Breaking Through to the Hindu and other recent developments

I was a bit surprised to learn that The Hindu newspaper carried coverage of the American Studies Association boycott resolution in its pages. It hardly seemed like international news to me. But what was more surprising is that it came in the form of Zionist articles by American columnists David Brooks (New York Times) and Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post). Both articles repeat stale propaganda about Israel and the boycott movement, which if they had been even fact checked some of that could have been reduced. In any case, I wrote my own response to them, which was published in today’s paper, although it was edited so I’ll post the original version below:

In the print edition of The Hindu on 11 January 2014, a column by Charles Karauthammer appeared from the newswire about the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent resolution to boycott Israel. As a member of the ASA for almost twenty years, and as the person who initiated this move towards boycott in the spring of 2005, I find it a bit odd that such an article (the second, actually, as The Hindu published a wire piece by David Brooks a couple of weeks ago arguing more or less the same point) would appear in the pages of an Indian newspaper given that the bone of contention is from quite an American point of view. Moreover, Indians know from experience what the power of boycott can do when fighting a foreign colonial power on one’s land.

Brooks and Krauthammer may offer readers many opinions, but there is very little grounded in facts, which a quick perusal of the ASA’s website would reveal. For example, Brooks, for example, thinks that the problem is only the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; curiously Gaza doesn’t come into his frame. Both writers paint a portrait of an Israel that looks like it’s a beautiful, democratic society with just a few minor flaws that need to be worked out. Let me offer your readers a different American viewpoint, and one that comes from an American Jew who has spent several years teaching at Palestinian universities in the West Bank cities of Jerusalem and Nablus; there I had a front-row seat to the myriad ways that Israel actively interfered with the lives of Palestinian scholars and students, making teaching, conducting research, or merely going to school next to impossible.

Any way one examines the conditions of Palestinians, including access to education, there are problems whether in the West Bank, Gaza, or Israel itself. Israel has a segregated school system (similar to the “separate but equal” system the U.S. created for African Americans) as detailed in a recent Human Rights Watch report. Israel routinely targets schools in its invasions of Palestine (and Lebanon); during its 2008 war against Gaza, Israel targeted a United Nations school and the Islamic University of Gaza. In the West Bank, where I spent most of my time, students were routinely kept from attending university and school because of the checkpoint and Jewish-only road system. Last summer the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report detailing the extent to which Palestinian children between the ages of twelve and seventeen are kidnapped from their homes at night, detained in military prisons where they are tortured, often until they agree to become informants on their family and community. If I had more space to write, I could produce a dissertation on the ways in which Palestinian youth are singled out by Israeli soldiers, abused, and prevented from pursuing their education.

Instead of exploring the reality of Palestinians, Krauthammer and Brooks deflect attention by either asking why Israel is “singled out” (answer: because as a state it singles itself out out as in its special relationship with the U.S., for which it is handsomely rewarded financially, militarily, and through UN vetoes). Those who pay taxes in the U.S. and who are part of the boycott movement do not want our tax dollars to continue funding these activities. In Israel, as in South Africa under its apartheid regime, universities are state-run and help produce the knowledge that undergirds the practices and policies that further the occupation and colonization of Palestinians.

But Brooks and Krauthammer would have it that the ASA operated out of either anti-Semitism or discrimination against Israeli scholars. In fact, the resolution, in keeping with the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, calls for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions only. Neither the movement in Palestine nor the West nor in India targets any individual on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the ASA resolution also acknowledges the fact that Israeli scholars are a part of this movement as well.

The false claim of “anti-Semitism” is often trotted out by Zionists—Christian and Jewish alike—who wish to remind their audience of violence perpetuated by Europeans against European Jews. But in the history of West Asia this charge is ironic given the fact that Arabs are far more Semitic than European Jews like me and given the fact that the people living under a brutal colonial regime are Palestinians, Syrians (in the Occupied Golan Heights), and Lebanese in the remaining five villages that Israel continues to illegally occupy.

Those of us active in the boycott movement around the globe do so out of a desire to see Palestinian people achieve justice meaning the right of return for Palestinian refugees and compensation as per UN Resolution 194. We believe that there shouldn’t be any nation with special status. We believe that when the UN makes a resolution all nations must abide by them not just countries bullied by the powers governing the Security Council and their allies.

Marcy Newman is an independent scholar and author of The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans and a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

There have been some more terrific pieces about the boycott in the press in the last couple of weeks, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) resolution, which doesn’t go as far as the ASA, but at lest it is taking the correct steps in that direction.

First, here is a terrific action alert from Adalah New York for people who want to respond and support the ASA. There is also a petition to sign to support the ASA, but you must be a member. This is especially essential since yesterday Forbes had the audacity to publish an openly ad hominem attack by Richard Behar about several of my colleagues and friends in the ASA who have been working tirelessly over the last several years to make this resolution happen.

Steven Salaita has a brilliant piece in Electronic Intifada called “Ten Things We’ve Learned About Opposition to Academic Boycott,” which pretty much responds to Behar and whatever other Zionist hack wants to do to try to belittle our work. Also, USACBI posted a brilliant piece this week called “This is What an Academic Boycott Looks Like” for people who are sincerely interested in understanding our work. Also here is the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) statement of solidarity with the ASA.

Second, the U.S. Green Party issued a press release supporting the ASA’s resolution.

Then there are a couple of great pieces in university newspapers from Bowdoin, Syracuse, and Tufts. Bill Mullen did a radio interview about the resolution and Democracy Now! hosted a debate, although the choice of debaters isn’t great.

Meanwhile at the MLA annual meeting, another one of my former academic homes, a resolution was passed, although it focused on the lack of human rights and academic freedom. A petition is here for people who want to sign it (you don’t need to be a member to do so). Here are some articles covering the MLA resolution and what transpired at the various panels there:

Liz Schulman’s “Boycott Panel at MLA Draws Applause and Fearful Questions”

Alex Kane’s “MLA Delegates Pass Measure Against Israel Denying Entry to Academics”

Bruce Robbins’ “‘Common Sense Has Moved On’: Report from MLA Debate on Israel”

David Palumbo-Liu’s “Modern Language Association Prepared to Talk Seriously About Palestine”

Finally, in the midst of all this, Ariel “the butcher” Sharon died. But instead of publishing an article from an Indian point of view, once again The Hindu resorted to a Zionist writer, Ethan Bronner, from the news wire. Many people have torn this and other whitewashed obituaries to shreds already, but today The Hindu also published a terrific, contextually rich piece by Vijay Prashad that highlights the damaging work that Sharon did, along with the BJP, to erode a history of solidarity between Palestinians and Indians:

In 2003, Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India. He had been invited by the BJP-led government to cement the newfound ties between India and Israel. At that time, The Hindu wrote, “New Delhi has sent out wrong signals by playing host to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at this particular juncture… Even if it was possible to set aside [Sharon’s] appalling personal history, his apparent distaste for a just and permanent settlement with the Palestinians cannot be ignored. Even moderate constituencies in Arab countries are convinced that Mr. Sharon was largely responsible for scuttling the Oslo process. The policies Israel has implemented under his stewardship have aggravated the violent confrontation with the Palestinians.” Nonetheless, the Bharatiya Janata Party and later the Congress endorsed Israeli policy by its new attachment to Tel Aviv. India quickly became the largest importer of Israeli arms, unwittingly helping the Israeli economy in its principal task — to pursue the occupation of the Palestinians.

Not all of India embraced its leaders’ camaraderie with Sharon. “Katil Sharon se yaari, sharam karo Atal Bihari [shame on you, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for befriending the murderous Sharon],” and similar slogans echoed across the country at Sharon’s death, despite the warm condolence message crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office. India’s government, which once led the Non-Aligned world to defend the rights of the Palestinians, is now reticent to be critical of Israel and allows itself to celebrate the life of a man whose day in court was postponed because of his Western allies.

For other excellent coverage, which doesn’t include much of Al Jazeera’s shameful, borderline hagiographic tributes, see these pieces:

Democracy Now!’s interviews with Rashid Khalidi, Noam Chomsky, and Avi Shlaim

As’ad AbuKhalil’s “Ariel Sharon: International War Criminal Remembered”

Jonathan Cook’s “The Legacy of Ariel ‘the bulldozer’ Sharon”

Max Blumenthal’s “How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel’s Destiny”

Ahmed Moor’s “Ariel Sharon: The Architect of Terror”

David Samel’s “Bronner Whitewashes Sharon’s Atrocities”

Peter Hart’s “How the Big Papers Remember Ariel Sharon”

welcome to daytonstan

certain words are in my mind and have particular connotations given my experiences. having spent a decade and a half in cincinnati, ohio, just a few miles down the road from dayton, ohio, the word dayton will forever be associated with this small ohio city. but that is is slowly starting to change. keith dayton is an american lieutenant who is based in palestine and who runs the palestinian authority polices forces, which were set up in the first place to do the dirty work of the zionist entity’s regime. when i see these palestinian police (which should really be called american-israeli police) and i think about the work they do here for the colonizer i cannot help but see this new layer of american imperialism layered on top of zionist colonialism. robert dreyfuss has a report on dayton in the nation this week outlining the american money invested in this imperial project and its context, to a certain extent:

Last Thursday, in what was billed as his very first on-the-record address, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, spoke to the 2009 Soref Symposium organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. WINEP, of course, is the chief think tank for the Washington-based Israel lobby.

And in his talk, Gen. Dayton delivered an important warning.

First, the background. For the past three and a half years, Dayton has lived and worked in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, overseeing the creation of three Palestinian battalions of troops, hand-picked in the West Bank, trained at an academy in Jordan, and then deployed in the occupied territory.

The three 500-man battalions are intended to grow, to as many as ten battalions. Their mission, he said, is to “create a Palestinian state.” Recognizing that many in the WINEP audience were not exactly enamored with the idea of an independent Palestine, Dayton told his audience: “If you don’t like the idea of a Palestinian state, you won’t like the rest of this talk.”

From the detailed description provided by Dayton, it’s clear that the Palestinian forces he’s enabling could certainly be accused of carrying out the self-policing of the West Bank for the Israelis. Because the West Bank is, after all, occupied by Israel and riddled with illegal settlements besides — plus beset by a surrounding wall, 600-plus intrusive checkpoints, and a network of Jews-only highways — the Palestinian troops are utterly at the mercy of the Israelis. Each recruit is vetted by US security forces (i.e, the CIA), then vetted by Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence arm of Israel, and then by Jordan’s super-efficient intelligence service, before they begin their training in Jordan. Dayton made it quite clear that the Palestinian units thus trained are primarily deployed against two targets in the West Bank: against criminal gangs, and against Hamas.

So far, they’ve received $161 million is US funding.

Dayton described how, during the Israeli assault on Gaza last December and January, the West Bank remained quiet — even though some analysts were predicting an upsurge of sympathy for Hamas, which controls Gaza, along with violence, even a third intifada. “None of these predictions came true,” said the general, who added that the Palestinian battalions allowed peaceful demonstrations of solidarity with Hamas, but kept the lid on violent actions. Israel, he said, “kept a low profile,” and not a single Palestinian was killed in the West Bank during the three-week carnage in Gaza.

Most of the work he’s done, Dayton said, occurred in the West Bank after the June, 2007, Hamas takeover in Gaza. “What we have created are ‘new men,'” he added.

Now for the warning. Recognizing that by organizing and training thousands of Palestinian troops, professionally led, he is creating in effect a nationalist army, Dayton warned the 500 or so WINEP listeners that the troops can only be strung along for just so long. “With big expectations, come big risks,” said Dayton. “There is perhaps a two-year shelf life on being told that you’re creating a state, when you’re not.” To my ears, at least, his subtle warning is that if concrete progress isn’t made toward a Palestinian state, the very troops Dayton is assembling could rebel.

Dayton was responding to a question from Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative former deputy secretary of defense, who now hangs his hat at the neocon-dominated American Enterprise Institute. “How many Palestinians see your people as collaborators?” Wolfowitz asked. In answering Wolfowtiz, the general acknowledged that Hamas and its sympathizers accuse the Palestinian battalions of being “enforces of the Israeli occupation.” But he stressed that each one of them believes that he is fighting for an independent Palestine. The unstated message: the United States and Israel had better deliver. Thus the two year warning. Which, to me, sounds spot on with the Obama administration’s timetable.

One more thing: General Dayton signed up for another stint in the West Bank. And how long did he agree to serve? Yes–two years.

the recruiting for dayton’s palestinian security forces is very specific. they target palestinian young men who are uneducated, who have not finished high school. they use the fact that people need salaries here, often desperately, to feed their families and to put other family members through school. this way the people who are in dayton’s security forces don’t have critical thinking skills. they don’t ask questions. they are easily influenced to think they are serving their country rather than the colonial occupying regime. or the american empire for that matter. they feed into this system that exists here that keeps people fixated on salaries rather than liberation. salaries, when they come from the palestinian authority, are a way of silencing people so that they don’t say anything that would jeopardize their income. and these fatah-dominated security forces are helping the americans and zionists in their divide and rule policy as a recent ha’aretz article makes clear:

The Palestinian Authority has established a special counter-intelligence squad in its security services to uncover agents working for Hamas and Hezbollah. To date the Palestinian Authority security services have arrested dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the two radical Islamic groups.

Israeli security sources said that the PA has made a focused effort to uncover foreign agents, noting that the new unit involves a large contingent of officers.

The new organization is part of a group of measures undertaken by the PA to counter Hamas . It is meant, among other things, to stanch information leaks from the various security groups in the PA to the Islamist groups, especially information about plans against them.

ben white had an article in electronic intifada last week that examined various aspects of the daytonization of the palestinian security forces. one of the victims of this has been my friend and colleague abdel sattar al qassim who ben writes about and whose trial is tomorrow morning. here are excerpts of ben’s article, but i strongly recommend clicking on the link and reading the entire thing about other aspects of daytonization of the pa:

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

in a nutshell the daytonization of the west bank means collaboration with the zionist colonizing terrorizing entity, silencing dissent for those who would disagree with this, squashing resistance that fights for the liberation of palestine, and using american-zionist tactics of torture and repression to carry this out. it helps to divide and rule the country and to extend, rather than limit, zionist-american control of the west bank. welcome to daytonstan.

prisoners (of colonizers & collaborators alike)

i was rather shocked when this article by tim mcgirk from time magazine came across my news reader yesterday. it is a story about palestinian political prisoners through the vantage point of his family members left behind and the difficulty his young daughters have when visiting him in prison. here is how it begins:

Spending time with her dad requires that 6-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Bank town of Qalqilya, as her mother dresses her before dawn in an almond-green blouse and jeans, Jinan asks the same question she always does: “Mommy, why does Daddy have to sleep on the Israeli side?” And her mother Salam Nazal comforts her by saying, “Because that’s where the best Palestinian men go to sleep, and your father is one of them.” The town, which has elected a Hamas mayor, is known as a center of Palestinian militancy, and Israeli security forces conduct raids there on average five times a week.

Salam cannot accompany her daughters because she is on an Israeli security watch list, although she has never learned why she’s on it. Her immediate family lives in Jordan, so she must put the girls on a bus bound for Chattah-Gilboa prison inside Israel and hope that one of the many Palestinian women on board will help Jinan wrangle her sisters. “I’m so worried about having them go without me,” says Salam, as she hoists her girls onto the bus, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “But what can I do? This is their only chance to see their father.”

Ali Nazal, 35, who sold clothes from a cart in the streets, is one of more than 10,300 Palestinian detainees currently inside Israeli prisons. Although he has yet to be tried, Nazal has been behind bars for the past two years. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing weapons and harboring a fugitive — charges the family insists are based on false evidence from anonymous informers working for the Israeli security services. Salam says no weapons were found in their home but says the Israeli military demolished it anyway. The Israelis maintain that Ali was an active member of a militant organization and part of a cell that had been planning a terrorist attack.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Ali and his fellow detainees should never have been transferred to prisons outside the occupied territories. But since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in June 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails. Nearly every Palestinian family has someone who was locked up in Israel at some point. Prison has become a rite of passage for rebellious teens and, for families seeking to visit detained loved ones, a nightmare of permits, checkpoints and body searches. It’s not an easy journey for an adult, much less three unaccompanied tots carrying their lunch in a Barbie backpack.

my dear friend nora barrows-friedman did a similar story about amani khader a few years ago on flashpoints. amani is the daughter of husam khader, who was recently released from prison (last august). you can listen to her interview by clicking this link. amani describes similar hurdles she had to endure when she went to visit her father in prison and she reads one of her amazing rap songs at the end of interview. i have a special affection for amani because i’ve been tutoring her in balata refugee camp this year. she is one of the brightest and most beautiful people i’ve ever met. i know that if she were at my university now she would surpass even the seniors in college, although she is only a senior in high school. clearly she gets much of this genius from her father, husam, who i was very pleased to read made an important statement that was reported in ma’an news today:

A high-ranking Fatah official on Thursday proposed holding presidential and legislative elections as an alternative to the “useless” Cairo dialogue so that Palestinians can choose between a program led by Fatah and resistance agenda claimed by Hamas but which it “does not practice.”

Husam Khader, a Fatah legislator within the Palestinian Legislative Council, said during a visit to Ma’an News Agency in the West Bank city of Bethlehem that “without agreeing on a decent election program between Fatah and Hamas that will specify the future of the Palestinians, these elections will not be held and the state of division that is supported by western parties and Israel will deepen.”

“Palestinians are qualified more than others for such a situation since there is a geographical barrier between the West Bank and Gaza, which is the [Israeli] occupation,” he added.

Concerning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass upcoming visit to the United States, Khader downplayed the visit, saying that it will not lead to anything because “the US administration will just assure the promises of previous administrations toward a two-state solution.”

He demanded that President Abbas present a draft to US President Barack Obama dismantling the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a commitment to end popular resistance against Israel. “President Abbas should present this solution, which is the right one, because “the PA useless on the ground and is represented solely by the salary [for public employees] at the end of the month.”

Regarding whether or not Fatah’s sixth conference will go on as planned, he said it was “a big lie,” noting that “there are persons inside Fatah who are afraid of democracy more than the [Israeli] occupation, because they fear for their interests, and will obstruct holding a conference using weak excuses and deceiving the movement’s affiliates.”

my only beef with the above statement is husam’s bit about giving up resistance against the zionist entity. but i highly doubt that this is what he said or that he really means this. i would be shocked if that were true. but the idea that the palestinian collaborationist authority can continue on its path of collaboration and repression is finally penetrating even fatah circles. it is refreshing to say the least.

ben white’s article in electronic intifada today details much of the corruption and collaboration with the zionist entity and its criminal ally the united states. it discusses my friend abdel sattar al qassem and his most recent imprisonment in a palestinian jail. white’s article makes it clear why the sulta (salata) must go:

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.” As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a “hoax,” and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures “in the harshest possible words,” according to Ma’an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA’s security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

“It was evident that they didn’t want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case.”

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they “have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA.”

One aspect of this phenomenon is an assault on the freedom of the press. Back in December of last year, the Ma’an news agency carried out an investigation into what it described as “an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation against West Bank and Gaza Strip journalists,” carried out by the Palestinian Authority.

The report detailed how independent news agencies had become targets for “President Mahmoud Abbas’s security establishment, particularly the PA’s Office of the Attorney General.” The same month as Ma’an’s investigation, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate demanded that the PA release journalists from West Bank prisons, noting that “some journalists had been in prison for more than three months.”

Criticizing the PA, or even affording Hamas coverage, now seems enough to get on the blacklist, or become a target for the PA’s security apparatus. In fact, a Nablus-based journalist “found himself in a prison cell” in January for reporting the torching of Professor Qassem’s car, according to The Jerusalem Post. In February, the Post reported that “the PA’s crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas’s security forces.”

Another worrying trend in the PA-administered areas is an increasing militarization of civilian policing. During my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the first things several of my friends told me about was an energetic campaign by the PA to clamp down on car-related crime. There were now impromptu checkpoints thrown up on the main roads where drivers’ licenses were checked and the special permission required to drive Israeli yellow-plated cars was requested.

Nobody minded, in theory, increased efficiency in law enforcement; what was troubling was the way the PA forces were going about it. It can seem like a small thing, a friend told me, but “it’s this militarization, this way of asserting a kind of domination over the people.” Many complained of the disrespectful behavior of the gun-toting men checking the cars.

This focus on “law and order” has become a repeated theme in the last few years, particularly in cities like Nablus and Jenin. Just recently, in a fairly typical episode, Ma’an news agency reported that PA forces conducted a “sweep” in a village three kilometers from Nablus, arresting apparent “fugitives” and checking the registration of some 250 cars.

Consistent, genuine complaints about lawlessness and corruption in Nablus had already emerged in 2004-05, but it wasn’t until the end of 2007 that the current campaign was launched by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose official term as PA president expired in January. Beginning in Nablus, the law and order drive was replicated in Jenin in the summer of 2008. Residents have undoubtedly welcomed the increased security, but the nature of the campaign — and the context — is not so straightforward.

For example, the PA’s infrastructure (largely destroyed by Israel in 2001-02) is completely ill-equipped. In April 2008 in Nablus, for example, Reuters reported that only 13 percent of the prison’s inmates had actually been convicted; the restrictions of occupation and the inadequacy of the PA’s legal system mean that many face a long wait before their guilt or innocence can be determined in a court of law.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

meanwhile palestine hits the world record today for having the world’s longest political prisoner behind bars of the zionist usurping entity:

Former political prisoner, researcher and specialist in detainees’ affairs, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, has revealed that detainee Na’el Barghouthi now spent 31years behind bars. He was kidnapped by Israeli forces on April 4th 1978.

Farawna said that Barghouthi and other detainees who have spent many years in Israeli prisons and detention facilities have became the symbols of steadfastness, resistance and determination. Their continued imprisonment proves the criminal and immoral nature of the Israeli occupation, the Quds Net reported.

He also said that Palestinian resistance factions should insist on his release and the release of all detainees who have spent so many years behind bars for resisting the occupation and fighting for their country.

On August 25, 2008, detainee Sa’id Al Ataba was released from an Israeli prison after he spent 31 years and 26 days behind bars.

Detainee Barghouthi, born in the central West Bank city of Ramallah in 1957, was kidnapped by the army on April 4, 1978, when he was only 21 years old. He was sentenced by an Israeli military court to one life-term.

for further context on these crimes of the zionist apartheid regime listen to one of nora’s latest interviews with our friend hazem jamjoum on flashpoints. it is an amazing discussion of the apartheid regime.

white washing ethnic cleansing

ethan bronner, the tool of the israeli terrorist regime, who writes propaganda pieces supporting their terrorism for the new york times, did a profile on the israeli terrorist mayor of al quds the other day. here is how bronner characterized the massive land confiscation creating new palestinian refugees:

In several East Jerusalem neighborhoods these days, demolition orders are being issued. The result is that while Mr. Barkat is bringing a sense of modern renewal and entrepreneurial spirit to City Hall, he is also infuriating those who wish to see Jerusalem shared as the capital of two states.

Mr. Barkat speaks of his efforts in East Jerusalem as if they were in any normal city. He wants to expand public areas for both Jews and Palestinians, make room for schools and generally clean up what he calls the “wild East.”…

The houses Mr. Barkat plans to tear down were built illegally, and that, he says, is his sole motive. He is doing the same for illegal construction in predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem and offers numbers to prove it. About a third of the tearing down is indeed in the West.

Palestinians and their advocates say they can build only illegally because Israel almost never grants them legal permits, to keep their numbers down and make sure there remains a strong Jewish majority in Jerusalem. The city has nearly 800,000 inhabitants, about 270,000 of them Palestinian.

The biggest controversy involves Silwan, the area just southeast of the walled Old City where some 7,500 Palestinians live, mostly in buildings without permits. Mr. Barkat wants to turn the area into an archaeological park, the City of David and the Garden of King Solomon, where he says King David wrote poetry, and other great historical figures wandered quietly.

“For 3,000 years, that area has been green,” he asserts. “Now there are 100 buildings that are illegal there. We want to return it to being a park.”

Palestinians see it otherwise.

“They start with one building and then they take away a whole neighborhood,” asserted Nafez Ghith, a 39-year-old souvenir shop owner whose family homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are under demolition order. “He has been in office only a few months, and we see what he wants to do. They leave us no legal alternative.”

Mr. Barkat has appointed an old friend, Yakir Segev, to be in charge of East Jerusalem. In an interview with a local newspaper, Mr. Segev said: “Jerusalem is a laboratory. If we succeed in solving the conflict with the Arabs of Jerusalem, it will also be possible to solve it everywhere in Israel.”

What Mr. Segev, like Mr. Barkat, means is both improving services for the Palestinians and ending any ambiguity about Jewish dominance. And to that end, they have expressed strong support for more Jewish building to the east of the city, which Palestinians say could end any prospect for a two-state solution.

i think that perhaps bronner doesn’t understand barkat. when israeli terrorists say “clean up” what they mean is “transfer,” ethnic cleansing, forced removal of the indigenous population. thus, his comment about “cleaning up the wild east” is a direct allusion to how white americans “cleaned up” what they called the “wild west,” a place that used to be populated with many american indian tribes, but that cowboys “cleaned up” (read: massacre and forced removal) in order to colonize the land. what barkat is doing in al quds is exactly the same. who do you think the israeli terrorists learned it from? likewise, bronner doesn’t get it when he talks about al quds as a laboratory. what he means there is not about literally cleaning up the city: he means that if they succeed in forcing out the indigenous population of palestinians they will continue until there are none left.

american-zion-al-quds

to be sure, mondoweiss posted something on their blog the other day that makes it abundantly clear what barkat and his terrorist cohorts are up to as they are actively recruiting colonizers from the united states:

The JTA is reporting that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is coming to the US to drum up support among American Jews for his plans for the city. He hopes to find Jewish “shareholders” for several special economic zones that will focus on culture, life sciences and tourism.

The JTA article doesn’t make it clear whether any of these economic zones will be in East Jerusalem. However it is widely known that one of the areas that Barkat wants to “develop” is the Palestinian neighborhood Silwan, which he is currently threatening with a series of home demolitions to force at least 1,000 Palestinians out of the area. Hillary Clinton criticized him for this plan on her last visit to the region. Here is how he is responding to the criticism on his trip:

Barkat, who favors settling Jews in Silwan — several dozen families have moved into the largely Arab area in recent years — rejects such criticism and says the people who live there will be relocated.

“If you have a group of people trying to plan housing in Central Park, what do you think Mayor Bloomberg would do?” Barkat asked rhetorically. “And this park has more importance than Central Park because of its historical significance.”

…This site often brings up the issue of how American Jews are implicated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is often thorough their tacit ideological support for Israeli expansionism and militarism, but sometimes it is explicit participation. One example is the new settlement Nof Zion, which is located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Jabal Al Mukabir, and is being marketed as a luxury destination for diaspora Jews. The website http://www.nofzion.co.il was set up to sell the settlement to American Jews, and gives the contact information for Gita Galbut, the US sales representative based in Miami. The image above (click to enlarge) is from that website. Nof Zion is located between Silwan and Jabal Al Mukabir, severing a crucial point of continuity between Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem. This continuity is essential if East Jerusalem is ever to become the capital of a Palestinian state next to Israel in a two-state solution.

when you read mondoweiss’ report you begin to understand what it is happening is the ethnic cleansing operation that bronner white washes. if you can’t read bronner’s writing and see how he covers up the agenda (which clearly is also his agenda and the agenda of the new york times) then read this report by ghassan bannoura about the house demolitions in al quds that took place last wednesday:

One house, two bedouin huts and an animal shed owned by Palestinians near Jerusalem city were demolished on Wednesday by the Israeli authorities.

All the demolitions took place in al-Eziryiah, a Palestinian town just outside East Jerusalem.

The home, owned by Rabie’ al-Qamari, was demolished on Wednesday midday. Rabie’ told IMEMC that he had all the necessary papers for his home. “They came today with bulldozers and demolished my home. When my son asked them about the demolition order, they attacked him and beat him up. I have all the required papers for my home; the area is under Palestinian control so they have no right to demolish my home.”

Witnesses said that municipality bulldozers from the nearby Israeli settlement of Ma’ali Adomem demolished the house. The municipality told al-Qamari that his home is in an Israeli controlled area. “I have maps showing that my house is located in the Palestinian controlled area; it is not even close to the settlement, so they have no right to do this,” Rabie’ al-Qamari said.

“Before building the house I went to the Israeli army civil administration and they told me the area is controlled by the Palestinian authority and not by them,” al-Qamari added. Earlier on Wednesday morning, the Israeli Army demolished two bedouin huts and an animal shed that belong to Palestinians from al-Eziryiah.

The army told the owners that it was built in an area where the separation wall will be built. The owner, Kaled al-Jahaleen, told IMEMC that the army gave him no warning. “They came today without any warnings and demolished the structures. They did not allow us to move our stuff first.” al-Jahaleen said.

In related news, Hateem Abed al-Qader, Jerusalem Affairs Adviser to the Palestinian Prime Minister, announced on Wednesday that Israelis have handed out 80 new demolition orders for homes owned by Palestinians in Jerusalem city. On Tuesday, bulldozers belonging to the Israeli municipality demolished a Palestinian owned home, located in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of the city.

The flat is part of a seven story-high building owned by Abu Khalaf, a Palestinian from Jerusalem. Israeli troops arrived at Beit Safafa on Tuesday morning and surround the building. Shortly after, troops forced everyone out and demolished the seventh floor. The Israeli municipality says the flat was built without the necessary permission.

Israel has intensified its campaign of demolishing Palestinian-owned homes in the city since the start of 2009. The Jerusalem municipality handed out demolition orders to 96 Palestinian families in the first week of March. In February, demolition orders were issued for 88 homes in the al-Bustan neighborhood, located immediately south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s old city. If these orders are carried out, thousands more Palestinians will become homeless.

this week ma’an news reported that barkat is determined to keep his pledge to create new palestinian refugees:

The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem said he would press forward with a plan to raze an entire Palestinian neighborhood and “relocate” more than 1,000 residents to make way for a park on Thursday.

Mayor Nir Barkat told the Israeli Jerusalem Post newspaper that the Bustan area near Jerusalem’s Old City “must be an open public area.” The Israeli-controlled municipality has handed down demolition orders to 88 houses in the neighborhood.

“It is very fair to assume that [in the end] there will not be residential housing,” in the Bustan area, Barkat said.

According to the Post, Fakhri Abu Diab, a member of the committee organizing opposition to the demolitions, said that he had been approached by a member of the Jerusalem municipal council with an offer to move Bustan’s inhabitants en masse to another area of East Jerusalem.

Residents of Bustan say that they are not going to give up their land. Many homeowners in the area have documents dating back decades that prove ownership of their land.

of course we know who really has been on this land for thousands of years and who it belongs to, but it seems as if there are new layers of evidence and proof in turkey as ha’aretz reports:

A document recently uncovered in Ottoman archives in Ankara confirms that Palestinians are the owners of disputed land and houses in East Jerusalem.

If an Israeli court accepts the document’s validity, Palestinian families’ could be saved from eviction from their homes.

Turkish officials recently helped to trace the document which could end a 30-year-old dispute over the ownership of around 30 buildings in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The Palestinians’ attorneys said they were granted access to the archives following the recent souring of the relations between Israel and Turkey.

“Until half a year ago the Turks didn’t want to spoil their relations with Israel and were unhelpful,” attorney Hatam Abu Ahmed said. “They would put us off with all kinds of excuses. Today their attitude has changed. We felt this change especially after the Gaza operation. Now senior Turkish officials are helping us.”

In January, attorney Salah Abu Hussein traveled to Turkey and with the help of local officials found a document proving that the Jews demanding the Palestinians’ eviction are not the compound’s rightful owners.

The present residents had lived in West Jerusalem before the War of Independence and after becoming refugees were moved to Sheikh Jarrah. In the ’70s the Sephardic Leadership in Jerusalem claimed they had purchased the land before the war and produced Turkish documents to that effect.

The courts eventually recognized the Sephardic Leadership’s ownership but granted the Palestinians protected tenants’ status.

However, the Sephardic Leadership and a group of settlers who moved into the nearby compound have been demanding the Palestinians’ eviction, claiming they violated their rental terms.

Over the years, several Palestinian families were evicted and other families moved into their houses. The last eviction took place in November 2008 when the al-Kurd family was evicted from its home and moved into a protest tent near its sealed house. Shortly afterward the father, Mohamed al-Kurd died of an illness.

Throughout the years, the Palestinians claimed that the Jews’ ownership documents were forged, but due to the Turks’ lack of cooperation they could not prove this and the courts rejected their suits.

Now the attorneys say the Ottoman document proves that the Sephardic Leadership never purchased the compound but only rented it. Another Ottoman document confirms that the document presented by the Jewish party is not authentic.

“There is no trace of the Jewish document in the archive,” said Abu Hussein.

The attorneys Wednesday asked the court to withhold eviction procedures against two Palestinian families, on the basis of the Turkish document.

The about face in Turkish policy could have far-reaching implications regarding lands in Israel.

“Now it will be possible to issue ownership deeds. The Turks are very well organized and helpful,” Abu Ahmed said.

Attorney Ilan Shemer, who represents the Sephardic Leadership, dismissed the Palestinian attorneys’ claims regarding Palestinian ownership of the land.

“It’s usually the other side that uses false documents. The document we have is the only authentic ownership deed. Since the hearings began, 50 to 60 judges have heard the case and they all ruled that their claims are false.”

of course if laws and legality matter to israeli colonists then they wouldn’t be here in the first place, but it is important nevertheless for palestinians to have access to these documents. and of course for now it seems the documents are only for one area of al quds, but who knows what else exists in the turkish files.

but it is not only homes that israeli terrorists are intent on destroying. they have also been actively intent on destroying palestinian culture. this weekend was the beginning of the festival for al quds as a capitol of arab culture. and israeli terrorists stopped not only these celebrations, but also the mother’s day celebrations on saturday as al jazeera reported:

it seems that it is dangerous for children to not only celebrate their culture, but also their mothers. i guess this makes sense when you see the tshirts that israeli terrorists wear here. ayman mohyeldin reported on the tshirts for al jazeera today and you can see the tshirts in the report, including the one that brags about killing 2 people with 1 bullet (meaning they especially enjoy murdering palestinian women who are pregnant):

this is “israeli culture” as you can see in mohyeldin’s report. palestinians, who actually have a very rich culture which you can see in every square inch of palestine, even those areas israeli terrorists are intent on destroying, is threatening for these colonizers. what they don’t steal, they destroy. nevertheless, palestinians are continuing with their celebrations, albeit many of the activities cannot be in al quds because most palestinians are not allowed to go there. but those who do celebrate are finding themselves injured and kidnapped by israeli terrorists as ghassan bannoura reports:

During Israeli police forces crackdown on an activity organized in East Jerusalem on Monday after noon celebrating “Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture 2009”, five were injured and eight kidnapped.

The activity was a press conference to announce the continuation of the events for the rest of this year, after the Israeli Interior Ministry announced on Friday that it will stop the event from taking place in Jerusalem city.

Local organizations and community leaders gathered at a protest tent, originally erected at the Shikh Jarah, a Palestinian neighborhood, outside the walls of the old city. The tent was in protest of Israeli diction to demolish Palestinian owned homes there.

Rima Awwad, from the Jerusalem Collation, a group of local NGOs, was their at the press conference, she told IMEMC that” the press conference was about to start, Israeli police stormed the tent and attacked everyone including journalists, they took right people among them on critically injured.”

” Abber Abu Khader, a local organizer, was badly beaten up, she was bleeding from her head and face with the police took her, we were only making a pres conference.” Awwad added.

Among those injured were Hamza Al Na’jee, a Cameraman for Pal-media press, and among those kidnapped were Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement inside the green line.

the crackdown on palestinians’ culture is not limited to al quds–it is also happening in 1948 palestine as al jazeera reports:

Israeli police have prevented Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem from holding events to mark the city’s designation as “capital of Arab culture” for 2009.

About 20 Palestinians were detained in and around East Jerusalem on Saturday, but there were no reports of violence, Shmulik Ben-Ruby, a police spokesman, said.

Police reinforcements were deployed around the city and barricades were set up on routes to the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

Witnesses said that flags and banners associated with the event were confiscated.

At one school, police and soldiers burst balloons in the colours of the Palestinian flag that the children were trying to release to mark the event.

Hatem Abdel Qader, who handles Jerusalem affairs for the Palestinian Authority, was reportedly among those arrested.

Ben-Ruby said the crackdown had been ordered by Israel’s internal security ministry because the celebrations violated understandings with the Palestinian Authority.

Celebrations in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, were also cancelled by the police.

“This measure is yet another example of the many extreme policies that the various ministries in the Israeli government impose on us,” one event organiser told Al Jazeera.

“These measures are imposed on all artists and people who care about culture. This is a form of prevention of our freedom of expression.

imran garda is on al jazeera’s “inside story” right now discussing this issue and i will post that later when it becomes available. they are showing the palestinian balloons that israeli terrorists were very worried about and didn’t want them released, and once they were they shot many of them down.

al haq released a statement on this and published it in electronic intifada, which reads, in part:

The decision to interfere with the Palestinian cultural events was taken by the Minister of Internal Security at the behest of the head of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Nachi Eyal, who described the planned events as an “attempt to demonstrate Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem in an illegal manner,” and asserted that Palestinians are obliged “to respect the sovereignty of Israel within the boundaries of the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem.” This patently contradicts clear international legal norms which provide that an Occupying Power is prohibited from extending its sovereignty over the territory it occupies. It is on this basis that the UN Security Council has held Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem to be “invalid,” and “null and void.” This position has been repeatedly affirmed by the international legal community, including the International Court of Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions.

Indeed, East Jerusalem is incontrovertibly recognized under international law as an integral part of the occupied territory over which the Palestinian people is entitled to exercise its right to self-determination. A foundational principle of international human rights law, the right to self-determination includes the right of peoples to freely pursue their cultural development. The individual rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly are also firmly embedded in the lexicon of international human rights law, and have all been violated by the actions of the Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli authorities have also issued orders preventing related cultural events in Nazareth from taking place, a decision which stands in stark contrast to the permission recently granted by the Israeli High Court of Justice to extremist Israeli settler Baruch Marzel, from the illegal settlement of Tel Rumeida (Hebron), to lead a march through the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm on 24 March.

Such double standards show a clear intent on the part of the Israeli authorities to stifle Palestinian cultural identity and expression, while at the same time fomenting provocative manifestations of extremist Israeli ideology.

Al-Haq calls on the international community to:

* Strongly condemn Israel’s illegal measures aimed at altering the status of occupied East Jerusalem and denying the exercise of Palestinian cultural and political rights towards fulfillment of the right to self-determination; and

* Take concrete action towards ending the illegal situation created by Israel’s policies in regard to East Jerusalem, including by refraining from providing any direct or indirect assistance to Israeli violations of international law therein

the white washing clearly extends to far more than forced removal of palestinians from their land. it is a full on erasure of a people, a culture, a land. the is pure zionism. is there any doubt that zionism = racism?

if you feel like banging your head against the wall…

you can spend the next 30 minutes with this episode of al jazeera’s inside story. normally maryam nemazee is okay when interviewing her subjects, but given her background in investigating particular topics i find it strange that she ignored things like the israeli terrorist state’s possession of nuclear weapons. her guests are dan schueftan, an israeli terrorist professor from haifa university who makes me ill and who should be banned from al jazeera i feel; amer hamzawi; and robert fisk, who did a horrible job responding to nemazee’s questions–especially in the 2nd half when he had a golden opportunity to challenge the mofo on nuclear weapons. here is a sample of that nutcase israeli terrorist said:

you’re misrepresenting the issues here because when we’re speaking about the arab peace initiative, israel responded to it saying it had very positive elements in it and israel is willing to negotiate it. the problem is what the arab states are saying is that israel will have to accept refugees according to 194 and then they want to sign on the dotted line before negotiations even start. the real issues in the middle east have very little to do with the palestinians. palestinians are a negligible issue. everyone deals wtih it. the real problem is the nuclearization of iran. everybody in the region is concerned about it. for egypt it’s a major threat. the whole region may become nuclear after the iranians become nuclear.

point one: yes, this is true. the israeli terrorists should be forced to sign any agreement BEFORE negotiations start, though the arab initiative is flawed. not only that but they should show us they actually will make good on their signature. unfortunately, racist white south africans keep their word better than zionist colonists. we know from every single second of the last 122 years that zionists/israelis never tell the truth and their words can never be honored.

fisk responds to this nimrod by saying that the real issue is pakistan with regards to the nuclear threat. which leads me to point two: fisk completely ignores the nuclear issue. the real threat is not pakistan it is the israeli terrorist state. period. many of us have known this for a long time because we read credible sources. others (read: the u.s.) find this information to be somehow new:

But JOE 2008 also departed from the norm in U.S. Government documents by identifying Israel as a nuclear weapons state.

“In effect, there is a growing arc of nuclear powers running from Israel in the west through an emerging Iran to Pakistan, India, and on to China, North Korea, and Russia in the east,” JOE 2008 stated (pdf, at page 37) in a discussion of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The unusual reference to Israel’s nuclear status was noticed by Amir Oren in Ha’aretz, who explained that “Israel’s nuclear program is rarely, if ever, explicitly mentioned in public, unclassified U.S. official documents.” See “U.S. Army document describes Israel as ‘a nuclear power’,” Ha’aretz, March 8.

and on a related note, point 2.5, the real danger with respect to pakistan is not nuclear weapons (though they should be banned everywhere to be sure), but rather the united states of terrorism. david sanger and eric schmitt report in the new york times that it seems likely the u.s. war in pakistan will not only continue, but expand:

But some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable. In separate reports, groups led by both Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency.

Many of Mr. Obama’s advisers are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by President George W. Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas. They also are recommending preserving the option to conduct cross-border ground actions, using C.I.A. and Special Operations commandos, as was done in September. Mr. Bush’s orders also named as targets a wide variety of insurgents seeking to topple Pakistan’s government. Mr. Obama has said little in public about how broadly he wants to pursue those groups.

A spokesman for the National Security Council, Mike Hammer, declined to provide details, saying, “We’re still working hard to finalize the review on Afghanistan and Pakistan that the president requested.”

No other officials would talk on the record about the issue, citing the administration’s continuing internal deliberations and the politically volatile nature of strikes into Pakistani territory.

“It is fair to say that there is wide agreement to sustain and continue these covert programs,” said one senior administration official. “One of the foundations on which the recommendations to the president will be based is that we’ve got to sustain the disruption of the safe havens.”

the point of the show was actually avigdor lieberman who is slated to become the zionist entity’s next foreign minister. here is what one palestinian in 1948 asks us to do about this:

Ahmed Tibi, an MP with the United Arab List, urged the European Union to boycott Lieberman if he becomes foreign minister. “I urge European foreign ministers not to recognize this fascist who advocates the expulsion of Arabs,” he said.

here is what fisk has to say about lieberman in the independent yesterday:

Only days after they were groaning with fury at the Israeli lobby’s success in hounding the outspoken Charles Freeman away from his proposed intelligence job for President Obama, the Arabs now have to contend with an Israeli Foreign Minister whose – let us speak frankly – racist comments about Palestinian loyalty tests have brought into the new Netanyahu cabinet one of the most unpleasant politicians in the Middle East.

The Iraqis produced the hateful Saddam, the Iranians created the crackpot Ahmadinejad – for reasons of sanity, I leave out the weird ruler of Libya – and now the Israelis have exalted a man, Avigdor Lieberman, who out-Sharons even Ariel Sharon.

A few Palestinians expressed their cruel delight that at last the West will see the “true face” of Israel. I’ve heard that one before – when Sharon became prime minister – and the usual nonsense will be trotted out that only a “hard-line extremist” can make the compromises necessary for a deal with the Palestinians.

This kind of self-delusion is a Middle East disease. The fact is that the Israeli Prime Minister-to-be has made it perfectly clear there will be no two-state solution; and he has planted a tree on Golan to show the Syrians they will not get it back. And now he’s brought into the cabinet a man who sees even the Arabs of Israel as second-class citizens.

i agree with angry arab on this one, not fisk:

Lieberman=Peres=Livni=Rabin=Ben Gurion=Begin=Sharon=the rest of the Zionist gang

but what really pissed me off is what fisk says in the episode about palestinians giving up on un resolution 194. nope, sorry to inform you, robert, but they have not given up this right. nor is it for you to say what rights they do and do not give up. i thank god that they have never given up this right and i hope that they never do. indeed, while i agree with as’ad on the fact that every leader of the israeli terrorist state has been an extremist terrorist, the difference with lieberman is he is more vocal about it. but what i hope this does is energize a new base, a new liberation movement that ends the zionist entity once and for all. lieberman in office, if he outrages people enough, i hope would once again lead this region to stand up not only to the colonial regime here, but the neo-colonial regimes in the rest of the region.

as long as whatever israeli terrorist that is in power of colonized palestine helps to embolden the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, i’m all for it. apparently the zionist terrorists are looking so bad right now that they are “rebranding” themselves because of the ever expanding boycott movement as the zionist shmuck ethan bronner reports in the new york times:

Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.

Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.

Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.

and let’s actively work to make this process continue. we must mobilize…it’s the only solution if you want to stop banging your head against the wall. the zionist entity is clearly worried and spending millions of dollars because of that. so while we work on bds, insha’allah we can bankrupt them too.

tis the season to boycott

bethlehem-cartoon-mary-joseph-israeli-soldiers

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…