mr. carter goes to gaza

there are a lot of people who are very pleased with jimmy carter’s trip to gaza this week. certainly, his trip to gaza helped put gaza back in the news, which is important. but carter’s insistence that there should be a two-state solution with no right of return for palestinian refugees makes me extremely frustrated and unwilling to get behind carter’s political campaigning. he’s right on many issues, such as hamas is a legitimate political party as well as resistance organization, which should be included in any discussion about the future of palestine. and he surprised me by meeting with palestinian families in gaza who have relatives in zionist prisons (11,000+ palestinian political prisoners compared to the 1 zionist pow who gets far too much media attention). still, his refusal to admit that apartheid exists in the entirety of palestine and his refusal to promote the right of return and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement shows that he is not altogether different from most american political leaders. here are his remarks that he made in gaza as posted on the palestine chronicle website:

Director of UNRWA operations John Ging, thank you for inviting me to Gaza. Distinguished guests, children of Gaza, I am grateful for your warm reception.

I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings.

Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment – slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as “security hazards” and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

Almost one-half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

The situation in Gaza is grim, but all hope is not lost. Amidst adversity, you continue to possess both dignity and determination to work towards a brighter tomorrow. That is why educating children is so important.

I have come to Gaza to help the world know what important work you are doing. UNRWA is here to ensure that the 200,000 children in its schools can develop their talent, express their dynamism, and help create the path to a better future.

The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities. UNRWA is teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the struggle for these rights all over the world, Gaza’s children are learning that as you seek justice for yourselves, you must be sure that your behavior provides justice for others.

They are learning that it is wrong to fire rockets that may kill Israeli children. They are learning that arbitrary detention and the summary execution of political opponents is not acceptable. They are learning that the rule of law must be honored here in Gaza.

I would like to congratulate both UNRWA and the children who have completed the human rights curriculum with distinction. They are tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians want more than just to survive. They hope to lead the Arab world, to be a bridge between modern political life and traditions that date back to the Biblical era. The nation you will create must be pluralistic and democratic – the new Palestine that your intellectuals have dreamt about. Palestine must combine the best of the East and the West. The Palestinian state, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

With our new leaders in Washington, my country will move into the forefront of this birth of a new Palestine. We were all reminded of this renewed hope and commitment by President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1 ½ million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies.

Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian Authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement of 1993, but the Arab Peace Initiative is being considered now by all sides.

I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of Gaza, thank you for inviting me and for sharing this happy occasion with me. Congratulations for your achievements.

for now these are just words. it remains to be seen if carter’s words can translate into action even on a small scale. for his part ismail haniyya, who spoke with carter the other day, vowed to work towards a two-state solution:

Ismail Haniyya, Prime Minister of the dissolved government of Hamas in Gaza, stated Tuesday that Hamas supports ant real effort to establish a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The statements of Haniyya came in a press conference with the former US President, Jimmy Carter, who is visiting the region.

“I will push for this aim, I will cooperate with all factions to achieve a parallel and extended ceasefire with Israel”, Haniyya said, “But this ceasefire requires Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and to open the border terminals”.

but seriously: what does that mean exactly? let’s say that all palestinian refugees had the right of return and there were those who returned to their villages in 1948 palestine to live under a regime that only allows jews to have full citizenship and rights and the rest returned to gaza and the west bank. how is it that palestinians are supposed to live a life as a people when the zionist entity has laws forbidding palestinians in 1948 palestine to marry palestinians in gaza and the west bank? how are the supposed to travel around their land with zionists controlling all the borders? and how is it that a so-called state can exist when gaza and the west bank are separated by at best an hour’s drive from one “border” to the other? here is a typical issue facing palestinians that i suspect would not change even if a so-called two-state solution were imposed on palestinians:

Israel has imposed new restrictions barring Palestinians living in Gaza from moving to the West Bank, two Israeli human rights groups said on Tuesday.

According to the new regulation, which was presented by the Israeli state to the High Court of Justice in response to several petitions, no Palestinian living in Gaza is allowed to apply for residency in the West Bank except under exceptional circumstances, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Only Gazans who have close family registered as living in the West Bank will even be considered for a permit to move there, the paper said.

“Israel is systematically taking action to further isolate the Gaza Strip, while increasing the geographic and political separation between Gaza and the West Bank,” said rights groups Gisha and Hamoked.

