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

Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YmoTgH_XQ0]

Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

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It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

Celebrating Republic Day with Expulsions in Ejipura

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Today was Republic Day in India. It’s a day commemorating the day that India’s constitution became the primary document that lays out the laws and of the state and the rights of its people. It is rather ironic, then, that the remaining residents of Ejipura were expelled from their homes today.

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The bulldozers kept churning the soil today, flattening it out, but there were a few families who held out inside the former slum. These families were being encircled as the bulldozers continued establishing new piles of rubble and dirt to form a barricade. There was also a fence that workers began to erect around the property.

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The last family inside was holding out for compensation they were promised by Maverick Holdings, the company that owns Garuda Mall (the mall provided security at the main checkpoint to get inside the area). They were entitled to 5,000 rupees, but from that had to pay 1,200 for the truck to move their belongings (the lowest down payment for a new place to live is at least 10,000 rupees). In the end, they received their money, but they had no idea where they would go. Many of the families left are Tamil and so not from here; they don’t necessarily have family in the area or in the state.

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Once the last family inside left Maverick sent one of its employees to expel the remaining families who have been living in the water pipes. Some of these families do not have proper papers and so while activists were busy feeding people or helping the last family steadfastly holding out for their money, the Maverick employee lowered the compensation amount to 2,000 rupees. Others signed the papers without receiving any money at all, although they were promised funds. All the people who signed papers when receiving money also lessened their chances in court.

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Scuffles broke out between activists and the police today, of course after the journalists from The Hindu and The Times of India left the scene. Police brought a large bus and started walking around with sticks to intimidate people. It seemed as though negotiations would yield a return to the 5,000 rupee promise, but in the end most families settled. Fortunately, the residents of Koramangala, the neighboring area, collected funds to help families pay down payments on new housing for families who found viable places to resettle.

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Many of the families who left are now in Sarjapur. Some have been locked out of housing they paid a down payment for. And there is no water or electricity there.

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It is troubling that there is so little national or international media covering this story. The world is so quick to cover a horrifically brutal rape in Delhi, but not the mass expulsion of a community that has lived in these homes for decades.

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Also see these articles for more about what’s happening in Ejipura:

Ejipura Evictions: People Treated Like Dogs and Thrown Out of Houses

Bulldozers and Pipes: Life Takes on a Different Meaning

Youth Pour Out to Help Ejipura Demolition Affected

Rights Group Appeal to International Bodies

Ejipura Residents Struggling to Find Alternative Accommodation

And check out these videos that give a sense of what has been happening and how the residents of Ejipura feel about their expulsion:

visualize thirst & thirst for justice summer challenge

Thirsting for Justice Campaign Summer Challenge: Live on 24 liters of water for 24 hours 

The Thirsting for Justice Campaign calls on supporters worldwide to sign-up to its summer challenge by living on 24 liters of water for 24 hours, a reality faced by many Palestinians in the West Bank today, particularly during the summer, when Israeli national water company Mekorot reduces water supplies.

This amount of water has to be enough for drinking, cooking, washing and hygiene.

Follow these 3 simple steps:

Sign-up on info@thirstingforjustice.org – we will post you a resource pack that will help you inform those around you about why you’re taking this challenge

Tell us about your experiences with the summer challenge. Be creative! Write us a small article, take a photo or send us a video blog.

Make an action in support of Palestinian rights. Write to your MP about Israeli violations of Palestinian rights to water and sanitation, share one of these Thirsting for Justice videos on your facebook wall or twitter, distribute the Summer Challenge action card and our leaflets to your family and friends.

The action call will run between the 1st of July 2012 to 15th of September 2012, so you can sign-up at anytime within this period.

Why I am taking part in this challenge

There is enough water to go around in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but discriminatory laws mean that many Palestinians are left with a trickle.

  • As an Occupying Power, the Israeli government is responsible under International Humanitarian Law for the well-being of Palestinians, including ensuring that they have adequate water supply. Even though it controls all sources of fresh water in the West Bank the Israeli government has neglected this obligation.·
  • Some Palestinian communities live with as little as 20 liters of water per person a day. This is barely enough water for their basic needs.
  • Taps often run dry for several weeks during the summer in Palestinian cities like Bethlehem. Residents are forced to buy expensive water from private vendors.
  • Communities depending on tankered water pay up to 4 times more for every litre than those connected to the network, adding strain to their income.
  • Some communities depend on rainwater collection cisterns, often paid for with international aid, for their water. In 2011, the Israeli army destroyed on average almost three cisterns a month, and since then the rate of these demolitions has been increasing.

In contrast:

  • About half a million Israelis live in illegal settlements located beside thirsty Palestinian communities. They have unrestricted access to water, well-watered lawns and swimming pools.
  • Israeli settlers in settlements like Ro’I in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley use 20 times as much water as the most water-deprived Palestinians.

Visit the palsummerchallenge.org live blog where we will post your testimonies

Follow us on twitter @thirsty4justice

Like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ThirstingForJustice

I call it murder

A few days ago I watched a video on LBCI TV of Alem Dechasa being savagely beaten by Ali Mahfouz in front of the Ethiopian embassy.

At the time we did not know their names. Now we do. Mahfouz works for one of the 500 agencies that employs migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. Of these workers, approximately one commits “suicide” every week. As Mahfouz would have it, they are “mentally ill”; this is a description used to rationalize savage brutality against laborers who perform the tasks in society that no one else is willing or wants to do. Reports on al Jazeera and in al Akhbar call Dechasa’s murder “suicide.” I don’t. The exploitative conditions that led to her murder would lead the most sane among us to a similar fate.

Lebanon is a party to the UN Trafficking Protocol and, in theory, is subjected to it as law. In practice that is another story. Lebanese people know that neither the internal security forces nor the courts will enforce international law when it comes to protecting and defending migrant workers in Lebanon. The system that keeps domestic workers, in particular, from being free agents on the labor market and puts them in exploitative positions where they are abused and forced off balconies in one way or another are the conditions that the International Labor Organization (ILO) defines as human trafficking or modern day slavery:

• Deception and false promises concerning conditions of work;
• Lack of freedom to change employers;
• Physical or sexual abuse;
• Debt bondage;
• Confiscation of identity papers;
• Non-payment of wages to worker;
• Physical confinement;
• Threat of denunciation or deportation

Al Jazeera did an amazing series of reports on modern day slavery (the best one was on the United States), but unfortunately they did not air an episode on Lebanon or the Arab world (there is an older report from Human Rights Watch on this subject). Lest one think it is only domestic workers whose lives amount for so little here, an Indian migrant laborer was killed and left beneath a pile of rubble for the past four days.

It is racism and classism that lies at the heart of what allows us to exploit one group of people because we deem ourselves superior to them. Dechasa was murdered because she dared to seek the protection of her embassy. She is a martyr in the struggle for the justice of workers around the world who seek a livelihood to support their families. Her murder should not go unchallenged. It should be a call to arms for everyone who believes in justice and who fights against exploitation, slavery, and injustice.

For Arabic readers here is an excellent piece by Ali Fakhry:

لطالما واجهت صعوبة في شرح الأسباب التي تؤدي بعاملة وافدة إلى لبنان للعمل في الخدمة المنزلية للموت إنتحارا
والصعوبة الأكبر التي كنت أواجهاها هي عندما كانت الفتاة ” تنتحر ” أي تقتل و يلفق لها بعد مماتها أنها إنتحرت لحماية الموظف/ة اللبناني/ة من الملاحقة

دئبنا في حركة مناهضة العنصرية على رصد حالات الإنتحار بين الوافدات إلى لبنان وفي كل مرة يصلنا خبر موت إحداهن يكون معنون : “إنتحرت العاملة الأجنبية من التابعية الفولانية شنقا أو قفزا أو حرقا أو … في محلة الجديدة ”
تتحرك المجموعة في الحركة لتقصي الخبر وتبحث في المنطقة المذكورة عن المبنى التي توفيت فيه العاملة ومن ثم يتم محاولة سؤال الجيران والمحلات المحيطة عن مشاهاداتهم عن ال”منتحرة” من ثم نتوجه لمخفر الشرطة لطلب معلومات التي لا يعطونا إيها ومن ثم نرجع لنقرع باب الموظف لنسأله كيف ولماذا إنتحرت

وفي كل المرات التي كنا نفعل فيها ذلك وحتى عندما كنا نوفق في الحصول على تقرير الشرطة ومقابلة الموظف كان
التقرير كما يقولون بالعامية : ستاندر
يعني٫ يذكر التقرير أنه تم الإبلاغ عن حادثة إنتحار فحضرت القوى الأمنية وكشفت على الجثة بحضور الطبيب الشرعي
الذي أعطى تقرير أنه لم يجد أي علامات عنف أو إغتصاب أو مقاومة مما يعني أنها إنتحرت

والمضحك أن أغلب الجثث لا تفحص لمعرفة إن كانت تحتوي على مخدر إلا إذا طلب من الطبيب ذلك وبكلفة تصل إلى مئتين دولار تدفعها الجهة التي طلبت ذلك لا الدولة اللبنانية

ويغلق الملف بعد التحقيق الستاندر وتطلب من السفارة أو القنصلية منح الأذن لتسفير الجثة

ثلاثة سنين ونحن نطلع على هذه التقارير وفي ثلاثة سنين لم يتغير شيىء إلا إذا ذكرنا أن في واحد من التقارير الشرطة كتب : وقد وجدت جثة العاملة النيبالية من التابعية الأفريقية …

لا الإعلام تغير في طريقته في الإبلاغ عن الموضوع

لا الشرطة حركت ساكنا للتحقيق بشكل مهني

لا سفارات بلادهن أنصفتهن

ولا أحد حرك ساكنا …

اليوم تموت عاملة أخرى

لكن اليوم حزني هو على غير عادة

لأنكم اليوم تعرفون من هي وشاهدتموها تموت

اليوم كلكم بلا إستثناء قتلتموها

..قتلتموها حين سكتم عن قانون لا يحميها.. قتلتموها حين لم تحركوا ساكنا عندما إستقال وزير كان يقاتل لإلغاء نظام إستعبادها القانوني المسمى كفالة

قتلتموها حين هزئتم حين رئيتوها تسحل في الشارع وتضرب… قتلتموها حين إكتفيتم بالشير على الفايسبوك والإستنكار من وراء شاشات حواسيبكم

قتلتموها حين عاملتم أخواتها بعنصرية

حين منعتوهن من السباحة في مسابحكم… من التسوق في محلاتكم… من الأكل على مائدتكم

رفضتم إعطائهن يوم راحة أسبوعي.. رفضتم أن يأكلن طعامهن أن يمارسن حياتهن الطبيعية مع عدم التقصير في واجباتهن تجاهكم

حين صادرتم جواز سفرهن… حين ناديتوهن بإسم جنسيتهن لا إسمهن الحقيقي

حين لم تسمعوا شكواهن في مخافركم.. حين إغتصبن ولم تنصفهن محاكمكم

حين لم تدفعوا لهن راتبهن أو سكتم… حين أركبتموهن المقعد الخلفي لسيارتكم لأنكم تستحون من جلوسهن بجانبكم

قتلتوها حين فضلتم الجلوس في بيتكم ومع روتينكم عوضا عن النزول في تظاهرة مطلبية تطالب بحمايتهن

حين لم تدعموا إقتراح أن ينضمن لقانون العمل

حين قبلتم أن تأتي إليكم عبر خدمات ما يدعى بمكتب الرستقدام الذي هو مكتب بيع وشراء عبيد يتاجر بهن

قتلتوها حين لم تسألو ما الذي دفع بها وبغيرها للإنتحار؟

ما الذي دفع إمرأة تركت عائلتها على بعد ألاف الآميال وتركت أولادها وبيتها وأرضها وأصدقائها وربما حبها الأول وإستدانت آلاف الدولارات وهربت إلى لبنان عبر مطارات دبي وقطر والسعودية ودمشق وعمان إلى بيروت ونامت على الأرض في المطارات وحشرت في غرف صغيرة في قاعات الإنتظار لتصل إلى بيروت وتساق كالغنم وتسلم ليد مكتب الإستقدام ليبيعها للعائلة التي تدفع آلاف الدولارات وتعتبرها ملكيتها

ما الذي دفع بهذه الإمرأة للإنتحار وهي التي عانت من كل هذا لتعمل و تستحق المئتين دولار شهريا و ترسلها لأمها و أبها العجوز

أو إبنها وإبنتها ليحصلو على عيش كريم ويدخلو المدرسة

أو زوجها ليؤسس عملا يدفع عنهم شبح الفقر

أو أخيها لكي لا يتسول في الشوارع

أو لتتابع تعليمها حين تعود لبلدها الأم

هل فكرتم أنه من الممكن أن تكون قد إشتاقت لأهلها ولم يسمح لها بالإتصال بهم؟

هل فكرتم أنها عملت لمدة ١٧ ساعة يوميا بلا هوادة؟

لم تقبض راتبها لمدة سنتين فتشرد ولدها أو مات وذل أهلها وضاعت فرص أمامها؟

إغتصبت ؟

ضربت؟

لم يسمح لها بممارسة معتقداتها وتقاليدها؟

عملت في ثلاثة بيوت؟

لم يسمح لها بالخروج مرة واحدة من البيت؟

لم يسمح لها بزيارة بلدها في فترة ثلاثة سنين؟

لم تأكل إلا مرة يوميا؟

نامت على البلكون و على الأرض؟

أليست كل هذه أسباب كافية للإنتحار؟

ألم يقتلوها عندما مارسوا كل هذا؟

أيحتاج الدركي اللبناني إلى شرلوك هولمز ليحقق في هذا كله وهو من البديهيات؟

ألم يقتلها عدم تدخلكم حين رأيتم واحد من هذه الأشياء تحصل أمام أعينكم وأكملتم حياتكم كأن شيئا لم يحصل؟

وعندما ماتت ألم تقتلوها مرة ثالثة؟

المرة الأولى عندما لم تنصفوا أخواتها

المرة الثانية عندما لم تحركوا ساكنا من أجلها

والمرة الثالة عندما ماتت لم تذكروا حتى إسمها؟

تقول لي جدتي الساكت عن الحق شيطان أخرس

عاليم ديسيسا اليوم هي ضحية شيطانكم الأخرس

متى ستقررون أنكم لن تشاركو في الجريمة بعد الآن؟ جريمة الشيطان الأخرس؟

إن لم تغضبوا الآن فمتى تغضبون؟

علي فخري- حركة مناهضة العنصرية-

رابط الفيديو الأصلي

no, i don’t support “academic freedom” for colonists in the zionist entity

the whole point of the academic boycott of “israel” is that palestinians have no rights to education (not to mention the right of palestinian refugees to return to their land among a whole host of other daily violations they endure every day). but critics of the academic boycott always love to shout how much more important academic freedom for zionist terrorist colonists who teach in zionist universities is than palestinians having the right to not be murdered, imprisoned, tortured, thrown off their land while their land is stolen (i could go on and on). they forget that academic freedom is a privilege, not a right. (you can click on the selected publications link at the top of the page and read my article from the new centennial review on the subject.) people i have been after for years now to join the academic boycott, who have never been moved by mass murder in lebanon or palestine, but who are now moved by neve gordon’s supposed persecution (in re: his article in the los angeles times last week supporting the boycott, though not, of course, supporting palestinians’ right to return to their land) to both boycott the zionist entity, but who also want to defend academic freedom in the zionist entity.

so imagine my surprise when i found that this piece on the muzzle watch website has moved some colleagues of mine to email me saying they now support bds:

What happens when an Israeli professor speaks his mind about the Israeli occupation? Let’s find out.

Take a look at Ben Gurion University Prof. Neve Gordon, who by the way, is a member of the Committee to Support Ezra Nawi.

He published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, titled Boycott Israel: An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it’s the only way to save his country.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

His opinion supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and the 2008 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has been met with the kinds of criticism that test the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom in Israel.

Prof. Gordon’s piece offers what Naomi Klein termed the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal to address the Israeli occupation. If anything, the issues he brings up in his piece need to be urgently discussed in Israel and elsewhere.

In Israel they are discussed indeed. This is how…

Israeli Education Minister Education Gideon Sa’ar called the piece “repugnant and deplorable.”

Ben Gurion University President Dr. Rivka Carmi expressed shock at the lecturer’s comments and added the university may no longer be interested in his services.

It seems that Ben Gurion University’s interest in academic freedom is limited.

Carmi’s words:

“Ben-Gurion is a Zionist establishment which fulfills the vision of David Ben-Gurion on a daily basis… Statements such as this, which level blunt and inciting criticism at the state of Israel, hurt the excellent work that is being carried out at Ben-Gurion University and all universities in Israel.”

Academics who feel this way about their country are welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere.”

In a letter to Ben Gurion University, she insinuated that Prof. Gordon’s words may amount to treason. That letter (in Hebrew) offers the most candid explanation of what is really going on here:

The attack this time is unprecedented in its scope and severity, both because of the extreme line that defines the writing, that is seen by many readers as an act of treason against the State of Israel, and also because the piece was published in a newspaper with a large circulation, including in the Jewish community. I have concrete and truthful reasons to believe that above anything else, this piece may lead to a destructive hit in the raising of funds for the university, and the piece’s potential damages to the university’s budget in this hard period of its history, and maybe in the future, is great.

BDS activists worldwide are paying close attention to the economic dimension of a single, well-placed article. In fact, the Magnes Zionist has already noted with irony that,

Some Los Angeles Jews have responded by threatening to cut-off donations to Ben-Gurion University, which is, of course, what Gordon was calling for!

So maybe this should now be the tactic of supporters of BDS in Israel: Get leftwing academics from all the universities to call for boycotts, and then angry Jews will response by cutting off funds from their university.

In fact, Richard Silverstein adds to the irony, when commenting on the position of Israel’s Consul-General in Los Angeles, Yaakov (Yaki) Dayan on this matter:

What interesting about this story is that an Israeli diplomat, whose job, one supposes is to promote Israel, including its universities, is calling publicly for a financial boycott of Ben Gurion.

The last word goes to Prof. Gordon:

From the responses to the article it seems most people don’t have the courage to discuss the main issues: Is Israel an apartheid state? How can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved? Is the settlement project good for Israel or will it cause the state’s destruction? It’s easy to criticize me while evading the tough and important questions.

We could not agree more, Professor. We need less hysteria and more open discussions on these issues.

it gets worse. some of these colleagues are asking me to sign a petition supporting gordon. it seems that jewish voice for peace thinks that the appropriate response to gordon’s article is to support gordon, not the palestinians being murdered. not the palestinians whose land is stolen every day. not the palestinians whose right of return is being denied for colonists living on palestinian land: including gordon himself! instead, here is what they have to say:

On Thursday, August 20 the LA Times published an op-ed in which Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon wrote that the question that kept him up at night, both as a parent and as an Israeli citizen, was how to ensure that his two children as well as the children of his Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime. He concluded that the only thing that the only workable solution would be “massive international pressure.” (1) Following the publication of the article there has been such a vehement and aggressive attack against Gordon in Israel (2), that we believe “massive international pressure” will be needed to keep him from being fired from his job.

We are protecting here more than one person and one job. Help us protect the ability to talk openly about the Israeli occupation and about nonviolent options to address it, such a boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

When you sign this email, we will send copies to the Israeli Minister of Education, the leadership of Ben Gurion University, and to Neve Gordon himself.

if jewish voice for peace were really all about so-called “peace” they’d be fighting to dismantle the jewish state and fight for the right of return for palestinian refugees. but that, of course, would mean they cared about justice, too, which they so obviously do not.

the real response would be for academics to line up and support the academic and cultural boycott of “israel.”

on meddling and hypocrisy in iran

i’ve been reading the selected writings of eqbal ahmad this week. there are some excellent, insightful essays about palestinian politics and resistance strategies in this volume, which are especially interesting given ahmad’s history–as someone who lived in algeria and tunisia during the algerian revolution that kicked out the french colonists and although he was born in bihar, india his family had to move lahore after the 1947 partition of india and his family was split by the new border. so he has a particularly interesting take on things. but he also has an essay entitled “iran’s landmark revolution: fifteen years later.” the essay was published in 1994 and given the situation in iran right now and all the comparisons i see people making between the current situation in iran and previous events in iranian history i find the essay a useful read. ahmad starts by reminding us that it was “the first fully televised revolution in history” (81). He opens the essay by comparing the french and iranian revolutions in the sense that both marked a new era regionally. he says:

…the Iranian was like the French a unique and perhaps seminal revolution for the postcolonial era as the French had been for the industrial age. The uprising that began in January 1978 and ended successfully on February 11, 1979, was the first major break in the postcolonial world from the revolutionary model of protracted armed struggle experienced in China, Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. Iran’s, by contrast, was a mass insurrection, by far the most popular, broad-based, and sustained agitation in recent history. During a single year–1978–some thirty thousand protestors were killed in Iran while its economic institutions and public services were intermittently shut down. The movement was quite unparalleled for its militant but nonviolent character and for its discipline and morale in the face of governmental violence. As such, it deserves to be studied for its lessons in mass mobilization and agitational politics.

The Iranian Revolution pointed toward a shift in the focus of revolutionary struggle in the so-called Third World from the rural to the urban sector. Until 1978, almost all Third World revolution had been primarily peasant revolutions, centered in rural areas and involving guerrilla warfare. Even in those countries (e.g., Algeria and Cuba) where support of the urban population held great importance in revolutionary strategy, the rural population was from the outset viewed as being central to the revolutionaries’ success.

The Iranian Revolution represented the first significant departure from this pattern. It was predominantly urban in composition and entirely so in its origin and initiation. Its cadres came from the middle, low middle, and working classes. Its following was swelled by the lumpenproletariat, mostly rural migrants driven to the cities by the shah’s “modernization” of agriculture. The capital-intensive commercial farm strategy of economic development which the shah initiated in the 1960s–and which Ms. Bhutto’s “agricultural task force” has now recommended for Pakistan–led to rapid urbanization, cultural dislocation, and grossly augmented and visible inequality. These conditions created the mass base for the uprising, and increasingly they are appearing in other Third World countries, especially in those which are seeking links with the commercial market as uncritically as they once sought to imitate socialism.

Iran yielded a textbook example of the general strike as a primary weapon in revolutionary seizure of power. The strike, which lasted nearly six months in Iran, was one of the longest and by far the most effective in history. The turning point in the struggle against the shah came during September and October 1978, when the oil workers in Abadan and Ahvaz proved the weapon of the general strike to be powerful beyond the dreams of the nineteenth-century Marxists and syndicalists, who had viewed it as the lynchpin of revolutionary strategy. Subsequently, events in South Korea, South Africa, Nicaragua, and Brazil, among others, suggested that what we witnessed in Iran was a trend….

The fall of the shah revealed that, in the Third World, deployment of advanced weapons promotes internal contradictions and subjects the state apparatus to unbearable strains. When confronted by a sustained popular uprising, Iran’s 450,000 strong, superequipped military establishment disintegrated. Significantly, the noncommissioned officers and technicians, whose numbers had swelled since 1972 as a result of large infusions of sophisticated arms, were the first to defect en masse; their defection proved crucial in the disintegration of Iran’s armed forces. The military’s open and mass defections, which began in December 1978, were spearheaded by technicians and cadets of the air force and armoured divisions. They sealed the Pahlavis’ fate.

Herein lies an extraordinary irony. In terms of intensity, scope, and the social forces which were involved in it, the Iranian was by far the most modern and objectively advanced revolution in the Third World. Yet revolutionary power in Iran was seized by a clerical leadership of theocratic outlook, medieval culture, and millenarian style. Most scholars have attributed this remarkable phenomenon to the shah’s repression (only in the mosque one found the freedom of association and speech…) and to Iran’s Shia traditions (of martyrdom and clerical power). (81-84)

the events of 1979 is, of course, one of the flashpoints being used as a point of comparison right now. so is the 1953 american coup which led to the overthrow of mohammed mossadgh, and the installment of the shah as the american puppet in iran, which of course led to the 1979 events that ahmad discusses above. here is chris hedges reminding of the american coup in 1953:

Iranians do not need or want us to teach them about liberty and representative government. They have long embodied this struggle. It is we who need to be taught. It was Washington that orchestrated the 1953 coup to topple Iran’s democratically elected government, the first in the Middle East, and install the compliant shah in power. It was Washington that forced Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, a man who cared as much for his country as he did for the rule of law and democracy, to spend the rest of his life under house arrest. We gave to the Iranian people the corrupt regime of the shah and his savage secret police and the primitive clerics that rose out of the swamp of the dictator’s Iran. Iranians know they once had a democracy until we took it away.

Picture 1

in all of the news going on in iran i have been thinking about one of the most insightful statements i read on as’ad abukhalil’s blog early on in relation to a statement barack obama made:

You need to read Obama’s statements on Iran carefully. There is one particular statement in which he said that the US (for historical reasons) can’t “appear to be meddling”. The statement does not say that the US is not meddling, but that it does not want to appear to be meddling. Similarly, the US in 1953 meddled but it did not appear to be meddling.

here is obama’s original quote from the los angeles times by paul richter:

“It’s not productive, given the history of the U.S.-Iranian relationship, to be seen as meddling,” Obama said Tuesday.

the image above is a screenshot i took of the white house website. if you click on the link you can watch a video of obama’s press conference and read a transcript in english, farsi, and arabic. if obama did not want to seem to be meddling last week, this week he is blatantly meddling. what i find most hypocritical about his remarks are on the subject of justice:

The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That’s precisely what’s happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests [sic] of justice. Despite the Iranian government’s efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we’ve watched what the Iranian people are doing.

This is what we’ve witnessed. We’ve seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We’ve seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard. Above all, we’ve seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we’ve experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.

part of what has been unnerving about the situation in iran is the zionist entity’s press over the protests. they seem to be foaming at the mouth over the post-election protests. indeed, the majority of the articles in ha’aretz and ynet have been on iran, which is unusual. there have also been many rumors spread on the internet which are difficult to verify at this point with respect to zionists meddling in iran. in the guardian rory mccarthy, martin chulov, hugh macleod, and ian black report precisely why the zionist entity is up in arms about the protests:

In private, Israeli officials appeared to be hoping for an ­Ahmadinejad victory even before the polls opened, despite his vitriolic ­criticism of Israel, his denial of the ­Holocaust and his apparent eagerness for a nuclear weapons programme.

but there does appear to be evidence of the united states meddling in iran as jeremy scahill reported today:

As violence continues on the streets of Tehran, RebelReports has learned that former US National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft has confirmed that the US government has spies on the ground in Iran. Scowcroft made the assertion in an interview to be broadcast on the Al Jazeera program “Fault Lines.” When asked by journalist Avi Lewis if the US has “intelligence operatives on the ground in Iran,” Scowcroft replied, “Of course we do.”

While it is hardly surprising that the US has its operatives in Iran, it is unusual to see a figure in a position to know state this on the record. New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh and Former Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter both have claimed for years that the US has regularly engaged in covert operations inside of Iran aimed at destabilizing the government. In July 2008, Hersh reported, “the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded.”

In the Al Jazeera interview, Scowcroft defended President Obama’s position on Iran, which has been roundly criticized by Republicans as weak and ineffective with some characterizing Obama as a “de facto ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

Scowcroft tells Al Jazeera: “We don’t control Iran. We don’t control the government obviously. There is little we can do to change the situation domestically in Iran right now and I think an attempt to change it is more likely to be turned against us and against the people who are demonstrating for more freedom and, therefore, I think we need to look at what we can do best, which is to try to influence Iranian behavior in the region, and with nuclear weapons.”

the video footage of the interview can be seen here (though it is josh rushing and not avi lewis doing the interview as scahill claimed):

and why exactly might the u.s. be meddling? to what end? here is abukhalil’s “abcs of iranian developments”:

Let me explain the ABC of Iranian developments to you. Rafsanjani (the wealthiest and most corrupt man in Iran) represents reform, and Moussavi (who led one of the most repressive eras in the Iranian revolutionary era and who sponsored Hizbullah in its most horrific phases) represents democracy. Did you get that? Write that down NOW.

but it is not just the meddling that is disturbing. it is also the hypocrisy. obama goes off about people fighting for justice being on the right side of history. the palestinians have been doing this for over 61 years and yet where is obama when it comes to speaking about their rights and justice here? abukhalil’s takes this a step further with some important observations:

The hypocrite in speech is invoking an argument that he himself so blatantly ignores and will continue to ignore to the last day of his presidency. Does he really believe in that right for peoples? Yes, but only in countries where governments are not clients of the US. Will he invoke that argument, say, in Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Morocco or Tunisia or Libya or Jordan or Oman, etc? Of course not. This is only an attempt to justify US imperial policies. And even in Iran, the Empire is nervous because it can’t predict the outcome. But make no mistake about it: his earlier statement to the effect that the US can’t for historical reasons “appear to be meddling” sets the difference between the Bush and the Obama administration. The Bush administration meddled blatantly and crudely and visibly, while the Obama administration meddles more discreetly and not-so-visibly. Tens of thousands of pens equipped with cameras have been smuggled into Iran: I only wish that the American regime would dare to smuggle them into Saudi Arabia so that the entire world can watch the ritual of public executions around the country.

my friend matthew cassel also commented on the western media coverage of the protests in iran in electronic intifada today as compared to other parts of the world this week–namely georgia and peru–as well as to palestine to unveil this american hypocrisy:

However, Iran is different than both Georgia and Peru. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has probably overtaken Osama Bin Laden as the most hated individual in the US. Over the past several years, many officials in Washington have called for more aggressive actions to be taken against Iran. More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave US President Barack Obama an ultimatum that the US president better take care of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, or else Israel would. It’s no coincidence then that the protests in Iran are receiving around-the-clock media coverage and are also one of the only examples in recent years where US government officials have showed support for demonstrators like Obama did when he called on Iran to “stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.” They are certainly not the only protests that have been met with violent government repression.

For years, Palestinians have organized weekly nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s wall in the West Bank. Each week protestors face the heavily-armed Israeli military and are beaten and shot at with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas canisters, sometimes fatally. Yet, during his recent speech in Cairo to the Muslim world, Obama made no reference to these protests and instead called on Palestinians to “abandon violence” and adopt nonviolent means. Days after the speech a Palestinian was killed and a teenager wounded during the weekly protest, yet there has been no call by the US administration for Israel to “stop all violent and unjust actions” against the Palestinian people. And the media has followed and remained silent, even though covering the demonstrations would be as easy as a 30-minute drive from most Jerusalem-based news bureaus on any given Friday.

and here is another important moment of hypocrisy that abukhalil pointed out on his blog:

“(Editors’ note: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.)” Did Reuters use that disclaimer when reporting on the Israeli massacres in Gaza?

i do not claim to be an expert on iran. but post-1979 revolution i found my home town of los angeles suddenly populated with iranians. these iranians, many of whom i went to school with and some of whom i was friends with, were decidedly pro-shah. this community gave me a very distorted view of iran growing up. but as i got older and met other iranians in the u.s., and the later around the world, and then began reading more i started to understand more. in the u.s. i hear about media reports on the mainstream news that feature the shah’s family members as abukhalil noted:

The media coverage went from crazy to insane this week. Now, they are–KID YOU NOT–reporting on the reactions of the Shah’s family. Some of them at CNN in fact think that the Iranian people are demonstrating to restore the Shah’s son to power. I heard that the Shah’s widow–taking time from enjoying the wealth of the Iranian people which was embezzled with full American cooperation and complicity–was tearing up on national TV. The plight of the Shah’s family will be similar to that of the descendants of the Iraqi Hashemites after the overthrow of Saddam. The royal dude went back to London when he discovered–against Amerian neo-con assurances–that he has no chance on earth.

aside from this american media distortion machine there are a number of bloggers and scholars speaking about iran from a variety of perspectives. there are some good tweeters out there who are reporting responsibly, but the fact that new media is one of the vehicles for getting information out about iran means that there is all sorts of noise one must filter out. maximillian forte has a great long post on the use of twitter that is worth reading. forte offers some important analysis including on the subject of tweeters from the zionist entity:

It may be wrong to single out Americans here, since there is every likelihood, given the current geopolitical context, that Israeli Twitter users (among the heaviest Twitter users one can find) have a vested interest in manipulating the discussion to serve the ends of the Israeli state, as do many Americans. One thing to do is to try to foment a division between Iran and Hezbollah, thus one posted: “large number of armed forces are lebanese/arab hired to beat down the brave iranians” — completely without substance. Another Twitter user I spoke to chose to quote the Talmud to the Iranian protesters. Interestingly, the Jerusalem Post was immediately “aware” of three “Iranian” bloggers (who post only in English), almost as soon as they joined, claiming without support that their Twitter feeds were from Iran (see here and here).

That the U.S. government has an active interest in the unfolding of the “Twitter revolution” for Iran, is an established fact. The U.S. State Department intervened to ask Twitter to delay a scheduled maintenance break so as to not interrupt tweets about Iran — “Ian Kelly, a state department spokesman, told reporters at a briefing that he had recognized over the weekend the importance of social media ‘as a vital tool for citizens’ empowerment and as a way for people to get their messages out’. He said: ‘It was very clear to me that these kinds of social media played a very important role in democracy – spreading the word about what was going on’” (see “US urges Twitter to delay service break,” by Chris Nuttall and Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, 17 June 2009, and “U.S. State Department speaks to Twitter over Iran,” Reuters, 16 June 2009). What the U.S. State Department is also doing, of course, is reinforcing the unproven claim that this is important to Iran, while careful not to specify whose citizens are being empowered, whose word is being spread, and “out” from where. At the same time, the Obama regime claims that it is not meddling in Iranian affairs.

forte also has a really important blog entry on the necessity of sharing accurate sources when using social media that i think is necessary reading for anyone active on the internet in general, not only in relation to iran. blogger mo-ha-med has a different take on the subject of sourcing that is equally important and interesting in the current climate.

scahill has been particularly annoyed by the discourse of the so-called “twitter revolution” that even al jazeera has used. here is his entertaining rant on the subject:

I’m really sick of people in the US talking about the “twitter revolution” in Iran. I especially hate when it’s US liberals who would NEVER get off their asses and away from their computers to protest anything in their own country. They’d never face down tear gas or baton-wielding thugs at home. Some of these liberals (you know who you are) were poo-pooing activists protesting at the Republican and Democratic Conventions and scorn activism in general. This whole commentary about the “twitter revolution” when it comes from these lizards is narcissistic crap.

but even more importantly, i love scahill’s short post on this phenomenon i’ve seen on facebook and twitter with people turning their avatar green to support iran:

Seeing some of these people online turning their profile pictures green “for Iran” makes me want to create a Facebook and Twitter application that turns profile pictures blood red, in solidarity with all of the Afghans and Iraqis and Pakistanis being killed by US wars today; wars that people in the US failed to stop and whose representatives continue to fund to the tune of $100s of billions.

the is the essential thing about bloggers: they point out the points that most journalists cannot or will not point out–the hypocrisies, the context (of course scahill is an exception to the rule). m. monalisa gharavi’s blog south/south has had a number of important observations and posts on post-election iran, including with the help of journalist alireza doostdar, a full breakdown of the iranian elections by the numbers. on the protests gharavi has this to say:

It is becoming clear that the events in Iran are no longer about actual behind-the-scenes political machinations but about manifestations of built-up (and real) public grievance and emotion, a Carnival in the best and most political use of that word. When I use the word ‘Carnival’ I am not talking about the naked, topless women in the Sambodramo, but about the Portuguese verb ‘desabafar’ for the venting of political anger about social and economic grievances that people exercise in sequins and costumes for three days a year. It is an affirmation, not a dismissal, of grievances.

On a personal angle, that the perception of fraud has become much more important than the actual existence of fraud has revealed some major complexities about solidarity. Now as ever I’m with the people of Iran: not only with cousins, friends, and fellow Tehranis facing enormous consequences to their protests and arrests, but also the people who voted for the incumbent, people who cannot butter their bread and face even graver livelihood injustices in other regions of Iran.

How could anyone dismiss the protests, especially in the past few days when there have been deaths? Who is not revolted by riot cops? (The majority of the violence against unarmed protesters–and many of them women, who are leading so many of the protests–are by the armed and plain-clothes Basiji militiamen.) The right of assembly got suspended (and again, the dance: reinstated) many times and in reactive and preventative fashion. I am extremely glad people are openly disobeying permit orders: they should be disobeyed anywhere in the world where they are illegitimate.

But in the U.S. almost every protest large and small requires a permit, and in my own participation at anti-capitalist demos like the World Economic Forum in New York or the FTAA meeting in Miami, military riot gear/tear gas/tanks/undercover officers were unleashed on ‘permitted’ protests to zero accountability. The Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, where I shot video for Steve Stasso’s film Situation Room #2, saw almost 2000 people arrested, beaten, and jailed (the highest number at a political convention to date) with the near-total silence of the favorite ‘non-governmental’ liberal newspaper, the New York Times.

on the monthly review zine website there is another interesting take on the protests by arshin adib-moghaddam which picks up where the ahmad bit i quoted at the beginning of this post left off:

Iran’s civil society is fighting; it is giving blood for a just cause. It is displaying its power, the power of the people. Today, Iran must be considered one of the most vibrant democracies in the world because it is the people who are speaking. The role of the supporters of the status quo has been reduced to reaction, which is why they are lashing out violently at those who question their legitimacy.

In all of this, the current civil unrest in Iran is historic, not only because it has already elicited compromises by the state, but also because it provides yet more evidence of the way societies can empower themselves against all odds. These brave men and women on the streets of Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, and other cities are moved by the same utopia that inspired their fathers and mothers three decades ago: the utopia of justice. They believe that change is possible, that protest is not futile. Confronting the arrogance of the establishment has been one of the main ideological planks of the Islamic revolution in 1979. It is now coming back to haunt those who have invented such slogans without necessarily adhering to them in the first place.

And yet the current situation in Iran is profoundly different from the situation in 1978 and 1979. First, the Islamic Republic has proven to be rather responsive to societal demands and rather flexible ideologically. I don’t mean to argue that the Iranian state is entirely reflective of the will of the people. I am saying that is it is not a totalitarian monolith that is pitted against a politically unified society. The fissures of Iranian politics run through all levers of power in the country, which is why the whole situation appears scattered to us. Whereas in 1979 the bad guy (the Shah) was easily identifiable to all revolutionaries, in today’s Iran such immediate identification is not entirely possible. Who is the villain in the unfolding drama? Ahmadinejad? Those who demonstrated in support of him would beg to differ. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? I would argue that he commands even stronger loyalties within the country and beyond. The Revolutionary Guard or the Basij? Mohsen Rezai, one of the presidential candidates and an opponent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is contesting the election results, used to be the head of the former institution.

The picture becomes even more complicated when we take into consideration that some institutions of the state such as the parliament — via its speaker, Ali Larijani — have called for a thorough investigation of the violence perpetrated by members of the Basij and the police forces in a raid of student dormitories of Tehran University earlier this week. “What does it mean that in the middle of the night students are attacked in their dormitory?” Larijani asked. The fact that he said that “the interior ministry . . . should answer for it” and that he stated that the “parliament is seriously following the issue” indicate that the good-vs-bad verdict in today’s Iran is more blurred than in 1979.

There is a second major difference to 1979. Today, the opposition to Ahmadinejad is fighting the establishment with the establishment. Mir Hossein Mousavi himself was the prime minister of Iran during the first decade of the revolution, during a period when the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was president. Mohammad Khatami, one of the main supporters of Mousavi, was president between 1997 and 2005. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, another political ally, is the head of the Assembly of Experts and another former president. They are the engineers of the Islamic revolution and would never devour their project. When some commentators say that what we are witnessing is a revolution they are at best naive and at worst following their own destructive agenda. The dispute is about the future path of the Islamic Republic and the meaning of the revolution — not about overthrowing the whole system. It is a game of politics and the people who are putting their lives at risk seem to be aware of that. They are aware, in other words, that they are the most important force in the hands of those who want to gain or retain power.

Thus far the Iranian establishment has shown itself to be cunningly adaptable to crisis situations. Those who have staged a revolution know how to sustain themselves. And this is exactly what is happening in Iran. The state is rescuing its political power through a mixture of incentives and pressure, compromise and detention, due process and systematic violence. Moreover, when push comes to shove, the oppositional leaders around Mousavi would never question the system they have built up. As Mousavi himself said in his fifth and most recent letter to the Iranian people: “We are not against our sacred regime and its legal structures; this structure guards our independence, freedom, and Islamic Republic.”

and an iranian reader of abukhalil’s blog had this to say about the reactions to the elections early on, which is also revealing on a number of levels:

Alexander sent me this (I cite with his permission): “As an Iranian and avid reader of your blog, I wanted to share my thoughts on your “Iranian developments” post with you. First of all, your point about Western coverage of Iranian democracy vis-a-vis other countries in the region is spot-on. I think you are right to criticize the impact of Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric on Palestine, and I would like to explain a little about that. In the past, Palestinian liberation was a cause championed by the Iranian secular left, but nowadays it is strongly associated with the religious right. This is not due only to Ahmadinejad (every Iranian leader since Khomeini has expressed the idea that Palestine is a “Muslim issue” that Iranians should be concerned about) but it has gotten worse under Ahmadinejad. It’s not just the statements he makes in international settings, but more importantly the way the issue is used domestically in order to distract people from their own issues. People are told not to protest economic stagnation, repressive government, etc. because they shouldn’t complain when Palestinians have it so much worse. “Pray for Gaza” is shoved down their throats in the same breath as “fix your hijab.” In addition, many people resent the fact that the Iranian state spends so much money on Palestinian and Lebanese affairs when there is such poverty and underdevelopment at home. Incidentally, one of the popular (and hyperbolic) chants at the protests that are going on right now is “mardom chera neshastin, Iran shode Felestin!” (People, why are you sitting down? Iran has become Palestine!”).

Finally, I am glad that you are defending neither Ahmadinejad nor Mousavi. It is frustrating that everyone I talk to from Pakistan to Egypt loves Ahmadinejad and is shocked to hear that many Iranians think he is ineffective and embarrassing. Meanwhile every Westerner seems to think that Mousavi is a great reformist or revolutionary, and some kind of saintly figure beloved by all. He’s an opportunist crook. That being said, I support the students and protesters in Iran, even the ones chanting Mousavi’s name. I believe they are putting their lives on the line to fight for greater freedom, accountability, and democracy within the Islamic Republic, and they have to couch that in the language of Islam and presidential politics in order to avoid even greater repression than that which they already face. A friend who is in Iran right now confirms: “half the kids throwing rocks at the police didn’t even vote.” To me, that means that they are not fighting for a Mousavi presidency, but for more freedom, which they must hide under a green Mousavi banner in order to have legitimacy in the eyes of the state.”

on democracy now! today amy goodman spoke with professor hamid dabashi about his take on the situation in iran, which he frames in a civil rights context:

It’s based on my reading of what I believe is happening in Iran. This, in my judgment, is a post-ideological generation. My generation was divided into third world socialists, anti-colonial nationalists and militant Islamists. These are the three dominant ideologies with which we grew up. But if you look at the composition of Iranian society today, 70 percent of it is under the age of thirty—namely, born after the Islamic Revolution. They no longer are divided along those ideological lines.

And if you read their newspapers, if you watch their movies, if you listen to the lyrics of their underground music, to their contemporary arts, etc., which we have been doing over the past thirty years, this, to me, is a civil rights movement. They are operating within the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. They don’t want to topple the regime. If you look—come outside, from the right of the right, in the US Senate to the left, is waiting for yet another revolution to happen. I don’t think this is another revolution. This is a civil rights movement. They’re demanding their civil rights that are being denied, even within the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. From their chants that they are doing in the streets to their newspapers, to their magazines, to their websites, to their Facebook, to their Twitters, everywhere that you look, this is a demand for civil liberties and not—

There are, of course, underlying economic factors, statistically. The unemployment in the age cohort of fifteen to twenty-nine is 70 percent. So this is not a class warfare. In other words, people that we see in the streets, 70 percent of them, that a majority of them are young—70 percent of them do not even have a job. They can’t even rent a room, let alone marry, let alone have a family. So the assumption that this is a upper-middle-class or middle-class, bourgeois, Gucci revolutionaries on the side of Mousavi and poor on the side of Ahmadinejad is completely false.

finally one of the most brilliant posts i’ve seen online over the last week or so comes from mo-ha-med’s blog in which he responds directly to meddlers who become “experts” overnight and begin to write about iran entitled “to you, the new iran expert”:

Yes, you.

Who, until this morning, thought that ‘Shiraz’ was just the name of a wine

Who’s beaming with pride you can now write ‘Ahmadinejad’ without copy-and-pasting it from a news website

Who only heard of Evin prison when Roxana Saberi was there (Roxana who?)

Who changed your Facebook profile picture to a green rectangle saying “Where’s my vote?” even though you don’t actually vote in Iran

Who actually thinks that Mir-Hossein Mousavi is a secular
And that his election means that Iran will give up its nuclear claims
And allow you to visit Tehran for Christmas

Who joyfully makes Azadi/Tiananmen square comparisons
Who first heard of Azadi square last Sunday

Who’s quick to link to articles you haven’t read, debunking other articles you’ve barely heard of

Who has just discovered that Iran has a (quasi-)democracy, and elections, and the like

Who blinked in disbelief at the images of women – oh, they have women! and they’re not in burkas! – demonstrating

Who has never heard of Rezai or Karroubi before (hint: they ran for election in a Middle-Eastern country last Friday)

Who staunchly believes that the elections have been stolen – either by ballot box stuffing, (14 million of them!) or by burning some ballots, or both (somehow?), regardless of the absence of any proof (yet)

… But who nevertheless

Has been tweeting, and re-tweeting, and polluting cyberspace with what is essentially hearsay, rumours, and unconfirmed truncated reports or falsification coming from people who actually know about the realities of Iran’s political world and have an agenda:….

I hear your objection though:

Yes, you are entitled to an opinion, to formulating it, to blog it, and to discuss it. I do that too. (this my blog after all).

But do everyone, and you first and foremost, a favour.
Learn from the people who know a thing or two about the issue at hand.
Be selective about you read, listen to, and watch. A simple way is to follow an Iranian friend’s updates and the links they put up.

(Even the State Dept is reading tweets from Iranians.)

Ask questions more than you volunteer answers.

And when you get a tweet that says UNCONF or ‘can anyone confirm?’, for Pete’s sake, that says “This is potentially bulls&^%”. Don’t spread nonsense. Don’t spread unconfirmed or unsourced information.

And rather that getting all excited following live some current events taking place in a country you probably cannot place on a map, read analysis of what it means, what the candidates actually stand for, and what the result will mean for the Iranians and the world.

Then, I would be delighted, truly, to read what you have to say.
Until then, please, pretty please – SHUT UP.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

As for what I think? I don’t know. I think the results could be fake – and they also could be real. We probably will never know.

And I don’t think we’re watching a Ukraine ’04 redux or a ‘Green revolution’.
And I think that the people on the street will tire of getting beaten up by a government that is currently revoking foreign media licenses and will forfeit. We’re – well, Iran is – likely stuck with Ahmadinejad for four more years.

And while the troubles on the street are unlikely to lead to a change of government, they’d have had the benefit of showing the Iranian people in a new light – they’re normal people, only with more courage than most of us have.

on refugees & idps

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

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

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

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

The Convention and Protocol define a “refugee” as:

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

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

Refugee Convention Article 1D states:

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

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

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

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

2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps
2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide
le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

here are hammad’s lyrics:

Of Refuge and Language”

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

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

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

I will not look away

All I know is this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refugees are the rest of the world

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

Those who are forgotten in the mean times

Those who remember

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

Yes Amadou this my country
And these my people

Evacuated as if criminal
Rescued by neighbors
Shot by soldiers

Adamant they belong

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

Do not look away

The rest of the world lives here too
In America

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

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

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

obama’s mercenaries

yesterday there was some good news coming out of iraq:

Five US contractors have been arrested by Iraqi police in connection with the murder of a colleague, officials have said.

If the men appear in court, it would be the first time American citizens face Iraqi justice since a bilateral security pact came into force in January.

A US embassy spokesman said no formal charges had been filed against the men who were detained on Sunday, and that they “appear well”.

“Embassy officials have visited the men to make sure they’re being given their rights in accordance with Iraqi law,” he said.

The body of Jim Kitterman, a 60-year-old Texan, who was reportedly bound, blindfolded and stabbed, was found dead in his car last month in the protected Green Zone where his small construction company was based.

of course that makes five down and thousands more to go. in any case, for some terrific analysis of the current imperial wars and occupations expanded by obama watch this interview with jeremy scahill on bill moyers from a few nights ago: