The Fascist State of California

In my last blog post I focused on aspects of being in Los Angeles that particularly irked me. Little did I know, it gets worse. Two items of note:

1. The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa addressed the Democratic National Convention this week in which he proceeded to establish the capital of an illegal colonial occupation in Palestine (i.e., that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel) as a part of the Democratic party’s platform:

Anyone who knows Villaraigosa’s politics should not be surprised by his actions. Los Angelenos likely remember his efforts to collaborate with Israel on a variety of issues:

In just a few days, we signed agreements to strengthen security at our airport and enhance our counterterrorism capabilities. We initiated partnerships to protect our ports and reduce our carbon footprint. We took a series of steps to revitalize the L.A. River, expand the city’s water conservation and recycling initiatives and invest in the technologies of tomorrow. From homeland security and public safety to environmental innovation and green development, Los Angeles is set to receive the best Israel has to offer in the fields where the Jewish state leads the world — and Los Angeles will be better off as a result.

But it gets worse. The state of California passed a resolution a couple of weeks ago that indicates its real fascist tendencies:

The resolution, which was passed without debate and without input from community groups, “recognizes recent actions by officials of public postsecondary educational institutions in California and calls upon those institutions to increase their efforts to swiftly and unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism on their campuses and to utilize existing resources, such as the European Union  Agency for Fundamental Rights’ working definition of anti-Semitism, to help guide campus discussion about, and promote, as appropriate, educational programs for combating anti-Semitism on their campuses.”

HR 35 is a non-binding resolution and has no policy mandate. But a careful reading of the vocabulary and wording has direct similarities to accusations made by Zionist groups and students against Palestine solidarity activism and Muslim student groups on UC campuses in California. The resolution calls for public institutions, for example, to condemn “student- and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment, and sanction campaigns against Israel that are a means of demonizing Israel and seek to harm the Jewish state.”

While the resolution is non-binding, it indicates the tenor of the state’s politics and does not bode well in light of freedoms on college campuses, as witnessed by the Irvine 11 and others.

when will the right lessons be learned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both sides rejected the offers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the state of the university in california

last week i was at ucsb (university of california at santa barbara) and there was a protest against the california budget cuts affecting education in the state. one of my favorite scholars, lisa hajjar, a professor at ucsb, and author of courting conflict, explains some of these issues here in this short clip from a recent press conference:

part of the issue is related to salaries. the fact that all employees–except for those highest up on the ladder–are receiving a 10% cut in salary. here are some of the main points from the protest, but there are more on the posters i photographed below from the protest:

University of California faculty, staff, and students are mobilizing in response to recent decisions made by the UC Regents and UC President Mark Yudof. We span the 10 campuses of the UC system, with affiliates throughout the CSU, Community College and K-12 systems. We support top-quality public education for our state. We urge Californians to take back their schools and end the incompetent stewardship of the UC Office of the President (UCOP), the UC Board of Regents, and the Schwarzenegger administration, before it is too late.

• The UCSB CC4O4 rejects the Regents’ decisions (1) to ratify Yudof’s requests for emergency powers, and (2) to cut faculty and staff salaries and essential programs and services. We also repudiate the justifications for these decisions and the process leading up to them. Prior to the Regents’ meeting, Yudof asked for the UC community’s responses to only three options: salary cuts, furloughs, or both. The University can overcome the challenges it faces in other ways. We demand Option 4: no salary cuts, no furloughs, and the pursuit of alternative budgetary avenues.

• We demand transparency and democratic participation in financial planning and the budget process at all individual campuses and at UCOP. We call upon Chancellor Henry Yang to permit the full participation of the entire UCSB community in all determinations of our campus’s response to the Regents’ vote.

• The only vision of the University’s future acceptable to our coalition gives first priority to the needs of all of our students. We ask that Yudof redesign the Commission on the Future of UC to represent a real variety of viewpoints and student concerns. We ask that the Commission’s first actions be directed toward immediate redress of recent budget cuts, and general reform of education funding and the state budget process.

this protest was outside of a swanky hotel in santa barbara where the university of california president mark yudof was speaking.

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the protest was disappointing. first of all, it was small. there were people from ucla and ucsb there. but most of the people there were not faculty. they were workers at the university. members of the union. i had been on ucsb’s campus prior to the protest and there were definitely faculty members around. but as is par for the course faculty often let the struggle fall on the shoulders of those lower down on the ladder, including students–and there were students there too as their fees will be going up about 30%. but i also started wondering about american labor organizing in general. while i think that labor organizing is important–and those wanting a good analysis should check out bill fletcher’s recent book on the subject–it always seems very individualistic in the u.s. it always seems to me like this sort of organizing only emerges when one’s personal salary, well being, livelihood is threatened. this is not true with respect to labor organizing historically in the u.s. nor is it true with respect to labor organizing globally. but the problem is that organizing more generally is not proactive. it is not global. and it is not thinking in terms of solidarity actions around the world. at least not from what i can glean in the u.s.

i also found it striking that the protest stayed outside on the street corner the entire time. i’ve written about this before, and posted a video of naomi wolf on the subject, but i find it troubling when protesters play it safe. this small protest would have had far more publicity if there had been arrests. if people had stormed the hotel and brought the protest inside. but people were afraid of arrests and so they stayed outside on the street corner. at the same time i don’t think that the workers should be the ones who get arrested. i think those with the most privilege–the professors–should be those who get thrown in jail for protesting the salary cuts and tuition hikes. but, of course, without a significant number of professors present this was not possible.

for instance the union organizing for california state university employees has not endorsed or signed on to any solidarity statement supporting the boycott of the zionist entity. compare this to south african dock workers who organized in solidarity with palestinians and who later influenced american dockworkers to do the same a couple of months ago:

2009 Convention Resolution–Commend South African Dockers adopted at the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) – Longshore Caucus June 2009

Whereas, the South African dockworkers union in the port of Durban organized a heroic action against the ZIM Lines ship Joannna Russ, on February 5, 2009 protesting the Israeli massacre in the Gaza War and in solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people, and

Whereas, a report entitled “Victory for Worker Solidarity—Durban Dockers Refuse to Offload Israeli Goods” issued February 6, 2009 by Randall Howard, General Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and Patrick Craven of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) stated “Israel’s terror included flagrant breaches of international law, the bombing of densely populated neighbourhoods, the illegal deployment of chemical white phosphorous, and attacks on schools, ambulances, relief agencies, hospitals, universities and places of worship.” and,

Whereas, the Durban dockworkers announced that their action was inspired by the ILWU’s 1984 anti-apartheid action in the port of San Francisco against the ship Nedlloyd Kimberly from South Africa, and

Whereas, unions around the world have lauded the SATAWU for their action,

Therefore Be It Resolved that this Convention direct the Titled Officers to send a solidarity message commending our brothers and sisters in the South African dockworkers’ union (SATAWU) for their exemplary action.

Note: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has approximately 42,000 members in over 60 local unions in the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. An additional 3,500 members belong to the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, which constitutes the Union’s Marine Division. Another 14,000 members belong to the autonomous ILWU Canada.

there are so many reasons why such solidarity actions are important, and indeed relevant. at ucsb, for instance, professor william robinson was recently exonerated after having come under attack by zionist nimrods in the area for having sent around an email about gaza:

On Wednesday, he was notified that a faculty committee had found no “probable cause” to undertake a full investigation of complaints filed against him related to e-mail messages he sent to his students in which he compared Israelis and Nazis. Further, he was notified that the administration at the University of California at Santa Barbara had accepted the faculty members’ analysis, and that the case was over — without his ever having faced formal charges before a disciplinary committee.

Supporters of Robinson, a tenured professor of sociology, agreed with those findings. But they said that grievances filed over e-mail messages sent in January should have been seen immediately as baseless, and that allowing the case to linger for months endangered the academic freedom of Robinson and others.

“We’re pleased, but this decision is too late,” said Yousef K. Baker, a graduate student and one of the organizers of the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB. “I don’t think it is enough for the university just to say that this case is terminated. The university needs to be held accountable for the chilling effect that their tardiness in doing what they have done now has created.”

In a statement, Robinson said that he is waiting for “a public apology from the university as a first step in clearing my name after it has smeared my reputation and undermined my professional integrity.” He added that he plans to file a grievance over how he was treated in the case.

The case has attracted attention far beyond Santa Barbara, with the American Association of University Professors last month calling on the university to “pause” its inquiries because of the academic freedom issues involved. Cary Nelson, national president of the AAUP, said Wednesday night that “although I am pleased that the Robinson case has been closed, I am also concerned that unnecessary investigations of faculty exercising their academic freedom are having a serious chilling effect on our more vulnerable or less courageous colleagues.”

The dispute dates to an e-mail message that Robinson sent to the approximately 80 students in January in a course about sociology and globalization. The e-mail contained an article criticizing the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza. Part of the e-mail was an assemblage of photos from Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews and from Israel’s actions in Gaza. Students were invited to look at the “parallel images.” A message from Robinson argued that Gaza would be like “Israel’s Warsaw.”

In February, the Anti-Defamation League’s Santa Barbara office wrote to Robinson to protest the e-mail and to urge him to repudiate it. “While your writings are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, we rely upon our rights to say that your comparisons of Nazis and Israelis were offensive, ahistorical and have crossed the line well beyond legitimate criticism of Israel,” the letter said. It went on to say that the “tone and extreme views” in his e-mail were “intimidating to students,” and that using his university e-mail to send “material that appears unrelated to” his course violated university standards for faculty members.

Following that letter, two students in the course dropped the class and filed complaints against Robinson. One student wrote that she felt “nauseous” upon reading the e-mail, and felt it was inappropriate. A second student complaint accusing Robinson of being unprofessional — also from a student who dropped the course after receiving the e-mail — said that Robinson has “clearly stated his anti-Semitic political views in this e-mail.”

Under Santa Barbara’s faculty governance system, such complaints go to a “charges officer” and then — if they are serious — a committee may be formed, somewhat like a grand jury, to determine whether formal charges should be brought against the professor. Robinson and his supporters have maintained that the e-mail was so clearly covered by academic freedom that the faculty charges officer should have dropped the matter. Instead, a committee was formed to determine whether the charges merited consideration by the standing committee that considers such allegations and can recommend sanctions against a professor. It was that non-standing committee that determined that there was no need to bring charges for a full investigation. Under the university’s rules, no official statement is released about why charges were not brought. But earlier memos suggested that the two rules Robinson was accused of violating were measures that bar faculty members from “significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course” and “use of the position or powers of a faculty member to coerce the judgment or conscience of a student or to cause harm to a student for arbitrary or personal reasons.” (Many of the documents related to the student complaints and various university communications about the situation may be found on the Web site of the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB.)

The position of Robinson and his supporters has been that Israel’s conduct in Gaza was in every way appropriate as a topic for discussion in a class on global issues, and that the complaints filed against him were a simple case of students (and some pro-Israel groups) disagreeing with Robinson’s analysis. Robinson could not be reached Wednesday, but last month he told Inside Higher Ed that the charges against him were “absolutely absurd.” He noted that he is Jewish and said that he abhors anti-Semitism, and that his academic freedom is being violated by the university taking seriously charges that link his e-mail criticisms of Israel’s government with anti-Semitism. “This is all because I have criticized the policies of the State of Israel.”

Stand With Us, a pro-Israel group that has been organizing petition drives to back the idea of a full investigation of Robinson, issued a statement Wednesday night questioning the university’s decision. “We are surprised and disappointed that UCSB chose not to uphold their standards for professional conduct, and that it has blurred the lines between responsible education and the peddling of propaganda. It is unfortunate that students will continue to be victims of partisan indoctrination and misinformation,” said the statement, from Roz Rothstein, international director of the organization.

on a larger scale, yudof, one of the very men we were protesting last week, is an unabashed supporter of the zionist entity:

The new president of the University of California’s 10 campuses and 220,000 students keeps a kosher home, lectures on Maimonides for intellectual stimulation and is an unabashed Israel supporter.

“I am what I am,” Mark Yudof says. “What I’ve found works best for me is transparency, being direct and being honest.”

As he takes the helm of one of the world’s leading public research universities with an $18 billion budget, Yudof, a former chancellor of the University of Texas and president of the University of Minnesota, has his work cut out for him. Over the past five years, Jewish students and some observers have charged repeatedly that the administration at the UC Irvine campus, now headed by Chancellor Michael Drake, has failed to protect Jewish students against hate speech and intimidation by outside speakers and Muslim student groups. Yudof, a veteran law professor and expert on constitutional law and freedom of expression, says the issue presents him with something of a dilemma.

“It is an excruciating conflict when people demean everything that Judaism stands for. Some of these speakers and what they say drive me to distraction and I hate it,” Yudof says. “On the other hand, I teach constitutional law and I have a deep commitment to the First Amendment, which has served us well over time. How do you reconcile that as a Jewish man? It is horrendously difficult.”

Yudof defended Drake, who has been criticized by some Jews for not taking a sufficiently firm stand against hate speech.

“I’ve had several conversations with the chancellor, and he has a great heart and enormous sympathy for the Jewish people. He is a mensch,” Yudof is in Israel this week with Drake as the co-leader of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange trip for American university presidents and chancellors. Yudof, who had invited Drake on the trip before he became the University of California president, says he thinks the trip will be beneficial for both he and Drake. Yudof says he will discuss the problems at Irvine when he addresses the Hadassah national convention in Los Angeles on July 14.

Born in Philadelphia to descendents of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Yudof, 63, is the son of an electrician. He credits his wife, Judy, with intensifying his Jewish observance inside and outside the house. She is the immediate past international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the first woman to hold the post in the organization’s 93-year history. Judy Yudof currently serves on the council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and on the international board of Hillel.

“Judy went to Israel quite often, and I went along as the bozo on her arm,” Yudof recalls. “I am a very strong advocate of Israel,” he says. “I just am. I’m there for Israel. I may at times disagree with Israeli policy, but when they suffer, I suffer and my wife suffers.”

as part of his support for the zionist entity, he reinstated a study abroad program at the zionist entity’s universities last year:

The University of California, one of America’s largest public higher education systems, will soon allow students to return to studying abroad in Israel.

The school announced November 25 that it intends to reopen its Education Abroad Program with the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The U.C. system was among scores of American universities that suspended their Israel study-abroad programs in 2002 after the United States State Department placed Israel on its travel advisory list for safety reasons. Israel remains on the list.

As a matter of policy, the U.C. system does not offer study-abroad programs in countries that are on the State Department’s travel warning list.

But university spokesman Chris Harrington said December 4 that the school “is firmly committed to re-establishing its program in Israel.”

According to a U.C. statement, the university is in discussions with the Rothberg International School to reopen the program in Israel in fall 2009 after reviewing safety issues. The school cited a heightened ability to “to monitor and mitigate security risks.”

American access to study-abroad programs in Israel has emerged as a hot-button issue over the last six years, as pro-Israel activists have battled to have them reinstated. They argue that Israel is safer than countries such as Egypt, where students are often allowed to study with their university’s official stamp of approval. Students at local Hillels have gathered signatures and lobbied university leaders, while the Washington D.C.-based Israel on Campus Coalition assembled a task force to take on the issue nationwide.

While students from campuses that no longer offer Israel study-abroad programs have continued to study in the Jewish state, finding ways to circumvent the programs’ closures, pro-Israel campus activists say that the U.C.’s decision should have a marked impact on the number of California students taking a semester in Israel.

“This makes it more accessible, and that’s the most important thing,” said Gordon Gladstone, executive director of Berkeley Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley. “Spending long periods of time in Israel allows you to contemplate your Jewish identity in a way that few other things can.”

The announcement comes less than a year after the U.C. Board of Regents tapped Mark Yudof, the former chancellor of the University of Texas, to lead California’s extensive 10-campus system. Yudof, who keeps a kosher home, is only the second Jewish president in U.C.’s history. Yudof has visited Israel at least six times, and is married to Judy Yudof, a board member of Hillel International and a former president of the Conservative movement’s congregational arm, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

While the movement toward reinstating U.C.’s Israel study-aboard program has been in the works for several years, some pro-Israel activists said they saw Yudof’s interest in the issue as the tipping point. Upon his return from a nine-day trip to Israel in early July  just two weeks after he assumed the presidency June 16  Yudof was quoted in the Bay Area’s Jewish weekly, the San Francisco J, saying, “I told Hebrew University that it’s no secret – I’m going to take another look” at the policy.

U.C.’s program with Hebrew University once ran seamlessly. U.C. students received school credit for Hebrew University classes; they paid U.C. tuition, and had a U.C. professor on hand to administer the program. According to Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Hillel, at its peak, some 20 students from UCLA alone participated in the program.

UCLA Hillel estimates that about three to five UCLA students per year have chosen to study at Israeli universities in the years since the program was shuttered. But, said Seidler-Feller, the process has been far more complicated, requiring students to withdraw from the school. “During the last few years it’s been cumbersome and burdensome to assume the personal responsibility of enrolling in the year abroad at Hebrew University,” said Seidler-Feller. “In particular, it’s been cumbersome regarding the transfer of credits.”

Now, say Hillel leaders, students will once again be able to study in Israel without having to navigate institutional roadblocks.

One student, 21-year-old Ilana Nankin, said that while she experienced no financial hardship from spending last spring at Hebrew University, she has come up against bureaucratic pitfalls trying to get her Hebrew University credits approved at U.C. Berkeley. Nankin, a U.C. Berkeley senior who is majoring in psychology, said that she finally got her credits from Hebrew University approved just last week, some six months after she finished her studies there. “That’s been really difficult because I don’t know what I’m going to need to do to graduate,” she said.

The program’s reinstatement is the result of intensive lobbying by pro-Israel activists. Last winter, student activists redoubled their efforts when they took their case to the California state legislature. In January, former Democratic state senator Carole Migden introduced Senate Resolution 18, which cited the added burdens of studying in Israel without the program, and called for its reinstatement. That resolution passed unanimously.

Then, in August, the U.C. provost requested that an ad hoc working group advise whether the university should, as an exception to its policy, re-establish the program in Israel.

perhaps this is why, in part, the us campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel participated in a guerrilla ad to correct the university of california’s study abroad posters (click link here to see before and after versions of the posters).

mr. carter goes to gaza

there are a lot of people who are very pleased with jimmy carter’s trip to gaza this week. certainly, his trip to gaza helped put gaza back in the news, which is important. but carter’s insistence that there should be a two-state solution with no right of return for palestinian refugees makes me extremely frustrated and unwilling to get behind carter’s political campaigning. he’s right on many issues, such as hamas is a legitimate political party as well as resistance organization, which should be included in any discussion about the future of palestine. and he surprised me by meeting with palestinian families in gaza who have relatives in zionist prisons (11,000+ palestinian political prisoners compared to the 1 zionist pow who gets far too much media attention). still, his refusal to admit that apartheid exists in the entirety of palestine and his refusal to promote the right of return and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement shows that he is not altogether different from most american political leaders. here are his remarks that he made in gaza as posted on the palestine chronicle website:

Director of UNRWA operations John Ging, thank you for inviting me to Gaza. Distinguished guests, children of Gaza, I am grateful for your warm reception.

I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings.

Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment – slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as “security hazards” and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

Almost one-half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

The situation in Gaza is grim, but all hope is not lost. Amidst adversity, you continue to possess both dignity and determination to work towards a brighter tomorrow. That is why educating children is so important.

I have come to Gaza to help the world know what important work you are doing. UNRWA is here to ensure that the 200,000 children in its schools can develop their talent, express their dynamism, and help create the path to a better future.

The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities. UNRWA is teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the struggle for these rights all over the world, Gaza’s children are learning that as you seek justice for yourselves, you must be sure that your behavior provides justice for others.

They are learning that it is wrong to fire rockets that may kill Israeli children. They are learning that arbitrary detention and the summary execution of political opponents is not acceptable. They are learning that the rule of law must be honored here in Gaza.

I would like to congratulate both UNRWA and the children who have completed the human rights curriculum with distinction. They are tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians want more than just to survive. They hope to lead the Arab world, to be a bridge between modern political life and traditions that date back to the Biblical era. The nation you will create must be pluralistic and democratic – the new Palestine that your intellectuals have dreamt about. Palestine must combine the best of the East and the West. The Palestinian state, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

With our new leaders in Washington, my country will move into the forefront of this birth of a new Palestine. We were all reminded of this renewed hope and commitment by President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1 ½ million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies.

Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian Authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement of 1993, but the Arab Peace Initiative is being considered now by all sides.

I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of Gaza, thank you for inviting me and for sharing this happy occasion with me. Congratulations for your achievements.

for now these are just words. it remains to be seen if carter’s words can translate into action even on a small scale. for his part ismail haniyya, who spoke with carter the other day, vowed to work towards a two-state solution:

Ismail Haniyya, Prime Minister of the dissolved government of Hamas in Gaza, stated Tuesday that Hamas supports ant real effort to establish a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The statements of Haniyya came in a press conference with the former US President, Jimmy Carter, who is visiting the region.

“I will push for this aim, I will cooperate with all factions to achieve a parallel and extended ceasefire with Israel”, Haniyya said, “But this ceasefire requires Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and to open the border terminals”.

but seriously: what does that mean exactly? let’s say that all palestinian refugees had the right of return and there were those who returned to their villages in 1948 palestine to live under a regime that only allows jews to have full citizenship and rights and the rest returned to gaza and the west bank. how is it that palestinians are supposed to live a life as a people when the zionist entity has laws forbidding palestinians in 1948 palestine to marry palestinians in gaza and the west bank? how are the supposed to travel around their land with zionists controlling all the borders? and how is it that a so-called state can exist when gaza and the west bank are separated by at best an hour’s drive from one “border” to the other? here is a typical issue facing palestinians that i suspect would not change even if a so-called two-state solution were imposed on palestinians:

Israel has imposed new restrictions barring Palestinians living in Gaza from moving to the West Bank, two Israeli human rights groups said on Tuesday.

According to the new regulation, which was presented by the Israeli state to the High Court of Justice in response to several petitions, no Palestinian living in Gaza is allowed to apply for residency in the West Bank except under exceptional circumstances, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Only Gazans who have close family registered as living in the West Bank will even be considered for a permit to move there, the paper said.

“Israel is systematically taking action to further isolate the Gaza Strip, while increasing the geographic and political separation between Gaza and the West Bank,” said rights groups Gisha and Hamoked.

“The new procedure contradicts a long list of Israeli undertakings to conduct negotiations for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state, including an explicit commitment in the Oslo Accords to preserve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as ‘a single territorial unit,'” the groups said.

According to the regulation, there are three criteria for allowing movement from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, but only if the applicant does not have a “security impediment.”

In order to be considered, a Palestinian living in Gaza must fulfill one of the following criteria, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post:

• Someone who suffers from a chronic medical condition and who has no other family member (not necessarily of the first degree) in Gaza to provide care.

• A minor under the age of 16 living with one parent in Gaza who dies and another living in the West Bank, on condition that there is no relative in Gaza to look after the minor. Even if she does have such relatives, Israel may allow her or her to move, depending on the nature of her relationship with the living parent.

• A person over the age of 65 who is in a “needy situation” and has a “first-degree relative” in the West Bank who can help him, conditional, in part, on not having relatives in the West Bank.

According to the regulation, anyone who meets one of these criteria and is allowed to move, will receive a temporary permit, renewable each year, for seven years. After seven years, if he or she has proven he is not deemed a “security threat,” he or she may be entered in the West Bank population registry.

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

this week al mezan published a statistical report on the savaging of gaza which reveals the following data:

On Sunday 14 June 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights published a statistical report entitled, ‘Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers.’ This report presents figures on the persons killed and property destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its recent invasion of the Gaza Strip codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. The report is currently available in Arabic and will be circulated in English soon.

The introduction to the report provides an overview of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip which was conducted by the IOF during the period 27 January 2008 – 18 January 2009. The report demonstrates that during this invasion, the IOF perpetrated grave and systematic violations of the rules of international law. The report further emphasizes that field investigations clearly indicate that the IOF perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, deliberately targeting civilians, forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands and attacking displaced persons who had fled to temporary shelters flying the United Nations flag.

The report highlights the timing of first attacks launched and their surprise nature which indicates an intention on the part of the IOF to cause the highest possible number of civilian casualties and injuries. In particular, the first wave of attacks coincided with school arrival and departure times placing school children at great risk. (Gazan schools operate a ‘shift’ system with some children attending morning sessions and others afternoon sessions). The report also presents the field investigation methodology.

The report provides the numbers of persons killed and extent of property destroyed by the IOF. During the offensive, the IOF killed or fatally wounded a total of 1410 persons of which 355 were under the age of 18, 110 were women and 240 were resistance fighters. The IOF also partially or fully destroyed 11,135 homes, 209 industrial premises, 724 commercial establishments, 650 vehicles and 6271 (1000 meters) of agricultural land.

The report presents 16 tables addressing the details of persons killed, including socio-economic information, in addition to information related to the incident. Details of damage caused to property are also presented. The numbers of persons killed by unmanned surveillance aircraft (drones) hints that the State of Israel was trying to market its surveillance aircraft, with which hundreds were killed during the Offensive.

The report concludes that Al Mezan investigations, in addition to investigations by other national (Palestinian) and international organizations, present compelling evidence of the perpetration of a large number of grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Fourth Geneva Convention. These crimes include: willful killing, including the targeting of houses while the residents were inside without apparent military necessity; shooting civilians waving white flags; indiscriminate use of excessive forces in civilian areas; targeting civilians and civilian objects without distinction, proportionality or military necessity; using civilians as human shields; targeting medical teams; preventing medical access to the injured; refraining from taking any steps to assist and save the lives of the injured; and targeting United Nations premises and teams. These practices resulted in the killing of large number of civilians.

The report also address the consequences of IOF practices against Gaza residents such as the destruction of water and electricity networks and the blocking and destruction of roads connecting the Gaza Strip, the demolition of large areas of cultivated land and a high number of industrial facilities. These policies caused immense suffering by heavily restricting access to food and medicines, especially after years of siege and closure, which represents collective punishment of the entire population. The report also points at the psychological impact of intensive attacks on residential areas, killing and destruction, as well as the indiscriminate use of warnings to civilians across the Gaza Strip in a context where there was no safe place for civilians to go. The warning announcements were dropped in the centres of towns as well as in the shelters set up by the UN to house the displaced.

The report also addresses the internal Israeli investigation into allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. This investigation was declared closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 by the Israeli military Attorney General 11 days after it commenced. It concluded that the IOF had operated in accordance with international law and did not perpetrate war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The nature of this investigation is a continuation of Israeli practices which offer immunity to its soldiers and leaders. This requires the doubling of efforts to hold the perpetrators of war crimes, or those who ordered them, accountable through channels afforded by international law.

Al Mezan asserts that this practice of offering immunity confirms the firm conviction of observers of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories that the State of Israel does not have the will to investigate crimes perpetrated by its forces. Instead, through statements made by its continued leadership, it deliberately encourages them to perpetrate these crimes and assures them that the political leadership will provide full protection to its forces.

Al Mezan further asserts that the State of Israel’s refusal to conduct an investigation in accordance with relevant international standards, and its provision of protection and immunity to members of its armed forces and government who have perpetrated or ordered war crimes, places the moral responsibility on the shoulders of the international community. Al Mezan stresses that the international community holds both moral and legal responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes in accordance with international legal obligations relevant to the prosecution of war criminals.

Al Mezan condemns in the strongest possible terms the perpetration by the IOF of war crimes in the Gaza Strip. These crimes continue today through collective punishment, and the siege imposed by Israel against the Gaza Strip. Further, Al Mezan condemns the State of Israel’s encouragement of the further perpetration of these crimes by offering protection and immunity to their perpetrators.

Al Mezan calls on the international community to:

· Assume its moral and legal responsibility to end the siege on the Gaza Strip in order to pave the way for reconstruction

· Investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated by the IOF in the Gaza Strip in preparation for perpetrators to be prosecuted and held to account

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

a group of activists and artists recently got together to produce something called “gaza over and over.” it is a 70-page glossy document that catalogues the war crimes committed by the zionist entity in gaza as well as various political and artisitc responses to it such as the khalil bendib and carlos latuff images i posted here. there is also some nice documentation of protests around the world, including the successful boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. you can download their document by going to their website or by clicking this link for the pdf file.

and for someone with much stronger, more factual, historical language who doesn’t only give speeches, but who actually puts his body where his mouth is by doing things like actively supporting boycott, divestment, and sanctions compare this recent piece, posted by pulse media, by ilan pappe to carter. quite a different sort of politics and a point of view that i find it much easier to get behind:

If there is anything new in the never ending sad story of Palestine it is the clear shift in public opinion in this country. I remember coming to these isles in 1980 when supporting the Palestinian cause was confined to the left and in it to a very particular section and ideological stream. The post-holocaust trauma and guilt complex, military and economic interests and the charade of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East all played a role in providing immunity for the state of Israel. Very few were moved, so it seems, by a state that had dispossessed half of Palestine’s native population, demolished half of their villages and towns, discriminated against the minority among them who lived within its borders through an apartheid system and enclaved two million and a half of them in a harsh and oppressive military occupation.

Almost thirty years later and it seems that all these filters and cataracts have been removed. The magnitude of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is well known, the suffering of the people in the occupied territories recorded and described even by the American president as unbearable and inhuman. In a similar way, the destruction and depopulation of the greater Jerusalem area is noted daily and the racist nature of the policies towards the Palestinians in Israel are frequently rebuked and condemned.

The reality today in 2009 is described by the UN as ‘a human catastrophe’. The conscious and conscientious sections of the British society know very well who caused and who produced this catastrophe. This is not related any more to elusive circumstances, or to the ‘conflict’ – it is seen clearly as the outcome of Israeli policies throughout the years. When Desmond Tutu was asked for his reaction to what he saw in the occupied territories he noted sadly that it was worse than Apartheid. He should know.

As in the case of South Africa these decent people, either as individuals or as members of organizations, voice their outrage against the continued oppression, colonization, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Palestine. They are looking for ways of showing their protest and some even hope to impact their government into changing its old policy of indifference and inaction in the face of the continued destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. Many among them are Jews, as these atrocities are done in their name according to the logic of the Zionist ideology, and quite a few among them are veterans of previous civil struggles in this country for similar causes all over the world. They are not confined any more to one political party and they come from all walks of life.

So far the British government is not moved. It was also passive when the anti-Apartheid movement in this country demanded of it to impose sanctions on South Africa. It took several decades for that activism from below to reach the political top. It takes longer in the case of Palestine: guilt about the Holocaust, distorted historical narratives and contemporary misrepresentation of Israel as a democracy seeking peace and the Palestinians as eternal Islamic terrorists blocked the flow of the popular impulse. But it is beginning to find its way and presence, despite the continued accusation of any such demand as being anti-Semitic and the demonization of Islam and Arabs. The third sector, that important link between civilians and government agencies, has shown us the way. One trade union after the other, one professional group after the other, have all sent recently a clear message: enough is enough. It is done in the name of decency, human morality and basic civil commitment not to remain idle in the face of atrocities of the kind Israel has and still is committing against the Palestinian people.

In the last eight years the Israeli criminal policy escalated, and the Palestinian activists were seeking new means to confront it. They have tried it all, armed struggle, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and diplomacy: nothing worked. And yet they are not giving up and now they are proposing a non violent strategy that of boycott, sanctions and divestment. With these means they wish to persuade the Western government to save not only them, but ironically also the Jews in Israel from an imminent catastrophe and bloodshed. This strategy bred the call for cultural boycott on Israel. This demand is voiced by every part of the Palestinian existence: by the civil society under occupation and by Palestinians in Israel. It is supported by the Palestinian refugees and is led by members of the Palestinian exile communities. It came in the right moment and gave individuals and organizations in this country a way to express their disgust at the Israeli policies and at the same time an avenue for participating in the overall pressure on the government to change its policy of providing immunity for the impunity on the ground.

It is bewildering that this shift of public opinion has no impact so far on policy; but again we are reminded of the tortuous way the campaign against apartheid had to go before it became a policy. It is also worth remembering that two brave women in Dublin, toiling on the cashiers in a local supermarket were the ones who began a huge movement of change by refusing to sell South African goods. Twenty nine years later, Britain joined others in imposing sanctions on Apartheid. So while governments hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organised campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use their name or fame for indicating to us all that decent people in this world cannot support what Israel does and what it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their life time. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the more general harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere.

On the other hand, citizens in this country, especially famous ones, who continue to broadcast, quite often out of ignorance or out of more sinister reasons, the fable of Israel as a cultured Western society or as the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ are not only wrong factually. They provide immunity for one of the greatest atrocities in our time. Some of them demand we should leave culture out of our political actions. This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct. Eventually, one day the outrage from below, including in Israel itself, will produce a new policy – the present American administration is already showing early signs of it. History did not look kindly at those film makers who collaborated with McCarthy or endorsed Apartheid. It would adopt a similar attitude to those who are silent about Palestine now.

A good case in point unfolded last month in Edinburgh. Ken Loach led a campaign against the official and financial connections the city’s film festival had with the Israeli embassy. Such a stance was meant to send a message that this embassy represents not only the film makers of Israel but also its generals who massacred the people of Gaza, its tormentors who torture Palestinians in jails, its judges who sent 10,000 Palestinians – half of them children – without trial to prison, its racist mayors who want to expel Arabs from their cities, its architects who built walls and fences to enclave people and prevent them from reaching their fields, schools, cinemas and offices and its politicians who strategise yet again how to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they began in 1948. Ken Loach felt that only a call for boycotting the festival as whole would bring its directors into a moral sense and perspective. He was right; it did, because the case is so clear cut and the action so simple and pure.

It is not surprising that a counter voice was heard. This is an ongoing struggle and would not be won easily. As I write these words, we commemorate the 42nd year of the Israeli occupation, the longest, and one of the cruellest in modern time. But time has also produced the lucidity needed for such decisions. This is why Ken’s action was immediately effective; next time even this would not be necessary. One of his critics tried to point to the fact that people in Israel like Ken’s films, so this was a kind of ingratitude. I can assure this critic that those of us in Israel who watch Ken’s movies are also those who salute him for his bravery and unlike this critic we do not think of this an act similar to a call for Israel’s destruction, but rather the only way of saving Jews and Arabs living there. But it is difficult anyway to take such criticism seriously when it is accompanied by description of the Palestinians as a terrorist entity and Israel as a democracy like Britain. Most of us in this country have moved far away from this propagandist silliness and are ready for change. We are now waiting for the government of these isles to follow suit.

settlerland

zionist terrorist colony of efrat's checkpoint in khader, palestine
zionist terrorist colony of efrat's checkpoint in khader, palestine

coming home today through the palestinian village of khader i noticed some new posters at the entrance of the zionist terrorist colony of efrat’s checkpoint. the close up of the image is below. while i believe that the united states president–whoever s/he is–represents the interests of the hegemonic white power structures, he is still obviously a target for racist and islamophobes around the world as this image shows. but this image also illustrates the mentality of zionist terrorist colonists in palestine.

"barack hussein obama: anti-semitic jew hater" (efrat colony checkpiont entrance)

i spent the afternoon at the bet gemal monastary in palestine. it is a lovely monastary with an amazing byzantine era church filled with palestinian mosaics that were discovered in 1917. the current church (see below) was built in 1932 on the ruins of the original one. there is an amazing view from the church grounds where one can see palestinian villages belonging to palestinians who now live in refugee camps in the west bank as well as zionist terrorist colonies dotting the landscape with their typical red roof tract houses (see photograph below).

st. stephen church at bet gemal
st. stephen church at bet gemal
grapes growing for bet gamal's vineyard
grapes growing for bet gamal's vineyard
zionist terrorist colonies in 1948 palestine (view from bet gamal)
zionist terrorist colonies in 1948 palestine (view from bet gamal)

i was thinking about this view of these colonies and the way that most people in the world, even activists who work in solidarity with palestinians, don’t view them as colonies or settlements. but they are every bit as much colonies. and they exist on every bit as much of stolen land as those in the west bank. they may not be “illegal” under international law, but they are the one thing that is the obstacle to so-called “peace” initiatives given the fact that their existence blocks palestinian refugees right of return. in any case, all these colonies exist on stolen land; some was stolen a hundred years ago, some stolen today. but the fact of when it is stolen makes no difference. stolen is stolen.

unfortunately, most people don’t get this. or if the get it, the don’t say it. jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler’s ips article this week is case in point. commenting on the upcoming benjamin netanahu speech they make a distinction between “settlerland” in the west bank and fail to mention the setterland that exists all over historic palestine:

During his run for the White House, Barack Obama disclosed that a book that helped him focus on priorities during the rigours of campaigning was Netherland, a novel by Joseph O’Neill dealing with life in New York post 9/11. A central character is one Chuck Ramkissoon, an immigrant from Trinidad, who dreams of transforming his adopted nation by bringing cricket to the American masses, a visionary who favours epithets like “Think Fantastic”.

If he wants to create a counter momentum with his own university address, Netanyahu will have to do what, in his vision, would be ‘fantastic’: Instead of continuing to transform the West Bank into ‘Settlerland’, an extension of Israel, he will finally have to agree with the President’s vision – transform Israel itself by transforming the West Bank into ‘Palestineland’.

and this past week saw many more palestinians ethnically cleansed from their land to make way for an ever-increasing settlerland as is the case in beit hanina, a palestinian neighborhood in al quds:

Israel’s Jerusalem municipality on Sunday issued 13 demolition orders for Palestinian apartments in Beit Hanina, under the pretext that they lack permits.

The demolition orders will affect the 13 apartments at the Al-Halhouly building in Beit Hanina, in the Ganet Adan (Garden of Eden) area, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs.

In a statement, the ministry said that the issue of the houses, home to about 100 Palestinians, had been handed over to attorney Sami Arsheed, who will pursue the issue within Israel’s court system.

another family in al quds was forced to demolish his own home this week less he have to pay the zionist terrorist entity to do it for him:

Israeli authorities ordered a Palestinian to demolish his own home in the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Muhammad Ghosheh said police and a demolition crew from the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem arrived at his house in the morning, threatening him with a 100,000 Israeli shekel (25,125 US dollar) fine if he did not destroy the house.

palestinians in silwan continue to resist the ethnic cleansing of their neighborhood:

Clashes erupted as massive forces of Israeli soldiers and border police descended on Jerusalem’s Al-Bustan neighborhood to serve nearly a hundred demolition notices to Palestinian homeowners.

The demolition orders were served to the owners of the 88 homes earlier threatened with destruction under Israeli law 212, which allows homes to be demolished or evacuated without any formal legal charges being brought forth or any party convicted of an alleged violation of the Israeli Planning and Building Law.

This law was also used in 1967 to erase the Palestinian Al-Mugharbi neighborhood inside the Old City to form the plaza in front of the Western Wall, believed to be the site of the third temple in Judaism. The neighborhood was razed and is now an open compound for Jews to pray near the wall.

Residents clashed fiercely with police, who are said to have been forced to retreat to the entrance of the neighborhood, a subsection of the Silwan area, which lies next to Jerusalem’s Old City.

there was another group of palestinians who resisted the theft of their land this week in al quds as well:

A group of Palestinian residents managed on Thursday afternoon to stop Israeli settlers from taking over their land located east of Jerusalem’s old city.

The land, of 1,75 acres, is owned by two Palestinian families from East Jerusalem.

Witnesses told the Palestine News Agency WAFA that the settlers arrived at the locations along with Israeli city planners but the residents were at their lands and stopped the process.

The Israeli municipality plans to use the land to expand the nearby Israeli illegal settlement of Beit Oret. Hateem Abed Al Qader, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, was at the location and said that the residents will keep a 24-hour presence on the land to protect it.

nour odeh reported on the continuing land grab by zionist terrorists occupying palestine on al jazeera earlier this week:

you can also see a couple of good news reports on the continuing land confiscation and home demolition in this clip from mosaic tv as well, which also shows ghosheh having to demolish his home:

ironically, the zionist terrorist entity stated this week that palestinians have too many rights when it comes to construction on their land:

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has instructed ministry employees to nix a master plan for Jerusalem on the grounds that it allocates too much territory for Palestinian construction. In recent days Yishai instructed Ruth Yosef, tapped as the ministry’s new supervisor for Jerusalem, to shelve the program – the fruit of several years of labor by dozens of architects.

The master plan was intended to outline the city’s development over the next few decades and to remedy a situation in which, since 1959, the capital has not been developed according to a comprehensive agenda.

but it is not just the land confiscation and home demolition either. i call the predominantly european people who have stolen and live on palestinian land terrorists because they are. even one of their own organizations reported a rise in terrorist attacks against palestinians this week:

The Israeli Yesh Din human rights group stated that Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank are escalating their attacks against the Palestinians, and significantly increased their attempts to uproot and damage Palestinian farmlands.

The group stated that “the settlers are trying to achieve political goals by committing acts of terror against the Palestinians and their lands”.

It said that the farmers in Palestine are the ones who are paying the price for the government’s attempts to evacuate some illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank.

The group added the recent weeks witnessed a significant increase of attacks and attempts to uproot trees, and that such attacked escalating due to the lack of action by the army against the assailants.

Yesh Din sent a letter to Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, the Central Command Chief of the Israeli Army, Gadi Shamni, and the Chief of the Israeli Police in the West Bank, Hagai Dotan, informing them that the settlers sawed and uprooted more than 300 trees, mostly olive trees, in the West Bank since the end of April until the end of May.

The group demanded the Israeli officials to prevent these attacks, and to prevent the acts of vengeance that the settlers carry out after the evacuation of illegal outposts.

Yesh Din attorney, Michael Sfard, stated that his group repeatedly warned the Israeli police and army that the settlers and extremist Jewish groups are carrying “systematic, organized and large-scale terrorist attacks against Palestinian civilians”.

there have been numerous such attacks and here is one of the latest near khalil and nablus this week:

Israeli settlers attacked and destroyed Palestinian-owned farm lands on a number of locations in the West Bank on Thursday.

Local sources reported that the attacks took place near the southern city of Hebron and the northern city of Nablus.

Scores of olive trees were damaged when Israeli settlers set them on fire near Hebron city. The owners told media that the settlers came from the nearby Kharsina settlement. Witnesses said that Palestinian firefighters managed to stop the fire but at least two dozen trees were destroyed.

Meanwhile another group of Israeli settlers set fire to farm lands that belong to Palestinians from the villages of Aqraba and Yanoon near Nablus city.

The farmers said that settlers set fire to their crops while being protected by the Israeli military. The fire destroyed two acres of farm lands before the farmers were able to stop the fire.

near nablus in a new zionist colonist terrorist outpost set up this week the colonists terrorized people with their target practice:

Local sources in Khirbit Yanoun, east of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, stated that a group of extremist Israeli settlers installed tents neat the village and attacked a number of residents.

The sources added that five Israeli vehicles arrived near the village carrying the settlers and their equipment, and that the settlers immediately installed the tens and set the “parameter” of their new outpost.

The settlers then transformed a piece of land into a military training zone, placed targets and started firing at them.

The Israeli army did not attempt to intervene.

dan nolan reported on al jazeera that one such zionist terrorist colonist who was responsible for some of these attacks was released without charges this week:

even human rights watch, with its predictable soft language, is condemning the house demolition policy, though i’m so sick of people who are in a position of power condemning and doing nothing:

The Israeli government should immediately stop demolishing Palestinian homes and property in the West Bank and compensate the people it has displaced, Human Rights Watch said today.

Israeli authorities destroyed the homes and property of 18 shepherd families in the northern Jordan Valley on June 4, 2009, displacing approximately 130 people, after ordering them on May 31 to evacuate because they were living in a “closed military zone.” Some of the families whose homes and property were destroyed had been living in their village since at least the 1950s.

“Giving families less than a week to evacuate their homes, without any opportunity for review or appeal, is as heartless as it is unfair,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should have given these people due process to contest their displacement.”

um, no: that is not the worst of it and it’s far more egregious than just “unfair.” one needs a sense of the repetitious nature of history here in palestine if you really want to understand the outrageousness of whitson’s quote above. if you read the full report by clicking on the link above you will see that oftentimes palestinians forcibly removed from their homes and their land often undergo this experience multiple times. multiple displacements. this is one of the many reasons i think we need to frame everything here in terms of an anti-colonial struggle, regardless of what part of palestine that ethnic cleansing occurs on. this is why two-states is = to no state as far as palestinian refugees are concerned. and yet the drum beat for this failed policy continues. exhibit a consists of the statements made by george mitchell when he was here this week:

In all of his meetings with Israeli officials, US envoy George Mitchell, confirmed the American commitment to Israel’s security while at the same time stated that the United States still believes that Israel should stop the construction and expansion of settlement.

Mitchell also said that the Unites States position on settlements never changed since 40 years; which is the same period in which settlement were built and expanded on Palestinian lands under direct and indirect US support

As for the Gaza Strip, Mitchell said that crossings to should opened under direct cooperation with the government of Salam Fayyad in the West Bank. He also said that the US wants to make sure that if construction materials are allowed into Gaza, they won’t be used by Hamas for manufacturing combat materials.

Meanwhile, Israeli media sources reported that the Mitchell’s statements were moderate regardless of the “tension between Israel and the US on settlements”, and that Mitchell confirmed in every meeting that the United States is committed to Israel’s security.

yes, the united states is committed to the security of the zionist colonist terrorist entity, but not the security or the rights or the just cause of the palestinian people. and yet journalists like mel frykberg think that palestinians are “hopeful” as he repeats the empty words of collaborator saeb erekat:

Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat believes Palestinians are politically in their strongest position ever in their decades-long conflict with the Israelis.

There also appears to be growing consensus and confidence in both Palestinian and Arab circles that the U.S. administration could be offering more than just lip-service to Palestinian independence aspirations this time around.

In the past the Arabs, and the Palestinians in particular, have accused the U.S. of being biased towards Israel.

Previous peace deals and agreements signed over the years, supporting a two-state solution, and an end to illegal Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, came to naught.

Instead, Israel raced ahead with building new settlements, and enlarging hundreds of existing settlements and outposts on Palestinian land in the occupied territory.

“The time for playing games is over. No more delaying tactics, no more stalling, no more excuses. It is time for action. Ceasing settlement building is not a Palestinian pre-condition; it is an Israeli obligation. These are terms that Israel has previously committed to,” Erekat told IPS.

“We have been assured by (U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George) Mitchell that the U.S. administration will support the legitimate rights of the Palestinians,” Erekat said. “(U.S. President Barack) Obama too has reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution and a halt to settlement building.”

Spell check Card copy

i do not doubt that erekat is hopeful of his ability to continue to profit off of the “peace process” industry on the backs of 7.2 million palestinian refugees who suffer as much at his hands as they do from the american and zionist collaborators. pulse media posted something about the council for the national interest’s ongoing campaign to get americans to protest the use of their tax dollars to build colonies (though only in the west bank, not in the rest of palestine). the postcard pictured above can be sent from their website.

but in spite of all this american financial, military, and political support the u.s. gives to the zionist entity, there are still zionist terrorist colonists who are whining because they fear they will stop getting their way (don’t worry, they will). pulse media also reported this week that some zionist terrorist colonists are so upset they want regime change in the united states:

Antiwar.com brings us news that Israeli minister Yossi Peled is seeking sanctions and regime change… against the USA!

Peled is calling for the Israeli government to seek to influence American elections and cutting trade ties with America. This, let’s remember, is coming from a minister of the country that has received more aid from the US than all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined. Israeli politicians are now so comfortable with their relationship with America they talk about America in the same way America talks about minor Latin American rogue states.

but the change is not going to come from sites of power. it is going to come from the grassroots. and change is coming from there, but unfortunately most grassroots organizations seem to target those zionist colonies in the west bank. it is a start, but certainly not where the finish line needs to be. nevertheless, there is good news to report that dexia is no longer going to finance zionist terrorist colonies in the west bank:

The Belgian-French financial group Dexia has announced it will no longer finance Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories through its Israeli branch Dexia Israel. This is the result of a months-long campaign in Belgium, supported by NGO’s, political parties, local authorities, trade unions and other organisations. Dexia’s management states that financing Israeli settlements is indeed against the bank’s code of ethics and it will stop giving loans due to this.

In 2001 Dexia Group buys the Israeli bank Otzar Hashilton Hamekomi and renames the bank Dexia Public Finance Israel. Just like other Dexia subsidiaries, Dexia Israel is specialised in financing municipalities and other local authorities.

It takes until October 2008 for a few Belgian solidarity groups to discover that Dexia Israel is not only financing regular Israeli municipalities but is also granting loans to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories. In a document of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), the director of Dexia Israel, Mr. David Kapah, confirms that the bank has indeed granted credits to seven settlements and three regional authorities in the occupied West Bank between 2003 and 2007.

This ‘smoking gun’ evidence entails the start of a fast growing campaign in Belgium. United under the slogan ‘Israel colonises, Dexia finances’, the campaign knows its first successes. In the following months petitions are being launched, MP’s are being questioned and local actions are being started up. Very important is the support of local Belgian authorities such as municipalities and provinces, as they hold a vast amount of shares in Dexia Group.

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.

on cultural resistance and anti-normalization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

inside khalil sakakini cultural center
inside khalil sakakini cultural center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

who’s got the nukes? (don’t ask, don’t tell)

last week after blogging about his appearance on al jazeera’s “inside story,” i received this email from israeli terrorist colonist dan diker:

I saw your blog in which you refer to me as an “Israeli Terrorist Colonist”. That would be OK if you were simply honest enough to call yourself an angry activist that simply hates Jews and Jewish State. But to call yourself a scholar? You have no command of the dispute between the sides nor do you understand the hatred between Hamas and Fatah. Have you met with the 400 Fatah members in Gaza who have been tortured and tossed off of buildings by Hamas members or the 1,500 fatah families that have had their knees shot through by Hamas. I trust you have not spoken with the Hamas activists that have been equally tortured by Fatah warlords in Gaza and the West Bank.

I’ll be sure to share your blog with my friends in the Fatah in Ramallah who share my assessment of Hamas and Iran. You must hate them too, as well as Egyptian and Jordanian friends who disagree with you, but I am not sure that will absolve you of the ignorance and hatred you express for anything that does not fit your worldview to a tee.

of course, blogging about palestine means that one often receives hate e-mails. i am posting this one for a couple of reasons. first, given the ongoing crackdown on journalists and academics in palestine by the palestinian authority as part of its collaborationist regime, i see this email as an implicit threat. second, the e-mail is a classic case of zionist propaganda and as such i find it instructive. of course, if one reads my blog it is obvious that i have a great deal of anger and rightfully so. when one sees the ongoing ethnic cleansing and brutality that i see every day it is difficult not to be outraged and enraged. also, as is typically zionist he inverts and distorts the truth. if you read the post that i wrote linked at the top of this paragraph you would know that fatah is equally responsible for its brutality against palestinians and other journalists who speak out against the collaborationist regime in ramallah, but of course he would have you believe it is only hamas. and, of course, he would never admit that the divide and rule in palestine that has led to fatah-hamas fighting is the result of an american-zionist scheme. i also find it highly ironic that he accuses me of hating jews and the jewish state when the post he is responding to was in fact entitled “anti-semitism” and all about its mis-uses by zionists and palestinians alike. of course, this is the problem with zionists: they see those of us who hate the jewish state (which i do) and who hate zionists and zionism (which i do) as hating jews (which i don’t). as for me being an academic, one must to read my academic writing before they can make such an assessment; clearly he didn’t read the post i wrote (otherwise he would not be able to claim that i am anti-semitic, though this is not a surprise given that on “inside story” he made it clear he cannot listen either or answer questions posed to him for that matter) and i’m fairly certain that he also chose not to read any of my academic articles or books. to be clear, this blog is an outlet for me. i do not consider it a part of my academic body of work, although some of what i write here is related to my current academic writing. but this is an outlet for me to release my rage, make others aware of what is going on in palestine and other places that are fighting colonial and imperial rule on their soil. and, finally, i’ve never made any attempt to hide that i am an activist. but unlike zionist propagandists i put my agenda out there and up front for the world to see rather than hide behind a veneer of lies and mythologizing.

interestingly diker claims to have friends in egypt, jordan, and ramallah who agree with him. and i have no reason to doubt him; of course the regimes in those three places would befriend colonists on palestinian land; indeed as i have often written here, they are a part of the problem. however, the regimes in ramallah, amman, and cairo do not speak for the masses of arabs in the region when it comes to the colonial zionist entity or the imperial american one. indeed, this week shibley telhami, a professor at the university of maryland and james zogby of zogby international did an opinion poll of arab opinions about barack obama in relation to his so-called promises of change. here was the most interesting result from both polls as reported in howard lafranchi’s article in the christian science monitor:

Among the two polls’ notable findings ahead of Obama’s speech:

•When asked which countries pose the biggest threat to their well-being, Arabs by and large name the same two they have for years: the US and Israel.

of course, diker also had to make sure his anti-iranian bit was front and center given the news about iran’s missile testing this week. zion-nuts are going ballistic, though they didn’t need this news to set them off. check out this hyperbole from dershowitz last week:

Leading American Jewish attorney and civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz on Friday called for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be prosecuted for “incitement to genocide.”

Dershowitz presented his case in a post published Friday on the Weblog of Canadian newspaper the National Post.

Dershowitz, who is well-known as a defender of free speech, argued – using the example of Ahmadinejad – that incitement to genocide should be criminalized because it is an instruction rather than an idea to be debated.

“It is closely analogous to the incitements to genocide that have been punished in Rwanda,” Dershowitz wrote of the Iranian president’s continuous references to Israel’s destruction.

as’ad abukhalil, another “angry” academic had the most concise and apt thing to say about iran in relation to zionist propaganda on the subject:

So Zionist and Saudi media are insisting that people of the world should feel threatened by the Iranian missile test. Saudi media (echoing as usual the Zionist handlers) are citing “experts” (typically in Zionist bastions in the West) to the effect that the missile test is a threat “not only to Israel.” Of course, I don’t trust the Iranian regime–especially on the Palestinian question, but on any other question. But I am a 49-year old Arab and in my own life time Israel has bombed–BOMBED not missile tested–Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. And you think that you can convince Arabs that Israel is not a threat? I don’t care how much money House of Saud has, it won’t fly. Try again and again and again.

and bill fletcher had a similar point to make in his open letter to obama on black commentator:

I don’t want to push this too far, Mr. President, but when Prime Minister Netanyahu asked you to join forces with him to threaten Iran, why didn’t you ask him when was the last time that Iran invaded and occupied someone else’s territory? When Prime Minister Netanyahu asked you about the alleged nuclear threat from Iran, perhaps you could have fleshed out your answer to the question regarding nuclear threats in the Middle East that you were asked by Helen Thomas in one of your first press conferences after the November election, when you failed to mention – perhaps it was an oversight – that the only nuclear power in the Middle East/Western Asia is Israel?

personally, i am having an unusual reaction to the notion of nuclear weapons in iran (as someone who is normally opposed to them) given the news in ha’aretz that 1 in 4 zionist colonists would leave if this were to happen (now that is what i call deterrence!):

Some 23 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Some 85 percent of respondents said they feared the Islamic Republic would obtain an atomic bomb, 57 percent believed the new U.S. initiative to engage in dialogue with Tehran would fail and 41 percent believed Israel should strike Iran’s nuclear installations without waiting to see whether or how the talks develop.

and on those zionist nuclear weapons, dan williams’ report on common dreams reveals that the united states is now going to have a “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy about the zionist entity’s nuclear weapons arsenal:

The U.S. administration of President Barack Obama will not force Israel to state publicly whether it has nuclear weapons, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

He said Washington would stick to a decades-old U.S. policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Obama’s bid to curb Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy has stirred speculation that, as part of a regional disarmament regimen, Israel could be asked to come clean on its own secret capabilities.

and on a regular basis–at least several times a week from what i can tell from what i hear in the skies above me–the zionist entity conducts all sorts of military training tests such as this one:

The Israeli Air Force concluded Thursday a three-day drill which simulates a comprehensive regional war; the drill included interception, attack aircraft, helicopters, refueling aircraft, in addition to testing the air force system and ground force readiness.

Israeli media sources reported that the details of the testings are classified but it was revealed that one of the tested scenarios includes combats on multiple fronts, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Although the performed tests were part of an annual drill, but this year’s included what Israel described as “current threats” the country is allegedly facing.

Air Force personnel were also briefed on the Iranian Sijjil-2 new missile as Israel says that this missile poses a threat to the country.

The drill reportedly went well, but officials stated that some vulnerabilities still need to be corrected.

Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, described the drill as very important, and the outcome boosted Israel’s confidence.

During the drill, the army set practice targets representing Iranian nuclear sites.

and it’s funny that no one in the u.s.–or anywhere else for that matter–is outraged that the zionist entity is conducting such tests or making such plans. last week obama’s colleague in congress, representative jane harman publicly called for a strategy of divide and rule in iran to help her zionist friends with their divide and rule plans over the region as the national iranian american council reported, though she has since retracted that statement:

Rep. Harman calls ethnic separation of Iran “a good strategy”

UPDATE: NIAC is pleased to announce that Congresswoman Jane Harman has, after discussions with NIAC, retracted her statement and expressed regret for the concern it has caused. Below is NIAC’s press release welcoming the Congresswoman’s retraction.

Rep. Harman’s swift response is a testament to her openness and to the increasing political engagement of the Iranian-American community.

of course, all of this intensification of anti-iran rhetoric has emerged in the shadow of benjamin netanyahu’s meeting with barack obama last week in which instead of discussing a palestinian state (the so-called two-state solution which is, in reality, an intensified colonization solution) netanyahu wanted to divert attention and talk about iran. mondoweiss blogged about this, picking up on netanyahu rhetoric that has abandoned the language of “statehood” in exchange for “side-hood”:

On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanuyahu left his ambiguous meeting with President Obama behind him for greener pastures – the US Congress. There has already been speculation that Netanyahu is planning on using the Congress to block any challenge from the Obama administration and we may have seen the first salvo. It seems congressional leaders are already adopting Netanyahu’s language to distance themselves from the two-state solution.

it is in the video on mondoweiss’s blog where we see this new language of a “side-by-side” scenario instead of two states:

what is interesting about this above video of netanyahu with nancy pelosi is the way that netanyahu seems to be pitting obama against congress.

 President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office, 18 May 2009. (Pete Souza/White House Photo)
President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office, 18 May 2009. (Pete Souza/White House Photo)

on electronic intifada ali abunimah offers this analysis of the more-of-the-same obama meeting with netanyahu last week:

But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Obama applies unprecedented pressure to force Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. What would such a deal look like? The outlines were suggested in the recent report sent to Obama by a group of US elder statesmen headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The document, warning that there was only a “six to twelve month window” before all chances for peace evaporated, called on the US to forcefully advocate the creation of a Palestinian state. But this would be a demilitarized truncated state “based on” the 1967 borders. Israel would annex large West Bank settlements and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. This “state” would be occupied indefinitely by a NATO-led “multinational force,” which the Scowcroft group suggests could also include Israeli soldiers (see “A last chance for a two-state Israel-Palestine agreement, 2009).

Of course the Scowcroft proposal does not necessarily represent Obama administration thinking, but it expresses the pervasive peace process industry consensus that views such an outcome as “reasonable,” “pragmatic” and all but inevitable, and it accords with Obama’s own statements opposing the right of return and supporting Israel’s demand to to be recognized as a “Jewish state.”

In other words, what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist, and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds.

there are lots of other reasons to see business as usual in washington when it comes to the zionist entity. jonathan cook has a terrific article in electronic intifada this week on uzi arad which is essential reading to get a sense of the obama administration’s complicity in the zionist regime at the expense of american interests (as usual):

As might be expected of a former senior official with Israel’s spy agency Mossad, Uzi Arad — the most trusted political adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister — has become used to being in the shadows as he exerts influence.

But that is fast changing. Arad was prominent in preparing Netanyahu’s tough positions as he headed for Washington this week to meet Barack Obama, the US president, who is seeking to advance a Middle East peace plan.

Arad, recently appointed the head of Israel’s revamped National Security Council, will oversee an organization that Netanyahu regards as the linchpin of the new government’s security and foreign policy.

One military analyst, Amir Oren, has noted that, given Netanyahu’s unstable coalition, Arad “is likely to emerge as a strong adviser to a weak government.”

Arad has been outspoken both in rejecting Palestinian statehood and in promoting the military option against Iran, positions believed to be shared by the Israeli prime minister and that will be at the root of a possible confrontation in the coming months with the Obama administration.

Arad is also one of only a handful of senior figures on Netanyahu’s Iran Task Force, charged with devising a strategy for dealing with Tehran and its supposed ambitions to attain nuclear weapons.

That will make some in Israel uneasy. The hawkish views that have made Arad indispensable to Netanyahu have also earned him several high-profile opponents.

Arik Carmon, founder of the Israel Democracy Institute, has described Arad’s proposal to arrange “territorial exchanges” to strip some of Israel’s Palestinian minority of their citizenship as “racist.”

Alon Liel, a former director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, has called Arad’s efforts to derail recent talks with Syria by demanding the continuing occupation of the Golan “ridiculous and nasty.”

In 2007, before his rise to public prominence, Arad also fueled worried speculation about Israel’s plans for a military strike on Tehran, after he described it as “easier than you think.” A wide range of non-military Iranian targets were legitimate, he added.

But despite Arad’s espousal of opinions that in many respects accord with those of Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu Party and Netanyahu’s foreign minister, few doubt the prime minister’s fierce loyalty to him.

In a sign of that commitment, Netanyahu pushed through Arad’s appointment as national security adviser, a post in which he will need to be in almost continual consultation with the US, at the risk of provoking a diplomatic crisis with the Obama White House.

He had been barred from entering the US by the Bush administration after implication in a spying scandal. A Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, jailed in 2006 for passing secrets about Iran to the Israel lobby group AIPAC, was reported to have met Arad frequently.

When the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, arrived in Jerusalem in April for meetings with Netanyahu, then prime minister-designate, her staff quietly suggested he remove an official — a hint that Arad’s presence was not welcome. Netanyahu instead sent out Sallai Meridor, the ambassador to the US, who resigned soon afterwards.

The Obama administration has since restored Arad’s visa and agreed to his political rehabilitation, not least so that he will be able regularly to meet his US opposite number, Gen. James Jones.

Arad spent more than 20 years in Mossad, much of it working in the intelligence section, before being appointed as Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser in his first government in the late 1990s.

He was also closely associated with a leading neoconservative think-tank in New York, the Hudson Institute, in the 1970s.

But paradoxically, his influence on Israeli thinking — both among policy-makers and the public — may have actually increased during his years in political opposition, after the fall of the first Netanyahu government in 1999.

It was then that he established an influential think-tank, the Institute for Policy and Strategy, at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.

The institute stages an annual conference, dedicated to the “balance of Israel’s national security,” that has become the most important event in the Israeli calendar for politicians, generals and diplomats, as well as attracting high-profile US guests.

Since the first meeting in 2000, the conferences have defined the major security issues supposedly facing Israel, closely mirroring Arad’s own key obsessions.

Chief among these have been fears about the demographic threat to Israel’s Jewishness from Palestinian birth rates both in the occupied territories and among Israel’s own Palestinian citizens, and the danger posed to Israeli hegemony in the region from Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

In an indication of his implacable opposition to a Palestinian state, Arad recently told an interviewer: “We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of Palestinian populations, not the territories.”

He has suggested that the Palestinians be required to become economically self-reliant, in the hope that their leaders will be forced to promote family planning methods to reduce the population. His motto is that the Palestinians need “one man, one job” before they need “one man, one vote.”

He has also promoted a complex territorial exchange involving Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt that would see many Palestinians relocated to the Sinai so that Israel could take control of chunks of the West Bank.

But his greatest vehemence is reserved for Iran — an antipathy apparently shared by the Israeli prime minister. In the past he has called for “maximum deterrence,” including threats to strike “anything and everything of value” in Iran, including its “holiest sites.”

As Netanyahu’s plane touched down in Washington on Sunday, Arad briefed reporters that Tehran posed an “existential” threat to Israel and that “all options are indeed on the table.”

there are many ways that zionism infects the american body politic. jeremy scahill reveals a new one that is unfolding in as at least one american military leader is now advocating the adoption of media censorship:

A new report for a leading neoconservative group which pushes a belligerent “Israel first” agenda of conquest in the Middle East suggests that in future wars the US should make censorship of media official policy and advocates “military attacks on the partisan media.” (H/T MuzzleWatch) The report for JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, was authored by retired US Army Colonel Ralph Peters. It appears in JINSA’s “flagship publication,” The Journal of International Security Affairs. “Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight,” Peters writes, calling the media, “The killers without guns:”

Of course, the media have shaped the outcome of conflicts for centuries, from the European wars of religion through Vietnam. More recently, though, the media have determined the outcomes of conflicts. While journalists and editors ultimately failed to defeat the U.S. government in Iraq, video cameras and biased reporting guaranteed that Hezbollah would survive the 2006 war with Israel and, as of this writing, they appear to have saved Hamas from destruction in Gaza.

[…]

Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.

The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity’s interests, while our failures nourish monsters.

It is, of course, very appropriate that such a despicable battle cry for murdering media workers appears in a JINSA publication. The organization has long boasted an all-star cast of criminal “advisors.” Among them: Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, John Bolton, Douglas Feith and others. JINSA, along with the Project for a New American Century, was one of the premiere groups in shaping US policy during the Bush years and remains a formidable force with Obama in the White House.

the way that the u.s. follows the lead of the zionist regime and its american lobbyists is always dangerous regardless of where we see it–media, military, congress. but news today that obama is following in the footsteps of george bush and actually taking netanyahu’s lead in all of this bogus anti-iran rhetoric and planning was revealed today:

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Friday that President Barack Obama had asked him to update the plans for the use of military force against Iran which were prepared during former President George W. Bush’s term.

In an interview to NBC television’s Today show, the American defense secretary explained that “presidents always ask their military to have a range of contingency plans available to them. And all I would say is that, as a result of our dialogue with the president, we have refreshed our plans and all options are on the table.”

Asked whether the military plan for a strike in Iran was not updated, Gates responded that every president wants to be sure that the military plans are up to date.

It should be noted that Gates himself has opposed a strike in Iran since his days in the Bush administration and continues to firmly object to military action against the Islamic republic under the Obama administration as well. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, also opposes such a move.

on anti-semitism

when i was teaching the play my name is rachel corrie this semester the subject of anti-semitism came up. there is a part of the play where rachel talks about how difficult it is for non-jews to speak about palestine in the u.s. because of the way that people silence you and say you’re anti-semitic. in the process of discussing this monologue it came up that many of my students think that the nazi holocaust is something that is fabricated. i had not encountered such a view in palestine before, but i understand why it exists and where it comes from. given the ways in which the nazi holocaust has been used against palestinians both as a pretext to steal their land, massacre palestinians, and ethnically cleanse them, i can understand how such thinking might emerge. given that the nazi holocaust has been used to silence those who speak about palestine, i can understand why people may doubt it or question it. but here is the thing. by questioning something that is factually based one only plays into those zionist hands and allows them to say, “oh, see, palestinians are anti-semitic.” also, by quibbling over numbers about how many people were killed in the nazi holocaust you are doing exactly what you don’t want done to you. those who know the facts about palestine, for instance, don’t want people to quibble over the historical facts about the 531 villages that were destroyed or the 750,000 palestinians forcibly removed from their homes during an nakba.

this is not, of course, a majority view in palestine. i think it speaks to the weak education that i have encountered in nablus as well as the lack of access to reading materials here. but at the same time zionists themselves initiated the abuse of and distortion of the nazi holocaust. at the recent aipac (american israel public affairs committee) meeting in washington dc the key item up for discussion was iran as the new germany, ahmadinejad as the new hitler. just check out this speech given there by republican congressman from virginia eric cantor for a glimpse into how this rhetoric pairs the two together in ways that defy logic, history, and reality:

notice cantor remarks at the beginning “at what moment was it too late” in reference to hitler. then he moves into iran with his completely baseless propaganda that “amhadinejad dreams of finishing hitler’s work.” he speaks as if this is true and it is 100% false. i’ll offer an example in a moment, but first look at this discussion on al jazeera’s “inside story” a couple of nights ago with imran garda. he hosted three speakers: imad gad from the al ahram center in cairo, former deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs david mack, and israeli terrorist colonist dan diker with the jerusalem centre for public affairs. here is the episode:

from the outset of the debate you can see diker move right in sync with the new aipac policy agenda:

Both Egypt and Israel are being directly threatened by the Islamic Republic of Iran and their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, which have now threatened the life of Mr. Mubarak and threatening the Egyptian regime. And they are threatening Israel through their surrogate Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in the north, and Iranian proxies in the West Bank including Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. So both leaders had a very strong set of interests to discuss that both include the Palestinian issue and twinned with the much larger strategic threat that Iran poses to both nations and indeed the entire Sunni establishment in the Middle East.

divide and rule. the big picture. uri avnery, a colonist in the zionist entity, refutes these claims at least in part in an article on anti-war.com:

Like a traveling salesman offering a counterfeit product, Peres is now peddling the merchandise called Binyamin Netanyahu. He presents to the world a Netanyahu we have never known: a peacemaker, the epitome of truthfulness, a man with no other ambition than to go down in history as the founder of the state of Palestine. A Righteous Jew to outshine all Righteous Gentiles.

However, all these lies are nothing compared to trivializing the Holocaust.

In some countries, that is a criminal offense, punishable by prison. The trivializing has many guises. For example: the assertion that the gas chambers never existed. Or: that not 6 million Jews were killed, but only six hundred thousand. But the most dangerous form of minimizing is the comparison of the Holocaust to passing events, thus turning it into “a detail of history,” as Jean-Marie Le-Pen infamously put it.

This week, Shimon Peres committed exactly this crime.

Like a lackey walking in front of the king, strewing flowers on the road, Peres flew to the U.S. to prepare the ground for Netanyahu’s coming visit. He imposed himself on a reluctant Barack Obama, who had no choice but to receive him.

Posing as a new Winston Churchill, the man who warned the world against the rise of Nazi Germany, he informed Obama with solemn bombast: “As Jews we cannot but compare Iran to Nazi Germany.”

About this sentence at least three things must be said: (a) it is untrue, (b) it trivializes the Holocaust, and (c) it reflects a catastrophic policy.

Does Iran really resemble Nazi Germany?

I don’t like the regime there. As a committed atheist who insists on total separation between state and religion, I oppose any regime based on religion – in Iran, in Israel, or in any other country.

Also, I don’t like politicians like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I am allergic to leaders who stand on balconies and declaim to the masses below. I detest demagogues who appeal to the base instincts of hatred and fear.

Alas, Ahmadinejad is not the only leader of this type. Indeed, the world is full of them; some are among the staunchest supporters of the Israeli government. In Israel, too, we do not lack this sort.

But Iran is not a fascist state. According to the evidence, there is quite a lot of freedom there, including freedom of expression. Ahmadinejad is not the only candidate for president in the present election campaign. There are a number of others, some more radical, some less.

Nor is Iran an anti-Semitic state. A Jewish community, whose members are refusing to emigrate, is living there comfortably enough. It enjoys religious freedom and has a representative in parliament. Even if we take such reports with a grain of salt, it is clear that the Jews in Iran are not being persecuted like the Jews in Nazi Germany.

And, most important: Iran is not an aggressive country. It has not attacked its neighbors for centuries. The long and bloody Iraq-Iran war was started by Saddam Hussein. It may be remembered that at the time Israel (contrary to the U.S.) supported the Iranian side and supplied it with arms. (One such transaction was accidentally disclosed in the Irangate affair.) Before the Khomeini revolution, Iran was our most important ally in the region.

Ahmadinejad hates Israel. But it has been denied that he has threatened to annihilate Israel. It appears that the crucial sentence in his famous speech was mistranslated: he did not declare his determination to wipe Israel off the map, but expressed the opinion that Israel will disappear from the map.

Frankly, I don’t think that there is such a great difference between the two versions. When the leader of a big country predicts that my state will disappear, that makes me worry. When that country appears to do everything possible to produce a nuclear bomb, that worries me even more. I draw conclusions, but about that later.

Moreover, Ahmadinejad – unlike Hitler – is not the supreme leader of his country. He is subject to the real leadership, composed of clerics. All the signs indicate that this is not a group of adventurers. On the contrary, they are very balanced, sophisticated, and prudent. Now they are cautiously feeling their way toward dialogue with the U.S., trying to reach an accord without sacrificing their regional ambitions, which are quite normal.

In brief, the speeches of one demagogic leader do not turn a country into Nazi Germany. Iran is not a mad country. It has no real interests in Israel/Palestine. Its interests are focused on the Persian Gulf area, and it wants to increase its influence throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Its relations with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas mostly serve this purpose, and so does the anti-Israeli incitement of Ahmadinejad.

In brief, the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany lacks a factual basis.

you can read the entire article if you click the link, but avnery like a typical israeli or jew devolves into the nazi holocaust is unique bulls*&^ that is part of the problem to begin with. norman finkelstein famously refutes this mythology in his groundbreaking book, the holocaust industry:

Two central dogmas underpin the Holocaust framework: (1) The Holocaust marks a categorically event; (2) The Holocaust marks the climax of an irrational, eternal Gentile hatred of Jews. Neither of these dogmas figured at all in public discourse before the June 1967 war. (41-42)

and why was it only after 1967? because they needed that argument to rationalize their colonial expansionist project in the west bank and gaza strip. after that deviation, avnery concludes his article as follows:

Does the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany serve Israeli interests?

Iran is there. It was our ally in the past, and may be our ally again in the future. Leaders come and go, but geopolitical interests are more or less constant. Ahmadinejad may be replaced by a leader who will see Iranian interests in a different light.

The nuclear threat to Israel will not disappear – not after a (bad) speech by Peres nor after a (good) speech by Netanyahu. All over the region, nuclear installations will pop up. This process cannot be stopped. We all need nuclear energy to desalinate water and to produce electricity without destroying the environment. As an Israeli professor, a former employee in the nuclear center at Dimona, said this week: we must reconsider our nuclear policy. It may well be to our advantage to accept the demand of the American spokeswoman that Israel (as well as India and Pakistan) join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a regime of strict supervision.

President Barack Obama is now saying to Israel: Put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is a precondition for the elimination of the threat to Israel. When the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, make peace with Israel, Iran will not be able to exploit the conflict for the furthering of its interests. We were saying this, by the way, many years ago.

The refusal of Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak to accept this demand shows the insincerity of their arguments about Iran. If they really believed that Iran posed an existential menace, they would hurry to dismantle the settlements, demolish the outposts, and make peace. That would, after all, be a small price to pay for the elimination of an existential danger. Their refusal proves that the entire existential story is a bluff.

and it seems as though they are willing to go it alone whether or not the americans help them as daniel luban and jim lobe explained in their article for ips:

Given its preoccupation with AfPak and with stabilising the region as a whole, the Pentagon has naturally been disinclined to increase tensions with Iran, which shares lengthy borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and could easily make life significantly more difficult for the U.S. in each of the three countries.

But the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing the U.S. to confront Iran over its nuclear programme, and his allies in the U.S. have similarly argued that Iran should be a top priority.

For the moment, the Iran hawks have mostly expressed muted – if highly sceptical – support for Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran. But they have warned that this outreach must have a “short and hard end date”, as Republican Sen. Jon Kyl put it at the AIPAC conference, at which point the U.S. must turn to harsher measures.

AIPAC’s current top legislative priority is a bill, co-sponsored by Kyl and key Democrats, that would require Obama to impose sanctions on foreign firms that export refined petroleum products to Iran.

In recent Congressional testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the administration would support such “crippling” sanctions against Tehran if diplomacy did not work, but she declined to say how long the administration would permit diplomatic efforts to play out before taking stronger action.

While sanctions seem to be the topic du jour, the possibility of military action against Tehran remains on everybody’s mind, as does the question of whether Israel would be willing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities without Washington’s approval.

In March, Netanyahu told The Atlantic that “if we have to act, we will act, even if America won’t.”

Asked at the AIPAC conference whether Israel would attack Iran without a “green light” from the U.S., former Israeli deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh joked that in Israel, stoplight signals are “just a recommendation.”

and paul craig roberts’ piece in counterpunch last week explains some of the dangers of privileging the nazi holocaust in all its so-called uniqueness in order to shield the zionist entity’s massive war crimes:

On October 16, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Israel Lobby’s bill, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. This legislation requires the US Department of State to monitor anti-semitism world wide.

To monitor anti-semitism, it has to be defined. What is the definition? Basically, as defined by the Israel Lobby and Abe Foxman, it boils down to any criticism of Israel or Jews.

Rahm Israel Emanuel hasn’t been mopping floors at the White House.

As soon as he gets the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed, it will become a crime for any American to tell the truth about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and theft of their lands.

It will be a crime for Christians to acknowledge the New Testament’s account of Jews demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.

It will be a crime to report the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on the White House and Congress, such as the AIPAC-written resolutions praising Israel for its war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza that were endorsed by 100 per cent of the US Senate and 99 per cent of the House of Representatives, while the rest of the world condemned Israel for its barbarity.

It will be a crime to doubt the Holocaust.

It will become a crime to note the disproportionate representation of Jews in the media, finance, and foreign policy.

In other words, it means the end of free speech, free inquiry, and the First Amendment to the Constitution. Any facts or truths that cast aspersion upon Israel will simply be banned.

Given the hubris of the US government, which leads Washington to apply US law to every country and organization, what will happen to the International Red Cross, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the various human rights organizations that have demanded investigations of Israel’s military assault on Gaza’s civilian population? Will they all be arrested for the hate crime of “excessive” criticism of Israel?

This is a serious question.

A recent UN report, which is yet to be released in its entirety, blames Israel for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises in Gaza. The Israeli government has responded by charging that the UN report is “tendentious, patently biased,” which puts the UN report into the State Department’s category of excessive criticism and strong anti-Israel sentiment.

Israel is getting away with its blatant use of the American government to silence its critics despite the fact that the Israeli press and Israeli soldiers have exposed the Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the premeditated murder of women and children urged upon the Israeli invaders by rabbis. These acts are clearly war crimes.

It was the Israeli press that published the pictures of the Israeli soldiers’ T-shirts that indicate that the willful murder of women and children is now the culture of the Israeli army. The T-shirts are horrific expressions of barbarity. For example, one shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a crosshairs over her stomach and the slogan, “One shot, two kills.” These T-shirts are an indication that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is one of extermination.

It has been true for years that the most potent criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians comes from the Israeli press and Israeli peace groups. For example, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Jeff Halper of ICAHD have shown a moral conscience that apparently does not exist in the Western democracies where Israel’s crimes are covered up and even praised.

Will the American hate crime bill be applied to Haaretz and Jeff Halper? Will American commentators who say nothing themselves but simply report what Haaretz and Halper have said be arrested for “spreading hatred of Israel, an anti-semitic act”?

Many Americans have been brainwashed by the propaganda that Palestinians are terrorists who threaten innocent Israel. These Americans will see the censorship as merely part of the necessary war on terror. They will accept the demonization of fellow citizens who report unpalatable facts about Israel and agree that such people should be punished for aiding and abetting terrorists.

A massive push is underway to criminalize criticism of Israel. American university professors have fallen victim to the well organized attempt to eliminate all criticism of Israel. Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at a Catholic university because of the power of the Israel Lobby. Now the Israel Lobby is after University of California (at Santa Barbara,) professor Wiliam Robinson. Robinson’s crime: his course on global affairs included some reading assignments critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Israel Lobby apparently succeeded in convincing the Obama Justice (sic) Department that it is anti-semitic to accuse two Jewish AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, of spying. The Israel Lobby succeeded in getting their trial delayed for four years, and now Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped charges. Yet, Larry Franklin, the DOD official accused of giving secret material to Rosen and Weissman, is serving 12 years and 7 months in prison.

The absurdity is extraordinary. The two Israeli agents are not guilty of receiving secrets, but the American official is guilty of giving secrets to them! If there is no spy in the story, how was Franklin convicted of giving secrets to a spy?

Criminalizing criticism of Israel destroys any hope of America having an independent foreign policy in the Middle East that serves American rather than Israeli interests. It eliminates any prospect of Americans escaping from their enculturation with Israeli propaganda.

To keep American minds captive, the Lobby is working to ban as anti-semitic any truth or disagreeable fact that pertains to Israel. It is permissible to criticize every other country in the world, but it is anti-semitic to criticize Israel, and anti-semitism will soon be a universal hate-crime in the Western world.

Most of Europe has already criminalized doubting the Holocaust. It is a crime even to confirm that it happened but to conclude that less than 6 million Jews were murdered.

Why is the Holocaust a subject that is off limits to examination? How could a case buttressed by hard facts possibly be endangered by kooks and anti-semitics? Surely the case doesn’t need to be protected by thought control.

Imprisoning people for doubts is the antithesis of modernity.

wwjd?

beitlahem apartheid wall graffiti
beitlahem apartheid wall graffiti

so palestine is buzzing about pope benedict xvi’s visit. all i can say is that i’m staying as far away from al quds and beit lahem as i can until he leaves. my friend from beit lahem came to spend the weekend with me and on her way out of town thursday night she told me that the israeli terrorist soldiers were near rachel’s tomb and aida refugee camp painting over the anti-colonial graffiti with gray paint for the pope’s visit. when i was in beit lahem two weeks ago people i know were in aida refugee camp building a stage next to the apartheid wall for a program they were organizing for the pope’s visit. they were building it for the second or third time as the israeli terrorist soldiers came in and destroyed it a couple of times. and now it seems that they will not be allowed to host the pope there in that venue at all. the israeli colonial terrorist government has made it forbidden as ha’aretz reported:

A Palestinian official says the Palestinian Authority has scrapped plans to host Pope Benedict XVI next week on a stage near the West Bank separation fence.

Palestinian say they had hoped that receiving the pope next to a towering cement wall and military watchtower inside the Aida refugee camp would highlight their suffering under Israeli occupation.

But Palestinian lawmaker Essa Qaraqie said Thursday that the location had been changed to a United Nations school after Israeli military officials forbade them to erect the stage near the barrier. The pope’s convoy will, however, still pass close to the barrier.

the pope is al quds at the present moment and when he arrived he listened to a speech by war criminal shimon peres. and i kept thinking: would jesus be willing to sit there and listen to the words of a man with so many thousands of palestinians’ blood on his hand when jesus himself was palestinian? but it seems to me that the pope, not surprisingly, does not care about what jesus would have done. i am also struck by the massive hypocrisy coming from the pope himself given that he keeps saying this is not a political visit, but a spiritual one. spiritual visits do not include meeting with heads of state in the first place let alone make speeches in a political context as the pope did today. here is part of the pope’s speech:

Mr President, the Holy See and the State of Israel have many shared values, above all a commitment to give religion its rightful place in the life of society. The just ordering of social relationships presupposes and requires a respect for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whom Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life. When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalised, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy.

Tragically, the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person. It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honour the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude. Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable. Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.

During my stay in Jerusalem, I will have the pleasure of meeting many of this country’s distinguished religious leaders. One thing that the three great monotheistic religions have in common is a special veneration for that holy city. It is my earnest hope that all pilgrims to the holy places will be able to access them freely and without restraint, to take part in religious ceremonies and to promote the worthy upkeep of places of worship on sacred sites. May the words of Isaiah’s prophesy be fulfilled, that many nations shall flow to the mountain of the house of the Lord, that he may teach them his ways, that they may walk in his paths — paths of peace and justice, paths that lead to reconciliation and harmony.

of course the pope understands nothing of justice when he talks about nazi germany and does not mention an nakba. of course his reference to peace and justice fall on death ears when he is standing among the war criminal colonists who are the reason there is no peace or justice here. for instance, these same white, european settler zionist colonists who terrorize palestinians have turned beit lahem, and the rest of palestine, into a prison. a new report details this city that i love so much, which he will visit this week:

The UN has voiced concern over Israeli measures in Bethlehem that have rendered only 13 per cent out of 660sq km of the West Bank city’s land at the service of Palestinians, much of it fragmented.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says in its May report, released on Thursday, that Israel’s separation wall, settlements and road closures have affected Palestinian livelihoods, development and residential expansion in the Bethlehem governorate, both in the urban and rural areas.

In its finding, OCHA said Israeli measures such as the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and construction of the barrier have severely reduced access to East Jerusalem and weakened the historic, religious, economic and cultural connection between Bethlehem and the holy city.

OCHA said that 66% of the Bethlehem governorate is designated Area C, where Israel retains security control and jurisdiction over building and planning.

“The barrier route in the Bethlehem governorate reaches 10km into the West Bank and if completed, it will cut off from the urban centre, approximately 64sq km of some of the most fertile cultivated land in the governorate as well as 21,000 Palestinians residing in villages west of the planned route,” the report says.

There are approximately 175,000 Palestinians living in the Bethlehem governorate.

Since 1967, some 86,000 Israelis have been settled in the governorate and they live in 19 settlements and 16 settlement outposts.

but visits to palestine can never be apolitical because one if confronted by politics at every turn. and again i wonder would jesus sit by silently if he saw the apartheid wall? the confiscated land? the ethnically cleansed population? and ghassan bannoura reported today that in al quds the palestinian press office was shut down by the israeli terrorist colonists:

In Jerusalem, where the Pope is expected to visit on Tuesday, the Israeli police closed down a Press office that was set up by Palestinians in the city to provide Press services for local and international Media.

The police came to the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem where the center was located and closed it down, organizers reported.

Ahmad Al Ruwidi, the head of the center, told reporters that the center was set up to distribute information and nothing more. He added that the center was just set up for the Pope’s visit and was not going to be a permanent press office.

and as proof of the pope’s unwillingness to adhere to the principles of justice as practiced by jesus christ he walked out of a meeting with palestinians today who expressed their concerns about life under colonization:

Pope Benedict XVI left an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem early on Monday following a harshly worded attack on Israel by an Islamic judge, according to Israeli news reports.

The chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, had criticized Israel for “murdering women and children in Gaza and making Palestinians refugees, and declared Jerusalem the eternal Palestinian capital,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

Following his remarks, and before the meeting had officially ended, the pope reportedly left, although Israel’s Army Radio said that the pope shook Tamimi’s hand before leaving.

Tamimi was apparently not actually on a list of speakers for the event, but took the podium anyway. According to Father Deferico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office, Tamimi’s remarks were “not previewed by the organizers of the interreligious meeting.”

some of these issues were discussed on al jazeera’s “inside story” with shiulie ghosh last night with her guests sean lovett of vatican radio, bethlehem’s mayor victor baterseh, and nihad awad of the council for american islamic relations:

one thing missing from the program, however, was a discussion of what a christian spiritual journey means to the holy land. does it mean abiding by the teachings of jesus? does it mean behaving according to what he preached? jesus was a prophet who preached about social justice and freedom. not exactly what the pope is doing here so far. here, for example are some readings of jesus’ beliefs, values, and preachings in an article by virigina smith from the american catholic magazine:

Luke records what amounts to an inaugural address opening Jesus’ public life. Like presidential speeches in our own time, this one laid out Jesus’ priorities—where he could be expected to concentrate his efforts in the days ahead. Reaching back into that honored prophetic tradition of commitment to social justice, Jesus spoke to his hometown neighbors, reading in the Nazareth synagogue from the writings of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Is 61:1-2).

Jesus’ commitment to the disenfranchised was foretold at his birth by the visit of the shepherds. These are not the majestic magi of Matthew’s Gospel. Neither are they the well-groomed figures of many Christmas cards. To the contrary, they represented one of the lowest rungs on the social ladder. In making them the first to acknowledge Jesus, Luke is indirectly highlighting those who will benefit most from the coming of God incarnate. There would be others.

Years later, when John the Baptizer sent his disciples to establish Jesus’ true identity, Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” (Lk 7:22b).

and while “inside story” touched on the dwindling population of palestinian christians, they did not get into the context of why in enough detail. an article electronic intifada by jonathan cook from a couple of years ago outlines the main issues with this population being ethnically cleansed by the colonial zionist entity’s policies:

There are no precise figures, but the Israeli media suggests that Christians, who once constituted as much as 15 per cent of the occupied territories’ Palestinians, are now just 2 or 3 per cent. Most are to be found in the West Bank close to Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, Ramallah and neighbouring villages.

A similar pattern can be discerned inside Israel too, where Christians have come to comprise an ever smaller proportion of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. In 1948 they were nearly a quarter of that minority (itself 20 per cent of the total Israeli population), and today they are a mere 10 per cent. Most are located in Nazareth and nearby villages in the Galilee.

Certainly, the continuing fall in the number of Christians in the Holy Land concerns Israel’s leadership almost as keenly as the patriarchs and bishops who visit Bethlehem at Christmas — but for quite the opposite reason. Israel is happy to see Christians leave, at least of the indigenous Palestinian variety.

(More welcome are the crazed fundamentalist Christian Zionists from the United States who have been arriving to help engineer the departure of Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, in the belief that, once the Jews have dominion over the whole of the Holy Land, Armageddon and the “End Times” will draw closer.)

Of course, that is not Israel’s official story. Its leaders have been quick to blame the exodus of Christians on the wider Palestinian society from which they are drawn, arguing that a growing Islamic extremism, and the election of Hamas to lead the Palestinian Authority, have put Christians under physical threat. This explanation neatly avoids mentioning that the proportion of Christians has been falling for decades.

According to Israel’s argument, the decision by many Christians to leave the land where generations of their ancestors have been rooted is simply a reflection of the “clash of civilisations”, in which a fanatical Islam is facing down the Judeo-Christian West. Palestinian Christians, like Jews, have found themselves caught on the wrong side of the Middle East’s confrontation lines.

Here is how the Jerusalem Post, for example, characterised the fate of the Holy Land’s non-Muslims in a Christmas editorial: “Muslim intolerance toward Christians and Jews is cut from exactly the same cloth. It is the same jihad.” The Post concluded by arguing that only by confronting the jihadis would “the plight of persecuted Christians — and of the persecuted Jewish state — be ameliorated.”

Similar sentiments were recently aired in an article by Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily republished on Ynet, Israel’s most popular website, that preposterously characterised a procession of families through Nazareth on Eid al-Adha, the most important Muslim festival, as a show of strength by militant Islam designed to intimidate local Christians.

Islam’s green flags were “brandished”, according to Klein, whose reporting transformed a local troupe of Scouts and their marching band into “Young Muslim men in battle gear” “beating drums”. Nazareth’s youngsters, meanwhile, were apparently the next generation of Qassam rocket engineers: “Muslim children launched firecrackers into the sky, occasionally misfiring, with the small explosives landing dangerously close to the crowds.”

Such sensationalist misrepresentations of Palestinian life are now a staple of the local and American media. Support for Hamas, for example, is presented as proof of jihadism run amok in Palestinian society rather than as evidence of despair at Fatah’s corruption and collaboration with Israel and ordinary Palestinians’ determination to find leaders prepared to counter Israel’s terminal cynicism with proper resistance.

The clash of civilisations thesis is usually ascribed to a clutch of American intellectuals, most notably Samuel Huntington, the title of whose book gave the idea popular currency, and the Orientalist academic Bernard Lewis. But alongside them have been the guiding lights of the neocon movement, a group of thinkers deeply embedded in the centres of American power who were recently described by Ynet as mainly comprising “Jews who share a love for Israel”.

In fact, the idea of a clash of civilisations grew out of a worldview that was shaped by Israel’s own interpretation of its experiences in the Middle East. An alliance between the neocons and Israeli leaders was cemented in the mid-1990s with the publication of a document called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. It offered a US foreign policy tailor-made to suit Israel’s interests, including plans for an invasion of Iraq, authored by leading necons and approved by the Israeli prime minister of the day, Binyamin Netanyahu.

When the neocons rose to power with George Bush’s election to the White House, the birth of the bastard offspring of the clash of civilisations — the war on terror — was all but inevitable.

Paradoxically, this vision of our future, set out by American and Israeli Jews, is steeped in fundamentalist Christian religious symbolism, from the promotion of a civilised West’s crusade against the Muslim hordes to the implication that the final confrontation between these civilisations (a nuclear attack on Iran?) may be the End Times itself — and thereby lead to the return of the Messiah.

If this clash is to be realised, it must be convincing at its most necessary confrontation line: the Middle East and more specifically the Holy Land. The clash of civilisations must be embodied in Israel’s experience as a civilised, democratic state fighting for its very survival against its barbarian Muslim neighbours.

There is only one problem in selling this image to the West: the minority of Christian Palestinians who have happily lived under Muslim rule in the Holy Land for centuries. Today, in a way quite infuriating to Israel, these Christians confuse the picture by continuing to take a leading role in defining Palestinian nationalism and resistance to Israel’s occupation. They prefer to side with the Muslim “fanatics” than with Israel, the Middle East’s only outpost of Judeo-Christian “civilisation”.

The presence of Palestinian Christians reminds us that the supposed “clash of civilisations” in the Holy Land is not really a war of religions but a clash of nationalisms, between the natives and European colonial settlers.

Inside Israel, for example, Christians have been the backbone of the Communist party, the only non-Zionist party Israel allowed for several decades. Many of the Palestinian artists and intellectuals who are most critical of Israel are Christians, including the late novelist Emile Habibi; the writer Anton Shammas and film-makers Elia Suleiman and Hany Abu Assad (all now living in exile); and the journalist Antoine Shalhat (who, for reasons unknown, has been placed under a loose house arrest, unable to leave Israel).

The most notorious Palestinian nationalist politician inside Israel is Azmi Bishara, yet another Christian, who has been put on trial and is regularly abused by his colleagues in the Knesset.

Similarly, Christians have been at the core of the wider secular Palestinian national movement, helping to define its struggle. They range from exiled professors such as the late Edward Said to human rights activists in the occupied territories such as Raja Shehadeh. The founders of the most militant wings of the national movement, the Democratic and Popular Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine, were Nayif Hawatmeh and George Habash, both Christians.

This intimate involvement of Palestinian Christians in the Palestinian national struggle is one of the reasons why Israel has been so keen to find ways to encourage their departure — and then blame it on intimidation by, and violence from, Muslims.

In truth, however, the fall in the number of Christians can be explained by two factors, neither of which is related to a clash of civilisations. The first is a lower rate of growth among the Christian population. According to the latest figures from Israel’s Bureau of Census Statistics, the average Christian household in Israel contains 3.5 people compared to 5.2 in a Muslim household. Looked at another way, in 2005 33 percent of Christians were under the age of 19, compared to 55 percent of Muslims. In other words, the proportion of Christians in the Holy Land has been eroded over time by higher Muslim birth rates. But a second factor is equally, if not more, important. Israel has established an oppressive rule for Palestinians both inside Israel and in the occupied territories that has been designed to encourage the most privileged Palestinians, which has meant disproportionately Christians, to leave.

This policy has been implemented with stealth for decades, but has been greatly accelerated in recent years with the erection of the wall and numerous checkpoints. The purpose has been to encourage the Palestinian elite and middle class to seek a better life in the West, turning their back on the Holy Land.

Palestinian Christians have had the means to escape for two reasons. First, they have traditionally enjoyed a higher standard of living, as city-based shopkeepers and business owners, rather than poor subsistence farmers in the countryside. And second, their connection to the global Churches has made it simpler for them to find sanctuary abroad, often beginning as trips for their children to study overseas.

Israel has turned Christian parents’ financial ability and their children’s increased opportunities to its own advantage, by making access to higher education difficult for Palestinians both inside Israel and in the occupied territories.

Inside Israel, for example, Palestinian citizens still find it much harder to attend university than Jewish citizens, and even more so to win places on the most coveted courses, such as medicine and engineering.

Instead, for many decades Israel’s Christians and Muslims became members of the Communist party in the hope of receiving scholarships to attend universities in Eastern Europe. Christians were also able to exploit their ties to the Churches to help them head off to the West. Many of these overseas graduates, of course, never returned, especially knowing that they would be faced with an Israeli economy much of which is closed to non-Jews.

Something similar occurred in the occupied territories, where Palestinian universities have struggled under the occupation to offer a proper standard of education, particularly faced with severe restrictions on the movement of staff and students. Still today, it is not possible to study for a PhD in either the West Bank or Gaza, and Israel has blocked Palestinian students from attending its own universities. The only recourse for most who can afford it has been to head abroad. Again, many have chosen never to return.

But in the case of the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank, Israel found it even easier to close the door behind them. It established rules, in violation of international law, that stripped these Palestinians of their right to residency in the occupied territories during their absence. When they tried to return to their towns and villages, many found that they were allowed to stay only on temporary visas, including tourist visas, that they had to renew with the Israeli authorities every few months.

Nearly a year ago, Israel quietly took a decision to begin kicking these Palestinians out by refusing to issue new visas. Many of them are academics and business people who have been trying to rebuild Palestinian society after decades of damage inflicted by the occupying regime. A recent report by the most respected Palestinian university, Bir Zeit, near Ramallah, revealed that one department had lost 70 per cent of its staff because of Israel’s refusal to renew visas.

Although there are no figures available, it can probably be safely assumed that a disproportionate number of Palestinians losing their residency rights are Christian. Certainly the effect of further damaging the education system in the occupied territories will be to increase the exodus of Palestine’s next generation of leaders, including its Christians.

In addition, the economic strangulation of the Palestinians by the wall, the restrictions on movement and the international economic blockade of the Palestinian Authority are damaging the lives of all Palestinians with increasing severity. Privileged Palestinians, and that doubtless includes many Christians, are being encouraged to seek a rapid exit from the territories.

From Israel’s point of view, the loss of Palestinian Christians is all to the good. It will be happier still if all of them leave, and Bethlehem and Nazareth pass into the effective custodianship of the international Churches.

Without Palestinian Christians confusing the picture, it will be much easier for Israel to persuade the West that the Jewish state is facing a monolithic enemy, fanatical Islam, and that the Palestinian national struggle is really both a cover for jihad and a distraction from the clash of civilisations against which Israel is the ultimate bulwark. Israel’s hands will be freed.

it is also worth remembering of the context in which the new testament was written as david wildman, a priest with the methodist church, does in an electronic intifada article:

The New Testament was written in a context of Roman colonial rule, discrimination, and military occupation in Palestine. It also took place in the midst of an active armed resistance movement (the Zealots) against colonialism and occupation. So, if we want to understand fully the meaning of biblical texts for today, it is helpful to listen to Palestinians who are facing the same dynamics of military occupation, colonial control of their land and apartheid-like discrimination.

One of the goals of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries is: “Seek Justice, Freedom and Peace.” This is at the heart of the United Methodist Church’s priority to end poverty. It expresses the kind of solidarity needed today: “We will participate with people oppressed by unjust economic, political and social systems in programs that seek to build just, free and peaceful societies.” Instead of blaming the victim, or offering charity to the victim, this goal challenges us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and follow their lead in demanding justice. The call by hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations for nonviolent action of boycott, divestment and sanctions embodies such a demand for justice.

One unjust system that we must confront today is the US use of the veto at the UN. Since 1970, half of US vetoes blocked the international community from criticizing Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians. One third of US vetoes blocked international criticism of apartheid regimes in southern Africa. Thus the US has repeatedly used the veto to protect military occupation and colonial rule from international criticism and sanction at great cost to civilians in southern Africa and Palestine. The 2008 United Methodist General Conference declared, “The United Methodist Church call[s] upon the United States, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to accept the authority of Security Council resolutions, to refrain from vetoing resolutions, and abide by Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, as well as all other relevant UN resolutions and International Court of Justice rulings, that provide a framework for bringing this conflict to a just and permanent end.”

Just as the anti-Apartheid movement turned to boycott and divestment as nonviolent, moral, economic measures by churches, universities and trade unions to end unjust corporate support for South African Apartheid, so too churches and activists today are taking up nonviolent, moral actions like divestment to end corporate support for Israel’s longstanding violations of international law.

wildman makes the link between the bible, what christianity teaches, what jesus preached and fights for boycott, divestment, and sanctions as a response. as a way to end colonial rule in palestine. just as jesus fought against roman colonial rule in palestine. and this is not what jesus would do. it is what he did. clearly, the pope just doesn’t get it.