palestine and absurdism

elia suleiman, one of my favorite palestinian filmmakers has a new movie out entitled “the time that remains.” the film premiered at cannes and i’m hoping it comes to a theater near me very soon. here is a clip from the film, though it is in arabic with french subtitles:

here is a synopsis:

THE TIME THAT REMAINS is a semi biographic film, in four historic episodes, about a family -my family – spanning from 1948, until recent times. The film is inspired by my father’s diaries of his personal accounts, starting from when he was a resistant fighter in 1948, and by my mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country since then. Combined with my intimate memories of them and with them, the film attempts to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled « Israeli-Arabs », living as a minority in their own homeland.

one of the reasons i love his films so much is that absurdism as a style (think samuel beckett) is the best at capturing the insanity that sometimes contextualizes this history and its present. absurdism captures zionist crimes as well as its collaborating allies in the palestinian authority. a recent article in electronic intifada by ali abu nimah and hasan abu nimah lays out the absurdity, for instance, of salam fayyad trying to declare a palestinian state in its current and ever shrinking archipelago form:

Late last month, Salam Fayyad, the appointed Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister in Ramallah, made a surprise announcement: he declared his intention to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the end of 2011 regardless of the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

Fayyad told the London Times that he would work to build “facts on the ground, consistent with having our state emerge as a fact that cannot be denied.” His plan was further elaborated in a lengthy document grandly titled “Program of the Thirteenth Government of the Palestinian National Authority.”

The plan contains all sorts of ambitious ideas: an international airport in the Jordan Valley, new rail links to neighboring states, generous tax incentives to attract foreign investment, and of course strengthening the “security forces.” It also speaks boldly of liberating the Palestinian economy from its dependence on Israel, and reducing dependence on foreign aid.

This may sound attractive to some, but Fayyad has neither the political clout nor the financial means to propose such far-reaching plans without a green light from Washington or Tel Aviv.

Fayyad aims to project an image of a competent Palestinian administration already mastering the craft of running a state. He boasts, for instance, that the PA he heads has worked to “develop effective institutions of government based on the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency.”

But what is really taking shape in the West Bank today is a police state, where all sources of opposition or resistance — real or suspected — to either the PA regime, or the Israeli occupation are being systematically repressed by US-funded and trained Palestinian “security forces” in full coordination with Israel. Gaza remains under tight siege because of its refusal to submit to this regime.

In describing the Palestinian utopia he hopes to create, Fayyad’s plan declares that “Palestine will be a stable democratic state with a multi-party political system. Transfer of governing authority is smooth, peaceful and regular in accordance with the will of the people, expressed through free and fair elections conducted in accordance with the law.”

A perfect opportunity to demonstrate such an exemplary transfer would have been right after the January 2006 election which as the entire world knows Hamas won fairly and cleanly. Instead, those who monopolize the PA leadership today colluded with outside powers first to cripple and overthrow the elected Hamas government, and then the “national unity government” formed by the Mecca Agreement in early 2007, entrenching the current internal Palestinian division. (Fayyad’s own party won just two percent at the 2006 election, and his appointment as prime minister by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas was never — as required by law — approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, dozens of whose elected members remain behind Israeli prison bars.)

From 1994 to 2006, more than eight billion US dollars were pumped into the Palestinian economy, making Palestinians the most aid-dependent people on earth, as Anne Le More showed in her important book International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo: Political Guilt; Wasted Money (London, Routledge, 2008). The PA received this aid ostensibly to build Palestinian institutions, improve socioeconomic development and support the creation of an independent state. The result however is that Palestinians are more destitute and aid-dependent than ever before, their institutions are totally dysfunctional, and their state remains a distant fantasy.

PA corruption and mismanagement played a big part in squandering this wealth, but by far the largest wealth destroyer was and remains the Israeli occupation. Contrary to what Fayyad imagines, you cannot “end the occupation, despite the occupation.”

A telling fact Le More reveals is that the previous “programs” of the PA (except those offered by the Hamas-led governments) were written and approved by international donor agencies and officials and then given to the PA to present back to the same donors who wrote them as if they were actually written by the PA!

Everything we see suggests Fayyad’s latest scheme follows exactly the same pattern. What is particularly troubling this time is that the plan appears to coincide with a number of other initiatives and trial balloons that present a real danger to the prospects for Palestinian liberation from permanent Israeli subjugation.

Recently, the International Middle East Media Center, an independent Palestinian news organization, published what it said was the leaked outline of a peace plan to be presented by US President Barack Obama.

That plan included international armed forces in most of the Palestinian “state”; Israeli annexation of large parts of East Jerusalem; that “All Palestinian factions would be dissolved and transformed into political parties”; all large Israeli settlements would remain under permanent Israeli control; the Palestinian state would be largely demilitarized and Israel would retain control of its airspace; intensified Palestinian-Israeli “security coordination”; and the entity would not be permitted to have military alliances with other regional countries.

On the central issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the alleged Obama plan allows only an agreed number of refugees to return, not to their original homes, but only to the West Bank, particularly to the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.

It is impossible to confirm that this leaked document actually originates with the Obama administration. What gives that claim credibility, however, is the plan’s very close resemblance to a published proposal sent to Obama last November by a bipartisan group of US elder statesmen headed by former US national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Moreover, recent press reports indicate a lively debate within the Obama Administration about whether the US should itself publish specific proposals for a final settlement once negotiations resume; so there is little doubt that concrete proposals are circulating.

Indeed there is little of substance to distinguish these various plans from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concept of “economic peace” and a demilitarized Palestinian statelet under overall Israeli control, with no right of return for refugees. And, since all seem to agree that the Jordan Valley — land and sky — would remain under indefinite Israeli control, so would Fayyad’s airport.

Similar gimmicks have been tried before: who remembers all the early Oslo years’ hullabaloo about the Gaza International Airport that operated briefly under strict Israeli control before Israel destroyed it, and the promised Gaza seaport whose construction Israel forbade?

There are two linked explanations for why Fayyad’s plan was launched now. US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has repeatedly defined his goal as a “prompt resumption and early conclusion” of negotiations. If the kinds of recycled ideas coming from the alleged Obama plan, the Scowcroft-Brzezinski document, or Netanyahu, are to have any chance, they need to look as if there is a Palestinian constituency for them. It is Fayyad’s role to provide this.

The second explanation relates to the ongoing struggle over who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA. It has become clear that Fayyad, a former World Bank official unknown to Palestinians before he was boosted by the George W. Bush Administration, appears to be the current favorite of the US and other PA sponsors. Channeling more aid through Fayyad may be these donors’ way of strengthening Fayyad against challengers from Abbas’ Fatah faction (Fayyad is not a member of Fatah) who have no intention of relinquishing their chokehold on the PA patronage machine.

Many in the region and beyond hoped the Obama Administration would be a real honest broker, at last bringing American pressure to bear on Israel, so that Palestinians might be liberated. But instead, the new administration is acting as an efficient laundry service for Israeli ideas; first they become American ones, and then a Palestinian puppet is brought in to wear them.

This is not the first scheme aimed at extinguishing Palestinian rights under the guise of a “peace process,” though it is most disappointing that the Obama Administration seems to have learned nothing from the failures of its predecessors. But just as before, the Palestinian people in their country and in the Diaspora will stand stubbornly in the way of these efforts. They know that real justice, not symbolic and fictitious statehood, remains the only pillar on which peace can be built.

nablus, where i lived last year, is being held up as a sort of model for this. last month in the independent ben lynfield reported on this:

The shopkeepers in Nablus, the West Bank’s toughest town, are smiling for a change. But no one knows for how long.

Dubbed “the mountain of fire” by Palestinians for its part in the revolt against the British mandate during the 1930s, Nablus is usually known for its violent uprisings, choking Israeli clampdowns and prowling Palestinian gunmen extorting protection money.

It is difficult to reconcile that reputation with the reality on the streets today. The centre of town is filled with shoppers picking up everything from new trainers and perfumes to armloads of dates for Ramadan, the Muslim festival which began on Saturday.

Nablus now has its first cinema in more than 20 years, grandly called “Cinema City”, which offers a diet of Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers and Arabic romantic comedies, complete with cappuccinos and myriad flavours of popcorn.

Israel has eased its chokehold of army checkpoints around the city, particularly the one at Huwwara in the south. It was once one of the worst West Bank bottlenecks, with long queues and copious permits required. But now Israeli soldiers wave cars through with the minimum of fuss.

Store owners in Nablus’s ancient casbah say sales are up 50 or even 100 per cent since the beginning of the year. Much of the upswing in trade can be attributed to the fact that, for the first time in eight years, Israel now allows its Arab citizens to drive into Nablus on a Saturday .

“It’s a better feeling when you sell more,” said Darwish Jarwan, whose family store sells toys, clothes and perfumes. “You are happier.”

The reminders of unhappier times are all around. There are bullet holes on the steps of the shop and he had to fix the door three times over the past eight years after it was damaged during Israeli army operations.

The Israeli easing at certain checkpoints is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to demonstrate he is serious about encouraging Palestinian economic improvement in order to build peace “from the bottom up”. Israeli army officials credit the work of US-trained Palestinian Authority security forces, which have allowed them to lift the checkpoints.

The Israeli and PA moves have produced the most positive economic indicators for years, with the International Monetary Fund saying last month that growth could reach 7 per cent provided there was a more comprehensive easing of restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement.

But critics say Mr Netanyahu’s approach is aimed at evading the broad political concessions needed to really defuse the Israeli-Palestinian powder keg. Nablus residents are themselves cautious, especially given the Jewish settlements that surround the town. Back at his shop, Mr Jarwan says the economic boost alone will not be enough to satisfy his countrymen.

“Buying and selling isn’t everything,” he explains. “We want our own Palestinian country and to get our freedom. If the settlements continue to go on like this, I’m sure there will be another explosion.”

Nablus is known for its pastries, especially knafeh, a sweet made out of goats’ cheese. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, was the first to sample the “largest knafeh in the world”, which was prepared to draw attention to the city’s revival and as a celebration of the new sense of security and relative normalcy.

But at the city’s most revered bakery, al-Aksa Sweets, there was a sour after-taste as an unemployed teacher declared after finishing his helping: “The lifting of checkpoints is all theatre, nothing substantial, a show for the Americans and Europe. All of this is for a limited time.”

Another resident stressed that Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that swept municipal and legislative elections in Nablus in 2005 and 2006, is still popular, although that is not visible since its leaders are in jail and its activities suppressed.

At the new Cinema City, the owner’s son, Farouk al-Masri, was also hesitant about painting too rosy a picture. “Things are better,” he says. “There is more security, police are keeping law and order, there are less Israeli incursions and less restrictions at checkpoints. The great number of Palestinians from Israel who are coming have breathed life into the city. We’ve been living in this fear, being isolated and not being able to go in and out but now there is more room to move.” But he added: “It’s all very flimsy. We saw it during the years of the Oslo agreement. There were signs of great things ahead and it all collapsed in the blink of an eye.”

The cinema is often cited as a symbol of the new Nablus, although at £4 a seat, tickets are beyond the reach of many residents. Nonetheless, the current bill, an Egyptian romantic comedy called Omar and Salma has sold out every night since it opened 10 days ago.

“They love comedy here,” said Mr al-Masri. “We had one movie that was very bloody. People didn’t accept it and only a few came to see it. Blood – we’ve had enough of that.”

but today it was reported that 55 palestinian homes in nablus will be demolished. and herein lies the absurdity of this model of palestinians trying to create “facts on the ground” or economic security rather than fighting for liberation and the right of return:

Despite the outcry raised by Palestinian and international human rights organizations, the Israeli military announced this weekend it plans to go ahead with 55 home demolitions in Nablus — a city deep inside the West Bank which is supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The homes in question are located in the Sawiya district in the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, an area with few Israeli settlements — although Israeli settlers have announced plans to expand the settlements located there.

“The Israeli decision constitutes a serious turning point in the development of Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights,” said the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in a statement released on Friday. The group said that it is concerned that these 55 demolitions will set a precedent for further demolitions in areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian control.

prisoners (of colonizers & collaborators alike)

i was rather shocked when this article by tim mcgirk from time magazine came across my news reader yesterday. it is a story about palestinian political prisoners through the vantage point of his family members left behind and the difficulty his young daughters have when visiting him in prison. here is how it begins:

Spending time with her dad requires that 6-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Bank town of Qalqilya, as her mother dresses her before dawn in an almond-green blouse and jeans, Jinan asks the same question she always does: “Mommy, why does Daddy have to sleep on the Israeli side?” And her mother Salam Nazal comforts her by saying, “Because that’s where the best Palestinian men go to sleep, and your father is one of them.” The town, which has elected a Hamas mayor, is known as a center of Palestinian militancy, and Israeli security forces conduct raids there on average five times a week.

Salam cannot accompany her daughters because she is on an Israeli security watch list, although she has never learned why she’s on it. Her immediate family lives in Jordan, so she must put the girls on a bus bound for Chattah-Gilboa prison inside Israel and hope that one of the many Palestinian women on board will help Jinan wrangle her sisters. “I’m so worried about having them go without me,” says Salam, as she hoists her girls onto the bus, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “But what can I do? This is their only chance to see their father.”

Ali Nazal, 35, who sold clothes from a cart in the streets, is one of more than 10,300 Palestinian detainees currently inside Israeli prisons. Although he has yet to be tried, Nazal has been behind bars for the past two years. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing weapons and harboring a fugitive — charges the family insists are based on false evidence from anonymous informers working for the Israeli security services. Salam says no weapons were found in their home but says the Israeli military demolished it anyway. The Israelis maintain that Ali was an active member of a militant organization and part of a cell that had been planning a terrorist attack.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Ali and his fellow detainees should never have been transferred to prisons outside the occupied territories. But since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in June 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails. Nearly every Palestinian family has someone who was locked up in Israel at some point. Prison has become a rite of passage for rebellious teens and, for families seeking to visit detained loved ones, a nightmare of permits, checkpoints and body searches. It’s not an easy journey for an adult, much less three unaccompanied tots carrying their lunch in a Barbie backpack.

my dear friend nora barrows-friedman did a similar story about amani khader a few years ago on flashpoints. amani is the daughter of husam khader, who was recently released from prison (last august). you can listen to her interview by clicking this link. amani describes similar hurdles she had to endure when she went to visit her father in prison and she reads one of her amazing rap songs at the end of interview. i have a special affection for amani because i’ve been tutoring her in balata refugee camp this year. she is one of the brightest and most beautiful people i’ve ever met. i know that if she were at my university now she would surpass even the seniors in college, although she is only a senior in high school. clearly she gets much of this genius from her father, husam, who i was very pleased to read made an important statement that was reported in ma’an news today:

A high-ranking Fatah official on Thursday proposed holding presidential and legislative elections as an alternative to the “useless” Cairo dialogue so that Palestinians can choose between a program led by Fatah and resistance agenda claimed by Hamas but which it “does not practice.”

Husam Khader, a Fatah legislator within the Palestinian Legislative Council, said during a visit to Ma’an News Agency in the West Bank city of Bethlehem that “without agreeing on a decent election program between Fatah and Hamas that will specify the future of the Palestinians, these elections will not be held and the state of division that is supported by western parties and Israel will deepen.”

“Palestinians are qualified more than others for such a situation since there is a geographical barrier between the West Bank and Gaza, which is the [Israeli] occupation,” he added.

Concerning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass upcoming visit to the United States, Khader downplayed the visit, saying that it will not lead to anything because “the US administration will just assure the promises of previous administrations toward a two-state solution.”

He demanded that President Abbas present a draft to US President Barack Obama dismantling the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a commitment to end popular resistance against Israel. “President Abbas should present this solution, which is the right one, because “the PA useless on the ground and is represented solely by the salary [for public employees] at the end of the month.”

Regarding whether or not Fatah’s sixth conference will go on as planned, he said it was “a big lie,” noting that “there are persons inside Fatah who are afraid of democracy more than the [Israeli] occupation, because they fear for their interests, and will obstruct holding a conference using weak excuses and deceiving the movement’s affiliates.”

my only beef with the above statement is husam’s bit about giving up resistance against the zionist entity. but i highly doubt that this is what he said or that he really means this. i would be shocked if that were true. but the idea that the palestinian collaborationist authority can continue on its path of collaboration and repression is finally penetrating even fatah circles. it is refreshing to say the least.

ben white’s article in electronic intifada today details much of the corruption and collaboration with the zionist entity and its criminal ally the united states. it discusses my friend abdel sattar al qassem and his most recent imprisonment in a palestinian jail. white’s article makes it clear why the sulta (salata) must go:

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.” As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a “hoax,” and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures “in the harshest possible words,” according to Ma’an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA’s security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

“It was evident that they didn’t want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case.”

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they “have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA.”

One aspect of this phenomenon is an assault on the freedom of the press. Back in December of last year, the Ma’an news agency carried out an investigation into what it described as “an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation against West Bank and Gaza Strip journalists,” carried out by the Palestinian Authority.

The report detailed how independent news agencies had become targets for “President Mahmoud Abbas’s security establishment, particularly the PA’s Office of the Attorney General.” The same month as Ma’an’s investigation, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate demanded that the PA release journalists from West Bank prisons, noting that “some journalists had been in prison for more than three months.”

Criticizing the PA, or even affording Hamas coverage, now seems enough to get on the blacklist, or become a target for the PA’s security apparatus. In fact, a Nablus-based journalist “found himself in a prison cell” in January for reporting the torching of Professor Qassem’s car, according to The Jerusalem Post. In February, the Post reported that “the PA’s crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas’s security forces.”

Another worrying trend in the PA-administered areas is an increasing militarization of civilian policing. During my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the first things several of my friends told me about was an energetic campaign by the PA to clamp down on car-related crime. There were now impromptu checkpoints thrown up on the main roads where drivers’ licenses were checked and the special permission required to drive Israeli yellow-plated cars was requested.

Nobody minded, in theory, increased efficiency in law enforcement; what was troubling was the way the PA forces were going about it. It can seem like a small thing, a friend told me, but “it’s this militarization, this way of asserting a kind of domination over the people.” Many complained of the disrespectful behavior of the gun-toting men checking the cars.

This focus on “law and order” has become a repeated theme in the last few years, particularly in cities like Nablus and Jenin. Just recently, in a fairly typical episode, Ma’an news agency reported that PA forces conducted a “sweep” in a village three kilometers from Nablus, arresting apparent “fugitives” and checking the registration of some 250 cars.

Consistent, genuine complaints about lawlessness and corruption in Nablus had already emerged in 2004-05, but it wasn’t until the end of 2007 that the current campaign was launched by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose official term as PA president expired in January. Beginning in Nablus, the law and order drive was replicated in Jenin in the summer of 2008. Residents have undoubtedly welcomed the increased security, but the nature of the campaign — and the context — is not so straightforward.

For example, the PA’s infrastructure (largely destroyed by Israel in 2001-02) is completely ill-equipped. In April 2008 in Nablus, for example, Reuters reported that only 13 percent of the prison’s inmates had actually been convicted; the restrictions of occupation and the inadequacy of the PA’s legal system mean that many face a long wait before their guilt or innocence can be determined in a court of law.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

meanwhile palestine hits the world record today for having the world’s longest political prisoner behind bars of the zionist usurping entity:

Former political prisoner, researcher and specialist in detainees’ affairs, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, has revealed that detainee Na’el Barghouthi now spent 31years behind bars. He was kidnapped by Israeli forces on April 4th 1978.

Farawna said that Barghouthi and other detainees who have spent many years in Israeli prisons and detention facilities have became the symbols of steadfastness, resistance and determination. Their continued imprisonment proves the criminal and immoral nature of the Israeli occupation, the Quds Net reported.

He also said that Palestinian resistance factions should insist on his release and the release of all detainees who have spent so many years behind bars for resisting the occupation and fighting for their country.

On August 25, 2008, detainee Sa’id Al Ataba was released from an Israeli prison after he spent 31 years and 26 days behind bars.

Detainee Barghouthi, born in the central West Bank city of Ramallah in 1957, was kidnapped by the army on April 4, 1978, when he was only 21 years old. He was sentenced by an Israeli military court to one life-term.

for further context on these crimes of the zionist apartheid regime listen to one of nora’s latest interviews with our friend hazem jamjoum on flashpoints. it is an amazing discussion of the apartheid regime.

in spite of everything, some sunshine

sunset in nablus
sunset in nablus

i am so hoping that spring is here early. the sun has been out every day and it has been a warm sun again. it feels amazing. i know we have a regional drought here, but we can have rain and sun at the same time. i spent the afternoon today at the yaffa cultural center in balata refugee camp. they asked me the other day to teach an english language tawjihi class so today was our first meeting. there are about 15 students in the class. about half boys and half girls. the girls seem to have a better command of the language than the boys, however. i noticed in the group that two girls, who were obviously sisters given their faces, looked familiar. the older of the two was helping to translate for the students who needed help. at the end of the class i asked them what their family name is and then i realized why they looked familiar. they are the daughters of hussam khader. i remember their faces from the day i went to welcome the political prisoners who were released from israeli colonialist prisons last august. i have met hussam a few times because we have mutual friends, but i haven’t seen his daughters since that day. after the class hussam and some other fathers were waiting in the office drinking tea and smoking cigarettes and i went in to join them.

hussam’s life is a typical story for many palestinians dedicated to liberating their land, especially refugees dedicated to that goal. he has been in and out of israeli colonial prisons for much of his adult life:

Hussam Khader, who was born on Dec. 8th 1961 in the Palestinian village Kofr Romman, graduated from the Najah University in Nablus in Business Management and Political Sciences. He became a member of the Fatah party, to which Yassir Arafat belongs, too, in 1978. Before the 1st Intifada he was already arrested 23 times by the Israeli occupation forces, detained for 10 years, as well as placed under house arrest for one year.

At the beginning of the 1st Intifada, he became one of the founders of several of the youth organisations (including in Balata Refugee Camp, of which he is a resident) that were to play a crucial part in the popular uprising. He was also involved in the Student Council of Najah University. On Jan. 1st 1988 he became the first activist to be deported from Palestine. After being wounded in a demonstration he was brought to South Lebanon by the Israeli occupation forces.

there are details about his so-called “trial” on the samoud website. an najah university also has a report on his case as he is an alumus. on the day of his most recent arrest in 2003 here is what happened:

Hussam Khader, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), has been accused by Israeli authorities of “directing and financing terror in the Nablus area”. Khader is the second member of the PLC to be arrested, after Marwan Barghouti last April, and he has been held in the Peta Tikva detention camp since his arrest in Balata camp, near Nablus, on 17 March 2003.

Khader’s brother Ghassan said that the arrest took place at about 4am when Israeli soldiers broke down the door of his house and started shooting. “It was dark and bullets were flying everywhere, they even fired shots into the bathroom and the kitchen,” he said. “Everything was destroyed, it’s a miracle no one was killed.” Before reaching Hussam Khader’s house, the soldiers raided seven neighbouring homes. It later became clear, however, that Khader was the only man they were after. “They were shooting just to provoke us,” his brother said.

When the soldiers identified Khader, they pushed him against a wall, saying repeatedly that he was a terrorist and they were arresting him. All of his personal papers, his computer and files were confiscated. He was taken away in a military jeep, leaving behind his wife and three young children. His family has not been allowed to see him since.

he is not typical of fatah, i should point out:

Khader is one of several men in a younger generation of Fatah leaders who command support on the streets and who are pushing for major reform within the movement. He still rails against Fatah corruption, though it remains to be seen whether in the months ahead he can bring any significant change to a situation in stalemate. Since his release, thousands of supporters have descended on his small home in the Balata camp, in Nablus, to talk about the future at a time of deep division between the two leading Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, and deadlock in the peace negotiations.

“The situation has got worse because of the separation and fighting between Fatah and Hamas,” Khader said. “We don’t have a state yet, but we have two heads in this state and this will push us back to square one in our struggle. It’s a very, very dangerous point that we have reached.”

Khader was arrested at his home in March 2003 and convicted of being a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement that played a key role in the second intifada, and of helping fund the group through connections to Hizbullah and Iran. He was sentenced to seven years in jail but released after five and a half. It was his 24th time in an Israeli prison – he was first arrested at age 13 for taking part in a demonstration against the Israeli occupation.

but all of this is about hussam and who i really want to talk about is his daughter. i spent about an hour with her after the class. i was blown away by this young woman who, if she were a university student now, would far surpass all of the students i’ve taught at an najah thus far. like her father she grew up with the knowledge that education is a part of resistance. she is a stellar student, plays the violin, and wants to be a rapper. she attended a hip hop workshop in deheishe refugee camp last summer. she wrote some beautiful raps about her father, who was still in prison at the time. on the day of the final performance at the summer workshop she had to leave as they were allowed one of the rare prison visits–those visits that make families wake up at 4 am and if they are lucky get to see their loved ones for a couple of hours several hours later. so she brought her rap to the prison and performed it for her father and his friends instead, which is, i think, far more powerful and amazing. she asked me to help her translate the raps, which i am so delighted and eager to do. she’s completely proficient in english, but she wants help working out the rhythm of the raps to match the rhythm of the arabic.

amani also told me about her school life here. she’s a senior in high school and unlike the other students in my tawjihi english class, she doesn’t go to one of the unrwa schools. she goes to a private school in nablus. the stories she shared with me about her peers and their ideas of who refugees are were unreal. i mean, of course, i have been blogging for months now about the racism i witness here that is directed at refugees. but in her experience she also sees the ignorance that is at the core of this racism. for instance, she told me that there are many students in her school who think that refugees still live in tents. now this is just shocking because in the city of nablus itself, including balata, the camps are on main roads that everyone drives by. how you can think this is bizarre to me. she tells me that her peers think that she shouldn’t live in the camp because that is where the “bad people” live. this is how the racism here–even though it is intra-racial–functions just like in the u.s.: just because there may be a couple of “bad people” the entire camp population–or all the camps–get labeled as such. but there are no more “bad people” than in the city of nablus. and this is how americans often rationalize their racism against brown people who live in the inner cities; they say the same things to rationalize their racism by deciding that it is a place that is “unsafe” or that it is full of “criminals.” imagine that she has had to deal with this sort of discrimination while living through most of her girlhood with her father in prison. in prison for fighting for all palestinian rights–not just refugees. her father whom she calls her best friend. and it was so lovely to see them together, to see how loving they are, how close they are. it is visible. beautiful. this is the feeling of warmth that was far more powerful than the sunshine that emanated from the skies today. i feel so much more comfortable in the camps than i do elsewhere in palestine. i feel so grateful that i was asked to teach this class and that i will be spending more time there now.

my frustration about these divisions are numerous, but it often baffles me here because, as i have said before, unlike some other cities in palestine, it is not only the refugee camps that are invaded every night by israeli terrorists. here ordinary nabulsis are also regularly kidnapped as with today, including a student from my university:

Israeli forces arrested three Palestinians from Nablus and the neighboring villages of Salem and Beit Wazan on Saturday morning.

Thirty-two-year-old Imad Abu Eisha from Beit Wazan reported the detentions, saying Israeli forces stormed his village at 3:00am and ransacked several homes before arresting a 23-year-old girl identified as Rima Abu Eisha, a student at An-Najah National University in Nablus.

Local sources in the village of Salem east of Nablus told said Israeli forces arrested 24-year-old Ali Ishtayya from his home after they raided the village.

In Nablus, 22-year-old Abdullah Al-‘Ikir was seized on Asira Ash-Shamaliyya street after several Israeli military jeeps stormed the city.

and meanwhile in gaza israeli terrorists continue to attack palestinians with their american-made weapons:

Israeli forces launched an overnight airstrike on a carpentry workshop in the Jabalia refugee camp injuring six people Saturday morning.

Palestinian medical sources said the carpentry and several neighboring houses sustained severe damage and six people sustained mild to moderate wounds. They were all evacuated to hospital.

On Friday, a Palestinian was killed and two others injured as Israeli warplanes targeted a motorcycle in the southern Gaza Strip in the town of Abasan Al-Kabira, which east of Khan Younis.

and so the numbers keep rising, the numbers of the martyrs in gaza:

The death toll of the Gaza war reached 1,374 Friday as Egyptian medical sources announced the death of a Gazan woman injured during Israel’s 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Director of ambulance and emergency service in the Palestinian health ministry Muawiya Hassanain identified the victim as 24-year-old Nay Fayiz Hasan. She had been transferred to the Egyptian hospital mid-way through the war.

and those who remain in gaza are struggling to deal with its aftermath as mike kirsch reports on al jazeera:

but it is not just gaza where this ethnic cleansing project goes on. sometimes they do it with murder, sometimes with theft, sometimes with both. today they engaged in more theft of land in beit lahem:

About 300 Israeli settlers escorted by IOF troops and border guards invaded Friday several areas in the Artas village, south of Bethlehem, and set up several tents on these areas which are threatened with annexation.

This Israeli escalation came after Israeli bulldozers established 800-meter road linking the area of Khalat Al-Nahl in the village with the Efrat settlement built on the territory of several villages in the area including Artas and Khadr.

notice that israeli colonist terrorists and israeli terrorist forces work in cahoots here. they are one in the same. they all have blood on their hands. they all participate, daily, together in their murder-theft colonial project. for instance, palestinian fisherman continue to be fired upon in the waters of gaza:

Dr. Mohammed Al-Agha, the Palestinian agriculture minister in Gaza, has denounced the Israeli occupation forces’ continued shooting at Palestinian fisherman and their boats off the Gaza coasts.

Agha in a statement on Saturday said that the IOF gunboats on Saturday morning opened intensive fire at fishermen damaging ten fishing boats and scores of fishnets, which were left behind by the fishermen after they were forced to jump into sea.

gaza panorama
gaza panorama

i quoted a few weeks back someone from amnesty international saying that you cannot capture the devastation in gaza with a single camera lens because the destruction is so widespread. but someone managed to find a way to do this. the above photograph is from gaza panorama, but you must go to the website to see what photographer andreas lunde has done. it is a constant panorama of johr al deek in gaza in which you can use your mouse to move the image around. it is remarkable.

but what is most remarkable is the constant resiliency and ingenuity of palestinians in gaza. for instance, the community bakery created to meet people’s need for bread with few resources:

In a region where cooking gas is either non-existent or exorbitantly-priced, where firewood is scarce and burnables becoming scarcer, where electricity cuts occur regularly, and where bread is a staple food, people strive to find practical solutions to the bread crisis.

During Israel’s 3 weeks of brutal attacks on Gaza’s civilians, the bread crisis was heightened by 16 hour blackouts in the cities, complete blackouts in the majority of the Strip, and depleted wheat stocks. Those with flour handouts convoyed to the few places with electricity, including hospitals, to bake bread via a small, electric griddle.

likewise the tunnels or an amazing sign of resiliency and act of resistance given the never-ending blockade and siege on gaza as mohammed omer reports:

Tunnel owners earn $300 for each 100 pounds of goods smuggled in. (Smuggling animals for Gaza’s zoo can net up to $3,000 each!) With this revenue Abu Khaled supports 20 workers: diggers who do the dirty work, and runners who transport the goods.

As he separates bags of smuggled goods for distribution throughout the Strip, Abu Khaled points to his jeans. “These jeans I am wearing cost Egyptian pounds ($11), including the [Egyptian] merchant’s profit,” he explains, “but now I can sell them for 120 Israeli shekels ($34).”

Not only jeans, but shoes and underwear are brought through the tunnels and resold at high mark-ups. In addition, Abu Khaled notes, “We get medicine, gasoline, food, dried milk and monocycles” through the tunnels—which also serve as the conduit for sending money to merchants in Egypt to pay for the goods smuggled back into Gaza.

Islam frowns upon alcohol and drug use, although pharmaceuticals—even Viagra—continue to be smuggled in. According to Abu Khaled, Hamas police “control what we get in. Weapons and drugs are prohibited.” Rafah municipal officials confirm that they regulate tunnel operations, which they classify as an “investment project.”

In a society where the average family lives on $2 a day or less, tunnel work is a way out of poverty and a means to feed one’s family. Nader, a 20-year-old tunnel digger, admits he can make between $80 and $110 a day. “It depends on how many feet I dig in the ground,” the young man explains, adding that he usually spends 12 hours a day digging underground, in poorly ventilated conditions.

kathy kelly imagines what would happen if americans had to send its weapons of mass destruction to the zionist entity through a tunnel:

With the border crossing at Rafah now sealed again, people who want to obtain food, fuel, water, construction supplies and goods needed for everyday life will have to increasingly rely on the damaged tunnel industry to import these items from the Egyptian side of the border. Israel’s government says that Hamas could use the tunnels to import weapons, and weapons could kill innocent civilians, so the Israeli military has no choice but to bomb the neighborhood built up along the border, as they have been doing.

Suppose that the US weapon makers had to use a tunnel to deliver weapons to Israel. The US would have to build a mighty big tunnel to accommodate the weapons that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar have supplied to Israel. The size of such a tunnel would be an eighth wonder of the world, a Grand Canyon of a tunnel, an engineering feat of the ages.

Think of what would have to come through.

Imagine Boeing’s shipments to Israel traveling through an enormous underground tunnel, large enough to accommodate the wingspans of planes, sturdy enough to allow passage of trucks laden with missiles. According to the UK’s Indymedia Corporate Watch, 2009, Boeing has sent Israel 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, 63 Boeing F-15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 Boeing F-16 fighter planes, 42 Boeing AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, F-16 Peace Marble II and III Aircraft, four Boeing 777s, and Arrow II interceptors, plus Israel Aircraft Industries-developed Arrow missiles, and Boeing AGM-114 D Longbow Hellfire missiles.

In September of last year, the US government approved the sale of 1,000 Boeing GBU-9 small diameter bombs to Israel, in a deal valued at up to $77 million.

Now that Israel has dropped so many of those bombs on Gaza, Boeing shareholders can count on more sales, more profits, if Israel buys new bombs from them. Perhaps there are more massacres in store. It would be important to maintain the tunnel carefully.

Raytheon, one of the largest US arms manufacturers, with annual revenues of around $20 billion, is one of Israel’s main suppliers of weapons. In September last year, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of Raytheon kits to upgrade Israel’s Patriot missile system at a cost of $164 million. Raytheon would also use the tunnel to bring in Bunker Buster bombs as well as Tomahawk and Patriot missiles.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, with reported sales in 2008 of $42.7 billion. Lockheed Martin’s products include the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used in the recent Gaza attacks. Israel also possesses 350 F-16 jets, some purchased from Lockheed Martin. Think of them coming through the largest tunnel in the world.

Maybe Caterpillar Inc. could help build such a tunnel. Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with more than $30 billion in assets, holds Israel’s sole contract for the production of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of built-up areas. The US government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them to the Israeli army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package. Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of US military aid to “internal security” and “legitimate self defense” and prohibits its use against civilians.

Israel topples family houses with these bulldozers to make room for settlements. All too often, they topple them on the families inside. American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death standing between one of these bulldozers and a Palestinian doctor’s house in 2003.

yes, caterpillar. that company that barack obama–that president of change for koolaid drinkers out there–visited last week:

Over the objections of church groups, peace organizations and human rights activists, President Barack Obama decided to return to Illinois to visit the headquarters of the Caterpillar company, which for many years has violated international law, U.S. law and its own code of conduct in selling its D9 and D10 bulldozers to Israel.

In his speech on Thursday, Obama praised Caterpillar, saying “Your machines plow the farms that feed our families; build the towers that shape our skylines; lay the roads that connect our communities; power the trucks that deliver our goods.” He failed to mention that Caterpillar machines have been used to level homes, uproot olive orchards, build the illegal separation wall and, in some cases, kill innocent civilians, including a 23-year old American peace activist.

that same president who is continuing george bush’s legacy of bombing pakistan:

At least 27 people have been killed in a missile attack by an unmanned US drone in a tribal district of Pakistan, Pakistani officials have told Al Jazeera.

The raid destroyed a house in the northwestern town of Ladha, a base for Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban leader accused of plotting the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, an official said.

back to school in nablus & gaza

Palestinian boy Mohammed Kutkut, 14, right, covers his face as he sits next to the name sign of his killed friend Ahed Qaddas in the Fakhoura boys school in Jebaliya, northern Gaza strip, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. Three friends of his class where killed when the Israeli army shelled Jebaliya in the past weeks. Tens of thousands of children have flocked back to schools throughout the Gaza Strip, days after Israel ended its fierce military operation against the territory's rulers.  (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
Palestinian boy Mohammed Kutkut, 14, right, covers his face as he sits next to the name sign of his killed friend Ahed Qaddas in the Fakhoura boys school in Jebaliya, northern Gaza strip, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. Three friends of his class where killed when the Israeli army shelled Jebaliya in the past weeks. Tens of thousands of children have flocked back to schools throughout the Gaza Strip, days after Israel ended its fierce military operation against the territory's rulers. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

i started classes in earnest today. last week was the drop/add week for students so no one shows up for class. but today i had my first classes; not one of my students is male! not yet anyway. i will see tomorrow if i have the same demographics in my classes. there are very few men who major in english anyway, but it feels a bit odd to have only women in my classes. it could be interesting, though, especially if it makes my students freer to say what they think in class. school was buzzing and back to normal today in nablus, but not so in gaza. the islamic university of gaza, for instance, is severely damaged and i don’t know if they were able to start back up again:

The Islamic University in Gaza City estimated damage to its buildings and facilities at 15 million US dollars.

The damage, caused by several airstrikes during Israel’s operation Cast Lead, saw several buildings destroyed and others severely damaged.

and those students from the american international school of gaza will not be going back to school at all because the devastation caused by israeli terrorists is total. cnn did a report on the school that shows you what the school looked like before and what it looks like now:

these attacks on palestinian education are nothing new. this is why i tell my students that they should see their role as educating themselves as a form of resistance.

said abdelwahed shares a story about his children’s first day back at school in gaza, which was difficult for his children and many others i’m sure given that schools are a site of trauma: children know that schools are targeted by israeli terrorists. here is what abdelwahed says about his children’s experiences back at school:

Day one back to school in Gaza witnessed new stories of traumatized school boys and girls! For instance, my youngest son did not want to go to school because he was scared of what he said was a new Israeli attack. He witnessed the first surprise attack by F16s on the former Preventive Security Department’s compound. On spot five civilians — were passing by — died. Three of them died meters from where he was standing waiting for his school bus! Hardly I could convince him that it would be okay and school administration will devote the whole school day to playing, acting and entertaining. By the way, my son Kareem 12 years old, is the first of the honor list of his class and he loves his school and teachers! He came back with stories of other as they suffered from the invasion. Each pupil told a new story of horror; everyone was traumatized!

My elder son Khaldoun 16 years of age, holder of American passport, came back with a story of one pupil killed in an air raid and another one injured in his hand and rushed to hospital. As soon as he arrived at the hospital, his hand mutilated. School was sad with horrendous stories as well.

Somoud 17 year old daughter. She holds American passport. She went to school after long discussion with me. I convinced her to go and see day one; it would be okay. There, she heard more maturely told stories of torture by the Israeli soldiers! As she left school walking, her classmate dug her foot hard on the ground. The sand blazed from a shrapnel; after eight days of the Israeli withdrawal there are still white phosphorous remains that may flame again under some circumstances!

Last night was my first night to sleep well after more than thirty days, but I am still worried about my children. Two of them are still unable to sleep in their beds. I will keep trying with them until they go back to normal life.

but it is not only the students who have these fears, who are traumatized. the teachers are also traumatized as is the case with issa al-batran, a teacher at a united nations school:

When the schools opened in the Gaza Strip Saturday, Mr Al-Batran was not in his classroom. He has not been home in days, and relatives say he has not seen his one-year-old son since the massacre.

Forty-year-old Issa Al-Batran may never go back home. His surviving mother and son have begged him to come back with them, but he prefers to wander the streets with his memories of Gaza before the onslaught.

He was a teacher at the UN school in the Al-Bureij refugee camp; he was a father of six, a husband and a homeowner.

His wife Manal, three daughters and two sons were killed in the room next to Issa. The family was living in the salon, but he had excused himself to pray in the silence of the adjacent room for a few moments. His infant son, Abd Al-Hadi, crawled after him, which is the only reason he is still alive.

He remembered hearing seven-year-old Bilal and four-year-old Iz-Addin whispering something about Israeli warplanes in the sky. There were always warplanes in the sky, so he did not take notice.

As Issa prayed, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at his neighbor’s home. There was neither enough time to finish his prayer or evacuate his family. He grabbed Abd Al-Hadi and yelled for the family to follow him out of the home.

The jets fired a second missile, hitting the balcony where his two sons were playing. The two boys were thrown to a tree in the street where they were found by passersby. The home caught fire and rapidly collapsed, killing his wife and three other children.

After taking Abd Al-Hadi outside and handing him to a neighbor, he went back in the burning house to find his other children. He found the salon burning and bloody. He found the torn-off limbs of his wife and three daughters, 15-year-old Islam and 10-year-old twins Eman and Ihsan.

Ihsan was still alive. He carried her carefully out of the home and laid her in the ambulance waiting outside. She died in the ambulance.

Issa found it difficult to distinguish between the bodies of his wife and the other two girls. “The missile mixed everything together,” he recalls.

those missiles, especially those using dime, were courtesy of israeli terrorists’ partners in crime, the americans and the british. haitham sabbah posted a great video news report on his blog about this which you can watch if you click the link below:

Some of the weapons used in war crimes in Gaza was shipped to Israel from the Lakenheath US Air force base, UK. We know that was the case with the cluster bombs used in Lebanon in 2006 and it’s something the British government has no control over. Democracy?!

so if you haven’t signed that petition yet to prosecute israeli terrorists for war crimes, click on this link NOW!

here are some more war crimes you can view in amr el kahky’s report from a hospital in cairo where a few palestinians from gaza are being treated:

the main subject of the above news report is 14 year old mahmoud mattar who is wise beyond is years in calling for his people to remain steadfast against the israeli terrorist enemy and to unify politically. and his uncle nahed mattar is equally astute in understanding that there is no difference between george bush and barack obama as both fund the israeli terrorist regime and its war crimes.

thankfully there are some people who are beginning to organize a boycott campaign here in the west bank in response to these war crimes:

Israeli goods are being boycotted by one hundred families affiliated with the Palestine People’s Party (PPP) in Biet Dajan, in the northern West Bank.

The group organized in response to the Israeli war against Gaza, and decided to replace all Israeli goods with local Palestinian products where at all possible. The final decision came at a senior party leadership meeting this week.

The leadership has also begun a campaign demanding the Palestinian National leadership, NGOs ad civil society institutions get on board with the boycott. The campaign hopes to begin with an economic boycott and move on from there.

this boycott movement is so necessary, and for those of you living in the u.s. you should get on board with boycotting the israeli terrorist dance company coming to a city near you. click this kabobfest link to find out about their tour dates and organize a protest.

if you need yet another reason to boycott, today israeli terrorists were back to their usual tricks here in the west bank:

Israeli forces stormed homes, restaurants, and resorts in several neighborhoods in Ramallah and Al-Bireh Sunday, with no arrests reported.

According to security sources five Israeli military vehicles raided the Zein restaurant in the Resorts area, Sath Marhaba, Seriet Ramallah, and Ramallah park.

Witnesses said soldiers stopped a number of citizens in the streets near Sath Marhaba and the Seriet Ramallah, checked their identity cards, and reversed traffic in the area.

There were no arrests reported.

don’t you just wonder how they are able to do this with the palestinian authority’s (pa) muqata’a down the road? well, when i was in ramallah yesterday my friend who i was having lunch with told me that he was at another friend’s house a week or two ago when israeli terrorists invaded ramallah. he watched the line of jeeps rolling through the streets and get this: they were accompanied by palestinian authority police cars. yes, friends, this is the height of collaboration. no shame involved whatsoever: they just give them an escort to kidnap and kill palestinians. and my friend heard shots fired, too, though we don’t know the details of this story.

this is a huge part of the problem, the pa. because they normalize. because they collaborate–with both israeli and american terrorists alike. and as i reported the other day, a colleague of mine at an najah university, abdul sattar qasim found his car bombed the other evening:

Unidentified assailants set fire to a car belonging to Dr Abdul-Sattar Qasim, lecturer at An-Najah National University in Nablus in the northern West Bank on Friday night.

Dr Qasim told Ma’an that the attackers hurled a Molotov Cocktail at his Mitsubishi while it was parked in front of his home in the Al-Jadida neighborhood in Nablus.

He said he received threats from of violence two weeks ago. Fire fighters rushed to the scene and extinguished the fire, which destroyed the car.

The Palestinian Authority’s security forces said they are investigating the attack.

here is the problem with the last line of the article: the pa says they will “investigate” it. but it is the pa who threw the molotov cocktail in the first place. this is sort of like israeli terrorists “investigating” their war crimes in gaza. you really think you’ll get to the bottom of it?

i paid a visit to dr. qasim’s office today and was sad that it took this for me to meet him, but grateful that i had the opportunity to do so. his daughter was with him and he had to drive her home so i went with them back to their house and saw the car. here are photographs i took:

abed as-sattar qasim's car
abed as-sattar qasim's car
abed as-sattar qasim's car
abed as-sattar qasim's car

why would his car be bombed you might ask? well he is a long-time freedom fighter who is independent of any political faction. he has a long history of being a huge critic of fatah and its leaders and members. here is some context about this brilliant colleague of mine at an najah and the way he has been targeted by the pa over the last decade or so:

In August 1995, Abd al-Sattar Qasim, a well-known opponent of the Oslo Accords and critic of President Arafat, was shot and wounded by unknown assailants. One month earlier he had published an article in the Islamist newspaper Al-Watan in which he characterized President Arafat’s rule as dictatorial. In the course of interrogating Imad Faluji, then editor-in-chief of Al-Watan, about the article, the Gaza police allegedly made threats against Qasim. Qasim said he believed his assailants to be members of the PSS, but the PSS West Bank commander, Col. Jibril Rajoub, denied this, stating: “I do not support what happened. My men have nothing to do with the shooting….He is not important enough for us to deal with.”

Writing in yesterday’s London-based daily Al Quds al Arabi, for example, Al Najah University professor Abd Al-Sattar Qasim says of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, “The two movements have broken their political barriers which they had made clear in their rhetoric by dealing directly with the Egyptian government, which recognizes Israel and is exchanging with it diplomatic, economic, and security relations.” Qasim, whose aborted run against Mahmoud Abbas for the presidency had hinged on his unsuccessful attempt to unite the opposition groups into one coalition, is in many ways the odd man out in the maelstrom of Palestinian politics today.

In response to Hamas´ arrest of Fatah forces in Gaza, Fatah forces in the West Bank carried out their own arrest campaign. In the West Bank, Fatah-affiliated police have arrested at least 54 Hamas members in the city of Nablus. These arrests include the Mayor of Nablus, Hafidh Shaheen, his son, Qadri Shaheen, a professor at al-Njah University, Dr. Abdul-Sattar Qasim, a member of the Nablus municipal council, Sheikh Fayyad al-Aghbar, and Dr. Muhammad Sleibi, his Son Usayd Sleibi, as well as Dr. Husam Khraim and Ghassan al-Jawhari. Arrests were also carried out by Fatah forces in the West Bank cities of Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Jenin and Ramallah targeting Hamas members. These arrests resulted in the detention of at least 30 Hamas members. These arrests targeted prominent Hamas members including Muftis, Imams, the vice-President of al-Najah University, directors of numerous social and political organizations, the children of politicians, journalists, and several local politicians.

Many Palestinians worry that in such an interregnum, the United States or Israel would have a major influence on the shape of post-Arafat Palestinian politics. Qasim, for instance, says that in Fatah “there are people who work for Israel as well.”

interestingly, our university made a public statement about the attack:

An-Najah National University in the West Bank city of Nablus denounced the attack against the car of Professor of political science Abed As-Sattar Qasim.

Qasim’s car was burned after unknown attackers threw what was believed to be a Molotov cocktail in the vehicle while it was parked outside the professor’s home. Qasim is affiliated with Hamas, and many feared the attack to have been politically motivated.

Several letters of condemnation have been released following the attack.

The letter from An-Najah University expressed disappointment in the methods of protest used by the attackers, saying that the act does not serve the interests of Palestinians. They called for the involvement if the Palestinian Authority (PA) to follow up on the issue and to find those responsible for the incident.

The attackers should be brought to justice, the statement said, and taken through the Palestinian judicial system.

and some members of the palestinian legislative council also condemned the attack:

Members of the of the Palestinian Legislative Council including its Deputy Speaker, national and civil society figures joined together to condemn the assault on An-Najah professor Abdul-Sattar Qasim in Nablus.

Dr Abdul-Sattar Qasim, a leading academic at An-Najah National University, told Ma’an that attackers hurled a Molotov cocktail at his Mitsubishi while it was parked in front of his home in the Al-Jadida neighborhood of Nablus.

The signatories of statement denounced “in the harshest possible words” the attack, and demanded that the “perpetrators be brought to justice.”

The statement concluded saying all parties should work together to ensure that such attacks are halted immediately.

The statement was signed by, PLC member and second speaker Hasan Khreisha, independent PLC member, PLC member of Hamas Hamed Al-Betawi , PLC member Khalid Tafesh of Hamas, Usama Fawzi, Adel Samara, Maryam Saleh, Ghasan U’layyan, PLC member for Hamas.

but this is not the first time he was attacked. this is the 4th such attack. in june 2007 he was shot at and his car was riddled with bullets (around 60 of them). he has difficulty walking because of he was shot by pa/fatah thugs. and this lovely, smart amazing man who is anti-normalization–so much so that he doesn’t even attend protests if political parties who are present normalize with israeli terrorists–has been imprisoned in the west bank now for 28 years. the israeli terrrorists along with their pa and jordanian collaborators have prevented this professor from leaving palestine. apparently, in jordan he and as’ad abukhalil were on al jazeera discussing jordan one time and because of their discussion, the al jazeera office in amman was immediately shut down.

in the end, abdel sattar’s story is why it is so difficult to have unity here. to unify with fatah one then associates with normalizers and collaborators. and what sort of liberation of palestine will that achieve? 22% of the west bank? cut off from gaza? no right of return for refugees? what sort of country is that? how does one fight for justice in that context? imran garda is now interviewing abdel sattar on “inside story.” will post it when it comes on line. garda is amazing as ever in his questioning of israeli terrorists! and you’ll be able to see abdel sattar as well.

on gaza withdrawal and other ramblings

israeli terrorists in hamra, palestine
israeli terrorists in hamra, palestine

i finally arrived back home in nablus yesterday, but jawal and palnet have been having tons of problems so my access to the internet has been minimal. both were down all day yesterday and today just palnet has been down. it’s finally back up again. as usual i am amazed that i was able to get back in. when rania took me to the airport in beirut she was complaining about how heavy my bags were because i had so many books. i didn’t need all those books during the break, but i always pack a lot so i have some work i can do in case i don’t get back in. and, as usual, it is my books that are the problem when i enter. i used the sheikh hussein bridge in the north again because it’s closer to my house and it’s easier to use. but it’s also scarier because it’s relatively empty. this time i crossed with two palestinians. we waited together for an hour on the jordanian side and then they sailed right through after we crossed. i got my luggage searched and questioned again. i was worried about the t-shirts i brought back from beirut as gifts, all of which were packed turned inside out so they couldn’t see hanzala with a gun saying “الله معك يا غزة كلنا معك يا غزة.” but they didn’t do a thorough search of my clothes. actually, they didn’t do a thorough search of anything other than my books. again i had a series of questions about why i have so many books. clearly they couldn’t read arabic because they would have noticed that a huge stack of the books came from lebanon. and they were especially interested in my book war on lebanon about the 2006 invasion. it seemed like they were reading it, and especially focusing on the notes i’d written in the margins. matthew had told me i should leave my second passport in amman, but i realized i can’t because it is the one i use to arrive in jordan and therefore i cannot leave the country without it. but they never seem to find my other passport, my lebanese money or sim card when searching through my things. and during the questioning what was especially interesting is that the usual list of countries they want to know if you’ve traveled to has been expanded. normally they just ask if you’ve been to syria, lebanon, or iran (a.k.a: israeli terrorists’ axis of evil). but yesterday they also asked me about afghanistan, pakistan, iraq, and yemen.

han2

i made it through and my taxi from nasra was waiting to take me to my taxi from nablus at the checkpoint near the “green line.” as we drove through bisan an israeli terrorist military plane was flying ahead–not an f-16, but one that carries their terrorists on board. it was heading towards jordan, flying low. abu nidal, the driver, told me that this happens a lot because they collaborate with the jordanian military. we finally arrived at my second taxi; zuheir was waiting for me with a palestinian farmer by the side of the road drinking tea. abu nidal and i joined them for a bit before saying goodbye. and then zuheir and i were on our way. normally the drive back to nablus is beautiful and scenic. but i noticed something different as i reached closer to nablus. there is a village called hamra where there is an israeli terrorist military base. of course i have seen this base before but i didn’t notice how the farmland changed around it. for miles and miles around it. i noticed it yesterday because i saw a bunch of israeli terrorist tents put up with their terrorist flag on top. apparently they were running training camps on this palestinian farmland. or what used to be this farmland. i wasn’t quick enough with my camera so i didn’t get a picture, but a few more miles down the road i did manage to catch a shot of israeli terrorists terrorizing a shepherd and his sheep. apparently not only is planting food forbidden on this palestinian land, but so is walking with your flock. ahlan was ahlan.

i came home and had to get my syllabi together and organize things for school today. i spent all night writing syllabi and did so with a different emphasis. i’ve framed them this time with much greater emphasis on education as a tool of resistance and many of the films and literary texts i’m using will emphasize that theme. i’m hoping that it will inspire them to organize. sharif reminded me of the need for doing this, and especially for unlearning internalized colonialism. i’ll be teaching writers like ngũgĩ wa thiong’o, steven biko, and frantz fanon to help with that process. i’m quite happy with the syllabi i’ve produced, though i wish i could teach more texts; the weak language skills mean i have to teach about 1/8 of what i normally do in a literature class.

i took a break to meet up with a friend for lunch in the cafeteria. there are very few students on campus now because it is add/drop week. so it was relatively empty. my friend, who is also a colleague, filled me in on what i’d missed over the last week or so. how the palestinian authority (pa) has been brutal, especially with respect to arresting palestinians protesting, arresting hamas. we were trying to figure out how to plan the next stage of the boycott campaign and connect it to gaza. apparently, in the last few weeks various women’s groups in nablus have picked up on our campaign and have been very active in spreading the word. this, of course, is good. but he also remarked that if this were the first intifada things would be totally different. we would be able to go into shops and force people to stop selling israeli terrorist products. but now that the pa is doing the bidding for the israeli terrorists we can’t. it is really sad how the young men who work for the pa police are recruited in a way that they think they are serving their people; if it were the first intifada they would be in the streets with the people, not against them.

buttonwarcriminals

of course being the token american around here friends who work in the cafeteria today were asking about obama. they still think that he will bring hope and change all the way to palestine. they were asking me about his middle name being “hussein.” somehow they think that because his father was a muslim that he will treat muslims better. and i asked them: does king abdullah (take your pick saudi or jordanian) or mubarak treat muslims well? of course not–especially if they are palestinian. but it is so sad that people here are looking for any little glimpse of hope. i so wish people felt untied and empowered enough to see that the white man (even if he appears to be black) will never liberate anyone. liberation always is taken by those who seek to be liberated. it is never the other way around. it is hard for people to understand that the entirety of the u.s. government is the same on most issues, but especially on palestine i wish that those who write about the reality of what obama is all about wrote in arabic language newspapers. glen ford is one of those writers who is always a voice of conscience. his article in the black agenda report this week on the singular lack of conscience among the congressional black caucus is an important article to read:

Could it be that Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Milwaukee’s Gwen Moore are the only Black Caucus members who remember that Israel was racist South Africa’s closest ally, the apartheid regime’s hi-tech weapons quartermaster and godfather to its nuclear bomb project? Do the seven members that voted “present” – Donna Edwards (MD), Keith Ellison (MN), Hank Johnson (GA), Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Donald Payne (NJ), Diane Watson (CA) – believe that by refusing to take a position on Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza, they somehow salvage the Caucus’s claim to be the “conscience of the Congress?”

Where has John Conyers’ conscience disappeared to? In July of 2006, when the House passed an equally noxious Resolution in support of Israel’s systematic destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, killing over 1,000 people and displacing one million, Conyers and fellow Detroiter Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick were the solitary CBC members to vote “Nay.” (Oakland’s Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters voted “present.”) Then came the Democratic victory in the midterm congressional elections and Conyers’ chance to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee – at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pleasure. Conyers picked a fight with Jimmy Carter over the former president’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Conyers objected to Carter’s use of the term “apartheid” in the book’s title, saying it “does not serve the cause of peace, and the use of it against the Jewish people in particular, who have been victims of the worst kind of discrimination, discrimination resulting in death, is offensive and wrong.” Translation: Not just Israel, but Jews are off limits to criticism.

qui qui on kabobfest, who has been on a roll lately with brilliantly sarcastic and smart pieces of late posted ford’s article and wonders:

When you’re Black and a politician, you’re probably no longer Black

ford’s article is in the context of martin luther king, jr.’s birthday this week and he noted the shameful way in which these members of congress do not honor his legacy with their voting behavior. here is an example of the sort of massacre they are supporting with those votes: the kind that is deliberate as with the man, khaled, in the al jazeera clip below in which sherene tadros interviews this man who fled his home, upon being ordered to do so by israeli terrorists, only to then have his children shot on their way out. (we’ve seen this before. this is all too common in palestine.)

the congressional black caucus, like the rest of congress, also voted for complete and utter destruction as mike hanna reports for al jazeera. here, too, we see fields that look like hamra in the photograph i took above. these are fields that used to have food: oranges. and also a cemetery. all of this was leveled in the last 24 hours as the israeli terrorists withdrew:

i use the word “withdrew,” but it is not really accurate. supposedly the israeli terrorists withdrew from gaza today. and perhaps they did technically. but as ayman mohyeldin reported on al jazeera their presence is still quite pronounced:

But Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said: “We can still see Israeli naval vessels still very much in territorial waters, and [they] have been heard firing through the course of the morning.”

“It’s important to remember that it is difficult for eyewitnesses to confirm [the withdrawal],” Mohyeldin said.

“There is a 600-metre buffer zone which the Israeli army uses as a no-go, meaning that anyone who owns farmland in the area and tries to access it is often fired upon to try to deter them from approaching any closer.”

said abdulwahed confirms that the withdrawal was not really a withdrawal:

It was an irony; they said the invasion was over; the Israeli tanks pulled back from their positions. I said, the invasion is not over yet. The invaders are still inside Gaza Strip. Redeployment does not mean withdrawal! Three summits followed to decide! Decide on what? I am not talking politics in this context, rather I am talking humanitarian! My major concern is the civilian casualties and human loses! Unfortunately, no one king, president, emir, or sultan, or country’s delegation dared mentioning Israel’s violation of human rights; their use of white phosphorous bombs indiscriminately against civilians and residential buildings was “not seen”!

and mustafa barghouti aptly described what this “withdrawal” really means for palestinians living in gaza:

“It is not a withdrawal” said the Doctor from his office in Ramallah, “It is simply the redeployment of soldiers. They maintain control of the land, sea and air of the Gaza Strip and are still continuing the policy of siege and starvation as a collective punishment upon the tortured civilians of Gaza.”

“Their drones are still flying over head, their tanks are still sealing our border crossings, and their warships sit off of our coast preventing vital aid from reaching the crisis and Palestinian fishermen from trying to get food of their own. Israel’s ’withdrawal’ is similar to the ploy of ’disengagement’ in 2005. They will remain the occupier and use these staged events as a means of prolonging the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.”

and while the israeli terrorists may or may not have “withdrawn,” their wrath continues to affect palestinians in gaza as the death toll continues to rise:

Gaza’s death toll rose to 1,323 on Wednesday as three wounded Palestinians succumbed to their wounds, the de facto Health Ministry said.

According to Mu’awiya Hassanein, the director of the ministry’s Ambulance and Emergency Services Department, the number of injured exceeds 5,450.

Additionally, the corpses of two elderly women were identified as 90-year-old Kamila Al-Attar and 62-year-old Halima Siyam. Their bodies were found under rubble in Gaza City late Tuesday night.

The three Palestinians who died of complications from injuries sustained in the assault were identified as Muhammad Abu Sweirih, who died at an Egyptian hospital, Imad Miqdad, who died at Khan Younis Hospital, and Muhammad Madi, who died at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Earlier on Tuesday, Palestinian medical sources announced that a farmer, 20-year-old Nasr Salih Nasr, was shot dead by Israeli gunfire.

Before that, two Palestinian children were killed by explosives left behind by Israeli forces in Gaza. They were identified as 10-year-old Abdullah Hassanain and his sister, 11-year-old Shurouq.

but as the israeli terrorists shift from one kind of terrorism–all out visible war that can be seen live on television–to the more quiet kind of daily siege accompanied by drones flying overhead and ships shooting from the seashore, palestinians and witnesses, who have finally been allowed inside, are beginning to get a sense of the scale of the massacre. omar sent me an email with photographs the other day from the white phosphorous that destroyed one of the unrwa schools where palestinians were seeking refuge. here are some of the photographs, the rest can be viewed at electronic intifada:

On 17 January 2009, Israeli forces bombed a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Around 1,600 Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip, mostly families including young children, sought refuge at the school to escape Israeli air strikes that were targeting homes in densely populated areas. At least two children were killed in the attack and another dozen wounded by the white phosphorus bombs fired at the school.

The bombing was not an isolated incident of Israel targeting UN institutions and personnel since it launched a military siege against the Gaza Strip on 27 December 2008. At least 43 civilians were massacred on 6 January as they took shelter at the al-Fakhoura school in Jabaliya refugee camp. UN personnel have been shot and killed as they attempted to conduct relief operations in the Gaza Strip. Tons of desperately needed aid were destroyed on 15 January when Israeli forces shelled the UNRWA warehouse in Gaza City with what is suspected to be white phosphorous.

The below images were taken by UNRWA photographer Iyad El-Baba.

MIDEAST-ISRAEL-GAZA-CONFLICT-UN

MIDEAST-ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-GAZA

AK00000001

MIDEAST-ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-GAZA

sameh habeeb wrote a beautiful piece on electronic intifada in which he first wonders about which ware crime he should write about; there are too many and it is overwhelming. he wrote about the story of louay whose brother was murdered and who was blinded when his father’s car was bombed:

About a week ago Louay and his family fled their house in Beit Lahiya town in northern Gaza. They were under heavy Israeli artillery fire as the Israeli army invaded the area at the outset of Israeli ground military operation. Sorrowfully, Louay started to narrate what he witnessed:

“Israeli shells started to rain down beside my house in northern Gaza. Rockets started to get closer to my house and many people were killed. My house got some shrapnel and part of rockets. Then, my grandmother and my family fled to Jabaliya where we sheltered in one of the [Untied Nations] schools. We stayed for three days where it was very very cold. When we fled our house in the night we didn’t bring any luggage or clothes or food. My father, brother and other family members decided to go back to our house in the north to bring some clothes and food. We went early in the morning by car then all of a sudden people beside our car started to run left and right. I heard explosions and I felt as if I were flying in the sky. And I found myself in the hospital.”

The Israeli bombing of Louay’s father’s car killed one of his brothers and injured others. The shocking fact is that Louay still doesn’t know is that he lost his eyesight completely. He will never be able to see the light again! His grandmother was beside him trying to make him feel better. He still doesn’t know that his brother was killed.

louay
louay

and because israeli terrorists seem to thrive on pouring salt into wounds those families who have been able to return to homes that are not completely destroyed, they found racist graffiti on the walls:

They left behind their own unique detritus: bullet casings, roasted peanuts in tins with Hebrew script, a plastic bag containing a “High Quality Body Warmer”, dozens of olive-green waste disposal bags, some empty, some stinking full – the troops’ portable toilets.

But most disturbing of all was the graffiti they daubed on the walls of the ground floor. Some was in Hebrew, but much was naively written in English: “Arabs need 2 die”, “Die you all”, “Make war not peace”, “1 is down, 999,999 to go”, and scrawled on an image of a gravestone the words: “Arabs 1948-2009”.

There were several sketches of the Star of David flag. “Gaza here we are,” it said in English next to one.

and of course the siege wages on in other ways in the form of kidnapping palestinians and warehousing them in israeli terrorist jails:

At least 250 Gazans were detained by Israeli troops during the Gaza invasion, said member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Issa Karake on Tuesday.

The men are being held in the Negev prison, living in tents and being constantly beaten and attacked, said Karake. Several need hospital treatment, which they are being denied and many are also being used by the Israeli intelligence units as information sources and are interrogated for hours.

The Gazans have been isolated and not permitted to interact with prisoners from the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Karake called on the Red Cross to visit the detainees and verify his story, then put pressure on Israel to release the men immediately.

The men are very worried about their families, Karake said, adding that they would like to go home and make sure their loved ones are alright.

for all of these reasons, and so many more, amnesty international has released a report detailing israeli terrorist war crimes. one of the members of the amnesty team investigating had this to say about what gaza looks like now:

In a post on Amnesty International’s Livewire blog, the team described how “previously busy neighbourhoods have been flattened into moonscapes,” and “how there is no camera lens wide enough to embrace the sheer dimensions of the devastation.

and there is now movement afoot trying to get an international war crimes tribunal to try those israeli terrorist leaders for the role in this brutal massacre.

amira hass reporting on the devastation affecting a particular family notes that whether or not a weapon is legal doesn’t make the murder acceptable, which is one problem i have with some of these movements to stop particular weapons of mass destruction while allowing others. you can see this in the campaigns already focusing on white phosphorous. while this is horrendous it is no less horrendous than the rest of the mass murder the israeli terrorists inflicted upon the palestinians of gaza, but she also makes this important point:

Soldiers do not act in a void. They have commanders and there is esprit de corps, which enabled this, just as it enabled IDF mortars to land on UNRWA schools. The IDF is the people’s army. The people, an overwhelming majority of it, drank in the argumentations for these acts eagerly and supported them. Israel is a democracy. So Kassab and Ibrahim were killed legally.

there is so much more i want to say, so many more war crimes i want people to know about, but i must sleep for a few hours before running off to school. please sign the petition above demanding a war crimes tribunal. we need change, but that change will only come from us taking that change back.

30 years…

…this is the sentence for ahmad sa’adat. this is what the zionist regime does: it spends its christmas holiday (mind you it is not their holiday) sentencing a freedom fighter to 30 years in an israeli jail:

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine strongly denounced the appalling lengthy sentence meted out to General Secretary of the PFLP, Comrade Leader Ahmad Sa’adat, on December 25, 2008, by the occupation military court at Ofer prison. The occupation court, an illegitimate institution meant to impose the occupier upon our people, sentenced Comrade Sa’adat to 30 years inside the Zionist prisons.

why is he in jail? that is a good question. the zionist regime originally sentenced him to one charge and when they couldn’t find any evidence they changed the charge to some ambiguous, vague charge:

“Ahmed Saadat is guilty … because of his position and activities within the (PFLP) terrorist movement,” an Israeli army statement said on Thursday.

“Given the status of the accused within this terrorist organisation, given the actions put in place to develop the movement’s military structures and given that … the fighters (of the organisation) were under his command, the court sentences him to 30 years in prison,” the statement said.

When Israeli forces seized Saadat in March 2006 in a controversial raid on a Palestinian-run prison in Jericho, he stood accused of planning the 2001 murder of Rehavam Zeevi, Israel’s tourism minister at the time.

Prosecutors later decided not to pursue this case against Saadat, instead pressing the charges against four PFLP fighters who were seized along with him in Jericho.

here is background on sa’adat and the bogus nature of the case itself, including american and british involvement in his kidnapping:

Born in 1953, Sa’adat is the child of refugees expelled from their home in the village of Deir Tarif, near Ramleh, in 1948. A math teacher by training, he is married to Abla Sa’adat, herself a noted activist, and is the father of four children. Abla Sa’adat was herself arrested and detained for four months, and prevented from leaving Palestine to speak about Palestinian rights at an international conference. He has been involved in the Palestinian national movement since 1967, when he became active in the student movement. Prior to his abduction from Jericho in 2006, he had been held at various times as a political prisoner in Israeli jails, for a total of ten years. Sa’adat was elected General Secretary of the PFLP in 2001, following the Israeli assassination of then-General Secretary Abu Ali Mustafa in his office in Ramallah on August 27, 2001.

Sa’adat had been held in a Palestinian Authority prison for over four years, and, in January 2006, elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council on the Abu Ali Mustafa slate, when on March 14, 2006, the Israeli military stormed that prison at Jericho, abducting Sa’adat and five fellow prisoners and taking them to Israeli military prisons. For the entire period of Sa’adat’s imprisonment in Israeli and PA jails, he has been convicted of no crime; his trial – in an illegitimate military court of occupation – is beginning only now, after a combined total of over five years of detention.

This trial is, of course, a military trial, as are the trials of nearly all Palestinian political prisoners, presided over by three military judges, two of which are not required to have any legal background. These trials are based on military law, including military regulations that may be issued at any time by the Israeli military commander over the area. This military rule under occupation dates from the era of the British occupation of Palestine, in which these “emergency” military rules were adopted in order to suppress the Palestinian national movement for independence and self-determination. These military laws continue today for the same purpose – to continue a military occupation and suppress the indigenous people of Palestine’s struggle for liberation and self-determination. Such military trials generally fail to uphold international standards for fair trials. At a more basic level, they are an illegitimate manifestation of an illegitimate system – trials that, by their very nature, can never be fair or legitimate.

Sa’adat is the child of 1948 refugees who, with six million others in Palestine, in the camps outside Palestine and in exile around the world, are denied their right to return to their homes, lands and properties and denied their right to organize, struggle and act to obtain their freedom, their return and their liberation.

JERICHO ASSAULT AND ABDUCTION

On March 14, 2006, the Israeli army laid siege for twelve hours to the Palestinian prison at Jericho holding six political prisoners. Israeli bulldozers and tanks attacked the prison while the Israeli military issued threats of assassination against the prisoners. This military assault caused the death of two Palestinians, the injury of twenty-three more, and the abduction of Ahmad Sa’adat and five other political prisoners from Jericho to Zionist prisons.

For over four years, these men had been held in the Palestinian Authority prison at Jericho, under U.S. and British guards. Immediately prior to the Israeli assault on the prison, these U.S. and British guards abandoned their posts, clearing the way for the military attack. The U.S. State Department blamed Palestinians for the siege, stating that the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Council leadership had indicated its willingness to release these illegally-held political prisoners. Said Sa’adat in a letter to the Palestinian people after his abduction, “The Quartet [US, EU, Russia and UN] provide a cover for occupation. What happened in Jericho Prison has made the British and US governments an integral part of the conflict and forever buried any illusions in their neutrality.”

Since his abduction – a blatant violation of Palestinian sovereignty – Sa’adat’s trial has been repeatedly postponed and delayed. Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz admitted shortly following the abduction that there was insufficient evidence to indict Sa’adat in the assassination of extreme racist Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001, an act of retaliation for the August 2001 Israeli murder of PFLP General Secretary Abu Ali Mustafa. Instead, Sa’adat was indicted on a wide array of political charges in a hearing on March 28, 2006 at Ofer Military Base in Ramallah.

Sa’adat has consistently and repeatedly refused to recognize the legitimacy of the illegitimate court; his lawyers have petitioned for the charges to be dropped, as they are clearly politically motivated and the court itself is illegitimate. His trial has been repeatedly postponed, from May 2006, to September 2006, to January 2007, to May 2007, and now to July/August 2008. With each hearing, Sa’adat’s courageous refusal to recognize in any way the illegitimate court – refusing to stand for the military judges, issuing statements exposing this mockery of justice, and refusing to deal with the military courts or interrogators – stand in clear contrast to the system of occupation and oppression represented by the military courts, exposing its bankruptcy and illegitimacy.

PA/BRITISH/US IMPRISONMENT

On August 27, 2001, PFLP General Secretary Abu Ali Mustafa was assassinated by a missile shot from an Apache helicopter by the Israeli military as he worked in his office in Ramallah. This assassination was the latest in a long line of assassinations by the Israeli state of Palestinian political leaders, a policy that continues to this day. Following the murder of Abu Ali Mustafa, Ahmad Sa’adat was elected General Secretary of the PFLP.

Rehavam Ze’evi, the tourism minister in Ariel Sharon’s Israeli government, represented the Moledet party, an extreme racist party whose program is based on the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from all of Palestine. Ze’evi, whose long military career included involvement in the war of 1948 and the expulsion of nearly a million Palestinian refugees from their homes and lands, continued his quest to uproot the Palestinian people through the Israeli military and political system throughout his career, referring to Palestinians as “a cancer” and “lice.” In retaliation for the murder of Abu Ali Mustafa, on October 17, 2001, fighters from the PFLP’s armed wing assassinated Ze’evi in the Hyatt hotel in Jerusalem.

Israel continued its campaign of mass terror against the Palestinian people, attacking Palestinian cities and towns, including the town of Beit Rima, where the Israeli military killed nine Palestinians while purportedly searching for Sa’adat. Israel repeatedly demanded that the Palestinian Authority crack down on the PFLP and arrest its leaders and members, threatening the PA leadership if it refused to act on behalf of the Israeli military to repress the Palestinian resistance. Nonetheless, yielding to the demands of Israel, the U.S. and Britain, on January 15, 2002, Sa’adat attended a meeting with PA security under false pretenses, from which he was abducted and taken to the Muqata’a compound in Ramallah, then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters. In February 2002, four of Sa’adat’s comrades in the PFLP, Ahmed Ghoulmi, Majdi Rimawi, Hamdi Qu’ran and Basel al-Asmar, were also arrested by PA security services and brought to the Muqata’a.

In March and April of 2002, Israeli military forces laid siege to the Muqata’a, and as demanded by the United States and Great Britain as a condition for the end of Israel’s siege of the Muqata’a, Sa’adat, Ghoulmi, Rimawi, Qu’ran, al-Asmar and Fuad Shoubaki would be transferred to the PA’s prison at Jericho to be held as political prisoners.

On April 25, 2002, Ghoulmi, Rimawi, Qu’ran and al-Asmar were tried in an impromptu military court of the Palestinian Authority inside the besieged Muqata’a. With Israeli tanks directly outside the Muqata’a, Quran, Al-Asmar, Rimawi and Gholmi were tried and sentenced for the Ze’evi assassination. Despite their civilian status, the four were tried before a military court presided over by Brigadier-General Ribhi Arafat, who had no legal standing to act as a judge. They were not allowed to have attorneys or proper legal defense in a trial that took a total of two hours. No evidence, no confessions and no statements were received in order to convict the four; all were found guilty and the verdicts immediately ratified by PA President Yasser Arafat, and the four were given no right to appeal the verdicts.

Ahmad Sa’adat was never charged nor tried for any crime. After the sentencing, the four were transferred on May 1, 2002, with the uncharged and untried Sa’adat, to Jericho Prison, ostensibly under the control of the PA, but subject to the guardianship of United States and British forces. On May 2, 2002, Israeli forces withdrew from the Muqata’a. The director of the US/British “supervision” of the prisoners at Jericho Prison formerly ran the infamous Maze Detention Center for Britain in the occupied North of Ireland. The prisoners were not subject to Palestinian sovereignty and authority, but rather to the conditions and demands of the United States and Great Britain. Sa’adat and his comrades were held under difficult conditions in Jericho prison, often secluded from one another and not allowed to communicate, denied access to newspapers, books, recreation and family and other visits. Water and electricity in their cells have been turned off, and numerous other punitive measures were implemented against them by the British and U.S. guards “monitoring” the prison. In response, Sa’adat and his comrades have engaged in two hunger strikes, demanding an end to inhumane treatment and their immediate release.

The Palestinian High Court of Justice, the highest Palestinian judicial body, ruled on June 3, 2002 that Sa’adat should be released immediately. Numerous Palestinian and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, called for the release of Sa’adat and the implementation of Palestinian and international law. Nevertheless, Sa’adat was never released; the PA refused to comply with the orders of its own judiciary, the U.S., Britain, and Israel demanded he remain held as a political prisoner, and the PA complied with their demands. While Sa’adat was imprisoned in Jericho, on August 20, 2002, the Israeli military assassinated his brother Mohammed, illustrating the continuing campaign of assassination and murder on the part of the Israeli regime. Sa’adat – and his fellow political prisoners – remained in Jericho prison in 2006, until the Israeli siege on the prison.

and here is sa’adat’s statement given today at the time of his sentencing:

At the outset, I do not stand to defend myself in front of your court has already confirmed that I do not recognize the legitimacy of this court as an extension of the illegal occupation under international law, and as well as the legitimacy of our people’s right to resist occupation, and that this court is based on the British emergency laws of 1945 about which one of one of the leaders of the Zionist Labor Party said after their approval, It is one of the worst of the Nazi laws. He added, “It is true that the Nazi crimes committed did not reach the degree of crime of this legislation.

So I stand to defend my people and their legitimate right to national independence and self-determination and return. These rights are guaranteed by international law and humanitarian law and the resolutions of the United Nations, as well as the most recent recommendations of the Hague Tribunal on the wall.

I defend the right of our people to peace and stability not only in this region, but also in the whole world. Security and stability can never be achieved in Palestine or in the region and the world as long as there is a policy based on the logic of the occupation and imposition of things on people, whether by force through military invasion or occupation, as in Palestine.

I stand before this court again today, as a mechanism for the suppression of our people and a tool of oppression, that is unable to end the resistance and is an example of the inability of the occupation and its policies imposed on the peoples to do so. If you review the files of the prisoners of the Zionist occupation of Palestine, you will find that many of the prisoners are held a second time or a third time, because this mechanism has failed to deter our people or our activists fighting for our rights.

This, like many other examples of the failure of the occupation and its tools to suppress of our people and abolish our resistance, and these courts, will remain as long as the occupation exists and will also remain in the resistance of our people.

The existing policy of the occupation and the logic of imposing by force will not bring security to Israel or other countries engaged in occupation. The main route to achieve security, stability and peace in the region is to end the occupation and the implementation of the resolutions of international legitimacy for the Palestinian cause, to provide a climate in which a democratic, peaceful and humane solution to the Palestinian crisis and the Arab-Zionist conflict is established from the roots is the only way to end violence and bloodshed.

Finally, I have already stressed in my previous statements from the so-called indictment, to the trial that has been formulated, and now reiterate the same position after your court concluded, that this is one-sided and farcical way to achieve its resolution under a mere image of a “court.” The convictions were known in advance, and pre-determined by the terms of the political and security mechanism, which is made “legitimate” by the court.

The essence of my position is that I am proud of the Palestinian people and their political and national resistance and their just struggle to achieve their national rights and also I am proud of the trust given me by the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, by electing me as Secretary-General, and I’m sorry that I have not yet been able to fully perform my duties, first: because of the detention of the Palestinian Authority and the loss of my freedoms to work for more than four years, and second because of this abduction, in which more than one party – the U.S., Britain and the Palestinian Authority – were complicit; and notwithstanding anything that could hamper you or force you, you cannot stop the struggle, along with my people, in whatever space of movement.

Long live the struggle of the Palestinian people!

Ahmad Sa’adat
December 25, 2008

click here for more information about how you can help fight for justice for ahmad sa’adat.

truce

i am wondering if someone could please explain to me what a truce is. obviously, technically i know what it means: it is an agreement between enemies to halt fighting. but if you follow the palestinian and israeli media you will see constant debate over whether or not the so-called truce between the zionist regime and gaza will be extended or ended. and if you follow the news on the israeli-imposed siege on gaza you will also find reporters constantly referring to the truce–as if each day zionist aggression is not evidence that they violated it long ago and have been doing so consistently almost since it was called for. here is one example of what a truce looks like from the perspective of people living in gaza as journalist sherene tadros reported on al jazeera today:

if you watch israelis on al jazeera (why do they keep subjecting its viewers to these zionist nuts?) or read their newspapers you will see many of them blaming hamas, blaming palestinians for the siege. this is like blaming african americans for having been enslaved. mustafa barghouti issued a brief statement today correcting this deeply flawed, illogical rhetoric:

Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and runner up in the 2005 Palestinian presidential election blamed the Israeli government on Thursday for the collapse of the Israeli-Gaza truce.

Barghouthi issued a statement attributing the collapse to Israeli aggression, stating that “Israel didn’t commit to the truce conditions and killed people and overran many cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

in the report by tadros above she explains the problem with these so-called truces, which the zionists always are the first to violate through their aggression and slow starvation of palestinians. she explains that under “normal” conditions (and one wonders what that means when gaza has been an open-air prison for far too long) 500 trucks per day carrying palestinian needs crossed; the year leading up to the “truce” 112 trucks per day passed israeli checkpoints; then there was a short spike to around 219 trucks per day after the truce was signed and then quickly deteriorated to 23 trucks per day. and now once again: no trucks. today unrwa announced it could not give its food aid to palestinian refugees living in gaza:

The UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees has suspended its food distribution program after Israel blocked food deliveries for days.

The aid program feeds more than 750,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that as of Thursday morning all regular food-aid programs have ceased to operate.

The agency says it cannot predict when aid programs will resume.

and yet supposedly there is a “truce” that is about to expire. if this is a truce i wonder what its inverse would look like… for last night there was another extra-juridical assassination in gaza courtesy of the israeli terrorist forces (and also we must thank the americans who made this air force strike possible with its planes):

A Palestinian man has been killed and two others injured in an Israeli air raid on the town of Beit Lahiya, Gazan medics have said, Al Jazeera news agency has reported.

Wednesday’s raid was said to have been aimed at targets in Gaza that were firing homemade Qassam rockets, and was launched in response to earlier attacks on the city of Sderot in southern Israel, an Israeli spokeswoman said in a statement.

Medical workers inside Gaza have said that the missile hit a house in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, killing 47-year-old Falak Okel and injuring his son and daughter.

Witnesses told AFP news agency that the dead man did not belong to any armed militia.

more generally speaking, in palestine here is what a truce looks like all around on a weekly basis (pay close attention to those detained (read: kidnapped and jailed) by israeli terrorist forces–recall that around 200 palestinian political prisoners came home this week and check out how many were already replaced:

* 2 Palestinians, including a civilian were killed by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

* 10 Palestinian civilians were wounded by the IOF gunfire and 3 others by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

* 4 activists of the Palestinian resistance and a woman were wounded by IOF in the Gaza Strip.

* IOF conducted 38 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and one into the Gaza Strip.

* IOF arrested 50 Palestinian civilians, including 14 children and a girl, in the West Bank, and 3 others, including 2 children, in the Gaza Strip.

* IOF transformed 8 houses in Hebron into military sites.

* IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

* The Gaza Strip is suffering a serious humanitarian crisis due to the closure of border crossings.

* IOF troops positioned at military checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 6 Palestinian civilians, including a child.

* IOF have continued to take measures aiming at the Judaization of Jerusalem.

* IOF confiscated for the third time a tent belonging to the al-Kurd family whose house had been seized by IOF.

* IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

* 17 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children, were injured.

* 4 houses were burnt and 5 cars were destroyed in Hebron

these are things the zionists don’t want you to know about, don’t want you to see. they especially don’t want united nations human rights workers to see this. richard falk, who was denied entry and deported on sunday spoke about his deportation and precisely what it is that is obscured when people like him are banned from entering palestine by its zionist occupiers on democracy now!:

i mentioned the other day that the international coalition against impunity in beirut filed papers last week with the international criminal court in the hague charging israeli leaders with war crimes because of its siege on gaza. even if this goes through and we are fortunate enough to try these war criminals i am wondering in the end: what good will it really do? the zionist state grows war criminals by the thousands. they are like weeds: you catch one and ten more pop up in its place. but i am also wondering about this in terms of time. today i read the news that theoneste bagosora was sentenced to life in prison because of his role in the rwanda genocide. that was 14 years ago:

An international court has sentenced the mastermind of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Theoneste Bagosora, to life imprisonment in what prosecutors hailed as the most significant verdict of its kind since Nuremberg.

The five-year trial of Bagosora, who was the chief of staff in Rwanda’s defence ministry, established that he oversaw a complex and extensive conspiracy to commit genocide, including years organising and arming the “Interahamwe” militia which led the killing of about 800,000 Tutsis in 100 days.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, sitting in Tanzania, heard that in April 1994 he personally ordered the murder of individual politicians, including Rwanda’s moderate prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimina, and the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers to drive the UN out. Bagosora then unleashed the genocide against the Tutsi minority, mobilising the general Hutu population to support the Interahamwe and the army in the mass killings.

so i am wondering: even if the international criminal court is able to try ehud olmert, ehud barak, matan vilnai, avraham dichter, and gabi ashkenzi does that mean we have to wait for justice 14 years from now? do you have any idea how much damage they will inflict on palestinians in that time. where is rania? i need some hope NOW.

on process

the other night when i felt a strong urge to throw a stiletto at condoleeza rice it was because i was listening to her speak about the impending united nations security council resolution 1850. in a press conference here is what the secretary of state had to say for herself:

What that resolution does is to put the international community on record in believing in the irreversibility of the Annapolis process – bilateral negotiations toward a two-state solution, a comprehensive solution, and the various principles of Annapolis and what the parties have established since then. And I believe that that will then add the voice of the international community through its most powerful and its most consequential body – that is, the Security Council – to establish Annapolis as the way – the Annapolis process as the way forward.

Obviously, Israel will have a prime minister one way or another after February, and the Israeli Government will have to chart a course. But I believe that the international community will have done what it can do in the strongest possible terms, and that is to put the weight of the Security Council behind not just the two-state solution but a particular process for getting there. And I might just emphasize that Annapolis, of course, is not just a top-down – that is negotiated process toward the solution of two states, but also a bottom-up process of Roadmap obligations and of improving life for the Palestinian people on the ground. And that is really the reason for the resolution tomorrow….

I believe that if you look at the language of Annapolis, it says that the parties will make the best efforts that they can – they could to come to an agreement by the end of the year. I think they have made best efforts and they continue to make best efforts. And so what this resolution does is to urge, as the parties did with us and the Quartet when we were in Sharm el-Sheikh, the continuation of this process to the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement, and also within the context of a broader Israeli-Arab peace. And so that is the reason for the resolution.

But I’d just like to take one moment to speak to the question of not having achieved an agreement by the end of the year. They won’t achieve agreement by the end of the year, but they have achieved a good deal of progress in their negotiations, a good deal of progress in the work that is being done on the ground. And I would just remind that this is the first time in almost a decade that Palestinians and Israelis are addressing all of the core issues in a comprehensive way to try to get to a solution. And if that process takes a little bit longer, so be it. But we are very much further along, certainly than we were in 2001, and I would argue even than we were in 2007 when Annapolis was concluded.

so apparently annapolis has moved from a conference to a “process.” is this going to be anything like the so-called peace process (better known and experienced in palestine as a ware process)? should it be also known as oslo 3? this is an excerpt from rice and the other members of the quartet’s comments (yes, that same quartet which has received a failing grade) at the united nations yesterday. you may read the rest by clicking on the above link. but rather than quote from that transcript ad nauseum i think it is more fruitful to look at the actual language of the new un resolution as well as this supposed “progress” that rice claims to have made.

first, the resolution reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions, in particular resolutions 242, 338, 1397, and 1515 and the Madrid principles,

“Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

“Welcoming the 9 November 2008 statement from the Quartet and the Israeli‑Palestinian Joint Understanding announced at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference, including in relation to implementation of the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,

“Noting also that lasting peace can only be based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement, and terror, and the two-State solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations,

“Noting the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,

“Encouraging the Quartet’s ongoing work to support the parties in their efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,

“1. Declares its support for the negotiations initiated at Annapolis, Maryland, on 27 November 2007 and its commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations;

“2. Supports the parties’ agreed principles for the bilateral negotiating process and their determined efforts to reach their goal of concluding a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, which confirm the seriousness of the Annapolis process;

“3. Calls on both parties to fulfill their obligations under the Performance-Based Roadmap, as stated in their Annapolis Joint Understanding, and refrain from any steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of negotiations;

“4. Calls on all States and international organizations to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations and to support the Palestinian government that is committed to the Quartet principles and the Arab Peace Initiative and respects the commitments of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, to assist in the development of the Palestinian economy, to maximize the resources available to the Palestinian Authority, and to contribute to the Palestinian institution‑building programme in preparation for statehood;

“5. Urges an intensification of diplomatic efforts to foster in parallel with progress in the bilateral process mutual recognition and peaceful coexistence between all States in the region in the context of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;

“6. Welcomesthe Quartet’s consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009;

“7. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

as is the case with far too many un resolutions–and with rice’s rhetoric–this resolution is empty. it is empty for so many reasons. whatever so-called progress discussed in either of the above quotations can only be understood in relation to israel’s facts on the ground: more palestinian political prisoners, more illegal israeli settlements, more israeli checkpoints, an increased siege on gaza, increased oppression of palestinians in 1948 palestine, increased home and village demolitions. but of course what rice and the security council fail to understand is that peace will never come without justice.

illegal israeli settlements, for example, have increased since annapolis according to adri nieuwhof in electronic intifada:

In Annapolis, Olmert committed to freezing settlement expansion. However, since that time according to numerous sources ranging from Israeli newspapers, to Peace Now, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the websites of the Israeli Central Bureau, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing, Olmert’s government has been accelerating illegal settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.

Six months since Annapolis the planning of settlements has accelerated. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of almost 1,000 housing units in several settlements in the West Bank. Furthermore the Israeli authorities announced plans, approved by Olmert, for the construction of an additional 2,900 units in settlements in the West Bank, including 750 units in Giv’at Zeev, and 1,900 housing units to be built this year for settlers who had to leave Gaza in 2005. In addition, Israel worked on the advancement of another 9,500 housing units in and around East Jerusalem, of which over 5,000 units have already been submitted for public review. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the municipality of Jerusalem started the process of approving a plan for a new settlement complex with a synagogue in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

this is the only sort of process i can glean from whatever it is that rice is talking about or whatever this un resolution will bring to the fore: just more negotiations to obscure the israeli construction of facts on the ground. last month hasan abu nimah predicted that this will continue on in the form of some “process” in electronic intifada:

This is a game that suits the participants well; Rice — the lamest of lame ducks — is heading back to the region to meet a powerless caretaker prime minister in Israel and a powerless Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah. What can this possibly achieve other than to preserve the illusion of an ongoing “process?”

Sadly, many others who heavily invested in the peace process industry will prefer to latch on to these empty maneuvers as signs of “hope” rather than admit that they contain no substance that can ever lead to justice and peace.

But let me be clear: the negotiations did not reach a dead end because the negotiators ran out of time and are now leaving the scene. They failed because there was no viable peace project, because Israel, the strongest party, was not interested in reaching a reasonable settlement, and the sponsors of the process lacked the political courage to stand up to Israeli obstruction.

too, in electronic intifada osamah khalil saw this “process” coming immediately after the annapolis conference concluded and shows us why negotiations are a never-ending song and dance rather than anything remotely resembling an actual treaty or document that the zionist regime could be held accountable to:

Historically, successful diplomatic summits have resulted in a peace treaty not a “process” or a “framework for negotiations.” This is due to the presence of senior government officials and the momentum and trust built from negotiations that are actively facilitated by a major power. It is not a photo-op with a disengaged and indolent president who promises to be active in the future. The resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been known for over 40 years, an additional 14 months of negotiations is not intended to conclude a peace but prevent one. Moreover, the Arab League Peace Initiative which is based on existing UN resolutions and international law has been offered to Israel twice in the past five years and rejected both times. In addition, countless studies have been conducted by the UN, the World Bank, and numerous universities, think-tanks and non-governmental organizations on the different parameters not just for a peaceful settlement, but for political and economic coexistence and cooperation. What is needed now is not another “process” for negotiations, but the political will by the US and Israel to agree to, and institute, the existing agreements. Anything less is designed to further entrench and institutionalize the occupation while wringing additional concessions from the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Of course that is the true goal of this “process,” an amalgam of the strategies of two former Israeli Prime Ministers: Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon. After leaving office, Shamir explained why he agreed to attend the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, stating that although Israel participated in negotiations with the Palestinians, “I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years and meanwhile we would have reached a half million people in Judea and Samaria.” Sharon’s strategy is best described by his adviser, Dov Weissglas, who explained in 2004 that the Gaza disengagement plan “supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” This would not only “prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state” but also forestall “a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.” In launching this new “peace process,” the Bush Administration continues to provide Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land with the requisite time to create further facts on the ground and stifle Palestinian aspirations for a viable, independent state. In order for this to be successful, Washington and Tel Aviv need a Palestinian leadership that will actively participate in such a charade in return for US funding and the title of President or Prime Minister. Abbas and his appointed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are perfectly suited for this role and are in the process of obtaining the necessary political, economic and military support from the US and Israel to maintain their positions against internal opponents, including Hamas and other members of Fatah.

it is an illusion. it is a charade. nothing will come of this un resolution just as nothing came of annapolis. it’s all a ruse. but at the same time part of the problem when such vacuous language appears in a un security council resolution: how does one implement it? is this resolution suggesting that palestinians should stay on this merry-go-round while their land continues to be confiscated, while they are continuously kidnapped and imprisoned, murdered, under siege, and while refugees are still waiting–and thankfully not compromising on–their right of return? notably there were several protests of annapolis from those who felt most marginalized by this and all other so-called peace processes. palestinian refugees, most importantly, issued this statement from canada last year in protest:

It is our belief that the purpose of the Annapolis round of negotiations is to extract further critical concessions from the Palestinians while further delaying final status agreements. In particular, we believe that Israel will attempt to redefine the conflict with the Palestinians as being only about ending the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, or parts thereof. Such a redefinition leads the Palestinians into the trap of the “two-state” formula which subverts our legitimate rights under international law. We stress that the central issue in the Palestinian conflict with Israel has always been the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land and property caused by the Zionist ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the Israeli denial to Palestinians of the basic human right to return and to live in peace and security as equal citizens on their land.

We further specifically caution you against any recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state. Such a recognition would give Israel the facade of moral and legal legitimacy while critically compromising the full implementation of the inalienable Palestinian right of return. In addition, it would contradict the struggle by Palestinian citizens of Israel to maintain their identity and gain equal rights as citizens. We point out that Israel was established through United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (Partition Resolution) which does not envisage or consent to the establishment of states on a religious or ethnic basis. In addition, we underscore that Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on the basis of its having recognized the full right of return of the Palestinian people on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (Right of Return Resolution).

one of the reasons i stress week in and week out the necessity of placing un resolution 194 at the forefront of a just solution–and clearly i am not alone in this– is because this gets at the root of the problem. if you get to the heart of a problem you can find a solution. but in spite of israel and its lobbying buddies in the u.s. feigning interest in a solution of any kind–two states or otherwise–i would argue that the real reason they press on with this roller coaster of occupation known also known as a two-state solution because it really doesn’t matter what they agree to. from the beginning they have lied, stolen, cheated. they sign documents promising not to build settlements, for instance, and they continue to do so. but all of this daily reality–as brutal as it is–forces us to deal with the pressures of the moments: checkpoints, imprisonment, settlements rather than the core issue: the ethnic cleansing and rights of refugees to return home. this is codified in international law in the form of even the un resolutions mentioned in this new resolution 1850. this is like treating a lung cancer with a diet of cigarettes.

instead those who have called for and actively participated in a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions with a vision towards a one-state solution ensure the rights of refugees, and by extension all related issues. when you allow palestinians their right of return you immediately solve the problem of borders, water, settlements, land. ali abunimah and omar barghouti make this point abundantly clear in an electronic intifada article from last year:

Since the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo agreements were signed in 1993, the colonization of the West Bank and all the other Israeli violations of international law have intensified incessantly and with utter impunity. We see this again after the recent Annapolis meeting: as Israel and functionaries of an unrepresentative and powerless Palestinian Authority go through the motions of “peace talks,” Israel’s illegal colonies and apartheid wall continue to grow, and its atrocious collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is intensifying without the “international community” lifting a finger in response.

This “peace process,” not peace or justice, has become an end in itself — because as long as it continues Israel faces no pressure to actually change its behavior. The political fiction that a two-state solution lies always just around the corner but never within reach is essential to perpetuate the charade and preserve indefinitely the status quo of Israeli colonial hegemony.

To avoid the pitfalls of further division in the Palestinian rights movement, we concur with [Nadia] Hijab and [Victoria] Brittain in urging activists from across the political spectrum, irrespective of their opinions on the one state, two states debate, to unite behind the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, as the most politically and morally sound civil resistance strategy that can inspire and mobilize world public opinion in pursuing Palestinian rights.

The rights-based approach at the core of this widely endorsed appeal focuses on the need to redress the three basic injustices that together define the question of Palestine — the denial of Palestinian refugee rights, primary among them their right to return to their homes, as stipulated in international law; the occupation and colonization of the 1967 territory, including East Jerusalem; and the system of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

and indeed the other key issue that gets solved with a just solution–meaning the return of refugees–is the plight of palestinians who are citizens of israel living in 1948 palestine. nadim rouhana demonstrates, by way of american analogies, how this ongoing process excludes palestinians living in 1948 and why they, like palestinian refugees, demand to have a voice in the so-called “peace process”:

Like many Mexican-Americans, we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us. We have been struggling ever since against a system that subjects us to separate and unequal treatment because we are Palestinian Arabs — Christian, Muslim and Druze — not Jewish. More than twenty Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is under intense pressure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is not a matter of semantics. If Israel’s demand is granted, the inequality that we face as Palestinians — roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population — will become permanent.

The United States, despite being settled by Christian Europeans fleeing religious persecution, has struggled for decades to make clear that it is not a “Christian nation.” It is in a similar vein that Israel’s indigenous Palestinian population rejects the efforts of Israel and the United States to seal our fate as a permanent underclass in our own homeland.

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

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

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

In the poll I just conducted, nearly three-quarters of Israel’s Palestinian citizens rejected the idea of the Palestinian Authority making territorial concessions that involve them, and 65.6 percent maintained that the PA also lacked the mandate to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Nearly 80 percent declared that it lacks the mandate to relinquish the right of Palestinian refugees — affirmed in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 and reaffirmed many times — to return to their homes and properties inside Israel.

palestinian authority billboard in tabariyya
palestinian authority billboard in tabariyya

indeed. but there were more recent polls taken, too–each problematic in their own way. these polls are related to the ads that abbas ran last month in israeli newspapers about his so-called promise of “peace.” the ads, as it turns out, are also billboards in hebrew all over 1948 palestine, though i only saw them in jewish-only cities when my friends and i were touring ethnically cleansed palestinian villages (see above photo):

Last month, Abbas ran ads telling Israeli newspaper readers they would win recognition from 57 Arab and Islamic countries if Israel withdraws from all the territories it occupied in the 1967 Mideast War.

According to the survey, 61 percent of Israelis oppose the trade-off and 36 percent support it. Among Palestinians, 66 percent support the idea and 30 percent oppose it.

clearly we see that israelis are not willing to give up any land for “peace.” that’s point one. point two is that just who was polled in this palestinian poll? palestinians in 1948 and palestinian refugees in syria and lebanon? no, none of these people were included in this poll. thus, the people who are most marginalized by this charade of a “process” are excluded and the poll is therefore deceptive.

at a protest against annapolis last year people interviewed by rami almeghari for electronic intifada expressed these same concerns showing that rights are far more urgent than “peace” because on the ground “peace” becomes like war:

A young woman taking part in a large women’s rally cried angrily, “We don’t want more alleged peace conferences, which bring us more suffering. We prefer poverty to accepting shameful peace.”

A young man at a nearby rally voiced similar frustration: “What peace are they are talking about? They want us to give up our legitimate rights. We prefer more years of suffering to conceding our rights.”

The speaker of the elected PLC, Dr. Ahmad Bahar, told the crowds, “Today, the Palestinian people tell those meeting in Annapolis that they refuse to concede their inalienable rights.”

Bahar said that the PLC passed a new bill prohibiting the concession of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return as well as the Palestinian nation’s rights to Jerusalem and to resist the occupation.

“This bill is intended to protect Palestinian rights from those who coordinate with the Israeli entity,” the speaker added, referring to President Abbas’ parallel, unelected government that holds talks with Israel.

Many Palestinian bodies, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)-linked parties and intellectuals have voiced their objection to the peace summit in Annapolis.

Dr. As’ad Abu Sharekh, a professor of English literature and a political analyst in Gaza, believes that the efforts underway will not lead to real peace.

“This conference should have instead been convened by the United Nations, which has been sponsoring the Palestinian question over the past six decades. The United Nations is the sole body that should implement its long-pending resolutions concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

“Resolution 194 of 1949 should be on top of such resolutions, which demands the return and compensation of Palestinian refugees to historical Palestine,” he added.

it should be clear that this never-ending process will continue to be never ending because the issues that are at the core continue to be ignored. and yet the un security council voted unanimously to maintain the status quo. further it absolutely ignores key issues at stake as jamal el khodary shows us:

El Khodary added that this resolution provides protection to the illegal Israeli measures against the Palestinian people, as it supports unbalanced bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks. He also said that this resolution gives Israel another free hand to annex the Palestinian lands, increase the Gaza siege and allow Israel to annex the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The independent legislator said that one of the most dangerous issues in this resolution is that it “puts the victim and the oppressor in equal positions”, and added that this resolution denies the legitimate Palestinian rights, especially the rights of independence, self determination and the right to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

El Khodary also said that the resolution did not place any timeframe, did not call for dismantling the Israeli colonies, did not even hint the release of political detainees and ignored the internationally guaranteed Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees.

Furthermore, El Khodary added that the resolution totally ignored the Israeli siege on Gaza, collective punishment practiced by Israel and also ignored the settlements and the Annexation Wall.

el khodary brings up another essential point in the way that occupier and occupied are treated as equals in all of these international negotiations. but the problem is, too, that occupier and occupied are never treated equally by international parties; instead, the occupier is always given special treatment in spite of its incessant complaints of anti-semitism. this is precisely why the zionist state never wants people from the un like richard falk to enter palestine or why miguel d’escoto brockmann is now receiving death threats for speaking out against its apartheid regime. clearly in this “process” there is no room for justice and this new un resolution at best will bring no change and at worst will bring more of the same.

and just a couple more words on another process…or the lack thereof. i thought that there was some interesting timing today in that human rights watch released a new report about the lack of due process and justice in the iraqi criminal court system. this comes as muntathar al-zaydi is due in court. it also comes after reports on his torture in prison as well as dick cheney reporting that he approved the use of torture during his tenure as vice president.

rania had some really important things to say today about the meaning of muntathar al zaydi and how we can mobilize our collective energy and power in relation to this euphoria:

Now, the question becomes not only what will happen to Muntadher al-Zaidi and when he will be released (if he will be released) — but the larger question is how many more shoes will be launched towards the heads of occupiers and puppets and oppressors?

Let us also remember that resistance in Iraq existed prior to the shoes-thrown. And resistance in Iraq will continue to exist after the shoes-thrown. The question for us is: for those of us inspired, empowered, moved, energized by the action of Muntadher al-Zaidi, what shall we do? individually, what shall we do? collectively, what shall we do? it is not enough to be inspired and to be moved emotionally. What creates change is action. What inspires action is hope and strategy.

these are very important questions for us and our friend abed attempted to pose further questions and challenges that we should also consider:

But at the same time, i never once doubted the reactions of the people facing occupation all over the world, not just in the Arab World…

I never doubted their will to fight the power structures, and their courage to do so… that people, will engage in their own individual initiative to say NO, in the absence of a group project…

But what we need is more than personal/individual experiences, we need a collective approach to advance…

The entire world watched the Shoe thrown by a Iraqi journalist, just like we remember the Chinese guy in the Suit over in Tinamen Square… Muntather Zaidi is synonymous to Tommie Smith from the 68 Olympics who lost the Gold Medal because of the Black Power Salute… These are all examples of how individuals can challenge the status quo, and there are millions of these examples everyday everywhere, but these particular people were caught on tape or by the lens of a camera…

The only difference is that, today, only individuals are ready for sacrifice and have the courage and creativity for such actions while groups/parties/new possible progressive systems are dormant/non existent… while in the past (Tienanmen & Mexico city), the people were inspired by a collective action happening & taking place (Student movement, & civil rights movement)…

Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful action, but it was always there in Iraq everyday, it was just not on camera… and what we need is way more than what individuals can offer to save Iraq, Palestine, Sudan…
Muntather should not be turned into a hero because turning him into a hero will make him lose his humanity, nationalism & common sense which were the reasons for his actions… Making a hero out of him is isolating his action, while we need to multiply this kind of actions on camera while waiting for the collective project to wake up…

The excess of happiness over the shoe is our incapacity for actions at the Arab collective level…

so what shall we do? collectively? certainly there are the petitions–and a new one which i will add below–but this is minimal a simple petition is helping just one man. how can we help an entire nation or region resist colonialism and apartheid and occupation in all of its nefarious forms? think about that while you sign this third petition for al-zaydi:

حملة لجمع 50000 توقيع لإطلاق سراح البطل منتظر الزيدي

toward a definition of genocide

so i’m sitting here in my apartment in nablus, working on my book, with al jazeera playing in the background. “people and power” was on and i turned up the volume when i heard arundhati roy’s voice coming from the tube. she’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers in this horrifying world. the episode is on “india’s maoist revolution,” which i will post when it becomes available online. but what struck me was when roy was describing the farmers forced off their land by these maoist rebels–the naxalites–who are now living in something resembling prison camps under brutal conditions. she used the word genocide in a novel way to describe their situation, but also in a way that can easily be used the world over:

most of the genocide in this world happens when people are cut off from their resources.

she went on to elaborate, but i didn’t have time to write it all down. but i like this way of describing genocide. i especially find it applicable to palestinians, and especially to the situation in gaza right now–palestinian refugees who have been cut off from their land for over sixty years, palestinians who have been cut off from basic needs–let alone resources–to feed, heal, heat, light the homes of gaza. today the word genocide was used by jamal al-khudari to describe what is happening in gaza:

The situation in the Gaza Strip is shifting from “collective punishment to genocide,” said Jamal Al-Khudari, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and head of the popular committee against the siege in Gaza.

in an article written earlier this year, “listening to grasshoppers: genocide, denial and celebration,” based on a speech she originally gave in istanbul, roy thinks about the meaning of genocide–its history, its usages, it significance:

In the state of Gujarat, there was a genocide against the Muslim community in 2002. I use the word Genocide advisedly, and in keeping with its definition contained in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The genocide began as collective punishment for an unsolved crime—the burning of a railway coach in which 53 Hindu pilgrims were burned to death. In a carefully planned orgy of supposed retaliation, 2,000 Muslims were slaughtered in broad daylight by squads of armed killers, organised by fascist militias, and backed by the Gujarat government and the administration of the day. Muslim women were gang-raped and burned alive. Muslim shops, Muslim businesses and Muslim shrines and mosques were systematically destroyed. Some 1,50,000 people were driven from their homes….

As genocides go, the Gujarat genocide cannot compare with the people killed in the Congo, Rwanda and Bosnia, where the numbers run into millions, nor is it by any means the first that has occurred in India. (In 1984, for instance, 3,000 Sikhs were massacred on the streets of Delhi with similar impunity, by killers overseen by the Congress Party.) But the Gujarat genocide is part of a larger, more elaborate and systematic vision. It tells us that the wheat is ripening and the grasshoppers have landed in mainland India.

It’s an old human habit, genocide is. It has played a sterling part in the march of civilisation. Amongst the earliest recorded genocides is thought to be the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War in 149 BC. The word itself—genocide—was coined by Raphael Lemkin only in 1943, and adopted by the United Nations in 1948, after the Nazi Holocaust. Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines it as:

“Any of the following Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [or] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Since this definition leaves out the persecution of political dissidents, real or imagined, it does not include some of the greatest mass murders in history. Personally I think the definition by Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, authors of The History and Sociology of Genocide, is more apt. Genocide, they say, “is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator.” Defined like this, genocide would include, for example, the monumental crimes committed by Suharto in Indonesia (1 million) Pol Pot in Cambodia (1.5 million), Stalin in the Soviet Union (60 million), Mao in China (70 million)….

Of course today, when genocide politics meets the Free Market, official recognition—or denial—of holocausts and genocides is a multinational business enterprise. It rarely has anything to do to with historical fact or forensic evidence. Morality certainly does not enter the picture. It is an aggressive process of high-end bargaining, that belongs more to the World Trade Organisation than to the United Nations. The currency is geopolitics, the fluctuating market for natural resources, that curious thing called futures trading and plain old economic and military might.

In other words, genocides are often denied for the same set of reasons as genocides are prosecuted. Economic determinism marinated in racial/ethnic/religious/national discrimination. Crudely, the lowering or raising of the price of a barrel of oil (or a tonne of uranium), permission granted for a military base, or the opening up of a country’s economy could be the decisive factor when governments adjudicate on whether a genocide did or did not occur. Or indeed whether genocide will or will not occur. And if it does, whether it will or will not be reported, and if it is, then what slant that reportage will take. For example, the death of two million in the Congo goes virtually unreported. Why? And was the death of a million Iraqis under the sanctions regime, prior to the US invasion, genocide (which is what Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, called it) or was it ‘worth it’, as Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador to the UN, claimed? It depends on who makes the rules. Bill Clinton? Or an Iraqi mother who has lost her child?…

Since the United States is the richest and most powerful country in the world, it has assumed the privilege of being the World’s Number One Genocide Denier. It continues to celebrate Columbus Day, the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, which marks the beginning of a Holocaust that wiped out millions of native Indians, about 90 per cent of the original population. (Lord Amherst, the man whose idea it was to distribute blankets infected with smallpox virus to Indians, has a university town in Massachusetts, and a prestigious liberal arts college named after him).

In America’s second Holocaust, almost 30 million Africans were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Well near half of them died during transportation. But in 2002, the US delegation could still walk out of the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, refusing to acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade were crimes. Slavery, they insisted, was legal at the time. The US has also refused to accept that the bombing of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and Hamburg—which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians—were crimes, let alone acts of genocide. (The argument here is that the government didn’t intend to kill civilians. This was the first stage in the development of the concept of “collateral damage”.) Since the end of World War II, the US government has intervened overtly, militarily, more than 400 times in 100 countries, and covertly more than 6,000 times. This includes its invasion of Vietnam and the extermination, with excellent intentions of course, of three million Vietnamese (approximately 10 per cent of its population)….

And what when victims become perpetrators? (In Rwanda, in the Congo?) What remains to be said about Israel, created out of the debris of one of the cruellest genocides in human history? What of its actions in the Occupied Territories? Its burgeoning settlements, its colonisation of water, its new ‘Security Wall’ that separates Palestinian people from their farms, from their work, from their relatives, from their children’s schools, from hospitals and healthcare? It is genocide in a fishbowl, genocide in slow motion—meant especially to illustrate that section of Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which says that genocide is any act that is designed to “deliberately inflict on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part”.

genocide in a fishbowl is what she calls the context here in palestine. a slow genocide. by expanding the word in this way we are able to include contexts like the american war in vietnam. what is happening in the congo right now. in gaza. these deaths may be slow, they may actually come from famine and disease. and they may come from military powers overwhelming for the civilians affected by them. but whether a mass of people are murdered in one fell swoop or slowly, painfully, cyclically, repeatedly it is no less a genocide.

there is a moving film that roy narrates called simply “we,” which deals with this theme to a certain extent, but everyone needs a little dose of roy in their life. or if you’ve never read her brilliant novel the god of small things you should rush out to your nearest library or bookshop and find a copy and inhale her words.

indigenous resistance

Russell Means, Lakota Activist leads resistance against the U.S. government with a goal of creating a sovereign nation for the Lakota people, separate from the U.S. In Al Jazeera’s “Inside USA” he explains the significant connections between such resistance movements among indigenous people across history and the globe:

They [Lakotas] were still resisting imperialism. It is a classic third world situation. On Indian reservations. It’s no different than the homelands of apartheid South Africa. The United States of America is the role model for Palestine–the occupation of Palestine–the entire robbery of the natural resources of Palestine, for Iraq, which is another Indian reservation.

You can watch the episode below where he makes this statement. For those of you familiar of what a refugee camp looks like–whether Palestinian or Iraqi–you’ll notice the resemblance to the Native American reservation (code word for refugee camps, refugee camps on their own land). There are similarities in other ways–lack of access to electricity, jobs, as well as environmental degradation as a result of the colonial occupying power.

Even Europeans–who don’t have selective memories or historical amnesia–can recall their own resistance to occupation. Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat party spokesman for the environment for the north west of Britain and a member of the European Union’s parliamentary delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council recalls this history and relates it directly to Hamas’ resistance to the Zionist state’s illegal occupation of Palestine:

Furthermore, many of the European Union countries were themselves occupied during the Second World War and supported resistance movements against their occupiers. Hamas too is fighting an occupation. There seems to be a failure to appreciate what the word means.

Palestinians are resisting–and I would add that it is not just Hamas–and there are daily, numerous reasons to do so. Here are a few reasons from today:

Palestinian security sources said that an Israeli contingent invaded several neighborhoods in the city as a special undercover Israeli army unit was deployed in one of the city’s streets.

The sources confirmed that the special force abducted three Palestinian residents, identified as Samer & Amjad Mabrouk as well as Dawood Abu Dawood, then took them to unknown destinations.

Also, the Israeli forces took over the house of Nasif family in Nablus’ Almadallah Aljadida neighborhood, turning it into a military outpost.

Earlier in the day, an Israeli contingent swept into the Qarrara town in southeastern Gaza, as Israeli drones rocketed a group of fighters, while the latter were defending the area.

Dr. Mo’awiya Abu Hasanin, chief of hospital and emergency department at the Hamas-run ministry, confirmed to IMEMC that corpses of the four killed were found earlier in the day in eastern Qarrra town in southern Gaza.

Abu Hasanin denied reports that a Palestinian woman was injured during the Israeli attack, asserting all those killed were resistance fighters.

The Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, declared four of its fighters were killed by the Israeli troops.

Meanwhile, Israeli sources claimed that an Israeli drone spotted a number of ‘militants’, while planting explosives near the border fence with Israel to the east of Alqarrara town in southern Gaza.

Witnesses said that the Israeli drones fired at least two rockets towards the fighters who were clashing with a number of invading tanks near a local school.

Witnesses added that the heavy Israeli artillery shelled Palestinian-owned houses in the area, as an Israeli military bulldozer demolished the house of Abdallah Alsemairy, after having forced inhabitants out.

The said Israeli invasion is the second in less than two weeks after the Israeli army killed 8 Palestinians including six Hamas fighters.

The Israeli police kidnapped on Monday at night Abdul-Baset Al Razim, a Palestinian reporter from Jerusalem after breaking into his home in Abu Dis and searching it.

The Police and members of the so-called border-guard units, broke into the house of Al Razim casing excessive damage, confiscated his laptop, several documents, his mobile phone and took him to an Al Maskobiyya prison in Jerusalem.

His wife voiced an appeal to local and international human rights groups and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate to intervene for his release, especially since he suffers from several chronic diseases and needs regular medical checkups.

Like the Palestinians, Native Americans resist in various ways and have not given up their rights to their native lands. And some attempt to lobby a U.S. government that turns a deaf ear to the concerns of both indigenous people. As the episode of “Inside USA” above shows what Native Americans lobbying the U.S. government is up against, so too Palestinians have an uphill battle which is a little better known world wide as a result of the Israel lobby. This other episode of “Inside USA” is an interesting counterpoint as it shows Palestinians attempting to create a lobby in the U.S. and what it is up against:

Interestingly, the program refers to Wolf Blitzer of CNN’s former role as a member of the Israel lobby. It directed me to Youtube where I found him speaking in this role in a clip from 1989 with Norman Finkelstein, Father Martin Jenco, and Zafar Bangash. Any wonder why CNN continues to be a mouthpiece for the Israel lobby? Here are the clips: