on prisoners and martyrs

view of the jaber family's home on malwiya street
view of the jaber family's home on malwiya street

yesterday was palestinian prisoners day, but it did not feel like it. or did it? under normal circumstances i would have gone to one of the demonstrations. instead, i spent the afternoon with the jaber and karaki families in their house in the sa’adiyya neighborhood of the old city. there were many people in the room from the neighborhood and from the family who had recently been released from prison, though. 7 of them had been in prison for protecting the home from the israeli terrorists who have now successfully occupied one room in the house along with their m16s. and so the house itself feels like a prison. i can imagine if i were in this family feeling like i couldn’t leave–even to go to the market–so as to make sure more colonists don’t invade and steal more rooms of the house. one of the men who had been in jail had his hand broken by israeli terrorists. while in jail they beat his hand some more.

malwiyeh street with israeli terrorist colonists occupying a palestinian home
malwiyeh street with israeli terrorist colonists occupying a palestinian home

the settler colonists who have stolen a room in the jaber family house is an racist organization called ataret cohanim that has been stealing land in al quds since 1978 and now illegally occupies over 70 palestinian homes in the muslim quarter of the old city. this group is famous for forging papers alleging that they bought property from palestinian families as a pretext to steal houses. some of the houses have also been stolen because of pressure put on palestinians to collaborate with israeli terrorists, though oftentimes these dealings are also illegal because they are done under false pretenses.

jaber family in front of room in their house occupied by israeli terrorists
jaber family in front of room in their house occupied by israeli terrorists

ben white wrote an article for electronic intifada a couple of years ago entitled “bureaucratic dispossession” in which he explains the illegal practices of ataret cohanim:

On 20 August 2007, a story appeared in the Israeli daily Haaretz about the disputed ownership of a piece of land in East Jerusalem. The “land in question,” the report said, is “an olive grove called Kerem Hamufti” and part of the “Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.” According to Haaretz, the “Israel Lands Administration (ILA) is working together with the Ateret Cohanim association to wrest from Palestinian landowners control of 30 dunams (7.5 acres) of land in East Jerusalem and to transfer it to the association without a tender.” Petitioning the High Court, the land’s owners, the Palestinian Arab Hotels Company, described the purpose of this expropriation as “extraneous, illegitimate, racist and discriminatory.”

But who are these groups responsible for the attempted robbery, the ILA and Ateret Cohanim? The latter, is a religious, ultra-nationalist organization, whose main objective is “Judaizing” Jerusalem. Coincidentally, they had in fact already hit the headlines earlier in the month, when one of their private security guards shot dead a Palestinian who, it was claimed, attacked two guards in the Old City before being overpowered and killed. The juxtaposition of these two stories is striking. Unintentionally or otherwise, the alleged shooter, Ahmad Khatib, struck out at a para-state organization whose symbiotic relationship with the powerful colonizing state embodies the agent of his people’s Catastrophe.

Ateret Cohanim are represented in the US by the Jerusalem Reclamation Project (JRP), who sponsored a dinner in May celebrating the 40th anniversary of “the reunification of Jerusalem.” The work of the JRP includes “purchasing and renovating buildings for young yeshiva families, renovating destroyed synagogues, and by supporting nurseries, playgrounds, and children’s recreational facilities.” All of which would be great, if it wasn’t for the fact that East Jerusalem is both illegally annexed, and, more pertinently, already populated with Palestinians — a classic example of how Zionism attempts to render invisible the indigenous population of Palestine.

Allegations of illegal construction work and forgery against Ateret Cohanim had been previously documented by Haaretz, and in their editorial on the Sheikh Jarrah affair, the paper likewise sharply criticized the “underhand manner” in which a government body like the ILA had sought to take over Arab property in cooperation with a “national-religious” NGO. As well as noting that “governmental bodies such as the National Housing Company of Israel (Amidar), the Custodian of Absentee Property, the ILA, certain ministries and the Jewish National Fund have issued funds” to ultra-nationalist groups, the editorial bemoaned how “the practice of placing the settlers above the law … has reached East Jerusalem.”

thus this is one of the many ways israeli terrorist colonists create facts on the ground and try to legitimate their theft of land. like all criminals, they used various devious and illegal methods for securing what does not belong to them. this is how two other homes on the jaber family’s street were confiscated by israeli colonists as well and why the battle over the jaber family house is so crucial. they also pray on the system of palestinian collaborators as part of the system of colonial divide and rule here. as my dear friend said to me the other day, “it is easy to rebuild a home. we need to rebuild the people who are deeply damaged. this task is far more difficult than rebuilding a home.”

clayton swisher did a story on al jazeera yesterday that shows the same group–though he doesn’t name them–occupying a palestinian home in nearby sheikh jarrah and forcing a new family out of their home:

but the occupation of these homes in the old city is also what makes it feel like a prison. this coupled with the fact that everywhere you go you see israeli terrorists in uniform as in the photograph below.

israeli terrorists occupying the old city of al quds
israeli terrorists occupying the old city of al quds

of course these israeli terrorists in uniform are those who make sure that their prisons are heavily populated with palestinian prisoners to help with their colonial project. while palestinians are in prison they cannot have babies so it is a mechanism of controlling demography. and while palestinians are in prison their homes can more easily be demolished and land confiscated. ma’an news reported on prisoner’s day events:

“This year’s Prisoners Day comes at a tense time,” organizing official Amin Shoman said. “Following the Israeli war on Gaza the Israeli prison service has cracked down on prisoners in Israel; cutting off television access, the number of books prisoners are allowed to have and the duration of family visits,” he explained. “Prisoners are no longer allowed to receive fresh clothing from their families, and are prohibited from shaking hands with their fathers.”

Secretary General of the committee Hilmi Al-Araj sent a message to prisoners Thursday morning, saying, ”we promise our detainees that their cases will be solved when the Shalit issue is solved; we will make all efforts to free the 11,000 imprisoned at Israeli jails and we call the international community to seriously deal with this case.”

Minister of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs in the Palestinian Legislative Council Ashraf Al-A`jrami said the day would be one to express solidarity with Palestinians in jail.

“Recognizing the detainees’ rights is part and parcel of recognizing the Palestinian people`s rights,” Al-A’jrami said in the lead-up to Prisoners Day events. He urged international institutions to recognize the illegal Israeli practices and put a halt to them.

of course i think it is necessary to support palestinian political prisoners–all 11,000+ of them including the 400 children–but i feel like this year the day was marred by a number of murders. i first learned about one of the murders while i was in my service at the qalandia checkpoint heading home friday night. the checkpoint was shut down and it was getting late and i knew that if there were any services left heading to nablus there would only be one more. eventually, the checkpoint opened, but it was shut because israeli terrorists had murdered a palestinian:

Palestinian teenager was killed and another was injured by Israeli fire near the Al-Jalazon Refugee Camp north of Ramallah Friday night after allegedly attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at settler homes.

A youth identified as 16-year-old Muhammad Nuwwara received a fatal gunshot in the chest, and was evacuated to the governmental hospital in Ramallah. A second boy, 19-year-old Muhammad Balasha, was hit in his thigh and transferred to Sheikh Zayid Hospital in Ramallah. Both boys are from Al-Jalazon, a refugee camp just south of the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El.

another palestinian was murdered in khalil by israeli terrorists:

An armed Palestinian was shot dead after entering an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank Friday morning, according to Israeli news reports.

Residents of the Hebron-area settlement of Haggay reported that they were patrolling the area when they saw a Palestinian walking around the Israeli-military secured area. Two settlers approached the man and reportedly struggled with him, at which point he pulled out a knife, according to one account.

Both men then tried to shoot the Palestinian, who was identified as 17-year-old Rabah Hejazi Seder, they reportedly said.

However, local sources told Ma’an they doubted that the teenager had attempted to access the settlement, due to its high level of protection and number of guards. They suggested that the Israelis killed the man outside the settlement and then took him inside.

but the murder of basem abu rahme from bil’in is one that received quite a bit more coverage. he was protesting the theft of his land when israeli terrorists fired at him as nour odeh reported on al jazeera in the context of george mitchell’s arrival in the west bank:

the video from the international solidarity movement (ism) shows far better coverage of basem’s murder, however, because it gives you some context and shows you bassam protesting prior to his death:

and here is clayton swisher reporting on basem’s funeral today:

and while palestinians mourn the loss of these new martyrs, lauren taylor on al jazeera’s “focus on gaza” this week highlighted the murder of mohammed al durra who was martyred when he was 11 years old in the year 2000 at the beginning of the second intifada. his family, who live in the gaza strip, managed to survive the recent savagery on gaza, but just barely:

all of this left me feeling overwhelmed the fast couple of days. it is so difficult to take all these stories in every day. and it is particularly difficult to feel like there is nothing you can do to stop it–to stop the imprisonment, murder, land and house theft. and the united states and its israeli terrorist ally want to keep it that way.

on eviction

tomorrow is the eid al adha holiday so i have the week off from school. i left my house yesterday morning to head towards beit lahem, but i decided to spend some time in al quds so i could visit with a friend, see an art exhibit i had wanted to see, and go book shopping. when i went through huwara checkpoint i was shocked to see that in the last week a new sniper tower had been put up in the last week or so since i had been through that checkpoint. it’s always mind blowing to see how fast colonialism works.

dsc09999

when i got in the service and we started to drive away i had thought i entered the wrong service as we began driving in the wrong direction–towards the illegal settlement of beit el, which was nerve wracking a bit given that this is one of the settlement that has been organizing its residents to come down to palestinian areas and throw stones at palestinian cars. but the israeli terrorist forces (itf) closed down the main road between ramallah and nablus so and forced us to take a detour. fortunately, most of our driving turned out to be through palestinian villages so we were safe. the situation is very tense right now since the illegal israeli settlers were removed from the palestinian home they occupied. the media is calling this an “eviction,” which is technically correct, but it is a bit frustrating to hear this word, which has as its synonym expel, a word that is more in line with the sort of ethnic cleansing the israelis have been forcing upon palestinians for the past sixty years.

rana bishara's "homage to childhood"

when i went through qalandia checkpoint, outside of ramallah, on my way to al quds, i was waiting in line in the car to pass. before the checkpoint was transformed into the sort of international border crossing–far from any legal sort of border–this had quite a vibrant marketplace that you would walk through after you made it through the itf checkpoint area. most of that is gone now–the stands selling various odds and ends, the carts selling all sorts of foods (huwara is like this now a little bit, but i fear when the israelis are finished turning that into an international border crossing style checkpoint these small businesses will disappear too). but now at qalandia what you have instead are many small children who rush the cars, cleaning your car window, selling you gum, begging for money. and it’s heart breaking. yesterday the children seemed particularly desperate as they were wanting money for eid. poverty is increasing here. even yesterday in al quds i saw a child in a garbage dumpster on salah el din street, searching for objects of value that someone else had finished with or rendered useless.

rana bishara's "homage to childhood"

i had told my friends in beit lahem that i would be in al quds for the day, but i think they thought i was spending the day in ramallah. there is a big difference between the two in the sense that they were calling me all day and my phone was off. they got worried–started calling people in nablus trying to see if something went wrong. and apparently there were disturbances at huwara: settlers turned a palestinian car over and the itf closed it down about an hour or so after i made it through. but i was fine, in al quds. but they didn’t know this because one of the ways that israelis configure borders is to ban palestinian telephones from working in al quds. even though every square inch of this city belongs to palestinians, i cannot use my phone there so it was as if it was turned off. and they couldn’t reach me.

um kamel
um kamel

i went to see rana bishara’s “homage to childhood” exhibit at the french cultural centre yesterday. it was dedicated to palestinian refugee children. it was an amazing and unique exhibit. she filled a room full of white balloons, and the floor had white carpet on it. there were barbed-wire halo ornaments hanging from the ceiling. in the balloons there were various objects like seeds, black and white photographs, and palestinian national symbols. here is how bishara describes her moving installation:

