Tag Archives: xenophobia

on refugees & idps

today is world refugee day. there are 42 million refugees world-wide. there are also 7.6 million palestinian refugees, who are not included in the numbers that the united nations high commission for refugees (unhcr) uses because palestinian refugees fall under the united nations relief and works agency (unrwa) which means something different in terms of protection as well as repatriation. legal scholar susan akram explains the basic legal context that define all refugees under international law and explains the different principles guiding palestinians from other refugees:

A number of international instruments affect the status of Palestinians as refugees and as stateless persons: the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol (Refugee Protocol); the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and the 1961 Convention on the Elimination or Reduction of Statelessness. There are also three international organizations whose activities affect the international legal rights of Palestinian refugees: the United Nations Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Because of the unique circumstances of the original and continued expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands, Palestinians in the diaspora may be stateless persons, refugees or both. (The legal definitions of these terms, as well as the manner in which they are applied to Palestinians, will be discussed below.) As such they should be entitled to the internationally guaranteed rights offered other stateless persons or refugees in the world.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is the most important treaty affecting Palestinian human rights in most of the areas of the world where they find themselves. It is also the primary international instrument governing the rights of refugees and the obligations of states towards them. This Convention, and its 1967 Protocol, incorporate the most widely accepted and applied definition of a refugee, and establish minimum guarantees of protection towards such refugees by state parties. The Refugee Convention and Protocol incorporate two essential state obligations: the application of the now universally accepted definition of “refugee” which appears in Article 1A(2) of the Convention, and the obligatory norm of non-refoulement, which appears in Article 33.1 of the Convention. The principle of non-refoulement requires that a state not return a refugee to a place where his/her life or freedom would be threatened. It is important to note that nowhere in the Refugee Convention or Protocol, nor in any other international human rights instrument, is there an obligation on any state to gratn the status of political asylum or any more permanent status than non-refoulement.

The simple recognition that an individual meets the criteria of a “refugee” as defined in the Convention, however, triggers significant state obligations towards them, not the least of which is the obligation of non-refoulement. The Convention requires states to grant refugees a number of rights which Palestinians are often denied, including: identity papers (Article 27); travel documents (Article 28); freedom from unnecessary restrictions on movement (Article 26); freedom from restrictions on employment (Articles 17 and 18); basic housing (Article 21); welfare (Article 23); education (Article 22); labour and social security rights (Article 24); and freedom of religion (Article 4). It also makes them eligible for more permanent forms of relief such as residence and citizenship, subject to the discretion of the granting state.

The Convention and Protocol define a “refugee” as:

[a person who], owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence is a result of such events, is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

This author contends that the Convention Article 1A(2) definition was never intended to, and does not, apply to Palestinians for several reasons. First, as UN delegates involved with drafting the Refugee Convention pointed out: “[T]he obstacle to the repatriation was not dissatisfaction with their homeland, but the fact that a Member of the United Nations was preventing their return.” Second, the Palestinians as an entire group had already suffered persecution by virtue of their massive expulsion from their homeland for one or more of the grounds enumerated in the definition. Thus, they were given special recognition as a group, or category, and not subject to the individualized refugee definition. Third, the delegates dealt with Palestinians as de facto refugees, referring in a general way to those who were defined by the relief agencies at the time (UNRPR and later UNRWA), but not limiting the term “refugee” to those Palestinians who were in need of relief. Although they did not specifically define them as such, the delegates were referring to Palestinian refugees as persons normally residing in Palestine before 15 May 1948, who lost their homes or livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. For these and other reasons (discussed below, the delegates drafted a separate provision–Article ID–in the Refugee Convention that applies solely to Palestinian refugees.

Refugee Convention Article 1D states:

This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance.

When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this Convention.

Although Palestinian refugees are not specifically mentioned in this provision, it is evident from both the drafting history and the interrelationship of Article 1D with three other instruments that Palestinians are the only group to which the Article applies. The most important reasons for drawing this conclusion are that, first, the drafting history of the provisions clearly reflects that the only refugee population discussed in relation to Article 1D was the Palestinians. Second, one of the paramount concerns of the drafters of the Refugee Convention was that the wished to determine the precise groups of refugees to which the Convention would apply, so they could decide the extent to which the signatory states could accept the refugee burden. There is no indication that Article 1D was drafted with any different intention–that is, with an open-ended reference to other groups of refugees not contemplated by the United Nations at the time. (The universal application of the Refugee Convention definition is a later development with the entry into force of the Refugee Protocol.) Third, there was only one group of refugees considered to be in need of international protection at the time of drafting Article 1D that was receiving “from other organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance,” and that was the Palestinians. Fourth, the interrelationship of the mandates of the United Nations agencies relevant to the needs of Palestinian refugees indicates that these are the agencies referred to by the language of Article 1D. These mandates are reflected in the Statute of the UNHCR, the Regulations governing UNRWA, and UN Resolution 194 establishing the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP).

The UNHCR Statute, paragraph 7(c) provides that “the competence of the High Commissioner…shall not extend to a person…who continues to receive from other organs or agencies of the United Nations protection or assistance.” The “other agencies of the United Nations” originally referred to both UNRWA and the UNCCP. The significance of the language in these provisions lies primarily in the distinction between “protection” and “assistance,” which are substantially different concepts in refugee law. UNRWA’s mandate is solely one of providing assistance to refugees’ basic daily needs by way of food, clothing, and shelter. In contrast, UNHCR’s mandate, in tandem with the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention, establishes a far more comprehensive scheme of protection for refugees qualifying under the Refugee Convention. This regime guarantees to refugees the rights embodied in international human rights conventions, and mandates the UNHCR to represent refugees, including intervening with states on their behalf, to ensure such protections to them. Aside from the distinction between the mandates of UNRWA and UNHCR, the refugee definition applicable to Palestinians is different from and far narrower under UNRWA Regulations than the Refugee Convention definition. Consistent with its assistance mandate, UNRWA applies a refugee definition that relates solely to persons from Palestine meeting certain criteria who are “in need” of such assistance.” (Susan Akram, “Palestinian Refugee Rights under International Law” in Nasser Aruri’s Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return. London: Pluto Press, 2001. 166-169)

2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps

2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps

i realize that the above-quoted passage is rather long, and for some perhaps tedious. but international law, and refugee law more particularly, is complicated. and i think it is important to remember the specificity of the case of palestinian refugees not only because it is world refugee day today, but also because palestinian refugees, unlike the rest of the world’s refugees, do not have an united nations body or agency fighting for their rights as do all other agencies. it was set up like this from the beginning as akram makes clear: unrwa provides assistance, unhcr provides protection and advocacy. this tremendous failing on the part of the united nations means that palestinians have yet another hurdle to face when fighting for their right of return unlike the rest of the world’s refugees. moreover, as a protest in nablus today against unrwa illustrates, unrwa often does not even meet the needs of the refugees it is supposed to be assisting. this is why one can read only one statement for world refugee day on unrwa’s website today in which you will see vapid remarks made by bani ki moon in which he says nothing about the right of return or any political rights of refugees more generally. of course they have organizations like badil, which tirelessly fights for the right of return, but badil does not have the power and weight of the international community behind it, though they do, of course, have the weight of international law behind their work. here is badil’s statement to commemorate world refugee day today:

Statistics released by UN agencies on the occasion of the 2009 World Refugee Day testify to the fact that Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest standing refugee population world wide. They lack access to just solutions and
reparations, including return, because Israel and western governments continue to deny or belittle the scope of the problem and make no effort to respect and implement relevant international law and best practice.

According to a forthcoming Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons for the years 2007-2008 produced by Badil, at least 7.6 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced since 1948 as a consequence of Israel’s systematic policies and practices of colonization, occupation and apartheid. That figure represents 71 percent of the entire worldwide population of 10.6 million Palestinians. Only 28.7 percent of all Palestinians have never been displaced from their homes.

The great majority of the displaced (6.2 million people – 81.5 percent) are Palestinian refugees of 1948 (the Nakba), who were ethnically cleansed in order to make space for the state of Israel and their descendants. This figure includes 4.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations (UNRWA) at the end of 2008. The second major group (940,000 – 12.5%) are Palestinian refugees of 1967, who were displaced during the 1967 Arab-Israel war and their descendants.

More attention and concern should be given to the phenomenon of forced displacement of Palestinians because it is ongoing.

Steadily growing populations of internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the result of ongoing forced displacement in Israel (approximately 335,000 IDPs since 1948) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 (approximately 120,000 IDPs since 1967). Badil’s Survey identifies a set of distinct, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices which induce ongoing forced displacement among the indigenous Palestinian population, including deportation and revocation of residency rights, house demolition, land confiscation, construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements, closure and segregation, as well
as threats to life and physical safety as a result of military operations and harassment by racist Jewish non-state actors. Israeli
governments implement these policies and practices in order to change the demographic composition of certain areas (“Judaization”) and the entire country for the purpose of colonization.

Data about the scope of ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians is illustrative and indicative, because there is no singular institution or agency mandated and resourced to ensure systematic and sustained monitoring and documentation. The total number of persons displaced in 2007 – 2008 is unknown. UN agencies, however, confirm that 100,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the occupied Gaza Strip at during Israel’s military operation at the end of the year; that 198 communities in the OPT currently face forced displacement; and that 60,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are at risk of having their home demolished by Israel.

The Palestinian refugee question has remained unresolved and forced displacement continues, because Western governments and international organizations have been complicit in Israel’s illegal policy and practice of population transfer and have failed to protect the Palestinian people. Indicators of the severe gaps existing in the protection of Palestinian refugees and IDPs are seen in the recent crises in Iraq – where thousands of Palestinian refugees became stranded on the Jordanian/Syrian and Iraqi borders, Lebanon – where 27,000 Palestinians refugees of the Naher al-Bared camp are still waiting to return to their 2007 destroyed camp, and Gaza – where over 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 displaced, most of them 1948 refugees).

On this World Refugees Day, Badil calls upon all those concerned with justice, human rights and peace to:

Challenge Israel’s racist notion of the “Jewish state” and immediately halt its practices of displacement, dispossession and colonization; Strengthen the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in order to ensure that Israel other states become accountable to international law and respect their obligations; Improve the mechanism of international protection so that all Palestinians receive effective protection from, during and after forced displacement, including the right to return as part of durable solutions and reparation; Ensure that the Palestinian refugee question is treated in accordance with international law and UN resolutions in future peace negotiations, including return and reparation.

 A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.

A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.

the situation facing palestinian refugees who lived in nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon is an excellent example of how unrwa fails the palestinian refugees it is supposed to protect. the crisis of nahr el bared is a microcosm of palestinian refugees in general who have become refugees multiple times over and who are often refugees and idps at the same time. the camp (see map above) continues to be controlled by the lebanese army and the majority of the original 31,000 inhabitants have not been allowed to return–let alone return to their homes in palestine. ray smith’s recent report on the situation of the camp from electronic lebanon is below:

Nahr al-Bared camp consists of an “old” and a “new” camp. The original or “old” refugee camp was established in 1949 on a piece of land 16 kilometers north of the Lebanese city of Tripoli. In 1950, the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) started to provide its services to the camp’s residents. Over the years, population density in Nahr al- Bared rose drastically while refugees who could afford it, left the boundaries of the official camp and settled in its immediate vicinity. This area is now referred to as the “new camp” or the “adjacent area” and belongs to the Lebanese municipalities of Muhammara and Bhannine. While the residents of the new camp benefit from UNRWA’s education, health, relief and social services, the agency has no mandate for the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure and houses in this area.

Since the fighting in the camp ended nearly two years ago, most of the so-called “old camp” has been bulldozed and reconstruction is set to begin within the next month. Along the perimeter of the old camp however the ruins of more than 200 houses are still standing. They’re under the sole control of the Lebanese army, which still prevents residents from returning.

In October 2007, approximately one month after the Lebanese army declared victory, the first wave of refugees was allowed back into parts of the new camp. In the following months, the army gradually withdrew from the new camp and returned the houses and ruins to their former residents. However, the handover wasn’t complete. At least 250 houses in the new camp, adjacent to the old camp, remain sealed off by barbed wire, controlled by the Lebanese army and inaccessible to its residents. These areas are now referred to as the “Prime Areas,” known among the refugees under the Arabized term primaat. They consist of A’-, B’-, C’- and E’-Prime.

Adnan, who declined to give his family name, works in a small shop in the Corniche neighborhood, adjacent to area E’. He has been waiting for the handover of the area by the army. “They tell you, ‘Next week, next month.’ But nothing happens. They say, ‘We first have to remove the bombs and the rubble, then we let people in.’ These are empty words. Nobody is honest. They constantly lie to us,” Adnan complained.

Temporary housing serves as the makeshift office of the Nahr al-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC), a grassroots committee heavily involved in the planning of the reconstruction of the old camp. Abu Ali Mawed, an active member of the NBRC, owns one of the 120 buildings in area E and has been waiting for its handover for 21 months. “The army once more says they’ll open the primaat, but first [the army] will need to [clear] them [of] unexploded ordnance devices and rubble. Where have the parties responsible for this work been in the past two years? Let us be honest: This area could be de-mined and cleared within just under a month!”

Ismael Sheikh Hassan, a volunteer architect and planner with the NBRC, said, “The main reason for the delays is the army. They haven’t taken the decision at command level to allow people to return until last month.”

Since the end of May, things have seemed to finally move forward. On 19 May, an UNRWA contractor started clearing rubble in area B’ and de- mining teams took up their work. UNRWA wrote in its weekly update on 3 June that its contractor had finished clearing rubble in areas B’ and C’. In a meeting among the Lebanese army, Nahr al-Bared’s Popular Committee, Palestinian parties and UNRWA on 2 June, the army announced its intention to allow the return of the residents of these two areas within two or three days. As of 7 June however the promise hadn’t been delivered.

Sheikh Hassan explained that the suspension was mainly due to delays in de-mining procedures and those related to miscommunication among the various structures of the Lebanese army. He expected them to open areas B’ and C’ in a few days. There are 40 houses in B’ and 60 buildings in C’ to be handed over. On 11 June, UNRWA announced that they were told by the Lebanese army that the handover of B’ and C’ would take place mid-month.

The army’s procedures have raised doubts. Abu Ali Mawed, the reconstruction commission member, asked, “How could they allow people last year to return to their burnt, looted and destroyed homes to save some of their belongings, if there were still vast amounts of unexploded ordnance lying around? They should have de-mined the area before letting people in. In the primaat, many houses aren’t completely destroyed, which facilitates de-mining. I suppose that the unexploded ordinance have already been cleared and de-mining is only used as an excuse for further delaying the handover.”

According to UNRWA, the army and the Popular Committee will be responsible for announcing and coordinating the schedules and logistics of families returning to the Prime Areas.

Nidal Abdelal of the Palestinian political faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shook his head: “So far, neither the Popular Committee nor UNRWA understand why the army doesn’t hand the primaat over so people can return. The Lebanese army sets dates [but doesn't deliver]; this has happened four or fives times. And until today, minor problems in the details constantly prevent them from handing over the primaat.”

Abdelal points out that the persistent delays of the handover dates cause skepticism and worries among the refugees. “They even call UNRWA and the Popular Committee liars,” he says. “They tell people a date, then they postpone it. Then they set another date and again postpone it. In the end, the army controls the primaat and is responsible for their handover. They should eventually hand the areas over to UNRWA and the Popular Committee and let people return.”

Another camp resident, Abu Ali Mawed, compared the situation of displaced residents of Nahr al-Bared to that of southern Lebanese displaced during the summer war of 2006: “Israel dropped about one million cluster bombs in the south, but people could immediately return to their homes [once] the war was over. Why have we for two years not been allowed to return to our houses? … We asked these questions to the government, army representatives and politicians many times, but never got clear answers. They kept giving us lame excuses that were far from convincing.”

Besides the upcoming handover of areas B’ and C’, further questions need to be answered. For example: What will happen to the houses in the primaat once they’re accessible? These houses were assessed and will be stabilized and rehabilitated. If this isn’t possible and their owners agree, they’ll be torn down. An anonymous source with UNRWA believes that only a few homeowners will agree to the total destruction of their homes because other landlords have experienced that the Lebanese government doesn’t sign building permits for Palestinians to build in the new camp.

Currently unscheduled is the handover of areas A’ and E’. Sheikh Hassan of the NBRC says there’s speculation “that those areas will be opening in the upcoming months. However, there are no guarantees on this. E’ will definitely be opened first. A’ will be opened last.” Access to E’ seems to depend on the rubble removal and de-mining process in the adjacent two sectors of the old camp, because they’re still heavily contaminated with unexploded ordnance. According to Nidal Ayyub of UNRWA, the Lebanese army so far has “no plan to open [area] A’.”

However, the Lebanese army did have plans for the construction of an army base in Nahr al-Bared. On 16 January, the Lebanese cabinet decided to establish a naval base in the camp as well. Both plans concern mainly areas A’ and E’ and the coastal strip along the old camp. Just months ago, fierce protest to these plans was voiced by the camp’s residents and the government has reportedly dropped its plans. However, only when the Lebanese army finally makes clear its intentions for the handover of the remaining parts of the camp will residents’ worries be dispelled — or their fears for the future of Nahr al-Bared confirmed.

of course palestinian refugees are not the only refugees in the world today, although they are the one refugee population who has been denied their right to return home for the longest period of time. below is a map from the le monde newspaper in 2007 of refugees world wide. while the map is outdated, the general patterns and trends regionally have not changed all that much with the exception of the tremendous recent idp populations in sri lanka and pakistan.

le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide

le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide

an over view of the global refugee crisis by antónio guterres, the un high commissioner for refugees is as follows, but it should be remembered that last year’s report to which guterres refers to does not include recent statistics about idps in pakistan and tamils in sri lanka:

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stands at more than 42 million, including 16 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally.

This overall total reflects global displacement figures compiled at the end of 2008. But the number has already grown substantially since the beginning of this year with more large displacements in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia totaling well over 2.3 million people. And there are more worrisome signs on the horizon.

While some displacement situations are short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. At present, for example, UNHCR counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer. This means that nearly 6 million refugees are living in limbo, with no solutions in sight. Millions more internally displaced people (IDPs) also are unable to go home in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

In addition to prolonged conflict and the increasingly protracted nature of displacement, we are also seeing a decline in the number of refugees and internally displaced people going home. In 2008, about 2 million people were able to repatriate, but that was a sharp drop from the year before. Refugee repatriation (604,000) was down 17 percent in 2008, while IDP returns (1.4 million) dropped by 34 percent. It was the second-lowest repatriation total in 15 years and the decline in part reflects deteriorating security conditions, namely in Afghanistan and Sudan.

In 2008, we also saw a 28 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers making individual claims, to 839,000. South Africa (207,000) was the largest single recipient of individual asylum claims, followed by the United States (49,600), France (35,400) and Sudan (35,100).

The global economic crisis, gaping disparities between North and South, growing xenophobia, climate change, the relentless outbreak of new conflicts and the intractability of old ones all threaten to exacerbate this already massive displacement problem. We and our humanitarian partners are struggling to ensure that these uprooted people and the countries hosting them get the help they need and deserve.

Some 80 percent of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people are in developing nations, underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it as well as the need for more international support. It also puts into proper perspective alarmist claims by populist politicians and media that some industrialised nations are being “flooded” by asylum seekers. Most people forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution remain within their own countries and regions in the developing world.

Major refugee-hosting nations in 2008 included Pakistan (1.8 million); Syria (1.1 million); Iran (980,000); Germany (582,700), Jordan (500,400); Chad (330,500); Tanzania (321,900); and Kenya (320,600). Major countries of origin for refugees included Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (1.9 million), which together account for 45 percent of all UNHCR refugees. Others were Somalia (561,000); Sudan (419,000); Colombia (374,000), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (368,000). Nearly all of these countries are in the developing world.

Unfortunately, however, we cannot say that generosity and wealth are proportional to each other. As conflicts drag on with no political solutions, the pressure on many of these poor countries is nearing the breaking point. They need more international help now. Without it, UNHCR and other aid agencies will be forced to continue making heartbreaking decisions on which necessities must be denied to uprooted families.

Of the global total of uprooted people in 2008, UNHCR cares for 25 million, including a record 14.4 million internally displaced people — up from 13.7million in 2007 — and 10.5 million refugees. The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Although international law distinguishes between refugees, who are protected under the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the internally displaced, who are not, such distinctions are absurd to those who have been forced from their homes and who have lost everything. Uprooted people are equally deserving of help whether they have crossed an international border or not. That is why UNHCR is working with other UN agencies to jointly provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as we do for refugees.

My agency’s caseload of internally displaced has more than doubled since 2005. Displaced populations include Colombia, some 3 million; Iraq 2.6 million; Sudan’s Darfur region, more than 2 million; Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1.5 million; Somalia 1.3 million. Other increases in displacement in 2008 were in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Yemen.

of course most of the above conflicts that create refugee or idp problems can be blamed on covert or overt occupation, wars, and proxy wars initiated or fomented by the united states. but the united states continues to drag its feet with respect to its responsibilities related to refugees, in large part because of either covert operations shielded by proxy fighters or by installing puppet regimes in places like pakistan and afghanistan so that the u.s. can relinquish its responsibilities under international law. two reports on al jazeera today highlight twin poles that many refugees face: return to their homeland or resettle in a third country. most refugees are not able to make such choices, but these reports highlight the difficulties that refugees face in either scenario. the first report is by yvonne ndege who reports on burundi refugees returning home and the challenges they face with respect to their land being occupied by their compatriots because of the government’s take over and re-distribution of the land:

the second report is by nazanine moshiri who reports on difficulties facing afghan refugees resettled in the united kingdom:

in honor of these and all refugees who have the right to determine their own fate–whether reclaiming their rights to return to their homeland or resettling in a third country, here is the amazing suheir hammad’s “on refugees” accompanied by dj k-salaam:

here are hammad’s lyrics:

Of Refuge and Language”

I do not wish
To place words in living mouths
Or bury the dead dishonorably

I am not deaf to cries escaping shelters
That citizens are not refugees
Refugees are not Americans

I will not use language
One way or another
To accommodate my comfort

I will not look away

All I know is this

No peoples ever choose to claim status of dispossessed
No peoples want pity above compassion
No enslaved peoples ever called themselves slaves

What do we pledge allegiance to?
A government that leaves its old
To die of thirst surrounded by water
Is a foreign government

People who are streaming
Illiterate into paperwork
Have long ago been abandoned

I think of coded language
And all that words carry on their backs

I think of how it is always the poor
Who are tagged and boxed with labels
Not of their own choosing

I think of my grandparents
And how some called them refugees
Others called them non-existent
They called themselves landless
Which means homeless

Before the hurricane
No tents were prepared for the fleeing
Because Americans do not live in tents
Tents are for Haiti for Bosnia for Rwanda

Refugees are the rest of the world

Those left to defend their human decency
Against conditions the rich keep their animals from
Those who have too many children
Those who always have open hands and empty bellies
Those whose numbers are massive
Those who seek refuge
From nature’s currents and man’s resources

Those who are forgotten in the mean times

Those who remember

Ahmad from Guinea makes my falafel sandwich and says
So this is your country

Yes Amadou this my country
And these my people

Evacuated as if criminal
Rescued by neighbors
Shot by soldiers

Adamant they belong

The rest of the world can now see
What I have seen

Do not look away

The rest of the world lives here too
In America

and for those who feel inspired to take action today who are in the united states i encourage you to take action against trader joe’s as a part of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that is fighting for the right of palestinian refugees to return to their land:

On Saturday, June 20, activists will gather at Trader Joe’s in different cities to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods such as Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese. A letter was sent to Trader Joe’s on June 6, 2009 but no response has been received yet. More than 200 individuals and organizations signed the letter. Note that we are not calling for a boycott of Trader Joe’s.

Join us in this nationwide action! Plan one in your local community!

the strange bedfellows of south africa and the zionist entity

the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (bds) movement released a damning report this week detailing how the south african government is complicit in the zionist entity’s apartheid regime. a mere 15 years after south africa ended its apartheid regime through armed resistance coupled with their own bds movement we see how state power replicates itself. here is the statement from the global bds movement in palestine and here is a link to the full pdf report that you may download to read.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) has released a report entitled ‘Democratic South Africa’s complicity in Israel’s occupation, colonialism and apartheid’, based on research from the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

The report discusses South African economic relations with Israel as well as the related political and institutional framework. Analyzing dozens of cases of commercial ties and political initiatives, it proves once again that trade relations with Israel necessarily require involvement in or complicity with Israeli violations of human rights and international law, including assistance to Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

This report focuses exclusively on South African relations with Israel in the post-apartheid era, in an understanding that, within a context where on the ground the only deal offered to the Palestinian people are Bantustans, South African support to the Palestinian people can never offset its support to Israeli occupation and its apartheid regime. The latter rather risks contributing to the Bantustanization of Palestine.

It calls on South African government “to join the growing movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, starting with:

At national level:

o A full ban on all products, investments and services related to the settlements,the Apartheid Wall or other Israeli policies of occupation, colonialism and apartheid;

o Cancellation of existing contracts between Israeli firms and South African public enterprises, based on the former’s involvement in grave violations of international law;

o An end to governmental trade- promoting activities;

o Immediate freeze of any ratification process of agreements and annulling their signature, especially where related to trade and investment.

Internationally:

o Promotion of and support for international calls for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel;

o Enforcement of the 2004 Declaration on Palestine of the Non Aligned Movement Summit in Durban on the ban of products and services from the settlements;

o Promotion of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The above represent some elements for regulations which limit trade with Israel as concrete and immediate steps towards full sanctions against Israel. They would ensure that the South African government and its business community gradually end aid and assistance to Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid and fall in line with South Africa’s obligations under international law, its foreign policy and its exemplary constitution.

These measures are to be upheld until Israel respects international law and human rights, in particular:

1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall;

2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

meanwhile in the there was another report released from south africa (by civil society not by the government) a couple of weeks ago on the ways in which the zionist entity practices apartheid. here is a summary from electronic intifada and you may download the full report here.

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) has released a report confirming that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The HSRC commissioned an international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the West Bank to conduct this study. The resulting 300-page report, titled “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law,” represents 15 months of research and constitutes an exhaustive review of Israel’s practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law. The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israeli practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

Regarding colonialism, the team found that Israel’s policy and practices violate the prohibition on colonialism which the international community developed in the 1960s in response to the great decolonization struggles in Africa and Asia. Israel’s policy is demonstrably to fragment the West Bank and annex part of it permanently to Israel, which is the hallmark of colonialism. Israel has appropriated land and water in the OPT, merged the Palestinian economy with Israel’s economy, and imposed a system of domination over Palestinians to ensure their subjugation to these measures. Through these measures, Israel has denied the indigenous population the right to self-determination and indicated clear intention to assume sovereignty over portions of its land and natural resources. Permanent annexation of territory in this fashion is the hallmark of colonialism.

Regarding apartheid, the team found that Israel’s laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function in this case as racialized identities in the sense provided by international law. Israel’s practices are corollary to five of the six “inhuman acts” listed by the Convention. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel’s demarcation of geographic “reserves” in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of “Grand Apartheid” in Apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black Homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.

Quoting from the Executive Summary of the report, project leader Dr. Virginia Tilley explained that the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel in the OPT. In South Africa, the first pillar was to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups, and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group. The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racial groups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. And the third pillar was “a matrix of draconian ‘security’ laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination.”

it seems that the zionist entity and south africa share another unfortunate characterisitc in their horrid treatment of refugees in contravention of international law as katie mattern reports for ips:

Gaza, South Africa and Thailand are among the world’s worst places to be a refugee, according to the latest annual World Refugee Survey released here Wednesday by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

The survey, which was issued in advance of World Refugee Day Jun. 20, found that the number of refugees had dropped modestly worldwide in the past year – from 14 million to 13.6 million, according to USCRI.

Of those, well over half, or nearly 8.5 million, have been trapped in refugee camps or otherwise denied their rights under the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Of these, Palestinians, more than 2.6 million of whom have been “warehoused” for up to 60 years throughout the Middle East, constitute the largest national group that has been displaced for the longest period of time, according to the report. It also named Gaza as one of the worst places in the world, particularly in the aftermath of the three-week Israeli military campaign that began late last December.

Israeli authorities have so far permitted only humanitarian goods to be imported into Gaza since Operation Cast Lead, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed. They have yet to permit reconstruction and related supplies to be shipped into the territory, which is governed by Hamas, an Islamist party the U.S. and other western countries have labeled a “terrorist” organisation.

The latest report was released one day after the publication by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of its annual report. It found that some 15.2 million people qualified as refugees during 2008 – down from 16 million one year ago – and that more than 800,000 were currently seeking asylum in foreign countries.

It also found that some 26 million more people were internally displaced; that is, they had fled their homes but were still living within their homelands’ borders.

The greatest number of newly displaced people over the past year, according the UNHCR report, were found in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia, where violence has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people, including more than two million civilians who fled their homes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley alone, to escape offensives by the Taliban and counter-insurgency operations by the country’s army and paramilitary forces.

According to the USCRI report, the world’s largest refugee group over the last year was the 3.231 million Palestinians living in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as elsewhere in the Greater Middle East.

The next largest group was Afghans, nearly three million of whom are currently living outside their homeland’s borders, the vast majority in Pakistan and Iran, according to the report.

Increased violence between the Taliban and its allies on the one hand and the U.S. and other international forces, as well as the expanding Afghan Army, on the other, has provoked some Afghans to seek safe haven across the border. Pakistan’s recent counter-insurgency campaign along the Afghan border has also provoked thousands of Pakistanis to flee into Afghanistan. Nonetheless, nearly a quarter million Afghan refugees returned to their homeland from Pakistan in the course of the year.

Iraqis, who for the previous three years had been the largest new source of refugees, now claim third place among all refugee groups, according to the report.

Nearly two million Iraqis are living abroad, mostly in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. As violence in Iraq has diminished over the past two years, the exodus from Iraq has also fallen sharply, and some Iraqis have begun to trickle back home, according to the report.

Some 800,000 refugees from Burma, or Myanmar, are living outside their homeland, mostly in Thailand and Bangladesh.

Somalia, where continued fighting among various factions forced a total of some 80,000 people to flee to Kenya (60,000) or Yemen (20,000), and hundreds of thousands to become internally displaced, ranks fifth as the largest source of refugees.

These countries were followed by Sudan (428,000 people), Colombia (400,000), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (385,000), according to the USCRI report.

Besides Gaza, the report identified South Africa and Thailand as among the worst places for refugees to be living. It noted the xenophobic violence that swept South Africa last May, as mobs of the country’s poorest citizens rampaged through slums and shanty-towns attacking suspected foreigners and, in some cases, even setting them on fire. As many as 10,000 refugees fled South Africa for Zambia.

Thailand was cited as a poor performer as a result of its treatment of Rohingya refugees – in one case, the Thai Navy towed unseaworthy boats with nearly 1,000 Rohingyas and scant food and water aboard into the open sea to prevent them coming from ashore – and its plans to forcibly repatriate Hmong refugees to Laos.

Other countries that rank among the worst for refugees include Kenya, for its treatment of Somali refugees; Malaysia, due to officials selling deportees to gangs along the Malaysia-Thailand border; Egypt, because of its treatment of African migrants; and Turkey, for forcibly repatriating refugees, overcrowding detention centers and beating detainees.

In one incident, four refugees drowned when Turkish officials forced them to swim across a river to Iraq.

Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica, on the other hand, were among the countries that treated refugees best, according to the report, which noted that Brasilia had permitted Palestinians forced to flee Iraq to settle within its borders. Ecuador also launched a registration programme aimed at protecting and ensuring the rights to work and travel of tens of thousands of Colombian refugees who have sought safe haven there.

Some of the world’s poorest countries are also home to large populations of refugees. Chad, a constant on the U.N.’s list of least developed countries, has a refugee population of 268,000 while Sudan hosts 175,800 refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Overall, nations with a per capita GDP of less than 2,000 dollars hosted almost two-thirds of all refugees. According to the UNCHR report, “among the 25 countries with the highest number of refugees per 1 USD GDP per capita, all are developing countries, including 15 Least Developed Countries.”

The report gave Europe a grade of “D” and the U.S. a grade of “F” for “refoulement,” or returning refugees to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened. It also gave Europe and the U.S. grades of “D” for “detention/access to courts.”

theatre of the oppressed festival

tonight i took some of my students from my drama class to see theatre of the oppressed, which is currently touring palestine. although i’ve taught drama classes for years and taken students to see plays–in ghana, palestine, and in the united states–i’ve never had the opportunity to see theatre of the oppressed live. i’ve only read about it and been very intrigued by the idea of it. here is a bit about the concept and its founding:

Theatre of the Oppressed was born in 1971, in Brazil, under the very young form of Newspaper Theatre , with the specific goal of dealing with local problems – soon, it was used all over the country. Forum Theatre came into being in Peru, in 1973, as part of a Literacy Program; we thought it would be good only for South America– now it is practiced in more than 70 countries. Growing up, TO developed Invisible Theatre in Argentina, as political activity, and Image Theatre to establish dialogue among Indigenous Nations and Spanish descendants, in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico… Now these forms are being used in all kinds of dialogues.

this is the second annual tour of theatre of the oppressed in palestine. there are several countries touring with their theatre troupes here: south africa, germany, bosnia & herzegovina, norway, sweden, and portugal. we saw the performance by house of azania today from south africa. they performed a piece called “who do you think you are?” which includes 8 interlinked acts, although we only saw 3 of them. given the way that theatre of the oppressed works i imagine that this is usual and given that they performed in nablus and had to return to ramallah tonight they had to leave before huwara checkpoint closed. they were performing oppression in a space of oppression after all.

theatre of the oppressed is unusual because the actors perform a scene that usually engages with a social problem of some kind. tonight they performed three such acts: one on ethnic cleansing, one on laborer’s rights, and one on xenophobia. the first one, on ethnic cleansing, was based on the group areas act, which later became the forced removal act, that forcibly removed black south africans from their land and their homes. here is a brief synopsis of that apartheid-era law:

The Apartheid Era was one of division and segregation based on the colour of one’s skin. The Group Areas Act of 1950 (Act No. 41 of 1950) was created on 27 April, the day that is today recognised as Freedom Day in the New South Africa. This act was created to split racial groups up into different residential areas of any given town or city.

The result of this act was that the best, most developed areas were reserved for the white people, while the blacks, Indians, and coloureds were assigned to the more rural outskirts of the major metropoles. 84% of the available land was granted to the white people, who made up only 15% of the total population. The 16% remaining land was then occupied by 80% of the population. This led to overcrowding, diseases, shortage of food and funds and a host of other problems. The areas assigned to the black people were dubbed the Tribal Homelands.

Once the areas were defined, anyone living in the “wrong” area was required to move, or else be forcibly removed. However, of the 3.5 million people who were required to leave the homes they had established for themselves, only 2% were white. And this group were moved to better areas than where they had been living.

Establishing the non-white areas on the outskirts of the metropole or city centre meant that they had to travel vast distances to get to work. But it also meant that they were isolated from basic amenities, such as hospitals, police stations and other emergency services. This created a sense of chaos in the homelands, an independent attempt at dealing with issues as they arose. This was dangerous for the residents, and led to many riots, outbreaks, and even deaths.

The only exceptions made were for non-whites who worked within the white suburbs, such as domestic workers. These workers were often required to stay on the white boss’ premises to avoid the daily commute and they were issued with special permission to allow for this. However, none of their family members were able to live with or even visit them. If they were found on the premises, they could be charged and imprisoned. This led to the splitting of many non-white families due to secular demands.

The assignment of areas to the black people was based on their tribal grouping, the record of which was often incorrect. The plan was that each homeland would eventually form a citizenship, so that blacks could no longer be considered citizens of South Africa, thereby relinquishing them of their rights and responsibilities. Between 1976 and 1981, four homelands were developed. The black people that had once occupied South Africa now needed a passport to cross the borders of their homelands into SA.

