Tibet and Palestine

Last month I started the summer off with a vacation in Dharamsala, in the northern part of India. I went there for the same cliched reason many other foreigners go there–for yoga and meditation. I’ve been meditating and practicing yoga for about 17 years. But for the past several years, since I first went to Palestine, I’ve struggled with this practice a bit. It’s been hard for me to reconcile the idea that working on one’s own inner peace, as it were, could lead to any global kind of peace. Moreover, the pessimist in me doesn’t believe that anyone in power would ever commit to such a practice, which is what would have to happen for such a change to emerge. True, it has happened in history–most notably with Ashoka who changed quite radically after his conversion to Buddhism. And there are others, too. In spite of my reservations, I’ve returned to these practices little by little in the past few years.

IMG_8095

IMG_8103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recalled a demonstration against Israeli theft of Palestinian agricultural land for their settlements and apartheid wall, which I attended in Bil`in in 2005. There was a Buddhist monk who joined us, although I recalled him as Tibetan, looking at the photographs now he’s clearly not. Still, I found it striking watching him beating his drum while the soldiers began to open fire on us. I never had a chance to speak with him because I was arrested that day.

IMG_20140408_130916 IMG_20140408_124904 IMG_20140408_122918 IMG_20140408_155512IMG_20140408_164003 IMG_20140408_164048 IMG_20140409_084842 IMG_20140409_084953 IMG_20140409_090015

I remembered this image, though I hadn’t seen it in some time, because the more I explored Dharamsala and Tibetan history, the more I saw lucid parallels to Palestinian struggles. Just one glimpse of the images around McLeod Ganj, the main area where Tibetans, especially Tibetan monks, reside shows clearly an ongoing struggle for freedom, and not only in the Buddhist sense of liberation. At the Tibet Museum this resonated even more because I learned of the Tibetan resistance movement–I had not known that there had ever been armed struggle against the Chinese. But there are many similarities I noticed:

1. The time frame: Palestinians commemorate the nakba (catastrophe) on 15 May 1948, although the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began long before that and continues until this day. A year later, in 1949, China invaded Tibet.

2. Palestinians began their armed resistance movement to get their land back in 1968; the infamous Battle of Karameh marked its introduction to the world. In 1958, according the the museum catalog:

the flag of a united Tibetan resistance movement, the Tensung Danglang Maggar (‘Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet’), was hoisted for the first time in Driguthang, Lhoka. Andrug Gompo Tashi was nominated as our chief commander. Many recruits from all parts of Tibet joined us and we soon had more than 5,000 members. Fighting began soon after. At Nyemo we faced our biggest battle, Less than 1,000 of us successfully fought against a much bigger Chinese force. (25)

3. Both Israel and China have led ongoing campaigns to destroy cultural religious buildings, among other structures, in Palestine and Tibet respectively. Israel also regularly destroys Palestinian homes (often forcing Palestinians to destroy their own homes and/or pay the fees for that process) and does not permit them to build or rebuilt as the case may be.  In Tibet, according to the museum,

The systematic eradication of Tibetan culture and religion saw the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and temples. The handful still standing today are used as tourist attractions, army barracks, or public toilets. Precious scriptures and sculptures were destroyed or sold in international art markets. The Chinese used scriptures as shoe soles and monks and nuns were forced to desecrate religious objects. (29)

4. Just as Israel practices Judaisation, China practices what Tibetans call Sinicisation, which is includes the erasure of Tibetan identity and the inculcation of a Chinese one–starting with language. The museum explains:

The Chinese language is given priority in education and administration, thus marginalizing Tibetans in every sphere of life. Even more worrying are the population transfers that are diluting our culture and are reducing Tibetans to a minority in our own country. China is actively engaged in denials of our history, culture–our very identity. (37)

5. As indicated above, China also practices transfer, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing that Zionists have used since their pre-state days. In both cases, the occupying nation moves its citizens into the areas or homes where Tibetans or Palestinians used to live. One example is the expulsion of people from Yaffa and another more recent example is the ongoing nakba affecting Bedouins in the Naqab desert known as the Prawer Plan.

6. Of course, when one is faced with forced expulsion one becomes a refugee. Approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees were expelled in 1948 and many more since then including internally displaced people. Because this process is ongoing (and because of normal population growth) that number is 7.2 million today. In the case of Tibet:

Since 1959, about 100,000 Tibetans fled to neighboring countries. Many died on the way as a result of Chinese attacks and harsh conditions. Thousands continue to escape oppression and persecution in Tibet each year. (40)

7. Recent struggles for both Tibetans and Palestinians have included boycotting products made in China and Israel respectively. Additionally, Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation to call attention to their plight.

I lay out all of these comparisons here because while in Dharamsala I read a book called A Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz (1995). The book is not worth quoting, but essentially it is the tale of a variety of Jewish people–Orthodox, Conservative, Reform–primarily from the U.S. and Israel who come to Dharamsala to participate in a Buddhist-Jewish interfaith dialogue. From what I gleaned in the book, that dialogue was motivated by the Jewish delegation because of the great many Jews who leave their faith for Buddhism. There were so many odd concerns they held about joining this group and interacting with people who, for example, don’t keep kosher or who are formally addressed as “His Holiness.”

IMG_20140409_130236 IMG_20140409_131007 IMG_20140409_131136 IMG_20140409_131332 IMG_20140409_131358 IMG_20140409_131505 IMG_20140409_131729 IMG_20140409_131829 IMG_20140409_131920 IMG_20140409_131940 IMG_20140409_132138 IMG_20140409_132212 IMG_20140409_133859 IMG_20140409_134023 IMG_20140410_153410 IMG_20140411_153254 IMG_20140412_153457 IMG_20140412_153432 IMG_20140413_134819 IMG_20140413_134832 IMG_20140413_143609

In the book, there didn’t yet seem to be an Israeli colony in Dharamsala yet.  This is likely because relations between India and Israel were just beginning to publicly thaw in the early 1990s. But today there are many such colonies, (see here and here) most notably in this mountain top hill station and in Goa. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went to explore these two areas, pretty far removed from each other–one on top of the mountain in Dharamkot and the other in a valley a few kilometres below, Bhagsu Naag. In Dharamkot there is a Chabad House (an Orthodox Jewish prayer house–the tall brick building, which is the tallest in the area). It’s a bit odd to see that here given that stories I hear and read about often detail the way in which Israelis come after their three (men) or two year (women) compulsory army service, trash the area, smoke a lot of hashish, and have a lot of sex. It doesn’t exactly seem like the type who would frequent an extremely religious space.  The photographs above are from Dharamkot and those below from Bhagsu Naag.

The most disturbing aspect of this Israeli take over of this previously Indian and Tibetan community is the inclusion of what restauranteurs call “Israeli cuisine” (hummus, felafel, etc.) with no sense of irony. There are several photographs of menus above that illustrate this. Unfortunately none of the restaurant owners (most seemed to be Indian, not Tibetan) are aware that what they are serving is Arabic cuisine originating in the Levantine countries of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. This cultural theft is akin to what I listed above as one of the many ways Israel Judaises Palestine, often taking on Arabic or Palestinian culture and claiming it as its own. This would be akin to Chinese restaurants serving momos and tsampa and claiming it as their own. Of course, they do that too. Also, I find it odd that just because a group of foreigners frequents another country that “their” cuisine must be readily available. Why travel if you’re not going to eat local food. Seriously! Likewise why is there a need for all the signage to change from Tibetan, Hindi, and English to just two foreign languages: English and Hebrew?

Finally, Kamenetz’s book made it clear that through their interfaith exchange Tibetans and Israelis would begin working together towards a common cause. From their point of view, the Tibetan struggle mirrors the Jewish and Israeli one (he often conflates the two) and, not surprisingly, Palestine is barely mentioned at all. (See Gideon Levy on this.)  Indeed, there is an Israeli-Tibet society. And Israelis seem to be collaborating with Tibetans on agricultural projects. However, if the Tibetans want to know what will come of such a venture, they should look at what people did in Andhra Pradesh at Kuppam once they realised how they were being deceived by Israeli promises to improve the agricultural practices here.

IMG_20140426_175538 IMG_20140426_175739 IMG_20140426_175904 IMG_20140426_175932 IMG_20140426_180048 IMG_20140426_180057 IMG_20140426_180152 IMG_20140426_180156 IMG_20140426_180220 IMG_20140426_180226 IMG_20140426_180254 IMG_20140426_180858 IMG_20140426_181201 IMG_20140426_181114 IMG_20140426_181050 IMG_20140426_181037 IMG_20140426_181514 IMG_20140426_181707 IMG_20140427_090350

One final image: at my meditation centre there were only two languages used other than English and Hindi: Russian and Hebrew.
image

image

settlement freeze my ass

i am certain i have written a post with this title before. certainly with the same or similar content. such is the case with falasteen: always the zionist terrorist colonists say one thing and do the opposite. here is a classic example:

In direct violation of international law, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved permits on Sunday and Monday to build 455 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

The new housing, which was ordered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be built in six settlements. The settlements in question include Har Gilo (on the outskirts of Bethlehem), Modi’in Illit (built on the land of the village of Bil’in) and Ariel (deep in the West Bank south of Nablus).

Israel says it intends to keep each of these settlements in any eventual peace agreement with the Palestinians.

They permits are first ones issued since Netanyahu took office in March. Later this week, Netanyahu is expected to announce a partial reduction in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements.

you see, they tell obama they wil have a freeze, but only after building gazillions more housing units in the colonies. but wait! there’s more! they are building an entirely new colony on stolen palestinian land, too:

Work began on a new Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley on Sunday to house settlers who were removed in 2005 from one of Israel’s former colonies in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that workers began working on the first 20 units in the new settlement, called Maskiot, in the northern Jordan Valley.

and here are some numbers to ponder in relation to these and other colonies on palestinian land:

The decision to approve the construction of hundreds of housing units before the settlement freeze goes into affect means that in the coming year the total number of apartments to be built in the settlements will be the same as the number built before limitations were placed on construction over the Green Line.

Central Bureau of Statistics data show that the completion of 2,500 housing units and an immediate start to 455 new units continues the growth trend of recent years.

According to Central Bureau of Statistics publications, from 2005 to the end of 2008, when no special limitations on construction in the settlements were imposed and the American demand to freeze construction was not yet on the agenda, 7,015 housing units were built in the West Bank settlements. Thus during those four years, the average rate of housing starts in the settlements was 1,771 a year.

The number of new housing units will not actually decline compared to previous years. The only difference is that now, that instead of construction permits being given gradually throughout the year, the government intends to issue hundreds of permits within a few days, before the official announcement of the “freeze” is made.

here’s an idea president obama: why not sanction that zionist entity as should have been done decades ago when they forbade the return of palestinian refugees. paul craig roberts lays it all out for you:

In Israel, a country stolen from the Palestinians, fanatics control the government. One of the fanatics is the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week Netanyahu called for “crippling sanctions” against Iran.

The kind of blockade that Netanyahu wants qualifies as an act of war. Israel has long threatened to attack Iran on its own but prefers to draw in the US and NATO.

Why does Israel want to initiate a war between the United States and Iran?

Is Iran attacking other countries, bombing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure?

No. These are crimes committed by Israel and the US.

Is Iran evicting peoples from lands they have occupied for centuries and herding them into ghettoes?

No, that’s what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for 60 years.

What is Iran doing?

Iran is developing nuclear energy, which is its right as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran’s nuclear energy program is subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which consistently reports that its inspections find no diversion of enriched uranium to a weapons program.

The position taken by Israel, and by Israel’s puppet in Washington, is that Iran must not be allowed to have the rights as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that every other signatory has, because Iran might divert enriched uranium to a weapons program.

In other words, Israel and the US claim the right to abrogate Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy. The Israeli/US position has no basis in international law or in anything other than the arrogance of Israel and the United States.

The hypocrisy is extreme. Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and developed its nuclear weapons illegally on the sly, with, as far as we know, US help.

As Israel is an illegal possessor of nuclear weapons and has a fanatical government that is capable of using them, crippling sanctions should be applied to Israel to force it to disarm.

Israel qualifies for crippling sanctions for another reason. It is an apartheid state, as former US President Jimmy Carter demonstrated in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

The US led the imposition of sanctions against South Africa because of South Africa’s apartheid practices. The sanctions forced the white government to hand over political power to the black population. Israel practices a worse form of apartheid than did the white South African government. Yet, Israel maintains that it is “anti-semitic” to criticize Israel for a practice that the world regards as abhorrent.

What remains of the Palestinian West Bank that has not been stolen by Israel consists of isolated ghettoes. Palestinians are cut off from hospitals, schools, their farms, and from one another. They cannot travel from one ghetto to another without Israeli permission enforced at checkpoints.

The Israeli government’s explanation for its gross violation of human rights comprises one of the greatest collection of lies in world history. No one, with the exception of American “christian zionists,” believes one word of it.

The United States also qualifies for crippling sanctions. Indeed, the US is over-qualified. On the basis of lies and intentional deception of the US Congress, the US public, the UN and NATO, the US government invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and used the “war on terror” that Washington orchestrated to overturn US civil liberties enshrined in the US Constitution. One million Iraqis have paid with their lives for America’s crimes and four million are displaced. Iraq and its infrastructure are in ruins, and Iraq’s professional elites, necessary to a modern organized society, are dead or dispersed. The US government has committed a war crime on a grand scale. If Iran qualifies for sanctions, the US qualifies a thousand times over.

No one knows how many women, children, and village elders have been murdered by the US in Afghanistan. However, the American war of aggression against the Afghan people is now in its ninth year. According to the US military, an American victory is still a long ways away. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared in August that the military situation in Afghanistan is “serious and deteriorating.”

Older Americans can look forward to the continuation of this war for the rest of their lives, while their Social Security and Medicare rights are reduced in order to free up funds for the US armaments industry. Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden have made munitions the only safe stock investment in the United States.

What is the purpose of the war of aggression against Afghanistan? Soon after his inauguration, President Obama promised to provide an answer but did not. Instead, Obama quickly escalated the war in Afghanistan and launched a new one in Pakistan that has already displaced 2 million Pakistanis. Obama has sent 21,000 more US troops into Afghanistan and already the US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is requesting 20,000 more.

Obama is escalating America’s war of aggression against the Afghanistan people despite three high profile opinion polls that show that the American public is firmly opposed to the continuation of the war against Afghanistan.

Sadly, the ironclad agreement between Israel and Washington to war against Muslim peoples is far stronger than the connection between the American public and the American government. At a farewell dinner party last Thursday for Israel’s military attache in Washington, who is returning to Israel to become deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, and and Dan Shapiro, who is in charge of Middle East affairs on the National Security Council, were present to pay their respects. Admiral Mullen declared that the US will always stand with Israel. No matter how many war crimes Israel commits. No matter how many women and children Israel murders. No many how many Palestinians Israel drives from their homes, villages, and lands. If truth could be told, the true axis-of-evil is the United States and Israel.

Millions of Americans are now homeless because of foreclosures. Millions more have lost their jobs, and even more millions have no access to health care. Yet, the US government continues to squander hundreds of billions of dollars on wars that serve no US purpose. President Obama and General McChrystal have taken the position that they know best, the American public be damned.

It could not be made any clearer that the President of the United States and the US military have no regard whatsoever for democracy, human rights, and international law. This is yet another reason to apply crippling sanctions against Washington, a government that has emerged under Bush/Obama as a brownshirt state that deals in lies, torture, murder, war crimes, and deception.

Many governments are complicit in America’s war crimes. With Obama’s budget deep in the red, Washington’s wars of naked aggression are dependent on financing by the Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Saudis, South Koreans, Indians, Canadians and Europeans. The second this foreign financing of American war crimes stops, America’s wars of aggression against Muslims stop.

The US is not a forever “superpower” that can indefinitely ignore its own laws and international law. The US will eventually fall as a result of its hubris, arrogance, and imperial overreach. When the American Empire collapses, will its enablers also be held accountable in the war crimes court?

oh and if i have trouble updating this site, but you want new information about the ongoing daily nakbas in palestine, read zionist land grab.

مخيم العودة

i spent last week at summer camp. my dear friend at ibdaa cultural center in deheishe refugee camp has been organizing and planning for this all year. we’ve done these trips before when we take children under age 16, who do not yet have their identity cards, to their original villages in 1948 palestine. we spent the previous couple of weeks mapping the villages so as to have an idea where they were. deheishe refugee camp is unusual in that it has more villages represented in it than any other camp. there are over 46 villages represented in the camp today, although at one time it was 52. the villages are spread out, too, all the way from gaza to haifa (with respect to original palestinian districts and borders). we had 37 youth join the summer camp, broken down into three groups, and we spent the week with them touring their villages and conducting workshops on life before an nakba, the right of return, and how to use rap music as a form of resistance. each night before we closed down we had a huge reflection circle where the kids would share their thoughts about visiting their own villages and those of their friends. and, of course, it wouldn’t be a summer camp without kids running through the hallways playing soccer and drumming on the tabla into all hours of the night. it reminded me of abu mujahed’s summer camp i attended in lebanon for the kids from shatila refugee camp who were so happy to have a wide open space in which to play and exist in ba’albek a couple of years ago.

when we took kids to their villages before it was just one day and we had a small group on one bus. we didn’t hit nearly as many villages and it was just a one-time experience. this project is the beginning of a year-long project that will now begin the process of collecting oral history from the kids’ families as well as teaching them about their right of return. the hope is to help the youth feel connected to their history and to various forms of resistance that will facilitate the right of return. there is a fear that this generation is more attached to their refugee camp than to their villages and this project is one way of intervening in that. and i have hope that this will work. the week before camp friends of mine who had kids coming with us told us stories of how they came home excited from our meetings asking all sorts of questions, doing research on the internet about their villages, reading, and learning about where they come from. one friend of mine from zakariya told me that his son talked to his grandmother about their village and that he learned things from his mother he had not known before either. so it became a family enterprise, one that i hope and expect will continue throughout the year and then some. i had my own group in the camp that i took around in a car to cut down on costs. we went to the villages furthest away from the church that hosted us in 1948 palestine for the week. below is a series of photographs that i took in the villages and some brief reflections and context on the villages.

day one

we got a late start on our first day, partially because not only did i drive my own car, but i was also responsible for smuggling older youth and friends organizing the camp out of deheishe. i made several trips and we were all elated when we managed to get everyone out (in zionist terrorist colonist terms we were “infiltrators”). we also had a bit of a delay with the baker making manaqeesh for our lunch. after we finally got everyone into 1948 palestine we broke down into our groups and went to the villages. we used walid khalidi’s book all that remains and palestine remembered as our guides, as well as salman abu sitta’s the return journey: a guide to depopulated and present palestinian towns and villages and holy sites. these are great resources historically speaking, and each child received a folder with materials including copies of the related pages to their village. however, these are not great resources–except for abu sitta’s book–with respect to finding the remnants of the village which can be an enormous task. oftentimes you have to use these resources to find the zionist terrorist colony built on top of the ruins of the palestinian village, though this doesn’t work so well when the zionist terrorist colonists planted a forest over the village (with the help of americans, canadians, and the british). with that in mind we purchased gps systems for each group to mark the villages and the things we found in them. i am going to upload that information into google earth later this week or next week so we can begin to map palestinian villages on the map and aid other people wanting to find their villages.

our first village was قسطينة (qastina), which is in gaza. there is not much left of the village today. khalidi’s book, which was originally published in the early 1990s, shows an image of some rubble of former houses, but we were unable to find any. instead we found a number of zionist terrorist colonies on the land and a number of olive trees and cacti, though the olive trees were relatively new. in a number of villages last week i was awestruck by the ways in which the zionist terrorist colonists destroyed plants and trees only to replant them again later with the assistance of diaspora zionists. qastina used to have wheat, barley, sesame, beehives, and vineyards, but we found none of this. the depopulation of qastina is described by khalidi:

Qastina was occupied around 9 July 1948, shortly after teh end of the first truce, by the Giv’ati Brigade, when it advanced southwards into Egyptian-controlled territory. During the ten-day period between the two truces (8-18 July), the Brigade succeeded in seizing an area comprising at least sixteen villages, all of whose inhabitants were displaced. The residents of Qastina, like those of nearby al-Masmiyya, were probably driven south towards Gaza, rather than east to the Hebron area. Operational orders issued by Brigade commander Shim’on Avidan had called for civilians to be expelled; however, the inhabitants of this area fled almost as soon as the operation began, according to a later Israeli army report. The village had earlier been mentioned in Plan Dalet as one of the villages to be occupied by the Giv’ati Brigade. (131)

qastina, palestine
qastina, palestine
stones of qastina, palestine
stones of qastina, palestine

our second village was تل الترمس (tall al-tarmus), which is essentially across the street from qastina and suffered the same fate. we found a zionist terrorist colonist university as we entered the settlement and then a vast agricultural space which was filled with grapes and plums for the zionists’ agribusiness. we saw trucks of asian migrant workers, who have, in recent years, replaced the palestinian workers who have for the last few decades farmed their own land stolen by the zionists for just a few shekels a day. the vineyards and orchards were also new trees here, too. but we spent time here–as in all the villages–picking fruit, collecting stones and soil, to take home to older family members who are not allowed to visit their villages. khalidi on tall al-tarmus’ depopulation:

As the first truce of the war was winding down, Israeli forces on the southern front were planning a major push south of al-Ramla towards the Negev, which they called Operation An-Far (see Bil’in, Gaza District). Tall al-Tarmus probably fell early in this operation, around 9-10 July 1948, to the First Battalion of the Giv’ati Brigade. During this operation the villagers of Tall al-Tarmous may have been among a minority who were driven over an Israeli-held strip towards Gaza, rather than eastwards towards Hebron. (138)

zionist terrorist colonist university on the land of tell al-tarmus, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist university on the land of tell al-tarmus, palestine
asian migrant workers picking grapes in occupied tall al-tarmous, palestine
asian migrant workers picking grapes in occupied tall al-tarmous, palestine

the final village for our first day was قطرة (qatra). khalidi says that there was a school that remained and a few deserted houses, but the area that likely had those buildings before seems to no longer be there. we saw an area that we believed held such places before, but the ground was blackened and there were only piles of stones and tiles of palestinian flooring around it, and, of course, lots of cacti. on this first day i had younger kids with me and it seemed to me that they had a very distorted sense of space as a result of growing up in the refugee camp. their sense of area and space is compact and crowded. when i drove around to give the kids an idea of the vast area each of their villages covered they had a hard time conceptualizing it. in qatra there was a hill we climbed up where we could see a view of the land belonging to qatra and the girl from this village found it almost impossible to imagine that such a large area belonged to her village as did the other kids with respect to their villages. here is the story of qatra’s ethnic cleansing from khalidi:

The earliest report of Haganah military activity at Qatra was on 13 March 1948, when the Palestinian newspaper Filastin reported a shooting incident involving Arab fruit-pickers working in an orchard that left five workers wounded. A month later, a New York Times story indicated that Haganah squads moved into the police fortress at Qatra on 17 April, after its evacuation by the British.

Israeli historian Benny Morris states that unites of the Giv’ati Brigade surrounded the village on 6 May and demanded that the villagers hand over all their weapons. After that, Morris reports the following sequence of events: several dozen armed men tried to break out of the village but were stopped by the Haganah. The villagers handed over several rifles to the Giv’ati Brigade troops, who nevertheless proceeded to move into the village. After that, the soldiers began looting the village and one of them was shot dead by a villager. The Haganah arrested several villagers, and according to Morris, “within a few days, either intimidated the rest of the villagers into leaving or ordered them to leave.” The official Haganah account agrees that Qatra was occupied around this time, but cites the Alexandroni Brigade (probably erroneously) as the occupying force). (404)

zionist terrorist colony of qidron on the land of qatra, palestine
zionist terrorist colony of qidron on the land of qatra, palestine
playground for zionist terrorist colonist children in occupied qatra, palestine
playground for zionist terrorist colonist children in occupied qatra, palestine

day two

day two of camp was a bit of a deviation from visiting villages. we spent the morning in القدس (al quds) and the afternoon in يافا (yaffa). ideally we wanted to do this on the final day of camp, but we needed to take such a trip when we wouldn’t be confronted by lots of zionist terrorist colonists in the old city or at the beach and so we had to do it on the second day. anyone who has ever been to al quds can attest to the fact that keeping 37 youth together in the old city is quite a challenge. next year i want to buy them all neon orange shirts so we can keep track of them. the most difficult part was going to al aqsa because my friend who is a refugee, but who lives in the old city, guided us around and he didn’t know the kids. none of the other adults could go with him inside the mosque because our leaders from the camp were there illegally and zionist terrorist colonists have checkpoints surrounding the mosque and one cannot get in without passing through it with your id card. and our international volunteers could not get in because it happened to be prayer time. but i managed to get in, which is good because my friend needed help keeping the kids together, which was a challenge with only two adults (and this even though not all the kids wanted to go in for some odd reason).

the kids and leaders who waited outside the mosque for us stumbled upon the african community society which had its own summer camp in progress. they were singing and drumming and when we came out of the mosque we joined them. their website seems to be down for the moment, but here is what their brochure says about their work:

The African Community Society, AFS, is a Palestinian non-governmental non-profit society founded by the Afro-Palestinian community in Jerusalem in 1983. It is an offshoot of the Sudanese Welfare Club which was active between 1935-1967, the year when Israel occupied Jerusalem. It is also a revival of the African Youth Club, established in 1978 but forced to close in the mid-eighties due to financial difficulties.

african community society, old city, al quds, palestine
african community society, old city, al quds, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist private security in the old city, al quds, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist private security in the old city, al quds, palestine

just as my friend took us around al quds and gave the kids some historical context so too did another friend take us around yaffa, though this historical portion was a bit shorter as one of the reason for the trip was also to let the kids enjoy the beach for the day since they are forbidden from swimming in their own sea. the man who took us around is someone who i was put in touch with a couple of years ago. he is a history teacher and he knows a lot about refugees from yaffa and also about where various families’ homes are or were. he talked to us about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the area, which was visible to us, particularly along the beach, as the zionist terrorist colonists were making way for a beach park. he told us that since 2007 497 palestinian families have had their homes demolished in yaffa. a report on this was released by the arab association for human rights in 1948 palestine detailing this practice and which reads in part:

“The war that began in 1948 to purge Jaffa of its Arab residents has never ended and continues to this day. In 1948 it was waged by force, and today they use legal and economic means. The state claims that these are the rules of the market, in full knowledge that they will work against the Arab population.” — Attorney Hisham Shabaita, a social activist and Jaffa resident

On 19 March 2007, Amidar Israel National Housing Company (Amidar) published a document entitled “A Review of the Stock of Squatted Properties in Jaffa — Interior Committee, Israel Knesset.” The document reviewed properties managed by the company in the Jaffa-Tel Aviv area. Section 5 noted that “the project includes a total of 497 squatters, constituting 16.8 percent of the total properties managed by Amidar.”

Section 5 of the document relates, in fact, to 497 orders received over the past 18 months by Palestinian families living in the Ajami and Jabaliya neighborhoods in Jaffa to vacate their homes or businesses. These homes are owned by the state and managed by Amidar in its name. The grounds for eviction range from “squatting” in the property to “building additions” to properties undertaken by the Palestinian tenants of these properties without approval from Amidar and without obtaining a permit from the planning and building authorities.

By law, eviction is permitted in such circumstances. Accordingly, the eviction orders may ostensibly seem to be a legitimate and lawful move by Amidar in response to legal violations by the tenants. Israeli law empowers a landlord letting his property to another — a status that applies to the relationship between the Palestinian tenants and Amidar — to demand the eviction of a tenant who has violated the law or the rental contract with the landlord. Squatting or building additions to the property without the approval of the landlord or the planning authorities are considered violations justifying the eviction of the tenant.

According to the Palestinian residents, however, the issuing of these orders actually reflects a desire to evict them from the neighborhood, which in recent years has become a magnet for wealthy Jewish buyers. They believe that the issuing of the eviction orders cannot be divorced from a process terms the “development of Jaffa” by the Tel Aviv Municipality. This process, which is currently at its peak, actually amounts to a plan to “judaize” Jaffa, i.e. to attract as many Jewish residents as possible to the area, which is currently perceived by the Jewish public as an “Arab” city — despite the fact that, in statistical terms, this is inaccurate.

as we walked from the city to the beach we walked along a rocky shore. but the rocks seemed to want to tell a story. if you look at my photograph below you will see an image of these rocks. many of them are little bits that have been molded together to form a larger rock. but those pieces making up that rock look like pieces from the rubble of people’s houses. too, we found a number of pieces of the famous palestinian painted tile floors among the rocks, which have been softened by the salt water. you can see one of them in the photograph below too–it is on the left and in shades of purple. but while i was contemplating this and listening to our guide share stories about what life is like when you try to teach palestinian history to youth in 1948 palestine, the kids were enjoying themselves swimming, playing in the sand, and running around on the beach. the day gave the kids an opportunity to be normal kids who can run around freely outside, something sorely missing in their lives and yet another reason to fight for the right of return. for whether these kids choose to live in their villages or not they have the right to go to the beach when they want or move freely throughout their country without risking jail for doing so.

after the evening’s reflections i made another trip to deheishe to do another smuggling run. this time a friend and her two small children. i did not get back to the church until 3 am for a number of reasons, but suffice it to say we managed to get yet another crew out.

wanna-be zionist terrorist colonists from the u.s. in occupied yaffa, palestine
wanna-be zionist terrorist colonists from the u.s. in occupied yaffa, palestine
destruction of palestinian homes in occupied yaffa, palestine
destruction of palestinian homes in occupied yaffa, palestine
destroying palestinian land for a beach park in occupied yaffa, palestine
destroying palestinian land for a beach park in occupied yaffa, palestine
if rocks could tell stories...notice the stone that used to be a tile in a palestinian home, yaffa beach, palestine
if rocks could tell stories…notice the stone that used to be a tile in a palestinian home, yaffa beach, palestine

day three

i slept in a bit on day three since i returned so late, but the friend who i brought back did not have that luxury as she had to do a workshop that morning on life before an nakba. she’s a drama teacher and did several interactive activities with the kids including getting them to act out life before an nakba and resistance to the zionist take over of their land. it was great as all the kids were highly engaged and had a great time drawing and acting. at the end they all wrote letters to their children and grandchildren about this history.

drawing from the life in palestine before an nakba workshop
drawing from the life in palestine before an nakba workshop
former palestinian school in occupied zakariya, palestine
former palestinian school in occupied zakariya, palestine
ruins of the palestinian village of beit jibrin
ruins of the palestinian village of beit jibrin

after the morning workshop i headed with my group back towards gaza. we drove past zakariya and beit jibrin on the way (see above photos), which is good as it gave the kids an idea of what villages look like when there are obvious structures from the road that show you it is a palestinian vilage. the first village was الفالوجة (falluja). when we did a test run of this village we had a difficult time figuring out where to look for remnants of it given that a huge zionist terrorist colonist army base occupies a huge chunk of the land today. but there was also a forest which i figured logically would have something from the village in it. but forests are difficult to navigate when looking for ruins. as we drove through we saw a tent in the distance. the kids thought it was a bunch of settlers camping, but as we drove closer we realized it was more of a permanent tent. and as luck would have it, we found it inhabited by a bedouin man from naqab. he got into the car with us and took us to the ruins of the mosque and a sheikh’s tomb next to it, which is a bit hard to make out. khalidi has quite a bit on the operation aimed at cleansing the village of its palestinian inhabitants, but here is a particularly revealing part of it:

Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett personally reprimanded the Israeli army’s chief of staff for acts committed by the Israeli soldiers against the population. Sharrett said that in addition to overt violence, the Israeli army was busy conducting

a “whispering propaganda” campaign among the Arabs, threatening them with attacks and acts of vengeance by the army, which the civilian authorities will be powerless to prevent. There is no doubt that there is a calculated action aimed at increasing the number of those going to the Hebron Hills as if of their own free will, and if possible, to bring about the evacuation of the whole civilian population of [the pocket].

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that the decision to cause the exodus of the “Faluja pocket” population was probably approved by the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion. Subsequently Israeli officials feigned outrage at what had happened and misled the international community about Israeli actions. The director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Walter Eytan, told U.S. Ambassador James McDonald that Israel had broadcast “repeated reassuring notices” to the inhabitants to stay put; however, they acted “as if they smelled a rat” and abandoned their homes. (97)

entrance to the former palestinian village of falluja
entrance to the former palestinian village of falluja
ruins of a palestinian mosque in falluja
ruins of a palestinian mosque in falluja

after falluja we drove west towards المجدل (al majdal), a major palestinian city. one of the young little boys (i had young kids again this day) is from this city. the kids in this group were kind of quiet, likely because they were enough exhausted at this point that they slept in between villages and cities in the car. we arrived in al majdal and it was as overwhelming as a forest. this city of buildings, as opposed to the trees of villages like beit itab (below) made it extremely difficult to find anything. but i knew from ilan pappe’s the ethnic cleansing of palestine that at least a palestinian mosque still existed and it was now a bar/restaurant. we drove around for about 30-40 minutes searching for it. we were in and out of suburbs where we saw children the same age skateboarding carefree in the streets on this city’s stolen land. we saw children playing in the water on the beach while the little boy i had with me looked on in anger. this sweet little boy (who is the best tabla player i’ve ever heard) did not say one word while we drove through his city. the only sound i heard from him was that of a stone against a wall once we finally found the old city.

but i needed help finding the old city so i broke down and went into an american hotel in occupied majdal. the holiday inn there (coincidentally owned and operated by lev leviev’s africa-israel corporation that traffics in blood diamonds and is famous for building illegal settlements) happened to have a map of “ashkelon” on which there was an icon of the mosque in the city’s “art district” (zionist terrorist colonists like to make stolen palestinian buildings into artistic spaces, which i find a bit odd given that they are all about destruction and art is supposed to be about creation). it only took us a few minutes at that point to drive to theodor herzl street where the mosque is located (actually it’s at the intersection of theodor herzl and anne frank streets). there was not only a mosque (turned into a restaurant/bar as well as a museum of “ashkelon’s history”) but also a number of palestinian homes in varying states of destruction and decay. although the buildings in al majdal have not completely erased palestinian traces in this city, the map’s idea of a historical narrative has. here is how they mythologize the history of al majdal:

The old and the new meet in Ashkelon, one of the oldest cities in the world. For 4,000 years it played an important role in the ancient history of the East. Due to its location on the “Sea road” which runs along the coast from Egypt to Syria, the city’s history is filled with construction alternating with destruction as foreign conquests succeeded one another. The first mention of Ashkelon is in Egyptian writings from the 19th Century B.C.E. At the end of 13th Century B.C.E. it was conquered by the Philistines who arrived from the islands, and was considered one of their five principle cities. After the Israelites returned from Egypt, Ashkelon was to go to the tribe of Dan, but the Israelites were unable to conquer it from the Philistines…. In 734 B.C.E. Ashkelon surrendered to Assyrian rule, and during the Hellenistic period was an important center for Greek culture. Jews lived in Ashkelon during the Roman and Byzantine periods as well as during the period of Arab conquest. The community was annihilated in 1153 following the crusader conquest of the city. Ashkelon fell to Saladin in 1187 and was finally destroyed by Sultan Baibars in 1270, after which it was not reconstructed. The history of modern Ashkelon begins with the liberation of the town of Majdal by the Israel Defence Forces during the War of Independence.

notice how they fail to mention the foreign conquest that is the zionist entity. notice how they say the “israelites returned.” they really give irony a new meaning when they concoct their sense of history–they invert everything and the so-called “Arab conquest” is a case in point. their complete erasure between 1270 and 1948 is a glaring example as well. al majdal is not in khalidi’s book as he only covers 410 destroyed palestinian villages and there were 531. but there is a bit on the city’s history in marim shahin and george azar’s palestine: a guide. here is how their tourist book explains the more recent history of al majdal:

Majdal was founded in the 14th century during the rule of Baibars, who put an end to the wars over Askalan by destroying it and starting fresh with this inland city. Majdal served as a substitute for the people of Askalan. It was famous for producing cloth and clothing: its advanced weaving industry served much of southern Palestine, including Gaza and the Negev.

About 75 years ago Majdal was described as a “thriving town of some 8,000 souls, pleasantly surrounded by orchards and a well-stocked bazaar with several small factories, which wove cotton materials.” Today the city center is called “downtown” and the main attraction of Arab Majdal, the area around the mosque, has been turned into a flea market. The mosque itself has been turned into a museum, in which a few archeological finds from the city are housed. An interesting selection of photographs from the 1930s and early 1940s shows life in Arab Majdal, which was clearly different from what it is today.

Majdal had 11,000 homes when it was bombed by the Israelis in July 1948. By the time the military campaign was over, only 1,500 people were left in the city. They were herded into three city districts and by 1951 they had been evicted through a series of military and administrative security measures. Most of the refugees and their descendants live in the Gaza Strip refugee camps to this day. Majdal itself is a quarter in the Israeli city of Ashqelon. (405-406)

obviously, some of the refugees are in deheishe. and my little friend comes from one of those families. it was hard to get a sense of what he was thinking and feeling. but i learned that night that the previous day, while enjoying himself on the beach in yaffa, he was asked how he felt about being in yaffa. he was happy and expressed how much he enjoyed being there. and then he was asked if he would like to live in yaffa. and he was adamant: no. he wants to live in majdal. even at that point he had never seen majdal, but he knew in his soul that this is the place for him. and, of course, this is his right. his right of return. but watching him, in particular, out of the kids i was with reminded me of the various psychological ups and downs of this particular camp–from the joy of playing and being free on the beach or at the church to the realization of your own history and the struggle for your rights. this experience makes all of this tangible, but also possibly traumatizing. fortunately we have a great team of mental health workers at ibdaa who can help us deal with follow up issues to try to channel whatever trauma may come up into productive energy of the ongoing work we want to do.

palestinian mosaic floor in occupied al majdal, palestine
palestinian mosaic floor in occupied al majdal, palestine
theodor herzl street with palestinian mosque in background in occupied al majdal
theodor herzl street with palestinian mosque in background in occupied al majdal
destroyed palestinian home, al majdal
destroyed palestinian home, al majdal
palestinian mosque in al majdal used as restaurant/bar and museum
palestinian mosque in al majdal used as restaurant/bar and museum
zionist terrorist colonist museum in a palestinian mosque in al majdal
zionist terrorist colonist museum in a palestinian mosque in al majdal
destroyed palestinian home in al majdal
destroyed palestinian home in al majdal

day four

since we did not have time to cover all the villages prior to camp, a group of us woke up extra early this fourth day of camp to check out more precise locations and input them into the gps system. we spent two hours driving around to discover where عرتوف (artuf), عسلين (islin), إشوع (ishwa), صرعة (sara’a), بيت محسير (beit mahsir) might be located today. of course we had not counted on the fact that some of these villages had settlements on them which were occupied by zionist terrorist colonists who were also religious jews. as we drove around the colonies looking for traces of palestinian life not destroyed, we were chased out of beit mahsir, for example, because jews don’t drive on saturdays if they are religious. given that these are gated settlements with security, much like colonies in the west bank, we drove quickly out of the settlement because we had one palestinian with us who we had smuggled into 1948 palestine.

we returned back just in time to leave for the day’s trips. i had only made it to two villages the prior day because it took so much time to drive and then to look for the mosque in majdal. i felt so bad that the little boy from khulda did not get to see his village that day so i promised him i would take him first and i did just that.

خُلدة (khulda) is in the north in the ramla district and today is the hulda forest run by the jewish national fund. there are two palestinian houses on the land, one of which is used as a “herzl house” museum of sorts. it was closed so we could not see what was inside. when we arrived we were greeted with more myth making on the part of the zionist terrorist colonists who have stolen this land. there are also a settlement on the village land. here are some of the lies that the brochure by the jnf says about the site:

Following Herzl’s death in 1904 KKL-JNF initiated an Olive Tree Fund to raise monies for the purchase of land and the planting of olive trees. The lands of Hulda were placed at KKL-JNF’s disposal for the planting of groves in Herzl’s memory.

In 1909, an olive plantation was established at the site and a large residence built and named for Herzl…. During World War I, however, most of the workers fled or were evicted and farming died down. Those that stayed on faced both a severe water shortage and a locust plague that wreaked havoc on the plantation. After the war, groups of pioneers settled at Hulda, bringing with them the idea of forest cover for a barren land: “We’ll afforest, revive and settle the hills.”

…In the summer of 5689 (1929) bloody riots swept through the country, including the isolated farm. On the night of 28 of Av (3 September), Hulda’s residents came under heavy attack from local Arabs. Efrayim Chizhik, who had arrived at the site to help defend it, fell in battle. His sacrifice and dedication, like that of his sister, Sarah, were typical of the handful of pioneers who made possible the settlement enterprise in Eretz Israel.

Sarah Chizhik fell in the defense of Tel Hai in northern Israel–a battle that came to symbolize the stand of a few against many. Efrayim reached Hulda with former Shomer (Guard) Yaacov Abramson to find 16 young men, two women and two children there, and were later joined by some 20 members of the pre-state Jewish Haganah defense organization who set about fortifying the place.

But they could not withstand the thousands of rioters from nearby villages who attacked Hulda, surrounding the courtyard and setting fire to the large granary. As the defenders crawled back to Herzl House, Chizhik, who led the retreat, suffered a mortal wound. The farmhouse ws now under siege and, during the night, a contingent of British soldiers arrived and demanded that the Hulda occupants evacuate. There was no other choice. The farm was destroyed and the forest went up in flame. Once more, the farm was deserted and lay in ruins, this time for two years.

just like herzl is where zionism all began, so too the “forest” that bears his name on the land of what was once khulda. this above fabricated history, not unlike the one about al majdal, completely erases palestinians who had lived on the land of khulda for centuries. in contradistinction, here is what khalidi says about life before 1948 and the depopulation of the village:

The village was situated on a flat hilltop and overlooked wide areas on all four sides. Khulda lay close to a highway that connected Gaza with the al-Ramla-Jerusalem highway, and was linked by a network of secondary roads to al-Ramla and a number of major highways. It is identified with a locality that the Crusaders called Huldre. In 1596, Khulda was a village in the nahiya of Ramla (liwa‘ of Gaza) with a population of sixty-six. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on other types of produce, such as goats and beehives. [Edward] Robinson passed by the village in 1838; he described it as “large.” In the late nineteenth century, Khulda was described as a large village built of stone and mud and situated on the side of a hill. The village had a masonry well to the west. All of the people of Khulda were Muslims and maintained their own mosque. They drew water for domestic use from two wells, northeast of the village. They worked primarily in animal husbandry and rainfed agriculture, growing grain and small amounts of vegetables. In 1944/45 a total of 8,994 dunums was allotted to cereals; 9 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

On 6 April 1948, at the start of Operation Nachshon (see Bayt Naqquba, Jerusalem District), a Haganah battalion occupied Khulda along with neighboring Dayr Muhaysin. Khulda was systematically levelled with bulldozers on 20 April, two weeks after its capture. The History of the Haganah says only that the village was taken “without fighting.” Battles continued to rage around the village in later weeks, however, especiall yin the last week of May when an engagement around al-Latrun spread to the Khulda area, becoming what the press called “the biggest single clash of the war to date.” (389)

notice that even the reference to the haganah version of events doesn’t jive with the zionist jnf mythologizing. in any case, like many other villages we did not find too many old palestinian trees, but the kids found plenty of fruit to pack into bags to take home. this village was a bit tricky at first as when we arrived there were zionist terrorist soldiers in between the two palestinian houses. at first i wasn’t sure what was going on, but then i saw they were on a stage and they must have been acting, though that doesn’t mean they are not also soldiers since every zionist colonist is a terrorist in their terrorist forces for life. but they didn’t disturb us and we were able to look around the palestinian houses a bit.

theodor herzl house/national park (otherwise known as the palestinian village of khulda)
theodor herzl house/national park (otherwise known as the palestinian village of khulda)
zionist terrorist colonists invent a "history" to cover up their crimes in khulda, palestine
zionist terrorist colonists invent a \”history\” to cover up their crimes in khulda, palestine
palestinian house occupied by a theodor herzl museum in kulda, palestine
palestinian house occupied by a theodor herzl museum in kulda, palestine
palestinian file floor in the "herzl house" in occupied kulda
palestinian file floor in the \”herzl house\” in occupied kulda
zionist terrorist soldiers in occupied khulda, apparently acting
zionist terrorist soldiers in occupied khulda, apparently acting

the next village, also in the ramla district, صرفند العمار (sarafand al amar) i knew would be a bit more tricky. we had tested out this village previously, but after talking to some palestinians in ramla we learned that all was to be found there was one of the zionist terrorist regime’s largest military bases and a hospital. however, khalidi promises there are around six houses. we found at least one of them, or at least that is what he girl from the village believes. i just didn’t see the palestinian architectural style in the building so i’m not sure. but whatever we found it was on her land and it was fenced off as old palestinian homes often are. there were also a number of orange trees and other fruit trees that the kids collected fruit from. and let’s not forget the ford motor company and the mcdonald’s on her land with respect to the boycott campaign.

the story of the ethnic cleansing of sarafand al-amar is told by khalidi as follows:

On the morning of 2 January 1948, Arab workers at the large British army camp in Sarafand discovered twelve timed charges set to explode at noon, a time when they would have been lined up to collect their weekly wages. The Palestinian newspaper Filastin noted that none of the Jewish workers in the camp had reported to work that day, implying that they had been warned by Zionist groups responsible for the attack.

A party of Haganah sappers carried out a raid on Sarafand on 15 April 1948. The attackers penetrated “deep in Arab territory,” according to a New York Times report, and demolished a three-storey building. The British authorities stated that 16 people were killed and 12 wounded int he ruins of the building. A statement by the attackers charged that the building was used by militia forces led by Shaykh Hasan Salama, the Palestinian guerrilla commander of the Jaffa district, and that 39 people were killed in the raid.

As the British army evacuated Palestine in mid-May, it allowed Arab forces to take over the army camp, which covered about 500 acres. Israeli foreign minister Moshe Shertok (Sharett) was quoted by the New York Times as saying that Jewish institutions had purchased the camp, but that is was handed over to the Arabs nevertheless. According to the History of the War of Independence, the army outpost was handed over to Arab forces on 14 May. The “small, semi-regular” Arab unit positioned there was driven out five days later by a two-pronged attack from the southeast and north; the Arab unit’s defensive formation had been prepared only for an attack from the adjacent settlement of Rishon le-Tziyyon (to the west). The account adds that “the outpost fell into our hands without any casualties.” The Associated Press quoted unnamed Zionist sources as saying that they had made a profit of $2.5 million by capturing it. That was the sum they had reportedly offered (but never paid) for the former British camp. The same sources said that they were hoping to take advantage of the camps’ facilities to house 20,000 new Jewish immigrants.

Sarafand al-‘Amar was probably occupied during the night of 19-20 May 1948 by the Second Battalion of the Israeli army’s Giv’ati Brigade. That places the occupation ofthe village within the scope of Operation Barak, Giv’ati’s May offensive in the al-Ramla area (see al-Batani al-Gharbi, Gaza District). The residents of the village probably fled or were evicted at teh same time. (411-412)

ford motor company in occupied sarafand al 'amar, palestine
ford motor company in occupied sarafand al \’amar, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist army and air force base in occupied sarafand al 'amar, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist army and air force base in occupied sarafand al \’amar, palestine

the next village, one we also checked out last week, was one we couldn’t see evidence of either as it was in a jnf forest. but rather than go in the side we tested last week i drove around to the other side, which was a good thing. خربة القبيبه (khirbat al-qubeiba) didn’t have a ton of information on it on palestine remembered or in khalidi’s book which made things challenging. but the map was clear in abu sitta’s book. we heard somewhere that there might be an old palestinian home in or as a restaurant now so we pulled into a parking lot on the other side of the forest. we didn’t notice anything in the restaurant, but on our way there, on the top of the hill, we saw houses and we hiked up a hill to reach that area. the area we reached had a number of destroyed or partially destroyed palestinian homes. and a ton of old trees mixed in with the jnf planted trees in their attempt to cover up their crimes. it was an amazing discovery and the young boy from the village was pleased with what he found and with the bits of carob he collected from the village trees.

destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba

the final village of the day was really far north in the district of haifa. صبارين (sabbarin) has two settlements on his land and vast fertile farmland. there is very little left to see here, however. what we found in this village were modern zionist terrorist colonist houses built in part with stones from old palestinian houses. there is no information in khalidi about the ethnic cleansing of the village, but pappe has a reference to it in relation to the area more generally:

Here, too, the Irgun contributed its share of the continued destruction of Palestine’s countryside. They completed the vengeful attack on the remaining villages in Marj Ibn Amir, while the British Mandate troops were still there: Sabbarin, Sindiyana, Barieka, Khubbeiza, and Umm al-Shauf. Some of the people in these villages fled under the heavy mortar fire of the attacking forces, while others who waved white flags signaling surrender were instantly exiled. In Sabbarin, the Irgun bandits, angered by the fact that they encountered some armed resistance, as punishment kept the women, old men and children confined for a few days within barbed wire–very much like the cages in which Palestinians today are kept for hours at checkpoints in the West Bank when they fail to present the right permits. Seven young Palestinian men found carrying arms were executed on the spot by Jewish troops, who then expelled the rest of the villagers to Umm al-Fahm, then not yet in Jewish hands. (108)

we found a number of fruit and vegetable orchards as well as olive groves on the land, some which seemed like they were the original trees. but it was disappointing to see so little remaining among the farms and settlements on the stolen land of sabbarin, especially after discovering the homes in khirbat al qubeiba. since these four villages took us so long and we were so far north we went to a felafel restaurant in the wadi ara’a area before heading back to the church.

zionist terrorist colonist house in occupied sabbarin, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist house in occupied sabbarin, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist house using the stones from old palestinian homes in occupied sabbarin
zionist terrorist colonist house using the stones from old palestinian homes in occupied sabbarin
occupied sabbarin, palestine
occupied sabbarin, palestine

i had to head back to deheishe to buy some more food (as i had to do a few nights that week so as not to buy food from zionist terrorist colonists). as we drove in through the checkpoint we noticed that on the 1948 side of the checkpoint that zionist terrorist army jeeps were pulling people over near al qabu and looking at papers as they were at the checkpoint. we decided to wait for a few hours before smuggling the next person in. we managed to get through, however, we were stopped by the police somewhere near beit natif, as were all the cars, for some sort of routine car check. amazingly we didn’t get caught there as they only wanted my papers. i had seen such a checkpoint outside zakariya when i came back at 3 am a couple of nights before, but i didn’t realize what it was at the time. one of our buses got pulled over with the kids at one point this week for the same thing. thank god no one got caught.

when we arrived back at the camp the kids were having a carnival of sorts. they started off with a palestinian trivia game about refugees and camps in the region. it was boys against girls (though i do not recall who won). there were also a number of camp games and what i think was the world’s first laban eating contest. there was lots of drumming and singing and i think it was a great way to end our last full night at the camp.

day five

the last day of camp had us setting off to see the villages rather early in the morning as we had afternoon workshops we had to get back for. we rearranged some of the villages after noticing some were occupied by orthodox jewish settlements and we didn’t want buses full of kids going in there on a saturday. so that meant i had to go back to two of those villages on the last day.

i started with بيت محسير (beit mahsir) which is not only huge, but also encompasses a forest, mountains, and a settlement. anyone who has ever driven on highway 1 from yaffa to al quds has seen two beit mahsir houses on the right-hand side of the road right after you pass by latrun (across from a gas station). but there are others on the top of the mountain inside the settlement. we tried first to drive into a forest from the highway to see if that is how to reach those houses on the highway, but we had no luck. so we went up to the colony and drove inside. there we saw palestinian houses mixed in with those built by zionist terrorist colonists. there were some we saw at a glance as the orthodox jews were still out and about on sunday and walked towards us as we tried to reach one area where we saw palestinian homes. on the way back to the next village we managed to see the homes from across the road, though i still do not know how to get behind them so as to get closer on foot.

there is quite an extensive history of beit mahsir in several sources, including khalidi, who says of the depopulation of the village:

Although the village was targeted for occupation during Operation Nachson (see Bayt Naqquba, Jerusalem District), in early April 1948, it was not taken until the first half of May. In the wake of Nachson, the Haganah launched a series of attacks in an attempt to widen their corridor to Jerusalem and capture the strategic al-Latrun salient. Bayt Mahsir fell during Operation Makkabi (see Khirbat Bayt Far, al-Ramla District) to the newly-formed Hare’el Brigade of the Palmach. The History of the Hagannah states that “this village was not occupied easily; but was attacked by Palmach troops for three nights, and it was not occupied until the morning of 11 May.” The account states merely that the occupiers found booty taken from Haganah military convoys ambushed in the area; no mention is made of the fate of the villagers. The New York Times reported that two commando battalions of the Palmach were involved in the thirty-six hour battle. After “tentative thrusts” on 9 May, the Sixth Palmach Battalion (some 400 to 500 men) seized strong points around the village at 11:00 PM that night. The Arab forces withdrew; that night, they launched a counterattack that lasted for two days. On 12 May, they claimed to have recaptured Bayt Mahsir, but their hold ont he village apparently was not firm.

The Arab Liberation Army’s (ALA) Qadisiyya Battalion was defending the village, and ALA commander Fawzi al-Qawuqji described the situation from the Arab side. On 9 May, he reported that they had “replled a violent Jewish attack on Bayt Mahsir aimed at opening the Jerusalem road.” The following day, the commanding officer at Bayt Mahsir, Lt. Col. Mahdi Salih, cabled to say that the situation was “critical.” Qawuqji sent one of two reserve battalions to the area, which helped to encircle a large detachment of Jewish forces in the area. On 11 May, these forces were said to be withdrawing and ALA units had captured the woods near the village. But on 12 May, Qawuqji informed the High Command that “Jewish forces coming from Jerusalem and outskirts succeeded in entering Bayt Mahsir thanks to the large reinforcements with all kinds of equipment which arrived constantly.” He indicates that the village was recovered the same day through artillery bombardment and a frontal attack. However, the recovery of the village ws probably short-lived. Soon afterwards, Bayt Mahsir was captured and systematically levelled after occupation, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris.

In late March, the New York Times reported that the village had been occupied briefly by British army units. Together with Ishwa’ and ‘Artuf, Bayt Mahsir had withstood a British assault following an Arab attack on the Jewish settlement of Hartuv nearby. (276-277)

entrance to the zionist terrorist colony of beit me'ir on the land of beit mahsir, palestine
entrance to the zionist terrorist colony of beit me\’ir on the land of beit mahsir, palestine
palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir
palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir
old palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir, palestine
old palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir, palestine

it is unfortunate, but for those youth whose villages are largely occupied by zionist terrorist colonists now spending much of the village trip is safer in a car than by foot. this was true with beit mahsir and also artuf, the next village we went to. عرتوف (artuf) was similar to beit mahsir in the sense that there are palestinian homes mixed in with the zionist terrorist colonist houses. but at the front gate of the settlement there is also a palestinian home which has a zionist terrorist colonist house annexed to the front of it.

here is what khalidi says about the ethnic cleansing of artuf:

It was not until mid-July that ‘Artuf (and a number of other villages in the Jerusalem area) was actually depopulated. It was occupied during the second phase of Operation Dani (see Abu al-Fadl, Al-Ramla District) by the Fourth Battalion of the Har’el Brigade. According to the History of the War of Independence and Israeli historian Benny Morris, this occurred during the night of 17-18 July 1948. The offensive is described by Morris as follows: “Much of the population of these villages…had left the area previously. Most of the remaining population fled with the approach of the Har’el columns and with the start of mortar brigades. The handful of people who remained at each site when the Israelis entered were expelled.” The Second Platoon of B Company (of the Fourth Battalion), armed with mortars and machine guns, first pushed out the inhabitants of nearby Ishwa’ and ‘Islin; then they moved toward ‘Artuf. Aiming their mortars at the police station west of ‘Artuf, they lobbed explosives at both the station and the village. This night time bombardment convinced the villagers to flee. This night-time bombardment convinced the villagers to flee. Most of them walked three miles up the slopes toward the village of Dayr al-Hawa, to the south east. The first Israeli troops to tenter the village, ont he day after its depopulation,w ere members of a platoon commanded by Rafael Eytan. (260)

entrance to zionist terrorist colony of nacham on the land of artuf, palestine
entrance to zionist terrorist colony of nacham on the land of artuf, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist's house built onto a palestinian house in artuf
zionist terrorist colonist\’s house built onto a palestinian house in artuf

البريج (al burayj) was even more difficult in some ways than the other villages with settlements on the land. this one had not only a colony, but also an enormous military base. we could see a watch tower in the distance (in one of the images below). just as there is not a great deal of evidence of palestinian life in al burayj, there is also not a lot of detail with respect to its depopulation. here is what khalidi says about it:

Al-Burayj was probably captured during the first phase of Operation ha-Har (see ‘Allar, Jerusalem District). The village fell some time between 19 and 24 October 1948, as Israeli forces moved to occupy a number of village in the southern part of the Jerusalem corridor. (282)

while there wasn’t too much of palestinian life there was an amazing orchard full of plums that we filled bags up with for the boy from burayj to take home and share with his family. but a number of the trees, for instance the olive trees, were newly planted and not palestinian olive trees, yet another example of how the zionist terrorist colonists constantly seek to destroy all forms of life.

zionist terrorist military base on the land of al burayj, palestine
zionist terrorist military base on the land of al burayj, palestine
they destroy olive trees too, here in al burayj (and then replant them with the help of diaspora zionists)
they destroy olive trees too, here in al burayj (and then replant them with the help of diaspora zionists)

the last village we visited on the trip i messed up big time. i read the map incorrectly. it seemed to me at the time that بيت عطاب (beit itab) was across the street from deir al-hawa. i studied the map again last night and realized that this was incorrect. where we were, it was still deir al-hawa. but these are the villages that were destroyed to make room for the american independence park that i wrote last week before i left for camp (see post below) so it is a bit challenging to figure out where the borders are. there is a settlement, nes harim on part of the village land, but this is only a small part of it. if i had gone a kilometer more and into the settlement we would have been in the right place. we would have seen a crusader castle and almond, carob, and olive trees, as well as cacti. there was already a group who visited beit itab, but one of the older youth leaders who i smuggled in illegally to 1948 palestine was from this village and he was with me on the day they went to his village so i wanted to take him. because it was so difficult to get him out i cannot stop kicking myself for f*&#$%) this up so royally. i was so excited that we had found a house and two wells that i guess i had hoped and imagined that we were in the right place. so the photos below are of دير الهوا (deir al hawa) instead.

in any case, here is what khalidi has to say about the ethnic cleansing of bayt itab:

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

palestinian home in deir al hawa (what i mistakenly thought was beit itab)
palestinian home in deir al hawa (what i mistakenly thought was beit itab)
palestinian well in deir al hawa
palestinian well in deir al hawa
entrance to deir al hawa, palestine
entrance to deir al hawa, palestine

we returned to camp for our final workshops–one on the legal issues related to the right of return and another on how to use hip hop as a method of communicating these narratives of an nakba and the right of return that the rap group dam conducted. then it was time for cleaning up the church, packing, and heading home, again in shifts, as i had to do separate smuggling trips. we all made it back safely, and have been catching up on sleep. but now we have a meeting in a bit for the next phase of the project.

right of return workshop
right of return workshop
dam workshop
dam workshop
haq al awda!
haq al awda!

a walk through beit jala and then some…

gilo colony with building crane in center
gilo colony with building crane in center

this afternoon my friends wanted to take a walk. we went to cremsian, a church with a vineyard in beit jala. we went for a walk here once before, but it was late at night and so i couldn’t see as much as we could see today. this church is in the middle of a beautiful palestinian forest and farmlands. but it also has a view of zionist terrorist colonies all around it, which are on land stolen from beit jala. we also had a view of the jewish-only roads connecting the zionist terrorist colonies, which are a part of the apartheid wall and its regime which you can see in the distance. the end of the road on our walk gave us a view of one of my friend’s villages, malha, which now includes a shopping mall (with burger king among other american businesses) and a sports stadium on her land, land which she is not allowed to even visit. as we walked along this beautiful road through beit jala, with a view of the zionist terrorist colony of gilo across from us along the way i could see cranes building new homes and one lone palestinian home in the valley between (all pictures here from the walk this evening).

jewish only road cutting through beit jala with apartheid wall & sniper towers in distance
jewish only road cutting through beit jala with apartheid wall & sniper towers in distance

walking through this land i kept thinking about the news yesterday about an increase in funding for more colonies by the zionist entity:

Israel plans to allocate 250 million dollars over the next two years for settlements in the occupied West Bank despite US pressure to halt settlement activity, army radio said on Sunday.

The figure is contained in the 2009-2010 budget, which passed its first reading in the Knesset parliament last week, it said.

Some 125 million dollars (90 million euros) is to be used for various security expenses, with most of the rest destined for housing construction, it said.

interestingly, while the government continues its colonial expansion, apparently there are no buyers for these new homes:

The Israeli TV aired a report on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and revealed that while word leaders might believe Israel had stopped the construction of settlements, more units are being built with no buyers in sight.

of course these houses are not really for people, but for the zionist entity to continue its colonial enterprise. a new court case reveals the extent to which the government is complicit in this process (though for those who are in the know this seems like merely stating the obvious):

One document that has just been exposed in the courtroom is a real estate transaction that exemplifies the process involved in hundreds of thousands of cases of Israeli settlers who have illegally taken over Palestinian land. The document is a contract showing that the World Zionist Organization, working on behalf of the Israeli government, took private land belonging to Palestinians in the West Bank and rented it to Jewish settlers (nearly all of the land inside Israel is owned by the Jewish Agency and rented on 99-year leases to Israeli Jews, who can only rent the land with the stipulation that only Jews will be allowed to live there).

In one such case presented to the court, Netzach and Esther Brodt, a young Jewish couple, were issued a lease for land on Ofra settlement, but were not told that the settlement was illegal under Israeli law and had been scheduled for demolition. When the Palestinian owners of the land, along with allies in the Israeli human rights movement, went to court to demand that the Israeli government enforce its own court’s order to demolish the illegal outpost, the court gave the government two weeks to explain why demolition had not yet occurred. Instead of replying to the court, the government took the two weeks to hastily complete construction of eight houses, including the one sold to Netzach and Esther Brodt. Once the houses were completed, the Israeli government froze the demolition order on the settlement, and allowed the outright theft to take place, despite even the orders from their own courts.

This is just one example of the multitude of cases in which the World Zionist Organization, working as an agent of the Israeli government, willfully defied Israeli court orders, signed agreements with the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to establish more ‘facts on the ground’ of Israeli homes built on Palestinian land, calculating that the Israeli government would be less likely to approve the land theft if the houses were already built.

DSC00038

as a part of this colonial expansion, palestinians are either having to demolish their own homes (otherwise their home will be demolished by israeli terrorist forces and the palestinian family will still have to pay the bill for the demolishing of their own home) or their houses will be demolished anyway. one such family had to demolish his home in al quds:

Muhammad Najib Al-Ju’ba, who has lived with his family for generations on Virgin Street near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was forced by Israeli troops to demolish his own home this weekend, making the third home demolished in this way this week alone.

Israeli demolition orders in Jerusalem have increased exponentially since Binyamin Netanyahu, a right-wing Israeli leader who campaigned on ‘no compromise’ with the Palestinians, came to power in March.

The military allegedly acted on orders from the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem (there are currently two Jerusalem municipalities – one Israeli, one Palestinian, but only the Israeli one has armed enforcement agents and a military).

Al-Juba was told that he must demolish his home or pay 13,000 Israeli shekels to the Israeli Jerusalem Municipal government. The reason given was the extra room that Al-Juba had constructed to accommodate his growing family.

near qalqilia it is palestinian farm land that is being destroyed by israeli terrorist forces:

Israeli authorities notified farmers in the village of Azzun Atma on Sunday that their agricultural infrastructure will be destroyed, according to Palestinian source.

Azzun Atma, near Qalqiliya, is a small community cut off from the rest of the West Bank by Israel’s separation wall and wedged between two Israeli settlements. The villager’s only access to the outside world is through a military checkpoint.

The demolition orders condemn stables, barns, and water tanks which were provided by the Agriculture Institutions Union four years ago.

there have been demonstrations this week protesting this ethnic cleansing policy of the zionist apartheid regime like the one in al quds yesterday:

A group of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, including lead clerics with the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem, held a non-violent demonstration Sunday in the Al-Bastan neighborhood in Silwan, an area scheduled for takeover by Israeli authorities. According to documents made public by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality, Israel plans to destroy 88 Palestinian homes and apartment buildings in the neighborhood – a move that would displace up to 1500 Palestinians.

and then later sunday evening palestinians in al quds received even more house demolition orders:

The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem handed out on Sunday evening more demolition orders to 65 Palestinian families all over east Jerusalem.

According to local sources some of these families had received the same notices before.

The orders were issued under new legislation, Israeli law 212. Law 212 allows homes to be demolished or evacuated without any formal legal charges being brought forth or any party to be convicted of any alleged violation of the Israeli Planning and Building Law. Hateem Abed al Kader, the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Government said the demolition orders were political.

“The high number of demolition orders indicates they are political, their objective is to force Palestinians out and tip the demographic balance towards the settlers. The number of homes that are set for demolition in Jerusalem is now 1,200 homes.” Abed al Kader told IMEMC over the phone.

nour odeh’s report on al jazeera today about the case of bil’in fighting the confiscation of their land by zionist colonist terrorists is taking on resistance in a new direction by fighting the canadian corporations funding the colonies built on their land:

and while i’m on the subject of canda here i think it is worth pointing out that it is not only companies in canada, but the government itself that is complicit with the zionist terrorist colonial project in palestine as jonathan cook reported in electronic intifada last week:

Canada’s chief diplomat in Israel has been honored at an Israeli public park — built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law — as one of the donors who helped establish the park on the ruins of three Palestinian villages.

Jon Allen, Canada’s ambassador to Israel, is among several hundred Canadian Jews who have been commemorated at a dedication site. A plaque bearing Allen’s name is attached to a stone wall constructed from the rubble of Palestinian homes razed by the Israeli army.

Allen, who is identified as a donor along with his parents and siblings, has refused to talk about his involvement with the park.

Rodney Moore, a Canadian government spokesman, said the 58-year-old ambassador had not made a personal donation and that his name had been included as a benefactor when his parents gave their contribution. It is unclear whether he or they knew that the park was to be built on Palestinian land.

Canada Park, which is in an area of the West Bank that juts into Israel north of Jerusalem, was founded in the early 1970s following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the 1967 war. It is hugely popular for walks and picnics with the Israeli public, most of whom are unaware they are in Palestinian territory that is officially a “closed military zone.”

Uri Avnery, a former Israeli parliamentarian who is today a peace activist, has described the park’s creation as an act of complicity in “ethnic cleansing” and Canada’s involvement as “cover to a war crime.”

About 5,000 Palestinians were expelled from the area during the war, whose 42nd anniversary is being marked this month.

Israel’s subsequent occupation of the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem and Gaza, is regarded as illegal by the international community, including by Canada. The country has become increasingly identified as a close ally of Israel under the current government of Stephen Harper, who appointed Allen as ambassador.

About $15 million — or $80m in today’s values — was raised in tax-exempt donations by the Canadian branch of a Zionist organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to establish the 1,700-acre open space following the 1967 war.

The Canadian government spokesman declined to say whether an objection had been lodged with the fund over its naming of Allen as a donor, or whether Allen’s diplomatic role had been compromised by his public association with the park. The spokesman added that the park was a private initiative between Israel and the JNF in Canada.

That view was challenged by Dr. Uri Davis, an Israeli scholar and human rights activist who has co-authored a book on the Jewish National Fund.

“Canada Park is a crime against humanity that has been financed by and implicates not only the Canadian government but every taxpayer in Canada,” he said. “The JNF’s charitable status means that each donation receives a tax reduction paid for from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.”

Davis and a Canadian citizen are scheduled to submit a joint application to the Canadian tax authorities next week to overturn the JNF’s charitable status. He said they would pursue the matter through the courts if necessary.

there are other corporate partners in the colonization of palestine as well (which are complicit in all sorts of horribile neo-colonial projects in africa as well as i’ve written about many times on this site). adri nieuwhof wrote a new article about this in electronic intifada today:

Africa-Israel is the latest target of a boycott campaign by Palestine solidarity activists because of the company’s involvement in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. American and European financial institutions hold a substantial stake in Africa-Israel Investment, investigations reveal.

Africa-Israel Investment is an international holding and investment company based in Israel whose subsidiary, Danya Cebus, has been deeply involved in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). According to research by the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, the company executed construction projects in the Israeli settlements of Modi’in Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa and Adam. In addition, Africa-Israel offers apartments and houses in various settlements in the West Bank through the Israeli franchise of its real estate agency, Anglo Saxon, which has a branch in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

Diamond mogul Lev Leviev is Chairman of the Africa-Israel Investment Board of Directors, and holds roughly 75 percent of the company. On 8 March, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Lev Leviev does not have a problem with building in the OPT “if the State of Israel grants permits legally.”

Leviev and his brother-in-law Daviv Eliashov own the company Leader Management and Development (LMD). According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, LMD requested and was granted approval to expand the Zufim settlement with approximately 1,400 housing units. The company has begun construction and in the process, orchards and agricultural lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Jayyus have been bulldozed, and their water wells and greenhouses confiscated.

a view of the palestinian village of malha
a view of the palestinian village of malha

but the problem remains that in all these reports, aside from people like jonathan cook, there continues to be a focus on colonies as only existing in the west bank. they exist all over historic palestine in the villages and cities where palestinian refugees have the right to return. today the organization adalah in 1948 palestine released a statement challenging the sale of palestinian homes in 1948 palestine to zionist colonists:

Adalah sent a letter to the Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz; the Director-General of the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), Yaron Bibi; the General Director of Amidar (a state-owned and state-run housing company), Yaakov Brosh; and Ronen Baruch, the Custodian of Absentees’ Property in May 2009 demanding the cancellation of tenders issued by the ILA for the sale of Palestinian refugee property in Israel. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara submitted the letter.

Recently, the ILA has been publishing tenders for the sale of “absentee” properties held by the Development Authorities of municipalities such as Nazareth, Haifa, Lydd (Lod), Akka (Acre), Rosh Pina and Beit She’an in Israel. In 2007, the ILA issued 96 tenders; in 2008, 106 tenders; and to date in 2009, 80 tenders.

The Custodian for Absentees’ Property transferred these properties to the Development Authority; these properties are classified as absentees’ property under the Absentees’ Property Law – 1950. The Absentees’ Property Law was the main legal instrument used by Israel to take possession of the land belonging to the internal and external Palestinian refugees. Under this law, any property belonging to absentees was taken and passed to the Custodian of Absentee Property for guardianship of the properties until a political solution for the refugees was reached. This law provides a very broad definition of who is an “absentee”; it encompasses Palestinians who fled or who were expelled to neighboring countries during and after the War of 1948. During the War of 1948, as many as 800,000 Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee outside the borders of the new state of Israel.

In the letter , Attorney Bishara argued that selling these absentee properties to private individuals is illegal under Israeli law. It contradicts the essence of the law which provides that the Custodian of Absentee Properties is the temporary guardian of these properties, until the status of the Palestinian refugees is resolved. “These tenders also contradict the Basic Law: Israel Lands – 1960 which prohibits the sale of lands defined as “Israeli lands”, which include, among others, the properties of the Development Authority,” she emphasized in the letter. She further argued that the sale of Palestinian refugee properties contradicts international humanitarian law which stipulates the need to respect the right of private property and explicitly prohibits the final expropriation of private property following the termination of warfare.

This latest step furthers Israel’s continued denial of the rights of the Palestinian refugees, and marks the final stages of an aggressive policy of creating facts on the ground that will frustrate any attempts to solve the Palestinian refugee problem. By selling these properties to private individuals, legal or political remedies for the refugees become increasingly difficult to implement. This measure is to the ultimate disadvantage of all parties involved; it further entrenches political discontent in order to profit from the refugees’ plight.

dan nolan did a report on this issue today for al jazeera showing the palestinian homes in haifa being sold to zionist terrorist colonists. he interviews abdel latif kanafani, a palestinian refugee in lebanon, whose home is one of those up for sale. this issue is significant because if the homes are owned by individuals instead of held by the state it could make the right of return all the more difficult for palestinian refugees.

some of these homes belong to palestinian refugees some of whom are living in tents yet again as a result of the american invasion and occupation of iraq. nisreen el shamayleh reported on the status of palestinian refugees who fled iraq to syria who are living in tents yet again:

adalah also released a new interactive map on its website today that shows all of the palestinian villages listed on it by district. it’s a great tool and worth exploring. you can see the villages where palestinian refugees come from and where they have a right to return to. just like the one below in beit jala that i took a photograph of on my evening walk today.

one palestinian house squeezed out by colony of gilo
one palestinian house squeezed out by colony of gilo

the latest move to make palestinian homes available for sale in 1948 palestine should be seen in tandem with the spate of racist laws that the zionist entity continues to forward to the knesset. azmi bishara has a great analysis of this in his article “loyalty to racism” in al-ahram this week:

I would say that two developments are unfolding in tandem. On the one hand, Israel is experiencing a deepening of and expansion in the concept and exercise of liberal political and economic civil rights (for Jewish citizens). At the same time, there is an upsurge in ultranationalist and right-wing religious extremism accompanied by flagrant manifestations of anti-Arab racism. As a consequence, the Jewish citizen endowed with fuller civil rights (than those that had existed in earlier phases when Zionist society was organised along the lines of a militarised quasi- socialist settler drive) is simultaneously an individual who is more exposed to and influenced by right-wing anti-Arab invective.

The contention that Israel had at one point been more democratic and is now sliding into fascism is fallacious. It brings to mind our protest demonstrations in the 1970s and the earnest zeal with which we chanted, “Fascism will not survive!” Our slogans were inspired by the Spanish left before the civil war in Spain and by the Italian left in the 1930s. But, in fact, the context was entirely different. Israel was the product of a colonialist settler drive that came, settled and survived. Fascism is a very specific form of rule, one that does not necessarily have to exist in a militarised settler society that founded itself on top of the ruins of an indigenous people. Indeed, that society organised itself along pluralistic democratic lines and it was unified on a set of fundamental principles and values as a basis for societal consensus. As militarist values figured prime among them, there was no need for a fascist coup to impose them. Even Sharon, who, from the perspective of the Israeli left, seemed poised to lead a fascist coup was one of the most ardent advocates of women’s rights during his rule. He also proved one of the more determined proponents of implementing the rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court, which is a relatively liberal body in the context of the Zionist political spectrum and within the constraints of Zionist conceptual premises. Israel has grown neither more nor less democratic. The scope of civil rights has expanded, as has the tide of right-wing racism against the Arabs.

Among the Arabs in Israel there have also been two tandem developments. The first is an increasing awareness of the rights of citizenship and civil liberties after a long period of living in fear of military rule and the Israeli security agencies, and in isolation from the Arab world. That period was also characterised by attempts to prove their loyalty to the state by dedicating themselves to the service of the daily struggle for material survival and progress in routine civic affairs. At the same time, however, the forces of increasing levels of education, the growth of a middle class, the progress of the Palestinian national movement abroad, the advances in communications technologies, the broadening organisational bonds among the Palestinians in Israel, and the cultural and commercial exchanges between them and the West Bank and Gaza combined to give impetus to a growing national awareness.

The Arab Israelis’ growing awareness of rights has paved the way for an assimilation drive to demand equality in Israel as a Jewish state. Such a demand is inherently unrealisable, as it would inevitably entail forsaking Palestinian national identity without obtaining true equality. Instead of assimilation there would only be further marginalisation. However, this danger still looms; there are Arab political circles in Israel that are convinced that this is the way forward. At the same time, there is the danger that truly nationalist forces could lose their connection with the realities of Palestinians’ civil life, by stressing their national identity exclusively with no reference to their citizenship or civil rights, or the conditions of their lives. This tendency threatens to isolate the nationalist movement from its grassroots, and this danger, too, persists although to a lesser extent.

The flurry of loyalty bills and the like reflects another phenomenon that has taken root among Arabs in Israel and that the Israeli establishment regards as a looming peril. This peril, from the Israeli perspective, is twofold. Not only can Palestinians exercise their civil rights in order to fight for equality, they can also take advantage of their civil rights in order to express and raise awareness of their national identity by, for example, commemorating the Nakba and establishing closer contact with the Arab world. Commemorating the Nakba — the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel and the consequent displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians — is a relatively new practice for Arabs inside Israel, dating only to the mid-1990s. Before this — until at least the end of the 1970s, before the spread of national awareness gained impetus among Arabs inside Israel — many of them participated in the celebrations of Israel’s independence day and offered their congratulations to Israelis on the occasion. There were no laws against commemorating Nakba Day, not because Israel was more democratic but merely because there was no need for such laws in the eyes of the Israeli establishment, since the Arabs were not commemorating it anyway. In fact, open demonstrations of disloyalty to the state as a Zionist entity were very rare.

But since that time, change did not affect Israel alone. The political culture of broad swathes of Arabs inside that country shifted towards more open expressions of their national identity. To them, there is no contradiction between this and the exercise of their civil rights. Indeed, they felt it their natural right to use the civil liberties with which they are endowed by virtue of their citizenship to engage in forms of political expression that the Israeli establishment regards as contradictory to its concept of citizenship. Naturally, the clash became more pronounced with the growing stridency of right-wing Zionist racism.

The citizenship of Arabs inside Israel has a distinct quality that I have been attempting to underscore for years. Theirs does not stem from ideological conviction or the exercise of the Zionist law of return. Nor is their situation similar to migrant labour or minorities who have chosen to immigrate to the country and who accommodate to the status quo, as is the case with immigrant communities in the US or France, for example. Their citizenship stems from the reality of their having remained in the country after it was occupied. They are the indigenous people. It is not their duty to assimilate to the Zionist character of the state and the attempt to transform them into patriotic Israelis is an attempt to falsify history, to distort their cultural persona and fragment their moral cohesion. A Palestinian Arab who regards himself as an Israeli patriot is nought. He is someone who has accepted to be something less than a citizen and less than a Palestinian and who simultaneously identifies with those who have occupied Palestinian lands and repressed and expelled his people.

It is impossible, here, to examine all facets of the phenomenon, but we should also touch upon a third trend, which is the growing degree of showmanship, sensationalism and catering to the forces of popular demand on the part of Knesset members. This trend is to be found in all parliamentary systems since television cameras made their way into parliamentary chambers. Parliament has become a theatre and a large proportion of MPs have become comedians or soap opera stars, depending on their particular gifts and/or circumstances. However, when the favourite drama or comedy theme is incitement against the Arabs, this can only signify that anti-Arab prejudices, fear mongering, abuse and intimidation are spreading like wildfire. This is the very dangerous and not at all funny part about the parliamentary circus. And it’s going to get grimmer yet for Arabs in Israel.

In the Obama era, following the failure of Bush’s policies, the Israeli government will be directing the venom of its right-wing racist coalition against East Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs. After all, it will be easier to focus on domestic matters, such as emphasis on the Jewishness of the state, than on settlements in the occupied territories. Some of the proposed loyalty laws, such as that which would sentence to prison anyone who does not agree to the Jewishness of the state, will have a tough time making it through the legislative process. However, merely by submitting the proposal, the racist MK will have killed two birds with one stone: he will have made a dramatic appearance before the cameras so that his constituents will remember his name come next elections, and he will have stoked the fires of anti-Arab hatred. Other laws may stand a better chance. The proposal to ban the commemoration of Nakba Day could pass like the law prohibiting the raising of the Palestinian flag, or it could fail because even on the right there are those who object to such a ban. It is also doubtful that this country could promulgate a law compelling people to swear an oath of allegiance, because the intended targets are not immigrants but citizens by birth. It would require quite a feat of constitutional re-engineering in order to render citizenship acquired by birth subject to a loyalty oath at some later phase in a person’s life.

Naturally, no state, however totalitarian it may be, can impose love and loyalty for it by force, let alone a colonialist state that would like to force this on the indigenous inhabitants it had reduced to a minority on their own land. Certainly it would be much easier for Israel to prohibit manifestations of disloyalty than to legislate for forced manifestations of loyalty.

For many years I’ve been advocating a Palestinian interpretation of citizenship in Israel that Israel continues to reject, with consequences to myself that readers may well be aware of. According to this interpretation, the Palestinian Israeli effectively tells the ruling authorities, “My loyalty does not go beyond the bounds of being a law abiding citizen who pays his taxes and the like. As for my keeping in touch with Palestinian history and with the Arab world in matters that should be inter-Arab, such things should not have to pass via you or require your approval.” Such talk was previously unheard of in Israel and it came as quite a shock to the ears of interlocutors used to liberal-sounding references to “our Arab citizens” who serve as “a bridge of peace” and proof of “the power of Israeli democracy”. Rejecting such condescension, the new type of Palestinian says, “My Palestinianness existed before your state was created on top of the ruins of my people. Citizenship is a compromise I have accepted in order to be able to go on living here in my land. It is not a favour that you bestow on me with strings attached.”

Apparently, more and more Arab citizens have come around to this attitude, to the extent that Israel has begun to realise that the material exigencies of life or gradual acclimatisation to Israeli ways and political realities will not be able to stop the trend. It has come to believe that only new laws will bring a halt to what it regards as dangerous manifestations of disloyalty. Such laws will be inherently oppressive but they will simultaneously pronounce the failure of Israelification.

colonial complicity

today nablus has been declared a closed military zone as saed bannoura reported in imemc:

In an attempt to prevent Israeli peace activists from entering the Nablus area, the head of the Central Command of the Israeli Army, Gadi Shamni, declared Nablus a closed military zone.

The army said that that there had been several complaints by the soldiers against members of the Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch) organization.

The army added that this decision applies to all Israeli citizens regardless of their ideology.

The decision was slammed by the Human Rights Organization “Yish Din”. The group said that only totalitarian countries bar human rights organizations from entering areas of conflict between the military and the civilian population.

The group added that such acts are meant to cover-up “criminal activities carried out by the soldiers at the roadblocks”, and added that “it won’t be surprised of Israel starts acting like China, by barring certain internet sites”.

what this means is that security in the prison that is nablus is even tighter than normal and travel in and out of nablus is going to be even more challenging than it already is on a daily basis. of course it is beyond ironic that it is palestinians in nablus being locked up when the terrorizing israeli colonists are on the loose and actively attacking innocent palestinians as saed bannoura reported earlier this week:

Palestinian sources reported on Monday morning that four Palestinians were wounded, one seriously, after being attacked by a group of extremist settlers at the Kidumim junction on the Nablus – Qalqilia road.

Ghassan Daghlas, in charge of the settlements file at the Palestinian Authority, stated that approximately at 5:30 a.m. the four Palestinians were on their way to work when they were attacked by a group of extremist Israeli settlers.

Palestinian medical sources stated that resident Ali Al Sidda, 44, from Jeet village near Nablus, was seriously wounded in his head and was moved to Al Arabi Specialized Hospital in Nablus.

Resident Mohammad Khalid, 32, suffered moderate wounds, while residents Shaker Sidda, and Ahmad Sidda suffered minor wounds. All are from Jayyous village near Qalqilia.

Daghlas demanded the international community and international human rights groups to intervene and put an end to the ongoing attacks carried out by the settlers and the solders.

it seems as if they are following the orders of american jewish rabbi manis friedman, in st. paul minnesota, calling on jewish colonists in palestine to murder with impunity:

“I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral. The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).”

yet another one of friedman’s likely pupils of terrorism unleashed his wrath in al quds yesterday–of course this will never be named terrorism by the zionist or international media, though its effect is the same and is in line with such zionist acts through the course of its colonizing history:

An Israeli settler shot and killed one Palestinian, on Tuesday at dawn, and seriously wounded a Jewish man near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli police described the attack as a “random shooting spree”.

while palestinians are imprisoned in nablus, this week israeli terrorist colonists have been busy destroying palestinian farm land in the farmland surrounding the city as palestine news network reported:

Mohammad Raja from the southern Nablus town of Burin sleeps on his land.

Planted with grain, Raja, or Abu Amar, is protecting his harvest.

However, at 2:30 am fire engines rushed to his defense. Israelis from the Itshar Settlement, built in the West Bank in contravention to international law, attacked the fields.

Itshar Settlement is routinely in the news as one of the most violent of Israeli settlements.

Fire fighters were able to save some of Abu Amar’s harvest, the rest of which was destroyed in the fire set by Itshar settlers.

“They have set fire to my home and land over the past three days, leading to total destruction. The barley is gone and with it the cattle feed,” said Abu Amar.

On the same day Israeli settlers attacked the citizens of the town Aurev in southern Nablus. Palestinians were working on their land not far from the center of town when a group of settlers rushed in. “We were attacked,” a farmer named Ghassan said. These assaults come after repeated attacks on southern Nablus.

Yitzhar is another settlement imposed on the Nablus Governorate in the northern West Bank known as strongholds of extremist settlers who launch these attacks under the protection of the occupying Israeli army.

After the fires on Abu Amar’s land settlers then torched crops in Burin just 12 hours later. “Dozens of dunams of barley crops planted in the eastern region of the town were burned,” the head of the Burin town council said.

Last year Israeli settlers burned 3,500 olive trees belonging to the same town.

Khaled Mansour is with the Public Action Committee of Agricultural Relief and said, “The burning of crops, the destruction of crops, the uprooting of trees and the attacks on famers are familiar behavior and are an organized policy each season.”

Not only do Israeli settlers target Palestinian plants and crops for the summer, but also employ a similar policy in the late fall’s olive harvest. Mansour said in a statement to the press today that such a strategy is used by the Israeli administration to force Palestinians to flee their land and send them to work in settlement factories.

of course, nablus is not the only village subjected to israeli terrorist colonialism. in the southern west bank, too, palestinian farmers and farmland is also under attack as katherine orwell reported for imemc:

Villagers from the Southern West Bank village of Safa, north of Hebron, have tried to harvest their lands that are located closely to the settlement of Beit Ayn, on Saturday morning. The Israeli army violently pushed the villagers of their lands, as settlers were gathering on near by hilltops. Later in the morning settlers came down and attacked a group of women and children, a local witness reported to IMEMC.

A group of internationals and Israelis went along with the villagers to help harvest the land. In the past few weeks there have continuously been problems with the army and settlers from the settlement of Beit Ayn, preventing the people of Safa to access and harvest their land.

During this time of year the people in Safa harvest the grape leaves, an important source of income for the village.

After the harvest started, the army arrived and ordered everyone to leave the lands, as they claimed the land, belonging to the Soleiby family, to be a closed military zone. The army gave the harvesters a ten minutes notice, then proceeded to push the group out by kicking and beating them. Two Israelis, that had joined the harvest, were arrested and taken away by the army.

The army told the people that the settlers were gathering and they were afraid that there might be problems. People in the group responded that the army had to take its responsibility and remove the ones creating the problems, not the ones suffering from it.

Instead soldiers turned up with batons, literally pushing the people off the land with their sticks.

During all that time settlers were watching on top of the hill, screaming racist slogans, such as: “Death to all the Arabs”. After some time the settlers came down the hill into the fields that belong to the village and started throwing stones. A group of 16 settlers attacked three old women and one child that were harvesting the grape leaves. Other settlers took the camera of an Israeli.

you can see some of the aftermath of this rampage on palestine video’s blog where there is afp video footage of this attack.

it is amidst this sort of zionist colonist terrorism that the words of some of these colonists are calling the u.s. terrorists, albeit ironically in this context, for asking the zionist colonial project to “freeze” its settlement expansion:

Israeli settler leaders accused the United Sates of “terrorism” on Monday because of calls for a freeze on construction in West Bank colonies.

“The Americans are employing political terrorism against the State of Israel,” said Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council settler organization, according to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

“Not only is the Obama administration renouncing the commitments made by President George W. Bush in April 2004 – it’s looking as if they regret President Truman’s decision on May 14th 1948 to recognize Israel’s independence.”

In an interview with National Public Radio on Monday, Obama reiterated his view that settlement construction should come to a complete stop. “Part of being a good friend is being honest,” Obama said.

of course it does not matter what the u.s. says, as long as american taxpayers continue to fund these colonies full of terrorist colonists they will continue to destroy palestinian land, homes, and people. today there is a new structure to be built in wadi joz on the land where there is now a palestinian kindergarten:

Israeli authorities approved plans on Tuesday to demolish an East Jerusalem kindergarten and wholesale market in order to make way for a hotel and commercial center.

The plan for the hotel, in the Wadi Joz neighborhood near the Old City, was given a green light by the Jerusalem planning and building committee, which submitted the proposal for public comment, according to the newspaper Haaretz.

the zionist colonists will continue to build illegal colonies as they please as they always have. but they will also continue with their rhetoric about promises and laws when it suits them as donald macintyre reports for the independent about netanyahu’s latest claims:

The Israeli government of Benjmain Netanyahu is seeking to deflect Washington’s demand for a total settlement freeze by complaining that it ignores secret agreements between his predecessors and the Bush administration that construction in existing Jewish settlements could continue.

The rift between Mr Netanyahu’s government and the US appeared to deepen yesterday, with a clear declaration by President Barack Obama that a freeze – including on “natural growth” of West Bank settlements – was among Israeli “obligations”.

there is an interesting documentary on al jazeera’s “people and power” this week called “courtroom intifada” that addresses so many of these issues. juliana ruhfus travels to the palestinian village of bil’in where she shows us the on-going, four-year long struggle of the people in this village have been engaged in as the zionist terrorist colony of modi’in ilit continues to confiscate bil’in’s land. ruhfus takes you on a tour of their weekly protests and their land with mohammad khatib and his mother zahia khatib where an apartheid wall, here in the form of an electronic fence, separates zahia from her 1,000 year old olive trees. she takes you through the zionist terrorist colony where about 41,000 of them live; she takes you there with an israeli colonist named nir shalev who seems to think that before 1967 bil’in was jordan (yes, it was controlled by the hashemite regime, but this land never belonged to jordan). you’ll also see the israeli colonist who is helping people in bil’in with a court case that challenges the corporations profiting from the building of this colony.

the video packs in quite a bit. bottom line, as is made clear in ruhfus’ interviews: these are war crimes. the colonists, the corporations, and the governments funding this will one day receive retribution.

max bluementhal reported on more american complicity in zionist terrorist colonialism this week on the mondoweiss blog showing an american casino in hawaiian gardens (los angeles) that funds these zionist terrorist colonialist activities. here is his report and the video accompanying it, though i continue to have issues with the fact that mondoweiss thinks that 1948 palestine is an entity called “israel.” i, of course, refuse to acknowledge that it has a right to exist on stolen palestinian land. colonies are colonies, period.

A gathering of the settlement movement’s leading figures in Jerusalem on May 22, documented in this exclusive Mondoweiss report, revealed the unprecedented influence of the settlers on Israeli policy. The event, a ceremony for the presentation of the Moskowitz Foundation Prize for Zionism, was organized and bankrolled by one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants and backers, the American casino tycoon Irving Moskowitz. For over a decade, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center.

In 1996, Moskowitz convinced Netanyahu, in his first round as prime minister, to open a tunnel adjacent to the Temple Mount, a controversial act that led to several days of rioting and 70 deaths. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the tunnel set off the so-called Al-Aqsa uprising, the opening salvo of the Second Intifada. Now, Moskowitz’s imprint on the West Bank’s landscape is most clearly reflected in the expansion of the settlement called Kiryat Arba, a hotbed of Orthodox Jewish radicalism located high above the occupied city of Hebron.

Kiryat Arba founder Noam Arnon is the recipient of the 2009 Moskowitz Prize, an honor that included $50,000 in cash. After receiving his prize before a cheering crowd of two thousand settlers, Arnon complained to me, “We think that somehow the Arabs have taken over the international media and the international mood, and they convinced the world to believe that there is a Palestinian people and these people deserve to have a Palestinian state — which is totally untrue.”

Despite the fanaticism of Arnon and his followers, who routinely rampage through Hebron, vandalizing Palestinian homes and attacking local residents (often under the watch of the Israeli army), they are not isolated as a rogue element in Netanyahu’s political world. Indeed, several of notables stood on stage to present Arnon with his prize. They included Professor Moshe Aumann, who won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for his work on understanding conflict through game theory, and Uzi Landau, the Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure. (Landau’s party, Yisrael Beiteynu, has introduced bills that would compel Arab citizens of Israel to take loyalty oaths and which would criminalize open discussion of what the Palestinians call “Nakbah,” or “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding). Also in attendance was Benny Begin, a leading Likud member of Knesset and the son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the first Likud prime minister.

After the ceremony, Landau mingled easily with settlement leaders, who beseeched him for support. Though Landau’s bodyguard attempted to prevent journalists from approaching him, my journalistic colleague Jesse Rosenfeld managed to ask him about Obama’s call for freeze on settlement construction. Visibly irritated by the mention of Obama’s demand, Landau issued an unequivocal statement. “Those who say, or are trying to suggest that Arabs can build anywhere and everywhere, and Jews can’t –it’s something that should be totally rejected.”

Since arriving in Israel, I have observed the battle over settlement expansion from an on-the-ground perspective. On May 16, I traveled with the Israeli peace group Ta’ayush to Hilltop 26, an illegal hilltop outpost constructed by settlers from Kiryat Arba – not an aspect of “natural growth.” Four angry settler youths confronted us upon our arrival; within minutes, a squadron of Israeli border police officers, soldiers and a Kiryat Arba security team were on the scene. The army swiftly issued a “closed military zone order,” ordering us to leave within five minutes or be arrested. While the soldiers initially allowed the settler youth to stay, the presence of international media apparently prompted them to briefly remove the teenagers while allowing their outpost to remain – an act that underscored the army’s collaboration with settlers to stifle the activities of peace groups. (See the confrontation in my exclusive Daily Beast video report here.)

if you saw my photographs from khalil the other day you would know that this zionist terrorist colonist speaking in the video–responsible for the attacks on palestinians and their homes–including setting fire to them–that he and his cohorts are clearly terrorists. and yet in this video notice how he says, “we are the most moderate people.” yes, perhaps, but in my book moderate has become the new dirty word.

on human rights

the united nations human rights council has some new members including the united states, china, and saudi arabia. my first thoughts upon reading this report below was horror that these countries, which consistently violate human rights around the world and within their own borders, would be on such a council. but then again what countries do not? here is the story from al jazeera:

The United States has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, after the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, ended a policy of boycotting it.

China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia, who have all been accused of serious rights violations, were also among the nations elected on Tuesday following a secret ballot.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said that Washington still believed the body to be flawed.

“We are looking forward to working from within with a broad cross-section of member states to strengthen and reform the Human Rights Council.”

The administration of George Bush, the previous US president, had boycotted the council over its criticism of Israel and its failure to cite rights abuses in Sudan and elsewhere.

In March, the Obama administration said it would seek to join the council as part of a “new era of engagement” with the body.

The US was elected alongside Belgium and Norway to join the Western States bloc of nations sitting on the council.

Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Hungary, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uruguay will also join the 47-nation council for a three-year period.

The council was set up three years ago to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, which was widely criticised for failing to overcome political alliances and take a strong stand on issues including China’s rights record.

But the new council has also been criticised by the US for focusing on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians and not taking a strong enough stand against violence in Tibet and Darfur.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the trading of votes for seats on the Human Rights Council as unacceptable.

last night on al jazeera’s “inside story” with lauren taylor there was a discussion about the council, but it is unfortunate that the entire panel was american because it seriously limited the perspective, especially with regard to american human rights violations around the world. they had steve crawsahw of human rights watch (which has its own biases that limit its work to actually fight for human rights), brett schaefer of the heritage foundation, and phyllis bennis of the institute for policy studies. here is the episode:

the premise of their discussion is flawed, for the most part, because they seem to think that there is potential in obama’s administration in being on board. but i would beg to differ. a reminder: the united states boycotted the recent durban 2 world conference against racism. to me this is one clear sign of american behavior on the world stage with respect to human rights. here is haidar eid’s assessment of the americans and others who boycotted and walked out of the durban 2 conference because they are unable to deal with the fact that zionism = racism:

We, Palestinians, are absolutely fed up with the so-called ‘International Community’. Has Durban II been a failure? Well, if we still believe in the role of western governments, especially those with a long colonial legacy, in playing a positive role vis-a-vis the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, we are, then, fooling ourselves. It is the power of people that we must bank on, just as it was in the case of apartheid South Africa, where a sustained global ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign forced the same governments to boycott the Pretoria racist regime. Durban II was a reminder that whether it is Bush, or Obama, the Empire is the same. Patrice Lumumba once said: “I know that history will have its say some day, but it will not be history as written in Brussels, Paris or Washington, it will be our own.”

exactly. bush or obama it is the same. especially for foreign policy issues. another article by haidar from the socialist worker, which examines obama’s complicity with zionist terrorist war crimes in palestine, and obama’s silence over those war crimes gives yet another reason why the united states cannot be a credible member of a human rights council:

On April 17, there was an incident in Bil’in, in which a Palestinian youngster was shot dead. On the same day, another Palestinian was shot dead in Hebron. That was at the same time Mitchell was visiting Tel Aviv.

But unfortunately, the complicit silence from Obama’s White House continues. This has accompanied the cutoff of medicine, food and fuel to a starving Gaza. Patients in need of dialysis and other urgent medical treatment are dying every single day. A majority of us here in Gaza are badly undernourished. But not a single word of condemnation from the Obama administration.

on the home front–in the land of american settler colonialism–obama still has refused to come out in favor of a united nations resolution that would recognize the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. haidar rizvi reported on this for common dreams a couple of weeks ago:

The United States is considering whether to endorse a major U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the recognition of the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples over their lands and resources.

“The position on [this issue] is under review,” Patrick Ventrell, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N., told IPS about the Barack Obama administration’s stance on the non-binding U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Approved by a vast majority of the U.N. member states in September 2007, the General Assembly resolution on the declaration was rejected by the George W. Bush administration over indigenous leaders’ argument that no economic or political power has the right to exploit their resources without seeking their “informed consent.”

Three other “settler nations” of European descent, namely Canada, New Zealand and Australia, also voted against the declaration, which states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their cultures and remain on their land.

However, last month, the new left-leaning government in Canberra reversed its position, announcing support for the declaration.

“We show our respect for indigenous peoples,” said Jenny Macklin, a member of the Australian parliament. “We show our faith in a new era of relations between states and indigenous peoples in good faith.”

The new government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also offered an apology to the indigenous communities who suffered at the hands of European settlers for decades.

Indigenous rights activists in the United States say they want the new liberal democratic government in Washington to make a similar move to address the grievances of native communities who have long been subjected to abuse and discrimination.

“The U.S. [should] become a resolute supporter of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” argued James Polk, who writes for Foreign Policy in Focus, a progressive periodical published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

“It’s a comprehensive document that affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, and that, in the exercise of their rights, they should be free from their discrimination,” he added.

The declaration reflects growing concerns of aboriginal communities about the continued exploitation of their resources and suppression of their cultural vales and practices by commercial concerns and governments that are alien to their cultures.

in new orelans, obama is also continuing the bush-era policy of denying rights of residents who are victims of the manmade disaster otherwise known as hurricane katrina as glen ford points out in the black agenda report this week:

The line between Bush and Obama has not simply blurred in New Orleans: it has disappeared.” President Obama has adopted, in whole, the Bush approach to rebuilding the city – minus the Black Diaspora that was scattered to the winds in 2005. Notices of eviction have been served on the mostly elderly and Black inhabitants of 3,000 FEMA trailers. The Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development is putting the finishing touches on public housing demolition in the city. Not a single “Katrina Cottage” has been made ready for occupancy. Obama no more favors the “right to return” to – or remain in – New Orleans, than Bush did.

and in america’s client regimes in its imperial role is another reason why the united states does not deserve a seat on a council for human rights. margaret kimberley’s article in today’s black agenda report addresses the violations of afghanistan and pakistan on obama’s watch:

Obama always knows how to make the terrible sound benevolent. In this case he says that we “must defeat al-Qaeda.” Most Americans had never heard of the word al-Qaeda until September 11, 2001 and will forever connect it with the death of 3,000 people. It is useful for Obama to phrase his assault in terms that will win him popular approval.

The Obama administration has openly undermined Ali Asif Zardari, the elected Pakistani president. Zardari’s main claim to legitimacy comes via his in-laws, the Bhutto family. If he were not Benazir Bhutto’s widower, this convicted embezzler, known as Mr. 10%, would not be president. Nevertheless, he is the president of a country that is allegedly an ally, and he should be treated with the respect he is due.

Yet the New York Times reports that Zardari has been told that his opposition will be courted and if necessary put into power with him if he balks at slaughtering his people on Washington’s command. In his 100 days press conference, Obama made himself crystal clear. “We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”
Not only are we supposed to be whipped into a frenzy at the very mention of words like al-Qaeda and Taliban, but we are now supposed to believe that Pakistan is on the verge of a mysterious “collapse” and that its nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists who will carry them around in briefcases, as in the plots of Hollywood thrillers. Zardari gets the thumb screw treatment, and we get outright lies.

“Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, is equally hapless and helpless in keeping his people safe from the demands of the United States. He has long complained about civilian deaths caused by attacks on the Taliban and he repeated himself in vain on Meet the Press. “Our villages are not where the terrorists are. And that’s what we kept telling the U.S. administration, that the war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, not in the Afghan homes. Respect that. Civilian casualties are undermining support in the Afghan people for the war on terrorism and for the, the, the relations with America. How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?” Obviously, such a people will not remain friendly but that has never been America’s concern. National Security Adviser James Jones said as much. “We can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

Once again the United States repeats its long history of killing people and claiming it is for their own good. Afghanistan and Pakistan are just the latest on that awful list. While that dynamic doesn’t change, neither will the reaction of people around the world. They do hate us, and they have good reason to do so.

and under obama it seems the united states is continuing its policy of deporting haitians, including those seeking refuge from the recent devastating hurricanes as maria sacchetti reports in common dreams:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representatives Barney Frank and Stephen Lynch are urging the Department of Homeland Security to grant Haitians temporary protected status, and Lynch cosponsored a bill that would force Secretary Janet Napolitano to take the step if she does not act on her own. The status would allow Haitian immigrants, legal and illegal, to remain here and work for a fixed amount of time.

State Representative Marie St. Fleur, who was born in Haiti, visited that country this spring and then met with White House aides on the issue last month. In January, Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph took it even further, by stalling deportations to Haiti. He refused to provide deportees’ travel documents until the Obama administration reviews its policy on Haiti.

“Anyone who requests a paper from us is not getting it,” he said Friday.

Last month Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti and said the US government was reviewing its policy on granting Haitian immigrants temporary protected status.

But Napolitano, who has the granting authority, has stayed silent. Deportations halted last year after the hurricanes, but have resumed, including a plane filled with 48 convicted criminals who were deported to Haiti last month, said her spokesman Sean Smith.

Frank said Friday that the US policy is discriminatory. The government now provides temporary protection to five countries – El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Sudan – but it has never offered it to Haiti.

and most recent, though by no means final, reason for the united states to be banned from any human rights council check out this latest news about obama blocking the publication of photographs of american torture as the bbc reports:

US President Barack Obama has changed his mind and will now attempt to block the publication of photographs showing the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers.

The US government had previously said it would not fight a court ruling ordering the release of the pictures.

Mr Obama now believes the release of the photos would make the job of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan more difficult, White House officials said.

The pictures were due to be released by 28 May, according to the court ruling.

The court order was issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in September 2008, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

i could go on and on, but this entire blog is documentation for american human rights violations at home and abroad. enough said.

on nonviolence or where is the palestinian gandhi?

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

a couple of days ago my friend huwaida arraf published an op ed in the seattle times that raised an important issue for americans: the age old question of wondering where palestinian “gandhis” are. it is a problematic question for many reasons not the least of which is that there are many as she explains:

We Palestinians are often asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is and urged to adopt nonviolent methods in our struggle for freedom from Israeli military rule. On April 17, an Israeli soldier killed my good friend Bassem Abu Rahme at a nonviolent demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. Bassem was one of many Palestinian Gandhis.

One month prior, at another demonstration against land confiscation, Israeli soldiers fired a tear-gas canister at the head of nonviolent American peace activist Tristan Anderson from California. Tristan underwent surgery to remove part of his frontal lobe and is still lying unconscious in an Israeli hospital. In 2003, the Israeli military plowed down American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect a civilian home from demolition in Gaza. Shortly thereafter, an Israeli sniper shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall as he rescued Palestinian children from Israeli gunfire. He lay in a coma for nine months before he died.

rory mccarthy wrote about the murder of bassem abu rahme yesterday in the guardian as well in the context of the weekly nonviolent protests in bil’in village, though mccarthy’s judgmental tone at palestinians who throw stones at israeli terrorists lobbing american-made tear gas canisters (produced at the new jersey based u.s. federal laboratories) and rubber-coated steel bullets at palestinians is problematic:

Friday’s demonstration lasted around three hours. The crowd repeatedly surged towards the fence, then retreated under clouds of teargas. The military sounded a constant, high-pitched siren, interspersed with warnings in Arabic and Hebrew: “Go back. You with the flag, go back” and, incongruously, in English: “You are entering a naval vessel exclusion zone. Reverse course immediately.”

The Bil’in demonstration was always intended to be non-violent, although on Friday, as is often the case, there were half a dozen younger, angrier men lobbing stones at the soldiers with slingshots. The Israeli military, for its part, fires teargas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and sometimes live ammunition at the crowd.

There have long been Palestinian advocates of non-violence, but they were drowned out by the militancy of the second intifada, the uprising that began in late 2000 and erupted into waves of appalling suicide bombings.

Eyad Burnat, 36, has spent long hours in discussions with the young men of Bil’in, a small village of fewer than 2,000, convincing them of the merits of “civil grassroots resistance”.

there are so many problems with these various critiques of palestinians, usually made by foreigners, about palestinians’ right to armed resistance. for one thing the question that never goes away that huwaida asks–where is the palestinian gandhi–is completely ahistorical. indians did not win independence solely based on nonviolent resistance. there was a long history of armed resistance against the british before gandhi took center stage as radhika sainath explains in the electronic intifada:

In Gaza, Palestinians have once again been blamed for their own deaths. The British made a similar argument 151 years ago when they killed thousands of Indian civilians — 1,200 in a single village — in response to the largest anti-colonial uprising of the 19th century. If Israel truly desires peace with the Palestinians and safety for its citizens, it should look back to one of the greatest, and misunderstood, independence movements in history.

Most people believe India won its independence from the British exclusively through Gandhi’s famous strategy of nonviolence. They’re wrong; armed resistance has deep roots in India. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, Hindus and Muslims serving in the infantry for the British East Indian Company revolted against the British Empire, killing British officers and civilians alike. While the majority of these cavalrymen were Hindu, Muslims also partook in the rebellion. These Muslim fighters called themselves “jihadis” and even “suicide ghazis.”

The British quashed the revolt, but for the next 90 years Indian violence, even terrorism, in response continued. In the early 20th century, Indian militants, frustrated with the Congress party — the party of Gandhi and Nehru — regularly resorted to acts of violence to overthrow the British. Official government reports note 210 “revolutionary outrages” and at least 1,000 “terrorists” involved in more than 101 attempted attacks between 1906 and 1917 in the state of Bengal alone (see Peter Heehs, “Terrorism in India During the Freedom Struggle,” The Historian, 22 March 1993). One young revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, later referred to as “Shaheed” Bhagat Singh, bombed the Legislative Assembly in 1929.

On the other hand, Palestinians are usually portrayed in Israel and the West as exclusively militants or terrorists. Yet Palestinians have a vibrant, albeit unsuccessful, history of nonviolent resistance. In 1936, the Palestinians maintained a six-month general strike, the beginning of what became known as the Great Arab Revolt. The British retaliated by declaring martial law, jailing and killing large numbers of Palestinians, and destroying numerous Palestinian homes. The revolt lasted for three years and was the largest and longest anti-colonial uprising in the British Empire.

all of this is making me think of rachel corrie, perhaps because i am teaching her play, my name is rachel corrie, in my drama class. to be sure, i taught fateh azzam’s ansar: the true story of an israeli military detention center and el funoun’s from haifa to beirut and beyond first so that my students had an opportunity to read and consider palestinian theatre first. i do not approve of people just privileging the white man’s perspective, as it were, over palestinians’ perspectives. and my students, until this semester, have never encountered drama written and produced by palestinians so this was important for me to do. but i also think reading corrie’s play is useful for a number of reasons not the least of which is its context as a play that was censored in the united states and the context of the international action revolving around boycotting caterpillar in relation to corrie’s death as well as so many palestinians who have died at the hands of american-made caterpillar d-9 bulldozers and whose homes have been destroyed as well. more on that shortly. but i want to first share a part of a monologue from the play that is supposed to be an email that corrie sends home to her mother who, at the time, had asked her about palestinian violence and whose email seemed to be alluding to that age-old question about the palestinian gandhi:

So when someone says that any act of Palestinian violence justifies Israel’s actions not only do I question that logic in light of international law and the right of people to legitimate armed struggle in defence of their land and their families; not only do I question that logic in light of the fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits collective punishment, prohibits the transfer of an occupying country’s population into an occupied area, prohibits the expropriation of water resources and the destruction of civilian infrastructure such as farms; not only do I question that logic in light of the notion that fifty-year-old Russian guns and homemade explosives can have any impact on the activities of one of the world’s largest militaries, backed by the world’s only superpower, I also question that logic on the basis of common sense.

If any of us had our lives and our welfare completely strangled and lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment with no means of economic survival and our houses demolished; if they came and destroyed all the greenhouses that we’d been cultivating for the last however long do you not think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves the best they could?

You asked me about non-violent resistance, and I mentioned the first intifada. The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance. (48)

unfortunately, organizations like human rights watch feed into this point of view by alternately perpetuating the idea that palestinians do not have a right to armed resistance or by suggesting that there is somehow an equal playing field for palestinians resisting israeli colonialism.

in an article in electronic intifada from a few years ago, jonathan cook offers an important critique of human rights watch, one that he repeats in his amazing book disappearing palestine. the article is a critique of a report by human rights watch denying palestinians the right to non-violent resistance by women and children congregating in large numbers around buildings suspected of being targets of israeli terrorism in order to prevent the bombardment. here is cook’s critique of human rights watch’s denial of palestinian resistance–whether armed or nonviolent:

In language that would have made George Orwell shudder, one of the world’s leading organisations for the protection of human rights ignored the continuing violation of the Palestinians’ right to security and a roof over their heads and argued instead: “There is no excuse for calling [Palestinian] civilians to the scene of a planned [Israeli] attack. Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful.”

On HRW’s interpretation, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be war criminals. There is good reason to believe that this reading of international law is wrong, if not Kafkaesque. Popular and peaceful resistance to the oppressive policies of occupying powers and autocratic rulers, in India and South Africa for example, has always been, by its very nature, a risky venture in which civilians are liable to be killed or injured. Responsibility for those deaths must fall on those doing the oppressing, not those resisting, particularly when they are employing nonviolent means. On HRW’s interpretation, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be war criminals.

cook goes on to provide some advice to human rights watch and some context for why their reports are so often biased in favor of the colonizing apartheid zionist entity. he thinks about this in terms of priorities, context, and like corrie, common sense:

Priorities: Every day HRW has to choose which of the many abuses of international law taking place around the world it highlights. It manages to record only a tiny fraction of them. The assumption of many outsiders may be that it focuses on only the most egregious examples. That would be wrong.

The simple truth is that the worse a state’s track record on human rights, the easier ride it gets, relatively speaking, from human rights organisations. That is both because, if abuses are repeated often enough, they become so commonplace as to go unremarked, and because, if the abuses are wide-ranging and systematic, only a small number of the offences will be noted.

Israel, unlike the Palestinians, benefits in both these respects.

Context: The actions of Palestinians occur in a context in which all of their rights are already under the control of their occupier, Israel, and can be violated at its whim. This means that it is problematic, from a human rights perspective, to place the weight of culpability on the Palestinians without laying far greater weight at the same time on the situation to which the Palestinians are reacting.

Here is an example. HRW and other human rights organisations have taken the Palestinians to task for the extrajudicial killings of those suspected of collaborating with the Israeli security forces.

Although it is blindingly obvious that the lynching of an alleged collaborator is a violation of that person’s fundamental right to life, HRW’s position of simply blaming the Palestinians for this practice raises two critical problems.

First, it fudges the issue of accountability.

In the case of a “targeted assassination”, Israel’s version of extrajudicial killing, we have an address to hold accountable: the apparatus of a state in the forms of the Israeli army which carried out the murder and the Israeli politicians who approved it. (These officials are also responsible for the bystanders who are invariably killed along with the target.)

Palestinians carrying out a lynching are committing a crime punishable under ordinary domestic law; while the Israeli army carrying out a “targeted assassination” is committing state terrorism, which must be tried in the court of world opinion. But unless it can be shown that the lynchings are planned and coordinated at a high level, a human rights organisation cannot apply the same standards by which it judges a state to a crowd of Palestinians, people gripped by anger and the thirst for revenge. The two are not equivalent and cannot be held to account in the same way.

Second, HRW’s position ignores the context in which the lynching takes place.

The Palestinian resistance to occupation has failed to realise its goals mainly because of Israel’s extensive network of collaborators, individuals who have usually been terrorised by threats to themselves or their family and/or by torture into “co-operating” with Israel’s occupation forces.

The great majority of planned attacks are foiled because one member of the team is collaborating with Israel. He or she not only sabotages the attack but often also gives Israel the information it needs to kill the leaders of the resistance (as well as bystanders). Collaborators, though common in the West Bank and Gaza, are much despised — and for good reason. They make the goal of national liberation impossible.

Palestinians have been struggling to find ways to make collaboration less appealing. When the Israeli army is threatening to jail your son, or refusing a permit for your wife to receive the hospital treatment she needs, you may agree to do terrible things. Armed groups and many ordinary Palestinians countenance the lynchings because they are seen as a counterweight to Israel’s own powerful techniques of intimidation — a deterrence, even if a largely unsuccessful one.

In issuing a report on the extra-judicial killing of Palestinian collaborators, therefore, groups like HRW have a duty to highlight first and with much greater emphasis the responsibility of Israel and its decades-long occupation for the lynchings, as the context in which Palestinians are forced to mimic the barbarity of those oppressing them to stand any chance of defeating them.

The press release denouncing the Palestinians for choosing collectively and peacefully to resist house demolitions, while not concentrating on the violations committed by Israel in destroying the houses and using military forms of intimidation and punishment against civilians, is a travesty for this very same reason.

Common sense: And finally human rights organisations must never abandon common sense, the connecting thread of our humanity, when making judgments about where their priorities lie.

In the past few months Gaza has sunk into a humanitarian disaster engineered by Israel and the international community. What has been HRW’s response? It is worth examining its most recent reports, those on the front page of the Mideast section of its website last week, when the latest press release was issued. Four stories relate to Israel and Palestine.

Three criticise Palestinian militants and the wider society in various ways: for encouraging the use of “human shields”, for firing home-made rockets into Israel, and for failing to protect women from domestic violence. One report mildly rebukes Israel, urging the government to ensure that the army properly investigates the reasons for the shelling that killed 19 Palestinian inhabitants of Beit Hanoun.

This shameful imbalance, both in the number of reports being issued against each party and in terms of the failure to hold accountable the side committing the far greater abuses of human rights, has become the HRW’s standard procedure in Israel-Palestine.

But in its latest release, on human shields, HRW plumbs new depths, stripping Palestinians of the right to organise nonviolent forms of resistance and seek new ways of showing solidarity in the face of illegal occupation. In short, HRW treats the people of Gaza as mere rats in a laboratory — the Israeli army’s view of them — to be experimented on at will.

HRW’s priorities in Israel-Palestine prove it has lost its moral bearings.

i think that cook’s analysis is important as human rights watch has done little to change its ways in the past few years. for one thing human rights watch is repeating this phenomenon with its latest report on hamas warning them to stop killings and torture. but if you read the report, which i refuse to quote here, you see none of the above critiques taken into consideration (and for the record i know that people at human rights watch do read cook’s writing). there is no context, no common sense, and no sense of priorities. in the midst of massive, daily human rights violations against palestinians by israeli terrorists, human rights watch chooses to write about this. moreover, if they used their reports in a way that would push for palestinians to liberate their land and achieve a just freedom this issue could hopefully solve itself.

for instance, what makes one become a collaborator in the first place–the origin of the issue in the human rights watch report on hamas. israeli terrorists force palestinians into positions of collaboration for many reasons: to get out of prison, to see a loved one in prison, to go to al quds to pray, to go to an israeli terrorist hospital, to travel to jordan, to access your land, to keep your house from being demolished. many of these things can be arranged–albeit temporarily–by agreeing to become a collaborator. on al jazeera ayman mohyeldin reported on one of these recent phenomenons of fishermen in gaza being recruited and pressured by israeli terrorists to become collaborators:

still the question for me that persists is why human rights watch chooses to focus on a palestinian so-called violation without contextualizing it and at the expense of the daily violations against palestinians by the zionist entity. one of those violations is collective punishment–oftentimes in the form of punitive house demolitions as marian houk explains in electronic intifada:

According to ICAHD, “house demolitions are clearly a case of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law, in particular Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).”

In the year 2000, Ir Amim reported, there were only nine house demolitions in East Jerusalem — after “then-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek announced that he would refrain from most demolitions in East Jerusalem, saying in effect that it was not right to punish people for building illegally when they were not permitted to build legally.” However, Ir Amim says, “there are in excess of 1,500 outstanding judicial demolition orders that have been issued but not yet executed … these orders never expire, and tens of thousands of residents in East Jerusalem live in perpetual fear that they may awake to the sound of bulldozers on any given morning. Consequently … every demolition understandably evokes widespread fear throughout East Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem’s new mayor, Nir Barakat, has vowed to carry out home demolition orders vigorously, under the guise of implementing the “rule of law.”

According to B’Tselem, some 688 Palestinian houses were demolished in East Jerusalem alone between 1999 and 2008, the majority by the Jerusalem municipality, the rest by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. At least another 207 Palestinian homes were destroyed in East Jerusalem between 1988 and 1998 — and three years of data are missing for that decade.

Thousands of Palestinian homes have also been demolished in Gaza, although Israel claims this in most cases this was done for reasons of “military necessity.” In addition, 4,000 buildings were destroyed (and tens of thousands damaged) in various operations before and after Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza, including during the recent invasion.

The Jerusalem Post recently reported that the Israeli army was very pleased with the performance of unmanned D-9 bulldozers that were used in the Gaza Strip during the closing days of the Gaza invasion. D-9s are huge machines built by the Caterpillar Corporation and then armored by Israeli Military Industries. It was reported in 2003 that work was beginning on the development of a version that can be operated unmanned by remote control — but their use has never previously been confirmed and an Israeli army spokesperson stated to this reporter that “its general policy is not to discuss the type of weapons we used.”

During her recent visit to the region, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was widely quoted as saying that demolition and eviction orders were “unhelpful.” But she was speaking about pending demolition and eviction orders issued against hundreds of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — 88 in the Silwan neighborhood alone, just outside the walls of the Old City in East Jerusalem, to make way for what one Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinian rights called a “Jewish theme park.”

caterpillar bulldozer in the mikfiyya neighborhood of nablus
caterpillar bulldozer in the mikfiyya neighborhood of nablus

a related issue to all of this is the nonviolent boycott campaign targeting a number of companies, including caterpillar. the stop caterpillar campaign asks people to not buy caterpillar products, to divest from them among other activities because of the way this company profits as a result of destroying palestinian homes and murdering palestinian people. yet i always find it strange how prevalent caterpillar bulldozers are in palestine. the photograph above i took while i walked to school yesterday, but i could have taken it in any number of locations around the west bank of palestine. and it is not just the bulldozer itself. it is the clothes, too.

caterpillar shoes for sale in the old city of nablus
caterpillar shoes for sale in the old city of nablus

the photograph above, like the bulldozer itself, is ubiquitous here in palestine. i could have taken that same photo in any clothing shop anywhere around palestine. and this is frustrating. but it seems to me that the reason for this disconnection is part branding and part unconsciousness about connecting the dots. my students, for instance, yesterday know the clothes as “cat” but the bulldozers as “caterpillar” and thus don’t connect the two, even though the logo is the same. but also even though students see the caterpillar d9 bulldozers on television and know what they do to palestinian people and houses they don’t connect this with their own practices, with boycott. it is strange for me that they cannot see the irony in the fact that the same bulldozer company vehicles that destroy palestinian lives every day are also used to build palestinian homes, which will likely, one day be destroyed by yet another caterpillar bulldozer.

this is, of course, only one of many human rights violations that palestinians must live with on a daily basis. there are rarely any international reports on such violations, for many of the reasons cook makes clear. but there is a great desire to resist by any means necessary: both armed resistance and nonviolent resistance. the two exist together in any struggle for liberation whether india or south africa. but what i want to know is while westerners persist in asking ad nauseum “where is the palestinian gandhi?” why don’t they ask where is the zionist f.w. de klerk?

on buying local, branding, & boycott

dsc099981

this is how i often buy my milk, yogurt, and labne. a lovely man from a nearby village comes to my neighborhood every morning with his donkey. he shouts “laban” and you know he is here (there is a helpful echo that means his voice carries through the buildings). as a part of boycotting i try to support local farmers as much as possible. this means that i always ask questions about where the food is grown–the exact village–before i buy it. unfortunately, this means the huge fruit and vegetable market in downtown nablus is off limits. most of their food is from the colonizing israelis. but there are fruit and vegetable stands in the old city of nablus who only sell baladi produce. finding baladi food is not difficult, it just means entering into conversations with the merchant. but, of course, i always prefer to buy local. to support the fellaheen as much as possible.

my friends anne and jesse who live in shefa amr have a great new blog about living in 1948 palestine. they, too, work really hard to boycott israeli colonial products even while living in their midst–a difficult task to be sure, but one they have found ways around. it is worth reading their whole post, but here is the part relevant to what i’m talking about:

We are continuing to look for ways to eat locally produced food in Palestine. Of course because it supports farmers and the local economy and tastes better, but also because we spend less money on Israeli products. There is one Israeli dairy company, TNUVA, which accounts for 70% of the dairy products bought in Israel. Milk, eggs and cheese. All commodity production. All grain feed. Full of hormones and antibiotics. Imagining a cow’s stomach twisting around its other organs in order to digest corn feed, all while living in a CAFO is not the dairy industry I want to support. When we first arrived, we simply avoided milk and bought cheese from a small Palestinian producer in a nearby village. Then we discovered the ease to which we could find Helib Baladi (literally, milk from the country) at a nearby butcher. So every week we pick up a few liters of fresh sheep’s milk. We get to know the butcher and circumvent the Israeli commodity system.

this is the sort of thing we need to be focusing on: buying local. of course, i have a hierarchy when i shop. 1) local palestinian products; 2) palestinian products from companies; 3) arab products; 4) european products; 5) american products. living here, i never have and have never needed to buy anything from israeli colonists. there are people working on boycott at the institutional level, and while i support these efforts, i remain suspicious given that all the big palestinian businessmen have interests in the palestinian authority. but here is some news about organizing in qalqilia from ma’an:

The Palestinian Popular Committee for boycotting Israeli products visited the West Bank city of Qalqiliya to promote its renewed campaign.

The campaign recently redoubled its efforts in the northern West Bank, in hopes of convincing 50 localities to participate in the boycott. The strategy of the boycott is to deprive the Israeli occupation of economic support by refusing to buy its products.

Members of the Committee visited offices of the ministries of Religious Affairs and Education. They met with director of the Ministry of Education office in Qalqiliya, Yousif Uda and agreed with him that schools organize activities to explain about divestment.

They also visited the union of pharmacists and met with its head Raed Wilwil. Another visit was paid to the union of physicians. According to members of the committee, all expressed willingness to cooperate with the campaign.

Representatives of the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) in Qalqiliya welcomed the campaign and applauded the organizers from represent six local organizations:

1 – Agricultural Relief represented in the campaign by Khalid Mansour.
2 – Youth Development Society represented by Walid Jibreel.
3 – Union of farmers represented by Amjad Omar.
4 – Union of Savings and Loans Societies represented by Wafa Juda and Basima Shawahna.
5- Rural women development society represented by Nihaya Abu Ruweis and Raghda Sabri.
6 – Agricultural Charity represented by Ammar Huwari and Mahmoud Younis.

the educational aspects are so essential and i cannot stress this enough. i went to a market near the university after school because i often buy my groceries there during the week. the market has way too much stuff from israeli colonists for my liking and i comment on that every time i go. but they also have unique stuff i cannot find anywhere else like masafi juice, which i love because it has no sugar in it. normally the water is just palestinian water. i don’t drink bottled water so i don’t usually focus on it when i shop, but today i noticed they had two new brands: ghadeer from jordan and an israeli colonial water product. i don’t really see why we need to be importing jordanian water given that there are two palestinian companies bottling water. (and in general i don’t see the point of drinking bottled water here in the first place.) but i was so pissed when i saw the israeli colonial water. i asked why they added this product to their stock and the clerk told me, “it’s not israeli, it’s from a settlement.” mish ma’oul! as if that is somehow better?! i was so shocked i didn’t know what to say.

the other day pulse published a video on their blog from europalestine about a new french initiative that should be duplicated in every city–including here in palestine! watch the video below and see this amazing demonstration:

Viva la France … EuroPalestine activists take it to the supermarket aisles. The solidarity whistling of this boycott army will put a smile on your face. Never mind not understanding French. The actions are loud and clear.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "ACTION BOYCOTT ISRAEL", posted with vodpod

but i want to just say that this philosophy of buying local is not specific to palestine. it is something that people should do everywhere for health reasons, for economic reasons, and yes, for political reasons. trying to stay away from corporate, capitalist greed by any means necessary is always the best way of operating in every situation. here is an article by andrea whitfil on alternet that is important reading for american socially and environmentally conscious consumers. it seems that many of the brands that we know and love have been gobbled up by bigger corporations. her article should be read in full, but here are the main disturbing findings:

Needless to say, I was shocked when I recently found out that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox, a massive corporate company that has historically cared very little about the environment, but whose main industry is directly associated with harmful chemicals, some of which require warning labels for legal sale.

Clorox; yes, that’s right — the bleach company with an estimated revenue of $ 4.8 billion that employs nearly 7,600 workers (now bees) and sells products like Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol and Armor All, a far cry from the origins of Burt….

Well, no more. My bathroom assessments will never be the same. Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, a massive, tanklike company with an estimated 36,000 employees and revenue of approximately $11.4 billion. Its big products include: Ajax, Anbesol and Speedstick….

In the dairy section sit many flavors of Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt. I knew its socially conscious CEO, Gary Hirshberg, had created major organic brand recognition to become the No. 1 seller of organic yogurt in the United States, but since then Danone, the French conglomerate (which also owns Brown Cow), acquired a majority holding in Stoneyfield. This is the same Danone that had to recall large quantities of its yogurt in 2007 after it was found to contain unsafe levels of dioxins. (In an interesting twist, the still-active Hirshberg sits on the board of Dannon U.S.A. Unlike most of the early entrepreneurs, who took the dough and left the scene, Hirshberg is still involved. )

Meanwhile, I learned that Horizon Organic milk was bought out by the largest diary company in the U.S., Dean Foods Co., in 2005.

Next I ventured to the juice section. Drinking Odwalla juices was an expensive habit I had justified for years because of its healthy California brand. The ubiquitous refrigerators in thousands of stores should have given it away that Odwalla wasn’t the small company it once was. It is now owned by Coca-Cola. Almost as soon as Coca-Cola bought the company, back in 2001 for $181 million, it stopped selling the fresh-squeezed OJ that had made Odwalla famous and popular among the healthy set. With its massive distribution system, fresh squeezed wouldn’t last the days and weeks the juices are in transit or on the shelf.

Not to be outdone (although it took it a while), Pepsi bought Naked Juice in 2006 for $450 million, in order to compete with Odwalla. Smuckers, the brand we are told is the “brand we can trust”, grabbed several juice mainstays from the health food store shelves: After the fall — R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic.

Turns out that Coca-Cola also owns Glaceau, the company once known for its “fresh new approach to bottled water that is inspired by nature and enhanced by science.” Glaceau is the maker of Vitamin Water, Fruit Water, Smart Water and Vitamin Energy — all bottled waters that are adorably marketed and loaded with sugar. It’s no wonder Coca-Cola was slapped with a lawsuit in 2006 for making deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims in its Vitamin Water marketing strategies; they are selling glorified sugar water….

And as Michael Blanding notes on AlterNet, “In fact, many times bottled water is tap water. Contrary to the image of water flowing from pristine mountain springs, more than a quarter of bottled water actually comes from municipal water supplies. The industry is dominated by three companies, who together control more than half the market: Coca-Cola, which produces Dasani; Pepsi, which produces Aquafina; and Nestle, which produces several “local” brands, including Poland Spring, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ozarka and Calistoga. Both Coke and Pepsi exclusively use tap water for their sources, while Nestle uses tap water in some brands….

Over in the breakfast aisle, my friend was a bit apoplectic when we learned that the “super healthy” Kashi cereals, the favorites of millions of healthy breakfast eaters, was bought in July 2000 for an “undisclosed sum” by Kellogg’s, the 12th-largest company in North American food sales, according to Food Processing. I picked up a box of Kashi’s “Go Lean Crunch” and searched every word; not one mention of the fact that Kellogg’s owns them. That change was rally below the radar. In 2004, Kraft Foods, known for processed cheeses and Kool-Aid, bought the natural cereal maker Back to Nature. Kraft is a subsidiary of Altria, which also owns Philip Morris USA, one of the world’s largest producers of cigarettes….

A little more digging shows that General Mills owns Cascadian Farm; Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix, the leading British cereal company, which is owned by a private investment firm in England; Mother’s makes it clear that it is owned by Quaker Oats (which is owned by PepsiCo); Health Valley and Arrowhead Mills are owned by Hain Celestial Group, a natural food company traded on the NASDAQ, with H.J. Heinz owning 16 percent of that company.

After the Kashi news, I wondered what was next? I didn’t have to go any further than the organic chocolate aisle of my favorite deli to find Green and Black’s organic chocolate was taken over in 2005 by Schweppes, the 10th-largest company in North American packaged-food sales. And even more surprising to chocolate lovers is that Dagoba Chocolate, which had a little cult chocolate following for a while, is surprise, surprise, owned by Hershey Foods….

just a reminder: many of these american products should be boycotted because they heavily invest in israeli terrorism. those companies, which have now swallowed up companies many progressives and radicals may purchase, should be added to the boycott list. kraft (phillip morris, malboro cigarettes), nestle coca cola, pepsi, all bolded above.

one other interesting tidbit on the level about the way that israeli colonialism infests the palestinian economy. a friend told me today that a friend of hers who is a tax inspector was looking at a shipment on a truck. that shipment had on it products made here in nablus and was heading to some unknown israeli colonial location. what was on this truck? the uniforms for israeli terrorists. yes, that’s right, it seems that at least some of those uniforms are sewn right here in nablus.

and it seems that the israeli colonists are trying to be clever now as they grow more aware of the boycott here. those of us working on the boycott got our university cafeteria to stop using israeli colonial ketchup. they switched to a brand from oman. however, this week there was a new brand. it had hebrew writing on it so i complained. they told me, “no, this is from ramallah.” so i looked at the back and sure enough, in english, it said it was made in bil’in, a village near ramallah. today my friend and tried calling the numbers–both a land line and a cell phone line–to see if it is really made in palestine, or just packaged here, or what. neither number works.

the wall comes down…and the bombs continue to fall on gaza

gaza-2

i have been watching al jazeera’s hoda ab del hamid report from an area near “sderot,” that zionist settlement on the village of najd near gaza. behind her are a series of tanks preparing for a ground invasion. this is horrifying in and of itself. but what is even more horrific is the fact that the israeli terrorist forces (itf) were singing and dancing behind her while the journalist was giving her report. meanwhile the gaza strip has continued to be besieged all day long. and there does not seem to be any end in sight:

and yet al jazeera continues to give voice to israeli terrorists propagating lies in the midst of the civilian carnage facilitated by american-made materiel:

if you want to understand, very simply, very powerfully what the israeli terrorists mean when they say “hamas terrorist” just check this simple, brief post from angry arab today, who, like the rest of us, is particularly enraged today. as well we should all be.

there was another airstrike by the itf just now. and in the past few hours they besieged the rafah border with aerial bombardment because of the tunnels located there. the essential tunnels bringing much needed basic supplies as well as resistance weapons:

Shells hit Gaza tunnels Sunday evening killing two, injuring 22 and prompting hundreds to race for the new gaps in Egypt’s border wall. Refugees were met with Egyptian security who used force to repel crowds.

The airstrikes damaged the border wall between Egypt and Gaza and at least 40 tunnels, which bring food and fuel into the coastal area. Much of the fuel caught fire during the attacks and large fires broke out along the border.

The chaos provided cover for hundreds of tunnel workers and Rafah residents to attempt an escape from the bombarded Strip.

Early reports say no Palestinians made it over the border wall.

The strikes mark the 36 hour point in the Israeli Operation Cast Lead, which has seen 295 killed and close to 900 injured.

but a few minutes ago i just got an email stating that the wall has come down yet again:

The wall between Gaza and Egypt has been torn down, according to International Human Rights Observers witnessing and documenting the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

British International Solidarity Movement activist, Jenny Linnel, was in Yibnah Camp in Rafah, and confirmed that the Palestinian resistance has torn down the wall that separates Gazan Rafah from Egyptian Rafah.

“They have blown up part of the wall. The Israeli’s bombed the border half an hour ago. Soon after there was a loud explosion and the wall came down. Hundreds have passed through the border,” says Linnel.

“We heard shooting and we have seen an ambulance. We have heard that someone is hurt. People are saying that the Egyptians have been shooting at people crossing the border.”

Human Rights Defenders from various countries are present in Gaza and are witnessing and documenting the current Israeli attacks. Due to Israel’s policy of denying access to the Occupied Gaza Strip for international media, human rights activists and aid agencies, they have arrived in the strip on the Free Gaza Movement’s boats. These voyages have repeatedly broken the Israeli blockade .

meanwhile protests continue here in palestine as does the zionist terrorists’ brutal response as in khalil:

Medical sources reported in Hebron that 20 Palestinian civilians where injured on Sunday during protests in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

The protests where organized against the Israeli continued attacks on Gaza, which started on Saturday morning and so far have left 284 Palestinians killed and at least 900 others injured.

Doctors at the Hebron governmental hospitals told media that the injures where mostly caused by the army rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas.

and in beit lahem:

Two Palestinian civilians where injured, on Sunday when Israeli troops attacked a protest in the village of Al Ma’ssara located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The Protest where organized against the Israeli continued attacks on the Gaza Strip. So far 284 Palestinians where killed and at least 900 others injured during the Israeli military continued air attacks on Gaza that started on Saturday morning.

Local sources said that local villagers marched to the nearby military post carrying flags and banners demanding the halt of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, soldiers’ fire rubber bullets at the protester injuring tow civilians, Medical sources said that wounded two sustained light wounds.

and in nil’in and bil’in death, injury, and kidnapping:

Palestinian sources reported that a Palestinian youth was killed and at least four others injured during Israeli army attacks on Palestinian protests organized in several villages near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, to protest the Israeli continued attacks on Gaza….

Arafat Al Khawaja, 22, was reported dead after an Israeli army soldier shot him in the head with a live round. Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that Al Khawaja was taking part in a nonviolent protest in the village of Nil’in near Ramallah, when troops attacked the unarmed civilians leading to clashes with local youth. Medical sources said that another two young men from Nil’in where critically injured in the clashes. Witnesses say that local youth are still involved in clashes with the army in Nil’in.

Meanwhile, in the nearby village of Bil’in, local farmers organized a protest in solidarity with Gaza and were attacked by Israeli troops injuring three local youth. Medical sources said that the three sustained minor wounds. Eyewitnesses report that local youth are continue to clash with the army.

Israeli troops also attacked a protest organized by the villagers of Budrus, also located near Ramallah city today. Sources there reported that during the clashes two local youth were injured in the head by army fire and described their wounds as critical, while a local boy was kidnapped by the army.

but there is some good news today: syria has canceled its talks with the zionist regime. hopefully this position will be made permanent:

A Syrian government official said Sunday that Damascus has decided to suspend its indirect peace talks with Israel, in the wake of the mass offensive Israel launched in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, which left over 280 Palestinians dead and scores more wounded.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said “Israel’s aggression closes all the doors to any move toward a settlement in the region.”

and there is more good news from jordan of all places:

The al-Arabiya network of the United Arab Emirates reported Sunday that three Jordanian members of parliament burned an Israeli flag during a special parliament session protesting the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.

According to the report, the MPs initially planned to step on the flag, but then decided to set fire to it as some of their colleagues applauded.

Another Jordanian lawmaker held a placard saying the Hashemite Kingdom should expel the Israeli ambassador. The MPs then held a moment of silence I honor of those killed during the Israeli offensive.

and in the streets of baghdad today there were also protests as well as this news from the iraqi (albeit puppet) parliament today:

The Iraqi Parliament on Sunday called on Arab and Muslim countries to “rally ranks” in the face of Israel over the attacks on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

“Arab and Muslim nations have to rally ranks to stand against these criminal acts and immediately end operations to stop the Palestinian bloodshed,” according to a parliamentary statement as received by Aswat al-Iraq.

The statement called for “solving the (Palestinian) issue via peaceful and diplomatic means”.

“The brotherly Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip are coming under sinful aggressions by the Zionist occupation army, which left hundreds of Palestinian martyrs and wounded brothers on Saturday,” it added.

Palestinian cities in Gaza came under powerful air strikes on Saturday that left hundreds of civilian people killed or wounded in a measure Israeli authorities said came in response to missile attacks by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on Israeli settlements.

Parliament’s statement further called on the United Nations and Security Council to intervene to stop these violations.

and who is it who most recently fired rockets in response to this overwhelmingly disproportionate killing machine of the zionist-american terrorists? fatah (you know, the one that functions as the puppet for the both of them):

The armed wing of Fatah claimed responsibility for firing two homemade projectiles on Sderot and Ashkelon on Sunday, according to a statement.

“This shelling came in retaliation to the ongoing holocaust in Gaza, which claimed the life of hundreds,” the statement said.

and then the leftist pflp:

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)’s armed wing claimed responsibility for firing five homemade projectiles on the nearby Western Negev and southern Israeli town of Ashkelon on Sunday.

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades said in a statement that the shelling, which was apparently carried out in partnership with the Al-Aqsa Brigades, was aimed at an Israeli military post in eastern Rafah.

The Brigades affirmed that the projectile was fired “within the continued response to Israeli crimes in Gaza.”

meanwhile in historic 1948 palestine other forms of resistance becoming even more steadfast:

In the presence of all national alliances, an urgent meeting for the Follow up Committee was held today declaring Sunday 28 December 2008 a general strike in protest of the Israeli massacres committed against Palestinians in Gaza. The meeting called for the organization of demonstrations and marches in every Arab town in al-Naqab [Negev], the Triangle, the Galilee areas and coastal towns as a symbol of the rage and severe grief of the Palestinian nation upon the loss of hundreds of its citizens in Gaza.

It was decided that the High Follow Up Committee remains on alert to hold further meetings to take steps in resistance and to stop the consistent aggression and break the siege on Gaza including the opening of all border crossings especially that of Rafah.

The following political message stemmed from the meeting:

* Considering the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza an assault against Palestinian People everywhere and our duty is to resist it and break the siege.

* Recognizing Israel and its political and security forces as a criminal state committing acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against our people in the Gaza Strip. This with the assurance that the current Israeli parliamentary election campaign is fueled by the Palestinian bloodshed.

* Saluting the determination and will of Palestinian people in the face of the aggressive Israeli scheme to break their steadfastness and human dignity.

* Condemning the international complicity with the official Israeli aggression, and considering its silence and complicity as partnership in the crime. the meeting also stressed the absolute rejection of holding the Palestinian people or the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) responsible for the situation and while exempting Israel from its total responsibility.

* Calling upon the international community to take its legal and moral responsibility, to sanction Israel and boycott it as a state that pursues terrorism, war crimes and crimes against humanity with premeditation.

* Condemning Arab Official complicity used by Israel to cover for its predefined aggression and condemning the general Arab weakness and calling them to shut down their embassies in Israel and boycott it. We call upon Egypt to open all crossings with Gaza and break its siege.

* Condemning the complying Arab and Official political voices which held the Palestinian leadership in Gaza responsible for the Israeli aggression and calling the head of the Palestinian National Authority to immediately stop the negotiations with Israel used to further fuel the Palestinian split in the West Bank and in Gaza.

* Assuring the call for national Palestinian unity and its total support of the Palestinian struggle and resistance in the face of Israeli aggression.

* Paying tribute to the heroic steadfastness of our people and supporters in the Arab world and elsewhere and the masses in the homeland that stood in the face of the bloody aggression and supported the steadfastness in Gaza.

* Calling on the masses of our people to exercise the highest degree of readiness to contribute, on individual and collective levels, in the national relief campaign, which includes the donation of medical supplies, food and blood donation in support of Gaza and in contribution to the breaking of the siege.

* Calling on the masses of our people and supporters in the world to share the worry and to have more readiness to escalate the struggle in order to defeat the Israeli aggression and provide protection for our heroic Palestinian nation.

The Higher Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel is the highest representative body of the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. It includes all Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) as well as elected mayors and local officials.

don’t leave palestinians resisting in the cold. rise up as sayyed hassan nasrallah is urging the people of egypt and the arab world to do now. as palestinians in 1948 are asking you to do now. to ask their governments to take an honorable position and to resist those governments that are draconian. the world must heed this call. we must do this because as nasrallah speaks 9 more bombs just fell on gaza. now there are 292 dead palestinian martyrs. we must use this for a global intifada. use this moment to rise up and resist.

on progress

so president bush just met with mahmoud abbas in the white house. he said–with a straight face no less–this:

The U.S. president said, “No question, this is a hard challenge. But nevertheless, people must recognize that we have made a good deal of progress.”

really, can someone please put me to sleep and wake me up when this orwellian universe goes back to normal (or, wait, was it ever normal to begin with?)? what progress? i seriously want to know what he means. does he mean that the zionist regime made progress expanding its illegal settlements, imprisoning and killing more palestinians, destroying more homes in the west bank and 1948 palestine?

perhaps this was overlooked in the whole shoe-throwing-extravaganza, but what bush was telling the media at the press conference that day was strikingly similar to what he told abbas today:

On a whirlwind trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the wars that define his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference in Iraq.

where was muntathar al zaydi when we needed some shoes thrown today? or, rather where were the others who can see through this farce and want to express their rage at it sources? oh, right, he is in prison where he has been badly beaten and tortured. there have been calls for his release, including, apparently, a call for bush himself to issue a pardon of al zaydi. but in all this discussion about al zaydi, i couldn’t help but recall the story of another journalist, jassam mohammed, who has been held in u.s. custody in iraq and i would venture to subjected to the same treatment as al zaydi:

An Iraqi court on Sunday ordered the release of a freelance photographer working for Reuters news agency who has been held by U.S. forces since early September.

The Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled there was no evidence against Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, and ordered that the U.S. military release him from Camp Cropper prison near Baghdad airport.

Iraqi prosecutors acknowledged in remarks included in the court ruling that there was a lack of evidence, and said they were closing the case against Jassam. A copy of the court order was supplied to a lawyer working for Reuters.

There was no immediate response from the U.S. military to the ruling.

Under a security pact signed between the United States and Iraq, the 16,000-17,000 detainees currently held by U.S. forces will have to be released next year if they have not been charged, or handed over to Iraqi authorities. The pact paves the way for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

“I’m pleased to learn that a court ordered Ibrahim Jassam released as there was no evidence against him,” said Reuters News Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger.

“I hope the U.S. authorities comply with this order swiftly to reunite him with his colleagues, friends and family.”

Jassam was detained in early September in a raid on his home in Mahmudiya by U.S. and Iraqi forces. His photographic equipment was also confiscated. Jassam works for other Iraqi media, in addition to Reuters News, a Thomson Reuters company.

but i guess this is progress, right? imposing so-called “democracy” on people and then imprisoning its journalists. this happens to palestinian journalists here as well in spite of bush’s assertion of the “progress” that has been made. most notably mohammed omer was subjected to this sort of brutal treatment:

From his hospital bed at the European Hospital in Gaza and with barely audible voice, award-winning Palestinian journalist Muhammed Omer has given a full account of the hair-raising encounter he had last week with Shin Beth agents at the Allenby Bridge border-crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

Omer, a co-winner of the 2008 Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalistic Excellence, said he was abused, assaulted, humiliated, ridiculed, kicked, and strip-searched at gunpoint by undisciplined Shin Beth officers until he had a nervous breakdown in which case he lost consciousness for at least 90 minutes.

A resident of Rafah at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, Omer said he didn’t know for sure why the Shin Bet people treated him in such a barbaric matter apart from the characteristic sadism and savagery routinely meted out to Palestinians.

“They behaved with unimaginable hatefulness and vindictiveness. They couldn’t accept the very idea of a Palestinian journalist winning a renowned journalism prize. They wanted to punish me for being a successful journalist and especially for exposing Israeli barbarianism to the people of Europe .”

these are the sorts of incidents–which happen more often than not in iraq and palestine–that lead people to want to throw shoes and likewise that make people feel somewhat vindicated when they see an act like al zaydi’s. but as i mentioned the other day, my friend abed cautioned that exuberance over the shoe-throwing incident. he elaborated his comments with will on kabobfest today:

Don’t get us wrong, it was a beautiful action and this is not a critique of his courage. But acts of individual resistance, from the subtle to the explicit, happen in Iraq every day without cameras capturing them. Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and other places ravaged by oppression and occupation need more than individual or symbolic gestures.

Muntather should not be turned into a hero. Celebrities can lose their humanity We exotify their nationalist impulses and wash away the logic of their actions. Making a hero out of him is to treat his action as pure spectacle, rather than as inspiration for more creativity. As he becomes a hero, we the viewing public become spectators. We need to become active participants in the not-yet-existent struggle his flying shoes symbolize.

Still, in the absence of collective project, we should multiply these kinds of symbolic actions on camera — especially when they break the scripted pseudo-reality of staged events, such as press conferences. The excess of happiness over the shoe symbolizes our incapacity for action at the Arab collective level. Beyond street protests, we generally lack the coordinated, organized politics needed to sustain movements. Celebrating Al-Zaidi’s actions only highlight Arab weakness.

there were some attempts at collective action today, trying to build on this momentum, but not in the sustained sort of vision that i know abed and will have in mind. nevertheless it is worth noting these protests.

in london:

Protesters staged a shoe protest outside the US embassy in London on Friday, demanding the release of the Iraqi journalist held after throwing his footwear at US President George W. Bush.

Demonstrators voiced support for “courageous” journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who has been in custody in Baghdad since Sunday’s dramatic shoe protest which made him an instant sensation in the Arab world.

in bil’in, palestine:

Protesters carried pictures of U.S President George Bush having shoes thrown at him. They also carried their own shoes as a symbolic refusal of the Israeli occupation.

The protest today marched towards the wall singing slogans and attempting to reach the confiscated land behind the wall. The Israeli army was stationed behind concrete blocks and fired teargas and sound grenades when the protesters tried to reach the gate. Dozens suffered gas inhalation and eight demonstrators were shot with rubber coated steel bullets, two journalists, one of them from Israel, his name is Israel, and the second, Issam Arrimawi working in Wafa Media. Two others were taken to the Ashshikh Zaid Hospital in Ramallah : Mohammad Abu Rahma and Baseb Abu Rahma and the others we treated in the village: Adeed abu Rahma, Sabri Abu Rahma, Jehad Alhaj, and Mohammed Imran. The demonstrators responded to these attacks by throwing their shoes at the army.

these small protests are fine, but we need something stronger, bigger, and full of creativity in order to resist american and israeli imperial designs on the region. and it cannot just be from the people; it also has to come in the form of pressure and resistance to normalization with the zionist regime in particular as fawaz traboulsi wrote yesterday. and this is why i get so enraged whenever i read about a possible agreement between syria and the zionist regime. why might this enrage me? well let’s just take a look at what the zionist terrorist forces have done in the last 24 hours at its most norther border with lebanon, shall we?

yesterday israeli terrorists terrorized a lebanese farmer:

An Israeli patrol opened automatic rifle fire at a Lebanese farmer in the southern region of Blida on Thursday, but no casualties were reported.

The state-run National News Agency said the patrol also fired two smoke grenades at 75-year old Mohammed Ahmed Zaher while working in his field.

Two patrols from the Lebanese Army and the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) arrived at the area and started an investigation into the attack, the report said without further elaboration.

today israeli terrorists kidnapped two lebanese villagers:

An Israeli infantry patrol crossed into Lebanon and kidnapped two Lebanese citizens from their olive grove near the southern village of Blida n Friday.

The two were only identified as members of the Tarraf family.

UNIFIL informed the Lebanese authorities that the two would be released pending completion of investigation by the Israeli military. It called for self restraint.

The state-run National News Agency (NA) said 18 Israeli soldiers crossed the barbed wire fence and kidnapped the two field workers.

this is why simple responses to such terrorism such as angry arab’s yesterday fill me with joy: No peace (with that entity), no negotiation, and no recognition. likewise hezbollah’s amazing protest in solidarity with gaza today also fills me with joy:

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Beirut on Friday for a mass protest organised by Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement against Israel’s crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Streets in the southern suburbs were cordoned off as demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and yellow Hezbollah flags poured into the Hezbollah stronghold as loudspeakers blasted out a speech by its chief, Hassan Nasrallah.

“We are are responsible, like all Arabs and Muslims, to completely liberate Palestine, from the river to the sea,” Hezbollah’s deputy head Naim Kassem told the crowd.

“The Palestinian cause is a just cause,” he said from a platform on a main road in the area.

meanwhile when protesters tried to launch a similar demonstration today, they were met with a very different response from the authorities:

Witnesses say Bahraini security troops have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of protesters demanding Arab governments take action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.

The witnesses say a number of people, including women and children, were wounded by rubber bullets and others overcome by gas. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals by authorities and could not give exact numbers.

Ibraheem Sharif, an opposition leader, says more than 10,000 people were attending the rally Friday.

why is it that hezbollah is the only group in region that can mobilize so many people to have a peaceful protest and talk about liberating all of historic palestine? i know that this, too, is not what abed and will meant exactly, but i believe it is still an important sign to see at least some massive, collective response to this brutal siege–especially when it is coupled with a discourse that connects the situation in gaza to the root of the problem.

meanwhile zionists are publicly announcing new illegal plans of terrorizing palestinians in the pages of their newspapers:

Assassinating Hamas leaders is one option being explored as Israeli troops prepare for the end of the ceasefire, according to a Thursday report in the Israeli daily paper Maariv.

The paper quoted military sources as saying Arab countries advised Israel to assassinate major Hamas leaders if they reject the truce.

The story appeared on page two of the Hebrew paper and claims un-named Arab states have given Israel the ‘green-light’ to use extra-judicial means to ensure the disappearance of Hamas leaders in case the party refuses to extend the truce.

and today israeli terrorists, on the first day of the end of the so-called “truce,” they fired missiles into gaza:

At approximately 5am today, 18 December 2008, Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at the house of Hassan Mohammed Abu Nasser, which is located in a dense neighborhood in Block 8 in Jabaliya refugee camp. The target is a simple house roofed with asbestos. Field investigations indicated that the two missiles struck the garage, destroying a Subaru. It also caused damage to the house and several other neighboring houses.

In Khan Younis city, south of the Gaza Strip, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car maintenance workshop at approximately 1:15am today. The workshop, owned by 35-year-old Iyad Fathi al-Jbour, was completely destroyed. No casualties were reported in this attack; however, seven neighboring houses and three cars were damaged.

this on top of new deteriorating conditions in gaza:

The price of Pampers is the latest casualty in the ongoing Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, where parents of newborns are turning to smugglers for Egyptian-made diapers.

Gaza’s pre-siege diaper supply amounted to something like eight trucks each day, but for the past year and a half, the desperately needed commodity has been absent from the Israeli “Not Permitted” importation list.

Now that stockpiles are dwindling, Palestinian mothers face new challenges attaining the hot item this month, while even hospital maternity wards are running dry. Doctors are warning of an increasing spread of skin disorders among newborn babies in the Gaza Strip, which they speculate have been caused by the diaper shortage.

food also remains in short supply, ever dwindling, ever on the brink of running out of staples:

The remainder of operating flour mills in Gaza closed down Thursday night after running out of wheat, said Head of the Society of Mill Owners in Gaza Abed An-Naser Al-A’jrami on Friday.

Most mills closed down as early as 19 November, and only a handful stayed open to process what grain remained in the area. Less than 4,000 tons of wheat was delivered to Gaza since the start of December, at which time stores were already exhausted.

“truce” or no “truce” there is never any “progress” for palestinians who suffered brutal conditions during this period:

Forty nine Palestinians, including seven children and eight resistance fighters were killed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the six-month Egyptian brokered truce which ended on Friday morning, according to a report by Quds Press.

Palestinian factions agreed to a truce on 19th June this year provided that the Israeli occupation stops its aggression and lifts the siege and that the truce should be extended to include the West Bank.

According the report of Quds Press 22 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip where the truce was active, 22 others were killed in the West Bank and five in occupied Jerusalem. These figures include seven children under the age of 18, and elderly man and an elderly woman.

Amongst the Eight resistance fighters killed during the truce, seven were assassinated in the West Bank by special occupation forces.

In the Gaza Strip, the month of November witnessed the highest number of casualties as 17 Palestinians were killed in Israeli occupation shelling and during incursions.

these are some of the many reasons why resistance is necessary and why palestinians in gaza have been training for it throughout this period as ayman mohyeldin reported on al jazeera today:

the people of gaza have resisted long before the current colonial occupiers ruled this land. ramzy baroud offers some historical perspective on gaza, which is often not talked about including on this blog:

Conquerors came and went, and Gaza stood where it still stands today. This was the recurring lesson for generations, even millennia. Ancient Egyptians came and went, as did the Hyksos, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the British, and now the Israelis. And through it all, Gaza stood strong and defiant. Neither Alexander the Great’s bloody conquest of 332 BC, nor Alexander Janneus’s brutal attack of 96 BC broke Gaza’s spirit or took away from its eternal grandeur. It always rose again to reach a degree of civilianisation unheard of, as it did in the 5th century AD.

It was in Gaza that the Crusaders surrounded their strategic control of the city to Saladin in 1170, only to open up yet another era of prosperity and growth, occasionally interrupted by conquerors and outsiders with colonial designs, but to no avail.

All the neglected ruins of past civilisations were only reminders that Gaza’s enemies would never prevail, and would, at best, merely register their presence by another neglected structure of concrete and rocks.

Now Gaza is undergoing another phase of hardship and defiance. Its modern conquerors are as unpitying as its ancient ones. True, Gaza is ailing, but standing, it people resourceful and durable as ever, defiant as they have always been, and hell-bent on surviving, for that’s what Gazans do best. And I should know, it’s my hometown.

there was an interesting report on al jazeera’s ashraf amritti about jawdat al-khoudry’s museum on gaza’s rich history. it is worth watching:

this history is laden with foreign occupiers and they are all long gone. but for real progress, the kind that doesn’t require scare quotes, we need all kinds of resistance, including the sort of creative types of resistance that abed and will are calling for. not normalization. not negotiations. not anything as long as zionists continue to terrorize those whose land, palestine, this belongs to and those who live in lebanon.