What Some Indians Learn about the Middle East in their Textbook

One of the main homegrown board exams in India is the CISCE (Council for the India School Certificate Exams). The eleventh and twelfth standard years require students to study both Indian and global history. While the syllabus doesn’t stipulate which textbook teachers should adopt, many high schools in India seem to use Norman Lowe’s Mastering Modern World History. What the syllabus does delineate is the particular periods or events in history that students should cover in these grades. Of course, how any given teacher chooses to approach the textbook or the syllabus will vary.

Over the course of two years, students learn about the following main events:

1. World War One (with some emphasis on colonialism and imperialism)

2. The Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal

3. The Development of Communism (USSR and China)

4. Japan’s Parliamentary Democracy

5. Fascism and Nazism

6. The Collapse of International Order

7. World War Two (which covers some theatres of war most students don’t learn about, like battles between the Allies and Axis in Egypt, but much of the war’s relationship to Indians and Indian soldiers, like Churchill’s man-made famine, is covered in Indian history not in the world history section)

8. Post World War Two and the Cold War

9. The Middle East

It is this last section that I will explore here as there are some serious problems with Lowe’s text (at least the third edition, published in 1997, which is the one I’ve read) as it attempts to cover West Asia. Although it should be said that the absence of lessons about Africa and Asia more generally–especially given India’s relationship to these places, for example forced migration and labour under the British that affected relations between East Africans and Indians–are troubling. One would hope that a post-independence syllabus would explore not focus so much on imperial and neocolonial powers and their history to the exclusion of the global south. To know further details, follow links embedded in the lines below.

As for the Middle East the ISC syllabus detains what students should know after studying this unit:

(i) Post War conflict in Palestine after World War I, till the formation of the state of Israel. A brief background of Arab nationalism and Zionism in the late 19th century. Impact of World War I: the conflicting promises made to the Arabs, the Jews (Balfour Declaration) and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. All these need to be understood clearly. A general outline of events from 1919 to the Arab Revolt of the late 1930s (the increased immigration of Jews under the mandate and the resultant conflict). The impact of World War II and the intensification of the conflict against Britain’s decision to withdraw – the UNO’s plan. Creation of Israel and the War of Liberation (a chronological account should suffice here).

(ii) The Arab-Israeli Wars from 1948 to Camp David Accord. The following conflicts should be studied – (1948-1949), the Suez Crisis (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), Sadat and the Camp David Accord (1979). For each of these events, the causes and results should be done in some detail. Events to be done very briefly.

(iii) The war in Lebanon. A general account of the war.

There are some distinct problems with the language in this description, which appears to give a so-called balanced view between the British-Zionist colonial project and the indigenous Arab population of the region. Yet the language betrays this illusion by calling the nakba (the catastrophe that befell Palestinians when they were expelled from their land and massacred by Zionist forces) “the war of Liberation”. Additionally, the 1973 war is identified as “the Yom Kippur War”, even though a neutral party would call it the October War (it is also known as the Ramadan War).

It is also striking to see such language given the aims for the course that the syllabus states:

5. To develop the capacity to read historical views in the light of new evidence or new interpretation of evidence.

7. To encourage diminution of ethnocentric prejudices and to develop a more international approach to world history.

8. To develop the ability to express views and arguments clearly using correct terminology of the subject.

9. To familiarise candidates with various types of historical evidence and to provide some awareness of the problems involved in evaluating different kinds of source materials.

These goals are important to keep in mind as one reads through and evaluates Lowe’s textbook. The chapter in his book on the Middle East is called “Conflict in the Middle East”, already setting up a particular way of viewing the region as if fighting of some kind or the other is intrinsic to the place.  He begins by defining the geographical region and the states it includes before explaining Israel’s placement in the region:

The Middle East also contains the small Jewish state of Israel which was set up by the United Nations in 1948 in Palestine. The creation of Israel in Palestine, an area belonging to the Palestinian Arabs, outraged Arab opinion throughout the world…. (221)

Israel is the only state that gets the adjective “small” to describe it even though states like Lebanon are smaller. This is one of the oldest Zionist tactics–to emphasise the size of Israel in order to suggest its vulnerability.

The introduction continues by continuing to highlight Arab sentiments about the Jewish state:

The Arab states refused to recognize Israel as a legal state and they vowed to destroy it. Although there were four short wars between Israel and the various Arab states (1948-9, 1956, 1967 and 1973), Arab attacks failed, and Israel survived. The Arab desire to destroy Israel tended for much of the time to overshadow all other concerns. (221)

This a-contextual summary of the region spends a great deal of energy characterising Arab people as if there are no distinctions among the various peoples and cultures or the regimes governing them (they are all stubborn: “refused”; violent: “destroy”). The book treats all “wars” the same even though the nakba in 1948 was certainly not one and in 1956 and 1967 Israel instigated those wars.

Lowe feigns neutrality by illustrating that viewing history is subjective, without, of course, revealing his point of view:

Interpretations of the Middle East situation vary depending on whose viewpoint one looks at. For example, many British politicians and journalists regarded Colonel Nasser (Egyptian leader 1954-1970) as some kind of dangerous fanatic who was almost as bad as Hitler. On the other hand, most Arabs thought he was a hero, the symbol of the Arab people’s move towards unity and freedom.

To be sure, nowhere in the book does Lowe make a similar statement about Winston Churchill. Indeed, elsewhere in the book, he never suggests that Churchill is anything other than a statesman valiantly fighting the Axis powers. By omitting anything about his role in creating and exacerbating the Bengal famine, Lowe secures Churchill’s position in a Eurocentric version of history. Meanwhile, the mere suggestion of Nasser’s comparison to Hitler helps readers, if reading chronologically will have just finished learning about World War Two, to equate the two leaders. Moreover, throughout the book Lowe never refers to Nasser as President. He only ever calls him “Colonel”, as if to suggest he was a military dictator. Of course, nowhere in the book does Lowe intimate that one might have a different point of view about Palestine or Israel.

In the next section of the book Lowe begins with a factual error, one that conveniently feeds into a Zionist tactic of making the world seem as if there is a battle between Jews and Muslims:

They all speak the Arabic language, they are all Muslims (followers of the religion known as Islam, except for about half the population of Lebanon who are Christian and most of them wanted to see the destruction of Israel so that the Palestinian Arabs could have back the land which they feel is rightfully theirs. (223)

First of all, Arabs belong to several religious groups although most are Muslim (Sunni and Shi’a) and Christian. But there are also Druze, Baha’i, Alawis, and Jews. By Jews I mean Arab Jews who have always lived in the Arab world (as opposed to the European Zionists who worked with the British to colonise Palestinian land). And while it is probably true that most Arabs wanted to see Palestinians rightfully returned to the land from which they were forcibly expelled, without understanding that there was a planned expulsion (known as Plan Dalet), to remove the Palestinians by destroying their villages and massacring innocent civilians, one would likely form a negative opinion about Arab people. It would be like saying that freedom fighters in India–whether Vinayak Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, or Mohandas Gandhi–wanted to destroy the British without ever explaining what the British had subjected Indian people to through the course of their empire. Finally, the use of the word “feel” in the last sentence above–one that Lowe uses quite a bit to describe goals of Arab people, but not Israelis–suggests that it’s merely an emotional attachment to their land or homes and not a legal right. He fails to mention the fact that many Palestinians retain title deeds (some of which are also in Turkey in various archives) to their land and homes. Ironically, it is the Zionist Jews who “feel” that Palestine belongs to them–not the other way around.

When Lowe describes what he calls “interference in the Middle East by other countries”, he leaves quite a bit out, including the Sykes-Picot agreement:

Britain and France had been involved in the Middle East for many years. Britain ruled Egypt from 1882 (when British troops invaded it) until 1922 when the country was given semi-independence under its own king. However, British troops still remained in Egypt and the Egyptians had to continue doing what Britain wanted. By the Versailles Settlement at the end of the First World War, Britain and France were given large areas of the Middle East taken from the defeated Turks, to look after as mandates…Although Britain gave independence to Iraq (1932) and to Jordan (1946), both remained pro-British. France gave independence to Syria and Lebanon (1945) but hoped to maintain some influence in the Middle East. (223)

Once again, it is through his diction that Lowe misleads readers. He accurately states that Britain “invaded” Egypt, but it’s an aside–as if it is not as important as the fact of them ruling that country. It also doesn’t attribute any responsibility to France or Britain for their unilateral take over of land and makes it seem like it’s benign–they “look after” these countries and “gave” them independence. The fact that some Arab countries maintain strong relations with Britain or France is not contextualised either and thus it merely gives credence to the illusion that Britain and France was just a kind, if paternalistic, overseer, taking care of things until they were capable of independence. In reality, both countries partitioned the region and divvied it up between themselves, with careful attention paid to borders that would likely cause future problems so that they could maintain their control. This is especially ironic given U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s speech about nations having the right to self determination just a short time before carving up West Asia. Moreover, this partition ignored promises the British made to Arabs in the region who fought on behalf of the British during World War One in exchange for help creating their own independent states. Instead, the British installed puppets who could be relied upon to uphold British policy in the region.

A theme perpetuated throughout the chapter is that Arabs lacked unity, but it never says why because that would implicate the British and French colonial powers for using divide and rule tactics to maintain that instability. Similarly, the book continues with its negative characterisation of Arab states by saying:

Most of the Arab states had nationalist governments which bitterly resented Western influence. one by one, governments which were thought to be too pro-West were swept away and replaced by regimes which wanted to be non-aligned; this meant being free to act independently of both East (communist bloc) and West. (224).

The desire to be nationalistic and also not under the thumb of another nation should make sense to most Indians; and of course India occupied a similar position during this same period. To make sure readers don’t think this is a positive trait in a state, the tone here is quite negative. One by one Lowe moves on to illustrate how such regimes fell starting with Egypt:

At the end of the Second World War, British troops stayed on in the canal zone (the area around the Suez Canal). This was to enable Britain to control the canal, in which over half the shares owned by the British and French. (224)

Lowe continues explaining how army officers, led by Gamal Abd el Nasser, nationalised the Suez Canal for the Egyptian people. But his language, Egypt “seized power”, makes it seem as if that power didn’t belong to them. Nowhere is any mention of the British desire to create or maintain this canal because of its colonial holdings around the globe, which were also quickly decolonising–especially across Africa as many people across the continent were inspired by Nasser.

For Jordan, Lowe offers little to no context for King Abdullah’s overthrow:

King Abdullah had been given his throne by the British in 1946. He was assassinated in 1951 by nationalists who felt that he was too much under Britain’s thumb. (225)

This point about King Abdullah being “given” the throne by the British certainly suggests that as a result he would be subjected to British control. Indeed, Abdullah, who was killed in Palestine at the al-Aqsa mosque, was killed because he was a puppet of the British.

With Iran, the only non Arab state discussed in this chapter, much more detail is provided, although not much context and serious key facts are left out:

The Western-educated Shah (ruler) of Iran, Reza Pahlevi, resisted the Russians and signed a defence treaty with the USA (1950); they provided him with economic and military aid, including tanks and jet fighters. The Americans saw the situation as part of the Cold War–Iran was yet another front on which the communists must be prevented from advancing. However, there was a strong nationalist movement in Iran which resented all foreign influence. This soon began to turn against the USA and against Britain too. This was because Britain held a majority of the shares int he Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and its refinery at Abadan. it was widely felt that the British were taking too much of the profits, and in 1951 the Premier of Iran, Dr. Mussadiq, nationalized the company (took it under control of the Iranian government). However, most of the world, encouraged by Britain, boycotted Iran’s oil exports and Mussadiq was forced to resign. (225)

Reza Shah Pahlevi ran a dictatorship that was financially supported by the U.S. Meanwhile Britain controlled the money from Iran’s primary natural resource: oil. What upset Britain, at first, was the fact that the people of Iran democratically elected Mossadegh and then he proceeded to nationalise Iranian oil for the Iranian people. Britain was incensed by this and enlisted the help of the U.S. to overthrow Mossadegh. Kermit Roosevelt, for the CIA, worked tirelessly to make that happen in the first CIA coup. Language like Mossadegh was “forced to resign” leaves out quite a crucial detail, such as the U.S. role in making that happen. Likewise, as with Egypt’s Suez Canal, Lowe paints a picture as if the canal and the oil fields somehow rightly belong to Britain because they invested money in it. The reimposition of the Shah, furthermore, led to more American control over Iran, which ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Not unsurprisingly, Mossadegh’s actions ultimately inspired Nasser in Egypt and Nasser would also be subjected to a violent reaction from Britain in the form of a war in 1956.

When it comes to narrating the history of Israel, Lowe fails yet again as all he seems to be able to offer is a biblical one:

The origin of the problem went back almost 2000 years to the year AD 71, when most of the Jews were driven out of Palestine, which was then their homeland, by the Romans. (226)

The problem with this assertion is that the Romans never exiled any population. This is a Zionist myth, not a historical fact. Regardless, even if one tends to view the Bible as a history textbook, for a people absent for such a long time to violently uproot the people living in that land is unconscionable. Just imagine how Indians would feel if people who fled during the partition decided to come back and reclaim their homes and land. It hasn’t been even a century, and yet I imagine that people in India would not be willing to give up their homes and land.

Lowe jumps, as most Zionists do in their historical accounts, from AD 71 to 1897 when Theodor Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement. He explains a narrow context for its creation:

Zionists were people who believed that Jews ought to be able to go back to Palestine and have what they called “a national homeland”; in other words, a Jewish state. Jews had recently suffered persecution in Russia, France, and Germany, and a Jewish state would provide a safe refuge for jews from all over the world. The problem was that Palestine was inhabited by Arabs, who were alarmed at the prospect of losing their land to the Jews. (226)

Here a combination of misinformation and obfuscation through language makes this paragraph above sound quite reasonable. But there are problems. First, throughout this chapter, Lowe uses the word Arab to refer to Palestinians, something Zionists do because it makes it seem like, according to their narrative, that they have a number of places to live and the Jews have nowhere, so why not just give up their homeland for the European and Russian Jews. Second, Palestinians didn’t have a problem with their land being taken over because the people doing it were Jews; indeed there were many Palestinian Jews at that time residing in Palestine. They had a problem that anyone would take over their homeland. Lowe also fails to mention the depths to which Herzl’s endeavour was a colonial one. Both his admiration for Cecil Rhodes and his desire to make a Jewish homeland in Uganda or Argentina (because they were both controled by the British), makes this point clear. Finally, the desire for a specifically Jewish state, in a country where there were several religious groups living side-by-side, also reveals the problem of this project. However, Lowe’s reminder of oppression Jews faced at the hands of Europeans and Russians seems to somehow rationalise this (in the same way British Puritans who colonised North America rationalise their theft of indigenous land).

Lowe continues his attempt at explaining the history of Israel by distorting it further:

The British hoped to persuade Jews and Arabs to live together peacefully in the same state; they failed to understand the deep religious gulf between the two. Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany after 1933 caused a flood of refugees, and by 1940 about half the population of Palestine was Jewish. In 1937 the British Peel Commission proposed dividing Palestine into two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish, but the Arabs rejected the idea. (226)

Characterising the problem in Palestine as a religious one is a typical Zionist strategy, as I noted above. Further, Lowe continues to juxtapose problems European or Ashkenazi Jews experienced in Europe with Arabs, who had nothing to do with it. It is true that many Jewish people became refugees who sought a new home. But Lowe fails to tell his readers that both the U.S. and Britain closed its doors on them, refusing to allow them to even temporarily settle on their soil. This was a part of empire’s strategy to push them into Palestine so the West could have a foothold in the region. At the time this also was important for Britain so it could secure its hold over the Suez Canal, and thus an easier transportation route to India. Also left out of this is the fact that for four years prior to and following the Peel Commission, Palestinians led one of the longest resistance campaigns in history–which included work stoppage, striking, and a host of innovative activities to stop British and Zionist colonisation of their land. Yes, when a partition plan was presented to Palestinians, they rejected it. Is there a group of people in the world who wouldn’t fight to keep their land if they had the choice? (For maps indicating how much Palestinians were being asked to give up at this stage see here, here, and here.)

To his credit, Lowe does reveal that there was a Zionist terrorist campaign targeting Palestinians and British alike once the British, under pressure from the increasing conflict, limited the Jewish immigration numbers:

The Jews, after all that their race had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, were determined to fight for their “national home”. They began a terrorist campaign against both Arabs and British; one of the most spectacular incidents was the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which the British were using as their headquarters; 91 people were killed and many more injured. (226)

The precursor to this admission of Zionist terrorism–although what is not mentioned is the targeting of Palestinians, which happened exerted a far greater toll–is the mention of Jews as a “race.” Aside from the fact that race is a social construct, there is no ethnically or genealogically unique group of Jews. As with other monotheisms, Jews proselytised, thus creating Jews from various cultural backgrounds. As for Zionist terrorism, it was extensive and far reaching all dictated by a plan to remove Palestinians from Palestine.

The final fib Lowe tells about the creation of Israel is the so-called war that ensued after Israel declared its independence:

In May 1948 Ben Gurion declared the independence of the new state of Israel. It was immediately attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. (227)

The sentences above move beyond mythology and into the realm of fantasy, as many historians have illustrated over the last couple of decades. First of all, the Zionist Plan Dalet, to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous population had already been well under way for a few years prior to 1948. Many Zionists were part of the British army and received military training and had greater access to sophisticated weapons. The Palestinians, as well as the Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Iraqis barely had an army at all. The ration was about 50,000 Zionist soldiers to 10,000 Palestinians (plus a moderate number of Arab irregulars–not any state army). What the repetition of this myth does, is perpetuate the biblically-rooted fantasy that Israel is a tiny David surrounded by a sea of Goliaths.

In spite of these facts, Lowe amplifies his Zionist sense that it was some kind of extraordinary feat that Israel won the so-called war:

Most people expected the Arabs to win easily, but against seemingly overwhelming odds, the Israelis defeated them and even captured more of Palestine than the UN partition had given them. (227)

He gives only a cursory and vague nod to the Zionist-created Palestinian refugee problem:

After some Jews had slaughtered the entire population of an Arab village in Israel, nearly a million Arabs fled into Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where they had to live in miserable refugee camps. Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. The USA, Britain and France guaranteed Israel’s frontiers, but the Arab states did not regard the ceasefire as permanent. They would not recognize the legality of Israel, and they regarded this war as only the first round int he struggle to destroy Israel and liberate Palestine. (227-228)

It is likely that Lowe is referring to Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem, which has become infamous for the Zionist massacre there. However, this massacre was committed on 9 April–a good month before Israel declared its statehood and before its so-called “war of independence” began. Deir Yassin is an important milestone in Palestinian history, mostly because it scared other Palestinians into flight. But it was by no means the only massacre committed by Zionist militias (all of which became folded into the Israeli army after independence).

The most egregious oversight, however, is Lowe’s glossing over the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of over 500 villages, which were later forested over by the Jewish National Fund so that Palestinians could not return. He also fails to mention that Palestinians have the right to return to their land as enshrined in UN Resolution 194.

Finally, Lowe reiterates the idea that the Arab states are being difficult, stubborn, and defiant for not recognising Israel like Western states did. Once again, in the absence of context as to why people were so appalled at the take over of Palestinian land is conveniently left out.

After this section rooted in 1948, Lowe skips ahead to 1956 and the Suez War. Here, too, his theme continues of demonising Arabs, especially Nasser:

Colonel Nasser, the new ruler of Egypt, was aggressively in favour of Arab unity and independence, including the liberation of Palestine from the Jews; almost everything he did irritated the British, Americans or French: He organized guerrilla fighters known as fedayeen (self-sacrificers) to carry out sabotage and murder inside Israel, and Egyptian ships blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba leading to the Israeli port of Eliat. (228)

The use of the adverb “aggressively”, something Lowe never does when describing Israelis, posits Nasser once again as an unreasonable and dangerous man. But this paragraph also pieces together bits of history from different historical moments, none of which are related to the war in 1956. He blockaded the port in the Gulf of Aqaba in 1967. Palestinian freedom fighters made a much more powerful dent in their struggle during the 1960s–both after this particular war. Through his tone and cherry-picked events, Lowe also suggests Nasser was a problem for helping Algerians in their anti-colonial war against France and for siding with Russia in order to obtain weapons at the height of the Cold War.

Lowe does accurately portray the origin of the war as a “planned Israeli invasion of Egypt”, which he thinks “was a brilliant success” while British and French forces bombed Egyptian airbases (230). He mentions the U.S. demanding the war be halted, signaling a win for Egypt, and the positive effect the war had on Algerians who were fighting for independence, but he doesn’t mention Nasser’s triumphant influence from Ghana to India and everywhere in between.

The next war Lowe skips ahead to is the June 1967 War, which Israelis call the Six Day War. He claims that leading up to this war, a newly independent and left-leaning Iraq wanted to “wipe Israel off the map” (231). He says:

The Arab states had not signed a peace treaty at the end of the 1948-9 war and were still refusing to give Israel official recognition. In 1967 they joined together again in a determined attempt to destroy Israel. The lead was taken by Iraq, Syria and Egypt. (231)

Lowe also characterises the growing Palestinian armed resistance movement  in Syria, which “supported El Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Movement, a more effective guerrilla force than the fedayeen” (231). Fatah was very much a part of the fedayeen whether in Syria or Jordan. While he does reveal that “The Israelis decided that the best policy was to attack first rather than wait to be defeated”, because troops amassed “along their frontiers” (232).

Of course, Israel’s success in that war meant it enlarged its colonial territories, including Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and the rest of historic Palestine: the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Lowe mentions that “this time [the Israelis] had ignored a UN order to return the captured territory” (232). But actually, Israel has ignored every single UN resolution related to their territory. This resolution was Security Council Resolution 242, which made clear that in international law no state may hold onto, or move a civilian population into, a territory acquired by war. It also reiterated the necessity of solving the Palestinian refugee problem, a problem that was greatly increased with this new war.

The final war explored between Israel and its neighbours is the one war that Israel didn’t initiate. In this scenario countries like Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, at least in part, to recover territory that Israel had illegally occupied since the previous war in 1967. For Lowe, the war was caused because:

Pressure was brought to bear on the Arab states by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under its leader Yasser Arafat, for some further action. When very little happened, a more extreme group within the PLO, called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, embarked on a series of terrorist attacks to draw world attention to the grave injustice being done to the Arabs of Palestine. (232)

This statement, which opens this section of the chapter, is extremely vague, although when one reads on it is clear that he is referring to Palestinians having to resort to new strategies to call attention to their plight. But in relation to what action or what did or didn’t happen, it remains unclear. Interestingly, like many Zionists, it is after the PFLP’s attacks that the word Palestine began, finally, to appear in the mainstream media. As if to reinforce Lowe’s opinion of painting Palestinians as terrorists here, he includes a photograph of Palestinian children whom he describes as follows:

The child soldiers of the Palestine refugee camps; trained from the age of 7, these boys and girls would be ready for front-line service by the age of 15. (234)

Note: there are no photographs of Israeli soldiers in training nor are there any photographs of Israelis except for Menachem Begin signing a peace treaty with Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat. Thus, through images Lowe is able to show Israelis as those who are striving for peace, and Palestinians as desiring to maintain a state of war.

Israel won this war, too, largely because of its increasing arsenal gifted from the American  government. But it sparked an important response from oil producing countries, creating an oil embargo that resulted in a global energy crisis.

The next jump in history moves to the peace accord signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, a treaty that would cost President Sadat his life for isolating Palestinians and the rest of the region. Lowe tells readers that “Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, bravely announced that he would continue the Camp David agreement” (236).

From this event he shifts to Israel’s peace treaty with the PLO. Oddly, this jump in time skips over the first intifada, a popular movement that ran the gamut from refusal to pay taxes to throwing stones at Israel armoured tanks. It is this development that likely led to pressuring the PLO into signing the Oslo Accords. Lowe fails to highlight the way that this agreement was one sided, as it sent Palestinians down the road which would force them to constantly make concessions for little to nothing in return. Instead, he merely states that in addition to the PLO and Israel recognising one another:

the Palestinians were to be given limited self-rule in Jericho (on the West Bank) and in part of the Gaza Strip, areas occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Israeli troops would be withdrawn from these areas. (237)

Today it is clear that each and every so-called peace treaty Israel pushed Palestinians into signing was another tactic to increase its colonial rule of Palestinians. And just as Israel has never honoured a UN resolution, it has never honoured any promise made in its treaties. As a way to relieve Israel from any blame, because “four bombings carried out by the militant Palestinian group, Hamas claimed 63 lives” (237). Of course, Israel’s divide and conquer colonial practice that helped to bolster Hamas is not mentioned in the textbook.

The last three sections cover other wars: Lebanon’s civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In its section on Lebanon, Lowe brings up the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in ways that is both confused and quite uninformed:

The presence of Palestinian refugees from Israel: This complicated the situation even more. By 1975 there were at least half a million of them living in squalid camps away from the main centres of population. The Palestinians were not popular in Lebanon because they were continually involved in frontier incidents with Israel, provoking the Israelis to hit back at the Palestinians in southern Lebanon. In particular, the Palestinians, being left-wing and Muslim, alarmed conservative and Christian Maronites who looked on the Palestinians as a dangerous destabilising influence. By 1975 the PLO had its headquarters in Lebanon, and this meant that Syria, the chief supporter of the PLO, was constantly interfering in Lebanon’s affairs. (240)

First, Palestinian refugees were forced into Lebanon by Zionists before the state of Israel existed. They are refugees from Palestine, not from Israel. Second, Palestinians do not necessarily live away from main centres of population (Sur, Saida, Beirut, Trablus). Indeed, in Beirut there are several camps within the city itself. Third, Palestinians are not only Muslim and not only leftist–whether fighters or not. Indeed, many Palestinian fighters were Christian and many were not leftists.

But throughout this section, Lowe represents the Lebanese Civil War in highly sectarian ways. While part of the issue is certainly Lebanon’s sectarianism, it is not as simplistic as Lowe makes it out to be. Because he sees Palestinians as mainly Muslim and Lebanese as mainly Christian, here is how he characterises the fighting:

In the south, bordering on Israel, fighting soon broke out between Palestinians and Christians; the Israelis seized this opportunity to send troops in to help the Christians. A small semi-independent Christian state of Free Lebanon was declared under Major Haddad. The Israelis supported this because it acted as a buffer zone to protect them from further Palestinian attacks. (240)

Instead of truthfully explaining that Haddad’s army–known as the South Lebanese Army–was not independent because it was a proxy militia for Israel, Lowe merely tells readers it was a Christian group wanting to protect themselves and the border. Moreover, to further complicate the sectarian nature of Lowe’s book, SLA ran Khiam prison, in cahoots with the Israelis, where freedom fighters such as Soha Bechara, a Lebanese Christian communist woman, were held and tortured for years.

Elsewhere Lowe continues to take plays from Zionists by rationalising attacks on Palestinians by calling it a “reprisal”:

In 1982, in reprisal for a Palestinian attack on Israel, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon and penetrated as far as Beirut. For a time the Gemayels, supported by the Israelis, were in control of Beirut. During this period the Palestinians were expelled from Beirut, and from then on the PLO was divided. (240).

This passage elides several points. True, Israel was aligned with the Phalangists or Kata’eb political party in Lebanon, a right-wing Maronite (Christian) group. Although he makes it clear that Israel “invaded” Lebanon (not its first time to do so either, and certainly not its last), the notion that Israel was aligned with a particular militia makes it seem as though they were somehow welcome. More horrendous is his use of the word “reprisal” to suggest that whatever Israel did–something Lowe elides here–was warranted. What he forgets to tell his readers is that 1982 is precisely the moment when Israel perpetrated on defenceless Palestinians in the Beirut refugee camp Shatila (and the surrounding neighbourhood of Sabra) under the cover of the Phalange militia. Even Israel’s Kahan Commission found Ariel Sharon guilty for his part in orchestrating the massacre.

In the final two sections of the chapter, Lowe covers up more key points as he glosses over the conflict between Iran and Iraq and later the U.S. and Iraq. But the conclusion to the chapter seems to be the one place where some truth emerges as well through both his tone and language:

The war and its aftermath were very revealing about the motives of the West and the great powers. Their primary concern was not with international justice and moral questions of right and wrong, but with their own self-interest. They only took action against Saddam in the first place because they felt he was threatening their oil supplies. Often in the past when other small nations had been invaded, no international action had been taken. For example, when East Timor was occupied by neighbouring Indonesia in 1975, the rest of the world ignored it, because their interests were not threatened. (244)

It is quite odd to see Lowe making such a statement at the beginning of the paragraph, and then regress so ignorantly at the conclusion of the paragraph and chapter. It is also strange that he sees self-interest here, but not elsewhere–for example Britain’s desire to control the Suez Canal or Iranian oil fields. But the icing on the cake is this conclusion when he imagines that the world ignored it because their interests weren’t threatened. Indeed, the West, especially the United States, actively participated in the massacre and occupation of East Timor.

While this is just a small response to one chapter in a history book, I could certainly continue examining and pointing out inconsistencies, omissions, and false statements throughout the volume. It should be a reminder that we cannot accept any text at face value and that we should question what we read.

Tibet and Palestine

Last month I started the summer off with a vacation in Dharamsala, in the northern part of India. I went there for the same cliched reason many other foreigners go there–for yoga and meditation. I’ve been meditating and practicing yoga for about 17 years. But for the past several years, since I first went to Palestine, I’ve struggled with this practice a bit. It’s been hard for me to reconcile the idea that working on one’s own inner peace, as it were, could lead to any global kind of peace. Moreover, the pessimist in me doesn’t believe that anyone in power would ever commit to such a practice, which is what would have to happen for such a change to emerge. True, it has happened in history–most notably with Ashoka who changed quite radically after his conversion to Buddhism. And there are others, too. In spite of my reservations, I’ve returned to these practices little by little in the past few years.

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I recalled a demonstration against Israeli theft of Palestinian agricultural land for their settlements and apartheid wall, which I attended in Bil`in in 2005. There was a Buddhist monk who joined us, although I recalled him as Tibetan, looking at the photographs now he’s clearly not. Still, I found it striking watching him beating his drum while the soldiers began to open fire on us. I never had a chance to speak with him because I was arrested that day.

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I remembered this image, though I hadn’t seen it in some time, because the more I explored Dharamsala and Tibetan history, the more I saw lucid parallels to Palestinian struggles. Just one glimpse of the images around McLeod Ganj, the main area where Tibetans, especially Tibetan monks, reside shows clearly an ongoing struggle for freedom, and not only in the Buddhist sense of liberation. At the Tibet Museum this resonated even more because I learned of the Tibetan resistance movement–I had not known that there had ever been armed struggle against the Chinese. But there are many similarities I noticed:

1. The time frame: Palestinians commemorate the nakba (catastrophe) on 15 May 1948, although the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began long before that and continues until this day. A year later, in 1949, China invaded Tibet.

2. Palestinians began their armed resistance movement to get their land back in 1968; the infamous Battle of Karameh marked its introduction to the world. In 1958, according the the museum catalog:

the flag of a united Tibetan resistance movement, the Tensung Danglang Maggar (‘Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet’), was hoisted for the first time in Driguthang, Lhoka. Andrug Gompo Tashi was nominated as our chief commander. Many recruits from all parts of Tibet joined us and we soon had more than 5,000 members. Fighting began soon after. At Nyemo we faced our biggest battle, Less than 1,000 of us successfully fought against a much bigger Chinese force. (25)

3. Both Israel and China have led ongoing campaigns to destroy cultural religious buildings, among other structures, in Palestine and Tibet respectively. Israel also regularly destroys Palestinian homes (often forcing Palestinians to destroy their own homes and/or pay the fees for that process) and does not permit them to build or rebuilt as the case may be.  In Tibet, according to the museum,

The systematic eradication of Tibetan culture and religion saw the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and temples. The handful still standing today are used as tourist attractions, army barracks, or public toilets. Precious scriptures and sculptures were destroyed or sold in international art markets. The Chinese used scriptures as shoe soles and monks and nuns were forced to desecrate religious objects. (29)

4. Just as Israel practices Judaisation, China practices what Tibetans call Sinicisation, which is includes the erasure of Tibetan identity and the inculcation of a Chinese one–starting with language. The museum explains:

The Chinese language is given priority in education and administration, thus marginalizing Tibetans in every sphere of life. Even more worrying are the population transfers that are diluting our culture and are reducing Tibetans to a minority in our own country. China is actively engaged in denials of our history, culture–our very identity. (37)

5. As indicated above, China also practices transfer, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing that Zionists have used since their pre-state days. In both cases, the occupying nation moves its citizens into the areas or homes where Tibetans or Palestinians used to live. One example is the expulsion of people from Yaffa and another more recent example is the ongoing nakba affecting Bedouins in the Naqab desert known as the Prawer Plan.

6. Of course, when one is faced with forced expulsion one becomes a refugee. Approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees were expelled in 1948 and many more since then including internally displaced people. Because this process is ongoing (and because of normal population growth) that number is 7.2 million today. In the case of Tibet:

Since 1959, about 100,000 Tibetans fled to neighboring countries. Many died on the way as a result of Chinese attacks and harsh conditions. Thousands continue to escape oppression and persecution in Tibet each year. (40)

7. Recent struggles for both Tibetans and Palestinians have included boycotting products made in China and Israel respectively. Additionally, Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation to call attention to their plight.

I lay out all of these comparisons here because while in Dharamsala I read a book called A Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz (1995). The book is not worth quoting, but essentially it is the tale of a variety of Jewish people–Orthodox, Conservative, Reform–primarily from the U.S. and Israel who come to Dharamsala to participate in a Buddhist-Jewish interfaith dialogue. From what I gleaned in the book, that dialogue was motivated by the Jewish delegation because of the great many Jews who leave their faith for Buddhism. There were so many odd concerns they held about joining this group and interacting with people who, for example, don’t keep kosher or who are formally addressed as “His Holiness.”

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In the book, there didn’t yet seem to be an Israeli colony in Dharamsala yet.  This is likely because relations between India and Israel were just beginning to publicly thaw in the early 1990s. But today there are many such colonies, (see here and here) most notably in this mountain top hill station and in Goa. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went to explore these two areas, pretty far removed from each other–one on top of the mountain in Dharamkot and the other in a valley a few kilometres below, Bhagsu Naag. In Dharamkot there is a Chabad House (an Orthodox Jewish prayer house–the tall brick building, which is the tallest in the area). It’s a bit odd to see that here given that stories I hear and read about often detail the way in which Israelis come after their three (men) or two year (women) compulsory army service, trash the area, smoke a lot of hashish, and have a lot of sex. It doesn’t exactly seem like the type who would frequent an extremely religious space.  The photographs above are from Dharamkot and those below from Bhagsu Naag.

The most disturbing aspect of this Israeli take over of this previously Indian and Tibetan community is the inclusion of what restauranteurs call “Israeli cuisine” (hummus, felafel, etc.) with no sense of irony. There are several photographs of menus above that illustrate this. Unfortunately none of the restaurant owners (most seemed to be Indian, not Tibetan) are aware that what they are serving is Arabic cuisine originating in the Levantine countries of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. This cultural theft is akin to what I listed above as one of the many ways Israel Judaises Palestine, often taking on Arabic or Palestinian culture and claiming it as its own. This would be akin to Chinese restaurants serving momos and tsampa and claiming it as their own. Of course, they do that too. Also, I find it odd that just because a group of foreigners frequents another country that “their” cuisine must be readily available. Why travel if you’re not going to eat local food. Seriously! Likewise why is there a need for all the signage to change from Tibetan, Hindi, and English to just two foreign languages: English and Hebrew?

Finally, Kamenetz’s book made it clear that through their interfaith exchange Tibetans and Israelis would begin working together towards a common cause. From their point of view, the Tibetan struggle mirrors the Jewish and Israeli one (he often conflates the two) and, not surprisingly, Palestine is barely mentioned at all. (See Gideon Levy on this.)  Indeed, there is an Israeli-Tibet society. And Israelis seem to be collaborating with Tibetans on agricultural projects. However, if the Tibetans want to know what will come of such a venture, they should look at what people did in Andhra Pradesh at Kuppam once they realised how they were being deceived by Israeli promises to improve the agricultural practices here.

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One final image: at my meditation centre there were only two languages used other than English and Hindi: Russian and Hebrew.
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Nahr el Bared Redux

Yet again the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el Bared is under attack. For those of you who don’t know this history, click here for a link to an article I wrote detailing it up until 2008. I have been reposting information from two blogs, Words of Actionand Nahr el Bared – نهر البارد because the former is written by a journalist who is witnessing what is going on and the latter is collected from people who are in the camp. In these repostings there have been videos from the Solidarity Palestine Youtube channel, which are videos posted from the camp, including interviews with the martyr Ahmed Qassim who was murdered by the Lebanese army last week.  After going up to Baddawi camp a couple of times last week and meeting friends across the street from Nahr el Bared camp (because although they army was allowing women in that night, I was with a Palestinian friend from another camp who was not allowed in), I also wrote something, but I am waiting for it to be posted online before sharing it. But the most important and best article I’ve seen yet is an article that was published in al-Akhbar yesterday and I’m posting it in full below in the hope that as many Lebanese people as possible will read it given how many lies and much misinformation circulates whenever Palestinians and the army are the subject. In Lebanon, the army is believed by many people to be above criticism. And in many parts of Lebanon Palestinians are the ultimate scapegoat. For those readers who are willing to have their stereotypes challenged, here is “Letter From a Camp Resident: The Reality of Nahr al-Bared,” which dismantles most of the most egregious stereotypes and misconceptions:

By: Yousef Mohammed Ali

Published Saturday, June 23, 2012

Considering the misinformation and blackout in much of the media, and since the events were presented solely from the perspective of the main perpetrator in the crime of killing the innocent in Palestinian camps recently, I would like to state the following facts for those who are searching for the truth about what happened, and what is still happening, in the Nahr al-Bared Camp:

1. There have not been weapons in the Nahr al-Bared Camp since 2007, and it has been under military siege since then. The siege is so intense that no one can enter the camp – or leave it – except through the Lebanese Army. All the talk of confrontations proving the presence of weapons used by the Palestinians against the Army are lies, defamations designed to plant hatred in the hearts of our Lebanese brothers.

There have not been weapons in the Nahr al-Bared Camp since 2007, and it has been under military siege since then.

2. No Palestinian is allowed to enter the camp, even if he or she lives there, without securing permission from the Army. None of their relatives can visit them at the Camp without permission from the Army. This is because the Camp, since 2007, has been a militarized area, so military rules and regulations are applied there. Any Lebanese person, however, can enter the camp by simply presenting their personal identity card, even if they do not live in the Camp or even in Lebanon. Even the old cemetery [in the camp] is under military control, and entering it is only allowed on religious holidays and, even then, only with permission from the Army.3. The Lebanese Army can only open fire with the permission of a political decision, no matter against whom, as is the case in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, even when the Army are under attack. We all saw how the Army stood by watching in Tariq al-Jdideh during the recent events. Yet, the Army needs no such political decision to open fire on Palestinians. The reason is quite simple: the Palestinians have no one defending them, even if only with words.

4. Let no one be convinced that merely throwing stones at the Army or shouting insults at the soldiers can justify their opening fire on a group of youths, the majority of whom were under the age of 20. And for those who do not know, the youth that was killed on June 15 in the Camp was only 16 years of age, and he was killed by a direct shot to the head. (He was just standing on a street corner in the Camp.) He also had wounds to the chest and heart. Another youth also died from similar injuries. And the other youth, who died in Ein al-Hilwe Camp, was not killed by a knife, as reported by LBC, but killed by a shot to the neck from an M16.

Excuse me if I have dragged on, but we are fatigued from years of humiliation and searches and oppression and besiegement in the Camps.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Yousef Mohammed Ali is a Palestinian refugee from Tabaraya, living in Ein al-Hilwe Camp.

Below are photographs I took at a candlelight vigil for the martyrs in Nahr el Bared and Ein el Helwa camps (because the other camps subjected to the status of a closed military zone have joined in protests and sit ins since the the onset of this lastest attack on Palestinians by the army. The photographs are a bit blurry, but the signs on the wall demand the end to the status of closed military zone of all camps. Here are there other demands (also reposted below).
Anyone interested in learning more, please come to Nasawiya’s event this week about Nahr el Bared:

Live from Nahr el Bared نهر البارد يروي Public Event · By Nasawiya

In solidarity with the youth-led open sit-in ongoing in Nahr el Bared to end the military siege, we invite all activists, bloggers, and journalists for a night of discussion and learning with Palestinian activists.

Come with all your honest questions, meet residents from the camp, and talk to them personally to understand why it is imperative to end the military siege.

The evening includes a visual exhibition open from 5pm – 10pm, as well as a panel of conversation with the Palestinian activists starting 7:30pm.

تضامنا مع الشباب المعتصمين في مخيم نهر البارد ومطالبهم المشروعة المتمثلة بإنهاء الحكم العسكري في المخيم ووقف اعتماد نظام التصاريح، تدعو المجموعة النسوية جميع النشطاء والصحافيين والمهتمين للمشاركة في اليوم التضامني هذا. يتخلله عرض صور وأفلام قصيرة من الاعتصام وكذلك لقاء مع بعض الناشطين من المخيم القيمين على الاعتصام.

من المهم التعرف على وضع المخيم، وضع أهله، أين أصبح على صعيد إعادة الإعمار؟ هل ما تبثه وسائل الإعلام في نقلها للحدث من هناك صحيح؟ لماذا يجب فك الحصار العسكري؟…

تعالوا مع أسئلتكم من أجل نقاش صريح في شتى المسائل. ليكن يوما نتعرف فيه عن وضع اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان. ليكن يوما لنعيد التفكير في الكثير مما تشربناه من أفكار مسبقة ونمطية حول المخيمات واللاجئين في لبنان.

Date:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
5:00pm until 9:00pm

palestine and absurdism

elia suleiman, one of my favorite palestinian filmmakers has a new movie out entitled “the time that remains.” the film premiered at cannes and i’m hoping it comes to a theater near me very soon. here is a clip from the film, though it is in arabic with french subtitles:

here is a synopsis:

THE TIME THAT REMAINS is a semi biographic film, in four historic episodes, about a family -my family – spanning from 1948, until recent times. The film is inspired by my father’s diaries of his personal accounts, starting from when he was a resistant fighter in 1948, and by my mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country since then. Combined with my intimate memories of them and with them, the film attempts to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled « Israeli-Arabs », living as a minority in their own homeland.

one of the reasons i love his films so much is that absurdism as a style (think samuel beckett) is the best at capturing the insanity that sometimes contextualizes this history and its present. absurdism captures zionist crimes as well as its collaborating allies in the palestinian authority. a recent article in electronic intifada by ali abu nimah and hasan abu nimah lays out the absurdity, for instance, of salam fayyad trying to declare a palestinian state in its current and ever shrinking archipelago form:

Late last month, Salam Fayyad, the appointed Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister in Ramallah, made a surprise announcement: he declared his intention to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the end of 2011 regardless of the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

Fayyad told the London Times that he would work to build “facts on the ground, consistent with having our state emerge as a fact that cannot be denied.” His plan was further elaborated in a lengthy document grandly titled “Program of the Thirteenth Government of the Palestinian National Authority.”

The plan contains all sorts of ambitious ideas: an international airport in the Jordan Valley, new rail links to neighboring states, generous tax incentives to attract foreign investment, and of course strengthening the “security forces.” It also speaks boldly of liberating the Palestinian economy from its dependence on Israel, and reducing dependence on foreign aid.

This may sound attractive to some, but Fayyad has neither the political clout nor the financial means to propose such far-reaching plans without a green light from Washington or Tel Aviv.

Fayyad aims to project an image of a competent Palestinian administration already mastering the craft of running a state. He boasts, for instance, that the PA he heads has worked to “develop effective institutions of government based on the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency.”

But what is really taking shape in the West Bank today is a police state, where all sources of opposition or resistance — real or suspected — to either the PA regime, or the Israeli occupation are being systematically repressed by US-funded and trained Palestinian “security forces” in full coordination with Israel. Gaza remains under tight siege because of its refusal to submit to this regime.

In describing the Palestinian utopia he hopes to create, Fayyad’s plan declares that “Palestine will be a stable democratic state with a multi-party political system. Transfer of governing authority is smooth, peaceful and regular in accordance with the will of the people, expressed through free and fair elections conducted in accordance with the law.”

A perfect opportunity to demonstrate such an exemplary transfer would have been right after the January 2006 election which as the entire world knows Hamas won fairly and cleanly. Instead, those who monopolize the PA leadership today colluded with outside powers first to cripple and overthrow the elected Hamas government, and then the “national unity government” formed by the Mecca Agreement in early 2007, entrenching the current internal Palestinian division. (Fayyad’s own party won just two percent at the 2006 election, and his appointment as prime minister by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas was never — as required by law — approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, dozens of whose elected members remain behind Israeli prison bars.)

From 1994 to 2006, more than eight billion US dollars were pumped into the Palestinian economy, making Palestinians the most aid-dependent people on earth, as Anne Le More showed in her important book International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo: Political Guilt; Wasted Money (London, Routledge, 2008). The PA received this aid ostensibly to build Palestinian institutions, improve socioeconomic development and support the creation of an independent state. The result however is that Palestinians are more destitute and aid-dependent than ever before, their institutions are totally dysfunctional, and their state remains a distant fantasy.

PA corruption and mismanagement played a big part in squandering this wealth, but by far the largest wealth destroyer was and remains the Israeli occupation. Contrary to what Fayyad imagines, you cannot “end the occupation, despite the occupation.”

A telling fact Le More reveals is that the previous “programs” of the PA (except those offered by the Hamas-led governments) were written and approved by international donor agencies and officials and then given to the PA to present back to the same donors who wrote them as if they were actually written by the PA!

Everything we see suggests Fayyad’s latest scheme follows exactly the same pattern. What is particularly troubling this time is that the plan appears to coincide with a number of other initiatives and trial balloons that present a real danger to the prospects for Palestinian liberation from permanent Israeli subjugation.

Recently, the International Middle East Media Center, an independent Palestinian news organization, published what it said was the leaked outline of a peace plan to be presented by US President Barack Obama.

That plan included international armed forces in most of the Palestinian “state”; Israeli annexation of large parts of East Jerusalem; that “All Palestinian factions would be dissolved and transformed into political parties”; all large Israeli settlements would remain under permanent Israeli control; the Palestinian state would be largely demilitarized and Israel would retain control of its airspace; intensified Palestinian-Israeli “security coordination”; and the entity would not be permitted to have military alliances with other regional countries.

On the central issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the alleged Obama plan allows only an agreed number of refugees to return, not to their original homes, but only to the West Bank, particularly to the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.

It is impossible to confirm that this leaked document actually originates with the Obama administration. What gives that claim credibility, however, is the plan’s very close resemblance to a published proposal sent to Obama last November by a bipartisan group of US elder statesmen headed by former US national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Moreover, recent press reports indicate a lively debate within the Obama Administration about whether the US should itself publish specific proposals for a final settlement once negotiations resume; so there is little doubt that concrete proposals are circulating.

Indeed there is little of substance to distinguish these various plans from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concept of “economic peace” and a demilitarized Palestinian statelet under overall Israeli control, with no right of return for refugees. And, since all seem to agree that the Jordan Valley — land and sky — would remain under indefinite Israeli control, so would Fayyad’s airport.

Similar gimmicks have been tried before: who remembers all the early Oslo years’ hullabaloo about the Gaza International Airport that operated briefly under strict Israeli control before Israel destroyed it, and the promised Gaza seaport whose construction Israel forbade?

There are two linked explanations for why Fayyad’s plan was launched now. US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has repeatedly defined his goal as a “prompt resumption and early conclusion” of negotiations. If the kinds of recycled ideas coming from the alleged Obama plan, the Scowcroft-Brzezinski document, or Netanyahu, are to have any chance, they need to look as if there is a Palestinian constituency for them. It is Fayyad’s role to provide this.

The second explanation relates to the ongoing struggle over who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA. It has become clear that Fayyad, a former World Bank official unknown to Palestinians before he was boosted by the George W. Bush Administration, appears to be the current favorite of the US and other PA sponsors. Channeling more aid through Fayyad may be these donors’ way of strengthening Fayyad against challengers from Abbas’ Fatah faction (Fayyad is not a member of Fatah) who have no intention of relinquishing their chokehold on the PA patronage machine.

Many in the region and beyond hoped the Obama Administration would be a real honest broker, at last bringing American pressure to bear on Israel, so that Palestinians might be liberated. But instead, the new administration is acting as an efficient laundry service for Israeli ideas; first they become American ones, and then a Palestinian puppet is brought in to wear them.

This is not the first scheme aimed at extinguishing Palestinian rights under the guise of a “peace process,” though it is most disappointing that the Obama Administration seems to have learned nothing from the failures of its predecessors. But just as before, the Palestinian people in their country and in the Diaspora will stand stubbornly in the way of these efforts. They know that real justice, not symbolic and fictitious statehood, remains the only pillar on which peace can be built.

nablus, where i lived last year, is being held up as a sort of model for this. last month in the independent ben lynfield reported on this:

The shopkeepers in Nablus, the West Bank’s toughest town, are smiling for a change. But no one knows for how long.

Dubbed “the mountain of fire” by Palestinians for its part in the revolt against the British mandate during the 1930s, Nablus is usually known for its violent uprisings, choking Israeli clampdowns and prowling Palestinian gunmen extorting protection money.

It is difficult to reconcile that reputation with the reality on the streets today. The centre of town is filled with shoppers picking up everything from new trainers and perfumes to armloads of dates for Ramadan, the Muslim festival which began on Saturday.

Nablus now has its first cinema in more than 20 years, grandly called “Cinema City”, which offers a diet of Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers and Arabic romantic comedies, complete with cappuccinos and myriad flavours of popcorn.

Israel has eased its chokehold of army checkpoints around the city, particularly the one at Huwwara in the south. It was once one of the worst West Bank bottlenecks, with long queues and copious permits required. But now Israeli soldiers wave cars through with the minimum of fuss.

Store owners in Nablus’s ancient casbah say sales are up 50 or even 100 per cent since the beginning of the year. Much of the upswing in trade can be attributed to the fact that, for the first time in eight years, Israel now allows its Arab citizens to drive into Nablus on a Saturday .

“It’s a better feeling when you sell more,” said Darwish Jarwan, whose family store sells toys, clothes and perfumes. “You are happier.”

The reminders of unhappier times are all around. There are bullet holes on the steps of the shop and he had to fix the door three times over the past eight years after it was damaged during Israeli army operations.

The Israeli easing at certain checkpoints is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to demonstrate he is serious about encouraging Palestinian economic improvement in order to build peace “from the bottom up”. Israeli army officials credit the work of US-trained Palestinian Authority security forces, which have allowed them to lift the checkpoints.

The Israeli and PA moves have produced the most positive economic indicators for years, with the International Monetary Fund saying last month that growth could reach 7 per cent provided there was a more comprehensive easing of restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement.

But critics say Mr Netanyahu’s approach is aimed at evading the broad political concessions needed to really defuse the Israeli-Palestinian powder keg. Nablus residents are themselves cautious, especially given the Jewish settlements that surround the town. Back at his shop, Mr Jarwan says the economic boost alone will not be enough to satisfy his countrymen.

“Buying and selling isn’t everything,” he explains. “We want our own Palestinian country and to get our freedom. If the settlements continue to go on like this, I’m sure there will be another explosion.”

Nablus is known for its pastries, especially knafeh, a sweet made out of goats’ cheese. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, was the first to sample the “largest knafeh in the world”, which was prepared to draw attention to the city’s revival and as a celebration of the new sense of security and relative normalcy.

But at the city’s most revered bakery, al-Aksa Sweets, there was a sour after-taste as an unemployed teacher declared after finishing his helping: “The lifting of checkpoints is all theatre, nothing substantial, a show for the Americans and Europe. All of this is for a limited time.”

Another resident stressed that Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that swept municipal and legislative elections in Nablus in 2005 and 2006, is still popular, although that is not visible since its leaders are in jail and its activities suppressed.

At the new Cinema City, the owner’s son, Farouk al-Masri, was also hesitant about painting too rosy a picture. “Things are better,” he says. “There is more security, police are keeping law and order, there are less Israeli incursions and less restrictions at checkpoints. The great number of Palestinians from Israel who are coming have breathed life into the city. We’ve been living in this fear, being isolated and not being able to go in and out but now there is more room to move.” But he added: “It’s all very flimsy. We saw it during the years of the Oslo agreement. There were signs of great things ahead and it all collapsed in the blink of an eye.”

The cinema is often cited as a symbol of the new Nablus, although at £4 a seat, tickets are beyond the reach of many residents. Nonetheless, the current bill, an Egyptian romantic comedy called Omar and Salma has sold out every night since it opened 10 days ago.

“They love comedy here,” said Mr al-Masri. “We had one movie that was very bloody. People didn’t accept it and only a few came to see it. Blood – we’ve had enough of that.”

but today it was reported that 55 palestinian homes in nablus will be demolished. and herein lies the absurdity of this model of palestinians trying to create “facts on the ground” or economic security rather than fighting for liberation and the right of return:

Despite the outcry raised by Palestinian and international human rights organizations, the Israeli military announced this weekend it plans to go ahead with 55 home demolitions in Nablus — a city deep inside the West Bank which is supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The homes in question are located in the Sawiya district in the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, an area with few Israeli settlements — although Israeli settlers have announced plans to expand the settlements located there.

“The Israeli decision constitutes a serious turning point in the development of Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights,” said the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in a statement released on Friday. The group said that it is concerned that these 55 demolitions will set a precedent for further demolitions in areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on the limits of solidarity

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

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

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

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

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

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

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

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

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

Please join us.

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

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

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

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

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

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

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

Sources of Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safundi: Connected to that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

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

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

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

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

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

on (not) reconstructing nahr el bared refugee camp

reconstruct-bared-tripoli-demonstration-flyer

there will be a demonstration in trablus in a couple of days to protest the fact that michel aoun has halted the reconstruction of the nahr el bared refugee camp. the reconstruction committee of nahr el bared refugee camp has a new blog where they are documenting the situation on the ground. and you can read about it at my new favorite blog, mlokhiya resistance, written by one of the people i love and respect most in this world.

on palestinian rappers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His friend Ayman Mughames from Palestinian Rapperz joins him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Producing an album is not easy either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on orange & other adventures in normalization

i love orange. it’s my favorite color. i even painted my office at boise state university orange a few years ago. but in this region colors always take on new meanings that destroy colors and what they mean. for instance, when i first moved to palestine in the summer of 2005 i discovered that orange was the color that the zionist terrorist colonists in gaza were using to protest their removal from occupied gaza. you still see their orange ribbons on backpacks and and rear view mirrors. these are the same people who are building new colonies and expanding them in naqab, al quds, nasra and everywhere else.

orange

but why am i writing about orange? well, actually it’s not the color i’m speaking of. it’s the corporation. when i lived in jordan (2005-2006) i had a land line in my house from the jordanian national telecom company and i had internet from a company called wanadoo. it seems that in the time since i lived here last, both have been swallowed up by orange (which is why i won’t be having a land line or internet service or cell phone service from orange). for the land lines this is a huge issue: it means that jordan has privatized its telecommunications sector to a foreign company. apparently, this happened two years ago:

The Jordanian mobile operator, MobileCom – a subsidiary of Jordan Telecom Group (JTG) has rebranded under the Orange brand name. Jordan Telecom is 51% controlled by France Telecom which in turn, owns Orange.

“With this move, Orange becomes the sole commercial brand for JTG’s fixed, mobile, and internet services,” said Chairman of the Board of Directors of JTG Dr Shabib Ammari. “Our customers will be enjoying Orange’s competitive range of telecom solutions and top quality services, enjoying the premium offering that will meet their needs to full satisfaction through this single and reputable provider,” added Ammari.

The GSM arm of JTG was first registered on 21st September, 1999 and launched full public service across the Kingdom on 15th September, 2000. The infrastructure was provided by Ericsson.

Orange Jordan has around 1.7 million subscribers according to figures from the Mobile World, which gives the company a market share of 36%.

and orange has fully inserted itself and its brand into jordanian life. billboards are everywhere. there are orange ramadan placemats in restaurants and cafes. and they even have some magazine that i found in my hotel room when i was in amman on my way to the u.s. for a couple of days. it is inescapable. but it is also possible not to participate in this orange branding of jordan, which, according to the jordanian blogger black iris, they aren’t offering such hot service:

Since writing that open letter to Orange Telecom Jordan on their terrible service I’ve noticed the link really flying around the twittersphere. It’s gotten around 1,700 views in the past 48 hours, which, along with the comments and emails people left me, is a real indication that many are simply not happy with the Kingdom’s telecom giant and it’s level of service.

but i think there are other reasons, aside from crappy service, that people in jordan should be up in arms that their national telecom industry was handed over to orange. some of what i am about to say is speculative, but the facts will be backed up with reports. my suspicion about orange was first raised because i know it to be one of the main mobile phone companies in the zionist entity. for many years, it was the only mobile company that palestinians had access too before they created their own network, jawal. orange is not an israeli company, but i have been told it was started by two french jews. i have looked to find out more about the people who started and/or who run orange headquarters, but it has been difficult to find anything out on them. my curiosity is that is suspect they are like howard shultz, ceo of starbucks, who donates a significant amount of his profits to the zionist entity every year. i don’t have any such information yet (though if anyone out there knows the dirt on orange please send it my way! ), but here is what wikipedia has to say about it:

Microtel Communications Ltd. was formed in April 1990 as a consortium comprising Pactel Corporation, British Aerospace, Millicom and French company Matra (British Aerospace soon acquired full control of the company). In 1991 Microtel was awarded a license to develop a mobile network in the UK, and in July 1991 Hutchison Telecommunications (UK) Ltd acquired Microtel from BAe. BAe was paid in Hutchison Telecommunications (UK) Ltd. shares, giving the company a 30% share. Hutchison Whampoa held 65% and Barclays Bank the remaining 5%. Microtel was renamed Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd. in 1994. The Orange brand was created by an internal team at Microtel headed by Chris Moss (Marketing Director) and supported by Martin Keogh, Rob Furness and Ian Pond. The brand consultancy Wolff Olins was charged with designing the brand values and logo and advertising agency WCRS created the Orange slogan “The Future’s bright, the Future’s Orange” along with the now famous advertising. The logo is square because a round orange logo already existed for the reprographics company, Orange Communications Limited, designed by Neville Brody in 1993.

Orange plc was formed in 1995 as a holding company for the Orange group. France Telecom formed the present company in 2001 after acquiring Orange plc (which had been acquired by Mannesmann AG, itself purchased by Vodafone shortly after, leading Vodafone to divest Orange) and merging its existing mobile operations into the company. The company was initially 100% owned by France Telecom (although there were and still remain minority investors in some of the national operating companies). In 2001 15% was sold in an IPO, but in 2003 the outstanding shares were bought back by France Telecom.

so there is no proof or connection to the zionist entity in any way yet. but that is okay. there is proof that their hands are dirty any way. like all cell phone companies that exist in the zionist entity, they are a part of the colonial infrastructure. here is a report from who profits laying out how orange, along with the other cell phone companies participate in colonialism and occupation:

All Israeli cellular communication companies are commercially involved in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights. These companies build infrastructure, maintain property and equipment in illegal Israeli settlements, much of it on privately owned Palestinian lands. They all provide services to the Israeli military and to all Israeli settlers, and some provide specially designed services. They use the Israeli control of the Palestinian territory to exploit the Palestinian frequencies and to impose their services on the Palestinian captive market.

Currently there are four Israeli cellular communication service providers: Cellcom, Partner (Orange), Pelephone and MIRS. Cellcom is part of the IDB group, a conglomerate of Israeli and international companies, one of the major players in the Israeli market; Partner is a subsidiary of the Chinese Hutchison Telecommunications International (HTIL); Pelephone is fully owned by Bezeq, the Israeli Telecommunication Corporation; MIRS is a subsidiary of Motorola Israel.

All four have dozens of antennas, transmission stations and additional infrastructure erected on occupied Palestinian land: MIRS holds at least 86 antennas and communication facilities on occupied territory, Cellcom at least 191, Pelephone 195 and Partner 165. As a survey by Yesh Din reveals, many of these antennas and communication facilities were erected on confiscated privately owned Palestinian land. Often, these devices are guarded by Israeli guards, and at least in one occasion, they were used as seeds for a new settlement outpost. Using this infrastructure, the companies provide services to Israelis in these areas, both to the settlements and to the Israeli soldiers operating in the occupied West Bank.

All four, Cellcom, Partner, MIRS and Pelephone, operate service stores in West Bank settlements. Additionally, MIRS is the exclusive provider of cellular phone services to the Israeli army (since 2005 and at least until 2011). This company installs communication units in army vehicles and it builds communication facilities in army bases throughout the West Bank and Golan Heights. The company also offers special rates for service personnel and their family members.

Cellcom, Partner and Pelephone are also operating in the Palestinian market. The conditions of the occupation ensure several advantages for these companies over the Palestinian cellular communication providers. The Israeli authorities do not provide permits for Palestinian companies to install antennas and transmission infrastructure in area C, which is under full Israeli control and constitutes 59% of the entire West Bank, making it virtually impossible for Palestinians to provide cellular coverage in many areas of the West Bank. Additionally, the frequency allocation granted by the Israeli authorities to Palestinian providers is very limited, and the Israeli authorities impose significant limitations on the Palestinian providers when it comes to the import of devices or the on ground installation of communication transmission devices. Even when the Israeli authorities do allow equipment into the Palestinian territory – it is often delayed by months or years, and by the time it arrives to the Palestinian providers it is outdated. Together, these limitations restrict the reception ranges and the overall quality of service by Palestinian providers, and the Palestinians turn to services provided by the Israeli companies, especially when traveling outside of the major Palestinian cities.

The Israeli control of frequencies and the implications of this control have been evident in the case of Wataniya Palestine. In 2007 Wataniya Palestine, a joint venture of Palestine Investment Fund and Wataniya Telecom of Kuwait, was licensed to become the second Palestinian cellular communication provider. On July 28, 2008 an agreement was signed by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, allocating frequencies for Wataniya’s use. The frequencies were supposed to be released by April 1 of 2009. As of August of 2009, none were released due to ongoing delays from the Israeli government. Consequently, Wataniya Telecom announced that it would back out of its initiative to operate cellular communication services in the occupied Palestinian territory.

According to a World Bank report issued in January of 2008, 20% to 45% of the Palestinian cellular market at that time was in the hands of Israeli companies. In breach of the Oslo Agreements, the Israeli companies do not pay taxes to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for their commercial activity in the Palestinian market. The World Bank report estimated that the lost annual PA tax revenues due to unauthorized Israeli operations amounted to $60 million. Additionally, the PA claimed that these Israeli companies have been targeting West Bank clients and actively selling to the Palestinians in the West Bank although they were never licensed to do so by the PA.

Surprisingly, even when using Palestinian providers, Palestinian customers have to rely on the Israeli companies because of the restrictions on Palestinian construction of telecommunication infrastructure. The Israeli companies collect a percentage surcharge on all interconnection revenues from calls between Palestinian landlines and cellular phones as well as calls between cellular phones of Palestinian operators and Israeli operators. Similarly, Palestinian operators have to depend on the costly services of Israeli companies for any international call, for calls connecting the West Bank and Gaza and for calls between different areas in the West Bank.

For more information, see the Who Profits website at: www.whoprofits.org.

here is a brief summary on orange in the zionist entity by who profits as well (who i normally don’t link to because they are colonists who don’t see themselves as colonists merely because they don’t live in the west bank):

An Israeli provider of cellular phone services.

The company erected more than 160 antennas and telecommunication infrastructure facilities on occupied land in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The company provides cellular communication services to the settlers and Israeli soldiers in the occupied territory. Additionally, the company enjoys the structural advantages of Israeli cellular services providers over Palestinian competitors in the Palestinian market.

Click here to read the full report about the involvement of the Israeli cellular companies in the occupation.

Involved in:

Palestinian Captive Market
Israeli Construction on Occupied Land
Services to the Settlements

51% of company shares are held by Scailex, which is controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov.

so this is why i am boycotting orange. i don’t need a land line. i have a cell phone from a kuwaiti company (zain) and internet (insha’allah soon) from a jordanian company (umniah). but what i see a lot of in jordan is heavy levels of consumption among a population who does not know, does not want to know, or does not want to sacrifice in the ways one must sacrifice in order to resist. part of this may be because i don’t have internet at my house yet and the only place near my house to get it (i.e., within walking distance) is a mall. so i’m being subjected to my least favorite sort of space with people participating in my least favorite activity all around me as i work in an internet cafe around people who eat and drink and smoke all day while i fast (it is ramadan, but there seem to be lots of jordanians who are not fasting). and i’m thinking a lot about sacrifice. not just because it is ramadan and i am fasting and my empty stomach makes me think about it, but also because i don’t understand why it consumption and globalization have turned the world numb and dumb. the divide between want and need is completely gone. and this is something i find so disturbing. i don’t know why people cannot just say no to so many things.

i also wonder why people cannot say no to normalization with the zionist entity. why they cannot say no on a personal or a collective level in places like jordan. for instance, there was a report in ha’aretz a few weeks ago about a sweatshop owned by zionist terrorist colonists in jordan:

If the term “sweatshop” used to be associated with Asian countries and global brands such as Nike, now such methods of production by exploiting workers have made aliyah. Two Israeli entrepreneurs run a sweatshop in Jordan that produces clothes for leading Israeli brands such as Irit, Bonita, Jump and Pashut, Haaretz has learned.

The National Labor Committee, a U.S.-based workers’ rights organization, has released a report accusing the Musa Garments factory in Jordan of employing workers under inhuman conditions, and charges the company with “human trafficking, abuse, forced overtime, primitive dorm conditions, imprisonment and forcible deportations of foreign guest workers.”

The report exposes what is said to be one of the biggest secrets of the Israeli fashion industry, saying the cheap production costs for Israeli labels is a very expensive price for workers’ rights at Musa Garments.

The report says Mr. Musa, the owner, is an Israeli. But the real owners are Jack Braun and Moshe Cohen from Tel Aviv. The factory is located in the Al Hassan industrial area in Irbid, Jordan. The two employ 132 people from Bangladesh, 49 from India and 27 Jordanians. Chinese, Sri Lankans and Nepalese have also worked there in the past. “They all come for one reason only: To earn as much money as they possibly can to pay off the debts they incurred to purchase their three-year work contracts in Jordan, and send money home to their families,” states the report.

The report explains how the “guest workers” face inhuman conditions from their first day. Management takes away their passports, sometimes for the entire three-year period. Workers who asked for their passports back – or at least a copy – were refused, an illegal act and serious human rights violation.

The conditions are close to slavery. Until December 2008, when the economic crisis hit the company, workers averaged shifts of between 12 and a half and 13 and half hours a day, seven days a week – even though their contracts give them Fridays off. They also had to work on Jordanian national holidays. Anyone who missed a shift was fined three days’ wages, the report claims.

After December last year, the pace of production was stepped up and instead of having to sew 30 pieces an hour, workers were made to sew 40 – for the same wages.

“The public must know that products have a heavy human cost too,” said Dr. Roi Wagner of the Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline) organization. “The pursuit of lower production [costs] is very often dependent on violating human rights. The price is paid by Israeli workers whose jobs disappear, and also by the ‘cheap’ workers who produce goods in places where it is easier to abuse them. The manufacturer is not the only one responsible, but also the companies [that buy the goods] and the consumers,” said Wagner.

The list of complaints is long, including subhuman living conditions such as 4-8 people in a tiny dormitory room, no showers and water for only an hour or two a night. There is no heat in the rooms in the winter, and the bathrooms are filthy. The roofs leak.

One of the owners, Jack Braun, claims the truth is completely different. “The report is a total lie,” he said. “The workers went on strike for a reason I don’t know. As a result, human rights organizations arrived and the workers lied – though every one of their claims was proved false. They attacked the Bangladeshi consul and police who tried to talk to them. The conditions we provide them, in terms of work and food and housing, are above and beyond. We always paid them as required – they earn tiny salaries, so why shouldn’t we pay them?” said Braun.

Bonita’s management said they do not work with the company.

Kobi Hayat, one of the owners of Pashut, said: “I do not know of the place since we work through a subcontractor who receives the material from us, manufactures in Jordan and returns the clothes. I have never been there, and I do not know who receives the work, so it is hard for me to discuss the claims.”

a few days later another article appeared saying it was not a sweatshop:

Jordan’s Ministry of Labor on Wednesday rejected accusations that a local factory supplying clothing to Israel was abusing its workers, saying there was no evidence of either human trafficking or forced work.

On Sunday The National Labor Committee, a U.S.-based workers’ rights organization, released a report accusing the Musa Garments factory in Jordan of employing workers under inhuman conditions, and charges the company with “human trafficking, abuse, forced overtime, primitive dorm conditions, imprisonment and forcible deportations of foreign guest workers.”

of course, it is great to see that the government in jordan is concerned about having a sweatshop or human trafficking in their midst. but whee is the outrage over having a zionist terrorist colonist business on their land and in their midst? given that official jordanian policy is that they are at “peace” with the enemy, it makes sense that the government isn’t outraged. but where are the people? compare this to how egyptians responded recently when the government was working on a gas deal with the zionist entity as reported by adam morrow and khaled moussa al-omrani in the electronic intifada:

Opposition figures and political activists have slammed a new deal to sell Egyptian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Israel at what they say are vastly reduced prices.

“Egyptian gas is being sold to Israel at prices far below the international average,” Ibrahim Yosri, former head of legal affairs and treaties at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry told IPS. “This agreement is proof that the ruling regime is unconcerned with public opinion and is insistent on depriving the Egyptian public of its rightful national assets.”

On 28 July, Egypt formally agreed to sell between 12.5 billion and 16 billion cubic meters of LNG per year to Israel for a period of between 17 and 22 years. The Cairo-based Egyptian-Israeli energy consortium Egyptian Mediterranean Gas (EMG) will supply the gas to Israeli firm Dorad Energy for a total reported cost of between $2.1 billion and $3.3 billion.

Given longstanding popular condemnation of Israeli policies, particularly those relating to Palestinian populations in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, the deal also stirred political controversy.

“It is absolutely forbidden that we support a country currently at war with Islam and Muslims, and which occupies the land of Palestine,” Nasr Farid Wassil, former Grand Mufti of the republic, was quoted as saying in the independent press. “All economic relations with such a country should be severed.”

Despite its unpopularity, the deal is not the first: under an earlier energy accord, Egypt has been exporting LNG to Israel since May of last year. Extracted from fields in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, gas is pumped via submarine pipeline from the coastal town al-Arish to the Israeli port city Ashkelon.

The first accord, signed in 2005, allowed EMG to sell 1.7 billion cubic meters of LNG annually to the Israeli state-run Israel Electric Corporation for a period of 15 years. The sale price was never officially disclosed, fueling speculation by critics that gas was being sold to Israeli buyers at reduced prices.

Egypt is one of the few Arab states, along with Jordan and Mauritania, to have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Nevertheless, bilateral cooperation has remained severely hampered by popular disapproval of Israeli policies.

meanwhile the united states–and hillary clinton in particular–are pushing normalization among african countries with the zionist entity as ips reporters jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler explain:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been busy pursuing one aspect of the Obama Administration’s agenda – carrying to Africa the U.S. message of accountability. With a rather different agenda, Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Liberman also has Africa in his sights.

Whereas the U.S. is pressing a moral message hard – more democracy and less corruption, the Israeli approach is entirely pragmatic.

It’s not the first time Israel has been heavily involved in Africa.

Tanzanian freshmen at the University of Dar es Salaam will be excused for being unaware of the fact that their campus strikingly resembles facilities in Tel Aviv and Beersheba, two of Israel’s leading universities. That’s because the UDSM campus was designed by Israeli architects.

Nearly half a century ago, there was unexpected interaction between sub- Saharan Africa, just emerging from the dark years of colonial rule, and Israel – which had come into existence a decade-and-a-half earlier after ridding itself of a British presence – busily engaged in reaching out to other emerging nations.

Ever since, it’s been a relationship of ups and downs.

The aid to development programmes of Israeli experts, especially in the fields of irrigation, agriculture, communal rural development and medical training, won Israel considerable sympathy, and friends, in many of the newly- independent states. Hundreds of African students and experts underwent specialised training, tailor-made for their societies, in Israel.

But, as was the case in the Cold War era, the Israeli development projects were not entirely altruistic.

There was also the political motive of trying to break the ostracism in which Arab states and their allies in the Third World were encasing the fledgling new Middle Eastern state. This became especially acute following the 1955 conference of the non-aligned world in Bandung in Indonesia, where non- co-operation with Israel was adopted as policy.

There was a strategic dimension too. Israel’s legendary first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and his foreign minister Golda Meir foresaw a policy of encircling the circle of Israel’s regional isolation through alliances with non- Arab states on the periphery of the region – Turkey and Iran and, critically, Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.

Just back from an extensive tour of South America, Liberman is soon to set out on a five-nation African tour. The Israeli foreign ministry calls it “an out- of-the-ordinary visit”, the most extensive ever by Israel’s top diplomat to the continent. He will criss-cross Africa to take in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Angola and Nigeria.

if you look at the website for the orange company, by the way, or its wikipedia page, you’ll notice that many of the above-listed countries in africa are also being subjected to orange telecom. just say no.

no homes for nahr el bared, yet again

the last couple of weeks i was writing a review of rosemary sayigh’s brilliant and important book, the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries, which is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand palestine, palestinian refugees, palestinian resistance, and, of course, the right of return. i was re-reading the book and i was struck by what one palestinian refugee and fighter from nahr el bared refugee camp had to say about his camp being the first to liberate itself from the lebanese army:

They brought tanks and the army tried to enter the camps. That day, we can remember with pride, we brought out the few guns that we had–they were eleven. We did well at first, but then we ran out of ammunition. A rumour ran round the camp that the ammunition was finished and we tried to calm the people by telling them that rescue would come from the Resistance. But we didn’t really know whether it would come. But what was amazing was that people returned to what they had been in 1948, preferring to die rather than to live in humiliation. Women were hollering because it was the first time a gun had been seen defending the camp. It was the first battle that we didn’t lose. The children were between the fighters, collecting the empty cartridges although the bullets were like rain. It was the first time that people held knives and sticks and stood in front of their homes, ready to fight. (169)

it is so ironic to think about this when i read the latest news about nahr el bared, which still, until now has yet to allow most of the palestinian refugees (31,000 of them) to return to the camp two years after the lebanese army destroyed it (read electronic lebanon for background on this or search my blog for details about the subject).

here is the latest–from the daily star–in the lebanese government’s plan to make palestinians doubly and triply homeless while denying them civil rights and while not fighting for their right of return to their homes in palestine either:

Palestinian factions staged protests in refugee camps all across the country on Friday to condemn the ongoing delay in reconstructing the battered northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Demonstrations were held in Ain al-Hilweh, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, al-Buss, near the port city of Tyre, and Chatila on the outskirts of the capital, to express solidarity with the refugees of Nahr al-Bared, who have yet to return home two years after the end of the battles between the Lebanese Army and the Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam militant group.

Protestors held banners slamming a recent decision by the Lebanese government to halt the reconstruction process in Nahr al-Bared and voiced their demands in petitions sent to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) officials.

“We ask UNRWA to ease the suffering of Palestinian refugees at Nahr al-Bared and offer them relief,” said the head of Ain al-Hilweh’s Public Committee Abu al-Motassem.

Nahr al-Bared has been in ruins since 2007 when Lebanon witnessed a violent war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam.

Lebanon’s Sate Shura Council recently issued a decision to halt the reconstruction process in the camp based on the discovery of Roman archeological ruins underneath the campsite.

Motassem called on the Lebanese government, UNRWA, the Arab League and the international community to reconsider the State Shura Council’s decision. “Refugees have been waiting for more than two years for the camp’s reconstruction,” he said.

Also in Ain al- Hilweh, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official in south Lebanon Qassem Sobh asked the Lebanese government to find a solution for the “logistic difficulties” even if it meant “buying or renting nearby sites [to house refugees] in order to solve the humanitarian problem.”

The Union of Palestinian Factions official Abu Ahmad Fadel, demanded on Friday that the Lebanese Army put an end to the strict military measures imposed on the Nahr al-Bared refugees.

“We ask that the army reduce the security measures and guarantee the camp’s residents freedom of movement,” he said.

The delay in reconstruction also seems to have had repercussions on Lebanese- Palestinian political ties.

“The Nahr al-Bared issue concerns all Palestinians,” said spokesman of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Ali Mahmoud. “Any attempt to halt the camp’s reconstruction directly affects Lebanese-Palestinian relations” he added.

and here is a news item on the subject in arabic from dunia watan:

إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد وحكمه: نموذج “مثالي” للإقصاء
بقلم ساري حنفي وإسماعيل الشيخ حسن

مخيم نهر البارد فضاء للاستثناء
تبدو الاوضاع المحيطة بتدمير مخيم نهر البارد مثيرة للقلق على أكثر من صعيد. فعلى الرغم من تبرؤ اللاجئين العلني من “فتح الاسلام”، ألقت بعض وسائل الاعلام اللوم فيما يتصل بهذه الظاهرة على المخيم وعلى اللاجئين، وذلك من دون إجراء أي تحقيق يتناول مصادر تمويل هذه المجموعة والجهات التي تقف وراءها. وخلال المعركة تم اعتقال لاجئين فلسطينيين في جميع أنحاء لبنان عند الحواجز التي أقامها الجيش أو قوى الأمن الداخلي، وجرى حصار المخيم وإعلانه منطقة حرب، كما منع الجيش دخول مواد للاغاثة، أو دواء، أو الصحافة. وفي حين فضّل اللاجئون في بداية المعركة البقاء في المخيم خشية أن تؤدي مغادرتهم المخيم الى تدميره بالكامل، فإن القصف العشوائي الشديد الذي لم يستثن المنازل والمدارس والمساجد، أجبر السكان في النهاية على إخلائه تماماً. وهذه هي الحادثة الاولى التي يغادر فيها الفلسطينيون مخيماً لهم من دون الدفاع عنه، الامر الذي يؤكد انتفاء الصلة بين اللاجئين الفلسطينيين و”فتح الاسلام”. وخلال الأشهر الاربعة التي دارت فيها المعركة، تم تدمير المخيم القديم بالكامل، وصار ركاماً بعد هدم 1700 منزل كان يضمها، هدماً كاملاً. وبعد محاولة للهرب قام بها الناجون من مقاتلي “فتح الاسلام”، أعلن الجيش إنهاء عملياته، وخروجه من المعركة منتصراً على الارهاب

العالمي.
ومع أننا نعيش حالياً عصر “الحرب الكونية على الارهاب”، وعلى الرغم من الاوضاع الملتبسة المحيطة باستشهاد جنود الجيش اللبناني غدراً، فإن ثمة ما يدعو الى الشك في أن العرض العشوائي للقوة المفرطة، والذي تجاهل حقوق الانسان والملكية، كان يمكن أن يمارس ضد أي مكان “حضري” لبناني آخر. لكن نظراً الى كون مخيم نهر البارد “فضاء للاستثناء”، أي مستثنى من حماية القانون العام، ويؤوي لاجئين ليسوا بمواطنين، ومحرومين من الحقوق المدنية في لبنان، وتمثّلهم فصائل فلسطينية متناحرة، وتخدمهم وكالة تابعة للأمم المتحدة تفتقر الى التفويض بحمايتهم – فإنه كان في الامكان تدميره بالكامل.

واعتباراً من التاريخ الرسمي لانتهاء القتال في بداية أيلول، وحتى العاشر من تشرين الاول 2007، وُضع مخيم نهر البارد تحت الاشراف الكامل للجيش اللبناني، ولم يُسمح لسكان المخيم بالعودة اليه، ثم عاد بعد ذلك، الآلاف الى المنازل التي تعرضت للحريق والنهب والتخريب المتعمد. ويؤكد الاشخاص الذين قابلناهم، والذين قابلتهم بعثة تقصي الحقائق التابعة لمنظمة العفو الدولية، وجود نمط ممنهج لحرق المنازل ونهبها. كما حملت الكتابات الجدارية العنصرية البذيئة على u]] من بيوت المخيم، أسماء الفرق العسكرية اللبنانية المتعددة (Amnesty International 2006). ويبدو ان عناصر “فتح الاسلام” وبعض سكان المخيم هم من قاموا بأعمال النهب في بداية الامر، لكن الذين تابعوا هذه الاعمال لا بد من أن يكونوا ممن يعتبرون المخيم فضاء للاستثناء وخارج نطاق القانون، يمكن أن يُنهب وأن تُخرَّب الممتلكات فيه عمداً. ولغاية الآن، لم يجر أي تحقيق مستقل، على الرغم من أن منظمة العفو الدولية كتبت بهذا الشأن الى رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية، والى وزارة الدفاع اللبنانية، وطالبت بإجراء تحقيق وبمحاسبة المسؤولين (Amnesty International 2006).

واللافت أنه لم يجر أي نقاش عام في هذا الموضوع المهم. وبما أن المخيم يُعتبر فضاء للاستثناء، فقد شكّل منطقة طوارئ مُنع الشهود من دخولها: فحتى اللحظة لا يُسمح للصحافيين، ولا لمنظمات حقوق الانسان، بدخول المخيم من دون تصريح عسكري خاص. وهذا التعليق للقوانين هو الذي سهّل قيام التخريب المتعمد والنهب، فالسكان الفلسطينيون هم “الانسان المستباح والمُضحى به” (homo sacer، بالمعنى الذي يعطيه جورجيو أغامبن): أناس لا تُخرَّب ممتلكاتهم فحسب، بل تُنهب ايضاً، ومن دون السماح بملاحقة المجرمين.

ويشعر سكان مخيم نهر البارد بأن ما حدث في مخيمهم يمثل جزءاً من مؤامرة مخطط لها ضدهم، فقد قالت الغالبية الساحقة من الاشخاص الذين قابلناهم إنه كان هناك خيارات أخرى لحل مشكلة “فتح الاسلام”، كان من شأنها تفادي تدمير المخيم تدميراً كاملاً. فقد كان في الامكان حل المشكلة من خلال تدخل المقاتلين الفلسطينيين الذين يعرفون جغرافيا المخيم، الامر الذي يجعلهم أكثر كفاdة في هذا النوع من الحروب داخل منطقة كثيفة العمران، وأكثر حساسية إزاء ممتلكات اللاجئين ومبانيهم. أما الخيار الآخر فكان قيام وساطة أكثر فاعلية بين “فتح الاسلام” والجيش اللبناني.

التعاطي مع الحيز:
عملية التخطيط العمراني

استمر وضع الاستثناء وأولوية الأمن في الهيمنة على مشهد ما بعد معركة مخيم نهر البارد، وقد بدا ذلك واضحاً في عملية التخطيط العمراني لإعادة إعمار المخيم. فالهيئة الحكومية الرسمية المسؤولة عن التخطيط في لبنان، هي المديرية العامة للتنظيم المدني، لكن، خلال المناقشات المتعلقة بتطوير المخطط العام، والتي استغرقت عاماً كاملاً، كانت هذه المديرية المذكورة غائبة. والواقع أن الجهة اللبنانية المعنية، التي هيمنت على مشهد التخطيط وعلى المفاوضات، كانت الجيش اللبناني. ويمثل ذلك سابقة خطرة للبنان عامة، وللمخيمات خاصة، وذلك مع تنامي تدخل العنصر العسكري في الشؤون الحكومية المدنية بحجة الدواعي الامنية. إن وجود الجيش كان كفيلاً بإيلاء الأمن الأولوية في المفاوضات الجارية على المخطط التوجيهي العام، ثم تتدخل المديرية العامة للتنظيم المدني في نهاية هذه العملية الطويلة للموافقة رسمياً على المخطط العام.

وعلى رغم المأساة التي تنشأ في أوقات الازمات والحالات الطارئة من هذا النوع، والتي تتفاقم بسبب الفراغ السياسي “الظاهري” في المخيمات الفلسطينية، فإن المأساة، الى جانب ذلك، تتيح الفرصة أمام عدد من الشبكات الاجتماعية، وكذلك أمام الناشطين والحركات السياسية، لتوحيد جهودهم من أجل مواجهة المخاطر التي تواجه جماعة ما، أو مكاناً ما. فعلى المستوى المحلي في المخيم، بدأت المبادرات الشعبية المتعددة، والتي نشأت استجابة لمشكلات معينة محدودة ناجمة عن غياب الحكومة، وعن عدم تأمين الخدمات في المخيم، بتوحيد جهودها ومناقشة ما يمكن، أو يجب عمله، في أثناء سير المعركة وتدمير المخيم.

واللافت في حالة مخيم نهر البارد أن ناشطين وأكاديميين آخرين من مخيمات ومدن وبيئات أخرى، قاموا بتوحيد جهودهم مع المبادرة المحلية. والامر المهم بشكل خاص في هذه الشبكة الممتدة والمتنوعة، هو وجود معماريين ومخططي مدن استفادوا من المعارف التي اكتسبوها من عملهم، ومن دراستهم للسياسات العمرانية المختلفة، ولمشاريع إعادة العمران التي تساعد على تمكين المجموعات، وذلك من أجل وضع استراتيجيات فاعلة في مواجهة مشروع الدولة. وقد أطلقت هذه المبادرة على نفسها اسم “هيئة العمل الاهلي والدراسات لإعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد”.

من جهة أخرى، أنشئ “برنامج” جديد لتحسين المخيمات التابعة لوكالة الغوث (الأونروا)، وذلك من أجل القيام بدور فاعل في إطلاق إعادة الاعمار والتخطيط العمراني، وهو جهد متواصل حالياً. وقد دعا هذا البرنامج الى مبادرة من منظار مختلف، الامر الذي ساهم في إيجاد مشاركة تامة بين وكالة الغوث وهيئة العمل الأهلي والدراسات، تجمع البعد الشعبي الى الخبرة المهنية. وانطلقت هذه المبادرة على الرغم مما وصفه علماء الاجتماع باختفاء الحيز العام الذي دمره العوز الاقتصادي، واستعمرته وسائل الاعلام، عدا السياق السلطوي العربي. كما تتحدى المبادرة المذكورة ما كان يُعتبر في العقود الماضية سلبية بعض اللاجئين الذين نشأوا على لعب دور الضحية.

ولعل سبب هذه الحماسة التي تجلت بين السكان هو اعتقادهم بوجود بعد سياسي في عملية تدمير مخيم نهر البارد، وفي مخطط الحكومة لإعادة إعماره. وقد ظهر ذلك واضحاً في إعلان عدة سياسيين، في أثناء سير المعركة، مخططات لتحسين المخيم تقوم على مبادئ ومعايير غير مقبولة لدى السكان المحليين. وبعد انتهاء المعركة، اتضح تماماً أن المفهوم العام للمخططات كان يرتكز الى شبكة منطقية من الشوارع العريضة التي تسمح بتطبيق ضوابط أمنية فاعلة، والى إسكان اللاجئين في شقق متماثلة بغض النظر عن أنماط عيشهم وبناهم الاجتماعية السابقة.

في أثناء الشهر الثاني من سير المعركة، قدمت هيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد المسودة الاولى لمبادئ إعادة إعمار المخيم، وكانت هذه نتاج ورشات عمل متعددة مع الاهالي، نظمها متطوعون في هيئة إعادة الإعمار، ونتاج اجتماعات مفتوحة واستطلاع آراء من خلال تعبئة استمارات. وبدأت المسودة بمطالبة الناس بالمشاركة في عملية تقويم مساحات البيوت، وأكدت الحاجة الى وضع خطة إعادة إعمار المنازل المدمرة كما كانت في السابق، الامر الذي يؤمن المحافظة على الوحدات السكنية الفردية، وعلى الاحياء، وطرق السير، والمعالم. وتمثل المطلب السياسي، في ما يتعلق بإعادة بناء المخيم، في أن يعود المكان “مخيماً” – وليس بلدة – أي كمكان إقامة موقت.

كان المطلب المعماري الاساسي يتمثل في الحفاظ على نمط البناء المرتبط بالعائلة الممتدة باعتباره حجر الزاوية في مباني المخيم، أي النموذج الذي يتمكن فيه الجيل الأصغر من البناء فوق منزل الوالدين وتأسيس أسر جديدة. ولم يكن سبب اختيار الإبقاء على هذا النموذج من البناء مقتصراً على الرغبة في الحفاظ على التماسك الاجتماعي للقرية فحسب، بل شمل سهولة التوسع المستقبلي وانخفاض تكلفته ايضاً (ولاسيما في بيئة تضم مجموعة سكانية مهمشة لا يسمح لها القانون بالتملك في لبنان). وفي النهاية، أعدت وكالة الغوث، بالاشتراك مع هيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد، خرائط وقاعدة بيانات بواسطة منظومة المعلومات الجغرافية (GIS)، إذ تم توثيق التفصيلات المكانية وتفصيلات الملكية في ما يخص جميع العائلات في المخيم – وذلك لاستعمال المعلومات قاعدة يتم على أساسها وضع المشروع النهائي لإعادة الإعمار.

لكن اعتماد مبدأ المشاركة لم يكن بالمهمة السهلة، فقد نجمت صعوبات بسبب موقف بعض مسؤولي الحكومة اللبنانية الذين لا يؤمنون بالمشاركة الشعبية الحقيقية، وإنما بالتعاون مع منظمات دولية ورسمية فقط، مثل وكالة الغوث، وكذلك موقف بعض مسؤولي منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية. وقامت وحدة تحسين المخيمات في وكالة الغوث بدور رئيسي في تمكين مشاركة الاهالي، وذلك من خلال المشاركة التامة لهيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد في عملية التصميم والمفاوضات كلها. ووافق رئيس الحكومة في نهاية الامر على الاقتراح الذي قدمته وكالة الغوث وهيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد، نظراً الى اقتراب
الموعد النهائي لمؤتمر فيينا الذي اصر فيه المشاركون – المانحون على تقديم خطة إعادة إعمار جاهزة في المؤتمر.

وكانت المفارقة رؤية المسؤولين الحكوميين اللبنانيين يتباهون بعد ذلك، وأمام المانحين ووسائل الإعلام المحلية، بأهمية مبدأ المشاركة في مشروع إعادة الاعمار، وذلك لادراكهم فائدة هذا الامر في تعزيز صورتهم. لكن المسؤولين لم يتبنوا الموقف ذاته في ما يتعلق بمسائل اخرى بالغة الاهمية، وتتصل باعادة الاعمار، كالحقوق المدنية او شكل الحكم او الامن او الاقتصاد، بل حتى الغاء الحالة العسكرية الموجودة في المخيم بعد اكثر من عامين على اندلاع المعركة. وظل الأمن يمثل العامل الرئيسي الذي اثر في قرارات حكومية عدة تتعلق بمسائل متعددة.

حكم المخيم: الرؤى المتضاربة للادارة المشهد المحلي

لا ريب في ان موضوع “إدارة” المخيمات، او الحكم المحلي فيه، غالباً ما يساء عرضه وفهمه، والسبب في ذلك يعود جزئياً الى ان ممارسات الحكم المحلي تتصف بأنها غير رسمية ومتضاربة ومتغيرة، وهي تتنوع من مخيم الى آخر، لكن يمكن وصفها عامة بأنها تتخذ شكل صورة متعددة الطبقة يقوم فيها العديد من الفاعلين والمجموعات والافراد والفصائل بالمناورة والتنافس، وبتدبير أمور الحياة في المخيم. ومع ان الممارسات المذكورة تبدو عصية على الفهم للمراقب الخارجي – فإنها في واقع الامر تمثل انعكاساً لتعقيد السياسة الفلسطينية والوضع الفلسطيني ومفارقاتهما ومصاعبهما في مخيم حضري للاجئين “موقت ودائم” عمره ستون عاماً. وهذه المقالة لا تسعى لتقديم نظرة عامة وشاملة الى آليات الادارة في المخيم ضمن المشهد السياسي – الاجتماعي التاريخي، وذلك على رغم أهمية هذا الموضوع، بل ان الفكرة المهمة في هذه المقالة هي إظهار تفسير الحكومة لـ”مشكلة” المخيمات، وكيفية التدخل التي اختارتها هذه الحكومة.

ان الفاعلين التقليديين في مخيم نهر البارد هم: لجنة شعبية (مؤلفة من ممثلين عن جميع الفصائل، لكن تاريخياً هم ممثلون عن التحالف الموالي لسوريا): لجان الاحياء؛ مجموعة من الوجهاء؛ بعض المنظمات الاهلية. كما يوجد في المخيم عدة لجان ومبادرات شعبية تتبنى قضايا مثل اعادة الاعمار والدفاع عن الحقوق ومصالح التجار، وقد بدأت تؤدي دورأً اكبر في مشهد المخيم. واظهرت ازمة مخيم نهر البارد ضعف الفصائل الفلسطينية التقليدية في ادارة الأزمات عندما تتصرف بمفردها، في معزل عن القوى الاخرى.

وبدلاً من الاعتماد على الفاعلين المحليين في المخيم، قررت الحكومة اللبنانية تغيير الوضع القائم، وتقديم نموذج جديد لادارة المخيم يقوم حصراً على مبدأ اضطلاع قوى الامن الداخلي بإدارة المخيم وبالمراقبة، وذلك من دون التعاطي مع المشكلات الحقيقية للمخيمات او للفلسطينيين في لبنان. وقام فريق خاص بإعداد وثيقة كي تقدم الى مؤتمر المانحين في فيينا الخاص بمخيم نهر البارد.

“وثيقة فيينا”

شاركت الحكومة اللبنانية جزئياً في تجميع مواد “وثيقة فيينا” وصوغها، وذلك من خلال التعاون مع لجنة الحوار اللبنانية – الفلسطينية ومستشاريها، ومع ما عُرف لاحقاً باسم المكتب الفني (RCC) التابع لمكتب رئيس الحكومة. وتجمع “وثيقة فيينا” بين دراسات فنية عدة كانت قد أعدتها وكالة الغوث، ولجنة اعادة اعمار مخيم نهر البارد، والبرنامج الانمائي التابع للامم المتحدة، والبنك الدولي، وشركة خطيب وعلمي، وذلك بهدف تقديم رؤية موحدة شاملة لإعادة إعمار المخيم، ولتكلفة المشروع. وفي حين اعدت الحكومة اللبنانية الوثيقة، رعى المؤتمر كل من النمسا ولبنان وجامعة الدول العربية ووكالة الغوث والاتحاد الاوروبي.

وعلى الرغم من موافقة الفلسطينيين رسمياً على الوثيقة، فان الممثلين السياسيين الفلسطينيين قاموا بدور رمزي فقط في عملية إعدادها الفعلية، نظراً الى افتقار منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية الى هيئات فنية تستطيع القيام بدراسة كهذه، والمشاركة في وضعها وإعدادها. وقد ملأت هذا الفراغ جزئياً مبادرات متعددة صادرة عن منظمات أهلية فلسطينية، وعن خبراء قاموا بدور فاعل في مع البيانات والضغط من خلال وسائل مختلفة رسمية وغير مباشرة، هذا بالاضافة الى آليات مشاركة متعددة لجأت اليها الأمم المتحدة والوكالات الدولية. اما المضمون السياسي للجزء المتعلق بالأمن والادارة في هذه الوثيقة، فيمثل حالة مغايرة تماماً، اذ أعدت الحكومة ومستشاروها تلك المقاطع بشكل كامل وحصري، وفي غياب اي جهة او مشاركة فلسطينية.

تقترح “وثيقة فيينا”: “تأسيس بنية ادارة شفافة وفاعلة في مخيم نهر البارد، ويشمل ذلك تحقيق الأمن وسلطة القانون داخل المخيم من خلال الشرطة المجتمعية (Community Policing)”.

وتطالب الوثيقة المانحين بتقديم الامكانات المادية (5 ملايين دولار) من اجل: “التدريب والمساعدة التقنية لقوى الأمن الداخلي (اللبنانية) بهدف إدخال نظم الشرطة المجتمعية الى مخيم نهر البارد”.

وتمضي الوثيقة لتبين ان: “تطبيق مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية داخل بيئة مخيم نهر البارد تستوجب وجود قوى أمن داخلي (لبناني) داخل المخيم تعمل على تقليل المخاوف والحساسيات الموجودة قبل نزاع مخيم نهر البارد وبعده، فهذا النوع من ضبط الامن يشجع على المشاركة وحل النزاعات. وإن هذه التدابير الامنية الخاصة بمخيم نهر البارد متفق عليها مع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية […]. وان بناء الثقة بين قوى الامن الداخلي وأهالي مخيم نهر البارد سيشجع اهالي المخيم على ان يكونوا داعمين بشكل افضل ومتشجعين على التبليغ عن مشكلات المخيم والامور الامنية. وسيشارك ضباط الشرطة في نشاطات اجتماعية متعددة (خطط شبابية وبرامج اجتماعية)، لإيجاد علاقات اقوى بأهالي المخيم. فالشراكة الوثيقة بين عناصر قوى الأمن الداخلي وبين المجتمع ستساهم في جعل مخيم نهر البارد بعد إعادة اعماره مكاناً اكثر أماناً، وستشجع على تعميم نموذج ناجح للامن في المخيمات الفلسطينية الاخرى في لبنان. وسيتم تعريف كوادر قوى الأمن الداخلي بالتاريخ السياسي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان، وسيتم تدريبهم على ان يتفهموا بصورة اعمق الخصوصيات الثقافية والاجتماعية للمجتمع الفلسطيني. كما سيتم تدريب هذه الكوادر على حل النزاعات وعلى مهارات التواصل”.

ومع ان المجتمع المدني الفلسطيني راوده الشعور بأن وثيقة كهذه كان يجري اعدادها، فان الوثيقة المذكورة لم تعلن الا قبل ايام قليلة من بداية مؤتمر فيينا، وذلك عندما طُبعت ووزعت على الدول المانحة. وقد اطلعت منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية على الوثيقة في الوقت الذي اطلع عليها المانحون الآخرون. وعلى الرغم من اعتراض منظمة التحرير على مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية في اجتماع رسمي عُقد مع السفير خليل مكاوي (رئيس لجنة الحوار)، قبل مؤتمر فيينا ببضعة ايام، لم تجر اي تعديلات على الوثيقة. وفي الواقع/ لم يُعرض اي موقف فلسطيني امام الدول المانحة خلال المؤتمر. اما المبلغ المرصود لتمويل تدريب كوادر قوى الأمن الداخلي، والبالغ خمسة ملايين دولار، فقد جرى تأمينه وتحويله الى الحكومة اللبنانية نتيجة “وثيقة فيينا” ومؤتمرها، وبدأ استشاريون للحكومة العمل على الموضوع من دون معرفة أهالي المخيم.

اختزال الحكم بالموضوع الأمني

على الرغم من ايجاز المقطع الخاص بالادارة في “وثيقة فيينا”، فإنه يعكس بوضوح استمرارية وتطور منهجية التعامل مع المخيمات من زاوية امنية. فعندما يكون موضوع الشرطة هو العنوان الفعلي الوحيد في “وثيقة فيينا” الذي يتطرق الى موضوع “الحكم” في المخيم، فإن هذا استكمال لمنهجية اختزال اللاجئين الفلسطينيين الى مشكلة امنية، واعتبار المخيم “جزيرة امنية”. فقد وضع صانعو السياسة اللبنانيون ومستشاروهم، ومن دون استشارة الأهالي، التصور الموجود في الوثيقة. وفي حين جرى تسويق الوثيقة تحت شعارات الشراكة والشرطة المجتمعية، فإن المجتمع المحلي كان غائباً عند صوغها، وهذا يتناقض مع تعريف الشرطة المجتمعية، أساساً، كاستراتيجيا وفلسفة لضبط الأمن تقومان على مفهوم فحواه ان تفاعل الاهالي ودعمهم هما المساعد في ضبط الجرائم والتعرف الى المشبوهين، ,في احتجاز المخربين، وفي تبليغ رجال الشرطة ما يحدث من مشكلات. ويفشل هذا المنطق ويصعب تطبيقه عندما يفرض على مجتمع يرفضه لاسباب متعددة ستذكر لاحقاً.

وبينما يكمن مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية في خطاب تحسين، ثم تمكين أنشطة معينة ومبادرات المواطنة، فإن هناك تناقضاً في تطبيق أنظمة وقوانين وممارسات تعتمد على تطوير مفهوم المواطنة، على مجموعة سكانية من اللاجئين الموقتين الذين تضن عليهم الدولة المضيفة بحقوقهم الاجتماعية الاساسية.

كان لفقرة الادارة في “وثيقة فيينا” ردة فعل سلبية قوية بين أهالي المخيم، وقد توصلنا الى هذه النتيجة من خلال عدد من المقابلات التي اجريناها، بالاضافة الى العريضة المقدمة، مباشرة، الى رئيس الحكومة، فؤاد السنيورة، والتي وقّعها المئات من أهالي مخيم نهر البارد، ونشرت في صحيفتي “الاخبار” و”السفير” بتاريخ 24/1/2009، إذ اعرب الموقعون عن معارضتهم سياسة الحكومة في التعامل مع مخيمهم من منظور امني، وكذلك خطتها المستقبلية لادارة المخيم.

ويمكن القول ان المضامين السياسية للاقتراح الوارد في “وثيقة فيينا” ستلقي بظلها على اي شراكة او نقاش مع المجتمع المحلي يمكن ان يجريا مستقبلاً. فعلى الرغم من الادعاء ان الاقتراح المذكور تم اعداده بالتنسيق مع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية فإنه لا يوجد في تلك المرحلة اي شراكة حقيقية مع فصائل المنظمة في هذا المشروع، ولا أي تفاهم، ولا أي موافقة عليه.

ان الوثيقة لا تأخذ في الاعتبار الا الحاجات الامنية ووجهة النظر والرؤية اللبنانية، فاللجنة الشعبية عامة، لم تذكر في الاقسام المتعلقة بـ”الحكم” في الوثيقة باعتبارها محاوراً مشاركاً في مسألة الشرطة “المجتمعية”، كما ان الاقتراح يتجاهل بسذاجة المشهد العام السابق للمعركة في مخيم نهر البارد، وهو المشهد الذي يُظهر واقعاً معقداً شديد التنوع من الفاعلية يضم اللجنة الشعبية، والكفاح المسلح، واللجنة الامنية، والفصائل السياسية، ولجان الاحياء، والوجهاء، والنقابات المهنية المتعددة، والمنظمات الأهلية المحلية، وغيرها، الذين يتفاعلون ويتنافسون في ما بينهم بشأن مختلف المسائل التي تلحظ المصلحة العامة للمخيم. وهذا الواقع السابق للمعركة يعكس وجود طاقة ومشاركة في المجال العام تقومان على مشاركة شعبية مكثفة في ادارة شؤون الحياة اليومية.

من المؤكد ان هناك مشكلات لا يستهان بها داخل الادارة المحلية في المخليمات، بما في ذلك النزاعات والممارسات الفاسدة لبعض تلك البنى وتأثيرها السلبي المحتوم في ما يتعلق بمصلحة المخيم، لكن هذا لا يبرر تجاهل الاطر والممارسات السياسية والاجتماعية الموجودة في المخيم.

فإيجاد شراكة فلسطينية – لبنانية حقيقية تقوم على الاحترام وتطوير هذه الأطر والممارسات المحلية في موازاة تطوير آليات واضحة وشفافة للتنسيق مع الجهات اللبنانية، لا يتحقق من خلال تعليم ضباط قوى الأمن الداخلي اللبنانيين “التاريخ السياسي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان… والخصوصيات الثقافية والاجتماعية للمجتمع الفلسطيني”، كما ورد في “وثيقة فيينا”.

إن الأمر الإشكالي هنا هو حصر حاجات “الحكم” (governance) في المخيم ورؤيتها ضمن منظور أمني فقط، وافتراض إمكان تلبية تلك الحاجات بإدخال الشرطة الى المخيم، ذلك بأن هذا الأمر يتجاهل الخطاب المعاصر المتفق عليه عموماً في ما يتعلق بمعنى الحكم الرشيد ومكوناته الأساسية المتعددة من إدارة المكان وتمثيل المجتمع وتنميته وتطويره اقتصادياً. ولا يمكن فصل عملية تطوير الحكم المحلي داخل المخيمات الفلسطينية عن مسألة التعاطي مع الحقوق الفلسطينية ضمن رؤية ومقاربة شاملتين، كما ان الدروس والأدبيات التي تتناول حالة إعادة الاعمار ما بعد الحرب، لا تكف عن ترداد ما تعتقد انه يشكل قواعد اعادة الإعمار الناجحة بعد الحرب، وهذه القواعد هي: (1) اعادة بناء البيئة المكانية، (2) اعادة إقلاع الدورة الاقتصادية، (3) لجان تقصي الحقائق والمصالحة، (4) اقامة حكم رشيد. ولن يتمكن مخيم نهر البارد من التغلب على التحديات الاجتماعية والسياسية والاقتصادية التي يواجهها في مرحلة ما بعد الحرب، إلا من خلال إجراء مراجعة عامة وشاملة، وعندئذ يمكن وضع أسس علاقة لبنانية – فلسطينية راسخة وحقيقية.

أما على ارض الواقع، فان المقاربة السابقة المرتكزة على مفهوم الأمن، استمرت بعد انتهاء المعركة، وذلك من خلال تدابير متعددة: وجود نقاط تفتيش لا لزوم لها، وجود سلك شائك يحيط بالمخيم، منع السكان الفلسطينيين واللبنا نيين الراغبين في دخول المخيم، من دخوله، قبل الحصول على تصريح عسكري، وجود قواعد عسكرية وبحرية. وقد اصبحت هذه الإجراءات المذكورة سمة مميزة لعملية اعادة الاعمار، فعلى سبيل المثال، أقر مجلس الوزراء إنشاء ثكنة عسكرية عند أطراف المخيم القديم بعد انتهاء المعركة مباشرة، كما أنه أصدر في شباط 2009، مرسوماً آخر يقضي بإنشاء قاعدة بحرية على شاطىء نهر البارد، بالاضافة الى استمرار لجنة الحوار وقوى الأمن الداخلي في ممارسة الضغوط لإنشاء مركز للشرطة داخل المخيم القديم. وفي حين تعارض اللجنة الشعبية المحلية هذا الخيار معارضة عنيفة، تلجأ لجنة الحوار الى الضغط على قيادة منظمة التحرير كي تقبل الأمر.

ومن المهم ان نشير هنا الى أن منظمة التحرير تقبل وجود مركز الشرطة من دون استشارة اللجنة المحلية او مناقشتها في الموضوع. وهذا كله يجري من دون ان تؤخذ في الاعتبار الكثافة العمرانية الشديدة في المخيم، إذ ينحصر 1700 مبنn ضمن مساحة لا تتجاوز 190,000م.م.، وتؤوي ما يزيد على 20,000 لاجىء (أي 1100 شخص في الهكتار – وهي إحدى اعلى الكثافات الحضرية في العالم). وفي حين يبدو خيار إنشاء مركز الشرطة عند اطراف المخيم اكثر مراعاة لمشاعر السكان، فإن الحكومة اللبنانية ولجنة الحوار ترفضان مثل هذا الخيار باستمرار. ويبدو ان الحكومة اللبنانية تعتبر مركز الشرطة بحد ذاته بيانا سياسيا يعلن سيطرتها الجديدة التامة على المخيم، وذلك على الرغم من خبرات الدول المضيفة الأخرى في المنطقة التي تفضل إبقاء مراكز الشرطة عند أطراف المخيمات. ففي عمان مثلا، وبعد إنشاء مراكز شرطة وسط المخيمات وإحراقها مرات عدة، أعادت السلطات إنشاء تلك المراكز عند اطراف المخيمات. وفي حين نستطيع الانشغال، وبكل سهولة، في مناقشة ميزات “الشرطة المجتمعية”، أو عدم إمكان تطبيقها، فإن الموضوع الأول الذي يجب مناقشته هو الوضع الأمني الفعلي داخل مخيم نهر البارد. فاذا كان النقاش هو بشأن الجرائم، فإن هذا المخيم لم يكن يشكل مكاناً مغلقاً موبوءاً بها، إذ كانت هذه تطوق عادة، كما كانت تجري ملاحقة من ينتهك حرمة القانون، وهو ما كان يحفظ السلامة العامة في المخيم. أما اذا كان النقاش متعلقاً بوجود “فتح الاسلام”، فيجب التساؤل عن الأسباب الحقيقية التي حالت بين الأطر الفلسطينية وبين التعامل بحزم مع عناصر هذه الظاهرة، وما هي اسباب فشل قوى الأمن الداخلي والجيش اللبناني في اعتقال مجموعة مسلحة كان القسم الاكبر من مكاتبها وقواعدها ومواقع تدريبها ومنازل عناصرها موجوداً خارج الحدود الرسمية لمخيم نهر البارد، أي على ارض تابعة رسمياً للسلطات اللبنانية؟ فمعظم تلك الابنية، في الحقيقة، كان موجوداً في منطقة مجاورة لمخيم نهر البارد، وبعضها في مركز مدينة طرابلس وعلى أطرافها، مثل ابي سمرا. والهدف هنا ليس القاء المسؤولية على الجهات اللبنانية، وانما الاشارة الى ان ظاهرة “فتح الاسلام”، وكثيرا من الظواهر الاخرى التي تهدد أمن اللبنانيين والفلسطينيين معاً، ليسا مجرد نتاج غياب عناصر ضبط الأمن اللبناني.

القضايا الحقيقية هنا تتصل بطبيعة التنسيق وآلياته بين الاطر الفلسطينية واجهزة الدولة اللبنانية (بشقها المدني وليس العسكري وحده)، وذلك يخص المخيم والمنطقة المجاورة له. فمنذ توقف العمل باتفاقية القاهرة (سنة 1969)، ظلت الشروط المرجعية بين الطرفين غامضة وملتبسة في افضل الاحوال، وصار المخيم فضاء معلقا من الوجهة القانونية، اذ اصبحت المخابرات العسكرية تحكمه باعتبار انه “حالة استثناء”.

(جزء متكامل من دراسة أطول
تنشر لاحقا في مجلة
“دراسات فلسطينية”)

(ساري حنفي أستاذ مشارك في الجامعة الاميركية في بيروت، وإسماعيل الشيخ حسن مهندس ومخطط عمراني في جامعة لوفان (بلجيكا)، ويعمل ناشطاً في هيئة العمل الاهلي والدراسات لإعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد.)