Sounds of Deepawali, Sounds of Gaza

Last week was Deepawali or Diwali for short. A simplified explanation of the holiday is that is a festival of lights.  But one cannot have lights without sound especially given the fact that this holiday is celebrated with firecrackers and fireworks. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have recorded the sounds, especially as I experienced them on a brief auto rickshaw trip in which the driver had to dodge children lighting various explosives in the streets. Like a lot of sounds in Bangalore, especially traffic, they are constant and quite loud. And even government officials attempted to intervene in lessening the noise pollution. I let off a few firecrackers for the first time in my life in spite of my trepidation. But the sounds of Diwali–which lasted for three days–reminded me of other places and times.

The sound of fireworks and firecrackers sound just like bombs and gunfire to me. I can’t help it. The sounds are indistinguishable for me. So as much as I enjoyed the way they look when they are lit up, in the back of my mind it conjured up less pleasant memories of Palestine and Lebanon.

It is a week later, and although I’m miles away, the sounds of Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza are the only sounds I am imagining even though I know that sound is far worse and, of course, has lethal effects. Rana Baker had the foresight to record some of those sounds  of what it is like in Gaza right now.

It seems like deja vu–as if it is 2008 again. Of course so much has changed since then, but then again so much has not, which Haidar Eid writes about lucidly, especially in light of the Arab uprisings. For those who are unaware of what happened and how it all began, Ali Abunimah has a timeline that clearly illustrates how Israel broke its truce with Gaza and began its latest escalation. You can also see Abunimah on Al Jazeera explaining this timeline to a rather ill-informed interviewer:

This new war is, in many ways, an ongoing one as anyone who monitors Palestine knows. Gaza, in particular, has been kept on a “diet,” as Sherene Seikaly points out in Jadaliyya. As before, too, the language coming from the Zionist regime spans the gamut from calling for a holocaust to “flattening” Gaza like Hiroshima. Even a local paper in Bangalore had a headline yesterday about Israel bombing Gaza back to the Middle Ages.

This time it is more difficult as I am so far away from Palestine. Although during the last war, even though I was in Nablus, I might as well have been in India given how far removed we were from the people with no ability to connect with them in any way other than phone calls and email. And the one protest I know of in India happened in Delhi today, miles away from Bangalore. But the media here, especially English language media, is focused on so many more local issues, many of which are equally disturbing and troubling. And the international media available here is anything but helpful, spewing as it does Israeli propaganda at every turn. And still my heart and my mind are occupied with Gaza hoping that the fruits of the Arab uprisings make a difference this time.

For those who wish to do something, as always, BDS is the way to go. The Boycott National Committee created a handy sheet about 5 ways you can effectively support Gaza through BDS.

Also see: the Guardian‘s interactive map on Gaza

Shahad Abusalama’s blog, which is keeping track of Palestinian casualties in Gaza

IMEMU’s fact sheet on Gaza and Israel’s policies towards Gaza

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.

when will the right lessons be learned?

surprise, surprise: obama has decided that building colonies on palestinian land in al quds is not such a problem after all:

The US has dropped a demand that Israel freeze settlement construction in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.

The newspaper Haaretz, citing Israeli officials and Western diplomats, reported that US envoy George Mitchell capitulated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal during their meeting in London on Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama and his administration have been pressuring Israel to freeze settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in order to create conditions for renewed peace negotiations. State Department officials have said in the past that their demand includes East Jerusalem.

Israeli occupied and then annexed East Jerusalem during the June 1967 war. Palestinians and the international community do not recognize the legitimacy of Israeli control in the eastern half of the city.

According to Haaretz, Netanyahu offered Mitchell a nine-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank excluding Jerusalem. In addition, Netanyahu wants to exclude 2,500 housing units on which construction has already started, and the construction of schools and other structures in the settlements.

In addition, the newspaper said, Israel is demanding that the Palestinian Authority and Arab states make their own concessions in exchange for a freeze. If these measures are not take, the report says, Israel wants guarantees that the US will not oppose an end to the freeze and further settlement construction.

clearly, obama wants to use the american colonial model for its so-called “peace process” (read: colonization process) in palestine. one of the many tactics europeans used to colonize north america was to keep making promises and treaties with tribes that were broken from the moment they were signed. meanwhile, who is building these new colonies that have not halted for a day over the last 122+ years? largely palestinians as this bbc report reveals:

“I feel like a slave,” says 21-year-old Palestinian Musanna Khalil Mohammed Rabbaye.

“But I have no alternative,” he says, as he waits among a group of sun-beaten men in dusty work boots outside the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.

The phrase comes up again and again as the labourers try to explain why they spend their days hammering and shovelling to help build the Jewish settlements eating into the land they want for a future state of Palestine.

Mr Rabbaye wants to be a journalist and is trying to fund his studies.

Jaffar Khalil Kawazba, 24, says he is supporting his 10 brothers and sisters as his father is too ill to work. Fahd Sayara, 40, is trying to fund treatment for his disabled child.

“I’m not the only one. My whole village works in the settlements,” says Mr Rabbaye.

“Everything, all the settlements – even most of the Wall – was built by Palestinians,” he says, referring to the separation barrier, detested by the Palestinian population, that Israel is building in and around the West Bank.

The settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are illegal under international law.

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to negotiate unless Israel heeds US pressure to stop all construction in the settlements.

Israel says it wants to keep building, at the very least to provide homes for the “natural growth” of the 450,000-strong Jewish settler population in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

But with about 30% of West Bank Palestinians out of work, and average earnings in the territory little more than half Israel’s minimum wage, labouring in the settlements has its appeal for Palestinians.

Some 12,000 Palestinian construction workers get Israeli permits to work in the settlements each year.

meanwhile, some palestinians are forced to demolish their own homes because if they don’t they will not only lose their home, but they will also have to pay the zionist terrorist colonists fees for demolishing their homes:

Two Palestinian families in Jerusalem’s Old City have been forced to demolish their own house after Israeli authorities threatened him with heavy fines if he did not.

One resident, Muhammad Faysal Jabir lived with his family of five in a 28 square meter house in the Aqbat Al-Khalidiyya neighborhood of the Old City. Jabir told Ma’an that the apartment used to be just 12 square meters, and that he added an extension apparently without permission from the Jerusalem Municipality.

The Israeli controlled Jerusalem Municipality frequently refuses Palestinian requests for construction permits, using this as a pretext for house demolitions. Self-demolition is often the least expensive route for Palestinians facing the destruction of their homes.

this report by jacky rowland on al jazeera shows precisely how palestinian land theft and new colony building goes on and on and on:

and here is a second such report on al jazeera on colonies in al quds by dan nolan, which contains some great map work showing you the land theft in and around al quds:

so it should not come as a surprise that netanyahu is not budging on the issue of colonized al quds:

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has said that his government is unwilling to negotiate on the status of Jerusalem as a joint Israel-Palestinian capital.

When speaking in London at a meeting with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, on Tuesday, Netanyahu also said that any peace talks with the Palestinians would have to cover the issue of a “demilitarised Palestine”, as well as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“I’ve made it clear … that Jerusalem is a sovereign capital of Israel and we accept no limitations on our sovereignty,” Netanyahu said at a news conference in the British capital.

“To put a fine point on it, Jerusalem is not a settlement.”

However, he added: “The settlement issue is outstanding. It has to be one of the issues resolved in the negotiations, alongside Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, effective demilitarisation, for any future peace agreement.”

The Palestinians want occupied East Jerusalem as their future state capital.

of course, there are still those plans that don’t put palestinians anywhere near al quds as a capital of palestine or anything else. there are many zionist terrorist colonists who still argue that jordan is palestine and wish to continue their ethnic cleansing project to push palestinians into jordan as nisreen el-shamayleh reports for al jazeera:

max blumenthal’s most recent video, which is a trailer for a new documentary film appropriately entitled “israel’s terror inside,” and it shows precisely the sort of attitudes of those stealing and colonizing palestinian land:

for those who would like to see what the future holds for al quds a good place to look might be beer saba’ where palestinians who remain on their land and who are trying to pray in their mosque there are being kept from their mosques so that the zionist terrorist colonists can open bars or “museums” (al majdal is a great example of this). jonathan cook had a great article in electronic intifada this week on the subject–here is the part where he contextualizes this issue of palestinian mosques in 1948 palestine more generally:

A report published in 2004 by the Arab Human Rights Association, based in Nazareth, identified 250 places of worship, both Islamic and Christian, that had either been destroyed or made unusable since Israel’s establishment in 1948. Nearly 200 were razed in the wake of the 1948 war, but the threat of destruction hangs over many surviving places of worship too. The century-old mosque of Sarafand, on the coast near the northern city of Haifa, was bulldozed in July 2000 after local Muslims started restoring it.

Other buildings, including mosques in Tiberias and Beit Shean, have been the target of repeated arson attacks. The famous Hasan Bek mosque in Tel Aviv is regularly vandalized and was desecrated in 2005 when a pig’s head bearing the name of the Prophet was thrown into its yard.

Two historic Galilee mosques that are still standing, at Ghabsiyya and Hittin, have been left to fall into ruin surrounded by fences and razor wire. The latter was built by Saladin in the 12th century to celebrate the defeat of the Crusaders.

In Palestinian villages now re-invented as Jewish communities, such as at Ein Hod and Caesariya, mosques have been refurbished as bars or restaurants. In at least four cases, mosques have been converted into synagogues. And Jewish farming communities sometimes use remote holy places as animal pens or warehouses.

In the case of the Beersheva mosque, the court tried to settle the dispute three years ago by urging the parties to reach a compromise. It has suggested that the building be converted into an Islamic heritage center where no prayer would take place or that it become a coexistence center.

Both sides rejected the offers.

Adalah discovered in 2004, two years after it launched its petition, that the municipality had secretly issued a tender to convert the mosque into a museum. The court ruled the renovations could go ahead but only if they were restricted to protecting the structure.

A visit last month revealed that the municipality had ignored the injunction and was close to completing the mosque’s refurbishment as a museum.

this problem could be resolved rather easily if palestinians inside 1948 could get their land and buildings back and if palestinian refugees who are from places like beer saba’ could return to their land. but that would require palestinian leaders fighting for this fundamental essential right rather than jockeying for power on the backs of palestinian refugees. haidar eid identified these key issues in a terrific electronic intifada article the other day:

Now, the stated goal, for which rivers of blood flow (and the blood is not yet dry in the streets of Gaza), has become the establishment of an “independent” Palestinian state in any dimension — the “two-state solution.” But how that would lead to the implementation of UN resolution 194, which calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees and their compensation, is a mystery in the minds of Palestinians observing the conference. How a Palestinian state would end the brutality of the apartheid system against 1.4 million indigenous Palestinians who are citizens of Israel is another disturbing question that the conveners preferred to duck.

Ignoring the paradigm shift resulting from the Gaza massacre and reiterating the long-held belief that sees accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as the only political route to a Palestinian state, is an indication of the loss of faith in the power of the Palestinian people to reclaim their land and rights. This approach is a repudiation of the undeniable, unprecedented steadfastness shown by the people of Gaza, the growing forms of popular resistance in the West Bank, and the success of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Instead, again and again, we are asked to rely on the benevolence of the US, the European Union and reactionary Arab regimes to give us a truncated state, as if Gaza 2009 did not happen.

Not a word was mentioned about the fact that Israel has rendered the establishment of an independent state on 22 percent of historic Palestine — the West Bank and Gaza Strip — impossible. Many Palestinian and international critical thinkers have already reached the conclusion that the two-state solution has come to an end, thanks to Israeli colonization in the West Bank. What, then, is Fatah’s — and the rest of the Palestinian national movement’s — alternative?

What we saw in Bethlehem is the embodiment of Frantz Fanon’s “pitfalls of national consciousness” — albeit with a Palestinian gown. The irony, of course, is that Fanon was theorizing about the future post-colonial states after independence. He wrote of neo-colonial subjugation of the native elites. Black cars, fashionable suits, bodyguards, are some of the characteristics of the rising nouveaux riches of (occupied) Palestine. Fanon wrote scornfully that “[t]he national middle class which takes over power at the end of the colonial regime is an underdeveloped middle class. It has practically no economic power, and in any case it is in no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of the mother country which it hopes to replace” (emphasis added).

But are we, in Palestine, close to the end of the colonial regime? Here is the crucial difference between the national bourgeoisie of, say Algeria or South Africa, and our own. Ours have fetishized statehood before attaining independence, a game — unsurprisingly — encouraged by the US, Israel and even the official Arab regimes. What is independence at the end of the day? A national anthem, flag, ministries, premierships and presidencies? We already have them.

For Fanon, the cycle of delusion, ostracism and dependency goes on unabated after independence. But we are yet to get there!

desmond tutu who has been in palestine this week with an organization called the elders (which, unfortunately, seems to foster normalization), made it clear that the zionist terrorist colonists surmise the wrong lesson from their history and also acknowledges the necessity of bds:

“The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns,” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Haaretz Thursday.

Commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in Germany Thursday that the lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel should always defend itself, Tutu noted that “in South Africa, they tried to get security from the barrel of a gun. They never got it. They got security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected.”

The Nobel Prize laureate spoke to Haaretz in Jerusalem as the organization The Elders concluded its tour of Israel and the West Bank. He said the West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, “as it should be.”

“But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.”

He also slammed Jewish organizations in the United States, saying they intimidate anyone who criticizes the occupation and rush to accuse these critics of anti-Semitism. Tutu recalled how such organizations pressured U.S. universities to cancel his appearances on their campuses.

“That is unfortunate, because my own positions are actually derived from the Torah. You know God created you in God’s image. And we have a God who is always biased in favor of the oppressed.”

Tutu also commented on the call by Ben-Gurion University professor Neve Gordon to apply selective sanctions on Israel.

“I always say to people that sanctions were important in the South African case for several reasons. We had a sports boycott, and since we are a sports-mad country, it hit ordinary people. It was one of the most psychologically powerful instruments.

“Secondly, it actually did hit the pocket of the South African government. I mean, when we had the arms embargo and the economic boycott.”

He said that when F.W. de Klerk became president he telephoned congratulations. “The very first thing he said to me was ‘well now will you call off sanctions?’ Although they kept saying, oh well, these things don’t affect us at all. That was not true.

“And another important reason was that it gave hope to our people that the world cared. You know. That this was a form of identification.”

personally, however, i’d like to see a real resistance campaign to accompany bds that can be effective and creative as the never before campaign always inspires in me. here is their latest video:

spring comes to falasteen: hiking from beit rima to kufr ‘ain

view of ramallah's manara square at 6 am
view of ramallah's manara square at 6 am

in 30 minutes, if i go by palestinian time, i will be 40 years old (probably before i finish writing this). if i go by my home town of los angeles i’ve still got about 10 hours left. in any case i suppose it is a milestone. i’m not really one to celebrate my birthday. but it does seem strange to turn 40 especially when i don’t look like i’m 40 (and often still get carded in the u.s.) and when i don’t feel like i’m 40. though today i remembered one of the ways that one knows one is getting older: you think your body can do the same things it did when you were 20 or even 30 and it just doesn’t quite work the same. you’ll see what i mean below as i explain. i went down to ramallah last night and friends took me out to dinner at darna and i had all kinds of kibbe and other yummy food, including a lovely chocolate birthday cake. i had asked an old friend of mine in ramallah if he would do something with me for my birthday (not the cake and dinner actually): i wanted him to get up at 5:30 in the morning with me to go on a hike. anyone who knows this friend (hint, hint laila) knows that it is a huge sacrifice for him to do this (he is like me, normally up until 3 or 4 am working, often falling asleep on the couch after/while working. we had been talking about doing this for a while.

in beit rima
in beit rima

raja shahedeh, the writer and lawyer who founded al haq, wrote a book a couple of years ago called palestinian walks. since writing this book–or actually before it–he started taking groups on these “walks” (having been on one now i think the name should be changed to palestinian hikes. since he is based in ramallah they seem to do these hikes around this area so they meet on friday mornings at 6:30 am in the center of ramallah. he doesn’t always come, and he did not come today, but many of his friends were there guiding us who, like shehedeh, have been hiking in these hills for at least 25 years. here is shehedeh sharing some photographs and narrating his love of hiking in palestine:

and here is an interesting report from jacky rowland on al jazeera from a couple of years ago when the book came out. she went on one of these walks with him and they encountered israeli terrorists along the way (something that happens frequently, though we did not encounter them today):

i was especially happy that we chose today to go on the hike because my birthday happens to be on the first day of spring and we have already seen a number of signs of spring in the lovely wildflowers all over palestine. but of course i knew that on foot we would see so many more varieties. after meeting up with the rest of the group in manara square we got into two services and drove for about 20 minutes to beit rima where we would begin our journey. (last night sami told me that this village is a very famous village for its communism, something one could happily glean from the graffiti on the walls.) like most of palestine the hike meant moving down into the valley and then circling around and climbing up to the top again to reach kufr ‘ain.

the hiking begins!
the hiking begins!

i had imagined that some of it would be a bit treacherous because of the rocky terrain. but little did i know how challenging some of this would be. initially it was a lovely stroll and all of us constantly stopping to take photographs of the beautiful flowers and herbs along the hillside. hanan ashrawi’s husband, emile, was on this trip with us and he is a professional photographer so he was cataloging everything. the olive trees were also amazing, of course, on so many levels as you can see from some of the shots here. one of my students is writing her research paper on the symbolism of the olive tree in palestine and something so simple struck me today as i saw some of these ancient, sturdy trees clinging to the land: one of the reasons they are such an important symbol is because they embody the steadfastness of the palestinian people. no matter what these trees are here to stay. the israeli terrorists can continue to uproot them, but palestinians will replant them again and again. and in the end the olive trees will outlive these colonists just as they outlived the british and the ottomans.

a view of the valley
a view of the valley

because of all the picture taking at some point our group broke into two. but our group didn’t realize it because we had a couple of the group leaders in our group. and we actually thought that we were in the middle and that part of the group was behind us. we had to catch up with them which is when the real hiking and climbing began. a lot of the time when hiking in these hills you can manage, most of the time, by doing so in an s-shape so that you follow the slope and you don’t have to climb. but because we were rushing now to catch up, we had to cut across the landscape in a way that meant we had to do some climbing. and i mean some really steep climbing. (this is when i knew my body was not quite the same any more in terms of being able to just jump or reach and climb easily with all my joints cooperating.) all of these hills are terraced with stones, as you can see in the shots showing a view. this is how palestinians have kept their olive groves for centuries. but i have a new found respect for the difficulty of doing such work now. especially since some of those terraced stones helped us climb up some very steep hills.

samidoun zeitoun
samidoun zeitoun

it took us a while to find the rest of the group. we actually had to do some extra climbing up to another mountain top to try to see the rest of the group and also to see if our voices would echo across the valley so we could find them that way. we finally found them and they had built a fire and laid out a lovely picnic spread and served tea. (the teapot was amazing–all charred and black as it has obviously been used on these hikes quite a bit.) after a rest we continued our hike. it seemed like the more we hiked the more beautiful wildflowers we discovered. and, of course, lots of za’tar and marimiyya dotted the landscape. most of us picked some to bring home to eat and drink.

flowers blossoming in an olive tree
flowers blossoming in an olive tree

the rest of the hike was not quite as treacherous as the first part–even the climb into kufr ‘ain was not too bad, not too steep. when we arrived we walked to the center of town where families were out working in their fields and on their land, where children were playing, and we caught services back into ramallah. the weather was so perfect today–not quite warm, but just right for hiking. really a beautiful day. i saw the best that spring has to offer. and despite our exhaustion (i forgot to mention that we were up until 2 am last night and woke up at 5:30 am this morning) we had an amazing time.

when hiking turns to climbing (straight up from below)
when hiking turns to climbing (straight up from below)

so now it is midnight. if i count by a palestinian clock i am 40. i did not get to celebrate my birthday with all my friends thursday night and today. mostly because even in the west bank travel is too difficult so everyone stays in their own bantustans (i actually found out that one of my students has never been to or through huwara checkpoint in her twenty years of life in nablus). if i had had birthday candles on my cake last night instead of one of those sparkler things i would have wished what i always wish for: haq al awda. for the right of return of palestinian refugees and for the liberation of their land 100%. part of this wish, i must confess, i selfish, however. i want to be able to be here in palestine with all my friends, with all the people i love from lebanon and palestine in the same room. that would be a beautiful birthday beyond my wildest dreams. to that end i have asked that if people want to give me anything for my 40th birthday i would love it if they would make a donation to the middle east children’s alliance to continue its work in refugee camps and also for the rebuilding the islamic university of gaza. to donate, please click on this link. their work to fight for the rights of refugees is unparalleled and their work is based on complete solidarity with the people; unlike most such organizations they do not treat palestinians as if they are some charity case whom the white man needs to save.

break for tea
break for tea

but today is not just my birthday. it is mother’s day in the arab world. it is also norooz in iran. it is also the anniversary of the american invasion of iraq. and it is also the anniversary of the sharpeville massacre in apartheid south africa:

But whatever doubts there may be of the sequence of events in those fateful minutes, there can be no argument over the devastating consequences of the action of the police on March 21, 1960, in Sharpeville. Sixty-nine people were killed, including eight women and ten children, and of the 180 people who were wounded, thirty-one were women and nineteen were children. According to the evidence of medical practitioners it is clear that the police continued firing after the people began to flee: for, while thirty shots had entered the wounded or killed from the front of their bodies no less than 155 bullets had entered the bodies of the injured and killed from their backs. All this happened in forty seconds, during which time 705 rounds were fired from revolvers and sten guns. But whatever weapons were used the massacre was horrible. Visiting the wounded the next day in Baragwanath Hospital near Johannesburg, I discovered youngsters, women and elderly men among the injured. These could not be described as agitators by any stretch of the imagination. For the most part they were ordinary citizens who had merely gone to the Sharpeville police station to see what was going on. Talking with the wounded I found that everyone was stunned and mystified by what had taken place. They had certainly not expected that anything like this would happen. All agreed that there was no provocation for such savage action by the police. Indeed, they insisted that the political organisers who had called for the demonstration had constantly insisted that there should be no violence or fighting.

haidar eid reminds us that this massacre, however, was a significant turning point to end apartheid and he connects this with the savagery in gaza, which he sees as a turning point as well (i have quoted this before a few times, click the link to see the connections between the two):

The horror of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa was challenged with a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated in 1958 and given new urgency in 1960 after the Sharpeville Massacre. This campaign led ultimately to the collapse of white rule in 1994 and the establishment of a multi-racial, democratic state.

an old palestinian home in the hills close to kufr 'ain
an old palestinian home in the hills close to kufr 3ain

one can only hope that the end is near of the zionist entity. i just hope it is not another 30 years as it was from sharpeville to the end of apartheid. because of this anniversary it seems that my birthday is also something else that is pretty cool as outlined in this email i received from badil today:

March 21 was selected as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination because it is the day in 1960 when police forces killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass law” system in Sharpeville, South Africa.

Today an equal if not more extensive pass law system dominates the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It is briefly described in a February 2009 UN report, which attests to the existence of 626 checkpoints and obstacles to movement throughout the West Bank. Israel additionally disregards the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice calling for the dismantlement of Israel’s illegal wall, which snakes over 700 kilometers through the West Bank, stealing its natural resources and dividing Palestinian communities from one another.

Indeed, Israel’s system of racial discrimination is fundamental to the regime it has imposed on the Palestinian people. It denies the return of over seven million Palestinian refugees to the homes and lands from which they were expelled over the past sixty years despite the fact that return is a right enshrined in international law and affirmed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948) and UN Security Council Resolution 237 (1967). Meanwhile, Israel grants full citizenship to any Jewish individual through its discriminatory ‘Law of Return.’ This same regime relegates Palestinian citizens of Israel to an inferior status as the ‘non Jewish’ citizens of ‘the Jewish state.’ The effects of this discrimination include ongoing forced displacement, land confiscation, and denial of essential services such as health and education.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racial discrimination, Mr. Githu Muigai recently noted that “History speaks for itself. Genocide, ethnic cleansing and other war crimes have been traditionally linked to the emergence of exclusionary ideologies based on race or ethnicity.” Zionism, the movement to create and maintain a
Jewish state on the land of Palestine, is such an ideology, systematically relegating non-Jewish Palestinians to an inferior status.

The recent brutality inflicted upon the Gaza Strip resulting in over 1,400 deaths, 5,000 injuries and 14,000 homes damaged and destroyed, is the latest manifestation of the contempt with which Palestinian life is regarded by Israel.

Perhaps more important than recollecting the extensive evidence incriminating Israel’s discrimination and its disastrous affects on the Palestinians is to shed light on the popular mobilizations fighting to counter it.

Governmental inaction towards Israel’s crimes is increasingly being met with a determined and growing popular campaign to build an international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, based upon a 2005 call by broad sectors of Palestinian civil society. Consciously using the tools of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, this
campaign seeks to make important advances at the Israel Review Conference being organized by the BDS National Committee, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on 18-19 April, two days before the launching of the UN Durban Review Conference (See: http://israelreview.bdsmovement.net).

Now is the time for people of conscience to join arms through the struggle of BDS to ensure Israel is held accountable for its violation of Palestinian human rights. This is part of the tradition of the Montgomery Bus Boycott for civil rights in the U.S south, and the dock workers of Denmark and the U.K, who refused to handle South African cargo as an act of protest against Apartheid. From these previous people’s victories we gain inspiration knowing that no serious effort to
eliminate racial discrimination can take place on a global scale without progress on this front.

me at 40
me at 40

so i feel no different at 40 than 39, not that i thought i would. but as with every year of my life i feel more committed to a liberated palestine as my sole desire. i want the beauty of this land that i walked on today to be enjoyed, inhabited by the people i love in the camps in lebanon. i want all these colonies to go away, to be dismantled, including those we had to drive by on our way home (see below–including the last one, which is an “outpost,” meaning a new and growing colony for israeli terrorists). i want this land to be theirs again. from the river to the sea.

chickens in kufr 'ain
chickens in kufr 'ain
israeli terrorist colony near kufr 'ain
israeli terrorist colony near kufr 'ain
israeli terrorist "outpost" settlement on the way to bir zeit

racism, apartheid, and osloization

i’m preparing lecture notes for next week’s lecture notes for my postcolonial literature class. i’m teaching mbulelo vizikhungo mzamane’s novel the children of soweto. the novel is a moving portrait of the soweto uprising in 1976 that was led entirely by the youth. the youth were opposed to the enforcement of afrikaans as the language of instruction in south african schools. the thing that is interesting about the novel is that mzamane is one of the student leaders from that resistance movement so it is autobiographical and an historical chronicle of the events as they unfolded. it would be like of one of the youth leaders of the first intifada wrote a novel about it. because the soweto uprising was very similar to the first intifada–stone throwers against tanks and all. here is how he describes one of those instances:

Sizwe was two years older than Nomsa. He and Sandile went to school in the township. During the day they had been involved in a demonstration, together with children from other primary and secondary schools in the township. They marched through the streets, singing old liberation songs and others they had composed themselves, to protest against the enforcement of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in certain subjects throughout African schools. The students planned to converge at the township’s largest soccer stadium to voice their opposition to the scheme.

