising what is happening in the West Bank also contextualises the discussion about Israel’s domestic politics, and the ongoing question about the makeup of a ruling coalition. For the Palestinians, it does not make much difference who is eventually sitting around the Israeli cabinet table, since there is a consensus among the parties on one thing: a firm rejectionist stance with regards to Palestinian self-determination and sovereignty.

During the coverage of the Israeli elections, while it was clear that Palestinians mostly did not care which of the candidates for PM won, the reason for this apathy was not explained. Labor, Likud and Kadima alike, Israeli governments without fail have continued or intensified the colonisation of the occupied territories, entrenching Israel’s separate-and-unequal rule, a reality belied by the false “dove”/”hawk” dichotomy.

Which brings us to the third reason why news from the West Bank is more significant than the Gaza truce talks or the Netanyahu-Livni rivalry – it is a further reminder that the two-state solution has completed its progression from worthy (and often disingenuous) aim to meaningless slogan, concealing Israel’s absorption of all Palestine/Israel and confinement of the Palestinians into enclaves.

The fact that the West Bank reality means the end of the two-state paradigm has started to be picked up by mainstream, liberal commentators in the US, in the wake of the Israeli elections. Juan Cole, the history professor and blogger, recently pointed out that there are now only three options left for Palestine/Israel: “apartheid”, “expulsion”, or “one state”.

The path of the wall, and the number of Palestinians it directly and indirectly affects, continues to make a mockery of any plan for Palestinian statehood. Jayyous is just one example of the way in which the Israeli-planned, fenced-in Palestinian “state-lets” are at odds with the stated intention of the quartet and so many others, of two viable states, “side by side”. As the World Bank pointed out (pdf), land colonisation is not conducive to economic prosperity or basic independence.

In occupied East Jerusalem meanwhile, Israel has continued its process of Judaisation, enforced through bureaucracy and bulldozers. The latest tightening of the noose in Ar-Ram is one example of where Palestinian Jerusalemites are at risk of losing their residency status, victims of what is politely known as the “demographic battle”.

It is impossible to imagine Palestinians accepting a “state” shaped by the contours of Israel’s wall, disconnected not only from East Jerusalem but even from parts of itself. Yet this is the essence of the “solution” being advanced by Israeli leaders across party lines. For a real sense of where the conflict is heading, look to the West Bank, not just Gaza.

This article was written by Ben White for the Guardian and was first published on Friday 20th February 2009.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli soldiers admit ‘shoot first’ policy in Gaza offensive

Anonymous testimonies collated by Breaking the Silence also contain allegations that Palestinians were used as human shields.

Israeli soldiers who served in the Gaza Strip during the offensive of December and January have spoken out about being ordered to shoot without hesitation, destroying houses and mosques with a general disregard for Palestinian lives.

In testimony that will fuel international and Arab demands for war crime investigations, 30 combat soldiers report that the army’s priority was to minimise its own casualties to maintain Israeli public support for the three-week Operation Cast Lead.

One specific allegation is that Palestinians were used by the army as “human shields” despite a 2005 Israeli high court ruling outlawing the practice. “Not much was said about the issue of innocent civilians,” a soldier said. “There was no need to use weapons like mortars or phosphorous,” said another. “I have the feeling that the army was looking for the opportunity to show off its strength.”

The 54 anonymous testimonies were collated by Breaking the Silence, a group that collects information on human rights abuses by the Israeli military. Many of the soldiers are still doing their compulsory national service.

Palestinians counted 1,400 dead but Israel put the death toll at 1,166 and estimated 295 fatalities were civilians. Ten soldiers and three Israeli civilians were killed.

Israel launched the attack after the expiry of a ceasefire designed to halt rocket fire from Gaza and crush the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the coastal strip.

Witnesses described the destruction of hundreds of houses and many mosques without military reason, the firing of phosphorous shells into inhabited areas, the killing of innocents and the indiscriminate destruction of property.

Soldiers describe a “neighbour procedure” in which Palestinian civilians were forced to enter suspect buildings ahead of troops. They cite cases of civilians advancing in front of a soldier resting his rifle on the civilian’s shoulder.

“We did not get instructions to shoot at anything that moved,” said one soldier. “But we were generally instructed: if you feel threatened, shoot. They kept repeating to us that this is war and in war opening fire is not restricted.”

Many testimonies are in line with claims by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations that Israeli actions were indiscriminate and disproportionate.

Another soldier testified: “You feel like a stupid little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them. A 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things to other people.”

The testimonies “expose significant gaps between the official army version of events and what really happened on the ground”, Breaking the Silence said.

* This article was written by Ian Black, the Middle East editor for the Guardian newspaper and was first published on Wednesday 15 July.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking over Jerusalem

A couple of months ago I spent a fortnight in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement – activists who help Palestinians non-violently resist Israeli oppression. The most pressing of many issues during my stay was the attempts by an Israeli settler company, Nahalat Shimon, backed by the Israeli courts, to cleanse East Jerusalem of its Arab population, focusing its efforts at that time on the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

I spent a week sleeping on a floor in the house of the Hanoun family – a husband and wife and their three children. Longer-term activists were sleeping there as well, ready to document their inevitable eviction. Well, last Saturday at 5.30am the Israeli border police did come and forceably evict them (so forceably that the son Rami had to be taken to hospital). The activists were arrested, as were protesters who subsequently took to the streets. The Hanouns were offered a tent by the Red Cross.

Sheikh Jarrah is in a valley down from the American Colony hotel where Tony Blair stays in a luxury suite when visiting Jerusalem as the Quartet’s “Peace Envoy”. When you look out of the Hanouns’ window, you can see Blair’s hotel 30 metres away; Blair can probably see the Hanouns’ house during his morning swim. He has said nothing.

The most disturbing fact about Israel’s eviction programme is that when you look around East Jerusalem and the surrounding area there are considerable plots of land without homes. If they wanted to build new illegal settlements without kicking out Palestinians in the area they could do so. The targeting of Sheikh Jarrah and other areas is actually a process of racial purification, the transformation of East Jerusalem into a unified Jewish Jerusalem.

The Hanoun family have been the victims of terror for decades as they have fought off Israel’s attempts to take their homes. Maher Hanoun’s father was a refugee from the nakba (or “the catastophe”, as Palestinians call the founding of Israel in 1948). The Jordanian government gave them the property in 1956 as compensation and transferred the ownership to them in 1962. Maher was born in 1958 so has spent his whole life, and bought up all his children, in his home.

As in other parts of East Jerusalem, Maher was offered payment if he would go quietly. He refused. “This is my home,” he said to me. “I would never respect myself if I sold my home for money. They want to build a settlement on our hearts, on our dreams.”

Across the way, there is a makeshift tent where a 62-year-old woman now lives after settlers took over her house. Initially they only took two parts of her house so she was literally living next to them. Then she was kicked out. Her husband had a heart attack when their house was violently repossessed with the help of more than 50 soldiers (on the night of Barack Obama’s US election victory). After spending some time in hospital, her husband had another attack two weeks later and died. The family again refused money to leave their homes. “I don’t have a life now,” she said from her tent. “With my husband and house gone, there is no life. I just hope with the help of God that this occupation will stop and we can return to our homes.”

I don’t know what happened to this women in the eviction on Saturday night, but one report I read said even her tent had been destroyed.

The one good thing about the Netanyahu-Lieberman administration is that they are much more honest about their colonisation programme than their “centrist” predecessors. The Netanyahu administration is now willing to get rid of some “outposts”, in return for continued expansion in East Jerusalem and “natural growth” in existing settlements throughout the West Bank. That was the policy negotiated by Ehud Olmert and George Bush before the Annapolis conference in 2007. Netanyahu is just more honest in saying that it obviates the possibility of a Palestinian state.

Maher agrees: “I can’t see how we can have a capital if there is no land, no houses, no people,” he said.

The next stop in this attempt to cleanse the putative future capital of Palestine of its indigenous population is the Bustan area of Silwan which sits in the valley down from the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. When I first arrived in Israel I went on the City of David tour, which functions as a three-hour Israeli propaganda extravaganza (dressed up as an archeological experience). King David in Biblical lore is said to have been the first Jewish leader to settle the land in Jerusalem and his son King Solomon is said to have built the First Temple in 960 BC.

In 2005, some archeological finds purported to provide evidence that the lore was true. Now, the Israeli government wants to turn the homes of the people of Silwan into an archaeological theme park. Eighty-eight houses are due for demolition, home to about 1,500 Palestinians.

* This article was writen by Matt Kennard and first published in the Guardian news paper on  Wednesday 5 August 2009.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , , | 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

An open letter to President Barack Obama

President Obama, I cried a few days ago as I marveled at your historic and amazing win. I couldn’t help it. It was amazing the way that you were able to transcend racial, ethnic, and age lines to bring Americans together. You inspired me to believe in the US again.

You see, I moved to the United States from Palestine in July 2001. History soon shaped my experience in the US, and I found myself in a country where being Muslim and Palestinian made me a threat. I survived the hate-filled stares on 9/11, the people calling me “Victor” since “Hammad” is “too hard to say.” I got searched for three hours at SFO airport as a suspected terrorist where I was not allowed to call my family or know my rights, and had my computer’s contents searched. A portrait of President Bush looked over me. For the seven years I have lived in America, President Bush has been in charge. The America I moved to was not the one I always imagined. The America of hope and opportunity turned out to be the America of discrimination and horrible public education.

Growing up in a small town near Ramallah in Palestine, I always had an image of an America of opportunity. An America where dreams come true and people are judged by their character, not skin color or background. I dreamed of the America where one’s religion didn’t define them. You see, I lived my entire life in an area where I was first judged by my perceived nationality and religion. As a Palestinian in an Israeli-occupied military zone, there was no opportunity. A green “hawiya” listing my Palestinian background and religion kept me in an open-air prison. There, I watched my classmates run out of school to escape hovering Israeli F-16s, and watched the police station next to my school get bombed. To get to school, about two miles away, took at least an hour. We had to take a taxi through back roads, in snow (yes, it snows sometimes in Palestine), rain, wind, and heat. I sat in the corner of an 8-person taxi to and from school each day. It wasn’t just the back roads that were built for Palestinian drivers that made us feel subhuman. (Israeli highways circling through the West Bank are reserved only for Israeli Jewish settlers who illegally are transferred and build “hilltop communities” on private Palestinian land). It was also the two checkpoints Israelis made me walk through to get from my Palestinian town to the next city where my school was located. It wasn’t seeing people beaten or spit on that got to me. It was that as a 13-year old, I had to walk for a quarter mile every day to cross through the checkpoint on a mountain and wait for another checkpoint to get me to school. The problem was that Israel’s “security” regime took away my sense of security. Israel’s web of 500 checkpoints in the West Bank alone was part of the reason my dad’s restaurant failed. My story is not unique and is filled with privilege. Most Palestinians my age have been shot at or arrested. 6 million Palestinians still live in refugee camps. I was also lucky, since I had an American passport—which was the only reason Israel sometimes looked at me as a human being. My family was able to leave. Most Palestinians aren’t.

Throughout this campaign, I have watched you distance yourself from your former colleagues and friends because of their Palestinian background. I watched Foxnews report on Palestinian Professors as “terrorists” and was disappointed that you had no comment on the subject. I stood by when you retracted your comment that “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” I stood by as you remained silent about those who called you “Muslim,” as if it were a slur. I understood you needed to get elected, and that as a Black man in the US, it wouldn’t be easy and that it wouldn’t make sense to stand up against the ignorance and racism that has been increasing against Muslims and Arabs in the US. I watched you deny being a “Muslim” but never heard you say that it shouldn’t matter if you were. I rooted for you to win the Democratic nomination and spent a weekend with friends campaigning for you in South Carolina. I was there when you won by a landslide, and rejoiced at your speech. I didn’t wash my hands for a few days after shaking yours.

 I am not a one-issue voter. I did not, DID NOT, vote for you because of your policy on Palestine and Israel. You see, if it was this issue that I judged you by, I would not have voted for you. I watched you give a hawkish pro-Israel speech at AIPAC the day after you won the nomination. I understood the state of US politics and the need for you to not take a controversial or new stance on an issue that would lose votes in the Jewish-American community that was already skeptical of this man whose middle name was Hussein.

However, I was still disappointed by the levels you sunk to appear as “Israel-loving” as possible. I listened with shock as you declared that Jerusalem should “Israel’s undivided capital.” Even President Bush did not try to change international law or take a stance on a final status issue without Palestinian and Israelis negotiating it. And was happy the next day when you clarified your remark.

I was working with young Palestinians in three West Bank refugee camps and used your story as inspiration for them to see hope in their future and to follow their dreams. These kids are third and fourth generation refugees living in crowded refugee camps, and waiting for any of their basic human rights to be implemented. Then, I saw the difference in your visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. You spent over 27 hours in Israel, visiting museums, civil society, different government organizations and religious sites. In the Palestinian areas, you spent half an hour at President Mahmoud Abbas’ compound, which caused many main streets in Ramallah to be closed for ordinary Palestinians. As if the checkpoints weren’t enough.

I wondered at the time whether you saw the Qalandia checkpoint as you were whisked through in your motorcade. Did you see the wall that cuts across the land? Did you see how tall it is? In Berlin you gave a speech a few days later saying: “When you, the German people, tore down that wall – a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope – walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened.” How could you justify a wall that divides Palestinian territory, steals land, is not built on the green line, and is in some places twice as large as the Berlin Wall and four times as long? If it was about security, then the wall could have been built on Israeli territory and not around water sources and illegal settlements. 

Did you know that in a bakery in Ramallah, they prepared “O” pastries in your honor? You probably didn’t since you asked to leave Ramallah early to return to Tel-Aviv leaving behind a prepared Palestinian meal at Abbas’s compound. As a Christian, shouldn’t you feel disappointed that the Church of the Nativity, where it is believed Jesus was born, is cut off from Jerusalem by a wall that is 30 feet tall with multiple watch and sniper towers? You probably don’t know, since you didn’t visit the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, where Palestinian Christians are emigrating in record numbers since the building of the wall and the impact on the local economy.

Then, I remembered what it was that you stood for and that caused me to become a supporter. I listened when you discussed hope and opportunity in the US. Speaking of race you said: “”the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding.”

I wonder if you also can apply this statement to your policy in Palestine. I didn’t speak up during the election, because I believe you ARE the best choice for America. Now, I ask whether you will stand for human rights and against discrimination?

This has nothing to do with so-called “shared values” with Israel. This isn’t about being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli. This is about being pro-justice for a better future in the Middle East. This is a way to address the base of many conflicts in the Middle East. This is to improve the moral standing of the US and to hold our “allies” accountable for their actions. It is about using our leverage to push an agenda of justice, peace, equality, and democracy.

Mr. President-elect, the day after your nomination, you chose Rahm Emanuel , an Israeli as your Chief of Staff known for his hawkish pro-Israeli politics. His father was involved in the Irgun, a Zionist terrorist organization that murdered British troops and Arab civilians in Israel. I wonder if you would have appointed an equally-qualified person who happened to be Muslim. And if that person’s father was involved in a bombing that killed 60 people, would it really not be an issue? The same father is quoted to have said to an Israeli newspaper (in an article with the headline: “Our man in the White House”): “”Obviously, he will influence the President to be pro-Israel. Why shouldn’t he do it? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floor of the White House.”

I am so proud of the United States for electing you as our President. I am proud to have voted for you. Now, I wait, along with millions in the US and around the world, to see if you will be different when it comes to Israel and Palestine. I genuinely hope you can hold Israel accountable for the more than 3 BILLION in aid we send every year. These are my tax dollars at work—lets make them work on bringing down walls and finding a lasting solution that allows for justice and freedom for Palestinians (which is not opposite to Israeli security). Lets improve our image and reputation in the Muslim and Arab world. Let’s not get muddled in President Bush’s “us vs. them,” and “axis of evil” bullshit.

Because we can change, extremists in the Muslim world can no longer use the argument that America wants to bring a new crusade. By voting for the son of a Muslim from Kenya, we have silenced the extremists. Now, lets do something fresh and positive to keep them silent forever. Let’s be the America of hope and justice.

* An open letter to Barack Obama by hammad hammad an American of Palestinian heritage.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , | Leave a comment

No words left

Palestinians are at a loss to describe this latest catastrophe. International civil society must act now.

“I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing.” Those chilling words were spoken on al-Jazeera on Saturday by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defence official in the Sderot area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. For days Israeli planes have bombed Gaza. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed and a thousand injured, the majority civilians, including women and children. Israel claims most of the dead were Hamas “terrorists”. In fact, the targets were police stations in dense residential areas, and the dead included many police officers and other civilians. Under international law, police officers are civilians, and targeting them is no less a war crime than aiming at other civilians.

Palestinians are at a loss to describe this new catastrophe. Is it our 9/11, or is it a taste of the “bigger shoah” Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister, threatened in February, after the last round of mass killings?

Israel says it is acting in “retaliation” for rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since a six-month truce expired on 19 December. But the bombs dropped on Gaza are only a variation in Israel’s method of killing Palestinians. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food, cancer treatments and other medicines by an Israeli blockade that targeted 1.5 million people – mostly refugees and children – caged into the Gaza Strip. The orders of Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, to hold back medicine were just as lethal and illegal as those to send in the warplanes.

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, pleaded that Israel wanted “quiet” – a continuation of the truce – while Hamas chose “terror”, forcing him to act. But what is Israel’s idea of a truce? It is very simple: Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonise their land.

As John Ging, the head of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said in November: “The people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence … at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food.”

That is an Israeli truce. Any act of resistance including the peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in the West Bank is always met by Israeli bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel’s extrajudicial killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never stopped for a day during the truce. The western-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has acceded to all Israel’s demands. Under the proud eye of United States military advisors, Abbas has assembled “security forces” to fight the resistance on Israel’s behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian in the West Bank from Israel’s relentless colonisation.

The Israeli media report that the attack on Gaza was long planned. If so, the timing in the final days of the Bush administration may indicate an Israeli effort to take advantage of a moment when there might be even less criticism than usual.

Israel is no doubt emboldened by the complicity of the European Union, which this month voted again to upgrade its ties with Israel despite condemnation from its own officials and those of the UN for the “collective punishment” being visited on Gaza. Tacit Arab regime support, and the fact that predicted uprisings in the Arab street never materialised, were also factors.

But there is a qualitative shift with the latest horror: as much as Arab anger has been directed at Israel, it has also focused intensely on Arab regimes – especially Egypt’s – seen as colluding with the Israeli attack. Contempt for these regimes and their leaders is being expressed more openly than ever. Yet these are the illegitimate regimes western politicians continue to insist are their “moderate” allies.

Diplomatic fronts, such as the US-dominated Quartet, continue to treat occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised, first-world high-tech army and near-starving refugee population, as if they are on the same footing. Hope is fading that the incoming administration of Barack Obama is going to make any fundamental change to US policies that are hopelessly biased towards Israel.

In Europe and the Middle East, the gap between leaders and led could not be greater when it comes to Israel. Official complicity and support for Israel contrast with popular outrage at war crimes carried out against occupied people and refugees with impunity.

With governments and international institutions failing to do their jobs, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee – representing hundreds of organisations – has renewed its call on international civil society to intensify its support for the sanctions campaign modelled on the successful anti-apartheid movement.

Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term effort to make sure we do not wake up to “another Gaza” ever again.

* This article was  taken from the Gaurdian website @ www.guardian.co.uk and was written by Ali Abunimah, Ali is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gaza blockade.

I have just returned from a candle light vigil in the centre of Nablus, to show solidarity with the Residents of Gaza, who are now about to enter their second month of blockade by the Israeli Occupation Force [IOF]. For the last month, with a few minor exceptions, food, fuels and medicen have not been permitted to enter Gaza – not to mention doctors, journalist’s or diplomats. As well as this Israel has refused to allow the residents of Gaza to leave, not even those requiring medical treatment not available in Gaza or Islamic pilgrims on the Hajj. This is a clear act of collective punishment, outlawed under international humanitarian law and serveral UN charters – including the UN charter on human rights. I recently spoke to a doctor who was refused entry into Gaza and when he inquired as to why he was unable to enter he was told by the IOF solider manning the checkpoint “there is a war going on, don’t you know”, but as he was about to leave IOF solider turn to him and said “but try again tomorrow” – this statement clearly shows who is in control and the absurdity of the current situation in Gaza. I have included an article on the situation in Gaza below, but would like to finish my part of this post with a slogan from a poster I saw in the crowd tonight – “starving 1.5 million people is terrorism, free Gaza”.

Israel rebuffs U.N. plea to ease Gaza blockade.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges Israel to allow food aid trucks into the Gaza Strip. But top Israeli officials say Palestinian militants must first stop their rocket attacks. Gazans have endured shortages of electricity and some staples since a 5-month-old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the enclave, began to unravel Nov. 4. Since then Defense Minister Ehud Barak has kept Israel’s border with Gaza closed, with a few exceptions, arguing that the soldiers required to supervise them would be easy targets for rocket fire. U.N. officials say the security threat posed by the latest rounds of rocket and mortar fire, which have caused few injuries and no deaths, does not justify such tight restrictions. Because Israel controls most access points to Gaza, they say, it is obligated under international law to try to maintain essential services for civilians. Israeli restrictions have left the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the larger of the two U.N. suppliers of humanitarian aid, with only enough food to last through this weekend.

A shortfall in deliveries of industrial diesel purchased from Israel has kept Gaza’s only power plant shut for most of the last week. Blackouts last up to 20 hours a day in Gaza City, where electricity from other sources is being rationed. On Wednesday, the territory’s largest flour mill shut down when it ran out of grain; 27 of Gaza’s 47 bakeries were reported closed Thursday. Many Gazans baked bread at home from U.N.-supplied flour. Hamas has also suspended welfare payments to 98,000 Gazans after shipments of cash from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank were turned back.

Israeli officials say the accounts of shortages are exaggerated to stir sympathy for Gaza. Yet for two weeks the same officials, citing security concerns, have barred reporters from entering Gaza. Executives of 15 international media groups, including The Times, have signed a letter to Olmert protesting the rare restriction on journalists.

By Richard Boudreaux 21st November 2008 and taken from www.latimes.com. At time of posting 1st December, unfortunately for the residents of Gaza nothing has changed !

I second that motion

I second that motion

* Photo taken by Munir. Checkout more of his amazing photo’s @ www.picasaweb.google.com/munirotm

 

 

December 1, 2008 Posted by | Media, My Thoughts | , , , , | Leave a comment

Occupation 101

I have just finished watching the documentary “Occupation 101” and can not recommend it highly enough. It provides a window into the realities of the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza strip like no other documentary I have ever seen. While also giving a honest histroical account of the causes of the current conflict, to often ignored by the main stream media. Here is a synopsis of the documentary taken from website www.occupation101.com   

A thought-provoking and powerful documentary film on the current and historical root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike any other film ever produced on the conflict — ‘Occupation 101’ presents a comprehensive analysis of the facts and hidden truths surrounding the never ending controversy and dispels many of its long-perceived myths and misconceptions.

The film also details life under Israeli military rule, the role of the United States in the conflict, and the major obstacles that stand in the way of a lasting and viable peace. The roots of the conflict are explained through first-hand on-the-ground experiences from leading Middle East scholars, peace activists, journalists, religious leaders and humanitarian workers whose voices have too often been suppressed by media outlets.

The film covers a wide range of topics — which include — the first wave of Jewish immigration from Europe in the 1880’s, the 1920 tensions, the 1948 war, the 1967 war, the first Intifada of 1987, the Oslo Peace Process, Settlement expansion, the role of the United States Government, the second Intifada of 2000, the separation barrier and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, as well as many heart wrenching testimonials from victims of this tragedy.

* It is the most powerful documentary film I have ever seen on the occupation of Palestinian  and I emplore you to watch it !

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Media, My Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

40 years of Israeli occupation and the prospects for peace

Last June marked the 40th year of Israel’s 1967 invasion and occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the longest continuous occupation in modern history. Mordecai Briemberg interviewed Dr. Aruri about the on going occupation on the Redeye program of Vancouver Cooperative Radio (102.7 FM), March 26. Dr. Naseer Aruri, born in Jerusalem, is a renowned Palestinian intellectual, an author of several books on the Palestine-Israel conflict , and Emeritus Chancellor Professor at the University of Massachussetts. He has been on the board of directors of Amnesty and of Human Rights Watch and is a founding member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights. Here are extended excerpts from that interview

Did Israel have a choice in June 1967 or did it have to wage war to preserve its existence?

It was not really a war imposed on the Israelis, but rather a war of choice. Israeli Major General Mattityahu Peled, a member of the General Staff planning Israel’s “Six Day War” said explicitly that at no point was Israel’s existence being threatened. He made many appearances in North American during the 1970’s and he talked about that war and affirmed, and reaffirmed, that it was a war of choice. To claim that it was an existential phenomenon is a hoax.

What were the results of the 1967 war?

When one looks at the results of that war, it could not have possibly been imposed on Israel. Look at the geo-strategic change that it created in the area. The target of that war was an Arab nationalist movement led by Nasser. By the end of that war Nasser was a pathetic figure and Nasserism was done in by President Sadat who succeeded him. The Palestinians were isolated, the Arabs were in disarray, there was fragmentation in the area. The war actually served the strategic interest, not only of Israel, but for a while the United States as well. But when one looks at the long-range, one sees that the United States has suffered a great deal. The outrage that we see today at American policy in the Middle East began because of that war.

Are there stages in the development of the occupation?

When we look at occupation, the Israeli occupation is almost unique, not only because it is the longest occupation in modern history. The Israeli occupation was calculated in terms of the strategic map, the geo-political map of the region. And it was one of the early acts of trying to redo or remap or reshape that strategic map. This is vastly different from occupation – which is temporary. In other words the intent of this occupation is politicide – to ensure that the Palestinians will not be able to exercise any sort of self-determination on any of the territory that lies between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. So I think it would be more accurate to say this is a form of politicide rather than occupation. The Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling wrote about “politicide”. In fact, he has a book by that title. In his book he defined politicide as a process that has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate national, social, and economic entity, which may also include partial or total ethnic cleansing. There’s a consensus on this within the Israeli body politic, meaning that the right and the left, what used to be Labour, Likud, and others, all are in agreement that there is no room for two sovereign states in the area between the river and the sea. We began to see the expansion of Israel – the creation of settlements in the 1970’s – when Likud was in power. It was continued by Labour. What we saw in Oslo in 1993 and beyond was to ensure the occupation would continue, but it would be repackaged and renamed. So it is politicide. And we have been seeing it in the various acts of the Israelis all the way up to last week when they abducted the top officials of Hamas. It is all part of a process called politicide.

Is there no peace process?

I think that the ‘peace process’ which has been supervised by the Americans for decades has been a process that really was not meant to bring peace. How can so many Presidents, so many Secretaries of State really fail over a period of four decades in bringing about a peace if we assume they are the honest broker. Of course they are not. The Zionist movement intends to have a large state in historic Palestine and this has been sustained both by the U.S. and by the various components of the Israeli body politic. Now with Bush 2 even the semblance of the ‘peace process’ has ceased to exist. The Palestinians are told: if you want a ‘peace process’, and you want to come back to the table, we’re not really promising anything concrete on the table, but we’re just talking about a table – if you want to come to a table the purpose of which is not well-defined, then you have to meet certain conditions. You would have to give up resistance. Resistance in the vocabulary used by Israel and the U.S. is “terrorism”. So in their vocabulary, you have to stop being “terrorists”, meaning you have to stop resistance. Secondly, you have to give up the right to return for the refugees, whose right of return has been reaffirmed repeatedly by the United Nations and other international bodies. Thirdly, you have to give up Jerusalem, your place in Jerusalem. Fourthly, you have to accept a fragmented entity – there will be no contiguity, no sovereignty in the area between the river and the sea.

So is the two-state solution a pipe-dream?

I’m afraid there is no room for the two-state solution anymore. I don’t think it has been seriously on the table in any case. What remains are three alternatives, some of which are ominous, one of which is likely to take a long, long time. One alternative would be ethnic cleansing, that would be a continuation of what happened in 1948 when more than two-thirds of the Palestinian nation became refugees. The second alternative would be apartheid, which is formalizing the on-going process that is being practiced by Israel today under the name of politicide. The third alternative would be to live together in peace and equality where the equality and dignity of every single human being, irrespective of the religion of his mother or father, in all of Palestine, would be guaranteed. And I’m talking about a single state based on the equal protection of the law, as in the 14th amendment of the US constitution [or the Canadian Charter of Rights]. I think that these are the only possibilities. Two are terribly ominous, and the only alternative that is going to assure dignity in the long-run and equality for everybody is the single state. So it’s ironic that the architects of Oslo may have inadvertently paved the road to the single state.

 

* The above information was obtained at  www.zmag.org/znet

For a more in depth look at the occupation and it’s effects on the Palestinian population I highly recommend Saree Makdisi’s book “Palestine Inside Out”.

 

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Media | , , | Leave a comment

Israel-Gaza conflict 2006

The conflict began on June 24, 2006, when in light of ongoing Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli cities, Israeli operatives seized suspected Hamas members Osama and Mustafa Muamar in the Gaza Strip. On June 25, a Hamas attack in Israeli checkpoint resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. In turn, Israel launched Operation Summer Rains on June 28.

Israel maintains that it mobilized thousands of troops in order to suppress Qassam rocket fire against its civilian population and to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy Israeli artillery shells have been fired into Gaza since September 2005, killing 80 Palestinians in 6 months. On the Palestinian side, approximately 1,000 Qassam missiles are believed to have been fired into Israel.

Israel has stated that it will withdraw from Gaza and end the operation as soon as Shalit is released. The Palestinians say the assault is aimed at toppling the democratically elected Hamas-led government and at destabilizing the Palestinian National Authority, citing the targeting of civilian infrastructure such as a power station and the captures of government and parliament members.

After Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan, pulling 9 thousand settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, tensions had remained high in Gaza due to the continued shelling of areas in Israel with Qassam rocket attacks launched by Palestinians from Gaza into areas such as the Israeli city of Sderot, reported to have exceeded 800 rockets in the past seven months. Between the end of March and the end of May 2006, Israel fired at least 5,100 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip Qassam launching areas in an attempt to stop them from firing.

On June 9, during or shortly after an Israeli operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians.Other Israeli missile attacks included one on the Gaza highway on June 13 that killed 11 Palestinians and injured 30, and on June 20 that killed 3 Palestinians and wounded 15.

Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, and began openly taking responsibility for the ongoing Qassam rocket attacks.

On June 24, 2006, Israeli commandos entered the Gaza Strip in the first capture raid into the Strip since Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005. In the raid they captured two Palestinians, identified by neighbors as brothers Osama Muamar, 31, and Mustafa, 20, who Israel claims are Hamas militants. Noam Chomsky has claimed in a recent interview that these two Palestinians were civilians, a doctor and his brother. Chomsky claims not to know the fate the kidnapped men.

On June 25, 2006, armed Palestinians crossed the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel via a makeshift tunnel and attacked an Israel Defense Forces post. During the morning attack, two Palestinian militants and two Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed and four others wounded, in addition to Corporal Gilad Shalit, who suffered a broken left hand and a light shoulder wound. Hamas claimed that the attack was carried out in response to the death of the Ralia family on north Gaza beach a few weeks before.

Shalit’s captors issued a series of statements demanding the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18. The statements came from Ezz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas), and the Army of Islam. More than 8,000 Palestinians are held as prisoners by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Prisons Service. Approximately two thirds of these prisoners were convicted in court, while around ten percent are held without charge.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment