Yes, India, Israel uses water as a weapon

For the past couple of nights I’ve noticed a new commercial on English language television in India. It seems that Israel is currently promoting tourism on occupied land while hiding their reality of their almost 70-year long colonisation of the land. It seems that now that Indians no longer have a stamp in their passport preventing them from travelling to the world’s 2 apartheid states–South Africa and Israel–they’re pushing tourism, making it appear as if it were any European country. It was shocking to see such a commercial, knowing how many Indians will fall for it, travel there, and never even have a glimpse of what life is like for Palestinians in historic Palestine or the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Here is my response to a similar piece in The Hindu a couple of years ago).

Of course, one would expect that an Israeli agency would promote its own tourism. But what’s even more shocking is that an Indian environmental organisation would fall for such propaganda. And that’s what seemed to happen with India Water Portal. Their piece was lazy–relying solely on the Israeli embassy for their misinformation. And the Indians who published this piece are too enamoured with the mythology of Israelis making the deserts bloom, they credit them with inventions like drip irrigation, which Indians were doing for hundreds–if not thousands–of years before the colony of Israel existed. They seem to be completely oblivious to the realities in Palestine, too, and the way that water is used as a tool of apartheid. Perhaps if they realised, Indian passports would once again be prohibited from entering Israel (wishful thinking, I know).

What bothers me about false reporting on water in India is that so many Indians–Indians who I expect to know better–will repeat this fib about Israel being some agricultural, water genius nation that India should look to as a model. And the Indian government is indeed stepping up its work in that area with collaborative ventures in the agricultural sector.

Israel’s water lies go far back to their early colonisation in the 1940s, but after they accelerated the colonisation of the West Bank, the theft quickened, as Charlotte Silver explains:

The Israeli military has governed all sources of water in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 and 1974, respectively. Originally gained by military conquest, its control has subsequently been affirmed through the Oslo Accords and, increasingly, the work of the Palestinian Authority and international NGOs. 

vp palestine water infographic

In Gaza, because of the ongoing siege of the world’s largest open air prison, the water situation is even worse than in the West Bank, which is why the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) has been actively involved in helping to create solutions to the lack of drinking water:

In the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli Occupation systematically denies Palestinian adequate quality and quantities of water. Palestinian communities inside the state of Israel have less access to water than their Jewish counterparts, as well. Water is diverted from Palestinian resources the West Bank (and previously in Gaza) to illegal Israeli settlements and into Israel. Israel denies materials, fuel, and permits to sustain and expand water systems. Military attacks predictably—and often deliberately—destroy wells, water tanks, pipes, treatment plants, and sewage systems. Widespread poverty prevents people from purchasing clean water or repairing their wells and plumbing. The health and well being of virtually every Palestinian child and adult is affected by the shortage of clean, safe water.

The water crisis in Gaza is extreme. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes in what is now southern Israel to the small and arid Gaza Strip. At the same time, Israel cut off access to water sources around Gaza. The only source available, the Gaza Aquifer, could not support the huge and sudden rise in population, and the water it generates has been steadily deteriorating for more than sixty years. It is currently estimated that 95% of water from the Gaza Aquifer is unfit for human consumption.

It’s pretty simple to surf the Internet and figure out the truth about water in Palestine and Israel’s role in siphoning it for their swimming pools when Palestinians barely get enough to drink, cook, and bathe with. Even Israel’s Ha’aretz has reported on the way Israel creates thirst in Palestinian communities as has the Economist. Amnesty International has published reports on Israel’s use of water as a tool of their apartheid regime.

What will it take for Indians to understand the truth, the reality of what really goes on with water in Palestine? Perhaps a trip, but not to Israel; one to the occupied territories where tourists also get first-hand experiences with inequity and water as well as all the other visible and less visible forms of apartheid.

daily-water

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How I Failed the Thirsting for Justice Challenge

Yesterday my friend and I decided to take the Thirsting for Justice water challenge of living with 24 liters (that’s about 6 gallons for Americans) of water for 24 hours, which is something Palestinians in Palestine are forced to do every day. The challenge was created to educate people about the ways in which Israeli colonists control the water in Palestine even though all of the water sources are Palestinian. An infographic illustrates the problem quite well:

 

Just yesterday, for example, Israel demolished two Palestinian water cisterns, which, of course, meant that Palestinians who relied upon those water sources now do not have any access to water.

To begin this challenge I researched water consumption to get an idea about how much I might use each day. To be sure, my friend and I chose a difficult day because it was the day to clean the flat. This meant that we needed several buckets of water. We also needed to wash our clothes, but could not because the average washing machine requires between 80-170 liters of water (although we had conflicting information on this, we decided to lean towards the high end of the spectrum). So I had to wear some dirty clothes yesterday as a result.

Through my research about water I found some interesting facts about how much we waste when we don’t have to be conscious about our water usage:

  • the average Briton uses the equivalent of 16 buckets worth of water a day. One third of this goes down the loo
  • many people in the world exist on 10 litres of water or less a day, we use this in almost one flush of the toilet

Growing up in California, which does struggle with water issues, sometimes I was made aware of the hazards of taking long showers or flushing the toilet too much. But the water never ran out and so there is only so much of an impression that this warning had on me. Toilet waste is particularly important to think about given how much water it uses beyond what seems necessary. Consider these figures:

There are two types of toilets in my friend’s house. One is the typical type and the other is the kind that gives you a choice for a full or a half flush. Yesterday morning I opted for the half flush thinking that it might let me count a lower end of 9 liters instead of 16 liters. However, even that, when you realize that you only have 24 to use for the entire 24 hours, is too much. So I wasted around 9 liters too early in the day.

For the average American, here is what their indoor water consumption looks like (check out this link for the actual graphic which has enhanced features on the original):

When I tried to add up and estimate my daily usage, without considering how much water goes into cleaning my flat, I came up with a figure of about 234 liters (61 gallson) per day, 130 liters of which are devoted to toilet flushing. These initial figures are based on calculations that say we use 9.5 liters per minute when a faucet is one (for showering, washing hands, washing dishes, etc.). It also lowballs figures on washing clothes, partially because we use a front-loading machine, unlike the typical American top-loading machines, which seem to require more water.

Ultimately, we decided to use the handy water consumption chart on the Thirsting for Justice website:

Based on these figures here is how I failed the challenge:

I woke up, used the toilet, washed my face, brushed my teeth (with the tap off as usual): 12.4 liters.

I made coffee, drank some water, washed dishes (although I suspect washing dishes they way people do here, with the water off, requires less water than the way Americans do it by leaving the water running): 22 liters.

Then we both took showers. Rather than use the faucet, which according to the cart above, would at best require 35-50 liters for a 3 minute shower and at worst 75-90 liters for a 5 minute shower, we opted for a different option. Because even in the best case scenario above, if we only had 24 liters of water for the day, that would mean no shower at all. So we placed 3 liters of water into a pot and boiled it. We brought it into the shower and then split that amount between the two of us. My friend washed her hair, but I did not. This meant that we each used only 1.5 liters for showering.

But we failed when it came to washing the house. Because my friend has a large 3 bedroom flat, and because it requires about 7 buckets to clean the floors, each of which contains 10.5 liters of water, we used up 73.5 liters cleaning the house. And this only got us to the halfway point in the day.

After the house was clean, we made lunch. We washed vegetables, drank water, washed more dishes, and then brushed our teeth again. This required around 23 liters of water.

We spent the rest of the day outside the home where we drank more water (it is summer after all), ate more vegetables (which were washed), and ate off plates (that would then need to be washed). We went to the bathroom and washed our hands (but also used hand sanitizer at times to save the 1.4 liters it takes to wash one’s hands). We chose not to count this water because the 24 liters for 24 hours is for one’s household.

When we returned home I washed my face, brushed my teeth, drank some more water, which required another 4.4 liters.

My total water usage for the day was: 136.8 liters or 35.9 gallons.

Later this month I will try to do this again to see if I can do it on a day when I don’t need to clean the house. But in some ways I think this is a good way to test oneself because in most Palestinian homes, cleaning the house is a daily part of one’s activities.

I encourage others to try to meet this challenge. To sign up, you need only to visit the Thirsting for Justice website. There are a number of resources and fact sheets on the website to learn more about the way water theft accompanies land theft in Palestine. Also, here is an older Amnesty International report on how Palestinians are denied access to their own water. I also encourage people to donate to the Middle East Children’s Alliance Maia Project, which is helping to bring clean, fresh water to Palestinian children.

For those interested in water as an environmental issue more generally, there is an interesting UNDP report co-authored by youth entitled “Water Rights and Wrongs” that addresses the scarcity of water, the need for water, and water as a human right. Finally, I recommend this film Blue Gold, which explores the topic of water as a human right and an environmental more globally:

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…

yes, boycott works.

a couple of weeks ago i posted about the campaign to write to amnesty international in order to get them to comply with the boycott and pull out their funding of a leonard cohen concert in the zionist entity. well, it worked. here is the official statement reporting this victory from the palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”

A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

boycott, divestment, and sanctions is picking up steam in british unions as well as asa winstanley reported in electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago:

The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has won several important victories in recent months. At this summer’s trade union conferences in Britain, BDS activists have made significant progress.

While the campaign has been building momentum in unions globally since the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza has spurred several trade unions and union federations in Britain and Ireland to pass motions more explicitly in favor of BDS. Several are calling for BDS for the first time.

Tom Hickey, a member of the University and College Union’s (UCU) national executive committee, said, “The question of the moral rightness or wrongness [of BDS against Israel] has effectively already been decided.”

Although the Trade Union Congress (the British union federation) has not yet passed a BDS motion, affiliated unions have begun taking up the Palestinian call themselves. So far this summer, the public sector union PCS, the UCU and the Fire Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and government sanctions against the state.

Unions such as public sector union UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, USDAW and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have this summer passed softer motions calling for elements of BDS. These are usually calls for a boycott of settlement goods, or for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel. The CWU and others have condemned the infamous 13 January 2008 statement of the Israeli trade union federation in support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which read: “The Histadrut recognizes the urgent need for the State of Israel to operate against the command and control centers of the organizational terror network …”

In addition, a report has been circulating on the Internet that the rail workers’ union, the RMT, has reversed an earlier policy of “solidarity not boycott” and passed a motion in favor of some sort of BDS policy at their July Annual General Meeting. The official AGM report has yet to be released to the general public, but the RMT’s media office confirmed the report was probably accurate. However, they did not return calls for official confirmation in time for publication.

and folks in ann arbor are taking the bds campaign to their local city council making important arguments about americans funding apartheid in palestine (not to mention occupations and massacres in afghanistan, iraq, and pakistan) rather than using those funds to rebuild cities like detroit where a majority african americans live. palestine think tank posted a video of their city council hearing (and you can use this model to do the same at your municipal level):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

there is also good news about a british bank, blackrock, divesting from the africa-israel company (that has a horrific record of land theft as well as massacres in palestine as well as in africa, as the name indicates):

When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and was offered the opportunity of occupying a building owned by the investment company Africa-Israel Investments, the ambassador refrained. The reason was that the company was also responsible for settlements on the occupied West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments’ main owner is Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Now the UK bank BlackRock has followed in the footsteps of the ambassador.

The bank was for a while the second largest shareholder in the Israeli investment company. Africa-Israel Investments is, among other things, in on the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (above). The construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is in conflict with international law.

It was Norwatch who this past spring revealed BlackRock’s investments in the controversial company and how private investors in Norway could invest in the project by means of the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe.

This was possible through Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon.

But after all 3 banks have taken action, the British bank has now announced its divestment from the Israeli company. This must have happened sometime between June and August, possibly as late as this week.

“We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio,” Johnny Anderson, Information Manager of Skandiabanken, confirmed to Norwatch. The confirmation of the divestment was sent to Skandiabanken the day before yesterday, on 18 August.

“The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds,” Anderson said.

The e-mail from BlackRock to Skandiabanken was sent after the Swedish-Norwegian bank had approached BlackRock with regard to the controversial Israel involvement. That is the first time that Skandiabanken had contacted BlackRock about the case. Also the bank Danica Pensjon end of last week contacted BlackRock about the matter, confirmed Geir Wik, Sales and Marketing Director of Danica Pensjon to Norwatch yesterday.

and the big surprise was to open my local newspaper the other morning, the los angeles times, where i found a prominent op-ed from a zionist terrorist colonist advocating the boycott of the zionist entity. the article is generally good, though this professor, neve gordon, still believes in zionism and his right to be a colonist on palestinian land. but given that he came this far, perhaps an acknowledgment that he does not have a right to land that once belonged to palestinians who are now refugees will be forthcoming. here is the op-ed:

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

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

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

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

nevertheless his op-ed is getting quite a bit of airtime in the zionist entity’s media. thus, yet another sign of their fear of how much the boycott campaign is working. there was one article in today’s ha’aretz in which the education minister slammed gordon. and los angeles jews seem to be foaming at the mouth as this second article in ha’aretz today shows that they want to boycott a university in the zionist entity (a win-win situation! ) there was yet another article responding to gordon’s piece in a zionist rag called the jewish journal, which takes the threats even further: to boycott he arabs.

gordon’s ben gurion university is no different than any other university in the zionist entity that participates in the production of knowledge that enables the colonization of palestine. recently soas authored a report on the extent of tel aviv university’s collaboration in the savaging of gaza (if you follow the link you can download the entire study):

As part of Tel Aviv’s centenary celebration, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London hosted a Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series from January to March 2009.

Taking place in the midst of Israel’s war on Gaza — which had already mobilized SOAS students to organize a number of activities in solidarity with Gaza, including the first student occupation in the UK — students and a number of lecturers expressed their opposition to the lecture series.

The student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing the lecture series’ attempt to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. The School’s Director, Professor Paul Webley, opposed the cancellation and defended the continuation of the lecture series by invoking a prerogative of freedom of speech and citing the pedagogic value of diversities of opinion. Conspicuously absent in the Director’s defense was any engagement with the nature and scope of TAU’s research portfolio.

In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. While the signatories of the briefing paper recognized the importance of freedom of speech, they were also keenly aware of the need to uphold the rights of the oppressed and expressed that no right reigns absolute over the fundamental right to life. It is precisely therefore that it is wholly untenable that partnerships with institutions facilitating, advocating and justifying ongoing war crimes can be legitimized with recourse to an ideal of academic freedom.

compare soas to harvard university’s invitation to a bona fide war criminal of the zionist entity last month as maryam monalisa gharavi and anat matar wrote in electronic intifada last month:

On 9 July Harvard University’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) invited Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, former Israeli military legal adviser, to their online Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum. The stated aim was to bring “objective” discussion to the principle of distinction in international humanitarian law, or what the forum organizers called “combat in civilian population centers and the failure of fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population.”

Although billed as a lecturer in the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University — and therefore as a detached humanitarian law analyst — Colonel Sharvit-Baruch was in fact deeply involved in Israel’s three-week onslaught in Gaza in December and January, that counted its 1,505th victim found under rubble earlier this month. With the devastating operation condemned and mourned worldwide, many asked why a ranking member of an occupying army that flouts its legal obligations should herself receive safe havens at two major universities.

What troubled many of the 200 or so participants who “attended” the talk via a virtual chatroom was that Sharvit-Baruch was cut off from public or legal scrutiny as she relayed her PowerPoint presentation. Questions were posed by the moderators, sanitized of any critical content. Yet the indisputable fact is that the army for which Sharvit-Baruch worked has been accused by all major human rights organizations of committing war crimes in Gaza. Some wondered why Sharvit-Baruch was being given the opportunity to offer a carefully prepared presentation unchallenged in an academic setting, rather than giving testimony to a tribunal or inquiry such as that being conducted Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist heading an independent fact-finding mission into human rights violations during Israel’s attack at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since the event organizers did not ask pointed questions about Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s actual role in Gaza, it is worth doing so here. As head of the International Law department (ILD) at the Israeli Military Advocate General’s office, Sharvit-Baruch is known for green-lighting the bombing of a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed dozens of civil policemen. This was no ordinary airstrike. It was premised on a legal sleight-of-hand: that even traffic cops in Gaza could be considered “legitimate targets” under international law. In a conversation with conscripts at a military prep academy in Israel, school director Danny Zamir noted, “I was terribly surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the killing of the Gaza traffic police on the first day of the operation. They took out 180 traffic cops. As a pilot, I would have questioned that.”

Further, the Israeli army used heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza, against the UNRWA’s headquarters and a UN school in Beit Lahiya. As reported by Judge Goldstone, Gazans trying to relay their civilian status were also hit. Even though the Israeli military tried several times to deny its use, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on white phosphorous use in Gaza quotes an unnamed Israeli official: “at least one month before [white phosphorus] was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications.” HRW found that “in violation of the laws of war, the [Israeli army] generally failed to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm” and “used white phosphorus in an indiscriminate manner causing civilian death and injury.”

Such reckless disregard for the lives of civilians and pathological cover-ups of military operations are recognized by many Israelis within the system itself. According to one Israeli jurist speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the ILD is considered “more militant than any other legal agency in Israel, and willing to adopt the most flexible interpretations of the law in order to justify the [Israel army’s] actions.” Although the ILD personnel “are now very proud of their influence upon the combat” in Gaza, human rights groups have stated that “residents weren’t advised then as to which places were safe, and the roads by which they fled were bombed and turned into death traps.”

One of the most indelible perspectives about Israel’s legal gymnastics to justify its actions comes from Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner. “What is being done today is a revision of international law,” Reisner has said, “and if you do something long enough, the world will accept it. All of international law is built on that an act which is forbidden today can become permissible, if enough states do it.” In expressing how the ILD moves forward by turning back the pages of legal jurisdiction, Reisner says, “We invented the doctrine of the preemptive pinpoint strike, we had to promote it, and in the beginning there were protrusions which made it difficult to fit it easily into the mold of legality. Eight years later, it’s in the middle of the realm of legitimacy.”

Sharvit-Baruch herself explained her vision of international law at a presentation for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “International law is developed according to practices. It changes based on what is happening in the field. These laws must be based on precedents, what already exists. There is flexibility in every law.” By this law of flexibility, the more aberrations of international law a state can legitimize, the more hoary actions it can continue to execute and justify.

Since the attack on Gaza, numerous testimonies of Israeli soldiers published in Israel, have corroborated the accounts of Palestinian witnesses and human rights organizations that serious war crimes were endemic.

Despite the blunt admissions of Israeli soldiers widely published in the Israeli press, it was clear from her calm presentation that Sharvit-Baruch and her cohort live in their own rhetorical universe where even language is assaulted. In the Colonel’s own terminology, non-existent vocabulary in international law such as “capacity builders” and “revolving doors” is coined to pass over accepted terms such as “civilians” and “non-combatants.” Like the US government’s “torture memo” authors — who in contrast to Israel’s were not uniformed ranking members of the army — the Israeli military attempted to reclassify a “civilian” in a manner making it easier to strip them of protections provided by international humanitarian law. “Architecture of words,” said one participant

Despite all this, by her own standards, Sharvit-Baruch and her team could not be faulted for their efficiency: in Gaza, banning all media from entering; assaulting the population with air missiles, sniper ground troops, and white phosphorus; condemning all criticism of military actions as contrary to state security; keeping a chin above the law; attaining a teaching position at Tel Aviv University and finally a prestigious opportunity to address Harvard students and faculty.

but in england they are far more advanced than the united states when it comes to responding to war crimes against palestinians. consider the new (albeit partial) arms embargo against the zionist entity as a penalty for its war crimes in gaza as ian black reported in the guardian:

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

but there is also more bds activism emanating from the zionist entity itself, particularly in the queer community as the monthly review zine reported today:

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

We are disturbed by the cynical manipulation of these deaths to bolster support for the Israeli state and its violent policies. When Israeli politicians say that this is an unprecedented level of violence, and promise to create safety for LGBTQ people in Israel, they are using the promise of safety to hide the violence and domination that is foundational to the Israeli state. When Zionist groups emphasize the growing gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, they are using the illusion of safety to draw support and funding to Israel from liberal queer and Jewish people around the world. We reject these lies, as well as the manipulation of our communities for profit and to increase military and political support for Israel.

Just as we reject the lie that Zionism is premised on the safety of Jews, we reject the lie that Israel prioritizes and values the safety of LGBTQ citizens of Israel. The safety Israel claims to extend to LGBTQ people is false; we do not accept an illusion of safety for some at the expense of self determination for others. No matter who Zionism claims to save or value, nothing can justify the targeting, suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people.

We call on LGBTQ communities to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli violence. Putting words into action, we call on LGBTQ communities across the world to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with full international law, including an immediate end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, a dismantling of the wall, an end to war crimes against the people of Gaza, and for the Palestinian Right of Return.

Specifically, we call on these communities to boycott international LGBTQ events held inside of Israel; to abstain from touring Israel as is marketed to LGBTQ people — with the exception of solidarity visits to Palestine; and to counter and boycott the promotion of Israeli LGBTQ tourism, and Israeli cultural and academic events in the countries in which we reside — unless they are in clear and undivided solidarity with Palestine. By these actions, we show a commitment to justice and humanity consistent with our outrage against this hateful and deadly attack that occurred in Tel Aviv.

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

Ayala Shani
Edo Medicks
Emily Schaeffer
Hamutal Erato
Leiser Peles
Liad Kantorowicz
Moran Livnat
Nitzan Aviv
Noa Abend
Rotem Biran
Roy Wagner
Segev (Lilach) Ben- David
Sonya Soloviov
Tal Shapira
Yossef/a Mekyton
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Ben-David

these actions are all essential in promoting the reality that bds is the only thing that is breaking the zionist entity and that will continue to help it fall to its knees. faris giacaman’s brilliant piece in electronic intifada illustrates precisely why bds is the best mode of solidarity among activists who are against apartheid in palestine:

Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict,” no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel — the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught “to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills — all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation.” They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against “coexistence,” they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that “dialogue” and “fostering coexistence” is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these “dialogue” groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between “both sides of the conflict,” in order to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.” However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the “other” point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to “coexistence” or “reconciliation.”

Such an approach is deemed “balanced” or “moderate,” as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and “talking” will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha — “holding firmly to the truth,” his term for his nonviolent resistance movement — and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government’s colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of “dialogue” for the purpose of “understanding the other side of the story.” Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having “both sides heard.”

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool — not to promote so-called “understanding,” — but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or “having them recognize our humanity.”

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure — not persuasion — will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.” A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce “a single peace activist on either side.” This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be “children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population.” The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped “promote peace culture and dialogue between participants.”

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, “there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 … it became an industry — we call it the peace industry.”

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli “leftists” and “liberals” to feel as if they are doing something admirable to “question themselves,” while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of “coexistence,” and the “liberal” Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of “fostering peace.” A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and “coexistence” groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel’s inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the “conflict” is very complex and multifaceted, where there are “two sides to every story,” and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities — whether they be film screenings or summer camps — can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between “both sides” of the so-called “conflict.” Any call for a “balanced” discourse on this issue — where the motto “there are two sides to every story” is revered almost religiously — is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as “balance.” The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

for those who feel inspired to carry on the bds campaign there is a new campaign to initiate. you can start with locating where wine from the zionist entity is sold, which is, of course, made from stolen grapes in from occupied palestine and syria:

Israel exports roughly $22 million dollars worth of wine a year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned Pelter winery in the Golan Heights benefits from the cool climate and water-rich soil of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 – a move rejected by the United Nations.

Sam Pelter, whose son Tal founded the winery after extensive wine-making studies in Australia, says he combines Australian techniques and technology with Golan grapes. His wines sell at $18-$50 a bottle and are sold in the United States and Europe.

Some 18-20 percent of Israeli wine comes from the Golan, according to wine critic Rogov, though wines made on disputed land can sometimes invite controversy.

Last December, Syria protested to UN leaders that Israel had distributed Golan wine as year-end holiday gifts to UN staff. In 2006, Israel complained that Sweden was labelling Golan wines as coming from Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli settlers also make wine on Arab land in the West Bank, sometimes drawing boycotts by peace activists.

Political sensitivities have not stopped Pelter’s wines making a splash abroad.

action alert: protest amnesty international & leonard cohen

this is from an open letter from pacbi (palestinian academic & cultural boycott of israel) in response to amnesty international’s support of leonard cohen’s ignoring the boycott. below is an action alert where you can protest this as well as more analysis of this issue:

The following open letter was sent to Amnesty International USA by the The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) on 30 July 2009.

In May, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen to heed the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and avoid complicity with Israel’s violations of international law by cancelling his planned September concert in Israel, particularly in view of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza earlier this year. Sadly, according to a 28 July article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA has agreed to cooperate with Cohen in dealing with Israel on the basis of business as usual. Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.” Being one of the world’s strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. We call on you to be true to your values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post report indicates that Cohen and his public relations staff, having been criticized for trying to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to the article, “All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s 24 September concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation,” and the fund will be “sponsored by Amnesty.” Curt Goering, the senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Jerusalem Post that, “We saw this as an exciting opportunity with potential to recognize, support and pay tribute to the Israelis and Palestinians who have been working for peace and human rights amid a difficult environment and insurmountable odds. I see our participation as complementary to what we do, even though this initiative is different from Amnesty’s ongoing work.”

Why we are calling on Amnesty to withdraw from the project

By supporting Cohen’s concert in Israel, Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. We find this position by Amnesty particularly frustrating and puzzling given your call for an arms embargo against Israel following its atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, which your organization described as constituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa. Profits earned through violations of human rights and international law are tainted and should not be accepted by any morally consistent human rights organization, particularly when this money is intended to be used to whitewash the very violations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. The Peres Center for Peace, with its multi-million dollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously by the Jerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the new fund’s board of trustees. The Peres Center has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are “neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable” and that enhance “Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” A columnist in Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz called the Peres Center patronizing and colonial, explaining that “Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews.”

Your other indirect partner in this project, according to the Jerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, reports that the Israel Discount Bank has branches in the settlements of Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim, has financed construction in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a major shareholder in a factory in a settlement. Amnesty hardly needs any reminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory are not only illegal under international law but are considered war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Your intention to indirectly partner with a bank that profits from the occupation and to oversee a fund that uses some of that legally and morally stained money contradicts Amnesty’s founding principles and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternative Palestinian fig leaf has also failed. The only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Background on the boycott

With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural and civil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on “the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” These Palestinian calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. Protests against Cohen’s plans to play in Israel were then held at Cohen’s concerts in New York, Boston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities. Feeling the rising heat of the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert. The Palestinian group that was supposed to host the Ramallah event cancelled its invitation to Cohen after realizing the adverse effects this would have on the boycott movement, which is widely supported by Palestinians. Reflecting the general mood in Palestinian society against any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation, a 12 July PACBI statement explained, “Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel’s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance’ concerts or other artistic events in Israel — conscious acts of complicity in Israel’s violation of international law and human rights — with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distance Amnesty International from this discredited project and its tainted money.

Signed:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, American Jews for a Just Peace (US), Boycott from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.

now TAKE ACTION:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and groups around the world have been calling for months for musician Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

Feeling the heat of the protests, Cohen and his PR staff tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert and any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation.

Now Cohen and his PR staff are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to a July 28th article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund. The fund will launder the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.”

In response, sixteen groups and coalitions issued a July 30th Open Letter to Amnesty International calling on Amnesty to be true to its values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel. The groups noted that by supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International is undermining a successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. Amnesty International also is partnering in the initiative with Israeli institutions that undermine peace, including a bank directly involved in supporting Israeli settlement construction. The only alleged Palestinian partner has announced it is not taking part.

TAKE ACTION

Please email Amnesty International, calling on Amnesty to withdraw from support for Cohen’s concert. Amnesty International is recognized by many as defending human rights worldwide, so please be respectful and courteous in your message.

You can write and email your own letter, or use the sample letter below and email it, or send an editable form letter from here. For reference, here is the full Open Letter to Amnesty International.

If you send your own email, please email your letter to:

lcox[at]aiusa.org, cgoering[at]aiusa.org, ZJanmohamed[at]aiusa.org, ikhan[at]amnesty.org, msmart[at]amnesty.org, ccordone[at]amnesty.org, drovera[at]amnesty.org

-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA
-Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General
-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director
-Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International (UK) Middle East Director, Research and Regional Programs
-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories)

If you email your own letter, please cc it to: noamnesty4israeliapartheidat]gmail.com so that we can keep track of the responses.

SAMPLE LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Dear Amnesty International,

I hold Amnesty International’s worldwide work for human rights and international law in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that Amnesty International has agreed to manage a fund that will disburse the proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s planned concert in Israel in September. I call on Amnesty International to be true to your values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

By supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting tainted funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.

Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

In his protest resignation from Amnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer, Raymond Deane, wrote: “By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.”

Furthermore, the Israeli partners in the concert, the Peres Center for Peace and Israel Discount Bank, actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. A columnist in Israel’s Ha’aretz Daily called the Peres Center for Peace patronizing and colonial organization that is in the business of training “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel.” According to research by Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel Discount Bank is deeply involved in supporting Israel’s settlement enterprise. Israeli settlements violate the very tenets of international law that Amnesty International works to uphold.

Finally, the only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the July 28th Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Thank you for your attention to this vital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International’s withdrawal of its support for the Leonard Cohen concert in Israel.

Sincerely,
Your name

here is some more background information on leonard cohen from pulse media:

Artist, writer and activist, and friend of PULSE, Tali Shapiro on Leonard Cohen and Amnesty International.

I always talk about Israeli pacifists and their inability to see the barriers they place on the Palestinian road to justice, dignity, and human rights. Today I’d like to talk about a much more appalling occurrence; Amnesty International supporting Leonard Cohen’s breach of the boycott of Israel.

The Leonard Cohen Myth

Personally, it’s hard for me to understand the disillusionment of pro-Palestinian Leonard Cohen fans. In the history of his involvement with Israel, Cohen has always sided with Israel, or made statements of officially taking no sides, when his side was rather obvious:

I don’t want to speak of wars or sides … Personal process is one thing, it’s blood, it’s the identification one feels with their roots and their origins. The militarism I practice as a person and a writer is another thing. … I don’t wish to speak about war.

In case I’m misconstruing my information, I’ll repeat the quote I’ve embedded on my front page and have, personally, had no choice but to live by:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmund Tutu)

In Cohen’s most recent history, he is consistent. He refuses to take a side, thus siding with the oppressor. Cohen has received a letter from many organizations (originated with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel), asking him not to preform in Israel. As response, typically trying to balance out a situation in which balance is not there to be found, Cohen decided to preform for the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society. The Society declined to entertain Cohen’s notions of equality:

We are now pleased to announce that we have received confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society that they will not be hosting Leonard Cohen in Ramallah. A strong consensus has emerged among all parties concerned that Cohen is not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insists on performing in Tel Aviv, even though it had been claimed that Cohen would dedicate his concert in Palestine to the cause of Palestinian prisoners. Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel.

The Problem with the International Centrist

As if all this wasn’t enough, Cohen was dead-set on clearing his conscious:

All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation…

The above quote is taken from non-other than the very-Zionist Jerusalem Post. Here’s another quote from the same article:

Attempting to maneuver through the barbed wire of both Israeli and US tax laws to enable the organizations to benefit from the concert, Kory realized that an intermediary neutral vehicle would be required to facilitate the financial funneling. He approached Amnesty International for advice, and the concept of a special fund was raised.

In other words, trooper Cohen maneuvered through the barbed wire with the assistance of the Amnesty International brigade. How poetic. How utterly embarrassing for Amnesty International to be portrayed favorably by the Jerusalem Post.

I understand big groups like Amnesty International have to be diplomatic and must exercise impartiality, and quite frankly I respect the ability to do so. However, being diplomatic doesn’t mean endorsing pseudo-diplomatic initiatives, especially when they are completely avoidable, as in the case of Leonard Cohen.

To refrain from repeating myself, here’s my own attempt at diplomacy, that I sent to Amnesty International (at the event of a response, I will update):

Hello Amnesty International,

I’m a big supporter of Amnesty International and a regular donation contributor. As an Israeli citizen- who opposes the occupation and violence wreaked by my government, army and countrymen on the Palestinian people, and supports the international movement to boycott Israel- I am appalled that Amnesty USA might break the boycott efforts. The international community has set the terms for the Palestinian struggle and rightfully made it clear that no violence will be tolerated. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has done a wonderful job in stating the terms of the BDS campaign- I don’t have to tell you what a huge commitment to a long-term strategy of non-violence that is. Terms which seem very fair and have been accepted around the world as the guidelines for this world-wide initiative.

When Leonard Cohen decided to come to Israel, PACBI made themselves clear, once again, that it is unacceptable, under the guidelines of a cultural boycott. As I’m sure you know, Cohen tried to appease PACBI by scheduling a show in Ramallah, which PACBI rejected. There is no need to be balanced in a situation that balance doesn’t occur. Had Cohen canceled in Israel he would have been making a meaningful statement and propelled the boycott movement by sheer power of his fame. Performing in both Israel and the Occupied Territories is a wishy-washy peace-faking statement, the kind that Israeli “peace” groups have been making, in order to stroke their own sensibilities, meanwhile marginalizing the other organizations (Palestinian, Israeli and International), who believe in the importance of keeping one’s stand, when it comes to the BDS initiative. “Peace” is a word that has lost all meaning in Israel, we demand human rights instead.

To find that Amnesty International might support this damaging endeavor is shocking, for me, but I take it you decided upon it with the best of intentions. Since I don’t expect you to understand the inner workings of the Israeli Center-Left and its psychological motives, I urge you to consider simple facts: Leonard Cohen preforming in Israel breaches the cultural boycott and normalizes the occupation. This is not something that should be supported by Amnesty International. It is morally wrong and diplomatically wrong. The boycott movement must stick to a standard of “no business as usual”, in order to be effective. I urge you to reconsider.

Awaiting your reply,
Tali Shapiro

What’s Wrong with Balance?

If some of you are wondering how donating the proceeds of the concert to both Israeli and Palestinian organizations is a “damaging endeavor”, here’s PACBI’s words:

PACBI has always rejected any attempt to “balance” concerts or other artistic events in Israel–conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violation of international law and human rights–with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory. Such attempts at “parity” not only immorally equate the oppressor with the oppressed, taking a neutral position on the oppression (thereby siding with the oppressor, as Desmond Tutu famously said); they also are an insult to the Palestinian people, as they assume that we are naive enough to accept such token shows of “solidarity” that are solely intended to cover up grave acts of collusion in whitewashing Israel‘s crimes. Those sincerely interested in defending Palestinian rights and taking a moral and courageous stance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid should not play Israel, period. That is the minimum form of solidarity Palestinian civil society has called for.

And some wonderful words from Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane:

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”?… By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

In my words: I’ve long covered the problematic programs and people that dare call themselves “peacemakers”. I’m thought of as the extreme of the extreme, in Israel, but if asking for unconditional human rights is extreme, then I am a proud extremists. Many on the self-proclaimed Left are easy to spot, their key phrase is:

They deserve human rights/freedom/their own country, but…

This “but” is a fearful one, rooted in a deeply ingrained and denied racism. The people who say this are well aware of Israel’s crimes- past and present, and yet still afraid of what may happen, once we let the “two legged beasts” out of their cage, whether they call Palestinians that, or not. In my journey of discovering the truth behind Israel, I’ve realized some things are not negotiable. That is human rights and as a result, this boycott.

Learning from the Cohen/Amnesty Debacle

As the Zionist propaganda machine goes into overdrive, we may find new claims, resulting in the Cohen/Amnesty debacle. For now, Israelis are generally unaware of the international boycott against their state, already underway. Last time I observed any mention of this in the mainstream media was during Cast Lead, when Channel 10 aired the typically condescending and ignorant Before you boycott Israel! video. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this article in their archives.) Nothing more responsible than your main stream media instilling blind confidence in you, when an international boycott of your country is rapidly developing.

I can’t predict the creativity of the Zionist mind, but I’m expecting that when the boycott is finally made clear to Israelis, the first rebuttals will be that nothing is enough for those “demanding” Palestinians, and even when the “reasonable” and “unbiassed” offer to give a little to both sides is made, they still “demand the whole arm”. These kinds of underhanded remarks are exactly why I decided to document the Cohen/Amnesty incident.

There should be no questions as to what the boycott’s goals or guidelines are. Some areas are unclear to many, and these cases should be studied. But to those who are unclear, I direct you again to PACBI, who are the Palestinian voice on the issue of the boycott, and have articulated their terms thoroughly. When in doubt, contrast and compare your specific case to their statements. Implementing a boycott on Israel isn’t as hard as Zionist propaganda would like you to think. The best way to deal with the occupation army is to arm yourself with knowledge.

and one more letter/analysis from pulse media:

Renowned Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane on the reasons why he has chosen to resign from Amnesty International. We encourage readers to follow Deane’s example.

When I first – and belatedly – began fretting about human rights and political injustice in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, I joined Amnesty International and started writing letters and cards to political prisoners and to a variety of Embassies.

Although I was subsequently drawn deeply into activism of a more explicitly political nature – particularly on the Israel/Palestine issue – I retained my Amnesty membership out of residual respect for the organisation, but also because I wished to be in a position to say “as an Amnesty member myself, I completely disagree with the organisation’s stance on…” (fill in the dots as appropriate).

On 30th July I read the “Open Letter to Amnesty International” from 10 admirable organisations involved in seeking justice for the Palestinian people, ranging from PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) through the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. This letter was prompted by Amnesty’s decision to sponsor “a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at [Leonard] Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for ‘peace.’”

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”? Well, one answer is that these include the Peres Center for Peace, described by the Israeli paper Ha’aretz as a “patronizing and colonial” organization that trains “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and… to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews”, and the Israel Discount Bank, which has branches in three illegal Jewish settlements and hence functions in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Another answer is even simpler: Leonard Cohen should heed the call from the oppressed Palestinian people not to perform in Israel until that state dismantles its apartheid structures and complies with international law and international humanitarian law, ends the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories, and concedes the inalienable Palestinian right of return. By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

I was one of the organizers of the protests held outside Leonard Cohen’s four recent Dublin concerts (19th, 20th, 22nd, 23d July) in which we called upon the singer not to perform in Tel Aviv, using the text of his 1960s classic “Please don’t pass me by” to deliver a demand for solidarity and engagement with the Palestinian people and against their oppressor, the Zionist Israeli state.

I used to be a Cohen fan. Should Cohen continue with his plan to perform in Israel on 24th September next, I shall consign my Cohen albums to the charity shop, although I’ll do so with considerable grief and disillusionment. It is with similar feelings that today I have sent the following message to the Irish branch of Amnesty International:

To whom it conferns: I am terminating my membership of Amnesty. The last straw has been Amnesty’s decision to support a cynical scheme dreamt up by Leonard Cohen’s PR department to whitewash the fact that he is ignoring the call from Palestinian civil society to respect the cultural boycott of Israel. While I respect Amnesty’s policy of not supporting particular political positions and not itself participating in boycott campaigns, on this occasion it is actively supporting actions that undermine a boycott campaign supported by the Palestinians themselves, and doing so by lending support to Israeli organisations the raison d’etre of which is to seek “conciliation” without an end to oppression.

Sincerely – Raymond Deane.

now it is your turn!

the hypocrisy of a “benevolent” empire (on bushama’s cairo speech)

ashraf omar's "welcome obama"
ashraf omar\’s \”welcome obama\”

i do not have a satellite dish in my new apartment and my internet connection is a bit slow here so i watched barack obama’s speech to the so-called muslim world on al jazeera’s website. as he began his speech today the zionist entity was busy flying american-made f-16s in the sky above palestine in its “turning point 3” test run for its doomsday scenario (read: its next offensive attack on its neighbors). and zionist terrorist colonists attacked palestinian farms for the fourth day in a row as obama got ready to deliver his speech. and back in the united states, american zionists were busy figuring out a new way to scrap any possibility of palestinian sovereignty by finding ways to give palestinian land to jordan and egypt:

As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to deliver a major foreign policy speech in Cairo and his administration pushes aggressively for a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine, neoconservatives and other foreign policy hawks back home are calling on him to scrap the two-state solution altogether and consider alternatives to Palestinian statehood.

The most prominent alternative they are pushing is the so-called “three-state solution” or “Jordanian option”, in which the West Bank would be returned to Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip to Egyptian control.

Although calls for a “three-state solution” have cropped up periodically over the years and have been dismissed by most Middle East experts as unrealistic, in recent weeks the three-state approach has received an unusual amount of attention and support on the right.

perhaps in keeping with that idea that more and more of palestine will belong to usurping entities, this morning also saw 180 palestinian bedouin losing their homes due to israeli terrorist forces demolishing those houses as a part of their sixty-one year ethnic cleansing project:

The Israeli military began demolishing a Bedouin encampment home to 180 people in the northern Jordan Valley, in the West Bank on Thursday morning.

According to UN officials monitoring events on the ground, 20 Israeli military jeeps, a bulldozer and a container arrived at the Bedouin community of Ras Al-Ahmar at 7:30 on Thursday morning and began destroying homes. The residents of the community evacuated the area on Tuesday, setting up makeshift camps nearby, after demolition orders were issued on Monday.

The military issued demolition orders for Bedouin homes belonging to 34 families, a total of 304 people in Ras Al-Ahmar and nearby Al-Hadidiya. The military gave the residents 48 hours to evacuate on the basis that the area is a “closed military zone”

Al-Hadidya is located near the Israeli settlement of Roi, whereas Ras Al-Ahmar is located north of Hamra military checkpoint east of Tammun.

All of the community of Al-Hadidya received demolition orders except for one family, putting the community’s very existence at risk. In Ras Al-Ahmar, 17 out of 45 families received the orders, some of which are labeled eviction notices and other demolition orders.

in the lead up to obama’s address egyptian blogger hossam el-hamalawy wrote an op ed for the new york times, which he reposted on his blog stating:

THE bridge I take to work in central Cairo was painted overnight. On the roads, colored concrete blocks were installed in turns where car accidents happen daily. Main streets in the neighboring city of Giza are suddenly blossoming with flowers. Street lamps are polished, and they are actually working. This could mean only one thing: our country is receiving an “important” foreign visitor.

President Obama should not have decided to come to Egypt. The visit is a clear endorsement of President Hosni Mubarak, the ailing 81-year-old dictator who has ruled with martial law, secret police and torture chambers. No words that Mr. Obama will say can change this perception that Americans are supporting a dictator with their more than $1 billion in annual aid.

The Western press is clearly excited about Mr. Obama’s “significant” choice of Egypt, and his destination, Cairo University, which the news media seem to consider a symbol of enlightenment, secularism and freedom.

The truth is that for years, Cairo University students have been demonstrating against the rising cost of education, demanding the university subsidize expensive text books, only to be rebuked by the authorities, who claim no funds are available. Yet the university somehow managed to find the money to polish up the building dome that will shine above Mr. Obama’s head when he delivers his address.

As for the other host of the president’s visit, Al Azhar University, one of its students, Kareem Amer, is languishing in prison after university officials reported his “infidel, un-Islamic” views to the government, earning him a four-year sentence in 2007. In advance of the visit, Egyptian security forces have rounded up hundreds of foreign students at Al Azhar.

We do want allies in the West, but not from inside the White House. Our real allies are the human rights groups and unions that will pressure the Obama administration to sever all ties to the Mubarak dictatorship. Their visits to Egypt are more meaningful, even if unlike Mr. Obama, they do not get a lavish reception.

a number of open letters to obama were published today, too, from various groups starting with the cairo institute for human rights studies which outlined how they would like to see him put his money where his mouth is:

For example, the appropriate measures could be taken to end the discriminatory, degrading practices endured by Arabs and Muslims at American airports, for the message that these practices send stands at odds with your declaration in Turkey. Indeed, the message communicated is “We consider you all enemies until proven otherwise.”

Secondly, the new US administration must realize that the failure of the previous administration to address the Palestinian issue fairly and justly has been the primary source of an increasing sense of humiliation among the Palestinian people and other peoples in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Certainly the new administration’s adoption of the right of the Palestinian people to an independent state side by side with Israel is a step in the right direction, but your administration must translate this general principle into real-life policies, first and foremost by abandoning America’s absolute political and diplomatic support for Israel and the war crimes and aggression committed by the this state, the sole remaining example in the world today of a racist, colonial occupation. Your administration must adopt decisive and immediate policies to stop the expansion of settlements, which swallow more land every day and thereby make the two-state solution you advocate impossible.

Thirdly, giving respect and support for human rights and democratic freedoms in this area of the world is the principal avenue by which to foster a sense of dignity for peoples in the Arab and Muslim worlds who are no different from other people in the world. While we affirm that the destiny of these peoples ultimately depends on their own struggles and sacrifices to achieve these rights and liberties, an American foreign policy that embodied and represented human rights and democratic values and ended US support for allied authoritarian regimes in the Arab and Muslim worlds would give a substantial boost to these struggles, given that the majority of ruling regimes in this region are much more sensitive to the international community’s views than they are to public opinion in their own countries.

likewise hamas sent obama a letter via code pink who delivered it to the american embassy in cairo:

The letter was written by Dr. Ahmad Yousef, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the dissolved government in Gaza.

Hamas called on Obama to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, and to stop the ongoing construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The letter called on Obama to communicate with Hamas to prove the seriousness of his administration, and called on him to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the first step towards positive relations between the United States and the Arab and Muslim worlds.

In the letter, Hamas welcomed Obama’s visit to the region and considered it a positive towards bridging the gap between the US and the Arab world.

It added that it is unfortunate the Obama would not be visiting the Gaza Strip to listen to the opinions of Hamas, and observe the conditions in the coastal region.

“We recently received several delegates, congress members, EU parliamentarians, several solidarity groups and Mr. Richard Goldstone, head of the investigation committee of the United Nations, in addition to the Code Pink group”, Hamas says in its letter.

“It is essential to visit Gaza in order to observe the destruction Israel caused during its 22-day offensive, several groups came to Gaza such as AMNESTY international”, the letter reads, “the killing and destruction could not have happened without US support to Israel, weapons and financial support paid for by US taxpayers”.

“You are the owners of the weapons, and the financial support to Israel, you should observe how Israel violated the International Law, and used those weapons against our people”, the letter adds.

“Mr. President, before you took office, you were a very distinguished Law teacher, and your administration said it would boost the role of law in the Arab and Islamic worlds” the letter states, “The International Court ruled in 2004 that all of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are occupied territories, and that those territories belong to the Palestinians”.

“The court recognized the Palestinian right of self determination, and independence. Israeli settlements are illegal and not a single judge of the 15 judges of the International Court of Justice, ever objected to this ruling”.

The Hamas letter also states that the United Nations, the General Assembly, and every human rights group agree that the Israeli siege is illegal, and violates the international law because it is a form of collective punishment.

“We at the government formed by Hamas, are committed to a just solution to the conflict, a solution that is coherent with the internal law and the basic principles of human rights, we are willing to hold talks with all parties, with respect, and without any preconditions”.

“What the people are looking for is real change, a change the ends the construction of settlements, a change that adopts a parallel and non biased policy that respects the international law”.

the free gaza movement also published an open letter to obama echoing some of the above concerns:

Tomorrow you travel to Egypt to give one of the most important speeches of your presidency. With the words you deliver you have said that you want to “reset” U.S. relations with the Muslim world and create a fundamental change for the better. We sincerely wish you well. But you have also said that “part of being a good friend is being honest.” Let’s be honest.

Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and the United States’ unquestioned financial, military and political support for Israel is at the heart of the negative perceptions and bitter anger that many Arabs and Muslims have of the United States. Tomorrow, we hope to hear from you a commitment to aligning U.S. policy in the Middle East with U.N. Resolutions and international law.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone the right to freely enter and exit one’s own country. You will exercise this right when you arrive in Egypt tomorrow and then return to the United States. This is a right that Palestinians–particularly those trapped in Gaza–are routinely denied.

* Over 200 Palestinian medical patients in Gaza, many critically ill, are unable to seek adequate treatment because Israeli authorities regularly deny Palestinian patients the right to travel abroad to receive the medical treatment that is not available in Gaza; at the same time import of many medicines and medical equipment into Gaza is prevented by Israel.

* Over 700 Palestinian students in Gaza, many with scholarships, are unable to attend their universities abroad because Israel regularly denies them this right.

* Thousands of Palestinians abroad are unable to visit their families because Israel will not allow them to re-enter their own country.

When you arrive in Egypt you will travel to your accommodations in a car maintained with spare parts banned to Palestinians, powered by gasoline denied to the people of Gaza. You will use electric lights that do not often work in Gaza, because Israel blocks the fuel needed to run Gaza’s electrical grid. You may enjoy a cup of coffee or tea during your visit – commodities Israel will not allow into Gaza.

The truth is that Israel lets in less than 20% of the ordinary supplies needed in Gaza, and allows no reconstruction materials whatsoever to enter. As a consequence over 95% of all industries have collapsed, creating massive unemployment and poverty. The purpose of the Israeli blockade is to punish and break an entire people. Collective punishment is strictly prohibited under international law, yet it remains Israel’s primary policy in regards to the Palestinian people.

On June 25th, the Free Gaza Movement sets sail on our eighth voyage to challenge the brutal Israeli blockade of Gaza. Though we have been threatened and our ships rammed by the Israeli navy, we will not be deterred. We sail in the spirit of the Freedom Riders who, in the year you were born, risked their lives so that African-Americans could travel freely in the United States. We sail in the spirit of international cooperation that helped create the United Nations, in the spirit of the international civil resistance that overcame Apartheid.

President Obama, you have based your political career on what you call the “audacity of hope” – the faith that each of us, individually and collectively, can change things for the better. But faith without action is dead. We too believe in hope, but from our experience we know that hope alone will not change the world. Like you, we know that the price and promise of our mutual humanity demands that each of us treat one another with dignity and respect, and that all of us strive to insure that our sisters and brothers around the world are free to make of their lives what they will, and pursue their full measure of happiness.

Mister President, you led the fight in the U.S. Senate to insure that aid was actually delivered to people after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. A man-made disaster continues to devastate the people of Gaza; due to Israel’s ongoing hermetic closure of the Gaza Strip over 80% of the population there require food assistance just in order to survive. We hope your speech tomorrow in Egypt is successful but, at a minimum, you must use your privilege to demand and secure open access to Gaza for all international humanitarian, reconstruction, and developmental supplies. Words matter, but words are not enough.

We in the Free Gaza Movement will sail to Gaza again and again and again, in vigorous unarmed resistance, until the Israeli blockade is forever shattered and the Palestinian people have free access to the rest of the world.

Please recognize that the fact that we even have to ask (let alone risk our lives) to be allowed to provide food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, and shelter to the homeless is in itself an obscenity. We look forward to hearing from you an uncompromising commitment for the immediate end of the criminal siege of Gaza, as well as an assurance that respect for the human rights, dignity and equality of the Palestinian people will be at the core of your administration’s policy toward the Israeli-Arab conflict.

if you read through the above open letters you will no doubt get a sense of the issues at stake here in palestine as well as in egypt and also for muslim americans. and if you compare these desires and requests above to the text of his speech (see below) you will see the hot air spewed from obama’s lips. it is hot air because whatever small things he may have said that some people in this region may read as hopeful, he will do nothing. nothing will change for the majority of the muslims who live under america’s bombs and who live under american and/or zionist colonialism and occupation. below are excerpts from his speech with my commentary mixed in.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

who does he think he is speaking to? is he really addressing muslims? does he really think they do not know this history?

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

what obama fails to mention here is that the first mulism in the united states were brought over from africa to serve as white colonists’ slaves.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

it is interesting how he seems to forget how he played into this islamophobia by allowing rashid khalidi to be tarred and feathered during the election campaign. how soon they forget.

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

notice as he lists “violent extremist” elements below he fails to mention zionist extremism and american extremism, which primarily targets muslim countries and people.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

translation: the u.s. is somehow making amends because in addition to the massacres of pakistanis and afghans–not to mention the unprecedented number of refugees the u.s. has created, it will put band-aids on the wounds of these people with “aid.”

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

if you have been following the news or even my blog you know from journalists like jeremy scahill that this is 100% bull*&$# as americans are going to maintain dozens of permanent military bases and the private contractors are going to be increased. is this what obama means by unique?

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

this is the most deeply offensive part of his speech. he wants to address muslims and he lectures muslims about jewish suffering when most muslims are suffering because of the zionist entity and jewish supremacist ideology forced upon arabs in the region? is he serious here? if he must delve into history why not focus on an nakba? or if he wants to focus on the present how about gaza? is he really incapable of understanding the issues? the jewish problem is a european problem. his logic fails to demonstrate that arabs and muslims should not have to pay the price for europe’s sins.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

is it really that difficult to say the words: an nakba? to say the words ethnic cleansing? to say the words un resolution 194 and the right of return?

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

no that is not in the palestinian people’s interest. it may be in the interest of the zionist-american collaborationist palestinian authority, but it is not in the interest of the 7.2 million palestinian refugees who have the only roadmap they need: un resolution 194.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

let me get this straight: obama wants us to think there are two equal sides here (of course, there are not) and yet only palestinians are being asked to not use violence to fight for their liberation. from south africa to india armed resistance is precisely what helped people to liberate their land. to pretend that this history does not exist is to read it through a very narrow lens.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

i don’t think obama does understand: when the bullies of the world, principally, the u.s. and the zionist entity, get rid of their nuclear arsenal then perhaps we can talk.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

so ironic given that obama decided to deliver this speech in a country that suppresses democracy like no other. and that obama refuses to recognize the democratically elected government in palestine.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

you gotta love this massive hypocrisy in the face of the united states sentencing 5 men (the holy land five) to 65 years in prison for collecting money for palestinians in the holy land foundation.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

just wondering: for palestinians in gaza who want to study, how exactly are they supposed to leave gaza given that egypt and the zionist entity maintain it as a prison?

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

you cannot drop bombs on muslims every day and then pretend like you’re going to help with economic development. it just doesn’t work. your words reveal your deep hypocrisy.

I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.

for a quick, witty summary of obama’s speech here is what as’ad abukhalil had to say about it:

So let me summarize Obama’s message to Arabs: if Arabs adopt and internalize Gun Zionism, the US will be very pleased.

ali abunimah has a terrific analysis of the speech in the guardian this afternoon appropriately entitled “a bush in sheep’s clothing”:

It was disappointing that Obama recycled his predecessor’s notion that “violent extremism” exists in a vacuum, unrelated to America’s (and its proxies’) exponentially greater use of violence before and after September 11, 2001. He dwelled on the “enormous trauma” done to the US when almost 3,000 people were killed that day, but spoke not one word about the hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows left in Iraq – those whom Muntazer al-Zaidi’s flying shoe forced Americans to remember only for a few seconds last year. He ignored the dozens of civilians who die each week in the “necessary” war in Afghanistan, or the millions of refugees fleeing the US-invoked escalation in Pakistan.

As President George Bush often did, Obama affirmed that it is only a violent minority that besmirches the name of a vast and “peaceful” Muslim majority. But he seemed once again to implicate all Muslims as suspect when he warned, “The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.”

Nowhere were these blindspots more apparent than his statements about Palestine/Israel. He gave his audience a detailed lesson on the Holocaust and explicitly used it as a justification for the creation of Israel. “It is also undeniable,” the president said, “that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.”

Suffered in pursuit of a homeland? The pain of dislocation? They already had a homeland. They suffered from being ethnically cleansed and dispossessed of it and prevented from returning on the grounds that they are from the wrong ethno-national group. Why is that still so hard to say?

He lectured Palestinians that “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed”. He warned them that “It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.” (Note: the last suicide attack targeting civilians by a Palestinian occurred in 2004)

Fair enough, but did Obama really imagine that such words would impress an Arab public that watched in horror as Israel slaughtered 1,400 people in Gaza last winter, including hundreds of sleeping, fleeing or terrified children, with American-supplied weapons? Did he think his listeners would not remember that the number of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians targeted and killed by Israel has always far exceeded by orders of magnitude the number of Israelis killed by Arabs precisely because of the American arms he has pledged to continue giving Israel with no accountability? Amnesty International recently confirmed what Palestinians long knew: Israel broke the negotiated ceasefire when it attacked Gaza last November 4, prompting retaliatory rockets that killed no Israelis until after Israel launched its much bigger attack on Gaza. That he continues to remain silent about what happened in Gaza, and refuses to hold Israel accountable demonstrates anything but a commitment to full truth-telling.

Some people are prepared to give Obama a pass for all this because he is at last talking tough on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In Cairo, he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

These carefully chosen words focus only on continued construction, not on the existence of the settlements themselves; they are entirely compatible with the peace process industry consensus that existing settlements will remain where they are for ever. This raises the question of where Obama thinks he is going. He summarised Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations” as being the establishment of a “state”. This has become a convenient slogan to that is supposed to replace for Palestinians their pursuit of rights and justice that the proposed state actually denies. Obama is already on record opposing Palestinian refugees’ right to return home, and has never supported the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live free from racist and religious incitement, persecution and practices fanned by Israel’s highest office holders and written into its laws.

He may have more determination than his predecessor but he remains committed to an unworkable two-state “vision” aimed not at restoring Palestinian rights, but preserving Israel as an enclave of Israeli Jewish privilege. It is a dead end.

There was one sentence in his speech I cheered for and which he should heed: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

abunimah rightly pointed out the outrageous logic of lecturing muslims on the european actions during world war two. personally, i find it beyond shocking that this afternoon he headed towards germany to visit sites of that historic war in europe while continuing to refuse to visit gaza just a desert away. medea benjamin’s article in electronic intifada called on obama to visit gaza instead:

But the administration has said almost nothing about the devastating Israeli invasion of Gaza that left more than 1,400 dead, including some 400 children. To many in the Middle East, this is an unfortunate continuation of past policies that condemn the loss of innocent Israeli lives, but refuse to speak out against the disproportionately greater loss of Palestinian lives at the hands of the Israeli military.

The Israeli invasion of Gaza began on 27 December 2008, when Obama had just won the election but had not yet taken office. While he spoke out against the 26 November Mumbai terrorism attack, he refused to even call for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying coldly, “When it comes to foreign affairs it is particularly important to adhere to the principle of one president at a time.”

Once inaugurated, Obama appointed former Senator George Mitchell as a special peace envoy and immediately sent him on a “listening tour” to key places in the Middle East — except Gaza. Mitchell returned for a second trip to the region in late February, visiting Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank but once again bypassing Gaza. The same thing happened on his third trip in April.

Hillary Clinton has never visited war-torn Gaza. She promised $300 million for rebuilding, but the aid won’t get to Gaza as long as the administration insists on dealing only with Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank while shunning Hamas, which controls Gaza and was democratically elected.

one egypian blogger and tweeter اشتراكي ثوري pulled together his responses from the speech in a blog post that gives one a way better sense of what people are thinking and feeling here about his speech (in spite of the insane people al jazeera has been putting on–even marwan bishara seems to have lost his mind calling this speech “historic” today):

Just finished watching Bushama’s booooooooooring speech, you can read the full text here. My expectation that Obama would just recycle old bulls*&^ obviously came true, and if anyone calls his speech “historic” or a “new beginning” they obviously have lost touch with reality. This speech was so bad I thought even from a linguistic standpoint, I mean I could come up with a more articulate speech off the top of my head, but then again, despite what some people say, Bushama is not a good speaker. And he managed to pronounce every arabic word he included wrong.

Here are my tweets about Obama’s speech:

* RT: @DailyNewsEgypt: Obama says Mubarak has “decades of experience,” thanks president for “hospitality” #cairospeech
* mubarak does have years of experience in obeying his american and israeli masters, he also has a lot of “experience” in torture #cairospeech
* el azaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar? whats that obama??? #cairospeech
* mentioned “extremists” within a minute of starting #cairospeech
* obama will fight stereotypes against islam…er while killing as many muslims as possible #cairospeech
* RT: @amansour87: RT @3arabawy RT @wael : NDP Stooges must stop clapping in #cairospeech
* how many people has the us killed in the last 7 years? at least in the millions #cairospeech
* “military force will not solve the problem alone”…er but we will try #cairospeech
* why do americans always have to go on and on about the holocaust and 9/11?? #cairospeech
* have some courage coward and mention zionist holocaust of palestinians #cairospeech
* “the pain of dislocation” ah I think the pain of death, torture and beating would be more accurate #cairospeech
* “shoot rockets at children” so what the US and israel do every day? #cairospeech
* Israel has no “legitamacy” bushama! #cairospeech
* “this is not simply about america’s interests” yes it is, if it isn’t give up a few million of ur nuclear weapons, bushama #cairospeech
* oooooh democracy how exciting #cairospeech
* “we will support them everywhere” except if the dictators are our puppets #cairospeech
* no the us does not respect dissenting voices #cairospeech
* of course obama takes the white man stance: must preach those ayrabs about women’s rights #cairospeech
* RT: @norashalaby: Obama’s speech is completely patronizing #CairoSpeech
* Now: capitalism, obama will surely praise it #cairospeech
* “the issues I have addressed” will be solved through brutal capitalism and bloody imperialist violence #cairospeech
* stop with the religious crap! If he mentions “god’s children” again I am going to go insane #cairospeech
* “if we choose to be bound by the past we will never move forward” how clever! how original! #cairospeech
* RT: @mar3e: i know more muslim students who deported from usa for supportting the resistance in lebanon , afghanistan, palestine
* RT: @3arabawy: Obama will promote child and maternal health. This means more money for Mama Suzi the guardian of Egyp Motherhod #Cairospeech
* now the talmut! and the bible! stop with the religious crap! #cairospeech
* speech definitely was horrible even worse than I thought it would be, if anyone says tom it was good or even ok they are insane #cairospeech
* RT: @3arabawy: IS that it??!!!! What a historical speech indeed?!! #Cairospeech

as’ad abukhalil had an additional, lengthy response to the speech and here is part:

So Obama is asking for a bargain: to end Western racism (but not wars) against Muslims, Muslims need to stop attacking US foreign policy and wars. This is chicanery–don’t you like those old fashioned words? He talks about the US as a force of “progress.” How untrue for Obama’s audience: the US has consistently opposed forces of progress and advancement in the Middle East: in every conflict between an oil Sheikh or a polygamous prince against progressive socialists or Arab nationalist secularists, the US has always sided with the polygamous princes who have been in alliance with religious kooks and advocates of “holy wars.” Hell, he just came from Saudi Arabia where he praised the wisdom of the Saudi king and he wants to talk to me about “force of progress”? Maybe if you can bring up the issue of Wahhabi fanaticism I would believe you. He said that his personal story as an African American (with an African Muslim name) who was elected president is not unique. Yes, it is: and it was not easy: and his name was mocked during his campaign, and he made his best to distance himself from anything Muslims. So here, Obama is assuming that his Cairo audience are a bunch of idiots who did not follow his campaign and the reactions that it generated. He adds that Muslims in America enjoy education and income above average Americans. Yes, that is true, and I hate when people say that: the reasons is due to the racist/classist rules for the immigrants from Muslims/Middle East countries: only those who high degrees are allowed into the country, while poor people from other countries are allowed. If you are in the Middle East, your chances of being allowed into the US are related to the high degrees you hold. He said that there are mosques in the US but does not mention that many communities fight tooth and nail against those mosques. His references to Iraq and Afghanistan are largely apologetic: and he does not mention that his past critiques of the invasion of Iraq was asking to the criticisms of the Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza in Tikkun: that it is based on what is good or bad for Israel, and not for what it does to the victims. He talks about Taliban and Al-Qa`idah’s killing of Muslims (and Muslims know that they have killed Muslims) but he does not mention that Bush administration and Obama administration have also been killing innocent Muslims: if anything, the rate of bombing from the air may have increased over Afghanistan under Obama: the advocate of the surge in Afghanistan versus Bush, the advocate of surge in Iraq. What a difference. I was offended by his lecturing to Muslims about Jewish suffering: as if the audience is entirely anti-Semitic. There are anti-Semites in the US and he does not lecture to them. He spoke about the repugnant practice of Holocaust denial but did not mention that the literature is entirely Western in that regard. And he then moves from a discussion of the Nazism to the Arab-Israeli conflict. What is his point here: that because of Nazi crimes, the Palestinians need to accommodate Zionist crimes on their lands? This is the most offensive section of course: he talks about the Palestinians without identifying who was doing those bad things to them. Look at this sentence: “have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.” So their suffering is due to their pursuit of a homeland: so they should stop the pursuit and the suffering will go away. He then mention the “pain of dislocation.” What is that o Obama? Is that like a shoulder dislocation? He refers to Palestinian reference to “for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding” but never mentions Israeli wars, attacks, and invasions and yet he makes specific references to Palestinian violence thereby making it clear that adheres to White Man standards: that only Israeli lives matter. I mean, if you compare the killing and terrorism between the two sides, the Israeli side clearly comes out on top in terrorism, wars, and aggression. He then lectures the Palestinians: “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.” I read that and thought: wait. Did you not in the early part of the speech bragged about how the US fought (non-violently, I may add) against British Empire? I should lecture Obama here: why didn’t the US resort to non-violent resistance against the British Empire? How could he speak about nuclear weapons without even mentioning the Israeli arsenal? That was another insult to the intelligence of the audience: maybe Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro told him that Arabs don’t know that Israel has nuclear weapons.

there will be more responses in the coming days, i’m sure. but this is enough to give you a sense of the deeply offensive, deeply hypocritical speech by bushama.

partners in crime: zionist regimes in palestine and egypt

this week saw more savage attacks on gaza by israeli terrorist forces:

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported that several residents were wounded in a series of Israeli air strikes carried out by the Israeli Air Force after midnight targeting several neighborhoods in Gaza City, Jabalia and Rafah.

The Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) reported that F-16 fighter-jets shelled an area near the cars market, at the Salah Ed Deen Street, east of Gaza’s Al Zeitoun neighborhood. Two residents were wounded and were moved to a local hospital.

The air force also shelled a blacksmith workshop in Al Zeitoun neighborhood, completely leveling it and causing damage to a number of nearby homes.

Shortly afterwards, the air force shelled another blacksmith shop on Yaffa street, north east of Gaza City; one resident was wounded and several homes and structures were damaged.

Furthermore, the Israeli Air Force shelled a number of areas in the town of Jabalia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Navy opened automatic fire and fired several shells at areas across the Gaza shore.

The air force also shelled a chicken farm in Rafah completely damaging it.

On Tuesday night, the air force shelled the “Tunnels Area” in Rafah, wounding one woman and one child. Both were moved to Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital.

The shelling came shortly after the Air Force shelled an area close to Al Barazil neighborhood, south of Rafah.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli Navy fired several shells at areas across the coasts of Gaza and Khan Younis.

this time, however, the egyptian army joined forces to intensify the damage against palestinians, sealing their fate that this egyptian regime is every bit as zionist as the one occupying palestine:

Six Palestinian workers were injured on Thursday around midday when the Egyptian military bombed a tunnel located between the Egyptian-Gaza border.

Sources in Gaza reported that the six workers sustained moderate wounds and were moved to a hospital in Rafah city for treatment. Since Israel sealed-off the coastal strip in June 2007, the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt have become the main sources of supplies to Gaza.

no comment tv has footage of some of the damage done to gaza from these new assaults:

this newest assault comes at a time when the twenty-three day savagery has been unable to recover given the ongoing zionist-egyptian siege imposed on palestinians in gaza. anera has a short video of the damage done to a palestinian ice cream factory and its inability to recoup its losses:

eva bartlett’s article in electronic intifada yesterday illustrates how the ongoing savagery and siege continue to plague palestinians, particularly farmers:

On the morning of 4 May 2009, Israeli troops set fire to Palestinian crops along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 200,000 square meters of crops were destroyed, including wheat and barley ready for harvest, as well as vegetables, olive and pomegranate trees.

Local farmers report that the blaze carried over a four-kilometer stretch on the Palestinian side of the eastern border land. Ibrahim Hassan Safadi, 49, from one of the farming families whose crops were destroyed by the blaze, said that the fires were smoldering until early evening, despite efforts by the fire brigades to extinguish them.

Safadi says he was present when Israeli soldiers fired small bombs into his field, which soon after caught ablaze. He explained that “The Israeli soldiers fired from their jeeps, causing a fire to break out on the land. They burned the wheat, burned the pomegranate trees … The fire spread across the valley. We called the fire brigades. They came to the area and put out the fire. But in some places the fire started again.” According to Safadi, he lost 30,000 square meters to the blaze, including 300 pomegranate trees, 150 olive trees, and wheat.

In the border areas it has long since become nearly impossible to work on the land due to almost daily shooting from the Israeli soldiers. The crops that were burned on 4 May were dried and ready to harvest, meaning that they were extremely flammable.

“It took only three minutes for the fire to destroy 65,000 square meters,” said Nahed Jaber Abu Said, whose farmland lies a few kilometers down the road from Safadi. He added that “It was nearly 9am. I was here when the Israeli jeeps came. An Israeli soldier at the fence shot an explosive into our field of wheat. It went up in flames immediately.”

Safadi said that the arson attack was the third major time his farm has suffered from an Israeli attack. In previous attacks over the last decade, he explained, Israeli soldiers bulldozed his land, razing his lemon, olive and clementine trees as well as demolishing greenhouses.

“We’ve suffered great losses. The Israeli soldiers have destroyed so much of our land, trees and equipment. They’ve cost us a lot of money,” he said, citing cumulative losses of $330,000 since 2000 when the heightened invasions began. In the last attack, Safadi said that $130,000 worth of crops, trees and irrigation piping was destroyed.

and the losses are multiple and varied and all encompassing. due to the siege, this week, yet another child was murdered in gaza:

A ten-year old child with cancer has died in the Gaza Strip while awaiting Israeli government permission to cross the border to reach a scheduled appointment with a specialist inside Israel.

Ribhi Jindiyeh suffered from lymphoma, and underwent chemotherapy last year. In March, however, his condition worsened, and, because of the lack of medical supplies in Gaza due to the Israeli closure, his parents consulted with a doctor in Israel to get the needed medical treatment.

Ribhi’s father applied to the Augusta Victoria hospital in Jerusalem for treatment. According to the Associated Press, a staff member at the hospital told their reporter that a fax machine at the hospital may have been broken, and the request was not answered for weeks. Finally, the child was accepted into a treatment program in the Israeli hospital, but the Israeli government refused to issue the boy the permit needed to cross the closed border into Israel.

Palestinian medical sources report that over 300 patients have died since June 2007, when the elected Hamas government began its administration in Gaza, and the Israeli government implemented a full closure on the Strip. Virtually no one has been able to enter or leave the besieged coastal Strip, and supplies of needed medicines and equipment are dwindling to near nothing in Gaza’s hospitals and clinics.

Israeli authorities say the siege is a way to “choke” the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in Gaza, to try to force the elected government out of power. But human rights groups from around the world have called the siege collective punishment of an entire population, which is a violation of international law and of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

A recent report found that Israeli forces have routinely tried to force patients to work for the Israeli intelligence services as informants in order to leave Gaza to receive needed medical care.

the siege is not just about who and what are trapped inside gaza, but also who and what is forbidden from entering gaza. amira hass’ article this week in ha’aretz detailed some of the forbidden items:

Gaza merchants are forbidden to import canned goods, plastic sheeting, toys and books, although the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other aid organizations are permitted to bring them into the strip.

The few items merchants are allowed to trade in are divided into three categories: food, medicine and detergent. Everything else is forbidden – including building materials (which are necessary to rehabilitate Gaza’s ruins and rebuild its infrastructure), electric appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, spare machine and car parts, fabrics, threads, needles, light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses and animals. Many of the banned products are imported through the tunnels and can be found in Gaza’s markets.

Pasta, which had been forbidden in the past, is now allowed, after U.S. Senator John Kerry expressed his astonishment at the ban during a visit to Gaza in February. But tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, milk products in large packages and most baking products are forbidden. So are industrial commodities for manufacturing food products, chocolate, sesame seeds and nuts. Israel does allow importing fruit, milk products in small packages and frozen food products as well as limited amounts of industrial fuel.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that during the first week of May, 2.2 million liters of industrial fuel – some 70 percent of the weekly supply required to operate the power station – was allowed into Gaza. UNRWA receives petrol and diesel supplies separately. A daily 270-300 tons of cooking gas – 54 percent of the required amount – is allowed.

Petrol and diesel for private cars and public transportation have not been imported from Israel since November 2, 2008, except for a small amount for UNRWA. The union of Gaza’s gas station owners estimates that some 100,000 liters of diesel and 70,000 liters of petrol are brought through the tunnels daily.

Egypt, which in the past two months has been restricting the trade movement through the tunnels, does not limit the supply of gas and fuel. But since Egyptian fuel is heavier than Israeli fuel, it damages the newer cars in Gaza and causes malfunctions.

In the past, Israel allowed wood for home furnishings to be brought into Gaza for some time, but not wood for windows and doors. Now Israel has resumed the ban on wood for furniture.

The ban on toilet paper, diapers and sanitary napkins was lifted three months ago. A little more than a month ago, following a long ban, Israel permitted the import of detergents and soaps into Gaza. Even shampoo was allowed. But one merchant discovered that the bottles of shampoo he had ordered were sent back because they included conditioner, which was not on the list.

Five weeks ago Israel allowed margarine, salt and artificial sweetener to be brought into Gaza. Legumes have been allowed for the past two months and yeast for the past two weeks. Contrary to rumors, Israel has not banned sugar.

in addition to these bans on various material items that are banned, there are other daily reminders of the ongoing siege and the massacres that palestinians in gaza have to live with every day. eman mohammed’s article in electronic intifada this week highlights one family who is literally living among the dead:

The scene of Mahmoud Jilu, four years old, rolling his ball with friends doesn’t seem weird at all until you see where he is playing. Mahmoud runs after the ball into a backyard full of graves forming the cemetery where his family has lived since they can remember.

The six-member Jilu family are all jammed together in a tiny house with one bedroom and a small space for the kitchen with a tomb next to it. For Afaf Jilu, 30 years old, the mother of three boys and one girl, it’s not the surrounding view of graves that upsets her the most but the cramped environment that forces her to live in one room with her husband and four kids.

“Not having privacy is what makes this life unbearable,” Afaf said. “When I try to sleep, my children want to watch TV and they are only kids. I can’t make it worse for them by denying them what they want to.”

Afaf added, “I keep reminding myself that we’ll get our own house once the economic situation in the country is better and then I can plant lots of trees around the house instead of having a cemetery strangle us from all around. We all hang on our small dreams that we have in mind to achieve. That’s the best thing we learned from living here; the more we see people dying, leaving their dreams behind, the more we hold on to ours. It’s the only way to break through!”

For 13-year-old Muhammad, the equation is different since he never brings any of his friends over to play or study, because of his feeling of being the “odd one out” since he lives in a cemetery. “My friends aren’t familiar with the idea of living between dead people. It can be used to make a silly joke and not just a reality of life. Sometimes I feel ashamed of this place,” he said.

and there are other reminders as well. the village of khuzaa, which experienced a ground invasion during the savagery of israeli terrorism is still dealing with the trauma of the war crimes that were committed there as erin cunningham writes in electronic intifada:

Four months later, international human rights organizations are accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Khuzaa. Its residents continue to live with frequent military incursions and the daily threat of gunfire from Israeli watchtowers on the border.

“This assault was the worst thing to ever happen to us,” says Khuzaa’s mayor, Abu Ayman. “It is worse than when the village was divided in 1948.”

Khuzaa saw little fighting in the first two weeks of the attacks. But on 10 January, a barrage of white phosphorus shells landed deep into residential areas, locals and a March report by Human Rights Watch say.

The next two days saw an onslaught of rockets and missiles fired from fighter jets, unmanned drones and Apache helicopters — a precursor to a ground invasion of tanks, bulldozers and soldiers at midnight 13 January.

The men and boys of the village were blindfolded and detained in a massive hole dug by Israeli bulldozers, locals say. Terrified residents whose homes were bulldozed or occupied by the Israeli military fled to the safety of an open courtyard at Khuzaa’s center.

“Many of the villagers who were taking refuge in the courtyard had moved there from the outer parts of Khuzaa because of the previous attacks,” Amnesty International’s head researcher for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Donatella Rovera, told IPS on telephone from London.

“These attacks happened where they thought they would be safe,” Rovera said.

When the courtyard where villagers had taken refuge also came under attack — an Israeli bulldozer began to demolish one of the courtyard walls, locals say — Rawhiyya al-Najjar, a female resident of Khuzaa, decided they had no choice but to evacuate.

Carrying a white flag, Rawhiyya led a group of women and children out of the compound and into the village in the early hours of 13 January, according to residents and human rights groups.

She was shot in the head with a single bullet, independent testimonies confirm, and took 12 hours to die after a medic who tried to reach her also came under fire from Israeli forces.

Rovera says that Rawhiyya’s murder, the reckless use of white phosphorus, and systematic destruction of homes by the Israeli military in Khuzaa constitute war crimes.

“The patterns of attacks as they happened in Khuzaa are consistent with the broader patterns throughout the war, which constitute grave breaches of international law, including war crimes,” Rovera told IPS.

so far spain has been one of the few bright spots with respect to investigating, and hopefully, prosecuting israeli terrorists for their war crimes. but it seems that zionists have been interfering with spanish politics and this potential may soon be negated:

Spanish lawmakers almost unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday which could end the right of Spanish judges to investigate serious crimes like genocide anywhere in the world in cases where courts in the affected country do not act.

Spain’s Socialist government said earlier this year it would change the law after protests from Israel over the High Court’s decision in January to launch a war crimes probe into seven Israelis including former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer for a 2002 attack in the Gaza Strip that killed 14 civilians and a Hamas leader.

If translated into a law, the resolution would restrict Spain, which had been praised by international campaigners, to only investigating cases in which the accused is in Spain or Spaniards are victims.

for those in the united states who want to help break this siege and ongoing savagery, my dear friend fatima mohammadi is working with the american viva palestina convoy headed for gaza on july 4th. you can listen to her interview with my other dear friend naji ali with this link. to donate to their convoy please click on the above link, where you can also learn about other ways you can help.