on the 575-page report proving the zionist entity’s war crimes

the headline on the united nations website reads: “un mission finds evidence of war crimes by both sides in gaza conflict.” here is the news brief in full and if you want to read the full 575-page report download this pdf file:

The United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict at the start of this year has found evidence that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity.

“We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza,” the head of the mission, Justice Richard Goldstone, told a press briefing today.

“The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF).”

“There’s no question that the firing of rockets and mortars [by armed groups from Gaza] was deliberate and calculated to cause loss of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures. The mission found that these actions also amount to serious war crimes and also possibly crimes against humanity,” he said.

The 575-page report by the four-person mission was released today, ahead of its presentation to the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva on 29 September.

“The mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility,” the report’s executive summary said. “It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.”

It went on to criticize the “deliberate and systematic policy on the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and water installations,” and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

On the objectives and strategy of Israel’s military operation, the mission concluded that military planners deliberately followed a doctrine which involved “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.”

On the firing of mortars from Gaza, the mission concluded that they were indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against a civilian population and “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” It added that their apparent intention of spreading terror among the Israeli civilian population was a violation of international law.

The report recommended that the Security Council should require Israel to take steps to launch appropriate independent investigations into the alleged crimes committed, in conformity with international standards, and report back on these investigations within six months.

It further called on the Security Council to appoint a committee of experts to monitor the proceedings taken by the Israeli Government. If these did not take place, or were not independent and in conformity with international standards, the report called for the Security Council to refer the situation in Gaza to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It also called on the Security Council to require the committee of experts to perform a similar role with regard to the relevant Palestinian authorities.

At today’s briefing, Justice Goldstone said the mission had investigated 36 incidents that took place during the Israeli operation in Gaza, which he said did not relate to decisions taken in the heat of battle, but to deliberate policies that were adopted and decisions that were taken.

As an example, he described one such incident: a mortar attack on a mosque in Gaza during a religious service, which killed 15 members of the congregation and injured many others. Justice Goldstone said that even if allegations that the mosque was used as sanctuary by military groups and that weapons were stored there were true, there was still “no justification under international humanitarian law to mortar the mosque during a service,” because it could have been attacked during the night, when it was not being used by civilians.

Justice Goldstone added that the report reflected the unanimous view of the mission’s four members.

The other members of the team are Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science at the University of London; Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; and retired Colonel Desmond Travers, member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI).

of course, i have a huge problem with the notion that there are two sides as reported in this document. you have the fourth most powerful military in the world against an inadequately armed palestinian resistance–the disparity with respect to casualties in the savaging of gaza tells that story quite well. angry arab offered an important observation on this report in response to an article in the economist this week:

I was rather most disappointed with this article about Judge Goldstone’s report on Israeli war crimes. It was not typical of the Economist’s coverage of the Middle East. As if the reporter was pained by the findings. Look at this sentence: “Unlike Syria, say, Israel is a democracy that claims to live by the rule of law. It needs to make its case by moral force as well as by force of arms.” Clear propaganda. But I like how Goldstone’s daughter defended her father: “Mr Goldstone’s daughter, Nicole, who lived in Israel for many years but now lives in Canada, vigorously defended her father’s report in an interview on the army radio. “If it hadn’t been for him, the report would have been even harsher,” she said, speaking in Hebrew.”

richard falk offers his analysis of the report as well as the zionist entity’s response to it thus far:

Richard Goldstone, former judge of South Aftica’s Constitutional Court, the first prosecutor at The Hague on behalf of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugolavia, and anti-apartheid campaigner reports that he was most reluctant to take on the job of chairing the UN fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the three week Gaza War of last winter.

Goldstone explains that his reluctance was due to the issue being “deeply charged and politically loaded,” and was overcome because he and his fellow commissioners were “professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation,” adding that “above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war,” as well as the duty to protect civilians to the extent possible in combat zones. The four-person fact-finding mission was composed of widely respected and highly qualified individuals, including the distinguished international law scholar, Christine Chinkin, a professor at the London School of Economics. Undoubtedly adding complexity to Goldstone’s decision is the fact that he is Jewish, with deep emotional and family ties to Israel and Zionism, bonds solidified by his long association with several organizations active in Israel.

Despite the impeccable credentials of the commission members, and the worldwide reputation of Richard Goldstone as a person of integrity and political balance, Israel refused cooperation from the outset. It did not even allow the UN undertaking to enter Israel or the Palestinian Territories, forcing reliance on the Egyptian government to facilitate entry at Rafah to Gaza. As Uri Avnery observes, however much Israel may attack the commission report as one-sided and unfair, the only plausible explanation of its refusal to cooperate with fact-finding and taking the opportunity to tell its side of the story was that it had nothing to tell that could hope to overcome the overwhelming evidence of the Israeli failure to carry out its attacks on Gaza last winter in accordance with the international law of war. No credible international commission could reach any set of conclusions other than those reached by the Goldstone Report on the central allegations.

In substantive respects the Goldstone Report adds nothing new. Its main contribution is to confirm widely reported and analyzed Israeli military practices during the Gaza War. There had been several reliable reports already issued, condemning Israel’s tactics as violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law, including by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a variety of respected Israeli human rights groups. Journalists and senior United Nations civil servants had reached similar conclusions.

Perhaps, most damning of all the material available before the Goldstone Report was the publication of a document entitled “Breaking the Silence,” containing commentaries by thirty members of the Israel Defense Forces who had taken part in Operation Cast Lead (the Israeli official name for the Gaza War). These soldiers spoke movingly about the loose rules of engagement issued by their commanders that explains why so little care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. The sense emerges from what these IDF soldiers who were in no sense critical of Israel or even of the Gaza War as such, that Israeli policy emerged out of a combination of efforts ‘to teach the people of Gaza a lesson for their support of Hamas’ and to keep IDF casualties as close to zero as possible even if meant massive death and destruction for innocent Palestinians.

Given this background of a prior international consensus on the unlawfulness of Operation Cast Lead, we must first wonder why this massive report of 575 pages has been greeted with such alarm by Israel and given so much attention in the world media. It added little to what was previously known. Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary. The report focuses its criticism on Israel’s excessive and indiscriminate uses of force. It does this by examining the evidence surrounding a series of incidents involving attacks on civilians and non-military targets. The report also does draw attention to the unlawful blockade that has restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medical supplies to subsistence levels in Gaza before, during, and since Operation Cast Lead. Such a blockade is a flagrant instance of collective punishment, explicitly prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention setting forth the legal duties of an occupying power.

All along Israel had rejected international criticism of its conduct of military operations in the Gaza War, claiming that the IDF was the most moral fighting force on the face of the earth. The IDF conducted some nominal investigations of alleged unlawful behavior that consistently vindicated the military tactics relied upon and steadfastly promised to protect any Israeli military officer or political leader internationally accused of war crimes. In view of this extensive background of confirmed allegation and angry Israeli rejection, why has the Goldstone Report been treated in Tel Aviv as a bombshell that is deeply threatening to Israel’s stature as a sovereign state?

Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, calling the report “a mockery of history” that “fails to distinguish the aggressor and a state exercising the right of self-defense,” insisting that it “legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death.” More commonly Israel’s zealous defenders condemned the report as one-sided, biased, reaching foregone conclusions, and emanating from the supposedly bastion of anti-Israeli attitudes at the UN’s Human Rights Council. This line of response to any criticism of Israel’s behavior in occupied Palestine, especially if it comes from the UN or human rights NGOs is to cry “foul play!” and avoid any real look at the substance of the charges. It is an example of what I call ‘the politics of deflection,’ attempting to shift the attention of an audience away from the message to the messenger. The more damning the criticism, the more ferocious the response. From this perspective, the Goldstone Report obviously hit the bullseye!

Considered more carefully, there are some good reasons for Israel’s panicked reaction to this damning report. First, it does come with the backing of an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’ Any fair reading of the report would show that it was balanced, was eminently mindful of Israel’s arguments relating to security, and indeed gave Israel the benefit of the doubt on some key issues.

Secondly, the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations that do go well beyond previous reports. Two are likely causing the Israeli leadership great worry: the report recommends strongly that if Israel and Hamas do not themselves within six months engage in an investigation and followup action meeting international standards of objectivity with respect to these violations of the law of war, then the Security Council should be brought into the picture, being encouraged to consider referring the whole issue of Israeli and Hamas accountability to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Even if Israel is spared this indignity by the diplomatic muscle of the United States, and possibly some European governments, the negative public relations implications of a failure to abide by this report could be severe.

Thirdly, whatever happens in the UN System, and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion. Ever since the Gaza War the solidity of Jewish support for Israel has been fraying at the edges, and this will likely now fray much further. More globally, a very robust boycott and divestment movement was gaining momentum ever since the Gaza War, and the Goldstone Report can only lend added support to such initiatives. There is a growing sense around the world that the only chance for the Palestinians to achieve some kind of just peace depends on the outcome over the symbols of legitimacy, what I have called the Legitimacy War. Increasingly, the Palestinians have been winning this second non-military war. Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa, and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.

A fourth reason for Israeli worry stemming from the report, is the green light given to national courts throughout the world to enforce international criminal law against Israelis suspects should they travel abroad and be detained for prosecution or extradition in some third country. Such individuals could be charged with war crimes arising from their involvement in the Gaza War. The report in this way encourages somewhat controversial reliance on what is known among lawyers as ‘universal jurisdiction,’ that is, the authority of courts in any country to detain for extradition or to prosecute individuals for violations of international criminal law regardless of where the alleged offenses took place.

Reaction in the Israeli media reveals that Israeli citizens are already anxious about being apprehended during foreign travel. As one law commentator put it in the Israeli press, “From now on, not only soldiers should be careful when they travel abroad, but also ministers and legal advisers.” It is well to recall that Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions calls on states throughout the world “to respect and ensure respect” for international humanitarian law “in all circumstances.” Remembering the efforts in 1998 of several European courts to prosecute Augusto Pinochet for crimes committed while he was head of state in Chile, is a reminder that national courts can be used to prosecute political and military leaders for crimes committed elsewhere than in the territory of the prosecuting state.

Of course, Israel will fight back. It has already launched a media and diplomatic blitz designed to portray the report as so one-sided as to be unworthy of serious attention. The United States Government has already disappointingly appeared to endorse this view, and repudiate the central recommendation in the Goldstone Report that the Security Council be assigned the task of implementing its findings. The American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, evidently told a closed session of the Security Council on September 16, just a day after the report was issued, that “[w]e have serious concerns about many recommendations in the report.” Elaborating on this, Ambassador Rice indicated that the UN Human Rights Council, which has no implementing authority, is the only proper venue for any action to be taken on the basis of the report. The initial struggle will likely be whether to follow the recommendation of the report to have the Security Council refer the issues of accountability to the International Criminal Court, which could be blocked by a veto from the United States or other permanent members.

There are reasons to applaud the forthrightness and comprehensiveness of the report, its care, and scrupulous willingness to conclude that both Israel and Hamas seem responsible for behavior that appears to constitute war crimes, if not crimes against humanity. Although Israel has succeeded in having the issue of one-sidedness focus on fairness to Israel, there are also some reasons to insist that the report falls short of Palestinian hopes.

For one thing, the report takes for granted, the dubious proposition that Israel was entitled to act against Gaza in self-defense, thereby excluding inquiry into whether crimes against the peace in the form of aggression had taken place by the launching of the attack. In this respect, the report takes no notice of the temporary ceasefire that had cut the rocket fire directed at Israel practically to zero in the months preceding the attacks, nor of Hamas’ repeated efforts to extend the ceasefire indefinitely provided Israel lifted its unlawful blockade of Gaza.

Further it was Israel that had seemed to provoke the breakdown of the ceasefire when it launched a lethal attack on Hamas militants in Gaza on November 4, 2008. Israel disregarded this seemingly available diplomatic alternative to war to achieve security on its borders. Recourse to war, even if the facts justify self-defense, is according to international law, a last resort. By ignoring Israel’s initiation of a one-sided war the Goldstone Report accepts the dubious central premise of Operation Cast Lead, and avoids making a finding of aggression.

and here is sherine tadros’ al jazeera report from gaza about the findings in which she asks the most important question of all: what happens next?:

indeed what to do next? well it is quite the no brainer that the war criminals responsible for this latest savagery from the zionist entity should be tried for war crimes. in an article in ha’aretz the context of goldstone’s report–and his own frame of reference in relation to his judicial philosophy comes from war crimes tribunals from world war ii:

Judge Richard Goldstone, the head of a United Nations commission that this week charged Israel with committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip during its offensive there last winter, believes bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust, according to a lecture he delivered in Israel in 2000.

Goldstone spoke about the subject at Jerusalem’s Yakar: Center for Tradition and Creativity, at a lecture attended by former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak. The Israeli jurist introduced Goldstone as “a dear friend” with “very deep ties to Israel.” Goldstone, in turn, said Barak was his hero and inspiration.

In the lecture, concerning international efforts to bring war criminals to justice, Goldstone said the Holocaust has shaped legal protocol on war, adding that it was “the worst war crime in the world.”

He also said the perception of war crimes against humanity should resonate differently to Jewish ears, in light of how the Holocaust shaped conventions relevant to the subject.

Goldstone added that as a jurist, he viewed the Holocaust as a unique occurrence because of how it affected judicial protocol on war, as well as international and humanitarian judicial approaches.

The laws that had been in place before the Holocaust were not equipped to deal with crimes of the Holocaust’s scale and therefore sought to define a new crime, which they labeled a crime against humanity, he said.

These crimes were so great, he explained, they went beyond their direct victims or the countries in which they were perpetrated, to harm humanity as a whole. This definition, he said, meant that perpetrators were to be prosecuted anywhere, by any country.

This rational, he went on to say, constituted the basis for the concept of universal jurisdiction, which is being applied by some countries where Israel Defense Forces officers are charged for alleged violations during their command in the West Bank and Gaza.

The formative event of the universal jurisdiction concept, Goldstone told listeners, was the trial that Israel gave the high-ranking Nazi officer Adolf Eichman in 1961.

The international tribunals that judged Serbian war criminals for their actions in Bosnia, and the establishment of tribunals to review the actions of perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide – in which South Africa-born Goldstone served as chief prosecutor – also relied on lessons drawn from the Holocaust, he said at the lecture.

He noted that no similar courts were set up to look into the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia in the ’70s or Saddam Hussein’s acts against Iraqi Kurds.

The first time such tribunals were set up were for Bosnia, Goldtone said, because this was the first time after the Holocaust that such occurrences happened in “Europe’s backyard.” The war in Bosnia led to the formation of tribunals on crimes against humanity, he said, because European men with “blue eyes and light skin” again carried out actions similar to those observed in the Holocaust.

Israel, he added, was one of the first countries to support the formation of permanent court of law for crimes against humanity – a proposal that came up following the successful performance of the special tribunals on Bosnia.

However, that changed, he said, after Egypt insisted at the Rome conference that the mandate of this permanent court include occupied territories. This prompted Israel to join the six other countries that voted against the formation of the International Court of Justice, including the United States, China and Libya.

of course the united states’ response was typical in spite of all that is said about goldstone and his allegiances to the zionist entity and the lessons of the nazi holocaust listed above:

After several days of reticence, the Obama administration said Friday that a United Nations report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza was unfair to Israel and did not take adequate account of “deplorable” actions by the militant group Hamas in the conflict last winter.

The report, issued by a commission led by a South African judge, Richard Goldstone, said Israel had used disproportionate force in Gaza, resulting in the death of about 1,400 civilians.

It also described the firing of rockets by Hamas at Israeli towns and villages as a war crime.

The Israeli government quickly rejected the findings of the report. But the United States waited several days before speaking out.

“Although the report addresses all sides of the conflict, its overwhelming focus is on the actions of Israel,” a State Department spokesman, Ian C. Kelly, said.

could this be because zionist thomas friedman now has obama’s ear? regardless, the reaction to this report should not only be war crimes tribunals, but also sanctions. if only there would be a credible leader in power somewhere on this planet to lead the way on this…

on the limits of solidarity

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

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

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

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

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

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

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

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

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

Please join us.

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

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

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

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

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

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

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

Sources of Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safundi: Connected to that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

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

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

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

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

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

action alert: protest amnesty international & leonard cohen

this is from an open letter from pacbi (palestinian academic & cultural boycott of israel) in response to amnesty international’s support of leonard cohen’s ignoring the boycott. below is an action alert where you can protest this as well as more analysis of this issue:

The following open letter was sent to Amnesty International USA by the The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) on 30 July 2009.

In May, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen to heed the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and avoid complicity with Israel’s violations of international law by cancelling his planned September concert in Israel, particularly in view of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza earlier this year. Sadly, according to a 28 July article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA has agreed to cooperate with Cohen in dealing with Israel on the basis of business as usual. Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.” Being one of the world’s strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. We call on you to be true to your values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post report indicates that Cohen and his public relations staff, having been criticized for trying to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to the article, “All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s 24 September concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation,” and the fund will be “sponsored by Amnesty.” Curt Goering, the senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Jerusalem Post that, “We saw this as an exciting opportunity with potential to recognize, support and pay tribute to the Israelis and Palestinians who have been working for peace and human rights amid a difficult environment and insurmountable odds. I see our participation as complementary to what we do, even though this initiative is different from Amnesty’s ongoing work.”

Why we are calling on Amnesty to withdraw from the project

By supporting Cohen’s concert in Israel, Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. We find this position by Amnesty particularly frustrating and puzzling given your call for an arms embargo against Israel following its atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, which your organization described as constituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa. Profits earned through violations of human rights and international law are tainted and should not be accepted by any morally consistent human rights organization, particularly when this money is intended to be used to whitewash the very violations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. The Peres Center for Peace, with its multi-million dollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously by the Jerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the new fund’s board of trustees. The Peres Center has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are “neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable” and that enhance “Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” A columnist in Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz called the Peres Center patronizing and colonial, explaining that “Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews.”

Your other indirect partner in this project, according to the Jerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, reports that the Israel Discount Bank has branches in the settlements of Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim, has financed construction in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a major shareholder in a factory in a settlement. Amnesty hardly needs any reminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory are not only illegal under international law but are considered war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Your intention to indirectly partner with a bank that profits from the occupation and to oversee a fund that uses some of that legally and morally stained money contradicts Amnesty’s founding principles and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternative Palestinian fig leaf has also failed. The only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Background on the boycott

With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural and civil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on “the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” These Palestinian calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. Protests against Cohen’s plans to play in Israel were then held at Cohen’s concerts in New York, Boston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities. Feeling the rising heat of the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert. The Palestinian group that was supposed to host the Ramallah event cancelled its invitation to Cohen after realizing the adverse effects this would have on the boycott movement, which is widely supported by Palestinians. Reflecting the general mood in Palestinian society against any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation, a 12 July PACBI statement explained, “Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel’s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance’ concerts or other artistic events in Israel — conscious acts of complicity in Israel’s violation of international law and human rights — with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distance Amnesty International from this discredited project and its tainted money.

Signed:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, American Jews for a Just Peace (US), Boycott from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.

now TAKE ACTION:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and groups around the world have been calling for months for musician Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

Feeling the heat of the protests, Cohen and his PR staff tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert and any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation.

Now Cohen and his PR staff are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to a July 28th article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund. The fund will launder the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.”

In response, sixteen groups and coalitions issued a July 30th Open Letter to Amnesty International calling on Amnesty to be true to its values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel. The groups noted that by supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International is undermining a successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. Amnesty International also is partnering in the initiative with Israeli institutions that undermine peace, including a bank directly involved in supporting Israeli settlement construction. The only alleged Palestinian partner has announced it is not taking part.

TAKE ACTION

Please email Amnesty International, calling on Amnesty to withdraw from support for Cohen’s concert. Amnesty International is recognized by many as defending human rights worldwide, so please be respectful and courteous in your message.

You can write and email your own letter, or use the sample letter below and email it, or send an editable form letter from here. For reference, here is the full Open Letter to Amnesty International.

If you send your own email, please email your letter to:

lcox[at]aiusa.org, cgoering[at]aiusa.org, ZJanmohamed[at]aiusa.org, ikhan[at]amnesty.org, msmart[at]amnesty.org, ccordone[at]amnesty.org, drovera[at]amnesty.org

-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA
-Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General
-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director
-Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International (UK) Middle East Director, Research and Regional Programs
-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories)

If you email your own letter, please cc it to: noamnesty4israeliapartheidat]gmail.com so that we can keep track of the responses.

SAMPLE LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Dear Amnesty International,

I hold Amnesty International’s worldwide work for human rights and international law in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that Amnesty International has agreed to manage a fund that will disburse the proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s planned concert in Israel in September. I call on Amnesty International to be true to your values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

By supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting tainted funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.

Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

In his protest resignation from Amnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer, Raymond Deane, wrote: “By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.”

Furthermore, the Israeli partners in the concert, the Peres Center for Peace and Israel Discount Bank, actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. A columnist in Israel’s Ha’aretz Daily called the Peres Center for Peace patronizing and colonial organization that is in the business of training “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel.” According to research by Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel Discount Bank is deeply involved in supporting Israel’s settlement enterprise. Israeli settlements violate the very tenets of international law that Amnesty International works to uphold.

Finally, the only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the July 28th Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Thank you for your attention to this vital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International’s withdrawal of its support for the Leonard Cohen concert in Israel.

Sincerely,
Your name

here is some more background information on leonard cohen from pulse media:

Artist, writer and activist, and friend of PULSE, Tali Shapiro on Leonard Cohen and Amnesty International.

I always talk about Israeli pacifists and their inability to see the barriers they place on the Palestinian road to justice, dignity, and human rights. Today I’d like to talk about a much more appalling occurrence; Amnesty International supporting Leonard Cohen’s breach of the boycott of Israel.

The Leonard Cohen Myth

Personally, it’s hard for me to understand the disillusionment of pro-Palestinian Leonard Cohen fans. In the history of his involvement with Israel, Cohen has always sided with Israel, or made statements of officially taking no sides, when his side was rather obvious:

I don’t want to speak of wars or sides … Personal process is one thing, it’s blood, it’s the identification one feels with their roots and their origins. The militarism I practice as a person and a writer is another thing. … I don’t wish to speak about war.

In case I’m misconstruing my information, I’ll repeat the quote I’ve embedded on my front page and have, personally, had no choice but to live by:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmund Tutu)

In Cohen’s most recent history, he is consistent. He refuses to take a side, thus siding with the oppressor. Cohen has received a letter from many organizations (originated with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel), asking him not to preform in Israel. As response, typically trying to balance out a situation in which balance is not there to be found, Cohen decided to preform for the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society. The Society declined to entertain Cohen’s notions of equality:

We are now pleased to announce that we have received confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society that they will not be hosting Leonard Cohen in Ramallah. A strong consensus has emerged among all parties concerned that Cohen is not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insists on performing in Tel Aviv, even though it had been claimed that Cohen would dedicate his concert in Palestine to the cause of Palestinian prisoners. Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel.

The Problem with the International Centrist

As if all this wasn’t enough, Cohen was dead-set on clearing his conscious:

All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation…

The above quote is taken from non-other than the very-Zionist Jerusalem Post. Here’s another quote from the same article:

Attempting to maneuver through the barbed wire of both Israeli and US tax laws to enable the organizations to benefit from the concert, Kory realized that an intermediary neutral vehicle would be required to facilitate the financial funneling. He approached Amnesty International for advice, and the concept of a special fund was raised.

In other words, trooper Cohen maneuvered through the barbed wire with the assistance of the Amnesty International brigade. How poetic. How utterly embarrassing for Amnesty International to be portrayed favorably by the Jerusalem Post.

I understand big groups like Amnesty International have to be diplomatic and must exercise impartiality, and quite frankly I respect the ability to do so. However, being diplomatic doesn’t mean endorsing pseudo-diplomatic initiatives, especially when they are completely avoidable, as in the case of Leonard Cohen.

To refrain from repeating myself, here’s my own attempt at diplomacy, that I sent to Amnesty International (at the event of a response, I will update):

Hello Amnesty International,

I’m a big supporter of Amnesty International and a regular donation contributor. As an Israeli citizen- who opposes the occupation and violence wreaked by my government, army and countrymen on the Palestinian people, and supports the international movement to boycott Israel- I am appalled that Amnesty USA might break the boycott efforts. The international community has set the terms for the Palestinian struggle and rightfully made it clear that no violence will be tolerated. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has done a wonderful job in stating the terms of the BDS campaign- I don’t have to tell you what a huge commitment to a long-term strategy of non-violence that is. Terms which seem very fair and have been accepted around the world as the guidelines for this world-wide initiative.

When Leonard Cohen decided to come to Israel, PACBI made themselves clear, once again, that it is unacceptable, under the guidelines of a cultural boycott. As I’m sure you know, Cohen tried to appease PACBI by scheduling a show in Ramallah, which PACBI rejected. There is no need to be balanced in a situation that balance doesn’t occur. Had Cohen canceled in Israel he would have been making a meaningful statement and propelled the boycott movement by sheer power of his fame. Performing in both Israel and the Occupied Territories is a wishy-washy peace-faking statement, the kind that Israeli “peace” groups have been making, in order to stroke their own sensibilities, meanwhile marginalizing the other organizations (Palestinian, Israeli and International), who believe in the importance of keeping one’s stand, when it comes to the BDS initiative. “Peace” is a word that has lost all meaning in Israel, we demand human rights instead.

To find that Amnesty International might support this damaging endeavor is shocking, for me, but I take it you decided upon it with the best of intentions. Since I don’t expect you to understand the inner workings of the Israeli Center-Left and its psychological motives, I urge you to consider simple facts: Leonard Cohen preforming in Israel breaches the cultural boycott and normalizes the occupation. This is not something that should be supported by Amnesty International. It is morally wrong and diplomatically wrong. The boycott movement must stick to a standard of “no business as usual”, in order to be effective. I urge you to reconsider.

Awaiting your reply,
Tali Shapiro

What’s Wrong with Balance?

If some of you are wondering how donating the proceeds of the concert to both Israeli and Palestinian organizations is a “damaging endeavor”, here’s PACBI’s words:

PACBI has always rejected any attempt to “balance” concerts or other artistic events in Israel–conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violation of international law and human rights–with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory. Such attempts at “parity” not only immorally equate the oppressor with the oppressed, taking a neutral position on the oppression (thereby siding with the oppressor, as Desmond Tutu famously said); they also are an insult to the Palestinian people, as they assume that we are naive enough to accept such token shows of “solidarity” that are solely intended to cover up grave acts of collusion in whitewashing Israel‘s crimes. Those sincerely interested in defending Palestinian rights and taking a moral and courageous stance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid should not play Israel, period. That is the minimum form of solidarity Palestinian civil society has called for.

And some wonderful words from Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane:

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”?… By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

In my words: I’ve long covered the problematic programs and people that dare call themselves “peacemakers”. I’m thought of as the extreme of the extreme, in Israel, but if asking for unconditional human rights is extreme, then I am a proud extremists. Many on the self-proclaimed Left are easy to spot, their key phrase is:

They deserve human rights/freedom/their own country, but…

This “but” is a fearful one, rooted in a deeply ingrained and denied racism. The people who say this are well aware of Israel’s crimes- past and present, and yet still afraid of what may happen, once we let the “two legged beasts” out of their cage, whether they call Palestinians that, or not. In my journey of discovering the truth behind Israel, I’ve realized some things are not negotiable. That is human rights and as a result, this boycott.

Learning from the Cohen/Amnesty Debacle

As the Zionist propaganda machine goes into overdrive, we may find new claims, resulting in the Cohen/Amnesty debacle. For now, Israelis are generally unaware of the international boycott against their state, already underway. Last time I observed any mention of this in the mainstream media was during Cast Lead, when Channel 10 aired the typically condescending and ignorant Before you boycott Israel! video. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this article in their archives.) Nothing more responsible than your main stream media instilling blind confidence in you, when an international boycott of your country is rapidly developing.

I can’t predict the creativity of the Zionist mind, but I’m expecting that when the boycott is finally made clear to Israelis, the first rebuttals will be that nothing is enough for those “demanding” Palestinians, and even when the “reasonable” and “unbiassed” offer to give a little to both sides is made, they still “demand the whole arm”. These kinds of underhanded remarks are exactly why I decided to document the Cohen/Amnesty incident.

There should be no questions as to what the boycott’s goals or guidelines are. Some areas are unclear to many, and these cases should be studied. But to those who are unclear, I direct you again to PACBI, who are the Palestinian voice on the issue of the boycott, and have articulated their terms thoroughly. When in doubt, contrast and compare your specific case to their statements. Implementing a boycott on Israel isn’t as hard as Zionist propaganda would like you to think. The best way to deal with the occupation army is to arm yourself with knowledge.

and one more letter/analysis from pulse media:

Renowned Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane on the reasons why he has chosen to resign from Amnesty International. We encourage readers to follow Deane’s example.

When I first – and belatedly – began fretting about human rights and political injustice in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, I joined Amnesty International and started writing letters and cards to political prisoners and to a variety of Embassies.

Although I was subsequently drawn deeply into activism of a more explicitly political nature – particularly on the Israel/Palestine issue – I retained my Amnesty membership out of residual respect for the organisation, but also because I wished to be in a position to say “as an Amnesty member myself, I completely disagree with the organisation’s stance on…” (fill in the dots as appropriate).

On 30th July I read the “Open Letter to Amnesty International” from 10 admirable organisations involved in seeking justice for the Palestinian people, ranging from PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) through the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. This letter was prompted by Amnesty’s decision to sponsor “a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at [Leonard] Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for ‘peace.’”

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”? Well, one answer is that these include the Peres Center for Peace, described by the Israeli paper Ha’aretz as a “patronizing and colonial” organization that trains “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and… to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews”, and the Israel Discount Bank, which has branches in three illegal Jewish settlements and hence functions in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Another answer is even simpler: Leonard Cohen should heed the call from the oppressed Palestinian people not to perform in Israel until that state dismantles its apartheid structures and complies with international law and international humanitarian law, ends the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories, and concedes the inalienable Palestinian right of return. By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

I was one of the organizers of the protests held outside Leonard Cohen’s four recent Dublin concerts (19th, 20th, 22nd, 23d July) in which we called upon the singer not to perform in Tel Aviv, using the text of his 1960s classic “Please don’t pass me by” to deliver a demand for solidarity and engagement with the Palestinian people and against their oppressor, the Zionist Israeli state.

I used to be a Cohen fan. Should Cohen continue with his plan to perform in Israel on 24th September next, I shall consign my Cohen albums to the charity shop, although I’ll do so with considerable grief and disillusionment. It is with similar feelings that today I have sent the following message to the Irish branch of Amnesty International:

To whom it conferns: I am terminating my membership of Amnesty. The last straw has been Amnesty’s decision to support a cynical scheme dreamt up by Leonard Cohen’s PR department to whitewash the fact that he is ignoring the call from Palestinian civil society to respect the cultural boycott of Israel. While I respect Amnesty’s policy of not supporting particular political positions and not itself participating in boycott campaigns, on this occasion it is actively supporting actions that undermine a boycott campaign supported by the Palestinians themselves, and doing so by lending support to Israeli organisations the raison d’etre of which is to seek “conciliation” without an end to oppression.

Sincerely – Raymond Deane.

now it is your turn!

a walk through beit jala and then some…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC00038

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mr. carter goes to gaza

there are a lot of people who are very pleased with jimmy carter’s trip to gaza this week. certainly, his trip to gaza helped put gaza back in the news, which is important. but carter’s insistence that there should be a two-state solution with no right of return for palestinian refugees makes me extremely frustrated and unwilling to get behind carter’s political campaigning. he’s right on many issues, such as hamas is a legitimate political party as well as resistance organization, which should be included in any discussion about the future of palestine. and he surprised me by meeting with palestinian families in gaza who have relatives in zionist prisons (11,000+ palestinian political prisoners compared to the 1 zionist pow who gets far too much media attention). still, his refusal to admit that apartheid exists in the entirety of palestine and his refusal to promote the right of return and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement shows that he is not altogether different from most american political leaders. here are his remarks that he made in gaza as posted on the palestine chronicle website:

Director of UNRWA operations John Ging, thank you for inviting me to Gaza. Distinguished guests, children of Gaza, I am grateful for your warm reception.

I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings.

Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment – slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as “security hazards” and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

Almost one-half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

The situation in Gaza is grim, but all hope is not lost. Amidst adversity, you continue to possess both dignity and determination to work towards a brighter tomorrow. That is why educating children is so important.

I have come to Gaza to help the world know what important work you are doing. UNRWA is here to ensure that the 200,000 children in its schools can develop their talent, express their dynamism, and help create the path to a better future.

The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities. UNRWA is teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the struggle for these rights all over the world, Gaza’s children are learning that as you seek justice for yourselves, you must be sure that your behavior provides justice for others.

They are learning that it is wrong to fire rockets that may kill Israeli children. They are learning that arbitrary detention and the summary execution of political opponents is not acceptable. They are learning that the rule of law must be honored here in Gaza.

I would like to congratulate both UNRWA and the children who have completed the human rights curriculum with distinction. They are tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians want more than just to survive. They hope to lead the Arab world, to be a bridge between modern political life and traditions that date back to the Biblical era. The nation you will create must be pluralistic and democratic – the new Palestine that your intellectuals have dreamt about. Palestine must combine the best of the East and the West. The Palestinian state, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

With our new leaders in Washington, my country will move into the forefront of this birth of a new Palestine. We were all reminded of this renewed hope and commitment by President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1 ½ million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies.

Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian Authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement of 1993, but the Arab Peace Initiative is being considered now by all sides.

I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of Gaza, thank you for inviting me and for sharing this happy occasion with me. Congratulations for your achievements.

for now these are just words. it remains to be seen if carter’s words can translate into action even on a small scale. for his part ismail haniyya, who spoke with carter the other day, vowed to work towards a two-state solution:

Ismail Haniyya, Prime Minister of the dissolved government of Hamas in Gaza, stated Tuesday that Hamas supports ant real effort to establish a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The statements of Haniyya came in a press conference with the former US President, Jimmy Carter, who is visiting the region.

“I will push for this aim, I will cooperate with all factions to achieve a parallel and extended ceasefire with Israel”, Haniyya said, “But this ceasefire requires Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and to open the border terminals”.

but seriously: what does that mean exactly? let’s say that all palestinian refugees had the right of return and there were those who returned to their villages in 1948 palestine to live under a regime that only allows jews to have full citizenship and rights and the rest returned to gaza and the west bank. how is it that palestinians are supposed to live a life as a people when the zionist entity has laws forbidding palestinians in 1948 palestine to marry palestinians in gaza and the west bank? how are the supposed to travel around their land with zionists controlling all the borders? and how is it that a so-called state can exist when gaza and the west bank are separated by at best an hour’s drive from one “border” to the other? here is a typical issue facing palestinians that i suspect would not change even if a so-called two-state solution were imposed on palestinians:

Israel has imposed new restrictions barring Palestinians living in Gaza from moving to the West Bank, two Israeli human rights groups said on Tuesday.

According to the new regulation, which was presented by the Israeli state to the High Court of Justice in response to several petitions, no Palestinian living in Gaza is allowed to apply for residency in the West Bank except under exceptional circumstances, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Only Gazans who have close family registered as living in the West Bank will even be considered for a permit to move there, the paper said.

“Israel is systematically taking action to further isolate the Gaza Strip, while increasing the geographic and political separation between Gaza and the West Bank,” said rights groups Gisha and Hamoked.

“The new procedure contradicts a long list of Israeli undertakings to conduct negotiations for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state, including an explicit commitment in the Oslo Accords to preserve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as ‘a single territorial unit,'” the groups said.

According to the regulation, there are three criteria for allowing movement from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, but only if the applicant does not have a “security impediment.”

In order to be considered, a Palestinian living in Gaza must fulfill one of the following criteria, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post:

• Someone who suffers from a chronic medical condition and who has no other family member (not necessarily of the first degree) in Gaza to provide care.

• A minor under the age of 16 living with one parent in Gaza who dies and another living in the West Bank, on condition that there is no relative in Gaza to look after the minor. Even if she does have such relatives, Israel may allow her or her to move, depending on the nature of her relationship with the living parent.

• A person over the age of 65 who is in a “needy situation” and has a “first-degree relative” in the West Bank who can help him, conditional, in part, on not having relatives in the West Bank.

According to the regulation, anyone who meets one of these criteria and is allowed to move, will receive a temporary permit, renewable each year, for seven years. After seven years, if he or she has proven he is not deemed a “security threat,” he or she may be entered in the West Bank population registry.

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

this week al mezan published a statistical report on the savaging of gaza which reveals the following data:

On Sunday 14 June 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights published a statistical report entitled, ‘Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers.’ This report presents figures on the persons killed and property destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its recent invasion of the Gaza Strip codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. The report is currently available in Arabic and will be circulated in English soon.

The introduction to the report provides an overview of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip which was conducted by the IOF during the period 27 January 2008 – 18 January 2009. The report demonstrates that during this invasion, the IOF perpetrated grave and systematic violations of the rules of international law. The report further emphasizes that field investigations clearly indicate that the IOF perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, deliberately targeting civilians, forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands and attacking displaced persons who had fled to temporary shelters flying the United Nations flag.

The report highlights the timing of first attacks launched and their surprise nature which indicates an intention on the part of the IOF to cause the highest possible number of civilian casualties and injuries. In particular, the first wave of attacks coincided with school arrival and departure times placing school children at great risk. (Gazan schools operate a ‘shift’ system with some children attending morning sessions and others afternoon sessions). The report also presents the field investigation methodology.

The report provides the numbers of persons killed and extent of property destroyed by the IOF. During the offensive, the IOF killed or fatally wounded a total of 1410 persons of which 355 were under the age of 18, 110 were women and 240 were resistance fighters. The IOF also partially or fully destroyed 11,135 homes, 209 industrial premises, 724 commercial establishments, 650 vehicles and 6271 (1000 meters) of agricultural land.

The report presents 16 tables addressing the details of persons killed, including socio-economic information, in addition to information related to the incident. Details of damage caused to property are also presented. The numbers of persons killed by unmanned surveillance aircraft (drones) hints that the State of Israel was trying to market its surveillance aircraft, with which hundreds were killed during the Offensive.

The report concludes that Al Mezan investigations, in addition to investigations by other national (Palestinian) and international organizations, present compelling evidence of the perpetration of a large number of grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Fourth Geneva Convention. These crimes include: willful killing, including the targeting of houses while the residents were inside without apparent military necessity; shooting civilians waving white flags; indiscriminate use of excessive forces in civilian areas; targeting civilians and civilian objects without distinction, proportionality or military necessity; using civilians as human shields; targeting medical teams; preventing medical access to the injured; refraining from taking any steps to assist and save the lives of the injured; and targeting United Nations premises and teams. These practices resulted in the killing of large number of civilians.

The report also address the consequences of IOF practices against Gaza residents such as the destruction of water and electricity networks and the blocking and destruction of roads connecting the Gaza Strip, the demolition of large areas of cultivated land and a high number of industrial facilities. These policies caused immense suffering by heavily restricting access to food and medicines, especially after years of siege and closure, which represents collective punishment of the entire population. The report also points at the psychological impact of intensive attacks on residential areas, killing and destruction, as well as the indiscriminate use of warnings to civilians across the Gaza Strip in a context where there was no safe place for civilians to go. The warning announcements were dropped in the centres of towns as well as in the shelters set up by the UN to house the displaced.

The report also addresses the internal Israeli investigation into allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. This investigation was declared closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 by the Israeli military Attorney General 11 days after it commenced. It concluded that the IOF had operated in accordance with international law and did not perpetrate war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The nature of this investigation is a continuation of Israeli practices which offer immunity to its soldiers and leaders. This requires the doubling of efforts to hold the perpetrators of war crimes, or those who ordered them, accountable through channels afforded by international law.

Al Mezan asserts that this practice of offering immunity confirms the firm conviction of observers of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories that the State of Israel does not have the will to investigate crimes perpetrated by its forces. Instead, through statements made by its continued leadership, it deliberately encourages them to perpetrate these crimes and assures them that the political leadership will provide full protection to its forces.

Al Mezan further asserts that the State of Israel’s refusal to conduct an investigation in accordance with relevant international standards, and its provision of protection and immunity to members of its armed forces and government who have perpetrated or ordered war crimes, places the moral responsibility on the shoulders of the international community. Al Mezan stresses that the international community holds both moral and legal responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes in accordance with international legal obligations relevant to the prosecution of war criminals.

Al Mezan condemns in the strongest possible terms the perpetration by the IOF of war crimes in the Gaza Strip. These crimes continue today through collective punishment, and the siege imposed by Israel against the Gaza Strip. Further, Al Mezan condemns the State of Israel’s encouragement of the further perpetration of these crimes by offering protection and immunity to their perpetrators.

Al Mezan calls on the international community to:

· Assume its moral and legal responsibility to end the siege on the Gaza Strip in order to pave the way for reconstruction

· Investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated by the IOF in the Gaza Strip in preparation for perpetrators to be prosecuted and held to account

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

a group of activists and artists recently got together to produce something called “gaza over and over.” it is a 70-page glossy document that catalogues the war crimes committed by the zionist entity in gaza as well as various political and artisitc responses to it such as the khalil bendib and carlos latuff images i posted here. there is also some nice documentation of protests around the world, including the successful boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. you can download their document by going to their website or by clicking this link for the pdf file.

and for someone with much stronger, more factual, historical language who doesn’t only give speeches, but who actually puts his body where his mouth is by doing things like actively supporting boycott, divestment, and sanctions compare this recent piece, posted by pulse media, by ilan pappe to carter. quite a different sort of politics and a point of view that i find it much easier to get behind:

If there is anything new in the never ending sad story of Palestine it is the clear shift in public opinion in this country. I remember coming to these isles in 1980 when supporting the Palestinian cause was confined to the left and in it to a very particular section and ideological stream. The post-holocaust trauma and guilt complex, military and economic interests and the charade of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East all played a role in providing immunity for the state of Israel. Very few were moved, so it seems, by a state that had dispossessed half of Palestine’s native population, demolished half of their villages and towns, discriminated against the minority among them who lived within its borders through an apartheid system and enclaved two million and a half of them in a harsh and oppressive military occupation.

Almost thirty years later and it seems that all these filters and cataracts have been removed. The magnitude of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is well known, the suffering of the people in the occupied territories recorded and described even by the American president as unbearable and inhuman. In a similar way, the destruction and depopulation of the greater Jerusalem area is noted daily and the racist nature of the policies towards the Palestinians in Israel are frequently rebuked and condemned.

The reality today in 2009 is described by the UN as ‘a human catastrophe’. The conscious and conscientious sections of the British society know very well who caused and who produced this catastrophe. This is not related any more to elusive circumstances, or to the ‘conflict’ – it is seen clearly as the outcome of Israeli policies throughout the years. When Desmond Tutu was asked for his reaction to what he saw in the occupied territories he noted sadly that it was worse than Apartheid. He should know.

As in the case of South Africa these decent people, either as individuals or as members of organizations, voice their outrage against the continued oppression, colonization, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Palestine. They are looking for ways of showing their protest and some even hope to impact their government into changing its old policy of indifference and inaction in the face of the continued destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. Many among them are Jews, as these atrocities are done in their name according to the logic of the Zionist ideology, and quite a few among them are veterans of previous civil struggles in this country for similar causes all over the world. They are not confined any more to one political party and they come from all walks of life.

So far the British government is not moved. It was also passive when the anti-Apartheid movement in this country demanded of it to impose sanctions on South Africa. It took several decades for that activism from below to reach the political top. It takes longer in the case of Palestine: guilt about the Holocaust, distorted historical narratives and contemporary misrepresentation of Israel as a democracy seeking peace and the Palestinians as eternal Islamic terrorists blocked the flow of the popular impulse. But it is beginning to find its way and presence, despite the continued accusation of any such demand as being anti-Semitic and the demonization of Islam and Arabs. The third sector, that important link between civilians and government agencies, has shown us the way. One trade union after the other, one professional group after the other, have all sent recently a clear message: enough is enough. It is done in the name of decency, human morality and basic civil commitment not to remain idle in the face of atrocities of the kind Israel has and still is committing against the Palestinian people.

In the last eight years the Israeli criminal policy escalated, and the Palestinian activists were seeking new means to confront it. They have tried it all, armed struggle, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and diplomacy: nothing worked. And yet they are not giving up and now they are proposing a non violent strategy that of boycott, sanctions and divestment. With these means they wish to persuade the Western government to save not only them, but ironically also the Jews in Israel from an imminent catastrophe and bloodshed. This strategy bred the call for cultural boycott on Israel. This demand is voiced by every part of the Palestinian existence: by the civil society under occupation and by Palestinians in Israel. It is supported by the Palestinian refugees and is led by members of the Palestinian exile communities. It came in the right moment and gave individuals and organizations in this country a way to express their disgust at the Israeli policies and at the same time an avenue for participating in the overall pressure on the government to change its policy of providing immunity for the impunity on the ground.

It is bewildering that this shift of public opinion has no impact so far on policy; but again we are reminded of the tortuous way the campaign against apartheid had to go before it became a policy. It is also worth remembering that two brave women in Dublin, toiling on the cashiers in a local supermarket were the ones who began a huge movement of change by refusing to sell South African goods. Twenty nine years later, Britain joined others in imposing sanctions on Apartheid. So while governments hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organised campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use their name or fame for indicating to us all that decent people in this world cannot support what Israel does and what it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their life time. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the more general harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere.

On the other hand, citizens in this country, especially famous ones, who continue to broadcast, quite often out of ignorance or out of more sinister reasons, the fable of Israel as a cultured Western society or as the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ are not only wrong factually. They provide immunity for one of the greatest atrocities in our time. Some of them demand we should leave culture out of our political actions. This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct. Eventually, one day the outrage from below, including in Israel itself, will produce a new policy – the present American administration is already showing early signs of it. History did not look kindly at those film makers who collaborated with McCarthy or endorsed Apartheid. It would adopt a similar attitude to those who are silent about Palestine now.

A good case in point unfolded last month in Edinburgh. Ken Loach led a campaign against the official and financial connections the city’s film festival had with the Israeli embassy. Such a stance was meant to send a message that this embassy represents not only the film makers of Israel but also its generals who massacred the people of Gaza, its tormentors who torture Palestinians in jails, its judges who sent 10,000 Palestinians – half of them children – without trial to prison, its racist mayors who want to expel Arabs from their cities, its architects who built walls and fences to enclave people and prevent them from reaching their fields, schools, cinemas and offices and its politicians who strategise yet again how to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they began in 1948. Ken Loach felt that only a call for boycotting the festival as whole would bring its directors into a moral sense and perspective. He was right; it did, because the case is so clear cut and the action so simple and pure.

It is not surprising that a counter voice was heard. This is an ongoing struggle and would not be won easily. As I write these words, we commemorate the 42nd year of the Israeli occupation, the longest, and one of the cruellest in modern time. But time has also produced the lucidity needed for such decisions. This is why Ken’s action was immediately effective; next time even this would not be necessary. One of his critics tried to point to the fact that people in Israel like Ken’s films, so this was a kind of ingratitude. I can assure this critic that those of us in Israel who watch Ken’s movies are also those who salute him for his bravery and unlike this critic we do not think of this an act similar to a call for Israel’s destruction, but rather the only way of saving Jews and Arabs living there. But it is difficult anyway to take such criticism seriously when it is accompanied by description of the Palestinians as a terrorist entity and Israel as a democracy like Britain. Most of us in this country have moved far away from this propagandist silliness and are ready for change. We are now waiting for the government of these isles to follow suit.

wanted: zionist palestinians

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

yesterday ali abunimah and hasan abu nimah co-authored a brilliant analysis of benjamin netanyahu’s speech in electronic intifada. here is their article in full:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a peace plan so ingenious it is a wonder that for six decades of bloodshed no one thought of it. Some people might have missed the true brilliance of his ideas presented in a speech at Bar Ilan University on 14 June, so we are pleased to offer this analysis.

First, Netanyahu wants Palestinians to become committed Zionists. They can prove this by declaring, “We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land.” As he pointed out, it is only the failure of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular to commit themselves to the Zionist dream that has caused conflict, but once “they say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples.” It is of course perfectly natural that Netanyahu would be “yearning for that moment.”

Mere heartfelt commitment to Zionism will not be enough, however. For the Palestinians’ conversion to have “practical meaning,” Netanyahu explained, “there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders.” In other words, Palestinians must agree to help Israel complete the ethnic cleansing it began in 1947-48, by abandoning the right of return. This is indeed logical because as Zionists, Palestinians would share the Zionist ambition that Palestine be emptied of Palestinians to the greatest extent possible.

Netanyahu is smart enough to recognize that even the self-ethnic-cleansing of refugees may not be sufficient to secure “peace”: there will still remain millions of Palestinians living inconveniently in their native land, or in the heart of what Netanyahu insisted was the “historic homeland” of the Jews.

For these Palestinians, the peace plan involves what Netanyahu calls “demilitarization,” but what should be properly understood as unconditional surrender followed by disarmament. Disarmament, though necessary, cannot be immediate, however. Some recalcitrant Palestinians may not wish to become Zionists. Therefore, the newly pledged Zionist Palestinians would have to launch a civil war to defeat those who foolishly insist on resisting Zionism. Or as Netanyahu put it, the “Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas.” (In fact, this civil war has already been underway for several years as the American and Israeli-backed Palestinian “security forces,” led by US Lt. General Keith Dayton, have escalated their attacks on Hamas).

Once anti-Zionist Palestinians are crushed, the remaining Palestinians — whose number equals that of Jews in historic Palestine — will be able to get on with life as good Zionists, according to Netanyahu’s vision. They will not mind being squeezed into ever smaller ghettos and enclaves in order to allow for the continued expansion of Jewish colonies, whose inhabitants Netanyahu described as “an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.” And, in line with their heartfelt Zionism, Palestinians will naturally agree that “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

These are only the Palestinian-Israeli aspects of the Netanyahu plan. The regional elements include full, Arab endorsement of Palestinian Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel and even Arab Gulf money to pay for it all. Why not? If everyone becomes a Zionist then all conflict disappears.

It would be nice if we could really dismiss Netanyahu’s speech as a joke. But it is an important indicator of a hard reality. Contrary to some naive and optimistic hopes, Netanyahu does not represent only an extremist fringe in Israel. Today, the Israeli Jewish public presents (with a handful of exceptions) a united front in favor of a racist, violent ultra-nationalism fueled by religious fanaticism. Palestinians are viewed at best as inferiors to be tolerated until circumstances arise in which they can be expelled, or caged and starved like the 1.5 million inmates of the Gaza prison.

Israel is a society where virulent anti-Arab racism and Nakba denial are the norm although none of the European and American leaders who constantly lecture about Holocaust denial will dare to admonish Netanyahu for his bald lies and omissions about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s “vision” offered absolutely no advance on the 1976 Allon Plan for annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, or Menachem Begin’s Camp David “autonomy” proposals. The goal remains the same: to control maximum land with minimum Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s speech should put to rest newly revived illusions — fed in particular by US President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech — that such an Israel can be brought voluntarily to any sort of just settlement. Some in this region who have placed all their hopes in Obama — as they did previously in Bush — believe that US pressure can bring Israel to heel. They point to Obama’s strong statements calling for a complete halt to Israeli settlement construction — a demand Netanyahu defied in his speech. It now remains to be seen whether Obama will follow his tough words with actions.

Yet, even if Obama is ready to put unprecedented pressure on Israel, he would likely have to exhaust much of his political capital just to get Israel to agree to a settlement freeze, let alone to move on any of dozens of other much more substantial issues.

And despite the common perception of an escalating clash between the Obama administration and the Israeli government (which may come over minor tactical issues), when it comes to substantive questions they agree on much more than they disagree. Obama has already stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state,” and he affirmed that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” As for Palestinian refugees, he has said, “The right of return [to Israel] is something that is not an option in a literal sense.”

For all the fuss about settlements, Obama has addressed only their expansion, not their continued existence. Until the Obama administration publicly dissociates itself from the positions of the Clinton and Bush administrations, we must assume it agrees with them and with Israel that the large settlement blocks encircling Jerusalem and dividing the West Bank into ghettos would remain permanently in any two-state solution. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu have mentioned Israel’s illegal West Bank wall suggesting that there is no controversy over either its route or existence. And now, both agree that whatever shreds are left can be called a “Palestinian state.” No wonder the Obama administration welcomed Netanyahu’s speech as “a big step forward.”

What is particularly dismaying about the position stated by Obama in Cairo — and since repeated constantly by his Middle East envoy George Mitchell — is that the United States is committed to the “legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” This formula is designed to sound meaningful, but these vague, campaign-style buzzwords are devoid of any reference to inalienable Palestinian rights. They were chosen by American speechwriters and public relations experts, not by Palestinians. The Obama formula implies that any other Palestinian aspirations are inherently illegitimate.

Where in international law, or UN resolutions can Palestinians find definitions of “dignity” and “opportunity?” Such infinitely malleable terms incorrectly reduce all of Palestinian history to a demand for vague sentiments and a “state” instead of a struggle for liberation, justice, equality, return and the restoration of usurped rights. It is, after all, easy enough to conceive of a state that keeps Palestinians forever dispossessed, dispersed, defenseless and under threat of more expulsion and massacres by a racist, expansionist Israel.

Through history it was never leaders who defined rights, but the people who struggled for them. It is no small achievement that for a century Palestinians have resisted and survived Zionist efforts to destroy their communities physically and wipe them from the pages of history. As long as Palestinians continue to resist in every arena and by all legitimate means, building on true international solidarity, their rights can never be extinguished. It is from such a basis of independent and indigenous strength, not from the elusive promises of a great power or the favors of a usurping occupier, that justice and peace can be achieved.

the anti-arab racism they describe above is rampant, though not always caught on camera or reported by the media. here is yet another instance of the common sorts of racist remarks made by zionist terrorist colonists made this week:

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who meant to praise an undercover police agent in Tel Aviv, referred to him as an “Arabush” (Hebrew equivalent of “sand nigger”) Tuesday.

this is the same kind of racism that stems from the jewish supremacist attitude that they can colonize palestine because they are the “chosen people” who “inherited” this land from god. and this racism is not reserved just for palestinians in the west bank and gaza. it is fundamentally a part of the zionist state and its society. it is what helped to create apartheid on both sides of the so-called “green line,” contrary to jimmy carter’s attestations to the contrary. stu harrison’s interview with palestinian member of kenesset haneen zoabi in electronic intifada this week she makes it quite clear how racism and apartheid function in 1948 palestine:

Zoabi said: “The rate of hostility has increased a lot. Seventy-five percent of Jewish people do not want to live in a society with Arabs.”

“On the question of apartheid, most towns are mixed, with both Arabs and Jews. Most of the Jewish population and the authorities in towns like Jaffa and Haifa, are trying their best to transfer Palestinians out so they can become purely Jewish towns.”

“They prevent the Palestinians from renovating their homes and they are trying to push them into giving up their homes so they will leave. Arabs are being attacked a lot more in the streets and in their market shops, comparing the last year to previous years.”

However, Zoabi said such attitudes are nothing new. “We have a special case of racism in Israel. You can’t find this kind of racism in any other country in the world, where the state usually defines itself neutrally.”

“This is not the case in Israel. We don’t struggle simply against discriminating policies or attitudes. We are against the very definition of the state and this is what differentiates our struggle.”

it is this kind of racism that also leads the zionist entity to constantly demolish palestinian homes and build new colonies. this week another spate of both emerged in the news. first, the house demolitions and orders for future demolitions of palestinian homes:

Two Palestinian families were given orders on Tuesday by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem to demolish part of their homes.

One of the homes is located inside the old city of Jerusalem while the other is located in the nearby Palestinian dominated Silwan neighborhood.

Local sources said that since Friday the Israeli municipality had handed out five such orders to Palestinian families inside the walls of the old city.

and more homes in al quds:

At least a dozen Palestinian families in vireos parts of East Jerusalem received on Wednesday demolition orders issued by the Jerusalem Municipality.

According to the Israeli municipality the homes are built without the needed building permits.

The families started the illegal process by hiring a lawyer to get their case heard in the court, local sources reported.

Since last week the Israeli municipality has forced four families to demolish parts of their homes because they lacked the needed permission.

and another home in another neighborhood al quds:

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh in Anata, which has already been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and has become a center for the peaceful struggle against home demolitions, can be demolished yet again.

and in the jordan valley:

Israeli bulldozers demolished 15 animal barns and 3 shacks owned by Palestinian residents of Ein Al-Hilwa neighborhood in the Jordan Valley near Israeli settlement of Masquin, eyewitnesses reported Wednesday morning.

Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activity in the northern West Bank, condemned the demolition describing it as part of a clear Israeli policy aimed at emptying the Jordan Valley of all Palestinian residents.

the above news items are part and parcel for palestinians every day, but there is a new report from save the children that ma’an published the other day showing that 300,000 palestinians face house demolitions right now:

Over 300,000 people are facing house demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories, a report issued this week by the UK charity Save the Children says.

“House demolitions in the OPT have escalated and thousands of families and in some cases entire villages remain under the threat of bulldozers arriving to destroy their homes and being displaced any day,” said Salam Kanaan, Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) in a statement.

The new report is titled “Broken Homes,” and was also authored by Palestinian Counseling Centre (PCC), and Welfare Association.

Since house demolitions started in 1967 it is estimated that the Israeli civilian and military authorities have destroyed over 24,000 homes. However, since 2000 the number of homes being destroyed has escalated with an average of more than a 1,000 homes demolished every year, Save the children said.

This year (2009) has seen a massive increase, with more homes being destroyed than at any time since the Israeli occupation began 40 years ago, the organization said. Nearly 4,000 homes were destroyed as a result of the military offensive in Gaza at the start of the year.

“The majority of house demolitions are carried out for so called ‘administrative’ reasons or as a result of military operations,” said Kanaan. “Families lose everything when their homes are demolished; clothes, food and furniture are all buried in the rubble. There is precious little help for these families who are left with nothing, no support, no protection.”

Among the facts stated in the report are:

More than half (52%) of the homes were demolished in a collective demolition where a series of homes or neighborhood was razed

Two people were killed during the demolition of their homes

Only 13% of families had a chance to collect their belongings before demolition began
97% of parents are at risk of a mental breakdown as a result of their homes being demolished

Children whose homes have been demolished show a decline in their mental health, suffering classic signs of trauma, becoming withdrawn, depressed and anxious

The majority of families whose houses were demolished were repeatedly displaced for long periods of time – over half the families (61%) took at least two years to find somewhere permanent to live

Over a quarter of families had to split up so they could all find somewhere to stay.

Once a house is demolished, the family not only loses their home and its contents but is also liable for the costs of the actual house demolition. This can run into thousands of dollars.

East Jerusalem residents, rural communities in the West Bank, Bedouin, and refugees living in camps, communities close to the Separation Wall or settlements, and areas near Gaza’s borders are at the greatest risk of displacement from building or house demolition. More than 300,000 Palestinians live in these areas.

of course the main reason for palestinian home demolitions is to build colonies for jewish zionists who steal the land on which these palestinian homes exist. and expect a great increase in those colonies this summer:

The Land of Israel Faithful group responded to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech by saying that they are planning to construct 30 new outposts in the West Bank. In his speech Netanyahu declared that no new settlements would be built and no extra land would be confiscated from Palestinians for settlement development.

The group told Israeli media that it was “recruiting activists for this summer’s outpost building”. It is planning to create outposts between the settlement of Ofra and Shiloh, in Gush Etzion, near Hebron and near the settlements of Elon Moreh and Bracha.

The settler group has been engaged in building and rebuilding outposts for the past two years. Many of them have been demolished several times by Israeli forces, but the group keeps rebuilding them with determination.

One of the outposts that was destroyed was the Moaz Esther outpost. In the beginning of this month it was taken down, but now it’s almost completely rebuilt again. The group explained that action has to be taken to strengthen the Jewish hold on the West Bank.

supposedly the united states is working to “freeze” the colony building project, but the zionist entity is being defiant and racist as is par for the course:

Visiting Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister of the right-wing extremist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, Avigdor Lieberman, told the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, that Israel will not freeze the construction and expansion of settlements.

Clinton demanded Israel to stop the settlements as agreed upon with the former president, George W. Bush.

Lieberman said that the “Jewish people were born in Judea and Samaria, and will die there”, his statement totally disregarded the indigenous Palestinian people.

Clinton responded by stating that the United States under the Obama administration wants a freeze to all settlement activities.

The Israeli FM claimed that there was no written or even verbal agreement with Bush regarding the settlements. Clinton “agreed” and said that a compromise could be reached between the United States and Israel.

here is a report on lieberman’s visit with hillary clinton by tom ackerman on al jazeera yesterday:

regardless of what is being reported, it seems as though the obama administration–like all american administrations before it–will yield to the zionist entity and their demand for jewish-only racist colonies on stolen palestinian land:

The US may ease its demand for a total freeze on construction in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Quoting anonymous Israeli officials, the newspaper said that this possible change in position was expressed during US Envoy George Mitchell’s visit to Israel last week, when he held a four-hour meeting on the settlement issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

but glenn kessler pointed out in the washington post the other day that there once was a time when the u.s. was clear–at least rhetorically–about the illegality of colonies (though, unfortunately, the u.s. has always supported the colonies in 1948 palesitne):

Thirty years ago, the State Department legal adviser issued an opinion in response to an inquiry from Congress: The establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories “is inconsistent with international law.”

The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Israel has insisted that the Geneva Convention does not apply to settlers and broadly contests assertions of the settlements’ illegality.

Despite the passage of time, the legal opinion, issued during the Carter administration, has never been revoked or revised. President Ronald Reagan said he disagreed with it — he called the settlements “not illegal” — but his State Department did not seek to issue a new opinion.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is unlikely to bring up the U.S. opinion when she meets today with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the State Department. Lieberman lives in a West Bank settlement, Nokdim, that was established in 1982 as a tent encampment of six families and now has more than 800 residents.

Despite repeated inquiries over the past week, State Department spokesmen declined to say whether the 1979 legal opinion is still the policy of the U.S. government.

and lest you think that the zionist entity’s racism is directed only at palestinians check out this new report on irin news about their human trafficking:

The latest US State Department report on trafficked persons, released on 16 June, says Israel is still a destination for men and women trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation.

Women from the former Soviet Union and China are still being trafficked across the border with Egypt into Israel for forced prostitution by organized criminal groups.

According to local NGOs, such as Isha L’iash and Moked, each year several hundred women in Israel – many of them foreigners – are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, according to the report.

In 2006 Israel was put on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watch list and has been described as a “prime destination for trafficking” by both the State Department and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

administrative detention

map of zionist colonist terrorist prisons in palestine
map of zionist colonist terrorist prisons in palestine

addameer is one of the essential organizations in palestine fighting for the rights of palestinian political prisoners. one of their many and tireless campaigns is for the rights of those palestinian political prisoners who are in what the zionist entity calls “administrative detention.” here is a summary from addameer’s website on just what that entails:

The tyrannical nature of administrative detention and its complete violation of human rights are based on confidential materials kept from the detainee and the lawyer. The confidential materials determine the period of detention and its extension thereafter. The administrative detainee is allowed an appeal before a court martial but the confidentiality of the materials on which the detention is based makes the trial nominal or false. Experience has shown that the real decision-maker in the appeal is the intelligence services.

The possibility of becoming an administrative detainee is an ever-present threat in the daily life of all Palestinians and severely impacts the lives of Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Similar to previous years, whenever the conflict enters a new stage, the Israeli authorities use administrative detention to arrest a large number of Palestinians. The use of administrative detention was reduced significantly prior to the current Intifada, but was dramatically increased shortly afterwards. Until September 2000, the number of administrative detainees was 4. By the end of 2000, this number became 17. Towards the end of 2001, there were 45 administrative detainees, and by the end of 2004 there were over 850.

Administrative detention orders have been issued based on British Mandate Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945. In 1970, Israeli occupying powers issued Military Order (MO) 378, authorizing the military commander of the region to issue administrative detention orders. Additionally, in 1988, as an amendment to MO 378, MO 1229 was issued in the West Bank and MO 941 for the Gaza Strip (military orders are issued separately for the West Bank and Gaza Strip) to apply the policy of administrative detention. These orders authorized the issuing of administrative detention orders without designating a maximum period of time for the detention. The first paragraph of MO 1229 states that

“If a Military Commander deems the detention of a person necessary for security reasons he may do so for a period not in excess of 6 months, after which he has the right to extend the detention period for a further six months according to the original order. The detention order can be passed without the presence of the detainee…”

The authority of the military commander was not only limited to this. Authorization was also given to the military commander through military orders to hold an administrative detainee for an unlimited period of time if the commander has reason to believe, based on reports submitted by the General Security Services, that the release of the administrative detainee poses a danger to the security of the state. As such, the military commander may extend the period of administrative detention indefinitely.

According to Addameer’s experience with administrative detention, detainees have been held under administrative detention orders from periods ranging from 6 months to 6 years. The issuing of administrative detention orders appears to be directly linked to the political situation, with its use increasing when there is an increase in protest against occupation in the Palestinian territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967. Administrative detention is used as a form of punishment and a political act representing the policy of the Israeli government, conducted without sufficient legal monitoring and in contravention of international and human rights law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In June 1999, modifications were made to the orders governing administrative detention in MO 1466 – Temporary Orders, Modification 13. This order states that a detainee must be brought before a military judge within 10 days of his arrest. These new procedures began to apply on 6 July 1999, also authorizing the military judge to approve, cancel or decrease the time of the administrative detention order.

In practice, the Israeli General Security Services (GSS) often take the law into their own hands, and the military judges ruling on administrative detention orders are used to offer a semblance of legal legitimacy to the policy and actions of the GSS. The military judicial system, as such, is not independent, and is affected by security policies and interference by the GSS in its rulings under the justification that it is in the greater interest of the security of Israel. Administrative detention is practiced widely by Israel, despite the fact that the method in which it is used is in contravention of international law.

Administrative detainees are held in Ketziot, Ofer, Beituniya and Kfar Yuna Military Prison camps. Although the situation of Palestinian administrative detainees has improved slightly in Ofer and Ketziot, the overall situation is still grave because of the fact that detainees are held in tents and subject to extreme weather conditions without appropriate protection.

In 2003, the Israeli authorities released 159 administrative detainees. However, the detainees were slated for release within a few days of their actual release, and the majority had already served out their sentences with 1 day to 1 month remaining.

At the end of 2003, 21 administrative detainees were deported to the Gaza Strip, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The deportations were called ‘assigned residence’ and were implemented through Israeli military regulations.

to help explain this system of administrative detention addammer created a two-part video that features interviews with a number of men and women who have endured this fascist system of injustice at the hands of the zionist entity:

there is a new case of administrative detention with a petition to sign on the sumoud website for

Note: Learn about other Palestinian Political Prisoners held in administrative detention at
You can also find information about both Siham and Majeda at Addameer.org

Please read the urgent appeal on behalf of two women who are currently held in administrative detention.

Majeda Fidda is an elected member of Nablus municipality Council. She was arrested from the family home in Nablus. A few minutes passed midnight on 6 August 2008 Israeli soldiers stormed her house and proceeded to a search. Five months later, on 31 December 2008 she was acquitted of all charges and subsequently placed under administrative detention. Her order is expected to end on 30 June 2009. Please write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Ms Majeda Fidda be released immediately and that her administrative detention not be renewed. more on Mejeda below

Siham Al Heh is a social worker from Sourif in Hebron. Siham was arrested from her family home at 1:30 am on 26 March 2009. A few days following her arrest, Siham was informed that she would be detained for a 3 month period in administrative detention, without charge or trial. Her potential – but by no means certain – release is now expected on 25 June 2009. Please write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Siham Al-Heh be released immediately and that her administrative detention not be renewed. More on Siham below.

Majeda Akram Nimer Fidda

Date of Birth: August 1960
Place of Residence: Nablus
Elected Member of Nablus municipality Council, M.Sc
Date of arrest: 6 August 2008
Place of detention: Hasharon prison
Postal address: Hasharon prison, Ben Yehuda, P.O. Box 7
40 330 Israel

ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION

Number of order renewals:one, 31 March 2009
Expected end of administrative detention order: 30 June 2009

Majeda Fidda was arrested from the family home in Nablus. A few minutes passed midnight on 6 August 2008 Israeli soldiers stormed her house and proceeded to a search. During the arrest, they confiscated Ms. Fidda’s personal laptop computer. Subsequently, she was taken to Huwwara provisional detention centre located in the outskirts of Nablus, after which she was transferred to Sheve Shamron settlement in Jenin area. Then, once again that same night, she was transferred back to Huwwara provisional detention centre where she was interrogated for a two hour period.

During the second transfer, she was left to wait for long hours, on the street, under the surveillance of a female soldier. After the questioning, she was finally transferred to Hasharon prison. A list of charges was issued against her. The charges included membership in Change and Reform to which she indeed belonged when she run for municipal elections in 2005. However, the Israeli authorities declared Change and Reform bloc an “illegal party” only in 2007, almost two years after municipal elections – and one year after parliamentary elections – took place. In addition, Israel did not oppose the participation of the Change and Reform Party giving the impression that it did not consider the list an “unauthorized association” both membership and activity in which constitute a criminal offense under military regulations.

The legal procedures lasted for 5 months, until 31 December 2008 when she was acquitted of all charges. Instead of releasing Ms. Fidda however, the Israeli authorities decided to keep her imprisoned, without trial or charges, in administrative detention. Thus, an administrative detention order was issued against her for a 6 month period starting from 6 January 2009 until 5 July 2009. However, on 12 January 2009 in the judicial review the judge refused to confirm the order and instead referred her for further interrogation until 3 February 2009. The prosecution appealed against the judge’s decision and consequently, the date of the appeal was set for 1 February 2009. The appeal judge then transferred

Ms. Fidda’s file to the Judge of First Instance who reduced the order until 12 February 2009. The prosecution and defense both appealed against the decision. However, the appeal hearing accepted the arguments of the prosecution and the order was subsequently extended until 31 March 2009, so that an interrogation could be conducted. On that day, instead of being released, Majeda’s administrative detention order was confirmed for a further 6 months, until 30 September 2009. During the judicial review on 5 April 2009, the judge reduced the order to 3 months, now setting Ms. Fidda’s possible – but by no means certain – release on 30 June 2009. The prosecution appealed his decision demanding further extension, whereas the defense appealed the renewal of the administrative detention order. On 26 April, the appeal hearing however, confirmed the 3 month detention period and rejected both the prosecution’s and the defense’s pleas.

Previous arrests

The Israeli Occupying Forces stormed Ms. Fidda’s home once before her arrest, on the night of 22 July 2008, when they unlawfully searched her house under her absence from home. Despite that, the soldiers confiscated 2 desktop computers and files related to her work at the municipality of Nablus. Majeda was arrested once before and placed under administrative detention for a six month period from 3 March 2005 until 2 September 2005. She was held in Hasharon prison.

PROFESSIONAL LIFE

A few months after her first release, on 15 December 2005, Majeda was elected to the Council of Nablus municipality. During her term as councilor, she created a new department at the municipality dealing specifically with environmental issues. She initiated an ambitious project called “Green Nablus” – a tree and flower planting campaign. As a result, many parks and green spaces in Nablus and surrounding villages were created. Majeda also took part in a municipal recycling course organized in Brussels in cooperation with various Belgian municipalities.

Majeda holds an MSc degree in Pharmacology from Moscow University in Russia. Prior to her work in the municipality, she worked as a pharmacist for several years. In 2004, she launched a media and documentation project aiming at informing press agencies of local events in Nablus. However, her 2005 a rrest was a major setback to the project effectively leading to its end.

Majeda is interested in arts and enjoys embroidering, drawing, painting on glass and knitting. She has also attempted to apply her artistic skills to interior design decorating friends’ houses in Ramallah and Nablus. In fact, prior to her arrest, she intended to pursue a degree in Interior Design.

THE FAMILY

With the exception of her sister Arwa who holds a Jerusalem identity card, Majeda’s whole family – her four other sisters and both parents– are denied permits to visit her in prison under the premise that there are no familial ties between them. They have been prevented from visiting her since the moment of her arrest on 6 August 2008. Since her imprisonment, her father suffers from depression and does not eat sufficiently. Her father, aged 74 saw her once in court before her case was referred to administrative detention. Indeed, judicial reviews of administrative detention orders are not open to the public as they are secret sessions; therefore the detainee can only be accompanied by his or her lawyer.

DETENTION CONDITIONS

Majeda is detained in section 12 of Hasharon prison, one of Israel’s largest facilities, together with approximately 32 other Palestinian female prisoners. The building which now constitutes the prison complex served as the headquarters of the British Mounted Police during the British Mandate in Palestine and as such was never designed for the incarceration of women. As a result, Majeda suffers from harsh detention conditions. She complains from overcrowding, humidity, lack of natural sunlight and adequate ventilation, as well as poor hygiene standards.

Prisoners are allowed to three hours of daily recreation time only1. She currently shares a room in section 12 with one other prisoner. The room is reportedly very small, only 2 meters long and 2.5 meters large. It includes a small bathroom, two bunk beds and three small closets. The lighting is very weak forcing her to buy a lamp in the prison canteen at her own expense. Due to overall poor detention conditions, her health has recently drastically deteriorated. Majeda suffers from constant back pain and high blood pressure.

However, as a pharmacologist, she says that medical treatment is inadequate and does not include real follow-up nor specialized gender sensitive care. As a result, she neither trusts the doctor’s recommendations nor the medication she is prescribed. Majeda also complains from solitude in prison, given that she does not receive regular family visits. Interests: Glass painting, reading.

ACT NOW!

Here is how you can help Ms. Majeda Fidda:

• Send Majeda letters of support to her postal address in prison

• Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Ms Majeda Fidda be released immediately and that her administrative detention not be renewed.

• Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Ms. Majeda Fidda and to put an end to such an unjust, arbitrary and cruel system of incarceration without trial.

SIHAM AL-HEH

“It’s really hard to be detained without knowing why”
Date of birth: 14 October 1978

Place of Residence: Sourif village, Hebron
Occupation: Social worker
Date of arrest: 26 March 2009
Place of detention: Hasharon prison
Postal address: Hasharon prison, Ben Yehuda
P.O. Box 7, 40 330 Israel

ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION

Expected end of administrative detention order: 25 June 2009

Arrest and interrogation

Siham was arrested from her family home at 1:30 am on 26 March 2009. The Israeli soldiers burst into the house and started destroying her property. They broke windows and picture frames and searched the entire house. Later, they proceeded to a search of her brother’s house located merely 100 meters from Siham’s family home. Only after a few minutes of firm insistence was she allowed changing her clothes – the soldiers were ready to arrest her in her pajamas. The soldiers then confiscated a few books, her personal computer and identity documents of the family. Upon arresting Siham, they also left a request for her four brothers and her father, aged 70 to present themselves for an interrogation with the Israeli Security Agency. That same night, the Israeli soldiers also intended to arrest Siham’s brother Ibrahim, aged 37; however he was working a night shift at the Hebron hospital where he is a nurse.

Upon arrest, Siham was taken to Etzyon detention centre, but was left alone, in the military jeep for an hour before a doctor came to carry out a medical examination. After a few questions, she was asked to sign a form stating that she was in good health, which she did. Then, she was taken to Etzyon detention centre for questioning during which the interrogator threatened her with administrative detention. After a few hours, she was transferred to Hasharon prison where she is currently detained. However, at first, she was placed in the section of Israeli female criminal offenders. Addameer’s lawyer immediately requested that she be transferred to section 12, where the rest of Palestinian political women prisoners are detained. That request was only fulfilled nearly a month after her arrest – on 23 April 2009.

You can also find information about both Siham and Majeda at http://addameer.info/?cat=21

Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees are held without charge or trial. In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli army carries out administrative detention on the basis of Military Order 1226. This order empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to six months if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can be continued indefinitely.

For more information on administrative detention and Addameer’s campaign please check our website: www.addameer.info or get in touch with us directly at: info[at]addameer.ps

there are a number of other fascist ways the zionist entity attacks palestinian rights, including house arrest as this sumoud call for action to support samieh jabbarin illustrates:

Click Here to sign the petition in support of Samieh Jabbarin

Dear friends,

The solidarity struggle with Palestinian theatre-artist and activist Samieh Jabbarin, who is still under house-arrest in Um Al Fahm, has gained significant resonance in the past two weeks thanks to the publication of journalist Aviva Lori`s extensive coverage of the affair in `Haaretz` weekend supplement in Hebrew (22.5.09) and English (28.5.09).

Unfortunately, nothing has moved in court. On June 7th the court in Hadera is to review Samieh`s appeal for lifting the limiting conditions of his house-arrest – four (!) months of being denied his personal liberty after being arrested at a political demonstration. Due to the said limiting conditions, Samieh could not even attend the Tel Aviv University scholarship and award-granting ceremony of the Faculty of Fine Arts held a few days ago, where he was mentioned with outstanding honors by the dean and received a scholarship (see appendix).

Please consider:

– further damaging Samieh, the police – along with the State Attorney`s Office – has accused him of so-called violent action. It is no coincidence that these very days a steep exacerbation is anticipated for the future freedom of expression and political association in the State of Israel. Rapid legislation in the Knesset (parliament) of a whole battery of anti-democratic laws has been of major concern. Among others: a proposed law curbs `any aspiration to change the character of the State or to publish anything that might cause disrespect of the regime` (!);

– the `Nakba law` prohibits the commemoration of Palestinian suffering caused by the foundation of the State of Israel; the `loyalty law` will require every Israeli citizen – Arabs included – to sign a declaration of loyalty to the state as a `Jewish and Zionist state`;

– a law to create a fingerprint database of all Israeli citizens;

– a law forbidding demonstrations in front of residences of public officials, etc.

These are laws that, once legislated, will enable the state to act harshly against all of us in the future, Arabs and Jews alike. No more figments of imagination will be needed about `violent action` in order to arrest, prosecute and punish innocent citizens.

We thank you for your support of Samieh Jabbarin, for joining the struggle against political detention in Israel, and for sharing the struggle against the new evil winds now blowing in this country.

Our online petition is ongoing. We would appreciate your signatures if you have not yet signed it, and thank you for distributing it among your friends, for this is our most efficient way to keep you in the picture and update you about further actions for Samieh in the near future.

Click Here to sign the petition in support of Samieh Jabbarin

Thanking you in advance,
The Committee for Solidarity with Samieh Jabbarin
May 2009

finally, another important item on sumoud’s website this week is on a a call for the closure of the zionist entity’s secret prison:

HaMoked calls on the High Court of Justice to order implementation of the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee Against Torture – Immediate closure of Israel’s secret prison.

Today, May 25th, 2009, HaMoked submitted to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) the concluding observations of the UN Committee against Torture regarding the secret prison known as “Facility 1391”. HaMoked uncovered the existence of the prison, and its petition regarding the legality of the facility has been pending before the Court since 2003.

The Committee’s Concluding Observations, published on May 14th, support HaMoked’s argument that the very existence of a secret facility for detention and interrogation without oversight or monitoring, into which people disappear, is unlawful and has no place in a democratic state. The existence of such a facility is a violation of the International Convention Against Torture.

Furthermore, despite Israel’s assertion that no prisoners have been held at the facility since 2006, the Committee demands that Israel ensure that no one is held in Facility 1391 or any other secret facility in the future.

The Committee also demands that Israel investigate allegations of torture in Facility 1391 and hold those responsible accountable, and expresses concern about the HCJ’s backing for the policy of non-investigation of the secret prison.

HaMoked uncovered the existence of the facility in 2002, following petitions it submitted to the HCJ regarding three Palestinians who had been arrested and held in an unknown location. In its responses to the Court, the State was compelled to acknowledge the existence of a secret prison.

Attorneys on behalf of HaMoked took affidavits from prisoners who had been held at the facility, which revealed a grim picture of inhuman conditions of incarceration, humiliation and brutal interrogation techniques that were tantamount to torture. Prisoners were held in total isolation in darkened, foul-smelling cells, lacking basic sanitary conditions. They were stripped and beaten during their interrogation, and denied visits by attorneys and ICRC personnel. When prisoners asked where they were held, they were told, “On the moon.”

HaMoked urges the HCJ to adopt the conclusions of the UN Committee Against Torture and rule that the very existence of Facility 1391 or any other secret facility for detention or interrogation is unlawful.

if it is on palestinian land and inhabited by jews: it is a colony. period.

and yes, i mean jews: the zionist entity insists on being called a “jewish state” that is an apartheid state in which jews have special rights and non-jews have no rights. of course, any jew who lives in occupied palestine is by definition a zionist. but the zionist entity’s laws specify these rights are for jews. and these jewish zionists are the colonists occupying palestinian land.

it may seem like a sign of progress to most outsiders: 2 zionist terrorist colonies in khalil were dismantled by the zionist terrorist army. but notice in this story that it alerts us to the fact that this has happened before. they have removed one of these colonies and it went right back up. this is the norm here:

The Israeli army demolished two illegal settlement outposts installed by extremist far-right wing Jewish settlers, members of a Yeshiva School from Kiryat Arba’ illegal settlement, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli army radio reported that one of the outposts (Havat Federman) was constructed by an extremist right-wing settler, identified as Noam Federman.

The Second illegal outpost Givat (Hill) Avichai, also known as Hill 18, was constructed by Yeshiva students of the illegal Keryat Arba’ settlement.

As the Israeli police and soldiers arrived at the Havat Federman, shortly before the evacuation was to take place, they found out that the construction was already removed, and all of its supplies were placed in one tent, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

The Federman outpost was first dismantled on Friday October 31, 2008, and the settlers clashed with the Israeli police and attacked Palestinian residents in the Hebron area. They settlers rebuilt the outpost later on and the army did not remove it.

The Israeli police was expecting clashes with the extremist settlers but the evacuation went without noticeable clashes.

Israeli sources reported Wednesday that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had decided to evacuate the outposts in an attempt to avoid pressure by the US Administration.

But the evacuation of the outposts angered several extreme right wing members of Knesset and officials.

Member of Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari, of the National Union Party slammed Netanyahu and Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, for the evacuation of the illegal outposts and added that the “deceived the public and their voters”.

meanwhile more palestinian homes are being destroyed in al quds by zionist terrorist colonitsts:

The Jerusalem Municipality handed on Tuesday orders to demolish 17 Palestinian homes in different parts of East Jerusalem under the pretext that they were constructed without a permit.

The orders are regarding 17 homes in Al Ashqariyya, Beit Hanina, Shu’fat, Al Esawiyya and Jabal Al Mokabbir and Silwan.

Lawyers representing the residents started the legal process in an attempt to stop or freeze the demolishing orders.

The lawyers managed to temporarily freeze some of the orders and managed to delay the demolishing of a home south of the Al Aqsa Mosque until July 10.

The new orders came amidst an ongoing Israeli campaign targeting Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem, as Israel plans to demolish dozens of homes and apartment buildings under the pretext that they were built without a construction permit.

The Jerusalem municipality largely refrains from granting the Palestinians in Jerusalem construction permits in an attempt to force them out of the city while the Israeli government is ongoing with its illegal settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the Arab areas around it.

to get a sense of the political game being played here read jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler’s article in ips:

Netanyahu dug in his heels, although he tried to couch the impending set-to in a mild manner. No new settlements would be built, he told his cabinet colleagues, but settlement expansion should go on, for all the U.S. objections: “Not to address the question of natural growth is simply not fair,” the Prime Minister said.

A close Netanyahu political ally, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, added: “There is one thing to which we just cannot agree – that the government agenda will look like a witch-hunt against the settlers and the drying up of the settlements.”

And, Defence Minister Ehud Barak lined up behind Netanyahu: “It’s not conceivable that anyone seriously intends that a family with two children who have bought a small apartment will be told that an order has come from the U.S. that they may not add two extra rooms when the family grows – that’s illogical,” Barak said.

The Israeli position is most unlikely to satisfy the U.S. Netanyahu seems fully aware that this could be just the beginning of a major row with Washington. He thus appears to be preparing to parry the comprehensive U.S. ‘no’ on settlements by backing the intention of the Israeli defence establishment finally to move on so-called “illegal settlements” (small outposts that were established on the fringes of government-approved settlements in order to expand Israeli control over Palestinian territory).

The day Netanyahu came back, the army pulled down one such wildcat settlement, but within hours the settlers had rebuilt the outpost. Now, though, the Defence Ministry confirms that a comprehensive plan is being drawn up to dismantle 23 mini-settlements created since 2001 without government approval.

Israeli Public Radio quoted sources in the Prime Minister’s office as confirming that Netanyahu would “stand firm behind” Defence Minister Ehud Barak if he concludes that a showdown with the “illegal” settlers is required. This, even at the risk of an improbable showdown with his own nationalist coalition: “We are first and foremost obliged to respect the law,” Netanyahu insisted at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Obama urged the ending of settlement building in order to lay the ground for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said there is no point in meeting Netanyahu unless he stops settlement construction and agrees to open talks on Palestinian independence.

Over the years, successive Israeli governments have sanctioned 121 settlements, with the settlers themselves putting up an additional 100 or so small outposts since the early 1990s. The overall settler population is around 280,000.

the zionist entity’s destruction of palestinian homes as a form of ethnic cleansing and it’s fake destruction of zionist colonies (which you can see in bold above are temporary). meanwhile, the hasbara propaganda machine is already at work to get obama and clinton to submit to its colonial expansionist regime. i have no doubt they will succeed.

Israel is planning to offer dismantling 26 illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in exchange for American approval that Israel keeps all of its settlements and expands the existing settlement blocs though all settlements are illegal under the international law.

Israeli officials stated that Israel would dismantle 26 illegal settlement outposts within a number of weeks in exchange for allowing Israel to expand its settlements under the pretext of natural growth.

The new so-called Israeli offer was reached during a Monday night meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Prime Minster, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Ynet News reported that Israel sent on Tuesday a delegation to London in order to hold a meeting with US officials in order to coordinate Ehud Barak’s visit to Washington.

The delegation includes representatives of the offices of Barak and Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak is scheduled to hold a meeting in Washington with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and the National Security Advisor, James Jones.

On his side, Barak claims that removing the 26 illegal outposts is a “gesture of good will” towards the Palestinians.

Removing the already illegal outposts comes at a price of US acceptance to be flexible in its demand regarding Israel’s freezing of settlement construction and expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It is worth mentioning that the former US president, George W. Bush, recognized Israel’s illegal settlement blocs in a letter he sent to the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

On his side, Benjamin Netanyahu intends to remove some outposts in an attempt to focus the talks with the US on the Iranian issue instead of settlements.

Talks on removing illegal outposts should not be a condition to getting something in return, as such outposts are not only illegal under the international law, but also under Israeli law.

As for settlements and settlements blocs built in the occupied territories, dismantling them should be unconditional; even if Israel considers them legitimate, they are still illegitimate under the international law and the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and constitute a war crime.

It is worth mentioning that Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions clearly states that an occupying power cannot move part of its civilian population into territories it occupies.

so palestinians seem to be working on a new strategy, or at least a very small minority are. kamahl santamaria’s “inside story” the other night on al jazeera featured a discussion about zionist colonies and in the first few minutes of this you can see a report by sherine tadros in which she shoes you some palestinian families living in the illegal zionist colony of pisgat ze’ev in al quds. the discussion that follows addresses the issue of zionist colonialism on palestinian land, though as usual al jazeera pits two zionist colonitst terrorists against one palestinian (jad ishaq, danny seidmann, shmuel berkovich):

in the episode santamaria begins by saying: “Settlements, neighborhoods, suburbs, call them what you will.” well, i call them colonies. because zionism is a colonial ideology and they are a foreign presence here on palestinian land. there is no way around it. but unfortunately the world continues to think of these colonies on “occupied” land in the west bank or al quds as the only occupied colonies when the entire land of palestine is occupied and filled with such colonies. for instance, look at what zionist terrorist colonists did in naqab this week to palestinian olive trees:

The so-called Israel’s Land Authority uprooted on Monday nearly 250 olive trees and several fig trees and grapevines south of Shqeib Al Salaam Arab village in the Negev.

The authorities them loaded the uprooted trees onto trucks and took them away.

The new violation is one of numerous ongoing violations carried out by Israel against the “unrecognized” Arab villages in the Negev. The violations harm the very existence of Arabs in the region as Israel repeatedly demolished their homes and displaced the villagers.

The Regional Council of the Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev demanded Israel to recognize the ownership rights of Arabs in the Negev and to recognize the Arab villages there.

Ibrahim Al Waqeely, head of the Regional Council of the Unrecognized Arab villages, told the Arabs48 news website that instead of preserving the greenery, Israel is uprooting trees and terrifying the Arabs to force them out.

He added that Israel is ongoing with its illegal conducts against the Arabs in the Negev while at the same time it is ongoing with constructing malls and Jewish only areas in the area.

Al Waqeely added that the residents will replant their olives “exactly as they rebuild their homes which Israel demolishes”.

He also said that the Arabs inhibited the Negev way before Israel occupied Palestine and declared its independence.

and here is what palestinians have to endure because of zionist terrorist colonists on their land, in their midst:

Local sources reported on Monday at evening that a group of armed extremist settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds east of Yatta town, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

The settlers came from Bait Yatir and Maon illegal outposts, installed on privately owned Palestinian lands, east of Yatta.

Some of the attacked shepherds were identified as Ismail Abu Qbeita, Issa Makhamra, Ibrahim Ali Awad, Ali Mohammad Makhamra, and Mohammad Abu Qbeita.

Resident Mohammad Abu Qbeita stated that nearly twenty armed settlers attacked the shepherds with batons forcing them out of the grazing land, and inflicting wounds on them, especially in their legs.

The Israeli army did not attempt to intervene.

and this is true when palestinian women are subjected to terrorism at the hands of zionist colonists:

A Palestinian woman sustained moderate wounds on Tuesday afternoon after she was attacked by an Israeli settler in northern West Bank.

Hiba abed Al Hak, 21, was going from her city Salfit to Ramallah through Nablus city. She was stopped at Za’tara military checkpoint near Nablus, while waiting at the checkpoint she was attacked and beaten up by the settler, local sources reported.

Medical sources reported that Al Hak was moved to hospital for treatment, medics said that she was attacked while soldiers at the checkpoint were watching.

Resident they have been attacked by settlers at that military checkpoint for the past two days.

still other palestinians find themselves prisoners in their own homes such as the khatib family in al quds because of the pisgat ze’ev illegal colony on palestinian land reported in the above al jazeera piece:

The Israeli construction of the Annexation Wall on the Khatib family land has rendered 24 members of the family on the Israeli side of the Wall, where they are being kept under house arrest. No members of the family have committed any crime, but the Israeli military keeps them under house arrest because the Israeli military constructed the Wall with the family on the Israeli side.

The family’s home and land have been annexed into the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement, and the family has thus been unwillingly “turned into settlers”. To visit the rest of their relatives and friends in their village of Hizma, they are forced to travel to an Israeli checkpoint border crossing. Their friends and relatives who have been rendered on the Palestinian side of the Wall have an extremely difficult time obtaining the permits and permission necessary to cross to visit the Khatib family stuck in Pisgat Ze’ev.

A recent exposé by the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahranoth documented the family’s situation, including interviews with family members. Kifach Khatib, the mother of the family, told Yedioth Ahranoth, “The fact that we have been turned into settlers does not mean that we gave up on our way of life. We continue to raise chickens and sheep for a living.”

But even the simple family farming lifestyle of the Khatib family has been rendered impossible by the Israeli settlers who now surround the family’s home and land. According to Kifach Khatib, the family has faced harassment and theft of animals by the Israeli settlers. The family has had to move their sheep and chickens, which are their main source of income, across the Wall to the Palestinian side, where they are depending on the goodwill of their former neighbors to care for their animals. She added, “A month ago settlers stole my best goat, and from time to time we have to cross over to the other side of the fence to feed our animals. Our Palestinian neighbors cannot raise the animals themselves – I don’t know what to do.”

The Israeli District Coordination Office, which is the main interface between the Israeli military and the occupied Palestinian population in the West Bank, told Yedioth Ahranoth that they are familiar with the Khatib family’s situation, and have issued the family permits to cross the Wall to the Palestinian side, which the Office says will allow the family to maintain a normal life.

Members of the Khatib family, which includes two disabled girls suffering from a neurological condition, say that living under house arrest under the continuous threat of harassment by Israeli settlers, is far from a normal life.

moreover because of these colonies the ground water supply is being contaminated by zionist colonists abusing palestinian land as reported in electronic intifada:

Israeli army bases in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel are contaminating land and water sources, says a letter addressed to Major General Gadi Shamni, commander-in-chief of the central command in Israel.

According to the 12 May letter signed by Issac Ben David, deputy director at the Ministry of the Environment, and seen by IRIN, five bases in the OPT are a major source of contamination due to poor handling of diesel fuel and oil.

The bases in question are Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem; Ramallah (West Bank); another is near Hebron (West Bank); and two are Israeli army fuel stations near Macabim and Halamish.

Ben David’s letter said: “In a recent inspection conducted by the ministry inspectors of [Israeli army] bases in [the OPT] we discovered a bleak picture of neglect and severe damage to the environment due to leakage of fuel and oil. This severely damages the soil and ground water.”

all of this destruction and audacity will continue, i suspect, regardless of anything the u.s. administration says or does as Omar Yousef Shehabi explains in electronic intifada:

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared for his first meeting with US President Barack Obama earlier this week, preliminary construction began on the Maskiot settlement in the Jordan Valley, which forms the Eastern Bantu of the occupied West Bank. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, it will be Israel’s first new settlement in the northern West Bank in 27 years.

More accurately, Maskiot was established as an army brigade encampment in 1982, abandoned in the late 1990s, reconstituted as a army preparatory school in 2005, and promised to former residents of an “illegal” Gaza settlement, Shirat Hayam, in 2006. That plan to settle 30 families roughly 15 kilometers east of the Green Line — the internationally-recognized boundary between Israel and the West Bank — was abandoned under American pressure in 2007 and resurrected in the final months of the moribund Bush presidency. Obviously, neither the roughly 50,000 Palestinians of the Jordan Valley nor their listless leaders in Ramallah play any role in this kabuki dance between the Israeli and American governments.

The Obama administration will halt construction of Maskiot once more, likely in exchange for its acquiescence to the further (and nearly complete) Judaization of Jerusalem. Specifically, Netanyahu wants to complete partition of the Palestinian West Bank into northern and southern Bantus by completing development of the “East 1” or E1 area between Jerusalem and the mega-settlement of Maale Adumim. Israel first authorized development in this area in March 1997, during Netanyahu’s first premiership. It opened a massive new police headquarters for the West Bank in E1 this month, intends to build 3,500 housing units for settlers in this area of less than five square miles, and has spent more than NIS 120 million ($30 million) on a segregated road that will connect E1 to Jerusalem for Jews, and shuttle Palestinian Arabs between their northern and southern Bantus without desecrating the holy city with their presence.

Let us remember that Netanyahu orchestrated a similar provocation early in his first premiership to advance his geopolitical agenda. On 24 September 1996, towards the end of protracted negotiations over the Hebron Agreement, Netanyahu ordered that a gate to the Western Wall tunnel be opened along the Via Dolorosa, blasted through the grounds of the Umariya elementary school (incidentally, my father’s primary school). As a result, tourists who once had to retrace their steps to exit the tunnel now exit onto the Via Dolorosa and are escorted by armed Israeli soldiers through the Old City’s Muslim quarter (think of it as a quotidian version of the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations that flaunt Israeli “liberation and reunification” of the city by parading through Arab Jerusalem and dancing atop the ruins of the Moroccan quarter in the Western Wall plaza).

day of global action for troy davis (meanwhile the real criminals get away with mass murder)

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

below is an email i received from my friend jen marlowe on the international day of global action for troy davis:

Dear friends,

Troy Davis is a death row prisoner in Georgia, facing execution for a crime he very possibly didn’t commit. Two weeks ago, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal for a new trial. His stay of execution ends May 15th.

I’ve been corresponding with Troy Davis for about a year and a half, and, through my interest in his case, have begun to grow more concerned about the death penalty in general.

I’m sending you a piece I wrote about Troy specifically and the death penalty generally. The article ran yesterday in CommonDreams.org. As always, I welcome your comments!

The link to the article is:
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/05/10-6

And–I want to point out that May 19th is a day of global action for Troy Davis. There are solidarity events being planned in cities and towns all over the US. I hope you’ll consider taking part. More information is available at:
http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/troy-davis-finality-over-fairness/sign-up-for-the-day-of-action-for-troy-davis/page.do?id=1011672

All the best,

Jen Marlowe

in jen’s article, “the death penalty club,” to contextualize troy davis’ case, she compares the united states practices of the death penalty with other nations that violate human rights by using this barbaric practice under the guise of so-called “justice”:

The majority of the world has been moving towards abolishing the death penalty. Two thirds of all countries have abolished it in law or in practice-the most recent being Burundi. In all of Europe, Belarus is the only country that still practices capital punishment.

Even with the trend towards abolition, capital punishment remains a crucial global human rights issue, mostly due to a handful of egregious offender nations. In 2008, 2,390 prisoners were executed in twenty-five countries. 93% of those executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States and Pakistan.

There are the only two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention prohibiting the execution of children. They are Somalia and the United States. There are currently over sixty prisoners on death row in the US for crimes they committed as juveniles.

In April 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed its second Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium on Executions, calling on countries which still practice capital punishment to restrict its use and not apply it to juveniles. Ten countries–including China, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan and the US–voted against the Resolution. A similar resolution was adopted by a large majority at the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, and once again this past December. Both times the USA was part of the small minority in dissent.

I don’t know if Troy Davis ponders the fact that our global colleagues regarding capital punishment include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia. But our membership in this infamous club should give all of us much pause.

There will all always be another Troy Davis, more and more possibly innocent prisoners on the chopping block, until the United States follows the lead of two-thirds of the world and fully abolishes the death penalty.

this is one of the many reasons why the united states and other countries like china and saudi arabia should not be allowed onto the united nations human rights council as i wrote the other day.

the san francisco bay view news reports on amnesty international’s plans for the global day of action that you can take part in:

To save Troy’s life, “we’re asking everybody to come out strong on May 19th – a day marked in human rights calendars across the world as the Global Day of Action for Troy Davis,” says Amnesty Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn.

“Whether you’re holding a ‘Text TROY to 90999’ sign on a busy street or organizing your local Amnesty chapter to hold a public demonstration or vigil, we need everybody to … register your Global Day of Action for Troy Davis activity or event now,” she said. For ideas and to register your event, go to Global Day of Action for Troy Davis.

“It’s really important that we get an accurate count of how many events and activities are taking place on May 19th, so we can share this information with officials in Georgia. Our emails and phone calls have gone a long way in buying Troy some much-needed time, but now we’ve got to take our action to the streets.

“We appreciate the tens of thousands of you who have stood in Troy’s corner while heart-stopping scenes have unfolded. On three separate occasions, Troy has been scheduled for execution. And on three separate occasions, his life was saved within a short period of time, even minutes, of his scheduled execution date.

“Each time, those last minute stays came after people like you turned out by the thousands to rally in his defense. It was no coincidence. Troy’s sister and long-time Amnesty activist, Martina Correia, has acknowledged Amnesty’s powerful role in saving her brother’s life each of those times.

“Now here we are again with the clock winding down,” warned the Amnesty spokesperson. “We are serious when we say that we need everyone to support Troy Davis on May 19th by organizing their own event or awareness-raising activity.

“After all, if you had 30 days left to fight for your life, wouldn’t you want to know that you had thousands standing in your corner?”

here is an interesting animated video from amnesty international explaining the context of troy davis’ case:

and for some inspiration and why capital punishment should be abolished here are the lyrics for one of my favorite ani difranco songs, “crime for crime” (back before ani drank the obama koolaid):

everyone needs to see the prisoner
they need to make it even easier
they see me as a symbol, and not a human being
that way they can kill me
say it’s not murder, it’s a metaphor
we are killing off our own failure
and starting clean

standing in the gallows
everyone turned my way
i hear a voice ask me
if i’ve got any last words to say
and i’m looking out over the field of familiar eyes
somewhere in a woman’s arms a baby cries

i think guilt and innocence
they are a matter of degree
what might be justice to you
might not be justice to me
i went too far, i’m sorry
i guess now i’m going home
so let any amongst you cast the first stone
now we’ve got all these complicated machines
so no one person ever has to have blood on their hands
we’ve got complex organizations
and if everyone just does their job
no one person has to understand

you might be the wrong color
you might be too poor
justice isn’t something just anyone can afford
you might not pull the trigger
you might be out in the car
and you might get a lethal injection
’cause we take a metaphor that far

but it isn’t just troy davis. and it isn’t just the death penalty that should be up for discussion. troy davis’ case is important, but it should be a symbol of abolishing the death penalty more generally. and it should be a symbol of what is wrong with the so-called “criminal justice” system more generally as well. it should also force us to think about and resist the united states’ practices at guantánamo, especially in light of what jeremy scahill recently revealed about its immediate reaction force or emergency reaction force, but as scahill explains, it is known as the extreme repression force:

Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented 50 Guantánamo prisoners, including 31 still imprisoned there, has seen the IRF teams up close. “They’re goons,” he says. “They’ve played a huge role.”

While much of the “torture debate” has emphasized the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” defined by the twisted legal framework of the Office of Legal Council memos, IRF teams in effect operate at Guantánamo as an extrajudicial terror squad that has regularly brutalized prisoners outside of the interrogation room, gang beating them, forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner’s head, banging their heads on concrete floors and hog-tying them — sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end.

The IRF teams “were fully approved at the highest levels [of the Bush administration], including the Secretary of Defense and with outside consultation of the Justice Department,” says Scott Horton, one of the leading experts on U.S. Military and Constitutional law. This force “was designed to disabuse the prisoners of any idea that they would be free from physical assault while in U.S. custody,” he says. “They were trained to brutally punish prisoners in a brief period of time, and ridiculous pretexts were taken to justify” the beatings.

So notorious are these teams that a new lexicon was created and used by prisoners and guards alike to describe the beatings: IRF-ing prisoners or to be IRF-ed.

Former Guantánamo Army Chaplain James Yee, who witnessed IRFings, described “the seemingly harmless behaviors that brought it on [like] not responding when a guard spoke.” Yee said he believed that during daily cell sweeps, guards would intentionally do invasive searches of the Muslim prisoners’ “private areas” and Korans to “rile the detainees,” saying it “seemed like harassment for the sake of harassment, and the prisoners fought it. Those who did were always IRFed.”

“I’ll put it like this,” Stafford Smith says. “My clients are afraid of them.”

“Up to 15 people attempted to commit suicide at Camp Delta due to the abuses of the IRF officials,” according to the Spanish investigation. Combined with other documentation, including prisoner testimony and legal memos, the IRF teams appear to be one of the most significant forces in the abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo, worthy of an investigation by U.S. prosecutors in and of themselves.

the above is just an excerpt, but i strongly recommend reading the entirety of scahill’s investigative report. jonathan cook has an important piece this week on the zionist entity’s guantánamo known as facility 1391:

The United Nation’s watchdog on torture has criticised Israel for refusing to allow inspections at a secret prison, dubbed by critics as “Israel’s Guantanamo Bay”, and demanded to know if more such clandestine detention camps are operating.

In a report published on Friday, the Committee Against Torture requested that Israel identify the location of the camp, officially referred to as “Facility 1391”, and allow access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Findings from Israeli human rights groups show that the prison has in the past been used to hold Arab and Muslim prisoners, including Palestinians, and that routine torture and physical abuse were carried out by interrogators.

The UN committee’s panel of 10 independent experts also found credible the submissions from Israeli groups that Palestinian detainees are systematically tortured despite the banning of such practices by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999.

The existence of Facility 1391 came to light in 2002, when Palestinians were detained there for the first time during Israel’s reinvasion of the West Bank.

In a submission to the UN committee, Israel denied that any prisoners are currently being held at the site, although it admits that several Lebanese were detained there during the attack on Lebanon in 2006.

The committee expressed concern about an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that found it “reasonable” for the state not to investigate suspicions of torture at the prison. The panel is believed to be concerned that without inspections the prison might still be in use or could be revived at short notice.

The Israeli court, the committee wrote, “should ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment by detainees in Facility 1391 be impartially investigated [and] the results made public”.

Hamoked, an Israeli human rights organisation, first identified the prison after two Palestinian cousins seized in Nablus in 2002 could not be traced by their families. Israeli officials eventually admitted that the pair were being held at a secret site.

Israel still refuses to identify the precise location of the prison, which is inside Israel and about 100km north of Jerusalem. A few buildings are visible, but most of the prison is built underground.

“We only learnt about the prison because the army made the mistake of putting Palestinians there when they ran out of room in Israel’s main prisons,” said Dalia Kerstein, the director of Hamoked.

“The real purpose of the camp is to interrogate prisoners from the Arab and Muslim world, who would be difficult to trace because their families are unlikely to contact Israeli organisations for help.”

Ms Kerstein said the prison site was an even grosser violation of international law than Guantanamo Bay because it had never been inspected and no one knew what took place there.

According to the testimonies of the Palestinian cousins, Mohammed and Bashar Jadallah, they were held in isolation cells measuring two metres square, with black walls, no windows and a light bulb on 24 hours a day. On the rare occasions they were escorted outside, they had to wear blacked-out goggles.

When Bashar Jadallah, 50, asked where he was, he was told he was “on the moon”.

According to the testimony of Mohammed Jadallah, 23, he was repeatedly beaten, his shackles tightened, he was tied in painful positions to a chair, he was not allowed to go to the toilet and he was prevented from sleeping, with water thrown on him if he nodded off. Interrogators are also reported to have shown him pictures of family members and threatened to harm them.

Although Palestinians passing through the prison were interrogated by the domestic secret police, the Shin Bet, foreign nationals at the prison fall under the responsibility of a special wing of military intelligence known as Unit 504, whose interrogation methods are believed to be much harsher.

Shortly after the prison came to light, a former inmate – Mustafa Dirani, a leader of the Lebanese Shia group Amal – launched a court case in Israel claiming he had been raped by a guard.

Mr Dirani, seized from Lebanon in 1994, was held in Facility 1391 for eight years along with a Hizbollah leader, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid. Israel hoped to extract information from the pair in its search for a missing airman, Ron Arad, downed over Lebanon in 1986.

Mr Dirani alleged in court that he had been physically abused by a senior army interrogator known as “Major George”, including an incident when he was sodomised with a baton.

The case was dropped in early 2004 when Mr Dirani was released in a prisoner exchange.

Ms Kerstein said there was no proof that more prisons existed in Israel like Facility 1391, but some of the testimonies collected from former inmates suggested that they had been held at different secret locations.

She said the concern was that Israel might have been one of the countries that received “extraordinary rendition” flights, in which prisoners captured by the United States were smuggled to other countries for torture.

“If a democracy allows one of these prisons, who is to say that there are not more?” she said.

The committee examined other suspicions of torture involving Israel. It expressed particular concern about Israel’s failure to investigate more than 600 complaints made by detainees against the Shin Bet since the panel’s last hearings, in 2001.

It also highlighted the pressure put on Gazans who needed to enter Israel for medical treatment to turn informer.

Ishai Menuchin, executive director of Israel’s Public Committee against Torture, said his group had sent several submissions to the committee showing that torture was systematically used against detainees.

“After the court decision in 1999, interrogators simply learnt to be more creative in their techniques,” he said.

He added that, since Israel’s redefinition of Gaza as an “enemy state”, some Palestinians seized there were being held as “illegal combatants” rather than “security detainees”.

“In those circumstances, they might qualify for incarceration in secret prisons like Facility 1391.”

i find it so ironic that those who deserve justice–the political prisoners in any number of zionist jails or american jails or guantánamo–are ignored, are rendered invisible meanwhile those whose crimes were committed right out in the open continue to go unpunished. daniel machover and adri nieuwhof’s recent article in electronic intifada detils just why these war criminals form the zionist entity must be prosecuted, particularly for their crimes in the world’s largest open air prison, otherwise known as gaza:

As High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, EU countries are obligated to bring the legal duties of the Fourth Geneva Convention into their law. The basic starting point is enacting any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing or ordering any of the grave breaches of the convention (i.e., war crimes). The following grave breaches mentioned in the convention seem relevant to the assault on Gaza:

“[W]illful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention.”

EU countries also have the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed or to have ordered such grave breaches, and must bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts (or extradite them to another country that is prepared to prosecute).

The authoritative commentary on the Fourth Geneva Convention, published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), states that:

“As soon as a contracting party realizes that there is on its territory a person who has committed … a [grave] breach, its duty is to ensure that the person concerned is arrested and prosecuted with all speed. The necessary police action should be taken spontaneously, therefore, not merely in pursuance of a request from another State.”

The ICRC commentary confirms that EU countries have an obligation to actively search for suspected war criminals. It follows that this duty should include maintaining border controls that enable a state to ensure that known suspects seeking to enter the jurisdiction are arrested on arrival. Many studies by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Redress Trust, have looked at the compliance of states with their legislative obligations under the Geneva conventions and these reveal some shocking failures by major EU countries. Austria, France, Greece and Italy have simply done nothing to make it possible for suspected war criminals to be prosecuted in their countries under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Meanwhile, full compliance with the principle of universal jurisdiction has not been achieved in several countries and in Malta and Latvia the situation is not fully clear and requires further research. For example, in Belgium the requirements to exercise universal jurisdiction do not comply with the Geneva conventions, because they contain a series of complex rules regarding the status of the suspect and the victim, none of which are permitted in the conventions.

The mere presence of a suspected war criminal of whatever nationality on the territory of a state should be enough to trigger universal criminal jurisdiction, regardless of the nationality or current whereabouts of the victim. Moreover, with the EU’s obsession about the safety of borders and preventing undesirable people from entering the free market area, one would have thought that the member states would coordinate to ensure European countries never become safe havens for suspected war criminals.

Palestinian victims of alleged war crimes, just like other victims of war crimes, seek justice and the fair application of the rule of international criminal law to their cases. On 4 May, Judge Fernando Andreu of the Spanish National Court announced the decision to continue the investigation into the July 2002 bombing of al-Daraj, Gaza. This attack resulted in the deaths of 16 Palestinians, including 14 civilians. The decision represents a major step towards achieving justice for the victims. It opens the door for accountability, whereby suspected Israeli war criminals may be held responsible for the suffering they have inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza.

Fair criminal trials in EU member states, especially if they result in convictions, could provide genuine deterrence and begin to provide justice for Palestinian victims of Israeli actions. The EU has a massive role in that regard. Instead of paying lip service to injustices inflicted upon the Palestinian people by issuing statements “deploring the loss of life” and promises to “follow closely investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law,” EU countries would achieve much more by applying the rule of law to Israel, starting with making their laws match their obligations under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. After all, 60 years later there is little sign that the need for war crimes trials has reduced.

hasan abu nimah recently had a two-part article in electronic intifada, the first of which is called “ban ki moon’s moral failure” and the second of which is called “covering up israel’s gaza crimes with the un’s help” shows us how the real criminals–those committing state terrorism–are getting away with mass murder, massacres:

But the reality is that Ban has learned all the “right” lessons from the past. In 1996, then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali published — against American “advice” — a UN report that demolished Israeli claims that its shelling on 18 April that year of the UN peacekeeping base in Qana, Lebanon, killing 106 people, was an accident. Boutros-Ghali effectively paid with his job as the Clinton Administration vetoed his bid for a second term. In 2002, after the Israeli army destroyed much of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Security Council ordered then Secretary-General Kofi Annan to carry out an investigation. But Israel refused to allow the inquiry team into the country, and so Annan, rather than going back to the Security Council to ask for its support in carrying out his mandate, simply told the investigation team to disband and go home.

Ban is taking things even further. He apparently created the board of inquiry not in order to find out the truth, but only as a political exercise to cover himself from the charge of total inaction. But the board of inquiry members did take their mandate very seriously and honestly. By rejecting their call for accountability, Ban has in effect rejected and betrayed his own mandate to uphold the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.

And on what grounds did the secretary-general decide to publish only 27 pages? Most likely the rest of the report was not only damning to Israel, but would have exposed his decision to block further investigation as even more nakedly cynical.

It is especially puzzling since Ban himself had described the board of inquiry as “independent.” In response to allegations he had “watered down” the document, he stated: “I do not have any authority to edit or change any wording” of its “conclusion and recommendations.”

He did much more than that: he withheld 85 percent of the report! It may be true that the report is just an “internal document and is not for public release” as Ban wrote in his letter, and that the inquiry “is not a judicial body or court of law.”

as usual the real criminals who get away with torture and mass murder are the heads of state in the u.s. and the zionist entity to name the most prominent. and those who fall prey to its rules that never apply to the state itself and usually only to those who are poor and brown and muslim. and so where is the justice system here?

on nonviolence or where is the palestinian gandhi?

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, it fudges the issue of accountability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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