“In this work,” says Bishara, “children are trapped between halos of barbed-wire circles covered with tulle cloth and balloons. The spectator has to manoeuvre between the hung barbed-wire circles and interact with the artwork by walking through the space and discovering the pictures inside the transparent balloons, or by lying down on the mattresses and watching the barbed-wire circles conquer the space – a metaphor of simultaneous protection and harm. It is a malevolent halo that purposely crowns the children, Palestinian children, and steals their childhood, even before they are born.”

um kamel's tent in sheikh jarrah
um kamel's tent in sheikh jarrah

after the exhibit my friend took me to sheikh jarrah to meet um kamel al kurd. she is the woman who was expelled from her home in sheikh jarrah one month ago so that an illegal israeli settler can occupy this house which is decidedly in east jerusalem. she has been living in a tent below the house as an act of resistance. she’s not fighting for her right to go back to this house, though. instead she is fighting for something much more radical and amazing: the right to return to her house which is in al talbyieh near the yaffa gate of the old city. she was a refugee in 1948, like her husband who was from yaffa, though he died shortly after the expulsion. yesterday they marched with a group of people from al quds and internationals to the area where her house is. she actually doesn’t know exactly where her house is, it turns out, but of course she has the papers and the original key to it. in order to keep um kamel going there are all sorts of activities every day such as painting for neighborhood children, many of whom have painted beautiful images telling the story of what happened to um kamel (as seen here). there was also a film screening last night of short films–these are open to the public and one of the ways that they encourage various neighborhood people to come to the house and sit in solidarity with um kamel and her family. yesterday they had a film by larissa sansour. i had recently seen one of her amazing films called “soup over bethlehem” and i loved it because it was about mloukhiyya, which of course reminds me of baha’a. because as baha’a famously said: “mloukhiyya is resistance because i love it.” he, like um kamel’s husband, is from yaffa. please sign the petition to let um kamel return to her original home here.

dsc00019

after i left sheikh jarrah i drove on a jewish only road (i had yellow plates on the car i rented because my friends and i had planned a trip to 1948 this week). to get to deheishe. it was particularly scary to drive on this road yesterday. it was filled with itf: in jeeps, on foot–even in the tunnels near the illegal settlement of gilo they were marching on foot. as i drove up to beit jala after the checkpoint there they were standing outside their jeeps on the hill. they were everywhere. because i was headed in the direction towards khalil. and yesterday illegal israeli settlers set fire to a palestinian home. so tensions were high. but of course who gets the brunt of that? palestinians. they are the ones who the itf clamps down on.

dsc00024

when i arrived at deheishe my friends and i were trying to figure out if we should leave yesterday night or this morning. we decided that maybe it would be easier to make it through the checkpoint if we did it at night. that way the roads would have fewer people on them and maybe it would be easier to make it through. and, amazingly enough, given all that is going on, we did. we made it through the checkpoint into 1948 right behind a car with new york license plates (because so many illegal israeli settlers are really americans occupying palestinian land). we arrived in nasra at 1:30 am, though if we had been allowed to drive in a straight line from beit lahem to al quds that could have been cut down quite a bit. but my friends are here in 1948. again. refugees are returning, if only temporary. i hope that refugees like um kamel get their right to return for real. soon.

until then here is the film about mloukhiyyeh for baha’a & his creative resistance:

american racism + zionism

last night i was in a heightened state of agitation. for many reasons. because of the news about the death of my dear friend kathi and because of the spread of illegal israeli settler violence all over the west bank. but what really put me on edge was al jazeera’s “inside story.” last night host maryam nemazee had two guests on. one was rabie abdulatifah from al haq, a palestinian human rights organization, and the other was an AMERICAN israeli rabbi yishai fleisher who in addition to having a hate-filled radio show on israeli radio he also lives in the illegal settlement of beit el, which is one of the numerous illegal settlements responsible for the stranglehold on nablus where i live. more dangerous, however, is his organization called “kumah.” this organization actively recruits jews from around the world to colonize palestine as they say in their own words:

KUMAH, which is Hebrew for ARISE, is a movement passionate about Aliyah (ascent). There are different Aliyahs for different people: for Jews of the Exile, Aliyah means heeding the call for mass immigration to Israel, the Jewish people’s homeland. Aliyah for Jews already in Israel means elevating the spirit of the Jewish nation and rectifying the vessel that is the State of Israel. Aliyah for the peoples of the world means throwing off false-deities and defunct ideologies in favor of a spiritual renaissance with Jerusalem at its center.

We call this movement Neo-Zionism, a Biblical dream being realized today. Through an array of projects, Kumah seeks to invigorate the world with positivity and a sense of connectedness based on authentic Jewish values. We at Kumah believe in taking an active role in shaping and hastening our destiny!

unfortunately it seems that it is not only these jewish fundamentalist types being recruited to colonize palestine. the israeli media also reports today that jews who are hurting from the economic situation are choosing colonization:

The Jewish Agency reported a dramatic rise in recent months in the number of Jews seeking to make aliyah and the number of Israeli emigrants wishing to return due to the global economic crisis.

The JA and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption have decided to use the financial situation to their advantage and launch a campaign to encourage aliyah.

dsc00002

of course the zionist regime encourages this sort of behavior. but i digress. or i wish to digress now. so in the midst of my agitation over all of this rania said that i should get outside and take a walk. a lovely idea if i were in beirut. but i wondered, and i asked her if the words “jebel nablus” meant anything to her. unfortunately it is impossible to capture the steep-ness of the mountain i live on, but trust me: it is steep. in fact, taxis don’t even like coming here. when i search for one after school every day the driver always questions me saying “فوق؟” yes, up there, I say. it’s as if they wonder if their taxi will make it up the hill (okay, i am being a bit hyperbolic here, but i really do have this conversation with drivers every day). anyway, i tried to capture what it looks like above; i live at the top of that hill. but trust me, the picture does not do it justice. and this is the last quarter of the hill. here is a photograph of what it looks like from about this same spot to the main street below.

dsc00005

needless to say i don’t really go out walking too much, though i do walk down the mountain on my way out each time i leave. but the steep-ness coupled with the raging winds of the khamseen last night meant that i wasn’t goin’ anywhere.

dsc00008

but i did leave today, briefly, to attend a small protest against the illegal settler violence in khalil. but as you can see this protest in marty’rs square (really it should be called martyr’s circle) was quite small. but it was good to see people coming out in general to stand in solidarity with the people in khalil.

the situation in khalil is emblematic of colonialism and its racist origins on so many levels. or course racism among israelis is endemic–meaning among each other and against palestinians and arabs more generally. but in one report about the removal of illegal israeli settlers from khalil we see this jewish racism directed at their own:

Not only do they serve long and tiring hours in the reserve forces, and not only are they forced to deal with violent clashes with settlers, but now, Border Guard officers of Ethiopian descent are also faced with rising racism.

“Niggers don’t expel Jews! This isn’t what we brought you to Israel for!” are just some of the degrading slurs Border Guard officers reported hearing from masked settlers.

During the violent clashes between Israeli forces and settlers in Hebron on Tuesday “a bunch of veiled people started yelling at us: Who are you to expel us from our home? An Ethiopian does not expel a Jew! A nigger does not expel a Jew!” one Border Guard officer of Ethiopian descent recounted.

this is the sort of mind set one finds all over the zionist state, because, after all zionism IS racism. but it is particularly strong in these illegal settlements in the west bank where rabbi fleisher recruits new colonists (his is that special blend of racism–american and zionism all wrapped up in one, which can clearly be discerned from the remarks above as well). we can see this in the illegal AMERICAN-israeli graffiti in khalil:

hebrongraffiti5

the problem is that when this racism surfaces here, and when it is directed at palestinians, it is lethal as these settlers are armed and dangerous: men, women, and children alike as can be glimpsed from these photographs:

jewish-terrorists

hebronsettlerviolenceagainstarabs

you can imagine the world’s hypocrisy when you think about how it would respond if these images here were in the reverse. that is, if these words and this violence were directed at jews the world would be in an uproar. but the world’s silence is deafening in the way that it does nothing when the victims are palestinians. in ha’aretz today this violence was called a “pogrom” and described as “lynching”:

An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of
them women and children, save for three men.
Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn’t a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, “Allahu Akhbar.” Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.

what was the result of this violence? well, in khalil it meant the shooting of un-armed palestinians, which can be seen in this video footage and described below:

The footage shows a settler firing a handgun and injuring two Palestinians, Hosni Abu Se’ifan, 40, who was hit in the chest and is now in a stable condition in hospital, and his father, Abd al-Hai Abu Se’ifan, 65, who was hurt in the arm. Others from the family then overpower the gunman until armed Israeli security guards from the Kiryat Arba settlement arrive and shoot several rounds over the heads of the Palestinians. The Abu Se’ifan family have frequently been targeted by settlers in the past.

the violence extended to other people and was carried out in other forms as well:

Palestinian sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, reported on Thursday that extremist Israeli settlers carried out a series of violent attacks against the residents and set on fire a number of homes, cars and olive trees.

The attacks were escalated after the army evacuated the settlers from the home of Al Rajabi Palestinian family after the settlers illegally occupied the property last year.

The sources stated that settlers, stationed in five illegal outposts in the Old City of Hebron, set ablaze two Palestinian homes and one shop in Wad Al Hasseen area, close to Al Rajabi home. The settlers also violently attacked a number of residents.

In Tal Romedia area, the settlers chased dozens of Palestinian children and hurled stones and empty bottles at a number of homes.

The settlers also attacked and attempted to break into another Palestinian home in an area adjacent to Al Rajabi home while Israeli soldiers fired gas bombs and rubber-coated; several injuries were reported among the residents.

In Al Sahla area, close to the Ibrahimi Mosque, a Palestinian child and her father were wounded after extremist settlers attacked and punched them.

The settlers also set of fire a Palestinian firefighter vehicle as the firefighters were attempting to extinguish fire the settlers caused to Palestinian homes.

but as i said yesterday this violence has not been contained to khalil. it has spread throughout the west bank. and the illegal settlers have been quite public about their intentions:

Right-wing activists have called on their supporters to embark on a week-long retaliatory spree in wake of the eviction. “We will choose the time and place to retaliate,” they told Ynet. The activists also urged people to continue arriving at the house.

here is how it is affecting other palestinians and those of us who live far north of khalil:

The Jerusalem – Jericho Road is blocked by them, hundreds of people are stranded on the Nablus – Ramallah Road and settlers are attacking, more reports indicate that settlers from the Yitzhar Settlement are assaulting Tulkarem residents while hundreds of car windows are reported smashed in southern Nablus’ Al Huwara and Za’atara.

and make no mistake about it this is very much an AMERICAN issue as the person who supposedly “purchased” the palestinian home in khalil and who is at the root of some of this particular situation is AMERICAN himself:

Jewish-American businessman, owner of house in Hebron from which court is evicting settlers, says he will fight to keep his property. ‘No one can take me from my home, all of Israel is ours,’ he says

funny that this AMERICAN thinks that a palestinian home belongs to him. this is the problem–it shows the colonialism so vividly. israels are not FROM here no matter how many bulls*&^ biblical arguments they want to forward. the bible is not a real estate guide.

these gross human rights violations, these massive war crimes that are a fact of life here in palestine continue to go unnoticed. or if they are discussed at all nothing is done. there is merely talk. no action. karen abuzayed of unrwa has a moving editorial in the guardian that expresses this sentiment and implores us to act not just write, speak, listen, but ACT:

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the steadily rising death toll in Gaza highlights the painful gap between its peaceful rhetoric and the desperate reality for Palestinian people.

The declaration was a pivotal statement in which the world community recognised the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. True to its nobility of spirit, it declares “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom from fear and want as the highest aspiration of the common people”.

Sixty years on, the fate of the Palestinian people should be a cause for universal soul-searching. The need to give substantive meaning to the protection of Palestinians has never been greater. The former high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson has said that in Gaza, nothing short of a “civilisation” is being destroyed. Desmond Tutu has called it “an abomination”. The humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said that in Gaza there was a “massive assault” on human rights. Most recently, the European commissioner, Louis Michel, described the blockade of Gaza as a “form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, which is a violation of international humanitarian law”.

Fatality figures for the occupied Palestinian territory must surely make us question our commitment to upholding the right to life, that most fundamental of all rights, protected by a broad range of international legal instruments. More than 500 Palestinians, 73 of them children, have been killed this year alone as a result of the conflict – more than double the figure for 2005. Eleven Israelis have lost their lives this year. The informal ceasefire in Gaza has been welcomed by Israelis and Palestinians alike. For the sake of the sanctity of human life, we hope that it continues to hold, in spite of recent violations.

The right to freedom of movement enshrined in article 13 of the universal declaration also remains a distant hope for many Palestinians. The inhumane blockade of Gaza – which, as many senior UN officials have said, collectively punishes 1.5 million people – and over 600 physical obstacles to movement in the West Bank are a sad reminder of the world community’s failure to stand by that article.

With an estimated 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including some 325 children, the declaration that “everyone has the right to liberty and security of person” and that no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment has a sad resonance today. Compounding these abuses are statistics that attest to the lack of protection of social and economic rights. An unprecedentedly high number of Gazans – more than half – now live below the deep poverty line.

This is a humanitarian crisis, but one that is deliberately imposed by political actors. It is the result of policies that have been imposed on the Palestinian people. Is it not time to look again at those policies and search for a new approach? Is it not time to question afresh our commitment to the noble tenets of the universal declaration?

Overarching all these rights is the right to self determination, the right to a state, which the Palestinians have been deprived of through 60 years of exile. Rights are best protected within the framework of statehood, and we at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, charged with delivering assistance until the refugee issue is resolved, are as aware of this as any humanitarian actor working in the Middle East.

The chasm between word and deed is a matter of puzzlement to many Palestinians. The result has been a cruel isolation from the global community, fed by the inaction of the international system. In such circumstances, radicalism and extremism easily take root. But this can be reversed, and protection is the place to start. Let us make the protection of Palestinian rights the byword of all our interventions. Let us make the vision of the signatories of the universal declaration a reality; continued failure to do so is to our universal shame.

• Karen AbuZayd is the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency unrwa.org

here’s a start: sign this petition NOW.

israeli = illegal

There are many forms of resistance as I’ve often written about here. Palestinians have always used a variety of such methods. And indeed it took decades before they resorted to their right to armed resistance against the Jewish settler colonists and the British who imposed this colonial context on them vis-a-vis the Zionist project of dispossession forced them off their land. But regardless of the form of resistance the British, the Zionists, and later the Israelis used various methods to squash all forms of resistance: literature, music was banned; non-violent protests or strikes curtailed; armed resistance always outmatched militarily. Americans and Israelis love to pretend like there is not a history of non-violent resistance in Palestine–or a present for that matter. They often characterize such protests in their military and media as violent in order to rationalize their always violent and lethal responses to such protests. Today we see this in Jenin where Palestinians protested against illegal Israeli settlements:

Israeli troops attacked a peaceful demonstration protesting the continued construction of Israeli settlements and the separation wall on Friday morning south of Jenin.

The protest took place near the evacuated settlement of Homesh located between Jenin and Nablus. When the demonstrators reached the abandoned area Israeli soldiers attacked them with rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs.

Note: those rubber bullets are always more accurately described as rubber-coated steel bullets.

For a glimpse into what people in Jenin were protesting, here is a report by Jacky Rowland on illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and what it costs Palestinians’ continued dispossession:

Interestingly, as Rowland reports in the Al Jazeera clip, Israelis break all sorts of laws all the time–both their own and international. There was a report today in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Ehud Barak’s lawbreaking behavior in relation to continuing illegal settlement expansion in spite of the so-called “roadmap” to “peace.”

In January Barak asked that all construction projects in the West Bank be brought to him for authorization. Data received by Haaretz suggests that since April, Barak has authorized the following construction projects in the West Bank:

* The marketing of at least 400 housing units and plots, of which 315 homes and 32 plots are in Beitar Ilit, 48 homes and 19 plots in Ariel, and 40 housing units and and a commercial center at Efrat.

* The construction of some 60 homes in a neighborhood that is several kilometers away from its mother settlement of Eshkolot, in southern Mount Hebron, but is included in its municipal jurisdiction.

* The registration and publication of construction projects in Ariel, Modi’in Ilit, Ma’aleh Adumim, Mevo Horon, Oranit, Efrat, Givat Ze’ev, Beit El, Neveh Daniel, Alon Shvut, Har Adar, Kochav Ya’akov and Talmon. The two latter settlements are situated to the east of the separation fence.

* Mekorot, the Israeli water company, was given permission to prepare plans in Kiryat Arba, which is also situated east of the fence.

* Authorization to plan “an experimental electricity production farm” in southern Mount Hebron.

* Renewal of authorization for the marketing of 31 homes and commercial properties in Beitar Ilit.

* The planning of a cemetery in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim.

* The allocation of 4.6 dunams (just over one acre) for the development of a nature reserve in the Prat stream in Wadi Kelt, which is east of the fence.

* The allotment of plots for the construction of public buildings in the neighborhood of Matityahu-East in Modi’in Ilit (which has been partially built on lands of the Palestinian village of Bil’in). Similar allotments were made in Elkana, Kfar Oranim, Kedumim and Beit Aryeh.

Note: fence=26 foot tall apartheid wall. How is it that the world can continue to look away, to deny facts, to pretend like it is Palestinians who break laws, when it is the occupying Zionist Jews who stole and who steal land, who massacred and who massacre Palestinians on a regular basis? Palestinians are incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison that is Gaza and are subjected to forced starvation once again and they resist this militarily as is their right under international law:

The Abu Ali Mustafa, An-Nasser and Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the launch of 11 projectiles which landed near Ashkelon at dawn on Friday.

In response, the Israeli army launched an airstrike against the area they believed the projectile to have been fired. The Israeli army said two Palestinians were wounded in this attack.

The brigades are the armed wings of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the armed wing of Hamas respectively.

According to Israeli media eight projectiles landed in the western Negev Friday morning and reported that one Israeli woman in Sderot was lightly injured.

To get a glimpse into the bigger picture related to what is happening in Gaza right now–yet again–Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story” yesterday had a good discussion that highlights the overall context:

While the U.S. may be slow in catching on to this humanitarian crisis that continues unabated for decades and worsens by the year, month, week, day, minute, other countries, thankfully, are slowly (unfortunately at a snail’s pace) catching up:

Relations between Israel and Britain remained strained on Thursday over Downing Street’s intention to label products manufactured in West Bank settlements, a week before the expected arrival of British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Miliband, to the Middle East.

Miliband, who will visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon next week, is expected to talk to Israeli officials over the settlements in the West Bank and his country’s proposed plan to label products manufactured in them. “This initiative is a serious and substantial problem in relations between the two countries, and is generating a sense of crisis,” a senior diplomat in Jerusalem said.

Note: one should boycott everything and anything from the Zionist state–and for those who have the willpower from the U.S. as well.

And can you imagine any American leader even coming close to what came out of Switzerland today?:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel said the demolitions violated the 1949 Geneva Conventions, regarded as the cornerstone of international law on the obligations of warring and occupying powers. The Fourth Convention states that occupying powers must respect the property of civilian populations under their control.

Switzerland said it lodged a formal protest with the Israeli Foreign Ministry over recent demolitions, which now bring the tally to more than 600 destroyed homes in East Jerusalem and 1,600 altogether in the West Bank since 2000.

The Swiss statement, using unusually harsh language, said the neutral country regards the recent incidents as violations of international humanitarian law and notes no military need to justify the destruction of these houses.

The Swiss statement called East Jerusalem an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory – a phrase that could anger hardline Jewish groups that believe Israel should maintain control over the entire city. Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, but Palestinians claim the territory as the capital of their hoped-for state.

Note: actually, Palestinians don’t “claim” the territory: it is legally theirs. Just like all of 1948 historical Palestine. Every square inch.