The Group Areas Act also stipulated that non-whites were not allowed to own or run businesses within the white areas. This limited their growth and financial development considerably, as they were only allowed to work in their townships and homelands. Even there, they could not usually afford major enterprises and would try to survive off small supply stores or basic services run from a shack.

of course this first sketch resonated quite well with a palestinian audience given the 122 years of zionist colonization making palestinians homeless and landless. one of the characters in this scene–the man playing the husband–tells his wife before the police bang on their door “they can’t take our houses from us. we’ve been here for generations.” sound familiar?

they performed the scene and then as with the style of theatre of the oppressed they performed it a second time immediately after. it is in the second performance that we see how augusto boal intended to use theatre for political ends. because in the second time an audience member is asked to yell “stop” at a moment when they want to join the actors on the stage in order to intervene in the problem. each scene is already set up in a way that there is a conflict–in this case between the family and the police–that is going around in circles and they cannot resolve. the audience member’s job is to solve the problem in some way by changing the action on stage. multiple audience members may join in and this was the case in most of their scenes tonight. a student from an najah university (not one of mine) got up on stage in this one and took over in the husband’s role because she felt he was being too passive. unlike his character–who in the end was willing to leave their house without much of a fight–she refused to leave the house and follow the colonist police officer’s orders. others eventually came up on stage taking on the role of neighbors who joined together to scare the police away and state that they would refuse to leave their homes and land. the first two pictures below are from this scene.

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the second scene was about laborers in south africa–particularly miners in the gold and diamond mines that made white south africans so very wealthy. the employer in this scene was unhappy with the workers because they sang while they worked. one of my friends got up on stage in this scene and staged a sit in for workers rights (next two photos).

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the final scene acted out was on xenophobia, which has been a big problem in south africa with respect to africans from neighboring countries moving to south africa and south africans feeling like their jobs are being taken, crime is increasing, diseases are spreading (americans should be familiar with this sort of racism especially as it is directed at mexicans). i found this to be a challenging piece for the audience here, however. the context is something that palestinians are not familiar with inside palestine. certainly palestinians have been on the receiving end of this whether as workers in the gulf or as refugees in places like lebanon banned from 72 different professions. but it is next to impossible for foreign workers to come here to work (my “work visa,” for instance, does not come from the palestinian authority, but from the israeli colonists and technically it is still a tourist visa, just a longer one on which they stamp the words “not permitted to work” ironically enough given that my university applied for it on my behalf). but two of my students got up and tried to intervene in this one. they did a great job, but i just think that the lack of context made this particular social problem a difficult one to engage with here (photos below).

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yes, the u.s. is still a racist state

it is official. okay, well, that is a lie. it always has been a racist state. but those who drank the obama koolaid and think that somehow having a black president equals the “post-racism” are particularly delusional. i’ve been following the world conference against racism (a.k.a. “durban 2) religiously, but i haven’t really written much about it because most of that material is in a chapter in my book so i’ve put all my energy into that. but now that the conference will begin this weekend and that the final decision from the white house has been made i think it warrants some discussion. it is yet one more reason why obama is bush is clinton is bush is reagan is carter (you get the picture).

the latest is that the u.s. is boycotting the world conference on racism for the same reason the bush administration did in 2001: they are afraid of discussing the fact that zionism = racism and reparations for the trans-atlantic slave trade. ma’an news reports the decision:

The US will not reverse a decision to boycott the upcoming UN conference on the elimination of racism in spite of the removal of a clause from a document that identified Israel as a perpetrator of racist policies.

Senior White House officials informed American Jewish leaders in a conference call on Wednesday that the US would not change its position on the conference, according to news reports.

The US State Department earlier released a statement saying that “progress” had been made on the text of the document guiding the aims of the Durban Review Conference, which opens on 20 April.

“Substantial improvements have been made, including shortening the document, removing all language that singled out any one country or conflict, and removing language that embraced the concept of “defamation of religion” and that demanded reparations for slavery,” the State Department said.

The US withdrew from the last UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, due to an effort to condemn Israel and its occupation of Palestinian land as racism.

Israel and Canada are also boycotting this year’s summit.

the zionist entity’s media adds this:

In an attempt to save the anti-racism conference, Russia initiated a new draft which no longer included the negative references to Israel. However, the new document ratifies “Durban I” – the concluding document of the first World Conference against Racism held in South Africa in 2001, which includes a harsh condemnation of Israel.

Former US President George W. Bush boycotted ‘Durban 1′, but Obama did want the US to attend next week’s conference in Geneva, and even sent representatives to a preliminary meeting held a few weeks ago. The decision to boycott ‘Durban II’ was reached after the representatives said the US lacked the clout to omit the condemnation of Israel from the conference document.

in typical fashion they reverse everything around to obscure the truth. the truth is that they are a racist, fascist regime and this is why they–along with other states–will be called on the carpet at this meeting. as well they should be. as should the u.s., of course.

for a reality check of the larger picture here we must turn to the brilliant glen ford of the black agenda report for the context:

On Tuesday, April 14, according to the Huffington Post, the White House placed a conference call to American “Jewish leaders,” all but assuring them the U.S. would not show up for Durban II, the international conference on racism, in Geneva, Switzerland. President Obama’s close adviser Samantha Power, of the National Security Council, said the event’s revised draft document “met two of our four red lines frontally, in the sense that it went no further than reparations and it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language. But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”

Translation: although the document, under relentless U.S. pressure, has been watered down to the point of irrelevance, it remains unacceptable because it reaffirms declarations of the first World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. There is virtually no chance President Obama will reverse his decision to boycott Durban II, April 24-25.

We must first ask: Why is the White House reporting to “Jewish leaders” on an issue that is of interest to all Americans, most especially people of color? Has Obama arranged such briefings on Durban II for “Black leaders,” “Latino leaders,” or “Native American leaders” – representatives of constituencies that have suffered genocide, slavery, discrimination, forced displacement and all manner of racist assaults right here on American soil? No, he has not. Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will. Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.

Several weeks ago, popular Sirius Radio Black talk show host Mark Thompson (“Make It Plain”) wondered aloud if Obama’s threat to boycott Durban II should be a “deal breaker” – a “last straw” offense against Black interests and sensibilities. It should have been. The Obama administration’s fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands – and I use the word “demands” quite purposely – was a lesson in how Power responds to constituencies it favors, fears, or at least, respects. Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model. Less than nothing, as the unfolding Durban outrage demonstrates.

Obama has done more damage to the Durban process than George Bush, who pulled out of Durban I after the conference had begun. Important language survived the 2001 disruption, such as:

“We acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian.”

and,

“Urges States to adopt the necessary measures, as provided by national law, to ensure the right of victims to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts”

As University of Dayton, Ohio law professor Vernellia R. Randall has pointed out, pressures from the Obama White House caused revisions in the Durban II draft that

• withdrew language related to reparations;

• removed the proposed paragraph related to the transatlantic slave trade being a crime against humanity;

• removed proposed paragraphs designed to strengthen the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and,

• overall weakened the efforts related to people of African Descent.

And of course, language related to Palestinian rights and Israeli racism was totally eviscerated. (Samantha Power: “..it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language.”) But none of that was enough to satisfy the Zionists, who hope to utterly destroy Durban II, and erase Durban I from the record. (Power, on remaining U.S. objections: “But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”)

George Bush’s walkout at Durban I provided a sour ending for the event, but allowed participants to make some important statements and carry out additional work over the next eight years. The United States and other countries were to report to Durban II on residential segregation, criminal justice, police brutality, felony disenfranchisement and Katrina displacement. That cannot happen if the official American delegation is not in Geneva. Samantha Power told her Jewish leadership friends, who don’t want Durban II to occur, at all, not to worry. “In order for us to participate in the negotiations, to sit behind the placard, to be involved in a frontal way, much more would need to be done. And all four of our red lines will need to be met.”

Israel and the White House speak of “red lines” that they will not tolerate being crossed in politics and diplomacy. But where are the “red lines” that so-called Black leaders will not allow to be breached? Where Barack Obama is concerned, such lines do not exist – which is why he is permitted to walk all over Black folks, with impunity.

Yes, Durban II should have been a deal breaker. Instead, it was mostly cause for sniveling lamentation and words of “concern” or wishful predictions by Black notables that Obama would change his mind (after the damage had already been done!) and attend the conference.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), although initially registering “profound disappointment” (oh, my!) with Obama’s boycott of Durban II, cheerily added, “we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings….” That was on March 27, by which time Obama’s vandals had caused the shredding of almost every word of value in the documents. The Black lawyers’ “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” was signed by an impressive list of many scores of prominent organizations and individuals – but in its determined, concentrated meekness, should never have been expected to have any impact on the White House. And of course, it had none.

The likes of the NCBL would be flattered to have Obama’s people string them along – any attention would do. But Samantha Power and her boss won’t even bother, understanding perfectly well that the meek inherent nothing but manure. In her thorough and collegial report on Durban to Jewish leaders – who are anything but meek – Power said: “We will make our decision [to attend] up closer to the date of the conference, we want to show good faith to our allies and the people who are working hard to improve the text… But we are also not interested in being involved or associated with fool’s errands.”

Obama’s White House has not seen fit to show the slightest glimmer of good faith to Black people (at least, those not in his immediate family or employ), and seems to consider salvaging Durban I a “fools errand.” You know what color the “fools” are.

TransAfrica chairman Danny Glover placed an article in the April 8 issue of The Nation magazine that read like a letter to President Obama. “This should be a moment for the United States to rejoin the global struggle against racism, the struggle that the Bush administration so arrogantly abandoned,” wrote Glover. “I hope President Obama will agree that the United States must participate with other nations in figuring out the tough issues of how to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, and how to provide repair to victims.”

Let’s see if Glover calls Obama “arrogant” when the president finishes sabotaging Durban II. My bet is, “disappointed” is about as strong as Glover will muster. Obama sucks the spine out of Black people.
And as long as Black notables (let’s drop the “leadership” charade) turn into invertebrates at the mere thought of Barack Obama, so long will he treat the entire group as inconsequential, harmless ciphers.

but the united states and obama’s administration is not only failing to deal with these issues at the world conference against racism. it is failing to do so at home too. in the state where obama grew up, hawai’i, a group of leading indigenous scholars and activists have come together to pen an open letter to obama asking him to intervene in legislation that will undermine their historical and native rights to their land, colonized by the united states:

We, the undersigned Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) kupuna (elders), kumu (educators), and representatives address this letter to you on behalf of our people and nation, as well as of other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs. At our invitation, a number of our kako‘o (supporters) have also added their names to this letter.

Our primary purpose for contacting you, Mr. President, is to solemnly inform you of our categorical opposition to the proposed legislation now before the U.S. Senate and House that is entitled The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which is commonly referred to as the “Akaka Bill.” This legislation, first introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2000—and now confusingly existing in four versions (S. 381; S. 708; H.R. 862; H.R. 1711)—proposes that the U.S. Government recognize a “Native Hawaiian Government” that is to be certified by the U.S. Department of the Interior in conformity with U.S. federal law and practice regarding Native American tribal nations.

We reject this Akaka Bill for weighty reasons. To begin with, the historical harm the United States first committed in Hawai’i in 1893 brought down, not a “Native Hawaiian Government”, but the independent Hawaiian Kingdom composed of Kanaka Maoli as well as non-Kanaka Maoli subjects. Consequently, the Kanaka Maoli people and other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs have, since that time, accumulated fundamental political and other claims against the United States under international law that the United States must recognize rather than hope to dispel via the enactment of this Bill. Indeed, in our view, the passage of this Bill would constitute nothing less than a second illegal denial of our Kanaka Maoli people’s right to self-determination and the Kingdom heirs’ right to sovereignty. The first outrage, we note, has already been formally admitted by the U.S. Congress in its Apology Resolution of 1993 which, furthermore, pledged to right that original wrong. Not only does the Akaka Bill not follow through on that pledge, it in fact attempts to sabotage the rightful return of our people to our status prior to 1893-98 by imposing on us a colonial U.S. “wardship” that is anchored in the U.S. judicial doctrine of the plenary power of Congress over Native American nations.

Moreover, we submit that, presuming on the good faith of your Administration, Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation is now trying to ram through the Akaka Bill in the U.S. Congress before the latter can inform itself fully of the vehement and ever-growing opposition to the Bill in Hawai‘i among Kanaka Maoli, other Kingdom heirs, as well as kako‘o. We use the term “ram through” advisedly because, among other things, the delegation has held but ONE 5-day hearing, back in 2000, on the Bill since its inception, and only on the single island of O‘ahu. Moreover, while the video record of that lone hearing shows overwhelming opposition to the Bill, the delegation disingenuously reported the opposite to Congress.

In 1993, our Hawai‘i International People’s Tribunal—composed of world human rights leaders, including three eminent U.S. law professors—heard evidence on our main islands and found the following U.S. actions to be violations of international law: its intervention in the 1893 overthrow of our independent government; its 1898 annexation and military occupation of our homeland; its conduct of the fraudulent 1959 Hawai‘i statehood vote; and its ongoing seizure of our national lands with resulting ethnocidal effect on our people. These findings have been widely disseminated and embraced in our homeland.

That same year, the 1993 U.S. Apology Resolution (103d Congress Joint Resolution 19, P.L. 103-150, November 28, 1993) was signed by President William Clinton. The Apology acknowledges the role of U.S. Minister John Stevens and of the U.S. military in the overthrow of our Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893 in direct contravention of bilateral treaties then binding on the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Resolution further recognizes that “the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” Moreover, it pledges the United States to acknowledge the ramifications of the 1893 overthrow so as to identify a basis for reconciliation between the U.S. government and the Kanaka Maoli people. Shamefully, the Akaka Bill moves in a direction opposite to that pledge.

The Bill arrogantly attempts to unilaterally characterize the historical transgressions of the United States against our people and kingdom, and to unilaterally specify their remedy. We insist otherwise. U.S. crimes against our Kanaka Maoli people and other Kingdom heirs from 1893 on require, for their redress, that a mechanism composed of U.S. agents and wholly independent representatives of Kanaka Maoli and Kingdom heirs be bilaterally set up by your Administration and us to make findings of fact and conclusions of international law that could serve as a road-map for the resolution of the political and legal issues now outstanding between our two parties.

but the obama administration’s racism extends far beyond the shores of the u.s. on any given side. despite claims to the contrary things are not improving in guantanamo, for instance, as abuse of detainees continues on his watch. mohammad al-qaraani a prisoner there, called into al jazeera to report he was beaten and tear gassed as monica villamizar reports:

and of course it is not only there, but also in baghram in afghanistan where prisoners are being detained and likely tortured. jeremy scahill reports today about obama’s white house continuing several of bush’s policies related to imprisonment and torture:

As has been pointed out by several diligent journalists, human rights lawyers and critics, President Obama has continued—and continues to defend—some of the Bush administration’s most repressive “War on Terror” policies, although Obama prefers to not use that term anymore. On several occasions, Obama has invoked the “state secrets” doctrine, including to argue that a lawsuit filed against the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping should be thrown out. As former constitutional lawyer turned Salon.com columnist Glen Greenwald wrote, the move “demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used.”

Meanwhile, the White House is continuing to defend its use of the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs was confronted about this by the great Helen Thomas:

Q Why is the President blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there —

MR. GIBBS: You’re incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

Q — for many years with no due process.

MR. GIBBS: Well, there are several issues relating to that that have to do differently than in some places than others, particularly because you have detainees in an active theater of war. There’s a review that’s pending of court cases and decisions, and we want to ensure — we want to ensure protection and security of the American people as well as rights that might be afforded.

Q Are you saying these people in prison are a threat to us?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that part of that is the determination based on our detainee policy that the President announced on the 21st of January, that that’s part of that review, yes.

Chuck.

Chuck then changed the subject. (David Swanson has a humorous take on this back and forth at AfterDowningStreet, while Liliana Segura takes it on at AlterNet.)

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that “The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public.” The 2005 “Bradbury memos represent an effort by the Bush administration to keep the CIA program of ‘enhanced’ interrogations of certain detainees on a legal footing after the Bush administration in late 2004 withdrew earlier Justice Department memos on interrogation.”

this system of detaining, imprisoning, torturing muslims and arabs in these prisons is racist. it depends upon the targeting of one particular ethnic or religious group. but there is some good news…and obama if he continues down this path may face the same thing at the end of his term, if not sooner. it seems that at least in spain justice will be served to american war criminals as scott horton reports:

Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo, several reliable sources close to the investigation have told The Daily Beast. Their decision is expected to be announced on Tuesday before the Spanish central criminal court, the Audencia Nacional, in Madrid. But the decision is likely to raise concerns with the human-rights community on other points: They will seek to have the case referred to a different judge.

The six defendants-in addition to Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith-are accused of having given the green light to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in U.S. detention in “the war on terror.” The case arises in the context of a pending proceeding before the court involving terrorism charges against five Spaniards formerly held at Guantánamo. A group of human-rights lawyers originally filed a criminal complaint asking the court to look at the possibility of charges against the six American lawyers. Baltasar Garzón Real, the investigating judge, accepted the complaint and referred it to Spanish prosecutors for a view as to whether they would accept the case and press it forward. “The evidence provided was more than sufficient to justify a more comprehensive investigation,” one of the lawyers associated with the prosecution stated.

racism, apartheid, and osloization

i’m preparing lecture notes for next week’s lecture notes for my postcolonial literature class. i’m teaching mbulelo vizikhungo mzamane’s novel the children of soweto. the novel is a moving portrait of the soweto uprising in 1976 that was led entirely by the youth. the youth were opposed to the enforcement of afrikaans as the language of instruction in south african schools. the thing that is interesting about the novel is that mzamane is one of the student leaders from that resistance movement so it is autobiographical and an historical chronicle of the events as they unfolded. it would be like of one of the youth leaders of the first intifada wrote a novel about it. because the soweto uprising was very similar to the first intifada–stone throwers against tanks and all. here is how he describes one of those instances:

Sizwe was two years older than Nomsa. He and Sandile went to school in the township. During the day they had been involved in a demonstration, together with children from other primary and secondary schools in the township. They marched through the streets, singing old liberation songs and others they had composed themselves, to protest against the enforcement of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in certain subjects throughout African schools. The students planned to converge at the township’s largest soccer stadium to voice their opposition to the scheme.

The police met them in the streets, before they could reach the stadium, and asked them through loudspeakers to disperse. They told the students that in terms of the Riotous Assemblies Act, which the children had never heard about, they were breaking the law by staging a protest march without obtaining permission from the police first.

“You are here. Give us your permission then,” someone in the crowd shouted. And the chant caught on, “Give us your permission then.”

The police then used teargas to try and disperse the students. Far from scattering about in a disorganised fashion, the students soon developed a technique for containing the teargas. Armed with cloths and buckets of water requisitioned from nearby houses, they covered the canisters with wet cloths as soon as they hit the ground. In this way many of the canisters were prevented from exploding. Thus unable to break the march the police resorted to shooting. At first they aimed above the heads of the crowd, but as the students surged forward resolutely they fired at their front ranks. Some students retaliated by throwing stones at the police. In the ensuing scuffle a few people were injured, including some police and onlookers, and several children were shot dead. (53-54)

there are so many other parallels in the novel–from collaborators within the ranks of south african resistance to the media’s total distortion of why these youth were resisting in the first place. and, then, of course are the curfews, closures, arrests, and torture.

south africa, like the zionist entity, were founded on ideologies of racial or religious supremacy. it is worth recalling what ali abunimah’s brilliant book, one country: a bold proposal to end the israeli-palestinian impasse has to say about the colonization of south africa:

The origins of the Afrikaner identity date back to April 6, 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a colony on the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Nelson Mandela explains that April 6 was “the day white South Africans annually commemorate[d] the founding of their country–and Africans revile[d] as the beginning of three hundred years of enslavement.” This anniversary is redolent of May 14, the day in 1948 that Israel declared independence but which Palestinians observe as al-nakba–the catastrophe–the beginning of their exile and subjugation. In the late seventeenth century, colonists arrived at the cape from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and other parts of Europe, many escaping appalling religious persecution and massacres in their home countries. In the 1830s, the Afrikaners or Boers (as these colonists eventually called themselves), chafing under British rule and in search of more land, set off to conquer the interior. These arduous journeys on foot and in covered wagons became known as the Great Treks and ended with the establishment of three independent republics. During the Boer Wars in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the British crushed the Boer republics, generating enduring Afrikaner bitterness. The “Anglo-Boer War burnt itself into the collective consciousness of my people, the Afrikaners, like no other event in our history,” [F.W.] de Klerk has said. The British scorched-earth policy destroyed farms and killed livestock, and ended Boer independence. Worst of all, the British “interned our women and children in what became known as concentration camps.” (The term “concentration camp” was first used in this context.) Of the entire Afrikaner population–a few hundred thousand at the time–tens of thousands are believed to have died in the camps.

Afrikaners were determined never again to submit to foreign rule or forgo their independence and security. In 1910, the predominantly British-settled colonies of the cape and the former Boer republics int he interior formed the Union of South Africa, which excluded all indigenous African peoples, as well as Indians and other Asians, from any political power. Then, when the Afrikaner-dominated National Party won the whites-only general election in 1948, they ushered in a new era of more formalized discrimination–apartheid. As Mandela observes, the 1948 Nationalist election victory was, in the “cosmology” of Afrikaners, “like the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. This was the fulfillment of God’s promise, and the justification for their view that South Africa should remain a white man’s country forever.” Afrikaners compared the Great Treks to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, and saw their republics as a “new Israel,” built on land redeemed from godless “Canaanites.” Out of the undeniable suffering and trauma of the Boer Wars, Afrikaners constructed an ideology in which they were in a state of permanent victimhood. They acted with the belief that God was on the side in a struggle for self-preservation against external forces whose sole motivation was their destruction. (136-138)

the histories and the methods of resistance in palestine and south africa have been quite similar. but the main difference between the two situations is that nelson mandela refused to sign any agreement, any document until all conditions had been met. he wasn’t stupid enough to trust the colonizing entity in south africa. he wanted to see them put their words into action, such as releasing political prisoners. and he had enough integrity to make sure the other prisoners were released before him. here in palestine the oslo accords were signed without the zionist entity ever having to give up anything. and they never have. instead, they’ve created more suffering, more oppression, and increased the apartheid conditions.

today on z net haidar eid has a really important and smart article that addresses the way that oslo has destroyed palestine on so many levels, which i quote in full below:

One of the most important outcomes of the Gaza massacre (2009) has been the unprecedented tremendous outpouring of popular support for the Palestinian cause; something the signatories of the Oslo accords (1993) must have not been happy with. The return of the pre-Oslo slogans of liberation, as opposed to independence, have, undoubtedly, created a new dilemma, not only for Oslo political elites, but also for the NGOized, Stalinist Left.

The process of “Osloization”i.e, a combination of corruption, Ngoization, and a selling-out of revolutionary principles and sloganeering, fused with the fiction of the two-prison solution, has been dealt a heavy blow in the 2006 elections. Judging from statements made, not only by PA officials, but also by the Left, and even the Hamas government, the ultimate goal of the current river of blood has become the establishment of a Palestinian state in any dimension, i.e. the two-state solution. The contradiction between the tremendous international support, the revival of the BDS campaign, the outpouring of demos against Apartheid Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians of Gaza, and the reiteration, by most political orgs, of the two state mantra is a strong indication of the need for an alternative program that makes the De-Osloization of Palestine its first priority.

In order to understand the Oslo Accords and the extreme damage they have caused to the Palestinian cause, one needs a historical contextualization of the so called “peace process”, or rather what many critical thinkers have called the peace industry. This understanding is a necessary step towards a process of De-Osloization, a term I will get back to at a later stage.

The Oslo accord was claimed to be the first step towards self-determination and an independent state. But it is clear now, 16 years after the famous hand shake on the White House lawn, that no state in the short run will be established because of the mere fact that Oslo simply ignored the existence of the Palestinian people as a people. In other words, these accords have offered Zionism what it has always been striving for. Golda Meir’s infamous statement that there are no Palestinians is a case in point here.

And yet, to claim that ‘Oslo’ and ‘Camp David’ were great missed opportunities and ‘breakthrough’, and that the so-called ‘peace process’ was in track until the Palestinians (i.e. colonized victims) blew it is a deliberate ideological distortion of reality claimed in order to prepare Palestinians for more concessions. Real comprehensive peace was not created in Oslo and Washington; rather what was created is an American/Israeli plan to resolve the conflict after the destruction of Iraq and the collapse of the Soviet Union and their attempt to construct a “new Middle East”—to use Condoleeza Rice’s words–a Middle East characterized by imperialist-Zionist hegemony and supported by despotic regimes. The Oslo accord was born dead because it did not guarantee the minimum national and political rights of 10 million Palestinian. As long as there are refugees, cantons, detainees, blockade, settlements, ‘legal torture’ of prisoners, dispossession, assassinations and occupation, comprehensive peace cannot be achieved. It is an illusion in the minds of those who signed the Oslo accords.

These accords have led to the creation of a limited “administrative autonomy” in the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank. The local population was given “the right” to form an authority that they could call “national.” Now the question is what makes the PNA (Palestinian National Authority) beyond questioning? What is the ‘legitimate’ ground upon which it was established? Very simple: The Oslo Accords. It has now become very obvious that despite the famous hand shakes on the White house lawn and in Annaplois, and the optimistic talk of the ‘New Middle East,’ these accords, in contradistinction with UN and Security Council resolutions, have not guaranteed the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, or the return of the refugees, nor even the demolishment of the Jewish settlements, and compensation for those Palestinians who have lost—and still losing—their homes, lands and properties; nor the release of all political prisoners, or the opening of all checkpoints, which have become daily nightmares for residents of the WB and GS; …etc. In spite of all the hand shakes, kisses, and friendly press conferences, Israel launched one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the conflict against the civilian population of Gaza, killing in 22 days more than 1400 people, including 438 children, 120 women, 95 old people, 16 medics, 5 journalists, 5 foreign women, and in which it destroyed more than 40.000 institutions and houses, leaving many families homeless. That, of course, was not mentioned as an objective of the Oslo Accords, but nothing either was mentioned in them that would prevent such bloodletting from taking place.

This is the political reality that Palestinian officials who signed the agreement do not like to be reminded of. In fact, what has been created in parts of Gaza and the West Bank is a very strange entity—an apartheid-type Bantustan endorsed by the international community. Gaza 2009, therefore, is the mirror-image of Oslo. When we bear in mind that 75-80% of Gazans are refugees, the results of 2006 elections become more comprehensible not only in its anti-colonial context, but also in socio-political terms. What Oslo has created in Gaza, and the West Bank for that matter, is literally two different worlds, both of which have been led by undemocratic institutions, many security apparatuses, a Third Worldish military court (commended by the Clinton administration), corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and nepotism—to mention but few (neo)colonial qualities.

By winning the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars, and by getting international, Arab and Palestinian recognition, Israel–as an Apartheid settler-colonial state—has hoped to move into a new stage; a stage that requires the formation of ‘new consciousness’ amongst colonized Palestinians. Herein lies the danger of Oslo; Osloization, within this neo-Zionist context, means the creation of a new paradigm through which you wash out the consciousness of your supposed enemy-the ‘Other’-and replace it with a one-dimensional mentality, through the construction of a fiction (two states for two peoples) whose end is unattainable. Even the fascist Lieberman has started singing the same song.

Put differently, to aim at creating the two-state Palestinian is to aim at creating false consciousness led by assimilated intelligentsia, some of whom have a revolutionary past record. Singing the slogans of “the two state solution,” “two states for two peoples,” “return to the 1967 borders,”–or even “a long-term Hudna” (as proposed by Hamas) — is intended to guarantee the subordination and conformity of the Palestinians, especially those with revolutionary ideas. Gone are the right of return of 6 million refugees and their compensation, and the national and cultural rights of the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

This goal, however, never sees the antithesis it creates as a result of displacement, exploitation, and oppression; it ignores the revolutionary consciousness that has been formulated throughout the different phases of the Palestinian struggle. Nor does it take into account the legacy of civil and political resistance that has become a trademark of the Palestinian struggle. Hence the necessity of the formulation of Palestinian alternative politics. To be conscious of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, and of the huge class gape that the Oslo Accords have created has definitely been the beginning of De-Osloization represented in the Al-Aqsa uprising and the outcome of the 2006 elections. This is an oppositional consciousness that the signatories of Oslo did not take into account. Both events represent an outright rejection of the Oslo Accords and their consequences.

The Gaza Strip, however, is seen by the PA as one of three building blocks of an independent state, although it is geographically separated from the second block, i.e. the West Bank. The third block is, Jerusalem, is under total Israeli control. None of the Palestinians in the occupied territories believe that the ‘semi-autonomous’ zones in the GS and the WB -that is, the ones that fall under category A—can lay the foundation for an independent state. What Oslo has led to is, in fact, a South Africa. When black South Africans needed to move from their townships to big ‘white’ cities, they needed to get a ‘pass’. During ‘peace time,’ Palestinians, not only those who work in Israel, but also those who wanted to visit the WB form Gaza, or vice versa, needed to apply for a ‘permit’. Beside the permit, Palestinians needed a so-called ‘magnetic card,’ which is a computer card that has a password to its holder’s security file. No one could work in Israel, or visit the WB, or even go to a hospital inside the ‘green line’ without a ‘permit’ and a ‘magnetic card’. If one was granted such invaluable cards, one was still not allowed to visit any other area except the one s/he was entitled to visit. If one was ‘caught’ at another area, one’s permit and card were confiscated immediately, not to mention the torture one was exposed to. Nowadays, no one is even given such luxurious ‘permits’ and cards. How was apartheid South Africa different?

The tribal chiefs of the South African Bantustans used to believe that they were the heads of independent states. Luckily, the ANC, despite its many compromises with the National Party, had never accepted the idea of separation and Bantustans. The official Palestinian leadership on the other hand, at the end of the millennium, boasts of having laid the foundation for a Bantustan, claiming it to be an independent state in the make. Undoubtedly, this is the ultimate prize Zionism can offer to its ‘Other’ after having denied her/his existence for a century, and after that same ‘Other’ has proved that she is human. For Zionism’s continued presence in Palestine, the ‘Other’ must be assimilated and enslaved without her/ him being conscious of her/his enslavement. Hence the granting of ‘semi-autonomous’ rule over the most crowded Palestinian cities, and hence the logic driving the Oslo Accords.

Oslo, then, brought an unprecedented level of corruption into Palestine; and security coordination with Israel, under the supervision of—irony of ironies—an American general, has become the norm. Repeating the two-state mantra, carrying the Palestinian flag, singing the national anthem and— more importantly—recognizing Israel, regardless of the rights of two thirds of the Palestinian people, are what Oslo is all about.

The lesson we learn from Gaza 2009 is to harness all effort to fight the outcome of the Oslo Accords, and to form a United Front on a platform of resistance and reforms. This cannot be achieved without dismantling the PA and realizing that ministries, premierships, and presidencies in Gaza and Ramallah are a façade not unlike the South African Independent Homelands with their tribal chiefs. The classical national program, created and adopted by the Palestinian bourgeoisie has reached its end unsuccessfully. Most political forces, including the governing party in Gaza, fail to explain how 6 million Palestinian refugees will return to the Israeli State of the Jews and an independent Palestinian state will be created at the same time.

Hence the necessity for an alternative paradigm that divorces itself from the fiction of the two-prison solution, a paradigm that takes the sacrifices of the people of Gaza as a turning point in the struggle for liberation, one that builds on the growing global anti-apartheid movement that has been given an impetus by Gaza 2009. De-Osloizing Palestine is, therefore, a precondition for the creation of peace with justice.

part of this osloizing process that eid analyzes above is the continual dispossession of palestinians from their land. in gaza it happened in a very obvious way. it was clear to those who watched al jazeera, the only international media allowed into the gaza strip. and that savagery continues with israeli terrorists bombing gaza every day, which no longer reported in the international media:

The Israeli military confirmed that it bombed smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip early on Thursday.

Witnesses in Gaza said that the bombing took place in Rafah Refugee Camp, along the border with Egypt.

The Israeli military said the strike was in response to four homemade projectiles and one mortar shell that landed in Israel. No damage or injuries resulted from those attacks.

The tunnels in southern Gaza are used to import goods made scarce by an Israeli blockade that has been imposed on Gaza since 2007.

and what seems to me to be a clear–and horrifying–indication that hamas is in the process of becoming osloized:

Gaza’s Hamas rulers issued rare criticism Thursday of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the strip, saying now is the wrong time for such attacks.

The Islamic militant group has fired thousands of rockets at southern Israel in recent years. But Hamas said Thursday that it was not behind recent attacks and that it was investigating who was responsible.

there are no rockets coming from the west bank. and there may not be bombs falling on the west bank, but the continual ethnic cleansing in the west bank and in 1948 goes on unnoticed for the most part. there is, of course, a bit of international coverage of the ethnic cleansing in al quds, which is possibly why there is a temporary ban on the demolition order of homes in silwan:

The Israeli Central Court in Jerusalem decided to temporarily freeze a decision to demolish 35 apartments in Al Abbasiyya neighborhood in the East Jerusalem town of Silwan.

Lawyer Ziad Qi’war, representing the families, said that the order gives the Jerusalem Municipality seven days to respond to appeals filed by the residents.

There are more than 240 Palestinians living in the buildings slated to be demolished.

Qi’war added that the appeal accuses the Jerusalem Municipality of practicing racism against the Jerusalemite Palestinians, and of not providing services to the residents in this area.

The residents said that the Municipality does not want to sit with them in order to listen to their points of view.

Qi’war called on all civil, legal and political groups to unite their efforts in order to achieve a ruling that completely voids the demolishing orders.

Israel intends to demolish nearly 180 homes in Al the Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods of Al Bustan, Al Abbasiyya, Ras Khamis, and Al Tour.

of course this is when the israeli terrorist colonists send in the colonists without uniforms to go in and attack palestinians:

Palestinian sources reported on Wednesday that a group of extremist Jewish settlers attacked dozens of Palestinian homes and stores in East Jerusalem.

The settlers were marching in the city and chanting slogans against the Arabs and the Palestinians, and calling for expelling them from the Holy City.

The Israeli police did not attempt to intervene and allowed the settlers to continue their march, which encouraged them to attack Palestinian property, local sources reported.

The settlers chanted “death to Arabs” and other racists slogans while marching in Arab markets and the alleys of the Old City.

The Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that the different settlers groups marched in different parts of the Old City under heavy protection and presence of the Israeli military and police.

The police closed main roads in the Old City barring the Palestinians from using them in order to allow the settlers to march.

WAFA said that dozens of extremist Jews arrived in the Old City by special buses since early morning hours of Wednesday, and held prayers at the Western Wall before marching in the alleys of Jerusalem.

They were accompanied by settlers living in East Jerusalem, especially from outposts in Sheikh Jarrah area, and several outposts in East Jerusalem.

in contradistinction, there is very little about the rest of the west bank. consider these latest developments:

in aqraba near nablus:

The Israeli Army handed miltary orders to several residents of Aqraba village, southeast of the northern West Bank City of Nablus, informing them of a decision to demolish six homes and a mosque in the village.

Local sources in the village stated that the order comes to enable the expansion of Israeli settlements surrounding the village, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

The sources added that nearly 90 percent of the village’s land is used as grazing ground, but the Israeli authorities are attempting to annex the land for settlement construction and expansion.

There are four Israeli settlements surrounding the village, all built on land annexed from the villagers. Settlers have carried out repeated attacks against the village and its inhabitants, killing four villagers over the past few years.

Recently, one resident was killed and another was wounded in a roadside bomb placed by the settlers, the Palestinian Information Center said.

Last week, Israeli Authorities handed fifteen military orders to the residents of Aqraba, informing them that Israel intends to demolish 15 homes, barns, tin-houses for sheep, and water wells located in Khirbit al-Taweel area, which belongs to the village.

in qalqilia a farmer suffered a heart attack after witnessing israeli terrorists destroying his olive trees:

Palestinian medical sources in Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported that a farmer suffered a heart attack two days ago after the Israeli army uprooted his olive trees in the village of Ras Tira, near Qalqilia.

The army was uprooting the trees to allow the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the area.

The farmer tried to stop the soldiers and defend his land, and suffered a heart attack while arguing with the troops and the bulldozer driver, local sources reported.

Also, the Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that five human rights activists from the United states, Sweden, and Denmark were taken prisoner by the army after joining a non-violent protest against the uprooting of trees in Ras Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) reported.

Residents from the area, joined by activists, were protesting the uprooting of olive trees as the army started implementing the change of the route of the Israeli Apartheid Wall in the area.

As the trees were being cut, villagers and activists demonstrated while the troops fired tear-gas at the them and the villagers, WAFA said.

The new Wall route will lead o more destruction and uprooting of the villagers’ farmlands and orchards.

It is worth mentioning that the Wall and the Alfe Menashe settlement completely surround the villages of Ras Al Tira, Wadi Ar Rasha, and Dhaba’.

or how about in 1948 palestine?:

Bulldozers of the Israeli municipality of Beer Sheba in 1948 occupied Palestine on Thursday demolished two Palestinian houses at the pretext of lack of construction permit.

Local sources in Beer Sheba said that hundreds of policemen escorted the bulldozers during the demolition process.

They pointed out that the same force uprooted 100 olive trees.

The step was taken on the same day that cattle owners plan a demonstration in the same city to protest additional taxes and unfair distribution of grazing lands, the locals underlined.

of course, the united states doesn’t want to look at the racism inherent in the zionist entity’s apartheid regime. that is why it has chosen to boycott the world conference on racism in geneva (known as durban 2). (you see, obama does not care about discussing and ending racism any more than bush.) the main issue for boycotting the conference in 2001 was the discussion of zionism as a form of racism as well as the discussion of reparations for slavery. this time around the issue of slavery reparations seems to irk obama as does the discourse on the terrorist state of israel. but the draft document that the obama administration objects to does not talk about zionism as racism. instead, it focuses on israel as an apartheid regime. still, they refuse to attend. ramzy baroud explains:

The US conditioned its participation of the April conference in Geneva (Durban II) by removing any specific censure of Israel, and ensuring that Israel is not ‘singled out’ for criticism. Although US sensibilities constantly expect, but demand the singling out of any country, leader or group it deems rouge, war criminal, or terrorist, Israel is treated based on different standards. “A bad document became worse, and the US decided not to participate in the conference”, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported in reference to the draft documents being finalized before the conference.

The original “bad” document apparently dubs Israel “an occupying state that carries out racist policies”, a description which is consistent with international law, UN resolutions and the views of leading world human rights defenders – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Dugard, the former UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk,the current UN’s envoy, among many others.

The ‘bad document’ might have ‘became worse’ with new references to the Gaza bloodbath, which killed and wounded nearly 7,000 Palestinians in 22-days.

From an American – and unfortunately, Canadian and Italian, so far – viewpoint, such inhumane practices don’t warrant a pause or mere words of condemnation. The same, of course, doesn’t apply to Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran, Cuba and other ‘unfriendly’ nations. The US decision must be particularity disheartening to African nations who saw in the advent of Barack Obama some vindication. The US first black president, however, saw it fit to boycott a conference that intended to discuss the issue of slavery and repatriation, to once again prove that race alone is hardly sufficient in explaining US internal and external policies.

in response to this some people have organized a campaign to try to get obama to reconsider. while their letter is not perfect, i do think attending the conference sends the right message to the zionist entity that they cannot bully the world by threats of anti-semitism. their racist regime must not only be critiqued, but ended. here is the letter and if you click the link you can sign their petition:

January 20, 2009

Dear President Barack Obama,

As people of conscience in the United States struggling for a socially, economically and ecologically healthier world free of racism, colonialism, and militarism, we write to respectfully urge you to attend the upcoming Durban Review Conference on Racism from 20-24 April 2009.

Your election marks a historic moment in a nation founded upon the slavery and genocide of people of color. We, along with millions everywhere, are full of hope that this legacy will finally be redressed. First Nation, people of African descent, working class people, immigrants to this country, and people from colonized countries throughout the world all have suffered for far too long. We hope that your inauguration will usher a new dawn on which the US government will respond to calls to tackle historic and current injustices that stand in the way of change.

You were brought to power by an unprecedented chorus of grassroots voices, a unique gathering of activism and resources. We honor your experiences as a grassroots organizer working for change in the lives of working class people of color. Like many others who voted for you (or wanted to but couldn’t because we are not US citizens), we were inspired by your call for dialogue on foreign policy, and your opposition to the politics of torture and preemptive wars. We rejoiced in your victory – our victory – against racism and war.

Your participation in the Durban Review Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance (Geneva, Switzerland, April 2009) will reaffirm your commitment to these principles. We are aware that great pressure is being exerted on your administration to boycott the Durban Review Conference; that congress has passed a resolution in support of this boycott. Lobbyists on behalf of the State of Israel are wrong to claim that the first Durban Conference was anti-Semitic because it held Israel accountable for its racist laws and policies. Nothing could be farther from the truth: anti-Semitism today is fueled by U.S. policies that apply double standards in its relationship to Israel and allow Israel to violate international law with impunity. The failure to distinguish between criticizing Israeli government policies and anti-Semitism on the one hand, and perpetuating, the misleading image of Jews as united in support of Israel’s unconscionable violence against the Palestinian people, on the other, feeds into anti-Jewish hatred and incites anti-Semitism today.

Israel must obey international law like any other state. Israel has to end its occupation of Palestinian lands, its dismemberment of the country into Bantustans, its apartheid-like laws and policies against Arab people, and its theft of Palestinian land and resources. Only recently, the majority of the international community has raised its voice in protest as Israel waged a savage war against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The U.S. has for too long condoned Israel’s disregard for international law, settlement buildup, and bad faith negotiations. There has never been a more urgent time for the U.S. to join the international community to effect a serious change.

We stand in with the world’s majority who demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and who had the courage to break ties with Israel—the leadership of Latin America, the Arab World, and Turkey; the UN General Assembly and its President, D’escoto Brockmann; Sir Gerald Kaufmann from the British House of Commons, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the millions of voices demanding that Israel comply with international law.

To ignore Durban is to align with those who justify Israel’s racism, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid-like policies; and to allow its siege of Gaza. A boycott of the Durban global dialogue towards a united and principled stand against racism could only send the wrong message that the U.S. is not committed t to overcoming its history of racism and the impact that history has had in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as on communities of color within the United States. A United States boycott of the Durban Review will squarely put the U.S. in opposition to the global aspirations to transform current conditions of racism and xenophobia.

US boycott of the Durban Review will precipitate a speedy disillusionment in the US and around the world with the commitment of your administration to developing policy that is qualitatively different from those of the previous administration. Ignoring the message of Durban would also undermine and alienate the organizers of the conference who are looking to the principled engagement of your administration against those whose power is based on promoting and enforcing racist divisions within their populations. We hope that your administration can show that the United States is ready to participate in international dialogue aimed at ending its legacy of colonization, slavery, racism and xenophobia. We are conscious that, because of your history and experience, you are well aware of the nature and impact of US policies in the Global South.

From amplifying the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, through the terrorizing of immigrant communities, and to the continued destruction of indigenous lands, peoples and cultures, harmful U.S. government policies also reflect the culpability of the United States in perpetuating racism and injustice throughout the world. The lavish funding for war and the generous military and political aid to regimes that disrespect human rights have been part and parcel of a governmental outlook that is oblivious to the needs of health care, education, employment and housing.

To fulfill the hope you have inspired and which brought you to office, we urge you and your Administration to:

* Participate in the Durban Review Conference in Geneva from 20-24 of April 2009.

* Consider deeply felt and urgent demands of the Durban Review for US acknowledgment and repudiation of past racist crimes and injustices, in particular against First Nations and African people, as well as of current racist and xenophobic policies enforced by the US within and beyond its borders.

* Engage in critical dialogue on the de-institutionalization of racism within the US, and the ways in which war economy can be diverted into peace economy.

* Shift the US policies toward recognizing the legitimate concerns of participants from communities devastated by war and occupation and listen with an open mind to their demands for justice, dignity and peace.

In your speech at a Howard University Convocation in 2007, you asked the audience to:

Be strong and have courage in the face of injustice. Be strong and have courage in the face of prejudice and hatred. Be strong and have courage in the face of joblessness and helplessness and hopelessness. Be strong and have courage, in the face of our doubts and fears, in the face of skepticism, in the face of cynicism, in the face of a mighty river.

We ask you to be strong in the face of these challenges and to trust the strength of your grassroots base. We ask you to stand up against those who would keep this country and the world shackled by to policies that harm us all. Stand with us as we join hands to support you as a President of a United States that can leave behind racism, colonial oppression and war and that rejoins the world community for justice, dignity and peace.

on racism and prisons

i just finished composing a letter for a friend in gaza who is applying for a visa to speak in the united kingdom about besieged gaza. he had been invited last month, too, but the british consulate in al quds denied him a visa because they didn’t believe he’d return home after his lecture tour. it struck me as i was writing the letter that i felt like i was writing on behalf of a friend who was in prison. (okay, yes, gaza is a prison and that is the point.) as i wrote words and phrases kept popping into my mind like “flight risk,” phrases one uses to describe someone who is undeserving of bail. someone who deserves to be locked up. and as i wrote the other night about his online visa application, the questions about one’s criminality on the british visa application are certainly geared more towards excluding israeli terrorist war criminals who fall into the categories of having committed “war crimes” or who practice state terrorism. but the racism of the british system makes it such that it is palestinians whose travel gets excluded, who remain in the gaza jail.

nathalie abou shakra posted videos today of the damage done by israeli terrorists to palestinian fishermen in gaza waters. this is another element of the prison: fisherman can’t fish. or if they do they risk their lives or their boats which are necessary for their livelihood:

These are some footage comrades George from Greece, Andrew from Scotland and I took of the shootings yesterday and today of the fishermen’s boats. One of the fishermen, Alaa el Habil, from the Shati’ camp, was wounded in the leg before yesterday, and a boat arrived to the port of Gaza yesterday as we were there, of which was targeted by the Israelis…

The fishermen were given a limit of 20miles before the Oslo accords, then it diminished to 12, then 6 miles during the siege, then 3 miles now… it is impossible to catch good fish, a variety, and a good quantity within such a limit.This is especially devastating for the fishermen whose lives depend on fishing… whose families cannot survive without an income from this.

unlike other prisons, the gaza prison keeps people out and locks people up inside. this is one of the many reasons why it is so difficult for aid to get inside gaza:

Israel says 453 trucks entered Gaza 18-23 January, but only about half of them carried humanitarian aid – not nearly enough for 1.5 million Gazans, say UN agencies and international aid groups.

“The donors and the general public have mobilised from all over the world but the aid is stuck outside Gaza,” said John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.

Of the 100-120 trucks permitted to enter per day, some 37-40 are for UNRWA, about half are for commercial goods such as meat and nappies, and the remainder are for other aid agencies, said Ging, who pointed out that before June 2007 Israel permitted 500-600 trucks to enter daily.

and this is why aid workers are even protesting because they are kept from getting inside gaza:

Aid agencies have been protesting about their restricted access to Gaza since the 18 January ceasefire, stressing that the full opening of crossing points is crucial for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“It is unacceptable that staff of international aid agencies with expertise in emergency response are still not given full access into Gaza, and that the crossings are not fully operational for humanitarian and commercial goods,” said Charles Clayton, chair of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), which includes 75 agencies.

here is an al jazeera report on the aid situation and the challenges posed to those sending it to gaza:

and this is why the tunnels are so vital for palestinians in gaza, why they must remain open and why it is so devastating when israeli terrorists bomb them as they did last night (see fayyad’s post on kabobfest for the racist response among israeli terrorists egging on renewed bombing in ha’aretz):

Israel says the attacks on the Rafah tunnels are aimed at stopping alleged weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip by Hamas fighters.

The tunnels are also used to smuggle food, fuel and consumer goods from Egypt and are considered a life-line for thousands of ordinary Gazans.

there are other ways this gaza prison functions to keep people locked up, including those needing life-saving medical treatment outside gaza as jonathan cook reports:

For four days running, an ambulance has driven 15-year-old Amira Ghirim from Shifa Hospital in Gaza to the Rafah border in the hope that she will be allowed to cross into Egypt and then on to France, where she has been promised emergency surgery.

Amira’s left arm and thigh were crushed and her internal organs damaged by falling rubble when a shell hit her home in the Tel al Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City in the final days of Israel’s offensive. The attack killed her father, brother and sister, leaving her an orphan.

But, despite her urgent need for surgery, Amira has been turned away at the border each time, said her aunt, Mona Ghirim. “Each morning we arrived at the crossing and the Egyptian soldiers cursed us and told us to go away.”

Ms Ghirim said Amira’s condition has been deteriorating because of the long periods out of hospital. Yesterday, after hearing news that the border would remain shut, they decided to abandon the journey. “She is very ill and these futile trips are not helping.”

Amira is one of four children who have been offered potentially life-saving surgery by a team of doctors in France. But she and the other children appear to be victims of a bureaucratic wrangle involving the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Egypt.

but of course the biggest culprit, at the root of this conflict, is always the israeli terrorists. to be sure, they have far too many partners in their war crimes, but their crimes are at the center, which are fueled by their racism. just check out this graffiti from the inside of palestinian homes in zeitoun, gaza:

israeli terrorist graffiti

israeli terrorist graffiti

israeli terrorist graffiti

israeli terrorist graffiti

this is not isolated racism (also see eva bartlett’s newest post for more photographs, films, and descriptions of racist graffiti and destruction in gaza). anyone who saw inside lebanese homes in south lebanon after the israeli terrorist invasion in 2006 saw the same kind of graffiti (though we also found many homes where they also shat on the living room floor, on beds, in pots and pans). rampant, just look at how yigal bronner and neve gordon describe what israeli terrorists chant at futball games:

Israeli soccer matches were suspended during the assault on Gaza. When the games resumed last week, the fans had come up with a new chant: “Why have the schools in Gaza been shut down?” sang the crowd. “Because all the children were gunned down!” came the answer.

Aside from its sheer barbarism, this chant reflects the widespread belief among Israeli Jews that Israel scored an impressive victory in Gaza – a victory measured, not least, by the death toll.

for the record, i’m told that the old chant is “death to arabs.”

likewise the racism of the israeli terrorist army’s chief rabbi, avichay rontzki, has magnified this racism by producing a booklet from the army’s “jewish awareness department” as jacky rowland reports on al jazeera:

supposedly rontzki was “severely reprimanded” today (in israeli terrorist terms, this means he was treated to a bottle of champagne).

but there are other ways racism works internally here in palestine and in the region. sometimes it is also militarized as when the lebanese army besieged the palestinian nahr el bared refugee camp in the summer of 2007. until now only a small fraction of the palestinians from this camp have been allowed to return to it. those who live there now and who are working to rebuild their lives with little help from the outside world, including the lebanese government, live in a prison, too. one cannot get inside without permission from the army–this applies to those who live there and those who wish to visit their friends and loved ones who live there. now the rumors of a lebanese naval base which have circulated for over a year now appear to be valid and in response the people of the camp wrote an open letter to prime minister fouad siniora, which reads in part:

Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers,

You, who are opposed to the siege of Gaza and the crazy war launched on it, why don’t you support this same people [the Palestinian] in Lebanon by granting it a dignified existence without military constraints and laws prohibiting the right to work or own or even bequeath property to one’s descendants.

We thought we were partners and refused to believe in a conspiracy theory that claimed the destruction of the camp was intended to allow for the building of naval and land military bases. However, we have no choice but offer a negative reading of the situation of inhumanity and humiliation we live in.

Having expressed our opinion and spoken of our reality and the unbearable conditions being forced upon us, we shall assume that you are now aware of it. And so we kindly urge you to review the condition of this camp and to remove all military manifestations on its ground. We also urge you to remove the barbed wire and barriers and to facilitate the movement of people and the return of normal civilian life to its former state.

We also hope that you revisit the decisions issued in relation to Nahr al-Bared camp after its destruction in light of the difficult times that all Palestinians are going through, and we beseech you to place military and naval bases far from Palestinian and Lebanese schools and neighborhoods.

there is also the kind of racism here in palestine of a more personal level. i ate lunch yesterday with an african palestinian colleague who is originally from yaffa. he lived in the u.s. for a while and was comparing the racism there to the racism here. he was telling me that here he has been unable to find a wife because he is darker in complexion than other palestinians and as a result no family, as of yet, has allowed him to marry their daughter. racism, unfortunately, is universal. for those who are unaware, there is a community of african palestinians who live all over palestine, including al quds:

Currently some forty African Palestinian families live inside the old city, many of whom reside within 50 feet of the center. Upon talking with Adam, the center’s young director, one gets a sense of how proud the community is of its identity. “Many of our ancestors were pious Muslims who came from across Africa to defend Al-Aqsa from military conquest,” I was told by Adam and others in the center. “They stayed and married and their children grew up here. “We are as Palestinian as anyone else but we also remember and our proud of where are great grandfathers came from and sometimes visit or stay in touch with our other family members in Africa.” Aside from the various wars which brought Muslims from Africa to safeguard the sanctity of its Muslim Holy Sites, other Africans settled in Palestine after spiritual pilgrimages to the land’s various holy sites, including of course the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Many Palestinian Africans have heroically managed to retain their presence in this incredibly important and highly symbolic space even while the oppressive closure policies of the Israelis makes life increasingly difficult in all kinds of ways. “They don’t want us to live,” said one of the community leaders. “They go around telling the world that we are savages and want to kill them all. This is ridiculous. Here I am telling you that I am Muslim, Palestinian and African and I have no problem living peacefully with the Jewish community and I condemn suicide bombings. But these people don’t even give us a chance. They make life impossible because they want us to leave Jerusalem but we will never leave. We will die here before we leave.” The sprawling growth of Israeli settler housing outside and within Jerusalem’s Old City seems to be in line with a policy that the city’s old Israeli mayor ten years ago dubbed as the “Judaization of Jerusalem.” The harsh realities of a population under military occupation punctuate the daily lives of these Palestinians who are often cut off from being visited or supported by Palestinians elsewhere in the West Bank or Gaza. Many of the first and second generation leaders of this community like most Palestinians have spent considerable time languishing in Israeli jails for offenses as minor as being rumored to have been at a protest.

my colleague and i continued our discussion about racism in the united states and the way it works on the state level, too. this is seen most clearly in the discourse about the closure of guantánamo as mickey z reports on dissident voice:

Waiting a year to close a single prison is nothing to celebrate. Transferring those illegally detained humans is not change anyone can believe in. Public promises about not torturing have been heard before and even if we could trust such dubious assurances, why are we so goddamned appreciative when a US president merely declares his theoretical intention to think about adhering to fundamental international law?

The Chairman of Change has made no secret of how he wholeheartedly adores the bogus war on terror. Closing Gitmo (an act which still falls squarely into the believe-it-when-you-see-it category) is at best a strategic sidestep by a cautious and calculating new president.

A related New York Times piece began oh-so-cleverly: “Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed coming to a prison near you?” In the Jan. 24, 2009 article—“Guantánamo Detainees? Not in My State,”—journalists (sic) Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane wrung their hands over the 245 remaining inmates being “released into quiet neighborhoods across the United States.” It’s illustrative of the utter depravity we tolerate as normal in the home of the brave that war criminals like Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Dick Cheney, Wesley Clark, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, etc. etc. walk freely among us while the newspaper of record preys on gullible readers with sensationalism and xenophobic fear mongering.

In that same Times article, Mazzetti and Shane inadvertently offered another manifestation of America’s cultural rot when they mentioned a discussion of reopening San Francisco’s Alcatraz Prison specifically for the assumed terrorists detained (illegally) at Gitmo. But a spokesman for California Senator Diane Feinstein was quick to clarify that Alcatraz was a “national park and tourist attraction, not a functioning prison,” and that the senator “does not consider it a suitable place to house detainees.”

americans seem to be oblivious to the racist/xenophobic discourse surrounding the closure of guantánamo: where are the reparations? why is it that these men who have been illegally detained for years now are not being offered u.s. citizenship? why are they being forced to seek refuge elsewhere when the united states is responsible for their detention and torture over the last several years?

but this is how the u.s. treats its own prisoners, too. american indian movement leader and political prisoner leonard peltier, who should have been pardoned decades ago was recently beaten up in canaan federal penitentiary:

I am so OUTRAGED! My brother Leonard was severely beaten upon his arrival at the Canaan Federal Penitentiary. When he went into population after his transfer, some inmates assaulted him. The severity of his injuries is that he suffered numerous blows to his head and body, receiving a large bump on his head, possibly a concussion, and numerous bruises. Also, one of his fingers is swollen and discolored, and he has pain in his chest and ribcage. There was blood everywhere from his injuries.

Write to your congressional representatives, and write or e-mail President Obama to call on them to insure that Leonard is receiving medical attention for his injuries.

We feel that prison authorities at the prompting of the FBI orchestrated this attack and thus, we are greatly concerned about his safety. It may be that the attackers, whom Leonard did not even know, were offered reduced sentences for carrying out this heinous assault. Since Leonard is up for parole soon, this could be a conspiracy to discredit a model prisoner.

He was placed in solitary confinement and only given one meal. This is generally done when you won’t name your attackers; incidentally, being only given one meal seriously jeopardizes his health because of his diabetes. Prison officials refuse to release any info to the family, but they need to hear from his supporters to protect his safety, as does President Obama. His attorneys are trying to get calls into him now.

if you want to help peltier here is what you can do:

Call Canaan Federal Prison at 570-488-8000 to register your concern that Leonard was severely beaten and to ask what steps are being taken to insure his safety and take care of his medical needs. You must give Leonard’s prison identification number–89637-132–to have your call recorded.

and this is not an isolated case either. racism and the prison industrial complex go hand in hand in the u.s. jordan flaherty recently reported on torture used in angola prison in louisiana:

The torture of prisoners in U.S. custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending U.S. support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in solitary for over 36 years. Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, Louisiana, has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.

In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, 25 inmates testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These 25 inmates – who were not involved in the escape attempt – testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell and threatened that they would be killed. They were threatened by guards that they would be sexually assaulted with batons. They were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. They were bloodied, had teeth knocked out, were beaten until they lost control of bodily functions and beaten until they signed statements or confessions presented to them by prison officials. One inmate had a broken jaw, and another was placed in solitary confinement for eight years.

all of this racism of the u.s. mixed with israeli terrorism and their war crimes, prison and torture systems make for great partners in crime it would seem. michael hureaux perez draws out some of these connections in the black agenda report:

There is the reality of the working class world, which is the reality of the Gaza Strip, and the urban black working class reality of Sean Bell, murdered on his wedding day by New York City cops, and Oscar Grant, who was murdered by the Oakland Transit cops on New Year’s Day. The Gaza Strip is the reality of the inner city in the United States, writ large.

Then there is the pseudo-reality of race and class justice that the corporate sponsors of Barack Obama – and his programmatic petty boojwah supporters of whatever racial and class background – want us all to absorb. Well, I been there, and I done that. Only back in my starry-eyed youth, Barack Obama was named David Dinkins, or Norm Rice, or Coleman Young (reservation cops all), or some other sad clown who was arrogant enough to run interference for a ruling class so venal and crazy it doesn’t even care that its ass is on fire. And it doesn’t take a stellar political economist to realize that if the problems of race and class or workplace and cultural empowerment can’t get solved at the regional level using the political schematics of the capitalist system, those problems sure as hell aren’t going to get solved at the national level by a charming rogue who uses the same schematic. Trust me on this, even as the trumpet and rose petal spectacle of the inaugural continues to ring in our ears: Obama’s United States is still the Western Imperium, which means it’s the tyranny of race, class and commodity, but now it’s parading at the national level in blackface. (Talk about stale ideas!)