on cultural resistance and anti-normalization

al jazeera not israeli terrorists outside day 2's venue for palestine festival of literature
al jazeera not israeli terrorists outside day 2's venue for palestine festival of literature

day two of the palestine festival of literature was far less dramatic than day one, thankfully. of course, this is because it was held at the khalil sakakini cultural center in ramallah and not at the palestinian national theatre in al quds (though it is scheduled to return there for the closing night’s ceremony). when i walked up to the center yesterday evening i noticed no israeli terrorist forces out front (see photographs of them in the festival’s flicker slide show and the video that i blogged about yesterday). instead there was an al jazeera crew that broadcast the first hour live. the evening began with a reading of a mahmoud darwish poem because he was one of the poets who helped to start this festival and he also used to have an office at the center when he worked on the literary journal al karmel. the first panel spoke about family in their writing–the panel was called “family: separated by life, rejoined by literature.” i was struck by the fact that the panel–carmen callil, jamal mahjoub, jeremy harding–somehow didn’t discuss palestine at all. ahdaf soueif has an essay from 2004 in her collection mezzaterra: fragments from the common ground that addresses this issue:

Last October I read at the centre, a beautiful nineteenth-century Ottoman villa donated by the Khalil Sakakini family and standing in the heart of Ramallah. The hall was full; people had braved the closures and come in from Jerusalem, the eighteen-kilomtre journey taking up to three hours. “We so rarely see anyone from the outside,” they said. “We need to breathe the fresh air.” Nobody wanted to talk about the “situation” or about the Israeli incursion into the town earlier that day which netted a fighter believed to be responsible for killing two soldiers; they just wanted to talk about fiction. (323)

soueif later adds to this by reflecting on that previous reading at the sakakini wondering:

Can a novelist or a poet ignore the situation? Is there room to write outside of the situation? [Mahmoud] Darwich has famously asserted his right to write about things that are not Palestine, his write to play, to be absurd. Yet in his obituary of (Palestinian poet) Fadwa Touqan who died last Novemeber he asks what the poet should do at a time of crisis? A time when he has to shift his focus from his inner self ot the world outside, when poetry has to bear witness. (324)

perhaps this was the case last night as well–that people just wanted to listen to writers talking about literature. but i couldn’t help wondering how one can discuss the subject of family in palestine and not also compare and discuss palestinian families or writers who write about palestinian families. when the opportunity came to ask a question i asked about their thoughts on palestinian families–both in the context of an nakba and the way that it separated palestinian families and also about new laws that prevent palestinians from the west bank from marrying palestinians in 1948 palestine as jonathan cook wrote in electronic intifada:

In approving an effective ban on marriages between Israelis and Palestinians this week, Israel’s Supreme Court has shut tighter the gates of the Jewish fortress the state of Israel is rapidly becoming. The judges’ decision, in the words of the country’s normally restrained Haaretz daily, was “shameful”.

By a wafer-thin majority, the highest court in the land ruled that an amendment passed in 2003 to the Nationality Law barring Palestinians from living with an Israeli spouse inside Israel — what in legal parlance is termed “family unification” — did not violate rights enshrined in the country’s Basic Laws.

And even if it did, the court added, the harm caused to the separated families was outweighed by the benefits of improved “security”. Israel, concluded the judges, was justified in closing the doors to residency for all Palestinians in order to block the entry of those few who might use marriage as a way to launch terror attacks.

Applications for family unification in Israel invariably come from Palestinians in the occupied territories who marry other Palestinians, often friends or relatives, with Israeli citizenship. One in five of Israel’s population is Palestinian by descent, a group, commonly referred to as Israeli Arabs, who managed to remain inside the Jewish state during the war of 1948 that established Israel.

the answer i received was not particularly satisfying, although jeremy harding did mention elias khoury’s brilliant novel gates of the sun which is an amazing epic novel about an nakba and the lebanese civil war and details the many ways that palestinian families have been separated as a result of the zionist entity’s existence.

inside khalil sakakini cultural center
inside khalil sakakini cultural center

the second panel was on an entirely different subject. it was called “registering change: landscape and architecture.” this one featured rachel holmes, suad amiry, michael palin, and raja shehadeh. amiry, whose hilarious and amazing memoir sharon and my mother-in-law discussed her forthcoming book, murad murad, and read a bit from it (in a highly performative and entertaining fashion). the book is a about a treacherous journey she took, passing as a man, with palestinian workers who try to get work in the zionist entity. amiry is an architect and preservationist who founded riwaq and also talked about the accidental nature that led to her becoming a writer. likewise shehadeh is a lawyer most widely know as the founder of the human rights organization al haq. and because of his more recent book of essays, palestinian walks: forays into a vanishing landscape, he seems to increasingly be associated with these hikes he takes. he read from a chapter of that book last night. and this was fitting because yesterday the writers visiting here went on one of his hikes in the afternoon (click here to see photographs). i have been on one of these amazing hikes (these should definitely be called hikes not walks) for my birthday and photographed it and blogged it at the time. palin whose writing i’m not familiar with, although i am familiar with his work as an actor, also read one of his books, around the world in 80 days. the conversation on this panel was far more interesting, to me, given that it was more political and i prefer political art. i particularly thought it was interesting when amiry talked about time and space in palestine. she was speaking about it in real terms: the way that one often gets lost because every 10 or 20 days the roads, roundabouts, checkpoints all change. and shehadeh also talked about how much the area around ramallah has changed in the few years since he published palestinian walks because now 12 zionist colonies encircle ramallah on its palestinian land. amiry added to this the way that time is measured in relation to checkpoints, meaning that one thinks about distance by calculating how long it will take to get somewhere based on how many known checkpoints–and the flying checkpoints that might pop up that day–there are from point a to point b. the paragraph i quoted above from soueif makes use of this as a reference point, too. but also time and space are important elements in narrative so there thinking about this issue is doubly relevant in the context of this conference.

ahdaf soueif, carmen callil, jamal mahjoub, jeremy harding
ahdaf soueif, carmen callil, jamal mahjoub, jeremy harding

on the way home last night two of my friends from al quds who drove me to the beit lahem checkpoint were talking about the fact that they wished different writers–and more palestinian writers–had been chosen. one friend was wishing sahar khalifeh was there in particular. i am actually just finishing up her novel the image, the icon, and the covenant, which is an amazing tale about a man, ibrahim, from al quds who leaves the old city, where he is from, to avoid marrying a woman his parents wish him to marry. he moves to a nearby village to work as a teacher with the dream of one day becoming a writer. he is muslim and he falls in love with a christian woman in the village, mariam, with whom he has a love affair. she becomes pregnant in the midst of an naksa and ibrahim winds up in jordan and then the united states, before coming back to al quds after oslo. the end of the novel is about his quest to reconnect with miriam and their son michael. but there are so many different writers who could be here, who might be here next year, and the point of this annual event is to bring new people every year as well as some, like suheir hammad and ahdaf soueif, who return each year. it also seems to me that one of the points of organizing this conference is to connect palestinian writers with all kinds of writers from around the world. and, hopefully, from my vantage point, these writers will speak and write about palestine until their last dying breath.

rachel holmes, raja shehadeh, suad amiry, michael palin
rachel holmes, raja shehadeh, suad amiry, michael palin

in one of soueif’s previous trips to palestine she wrote about meeting with various writers here (you can read part of the article by clicking on this link to download it as a pdf). she met with liana badr, one of my favorite writers and i blogged about her novel the eye of the mirror, which i read about a month ago. in it soueif also wrote about adania shibli, hassan khader, and mourid barghouti whose beautiful memoir i saw ramallah was translated into english by soueif. for me the most important part of the essay was when she discussed the issue of normalization with zionist terrorist colonist writers. the answers soueif got from her palestinian colleagues were revealing, i think. i think it is important to look at this discussion in her essay especially given the cultural boycott of the zionist entity. of course boycott is not the same as anti-normalization. but for me the two go hand-in-hand, which is why i refuse to meet, speak, participate in any activity with anyone who lives on palestinian colonized land whether in a colony in al quds or yaffa. still, there are those who seem to think that “dialogue” will lead to change. there are those whose heads are so high in the clouds that they think it is possible to be a zionist colonist and be a leftist (this is, however, an oxymoron). with these political opinions that i hold, here is what i found interesting in what soueif wrote:

[David] Grossman describes how in the early 1990s he organised a group which met for three years “secretly under the umbrella of some foreign embassies.” But, he says “there’s almost no contact now between Israeli and Palestinian writers’ because of “hints from Arafat” to the Palestinian writers “not to contribute to the normalisation of Israel.” He also believes that Palestinian writes thought Israeli writers “could change the politics here and when they saw what we couldn’t deliver…they despaired the possibility of doing something with us.”

This makes Palestinian writers into Arafat’s tools. It also makes them politically naive, first to meet with Israeli writers in “foreign embassies” then expect them to change the policies of their state. So I asked the Palestinian writers I spoke to how they viewed Israeli writers. Their immediate response was literary…. (326)

of course the ironic thing in the above part of this essay is the notion that ‘arafat pushed palestinian writers not to normalize when it is ‘arafat himself who produced the normalization known as oslo. but what is important here is the assertion that there have been meetings among zionist terrorist colonist writers and palestinian writers and nothing has ever changed. on the following page soueif’s writing about hassan khader’s non-fiction illustrates one reason why that is the case:

Khader has written a book about the crisis of identity in Israeli literature: “Their works tell you more about them than the statements they give to the press. [Amos] Oz, for example, is a declared lover of peace–maybe he really does love peace. But his works show a racist attitude to Arabs and Palestinians. [A.B.] Yehoshua transforms Jewish existential crises into narrative forms and looks for fictive solutions which are at odds with his declared political stands. (326)

importantly, it is mourid barghouti who addresses the serious problem with expecting anything from these zionist terrorist colonist writers and does so by comparing these writers to white south african writers:

Mourid Barghouti puts it more trenchantly: “They all carry a whiff of the establishment. Look at South Africa: the white writers who allied themselves with the liberation movement rejected apartheid, clearly and publicly. Some of them joined the ANC. As long as the Israeli artist subscribes to the official Israeli narrative, there is a great big hole in the heart of his ‘alliance’ with the Palestinians. You cannot hold on to your ideological position and then join the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Palestinians. The ones with the kindly hearts–there are many of those, we meet them, we talk to them. Politically, it leads nowhere. It does them a lot of good–the Israelis–it eases their consciences, it pays dividends, it plays well on the world stage. It does nothing for the Palestinians.” (328)

unfortunately, barghouti is mistaken in the fact that there so-called “kind” colonists who live on palestinian land and terrorize them on a daily basis. i don’t see how one can be a thief and a murderer and also kind. in any case, aside from that one problematic remark, what he shows here is essential: that normalization leads to the illusion that the zionist entity has a left, which it doesn’t, or that they will actually do something. they haven’t. they don’t. they won’t. soueif continues:

What comes across in many of the statements given by Israeli writers is that they are against the occupation for their own sakes; for the harm it is doing to Israeli society, to the Israeli image and to the Israeli psyche. While this is legitimate it does somewhat overshadow their concern for the overall inhuman injustice of the situation. It’s hard to imagine, say Nadine Gordimer, being more concerned for the image and psyche of South Africa’s whites than for the injustice of apartheid and the damage done to all the people of her country–white and black. (329-330)

to be sure, i feel the same way about many american writers and others in the anti-war movement. many of these people are far more concerned about what american imperialism and its related wars are doing to americans rather than how it is terrorizing and murdering iraqis, palestinians, afghans, and pakistanis. the same is true with the u.s. partner in crime. i would not be against normalization with some zionist colonists if they behaved like some white south africans who actively worked against apartheid on all levels, including in armed resistance. but there are no zionist colonists who are here working in that capacity to dismantle the jewish state. this is one of the huge differences between apartheid south africa and the zionist entity. soueif quotes khader again on other similar comparisons:

Israeli writers, Khader says, are facing more and more a situation similar to that of French writers at the time of the Algerian war of independence and American writers at the time of Vietnam: “Should they take a stand against colonialism or should they agree to be a cosmetic instrument for it? They have not yet made up their minds.

The problem is that the occupation–which Israeli writers are against and which they think is so bad for the Israeli soul–has now been shown (by Israeli historians among others) to be the natural continuation of the Zionist project in Palestine. If hundreds of Palestinian homes are being demolished today, entire villages were erased in 1948. Is it possible to be against the occupation and hold on to the idea of Israel’s noble origins? Well, yes, if the Palestinians will agree to subscribe to the liberal Israeli view that all was well until 2000, until 1993, until 1967–any date, really, apart from 1948. But the Palestinians cannot agree to that because it is a denial of their history and a betrayal of half their nation. (330)

on a related note, in an addendum to this essay, soueif poses a few statements by the leading israeli terrorist colonist writers and asks the palestinian writers in her article to respond to their statements. one of the statements posed is by david grossman who seems to think that the intifada has created more anti-semitism in the muslim world. barghouti’s response is telling:

If the original Zionist project had worked and they had colonized part of Uganda, you would not have heard anything about anti-Semitism in the Islamic world. If there had been a conflict it would have been characterized as white vs. black and we would have watched it on TV along with the rest of the world. (333-334)

these palestinian writers, like so many other palestinian writers, use their words to illustrate vividly that the situation in palestine is about colonialism. and this is what is being resisted. and this is why, personally, i think that we need boycott and anti-normalization completely. thankfully there is no normalization here, at least to my knowledge. there are no zionist colonist terrorist writers here speaking. and i do not believe any have been at the festival. but we also need resistance–more of it. i continue to be upset that the yabous sponsors of the event chose to be passive and move everyone to the french cultural center the other night rather than resisting and staying. i really think that staying would have made such an important statement and yielded important results for palestinians as people who resist on all levels. the final night of the festival is scheduled to be at al hakawati again. i hope that if the same thing happens, and i assume that it will, that the people choose to ignore yabous and remain in their theatre and assert their rights to have their culture, their land, their spaces at whatever cost.

welcome to daytonstan

certain words are in my mind and have particular connotations given my experiences. having spent a decade and a half in cincinnati, ohio, just a few miles down the road from dayton, ohio, the word dayton will forever be associated with this small ohio city. but that is is slowly starting to change. keith dayton is an american lieutenant who is based in palestine and who runs the palestinian authority polices forces, which were set up in the first place to do the dirty work of the zionist entity’s regime. when i see these palestinian police (which should really be called american-israeli police) and i think about the work they do here for the colonizer i cannot help but see this new layer of american imperialism layered on top of zionist colonialism. robert dreyfuss has a report on dayton in the nation this week outlining the american money invested in this imperial project and its context, to a certain extent:

Last Thursday, in what was billed as his very first on-the-record address, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, spoke to the 2009 Soref Symposium organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. WINEP, of course, is the chief think tank for the Washington-based Israel lobby.

And in his talk, Gen. Dayton delivered an important warning.

First, the background. For the past three and a half years, Dayton has lived and worked in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, overseeing the creation of three Palestinian battalions of troops, hand-picked in the West Bank, trained at an academy in Jordan, and then deployed in the occupied territory.

The three 500-man battalions are intended to grow, to as many as ten battalions. Their mission, he said, is to “create a Palestinian state.” Recognizing that many in the WINEP audience were not exactly enamored with the idea of an independent Palestine, Dayton told his audience: “If you don’t like the idea of a Palestinian state, you won’t like the rest of this talk.”

From the detailed description provided by Dayton, it’s clear that the Palestinian forces he’s enabling could certainly be accused of carrying out the self-policing of the West Bank for the Israelis. Because the West Bank is, after all, occupied by Israel and riddled with illegal settlements besides — plus beset by a surrounding wall, 600-plus intrusive checkpoints, and a network of Jews-only highways — the Palestinian troops are utterly at the mercy of the Israelis. Each recruit is vetted by US security forces (i.e, the CIA), then vetted by Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence arm of Israel, and then by Jordan’s super-efficient intelligence service, before they begin their training in Jordan. Dayton made it quite clear that the Palestinian units thus trained are primarily deployed against two targets in the West Bank: against criminal gangs, and against Hamas.

So far, they’ve received $161 million is US funding.

Dayton described how, during the Israeli assault on Gaza last December and January, the West Bank remained quiet — even though some analysts were predicting an upsurge of sympathy for Hamas, which controls Gaza, along with violence, even a third intifada. “None of these predictions came true,” said the general, who added that the Palestinian battalions allowed peaceful demonstrations of solidarity with Hamas, but kept the lid on violent actions. Israel, he said, “kept a low profile,” and not a single Palestinian was killed in the West Bank during the three-week carnage in Gaza.

