G4S in India

 

 

 

So far I have seen three G4S offices in Bangalore alone. I have also seen their cars driving around the city. When I was in Darjeeling recently, I discovered that they also ran security for the Darjeeling zoo. They seem to operate as an ordinary security company, but they are anything but ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At present there is a campaign to vote for G4S as the worst company in the world. There are many reasons for this, but the main points of interest are related to G4S role in maintaining Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, particularly its prisons, apartheid wall, and checkpoints. Writing for Electronic Intifada, Adri Nieuwhof explains their role:

The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”

G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not  “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”

In a follow up article, in part responding to G4S concerns about the claims made in the above-quoted article, Nieuwhof adds more details about G4S involvement in oppressing Palestinians for Israelis:

In the brochure, published by the Danish watchdog DanWatch, G4S describes the supply of a perimeter defense system for the walls around the Ofer prison compound and the installation of a central command room to monitor the entire Ofer compound. In addition, the company writes it also provided all the security systems in Ketziot prison and a central command room in Megiddo prison (G4S delivers technology to Israeli prisons,” DanWatch, 21 November 2010).

G4S boasts that the three prisons can detain 2,700-3,700 “security” prisoners — the majority of whom are Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip illegally transferred to detention centers within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundary. International humanitarian law forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory and the conditions in Israeli prisons do not meet international legal standards. Accordingly, G4S’s involvement in the Israel Prison Service apparatus abets violations of international law.

G4S’s promotional material contradicts its claim that it does not know where its X-ray machines and body scanners are used. Who Profits? — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — has also documented that G4S luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners are used at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank towns of Qalandiya, Bethlehem and Irtah. G4S also provided full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint at Gaza. Who Profits? told The Electronic Intifada that this information is published in G4S’s own website and brochures.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on  human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, highlighted G4S role in maintaining Israeli apartheid in his report on various corporations that profit off of Palestinian suffering.

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As a result of these findings, BDS activists have been working to target G4S in various ways. And in 2012 there were several success:

The British firm Good Energy announced that it would end its business relationship with G4S, the private security giant with a track record of complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses.

After sustained media attention and pressure from BDS activists, several Danish charities and a bank decided to end security service contracts with the British-Danish security company G4S for the company’s role in Israel’s occupation.

The University of Oslo in Norway announced it would drop its contract with private security company G4S in July 2013 over the company’s involvement with Israeli prisons and its providing of services and equipment to checkpoints, Israel’s wall in the West Bank, settlement and settlement businesses.

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One of my favorite actions targeting G4S last year was one done in London during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Michael Deas’ report on the action in the above video offers inspiration to those wanting to take action based on others who have been fighting G4S:

Danish bank, several major Danish NGOs and a UK energy supplier have all dropped their links with G4S after pressure from campaigners. The EU declined to renew a contract with G4S following a campaign supported by members of the European Parliament. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway are campaigning for the university not to renew its contract with the security company when it expires in February 2014.

For those who want to read a detailed report about G4S role in Palestine, Who Profits published a report on the subject.

BDS is new in India, but it is growing especially among cultural workers and academics. I hope that it soon spreads to the economic sector, especially targeting multinational corporations like G4S.

yes, boycott works.

a couple of weeks ago i posted about the campaign to write to amnesty international in order to get them to comply with the boycott and pull out their funding of a leonard cohen concert in the zionist entity. well, it worked. here is the official statement reporting this victory from the palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”

A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

boycott, divestment, and sanctions is picking up steam in british unions as well as asa winstanley reported in electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago:

The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has won several important victories in recent months. At this summer’s trade union conferences in Britain, BDS activists have made significant progress.

While the campaign has been building momentum in unions globally since the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza has spurred several trade unions and union federations in Britain and Ireland to pass motions more explicitly in favor of BDS. Several are calling for BDS for the first time.

Tom Hickey, a member of the University and College Union’s (UCU) national executive committee, said, “The question of the moral rightness or wrongness [of BDS against Israel] has effectively already been decided.”

Although the Trade Union Congress (the British union federation) has not yet passed a BDS motion, affiliated unions have begun taking up the Palestinian call themselves. So far this summer, the public sector union PCS, the UCU and the Fire Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and government sanctions against the state.

Unions such as public sector union UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, USDAW and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have this summer passed softer motions calling for elements of BDS. These are usually calls for a boycott of settlement goods, or for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel. The CWU and others have condemned the infamous 13 January 2008 statement of the Israeli trade union federation in support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which read: “The Histadrut recognizes the urgent need for the State of Israel to operate against the command and control centers of the organizational terror network …”

In addition, a report has been circulating on the Internet that the rail workers’ union, the RMT, has reversed an earlier policy of “solidarity not boycott” and passed a motion in favor of some sort of BDS policy at their July Annual General Meeting. The official AGM report has yet to be released to the general public, but the RMT’s media office confirmed the report was probably accurate. However, they did not return calls for official confirmation in time for publication.

and folks in ann arbor are taking the bds campaign to their local city council making important arguments about americans funding apartheid in palestine (not to mention occupations and massacres in afghanistan, iraq, and pakistan) rather than using those funds to rebuild cities like detroit where a majority african americans live. palestine think tank posted a video of their city council hearing (and you can use this model to do the same at your municipal level):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

there is also good news about a british bank, blackrock, divesting from the africa-israel company (that has a horrific record of land theft as well as massacres in palestine as well as in africa, as the name indicates):

When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and was offered the opportunity of occupying a building owned by the investment company Africa-Israel Investments, the ambassador refrained. The reason was that the company was also responsible for settlements on the occupied West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments’ main owner is Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Now the UK bank BlackRock has followed in the footsteps of the ambassador.

The bank was for a while the second largest shareholder in the Israeli investment company. Africa-Israel Investments is, among other things, in on the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (above). The construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is in conflict with international law.

It was Norwatch who this past spring revealed BlackRock’s investments in the controversial company and how private investors in Norway could invest in the project by means of the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe.

This was possible through Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon.

But after all 3 banks have taken action, the British bank has now announced its divestment from the Israeli company. This must have happened sometime between June and August, possibly as late as this week.

“We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio,” Johnny Anderson, Information Manager of Skandiabanken, confirmed to Norwatch. The confirmation of the divestment was sent to Skandiabanken the day before yesterday, on 18 August.

“The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds,” Anderson said.

The e-mail from BlackRock to Skandiabanken was sent after the Swedish-Norwegian bank had approached BlackRock with regard to the controversial Israel involvement. That is the first time that Skandiabanken had contacted BlackRock about the case. Also the bank Danica Pensjon end of last week contacted BlackRock about the matter, confirmed Geir Wik, Sales and Marketing Director of Danica Pensjon to Norwatch yesterday.

and the big surprise was to open my local newspaper the other morning, the los angeles times, where i found a prominent op-ed from a zionist terrorist colonist advocating the boycott of the zionist entity. the article is generally good, though this professor, neve gordon, still believes in zionism and his right to be a colonist on palestinian land. but given that he came this far, perhaps an acknowledgment that he does not have a right to land that once belonged to palestinians who are now refugees will be forthcoming. here is the op-ed:

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

nevertheless his op-ed is getting quite a bit of airtime in the zionist entity’s media. thus, yet another sign of their fear of how much the boycott campaign is working. there was one article in today’s ha’aretz in which the education minister slammed gordon. and los angeles jews seem to be foaming at the mouth as this second article in ha’aretz today shows that they want to boycott a university in the zionist entity (a win-win situation! ) there was yet another article responding to gordon’s piece in a zionist rag called the jewish journal, which takes the threats even further: to boycott he arabs.

gordon’s ben gurion university is no different than any other university in the zionist entity that participates in the production of knowledge that enables the colonization of palestine. recently soas authored a report on the extent of tel aviv university’s collaboration in the savaging of gaza (if you follow the link you can download the entire study):

As part of Tel Aviv’s centenary celebration, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London hosted a Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series from January to March 2009.

Taking place in the midst of Israel’s war on Gaza — which had already mobilized SOAS students to organize a number of activities in solidarity with Gaza, including the first student occupation in the UK — students and a number of lecturers expressed their opposition to the lecture series.

The student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing the lecture series’ attempt to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. The School’s Director, Professor Paul Webley, opposed the cancellation and defended the continuation of the lecture series by invoking a prerogative of freedom of speech and citing the pedagogic value of diversities of opinion. Conspicuously absent in the Director’s defense was any engagement with the nature and scope of TAU’s research portfolio.

In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. While the signatories of the briefing paper recognized the importance of freedom of speech, they were also keenly aware of the need to uphold the rights of the oppressed and expressed that no right reigns absolute over the fundamental right to life. It is precisely therefore that it is wholly untenable that partnerships with institutions facilitating, advocating and justifying ongoing war crimes can be legitimized with recourse to an ideal of academic freedom.

compare soas to harvard university’s invitation to a bona fide war criminal of the zionist entity last month as maryam monalisa gharavi and anat matar wrote in electronic intifada last month:

On 9 July Harvard University’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) invited Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, former Israeli military legal adviser, to their online Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum. The stated aim was to bring “objective” discussion to the principle of distinction in international humanitarian law, or what the forum organizers called “combat in civilian population centers and the failure of fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population.”

Although billed as a lecturer in the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University — and therefore as a detached humanitarian law analyst — Colonel Sharvit-Baruch was in fact deeply involved in Israel’s three-week onslaught in Gaza in December and January, that counted its 1,505th victim found under rubble earlier this month. With the devastating operation condemned and mourned worldwide, many asked why a ranking member of an occupying army that flouts its legal obligations should herself receive safe havens at two major universities.

What troubled many of the 200 or so participants who “attended” the talk via a virtual chatroom was that Sharvit-Baruch was cut off from public or legal scrutiny as she relayed her PowerPoint presentation. Questions were posed by the moderators, sanitized of any critical content. Yet the indisputable fact is that the army for which Sharvit-Baruch worked has been accused by all major human rights organizations of committing war crimes in Gaza. Some wondered why Sharvit-Baruch was being given the opportunity to offer a carefully prepared presentation unchallenged in an academic setting, rather than giving testimony to a tribunal or inquiry such as that being conducted Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist heading an independent fact-finding mission into human rights violations during Israel’s attack at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since the event organizers did not ask pointed questions about Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s actual role in Gaza, it is worth doing so here. As head of the International Law department (ILD) at the Israeli Military Advocate General’s office, Sharvit-Baruch is known for green-lighting the bombing of a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed dozens of civil policemen. This was no ordinary airstrike. It was premised on a legal sleight-of-hand: that even traffic cops in Gaza could be considered “legitimate targets” under international law. In a conversation with conscripts at a military prep academy in Israel, school director Danny Zamir noted, “I was terribly surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the killing of the Gaza traffic police on the first day of the operation. They took out 180 traffic cops. As a pilot, I would have questioned that.”

Further, the Israeli army used heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza, against the UNRWA’s headquarters and a UN school in Beit Lahiya. As reported by Judge Goldstone, Gazans trying to relay their civilian status were also hit. Even though the Israeli military tried several times to deny its use, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on white phosphorous use in Gaza quotes an unnamed Israeli official: “at least one month before [white phosphorus] was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications.” HRW found that “in violation of the laws of war, the [Israeli army] generally failed to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm” and “used white phosphorus in an indiscriminate manner causing civilian death and injury.”

Such reckless disregard for the lives of civilians and pathological cover-ups of military operations are recognized by many Israelis within the system itself. According to one Israeli jurist speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the ILD is considered “more militant than any other legal agency in Israel, and willing to adopt the most flexible interpretations of the law in order to justify the [Israel army’s] actions.” Although the ILD personnel “are now very proud of their influence upon the combat” in Gaza, human rights groups have stated that “residents weren’t advised then as to which places were safe, and the roads by which they fled were bombed and turned into death traps.”

One of the most indelible perspectives about Israel’s legal gymnastics to justify its actions comes from Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner. “What is being done today is a revision of international law,” Reisner has said, “and if you do something long enough, the world will accept it. All of international law is built on that an act which is forbidden today can become permissible, if enough states do it.” In expressing how the ILD moves forward by turning back the pages of legal jurisdiction, Reisner says, “We invented the doctrine of the preemptive pinpoint strike, we had to promote it, and in the beginning there were protrusions which made it difficult to fit it easily into the mold of legality. Eight years later, it’s in the middle of the realm of legitimacy.”

Sharvit-Baruch herself explained her vision of international law at a presentation for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “International law is developed according to practices. It changes based on what is happening in the field. These laws must be based on precedents, what already exists. There is flexibility in every law.” By this law of flexibility, the more aberrations of international law a state can legitimize, the more hoary actions it can continue to execute and justify.

Since the attack on Gaza, numerous testimonies of Israeli soldiers published in Israel, have corroborated the accounts of Palestinian witnesses and human rights organizations that serious war crimes were endemic.

Despite the blunt admissions of Israeli soldiers widely published in the Israeli press, it was clear from her calm presentation that Sharvit-Baruch and her cohort live in their own rhetorical universe where even language is assaulted. In the Colonel’s own terminology, non-existent vocabulary in international law such as “capacity builders” and “revolving doors” is coined to pass over accepted terms such as “civilians” and “non-combatants.” Like the US government’s “torture memo” authors — who in contrast to Israel’s were not uniformed ranking members of the army — the Israeli military attempted to reclassify a “civilian” in a manner making it easier to strip them of protections provided by international humanitarian law. “Architecture of words,” said one participant

Despite all this, by her own standards, Sharvit-Baruch and her team could not be faulted for their efficiency: in Gaza, banning all media from entering; assaulting the population with air missiles, sniper ground troops, and white phosphorus; condemning all criticism of military actions as contrary to state security; keeping a chin above the law; attaining a teaching position at Tel Aviv University and finally a prestigious opportunity to address Harvard students and faculty.

but in england they are far more advanced than the united states when it comes to responding to war crimes against palestinians. consider the new (albeit partial) arms embargo against the zionist entity as a penalty for its war crimes in gaza as ian black reported in the guardian:

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

but there is also more bds activism emanating from the zionist entity itself, particularly in the queer community as the monthly review zine reported today:

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

We are disturbed by the cynical manipulation of these deaths to bolster support for the Israeli state and its violent policies. When Israeli politicians say that this is an unprecedented level of violence, and promise to create safety for LGBTQ people in Israel, they are using the promise of safety to hide the violence and domination that is foundational to the Israeli state. When Zionist groups emphasize the growing gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, they are using the illusion of safety to draw support and funding to Israel from liberal queer and Jewish people around the world. We reject these lies, as well as the manipulation of our communities for profit and to increase military and political support for Israel.

Just as we reject the lie that Zionism is premised on the safety of Jews, we reject the lie that Israel prioritizes and values the safety of LGBTQ citizens of Israel. The safety Israel claims to extend to LGBTQ people is false; we do not accept an illusion of safety for some at the expense of self determination for others. No matter who Zionism claims to save or value, nothing can justify the targeting, suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people.

We call on LGBTQ communities to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli violence. Putting words into action, we call on LGBTQ communities across the world to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with full international law, including an immediate end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, a dismantling of the wall, an end to war crimes against the people of Gaza, and for the Palestinian Right of Return.

Specifically, we call on these communities to boycott international LGBTQ events held inside of Israel; to abstain from touring Israel as is marketed to LGBTQ people — with the exception of solidarity visits to Palestine; and to counter and boycott the promotion of Israeli LGBTQ tourism, and Israeli cultural and academic events in the countries in which we reside — unless they are in clear and undivided solidarity with Palestine. By these actions, we show a commitment to justice and humanity consistent with our outrage against this hateful and deadly attack that occurred in Tel Aviv.

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

Ayala Shani
Edo Medicks
Emily Schaeffer
Hamutal Erato
Leiser Peles
Liad Kantorowicz
Moran Livnat
Nitzan Aviv
Noa Abend
Rotem Biran
Roy Wagner
Segev (Lilach) Ben- David
Sonya Soloviov
Tal Shapira
Yossef/a Mekyton
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Ben-David

these actions are all essential in promoting the reality that bds is the only thing that is breaking the zionist entity and that will continue to help it fall to its knees. faris giacaman’s brilliant piece in electronic intifada illustrates precisely why bds is the best mode of solidarity among activists who are against apartheid in palestine:

Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict,” no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel — the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught “to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills — all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation.” They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against “coexistence,” they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that “dialogue” and “fostering coexistence” is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these “dialogue” groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between “both sides of the conflict,” in order to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.” However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the “other” point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to “coexistence” or “reconciliation.”

Such an approach is deemed “balanced” or “moderate,” as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and “talking” will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha — “holding firmly to the truth,” his term for his nonviolent resistance movement — and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government’s colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of “dialogue” for the purpose of “understanding the other side of the story.” Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having “both sides heard.”

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool — not to promote so-called “understanding,” — but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or “having them recognize our humanity.”

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure — not persuasion — will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.” A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce “a single peace activist on either side.” This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be “children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population.” The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped “promote peace culture and dialogue between participants.”

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, “there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 … it became an industry — we call it the peace industry.”

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli “leftists” and “liberals” to feel as if they are doing something admirable to “question themselves,” while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of “coexistence,” and the “liberal” Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of “fostering peace.” A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and “coexistence” groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel’s inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the “conflict” is very complex and multifaceted, where there are “two sides to every story,” and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities — whether they be film screenings or summer camps — can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between “both sides” of the so-called “conflict.” Any call for a “balanced” discourse on this issue — where the motto “there are two sides to every story” is revered almost religiously — is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as “balance.” The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

for those who feel inspired to carry on the bds campaign there is a new campaign to initiate. you can start with locating where wine from the zionist entity is sold, which is, of course, made from stolen grapes in from occupied palestine and syria:

Israel exports roughly $22 million dollars worth of wine a year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned Pelter winery in the Golan Heights benefits from the cool climate and water-rich soil of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 – a move rejected by the United Nations.

Sam Pelter, whose son Tal founded the winery after extensive wine-making studies in Australia, says he combines Australian techniques and technology with Golan grapes. His wines sell at $18-$50 a bottle and are sold in the United States and Europe.

Some 18-20 percent of Israeli wine comes from the Golan, according to wine critic Rogov, though wines made on disputed land can sometimes invite controversy.

Last December, Syria protested to UN leaders that Israel had distributed Golan wine as year-end holiday gifts to UN staff. In 2006, Israel complained that Sweden was labelling Golan wines as coming from Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli settlers also make wine on Arab land in the West Bank, sometimes drawing boycotts by peace activists.

Political sensitivities have not stopped Pelter’s wines making a splash abroad.

it’s not just rhetoric

there was an interesting discussion on al jazeera’s “riz khan” show with anand naidoo this week on the genocide against the tamils in sri lanka. it featured devinda subasinghe, sri lanka’s former ambassador to the u.s. and mexico; anna neistat from human rights watch; and jan jananyagam from tamils against genocide. i’ve seen jananyagam quite a bit on al jazeera and generally think she’s an excellent speaker, though there was one major flaw in her argument. the stuff she pointed out on the destruction of culture, language, books as well as the massacre against the tamils is important. too, her response to the ambassador who asks her to “dial down the rhetoric” was key: “it’s not rhetoric when people are held in camps.” she details the situation of tamils in concentration camps, as does neistat, although as typical for human rights watch neistat thinks there are two sides which there can never been when you have those responsible for massacre and those massacred. but in the second part when jananyagam compares the situation to palestine she’s wrong: the conflict is different not because palestinians rightly refuse to acknowledge the right of a foreign people to colonize their land. it is different because the palestinian people’s land is colonized whereas in sri lanka neither the tamils nor the sinhalese are colonizers. in any case, it is worth watching this discussion.

but i would also recommend listening to nora barrows-friedman’s interview with norweigan dr. mads gilbert on the subject as he has lived and worked with the tamils in sri lanka as well as in gaza. his sense of the situation and its parallels are far more apt. there are other parallels too, for instance, the sri lankan government thinks it should investigate its own war crimes just like the zionist entity as catherine philip reports for the telegraph:

The European resolution that Sri Lanka is aiming to defeat has already drawn the ire of human rights groups for failing to push for an international war crimes inquiry. It calls on the Sri Lanka Government to conduct its own investigation into breaches of international law and allow unfettered access to camps where more than 200,000 displaced Tamil civilians are detained.

and there are not only parallels, but also deep ties between the state terrorism of the zionist entity and the sri lankan government as the pakistan daily reports:

In May 2000, just one day after India refused to give Sri Lanka any military assistance in its war against the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka and Israel resumed diplomatic relations. Although the corporate media are focusing on Sri Lanka’s military assistance from China, little mention is being made of the nation’s military links with Israel.

After the establishment of diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Colombo, Israeli military technicians arrived to maintain Sri Lanka’s Israeli-made Kfir fighter-bombers and Russian MiG-27 aircraft and provided Sri Lanka with Dvora fast naval attack craft. Israeli arms and ammunition also began flooding into Sri Lanka, with still no mention of the Israeli-Sri Lankan ties in the media.

Soon, Israeli military advisers and “consultants” were regular visitors to Colombo’s new Access Lanka Building, owned by relatives of Sri Lanka’s top military officers. Among Israel’s security exports to Sri Lanka was state of the art electronic and imagery surveillance equipment. Israeli Air Force pilots reportedly flew Sri Lankan attack aircraft against Tamil Tiger targets on the Jaffna peninsula. Israeli military personnel were also reported to have taken part in Sri Lankan military attacks on Tamil units.

Due to Israel’s military assistance to Sri Lanka, India reportedly began aiding the Tamils in the 1980s. It is also believed (and not that hard to believe either) that Israel’s Mossad recruited agents among Sri Lanka’s large contingent of foreign workers in the Persian Gulf Arab states. There were also reports that Israelis were also providing weapons and training to Tamil guerrillas in order to maintain a “market” for Israeli arms suppliers in the civil war-wracked island nation.

On March 2, 2007:

Cambodia discovered that the Mossad and Cambodian criminal syndicate allies continue to obtain bought-back Cambodian weapons from Cambodian government warehouses and are selling them to guerrilla groups throughout Asia, including Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, anti-Laotian Hmongs, the small anti-communist Free Vietnam Movement, and Burmese tribal guerrilla groups. WMR photographed a number of Zim shipping containers portside along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. From this and other port facilities, including the port of Sihanoukville, bought-back Cambodian weapons, some originally provided to the Khmer Rouge by Israeli tycoon Shaul Eisenberg and the Chinese, are making their way to insurgent groups around Asia, possibly including Iraqi guerrillas battling U.S. forces in Iraq.”

Tamil guerrillas have claimed to have destroyed an Israeli-made Sri Lankan fast naval attack craft,” which was deployed off the Lebanese coast during the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, with a C-802 Iranian-made Noor missile.”

Although Sri Lanka suspended diplomatic ties with Israel in 1970 over the failure of the Israelis to withdraw from illegally occupied Palestinian territory, however, operating an Interests Section within the U.S. embassy in Colombo, Israeli-Sri Lankan ties began to grow closer in the mid to late 1980s. Israel provided Sri Lanka with military advisers and established a special commando unit for the Sri Lankan police.

In 1990, Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa ordered the Israeli Interests Section at the U.S. embassy to close and two Israeli diplomats in Colombo were ordered to leave. In 1990, Premadasa also ordered a government investigation of charges that Mossad was training both Sri Lankan and Tamil guerrilla forces.

On September 25, 1991, Reuters reported from Colombo:

“Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa, fighting against a campaign to have him impeached, yesterday accused the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad of plotting against him because he closed the Israeli interests section in the U.S. embassy. He spoke at the opening session of parliament.”

On May 1, 1993, Premadasa was assassinated in Colombo during May Day festivities by a suicide bomber said to be a Tamil guerrilla. Twenty-three other people were killed in the blast. On May 28, 1993, Abdul Hameed Mohammed Azwer, Sri Lankan minister of state for Muslim affairs, said in Jeddah, “Israel was enraged by when they were expelled from Sri Lanka by Premadasa and I suspect the Mossad was behind the dastardly murder of this respected leader.”

Premadasa’s assassination remains an Asian “cold case.”and On September 23, 1997, Attorney General Sarath Silva released 18 Tamil suspects in the assassination of the president, citing lack of evidence – leaving the Attorney General with an ‘unsolved case’.

During a March 2009 trip to Israel by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, talks were held with Israel’s leading arms suppliers on increased military aid by the Israelis to Sri Lanka.

Israel continues to supply Sri Lanka with arms and excessive military training even after the United States and Britain stop endowing military supplies to Sri Lanka over the government’s human rights violations.

there are differences, too, of course. for instance, the number of tamils massacred compared to the number of palestinians as gethin chamberlain writes in the guardian:

The UN today described the death toll in Sri Lanka as “unacceptably high”, as an unsubstantiated report suggested 20,000 people had been killed in the final days of fighting between government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Precise figures for casualties have been impossible to confirm as daily reports from doctors working at the scene were regularly disputed by the Sri Lankan government. The UN has come under pressure over its statements on Sri Lanka, particularly with regard to casualty figures.

catherine philip also chronicles the struggle of families separated by the war in concentration camps. while palestinians in gaza are living in the world’s largest open air prison, within gaza they can move around, albeit bombs still fall, and people are still fired upon from the land and sea borders. but these new concentration camps created by the sri lankan government are trapping innocent tamil people inside because the sri lankan government thinks it is “protecting” tamil civilians:

The Tamil Tigers came for Rajibalan in February during a rare pause in the shelling. Every family in his village, Palamattalan, inside the besieged no-fire zone, was to give a son or daughter for the fight — taken by force, if necessary. There would be three more months of fighting until the war was over and 18-year-old Rajibalan and his family would wade together across the Nanthikadal lagoon in surrender.

When they did, they were met by government troops at the Omanthai checkpoint. “The soldiers announced that all the LTTE people would have to register separately from the civilians,” his sister, Sentura, recalled. “They said if they did so, they would be released, but if they did not, they would get 15 years in jail.”

That was more than a week ago. Sentura has not seen her brother since. He is just one of the 9,100 “terrorists” that the Sri Lankan Government is holding in special detention centres separate from the 270,000 sent to civilian camps. Yesterday Sentura wept as she recounted her struggle to find out where her little brother had gone. “Those who went on their own and those who were forced by the Tigers are treated just the same,” she cried. “What will happen to my brother now?”

Hundreds of Tamil civilians pressed up against barbed-wire fences at the 1,400-acre (570-hectare) Manik Farm camp yesterday, clamouring to speak to the crowds outside desperately searching for missing relatives. Some spoke of children lost in the chaos of the flight, others of brothers, like Rajibalan, taken away by the army. A Roman Catholic nun who came looking for her sister’s family when she received a note that they were in the camp left despondent after four hours of searching in the sticky heat.

The task of tracking down lost relatives is complicated by the fact that inmates are forbidden to leave the camp just as foreign aid vehicles are forbidden to enter — because of the risk, the Government says, that fighters inside may escape. When the UN pressed for unfettered access, Sri Lanka said that it would be given as soon as it had finished screening the camps for remaining fighters — in three to four weeks.

However, on a rare military-led visit to the camp yesterday, officials admitted that no such screening was taking place, raising questions over the purpose of the continued detentions. “No formal screening at the camps, no,” Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman, said.

The only screening for those fleeing the conflict zone has already taken place, at the checkpoints where young men and women were separated from their families. The military calls the process “voluntary” and denies using the threat of prison sentences to encourage confessions.

The Sri Lankan Government originally expressed its intention to keep civilians in the camps for up to a year but promised, under Indian pressure, to resettle 80 per cent within six months. Statements made by military officials at the camp yesterday suggest that the Government is in no hurry to allow the civilians to walk free.

boycott sri lanka

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just as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against the zionist entity picked up steam after the recent israeli terrorist savagery of gaza, so to have tamils pulled together an economic boycott campaign against sri lanka. you can click on the previous link to find out more about their campaign. their website has a lot of great information on the context of the conflict in sri lanka and about various products to boycott and ways you can help. they also have a list of companies and products to boycott, most of which are related to clothing, which means when you go shopping check your labels to make sure it wasn’t made in sri lanka (or the zionist entity for that matter). and here are their top 10 reasons to boycott sri lanka:

1. More than $4 Billion USD from several countries directly or indirectly assist the Genocidal War
2. Sri Lanka: One of the Top Red Alert Countries for Genocide
3. 250,000+ Civilians Waiting Death due to Blockade of Humanitarian Aid and Military Operations
4. 370,000+ Civilians Killed by Sri Lankan Government Military Operations
5. 150,000+ Civilians are Forcedly Held in Detentions Camps
6. Daily Aerial Bombardment on Safety Zones
7. Sri Lanka: #1 Human Rights Violator in South Asia
8. Sri Lanka: Listed 2nd Worldwide in Disappearances
9. Sri Lanka: Out of 173 Free Nations, 8th Worst In Press Freedom
10. Sri Lanka: Voted off United Nations Humans Rights Council

the no to sri lanka campaign produced a two-part video that encapsulates the orchestrated genocide against the tamil population since england granted independence to the island in 1948:

in the past week there have been a number of egregious developments in sri lanka related to the recent genocide against the tamils and also the crack down on information by the sri lankan government. most recently, they kidnapped three doctors who have shared the atrocities they’ve witnessed with the world since the international media has been barred from covering the conflict as mark tran reports for the guardian:

Human rights groups today called for the immediate release of three doctors amid fears they would be mistreated by the Sri Lankan authorities for giving out information about government shelling and civilian casualties.

The three, who were last seen on Friday in a holding area at a checkpoint, had been working for the government in the conflict zone in north-east Sri Lanka, treating the sick and wounded, until leaving the no-fire zone with about 5,000 other civilians. Their whereabouts are now unknown.

According to a health ministry official, the doctors were detained by the military and turned over to the police, who were inquiring into allegations that the three had disseminated false information.

The government banned independent media from the war zone, so the three – Thurairaja Varatharajah, who is reportedly seriously injured, Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi and V Shanmugarajah – were frequently quoted by the press. Working from hospitals and makeshift medical centres in the war zone, they gave vivid accounts of the suffering of civilians and spoke of the continuous shelling of areas with large concentrations of civilians, despite government denials of the use of heavy artillery.

Physicians for Human Rights, in the US, said it had been told the Sri Lankan government was detaining doctors “incommunicado, possibly in retaliation for adhering to their ethical obligation to protect the lives of their patients in all circumstances”.

tony birtley covered this story on al jazeera as well, although i still find it alarming that al jazeera continues to report that 17,000 “fighters” were killed and refuses to call them civilians:

i’ve been writing about similarities i’ve seen between the situation of the tamils in sri lanka and palestinians in gaza for a while now. there is one striking difference emerging and that is the fact that tamil survivors of this genocide have been interned in prison camps in sri lanka and the government is saying they will remain imprisoned in these camps for 2 years. of course all palestinians in gaza are living in the world’s largest prison. but within that prison there are internationals and palestinians who are doing the best to help the new palestinian refugees. in sri lanka no international aid organizations have access to people imprisoned in these camps nor do other tamil people as gethin chamberlain reports for the guardian:

Many of the quarter of a million people held in internment camps in Sri Lanka face up to two years behind razor wire, a government official said today.

Despite international concern over conditions inside the camps, the defence ministry spokesman, Lakshman Hulugalle, said Sri Lanka was not prepared to let the UN dictate terms over the length of time people could be held.

A UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, said he was “shocked” at the revelation, which ran counter to previous government assurances.

“It was our understanding that the government was to return 80% of the people to their homes by the end of the year, or at least try to,” said Weiss.

The UN, Britain and human rights groups have been pressing the government in Colombo to release people from the camps as soon as possible. But Hulugalle said: “The UN can’t dictate terms to us. They can always make a request but the UN hasn’t asked us to release people. The government has a plan to resettle them. Let these agencies come and join us.”

Hulugalle said the government had already resettled almost 200,000 people after the east of the country was liberated from Tamil Tiger control. “We were able to resettle them within nine months. This operation will take a little longer – one and a half to two years,” he said.

Some elderly people with close relatives who could look after them had been released, but many others would have to stay behind for up to two years.

Responding to criticism of conditions inside the camps, where detainees have told the Guardian they are short of food, water and medicines, Hulugalle said: “You can’t expect five-star hospitality in an area like that. What we are providing are the basics – security, food, health and schools. These are basic. You can’t expect an Oxford college.”

Hulugalle said the government had turned down an offer of 750 previously used blankets from the Hilton hotel group because people did not want to be treated as second-grade citizens. “They are not beggars,” he said.

The government says it needs to hold the civilians until it can establish whether or not they are Tamil Tigers.

The news came as the Red Cross suspended delivery of supplies to displaced civilians after the Sri Lanka blocked access to camps it controls in the country’s north.

“There is no access to these camps at this particular moment,” said a Red Cross official in Geneva.

as a result of this blockade against giving aid the icrc has now had to suspend its services according to al jazeera:

An international aid group has suspended its aid operations in Sri Lanka due to restrictions placed on it by the government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after Sri Lanka’s government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers, that “additional restrictions” meant it had no choice but to halt its activities.

About 265,000 ethnic Tamils were displaced in the military’s recent offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and many of them have been sent to overcrowded camps in the country’s north.

here is a rare eyewitness account inside these concentration camps from the world socialist website:

There are four major detention centres for Tamil civilians at Chettikulam, in an area known as Manik Farm, about 33 kilometres west of Vavuniya. Each camp houses about 40,000 people. A few people we spoke to had been allowed to visit Manik Farm and described them as overcrowded with minimal facilities.

In Vavuniya itself, refugees have been housed in 23 small detention centres established in public schools and other government buildings. Every camp is packed with between 1,000 and 3,000 people. We were able to visit two schools. Both centres were guarded by armed policemen and soldiers. Barbed wire fences have been set up around the camps. Few people are allowed inside. The media is completely barred.

At one school, we could only see the faces of people as we spoke to them across a high, razor-wire topped wall. As we spoke to one person, two children began crying, asking us to take them away from the camp. Inside, up to 40 people are crammed into each school room. Small tents have been erected in school grounds.

From what various people told us, conditions inside the camps are crowded and unhygenic. In some centres, detainees can bathe twice a week. In others, there is not even enough water to wash. There are not enough toilets in any of the camps and hundreds of people have to use one toilet. Infectious diseases, including diarrhea, viral fever and chickenpox, are becoming common.

We were told that hundreds of children had been wounded during the fighting over the no-fire zone. Some had still not been treated. Virtually every family we spoke to had lost at least one member. The trauma of being trapped for months in the war zone is now being compounded by the conditions in the camps. No one can leave. Relatives who visit can only provide a few essentials.

Several older people told us that every day the army seizes young men and women from the camps and takes them away. No one knows where. In some cases, masked informers are used to identify “LTTE suspects”. The military claims that about 3,000 LTTE fighters fled with the civilian refugees.

In every sense, these centres are concentration camps. The armed police and soldiers who zealously guard them, are to not there to “protect” the refugees as the govenment cynically claims, but to prevent anyone from leaving and any information from filtering out.

We tried but were unable to visit Vavuniya general hospital. Armed guards are posted to prevent anyone from entering. Visitors have to nominate a particular patient and are thoroughly checked. Those who had been inside told us that the hospital was overflowing with patients in beds, on the floors, in the corridors and temporarily erected tents.

Several detainees spoke to us about the conditions inside the camps.

A 37-year-old woman was being held at one school with her two children. “We were forced to flee to the army-controlled area due to the intolerable shelling and hunger. We were kept in a school before being brought here.

“[Before we left the no-fire zone], there was a huge blast while an aircraft was flying overhead. A lot of people were wounded or killed, including my husband. My husband was a teacher. Since his death, my children do not talk much. I ask myself why we were left alive. Since we left our home about three months ago we have not had a proper meal.”

She explained that she was afraid the army would drag her way like other young women.

A man in his sixties condemned the government’s claim that the military had been conducting a humanitarian mission to “liberate” Tamil civilians. “No one in the world should have to experience this tragedy,” he said.

He explained that while he and his family were fleeing with others, his wife had been killed in an air strike. His sister and several others died on the way. “I am living to expose these atrocities when I get an opportunity. The security forces think that each and every Tamil is an LTTE member and an enemy,” he said angrily.

Another person explained: “We are herded here like animals and are compelled eat whatever we are provided. We have lost everything. But still we can work. They should allow us to leave and settle in our own places.”

what makes these atrocities possible? well, in spite of the fact that some european union countries are expressing outrage, the fact is that they aided and abetted the sri lankan government in its genocide and now in its concentration camps as leigh phillips reports for the eu observer:

The European Union on Monday (18 May) called for an independent inquiry into alleged human rights violations resulting from the conflict in Sri Lanka and demanded those responsible be held to account.

However, at the same as issuing strong language condemning attacks on civilians, certain EU member states continue to arm the Sri Lankan authorities in breach of the EU’s code of conduct on arms exports, according to the latest data from European governments.

“The EU is appalled by the loss of innocent civilian lives as a result of the conflict and by the high numbers of casualties, including children, following recent intense fighting in northern Sri Lanka,” said European foreign ministers in a statement following a meeting in Brussels on Monday (18 May).

“The EU calls for the alleged violations of these laws to be investigated through an independent inquiry,” the statement continued. “Those accountable must be brought to justice.”

A number of EU member states – including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the UK, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland – have however continued to arm the Sri Lankan government since the election of hardline president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005.

According to the EU’s latest report on arms export licences published in December, the nine governments authorised arm sales licences to Sri Lanka to the value of €4.09 million in 2007, the same year that Colombo launched its final offensive on the Tamil rebels.

The licensed material ranges from small weapons, ammunition and explosives to missiles, ground vehicles, naval vessels and aircraft, with the eastern European member states mainly supplying small arms, while western member states sell the bigger hardware. Additionally, in 2008, Slovakia authorised the sale of 10,000 rockets to the country.

The EU report is compiled annually to ensure that European countries comply with the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. Until 2008, the Code had not been legally-binding but instead more of an ethical benchmark for the EU club.

there are some hypocritical americans speaking out about these war crimes, though, of course, they would never–and have never–done the same thing for palestinians despite the fact that the contexts are so very similar. here is the tamil news network report:

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives in a communication sent to President Obama said that the United States has to take concrete actions to to hold the Sri Lankan state accountable for its actions for rebuffing the international community, and urged the President to instruct the Department of Justice to look into the possible linkage of Sri Lanka officials to crimes committed during the prosecution of the war. The note mentioned Gotabaya Rajapakse, Basil Rajapakse, and Sarath Fonseka as possible perpetrators of war crimes.

“All credible efforts by members of the international community, including those by the United States through our outstanding Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, and those of Britain, France, Norway and the European Union, were either rebuffed or went mostly ignored by the Sri Lankan Government, which has made a determination that it will resolve the issue militarily.

“It has become increasingly obvious that the Sri Lankan government believes that there will be no political price to pay for its impunity. We believe this must change and that there are concrete measures that United States can take right now to hold the Sri Lankan state accountable for its actions, now and in the future,” the communication said.

“[W]e call on you to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to immediately call for an emergency session of the Security Council to discuss the ongoing situation in Sri Lanka,” the letter added.

“We ask you to publicly instruct the U.S. Executive Director to the IMF to use his voice and vote to suspend any further action on the pending $1.9b loan to Sri Lanka,” the letter further said.

meanwhile jeremy page in the times online takes some of this context and explains this is why the consumer boycott of sri lanka is necessary:

The next time you buy some lingerie, a T-shirt or a pair of rubber gloves, you may want to reflect on this: they were probably made in Sri Lanka. And, like it or not, your purchase plays a role in the debate over how to respond to the Sri Lankan Government’s successful but brutal military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels, which reached its bloody climax this week.

Since 2005 Sri Lanka has been allowed to sell garments to the European Union without import tax as part of a scheme designed to help it to recover from the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. That means its clothes are 10 per cent cheaper than those from China and other competitors – helping the island to earn at least $2.9 billion (£1.9 billion) from the EU annually. Britain accounts for much of that.

Britain has also helped to rebuild Sri Lanka’s tourist industry: Britons accounted for 18.5 per cent of the foreigners who visited the former colony’s famous beaches, wildlife parks, tea plantations and Buddhist temples last year. Only India sends more tourists. Many Britons also own property there, especially around the southern city of Galle, not far from where Arthur C.Clarke, the British science fiction writer who settled in Sri Lanka, used to love to scuba dive.

So the question facing British shoppers and holidaymakers is this: should they continue to support Sri Lanka’s garment and tourist industries? Sadly, the answer must be no.

on human rights

the united nations human rights council has some new members including the united states, china, and saudi arabia. my first thoughts upon reading this report below was horror that these countries, which consistently violate human rights around the world and within their own borders, would be on such a council. but then again what countries do not? here is the story from al jazeera:

The United States has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, after the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, ended a policy of boycotting it.

China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia, who have all been accused of serious rights violations, were also among the nations elected on Tuesday following a secret ballot.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said that Washington still believed the body to be flawed.

“We are looking forward to working from within with a broad cross-section of member states to strengthen and reform the Human Rights Council.”

The administration of George Bush, the previous US president, had boycotted the council over its criticism of Israel and its failure to cite rights abuses in Sudan and elsewhere.

In March, the Obama administration said it would seek to join the council as part of a “new era of engagement” with the body.

The US was elected alongside Belgium and Norway to join the Western States bloc of nations sitting on the council.

Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Hungary, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uruguay will also join the 47-nation council for a three-year period.

The council was set up three years ago to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, which was widely criticised for failing to overcome political alliances and take a strong stand on issues including China’s rights record.

But the new council has also been criticised by the US for focusing on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians and not taking a strong enough stand against violence in Tibet and Darfur.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the trading of votes for seats on the Human Rights Council as unacceptable.

last night on al jazeera’s “inside story” with lauren taylor there was a discussion about the council, but it is unfortunate that the entire panel was american because it seriously limited the perspective, especially with regard to american human rights violations around the world. they had steve crawsahw of human rights watch (which has its own biases that limit its work to actually fight for human rights), brett schaefer of the heritage foundation, and phyllis bennis of the institute for policy studies. here is the episode:

the premise of their discussion is flawed, for the most part, because they seem to think that there is potential in obama’s administration in being on board. but i would beg to differ. a reminder: the united states boycotted the recent durban 2 world conference against racism. to me this is one clear sign of american behavior on the world stage with respect to human rights. here is haidar eid’s assessment of the americans and others who boycotted and walked out of the durban 2 conference because they are unable to deal with the fact that zionism = racism:

We, Palestinians, are absolutely fed up with the so-called ‘International Community’. Has Durban II been a failure? Well, if we still believe in the role of western governments, especially those with a long colonial legacy, in playing a positive role vis-a-vis the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, we are, then, fooling ourselves. It is the power of people that we must bank on, just as it was in the case of apartheid South Africa, where a sustained global ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign forced the same governments to boycott the Pretoria racist regime. Durban II was a reminder that whether it is Bush, or Obama, the Empire is the same. Patrice Lumumba once said: “I know that history will have its say some day, but it will not be history as written in Brussels, Paris or Washington, it will be our own.”

exactly. bush or obama it is the same. especially for foreign policy issues. another article by haidar from the socialist worker, which examines obama’s complicity with zionist terrorist war crimes in palestine, and obama’s silence over those war crimes gives yet another reason why the united states cannot be a credible member of a human rights council:

On April 17, there was an incident in Bil’in, in which a Palestinian youngster was shot dead. On the same day, another Palestinian was shot dead in Hebron. That was at the same time Mitchell was visiting Tel Aviv.

But unfortunately, the complicit silence from Obama’s White House continues. This has accompanied the cutoff of medicine, food and fuel to a starving Gaza. Patients in need of dialysis and other urgent medical treatment are dying every single day. A majority of us here in Gaza are badly undernourished. But not a single word of condemnation from the Obama administration.

on the home front–in the land of american settler colonialism–obama still has refused to come out in favor of a united nations resolution that would recognize the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. haidar rizvi reported on this for common dreams a couple of weeks ago:

The United States is considering whether to endorse a major U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the recognition of the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples over their lands and resources.

“The position on [this issue] is under review,” Patrick Ventrell, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N., told IPS about the Barack Obama administration’s stance on the non-binding U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Approved by a vast majority of the U.N. member states in September 2007, the General Assembly resolution on the declaration was rejected by the George W. Bush administration over indigenous leaders’ argument that no economic or political power has the right to exploit their resources without seeking their “informed consent.”

Three other “settler nations” of European descent, namely Canada, New Zealand and Australia, also voted against the declaration, which states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their cultures and remain on their land.

However, last month, the new left-leaning government in Canberra reversed its position, announcing support for the declaration.

“We show our respect for indigenous peoples,” said Jenny Macklin, a member of the Australian parliament. “We show our faith in a new era of relations between states and indigenous peoples in good faith.”

The new government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also offered an apology to the indigenous communities who suffered at the hands of European settlers for decades.

Indigenous rights activists in the United States say they want the new liberal democratic government in Washington to make a similar move to address the grievances of native communities who have long been subjected to abuse and discrimination.

“The U.S. [should] become a resolute supporter of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” argued James Polk, who writes for Foreign Policy in Focus, a progressive periodical published by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

“It’s a comprehensive document that affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, and that, in the exercise of their rights, they should be free from their discrimination,” he added.

The declaration reflects growing concerns of aboriginal communities about the continued exploitation of their resources and suppression of their cultural vales and practices by commercial concerns and governments that are alien to their cultures.

in new orelans, obama is also continuing the bush-era policy of denying rights of residents who are victims of the manmade disaster otherwise known as hurricane katrina as glen ford points out in the black agenda report this week:

The line between Bush and Obama has not simply blurred in New Orleans: it has disappeared.” President Obama has adopted, in whole, the Bush approach to rebuilding the city – minus the Black Diaspora that was scattered to the winds in 2005. Notices of eviction have been served on the mostly elderly and Black inhabitants of 3,000 FEMA trailers. The Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development is putting the finishing touches on public housing demolition in the city. Not a single “Katrina Cottage” has been made ready for occupancy. Obama no more favors the “right to return” to – or remain in – New Orleans, than Bush did.

and in america’s client regimes in its imperial role is another reason why the united states does not deserve a seat on a council for human rights. margaret kimberley’s article in today’s black agenda report addresses the violations of afghanistan and pakistan on obama’s watch:

Obama always knows how to make the terrible sound benevolent. In this case he says that we “must defeat al-Qaeda.” Most Americans had never heard of the word al-Qaeda until September 11, 2001 and will forever connect it with the death of 3,000 people. It is useful for Obama to phrase his assault in terms that will win him popular approval.

The Obama administration has openly undermined Ali Asif Zardari, the elected Pakistani president. Zardari’s main claim to legitimacy comes via his in-laws, the Bhutto family. If he were not Benazir Bhutto’s widower, this convicted embezzler, known as Mr. 10%, would not be president. Nevertheless, he is the president of a country that is allegedly an ally, and he should be treated with the respect he is due.

Yet the New York Times reports that Zardari has been told that his opposition will be courted and if necessary put into power with him if he balks at slaughtering his people on Washington’s command. In his 100 days press conference, Obama made himself crystal clear. “We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”
Not only are we supposed to be whipped into a frenzy at the very mention of words like al-Qaeda and Taliban, but we are now supposed to believe that Pakistan is on the verge of a mysterious “collapse” and that its nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists who will carry them around in briefcases, as in the plots of Hollywood thrillers. Zardari gets the thumb screw treatment, and we get outright lies.

“Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, is equally hapless and helpless in keeping his people safe from the demands of the United States. He has long complained about civilian deaths caused by attacks on the Taliban and he repeated himself in vain on Meet the Press. “Our villages are not where the terrorists are. And that’s what we kept telling the U.S. administration, that the war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, not in the Afghan homes. Respect that. Civilian casualties are undermining support in the Afghan people for the war on terrorism and for the, the, the relations with America. How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?” Obviously, such a people will not remain friendly but that has never been America’s concern. National Security Adviser James Jones said as much. “We can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

Once again the United States repeats its long history of killing people and claiming it is for their own good. Afghanistan and Pakistan are just the latest on that awful list. While that dynamic doesn’t change, neither will the reaction of people around the world. They do hate us, and they have good reason to do so.

and under obama it seems the united states is continuing its policy of deporting haitians, including those seeking refuge from the recent devastating hurricanes as maria sacchetti reports in common dreams:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representatives Barney Frank and Stephen Lynch are urging the Department of Homeland Security to grant Haitians temporary protected status, and Lynch cosponsored a bill that would force Secretary Janet Napolitano to take the step if she does not act on her own. The status would allow Haitian immigrants, legal and illegal, to remain here and work for a fixed amount of time.

State Representative Marie St. Fleur, who was born in Haiti, visited that country this spring and then met with White House aides on the issue last month. In January, Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph took it even further, by stalling deportations to Haiti. He refused to provide deportees’ travel documents until the Obama administration reviews its policy on Haiti.

“Anyone who requests a paper from us is not getting it,” he said Friday.

Last month Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti and said the US government was reviewing its policy on granting Haitian immigrants temporary protected status.

But Napolitano, who has the granting authority, has stayed silent. Deportations halted last year after the hurricanes, but have resumed, including a plane filled with 48 convicted criminals who were deported to Haiti last month, said her spokesman Sean Smith.

Frank said Friday that the US policy is discriminatory. The government now provides temporary protection to five countries – El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Sudan – but it has never offered it to Haiti.

and most recent, though by no means final, reason for the united states to be banned from any human rights council check out this latest news about obama blocking the publication of photographs of american torture as the bbc reports:

US President Barack Obama has changed his mind and will now attempt to block the publication of photographs showing the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers.

The US government had previously said it would not fight a court ruling ordering the release of the pictures.

Mr Obama now believes the release of the photos would make the job of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan more difficult, White House officials said.

The pictures were due to be released by 28 May, according to the court ruling.

The court order was issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in September 2008, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

i could go on and on, but this entire blog is documentation for american human rights violations at home and abroad. enough said.

theatre of the oppressed festival

tonight i took some of my students from my drama class to see theatre of the oppressed, which is currently touring palestine. although i’ve taught drama classes for years and taken students to see plays–in ghana, palestine, and in the united states–i’ve never had the opportunity to see theatre of the oppressed live. i’ve only read about it and been very intrigued by the idea of it. here is a bit about the concept and its founding:

Theatre of the Oppressed was born in 1971, in Brazil, under the very young form of Newspaper Theatre , with the specific goal of dealing with local problems – soon, it was used all over the country. Forum Theatre came into being in Peru, in 1973, as part of a Literacy Program; we thought it would be good only for South America– now it is practiced in more than 70 countries. Growing up, TO developed Invisible Theatre in Argentina, as political activity, and Image Theatre to establish dialogue among Indigenous Nations and Spanish descendants, in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico… Now these forms are being used in all kinds of dialogues.

this is the second annual tour of theatre of the oppressed in palestine. there are several countries touring with their theatre troupes here: south africa, germany, bosnia & herzegovina, norway, sweden, and portugal. we saw the performance by house of azania today from south africa. they performed a piece called “who do you think you are?” which includes 8 interlinked acts, although we only saw 3 of them. given the way that theatre of the oppressed works i imagine that this is usual and given that they performed in nablus and had to return to ramallah tonight they had to leave before huwara checkpoint closed. they were performing oppression in a space of oppression after all.

theatre of the oppressed is unusual because the actors perform a scene that usually engages with a social problem of some kind. tonight they performed three such acts: one on ethnic cleansing, one on laborer’s rights, and one on xenophobia. the first one, on ethnic cleansing, was based on the group areas act, which later became the forced removal act, that forcibly removed black south africans from their land and their homes. here is a brief synopsis of that apartheid-era law:

The Apartheid Era was one of division and segregation based on the colour of one’s skin. The Group Areas Act of 1950 (Act No. 41 of 1950) was created on 27 April, the day that is today recognised as Freedom Day in the New South Africa. This act was created to split racial groups up into different residential areas of any given town or city.

The result of this act was that the best, most developed areas were reserved for the white people, while the blacks, Indians, and coloureds were assigned to the more rural outskirts of the major metropoles. 84% of the available land was granted to the white people, who made up only 15% of the total population. The 16% remaining land was then occupied by 80% of the population. This led to overcrowding, diseases, shortage of food and funds and a host of other problems. The areas assigned to the black people were dubbed the Tribal Homelands.

Once the areas were defined, anyone living in the “wrong” area was required to move, or else be forcibly removed. However, of the 3.5 million people who were required to leave the homes they had established for themselves, only 2% were white. And this group were moved to better areas than where they had been living.

Establishing the non-white areas on the outskirts of the metropole or city centre meant that they had to travel vast distances to get to work. But it also meant that they were isolated from basic amenities, such as hospitals, police stations and other emergency services. This created a sense of chaos in the homelands, an independent attempt at dealing with issues as they arose. This was dangerous for the residents, and led to many riots, outbreaks, and even deaths.

The only exceptions made were for non-whites who worked within the white suburbs, such as domestic workers. These workers were often required to stay on the white boss’ premises to avoid the daily commute and they were issued with special permission to allow for this. However, none of their family members were able to live with or even visit them. If they were found on the premises, they could be charged and imprisoned. This led to the splitting of many non-white families due to secular demands.

The assignment of areas to the black people was based on their tribal grouping, the record of which was often incorrect. The plan was that each homeland would eventually form a citizenship, so that blacks could no longer be considered citizens of South Africa, thereby relinquishing them of their rights and responsibilities. Between 1976 and 1981, four homelands were developed. The black people that had once occupied South Africa now needed a passport to cross the borders of their homelands into SA.

The Group Areas Act also stipulated that non-whites were not allowed to own or run businesses within the white areas. This limited their growth and financial development considerably, as they were only allowed to work in their townships and homelands. Even there, they could not usually afford major enterprises and would try to survive off small supply stores or basic services run from a shack.

of course this first sketch resonated quite well with a palestinian audience given the 122 years of zionist colonization making palestinians homeless and landless. one of the characters in this scene–the man playing the husband–tells his wife before the police bang on their door “they can’t take our houses from us. we’ve been here for generations.” sound familiar?

they performed the scene and then as with the style of theatre of the oppressed they performed it a second time immediately after. it is in the second performance that we see how augusto boal intended to use theatre for political ends. because in the second time an audience member is asked to yell “stop” at a moment when they want to join the actors on the stage in order to intervene in the problem. each scene is already set up in a way that there is a conflict–in this case between the family and the police–that is going around in circles and they cannot resolve. the audience member’s job is to solve the problem in some way by changing the action on stage. multiple audience members may join in and this was the case in most of their scenes tonight. a student from an najah university (not one of mine) got up on stage in this one and took over in the husband’s role because she felt he was being too passive. unlike his character–who in the end was willing to leave their house without much of a fight–she refused to leave the house and follow the colonist police officer’s orders. others eventually came up on stage taking on the role of neighbors who joined together to scare the police away and state that they would refuse to leave their homes and land. the first two pictures below are from this scene.

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the second scene was about laborers in south africa–particularly miners in the gold and diamond mines that made white south africans so very wealthy. the employer in this scene was unhappy with the workers because they sang while they worked. one of my friends got up on stage in this scene and staged a sit in for workers rights (next two photos).

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the final scene acted out was on xenophobia, which has been a big problem in south africa with respect to africans from neighboring countries moving to south africa and south africans feeling like their jobs are being taken, crime is increasing, diseases are spreading (americans should be familiar with this sort of racism especially as it is directed at mexicans). i found this to be a challenging piece for the audience here, however. the context is something that palestinians are not familiar with inside palestine. certainly palestinians have been on the receiving end of this whether as workers in the gulf or as refugees in places like lebanon banned from 72 different professions. but it is next to impossible for foreign workers to come here to work (my “work visa,” for instance, does not come from the palestinian authority, but from the israeli colonists and technically it is still a tourist visa, just a longer one on which they stamp the words “not permitted to work” ironically enough given that my university applied for it on my behalf). but two of my students got up and tried to intervene in this one. they did a great job, but i just think that the lack of context made this particular social problem a difficult one to engage with here (photos below).

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on the criminals who escape prosecution

there was some really disturbing reporting on the situation of the tamils in sri lanka the past few days. here is an update from david chater on al jazeera:

i wish that al jazeera posted not only their reports in the field, but also the discussions that follow the reports live in the studio. because late last night they interviewed a woman from tamils against genocide. i couldn’t grab a pen to jot down her name, but she was really amazing. she mentioned a number of things that were particularly striking in terms of the way it resembles what israeli terrorists do to palestinians in gaza and in the past against lebanese. here are a few things she mentioned:

1. sri lanka is using cluster bombs
2. sri lanka is using white phosphorus
3. sri lanka has hired an american public relations firm to put out propaganda
4. sri lanka has trapped tamils and refuses to let them leave the war zone
5. sri lanka propaganda is now saying “there is no humanitarian crisis” (recall: tzipi livni)
6. sri lanka is only allowing journalists to be embedded with its army and will not allow them into the areas where tamils are trapped

to get an idea of what white phosphorus does here is a video from human rights watch on israeli terrorists’ use of the weapon in gaza:

the video is useful, but like cluster bombs i totally disagree with human rights watch that this weapon has a legitimate purpose in any context. they argue that there are legitimate uses of white phosphorus. i also have serious problems with human rights watch de-contextualizing palestinian resistance fighters’ use of qassam rockets. it is not the same. israeli terrorists have an army–and the fourth largest army in the world. palestinians have limited resources for its resistance. not unlike the tamil tigers in sri lanka.

there are, of course, historical parallels between palestinians and tamils, too, given the context of the british creating the problems in both places as well. suren surendiran wrote a great piece in the guardian this week that provides some historical context that will also resonate for those who know the history of palestine:

The Sri Lankan military is killing hundreds of Tamil civilians each day. On Sunday alone, a thousand people were killed by cluster bombs, artillery and machine gun fire. On Monday, hundreds died when Sri Lankan forces used them as human mine-sweepers and human shields to advance against the Tamil Tigers.

This “slaughter” of civilians, as Human Rights Watch has condemned it, has intensified since January. Over 5,000 Tamils have been massacred in the past three months alone.

Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain. This is why tens of thousands of British Tamils have been protesting outside Parliament here for several weeks.

We are British citizens, but our government is ignoring us and turning a blind eye to the ongoing massacres of our relatives and community in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka as a country was evicted from the UN human rights council last year for its gross violations of the human rights of its people. Sri Lanka does not let independent journalists report freely. The current government has been accused of being complicit in many abductions and killings of journalists and others.

The UK and other western states have suggested that by destroying the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka can be made peaceful. This is a profound misunderstanding of the state-racism and ethnic supremacy at the heart of the Sri Lankan crisis – a crisis that has now become genocide.

Britain is deeply implicated in this crisis.

When in 1948 Britain, the colonial power, granted independence to Sri Lanka, the Westminster-style democracy London set up allowed a pernicious Sinhala chauvinism to capture the state and begin the 60 years of violence and oppression the Tamils have now endured.

In 1977, after three decades of discrimination and state-backed mob violence, the entire Tamil political leadership united behind a demand for an independent state comprising the Tamil homeland as the only way to escape oppression.

The Sinhala-dominated state responded with violence, and a few years later, in 1983, a Tamil armed struggle emerged in response. This resistance to the Sinhala state is led by the Tamil Tigers or LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Until 1983 Tamils have tried through many of their democratically elected leaders and parties to resolve this injustice by negotiations and peaceful means. Even during the armed struggle, LTTE has many times attempted to negotiate with successive Sri Lankan governments. As recently as 2002, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated between the government and the LTTE by the international community. Just as before, the Sri Lankan state abrogated from this agreement unilaterally in January 2008.

Since 1983, the problem in Sri Lanka has been characterised by western states as conflict, rather than state chauvinism. They have sought to support the Sinhala-dominated state and pressure the LTTE to “make peace”.

The Tamils in Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka face the same crisis as the people of Kosovo under Serbian rule. The international community could not make the Serbian state led by Milosovic cease its attempts to wipe out the people of Kosovo, and ultimately Kosovo was granted independence to assure their safety.

Having abandoned the Tamils to majoritarian tyranny, Britain has consistently ignored the Sinhala chauvinism deeply embedded in the Sri Lankan state. The UK has cynically sold weapons to the Sinhala military and tried to pass off the agitation by Tamils as one of poverty, merely requiring “development”.

We want Britain to compel the racist regime in Sri Lanka to cease its genocide. As a member of the UN security council, a close ally of the US and a member of the EU, Britain has the ability to do this. As the former colonial power that placed the Tamils at risk, and as a state that has sought explicitly to champion democracy and freedom, it has a moral obligation, too.

Remember, most British Tamils have direct relatives – mums, dads, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces – left back in the war zone. They are genuinely concerned for their safety and whereabouts.

That is why Britain’s Tamils are protesting outside Parliament day and night.

i wonder if sri lanka will get off as easy for its massacre of tamils as israeli terrorists have been getting off. although the news from norway bodes well that perhaps there may be some justice as saed bannoura reports:

A group of lawyers in Norway have filed charges with the nation’s top prosecutor against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of war crimes.

The charges stem from the Israeli government’s attack on the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2008, which the lawyers say violated international law by illegally targeting civilians, using internationally-banned weapons and attacking hospitals and medical personnel.

In Norway, the tenet of ‘universal jurisdiction’ allows lawyers to file charges against people in other countries, including leaders and officials, if there is evidence of war crimes or other violations of international law.

The case is being brought on behalf of three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack, according to the lawyers.

The lawyers said they could not stand silent in the face of what they termed Israel’s ‘war crimes’ in Gaza. They said in their statement, “There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions.”

Similar charges filed in Spain last month were later revoked after pressure from the Israeli government and lobbyists threatened to change the very nature of the Spanish judiciary. Lawyers backed down from the charges after the campaign, saying that the ‘universal jurisdiction’ in that country did not apply if an investigation is ongoing within the offending country. Although Israel has claimed that their military conducted ‘investigations’ into the military’s actions in Gaza, but no on-the-ground evidence was actually gathered during, leading many observers worldwide to question its legitimacy.

The Norwegian lawyers said that the potential for diplomatic problems between their government and Israel was outweighed by the severity of the crimes in the case.

here is a discussion about israeli terrorist soldiers absolving themselves on al jazeera’s “inside story” with kamahl santamaria. it features an israeli terrorist with the jerusalem post, yaakov katz, and wesam ahmad from al haq, and the amazing incomparable dr. mads gilbert from…norway. i love santamaria on this episode. he always keeps the discussion back to the original text. just like a literature professor. love it.

of course it is not just sri lankans or israeli terrorists who turn the truth on its head in order to get out of paying the price for their war crimes. it is also the americans. case in point: barack obama on prosecuting those who created a policy and culture of torture in the bush administration. al jazeera reports that obama may allow for the prosecution of a few mid-level people, but top folks seem to be absolved:

Barack Obama, the US president, has left open the possibility of prosecuting officials over the CIA torture memos released by his administration last week.

Obama on Tuesday reiterated his belief that US intelligence agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other interrogation methods after acting on advice from superiors who defined such practices as legal should not face prosecution.

But Obama said it is up to Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, whether to prosecute lawyers under the administration of George Bush, Obama’s predecessor, who wrote the memos approving the tactics.

one of the key people who should be at the top of the list is, of course, dick cheney. david usborne reported in the independent quoted cheney in a way that shows he seems to be gloating:

Dick Cheney has returned to the fray to demand the CIA release documents that he says show “enhanced” interrogation techniques extracted crucial information from terror suspects.

The former vice president’s remarks follow Barack Obama’s decision to release top secret memos detailing controversial questioning methods used under the Bush administration.

“One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is that they put out the legal memos… but they didn’t put out the memos that show the success of the effort,” Mr Cheney told Fox News.

of course obama is likely covering his own ass because he knows that when he leaves office, because he is continuing bush’s policies, he and his administration could be subjected to the same prosecution if he opens up this can of worms now (in theory he could be regardless but that would mean electing someone moral and someone who is invested in justice, which amerians are not capable of). jeremy scahill’s report on the prison at baghram airforce base in afghanistan is one place where if we had access to more information i’m sure it would be made clear that torture is going on there:

As the Obama administration faces mounting pressure to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate torture and other crimes ordered by senior Bush administration officials and implemented by CIA operatives and contractors, the ACLU is opening up another front in the battle for transparency. But this one is not exclusively aimed at the Bush era. Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to make public records on the US-run prison at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The group is seeking documents from the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.

As the ACLU states, “the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.”

in counterpunch scahill makes it clear why this is not a partisan issue in the u.s.: democrats and republicans alike are responsible for these american policies:

There are some powerful Democrats who certainly would not want an independent public investigation, particularly those who served on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees when Bush was in power and torture was being ordered and authorized. That’s because in the aftermath of 9/11, some in Congress were briefed on the torture methods in real time and either were silent or, in some cases, supported these brutal tactics or, as some have suggested, possibly encouraged them to be expanded.

perhaps we can get norway to add sri lanka and the united states to its list???

when the war criminals are also the judge & jury

check out these two reports from al jazeera on the plight of tamils in sri lanka. the first is by imran khan and the second by harry fawcett. it is striking how much the situation of tamils trapped under the shelling of the sri lankan army looks just like palestinians in gaza trapped by the israeli terrorist forces:

i wonder if the sri lankan army will write a report after the slaughter of tamils is finished stating that they are the most moral army in the world. here is what the israeli terrorists say about their massacre of palestinians in gaza:

Following the release of the investigation results, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the army’s willingness to probe itself “once again proves that the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world.

“The IDF is not afraid to investigate itself and in that, proves that its operations are ethical,” said Barak. The defense minister added that he has “complete faith in the IDF, from the chief of staff to the last of the combat soldiers.”

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff General Dan Harel said that in the dozens of cases they examined, they found that throughout Cast Lead the IDF “adhered to international law and maintained a high level of professionalism and morality.”

meanwhile the reality of the situation is closer to what saed bannoura reports–that israeli terrorists committed war crimes and will be tried accordingly in norway:

A group of lawyers in Norway have filed charges with the nation’s top prosecutor against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of war crimes.

The charges stem from the Israeli government’s attack on the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2008, which the lawyers say violated international law by illegally targeting civilians, using internationally-banned weapons and attacking hospitals and medical personnel.

In Norway, the tenet of ‘universal jurisdiction’ allows lawyers to file charges against people in other countries, including leaders and officials, if there is evidence of war crimes or other violations of international law.

The case is being brought on behalf of three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack, according to the lawyers.

The lawyers said they could not stand silent in the face of what they termed Israel’s ‘war crimes’ in Gaza. They said in their statement, “There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions.”

Similar charges filed in Spain last month were later revoked after pressure from the Israeli government and lobbyists threatened to change the very nature of the Spanish judiciary. Lawyers backed down from the charges after the campaign, saying that the ‘universal jurisdiction’ in that country did not apply if an investigation is ongoing within the offending country. Although Israel has claimed that their military conducted ‘investigations’ into the military’s actions in Gaza, but no on-the-ground evidence was actually gathered during, leading many observers worldwide to question its legitimacy.

The Norwegian lawyers said that the potential for diplomatic problems between their government and Israel was outweighed by the severity of the crimes in the case.

but here is what i am wondering: if israeli terrorists get to investigate their own atrocities and war crimes than why not extend this logic to other contexts? why not let rapists investigate their rapes? why not let murderers investigate their murders? because this is exactly what these criminals are doing.

the bantustan as prison

i often think about what the word normal means here. the way that people accept, on some level, the facts of colonialism around them. it is not like people have a choice, but that mental process of barriers and occupation armies keeps people who live here in a particular mode of thinking: that we all live in bantustan prisons and cannot get out. cannot live a normal life in which people just go to work, school, visit friends and family. a dear friend of mine in al quds decided to take the day off to visit me in nablus yesterday. he drove all the way here in his brother’s car (meaning he had yellow license plates) and he tried two different checkpoints (each about 30 minutes apart, each separated by a number of israeli colonies with excessively violent terrorists living inside). he was told he could not come inside. as a result he had to go home. all the way home a 4 hour journey (each way including checkpoints) for nothing. money wasted on gas. time wasted. why? just because the israeli terrorists who wish to keep nabulsis imprisoned and everyone else imprisoned in their own particular bantustans apart from each other. this is precisely what makes friends of mine not want to visit me: they know that it is too difficult to enter this imprisoned city where i live.

i was thinking of this when i read on lina al sharif’s blog, a young university student at the islamic university of gaza, about the films she made this week about a little trip she took around her prison of gaza. here is what she said about it followed by her films:

A good friend of mine and her other friend organized a trip around Gaza. I think they were inspired by the idea that we need amusement, we need some adventure! Her suggestion was met by an overwhelming acceptance by me and my friends. On Thursday, a bus was waiting for us outside the university, yet it was an independent trip. We were almost 50 girls including 3 mothers. We visited many places as you’ll see in the following videos.

lina’s prison is by far worse than the one i live in, in spite of her efforts to make the best of it and enjoy what small pleasures she has around her. though i find it a bit disturbing to see this pristine british military cemetery in the film given the destruction everywhere else. nothing else can be rebuilt or made to at least appear pristine (until the next time israeli terrorists bomb it) because the borders continue to be closed as john ging stated this week and as quoted in louis charbonneau’s article in common dreams:

The top U.N. aid official in the Gaza Strip urged Israel on Friday to ease restrictions on the flow of goods into the conflict-torn territory, saying they were “devastating” for the people.

“It’s wholly and totally inadequate,” John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said about the amount of goods Israel permits into the territory, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live.

“It’s having a very devastating impact on the physical circumstances and also the mindset of people on the ground,” he said.

Israel says it has opened Gaza’s border to larger amounts of food and medicine since its December-January offensive against Hamas militants who control the Palestinian enclave and were firing rockets against Israeli towns.

The war destroyed some 5,000 homes and, according to figures from a Palestinian rights group, killed over 1,400 people. Around 80 percent of Palestinians are reliant on aid.

Ging said access to goods was still a severe problem.

“We need access,” he said. “It’s the number one issue. It’s the number two issue. It’s the number three issue, and so on. Until we get it, there’s nothing as important as solving the access issue.”

Israel fears opening the borders would allow Hamas to smuggle more weapons and ammunition into the territory.

Ging said that all the crossing points from Israel into the Gaza Strip should be opened, and those that were currently opened in a limited way to only selected people or goods should be fully opened.

In addition to restrictions on what it deems luxury goods, such as cigarettes and chocolates, Israel has blocked entry of materials such as cement and steel for rebuilding because it says they could be used for bunkers and rearming.

those borders have also kept out soap, though apparently this is about to change:

Israel will allow all kinds of soaps and detergents into Gaza as of Tuesday, Deputy of the minister of economy Nasser As-Saraj said on Friday.

Gazan officials were informed of the decision following a near year-long ban on the materials.

of course it is not just about borders being closed and goods restricted. as sherine tadros reports on al jazeera this week, the unexploded ordinances still remain in the land and palestinians are having to remove them by themselves:

other palestinians live with the physical scars of the war, particularly those suffering from the after effects of white phosphorus burns as yusef al helou reports in electronic intifada:

Nearly three months have passed since Israel ended its war and while life has returned to normal for some for many others has left legacies of suffering and sad memories. Sabah Abu Halima who was burnt from head to toe and lost her husband and four children is still in pain and has weekly physiotherapy sessions at Shifa hospital. We visited her at her home in the northern Gaza Strip town of Seyafa about one km from the northern border with Israel. Sabah showed us around her house, which was also burnt as a result of white phosphorus shells that struck the roof of her family’s 16 member home.

She explained that “We had a happy home, I lived in this house in security with my husband and children. I was the happiest person in the world, but all of that changed when on 4 January the Israeli army entered our village and fired two phosphorus shells [that] penetrated our roof and burnt us while we were having our lunch. The fire was like lava, my family was burnt and their bodies turned to crisps.”

The mournful mother who is still unable to walk or talk properly, lost her house when it was completely engulfed in flames from the bombs. Luckily she found a photo of her youngest daughter, Shahad, who was only 15 months old when she was killed. I asked her to comment on this writing, which was left on the wall of her bedroom: “From the Israeli Defense Forces, we are sorry!” She answered that “I demand the whole world and international human rights organizations to sue the killers of my family, they killed so many innocent people who tried to rescue us, what was the guilt of my children and my baby Shahad? Their sorry will not bring back my family, I’m still physiologically and mentally in pain, I can’t even pick up a cup of tea now, my life will never be the same,” Sabah answered with tears in her eyes.

in spite of all of this suffering imran garda’s “focus on gaza” on al jazeera this week shows us how some palestinians in gaza, who are newly refugees, are trying to get back to normal. the focus this week is on education and the incredible obstacles to education here, including in the west bank:

and it is not over. palestinians in gaza remain under attack, particularly fisherman and farmers:

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Friday morning that a Palestinian fisherman was mildly injured when the Israel Navy shelled several fishing boats in the Palestinian territorial waters in Gaza.

The sources added that at least three boats were hit by navy fire in the Rafah area, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and in Al Mawasi, in northern Gaza. Palestinian fishermen have become a frequent target as Israel is barring them from fishing in spite the fact that they are in Palestinian territorial waters.

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli navy attacked a Palestinian fishing boat, kidnapping the four fishermen on board, and taking over the boat. The fishermen, three brothers and a relative were taken to an unknown destination. They were fishing in Palestinian territorial waters near Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

On Monday a young Palestinian fisherman was shot and seriously wounded when the Israeli navy shelled an area in al-Sudaniyya, north-east of Gaza City.

On Tuesday, March 17, one Palestinian civilian was injured when Israeli naval boats opened fire on residents and fishermen who gathered at the beach near the Beit Lahia town.

and from a new blog “farming under fire” discusses what palestinian farmers are up against when trying to farm their land:

A thankfully relatively calm day of farming on Tuesday in the border region near southeastern Khoza’a village, east of Khan Younis. The last time we’d been in Khoza’a, the Israeli soldiers patrolling the border area had opened fire on us within minutes of our arrival, shooting closer than previous times, although it was obvious we were a mixture of elderly farmers and internationals, all unarmed. Hours later, Israeli soldiers shot a young woman, Wafa, from Khoza’a in the kneecap as she surveyed the land where her the ruins of her house –destroyed in Israel’s war on Gaza –lay.

With those memories in mind, we’d returned to Khoza’a warily, aware of the Israeli soldiers fondness for shooting at civilians, but more aware that the Palestinian farmers were determined to harvest their crops: lentils and squash.
It was too late for the squash, which were meant to be small and green but which had over-grown and over-ripened because farmers had been afraid to harvest them weeks earlier.

“Kuulo kharbaan,” one of the women said when I asked whether they could be saved: they’re all ruined.

Tariq, a young man studying at university who was also serving as a coordinator for the area’s farmers and us, explained the financial loss. There were about 4 dunams of land, on which about 15 cases of squash had grown. Each case was roughly 11 kilos in weight. The squash should have sold for 8 shekels/kilo (roughly $2). Had the harvest been done, the plot of land would have yielded over $300. But it was all ruined, kharbaan. The farmers, mostly elderly women, with a few of their younger male relatives helping, picked lentils swiftly, still wary of potential shooting.

After nearly an hour of picking, two jeeps patrolling the region stopped for about 20 minutes, watching. Some shots were fired a few hundred metres further south from our group, but thankfully that day the soldiers didn’t go further.
The rest of the morning went quickly and successfully [allowing, even, for some practise of Dabke steps during the calm harvesting], a small miracle in a Strip of siege and war manufactured tragedies.

this week there was also a report released about palestinian farmers not allowed to access their farm land because it is in the so-called “buffer zone”:

Gaza’s battered agricultural sector has the capacity to recover but only if there is access to the buffer zone, and only if Gaza’s commercial crossings are fully opened, according to a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report on Gaza.

FAO says the area inside the buffer zone along the northern and eastern borders with Israel contains nearly a third of Gaza’s arable land, but it has been inaccessible to farmers, residents and UN agencies since 27 December 2008 (when Israel launched a 23-day assault on Gaza in retaliation for continued Hamas rocket-fire from Gaza into Israel).

and then, of course, there are just the targeted murders that palestinians suffer from on a daily basis such as today in jabaliya:

Palestinian medical sources confirmed the death of two Palestinians from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Medical crews evacuated the two from the northern Strip to Kamal Udwan Hospital.

Israeli forces reported killing the two earlier Saturday, saying they were “attempting to infiltrate” the Kfar Azza Kibbutz near the electronic fence border area in the northern Gaza Strip Saturday morning.

The men were identified as 23-year-old Muhammad Al-Hamayda and 26-year-old Jamil Quffa.

all of these attacks continue unabated. no one says anything. none of those big powers at nato. no one. any wonder why people are protesting? if you read my post yesterday you know about the amnesty international report about americans and germans working together to make sure israeli terrorists have more weapons. and yet these nato imperial regimes wish to make sure palestinians cannot “smuggle” any weapons with which to resist and defend themselves. adam morrow and khaled moussa al-omrani reported on this scheme for ips:

Nine NATO member states agreed last month to utilise naval, intelligence and diplomatic resources to combat the alleged flow of arms into the Gaza Strip. Some Egyptian commentators see the move as a surreptitious means of cementing foreign control over the region.

“These new protocols aren’t really about halting arms smuggling,” Tarek Fahmi, political science professor at Cairo University and head of the Israel desk at the Cairo-based National Centre for Middle East Studies, told IPS. “Rather, they aim to establish foreign control over the region’s strategic border crossings and maritime ports.”

On Mar. 13, a major conference was held in London aimed at “coordinating efforts” to stop alleged arms smuggling – by land or sea – into the Gaza Strip, governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas. Participants at the conference included high-level representatives from nine member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), including the U.S., Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Norway.

At the close of the event, participants signed an agreement “to develop an effective framework for international cooperation, supplementary to measures taken by regional states, to prevent and interdict the illicit flow of arms, ammunition and weapons components to Gaza.”

According to a final statement, participant governments hope to accomplish these objectives with the use of a series of measures, including “maritime interception, information sharing and diplomatic pressure.” The international community “has a responsibility to support prevention and interdiction efforts,” the statement reads, noting that such efforts may involve “diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement components.”

i had a “battle of algiers” moment tonight

nablus solidarity tent with gaza
nablus solidarity tent with gaza

a couple days after i left nablus for break friends of mine decided to put up a solidarity tent in martyr’s square in solidarity with gaza. they’ve been hosting activities in the tent and maintaining a presence there. when i finally went downtown today i saw it, though the winds last night seemed to have broken it down a bit. i found out today that when they first asked permission to put it up they were denied permission. because it was not a fatah tent. but then some internationals went and requested permission to put it up. and so it went up. you see, the white man runs palestinian authority politics.

i left nablus this morning to head to al quds. i have friends who are in town i wanted to visit. the ever-fabulous nora whose reports on gaza–and everything else that matter–are unparalleled in the u.s. media. i walked to the place where we were meeting for lunch and i passed a new market on nablus road. it is called “guevara” and i found it disturbing that the first thing you see when you look in the window are israeli snacks. this is why i have such problems with the use of icons and symbols. would che guevara really eat israeli potato chips? i think not.

guevara market in al quds
guevara market in al quds
israeli terrorists on their way to pray
israeli terrorists on their way to pray

after lunch i ran some errands and as i was walking up the street near the yaffa gate of the old city i saw an israeli terrorist couple. the man was wearing a suit and the woman was wearing a dress. over the man’s back was an ak-47. the picture above is of them, and it is hard to see it as i was too far away by the time i pulled my camera out, but you can make out the gun if you look closely. this is how sick their society is. this is one of many reasons why i say there is no such thing as an israeli civilian. only israeli terrorist settler colonists.

i was on my way to meet a scholar from birzeit university to discuss some research materials i’m looking for. i had asked to meet him because i was most impressed with a paper he gave at the muwatin conference in ramallah a couple of months ago. he asked me to meet him at a hotel in sheikh jarrah, though he wanted to go somewhere else so he could get something to eat. as we started driving i realized we were moving into west jerusalem and i asked him where we were going. i explained that i boycott and that i don’t go to west jerusalem. he said that there were no real palestinian restaurants in al quds. i named a few. he said those were for foreigners (aka ngo workers) and elitist palestinians (though i have a dear friend who is a driver for unrwa and he hangs out and these places…). i did not really feel like i had much of a choice so i went with him. i don’t know exactly where we were, but i was extremely uncomfortable. i had a “battle of algiers” moment wishing i could blow up this restaurant of israelis dining, having fun, while palestinians in gaza are homeless, are hungry, are suffering as a result of this colonial settler population. i found myself wishing i was one of those women in the film with explosives in her purse passing as french (i’ve posted clips of this before here, but the entire film is on youtube if you have not seen this amazing film). his argument for going to this place was that palestinian restaurants are for elitists, but that anyone can go out to eat in one of these israeli terrorist restaurants for 50 shekels. that is not entirely true. there are a number of restaurants, like the amazing abu shukri in the old city, which have amazing food and one can dine there for that much or even less.

this professor supports boycott, but from outside not inside. because like palestinians who live in 1948, boycott is difficult in al quds. you don’t have the same choices you have in nablus. but still, when you have a choice you should make that choice. i went with him, though i didn’t order anything. but to say that it was very difficult to sit there and have a normal conversation amidst this population who has the blood of palestinians in gaza on its hands in one way or another is an understatement. for him, apparently, this was normal. so normal that he also has taught at an israeli terrorist university as well. it was difficult to see how all of this jived with his scholarly work which sounded so different to me. but this is because i assumed that one who is committed to things like the right of return for palestinian refugees would necessarily also be someone who boycotted. this was my mistake, of course.

one of his issues with going to palestinian restaurants is that they are filled with foreign ngo workers, and they are especially right now. he dropped me off at akadunia so i could meet another friend who is visiting from iraq. she is an ngo worker and the place was indeed packed with ngo workers as well as palestinians. though strangely they have two foreigners working there now. i’ve never seen that before. i asked one of the waiters where the palestinian waiters went and this waiter said that they hired foreign staff to help with the language issues. al quds is especially packed with foreign ngo workers right now because of the crisis in gaza. many of them are here because they are still being denied entry. in fact, my friend’s ngo organized a demonstration at erez crossing today, with other ngos, to protest the fact that they are not allowed in. because the israeli terrorist regime didn’t want the bad publicity, they let them all in. but because they were there only to protest they not only had none of the relief supplies they want to take in, they also didn’t have any overnight bags. but they went in.

there are issues with ngos as the professor i met with articulated tonight, much of which i agree with. much of which my ngo worker friend agrees with, too. there is a way in which they let the israeli terrorist regime off the hook from their responsibilities as an occupying power under the geneva convention. there is also a way in which they create a dependency on foreign aid. and many of these ngos function as aid agencies not solidarity agencies. so many people keep circulating emails and posting on websites where to give money to help people in gaza and i always name only one ngo: the middle east children’s alliance (meca). this is an organization that is dedicated to real solidarity with palestinians. i can attest to this because i know the people who work there and i see the work they do. they are amazing and barbara lubin, meca’s founder, is my hero. you can follow their work on meca’s blog. one of the things meca did was get in a new ambulance into gaza because some were destroyed, and one was stolen by israeli terrorists who came into gaza disguised as paramedics (you can hear about this on nora’s program flashpoints). here is what barbara has to say about their first assessment of the situation in gaza and you can click on the link to see her photographs:

There are so many stories to tell from our first day in Gaza. So much pain and destruction. But there is one story in particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children to ‘give as a gift to Israel.’ As she screamed in horror they repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in front of her. Today I learned that the concept of ‘Jewish morality’ is truly dead. We can be fascists, terrorists, and Nazis just like everybody else. And the international community must demand that this never be allowed to happen again.

barbara’s conclusions mirror those of richard falk on gaza:

There is evidence that Israel committed war crimes during its 22-day campaign in the Gaza Strip and there should be an independent inquiry, UN investigator Richard Falk said Thursday.

The mental anguish of the civilians who suffered the assault is so great that the entire population of Gaza could be seen as casualties, said Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Falk, speaking by phone from his home in California, said compelling evidence that Israel’s actions in Gaza violated international humanitarian law required an independent investigation into whether they amounted to war crimes.

“I believe that there is the prima facie case for reaching that conclusion,” he told a Geneva news conference.

Falk said Israel had made no effort to allow civilians to escape the fighting.

“To lock people into a war zone is something that evokes the worst kind of international memories of the Warsaw Ghetto, and sieges that occur unintentionally during a period of wartime,” Falk, who is Jewish, said, referring to the starvation and murder of Warsaw’s Jews by Nazi Germany in World War Two.

one of the other nazi like behaviors one can see in the aftermath of the war on gaza are the ways in which israeli terrorists test out its weapons on palestinians as if they were guinea pigs:

Eighteen-year-old Mona Al-Ashkar says she did not immediately know the first explosion at the United Nations (UN) school in Beit Lahiya had blown her left leg off. There was smoke, then chaos, then the pain and disbelief set in once she realised it was gone – completely severed by the weapon that hit her.

Mona is one of the many patients among the 5,500 injured that have international and Palestinian doctors baffled by the type of weaponry used in the Israeli operation. High-profile human rights organisations like Amnesty International are accusing Israel of war crimes.

Mona’s doctors at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital found no shrapnel in her leg, and it looked as though it had been “sliced right off with a knife.”

“We are not sure exactly what type of weapon can manage to do that immediately and so cleanly,” said Dr. Sobhi Skaik, consultant surgeon general at Al-Shifa hospital. “What is happening is frightening. It’s possible the Israeli army was using Gaza to experiment militarily.”

….Mona’s injury is characteristic of Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME). DIMEs are munitions that, packed with tungsten powder, produce an intense explosion at about the level of the knee, with signs of severe heat at the point of amputation.

“If you ask a patient how it happened, how their leg was removed, they won’t know,” Dr. Skaik said. “They’ll say that a rocket or missile exploded and took only their lower limbs off.”

Once in the body, tungsten is both difficult to detect and extremely carcinogenic, and can produce an aggressive form of cancer, according to both military experts.

Dr. Skaik says the Al-Shifa hospital alone has seen between 100 to 150 patients with this type of injury. Over 50 patients at Al-Shifa had two or more limbs severed, he says.

But because Gaza’s hospitals are so poorly equipped, it has been nearly impossible so far to test properly for the substances and count accurately how many wounded Palestinians may have been hit with this weapon.

The Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert who worked at Al-Shifa hospital during the siege confirmed to journalists that the injuries were aligned with those produced by DIME explosives.

Human rights groups say Israel used the weapon for the first time in Lebanon in 2006.

these are some of the reasons israeli terrorists are scrambling to put together a legal defense team in light of calls for a war crimes tribunal.

this is why people in england have a petition to impose an arms embargo on the israeli terrorist regime. click here to sign that petition if you are a british national.

this is why in england, unlike in the united states, students are organized, taking over or “occupying” university buildings as i reported yesterday–but it is spreading like wildfire and now 16 universities are staging such sit-ins:

Over the last week, a storm of student protests has gathered over 16 universities across England, suggesting that students are awakening from the political apathy of which they are often accused. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of ageing sixties radicals.

Starting at the School of Oriental and African Studies, occupations in protest at events in Gaza spread to King’s College London and the London School of Economics (LSE), then out of the capital to Sussex, Warwick, Newcastle, Oxford, Essex, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan, Bristol, Nottingham, Salford, and Kingston.

all of this organizing energy is important as the war continues on palestinians in general, not only in gaza. i’m still in al quds, but i learned from a blogger on twitter that in nablus tonight:

Dr. Abdelsattar Qasem’s car sat in fire tonight in Nablus. He is one of the most critical writers of the PA.

the story is on ma’an arabic, but not in english:

مراسلنا: مجهولون يحرقون سيارة الدكتور عبد الستار قاسم في نابلس

and as is par for the course in nablus, israeli terrorists invaded the other night and kidnapped more palestinians:

Palestinian sources reported that Israeli troops invaded the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday and kidnapped three civilians.

Local sources said that the Israeli forces attacked and searched homes in Nablus city and the nearby Balata refugee camp. Troops then kidnapped three men and took them to unknown location.

Witnesses identified the three civilians as Yasser Mana’, age 20, Tarik Al Ka’bi and Mohamed Abu Ziton.

and this week a number of children were kidnapped by israeli terrorists as well:

Seven children from Toura al-Gharbeiah village (near the West Bank city of Jenin) were arrested on Tuesday by the Israeli authorities; they are currently detained in Salim detention and interrogation center, in the northern West Bank. Two of the children are only 12 years old; two are 13; another two are aged 15; and the seventh is 17.

and perhaps because the palestinian authority was busy, israeli terrorists cracked down on a hamas protest in khalil today in solidarity with gaza:

Six Palestinians were arrested and dozens choked on tear gas when Israeli forces cracked down on a massive Hamas-led demonstration in Hebron in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Some 2,500 protesters turned out for the demonstration, which began after Friday prayers, leaving the Wasayah mosque in the Abu Sneineh neighborhood.

these are the sorts of incidents that the international media ignores. they don’t see the slow deaths, the kidnappings, these daily routines of the israeli terrorist regime. it’s what makes people feel like they are in a pressure cooker and why they resist. but when you only see resistance on television without the context of this 61 year policy of ethnic cleansing and imprisonment you don’t understand why people resist. as is their right.