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.

wanted: zionist palestinians

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and more homes in al quds:

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

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

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

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

and another home in another neighborhood al quds:

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

and in the jordan valley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the facts stated in the report are:

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

Two people were killed during the demolition of their homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on the crimes of apartheid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nakba watch

i keep fantasizing that if i will it there will be more hours in the day. kind of like the way i will myself to keep from sleeping so that i can do more writing, reading, work. i feel that there should be a website that is dedicated to monitoring the daily nakbas in palestine. the daily ethnic cleansing. badil does a terrific job in their quarterly magazines to monitor, in detail, the situation of palestinians forcibly removed from their homes, but if you read palestinian news every day there are new families, new places to monitor. it would so great if there could be a website to track this. because it is overwhelming. here are some of the latest manifestations of israeli terrorists removing palestinians from their homes and keeping them in their little ghettoized prisons until the dirty deed is completed (this usually entails months or years of tormenting and terrorizing families into flight before homes are demolished or the israeli terrorists with m-16s come into remove palestinians from their homes).

omar karmi reported in the national about one family in khalil facing removal from their home:

When Fayez Rajabi built a home for his family in the West Bank town of Hebron, he never imagined he would have to fight for more than two years to move into it.

Last December, the 45-year-old car parts dealer thought he might have cleared a major hurdle after the Israeli army evacuated some 250 settlers who had occupied the four-storey building for over a year and a half.

The evacuation made international headlines because the Israeli army rarely moves against Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Hebron has always been a flashpoint for settler violence and aggressive expansion, but the state infrequently gets involved.

With the help of a local non-governmental agency, he had taken the case to Israel’s Supreme Court, which in Nov 2007 ruled that until ownership could be firmly established, the ultra-right activists must leave.

An army checkpoint has already been erected just outside the house and the settlers and Mr Rajabi have all been barred from entering until ownership has been determined.

clayton swisher reported on al jazeera about another family imprisoned in their home in khalil as well with psycho zion-nazis perverting the truth into some bizarre notion that it is palestinians occupying jewish land (this should be categorized or tagged in a what-the-f*&! category):

saed bannoura reported yesterday that benjamin netanyahu plans to continue such policies of ethnic cleansing, land confiscation, and home demolitions:

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated on Thursday that Israel does not intend to freeze the expansion and construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The statements of Netanyahu came during a meeting with the Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek. The Czech Republic is the rotating head of the European Union.

The Israeli PM said that this issue should be parallel, stating the “if the Israeli’s were barred from building in the West Bank, the Palestinians should refrain from building too”.

This blind parallel disregards the fact that settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under the international law and constitute a war crime.

Topolanek told Netanyahu that the European Union is concerned that the ongoing construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would hinder the establishment of an independent, contagious, Palestinian state.

Netanyahu said that the “West Bank is a disputed territory” and that he does not intend to halt the construction and expansion of settlements.

He stated that Israel does not currently plan to expand settlements, but added that “if a settler wants to build a home in a settlement, then there is no problem in that”.

Netanyahu only stated that Israel will be “enforce the law in dealing with illegal settlement outpost”, also referred to by Israel as “random outpost”.

He slammed some European Legislators said that the EU should not upgrade its relations with Israel due to its violations against the Palestinians.

Netanyahu stated that relations with Israel should not be dependent on Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, and added that Israel will not accept preconditions.

The statements of Netanyahu come in direct violation to the international law especially since Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are built on areas annexed and illegally grabbed from the Palestinians.

It is worth mentioning that, under international law, settlements are considered a form of war crimes.

and in the guardian rory mccarthy shows jerusalem’s mayor as doing much the same thing on the local level, although he likes to pretend that he is not when he speaks about the massive ethnic cleansing operation afoot in al quds:

Israel’s mayor of Jerusalem defended the demolition of houses in the Arab east of the city today and insisted Jerusalem could not be a future capital of a Palestinian state.

Nir Barkat, a secular businessman elected as mayor five months ago, rejected international criticism of demolitions and planning policy in east Jerusalem as “misinformation” and “Palestinian spin”.

There is growing international concern about Israeli house demolitions and settlement growth in East Jerusalem, an area captured by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by most of the international community. Critics of Israeli policy point out that planning permits are rarely given to Palestinians in East Jerusalem and that space allowed in the east for building is heavily restricted.

Last month the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, described demolitions as “unhelpful” and an internal EU diplomatic report, obtained last month by the Guardian, described them as “illegal under international law” and said they “fuel bitterness and extremism”.

But Barkat told reporters: “There is no politics. It’s just maintaining law and order in the city.” Since January, he said, there had been 35 demolitions, of which 20 were in the east. Asked about the international concern, he said: “The world is basing their evidence on the wrong facts … The world has to learn and I am sure people will change their minds.”

But others on the council disagree. Meir Margalit, an elected councillor from the leftwing Meretz party, said while the demolitions in the east were of Palestinian apartments and houses, in the west of the city they were nearly all small structures added on to buildings, including shopfronts.

Margalit said fewer than 7% of planning applications submitted by Palestinians in East Jerusalem had been successful so far this year, against 14% from the west, while 41% of Palestinian East Jerusalem planning applications had been rejected, against 20% from the west. He said this followed a pattern established over many years, before Barkat’s election.

“The discrimination here is more than ideological,” Margalit said. “It is part of a cultural structure that is the norm in the municipality.” He also produced research showing the municipality spent less than 12% of its budget in the east, where roads are often potholed and services are poor.

Barkat said he wanted to improve the life of all the city’s residents, Jewish and Arab, but that he was committed to maintaining a Jewish majority. Jews make up around two-thirds of the city’s population.

He said he could not accept East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state. “Jerusalem, both ideologically and practically, has to be managed as a united city, as the Israeli capital, and must not be divided,” he said.

Barkat said he wanted the Israeli government to build a Jewish settlement in an area of the occupied West Bank east of Jerusalem known as E1, a project the US has opposed. He said E1 was part of the “holy land of Israel” and could serve to allow the city’s Jewish population to expand outwards. “I see no reason in the world why the Israelis must freeze expansion and the Palestinians can build illegally,” he said. Under the US “road map”, which remains the basis of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel is committed to freezing all settlement building. Settlements in occupied land are widely regarded as illegal under international law.

all of this ethnic cleansing is based on the racist idea that only jews have a right to live in palestine, which is not a jewish land, but arab land. to get some context on the bigger picture watch this clip of stories from the arab media on the united nations conference against racism:

and here is the united nations high commissioner for human rights, navi pillay, speaking about the massive propaganda campaign against the conference (which was led by the zionist entity, though she does not mention it) which led to the boycott of it by eurocentric racist nations with colonial pasts and neocolonial presents:

and the “unhelpful” ethnic cleansing goes on…

8 palestinian homes in aqraba were destroyed by israeli colonist terrorists today:

Israeli military bulldozers began demolished eight Palestinian houses southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Ghassan Doglus, the head of a local committee against settlements, said that bulldozers backed by soldiers invaded the Jetit area, in the vicinity of the village of Aqraba.

Jad’an Qasim, chair of the Al-Falah Society, identified owners of the properties to be demolished as Zayd Bani Minna, Khalil Bani Jabir, Jamil Bani Jabir, Ghallab Hammad, Wasif Hammad, Muhammad Hammad, and Abdullah Bani Jabir.

and in al quds another palestinian home was destroyed:

The Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality demolished a Palestinian house in the Jabal Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem on the pretext that it was built without a permit.

The house, in the As-Sal’a area, was owned by of Ammar Hdedon and was home to seven people. Ammar told Ma’an that he received no warning from the municipality before the demolition.

Two months ago the municipality used construction equipment to attack the foundation of the house.

Building permits are the most often used pretext for demolishing houses, though Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem say permission is often near-impossible to obtain from the Jerusalem Municipality. Hundreds of houses in the city are currently slated for demolition.

it doesn’t seem to matter who speaks out or resists, palestinians are still being rendered homeless, refugees. today there was a protest near jebel mukabbir and still nothing. the house was still demolished. but mairead maguire spoke there and stated the obvious:

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire on Tuesday accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” policies in annexed east Jerusalem, where the municipality plans to tear down almost 90 Arab homes.

“I believe the Israeli government is carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians here in east Jerusalem,” said Maguire, who won the 1976 Nobel prize for her efforts at reaching a peaceful solution to the violence in Northern Ireland.

“I believe the Israeli government policies are against international law, against human rights, against the dignity of the Palestinian people,” she said at a news conference.

It was held in a protest tent erected by residents of east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighbourhood where 88 Arab homes are under demolition orders.

and below is my latest piece in electronic intifada on the jaber family in al quds. the latest is that they met with the israeli terrorist mayor yesterday. surprise surprise: he isn’t going to help them. will anyone? can anyone? and not only the jabers but all these families relegated to refugee status on a daily basis because they are not jewish. because they were here first. because this is their land but israeli terrorists with the help of their american allies continue to render palestinians landless.

In the Sadiyya neighborhood inside the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City is the Jaber family home. There, three members of the Jaber family, as well as the Karaki family, have lived with their parents, and later spouses and children, since the 1930s. Like most homes inside the Old City, the residential space has an open center that is shared by those living inside.

Six years ago Israeli police came to the house and told Nasser Jaber that his house no longer belonged to his family, but rather to Israeli colonists from the right-wing Messianic settler organization Ateret Cohanim whose racist ideology is closely aligned with Kach, a political party that advocates the expulsion of Palestinians. But when the Israeli colonial court sent its police to investigate, the court decided that the home indeed belonged to the Jaber family. The scenario was repeated the following year, in 2004, when the judge came to investigate who the house belonged to. Once again after visiting the home and looking at the papers it was decided that the home belonged to the Jaber family. But the story did not end there.

On 2 April, while Nasser was visiting his mother in the nearby Wadi Joz neighborhood, 42 Israeli colonists from Ataret Cohanim, armed with M-16s, broke down the door of the house and confiscated the apartment inside belonging to Hazem Jaber. It was 2:30am and they were aided by Israeli special forces. The mosque in the neighborhood alerted families in the area and a fight ensued in the street. Twenty Palestinians, including women and children, were beaten up by special forces police and seven were arrested, including Nasser, his brothers, and his son. Sami al-Jundi, one of Nasser’s neighbors who was beaten up, observed, “They did not use live ammunition or tear gas bombs. Instead they beat us with batons and sprayed us with pepper spray. They know that if Palestinian blood spills in the streets of the Old City a third intifada will follow.”

Umm Alaa Jaber, who married into the family 55 years ago, whose wedding and the birth of her nine children took place in this very house, believes the struggle over her house and her neighborhood is about forcing them into submission. She remarked, “This is exactly like Gaza. Like Gaza happened here. Everyone who moves is beaten up. And the reason they beat the children is to make them afraid to fight against the occupation. Now they declare their hatred inside our house.” It has been especially difficult for the women of the Jaber and Karaki families, having to endure foreign men occupying their home and invading their privacy. Umm Alaa said their ordeal, “My eyes have become so tired from the tears. My heart, too.”

With two Israeli colonists already illegally occupying Palestinian homes a few doors down from the Jaber family, one house since the 1980s, Palestinians in the Sadiyya have been working together to ensure this will not be the fate of the Jaber family home. They were initially successful in kicking out the settlers from the house, but last week the court ruled that each family — the Jabers and the colonists — would be able to have guards in the house. Thus, Ateret Cohanim sent members of its private security company to guard Hazem Jaber’s apartment inside the house, armed with M-16s. Palestinians however are not legally allowed to own weapons nor are there any private Palestinian security companies that could protect the Jaber family. Although, according to the Jabers, the Israeli group Peace Now promised to send guards, the family says they have yet to follow through.

Nasser Jaber expected that his hearing in court last week would have reaffirmed that this house belongs to his family. Instead, the court date to render such a decision has been postponed to this week. This will be the third such court date that has postponed a decision since 2 April. For Nasser and his family, as well as people in the neighborhood, it is not just about his house. Nasser said, “When we talk about the situation in our house we are also talking about the situation in the whole country, in the village, in every house.”

Indeed, the Jaber family house is symbolic of the struggle to resist the ethnic cleansing practices of the Israeli colonial regime. Unlike the nearby Silwan or Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods where hundreds of Palestinian families have received eviction notices — because their homes are slated for demolition so Israeli colonists may occupy their land — inside the Old City the pace of such creeping annexation is slower, but no less serious. In the Old City, as elsewhere, the court, the police and the colonists work as a team to further dispossess Palestinians. However, without a police force or a legal system to protect Palestinians in Jerusalem, and without the ability for most Palestinians to travel to their capital city, it is far more difficult for Palestinians to resist the takeover of their homes in the same coordinated fashion. Nevertheless, Palestinians in each of these neighborhoods under threat are determined to fight for their right to exist on their land.

What is significant about the Jaber family’s battle for their home is the way this fight is emblematic of the twin processes Israel has been using to Judaize the land: creeping annexation and delaying negotiations. Since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip (as well as other Arab territories), the ethnic cleansing has been steady but slow, unlike the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in both 1948 and 1967. One house or neighborhood at a time, Palestinians are removed from their land. And just as the Jaber family finds the court continually delaying its decision about their home, for the last 16 years Palestinians have experienced the realities of the Oslo process as a delay process. Although to much of the world Oslo signifies a “peace process,” for Palestinians Oslo has meant an escalation of land confiscation among other things. Under Oslo Israel has continually delayed negotiating the core issues that would lead to a just solution, particularly regarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem. Palestinians in the Sadiyya neighborhood know all too well that delay means that Israeli colonists use that process to establish further “facts on the ground.” But the residents of Sadiyya vow to continue their resistance to support their neighbors because they know this is not only a battle for the Jabers, but also for their city, and their country.

tis the season to boycott

bethlehem-cartoon-mary-joseph-israeli-soldiers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bethlehem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS FOR L’OREAL’S ISRAEL INVESTMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

how about just 3 commandments?

Surprise, surprise: Once again the word Palestine was erased from the discourse of a Presidential debate. Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama, nor any of the American voters asking questions, uttered the word Palestine. Nor did the words Gaza or the West Bank cross anyone’s lips. Instead they danced around the daily invasions, assassinations, home demolitions, destruction of homes and olive groves, the pollution and theft of water, the siege on Gaza. Likewise an entire history of ethnic cleansing and massacres of Palestinians that continue unabated went unmentioned. Interesting that Americans are very worried about nuclear weapons landing on “Israel,” but no one seems to be worried about the fact that if nuclear–or any other weapons from Iran for that matter–landed here Palestinians would die too. Here is the question and the responses from both mainstream candidates on the subject of Iran and the Zionist state:

Shirey: Senator, as a retired Navy chief, my thoughts are often with those who serve our country. I know both candidates, both of you, expressed support for Israel.

If, despite your best diplomatic efforts, Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit U.S. troops in support and defense of Israel? Or would you wait on approval from the U.N. Security Council?

McCain: Well, thank you, Terry (ph). And thank you for your service to the country.

I want to say, everything I ever learned about leadership I learned from a chief petty officer. And I thank you, and I thank you, my friend. Thanks for serving.

Let — let — let me say that we obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. I think the realities are that both Russia and China would probably pose significant obstacles.

And our challenge right now is the Iranians continue on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons, and it’s a great threat. It’s not just a threat — threat to the state of Israel. It’s a threat to the stability of the entire Middle East.

If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, all the other countries will acquire them, too. The tensions will be ratcheted up.

What would you do if you were the Israelis and the president of a country says that they are — they are determined to wipe you off the map, calls your country a stinking corpse?

Now, Sen. Obama without precondition wants to sit down and negotiate with them, without preconditions. That’s what he stated, again, a matter of record.

I want to make sure that the Iranians are put enough — that we put enough pressure on the Iranians by joining with our allies, imposing significant, tough sanctions to modify their behavior. And I think we can do that.

I think, joining with our allies and friends in a league of democracies, that we can effectively abridge their behavior, and hopefully they would abandon this quest that they are on for nuclear weapons.

But, at the end of the day, my friend, I have to tell you again, and you know what it’s like to serve, and you know what it’s like to sacrifice, but we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place.

Brokaw: Sen. Obama?

Obama: Well, Terry, first of all, we honor your service, and we’re grateful for it.

We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

And so it’s unacceptable. And I will do everything that’s required to prevent it.

And we will never take military options off the table. And it is important that we don’t provide veto power to the United Nations or anyone else in acting in our interests.

It is important, though, for us to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent the scenario where we’ve got to make those kinds of choices.

And that’s why I have consistently said that, if we can work more effectively with other countries diplomatically to tighten sanctions on Iran, if we can reduce our energy consumption through alternative energy, so that Iran has less money, if we can impose the kinds of sanctions that, say, for example, Iran right now imports gasoline, even though it’s an oil-producer, because its oil infrastructure has broken down, if we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need and the refined petroleum products, that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis. That starts putting the squeeze on them.

Now, it is true, though, that I believe that we should have direct talks — not just with our friends, but also with our enemies — to deliver a tough, direct message to Iran that, if you don’t change your behavior, then there will be dire consequences.

If you do change your behavior, then it is possible for you to re-join the community of nations.

Now, it may not work. But one of the things we’ve learned is, is that when we take that approach, whether it’s in North Korea or in Iran, then we have a better chance at better outcomes.

When President Bush decided we’re not going to talk to Iran, we’re not going to talk to North Korea, you know what happened? Iran went from zero centrifuges to develop nuclear weapons to 4,000. North Korea quadrupled its nuclear capability.

We’ve got to try to have talks, understanding that we’re not taking military options off the table.

While this wasn’t the vapid race to profess love that we saw when Joe Biden and Sarah Palin debated, it was equally disturbing. It is disturbing that these would-be leaders think that it is Iran that is the threat to stability in the region. There was no instability in the region until Americans and Europeans invaded the region and unleashed their war machine on Iraq. The U.S. invaded Iraq by its hyperbolic warmongering and by spreading unfounded fears and deceptions masquerading as facts that made this possible. The same is true when they misquote Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement about the Zionist state’s existence. Ahmadinejad has said two key things on the subject: one, that Palestinians should not have had to pay for a European problem (i.e., the Nazi holocaust) and two, that the state of Israel is a racist, colonial state that should not exist. That does not mean that he is calling for a second holocaust. Rather, it means the Zionist regime is illegal and illegitimate. As illegitimate as the French in Algeria or as the English in India. By not talking about Palestinians as indigenous people whose rights have been violated for over 120 years, since Zionist colonialism began in earnest, and by bandying about words like “second holocaust” they play right into the hands of the Israeli lobby. They are continuing in this grand tradition of using the Nazi holocaust as a weapon to push through billions of dollars in military aid to the Zionist regime. Interesting that with all these fears about the economy not one American at this town hall can make the connection between this obscene amount of aid–obscene in its amount and obscene in terms of how it murders Palestinians and Lebanese on a regular basis–granted to the state of Israel and the economic woes that face the U.S. today.

But I also find it disturbing and disingenuous that the U.S. is constantly haranguing Iran about nuclear weapons they may have in the future, when the state of Israel has them NOW:

Most estimates, many based on evidence leaked in 1986 by Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, put the number of Israeli nuclear weapons at between 100 and 200. But other experts have said the number is as low as 60 or as high as 400.

The United Nations or the world community must regulate nuclear proliferation–and this, of course applies to the U.S., the only nation to use them against another nation and its own citizens–in a way that maintains equality among all nations.

But back to the settler colonial Zionists who occupy Palestine illegally. I posted a review of a new book by an Israeli historian last year, which seems to be coming out in English later this year. This important book by Shlomo Sand argues that the Jews who colonized Palestine had no historical relationship to this land. Jonathan Cook has a new review of the book in today’s National:

Dr Sand argues that the idea of a Jewish nation – whose need for a safe haven was originally used to justify the founding of the state of Israel – is a myth invented little more than a century ago.

An expert on European history at Tel Aviv University, Dr Sand drew on extensive historical and archaeological research to support not only this claim but several more – all equally controversial.

In addition, he argues that the Jews were never exiled from the Holy Land, that most of today’s Jews have no historical connection to the land called Israel and that the only political solution to the country’s conflict with the Palestinians is to abolish the Jewish state….

Dr Sand’s main argument is that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews only because they shared a common religion. At the turn of the 20th century, he said, Zionist Jews challenged this idea and started creating a national history by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion.

Equally, the modern Zionist idea of Jews being obligated to return from exile to the Promised Land was entirely alien to Judaism, he added.

“Zionism changed the idea of Jerusalem. Before, the holy places were seen as places to long for, not to be lived in. For 2,000 years Jews stayed away from Jerusalem not because they could not return but because their religion forbade them from returning until the messiah came.”

The biggest surprise during his research came when he started looking at the archaeological evidence from the biblical era.

“I was not raised as a Zionist, but like all other Israelis I took it for granted that the Jews were a people living in Judea and that they were exiled by the Romans in 70AD.

“But once I started looking at the evidence, I discovered that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were legends. “Similarly with the exile. In fact, you can’t explain Jewishness without exile. But when I started to look for history books describing the events of this exile, I couldn’t find any. Not one.

“That was because the Romans did not exile people. In fact, Jews in Palestine were overwhelming peasants and all the evidence suggests they stayed on their lands.”

What Sand is saying is no different than Ahmadinejad. It’s just coming from a different source. A source who has researched the subject extensively.

Starting tonight Jews will begin their Yom Kippur holiday. This is a holiday that asks Jews to atone for their sins. Let’s examine some of them, shall we? Perhaps we can evaluate how the Jews of Israel are doing:

You shall not murder.

You shall not steal.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

It seems to me that the foundation of the Zionist state violates these three commandments, those that I personally find the most valuable of the ten. The entire history of the state of Israel is dependent upon violating these very commandments. But it is not just history. It is present-day reality. Take, for example, what happened here in Nablus last night:

The Palestine News reported that dozens of soldiers, members of the under-cover units of the Israeli military, supported by a number of military vehicles invaded on Tuesday morning the Al Far’a refugee camp, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and surrounded a number of homes while firing at random, several residents were wounded; one seriously.

Or, we could go to the recent past to look at how much death and destruction the Israeli Terrorist Forces have unleashed on Palestine since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000:

Israeli forces have killed 5,526 Palestinians over the past eight years including 1,010 children under 18 and 340 women and girls, says a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) International and National Relations Department report released recently.

The report was released in commemoration of the eighth anniversary of Al-Aqsa Intifada, the second uprising of Palestinians in the occupied territories. According to the report, 664 of the victims were school students and 11 were journalists.

Furthermore, 33,000 Palestinians were injured and 15,000 suffered from the inhalation of tear gas. More than 7,500 citizens were disabled including 3,600 who were “permanently handicapped.”

The report also highlighted that 247 Gazans died as they were denied travel outside the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

With regards to demolition of houses, the PLO report recorded 8,300 demolitions including 900 houses in Jerusalem which Israeli authorities destroyed on the pretext that they were built without permits.

According to the report, over the past eight years, Israeli forces have detained more than 65,000 Palestinians, of whom 11,000 are still in Israeli jails. As a result of negligence and dire prison conditions, 76 prisoners died in custody since the beginning of the Intifada eight years ago.

As for military checkpoints and roadblocks, the PLO report stated that since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli forces erected 93 checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers and 537 roadblocks closing different routes across the West Bank using earth and rocks as well as huge cement blocks.

The report concluded with highlighting an escalation in assaults and harassments by Israeli settlers against Palestinian citizens, especially in Hebron in the southern West bank and Nablus in the north. According to the report, 167 Palestinians were killed at the hands of settlers since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada.

These checkpoints, illegal settlements, and house demolitions exist because the Zionists covet this land and steal more of it each day. This is, of course, in addition to the widespread murder and theft of people into Israeli jails each day. It seems to me that if such a holiday mattered or of Jews took their religion seriously they would repent and leave or repent and dismantle their state and make it a democratic state for all who live here without special privileges for Jews.

Of course for those of us living in Palestine this holiday also means another closure, lock down in other words. But of course, you didn’t hear any of this in that debate last night, did you?

resistance and reprisals

are there israelis who know how to speak without using the word “terrorist”? is it possible for an israeli to function in the world without hurling this word at palestinians or lebanese or syrians (or insert neighbor of choice here) every five minutes? is it possible that this disease (akin to the one commonly seen in lebanon whereby the media loves to rush to judgment about syrian involvement when there is an explosion) of blaming palestinians (of course i don’t think israelis know this word–they use the word terrorist mostly, sometimes arab to make sure their mythology and propaganda is in sync) for everything is spreading to media outlets like al jazeera? last night david chater reported on yet another remarkable mode of creative resistance to israeli state terrorism directed at civilians. he had interviewed israeli police who instantly rushed to judge that this was the work of a “terrorist” therefore chater decided he’d use that word too. what’s more: chater in all his infinite wisdom (not!) began to speculate why this incident, why the previous ones incidents of resistance in al quds–he ponders–could it be drugs? could he be upset with his family? what would do something to drive someone to this “terrorism”? chater wonders.

hmmmm…let me think. could it be the unbelievable, outlandish lengths one has to go to in order to deal with freedom of movement? the checkpoints? the apartheid wall? the seizure of land? the violence, murder, collective punishment, and terrorism palestinians have to live through every day? could it be house demolitions? could it be the imprisonment of a friend of loved one? so many choices, how might i contextualize this event. but, no, chater prefers the simplistic, israeli answer that helps to deceive the public into thinking that this was “pure terrorism.” or that possible he was on drugs. al jazeera: are you taking bribes? are you doing drugs (i.e., as an explanation for why so many brain cells seem to be disappearing)? or are you just that stupid?

of course we’ll never know the real answer because israeli terrorists killed salah al-mughrabi before we might find out (but, israel has no death penalty):

Palestinian Qasim Salah Al-Mughrabi was the driver of a black compact that drove into a group of Israeli soldiers visiting Jerusalem. The 19-year-old from the Al-Faruq area on Mount Scopus was shot and killed by an Israeli lieutenant on the scene, according to local sources.

Israeli medical sources say 19 Israelis were injured, ten of which are in serious condition, nine sustained moderate wounds, and at least eight of the injured are Israeli soldiers.

notice that most of the injured were israeli soldiers. same was true with the incident at huwarra checkpoint near nablus. but notice too what happens to the civilian population as a result of palestinians resisting. now comes the collective punishment. for instance, yesterday at huwwara checkpoint:

Three Palestinian residents including a woman were reportedly shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers on Monday at the Israeli checkpoint of Huwwara on Nablus land, Palestinian sources reported.

Sources said that the Israeli shooting came right after an Israeli soldier was exposed to chemical substances thrown by a young Palestinian woman at the checkpoint.

Medical sources reported that the Israeli army shot and wounded a lady in her right leg and that one of the wounded youths sustained a bullet to his kidney; the other was shot in his left leg.

All wounded were evacuated to the local hospital of Rafedia, medics confirmed. Witnesses told media outlets that Israeli soldiers closed the Huwwara checkpoint following the incident and that people were denied entry in and out of Nablus. The assailant girl, in her twenties and wearing a long dress and a head-covering, was detained by the Israeli army.

and all morning the israeli terrorist forces have been flying overhead breaking the sound barrier. and promises of more collective punishment for moghrabi’s family and neighbors from the israeli terrorists:

Jerusalem District Police Commander, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Franco ordered his forces on Tuesday to stop the residents of east Jerusalem’s Jabel Mukabar neighborhood from erecting a mourners’ tent in honor of Kasem Mugrabi, who carried out the terror attack in Jerusalem on Monday night.

yes, that’s a good idea. punish the family and friends and prohibit them from mourning. that’s a great way to keep people’s anger to a minimum and keep from reprisals. good thinking. but wait, there’s more! one of israel’s chief terrorists, ehud barak has a plan:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a security assessment overnight, and discussed the need to use razing as a measure of deterrence: “We need to take legal action in order to drastically expedite the (legal) process, so we can take action shortly after an attack happens and deter any future potential terrorists,” he said.

A Security source added that if the military is unable to use razing as an immediate punitive action, it loses its effect: “Waiting for months on end for the go-ahead is unheard of. It sends the exact opposite message to anyone contemplating carrying out an attack.

so now another house will be demolished. and the seeds will be sown for more resistance. and the israelis will continue to name it “terrorism.” and they will continue to be wrong. because this is about palestinian rights to their land and resistance to european, foreign, alien colonists who do not belong here. who are not from here.