hillary’s rules for gaza

Reuters / Suhaib Salem
Reuters / Suhaib Salem

i know i have been complaining about the weather. so i suppose a bit of perspective is in order. yes, it is very cold here (there was even some snow in ramallah yesterday morning). but it is also cold and wet in gaza. and the palestinians in gaza who lost their homes are now living in tents. tents that are in the mud now. and who knows if they have heaters. i should be grateful that i have a little gaz heater sunburn and all.

and what of the palestinian refugees made internally displaced people? how will they rebuild their homes? ilene prusher of the christian science monitor reports on the newly-made homeless in gaza due to israeli-american terrorism:

According to the most recent figures from the International Committee for the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the conflict destroyed more than 2,800 homes completely, and 1,900 partially, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. In addition to that, many symbols of government were damaged, from the parliament building to ministries to police stations.

None of those figures include losses to private businesses.

Khozendar says that his businesses alone suffered $2 million in direct losses. This includes a petroleum station in northern Gaza that got hit by a missile and a marble factory that was reduced to rubble by bulldozers. He says he doesn’t count the 100 dunams of farm land destroyed in the fighting; bulldozers were used extensively by the Israeli army to “clean out” area where Hamas guerrillas were based.

“In my own home, I have plastic and nylon sheets on the windows, because all the glass broke in the bombing, and from where should I get glass?” asks Khozendar.

He says that what does come in is brought through the tunnels from Egypt, a system that financially benefits Hamas, which collects taxes on the goods.

“We need glass for 5,000 houses,” says Khozendar. Small quantities exist, but because of the extreme shortages, the prices are prohibitive for most. A meter of glass was 45 shekels a few years ago; now it’s 300 to 350 shekels. “The amount needed doesn’t exist here, and this is one of the critical points to address if we are to rebuild and rehabilitate,” he says.

“We’re giving people hammers to break the cement and iron to break up the ruins and reuse it. From the rubbish, we can get maybe 40 percent of our needs. The other 60 percent has to be brought in,” he adds.

it is not just that rebuilding material is expensive, it is that it is unavailable. the zionist blockade on the gaza strip makes it impossible to get concrete, glass, and steel. todd baer shows us what it means to have these raw materials banned for the people of gaza on his report on al jazeera today:

and these are not the only items that israeli terrorists keep palestinians in gaza from obtaining as anne penketh in the independent reports:

Members of the highest-ranking American delegation to tour Gaza were shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade against the Hamas-ruled territory included such food staples as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.

“When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?” asked Congressman Brian Laird. It was only after Senator John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised the issue with Defence Minister Ehud Barak after their trip last month that Israel allowed the pasta in. Macaroni was considered a luxury item, not a humanitarian necessity, they were told. The total number of products blacklisted by Israel remains a mystery for UN officials and the relief agencies which face long delays in bringing in supplies. For security reasons such items as cement and steel rods are banned as they could be used by Hamas to build bunkers or the rockets used to target Israeli civilians. Hearing aids have been banned in case the mercury in their batteries could be used to produce chemical weapons.

Yet since the end of the war in January, according to non-government organisations, five truckloads of school notebooks were turned back at the crossing at Kerem Shalom where goods are subject to a $1,000 (£700) per truck “handling fee”.

Paper to print new textbooks for Palestinian schools was stopped, as were freezer appliances, generators and water pumps, cooking gas and chickpeas. And the French government was incensed when an entire water purification system was denied entry. Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the UN agency UNRWA responsible for Palestinian refugees, said: “One of the big problems is that the ‘banned list’ is a moving target so we discover things are banned on a ‘case by case’, ‘day by day’ basis.”

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said: “Israel’s blockade policy can be summed up in one word and it is punishment, not security.”

of course at the big donor conference in sharm al shaykh today hillary clinton proved that she and the obama administration will continue the policies of george bush by refusing to even speak about or acknowledge that all the money being pledged for gaza will do nothing if palestinians have no control over their borders as human rights watch’s latest statement argues:

“All the pledges of aid this conference is expected to produce will be worth next to nothing if the donors do not demand that Israel open the borders to commercial goods as well as humanitarian essentials,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This unlawful blockade is the primary impediment to reconstruction and to the economic activity that is essential to any society.”

Israel effectively controls Gaza’s borders and airspace. Human Rights Watch said that the blockade, which has been in place since June 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza, amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population, a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Israeli restrictions on the entry of goods should be strictly limited to weapons and items whose direct military potential clearly outweigh their civilian usage.

According to the United Nations, Gaza needs a minimum of 500 truckloads of humanitarian aid and commercial goods every day. Israeli authorities have told humanitarian agencies that they would allow up to 150 truckloads a day. However, the actual number has not exceeded 120, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The average in February has only been between 88 and 104, including grain shipped by conveyor belt at the Karni crossing.

hillary proved further that she is going to help maintain the siege with a bizarre comment at the press conference today about hamas. what is especially fascinating here (as dave reminded me of on twitter just now–thank you!) is that the u.s. is recognizing likud as the legitimate government of the israeli terrorist state even though they lost the election and yet hamas, which won in a democratic election in 2006, continues to be shunned by the u.s. here is what she said on al jazeera:

But speaking at the donor conference, Clinton called on Hamas to abide by a series of rules.

Hamas is a not a country; it is an entity that has to understand what the principles for any engagement are – not just with the United States,” she said.

“The Quartet – the United Nations, Russia the European Union and the United States – as well as the Arab League – are in agreement that there are certain principles that Hamas would have to adopt in order for any of us to engage with Hamas: recognise Israel, renounce violence and agree to abide by prior agreements.”

of course, clinton did not state what those “rules” are. clearly there are rules for hamas and not for israeli terrorists who terrorize palestinians every day. i suspect that one of them is to get on board with the bogus two-state solution. thankfully hamas still has enough resolve to reject such ideas that necessarily negate palestinian refugees’ right of return:

The Hamas Movement on Sunday strongly criticized ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas for demanding any future Palestinian government to recognize the two-state solution, considering it a dictate imposed by one party on other Palestinian parties.

in any case, the u.s. with its pledge of $900 million to rebuild gaza is going to do anything but rebuild gaza. apparently, it is all going to the collaborator regime in ramallah instead. where is the logic? paul richter in the los angeles times today reveals where this money is actually going:

The Obama administration intends to spend most of a $900-million Palestinian aid package on support for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, rather than in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip communities that were badly damaged in the recent weeks-long Israeli offensive, a State Department official said Sunday.

Robert A. Wood, the department’s chief spokesman, said that about $300 million of the money would be spent on humanitarian relief for Gaza, and the remainder would help offset the Palestinian Authority’s budget shortfall and fund its economic development, security and other projects in the West Bank. The authority is run by the more moderate Palestinian faction Fatah.

None of the money will go to rebuilding Gaza, even though the aid is to be announced today at an international donors conference convened by Egypt for reconstruction in the war-scarred seaside enclave.

U.S. officials who declined to be identified disclosed last week, with some fanfare, that a full $900 million would be earmarked for Gaza. But the State Department’s decision reflects the political complexities of rebuilding an area controlled by a militant group that the United States, Israel and the European Union consider a terrorist organization. Hamas took control of Gaza after the collapse of a unity government with rival Fatah in June 2007. Israel said it launched its assault after years of rocket fire from Gaza.

U.S. officials are opposed to spending any money on reconstruction aid to Gaza that might fall into the hands of Hamas and help strengthen the group’s standing among the enclave’s 1.5 million residents. Though the Palestinian Authority has declared its intention to help rebuild, Hamas is barring authority personnel from entering to help.

“We cannot funnel money through Hamas,” Wood said.

in any case, i continue to be horrified by the fact that every year the u.s. sends billions of dollars to the zionist entity to enable them to terrorize palestinians and lebanese. the u.s. campaign to end the occupation’s campaign to make sure that the new budget proposal does not include the almost $3 billion in military aid to an israeli terrorist regime (click on the link below to send a letter to obama to make sure he does not!) :

Last Tuesday, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to explain his budget outline. His only reference to Israel was a reiteration of his Administration’s priority “To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors”…. Does this mean that President Obama will not include $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel when he delivers his actual detailed budget request to Congress in April as expected? That’s highly doubtful.

but am i the only one who finds it deeply disturbing that the u.s. taxpayers spend almost $3 billion a year on military aid to israeli terorrists who use it to destroy lebanon and palestine, most recently gaza of course, and then the u.s. pledges $900 million to rebuild it? is this not psychotic? of course, the money is not even going to gaza, but that is beside the point. the money will go to the palestinian authority in the west bank to enable them to further repress palestinians here who object to their normalization with israel, to their willingness to sell refugee rights down the river.

and will hillary, when she comes here tomorrow, do anything about palestinian political prisoners? about the nightly invasions in which they kidnap palestinians? here are the figures for february alone:

The Palestinian Political Detainees Society issued a report on Monday stating that the Israeli military have kidnapped 292 Palestinians during the month of February.

Of those 292 kidnapped, 35 were sick and 59 were children, in addition to four women, the report said.

According to the Society report, the number kidnapped from different cities were:

Bethlehem: 24;

Hebron: 90;

Ramallah: 68;

Nablus: 35;

Qalqilia: 22;

Jenin: 25;

Tulkarem: 13;

Jericho: 8;

Tubas: 6; and

Salfet: 1.

and there were a few more kidnapped last night in nablus as well as some attacks by israeli colonists near nablus:

On Monday morning, Israeli troops kidnapped three Palestinian civilians during a pre-dawn invasion, targeting the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli Army forces invaded Nablus city, searched a number of homes and took three men to unknown detention camps.

Also on Monday near Nablus, a local doctor, Amer Mansour, received treatment after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops in the village of Kafer Qaliel. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers stormed the village in the morning, and fired tear gas at homes.

In related news, Palestinian farmers from the Jordan Valley reported on Monday that a Palestinian farmer was attacked by wild pigs. The farmers said that Ayman Ibraheem was attacked while working on his land, and was taken to a hospital in Nablus for treatment.

The farmers blame settlers for such attacks, saying that the Israeli settlers release wild pigs in an attempt to drive Palestinian farmers away from their lands so that the settlers can take them over.

will she say anything about the brazen act of destroying more palestinian homes in al quds as they did today?:

Israeli forces stormed the house of Mahmoud Al-Abbasi in the Ein Al-Loza area of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Monday morning.

Al-Abbasi told Ma’an that a large Israeli police force surrounded the area where the house is located and stormed inside, forcing the family to leave and throwing furniture out.

But no clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police were immediately reported.

Al-Abbasi added that bulldozers demolished his house, in which 11 people lived, including nine children, and claiming that he had received no prior notice of the demolition beforehand.

The house was located in a neighborhood 500 meters from the Al-Bustan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where Israeli officials say 88 homes of 1,500 Palestinians are slated for demolition.

will she say anything about the numerous war crimes committed by israeli terrorists? war crimes detailed in an important interview that the ever fabulous nora barrows-friedman did with norweigan doctor mads gilbert on flashpoints last week. it is a very important interview that i encourage people to listen to by clicking the above link. will she say anything about the court cases gaining steam as the spanish judge agreeing to hear this case?:

A Spanish judge has decided to go ahead with a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by top Israeli military figures after studying documents received from Israel, judicial sources said Friday.

The documents, received by Judge Fernando Abreu after translation by the Israeli embassy, show the Jewish state has not launched any legal procedure concerning a 2002 bombing of Gaza, the sources said.

Andreu agreed last month to pursue a complaint of crimes against humanity against seven senior Israeli military figures over the bombing.

the international criminal court has received numerous complaints, most recently from the international committee for the red cross, which i’m sure hillary will ignore too. here is peter beaumont’s report on this for the guardian:

The latest moves in The Hague come amid mounting international pressure on Israel and a growing recognition in Israeli government circles that it may eventually have to defend itself against war crimes allegations. The Guardian has also learned that a confidential inquiry by the International Committee of the Red Cross into the actions of Israel and Hamas during the recent conflict in Gaza is expected to accuse Israel of using “excessive force” – prohibited under the fourth Geneva convention.

The Red Cross has been collecting information for two parallel inquiries, one into the conduct of Israel and a second into Hamas, both of which will be presented in private to the parties involved.

In the case of Israel, the Red Cross is expected to highlight three areas of concern: the Israeli Defence Forces’ “use and choice of weapons in a complex and densely populated environment”; the issue of “proportionality”; and concerns over the IDF’s lack of distinction between combatants and non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead. Hamas is likely to be challenged over its use of civilian facilities as cover for its fighters; its summary executions and kneecappings of Palestinians during the campaign; and its indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas.

Meanwhile, sources at the ICC say it is considering two potential tracks that would permit it to investigate what happened in Gaza. As well as determining whether the PA is recognised internationally as a sufficiently state-like entity, the head of jurisdictions in the office of the international criminal court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is looking at whether the court can consider war crimes allegations on the basis of the dual nationality of either victims or alleged perpetrators whose second passport is with a country party to the court.

The court’s deliberations follow more than 220 complaints about Israel’s actions in Gaza. “It does not matter necessarily whether the Palestinian National Authority is in charge of its own borders,” said a source at the court. “Right now the court is looking at everything from agreements it has signed on education to the constitution of its legal system.”

what concerns me the most about what hillary will or won’t do (because she will be like all the other american leaders who come here and lend all her support to israeli terrorists in their ongoing ethnic cleansing project). what concerns me is what the fallout of gaza will be with respect to hamas resistance (yet another reason why i loathe resistance movements that join governments). ramzy baroud’s article in the palestine chronicle today about the lessons of what happened with the palestine liberation organization are instructive here:

The more the PLO of the 1970’s met conditions, the more Yasser Arafat rose to prominence. In June 1974, Fatah-led PLO revised and approved a political program that adopted a ‘phased’ political strategy which agreed to establishing a Palestinian state “over every part of Palestinian territory that is liberated,” as opposed to Fatah’s own previous commitment to a “democratic state on all (of) Palestine.” The phased strategy split the somewhat unified PLO between ‘moderate’ and ‘rejectionist’ fronts, but allowed for political gains, such as the Arab designation of the PLO, in Rabat as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. More, Arafat was invited to speak at the UN General Assembly, where the PLO received the status of an “observer”. In his speech on November 13, 1974, Arafat uttered his most famous statement: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

Let historians contend on whether Arafat was tricked by a peace ploy, which saw the softening of the PLO’s position, while the Israeli position continued to harden unchecked. The fact is, however, the seeds of Palestinian division were planted during these years and Palestinians were compartmentalized – between moderates, extremists, maximalists, minimalists, pragmatists, rejectionists and so on. However, the political gains of the PLO of those years were made irrelevant, and were later used exclusively for personal gains, starting in 1974, passing through Oslo, the subsequent ‘peace process’, and finally reaching today’s dead-end.

World Media are now reporting that European countries are in direct contact with Hamas leaders, although officials are insisting that this contact is independent and not linked to larger government initiatives. More, several US congressmen visited Gaza, again with similar disclaimers. US Senator John Kerry, who led the US delegation, claimed that the US position regarding Hamas has not changed, and repeated the conditions that Hamas must meet before any engagement is possible.

One has to be wary of the history that rendered the once influential PLO, the trivial organization that it is today. History often repeats itself, true, but it doesn’t have to if one remembers such historical lessons. Peace is not a ‘process’ – at least not in the Kissinger sense – and true dialogue and positive engagement require no stipulations and conditions. Hamas is now in the same precarious position that the PLO was in earlier years. Its future decisions shall influence the coming stage of this conflict, thus the fate of the Palestinian people in inconceivable ways.

one final note: if you are american and you like the al jazeera news items i post here regularly, i encourage you to go to the i want al jazeera english website. click that link in the last sentence and sign up to put pressure on u.s. cable providers to make it available to americans.

escape from fatahlandia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the shipping news

poor baha’a was not able to leave for gaza this morning. he’s so distraught. but there is some confusion in the various media reports about the lebanese ship and whether or not it left and who was on board. it seems that march 14th/mustqabal prevented certain people were not allowed to leave at the last minute. those passengers were the palestinians on board. layers and layers of collusion. of collaborators. it is like suffocation. but check the different versions of this story in arabic and english starting with al akhbar:

العدد ٧٣٨ الثلاثاء ٣ شباط ٢٠٠٩

مرفأ طرابلس ـ ثائر غندور

المطران كبوجي أمسالمطران كبوجي أمسلأجل موعد مع غزة، لكسر الحصار، وصلوا بأمتعتهم. احتمالات الدخول للقطاع، احتمال الاصطدام بالاسرائيليين كان محور أحاديث النهار. وعندما رأوا السفينة «الظافر» راسية في مرفأ طرابلس، ظنوا أن الحلم يتحقق. ينظرون إلى الباخرة: «عمرها من عمر النكبة» يصرخ أحدهم ضاحكاً. «لا يهم» تجيبه صديقته. الخبر المشؤوم الرقم واحد: السلطات اللبنانيّة رفضت السماح للسفينة بالانطلاق. السبب: إنها غير آمنة. يتحرّك المسؤولون في «المبادرة الوطنيّة لكسر الحصار» ويؤمنون أخرى: «تالي».

يحمل المتطوعون الستة والثمانون أمتعتهم ويصعدون إلى السفينة. الحلم أصبح قريب القطاف. «هناك سفن أوروبية تنتظرنا في قبرص للذهاب إلى غزة»، يقول أحد المتطوعين.
هذا يعني أملاً كبيراً في الوصول.

تمرّ الساعات بطيئة. يصل رئيس تجمع اللجان والروابط الشعبيّة معن بشور قائلاً إنه يحمل خبراً سيئاً «أبلغتنا السلطات أن الذهاب إلى غزة غير وارد بهذه السفينة لأنها سفينة شحن، وهناك خياران: إما أن لا تذهب السفينة أو تذهب بدون المتطوعين».

يسود صمت رهيب. تكفهرّ الوجوه. ينسى الجميع تعب الساعات التي وقفوها على أرجلهم من دون طعام وتحت المطر. يخرج نقابي شيوعي ليقول «هناك قرار سياسي بمنعنا. ألم يكونوا موافقين حتى صباح اليوم على السفينة الأولى»؟ تعلو صرخات الاستهجان. يطلب بشور تنظيم النقاش «حتى نأخذ قراراً موحداً». يتحدّث بعض رجال الدين في الإطار ذاته: «ذاهبون إلى غزة شاء من شاء وأبى من أبى. هم وافقوا على سفر السفينة التجاريّة. قالوا أحضروا سترات النجاة وأحضرناها، ما الذي تغيّر؟ من المسؤول؟ هل هو الاعتدال العربي؟».

يقول معن بشور إن الرؤساء الثلاثة ووزير النقل على اطلاع على ما يجري وهم لا يريدوننا أن نقع في مشكلة قانونيّة. لا يقنع الكلام أحداً. ماذا نفعل؟ يقترح عربي العنداري رئيس المجلس الوطني في اتحاد الشباب الديموقراطي اللبناني «التظاهر حتى ذهاب السفينة بمن عليها».

«نريد فعل الخير وهم يعرقلوننا» يقول مطران القدس في المنفى هيلاريون كبوشي، ويضيف «السبب هو الخارج أي دول الاعتدال العربي». يعلّق أحد الموجودين «الاسرائيليون مأزومون ولا يريدون أن يمنعوا هم السفينة فمنعها اللبنانيون وفق طلب أميركي». لم ييأس المتطوعون. قلّة منهم تعتلي متن السفينة، قبل أن ترفع القوى الأمنيّة السلم، وتمنع الباقين من الصعود. المفاوضات مستمرة. هناك من يطالب الدولة بتأمين سفينة إذا ما كانت جادة. الشتائم تطال الوزير غازي العريضي «وزير الاعتدال العربي» كما نعته البعض.
يقولون إن العريضي مخطئ وسيدفع ثمن موقفه. لا يريدون التراجع. لكن قرار حكومة الوحدة الوطنيّة أقوى منهم. اثنتا عشرة ساعة من الوقوف تحت المطر من دون أكل أو راحة. الثامنة مساءً. تطلع قوة امنية الى متن السفينة وتطلب من الجميع مغادرتها. يقترح أحد المنظمين أن تسافر السفينة بثمانية اشخاص معظمهم من الاعلام المرئي. يرفض المعتصمون. هم قابَ سفينة من غزة. وحتى كتابة هذه السطور، كان الانتظار سيد الموقف. بكلمات قليلة: سفينة كسر الحصار محاصرة من الدولة ومن عدم تنسيق المنظمين لرحلتهم. بكلمات وجدانيّة: حلم زيارة فلسطين تأجّل، لكنه لم يتلاشَ.

عدد الثلاثاء ٣ شباط ٢٠٠٩

and this from as safir:

¯ العريضي: باخرتا شحن غير مجهزتين للركاب ¯ بشور: موعودون بباخرة ثالثة للباقين
»سفينة الأخوة« تبدلت وأبحرت إلى غزة وعلى متنها ٨ أشخاص من أصل ٨٢

غسان ريفي
طرابلس :

… وأبحرت »سفينة الأخوة اللبنانية« إلى لارنكا، ومنها إلى غزة عند منتصف ليل أمس، بعد مخاض عسير، وبعد يوم طويل من المفاوضات التي خاضها الوزير السابق بشـارة مرهج وعضو الحملة الوطنية لكسر الحصار عن غزة (منــظمة الرحلة) معن بشور مع وزير الأشغال العامة والنقل غازي العريضي وتدخل في مجرياتها رئيس الجمهورية ميشال سليمان ورئيس مجلس النواب نبيه بري.

وبينما كان مقرراً أن تنطلق السفينة »ظافر« عند الثانية عشرة من ظهر أمس، وعلى متنها ٨٢ راكباً من شخصيات وإعلاميين ومتطوعين ناشطين محملة بالمساعدات إلى غزة، فإن السفينة التي غادرت مرفأ طرابلس هي واحدة أخرى اسمها »تالي« وعلى متنها »مطران القدس في المنفى ايلاريون كبوجي والشيخ صلاح الدين علايلي ورئيس رابطة علماء فلسطين الشيخ داوود مصطفى ومنسق الحملة هاني سليمان واربعة إعلاميين من قناتي الجزيرة والجديد مؤهلين تقنياً للبث المباشر من الباخرة في البحر في حال تعرّضت لها قطع بحرية إسرائيلية أو غيرها«، بحسب ما قال بشور لـ»السفير«. وتابع: »أما الباقون من الركاب فمن المفترض أن يؤمن رجل أعمال فلسطيني سفينة أخرى للركاب لتقلهم إلى غزة«. »تالي كانت منعت من الإبحار بالمشاركين جميعهم، بعدما تبين للعريضي أنها معدة للشحن وأن فيها ثغرات من الممكن إصلاحها إذا قرر المنظمون تأجيل الرحلة. لكن المفاوضات انتهت بالسماح بإبحار »تالي« وعلى متنها ثمانية ركاب من أصل ٨٢ بينما عاد الباقون ادراجهم.
ماذا في تفاصيل اليوم الطويل؟

عند الثامنة صباحاً تجمّع ناشطون حقوقيون وأطباء وإعلاميون في شارع الحمراء للانتقال إلى طرابلس. وفي المرفأ، وبعد تحميل الباخرة »ظافر« بالمساعدات وصعود الركاب إليها، جاء كشف المسؤولين في المرفأ بأنها غير صالحة للإبحار بالركاب وغير مجهزة لسلامتهم. بعد اتصالات من اللجنة المنظمة، تم تأمين الباخرة »تالي« التي نقلت إليها الحمولة، ما استدعى تأخيراً في الإبحار حتى الساعة الرابعة عصراً. لاحقاَ منعت الباخرة الثانية من الإبحار بهذا العدد من الركاب، بعدما تبين للعريضي أن الباخرة الثانية للشحن ليست معدة لنقل الركاب.

العريضي شرح لـ»السفير« أنه أوقف سفر الباخرة »ظافر«، لأنها تفتقر الى مواصفات السلامة العامة، وبعض المواصفات القانونية التي تمنعها من الملاحة. وتابع: ظهر أن هناك ملاحظات حول ميكانيك السفينة وطاقمها، ووسائل الحماية، وقد أجرينا كشفاً عليها فتبين أنها غير صالحة لمثل هذه الرحلة نظراً للمسؤولية المترتبة عن حياة الركاب. ولا يمكن بالتالي السماح لأسباب قانونية بنقل ركاب مع الحمولة، فطلبنا من القيمين على الرحلة تأجيل الموضوع لحين توفر باخرة بديلة. وأضاف: اتصل بنا النائب السابق بشارة مرهج ومعن بشور، كما اتصلا برئيس الجمهورية ميشال سليمان، فاتصل الرئيس بي وشرحت له الوضع، فأيد موقفي، ثم أبلغني مرهج وبشور أنهما أمنا باخرة أخرى (الباخرة تالي)، فطلبنا ملفها، فتبين أنها باخرة شحن لا ركاب، وبالتالي، فبحسب القانون الدولي لا يمكن السماح بركوب ركاب فيها إذ يمكن توقيف الباخرة في أي ميناء دولي، عدا عن أن الأمر يسبب تسيباً في المرافئ اللبنانية، ناهيك عن الثغرات فيها والتي يمكن إصلاحها أو معالجتها. وأبدينا استعداداً للمساعدة وطلبنا التريث مجدداً لتوفير بديل أفضل وأصلح وقانوني. فاتصلا بالرئيس نبيه بري طالبين تدخله، فاتصل بي وشرحت له الموقف، فأيد موقفي وأكد ثقته بي«.
من جهته، قال مرهج لـ»السفير« إن الباخرة »تالي« مجهزة بعشر غرف وثلاثة صالونات ومحركاتها جيدة جداً. لاحقاً على تحميل المساعدات على متنها عرفت أن العريضي منع الإبحار، فاتصلت به فأخبرني أنها للشحن وإبحارها بالركاب غير قانوني. فقلت له إن السفينة ممتازة والمسؤولين في المرفأ كانوا متعاونين معنا ولم يخبرنا أحد منهم بأي مشكلة فيها، وهي محملة بالمساعدات وليست تجارية، بل في سبيل قضية إنسانية، لذا فموقفك قوي قانونياً، لكن الوزير تمسك برأيه«.

لكن المفاوضات وصلت لاحقاً إلى التسوية الليلية بأن يصعد على متن السفينة رجال الدين الثلاثة وسليمان إضافة إلى الإعلاميين الاربعة.
من جهته، قال بشور لـ»السفير« إن الحملة كانت أمام خيارين، فإما إلغاء الرحلة وإدخال الموضوع في مجال التجاذبات السياسية، وإما تنطلق بالأشخاص الثمانية، فاعتمدنا الخيار الثاني. وتساءل بشور »عن سبب المنع المفاجئ عند الساعة الرابعة عصراً وليس صباح الأحد حيث كان مقرراً أن تنطلق »ظافر« إلى غزة«.

المشاركون
وكان المشاركون في الرحلة أصيبوا بالإحباط مع حلول ساعات المساء الأولى، وبعد يوم مرهق من الانتظار والانتقال من باخرة إلى أخرى ومن منع إلى آخر. بعضهم اقترح »تحدي القرار« والخروج بالسفينة، وإن استدعى الأمر مواجهة مع السلطة، لأنه »عندما شاهدَت (السفيرة الأميركية) ميشال سيسون الرايات الفلسطينية فوق السفينة أصدرت تعليماتها للسلطة بمنع إبحارها«، قالت إحدى المشاركات فيما تحدث آخرون عن ضغوط سياسية مورست من قبل »جهات معينة« لمنع اللبنانيين من التضامن مع أخوتهم في غزة. »هذا ما توقعته منذ أن أبلغونا بضرورة استبدال السفينة«، قال أحدهم.
من جهته، نفى العريضي ما تردد عن »ضغوط مورست عليه لمنع إبحار السفينة«، وقال لـ»السفير«: في موضوع فلسطين والمقاومة لا أحد يزايد أو يضغط عليّ.
تبقى الكلمة الأخيرة للمطران كبوجي الذي طلب من الجميع »الدعاء إلى أهالي غزة، والابتهال إلى الله بأن يوصل باخرة »الاخوة« والمتضامنين الذين على متنها إلى قلب غزة للتعبير عن التضامن مع أهلها وكسر الحصار والوحدة التي يعيشونها، مؤكداً أن »إسرائيل لا تستطيع أن تمنع الباخرة من الدخول إلى غزة فهي متوجهة إلى أرضها وترابها، وإسرائيل معتدية ومغتصبة لهذه الأرض، وعليها أن ترحل وان توقف عدوانها الهمجي على غزة وعلى أهلها بشكل فوري، وأن ترفع هذا الحصار الجائز. وقال إنه اشتاق إلى أرض فلسطين وتراب غزة.

and now check out lebanon’s an nahar:

A cargo ship carrying activists and supplies sailed late Monday from Lebanon en route to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

The ship, carrying 60 tons of medicine, food, toys, books and stationery, left the northern port city of Tripoli for Larnaca in Cyprus at around midnight.

On board the “Brotherhood Ship” were eight people including the former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who left Jerusalem in the 1970s after serving time in an Israeli jail for membership of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“We have decided to go ahead with this mission in solidarity with the people of Gaza so that they don’t feel cut off from the world,” organizer Hani Suleiman told Agence France Presse before the boat left Tripoli.

“There is no reason whatsoever for Israel to prevent us from reaching Gaza,” he added. “We have no rockets, no weapons, just aid for the people of Gaza.”

The Togolese-registered Tali was headed first to Cyprus where authorities were to search the vessel to ensure transparency, before continuing on to the Gaza Strip.

Beirut, 03 Feb 09, 09:40

and then ha’aretz, which clearly just pulled from an nahar for its version:

An organizer says a cargo ship carrying activists and supplies has set sail from Lebanon en route to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

The Togo-flagged ship Tali is carrying about 60 tons of medicine, food, toys, books and stationery, as well as eight activists and journalists.

The ship set sail early Tuesday from Tripoli in northern Lebanon. It will stop in Larnaca, Cyprus, before proceeding to Gaza.

Organizers say they hope to arrive mid-week. But Israel has imposed a blockade of the coastal Palestinian territory and has turned back similar aid boats trying to reach Gaza.

A similar trip planned for December was put off because of the recent Israeli offensive against Hamas militants who control

meanwhile there is beautiful news about boats coming from south africa–israeli terrorist boats to be more specific:

South African dockworkers announce ban on Israeli ship

Posted by StopTheWall on Tue, 02/03/2009 – 10:15

February 3, 2009 – LINKS – In a historic development for South Africa, South African dock workers have announced their determination not to offload a ship from Israel that is scheduled to dock in Durban on Sunday, February 8, 2009. This follows the decision by COSATU to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel.

The pledge by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) members in Durban reflects the commitment by South African workers to refuse to support oppression and exploitation across the globe.

Last year, Durban dock workers had refused to offload a shipment of arms that had arrived from China and was destined for Zimbabwe to prop up the Mugabe regime and to intensify the repression against the Zimbabwean people. Now, says SATAWU’s General Secretary Randall Howard, the union’s members are committing themselves to not handling Israeli goods.

SATAWU’s action on Sunday will be part of a proud history of worker resistance against apartheid. In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to offload a ship with South African goods. When the ship docked in Sweden, Swedish workers followed suit. Dock workers in Liverpool and, later, in the San Francisco Bay Area also refused to offload South African goods. South Africans, and the South African working class in particular, will remain forever grateful to those workers who determinedly opposed apartheid and decided that they would support the anti-apartheid struggle with their actions.

Last week, Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia resolved to support the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and have called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel.

This is the legacy and the tradition that South African dock workers have inherited, and it is a legacy they are determined to honour, by ensuring that South African ports of entry will not be used as transit points for goods bound for or emanating from certain dictatorial and oppressive states such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Israel.

COSATU, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Young Communist League and a range of other organisations salute the principled position taken by these workers. We also take this opportunity to salute the millions of workers all over the world who have openly condemned and taken decisive steps to isolate apartheid Israel, a step that should send shockwaves to its arrogant patrons in the United States who foot the bill for Israel’s killing machine. We call on other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.

We also welcome statements by various South African Jews of conscience who have dissociated themselves from the genocide in Gaza. We call on all South Africans to ensure that none of our family members are allowed to join the Israeli Occupation Forces’ killing machine.

In celebration of the actions of SATAWU members with regard to the ship from Israel, and in pursuance of the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and our call on the South African government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, this coalition of organisations has declared a week of action beginning on Friday, February 6, 2009. The actions will be organised under the theme: FREE PALESTINE! ISOLATE APARTHEID ISRAEL! Activities that have already been confirmed for this week will include:

* Friday, February 6: A protest outside the offices of the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, 2 Elray Street, Raedene, off Louis Botha Avenue. Both these organisations unquestioningly supported the recent Israeli attacks against Gaza, and supported the massacre of civilians and the attacks on schools, mosques, ambulances and UN refugee centres. Protesters will be addressed by, among others, SATAWU General Secretary Randall Howard, and ex-minister Ronnie Kasrils. Protest starts at 14:00.

* Friday, February 6: A picket outside parliament in Cape Town. COSATU members and solidarity activists will be joined by a number of members of parliament. Picket starts at 09:30.

* Friday, February 6: A mass rally in Actonville, Benoni, at the Buzme Adab Hall. The rally will be addressed by, among others, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, PSC spokesperson Salim Vally, South African Council of Churches General Secretary Eddie Makue, and ex-minister Ronnie Kasrils. Rally starts at 19:30.

* Sunday, February 8: A protest at the Durban Harbour mouth, off Victoria Embankment [Margaret Mncadi Avenue]. Protesters will be addressed by, among others, COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini. Protest starts at 10:00.

* Sunday, February 8: A mass rally in Cape Town at Vygieskraal Rugby Stadium. The rally will be addressed by, among others, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, and Allan Boesak. Rally starts at 14:30.

fyi: here is an article about the weak (read: no cajones) statement by south african jews. notice they have nothing to say about boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

& in other news: israeli terrorists are sanctioning al jazeera here:

The government will impose sanctions on Israel-based employees of the Al Jazeera network in response to the closure last month of the Israeli trade office in Qatar, which hosts and funds the network. Qatar had closed the office in opposition to Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Following the closure, the Foreign Ministry, in conjunction with the newly-formed national information directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office, considered declaring the station a hostile entity and closing its offices in Israel. After submitting the idea to legal review, however, concerns emerged it would not be permitted by the High Court of Justice.

Instead, it chose to limit the network’s activity in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. First, Israel will not renew the visas of Al Jazeera’s non-Israeli employees or grant visas to new employees. Second, station representatives will have reduced accessibility to government and military bodies, and will not be allowed into briefings or press conferences.

money

While the world is fixated on the U.S. economy, I find myself having little sympathy for the U.S. government. I have little sympathy for representatives like Nancy Pelosi, who colludes with the Bush administration and is part of the problem. To pretend like she’s somehow not equally accountable for the problems is ridiculous. I’m finding it rather entertaining that these so-called leaders think that giving $700 billion dollars to American companies, whose CEOs are taking in record salaries and bonuses will “trickle down” to average Americans who are suffering. This notion that bailing out Wall Street will help Main Street is psychotic. Did Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down” economics work in the 1980s? No. And it won’t work now. And why is it that the CEOs of these companies are not being held responsible for the problems they created in the first place? The unseemly salaries and bonuses they receive, I think, are part of the problem. Take a look at some of these salaries:

Martin Sullivan, the former chief executive of AIG, which received an $85 billion bailout from the American taxpayer last week, earned $40 million between 2005 and 2006.He received a severance package of $47million and his resignation took effect from July 2008.This is despite the fact that AIG has lost over $20 billion on sub-prime writedowns after insuring over $57 billion-worth of financial instruments linked to sub-prime mortgages.

Charles Prince, the former chief executive of Citigroup, who resigned under pressure in November 2007, exited the firm with a $68million severance package. He had been paid $53 million in the previous four years. Remarkably, his 2007 bonus of $12.5 million in cash was based on a formula that adjusts the 2006 bonus to take account of the 2007 share price but was not directly based on the performance of the company in 2007. His predecessor, Sanford Weill, left the bank with $874million in shares and share options.

Stan O’Neal, who is credited with turning around the fortunes of Merrill Lynch when he took over in 2002, drove the company in the direction of equity dealing and sub-prime-related financial products.

He earned $36 million in 2005 and a further $47 million in 2006.When he was ousted in October 2007 after Merrill racked up multibillion-dollar losses on sub-prime products, he walked away with $161.5 million in stock and options. Last week, Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America in a distress sale.

Dick Fuld, the chief executive of Lehman Brothers, was nicknamed the ‘gorilla’. He is known for his love of bodybuilding and colourful language. He threatened to break the legs of any Lehman executive who was short-selling its stock. His hard-nosed style at the Wall Street firm was typical of the culture that prevailed at the company. He is reported to have earned a total of $500 million at Lehman.

Fuld is now being blamed for not selling Lehman several weeks ago when it is alleged that a Korean Bank made an offer. It has been speculated that Fuld turned down the offer because it wasn’t high enough and that he was in denial about what could happen at Lehman.

The collapse of the firm last week made it the biggest bankruptcy in corporate history – ten times larger than the collapse of Worldcom.

Fuld took bigger and bigger chances with Lehman in recent years, piling into high-risk mortgages. Lehman built up an $88 billion mortgage-backed portfolio. In 2006, he earned $40 million, a year in which total Lehman group bonuses to staff and executives topped $5.7 billion.

Like many other chief executives on Wall Street, Fuld’s basic salary was modest by corporate standards. His base salary was $750,000, less than the base salary of several Irish bank executives. Jimmy Cayne, the former head of Bear Stearns, was paid a base salary of just $250,000 in 2006, but total bonuses and stock earnings amounted to $33.6million.

Joseph Stiglitz makes it clear that trickle down economics just doesn’t work, too:

To be sure, the rescue plan that was just defeated was far better than what the Bush administration originally proposed. But its basic approach remained critically flawed. First, it relied – once again – on trickle-down economics: somehow, throwing enough money at Wall Street would trickle down to Main Street, helping ordinary workers and homeowners. Trickle-down economics almost never works, and it is no more likely to work this time.

Moreover, the plan assumed that the fundamental problem was one of confidence. That is no doubt part of the problem; but the underlying problem is that financial markets made some very bad loans. There was a housing bubble, and loans were made on the basis of inflated prices.

That bubble has burst. House prices probably will fall further, so there will be more foreclosures, and no amount of talking up the market is going to change that. The bad loans, in turn, have created massive holes in banks’ balance sheets, which have to be repaired. Any government bail-out that pays fair value for these assets will do nothing to repair that hole. On the contrary, it would be like providing massive blood transfusions to a patient suffering from vast internal hemorrhaging.

What Stiglitz proposes is vastly different than the government’s bailout scheme that would punish average American taxpayers:

At the same time, several steps can be taken to reduce foreclosures. First, housing can be made more affordable for poor and middle-income Americans by converting the mortgage deduction into a cashable tax credit. The government effectively pays 50% of the mortgage interest and real estate taxes for upper-income Americans, yet does nothing for the poor. Second, bankruptcy reform is needed to allow homeowners to write down the value of their homes and stay in their houses. Third, government could assume part of a mortgage, taking advantage of its lower borrowing costs.

By contrast, US treasury secretary Henry Paulson’s approach is another example of the kind of shell games that got America into its mess. Investment banks and credit rating agencies believed in financial alchemy – the notion that significant value could be created by slicing and dicing securities. The new view is that real value can be created by un-slicing and un-dicing – pulling these assets out of the financial system and turning them over to the government. But that requires overpaying for the assets, benefiting only the banks.

In the end, there is a high likelihood that if such a plan is ultimately adopted, American taxpayers will be left on the hook. In environmental economics, there is a basic principle, called “the polluter pays principle.” It is a matter of both equity and efficiency. Wall Street has polluted the economy with toxic mortgages. It should pay for the cleanup.

Stiglitz’s environmental metaphor makes me think of another important concept, inspired by Rachel Carson, known as the “precautionary principle.” In a nutshell, this idea asks that companies and governments should be required to investigate the harm that a particular act may do to people and the environment before engaging in that act. Perhaps the same should be applied to Wall Street. And to Pennsylvania Avenue. In another opinion piece by Stiglitz from today’s Guardian, he expands on some of the arguments above from yesterday’s Guardian:

The very assumption that the rescue plan has to help is suspect. After all, the IMF and US treasury bail-outs for Wall Street 10 years ago in Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia and Argentina didn’t work for those countries, although it did enable Wall Street to get back most of its money. The taxpayers in these other poor countries picked up the tab for the financial markets’ mistakes. This time, it is American taxpayers who are being asked to pick up the tab. And that’s the difference. For all the rhetoric about democracy and good governance, the citizens in those countries didn’t really get a chance to vote on the bail-outs. Had they, most would have suffered the same fortune as Paulson’s.

There is, in fact, a widespread consensus among economists about what should be done. The economy is weak, and would remain so even with a good rescue plan. That is why there is a need for a strong stimulus. The February stimulus package was badly designed, and its anaemic effects offset by soaring oil and food prices. Given the enormous increase in the deficit during the past seven years (from $5.7bn to over $9 trillion – and that doesn’t include the bills yet to be paid for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) we have to be sure that we get the biggest bang for the buck. We need increased unemployment benefits, and aid to states and localities, which otherwise will be forced to cut back on spending, depressing the economy further. We need more investment in both the public and private sectors.

Naomi Klein, in the context of her disaster capitalism thesis explains how this new disaster is working, and will continue to work, if the President and Congress are allowed to move forward:

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right’s ability to use this crisis — created by deregulation and privatization — to demand more of the same. Don’t forget that Newt Gingrich’s 527 organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, is still riding the wave of success from its offshore drilling campaign, “Drill Here, Drill Now!” Just four months ago, offshore drilling was not even on the political radar and now the U.S. House of Representatives has passed supportive legislation. Gingrich is holding an event this Saturday, September 27 that will be broadcast on satellite television to shore up public support for these controversial policies.

What Gingrich’s wish list tells us is that the dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock. The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor. A President McCain would embrace these policies willingly. A President Obama would come under huge pressure from the think tanks and the corporate media to abandon his campaign promises and embrace austerity and “free-market stimulus.”

We have seen this many times before, in this country and around the world. But here’s the thing: these opportunistic tactics can only work if we let them. They work when we respond to crisis by regressing, wanting to believe in “strong leaders” – even if they are the same strong leaders who used the September 11 attacks to push through the Patriot Act and launch the illegal war in Iraq.

What Klein has been arguing in all of her print and television media appearances is that this economic shock is no different than the environmental or military shocks that have been used by the Bush administration to force draconian policies on the U.S., which often affect the world at large. I prefer Jeff Gibbs’ piece in Counterpunch this week inspired by a Robin Hood philosophy as to what we can do with that $700 billion:

1) Go after the evil doers

If their our economy is truly in peril because of self-serving, manipulative and possibly illegal decisions by greed folks who have abused our faith in them don’t reward them, go after them! Seek out the individuals AND corporations who have profited from these “toxic” instruments and seize their wealth if necessary. Call the police, the FBI, Homeland Security. If we can seize a janitor or a teacher’s home for the “public good” to build a shopping mall, we can take back ill-gotten gains from greedy bastards to save the economy.

2) Make the rich take responsibility

If we MUST have a bailout, why not have the richest Americans—the people who have gained the most from this system—do it? The wealthiest 400 Americans—FOUR HUNDRED PEOPLE! –are worth $1.5 trillion. They could put up the first $250 billion and see how it goes. They could put up the whole $1 trillion and still have a billion dollars each to play with. Or we could have the wealthiest 10% of Americans put up 5% or so of their collective $40 trillion in wealth to save Wall Street. The rich can spare 5%, hell they could spare 90% and still have far more than you and me.

3) Do what the Swedes do

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.
From: The New York Times.

If the people’s money is used to bail our Wall Street’s greedy excesses, why is no one proposing that the people get a stake in these companies? Why are we not making them swallow their own toxic “products” before loaning them a dime? Why are we not making sure that executives, employees and shareholders don’t profit further from their monumental failure? According to Michael Moore the promised limits are not even present in the current legislation. [note numbering is wrong in the original; there is no number 4]

5) Open the First National People’s Bank

If our leaders are so worried about you and me being able to borrow money, use the trillion dollars of OUR money to fund our OWN bank, the First National People’s Bank. OUR bank could fund home and auto loans, farmers, and small businesses.

6) Jump start the “trickle up” economy

Use the trillion dollars to put people out of work back to work. That’s what got us out of the great depression. Take care of the people first. Take care of the working people and the money trickles up to the wealthy. That’s the genius of Henry Ford.

7) Use the trillion to fund universal health care

It’s not TAXES that make American businesses non-competitive and on the edge of collapse, it’s that American’s don’t have health care. Ask G.M. and Ford. Instead of welfare for the rich and bombing nations that don’t threaten us to oblivion, why don’t we try providing basic services to our own people?

8 ) Send Oprah

You know if only those stock brokers and traders and executives were better at visualizing abundance they wouldn’t be in this mess. Why don’t we all send them our old “The Secret” DVD’s since by now we’re all rich and don’t need them anymore? Maybe when Wall Street is finished with them they can send the DVD’s on to Somalia where obviously they have been having trouble with the abundance thing—maybe they are just not in touch enough with how much they deserve it.

9) Believe in capitalism

If the visualizing abundance thing doesn’t work out, let the companies that have been irresponsible fail. Capitalists love survival of the fittest and competition and it’s time to let them have their way.

10) Bail out Lori

My friend Lori is a self-employed single parent. When she got sick last year she had no health care, no disability, no mortgage insurance. Her family has held raffles and fundraisers in bars to help pay for medicines. Lori is now on a breathing machine and can no longer walk. Lori is losing her and her seven-year old son’s house. Last time I checked Lori pilfered money from no one, created no toxic instruments, placed no wagers that the system would go down. Now all she asks is for the medical care she needs to avoid dying, to keep her home, and to feed and cloth her son.

Senator Obama, please bail out Lori out before you bail out the wealthy.

I especially like the Swedish model above. But what he gets wrong is asking Obama for help. As Dennis Bernstein has reported, Obama’s finance chair, Penny Pritzger is responsible for the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the first place. Here is a bit of Berstein’s investigative piece:

the 1,406 people who lost much of their life savings when Superior Bank of Chicago went belly up in 2001 with over $1 billion in insured and uninsured deposits. This collapse came amid harsh criticism of how Superior’s owners promoted sub-prime home mortgages. As part of a settlement, the owners paid $100 million and agreed to pay another $335 million over 15 years at no interest.

The uninsured depositors were dealt another blow recently when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision to put any recovered money toward the debt that the bank owners owe the federal government before the depositors get anything.

But this seven-year-old bank failure has relevance in another way today, since the chair of Superior’s board for five years was Penny Pritzker, a member of one of America’s richest families and the current Finance Chair for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, the same candidate who has lashed out against predatory lending.

Last week Bernstein and the always fabulous Nora Barrows-Friedman, updated this piece in light of the current financial crisis on Flashpoints. This episode is a must listen to.

But what is really interest is the sort of creative protesting that took place in the U.S. like Buy My S*&^pile, which asks people to post online or bring possessions they no longer want and then ask the government to bail them out, too. Journalist Arun Gupta apparently sent around an email that mushroomed into a protest that included this “cash for trash” action.

As I go on and on about the U.S. economy, what is really worrying me is the situation of poor people. In the U.S., yes, but here, too. I wrote this week about the situation in the Palestinian Nahr el Bared refugee camp in Lebanon. There was a rather ridiculous article in the Guardian about UNRWA’s fiscal crisis by Leila Shahid that wonders why money from Arab governments is not forthcoming. What Shahid should be doing is first contextualizing the problem: Arab governments like the United Arab Emirates and Jordan assisted the Lebanese government’s war on Nahr el Bared in the summer of 2007. Second, she should be aware that Palestinian refugees, whether they are from Nahr el Bared or any other camp in any country, will clearly tell you that UNRWA is part of the problem. That is not to say that UNRWA should not be given proper funds to ensure the well being of Palestinian refugees who rely on their services. But what about getting to the root of the problem? Like the economic crisis, the root of the problem is decades of corporate welfare. Ending that could be one step in a long-term solution. Likewise, a solution that asked Arab governments not for charity handouts, but some real solidarity working to help Palestinians achieve their right of return to Palestine would be a far more helpful solution. Rather than colluding with the Zionist state, for instance, on economic or political levels, these countries could revive the Arab boycott of Israel.

Here in Palestine, an economic, military, social, and political siege is making a normal Eid al Fitr holiday impossible. As I reported earlier, we are under full closure. Families are separated from one another and cannot celebrate together. Moreover, a new UN report shows that there is an increase in checkpoints throughout the West Bank:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the Israeli army installed 19 news barriers since April this year and thus increasing the number of roadblock to 630 including 93 checkpoints used for full search.

Several international countries practiced pressure on Israel to ease the restrictions on movement in the occupied West Bank as currently a 20 minute trip could take up to several hours and in some cases would be impossible.

The UN added that three-quarters of the main roads which lead to the main eighteen Palestinian cities and towns are either sealed or fully controlled by the army.

The UN also said that this percentage indicates 3% or nineteen more obstacles that the Palestinians have to face on daily basis. This number does not include 69 obstacles and barriers under full Israeli control in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

Another new report on water reveals data about illegal Israeli settlements dumping its sewage on West Bank towns and villages.

And in the midst of these economic, political, social woes, the U.S. government just approved a $15.2 billion dollar deal to allow Lockheed Martin to sell Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) new fighter jets. I’m not really sure why the U.S. government needs to approve the deal. Given the increasing fusion of the U.S. and Israel to help the Zionist state become the 51st state. For instance, since when does Congress take off for a Jewish holiday? Notice, of course, they don’t say anything about taking off for Eid, though there is at least one Muslim congressman. What about separation between church and state?

Other disturbing news masked as “good” news–the Zionists are great at this, by the way, they love to try to make it seem like they are really interested in humanity, in people, but really there is no difference here between one weapon littering the land and people of Lebanon (or elsewhere) and another:

Defense officials say army will switch to local-made M-85 bombs in order to limit civilian casualties such as those caused during and after Second Lebanon War, in which ‘we were relying on arsenal of American ordnance likely to produce duds’

Israel has cut purchases of US-made cluster bombs, defense officials said on Tuesday, stocking up on supplies of M-85 bombs from the state-owned Israeli Military Industries (IMI). The report has not yet been confirmed by the IDF.

the Second Lebanon War, thus assuaging worldwide criticism heaped on the State over the issue. More than 100 countries have banned the bombs because of their impreciseness.

This is one reason why, although I support activism to ban cluster bombs, I also find it problematic as if other bombs are any less destructive, lethal, murderous.

And one final bit of news for the day that demonstrates the collusion between the U.S. legal system and Israel:

The Palestine Liberation Organization cannot win dismissal of a lawsuit by victims of bombings in Israel by claiming the attacks were acts of war rather than terrorism, a judge ruled Tuesday.

US District Judge George Daniels said the 2004 lawsuit on behalf of victims and their families can proceed toward trial. It seeks up to $3 billion in damages from attacks between January 2001 and February 2004.

Let’s contrast this for a moment with the lawsuit that Cindy and Craig Corrie attempted to sue for the ITF usage of a Caterpillar bulldozer to murder their daughter, Rachel Corrie, along with numerous of Palestinian families who have been murdered by these bulldozers and had their homes destroyed by them. Cindy and Craig Corrie explain:

Meanwhile, we are still asking our government for a US-led investigation into Rachel’s killing. The US state department is on record saying that the report of the Israeli military police does not reflect an investigation that was “thorough, credible and transparent”, despite that being promised to President Bush by Ariel Sharon. In March we initiated a lawsuit against the Israel Defence Force and the government of Israel, to seek justice for Rachel and also information. We still would like to know what happened on March 16 2003, and why the international eyewitness reports differ so radically from the statements of the soldiers involved.

Unfortunately, the Israeli parliament, counter to international law, has passed retroactive legislation making it impossible for most Palestinians and others to file suit against the IDF for injury that occurred in the occupied territories after September 2000.

In the US we have taken legal action against Caterpillar Inc, which manufactured the D-9R bulldozer which killed Rachel. Under existing US law, corporations can be, and are being, held responsible when they knowingly continue to provide goods and services that are used in a pattern of human-rights violations.

Tom Wright and Therese Saliba reported that the U.S. government, in collusion with the Zionist state, sided with Caterpillar:

Corrie et al vs. Caterpillar then proceeded to the appellate level, before the Ninth Circuit. Just before the Court was set to issue its ruling, the Government weighed in on the matter with a late amicus brief — standing with Caterpillar, and against the Corrie plaintiffs. In the brief, the US first stooped to argue that there should be no liability for aiding and abetting human rights violations under the statutes germane to this suit, namely the Alien Torts Statute of 1789, and the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1992. (These Acts are part of the foundation of individuals’ access to US courts in cases of human rights violations.)

Then, in the same brief, the government declared (without submitting evidence) that it had reimbursed Israel for the cost of the bulldozers. Therefore, went its argument, to hold the company liable would be to implicate US foreign policy itself in criminal violations. Foreign policy being the prerogative largely of the Executive branch, the Court lacked jurisdiction. To hear the case would be a breach of the separation of powers.

Incredibly, the Ninth Circuit embraced this “foreign policy” argument, and in September, 2007 affirmed the dismissal of the suit.

These difference between these two lawsuits is obvious. This is one of the many reasons why there is a boycott campaign against Caterpillar.