“The new procedure contradicts a long list of Israeli undertakings to conduct negotiations for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state, including an explicit commitment in the Oslo Accords to preserve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as ‘a single territorial unit,'” the groups said.

According to the regulation, there are three criteria for allowing movement from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, but only if the applicant does not have a “security impediment.”

In order to be considered, a Palestinian living in Gaza must fulfill one of the following criteria, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post:

• Someone who suffers from a chronic medical condition and who has no other family member (not necessarily of the first degree) in Gaza to provide care.

• A minor under the age of 16 living with one parent in Gaza who dies and another living in the West Bank, on condition that there is no relative in Gaza to look after the minor. Even if she does have such relatives, Israel may allow her or her to move, depending on the nature of her relationship with the living parent.

• A person over the age of 65 who is in a “needy situation” and has a “first-degree relative” in the West Bank who can help him, conditional, in part, on not having relatives in the West Bank.

According to the regulation, anyone who meets one of these criteria and is allowed to move, will receive a temporary permit, renewable each year, for seven years. After seven years, if he or she has proven he is not deemed a “security threat,” he or she may be entered in the West Bank population registry.

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

this week al mezan published a statistical report on the savaging of gaza which reveals the following data:

On Sunday 14 June 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights published a statistical report entitled, ‘Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers.’ This report presents figures on the persons killed and property destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its recent invasion of the Gaza Strip codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. The report is currently available in Arabic and will be circulated in English soon.

The introduction to the report provides an overview of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip which was conducted by the IOF during the period 27 January 2008 – 18 January 2009. The report demonstrates that during this invasion, the IOF perpetrated grave and systematic violations of the rules of international law. The report further emphasizes that field investigations clearly indicate that the IOF perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, deliberately targeting civilians, forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands and attacking displaced persons who had fled to temporary shelters flying the United Nations flag.

The report highlights the timing of first attacks launched and their surprise nature which indicates an intention on the part of the IOF to cause the highest possible number of civilian casualties and injuries. In particular, the first wave of attacks coincided with school arrival and departure times placing school children at great risk. (Gazan schools operate a ‘shift’ system with some children attending morning sessions and others afternoon sessions). The report also presents the field investigation methodology.

The report provides the numbers of persons killed and extent of property destroyed by the IOF. During the offensive, the IOF killed or fatally wounded a total of 1410 persons of which 355 were under the age of 18, 110 were women and 240 were resistance fighters. The IOF also partially or fully destroyed 11,135 homes, 209 industrial premises, 724 commercial establishments, 650 vehicles and 6271 (1000 meters) of agricultural land.

The report presents 16 tables addressing the details of persons killed, including socio-economic information, in addition to information related to the incident. Details of damage caused to property are also presented. The numbers of persons killed by unmanned surveillance aircraft (drones) hints that the State of Israel was trying to market its surveillance aircraft, with which hundreds were killed during the Offensive.

The report concludes that Al Mezan investigations, in addition to investigations by other national (Palestinian) and international organizations, present compelling evidence of the perpetration of a large number of grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Fourth Geneva Convention. These crimes include: willful killing, including the targeting of houses while the residents were inside without apparent military necessity; shooting civilians waving white flags; indiscriminate use of excessive forces in civilian areas; targeting civilians and civilian objects without distinction, proportionality or military necessity; using civilians as human shields; targeting medical teams; preventing medical access to the injured; refraining from taking any steps to assist and save the lives of the injured; and targeting United Nations premises and teams. These practices resulted in the killing of large number of civilians.

The report also address the consequences of IOF practices against Gaza residents such as the destruction of water and electricity networks and the blocking and destruction of roads connecting the Gaza Strip, the demolition of large areas of cultivated land and a high number of industrial facilities. These policies caused immense suffering by heavily restricting access to food and medicines, especially after years of siege and closure, which represents collective punishment of the entire population. The report also points at the psychological impact of intensive attacks on residential areas, killing and destruction, as well as the indiscriminate use of warnings to civilians across the Gaza Strip in a context where there was no safe place for civilians to go. The warning announcements were dropped in the centres of towns as well as in the shelters set up by the UN to house the displaced.

The report also addresses the internal Israeli investigation into allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. This investigation was declared closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 by the Israeli military Attorney General 11 days after it commenced. It concluded that the IOF had operated in accordance with international law and did not perpetrate war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The nature of this investigation is a continuation of Israeli practices which offer immunity to its soldiers and leaders. This requires the doubling of efforts to hold the perpetrators of war crimes, or those who ordered them, accountable through channels afforded by international law.

Al Mezan asserts that this practice of offering immunity confirms the firm conviction of observers of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories that the State of Israel does not have the will to investigate crimes perpetrated by its forces. Instead, through statements made by its continued leadership, it deliberately encourages them to perpetrate these crimes and assures them that the political leadership will provide full protection to its forces.

Al Mezan further asserts that the State of Israel’s refusal to conduct an investigation in accordance with relevant international standards, and its provision of protection and immunity to members of its armed forces and government who have perpetrated or ordered war crimes, places the moral responsibility on the shoulders of the international community. Al Mezan stresses that the international community holds both moral and legal responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes in accordance with international legal obligations relevant to the prosecution of war criminals.

Al Mezan condemns in the strongest possible terms the perpetration by the IOF of war crimes in the Gaza Strip. These crimes continue today through collective punishment, and the siege imposed by Israel against the Gaza Strip. Further, Al Mezan condemns the State of Israel’s encouragement of the further perpetration of these crimes by offering protection and immunity to their perpetrators.

Al Mezan calls on the international community to:

· Assume its moral and legal responsibility to end the siege on the Gaza Strip in order to pave the way for reconstruction

· Investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated by the IOF in the Gaza Strip in preparation for perpetrators to be prosecuted and held to account

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

a group of activists and artists recently got together to produce something called “gaza over and over.” it is a 70-page glossy document that catalogues the war crimes committed by the zionist entity in gaza as well as various political and artisitc responses to it such as the khalil bendib and carlos latuff images i posted here. there is also some nice documentation of protests around the world, including the successful boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. you can download their document by going to their website or by clicking this link for the pdf file.

and for someone with much stronger, more factual, historical language who doesn’t only give speeches, but who actually puts his body where his mouth is by doing things like actively supporting boycott, divestment, and sanctions compare this recent piece, posted by pulse media, by ilan pappe to carter. quite a different sort of politics and a point of view that i find it much easier to get behind:

If there is anything new in the never ending sad story of Palestine it is the clear shift in public opinion in this country. I remember coming to these isles in 1980 when supporting the Palestinian cause was confined to the left and in it to a very particular section and ideological stream. The post-holocaust trauma and guilt complex, military and economic interests and the charade of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East all played a role in providing immunity for the state of Israel. Very few were moved, so it seems, by a state that had dispossessed half of Palestine’s native population, demolished half of their villages and towns, discriminated against the minority among them who lived within its borders through an apartheid system and enclaved two million and a half of them in a harsh and oppressive military occupation.

Almost thirty years later and it seems that all these filters and cataracts have been removed. The magnitude of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is well known, the suffering of the people in the occupied territories recorded and described even by the American president as unbearable and inhuman. In a similar way, the destruction and depopulation of the greater Jerusalem area is noted daily and the racist nature of the policies towards the Palestinians in Israel are frequently rebuked and condemned.

The reality today in 2009 is described by the UN as ‘a human catastrophe’. The conscious and conscientious sections of the British society know very well who caused and who produced this catastrophe. This is not related any more to elusive circumstances, or to the ‘conflict’ – it is seen clearly as the outcome of Israeli policies throughout the years. When Desmond Tutu was asked for his reaction to what he saw in the occupied territories he noted sadly that it was worse than Apartheid. He should know.

As in the case of South Africa these decent people, either as individuals or as members of organizations, voice their outrage against the continued oppression, colonization, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Palestine. They are looking for ways of showing their protest and some even hope to impact their government into changing its old policy of indifference and inaction in the face of the continued destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. Many among them are Jews, as these atrocities are done in their name according to the logic of the Zionist ideology, and quite a few among them are veterans of previous civil struggles in this country for similar causes all over the world. They are not confined any more to one political party and they come from all walks of life.

So far the British government is not moved. It was also passive when the anti-Apartheid movement in this country demanded of it to impose sanctions on South Africa. It took several decades for that activism from below to reach the political top. It takes longer in the case of Palestine: guilt about the Holocaust, distorted historical narratives and contemporary misrepresentation of Israel as a democracy seeking peace and the Palestinians as eternal Islamic terrorists blocked the flow of the popular impulse. But it is beginning to find its way and presence, despite the continued accusation of any such demand as being anti-Semitic and the demonization of Islam and Arabs. The third sector, that important link between civilians and government agencies, has shown us the way. One trade union after the other, one professional group after the other, have all sent recently a clear message: enough is enough. It is done in the name of decency, human morality and basic civil commitment not to remain idle in the face of atrocities of the kind Israel has and still is committing against the Palestinian people.

In the last eight years the Israeli criminal policy escalated, and the Palestinian activists were seeking new means to confront it. They have tried it all, armed struggle, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and diplomacy: nothing worked. And yet they are not giving up and now they are proposing a non violent strategy that of boycott, sanctions and divestment. With these means they wish to persuade the Western government to save not only them, but ironically also the Jews in Israel from an imminent catastrophe and bloodshed. This strategy bred the call for cultural boycott on Israel. This demand is voiced by every part of the Palestinian existence: by the civil society under occupation and by Palestinians in Israel. It is supported by the Palestinian refugees and is led by members of the Palestinian exile communities. It came in the right moment and gave individuals and organizations in this country a way to express their disgust at the Israeli policies and at the same time an avenue for participating in the overall pressure on the government to change its policy of providing immunity for the impunity on the ground.

It is bewildering that this shift of public opinion has no impact so far on policy; but again we are reminded of the tortuous way the campaign against apartheid had to go before it became a policy. It is also worth remembering that two brave women in Dublin, toiling on the cashiers in a local supermarket were the ones who began a huge movement of change by refusing to sell South African goods. Twenty nine years later, Britain joined others in imposing sanctions on Apartheid. So while governments hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organised campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use their name or fame for indicating to us all that decent people in this world cannot support what Israel does and what it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their life time. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the more general harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere.

On the other hand, citizens in this country, especially famous ones, who continue to broadcast, quite often out of ignorance or out of more sinister reasons, the fable of Israel as a cultured Western society or as the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ are not only wrong factually. They provide immunity for one of the greatest atrocities in our time. Some of them demand we should leave culture out of our political actions. This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct. Eventually, one day the outrage from below, including in Israel itself, will produce a new policy – the present American administration is already showing early signs of it. History did not look kindly at those film makers who collaborated with McCarthy or endorsed Apartheid. It would adopt a similar attitude to those who are silent about Palestine now.

A good case in point unfolded last month in Edinburgh. Ken Loach led a campaign against the official and financial connections the city’s film festival had with the Israeli embassy. Such a stance was meant to send a message that this embassy represents not only the film makers of Israel but also its generals who massacred the people of Gaza, its tormentors who torture Palestinians in jails, its judges who sent 10,000 Palestinians – half of them children – without trial to prison, its racist mayors who want to expel Arabs from their cities, its architects who built walls and fences to enclave people and prevent them from reaching their fields, schools, cinemas and offices and its politicians who strategise yet again how to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they began in 1948. Ken Loach felt that only a call for boycotting the festival as whole would bring its directors into a moral sense and perspective. He was right; it did, because the case is so clear cut and the action so simple and pure.

It is not surprising that a counter voice was heard. This is an ongoing struggle and would not be won easily. As I write these words, we commemorate the 42nd year of the Israeli occupation, the longest, and one of the cruellest in modern time. But time has also produced the lucidity needed for such decisions. This is why Ken’s action was immediately effective; next time even this would not be necessary. One of his critics tried to point to the fact that people in Israel like Ken’s films, so this was a kind of ingratitude. I can assure this critic that those of us in Israel who watch Ken’s movies are also those who salute him for his bravery and unlike this critic we do not think of this an act similar to a call for Israel’s destruction, but rather the only way of saving Jews and Arabs living there. But it is difficult anyway to take such criticism seriously when it is accompanied by description of the Palestinians as a terrorist entity and Israel as a democracy like Britain. Most of us in this country have moved far away from this propagandist silliness and are ready for change. We are now waiting for the government of these isles to follow suit.

2 thoughts on “mr. carter goes to gaza

  1. I really like the art work you use on this site, especially from Carlos.

    I have been learning to reject, challenge and turn the tables on those who cry “anti-semitism” any time anyone makes any criticism of Israel.
    It is liberating and powerful to do so….and I see it has a positive effect. It shuts up some parrots and those who just react. And it makes the more thoughtful ones think about it.

    I notice most people back down rather than fight.

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