Most of the work he’s done, Dayton said, occurred in the West Bank after the June, 2007, Hamas takeover in Gaza. “What we have created are ‘new men,'” he added.

Now for the warning. Recognizing that by organizing and training thousands of Palestinian troops, professionally led, he is creating in effect a nationalist army, Dayton warned the 500 or so WINEP listeners that the troops can only be strung along for just so long. “With big expectations, come big risks,” said Dayton. “There is perhaps a two-year shelf life on being told that you’re creating a state, when you’re not.” To my ears, at least, his subtle warning is that if concrete progress isn’t made toward a Palestinian state, the very troops Dayton is assembling could rebel.

Dayton was responding to a question from Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative former deputy secretary of defense, who now hangs his hat at the neocon-dominated American Enterprise Institute. “How many Palestinians see your people as collaborators?” Wolfowitz asked. In answering Wolfowtiz, the general acknowledged that Hamas and its sympathizers accuse the Palestinian battalions of being “enforces of the Israeli occupation.” But he stressed that each one of them believes that he is fighting for an independent Palestine. The unstated message: the United States and Israel had better deliver. Thus the two year warning. Which, to me, sounds spot on with the Obama administration’s timetable.

One more thing: General Dayton signed up for another stint in the West Bank. And how long did he agree to serve? Yes–two years.

the recruiting for dayton’s palestinian security forces is very specific. they target palestinian young men who are uneducated, who have not finished high school. they use the fact that people need salaries here, often desperately, to feed their families and to put other family members through school. this way the people who are in dayton’s security forces don’t have critical thinking skills. they don’t ask questions. they are easily influenced to think they are serving their country rather than the colonial occupying regime. or the american empire for that matter. they feed into this system that exists here that keeps people fixated on salaries rather than liberation. salaries, when they come from the palestinian authority, are a way of silencing people so that they don’t say anything that would jeopardize their income. and these fatah-dominated security forces are helping the americans and zionists in their divide and rule policy as a recent ha’aretz article makes clear:

The Palestinian Authority has established a special counter-intelligence squad in its security services to uncover agents working for Hamas and Hezbollah. To date the Palestinian Authority security services have arrested dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the two radical Islamic groups.

Israeli security sources said that the PA has made a focused effort to uncover foreign agents, noting that the new unit involves a large contingent of officers.

The new organization is part of a group of measures undertaken by the PA to counter Hamas . It is meant, among other things, to stanch information leaks from the various security groups in the PA to the Islamist groups, especially information about plans against them.

ben white had an article in electronic intifada last week that examined various aspects of the daytonization of the palestinian security forces. one of the victims of this has been my friend and colleague abdel sattar al qassim who ben writes about and whose trial is tomorrow morning. here are excerpts of ben’s article, but i strongly recommend clicking on the link and reading the entire thing about other aspects of daytonization of the pa:

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

in a nutshell the daytonization of the west bank means collaboration with the zionist colonizing terrorizing entity, silencing dissent for those who would disagree with this, squashing resistance that fights for the liberation of palestine, and using american-zionist tactics of torture and repression to carry this out. it helps to divide and rule the country and to extend, rather than limit, zionist-american control of the west bank. welcome to daytonstan.

prisoners (of colonizers & collaborators alike)

i was rather shocked when this article by tim mcgirk from time magazine came across my news reader yesterday. it is a story about palestinian political prisoners through the vantage point of his family members left behind and the difficulty his young daughters have when visiting him in prison. here is how it begins:

Spending time with her dad requires that 6-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Bank town of Qalqilya, as her mother dresses her before dawn in an almond-green blouse and jeans, Jinan asks the same question she always does: “Mommy, why does Daddy have to sleep on the Israeli side?” And her mother Salam Nazal comforts her by saying, “Because that’s where the best Palestinian men go to sleep, and your father is one of them.” The town, which has elected a Hamas mayor, is known as a center of Palestinian militancy, and Israeli security forces conduct raids there on average five times a week.

Salam cannot accompany her daughters because she is on an Israeli security watch list, although she has never learned why she’s on it. Her immediate family lives in Jordan, so she must put the girls on a bus bound for Chattah-Gilboa prison inside Israel and hope that one of the many Palestinian women on board will help Jinan wrangle her sisters. “I’m so worried about having them go without me,” says Salam, as she hoists her girls onto the bus, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “But what can I do? This is their only chance to see their father.”

Ali Nazal, 35, who sold clothes from a cart in the streets, is one of more than 10,300 Palestinian detainees currently inside Israeli prisons. Although he has yet to be tried, Nazal has been behind bars for the past two years. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing weapons and harboring a fugitive — charges the family insists are based on false evidence from anonymous informers working for the Israeli security services. Salam says no weapons were found in their home but says the Israeli military demolished it anyway. The Israelis maintain that Ali was an active member of a militant organization and part of a cell that had been planning a terrorist attack.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Ali and his fellow detainees should never have been transferred to prisons outside the occupied territories. But since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in June 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails. Nearly every Palestinian family has someone who was locked up in Israel at some point. Prison has become a rite of passage for rebellious teens and, for families seeking to visit detained loved ones, a nightmare of permits, checkpoints and body searches. It’s not an easy journey for an adult, much less three unaccompanied tots carrying their lunch in a Barbie backpack.

my dear friend nora barrows-friedman did a similar story about amani khader a few years ago on flashpoints. amani is the daughter of husam khader, who was recently released from prison (last august). you can listen to her interview by clicking this link. amani describes similar hurdles she had to endure when she went to visit her father in prison and she reads one of her amazing rap songs at the end of interview. i have a special affection for amani because i’ve been tutoring her in balata refugee camp this year. she is one of the brightest and most beautiful people i’ve ever met. i know that if she were at my university now she would surpass even the seniors in college, although she is only a senior in high school. clearly she gets much of this genius from her father, husam, who i was very pleased to read made an important statement that was reported in ma’an news today:

A high-ranking Fatah official on Thursday proposed holding presidential and legislative elections as an alternative to the “useless” Cairo dialogue so that Palestinians can choose between a program led by Fatah and resistance agenda claimed by Hamas but which it “does not practice.”

Husam Khader, a Fatah legislator within the Palestinian Legislative Council, said during a visit to Ma’an News Agency in the West Bank city of Bethlehem that “without agreeing on a decent election program between Fatah and Hamas that will specify the future of the Palestinians, these elections will not be held and the state of division that is supported by western parties and Israel will deepen.”

“Palestinians are qualified more than others for such a situation since there is a geographical barrier between the West Bank and Gaza, which is the [Israeli] occupation,” he added.

Concerning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass upcoming visit to the United States, Khader downplayed the visit, saying that it will not lead to anything because “the US administration will just assure the promises of previous administrations toward a two-state solution.”

He demanded that President Abbas present a draft to US President Barack Obama dismantling the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a commitment to end popular resistance against Israel. “President Abbas should present this solution, which is the right one, because “the PA useless on the ground and is represented solely by the salary [for public employees] at the end of the month.”

Regarding whether or not Fatah’s sixth conference will go on as planned, he said it was “a big lie,” noting that “there are persons inside Fatah who are afraid of democracy more than the [Israeli] occupation, because they fear for their interests, and will obstruct holding a conference using weak excuses and deceiving the movement’s affiliates.”

my only beef with the above statement is husam’s bit about giving up resistance against the zionist entity. but i highly doubt that this is what he said or that he really means this. i would be shocked if that were true. but the idea that the palestinian collaborationist authority can continue on its path of collaboration and repression is finally penetrating even fatah circles. it is refreshing to say the least.

ben white’s article in electronic intifada today details much of the corruption and collaboration with the zionist entity and its criminal ally the united states. it discusses my friend abdel sattar al qassem and his most recent imprisonment in a palestinian jail. white’s article makes it clear why the sulta (salata) must go:

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.” As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a “hoax,” and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures “in the harshest possible words,” according to Ma’an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA’s security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

“It was evident that they didn’t want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case.”

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they “have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA.”

One aspect of this phenomenon is an assault on the freedom of the press. Back in December of last year, the Ma’an news agency carried out an investigation into what it described as “an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation against West Bank and Gaza Strip journalists,” carried out by the Palestinian Authority.

The report detailed how independent news agencies had become targets for “President Mahmoud Abbas’s security establishment, particularly the PA’s Office of the Attorney General.” The same month as Ma’an’s investigation, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate demanded that the PA release journalists from West Bank prisons, noting that “some journalists had been in prison for more than three months.”

Criticizing the PA, or even affording Hamas coverage, now seems enough to get on the blacklist, or become a target for the PA’s security apparatus. In fact, a Nablus-based journalist “found himself in a prison cell” in January for reporting the torching of Professor Qassem’s car, according to The Jerusalem Post. In February, the Post reported that “the PA’s crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas’s security forces.”

Another worrying trend in the PA-administered areas is an increasing militarization of civilian policing. During my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the first things several of my friends told me about was an energetic campaign by the PA to clamp down on car-related crime. There were now impromptu checkpoints thrown up on the main roads where drivers’ licenses were checked and the special permission required to drive Israeli yellow-plated cars was requested.

Nobody minded, in theory, increased efficiency in law enforcement; what was troubling was the way the PA forces were going about it. It can seem like a small thing, a friend told me, but “it’s this militarization, this way of asserting a kind of domination over the people.” Many complained of the disrespectful behavior of the gun-toting men checking the cars.

This focus on “law and order” has become a repeated theme in the last few years, particularly in cities like Nablus and Jenin. Just recently, in a fairly typical episode, Ma’an news agency reported that PA forces conducted a “sweep” in a village three kilometers from Nablus, arresting apparent “fugitives” and checking the registration of some 250 cars.

Consistent, genuine complaints about lawlessness and corruption in Nablus had already emerged in 2004-05, but it wasn’t until the end of 2007 that the current campaign was launched by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose official term as PA president expired in January. Beginning in Nablus, the law and order drive was replicated in Jenin in the summer of 2008. Residents have undoubtedly welcomed the increased security, but the nature of the campaign — and the context — is not so straightforward.

For example, the PA’s infrastructure (largely destroyed by Israel in 2001-02) is completely ill-equipped. In April 2008 in Nablus, for example, Reuters reported that only 13 percent of the prison’s inmates had actually been convicted; the restrictions of occupation and the inadequacy of the PA’s legal system mean that many face a long wait before their guilt or innocence can be determined in a court of law.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

meanwhile palestine hits the world record today for having the world’s longest political prisoner behind bars of the zionist usurping entity:

Former political prisoner, researcher and specialist in detainees’ affairs, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, has revealed that detainee Na’el Barghouthi now spent 31years behind bars. He was kidnapped by Israeli forces on April 4th 1978.

Farawna said that Barghouthi and other detainees who have spent many years in Israeli prisons and detention facilities have became the symbols of steadfastness, resistance and determination. Their continued imprisonment proves the criminal and immoral nature of the Israeli occupation, the Quds Net reported.

He also said that Palestinian resistance factions should insist on his release and the release of all detainees who have spent so many years behind bars for resisting the occupation and fighting for their country.

On August 25, 2008, detainee Sa’id Al Ataba was released from an Israeli prison after he spent 31 years and 26 days behind bars.

Detainee Barghouthi, born in the central West Bank city of Ramallah in 1957, was kidnapped by the army on April 4, 1978, when he was only 21 years old. He was sentenced by an Israeli military court to one life-term.

for further context on these crimes of the zionist apartheid regime listen to one of nora’s latest interviews with our friend hazem jamjoum on flashpoints. it is an amazing discussion of the apartheid regime.

on the criminals who escape prosecution

there was some really disturbing reporting on the situation of the tamils in sri lanka the past few days. here is an update from david chater on al jazeera:

i wish that al jazeera posted not only their reports in the field, but also the discussions that follow the reports live in the studio. because late last night they interviewed a woman from tamils against genocide. i couldn’t grab a pen to jot down her name, but she was really amazing. she mentioned a number of things that were particularly striking in terms of the way it resembles what israeli terrorists do to palestinians in gaza and in the past against lebanese. here are a few things she mentioned:

1. sri lanka is using cluster bombs
2. sri lanka is using white phosphorus
3. sri lanka has hired an american public relations firm to put out propaganda
4. sri lanka has trapped tamils and refuses to let them leave the war zone
5. sri lanka propaganda is now saying “there is no humanitarian crisis” (recall: tzipi livni)
6. sri lanka is only allowing journalists to be embedded with its army and will not allow them into the areas where tamils are trapped

to get an idea of what white phosphorus does here is a video from human rights watch on israeli terrorists’ use of the weapon in gaza:

the video is useful, but like cluster bombs i totally disagree with human rights watch that this weapon has a legitimate purpose in any context. they argue that there are legitimate uses of white phosphorus. i also have serious problems with human rights watch de-contextualizing palestinian resistance fighters’ use of qassam rockets. it is not the same. israeli terrorists have an army–and the fourth largest army in the world. palestinians have limited resources for its resistance. not unlike the tamil tigers in sri lanka.

there are, of course, historical parallels between palestinians and tamils, too, given the context of the british creating the problems in both places as well. suren surendiran wrote a great piece in the guardian this week that provides some historical context that will also resonate for those who know the history of palestine:

The Sri Lankan military is killing hundreds of Tamil civilians each day. On Sunday alone, a thousand people were killed by cluster bombs, artillery and machine gun fire. On Monday, hundreds died when Sri Lankan forces used them as human mine-sweepers and human shields to advance against the Tamil Tigers.

This “slaughter” of civilians, as Human Rights Watch has condemned it, has intensified since January. Over 5,000 Tamils have been massacred in the past three months alone.

Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain. This is why tens of thousands of British Tamils have been protesting outside Parliament here for several weeks.

We are British citizens, but our government is ignoring us and turning a blind eye to the ongoing massacres of our relatives and community in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka as a country was evicted from the UN human rights council last year for its gross violations of the human rights of its people. Sri Lanka does not let independent journalists report freely. The current government has been accused of being complicit in many abductions and killings of journalists and others.

The UK and other western states have suggested that by destroying the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka can be made peaceful. This is a profound misunderstanding of the state-racism and ethnic supremacy at the heart of the Sri Lankan crisis – a crisis that has now become genocide.

Britain is deeply implicated in this crisis.

When in 1948 Britain, the colonial power, granted independence to Sri Lanka, the Westminster-style democracy London set up allowed a pernicious Sinhala chauvinism to capture the state and begin the 60 years of violence and oppression the Tamils have now endured.

In 1977, after three decades of discrimination and state-backed mob violence, the entire Tamil political leadership united behind a demand for an independent state comprising the Tamil homeland as the only way to escape oppression.

The Sinhala-dominated state responded with violence, and a few years later, in 1983, a Tamil armed struggle emerged in response. This resistance to the Sinhala state is led by the Tamil Tigers or LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Until 1983 Tamils have tried through many of their democratically elected leaders and parties to resolve this injustice by negotiations and peaceful means. Even during the armed struggle, LTTE has many times attempted to negotiate with successive Sri Lankan governments. As recently as 2002, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated between the government and the LTTE by the international community. Just as before, the Sri Lankan state abrogated from this agreement unilaterally in January 2008.

Since 1983, the problem in Sri Lanka has been characterised by western states as conflict, rather than state chauvinism. They have sought to support the Sinhala-dominated state and pressure the LTTE to “make peace”.

The Tamils in Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka face the same crisis as the people of Kosovo under Serbian rule. The international community could not make the Serbian state led by Milosovic cease its attempts to wipe out the people of Kosovo, and ultimately Kosovo was granted independence to assure their safety.

Having abandoned the Tamils to majoritarian tyranny, Britain has consistently ignored the Sinhala chauvinism deeply embedded in the Sri Lankan state. The UK has cynically sold weapons to the Sinhala military and tried to pass off the agitation by Tamils as one of poverty, merely requiring “development”.

We want Britain to compel the racist regime in Sri Lanka to cease its genocide. As a member of the UN security council, a close ally of the US and a member of the EU, Britain has the ability to do this. As the former colonial power that placed the Tamils at risk, and as a state that has sought explicitly to champion democracy and freedom, it has a moral obligation, too.

Remember, most British Tamils have direct relatives – mums, dads, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces – left back in the war zone. They are genuinely concerned for their safety and whereabouts.

