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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Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YmoTgH_XQ0]

Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

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It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

more examples of why zionism = racism

here are some news items over the past month–just the latest examples in 122+ years of why zionism = racism.

1. An Arab couple whose one-year-old daughter was expelled from an Israeli day-care center on her first day are suing a Jewish mother for damages, accusing her of racist incitement against their child.

Maysa and Shuaa Zuabi, from the village of Sulam in northern Israel, launched the court action last week saying they had been “shocked and humiliated” when the center’s owner told them that six Jewish parents had demanded their daughter’s removal because she is an Arab.

In the first legal action of its kind in Israel, the Zuabis are claiming $80,000 from Neta Kadshai, whom they accuse of being the ringleader.

The girl, Dana, is reported to be the first Arab child ever to attend the day-care center in the rural Jewish community of Merhavia, less than one kilometer from Sulam.

However, human rights lawyers say that, given the narrow range of anti-racism legislation in Israel, the chance of success for the Zuabis is low.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has operated an education system almost entirely segregated between Jews and Arabs.

However, chronic underfunding of Arab schools means that in recent years a small but growing number of Arab parents have sought to move their children into the Jewish system.

Dana was admitted to the day-care center last December, according to the case, after its owner, Ivon Grinwald, told the couple she had a vacant place. However, on Dana’s first day six parents threatened to withdraw their own children if she was not removed.

Kadshai, in particular, is said to have waged a campaign of “slurs and efforts aimed at having [Dana] removed from the day-care center, making it clear that [her] children would not be in the same center as an Arab girl.” Zuabi was summoned to a meeting the same evening at which Grinwald said she could not afford to lose the six children. She returned the contract Zuabi had signed and repaid her advance fees.

Zuabi said that while she was in the office Grinwald received a call from Kadshai again slandering Dana and demanding her removal.

2. A 23-year-old woman of Ethiopian descent claimed that the driver of an Egged No. 5 bus in Rishon Lezion refused to allow her to board his bus because of the color of her skin.

Speaking to Ynet, Yedno Verka recounted last Wednesday’s incident: “As I prepared board the bus, the driver suddenly shut the door. I banged on the glass, but he ignored me. Then a young woman came running towards the bus, and he opened the door for her. I stayed close to her and boarded the bus.

“When the driver saw me he said, ‘what, don’t you understand that I don’t allow Kushim (derogatory term for black people) on board? Are you trying to smash my door in? Were there buses in Ethiopia? Why don’t you walk? In Ethiopia you didn’t even have shoes and here you do, so why don’t you walk?’ I was shaking all over; I couldn’t even speak,” she said.

At this point Verka handed the driver the bus fair, but, according to her, he refused to accept it and said, “Kushit hold on, what’s your hurry? Since you (Ethiopians) made aliyah you’ve become arrogant.”

3. At least 100 students of Ethiopian origin in Petah Tikva do not know what school they will be attending in the fall, with the opening of the school year just two and a half weeks away. The uncertainty stems from the fact that the city’s private schools with an ultra-Orthodox or national Orthodox bent have refused to accept children of Ethiopian origin.

Much of the funding for the private schools comes from the Education Ministry and the city. Education Ministry director general Shimshon Shoshani said Wednesday that the schools that continue to refuse to enroll the children will be fined and may have their licenses suspended.

A few days ago the Petah Tikva municipality told the city’s private schools that they would need to enroll about 70 students of Ethiopian origin. Another 30 students were to be enrolled in the public Orthodox school system, where most Ethiopian-Israeli students go. However, sources at the ministry and municipality said conversations with officials at the private schools indicated that they would refuse to enroll the children.

Administrators at the city’s public Orthodox schools said they would not accept the 30 children as planned.

Sources familiar with the situation said that around 150 to 200 students of Ethiopian origin are to go to school in Petah Tikva.

According to a senior city official, the private schools “told us specifically that they do not intend to register the new students. It’s clear to everyone that the response to the enrollment instruction would be negative, but we had to go public with it to allow the Education Ministry to begin the process of imposing monetary fines.”

4. A trip for some 250 children from Al Jish village, near Safad north of the country, had to be cut short after the manager of a Jewish-run swimming pool refused to allow the organizers of the Jish Church Summer camp, play Arabic music.

Israeli Ynet News published a report on the incident and stated that Jad Salman, the director of the Jish Church Summer Camp, stated that the pool manager was insulting and racist in his statement.

Salman said that this summer camp is conducted by the church every year, and is considered one of the best summer camps among Christians in Israel, the Ynet added.

Salman stated that after he along with the organizers of the trip, and some 250 children entered the country club to swim, he asked the personnel about the location of an electricity connection, but the workers did not give a direct answer and kept sending him around.

Later on, Salman managed to find a power outlet, and connected a stereo system before playing church music.

As soon as he went to fill some drinking water, he noticed that the music had stopped, he went back and the instructors told him that they were asked to stop the Arabic music and were instead given a Hebrew music CD.

He then approached the club manager, Shemi Namimi, and asked him about what is going on, and then the directors said “do not put Arabic music, but you can play Hebrew music”, the Ynet reported.

Salman tried to convince the manager to allow them to play Arabic music, as he told him that this is a summer camp, and that the mother tongue of the children is Arabic.

But the manager just said “There will be no Arab music in the club”. After he heard the response, Salman used a microphone and called on the children to leave the pool.

5. UNRWA’s Hebrew-language outreach program titled “Building Understanding: Epitaph of a Dead Warehouse,” was cancelled by Acre festival authorities in the last days before the UN organization was to present photos and films of their work in Palestine.

The agency had prepared a multimedia theatrical performance that documented the “dramatic last day of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s warehouse in Gaza which was destroyed during the fighting in Gaza on 15th of January 2009,” a program for the evening read.

“[The production] has already been shown in Tel Aviv and Sderot where it was well received,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement. “We presented the piece to the Acre Festival authorities a couple of months ago and they gave an immediate green light and it is surprising that the play should be cancelled by the Festival authorities just hours before our first performance here.”

The festival also booted UNRWA’s photo exhibit and another film from the program.

6. Israel’s national water company announced Tuesday that it would be disconnecting the water in the Bedouin community of Rahat due to an accumulated debt of about $400,000 owed by the town’s municipality.

The 46,281 residents of the town, located in Israel’s desert region, will remain without water for a few hours a day until the municipality settles its debts with Mekorot.

Heads of the Bedouin councils held a meeting with Shlomo Buchbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, in order to discuss their financial difficulties.

Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Sabihan said a plan had been formed in order to pull the municipality from its deficit, which currently stands at around $7.8 million. However he said the plan had not yet been approved.

“Our accounts have been seized,” the mayor told Ynet. “And the employees are not being paid. We’ve been chosen to provide a service I cannot provide.” He said the municipality would strike until the plan was approved.

An official with the Interior Ministry’s southern district said the plan had been approved, but that the ministry still had to cooperate with the Treasury in order to allot funds towards its implementation.

Meanwhile, the data presented by the municipality at the meeting was disheartening. While Rahat exacts municipality taxes from just 30% of its population, 35% receive income support and 26% are eligible for unemployment payment. The city’s rate of unemployment is a whopping 20%, and the average age of its residents is 13.5.

7. The government extended on Sunday, by one year, the force of the Law of Citizenship and Entry into Israel, which prevents people from the Palestinian Authority and enemy states from becoming Israeli citizens by marrying Israeli citizens.

A High Court decision on the legality of the law is pending, and could cause its negation.

8. A Bedouin forum on education has recently filed a complaint with the Prime Minister’s Office inquiring why the government committee tasked with promoting the representation of Arab citizens in government offices did not include a single Arab member.

The forum’s coordinator, Dr. Awad Abu-Freih, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint Arab representatives to the committee.

According to the government’s Civil Service Commission, the number of Israeli Arabs employed by the government does not exceed 6.8 percent of the employees. Last week, the cabinet decided to establish a committee to promote proper representation of Arabs in government offices.

The members of the Bedouin education forum were dismayed to find that the 11-member committee did not include a single Arab member. The committee includes Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Prime Minister’s Office Director Eyal Gabbai and Welfare Ministry Director Nahum Itzkovitch.

“There is no doubt that in the absence of Arab citizens on the committee, the commission may continue to give unfair preference to Jews in appointments, in promotions, and in handing out key positions,” Abu-Freih said in his complaint to the prime minister.

“The promises on fair representation still sound hollow and empty,” he went on to say. “Again and again we will be told that ‘no qualified Arabs could be found for the job.'”

“The services offered to Arab citizens will also continue to be discriminatory,” he continued. “For example, the education services offered to the Arab community in the Negev are neglected and deprived.”

“Out of 20 percent of the population of the state, not one Arab could be found who would be qualified to be honored with serving on the committee?” Abu-Freih asked.

9. Five years after a mounted militia stormed his village, torching houses and killing his relatives, Ibrahim Saad el-Din, a refugee from Sudan’s Darfur region, gazed at remnants of another slaughter: hundreds of shoes worn by Jews killed in a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.

Saad el-Din was among a dozen African refugees brought by an Israeli advocacy group to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial last week, hoping to spur public sympathy for their plight by invoking the Jewish people’s own history fleeing death and persecution.

Over 16,000 asylum seekers have poured into Israel in recent years, most from Africa, posing a unique dilemma for the Jewish state.

Israel is proud of its heritage as a refuge that took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi genocide. But it’s conflicted over refugees from elsewhere. Israel’s many wars with its Arab neighbors have left it distrustful of outsiders, while some fear accepting non-Jews could threaten the state’s Jewish character. As a result, it is struggling with how to handle the non-Jewish newcomers.

“The Jewish past makes us particularly mindful of the dangerous plight of exiles and refugees and the need to help them,” said Yaron Ezrahi, a political science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But the smallness and siege mentality of our country given its hostile environment make us more committed to maintaining our majority.”

Israeli refugee advocates criticize the state, saying stints in jail and the scant support asylum seekers find in Israel fail to honor the memory of Jewish persecution through the ages.

“I think it’s a great shame the way we’re behaving,” said Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. “We have an extremely short memory.”

Israel’s current refugee influx started in 2005, when Egyptian smugglers helped a few hundred Africans sneak into Israel. The government arranged jobs for some, and as stories of their new lives spread, more came.

Just under half are from Eritrea, whose repressive government often detains returned asylum-seekers, according to Amnesty International. About one-third are from south Sudan and Darfur, whose conflicts have left millions dead and homeless, according to the U.N.

Under the U.N.’s Refugee Convention, all those claiming to be refugees should have their cases reviewed, said Sharon Harel of the U.N. refugee agency.

But the sudden influx outstripped the ability of the UNHCR and the government to process them, officials in both bodies said, resulting in stopgap policies that critics say make Israel inhospitable.

Those arriving now are detained for an average of five months — and some more than a year. They then receive release papers that must be renewed every three months but give them no right to work, though the government usually looks the other way when they take under-the-table jobs.

Simona Halperin of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the government has a “full moral and legal commitment” to protecting refugees, but must distinguish them from economic migrants.

Asylum seekers from Sudan pose a unique problem, she said, because their mere entering Israel — which Sudan considers an “enemy state” — prevents their return.

10. The Education Ministry’s budget for special assistance to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds severely discriminates against Arabs, a new study shows. The average per-student allocation in Arab junior high schools amounts to only 20 percent of the average in Jewish junior highs.

The study, published recently in the journal Megamot by Prof. Sorel Cahan of Hebrew University’s School of Education, supports the claims of institutionalized budgetary discrimination that Arab educators have long voiced. On Monday, when the ministry published town-by-town data on what percentage of high school students pass their matriculation exams, most Arab towns were once again at the bottom of the list. A rare exception was Fureidis, where 75.86 percent of students passed – the third highest rate in Israel.

Ordinary classroom hours are allotted to schools on a strictly per-student basis. But the special assistance budget, which totaled NIS 150 million last year, is by nature differential, as its purpose is to give extra assistance to schools with a large proportion of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The money goes toward tutoring, enrichment activities and more.

The special assistance budget is allocated in two stages. First, it is divided between the Jewish and Arab populations based on the number of students in each. Then, it is distributed among schools in each sector based on an index with three components: the percentage of students per school from low-income families, the percentage from large families, and the percentage whose fathers have relatively little schooling.

However, Cahan found, because the Arab sector has more students who meet these criteria but less students overall, “educationally needy” Jewish students receive anywhere from 3.8 to 6.9 times as much funding as equally needy Arab students.

This discrimination defeats the whole point of the special assistance budget, he wrote.

11. The inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Amra have good reason to fear that the harsh tactics used by the Israeli army against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been imported to their small corner of Israel’s Negev desert.

Over the summer, the Tarabin tribe, all of them Israeli citizens, have had the sole access road to their homes sealed off, while the dirt track they must use instead is regularly blocked by temporary checkpoints at which their papers and vehicles are inspected at length.

Coils of razor wire now surround much of the village, and children as young as eight have been arrested in a series of night-time raids.

“Four-fifths of our youngsters now have files with the police and our drivers are being repeatedly fined for supposed traffic violations,” said Tulab Tarabin, one of Amra’s 400 Bedouin inhabitants. “Every time we are stopped, the police ask us: ‘Why don’t you leave?’”

Lawyers and human rights activists say a campaign of pressure is being organised against the Tarabins at the behest of a nearby Jewish community, Omer, which is determined to build a neighbourhood for Israeli army officers on Bedouin land.

“The policy in Israel is that when Jews need land, the Bedouin must move – no matter how long they have been living in their homes or whether their communities predate Israel’s creation,” said Morad al Sana, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority. “The Tarabins’ crime is that they refuse to budge.”

The 180,000 Bedouin in the Negev have never been welcome, says Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva. They are descendants of a few thousand who managed to avoid expulsion from the southern semi-desert region during the 1948 war that founded Israel.

12. The UN says that access to education is a basic human right. But for Palestinian children living in the occupied West Bank, getting to school itself is a challenge. One Bedouin community lost three children in road accidents on their long walk to school. Making matters worse, Israeli authorities are trying to block the building of a school near the community’s home outside Jerusalem.

13. Gaza’s children are starting a new school year, but Israel’s blockade and its January war on the territory mean many are doing so without adequate supplies. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from one school in Gaza where classes are resuming.

14. Black British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove has launched an outspoken attack against the “racist” Israeli government after being abducted from the high seas and imprisoned for seven days.

Jamaica-born Blagrove, who lives in West London, was one of six British nationals taking part in a mercy mission to Gaza who were seized from the vessel Spirit of Humanity on June 30 by Israeli military forces.

The ship, which Blagrove says was illegally boarded in international waters, was bringing a cargo of medicines, children’s toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.

“I’m not concerned with the time that I spent in jail because I am now free, however, there are still thousands of people being persecuted as we speak,” said Blagrove.

“I went on the voyage to deliver medical aid, toys and film a documentary about Palestinians living in Gaza post the 22-day bombing last year however, I was unable to fulfill my mission and have now returned with a bigger story to tell. Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli governmentand the world needs to know.”

Sailing from Larnaca, Cyprus, with a crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, those on board included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

“We were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships.”

Blagrove told how Israeli warships surrounded their vessel threatening to open fire if they did not turn back.

“We were 18 miles of the coast of Gaza and 23 miles outside the international water boundaries. The Israelis made contact with us via radio at approximately 1.30 am. Our ship had been given security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus so we posed no threat, yet the Israeli government insisted that we aborted our journey.

“When we refused to be intimidated, they jammed our instrumentation and blocked our GPS, radar, and navigation systems, putting our lives at risk.

“Before we knew it we were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships and helicopters were also flying over our heads. They stormed our ship and took us against our will to Ashdod Port in Israel.

“They confiscated and destroyed all our equipment including all our medical aid and toys and eventually we were all taken to Ramla High Security Prison where we were imprisoned.”

“Most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans.”

Describing his experience inside Ramla, Blagrove said: “Without insulting the memory of those that have survived the Nazi concentration camps, the prison we were kept in can only be described in that manor. But most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans. I was absolutely dumbfounded!

“Israel operates under a right-wing racist government that discriminates anyone that is non-Jewish.

“The first day I was there, I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison. The next day 300 more Africans were taken in and the prison population continues to grow daily with Africans falling victim to the Israeli judiciary system.

“There were Africans from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia and so on. The prison population in Israel is 90 percent black, which is why I was so welcomed by fellow inmates. There are thousands upon thousands of Africans inside the Israeli prisons.

“I was told atrocious stories. Real harrowing tales and countless inmates that have been transferred from one prison to the other informed me and that every prison is the same and the government is refusing to send them back to their own country.”

“I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison.”

Haunted by the conditions of the prison, he said: “I shared a seven foot by seven foot cell with 14 others. We were constantly being barked at and threatened with physical abuse. If you disobey, prisoners are stripped naked and put inside a hole with no lights or heating. We were seen as sub-human.

“In the corner of the room there was a white plastic bag full of single slices of bread, which was our breakfast, lunch and dinner. If we were lucky they occasional gave us a cup of yoghurt to share.

“The toilets are two tubes and to pass your waste you have to aim and squat. The smell was indescribable because it was a mixture of sweat, urine and feces.”

Explaining that the government officials tried to force him to sign documents in Hebrew, which is illegal as all prisoners must be able to understand what they are consenting too, Blagrove said: “My fellow passengers and I were only kept for seven days because they knew the world was watching.”

helena cobban’s recent article in ips of one zionist terrorist colonist who is renouncing zionism because of its racism, though it appears, not the colonialism:

I’ve never met Dov Yermiya, a Jewish Israeli peace activist who is now 94 years old. But I read of course the book he published in 1983 in which he wrote with anguish about the torture and other gross mistreatment of civilians he witnessed directly during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the year before.

I have it in my hand now.

I just learned, from an open letter published by Uri Avnery, that Yermiya, recently renounced the ideology and practice of Zionism with these stirring words:

“I, a 95 year old Sabra (native born Israeli Jew), who has plowed its fields, planted trees, built a house and fathered sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and also shed his blood in the battle for the founding of the State of Israel,

“Declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem, that I shall stand at attention only on the days of mourning for those fallen on both sides in the wars, and that I look with a broken heart at an Israel that is committing suicide and at the three generations of offspring that I have bred and raised in it.

“… for 42 years, Israel turned what should have been Palestine into a giant detention camp, and is holding a whole people captive under an oppressive and cruel regime, with the sole aim of taking away their country, come what may!!!

“”The IDF eagerly suppresses their efforts at rebellion, with the active assistance of the settlement thugs, by the brutal means of a sophisticated Apartheid and a choking blockade, inhuman harassment of the sick and of women in labor, the destruction of their economy and the theft of their best land and water.

“Over all this there is waving the black flag of the frightening contempt for the life and blood of the Palestinians. Israel will never be forgiven for the terrible toll of blood spilt, and especially the blood of children, in hair-raising quantities… “

yes, the zionist entity does all these things. this is its “normal.” but how to get these abnormal hateful people to wake up, renounce zionism, and voluntarily leave the land (since 70% have dual citizenship) so that palestinian refugees can return…

مخيم العودة

i spent last week at summer camp. my dear friend at ibdaa cultural center in deheishe refugee camp has been organizing and planning for this all year. we’ve done these trips before when we take children under age 16, who do not yet have their identity cards, to their original villages in 1948 palestine. we spent the previous couple of weeks mapping the villages so as to have an idea where they were. deheishe refugee camp is unusual in that it has more villages represented in it than any other camp. there are over 46 villages represented in the camp today, although at one time it was 52. the villages are spread out, too, all the way from gaza to haifa (with respect to original palestinian districts and borders). we had 37 youth join the summer camp, broken down into three groups, and we spent the week with them touring their villages and conducting workshops on life before an nakba, the right of return, and how to use rap music as a form of resistance. each night before we closed down we had a huge reflection circle where the kids would share their thoughts about visiting their own villages and those of their friends. and, of course, it wouldn’t be a summer camp without kids running through the hallways playing soccer and drumming on the tabla into all hours of the night. it reminded me of abu mujahed’s summer camp i attended in lebanon for the kids from shatila refugee camp who were so happy to have a wide open space in which to play and exist in ba’albek a couple of years ago.

when we took kids to their villages before it was just one day and we had a small group on one bus. we didn’t hit nearly as many villages and it was just a one-time experience. this project is the beginning of a year-long project that will now begin the process of collecting oral history from the kids’ families as well as teaching them about their right of return. the hope is to help the youth feel connected to their history and to various forms of resistance that will facilitate the right of return. there is a fear that this generation is more attached to their refugee camp than to their villages and this project is one way of intervening in that. and i have hope that this will work. the week before camp friends of mine who had kids coming with us told us stories of how they came home excited from our meetings asking all sorts of questions, doing research on the internet about their villages, reading, and learning about where they come from. one friend of mine from zakariya told me that his son talked to his grandmother about their village and that he learned things from his mother he had not known before either. so it became a family enterprise, one that i hope and expect will continue throughout the year and then some. i had my own group in the camp that i took around in a car to cut down on costs. we went to the villages furthest away from the church that hosted us in 1948 palestine for the week. below is a series of photographs that i took in the villages and some brief reflections and context on the villages.

day one

we got a late start on our first day, partially because not only did i drive my own car, but i was also responsible for smuggling older youth and friends organizing the camp out of deheishe. i made several trips and we were all elated when we managed to get everyone out (in zionist terrorist colonist terms we were “infiltrators”). we also had a bit of a delay with the baker making manaqeesh for our lunch. after we finally got everyone into 1948 palestine we broke down into our groups and went to the villages. we used walid khalidi’s book all that remains and palestine remembered as our guides, as well as salman abu sitta’s the return journey: a guide to depopulated and present palestinian towns and villages and holy sites. these are great resources historically speaking, and each child received a folder with materials including copies of the related pages to their village. however, these are not great resources–except for abu sitta’s book–with respect to finding the remnants of the village which can be an enormous task. oftentimes you have to use these resources to find the zionist terrorist colony built on top of the ruins of the palestinian village, though this doesn’t work so well when the zionist terrorist colonists planted a forest over the village (with the help of americans, canadians, and the british). with that in mind we purchased gps systems for each group to mark the villages and the things we found in them. i am going to upload that information into google earth later this week or next week so we can begin to map palestinian villages on the map and aid other people wanting to find their villages.

our first village was قسطينة (qastina), which is in gaza. there is not much left of the village today. khalidi’s book, which was originally published in the early 1990s, shows an image of some rubble of former houses, but we were unable to find any. instead we found a number of zionist terrorist colonies on the land and a number of olive trees and cacti, though the olive trees were relatively new. in a number of villages last week i was awestruck by the ways in which the zionist terrorist colonists destroyed plants and trees only to replant them again later with the assistance of diaspora zionists. qastina used to have wheat, barley, sesame, beehives, and vineyards, but we found none of this. the depopulation of qastina is described by khalidi:

Qastina was occupied around 9 July 1948, shortly after teh end of the first truce, by the Giv’ati Brigade, when it advanced southwards into Egyptian-controlled territory. During the ten-day period between the two truces (8-18 July), the Brigade succeeded in seizing an area comprising at least sixteen villages, all of whose inhabitants were displaced. The residents of Qastina, like those of nearby al-Masmiyya, were probably driven south towards Gaza, rather than east to the Hebron area. Operational orders issued by Brigade commander Shim’on Avidan had called for civilians to be expelled; however, the inhabitants of this area fled almost as soon as the operation began, according to a later Israeli army report. The village had earlier been mentioned in Plan Dalet as one of the villages to be occupied by the Giv’ati Brigade. (131)

qastina, palestine
qastina, palestine
stones of qastina, palestine
stones of qastina, palestine

our second village was تل الترمس (tall al-tarmus), which is essentially across the street from qastina and suffered the same fate. we found a zionist terrorist colonist university as we entered the settlement and then a vast agricultural space which was filled with grapes and plums for the zionists’ agribusiness. we saw trucks of asian migrant workers, who have, in recent years, replaced the palestinian workers who have for the last few decades farmed their own land stolen by the zionists for just a few shekels a day. the vineyards and orchards were also new trees here, too. but we spent time here–as in all the villages–picking fruit, collecting stones and soil, to take home to older family members who are not allowed to visit their villages. khalidi on tall al-tarmus’ depopulation:

As the first truce of the war was winding down, Israeli forces on the southern front were planning a major push south of al-Ramla towards the Negev, which they called Operation An-Far (see Bil’in, Gaza District). Tall al-Tarmus probably fell early in this operation, around 9-10 July 1948, to the First Battalion of the Giv’ati Brigade. During this operation the villagers of Tall al-Tarmous may have been among a minority who were driven over an Israeli-held strip towards Gaza, rather than eastwards towards Hebron. (138)

zionist terrorist colonist university on the land of tell al-tarmus, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist university on the land of tell al-tarmus, palestine
asian migrant workers picking grapes in occupied tall al-tarmous, palestine
asian migrant workers picking grapes in occupied tall al-tarmous, palestine

the final village for our first day was قطرة (qatra). khalidi says that there was a school that remained and a few deserted houses, but the area that likely had those buildings before seems to no longer be there. we saw an area that we believed held such places before, but the ground was blackened and there were only piles of stones and tiles of palestinian flooring around it, and, of course, lots of cacti. on this first day i had younger kids with me and it seemed to me that they had a very distorted sense of space as a result of growing up in the refugee camp. their sense of area and space is compact and crowded. when i drove around to give the kids an idea of the vast area each of their villages covered they had a hard time conceptualizing it. in qatra there was a hill we climbed up where we could see a view of the land belonging to qatra and the girl from this village found it almost impossible to imagine that such a large area belonged to her village as did the other kids with respect to their villages. here is the story of qatra’s ethnic cleansing from khalidi:

The earliest report of Haganah military activity at Qatra was on 13 March 1948, when the Palestinian newspaper Filastin reported a shooting incident involving Arab fruit-pickers working in an orchard that left five workers wounded. A month later, a New York Times story indicated that Haganah squads moved into the police fortress at Qatra on 17 April, after its evacuation by the British.

Israeli historian Benny Morris states that unites of the Giv’ati Brigade surrounded the village on 6 May and demanded that the villagers hand over all their weapons. After that, Morris reports the following sequence of events: several dozen armed men tried to break out of the village but were stopped by the Haganah. The villagers handed over several rifles to the Giv’ati Brigade troops, who nevertheless proceeded to move into the village. After that, the soldiers began looting the village and one of them was shot dead by a villager. The Haganah arrested several villagers, and according to Morris, “within a few days, either intimidated the rest of the villagers into leaving or ordered them to leave.” The official Haganah account agrees that Qatra was occupied around this time, but cites the Alexandroni Brigade (probably erroneously) as the occupying force). (404)

zionist terrorist colony of qidron on the land of qatra, palestine
zionist terrorist colony of qidron on the land of qatra, palestine
playground for zionist terrorist colonist children in occupied qatra, palestine
playground for zionist terrorist colonist children in occupied qatra, palestine

day two

day two of camp was a bit of a deviation from visiting villages. we spent the morning in القدس (al quds) and the afternoon in يافا (yaffa). ideally we wanted to do this on the final day of camp, but we needed to take such a trip when we wouldn’t be confronted by lots of zionist terrorist colonists in the old city or at the beach and so we had to do it on the second day. anyone who has ever been to al quds can attest to the fact that keeping 37 youth together in the old city is quite a challenge. next year i want to buy them all neon orange shirts so we can keep track of them. the most difficult part was going to al aqsa because my friend who is a refugee, but who lives in the old city, guided us around and he didn’t know the kids. none of the other adults could go with him inside the mosque because our leaders from the camp were there illegally and zionist terrorist colonists have checkpoints surrounding the mosque and one cannot get in without passing through it with your id card. and our international volunteers could not get in because it happened to be prayer time. but i managed to get in, which is good because my friend needed help keeping the kids together, which was a challenge with only two adults (and this even though not all the kids wanted to go in for some odd reason).

the kids and leaders who waited outside the mosque for us stumbled upon the african community society which had its own summer camp in progress. they were singing and drumming and when we came out of the mosque we joined them. their website seems to be down for the moment, but here is what their brochure says about their work:

The African Community Society, AFS, is a Palestinian non-governmental non-profit society founded by the Afro-Palestinian community in Jerusalem in 1983. It is an offshoot of the Sudanese Welfare Club which was active between 1935-1967, the year when Israel occupied Jerusalem. It is also a revival of the African Youth Club, established in 1978 but forced to close in the mid-eighties due to financial difficulties.

african community society, old city, al quds, palestine
african community society, old city, al quds, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist private security in the old city, al quds, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist private security in the old city, al quds, palestine

just as my friend took us around al quds and gave the kids some historical context so too did another friend take us around yaffa, though this historical portion was a bit shorter as one of the reason for the trip was also to let the kids enjoy the beach for the day since they are forbidden from swimming in their own sea. the man who took us around is someone who i was put in touch with a couple of years ago. he is a history teacher and he knows a lot about refugees from yaffa and also about where various families’ homes are or were. he talked to us about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the area, which was visible to us, particularly along the beach, as the zionist terrorist colonists were making way for a beach park. he told us that since 2007 497 palestinian families have had their homes demolished in yaffa. a report on this was released by the arab association for human rights in 1948 palestine detailing this practice and which reads in part:

“The war that began in 1948 to purge Jaffa of its Arab residents has never ended and continues to this day. In 1948 it was waged by force, and today they use legal and economic means. The state claims that these are the rules of the market, in full knowledge that they will work against the Arab population.” — Attorney Hisham Shabaita, a social activist and Jaffa resident

On 19 March 2007, Amidar Israel National Housing Company (Amidar) published a document entitled “A Review of the Stock of Squatted Properties in Jaffa — Interior Committee, Israel Knesset.” The document reviewed properties managed by the company in the Jaffa-Tel Aviv area. Section 5 noted that “the project includes a total of 497 squatters, constituting 16.8 percent of the total properties managed by Amidar.”

Section 5 of the document relates, in fact, to 497 orders received over the past 18 months by Palestinian families living in the Ajami and Jabaliya neighborhoods in Jaffa to vacate their homes or businesses. These homes are owned by the state and managed by Amidar in its name. The grounds for eviction range from “squatting” in the property to “building additions” to properties undertaken by the Palestinian tenants of these properties without approval from Amidar and without obtaining a permit from the planning and building authorities.

By law, eviction is permitted in such circumstances. Accordingly, the eviction orders may ostensibly seem to be a legitimate and lawful move by Amidar in response to legal violations by the tenants. Israeli law empowers a landlord letting his property to another — a status that applies to the relationship between the Palestinian tenants and Amidar — to demand the eviction of a tenant who has violated the law or the rental contract with the landlord. Squatting or building additions to the property without the approval of the landlord or the planning authorities are considered violations justifying the eviction of the tenant.

According to the Palestinian residents, however, the issuing of these orders actually reflects a desire to evict them from the neighborhood, which in recent years has become a magnet for wealthy Jewish buyers. They believe that the issuing of the eviction orders cannot be divorced from a process terms the “development of Jaffa” by the Tel Aviv Municipality. This process, which is currently at its peak, actually amounts to a plan to “judaize” Jaffa, i.e. to attract as many Jewish residents as possible to the area, which is currently perceived by the Jewish public as an “Arab” city — despite the fact that, in statistical terms, this is inaccurate.

as we walked from the city to the beach we walked along a rocky shore. but the rocks seemed to want to tell a story. if you look at my photograph below you will see an image of these rocks. many of them are little bits that have been molded together to form a larger rock. but those pieces making up that rock look like pieces from the rubble of people’s houses. too, we found a number of pieces of the famous palestinian painted tile floors among the rocks, which have been softened by the salt water. you can see one of them in the photograph below too–it is on the left and in shades of purple. but while i was contemplating this and listening to our guide share stories about what life is like when you try to teach palestinian history to youth in 1948 palestine, the kids were enjoying themselves swimming, playing in the sand, and running around on the beach. the day gave the kids an opportunity to be normal kids who can run around freely outside, something sorely missing in their lives and yet another reason to fight for the right of return. for whether these kids choose to live in their villages or not they have the right to go to the beach when they want or move freely throughout their country without risking jail for doing so.

after the evening’s reflections i made another trip to deheishe to do another smuggling run. this time a friend and her two small children. i did not get back to the church until 3 am for a number of reasons, but suffice it to say we managed to get yet another crew out.

wanna-be zionist terrorist colonists from the u.s. in occupied yaffa, palestine
wanna-be zionist terrorist colonists from the u.s. in occupied yaffa, palestine
destruction of palestinian homes in occupied yaffa, palestine
destruction of palestinian homes in occupied yaffa, palestine
destroying palestinian land for a beach park in occupied yaffa, palestine
destroying palestinian land for a beach park in occupied yaffa, palestine
if rocks could tell stories...notice the stone that used to be a tile in a palestinian home, yaffa beach, palestine
if rocks could tell stories…notice the stone that used to be a tile in a palestinian home, yaffa beach, palestine

day three

i slept in a bit on day three since i returned so late, but the friend who i brought back did not have that luxury as she had to do a workshop that morning on life before an nakba. she’s a drama teacher and did several interactive activities with the kids including getting them to act out life before an nakba and resistance to the zionist take over of their land. it was great as all the kids were highly engaged and had a great time drawing and acting. at the end they all wrote letters to their children and grandchildren about this history.

drawing from the life in palestine before an nakba workshop
drawing from the life in palestine before an nakba workshop
former palestinian school in occupied zakariya, palestine
former palestinian school in occupied zakariya, palestine
ruins of the palestinian village of beit jibrin
ruins of the palestinian village of beit jibrin

after the morning workshop i headed with my group back towards gaza. we drove past zakariya and beit jibrin on the way (see above photos), which is good as it gave the kids an idea of what villages look like when there are obvious structures from the road that show you it is a palestinian vilage. the first village was الفالوجة (falluja). when we did a test run of this village we had a difficult time figuring out where to look for remnants of it given that a huge zionist terrorist colonist army base occupies a huge chunk of the land today. but there was also a forest which i figured logically would have something from the village in it. but forests are difficult to navigate when looking for ruins. as we drove through we saw a tent in the distance. the kids thought it was a bunch of settlers camping, but as we drove closer we realized it was more of a permanent tent. and as luck would have it, we found it inhabited by a bedouin man from naqab. he got into the car with us and took us to the ruins of the mosque and a sheikh’s tomb next to it, which is a bit hard to make out. khalidi has quite a bit on the operation aimed at cleansing the village of its palestinian inhabitants, but here is a particularly revealing part of it:

Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett personally reprimanded the Israeli army’s chief of staff for acts committed by the Israeli soldiers against the population. Sharrett said that in addition to overt violence, the Israeli army was busy conducting

a “whispering propaganda” campaign among the Arabs, threatening them with attacks and acts of vengeance by the army, which the civilian authorities will be powerless to prevent. There is no doubt that there is a calculated action aimed at increasing the number of those going to the Hebron Hills as if of their own free will, and if possible, to bring about the evacuation of the whole civilian population of [the pocket].

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that the decision to cause the exodus of the “Faluja pocket” population was probably approved by the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion. Subsequently Israeli officials feigned outrage at what had happened and misled the international community about Israeli actions. The director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Walter Eytan, told U.S. Ambassador James McDonald that Israel had broadcast “repeated reassuring notices” to the inhabitants to stay put; however, they acted “as if they smelled a rat” and abandoned their homes. (97)

entrance to the former palestinian village of falluja
entrance to the former palestinian village of falluja
ruins of a palestinian mosque in falluja
ruins of a palestinian mosque in falluja

after falluja we drove west towards المجدل (al majdal), a major palestinian city. one of the young little boys (i had young kids again this day) is from this city. the kids in this group were kind of quiet, likely because they were enough exhausted at this point that they slept in between villages and cities in the car. we arrived in al majdal and it was as overwhelming as a forest. this city of buildings, as opposed to the trees of villages like beit itab (below) made it extremely difficult to find anything. but i knew from ilan pappe’s the ethnic cleansing of palestine that at least a palestinian mosque still existed and it was now a bar/restaurant. we drove around for about 30-40 minutes searching for it. we were in and out of suburbs where we saw children the same age skateboarding carefree in the streets on this city’s stolen land. we saw children playing in the water on the beach while the little boy i had with me looked on in anger. this sweet little boy (who is the best tabla player i’ve ever heard) did not say one word while we drove through his city. the only sound i heard from him was that of a stone against a wall once we finally found the old city.

but i needed help finding the old city so i broke down and went into an american hotel in occupied majdal. the holiday inn there (coincidentally owned and operated by lev leviev’s africa-israel corporation that traffics in blood diamonds and is famous for building illegal settlements) happened to have a map of “ashkelon” on which there was an icon of the mosque in the city’s “art district” (zionist terrorist colonists like to make stolen palestinian buildings into artistic spaces, which i find a bit odd given that they are all about destruction and art is supposed to be about creation). it only took us a few minutes at that point to drive to theodor herzl street where the mosque is located (actually it’s at the intersection of theodor herzl and anne frank streets). there was not only a mosque (turned into a restaurant/bar as well as a museum of “ashkelon’s history”) but also a number of palestinian homes in varying states of destruction and decay. although the buildings in al majdal have not completely erased palestinian traces in this city, the map’s idea of a historical narrative has. here is how they mythologize the history of al majdal:

The old and the new meet in Ashkelon, one of the oldest cities in the world. For 4,000 years it played an important role in the ancient history of the East. Due to its location on the “Sea road” which runs along the coast from Egypt to Syria, the city’s history is filled with construction alternating with destruction as foreign conquests succeeded one another. The first mention of Ashkelon is in Egyptian writings from the 19th Century B.C.E. At the end of 13th Century B.C.E. it was conquered by the Philistines who arrived from the islands, and was considered one of their five principle cities. After the Israelites returned from Egypt, Ashkelon was to go to the tribe of Dan, but the Israelites were unable to conquer it from the Philistines…. In 734 B.C.E. Ashkelon surrendered to Assyrian rule, and during the Hellenistic period was an important center for Greek culture. Jews lived in Ashkelon during the Roman and Byzantine periods as well as during the period of Arab conquest. The community was annihilated in 1153 following the crusader conquest of the city. Ashkelon fell to Saladin in 1187 and was finally destroyed by Sultan Baibars in 1270, after which it was not reconstructed. The history of modern Ashkelon begins with the liberation of the town of Majdal by the Israel Defence Forces during the War of Independence.

notice how they fail to mention the foreign conquest that is the zionist entity. notice how they say the “israelites returned.” they really give irony a new meaning when they concoct their sense of history–they invert everything and the so-called “Arab conquest” is a case in point. their complete erasure between 1270 and 1948 is a glaring example as well. al majdal is not in khalidi’s book as he only covers 410 destroyed palestinian villages and there were 531. but there is a bit on the city’s history in marim shahin and george azar’s palestine: a guide. here is how their tourist book explains the more recent history of al majdal:

Majdal was founded in the 14th century during the rule of Baibars, who put an end to the wars over Askalan by destroying it and starting fresh with this inland city. Majdal served as a substitute for the people of Askalan. It was famous for producing cloth and clothing: its advanced weaving industry served much of southern Palestine, including Gaza and the Negev.

About 75 years ago Majdal was described as a “thriving town of some 8,000 souls, pleasantly surrounded by orchards and a well-stocked bazaar with several small factories, which wove cotton materials.” Today the city center is called “downtown” and the main attraction of Arab Majdal, the area around the mosque, has been turned into a flea market. The mosque itself has been turned into a museum, in which a few archeological finds from the city are housed. An interesting selection of photographs from the 1930s and early 1940s shows life in Arab Majdal, which was clearly different from what it is today.

Majdal had 11,000 homes when it was bombed by the Israelis in July 1948. By the time the military campaign was over, only 1,500 people were left in the city. They were herded into three city districts and by 1951 they had been evicted through a series of military and administrative security measures. Most of the refugees and their descendants live in the Gaza Strip refugee camps to this day. Majdal itself is a quarter in the Israeli city of Ashqelon. (405-406)

obviously, some of the refugees are in deheishe. and my little friend comes from one of those families. it was hard to get a sense of what he was thinking and feeling. but i learned that night that the previous day, while enjoying himself on the beach in yaffa, he was asked how he felt about being in yaffa. he was happy and expressed how much he enjoyed being there. and then he was asked if he would like to live in yaffa. and he was adamant: no. he wants to live in majdal. even at that point he had never seen majdal, but he knew in his soul that this is the place for him. and, of course, this is his right. his right of return. but watching him, in particular, out of the kids i was with reminded me of the various psychological ups and downs of this particular camp–from the joy of playing and being free on the beach or at the church to the realization of your own history and the struggle for your rights. this experience makes all of this tangible, but also possibly traumatizing. fortunately we have a great team of mental health workers at ibdaa who can help us deal with follow up issues to try to channel whatever trauma may come up into productive energy of the ongoing work we want to do.

palestinian mosaic floor in occupied al majdal, palestine
palestinian mosaic floor in occupied al majdal, palestine
theodor herzl street with palestinian mosque in background in occupied al majdal
theodor herzl street with palestinian mosque in background in occupied al majdal
destroyed palestinian home, al majdal
destroyed palestinian home, al majdal
palestinian mosque in al majdal used as restaurant/bar and museum
palestinian mosque in al majdal used as restaurant/bar and museum
zionist terrorist colonist museum in a palestinian mosque in al majdal
zionist terrorist colonist museum in a palestinian mosque in al majdal
destroyed palestinian home in al majdal
destroyed palestinian home in al majdal

day four

since we did not have time to cover all the villages prior to camp, a group of us woke up extra early this fourth day of camp to check out more precise locations and input them into the gps system. we spent two hours driving around to discover where عرتوف (artuf), عسلين (islin), إشوع (ishwa), صرعة (sara’a), بيت محسير (beit mahsir) might be located today. of course we had not counted on the fact that some of these villages had settlements on them which were occupied by zionist terrorist colonists who were also religious jews. as we drove around the colonies looking for traces of palestinian life not destroyed, we were chased out of beit mahsir, for example, because jews don’t drive on saturdays if they are religious. given that these are gated settlements with security, much like colonies in the west bank, we drove quickly out of the settlement because we had one palestinian with us who we had smuggled into 1948 palestine.

we returned back just in time to leave for the day’s trips. i had only made it to two villages the prior day because it took so much time to drive and then to look for the mosque in majdal. i felt so bad that the little boy from khulda did not get to see his village that day so i promised him i would take him first and i did just that.

خُلدة (khulda) is in the north in the ramla district and today is the hulda forest run by the jewish national fund. there are two palestinian houses on the land, one of which is used as a “herzl house” museum of sorts. it was closed so we could not see what was inside. when we arrived we were greeted with more myth making on the part of the zionist terrorist colonists who have stolen this land. there are also a settlement on the village land. here are some of the lies that the brochure by the jnf says about the site:

Following Herzl’s death in 1904 KKL-JNF initiated an Olive Tree Fund to raise monies for the purchase of land and the planting of olive trees. The lands of Hulda were placed at KKL-JNF’s disposal for the planting of groves in Herzl’s memory.

In 1909, an olive plantation was established at the site and a large residence built and named for Herzl…. During World War I, however, most of the workers fled or were evicted and farming died down. Those that stayed on faced both a severe water shortage and a locust plague that wreaked havoc on the plantation. After the war, groups of pioneers settled at Hulda, bringing with them the idea of forest cover for a barren land: “We’ll afforest, revive and settle the hills.”

…In the summer of 5689 (1929) bloody riots swept through the country, including the isolated farm. On the night of 28 of Av (3 September), Hulda’s residents came under heavy attack from local Arabs. Efrayim Chizhik, who had arrived at the site to help defend it, fell in battle. His sacrifice and dedication, like that of his sister, Sarah, were typical of the handful of pioneers who made possible the settlement enterprise in Eretz Israel.

Sarah Chizhik fell in the defense of Tel Hai in northern Israel–a battle that came to symbolize the stand of a few against many. Efrayim reached Hulda with former Shomer (Guard) Yaacov Abramson to find 16 young men, two women and two children there, and were later joined by some 20 members of the pre-state Jewish Haganah defense organization who set about fortifying the place.

But they could not withstand the thousands of rioters from nearby villages who attacked Hulda, surrounding the courtyard and setting fire to the large granary. As the defenders crawled back to Herzl House, Chizhik, who led the retreat, suffered a mortal wound. The farmhouse ws now under siege and, during the night, a contingent of British soldiers arrived and demanded that the Hulda occupants evacuate. There was no other choice. The farm was destroyed and the forest went up in flame. Once more, the farm was deserted and lay in ruins, this time for two years.

just like herzl is where zionism all began, so too the “forest” that bears his name on the land of what was once khulda. this above fabricated history, not unlike the one about al majdal, completely erases palestinians who had lived on the land of khulda for centuries. in contradistinction, here is what khalidi says about life before 1948 and the depopulation of the village:

The village was situated on a flat hilltop and overlooked wide areas on all four sides. Khulda lay close to a highway that connected Gaza with the al-Ramla-Jerusalem highway, and was linked by a network of secondary roads to al-Ramla and a number of major highways. It is identified with a locality that the Crusaders called Huldre. In 1596, Khulda was a village in the nahiya of Ramla (liwa‘ of Gaza) with a population of sixty-six. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on other types of produce, such as goats and beehives. [Edward] Robinson passed by the village in 1838; he described it as “large.” In the late nineteenth century, Khulda was described as a large village built of stone and mud and situated on the side of a hill. The village had a masonry well to the west. All of the people of Khulda were Muslims and maintained their own mosque. They drew water for domestic use from two wells, northeast of the village. They worked primarily in animal husbandry and rainfed agriculture, growing grain and small amounts of vegetables. In 1944/45 a total of 8,994 dunums was allotted to cereals; 9 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

On 6 April 1948, at the start of Operation Nachshon (see Bayt Naqquba, Jerusalem District), a Haganah battalion occupied Khulda along with neighboring Dayr Muhaysin. Khulda was systematically levelled with bulldozers on 20 April, two weeks after its capture. The History of the Haganah says only that the village was taken “without fighting.” Battles continued to rage around the village in later weeks, however, especiall yin the last week of May when an engagement around al-Latrun spread to the Khulda area, becoming what the press called “the biggest single clash of the war to date.” (389)

notice that even the reference to the haganah version of events doesn’t jive with the zionist jnf mythologizing. in any case, like many other villages we did not find too many old palestinian trees, but the kids found plenty of fruit to pack into bags to take home. this village was a bit tricky at first as when we arrived there were zionist terrorist soldiers in between the two palestinian houses. at first i wasn’t sure what was going on, but then i saw they were on a stage and they must have been acting, though that doesn’t mean they are not also soldiers since every zionist colonist is a terrorist in their terrorist forces for life. but they didn’t disturb us and we were able to look around the palestinian houses a bit.

theodor herzl house/national park (otherwise known as the palestinian village of khulda)
theodor herzl house/national park (otherwise known as the palestinian village of khulda)
zionist terrorist colonists invent a "history" to cover up their crimes in khulda, palestine
zionist terrorist colonists invent a \”history\” to cover up their crimes in khulda, palestine
palestinian house occupied by a theodor herzl museum in kulda, palestine
palestinian house occupied by a theodor herzl museum in kulda, palestine
palestinian file floor in the "herzl house" in occupied kulda
palestinian file floor in the \”herzl house\” in occupied kulda
zionist terrorist soldiers in occupied khulda, apparently acting
zionist terrorist soldiers in occupied khulda, apparently acting

the next village, also in the ramla district, صرفند العمار (sarafand al amar) i knew would be a bit more tricky. we had tested out this village previously, but after talking to some palestinians in ramla we learned that all was to be found there was one of the zionist terrorist regime’s largest military bases and a hospital. however, khalidi promises there are around six houses. we found at least one of them, or at least that is what he girl from the village believes. i just didn’t see the palestinian architectural style in the building so i’m not sure. but whatever we found it was on her land and it was fenced off as old palestinian homes often are. there were also a number of orange trees and other fruit trees that the kids collected fruit from. and let’s not forget the ford motor company and the mcdonald’s on her land with respect to the boycott campaign.

the story of the ethnic cleansing of sarafand al-amar is told by khalidi as follows:

On the morning of 2 January 1948, Arab workers at the large British army camp in Sarafand discovered twelve timed charges set to explode at noon, a time when they would have been lined up to collect their weekly wages. The Palestinian newspaper Filastin noted that none of the Jewish workers in the camp had reported to work that day, implying that they had been warned by Zionist groups responsible for the attack.

A party of Haganah sappers carried out a raid on Sarafand on 15 April 1948. The attackers penetrated “deep in Arab territory,” according to a New York Times report, and demolished a three-storey building. The British authorities stated that 16 people were killed and 12 wounded int he ruins of the building. A statement by the attackers charged that the building was used by militia forces led by Shaykh Hasan Salama, the Palestinian guerrilla commander of the Jaffa district, and that 39 people were killed in the raid.

As the British army evacuated Palestine in mid-May, it allowed Arab forces to take over the army camp, which covered about 500 acres. Israeli foreign minister Moshe Shertok (Sharett) was quoted by the New York Times as saying that Jewish institutions had purchased the camp, but that is was handed over to the Arabs nevertheless. According to the History of the War of Independence, the army outpost was handed over to Arab forces on 14 May. The “small, semi-regular” Arab unit positioned there was driven out five days later by a two-pronged attack from the southeast and north; the Arab unit’s defensive formation had been prepared only for an attack from the adjacent settlement of Rishon le-Tziyyon (to the west). The account adds that “the outpost fell into our hands without any casualties.” The Associated Press quoted unnamed Zionist sources as saying that they had made a profit of $2.5 million by capturing it. That was the sum they had reportedly offered (but never paid) for the former British camp. The same sources said that they were hoping to take advantage of the camps’ facilities to house 20,000 new Jewish immigrants.

Sarafand al-‘Amar was probably occupied during the night of 19-20 May 1948 by the Second Battalion of the Israeli army’s Giv’ati Brigade. That places the occupation ofthe village within the scope of Operation Barak, Giv’ati’s May offensive in the al-Ramla area (see al-Batani al-Gharbi, Gaza District). The residents of the village probably fled or were evicted at teh same time. (411-412)

ford motor company in occupied sarafand al 'amar, palestine
ford motor company in occupied sarafand al \’amar, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist army and air force base in occupied sarafand al 'amar, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist army and air force base in occupied sarafand al \’amar, palestine

the next village, one we also checked out last week, was one we couldn’t see evidence of either as it was in a jnf forest. but rather than go in the side we tested last week i drove around to the other side, which was a good thing. خربة القبيبه (khirbat al-qubeiba) didn’t have a ton of information on it on palestine remembered or in khalidi’s book which made things challenging. but the map was clear in abu sitta’s book. we heard somewhere that there might be an old palestinian home in or as a restaurant now so we pulled into a parking lot on the other side of the forest. we didn’t notice anything in the restaurant, but on our way there, on the top of the hill, we saw houses and we hiked up a hill to reach that area. the area we reached had a number of destroyed or partially destroyed palestinian homes. and a ton of old trees mixed in with the jnf planted trees in their attempt to cover up their crimes. it was an amazing discovery and the young boy from the village was pleased with what he found and with the bits of carob he collected from the village trees.

destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba

the final village of the day was really far north in the district of haifa. صبارين (sabbarin) has two settlements on his land and vast fertile farmland. there is very little left to see here, however. what we found in this village were modern zionist terrorist colonist houses built in part with stones from old palestinian houses. there is no information in khalidi about the ethnic cleansing of the village, but pappe has a reference to it in relation to the area more generally:

Here, too, the Irgun contributed its share of the continued destruction of Palestine’s countryside. They completed the vengeful attack on the remaining villages in Marj Ibn Amir, while the British Mandate troops were still there: Sabbarin, Sindiyana, Barieka, Khubbeiza, and Umm al-Shauf. Some of the people in these villages fled under the heavy mortar fire of the attacking forces, while others who waved white flags signaling surrender were instantly exiled. In Sabbarin, the Irgun bandits, angered by the fact that they encountered some armed resistance, as punishment kept the women, old men and children confined for a few days within barbed wire–very much like the cages in which Palestinians today are kept for hours at checkpoints in the West Bank when they fail to present the right permits. Seven young Palestinian men found carrying arms were executed on the spot by Jewish troops, who then expelled the rest of the villagers to Umm al-Fahm, then not yet in Jewish hands. (108)

we found a number of fruit and vegetable orchards as well as olive groves on the land, some which seemed like they were the original trees. but it was disappointing to see so little remaining among the farms and settlements on the stolen land of sabbarin, especially after discovering the homes in khirbat al qubeiba. since these four villages took us so long and we were so far north we went to a felafel restaurant in the wadi ara’a area before heading back to the church.

zionist terrorist colonist house in occupied sabbarin, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist house in occupied sabbarin, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist house using the stones from old palestinian homes in occupied sabbarin
zionist terrorist colonist house using the stones from old palestinian homes in occupied sabbarin
occupied sabbarin, palestine
occupied sabbarin, palestine

i had to head back to deheishe to buy some more food (as i had to do a few nights that week so as not to buy food from zionist terrorist colonists). as we drove in through the checkpoint we noticed that on the 1948 side of the checkpoint that zionist terrorist army jeeps were pulling people over near al qabu and looking at papers as they were at the checkpoint. we decided to wait for a few hours before smuggling the next person in. we managed to get through, however, we were stopped by the police somewhere near beit natif, as were all the cars, for some sort of routine car check. amazingly we didn’t get caught there as they only wanted my papers. i had seen such a checkpoint outside zakariya when i came back at 3 am a couple of nights before, but i didn’t realize what it was at the time. one of our buses got pulled over with the kids at one point this week for the same thing. thank god no one got caught.

when we arrived back at the camp the kids were having a carnival of sorts. they started off with a palestinian trivia game about refugees and camps in the region. it was boys against girls (though i do not recall who won). there were also a number of camp games and what i think was the world’s first laban eating contest. there was lots of drumming and singing and i think it was a great way to end our last full night at the camp.

day five

the last day of camp had us setting off to see the villages rather early in the morning as we had afternoon workshops we had to get back for. we rearranged some of the villages after noticing some were occupied by orthodox jewish settlements and we didn’t want buses full of kids going in there on a saturday. so that meant i had to go back to two of those villages on the last day.

i started with بيت محسير (beit mahsir) which is not only huge, but also encompasses a forest, mountains, and a settlement. anyone who has ever driven on highway 1 from yaffa to al quds has seen two beit mahsir houses on the right-hand side of the road right after you pass by latrun (across from a gas station). but there are others on the top of the mountain inside the settlement. we tried first to drive into a forest from the highway to see if that is how to reach those houses on the highway, but we had no luck. so we went up to the colony and drove inside. there we saw palestinian houses mixed in with those built by zionist terrorist colonists. there were some we saw at a glance as the orthodox jews were still out and about on sunday and walked towards us as we tried to reach one area where we saw palestinian homes. on the way back to the next village we managed to see the homes from across the road, though i still do not know how to get behind them so as to get closer on foot.

there is quite an extensive history of beit mahsir in several sources, including khalidi, who says of the depopulation of the village:

Although the village was targeted for occupation during Operation Nachson (see Bayt Naqquba, Jerusalem District), in early April 1948, it was not taken until the first half of May. In the wake of Nachson, the Haganah launched a series of attacks in an attempt to widen their corridor to Jerusalem and capture the strategic al-Latrun salient. Bayt Mahsir fell during Operation Makkabi (see Khirbat Bayt Far, al-Ramla District) to the newly-formed Hare’el Brigade of the Palmach. The History of the Hagannah states that “this village was not occupied easily; but was attacked by Palmach troops for three nights, and it was not occupied until the morning of 11 May.” The account states merely that the occupiers found booty taken from Haganah military convoys ambushed in the area; no mention is made of the fate of the villagers. The New York Times reported that two commando battalions of the Palmach were involved in the thirty-six hour battle. After “tentative thrusts” on 9 May, the Sixth Palmach Battalion (some 400 to 500 men) seized strong points around the village at 11:00 PM that night. The Arab forces withdrew; that night, they launched a counterattack that lasted for two days. On 12 May, they claimed to have recaptured Bayt Mahsir, but their hold ont he village apparently was not firm.

The Arab Liberation Army’s (ALA) Qadisiyya Battalion was defending the village, and ALA commander Fawzi al-Qawuqji described the situation from the Arab side. On 9 May, he reported that they had “replled a violent Jewish attack on Bayt Mahsir aimed at opening the Jerusalem road.” The following day, the commanding officer at Bayt Mahsir, Lt. Col. Mahdi Salih, cabled to say that the situation was “critical.” Qawuqji sent one of two reserve battalions to the area, which helped to encircle a large detachment of Jewish forces in the area. On 11 May, these forces were said to be withdrawing and ALA units had captured the woods near the village. But on 12 May, Qawuqji informed the High Command that “Jewish forces coming from Jerusalem and outskirts succeeded in entering Bayt Mahsir thanks to the large reinforcements with all kinds of equipment which arrived constantly.” He indicates that the village was recovered the same day through artillery bombardment and a frontal attack. However, the recovery of the village ws probably short-lived. Soon afterwards, Bayt Mahsir was captured and systematically levelled after occupation, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris.

In late March, the New York Times reported that the village had been occupied briefly by British army units. Together with Ishwa’ and ‘Artuf, Bayt Mahsir had withstood a British assault following an Arab attack on the Jewish settlement of Hartuv nearby. (276-277)

entrance to the zionist terrorist colony of beit me'ir on the land of beit mahsir, palestine
entrance to the zionist terrorist colony of beit me\’ir on the land of beit mahsir, palestine
palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir
palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir
old palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir, palestine
old palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir, palestine

it is unfortunate, but for those youth whose villages are largely occupied by zionist terrorist colonists now spending much of the village trip is safer in a car than by foot. this was true with beit mahsir and also artuf, the next village we went to. عرتوف (artuf) was similar to beit mahsir in the sense that there are palestinian homes mixed in with the zionist terrorist colonist houses. but at the front gate of the settlement there is also a palestinian home which has a zionist terrorist colonist house annexed to the front of it.

here is what khalidi says about the ethnic cleansing of artuf:

It was not until mid-July that ‘Artuf (and a number of other villages in the Jerusalem area) was actually depopulated. It was occupied during the second phase of Operation Dani (see Abu al-Fadl, Al-Ramla District) by the Fourth Battalion of the Har’el Brigade. According to the History of the War of Independence and Israeli historian Benny Morris, this occurred during the night of 17-18 July 1948. The offensive is described by Morris as follows: “Much of the population of these villages…had left the area previously. Most of the remaining population fled with the approach of the Har’el columns and with the start of mortar brigades. The handful of people who remained at each site when the Israelis entered were expelled.” The Second Platoon of B Company (of the Fourth Battalion), armed with mortars and machine guns, first pushed out the inhabitants of nearby Ishwa’ and ‘Islin; then they moved toward ‘Artuf. Aiming their mortars at the police station west of ‘Artuf, they lobbed explosives at both the station and the village. This night time bombardment convinced the villagers to flee. This night-time bombardment convinced the villagers to flee. Most of them walked three miles up the slopes toward the village of Dayr al-Hawa, to the south east. The first Israeli troops to tenter the village, ont he day after its depopulation,w ere members of a platoon commanded by Rafael Eytan. (260)

entrance to zionist terrorist colony of nacham on the land of artuf, palestine
entrance to zionist terrorist colony of nacham on the land of artuf, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist's house built onto a palestinian house in artuf
zionist terrorist colonist\’s house built onto a palestinian house in artuf

البريج (al burayj) was even more difficult in some ways than the other villages with settlements on the land. this one had not only a colony, but also an enormous military base. we could see a watch tower in the distance (in one of the images below). just as there is not a great deal of evidence of palestinian life in al burayj, there is also not a lot of detail with respect to its depopulation. here is what khalidi says about it:

Al-Burayj was probably captured during the first phase of Operation ha-Har (see ‘Allar, Jerusalem District). The village fell some time between 19 and 24 October 1948, as Israeli forces moved to occupy a number of village in the southern part of the Jerusalem corridor. (282)

while there wasn’t too much of palestinian life there was an amazing orchard full of plums that we filled bags up with for the boy from burayj to take home and share with his family. but a number of the trees, for instance the olive trees, were newly planted and not palestinian olive trees, yet another example of how the zionist terrorist colonists constantly seek to destroy all forms of life.

zionist terrorist military base on the land of al burayj, palestine
zionist terrorist military base on the land of al burayj, palestine
they destroy olive trees too, here in al burayj (and then replant them with the help of diaspora zionists)
they destroy olive trees too, here in al burayj (and then replant them with the help of diaspora zionists)

the last village we visited on the trip i messed up big time. i read the map incorrectly. it seemed to me at the time that بيت عطاب (beit itab) was across the street from deir al-hawa. i studied the map again last night and realized that this was incorrect. where we were, it was still deir al-hawa. but these are the villages that were destroyed to make room for the american independence park that i wrote last week before i left for camp (see post below) so it is a bit challenging to figure out where the borders are. there is a settlement, nes harim on part of the village land, but this is only a small part of it. if i had gone a kilometer more and into the settlement we would have been in the right place. we would have seen a crusader castle and almond, carob, and olive trees, as well as cacti. there was already a group who visited beit itab, but one of the older youth leaders who i smuggled in illegally to 1948 palestine was from this village and he was with me on the day they went to his village so i wanted to take him. because it was so difficult to get him out i cannot stop kicking myself for f*&#$%) this up so royally. i was so excited that we had found a house and two wells that i guess i had hoped and imagined that we were in the right place. so the photos below are of دير الهوا (deir al hawa) instead.

in any case, here is what khalidi has to say about the ethnic cleansing of bayt itab:

Bayt ‘Itab was one of a string of villages in the Jerusalem corridor that was captured following the second truce of the war. Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that it was occupied on 21 October 1948, during Operation ha-Har (see ‘Allar, Jerusalem District). The operation was complimentary to Operation Yo’av (see Barbara, Gaza District), a simultaneous offensive o the southern front htat aimed at thrusting southwards into the Negev. (275)

palestinian home in deir al hawa (what i mistakenly thought was beit itab)
palestinian home in deir al hawa (what i mistakenly thought was beit itab)
palestinian well in deir al hawa
palestinian well in deir al hawa
entrance to deir al hawa, palestine
entrance to deir al hawa, palestine

we returned to camp for our final workshops–one on the legal issues related to the right of return and another on how to use hip hop as a method of communicating these narratives of an nakba and the right of return that the rap group dam conducted. then it was time for cleaning up the church, packing, and heading home, again in shifts, as i had to do separate smuggling trips. we all made it back safely, and have been catching up on sleep. but now we have a meeting in a bit for the next phase of the project.

right of return workshop
right of return workshop
dam workshop
dam workshop
haq al awda!
haq al awda!

on khalil

everything you ever wanted to know about zionist colonialism and terrorism in palestine can in many ways be encapsulated by visiting khalil: from refugees (new and old) to martyrs, to house demolitions, to political prisoners, to military and colonist terrorism all within a few square kilometers.

my friend and i went to khalil today to do some shopping–she wanted to visit a pottery factory to order plaques for her parents’ graves and i wanted to continue my quest for palestinian-made kuffiyas, which are only made in one palestinian factory now. and it is in khalil. (for those in the united states who wish to buy palestinian-made kuffiyas please click this link for the kufiyeh project–and they also have a video on their site about the last palestinian kuffiya factory.) everywhere else in palestine if you really ask and look closely you will find they are all made in china now. and we finally found them at the palestinian women’s cooperative in the old city. but we wandered around the old city of khalil first and along the way met some interesting families. the first family who invited us into their home live at the end of a street because it has been boarded up because israeli terrorists colonized the entire area on the other side. he wanted us to come up to see his home which has been taken over, on one side, by the colonists, and on top of his roof is an israeli terrorist sniper tower. the room on the top floor of his house was set on fire by these israeli terrorists and two of his brothers were murdered by them as well. he gave us an overview of his neighborhood from the roof of his house. for instance, he showed us where some families had cows, but israeli terrorists poisoned them.

as we walked around the city we saw dozens of israeli terrorist soldiers’ jeeps patrolling the streets and terrorizing the palestinian residents. we saw dozens of israeli terrorist colonists in full prayer gear with m-16s strapped around their back. we saw palestinian homes demolished. we saw dozens of checkpoints compacted into a tiny area. i’ve been here before, but not for at least three years–not in this area where the streets are blocked off and where many palestinians cannot walk down the street (we actually got stopped at a checkpoint for walking the wrong way today). we also met another man who lives across the small valley separating his street and the israeli terrorist colony known as kiryat arba. he gave us tea and some respite from the sun and showed us film footage of his neighbor’s home in the valley below that was set on fire last december by israeli terrorist colonists (i blogged about this here). the photographs i took today that you will find below are pretty much self explanatory, but important with respect to showing the ongoing nakba of khalil. this is, of course, no different than the ongoing nakbas in al quds or aqraba or the naqab, but the difference here is that it is tightly packed into such a small space. below you will see many israeli terrorist colonists and their settlements, including a new one that is merely a tent right now. rory mccarthy’s report in the guardian the other day makes it clear that there is increasingly stronger rhetoric from the u.s. about israeli terrorist colonies. however, in electronic intifada ali abunimah reminds us of the fact that words mean nothing unless followed by action:

Obama has told Netanyahu firmly that Israel must stop building settlements on expropriated Palestinian land in the West Bank, but such words have been uttered by the president’s predecessors. Unless these statements are followed by decisive action — perhaps to limit American subsidies to Israel — there’s no reason to believe the lip service that failed in the past will suddenly be more effective.

for those who do not know a lot about khalil here are a few short videos that explain the context with maps and palestinian witnessing of events in their own homes and neighborhoods:

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door to family's home with zionist terrorist checkpoint on roof
door to family's home with zionist terrorist checkpoint on roof
family whose home was set on fire by zionist terrorists
family whose home was set on fire by zionist terrorists
zionist terrorist colonies taking over family's house in khalil
zionist terrorist colonies taking over family's house in khalil
israeli terrorist soldier in his checkpoint on the roof of palestinian family's home
israeli terrorist soldier in his checkpoint on the roof of palestinian family's home

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palestinian children on the roof of their house with israeli terrorist soldier aiming at them
palestinian children on the roof of their house with israeli terrorist soldier aiming at them
palestinian made kuffiyas at the women's coop
palestinian made kuffiyas at the women's coop
israeli terrorist colonist with his m16 walking the streets of khalil
israeli terrorist colonist with his m16 walking the streets of khalil

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palestinian pottery factory in khalil
palestinian pottery factory in khalil

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palestinian homes demolished with another israeli terrorist checkpoint
palestinian homes demolished with another israeli terrorist checkpoint
israeli terrorist checkpoint below kiryat arba colony
israeli terrorist checkpoint below kiryat arba colony
israeli terrorist colonist coming out of kiryat arba colony with his m16
israeli terrorist colonist coming out of kiryat arba colony with his m16
israeli terrorist colonist walks to his new "outpost" colony (aka the tent)
palestinian home below israeli terrorist colony kiryat arba that is regularly attacked by israeli terrorists
palestinian home below israeli terrorist colony kiryat arba that is regularly attacked by israeli terrorists
israeli terrorist soldiers terrorizing the palestinians of khalil
israeli terrorist soldiers terrorizing the palestinians of khalil
palestinian boys retrieving their ball in the old city of khalil
palestinian boys retrieving their ball in the old city of khalil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Israeli army did not attempt to intervene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zionism is discrimination is oppression is racism is apartheid.

as i watch the protests flaring in moldova, avigdor lieberman’s home country who is the foreign minster of the zionist entity, i keep thinking what a great time it would be for him to go home. back to where he came from. he wants “transfer” for palestinians in 1948. what about a transfer for him back to his homeland? i was thinking about this as i read ahmad tibi’s utterly brilliant op-ed in the new york times today. tibi is a member of the knesset and increasingly becoming the next azmi bishara. (hopefully not the same outcome of forced exile from his homeland.) i had forgotten where exactly lieberman came from. in any case, here is tibi’s op-ed in full because he explains the situation in 1948 palestine so beautifully and clearly, especially for an american audience:

The right-wing coalition of the new Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, does not bode well for Palestinians in Israel. With the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister, the extremists are going after the indigenous population and threatening us with loyalty tests and the possibility of “transfer” into an area nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s intransigence vis-à-vis Palestinians in the occupied territories is certainly cause for concern. No less concerning is what the Netanyahu-Lieberman combination may mean to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

This government, particularly with Lieberman as foreign minister, should be boycotted by the international community, just as it once boycotted Jörg Haider, the late Austrian far-right politician who won global notoriety for his anti-immigrant views.

Lieberman, in one of many outrageous comments, declared in May 2004 that 90 percent of Israel’s Palestinian citizens “have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost.”

But my family and I were on this land centuries before Lieberman arrived here in 1978 from Moldova. We are among the minority who managed to remain when some 700,000 Palestinians were forced out by Israel in 1948.

Today, Lieberman stokes anti-Palestinian sentiment with his threat of “transfer” — a euphemism for renewed ethnic cleansing. Henry Kissinger, too, has called for a territorial swap, and Lieberman cites Kissinger to give his noxious idea a more sophisticated sheen. Lieberman and Kissinger envision exchanging a portion of Israel for a portion of the occupied West Bank seized illegally by Jewish settlers.

But Israel has no legal right to any of the occupied Palestinian territories. And Lieberman has no right to offer the land my home is on in exchange for incorporating Jewish settlers into newly defined Israeli state borders. We are citizens of the state of Israel and do not want to exchange our second-class citizenship in our homeland — subject as we are to numerous laws that discriminate against us — for life in a Palestinian Bantustan.

We take our citizenship seriously and struggle daily to improve our lot and overcome discriminatory laws and practices.

We face discrimination in all fields of life. Arab citizens are 20 percent of the population, but only 6 percent of the employees in the public sector. Not one Arab employee is working in the central bank of Israel. Imagine if there was not one African-American citizen employed in the central bank of the United States.

Israel is simultaneously running three systems of government. The first is full democracy toward its Jewish citizens — ethnocracy. The second is racial discrimination toward the Palestinian minority — creeping Jim Crowism. And the third is occupation of the Palestinian territories with one set of laws for Palestinians and another for Jewish settlers — apartheid.

A few weeks ago, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party led the charge in the Israeli Knesset to ban my party — the Arab Movement for Renewal — from participating in the elections. Netanyahu’s Likud also supported the action. The Supreme Court overturned the maneuvers of the politicians. But their attempt to ban our participation should expose Israel’s democracy to the world as fraudulent.

Lieberman’s inveighing against Palestinian citizens of Israel is not new. Less than three years ago, he called for my death and the death of some of my Palestinian Knesset colleagues for daring to meet with democratically elected Palestinian leaders. Speaking before the Knesset plenum, Lieberman stated: “World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in this house.” Lieberman now has the power to put his vile views into practice.

We call for more attention from the Obama administration toward the Palestinian minority in Israel. It is a repressed minority suffering from inadequately shared state resources. The enormous annual American aid package to Israel fails almost entirely to reach our community.

Between Netanyahu and Lieberman, the Obama administration will have its hands full. Make no mistake that Netanyahu and Lieberman will press the new administration hard to accept Israeli actions in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — as well as discriminatory anti-Palestinian actions in Israel itself. Settlements will grow and discrimination deepen. American backbone will be crucial in the months ahead.

the bold above is mine. it highlights the simultaneous forms of discrimination, racism, and apartheid that exist for palestinians, oftentimes overlapping depending on one is at any given moment. one clear cut example of this is banning of palestinian employees from railway jobs as jonathan cook reports for electronic intifada:

A decision by Israel’s state-owned railway company to sack 150 Arab workers because they have not served in the army has been denounced as “unlawful” and “racist” this week by Arab legal and workers’ rights groups.

The new policy, which applies to guards at train crossing points, is being implemented even though the country’s Arab citizens — numbering 1.2 million and nearly one-fifth of the total population — have been exempt from serving in the military since Israel’s establishment.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, complained to Israel Railways and the attorney general last week, arguing that the move was meant “to cleanse the railways of Arab employees.”

“It is an especially grave matter as this is a public company whose operations are meant to benefit all citizens,” he said.

these are some of the many reasons why boycott is called for. why more people are joining in to resist this blatant racism that exists in the zionist entity. salim vally a south african professor who was actively involved in the academic boycott of south africa under apartheid has a very important essay that he published this week in links: the international journal of socialist renewal that builds on some of the things that tibi says in his piece above. here is what vally says, in part, but it is definitely worth clicking on the link and reading it in full:

The Palestinian struggle does not only exert a visceral tug on many around the world. A reading of imperialism shows that apartheid Israel is needed as a fundamentalist and militarised warrior state not only to quell the undefeated and unbowed Palestinians but also as a rapid response fount of reaction in concert with despotic Arab regimes to do the Empire’s bidding in the Middle East and beyond.

Over the years this has included support for the mass terror waged against the people of Central and South America and facilitating the evasion of international sanctions against South Africa. Besides providing a ready supply of mercenaries to terrorise a populace — whether in Guatemala, Iraq or New Orleans — Israel also lends its expertise of collective punishment and mass terror. We have to recognise that the foundation of the Israeli economy was founded on the special political and military role which Zionism then and today fulfils for Western imperialism. While playing its role to ensure that the region is safe for oil companies it has also carved out today a niche market producing high-tech security essential for the day-to-day functioning of New Imperialism.

The unrestrained hand of US imperialism and its support for barbarism whether in Iraq or Palestine should hasten our actions. In Gaza, 80 per cent of the population live in poverty and close to a million people have no access to fresh water, electricity and other essential services. Close to 70,000 workers have lost their jobs in the siege of Gaza. The killing of Palestinians continues on a ferocious basis — daily missiles are launched from US-made helicopters and fighter jets. These cowardly war crimes are carried out with impunity — no longer even meriting a mention in the mainstream press….

First, it took a few decades of hard work before the boycott campaign made an impact. Despite the impression given by many governments, unions and faith-based groups that they supported the isolation of the apartheid state from the outset this is just not true. Besides the infamous words of Dick Cheney, when as a senator he called for the continued incarceration of Nelson Mandela because he was a “terrorist” quite late in the day, and the support given by US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Thatcher, together with regimes like dictator Pinochet’s Chile, Israel and others, most powerful institutions, multilateral organisations and unions were hesitant for many years to fully support the campaign. The Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) was formed in 1959 and the first significant breakthrough came in 1963 when Danish dock workers refused to off-load South African goods.

The rise of the AAM must be seen in the general effervescence of liberation struggles and social movements in the turbulent 1960s/early 1970s and in the context of, whatever our opinion was of the USSR and its motivations, a counterweight to the US hegemon. This, together with the viciousness of the pro-Israeli lobby, its opportunistic reference to the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and the post-9/11 climate of fear, silencing dissent and Islamophobia, makes the task of isolating apartheid Israel more difficult. Despite these seemingly daunting obstacles the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel is gaining momentum and already some significant gains have been made. Gains which would’ve been difficult to imagine just a few years ago.

Second, arguments opposed to the boycott related to the harm it would cause black South African themselves and the need for dialogue and “constructive engagement” were easily rebuffed by lucid and knowledgeable arguments. The South African regime, like the Israeli regime today, used “homeland’’ leaders and an assortment of collaborators to argue the case for them. Careful research played an important role in exposing the economic, cultural and the armaments trade links with South Africa to make our actions more effective as well as to “name and shame” those who benefited from the apartheid regime.

Third, sectarianism is a danger that we must be vigilant about and principled unity must be our lodestar. Some in the AAM favoured supporting only one liberation movement as the authentic voice of the oppressed in South Africa. They also aspired to work largely with “respectable” organisations, governments and multilateral organisations and shunned the much harder and patient linking of struggles with grassroots organisations. In the UK for instance as elsewhere this sectarian attitude resulted in debilitating splits. The biggest chapter of the AAM in London, which supported the anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland and was part of the “Troops Out Movement’’, were ostracised by the official AAM. The latter was also keen not to annoy the British government by taking a stronger stance against racism in Britain.

The healthy linking of struggles against racism, in support of the indigenous people and workers in North America with the Palestinian struggle that I have witnessed must be lauded. At a huge Palestinian solidarity rally in South Africa recently members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee were asked by officials from the Palestinian ambassador’s office to pull down the flag of the Western Sahrawi Republic because they feared this would alienate the ambassador of Morocco. We refused this request much to the glee of Polisario Front supporters present.

Fourth, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions must be in concert with supporting grassroots organisations in Palestine as a whole and in the Palestinian diaspora. This can take many forms and shapes including “twinning’’ arrangements, speaking tours, targeted actions in support of specific struggles and concrete support.

jonathan "zapiro" shapiro

there was a report on cnn of all places that featured jonathan shapiro or “zapiro” who is a jewish south african cartoonist (one of his cartoons is pictured above). in the piece he tells the reporter: “i’ll tell you something. i’ve said it many times and i’ll say it again. it’s been harder as a jewish south african who sees himself as contesting the mainstream jewish view on israel and on political zionism than it ever was being a white south african being involved in the struggle. that’s how hard it is. it’s actually harder.”you can watch the video by clicking on this link.

why is it harder to be critical of apartheid in south africa than apartheid in palestine? because there is no equivalent of anti-semitism when dealing with racism. racism is just racism. zionism, of course, is racism too, but when you say that in the united states you are called anti-semitic. case in point: the archbishop desmond tutu is facing renewed criticism again from the anti-defamation league (that bully of a zionist entity in the u.s.) because he is now on the advisory board the academic & cultural boycott of israel:

Citing his long history as a strident critic of Israel and his vocal support for anti-Israel boycotts, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today said that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a “poor choice” to deliver the commencement addresses at Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Desmond Tutu is a poor choice for commencement speaker,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “His statements about Israel have time and again conveyed outright bigotry against the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people, and his deepening involvement in the anti-Israel boycott effort should have raised a red flag. This is not someone to be held up as a model or awarded an honorary degree, given his history of bombastic rhetoric and unceasing support for the anti-Israel boycott effort.

“It is one thing to give him a platform to speak on campus; it is quite another to confer an honorary degree on an individual who actively promotes academic boycotts,” Mr. Foxman added.

In a letter to Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon, President of Michigan State University, the League called on the university to reconsider the invitation extended to Archbishop Tutu unless he “publicly repudiates” his support for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

“Archbishop Tutu has unequivocally endorsed an academic boycott based on ideas that are anti-Semitic and should be anathema to any institution of higher learning truly committed to academic freedom,” the League said it its letter to MSU. ADL sent a similar letter to Dr. Holden Thorp, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The League noted that MSU’s president and UNC’s chancellor were among more than 200 U.S. college and university presidents who issued, in July 2007, an unequivocal statement against university-led boycotts.

Archbishop Tutu is a participant in the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). The campaign prominently includes Bishop Tutu as a member of its Advisory Board, whose formation was announced on March 30. The USACBI refers to Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestine and its apartheid system” and calls for the “complete academic and cultural boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”

for those not in the know the adl’s name, like all zionist names, is a euphemism: it has nothing to do with fighting against defamation: it in fact is the reverse. it defames. period. what they don’t want you to speak about is the racism inherent in the zionist entity. a recent interview with hatim kanaaneh, who blogs at a doctor in galilee, sheds some further light on this sort of racism that adl not only doesn’t speak out against: it is full heatedly in support of in every way. here is some of what dr. kanaaneh has to say:

Dr. K: Discrimination is a built-in part of life and the laws of the country. Remember that what we are dealing with here (and the basic issue of contention in the conflict between Zionism and all of us native Palestinians) is a conflict over land.

As a Palestinian I am disqualified by law from equal access to land ownership or use. This is given a deeper expression in the form of the Law of Return granting any Jewish person anywhere in the world automatic citizenship with all the benefits that accrue with it of access to land, housing, financial and social assistance, and to the symbols of the state while no Palestinian who is not born here can dream of ever becoming a citizen.

Recently laws were passed specifically to prevent our children from marrying other Palestinians and from the right to bring their spouses under the standing laws of family unification applicable to Jewish citizens.

The absolute majority of land we, the Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel since its establishment in 1948, once owned has been confiscated for the benefit of our Jewish co-citizens through a maze of some three dozen laws specifically designed for the purpose. Were it not for the 1976 uprising that has come since to be commemorated as Land Day, we would have lost the remainder. We, nearly one-fifth of the total population of Israel, now own about 3 % of its land. After all, we are dealing with what has been defined by Zionism as “the land of Israel” in an ethnic sense, a definition that excludes us, Palestinians. The last stroke in the continuing saga of disenfranchisement is the requirement from us to pledge allegiance to Israel as the state of the Jews. And once we take such an oath, it would be up to the same racist crowd to define what constitutes a breach of it, a process inevitably leading to our expulsion one way or the other.

Beyond such basic discriminatory laws the whole official system and all Zionist civilian structures, many of which are legally entrusted with state-level powers and duties, are imbued with a sense of messianic zeal. Our experience with such bodies is not unlike a preview of the current practices in the Palestinian Occupied Territories where Palestinians are not allowed to drive on roads for settlers. The multitude of new settlements, named ‘Mitzpim’, or hilltop lookouts, are intended to guard the land in Galilee from us, its indigenous population, and they are surrounded by barbwire and interconnected by special roads that bypass our villages. True, we were not prevented from using those roads, but they were of little use to us because they led only to the various settlements.

At the practical level this translates into set rules and regulations that exempt Palestinians like me from all sorts of benefits if they are not openly anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian. Much of this is practiced under the blanket justification of security, the holiest of all holy cows in the country….

Another area in which this phenomenon is evident is the differential implementation of the law. Take, for example, the practice of house demolition within Israel. Mind you, we are not speaking here of the savage collective punishment practiced by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. We are speaking of the practice of demolition of homes built without permit within Israel proper.

In absolute numbers there are more illegally constructed structures in Jewish communities, but the demolition is practiced almost exclusively against Arab home owners. The basis for the construction of homes without permit is also rooted in discriminatory practices in the laws of zoning which in many cases have retroactively criminalized all residents of many villages whose existence predated the state, itself. Such “Unrecognized Villages” are frequently the site of home demolitions.

The cumulative end result of all the openly discriminatory laws, the hidden disadvantages, and the differential application of the rules and regulations are clearly seen in comparative figures from officially published data of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.

what dr. kanaaneh mentions in the excerpt above–and more thoroughly in the full interview you can read if you click the link above–is the sort of racism that palestinians in 1948 experience. for instance today in naqab palestinians had their farmland destroyed by israeli terrorists:

For the second consecutive day, the Israeli Lands Department and police forces continued on Monday to plough and demolish groves owned by residents of unrecognized Arab villages in the Negev.

On Sunday, demolition was concentrated on lands owned by the Turi family in the Al-Araqib area, and on Monday it was concentrated in different parts of Ar’ara in the Negev. Parts of the lands demolished on Monday are owned by Abu Mqeirih family in eastern Ar’ara.

The director general of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, Atwah Abu Freih, said, “We are surprised at this frivolous behavior of the Israeli Lands Department, demolishing lands of people who owned that land before the creation of Israel.

“Furthermore, Israeli military patrols from the Ministry of Agriculture have been chasing cattle owners, depriving them of pasture for their herds unless they register and pay taxes. To make it more difficult in light of a drought this year, they ploughed and demolished fields of wheat and barley,” Abu Freih added.

just like in 1948, of course, palestinians in the west bank experience the same treatment. the difference is those in places like khalil get a tad bit more media attention. ma’an news, for instance, reported on one man in khalil who has suffered the same fate as his kin in 1948 palestine:

Abu Mohammad Al-Hreini stands on a hill near his house in the Al-Musafer area to the south of Hebron, pointing at his land.

“That’s my land that was confiscated and now it lies behind the separation wall and I’m prevented from reaching it; it was confiscated forever,” he explains.

Al-Hreini and other residents are in mourning because their agricultural farmland were confiscated to construct the wall, which Israel maintains is for security. But these Palestinians are afraid of being expelled from the area as a pretext for preserving the settlements located south of the Hebron governorate.

“We live in a constant state of fear, where we hear a new Israeli plan every day that threatens our future in this area,” says Al-Hreini.

He adds, “Hundreds of dunums were confiscated from the Masafer Yatta area, close to the Suseya settlement, which in fact was constructed on our own agricultural land.” He explains that they cannot even sleep, since Israeli forces keep patrolling the area to force them to leave.

Israeli authorities confiscated 500 dunums of his own farm for the sake of constructing the wall.

According to Al-Hreini, the residents of the area suffer from water contamination coming from the settlements and they are also imposed to continuous violations by soldiers and settlers.

On the other hand, anti-settlement organizations warned of Israeli plans to isolate the Al-Masafer area from Hebron governorate, in an effort to expel the residents to join the area with neighboring settlements

and apparently even americans traveling on formal delegations can be accosted by, though not attacked, israeli colonist terrorists as ma’an news reported today:

Armed Israeli settlers prevented a delegation from the US Consulate from approaching a settlement near Nablus on Monday, according to diplomatic officials.

In a telephone call to Ma’an, a spokesperson for the US Consulate to Jerusalem said that officials were near the Hioval settlement, close to the Nablus-area village of Qaryut, when armed settler guards stopped the delegation.

According to the American officials, the visit was a routine and periodic trip to areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the visit was previously scheduled.

Ghassan Doghlus, the head of the village’s local council, told Ma’an that settlement guards stopped the American delegation from entering the area.

“The guards prevented the delegation from getting close to the settlement and the nearby lands that were confiscated; the guards pointed their arms at the delegation, forcing them to leave the area,” he said.

Another spokesperson for the US Consulate in Jerusalem, Michaela Sweitzer-Blum, confirmed that armed Israeli settlers did confront an officer from the US Consulate back from the edge of the settlement.

“They [the US delegation] did meet up with some armed guards from a local outpost,” she said of the incident.

i am glad that a formal american delegation had to deal with this. those of us who live here deal with it every day. i wish they experienced worse so they would know how it really is. i hope that obama experiences the same when he comes in june. maybe then they will listen to palestinians and support them in liberating their land. (okay, it’s late, i’m entitled to dream a bit.) in any case, dear nora barrows-friedman wrote a great piece for ips that is hot off the press on the subject that shows what the people whose houses are being demolished and whose houses are threatened with demolition want:

Nasser Al-Ghawei tells IPS from inside the Al-Kurd tent in Sheikh Jarrah that earlier this year Palestinian families felt relief when the Turkish government, dismayed at Israel’s brutal actions in Gaza, decided to release documents from the Ottoman-era archives that prove Palestinian-Arab ownership of the land. “We took these papers back to the court to prove that this is Arab land,” Al-Ghawei says. “And the decision was negative.”

An Israeli lawyer representing the settler group offered Al-Ghawei and his 16 other family members 17 million dollars to leave their home. “Seventeen million dollars cannot pay for my memories. I was born in this house…This is my identity,” Al-Ghawei says.

The European Union describes Israel’s military and court actions in occupied East Jerusalem as discriminatory, and recognises a “clear Israeli intention to turn the annexation of East Jerusalem into a concrete fact.” A more subdued response to Israel’s continued occupation and colonisation of East Jerusalem has come from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently called Israel’s house demolition orders there “unhelpful, and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ‘road map’.”

Under international law, the military occupation, settlement construction and accelerated annexation of Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages in East Jerusalem is illegal.

Jimmy Johnson, international coordinator with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, tells IPS that the only recourse that remains to end this battle in Sheikh Jarrah for the Palestinian residents is international pressure. “Most effective in the short term is trying to raise international pressure, especially on the United States. As long as the U.S. is backing Israel, relatively unconditionally, it doesn’t matter so much if Sweden or Brazil or India wants to pressure Israel directly. But if you can get the U.S. to switch its policies, especially in response to international pressure, that’s when we can begin to see some change here.

“Inside the Israeli bureaucracy, there is no more recourse left,” Johnson says. “International pressure is the only way that the Hanoun family and other families won’t be evicted from their houses.”

read the rest at the above link. meanwhile the theft continues. and the zionists are grasping at straws. now they have stolen a part of the old city in al quds to try to pretend that they belong on this land. yet another theft. yet another ridiculous fight over archaeology that never proves anything. they should stick to the stories in the bible. those mythological tales are as good as any story they fabricate about so-called evidence of their presence here. and even if it proved they were here eons ago that does not give them to live on a land that does not belong to them. in any case here is zeina awad’s report for al jazeera on the subject:

for those of you boycotters out there–or those of you who are convinced by the daily shreds of evidence i offer as to why you should boycott–here is a new website (new to me, that is) that i stumbled upon the other day. it is called karma banque and it is a website that is devoted to targeting corporations in the u.s. stock exchange that should be boycotted. the companies here are not here necessarily because they are zionist and support israeli terrorism per se. but the beauty of it is that the same companies that do that–coca cola, starbucks, mcdonald’s, microsoft and pepsi are on the list because of other sorts of criminal behavior. click the link above and check it out.

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apartheid and its boycotts

some great news this week and some great writing, too, in honor of land day. nora barrows-friedman has a kick-ass report on land day in palestine including an interview with the mayor of deir hana in 1948 palestine that is really great. i did an interview this week, too, with naji ali on crossing the line, which was supposed to be about the boycott campaign, but it turned out to be more about the islamic university of gaza and rebuilding it. you can listen to me as well as akram habeeb talking about this online or you may download it on naji’s website. and if you haven’t donated yet to help rebuild the islamic university please go to the middle east children’s alliance and specify that you would like money to go towards the islamic university of gaza.

of course the savagery unleashed on gaza is what prompted the global momentum of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (bds) movement. nora also broadcast a brilliant broadcast of a lecture given by ali abunimah for the middle east children’s alliance last week, which i highly recommend listening to. there, too, abunimah contextualizes this movement in relation to gaza. what happened in gaza is one of many reasons to boycott the terrorist state of israel. we need boycott and war crimes trials and so much more. because when they say they will investigate they never do or the criminals get off and wind up running the country (just look at the long line of presidents and prime ministers and in every one you will find a war criminal multiple times over). imran garda’s “focus on gaza” last week highlighted the main war crimes charge related to white phosphorus (though listen to what ali abunimah has to say about that in the above-linked speech), which now, the zionist entity is whitewashing. here is the episode on al jazeera, which contains important interviews and information:

gaza, like the villages of deir hana and others in the jaleel that resisted on that first land day 33 years ago, it is illustrative of the wider problems here. continual land theft and murder. hazem jamjoum has a brilliant piece in common dreams this week giving us a sense of this wider picture of apartheid more generally in palestine which is essential reading for people wanting to understand what it is like here and why palestine must be liberated:

In recent years, increasing numbers of people around the world have begun adopting and developing an analysis of Israel as an apartheid regime. (1) This can be seen in the ways that the global movement in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is taking on a pointedly anti-apartheid character, as evidenced by the growth of Israeli Apartheid Week.(2) Further, much of the recent international diplomatic support for Israel has increasingly taken on the form of denying that racial discrimination is a root cause of the oppression of Palestinians, something that has taken on new levels of absurdity in Western responses to the April 2009 Durban Review Conference.(3)

Many of the writings stemming from this analysis work to detail levels of similarity and difference with Apartheid South Africa, rather than looking at apartheid as a system that can be practiced by any state. To some extent, this strong emphasis on historical comparisons is understandable given that Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is the central campaign called for by Palestinian civil society for solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and is modeled on the one that helped end South African Apartheid. However, an over-emphasis on similarities and differences confines the use of the term to narrow limits. With the expanding agreement that the term ‘apartheid’ is useful in describing the level and layout of Israel’s crimes, it is important that our understanding of the ‘apartheid label’ be deepened, both as a means of informing activism in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle, and in order to most effectively make use of comparisons with other struggles.

The Apartheid Analogy

It is perhaps understandable that some advocates of Palestinian rights look at the ‘Apartheid label’, in its comparative sense, as a politically useful tool. The struggle of the South African people for justice and equality reached a certain sacred status in the 1980s and 1990s when the anti-Apartheid struggle reached its zenith. The reverence with which activists and non-activists alike look to the righteousness of the South African struggle, and the ignominy of the colonial Apartheid regime are well placed; Black South Africans fought against both Dutch and British colonization for centuries, endured countless hardships including imprisonment and death, and were labeled terrorists as the powers of the world stood by the racist Apartheid regime. They remained steadfast in their struggle, raising the cost of maintaining the Apartheid system until South African capital found it no longer profitable and white political elites found it impossible to maintain. Comparison bonus points can also be scored by pointing to the deep historic PLO-ANC connection, as well as the unabashed alliance between Israel and the South African Apartheid regime, which remained strong even at the height of the international boycott against South Africa.

A further impetus for confining the ‘apartheid label’ to a comparison with South Africa is that the commonalities and similarities between the liberation struggles of South Africa and Palestine are quite stark. Both cases involved a process of settler-colonialism involving the forced displacement of the indigenous population from most of their ancestral lands and concentrating them in townships and reservations; dividing up the Black population into different groups with differing rights; strict mobility restrictions that suffocated the colonized; and the use of brutal military force to repress any actual or potential resistance against the racist colonial regime. Both regimes enjoyed the impunity that results from full US and European support. Accompanying these and countless other similarities are a host of uncanny details common to both cases: both regimes were formally established in the same year – 1948 – following decades of British rule; control of approximately 87% of the land was off limits to most of the colonized population without special permission, and so on. While we speak here in the past tense, all of this still applies to present-day Palestine.

As the Israeli apartheid label has gained ground, some have adopted the approach of describing the differences between the two regimes, albeit for various purposes. In general, Israel has not legislated petty apartheid – the segregation of spaces such as bathrooms and beaches – as was the case in South Africa, although Israeli laws form the basis of systematic racial discrimination against Palestinians. The 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (approximately 20% of Israel’s citizens) do indeed have the right to vote and run in Israeli elections while the Black community in South Africa, for the most part, did not. The South African version of apartheid’s central tenet was to facilitate the exploitation of as many Black laborers as possible, whereas the Israeli version, although exploiting Palestinian workers, prioritizes the forced displacement of as many Palestinians as possible beyond the borders of the state with the aim of eradicating Palestinian presence within historic Palestine. South African visitors to Palestine have often commented on the fact that Israeli use of force is more brutal than that witnessed in the heyday of Apartheid, and several commentators have thus taken the position that Israel’s practices are worse than Apartheid; that the apartheid label does not go far enough.

Israel and the Crime of Apartheid

In terms of law, describing Israel as an apartheid state does not revolve around levels of difference and similarity with the policies and practices of the South African Apartheid regime, and where Israel is an apartheid state only insofar as similarities outweigh differences. In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (General Assembly resolution 3068 [XXVIII](4) – entered into force 18 July 1976 – the year of the Soweto uprising in South Africa and the Land Day uprising in Palestine) with a universal definition of the crime of apartheid not limited to the borders of South Africa. The fact that apartheid is defined as a crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (5), which entered into force in 2002 – long after the Apartheid regime was defeated in South Africa – attests to the universality of the crime.

While the wording of the definition of the crime of apartheid varies between legal instruments, the substance is the same: a regime commits apartheid when it institutionalizes discrimination to create and maintain the domination of one ‘racial’ group over another. Karine Mac Allister, among others, has provided a cogent legal analysis of the applicability of the crime of apartheid to the Israeli regime.(6) The main point is that like genocide and slavery, apartheid is a crime that any state can commit, and institutions, organizations and/or individuals acting on behalf of the state that commit it or support its commission are to face trial in any state that is a signatory to the Convention, or in the International Criminal Court. It is therefore a fallacy to ground the Israeli apartheid label on comparisons of the policies of the South African Apartheid regime, with the resulting descriptions of Israel as being ‘Apartheid-like’ and characterizations of an apartheid analysis of Israel as an ‘Apartheid analogy.’

Recognition by the international community of such universal crimes is often the result of a particular case, so heinous that it forces the rusty wheels of international decision-making into motion. The Transatlantic Slave Trade is an example where the mass enslavement of people from the African continent to work as the privately owned property of European settlers formed an important part of the framework in which the drafters of the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery thought and acted. An even clearer example is the Genocide Convention (adopted 1948, entered into force 1951) in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust in which millions of Jews, communists, Roma and disabled were systematically murdered with the intention to end their existence. We do not describe modern day enslavement as ‘slavery-like,’ nor do we examine the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of mainly Tutsi Rwandans through a Rwandan ‘Genocide analogy.’

Two points made by Mac Allister in her legal analysis of Israeli apartheid deserve to be reiterated because they are often confused or misconstrued even by advocates of Palestinian human rights. First, Israel’s crimes and violations are not limited to the crime of apartheid. Rather, Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people combines apartheid, military occupation and colonization in a unique manner. It deserves notice that the relationship between these three components requires further research and investigation. Also noteworthy is the Palestinian BDS Campaign National Committee (BNC)’s “United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation: Dignity & Justice for the Palestinian People” (7) position paper, which outlines and, to some extent, details the various aspects of Israel’s commission of the crime of apartheid, and begins to trace the interaction between Israeli apartheid, colonialism and occupation from the perspective of Palestinian civil society.

The second point worth reiterating is that Israel’s regime of apartheid is not limited to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In fact, the core of Israel’s apartheid regime is guided by discriminatory legislation in the fields of nationality, citizenship and land ownership, and that was primarily employed to oppress and dispossess those Palestinians who were forcibly displaced in the 1948 Nakba (refugees and internally displaced), as well as the minority who managed to remain within the ‘green line’ and later became Israeli citizens.(8) Israel’s apartheid regime was extended into West Bank and Gaza Strip following the 1967 occupation for the purpose of colonization, and military control over the Palestinians who came under occupation. Using again the example of South Africa, the crime of apartheid was not limited to the Bantustans; the whole regime was implicated and not one or another of its racist manifestations.

The analysis of Israel as an apartheid state has proven to be very important in several respects. First, it correctly highlights racial discrimination as a root cause of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Second, one of the main effects of Israeli apartheid is that it has separated Palestinians – conceptually, legally and physically – into different groupings (refugees, West Bank, Gaza, within the ‘green line’ and a host of other divisions within each), resulting in the fragmentation of the Palestinian liberation movement, including the solidarity movement. The apartheid analysis enables us to provide a legal and conceptual framework under which we can understand, convey, and take action in support of the Palestinian people and their struggle as a unified whole. Third, and of particular significance to the solidarity movement, this legal and conceptual framework takes on the prescriptive role underpinning the growing global movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

Colonialism and the Role of Comparison

I have argued that the question of whether apartheid applies cannot be determined by means of comparison with South Africa, but rather by legal analysis. This, however, does not mean that comparative study is not useful. Comparison is in fact essential to the process of learning historical lessons for those involved in struggle. A central importance of comparison with South Africa stems from the fact that the South African struggle against apartheid was, as it continues to be for the indigenous people of Palestine and the Americas, a struggle against colonialism.

Focusing on the colonial dimension of Israeli apartheid and the Zionist project enables us to maintain our focus on the issues that really matter, such as land acquisition, demographic engineering, and methods of political and economic control exercised by one racial group over another. Comparison with other anti-colonial struggles provides the main resource for understanding this colonial dimension of Israeli oppression, and for deriving some of the lessons needed to fight it.

One of the many lessons from the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa stems from the fact that the ANC leadership was pressured to compromise on its economic demands such as land restitution. Only a tiny proportion of white controlled land in South Africa was redistributed to Blacks after 1994. As such, while the struggle of the South African people defeated the system of political apartheid, the struggle against economic apartheid continues in various forms including anti-poverty and landless peoples’ movements today. As Palestinians and those struggling with them work to reconstruct a political strategy and consensus on how to overcome the challenges of the post-Oslo period, the centrality of the demand for land restitution should be highlighted as part of the demand for refugee return.

A second lesson of major importance comes in response to the paradigm currently guiding most mainstream accounts of how to achieve the elusive ‘peace in the Middle East’, which is the idea of partition often referred to as the two state ‘solution’. In the 1970s, South Africa tried to deal with its “demographic problem” – the fact that the vast majority of its population was Black but did not have the right to vote. The Apartheid regime reconstructed South Africa as a formal democracy by reinventing the British-established reservations (the Bantustans) as independent states. (9) These ten ‘homelands’ were each assigned to an ethnicity decided by Pretoria, and indigenous South Africans who did not fit into one of the ethnicities were forced to make themselves fit in order to become nationals of one of the homelands. Through this measure, members of the indigenous population were reclassified as nationals of one or another homeland, and between 1976 and 1981 the regime tried to pass the homelands off as independent states: Transkei in 1976, Bophuthatswana in 1977, Venda in 1979, and Ciskei in 1981.

Each of these Bantustans was given a flag and a government made up of indigenous intermediaries on the Pretoria payroll, and all the trappings of a sovereign government including responsibility over municipal services and a police force to protect the Apartheid regime, but without actual sovereignty. The idea was that by getting international recognition for each of these homelands as states, the Apartheid regime would transform South Africa from a country with a 10% white minority, to one with a 100% white majority. Since it was a democratic regime within the confines of the dominant community, the state’s democratic nature would be beyond reproach. No one was fooled. The ANC launched a powerful campaign to counter any international recognition of the Bantustans as independent states, and the plot failed miserably at the international level – with the notable, but perhaps unsurprising, exception that a lone “embassy” for Bophuthatswana was opened in Tel Aviv.

Israel has employed similar strategies in Palestine. For example, Israel recognized 18 Palestinian Bedouin tribes and appointed a loyal Sheikh for each in the Naqab during the 1950s as a means of controlling these southern Palestinians, forcing those who did not belong to one of the tribes to affiliate to one in order to get Israeli citizenship. (10) In the late 1970s, the Israeli regime tried to invent Palestinian governing bodies for the 1967 occupied territory in the form of ‘village leagues’ intended to evolve into similar non-sovereign governments; glorified municipalities of a sort. As with Apartheid’s Homelands, the scheme failed miserably, both because the PLO had established itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and because Palestinians largely understood the plot and opposed it with all means at their disposal. The main lesson for Israel was that the PLO would have to either be completely destroyed or would have to be transformed into Israeli apartheid’s indigenous intermediary. Israel launched a massive campaign to destroy the PLO throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In the early 1990s, and with the demise of the PLO’s main backers such as the Soviet bloc and Iraq, Israel capitalized on the opportunity, and worked to transform the PLO from a liberation movement to a ‘state-building’ project that was launched by the signing of the Oslo accords, seven months before South Africa’s first free election.

The push for the establishment and international recognition of an independent Palestinian state within the Palestinian Bantustan is no different from the South African Apartheid regime’s campaign to gain international recognition of Transkei or Ciskei. This is the core of the “two-state solution” idea. The major and crucial difference is that in the current Palestinian case, it is the world’s superpower and its adjutants in Europe and the Arab world pushing as well, and armed with the active acceptance of Palestine’s indigenous intermediaries.

Notes:

1 I use capital ‘A’ in Apartheid to denote the regime of institutionalized racial superiority implemented in South Africa 1948-1994, and lower-case ‘a’ to indicate the generally applicable crime of apartheid.

2 See www.apartheidweek.org

3 See Amira Howeidi, “Israel’s right not to be criticised”, Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 March 2009: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/939/re2.htm. Also see the Palestinian civil society response at http://israelreview.bdsmovement.net

4 For the full text of the Convention see: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/11.htm

5 For the full text of the Statute see: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/99_corr/cstatute.htm

6 See Karine Mac Allister, “Applicability of the Crime of Apartheid to Israel”, al-Majdal #38, (Summer 2008): http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/summer/articles02.htm

7 This is the Palestinian civil society position paper for the April 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva, and can be downloaded at: http://bdsmovement.net/files/English-BNC_Position_Paper-Durban_Review.pdf

8 For a discussion of how Israel’s apartheid legislation continues to affect refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel with regards to control over land see Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, London: Zed Books, 2003.

9 British rule in South Africa established reserves in 1913 and 1936 on approximately 87% of the land of South Africa for the purpose of segregating the Black population from the settlers.

10 For more on this see: Hazem Jamjoum, “al-Naqab: The Ongoing Displacement of Palestine’s Southern Bedouin”, al-Majdal #39-40, (Autumn 2008 / Winter 2009): http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/autumn-winter/articles03.htm

for these reasons and more boycott is gaining momentum all over the world. the boycott motorola campaign now has a local chapter in new york and they held their first demonstration on land day/global bds day as reported on electronic intifada:

Motorola Israel produces fuses used in cluster bombs, “bunker-buster” bombs, and a variety of other bombs. Cluster bombs are specifically condemned by an international consensus of human rights organizations, and banned by many countries. Even the US government has voiced concern over their use. Motorola Israel acquired a $100 million contract to provide a data encrypted cellular network, “Mountain Rose,” to allow the Israeli army, which consistently and severely violates Palestinian human rights, to communicate securely anywhere they operate. Motorola supplies the Israeli military with the Wide Area Surveillance System (WASS) and other high-tech configurations of radar devices and thermal cameras. These surveillance systems are being installed around Israeli settlement/colonies and the apartheid wall, both of which Israel has constructed in the Palestinian West Bank in violation of international law.

Lubna Ka’aabneh of NYCBI and Adalah-NY explained, “The highly effective campaign to boycott diamond mogul and Israeli settlement-builder Lev Leviev set a successful precedent for boycotting Israel in New York. Motorola products are used to help steal Palestinian land in the West Bank, and to kill and oppress Palestinians. Similar support by Motorola for South Africa’s apartheid regime prompted a successful boycott against Motorola. This Land Day, we ask New Yorkers to once again rise to challenge by joining the campaign to boycott Motorola. Let’s do it again!”

in belgium, too, there is new divestment energy directed at a bank as adri nieuwhof reports in electronic intifada:

In a remarkably short period of time, activists in Belgium have built a strong basis for the campaign “Israel colonizes — Dexia funds,” asking the bank to divest from its subsidiary Dexia Israel because of its financing of the expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva, prohibiting the Occupying Power to deport or transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies, as well as Article 53 prohibiting the destruction of property on occupied territory. The Dexia campaign is flourishing in Belgium and may potentially spread to other countries where Dexia subsidiaries are based.

The French-Belgian bank Dexia bought the Israeli Municipality Treasure Bank in 2001 and established Dexia Israel. Centrum voor Ontwikkeling, Documentatie en Informatie Palestijnen (CODIP), an organization focusing on Palestine, raised its concern about the transfer in a letter to Dexia’s board of directors in April 2001. The organization argues that Dexia’s investment in an Israeli bank involved in public loans might give the impression that the bank “supports Israel’s policy of occupation, colonization and discrimination.”

land day also launched the website to remove hamas from the european union’s “terror” list. here is their petition and you may click on the link to sign it yourself:

Appeal for the removal of Hamas from EU terror list !

On the occasion of the June 2009 European elections, we are launching an urgent appeal to all candidates for the 736 seats in the European parliament.

We ask that they actively pursue the immediate and unconditional removal of Hamas and all other Palestinian liberation organizations from the European list of proscribed terrorist organizations.

We further ask that they acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and, by so doing, recognise, Hamas as a legitimate voice for the Palestinian people’s aspirations for national liberation.

while i love the bds momentum, i continue to be frustrated by the fact that people are selecting companies that are specifically profiting from the colonization in the west bank and not companies that profit off of colonialism in palestine more generally. this is why i love the new lebanon boycott campaign. and, finally, the article rania and i wrote about the academic boycott in lebanon for al akhbar was translated into english in dissident voice:

In remembering and commemorating Land Day, March 30, 1976, when six Palestinians were killed and almost 100 wounded by Israeli forces in Sakhnin during unarmed protests against the confiscation of Palestinian lands in Galilee; in remembering the December 2008 Israeli savagery against the Palestinians in Gaza; in recognizing the continuity of attacks against Palestinians; and in remembering the numerous and ongoing Israeli atrocities against Lebanese, let us stand in active support of a movement that has the strength and vital potential to significantly contribute to this struggle for liberty and self-determination in this fight against Zionism.

That movement is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, and one of its main demands is the boycott of and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and colonialism. We know from the South African example that a combined strategy of armed resistance with boycott, divestment, and sanctions led to the downfall of the apartheid regime, and thus can be successful. Focusing on economic resistance ties this movement to the roots of the Palestinian Resistance Movement which historically sought to liberate Palestine as well as the rest of the region from Western imperialism through its economic neocolonial policies.

We also know that we in Lebanon are not cleansed from Zionist products. From cosmetics to clothing, from bulldozers to coffee, we consume products that are produced by corporations that substantially support Israel — either by investing in Israel, or by supporting Israel financially or diplomatically. (While the removal of certain Zionist products, like Intel, is difficult, for the vast majority of products, such as Nestle and Estee Lauder, their removal from our market will actually invigorate our economy by increasing investment in local products and local businesses.)

In addition to the clear form of economic boycott (which, is too often incorrectly confused with censorship), there is the important avenue of academic and cultural boycott. An academic boycott involves refraining from participation in any form of academic or cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions, and thus ultimately works to promote pushing universities themselves to divest from any collaboration or cooperation with any Israeli institution. South African professors also called on their colleagues around the world to boycott them in order to delegitimize and isolate the apartheid regime. The boycott campaign in South Africa worked because of that isolation, which was coupled with an economic boycott, divestment, and eventually this led to the sanctions placed on the regime, which led to its demise.

The most powerful weapon of the academic boycott is the refusal to legitimize Zionism, the ideology upon which Israel was built, the ideology that allows for one group of people to steal, to kill, and to expel, an ideology that is fundamentally and wholly racist. It is Zionism that must be defeated.

The academic and cultural boycott of Israel is growing globally. It has been active in Canada and in the United Kingdom for a few years now. It has spread to Australia and the United States. The publicity surrounding this movement is as powerful a weapon as the movement itself as well as it further calls for a rethinking of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed, the boycott movement is so strong now that Israeli colonists are paying $2 million to improve their global image.

Academics in Lebanon have added their voice to this growing movement. Faculty from the University of Balamand, the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, Notre Dame University, Lebanese University, Beirut Arab University, USEK, Lebanese International University and Global University signed a statement calling for full academic boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions, and calling our colleagues, throughout the world, and most particularly those in the Arab world and those claiming to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, to comprehensively and consistently boycott and divest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from normalization in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid. To add your signature, please refer to: www.boycottzionism.wordpress.com

Today, March 30, 2009, marks the Global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Day of Action. Let us stand together.

land day/يوم الأرض

home in old city of nasra, palestine
home in old city of nasra, palestine

it was way too late by the time i finally got home from yom al ard to write anything coherent so i am now writing about land day the day after. we had decided that in addition to visiting the towns and villages where palestinians have resisted and been murdered for resiting further land theft we would spend time in the towns and villages of my friends. so we continued our land day journey today by spending the morning walking around downtown nasra, the city where one of my friends whom we were traveling with is from. we wanted to see if we could meet poet taha muhammad ali who owns a gift shop near the main church commemorating the city where jesus was from.

inside the old city of nasra, palestine
inside the old city of nasra, palestine

we found his shop rather easily because everyone knows where it is, including my friend’s grandparents. funnily enough while we were walking up the street to the store we bumped into her grandfather who was out doing some shopping. when we first arrived at the gift shop he was not there yet. so we looked around and found the usual disturbing juxtaposition of items one finds in tourist shops in palestine: kuffiyas next to israeli terrorist flags; all the monotheistic souvenirs; bracelets saying “i love israel” (but not “i love palestine” even in these shops which are all owned by palestinians); holy land tshirts next to “idf” (read: israeli terrorist forces) tshirts. his sons were working there so they were showing us stuff and we each bought a small item and then they told us to go walk around and come back in an hour or so and then we could meet him. we walked around the old city a bit and when we returned we found taha muhammad ali sitting in a chair next in the front of the store. we did not stay long, but we talked to him a bit about his poetry, about his flight from his village of saffuriyya to lebanon in 1948 and then back to find his village’s homes destroyed, and finally to nasra where he is waiting and fighting for his right to return to his village only a few kilometers away. his son showed us a new biography that an american has just written about him, which came out recently from yale university press called my happiness bears no relation to happiness: a poet’s life in the palestinian century. i hope she did a better and more respectful job with representing his life than the people who translated his volume of poetry, so what.

taha muhammad ali
taha muhammad ali

we drove south from nasra towards um al fahm because we wanted to be in a space that most closely resembles the resistance spirit of land day, although this was just a week or so ago. um al fahm means mother of coal as it is a village that used to produce a lot of coal for the area. we met up with other friends and ate lunch together in a sandwich shop overlooking the main road where the demonstration took place the other day. it is barely 1 km inside the city, which shows how unified and strong the town is when it comes to preventing israeli terrorists from invading their area.

um al fahm
um al fahm

after lunch we drove up the hill a bit to the um el fahem gallery, an art gallery that is really amazing. we were very lucky because their current exhibit is related to land day. it is called “memories of a place: the photographic history of wadi ‘ara, 1903-2008.” the photographs were amazing. it started off with various family photographs placed on a wall in a manner that you would see in a home of your typical grandparents: all the photographs in various frames, from various periods grouped around together. they also had various documents like diplomas and identity cards framed as well. then the exhibit continued in various rooms showing you the evolution of the city from pre-nakba until the present. it shows the fellaheen, the families, the land, the resistance. there were also various televisions set up showing old footage of um el fahem. one of the more striking and tragic photographs was the one of the village signing over its rights to israeli colonists who terrorized um el fahem into submitting in 1948-49. the exhibit was really powerful and amazing and has been curated as a book by mustafa kabha and guy raz. the link above also has more information about the gallery and the exhibit.

um el fahm signing truce papers with israeli terrorists in 1949
um el fahm signing truce papers with israeli terrorists in 1949
um al fahm
um al fahm

we headed back towards al quds after um al fahm because we wanted to make sure my other friend could see her village before it got dark. she did not know exactly where it was a she had only been there once about 10 years ago. each of my three friends towns/villages represent a different aspect of israeli colonialism: my friend from nasra whose family has remained on their land; my friend from deir rafat who is a refugee whose village destroyed, and whose village is inhabited by internally displaced bedouin and israeli colonists; my friend from malha whose village is mostly destroyed and contains such eyesores as a shopping mall and highways named after terrorists like menachem begin (whose irgun terrorist band attacked malha in march 1948.

israeli colonists' mall with american stores on the stolen land of malha
israeli colonists\’ mall with american stores on the stolen land of malha

my friend’s village still has a number of palestinian homes grouped together on the hill above that shopping mall, but the entire area surrounding it used to contain 300 palestinian homes until jewish terrorist gangs forced the people off of their land. malha, which is a neighborhood of al quds, formed as a village when many people from hijaz to yemen came to help salah el din force the crusaders off of palestinian land. there was a spring called ein yalo below where the sheep and the goats used to drink, but they brought too many insects to the spring so an older man from the village poured salt in the spring. after it became salty the village was known as malha.

malha mosque where israeli colonists now live inside
malha mosque where israeli colonists now live inside

malha is only a couple of kilometers away from deir yassin, where jewish terrorist gangs massacred palestinians on april 9, 1948. they were attacked on march 1st and then again on the 13-14 march in 1948 by irgun and palmach, and later hagana, the names of the terrorist gangs. the village maintained its defense, however, and there were some egyptians who helped them fight and defend their land. throughout this time period–from march through july–some palestinians fled to al quds or beit lahem, but they all kept coming back to harvest their land.

palestinian home in malha
palestinian home in malha
palestinian home in malha
palestinian home in malha
israeli colonists in the old city of al quds
israeli colonists in the old city of al quds

i wish i had the energy to describe how these histories, these experiences comprise land day and its meaning. it holds the essence of resistance and is a reminder not only that palestinian land continues to be confiscated, but also that they can and do resist. it is a reminder that this resistance must continue and must be unified to liberate the land. in an electronic intifada interview jonathan cook did with hatim kanaaneh to commemorate yom al ard yesterday, you can get an idea of what this day represents and the significance it still continues to hold for people here:

“Maybe its significance is surprising given the magnitude of other events in Palestinian history,” said Hatim Kanaaneh, 71, a doctor, who witnessed the military invasion of his village.

“But what makes Land Day resonate with Palestinians everywhere is that it was the first time Palestinians inside Israel stood together and successfully resisted Israel’s goal of confiscating their land.”

The confrontation took place between the army and a group usually referred to as “Israeli Arabs,” the small minority of Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes during the 1948 war that led to the founding of Israel. Today they number 1.2 million, or nearly one-fifth of Israel’s population.

“We were given citizenship by Israel, but have always been treated as an enemy, perceived of as a threat to the state’s Jewishness,” said Dr. Kanaaneh, who last year published his memoir, A Doctor in Galilee, which offers a rare account in English of Palestinian life inside Israel during the Land Day period….

“Government policy was explicitly to make the land Jewish — or Judaize it, as it was called,” Dr. Kanaaneh said.

The announcement in the mid-1970s of the confiscation of a further 2,000 hectares led to the creation of a new body, the National Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands, which provided a more assertive political leadership.

The minority’s decision to strike, Dr. Kanaaneh said, shocked the Israeli authorities, which were not used to challenges to official policy. “Both sides understood the significance of the strike. For the first time we were acting as a national minority, and Israel was very sensitive to anything that suggested we had a national identity or a unified agenda, especially over a key resource like land.”

Although the strike was strictly observed by Palestinians throughout Israel, the focus of the protest were three villages in the central Galilee that faced the loss of a large area of prime agricultural land: Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Deir Hanna.

The prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and his defense minster, Shimon Peres, acted on the eve of the strike.

“What was surprising was that they didn’t send in the police, as you’d expect when dealing with citizens of a country, but the army,” Dr. Kanaaneh said.

land day is important not only to palestinians in 1948 palestine but everywhere, as evidenced by the activities dear baha’a is organizing beirut, for example. here is what he said about the events in beirut for the palestine telegraph:

“The Student Forum is totally independent and the PFLP has no influence over it. The forum was initiated but not controlled by the PFLP.” said Ziad Oudeh, the general coordinator of the Student Forum and the main organizer of the event in Shatila Refugee Camp. The event started at 12:00pm with an exhibition of photos and drawings by refugee kids. “Our main goal is to educate people about Palestinian culture and traditions through art and music. We aim to bring back tradition to the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon. Although we are centered in Shatila Refugee Camp but we target all Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.” Oudeh assured.

People from different refugee camps and other Lebanese citizens started arriving in the next couple of hours. At 4:30pm, the musical event started with Mahmoud Darwish poetry reading while flute music was playing. The singing band of the PFLP followed the poetry and stressed on the Palestinian unity through their songs. After that the audience enjoyed Sabreen Lobbani, a solo 10 years old girl singer.

Then Al-Awdi (the return) troupe performed the Palestinian folkloric dance, Dabkeh. And finally, the event was ended with the Palestinian hip hop band from Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp, I-Voice who performed songs about Palestinian refugees, the right of return and Gaza.

A hip hop band, participated in the action through a new style of music resistance.

“Rap is a tool of freedom of expression. We have a message to deliver through our music, a message of solidarity and unity. And a refugee camp is where we come from and refugees are the right audience. While rap might be considered an untraditional form of music, we try to make it more local and acceptable by singing in Arabic and about directly related to the Palestinian refugee community.” said Yassin and Mohammad from I-Voice.

here in palestine, particularly in the west bank, activities are more sparse. although we did see lovely photographs from friends of ours who were able to go to deir hanna’s protest yesterday because they were not “illegally” inside 1948. there were some activities in nablus, but not one of my 200 students at an najah university even knew what yom al ard was. this is one of the reasons why i canceled my classes and gave them all a homework assignment to find out what yom al ard is and why it is important. i wish that there was a strike protesting this across the country, though there were some demonstrations. of course i know why the palestinian authority won’t make this a national day of mourning or action: they are content with ramallah as constituting the palestinian state. but the rest of the people are not.

deir hana bayan for yom al ard
deir hana bayan for yom al ard

here are some things that palestinians did yesterday to commemorate yom al ard starting with the main protest in deir hanna (see bayan above):

Arab residents of Dir Hanna village, inside the Green Line, are planning to commemorate Land Day on Monday, to demand an end to apartheid and racism. The Protests will sweep through villages in the Galilee, and a number of Arab villages and cities.

The Higher Follow-up Committee announced Dir Hanna village as one of the main locations for the protest marking the 33rd anniversary of Land Day.

The Committee issued a statement calling for marking this day with greater determination and steadfastness especially while extremist parties are coming to power in Israel.

“It seems that racism and fascism became the center point of Israeli politics”, the Committee said in its release, “This year we will mark Land Day with steadfastness and determination to counter racism in Israel”.

The committee added that Israel increased its illegal attacks against Arab villages, demolished and is ongoing with demolishing more homes in the Negev, Jerusalem, and in Arab areas that Israel considers ‘unrecognized villages’.

“The Israeli attacks are targeting Arab and Bedouin villages, in the Negev and in mixed towns along the coast”, the committee said, “This is happening while incitement against the Arabs and Arab leaders is on the rise, while unemployment and poverty is gradually increasing due to Israeli apartheid polices”.

Furthermore, the Committee called on the Palestinian factions to end their difference and unite in order to counter the Israeli expansion plans in the Palestinian territories.

The committee also demanded prosecuting Israeli officials at international courts for war crimes against the Palestinians, especially the war crimes in Gaza, and for war crimes and collective punishment against the Palestinian political detainees in Israeli prisons.

and in the knesset (or not) :

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin is due to be elected Knesset speaker Monday afternoon, but Arab Knesset factions are objecting to the timing of the vote. On Monday the Arab sector commemorates Land Day, marking violent protests in 1976 over government land policies in which six Arabs were killed.

MKs from Arab factions are expected to be absent Monday from the vote, after failing to convince acting speaker Michael Eitan that it should be rescheduled to take place on Tuesday.

in salfit:

The Red Crescent hosted a Youth Council-organized day of planting trees and cleaning streets to mark the annual Land Day anniversary on Monday.

The coordinator of the Youth Council told Ma’an that the celebrations were a way to “keep reminding people that they have a land to be protected, and to be aware of what is going on in Jerusalem with the house demolitions.”

and via telephone, because palestinians are forcibly separated from one another:

Palestinian Knesset member Muhammad Barakah spoke to Beit Hanoun Land Day commemorators over the phone Monday, and encouraged them to continue their struggle for autonomy.

“We are struggling in a battle to prove our existence and to protect our confiscated lands,” Barakah told large crowds in the northern Gaza Strip town. He called for unity in the face of the latest Israeli policies to demolish homes in East Jerusalem and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Coordinator of the local initiative Saber Az-Za’anin called on ralliers to “remember those people who sacrificed their souls defending the nation and the land in A`rrabeh, Sakhnin and other Galilee areas: Khadija Shawahneh, Raja Abu Rayya, Muhsen Taha, Khader Khalaileh, Kher Yasin and Ra’fat Zuhdy.”

this year, as i mentioned yesterday, bds is an important part of land day as you can see in this statement from the national committee in palestine:

Land Day this year takes on further significance in light of Israel’s atrocious war of aggression against the hermetically besieged Palestinian people in the occupied Gaza Strip. The more than 1,400 deaths, 5,000 injuries, and 14,000 homes damaged or destroyed are only the latest manifestation of the contempt with which Palestinian life is regarded by Israel. The silence of powerful world governments in the face of the massacre was yet another astounding failure of the “international community” to uphold international law and to hold Israel to account for persistently and gravely violating the most basic of international norms.

Indeed, all these forms of Israeli colonial and racist oppression could not have reached this critical level without the direct or indirect support and collusion of the United States, the European Union and many other countries, including several Arab regimes. The isolation of Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), as was done to apartheid South Africa, must become a top priority for anyone struggling for freedom, justice and the consistent application of international law and universal human rights principles.

For the martyrs of land day and the thousands of others who gave their lives for freedom, justice and self-determination, for the thousands imprisoned for their commitment to human dignity, for Gaza, for return, equality and freedom, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) calls on people of conscience around the world struggling against all forms of oppression to boycott Israel and divest from it and from companies profiting from its oppression until it fully abides by its obligations under international law and recognizes our inalienable rights on our land. We salute all the groups and individuals who heeded the call to organize BDS-related activities on this Global Day of Action for Palestine. With your support, we shall overcome.

why do we boycott? because we know it works!:

21% of Israeli exporters have been directly affected by the boycott movement since the beginning of 2009. So reports today (29 March) The Marker, a Hebrew-language economic newspaper.

This number is based on a poll of 90 Israeli exporters in fields such as high tech, metals, construction materials, chemistry, textile and foods. The poll was conducted in January-February 2009 by the Israeli Union of Industrialists.

The AIC is working to receive a copy of this poll, and will translated and distribute relevant sections of it in service of the global boycott movement.

the bds is an important piece for so many reasons, but so is resistance in general. we need to resist the continued land theft as well as get back palestinian stolen land. this is why i spent this weekend with my friends from deheishe refugee camp in their villages, on their land, and connecting with their history to continue to inspire them to keep up this fight, this struggle. this was my little strike, but we need far bigger strikes. much more resistance to seek the ultimate goal of liberating the land.

note: apologies for my incoherent self. after dinner last night i had to drive from al quds to nablus. it was late–10 pm or so when i left, i think. i went to beitiba checkpoint, which was supposed to be open completely with no soldiers. not only were there soldiers there, it had a brand new yellow metal gate. the soldiers said i could not go home. running out of battery on my phone, and gas in the car, i decided to try huwara checkpoint again. huwara had the same yellow, metal gate. apparently after midnight the checkpoints are closed, effectively sealing off the cities and villages as prisons. this way when the israeli terrorists invade every night they have a captive population they can murder and keep from fleeing (think gaza on a smaller scale). i was so exhausted by this point from driving and little sleep that i screamed at the soldiers reminding them that as an american i paid for those guns they were pointing at me and that if they didn’t let me go home to sleep in my bed i would sleep in the checkpoint itself. i’ve made this threat before, but to no avail. this time, for some reason, it worked. they didn’t even check my passport. they just let me through. but my exhaustion is related to this lack of sleep, which is related to the ridiculous hurdles and bulls*&^ rules (you will recall that my same yellow license plates were forbidden to enter nablus through huwara on thursday, but last night the reason i could not enter was because the checkpoint was closed) that they make up as they go along just to f*&^ with you.

first they came for the palestinians…

listen closely to the opening words of this video when barack obama says:

we must mean the words we say when we speak the words never again.

of course, my question is: never again for whom? only jews?

today (well, technically yesterday as it’s now 12:43 am) is international holocaust remembrance day (united nations). if you read my earlier post you know how israeli terrorists spent their day: killing palestinians. but that is a normal, daily activity for them. how many of these people are the grandchildren of holocaust survivors, i wonder?

qui qui posted a link on kabobfest to an article with hillary clinton expressing her support for the israeli terrorist attack on gaza today entitled “This one goes out to all of you pro-Palestine Obamatards” and here is what the original article says:

“It is regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza,” she added.

a somewhat new american organization, the international jewish anti-zionist network posted quite a different sort of statement today about the situation in gaza and parallels that can be drawn between the warsaw ghetto and gaza:

picture-13

Last week, after murdering 1400 people – of whom 400 were children – after bombing hospitals and mosques, schools, universities and humanitarian supplies, and tens of thousand of homes, Israel declared a cease-fire. A shameful parade of European leaders immediately went to Jerusalem to embrace the mass murderers and to pledge their support for the continuing siege of Gaza.

The primary purpose of this massacre was to break the spirit of the Palestinian people until they surrender and accept their fate as lesser human beings. As former Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said in 2002, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” European leaders support this goal, as did previous U.S. administrations, as do the ruling elites of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi-Arabia, despite the fury of their peoples. We wait to see if the freshly inaugurated Obama Administration will break with sixty long years of attack on the Palestinian people armed and financed by the U.S. and Europe.

We grieve with the people of Gaza. We see the faces of the children, of the women and the men; we hear their voices. We also hear the silence of the leaders of Western countries, intermittently broken by evasive platitudes. And we are reminded of the time when the world turned a blind eye while our forebears, our families, were slaughtered.

100,000 Palestinians were made homeless in Gaza this month. Most of them became refugees in 1948 when they were expelled at gunpoint from their towns and villages. Now they are homeless again, even in their land of exile, and at risk of being driven out from Palestine altogether.

Yet on January 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the leaders of the U.S. and Europe will be joined in honoring the memory of our dead. Even as we seek to remember and to honor the immensity of that loss, we struggle to find words to convey the hypocrisy of these ceremonies, in which those who are silent today pay homage to the victims of yesterday’s silence.

The radical Jewish writer Walter Benjamin, who died while fleeing the Nazis, wrote, “not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.” The Third Reich was defeated, and yet, “the enemy has not ceased to be victorious.” Racism, mass murder, and genocide continue to be accepted tools of statecraft. Even our dead are not safe. They have been called up, disturbed, dredged from their mass graves and forced to testify against their fellow human beings in pain, to confess a hatred that was alien to them and to offer themselves up as justification for a new cycle of suffering in Palestine. Their ghosts have been enlisted to help displace fellow Jews from Arab homelands, and to bequeath to them that same alien hatred, conscripting those of us descending from Arab lands to become enemies of our own memory and past.

The Jewish British MP Gerald Kaufman spoke in anguish while the massacres in Gaza were taking place: “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.” We share and echo that refusal. Let not the memory of Jews murdered by the Nazi regime serve as cover for the attempted destruction of the Palestinian people!

Although the guns are relatively silent, this genocidal assault on the Palestinian people isn’t over. The siege, the lack of food and fresh water, the disease-threatening broken sewage system, and economic collapse and humanitarian crisis persist in Gaza with the full support of the U.S., Europe and the Egyptian government. As the siege of Gaza continues, so does the slow ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the home demolitions, the building of the apartheid wall, the settlement build-up, the economic devastation of the towns and villages strangled by checkpoints, the assault on Palestinian neighborhoods in Jaffa, Akka, Lydda, the Galilee and the Negev, the mass imprisonment of Palestinians (over 11,000), and all the large and small ways by which Israel is seeking to crush the spirit and erase the presence of the Palestinian people in their homeland.

Faced with the threat of annihilation in Europe, Jews resisted. From ghettos to concentration camps and within countries under occupation, Jews led resistance to the Nazi regime. Today, from the ghetto of Gaza to the Bantustans of the West Bank and from the neighborhoods of Jaffa and Akka to cities across the globe, Palestinians resist Israel’s attempt to destroy them as a people. On January 27th, honoring the memory of our dead is for us inseparable from honoring more than sixty years of Palestinian survival and resistance. Only when the Palestinian people regain their freedom will the dead rest safely. Then we will all celebrate another victory for life.

and, of course, it isn’t just gaza. israeli terrorists also promised to render homeless families in khalil today:

Israeli authorities are planning to demolish Palestinian homes near Hebron, according to an advance notice sent to residents on Tuesday.

The demolitions will affect residents at Um Lasfah, a village east of Hebron’s Yatta area.

Demolition notices were sent to Ismail Al-Adra, warning of the impending action, which will leave 20 Palestinians homeless. Israeli authorities demolished several houses in the same area in 2008.

Israel is also planning to demolish an eight-meter room inside the house of Ismail A’lian, who lost his last appeal against the action, according to a similar notice.

of course the sixty-one year (really over 120 years if you think about it) ethnic cleansing project of zionist theft and murder of palestinian lands and people is not the same as the holocaust, but as i have written before it is especially disturbing and ironic that those who shove this history down your throat and wield it as a weapon forcing you to submit into silence continue these crimes unabated. the irony seems to be lost on them.

there is a group in the united kingdom that has a website for this holocaust remembrance day and on it they have a famous poem that i read many times growing up:

First They Came – Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
First they came for the Socialist
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
First they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
First they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

of course we know what the world does, what the world did, with respect to palestinians. they continue their 61 year silence. the lessons of never again are never learned. take this shmuck david cesarani, for example, who has an op ed in the guardian today:

Auschwitz was the terminus. But we have to keep our eye on where it originated: in the attitudes of ordinary people. That is why the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘”Stand Up to Hatred”. Yes, we have to preserve Auschwitz, but we also have to remember that without hate it would never have been built.

if you click on the above link and read the entire tedious article you’ll notice that there is not one mention of gaza. not one mention of palestine. and yet he claims that holocaust remembrance day is about standing up for hatred more generally. you begin to see that he, like obama, like clinton, like everyone else, applies this concept of hatred or silence or never again in a very limited and narrow sense.

never again shouldn’t only apply to palestinians, of course. it is difficult to keep up with all of the other human tragedies around the globe most of the time because i am inundated with it on so many levels where i live. the following post from blogger virgil hawkins is a useful reminder that palestinians are not alone in the way that their suffering remains silenced by the western media, which is interesting given his argument (note the post is a bit dated as in the past week the situation in somalia and the congo has deteriorated):

Forget the series of Christmas massacres by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in eastern DRC that left more than 400 dead (including more than 45 killed in a church) and the coalition of countries in the region trying to hunt them down. Forget the deadly clashes with Congolese rebels poised to take over the city of Goma. Forget Somalia, where the Ethiopian forces that invaded (with US assistance) two years ago are being forced by local resistance forces to pack and leave. Forget all of these conflicts, because violence has broken out again in Israel-Palestine.

The latest conflagration of violence in Israel-Palestine continues to dominate international news around the world. The details of who is attacking who with what, how many people have died (down to single digit figures), and how many of them were women and children, together with in-depth political analysis and a touch of humanitarian concern are all fed through the newspapers, television, radio and internet news outlets on a daily basis. And all with the utmost care to avoid displeasing lobby groups that will rain down thousands of e-mails, telephone calls and letters (flak) upon the unfortunate media corporation suspected of even the slightest bias (and possibly revoke their advertising contracts).

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a ‘chosen’ conflict. It always is. It has the rare privilege of being the focus of saturated attention every time there is a conflagration (despite the fact that the conflict is not occurring in a ‘white’ Western country, and despite the fact that the USA is not a direct belligerent in the conflict – always sure factors for a conflict to attract soaring levels of attention). Explaining why this is so would take a book or two, but let’s just scratch the surface here. Politicians in much of the Western world obsess about the issue, largely because a significant amount of their election campaign contributions seem to depend on their favourable attention in many cases. Politicians in much of the Muslim world do likewise, because standing up against the oppression of Muslims at the hands of Israel is much more popular than standing up against the oppression of Muslims at the hands of anyone else. The fact that the conflict region is considered the ‘Holy Land’ by Muslims, Jews and Christians helps cement this process.

For media corporations, providing saturation coverage of the conflict is nothing short of automatic. What is considered important by media corporations is based largely on what the policymakers at home consider to be important, almost by default. Keeping reporters close to those making foreign policy at home is much cheaper than sending them all over the world to independently gather news. In the competitive media business, budgets are better spent on packaging and presenting news than actually gathering it. Furthermore, for media corporations that have little newsgathering capacity (and oddly, even for those that do), the news value of a story is often determined by what leading media corporations (like the New York Times) think it should be. In this environment of follow-the-leader (policymakers and leading media corporations) and pack journalism, having a reporter in Africa is optional, having one in Israel-Palestine is not. Once the reporter is stationed there, ‘fresh’ coverage of the issue on demand is cheap and easy (far more so than actually sending someone to far-away and logistically challenging Africa to cover something after it happens).

Because of the combination of follow-the-leader, pack journalism, and lack of newsgathering capacity, this state of affairs can be seen spreading to the rest of the world as well. Japan has no cultural or religious affinity with Israel-Palestine, and its politicians are not reliant on campaign contributions from pro-Israeli lobby groups, yet its media corporations follow the Western leaders in devoting heavy coverage to the issue. Even locally-focused news programs that rarely have any time for foreign affairs issues make sure to include news of the latest conflagration in their bulletins. With little budget for foreign newsgathering, Zambia’s leading newspaper (the Post) buys its world news from foreign news agencies. The result is that it gives more coverage to the situation in Israel-Palestine than it does to the eight countries on Zambia’s border combined. In the year 2004, for example, it devoted 9 percent of its foreign coverage to Israel-Palestine, but only 4 percent to all of Zambia’s eight neighbours.

On top of this, things have always been this way, so they tend to stay that way. Israel-Palestine has always been considered important, and ‘important’ people think it is, so it must be important. Groups (interest/lobby) and individuals with a special interest in the conflict in Israel-Palestine are also well-positioned to continue the process of drawing copious amounts of attention to the conflict, in political spheres and in the ownership of prominent media corporations. Africa, on the other hand, has not been considered important (for a variety of separate reasons that will be dealt with in another post), and therefore no one knows about it, and therefore it is not important. It becomes a vicious cycle.

The public, who remain largely at the mercy of the media corporations in obtaining morsels of information about the outside world, seem to end up with the same distorted view of the world. In a simple classroom survey conducted of 37 Australian university students (studying in a course on war and peace no less) in 2003, the conflict in Israel-Palestine was the most common answer (9 respondents) to the question of which conflict in the world they thought had been the deadliest since the end of the Cold War. Only one of the 37 could even name the conflict in the DRC as one of the world’s deadliest conflicts, and that was at third place behind Israel-Palestine and Afghanistan. In a similar survey conducted of 151 university students in Japan in 2008, not a single one could name the DRC as the world’s deadliest conflict. Fourteen students, on the other hand, thought that the conflict in Israel-Palestine was world’s deadliest, coming in at third place behind Iraq and Kosovo.

This is despite the fact that the virtually unknown conflict in the DRC is 1,000 times deadlier than that in Israel-Palestine. And I don’t mean that figuratively, it is literally 1,000 times deadlier – the death toll from conflict in the DRC since 1998 is roughly 6 million, while the death toll from conflict in Israel-Palestine since 2000 is roughly 6 thousand. At least 38 conflicts since the end of the Cold War have been deadlier than that in Israel-Palestine. Put simply, while these surveys are limited in their scope, they suggest that collectively, the general public has no idea about the state of conflict in the world. Their perspective on which conflicts are the largest and deadliest is so skewed that the reality is unrecognizable. But who can blame them, considering the horribly unbalanced diet of media they feed on. I invite you to try out simple surveys like this (“Which conflict in the world do you think has been the deadliest since the end of the Cold War?”) with those around you.

In some ways, I almost regret writing this post, because I am becoming part of the very bandwagon that I am discussing – by writing about why the issue is important, I am inadvertently boosting the attention it receives… But some discussion of the issue of ‘chosen’ conflicts is also necessary in order for the discussion of ‘stealth’ conflicts to make sense.

i posted the above blog entry in full because i think it raises important questions about the media and the role that racism plays in what gets covered. but there is also the added issue of how it gets covered. as hawkins says, it is not that palestine doesn’t get media coverage, it does. but what kind? i can’t bear to read american newspapers or watch their television coverage any longer so i rely on bloggers and friends who send me the rare item of note. or i rely on angry arab’s coverage of reporting in newspapers like the new york times. you can check through his postings over the last month and get a clear idea of the many ways in which the american media works very hard to cover stories like gaza through israeli terrorist propaganda. but equally as important for us to question and challenge is why never again isn’t applied to war crimes in places like the congo? why are we silent about all of these conflicts in which brown people are the victims and american and european corporations (and oftentimes israeli corporations) are the culprits? i think that the issue of silence is connected here, but it just functions in different ways.

take dina jadallah-taschler’s article which demonstrates how american media, as the mouthpiece for israeli terrorist state propaganda renders palestinians as subhuman:

In the mainstream, Zionist-inspired narrative, Israel’s “right to exist” precedes and supersedes all else and, in fact, does so uniquely in the world of nations, since under international law, no other nation has or demands such a right. For Israel to have this right entails the obliteration (and not even acknowledgment) of a similar parallel right of the displaced population, the Palestinians, to also exist. Therefore, any war that Israel starts – or in most Western media narratives, does not start — it is ipso facto defensive and justified. Any questioning of this frame of reference is liable to be branded “anti-semitic”, thus conflating (and importantly from a propagandistic point of view, confusing) the actions of a state, which is first and foremost a political actor, with the belief system and religion of an entire group of people.

One of the many consequences of this superimposed narrative is to render the Palestinians almost un-human — untermenschen if you will. I use the term “human” here in its full sense as embodied in the spirit and law of the United Nations Charter and Resolutions as well as the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Very briefly, the former guarantees the rights of a national people to independence and guarantees them the right to resist occupation. The second additionally guarantees political, cultural, and economic rights to all human beings. And yet, today we find the Palestinians as the last still colonized people who are deprived of any right to resist the colonizing and occupying power.

just look at the lengths tony benn has to go through to let people know about the disasters emergency committee’s appeal for funds for gaza on the bbc:


benn sites an article from 2005 in the independent that details the bias of bbc head mark thompson.
here is the ad the bbc and sky news have refused to air:

but all of this silence and repression is ironic because of the rhetoric we are subjected to from the mouths of israeli terrorists murdering palestinians every single day for 61 years. consider this from gabriela shalev:

Shalev said during her speech that the Holocaust may have terminated with crematoriums, but it began with words.

“To remain silent and indifferent to the horrors of the Holocaust is probably the greatest sin of all, let alone denying it,” she said. “We have a responsibility to act against the forces of anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism in any form.”

Shalev added that the Jewish people maintained a hope that no nation would call for the destruction of another people, though the aspiration has not yet been achieved. She also recounted the story of her grandparents, who perished in Auschwitz.

ironic, too, given that while her thinly veiled comment alludes to hamas, her government, which she is a mouthpiece for is actually destroying another people, the palestinian people. you can spend today thinking about this notion of never again and how vapid it is while surveying the palestinians murdered at the hands of israeli terrorists at this website, the gaza holocaust museum.