Bearing Witness

Week Two in Gaza > Endorsements > Products > Solidarity

Well my second week in Gaza has come to an end and it’s official, I now have my permit to stay > got to love Palestine, it’s the only place on earth where my criminal record and deportation in regards to my solidarity actions are appreciated on a visa application.
This week has mainly been spent meeting with civil society organisations to seek support for the Gaza’s Ark [GA] http://www.gazaark.org/ project. I have met with the Palestinian Non Government Organisation [PNGO] http://www.pngo.net/, which is an umbrella group for over 60 NGO’s working through out Gaza and the West Bank and the Palestinian  Agricultural Relief Committee [PARC] http://www.pal-arc.org/index.html, whose main goals are to protect Palestinian land from confiscation by the Israeli occupation and to improve the Palestinian agricultural sector. I am honoured to say they now both now endorse the GA project. Although most of the credit for the ease in which these endorsements have been granted must go to the committed and visionary GA Steering Committee, with a special mention to David “the conscience of humanity” Heap – whose visit to Gaza at the end of last year laid an incredibly strong foundation to be built on.
In addition to this I have been chasing up information from several producers whose products are going to be sold through GA. We now have three producers on board, excuse the pun. Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children http://www.atfaluna.net/, Al-Ahlyia Association for the Development of Palms & Dates, as well as a Women’s Group from Gaza who make some amazing cross stitched and embroidered products. Watch the GA website for the first announcement of products to be sold through the project and exported from Gaza aboard the Ark.
I also took my first trip to the buffer zone, The buffer zone is a 300 meter area between Israel and the Gaza Strip, it is a military no-go zone that extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Israel, but inside Palestinian territory. Its enforcement by the Israeli Occupation Force has resulted in loss of Palestinian lives and land, and to add insult to injury is some of the most fertile land in the Gaza Strip. For more information on the buffer zone check out the Diakonia analysis http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=4090. Saturday was a day of international action in support of Palestinian Farmers and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees [UAWC] in Gaza organised a march into the buffer zone to plant olive trees in an act of defiance to the IOF, see how it went down here > http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=442402179163066&set=a.442402012496416.98962.158095294260424&type=1&theater
This week I also attended and spoke at a protest organised by the Palestinian Peoples Party [PPP] Youth Wing. The protest was in solidarity with the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails, many of whom have never been charged with any offence > let alone convicted ! See my photos from the protest here >http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=442879619115322&set=a.442879529115331.99038.158095294260424&type=1&theater
Speak next week, my salaam.

My turn on the mic at the Palestinian Peoples Party Prisoners Protest

My turn on the mic at the Palestinian Peoples Party Prisoners Protest

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Ever Feel Like The Walls Are Closing In?

* Article written by Jake Lynch

In a further restriction on political debate, journalists at SBS have been directed not to use the term “Palestinian land” when describing the occupied territories.

So narrow has political debate become here in Australia over the Israel/Palestine conflict that attempts to remind Australians of basic facts, well accepted in the global community, are falling foul of censorship — silenced by the swish of a bureaucrat’s pen.

Journalists at public broadcaster SBS have been told, in a missive from their head of news, that the station’s Ombudsman has ruled out the use of the phrase “Palestinian land” to describe the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The status of these territories “remains the subject of negotiation”, the memo says, and should be described solely with reference to their geographical location, for instance: “Israeli settlements on the West Bank”.

This shows the chilling effect of the selective deafness practised by frontbench politicians in Canberra, which has, as I have pointed out before, put Australia further into Israel’s camp than any other country, including the United States. Labor’s Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard found some rare common ground with former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello when both were part of a senior bipartisan delegation to Israel. When a delegation of that kind fails to mention, even once, the attack on Gaza at the turn of the year or questions over its legality, it has the effect of placing huge pieces of reality outside the bounds of the legitimately controversial. They fall into the “don’t-mention-the-war” category, or what media scholar Daniel Hallin called the “zone of deviancy”.

In fact, it is the Australian Parliament that is somewhat deviant on this issue, compared to parliaments elsewhere. And things are not improving. Julia Irwin, who earlier this year was almost alone among Australian MPs to join with the rest of the world in criticising Israel’s attack on Gaza, last night announced her intention not to run in the next federal election. The disappearance from the Parliament of a voice prepared to say what many people know on this issue is bad news for the state of this debate in Australia.

At the University of Sydney, where I work, the Students for Palestine group have been told by their Student Union that they are not entitled to form a club, and benefit from the facilities, for reasons no one is allowed to disclose. All those present at the meeting that imposed this ban have been sworn to secrecy. So the Students for Palestine called a protest rally later this month, which is also being advertised by students from other universities: universities like Macquarie, also in Sydney, whose head of security reportedly frog-marched several of them off the campus for leafleting outside the library, occasioning complaints of “offensive behaviour”.

Talking of which, the steady trickle of emails I receive from supporters of Israel has grown lately, their writers now apparently feeling emboldened to make more abusive and, in some cases, openly racist comments. Then there’s the latest stoush between the pro-Israel lobby and the Sydney Peace Foundation, over the decision to award this year’s Sydney Peace Prize to the journalist and filmmaker, John Pilger.

Pilger is famous for many things, including his reports raising the alarm over Pol Pot’s killing fields in Cambodia during the 1970s, and his courage in smuggling himself into East Timor under Suharto, and Burma, where he brought out unforgettable pictures of slave labour being used to build roads by the Burmese military junta.

His film, Palestine Is Still The Issue, is valuable precisely because it opens by situating the conflict in the context of international law and the well established view of the international community. The reason why the Occupied Palestinian Territories are so called is because there is an important difference between their claims over them and those of Israel: the Palestinians are their lawful owners. As Pilger points out, the reason why there have been countless UN resolutions condemning Israel’s occupation is because the inadmissibility of territory acquired by force is a cornerstone of international law.

As the SBS absurdity shows, these basic facts are now regarded as “controversial” in the context of Australian public discourse. It represents a triumph for Israel and its apologists here, who are thinking aloud about how best to take on the peace prize and its new laureate. “Strategist” Ernie Schwartz told the Australian Jewish News that, if professionally consulted — as some suspect he has been — he would advise critics of the award to face down allegations that they, in attacking a journalist for his journalism, are enemies of open debate. “Be realistic about the fact that we’ll always come across as myopic,” he said. “That’s just the way we’re going to be cast.”

Pilger-bashing over his reporting from the Middle East has already spread to academia. First into the breach, after the announcement of the honour, was a blog, The Sensible Jew, which declared him “odious” and “a joke among the serious-minded”. It featured a post from Philip Mendes, a social work lecturer at Melbourne’s Monash University, drawing attention to his scholarly article on Pilger in the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies. It’s unusual for an academic journal — especially one enjoying the highest “A*” rating, as this one does — to publish a contribution by a researcher outside his or her own field.

In it, Mendes criticises Pilger for declaring that it is his “duty to rectify” an imbalance in Western news coverage. But unfortunately for Mendes that is actually what Pilger is supposed to be doing: Pilger makes documentaries for Independent Television in the UK, which is obliged to follow the requirement that TV licensees “ensure that justice is done to a full range of significant views and perspectives”, as stipulated by the UK’s industry regulator, the Office of Communication. In short, they need Pilger to make up for shortcomings elsewhere.

Mendes treats the question of bias in reporting of the Palestine/Israel conflict as if scholarly opinion on the subject is equally divided, when in fact the vast majority of research finds that frames, definitions and versions of events favoured by Israel predominate in the news. Among the evidence he adduces to back up this claim, representative of the overall weakness of his argument, is the unpublished study by BBC News management of their own output, which he uses without setting it in the appropriate context, which was a dispute with the BBC’s governors at the time of the study.

Attempts like these to restrict debate or to delegitimise certain voices are of deep concern not just in relation to the Palestine/Israel issue, but to all of the issues that we rely on the media to cover.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

In Village, Palestinians See Model for Their Cause

BILIN, West Bank — Every Friday for the past four and a half years, several hundred demonstrators — Palestinian villagers, foreign volunteers and Israeli activists — have walked in unison to the Israeli barrier separating this tiny village from the burgeoning settlement of Modiin Illit, part of which is built on the village’s land. One hundred feet away, Israeli soldiers watch and wait.

The protesters chant and shout and, inevitably, a few throw stones. Then just as inevitably, the soldiers open fire with tear gas and water jets, lately including a putrid oil-based liquid that makes the entire area stink.

It is one of the longest-running and best organized protest operations in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it has turned this once anonymous farming village into a symbol of Palestinian civil disobedience, a model that many supporters of the Palestinian cause would like to see spread and prosper.

For that reason, a group of famous left-leaning elder statesmen, including former President Jimmy Carter — who caused controversy by suggesting that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank amounted to apartheid — came to Bilin on Thursday and told the local organizers how much they admired their work and why it was vital to keep it going.

The retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also on the visit, said, “Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful nonviolent struggle in India and simple people such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King led the struggle for civil rights in the United States, simple people here in Bilin are leading a nonviolent struggle that will bring them their freedom.”

Mr. Tutu, a South African Nobel Peace Prize winner, spoke on rocky soil, surrounded by the remains of tear gas canisters and in front of coils of barbed wire, part of the barrier that Israel began building in 2002 across the West Bank as a violent Palestinian uprising was under way. Israel said its main purpose was to stop suicide bombers from crossing into Israel, but the route of the barrier — a mix of fencing, guard towers and concrete wall — dug deep into the West Bank in places, and Palestinian anger over the barrier is as much about lost land as about lost freedom.

Bilin lost half its land to the settlement of Modiin Illit and the barrier and took its complaint to Israel’s highest court. Two years ago, the court handed it an unusual victory. It ordered the settlement to stop building its new neighborhood and ordered the Israeli military to move the route of the barrier back toward Israel, thereby returning about half the lost land to the village.

“The villagers danced in the street,” recalled Emily Schaeffer, an Israeli lawyer who worked on the case for the village. “Unfortunately, it has been two years since the decision, and the wall has not moved.”

The village is back in court trying, so far in vain, to get the orders put into effect.

Ms. Schaeffer was explaining the case to the visitors, who go by the name The Elders. The group was founded two years ago by former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and is paid for by donors, including Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, and Jeff Skoll, founding president of eBay. Its goal is to “support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.”

Both Mr. Branson and Mr. Skoll were on the visit to Bilin, as were Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland; Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil; and Ela Bhatt, an Indian advocate for the poor and women’s rights. Their visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories has also included meetings with young Israelis and young Palestinians.

Mr. Cardoso said that he had long heard about the conflict but that seeing it on the ground had made a lasting impression on him. The barrier, he said, serves to imprison the Palestinians.

Like every element of the conflict here, there is no agreement over the nature of what goes on here every Friday. Palestinians hail the protest as nonviolent, and it was cited recently by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a key step forward in the struggle for a Palestinian state. Recently, one of the leaders here, Mohammed Khatib, set up a committee of a dozen villages to share his strategies.

But the Israelis complain that, along with protests at the nearby village of Nilin, things are more violent here than the Palestinians and their supporters acknowledge.

“Rioters hurl rocks, Molotov cocktails and burning tires at defense forces and the security fence,” the military said in a statement when asked why it had taken to arresting village leaders in the middle of the night. “Since the beginning of 2008, about 170 members of the defense forces have been injured in these villages,” it added, including three soldiers who were so badly hurt they could no longer serve in the army. It also said that at Bilin itself, some $60,000 worth of damage had been done to the barrier in the past year and a half.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, a village teacher and one of the organizers of the weekly protests, said he was amazed at the military’s assertions as well as at its continuing arrests and imprisonment of village leaders.

