A Week in Lucknow

DSC00039

I spent last week visiting a friend in Lucknow in the northern part of the country (more pictures in gallery below). Our first day we ventured out to the village of Malihabad so she could conduct some research she is doing about nurseries and seeds. Much of the agricultural land is being converted from local food production to decorative house plants and flowers for export. Prior to our trip, she was online doing a bit of last-minute research on the village when she stumbled upon this little gem:

Shahnaz Ali, a senior research fellow at the National Institute of Immuno-Hematology, Mumbai, has been awarded a scholarship by the government of Israel for the academic year 2009-2010, to study the DNA of Afridi Pathans of Malihabad in Lucknow to confirm whether they are of Israelite origin or not.

It is not clear what the purpose of this research is or how the Israeli government would use such information. In any case, the researcher involved clearly doesn’t know about the academic boycott of Israel given that he’s taking funds from the Israeli government to conduct his research. He also seems to be under the mistaken impression that there is some kind of historical enmity between Jews and Muslims when that is not the case.  But the largest problem in the blog piece is its erroneous concluding paragraph:

Navras said that as per history, ten Israelite tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel were exiled by the Assyrian invaders in 721 BC. It is believed that some descendants of these lost tribes settled in India between AD 1202 and AD 1761. Afridi Pathans of Malihabad are said to be one of them. Some Israeli academicians have visited Malihabad in the last few years to study customs and traditions of Pathans to find if they have any resemblance to Israelite traditions.

In fact, if he had read Israeli historian Shlomo Sand’s book The Invention of the Jewish People, he would know that:

 the Romans never deported entire peoples. We might add that neither did the Assyrians and Babylonians move entire populations from the countries they conquered. It did not pay to uproot the people of the land, the cultivators of produce, the taxpayers. But even the efficient policy of deportation practiced by the Assyrian, and later the Babylonian, empire—in which whole sections of local administrative and cultural elites were deported—was not followed by the Roman Empire. (130)

Notice that while the Assyrians did deport some people, it idid not exile entire peoples and its deportation policy was not about one’s religion.

DSC00127

From one colonial context to another.

After Malihabad we went to what is known as the Residency. It seems that each Indian city has a place with this name as it was once the home of the British colonials ruling the area. But the one in Lucknow is special. You can see it in photographs below more clearly. It was the site of the 1857 uprising (mutiny as the English refer to it) against the British. This expansive space includes the shells of all the former buildings that were destroyed during the Indian uprising against their colonial rulers. It’s quite impressive that one can still see this colonial history–and resistance to it–preserved in such a remarkable way.

DSC00067

My friend’s childhood friend was speaking at a commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s famous 1893 speech in Chicago at the Columbian Exposition, which celebrated Christopher Columbus’ colonization of the Americas. I had read about him in Vijay Prashad’s The Karma of Brown Folk, but did not remember much about him at the time. Prashad paints him in an interesting light–as one who plays almost a trickster role to the Americans wanting to Orientalize him and fetishize his Hindu beliefs. And, according to Prashad, he was quite critical of the way Americans approached religion:

You Americans worship what? The dollar. Int he mad rush for gold, you forget the spiritual until you have become a nation of materialists. Even your preachers and churches are tainted with the all-perfading desire. (35)

Yet I was struck by a different set of beliefs that he conveyed in that speech as I heard it in the Bengali association hall last week. Here is the part that I was taken aback by:

 I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.

Obviously, in 1893 when Zionism was in its incipient stages, there were no Shlomo Sands to historicize the Roman presence in West Asia, alerting us to the fact that the Romans never expelled any people. And yet on this trip I was hearing yet another allusion to Jewish expulsion (although often it is also that they are the 12th tribe who wandered and got lost) from Western Asia, which is often the historical argument used for how Jews arrived in India over a century ago.

DSC00220

The other main attraction I visited in Lucknow was the Bara Imbara, which is a fantastically preserved, beautifully designed Nawab palace from the eighteenth century:

the very romantic history associated with it – of Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daula commissioning the Imambara during the time of the great famine of 1783 to enable Awadhis to earn a living as they were too proud to have taken alms – makes it a fascinating piece of architecture.

This space, much like the Residency, is filled with fabulous nooks and crannies that seem to make the best hide-and-go-seek playgrounds for children. But in the Imbara there is also a labyrinth, which you need to hire a guide to take you through. One must travel up and down several flights of steep stairs and through a series of narrow hallways to navigate this area. There are interesting nooks, such as a passage way that leads underground, which people used to use to travel surreptitiously from one city to the next. However, the British closed it up. There are also several clever engineering feats that enable communication from one far off location along the same wall. Supposedly there is also a buried treasure there, but in order to discover it the entire property would need to be destroyed.

The photographs below are a bit mixed up, but they are of the places I mention above, plus random snapshots of the city, a couple of AIDS protests we saw because I was there during World AIDS Day, and its incredible food–especially the chaat and paan!

more examples of why zionism = racism

here are some news items over the past month–just the latest examples in 122+ years of why zionism = racism.

1. An Arab couple whose one-year-old daughter was expelled from an Israeli day-care center on her first day are suing a Jewish mother for damages, accusing her of racist incitement against their child.

Maysa and Shuaa Zuabi, from the village of Sulam in northern Israel, launched the court action last week saying they had been “shocked and humiliated” when the center’s owner told them that six Jewish parents had demanded their daughter’s removal because she is an Arab.

In the first legal action of its kind in Israel, the Zuabis are claiming $80,000 from Neta Kadshai, whom they accuse of being the ringleader.

The girl, Dana, is reported to be the first Arab child ever to attend the day-care center in the rural Jewish community of Merhavia, less than one kilometer from Sulam.

However, human rights lawyers say that, given the narrow range of anti-racism legislation in Israel, the chance of success for the Zuabis is low.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has operated an education system almost entirely segregated between Jews and Arabs.

However, chronic underfunding of Arab schools means that in recent years a small but growing number of Arab parents have sought to move their children into the Jewish system.

Dana was admitted to the day-care center last December, according to the case, after its owner, Ivon Grinwald, told the couple she had a vacant place. However, on Dana’s first day six parents threatened to withdraw their own children if she was not removed.

Kadshai, in particular, is said to have waged a campaign of “slurs and efforts aimed at having [Dana] removed from the day-care center, making it clear that [her] children would not be in the same center as an Arab girl.” Zuabi was summoned to a meeting the same evening at which Grinwald said she could not afford to lose the six children. She returned the contract Zuabi had signed and repaid her advance fees.

Zuabi said that while she was in the office Grinwald received a call from Kadshai again slandering Dana and demanding her removal.

2. A 23-year-old woman of Ethiopian descent claimed that the driver of an Egged No. 5 bus in Rishon Lezion refused to allow her to board his bus because of the color of her skin.

Speaking to Ynet, Yedno Verka recounted last Wednesday’s incident: “As I prepared board the bus, the driver suddenly shut the door. I banged on the glass, but he ignored me. Then a young woman came running towards the bus, and he opened the door for her. I stayed close to her and boarded the bus.

“When the driver saw me he said, ‘what, don’t you understand that I don’t allow Kushim (derogatory term for black people) on board? Are you trying to smash my door in? Were there buses in Ethiopia? Why don’t you walk? In Ethiopia you didn’t even have shoes and here you do, so why don’t you walk?’ I was shaking all over; I couldn’t even speak,” she said.

At this point Verka handed the driver the bus fair, but, according to her, he refused to accept it and said, “Kushit hold on, what’s your hurry? Since you (Ethiopians) made aliyah you’ve become arrogant.”

3. At least 100 students of Ethiopian origin in Petah Tikva do not know what school they will be attending in the fall, with the opening of the school year just two and a half weeks away. The uncertainty stems from the fact that the city’s private schools with an ultra-Orthodox or national Orthodox bent have refused to accept children of Ethiopian origin.

Much of the funding for the private schools comes from the Education Ministry and the city. Education Ministry director general Shimshon Shoshani said Wednesday that the schools that continue to refuse to enroll the children will be fined and may have their licenses suspended.

A few days ago the Petah Tikva municipality told the city’s private schools that they would need to enroll about 70 students of Ethiopian origin. Another 30 students were to be enrolled in the public Orthodox school system, where most Ethiopian-Israeli students go. However, sources at the ministry and municipality said conversations with officials at the private schools indicated that they would refuse to enroll the children.

Administrators at the city’s public Orthodox schools said they would not accept the 30 children as planned.

Sources familiar with the situation said that around 150 to 200 students of Ethiopian origin are to go to school in Petah Tikva.

According to a senior city official, the private schools “told us specifically that they do not intend to register the new students. It’s clear to everyone that the response to the enrollment instruction would be negative, but we had to go public with it to allow the Education Ministry to begin the process of imposing monetary fines.”

4. A trip for some 250 children from Al Jish village, near Safad north of the country, had to be cut short after the manager of a Jewish-run swimming pool refused to allow the organizers of the Jish Church Summer camp, play Arabic music.

Israeli Ynet News published a report on the incident and stated that Jad Salman, the director of the Jish Church Summer Camp, stated that the pool manager was insulting and racist in his statement.

Salman said that this summer camp is conducted by the church every year, and is considered one of the best summer camps among Christians in Israel, the Ynet added.

Salman stated that after he along with the organizers of the trip, and some 250 children entered the country club to swim, he asked the personnel about the location of an electricity connection, but the workers did not give a direct answer and kept sending him around.

Later on, Salman managed to find a power outlet, and connected a stereo system before playing church music.

As soon as he went to fill some drinking water, he noticed that the music had stopped, he went back and the instructors told him that they were asked to stop the Arabic music and were instead given a Hebrew music CD.

He then approached the club manager, Shemi Namimi, and asked him about what is going on, and then the directors said “do not put Arabic music, but you can play Hebrew music”, the Ynet reported.

Salman tried to convince the manager to allow them to play Arabic music, as he told him that this is a summer camp, and that the mother tongue of the children is Arabic.

But the manager just said “There will be no Arab music in the club”. After he heard the response, Salman used a microphone and called on the children to leave the pool.

5. UNRWA’s Hebrew-language outreach program titled “Building Understanding: Epitaph of a Dead Warehouse,” was cancelled by Acre festival authorities in the last days before the UN organization was to present photos and films of their work in Palestine.

The agency had prepared a multimedia theatrical performance that documented the “dramatic last day of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s warehouse in Gaza which was destroyed during the fighting in Gaza on 15th of January 2009,” a program for the evening read.

“[The production] has already been shown in Tel Aviv and Sderot where it was well received,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement. “We presented the piece to the Acre Festival authorities a couple of months ago and they gave an immediate green light and it is surprising that the play should be cancelled by the Festival authorities just hours before our first performance here.”

The festival also booted UNRWA’s photo exhibit and another film from the program.

6. Israel’s national water company announced Tuesday that it would be disconnecting the water in the Bedouin community of Rahat due to an accumulated debt of about $400,000 owed by the town’s municipality.

The 46,281 residents of the town, located in Israel’s desert region, will remain without water for a few hours a day until the municipality settles its debts with Mekorot.

Heads of the Bedouin councils held a meeting with Shlomo Buchbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, in order to discuss their financial difficulties.

Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Sabihan said a plan had been formed in order to pull the municipality from its deficit, which currently stands at around $7.8 million. However he said the plan had not yet been approved.

“Our accounts have been seized,” the mayor told Ynet. “And the employees are not being paid. We’ve been chosen to provide a service I cannot provide.” He said the municipality would strike until the plan was approved.

An official with the Interior Ministry’s southern district said the plan had been approved, but that the ministry still had to cooperate with the Treasury in order to allot funds towards its implementation.

Meanwhile, the data presented by the municipality at the meeting was disheartening. While Rahat exacts municipality taxes from just 30% of its population, 35% receive income support and 26% are eligible for unemployment payment. The city’s rate of unemployment is a whopping 20%, and the average age of its residents is 13.5.

7. The government extended on Sunday, by one year, the force of the Law of Citizenship and Entry into Israel, which prevents people from the Palestinian Authority and enemy states from becoming Israeli citizens by marrying Israeli citizens.

A High Court decision on the legality of the law is pending, and could cause its negation.

8. A Bedouin forum on education has recently filed a complaint with the Prime Minister’s Office inquiring why the government committee tasked with promoting the representation of Arab citizens in government offices did not include a single Arab member.

The forum’s coordinator, Dr. Awad Abu-Freih, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint Arab representatives to the committee.

According to the government’s Civil Service Commission, the number of Israeli Arabs employed by the government does not exceed 6.8 percent of the employees. Last week, the cabinet decided to establish a committee to promote proper representation of Arabs in government offices.

The members of the Bedouin education forum were dismayed to find that the 11-member committee did not include a single Arab member. The committee includes Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Prime Minister’s Office Director Eyal Gabbai and Welfare Ministry Director Nahum Itzkovitch.

“There is no doubt that in the absence of Arab citizens on the committee, the commission may continue to give unfair preference to Jews in appointments, in promotions, and in handing out key positions,” Abu-Freih said in his complaint to the prime minister.

“The promises on fair representation still sound hollow and empty,” he went on to say. “Again and again we will be told that ‘no qualified Arabs could be found for the job.'”

“The services offered to Arab citizens will also continue to be discriminatory,” he continued. “For example, the education services offered to the Arab community in the Negev are neglected and deprived.”

“Out of 20 percent of the population of the state, not one Arab could be found who would be qualified to be honored with serving on the committee?” Abu-Freih asked.

9. Five years after a mounted militia stormed his village, torching houses and killing his relatives, Ibrahim Saad el-Din, a refugee from Sudan’s Darfur region, gazed at remnants of another slaughter: hundreds of shoes worn by Jews killed in a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.

Saad el-Din was among a dozen African refugees brought by an Israeli advocacy group to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial last week, hoping to spur public sympathy for their plight by invoking the Jewish people’s own history fleeing death and persecution.

Over 16,000 asylum seekers have poured into Israel in recent years, most from Africa, posing a unique dilemma for the Jewish state.

Israel is proud of its heritage as a refuge that took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi genocide. But it’s conflicted over refugees from elsewhere. Israel’s many wars with its Arab neighbors have left it distrustful of outsiders, while some fear accepting non-Jews could threaten the state’s Jewish character. As a result, it is struggling with how to handle the non-Jewish newcomers.

“The Jewish past makes us particularly mindful of the dangerous plight of exiles and refugees and the need to help them,” said Yaron Ezrahi, a political science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But the smallness and siege mentality of our country given its hostile environment make us more committed to maintaining our majority.”

Israeli refugee advocates criticize the state, saying stints in jail and the scant support asylum seekers find in Israel fail to honor the memory of Jewish persecution through the ages.

“I think it’s a great shame the way we’re behaving,” said Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. “We have an extremely short memory.”

Israel’s current refugee influx started in 2005, when Egyptian smugglers helped a few hundred Africans sneak into Israel. The government arranged jobs for some, and as stories of their new lives spread, more came.

Just under half are from Eritrea, whose repressive government often detains returned asylum-seekers, according to Amnesty International. About one-third are from south Sudan and Darfur, whose conflicts have left millions dead and homeless, according to the U.N.

Under the U.N.’s Refugee Convention, all those claiming to be refugees should have their cases reviewed, said Sharon Harel of the U.N. refugee agency.

But the sudden influx outstripped the ability of the UNHCR and the government to process them, officials in both bodies said, resulting in stopgap policies that critics say make Israel inhospitable.

Those arriving now are detained for an average of five months — and some more than a year. They then receive release papers that must be renewed every three months but give them no right to work, though the government usually looks the other way when they take under-the-table jobs.

Simona Halperin of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the government has a “full moral and legal commitment” to protecting refugees, but must distinguish them from economic migrants.

Asylum seekers from Sudan pose a unique problem, she said, because their mere entering Israel — which Sudan considers an “enemy state” — prevents their return.

10. The Education Ministry’s budget for special assistance to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds severely discriminates against Arabs, a new study shows. The average per-student allocation in Arab junior high schools amounts to only 20 percent of the average in Jewish junior highs.

The study, published recently in the journal Megamot by Prof. Sorel Cahan of Hebrew University’s School of Education, supports the claims of institutionalized budgetary discrimination that Arab educators have long voiced. On Monday, when the ministry published town-by-town data on what percentage of high school students pass their matriculation exams, most Arab towns were once again at the bottom of the list. A rare exception was Fureidis, where 75.86 percent of students passed – the third highest rate in Israel.

Ordinary classroom hours are allotted to schools on a strictly per-student basis. But the special assistance budget, which totaled NIS 150 million last year, is by nature differential, as its purpose is to give extra assistance to schools with a large proportion of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The money goes toward tutoring, enrichment activities and more.

The special assistance budget is allocated in two stages. First, it is divided between the Jewish and Arab populations based on the number of students in each. Then, it is distributed among schools in each sector based on an index with three components: the percentage of students per school from low-income families, the percentage from large families, and the percentage whose fathers have relatively little schooling.

However, Cahan found, because the Arab sector has more students who meet these criteria but less students overall, “educationally needy” Jewish students receive anywhere from 3.8 to 6.9 times as much funding as equally needy Arab students.

This discrimination defeats the whole point of the special assistance budget, he wrote.

11. The inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Amra have good reason to fear that the harsh tactics used by the Israeli army against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been imported to their small corner of Israel’s Negev desert.

Over the summer, the Tarabin tribe, all of them Israeli citizens, have had the sole access road to their homes sealed off, while the dirt track they must use instead is regularly blocked by temporary checkpoints at which their papers and vehicles are inspected at length.

Coils of razor wire now surround much of the village, and children as young as eight have been arrested in a series of night-time raids.

“Four-fifths of our youngsters now have files with the police and our drivers are being repeatedly fined for supposed traffic violations,” said Tulab Tarabin, one of Amra’s 400 Bedouin inhabitants. “Every time we are stopped, the police ask us: ‘Why don’t you leave?’”

Lawyers and human rights activists say a campaign of pressure is being organised against the Tarabins at the behest of a nearby Jewish community, Omer, which is determined to build a neighbourhood for Israeli army officers on Bedouin land.

“The policy in Israel is that when Jews need land, the Bedouin must move – no matter how long they have been living in their homes or whether their communities predate Israel’s creation,” said Morad al Sana, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority. “The Tarabins’ crime is that they refuse to budge.”

The 180,000 Bedouin in the Negev have never been welcome, says Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva. They are descendants of a few thousand who managed to avoid expulsion from the southern semi-desert region during the 1948 war that founded Israel.

12. The UN says that access to education is a basic human right. But for Palestinian children living in the occupied West Bank, getting to school itself is a challenge. One Bedouin community lost three children in road accidents on their long walk to school. Making matters worse, Israeli authorities are trying to block the building of a school near the community’s home outside Jerusalem.

13. Gaza’s children are starting a new school year, but Israel’s blockade and its January war on the territory mean many are doing so without adequate supplies. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from one school in Gaza where classes are resuming.

14. Black British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove has launched an outspoken attack against the “racist” Israeli government after being abducted from the high seas and imprisoned for seven days.

Jamaica-born Blagrove, who lives in West London, was one of six British nationals taking part in a mercy mission to Gaza who were seized from the vessel Spirit of Humanity on June 30 by Israeli military forces.

The ship, which Blagrove says was illegally boarded in international waters, was bringing a cargo of medicines, children’s toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.

“I’m not concerned with the time that I spent in jail because I am now free, however, there are still thousands of people being persecuted as we speak,” said Blagrove.

“I went on the voyage to deliver medical aid, toys and film a documentary about Palestinians living in Gaza post the 22-day bombing last year however, I was unable to fulfill my mission and have now returned with a bigger story to tell. Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli governmentand the world needs to know.”

Sailing from Larnaca, Cyprus, with a crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, those on board included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

“We were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships.”

Blagrove told how Israeli warships surrounded their vessel threatening to open fire if they did not turn back.

“We were 18 miles of the coast of Gaza and 23 miles outside the international water boundaries. The Israelis made contact with us via radio at approximately 1.30 am. Our ship had been given security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus so we posed no threat, yet the Israeli government insisted that we aborted our journey.

“When we refused to be intimidated, they jammed our instrumentation and blocked our GPS, radar, and navigation systems, putting our lives at risk.

“Before we knew it we were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships and helicopters were also flying over our heads. They stormed our ship and took us against our will to Ashdod Port in Israel.

“They confiscated and destroyed all our equipment including all our medical aid and toys and eventually we were all taken to Ramla High Security Prison where we were imprisoned.”

“Most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans.”

Describing his experience inside Ramla, Blagrove said: “Without insulting the memory of those that have survived the Nazi concentration camps, the prison we were kept in can only be described in that manor. But most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans. I was absolutely dumbfounded!

“Israel operates under a right-wing racist government that discriminates anyone that is non-Jewish.

“The first day I was there, I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison. The next day 300 more Africans were taken in and the prison population continues to grow daily with Africans falling victim to the Israeli judiciary system.

“There were Africans from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia and so on. The prison population in Israel is 90 percent black, which is why I was so welcomed by fellow inmates. There are thousands upon thousands of Africans inside the Israeli prisons.

“I was told atrocious stories. Real harrowing tales and countless inmates that have been transferred from one prison to the other informed me and that every prison is the same and the government is refusing to send them back to their own country.”

“I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison.”

Haunted by the conditions of the prison, he said: “I shared a seven foot by seven foot cell with 14 others. We were constantly being barked at and threatened with physical abuse. If you disobey, prisoners are stripped naked and put inside a hole with no lights or heating. We were seen as sub-human.

“In the corner of the room there was a white plastic bag full of single slices of bread, which was our breakfast, lunch and dinner. If we were lucky they occasional gave us a cup of yoghurt to share.

“The toilets are two tubes and to pass your waste you have to aim and squat. The smell was indescribable because it was a mixture of sweat, urine and feces.”

Explaining that the government officials tried to force him to sign documents in Hebrew, which is illegal as all prisoners must be able to understand what they are consenting too, Blagrove said: “My fellow passengers and I were only kept for seven days because they knew the world was watching.”

helena cobban’s recent article in ips of one zionist terrorist colonist who is renouncing zionism because of its racism, though it appears, not the colonialism:

I’ve never met Dov Yermiya, a Jewish Israeli peace activist who is now 94 years old. But I read of course the book he published in 1983 in which he wrote with anguish about the torture and other gross mistreatment of civilians he witnessed directly during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the year before.

I have it in my hand now.

I just learned, from an open letter published by Uri Avnery, that Yermiya, recently renounced the ideology and practice of Zionism with these stirring words:

“I, a 95 year old Sabra (native born Israeli Jew), who has plowed its fields, planted trees, built a house and fathered sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and also shed his blood in the battle for the founding of the State of Israel,

“Declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem, that I shall stand at attention only on the days of mourning for those fallen on both sides in the wars, and that I look with a broken heart at an Israel that is committing suicide and at the three generations of offspring that I have bred and raised in it.

“… for 42 years, Israel turned what should have been Palestine into a giant detention camp, and is holding a whole people captive under an oppressive and cruel regime, with the sole aim of taking away their country, come what may!!!

“”The IDF eagerly suppresses their efforts at rebellion, with the active assistance of the settlement thugs, by the brutal means of a sophisticated Apartheid and a choking blockade, inhuman harassment of the sick and of women in labor, the destruction of their economy and the theft of their best land and water.

“Over all this there is waving the black flag of the frightening contempt for the life and blood of the Palestinians. Israel will never be forgiven for the terrible toll of blood spilt, and especially the blood of children, in hair-raising quantities… “

yes, the zionist entity does all these things. this is its “normal.” but how to get these abnormal hateful people to wake up, renounce zionism, and voluntarily leave the land (since 70% have dual citizenship) so that palestinian refugees can return…

yes, boycott works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

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

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

de-railing zionism

DSC00018

a couple of good days ago i received an email from omar barghouti with excellent news about the success of the boycott campaign against the zionist entity. the monthly review zine published the email that highlighted the success against the french company veolia:

In the first smashing and convincing victory of the global BDS movement in the field of corporate responsibility and ethical compliance, Veolia is reportedly abandoning the Jerusalem Light Rail project, an illegal project that aims at connecting Israeli colonies built on occupied Palestinian territory to the city of Jerusalem.

As the Haaretz article below* admits, the BDS campaign’s success in costing Veolia some $7 billion worth of contracts is the key behind this decision by the troubled company to pull out of the project.

It is worth mentioning that Le Monde has recently published an expose, revealing to French readers and, crucially, to Veolia’s stock holders the fact that the company is losing a lot of money because of its complicity in a project that constitutes a major violation of international law, if not a war crime.

This great victory came as a result of years of hard, principled, meticulous and persistent work by French solidarity groups, particularly AFPS; by the growing French BDS movement which was instrumental in making Veolia lose a huge contract in Bordeaux; by Dutch activists who achieved the first success in convincing a Dutch bank to divest from Veolia and applied pressure on other banks to follow suit; by Swedish peace and justice groups, mainly connected to the Church of Sweden, particularly Diakonia, and Swedish Palestine solidarity groups who cost Veolia the heaviest, $4.5 billion contract in running the Stockholm metro; by British solidarity groups and activists, particularly affiliated with PSC, who contributed tremendously to excluding Veolia from a lucrative contract in the West Midlands; and of course by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, BNC, which partnered with all the above in the now famous Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign to pressure the company to abandon this illegal project.

The Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign, which involves activists and groups in many countries all working to pressure the two French giants to quit the JLR project, was officially launched at the Bilbao Initiative conference in the Basque city last November.

Now is the time to pressure Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Gulf states, among others, to kick Alstom out due to its complicity in this illegal project. Solidarity with Palestine means almost nothing if it cannot be translated into BDS action that can truly cost the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime dearly.

This is the time to DERAIL ALSTOM!

DSC00019

the original ha’aretz article to which omar refers to was reposted on the us campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel website which seems to be the first source to have released this good news:

The light rail projects for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are both facing difficulties. In a body-blow to the future Jerusalem light rail, the French company Veolia, which was supposed to run the train system after its construction, is abandoning the project.

Moving on to Tel Aviv, the city can’t even get a response to the compromise it offered MTS, the consortium supposed to build an urban train system, in order to settle issues in dispute. It’s waited a month and gotten no answer, causing not a little consternation in government circles.

As for the Jerusalem system, Veolia not only wants out of running the future train; it’s trying to sell its 5% stake in Citypass, the light rail consortium.

In recent days Veolia has been sending feelers to the Egged or Dan bus consortiums, to potentially replace it as project operator.

Any change in the ownership structure of Citypass, or in the identity of the project operator, requires the permission of the state. Also, the attempt to add Egged to the consortium could arouse opposition at the Antitrust Authority.

Veolia has had to contend not only with the delays and difficulties in building the light rail project itself, but with political pressure at home as well. Two months ago a French court heard a lawsuit by a pro-Palestinian group, demanding that the light rail project be halted.

The organization based itself on an article in French law that allows the court to void business agreements, signed by French companies, that violate international law.

The political pressure on Veolia has been mounting in another direction. According to various reports abroad, the French firm had been losing major projects in Europe because of its involvement in the Jerusalem job. Observers claim that’s the real reason Veolia opted out.

DSC00020

this is a huge victory for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. at the same time there is still much work to be done. the photographs posted here are those i took today between beit hanina and the old city of al quds. i had lunch with a friend in beit hanina this afternoon and then we drove back to his house in the old city and i decided to take a few photographs of the apartheid train system that cuts through palestinian neighborhoods in order to connect zionist terrorist colonies. but i really had no idea how extensive this train really was until today. i mean, i’ve seen it going up in beit hanina and near the old city before. but tonight two friends of mine from deheishe refugee camp, who went to see a film with me, wanted to drive around “west” al quds to see old palestinian houses there. i called my friend in the old city to see if he would come with us because he knows much more about the history and geography of the area, plus it is a scary place to be lost, especially when you have people in our car who are not “legally” allowed to be there. the last two night shots of the train here are from this part of the trip. usually when i go between al quds and beit lahem i travel on the service which takes the tunnel under the old city so i never knew that this light rail train is snaking up and around the new gate of the old city and then all over “west” al quds, which is what that last photograph shows. and it goes way deeper into and all around that part of the city.

towards the end of our drive we were in deir yassin, where my friend who lives in the old city is from. he’s taken me there many times before, but this time he gave me a better sense of where the original borders are of the village–i never realized how huge it is. in particular what is shocking is that on the land of what was deir yassin is the zionist museum yad vashem (on the nazi holocaust), the grave of the father of zionism theodor herzl, and a huge cemetery for zionist terrorist colonist soldiers. it is as if the zionist colonists want to prove their domination by spitting on the graves of those palestinians they massacred on this land six decades ago. and it was on this land of deir yassin, too, that we saw the train snaking around yet again.

DSC00021

while it seems that we’ve won a victory over the french company, the arab zionists are the ones we need to tackle next, starting with a saudi company that seems to think it is perfectly fine to partner with alstom, the company helping israeli terrorist colonists to steal land and create an apartheid transportation system to connect their colonies:

Saudi Arabia awarded French company Alstom a multi-million dollar contract for the construction of Haramain Express Railway, to link the holy cities of Makkah and Madina. Alstom is in violation of international law for its part in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail, which will link illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (including East Jerusalem) with the city of Jerusalem. The construction of the light rail is part of a wider Israeli policy to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Jerusalem and turn permanent the illegal occupation of the city.

The decision by the Saudi Arabian authorities is in violation of its own international commitments. The Arab League barred member states from dealing with companies involved in the construction of Jerusalem Light Rail project. The Saudi contract sends a signal of approval for Alstom’s actions in Jerusalem and highlights the lack of integrity of the Haramain project: the Saudi Arabian government has chosen to link two of Islam’s holiest cities by sponsoring the colonization of another.

Across the world a divestment campaign is taking pace against Alstom and its partner company Veolia, with victories in Sweden and France. In 2006, Dutch ASN Bank took the responsible decision to divest from the project. Alstom and Veolia are accused by Palestinian civil society, represented by the BDS National Committee, BNC, of complicity in grave violation of international law and Palestinian rights for their role in the JLR project. Despite the pressure, the two companies have refused to end their participation in the project. With construction at an advanced stage, Alstom and Veolia are guilty of actively colluding with Israeli apartheid.

1. Write to the Saudi Railway Organization and to the Saudi Arabian diplomatic representation in your country demanding immediate cancellation of the contract with Alstom.

* Saudi Railway Organisation contact details (http://tiny.cc/llcfC)

karni [at] saudirailways.org (Vice President)
shafqatrabbani [at] sro.org.sa (Project Manager)
salim [at] sro.org.sa (Project Manager)
sohail [at] sro.org.sa (Project Engineer)

* Saudi Arabian diplomatic representations worldwide: http://tiny.cc/NvtOd

Please bcc us on your correspondence: saudialstomdivestment [at] gmail.com

2. Sign the petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/BDSaudi/petition.html

3. Write about this issue in your local media. Discuss it in your local mosque and community centers. Participate in actions for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.

DSC00022

but there is one more bit of good news to share today that originated from kabobfest on boycott success stories:

Motorola is looking to divest itself from its Israeli cell phone division, MIRS, according to a report in Israeli business newspaper, Globes. The announcement comes only two months after the US-Telecom firm announced it had sold a controversial unit that produced bomb fuses and other equipment for the Israeli military.

Motorola’s dealings with Israel and its army has made it the subject of boycott campaigns by human rights activists in Europe and North America over the past few years. The boycott campaign’s impact was especially felt by Motorola after Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Strip in December and January in which more than 1400 Palestinians were killed the massive bombardment of the densely populated strip.

MIRS, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Motorola is the sole provider of wireless services for the Israeli Occupation Forces. Despite the divestment of two Israeli divisions, Motorola maintains several operations in Israel, including several R&D facilities and joint ventures with Israeli businesses.

The divestment announcement coincides with another by Veolia Transportation that it is looking to sell off its share of the project to construct and operate a light rail system between predominantly Jewish neighborhoods and settlements around Jerusalem. The French firm had lost over $7 billion in EU contracts as a result of pressure by human rights activists in a coordinated campaign that sought to end its relationship with Israel.

DSC00024

DSC00025

DSC00032

DSC00033

letters from prisons

dsc00103

the other day a friend told me about a museum devoted to palestinian political prisoners at al quds university at abu dis. another friend who was at dinner with us at the time and who attends that university as an m.a. student had not heard of this museum. we decided to go there saturday morning before her classes and on my way home. we got off the service and walked onto campus. i didn’t know what to expect. i thought maybe a few rooms in a building. but what we found was something far more extravagant. the abu jihad museum for the prisoners movement affairs, as it is officially called, is in a huge, rather funky looking building on the southern edge of campus. if you look closely at the shot of it above you’ll notice you can see the apartheid wall imprisoning the prisoners’ museum and the rest of abu dis. the building itself and the museum inside is really quite striking in the interesting aesthetic it uses to to tell the story of palestinian political prisoners. there is a sign in the lobby that states the funding for this museum came from the state of kuwait and the arab fund for economic and social development. while i think the museum is rather amazing and tells a necessary story in the palestinian experience, i wonder just how much this museum cost to build and if that money couldn’t have been better spent in another sector of palestinian society (perhaps on prisoners themselves?).

dsc00008

as you walk inside you notice that the interior is made to look like a prison with bars for doors and windows within the museum space in several locations. but at the same time the space gives off a sense of freedom in the way large windows allow lots of light inside. first you see various photographs of israeli terrorist prisons and detention centers and a map, as pictured above, showing where all the various prisons are located. there are other photographs of israeli terrorists in uniform beating palestinians and then an artistic display of paintings showing the various common forms of torture used in israeli terrorists’ prisons. at each point in the exhibit there are explanations with history and context about each aspect of prisoners’ lives.

dsc00012

there are exhibits on martyrs, on old prisoners, on the longest serving prisoners (the two profiled, have thankfully been released in the last year and i can proudly say i was at their welcome party in beirut and nablus respectively: samir quntar and said al ‘atabeh), on female prisoners, on solidarity between palestinian political prisoners and others (notably bobbie sands in ireland), on hunger strikes in prison, on prisoners’ education, on prisoners’ letter writing, on prisoners’ artwork.

dsc00016

one of my favorite parts of the exhibit was the letters. i posted a photograph here of what some of them look like, but there were so many more displayed. you can see how small and meticulous the handwriting has to be. and you can see the capsules in the other photograph that the prisoners have to make in order to smuggle messages and letters out of the prisons. it reminded me of a scene in fateh azzam, ismail dabbagh, ‘abed ju’beh, and nidal khatib’s play ansar: a true story from an israeli military detention center (which can be found in salma khadra jayyusi’s anthology short arabic plays, which i have been teaching in my drama class. there is a scene with kifah gets zahran a present and kifah asks zahran to write a letter home for him because he doesn’t know how. this is a really beautiful part of the play because it initiates the scenes where we see palestinians starting to create schools in the various prison tents to educate one another on everything from hebrew to palestinian history. but when zahran writes the letter we see how space and size become an issue:

KIFAH: Now listen, Zahran, you write what I’m just going to tell you in brackets, so no one will read it except Mayss, understand? Tell her to tell Khulud that I miss her very, very, very much. Make sure you write “very” three times.

Zahran: There’s not much space to write all that, Kifah.

dsc00049

but another favorite part of mine was to see the various aspects of education in the exhibit. from a number of paintings and drawings that depicted prisoners as reading books to cases with books written by prisoners or read by prisoners this was a reminder of what the prison used to be in palestine: the university. scene twelve of the play ansar represents this rather well through a series of vignettes showing students attending various lectures and some of these vignettes are staged so that the lectures are delivered simultaneously and we are plopped into the middle of such lectures as in the ninth such vignette:

The two following monologues are delivered simultaneously, the impression being of lectures going on at the same time in two different tents.

PRISONER 1: For example, in the tenth century Palestine was an exporter of olives, raisins and carob as well as silk and cotton textiles. Jerusalem especially was famous for cheese, apples, bananas, mirrors, lamps and even needles. Yes, needles!

PRISONER 2: ‘Asqalan, Dahriyyeh and others were always detention centers, during the time of the British, then the Jordanians followed suit, and now the Israelis. Here, Ketziot, was also a detention center during British days, and they used to call it ‘Oja Hafeer. My grandfather, God rest his soul, was a prisoner there in ’46.

dsc00053

i just finished reading another novel this weekend by john berger called from a to x: a story in letters. berger is a writer whose book ways of seeing many graduate students in english studies are required to read. but i had not really thought much about his more creative writing until my friend jamelie turned me on to his essays hold everything dear last year. he has a number of essays in it about palestine and lebanon and it’s quite moving and beautiful. berger was one of the people to lead the way for a cultural boycott of the zionist entity three years ago in a statement that was published on electronic intifada:

“There is a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, albeit daily violated by Israeli overflights. Meanwhile the day to day brutality of the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank continues. Ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; more than 200, many of them children, have been killed since the summer. UN resolutions are flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian land is stolen, houses demolished and crops destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish (former ANC military commander presently South African minister of security), Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid. Meantime Western governments refer to Israel’s ‘legitimate right’ of self-defence, and continue to supply weaponry.

The challenge of apartheid was fought better. The non-violent international response to apartheid was a campaign of boycott, divestment, and, finally UN imposed sanctions which enabled the regime to change without terrible bloodshed. Today Palestinians teachers, writers, film-makers and non-governmental organisations have called for a comparable academic and cultural boycott of Israel as offering another path to a just peace. This call has been endorsed internationally by university teachers in many European countries, by film-makers and architects, and by some brave Israeli dissidents. It is now time for others to join the campaign as Primo Levi asked: If not now, when?

We call on creative writers and artists to support our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues by endorsing the boycott call. Read the Palestinian call (www.pacbi.org).

Don’t visit, exhibit or perform in Israel!”

dsc00079

more recently, berger produced a video of himself reading ghassan kanafani’s “letter from gaza,” which qui qui wrote about last december on kababfest. the video was played at the zapatistas’ conference in mexico and was published on their website and qui qui published the full text of kanafani’s “letter from gaza” on kabobfest as well.

dsc00082

interestingly berger’s new novel is also about letters. and it is also about prisoners. the book is dedicated to kanafani, which is what made me buy the book in the first place when i found it in al quds a few months ago. but the book is not about palestine. in fact, it is unclear where exactly the novel is set. there are all sorts of confusing location and identity markers in the novel. for instance the “a” stands for a’ida, an arabic name, of a a woman whose lover, xavier, standing in for “x” in the title, is in prison. the name xavier has basque origins. the letters are not dated, so not fixed in a particular time period. nor do they appear chronologically in the novel. and the letters are only from a’ida to xavier–there are none from him to her. but there are notes he left to a’ida on the backs of these letters that do locate the story in a particular time frame–the present. for example, he scrawls a note about hugo chavez on the back of one such letter:

“After almost 200 years we can say that the USA was designed to fill the entire world with poverty–whilst giving it the name of Freedom. The United States empire is the greatest threat which exists in the world today…” Chavez, Moscow, 27/07/2006 (44)

another such note from xavier places him ideologically and chronologically:

IMF WB GATT WTO NAFTA FTAA–their acronymns gag language, as their actions stifle the world.(70)

dsc00088

the novel is beautiful and moving, lyrical and striking. i love that you cannot place it precisely in the world because it means that in many ways this story of a political prisoner and resistance is one that is the same everywhere when one fights for liberation of one’s land. we cannot place a’ida even who calls her beloved at once habibi and mi guapo among other terms of endearment from various languages. but here are some of my favorite passages from the novel that speak to the commonality and specificity of place and struggle across the world. the italics indicate xavier’s notes and the rest is from a’ida’s letters.

I love your secrecy. It’s your candour. Two F16s have passed over flying low. Because they can’t break our secrets, the try to break our eardrums. I love your secrecy. Let me tell you what I can see at this moment.

Crammed windowsills, clotheslines, TV satellite dishes, some chairs propped against a chimney stack, two bird cages, a dozen improvised tiny terraces with their innumerable pots for plants and their saucers for cats. if I can stand up I can smell mint and molokhiyya. Cables, telephone and electric, looping in every conceivable direction and every month sagging more.Eduardo still carries his bicycle up three flights of stairs and padlocks it to a cable by his chimney. (29)

One by one the birds appeared; they didn’t fly into the tree, they appeared on its branches like prayers. Gassan’s house was destroyed by a missile, aimed, they claim at a hide-out! The birds perched there on the branches of the apple tree like answers, answers to questions which have no words. Watching the birds, I finally cried.

Gassan wasn’t there when his house was destroyed. He had gone to the market and was playing cards with some cronies. When he heard the news, he foundered and fell to the floor, making no sound.

The next day I accompanied him to the ruin. There were several epicenters where everything had been reduced to dust, surrounded by tiny fragments. Except for pipes and wires no recognisable objects remained. Everything which had been assembled during a lifetime had gone without trace, had lost its name. An amnesia not of the mind but of the tangible. (120)

The poor are collectively unseizable. They are not only the majority on the planet, they are everywhere, and the smallest event somehow refers to them. Consequently the activity of the rich is the building of walls–walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, armed frontiers, media misinformation, and finally the wall of money to separate financial speculation from production. Only 3% of financial speculation and exchange concerns production. I love you. (149)

My phone rang and there was Yasmina’s clipped voice–finches chirp quickly like this when their tree is at risk–telling me that an Apache had been circling above the old tobacco factory in the Abor district, where seven of ours were hiding, and that the neighbouring women–and other women too–were preparing to form a human shield around the factory and on its roof, to prevent them shelling it. I told her I would come.

I put down the telephone and stood still, yet it was as if I was running. Cool air was striking my forehead. Something of mine–but not my body, maybe my name A’ida–was running, swerving, soaring, plummeting and becoming impossible to sight or get aim on. Perhaps a released bird has this sensation. A kind of limpidity.

I’m not going to send you this letter, yet I want to tell you what we did the other day. Perhaps you won’t read it until we are both dead, no, the dead don’t read. The dead are what remains from what has been written. Much of what is written is reduced to ashes. The dead are all there in the words that stay.

By the time I got there, twenty women, waving white headscarves, were installed on the flat roof. The factory has three floors–like your prison. At ground level, lines of women with their backs to the wall, surrounded the entire building. No tanks or jeeps or Humvee yet to be seen. So I walked from the road across the wasteland to join them. Some of the women I recognised, others I didn’t. We touched and looked at one another silently, to confirm what we shared, what we had in common. Our one chance was to become a single body for as long as we stood there and refused to budge.

We heard the Apache returning. It was flying slowly and low to frighten and observe us, its four-bladed rotor blackmailing the air below to hold it up. We heard the familiar Apache growl, the growl of them deciding and us rushing for shelter to hide–but not today. We could see the two Hellfire missiles tucked under its armpits. We could see the pilot and his gunner. We could see the mini-guns pointing at us.

Before the ruined mountain, before the abandoned factory, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the dysentery epidemic four years ago, some of us were likely to die. Each of us, I think, was frightened but not for herself. (167-168)

Each new death prepares us for something–of course for our own deaths–mine not yours, nothing could prepare me for yours, I’ll sit on the earth, your head in my lap, their cluster bombs exploding, and I will refuse your death. Each new death also prepares us for a carnival, a carnival held under their very noses, and about which they can do f*&% all, not even with their Predator Drones. I’m thinking of how they shot Manda. (174)

dsc00100

there is so much more that is beautiful and amazing about this novel. i strongly recommend it. but i will leave you with berger himself speaking about palestinian prisoners among other things in a beautiful, eloquent fashion:

on education as liberation

israeli terrorists outside al quds university yesterday
israeli terrorists outside al quds university yesterday

friday morning a friend of mine had to make a delivery to nablus for work and offered to drive me down to beit lahem afterward so i decided to go back with him. my friend who i went to visit is a graduate student at al quds university in the european studies program. she has been complaining about the program all year, partially because the master’s program is a normalization program with an israeli terrorist university in herzliya. this means that the professors in her institution, who teach her classes, also teach in the same program there. ultimately the israeli terrorist students and the palestinian students are supposed to study jointly in germany, something my friend has already decided she would not participate in. but all year long she has had suspicions that her professors were not european or american, as her program coordinator munther dajani unequivocally stated, but rather she had strong suspicions that they were israelis.

of course those of you who follow anti-normalization and boycott news will recall that al quds university’s president sari nusseibeh–famous for his unabashed normalization with israeli terrorists–recently stated that al quds university would phase out its normalization projects (i blogged about this a few months ago). clearly, they are not only continuing these projects, but lying about them as well. the other day my friend saw an israeli terrorist id fall out of her professor’s pocket in class. the professor, aharon yair mcclanahan, does not seem to yield any results in english on google or in any of the major academic search engines. but here was a tell-tale sign of his real, hidden identity. in class the other day he was speaking about british decolonization in general. he decided to offer a specific example as professors should, of course, do. what was his example? the british decolonization of “israel.” i kid you not. he used this as an example to a classroom filled with palestinian master’s degree-seeking students. this is why when i took the photograph above saturday morning my friend said: which is scarier those israeli terrorists in uniform or those trying to hide themselves among us? indeed.

the other professor–one tal sadeh–lives in the colony of pisgat ze’ev on stolen palestinian land (as every israeli terrorist does regardless of where they live). apparently this professor didn’t hide his identity and told the students that he is a colonist occupying their land and their classroom. this second professor is not so difficult to find dirt on. in academic search premier he has a couple of articles about the zionist entity and economic trade with the european union. and he has a book on the eu on amazon.com. his articles on the zionist entity and the eu may seem banal to the uniformed reader. but of course none of these articles mention the way that all of these things that they export–such as agriculture–are entirely stolen from palestinians, from palestinian land. when he mentions tourism he fails to mention that they make it completely impossible for foreigners to tour palestine and actively work to keep tourists from spending money in cities like beit lahem. he is not innocent as with all zionist colonist terrorists he actively works to cover up the crimes of his usurping entity. i also found a letter he posted to the american zionist terrorist front page magazine in which he forwards the usual zionist propaganda. here is but one example of his deceitful propaganda:

The same goes for the Church of Nativity: It was the armed Palestinians who either forced the monks to give them shelter (which suggests that the monks are hostages), or the church who willingly let them in (which means it sided with the Palestinians in this war). Israel never wanted the violence to reach that church. The Palestinians use the church to fire at Israelis, which are morally prevented from firing back. And what about the poor children that get hurt? Indeed it is terrible. But rarely do western journalists take care to report how the Palestinians themselves are careless with their children, firing at IDF soldiers from within a crowd of kids. That poor Palestinian kid who was shot at the beginning of the Intifada – Mohammad Dura – There’s no proof at all that the IDF shot him. A recent German TV show found mixed evidence. Anyway, he was caught in the firing zone, nobody tried to purposely kill him. But like in many libels, the “sorry, we were wrong” part comes in ! small print and not in the front page.

of course, the zionist entity admitted that they murdered mohammad al durra and then later took it back. you can watch the episode of “focus on gaza” that i posted on my blog a couple of weeks ago for an entire episode about al durra and what actually happened.

when my friend went to her peers with her complaint–a complaint that clearly their director, munther dajani was unwilling to engage with since he covered up the fact that he hired israeli terrorists to teach palestinian students–there were some very odd responses. one student argued that they must keep things professional and academic and somehow academia is not the place for politics. but is not political to talk about selling palestinian orange juice that is squeezed from palestinian yaffa oranges, stolen by zionists, and sold to the european union as sadeh does in his scholarship? is this truthful, academic honesty? or for mcclanahan to suggest that the british decolonized palestine for the zionist colonists (who, of course, were not characterized as colonists by him)? these are distortions of the truth and palestinians deserve better.

but this situation is about more than this for me. as one who got her foundation about pedagogy from paolo freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed, as well as many others who followed his path, i understood pedagogy to be a form of resistance and liberation from my first days of graduate school. (interestingly, my friend who brought this all to my attention recently found freire and began reading him and saw quite clearly his theories as applicable to her situation.) i do not see how pedagogy can be connected to liberation in the least bit when the oppressor is teaching your classes. how can a student feel safe in such a class? how can students trust that the material they are being given is truthful? how can students challenge the teacher and the material being presented?

mcgill university in montreal, canada has an institute called the freire project where they carry on the theories of freire’s work. here is a video that encapsulates some of what they are all about. in the video that follows you will hear and read peter mclaren’s words that best describes this spirit:

Revolutionary critical pedagogy operates from an understanding that the basis of education is political, and that spaces need to be created where students can imagine a different world outside of capitalism’s law of value…where patriarchal hierarchies of oppression can be ended.

i wish i had my freire books here with me, but alas they are in amman. but some of the key concepts of critical pedagogy, depends upon key concepts that teach students to think critically. this involves giving students the tools with which to educate themselves, to inspire students to read, to learn, to know, and, perhaps most importantly to question. the freire project has an interesting four-part interview with christopher stonebanks and tariq ali that gets at many of these issues and themes. it starts with a discussion of ali’s novels to consider fiction as a tool to get people to think about history, given that his novels are historical inquiries into various periods of history in the arab world. but in part three he also addresses this need to teach students to think critically and its relationship between this and getting students to read. and in part four he addresses the need to teach students to doubt. this is what is sorely lacking in the educational system in many parts of the world, including here in palestine.

of course, the united states is also a country where teaching students to think critically is threatening. this is why professors like ward churchill and norman finkelstein have been under attack and fired from their institutions–cases that ali addresses in the above videos. another professor is currently under the same sort of scrutiny. this time it is william robinson at the university of california at santa barbara. he did a great interview with dennis bernstein on flashpoints the other day in which he specifically addressed the fact that an email he sent out comparing images of nazi germany to the israeli savagery in gaza was meant to teach students to question–an academic activity. here is the text of robinson’s original email, but if you click on the link you can get to the original images in question as well as to some context for them:

If Martin Luther King were alive on this day of January 19, 2009, there is no doubt that he would be condemning the Israeli aggression against Gaza along with U.S. military and political support for Israeli war crimes, or that he would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians. I am forwarding some horrific, parallel images of Nazi atrocities against the Jews and Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Perhaps the most frightening are not those providing a graphic depiction of the carnage but that which shows Israeli children writing “with love” on a bomb that will tear apart Palestinian children.

Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw – a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide (Websters: “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”), a process whose objective is not so much to physically eliminate each and every Palestinian than to eliminate the Palestinians as a people in any meaningful sense of the notion of people-hood.

The Israeli army is the fifth most potent military machine in the world and one that is backed by a propaganda machine that rivals and may well surpass that of the U.S., a machine that dares to make the ludicrous and obnoxious claim that opposition to the policies and practices of the Israeli state is anti-Semitism. It should be no surprise that a state founded on the negation of a people was one of the principal backers of the apartheid South African state not to mention of the Latin American military dictatorships until those regimes collapsed under mass protest, and today arms, trains, and advises military and paramilitary forces in Colombia, one of the world’s worst human rights violators.

there is a petition to sign for robinson, which you can get to by clicking this link.

education must be about encouraging students to think, to see things from a different point of view. it must also be about learning and reading–and encouraging students to do this. it is always so difficult to find students who are invested in their own learning process, who want these tools, who seek them out. this is why i was quite disturbed when i learned that a friend and student at my university has been blocked by her british teacher yet again from such learning in two ways. first, this student gave the professor money to buy her a copy of ilan pappe’s the ethnic cleansing of palestine. after quite a long wait the teacher gave the student back the money saying that the bookstore was not open when she went to al quds. as someone who goes to the two english-language bookshops on salah el din street almost every weekend–at various times of the day and evening–i found this to be quite shocking. indeed, i happened to go there on friday afternoon at the moment when everyone was rushing to the old city for friday prayer and it was open. i also know from experience that the bookshop is open in the evenings as well throughout the weekend. but this same student, who wants to do research comparing israeli terrorist policies in 1948 palestine with its terrorist ethnic cleansing policies in the west bank was told: no. why was she told no? because she was told that if she presented such research to a foreign, western audience they wouldn’t understand because they only see the west bank and gaza as occupied. thankfully, this student knows better.

but this is precisely my point: education should encourage students to sort such things out. a professor or teacher might mention that such biases exist, but show that student those biases and encourage the student to figure out ways to challenge those biases through his/her research. but this foreign teacher silenced this student (though thankfully she refuses to be silenced). but any other student might submit.

education must be about liberation. about resistance. why else would anyone teach?

on the crimes of apartheid

i posted yesterday my dear friend nora’s interview with another friend of ours hazem jamjoum on her show flashpoints in audio form. i decided to spend today transcribing the interview because it is so amazing and important. hazem is amazing at speaking–and for sure it’s better to listen to the interview–but i think there is too much crucial information packed into this interview to not have it available in text form as well. here is the raw transcript of the interview. i’ve added some links to some of hazem’s statements.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: I wanted to interview you because you’ve been researching in exquisite detail how Israel practices apartheid on the ground here in occupied Palestine. And this is an area that I think the United States corporate mainstream media definitely is not touching. But it is becoming more and more relevant, more and more visible as this entrenched occupation grinds on. So I was wondering if you could maybe start by talking about what apartheid is and what it isn’t under the guidelines of international law.

Hazem Jamjoum: Alright, well first of all the word apartheid is an Afrikaans word, which means apartness or to separate, separateness. It was introduced to kind of the international language as a result of the regime that was implemented by white settlers in South Africa after the 1948 election. The regime in South Africa, essentially–and this has roots from before 1948: the British [sic] had instituted laws and practices which displaced indigenous Black communities off of their land, squeezing them into about 13% of the territory of South Africa. And what the national party did, which was largely representative of the Afrikaners who are descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, the body of laws they implemented after 1948 came to be known as the apartheid laws. And these laws included such things as pass laws, which restricted the freedom of mobility; things like the Group Areas Act, and the various bodies of laws that kind of outlined who belonged to which group in the country, where you were allowed to be based on that group, and what kinds of rights and privileges you had. Really what that system was was a system of laws that was designed to maintain the supremacy and domination of the white settler group over the Black community, which was the majority.

Now in the mid-1970s, after the Soweto uprising, and the massacre of the demonstrators in Soweto, what the international community did was there was a proposal, bill kind of at the United Nations General Assembly, and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, called the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment for the Crime of Apartheid. And in this convention what the United Nations did, or what the international community did, was it defined the crime of apartheid and then detailed a set of consequences if a state was found or if a regime was found to be guilty of the crime of apartheid. And these consequences range from being legally prosecuted if a member or an institution that is part of the implementation of this regime sort of goes into a territory or a country which is a signatory to the convention, they can be prosecuted. The international community is supposed to essentially isolate this regime and do whatever it can to stop this crime of apartheid from continuing to be implemented. And now there’s some confusion with for some whether apartheid can only, is limited to South Africa during the period of 1948 to 1994. Actually, if you read the convention it’s quite clear. It stems from an understanding of what’s happening in South Africa at the time in the mid-1970s, but it’s a crime of general applicability. It can, any state can commit the crime of apartheid. And the definition of the crime–of course later there are other conventions that also talk about what the crime of apartheid is, most notably the 2002 Rome Statute, which establishes the International Criminal Court. It’s also mentioned in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. And I bring up the Rome Statute because it was passed in 2002 well after racial apartheid ends in South Africa. So it’s quite clear that by defining apartheid and by saying that this is a crime, the international community is saying apartheid is still a crime and any state that commits it will be punished as an internationally-defined criminal act or an international crime. So the crime itself–even though you have different wording in these different conventions–the idea is generally the same. The idea is that you have one group that institutes institutionalized racial discrimination or institutionalized discrimination against another group for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination and commits inhumane acts in order to maintain that domination. Inhumane acts are generally, basically human rights violations and crimes against humanity, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and actually in the international convention from the mid 70s you have a complete list of what these crimes or apartheid practices are, and they range from the denial of life and liberty to the denial of return to the exploitation of labor to banning mixed marriages. And what we find is that actually Israel is practicing all of these. The entire list of the practices that are considered apartheid practices.

If we want to talk about Israel as an apartheid regime what we have to show is there is one group that has institutionalized discrimination against another group for the purposes of establishing and maintaining domination. With the case of Israel it’s actually what they call a “no brainer.” It’s actually quite obvious and in Israeli laws themselves. As far as Israel is concerned there is a group called Jewish people. It’s defined in such things as the Law of Return and the Citizenship Act, so basically as far as Israel is concerned anyone who is Jewish anywhere in the world is automatically a national, is a part of the Jewish nation and a national of Israel and entitled to be here and be part of the dominant group. And then there’s another group, which in Israeli laws you would generally kind of see it as non-Jews, but as far as the facts on the ground are concerned, that means the Palestinians. And so these are Palestinians who are Muslims and Christians, atheists and agnostics, it doesn’t matter. As far as Israel is concerned, if you don’t fit that definition of Jewish, that is debated within Israel, but generally that’s the group, then you fall into that subservient group. And so it’s actually quite clear that Israel is committing this crime of apartheid.

NBF: That’s the voice of Hazem Jamjoum of the Badil Resource Center here in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. We’re talking about how Israel, as a state, practices the crime of apartheid. Okay, give us some examples. And I want maybe to start with how Israel practices apartheid in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and then we’ll move into maybe inside the Green Line itself and then talk about Jerusalem, which I think is kind of an anomaly within historic Palestinian area. So talk about how Israel practices apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza.

HJ: Alright, if you’ll excuse me, I think it actually works the other way around. The core of Israeli apartheid is what’s practices against the majority of Palestinians. Seven out of ten Palestinians are refugees. And the Israeli apartheid system comes into being with the creation of the state of Israel and as this new settler colony begins to implement its laws. By the early 1950s the key laws that make up the Israeli apartheid regime were already in place. And these laws are the Law of Return, which essentially says any Jewish person anywhere can come and become a citizen, which defines essentially the dominant group. But then you have the policies and practices that deny the return of the refugees. So in the late 1940s and the 1948 nakba you have the forced expulsion of the majority of Palestinians who become refugees. The denial of their return is essentially like the prime apartheid crime as far as Israel is concerned. The fact that you have a group of people with an internationally enshrined right to return to their homeland, to the places from which they were expelled, but because they are of a certain type, they are of a certain group, which is non-Jewish, then they have no right. Israel does not recognize their right to return. In fact, it actively denies their right to return. And in fact passes laws to that effect. Over and above the policies and practices on the ground that may or may not be written. And so this is kind of point number one as far as Israeli apartheid is concerned.

The second place you look is within the Green Line. Within what is called Israel proper. Because there you have, I mean, when people talk about Israeli apartheid, the Israeli response is, “no we cannot be an apartheid regime because we have Palestinian citizens and these citizens can vote and run for the Knesset, for the Israeli parliament. And this is pointed out particularly because in South Africa the indigenous community was not allowed to vote. In the early 80s sort of these other groupings that the South African apartheid regime created, like coloreds and Indians, the apartheid regime started to create new–they created something called the tri-cameral parliament and tried to modify things so it looked like Indians and coloreds could vote. It was largely a sham and it wasn’t very long lasting. But the case of Palestinian citizens inside Israel, Israeli apartheid is quite clear for anyone who wants to look. Actually, one of the earliest books dealing with the issue dealing with Israeli apartheid is called Israel an Apartheid State: Possibilities for the Struggle Within by Uri Davis who’s a Jewish Israeli who identifies as a Palestinian Jew. And he has a–this book is very interesting–and he focuses entirely on land, on the issue of land. He talks about the Law of Return and he talks about the refugees, particularly because 80% of the land inside Israel proper, within the Green Line, is refugee land. So by the early 1950s, with the passing of such things as the Absentee Property Law, where refugees were called “absentees,” they were kind of classified within Israeli law as “absentees,” their lands–80% of the land of Israel–was automatically transferred to the state. To the Israeli state. This includes what is today around 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel who were displaced from their villages but stayed within the state of Israel, within the Green Line. So they are internally displaced. So they lost their lands through the Absentee Property Law, but they’re not really “absentees.” They’re still in the country. They’re citizens. So Israel created their own legal classification, which I think doesn’t exist anywhere in the world: they are called “present absentees.” Present physically in the country, with citizenship, absent because they’re not allowed to get their land back.

Since 1948–between 1948 and 1966–Israel implemented a very important, and not very often talked about, regime on those Palestinians who remained. Those Palestinians who somehow managed to stay. Through the extremely violent ethnic cleansing of the 1948 nakba. It was, it is often referred to the military regime because what happened was you had two bodies of law operating within Israel. You had one body of law for Jewish Israelis, which were the regular laws passed through the parliament, they are called the Basic Laws, and then the various policies that you’d have at a municipal level, at a regional level. But then for Palestinians you had something called military law. And essentially what military law is, is that the military commander of the region in which you live is judge, jury, executioner, police force. Sort of, can essentially issue edicts that then become law automatically. And some of these laws, through their use over time, become kind of entrenched. So for example, a military law like Military Order 125. This is a very important one. This declares an area a Closed Military Zone. And what that means is that any Palestinian in the area has to leave the zone. Any person has to leave if you’re not a military person. Of course, the land that were declared Closed Military Zones were all Palestinian land. And this is something very important. If you look at Israeli laws–if you’re reading Israeli laws–and this is something Uri Davis does a really good job explaining–you won’t, other than the Law of Return, which says that any Jewish person anywhere in the world can become a citizen, the way they talk about it is aliyah, you ascend to becoming a citizen of Israel. Other than that law, the way that Israel distinguishes between Jew and non-Jew and the practicing of the laws is through the practice itself. It’s not written in the laws. So this Military Order 125 declaring an area a Closed Military Zone is a good example. You have Palestinian areas that are thousands of acres declared Closed Military Zones so people are kicked off their land. And then you have another law, for example, that says if your land is left uncultivated for three years it becomes property of the state. So that means you get kicked off–the military physically kicks you off, saying this is a Closed Military Zone–and three years later you get a piece of paper from the court saying “We’re taking your land. It’s now state land because you haven’t been there for three years. You haven’t cultivated it.” And if you go to challenge, like the thousands of Palestinians who tried to go to Israeli courts to challenge this, you’ll be told by the court that, “It’s none of our business that the military kicked you off your land, you can deal with the military for that. We’re just implementing the law.” Right and so on its face Israel looks like a regular, democratic regime that’s implementing its very benign looking laws, it’s very regular looking laws.

Another example is a very important law called the 1965 Planning and Construction Law. This law essentially lists all the towns, cities, and villages inside Israel. And so when you read the law it’s saying “this area is an archaeological area, this place is for roads, this place is for residents, this place is commercial” in each of these towns, cities, and villages, but it is what is left out that’s important. You have dozens of Palestinian villages that are simply not listed. And because this law is supposed to list all the communities that exist, so therefore, any community that’s not listed is by definition illegal. Not only does it not exist, it’s not supposed to exist. And so these villages that pre-date the existence of Israel, sometimes by centuries, simply no longer exist. They don’t appear on any Israeli maps, official maps. They receive no municipal services–we’re talking water, electricity, sewage, waste collection, clinics,–let alone hospitals–schools, nothing. They live in the fourteenth century as far as services are concerned. And because they don’t exist none of the houses are legal, which means that the houses can be demolished at any time. Again, these are citizens of the state of Israel. These are the examples of how great Israeli democracy is and yet these people on a weekly basis–and this is not an exaggeration–on a weekly basis we have home demolitions, mosque demolitions. You can just put up–because they have no water and electricity, they buy generators, that’s how you get electricity. You buy water tanks and then you buy water from anywhere you can get water. And so if you have a water tank it gets destroyed. If you have a pen for your cattle it gets destroyed. Any structure–any two bricks on top of each other is the way that we say it–you have two bricks on top of each other, that becomes an illegal structure.

Now beyond that is what happened in the cities. The interesting thing that happened in Palestinian cities that were occupied in 1948 like Yaffa, Ramla, Lydd, Akka–now some cities like Safad and Beer Saba’ or Beer Sheva were completely emptied out of their Palestinian residents. Other cities where Palestinians stayed became called “mixed cities.” And what happened was that the Israelis squeezed those Palestinians who managed to stay, or who were displaced from villages nearby and ended up in the city, squeezed them into one neighborhood. And often that neighborhood was surrounded with barbed wire with a checkpoint at the gate. And you needed a military permission in order to enter or leave this neighborhood. Of course you had these European Jewish refugees coming in from the Nazi holocaust who had only one word for this kind of neighborhood: which is ghetto. And until today, and this is one of the thousands of ironies of Palestine today, until today Palestinians who live in these neighborhoods think that the word “ghetto” actually means Arab neighborhood in Hebrew. So they call their own neighborhood “the ghetto” thinking it’s just the Hebrew word for what an Arab neighborhood is. Now these are still around today.

After 1966 you had no more of this military regime–[though] still in the south until 1970–but for the most part the military regime was disbanded only because it was exported into the West Bank and Gaza and I’ll talk about that a little more later. But what we have in these cities–these “mixed cities”–is an intensive process of expelling the Palestinians from their land, from their homes. And it doesn’t happen the way that it happened in 1948. You don’t necessarily have a military force coming in knocking houses over, collecting people into the middle–you know a big square–shooting into a crowd until it disperses and runs out of the city, or you know picking out men who are involved in the resistance and executing them the way that we had in 1948. What you have is the workings of Israel’s “democratic” laws. So each city it’s a different story. In Lydd and Ramla, for example, the entire Palestinian neighborhoods have been zoned as agricultural land so in Lydd, for example, you have 1,000 Palestinian homes with demolition orders because they are residential buildings, again many of which pre-date the state of Israel, which are illegal because they are built on agricultural land. And so the state comes in–and this is one of the interesting things–when your house is going to be demolished they make you pay for it. So basically you have two choices: either you go and get someone who owns a bulldozer to come and destroy it for you–as in destroy your own house and clean up the rubble–or the army will come, or the police or whatever authority in that particular place is running the demolition business, will come in and destroy it for you, and then fine you. And it’s actually–the fine is more expensive than building a house in many of these cases. So you’re caught in this impossible position: to destroy your own house or pay a fine that’s larger than the cost of building a new house and then if there’s rubble remaining they make you pay for removing the rubble, or again, they come and remove it and they make you pay a fine for the removal. I mean, so if anything it’s just cruel. It’s cruel and it’s inhuman. And as many South Africans who have visited have said, it’s worse than what they witnessed in South Africa. But as far as the crime is concerned, these are practices and policies that very clearly fit the fact that you have an institutionalized regime where over time, across the board, discriminates–it’s institutionalized discrimination–and it’s very clearly for the purposes of Israel being a Jewish state. A state for Jewish people, maintaining the domination, the dominance of this group, which Israel has defined itself as, you know, the Jewish group, and at the expense of, and where the inferior group is, the non-Jews, the Palestinians. In the West Bank and Gaza, I mean it’s just beyond plain for everyone to see.

NBF: And I want to tell people that you are listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. My name is Nora Barrows-Friedman reporting from the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem in Palestine. We’re sitting here with Communications Director of Badil Resource Center, Hazem Jamjoum. We’re talking about apartheid as Israel practices it. So, Hazem, the West Bank and Gaza.

HJ: So the West Bank and Gaza. First of all, when you had the occupation in 1967, you had a very important strategic goal of maintaining control over these areas and so there were various plans kind of thrown around. First of all, what Israel did was it cleared out, it forcibly expelled over 400,000 Palestinians right off the bat in 1967. Half of them–or just under half of them–were already refugees from 1948. So for many of them this was the second, third, or fourth time they were being displaced. Still in 1967. Some of these people have been been displaced multiple times since. What this meant in the West Bank, and this is something that was developed by an Israeli general who became a minister, and was actually Prime Minister for a while, his name was Yigal Allon. So it’s known as the Allon Plan. The main idea of the Allon Plan is that you close off any access between Palestinian areas and neighboring Arab countries. So Gaza is not to have any border with Egypt with the Sinai and the West Bank is not to have any uncontrolled border with Jordan. And so the entire Jordan Valley is cleared out of its Palestinian residents with the exception of Jericho, but then that border is still controlled. And then the same happened in Gaza. The other aspect of it is that the West Bank is to be split up to be made more controllable, but also because the Zionist movement always saw Jerusalem as its eternal undivided capital. And so what this meant is that the West Bank was split in the middle through the annexation of the Jerusalem area. And so you had a northern West Bank and a southern West Bank with no access to Jordan. So you had essentially two closed-in reservations. And Gaza being the third, closed, completely controlled reservation. Now with the passage of time, especially through the 70s, you had additional kind of developments. It was modified by many different people, most notably Ariel Sharon.

In the late 70s, and especially in the early 80s, you have something that comes up called the Sharon Plan. And the main idea of the Sharon Plan is why cut the West Bank into two parts when we can cut it into many more parts. And so he cuts, he proposes that the northern part of the West Bank be split in two as well. And then that as many settler enclaves be created, the way that–I mean, so Jerusalem was one way that the West Bank was created, eh split up, but further ways that the West Bank is split up is through, essentially Israel exports its civilian population into this occupied territory through the construction of these heavily fortified things that are colonies. And internationally, the media usually calls them settlements. But essentially they are settler colonies with people who are armed to the teeth, full armed guard. I mean, the army spends a lot of money and resources defending these places, even if they are not being attacked, and they are almost always on the hilltops. And they always split Palestinian communities from one another. So if we look at a map of the West Bank today, it’s just extremely plain. One of the most recent ones I’ve seen makes it look like–the color, the non-Palestinian controlled area is blue and the Palestinian-controlled area is green–and it looks like an island archipelago. And the map is called, you know, the Palestinian archipelago. And it looks like a bunch of islands. And that’s what it is.

Now what the peace process, or so-called peace process, enabled Israel to do in terms of geography, was to begin to entrench this archipelago as a fact on the ground by expanding very rapidly through the 90s. And this is during the Labor government, the “left-wing” Israelis as they’re called, so through the Labor Party who’s in power, under Ehud Barak, who is still, I think, considered sort of a “peace dove” for many, especially in `North America who don’t know–I mean he’s the most decorated soldier in Israel, right, and that’s not because he planted a lot of trees. You know, he killed a lot of people and that was his business for most of his life and that’s why he’s so decorated. And so under his reign the settler population essentially doubled. And what Israel began to do in the early part of this millennium was to build a wall and to just entrench this geographic apartheid regime, the Palestinian Bantustan, concretely, literally, by building a wall that largely surrounds Palestinian communities, splitting them up from each other and splitting people from their lands, splitting people’s ability to reach hospitals, and to reach their work, and to reach their schools. And so this is when people began to really look at apartheid just because on the map it began to look like the Bantustans in South Africa, even though if we were to look at the legal definition, Israel’s been an apartheid regime since its inception regarding the refugees and regarding the people who became its citizens–the non-Jews who became its citizens, the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Now in the West Bank and Gaza it’s just that much more obvious because Palestinians living in the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza do not have Israeli citizenship. They–so they have no vote–so you know that argument about Israeli democracy no longer applies, and then you have the brutality of the occupation, right, and this is something that South Africans who visited Palestine said–you know the South African police, the apartheid police were brutal. There is no question about South African police brutality, the torture in the prisons–it’s just that the intensity of the violence–it’s just that it’s more here as far as they’re concerned. I mean bombing entire communities with F-16s, you know, coming in and just mass house demolitions, mass arrests of entire communities. You know, where the army will come in and say “everyone, every male between the age[s] of twelve and fifty-five come to the school.” You know and if you don’t you’re in big trouble, and if you do then most likely you’re going to jail for a while. So these are the kinds of things that sort of are an intensity of Israeli violence that wasn’t necessarily as common as it was in the apartheid regime in South Africa. The fact that you have one group that has established and that is maintaining its domination over another group using institutionalized discrimination is very obvious. Like I said, the military regime, the military laws were exported here and you have actually two separate laws for two peoples. You have, if you’re an Israeli settler in the West Bank, then you are governed under Israeli civilian law. If you are a Palestinian in the West Bank then you are governed under the military law. And the person who happens to be the military commander in your region, again, reigns supreme. They make the law and they implement the law at whim. And it can be quite whimsical, actually. You know you have military orders in the West Bank that ban the growing of certain kinds of flowers. And it seems absurd at first and then you do a little bit more research and find out that the nearby settlement is growing the same kind–those flowers and they don’t want any competition so they’ve ask the military commander to outlaw the Palestinians who are growing those flowers. You know, so it can be that random.

And there are stories from the original military regime between 48 and 66 where you have the military commander punishing people by telling them they have to stand on one leg under a tree for like, say this many hours. So I mean there’s all kind of absurdity and there’s all kind of anecdotal stuff, but the big picture of the implementation of a crime, which is the crime of apartheid, plus the fact that you have a prolonged military occupation, you know for some, inside the Green Line, is occupied territory since 1948. For the entire world there is consensus that for the past 40 some years you’ve had a military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Plus all of this in the context of the colonial enterprise, right. Zionism came–it was a movement of Jewish people outside of Palestine–to come and colonize Palestine. And in their own language. What’s today called the Jewish Agency, a charitable organization in the United States, one of the–I mean it used to be the government of the Jewish community in Palestine before 1948–subservient to the British government, but it was the authority, used to be called the Jewish Colonization Association. You know, it is very clear and at the time it was more cool to be a colonizer. Since World War I and since the national liberation movements of the global south over the past century or so it’s less in vogue. But still, Zionism is a colonial movement. And all of these practices are basically colonial practices. It’s just that it’s also a military occupation. It’s also an apartheid regime.

NBF: That’s the voice of Hazem Jamjoum. We’re sitting here at the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem. And now I want you to talk–focus on a little bit about what’s happening in Jerusalem because you have a population, the indigenous population, which is being rapidly ethnically cleansed and squeezed out, the borders are being redrawn. And their status as residents versus citizens is also very indicative of the process of apartheid. Can you talk a little bit more about what’s happening in Jerusalem as its own entity.

HJ: Well I don’t think that Jerusalem is an anomaly so much as it is a microcosm. Essentially most of what you see in the rest of the country over time, over the past sixty years, you also see in Jerusalem. So Jerusalem is a city that was divided between 48 and 67. It was divided because the Zionists wanted–I mean their armed forces went right after trying to get as much of Jerusalem as they could in the 1948 war, during the ethnic cleansing, during the nakba. What they managed to do was to get everything up until the western wall of the Old City. So that part of Jerusalem, which is now referred to as West Jerusalem, that was completely ethnically cleansed. You know there was no–there were very few Palestinian families that were able to remain. All of that land was reverted to absentee property. Most of those buildings are still standing. Any person who comes and visits the city can go and visit the–you know, and they even call them “Arab houses.” If you have an Arab house it’s more expensive because it’s more authentic. It’s older looking. You know and there are certain kinds of Israeli fetishes with the Arab that are quite–I mean, they’re largely quite disgusting, but I mean they’re very interesting. They’re indicative. So you have–I’m going to digress a little, I’m sorry. But you have over 530 Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948. Many of them, their rubble is still there, you know, in Jewish National Fund parks and forests, on the lands that has been taken over by kibbutzes and moshavs, you know these socialist utopias that had nothing to do with socialism and much more to do with ethnic cleansing and apartheid practices. But what you have is this movement within Israeli society to go and steal the rocks from the rubble–the stones that these houses were built from and to build your own house using these rocks because it looks more authentic. It makes your house look old. And so when you walk around West Jerusalem you see these beautiful–I mean, it’s one thing, I say this, you know, Palestinian bourgeoisie used to know how to build houses.

There are very beautiful villas that are in West Jerusalem and now they’re inhabited by Jewish families and a story that you will hear from many Palestinians who will go and have tried to go and see their–because the thing with the 1948 nakba also is that many people left in a very big hurry. There were bombs going off. There were bullets within, there were children who were at threat [sic] of dying so, you know, some people left the food on the table, some people left the bread in the oven, but also their belongings, all their photo albums, all their papers, all their books, all their little–you know, the things that you collect over a lifetime, especially when you have houses, and these are houses that are generational houses. These are houses that were passed on from grandparent to grandchild. And so you have several generations of belongings that are in these houses in West Jerusalem and in the other cities and the places where houses were left intact. And so people have tried to go and get their stuff. You know, before 2000 people were able to move at least into Jerusalem and people with Jerusalem IDs–and we’ll talk about this in a second–are able to still go into West Jerusalem. And so people would go and visit their houses and in the vast majority of cases either the door was shut in their faces or the cops were called. You know, the settlers who took over these houses did not want to confront the fact that they were living in someone else’s house and that this someone else was ringing the doorbell and wasn’t asking for the house back, because they knew that this was a much larger story. They wanted to go and get their dad’s picture from over the fireplace. I’m not making this up, right, these are actual–a story that someone told me. They wanted their dad’s picture. Or their grandfather’s picture from over the fireplace. And the door was slammed in their face and when they rang the doorbell again the cops were called. So these are the kinds of–in terms of just mentality–that an apartheid regime will breed and will foster.

Now what you did have was those Palestinians who did manage to remain, like with the other cities, they were crammed into what was called the Baqa’a zone, a ghetto, literally. It was surrounded by barbed wire, you couldn’t enter or leave without permission from the military commander, et cetera, et cetera, like I’ve been describing. In 1967 Jerusalem was one of the most important places for the Israeli military to take control over. And so that was one of the first things they went for, they got it. The Jordanians didn’t put up much of a fight. Of course there were some sort of low-level officers who fought heroically and did put up a fight but as far as the regime was concerned this was a lost battle. And so they just gave up the city for the most part. And as far as Israel is concerned the city was re-unified as Israel’s undivided eternal capital. And it’s not on the negotiating table. You know, people talk about the peace process and the negotiations–as far as–the two things that Israel will not negotiate, will not touch are the refugees, that’s the first issue, and Jerusalem. And that’s why they call them the “thorny issues.” That’s why they call them the “obstacles.” Of course, usually it’s in the context of Palestinians not being flexible enough. You know, they’re not being flexible on their right to go back to their own home. Or they’re not being flexible on the fact that they want the occupation of their city to end. Regardless, what happened after 1967 was Israel began what they call, in its, you know, they call “Judalization.” The idea of Judaization, or in in Hebrew yehud, so the Judaization of places like the Galilee or Jerusalem, or today Yaffa and Akka and Palestinian cities–the idea is that you want to bring up the number of Jewish residents as high as possible and minimize the number of Palestinians, hopefully to zero, but if not at least to have a very strongly entrenched vast majority of residents who are Jewish. And again this idea of Jewish and non-Jewish is very entrenched in Israeli law, policy, and practice on every single level.

Now, in order to Judaize the city of Jerusalem several things were done. The first thing was the establishment of settlements, of colonies. So the first colony in the West Bank is actually Ma’ale Adumim. It’s the settlement that expands Jerusalem eastward and splits the West Bank into north and south and since it’s considered part of Jerusalem, it automatically raises the number of Jews compared to non-Jews in the city. But then you have several other settlements that are established in waves. After the late 1970s you have further expansion of the city. If you look at a map of Jerusalem with its settlements, the settlements are actually built kind of in concentric rings around the Old City with settlements being built inside the Old City. And there have been many sneaky tactics for this. In some cases you have straight up harassment and violence. In some cases you have settler organizations approaching Palestinians and offering massive amounts of money. There’s always stories of blank checks being thrown around. And then you have these stories of heroism where people don’t sell, you know, and they’ll say for no price will I do this. Or, you know I met an old man who told me, “you know they came and offered me a blank check. I said, I don’t want your money. I want you to go around and apologize to every single Palestinian baby and then maybe I’ll reconsider handing over my shop to you.” They had come to take his shop. But I mean usually it’s a multiplicity of tactics used even on the same piece of land–so first it’ll be an offer of money, then it’ll be an offer of much more money, then it’ll be some harassment, and then the police may get involved, then the municipality may get involved, then all of a sudden you’re being taxed for things you didn’t know you could be taxed for, and then, you know, you come to relicense your property and you find that it’s so expensive to relicense, you get the money, and then you find that there all these administrative obstacles to you being relicensed or to renewing your license and then all of a sudden your place is not licensed and so it’s subject to demolition or to you being kicked out of it, evicted. And so you have these cases, right, you have thousands of people facing eviction orders, thousands of people facing home demolition. A new policy, for example, says that if you live in a building where you are renting and it’s not licensed then both the person who is the owner and the person who is the renter get fined. And also you have these policies that gradually–and time is very much on Israel’s side with a lot of these things, right, so maybe international pressure is growing, but on the inside, as far as the power balance is concerned, it’s clear who has the guns, it’s clear who has the weapons. It’s also clear who has international state support. And so time is on Israel’s side.

If they come to demolish a house today and the community comes out and stops the bulldozer from reaching the house, and you know people get beat up, some people get arrested, and the bulldozer doesn’t manage to get to the house, you know then the municipality can just try next week. And if it doesn’t work next week they can try next month. And if it doesn’t work next month, they can try next year or in five years or in ten years. And so with the passage of time you actually have people now being kicked out of their homes–maybe they’re being kicked out of their second or third home–you know, you’ve done stories like on Um Kamel al Kurd who, you know, she was kicked out of her West Jerusalem house and became a refugee in East Jerusalem. Now her house in East Jerusalem, she’s been kicked out of it–settlers have taken over the physical house. She built a tent next door. The tent has been destroyed five, I think now, six times. And she’s still there, right, and so–this is the thing–there’s a certain stubbornness to our people. That stubbornness has become a compliment in a way. It’s become a valued trait because if you’re not stubborn then you’re in the street. If you’re not stubborn then you’re not anywhere near your second or third home. You know we’ve been–people are fighting not to return to their original home, they’re fighting to–I mean everybody’s fighting to return to their original home ultimately–but we’ve reached the point where you’re fighting to go back to the little shed that you’ve been living in and you’ve been kicked out of.

But what’s been happening also is Israel has built its wall and the most interesting, the most intricate, complicated place where the wall runs is in Jerusalem. What they’ve done is they’ve demarcated Jerusalem through the wall. And when I say wall, by the way, the wall and its associated regime, the way that the International Court of Justice talks about it, it’s not just the cement wall. You also have like vast expansive areas of kind of like barbed wire with militarized zones on both sides. You also have the checkpoints and the settlements–this is all part of the associated regime of the wall. It’s essentially a closure regime. Or most appropriately you can describe it as a cage. It cages Palestinians and the communities they’re in and it prevents them from entering other communities. And the most important one, because it’s so close and it’s also the economic, social, cultural, political hub of the West Bank is Jerusalem. And so this Jerusalem area–the Palestinians in Jerusalem for one thing have their own special status in the state. They’re not citizens of Israel, but they don’t have the West Bank Palestinian IDs, which prevent them from entering Jerusalem. They have Jerusalem IDs. They’re non-citizens, but they have the ability to move. The only thing that kind of differentiates them–between them and West Bank or Gaza Palestinians–is that they’re able to move a little bit more freely. Now, but for this Jerusalem ID has become a major burden. Because having a Jerusalem ID enables you also to get such things as social insurance. But what it also means is that you have to remain in Jerusalem to keep it. Now what’s happened with the construction of the wall and the closing off of Jerusalem is that people with Jerusalem IDs who are living without–on the other side of the wall now have to move in. So you have this massive rush of people who are living in areas that became West Bank areas overnight because the wall was put up, because Israel rezoned their area, and these are large areas, like Al Ram, Bir Nabala, Shu’fat refugee camp, Qalandia refugee camp, all these areas that you had Jerusalem ID people living in, all of a sudden, overnight if they stayed where they were living they would lose their Jerusalem residency. They would become West Bank people.

This is another way that Israel kind of on the literal meaning of apartheid has separated between people with different types of–today we talk of a Palestinian refugee, a 48 Palestinian, a Jerusalem Palestinian, a Gaza Palestinian, a West Bank Palestinian, in any case. But what it also meant was that Jerusalem prices were skyrocketing. The value of prices in Jerusalem became so high that you actually had people living in sheds. You had people living in the shack next door where people have kept their tools, you know, in the garden shed. And so it’s become extremely overcrowded. It was overcrowded before in places like Shu’fat refugee camp, like Anata. But now it’s extremely overcrowded. The prices have skyrocketed. And nobody can afford it, you know. There’s a high unemployment rate. And so what it means is that people are being forced to leave. So again you don’t have people–soldiers–coming in necessarily with guns and telling you to leave like in 1948. What you have is the slow working of various political, municipal policy and practice, the economy, so you have financial pressure, you have municipal pressure, you have the cost of renewing your license, the cost of acquiring a license, administrative hurdles–all of these working together to push you out if you’re Palestinian. If you’re Jewish it’s a completely different story. If you’re Jewish most of these things don’t apply to you. You can always go live in a settlement you know. Every few weeks we hear news of this many hundred settlements being built or established or expanded in Jerusalem settlements as well as the settlements that are further away, the colonies. So you have a very clear distinction. Israel doesn’t have to put the word Jewish or Palestinian or non-Jewish on any piece of legislation because it’s all done on the level of policy. It’s all done on the level of practice. Some things are simply not done if you’re Jewish. I have never heard of a Jewish resident of Jerusalem having their house demolished you know. I haven’t heard–you know maybe evictions happen, but it’s probably because you haven’t paid your rent not because, you know, they’ve decided that your presence here is not in the interest of the Jewish state. No: your presence here, if you’re Jewish, is in the interest of the Jewish state. It is the Judaization of the city. And so Jerusalem does operate as a kind of microcosm of the city.

NBF: That’s the voice of Hazem Jamjoum of Badil Resource Center in Bethlehem here in the occupied West Bank in Palestine and you’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. We only have a few minutes left, but I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what’s being done to challenge, to counteract, to eventually bring down this apartheid system that Israel has been practicing over the last sixty-one years. Even longer as it prepared to colonize. And really how the international civil society, how individuals and collectives and communities can get involved. What is being done? And what do you see as maybe some of the most important mechanisms that are being looked at and designed and implemented right now?

HJ: Alright so this is a very massive question for like a few minutes remaining, so just to say Palestinians in very, very, many different ways. Ranging from–I mean in Jerusalem, for example, you have people who are fundraising to submit zoning plans to the municipality and wage these kinds of battles. You have people who are physically trying to stop homes from being demolished. You have people like Um Kamel who has built a tent next to her house just to kind of be there in-your-face, to say I have nowhere else to go. And then in the rest of the West Bank and in the rest of Palestinian–between Palestinian citizens of Israel, Jerusalem Palestinians, refugees, West Bank and Gaza, et cetera you have various forms of resistance.

What I’ll focus on, though, is–I mean, and it’s largely because Palestinians don’t have a choice–like it says on the wall in Qalqiliya, “to resist is to exist and to exist is to resist.” That’s what it means here, right, and to go on living and to go on doing this is even part of the resistance: to try to make a living, to try to just stay on your land is a real act of resistance–something that is as banal as that. And anywhere–in most other places in the world–not all, of course, is an act of resistance. But where there is choice is the rest of the world. I mean, most importantly in the United States, which is the major backer, Israel is not going to be able to do any of this, the only thing that has enabled Israel to do this is the international backing. And international backing takes many forms. At its lowest level you have the straight up complicity. The fact that the world will turn the other way. We just saw Israel massacre over 1,400 people in Gaza, destroy entire neighborhoods, injure thousands. The international community barely lifted a finger, but what it did afterwards is say, okay, I’ll help you rebuild, right. Let’s pay the bill for Israel’s destruction. And of course the money that Israel used to do this, and the military supplies that it used to do this, came from countries like the United States, from Italy, from Switzerland, from the international community. And so–and it’s not just in the form of aid, you know direct aid or military aid–it’s also that these companies that make up the Israeli economy, they thrive off exporting to Europe, off doing business with the United States, off the fact that even unions and left-wing organizations, and civil society invest in things like Israel bonds, invest in corporations that do business with Israel. So Israel has become normal in the international community even though it does these extremely abnormal and abhorrent things. And so what is required is required is very similar to the case of South Africa. And what is required in most cases of oppression where the international community, where the state, government, and armies have turned their backs is that the regular citizen, the regular community organization, the regular union and the worker, and the responsibility begins to fall on our shoulders as regular people. And what this responsibility means is to work towards the isolation of this regime until it implements international law. It kind of–it sounds simple–again, kind of like a no brainer–you’d think it would be very simple for this to happen, but what we’ve also seen is the massive amount of very well-funded pressure to shield Israel from any kind of public scrutiny.

You know we just came out of the Durban Review Conference where many in the international community were trying to say, “hey, what’s happening in Israel is not an issue of people just shooting at each other, it’s an issue of institutionalized racism. This is one of the key issues of racism in the world. And but Israel did everything in its power to make sure that it was not mentioned as an issue of racism: to say that Palestinians aren’t facing any racism, there’s a peace process, you know. And so this peace process has been used as a shield. Because they know that we’re talking. We’re talking with the Palestinians in the way that the South African apartheid regime was talking with its Bantustan administrators. In the way, you know, that Washington talks to tribal band leaders on the reservations, right. And so what we really need is a campaign that was started and called for by the vast majority of Palestinian civil society actors across the board–so whether refugees, citizens of Israel, or in the West Bank or Gaza, saying that we want boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

We want people not to buy Israeli products, for companies to remove their investments from Israel, if you’re investing–or your institution, your church or your union, your school, your university is investing–in Israeli companies or companies doing business with Israel, essentially war profiteers, to withdraw those investments and to work towards governments and countries actually imposing sanctions on Israel until the Israeli people, until the Israeli government feels the heat and says, “okay we’re no longer being treated as a normal country, maybe if we acted like a normal country we’d be treated as one.” And what I mean by normal is implementing the basic, most fundamental rights that everybody already agrees with as far as the international community is concerned. You know you look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it’s pretty basic stuff. It’s like I get to live; I get to be free; I get to move; I get to go back to the country, to the place that I’m from; I get to leave the country if I want to knowing that I can come back; I have the right to keep the things that I–you know, my land, without someone coming and kicking me off of it arbitrarily; and I have the right not to live in an apartheid regime, right. Just because I was born to a certain group doesn’t mean that I have to be a victim of racism for my entire life. And so this is what Palestinians are demanding and this is what we’re asking the rest of the world help us do–is to help us overthrow apartheid in Palestine.

NBF: Where can people go for more information on the BDS movement and maybe some of the history that you’ve been talking about this hour?

HJ: Alright so the boycott campaign’s main hub website is bdsmovement.net. For historical information there’s a really good site that’s run out of Chicago, actually, it’s called palestineremembered.com. And you’re always welcome to come and visit our website as well where you can find links to all kinds of other useful information and that’s badil.org.

hazem talked quite a bit about south africans comparing the crime of apartheid in their country to palestine after having visited palestine. i want to share two recent examples of this. the first comes from a report in ma’an news about zeko tamela, who was in palestine this week and who expressed solidarity with palestinians:

He expressed the importance of international support and coordination especially following the recent Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip and the importance of Palestinians to continue with “struggle on all fronts.”

Tamela urged the Palestinians in the room, addressing them as “comrades,” not to compromise on their vision of full justice and equality. He said that the South African anti-Apartheid movement was pressured to reduce its struggle for a demand for civil rights, a claim that can only be made by citizens, as opposed to the struggle “of an oppressed people for liberation.”

“Because of our work the UN declared Apartheid a crime against humanity. Palestinians must do the same, must insist that Zionism is a crime against humanity,” he said.

“We knew that only a united, non-racial democratic South Africa could satisfy us; nothing in between,” he added.

Asked by a journalist what can be done to convince Jewish Israelis that they are participating in an unjust system, he said, “There is no other solution than struggle on all fronts; once they see the struggle is stronger and international solidarity is stronger they will see their cause is going to die.”

the second comes from a story in electronic intifada by arjan el fassed about a south african man who is having a message painted on the apartheid wall that he authored:

“My dear Palestinian brothers and sisters, I have come to your land and I have recognized shades of my own.” These are the first 20 words of an open letter written by Farid Esack, a South African scholar and political activist known for his role in the struggle against apartheid. The total length of his letter is 1,998 carefully chosen words in which he argues that the situation in Palestine is worse than it ever was in South Africa under apartheid rule. Esack, a black South African who worked closely with Nelson Mandela, is astonished at how ordinary people beat about the bush when it comes to Israel and the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinians. “Do ‘objectivity,’ ‘moderation,’ and seeing ‘both sides’ not have limits?” he asks. “Is moderation in matters of clear injustice really a virtue? Do both parties deserve an ‘equal hearing’ in a situation of domestic violence — wherein a woman is beaten up by a male who was abused by his father some time ago — because ‘he,’ too, is a ‘victim?'”

Almost five years after the International Court of Justice declared the wall that Israel built on Palestinian land “illegal” and ruled that it should be dismantled, Palestinians have started to spray-paint Esack’s letter along a three kilometer (1.85 miles) stretch of the structure. This is done as part of the Dutch-Palestinian collaborative project www.sendamessage.nl.

and to be sure it seems that much of what hazem says is catching on as an op ed in ha’aretz by meron benvenisti pointed out today:

Without a doubt, the intense interest is not solely academic or intellectual in nature. The steep decline in Israel’s standing in the wake of its violent actions has spurred attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state – and even the legitimacy of the Jewish collective in Israel – by advocating a binational formula. Those hostile to Israel have discovered that the call for one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a state based on civil and collective equality, is a powerful propaganda tool, because it is based on universal norms that enable critics to denounce Israel as an apartheid state.

Israelis who seek to earnestly examine various models that could serve as the basis of a future sovereign entity at times find themselves being used as fig leaves to cover up efforts to spread anti-Israel propaganda. But this is always the lot of those who pursue new avenues. We should not rule out participating in such a discussion by denouncing it as illegitimate, because it is taking place in the shadow of the reality that has taken hold in the territories and in the midst of a diplomatic stalemate.

Several factors have combined to rouse greater interest in the binational option. First, there is a growing realization that the chances of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state no longer exist, aside from an entity along the lines of a Bantustan. Second, the status quo that has emerged, though it appears chaotic, is in practice quite stable and could be characterized as de facto binational. Third, the diplomatic positions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government inevitably lead to a diplomatic deadlock and a deepening of the policy of annexation.

Under these circumstances, it appears that the continued preoccupation with establishing a Palestinian state is not just hopeless, but also injurious, since the delusions that it fosters enable the continuation of the status quo.

Nothing serves the interests of Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman better than the demand that they recognize the principle of “two states.” What happens if they agree to it? They do not intend to offer the Palestinians any proposals more generous than those Mahmoud Abbas already turned down in talks with Ehud Olmert. And in the meantime, they would have a free hand to expand settlements. Even the impassioned pleas for the Obama administration to finally enforce the “road map” lead to the same smokescreen of imagined progress toward a dead end.

But if the fictitious option is taken off the table, the real dilemmas will finally be revealed. And this is precisely what the talk of a binational state seeks to accomplish.

the bantustan as prison

i often think about what the word normal means here. the way that people accept, on some level, the facts of colonialism around them. it is not like people have a choice, but that mental process of barriers and occupation armies keeps people who live here in a particular mode of thinking: that we all live in bantustan prisons and cannot get out. cannot live a normal life in which people just go to work, school, visit friends and family. a dear friend of mine in al quds decided to take the day off to visit me in nablus yesterday. he drove all the way here in his brother’s car (meaning he had yellow license plates) and he tried two different checkpoints (each about 30 minutes apart, each separated by a number of israeli colonies with excessively violent terrorists living inside). he was told he could not come inside. as a result he had to go home. all the way home a 4 hour journey (each way including checkpoints) for nothing. money wasted on gas. time wasted. why? just because the israeli terrorists who wish to keep nabulsis imprisoned and everyone else imprisoned in their own particular bantustans apart from each other. this is precisely what makes friends of mine not want to visit me: they know that it is too difficult to enter this imprisoned city where i live.

i was thinking of this when i read on lina al sharif’s blog, a young university student at the islamic university of gaza, about the films she made this week about a little trip she took around her prison of gaza. here is what she said about it followed by her films:

A good friend of mine and her other friend organized a trip around Gaza. I think they were inspired by the idea that we need amusement, we need some adventure! Her suggestion was met by an overwhelming acceptance by me and my friends. On Thursday, a bus was waiting for us outside the university, yet it was an independent trip. We were almost 50 girls including 3 mothers. We visited many places as you’ll see in the following videos.

lina’s prison is by far worse than the one i live in, in spite of her efforts to make the best of it and enjoy what small pleasures she has around her. though i find it a bit disturbing to see this pristine british military cemetery in the film given the destruction everywhere else. nothing else can be rebuilt or made to at least appear pristine (until the next time israeli terrorists bomb it) because the borders continue to be closed as john ging stated this week and as quoted in louis charbonneau’s article in common dreams:

The top U.N. aid official in the Gaza Strip urged Israel on Friday to ease restrictions on the flow of goods into the conflict-torn territory, saying they were “devastating” for the people.

“It’s wholly and totally inadequate,” John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said about the amount of goods Israel permits into the territory, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live.

“It’s having a very devastating impact on the physical circumstances and also the mindset of people on the ground,” he said.

Israel says it has opened Gaza’s border to larger amounts of food and medicine since its December-January offensive against Hamas militants who control the Palestinian enclave and were firing rockets against Israeli towns.

The war destroyed some 5,000 homes and, according to figures from a Palestinian rights group, killed over 1,400 people. Around 80 percent of Palestinians are reliant on aid.

Ging said access to goods was still a severe problem.

“We need access,” he said. “It’s the number one issue. It’s the number two issue. It’s the number three issue, and so on. Until we get it, there’s nothing as important as solving the access issue.”

Israel fears opening the borders would allow Hamas to smuggle more weapons and ammunition into the territory.

Ging said that all the crossing points from Israel into the Gaza Strip should be opened, and those that were currently opened in a limited way to only selected people or goods should be fully opened.

In addition to restrictions on what it deems luxury goods, such as cigarettes and chocolates, Israel has blocked entry of materials such as cement and steel for rebuilding because it says they could be used for bunkers and rearming.

those borders have also kept out soap, though apparently this is about to change:

Israel will allow all kinds of soaps and detergents into Gaza as of Tuesday, Deputy of the minister of economy Nasser As-Saraj said on Friday.

Gazan officials were informed of the decision following a near year-long ban on the materials.

of course it is not just about borders being closed and goods restricted. as sherine tadros reports on al jazeera this week, the unexploded ordinances still remain in the land and palestinians are having to remove them by themselves:

other palestinians live with the physical scars of the war, particularly those suffering from the after effects of white phosphorus burns as yusef al helou reports in electronic intifada:

Nearly three months have passed since Israel ended its war and while life has returned to normal for some for many others has left legacies of suffering and sad memories. Sabah Abu Halima who was burnt from head to toe and lost her husband and four children is still in pain and has weekly physiotherapy sessions at Shifa hospital. We visited her at her home in the northern Gaza Strip town of Seyafa about one km from the northern border with Israel. Sabah showed us around her house, which was also burnt as a result of white phosphorus shells that struck the roof of her family’s 16 member home.

She explained that “We had a happy home, I lived in this house in security with my husband and children. I was the happiest person in the world, but all of that changed when on 4 January the Israeli army entered our village and fired two phosphorus shells [that] penetrated our roof and burnt us while we were having our lunch. The fire was like lava, my family was burnt and their bodies turned to crisps.”

The mournful mother who is still unable to walk or talk properly, lost her house when it was completely engulfed in flames from the bombs. Luckily she found a photo of her youngest daughter, Shahad, who was only 15 months old when she was killed. I asked her to comment on this writing, which was left on the wall of her bedroom: “From the Israeli Defense Forces, we are sorry!” She answered that “I demand the whole world and international human rights organizations to sue the killers of my family, they killed so many innocent people who tried to rescue us, what was the guilt of my children and my baby Shahad? Their sorry will not bring back my family, I’m still physiologically and mentally in pain, I can’t even pick up a cup of tea now, my life will never be the same,” Sabah answered with tears in her eyes.

in spite of all of this suffering imran garda’s “focus on gaza” on al jazeera this week shows us how some palestinians in gaza, who are newly refugees, are trying to get back to normal. the focus this week is on education and the incredible obstacles to education here, including in the west bank:

and it is not over. palestinians in gaza remain under attack, particularly fisherman and farmers:

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Friday morning that a Palestinian fisherman was mildly injured when the Israel Navy shelled several fishing boats in the Palestinian territorial waters in Gaza.

The sources added that at least three boats were hit by navy fire in the Rafah area, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and in Al Mawasi, in northern Gaza. Palestinian fishermen have become a frequent target as Israel is barring them from fishing in spite the fact that they are in Palestinian territorial waters.

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli navy attacked a Palestinian fishing boat, kidnapping the four fishermen on board, and taking over the boat. The fishermen, three brothers and a relative were taken to an unknown destination. They were fishing in Palestinian territorial waters near Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

On Monday a young Palestinian fisherman was shot and seriously wounded when the Israeli navy shelled an area in al-Sudaniyya, north-east of Gaza City.

On Tuesday, March 17, one Palestinian civilian was injured when Israeli naval boats opened fire on residents and fishermen who gathered at the beach near the Beit Lahia town.

and from a new blog “farming under fire” discusses what palestinian farmers are up against when trying to farm their land:

A thankfully relatively calm day of farming on Tuesday in the border region near southeastern Khoza’a village, east of Khan Younis. The last time we’d been in Khoza’a, the Israeli soldiers patrolling the border area had opened fire on us within minutes of our arrival, shooting closer than previous times, although it was obvious we were a mixture of elderly farmers and internationals, all unarmed. Hours later, Israeli soldiers shot a young woman, Wafa, from Khoza’a in the kneecap as she surveyed the land where her the ruins of her house –destroyed in Israel’s war on Gaza –lay.

With those memories in mind, we’d returned to Khoza’a warily, aware of the Israeli soldiers fondness for shooting at civilians, but more aware that the Palestinian farmers were determined to harvest their crops: lentils and squash.
It was too late for the squash, which were meant to be small and green but which had over-grown and over-ripened because farmers had been afraid to harvest them weeks earlier.

“Kuulo kharbaan,” one of the women said when I asked whether they could be saved: they’re all ruined.

Tariq, a young man studying at university who was also serving as a coordinator for the area’s farmers and us, explained the financial loss. There were about 4 dunams of land, on which about 15 cases of squash had grown. Each case was roughly 11 kilos in weight. The squash should have sold for 8 shekels/kilo (roughly $2). Had the harvest been done, the plot of land would have yielded over $300. But it was all ruined, kharbaan. The farmers, mostly elderly women, with a few of their younger male relatives helping, picked lentils swiftly, still wary of potential shooting.

After nearly an hour of picking, two jeeps patrolling the region stopped for about 20 minutes, watching. Some shots were fired a few hundred metres further south from our group, but thankfully that day the soldiers didn’t go further.
The rest of the morning went quickly and successfully [allowing, even, for some practise of Dabke steps during the calm harvesting], a small miracle in a Strip of siege and war manufactured tragedies.

this week there was also a report released about palestinian farmers not allowed to access their farm land because it is in the so-called “buffer zone”:

Gaza’s battered agricultural sector has the capacity to recover but only if there is access to the buffer zone, and only if Gaza’s commercial crossings are fully opened, according to a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report on Gaza.

FAO says the area inside the buffer zone along the northern and eastern borders with Israel contains nearly a third of Gaza’s arable land, but it has been inaccessible to farmers, residents and UN agencies since 27 December 2008 (when Israel launched a 23-day assault on Gaza in retaliation for continued Hamas rocket-fire from Gaza into Israel).

and then, of course, there are just the targeted murders that palestinians suffer from on a daily basis such as today in jabaliya:

Palestinian medical sources confirmed the death of two Palestinians from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Medical crews evacuated the two from the northern Strip to Kamal Udwan Hospital.

Israeli forces reported killing the two earlier Saturday, saying they were “attempting to infiltrate” the Kfar Azza Kibbutz near the electronic fence border area in the northern Gaza Strip Saturday morning.

The men were identified as 23-year-old Muhammad Al-Hamayda and 26-year-old Jamil Quffa.

all of these attacks continue unabated. no one says anything. none of those big powers at nato. no one. any wonder why people are protesting? if you read my post yesterday you know about the amnesty international report about americans and germans working together to make sure israeli terrorists have more weapons. and yet these nato imperial regimes wish to make sure palestinians cannot “smuggle” any weapons with which to resist and defend themselves. adam morrow and khaled moussa al-omrani reported on this scheme for ips:

Nine NATO member states agreed last month to utilise naval, intelligence and diplomatic resources to combat the alleged flow of arms into the Gaza Strip. Some Egyptian commentators see the move as a surreptitious means of cementing foreign control over the region.

“These new protocols aren’t really about halting arms smuggling,” Tarek Fahmi, political science professor at Cairo University and head of the Israel desk at the Cairo-based National Centre for Middle East Studies, told IPS. “Rather, they aim to establish foreign control over the region’s strategic border crossings and maritime ports.”

On Mar. 13, a major conference was held in London aimed at “coordinating efforts” to stop alleged arms smuggling – by land or sea – into the Gaza Strip, governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas. Participants at the conference included high-level representatives from nine member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), including the U.S., Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Norway.

At the close of the event, participants signed an agreement “to develop an effective framework for international cooperation, supplementary to measures taken by regional states, to prevent and interdict the illicit flow of arms, ammunition and weapons components to Gaza.”

According to a final statement, participant governments hope to accomplish these objectives with the use of a series of measures, including “maritime interception, information sharing and diplomatic pressure.” The international community “has a responsibility to support prevention and interdiction efforts,” the statement reads, noting that such efforts may involve “diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement components.”

apartheid and its boycotts

some great news this week and some great writing, too, in honor of land day. nora barrows-friedman has a kick-ass report on land day in palestine including an interview with the mayor of deir hana in 1948 palestine that is really great. i did an interview this week, too, with naji ali on crossing the line, which was supposed to be about the boycott campaign, but it turned out to be more about the islamic university of gaza and rebuilding it. you can listen to me as well as akram habeeb talking about this online or you may download it on naji’s website. and if you haven’t donated yet to help rebuild the islamic university please go to the middle east children’s alliance and specify that you would like money to go towards the islamic university of gaza.

of course the savagery unleashed on gaza is what prompted the global momentum of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (bds) movement. nora also broadcast a brilliant broadcast of a lecture given by ali abunimah for the middle east children’s alliance last week, which i highly recommend listening to. there, too, abunimah contextualizes this movement in relation to gaza. what happened in gaza is one of many reasons to boycott the terrorist state of israel. we need boycott and war crimes trials and so much more. because when they say they will investigate they never do or the criminals get off and wind up running the country (just look at the long line of presidents and prime ministers and in every one you will find a war criminal multiple times over). imran garda’s “focus on gaza” last week highlighted the main war crimes charge related to white phosphorus (though listen to what ali abunimah has to say about that in the above-linked speech), which now, the zionist entity is whitewashing. here is the episode on al jazeera, which contains important interviews and information:

gaza, like the villages of deir hana and others in the jaleel that resisted on that first land day 33 years ago, it is illustrative of the wider problems here. continual land theft and murder. hazem jamjoum has a brilliant piece in common dreams this week giving us a sense of this wider picture of apartheid more generally in palestine which is essential reading for people wanting to understand what it is like here and why palestine must be liberated:

In recent years, increasing numbers of people around the world have begun adopting and developing an analysis of Israel as an apartheid regime. (1) This can be seen in the ways that the global movement in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is taking on a pointedly anti-apartheid character, as evidenced by the growth of Israeli Apartheid Week.(2) Further, much of the recent international diplomatic support for Israel has increasingly taken on the form of denying that racial discrimination is a root cause of the oppression of Palestinians, something that has taken on new levels of absurdity in Western responses to the April 2009 Durban Review Conference.(3)

Many of the writings stemming from this analysis work to detail levels of similarity and difference with Apartheid South Africa, rather than looking at apartheid as a system that can be practiced by any state. To some extent, this strong emphasis on historical comparisons is understandable given that Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is the central campaign called for by Palestinian civil society for solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and is modeled on the one that helped end South African Apartheid. However, an over-emphasis on similarities and differences confines the use of the term to narrow limits. With the expanding agreement that the term ‘apartheid’ is useful in describing the level and layout of Israel’s crimes, it is important that our understanding of the ‘apartheid label’ be deepened, both as a means of informing activism in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle, and in order to most effectively make use of comparisons with other struggles.

The Apartheid Analogy

It is perhaps understandable that some advocates of Palestinian rights look at the ‘Apartheid label’, in its comparative sense, as a politically useful tool. The struggle of the South African people for justice and equality reached a certain sacred status in the 1980s and 1990s when the anti-Apartheid struggle reached its zenith. The reverence with which activists and non-activists alike look to the righteousness of the South African struggle, and the ignominy of the colonial Apartheid regime are well placed; Black South Africans fought against both Dutch and British colonization for centuries, endured countless hardships including imprisonment and death, and were labeled terrorists as the powers of the world stood by the racist Apartheid regime. They remained steadfast in their struggle, raising the cost of maintaining the Apartheid system until South African capital found it no longer profitable and white political elites found it impossible to maintain. Comparison bonus points can also be scored by pointing to the deep historic PLO-ANC connection, as well as the unabashed alliance between Israel and the South African Apartheid regime, which remained strong even at the height of the international boycott against South Africa.

A further impetus for confining the ‘apartheid label’ to a comparison with South Africa is that the commonalities and similarities between the liberation struggles of South Africa and Palestine are quite stark. Both cases involved a process of settler-colonialism involving the forced displacement of the indigenous population from most of their ancestral lands and concentrating them in townships and reservations; dividing up the Black population into different groups with differing rights; strict mobility restrictions that suffocated the colonized; and the use of brutal military force to repress any actual or potential resistance against the racist colonial regime. Both regimes enjoyed the impunity that results from full US and European support. Accompanying these and countless other similarities are a host of uncanny details common to both cases: both regimes were formally established in the same year – 1948 – following decades of British rule; control of approximately 87% of the land was off limits to most of the colonized population without special permission, and so on. While we speak here in the past tense, all of this still applies to present-day Palestine.

As the Israeli apartheid label has gained ground, some have adopted the approach of describing the differences between the two regimes, albeit for various purposes. In general, Israel has not legislated petty apartheid – the segregation of spaces such as bathrooms and beaches – as was the case in South Africa, although Israeli laws form the basis of systematic racial discrimination against Palestinians. The 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (approximately 20% of Israel’s citizens) do indeed have the right to vote and run in Israeli elections while the Black community in South Africa, for the most part, did not. The South African version of apartheid’s central tenet was to facilitate the exploitation of as many Black laborers as possible, whereas the Israeli version, although exploiting Palestinian workers, prioritizes the forced displacement of as many Palestinians as possible beyond the borders of the state with the aim of eradicating Palestinian presence within historic Palestine. South African visitors to Palestine have often commented on the fact that Israeli use of force is more brutal than that witnessed in the heyday of Apartheid, and several commentators have thus taken the position that Israel’s practices are worse than Apartheid; that the apartheid label does not go far enough.

Israel and the Crime of Apartheid

In terms of law, describing Israel as an apartheid state does not revolve around levels of difference and similarity with the policies and practices of the South African Apartheid regime, and where Israel is an apartheid state only insofar as similarities outweigh differences. In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (General Assembly resolution 3068 [XXVIII](4) – entered into force 18 July 1976 – the year of the Soweto uprising in South Africa and the Land Day uprising in Palestine) with a universal definition of the crime of apartheid not limited to the borders of South Africa. The fact that apartheid is defined as a crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (5), which entered into force in 2002 – long after the Apartheid regime was defeated in South Africa – attests to the universality of the crime.

While the wording of the definition of the crime of apartheid varies between legal instruments, the substance is the same: a regime commits apartheid when it institutionalizes discrimination to create and maintain the domination of one ‘racial’ group over another. Karine Mac Allister, among others, has provided a cogent legal analysis of the applicability of the crime of apartheid to the Israeli regime.(6) The main point is that like genocide and slavery, apartheid is a crime that any state can commit, and institutions, organizations and/or individuals acting on behalf of the state that commit it or support its commission are to face trial in any state that is a signatory to the Convention, or in the International Criminal Court. It is therefore a fallacy to ground the Israeli apartheid label on comparisons of the policies of the South African Apartheid regime, with the resulting descriptions of Israel as being ‘Apartheid-like’ and characterizations of an apartheid analysis of Israel as an ‘Apartheid analogy.’

Recognition by the international community of such universal crimes is often the result of a particular case, so heinous that it forces the rusty wheels of international decision-making into motion. The Transatlantic Slave Trade is an example where the mass enslavement of people from the African continent to work as the privately owned property of European settlers formed an important part of the framework in which the drafters of the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery thought and acted. An even clearer example is the Genocide Convention (adopted 1948, entered into force 1951) in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust in which millions of Jews, communists, Roma and disabled were systematically murdered with the intention to end their existence. We do not describe modern day enslavement as ‘slavery-like,’ nor do we examine the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of mainly Tutsi Rwandans through a Rwandan ‘Genocide analogy.’

Two points made by Mac Allister in her legal analysis of Israeli apartheid deserve to be reiterated because they are often confused or misconstrued even by advocates of Palestinian human rights. First, Israel’s crimes and violations are not limited to the crime of apartheid. Rather, Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people combines apartheid, military occupation and colonization in a unique manner. It deserves notice that the relationship between these three components requires further research and investigation. Also noteworthy is the Palestinian BDS Campaign National Committee (BNC)’s “United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation: Dignity & Justice for the Palestinian People” (7) position paper, which outlines and, to some extent, details the various aspects of Israel’s commission of the crime of apartheid, and begins to trace the interaction between Israeli apartheid, colonialism and occupation from the perspective of Palestinian civil society.

The second point worth reiterating is that Israel’s regime of apartheid is not limited to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In fact, the core of Israel’s apartheid regime is guided by discriminatory legislation in the fields of nationality, citizenship and land ownership, and that was primarily employed to oppress and dispossess those Palestinians who were forcibly displaced in the 1948 Nakba (refugees and internally displaced), as well as the minority who managed to remain within the ‘green line’ and later became Israeli citizens.(8) Israel’s apartheid regime was extended into West Bank and Gaza Strip following the 1967 occupation for the purpose of colonization, and military control over the Palestinians who came under occupation. Using again the example of South Africa, the crime of apartheid was not limited to the Bantustans; the whole regime was implicated and not one or another of its racist manifestations.

The analysis of Israel as an apartheid state has proven to be very important in several respects. First, it correctly highlights racial discrimination as a root cause of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Second, one of the main effects of Israeli apartheid is that it has separated Palestinians – conceptually, legally and physically – into different groupings (refugees, West Bank, Gaza, within the ‘green line’ and a host of other divisions within each), resulting in the fragmentation of the Palestinian liberation movement, including the solidarity movement. The apartheid analysis enables us to provide a legal and conceptual framework under which we can understand, convey, and take action in support of the Palestinian people and their struggle as a unified whole. Third, and of particular significance to the solidarity movement, this legal and conceptual framework takes on the prescriptive role underpinning the growing global movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

Colonialism and the Role of Comparison

I have argued that the question of whether apartheid applies cannot be determined by means of comparison with South Africa, but rather by legal analysis. This, however, does not mean that comparative study is not useful. Comparison is in fact essential to the process of learning historical lessons for those involved in struggle. A central importance of comparison with South Africa stems from the fact that the South African struggle against apartheid was, as it continues to be for the indigenous people of Palestine and the Americas, a struggle against colonialism.

Focusing on the colonial dimension of Israeli apartheid and the Zionist project enables us to maintain our focus on the issues that really matter, such as land acquisition, demographic engineering, and methods of political and economic control exercised by one racial group over another. Comparison with other anti-colonial struggles provides the main resource for understanding this colonial dimension of Israeli oppression, and for deriving some of the lessons needed to fight it.

One of the many lessons from the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa stems from the fact that the ANC leadership was pressured to compromise on its economic demands such as land restitution. Only a tiny proportion of white controlled land in South Africa was redistributed to Blacks after 1994. As such, while the struggle of the South African people defeated the system of political apartheid, the struggle against economic apartheid continues in various forms including anti-poverty and landless peoples’ movements today. As Palestinians and those struggling with them work to reconstruct a political strategy and consensus on how to overcome the challenges of the post-Oslo period, the centrality of the demand for land restitution should be highlighted as part of the demand for refugee return.

A second lesson of major importance comes in response to the paradigm currently guiding most mainstream accounts of how to achieve the elusive ‘peace in the Middle East’, which is the idea of partition often referred to as the two state ‘solution’. In the 1970s, South Africa tried to deal with its “demographic problem” – the fact that the vast majority of its population was Black but did not have the right to vote. The Apartheid regime reconstructed South Africa as a formal democracy by reinventing the British-established reservations (the Bantustans) as independent states. (9) These ten ‘homelands’ were each assigned to an ethnicity decided by Pretoria, and indigenous South Africans who did not fit into one of the ethnicities were forced to make themselves fit in order to become nationals of one of the homelands. Through this measure, members of the indigenous population were reclassified as nationals of one or another homeland, and between 1976 and 1981 the regime tried to pass the homelands off as independent states: Transkei in 1976, Bophuthatswana in 1977, Venda in 1979, and Ciskei in 1981.

Each of these Bantustans was given a flag and a government made up of indigenous intermediaries on the Pretoria payroll, and all the trappings of a sovereign government including responsibility over municipal services and a police force to protect the Apartheid regime, but without actual sovereignty. The idea was that by getting international recognition for each of these homelands as states, the Apartheid regime would transform South Africa from a country with a 10% white minority, to one with a 100% white majority. Since it was a democratic regime within the confines of the dominant community, the state’s democratic nature would be beyond reproach. No one was fooled. The ANC launched a powerful campaign to counter any international recognition of the Bantustans as independent states, and the plot failed miserably at the international level – with the notable, but perhaps unsurprising, exception that a lone “embassy” for Bophuthatswana was opened in Tel Aviv.

Israel has employed similar strategies in Palestine. For example, Israel recognized 18 Palestinian Bedouin tribes and appointed a loyal Sheikh for each in the Naqab during the 1950s as a means of controlling these southern Palestinians, forcing those who did not belong to one of the tribes to affiliate to one in order to get Israeli citizenship. (10) In the late 1970s, the Israeli regime tried to invent Palestinian governing bodies for the 1967 occupied territory in the form of ‘village leagues’ intended to evolve into similar non-sovereign governments; glorified municipalities of a sort. As with Apartheid’s Homelands, the scheme failed miserably, both because the PLO had established itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and because Palestinians largely understood the plot and opposed it with all means at their disposal. The main lesson for Israel was that the PLO would have to either be completely destroyed or would have to be transformed into Israeli apartheid’s indigenous intermediary. Israel launched a massive campaign to destroy the PLO throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In the early 1990s, and with the demise of the PLO’s main backers such as the Soviet bloc and Iraq, Israel capitalized on the opportunity, and worked to transform the PLO from a liberation movement to a ‘state-building’ project that was launched by the signing of the Oslo accords, seven months before South Africa’s first free election.

The push for the establishment and international recognition of an independent Palestinian state within the Palestinian Bantustan is no different from the South African Apartheid regime’s campaign to gain international recognition of Transkei or Ciskei. This is the core of the “two-state solution” idea. The major and crucial difference is that in the current Palestinian case, it is the world’s superpower and its adjutants in Europe and the Arab world pushing as well, and armed with the active acceptance of Palestine’s indigenous intermediaries.

Notes:

1 I use capital ‘A’ in Apartheid to denote the regime of institutionalized racial superiority implemented in South Africa 1948-1994, and lower-case ‘a’ to indicate the generally applicable crime of apartheid.

2 See www.apartheidweek.org

3 See Amira Howeidi, “Israel’s right not to be criticised”, Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 March 2009: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/939/re2.htm. Also see the Palestinian civil society response at http://israelreview.bdsmovement.net

4 For the full text of the Convention see: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/11.htm

5 For the full text of the Statute see: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/99_corr/cstatute.htm

6 See Karine Mac Allister, “Applicability of the Crime of Apartheid to Israel”, al-Majdal #38, (Summer 2008): http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/summer/articles02.htm

7 This is the Palestinian civil society position paper for the April 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva, and can be downloaded at: http://bdsmovement.net/files/English-BNC_Position_Paper-Durban_Review.pdf

8 For a discussion of how Israel’s apartheid legislation continues to affect refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel with regards to control over land see Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, London: Zed Books, 2003.

9 British rule in South Africa established reserves in 1913 and 1936 on approximately 87% of the land of South Africa for the purpose of segregating the Black population from the settlers.

10 For more on this see: Hazem Jamjoum, “al-Naqab: The Ongoing Displacement of Palestine’s Southern Bedouin”, al-Majdal #39-40, (Autumn 2008 / Winter 2009): http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/autumn-winter/articles03.htm

for these reasons and more boycott is gaining momentum all over the world. the boycott motorola campaign now has a local chapter in new york and they held their first demonstration on land day/global bds day as reported on electronic intifada:

Motorola Israel produces fuses used in cluster bombs, “bunker-buster” bombs, and a variety of other bombs. Cluster bombs are specifically condemned by an international consensus of human rights organizations, and banned by many countries. Even the US government has voiced concern over their use. Motorola Israel acquired a $100 million contract to provide a data encrypted cellular network, “Mountain Rose,” to allow the Israeli army, which consistently and severely violates Palestinian human rights, to communicate securely anywhere they operate. Motorola supplies the Israeli military with the Wide Area Surveillance System (WASS) and other high-tech configurations of radar devices and thermal cameras. These surveillance systems are being installed around Israeli settlement/colonies and the apartheid wall, both of which Israel has constructed in the Palestinian West Bank in violation of international law.

Lubna Ka’aabneh of NYCBI and Adalah-NY explained, “The highly effective campaign to boycott diamond mogul and Israeli settlement-builder Lev Leviev set a successful precedent for boycotting Israel in New York. Motorola products are used to help steal Palestinian land in the West Bank, and to kill and oppress Palestinians. Similar support by Motorola for South Africa’s apartheid regime prompted a successful boycott against Motorola. This Land Day, we ask New Yorkers to once again rise to challenge by joining the campaign to boycott Motorola. Let’s do it again!”

in belgium, too, there is new divestment energy directed at a bank as adri nieuwhof reports in electronic intifada:

In a remarkably short period of time, activists in Belgium have built a strong basis for the campaign “Israel colonizes — Dexia funds,” asking the bank to divest from its subsidiary Dexia Israel because of its financing of the expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva, prohibiting the Occupying Power to deport or transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies, as well as Article 53 prohibiting the destruction of property on occupied territory. The Dexia campaign is flourishing in Belgium and may potentially spread to other countries where Dexia subsidiaries are based.

The French-Belgian bank Dexia bought the Israeli Municipality Treasure Bank in 2001 and established Dexia Israel. Centrum voor Ontwikkeling, Documentatie en Informatie Palestijnen (CODIP), an organization focusing on Palestine, raised its concern about the transfer in a letter to Dexia’s board of directors in April 2001. The organization argues that Dexia’s investment in an Israeli bank involved in public loans might give the impression that the bank “supports Israel’s policy of occupation, colonization and discrimination.”

land day also launched the website to remove hamas from the european union’s “terror” list. here is their petition and you may click on the link to sign it yourself:

Appeal for the removal of Hamas from EU terror list !

On the occasion of the June 2009 European elections, we are launching an urgent appeal to all candidates for the 736 seats in the European parliament.

We ask that they actively pursue the immediate and unconditional removal of Hamas and all other Palestinian liberation organizations from the European list of proscribed terrorist organizations.

We further ask that they acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and, by so doing, recognise, Hamas as a legitimate voice for the Palestinian people’s aspirations for national liberation.

while i love the bds momentum, i continue to be frustrated by the fact that people are selecting companies that are specifically profiting from the colonization in the west bank and not companies that profit off of colonialism in palestine more generally. this is why i love the new lebanon boycott campaign. and, finally, the article rania and i wrote about the academic boycott in lebanon for al akhbar was translated into english in dissident voice:

In remembering and commemorating Land Day, March 30, 1976, when six Palestinians were killed and almost 100 wounded by Israeli forces in Sakhnin during unarmed protests against the confiscation of Palestinian lands in Galilee; in remembering the December 2008 Israeli savagery against the Palestinians in Gaza; in recognizing the continuity of attacks against Palestinians; and in remembering the numerous and ongoing Israeli atrocities against Lebanese, let us stand in active support of a movement that has the strength and vital potential to significantly contribute to this struggle for liberty and self-determination in this fight against Zionism.

That movement is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, and one of its main demands is the boycott of and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and colonialism. We know from the South African example that a combined strategy of armed resistance with boycott, divestment, and sanctions led to the downfall of the apartheid regime, and thus can be successful. Focusing on economic resistance ties this movement to the roots of the Palestinian Resistance Movement which historically sought to liberate Palestine as well as the rest of the region from Western imperialism through its economic neocolonial policies.

We also know that we in Lebanon are not cleansed from Zionist products. From cosmetics to clothing, from bulldozers to coffee, we consume products that are produced by corporations that substantially support Israel — either by investing in Israel, or by supporting Israel financially or diplomatically. (While the removal of certain Zionist products, like Intel, is difficult, for the vast majority of products, such as Nestle and Estee Lauder, their removal from our market will actually invigorate our economy by increasing investment in local products and local businesses.)

In addition to the clear form of economic boycott (which, is too often incorrectly confused with censorship), there is the important avenue of academic and cultural boycott. An academic boycott involves refraining from participation in any form of academic or cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions, and thus ultimately works to promote pushing universities themselves to divest from any collaboration or cooperation with any Israeli institution. South African professors also called on their colleagues around the world to boycott them in order to delegitimize and isolate the apartheid regime. The boycott campaign in South Africa worked because of that isolation, which was coupled with an economic boycott, divestment, and eventually this led to the sanctions placed on the regime, which led to its demise.

The most powerful weapon of the academic boycott is the refusal to legitimize Zionism, the ideology upon which Israel was built, the ideology that allows for one group of people to steal, to kill, and to expel, an ideology that is fundamentally and wholly racist. It is Zionism that must be defeated.

The academic and cultural boycott of Israel is growing globally. It has been active in Canada and in the United Kingdom for a few years now. It has spread to Australia and the United States. The publicity surrounding this movement is as powerful a weapon as the movement itself as well as it further calls for a rethinking of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed, the boycott movement is so strong now that Israeli colonists are paying $2 million to improve their global image.

Academics in Lebanon have added their voice to this growing movement. Faculty from the University of Balamand, the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, Notre Dame University, Lebanese University, Beirut Arab University, USEK, Lebanese International University and Global University signed a statement calling for full academic boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions, and calling our colleagues, throughout the world, and most particularly those in the Arab world and those claiming to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, to comprehensively and consistently boycott and divest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from normalization in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid. To add your signature, please refer to: www.boycottzionism.wordpress.com

Today, March 30, 2009, marks the Global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Day of Action. Let us stand together.