The police met them in the streets, before they could reach the stadium, and asked them through loudspeakers to disperse. They told the students that in terms of the Riotous Assemblies Act, which the children had never heard about, they were breaking the law by staging a protest march without obtaining permission from the police first.

“You are here. Give us your permission then,” someone in the crowd shouted. And the chant caught on, “Give us your permission then.”

The police then used teargas to try and disperse the students. Far from scattering about in a disorganised fashion, the students soon developed a technique for containing the teargas. Armed with cloths and buckets of water requisitioned from nearby houses, they covered the canisters with wet cloths as soon as they hit the ground. In this way many of the canisters were prevented from exploding. Thus unable to break the march the police resorted to shooting. At first they aimed above the heads of the crowd, but as the students surged forward resolutely they fired at their front ranks. Some students retaliated by throwing stones at the police. In the ensuing scuffle a few people were injured, including some police and onlookers, and several children were shot dead. (53-54)

there are so many other parallels in the novel–from collaborators within the ranks of south african resistance to the media’s total distortion of why these youth were resisting in the first place. and, then, of course are the curfews, closures, arrests, and torture.

south africa, like the zionist entity, were founded on ideologies of racial or religious supremacy. it is worth recalling what ali abunimah’s brilliant book, one country: a bold proposal to end the israeli-palestinian impasse has to say about the colonization of south africa:

The origins of the Afrikaner identity date back to April 6, 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a colony on the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Nelson Mandela explains that April 6 was “the day white South Africans annually commemorate[d] the founding of their country–and Africans revile[d] as the beginning of three hundred years of enslavement.” This anniversary is redolent of May 14, the day in 1948 that Israel declared independence but which Palestinians observe as al-nakba–the catastrophe–the beginning of their exile and subjugation. In the late seventeenth century, colonists arrived at the cape from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and other parts of Europe, many escaping appalling religious persecution and massacres in their home countries. In the 1830s, the Afrikaners or Boers (as these colonists eventually called themselves), chafing under British rule and in search of more land, set off to conquer the interior. These arduous journeys on foot and in covered wagons became known as the Great Treks and ended with the establishment of three independent republics. During the Boer Wars in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the British crushed the Boer republics, generating enduring Afrikaner bitterness. The “Anglo-Boer War burnt itself into the collective consciousness of my people, the Afrikaners, like no other event in our history,” [F.W.] de Klerk has said. The British scorched-earth policy destroyed farms and killed livestock, and ended Boer independence. Worst of all, the British “interned our women and children in what became known as concentration camps.” (The term “concentration camp” was first used in this context.) Of the entire Afrikaner population–a few hundred thousand at the time–tens of thousands are believed to have died in the camps.

Afrikaners were determined never again to submit to foreign rule or forgo their independence and security. In 1910, the predominantly British-settled colonies of the cape and the former Boer republics int he interior formed the Union of South Africa, which excluded all indigenous African peoples, as well as Indians and other Asians, from any political power. Then, when the Afrikaner-dominated National Party won the whites-only general election in 1948, they ushered in a new era of more formalized discrimination–apartheid. As Mandela observes, the 1948 Nationalist election victory was, in the “cosmology” of Afrikaners, “like the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. This was the fulfillment of God’s promise, and the justification for their view that South Africa should remain a white man’s country forever.” Afrikaners compared the Great Treks to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, and saw their republics as a “new Israel,” built on land redeemed from godless “Canaanites.” Out of the undeniable suffering and trauma of the Boer Wars, Afrikaners constructed an ideology in which they were in a state of permanent victimhood. They acted with the belief that God was on the side in a struggle for self-preservation against external forces whose sole motivation was their destruction. (136-138)

the histories and the methods of resistance in palestine and south africa have been quite similar. but the main difference between the two situations is that nelson mandela refused to sign any agreement, any document until all conditions had been met. he wasn’t stupid enough to trust the colonizing entity in south africa. he wanted to see them put their words into action, such as releasing political prisoners. and he had enough integrity to make sure the other prisoners were released before him. here in palestine the oslo accords were signed without the zionist entity ever having to give up anything. and they never have. instead, they’ve created more suffering, more oppression, and increased the apartheid conditions.

today on z net haidar eid has a really important and smart article that addresses the way that oslo has destroyed palestine on so many levels, which i quote in full below:

One of the most important outcomes of the Gaza massacre (2009) has been the unprecedented tremendous outpouring of popular support for the Palestinian cause; something the signatories of the Oslo accords (1993) must have not been happy with. The return of the pre-Oslo slogans of liberation, as opposed to independence, have, undoubtedly, created a new dilemma, not only for Oslo political elites, but also for the NGOized, Stalinist Left.

The process of “Osloization”i.e, a combination of corruption, Ngoization, and a selling-out of revolutionary principles and sloganeering, fused with the fiction of the two-prison solution, has been dealt a heavy blow in the 2006 elections. Judging from statements made, not only by PA officials, but also by the Left, and even the Hamas government, the ultimate goal of the current river of blood has become the establishment of a Palestinian state in any dimension, i.e. the two-state solution. The contradiction between the tremendous international support, the revival of the BDS campaign, the outpouring of demos against Apartheid Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians of Gaza, and the reiteration, by most political orgs, of the two state mantra is a strong indication of the need for an alternative program that makes the De-Osloization of Palestine its first priority.

In order to understand the Oslo Accords and the extreme damage they have caused to the Palestinian cause, one needs a historical contextualization of the so called “peace process”, or rather what many critical thinkers have called the peace industry. This understanding is a necessary step towards a process of De-Osloization, a term I will get back to at a later stage.

The Oslo accord was claimed to be the first step towards self-determination and an independent state. But it is clear now, 16 years after the famous hand shake on the White House lawn, that no state in the short run will be established because of the mere fact that Oslo simply ignored the existence of the Palestinian people as a people. In other words, these accords have offered Zionism what it has always been striving for. Golda Meir’s infamous statement that there are no Palestinians is a case in point here.

And yet, to claim that ‘Oslo’ and ‘Camp David’ were great missed opportunities and ‘breakthrough’, and that the so-called ‘peace process’ was in track until the Palestinians (i.e. colonized victims) blew it is a deliberate ideological distortion of reality claimed in order to prepare Palestinians for more concessions. Real comprehensive peace was not created in Oslo and Washington; rather what was created is an American/Israeli plan to resolve the conflict after the destruction of Iraq and the collapse of the Soviet Union and their attempt to construct a “new Middle East”—to use Condoleeza Rice’s words–a Middle East characterized by imperialist-Zionist hegemony and supported by despotic regimes. The Oslo accord was born dead because it did not guarantee the minimum national and political rights of 10 million Palestinian. As long as there are refugees, cantons, detainees, blockade, settlements, ‘legal torture’ of prisoners, dispossession, assassinations and occupation, comprehensive peace cannot be achieved. It is an illusion in the minds of those who signed the Oslo accords.

These accords have led to the creation of a limited “administrative autonomy” in the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank. The local population was given “the right” to form an authority that they could call “national.” Now the question is what makes the PNA (Palestinian National Authority) beyond questioning? What is the ‘legitimate’ ground upon which it was established? Very simple: The Oslo Accords. It has now become very obvious that despite the famous hand shakes on the White house lawn and in Annaplois, and the optimistic talk of the ‘New Middle East,’ these accords, in contradistinction with UN and Security Council resolutions, have not guaranteed the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, or the return of the refugees, nor even the demolishment of the Jewish settlements, and compensation for those Palestinians who have lost—and still losing—their homes, lands and properties; nor the release of all political prisoners, or the opening of all checkpoints, which have become daily nightmares for residents of the WB and GS; …etc. In spite of all the hand shakes, kisses, and friendly press conferences, Israel launched one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the conflict against the civilian population of Gaza, killing in 22 days more than 1400 people, including 438 children, 120 women, 95 old people, 16 medics, 5 journalists, 5 foreign women, and in which it destroyed more than 40.000 institutions and houses, leaving many families homeless. That, of course, was not mentioned as an objective of the Oslo Accords, but nothing either was mentioned in them that would prevent such bloodletting from taking place.

This is the political reality that Palestinian officials who signed the agreement do not like to be reminded of. In fact, what has been created in parts of Gaza and the West Bank is a very strange entity—an apartheid-type Bantustan endorsed by the international community. Gaza 2009, therefore, is the mirror-image of Oslo. When we bear in mind that 75-80% of Gazans are refugees, the results of 2006 elections become more comprehensible not only in its anti-colonial context, but also in socio-political terms. What Oslo has created in Gaza, and the West Bank for that matter, is literally two different worlds, both of which have been led by undemocratic institutions, many security apparatuses, a Third Worldish military court (commended by the Clinton administration), corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and nepotism—to mention but few (neo)colonial qualities.

By winning the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars, and by getting international, Arab and Palestinian recognition, Israel–as an Apartheid settler-colonial state—has hoped to move into a new stage; a stage that requires the formation of ‘new consciousness’ amongst colonized Palestinians. Herein lies the danger of Oslo; Osloization, within this neo-Zionist context, means the creation of a new paradigm through which you wash out the consciousness of your supposed enemy-the ‘Other’-and replace it with a one-dimensional mentality, through the construction of a fiction (two states for two peoples) whose end is unattainable. Even the fascist Lieberman has started singing the same song.

Put differently, to aim at creating the two-state Palestinian is to aim at creating false consciousness led by assimilated intelligentsia, some of whom have a revolutionary past record. Singing the slogans of “the two state solution,” “two states for two peoples,” “return to the 1967 borders,”–or even “a long-term Hudna” (as proposed by Hamas) — is intended to guarantee the subordination and conformity of the Palestinians, especially those with revolutionary ideas. Gone are the right of return of 6 million refugees and their compensation, and the national and cultural rights of the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

This goal, however, never sees the antithesis it creates as a result of displacement, exploitation, and oppression; it ignores the revolutionary consciousness that has been formulated throughout the different phases of the Palestinian struggle. Nor does it take into account the legacy of civil and political resistance that has become a trademark of the Palestinian struggle. Hence the necessity of the formulation of Palestinian alternative politics. To be conscious of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, and of the huge class gape that the Oslo Accords have created has definitely been the beginning of De-Osloization represented in the Al-Aqsa uprising and the outcome of the 2006 elections. This is an oppositional consciousness that the signatories of Oslo did not take into account. Both events represent an outright rejection of the Oslo Accords and their consequences.

The Gaza Strip, however, is seen by the PA as one of three building blocks of an independent state, although it is geographically separated from the second block, i.e. the West Bank. The third block is, Jerusalem, is under total Israeli control. None of the Palestinians in the occupied territories believe that the ‘semi-autonomous’ zones in the GS and the WB -that is, the ones that fall under category A—can lay the foundation for an independent state. What Oslo has led to is, in fact, a South Africa. When black South Africans needed to move from their townships to big ‘white’ cities, they needed to get a ‘pass’. During ‘peace time,’ Palestinians, not only those who work in Israel, but also those who wanted to visit the WB form Gaza, or vice versa, needed to apply for a ‘permit’. Beside the permit, Palestinians needed a so-called ‘magnetic card,’ which is a computer card that has a password to its holder’s security file. No one could work in Israel, or visit the WB, or even go to a hospital inside the ‘green line’ without a ‘permit’ and a ‘magnetic card’. If one was granted such invaluable cards, one was still not allowed to visit any other area except the one s/he was entitled to visit. If one was ‘caught’ at another area, one’s permit and card were confiscated immediately, not to mention the torture one was exposed to. Nowadays, no one is even given such luxurious ‘permits’ and cards. How was apartheid South Africa different?

The tribal chiefs of the South African Bantustans used to believe that they were the heads of independent states. Luckily, the ANC, despite its many compromises with the National Party, had never accepted the idea of separation and Bantustans. The official Palestinian leadership on the other hand, at the end of the millennium, boasts of having laid the foundation for a Bantustan, claiming it to be an independent state in the make. Undoubtedly, this is the ultimate prize Zionism can offer to its ‘Other’ after having denied her/his existence for a century, and after that same ‘Other’ has proved that she is human. For Zionism’s continued presence in Palestine, the ‘Other’ must be assimilated and enslaved without her/ him being conscious of her/his enslavement. Hence the granting of ‘semi-autonomous’ rule over the most crowded Palestinian cities, and hence the logic driving the Oslo Accords.

Oslo, then, brought an unprecedented level of corruption into Palestine; and security coordination with Israel, under the supervision of—irony of ironies—an American general, has become the norm. Repeating the two-state mantra, carrying the Palestinian flag, singing the national anthem and— more importantly—recognizing Israel, regardless of the rights of two thirds of the Palestinian people, are what Oslo is all about.

The lesson we learn from Gaza 2009 is to harness all effort to fight the outcome of the Oslo Accords, and to form a United Front on a platform of resistance and reforms. This cannot be achieved without dismantling the PA and realizing that ministries, premierships, and presidencies in Gaza and Ramallah are a façade not unlike the South African Independent Homelands with their tribal chiefs. The classical national program, created and adopted by the Palestinian bourgeoisie has reached its end unsuccessfully. Most political forces, including the governing party in Gaza, fail to explain how 6 million Palestinian refugees will return to the Israeli State of the Jews and an independent Palestinian state will be created at the same time.

Hence the necessity for an alternative paradigm that divorces itself from the fiction of the two-prison solution, a paradigm that takes the sacrifices of the people of Gaza as a turning point in the struggle for liberation, one that builds on the growing global anti-apartheid movement that has been given an impetus by Gaza 2009. De-Osloizing Palestine is, therefore, a precondition for the creation of peace with justice.

part of this osloizing process that eid analyzes above is the continual dispossession of palestinians from their land. in gaza it happened in a very obvious way. it was clear to those who watched al jazeera, the only international media allowed into the gaza strip. and that savagery continues with israeli terrorists bombing gaza every day, which no longer reported in the international media:

The Israeli military confirmed that it bombed smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip early on Thursday.

Witnesses in Gaza said that the bombing took place in Rafah Refugee Camp, along the border with Egypt.

The Israeli military said the strike was in response to four homemade projectiles and one mortar shell that landed in Israel. No damage or injuries resulted from those attacks.

The tunnels in southern Gaza are used to import goods made scarce by an Israeli blockade that has been imposed on Gaza since 2007.

and what seems to me to be a clear–and horrifying–indication that hamas is in the process of becoming osloized:

Gaza’s Hamas rulers issued rare criticism Thursday of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the strip, saying now is the wrong time for such attacks.

The Islamic militant group has fired thousands of rockets at southern Israel in recent years. But Hamas said Thursday that it was not behind recent attacks and that it was investigating who was responsible.

there are no rockets coming from the west bank. and there may not be bombs falling on the west bank, but the continual ethnic cleansing in the west bank and in 1948 goes on unnoticed for the most part. there is, of course, a bit of international coverage of the ethnic cleansing in al quds, which is possibly why there is a temporary ban on the demolition order of homes in silwan:

The Israeli Central Court in Jerusalem decided to temporarily freeze a decision to demolish 35 apartments in Al Abbasiyya neighborhood in the East Jerusalem town of Silwan.

Lawyer Ziad Qi’war, representing the families, said that the order gives the Jerusalem Municipality seven days to respond to appeals filed by the residents.

There are more than 240 Palestinians living in the buildings slated to be demolished.

Qi’war added that the appeal accuses the Jerusalem Municipality of practicing racism against the Jerusalemite Palestinians, and of not providing services to the residents in this area.

The residents said that the Municipality does not want to sit with them in order to listen to their points of view.

Qi’war called on all civil, legal and political groups to unite their efforts in order to achieve a ruling that completely voids the demolishing orders.

Israel intends to demolish nearly 180 homes in Al the Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods of Al Bustan, Al Abbasiyya, Ras Khamis, and Al Tour.

of course this is when the israeli terrorist colonists send in the colonists without uniforms to go in and attack palestinians:

Palestinian sources reported on Wednesday that a group of extremist Jewish settlers attacked dozens of Palestinian homes and stores in East Jerusalem.

The settlers were marching in the city and chanting slogans against the Arabs and the Palestinians, and calling for expelling them from the Holy City.

The Israeli police did not attempt to intervene and allowed the settlers to continue their march, which encouraged them to attack Palestinian property, local sources reported.

The settlers chanted “death to Arabs” and other racists slogans while marching in Arab markets and the alleys of the Old City.

The Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that the different settlers groups marched in different parts of the Old City under heavy protection and presence of the Israeli military and police.

The police closed main roads in the Old City barring the Palestinians from using them in order to allow the settlers to march.

WAFA said that dozens of extremist Jews arrived in the Old City by special buses since early morning hours of Wednesday, and held prayers at the Western Wall before marching in the alleys of Jerusalem.

They were accompanied by settlers living in East Jerusalem, especially from outposts in Sheikh Jarrah area, and several outposts in East Jerusalem.

in contradistinction, there is very little about the rest of the west bank. consider these latest developments:

in aqraba near nablus:

The Israeli Army handed miltary orders to several residents of Aqraba village, southeast of the northern West Bank City of Nablus, informing them of a decision to demolish six homes and a mosque in the village.

Local sources in the village stated that the order comes to enable the expansion of Israeli settlements surrounding the village, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

The sources added that nearly 90 percent of the village’s land is used as grazing ground, but the Israeli authorities are attempting to annex the land for settlement construction and expansion.

There are four Israeli settlements surrounding the village, all built on land annexed from the villagers. Settlers have carried out repeated attacks against the village and its inhabitants, killing four villagers over the past few years.

Recently, one resident was killed and another was wounded in a roadside bomb placed by the settlers, the Palestinian Information Center said.

Last week, Israeli Authorities handed fifteen military orders to the residents of Aqraba, informing them that Israel intends to demolish 15 homes, barns, tin-houses for sheep, and water wells located in Khirbit al-Taweel area, which belongs to the village.

in qalqilia a farmer suffered a heart attack after witnessing israeli terrorists destroying his olive trees:

Palestinian medical sources in Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported that a farmer suffered a heart attack two days ago after the Israeli army uprooted his olive trees in the village of Ras Tira, near Qalqilia.

The army was uprooting the trees to allow the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the area.

The farmer tried to stop the soldiers and defend his land, and suffered a heart attack while arguing with the troops and the bulldozer driver, local sources reported.

Also, the Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that five human rights activists from the United states, Sweden, and Denmark were taken prisoner by the army after joining a non-violent protest against the uprooting of trees in Ras Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) reported.

Residents from the area, joined by activists, were protesting the uprooting of olive trees as the army started implementing the change of the route of the Israeli Apartheid Wall in the area.

As the trees were being cut, villagers and activists demonstrated while the troops fired tear-gas at the them and the villagers, WAFA said.

The new Wall route will lead o more destruction and uprooting of the villagers’ farmlands and orchards.

It is worth mentioning that the Wall and the Alfe Menashe settlement completely surround the villages of Ras Al Tira, Wadi Ar Rasha, and Dhaba’.

or how about in 1948 palestine?:

Bulldozers of the Israeli municipality of Beer Sheba in 1948 occupied Palestine on Thursday demolished two Palestinian houses at the pretext of lack of construction permit.

Local sources in Beer Sheba said that hundreds of policemen escorted the bulldozers during the demolition process.

They pointed out that the same force uprooted 100 olive trees.

The step was taken on the same day that cattle owners plan a demonstration in the same city to protest additional taxes and unfair distribution of grazing lands, the locals underlined.

of course, the united states doesn’t want to look at the racism inherent in the zionist entity’s apartheid regime. that is why it has chosen to boycott the world conference on racism in geneva (known as durban 2). (you see, obama does not care about discussing and ending racism any more than bush.) the main issue for boycotting the conference in 2001 was the discussion of zionism as a form of racism as well as the discussion of reparations for slavery. this time around the issue of slavery reparations seems to irk obama as does the discourse on the terrorist state of israel. but the draft document that the obama administration objects to does not talk about zionism as racism. instead, it focuses on israel as an apartheid regime. still, they refuse to attend. ramzy baroud explains:

The US conditioned its participation of the April conference in Geneva (Durban II) by removing any specific censure of Israel, and ensuring that Israel is not ‘singled out’ for criticism. Although US sensibilities constantly expect, but demand the singling out of any country, leader or group it deems rouge, war criminal, or terrorist, Israel is treated based on different standards. “A bad document became worse, and the US decided not to participate in the conference”, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported in reference to the draft documents being finalized before the conference.

The original “bad” document apparently dubs Israel “an occupying state that carries out racist policies”, a description which is consistent with international law, UN resolutions and the views of leading world human rights defenders – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Dugard, the former UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk,the current UN’s envoy, among many others.

The ‘bad document’ might have ‘became worse’ with new references to the Gaza bloodbath, which killed and wounded nearly 7,000 Palestinians in 22-days.

From an American – and unfortunately, Canadian and Italian, so far – viewpoint, such inhumane practices don’t warrant a pause or mere words of condemnation. The same, of course, doesn’t apply to Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran, Cuba and other ‘unfriendly’ nations. The US decision must be particularity disheartening to African nations who saw in the advent of Barack Obama some vindication. The US first black president, however, saw it fit to boycott a conference that intended to discuss the issue of slavery and repatriation, to once again prove that race alone is hardly sufficient in explaining US internal and external policies.

in response to this some people have organized a campaign to try to get obama to reconsider. while their letter is not perfect, i do think attending the conference sends the right message to the zionist entity that they cannot bully the world by threats of anti-semitism. their racist regime must not only be critiqued, but ended. here is the letter and if you click the link you can sign their petition:

January 20, 2009

Dear President Barack Obama,

As people of conscience in the United States struggling for a socially, economically and ecologically healthier world free of racism, colonialism, and militarism, we write to respectfully urge you to attend the upcoming Durban Review Conference on Racism from 20-24 April 2009.

Your election marks a historic moment in a nation founded upon the slavery and genocide of people of color. We, along with millions everywhere, are full of hope that this legacy will finally be redressed. First Nation, people of African descent, working class people, immigrants to this country, and people from colonized countries throughout the world all have suffered for far too long. We hope that your inauguration will usher a new dawn on which the US government will respond to calls to tackle historic and current injustices that stand in the way of change.

You were brought to power by an unprecedented chorus of grassroots voices, a unique gathering of activism and resources. We honor your experiences as a grassroots organizer working for change in the lives of working class people of color. Like many others who voted for you (or wanted to but couldn’t because we are not US citizens), we were inspired by your call for dialogue on foreign policy, and your opposition to the politics of torture and preemptive wars. We rejoiced in your victory – our victory – against racism and war.

Your participation in the Durban Review Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance (Geneva, Switzerland, April 2009) will reaffirm your commitment to these principles. We are aware that great pressure is being exerted on your administration to boycott the Durban Review Conference; that congress has passed a resolution in support of this boycott. Lobbyists on behalf of the State of Israel are wrong to claim that the first Durban Conference was anti-Semitic because it held Israel accountable for its racist laws and policies. Nothing could be farther from the truth: anti-Semitism today is fueled by U.S. policies that apply double standards in its relationship to Israel and allow Israel to violate international law with impunity. The failure to distinguish between criticizing Israeli government policies and anti-Semitism on the one hand, and perpetuating, the misleading image of Jews as united in support of Israel’s unconscionable violence against the Palestinian people, on the other, feeds into anti-Jewish hatred and incites anti-Semitism today.

Israel must obey international law like any other state. Israel has to end its occupation of Palestinian lands, its dismemberment of the country into Bantustans, its apartheid-like laws and policies against Arab people, and its theft of Palestinian land and resources. Only recently, the majority of the international community has raised its voice in protest as Israel waged a savage war against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The U.S. has for too long condoned Israel’s disregard for international law, settlement buildup, and bad faith negotiations. There has never been a more urgent time for the U.S. to join the international community to effect a serious change.

We stand in with the world’s majority who demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and who had the courage to break ties with Israel—the leadership of Latin America, the Arab World, and Turkey; the UN General Assembly and its President, D’escoto Brockmann; Sir Gerald Kaufmann from the British House of Commons, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the millions of voices demanding that Israel comply with international law.

To ignore Durban is to align with those who justify Israel’s racism, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid-like policies; and to allow its siege of Gaza. A boycott of the Durban global dialogue towards a united and principled stand against racism could only send the wrong message that the U.S. is not committed t to overcoming its history of racism and the impact that history has had in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as on communities of color within the United States. A United States boycott of the Durban Review will squarely put the U.S. in opposition to the global aspirations to transform current conditions of racism and xenophobia.

US boycott of the Durban Review will precipitate a speedy disillusionment in the US and around the world with the commitment of your administration to developing policy that is qualitatively different from those of the previous administration. Ignoring the message of Durban would also undermine and alienate the organizers of the conference who are looking to the principled engagement of your administration against those whose power is based on promoting and enforcing racist divisions within their populations. We hope that your administration can show that the United States is ready to participate in international dialogue aimed at ending its legacy of colonization, slavery, racism and xenophobia. We are conscious that, because of your history and experience, you are well aware of the nature and impact of US policies in the Global South.

From amplifying the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, through the terrorizing of immigrant communities, and to the continued destruction of indigenous lands, peoples and cultures, harmful U.S. government policies also reflect the culpability of the United States in perpetuating racism and injustice throughout the world. The lavish funding for war and the generous military and political aid to regimes that disrespect human rights have been part and parcel of a governmental outlook that is oblivious to the needs of health care, education, employment and housing.

To fulfill the hope you have inspired and which brought you to office, we urge you and your Administration to:

* Participate in the Durban Review Conference in Geneva from 20-24 of April 2009.

* Consider deeply felt and urgent demands of the Durban Review for US acknowledgment and repudiation of past racist crimes and injustices, in particular against First Nations and African people, as well as of current racist and xenophobic policies enforced by the US within and beyond its borders.

* Engage in critical dialogue on the de-institutionalization of racism within the US, and the ways in which war economy can be diverted into peace economy.

* Shift the US policies toward recognizing the legitimate concerns of participants from communities devastated by war and occupation and listen with an open mind to their demands for justice, dignity and peace.

In your speech at a Howard University Convocation in 2007, you asked the audience to:

Be strong and have courage in the face of injustice. Be strong and have courage in the face of prejudice and hatred. Be strong and have courage in the face of joblessness and helplessness and hopelessness. Be strong and have courage, in the face of our doubts and fears, in the face of skepticism, in the face of cynicism, in the face of a mighty river.

We ask you to be strong in the face of these challenges and to trust the strength of your grassroots base. We ask you to stand up against those who would keep this country and the world shackled by to policies that harm us all. Stand with us as we join hands to support you as a President of a United States that can leave behind racism, colonial oppression and war and that rejoins the world community for justice, dignity and peace.

embargo & sanction

yesterday amnesty international released a statement that was almost perfect. if someone could just teach these human rights workers to stick to focusing on the colonizing occupiers, to see that there are not equal parties involved their work would be so much more powerful and significant. in any case, the implications for the united states here are important, though i’m sure nothing will be done about it:

Both Israel and Hamas used foreign-supplied weapons to attack civilians according to fresh evidence released by Amnesty International.

Munitions from the USA, Israel’s main foreign arms supplier, were used by Israel forces during three-week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets that had been smuggled in or made of components from abroad at civilian areas in Israel.

Amnesty International has called on the UN to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the parties to the conflict.

“Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza.

“Their attacks resulted in the killing of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure. At the same time, the firing of rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel, also caused several civilian deaths and constitute a war crime.”

For many years, the USA has been the major supplier of conventional arms to Israel. Under a 10-year agreement to 2017, the USA is due to provide $30 billion in military aid to Israel, a 25% increase compared to the period preceding the Bush administration.

“To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East.

In Gaza, as the fighting ended, Amnesty International researchers found fragments and components from munitions used by the Israeli Army – including many that are US-made – littering school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people’s homes. They included artillery and tank shells, mortar fins and remnants from Hellfire and other airborne missiles and large F-16 delivered bombs, as well as still smouldering highly incendiary white phosphorus remains.

They also found remnants of a new type of missile, seemingly launched from unmanned drones, which explodes large numbers of tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2mm and 4mm square in size. These lethal purpose-made shrapnel had penetrated thick metal doors and were embedded deep in concrete walls, and are clearly designed to maximize injury.

In southern Israel, Amnesty International also saw the remains of “Qassam”, Grad and other indiscriminate rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups against civilian areas. These unsophisticated weapons cannot be aimed accurately and stand no comparison with the weaponry deployed by Israel but they have caused several deaths of Israeli civilians, injuries to others and damage to civilian property.

Even before the three week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties.

“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart. “The Obama Administration should immediately suspend US military aid to Israel.

“We urge the UN Security Council to impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are found to ensure that munitions and other military equipment are not used to commit serious violations of international law.

“In addition all states should suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk of human rights violations. There must be no return to business as usual, with the predictably devastating consequences for civilians in Gaza and Israel.”

there is also a petition you can sign on amnesty international’s website asking for an investigation into the misuse of american weapons against palestinians in gaza.

and the u.s. campaign to end the occupation also has a new petition to get obama to sanction the zionist entity:

On February 24th, 2009, President Obama is expected to address a joint session of Congress and deliver a “blueprint” for his FY2010 budget.

According to the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the United States and Israel in 2007 and made public by the US Campaign, the President is expected to request $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in FY2010.

However, there are growing indications that the Obama Administration is considering sanctioning Israel. According to a senior Israeli security official in a Feb. 17 article in Ma’ariv, Israel fears that Special Envoy George Mitchell will convince the White House to cut military aid as a response to Israel’s ongoing settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. A Feb. 15 Ha’aretz article speculated that amounts available for U.S. loan guarantees to Israel would be cut for the same reason.

to take action and sign the petition follow these instructions (they also are asking people to thank congressmen baird and elison, which you can do if you click the link above. i think it is a lost cause and i fail to see what is so great that they somehow acknowledge palestinian humanity when their votes and actions in washington dc have historically been different than what they say about palestine in public.)

1. Encourage President Obama to sanction Israel for its misuse of U.S.weapons. Send a letter to the President today asking him to investigate Israel’s prior misuses of U.S. weapons against Palestinians and to reconsider his anticipated request for additional weapons in his upcoming budget. To send your letter, please click here.

back to that amnesty international report…on the delusional claims that hamas is somehow an equal player, or somehow responsible for “war crimes,” of course hamas responded to this statement today:

In a press statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum underlined that there is no single country exporting arms to the Movement, while weapons are being exported to Israel in abundance from powerful countries and arms deals are publicly concluded with Israel by these countries.

Barhoum added that Israel uses its deadly weapons of mass destruction against the Palestinian people who in turn use simple weapons only to defend themselves as a legitimate right guaranteed by all international laws

The spokesman expressed his Movement’s concern that the statement of AI could mislead the public opinion and be used as a pretext by Israel to escalate its aggression and siege on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

He urged AI to reconsider its unbalanced stands which lay the blame unjustly on the Palestinian people.

jacky rowland reported on this story today on al jazeera, though she gives the israeli terrorist propagandist machine too much air time to repeat their lies and she doesn’t bother to challenge them directly:

a few weeks ago haidar eid wrote quite a brilliant article for electronic intifada about palestinian resistance. he speaks of various forms of resistance in it, but i think what he says is applicable to the way that amnesty international tries to pretend like there are two equal sides here, like there was a war here. no: this is decidedly a fabrication. in a war each side has an army. each side fights more or less on equal grounds. here in gaza we had one captive population terrorized by the 4th largest military in the world, aided by the largest–the american–military in the world. this is terrorism. this is decidedly not a war. it was an aggression, an invasion, terrorism, but not a war. and, yes, thankfully, there was and is resistance. here is what eid says:

The war on Gaza has emerged as a political tsunami that has not only put an end to the fiction of the two-state solution and brought liberation rather than independence back to the agenda, but it has also created a new Palestinian political map given the intellectual debate vis-a-vis the outcome of the war. This new classification of the Palestinian intelligentsia and ruling classes has led to many ex-leftists joining the right-wing anthem of Oslo and its culture of defeatism. Not unlike the Oslo intelligentsia, the new pragmatic left is characterized by demagogy, opportunism and short-sightedness. The conduct of these NGOized intellectuals (those emerging from western-funded “nongovernmental organizations” — NGOs) does not show any commitment to their national and historical responsibility.

Michel Foucault’s famous formulation, “where there is power, there is resistance,” helps us to theorize the political and, hence, the cultural resistance, represented in some of the (post)war discourse. Within the context of resistance, it is worth quoting Frantz Fanon’s definitions of the role of the “native intellectual” during the “fighting phase”: “[T]he native, after having tried to lose himself in the people and with the people, will … shake the people … [H]e turns himself into an awakener of the people; hence comes a fighting literature, and a national literature.”

On the other hand, there are intellectuals who, according to Fanon’s theorization, “give proof that [they] [have] assimilated the culture of the occupying power. [Their] writings correspond point by point with those of [their] opposite numbers in the mother country. [Their] inspiration is European [i.e. Western] …” Hence the adoption of the Israeli narrative by some intellectual sections, including NGOized leftists, whereby Israel was exonerated of its crimes: “we are to blame for what happened;” “we were not consulted when Hamas started the war!” and “the people are paying the price, not the resistance movement;” “Hamas should have renewed the truce;” “we cannot afford to lose so many lives; Hamas should have understood this;” “there was no resistance at all on the streets of Gaza; resistance men ran away as soon as they saw the first tank.”

By the same token, one would also condemn the Algerian, South African, French, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Egyptian resistance to occupation. The same logic was used by the Bantustan chiefs of South Africa against the anti-apartheid movement, by the Vichy government of France, the South Vietnamese government, the reactionary Egyptian Forces against the progressive regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956, and even by the Siniora-Jumblatt-Geagea-Hariri March 14 coalition in Lebanon in 2006.

Obviously, these intellectuals’ assimilation of the Western mentality, through a process of NGOization, and hence Osloization, makes them look down upon the culture of resistance as useless, futile and hopeless. Resistance, broadly speaking, is not only the ability to fight back against a militarily more powerful enemy, but also an ability to creatively resist the occupation of one’s land. The Oslo defeatists and the neo-left camp fail to use people power creatively or even to see that it exists. They are defeated because they want to fight the battle on Israel’s terms — through the adoption of an Israel-Hamas dichotomy, rather than apartheid Israel vs. the Palestinian people — instead of looking at their strengths: that they are the natives of the land, they have international law supporting their claims, they have the moral high ground, the support of international civil society, etc.

One good lesson from the South African struggle is the way it tried to define resistance and its adoption of what it referred to as “the four pillars of the struggle” to achieve victory over the apartheid regime: armed struggle, internal mass mobilization, international solidarity, and the political underground. Alas, none of these pillars seem to fit within the paradigm of the Palestinian neo-left.

The principled critical legacy of the likes of Ghassan Kanafani, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon is no longer the guiding torch of the NGOized left — the secular democratic left which is supposed to be, as Said would argue, “someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations [or donors], and whose raison d’etre is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug.” A fascinating, and timely, remark by Hungarian philosopher George Lukacs points the way that the NGOized left should be talking right now: “When the intellectual’s society reaches a historical crossroads in its fight for a clear definition of its identity, the intellectual should be involved in the whole sociopolitical process and leave his ivory tower.”

Decolonizing cultural resistance insists on the right to view Palestinian history as a holistic entity, both coherent and integral. It also reflects a national and historical consciousness that Palestinians are able to be agents of change in their present and future regardless of the agendas of western donors, the Quartet and other official “international” bodies. Yet we see that the neo-democrats of Palestine are unable to acknowledge Palestinian agency because they refuse to respect the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box. This position is meant to synergize with that of their donors and international bodies who have worked hard over the last two years to delegitimize Palestinian agency.

one palestinian group–which i suppose could be classified as an ngo, though one that i think does important work–is exercising their agency in response to the war crimes committed in gaza: al haq has teamed up with the uk’s human rights legal aid trust to hold the united kingdom accountable (note to al haq: when you are done here, can you please file a similar suit in the united states?):

Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental organisation will tomorrow, Tuesday 24 February 2009 begin historical legal proceedings against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Milliband, Defence Secretary, John Hutton and Trade & Industry (now the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform), Peter Mandelson.

Al Haq are making an application for judicial review of a policy decision by the three Secretaries of State that they will not change their position with respect to the UK’s relations with Israel so that the UK Government is fully compliant with international law.

The UK’s international obligations insofar as the attacks on civilians in Gaza are concerned include not rendering aid or assistance to Israel or recognising the illegal situation it has created in Gaza, and to co-operating with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end.

In relation to the UK’s obligation not to render aid or assistance is concerned it should be noted that in the first quarter of 2008 there was a huge increase in the amount of arms related products to Israel approved through the UK arms export licensing system. The amount approved was £20m. By way of comparison, the amount approved for the whole of 2004 was £12m.

The papers on an application for judicial review are being lodged on 24 February in the High Court of Justice by Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers prior to the press conference being held that morning at 11.00am.

Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq, which works to protect human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories says,

“Considering the UK’s historical role in the region and its continued arms sales to Israel, Al-Haq has come to the UK with the belief that the judicial system of the UK will provide, at the very least, hope for the Palestinian people and again provide meaning to the principle of justice and international law. The time for hiding behind words has ended.”

Phil Shiner (Public Interest Lawyers) who is leading the case on behalf of Al-Haq says,

“The UK has clear international law obligations to do something effective to stop Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians. It must cooperate with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end and it must stop giving aid and assistance to Israel. This means that the UK’s continuing policy of arms trading with Israel is completely out of bounds, as is our role in continuing with the EU preferential trading agreement. The point of this case is to make the Government focus on what it is legally obliged to do, beyond ineffective hand-wringing pleas for Israel to behave properly, which, to date, have fallen on deaf ears.”

Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Human Rights Legal Aid Trust which launched the Gaza Legal Aid Fund to fund legal actions by Palestinian civilians says:

“We have been very encouraged by the global support for the Gaza Legal Aid Fund which seeks to provide Palestinians with the much needed financial assistance to be able to access international courts of justice. Israel and its allies must be sent a clear message that they are not above the law; that they are not immune; and that they will be held accountable.”

of course the fact that these legal cases and reports are coming out of gaza means that the continued siege against palestinians in gaza also affects human rights workers who wish to access the area and investigate the numerous war crimes. but, of course, there are many things they don’t want people to see and so people remain cut off from gaza:

Israel is preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said Sunday.

“Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza,” the groups said in a joint statement to Ma’an.

After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem’s first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second.

“Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?”

do they not want people to see and hear about children afraid to go to school, for instance? children who know all too well that israeli terrorists target schools?:

Many parents and children say they were afraid to return to school after the war. The first attack hit Gaza on a morning while school was in session.

“I was afraid to return to school after the war,” said 15-year-old Fatin Na’im, a 10th grader at Ahmed Shawqi Secondary School in the Rimal section of Gaza City. Her two brothers, a 20-year-old university student and a 25-year-old accountant, were killed by Israeli tank fire while trying to evacuate their home in Tal A’hawa.

After suffering nightmares Na’im sought psychological help. Educators and local and international NGOs are making psycho-social services for children and adolescents a priority.

jonah hull also reports on this today for al jazeera about the psychological trauma affecting youth in gaza:

and just a reminder the siege does not end at gaza’s borders. it just looks different. in that so-called “democracy” otherwise known as the terrorist state of israel, its own citizens–those who are palestinian and who don’t have the special rights of jews–continue to face various forms of oppression and repression and racism at the hands of the state. samih jabbrin is just one reminder of that oppression:

A letter from Israeli Prison

Monday, 23 February 2009

Samih Jabbarin is a member of the Palestinian movement Abnaa-El-Balad. He was arrested on February 10th on the backgrounds of the protests against the nomination of the known racist Baruch Marzel, by the national election committee to be head of one of the election centers in he Arab city of Um elFahm.

Comrades,

We, in Abnaa elBalad, always denied the democratic pretensions of this occupation entity. For long decades we put a lot of effort to expose this fake mask before our Arab Palestinian masses. But the majority of our masses became victim to political positions that try to convince them that this democracy is possible and hence we should participate in this “democratic” game in order to “serve” our steadfasting Arab Palestinian masses.

The bearers of those positions never stop trying to convince our masses that the fact that this entity is “democratic” allows us to change it from within, through its own mechanisms, to make it better.

In some stroke of destination, came the 10th of February, the election’s day, the most symbolic day for any bourgeois democracy, to hit those false claims and expose it in front of the reality which proves exactly its contrary.

The Israeli authorities decided to allow the fascist Marzel and his partner in fascism Eldad to enter Um elFahm, in a clear provocation, exactly in the election’s day, the “festival of democracy”. This is a clear indication that this entity knows no shame, but it shows contempt and stamps on the feelings and dignity of a million and a half Palestinians, women and men, which are nominally regarded, and only nominally, a part of this fake democracy.

This permission proves that the Zionist authorities as a whole not only allow the development of fascist ideology, as the ideologies openly displayed by Marzel and Eldad, but those authorities stand beyond the fascist ideologies and clearly strengthen them. All the proceedings around the state’s attempt to bring the criminal Marzel as “election overseer” to one of the voting centers in Um elFahm can’t be explained simply as “political openness” in “lawful state”. There is no place to doubt that this attempt is another step in the chain of systematic steps taken by the Zionists to terrorize and expel our steadfasting people from their land.

This is proved by the political background to this attempt. Only about two months ago, Tsipi Livni (Israel’s foreign minister and leader of its biggest party – Kadima) spoke about the possibility of distancing our steadfasting Palestinian people from within to the future Palestinian “state”, as she claimed to care for “solving” the national problem of this people. This was followed by another declaration by Bibi Netanyahu (the designated next Prime Minister from Likud) claiming that the internal Palestinian demographic problem is more dangerous from Hamas, Hisballah and even Iran. This was followed by a new law, proposed by Limor Livnat (Likud) to abolish the status of Arabic as an official language.

Beyond that, as we have witnessed on the election day, Israeli “security” forces were protecting the fascists and terrorize, beat and arrest those that made an effort to stop fascism. Those who resist fascism are criminals and whoever is fascist or support fascism receives all the protection.

We do not believe in such a fake democracy. Our first patriotic obligation is to expose it and than boycott it on principled grounds. By taking part in this game we give it some sort of legitimacy and help it to fix it fake mask. Even more dangerous, taking part in this game will inevitably lead to ignoring and forgetting other means of mass struggle that proved as effective and honorable in peoples’ revolutions over the years.

Throwing us in your cold detention centers, your attempt to isolate and terrorize us will not succeed. On the contrary, it will deepen the roots of our convictions and our resolve to carry on our struggle till victory. You have your fake democracy and we have our honorable struggle and our steadfastness.

My Comrades, thank you for your support and solidarity.

We will not surrender.

Ma’an ‘Ala edDarb – Together on the road

Your Comrade Samieh Jabbarin

Jelemeh Prison

(Middle of February, 2009)

and here in nablus israeli terrorists invaded the city this morning:

Palestinian security sources reported on Monday that dozens of Israeli settlers backed by the army stormed the tomb of Prophet Joseph near Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s correspondent in Nablus that the settlers who came to the area were backed by Israeli soldiers late on Sunday, around midnight. The settlers, as reported; entered the tomb under the pretext of performing religious rituals.

The witnesses added that a number of Israeli military vehicles accompanied the buses by which settlers arrived to the area and waited two hours until they finished their rituals.