“They want to destroy our movement because it is nonviolent,” he said. He added that some villagers might have tried, out of frustration, to cut through the fence since the court had ordered it moved and nothing had happened. But that is not the essence of the popular movement that he has helped lead.

“We need our land,” he told his visitors. “It is how we make our living. Our message to the world is that this wall is destroying our lives, and the occupation wants to kill our struggle.”

* This article was written by Ethan Bronner and first published: August 27, 2009 in the New York Times.

September 3, 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

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

Seperation Wall

I have Just returned from Bethlehem, where my main objective was to checkout some the art work on the Separation Wall. It is claimed by the Israeli Government that the wall is being built for security reasons, however if that was the case it would be being built on the Green Line. The term Green Line refers to the 1949 Armistice lines established between Israel and its neighbours Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This is not the case, with the wall being built far into the West Bank to include often illegal Jewish settlements – redefining the boarders to even further limit Palestinian movement. The Palestinians have about the same population as Israel, but are limited to around 10% of the land. In many instances the wall comes right up the edge of Palestinian city’s cutting the local residents off from their farm land just outside the city. Not to mention separating family members and friends who now have to travel for hours, if your lucky enough to obtain the relevant permit, to stay in contact with some one who used to live down the street. It has been stated by some Israeli officials in unguarded moments that the plan behind the wall is to take as much land as possible with as few Arabs as possible – a land grab plain and simple. The other effect of the wall is to further limit Palestinian movement, with the aim of making life so difficult for the residents of the West Bank that they decide to leave – transfer by stealth, which is a commonly occurring theme in Israeli policy in the occupied territories.

This is the case of a Palestinian I shared a service taxi with today, he is a Doctor who lives in Rammalla and has to travel to Bethlehem every day for work – a trip that used to take 40 minutes before the wall, checkpoints and road detours [most of which has been put in place during the so called peace process]. The same trip now takes three hours at best, today taking four hours due to being detained at a Israeli Defence Force [IDF] checkpoint, while my passport and the other passengers Israeli issued ID cards where being verified – not sure how IDF soldiers verified them as they had several cigarettes and joked to them self’s while the passports and ID cards where sitting unopened on the ground, where they stayed until they where hand back to our driver. It makes you wonder weather these checkpoints, just like the wall, are as the Israeli’s clam there for security or weather there real purpose is just to further inconvenience the Palestinians already forced to endure the longest occupation in modern history and all that comes with it.

I likened the situation to apartheid in South Africa in the 80’s in a discussion with Hakim the director of Project Hope, only to be told that it was worse, as Black South Africans never had any where near the same limitations placed on their movement as Palestinians do living in the occupied territories. Which is of course true,  so why then is the oppression of Palestinians less offensive to the world ? 

  

At least this depicts a fair fight - which is definitely not the case in the occupied territories.

At least this depicts a fair fight - which is definitely not the case in the occupied territories.

 

The Palestinian and the cat, both pinning for freedom.

The Palestinian and the cat, both pinning for freedom.

 

I thought this was appropriate as the US gives Israel between $2 to $3 billion in aid a year.

I thought this was appropriate as the US gives Israel between $2 to $3 billion in aid a year.

 

Kennedy's famous comparison between himself and a jam donut.

Kennedy's famous comparison between himself and a jam donut.

 

Does any one have a Rhino for sale ?

Does anyone have a Rhino for sale ?

 

The only Banksy I could find, always wonderfully playful with the most controversial.

The only Banksy I could find, always wonderfully playful with the most controversial.

 

Nothing lasts forever - inshallah.
Nothing lasts forever – inshallah.

 

November 29, 2008 Posted by | My Thoughts, My Travels | , , , , , | Leave a comment