That is why Britain’s Tamils are protesting outside Parliament day and night.

i wonder if sri lanka will get off as easy for its massacre of tamils as israeli terrorists have been getting off. although the news from norway bodes well that perhaps there may be some justice as saed bannoura reports:

A group of lawyers in Norway have filed charges with the nation’s top prosecutor against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of war crimes.

The charges stem from the Israeli government’s attack on the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2008, which the lawyers say violated international law by illegally targeting civilians, using internationally-banned weapons and attacking hospitals and medical personnel.

In Norway, the tenet of ‘universal jurisdiction’ allows lawyers to file charges against people in other countries, including leaders and officials, if there is evidence of war crimes or other violations of international law.

The case is being brought on behalf of three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack, according to the lawyers.

The lawyers said they could not stand silent in the face of what they termed Israel’s ‘war crimes’ in Gaza. They said in their statement, “There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions.”

Similar charges filed in Spain last month were later revoked after pressure from the Israeli government and lobbyists threatened to change the very nature of the Spanish judiciary. Lawyers backed down from the charges after the campaign, saying that the ‘universal jurisdiction’ in that country did not apply if an investigation is ongoing within the offending country. Although Israel has claimed that their military conducted ‘investigations’ into the military’s actions in Gaza, but no on-the-ground evidence was actually gathered during, leading many observers worldwide to question its legitimacy.

The Norwegian lawyers said that the potential for diplomatic problems between their government and Israel was outweighed by the severity of the crimes in the case.

here is a discussion about israeli terrorist soldiers absolving themselves on al jazeera’s “inside story” with kamahl santamaria. it features an israeli terrorist with the jerusalem post, yaakov katz, and wesam ahmad from al haq, and the amazing incomparable dr. mads gilbert from…norway. i love santamaria on this episode. he always keeps the discussion back to the original text. just like a literature professor. love it.

of course it is not just sri lankans or israeli terrorists who turn the truth on its head in order to get out of paying the price for their war crimes. it is also the americans. case in point: barack obama on prosecuting those who created a policy and culture of torture in the bush administration. al jazeera reports that obama may allow for the prosecution of a few mid-level people, but top folks seem to be absolved:

Barack Obama, the US president, has left open the possibility of prosecuting officials over the CIA torture memos released by his administration last week.

Obama on Tuesday reiterated his belief that US intelligence agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other interrogation methods after acting on advice from superiors who defined such practices as legal should not face prosecution.

But Obama said it is up to Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, whether to prosecute lawyers under the administration of George Bush, Obama’s predecessor, who wrote the memos approving the tactics.

one of the key people who should be at the top of the list is, of course, dick cheney. david usborne reported in the independent quoted cheney in a way that shows he seems to be gloating:

Dick Cheney has returned to the fray to demand the CIA release documents that he says show “enhanced” interrogation techniques extracted crucial information from terror suspects.

The former vice president’s remarks follow Barack Obama’s decision to release top secret memos detailing controversial questioning methods used under the Bush administration.

“One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is that they put out the legal memos… but they didn’t put out the memos that show the success of the effort,” Mr Cheney told Fox News.

of course obama is likely covering his own ass because he knows that when he leaves office, because he is continuing bush’s policies, he and his administration could be subjected to the same prosecution if he opens up this can of worms now (in theory he could be regardless but that would mean electing someone moral and someone who is invested in justice, which amerians are not capable of). jeremy scahill’s report on the prison at baghram airforce base in afghanistan is one place where if we had access to more information i’m sure it would be made clear that torture is going on there:

As the Obama administration faces mounting pressure to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate torture and other crimes ordered by senior Bush administration officials and implemented by CIA operatives and contractors, the ACLU is opening up another front in the battle for transparency. But this one is not exclusively aimed at the Bush era. Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to make public records on the US-run prison at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The group is seeking documents from the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.

As the ACLU states, “the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.”

in counterpunch scahill makes it clear why this is not a partisan issue in the u.s.: democrats and republicans alike are responsible for these american policies:

There are some powerful Democrats who certainly would not want an independent public investigation, particularly those who served on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees when Bush was in power and torture was being ordered and authorized. That’s because in the aftermath of 9/11, some in Congress were briefed on the torture methods in real time and either were silent or, in some cases, supported these brutal tactics or, as some have suggested, possibly encouraged them to be expanded.

perhaps we can get norway to add sri lanka and the united states to its list???

on the jewish state

the other night kamal santamaria hosted a discussion of “obstacles to peace” in al jazeera’s “inside story” with david mack, mustafa bargouthi, and israeli terrorist shmuel sandler. the discussion is an interesting one, though i wish al jazeera would change the framework of their discussions to include concepts like justice and ideas like the one-state solution or liberating all of historic palestine. in any case, the program does a good job unpacking some of the basic bulls*&^ issues that show once again how the zionist entity has never wanted peace, justice, or anything other than the theft of more land.

i was surprised the other night when marwan bishara spoke about those of us fighting for a single state which would enable all palestinian refugees to return home. i’ve never heard him discuss such things before, tough, of course, his brother azmi bishara has been fighting for this for years. oftentimes when people write about or speak about one-state solutions (as opposed to two-state disasters) they fixate on the impossibility of one-state, when in reality anyone who thinks two-states is feasible must be smoking some serious crack cocaine.

in the conclusion of jonathan cook’s brilliant new book disappearing palestine he addresses some of these issues in his chapter that is beautifully titled “two-state dreamers.” here is what cook argues:

In fact, the division of land demanded by the real two-staters, however equitable, would be the very moment when the struggle for Israel to remain a Jewish state would enter its most critical and difficult phase. Which is precisely why Israel has blocked any meaningful division of the land so far and will continue to do so. In the unimaginable event that Israel were to divide the land, a Jewish state would not be able to live with the consequences of such a division for long. Eventually, the maintenance of an ethnic Israeli state would (and will) prove unsustainable: environmentally, demographically, and ultimately physically. Division of the land simply “fast-forwards” the self-destructiveness inherent in a Jewish state.

Let us examine just a few of the consequences for the Jewish state of a genuine two-state solution.

First, Israel inside its recognized, shrunken borders would face an immediate and very serious water shortage. That is because, in returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, Israel would lose control of the large mountain aquifers that currently supply most of its water not only to Israel proper but also to the Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied territories. Israel would no longer be able to steal the water, but would be expected to negotiate for it on the open market. Given the politics of water in the Middle East that would be no simple matter. However, impoverished the new sovereign Palestinian state was, it would lose all legitimacy in the eyes of its own population were it to sell more than a trickle of water to the Israelis….

Second, with the labour-intensive occupation at an end, much of the Jewish state’s huge citizen army would become surplus to defence requirements. In addition to the massive social and economic disruptions, the dismantling of the country’s military complex would fundamentally change Israel’s role in the region, damage its relationship with the only global superpower and sever of its financial ties to Diaspora Jews. Israel would no longer have the laboratories of the occupied territories for testing its military hardware, its battlefield strategies and its booming surveillance and crowd-control industries. If Israel chose to fight the Palestinians, it would have to do so in a proper war, even if one between very unequal sides. Doubtless the Palestinians, like Hezbollah, would quickly find regional sponsors to arm and train their army or militias.

The experience and the reputation Israel has acquired–at least among the US military–in running an occupation and devising new and supposedly sophisticated ways to control the “Arab mind” would rapidly be lost, and with it Israel’s usefulness to the US in managing its own long-term occupation of Iraq and assisting the booming “homeland security” industry. Also, Israel’s vital strategic alliance with the US in dividing the Arab world, over the issue of the occupation and by signing peace treaties with some states and living in a state of permanent war with others, would start to unravel. With the waning of Israel’s special relationship with Washington and the influence of its lobby groups, as well as the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies, the Jewish Diaspora would begin to lose interest in Israel. Its money and power ebbing away, Israel might eventually slip into Middle Eastern anonymity, another Jordan. In such circumstances it would rapidly see a large exodus of privileged Ashkenazi Jews, many of whom hold second passports.

Third, the Jewish state would not be as Jewish as some might think: currently one in five Israelis is not Jewish but Palestinian. Although in order to realize a two-state vision all the Jewish settlers would probably need to leave the occupied territories and return to Israel, what would be done with the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship? These Palestinians have been citizens for six decades and live legally on land that has belonged to their families for many generations. They are also growing in number at a rate faster than the Jewish population, the reason they are popularly referred to in Israel as a “demographic timebomb.” Were these 1.3 million citizens to be removed from Israel by force under a two-state arrangement, it would be a violation of international law by a democratic state on a scale unprecedented int he modern era, and an act of ethnic cleansing even larger than the 1948 war that established Israel. The question would be: why even bother advocating two states if it has to be achieved on such appalling terms?

Assuming instead that the new Jewish state is supposed to maintain, as Israel currently does, the pretense of being a liberal democracy, these citizens would be entitled to continue living on their land and exercising their rights. Inside a Jewish state that had officially ended its conflict with the Palestinians, demands would grow from Palestinian citizens for equal rights and an end to their second-class status. Most significantly, they would insist on two rights that challenge the very basis of a Jewish state. They would expect the right, backed by international law, to be able to marry Palestinians from outside Israel and bring them to live with them; and they would want a Right of Return for their exiled relatives on a similar basis to the Law of Return for Jews. Israel’s Jewishness would be at stake, even more so than it is today from its Palestinian minority. It can be assumed that Israel’s leaders would react with great ferocity to protect the state’s Jewishness. Eventually Israel’s democratic pretensions would have to be jettisoned and the full-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens implemented.

Still, do these arguments against the genuine two-state arrangement win the day for the one-state solution? Would Israel’s leaders not put up an equally vicious fight to protect their ethnic privileges by preventing, as they are dong now, the emergence of a single state? Yes, they would and they will. But that misses my larger point. As long as Israel is an ethnic state, it will be forced to deepen the occupation and intensify its ethnic cleansing policies to prevent the emergence of genuine Palestinian political influence–for the reasons I cite above and for many others I don’t. In truth, both a one-state and a genuine two-state arrangement are impossible given Israel’s determination to remain a Jewish state.

The obstacle to a solution, then, is not the division of the land but Zionism itself, the ideology of ethnic supremacism that is the current orthodoxy in Israel. As long as Israel is a Zionist state, its leaders will allow neither one state nor two real states. There can be no hope of a solution until the question of how to defeat Zionism is addressed. It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by confronting the illusions of the two-state dreamers and explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace.

In other words, if we stopped distracting ourselves with the Holy Grail of the two-state solution, we might channel our energies into something more useful: discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it. Eventually the respectable facade of Zionism might crumble. And without Zionism, the obstacle to creating either one or two states will finally be removed. If that is the case, then why not also campaign for the solution that will best bring justice to both Israelis and Palestinians? (247-251)

the issues that cook lays out above are necessary for those of us who wish to bring justice to palestinians. (of course i could care less about justice for israeli terrorists and would not be quite as even-handed as cook on that front.) but the core issue is that the discourse of two states is and has always been a distraction. it is just as much a distraction as the zionist entity’s demand that palestinians recognize that they are a “jewish state.” jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler reported on this very issue in ips today:

At their meeting Thursday night, Netanyahu told Mitchell that he would be ready to discuss a Palestinian state only if Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state. A senior official in the Israeli leader’s bureau quoted the prime minister as saying: “Israel expects the Palestinians first to recognise Israel as a Jewish state before there could be talking about two states for two peoples.”

abu yusef writing for palestine monitor explains precisely why he objects to this new demand by the zionist entity for recognition as a jewish state:

To those unfamiliar with the conflict or the numerous attempts at its resolution, the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish State seems uncontroversial, even logical. Israel is seen, at home and abroad, as a home for Jews and a place where they enjoy universal citizenship. ‘What is wrong with recognizing that?’ people ask.

A much better question to ask is, ‘Hasn’t the Palestinian leadership, through the PLO, already recognized Israel’s right to exist for fifteen years? If so, why should they now be demanded to recognize a specific nature of the state?’

For its part, Israel is hoping the international community focuses on the first question while ignoring the second. The real consequences of recognizing Israel’s Jewish character are far more important than attaching a name or a word to the description of the state. Recognizing Israel as Jewish, in fact, has a major role to play in shaping the ongoing negotiations for a two state settlement.

To show you how, we have broken up the Palestinians who will be affected by such a move into four groups. Each of these will be asked to forsake or concede certain rights and capacities prior to returning to the negotiating table with a Jewish state of Israel.

1. Palestinians in the occupied Territories.

Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state will insure that race and ethnicity will be the main determinants of a future border – one which will inevitably legitimize Israel’s ‘facts on the ground’ in the form of the wall and settlements. The new border will not be drawn upon the internationally recognized ‘Green Line’, rather it will try to include as much of one group as possible while excluding the other. All of the land stolen for the wall and settlements will become Israel’s, most likely in exchange for a land in the Negev – or perhaps even land within Israel populated by Israeli-Palestinian citizens.

2. Palestinian citizens of Israel

It is difficult to imagine a state characterizing itself as Jewish when a full fifth of its population are Muslim and Christian – but this is what Israel aims to do. The consequences of this on Israel’s Muslim and Christian population are second citizenship and strict demographic control over their growth and development. They will be living in a state that does not grant them the full rights of citizenship based on their creed and, therefore, in a theocratic dictatorship dressed up as a democracy. This is a best-case scenario for Israeli-Palestinians. In the worst case, as suggested by Avigdor Lieberman and mentioned above, the Israeli government will actually transfer large parts of its ‘unofficial’ population into the future Palestinian state. This transfer, though illegal under international law and inconsistent with the principles of liberal democracy, will be legitimized in the quest to maintain the demographic character of the Jewish state.

3. Palestinians living in the occupied East Jerusalem

Palestinians living in East Jerusalem experience an entirely different reality than their brothers and sisters in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip. They live in the center of the conflict to change the nature and identity of the Holy City while increasingly isolated from the rest of the occupied Territories. As they are not citizens of Israel, nor do they want to be, they do not enjoy the same protections as their Israeli-Palestinian counterparts, and therefore find their rights and dignity much more easily trampled upon. Over the last months for example, dozens of homes have been destroyed and families made into refugees in an effort by the Israeli government and settler organizations to Judaize Jerusalem by changing its demography and architectural identity and heritage so as to change the perception of ownership.

4. Palestinian refugees in the occupied Territories and abroad

Perhaps the most important consequence of Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish state would be felt by the millions of Palestinian refugees living in the occupied Territories or abroad. International law calls for these people to return to their homes inside of Israel. Recognition of the Jewish state makes it impossible to endanger the Jewish demographic majority inside of Israel by transplanting millions of Palestinians back into their former homes. In short, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state means giving up the right of return prior to sitting down at the negotiating table. Though this right may some day be surrendered or altered in the final status agreements establishing a Palestinian state, giving it up prior to negotiations severely weakens the Palestinian negotiating team by limiting the amount of tools at their disposal. This is the new reality Israel is hoping to engender before sitting back down at the negotiating table.

The list of consequences in recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is in no way comprehensive, but it does highlight the gravity of this seemingly innocent request. Israel, by returning to the Annapolis process after their initial refusal to do so, is acting as if they are making a concession. By doing so, and fooling the entire international community in the process, they are now asking Palestinians to make the gravest concession of all as a form of perverted reciprocity. Only then will Israel be able to return to a farcical Annapolis process which does not even pretend to lead to anything more than commitments, declarations and endless delay.

It is not a deal that we would accept…

thankfully ma’an news is reporting that the united states will not support this demand of recognizing the zionist entity as a jewish state:

A demand that Palestinians recognize Israel “as the state of the Jewish people” as a condition for resuming peace negotiations is unacceptable to the US, the State Department said this weekend.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, quoting statements from the State Department, indicated that the US would not back Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for this recognition.

of course this demand for being recognized as jewish, and therefore somehow as validating their right to continue their oppression of non-jewish (read: palestinian) citizens living on their land under a brutal colonial regime, is also used to leverage their right to be free of all criticism because it better facilitates their conflation of anti-zionism or critiques of their state to anti-semitism. one example of that is the fact that in spite of removing all of the platform issues on palestine from the world conference against racism, the zionist entity, the united states, canada and now austria, and holland are boycotting the durban 2 conference in geneva this week. fabulous nora barrows-friedman explains the context of the removal of palestine from the conference agenda in electronic intifada:

However, two weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner’s office unilaterally cancelled all side-events pertaining to Palestine issues. Ingrid Jarradat-Gassner, director of the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem, one of several Palestine-based organizations attending the Durban Review conference, tells IPS that BADIL and the other NGOs had organized a side-event specifically about how and why they see Israel as a “regime of institutionalized racial discrimination on both sides of the Green Line.”

“As Palestinian NGOs and other NGOs working on the issue of Israel and its violations against the rights of the Palestinian people, we were expecting that there would be a possibility for us to organize these side-events during the official Durban review conference in Geneva,” Jarradat-Gassner says. “We were informed by the UN itself that this would be possible.”

Jarradat-Gassner says that on 3 April, less than three weeks before the Durban Review Conference, the UN High Commissioner’s office called BADIL’s representative in Geneva into a meeting at the UN, and verbally informed her that all side-events pertaining to the specific issue of Palestine and Israel had been banned.

“We were not even informed in any sort of direct of official way. In fact, we have no record of the decision of the UN not to let us work on such side-events,” says Jarradat-Gassner.

According to the UN’s Durban Review Conference agenda, other side-events focusing on indigenous rights, women’s rights and the link between racism and poverty will have an official platform.

Jarradat-Gassner says she knows there is a specific apprehension within the political UN body towards Palestine issues. In the draft document for the Durban Review Conference, she points out, there are particular recommendations for victims of HIV/AIDS, for victims of slave trade, Roma people, people of African descent, but, Jarradat-Gassner says, “there is not a single reference to Palestine, Palestinians or Israel in this whole document.”

BADIL, Al-Haq (a Palestinian human rights organization) and Adalah (the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) wrote a joint formal complaint to the UN OHCHR, but have not received any reply. The UN OHCHR did not respond to IPS’s request for a comment either.

Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tells IPS he had not known about the disallowance of side-events pertaining to Palestine/Israel by the UN’s OHCHR. “One has to assume it was part of an effort to meet the objections of the United States that the event was discrediting to the extent it engaged in ‘Israel-bashing.'” However, Falk points out, “US leverage is probably greater than it has been because Obama is President and Washington has indicated its intention to rejoin the Human Rights Council.”

Palestinian organizations say that banning these side-events is a significant disappointment in pursuing Israel’s legal responsibility towards its actions in Palestine. Dr. Falk echoes this sentiment. “I believe that the strong evidence of Israeli racism during the recent Gaza attacks makes it strange to refuse NGOs organizing side-events to address the issue,” he tells IPS. “Also, the collective punishment aspects of the occupation seem to qualify the Israeli policy as a form of racism, combined with the rise of the extreme right, with [Avigdor] Lieberman as [Israeli] foreign minister.”

Jarradat-Gassner says that within the framework of the Durban Review Conference, the issue of Palestine and Israel should be prominent. “There is an obvious link between colonization and apartheid [in Palestine-Israel]. If you have a settler-colonial regime that comes here to stay, and codifies into law its relationship of domination over the indigenous population, you are entering the field of apartheid … We are talking about what Israel has been practicing over the last 60 years in Palestine.”

as cook mentioned it is zionism that is the thing that must really be defeated in order to really get to a just solution for palestinians. interestingly, the newly launched boycott campaign in lebanon is a campaign that is dedicated to boycotting zionism. antoun issa blogged about our campaign on global voices and a few israeli terrorists are rather perturbed about this, likely because, although they are not clear or honest about their concerns, the logical conclusion to such a campaign is to the destruction of the jewish state. while i won’t quote the israeli terrorists in question, i will quote the response that rania wrote and that i edited and posted. you can click on the link to read and respond further to this discussion:

(1) A visit by Lisa Goldman (illegal that it was) to Lebanon hardly gives her credibility to discuss what is mainstream and what is radical in the country. One can very confidently say that all those who support resistance in Lebanon, who are at least 50 per cent of the country, support “a radical rejectionist ideology about Israel.” We are not the minority, not according to political polls.

(2) Zionism is not too complex of a political ideology. It is the idea that people who adhere to the Jewish religion have a claim to a particular land. The problem, for Zionism, is that, for centuries, Palestinians – of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths – have lived on that land. The predominant interpretation of Zionism is that that particular plot of land, known to Zionists as the land of Israel, belongs only to Jews, and therefore practicing Zionism involves (1) a unity of government and religion; and, much more importantly, (2) a belief in superior laws for one set of people. It is – as was stated in Durban – that Zionism is a form of racism. And indeed as it is practiced in Palestine it is racism. No different from racism in any other part of the world, except for the fact that the world’s 4th largest army is used to murder people and steal their land as a result of this racist ideology.

(3) The idea of boycotting Zionism rather than boycotting Israel is to stress that it is this ideology of racism and occupation that is opposed. Should Israel cease to be a zionist state, should Israel cease to treat Jews one way and non-Jewish Palestinians another way, then the boycott movement would cease as well. It is a similar concept to boycotting apartheid South Africa and not simply boycotting South Africa, a similar concept to opposing segregationist policies in Jim Crow US and not boycotting US.

(4) Boycotting institutions and companies that invest in and support Israel is one effective means to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, and thus stand in solidarity with the struggle for civil and human rights and liberation. It is not the only way, and alone, it does not suffice, but it is one effective method. It has been proven to be one effective method in the struggle for liberating South Africans from apartheid policies. It has already shown itself to be an effective public voice. [You may go to the link in the original post to see our statement for more on this.] Interestingly, Israeli professors like Tanya Reinhart and Ilan Pappe have publicly called for a boycott of Israel.

(5) Lisa Goldman is right to be concerned about a “respected international news agency is being put in a position of giving wide exposure to the views of a minority of bloggers who promote radical ideologies that are based on dubious information,” but she is incorrect about the bloggers themselves. The bloggers that do promote minority viewpoints are those that pretend to speak for peace while promoting racist policies and military occupation and lies and misinformation. So, we all should be concerned when an international news agency does not give equal and fair coverage and does not present the voices of the oppressed.

white washing ethnic cleansing

ethan bronner, the tool of the israeli terrorist regime, who writes propaganda pieces supporting their terrorism for the new york times, did a profile on the israeli terrorist mayor of al quds the other day. here is how bronner characterized the massive land confiscation creating new palestinian refugees:

In several East Jerusalem neighborhoods these days, demolition orders are being issued. The result is that while Mr. Barkat is bringing a sense of modern renewal and entrepreneurial spirit to City Hall, he is also infuriating those who wish to see Jerusalem shared as the capital of two states.

Mr. Barkat speaks of his efforts in East Jerusalem as if they were in any normal city. He wants to expand public areas for both Jews and Palestinians, make room for schools and generally clean up what he calls the “wild East.”…

The houses Mr. Barkat plans to tear down were built illegally, and that, he says, is his sole motive. He is doing the same for illegal construction in predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem and offers numbers to prove it. About a third of the tearing down is indeed in the West.

Palestinians and their advocates say they can build only illegally because Israel almost never grants them legal permits, to keep their numbers down and make sure there remains a strong Jewish majority in Jerusalem. The city has nearly 800,000 inhabitants, about 270,000 of them Palestinian.

The biggest controversy involves Silwan, the area just southeast of the walled Old City where some 7,500 Palestinians live, mostly in buildings without permits. Mr. Barkat wants to turn the area into an archaeological park, the City of David and the Garden of King Solomon, where he says King David wrote poetry, and other great historical figures wandered quietly.

“For 3,000 years, that area has been green,” he asserts. “Now there are 100 buildings that are illegal there. We want to return it to being a park.”

Palestinians see it otherwise.

“They start with one building and then they take away a whole neighborhood,” asserted Nafez Ghith, a 39-year-old souvenir shop owner whose family homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are under demolition order. “He has been in office only a few months, and we see what he wants to do. They leave us no legal alternative.”

Mr. Barkat has appointed an old friend, Yakir Segev, to be in charge of East Jerusalem. In an interview with a local newspaper, Mr. Segev said: “Jerusalem is a laboratory. If we succeed in solving the conflict with the Arabs of Jerusalem, it will also be possible to solve it everywhere in Israel.”

What Mr. Segev, like Mr. Barkat, means is both improving services for the Palestinians and ending any ambiguity about Jewish dominance. And to that end, they have expressed strong support for more Jewish building to the east of the city, which Palestinians say could end any prospect for a two-state solution.

i think that perhaps bronner doesn’t understand barkat. when israeli terrorists say “clean up” what they mean is “transfer,” ethnic cleansing, forced removal of the indigenous population. thus, his comment about “cleaning up the wild east” is a direct allusion to how white americans “cleaned up” what they called the “wild west,” a place that used to be populated with many american indian tribes, but that cowboys “cleaned up” (read: massacre and forced removal) in order to colonize the land. what barkat is doing in al quds is exactly the same. who do you think the israeli terrorists learned it from? likewise, bronner doesn’t get it when he talks about al quds as a laboratory. what he means there is not about literally cleaning up the city: he means that if they succeed in forcing out the indigenous population of palestinians they will continue until there are none left.

american-zion-al-quds

to be sure, mondoweiss posted something on their blog the other day that makes it abundantly clear what barkat and his terrorist cohorts are up to as they are actively recruiting colonizers from the united states:

The JTA is reporting that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is coming to the US to drum up support among American Jews for his plans for the city. He hopes to find Jewish “shareholders” for several special economic zones that will focus on culture, life sciences and tourism.

The JTA article doesn’t make it clear whether any of these economic zones will be in East Jerusalem. However it is widely known that one of the areas that Barkat wants to “develop” is the Palestinian neighborhood Silwan, which he is currently threatening with a series of home demolitions to force at least 1,000 Palestinians out of the area. Hillary Clinton criticized him for this plan on her last visit to the region. Here is how he is responding to the criticism on his trip:

Barkat, who favors settling Jews in Silwan — several dozen families have moved into the largely Arab area in recent years — rejects such criticism and says the people who live there will be relocated.

“If you have a group of people trying to plan housing in Central Park, what do you think Mayor Bloomberg would do?” Barkat asked rhetorically. “And this park has more importance than Central Park because of its historical significance.”

…This site often brings up the issue of how American Jews are implicated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is often thorough their tacit ideological support for Israeli expansionism and militarism, but sometimes it is explicit participation. One example is the new settlement Nof Zion, which is located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Jabal Al Mukabir, and is being marketed as a luxury destination for diaspora Jews. The website http://www.nofzion.co.il was set up to sell the settlement to American Jews, and gives the contact information for Gita Galbut, the US sales representative based in Miami. The image above (click to enlarge) is from that website. Nof Zion is located between Silwan and Jabal Al Mukabir, severing a crucial point of continuity between Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem. This continuity is essential if East Jerusalem is ever to become the capital of a Palestinian state next to Israel in a two-state solution.

when you read mondoweiss’ report you begin to understand what it is happening is the ethnic cleansing operation that bronner white washes. if you can’t read bronner’s writing and see how he covers up the agenda (which clearly is also his agenda and the agenda of the new york times) then read this report by ghassan bannoura about the house demolitions in al quds that took place last wednesday:

One house, two bedouin huts and an animal shed owned by Palestinians near Jerusalem city were demolished on Wednesday by the Israeli authorities.

All the demolitions took place in al-Eziryiah, a Palestinian town just outside East Jerusalem.

The home, owned by Rabie’ al-Qamari, was demolished on Wednesday midday. Rabie’ told IMEMC that he had all the necessary papers for his home. “They came today with bulldozers and demolished my home. When my son asked them about the demolition order, they attacked him and beat him up. I have all the required papers for my home; the area is under Palestinian control so they have no right to demolish my home.”

Witnesses said that municipality bulldozers from the nearby Israeli settlement of Ma’ali Adomem demolished the house. The municipality told al-Qamari that his home is in an Israeli controlled area. “I have maps showing that my house is located in the Palestinian controlled area; it is not even close to the settlement, so they have no right to do this,” Rabie’ al-Qamari said.

“Before building the house I went to the Israeli army civil administration and they told me the area is controlled by the Palestinian authority and not by them,” al-Qamari added. Earlier on Wednesday morning, the Israeli Army demolished two bedouin huts and an animal shed that belong to Palestinians from al-Eziryiah.

The army told the owners that it was built in an area where the separation wall will be built. The owner, Kaled al-Jahaleen, told IMEMC that the army gave him no warning. “They came today without any warnings and demolished the structures. They did not allow us to move our stuff first.” al-Jahaleen said.

In related news, Hateem Abed al-Qader, Jerusalem Affairs Adviser to the Palestinian Prime Minister, announced on Wednesday that Israelis have handed out 80 new demolition orders for homes owned by Palestinians in Jerusalem city. On Tuesday, bulldozers belonging to the Israeli municipality demolished a Palestinian owned home, located in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of the city.

The flat is part of a seven story-high building owned by Abu Khalaf, a Palestinian from Jerusalem. Israeli troops arrived at Beit Safafa on Tuesday morning and surround the building. Shortly after, troops forced everyone out and demolished the seventh floor. The Israeli municipality says the flat was built without the necessary permission.

Israel has intensified its campaign of demolishing Palestinian-owned homes in the city since the start of 2009. The Jerusalem municipality handed out demolition orders to 96 Palestinian families in the first week of March. In February, demolition orders were issued for 88 homes in the al-Bustan neighborhood, located immediately south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s old city. If these orders are carried out, thousands more Palestinians will become homeless.

this week ma’an news reported that barkat is determined to keep his pledge to create new palestinian refugees:

The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem said he would press forward with a plan to raze an entire Palestinian neighborhood and “relocate” more than 1,000 residents to make way for a park on Thursday.

Mayor Nir Barkat told the Israeli Jerusalem Post newspaper that the Bustan area near Jerusalem’s Old City “must be an open public area.” The Israeli-controlled municipality has handed down demolition orders to 88 houses in the neighborhood.

“It is very fair to assume that [in the end] there will not be residential housing,” in the Bustan area, Barkat said.

According to the Post, Fakhri Abu Diab, a member of the committee organizing opposition to the demolitions, said that he had been approached by a member of the Jerusalem municipal council with an offer to move Bustan’s inhabitants en masse to another area of East Jerusalem.

Residents of Bustan say that they are not going to give up their land. Many homeowners in the area have documents dating back decades that prove ownership of their land.

of course we know who really has been on this land for thousands of years and who it belongs to, but it seems as if there are new layers of evidence and proof in turkey as ha’aretz reports:

A document recently uncovered in Ottoman archives in Ankara confirms that Palestinians are the owners of disputed land and houses in East Jerusalem.

If an Israeli court accepts the document’s validity, Palestinian families’ could be saved from eviction from their homes.

Turkish officials recently helped to trace the document which could end a 30-year-old dispute over the ownership of around 30 buildings in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The Palestinians’ attorneys said they were granted access to the archives following the recent souring of the relations between Israel and Turkey.

“Until half a year ago the Turks didn’t want to spoil their relations with Israel and were unhelpful,” attorney Hatam Abu Ahmed said. “They would put us off with all kinds of excuses. Today their attitude has changed. We felt this change especially after the Gaza operation. Now senior Turkish officials are helping us.”

In January, attorney Salah Abu Hussein traveled to Turkey and with the help of local officials found a document proving that the Jews demanding the Palestinians’ eviction are not the compound’s rightful owners.

The present residents had lived in West Jerusalem before the War of Independence and after becoming refugees were moved to Sheikh Jarrah. In the ’70s the Sephardic Leadership in Jerusalem claimed they had purchased the land before the war and produced Turkish documents to that effect.

The courts eventually recognized the Sephardic Leadership’s ownership but granted the Palestinians protected tenants’ status.

However, the Sephardic Leadership and a group of settlers who moved into the nearby compound have been demanding the Palestinians’ eviction, claiming they violated their rental terms.

Over the years, several Palestinian families were evicted and other families moved into their houses. The last eviction took place in November 2008 when the al-Kurd family was evicted from its home and moved into a protest tent near its sealed house. Shortly afterward the father, Mohamed al-Kurd died of an illness.

Throughout the years, the Palestinians claimed that the Jews’ ownership documents were forged, but due to the Turks’ lack of cooperation they could not prove this and the courts rejected their suits.

Now the attorneys say the Ottoman document proves that the Sephardic Leadership never purchased the compound but only rented it. Another Ottoman document confirms that the document presented by the Jewish party is not authentic.

“There is no trace of the Jewish document in the archive,” said Abu Hussein.

The attorneys Wednesday asked the court to withhold eviction procedures against two Palestinian families, on the basis of the Turkish document.

The about face in Turkish policy could have far-reaching implications regarding lands in Israel.

“Now it will be possible to issue ownership deeds. The Turks are very well organized and helpful,” Abu Ahmed said.

Attorney Ilan Shemer, who represents the Sephardic Leadership, dismissed the Palestinian attorneys’ claims regarding Palestinian ownership of the land.

“It’s usually the other side that uses false documents. The document we have is the only authentic ownership deed. Since the hearings began, 50 to 60 judges have heard the case and they all ruled that their claims are false.”

of course if laws and legality matter to israeli colonists then they wouldn’t be here in the first place, but it is important nevertheless for palestinians to have access to these documents. and of course for now it seems the documents are only for one area of al quds, but who knows what else exists in the turkish files.

but it is not only homes that israeli terrorists are intent on destroying. they have also been actively intent on destroying palestinian culture. this weekend was the beginning of the festival for al quds as a capitol of arab culture. and israeli terrorists stopped not only these celebrations, but also the mother’s day celebrations on saturday as al jazeera reported:

it seems that it is dangerous for children to not only celebrate their culture, but also their mothers. i guess this makes sense when you see the tshirts that israeli terrorists wear here. ayman mohyeldin reported on the tshirts for al jazeera today and you can see the tshirts in the report, including the one that brags about killing 2 people with 1 bullet (meaning they especially enjoy murdering palestinian women who are pregnant):

this is “israeli culture” as you can see in mohyeldin’s report. palestinians, who actually have a very rich culture which you can see in every square inch of palestine, even those areas israeli terrorists are intent on destroying, is threatening for these colonizers. what they don’t steal, they destroy. nevertheless, palestinians are continuing with their celebrations, albeit many of the activities cannot be in al quds because most palestinians are not allowed to go there. but those who do celebrate are finding themselves injured and kidnapped by israeli terrorists as ghassan bannoura reports:

During Israeli police forces crackdown on an activity organized in East Jerusalem on Monday after noon celebrating “Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture 2009”, five were injured and eight kidnapped.

The activity was a press conference to announce the continuation of the events for the rest of this year, after the Israeli Interior Ministry announced on Friday that it will stop the event from taking place in Jerusalem city.

Local organizations and community leaders gathered at a protest tent, originally erected at the Shikh Jarah, a Palestinian neighborhood, outside the walls of the old city. The tent was in protest of Israeli diction to demolish Palestinian owned homes there.

Rima Awwad, from the Jerusalem Collation, a group of local NGOs, was their at the press conference, she told IMEMC that” the press conference was about to start, Israeli police stormed the tent and attacked everyone including journalists, they took right people among them on critically injured.”

” Abber Abu Khader, a local organizer, was badly beaten up, she was bleeding from her head and face with the police took her, we were only making a pres conference.” Awwad added.

Among those injured were Hamza Al Na’jee, a Cameraman for Pal-media press, and among those kidnapped were Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement inside the green line.

the crackdown on palestinians’ culture is not limited to al quds–it is also happening in 1948 palestine as al jazeera reports:

Israeli police have prevented Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem from holding events to mark the city’s designation as “capital of Arab culture” for 2009.

About 20 Palestinians were detained in and around East Jerusalem on Saturday, but there were no reports of violence, Shmulik Ben-Ruby, a police spokesman, said.

Police reinforcements were deployed around the city and barricades were set up on routes to the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

Witnesses said that flags and banners associated with the event were confiscated.

At one school, police and soldiers burst balloons in the colours of the Palestinian flag that the children were trying to release to mark the event.

Hatem Abdel Qader, who handles Jerusalem affairs for the Palestinian Authority, was reportedly among those arrested.

Ben-Ruby said the crackdown had been ordered by Israel’s internal security ministry because the celebrations violated understandings with the Palestinian Authority.

Celebrations in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, were also cancelled by the police.

“This measure is yet another example of the many extreme policies that the various ministries in the Israeli government impose on us,” one event organiser told Al Jazeera.

“These measures are imposed on all artists and people who care about culture. This is a form of prevention of our freedom of expression.

imran garda is on al jazeera’s “inside story” right now discussing this issue and i will post that later when it becomes available. they are showing the palestinian balloons that israeli terrorists were very worried about and didn’t want them released, and once they were they shot many of them down.

al haq released a statement on this and published it in electronic intifada, which reads, in part:

The decision to interfere with the Palestinian cultural events was taken by the Minister of Internal Security at the behest of the head of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Nachi Eyal, who described the planned events as an “attempt to demonstrate Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem in an illegal manner,” and asserted that Palestinians are obliged “to respect the sovereignty of Israel within the boundaries of the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem.” This patently contradicts clear international legal norms which provide that an Occupying Power is prohibited from extending its sovereignty over the territory it occupies. It is on this basis that the UN Security Council has held Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem to be “invalid,” and “null and void.” This position has been repeatedly affirmed by the international legal community, including the International Court of Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions.

Indeed, East Jerusalem is incontrovertibly recognized under international law as an integral part of the occupied territory over which the Palestinian people is entitled to exercise its right to self-determination. A foundational principle of international human rights law, the right to self-determination includes the right of peoples to freely pursue their cultural development. The individual rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly are also firmly embedded in the lexicon of international human rights law, and have all been violated by the actions of the Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli authorities have also issued orders preventing related cultural events in Nazareth from taking place, a decision which stands in stark contrast to the permission recently granted by the Israeli High Court of Justice to extremist Israeli settler Baruch Marzel, from the illegal settlement of Tel Rumeida (Hebron), to lead a march through the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm on 24 March.

Such double standards show a clear intent on the part of the Israeli authorities to stifle Palestinian cultural identity and expression, while at the same time fomenting provocative manifestations of extremist Israeli ideology.

Al-Haq calls on the international community to:

* Strongly condemn Israel’s illegal measures aimed at altering the status of occupied East Jerusalem and denying the exercise of Palestinian cultural and political rights towards fulfillment of the right to self-determination; and

* Take concrete action towards ending the illegal situation created by Israel’s policies in regard to East Jerusalem, including by refraining from providing any direct or indirect assistance to Israeli violations of international law therein

the white washing clearly extends to far more than forced removal of palestinians from their land. it is a full on erasure of a people, a culture, a land. the is pure zionism. is there any doubt that zionism = racism?

spring comes to falasteen: hiking from beit rima to kufr ‘ain

view of ramallah's manara square at 6 am
view of ramallah's manara square at 6 am

in 30 minutes, if i go by palestinian time, i will be 40 years old (probably before i finish writing this). if i go by my home town of los angeles i’ve still got about 10 hours left. in any case i suppose it is a milestone. i’m not really one to celebrate my birthday. but it does seem strange to turn 40 especially when i don’t look like i’m 40 (and often still get carded in the u.s.) and when i don’t feel like i’m 40. though today i remembered one of the ways that one knows one is getting older: you think your body can do the same things it did when you were 20 or even 30 and it just doesn’t quite work the same. you’ll see what i mean below as i explain. i went down to ramallah last night and friends took me out to dinner at darna and i had all kinds of kibbe and other yummy food, including a lovely chocolate birthday cake. i had asked an old friend of mine in ramallah if he would do something with me for my birthday (not the cake and dinner actually): i wanted him to get up at 5:30 in the morning with me to go on a hike. anyone who knows this friend (hint, hint laila) knows that it is a huge sacrifice for him to do this (he is like me, normally up until 3 or 4 am working, often falling asleep on the couch after/while working. we had been talking about doing this for a while.

in beit rima
in beit rima

raja shahedeh, the writer and lawyer who founded al haq, wrote a book a couple of years ago called palestinian walks. since writing this book–or actually before it–he started taking groups on these “walks” (having been on one now i think the name should be changed to palestinian hikes. since he is based in ramallah they seem to do these hikes around this area so they meet on friday mornings at 6:30 am in the center of ramallah. he doesn’t always come, and he did not come today, but many of his friends were there guiding us who, like shehedeh, have been hiking in these hills for at least 25 years. here is shehedeh sharing some photographs and narrating his love of hiking in palestine:

and here is an interesting report from jacky rowland on al jazeera from a couple of years ago when the book came out. she went on one of these walks with him and they encountered israeli terrorists along the way (something that happens frequently, though we did not encounter them today):

i was especially happy that we chose today to go on the hike because my birthday happens to be on the first day of spring and we have already seen a number of signs of spring in the lovely wildflowers all over palestine. but of course i knew that on foot we would see so many more varieties. after meeting up with the rest of the group in manara square we got into two services and drove for about 20 minutes to beit rima where we would begin our journey. (last night sami told me that this village is a very famous village for its communism, something one could happily glean from the graffiti on the walls.) like most of palestine the hike meant moving down into the valley and then circling around and climbing up to the top again to reach kufr ‘ain.

the hiking begins!
the hiking begins!

i had imagined that some of it would be a bit treacherous because of the rocky terrain. but little did i know how challenging some of this would be. initially it was a lovely stroll and all of us constantly stopping to take photographs of the beautiful flowers and herbs along the hillside. hanan ashrawi’s husband, emile, was on this trip with us and he is a professional photographer so he was cataloging everything. the olive trees were also amazing, of course, on so many levels as you can see from some of the shots here. one of my students is writing her research paper on the symbolism of the olive tree in palestine and something so simple struck me today as i saw some of these ancient, sturdy trees clinging to the land: one of the reasons they are such an important symbol is because they embody the steadfastness of the palestinian people. no matter what these trees are here to stay. the israeli terrorists can continue to uproot them, but palestinians will replant them again and again. and in the end the olive trees will outlive these colonists just as they outlived the british and the ottomans.

a view of the valley
a view of the valley

because of all the picture taking at some point our group broke into two. but our group didn’t realize it because we had a couple of the group leaders in our group. and we actually thought that we were in the middle and that part of the group was behind us. we had to catch up with them which is when the real hiking and climbing began. a lot of the time when hiking in these hills you can manage, most of the time, by doing so in an s-shape so that you follow the slope and you don’t have to climb. but because we were rushing now to catch up, we had to cut across the landscape in a way that meant we had to do some climbing. and i mean some really steep climbing. (this is when i knew my body was not quite the same any more in terms of being able to just jump or reach and climb easily with all my joints cooperating.) all of these hills are terraced with stones, as you can see in the shots showing a view. this is how palestinians have kept their olive groves for centuries. but i have a new found respect for the difficulty of doing such work now. especially since some of those terraced stones helped us climb up some very steep hills.

samidoun zeitoun
samidoun zeitoun

it took us a while to find the rest of the group. we actually had to do some extra climbing up to another mountain top to try to see the rest of the group and also to see if our voices would echo across the valley so we could find them that way. we finally found them and they had built a fire and laid out a lovely picnic spread and served tea. (the teapot was amazing–all charred and black as it has obviously been used on these hikes quite a bit.) after a rest we continued our hike. it seemed like the more we hiked the more beautiful wildflowers we discovered. and, of course, lots of za’tar and marimiyya dotted the landscape. most of us picked some to bring home to eat and drink.

flowers blossoming in an olive tree
flowers blossoming in an olive tree

the rest of the hike was not quite as treacherous as the first part–even the climb into kufr ‘ain was not too bad, not too steep. when we arrived we walked to the center of town where families were out working in their fields and on their land, where children were playing, and we caught services back into ramallah. the weather was so perfect today–not quite warm, but just right for hiking. really a beautiful day. i saw the best that spring has to offer. and despite our exhaustion (i forgot to mention that we were up until 2 am last night and woke up at 5:30 am this morning) we had an amazing time.

when hiking turns to climbing (straight up from below)
when hiking turns to climbing (straight up from below)

so now it is midnight. if i count by a palestinian clock i am 40. i did not get to celebrate my birthday with all my friends thursday night and today. mostly because even in the west bank travel is too difficult so everyone stays in their own bantustans (i actually found out that one of my students has never been to or through huwara checkpoint in her twenty years of life in nablus). if i had had birthday candles on my cake last night instead of one of those sparkler things i would have wished what i always wish for: haq al awda. for the right of return of palestinian refugees and for the liberation of their land 100%. part of this wish, i must confess, i selfish, however. i want to be able to be here in palestine with all my friends, with all the people i love from lebanon and palestine in the same room. that would be a beautiful birthday beyond my wildest dreams. to that end i have asked that if people want to give me anything for my 40th birthday i would love it if they would make a donation to the middle east children’s alliance to continue its work in refugee camps and also for the rebuilding the islamic university of gaza. to donate, please click on this link. their work to fight for the rights of refugees is unparalleled and their work is based on complete solidarity with the people; unlike most such organizations they do not treat palestinians as if they are some charity case whom the white man needs to save.

break for tea
break for tea

but today is not just my birthday. it is mother’s day in the arab world. it is also norooz in iran. it is also the anniversary of the american invasion of iraq. and it is also the anniversary of the sharpeville massacre in apartheid south africa:

But whatever doubts there may be of the sequence of events in those fateful minutes, there can be no argument over the devastating consequences of the action of the police on March 21, 1960, in Sharpeville. Sixty-nine people were killed, including eight women and ten children, and of the 180 people who were wounded, thirty-one were women and nineteen were children. According to the evidence of medical practitioners it is clear that the police continued firing after the people began to flee: for, while thirty shots had entered the wounded or killed from the front of their bodies no less than 155 bullets had entered the bodies of the injured and killed from their backs. All this happened in forty seconds, during which time 705 rounds were fired from revolvers and sten guns. But whatever weapons were used the massacre was horrible. Visiting the wounded the next day in Baragwanath Hospital near Johannesburg, I discovered youngsters, women and elderly men among the injured. These could not be described as agitators by any stretch of the imagination. For the most part they were ordinary citizens who had merely gone to the Sharpeville police station to see what was going on. Talking with the wounded I found that everyone was stunned and mystified by what had taken place. They had certainly not expected that anything like this would happen. All agreed that there was no provocation for such savage action by the police. Indeed, they insisted that the political organisers who had called for the demonstration had constantly insisted that there should be no violence or fighting.

haidar eid reminds us that this massacre, however, was a significant turning point to end apartheid and he connects this with the savagery in gaza, which he sees as a turning point as well (i have quoted this before a few times, click the link to see the connections between the two):

The horror of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa was challenged with a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated in 1958 and given new urgency in 1960 after the Sharpeville Massacre. This campaign led ultimately to the collapse of white rule in 1994 and the establishment of a multi-racial, democratic state.

an old palestinian home in the hills close to kufr 'ain
an old palestinian home in the hills close to kufr 3ain

one can only hope that the end is near of the zionist entity. i just hope it is not another 30 years as it was from sharpeville to the end of apartheid. because of this anniversary it seems that my birthday is also something else that is pretty cool as outlined in this email i received from badil today:

March 21 was selected as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination because it is the day in 1960 when police forces killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass law” system in Sharpeville, South Africa.

Today an equal if not more extensive pass law system dominates the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It is briefly described in a February 2009 UN report, which attests to the existence of 626 checkpoints and obstacles to movement throughout the West Bank. Israel additionally disregards the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice calling for the dismantlement of Israel’s illegal wall, which snakes over 700 kilometers through the West Bank, stealing its natural resources and dividing Palestinian communities from one another.

Indeed, Israel’s system of racial discrimination is fundamental to the regime it has imposed on the Palestinian people. It denies the return of over seven million Palestinian refugees to the homes and lands from which they were expelled over the past sixty years despite the fact that return is a right enshrined in international law and affirmed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948) and UN Security Council Resolution 237 (1967). Meanwhile, Israel grants full citizenship to any Jewish individual through its discriminatory ‘Law of Return.’ This same regime relegates Palestinian citizens of Israel to an inferior status as the ‘non Jewish’ citizens of ‘the Jewish state.’ The effects of this discrimination include ongoing forced displacement, land confiscation, and denial of essential services such as health and education.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racial discrimination, Mr. Githu Muigai recently noted that “History speaks for itself. Genocide, ethnic cleansing and other war crimes have been traditionally linked to the emergence of exclusionary ideologies based on race or ethnicity.” Zionism, the movement to create and maintain a
Jewish state on the land of Palestine, is such an ideology, systematically relegating non-Jewish Palestinians to an inferior status.

The recent brutality inflicted upon the Gaza Strip resulting in over 1,400 deaths, 5,000 injuries and 14,000 homes damaged and destroyed, is the latest manifestation of the contempt with which Palestinian life is regarded by Israel.

Perhaps more important than recollecting the extensive evidence incriminating Israel’s discrimination and its disastrous affects on the Palestinians is to shed light on the popular mobilizations fighting to counter it.

Governmental inaction towards Israel’s crimes is increasingly being met with a determined and growing popular campaign to build an international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, based upon a 2005 call by broad sectors of Palestinian civil society. Consciously using the tools of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, this
campaign seeks to make important advances at the Israel Review Conference being organized by the BDS National Committee, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on 18-19 April, two days before the launching of the UN Durban Review Conference (See: http://israelreview.bdsmovement.net).

Now is the time for people of conscience to join arms through the struggle of BDS to ensure Israel is held accountable for its violation of Palestinian human rights. This is part of the tradition of the Montgomery Bus Boycott for civil rights in the U.S south, and the dock workers of Denmark and the U.K, who refused to handle South African cargo as an act of protest against Apartheid. From these previous people’s victories we gain inspiration knowing that no serious effort to
eliminate racial discrimination can take place on a global scale without progress on this front.

me at 40
me at 40

so i feel no different at 40 than 39, not that i thought i would. but as with every year of my life i feel more committed to a liberated palestine as my sole desire. i want the beauty of this land that i walked on today to be enjoyed, inhabited by the people i love in the camps in lebanon. i want all these colonies to go away, to be dismantled, including those we had to drive by on our way home (see below–including the last one, which is an “outpost,” meaning a new and growing colony for israeli terrorists). i want this land to be theirs again. from the river to the sea.

chickens in kufr 'ain
chickens in kufr 'ain
israeli terrorist colony near kufr 'ain
israeli terrorist colony near kufr 'ain
israeli terrorist "outpost" settlement on the way to bir zeit

escape from fatahlandia

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shortly after i got to my office this morning students started coming in and asking me if we had class this afternoon. they told me that there was going to be a prisoner solidarity “celebration” and that classes would be canceled. i walked over to the secretary’s office to double check this. she said that the vice president asked faculty to hold classes if the students were there and to cancel classes if they did not show up. so i repeated this all day to students who asked and encouraged them to attend the rally for the prisoners. then, about a few minutes before my last class, i received an sms message from ma’an news stating that the nablus rally was a fatah rally. not only that: it had nothing to do with prisoners. it was all about fatah. just fatah. no one mentioned this little detail to me at any point in the day. here is what ma’an posted on their website:

More than 100,000 supporters of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) staged a demonstration in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, as Palestinian unity talks began in Cairo.

One elderly Fatah supporter named Abu Abdallah wept with joy at the sight of the three kilometer-long march: Fatah is back, the PLO is back and the revolution is back as well.”

Speaking to the assembled crowds, the Palestinian Authority (PA) governor of Nablus, Jamal Muheisin, warned that if negotiations with Israel fail, Fatah will return to armed struggle.

“He is wrong who thinks that negotiations are the only choice for Fatah. On the contrary, all possibilities are open, including armed struggle as long as we seek peace and others do not.”

the photograph above was ma’an’s image of the rally today. not one of the gaza solidarity protests in nablus had even 1/10 of this sort of support. it seems i am living in a little fatah universe. in my university. in this city. it is endlessly depressing and disappointing. it has not been posted online yet, but there was a piece on al jazeera today documenting the torture of palestinian prisoners by the palestinian authority in its jails. al haq had a representative on who has been working on this and there was a survivor of the torture who spoke as well. if it becomes available i will post it.

to escape from this current world of fatah-land that i seem to be living in, i have been reading rosemary sayigh’s amazing book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries, which came out in a new edition last year. the book was originally published in 1979 and like much of her amazing work is based on oral history that she does in palestinian refugee camps in lebanon. what makes this particular book so important is that the oral history interviews were conducted in the 1970s at a time when palestinian refugees were still alive and when there were refugees who could remember what life was like before the british-zionist theft of their land. it offers insight into other forms of division that pre-date the current political divisions between fatah and hamas. and it shows how layers of colonialism created the conditions for these divisions. one of the most significant ways in which this happened was with the introduction of capitalist colonialism by the british and the zionists, which differed from previous forms of colonialism in palestine:

From time immemorial the peasants of Palestine had formed the tax and conscript basis of successive occupations: Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman, and now British. With the expulsion of the Turks in World War I, and the occupation by the British, Palestine finally entered the trade circuit of the capitalist world, becoming fully exposed to the changes summed up in the word “modernization.” Palestine’s indigenous precapitalist economy continued to exist side by side with the separate Zionist economy (with its unique mingling of socialist ideology and capitalist funding), and as in all cases of colonialism, the indigenous economy subsidized the invading one, besides providing the tax basis to finance its own occupation. Although the incipient Palestinian bourgeoisie suffered in its development from the more advanced organization and technical skill of Zionist enterprise and labour, it also benefited from increased trade, and from employment in the British administration. It was the interests of the fellaheen that were more directly threatened by Zionist colonialism. This was because, while Zionist land purchase put an ever growing pressure on the supply of land, the Zionist boycott of Arab labour cut off alternative sources of income, whether in agriculture or industry. Thus the oppression of the peasant class changed under the Mandate from the type produced by Arab/Ottoman feudalism to a colonial type somewhat similar to that of Algeria or South Africa. (21)

one of the reasons for sayigh’s comparison with algeria has to do with the ways in which french colonists, like the zionist colonists in palestine, forced peasants off of the most cultivatable land. the villages tended to be self-sufficient, which enabled them to live independently:

Although Palestine had long been an exporter of high quality agricultural products (mainly grains, olive oil, soap, sesame, and citrus fruit), the development of cash crops and market farming was restricted mainly to a few areas near the cities, at least until the World War II boom in the price of agricultural products towards the end of the Mandate. Cash crops were mainly financed and traded by city merchants through long-standing arrangements with particular villages, leaving the mass peasants close to a subsistence economy. Rather than markets, the primary aim of peasant agriculture was subsistence and the payment of taxes and debts. The extent to which the bulk of peasant production stayed out of the markets can be gauged by the fact that, as late as 1930, only 20 per cent of the total wheat crop and 14 per cent of the barley crop were marketed (23).

what this meant for palestinian fellahin who resisted the new foreign invaders colonizing their land is that they could strike for as long as 6 months because the village met all of their needs in terms of what they planted, the animals they kept. sayigh compares this to egyptian villages which were not self-sufficient at that time and depended upon cities to trade grain, fruits, and vegetables. and while the ottomans, like the british, taxed palestinians, the method the british used was far more severe:

Most English histories of Palestine dwell on the evils of tax farming and point to its abolition early in the Mandate as a sign of progress. But from the peasant viewpoint British tax collection, though more honest, was more oppressive. The tithe was a fixed percentage of the wheat crop only, and though the tax farmers squeezed the peasants to the maximum, they had no interest in making them bankrupt, or forcing them off the land. The peasants’ debts carried over from one year to the next, and from one generation to the next, and carried no threat of eviction. Under the British, however, all peasant property, not just their wheat crop, was taken as a basis of tax evaluation, including fruit trees, houses, “even our chickens.” Not only was British assessment more thorough, but taxes were now collected with the help of troops, whereas in Turkish times it was rare that the provincial governor had enough troops at his disposal to terrorize the villages (26).

the problem was exacerbated by other british policies in palestine as one of sayigh’s interviewees, a man from the village of sa’sa near safad explains:

“I remember that in Sa’sa, which was famous for its olives, grapes, and figs, the peasants produced thousands of kilos of figs each year. But there was no market. The British wouldn’t encourage the selling of this good quality fruit, or help to pack it or export it. It was hard for the peasant to market his crop himself because the roads between the villages and cities were bad. And after the peasant had harvested his wheat, the British would bring in cheap wheat by ship from Australia, and sell it in Haifa at 1/2 a piastre a kilo, knowing that the peasants could not sell at this price. It was British policy towards the peasants that they should always stay poor” (26).

this british colonial policy resembles the american imperial policy in much of the world in the way that it imposes its wheat and other agricultural items on countries, like lebanon for example, in ways that prevent farmers there from cultivating its own wheat. this creates a dependency on the united states that is damaging to the livelihood of the farmers, the villages, the people in general.

one way the fellaheen resisted early on to these pressures on their agricultural life was by agitating for schools in their villages. so much of what the interviews sayigh includes reveal about all aspects of life is the sense of solidarity among palestinian villagers, including striking against british-zionist policies, armed resistance, and demanding education to diversify their economies. another man from sa’sa whom she interviews shares his memory about this:

“I entered school when I was seven. We had one teacher, from Nablus, and though the schoolroom could hardly take 30 people, there used to be not less than 150 children. It went to the end of fourth elementary. Later they brought a second and a third teacher, but for secondary classes students had to go to the city. I remember how our families used to go every day to the qaimaqam and his assistant to struggle for education for their children. They wanted to add classes to our school–four were not enough. They wanted English lessons. The villagers gathered as one hand in this struggle for schools, because the peasant nature is co-operative. So after a great while we got the fifth and sixth classes, and the school was enlarged, and the nucleus of a girls’ school was set up” (33).

solidarity and collectivity among villagers extended to resistance to land sales for those fellaheen who did not own the land they farmed and lived on:

Peasant landlessness started before the Mandate with single sales of large areas of land by the Ottoman Administration and by non-Palestinian owners. These sales, many of which included whole villages, confronted the peasants with their first experience of legal eviction, something which had never been a part of the fellaheen fate. It is striking that their immediate, spontaneous response was violent resistance–a resistance which found, however, no echo in other segments of Palestinian society (36).

importantly, it is because of this resistance that jewish colonists owned so little land even by 1946:

By 1926, only 4 per cent of all land (including state land) was Jewish-owned, and it took another eight years for this figure to reach 5 per cent. By the end of 1946, the last year for which official figures exist, it had not gone beyond 6 percent. Peasant resistance to land sales is abundantly clear in these figures. (36-38)

so this is all context–a bit of an idea about how the british-zionist colonial project disrupted the lives of the majority of the palestinians, the fellaheen, most of whom became refugees in 1948 when they were forcibly removed from their land. but other ways palestinians, especially the fellaheen, were affected by british-zionist colonialism in palestine was by the age-old tactic of divide and conquer. sayigh chronicles the way that the british started this process of coopting elite members of palestinian urban society to create this phenomenon, especially to help the british squash the fellaheen resistance:

Over and over again, the Palestinian notables earned the praise of the British authorities for their help in controlling the “mob.” In May 1921, the mayors of Jerusalem, Tulkarem and Jaffa, the muftis of Acre and Safad, and Qadi of Jerusalem, all received British decorations for their “services in Palestine” (51-52).

when sayigh discusses one of the most important resistance leaders in palestine, sheikh qassam, she does so in a way that reveals the reality of resistance to colonialism showing that it was not the elites and notables leading the resistance:

It was symptomatic of the distance between the political and militant wings of the nationalist movement that when the first guerrilla leader, Sheikh Qassam, was killed soon after his call to armed struggle in 1935, none of the leading national figures attended his funeral. none of the military leaders of the 1936 Rebellion were from the ruling class. Few anecdotes give a clearer picture of the incapacity of the Palestinian traditional leaders for serious struggle thant he one told by a “former intelligence officer” to the author of a study on the 1936 Rebellion. A group of bedouin gathered in Beersheba telephoned to the Mufti asking what action they should take in support of the uprising that was beginning to spread through the country in the wake of the killing of the District Commissioner for Galilee. The Mufti’s reply to them was to do whatever they thought fit, and though this reply may have been due to knowledge that his telephone was tapped, all accounts of the Rebellion and the six months’ strike that preceded it make it clear that the people of Palestine led their leadership, not vice versa. (52)

these are just a few insights from sayigh’s first chapter. there is so much more to say, to share, but people should get a copy and read it for themselves. i think the way she tells the historical narrative–from the point of view of the people, the masses–is so much more valuable and meaningful to me than the histories i read about the elites, the leaders–the elites and the leaders who always fail their people. who always get corrupted by power and greed. just like howard zinn’s books detailing the people’s histories of the united states, sayigh gives us insight into the people’s history of palestine. and it gives us insight to earlier divisions, divisions that certainly led to the complete and total colonization of every square inch of palestine. but when i read about the work of the fellaheen and the resistance in pre-1948 palestine, in spite of the differences and struggles between the fellaheen and the people in the cities, for instance, i cannot help but think about the situation today. the divisions may be different, but the effect is the same. palestinians in power then, as now, become corrupted, become coopted. they serve the interests of the colonial masters. the people suffer, the masses suffer. i wish that we could see the same sort of energy like labor strikes and resistance to those in power in the pa and in the u.s. and in the zionist entity all over again, this time with steadfastness and cohesion.

this is what i do when i get frustrated here. i retreat into history. i fantasize about different outcomes. i think about what could have happened if only. what would have happened if only. if only…

embargo & sanction

yesterday amnesty international released a statement that was almost perfect. if someone could just teach these human rights workers to stick to focusing on the colonizing occupiers, to see that there are not equal parties involved their work would be so much more powerful and significant. in any case, the implications for the united states here are important, though i’m sure nothing will be done about it:

Both Israel and Hamas used foreign-supplied weapons to attack civilians according to fresh evidence released by Amnesty International.

Munitions from the USA, Israel’s main foreign arms supplier, were used by Israel forces during three-week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets that had been smuggled in or made of components from abroad at civilian areas in Israel.

Amnesty International has called on the UN to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the parties to the conflict.

“Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza.

“Their attacks resulted in the killing of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure. At the same time, the firing of rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel, also caused several civilian deaths and constitute a war crime.”

For many years, the USA has been the major supplier of conventional arms to Israel. Under a 10-year agreement to 2017, the USA is due to provide $30 billion in military aid to Israel, a 25% increase compared to the period preceding the Bush administration.

“To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East.

In Gaza, as the fighting ended, Amnesty International researchers found fragments and components from munitions used by the Israeli Army – including many that are US-made – littering school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people’s homes. They included artillery and tank shells, mortar fins and remnants from Hellfire and other airborne missiles and large F-16 delivered bombs, as well as still smouldering highly incendiary white phosphorus remains.

They also found remnants of a new type of missile, seemingly launched from unmanned drones, which explodes large numbers of tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2mm and 4mm square in size. These lethal purpose-made shrapnel had penetrated thick metal doors and were embedded deep in concrete walls, and are clearly designed to maximize injury.

In southern Israel, Amnesty International also saw the remains of “Qassam”, Grad and other indiscriminate rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups against civilian areas. These unsophisticated weapons cannot be aimed accurately and stand no comparison with the weaponry deployed by Israel but they have caused several deaths of Israeli civilians, injuries to others and damage to civilian property.

Even before the three week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties.

“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart. “The Obama Administration should immediately suspend US military aid to Israel.

“We urge the UN Security Council to impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are found to ensure that munitions and other military equipment are not used to commit serious violations of international law.

“In addition all states should suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk of human rights violations. There must be no return to business as usual, with the predictably devastating consequences for civilians in Gaza and Israel.”

there is also a petition you can sign on amnesty international’s website asking for an investigation into the misuse of american weapons against palestinians in gaza.

and the u.s. campaign to end the occupation also has a new petition to get obama to sanction the zionist entity:

On February 24th, 2009, President Obama is expected to address a joint session of Congress and deliver a “blueprint” for his FY2010 budget.

According to the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the United States and Israel in 2007 and made public by the US Campaign, the President is expected to request $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in FY2010.

However, there are growing indications that the Obama Administration is considering sanctioning Israel. According to a senior Israeli security official in a Feb. 17 article in Ma’ariv, Israel fears that Special Envoy George Mitchell will convince the White House to cut military aid as a response to Israel’s ongoing settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. A Feb. 15 Ha’aretz article speculated that amounts available for U.S. loan guarantees to Israel would be cut for the same reason.

to take action and sign the petition follow these instructions (they also are asking people to thank congressmen baird and elison, which you can do if you click the link above. i think it is a lost cause and i fail to see what is so great that they somehow acknowledge palestinian humanity when their votes and actions in washington dc have historically been different than what they say about palestine in public.)

1. Encourage President Obama to sanction Israel for its misuse of U.S.weapons. Send a letter to the President today asking him to investigate Israel’s prior misuses of U.S. weapons against Palestinians and to reconsider his anticipated request for additional weapons in his upcoming budget. To send your letter, please click here.

back to that amnesty international report…on the delusional claims that hamas is somehow an equal player, or somehow responsible for “war crimes,” of course hamas responded to this statement today:

In a press statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum underlined that there is no single country exporting arms to the Movement, while weapons are being exported to Israel in abundance from powerful countries and arms deals are publicly concluded with Israel by these countries.

Barhoum added that Israel uses its deadly weapons of mass destruction against the Palestinian people who in turn use simple weapons only to defend themselves as a legitimate right guaranteed by all international laws

The spokesman expressed his Movement’s concern that the statement of AI could mislead the public opinion and be used as a pretext by Israel to escalate its aggression and siege on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

He urged AI to reconsider its unbalanced stands which lay the blame unjustly on the Palestinian people.

jacky rowland reported on this story today on al jazeera, though she gives the israeli terrorist propagandist machine too much air time to repeat their lies and she doesn’t bother to challenge them directly:

a few weeks ago haidar eid wrote quite a brilliant article for electronic intifada about palestinian resistance. he speaks of various forms of resistance in it, but i think what he says is applicable to the way that amnesty international tries to pretend like there are two equal sides here, like there was a war here. no: this is decidedly a fabrication. in a war each side has an army. each side fights more or less on equal grounds. here in gaza we had one captive population terrorized by the 4th largest military in the world, aided by the largest–the american–military in the world. this is terrorism. this is decidedly not a war. it was an aggression, an invasion, terrorism, but not a war. and, yes, thankfully, there was and is resistance. here is what eid says:

The war on Gaza has emerged as a political tsunami that has not only put an end to the fiction of the two-state solution and brought liberation rather than independence back to the agenda, but it has also created a new Palestinian political map given the intellectual debate vis-a-vis the outcome of the war. This new classification of the Palestinian intelligentsia and ruling classes has led to many ex-leftists joining the right-wing anthem of Oslo and its culture of defeatism. Not unlike the Oslo intelligentsia, the new pragmatic left is characterized by demagogy, opportunism and short-sightedness. The conduct of these NGOized intellectuals (those emerging from western-funded “nongovernmental organizations” — NGOs) does not show any commitment to their national and historical responsibility.

Michel Foucault’s famous formulation, “where there is power, there is resistance,” helps us to theorize the political and, hence, the cultural resistance, represented in some of the (post)war discourse. Within the context of resistance, it is worth quoting Frantz Fanon’s definitions of the role of the “native intellectual” during the “fighting phase”: “[T]he native, after having tried to lose himself in the people and with the people, will … shake the people … [H]e turns himself into an awakener of the people; hence comes a fighting literature, and a national literature.”

On the other hand, there are intellectuals who, according to Fanon’s theorization, “give proof that [they] [have] assimilated the culture of the occupying power. [Their] writings correspond point by point with those of [their] opposite numbers in the mother country. [Their] inspiration is European [i.e. Western] …” Hence the adoption of the Israeli narrative by some intellectual sections, including NGOized leftists, whereby Israel was exonerated of its crimes: “we are to blame for what happened;” “we were not consulted when Hamas started the war!” and “the people are paying the price, not the resistance movement;” “Hamas should have renewed the truce;” “we cannot afford to lose so many lives; Hamas should have understood this;” “there was no resistance at all on the streets of Gaza; resistance men ran away as soon as they saw the first tank.”

By the same token, one would also condemn the Algerian, South African, French, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Egyptian resistance to occupation. The same logic was used by the Bantustan chiefs of South Africa against the anti-apartheid movement, by the Vichy government of France, the South Vietnamese government, the reactionary Egyptian Forces against the progressive regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956, and even by the Siniora-Jumblatt-Geagea-Hariri March 14 coalition in Lebanon in 2006.

Obviously, these intellectuals’ assimilation of the Western mentality, through a process of NGOization, and hence Osloization, makes them look down upon the culture of resistance as useless, futile and hopeless. Resistance, broadly speaking, is not only the ability to fight back against a militarily more powerful enemy, but also an ability to creatively resist the occupation of one’s land. The Oslo defeatists and the neo-left camp fail to use people power creatively or even to see that it exists. They are defeated because they want to fight the battle on Israel’s terms — through the adoption of an Israel-Hamas dichotomy, rather than apartheid Israel vs. the Palestinian people — instead of looking at their strengths: that they are the natives of the land, they have international law supporting their claims, they have the moral high ground, the support of international civil society, etc.

One good lesson from the South African struggle is the way it tried to define resistance and its adoption of what it referred to as “the four pillars of the struggle” to achieve victory over the apartheid regime: armed struggle, internal mass mobilization, international solidarity, and the political underground. Alas, none of these pillars seem to fit within the paradigm of the Palestinian neo-left.

The principled critical legacy of the likes of Ghassan Kanafani, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon is no longer the guiding torch of the NGOized left — the secular democratic left which is supposed to be, as Said would argue, “someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations [or donors], and whose raison d’etre is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug.” A fascinating, and timely, remark by Hungarian philosopher George Lukacs points the way that the NGOized left should be talking right now: “When the intellectual’s society reaches a historical crossroads in its fight for a clear definition of its identity, the intellectual should be involved in the whole sociopolitical process and leave his ivory tower.”

Decolonizing cultural resistance insists on the right to view Palestinian history as a holistic entity, both coherent and integral. It also reflects a national and historical consciousness that Palestinians are able to be agents of change in their present and future regardless of the agendas of western donors, the Quartet and other official “international” bodies. Yet we see that the neo-democrats of Palestine are unable to acknowledge Palestinian agency because they refuse to respect the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box. This position is meant to synergize with that of their donors and international bodies who have worked hard over the last two years to delegitimize Palestinian agency.

one palestinian group–which i suppose could be classified as an ngo, though one that i think does important work–is exercising their agency in response to the war crimes committed in gaza: al haq has teamed up with the uk’s human rights legal aid trust to hold the united kingdom accountable (note to al haq: when you are done here, can you please file a similar suit in the united states?):

Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental organisation will tomorrow, Tuesday 24 February 2009 begin historical legal proceedings against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Milliband, Defence Secretary, John Hutton and Trade & Industry (now the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform), Peter Mandelson.

Al Haq are making an application for judicial review of a policy decision by the three Secretaries of State that they will not change their position with respect to the UK’s relations with Israel so that the UK Government is fully compliant with international law.

The UK’s international obligations insofar as the attacks on civilians in Gaza are concerned include not rendering aid or assistance to Israel or recognising the illegal situation it has created in Gaza, and to co-operating with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end.

In relation to the UK’s obligation not to render aid or assistance is concerned it should be noted that in the first quarter of 2008 there was a huge increase in the amount of arms related products to Israel approved through the UK arms export licensing system. The amount approved was £20m. By way of comparison, the amount approved for the whole of 2004 was £12m.

The papers on an application for judicial review are being lodged on 24 February in the High Court of Justice by Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers prior to the press conference being held that morning at 11.00am.

Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq, which works to protect human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories says,

“Considering the UK’s historical role in the region and its continued arms sales to Israel, Al-Haq has come to the UK with the belief that the judicial system of the UK will provide, at the very least, hope for the Palestinian people and again provide meaning to the principle of justice and international law. The time for hiding behind words has ended.”

Phil Shiner (Public Interest Lawyers) who is leading the case on behalf of Al-Haq says,

“The UK has clear international law obligations to do something effective to stop Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians. It must cooperate with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end and it must stop giving aid and assistance to Israel. This means that the UK’s continuing policy of arms trading with Israel is completely out of bounds, as is our role in continuing with the EU preferential trading agreement. The point of this case is to make the Government focus on what it is legally obliged to do, beyond ineffective hand-wringing pleas for Israel to behave properly, which, to date, have fallen on deaf ears.”

Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Human Rights Legal Aid Trust which launched the Gaza Legal Aid Fund to fund legal actions by Palestinian civilians says:

“We have been very encouraged by the global support for the Gaza Legal Aid Fund which seeks to provide Palestinians with the much needed financial assistance to be able to access international courts of justice. Israel and its allies must be sent a clear message that they are not above the law; that they are not immune; and that they will be held accountable.”

of course the fact that these legal cases and reports are coming out of gaza means that the continued siege against palestinians in gaza also affects human rights workers who wish to access the area and investigate the numerous war crimes. but, of course, there are many things they don’t want people to see and so people remain cut off from gaza:

Israel is preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said Sunday.

“Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza,” the groups said in a joint statement to Ma’an.

After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem’s first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second.

“Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?”

do they not want people to see and hear about children afraid to go to school, for instance? children who know all too well that israeli terrorists target schools?:

Many parents and children say they were afraid to return to school after the war. The first attack hit Gaza on a morning while school was in session.

“I was afraid to return to school after the war,” said 15-year-old Fatin Na’im, a 10th grader at Ahmed Shawqi Secondary School in the Rimal section of Gaza City. Her two brothers, a 20-year-old university student and a 25-year-old accountant, were killed by Israeli tank fire while trying to evacuate their home in Tal A’hawa.

After suffering nightmares Na’im sought psychological help. Educators and local and international NGOs are making psycho-social services for children and adolescents a priority.

jonah hull also reports on this today for al jazeera about the psychological trauma affecting youth in gaza:

and just a reminder the siege does not end at gaza’s borders. it just looks different. in that so-called “democracy” otherwise known as the terrorist state of israel, its own citizens–those who are palestinian and who don’t have the special rights of jews–continue to face various forms of oppression and repression and racism at the hands of the state. samih jabbrin is just one reminder of that oppression:

A letter from Israeli Prison

Monday, 23 February 2009

Samih Jabbarin is a member of the Palestinian movement Abnaa-El-Balad. He was arrested on February 10th on the backgrounds of the protests against the nomination of the known racist Baruch Marzel, by the national election committee to be head of one of the election centers in he Arab city of Um elFahm.

Comrades,

We, in Abnaa elBalad, always denied the democratic pretensions of this occupation entity. For long decades we put a lot of effort to expose this fake mask before our Arab Palestinian masses. But the majority of our masses became victim to political positions that try to convince them that this democracy is possible and hence we should participate in this “democratic” game in order to “serve” our steadfasting Arab Palestinian masses.

The bearers of those positions never stop trying to convince our masses that the fact that this entity is “democratic” allows us to change it from within, through its own mechanisms, to make it better.

In some stroke of destination, came the 10th of February, the election’s day, the most symbolic day for any bourgeois democracy, to hit those false claims and expose it in front of the reality which proves exactly its contrary.

The Israeli authorities decided to allow the fascist Marzel and his partner in fascism Eldad to enter Um elFahm, in a clear provocation, exactly in the election’s day, the “festival of democracy”. This is a clear indication that this entity knows no shame, but it shows contempt and stamps on the feelings and dignity of a million and a half Palestinians, women and men, which are nominally regarded, and only nominally, a part of this fake democracy.

This permission proves that the Zionist authorities as a whole not only allow the development of fascist ideology, as the ideologies openly displayed by Marzel and Eldad, but those authorities stand beyond the fascist ideologies and clearly strengthen them. All the proceedings around the state’s attempt to bring the criminal Marzel as “election overseer” to one of the voting centers in Um elFahm can’t be explained simply as “political openness” in “lawful state”. There is no place to doubt that this attempt is another step in the chain of systematic steps taken by the Zionists to terrorize and expel our steadfasting people from their land.

This is proved by the political background to this attempt. Only about two months ago, Tsipi Livni (Israel’s foreign minister and leader of its biggest party – Kadima) spoke about the possibility of distancing our steadfasting Palestinian people from within to the future Palestinian “state”, as she claimed to care for “solving” the national problem of this people. This was followed by another declaration by Bibi Netanyahu (the designated next Prime Minister from Likud) claiming that the internal Palestinian demographic problem is more dangerous from Hamas, Hisballah and even Iran. This was followed by a new law, proposed by Limor Livnat (Likud) to abolish the status of Arabic as an official language.

Beyond that, as we have witnessed on the election day, Israeli “security” forces were protecting the fascists and terrorize, beat and arrest those that made an effort to stop fascism. Those who resist fascism are criminals and whoever is fascist or support fascism receives all the protection.

We do not believe in such a fake democracy. Our first patriotic obligation is to expose it and than boycott it on principled grounds. By taking part in this game we give it some sort of legitimacy and help it to fix it fake mask. Even more dangerous, taking part in this game will inevitably lead to ignoring and forgetting other means of mass struggle that proved as effective and honorable in peoples’ revolutions over the years.

Throwing us in your cold detention centers, your attempt to isolate and terrorize us will not succeed. On the contrary, it will deepen the roots of our convictions and our resolve to carry on our struggle till victory. You have your fake democracy and we have our honorable struggle and our steadfastness.

My Comrades, thank you for your support and solidarity.

We will not surrender.

Ma’an ‘Ala edDarb – Together on the road

Your Comrade Samieh Jabbarin

Jelemeh Prison

(Middle of February, 2009)

and here in nablus israeli terrorists invaded the city this morning:

Palestinian security sources reported on Monday that dozens of Israeli settlers backed by the army stormed the tomb of Prophet Joseph near Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s correspondent in Nablus that the settlers who came to the area were backed by Israeli soldiers late on Sunday, around midnight. The settlers, as reported; entered the tomb under the pretext of performing religious rituals.

The witnesses added that a number of Israeli military vehicles accompanied the buses by which settlers arrived to the area and waited two hours until they finished their rituals.

gaza blood on bush and obama’s hands

gaza

day 5. i woke up to the news of 70 more strikes from tuesday’s carnage. 385 dead and 1,720 injured, many critically injured will die because there is no more medicine. many are buried beneath the rubble, in the tunnels that israeli terrorists bombed with american-made weapons. many were buried before their bodies were counted. but as rania reminds us they have names and we cannot forget them, bury their names beneath the headlines:

Five sisters, aged two to seventeen, were killed in their home in Jabaliya refugee camp. Their mother, Samira Ba’lousha, had the heavy task of removing them from the rubble. These children—Jawaher, four, Dina, eight, Samar, twelve, Ikram, fifteen, and Tahrir, seventeen, were not firing rockets into Israel; they were sleeping in their beds. With space running out in the cemetery, the Ba’lousha children were forced to share their graves.

Nawal Al-Lad’a, a forty-year old mother, did not find the bodies of her two sons in the medical compound, so she left to look for her children amid the rubble.

When one of the mosques was attacked, one of 7, a child was killed. Ziad Abu Teir. He was 8.

Fatimah Salem, 53, lies in a coma in Al-Shifa hospital, torn apart by debris while at work for a local charity near the targeted prison in Gaza City. “My mother was not firing rockets at Israel,” said her son, Majed. (source: IRIN)

Luma, 4, and Haya, 6, two sisters from the Humdan family from Biet Hanaon. Targeted and killed by air Israeli missiles while attempting to leave their neighborhood on a donkey carriage

I’m trying to get more names of the martyrs, the killed and wounded Palestinians. It is important, at the very least, to know their names.

Record!
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

(excerpt from “Identity Card,” by Mahmoud Darwish)

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the mood in nablus is not good. i forgot to mention this yesterday as my head is swimming with too much information right now, but a common refrain i heard among my students yesterday was that “palestinian blood is cheap.” there is a feeling that they are all alone. yesterday i posted an important video of sheren tadros reporting on al jazeera highlighting the fact that there is nowhere for palestinians in gaza to run to. but here, too, people feel that there is no one to go to for help. that their calls for ending this bloodbath fall on deaf ears. from the arab world, from the european union, from the united states (who is a full participant in this blood bath because it allows its weapons to be used to commit this massacre), from the united nations. we hear only the mild criticisms, never a demand or a show of force to stop this madness. the quiet statements of those whose shallow words suggest complicity not outrage. not a determination to stop the israeli terrorists. people in nablus are afraid to speak out, too, as there are a number of palestinians who have spoken out publicly in mosques and other public spaces and as a result the palestinian authority has put them in prison. enemies are every where. from within and from outside. one of the student activists at my university was chatting with me last night. she wants to erect a tent in downtown nablus in martyr’s square to have a public memorial for the martyrs of gaza; hamas and fatah leaders in the city couldn’t agree. so no tent. more silence. the same is true in nasra where palestinians were attacked by israeli terrorists for protesting the brutality in gaza.

but the main enemy here, aside from the obvious israeli terrorists, are their american partners in state terrorism. for some context here is a report from nick spicer on al jazeera yesterday showing all of the american-made materiel being used here by israeli terrorists that americans paid for with their tax dollars:

of course we can expect george bush to be silent as he has millions of iraqi, lebanese, afghan, and palestinians’ blood on his hands. barack obama showed his true colors when he started his u.s. presidential campaign, though people in hawai’i protested outside his home there yesterday. one writer observed yesterday that palestinians don’t get to have their 9/11: everywhere else when there is a massacre claim that they, too, now have their 9/11, but not palestinians. but the green party, the party which i voted for when i cast my ballot for president in favor of cynthia mckinney, spoke out yesterday against israeli terrorist war crimes. cynthia mckinney was on the boat yesterday that was shot at and rammed by israeli terrorist naval boats yesterday had this to say about american support for israeli terrorism in the black agenda report:

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has called upon President-Elect Barack Obama to “please, say something about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced by the Palestinian people, by the people of Gaza.” McKinney spoke to CNN news from the Lebanese city of Tyre, where she had debarked from the relief vessel Dignity after it was rammed on the high seas by an Israeli patrol boat, early Tuesday morning. Passengers also report the Israelis fired machine guns into the water near their ship….

“I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world,” said McKinney, who was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in November. “As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government.”

A CNN reporter who accompanied the passengers and crew of the Dignity confirmed that the boat “was sailing with full lights” when “one of the Israeli patrol boats, with no lights on, rammed the Dignity, hard.”

Israel blames the collision on the relief vessel.

Said McKinney: “Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front, once on the side…. What the Israelis are saying is outright disinformation.”

McKinney compared the Israeli action against the Dignity to the attack on a U.S. naval vessel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. “I recall that there was another boat that was attacked by Israelis, and it was the U.S.S Liberty.” Thirty-four crewmen died and 170 were wounded by fire from Israeli planes and torpedo boats. The Israelis claim it was a case of mistaken identity. “People would like to forget about the U.S.S. Liberty,” said McKinney, “but I haven’t forgotten about it and the people who were on that ship have not forgotten what happened to them.”

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nora barrows-friedman on flashpoints, unlike all other u.s. news media outlets, continues its extensive coverage of the american-israeli terrorist project in gaza. the last two days have been excellent with many voices of people of gaza where you can hear the war going on, you can hear american apache helicopters and f16s dropping bombs on the people of gaza. as of this writing links to the audio files from the last two days are not posted, but if you click on the link for the podcast you can download episodes where you can hear sameh habib, safa joudeh, and caoimhe butterly who details being terrorized by israeli terrorist naval ships yesterday on their way to gaza by boat.

i finally heard from sameh habeeb. i had a mutual friend from gaza city go over to his house and make sure he was okay, thankfully he is. and he blogged yesterday updating us on the continuing humanitarian toll (though i recommend listening to him on flashpoints as well). here is what sameh had to say about the situation in gaza city yesterday:

On the midday of Tuesday, a new phase of the military operation started. F16s started to break the sound barrier of Gaza. Raids of sonic bombs occurred causing a trauma and panic atmosphere across Gaza residents.

The death toll has reached 390 with more than 1,700 injured, 2 hundreds are in critical conditions while there is a severe shortages in medicines. Medical sources announced a collapse in medical sector and Gaza hospitals. Muhamad El Khozndar a doctor at Al Sehfa’ hospital said on a local radio station that Gaza hospitals are no longer working properly. Bandaging stuff, medical tools, medical machines and general cleaning unavailable at the hospitals. Additionally, windows of the hospitals crashed due to a nearby bombings hit a mosque.

The early hours of Tuesday night witnessed a set of Israeli missiles west of Gaza City. Medical reports said a number of injured arrived to Al shifa’ hospital including some casualties. Many tanks shelled the norther eastern area of Gaza City.

It’s remarkable that humanitarian stage in Gaza is totally collapsed and disastrous as aspects life vanished. All oil derivatives of fuel, gasoline and cocking gas unavailable in Gaza due to a siege imposed two years ago. Bread, milk, rice, sugar, cooking oil are not available and what is inside Gaza is limited quantities stored at homes.

Add to that, it is very dangerous for people to leave their house in search of food supplies. Any mobile car, bicycle or walking persons turned to targets for Israeli military machine.

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mohammad on kabobfest also has another report detailing the situation with his family in gaza whom he cannot see because he is in ramallah:

Again, my nightly call to my uncles in Gaza proved to be deeply uplifting. I made my first call to uncle Mahmoud. Our previous calls had not lasted for much longer than ten or fifteen minutes, but today he talked for almost an hour. Again, his voice was strong and defiant, even more than yesterday. He told me the Israeli’s seem to have run out of targets to pound, hitting the same ones over and over again during the day. The skies over Khan Younis were quiet, he said, and had been for more than half an hour. There literally were no more official buildings to destroy.

I asked him if he would mind, in the few hours a day that he had electricity, to type up some of his experiences so that I could share them with the world. He told me he understood what I wanted to do, but that he really had no desire to sit and write. He liked to keep himself busy, but he didn’t mind talking. I asked him if there were any shops open in the area. He said only a few small family stores would open, but supplies were fast dwindling. Sugar, he said, was gone. I asked him what they had had for dinner; rice and some chicken. His children were still suffering. His youngest son, Hosam, was wetting and defecating himself. Hanan, the three year old, had run to her dad when she heard the buzz of the Israeli drones, telling him she wanted to hide because she didn’t want the ‘zanana’ to bomb her. (Zanana is the term Palestinians give to these drones because of the continuous buzzing sound they make). He held her until she fell asleep. The children were still waking up hysterical in the night every time a missile hit nearby.

The thing that struck me most was how high Mahmoud’s morale was, especially considering the state he had been in two days earlier. He told me people understood that Israel wanted to destroy the spirit and will of the people, and that it was highly unlikely to end the killing any time soon. He said the graphic images of the dead and wounded don’t tell half the story; he visited one of the hospitals today and told me the injuries are horrific beyond description. Very few of the almost 2,000 wounded would ever recover. The pain is definitely there, but the people are caught between trying to mourn the dead of yesterday, living today and the idea of ground invasion tomorrow. He touched again on the topic of the 20 or so friends they had lost, telling me a lot of the men had been buried in Gaza City rather than their hometown of Khan Younis because they’d had to be buried en masse to make space in the hospital morgue. He tells me the current reality is that, with the unbearable amount of casualties, people are being buried without ceremony as quickly as half an hour after their bodies are found. It’s unreal, he said, that you can have breakfast with a friend and then find out he has already been buried half an hour later. Regardless, when victory means simply surviving the onslaught, he tells me many people are confident Israel cannot achieve any of its aims. Before I hung up my mom took the phone to speak to his wife and give her condolences on the death of her brother. He was 23 years old.

I talked to uncle Jasim next. He had just gotten power and was flipping through the channels to check the news. He was livid at the Egyptian regime and their staunch refusal to open the Rafah crossing despite the massacre and the decimated infrastructure. Jasim has never been by any means a supporter of Hamas, but he tells me the people are rallying around the movement and will never allow Israel to impose Mahmoud Abbas on them. We talked about the extended range of the rockets fired by the resistance. For the first time, they had hit what is now known as Kiryat Gat, and which, until my grandparents were ethnically cleansed from it in 1949 (i.e. a year AFTER Israel had won its so-called War of Independence) was known as al-Fallujah.

I asked him if the Israeli army was still sending out recorded messages to peoples phones threatening to bomb their houses. He laughed a little and said that everyone is getting them, several times a day. His neighbor lived in a squalid one-room structure and had gotten one on his cell phone. Jasim’s daughter Yaqeen had picked up the house phone today and heard one of the messages, and it had terrified her. I told him about the protests and show of solidarity across the world, and told him to keep his chin up and his morale high. Even Dubai had canceled all New Year’s celebrations. I reminded him that if Israel could not destroy the people’s spirits with the atrocities it had been committing over the past four days, it had already lost this war.

My final call was to my uncle Mohammad in Gaza City. I was hoping he would be at least as upbeat as Mahmoud, but he sounded completely worn out. He barely sleeps, usually staying up all night as the bombing continues unabated around him, while the cold comes in through the windows kept open to prevent them from shattering every time a missile hits. He told me last night had been especially tough, particularly the bombing of the Ministries Compound with thirteen missiles almost simultaneously. The Shams Sports Club is just down the street and was destroyed. Why would they destroy a sports club, he asked. How can the world really believe they’re only targeting militants?

He said they had just gotten power after an outage of almost 12 hours, and was following the news of a French proposal for an immediate ceasefire. The skies had been quiet for 20 minutes, he said. He was hopeful the ceasefire would come into effect. I told him to keep his morale up, but that it was very unlikely Israel would agree to a ceasefire. After all this bombing and killing, it had only managed to put more Israelis under the fire of Palestinian homemade rockets. Stopping now would be, in the eyes of the Israeli public, a huge failure. And with elections coming up and Israeli elections traditionally decided by Palestinian body counts, it makes no sense domestically for Israel to stop now.

I let him know of the deep censorship in the Israeli media regarding the massacre in Gaza, how very few images of the carnage and death have been broadcast. In this kind of media environment, it is easy to say why many Israelis seem to believe their airforce and navy are only attacking militants. Either way, he said, he would still hope for a ceasefire. He was worn out.

It is scary, but uplifting, to think that through such abnormal suffering, people with a cause will manage to rally and hold their spirits. I truly believe Israel cannot win this particular war; Zionism has no place for the possibility that people do not give up in the face of overwhelming military force, and that is why Israel has used its military might for decades in an attempt to cow Palestinian nationalism and crush the struggle for liberty. The solution was and will always be simple: end the colonization of Palestine, the denial of Palestinian rights, and the continued expulsion of the Palestinian people from their lands. People are quick to point out when Palestinians use the limited means they have at their disposal to attack Israel, but without addressing the historical injustice imposed on the Palestinian people that continues to define their existence and oppression, there can never be a peaceful solution.

Until then, Israel will continue to commit atrocities in an attempt to impose an impossible reality, and its victims will continue to fight back.

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gaza blogger laila el haddad, who is currently in north carolina, writes about calling her parents who are trapped in the gaza prison (click on link below to read that part) and then writes hauntingly about what it means to be trapped in this prison of gaza while american-made bombs are dropped by israeli terrorists flying american-made f16s:

 

The rains of death continue to fall in Gaza. And silently, the world watches. And silently, governments plotted: how shall we make the thunder and clouds rain death on to Gaza?

It will all seem, at the end of the day, that this is somehow a response to something: rockets; broken truces; irreconcilability…

It is as though the situation were not only acceptable, but normal in the period prior to it all. As though a calm that provides no relief — political, economic, or otherwise — for Gaza’s stateless, occupied, besieged Palestinians were tenable. As though settlements did not continue to expand; walls did not continue to extend and choke lands and lives; families and friends were not dislocated; life was not paralyzed; people were not exterminated; borders were not sealed and food and light and fuel were in fair supply.

But it is the prisoners’ burden to bear: they broke the conditions of their incarceration. Nevertheless, there are concerns for the “humanitarian situation”: as long as they do not starve …

The warden improves the living conditions now and then, in varying degrees of relativity, but the prison doors remain sealed. And so when there are 20 hours of power outages in a row, the prisoners wish that they were only eight; or 10; and dream of the days of four.

My friend Safah Joudeh is also in Gaza city. She is a 27-year-old freelance journalist.

“At this point we don’t feel that it is Hamas being targeted, it’s the entire population of Gaza,” she says. “The strikes have been and I need to stress this, indiscriminate. They claim that the targets have been buildings and people that are Hamas-affiliated, but the employees in these buildings are public sector employees, not political activists … other targets include homes, mosques, the university, port, fishing boats, the fish market.”

No one has left their home since Saturday, she says.

“The streets were full of people the first day of the attacks, naturally. They were unexpected and came at a time when people were going about their daily business. The streets have been completely empty the past two days. People have closed up shop and trying to stay close to their families and loved ones. Many homes are without bread, the bakeries stopped working two days before the attack because of lack of fuel and flour.”

The small shop down the street from my parents’ home, next to the Kinz mosque where many of the Remal neighborhood’s affluent residents attend, opens for a little while after prayer. My father goes and gets whatever he can — while he can.

They have one package of bread left, but insist they are OK.

“Those with children are the ones who are truly suffering. Umm Ramadan’s grandchildren will only sleep in her arms now. They are wetting their pants again.”

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dr. mona el farra, who is also a blogger, and who is now in england, writes about her home in gaza city from afar as well:

I’ve spoken to several of my fellow doctors in Gaza and each one of them is overwhelmed and demoralised. Even with all of their training, the material conditions in Gaza are preventing them from doing what they are capable of. They could have saved many more lives.

I remember how ambulance drivers were not allowed to reach the injured in previous military attacks on Gaza. Many lives could have been saved if the ambulances reached the injured at the right time. A few minutes can be the difference between life and death. I wonder whether we will hear reports like this again once the emergency situation is over and there is time for truth and reflection.

The first military air strikes struck at the exact time that schoolchildren make their way home. Where I live in Gaza City, several primary schools are very close to the police headquarters that were among the first targets. These horrifying facts explain the high number of women and children among the dead. Thirty children and nine women have been reported dead and another 130 children and 38 women injured.

I’ve spoken with friends and family in Gaza and my heart sank further with their firsthand accounts of the death and destruction.

On a personal level, I am mourning the loss of one of my cousins, Ibrahim Mahmoud El-Farra, aged 22. He was killed in the first attack on the presidential palace. F16 fighter planes fired three big missiles at the building. Neighbours tell me the ground shook and that the blast broke all the windows of my nearby apartment building.

My cousin, and an unknown number of other victims, is still under the rubble. The scale of destruction is too large for Gaza’s small number of rescue workers. They are slowly pulling body parts out of the rubble as Israeli airstrikes make more and more piles of rubble and people.

The number of reported deaths will increase in the next few days as more bodies are recovered and more of the seriously injured cases die because their serious but treatable wounds cannot be treated in Gaza.

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what i am documenting here and have been documenting for the last five days is a catalog of war crimes of grievous violations of international humanitarian law, of the geneva convention. here is a recent statement sent to the united nations by various palestinian human rights organizations beseeching them to do something:

The following intervention was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on 30 December 2008:

General Assembly to act under Resolution 377

Dear Member State of the UN Human Rights Council,

Representing the Palestinian human rights community, we write to you with an urgent request for intervention by the UN Human Rights Council to put an end to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as a result of the Israeli occupying forces’ ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. At least 310 persons, including 37 children, have been killed and more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured. The civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip will inevitably continue to suffer heavy losses without the external intervention of the international community; this is confirmed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion that this is a “war to the bitter end.”

Grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes, have been committed, including, willful killing and the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Furthermore, the continuing collective punishment of the Gaza Strip has left medical services unable to deal with the increasing number of victims.

As member States of the UN Human Rights Council, you were fully apprised of the human rights situation in the OPT, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Israel earlier this month. The dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was a dominant concern raised by States during the review. Despite recommendations to Israel concerning its obligation to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the capacity of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population after days of bombardment has now reached breaking point. You have further been notified by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk of Israel’s failure to cooperate with his mandate and his call on “all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.”

We note that the Security Council has thus far failed to take concrete steps despite the gravity of the situation. However, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto’s statement that “the time has come to take firm action if the UN does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission” offers a platform for concrete action that should be supported by the Human Rights Council.

It is our considered judgment that the only effective measure the UN Human Rights Council can take under these specific circumstances is to issue a resolution requesting the General Assembly to convene under GA Resolution 377, “Uniting for Peace,” with a view towards the imposition of collective measures against the Israeli Government. We urge this approach having duly considered the implications for the Human Rights Council as well as the human rights of the Palestinian people should Israel again impede or ignore the Council’s interventions. We believe that such a step would halt the escalation of civilian deaths, offer hope to civilians in despair over the political deadlock and ultimately serve the long-term interests of peace.

Sincere regards,

Palestinian Human Rights Community

Al-Haq
Adalah
Arab Association for Human Rights-HRA
Addameer Prisoners’ Support & Human Rights Association
Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International
Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights
Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)
Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, Musawa
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
Women’s Studies Center
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network – PNGO

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it is israel’s lies that perpetuate this bloody, devastating war on innocent gaza civilians. but the world watches, waits, says nothing, does nothing. my students’ words haunt me–that palestinian blood is cheap, that no one cares about them not even other arabs. what do we have to do to get people to care? should the people of gaza convert to judaism? would that make the world care? then they would be jewish and somehow they would count as human beings? maybe then the world would react swiftly and with determination?

too, i can’t help thinking about the political rationale here. of course as i write about all the time the two-state solution is bulls*&^, not possible, and entirely based on a fraudulent process that has consistently disempowered and dispossessed palestinians even more than before. but i have always thought that this process was more like a three state solution: gaza, 1948 palestine, and the west bank. but this utter devastation of gaza makes me feel like maybe they are working for a two state solution by wiping out gaza. if they wipe gaza off the face of the earth then the israeli terrorists can finish off their ethnic cleansing project in 1948 palestine (as i quoted tzipi livni stating last week that this is her intention) and then maybe palestinians can have the prison that is the west bank–22% of it that is. this is what seems to me to be the larger design on palestine right now by the zionist, terrorist, jewish state and its american collaborators.