on orange & other adventures in normalization

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

orange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Israeli provider of cellular phone services.

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

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

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

Involved in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yes, boycott works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

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

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

los ziongeles

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driving down ventura boulevard today, which is the main street near my grandma’s house, i was bombarded with cartoon images of what dear ayah calls the “fizz fizz” (personally i prefer the image that kabobfest posted last week of a fizz fizz being chased down the street). these images line a few miles with these the multi-colored posters which are advertising a chabad telethon on a local los angeles television station, ktla, raising money for their religious ministry, which openly and actively proselytizes to recruit jews to make them more jewish among other things.

but there are other posters confronting me in los angeles this week. the other day my friend wendy and i went for a walk in santa monica and passed by a beauty supply store selling zionist colonist terrorist products, marketed by none other than sex and the city’s kristen davis:

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there was a code pink protest of selling these ahava products in los angeles the day i arrived here and here is a photograph that a friend of mine took at it:

ahava los angeles protest

i’m happy that code pink is taking up the cause of boycott through its stolen beauty campaign as the movement certainly needs more energy pumped into it and code pink has a huge base in the u.s. at the same time, i find it disturbing that medea benjamin still thinks that only the west bank and gaza belong to palestine as she says in this brief news report on ahava and how the zionist entity profits from occupying palestine (but that is true of all of historic palestine and products made all over occupied palestine whether in al majdal or in the jordan valley). here is the clip which is well worth watching to see precisely how they profit from just one company:

there is material on code pink’s website that offers information about this particular aspect of the bds campaign and also what you can do to create a boycott ahava action in your community. i recommend not using ahava products, however, if you want to replicate the spreading mud on your body aspect of code pink’s action as that undermines the boycott action you are trying to educate people about. there are plenty of other companies (remember estee lauder and all of the many companies it swallowed up are included in the boycott campaign) that produce similar sorts of products–or use regular mud.

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adri nieuwhof wrote a piece about ahava for electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago contextualizing it in terms of the zionist terrorist colony it is produced in:

Israel enjoys free trade of industrial goods with Europe under the Association Agreement it signed with the European Union in 2000. Yakov Ellis, chief executive officer of the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, told the BBC radio program Today on 5 November 2008 that his company has benefitted from the free trade with the EU. Ahava owns stores in London and Berlin, and signed a contract in 2008 with the leading French perfumery chain Sephora, which has stores all over Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Ahava manufactures its cosmetics in the occupied West Bank, using minerals from the Dead Sea. The company’s skin care products are imported into the EU as originating from “The Dead Sea, Israel.” Israeli products originating in the West Bank are not supposed to benefit from the duty-free import to the EU.

Ahava is firmly rooted in the settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya in the occupied West Bank. The kibbutzes of the two settlements own 34 percent and six percent of the shares of Ahava, respectively. Both Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya are close to the shores of the Dead Sea, exploiting it for tourism.

Although one-third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the occupied West Bank, Israel has closed off the entire shore of the Dead Sea and its resources to Palestinians in the West Bank. Kaliya was established as a military outpost shortly after the 1967 war in which Israeli forces occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, along with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights.

According to the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, Ahava manufactures its products in the Ahava Dead Sea cosmetic factory in Mitzpe Shalem settlement. The company also runs a visitors center for tourists in the same settlement. In its authoritative ruling in 2004, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed the illegality of settlement construction, which includes the construction of industrial sites in the settlements. Ahava’s factory and tourist visitors center exist therefore in violation of international law.

Ahava CEO Ellis told the BBC that his company can circumvent the rule that products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories are excluded from the duty-free import to Europe, because Ahava maintains its offices near Tel Aviv, in Israel. However, the EU rules of origin of product refer to the place where the product, or most of it, was manufactured, not to the place where a company’s offices are based.

Despite this subterfuge, Ahava is bound to pay import taxes to EU countries. British customs officials expressed to the BBC their strong concerns that Israeli-produced goods made in settlements in the occupied West Bank may be circumventing import taxes en-route to British high streets.

It is not clear if and how EU member states police the free trade agreement. If the practice in the UK is common in EU countries, the situation is disturbing.

UK Member of Parliament from the governing Labor Party, Dr. Phyllis Starkey, raised questions on the issue to Business Minister Stephen Timms on 17 November 2008. Timms replied that more than 75,000 consignments from Israel entered the UK annually from February 2005 until January 2008. During this period, Israeli exporters were bound to indicate the place of production on the proof of origin documents.

i think that part of the problem of this fixation on just west bank colonies as if there are not colonies all over historic palestine filled with zionist terrorists illegally occupying palestinian land is related to the fact that people rely upon sites like the zionist “who profits” website that, of course, has a vested interest in making sure that those boycotting do not harm to the colonies that the zionists organizing in so-called “peace” groups in the rest of occupied palestine. they need to make sure that their colonies are protected so that palestinian refugees cannot return and reclaim their land and homes that belong to them and have been promised to them under united nations resolution 194. nancy kricorian’s article in alternet continues in this vein of thinking that the bds movement is only about zionist terrorist colonists profiting off the theft of palestinian resources in the west bank and not in the rest of their land. but she misses some key points as she focuses on ahava’s celebrity spokesperson, kristen davis:

While doing research on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine, I came across the web site Who Profits, a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace. On that site I found a list of Israeli and international companies that are directly involved in and profit from the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. It seemed strategically and morally important to select for our campaign a corporation whose practices were clearly in contravention to international law. Many of the corporations on the Who Profits list were either unfamiliar to me, discouragingly huge, or didn’t seem like obvious targets for a women’s peace group. But I saw one name that I recognized: Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. In fact, I knew there was a plastic bottle of Ahava Eucalyptus Mineral Bath Salts sitting on the windowsill next to the tub in my bathroom.

If you take a look at Ahava’s web site, you can read about the company’s environmentally responsible practices: “Our manufacturing processes are non-polluting and environmentally conscious. No animals are involved in testing phases and all of our products are encased in recyclable tubes, bottles and jars.” Ahava’s spokeswoman is fresh-faced Sex & The City actress Kristin Davis, whose commitment to doing good is evidenced by her status as an Oxfam Goodwill Ambassador and her position on the advisory board of The Masai Wilderness Conservation Fund. On the Ahava site, Davis is quoted as saying, “My personal beliefs, which include treating both animals and the environment with respect, are equally important to AHAVA.”

If you navigate around the web site you will see pristine images of the Dead Sea, enticing products with beautifully designed labels, and a photo of a water lily leaf with the caption, “This leaf has nothing to hide.” But, unfortunately, Ahava does have something to hide—an ugly secret about its relationship to a brutal occupation. The Hebrew word “Ahava” means love, but there is nothing loving about what the company is doing in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Ahava is an Israeli profiteer exploiting the natural resources of occupied Palestine.

it is worth targeting a celebrity spokesperson, i suppose, to try to educate them and encourage them to join the boycott campaign as it seems to garner more publicity. even fox news picked up on this story, which highlights the ways in which davis’ work with oxfam is also becoming problematic given that oxfam, like code pink, fights against colonies in the west bank, but not in the rest of historic palestine:

Davis, 44, has stepped down from her post as a spokeswoman for the human rights organization Oxfam International because of her endorsement of Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics line, according to a report in the New York Post.

Ahava is manufactured by Dead Sea Cosmetics, which is based in the Mitzhe Shalem Jewish settlement in the West Bank — which Oxfam considers “disputed territory.”

Davis signed a multi-year contract with Ahava in 2007. As part of the agreement, the Emmy-nominated actress appears in the global advertising campaign, on the brand’s Web site and in various marketing initiatives.

Davis has said she is “honored” to be “part of a beauty legend that dates back to Cleopatra.” She also stressed her shared beliefs with Ahava in treating animals and the environment with respect.

But the partnership has caused quite a headache for the actress.

“This has been a huge thing,” a source told the Post. “Ahava has factories on disputed land. From Ahahva’s perspective, they are not doing anything wrong. From an Oxfam perspective, Ahava is a polarizing company and Kristin shouldn’t be involved with it.”

A representative from Ahava was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement, Oxfam said Davis has “done great work” and that they highly value her support. Still, the organization says they “remain opposed to settlement trade, in which Ahava is engaged. Both Kristin and Oxfam do not want this issue to detract from the great work we have done in the past and plan to do in the future.”

Davis’ spokeswoman told the Post that the actress is “passionate about her relationship with Oxfam, and she intends to work with them and other humanitarian causes for years to come.”

but what i find compelling is yet another argument illustrating the hypocrisy of davis. clearly she doesn’t believe in the rights of human beings, but she does speak about the rights of animals and the environment on the ahava website:

My personal beliefs, which include treating both animals and the environment with respect, are equally important to AHAVA.

so this leaves me wondering if a different argument were made, say, about the environment, would davis then cancel her contract with the zionist colonist terrorist company? because the zionist entity’s theft of minerals from occupied palestine is leading to serious environmental damage:

The level of the Dead Sea continues to drop at the rate of about one metre per year and has lost about a third of its volume, mainly in the last 30 years. Besides being a unique ecosystem and rich with minerals, the sea is known in Hebrew as the “Salt Sea” for its remarkably high salt content.

Environmentalists say excessive mineral mining from the sea, and the dehydration and pollution of its natural water source, the River Jordan, have contributed to the drop.

notice that this environmental damage is something that this irin news report dates back 30 years–which is, of course, a time in which the zionist entity came to control and destroy this sea, not to mention its general destruction of environmental resources, especially water.

ah, yes, water. which brings me to yet another los angeles-zionist entity connection. my home town’s mayor, antonio villaraigosa, decided to embark on a campaign to supposedly save the environment in california by collaborating with zionist terrorist colonists. i find this so ironic for so many reasons. first of all, as a mexican american he is well aware of the fact that california is occupied land in layers. california used to be mexico. and yet villaraigosa told aipac:

Villaraigosa said Israel’s struggle in the Middle East echoes his own Hispanic community’s “struggle for civil rights” and said that when it comes to the Jewish state, “my roots run deep” — recounting visiting his Jewish neighbors while growing up in East Los Angeles.

here is what the los angeles mayor had to say about his visit to the zionist entity last summer in an op-ed for the jewish journal:

Los Angeles has long had a special relationship with the state and the people of Israel. It is a partnership founded on innovation and common hopes; a bond defined by shared dreams for a future of peace, security, and sustainability; a connection that grows stronger each time we establish new ties with our counterparts in the Jewish state.

Over the past week, I led a delegation of civic, faith, business and community leaders on a trip that will help make Los Angeles stronger, safer, more secure and better stewards of the environment — and all Angelenos stand to reap the benefits of our efforts.

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.

Some of the most memorable and moving moments of the mission came in our meetings with Israel’s top political leaders. President Shimon Peres told us about Israel’s drive to grow green and continue to rededicate its efforts to make the desert bloom. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert outlined the challenges of leading a democratic nation in a neighborhood of dictators and despots. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni engaged us in a discussion on the ongoing struggle for peace, while former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained what must be done to secure his country and develop a vibrant economy. Finally, the mayors of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv shared their visions for prosperity and vitality in Israel’s largest cities.

Beyond the lasting impact of our security and green technology exchange, and beyond the extraordinary sessions with living political legends, there was one experience — one set of images — that will remain etched in my memory forever.

During the second day of the mission, we traveled to Sderot — a city devastated by years of rocket attacks and red alerts, and a town representing the front line of Israel’s fight against indiscriminate violence and causeless hatred. There, in the midst of the terror we all see on the nightly news and at the epicenter of fear for so many families, children expressed their desire for normalcy before a backdrop of bomb shelters in their schoolyards. Students demonstrated a commitment to a strong education in schools forced to invest in reinforced rooftops instead of new books and materials. Parents looked on with joy and pride as their kids got the opportunity to dance and sing and perform for their guests. And when we looked into the eyes of Sderot’s youth, we could see the hope, spirit, innocence and exhilaration that emanate from the hearts of so many young people worldwide.

After this visit to Sderot and throughout the entire state of Israel, I came away with a powerful reminder of the unique character and incredible story of the Jewish people. It is a tale of resilience in the face of adversity; of a determination to succeed despite impossible odds; of a commitment to innovation; of a will to preserve their homeland; of an unflagging and unwavering faith in “tikkun olam” and “tzedakah,” in repairing the world and pursuing justice, in the values that have sustained Jews for thousands of years and made Israel a true “light unto the nations.”

After 60 years of constant threat and endless challenges, I can safely say that Israel today is stronger than ever. It is a state that remains a beacon of light and a bastion of promise for nations and communities across the globe. It is a country that believes in what’s possible and never falters in its struggle for a brighter future. This mission and these experiences brought the history of the Jewish state into focus and gave us all reason to join our brothers and sisters halfway around the world in the hope — hatikvah — that, one day soon, Israel would once again be a free nation, a secure state and a peaceful homeland.

his trip to the zionist entity, unfortunately, solidified the stance he now takes with respect to support the colonial project on occupied palestinian land. here is what he had to say about the zionist entity’s savaging of gaza to the los angeles times:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa threw his support behind Israel this afternoon, backing the country in its latest strikes against Hamas and its invasion of the Gaza Strip.

The announcement, made during a news conference, pleased Jewish leaders in Los Angeles but sparked anger among local Muslim groups.

“I’ve been to Sderot and seen the wreckage caused by a constant barrage of rocket attacks,” Villaraigosa said of the city in southern Israel. “I’ve met parents afraid to let their kids play in the streets and students unable to go to school each day. I’ve walked along empty roads, visited vacant buildings and witnessed the sheer destruction of a town decimated by eight years of missile strikes.”

The mayor wasn’t alone in his backing. He was joined by City Council members Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jack Weiss and Dennis Zine. Jacob Dayan, Israel’s consulate general to the southwestern United States, thanked the mayor and council members for their support at the news conference at the Jewish Federation’s Goldsmith Center, on Wilshire Boulevard.

“At a time like this, in a fight like this, where the odds and the deck are stacked against Israel, thank God Los Angeles and thank God Mayor Villaraigosa are there to stand with Israel,” said Councilman Weiss, who represents the city’s 5th District.

The council members said they too have visited Sderot over the last few years so they could see for themselves the destruction that Villaraigosa had told them about after his trips.

The mayor took the stance that Israel is not the aggressor in this latest battle, which started 11 days ago and expanded to a ground invasion of Gaza on Saturday. The operation has left hundreds of Palestinians dead and thousands wounded in the Gaza Strip.

“No country would sit silently while innocent families are threatened and civilian lives are at risk,” he said. “Israel is no different. It must act against the Hamas leaders targeting the innocent. And it must be allowed to exercise its right and responsibility to defend itself.”

Villaraigosa said he personally has kept in touch with officials at the Israeli Consulate since the recent conflict began.

When asked why he didn’t reach out to the city’s Palestinian community personally as he did with Israeli Consulate officials and the city’s Jewish community leaders, Villaraigosa said he would be willing to sit down with members of Los Angeles’ Palestinian and Muslim communities to address any issues.

The mayor’s news conference was followed by a news conference held by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a national Muslim advocacy group, questioning why Villaraigosa would want to take a side on a battle about 6,000 miles away.

“Why is the mayor of Los Angeles dragging himself and his constituents into international conflicts in the Middle East?” the council’s executive director, Salam Al-Marayati, said in a statement. “We elected the mayor to represent all Angelenos, not to take the side of a specific group of citizens on a foreign issue.” The council’s news conference was held at the Islamic Shura Center of Southern California, on Vermont Avenue.

The center also issued a statement challenging Villaraigosa’s stance on Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

“The Islamic Shura Council is disappointed and feels betrayed by the Mayor’s one-eyed perspective on the tragedy of colossal proportions in Gaza,” the statement said. “While we grant the right for the Mayor to his opinion, we also believe he is obligated to recognize all perspectives to any situation. The Mayor failed Los Angelenos in this regard and we hold him responsible.”

The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California is an umbrella organization for mosques and other Muslim organizations, and the Jewish Federation is an umbrella group for Jewish organizations.

but back to the water issue. one of the reasons for the trip to the zionist entity last year was to sign a deal with a zionist terrorist colonist water company:

The City of Los Angeles signed an agreement with an Israeli water technology company.

On a visit to Israel last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a cooperation agreement with the Kinarot-Jordan Valley Technology Incubator, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The agreement will allow the technology start-up to launch pilot projects at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. Los Angeles has suffered from chronic water shortages.

“Israel is a global leader in high-tech and environmental solutions. As such, we intend to utilize the know-how of our Israeli friends to deal with the challenges we face from drought and global warming,” Vilaraigosa told Globes.

While in Israel, Villaraigosa also signed a security and anti-terrorism agreement between Los Angeles International Airport and Ben Gurion Airport.

The mayor was forced this week to defend the cost of traveling to Israel with a delegation while the city faces a possible $300 million budget shortfall.

the zionist terrorist colonist company, kinrot, villaraigosa is collaborating with is located in the jordan valley, the same region of occupied palestine where ahava sits and steals on palestinian land. and like ahava kinrot steals palestinian water in order to run its operation, as well as land and a host of other resources. these zionist companies–like the zionist entity where they exist on occupied palestinian land–rupture and distort language much like the zionist entity itself by inverting reality. so a company that profits by depleting the dead sea somehow becomes an environmentally aware company.

it is not just the los angeles mayor who is helping the colonial project in palestine. it’s also wealthy zionists like irving moskowitz who has a bingo parlor in los angeles; he uses the profits to hep build new colonies in palestine, for jews only, of course. here is a piece by chris mcgreal that was in the guardian a few weeks ago on this casino in the hawiian gardens neighborhood:

For the winning punters chancing their luck at Hawaiian Gardens’ charity bingo hall in the heart of one of California’s poorest towns, the big prize is $500. The losers walk away with little more than an assurance that their dollars are destined for a good cause.

But the real winners and losers live many thousands of miles away, where the profits from the nightly ritual of numbers-calling fund what critics describe as a form of ethnic cleansing by extremist organisations.

Each dollar spent on bingo by the mostly Latino residents of Hawaiian Gardens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, helps fund Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in some of the most sensitive areas of occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the Muslim quarter of the old city, and West Bank towns such as Hebron where the Israeli military has forced Arabs out of their properties in their thousands.

‘The majority of bingo customers don’t realise where their money is going’ Link to this audio

Over the past 20 years, the bingo hall has funnelled tens of millions of dollars in to what its opponents — including rabbis serving the Hawaiian Gardens area — describe as an ideologically-driven strategy to grab land for Israel, as well as contributing to influential American groups and thinktanks backing Israel’s more hawkish governments.

But the bingo operation, owned by an American Jewish doctor and millionaire, Irving Moskowitz, has taken on added significance in recent weeks as President Barack Obama has laid down a marker to Israel in demanding an end to settlement construction, which the White House regards as a major obstacle to peace. “Moskowitz is taking millions from the poorest town in California and sending it to the settlements,” said Haim Dov Beliak, a rabbi serving Hawaiian Gardens and one of the Jewish religious leaders in California who have campaigned to block the flow of funds to the settlers.

“The money Moskowitz puts in to the settlements has changed the game. Moskowitz has helped build a hardcore of the settler movement that may number 50-70,000.

“He’s not paying for all of it but he puts the money up front for the vanguards that get things off the ground. That ties Israel’s hands. That ties the hands of the Obama administration. If the administration wants to be serious about stopping the settlers it has to begin in Hawaiian Gardens.”

Moskowitz is an 80-year-old retired doctor and orthodox Jewish millionaire who built a fortune buying and selling hospitals. In 1988 he also bought the faltering bingo hall in Hawaiian Gardens which, under California law, can only be run as not-for-profit operation so Moskowitz brought it under the wing of a charitable foundation he had established in his own name.

The foundation, which did not respond to requests for an interview, bills the bingo operation as of great benefit to the local community through donations to a number of groups, such as the Hawaiian Gardens food bank, as well as scholarships. It has also given money for disaster relief in Central America, Kosovo and parts of the US.

But tax returns show that the bulk of the donations go to what the foundation describes as “charitable support” to an array of organisations in Israel.

and one final zionnazi tale from los angeles for the night. today santa monica hosted some zionist terrorist colonist musical act called the idan raichel project. the zionist entity’s ministry of culture (also known as the ministry of cultural theft) sponsored the event. a friend of mine involved in the boycott movement in seattle led the protest up there the other night. here is what she wrote in an email about it:

The Idan Raichel Project protest last night turned out to be interesting in a somewhat unexpected ways. I will try and summarize that evening briefly.

First, even though our local (Seattle) Palestine activism listserv is infiltrated, with some recipients on it who clearly have signed on just to find out what we’re up to, and bring on the haters to our events, this time, there were no counter-protesters.

The concert was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., this is in a venue (the Triple Door) which is not a concert hall, but a cozy restaurant with a stage, so we knew people would be trickling in early, to have a table/booth and drinks/appetizers before the performance. We were there at 5:45 p.m, handing out two different types of handbill, one specifically about the IRP (whitewashing Israeli war crimes), another about the situation in Gaza. There were quite a few of us, and I’d say we gave out the literature to most of the audience 🙂

Shortly after we had gotten there, none other than Idan himself (with his bodyguard) came out to talk to us, because someone had told him there were protesters outside the venue. I immediately recognized him when I saw a small-ish young man with brown-not-black dreadlocks coming out and looking around, and I went straight to him and asked “Are you Idan,” he said “Yes, I was told there were protesters outside, so I would like to talk to you about what I do, who I am….”

We shook hands, I told him I appreciated his coming out to talk to us, and explained that we were protesting him as part of the boycott of Israeli “cultural ambassadors” who whitewash Israeli war crimes.

He responded with “Let me tell you about the Idan Raichel Project. We are a very large group, reaching about 85 musicians at times, some are Arab, others are ultra-right wing Zionists, and we are not political, we are strictly about Israeli culture, I want to present my culture, Israeli culture, and I steer away from politics.”

I told him that, from my readings about him, he wants to project Israeli culture as a culture of tolerance and multiculturalism, and he nodded eagerly, saying he felt that his contribution was to push his society further into “tolerance and multiculturalism,” hence his inclusion of Arabs in the band. He loves introducing Israelis, who otherwise homogenize all Arabs as “Hamas,” to such wonders as Mahmoud Darwish, Fairuz, and Umm Kulthum.

We talked for quite a while, and all he kept repeating was that he is not political, strictly cultural, and I tried hard to make him grasp that the two are inseparable, and that, besides, he is fully political in many ways that we have researched. I told him that we have read his support for the Gaza assault, and he denied that. Here’s the quote, in a March 2009 article in the Forward: “While Raichel’s music bears explicit and implicit messages of love, Raichel is perhaps a bit more realpolitik than his dreadlocks suggest. He defends Israel’s recent Gazan incursion: “Israel had to protect cities in southern Israel from being bombed — and they’d been bombed not for eight hours, and not eight days, and not eight months, but eight years. For eight years, Hamas was bombing five cities in Israel. I think that the Palestinian people are victims of the Hamas organization.”

I told him about the damning Gush Shalom press release about him, and he said he doesn’t care what Gush Shalom says. I told him he should care.

At some point, we talked about settlements, and he says he only plays in settlements that, by International Law, would eventually be part of Israel. I told him every single settlement is illegal, according to International Law, and he acted like he didn’t know that. Then we somehow got onto the two-state (dis)solution, and I said something about “what, the 17% of historic Palestine that would make up the Palestinian state?” and he said he doesn’t know what percent of historic Palestine remains, to the Palestinians. I told him he should know that.

Basically, it was all denial of statements he has made (such as the one in Forward), claims of ignorance, and claims of being all about culture, not politics. Eventually, he needed to go in to his show, and offered me a free ticket, and I said no, I have not been convinced that he is not whitewashing Israeli crimes, and that I/we will continue to protest and boycott his shows until he denounces Israel’s crimes. He insisted that he refuses to make any political statement, and I quoted him Arhundati Roy: “The trouble is, once you see it, it can’t be unseen. And once you see it, saying nothing, doing nothing becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no neutrality. Either way, you are accountable.”

So…. he gave me his email address, after making me promise I would not share/publicize it, and said he would be happy to continue the conversation. I most certainly will contact him.

I do have to say, to his credit, that he is NOT arrogant at all, and that he actually asked his bodyguard to basically shut up, when his bodyguard aggressively (tone and posture) yelled at me “You support the Khamas suicide bombers.” But he is most certainly an intellectual lightweight.

He’s playing tonight also, and we will be there, to convey the message that he has not convinced us he is all culture, no politics.

love the accent my friend captured in the paragraph above. the article my friend referred to above, by gush shalom from a couple of years ago, offers a bit more context about this group which should be boycotted if they come to a city near you. unfortunately, no one in los angeles had their act together to get anything going. code pink wanted to do it, but took too long to respond to the emails. here is the article that illustrates at least one way in which this group is not just cultural, but decidedly political:

Singers Idan Reichal, Ehud Banai, Ety Ankary and the Madreygot Group are scheduled to perform at the festival planned by the Gush Etzion settlers (in the Bethlehem Region of the West Bank) during the Sukkot Holiday, in order to “celebrate” forty years to the creation of settlements there. As explicitly stated in the settlers’ own website, this is part of a campaign aimed at legitimizing these settlements in the Israeli public opinion, i.e. preventing a peace agreement which would necessitate their dismantling.

Use of the name “Gush Etzion” (The Etzion Bloc) in itself constitutes an attempt to cheat the public. “Gush Etzion” was the name of a cluster of four small kibbutzim which stubbornly resisted Arab forces in 1948 until being destroyed and around which a heroic myth developed in Israel. There might have been a legitimate claim for recreating them (had israel been willing to recreate in exchange four Palestinian villages destroyed in the same war). However, nowadays this name is applied to dozens of small and big settlements which take up enormous territory all around the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, and bear no connection or resemblance to the pre-1948 “Gush Etzion”, including the ever – expanding settlement-city of Efrat.

The one and only purpose for the creation of these settlements is to cut the West Bank to pieces, cut the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron off from each other, and deny to the Palestinians the territorial continuity which is vital for genuine statehood. On these very days, inhabitants of villages in this area such as Umm Salamuna conduct, with the help of Israeli and international peace volunteers, a persistent struggle against the Separation Fence, which cuts deeply into their land and pass it into the possession of the Gush Etzion settlers . The settlers themselves, however, are displeased with the route of the fence, and demand to change it so as to gain even far more Palestinian land.

The Israeli artists who had avoided military service, have been already for months the target of an intensive hate campaign in the media. But the artists who for monetary gain collaborate with the settlers in a project aimed at preventing any chance for peace, at perpetuating hatred and bloodshed – about them nobody is talking.

The artists Idan Reichal, Ehud Banai, Ety Ankary and the Madreygot Group have made themselves into mercenaries and lackeys of the settlers – not even out of ideology, but simply after getting considerable amounts of money. They are all scheduled to appear at the “Israeli Home” festival organized by the settlers on the forthcoming Sukkot Holiday. Idan Reichel is due to appear on the “central stage” to be erected at the settlement of Nokdim – home of the arch – racist demagogue Avigdor Lieberman.

Artists who have prostituted themselves in such a shameful way do not deserve to have Israeli peace seekers come to their performances or spend money for their CD’s.

سيارة العودة

"american independence park" map in occupied palestine

at camp al awda with kids from ibdaa cultural center at deheishe refugee camp a couple of weeks ago we realized, too late, that we made a big mistake with at least one of the villages we took the youth to. instead of taking kids to بيت عطاب (or beit ‘itab) we took them to deir al hawa instead. part of the mistake is somewhat understandable. although we were using salman abu sitta’s amazing book, the return journey, as our guide, it is extra challenging to find the remains of a palestinian village that was ethnically cleansed when one must do this in land that was forested over by the zionist terrorist colonists. this particular forest, “the american independence national park” contains at least twelve ethnically cleansed villages whose residents and their descendants now reside in deheishe refugee camp among other refugee camps. the map above is one that the zionist terrorist colonists give out at its information center of the so-called national park. the interesting thing about the map is that it identifies the names of several palestinian villages like beit ‘itab, however, it does not identify them as palestinian.

zionist terrorist colony on the land of beit itab
zionist terrorist colony on the land of beit itab

one of the ways one has to find palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed is to look for the zionist terrorist colonies now occupying the land. and even in this national forest there are such colonies. one of them is nes harim, which is where we parked our car. i brought three youth back to the village who were the youth leaders we smuggled out to help us run the camp. because they are older than 15 years and already have identity cards it was especially dangerous for me to smuggle them out. too, it is far more difficult to smuggle out men and boys than women and girls. so we took a risk and did it one more time two days ago. we drove until we saw the sign for nes harim colony, which if you notice in the picture above has stickers over the arabic. this is a common phenomenon in historic palestine because the racist colonists actively work to conceal the arab character of this land. incidentally, jonathan cook reported for electronic intifada on a more official, state practice emerging that will remove the original arabic names from street signs altogether:

Thousands of road signs are the latest front in Israel’s battle to erase Arab heritage from much of the Holy Land.

Israel Katz, the transport minister, announced this week that signs on all major roads in Israel, East Jerusalem and possibly parts of the West Bank would be “standardized,” converting English and Arabic place names into straight transliterations of the Hebrew name.

Currently, road signs include the place name as it is traditionally rendered in all three languages.

Under the new scheme, the Arab identity of important Palestinian communities will be obscured: Jerusalem, or “al-Quds” in Arabic, will be Hebraized to “Yerushalayim”; Nazareth, or “al-Nasra” in Arabic, the city of Jesus’s childhood, will become “Natzrat”; and Jaffa, the port city after which Palestine’s oranges were named, will be “Yafo.”

Arab leaders are concerned that Katz’s plan offers a foretaste of the demand by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

On Wednesday, Mohammed Sabih, a senior official at the Arab League, called the initiative “racist and dangerous.”

“This decision comes in the framework of a series of steps in Israel aimed at implementing the ‘Jewish State’ slogan on the ground.”

Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem, meanwhile, have responded with alarm to a policy they believe is designed to make them ever less visible.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab legislator in the Israeli parliament, said: “Minister Katz is mistaken if he thinks that changing a few words can erase the existence of the Arab people or their connection to Israel.”

The transport ministry has made little effort to conceal the political motivation behind its policy of Hebraizing road signs.

In announcing the move on Monday, Katz, a hawkish member of Likud, Netanyahu’s right-wing party, said he objected to Palestinians using the names of communities that existed before Israel’s establishment in 1948.

“I will not allow that on our signs,” he said. “This government, and certainly this minister, will not allow anyone to turn Jewish Jerusalem into Palestinian al-Quds.”

Other Israeli officials have played down the political significance of Katz’s decision. A transport department spokesman, Yeshaayahu Ronen, said: “The lack of uniform spelling on signs has been a problem for those speaking foreign languages, citizens and tourists alike.”

while the racist nature of this new project of the zionist entity may seem new, it isn’t. there are many signs throughout 1948 palestine that only have hebrew, for instance. signs indicating the new zionist terrorist colonies where original palestinian villages used to be–like beit itab–only carry an arabic transliteration of the hebrew re-naming of the stolen land. so you can see the arabic in the sign pictured above peaking out from the other end of the sticker which shows the colony’s name not the palestinian village’s name.

pointing to "beit itab ruins" in arabic on zionist terrorist colonist sign (but no mention of palestine)

in beit ‘itab the layers of erasure are even more striking. there are signs all over this so-called national park indicating the various touristic things one should hike to and look at. while palestinian names are used (as in the photo above where the youth point to their village’s name in arabic), the zionist entity has done all it can to elide thousands of years of history on this land, a history which the buildings and trees eclipse. and indeed we saw many remains from a water well to fig trees to cacti and olive trees attesting to the palestinian presence on this land.

water well in beit itab
water well in beit itab
an intertwined grape and fig tree in beit itab
an intertwined grape and fig tree in beit itab

DSC00100

the photograph below and above shows one of the signs that is trying to erase palestinian people and their history from beit ‘itab. while it acknowledges that these ruins exist, and that they are relatively recent ruins–from the 1830s, a date which they get wrong–they mention only the crusaders (another foreign entity that occupied palestinian land) and not the people whose labor and love built the homes pictured here. reading walid khalidi’s all that remains gives us a far more accurate view of the village:

The village stood on a high mountain, overlooking some lower mountain peaks below. Its lands extended southwest as far as Wadi al-Maghara. Several springs around the village provided drinking and irrigation water. A secondary road linked Bayt ‘Itab to the Bayt Jibrin-Bethlehem road that ran about 3 km to the south. Bayt ‘Itab is identified with Enadab, which appears in the list of Palestinian towns that was compiled by the fourth century A.D. historian Eusebius.The Crusaders knew it as Bethahatap. Edward Robinson visited the village in 1838 and described its stone houses as solidly built. Several houses had two storeys, and in the center of the village were the ruins of a crusader castle. (274)

if you compare the sign to khalidi’s book, or even to robinson’s book, you will realize that the zionist terrorist colonists attempting to re-write history are using robinson’s dates as if to say the village begins when the white man comes and notices it exists (this is akin to saying christopher columbus “discovered” america). khalidi gives us a sense of what the people’s lives were like in that village as well, which of course, is not acknowledged by the zionist entity’s sign because that would be to admit there were not just homes and structures but real live people who built and lived in them:

In the late nineteenth century, Bayt ‘Itab was a village built of stone, perched on a rocky knoll that rose 60 to 100 feet above the surrounding hilly ridge. Its population in 1875 was approximately 700. The villagers, who were Muslim, cultivated olive trees on terraces to the north. A large cavern–eighteen feed wide and six feet high–ran beneath the houses. The original layout of the village was circular, but new construction to the southwest (along the road that led to the neighboring village of Sufla) gave it the shape of an arc. Most of its houses were built of stone. Agriculture was the main source of livelihood. The village lands were planted in grain, grapes, olive trees, and other fruit trees. In addition, the residents owned extensive areas on the coastal plain that also were planted in grain. During the [British] Mandate, some village lands were expropriated to make a large, government-owned woodland. The villagers also engaged in livestock breeding. Crops were rainfed and irrigated from springs. In 1944/45 a total of 1,400 dunums was allocated to cereals; 665 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, of which 116 dunums were planted with olive trees The village contained the ruins of an old Crusader fortress. (275)

that is the life that the zionist terrorist colonists destroyed and here is what khalidi says about it:

Bayt ‘Itab was one of a string of villages in the Jerusalem corridor that was captured following the second truce of the war. Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that it was occupied on 21 October 1948, during Operation ha-Har. The operation was complementary to Operation Yo’av, a simultaneous offensive on the southern front that aimed at thrusting southwards into the Negev. (275)

the above, of course, is a militaristic description of an nakba experienced by the palestinians from beit ‘itab. merely addressing this history is in the process of being criminalized in the zionist entity’s usurping government:

Legislation that Israel’s Arab citizens fear could limit their freedom of speech came a step closer on Sunday to becoming law.

The bill, proposed by a legislator from the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, would withhold government money from any state-supported institutions that fund activity deemed detrimental to the state.

Such activity includes “rejecting Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people” and supporting “armed struggle or terrorist acts” against Israel.

A ministerial committee approved the bill, clearing the way for its presentation to parliament for future debate and voting.

zionist terrorist colonists erasing palestinians
zionist terrorist colonists erasing palestinians

to get to the village we had to hike quite a bit from the road where the entrance to the colony and park are. it took us about an hour and a half to climb up the mountain. it was super hot and we did not bring enough water with us and i think i had borderline heat stroke. at the top of the mountain the fruit on the fig trees was not quite ripe, but i tried to eat a few anyway just for the sake of getting something inside me to cool down. then i found a cactus with sabr fruit on it and decided i’d try that since it’s juicier. i broke one apart with a stone and then carefully tried to peel it back, trying to avoid any of the thorns. little did i know how difficult this would prove to be. not only did i get my hands covered in these hard-to-see little hairy thorns, but i also got them in my lips and on my tongue. this lasted until the next day. when we hiked back down the mountain we found one of the village springs where we drank the most amazing tasting water. i was so refreshed.

the ruins of beit itab
the ruins of beit itab
the ruins of beit itab
the ruins of beit itab

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the palestinian houses that remain in beit ‘itab testify to the palestinian people, to their presence on this land, and to their right to return to it. this is why i take palestinian refugees to their land: to see it, to know it, to fight for their right to it. i wish i could have a full-time job doing this. i would make signs and paint them on the car saying سيارة العودة. i would spend all day doing this from all the refugee camps. we could make it a widespread movement to get palestinian teachers to circumvent the palestinian authority’s curriculum so that palestinians could actually learn their own history. they could use that history to fight for their rights. they could learn about their legal rights, think creatively about how to implement and take back what belongs to them.

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a view from beit itab of the forested over palestinian villages
a view from beit itab of the forested over palestinian villages

the shebab wanted to go for a swim at the beach in yaffa after we finished exploring their village. we drove to the beach and saw the palestinian cemetery in yaffa, which is next to the so-called “peres peace center.” peres, of course, is a notorious war criminal and this center named after him is on stolen land. but the cemetery was striking. it shows how the zionist terrorist colonists will not even let palestinians rest in peace after they die. it was totally vandalized and not only were there very few headstones left in tact, many of the tombs themselves were destroyed. you could see some places where some palestinians have tried to put the pieces back together, but it is difficult to find any marked grave that contains all the information about who is buried there.

palestinian cemetery in yaffa with the so-called peres peace center behind
palestinian cemetery in yaffa with the so-called peres peace center behind
not even the palestinian dead are allowed to rest in peace
not even the palestinian dead are allowed to rest in peace

they swam and i watched the sunset. it was a glorious sunset. i took them to yaffa to swim, but i want to be clear that taking palestinian refugees to any place that is no occupied by the zionist entity is a political act for me to help them feel connected to their land and to fight to take it back. this is in contradistinction to the zionist terrorist colonists who stand and watch (and do nothing i might add) at checkpoints, otherwise known as machsom watch, and who think that all palestinians need or want is a “fun” day at the beach, even if that is the child’s own wish:

The Israeli peace organization Machsom Watch had plans to take 50 West Bank children to the sea, but Israeli army denies one of them the entry permit, citing “security reasons”.

Israeli media report that 15-year-old Ahmad’s only wish was to go to the sea, but that his permit request was turned down by the military. Ahmad lives in the West Bank village of Burin, close to the city of Nablus, and has never in his life even seen the sea. In his daily life Ahmad work as a bottled-water and candy vendor at Huwarra checkpoint. Machsom Watch is convinced that the army’s decision was made without explanation or reason and set away the army’s security reasons as nonsense. “This is a 15-year-old boy, what could he possibly do?” a source said. The organization said they have known the boy for many years now. “We can testify, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has never been part of any security incident, including throwing stones,” according to the organization’s spokeswoman Raiya Yaron. Machsom Watch sent out a petition for Ahmed. The petition has since then touched the hearts of many, among them two famous Israeli actors. This is the third time Machsom Watch holds a day of recreational activities for around 50 Palestinian children and youth from the area of Nablus, in the northern West Bank. The plan is to take the children to the beach, where they will get the chance to swim in the sea for the first time in their lives after which they will return to the West Bank on the same day. Just like Ahmad, most children in and around Nablus have never been to the sea and state this as their biggest dream. When asked, nearly all, children say that swimming is their favorite hobby, only to admit immediately after, that they don’t even know how to swim.

yes, they should know how to swim and they should be free to swim in their sea whenever they want to. but the zionist terrorist colonists, including those in machsom watch, are occupying their land. but they want to relieve their guilty consciences or some such thing and so they seem to think that spending the day at the beach with palestinian children, which forces the children to normalize with their colonizing occupying terrorists.

sunset over yaffa, palestine
sunset over yaffa, palestine

and after all this we still had not eaten. so we got in the car and drove another 1.5 hours north to akka for some palestinian fish. we ate dinner and then went to another place to smoke argilla on the sea. and then we walked around the old city where i noticed new american and zionist terrorist colonizing schemes in the old city (see photos below).

we didn’t leave the old city until around 3 am. i drove all night and as we reached the checkpoint to come home the sun was rising and there was an amazingly beautiful layer of fog on the hilltop (see below). but the hardest part was taking the shebab home. while i think it is important, and i know that this trip was intensely meaningful to them, it kills me to have to take them back to the camp when their village exists. when so much of it remains unused. but, of course, their right of return is not just to their houses, but to the open space of their entire country. to the sea. to the borders–all the borders. but this is why i do this and why i believe and i hope and i will fight until my last breath for the right of return for all palestinian refugees.

sunrise over hanoun, palestine
sunrise over hanoun, palestine
deheishe refugee camp at 6 am
deheishe refugee camp at 6 am

wanted: zionist palestinians

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

yesterday ali abunimah and hasan abu nimah co-authored a brilliant analysis of benjamin netanyahu’s speech in electronic intifada. here is their article in full:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a peace plan so ingenious it is a wonder that for six decades of bloodshed no one thought of it. Some people might have missed the true brilliance of his ideas presented in a speech at Bar Ilan University on 14 June, so we are pleased to offer this analysis.

First, Netanyahu wants Palestinians to become committed Zionists. They can prove this by declaring, “We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land.” As he pointed out, it is only the failure of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular to commit themselves to the Zionist dream that has caused conflict, but once “they say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples.” It is of course perfectly natural that Netanyahu would be “yearning for that moment.”

Mere heartfelt commitment to Zionism will not be enough, however. For the Palestinians’ conversion to have “practical meaning,” Netanyahu explained, “there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders.” In other words, Palestinians must agree to help Israel complete the ethnic cleansing it began in 1947-48, by abandoning the right of return. This is indeed logical because as Zionists, Palestinians would share the Zionist ambition that Palestine be emptied of Palestinians to the greatest extent possible.

Netanyahu is smart enough to recognize that even the self-ethnic-cleansing of refugees may not be sufficient to secure “peace”: there will still remain millions of Palestinians living inconveniently in their native land, or in the heart of what Netanyahu insisted was the “historic homeland” of the Jews.

For these Palestinians, the peace plan involves what Netanyahu calls “demilitarization,” but what should be properly understood as unconditional surrender followed by disarmament. Disarmament, though necessary, cannot be immediate, however. Some recalcitrant Palestinians may not wish to become Zionists. Therefore, the newly pledged Zionist Palestinians would have to launch a civil war to defeat those who foolishly insist on resisting Zionism. Or as Netanyahu put it, the “Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas.” (In fact, this civil war has already been underway for several years as the American and Israeli-backed Palestinian “security forces,” led by US Lt. General Keith Dayton, have escalated their attacks on Hamas).

Once anti-Zionist Palestinians are crushed, the remaining Palestinians — whose number equals that of Jews in historic Palestine — will be able to get on with life as good Zionists, according to Netanyahu’s vision. They will not mind being squeezed into ever smaller ghettos and enclaves in order to allow for the continued expansion of Jewish colonies, whose inhabitants Netanyahu described as “an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.” And, in line with their heartfelt Zionism, Palestinians will naturally agree that “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

These are only the Palestinian-Israeli aspects of the Netanyahu plan. The regional elements include full, Arab endorsement of Palestinian Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel and even Arab Gulf money to pay for it all. Why not? If everyone becomes a Zionist then all conflict disappears.

It would be nice if we could really dismiss Netanyahu’s speech as a joke. But it is an important indicator of a hard reality. Contrary to some naive and optimistic hopes, Netanyahu does not represent only an extremist fringe in Israel. Today, the Israeli Jewish public presents (with a handful of exceptions) a united front in favor of a racist, violent ultra-nationalism fueled by religious fanaticism. Palestinians are viewed at best as inferiors to be tolerated until circumstances arise in which they can be expelled, or caged and starved like the 1.5 million inmates of the Gaza prison.

Israel is a society where virulent anti-Arab racism and Nakba denial are the norm although none of the European and American leaders who constantly lecture about Holocaust denial will dare to admonish Netanyahu for his bald lies and omissions about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s “vision” offered absolutely no advance on the 1976 Allon Plan for annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, or Menachem Begin’s Camp David “autonomy” proposals. The goal remains the same: to control maximum land with minimum Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s speech should put to rest newly revived illusions — fed in particular by US President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech — that such an Israel can be brought voluntarily to any sort of just settlement. Some in this region who have placed all their hopes in Obama — as they did previously in Bush — believe that US pressure can bring Israel to heel. They point to Obama’s strong statements calling for a complete halt to Israeli settlement construction — a demand Netanyahu defied in his speech. It now remains to be seen whether Obama will follow his tough words with actions.

Yet, even if Obama is ready to put unprecedented pressure on Israel, he would likely have to exhaust much of his political capital just to get Israel to agree to a settlement freeze, let alone to move on any of dozens of other much more substantial issues.

And despite the common perception of an escalating clash between the Obama administration and the Israeli government (which may come over minor tactical issues), when it comes to substantive questions they agree on much more than they disagree. Obama has already stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state,” and he affirmed that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” As for Palestinian refugees, he has said, “The right of return [to Israel] is something that is not an option in a literal sense.”

For all the fuss about settlements, Obama has addressed only their expansion, not their continued existence. Until the Obama administration publicly dissociates itself from the positions of the Clinton and Bush administrations, we must assume it agrees with them and with Israel that the large settlement blocks encircling Jerusalem and dividing the West Bank into ghettos would remain permanently in any two-state solution. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu have mentioned Israel’s illegal West Bank wall suggesting that there is no controversy over either its route or existence. And now, both agree that whatever shreds are left can be called a “Palestinian state.” No wonder the Obama administration welcomed Netanyahu’s speech as “a big step forward.”

What is particularly dismaying about the position stated by Obama in Cairo — and since repeated constantly by his Middle East envoy George Mitchell — is that the United States is committed to the “legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” This formula is designed to sound meaningful, but these vague, campaign-style buzzwords are devoid of any reference to inalienable Palestinian rights. They were chosen by American speechwriters and public relations experts, not by Palestinians. The Obama formula implies that any other Palestinian aspirations are inherently illegitimate.

Where in international law, or UN resolutions can Palestinians find definitions of “dignity” and “opportunity?” Such infinitely malleable terms incorrectly reduce all of Palestinian history to a demand for vague sentiments and a “state” instead of a struggle for liberation, justice, equality, return and the restoration of usurped rights. It is, after all, easy enough to conceive of a state that keeps Palestinians forever dispossessed, dispersed, defenseless and under threat of more expulsion and massacres by a racist, expansionist Israel.

Through history it was never leaders who defined rights, but the people who struggled for them. It is no small achievement that for a century Palestinians have resisted and survived Zionist efforts to destroy their communities physically and wipe them from the pages of history. As long as Palestinians continue to resist in every arena and by all legitimate means, building on true international solidarity, their rights can never be extinguished. It is from such a basis of independent and indigenous strength, not from the elusive promises of a great power or the favors of a usurping occupier, that justice and peace can be achieved.

the anti-arab racism they describe above is rampant, though not always caught on camera or reported by the media. here is yet another instance of the common sorts of racist remarks made by zionist terrorist colonists made this week:

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who meant to praise an undercover police agent in Tel Aviv, referred to him as an “Arabush” (Hebrew equivalent of “sand nigger”) Tuesday.

this is the same kind of racism that stems from the jewish supremacist attitude that they can colonize palestine because they are the “chosen people” who “inherited” this land from god. and this racism is not reserved just for palestinians in the west bank and gaza. it is fundamentally a part of the zionist state and its society. it is what helped to create apartheid on both sides of the so-called “green line,” contrary to jimmy carter’s attestations to the contrary. stu harrison’s interview with palestinian member of kenesset haneen zoabi in electronic intifada this week she makes it quite clear how racism and apartheid function in 1948 palestine:

Zoabi said: “The rate of hostility has increased a lot. Seventy-five percent of Jewish people do not want to live in a society with Arabs.”

“On the question of apartheid, most towns are mixed, with both Arabs and Jews. Most of the Jewish population and the authorities in towns like Jaffa and Haifa, are trying their best to transfer Palestinians out so they can become purely Jewish towns.”

“They prevent the Palestinians from renovating their homes and they are trying to push them into giving up their homes so they will leave. Arabs are being attacked a lot more in the streets and in their market shops, comparing the last year to previous years.”

However, Zoabi said such attitudes are nothing new. “We have a special case of racism in Israel. You can’t find this kind of racism in any other country in the world, where the state usually defines itself neutrally.”

“This is not the case in Israel. We don’t struggle simply against discriminating policies or attitudes. We are against the very definition of the state and this is what differentiates our struggle.”

it is this kind of racism that also leads the zionist entity to constantly demolish palestinian homes and build new colonies. this week another spate of both emerged in the news. first, the house demolitions and orders for future demolitions of palestinian homes:

Two Palestinian families were given orders on Tuesday by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem to demolish part of their homes.

One of the homes is located inside the old city of Jerusalem while the other is located in the nearby Palestinian dominated Silwan neighborhood.

Local sources said that since Friday the Israeli municipality had handed out five such orders to Palestinian families inside the walls of the old city.

and more homes in al quds:

At least a dozen Palestinian families in vireos parts of East Jerusalem received on Wednesday demolition orders issued by the Jerusalem Municipality.

According to the Israeli municipality the homes are built without the needed building permits.

The families started the illegal process by hiring a lawyer to get their case heard in the court, local sources reported.

Since last week the Israeli municipality has forced four families to demolish parts of their homes because they lacked the needed permission.

and another home in another neighborhood al quds:

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh in Anata, which has already been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and has become a center for the peaceful struggle against home demolitions, can be demolished yet again.

and in the jordan valley:

Israeli bulldozers demolished 15 animal barns and 3 shacks owned by Palestinian residents of Ein Al-Hilwa neighborhood in the Jordan Valley near Israeli settlement of Masquin, eyewitnesses reported Wednesday morning.

Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activity in the northern West Bank, condemned the demolition describing it as part of a clear Israeli policy aimed at emptying the Jordan Valley of all Palestinian residents.

the above news items are part and parcel for palestinians every day, but there is a new report from save the children that ma’an published the other day showing that 300,000 palestinians face house demolitions right now:

Over 300,000 people are facing house demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories, a report issued this week by the UK charity Save the Children says.

“House demolitions in the OPT have escalated and thousands of families and in some cases entire villages remain under the threat of bulldozers arriving to destroy their homes and being displaced any day,” said Salam Kanaan, Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) in a statement.

The new report is titled “Broken Homes,” and was also authored by Palestinian Counseling Centre (PCC), and Welfare Association.

Since house demolitions started in 1967 it is estimated that the Israeli civilian and military authorities have destroyed over 24,000 homes. However, since 2000 the number of homes being destroyed has escalated with an average of more than a 1,000 homes demolished every year, Save the children said.

This year (2009) has seen a massive increase, with more homes being destroyed than at any time since the Israeli occupation began 40 years ago, the organization said. Nearly 4,000 homes were destroyed as a result of the military offensive in Gaza at the start of the year.

“The majority of house demolitions are carried out for so called ‘administrative’ reasons or as a result of military operations,” said Kanaan. “Families lose everything when their homes are demolished; clothes, food and furniture are all buried in the rubble. There is precious little help for these families who are left with nothing, no support, no protection.”

Among the facts stated in the report are:

More than half (52%) of the homes were demolished in a collective demolition where a series of homes or neighborhood was razed

Two people were killed during the demolition of their homes

Only 13% of families had a chance to collect their belongings before demolition began
97% of parents are at risk of a mental breakdown as a result of their homes being demolished

Children whose homes have been demolished show a decline in their mental health, suffering classic signs of trauma, becoming withdrawn, depressed and anxious

The majority of families whose houses were demolished were repeatedly displaced for long periods of time – over half the families (61%) took at least two years to find somewhere permanent to live

Over a quarter of families had to split up so they could all find somewhere to stay.

Once a house is demolished, the family not only loses their home and its contents but is also liable for the costs of the actual house demolition. This can run into thousands of dollars.

East Jerusalem residents, rural communities in the West Bank, Bedouin, and refugees living in camps, communities close to the Separation Wall or settlements, and areas near Gaza’s borders are at the greatest risk of displacement from building or house demolition. More than 300,000 Palestinians live in these areas.

of course the main reason for palestinian home demolitions is to build colonies for jewish zionists who steal the land on which these palestinian homes exist. and expect a great increase in those colonies this summer:

The Land of Israel Faithful group responded to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech by saying that they are planning to construct 30 new outposts in the West Bank. In his speech Netanyahu declared that no new settlements would be built and no extra land would be confiscated from Palestinians for settlement development.

The group told Israeli media that it was “recruiting activists for this summer’s outpost building”. It is planning to create outposts between the settlement of Ofra and Shiloh, in Gush Etzion, near Hebron and near the settlements of Elon Moreh and Bracha.

The settler group has been engaged in building and rebuilding outposts for the past two years. Many of them have been demolished several times by Israeli forces, but the group keeps rebuilding them with determination.

One of the outposts that was destroyed was the Moaz Esther outpost. In the beginning of this month it was taken down, but now it’s almost completely rebuilt again. The group explained that action has to be taken to strengthen the Jewish hold on the West Bank.

supposedly the united states is working to “freeze” the colony building project, but the zionist entity is being defiant and racist as is par for the course:

Visiting Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister of the right-wing extremist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, Avigdor Lieberman, told the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, that Israel will not freeze the construction and expansion of settlements.

Clinton demanded Israel to stop the settlements as agreed upon with the former president, George W. Bush.

Lieberman said that the “Jewish people were born in Judea and Samaria, and will die there”, his statement totally disregarded the indigenous Palestinian people.

Clinton responded by stating that the United States under the Obama administration wants a freeze to all settlement activities.

The Israeli FM claimed that there was no written or even verbal agreement with Bush regarding the settlements. Clinton “agreed” and said that a compromise could be reached between the United States and Israel.

here is a report on lieberman’s visit with hillary clinton by tom ackerman on al jazeera yesterday:

regardless of what is being reported, it seems as though the obama administration–like all american administrations before it–will yield to the zionist entity and their demand for jewish-only racist colonies on stolen palestinian land:

The US may ease its demand for a total freeze on construction in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Quoting anonymous Israeli officials, the newspaper said that this possible change in position was expressed during US Envoy George Mitchell’s visit to Israel last week, when he held a four-hour meeting on the settlement issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

but glenn kessler pointed out in the washington post the other day that there once was a time when the u.s. was clear–at least rhetorically–about the illegality of colonies (though, unfortunately, the u.s. has always supported the colonies in 1948 palesitne):

Thirty years ago, the State Department legal adviser issued an opinion in response to an inquiry from Congress: The establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories “is inconsistent with international law.”

The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Israel has insisted that the Geneva Convention does not apply to settlers and broadly contests assertions of the settlements’ illegality.

Despite the passage of time, the legal opinion, issued during the Carter administration, has never been revoked or revised. President Ronald Reagan said he disagreed with it — he called the settlements “not illegal” — but his State Department did not seek to issue a new opinion.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is unlikely to bring up the U.S. opinion when she meets today with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the State Department. Lieberman lives in a West Bank settlement, Nokdim, that was established in 1982 as a tent encampment of six families and now has more than 800 residents.

Despite repeated inquiries over the past week, State Department spokesmen declined to say whether the 1979 legal opinion is still the policy of the U.S. government.

and lest you think that the zionist entity’s racism is directed only at palestinians check out this new report on irin news about their human trafficking:

The latest US State Department report on trafficked persons, released on 16 June, says Israel is still a destination for men and women trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation.

Women from the former Soviet Union and China are still being trafficked across the border with Egypt into Israel for forced prostitution by organized criminal groups.

According to local NGOs, such as Isha L’iash and Moked, each year several hundred women in Israel – many of them foreigners – are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, according to the report.

In 2006 Israel was put on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watch list and has been described as a “prime destination for trafficking” by both the State Department and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

a step backwards (UPDATED)

yesterday i had a close encounter with one of jimmy carter’s entourage. i was looking for a book at the american colony hotel bookshop and talking with the owner, munther fahmi, when a white woman came in the shop looking for a place to charge her iphone. munther asked her why carter’s press conference the previous day only had a couple of palestinians invited and the room was brimming with zionist colonists. of course, she did not have a proper answer. i chimed in, of course. i said something to the effect that of course he’s not interested in equality; he’s towing the american line. she asked me if i have read his books. i said, yes. but his book, especially palestine: peace, not apartheid, is deeply problematic because he does not recognize apartheid in 1948 palestine and he refuses to call for refugees’ right of return. and that was that.

carter is here in palestine and heading for gaza today. but yesterday he met with zionist terrorist colonists and he told them that their colony in the west bank shall remain forever:

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter met with settler leaders from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc on Sunday and told them that he believed that their settlement is among the ones which should be able to remain under a final peace deal with the Palestinians.

“This particular settlement is not one that I envision ever being abandoned, or changed over into a Palestinian territory,” Carter said. “This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever.”

palestinian home in beit el sukariya, surrounded by zionist colony of gush etzion
palestinian home in beit el sukariya, surrounded by zionist colony of gush etzion

i am not sure where carter met with these colonists, but i suspect it was not inside their colony. for if he had gone there he would have possibly asked questions about the tent-like shacks that the colony effectively imprisons. you see, gush etzion is on the land of the palestinian village of beit al sukaria not far from where i live. there are still a few remaining palestinian families there who are not allowed to build on their land (hence the plastic bag as roof) and they are fenced in with barbed wires. you can see gush etzion in the background behind this palestinian family’s home. i posted more photographs and wrote about this colony and village a few months ago; you may click on this link to read it. but this is just to give you an idea of what sort of colonies carter deems okay in his so-called opposition to apartheid.

unlike barack obama, carter had some reservations about benjamin netanyahu’s speech the other night, but it seems that most of the world believes netanyahu took a step forward. and what i want to know is: how on earth is that possible?

obama, for instance, found netanyahu as taking a step forward:

Barack Obama has welcomed what he called “positive movement” in a speech by Israel’s prime minister, saying that it paved the way for the restart of “serious talks”.

“Overall, I thought that there was positive movement in the prime minister’s speech. He acknowledged the need for two states,” the US president said of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Sunday speech.

He acknowledged that “there were a lot of conditions” placed by Netanyahu for the creation of a Palestinian state, but added that Israeli and Palestinian conditions could be addressed in negotiations.

“What we are seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks,” he said on Monday.

well, yes, it is possible to start talks as there has been talking for over 16 years, which has led to nothing more than further theft of palestinian land, massacres of palestinian people, and the mass arrests of men, women, and children. my friend and colleague abdel sattar al qassam summed it up best:

The Arabs particularly the Palestinians are mad at Netanyahu’s speech of June 14, 2009. It is deemed militant, extremist, hawkish and destructive of what they call the peace process. Even they are unhappy about the White House that described the speech as a step forward. In this speech, the Israeli Prime Minister totally denied the Palestinian national rights. Although he didn’t talk about the Palestinian right to self-determination, the denial is built in and implicit in the whole speech.

Netanyahu strongly asserted his conviction that Israel exists on the historical land of the Jews, with emphasis on the West Bank (which he called Yahuda and Shomron) as part of this land, but recognized that there are Palestinians living on this land. He said that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinians, and if they do so together with strictly observing the needs of Israeli security they will be granted a disarmed entity (which he called a state) that commits itself to Israel’s security. He said that the refugee problem should be solved outside Israel, and Jerusalem will ever remain the unified capital of Israel. He committed himself to more settlement activities.

I don’t see why the Arabs and the Palestinians are mad. Those who signed the Oslo and Taba Accords knew beforehand that Israel would never reach an agreement with any Arab party without observing Israel’s security and conceding the right of return. The Palestinian leadership practically conceded the right of return at the very moment it recognized Israel, and committed itself to Israel’s security as it accepted to fight what is called Palestinian terrorism. The Palestinian leadership accepted the Geneva initiative that indirectly denies the Palestinian right of return, and has authorized Dayton, the American general, to recruit and train Palestinians on how to fight terrorism; i. e. to fight other Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership has always warned (since 1994) that settlement activities jeopardize the negotiations, but building new settlements, enlarging existing ones, confiscating land, uprooting trees, and demolishing houses went on together with the negotiations. This is also true for Jerusalem which has been under a relentless process of social, economic and cultural transformation.

The Palestinian leadership hasn’t been honest with the Palestinian people. It has been saying something and ratifying something else.

Netanyahu hasn’t announced a policy that is radically different from the policies of other Israeli governments whether led by labor or Kadema parties. Only Netanyahu indirectly pledged to continue what his predecessors started, and to adopt the same policies. What makes Netanyahu a ghost while other prime ministers doves? Netanyahu tells the truth. Apparently, Arab and Palestinian leaders don’t care about the truth, they only hate to be told the truth.

If the Palestinian leadership is truly concerned, it should renounce the accords with Israel, insist on Palestinian national unity, seek new approaches toward the realization of the Palestinian national rights and find ways to meet the expenses of the daily life of the Palestinians. This isn’t a difficult task, and all of what it needs is free will.

unfortunately, abdel sattar is in the minority as the palestinians like saeb erakat and mahmoud abbas who profit off of the “peace process” industry want nothing more than to continue negotiations in spite of their protests over netanyahu’s speech, but for the moment these self-appointed negotiators are feigning threats to halt negotiations as mel frykberg reported in ips:

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who just last week told IPS that Palestinians were in their strongest position ever politically and that this time around the U.S. meant business, also lashed out at Netanyahu’s speech.

Erekat said the Israeli premier’s speech had “closed the door to permanent status negotiations. We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it,” said Erekat.

“He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain. The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Netanyahu has flipped it over on its back.”

Erekat has gone as far as to call for annulment of the Arab peace initiative. The Arab initiative was a peace plan sponsored by the Saudis and adopted during the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002. The plan called for normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world in return for Israel withdrawing form occupied Arab land and returning to its internationally recognised borders.

if these statements are made in earnest, it could bode well for a return to the heart of the matter–all the items netanyahu said no to in his speech.

zionist terrorist colonists masked as “liberals” like gideon levy read the speech rather differently, not surprisingly:

The gate was not thrown open last night, although a narrow crack appeared, which in itself is noteworthy. Another small brick was removed from the barricades of the occupation: A right-wing leader said he supports Palestinian statehood.

“Demilitarized, Demilitarized,” he repeated; now all that remains are the utmost margins of the fantasizing, embittered right-wing, a group finally left isolated and abnormal. They are a dangerous contingent, but they are few.

levy’s call for giddiness aside, it should alarm us that zionist colonists in the colony of ofer in between nablus and ramallah saw the speech as supporting their “rights” for “natural growth,” a new buzzword suggesting that they have a right to expand their colonies. dan nolan of al jazeera watched the speech with some of these colonists and reported on their response:

is this what obama meant when he issued a statement calling netanyahu’s speech a “step forward”?:

Wisely, the U.S. took Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Palestinian state at face value. U.S. officials deftly side-stepped the Israeli leader’s constraints. His speech was termed “an important step forward.”

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

for me the heart of the matter in netanyahu’s speech was when he discussed an nakba and palestinian refugees. because although he cannot see it or say it, this is the crux of the issue. this is the root of the problem that began the ethnic cleansing and colonization process of palesitne:

I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been and remains – the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.

In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.

Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.

yes, hostility began long before 1967 because colonization of palestine and the massacre of palestinians began long before 1967. the problem is not with the occupation of the west bank and gaza strip. the problem is with the occupation of all of historic palestine. this is why palestinians have resisted and will continue to resist.

zionist colonist akiva eldar correctly understood the speech as a colonial one, though he failed to perceive the main problem when it came to refugees:

No empathy for the refugees from Jaffa who lost their entire world, not a word for the Muslim connection to Jerusalem – neither a fragment of a quote from the Koran, nor a line of Arabic poetry.

Netanyahu’s provincial remarks were not intended to penetrate the hearts of the hundreds of millions of Al Jazeera viewers in the Muslim world. Instead, he sought to appease Tzipi Hotovely, the settler Likud lawmaker, and make it possible to live peaceably with the settler foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people didn’t even leave him an opening for forging reconciliation with the Arab citizens in the country.

netanyahu could have recited the qur’an until the cows came home, but palestinian refugees want their homes back not the words of their religious text recited by those who have participated in the murdering of their compatriots and the theft of their land. they don’t want an apology, though that would be a start. they want their land back. period.

palestinian novelist susan abulhawa makes it clear what palestinians demand and what their rights are given their dispossession over 61 years ago in an article in dissident voice:

Following Netanyahu’s much anticipated policy speech, politicians and journalists, like mindless automatons, have set about repeating Israel’s tired mantra that Palestinians should recognize Israel’s right to exist. Never mind the fact that the PLO and Palestine Authority have obliged this ludicrous call, not once, but four times. And never mind that Israel has always denied Palestine’s right to exist, not only as a nation, but as individuals seeking a dignified life in our own homeland.

Does anyone find it interesting that Israel is the only country on the planet going around with this incessant insistence that everyone recognize her right to exist? Given that we Palestinians are the ones who have been dispossessed, occupied, and oppressed, one might expect that we should be the ones making such a demand. But t hat isn’t the case. Why? Because our right to exist as a nation is self-evident. We are the natives of that land! We know we have that right. The world knows it. That’s why Palestine doesn’t need Israel or any other country to recognize her right to exist. We are the rightful heirs to that land and this can be verified legally, historically, culturally, and even genetically. And as such, the only true legitimacy Israel will ever have must come from us abdicating our inheritance, our history, and our culture to Israel. That’s why Israel insists we declare she had a right to take everything we ever had – from home and property, cemeteries, churches and mosques, to culture and history and hope.

Israel is a country that was founded by Europeans who came to Palestine, formed terrorist gangs who set about a systematic ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians from their homes on 78% of Historic Palestine in 1948. Those Palestinians and their descendants still languish in refugee camps. Israel attempted a similar scenario in 1967 when they conquered the remainder of Palestine, but Palestinians then couldn’t be dislodged from their homes as easily. This remains true, despite 40 years of Israel’s violent and oppressive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite home demolitions, land confiscations, rapacious building of Jewish-only colonies, endless checkpoints, targeted assassinations, bombings of schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and malls, closures and denials; despite the massive human rights abuses, the imprisonment and torture of men women and children alike, the separation of families, the daily humiliations; despite the massive killings – Palestinians remain. We still resist. We still live, love, and have babies. As much as we can, we rebuild what Israel destroys. Such are rights!

but perhaps there is a silver lining as the speech confirmed to the european union at least that netanyahu is a warmonger who is only interested in getting away with theft. chalk this one up to another victory in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement if it holds:

European Union foreign ministers welcomed on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditional endorsement of a future Palestinian state, but said it was not enough to raise EU-Israel ties to a higher level.

The ministers, who were due to meet Israel’s foreign minister later on Monday, questioned conditions cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for backing a Palestinian state and also his defence of Jewish settlements on occupied land.

UPDATED: watch this interesting discussion about the speech with abdel bari atwan (and two zionists) on kamahl santamaria’s “inside story” on al jazeera:

“we’re not racists, we just don’t want arabs” so say zionist terrorist colonists

if you saw my post earlier today with the video from max blumenthal than you know how zionist terrorist colonists openly express their racism verbally. it is normal. the problem is that it is normally associated with extreme violence as well. just now a palestinian, who was on his way home from work, was attacked while racial slurs were being hurled at him. of course, this won’t be described as terrorism in the media and likely few sources other than imemc will report it:

A 20-year old Palestinian man from Jerusalem was wounded on Thursday at night after he was attacked by a group of extremist settlers.

Resident Husam Al Za’tary, from Jerusalem, works at a bakery in West Jerusalem. He was attacked while waiting at a bus stop as he was heading back home.

He was approached by a group of young settlers who first insulted him for “being an Arab”, and then violently attacked him, and were even joined later on by another group of settlers, students of a Talmud School in the area.

An armed school guard also took part in the attack, and pointed his gun at the head of the Palestinian man threatening to kill him.

The man was later on hospitalized at an Arab hospital in the city.

there were more examples of racism in the news today coming from zionist terrorist colonists in jaleel. check out this article by eli ashkenazi in ha’aretz showing “liberal” zionist terrorist colonists who think “we’re not racists, we just don’t want arabs” and imagine any other category being inserted into that sentence and how the world’s reaction might differ:

Residents of the Misgav bloc of communities in the Galilee consider themselves to be liberal, peace-loving people who support coexistence with their Arab neighbors and even root for Bnei Sakhnin, the soccer club based in a nearby Arab town considered a prominent symbol of that community. Which is why they were shocked this week when proposals raised at local council meetings to accept only applicants who shared their Zionist principles drew negative headlines and criticism for alleged racism.

“The label upsets me,” South Africa-born lawyer Michael Zetler, who founded the Misgav community of Manof in 1980 with other immigrants from what was then an apartheid state, said Thursday. “It hurt me. I am not a racist.”

Although few people will say so, the panic that spurred the submission of the controversial proposals are related to the High Court of Justice’s ruling two years ago that upheld the right of Ahmed and Fahina Zubeidat, an Israeli Arab couple, to buy a house in the exclusively Jewish community of Rakefet notwithstanding the local admissions committee’s objection.

Since then, some residents of Jewish communal settlements in the Galilee fear that the region’s substantial Arab population might seek to buy property in their communities, where the standard of living is far higher, causing Jews to move out. In some areas of the Galilee this has already taken place: Portions of the once-exclusively Jewish town of Upper Nazareth are now populated by newcomers from the nearby Arab city of Nazareth.

“I agree that there is a problem, but whether this is the right way to deal with it, I am not sure,” Zetler said yesterday. “Experience will tell. But there is a problem in the Galilee and people are challenging the political right of [Jewish] communities.”

Residents of the Misgav bloc are not used to being accused of racism, and dismay at being compared to Jewish settlers in the West Bank. “It’s unpleasant and even offensive to wake up one morning and find that you’ve turned into [Avigdor] Lieberman when in fact it’s the other way around,” Alon Mayer, another resident of Manof, said, referring to the hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu chairman who proposed that Israeli Arabs be required to take an oath of loyalty to the state.

Mayer pointed out that the right-wing party headed by Lieberman garnered only 2.5 percent of the town’s vote in the last Knesset elections – far below the national average. Despite feeling on the defensive, Mayer will not apologize for supporting the demand that applicants who seek to buy property in the communal settlement should adhere to the locals’ basic cultural and political beliefs.

“When we decided to move to Manof, we sought a community that chose similar basic principles to our own, such as good education for children, culture, celebrating a Jewish communal lifestyle and protecting the environment,” a woman from Manof said. “We joined this community knowing it is founded on these values.”

Some Misgav bloc residents accuse Arab rights groups such as Adalah, which would rather Israel be defined as a binational state than a Jewish one and championed the Zubeidats’ cause in the courts, of intentionally causing provocations. “An Arab narrative exists that proclaims ‘we were not conquered, we did not desert,'” said Danny Ivri, a resident of the Misgav bloc community Yodfat. “They say ‘we were manipulated in various ways, such as through military rule and suppressing our development by placing Jewish communities between our own communities.”

Misgav bloc residents also fear increased tensions that could result from Arabs and Jews living in close proximity, and point at the occasional spurts of sectarian violence that break out in nearby non-Jewish towns between Muslims, Druze and Christians. “You can’t impose a demographic mix on us that will recreate the sort of friction between Muslims, Christians and Druze that exists in Maghar, Peki’in and Rameh,” Mayer said, referring to cities prone to periodic unrest. “High Court justices don’t understand what it’s like to live in a small community which was founded with great hardships, a community which is trying to hold on to a certain way of life.”

A few weeks ago a ceremony was held in Yuvalim, the largest town in the Misgav bloc, which exemplified its inveterate ties to the state of Israel. The regional council unveiled a promenade in memory of slain Israel Defense Forces soldier Arbel Reich, whose father was among Yuvalim’s founders.

“It was an emotional ceremony,” recalled regional council head Ron Shani. “This event was part of the community’s narrative, part of its spirit, just like the fact that we educate our children to serve in combat units. That’s what it’s like here and we’re proud of that.

“A resident who wishes to join Yuvalim will have to feel comfortable at such a ceremony, and if not he can go elsewhere, where he wouldn’t be offended,” he said.

it is in this context of racism that it is worth watching writer alice walker’s three-part interview with anjali kamat of democracy now! while she was in gaza a couple of months ago. she compares the treatment of palestinians to african americans under legal jim crow segregation, which she fought against in the civil rights movement. the problem with this interview is that walker at once refuses to acknowledge palestinians’ right to armed resistance and is patronizing when she talks about the need for palestinians to take up non-violent resistance and at the same time when she is asked directly about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement she does not commit to supporting that non-violent resistance strategy either.

it is also racism, of course, that created the savaging of gaza to begin with and that continues the siege that affects the 1.5 million palestinians living there. irin news is reporting yet again on the hurdles palestinians rebuilding must deal with:

In the face of the ongoing Israeli ban on imports of building materials Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are looking at new building methods, and one project is using clay and rubble.

Local Palestinian NGO Mercy Association for Children began building a school for handicapped children in Gaza City on 24 May to test a recently developed method using clay blocks, salt and rubble – with the source material coming mainly from the hundreds of buildings demolished during the Israeli offensive (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009).

Fourteen construction workers on the 5,000 square metre building site in the Shujayah neighbourhood of the city haul buckets of clay for moulding into large blocks from which the structure, with its domed ceiling, will be made.

“If the school, upon completion, proves structurally sound we will move forward with other construction projects in Gaza,” said lead engineer Maher Batroukh of the Mercy Association for Children. “The school is the first building of its kind in Gaza.”

The three-storey school, occupying about 1,025 square metres, will contain no steel, cement or concrete, said Batroukh.

here is an idea of what these new mud-brick homes look like–they are just amazing looking and so much more practical in terms of climate and available materials than ordinary homes here:

legalizing apartheid

i’m not one who feels loyalty to states in general. i do not feel loyalty to my country, the united states, for example. i would never serve in its imperial army and i left my country, in large part, so i would not have to pay taxes there any more because this means supporting its imperialism and its massacres around the planet. but imagine if the united states decided to announce itself to be a white christian state and all those non-white christians had to pledge allegiance to that sort of state. of course, the united states, like the zionist entity, is a colonial regime and therefore american indians are put into this position. this is the position that palestinians are being put into:

On Wednesday, the Israeli Knesset approved in the first reading a bill that would incriminate publicly denying Israel as a Jewish State, and that such denial would be punished up to a year in prison.

The bill is one of several similar bills presented by right-wing members of Knesset demanding racist laws that denies the very existence of the Arabs and Palestinians in their homeland.

The bill wants all Israeli citizens, including Arabs and Palestinians, to recognize Israel as a “Jewish Democratic State”.

Any act or publication that denies Israel’s “identity” as a Jewish State would be considered as an issue that would cause “acts of hatred and disloyalty”.

The bill was approved by 47 members of Knesset, while 34 voted against it, and Knesset spokesperson, Reuven Rivlin, from the Likud party, abstained.

The controversial bill was first presented by extremist right wing member of Knesset, Zevulun Orlev, of the Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party.

The new bill needs to pass three more votes at the Knesset and a committee review before it becomes a law, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

Orlev proposed this law linking it to former member of Knesset, Azmi Bishara, who resigned from the Knesset and left the country in 2007.

Bishara is facing charges of what Israel calls “assisting the enemy” because he visited Lebanon and Syria.

Meanwhile, member of Knesset Haim Oron of the Meretz party, strongly denounced the bill and said that it is considered as “creating thought police”.

On Sunday, the Knesset passed a bill outlawing marking the Nakba, which is when the Palestinians were forced out of their homeland so that Israeli can be created.

The bill was denounced by Naomi Chazan, head of the New Israeli Fund. He said that this bill crushes the feelings of Palestinians who lost their lands, and harms the efforts to achieve co-existence.

Several Civil Rights organizations in Israel said that such a bill could harm the rights of Arab citizens.

Furthermore, a bill introduced this week by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, of the extremist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, required the Arabs to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish State before they can obtain identity cards and citizenship.

the arab association for human rights in 1948 palestine published a briefing on the legislation and you can download an english-language version of the bill by clicking on this link. palestinian knesset member jamal zahalka sees the new racist law as an attempt at thought policing palestinians:

As the Israeli Knesset was debating the new law, which punishes any citizen who does not recognize Israel as a Jewish Democratic State, Arab member of Knesset Jamal Zahalka, described the law as racist and a thought crime.

Zahalka said that any person who demands democracy and equality would be punished and imprisoned, and that this means dozens of Jewish and Arabs university lecturers, intellectuals and politicians who propose a bi-national state or a state for all of its citizens would be punished and imprisoned.

He also said that what this law means is that the state “would have to form a police unit that targets the thoughts of the residents, the intellectuals, and imprison them for having ideas and thoughts that are not coherent with the State’s policies.

Zahalka also said that no matter what laws are passed, the Arabs and progressive movements in Israel will not accept a Jewish State that is based on Zionism, and would always reject Zionism regardless of the price they would have to pay.

“You are presenting racist laws, day by day, your government is sick with delusions and racism”, Zahalka added.

His statements were met with anger by right wing members of the Knesset who shouted at him and said “if you don’t like our laws, then get out of here, and leave the country”.

He responded by saying “we are the natives of this land, you are the immigrants and we will remain in this country like a fork in your throats”.

Right wing MK’s then started insulting Zahalka and uttered dirty words against him, before the Knesset head forced him out and ignored the racist statements of right wing MK’s.

After he was forced out of the Knesset hall, Zahalka said that the atmosphere at the Knesset is poisoned with racism, and added that this law is a challenge to democracy and a challenge to Israel as a state for all of its citizens.

He added that Israel regards itself as the state of the Jewish people, which places the Arabs as an unwanted ethnicity.

meanwhile another law is underway in the racist fascist zionist entity. and i’m pretty sure that this would fall under the rubric of cultural genocide, too, given the way that people’s history and culture are interconnected. it seems that the new bill that would make it a crime to mourn the dispossession of palestine. imagine, just imagine, for one moment what would happen if germany made it illegal to mourn the nazi holocaust. you get the picture. here is the news item:

Bill calling for one year in prison for anyone speaking against Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state passes preliminary reading. Bill’s initiator MK Orlev: This is our lesson from Bishara affair. Meretz: Government is losing it
Amnon Meranda

‘Nakba law’ not alone: The Knesset on Wednesday morning approved in a preliminary reading a bill introducing one year in prison for anyone speaking against Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, should the call contain a reasonable possibility “that it may lead to acts of hatred, scorn or lack of loyalty to the State or its government authorities or law systems which have been established legally.”

Forty-seven Knesset members voted in favor of the motion, 34 voted against it, and one MK abstained. The bill was initiated by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), chairman of the Knesset’s Education Committee.

Following the vote, a harsh argument erupted between MKs Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Arie Eldad (National Union), leading to Zahalka’s removal from the auditorium.

A heated discussion erupted at the Knesset before the vote. Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron slammed the government, saying, “Have you lost your confidence in the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government – what exactly are you doing? Thought Police? Have you lost it?

“Israel’s citizens have the right to say that they believe Jewish and democratic is an incorrect wording. I think they are wrong, but what does this have to do with the criminals area? Enough with this story.” MK Orlev replied, “You used very shallow demagogy.”

‘You want to punish people for thinking?’

MK Zahalka said before the vote, “Many intellectuals in the academia who talk about a country belonging to all its citizens belong in prison, according to MK Orlev. Arab and Jewish leaders who seek real democracy in Israel also belong in jail, according to Orlev… He wants to put anyone who doesn’t agree with him in jail.

“This is the proposal: Whoever says ‘death to the Arabs’ should not be put in prison, but whoever says ‘a country of all its citizens’ should not be put in prison. This is a crazy law aimed at managing the political discourse according to laws.”

Knesset Member Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) said that his movement opposed the bill in principle for the simple reason that “a democratic Jewish state is performed, not talked about. We want to do this, and you with your remarks are thwarting the matter once and again.

Turning to Orlev, Bar-On asked, “What is there in your proposal that it not covered in Basic Law: The Knesset or in the Penal Law? You want to punish people for speaking? Soon you’ll want to punish people for thinking.”

MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) said in response to the bill, “We will not recognize a Jewish and Zionist Israel despite the draconian law, even if we pay a personal price. This coalition will soon propose a low banning ‘expressing shock over the occupation’ and calling for a penalty of five years in prison for anyone expressing such shock.”

al jazeera’s “inside story” with kamahl santamaria focused on this subject the other night. it features mohammad darawshe, a palestinian from 1948 palestine, zionist terrorist colonist paul eidelberg, and independent mp from england claire short. short and darawshe make some good points. eidelberg offers up the same lies and zionist propaganda and is not satisfied enough with finding ways to silence palestinians by criminalizing their own history and identity, but also feels the need to do so live on tv by silencing darawshe:

interestingly, at one point santamaria asks eidelberg about the zionist entity’s declaration of independence which states:

“I commit to being loyal to the state of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and Zionist state, to its symbols and values and to serve the country as needed through military service or an alternative service as decided by law.”

eidelberg gets one thing right when he says, in response to questioning about the above-quoted document: he says that this statement is pretty much null and void because it is not possible to have a state for all its citizens and be a jewish state. exactly. claire short makes a great point about the british empire and the citizens of the empire who opposed british colonial rule and used resistance to do so and yet remained citizens. her example is much better than eidelberg who tries to compare this to the united states, which doesn’t work with his analogies–it only works when you think of american indians having to pledge such a loyalty oath or deny their history of genocide and colonialism.

what is a palestinian festival of literature?

apartheid wall, beit lahem with painting of mahmoud darwish
apartheid wall, beit lahem with painting of mahmoud darwish
close up of mahmoud darwish painting on the apartheid wall
close up of mahmoud darwish painting on the apartheid wall

it was the fourth day of the palestinian festival of literature today. the schedule had the group spending the afternoon in aida refugee camp and a friend of mine at badil was doing the logistical organizing so i asked him if i could join them and he said yes. i had to be a bit unobtrusive, however, as i learned that problems emerged today. there were three journalists who have been accompanying the writers to document the festival: one from electronic intifada, one woman from a singapore newspaper, and one woman from the new yorker. apparently ahdaf soueif decided that there are “the writers” and then there are “writers.” journalists, apparently, fall into the second category. so although they had been traveling with the group for the past few days, they were not allowed to come to the camp.

i walked to the camp, but the writers were behind schedule so i went to the lajee center where the program in the camp would begin. as i walked to the camp i noticed this new art on the apartheid wall. i guess it has been there a while, but i had not noticed it before. it is a painting by a french painter of mahmoud darwish (i cannot recall his name, but if someone knows please remind me). the same painting is in several different public spaces in palestine including in manara square in ramallah, in the garden at the khalil sakakini centre in ramallah, and before the front door of the lajee center. it is a reminder of darwish’s powerful presence in the psyche of palestinians. it is also a reminder of the importance of poetry in palestinian culture. one would never see such a tribute paid to an american writer. i cannot image any american writer being mourned and memorialized the way that darwish is here.

view of apartheid wall and gilo colony from aida refugee camp
view of apartheid wall and gilo colony from aida refugee camp

the lajee center has moved since the last time i was there. they have a much bigger space now and their building has a view of the apartheid wall as well as the gilo colony nearby on the land of beit jala. when the group finally arrived they came up for a presentation that started with two of the digital resistance project by children in aida camp that i’m actually writing about in the chapter i’m working on right now. the first is from a girl named abeer and the second from a girl named kholoud:

a couple of people talked about the camp and what it means to be a refugee and then the group went downstairs to view a photo exhibit produced by the children. then a brief walking tour of the camp began. it concluded with a dabke performance at al rowwad center in aida camp.

nathalie handal in aida refugee camp
nathalie handal in aida refugee camp
suheir hammad in aida refugee camp
suheir hammad in aida refugee camp
al rowwad dabka performance
al rowwad dabka performance

as i observed this visit to the camp i thought about the narrative being told about an nakba and about colonization in palestine. about the words chosen. about bearing witness. about what it means to be told these stories. about the responsibility of the listener who hears those stories. about how it affected these writers. one writer, henning mankell, who fell asleep while onstage during the first night’s performance in al quds, appeared as if he could barely stand being in the camp today. before the tour even began he stated loudly, “i’ve heard enough,” and left the group. while possibly he had jet lag the first night, and perhaps today he was tired, this outburst was extremely rude and deeply offensive to those who heard it.

i’m not sure what could have offended mankell. actually the language seemed quite mild to me. a lot of these writers are new to the subject of palestine and for most of them this is their first trip here. when internationals come here i think it is important for them to understand that when they learn about the colonies like gilo that they can see swallowing up palestinian villages like beit jala, they also need to understand that those are not the only colonies. they need to understand that villages like beit jebreen or zakariya are also colonies that occupy the land where palestinian refugees in aida camp–or any other camp for that matter–come from and where they have a right of return to. i wish that part of this trip had included not just the camp visit, but also a visit to a couple of the original villages with a couple of the kids from the camp. they could have conducted a writing workshop in that context and both the internationals and the youth from the camps could have composed poems or narratives about the village, about what it means to be a refugee. indeed, going to villages with refugees is the most powerful, awe-inspiring experience one can have in palestine. and helping give voice to palestinian refugees who wish to narrate their stories about an nakba and their right of return is essential, especially given the fact that the zionist entity is trying to make it illegal for palestinians to mourn this annual historical event marking their dispossession:

The Israeli cabinet ministers approved on Sunday a draft law banning the commemoration of the Nakba, the Arab word for catastrophe.

Palestinians mark their Nakba every year on the 15th of May as this the day when Israel was created after hundreds of Palestinians were killed and the majority of the people living in that territory lost their homes and became refugees.

The draft law will be submitted for Israeli parliamentary approval next week. If this law will pass people can face prison sentences up to three years. About 1.2 million Palestinians live inside Israel and thus constitute a minority of around twenty percent.

Dr. Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Israeli Parliament told IMEMC over the phone that this law shows the real face of Israel. “This is a stupid, racist and very rude law that is unprecedented in the world. This law will control the feelings of people. It’s a rude law in particular because Israel has expelled our people and destroyed our villages, and then now they want to steal our cry of pain from us.” Dr. Zahalka said.

The draft bill was brought forward at the instigation of the radical ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman, now Israel’s foreign minister.

During the Israeli elections of 2009, Yisrael Beitenu, now holding 15 of the 120 seats in parliament, targeted Israel’s Arab minority during the election campaign, adopting the slogan “No Citizenship without Loyalty”. Nadeem Nashif, President of the Association for Arab Youth, Baladna, a Palestinian NGO in Israel, told IMEMC that this law, if it will pass, will not stop the commemoration of the Nakba

“We will continue to commemorate the Nakba, no one can force use not to do so, for us it is an important part of our history and heritage. As we commemorated the Nakba in the past will do it in the future.” Nashif said.

On Monday Israeli media reported that three Labor ministers declared their intention to appeal the approval by the ministerial panel.

Israeli Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman said the draft bill will damage the freedom of expression and freedom of association.
The draft legislation has sparked up a lot of controversy in the Israeli society as well.

“To what level of stupidity can they sink?” said Dr. Eyal Gross, a constitutional law expert at Tel Aviv University as quoted in Israeli media, “it’s the kind of law that tries to make everyone think the same way. I don’t know of any similar laws in any democratic country.”

According to Gross, despite the fact that the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union has fallen, it seems that someone in the Knesset longs for the days in which there was only one truth, that was dictated by the government

The bill is expected to pass as the Israeli government holds the majority in the Israeli parliament.

At the same time Lieberman’s party has put forward another controversial draft legislation to the ministerial committee. The proposal calls for an amendment to the Citizenship Law. It states that people who refuse to state their willingness to serve in the army or perform alternative service will not be entitled to Israeli citizenship, as Yisrael Beiteinu also put forward in its election slogan.

The draft also includes an oath of allegiance: “I pledge to be loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values, and serve the state, as required, in military service, or alternative service, as stated by the law.”
The amendment to the law also suggests that signing this declaration would be conditional in order to obtain an identity card in Israel. It determines that the state would be allowed to cancel the citizenship of a person who did not fulfill any of the described duties.

In Israel the Palestinian population is exempted from compulsory military service. In recent years the discussion has come up that Palestinian Israelis, instead of doing military service, should be engaged in alternative civil services, to serve the Israeli state in a different way.

As with the Nakba ban proposal the criticism on this draft proposal is that it limits the freedom of expression and it damages the basic principles of democracy.

robin yassin-kassab, claire messud, jamal mahjoub, michael palin
robin yassin-kassab, claire messud, jamal mahjoub, michael palin

after the visit to the camp i went to a coffeeshop with some friends until the reading for tonight began. there i learned from one of the journalists covering this trip that the criteria for being chosen is just whether or not they are famous. not what they will do after. not whether or not they have feelings or even curiosity about palestine. the subject tonight was “literary representations of migration and travel” and included claire messud, michael palin, robin yassin-kassab, and jamal mahjoub. for most of the discussion, as well as this literature festival more generally, i kept wondering: what is the point of this festival? is it merely a literature festival in palestine? it certainly isn’t a palestinian literature festival. yet again the bulk of the panel discussion had nothing to do with palestine even though the theme of the panel was about a subject that is very much related to palestine and yet it took quite some time before the subject was brought up. i feel like palestinian writers–here and from abroad–should be included in every one of the panel discussions, in part to inject the subject of palestine into the context. suheir hammad and nathalie handal should be included in these panel discussions; they are the only palestinian writers on the tour and yet, from my perspective, seem totally marginal in terms of how much we in the audience have heard their voices (nathalie has yet to do a reading of her poems).

robin yassin-kassab was the only one to bring up palestine–in relation to suad amiry’s talk the other night–in relation to the changing landscape in palestine in relation to his countries of origin, britain and syria. meanwhile claire messud brought up salman rushdie’s book imaginary homelands without ever connecting it to the very real aspirations for palestinians and their right to their homeland. and this is after spending an afternoon in a refugee camp. at one point my friend abed asked them a pointed question about what they will do after their trip here, but they seem to side step the question. i also asked a similar question, but made mine particularly pointed especially because there was someone in the audience with an american accent who identified himself as “living in israel,” which almost made me lose it; i took off my sandal wanting to throw it at him. so my question began with a statement that made it clear that whether it was gilo they were looking at or the apartheid wall: it is not about this recent confiscated land and that those villages they heard about today are every bit as much colonies as those we can see from the camps. and then i asked them what will they do when they go home? will they use their voices? their pens? pressure their governments (u.s. and u.k.)? these are people who have people’s attention far more than someone like me: what will they do with their voices? will they speak about the right of return for palestinian refugees? or will this just be an experience they had and that’s the end of that? messud directed me to the mission statement of the festival which reads as follows:

Palfest brings writers and artists from around the world to Palestinian audiences. It initiates and organizes cultural festivals with international and local participation. It organises workshops with students in Palestinian academic institutions in co-operation with Palestinian academics.

clearly this statement is working overtime trying to be apolitical. but the problem is coming here one cannot be apolitical as even the pope found out when he visited aida refugee camp. if they are here to help palestinian students and academics, why not do so in a way that can help them in literary and political ways? why not invite anti-colonial writers–ngugi wa thiongo’ comes to mind–who can share not only their art and craft, but also their political experience with people here? why not bring people who can talk about literature and resistance? moreover, who is this festival for? none of the events so far have had translation and all of the speaking has been in english. those who speak english well enough to attend such events are necessarily going to be from predominantly elite families. so is this a festival only for the elites of palestine?

and, by the way, the last question of the evening was about the cultural and academic boycott campaign (only two of these authors is signed onto the cultural boycott: victoria brittain and ahdaf soueif).

even the palfest blog is disappointing in terms of the kinds of things that the writers are observing. but not suheir hammad. never suheir. she posted something today about her day in ramallah:

….h, i, j, k, l.

between “k” and “l” no thing. air. space.

a walk. a wall. a walk.

raja shehadeh is a walker and a trail blazer, but not a tour leader. we walked and climbed and slid and sometimes crawled through the hills in our city slicker clothes. we held each other’s hands as we made ways up and then down. thorns everywhere. settlements on highest ground, and the sun behind clouds. sumac and zaatar and maramiya growing. terraced hills.

the israeli settlers from nearby colonies get to walk in these hills unmolested. the palestinians do not. the beauty and energy of the land, i imagine, has no political motivation, unless the desire to be loved and appreciated is political. it is here.

i wonder if soil has heart. i wonder if blood, sweat, and tears do feed roots and flower fruit. if the earth itself has memory, and can she remember, somehow, all those who came and planted and ate here. especially, as i struggle through the climb, i think of the women in traditional gear, expected roles, climbing with broad steady feet these steps in the hills. i wonder if some people are walking phantom limbs looking for home.

*suad amiry this evening talks about how she gets lost in the west bank, when once she knew it like her hand. so many checkpoints and detours where once there were open roads. “space and time here is not what you think,” she says and i understand. what once took 20 minutes now takes ten times the time. where there was space to plant and even bbq and picnic, there is now…the space is still there but it’s no longer accessible. so “here” and “now” mean different things in this place.

*in ramallah i get to see many friends who come out for the festival’s evening event. i ask them each, how has the year been, and the answers are the same, and in an order. first they respond, “alhumdilallah” or something like it, meaning “thank god/all good”. then they ask how i am. then i ask again and the answer is something along the lines of “not bad”. ask again, and the truth comes, and the truth here, now, is beautiful and hard, like the land we walked.

*there is a wall.
here is a land.
now is the time.
the people are here.
still.

criminalizing yom an nakba

i am not a fan, normally, of days that commemorate something. i don’t celebrate mother’s day or valentine’s day, for instance. i feel that there is something deeply wrong if one needs a holiday to remember to show one’s appreciation for those you love. i am finding myself feeling similarly about yom an nakba this year. for me i see new nakbas every day in palestine, and in the region more generally because of american imperialism here. the idea that you spend one day commemorating it disturbs me. of course, palestinians live it and remember it whether they are refugees or living on their land. that said, i do think it is important to remember this history of the ethnic cleansing of palestine and to mark this event, which apparently israeli terrorist colonist avigdor lieberman wishes to make a crime for those who mark this 61st year of occupation and colonization (though zionists have been colonizing and occupying the land for 122 years now). here are the plans for criminalizing commemoration for yom an nakba:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party wants to ban Israeli Arabs from marking the anniversary of what they term “the Catastrophe” or Nakba, when in 1948 some 700,000 Arabs lost their homes in the war that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

The ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party said it would propose legislation next week for a ban on the practice and a jail term of up to three years for violators.

“The draft law is intended to strengthen unity in the state of Israel and to ban marking Independence Day as a day of mourning,” said party spokesman Tal Nahum.

The initiative could fuel racial tensions stoked by Lieberman’s February election campaign call to make voting or the holding of public office in Israel contingent on pledging loyalty to the Jewish state.

and here is a film from 1950 called sands of sorrow in which you can see first hand how palestinian refugees were living just two years after the forced removal from their land:

unfortunately, it was not just one day. and it did not stop in 1948. it has continued consistently every day since then for palestinians on a number of levels. in some ways this blog is an archive of those nakbas in recent years. for those who want to learn more about the 531 destroyed palestinian villages and the 750,000 palestinian refugees who still demand and deserve the right of return as codified in un resolution 194 read through their stories on the website palestine remembered. and for some great photographs of past and present nakbas check out al falasteenyia’s blog.

there is a simple solution to all of this: the right of return.

palestinian land loss