Sounds of Deepawali, Sounds of Gaza

Last week was Deepawali or Diwali for short. A simplified explanation of the holiday is that is a festival of lights.  But one cannot have lights without sound especially given the fact that this holiday is celebrated with firecrackers and fireworks. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have recorded the sounds, especially as I experienced them on a brief auto rickshaw trip in which the driver had to dodge children lighting various explosives in the streets. Like a lot of sounds in Bangalore, especially traffic, they are constant and quite loud. And even government officials attempted to intervene in lessening the noise pollution. I let off a few firecrackers for the first time in my life in spite of my trepidation. But the sounds of Diwali–which lasted for three days–reminded me of other places and times.

The sound of fireworks and firecrackers sound just like bombs and gunfire to me. I can’t help it. The sounds are indistinguishable for me. So as much as I enjoyed the way they look when they are lit up, in the back of my mind it conjured up less pleasant memories of Palestine and Lebanon.

It is a week later, and although I’m miles away, the sounds of Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza are the only sounds I am imagining even though I know that sound is far worse and, of course, has lethal effects. Rana Baker had the foresight to record some of those sounds  of what it is like in Gaza right now.

It seems like deja vu–as if it is 2008 again. Of course so much has changed since then, but then again so much has not, which Haidar Eid writes about lucidly, especially in light of the Arab uprisings. For those who are unaware of what happened and how it all began, Ali Abunimah has a timeline that clearly illustrates how Israel broke its truce with Gaza and began its latest escalation. You can also see Abunimah on Al Jazeera explaining this timeline to a rather ill-informed interviewer:

This new war is, in many ways, an ongoing one as anyone who monitors Palestine knows. Gaza, in particular, has been kept on a “diet,” as Sherene Seikaly points out in Jadaliyya. As before, too, the language coming from the Zionist regime spans the gamut from calling for a holocaust to “flattening” Gaza like Hiroshima. Even a local paper in Bangalore had a headline yesterday about Israel bombing Gaza back to the Middle Ages.

This time it is more difficult as I am so far away from Palestine. Although during the last war, even though I was in Nablus, I might as well have been in India given how far removed we were from the people with no ability to connect with them in any way other than phone calls and email. And the one protest I know of in India happened in Delhi today, miles away from Bangalore. But the media here, especially English language media, is focused on so many more local issues, many of which are equally disturbing and troubling. And the international media available here is anything but helpful, spewing as it does Israeli propaganda at every turn. And still my heart and my mind are occupied with Gaza hoping that the fruits of the Arab uprisings make a difference this time.

For those who wish to do something, as always, BDS is the way to go. The Boycott National Committee created a handy sheet about 5 ways you can effectively support Gaza through BDS.

Also see: the Guardian‘s interactive map on Gaza

Shahad Abusalama’s blog, which is keeping track of Palestinian casualties in Gaza

IMEMU’s fact sheet on Gaza and Israel’s policies towards Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on palestinian rappers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His friend Ayman Mughames from Palestinian Rapperz joins him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Producing an album is not easy either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on fasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sa7tein

on deleting madonna & other boycott news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MGMT

Madonna

Faith No More

Dinosaur Jr.

Lady Gaga

Kaiser Chiefs

Calexico

Depeche Mode

Pet Shop Boys

Macy Gray

Suzanne Vega

Steve Vai

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

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

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

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

The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival:

September 2, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

This letter was drafted by the following ad hoc committee:

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

Endorsed by:

Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, Egypt

Hany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, Palestine

Mark Achbar, Filmmaker, Canada

Zackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South Africa

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, Jerusalem

Anthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USA

Ruba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, Lebanon

Joslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USA

John Berger, Author, France

Dionne Brand, Poet/Writer, Canada

Judith Butler, Professor, USA

David Byrne, Musician, USA

Noam Chomsky, Professor, USA

Guy Davidi Director, Israel

Na-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South Africa

Igor Drljaca, Filmmaker, Canada

Eve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USA

Eyal Eithcowich, Director, Israel

Sophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UK

Peter Fitting, Professor, Canada

Jane Fonda, Actor and Author, USA

Danny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USA

Noam Gonick, Director, Canada

Malcolm Guy, Filmmaker, Canada

Mike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, Canada

Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, Palestine

Fredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USA

Juliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/Haifa

Bonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Laverty, Producer, UK

Min Sook Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Yael Lerer, publisher, Tel Aviv

Jack Lewis, Filmmaker, South Africa

Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK

Arab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/Lebanon

Kyo Maclear, Author, Toronto

Mahmood Mamdani, Professor, USA

Fatima Mawas, Filmmaker, Australia

Tessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UK

Cornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USA

Yousry Nasrallah, Director, Egypt

Rebecca O’Brien, Producer, UK

Pratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UK

Jeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USA

John Pilger, Filmmaker, UK

Shai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, Israel

Ian Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, Canada

Judy Rebick, Professor, Canada

David Reeb, Artist, Tel Aviv

B. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USA

Wallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USA

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

Elia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New York

Eran Torbiner, Filmmaker, Israel

Alice Walker, Writer, USA

Thomas Waugh, Professor, Canada

Howard Zinn, Writer, USA

Slavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia

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

on visas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry would not immediately comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and that is what an apartheid visa system looks like.

when will the right lessons be learned?

surprise, surprise: obama has decided that building colonies on palestinian land in al quds is not such a problem after all:

The US has dropped a demand that Israel freeze settlement construction in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.

The newspaper Haaretz, citing Israeli officials and Western diplomats, reported that US envoy George Mitchell capitulated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal during their meeting in London on Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama and his administration have been pressuring Israel to freeze settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in order to create conditions for renewed peace negotiations. State Department officials have said in the past that their demand includes East Jerusalem.

Israeli occupied and then annexed East Jerusalem during the June 1967 war. Palestinians and the international community do not recognize the legitimacy of Israeli control in the eastern half of the city.

According to Haaretz, Netanyahu offered Mitchell a nine-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank excluding Jerusalem. In addition, Netanyahu wants to exclude 2,500 housing units on which construction has already started, and the construction of schools and other structures in the settlements.

In addition, the newspaper said, Israel is demanding that the Palestinian Authority and Arab states make their own concessions in exchange for a freeze. If these measures are not take, the report says, Israel wants guarantees that the US will not oppose an end to the freeze and further settlement construction.

clearly, obama wants to use the american colonial model for its so-called “peace process” (read: colonization process) in palestine. one of the many tactics europeans used to colonize north america was to keep making promises and treaties with tribes that were broken from the moment they were signed. meanwhile, who is building these new colonies that have not halted for a day over the last 122+ years? largely palestinians as this bbc report reveals:

“I feel like a slave,” says 21-year-old Palestinian Musanna Khalil Mohammed Rabbaye.

“But I have no alternative,” he says, as he waits among a group of sun-beaten men in dusty work boots outside the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.

The phrase comes up again and again as the labourers try to explain why they spend their days hammering and shovelling to help build the Jewish settlements eating into the land they want for a future state of Palestine.

Mr Rabbaye wants to be a journalist and is trying to fund his studies.

Jaffar Khalil Kawazba, 24, says he is supporting his 10 brothers and sisters as his father is too ill to work. Fahd Sayara, 40, is trying to fund treatment for his disabled child.

“I’m not the only one. My whole village works in the settlements,” says Mr Rabbaye.

“Everything, all the settlements – even most of the Wall – was built by Palestinians,” he says, referring to the separation barrier, detested by the Palestinian population, that Israel is building in and around the West Bank.

The settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are illegal under international law.

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to negotiate unless Israel heeds US pressure to stop all construction in the settlements.

Israel says it wants to keep building, at the very least to provide homes for the “natural growth” of the 450,000-strong Jewish settler population in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

But with about 30% of West Bank Palestinians out of work, and average earnings in the territory little more than half Israel’s minimum wage, labouring in the settlements has its appeal for Palestinians.

Some 12,000 Palestinian construction workers get Israeli permits to work in the settlements each year.

meanwhile, some palestinians are forced to demolish their own homes because if they don’t they will not only lose their home, but they will also have to pay the zionist terrorist colonists fees for demolishing their homes:

Two Palestinian families in Jerusalem’s Old City have been forced to demolish their own house after Israeli authorities threatened him with heavy fines if he did not.

One resident, Muhammad Faysal Jabir lived with his family of five in a 28 square meter house in the Aqbat Al-Khalidiyya neighborhood of the Old City. Jabir told Ma’an that the apartment used to be just 12 square meters, and that he added an extension apparently without permission from the Jerusalem Municipality.

The Israeli controlled Jerusalem Municipality frequently refuses Palestinian requests for construction permits, using this as a pretext for house demolitions. Self-demolition is often the least expensive route for Palestinians facing the destruction of their homes.

this report by jacky rowland on al jazeera shows precisely how palestinian land theft and new colony building goes on and on and on:

and here is a second such report on al jazeera on colonies in al quds by dan nolan, which contains some great map work showing you the land theft in and around al quds:

so it should not come as a surprise that netanyahu is not budging on the issue of colonized al quds:

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has said that his government is unwilling to negotiate on the status of Jerusalem as a joint Israel-Palestinian capital.

When speaking in London at a meeting with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, on Tuesday, Netanyahu also said that any peace talks with the Palestinians would have to cover the issue of a “demilitarised Palestine”, as well as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“I’ve made it clear … that Jerusalem is a sovereign capital of Israel and we accept no limitations on our sovereignty,” Netanyahu said at a news conference in the British capital.

“To put a fine point on it, Jerusalem is not a settlement.”

However, he added: “The settlement issue is outstanding. It has to be one of the issues resolved in the negotiations, alongside Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, effective demilitarisation, for any future peace agreement.”

The Palestinians want occupied East Jerusalem as their future state capital.

of course, there are still those plans that don’t put palestinians anywhere near al quds as a capital of palestine or anything else. there are many zionist terrorist colonists who still argue that jordan is palestine and wish to continue their ethnic cleansing project to push palestinians into jordan as nisreen el-shamayleh reports for al jazeera:

max blumenthal’s most recent video, which is a trailer for a new documentary film appropriately entitled “israel’s terror inside,” and it shows precisely the sort of attitudes of those stealing and colonizing palestinian land:

for those who would like to see what the future holds for al quds a good place to look might be beer saba’ where palestinians who remain on their land and who are trying to pray in their mosque there are being kept from their mosques so that the zionist terrorist colonists can open bars or “museums” (al majdal is a great example of this). jonathan cook had a great article in electronic intifada this week on the subject–here is the part where he contextualizes this issue of palestinian mosques in 1948 palestine more generally:

A report published in 2004 by the Arab Human Rights Association, based in Nazareth, identified 250 places of worship, both Islamic and Christian, that had either been destroyed or made unusable since Israel’s establishment in 1948. Nearly 200 were razed in the wake of the 1948 war, but the threat of destruction hangs over many surviving places of worship too. The century-old mosque of Sarafand, on the coast near the northern city of Haifa, was bulldozed in July 2000 after local Muslims started restoring it.

Other buildings, including mosques in Tiberias and Beit Shean, have been the target of repeated arson attacks. The famous Hasan Bek mosque in Tel Aviv is regularly vandalized and was desecrated in 2005 when a pig’s head bearing the name of the Prophet was thrown into its yard.

Two historic Galilee mosques that are still standing, at Ghabsiyya and Hittin, have been left to fall into ruin surrounded by fences and razor wire. The latter was built by Saladin in the 12th century to celebrate the defeat of the Crusaders.

In Palestinian villages now re-invented as Jewish communities, such as at Ein Hod and Caesariya, mosques have been refurbished as bars or restaurants. In at least four cases, mosques have been converted into synagogues. And Jewish farming communities sometimes use remote holy places as animal pens or warehouses.

In the case of the Beersheva mosque, the court tried to settle the dispute three years ago by urging the parties to reach a compromise. It has suggested that the building be converted into an Islamic heritage center where no prayer would take place or that it become a coexistence center.

Both sides rejected the offers.

Adalah discovered in 2004, two years after it launched its petition, that the municipality had secretly issued a tender to convert the mosque into a museum. The court ruled the renovations could go ahead but only if they were restricted to protecting the structure.

A visit last month revealed that the municipality had ignored the injunction and was close to completing the mosque’s refurbishment as a museum.

this problem could be resolved rather easily if palestinians inside 1948 could get their land and buildings back and if palestinian refugees who are from places like beer saba’ could return to their land. but that would require palestinian leaders fighting for this fundamental essential right rather than jockeying for power on the backs of palestinian refugees. haidar eid identified these key issues in a terrific electronic intifada article the other day:

Now, the stated goal, for which rivers of blood flow (and the blood is not yet dry in the streets of Gaza), has become the establishment of an “independent” Palestinian state in any dimension — the “two-state solution.” But how that would lead to the implementation of UN resolution 194, which calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees and their compensation, is a mystery in the minds of Palestinians observing the conference. How a Palestinian state would end the brutality of the apartheid system against 1.4 million indigenous Palestinians who are citizens of Israel is another disturbing question that the conveners preferred to duck.

Ignoring the paradigm shift resulting from the Gaza massacre and reiterating the long-held belief that sees accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as the only political route to a Palestinian state, is an indication of the loss of faith in the power of the Palestinian people to reclaim their land and rights. This approach is a repudiation of the undeniable, unprecedented steadfastness shown by the people of Gaza, the growing forms of popular resistance in the West Bank, and the success of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Instead, again and again, we are asked to rely on the benevolence of the US, the European Union and reactionary Arab regimes to give us a truncated state, as if Gaza 2009 did not happen.

Not a word was mentioned about the fact that Israel has rendered the establishment of an independent state on 22 percent of historic Palestine — the West Bank and Gaza Strip — impossible. Many Palestinian and international critical thinkers have already reached the conclusion that the two-state solution has come to an end, thanks to Israeli colonization in the West Bank. What, then, is Fatah’s — and the rest of the Palestinian national movement’s — alternative?

What we saw in Bethlehem is the embodiment of Frantz Fanon’s “pitfalls of national consciousness” — albeit with a Palestinian gown. The irony, of course, is that Fanon was theorizing about the future post-colonial states after independence. He wrote of neo-colonial subjugation of the native elites. Black cars, fashionable suits, bodyguards, are some of the characteristics of the rising nouveaux riches of (occupied) Palestine. Fanon wrote scornfully that “[t]he national middle class which takes over power at the end of the colonial regime is an underdeveloped middle class. It has practically no economic power, and in any case it is in no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of the mother country which it hopes to replace” (emphasis added).

But are we, in Palestine, close to the end of the colonial regime? Here is the crucial difference between the national bourgeoisie of, say Algeria or South Africa, and our own. Ours have fetishized statehood before attaining independence, a game — unsurprisingly — encouraged by the US, Israel and even the official Arab regimes. What is independence at the end of the day? A national anthem, flag, ministries, premierships and presidencies? We already have them.

For Fanon, the cycle of delusion, ostracism and dependency goes on unabated after independence. But we are yet to get there!

desmond tutu who has been in palestine this week with an organization called the elders (which, unfortunately, seems to foster normalization), made it clear that the zionist terrorist colonists surmise the wrong lesson from their history and also acknowledges the necessity of bds:

“The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns,” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Haaretz Thursday.

Commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in Germany Thursday that the lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel should always defend itself, Tutu noted that “in South Africa, they tried to get security from the barrel of a gun. They never got it. They got security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected.”

The Nobel Prize laureate spoke to Haaretz in Jerusalem as the organization The Elders concluded its tour of Israel and the West Bank. He said the West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, “as it should be.”

“But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.”

He also slammed Jewish organizations in the United States, saying they intimidate anyone who criticizes the occupation and rush to accuse these critics of anti-Semitism. Tutu recalled how such organizations pressured U.S. universities to cancel his appearances on their campuses.

“That is unfortunate, because my own positions are actually derived from the Torah. You know God created you in God’s image. And we have a God who is always biased in favor of the oppressed.”

Tutu also commented on the call by Ben-Gurion University professor Neve Gordon to apply selective sanctions on Israel.

“I always say to people that sanctions were important in the South African case for several reasons. We had a sports boycott, and since we are a sports-mad country, it hit ordinary people. It was one of the most psychologically powerful instruments.

“Secondly, it actually did hit the pocket of the South African government. I mean, when we had the arms embargo and the economic boycott.”

He said that when F.W. de Klerk became president he telephoned congratulations. “The very first thing he said to me was ‘well now will you call off sanctions?’ Although they kept saying, oh well, these things don’t affect us at all. That was not true.

“And another important reason was that it gave hope to our people that the world cared. You know. That this was a form of identification.”

personally, however, i’d like to see a real resistance campaign to accompany bds that can be effective and creative as the never before campaign always inspires in me. here is their latest video: