Tibet and Palestine

Last month I started the summer off with a vacation in Dharamsala, in the northern part of India. I went there for the same cliched reason many other foreigners go there–for yoga and meditation. I’ve been meditating and practicing yoga for about 17 years. But for the past several years, since I first went to Palestine, I’ve struggled with this practice a bit. It’s been hard for me to reconcile the idea that working on one’s own inner peace, as it were, could lead to any global kind of peace. Moreover, the pessimist in me doesn’t believe that anyone in power would ever commit to such a practice, which is what would have to happen for such a change to emerge. True, it has happened in history–most notably with Ashoka who changed quite radically after his conversion to Buddhism. And there are others, too. In spite of my reservations, I’ve returned to these practices little by little in the past few years.

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I recalled a demonstration against Israeli theft of Palestinian agricultural land for their settlements and apartheid wall, which I attended in Bil`in in 2005. There was a Buddhist monk who joined us, although I recalled him as Tibetan, looking at the photographs now he’s clearly not. Still, I found it striking watching him beating his drum while the soldiers began to open fire on us. I never had a chance to speak with him because I was arrested that day.

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I remembered this image, though I hadn’t seen it in some time, because the more I explored Dharamsala and Tibetan history, the more I saw lucid parallels to Palestinian struggles. Just one glimpse of the images around McLeod Ganj, the main area where Tibetans, especially Tibetan monks, reside shows clearly an ongoing struggle for freedom, and not only in the Buddhist sense of liberation. At the Tibet Museum this resonated even more because I learned of the Tibetan resistance movement–I had not known that there had ever been armed struggle against the Chinese. But there are many similarities I noticed:

1. The time frame: Palestinians commemorate the nakba (catastrophe) on 15 May 1948, although the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began long before that and continues until this day. A year later, in 1949, China invaded Tibet.

2. Palestinians began their armed resistance movement to get their land back in 1968; the infamous Battle of Karameh marked its introduction to the world. In 1958, according the the museum catalog:

the flag of a united Tibetan resistance movement, the Tensung Danglang Maggar (‘Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet’), was hoisted for the first time in Driguthang, Lhoka. Andrug Gompo Tashi was nominated as our chief commander. Many recruits from all parts of Tibet joined us and we soon had more than 5,000 members. Fighting began soon after. At Nyemo we faced our biggest battle, Less than 1,000 of us successfully fought against a much bigger Chinese force. (25)

3. Both Israel and China have led ongoing campaigns to destroy cultural religious buildings, among other structures, in Palestine and Tibet respectively. Israel also regularly destroys Palestinian homes (often forcing Palestinians to destroy their own homes and/or pay the fees for that process) and does not permit them to build or rebuilt as the case may be.  In Tibet, according to the museum,

The systematic eradication of Tibetan culture and religion saw the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and temples. The handful still standing today are used as tourist attractions, army barracks, or public toilets. Precious scriptures and sculptures were destroyed or sold in international art markets. The Chinese used scriptures as shoe soles and monks and nuns were forced to desecrate religious objects. (29)

4. Just as Israel practices Judaisation, China practices what Tibetans call Sinicisation, which is includes the erasure of Tibetan identity and the inculcation of a Chinese one–starting with language. The museum explains:

The Chinese language is given priority in education and administration, thus marginalizing Tibetans in every sphere of life. Even more worrying are the population transfers that are diluting our culture and are reducing Tibetans to a minority in our own country. China is actively engaged in denials of our history, culture–our very identity. (37)

5. As indicated above, China also practices transfer, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing that Zionists have used since their pre-state days. In both cases, the occupying nation moves its citizens into the areas or homes where Tibetans or Palestinians used to live. One example is the expulsion of people from Yaffa and another more recent example is the ongoing nakba affecting Bedouins in the Naqab desert known as the Prawer Plan.

6. Of course, when one is faced with forced expulsion one becomes a refugee. Approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees were expelled in 1948 and many more since then including internally displaced people. Because this process is ongoing (and because of normal population growth) that number is 7.2 million today. In the case of Tibet:

Since 1959, about 100,000 Tibetans fled to neighboring countries. Many died on the way as a result of Chinese attacks and harsh conditions. Thousands continue to escape oppression and persecution in Tibet each year. (40)

7. Recent struggles for both Tibetans and Palestinians have included boycotting products made in China and Israel respectively. Additionally, Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation to call attention to their plight.

I lay out all of these comparisons here because while in Dharamsala I read a book called A Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz (1995). The book is not worth quoting, but essentially it is the tale of a variety of Jewish people–Orthodox, Conservative, Reform–primarily from the U.S. and Israel who come to Dharamsala to participate in a Buddhist-Jewish interfaith dialogue. From what I gleaned in the book, that dialogue was motivated by the Jewish delegation because of the great many Jews who leave their faith for Buddhism. There were so many odd concerns they held about joining this group and interacting with people who, for example, don’t keep kosher or who are formally addressed as “His Holiness.”

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In the book, there didn’t yet seem to be an Israeli colony in Dharamsala yet.  This is likely because relations between India and Israel were just beginning to publicly thaw in the early 1990s. But today there are many such colonies, (see here and here) most notably in this mountain top hill station and in Goa. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went to explore these two areas, pretty far removed from each other–one on top of the mountain in Dharamkot and the other in a valley a few kilometres below, Bhagsu Naag. In Dharamkot there is a Chabad House (an Orthodox Jewish prayer house–the tall brick building, which is the tallest in the area). It’s a bit odd to see that here given that stories I hear and read about often detail the way in which Israelis come after their three (men) or two year (women) compulsory army service, trash the area, smoke a lot of hashish, and have a lot of sex. It doesn’t exactly seem like the type who would frequent an extremely religious space.  The photographs above are from Dharamkot and those below from Bhagsu Naag.

The most disturbing aspect of this Israeli take over of this previously Indian and Tibetan community is the inclusion of what restauranteurs call “Israeli cuisine” (hummus, felafel, etc.) with no sense of irony. There are several photographs of menus above that illustrate this. Unfortunately none of the restaurant owners (most seemed to be Indian, not Tibetan) are aware that what they are serving is Arabic cuisine originating in the Levantine countries of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. This cultural theft is akin to what I listed above as one of the many ways Israel Judaises Palestine, often taking on Arabic or Palestinian culture and claiming it as its own. This would be akin to Chinese restaurants serving momos and tsampa and claiming it as their own. Of course, they do that too. Also, I find it odd that just because a group of foreigners frequents another country that “their” cuisine must be readily available. Why travel if you’re not going to eat local food. Seriously! Likewise why is there a need for all the signage to change from Tibetan, Hindi, and English to just two foreign languages: English and Hebrew?

Finally, Kamenetz’s book made it clear that through their interfaith exchange Tibetans and Israelis would begin working together towards a common cause. From their point of view, the Tibetan struggle mirrors the Jewish and Israeli one (he often conflates the two) and, not surprisingly, Palestine is barely mentioned at all. (See Gideon Levy on this.)  Indeed, there is an Israeli-Tibet society. And Israelis seem to be collaborating with Tibetans on agricultural projects. However, if the Tibetans want to know what will come of such a venture, they should look at what people did in Andhra Pradesh at Kuppam once they realised how they were being deceived by Israeli promises to improve the agricultural practices here.

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One final image: at my meditation centre there were only two languages used other than English and Hindi: Russian and Hebrew.
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“The Hindu” Promotes Tourism to Apartheid Israel

Yesterday morning I was enjoying reading the Sunday edition of The Hindu newspaper. That is, until I got to the final page of the paper where I saw an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “Ten Things to do In Israel,” which  ahistorically, acontextually promotes Indian travel to a settler-colonial, racist, apartheid state.

Here is my response to that piece, which I just emailed to the newspaper’s editor:

9 September 2013

Dear Editor:

In yesterday’s The Hindu Magazine section, you published an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “10 Things to do in Israel.” I found the article to be shocking and offensive. Since when did it become normal for Indians to promote travel to a settler-colonial apartheid state? I would suggest a more apt article for you to publish in your newspaper’s pages entitled, “Ten Reasons Not to go to Israel.” The list could include the following justifications:

  1. Israel practices apartheid and is a settler-colonial state. Just as the British were a settler-colonial state in India and just as South Africa was an apartheid regime, Israel is a combination of these two racist state systems of the past. Just as the British Empire created its settler-colonial state in India, they too enabled the set up of a colonial entity by partitioning the Levant after World War I. Since 2002, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has unequivocally compared the practices of apartheid by Israel with the former regime in South Africa.
  2. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 stipulates that Palestinian who were forcibly removed from their homes during the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (Israel’s premeditated “Plan Dalet” to eliminate the indigenous population), should be allowed to return to their homes and be compensated financially for the losses they incurred, much like Jews were offered compensation after World War II.
  3. The ethnic cleansing operations of 1948 have never ended: it is ongoing. For the most recent example of this, one need only look at the Negev desert where yet again the Bedouin community is being forcibly removed from their land. But this is also an ongoing project in places like Jaffa and Jerusalem, places that Anand seems to only see as tourist destinations.
  4. Israel likes to promote itself as an country that has “made the deserts bloom,” which, ignores the centuries of cultivation established by indigenous Palestinians. Israel’s ability to cultivate stolen Palestinian land comes from their ongoing theft of natural resources, like water, which they exploit for their settlement swimming pools while Palestinians are left with little to no water for bathing and drinking.
  5. Anand recommends tourists visit Israel’s Nazi holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, which is located on the land of the Palestinian village, Deir Yassin, which notably endured one of the most infamous massacres during Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations of 1948. The depopulated village ironically hosts this museum about the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Europe.
  6. The article also recommends that people spend time sampling food like felafel. Anand fails to mention that this is an Arab food not an Israeli one. Like most Israeli “culture,” felafel was studied and adopted by Zionist Jews who colonized Palestinian land. Likewise, the Jaffa oranges mentioned in the article were world renowned produce that Palestinians exported globally prior to their forced removal from their land. In addition to coopting Palestinian culture and branding it Israeli, Israel has consistently been on a mission to commit cultural genocide by imposing various laws—many of which date from the British Mandate era—to prevent Palestinian literature, music, dance, and theatre from being produced and shared publicly.
  7. Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom have been on ongoing hunger strikes for the past few years, and many of whom are children, are being held for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is resisting the ongoing colonization of their land. Just as Indians were political prisoners of the British during the Raj, Palestinians are also fighting to get their country back and those who work towards this end, regardless of age or gender, are often imprisoned.
  8. Since its formation, Israel has repeatedly promoted the ironic idea that it is always at risk of being thrown into the sea by its neighbors. The reality is that since its inception, Israel has been a belligerent regime and the fourth most powerful military in the world, propped up by the United States, of course. On a daily basis, Israel’s army fires at fishermen in Gaza; they regularly capture shepherds in Lebanon, and most recently they have bombed Syria and are pushing for the U.S. to invade Syria as well.
  9. Palestinians who live in Israel, who call themselves 1948 Palestinians because they are the people who managed to remain on their land against all odds are second-class citizens, just as Indians were under the British Raj. 1948 Palestinians do not have equal rights because they live in a state that defines itself as Jewish and Palestinians are either Christian, Druze, Baha’i, or Muslim.
  10. Don’t go to Israel. Go to Palestine. Show your solidarity with the Palestinian people. Join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement inspired by India’s boycott movement and later South Africa’s. Join the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Traveling to Israel promotes their economy and therefore enables it to continue its brutal and ruthless colonial system. India remembers all too well what colonialism means. Why would Indians want to promote its continuation in another location?

embargo & sanction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A letter from Israeli Prison

Monday, 23 February 2009

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

Comrades,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Comrades, thank you for your support and solidarity.

We will not surrender.

Ma’an ‘Ala edDarb – Together on the road

Your Comrade Samieh Jabbarin

Jelemeh Prison

(Middle of February, 2009)

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

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

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

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

ceasefire. truce.

do words have no meaning any more? is “all language bankrupt” as suheir hammad tells us in her beautiful poem “a prayer band”?

here is how my dictionary defines these words:

cease-fire
noun
a temporary suspension of fighting, typically one during which peace talks take place; a truce.
• an order or signal to stop fighting.

truce |troōs|
noun
an agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time : the guerrillas called a three-day truce.

in the congo:

Congo rebel advance breaks truce

A Congolese soldier sentenced to life in prison at a military court in Goma, 17 November 2008
A military court in Goma was reported to have sentenced four army soldiers

Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic have gone on the offensive despite declaring a ceasefire, the UN says.

The latest fighting has been in and around the town of Rwindi, about 125km (75 miles) north of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

The rebels say they have seized the town and a UN spokesman says they have continued to advance further north.

The fighting comes as UN envoy Olusegun Obasanjo continues efforts to broker an end to the conflict.

A reporter for the AP news agency in Rwindi says rebels are walking around the town freely.

“This shows they’re not respecting their own ceasefire they’ve declared,” AP quoted UN peacekeeping spokesman Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich as saying.

and in gaza:

Israeli military invades Rafah city in southern Gaza

Israeli military bulldozers, backed by armored vehicles, swept early on Tuesday morning into the eastern borders of Rafah city in southern Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that the Israeli bulldozers began razing farm lands just 50 to 100 meters depth into Palestinian areas, mainly in the Alnahda neighborhood.

Witnesses added that the Israeli armored vehicles moved towards the Gaza international airport, and that they also razed farm lands in the area.

Meanwhile, the Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party, fired a Qassam homemade shell at the invading force, witnesses confirmed.

Such a development comes as Israel continues to close the Gaza border crossings today, and Gaza-based resistance factions continue to respond with homemade shells fire onto nearby Israeli towns.

Some Israeli officials were reported as warning of carrying out a large military offensive against the Gaza Strip.

of course all language is not bankrupt when we have the words of poets like hammad to remind us of their power. even still, in one of her new, powerful, beautiful poems “break (word)” hammad suggests that it is math, not language that is the all consuming force:

yo thunder gun clap flash flood warning

cumin kizbara a kiss bara
herb quartz strung key feather door
internet iced letters coffee clove guiness beats
beats beats july heat miriam medicine
what you become not just on paper
beautiful bosom in love beirut

corner the corniche
stop lean against
a railing wave foreigners goodbye
turn and walk into a bomb

we no longer know language

asunder sun dare ash judge warring

ribs borders razors geneva guava evacuate demonstrate
against blinding
emperor’s mission religion

cane wa able
the first civil war still raging

humiliate a people distract the rest

trademark star brand dreams seeds
water new world old words
this ain’t living

words are against us
there is a math only subtracts (19)

here is hammad reading her poem:

hammad’s poem is about the israeli terrorist forces invasion of lebanon and gaza in the summer of 2006. but as she said in her poem “first writing since” “over there is over here.” whether it is new york or palestine. iraq or lebanon. gaza or the congo.

and on counting, on listing, on naming, here is what amira hass has to say today in ha’aretz:

Let’s not be dragged into calculating how many tons of rice, flour and cooking oil there are in the Gaza Strip 10 days after Israel once again hermetically sealed all the crossings into the enclave. Let’s not count the number of children who wait for a nutritious meal at UN Relief and Works Agency schools, and the number of families to whose doorstep Hamas delivers boxes filled with grocery staples. (There are those who swear that these groceries are only given to Hamas members and supporters.) Let’s not calculate the number of people dependent on their families for sustenance. There is food in the Gaza Strip, and there will continue to be. Does anyone really think that Israel, the state of the Jews, would allow 1.5 million people to be tossed, crowded and crammed, behind the barbed-wire fences and watchtowers surrounding the narrow strip and starve to death?

Let’s leave aside the stories of darkness, of how children do (or don’t do) their homework by the light of a candle or kerosene lantern. Let’s even put off the discussion on the serious environmental hazards – pollution of the groundwater and sea – posed to the people of Gaza and Ashkelon alike as a direct consequence of the intentional fuel shortage, or of Israel’s refusal to permit the entry of pipes to upgrade the water and sewage infrastructure. Let’s not go now into descriptions of how the sewage flows directly into the sea because there’s not enough electricity to operate the sewage treatment plant. Let’s not talk about fears that sewers will back up in the winter and flood residential neighborhoods because parts needed to fix the treatment plant were not brought in.

Let’s not get dragged into that number crunching, into reducing the Palestinians’ lives to a near-animal level, to a humanitarian problem that is easy to prove is not as bad as it can be.

The deliberations over the Palestinians and the methods of coping with the blockade should be converted into a discussion about the Israelis – about those who make policy and the many diligent people who carry it out, about the many citizens who support and encourage it. Instead of discussing quantities of diesel fuel and flour, the talk should be of the logic behind the siege and those who impose it.

People in the Israeli cabinet, Defense Ministry and Shin Bet security service know full well what they are doing when they prohibit anything other than essential food or medicines from passing through the checkpoints, when they prohibit the entry of raw materials and the exit of agricultural and industrial products and prevent normal human traffic for studies, medical care, work or family. Don’t underestimate them and don’t belittle their judgment. They knew perfectly well when they decided more than two years ago on the tightest closure of the Gaza Strip since the closure policy began in 1991, that industry would collapse, agriculture would wither, tens of thousands of young people would join the jobless and hopeless, that it would be hard for schools to operate and education would suffer, that sewage would back up and seep into the drinking water, that water would no longer reach the upper floors of apartment buildings.

This policy was presented to the Israeli public in a semiofficial manner as a justified punishment of the Palestinians for electing Hamas (and to hell with international law). “Quarterofficially” we know there was an expectation, or a prediction, that the siege would cause the Gazans to loathe Hamas and end its government in Gaza (after it lost its official grip on the West Bank). That was certainly the hope of the Ramallah government.

Gazans have a bellyful of complaints, and rightfully so, about the Hamas regime. It has already proven itself – mainly to Fatah members – as a regime of fear and repression. But the kind of punishment tactic currently in force is exactly what strengthens Hamas. Instead of the movement being judged according to its ability to run a government and meet its governmental obligations to ensure its citizens’ welfare, it can blame the emergency situation created by the siege for every manifestation of immaturity and unprofessionalism.

The public feels that the government is part of it. Like the public, the government is a target for the occupation’s cruelty. The brutal siege also saves Hamas from having to cope with the contradiction between its platform (the liberation of all of Palestine) and its integration, despite its denials, into the institutions created by the Oslo Accords. If Israel jeopardizes the lives of premature babies and causes business owners, including supporters of Oslo and Yasser Arafat, to go broke, the Hamas government can present itself as resisting the occupation by its very nature. The extraordinary conditions of the extreme siege and the disconnection between Gaza and the West Bank (another intentional Israeli policy) have made the possibility of holding new Palestinian general elections a very distant one. Hamas can thus bolster its rule with coercion, wages, charity and the consoling power of religion.

And perhaps that is exactly what the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces and government want?