G4S in India

 

 

 

So far I have seen three G4S offices in Bangalore alone. I have also seen their cars driving around the city. When I was in Darjeeling recently, I discovered that they also ran security for the Darjeeling zoo. They seem to operate as an ordinary security company, but they are anything but ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At present there is a campaign to vote for G4S as the worst company in the world. There are many reasons for this, but the main points of interest are related to G4S role in maintaining Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, particularly its prisons, apartheid wall, and checkpoints. Writing for Electronic Intifada, Adri Nieuwhof explains their role:

The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”

G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not  “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”

In a follow up article, in part responding to G4S concerns about the claims made in the above-quoted article, Nieuwhof adds more details about G4S involvement in oppressing Palestinians for Israelis:

In the brochure, published by the Danish watchdog DanWatch, G4S describes the supply of a perimeter defense system for the walls around the Ofer prison compound and the installation of a central command room to monitor the entire Ofer compound. In addition, the company writes it also provided all the security systems in Ketziot prison and a central command room in Megiddo prison (G4S delivers technology to Israeli prisons,” DanWatch, 21 November 2010).

G4S boasts that the three prisons can detain 2,700-3,700 “security” prisoners — the majority of whom are Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip illegally transferred to detention centers within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundary. International humanitarian law forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory and the conditions in Israeli prisons do not meet international legal standards. Accordingly, G4S’s involvement in the Israel Prison Service apparatus abets violations of international law.

G4S’s promotional material contradicts its claim that it does not know where its X-ray machines and body scanners are used. Who Profits? — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — has also documented that G4S luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners are used at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank towns of Qalandiya, Bethlehem and Irtah. G4S also provided full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint at Gaza. Who Profits? told The Electronic Intifada that this information is published in G4S’s own website and brochures.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on  human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, highlighted G4S role in maintaining Israeli apartheid in his report on various corporations that profit off of Palestinian suffering.

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As a result of these findings, BDS activists have been working to target G4S in various ways. And in 2012 there were several success:

The British firm Good Energy announced that it would end its business relationship with G4S, the private security giant with a track record of complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses.

After sustained media attention and pressure from BDS activists, several Danish charities and a bank decided to end security service contracts with the British-Danish security company G4S for the company’s role in Israel’s occupation.

The University of Oslo in Norway announced it would drop its contract with private security company G4S in July 2013 over the company’s involvement with Israeli prisons and its providing of services and equipment to checkpoints, Israel’s wall in the West Bank, settlement and settlement businesses.

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One of my favorite actions targeting G4S last year was one done in London during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Michael Deas’ report on the action in the above video offers inspiration to those wanting to take action based on others who have been fighting G4S:

Danish bank, several major Danish NGOs and a UK energy supplier have all dropped their links with G4S after pressure from campaigners. The EU declined to renew a contract with G4S following a campaign supported by members of the European Parliament. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway are campaigning for the university not to renew its contract with the security company when it expires in February 2014.

For those who want to read a detailed report about G4S role in Palestine, Who Profits published a report on the subject.

BDS is new in India, but it is growing especially among cultural workers and academics. I hope that it soon spreads to the economic sector, especially targeting multinational corporations like G4S.

on the limits of solidarity

last month two comrades in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (bds)–omar barghouti and haidar eid–both of whom i respect a great deal–wrote a statement about the gaza freedom march asking them to adopt a statement of context that addressed palestinian needs and demands rather than impose an american idea of those needs and demands on palestinian people (i quoted it and wrote about it here). a few weeks ago haidar and omar released a new statement saying that the gaza freedom march organizers had adopted their statement and they are now requesting people to endorse the march (click here to endorse it):

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

We are writing to invite you to endorse the Pledge of the Gaza Freedom March, a creative initiative with historic potential organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. The March is aimed at mobilizing active and effective support from around the world for ending Israel’s illegal and immoral siege on Gaza, currently the most pressing of all Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights. To endorse the Pledge, please click here and enter your name — or your organization’s name — in the box provided at the bottom.

Also reproduced at the end of this letter, after the Pledge, is the organizers’ Statement of Context which provides the necessary Palestinian context of the siege, namely Israel’s occupation, its decades-old denial of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights, and Palestinian civil resistance to that oppression.

The Gaza Freedom March has won the endorsement of a decisive majority in Palestinian civil society. Aside from the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associaitions, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

The March, planned for January 2010, to commemorate Israel’s illegal war of aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza, is expected to draw many prominent figures and massive activist participation from across the world. The organizers have shown exceptional moral courage and a true sense of solidarity in drafting the Pledge and the Statement of Context. We salute them all for their principled and consistent commitment to applying international law and universal human rights to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. We deeply appreciate their solidarity with our struggle for freedom and our inalienable right to self determination.

Anchored solely in international law and universal human rights, the Gaza Freedom March appeals to international organizations and conscientious citizens with diverse political backgrounds on the basis of their common abhorrence of the immense injustice embodied in the atrocious siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees.

With massive participation of internationals, led by prominent leaders, alongside Palestinians in Gaza the world can no longer ignore its moral duty to end this criminal siege, and Israel can no longer count on its current impunity to last long. We strongly urge you to endorse the Pledge and to help secure more endorsements.

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

* The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On January 1, 2010, we will mark the New Year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context
For a list of endorsers, please click here.

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a “form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a “serious violation of international law.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated “like animals,” and has called for “ending of the siege of Gaza” that is depriving “one and a half million people of the necessities of life.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege “is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union.”

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel’s annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. … I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel’s siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to “quicken” the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel’s bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel’s flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.

when the announcement for the march went out i wrote a critique of it, particularly about the racist way in which it seemed to be run (epitomized by the march’s first poster which featured no palestinians and just one white man–norman finkelstein). if you read that earlier post you will not be surprised to learn that with the gaza freedom march’s adoption of a palestinian platform–rather than an american platform pushed on palestinian people–finkelstein withdrew his support. here is what pulse media reported he said in response:

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law.

I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march. During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months.

Because it drags in contentious issues that—however precious to different constituencies—are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction. I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties.

However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events. It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

problems still remain with the new statement of context. it is far from perfect. it represents, however, a significant compromise, and, more importantly, acknowledges the necessity of abiding by palestinian civil society’s goals as guided by international law. three activists, gabriel ash, mich levy and sara kershnar, authored a very important critique of this new context in electronic intifada that is worth considering for activists invested in justice for palestinian refugees and for palestine more generally:

Changing course is never easy. It would have been far better had this discussion taken place before the call went out. That, however, is a lesson for the future. The compromise led a few of the organizers to leave in anger and recriminations. Some argued that the new context document is “sectarian” and will severely damage the potential of the march. While disputes are inevitable in every political endeavor, we call on all parties to cast aside differences and arguments, to respect the compromise and unite on our common objective, ending the siege of Gaza. What is important now is getting the best and most effective march possible.

We see the context document as a thoughtful attempt to bring together for this march those of us who support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and the full objectives of Palestinian liberation — including the right of return and full and equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel — with those activists whose support for lifting the siege of Gaza is largely humanitarian. Contrary to misrepresentations, the context document does not require marchers to adhere to BDS. But as the march puts nonviolence on its banner and claims inspiration from nonviolent Palestinian resistance, it cannot, without being offensive, ignore the increasing presence and far-reaching international impact of BDS as a Palestinian campaign of nonviolent resistance that is endorsed by all factions, including Fatah and Hamas, as well as more than 100 civil society associations. The growing support for BDS among prominent Western figures and mainstream organizations belies the claim that the mere mention of it is divisive.

Nor does the document commit the marchers to support the Palestinian right of return. It does commit the marchers to recognize the Palestinian Nakba and the historical fact that the refugees’ right of return, recognized by UN resolution 194, has been denied. These refugees make up 75 percent of the population of Gaza and are the recipients of this march’s solidarity. To recognize this history does not compel one to agree to any specific resolution of the conflict. But refusing to recognize it denies the history of the Palestinian people, a denial that is inconsistent with any form of solidarity.

The new document’s only demand is the end of the siege of Gaza. There are no other demands. Nothing in it prevents activists committed to a “two-state solution” and a “Jewish state” from participating. We therefore strongly object to representing the new language as an attempt to limit the scope of the march. We take strong offense at the attempt to label the recognition of the concerns of Palestinian liberation within the context of a solidarity action as “sectarian.” We seriously doubt that the number of individuals willing to fly to Egypt and then march in Gaza, yet who refuse to recognize the history of Gaza, is very large.

We are also heartened by the addition of non-governmental partners in Gaza. As soon as the context statement was added, endorsements came from the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, Palestinian Student’s Campaign, al-Aqsa University, Arab Cultural Forum-Gaza and al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information-Gaza. We are also encouraged by the addition of the International Solidarity Movement and support from members of the South African Palestine solidarity community. The elected government of Gaza has also endorsed the march and will now hopefully increase its assistance.

In supporting this compromise, we are mindful of the original aim of the organizers for large and “ecumenical” participation. We share that goal. However, our conversation would benefit from honesty about the meaning of “ecumenical.” It never means “everybody.” We don’t just want the maximum number of marchers; we want the maximum number that can be achieved without compromising the visions of the diverse organizers and solidarity groups participating in this particular project.

Where should the line be drawn? This is a difficult decision that haunts every political struggle and always requires deliberation, negotiation and compromise. It is misleading to frame the debate as one between those who want maximum participation and those motivated by ideology, in particular when this framing aims to delegitimize the concerns of Palestinian activists representing significant sections of Palestinian grassroots organizing. We all have political lines that we won’t cross. The lines drawn by those at the very heart of the struggle deserve our particular respect.

We now have a fair and inclusive basis for organizing the march, open to proponents of radically different political visions yet respectful of all, and in particular, respectful of Palestinian history and struggle. We must now all strive to make this march as big and as successful as possible.

but this march and is organizing, as well as the organizing around bds, has made me think a lot about what it means to act in solidarity with palestinians, or any group of people for that matter. i recently received an email from a dear friend who decided, after years of trying to persuade him, to join the academic boycott. he signed the statement, but he is still ambivalent about it as a tactic. why? because noam chomsky has not come out in support of it. and this makes me wonder a lot about why chomsky would be the one to defer to? chomsky, like norman finkelstein, are two scholars whose work i admire a great deal. their thinking and writing has influenced me tremendously over my the course of my life. but in the end there are too many barriers for me to fall in line with their thinking: particularly the fact that neither one has signed on to bds andthat neither one supports the right of return for palestinian refugees. here, for example, is chomsky speaking on the subject of sanctions in an interview with christopher j. lee:

Safundi: So you would apply “apartheid” to that broader situation?

Chomsky: I would call it a Bantustan settlement. It’s very close to that. The actions are taken with U.S. funding, crucially. U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support are crucial. It cannot be done without that.

Safundi: And that is similar to U.S. support for South Africa during the apartheid period through the 1980s.

Chomsky: Yes. As I’m sure you know, the Reagan Administration-which is basically the current people in power, including people like Colin Powell-found ways to evade Congressional restrictions so that they continued to support the apartheid administration, almost until the end.

Safundi: Connected to that…

Chomsky: In the case of Israel, they don’t have to hide it because there are no sanctions.

Safundi: That’s my question. One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?

Chomsky: No. In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.

Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

But there is another point. The sanctions against South Africa were finally imposed after years, decades of organization and activism until it got to the point where people could understand why you would want to do it. So by the time sanctions were imposed, you had international corporations supporting them. You had mayors of cities getting arrested in support of them.

So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is.

The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

Chomsky: Well, the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.

Safundi: Right…[And] Israelis aren’t calling for sanctions.

Chomsky: Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel. It’s like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Here, we’re the Russians.

Israel will of course do whatever it can as long as the U.S. authorizes it. As soon as the U.S. tells it no, that’s the end. The power relations are very straight forward. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way the world works.

of course, chomsky has a point: in terms of bds the u.s. should be every bit the target. but not in lieu of the zionist entity, but rather in addition to it. but the fact that paestinians are calling for bds means that those of us who want to work in solidarity with palestinians should support that work. but the fact that some people think we should refer to two american jews on the matter of this is disturbing. would one defer to a slavemaster when abolishing slavery? would one defer to a nazi when fighting against concentration camps? would one defer to white southerners when resisting jim crow segregation in the u.s. south? i find this logic racist and deeply problematic. i’m not at all saying that the work of chomsky and finkstein is not important to read, to listen to, to consider. but i am asking people to consider the logic of looking to them as if they were the leaders of the palestinian people. if we’re looking for leaders we need not look beyond haidar eid and omar barghouti for starters. and there are thousands more where they came from.

expanding colonies and checkpoints

yesterday on my drive down from nablus to ramallah i encountered an extraordinary number of checkpoints and delays resulting from them. here are some of my checkpoint photographs. the first two checkpoint photographs are within 1 km of the other. i made it through the first one without having to show my passport at the huwara dco, but 1 km later, right after the israeli terrorist forces army/jail, i was stopped by a soldier who kept me waiting for 30 minutes. the following one was a flying checkpoint where a huge line of cars was held for at least an hour in the middle of the highway. then it was on to beit el dco, which is there because of an enormous colony on the land of al bireh. there i was turned away even though i normally use this checkpoint when i’m driving in this particular direction. i had to head down through jaba’ checkpoint and then through qalandia checkpoint in order to reach ramallah (essentially drive all the way to the southern end of ramallah when i was trying to enter from the north).

dco huwara checkpoint with surrounded palestinian farm
dco huwara checkpoint with surrounded palestinian farm
israeli terrorist army base and jail and huwara
israeli terrorist army base and jail and huwara
3rd huwara checkpoint
3rd huwara checkpoint
yet another checkpoint from nablus to ramallah (notice cameras on both sides of service in front of me)
yet another checkpoint from nablus to ramallah (notice cameras on both sides of service in front of me)
beit el colony checkpoint
beit el colony checkpoint
jaba' checkpoint
jaba' checkpoint

all of these checkpoints are there to terrorize palestinians, to force them into submission, and to provide cover for israeli terrorist colonists who steal palestinian land and build their settlements. nour odeh reported on al jazeera yesterday about the expansion of these settlements which are expanding every day. it is aptly put in this video that the occasional outpost dismantling is no more than a media event for the west to see and think that the zionist entity is doing something about its colonial expansionism when it never does:

meanwhile netanyahu makes no attempt to hide his plans for further expansion:

Israel’s prime minister has said that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank will continue to be expanded.

“I have no intention to construct new settlements,” Binyamin Netanyahu was quoted by officials as telling his cabinet on Sunday.

“… but it makes no sense to ask us not to answer to the needs of natural growth and to stop all construction,” he added.

Barack Obama, the US president, pressed Netanyahu to halt all settlement activity when the two men met in Washington last week.

About 500,000 Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.

Netanyahu also told the cabinet that the government would move settlers living in the outposts it considers to be illegal under Israeli law.

“We will take care of them,” he said. “If possible by dialogue. There is no doubt that we have committed ourselves to deal with them.”

a (not so) simple drive

i went to al quds tonight to see a couple of friends. i had to pick up some books and after i walked over to al hakawati (the palestinian national theatre) where they were in a meeting. they go to a book group every thursday evening where they discuss a palestinian book they’ve read the previous week. i wasn’t sure what to expect there tonight because of the israeli terrorists putting a sign up on the door earlier this week (see post below) making it forbidden for cultural activities to take place. but actually as i got closer i heard music. there was a performance happening tonight. palestinians defied this order and a bunch of kids from the old city were packed inside watching a play. i peeked inside and everyone was laughing, clapping, full of excitement. it was a beautiful glimpse, especially in spite of everything going on in al quds right now. i walked upstairs and joined the end of the meeting where the were in the midst of critiquing the intelligensia, particularly those who support the regimes in the region. sonallah ibrahim–one of my favorite writers–was talked about as a model for how a writer/intellectual should resist one’s own regime. i asked my friends about that note on the door and they said that this happens all the time and that it doesn’t mean anything to them–that they continue on with their work there regardless of what the israeli terrorists do. but interestingly, my friend said that a very similar letter was sent to all palestinian principals at all the schools in al quds threatening them and warning them against having any cultural activities.

after dinner i drove home to nablus. i rented a car today with yellow plates because i’m going to 1948 palestine this weekend with some friends. it is so eerie driving down these roads at night because you cannot see any palestinian villages. all the main lights are for the israeli colonies. and all the signs, which i don’t normally pay attention to, are for israeli colonies. it really hits you in a different way how packed the stretch from al quds to nablus is with settlements (though this is also true because i drove on a jewish only road because i have a yellow plated car, it was late, and i wanted to get home faster). i drove to huwara checkpoint thinking i could just go home as usual, but i was told i could not. supposedly the law about yellow plated cars (the ones that can drive into 1948 palestine) was changed recently and now they can come into nablus. i read this in the newspaper. but also i have seen yellow plated cars in nablus so i assumed it was true. but the israeli terrorist said i cannot go home. i told him that i would sleep at the checkpoint then because either i was going to sleep in the car or in my bed. (though, it’s 3:30 am so obviously i’m not doing much sleeping in any case…). we argued and then i remembered that a friend of mine drove me through another checkpoint on this side of nablus so i called a friend and asked her if she could tell me how to get there. she did not know exactly how to do this. so i tried turning up the first street near huwara. i couldn’t recall if it was the first or the second. that first street took me up to the top of a mountain, which dead ended in an israeli colony. (all of the colonies around nablus are filled with gun-toting zionnazis.) i turned around and sped down the hill. i took the next right near huwara village and eventually found a sign that said nablus. i turned to find a checkpoint that was closed and blocked with an israeli terrorist’s jeep. i turned around again. at this point i started getting worried because i did not have a map with me tonight and there were no palestinians on the road. until there was one. as i turned around i saw a green and white plate at the intersection and flagged the driver down. he was going to nablus, too, and he told me to follow him to the other checkpoint and i got in. this story, i think, is important because it shows that these checkpoints are not to keep people in and out–it is to make people think they cannot get in or out. it is to make their lives difficult. it is to create a mentality of people who see themselves as imprisoned. and people here are, to be sure. but at the same time there are always ways to get in or out. it just takes effort, and if you are palestinian, a lot of humiliation and harassment.

i should have kept track of all the israeli colonies that i passed–numbering them and naming them, but i was driving fast. there are permanent colonies and many outposts, which look like trailer parks. i would look at a map now and list them out, but the electricity went out and so there is no internet connection and no lights right now. suffice it to say they are here, they are many, and they are growing. coincidentally, ayman mohyeldin did a story on the e1 colony in al quds on al jazeera today where you can get a sense of the impact of the colonies and the methods by which israeli terrorists create what they call “facts on the ground”:

at dinner tonight my friends told me about various things they are hearing about other tracts of land around al quds that israeli terrorists are stealing as they force more palestinians to become refugees in their own land. the area near shu’fat refugee camp, for instance, is slated to become a new checkpoint terminal. and today ma’an news reported that another family in al quds received word that they would be forced from their home and their land:

An Israeli court in Jerusalem issued an eviction decision against the As-Silwadi family, ordering them to leave their home and the dunnum of land around it after the defense lawyer failed to present documents for the case.

Hatem Abd Al-Qader, advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said “The lawyer appointed by the As-Silwadi family to defend them did not present the defense documents on time.” Because of the delay the court made its decision and “the decision was the decision.”

Abd Al-Qader noted that an investigation into the lawyer had begun to “ensure that he was not personally involved” in the outcome of the case.

The case has been taken away from the family lawyer and is now in the hands of PA appointed staff. The legal team in the office of the prime minister’s advisor will submit legal objections to the Israeli Central court challenging the decision.

Seven brothers, their wives and children all live in the multi-story building which is being claimed by several Israeli rabbis.The extended family lives in the Al-Yemen neighborhood of Silwan, a town in the southern section of East Jerusalem.

The area is less than a kilometer away from the Al-Bustan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where Israeli officials say 88 homes of 1,500 Palestinians are slated for demolition. The home of Mahmoud Al-Abbasi, also in Silwan, was destroyed on 2 March.

this home and land confiscation, though, is not only happening in al quds. in khalil today, for instance, israeli terrorist destroyed palestinian farm land:

Israeli forces bulldozed the lands of Wadi Ash-Shajjna, a village south of Dura near the West Bank city of Hebron.

Local sources in the village council said Israeli forces invaded the village on Wednesday and bulldozed the lands on the main road linking Hebron to the nearby town Adh-Dhahriya.

The bulldozed land had been covered with planted wheat, and belonged to the Amer and Al-Bustanji families.

tim franks of the bbc is also reporting today about the jewish-only road being built near nablus to connect israeli colonies:

Drive up the twisting, landscaped roads of Eli, a mid-sized settlement in the heart of the West Bank, and you come across a scene of intense construction activity. Lorries, tractors, and graders are digging, laying and smoothing a new road, more than a kilometre long. The road leads east to the outpost of Hayovel.

The road-building is not difficult to spot. But outside observers are not welcome. The BBC was asked, twice, to leave the settlement, when we drew too close to the site of the road.

Since the publication of a government-commissioned report into outposts, four years ago, they were supposed not to receive any further support from the authorities.

Indeed, the outgoing Israeli government promised to start dismantling the existing outposts.

That did not happen. Late last year, however, after an increase in violence from a minority of settlers, aimed at Israeli security forces, the cabinet announced an absolute cut-off in all public funding to the outposts.

The new road suggests that the reality is otherwise.

david ignatius of the washington post raised some interesting questions today about the funding of these israeli colonies:

For many years, the United States has had a policy against spending aid money to fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which successive administrations have regarded as an obstacle to peace. Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.

There’s nothing illegal about the charitable contributions to pro-settlement organizations, which are documented in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. They’re similar to tax-exempt donations made to thousands of foreign organizations around the world through groups that are often described as “American friends of” the recipient.

But critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.

israeli terrorists are funded by americans when they steal land and build homes. they are also funded by americans when they steal people as they do every day, including children as they did in nablus yesterday–and a usual they target palestinian refugees:

Israeli forces stormed several homes in the Askar and Balata Refugee Camps south of Nablus overnight Wednesday and took seven youth between 16-20- years-old.

The homes of the young men were stormed, searched, and the boys violently pulled from their families.

Those taken were identified as:
From Askar:
Nihad Abu Koshk, 17,
Sameh Abu Koshk, 20,
Mahmoud Mahmoud, 17

From Balata:
Abd Al-Latif Assi, 16,
Ahmad Hashash, 22,
Mohammad Harb, 16,
Mu’ath Al-Khatib, 17

they also kidnapped palestinian youth from a village near nablus:

Israeli forces herded village youth into local school, stormed and searched several houses and imposed a curfew on the village of Haris north of Salfit Thursday morning.

Eyewitnesses saw at least 150 youth taken from their homes and herded into a middle school with their heads covered with sacs. The youth later reported being ‘roughed up’ and questioned.

on another note, i know that most american readers don’t care about palestinians who for 122 have been made landless, been made refugees, been made prisoners, been murdered. but americans seem to care about sudanese people, albeit only if they can simplify and distort the reality there to suit their anti-muslim worldview. but i find it fascinating what has unfolded today in relation to the airstrike on sudan two months ago. sudan is accusing the u.s. interestingly, the mainstream cbs news reported today that it is not the u.s., but the terrorist state of israel who carried out the bombing:

A government minister in Sudan is accusing the United States Air Force of killing dozens of people in that north African country this past January – but the semi-official American version of the story is very different.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has been told that Israeli aircraft carried out the attack. Israeli intelligence is said to have discovered that weapons were being trucked through Sudan, heading north toward Egypt, whereupon they would cross the Sinai Desert and be smuggled into Hamas-held territory in Gaza.

In January, the U.S. signed an agreement with Israel that calls for an international effort to stop arms smuggling into Gaza. Hamas was showering rockets on Israeli towns, and Israel had responded by invading Gaza. More than 1,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in the December-January war, and 13 Israelis lost their lives.

In the airstrike in Sudan – said to have been “in a desert area northwest of Port Sudan city, near Mount al-Sha’anoon,” according to SudanTribune.com – 39 people riding in 17 trucks were reportedly killed.

what is even more interesting is that they are not denying it on television or in print media as in this amos herel piece in ha’aretz:

The timing of the operation – not long after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza – is indicative of the importance which Israel places in its execution. If the powers that be decide that it is worth taking the risk and striking targets some 1,400 kilometers outside of Israel’s borders, than it would appear that Israel believed Iran is seeking to supply Gaza with significant armaments.

A reasonable assumption would be that Iran sought to provide Hamas with Fajr missiles, whose deployment in Gaza would constitute what the IDF terms as “a weapon that shifts the balance.” During the Gaza lull, Hamas smuggled Katyusha rockets with an increased range from 20 kilometers to 40 kilometers. If it successfully managed to obtain Fajrs, Hamas could have placed Tel Aviv within missile range, which is exactly the coup it has sought in an effort to create the impression of a victory over Israel.

What does Iran learn from all this? That Israel possesses exceptional intelligence, a willingness to take great risk, and an ability to act successfully against targets far from Israel’s borders. Yet Iran knew all this after the previous strikes. If the reports are true, the bombing in Sudan was an important message of deterrence from Israel to Iran, yet the road from Sudan to the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program is a long one.

perhaps all the war crimes in gaza do not matter to the world. will this one matter? will it make a difference? or will sudanese people suffer the same fate as families in gaza who continue to suffer the consequences of israeli terrorist war crimes as in this al jazeera piece on a family assaulted with white phosphorus:

jeel al oslo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(43-44)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on koolaid

i’m so wiped out from grading this past week, but i finally finished. on my drama exam one of my students answered a question about the various dreams of the characters in lorraine hansberry’s raisin in the sun. in her answer she offered up her own dream, which i found rather disheartening. rather than talking about dreams of liberating palestine, her dream has become smaller: her dream was just to remove all the checkpoints. in some ways this is similar to hansberry’s play in the sense that the characters’ dreams are all related to their own lives: the right to live where one wants to live, the right to get an education, opening a business to have a means of supporting one’s family. their dreams are not of eradicating racism. so in some ways it is on par with what she saw in the play. but it says a lot about where many palestinians are in their thoughts: with the immediate obstacles of the israeli colonial project in the west bank.

unfortunately, exam week coincided with israeli apartheid week so most of our activities were centered around handing out leaflets. we were supposed to hold a talk in the auditorium (there is only one), but apparently all the dates we tried to book have been reserved. although our talk is approved, and hopefully will eventually take place on land day, which is the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions day, it was rather maddening to see who did speak on campus this week. today saeb erekat, palestinian collaborator who spends his time selling palestinian refugees’ rights down the river, spoke on campus. about what i do not know. nor do i really care. on monday it was some nimrod from the u.s. consulate who seemed to think that he could come here and lecture palestinians about president abraham lincoln as some great man who freed the slaves. of course this is a serious distortion of the history. it is the slaves themselves who resisted, the abolitionists who created the pressure needed for a law to be signed. but just because lincoln signed a paper does not make him a great man. especially when we know that slavery never really did end. for one thing, the end of slavery coincided with the u.s. building prisons in which to lock up african americans who would then continue slave labor from inside the prisons. this continues until now.

it seems the zionist state likes the worst parts of american history so much it is constantly trying to emulate those elements as with its current forms of slavery that have just been uncovered (thanks rania) :

The largest ever people-trafficking ring in Israel has been uncovered: Twelve members of the gang (all women) were arrested by police in Tel Aviv on 8 March following a two-year undercover operation.

The suspected traffickers are accused of smuggling hundreds of women from the former Soviet Union into Israel to work in the sex industry.

but back to the u.s. for a minute. of course i didn’t step foot in the auditorium where the u.s. consulate person gave his propagandistic talk. but i suspect that he is one of the many that was using this mythological narrative (yes, i heard reports of what was said) to suggest things about american democracy and freedom and a bunch of other khara. glen ford has a great essay this week–with a fabulous title: ‘left’ obamites prefer kool-aid to struggle–in dissident voice on the left and obama. here is what ford says about obama and foreign policy for those of you koolaid drinkers:

On the international scene (i.e., The Empire), Obama’s job — as Burnham says should be clear to “us” — is “to salvage the reputation of the U.S. in the world; repair the international ties shredded by eight years of cowboy unilateralism; and adjust U.S. positioning on the world stage [so far, so good, but here Burnham slips down the proverbial slope] on the basis of a rational assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the changed and changing centers of global political, economic and military power – rather than on the basis of a simple-minded ideological commitment to unchallenged world dominance.”

Obama’s military budget, bigger than Bush’s, his escalation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, the unraveling of his Iraq “withdrawal” promises, and his provocations in Africa all signal that this president has no intention of relinquishing the goal of global U.S. hegemony. To paraphrase his famous statement on war, “I’m not opposed to imperialism, just dumb imperialism.”

there are others who drink the koolaid. interestingly, alice walker admitted today that she had been duped by leon uris’ zionist propaganda extravaganza, also known as exodus as karen laub reports:

Walker said she believes Americans have mostly been exposed to the Israeli narrative since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 and know little about the plight of the Palestinians. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled their homes at the time.

“We were indoctrinated to the song in that film Exodus, you know, `This land belongs to us, this land is our land,’ meaning the Israelis, the Jews, and for so long, we were told that nobody lived here, that it was a land without people, for a people without land,” she said.

a couple of years ago in the nation philip weiss wrote about the israel lobby author john mearsheimer in which he admitted that he, too, had been blinded by exodus:

Mearsheimer was hawkish about Israel until the 1990s, when he began to read Israel’s “New Historians,” a group of Israeli scholars and journalists (among them Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Tom Segev) who showed that Israel’s founders had been at times ruthless toward Palestinians. Mearsheimer’s former student Michael Desch, a professor at Texas A&M, recalls the epiphany: “For a lot of us, who didn’t know a lot about the Israel/Palestine conflict beyond the conventional wisdom and Leon Uris’s Exodus, we saw a cold war ally; and the moral issue and the common democracy reinforced a strong pro-Israel bent.”

that was in 2006. since then the pressure of the israel lobby in the united states has been exposed again and again. this week it seems that the israel lobby has been reassured that it continues to enjoy having special friends in the white house as the co-author of the israel lobby, stephen walt, explains:

Fourth, the worst aspect of the Freeman affair is the likelihood of a chilling effect on discourse in Washington, at precisely the time when we badly need a more open and wide-ranging discussion of our Middle East policy. As I noted earlier, this was one of the main reasons why the lobby went after Freeman so vehemently; in an era where more and more people are questioning Israel’s behavior and questioning the merits of unconditional U.S. support, its hardline defenders felt they simply had to reinforce the de facto ban on honest discourse inside the Beltway. After forty-plus years of occupation, two wars in Lebanon, and the latest pummeling of Gaza, (not to mention Ehud Olmert’s own comparison of Israel with South Africa), defenders of the “special relationship” can’t win on facts and logic anymore. So they have to rely on raw political muscle and the silencing or marginalization of those with whom they disagree. In the short term, Freeman’s fate is intended to send the message that if you want to move up in Washington, you had better make damn sure that nobody even suspects you might be an independent thinker on these issues.

here is a report by shihab rattansi on al jazeera for some context:

charles freeman published his own statement in the wall street journal about the israel lobby’s libelous attack on him that led his name to be withdrawn:

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

in response the los angeles times editorial today stated they want a more normal debate on the zionist entity, though, problematically they still believe they have a right to exist:

Our opinion is this: Israel is America’s friend and ally. It deserves to exist safely within secure borders. We hope it will continue to prosper as a refuge for Jews and a vibrant democracy in the region (alongside an equally democratic Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza). But we do not believe that Israel should be immune from criticism or that there is room for only one point of view in our government.

U.S. policy has been extremely supportive of Israel over the years, as have many of our policymakers. That’s fine. But theirs should not be the only voices allowed in the room.

interestingly, this week, there was another israel lobby effort in congress, though it did not receive as much media attention as the charles freemen debacle. this was senate bill 629 from arizona senator jon kyl who wanted to include a line in an appropriations bill about palestinian refugees from gaza being barred from seeking refuge in the u.s. here is what laura flanders said about it on grit tv:

what does all this have to do with koolaid? yes, it is true that most of these people in power in the u.s. bow down to the israel lobby because they think they cannot get elected without their support. but i don’t think it is only that. i think that the cultural texts like exodus, which ingrain a sympathy for zionism through a completely distorted, fabricated view of how jews came to colonize palestine, plays a role here. it’s the koolaid that enables the lobby to work so effectively. the specter of it keeps rearing its head even 40 years after the book and film were produced.

palestinian women’s day no more…

palestinian-womens-day

today is international women’s day. this used to be a day off in palestine. a day that people did not work. apparently, this is no longer the case. tomorrow is a day off because it is the prophet mohammed’s birthday (a holiday that is relatively recent, and it would seem, a holiday mimicking christians in their celebration of christmas with respect to the celebration of a prophet’s birthday, not the hyper-consumption aspect). if this were still a holiday that the palestinian authority honored we might be able to do things like honor palestinian women political prisoners:

Palestinian researcher, specialized in the issue of detainees, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, stated on Friday the May 8, International Women’s Day, should be a day of solidarity with the Palestinian women detained by Israel.

“The world marks this day to salute the women and their important role, struggle and achievements”, Farawna said, “but it forgot that there are thousands of Palestinian women suffering under Israeli occupation, imprisoned and abused”.

He added that the world must understand that the detained Palestinian women are facing harsh treatment in Israeli prisons and are deprived from their basic rights.

“They face torture, physical and psychological”, Farawna said, “Some of them were even sexually harassed during interrogation”.

He also said that dozens of women are still imprisoned by Israel; some of them gave birth in prison, others left children behind, while a number of them are below the age of 18.

Detainee Amal Jom’a has cancer and is not receiving proper medical attention and her condition is deteriorating. She was kidnapped 5 years ago and was sentenced to eleven years imprisonment.

Farawna also said that there are a number of female detainees who were sentenced to multiple life terms such as Ahlam Tamimi, sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms, Qahera Al Sa’ady, sentenced to three life terms and addition thirty years, in addition to Amena Mona, Sana’ Shihada, Dua’ Al Jayyousi and several other detainees who are sentenced to at least one life-term.

The Israeli army kidnapped more than 10,000 Palestinian women since 1967. 800 of them were kidnapped during the Al Aqsa Intifada. There are currently 85 female detainees still imprisoned by Israel.

Furthermore, Farwana said that Israel is still holding the bodies of some Palestinian women who died in attack against Israeli targets. Some of them are buried in what is known as the “numbers graveyards”.

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or we could salute the young palestinian refugee girls, like these amazing young girls (in red) from deheishe refugee camp whose basketball game i attended friday night. they lost (32-28), but they played really well. it was so fantastic to watch them play this private school in beit lahem (whose colors are, astonishingly, blue and white: can someone please ban this color combination from palestine? don’t we see enough of this on every bit of land that is being confiscated and at every checkpoint every day?).

dsc00022

and while i’m on the subject of holidays that seem to be no more in palestine: what is up with the cancellation of yom al ard (land day)? please some one explain the rationale for this one! if this is not evidence for a palestinian authority that cares not for the liberation of all of palestine, i don’t know what is. (note to zalfa and tamara: this goes to the top of the 7aram list!).

school in nablus

in some ways students in one country are not altogether different from students in other countries. i have taught in the u.s., ghana, palestine, jordan, and lebanon. there are always students who look for ways to get out of work, to take the easy way out, to make excuses. my philosophy when it comes to these things is to treat students as adults (because, of course, they are). if they have to leave my class, if they cannot come to class, if they are late those are things for them to deal with. i take attendance because universities want such statistics, but i don’t believe in excused or unexcused absences. i believe that students who want to learn come to class having done the reading and discuss the readings. a student who comes to class but says nothing is as absent for me as a student who never came to class at all. i think that part of this is about taking responsibility for one’s actions, one’s choices, one’s decisions, something that college students need to learn how to do where ever they are.

of course, in palestine things like tardiness and absence become more complicated. i have students, for instance, who have spent time in jail and have not been able to come to class. i have students who are stopped at checkpoints and who come late to class. students who must pass through especially harsh checkpoints on the way to university must leave hours ahead of time and even then it does not mean they will arrive at school on time. this morning one of my students, who is from a village just a few kilometers away from nablus, wrote me a note while waiting at a checkpoint. here is what he said:

in the last 7 years at beiteba checkpoint:

soldiers have stopped us for every day for 3.5 hours on the way to nablus and on our way home. they stop us for a total of 3.5 hours every day.

a year has 365 days. if we subtract 90 days for fridays and saturdays, there are 275 days in the year.

if we multiply 3.5 hours by 275 days we get 962.5 hours spent in a checkpoint during the average year.

if we multiply 962.5 hours by 7 (for the last 7 years) we get 6,737.5 hours in 7 years. if we divide that by 24 we get 280.7 days.

in other words, nearly a year is lost from our lives because we are forced to stop at the checkpoint every day for 3.5 hours.

of course, students are not the only ones subjected to this. this applies to all palestinians, though more so to men than to women. and this is especially true for those traveling in and out of nablus. and checkpoints are added every day; often you do not know where they will be as with this new one outside of nablus:

Israeli troops erected a checkpoint on Tuesday morning at an intersection at the village of Beita, south of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Witnesses reported to Ma’an that soldiers are stopping and searching Palestinians’ cars, before they reach another checkpoint farther down the road, in the village of Za’tara.

most palestinians from in and around nablus, however, cannot even pass the checkpoints to leave the area. they are prisoners inside the nablus district. though there are rumors that this will soon be over (i doubt it: this is like israeli terrorists saying they will release prisoners and then work extra hard to kidnap hundreds of new palestinian political prisoners in the middle of the night):

Israel is reconsidering a policy that bans thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank city of Nablus from working in Israel or travelling, the Israeli Liaison Office at the Huwwara military base has told locals.

Recently the Liaison Office has summoned dozens of Nablus residents to Huwwara, south of the city, to inform them that they can once again apply for permits.

The Palestinian Liaison Department, responsible for communicating with the Israeli side, said that initial reports that Israel was considering reversing the “security ban” policy were exaggerated.

Sources at the Liaison Department said Israel has formed a committee to examine the issue. The committee is first meeting on Thursday to consider a trial stage in which security bans would be lifted from residents of the village of Qusra, south of Nablus.

and that kidnapping/raiding/invasion terrorism that happens all over the west bank every night always happens in and around nablus:

Israeli forces invaded the West Bank city of Nablus early on Tuesday, raided a school and a local television station, and seized two people.

Witnesses told Ma’an that more than 30 Israeli military vehicles entered the Old City and the surrounding neighborhoods at 12:30am.

The soldiers destroyed the front doors of stores on An-Naser Street and other areas. The soldiers also raided the Thafer Al-Masri School near Ras Al-Ein in Nablus.

Israeli troops stormed the Asia TV station and imprisoned the director of the station, Ayman Al-Qadiri, and two employees in one room. Al-Qadiri said more than 25 soldiers also raided his home, which is in the same building as the television studio, and detained his family along with him and the employees until the soldiers left in the morning.

Al-Qadiri said that no equipment was confiscated, but that the soldiers switched off all the broadcasting equipment, and used the studio as a lookout position to monitor the nearby school as they were searching it.

Meanwhile, local sources told Ma’an Israeli forces stormed the house of Imad Qandil in the Old City and set off an explosive device in the kitchen, claiming that there was a tunnel under the house.

Israeli forces detained 18-year-old Samer Imad Qandil and his 20-year-old brother, Ghazi. Soldiers stormed dozens of houses in the area.

yes, schools here–and students–just like in gaza and everywhere else in palestine, are always under attack. a few months ago i blogged about education in nablus and i posted the first part of a series, “two schools in nablus” on al jazeera english’s witness hosted by rageh omaar on the subject. there was a sequel, a follow up to the original program from 2007 in which we can see how the students and faculty are doing one year later. this second part comes in many parts, but it is a really good picture of life here in nablus–not only the schools themselves, but the kind of difficulties teachers and students alike face when it comes to checkpoints, imprisonment, invasions, resistance. here is the series:

Part One: The Return

Part Two: The Journeys

Part Three: The Goal

Part Four: Return to Nablus

model camps

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after school today i went with a friend and a student to jenin refugee camp to see mohammad bakri in a one-man show called the opsimist, which is based on emile habiby’s novel. i have been wanting to take a field trip there with my drama class, but unfortunately they did not send the notification out until saturday so i was only able to find one student who could come at the last minute. the drive to jenin is always so beautiful because it is so green. it is the place where so much of palestine’s produce is grown. but today we also saw signs of spring on the drive there–little, lovely wildflowers growing among the olive trees. of course there were many checkpoints as well–flying and permanent. one of the flying checkpoints you can see in the photograph below. apparently there are two new flying checkpoints around nablus.

flying checkpoint outside nablus
flying checkpoint outside nablus

we arrived in jenin, grabbed some quick shwarma sandwiches and then headed over to the camp. we got a little tour of the freedom theater there and its related centers–a library and a multimedia center. this area of the camp is the “new camp,” meaning rebuilt after the israeli terrorists destroyed it in 2002. but more on that in a minute. i am very interested in the work that the freedom theater is doing. apparently it is doing great work on bridging the gap between the city of jenin and the camp. around 70% of the audience now comes from the city of jenin. i’m not sure what the stats are for tonight’s performance, but the audience was enormous. as we walked inside the theater we were directed to the left side of the audience (women on left, men on right). after we filled all the chairs (perhaps 200 seats?) then people streamed in and sat on the stairs. it was amazing to see such attendance for a theatrical performance (my friend beesan says that we would never have such an audience if it were at an najah university, for example). perhaps it was because mohammad bakri is a very famous palestinian actor and director. he also has a film on emile habiby, called since you left, which i have been unable to see yet, but he promised me a copy after the show. i want to show it to my students when we read habiby’s novel later this semester.

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i think the theater work they do there is great. i’ve posted before about the theatrical and therapeutic ways they use therapy at the freedom theater. but i was very turned off by some things about the director of the center, juliano mer khamis, as one can see in his film arna’s children (you can click this link to watch it on google video, but i hate this film so i will not post it here). there are elements of normalization that i don’t like in it. and there is an odd gap in the film when mer khamis leaves jenin and the film never explains why. he explained why when he first screened this film in ramallah a few years ago, though i cannot now recall the specifics. but i do recall him saying that he served in the israeli terrorist army. the absence of this context renders the film a bit more disturbing for me. i also found it disturbing that there was an israeli colonist filming the play tonight. how is it that only 7 years after the israeli terrorist massacre that he is welcomed in the camp? very disturbing.

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but the theater is very cool and the performance by bakri tonight was amazing. the play excerpts certain threads of habiby’s novel and just as in the novel he plays both saeeds. the stage was very sparse–just a couple of props and a bed in the center. he also included a number of palestinian songs and encouraged the audience to sing along with him, which they did with vigor. and there was also a lovely kind of call-and-response in his play at a number of different moments when he would say something inviting the audience to respond. it was really beautiful to see not only the performance but this particular audience’s interaction with the actor. even when someone’s cell phone rang and the rest of the audience made noises of disapproval, bakri had an exchange with the young man with the phone. but he seemed to be in character the entire time, even with such disruptions.

i’m sure that having bakri in the camp had special significance for the people from the camp in the audience as he is the director of the wonderful documentary, jenin, jenin. i strongly recommend it and will insert it here for people who wish to watch it as it is an important reminder of what israeli terrorists do whether in jenin or in gaza:

this film has an interesting history as israeli terrorists filed a lawsuit against bakri after he made the film. bakri has a website explaining this context:

The atrocities of the Israeli military have been documented outside the film by researchers and activists who entered the camp after the military lifted its blockade, and confirmed by Israeli soldiers themselves such as Moshe Nissim, who bragged to Yediot Aharonot about his use of an armored D-9 bulldozer to flatten homes in the refugee camp. “Jenin Jenin,” however, is distinguished by its focus on the direct experience and narratives of the Palestinian victims themselves, from young girls to old men, refugees from their own homes from which they were expelled in 1948, once again finding their homes destroyed, by the same enemy, over 54 years later.

However, since its initial release, “Jenin Jenin” has come under attack within the Israeli legal system. After the military invasion of Jenin, the sealing off of the city and its closure to reporters and human rights groups, the attack on this film has served as a mechanism for further silencing and delegitimizing the voices of the Palestinians of Jenin camp.

As a Palestinian Arab who holds Israeli citizenship, born and living within the areas of Palestine occupied in 1948, Bakri’s position as less than a second-class citizen living in an occupied land is visibly illustrated by the speed with which his artistic and cultural production has become subject to state censorship, control and legal attack. When first released, after only three screenings, Bakri’s film was banned by the Israeli Film Board in 2002, accused of being libelous and offensive for telling the unmediated stories of Palestinians.

When, in 2004, the Israeli High Court finally upheld its earlier overturn of the ban, it nevertheless joined the Film Board in labeling the film a “propagandistic lie,” illustrating its own basis in the racist structure of the state that is reliant on the rejection and silencing of Palestinian voices and Palestinian narrative, just as it is upon the dispossession of Palestinian people and the theft of Palestinian land, while providing the outward appearance of democracy and proper judicial process. Rather than focusing on Jenin as an internal issue to be resolved among Israeli voices – a debate among the occupiers – “Jenin Jenin” focused on the voices of Palestinians, placing itself, as an artistic creation of a Palestinian filmmaker in a state based on the denial of that very identity, outside the framework of “legitimate” expression.

anyone thinking of the massive media censorship in gaza should think about bakri’s case. it sheds so much light on why they don’t want you to know what is really going on. likewise, the lebanese army in 2007, when they invaded and destroyed nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon is yet another stark parallel to jenin. i remember fouad siniora saying something that summer about how he wanted to re-build it as a “model camp.” at the time many palestinians from nahr el bared talked about something which seemed like a rumor or a conspiracy theory: but clearly they were right. they thought that the lebanese government was just looking for an excuse to destroy the camp so they could build a military base on its land (while 80% of the camp residents remain internally displaced and are not allowed to return home). i posted the open letter from the camp residents before, but i will link it here. and here is the map that set off the alarms:

nahr-el-bared

and here is what a recent article in afp reported about this so-called “model camp”:

A major reconstruction operation by the Lebanese authorities and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) is to kick off later this month to rebuild a “model camp,” according to the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), a government focal point in the reconstruction effort.

“The rebuilding plan is the result of a partnership between UNRWA, the Lebanese state and the Palestinian Authority,” said LPDC advisor Ziad Sayegh.

“We seek to build a model camp that would provide a minimum standard of decent living for the Palestinians under the state’s sovereignty and authority.”

UNRWA has appealed for 450 million dollars for the rebuilding, which is scheduled to be completed in around three years. So far it has raised around 120 million dollars.

“We do need more resources to rebuild the camp but that doesn’t mean we are not going ahead with it,” said Charlie Higgins, UNRWA’s project manager. “At a certain point in the middle of this year if we don’t receive any more resources or funding we will stop and the process will be delayed.”

He said UNRWA was appealing to different countries for additional funds.

“We are confident we’ll have this money but we have to show that we are actually moving ahead,” Higgins added.

A Lebanese naval base will be set up at the edge of the camp despite strong opposition from the resident refugees who view this as a “form of restriction” and point to the fact that the base would be located near schools.

“The base is necessary for monitoring all the northern coasts and combating trafficking… this is not a restriction,” said Sayegh.

He added that an army post and a police station will also be built inside the camp, along with health centres and schools.

“The police station will ensure law enforcement and protect the Palestinians,” he said “There will be no compromise on sovereign decisions.

“It will be a model camp in terms of services and quality of buildings and roads.”

when i heard siniora talk about this idea of a “model camp” two years ago it was in the context of jenin refugee camp. he said that he wanted to rebuild it like jenin was rebuilt. but i saw jenin refugee camp tonight. and it looks like a normal refugee camp with newer houses in it. the streets are still narrow. the homes are still small. and this is what the people of nahr el bared told me again and again that they want: they want to rebuild the camp exactly as it was before. but if you look at the map above clearly that is not possible. and their fear that they always talk about is the width of the streets. friends from nahr el bared want the same narrow roads because for them a wider road, for them, means easy access with army tanks. my friend beesan tonight happens to be the niece of one of the architects who rebuilt jenin refugee camp. there the families had agency and a role to play in how it was rebuilt. in nahr el bared they don’t. and it’s unclear as to what will happen when this military base is built on the ruins of peoples lives that were looted and destroyed by the lebanese army.

tis the season to boycott

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it is christmas again. or christmas eve anyway. a time when most americans over-consume, and over-eat. though it seems like many americans are not able to do the former as a result of the recession. and i think that is a good thing. americans who are more secular and christian, like my grandma, see it as a time to spend with family, eat lots of sweets(though if you are my grandma your diet consists almost entirely of chocolate year round), and give/receive gifts. americans who are more religious i imagine spend time in church and perhaps they read the bible (i don’t really know any such people so i’m assuming here…) but relatively few of either secular or religious american christians will spend any amount of time thinking about palestine, where jesus was born and whose birth they are supposedly celebrating tonight and tomorrow. certainly they may sing christmas carols that have allusions to palestine–such as that song with the line in “the little town of bethlehem”–but i imagine few will think about where bethlehem is and what is happening in bethlehem today to the christians and muslims who live there. here is one example of what is happening now in bethlehem–exile, house demolitions, an illegal apartheid wall, illegal and increasing israeli settlements, as nour odeh reports on al jazeera:

mazin qumisiyeh also describes this process of ethnic cleansing by illegal settlements in bethlehem:

When I look out the balcony of the faculty lounge at Bethlehem University, I hear the constant hammering of the construction in the settlement that separates us from Jerusalem and I see Israeli settlements built on Palestinian lands surrounding Bethlehem on three sides. Every two weeks, Jewish settlers “visit” the hill on the fourth side (called Ush Ghrab) that they have set their eyes on. Yet, I hear the U.S. media is focused on other things, including the weighty matter of dodging shoes.

me & divy in front of the entrance to bethlehem
me & divy in front of the entrance to bethlehem

likewise the apartheid wall that is choking bethlehem is another form of forcing exile on palestinians as the economy is deeply affected by this. the system of the apartheid wall and its corollary checkpoints are also forcing palestinians to leave palestine:

Bethlehem has also been badly affected by Israel’s separation barrier causing widespread economic hardship among both Muslims and Christians. Yusuf Nassir 57, is looking for a way to emigrate. “The problem is that we are a minority and minorities always suffer in times like these. My house was attacked [by Muslims] over nothing. There was a dispute between a Muslim and a Christian boy, this turned into a communal fight and then around 70 men turned on us. My sister got injured. She said to me ‘you must leave for the safety of your family’, but finding the money is not easy,” he says. “I have also had Israeli soldiers fire at me, once when I was driving a car. The bullet missed me by about 25 centimeters.

“But it is the wall which has destroyed my business. I now owe $120,000 in back rent. I have had to sack staff, and other businesses around here have had to do the same. This just adds to the unemployment and social problems here.”

this excerpt above from england’s independent newspaper gives a far more accurate picture of the economic conditions facing palestinians everywhere, including bethlehem. while tourists may be coming to see the church of the nativity, most of these tours are organized by israeli companies and the tourists are shuttled in and out of bethelehm so fast they don’t have enough time to shop or even eat a felafel sandwich (which is a shame because afteem felafel sandwhich shop across from the church is one of the best places for felafel in the world). not surprisingly, though, the ever clueless new york times published a piece yesterday talking about the economy improving here:

It might seem obvious that in the days leading up to Christmas this city, which lives in the hearts of Christians worldwide, would become a tourist magnet. But only six years ago the Church of the Nativity was the site of a five-week standoff between Israeli troops and armed Palestinian militants. Even today, to get into Bethlehem requires passing through an Israeli checkpoint under the shadow of the enormous Israeli separation wall.

Yet there are more tourists in Bethlehem this year than at any time in a decade, and their presence signals something beyond the Christmas spirit: life for West Bank Palestinians, oppressive and challenging though it remains, seems to be making substantial, if fragile, improvement.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials report economic growth for the occupied areas of 4 to 5 percent and a drop in the unemployment rate of at least three percentage points. The Israelis report that in 2008 wages here are up more than 20 percent and trade by 35 percent. The improved climate has nearly doubled the number of tourists in Bethlehem and increased them by half in Jericho.

It is not just tourists. The Bethlehem Small Enterprise Center, financed with German aid, has been open for eight months and busy, helping printers improve their software and olivewood craftsmen their marketing.

“It has been the best year since 1999,” noted Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem. “Our hotels are full whereas three years ago there was almost nobody. Unemployment is below 20 percent. But we are still under occupation.”

And all this in a year when the global economy has been sinking at an alarming rate.

if an american journalist can’t get it right i expect even less from the average christian american (though to be fair this is ethan bronner and his reports can be largely characterized by how out of touch he is with reality on the ground). i imagine relatively few american christians will also spend the next twenty-four hours thinking about the road from nazareth to bethlehem as bbc journalist aleem maqbool recently did. he traveled on foot and donkey from nazareth to bethlehem and wrote and filmed his experiences, which you can see on the bbc website. but he ran into some troubles that i don’t think jesus ever encountered:

After a wait at the checkpoint, I was happy to be told that I would be allowed to pass. However, the Israeli authorities informed us that our donkey did not have the correct paperwork. Donkey number two would have to be left behind.

I would like to think her stubborn resistance to getting into the animal trailer was because she wanted to stay with me. However, I have a feeling it was more the prospect of a bumpy ride home.

For those Palestinian farmers in the West Bank who have land on the “wrong side” of the barrier (in many places it runs well inside West Bank, leaving Palestinian land outside), such bureaucracy can really impact on working life. Many farmers have given up tending their land in these circumstances.

Two donkeys down, I crossed into the West Bank alone.

The Israeli government says the barrier, and the checkpoints, are necessary for the security of its citizens – to keep potential Palestinian bombers out. It is one of the main reasons given for the massive decrease in the number of suicide bombings in Israel.

But the Israeli army has also arrested and killed hundreds of people it suspects of militancy, in regular raids on West Bank towns and cities.

bethlehem

and here is what we can imagine evangelical zionist christians to be doing today and tomorrow–totally ignoring history and even their own religious books in order to facilitate the zionist regime’s redrawing the map:

For the first time this year, yuletide celebrations in Christ’s birthplace will be streamed live on the internet – and if you’re busy feasting on turkey or watching the Queen’s speech you can revisit the scene a couple of days later when it is repeated.

The online broadcaster IPrayTV.com, which says it wants to strengthen Christian ties with “Israel and the Holy Sites”, has mounted a permanent camera in the Franciscan section of the Church of the Nativity.

The broadcaster, founded by a pro-Israeli evangelical, has also placed a camera overlooking Manger Square in the centre of the Palestinian town.

apparently to these christians bethlehem is in israel now (see map above). it’s not, of course, though the illegal settlements strangling the city are trying to make it become one (as seen in the video from al jazeera posted above). i wonder if these same christians think that it is “christian” (whatever that means) to behave in the murderous way the zionist state behaves every day. as some of these people are fond of saying: what would jesus do? what would he do, for instance, if he were to know that the people in gaza had to shut their bakeries down again once more?:

Bakeries’ owners in Gaza announced today they have shut down doors before residents due to their inability to get cooking gas and wheat to make bread.

Abdelnaser aL-Ajrami, head of the bakeries society in Gaza, stated to media outlets that more than 27 bakeries out of a total of 47 in Gaza city, have been shut down completely due to lack of cooking gas and wheat, as Israel closes commercial border crossings for almost two months now.

” the current crisis is increasingly becoming crippled as there are only 400 tons of wheat left at Gaza’s seven windmills”, he explained.

aL-Ajrami made clear that the said quantities will be distributed at the bakeries for the next four days, maintaining that there have been relentless efforts to ensure the needed cooking gas.

Last month , Israel imposed a restrictive closure on Gaza’s commercial crossings following a series of Israeli army attacks on Gaza Strip. Gaza-based resistance factions responded with homemade shells fire.

According to petroleum officials in Gaza, Gaza’s 1.5 million residents need at least 350 tons of cooking gas on daily basis.

i’d like to think that jesus would find a way to resist this inhuman behavior by calling for a boycott of the zionist regime. for if jesus were still alive he’d be either living behind that apartheid wall or living as a third-class citizen in 1948 palestine. either way i don’t think he would be silent about what the zionists have done and do. the most recent update on a company on the boycott list is l’oreal cosmetics:

In this holiday season, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC*, calls upon people of conscience all over the world to boycott all the products of the French cosmetics giant, L’Oreal**, due to its deep and extensive involvement in business relations with Israel, despite the latter’s continued occupation and apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinian people.

L’Oreal’s operations in Israel began in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by political considerations. Since then, L’Oreal Israel, the company’s subsidiary in Israel, has operated a factory in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha’emek in the Lower Galilee. The settlement of Migdal Ha’emek was established in 1952 on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil, whose original inhabitants are still denied the right to return to their homes. Like almost all other Jewish settlements built in the midst of Palestinian villages in the Galilee, inside Israel, Migdal Ha’emek discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, denying them the right to buy, rent or live on any part of the town, simply because they are “non Jews.”

L’Oreal Israel manufacturers a line of products using Dead Sea minerals under the name “Natural Sea Beauty” that is exported to 22 countries. It should be noted that one third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While the entire shore and its resources are systematically closed to Palestinians by Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices, Israel exploits the Dead Sea for international tourism, mining, and improving its image.

L’Oreal’s activities in Israel are not, however, limited to L’Oreal Israel. While Palestinian academics and students in the occupied territories and Israel are systematically impeded by Israeli occupation roadblocks and other oppressive measures from conducting normal academic life and research, L’Oreal awarded a $100,000 “lifetime achievement” award to a scientist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in July 2008. The Weizmann Institute, since its establishment, has been a major center for clandestine research and development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on behalf of Israel’s military establishment with which it has close ties. It is, therefore, one of many academic institutions in Israel that are in collusion with the state’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, and which are targeted for academic boycott by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

The chairman of L’Oreal Israel is Gad Propper who is the founding chairman of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce, and has also been heavily involved in promoting trade between Israel and Australia and New Zealand. The French government has recognized the important role that L’Oreal’s Israeli operations play in the company’s global business by awarding Propper France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion d’honneur earlier this month. “The award was in recognition of Propper’s contribution to the global success story” of L’Oreal, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

In 1994, L’Oreal bought a 30 percent stake in Propper’s company Interbeauty, from which L’Oreal Israel was created. Since then Israel has become L’Oreal’s commercial center for the entire Middle East.

POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS FOR L’OREAL’S ISRAEL INVESTMENTS

In 1995, L’Oreal agreed to pay $1.4 million to the US government to settle charges that it had cooperated with the Arab League’s official boycott of Israel. The company was accused of providing information in the 1980s about its US subsidiaries’ ties to Israel, to the now effectively inactive official Boycott Office of the Arab League. The company denied that it had broken US laws designed to prevent American firms from cooperating with the official Arab boycott of Israel, but mounted a campaign to placate Zionist critics by emphasizing its desire to invest in Israel.

Following the settlement, then chairman of L’Oreal, Lindsay Owen-Jones, apologized for the company’s actions in a letter to the US-based pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

According to the ADL, Owen-Jones thanked the pro-Israel group “for its support of L’Oreal’s business and community service activities in Israel,” and assured the ADL that “The forward-looking approach that you have taken is an encouragement to L’Oreal and other companies that are already involved in Israel to expand their involvements till further.”

One of L’Oreal’s most well-known global brands, The Body Shop, boasts that one of its core values is “We’ve never been afraid to champion the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, and we continue to campaign for social justice and human rights.” Yet its parent company’s deep politically-motivated and profit-driven involvement with Israeli apartheid indicates, if anything, a flagrant disregard for the human rights of Palestinians and a disservice to justice and peace.

Business-as-usual should not continue with a state that has not only practiced apartheid and colonial rule against an indigenous population for decades, but is also, today, committing grave and persistent war crimes described as “a prelude to genocide” by Richard Falk, a prominent Princeton international law professor and UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT.

Under these circumstances L’Oreal’s vast investment in Israel amounts to complicity in severe abuse of human rights, to say the least; it should be stopped at once.

al mujaydil, the palestinian land that l’oreal occupies, is in the district of nazareth, the district where jesus came from. yet another reason i suspect jesus would boycott this company (and all others supporting the zionist regime).

there are many other american and european companies to boycott, of course, many of which i’ve written about here. and there are links in the side bar to learn more about that. but given that it is christmas i thought it would be nice to end with boycott christmas carols, from adalah new york, against the israeli diamond billionaire who builds illegal settlements in the west bank and who recently opened a shop in dubai. this is a little more of the sort of christmas spirit that i can get into…