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.

jeel al oslo

after school on thursday some of my students came with me to what was supposed to be a meeting to discuss plans for nabuls is to support palestinians in aqraba. there is a leftist organization here called tanweer that does various projects, many of them educational–especially educating palestinians about their history since the schools certainly are not doing that. i met these folks because when my student from aqraba went with me to meet with the student council on campus the student we met with took me downtown to meet with the people at tanweer. another friend joined us as well. i really liked this group in terms of their thinking as well as the fact that they are doing organizing work with a leftist ideology that is not affiliated with any political party (though, of course, posters of george habash and others decorate the walls). i was most impressed with the student from the student council, too. he’s a really smart guy from al ‘ain refugee camp who is studying journalism. i was a bit surprised that this is where he took me given that the majority of the student council at my university is fatah. and, actually, i said something about this at the end of that first meeting and he said, that he was, in fact, fatah. but he didn’t sound like fatah. he sounded nationalistic. he sounded leftist. and this is what surprised me. especially someone his age. more on this in a bit.

my students and i arrived at the office downtown an hour late because i had to teach my class. but we were told there would be a movie first and that the meeting would be after. somehow that schedule was inverted and they decided to show a movie second. i didn’t realize this until after the film, however. given the conversations we had the last time i had expected tanweer to show nationalistic palestinian films in arabic about palestinians. instead, they showed two films about rachel corrie that they downloaded. i had not seen them before, though the clips were not new to me. almost all was in english with no arabic subtitles (except for some clips of amy goodman speaking on mbc tv) for an audience that is not fluent in english. i was annoyed to say the least. i had had the same feeling earlier in the day: i needed to print out some papers for class and i was unable to do so in my department so i went to the public relations office. while i was waiting for my document to print i noticed that the only martyr posters on the wall were of tom hurndell and rachel corrie. this is in contradistinction to the hundreds of palestinian martyrs all over nablus–in the old city, in the refugee camps. but here at the university we seem to only recognize the ajaneb martyrs.

after the film an older palestinian man spoke about the importance of rachel corrie as a “humanitarian” and other ajaneb as “humanitarian” people who come here to palestine. this word for me has become like nails on a chalkboard. i recalled reading something by natalie abou shakra a couple of months ago when she too had an adverse reaction to this word, which captures exactly how i feel:

I extremely despise it when someone categorizes me as a journalist, or as a “humanitarian activist”… I am neither. My activism is political and social… radical. Please do not call me humanitarian. We live in the midst of the era of human rights production and matters of the sort. We witness humanitarian international law being broken daily… do you think we want to be labeled as “humanitarian”? No! My role, our role, is greater than that… much greater than that… we are a revolution, we support an armed struggle and an armed resistance for liberation… Fanonians par excellence… Hasta la Victoria Siempre! Free Palestine! Down with totalitarian Arab regimes, down with colonialism, imperialism, occupation and oppression! No negotiations are allowed after massacres, genocides and schemes of ethnic cleansing… the vocabulary and diction used in such times are extremely important…

i am here to support palestinian resistance in various forms. the use of this word “humanitarian,” to me implies that palestinians are some sort of charity case who are not capable of taking care of themselves, of fighting this battle themselves. neither of these are true. then he started talking about people in the audience who needed to go back to their countries and form associations with palestinian associations to help people here. he wanted foreigners to continue to help with their “non-violent” resistance. i turned around and realized that there were foreigners in the audience. not a lot, but they were there. and this film and this man’s speech reflected a reality that was non-existent when i was in the tanweer offices prior to this meeting. i mentioned these things when he was finished speaking. i mentioned that the families in aqraba wanted palestinians to join them. they wanted to feel solidarity with palestinians not only with foreigners, which is what i thought the meeting was about. he responded that in 2002 there was a lot of palestinian solidarity, but because of the checkpoints that has been made more difficult. too, he mentioned the conflict between fatah and hamas as contributing to the problem by dividing the people. one of the foreigners spoke up and said that the focus on rachel corrie is because she took herself out of her comfort zone and fought someone else’s fight. but, you see, this is why i don’t like going to meetings with ajaneb: because the focus becomes something else. it becomes a meeting about foreigners. if we had been talking about something useful–like getting foreigners to rent yellow-plated cars and help get palestinians from nablus to aqraba that would be one thing. but we moved away from what was supposed to be the subject of the meeting: the needs and desires of palestinians in aqraba. we could have been watching a film about palestinian resistance or other anti-colonial resistance struggles and learned from those models or examples. we could have been looking at palestinian history. but we were not. even the library at this tanweer center is named after rachel corrie. not the greatest resistance writer in palestine, ghassan kanafani.

it occurred to me that one of the issues that palestinians are facing here is related to morale. to pride. resistance to the british, to the zionists, to the lebanese army, to the jordanian army: all of this seems to have been forgotten. these are situations when palestinians–even if only for a short while–liberated themselves. yes, often with support from local people, and sometimes with support from internationals, but the sweet taste of freedom when one takes that freedom for themselves is irreplaceable. the discussion went on. one of my friends talked about non-violent resistance as new to palestinians (it’s not, but i’ll get to that in a minute). one of the women i knew in the audience who is one of the leaders in pflp in nablus spoke about the need for armed resistance and the way this sort of emphasis on nonviolence often negates the right to armed struggle. of course, i’m for both types of resistance. boycott, divestment, and sanctions is a kind of nonviolent resistance. so is writing. so is the friday prayer in aqraba that we are organizing. but we need all forms. they work together. this is what so many important anti-colonial writers say in their archive from chinua achebe to ghassan kanafani.

i want to share some excerpts from rosemary sayigh’s brilliant and important book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries to get at some of these issues that came up in the meeting and that i confront frequently here. one of the main aspects of palestinian history that really seems to be lacking here is about palestinian resistance. sayigh’s work is unparalleled on this and so many other issues because it is based on oral history, because she collected these histories when people still remembered the initial phases of british-zionist colonization of their land, because she published this in 1979 when the palestinian resistance movement was still fresh. for all these reasons and so much more i think what she shares in her book is so necessary for all of us to learn from palestinian history about what has worked, where problems were, and how can this knowledge be used to work in the right direction for the liberation of palestine. too, i think that remembering what the goals of liberation were is essential because it is so very sad to consider how far away from those goals are people now seem to be. in describing various people she interviews in her work she characterizes them as: jeel falasteen, jeel an nakba, jeel al thawra, in other words by generation. had this been published later we would most certainly see jeel al intifada. but what i suspect part of the problem here is now is that we have jeel al oslo as it were. and this generation is one that has, i would argue, suffered the most with respect to internalized colonialism (an entire childhood reared only on israeli terrorist television), a childhood when normalization became acceptable to the leaders who have been blindly followed for some bizarre reason, a generation in which palestinians have become prisoners inside their bantustan jails. i think learning from the previous generations can help this generation a lot, however. for it is not as if this generation is so far removed from the others. and indeed the jeel an nakba experienced similar sorts of impotence due to the extreme trauma suffered through the dispossession and mass murder they experienced from 1947-1949. but out of that came resistance and various levels of liberation. and i hope–and why i teach what i teach–that inspiration from the same sources of the past, and learning the lessons of the past, can turn jeel al oslo into a jeel al thawra jedeed.

first, i begin with jeel falasteen with sayigh’s analysis of land sales early on in zionist colonization of palestine shows an important fellaheen success in their resistance:

Peasant landlessness started before the Mandate with single sales of large areas of land by the Ottoman Administration and by non-Palestinian owners. These sales, many of which included whole villages, confronted the peasants with their first experience of legal eviction, something which had never been part of the fellaheen fate. It is striking that their immediate, spontaneous response was violent resistance–a resistance which found, however, no echo in other segments of Palestinian society. Such large transactions–the most notorious being the sale in the early 1920s of 240,000 dunums in the fertile Vale of Esdraelon by the Beirut merchant family of Sursock–would have been impossible after the first few years of the Mandate owing to the rapid growth of nationalist sentiment. From then on, Zionist land acquisition was faced with obstacles that the founders of the movement had not anticipated.

In spite of the energy and funds deployed by the Jewish Land Purchasing Agency and its sister organizations, the proportion of Jewish-owned land rose far more slowly than their population. By 1926, only 4 percent of all land (including state land) was Jewish-owned, and it took another eight years for this figure to reach 5 per cent. By the end of 1946, the last year for which official figures exist, it had not gone beyond 6 per cent. Peasant resistance to land sales is abundantly clear in these figures. (36)

second, i think it is important to look at how sayigh characterizes the palestinian rebellion of 1936-39 and its context:

The Palestinian Rebellion of 1936-39 was the most sustained phase of militant anti-imperialist struggle in the Arab world before the Algerian War of Independence. At its peak in 1938 it had mobilized an estimated 15,000 militants around a core of from 1,000 to 1,500 full-time fighters, forcing the British to increase their occupying army from one to two divisions (about 20,000 troops). As well as the British forces, the Palestinian guerrillas faced Zionist paramilitary organizations now well beyond the embryonic stage. It has been estimated that 5,000 Palestinians wee killed and 14,000 wounded through British action, excluding victims of Zionist attack. In one year alone, 1938, 5,679 Palestinians were jailed.

Older camp Palestinians well remember the Rebellion of 1936, which they see as the parent of the Armed Struggle Revolution of 1965. Some remember taking part in it; others who were children at the time remember feeling pride if “sons” of their village were among the guerrillas. Methods of suppression included aerial bombardment, the mass dynamiting of villages suspected of helping the “rebels,” beating men with strips of prickly pear bush, and entering homes to ransack food stocks. A man who was a small child in 1939 remembers reprisals against his village:

There’s a picture stamped on my mind of all the people–men, women, and children–gathered together on the threshing floor. Later when I asked about the incident, they told me that the British had collected all the people there and blown up the whole village. I think it was in 1939. They said that some people working with the Revolution had taken shelter in the village; also a bridge leading to it had been blown up. This was enough for the British to destroy all the houses. But the people went down to the city (Acre) to get help to rebuild.

(43-44)

of course when one looks at policies and practices of the british occupation of palestine, one sees that many of the same are now used by the israeli terrorist colonists. most of the important resistance work was done by the fellaheen because they had the most to lose–and after they lost it and became refugees, of course the fellaheen-laja’een are those who became the leaders of resistance in the next generation. what also remains somewhat the same is this constant need to look to leaders rather than to the people. but a closer look at resistance to the british-zionist take over of palestine shows us, through sayigh’s assessment, that it was the palestinian masses who led the struggle:

It was symptomatic of the distance between the political and militant wings of the nationalist movement that when the first guerrilla leader, Sheikh Qassam, was killed soon after his call to armed struggle in 1935, none of the leading national figures attended his funeral. None of the military leaders of the 1936 Rebellion were from the ruling class. Few anecdotes give a clearer picture of the incapacity of the Palestinian traditional leaders for serious struggle than the one told by a “former intelligence officer” to the author of a study on the 1936 Rebellion. A group of bedouin gathered in Beersheba telephoned to the Mufti asking what action they should take in support of the uprising that was beginning to spread through the country in the wake of the killing of the District Commissioner for Galilee. The Mufti’s reply to them was to do whatever they thought fit, and though his reply may have been due to knowledge that his telephone was tapped, all accounts of the Rebellion and the six months’ strike that preceded it make it clear that the people of Palestine led their leadership, not vice versa. Objectively, the role of the notables was to facilitate British domination. In yielding to the pressures of pro-British Arab politicians, like Nuri Said of Iraq and Emir Abdullah of Jordan, for an end to the Rebellion, the Arab Higher Committee threw away all the lessons of political organization that they could have learnt from the uprising, in spite of its ultimate repression. Instead, naively, they accepted the British White Paper of 1939 as a real gain, though every experience they had had of British rule should have taught them that concessions made by the Administration in Palestine would be negated by Zionist pressure on the Home government. (52)

the above description of who was leading the resistance is important because we see the same with the palestinian resistance movement and the intifada. but we also see the signing of papers at the expense of the people in order to serve the israeli colonial masters (read: oslo) with those who rose to leadership positions with in the plo (read: yasir ‘arafat). these mistakes should be studied and analyzed so that they do not keep getting repeated. if people see how masses of palestinians empowered themselves in spite of their leaders then perhaps things might be different. there was a fourth important element i want to highlight with respect to resistance and that is labor organizing. sayigh quotes a peasant man who became a union organizer in haifa:

In the last years we began to think of building a political party based on the workers’ movement and to combine union work with national struggle. As a preparation, we formed a number of co-operatives, outside the workers’ union, including the tobacco farmers, fisherman and others… We intended also to form a secret organization, but there wasn’t time, for in 1947 came the Partition Plan, and what followed it, the Disaster and dispersion.

The reason we did not form a political party was that, after studying the project, we realized that its leaders would not be from the working class, but from their friends, doctors, engineers, lawyers, who would make the party work for their interests, not for the workers. so we decided to postpone until we had enough working class leaders. But the time we had was too short to form the party correctly…

The League was active in so many ways, organizing strikes, co-operatives, demonstrations. The most outstanding even in this period was the Haifa Oil Refinery strike where we hit Zionist workers and engineers who were trying to control the Refinery. Our workers in the British military camps used to write reports; in the ports of Jaffa and Haifa they kept watch on the activities of the Histadrut.

After this, the leadership of the national movement tried to incorporate the workers while suppressing their union membership. We told them that it’s our duty to participate in the national struggle, not as employees, but as representatives of the working class. There was a long struggle between the League adn other political organizations, especially between Hajj Amin and Sami Taha, who began to become a national figure after his confrontation with Aneuran Bevan, Foreign Minister of the Labour government, at a conference in London attended by the Arab regimes and the Palestinian workers’ movement, when Taha said: “Down with imperialist Britain in Palestine!”

This made Hajj Amin afraid. He saw a powerful personality opposing him, enjoying popular support from the workers, government employees and farmers in the co-operative leagues. In September 1947, Sami Taha was assassinated by criminal hands, instigated by the leadership that could not separate itself from the agent Arab regimes, and that was so afraid of struggle. (57-58)

resistance changed for jeel an nakba for a variety of reasons. sayigh quotes the story of a resistance movement leader about what happened in his village and how he resisted the best he could given the circumstances:

I was one of the people who was against evacuation and because I believed this I stayed in my village until the people left. I suggested to them staying in the fields instead of the houses because of the danger of bombardment, and then go back and face our fate, even if it was to be killed. When the Zionists occupied our village, I was one of those arrested.

One of the political errors of our leadership was that they didn’t prevent evacuation. We should have stayed. I had a rifle and a Sten gun. My father told me, “The Zionists are coming, you know what they do to girls, take your two sisters and go to Lebanon.” I said, “I prefer to shoot my sisters, and shoot you all, and keep the last bullet for myself. This would be better than leaving.” Then they took our village and I was arrested, and they left. But our leadership was outside in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. When the leaders are out they can’t tell the people to stay. (90)

it was not only men who resisted–even if that resistance meant staying on one’s land as long as possible and fighting with whatever means one might have. resistance also meant that when most refugees fled, they did not flee across the border right away; many stayed moving from one village to the next in order to return when the fighting stopped. sayigh quotes a woman from kweikat who shows how she resisted during an nakba:

I was twelve when we left our village. We went to a village called Abu Sinan. We were a family, three girls, three boys, mother, father, and grandfather, and we had nothing to eat. I used to take my younger brother and sister and creep back to get things from our home. My mother used to punish me for it, but I wasn’t afraid of the Jews. I used to go in and get soap, flour, food to eat. One time when I was carrying a heavy sack of flour I trod on an electric wire which rang an alarm bell. That’s when I fell and hurt my back. Another time the soldiers nearly caught us in our house, but we hid in the cupboard. It was our country, but we had become thieves in it!

We used to get watermelon, okra, tomatoes and corn from our village. It was our land, we had sowed it, and we wanted to harvest it. Sometimes my mtoher and my aunt used to go at night–it was about eight or ten kilometres’ walk. Once when they went, the guards saw them and shot my aunt in the head. (92-93)

even after palestinians became refugees in the early years they found ways to resist their conditions in the newly formed refugee camps as a result of the host countries and of unrwa. a palestinian refugee in trablus told sayigh about palestinians resisting towteen early on–when urnwa wanted them to accept permanent status in their host countries rather than fight for their right to return:

We felt that UNRWA had a certain policy that aimed at settling us. They wanted us to forget Palestine, so they started work projects to give us employment. This was part of the recommendation of the Clapp Report. They used to give loans to people to set them up in small businesses such as “shoe-mender or carpenter”; then they’d take away their ration cards. More dangerous was the way they tried to encourage emigration to Australia or America. They’d give a man a ticket, and take away his ration card. We opposed all this, through publications and secret meetings, night visits and diwans–these weren’t prohibited. Politically conscious people used to go to these gatherings and take part in the conversation. We opposed these projects because we felt that, living in poverty, we would stay attached to our land. (112)

not only is resistance consistent across palestinian history, but, as the above speaker makes clear, so is the level of sacrifice palestinians are willing to endure in order to claim their right of return. and in spite of that poverty one can see how palestinians in the camps saw education as an important site of resistance too:

I was among the first group of students from Nahr al-Bared school. There were 70 to 80 of us in the first tent school. There weren’t any seats or school equipment–we’d sit on the sand or bring stones from the shore to sit on. Twelve of us managed to pass the Certificat and were transferred to the House of Education in Tripoli. There we really felt the depth of the Disaster, from our living conditions and the way they treated us. There we were, in torn clothes, sitting next to sons of Tripoli who had different clothes for every season, and pocket money. They put us Palestinians in the section for orphans; that way they got our rations from UNRWA as well as aid given by different charitable organizations that used to help the refugees. In spite of all this, we had faith that there was no road but education. We used to go down into the street at night to study under the street lamps. (124)

another aspect of what was needed to build resistance, which grew under the extreme repression in the first decade and a half palestinian refugees lived in lebanon was the way that palestinians increasingly saw themselves as part of one big watan in a way that transcended family or village bonds as sayigh explains using a recollection from someone in jeel al thawra:

The Resistance Movement, the idea of the Return, have transformed a nostalgia for normality into a conscious assumption of the abnormality of struggle. In this spirit a young teacher told me of a current Israeli attack on Rashidiyyeh camp which might have killed one of his cousins, adding, “But he is no different to me than any other Palestinian.” (139)

the above sentiment seems lost to me, but it is one that needs to be cultivated and returned to. and there is much to return to in jeel al thawra on a number of different levels. for one thing if one goes to its roots and to the emergence of fatah one finds that there is much to be gained if fatah returned to its origins as sayigh describes it:

For Fateh’s leaders, the urgent need created by the 1967 defeat was to prevent the Arab governments from negotiating, from a position of weakness, an end to the Palestinian liberation struggle in return for Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the June War. Their long-term hope was that Palestinian guerrilla operations would act as a spark to rekindle the broader Arab struggle against imperialist domination that had lost momentum in the narrow interests of neocolonial regimes. (149)

the need to connect the liberation of palestine to the neocolonial and imperial interests in the rest of the arab world could not be more true today. it has, unfortunately, gotten worse not better and thus these roots of resistance would benefit the entire region if people returned to it. equally important then, as now, is the way that gains by the resistance affects the mood of the entire population in a way that then supports and sustains the resistance fighters, helping them to become steadfast. after the battle of karameh in 1968 in jordan, sayigh quotes someone in the resistance in beirut describing its significance:

We saw our young men eager to go to training camps in the Ghor, and to take part in operations. They’d come back with stories of the war; so, instead of telling the old stories, people began to tell these new stories, about how our young men were fighting. the whole nature of talk changed, as if there had been a deep psychological change among our people. (158)

the above passage shows how important the mood of the people can be for the struggle. this is key. but so too is the bit about telling stories: imagine if accurate stories and histories of palestinian resistance were circulated and told the same way pop music on cell phones of jeel al oslo are circulated how different things might be here. what one also learns from the early part of the resistance struggle is how strong solidarity was among the people beyond palestinians as one important narrative from a lebanese fighter shows:

I come from the South, from a village on the border of occupied Palestine. Like the Palestinians, my family left our village in 1949 because the Zionists carried out a massacre in Hula, a village near ours, where they killed about seventy young men in a mosque. A great number of Lebanese from the border villages were forced to leave in this way, and they lived in Beirut in the same conditions as the refugees.

After the Palestinian Revolution, in 1968, we went back to our village, to live with the people there. There were daily fedayeen operations against the Zionist enemy’s settlements. This created a revolutionary tide. The masses all supported the Revolution because they saw it was the only force able to stand up and say No after the defeat of 1967.

At that time our material resources were few, and we had to rely on donations from the people. For a long time the masses were supplying all our needs, even clothes and food. On night patrol, we would knock on doors as we passed through the villages, and people would give us food and shelter…

Before everything else, there must be an everyday political relationship with the masses, to look at their problems, and help them to solve them, especially through their own consciousness….

In 1969, there were many battles between us and the Lebanese Army and that is when we saw the villagers rise against the army. I remember particularly Majdel Silm, where the army put a force estimated at brigade size around the town to besiege a group of a hundred fedayeen. The population made a demonstration against the army, protecting the fedayeen with their own bodies. This is the incident I consider the most expression of fusion between us and the masses at the that time. (164)

this kind of palestinian-lebanese unity against the state was so important and needs to be cultivated yet again. certainly because hezbollah is strong int he south some of that solidarity still exists, but hezbollah continues to be primarily committed to lebanese national interests not to the liberation of palestine with respect to its action, though not its rhetoric. but that kind of unity in palestine and among palestinians could usefully be cultivated as well. it is this kind of unity that led to palestinians liberating their refugee camps from the control of the lebanese army, one of the first major victories in lebanon and one that also has a lot to teach us on a number of levels as one resistance fighter from nahr el bared narrates:

They brought tanks and the army tried to enter the camps. That day, we can remember with pride, we brought out the few guns that we had–they were eleven. We did well at first, but then we ran out of ammunition. A rumour ran round the camp that the ammunition was finished and we tried to calm the people by telling them that rescue would come from the Resistance. But we didn’t really know whether it would come. But what was amazing was that people returned to what they had been in 1948, preferring to die rather than to live in humiliation. Women were hollering because it was the first time a gun had been seen defending the camp. It was the first battle that we didn’t lose. The children were between the fighters, collecting the empty cartridges although the bullets were like rain. It was the first time that people held knives and sticks and stood in front of their homes, ready to fight. (169)

this sort of collective action, which is sorely lacking today was extensive as a man from rashiddiyyeh refugee camp told sayigh:

It was impossible to find a person who didn’t want to invite the fedayeen and offer his home as an office. It was felt to be shameful not to be the first to give the fighters food, water, shelter. The people were ready to sacrifice everything they had for the Revolution. When we said we needed money, the women would give their gold earrings, bracelets, watches. And whatever they gave, they felt it was nothing. (175)

a fateh militant who sayigh interviewed after managing to get a degree as an engineer made an important statement about the relationship between what people do in their lives and the necessity of connecting that back to the resistance:

I thought of the things I must do to return to my country. I participated in all strikes and demonstrations on Palestinian issues. Finally, I joined one of the Resistance organizations, which represents for me the peak of my political consciousness. As an engineer, i feel there is a link between my specialization and the aims of the Revolution, so I am using my knowledge in a magazine for our fighters. There can be no separation between theory and action. (189)

one of the crucial aspects of sayigh’s work is that she focuses on the people, the masses, not the leaders. part of this is related to the fact that she took these oral histories in the early 1970s. but one of her assessments at that time is significant and must be thought about as i believe that it has a lot to do with problems that later emerged as a result of the hero worship that was nonexistent when she wrote her book:

The absence of hero-worship of the leaders of the Revolution is striking. The photos of shuhuada‘ are much more visible on the street walls of camps than those of the Resistance leaders, and people praise the latter sparingly, saying, “They live the lives of the people.” If one falls, another will take his place. It is the invincibility of the Palestinian people as a whole, not a given party or leadership, that people mean when they say, drinking coffee, ‘Revolution until victory!'” (190)

towards the end of her book, when sayigh is working towards her conclusion she offers an assessment of the resistance movement, which unfortunately does read a bit anachronistic, but is worth pondering given how things have changed in the last 30 years:

The effects of mass Palestinian struggle on the Arab scene will be slower to reveal their shape, because of the complex interplay between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces. As the Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi has argued, a Palestinian state in the West Bank would tend to stabilize the present regimes and status quo. A mini-Palestine hemmed in by Israel on one side and Jordan on the other would have little scope for playing the role of “fire under ashes” which Palestinian militants have seen as their since 1948. This would be a solution that would leave Israel’s nature as a militaristic and racist state unchanged, and all the arguments that Khalidi puts forward to convince Americans of the proposed state’s harmlessness are ones that make it unattractive for the masses. No Palestinian state could afford to become, as Jordan is, an instrument for suppressing the liberation struggle. And even if a West Bank state emerges, it will not be able to accommodate the majority of Palestinians. The dispersion will continue to exist, with all the pressures it generates towards changing the status quo.

In Lebanon, hostility to the idea of a West Bank state has been strong among camp Palestinians from the time of its first launching in 1973. They mostly came from Galilee and the coastal cities, and have no homes to return to in the West Bank. Many do not regard the West Bank as a serious proposal, but rather as a means to divide the Resistance Movement.Their opposition to it comes through pungently in comments like these:

There is not one of our people who has not sacrificed, and is not willing to sacrifice. But we must see our leadership announcing revolutionary programmes instead of flying to meet this king and that president, and working towards concessions that will humiliate our people.

We have a Revolution and the Arab states are offering us a state. A people’s war doesn’t last ten years only, it goes on until it achieves something.

These remarks reflect the attitude of the PFLP towards the PRM leadership’s adoption, since 1973, of a moderate, compromising stance towards a settlement. While there are indications that Fateh’s leaders believed in the genuineness of the West Bank state proposal when it was first put out, it is not likely that they are as ready to sell out the Revolution as the Rejection Front claims. There will have to be clear political gains from negotiation, or, as a camp mother said, “All our sons’ blood will have been shed in vain.” Not only the Rejection Front but the mass of Fateh’s following expect the leadership to reject submissive solutions, even if the alternative is to return once more clandestinely to struggle. (196-197)

and one final paragraph of note that is also a bit anachronistic, but also an important reminder about why palestinians have had to, and could benefit again, by creating a massive armed resistance struggle that is unified:

Israel offers them no choice except between non-existence or struggle. Their lack of militancy between 1948 and 1967 brought them no nearer peaceful repatriation; now their militancy is used by Israel to justify its own continuing aggression. The cycle is a familiar one in settler societies; and only when Israel is correctly analysed as a settler society will Palestinian violence be correctly understood. And only then will progress be made towards breaking the cycle. (200)

there is so much more that i could share from this amazing volume, rich with history and insight. but what i think is significant about some of these excerpts is the way in which it illustrates how important solidarity and unity is. it shows that it has existed before and i think it can happen again. it shows people talking about liberating themselves and their land as their goals, something which has not changed. it shows how the leaders do not always speak for the people and that the people are successful when they unite and that they really do not need these leaders. people need to trust themselves and their righteousness. it also shows how important solidarity and unified resistance is for group morale.

jeel al oslo need not be detached from their history and from their rights to liberate their land. but i think that there is a serious relationship between the two. knowing not just these bits and pieces, but the totality of palestinian history and its struggle for liberating every square inch of palestine can go a long way to helping palestinians unify towards this goal once again. the leaders are really irrelevant. we know from history that leaders rarely put the interests of their people first. but the new generation can make a different choice. it can make the decision to be unified, to reject the american-zionist divide and rule colonial tactic. it can unify and re-imagine resistance in a way that will achieve a goal that fits all palestinians’ needs: liberation of the land.

escape from fatahlandia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from siege to siege

dsc000211Thanks to the tireless efforts of rafiq super-Saed the candlelight vigil in Nablus tonight came off with out a hitch. (Okay, there was one hitch: I should not be allowed to hold a candle. I set my hair on fire twice before putting it up and my kuffiyeh on fire once before a friend took my candle away from me. Perhaps this is due to multitasking: holding a candle, taking pictures, and holding a sign at the same time.) Although it was small, we had representation from every organization and every group in Nablus from students to refugees. It lasted for a few hours because a number of people spoke and a number of children recited poetry. Many of the speeches were really powerful in keeping with our theme:

لأن الشعب واحد
ولأن الوطن واحد ولأن الجرح واحد
نابلس المحاصرة تتضامن مع غزة المحاصرة
Because the people are one
And because the homeland is one and because the wound is one
Besieged Nablus stands in solidarity with besieged Gaza

The best part of the evening was when Sameh Habib and Jamal El Khodary from the Popular Committee Against the Siege called us to speak to our vigil. Thanks to Caoimhe and Huwaida I had contacted them to coordinate so that we could have simultaneous vigils in Gaza and Nablus. It was amazing that they threw this together so quickly given that they had a vigil last night on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (ours was scheduled for today instead so students could attend and because many of us were at the Muwatin conference in Ramallah).

jamal el khodary on the phone from gaza
jamal el khodary on the phone from gaza

I haven’t seen the news footage yet, but there were several local and Arab media outlets there so I hope it gets some play, especially in Gaza if there is electricity (it is sporadic and a few parts of Gaza have some electricity). My wish is that this vigil gave them hope. And even if they can’t see our vigil at least our cell phone transmission enabled us to connect as that is the only way we are allowed to connect given the colonial occupation of Palestine. It was good to connect this way and I think it inspired people here and there to work on future simultaneous events, to rethink this discourse of apartheid, of separateness, of difference that permeates far too much in Palestine as racist Zionist ideology has infiltrated into the minds of far too many people here. In fact, when I was handing out flyers for this event on campus last week I had a student and a couple of staff members at my university who threw them back in my face telling me that Gaza = Hamas and they wanted nothing to do with this event. This event that was all about Palestine as one: every square inch of it from Nablus straight to Gaza and everywhere in between.

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More hope is arriving in Gaza tomorrow, on another ship. Insha’allah the ship from Libya will be allowed to enter Gaza to bring the humanitarian aid that it is carrying:

Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, stated on Sunday that the Lybian ship “Al Marwa” will reach the Gaza port on Monday, and added that this ship is one of several Arab ship which will challenge the Israeli siege and deliver humanitarian supplies to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

And they need hope. In addition to the closure of Gaza Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) continue to offensively attack Palestinians in Gaza:

The Salaheldin brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, announced on Sunday that three of its fighters were shot and wounded by Israeli artillery fire to the east of Maghazi Refugee camp in central Gaza Strip.

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If there is any doubt as to the evil nature of the ITF and what it plans in Gaza just look at how openly they express their racism (and how silently the world responds):

Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners in Israel should be used as human shields to protect Israeli targets around Gaza, according to the suggestion of an Israeli Knesset member published in the Hebrew daily newspaper Maariv in Saturday.

Member of the Knesset (MK) with the center-right Likud party Gilad Arden was quoted in the paper responding to the reports of eight injured Israeli soldiers after several projectiles were launched from the Gaza Strip.

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But in spite of this constant siege, and the threat of more, the people living in Gaza continue to creatively survive, resist as in this latest return to basics, yes, necessity is still the mother of invention it would seem:

Piles of sand and mud began popping up in front of houses in Rafah last week. The traditional signs of home renovations or construction, the neighborhood wondered about the reasons behind these piles, since no construction materials have come into Gaza for months.

On closer inspection it becomes obvious that the piles cannot be construction materials, since the sand is not the same color of the sand from Gaza’s abandoned settlements, from where most material has been salvaged.

The sand, in fact, is the same color as the sand beneath the homes of the southern area of the Gaza Strip.

The sand excavated from the hundreds of tunnels snaking beneath the Gaza-Egypt border is being given a second life. The latest construction projects in Gaza are mud and sand stoves powered by firewood.

And still people in Gaza are clinging to hope as is evidenced in the ingenuity of survival strategies as well as in the mood of the people:

Accidentally, I met an old friend of mine, Um Mohamed Abu Ouf; a mother in her 20s. It was a good chance for me to explore her views about the siege as well. As a mother and a woman, her perspective is most important. We met at 6pm at Omar Al-Mokhtar Street which was in total darkness. I asked, “How badly are you affected by the siege?”

“Well, the siege has become a daily nightmare. Electricity cuts off and that frightens my 11-month-old infant. It makes conditions unsafe for him. Further, I’m trying to get some fortified food for him. I went to many stores and shops but in vain. I could not find any food for my son as there is a shortage in a lot of the basic products needed to care for infants such as milk, diapers and so forth.”

I spoke to Hatem Shurab, an International Relief Worker. Hatem is a siege victim who lost a scholarship in the US due to the siege. Despite that, he seemed to be optimistic in contrast to the majority here. Hatem is currently preparing a music concert along with his friends.

His view was quite interesting and brand new: “I’m trying to relieve people’s suffering through music. We try to end the siege through our voices to tell those who don’t like to watch news what’s going on. On 27 November they might know the suffering of Gazans through songs, as we are doing a concert. Regardless of pain, we will sing for Gaza,” Hatem said with a brave smile.

However, Hatem is somewhat worried about the current status of Gaza. He needs to have his concert on time and to give Gazans a glimpse of hope and some fun.

The Israeli Defence Ministry announced today that the Gaza crossings would remain closed until further notice. Gazans are to expect more mayhem as time advances. Meanwhile, Um Mohamed is still desperate to have food for her baby, while Hatem is determined to have his music concert on time. But they are helpless before the cruel siege.

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There is actually a website for Hatem’s Gaza concert where you can listen to some of the music from the concert last week. You can also listen to an interview with Sameh about the concert. The level of ingenuity, creativity, and modes of survival in Gaza are just awe inspiring. There are a number of other projects, such as Gaza Gardens, that have emerged over the last couple years of this siege, which I have links to on this blog and I encourage people to check them out. And all of this continues in spite of closure, in spite of daily incursions that murder Palestinians, and in the midst of a looming full-scale invasion by the ITF:

Israel said on Saturday a major incursion into the Gaza Strip was becoming more and more likely after militant mortar fire wounded seven soldiers at a nearby base on Friday, army radio reported.

“There’s no doubt we are approaching a huge military operation in the Gaza Strip,” Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told the station in Beersheba.

This promise of a full-scale invasion is nothing new, unfortunately. Such callousness and disregard for international law, for human life is normal for the Zionist regime. To understand how this racist ideology inflicts a tremendous cost on Palestinian lives you must read this report in Ha’aretz, of which I will quote the first few paragraphs:

The announcement made by the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman on June 20, 2007 was standard: “Two armed terrorists belonging to the Islamic Jihad terror organization were killed last night during the course of a joint activity of the IDF and a special force of the Border Police in Kafr Dan, northwest of Jenin. The two terrorists, Ziad Subahi Mahmad Malaisha and Ibrahim Ahmed Abd al-Latif Abed, opened fire at the force during its activity. In response the force fired at them, killing the terrorists. On their bodies two M-16 rifles, a pistol and ammunition were found. It was also discovered that the terrorists were involved in planning suicide attacks against the Israeli home front, including the attempt in Rishon Letzion last February.”

The laconic announcement ignores one important detail: Malaisha was a target for assassination. His fate had been decided several months earlier, in the office of then head of Central Command, Yair Naveh. As far as the public was concerned, on the other hand, the last declared assassination carried out by the IDF in the West Bank took place in August 2006; at the end of that year the High Court of Justice set strict criteria regarding the policy of assassinations in the territories.

A Haaretz Magazine investigation reveals for the first time operational discussions in which the fate of wanted men and innocent people was decided, in apparent disregard of the High Court decision. Thus it was revealed that the IDF approved assassination plans in the West Bank even when it would probably have been possible to arrest the wanted men – in contradiction to the State’s statement to the High Court – and that in cold military terminology the most senior IDF echelons approve, in advance and in writing, the harming of innocent Palestinians during the course of assassination operations. Moreover, it turns out that the assassination of a target the defense establishment called part of a “ticking infrastructure” was postponed, because it had been scheduled to take place during the visit of a senior U.S. official.

Leading legal experts who were asked to react to the documents say that the IDF is operating in contradiction to a High Court ruling. “Morality is a very difficult issue,” Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of Hebrew Univeristy said. “The thought that there are people who sit behind a desk and determine that someone is fated to die is a frightening thought.”

Yes, morality is a difficult issue for Israelis. They have none. None. It is impossible for a regime that is racist at its core, at its roots, from its inception to be anything but immoral. This is why it is essential for people to get behind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign and to support efforts to revisit this issue at the next United Nations World Conference on Racism:

Today, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Palestinian civil society, represented by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), launched its strategic position paper as a basis for anti-racist intervention at and beyond the UN Durban Review Conference. This Position Paper summarizes the findings of UN human rights mechanisms and independent experts, who have raised concerns that Israel’s regime may amount to institutionalized racial discrimination and/or apartheid, as well as their substantial recommendations. It argues that 60 years into the Nakba of 1948 and 41 years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, there is an urgent need to re-examine the nature of Israel’s particular regime over the Palestinian people. Such close examination will show that this is a regime of apartheid, colonization and occupation.

Of course, as I mentioned previously, the Zionist state, which refuses to admit its racism will not participate in this conference. And it looks likely that the United States will not participate either. Not with a President Obama and a Secretary of State Clinton. But what would one expect from two states that are dependent upon institutionalized racism for their very survival?

Here is a recent report from Gaza, in which Sameh is interviewed. In it you can see more about what the Zionist-racist regime is all about and why it is so threatened by people who call it out for its inherent racism: