on ajaneb

of course before i begin such a post i must say up front that what i say about anjaneb here includes me, as i am also a foreigner in palestine. i cannot help but think about what it means to be a foreigner every day i am here. having a consciousness about what it means to be a foreigner here–having white skin as well as carrying an american passport. this consciousness is akin to living with and understanding what it means to have white privilege in the united states. but here it means something different. it means that most of the time i can cross checkpoints with ease. it means that i can go to 1948 palestine. it means i can leave the country (though it does not necessarily mean i can return).

some palestinians are suspicious of foreigners, though not as much as they should be. foreigners are here for all sorts of reasons (i am focusing on americans here but some of this can apply to other internationals). some are here to spy on palestinians for the american and israeli terrorists. some are here to aid american imperialism through usaid, state department, or u.s. embassy “projects” (witness the most recent imperial efforts of the americans in palestine: training palestinian authority security, read: crack down further on palestinian resistance to israeli colonialism and terrorism). some foreigners are here out of curiosity, as tourists. they want to see for themselves what the real story of palestine is. some foreigners are here to do charity work, these foreigners tend to view palestinians as a charity case. they often come here to tell palestinians what they need rather than listening to what palestinians actually want, rather than helping palestinians build their own projects based on their own initiatives and ingenuity. some foreigners are here to do missionary work in churches and schools (thanks tam tam for reminding me). some foreigners come to boost a cv (also from tam tam). some come here to do research, as journalists, or to write books, often profiting off of palestinians’ tragedies (too rare are the cases of journalists like jonathan cook and nora barrows-friedman). some come to work here with palestinians or at palestinian institutions for a variety of reasons, some problematic, some not. some foreigners come because they want to do “peace” work. these foreigners think that the zionist entity has a right to exist.

then there are the foreigners who come as activists, to do solidarity work. some of these people come for reasons listed above and then become activists. most of us come with varying levels of consciousness or language skills when we arrive. even those of us who come with an understanding of the context in palestine, seeing it up close certainly changes many of us forever. many solidarity activists participate in direct action work with organizations like the international solidarity movement (ism), which i worked with when i first lived here in 2005. of course there are all sorts of different people who work with ism and it seems that most of the foreigners i met at that time had good intentions, were working in solidarity with palestinians in a way that wasn’t imposing some sort of western style of activism on palestinians, but rather following the lead of palestinians. and although i have mixed feelings about ism now, for a variety of reasons, some of which i have posted hear on earlier blog posts, i do think it is important for foreigners to work with palestinians who are resisting the continual theft of their land.

rachel corrie, of course, was one of those people. today is the sixth anniversary of her death. people are commemorating it and marking this anniversary in various places around the world and in palestine. as it happens another ism activist was shot, though not murdered, this week. democracy now! has a report both on tristan anderson, the man shot in the face with a tear gas canister a couple of days ago in the village of ni’in and also an interview with rachel corrie’s parents who were recently in gaza with code pink.

let me be clear: i think that it is important that people like tristan or rachel come here to do this work. what i object to is the way that their deaths or injuries become more important than the daily murders, kidnappings, injuries, land and house confiscation that palestinians endure every day. what very few people report on, especially in the western media, but sometimes even in palestinian media, are the names of the palestinians who are murdered by israeli terrorists. this is sort of like everyone knowing and naming the israeli terrorists held in gaza and no one knowing or using the names of the thousands of palestinians murdered by israeli terrorists. i have a problem with the fact that all sorts of people around the world know rachel’s name, and probably now tristan’s, but how many of them know the names of the thousands of palestinians murdered every year? case in point, check out the story on ma’an news, based in beit lahem, on the shooting of tristan:

Israeli soldiers critically wounded an American peace activist after launching a tear-gas canister at his head and shot four Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah, on Friday.

“He had a large hole in the front of his head, and his brain was visible,” one protester said of the injuries to the American activist.

Dozens of others choked on tear gas at an otherwise peaceful demonstration against the Israeli separation wall. The protest is a weekly event attended regularly by international peace activists, many affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement.

Demonstrators marched through the streets of Ni’lin toward the Israeli separation wall chanting slogans calling for Palestinian national unity and for resistance to the occupation. Then “the Israeli soldiers attacked the peaceful demonstration using rubber-coated bullets gas and stun grenades.”

The coordinator of the anti-wall Popular Committee in the village, A’hed Al- Khawaja, added, “Four were injured [and] others choked after inhaling gas.”

Later in the day the AP reported that one ISM activist, Tristan Anderson of Oakland, California, was in critical condition at a Tel Aviv hospital. The agency quoted one hospital official as saying “he’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests.”

According to Teah Lunqvist, another protestor, “Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500 meters.”

“I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After five minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed,” she said.

In 2003 Rachel Corrie, another ISM peace activist, was crushed by a bulldozer as she stood protecting the home of a Palestinian family from Israeli demolition.

of course, here we know tristan’s name and all the details about his case, but nothing of the four palestinians who were shot. this is not always the case. last summer when a 10 year old palestinian boy was murdered in nil’in ism published a report listing the names of the martyrs of the village:

A 10 year old boy called Ahmed Ussam Yusef Mousa was shot dead at approximately 6pm near the Palestinian village of Nil’in. He was shot once in the head at close range with live ammunition. According to eye witnesses a group of youths attempted to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village.Without warning, they were fired upon and Ahmed was killed. Israeli newspaper Maariv reported in March that the Israeli authorities have given a new order to border police operating along the apartheid wall surrounding Jerusalem. They can now open fire directly on Palestinians who try to demonstrate near the barrier. But sniping is forbidden if there are Israeli or foreign citizens amongst demonstrators.

Demonstrations have been held almost every day for the past few weeks as near Nil’in against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court in the Hague in 2004. The wall will deprive the village of almost 2,500 Dunums of agricultural land, and put the existence of the entirely community in doubt.

The Israeli Army and Border Police have been increasingly ill-disciplined and violent in response to the demonstrations. News came this morning that Israeli Battalion Commander Lt. Col Omri, had been sent on 10 days compulsory leave as a punishment for his conduct at Nil’in. Omri held a 27 year old Palestinian detainee Ashraf Abu Rahma by the shoulder while one of his men shot Abu Rahma with a rubber coated steel bullet at very close range. Abu Rahma was blindfolded and his hands were bound when he was shot in the foot.

At least 11 other Palestinians have died protesting against Israeli’s apartheid wall. Their names are:

Mohammad Fadel Hashem Rayan, age 25.

Zakaria MaHmud Salem, age 28.

Abdal Rahman Abu Eid, age 62.

Mohammad Daud Badwan, age 21.

Diaa Abdel Karim Abu Eid, age 24.

Hussain mahmud Awwad Aliyan, age 17.

Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14.

Alaa Mohammad Abdel Rahman Khalil, age 14.

Jamal Jaber Ibrahim Assi, age 15.

Odai Mofeed Mahmud Assi, age 14.

Mahayub Nimer Assi, age 15.

To date, none of the soldiers who killed demonstrators has been prosecuted.

last summer there was a widely publicized case of a palestinian from nil’in who was blindfolded and handcuffed who was shot by israeli terrorists; it was publicized because it was videotaped, and likely because an b’tselem disseminated it:

Today, B’Tselem is publishing a video clip documenting a soldier firing a rubber coated steel bullet, from extremely close range, at a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. The shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holing the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired.

The incident took place on 7 July, in Nil’in, a village in the West Bank. A Palestinian demonstrator, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was stopped by soldiers, who cuffed and blindfolded him for about thirty minutes, during which time, according to Abu-Rahma, they beat him. Afterwards, a group of soldiers and border policemen led him to an army jeep. The video clip shows a soldier aim his weapon at the demonstrator’s legs, from about 1.5 meters away, and fire a rubber coated steel bullet at him. Abu-Rahma stated that the bullet hit his left toe, received treatment from an army medic, and released by the soldiers.

shooting at and murdering palestinians who dare to resist israeli colonial terrorism is par for the course, but more often than not they go unnamed. last week the injured 8 palestinians in nil’in, all of who also went unnamed in ma’an’s report.

rachel corrie’s parents, cindy and craig corrie, thankfully, do not fall into this pattern of forgetting that there are far more palestinians who die, who are shot, whose homes are destroyed, whose land is stolen. they wrote a statement today in honor of their daughter’s death, which is notable precisely for this reason and for the overall context they provide, which does not place their daughter at the center, but rather the palestinians whose cause she was fighting for:

We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to others.

Friday, 13 March, we learned of the tragic injury to American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in the head with a tear gas canister in Nilin village in the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration opposing the construction of the annexation wall through the village’s land. On the same day, a Nilin resident was shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four residents of Nilin have been killed in the past eight months as villagers and their supporters have courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice — a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the village’s remaining land.

Those who have died are 10-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29 July 2008; Yousef Amira (17), shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on 30 July 2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on 8 December 2008. On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so.

We are writing this message from Cairo where we returned after a visit to Gaza with the Code Pink delegation from the United States. Fifty-eight women and men successfully passed through Rafah crossing on Saturday, 7 March to challenge the border closures and siege and to celebrate International Women’s Day with the strong and courageous women of Gaza.

Rachel would be very happy that our spirited delegation made this journey. North to south throughout the Strip, we witnessed the sweeping destruction of neighborhoods, municipal buildings, police stations, mosques and schools — casualties of the Israeli military assaults in December and January. When we asked about the personal impact of the attacks on those we met, we heard repeatedly of the loss of mothers, fathers, children, cousins and friends. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports 1,434 Palestinian dead and more than 5,000 injured, among them 288 children and 121 women.

We walked through the farming village of Khoza in the south where 50 homes were destroyed during the land invasion. A young boy scrambled through a hole in the rubble to show us the basement he and his family crouched in as a bulldozer crushed their house upon them. We heard of Rafiya, who lead the frightened women and children of this neighborhood away from threatening Israeli military bulldozers, only to be struck down and killed by an Israeli soldier’s sniper fire as she walked in the street carrying her white flag.

Repeatedly, we were told by Palestinians, and by the internationals on the ground supporting them, that there is no ceasefire. Indeed, bomb blasts from the border area punctuated our conversations as we arrived and departed Gaza. On our last night, we sat by a fire in the moonlight in the remains of a friend’s farmyard and listened to him tell of how the Israeli military destroyed his home in 2004, and of how this second home was shattered on 6 February. This time, it was Israeli rockets from Apache helicopters that struck the house. A stand of wheat remained and rustled soothingly in the breeze as we talked, but our attention shifted quickly when F-16s streaked high across the night sky and our friend explained that if the planes tipped to the side, they would strike.

Everywhere, the psychological costs of the recent and ongoing attacks for all Gazans, but especially for the children, were sadly apparent. It is not only those who suffer the greatest losses that carry the scars of all that has happened. It is those, too, who witnessed from their school, bodies flying in the air when police cadets were bombed across the street and those who felt and heard the terrifying blasts of missiles falling near their own homes. It is the children who each day must walk past the unexplainable and inhumane destruction that has occurred.

In Rachel’s case, though a thorough, credible and transparent investigation was promised by the Israeli government, after six years, the position of the US government remains that such an investigation has not taken place. In March 2008, Michele Bernier-Toff, Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services at the Department of State, wrote, “We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored.” Now, the attacks on all the people of Gaza and the recent one on Tristan Anderson in Nilin cry out for investigation and accountability. We call on President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and members of Congress to act with fortitude and courage to ensure that the atrocities that have occurred are addressed by the Israeli government and through relevant international and US law. We ask them to act immediately and persistently to stop the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military, not to encourage it.

Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to enter briefly into the lives of Rachel’s Palestinian friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and heartened by their song, dance and laughter amidst the tears. Rachel wrote in 2003, “I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity — laughter, generosity, family time — against the incredible horror occurring in their lives … I am also discovering a degree of strength and the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances … I think the word is dignity.” On this sixth anniversary of Rachel’s killing, we echo her sentiments.

i was thinking about these issues this week in a number of different contexts. part of why we know who rachel corrie is today is because of the work of her parents–the foundation in her memory, the publications of her writings. indeed, i am teaching the play, my name is rachel corrie, in my drama class later this semester. to be sure, i would much rather be teaching a play by palestinian american betty shamieh. unfortunately, there is too much sexual content and if i had problems with a raisin in the sun, i suspect i’d be kicked out of nablus if i taught one of her plays. but i have a problem of the foreigner being one of the only voices writing in such a way for the theatre. but of palestinian martyrs how many of them were playwrights? how many of them left behind writings that were published? (yes, of course, palestinian writers and intellectuals have long been targets for assassination by israeli terrorists, most famously ghassan kanafani, but as far as i know none were playwrights.) however, i am also teaching a palestinian play, ansar: a true story from an israeli military detention center by fateh azzam, ismail dabbagh, ‘abed ju’beh, and nidal khatib. but i wonder how many people know of this play compared to the widely produced play by/about corrie? i find this sad.

too, there are other ways that corrie’s memory lives on in a way that often feels like it supersedes voices of palestinians. in howard zinn’s voices of a people’s history, rachel corrie is one of the voices represented (so is the always brilliant, fabulous rania masri). one of the reasons why i have long been a fan of howard zinn is because of the way he writes history–focusing on the resistance against state powers:

By giving public expression to rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present—VOICES seeks to educate and inspire a new generation working for social justice.

now this historical work is preformed as readings of these voices to bring them alive. below is alice walker reading rachel corrie’s words follwed by danny glover reading frederick douglass’ words:

there are others on the voices website where you can watch others read the words of important people who stood up for justice. and clearly rachel was one of those people. but what of the millions of palestinians who have done that for 122 years? why are their voices not included? okay, yes, i know that the emphasis is on americans, but there are so many americans whose work and words have fueled resistance against israeli colonialism of their land. and even some of lebanese american ameen rihani’s writings in the u.s. about the coloniziation of palestine as it was happening would be important and interesting to include in such a project. but their names are largely absent (indeed very few arab americans at all are featured in this project of zinn’s).

i posted a second video above of the words of frederick douglass because i thought about him today as well. the play i am currently teaching, athol fugard’s master harold and the boys, had an allusion to abraham lincoln by sam, a black south african character living under apartheid who imagined lincoln as a “man of magnitude.” my students had lincoln fresh in their mind because, unfortunately, it seems that many went to that propaganda talk by the u.s. consulate on the mythology of lincoln freeing the slaves. i asked them to think about an analogy. earlier this semester the students went on strike–at all palestinian universities–because their student loans were being taken away from them. as a result of this the loans were reinstated. i asked them if this happened as a result of the university presidents or the presidents of banks who signed the papers changing the ruling. they said, no, of course not! so i talked to them about hundreds of years of resistance among the slaves on a variety of levels. i talked about the resistance of nat turner and freerick douglass. we have to think about the abolition of slavery in the same way: that is the oppressed who fought for justice, yes, often alongside allies, but it is the those who liberate themselves who taste freedom. at the same time, i made sure my students understood the relationship between the building of prisons in the u.s. and the end of slavery so they can see the continuum that exists. but slavery in a prison is different: ordinary people cannot see it. they don’t know about it. and the people are so demonized in a way that crosses all sorts of class and race lines so that there is little solidarity around the abolition of prisons.

i think about these issues a lot right now, partially because the chapter i am writing has a lot to do with palestinian history. i spend so much time reading it, but in the tradition of zinn i find that the most meaningful history comes from oral history. i find that it is more powerful. i find the work of oral historians like rosemary sayigh so important. indeed, i see similar threads in her work and in zinn’s: both take the stories of the people who resist, who struggle, who fight for justice, for their rights. they make those voices central in order to tell their story, their history. the more history i read the less meaning i find in other histories, especially those that focus on the leaders, who always, everywhere, are interested in money and power and little else.

escape from fatahlandia

62222_wm_457x400

shortly after i got to my office this morning students started coming in and asking me if we had class this afternoon. they told me that there was going to be a prisoner solidarity “celebration” and that classes would be canceled. i walked over to the secretary’s office to double check this. she said that the vice president asked faculty to hold classes if the students were there and to cancel classes if they did not show up. so i repeated this all day to students who asked and encouraged them to attend the rally for the prisoners. then, about a few minutes before my last class, i received an sms message from ma’an news stating that the nablus rally was a fatah rally. not only that: it had nothing to do with prisoners. it was all about fatah. just fatah. no one mentioned this little detail to me at any point in the day. here is what ma’an posted on their website:

More than 100,000 supporters of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) staged a demonstration in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, as Palestinian unity talks began in Cairo.

One elderly Fatah supporter named Abu Abdallah wept with joy at the sight of the three kilometer-long march: Fatah is back, the PLO is back and the revolution is back as well.”

Speaking to the assembled crowds, the Palestinian Authority (PA) governor of Nablus, Jamal Muheisin, warned that if negotiations with Israel fail, Fatah will return to armed struggle.

“He is wrong who thinks that negotiations are the only choice for Fatah. On the contrary, all possibilities are open, including armed struggle as long as we seek peace and others do not.”

the photograph above was ma’an’s image of the rally today. not one of the gaza solidarity protests in nablus had even 1/10 of this sort of support. it seems i am living in a little fatah universe. in my university. in this city. it is endlessly depressing and disappointing. it has not been posted online yet, but there was a piece on al jazeera today documenting the torture of palestinian prisoners by the palestinian authority in its jails. al haq had a representative on who has been working on this and there was a survivor of the torture who spoke as well. if it becomes available i will post it.

to escape from this current world of fatah-land that i seem to be living in, i have been reading rosemary sayigh’s amazing book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries, which came out in a new edition last year. the book was originally published in 1979 and like much of her amazing work is based on oral history that she does in palestinian refugee camps in lebanon. what makes this particular book so important is that the oral history interviews were conducted in the 1970s at a time when palestinian refugees were still alive and when there were refugees who could remember what life was like before the british-zionist theft of their land. it offers insight into other forms of division that pre-date the current political divisions between fatah and hamas. and it shows how layers of colonialism created the conditions for these divisions. one of the most significant ways in which this happened was with the introduction of capitalist colonialism by the british and the zionists, which differed from previous forms of colonialism in palestine:

From time immemorial the peasants of Palestine had formed the tax and conscript basis of successive occupations: Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman, and now British. With the expulsion of the Turks in World War I, and the occupation by the British, Palestine finally entered the trade circuit of the capitalist world, becoming fully exposed to the changes summed up in the word “modernization.” Palestine’s indigenous precapitalist economy continued to exist side by side with the separate Zionist economy (with its unique mingling of socialist ideology and capitalist funding), and as in all cases of colonialism, the indigenous economy subsidized the invading one, besides providing the tax basis to finance its own occupation. Although the incipient Palestinian bourgeoisie suffered in its development from the more advanced organization and technical skill of Zionist enterprise and labour, it also benefited from increased trade, and from employment in the British administration. It was the interests of the fellaheen that were more directly threatened by Zionist colonialism. This was because, while Zionist land purchase put an ever growing pressure on the supply of land, the Zionist boycott of Arab labour cut off alternative sources of income, whether in agriculture or industry. Thus the oppression of the peasant class changed under the Mandate from the type produced by Arab/Ottoman feudalism to a colonial type somewhat similar to that of Algeria or South Africa. (21)

one of the reasons for sayigh’s comparison with algeria has to do with the ways in which french colonists, like the zionist colonists in palestine, forced peasants off of the most cultivatable land. the villages tended to be self-sufficient, which enabled them to live independently:

Although Palestine had long been an exporter of high quality agricultural products (mainly grains, olive oil, soap, sesame, and citrus fruit), the development of cash crops and market farming was restricted mainly to a few areas near the cities, at least until the World War II boom in the price of agricultural products towards the end of the Mandate. Cash crops were mainly financed and traded by city merchants through long-standing arrangements with particular villages, leaving the mass peasants close to a subsistence economy. Rather than markets, the primary aim of peasant agriculture was subsistence and the payment of taxes and debts. The extent to which the bulk of peasant production stayed out of the markets can be gauged by the fact that, as late as 1930, only 20 per cent of the total wheat crop and 14 per cent of the barley crop were marketed (23).

what this meant for palestinian fellahin who resisted the new foreign invaders colonizing their land is that they could strike for as long as 6 months because the village met all of their needs in terms of what they planted, the animals they kept. sayigh compares this to egyptian villages which were not self-sufficient at that time and depended upon cities to trade grain, fruits, and vegetables. and while the ottomans, like the british, taxed palestinians, the method the british used was far more severe:

Most English histories of Palestine dwell on the evils of tax farming and point to its abolition early in the Mandate as a sign of progress. But from the peasant viewpoint British tax collection, though more honest, was more oppressive. The tithe was a fixed percentage of the wheat crop only, and though the tax farmers squeezed the peasants to the maximum, they had no interest in making them bankrupt, or forcing them off the land. The peasants’ debts carried over from one year to the next, and from one generation to the next, and carried no threat of eviction. Under the British, however, all peasant property, not just their wheat crop, was taken as a basis of tax evaluation, including fruit trees, houses, “even our chickens.” Not only was British assessment more thorough, but taxes were now collected with the help of troops, whereas in Turkish times it was rare that the provincial governor had enough troops at his disposal to terrorize the villages (26).

the problem was exacerbated by other british policies in palestine as one of sayigh’s interviewees, a man from the village of sa’sa near safad explains:

“I remember that in Sa’sa, which was famous for its olives, grapes, and figs, the peasants produced thousands of kilos of figs each year. But there was no market. The British wouldn’t encourage the selling of this good quality fruit, or help to pack it or export it. It was hard for the peasant to market his crop himself because the roads between the villages and cities were bad. And after the peasant had harvested his wheat, the British would bring in cheap wheat by ship from Australia, and sell it in Haifa at 1/2 a piastre a kilo, knowing that the peasants could not sell at this price. It was British policy towards the peasants that they should always stay poor” (26).

this british colonial policy resembles the american imperial policy in much of the world in the way that it imposes its wheat and other agricultural items on countries, like lebanon for example, in ways that prevent farmers there from cultivating its own wheat. this creates a dependency on the united states that is damaging to the livelihood of the farmers, the villages, the people in general.

one way the fellaheen resisted early on to these pressures on their agricultural life was by agitating for schools in their villages. so much of what the interviews sayigh includes reveal about all aspects of life is the sense of solidarity among palestinian villagers, including striking against british-zionist policies, armed resistance, and demanding education to diversify their economies. another man from sa’sa whom she interviews shares his memory about this:

“I entered school when I was seven. We had one teacher, from Nablus, and though the schoolroom could hardly take 30 people, there used to be not less than 150 children. It went to the end of fourth elementary. Later they brought a second and a third teacher, but for secondary classes students had to go to the city. I remember how our families used to go every day to the qaimaqam and his assistant to struggle for education for their children. They wanted to add classes to our school–four were not enough. They wanted English lessons. The villagers gathered as one hand in this struggle for schools, because the peasant nature is co-operative. So after a great while we got the fifth and sixth classes, and the school was enlarged, and the nucleus of a girls’ school was set up” (33).

solidarity and collectivity among villagers extended to resistance to land sales for those fellaheen who did not own the land they farmed and lived on:

Peasant landlessness started before the Mandate with single sales of large areas of land by the Ottoman Administration and by non-Palestinian owners. These sales, many of which included whole villages, confronted the peasants with their first experience of legal eviction, something which had never been a part of the fellaheen fate. It is striking that their immediate, spontaneous response was violent resistance–a resistance which found, however, no echo in other segments of Palestinian society (36).

importantly, it is because of this resistance that jewish colonists owned so little land even by 1946:

By 1926, only 4 per cent of all land (including state land) was Jewish-owned, and it took another eight years for this figure to reach 5 per cent. By the end of 1946, the last year for which official figures exist, it had not gone beyond 6 percent. Peasant resistance to land sales is abundantly clear in these figures. (36-38)

so this is all context–a bit of an idea about how the british-zionist colonial project disrupted the lives of the majority of the palestinians, the fellaheen, most of whom became refugees in 1948 when they were forcibly removed from their land. but other ways palestinians, especially the fellaheen, were affected by british-zionist colonialism in palestine was by the age-old tactic of divide and conquer. sayigh chronicles the way that the british started this process of coopting elite members of palestinian urban society to create this phenomenon, especially to help the british squash the fellaheen resistance:

Over and over again, the Palestinian notables earned the praise of the British authorities for their help in controlling the “mob.” In May 1921, the mayors of Jerusalem, Tulkarem and Jaffa, the muftis of Acre and Safad, and Qadi of Jerusalem, all received British decorations for their “services in Palestine” (51-52).

when sayigh discusses one of the most important resistance leaders in palestine, sheikh qassam, she does so in a way that reveals the reality of resistance to colonialism showing that it was not the elites and notables leading the resistance:

It was symptomatic of the distance between the political and militant wings of the nationalist movement that when the first guerrilla leader, Sheikh Qassam, was killed soon after his call to armed struggle in 1935, none of the leading national figures attended his funeral. none of the military leaders of the 1936 Rebellion were from the ruling class. Few anecdotes give a clearer picture of the incapacity of the Palestinian traditional leaders for serious struggle thant he one told by a “former intelligence officer” to the author of a study on the 1936 Rebellion. A group of bedouin gathered in Beersheba telephoned to the Mufti asking what action they should take in support of the uprising that was beginning to spread through the country in the wake of the killing of the District Commissioner for Galilee. The Mufti’s reply to them was to do whatever they thought fit, and though this reply may have been due to knowledge that his telephone was tapped, all accounts of the Rebellion and the six months’ strike that preceded it make it clear that the people of Palestine led their leadership, not vice versa. (52)

these are just a few insights from sayigh’s first chapter. there is so much more to say, to share, but people should get a copy and read it for themselves. i think the way she tells the historical narrative–from the point of view of the people, the masses–is so much more valuable and meaningful to me than the histories i read about the elites, the leaders–the elites and the leaders who always fail their people. who always get corrupted by power and greed. just like howard zinn’s books detailing the people’s histories of the united states, sayigh gives us insight into the people’s history of palestine. and it gives us insight to earlier divisions, divisions that certainly led to the complete and total colonization of every square inch of palestine. but when i read about the work of the fellaheen and the resistance in pre-1948 palestine, in spite of the differences and struggles between the fellaheen and the people in the cities, for instance, i cannot help but think about the situation today. the divisions may be different, but the effect is the same. palestinians in power then, as now, become corrupted, become coopted. they serve the interests of the colonial masters. the people suffer, the masses suffer. i wish that we could see the same sort of energy like labor strikes and resistance to those in power in the pa and in the u.s. and in the zionist entity all over again, this time with steadfastness and cohesion.

this is what i do when i get frustrated here. i retreat into history. i fantasize about different outcomes. i think about what could have happened if only. what would have happened if only. if only…

the backlash & the steadfast

you knew it was coming. it’s always sort of present for people in north america but i feel that it would be less so if more people were braver about speaking out. if more people were willing to take risks in their personal lives to help others who cannot in the same way. it is happening on several fronts. first, in the theatre with lying zionists twisting the truth–the thing they do best–in order to make sure that people think they are the only victim as per jeffrey goldberg about caryl churchill’s new play:

The playwright Caryl Churchill’s new anti-Jewish agitprop play, “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” has opened in London. The details are over at Harry’s Place. Suffice it to say two things: One, this isn’t surprising, given the peculiar attitude of some of the English to the Jews. Two: Just because it’s not surprising doesn’t mean it’s not shocking. The mainstreaming of the worst anti-Jewish stereotypes — for instance, that Jews glory in the shedding of non-Jewish blood — is upon us.

if you want to see for yourself how a play that represents palestinians in a positive way gets twisted into anti-semitism you can download it here. of course this is not the first time new york theatre groups cracked down to censor art representing palestinians–even when it is not about palestinians directly. you can read the transcript on democracy now! about the play my name is rachel corrie being censored to get a sense of how this played out a few years ago.

the other casualty is joel kovel whose contract at bard college has been terminated because of his work to eradicate zionism. here is joel’s statement, in part, including what you can do to help at the bottom:

Bard has effectively crafted for itself an image as a bastion of progressive thought. Its efforts were crowned with being anointed in 2005 by the /Princeton Review /as the second-most progressive college in the United States, the journal adding that Bard “puts the ‘liberal’ in ‘liberal arts.'” But “liberal” thought evidently has its limits; and my work against Zionism has encountered these. A fundamental principle of mine is that the educator must criticize the injustices of the world, whether or not this involves him or her in conflict with the powers that be. The systematic failure of the academy to do so plays no small role in the perpetuation of injustice and state violence. In no sphere of political action does this principle apply more vigorously than with the question of Zionism; and in no country is this issue more strategically important than in the United States, given the fact that United States support is necessary for Israel’s behavior.

The worse this behavior, the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism. I take the view, then, that Israeli human rights abuses are deeply engrained in a culture of impunity granted chiefly, though not exclusively, in the United States—which culture arises from suppression of debate and open inquiry within those institutions, such as colleges, whose social role it is to enlighten the public. Therefore, if the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity. In my view, Bard College is one such institution. It has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza. This notion is of course, not just descriptive of a place like Bard. It is also the context within which the critic of such a place and the Zionist ideology it enables becomes marginalized, and then removed.

For further information: www.codz.org; Joel Kovel, “Overcoming
Impunity,” /The Link/ Jan-March 2009 (www.ameu.org).

To write the Bard administration:

President Leon Botstein <president [at] bard.edu.

Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou

joel’s book is an important one and he needs to be supported. i wish i had the time to lend to him as i did with norman finkelstein when he faced the same sort of situation at depaul a few years ago. joel’s book overcoming zionism is a very important book that is influencing many people and getting them to move away from zionism.

and canadian professors are also facing censorship and repression due to their teaching, research, service related to palestine. yet one more way we can see how academic freedom is pretty much an outmoded idea and nonexistent, particularly in north america. unless you think praise of the terrorist state of israel with no mention of palestinians as a kind of mandate for faculty and students as academic freedom. there is now a petition and statement people may sign:

To sign the open letter send an e-mail to faculty [at] caiaweb.org

Defend Freedom of Speech

Open Letter to university community regarding Palestinian Rights and Canadian Universities

The last two years have seen increasing efforts to limit advocacy of Palestinian rights on Canadian universities, amounting to a pattern of the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These include:

* Statements from 19 university presidents in the summer of 2007 to foreclose debate on the academic boycott of Israel, citing “academic freedom”.

* Visits to Israel by eight university presidents in the summer of 2008, with no equivalent outreach to Palestinian institutions.

* Efforts to ban the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid” at McMaster University in February-March 2008, overturned only through a campaign of protest

* Discipline against students involved in peaceful protests for Palestinian rights at York University in March in 2008

* Attempted discipline against a faculty member who addressed a rally against Israeli Apartheid at York University in 2008

* A pattern of cancellation of room bookings for meetings concerning Palestinian rights at the University of Toronto and York University in 2008

* The use of security clearance requirements and fees to cover security costs to impede campus meetings about Palestinian rights

We the undersigned:

* Defend the right to freedom of speech about Palestine for all members of the university community, including freedom to use the term ‘apartheid’ to identify and debate certain policies associated with the state of Israel and the freedom to support, facilitate and participate freely in activities under the rubric of “Israeli apartheid week”

* Call for an end to the silencing of speech around Palestine, removing extraordinary requirements for security clearance and fees for security services

* Support increased ties to Palestinian institutions and scholars, and activities to support the right to education and academic freedom of Palestinians

israeli-apartheid-week-2009-poster

yes, it is apartheid week that time of the year when academics, universities, and zionists of every stripe work extra hard to crack down on those who are off the zionist message of cover ups and lies. and so it is not only faculty who are affected, it is also students in canada who are facing a similar battle:

Restrictions and harassment are experienced by pro-Palestinian activists on most Canadian campuses; this can take many different forms. At York University, for example, the latest tool of repression is the “Student Code of Conduct,” a draconian document that could potentially be used to ban any form of protest. At McMaster, it was in the form of a blanket ban on the use of the term “Israeli apartheid.” The University of Toronto (UofT) has seen a broad range of tactics being used against student organizers, but it seems that the administration has decided to focus its effort on combating pro-Palestinian activism through an old-new tool: denial of space for meeting and holding events.

Securing space for student activists at UofT has always been a hard task for student organizations. But it seems that the University has shifted its tactics from mounting bureaucratic obstacles and technical hurdles, to outright denial of the right to book space. UofT seems to have declared a full fledged war against its Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students. Most recently, this came in the form of denying room bookings for a conference planned by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a student group and action group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), in October 2008.

SAIA, along with student groups at York University and other campuses, had planned a student conference, entitled “Standing Against Apartheid: Building Cross-Campus Solidarity with Palestine,” for the first weekend of October 2008. The conference was meant to strengthen the student movement against Israeli apartheid, and to share strategies for the future, including planning the annual Israeli Apartheid Week.

margaret aziza pappano offers some analysis of the situation facing canadian professors and students alike:

While most academics would agree that a university should be a place where critical debate is fostered, what is academic freedom when the freedom to attend classes without being bombed isn’t even assured? Academic freedom falters it seems when it comes to Palestine, whether in the Middle East or in North America. Not only is there no realizable academic freedom for Palestinians, but also, even in North America, students and faculty raising critical viewpoints about Israel find themselves muffled, accused of anti-Semitism, threatened with disciplinary action, or, in the case of former Depaul University professor, Norman Finkelstein, out of a job entirely.

In Canada, the annual educational event known at “Israeli Apartheid week,” held on university campuses, has faced repeated attempts to suppress it. What justification can be found to block an event in which scholars and activists speak about the history of the region, with a focus on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, information that is taught in history and political science classes and available in books published by university presses? Yet, 125 University of Toronto faculty members signed a letter, published in the National Post, in which they “request[ed] that the administration stop this hateful and divisive event from returning to our University.”

More worrisome, however, is that the administration on some campuses has actually endeavoured to comply, a trend that should alarm anyone who cares about the integrity of their university. In February of last year, the McMaster University administration attempted to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid” by Student Union clubs on campus, including “activities promoted under the banner, ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’” It was only after a concerted protest and huge rally that the administration backed down from what would likely have been an illegal action anyway.

This year’s event has been marked by a similar action at Carleton University. The Israeli Apartheid week poster was banned by the university’s Equity Services because of its graphic, a drawing of an Israeli bomb being dropped on a child, who is labeled “Gaza.” The SAIA (Students Against Israeli Apartheid) chapter was informed that the “image could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario human rights code.” The interim Provost and Vice President of Carleton, Feridun Hamdullahpur, circulated a letter to the entire Carleton community in which he threatened indefinite expulsion for anyone contravening the code; although vaguely worded, the letter alludes to “harassment and intolerance which can take the form of inappropriately challenging or questioning a person’s race or beliefs.” One has to wonder how this stock anti-war graphic can be seen as “inappropriate,” unless Carleton is concerned to protect Israel’s image rather than the rights of its students to free expression.

York University and the University of Toronto have both witnessed similar attempts to harass students and faculty expressing advocacy for Palestinian rights.

for those who are wanting to organize apartheid week on their campuses here is a new trailer for this year’s activities:

in the united states, the new york university students aborted their campaign early and their most recent post on their blog reads, in part, as follows:

However, we also recognize that our occupation was not a full success. When we succeeded, we did so because the passion of our movement shone through the smoke and mirrors cast by the NYU administration. When we failed it was only because we underestimated the lengths NYU will go to in order to deter any real criticism of its policies.

The administration demonstrated their steadfast commitment to ignoring its students. Members of Take Back NYU! didn’t even see the face of NYU negotiator Lynne Brown until 26 hours into the occupation. Throughout, the administration only gave disingenuous offers of discussion without negotiation, which the students readily rejected. NYU’s refusal to negotiate contrasts sharply with good-faith negotiations made by other universities during similar occupations.

We believe that our occupation gave NYU the opportunity to become a leader among universities and to build our community around strong commitments to democracy, transparency and respect for human rights. Instead, NYU said ‘pass’ and chose to stick to its narrow interests at the expense of genuine discussion.

In the course of defending its secrets, NYU put students and its security guards at risk by encouraging the use of physical force to end a non-violent protest. NYPD officers used billy-clubs and mace against demonstrators outside the building. These acts of aggression have gone unmentioned and unquestioned in the course of NYU’s handling of the occupation.

This protest is just a beginning to what is to come. The action made national and international news, and showcased the real power of the new student movement sweeping the globe. Here in New York, a City Council member, Charles Barron, has publicly endorsed our campaign and shamed the University for its mishandling of student protest. Actions at universities around the city will continue in the weeks to come.

students at hampshire college are, of course, also facing pressure from the zionist police watchdogs, though are not bending to their will quite so easily as the students at nyu:

UNDER PRESSURE from pro-Israel apologists led by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, administrators at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., issued a “statement of clarification” about the recent decision to divest from six corporations that profited from and supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

But student activists aren’t going to quietly accept Hampshire’s shameful attempt to wriggle out of a decision the college should be proud of.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Hampshire announced in a February 12 press release that they had succeeded in pressuring Hampshire’s board of trustees to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestinians and their supporters around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Howard Zinn and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, greeted the news with joy.

“This is a monumental and historic step in the struggle for Palestinian equality, self- determination and peace in the Holy Land by nonviolent means,” wrote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leader in the struggle against South African apartheid, in a message of support sent to members of Hampshire SJP.

“I see what these students have accomplished as a replica of the support of their college of our struggle against apartheid in South Africa,” he continued, in reference to Hampshire’s place of prestige as the first institution of higher education to divest from South Africa. “Hampshire College’s decision to divest should be a guiding example to all institutions of higher learning.”

But within hours of SJP’s announcement, the pro-Israel counteroffensive began. Dershowitz, a virulent supporter of Israel, called Matan Cohen and Brian Van Slyke, two members of SJP, to threaten an international campaign to divest from Hampshire College–a threat that carries some sting for Hampshire, which is a small institution with a history of financial difficulties.

Dershowitz is notorious for his relentless personal and professional attacks on those who speak out against Israel’s crimes. In 2007, for example, Norman Finkelstein, a renowned scholar and an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies, was denied tenure at DePaul University after Dershowitz put pressure on faculty and the administration.

perhaps if the nyu students followed the example of the students at hampshire or their colleagues on the other side of the atlantic ocean they would have seen what happens when you remain steadfast as was the case with strathclyde university:

GLASGOW, February 21 – Students at Strathclyde University won the vote on Thursday to cut the university’s ties with arms manufacturer BAE Systems which supplied components used by the Israeli military in the recent massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Students win majority support in historic AGM

The vote, which took place in relation to a motion submitted by a group of students to their Union’s General Meeting (AGM) – the student’s highest decision-making body – won with an overwhelming majority of the over 200 students who queued in the union’s corridors and stairs to participate in the event. Such a high student attendance had been unprecedented in any previous AGM, most of which failed in the past 10 years to even reach quorum.

Despite attempts by the Union’s administration to dilute the substance of the motion and have it voted upon by the conservative Student Representative Council (SRC) – who had already rejected a similar popular motion two years earlier given the uncomfortable position it placed the University vis-à-vis its corporate funders – the fervent group of passionate students were successful in galvanising sufficient support amongst their fellows to turn the motion into student policy.

Within just a couple of weeks from occupying the McCance Building – heart of the University’s administration – the original 60 students involved in the occupation have already gained the support of a sizable number of their fellow students.

Occupation encourages University to take action

With the national media reporting on the new wave of student activism, and with regular updates being posted on occupation.org, the official site centralising information about UK universities in occupation, the Strathclyde student group has been able to spread its message and influence far beyond the university’s walls.

Within hours of starting the peaceful occupation, messages of support were flowing in from students across the UK, and around the world, with some touching declarations of solidarity received directly from Palestinian students closely monitoring the students’ activities.

What followed was a series of exhausting negotiations between the students and the University’s Principle and Secretary to ensure that the occupation would deliver more than just a message of solidarity to the people of Palestine.

By the end of the second day of the occupation, the students achieved a remarkable victory when the Principle agreed to end with immediate effect the university’s purchasing contract with the water-supplying company Eden Springs – whose Israeli-owned parent company has been found to be operating commercial activities in breach of international law within the Occupied Territories.

Following the recent bombings of Palestinian universities by the Israeli army, the Principle also agreed to make 3 scholarships available to Palestinian students from Gaza, pledging to incite other Scottish universities to follow suit and possibly pull resources together for the creation of a Scottish-wide fund.

University denies major R&D funding from the arms industry

As part of the occupation, students also requested that the University cut its ties with the arms industry after discovering that major research contracts were underway between the university’s engineering department and BAE Systems – the UK’s largest arms manufacturer and supplier to the Israeli army of components used in the targeting systems of F-16 fighter-bombers responsible for the killing of Palestinian civilians, including children and women.

Data acquired through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to the University last year by Strathclyde student and prominent Scottish political figure Tommy Sheridan, revealed that BAE systems invested £7.8 million between 2000 and 2007 in joint research projects with the University’s engineering department. FoIs also revealed that several other companies involved in the arms trade, including BAe subsidiaries, had ties with the University’s research departments – with many of the contracts still under way.

Peter West, Secretary of the University, denied the allegations and confirmed only the existence of one contract between the University and BAE Systems for a total of £5000.

University is to look for alternative and ethical sources of funding

The students will now proceed with the submission of a series of FoIs to the university to verify the exact scale of current investments channelled into the University’s research labs by the arms industry.

Meanwhile, some engineering students at Strathclyde fear that the dissolution of the university’s ties with BAE Systems will impact negatively on the department and their career prospects.

In order to allay these fears, a number of their fellow engineering students supporting the occupation are now encouraging a debate within the department to look at possible alternative channels of funding from non-lethal industries, including green and civil technologies.

students at st. andrews university are now occupying their campus and i hope they can remain steadfast and remain committed to the ideals they set forth in their demands:

Specifically we demand that the university:

1) Immediately suspends and pledges not to renew its contract with Eden Springs, the Israeli water company which illegally steals water from the Golan Heights. It is not enough that this contract run out this year, it must be cancelled now.

2) Puts in place a review process with the aim of suspending all ties to organisations that are publicly known to supply the Israeli military. This would specifically include:

a) Cutting all ties to BAE Systems, which provides sub-systems/components for Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft. These ties would include BAE funding of research projects at St Andrews University, industrial placements at BAE Systems as part of degrees at the University, and the hosting of any representatives of BAE Systems as part of events at the University;

b) Cutting the University’s ties with the Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre (SEAS-DTC), a Ministry of Defence-funded organisation designed to foster collaboration between military industry and academia. Both BAE Systems and Smiths Group are members of this organisation; in addition to BAE’s links with Israel, Smiths Group also provides Israel’s military with F-16 components;

c) Cutting all ties to the British Government’s military apparatus. Britain has consistently provided Israel with arms and military equipment, and Israeli military officials have attested to the importance of the essential items provided by Britain. The University’s ties include military research projects conducted at St Andrews and funded by, among others, the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory;

d) Establishing an ethics committee with the responsibility of ensuring that the University of St Andrews does not accept any income in the future from organisations linked to the Israeli military.

3) Sets up a scholarship program for Palestinian Students and commits to a minimum of 10 scholarships. This would send out an important symbolic message that we will not turn a blind eye to the Palestinian students who are unable to study because of the attacks on educational infrastructure and constant state of terror which prevents students from attending university.

4) Organizes a collection on campus, including a broadcasting of the DEC appeal, for aid for Gaza, makes available non-monetary aid such as course books, desks etc. and also establishes links with the Islamic University of Gaza in order to find out how it might aid with reconstruction.

5) Following the letter signed by fifty medical students, that Bute Medical School provides medical aid for Palestine in the form of medical equipment and drugs and through supporting organizations such as medical aid for Palestine (supported by Medsin).

in the consumer sector one thing which may be backlash was a story the other day that sounded promising: a coop supermarket boycotting israeli terrorist goods:

The 15,000 member food co-op in Park Slope is considering a ban on Israeli products because of the conflict in the Mideast. Officials there are now debating making an international statement after a member’s proposal to take a symbolic stand against Israel.

So far the co-op staff has identified just four products from Israel, but they say it’s possible there are others out of the 10,000 products offered at the co-op.

but apparently this story was too good to be true…:

For the record: The Park Slope Food Co-op is NOT considering a ban on Israeli-made or -grown products.

This myth, reported around the globe by the Jewish Forward and dozens of blogs that seem to regard the 16,000-member supermarket as some kind of anti-Israel committee rather than a great place for produce, evolved from a stray comment at an open meeting in January, when a Co-op member who identified herself only as Hima inquired about whether the Co-op sells Israeli products.

but there are still those who are keeping the pressure on in various ways, for instance those protesting the exhibition planned at a british museum of israeli terrorist “scientific achievements” as reported on press tv:

and egyptian workers are also organizing against jordanian complicity in their normalizing with israeli terrorists:

In an unprecedented action, the first following the recent Israeli war on Gaza, workers of an Egyptian Fertilizers Company in Suez protested on Saturday February 7th against the export of fertilizers to Israel.

The Fertilizers Egyptian Company is owned by Sawiris family, Naguib Sawiris ranks 62 in Forbes’ world’s richest list, while his father Onsi ranks 96 and his brother Nassif ranks 226, under the name Orascom construction company. Fertilizers Egyptian Company signed an agreement to export 1000 tons of phosphate fertilizer to Israel, at a rate of 100 tons per week. An estimated 800 Egyptians work at this factory.

Two days prior to the protest, workers were surprised by a request from the administration to process an order of unmarked bags that will be transferred by Jordanian trucks to an undisclosed location. As a result, about 100 workers went on strike and refused to process the order because they believed, rightly, that the cargo will travel to Israel.

When the company administration learned about the situation, they broke the strike by threatening the workers of dismissal and deducted 15 days of salary from all workers at the company.

In Egypt things are changing very fast, especially in the last three years, solidarity movements with Palestine and labour movements are taking more and more actions against the Egyptian regime in solidarity with Palestine and also for labour rights in Egypt.

it is worth looking at jeff handmaker’s recap of recent bds achievements in electronic intifada:

* A growing number of politicians in Europe and North America have put forward uncomfortable, probing questions to their governments and clearly want to do more. One example is the “Break the Silence” campaign within the Dutch Labor Party.

* Numerous letters and opinion pieces have been published by prominent figures in major national newspapers, including statement by prominent lawyers and professors published by The Sunday Times on 11 January 2009.

* The global “Derail Veolia” campaign has grown in leaps and bounds. An important success was the decision by the Stockholm municipality to cancel an agreement with Veolia Transport, on the basis of its involvement in the Jerusalem light-rail project, to the tune of several billion euros.

* There have been calls for international investigations of war crimes from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the head of UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestine refugees) and the UN Secretary General as well as scores of high-profile international lawyers around the world.

* The European Parliament managed to halt negotiations on strengthening the trading relationship between the EU and Israel in the framework of the Association Agreement and there are new, emboldened efforts to try and get the Association Agreement suspended altogether.

* Countless demonstrations have taken place in villages, towns and cities around the world, from Cape Town to Swansea and from Stockholm to Montreal and they are attracting decent publicity. Where there has been no television crew present, activists have made effective use of online resources such as YouTube.

* In South Africa there was a major success when dockworkers affiliated with SATAWU and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) refused to unload a ship containing Israeli goods. The story made national headlines for several days.

* Academic boycott is taking hold in academic institutions around the world — students in particular have been leading the way on this, but academics also.

for those who want to keep up the pressure or start something new, now is the time to do it in keeping with calls coming from palestinian civil society:

In December 2008, Israel decided to mark the 60th anniversary of its existence the same way it had established itself — perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 23 days, Israel killed more than 1,300 and injured at least 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The irony of history is that Israel targeted those Palestinians — and their descendants — whom it had expelled from their homes and pushed into refugeehood in Gaza in 1948, whose land it has stolen, whom it has oppressed since 1967 by means of a brutal military occupation, and whom it had tried to starve into submission by means of a criminal blockade of food, fuel and electricity in the 18 months preceding the military assault. We cannot wait for Israel to zero in on its next objective. Palestine has today become the test of our indispensable morality and our common humanity.

We therefore call on all to unite our different capacities and struggles in a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel on 30 March 2009.

The mobilization coincides with the Palestinian Land Day, the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Galilee in struggle against massive land expropriation, and forms part of the Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from 28 March 28 to 4 April.

We urge the people and their organizations around the globe to mobilize in concrete and visible boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) actions to make this day a historic step in this new anti-apartheid movementand for the fulfilment of the rights and dignity of the people and the accountability of the powerful. In our 30 March BDS actions, we will particularly focus on:

* Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.

* Legal action to end Israel’s impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.

* Cancelling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel.

The time for the world to fully adopt and implement the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is now. This campaign has to become an urgent part of every struggle for justice and humanity, by adopting widespread action against Israeli products, companies, academic and cultural institutions, sports groups, international corporations supporting Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and military occupation and pressuring governments for sanctions. It must be sustained until Israel provides free access to Gaza, dismantles the Apartheid Wall and ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands; recognizes the right of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

i want tulkarem to be my valentine

in an article in electronic intifada the other day, the always politically astute ali abunimah offered his assessment of the rising fascism in the zionist entity:

Yisrael Beitenu’s manifesto was that 1.5 million Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel (indigenous survivors or descendants of the Palestinian majority ethnically cleansed in 1948 ) be subjected to a loyalty oath. If they don’t swear allegiance to the “Jewish state” they would lose their citizenship and be forced from the land of their birth, joining millions of already stateless Palestinians in exile or in Israeli-controlled ghettos. In a move instigated by Lieberman but supported by Livni’s allegedly “centrist” Kadima, the Knesset recently voted to ban Arab parties from participating in elections. Although the high court overturned it in time for the vote, it is an ominous sign of what may follow.

Lieberman, who previously served as deputy prime minister, has a long history of racist and violent incitement. Prior to Israel’s recent attack, for example, he demanded Israel subject Palestinians to the brutal and indiscriminate violence Russia used in Chechyna. He also called for Arab Knesset members who met with officials from Hamas to be executed.

But it’s too easy to make him the bogeyman. Israel’s narrow political spectrum now consists at one end of the former “peace camp” that never halted the violent expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish settlements and boasts with pride of the war crimes in Gaza, and at the other, a surging far-right whose “solutions” vary from apartheid to outright ethnic cleansing.

What does not help is brazen western hypocrisy. Already the US State Department spokesman affirmed that the Obama administration would work with whatever coalition emerged from Israel’s “thriving democracy” and promised that the US would not interfere in Israel’s “internal politics.” Despite US President Barack Obama’s sweet talk about a new relationship with the Arab world, few will fail to notice the double standard. In 2006, Hamas won a democratic election in the occupied territories, observed numerous unilateral or agreed truces that were violated by Israel, offered Israel a generation-long truce to set the stage for peace, and yet it is still boycotted by the US and European Union.

Worse, the US sponsored a failed coup against Hamas and continues to arm and train the anti-Hamas militias of Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as Palestinian Authority president expired on 9 January. As soon as he took office, Obama reaffirmed this boycott of Palestinian democracy.

The clearest message from Israel’s election is that no Zionist party can solve Israel’s basic conundrum and no negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. Israel could only be created as a “Jewish state” by the forced removal of the non-Jewish majority Palestinian population. As Palestinians once again become the majority in a country that has defied all attempts at partition, the only way to maintain Jewish control is through ever more brazen violence and repression of resistance (see Gaza). Whatever government emerges is certain to preside over more settlement-building, racial discrimination and escalating violence.

There are alternatives that have helped end what once seemed like equally intractable and bloody conflicts: a South African-style one-person one-vote democracy, or Northern Ireland-style power-sharing. Only under a democratic system according rights to all the people of the country will elections have the power to transform people’s futures.

But Israel today is lurching into open fascism. It is utterly disingenuous to continue to pretend — as so many do — that its failed and criminal leaders hold the key to getting out of the morass. Instead of waiting for them to form a coalition, we must escalate the international civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israelis to choose a saner path.

abunimah references lieberman’s desire to execute palestinians living in 1948 palestine who he deems “disloyal.” azmi bishara was one of those people subjected to this racist agenda as he wrote a couple of years ago:

During my years in the Knesset, the attorney general indicted me for voicing my political opinions (the charges were dropped), lobbied to have my parliamentary immunity revoked and sought unsuccessfully to disqualify my political party from participating in elections — all because I believe Israel should be a state for all its citizens and because I have spoken out against Israeli military occupation. Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman — an immigrant from Moldova — declared that Palestinian citizens of Israel “have no place here,” that we should “take our bundles and get lost.” After I met with a leader of the Palestinian Authority from Hamas, Lieberman called for my execution.

unfortunately there are also american jews who support this kind of thinking (and who also distort what libeberman actually calls for) that led to bishara’s exile:

But the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that is quick to spot instances of discrimination, says Lieberman is right to be concerned about apparent acts of disloyalty by Israeli Arabs.

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, noted with concern the trips by Arab Israeli Knesset members to enemy states and expressions of solidarity with Hamas by Israeli Arabs during Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip.

and for those who think that israeli colonists reserve their racism just for palestinians, a reminder of how their racism is also directed against its ethiopian citizens:

In a conversation the real estate agent had with A., the owner of one of the building’s apartments, A. asked about the potential buyers. When he heard that they were Ethiopian immigrants, he replied, “Out of the question… This is unacceptable in my apartment.

“Excuse me, but there are no Ethiopians in this area at all, and there won’t be any. This is our policy. I have no problem with them living somewhere else… Anyone can come, but not Ethiopians. This is how it is in the entire building, at least I hope it is, in order to preserve the apartment’s value and the building’s value.”

but back to the that saner path of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (bds), which is picking up so much steam every day that it is difficult to keep track. even in jordan there is a boycott campaign that seems to be gaining momentum. but perhaps the most significant news comes from hampshire college in the u.s. which just received the honor of being the first american university to divest from the israeli terrorist, colonialist state:

Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, has become the first of any college or university in the U.S. to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s “institutional statement” calling for the divestment.

The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 Feb 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

Meeting minutes from a committee of Hampshire’s Board of Trustees confirm that “President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that brought this issue to the attention of the committee.” This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire’s history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa thirty-two years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns. This divestment was also a direct result of student pressure.

The divestment has so far been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Vice President of the EU Parliament Luisa Morganitini, Cynthia McKinney, former member of the African National Congress Ronnie Kasrils, Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, John Berger, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others.

The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza are: Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, and Terex (see above link for info sheet for more information on these corporations.) Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation.

there is a larger context for hampshire college taking the lead in the u.s. as they were also the first to divest from south africa when it was under its apartheid regime:

Hampshire played a similar leading role in the struggle against apartheid South Africa. In 1977, students in the Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa occupied the college’s administrative offices. They won their demands, and Hampshire became the first U.S. college to divest from apartheid South Africa.

By 1982, similar struggles won divestment at other colleges and universities, including the nearby Umass Amherst, the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University and the entire University of California system (which withdrew $3 billion in investments). By 1988, over 150 institutions had divested from South Africa.

By the end of the 1980s, as well, dozens of cities, states and towns across the U.S. had put in place some form of economic sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Inspired by the resistance of Black South Africans, the U.S. movement pressured Congress to pass (over a veto by President Ronald Reagan) sanctions against the racist regime. The solidarity movements around the world provided important support to the struggle of Black South Africans that defeated apartheid.

Hampshire College’s role in the campus anti-apartheid movement was an inspiration and a tool for SJP’s movement for divestment from corporations that support Israeli apartheid, according to SJP member Brian Van Slyke. “That Hampshire was the first college to divest from apartheid South Africa was really a rallying cry for us on this campus,” he said.

the students at the university of rochester will hopefully follow suit, though their recent sit-in at their institution, like those in the u.k., had limited demands. here is what one of the organizers says about their solidarity sit-in with gaza:

Kyle: (LIke Ryan and Adriano said) SDS at UR organized an occupation of Goergen Atrium and Auditorium on campus in solidarity with Gaza. Beforehand, they had presented the administration with an official letter demanding that UR divest from corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and to provide direct aid to the people of Gaza. This wasn’t an occupation like the illegal sit-down strikes of 1930’s because the campus administration allowed SDS to reserve the building in the interest of “peaceful dialogue”. They also provided the Dean of Student Affairs for negotiation of the demands.

As the day went on, the Dean informed the organizers that UR students would be punished if not out of the building by midnight. So we decided to call for as many campus and community members to mobilize around that time as possible to put as much pressure on the Dean as possible to deliver on our demands.

The Dean agreed to negotiate at 10pm and we had maybe 75 people in the building for support. Through the negotiations, the Dean agreed to the following plan of action: that the administration organize a public forum with UR investors, SDS and the community on the university’s investment policy and its investment in Israel; that UR commit resources and provide any needed information for a campus-wide fund drive for Palestine; that UR work to assess needs in Gaza and donate surplus supplies to universities, such as computers and books; and that UR commit to reaching out to Palestinians with international student scholarships.

Feb 6th was a day of education, debate and mobilization. It was a concrete show of solidarity with the people of Gaza and protest against Israel’s occupation. It was a concrete demonstration of real democratic decision-making and flexibility.

and at the university of manchester students made some headway with their occupation of their university in support of palestinians:

On Wednesday 11th Feb the University of Manchester Students Union passed a motion in support of the people of Gaza, which includes a resolve to boycott Israel, in an emergency general meeting . The meeting, which was attended by over 1000 students, was called in response to the crisis in Gaza. It follows a week long occupation of University of Manchester buildings by students. The University of Manchester Students Union is the biggest in Western Europe, and is also the first western students union to pass a motion includes an out and out boycott of Israel.

The policy that was passed compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and supported the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. It called for the Union to divest from Israel, boycotting all companies which support or benefit from the Israeli occupation, and to lobby the University to adopt a similar boycott policy towards Israel. The motion also condemned the University for its lack of progress in divesting from arms companies. Following the meeting the union will send a letter to the BBC condemning their refusal to air the Disaster Emergency Committees (DEC) appeal for Gaza, as well as facilitating a day of fundraising with proceeds going to the DEC.

a note on some of these occupations of british universities: many of them came into existence as a way to protest the israeli terrorist aggression on gaza. as a result so much of their language is rooted in solidarity with gaza, which is great. but the recent attacks on gaza cannot be separated from the attacks on palestinians more generally and the colonial project that has been going on for over 60 years. while we certainly need to lend our support to palestinians in gaza, the bds movement is about liberating palestine in general, not just gaza. only then will we justice be rendered. it is also problematic when some boycott campaigns fixate on particular companies that are only being boycotted because they are operating in colonies in the west bank; there are many others that have factories on the land of destroyed villages in 1948–like nestle (osem)–that need to be boycotted as well:

Now for the challenge. I want all of you to boycott Nestle, all their products and find substitutes. Post the substitutes you find on the wall. We can help each other. Second everyone is to find three friends and convince them to join the challenge. Do not just forward this message, people ignore them, I know I do sometimes. And ask them to be honest if they are going to join or not. If 2 out of the three will join you need to find a third friend. And you have these friends convince at least 3 friends. Try to find friends around the world to join the boycott. The more people and countries involved the better.

And we obviously have to let Nestle know we are boycotting them. There will be a draft letter on the discussion board to be sent to Nestle.

Valentine’s Day and Easter is when companies make the most money from chocolate sales. They depend on this money for the rest of the year. The power is ours. Buy Cadbury Easter eggs, Caramilk bars, etc… Let’s win this challenge.

Palestine is crying for our help. Will you answer the call?

Letter to be sent to Nestle:

Dear Mr. Paul Bulcke,

I write with reference to Nestle’s continued support for Israeli apartheid.

By Nestle’s investments in Israel it is directly helping perpetuate gross violations of human rights upon Palestinians. I urgently request you to reconsider your support for a state that has a track record of persistent abuse of basic human rights, by henceforth, divesting your holdings from Israel.

In the meantime, I will have no alternative but to boycott your products, and encourage others to do so. I look forward to receiving your assurances that you will no longer be investing and, thus supporting, Israeli apartheid.

Regards,

To send this letter to Nestle, use this link.
http://www.nestle.com/Common/Header/ContactUs.htm?CTY=BF2F535E-5671-443B-AE7A-98652690816D

A website to show you what Nestle goods to boycott. It’s broken down by country for ease of use. Together we can do this!!!

http://www.infactcanada.ca/nestle_boycott_product.htm

http://www.nestleusa.com/PubOurBrands/Brands.aspx

indeed it is valentine’s day tomorrow–another holiday i loathe for its hyper consumption among other reasons–but i approve of valentine’s day related activities that surround boycott and there are a few, starting with blood diamond boycotting:

Fifty-five New York rights advocates called today on the city’s shoppers to boycott Israeli diamond mogul and settlement-builder Lev Leviev. The pre-Valentine’s Day protest was the 13th demonstration held in front of Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store since it opened in November, 2007. Many New York shoppers paused to look at the heart-shaped signs and a Dating Game skit featuring a protester playing Leviev, and to listen to the noisy chants and the song “Lev’s Diamonds are a Crime’s Best Friend.”

The protesters oppose Leviev’s construction of Israeli settlements on Occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law, as well as his abuses of marginalized communities in Angola, Namibia and New York. Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, “The campaign to boycott Leviev is part of a growing international movement to boycott Israeli businesses due to their involvement in human rights abuses. We had more people protesting today and the boycott movement is growing worldwide due to outrage over Israel’s attack on Gaza, which killed approximately 1300 Palestinians, over 400 of whom were children.”

or this action protesting flowers from israeli colonists:

Two days before Valentine’s Day a group of 15 women have locked themselves to the gates of Israeli export company Carmel Agrexco to stop the delivery of Valentine’s roses.

The flowers are grown in illegal settlements on Palestinian land and therefore constitute illegally traded goods. The women say that they will blockade Carmel Agrexco until they are cut from the gates and arrested. Three women have already been violently arrested.

okay, one caveat on the valentine’s day thing: if the flowers come from falasteen, especially gaza right now, i approve:

Israel has made a pre-Valentine’s Day gesture by allowing 25,000 carnations to cross the border in the first exports permitted from blockaded Gaza in a year. But the shipment through the Kerem Shalom crossing was condemned as a “propaganda” move by Gaza growers used to exporting 37 to 40 million carnations a year and are unlikely to reach Europe in time to be sold in shops tomorrow.

but yet another valentine’s day (indeed every day) boycott we should participate in is related to the united states’ modern-day slave labor in its prison system where they make lingerie (among other products) that many consumers will likely be purchasing for valentine’s day:

With Valentine’s Day approaching, perhaps you’re planning a trip to Victoria’s Secret. If you’re a conscientious shopper, chances are you want to know about the origins of the clothes you buy: whether they’re sweatshop free or fairly traded or made in the USA. One label you won’t find attached to your lingerie, however, is “Made in the USA: By Prisoners.”

In addition to the South Carolina inmates who were hired by a subcontractor in the 1990s to stitch Victoria’s Secret lingerie, prisoners in the past two decades have packaged or assembled everything from Starbucks coffee beans to Shelby Cobra sports cars, Nintendo Game Boys, Microsoft mouses and Eddie Bauer clothing. Inmates manning phone banks have taken airline reservations and even made calls on behalf of political candidates.

the best news to come out about boycott this week, however, i must say comes from the city of tulkarem, which is a bit north of where i live. they have taken the moral high ground to boycott israeli goods as a city. here in nablus we are still struggling to remove their products from an najah university, though of course our goal is to remove them from the city at large. i am elated at this recent development:

The city of Tulkarem will begin a total boycott of Israeli goods starting March, the chamber of commerce announced Thursday.

The chamber, in conjunction with several local merchants and organizations, decided to launch the campaign, called “Keeping Tulkarem Clean of Israeli Goods.” The city will have assistance in organizing popular awareness of the efforts from coordinators from the popular anti-wall campaigns including Jamal Jum’ah.

Member of the local coordination committee Jamal Barham stressed the importance of unifying efforts to ensure the success of the campaign. This will include helping shop owners identify non-Israeli goods to replace common items like milk, flour, juice and chocolate.

The goal of the Tulkarem project is to increase the production of Palestinian goods from supplying 15% to 25% of consumer goods in Palestinian areas. They anticipate that this jump will provide at least 100,000 jobs in the production sectors.

Palestine is the second largest consumer of Israeli goods and imports 2.6 billion US dollars of Israeli made products per year.

this news from tulkarem is making me rethink the whole valentine’s day thing. i’m wondering if i can ask a city to be my valentine.

for those who feel inspired by this onslaught of bds movement i encourage you to read below and organize some sort of action for the global bds day on march 30th:

Join the Global BDS Action Day, March 30th

launched at the WSF 2009 in Belém

In December 2008, Israel decided to mark the 60th anniversary of its existence the same way it had established itself, perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 23 days, Israel killed more than 1,300 and injured over 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The irony of history is that Israel targeted those Palestinians and their descendants – whom it had expelled from their homes and pushed into refugee-hood in Gaza in 1948, whose land it has stolen, whom it has oppressed since 1967 by means of a brutal military occupation, and whom it had tried to starve into submission by means of a criminal blockade of food, fuel and electricity in the 18 months preceding the military assault. We cannot wait for Israel to zero in on its next objective. Palestine has today become the test of our indispensable morality and our common humanity.

We therefore call on all to unite our different capacities and struggles in a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel on March 30th.

The mobilization coincides with the Palestinian Land Day, the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Galilee in struggle against massive land expropriation, and forms part of the Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from March 28 to April 4.

We urge the people and their organizations around the globe to mobilize in concrete and visible BDS actions to make this day a historic step in this new anti-apartheid movement and for the fulfilment of the rights and dignity of the people and the accountability of the powerful. In our March 30th BDS actions, we will particularly focus on:

* Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.

* Legal action to end Israel’s impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.

* Cancelling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel.

The time for the world to fully adopt and implement the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is NOW. This campaign has to become an urgent part of every struggle for justice and humanity, by adopting widespread action against Israeli products, companies, academic and cultural institutions, sports groups, international corporations supporting Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and military occupation and pressuring governments for sanctions. It must be sustained until Israel provides free access to Gaza, dismantles the Apartheid Wall and ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands; recognizes the right of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

For more information, see: www.bdsmovement.net

For information on how to join the action day and how to develop BDS action in your country, organization and network, please contact the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) at: info [at] bdsmovement.net.

just one request for those who choose to take the moral highground and participate not only in a day of boycott action on march 30th but who change their daily behaviors as a result of the boycott: we must do this in response to the totality of israeli terrorist colonialism on every square inch of the land that is palestine, not just what people call “occupation” unless they mean all of historic palestine. all of palestine is occupied and this is what the bds movement should seek to end.

on history; or seeing the big picture

Yesterday I woke up early so that Saed and I could get to Ramallah before the Muwatin conference began. We had to leave extra early because the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) won’t let him drive through Huwara checkpoint, so we had to go at least 30 minutes in the opposite direction before we could cut back down to the main road to Ramallah. Fortunately because it was a Friday morning we were able to make it on time.

The Muwatin annual conference this year explored the theme of “Critical Readings in the History of the Palestinian National Struggle.” Many of the speakers were historians or those commenting on history in relation to the media or politics. It was good for me to attend this conference as the chapter of my book that I’m working on now deals with Palestinian history and as a result I’ve been constantly thinking about history in terms of methodology, strategy. Over the past two years my sense of the role history plays in my book has shifted. Initially it was broad. Later it became focused on the two touchstones of an nakba and haq al awda. At first I imagined that for my American audience utilizing solely the work of Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe would be more effective in terms of getting Americans to listen. But the writings of friends, whose work I respect deeply, cautioned me that to use only the history of the oppressors to tell the story of the oppressed is racist. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right they are. Indeed, my whole book project on some level speaks to that as I’m arguing for supplanting the very narrow Zionist curriculum in the U.S. with a curriculum about Palestinians that would teach Americans about an nakba and al awda. I began to imagine growing up learning about Nazi Germany solely from the point of view of Adolf Hitler or of Nazis. Or I thought about what it would mean to learn about slavery only from the point of view of white slave owners. The facts, the truth, the narrative is, of course, quite different when you think about it in these ways. But yet another aspect of methodology emerged for me over the past month as friends shared with me a problem in the field of history more generally: the use of only English (or other European language) sources. My reliance upon Palestinian scholars like Rashid Khalidi, Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph Massad, Yazid Sayigh, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Walid Khalidi, Naseer Aruri, and Nur Masalha is insufficient. There are many Palestinian scholars whose work is written in Arabic and these sources are ignored by scholars on the subject. Writing, thinking, re-writing, re-thinking has been a process. As indeed the writing of history should be more generally. A constant questioning, wondering, searching, exploring. At the same time, and on another level, living here forces me to think about the consequences of history every day as I watch in amazement the horrors of what it means for history to repeat itself in the short and long term.

Such questions emerged at the Muwatin conference yesterday. The first speaker was Rashid Khalidi who essentially gave a talk based on the fourth chapter of his book The Iron Cage. He mentioned that it will be published in Arabic in a few months. I suspect many people in the audience have not read the English version given the discussion throughout the course of the day. Even though I’ve read it it was interesting to hear the discussion of it in this different context. Khalidi framed his talk, which opened the conference and therefore addressed an important theme of the conference, which is related to the need for us to heed the lessons of history. One of the ways one achieves these lessons is by narrating a history that includes criticism, introspection, comparison. And Khalidi’s book does all of these things really well. Indeed, his entire methodology embeds these practices into his examination of Palestinian history. For one thing he examines this history by comparing it to the histories of Arab nations to compare Palestinian society at different stages in relation to daily life as well as responses to European colonialism. Khalidi explains that to understand the harm done to Palestinians historically and to achieve a just solution one has to understand this history in its proper context:

However, achieving any serious understanding of this poignant conflict, which has for decades rent the Middle East and has had such a wide-reaching political and moral impact outside it, requires a broad comprehension of Palestinian history in its own terms, and in its own context, which includes, but cannot be subsumed by or subordinated to Jewish and Israeli history. (xxix-xxx)

And the work that Khalidi–as well as most of the speakers yesterday–shared highlights this methodological strategy. Khalidi spoke about resistance in the context of the Palestinian revolt of 1936-1939. He related it to later resistance contexts, including Palestinian resistance from Lebanon in the 1970s. Through this lecture he theorized about the nature of history and how it gets told. There is a tendency–I would argue for every nation–to render its history into the realm of hyperbole, especially when one deals with leaders; nations are so rarely wiling to question this mythologizing work. But the issue of Palestinian history is still so much more complicated as there is still no master narrative. There are bits and pieces of it, but far too many lacuna.

Another speaker at the conference was Nadim Rouhana who is a Palestinian from 1948 Palestine. He’s currently working on a book on right of return in Israeli discourse. Yesterday he spoke about history in relation to strategy for the future. For instance, he discussed this issue of whether or not Jews constitute a religion or a ethnic group, but of course either way neither category allows them to steal and colonize someone else’s land (for the record Judaism is a religion like any other; they are not an ethnic group and like every other religion there are people from many other ethnic groups who make up this religious group as a result of conversion). As a proponent of a one-state solution, Rouhana talked about strategy involved in how a one state solution might emerge given the existence of Zionist Jews. What does one do with them? Indeed, an important question especially given that Zionism is so deeply enmeshed in the project of ethnic cleansing; it has no relationship to any sort of anti-colonial or anti-imperial power structure that it fought against Rouhana asserted. And this ethnic cleansing has continued in Palestine for 60 years. In a critique of Bush’s failed Annapolis project Rouhana raises some very important questions about Palestinians from 1948 who get left out of the process:

We are referred to by leading Israeli politicians as a “demographic problem.” In response, many in Israel, including the deputy prime minister, are proposing land swaps: Palestinian land in the occupied territories with Israeli settlers on it would fall under Israel’s sovereignty, while land in Israel with Palestinian citizens would fall under Palestinian authority.

This may seem like an even trade. But there is one problem: no one asked us what we think of this solution. Imagine the hue and cry were a prominent American politician to propose redrawing the map of the United States so as to exclude as many Mexican-Americans as possible, for the explicit purpose of preserving white political power. Such a demagogue would rightly be denounced as a bigot. Yet this sort of hyper-segregation and ethnic supremacy is precisely what Israeli and American officials are considering for many Palestinian citizens of Israel — and hoping to coerce Palestinian leaders into accepting.

Looking across the Green Line, we realize that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no mandate to negotiate a deal that will affect our future. We did not elect him. Why would we give up the rights we have battled to secure in our homeland to live inside an embryonic Palestine that we fear will be more like a bantustan than a sovereign state? Even if we put aside our attachment to our homeland, Israel has crushed the West Bank economy–to say nothing of Gaza’s–and imprisoned its people behind a barrier. There is little allure to life in such grim circumstances, especially since there is the real prospect of further Israeli sanctions, which could make a bad situation worse.

Rouhana raises not only interesting practical concerns, but also historical concerns. A great deal of Palestinian history is based upon particular areas in historic 1948 Palestine: Haifa, Yaffa, Akka, the Jaleel, and the half of Al Quds that is occupied. Certainly there is historic work on places like Nablus but in English so much of the writing focuses on these other areas. Certainly this is related to the fact that many of the Palestinian scholars who produce this important work come from these spaces that they or their family members were expelled from in 1948.

Some of what Rouhana discusses in the piece above makes me think about Jonathan Cook’s new book, Disappearing Palestine. I remembered this book when I woke up today. Especially its title because yesterday in what I think was the most provocative and compelling paper came from Esmail Nashif whose talk was entitled “History of Resistance and the Need to Resist History,” but the paper actually focused on the phenomenon of disappearance. When I first heard him use this word I thought immediately of the disappeared from Argentina. Especially because he was arguing that disappearance be used as a resistance strategy. It was hard to wrap my head around at first. I also thought of the Palestinian disappeared–those kidnapped from their homes every night who wind up in Israeli jails. But of course, he wasn’t arguing for this sort of disappearance. He was thinking about disappearance on a number of levels. Influenced by Gramsci and rejecting Hegel’s notion of the master/slave dialectic, he rejects this idea of Palestinians viewing themsleves in the role of the victim. And he sees much of the Palestinian resistance as re-action to various actions by the Zionist state. For Nashif disappearance is a way to break out of this cycle in which Palestinians become a shadow of the image of the slave, a shadow of neoliberalism. This shadow is related to how he sees Israelis trying to be like the Germans and Palestinians trying to be like the Israelis. To resist being a slave, to resist defining oneself in relation to the Other, the industry of the Other, to break these cycles. The context for this is in relation to the underground of the resistance movement when Palestinians disappear and then reappear. This gives Palestinians agency. To disappear and the figure out precisely how one re-appears.

Those who must reappear if we are to learn from history, to use history in a way that corrects injustices are, of course, Palestinian refugees. The one who spoke most lucidly about this subject yesterday was Musa Budeiri. And his talk made the most clear cut connections between the aspects of history that one must use to learn from the problems of history. Budeiri himself is a man who is subjected to the fact that not learning from history enables the Zionist state to continue its practices of ethnic cleansing by its process of rendering people illegal, taking their identity cards away, thus forcing them to be removed, ethnically cleansed from their homes:

However between May and August 1999, a serious incident happened: the Ministry of Interior of the Barak government withdrew the Identity Document of Musa Budeiri, a director of the Center of International Relations in Al-Quds University and a resident of East Jerusalem. Native of Jerusalem, his family has lived there for hundreds of years, under Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule. He was given a tourist visa, valid for four weeks, and was told that he would have to leave Jerusalem by August 22 — Musa Budeiri is one of thousands of other Palestinians in a similar situation. They all have the same problem: they are subject to the threat of being turned into ‘tourists’ in their birthplace. 2,200 Jerusalem ID cards of families (roughly 8,800 individuals) were confiscated between 1996 and May 1999 (according to the Israeli ministry of Interior)…

Budeiri argued about some of the problems with writing Palestinian history: the fact that much of the historical records are maintained in British and Israeli archives. That even many of the things one counts as Palestinian from the 1920s-1940s are actually inventions of British colonial institutions: money, passports, radio, newspapers, economy, education. He argues that the sort of narrative that has been used thus far to tell the story of Palestinian people is one that continues to give Palestinian elites legitimacy. He argues that we must look at the people in a Howard Zinn sort of fashion. For instance, if we want to talk about resistance, we need to be truthful about where it originated: Palestinian refugee camps. The idea of resistance did not start in the West Bank and Gaza or even 1948 in the 1960s. It started outside. The problem with not making this aspect of history central, and instead making a Palestinian history about the West Bank and Gaza, or even 1948, the centerpiece is that it gives legitimacy to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In turn, this emboldens the PA to sell away Palestinian refugees’ right of return in Oslo and all other agreements and negotiations since (perhaps the PA should be reminded of the conditions of Palestinians in Lebanon to move them to thinking differently?). The most important element of this line of thinking is that it copies the Zionist logic (a bit of an oxymoron, I know) who argue that all problems related to Palestinians stem from what happened in 1967. Zionists and their American and European allies use the word “occupation” to mean the West Bank and Gaza. They never use it as it is more accurately used, which is to mean all of 1948 Palestine. When I say occupation, for instance, I mean every inch of historical Palestine. But when the Zionists and their allies use this word and talk about 1967 borders they come from a point of view that suggests everything was okay before 1967 and that changing these borders to 1967 will solve all the problems. It won’t. And the arguments that emerged throughout the day yesterday–people wanting to defend this leader or that leader in history takes away from the overall point of the uses of history. It’s striking to see how people get so offended by what they deem to be borderline slander because Husseini or Arafat get critiqued for mistakes they made. I mean, can one learn from history if one does not look honestly at the mistakes of history–whether a few years ago or many decades ago?

What we need to return to is the formula that was born in the camps through culture and armed resistance that equated liberation of all historic Palestine with the right of return. This is the formula for justice. And here is what Budeiri himself argues with respect to rectifying history:

Events overcame the British Empire’s attempts to maintain its hold in Palestine. Partition was its retreat position. But Palestine was a tiny and distant asset, expendable in the service of the larger interests of the British Empire. Israel, a colonial warrior state assuming the role of regional power in an environment it deems dangerous and hostile, has transformed the region, and in doing so has transformed itself as well. While pursuing the path of ethnic cleansing, when and where it is possible, it cannot turn back whatever the cost. The only salvation for Israelis and Palestinians is for new forms of struggle that are based not on historical nostalgia or worn-out recipes, but on the realization that peace and a necessary modicum of justice can only come about on the basis of a shared homeland. The longer this notion takes to take hold, the costlier it is going to be. Partition was not a solution then and cannot be one now.

A question in relation to all of these historical problems and how to solve this that continues to permeate my thinking, especially when looking at the damage that normalization with Israelis causes Palestinians at every level, is this: Why is it that Palestinians must “negotiate” for what is rightfully, legally theirs? If someone were to steal my purse and I found it, I would take it back. It belongs to me. Palestine belongs to Palestinians. It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty simple and there is an historical record consisting of a variety of sources from land deeds to keys to UN resolutions. There are various modes of resistance that can be used to create this change. We can learn from other histories as well. For instance, I showed my students the film Amandla the other day, which is a film about the ways in which South Africans used music as an element of their resistance. The film is historical to be sure: it shows how music evolved from various modes of resistance, some of which was passive, some of which was religious, some of which was armed. This history is important, I think, as it is depicted in the film because it tells the story from the point of view of the people in a variety of contexts. Likewise, I kept thinking about Howard Zinn yesterday and how his method of narrating history through the voices of the people really revolutionized American history, especially as it told the stories of various marginalized groups and their various methods of resistance against the U.S. government’s colonialism and racism. There is so much Palestinian oral history already collected and it would be an amazing resource for Palestinians to begin a similar process here, I think. Too, one of the main issues people critiqued yesterday is the way that so much Palestinian history focuses on elites and some of their papers were challenging this by example and asking others to follow. I also think that one of the values of Zinn’s books is that it teaches us to see parallels from each struggle, to learn from those struggles, to be able to use what worked and understand why other methods failed. One thing I found striking yesterday: not one person mentioned the important work of Salman Abu Sitta. This is a man who understands how to use history to effectively seek justice for Palestinians. His goal of creating a new PLO that represents all Palestinians around the globe is essential and if we’re going to be talking about how to best use Palestinian history, I do believe his work must be a component of that narrative.

All of this food for thought was quite important in getting me energized with respect to thinking about my own work, its use value, and the struggle more generally. But the highlight of my day yesterday, I must say, was the fact that my dear friend Sami showed up to the conference and I got to spend the day with him. At lunch I was so humbled and honored that I not only got to catch up with Sami, but that I was able to break bread with Hossam Khoder, one of the Palestinian political prisoners who was released back in August. I blogged about attending the celebration of his release back in August, where I posted photographs of him as well. It is difficult to express how amazing it was to be sitting there among several former prisoners and seeing them eating in relative freedom (as free as one can be here), including my friend Sami who was actually in prison with Hossam.

At the end of the conference I was able to catch a ride back with some Nabulsis who were not staying for the second day as Saed did. We had such a lovely chat in the car on the way home and when we reached downtown Nablus I was invited out for knafe and more thought-provoking discussion with a journalist who worked until a few months ago, but the Zionist regime shut down the television station where he had worked for many years. So many stories like this of censorship, of imprisonment, of resistance. Stories that must be written down–not so much to create a master narrative. But I would hope for a people’s history of Palestine. One that moves people to remember, to resist, and to take back what is theirs. To break out of this cycle that takes Palestinians nowhere. To realize that normalization means the death of resistance, of justice.