#ReinstateSalaita at #UIUC

I’ve been meaning to write about this for over a month now, but a variety of circumstances has made it impossible for me to find the time. For those who don’t know, a friend and colleague, Steven Salaita, has been fired (by the Chancellor, not the faculty) from a tenure-track position in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign because of a few tweets that he wrote expressing the rage that he felt at Israel for the genocidal rampage it unleashed on Gaza over the past couple of months. This is, of course, goes against the norms of how universities operate and the freedoms they are supposed to uphold (namely the freedom of speech).

Tomorrow the trustees will be meeting to discuss this once more so the university has an opportunity to do the right thing. I sent them the following letter today:

10 September 2014

Dear Chancellor Wise and the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois:

For the past month I’ve been following the news about Professor Steven Salaita with great interest. He is a tremendous colleague and scholar, one who I feel fortunate enough to have worked with in various academic contexts over the past several years—from American Studies to organising with the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Although I am no longer an academic, I want to lend my support to Professor Salaita’s case because I think that the teachers and students alike will suffer without his presence on campus. His congenial and collegial nature—which only a brief meeting can reveal—make him an important asset to any academic institution. Moreover, Professor Salaita an invaluable scholar—indeed he single-handedly created this subfield of indigenous studies in which he compares Palestinian and American Indian histories and cultures.

When I did teach and conduct research I found his scholarship to be quite influential, especially The Holy Land in Transit: Colonialism and the Quest for Canaan, which I taught in my American Zionism course at the American University of Beirut. His work was deeply appreciated by my students and they certainly gained a new framework for understanding the dual contexts of colonialism in West Asia and North America.

As a public intellectual, I find his writing deeply moving and significant. He’s one public intellectual I continue to read and follow in my post-academic life. From his online presence on Twitter to his active life as a voracious book reader and reviewer on Goodreads, he helps spread knowledge and ideas in a variety of venues. It is refreshing to see an academic speaking freely about issues affecting real people’s lives, whether in Palestine or in the U.S., in ways that illuminate the nuances and contextual aspects of whatever issue he lends his pen to. How ironic that Professor Salaita’s fearless behaviour led to his firing from an institution that is obligated to uphold the values of free speech.

I urge you to reconsider your decision to fire Professor Salaita. At this juncture maintaining your stance will only harm your institution, as you must be aware of the petitions and boycott campaigns already receiving tremendous support. But as Professor Salaita stated so eloquently in his address at UIUC yesterday, the issue is far larger than him if you proceed down this path. You are sending a dangerous precedent for academia as a whole. Please do the right thing and reinstate Professor Salaita.

Yours truly,

Dr. Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman

This case is significant for a number of reasons–not the least of which is the type of precedent it could be setting for how universities act not only in relation to the subject of Palestine, but in terms of free speech more generally. Here are a number of excellent articles on the subject that can give some terrific background and insight, including Steven’s appearance at the university for a press conference today along with his attorneys from the Centre for Constitutional Rights (their letter to Phyllis Wise may be read here). There are also links to a site to show you what you can do to support Steven from sending funds for his legal fees to boycotting UIUC until it reinstates him. Also, there is a petition at Change.org that, as of today, has over 18,000 signatures! Click here to add your name to it.

Jakeet Singh’s “Why aren’t we talking about racism and colonialism in the Salaita affair?” (Electronic Intifada)

Christine Des Garennes and Julie Wurth’s Who is Steven Salaita? (The News Gazette)

Marjorie Heins’ “Untangling the Steven Salaita Case” (Academe)

Corey Robins’ “Academic Mores and Manners in the Salaita Affair” 

Corey Robins’ “Chancellor Wise Speaks”

“The Racist Professor at the University of Illinois” (Academe)

American Historical Association’s “Letter of Concern to University of Illinois Chancellor Regarding Salaita Case”

Mark LeVine’s “Dehiring at University of Illinois threatens tomorrow’s scholars” (Al Jazeera)

Corey Robin’s “More Votes of No Confidence, a Weird Ad, and a Declaration of a Non-Emergency”

What’s Next Los Angeles City Council? Blaming Jews for Nazi Germany? Blaming African Americans for slavery?

In response to the unconscionable resolution that my home city, Los Angeles, California, has recently introduced, blaming Palestinians in Gaza for the murder, massacre, and genocide that Israel with U.S.-made weapons creates, I have re-rendered the resolution. The original may be read here. Answer Coalition is organising a protest and I encourage people to flood the Facebook page of Herb J. Wesson and the Twitter account of Bob Bluemnfield in particular.

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, any official position of the City of Los Angeles with respect to legislation, rules, regulations, or policies proposed to or pending before a local, state or federal governmental body or agency must first have been adopted in the form of a Resolution by the City Council with the concurrence of the Mayor; and

WHEREAS, “human shields” refer to the use of civilians, prisoners of war, or other noncombatants whose mere presence is designed to protect combatants and objects from attack; and

WHEREAS, since 9 July (only one day into Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”) Israeli Occupation Forces charged with terrorising the civilian population in Gaza, dropped “400 tonnes of bombs and missiles on the Gaza Strip” where no one is allowed to seek refuge since Israel has imposed its 7 year long siege on the 1.5 million people in Gaza; and

WHEREAS, it has been observed that the Israeli Occupation Forces regularly use Palestinian children in Gaza—and elsewhere—as human shields; and

WHEREAS, Israel has not kept Gaza’s civilian population on a literal “diet”, preventing them from having unfettered access to the most basic of human needs and rights—food, shelter, water, powerPalestinians have resorted to the dangerous and expensive means of creating tunnels in order to procure these basic needs and other commodities from televisions to cattle; and

WHEREAS, Israel makes a pretence that they warn Palestinians in Gaza about the coming bombs dropping above them, which they have but a mere minute to try to escape, but it is disingenuous given that Israel’s 7 year blockade prevents anyone from leaving the Gaza Strip by land, sea, or air; and

WHERAS, all of Israel’s military attacks from land, sea, and air target civilian populations even with its so-called “precision artillery”: “Conversely, Israel, with a high-powered US-financed precision-guided arsenal at its disposal, has deliberately bombed civilian targets including private homes, hospitals and mosques, as well as schools, UN shelters, playgrounds, ambulances, media buildings, water treatment facilities and Gaza’s only power plant”; and

WHEREAS, Israel, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations enable Israel to engage in state terrorism, pushing Palestinians further and further off their land, and ironically, given their propaganda, into the sea, and all of these bodies are responsible for Israel’s use of human shields, including local governments like Los Angeles which has been trained by Israeli military forces as part of the Israelification of US policing; and

WHEREAS, currently the United States government—both federal and local—seems to be complicit in Israel’s state-terrorist operations in the Gaza Strip even as Israel repeatedly thumbs its nose both at international law and the United States;

WHEREAS, opposition to the use of human shields is consistent with international law to preserve the rights of innocent bystanders in armed conflicts, especially children;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, with the concurrence of the civilian population of Los Angeles, that by the adoption of this Resolution, the City of Los Angeles hereby includes in its 2013-14 Federal Legislative Program SUPPORT for a NEW RESOLUTION that condemns Israel’s state terrorism and the U.S. government’s state-sponsored terrorism in violation of international humanitarian law.

PRESENTED BY: ______________

DR. MARCY NEWMAN

Los Angeleno since 1969

SECONDED BY: _________________

My fellow citizens

15 August 2014

on the 575-page report proving the zionist entity’s war crimes

the headline on the united nations website reads: “un mission finds evidence of war crimes by both sides in gaza conflict.” here is the news brief in full and if you want to read the full 575-page report download this pdf file:

The United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict at the start of this year has found evidence that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity.

“We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza,” the head of the mission, Justice Richard Goldstone, told a press briefing today.

“The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF).”

“There’s no question that the firing of rockets and mortars [by armed groups from Gaza] was deliberate and calculated to cause loss of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures. The mission found that these actions also amount to serious war crimes and also possibly crimes against humanity,” he said.

The 575-page report by the four-person mission was released today, ahead of its presentation to the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva on 29 September.

“The mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility,” the report’s executive summary said. “It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.”

It went on to criticize the “deliberate and systematic policy on the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and water installations,” and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

On the objectives and strategy of Israel’s military operation, the mission concluded that military planners deliberately followed a doctrine which involved “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.”

On the firing of mortars from Gaza, the mission concluded that they were indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against a civilian population and “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” It added that their apparent intention of spreading terror among the Israeli civilian population was a violation of international law.

The report recommended that the Security Council should require Israel to take steps to launch appropriate independent investigations into the alleged crimes committed, in conformity with international standards, and report back on these investigations within six months.

It further called on the Security Council to appoint a committee of experts to monitor the proceedings taken by the Israeli Government. If these did not take place, or were not independent and in conformity with international standards, the report called for the Security Council to refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It also called on the Security Council to require the committee of experts to perform a similar role with regard to the relevant Palestinian authorities.

At today’s briefing, Justice Goldstone said the mission had investigated 36 incidents that took place during the Israeli operation in Gaza, which he said did not relate to decisions taken in the heat of battle, but to deliberate policies that were adopted and decisions that were taken.

As an example, he described one such incident: a mortar attack on a mosque in Gaza during a religious service, which killed 15 members of the congregation and injured many others. Justice Goldstone said that even if allegations that the mosque was used as sanctuary by military groups and that weapons were stored there were true, there was still “no justification under international humanitarian law to mortar the mosque during a service,” because it could have been attacked during the night, when it was not being used by civilians.

Justice Goldstone added that the report reflected the unanimous view of the mission’s four members.

The other members of the team are Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science at the University of London; Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; and retired Colonel Desmond Travers, member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).

of course, i have a huge problem with the notion that there are two sides as reported in this document. you have the fourth most powerful military in the world against an inadequately armed palestinian resistance–the disparity with respect to casualties in the savaging of gaza tells that story quite well. angry arab offered an important observation on this report in response to an article in the economist this week:

I was rather most disappointed with this article about Judge Goldstone’s report on Israeli war crimes. It was not typical of the Economist’s coverage of the Middle East. As if the reporter was pained by the findings. Look at this sentence: “Unlike Syria, say, Israel is a democracy that claims to live by the rule of law. It needs to make its case by moral force as well as by force of arms.” Clear propaganda. But I like how Goldstone’s daughter defended her father: “Mr Goldstone’s daughter, Nicole, who lived in Israel for many years but now lives in Canada, vigorously defended her father’s report in an interview on the army radio. “If it hadn’t been for him, the report would have been even harsher,” she said, speaking in Hebrew.”

richard falk offers his analysis of the report as well as the zionist entity’s response to it thus far:

Richard Goldstone, former judge of South Aftica’s Constitutional Court, the first prosecutor at The Hague on behalf of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugolavia, and anti-apartheid campaigner reports that he was most reluctant to take on the job of chairing the UN fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the three week Gaza War of last winter.

Goldstone explains that his reluctance was due to the issue being “deeply charged and politically loaded,” and was overcome because he and his fellow commissioners were “professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation,” adding that “above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war,” as well as the duty to protect civilians to the extent possible in combat zones. The four-person fact-finding mission was composed of widely respected and highly qualified individuals, including the distinguished international law scholar, Christine Chinkin, a professor at the London School of Economics. Undoubtedly adding complexity to Goldstone’s decision is the fact that he is Jewish, with deep emotional and family ties to Israel and Zionism, bonds solidified by his long association with several organizations active in Israel.

Despite the impeccable credentials of the commission members, and the worldwide reputation of Richard Goldstone as a person of integrity and political balance, Israel refused cooperation from the outset. It did not even allow the UN undertaking to enter Israel or the Palestinian Territories, forcing reliance on the Egyptian government to facilitate entry at Rafah to Gaza. As Uri Avnery observes, however much Israel may attack the commission report as one-sided and unfair, the only plausible explanation of its refusal to cooperate with fact-finding and taking the opportunity to tell its side of the story was that it had nothing to tell that could hope to overcome the overwhelming evidence of the Israeli failure to carry out its attacks on Gaza last winter in accordance with the international law of war. No credible international commission could reach any set of conclusions other than those reached by the Goldstone Report on the central allegations.

In substantive respects the Goldstone Report adds nothing new. Its main contribution is to confirm widely reported and analyzed Israeli military practices during the Gaza War. There had been several reliable reports already issued, condemning Israel’s tactics as violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law, including by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a variety of respected Israeli human rights groups. Journalists and senior United Nations civil servants had reached similar conclusions.

Perhaps, most damning of all the material available before the Goldstone Report was the publication of a document entitled “Breaking the Silence,” containing commentaries by thirty members of the Israel Defense Forces who had taken part in Operation Cast Lead (the Israeli official name for the Gaza War). These soldiers spoke movingly about the loose rules of engagement issued by their commanders that explains why so little care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. The sense emerges from what these IDF soldiers who were in no sense critical of Israel or even of the Gaza War as such, that Israeli policy emerged out of a combination of efforts ‘to teach the people of Gaza a lesson for their support of Hamas’ and to keep IDF casualties as close to zero as possible even if meant massive death and destruction for innocent Palestinians.

Given this background of a prior international consensus on the unlawfulness of Operation Cast Lead, we must first wonder why this massive report of 575 pages has been greeted with such alarm by Israel and given so much attention in the world media. It added little to what was previously known. Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary. The report focuses its criticism on Israel’s excessive and indiscriminate uses of force. It does this by examining the evidence surrounding a series of incidents involving attacks on civilians and non-military targets. The report also does draw attention to the unlawful blockade that has restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medical supplies to subsistence levels in Gaza before, during, and since Operation Cast Lead. Such a blockade is a flagrant instance of collective punishment, explicitly prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention setting forth the legal duties of an occupying power.

All along Israel had rejected international criticism of its conduct of military operations in the Gaza War, claiming that the IDF was the most moral fighting force on the face of the earth. The IDF conducted some nominal investigations of alleged unlawful behavior that consistently vindicated the military tactics relied upon and steadfastly promised to protect any Israeli military officer or political leader internationally accused of war crimes. In view of this extensive background of confirmed allegation and angry Israeli rejection, why has the Goldstone Report been treated in Tel Aviv as a bombshell that is deeply threatening to Israel’s stature as a sovereign state?

Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, calling the report “a mockery of history” that “fails to distinguish the aggressor and a state exercising the right of self-defense,” insisting that it “legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death.” More commonly Israel’s zealous defenders condemned the report as one-sided, biased, reaching foregone conclusions, and emanating from the supposedly bastion of anti-Israeli attitudes at the UN’s Human Rights Council. This line of response to any criticism of Israel’s behavior in occupied Palestine, especially if it comes from the UN or human rights NGOs is to cry “foul play!” and avoid any real look at the substance of the charges. It is an example of what I call ‘the politics of deflection,’ attempting to shift the attention of an audience away from the message to the messenger. The more damning the criticism, the more ferocious the response. From this perspective, the Goldstone Report obviously hit the bullseye!

Considered more carefully, there are some good reasons for Israel’s panicked reaction to this damning report. First, it does come with the backing of an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’ Any fair reading of the report would show that it was balanced, was eminently mindful of Israel’s arguments relating to security, and indeed gave Israel the benefit of the doubt on some key issues.

Secondly, the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations that do go well beyond previous reports. Two are likely causing the Israeli leadership great worry: the report recommends strongly that if Israel and Hamas do not themselves within six months engage in an investigation and followup action meeting international standards of objectivity with respect to these violations of the law of war, then the Security Council should be brought into the picture, being encouraged to consider referring the whole issue of Israeli and Hamas accountability to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Even if Israel is spared this indignity by the diplomatic muscle of the United States, and possibly some European governments, the negative public relations implications of a failure to abide by this report could be severe.

Thirdly, whatever happens in the UN System, and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion. Ever since the Gaza War the solidity of Jewish support for Israel has been fraying at the edges, and this will likely now fray much further. More globally, a very robust boycott and divestment movement was gaining momentum ever since the Gaza War, and the Goldstone Report can only lend added support to such initiatives. There is a growing sense around the world that the only chance for the Palestinians to achieve some kind of just peace depends on the outcome over the symbols of legitimacy, what I have called the Legitimacy War. Increasingly, the Palestinians have been winning this second non-military war. Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa, and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.

A fourth reason for Israeli worry stemming from the report, is the green light given to national courts throughout the world to enforce international criminal law against Israelis suspects should they travel abroad and be detained for prosecution or extradition in some third country. Such individuals could be charged with war crimes arising from their involvement in the Gaza War. The report in this way encourages somewhat controversial reliance on what is known among lawyers as ‘universal jurisdiction,’ that is, the authority of courts in any country to detain for extradition or to prosecute individuals for violations of international criminal law regardless of where the alleged offenses took place.

Reaction in the Israeli media reveals that Israeli citizens are already anxious about being apprehended during foreign travel. As one law commentator put it in the Israeli press, “From now on, not only soldiers should be careful when they travel abroad, but also ministers and legal advisers.” It is well to recall that Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions calls on states throughout the world “to respect and ensure respect” for international humanitarian law “in all circumstances.” Remembering the efforts in 1998 of several European courts to prosecute Augusto Pinochet for crimes committed while he was head of state in Chile, is a reminder that national courts can be used to prosecute political and military leaders for crimes committed elsewhere than in the territory of the prosecuting state.

Of course, Israel will fight back. It has already launched a media and diplomatic blitz designed to portray the report as so one-sided as to be unworthy of serious attention. The United States Government has already disappointingly appeared to endorse this view, and repudiate the central recommendation in the Goldstone Report that the Security Council be assigned the task of implementing its findings. The American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, evidently told a closed session of the Security Council on September 16, just a day after the report was issued, that “[w]e have serious concerns about many recommendations in the report.” Elaborating on this, Ambassador Rice indicated that the UN Human Rights Council, which has no implementing authority, is the only proper venue for any action to be taken on the basis of the report. The initial struggle will likely be whether to follow the recommendation of the report to have the Security Council refer the issues of accountability to the International Criminal Court, which could be blocked by a veto from the United States or other permanent members.

There are reasons to applaud the forthrightness and comprehensiveness of the report, its care, and scrupulous willingness to conclude that both Israel and Hamas seem responsible for behavior that appears to constitute war crimes, if not crimes against humanity. Although Israel has succeeded in having the issue of one-sidedness focus on fairness to Israel, there are also some reasons to insist that the report falls short of Palestinian hopes.

For one thing, the report takes for granted, the dubious proposition that Israel was entitled to act against Gaza in self-defense, thereby excluding inquiry into whether crimes against the peace in the form of aggression had taken place by the launching of the attack. In this respect, the report takes no notice of the temporary ceasefire that had cut the rocket fire directed at Israel practically to zero in the months preceding the attacks, nor of Hamas’ repeated efforts to extend the ceasefire indefinitely provided Israel lifted its unlawful blockade of Gaza.

Further it was Israel that had seemed to provoke the breakdown of the ceasefire when it launched a lethal attack on Hamas militants in Gaza on November 4, 2008. Israel disregarded this seemingly available diplomatic alternative to war to achieve security on its borders. Recourse to war, even if the facts justify self-defense, is according to international law, a last resort. By ignoring Israel’s initiation of a one-sided war the Goldstone Report accepts the dubious central premise of Operation Cast Lead, and avoids making a finding of aggression.

and here is sherine tadros’ al jazeera report from gaza about the findings in which she asks the most important question of all: what happens next?:

indeed what to do next? well it is quite the no brainer that the war criminals responsible for this latest savagery from the zionist entity should be tried for war crimes. in an article in ha’aretz the context of goldstone’s report–and his own frame of reference in relation to his judicial philosophy comes from war crimes tribunals from world war ii:

Judge Richard Goldstone, the head of a United Nations commission that this week charged Israel with committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip during its offensive there last winter, believes bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust, according to a lecture he delivered in Israel in 2000.

Goldstone spoke about the subject at Jerusalem’s Yakar: Center for Tradition and Creativity, at a lecture attended by former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak. The Israeli jurist introduced Goldstone as “a dear friend” with “very deep ties to Israel.” Goldstone, in turn, said Barak was his hero and inspiration.

In the lecture, concerning international efforts to bring war criminals to justice, Goldstone said the Holocaust has shaped legal protocol on war, adding that it was “the worst war crime in the world.”

He also said the perception of war crimes against humanity should resonate differently to Jewish ears, in light of how the Holocaust shaped conventions relevant to the subject.

Goldstone added that as a jurist, he viewed the Holocaust as a unique occurrence because of how it affected judicial protocol on war, as well as international and humanitarian judicial approaches.

The laws that had been in place before the Holocaust were not equipped to deal with crimes of the Holocaust’s scale and therefore sought to define a new crime, which they labeled a crime against humanity, he said.

These crimes were so great, he explained, they went beyond their direct victims or the countries in which they were perpetrated, to harm humanity as a whole. This definition, he said, meant that perpetrators were to be prosecuted anywhere, by any country.

This rational, he went on to say, constituted the basis for the concept of universal jurisdiction, which is being applied by some countries where Israel Defense Forces officers are charged for alleged violations during their command in the West Bank and Gaza.

The formative event of the universal jurisdiction concept, Goldstone told listeners, was the trial that Israel gave the high-ranking Nazi officer Adolf Eichman in 1961.

The international tribunals that judged Serbian war criminals for their actions in Bosnia, and the establishment of tribunals to review the actions of perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide – in which South Africa-born Goldstone served as chief prosecutor – also relied on lessons drawn from the Holocaust, he said at the lecture.

He noted that no similar courts were set up to look into the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia in the ’70s or Saddam Hussein’s acts against Iraqi Kurds.

The first time such tribunals were set up were for Bosnia, Goldtone said, because this was the first time after the Holocaust that such occurrences happened in “Europe’s backyard.” The war in Bosnia led to the formation of tribunals on crimes against humanity, he said, because European men with “blue eyes and light skin” again carried out actions similar to those observed in the Holocaust.

Israel, he added, was one of the first countries to support the formation of permanent court of law for crimes against humanity – a proposal that came up following the successful performance of the special tribunals on Bosnia.

However, that changed, he said, after Egypt insisted at the Rome conference that the mandate of this permanent court include occupied territories. This prompted Israel to join the six other countries that voted against the formation of the International Court of Justice, including the United States, China and Libya.

of course the united states’ response was typical in spite of all that is said about goldstone and his allegiances to the zionist entity and the lessons of the nazi holocaust listed above:

After several days of reticence, the Obama administration said Friday that a United Nations report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza was unfair to Israel and did not take adequate account of “deplorable” actions by the militant group Hamas in the conflict last winter.

The report, issued by a commission led by a South African judge, Richard Goldstone, said Israel had used disproportionate force in Gaza, resulting in the death of about 1,400 civilians.

It also described the firing of rockets by Hamas at Israeli towns and villages as a war crime.

The Israeli government quickly rejected the findings of the report. But the United States waited several days before speaking out.

“Although the report addresses all sides of the conflict, its overwhelming focus is on the actions of Israel,” a State Department spokesman, Ian C. Kelly, said.

could this be because zionist thomas friedman now has obama’s ear? regardless, the reaction to this report should not only be war crimes tribunals, but also sanctions. if only there would be a credible leader in power somewhere on this planet to lead the way on this…

on the limits of solidarity

last month two comrades in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (bds)–omar barghouti and haidar eid–both of whom i respect a great deal–wrote a statement about the gaza freedom march asking them to adopt a statement of context that addressed palestinian needs and demands rather than impose an american idea of those needs and demands on palestinian people (i quoted it and wrote about it here). a few weeks ago haidar and omar released a new statement saying that the gaza freedom march organizers had adopted their statement and they are now requesting people to endorse the march (click here to endorse it):

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

We are writing to invite you to endorse the Pledge of the Gaza Freedom March, a creative initiative with historic potential organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. The March is aimed at mobilizing active and effective support from around the world for ending Israel’s illegal and immoral siege on Gaza, currently the most pressing of all Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights. To endorse the Pledge, please click here and enter your name — or your organization’s name — in the box provided at the bottom.

Also reproduced at the end of this letter, after the Pledge, is the organizers’ Statement of Context which provides the necessary Palestinian context of the siege, namely Israel’s occupation, its decades-old denial of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights, and Palestinian civil resistance to that oppression.

The Gaza Freedom March has won the endorsement of a decisive majority in Palestinian civil society. Aside from the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associaitions, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

The March, planned for January 2010, to commemorate Israel’s illegal war of aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza, is expected to draw many prominent figures and massive activist participation from across the world. The organizers have shown exceptional moral courage and a true sense of solidarity in drafting the Pledge and the Statement of Context. We salute them all for their principled and consistent commitment to applying international law and universal human rights to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. We deeply appreciate their solidarity with our struggle for freedom and our inalienable right to self determination.

Anchored solely in international law and universal human rights, the Gaza Freedom March appeals to international organizations and conscientious citizens with diverse political backgrounds on the basis of their common abhorrence of the immense injustice embodied in the atrocious siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees.

With massive participation of internationals, led by prominent leaders, alongside Palestinians in Gaza the world can no longer ignore its moral duty to end this criminal siege, and Israel can no longer count on its current impunity to last long. We strongly urge you to endorse the Pledge and to help secure more endorsements.

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

* The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On January 1, 2010, we will mark the New Year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context
For a list of endorsers, please click here.

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a “form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a “serious violation of international law.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated “like animals,” and has called for “ending of the siege of Gaza” that is depriving “one and a half million people of the necessities of life.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege “is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union.”

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel’s annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. … I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel’s siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to “quicken” the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel’s bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel’s flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.

when the announcement for the march went out i wrote a critique of it, particularly about the racist way in which it seemed to be run (epitomized by the march’s first poster which featured no palestinians and just one white man–norman finkelstein). if you read that earlier post you will not be surprised to learn that with the gaza freedom march’s adoption of a palestinian platform–rather than an american platform pushed on palestinian people–finkelstein withdrew his support. here is what pulse media reported he said in response:

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law.

I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march. During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months.

Because it drags in contentious issues that—however precious to different constituencies—are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction. I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties.

However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events. It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

problems still remain with the new statement of context. it is far from perfect. it represents, however, a significant compromise, and, more importantly, acknowledges the necessity of abiding by palestinian civil society’s goals as guided by international law. three activists, gabriel ash, mich levy and sara kershnar, authored a very important critique of this new context in electronic intifada that is worth considering for activists invested in justice for palestinian refugees and for palestine more generally:

Changing course is never easy. It would have been far better had this discussion taken place before the call went out. That, however, is a lesson for the future. The compromise led a few of the organizers to leave in anger and recriminations. Some argued that the new context document is “sectarian” and will severely damage the potential of the march. While disputes are inevitable in every political endeavor, we call on all parties to cast aside differences and arguments, to respect the compromise and unite on our common objective, ending the siege of Gaza. What is important now is getting the best and most effective march possible.

We see the context document as a thoughtful attempt to bring together for this march those of us who support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and the full objectives of Palestinian liberation — including the right of return and full and equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel — with those activists whose support for lifting the siege of Gaza is largely humanitarian. Contrary to misrepresentations, the context document does not require marchers to adhere to BDS. But as the march puts nonviolence on its banner and claims inspiration from nonviolent Palestinian resistance, it cannot, without being offensive, ignore the increasing presence and far-reaching international impact of BDS as a Palestinian campaign of nonviolent resistance that is endorsed by all factions, including Fatah and Hamas, as well as more than 100 civil society associations. The growing support for BDS among prominent Western figures and mainstream organizations belies the claim that the mere mention of it is divisive.

Nor does the document commit the marchers to support the Palestinian right of return. It does commit the marchers to recognize the Palestinian Nakba and the historical fact that the refugees’ right of return, recognized by UN resolution 194, has been denied. These refugees make up 75 percent of the population of Gaza and are the recipients of this march’s solidarity. To recognize this history does not compel one to agree to any specific resolution of the conflict. But refusing to recognize it denies the history of the Palestinian people, a denial that is inconsistent with any form of solidarity.

The new document’s only demand is the end of the siege of Gaza. There are no other demands. Nothing in it prevents activists committed to a “two-state solution” and a “Jewish state” from participating. We therefore strongly object to representing the new language as an attempt to limit the scope of the march. We take strong offense at the attempt to label the recognition of the concerns of Palestinian liberation within the context of a solidarity action as “sectarian.” We seriously doubt that the number of individuals willing to fly to Egypt and then march in Gaza, yet who refuse to recognize the history of Gaza, is very large.

We are also heartened by the addition of non-governmental partners in Gaza. As soon as the context statement was added, endorsements came from the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, Palestinian Student’s Campaign, al-Aqsa University, Arab Cultural Forum-Gaza and al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information-Gaza. We are also encouraged by the addition of the International Solidarity Movement and support from members of the South African Palestine solidarity community. The elected government of Gaza has also endorsed the march and will now hopefully increase its assistance.

In supporting this compromise, we are mindful of the original aim of the organizers for large and “ecumenical” participation. We share that goal. However, our conversation would benefit from honesty about the meaning of “ecumenical.” It never means “everybody.” We don’t just want the maximum number of marchers; we want the maximum number that can be achieved without compromising the visions of the diverse organizers and solidarity groups participating in this particular project.

Where should the line be drawn? This is a difficult decision that haunts every political struggle and always requires deliberation, negotiation and compromise. It is misleading to frame the debate as one between those who want maximum participation and those motivated by ideology, in particular when this framing aims to delegitimize the concerns of Palestinian activists representing significant sections of Palestinian grassroots organizing. We all have political lines that we won’t cross. The lines drawn by those at the very heart of the struggle deserve our particular respect.

We now have a fair and inclusive basis for organizing the march, open to proponents of radically different political visions yet respectful of all, and in particular, respectful of Palestinian history and struggle. We must now all strive to make this march as big and as successful as possible.

but this march and is organizing, as well as the organizing around bds, has made me think a lot about what it means to act in solidarity with palestinians, or any group of people for that matter. i recently received an email from a dear friend who decided, after years of trying to persuade him, to join the academic boycott. he signed the statement, but he is still ambivalent about it as a tactic. why? because noam chomsky has not come out in support of it. and this makes me wonder a lot about why chomsky would be the one to defer to? chomsky, like norman finkelstein, are two scholars whose work i admire a great deal. their thinking and writing has influenced me tremendously over my the course of my life. but in the end there are too many barriers for me to fall in line with their thinking: particularly the fact that neither one has signed on to bds andthat neither one supports the right of return for palestinian refugees. here, for example, is chomsky speaking on the subject of sanctions in an interview with christopher j. lee:

Safundi: So you would apply “apartheid” to that broader situation?

Chomsky: I would call it a Bantustan settlement. It’s very close to that. The actions are taken with U.S. funding, crucially. U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support are crucial. It cannot be done without that.

Safundi: And that is similar to U.S. support for South Africa during the apartheid period through the 1980s.

Chomsky: Yes. As I’m sure you know, the Reagan Administration-which is basically the current people in power, including people like Colin Powell-found ways to evade Congressional restrictions so that they continued to support the apartheid administration, almost until the end.

Safundi: Connected to that…

Chomsky: In the case of Israel, they don’t have to hide it because there are no sanctions.

Safundi: That’s my question. One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?

Chomsky: No. In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.

Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

But there is another point. The sanctions against South Africa were finally imposed after years, decades of organization and activism until it got to the point where people could understand why you would want to do it. So by the time sanctions were imposed, you had international corporations supporting them. You had mayors of cities getting arrested in support of them.

So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is.

The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

Chomsky: Well, the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.

Safundi: Right…[And] Israelis aren’t calling for sanctions.

Chomsky: Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel. It’s like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Here, we’re the Russians.

Israel will of course do whatever it can as long as the U.S. authorizes it. As soon as the U.S. tells it no, that’s the end. The power relations are very straight forward. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way the world works.

of course, chomsky has a point: in terms of bds the u.s. should be every bit the target. but not in lieu of the zionist entity, but rather in addition to it. but the fact that paestinians are calling for bds means that those of us who want to work in solidarity with palestinians should support that work. but the fact that some people think we should refer to two american jews on the matter of this is disturbing. would one defer to a slavemaster when abolishing slavery? would one defer to a nazi when fighting against concentration camps? would one defer to white southerners when resisting jim crow segregation in the u.s. south? i find this logic racist and deeply problematic. i’m not at all saying that the work of chomsky and finkstein is not important to read, to listen to, to consider. but i am asking people to consider the logic of looking to them as if they were the leaders of the palestinian people. if we’re looking for leaders we need not look beyond haidar eid and omar barghouti for starters. and there are thousands more where they came from.

on palestinian rappers

three great new stories on palestinian rappers and how hip hop culture is used as a mode of resistance:

first: from a dear friend in bourj al barajneh refugee camp in lebanon. yassin and mohammed are originally from akka and are rapping until and for their right of return:

then ayman mohyeldin is reporting for al jazeera on breakdancers in gaza:

then eva bartlett has a piece on palestinian rappers in gaza:

In a backstreet open-air café in Gaza late at night, Khaled Harara from the Black Unit Band starts to talk about rap.

A phone call interrupts him. “Oh my god, it’s my dad, he will kill me because I’m not home yet.” Not quite the tough image one conjures of rappers.

After assuring his father he’s giving an interview, he’s ok to stay.

But that interruption brings up something he wants people to understand better: rap doesn’t have to be what the corporate market makes it to be. “We are trying to show people that hip-hop can be good; it doesn’t have to be about sex and drugs. We are returning rap to its old roots, talking about real issues.”

His friend Ayman Mughames from Palestinian Rapperz joins him.

“When we started in 2002, our message was to show the real life in Palestine and especially in Gaza,” Mughames says. “We talk about cases, things that must be talked about: the Israeli occupation, the siege on Gaza, the Israeli wars on Gaza, Palestinian unity.

“Rapping is our way of resisting. We need people to resist not only by weapons, but by words too.”

Palestinian Rapperz (P.R.) joined the ‘new’ generation of rappers like Harara’s Black Unit Band. Under the umbrella Palestinian Unit, the group now comprises P.R., Black Unit, and supporting musicians and break-dancers from the Water Band and Camps Breakerz.

“That’s what we wish for, Palestinian unity,” says Mughames, playing on the group’s name.

The two speak some of the many difficulties they face as rappers in Gaza.

“People don’t understand what rap is, they think it’s some negative Western influence, like we’re forgetting our culture,” Harara says. “But we are mixing Palestinian tradition and patriotism with rap. It’s our way of reaching youths inside and outside of Palestine.”

They admit that a part of the problem lies with other rappers in Gaza who don’t hold the same ideals.

“There are some bad rappers. Their behaviour is bad, so then they reflect badly on rap in general,” says Harara. “But we try to teach youths what rap is really about, and how it can be used for the Palestinian cause.”

Harara goes on to explain their work with Gaza’s youths.

“Recently we established a hip-hop school. Many of the younger generation had come to us saying ‘we want to learn to rap’, so we opened a school.”

Mughames, considered Gaza’s old-school rapper, is emphatic about the benefits.

“It’s good for youths. They have nothing to do in Gaza. We teach them concrete skills: how to make good lyrics, how to set the lyrics to the beat, how to control their voices…how to be a good rapper.”

Harara adds, “Our school is free. And it’s actually very important, because these kids might otherwise end up going to the bad rappers and learning bad ideas.”

Aside from public perception, most of their problems are due to the Israeli- led siege on Gaza, imposed shortly after Hamas was elected in early 2006, but severely tightened in June 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza.

“Equipment is a serious problem,” says Mughames. “If we want to give a concert, we need speakers, microphones…they aren’t easily available in Gaza.”

“There’s only really one good DJ in Gaza, with his own equipment. He charges between 200 to 500 dollars per show. We can’t afford that,” Harara says.

Producing an album is not easy either.

“Since we don’t have equipment, and the recording studio is too expensive, we try to cut albums in the most simple way, using a laptop mixer programme and recording in our home,” says Harara.

New York based Palestinian-Syrian film-maker Jackie Reem Salloum produced the documentary ‘Slingshot Hip Hop’ last year featuring Palestinian rap artists in Palestine and Israel, among them the Palestinian Rapperz.

“The slingshot movie was released, we got the invitation to attend the opening, we got the visas, but we couldn’t get out of Gaza,” Ayman Mughames recalls.

There are limits at home as well. “We want to go to the camps where people who lost their homes in the Israeli war are living. We want to give concerts for the orphans,” Harara says.

But for now, the rappers concentrate on what is viable. “We can’t make concerts, can’t leave Gaza. We are limited in what we can do. So we focus on the school and making more songs,” says Harara.

Like the one on the Israeli war on Gaza (’23 Days’), patriotic songs (‘My City’), and love songs too (‘Take Me Away’).

Much of the music is in some way a plea for unity among Palestinian parties. The rappers speak again and again of the need for Palestinians to come together and face their common enemy: the Israeli occupation, siege, and denial of basic rights.

One song goes: “Palestine forgive me, I can’t shut up about everybody who steals you, trades you/You’re like a supermarket, people get more rich by you.”

The songs are all in Arabic. “It’s our language and we are proud of it. And we can express subtleties and nuances in Arabic that aren’t possible for us in English,” Mughames says.

Despite the many constraints, the Palestinian Unit has been able to perform now and then.

“We had a concert at Rachad Shawa (the Gaza cultural centre) a few weeks go, sponsored by Mercy Corps,” says Mughames. “The audience were mixed…guys, girls, even conservative types.”

“There were about 6,000 people, and they didn’t know what to expect,” recalls Harara. “And when we started rapping, they were shocked, because we were rapping, and there was the band playing, and the break- dancers…People were amazed.”

In December this year the next Viva Palestina convoy is due to enter Gaza with humanitarian aid. Mughames and Harara expect Palestinian rappers from outside of Gaza to be in the convoy.

“We’re going to give a concert on January 1,” says a hopeful Harara.

on fasting

i like fasting for ramadan. in fact, i like fasting in general. i used to fast a couple of times a year for an entire week (though not without water and tea) to detox. and in either case the fact of being hungry, of being conscious of what your body feels and that your stomach is empty, i have always found to be a tremendously useful thing for so many reasons. it makes people realize how much they constantly over-consume, eating when they are not even hungry, because they are bored, etc. it also makes you realize what many people experience as a fact of life: not having enough to eat, of being hungry because there is no more food. in the best cases people use this time to reflect and to do something to help those less fortunate. i keep reading about and seeing news reports of the desperate situation in gaza (and, of course, this is true in so much of the world) during ramadan. and it disturbs me when i see jordanians running around, partying, shopping, enjoying the globized excesses of capitalism while others are suffering. i wonder how many of these rich people are actually doing something to help others. i wonder how many of these people are sharing their 20 different dishes that the stuff themselves with at iftar to others who are less fortunate (including their maids who are doing all the cooking and cleaning in the first place, often while fasting, too). and i do not just mean now because it’s ramadan (as americans do one day a year on thanksgiving). i mean all the time. every day.

so here is some food for thought for those of you who stuff yourselves and shop til you drop as if that is the spirit of ramadan…ayman mohyeldin reported on al jazeera about the difficult situation during ramadan for palestinians in gaza:

and here is an article from ma’an news about being a perpetual refugee–from palestine to iraq to palestine again:

is a Palestinian who fled Iraq to the Gaza Strip in 2008; he has one daughter living in Jordan with her husband while the rest remain in Iraq.

While staring at his family’s photo, Barhoum told Ma’an how worried he was about them.

Barhoum was a major in the Palestinian Liberation Army in Iraq. He was compelled to leave Iraq after being threatened several times by militiamen who gave him two choices; leaving Iraq, or being killed. He said armed gunmen with the militias would open fire at his home from all directions on a nightly basis to help him make his choice.

According to Barhoum, the only grudge the armed groups bore him was his affiliation to the Arab Liberation Front, and that he belonged to the Sunni sect.

While in Iraq, Barhoum and his family lived in the Ad-Doura neighborhood, which was home to a mix of religious, sects and nationalities including Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Kurds, Turks, Palestinians, and Syrians. After the US invasion of Iraq, everything changed, he said. The Shiite neighbors’ children, who Barhoum said he practically raised himself and who used to call him “uncle Abu Ali”, began to threaten to kill him if he didn’t leave the country. When at one time the neighborhood showed him respect for the time he spent in Israeli jails, following the war he said there was no more goodwill.

Now Barhoum only wants to bring his wife and children into Gaza with him. “But, there is no way to do that as they don’t have Palestinian IDs,” he lamented.

“When I was compelled to flee Iraq, I was also listed as wanted by the Syrians, and banned from entering Egypt. I managed to flee and stay in the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year until I was able to sneak into the Gaza Strip through a smuggling tunnel in Rafah, the city where I was born. I came back to the same room UNRWA gave my family in 1967; there were only a few changes made by brother while I was abroad.”

Barhoum told his story this week in Gaza when the Iraqi-Palestinian Brotherhood Society organized a Ramadan dinner for families forced to leave Iraq after the US invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein and his government. The dinner was held at the Gaza City beach, and Barhoum was joined by dozens of others, mostly men, forced to flee yet another country where they sought refuge.

and from ma’an on the lack of school supplies in gaza:

School started fifteen days ago in Gaza but schoolchildren remain without books or pencils, as high prices prevent most parents from purchasing necessary goods.

The only stationary in Gaza comes from the Rafah-area smuggling tunnels, and the cost of smuggling keeps prices too high for average families. Israeli crossings authorities have refused to allow paper and pencils into the Strip.

A request for supplies for school and special foodstuffs for Ramadan were denied by Israeli authorities. Shop owners say truckloads of the goods are stranded in warehouses in Israel.

The Israeli army earlier agreed to allow 100-180 truckloads of stationary and school supplies into Gaza two weeks before the beginning of the school year, but no action was taken on the promise, and supplies continue to sit in warehouses.

Gaza’s chamber of commerce head Gaza Maher At-Taba apologized to residents for the high prices. He said the law of supply and demand was the sole factor in the exorbitant prices of school books, and said once Israel allows more supplies in the prices should go down.

Merchants are forced to pay for the costs of storing goods in warehouses when Israeli officials refuse their entry into the Strip. This cost will also be reflected in the goods when and if they do enter the area.

Traders remain skeptical over whether the supplies will ever be let in.

The de facto ministry of education appealed urgently to the United Nations and International organizations, asking that they pressure Israel to allow stationary into Gaza.

or eva bartlett’s article in electronic intifada about zionist terrorist colonists targeting farmers and fishermen in gaza:

On 4 September, 14-year-old Ghazi al-Zaneen from Beit Hanoun was killed when an Israeli soldier shot him in the head. Along with his father, uncles and some of his siblings, the youth had gone to collect figs on their land east of Beit Hanoun. Although it is near the border with Israel, the farmland where al-Zaneen was killed is still more than 500 meters away.

“They had driven to the land and were walking in the area. Ghazi got up on the rubble of a house to look further. Then the Israelis started shooting heavily. Everyone lay on the ground. When the shooting stopped, they got up to run away and realized that Ghazi had been shot in the head,” said his aunt.

Maher al-Zaneen, Ghazi’s father, testified to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights that Israeli soldiers continued to fire as he carried the injured boy to the car. Ghazi al-Zaneen succumbed to his critical head injuries the following day.

The day after his death, Ghazi’s mother sat surrounded by female relatives and friends. She asked, “How would mothers in your country feel if their sons were killed like this? Don’t your politicians care that Israel is killing our children?”

Israeli authorities reportedly claimed that “suspicious Palestinians approached the fence” and troops responded by “firing into the air.” But the shot to Ghazi al-Zaneen’s head and the two bullet holes in Maher al-Zaneen’s car suggest otherwise.

Since the end of Israel’s three-week winter invasion of Gaza during which approximately 1,500 Palestinians were killed, nine more Palestinian civilians have been killed at sea or on the strip’s border regions. This includes four minors and one mentally disabled adult. Another 30 Palestinians, including eight minors, have been wounded by Israeli shooting and shelling, including by the use of “flechette” dart-bombs on civilian areas.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, roughly one third of Gaza’s agricultural land lies within the Israel’s unilaterally-imposed “no go zone,” or “buffer zone.” This band of land stretching south to north along Gaza’s borders to Israel was established in late 2000 during the second Palestinian intifada. Initially set at 150 meters, it has varied over time. At one point, it was nearly two kilometers in the north and one kilometer in the east. At present, Israeli authorities say 300 meters along the border are “off limits” and those found within the area risk being shot at by Israeli soldiers.

or bartlett’s other recent electronic intifada piece about zionist terrorist colonists holding goods at the border in order to deprive palestinians:

Abu Abed can’t make a profit, and although 54 years old, he still has not married. “I can’t pay my rent, I can’t afford a wedding.”

His shop, roughly 3 meters by 4 meters, costs him more than $3,500 a year in rent alone.

His wares are laid out on tables on a busy pedestrian street in the Saha market area in Gaza City. The goods, plastic toys and running shoes imported from China, were brought in via the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, at a high price.

One large bag of grain filled with the cheaply made toys cost $30 to purchase, but the tunnel trip added another $70 to Abu Abed’s expenditures. “I can make maybe $20 when I sell these toys, but that will take two or three months.”

Now that the month of Ramadan is under way, festive decorations and toys are among his stock. Yet with unemployment in Gaza hovering near 50 percent, and searing poverty at 80 percent, few can afford the luxury of such items, at now grossly inflated prices.

“That toy is 20 shekels,” Abed says pointing to a plastic toy. “It should only cost maybe five or six shekels. People don’t want to buy it.” But if Abu Abed wants to break even, he cannot sell the toy for less than 20 shekels.

For Ghazi Attab, a fruit vendor in Saha market, regular crossing procedures couldn’t come quickly enough. He estimates that 30 percent of his produce is spoiled due to long hours in the sun waiting for Israeli clearance to enter Gaza.

“The Israelis don’t allow the fruit to enter Gaza right away. It sits at the crossings for five or six hours under the sun,” he said, pointing to a box of rotted mangos.

Hazem, father of four, has a store in a different region of Saha. The shelves are stocked with shampoo, hair and skin creams, cosmetics, toothpaste, cleaning products and other everyday items. All of his stock was brought through the tunnels, at a high price.

Before the Israeli siege on Gaza, Hazem used to import goods via Israeli crossings.

or the way in which the siege is affecting palestinian education as indicated in this irin report:

Some 1,200 students at al-Karmel High School for boys in Gaza City returned to class on 25 August without history and English textbooks, or notebooks and pens — all unavailable on the local market.

Severe damage to the school, caused during the 23-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip which ended on 18 January, has yet to be repaired. Al-Karmel’s principal, Majed Yasin, has had to cover scores of broken windows with plastic sheeting.

“The entire west side of the school was damaged adjacent to Abbas police station which was targeted on 27 December,” said Yasin. “We have yet to repair the $65,000-worth of damage, since glass and other building materials are still unavailable.”

Educational institutions across Gaza are still reeling from the effects of the Israeli offensive, compounded by the more than two-year-long Israeli blockade (tightened after Hamas seized power in June 2007), according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At least 280 schools out of 641 in Gaza were damaged and 18 destroyed during the military operation. None have been rebuilt or repaired to date due to continued restrictions on the entry of construction materials, OCHA reported.

At the start of the new school year, all 387 government-run primary and secondary schools serving 240,000 students — and 33 private sector schools serving 17,000 students — lack essential education materials, according to the education ministry in Gaza.

“The war had, and continues to have, a severely negative impact on the entire education system,” Yousef Ibrahim, deputy education minister in Gaza, said. “About 15,000 students from government schools have been transferred to other schools for second shifts, significantly shortening class time.”

He said the damaged schools lacked toilets and water and electricity networks; their classrooms were overcrowded, and they also suffered from shortages of basic items such as desks, doors, chairs and ink for printing.

or finally, as people go shopping for eid, maybe they can think about the struggle to get new shoes in gaza as this anera video documents:

sa7tein

on deleting madonna & other boycott news

although i tried to work it out so that my internet would be up and running by the time i got back to jordan, that has not turned out to be the case. i have tried two different companies here–one kuwaiti, one jordanian–and neither gives me a singal. the third and fourth option, well that’s my next post so you’ll have to wait to read about that. but all this is to day that for the next couple of weeks in particular, if you want to follow boycott news you should follow the u.s. campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel site via your news readers and twitter. many of you know that i also do that website; given that internet cafe time is challenging during ramadan (don’t forget to boycott those zionist terrorist colonist dates! ) for a number of reasons, on days when i can only manage a couple of hours that’s the blog i’ll be updating first.

but while i am on the subject of boycott i have a confession to make. since i was about fourteen years old i have had a secret love of madonna’s music. not all of it. not all of the time. but it was one of my closeted guilty pleasures in life. (i don’t have many.) over the past few years, enabled by the invention of mp3s and also the fact that i move so much, i no longer have any cds, just mp3 files of music i like (most of which is political). so, when macy gray had her event with the zionist terrorist colonist consolate in los angeles last year, i deleted her from my computer. likewise i did the same for madonna a few weeks ago. and here’s why:

1. During Monday’s whitewashing concert appearance in Tel-Aviv, Madonna made empty references to peace, before wrapping herself in the Israeli flag:

“I truly believe that Israel is the energy center of the world. And I also believe that if we can all live together in harmony in this place, then we can live in peace all over the world.”

Meanwhile in Gaza on Monday, fishermen were attacked by Israel “Defense” Forces for…fishing. Apparently, they failed to live “in harmony” well enough.

here is the above-referenced appalling video (if you can hold your cookies…) :

2. Any political malaise that she may have risked evoking among Israelis dissipated when she was handed an Israeli flag by one fan. Madonna used it to make her final parade on the stage draping herself in Israel’s national blue-and-white colours and displaying where her sympathies lie.

There was certainly none of the controversy she had aroused on her previous two stops, in Romania and Bulgaria.

In Sofia, the Orthodox clergy berated her for showing disrespect to Christianity. In Bucharest, she was booed for criticising discrimination against the Roma (gypsies) of Eastern Europe.

Midway through the show, breaking away from the carefully scripted performance, Madonna expressed her deep affection for Israel: “I shouldn’t have stayed so long away,” she told the adoring crowd. Her last concert here was in 1993.

The 51-year-old entertainer has long claimed a special bond with the Jewish state. For more than a decade, she’s been flirting with the Kabbalah, the essence of Jewish mysticism, and has even adopted a Hebrew name, Esther.

In the run-up to the first of her two shows, Israeli radio stations played Madonna hits round the clock. On Army Radio, a DJ quipped, “Tonight, Aunt Esther is playing at Yarkon Park.”

Brought up as a Roman Catholic, Madonna wrote in advance of her Israeli tour in an article for Israel’s best-selling newspaper, Yediot Achronot, that the study of Kabbalah helps her understand life better.

3. Madonna is reportedly spending the Sabbath eve at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home.

Y-Net reported Friday that Madonna will light the sabbath candles and will spend time with Netanyahu’s children at the official residence in Jerusalem.

The pop singer, who sold out two Tel Aviv concerts, this week toured Jerusalem’s Old City and Tsfat, the seat of Jewish mysticism in northern Israel.

and this is why i’m psyched about artists against apartheid’s new propabanda site (basically a s^(* list of musicians who don’t abide by the boycott):

The artists listed here have committed to performing in Apartheid Israel, in disregard of the Cultural Boycott of the State’s ongoing human rights violations, apartheid rule, and expropriation of land from indigenous inhabitants.

To cover its extreme racism, massacres, and flagrant violations of Human Rights and International Law, the Zionist State of Israel relies heavily on propaganda “Branding Efforts”, spending Millions of Dollars per year on public relations campaigns, and encouraging “whitewashing” events such as concerts by these International Artists:

Leonard Cohen
Sponsor: Israel Discount Bank (which also finances settlements on stolen Palestinian land)

MGMT

Madonna

Faith No More

Dinosaur Jr.

Lady Gaga

Kaiser Chiefs

Calexico

Depeche Mode

Pet Shop Boys

Macy Gray

Suzanne Vega

Steve Vai

These artists may be drawn by extraordinarily high performance fees, or the desire to “sing for peace”. However, the cultural effect of their appearance is to assist the Israeli ministries in their efforts to normalize of Israeli Apartheid, while disregarding the non-violent struggle for equal rights and justice in Palestine-Israel.

If you are an artist interested in coordinating with the non-violent resistance to colonialism and apartheid, please refer to the Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel recommended by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) before booking your tour.

i can proudly say i do not have a single mp3 song with any of the above apartheid supporting musicians.

and, the other big story on the boycott news front–with those adhering to it and respecting it, that is–is about the toronto film festival:

The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival:

September 2, 2009

As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched “Brand Israel,” a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. Brand Israel would take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars, and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science and culture. An article in Canadian Jewish News quotes Israeli consul general Amir Gissin as saying that Toronto would be the test city for a promotion that could then be deployed around the world. According to Gissin, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. (Andy Levy-Alzenkopf, “Brand Israel set to launch in GTA,” Canadian Jewish News, August 28, 2008.)

In 2009, TIFF announced that it would inaugurate its new City to City program with a focus on Tel Aviv. According to program notes by Festival co-director and City to City programmer Cameron Bailey, “The ten films in this year’s City to City programme will showcase the complex currents running through today’s Tel Aviv. Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2009, Tel Aviv is a young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity.”

The emphasis on ‘diversity’ in City to City is empty given the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program. Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine’s main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada. Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city’s past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.

We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year’s brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime.

This letter was drafted by the following ad hoc committee:

Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, Canada

Endorsed by:

Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, Egypt

Hany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, Palestine

Mark Achbar, Filmmaker, Canada

Zackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South Africa

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, Jerusalem

Anthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USA

Ruba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, Lebanon

Joslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USA

John Berger, Author, France

Dionne Brand, Poet/Writer, Canada

Judith Butler, Professor, USA

David Byrne, Musician, USA

Noam Chomsky, Professor, USA

Guy Davidi Director, Israel

Na-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South Africa

Igor Drljaca, Filmmaker, Canada

Eve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USA

Eyal Eithcowich, Director, Israel

Sophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UK

Peter Fitting, Professor, Canada

Jane Fonda, Actor and Author, USA

Danny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USA

Noam Gonick, Director, Canada

Malcolm Guy, Filmmaker, Canada

Mike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, Canada

Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, Palestine

Fredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USA

Juliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/Haifa

Bonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Laverty, Producer, UK

Min Sook Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Yael Lerer, publisher, Tel Aviv

Jack Lewis, Filmmaker, South Africa

Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK

Arab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/Lebanon

Kyo Maclear, Author, Toronto

Mahmood Mamdani, Professor, USA

Fatima Mawas, Filmmaker, Australia

Tessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UK

Cornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USA

Yousry Nasrallah, Director, Egypt

Rebecca O’Brien, Producer, UK

Pratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UK

Jeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USA

John Pilger, Filmmaker, UK

Shai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, Israel

Ian Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, Canada

Judy Rebick, Professor, Canada

David Reeb, Artist, Tel Aviv

B. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USA

Wallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USA

Eyal Sivan, Filmmaker and Scholar, Paris/London/Sderot

Elia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New York

Eran Torbiner, Filmmaker, Israel

Alice Walker, Writer, USA

Thomas Waugh, Professor, Canada

Howard Zinn, Writer, USA

Slavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia

and if you want a real treat check out an amazing artist and musician who has an amazing vision and history. here is an interview with the incomparable harry belefonte and avi lewis on al jazeera’s fault lines:

on visas

so i have been getting settled in amman. i have moved yet again. hopefully this will be the last time for a while. it was a very difficult decision for me to leave palestine, though it is one i made some time ago. ultimately, one of my prime motivations for leaving the u.s. was not not be a taxpayer there any longer so as not to contribute to the u.s. machine of death, theft, destruction in palestine, iraq, afghanistan, pakistan, we can add honduras now, who knows where we’ll have to add next. ultimately i knew that i could not stay in palestine forever given that foreigners (i.e., not palestinians; read: zionist colonist terrorists) control the borders and they get to play a game with the lives of all people who cross over into palestine whether they are originally palestinian or not. i’ve long heard stories and received emails–some from friends and comrades, others from complete strangers–about being denied entry. about being allowed limited entry, in terms of time. about three weeks before i left a friend of mine left for amman to renew her visa. she’s finishing up research for her dissertation and living in ramallah. she came back and said she had only a few days and she had to leave again. not only could she only stay one week (in lieu of the normal three month visa granted to foreigners at the malak hussein bridge), but she was granted a west bank only visa. this was the first time i had heard of such a thing. but it turns out that it was quickly becoming a phenomenon. and there have been a number of articles written about it since:

new west bank-only visa stamp from the zionist terrorist colonists
new west bank-only visa stamp from the zionist terrorist colonists

first there was an article by toufic haddad laying out this issue in the faster times:

“Palestinian Authority only” greatly restricts this freedom of movement, and thus undoes the former arrangement. It essentially precludes travel to areas of pre-1967 Israel, as well as to Israeli controlled areas in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem….

Israel exercises full control over 59 percent of the West Bank – areas known as “Area C.”

It further exercises security control over an additional 24 percent of the West Bank (Area B) with the Palestinian Authority [PA] in control of civil affairs there.

The only area which the PA nominally controls in full, and which a holder of this stamp is thus presumably eligible to travel to, is Area A. The latter comprises the remaining 17 percent of the West Bank.

Area A however is not composed of one territorial unit, but is divided into thirteen non-contiguous areas….

Israel’s travel restrictions to PA areas are somewhat contradictory. Visitors can seemingly travel to Area As but must do so by crossing Israeli controlled areas (Area C). This means that visitors have the right to hop between different Area A ‘islands’, but can’t be caught in between.

Moreover, the very restriction on travel is equivalent to a country issuing a visa to a specific area of its country, but not to the whole country. A parallel might be the U.S. issuing a visa only to majority-black Harlem in Manhattan, or the Mashantucket Pequot reservation in Connecticut.

This happens to violate the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (also known as “Oslo II” or “Taba”) which states that “Tourists to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from countries having diplomatic relations with Israel, who have passed through an international crossing, will not be required to pass any additional entry control before entry into Israel.” (Annex 1, Article IX “Movement Into, Within and Outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” 2 (e))

later the palestine chronicle reported that an official decision had been made about these new visa rules:

Israel’s tourism ministry on Monday slammed the interior ministry for enacting new restrictions that would prevent foreigners from visiting both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The measure, which was quietly enacted earlier this year, forces arriving visitors to choose between a visa for Israel and one for the Palestinian territories, potentially preventing them from traveling to both.

“This decision taken by the interior ministry causes significant damage to Israel’s image and to incoming tourism for those tourists who visit the holy sites in the Palestinian Authority,” the tourism ministry said in a statement.

It demanded that the matter be discussed in the Knesset, or parliament, which is currently on summer recess.

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry would not immediately comment.

The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has posted a message on its website informing travelers of the new visa stamp being issued at Ben Gurion Airport and the Allenby crossing with Jordan that permits travel only in the West Bank.

“Anyone indicating that they either have connections to the West Bank or are planning to travel to the West Bank may get this stamp, which does not permit them to enter into (or, in the case of Ben Gurion, return to) green-line Israel,” it says.

in most countries, like here in jordan, when you are hired as a foreigner they don’t make you live as a tourist leaving the country every three months as the foreign zionist terrorist colonists do. people who work in palestine–some of whom are palestinian with foreign passports–have to do that. they have to leave every three months. i got lucky in that an najah university was able to get me a six month visa for my last semester. but that is also at the whim of what the zionists decide and completely random. there was no telling if i’d ever be able to get one again. and as the piece above makes clear it is possible that if i received a visa i’d have to decide which side of the zionist drawn green line would i be on. of course it would be on the side with the west bank. that would mean i would not be able to visit the u.s. consulate if i needed anything, nor would i be able to go to the zionist terrorist colonist interior ministry if i wanted to challenge such a thing because all such offices are in al quds, which has been annexed and stolen by them. but i also experienced this sort of visa issue this summer. i was having coffee with a friend in al quds and her friend called from qalandia checkpoint. he was palestinian canadian, originally from yaffa, visiting palestine for the first time. the zionist terrorist colonists at the checkpoint tore up his visa, which was on a separate paper inside his passport, because since he flew into their airport on the occupied land of lydd, he could no go back to “israel.” they said he left and went to another country so he could not return. we went to qalandia to pick him up and smuggle him out so he could challenge this, get a new visa, and report it to the canadian embassy (though unlike the americans, the canadians have offices in the west bank).

then last week a european woman (she did not identify herself exactly, but i have a feeling she is irish and that i have seen her before) emailed me to tell me that she could not get back into palestine at all. she said she was also a professor, although at bethlehem university, and that she was denied entry altogether. the chronicle of higher education ran a piece last week documenting the effect of the visa situation in palestine on academics by matthew kalman (thanks aneil) and i think the irish woman in the piece is the one who emailed me:

Israel has clamped down on the movement of foreign academics teaching at Palestinian universities in the West Bank, barring some from entering the region altogether or stamping “Palestinian Authority only” in the passports of others, preventing them from entering Israel.

An English-language instructor from Ireland who taught for several years at the Arab American University, in Jenin, was refused entry on August 23 when she returned to the West Bank to take up a new position at Bethlehem University and is now unable to teach. A Canadian instructor of Iranian descent was given the “Palestinian Authority only” stamp when he arrived on Sunday to teach at the Arab American University’s English Language Center. A British lecturer in Middle East politics had to cancel a planned lecture at Birzeit University this year after she was denied entry by Israeli immigration officials.

The Irish instructor, who asked not to be named, said she had been teaching English at the Arab American University since 2007. Although the Israeli authorities refused to issue her a work permit, in the past they had always accepted her employment contract and extended her tourist visa to the contract’s end date.

She left the West Bank for Jordan on August 20 and returned via the Allenby Bridge, which connects the West Bank with Jordan, on August 23, with 11 days left on her visa.

“I was due to take up a new position at Bethlehem University on August 24. I had a letter from the university on official paper, but it was all very different this time,” she told The Chronicle from Jordan, where she was stranded. “I was kept waiting for four hours and then the immigration officer started screaming at me about a lack of work permit.”

After lengthy interrogation by a plainclothes security officer and an Israeli Ministry of the Interior official, she was photographed, fingerprinted, and told her request to enter was denied.

“It is greatly to be regretted, she was a valued employee,” said Graham Stott, chair of the department of modern languages at the Arab American University.

Mr. Stott said several lecturers who were allowed in were issued visas restricting them to the Palestinian Authority areas only.

“For some the restrictive visa is not problematic because they are here to work in Jenin, and they are quite happy to leave via Jordan and so it doesn’t really affect them. For others who had planned to visit Israel it seriously compromises their position and their ability to do research,” Mr. Stott said.

Information for travelers posted on the Web site of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem confirms the recent change in policy.

“Anyone indicating that they either have connections to the West Bank or are planning to travel to the West Bank, may get this stamp,” which does not permit them to enter into or return to Israel. “The Consulate can do nothing to assist in getting this visa status changed,” the Web site states. It is not clear when or why the new visas were introduced. The Israeli Defense Ministry directed all inquiries to the coordinator of Israeli government activities in the territories. A spokesman for the coordinator directed inquiries to the country’s Interior Ministry, where a spokesperson did not return calls seeking comment.

The new visa being stamped in tourists’ passports has been criticized for unfairly limiting the movements of visitors with Palestinian relatives or friends, whose first stop may be the West Bank but who intend to visit Israel as well. Many Americans of Palestinian origin but who lack Palestinian passports have been turned back on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport and told they can enter only from Jordan via the Allenby Bridge.

Hanadi Abu-Taha, administrative assistant at the Arabic-language-teaching program at Birzeit University, told The Chronicle that two American students and one Japanese student were turned back at the Jordanian-Israeli border at the end of August.

“None of them is from a Palestinian background. Students who came through Ben Gurion Airport managed to enter, but those who came through the land crossing from Jordan were refused. We don’t know why,” Miss Taha said.

“Because of the visa problems we have shortened the semester from four to three months, which is the length of the Israeli tourist visa. It is causing major disruption,” she said.

Toufic Haddad, a Palestinian-American activist who revealed the new policy on his blog in early August said the new visa was a violation of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Agreement (known as the Oslo II Accords), which allows for most foreign tourists to pass from the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel.

“Most visiting faculty have been granted a one-year single-entry visa if they are associated with an educational institution, but some haven’t,” said Salwa Duaibis, coordinator of the Right to Enter Campaign, a group advocating unfettered access to the Palestinian Authority areas. “I have a feeling there isn’t much effort put into making sure the regulations are understood by the police at the border.”

Ms. Duaibis said that foreign students enter on tourist visas and can be forced to leave after three months. “Universities cannot plan their academic year properly and neither students nor professors can rely on the arrangement 100 percent,” she said.

here is also a report by sherine tadros on al jazeera about this growing problem in palestine, especially for people who are palestinian foreign passport holders or who have familial ties to palestinians in the west bank:

i haven’t tried to go back yet since i left a month and a half ago. but i hope that i can at least get in so i can go to deheishe. for those who are already dealing with being denied a visa by the foreign occupier, i strongly recommend you check out the right to enter campaign’s website, as mentioned above in the chronicle article. they are very helpful and they have a lot of new resources on their website about this new way of the zionist terrorist colonists creating new facts on the ground. and these facts, jonathan cook reminds us in electronic intifada, are a kind of gazification of visa rules in the west bank:

In an echo of restrictions already firmly in place in Gaza, Israel has begun barring movement between Israel and the West Bank for those holding a foreign passport, including humanitarian aid workers and thousands of Palestinian residents.

The new policy is designed to force foreign citizens, mainly from North America and Europe, to choose between visiting Israel — including East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed illegally — and the West Bank.

The new regulation is in breach of Israel’s commitments under the Oslo accords to Western governments that their citizens would be given continued access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel has not suggested there are any security justifications for the new restriction.

Palestinian activists point out that the rule is being enforced selectively by Israel, which is barring foreign citizens of Palestinian origin from access to Israel and East Jerusalem while actively encouraging European and American Jews to settle in the West Bank.

US diplomats, who are aware of the policy, have raised no objections.

Additionally, human rights groups complain that the rule change will further separate East Jerusalem, the planned capital of a Palestinian state, from the West Bank. It is also expected to increase the pressures on families where one member holds a foreign passport to leave the region and to disrupt the assistance aid organizations are able to give Palestinians.

According to observers, the regulation was introduced quietly three months ago at the Allenby Bridge terminal on the border with Jordan, the only international crossing point for Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli officials, who control the border, now issue foreign visitors with a visa for the “Palestinian Authority only,” preventing them from entering Israel and East Jerusalem.

Interior ministry officials say a similar policy is being adopted at Ben Gurion, Israel’s international airport near Tel Aviv, to bar holders of foreign passports who arrive via this route from reaching the West Bank. Foreign citizens, especially those with Palestinian ancestry, are being turned away and told to seek entry via the Allenby Bridge.

Gaza has long been off-limits to any Palestinian who is not resident there and has been effectively closed to Israelis and most foreigners since early 2006, when Israel began its blockade.

and that is what an apartheid visa system looks like.

it’s official: nakba is removed from the curriculum in occupied palestine

here is the latest news from the zionist terrorist colonist regime:

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar briefed the cabinet on plans for the start of the school year, and announced that the word “nakba” will be taken out of lesson plans.

“It can be said with certainty that Arab Israelis experienced a tragedy in the war, but there will be no use of the word ‘nakba,’ whose meaning is similar to holocaust in this context,” said Sa’ar. “The education system in the Arab sector will revise its studies about the homeland, geography, and society in elementary schools.”

interestingly, palestinian refugees are asking unrwa to remove material about the nazi holocaust from the palestinian curriculum in their schools:

A group of refugee camp committees in the Gaza Strip wants the United Nations to remove history of the Jewish Holocaust from its classroom curriculum.

According to a letter sent to UNRWA director John Ging, the committees urged the refugee agency to scrap its program because mention of the genocide “confirms the Holocaust and raises sympathy for Jews.”

UNRWA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

homeless in new orleans…prisoners in gaza

jordan flaherty, who is one of my favorite journalists has covered, and continues to cover, the man-made disaster that is new orleans after hurricane katrina has a new article marking the four year anniversary, which details the ongoing state of homelessness in new orleans in black agenda report:

Crawling through a hole in a fence and walking through an open doorway, Shamus Rohn and Mike Miller lead the way into an abandoned Midcity hospital. They are outreach workers for the New Orleans organization UNITY for the Homeless, and they do this all day long; searching empty houses and buildings for people, so they can offer services and support. “We joke about having turned criminal trespass into a fulltime job,” says Rohn.

Up a darkened stairway and through the detritus of a thoroughly scavenged building, Rohn and Miller enter a sundrenched room. Inside is Michael Palmer, a 57-year-old white former construction worker and merchant seaman who has made a home here. Palmer – his friends call him Mickey – is in some ways lucky. He found a room with a door that locks. He salvaged some furniture from other parts of the hospital, so he has a bed, a couch, and a rug. Best of all, he has a fourth-floor room with a balcony. “Of all the homeless,” he says, “I probably have the best view.”

Mickey has lived here for six months. He’s been homeless since shortly after Katrina, and this is by far the best place he’s stayed in that time. “I’ve lived on the street,” he says. “I’ve slept in a cardboard box.” He is a proud man, thin and muscled with a fresh shave, clean clothes and a trim mustache. He credits a nearby church, which lets him shave and shower.

But Palmer would like to be able to pay rent again. “My apartment was around $450. I could afford $450. I can’t afford $700 or $800 and that’s what the places have gone up to.” Keeping himself together, well-dressed and fresh, Mickey is trying to go back to the life he had. “I have never lived on the dole of the state,” he says proudly. “I’ve never been on welfare, never collected food stamps.” Palmer rented an apartment before Katrina. He did repairs and construction. “I had my own business,” he says. “I had a pickup truck with all my tools, and all that went under water.”

Palmer is one of thousands of homeless people living in New Orleans’ storm damaged and abandoned homes and buildings. Four years after Katrina, recovery and rebuilding has come slow to this city, and there are many boarded-up homes to choose from. The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center counts 65,888 abandoned residential addresses in New Orleans, and this number doesn’t include any of the many non-residential buildings, like the hospital Mickey stays in. Overall, about a third of the addresses in the city are vacant or abandoned, the highest rate in the nation. UNITY for the Homeless is the only organization surveying these spaces, and Miller and Rohn are the only fulltime staff on the project. They have surveyed 1,330 buildings – a small fraction of the total number of empty structures. Of those, 564 were unsecured. Nearly 40% of them showed signs of use, including a total of 270 bedrolls or mattresses.

Using conservative estimates, UNITY estimates at least 6,000 squatters, and a total of about 11,000 homeless individuals in the city.

UNITY workers have also found that not all people living in New Orleans’ abandoned homes are squatters. In the last three months alone, they have found nine homeowners living in their own toxic, flood-damaged, often completely unrepaired homes. These are people living in buildings – identified as abandoned and not fit for human habitation – that they (or extended family members) actually own, but cannot afford to repair.

The abandoned building dwellers they’ve found are generally older than the overall homeless population, with high rates of disability and illness. The average age of folks they have found is 45, and the oldest was 90. Over 70% report or show signs of psychiatric disorders, and 42% show signs of disabling medical illnesses and problems. Disabling means “people that are facing death if not treated properly,” clarifies Rohn. “We’re not talking about something like high blood pressure.”

flaherty also recently traveled to gaza with a delegation from new orleans and here is one of their recent video documentaries about palestinian political prisoners from gaza (and who also imprisoned in gaza):

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