on anti-semitism

when i was teaching the play my name is rachel corrie this semester the subject of anti-semitism came up. there is a part of the play where rachel talks about how difficult it is for non-jews to speak about palestine in the u.s. because of the way that people silence you and say you’re anti-semitic. in the process of discussing this monologue it came up that many of my students think that the nazi holocaust is something that is fabricated. i had not encountered such a view in palestine before, but i understand why it exists and where it comes from. given the ways in which the nazi holocaust has been used against palestinians both as a pretext to steal their land, massacre palestinians, and ethnically cleanse them, i can understand how such thinking might emerge. given that the nazi holocaust has been used to silence those who speak about palestine, i can understand why people may doubt it or question it. but here is the thing. by questioning something that is factually based one only plays into those zionist hands and allows them to say, “oh, see, palestinians are anti-semitic.” also, by quibbling over numbers about how many people were killed in the nazi holocaust you are doing exactly what you don’t want done to you. those who know the facts about palestine, for instance, don’t want people to quibble over the historical facts about the 531 villages that were destroyed or the 750,000 palestinians forcibly removed from their homes during an nakba.

this is not, of course, a majority view in palestine. i think it speaks to the weak education that i have encountered in nablus as well as the lack of access to reading materials here. but at the same time zionists themselves initiated the abuse of and distortion of the nazi holocaust. at the recent aipac (american israel public affairs committee) meeting in washington dc the key item up for discussion was iran as the new germany, ahmadinejad as the new hitler. just check out this speech given there by republican congressman from virginia eric cantor for a glimpse into how this rhetoric pairs the two together in ways that defy logic, history, and reality:

notice cantor remarks at the beginning “at what moment was it too late” in reference to hitler. then he moves into iran with his completely baseless propaganda that “amhadinejad dreams of finishing hitler’s work.” he speaks as if this is true and it is 100% false. i’ll offer an example in a moment, but first look at this discussion on al jazeera’s “inside story” a couple of nights ago with imran garda. he hosted three speakers: imad gad from the al ahram center in cairo, former deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs david mack, and israeli terrorist colonist dan diker with the jerusalem centre for public affairs. here is the episode:

from the outset of the debate you can see diker move right in sync with the new aipac policy agenda:

Both Egypt and Israel are being directly threatened by the Islamic Republic of Iran and their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, which have now threatened the life of Mr. Mubarak and threatening the Egyptian regime. And they are threatening Israel through their surrogate Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in the north, and Iranian proxies in the West Bank including Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. So both leaders had a very strong set of interests to discuss that both include the Palestinian issue and twinned with the much larger strategic threat that Iran poses to both nations and indeed the entire Sunni establishment in the Middle East.

divide and rule. the big picture. uri avnery, a colonist in the zionist entity, refutes these claims at least in part in an article on anti-war.com:

Like a traveling salesman offering a counterfeit product, Peres is now peddling the merchandise called Binyamin Netanyahu. He presents to the world a Netanyahu we have never known: a peacemaker, the epitome of truthfulness, a man with no other ambition than to go down in history as the founder of the state of Palestine. A Righteous Jew to outshine all Righteous Gentiles.

However, all these lies are nothing compared to trivializing the Holocaust.

In some countries, that is a criminal offense, punishable by prison. The trivializing has many guises. For example: the assertion that the gas chambers never existed. Or: that not 6 million Jews were killed, but only six hundred thousand. But the most dangerous form of minimizing is the comparison of the Holocaust to passing events, thus turning it into “a detail of history,” as Jean-Marie Le-Pen infamously put it.

This week, Shimon Peres committed exactly this crime.

Like a lackey walking in front of the king, strewing flowers on the road, Peres flew to the U.S. to prepare the ground for Netanyahu’s coming visit. He imposed himself on a reluctant Barack Obama, who had no choice but to receive him.

Posing as a new Winston Churchill, the man who warned the world against the rise of Nazi Germany, he informed Obama with solemn bombast: “As Jews we cannot but compare Iran to Nazi Germany.”

About this sentence at least three things must be said: (a) it is untrue, (b) it trivializes the Holocaust, and (c) it reflects a catastrophic policy.

Does Iran really resemble Nazi Germany?

I don’t like the regime there. As a committed atheist who insists on total separation between state and religion, I oppose any regime based on religion – in Iran, in Israel, or in any other country.

Also, I don’t like politicians like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I am allergic to leaders who stand on balconies and declaim to the masses below. I detest demagogues who appeal to the base instincts of hatred and fear.

Alas, Ahmadinejad is not the only leader of this type. Indeed, the world is full of them; some are among the staunchest supporters of the Israeli government. In Israel, too, we do not lack this sort.

But Iran is not a fascist state. According to the evidence, there is quite a lot of freedom there, including freedom of expression. Ahmadinejad is not the only candidate for president in the present election campaign. There are a number of others, some more radical, some less.

Nor is Iran an anti-Semitic state. A Jewish community, whose members are refusing to emigrate, is living there comfortably enough. It enjoys religious freedom and has a representative in parliament. Even if we take such reports with a grain of salt, it is clear that the Jews in Iran are not being persecuted like the Jews in Nazi Germany.

And, most important: Iran is not an aggressive country. It has not attacked its neighbors for centuries. The long and bloody Iraq-Iran war was started by Saddam Hussein. It may be remembered that at the time Israel (contrary to the U.S.) supported the Iranian side and supplied it with arms. (One such transaction was accidentally disclosed in the Irangate affair.) Before the Khomeini revolution, Iran was our most important ally in the region.

Ahmadinejad hates Israel. But it has been denied that he has threatened to annihilate Israel. It appears that the crucial sentence in his famous speech was mistranslated: he did not declare his determination to wipe Israel off the map, but expressed the opinion that Israel will disappear from the map.

Frankly, I don’t think that there is such a great difference between the two versions. When the leader of a big country predicts that my state will disappear, that makes me worry. When that country appears to do everything possible to produce a nuclear bomb, that worries me even more. I draw conclusions, but about that later.

Moreover, Ahmadinejad – unlike Hitler – is not the supreme leader of his country. He is subject to the real leadership, composed of clerics. All the signs indicate that this is not a group of adventurers. On the contrary, they are very balanced, sophisticated, and prudent. Now they are cautiously feeling their way toward dialogue with the U.S., trying to reach an accord without sacrificing their regional ambitions, which are quite normal.

In brief, the speeches of one demagogic leader do not turn a country into Nazi Germany. Iran is not a mad country. It has no real interests in Israel/Palestine. Its interests are focused on the Persian Gulf area, and it wants to increase its influence throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Its relations with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas mostly serve this purpose, and so does the anti-Israeli incitement of Ahmadinejad.

In brief, the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany lacks a factual basis.

you can read the entire article if you click the link, but avnery like a typical israeli or jew devolves into the nazi holocaust is unique bulls*&^ that is part of the problem to begin with. norman finkelstein famously refutes this mythology in his groundbreaking book, the holocaust industry:

Two central dogmas underpin the Holocaust framework: (1) The Holocaust marks a categorically event; (2) The Holocaust marks the climax of an irrational, eternal Gentile hatred of Jews. Neither of these dogmas figured at all in public discourse before the June 1967 war. (41-42)

and why was it only after 1967? because they needed that argument to rationalize their colonial expansionist project in the west bank and gaza strip. after that deviation, avnery concludes his article as follows:

Does the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany serve Israeli interests?

Iran is there. It was our ally in the past, and may be our ally again in the future. Leaders come and go, but geopolitical interests are more or less constant. Ahmadinejad may be replaced by a leader who will see Iranian interests in a different light.

The nuclear threat to Israel will not disappear – not after a (bad) speech by Peres nor after a (good) speech by Netanyahu. All over the region, nuclear installations will pop up. This process cannot be stopped. We all need nuclear energy to desalinate water and to produce electricity without destroying the environment. As an Israeli professor, a former employee in the nuclear center at Dimona, said this week: we must reconsider our nuclear policy. It may well be to our advantage to accept the demand of the American spokeswoman that Israel (as well as India and Pakistan) join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a regime of strict supervision.

President Barack Obama is now saying to Israel: Put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is a precondition for the elimination of the threat to Israel. When the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, make peace with Israel, Iran will not be able to exploit the conflict for the furthering of its interests. We were saying this, by the way, many years ago.

The refusal of Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak to accept this demand shows the insincerity of their arguments about Iran. If they really believed that Iran posed an existential menace, they would hurry to dismantle the settlements, demolish the outposts, and make peace. That would, after all, be a small price to pay for the elimination of an existential danger. Their refusal proves that the entire existential story is a bluff.

and it seems as though they are willing to go it alone whether or not the americans help them as daniel luban and jim lobe explained in their article for ips:

Given its preoccupation with AfPak and with stabilising the region as a whole, the Pentagon has naturally been disinclined to increase tensions with Iran, which shares lengthy borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and could easily make life significantly more difficult for the U.S. in each of the three countries.

But the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing the U.S. to confront Iran over its nuclear programme, and his allies in the U.S. have similarly argued that Iran should be a top priority.

For the moment, the Iran hawks have mostly expressed muted – if highly sceptical – support for Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran. But they have warned that this outreach must have a “short and hard end date”, as Republican Sen. Jon Kyl put it at the AIPAC conference, at which point the U.S. must turn to harsher measures.

AIPAC’s current top legislative priority is a bill, co-sponsored by Kyl and key Democrats, that would require Obama to impose sanctions on foreign firms that export refined petroleum products to Iran.

In recent Congressional testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the administration would support such “crippling” sanctions against Tehran if diplomacy did not work, but she declined to say how long the administration would permit diplomatic efforts to play out before taking stronger action.

While sanctions seem to be the topic du jour, the possibility of military action against Tehran remains on everybody’s mind, as does the question of whether Israel would be willing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities without Washington’s approval.

In March, Netanyahu told The Atlantic that “if we have to act, we will act, even if America won’t.”

Asked at the AIPAC conference whether Israel would attack Iran without a “green light” from the U.S., former Israeli deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh joked that in Israel, stoplight signals are “just a recommendation.”

and paul craig roberts’ piece in counterpunch last week explains some of the dangers of privileging the nazi holocaust in all its so-called uniqueness in order to shield the zionist entity’s massive war crimes:

On October 16, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Israel Lobby’s bill, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. This legislation requires the US Department of State to monitor anti-semitism world wide.

To monitor anti-semitism, it has to be defined. What is the definition? Basically, as defined by the Israel Lobby and Abe Foxman, it boils down to any criticism of Israel or Jews.

Rahm Israel Emanuel hasn’t been mopping floors at the White House.

As soon as he gets the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed, it will become a crime for any American to tell the truth about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and theft of their lands.

It will be a crime for Christians to acknowledge the New Testament’s account of Jews demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.

It will be a crime to report the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on the White House and Congress, such as the AIPAC-written resolutions praising Israel for its war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza that were endorsed by 100 per cent of the US Senate and 99 per cent of the House of Representatives, while the rest of the world condemned Israel for its barbarity.

It will be a crime to doubt the Holocaust.

It will become a crime to note the disproportionate representation of Jews in the media, finance, and foreign policy.

In other words, it means the end of free speech, free inquiry, and the First Amendment to the Constitution. Any facts or truths that cast aspersion upon Israel will simply be banned.

Given the hubris of the US government, which leads Washington to apply US law to every country and organization, what will happen to the International Red Cross, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the various human rights organizations that have demanded investigations of Israel’s military assault on Gaza’s civilian population? Will they all be arrested for the hate crime of “excessive” criticism of Israel?

This is a serious question.

A recent UN report, which is yet to be released in its entirety, blames Israel for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises in Gaza. The Israeli government has responded by charging that the UN report is “tendentious, patently biased,” which puts the UN report into the State Department’s category of excessive criticism and strong anti-Israel sentiment.

Israel is getting away with its blatant use of the American government to silence its critics despite the fact that the Israeli press and Israeli soldiers have exposed the Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the premeditated murder of women and children urged upon the Israeli invaders by rabbis. These acts are clearly war crimes.

It was the Israeli press that published the pictures of the Israeli soldiers’ T-shirts that indicate that the willful murder of women and children is now the culture of the Israeli army. The T-shirts are horrific expressions of barbarity. For example, one shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a crosshairs over her stomach and the slogan, “One shot, two kills.” These T-shirts are an indication that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is one of extermination.

It has been true for years that the most potent criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians comes from the Israeli press and Israeli peace groups. For example, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Jeff Halper of ICAHD have shown a moral conscience that apparently does not exist in the Western democracies where Israel’s crimes are covered up and even praised.

Will the American hate crime bill be applied to Haaretz and Jeff Halper? Will American commentators who say nothing themselves but simply report what Haaretz and Halper have said be arrested for “spreading hatred of Israel, an anti-semitic act”?

Many Americans have been brainwashed by the propaganda that Palestinians are terrorists who threaten innocent Israel. These Americans will see the censorship as merely part of the necessary war on terror. They will accept the demonization of fellow citizens who report unpalatable facts about Israel and agree that such people should be punished for aiding and abetting terrorists.

A massive push is underway to criminalize criticism of Israel. American university professors have fallen victim to the well organized attempt to eliminate all criticism of Israel. Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at a Catholic university because of the power of the Israel Lobby. Now the Israel Lobby is after University of California (at Santa Barbara,) professor Wiliam Robinson. Robinson’s crime: his course on global affairs included some reading assignments critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Israel Lobby apparently succeeded in convincing the Obama Justice (sic) Department that it is anti-semitic to accuse two Jewish AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, of spying. The Israel Lobby succeeded in getting their trial delayed for four years, and now Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped charges. Yet, Larry Franklin, the DOD official accused of giving secret material to Rosen and Weissman, is serving 12 years and 7 months in prison.

The absurdity is extraordinary. The two Israeli agents are not guilty of receiving secrets, but the American official is guilty of giving secrets to them! If there is no spy in the story, how was Franklin convicted of giving secrets to a spy?

Criminalizing criticism of Israel destroys any hope of America having an independent foreign policy in the Middle East that serves American rather than Israeli interests. It eliminates any prospect of Americans escaping from their enculturation with Israeli propaganda.

To keep American minds captive, the Lobby is working to ban as anti-semitic any truth or disagreeable fact that pertains to Israel. It is permissible to criticize every other country in the world, but it is anti-semitic to criticize Israel, and anti-semitism will soon be a universal hate-crime in the Western world.

Most of Europe has already criminalized doubting the Holocaust. It is a crime even to confirm that it happened but to conclude that less than 6 million Jews were murdered.

Why is the Holocaust a subject that is off limits to examination? How could a case buttressed by hard facts possibly be endangered by kooks and anti-semitics? Surely the case doesn’t need to be protected by thought control.

Imprisoning people for doubts is the antithesis of modernity.

on nonviolence or where is the palestinian gandhi?

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

a couple of days ago my friend huwaida arraf published an op ed in the seattle times that raised an important issue for americans: the age old question of wondering where palestinian “gandhis” are. it is a problematic question for many reasons not the least of which is that there are many as she explains:

We Palestinians are often asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is and urged to adopt nonviolent methods in our struggle for freedom from Israeli military rule. On April 17, an Israeli soldier killed my good friend Bassem Abu Rahme at a nonviolent demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. Bassem was one of many Palestinian Gandhis.

One month prior, at another demonstration against land confiscation, Israeli soldiers fired a tear-gas canister at the head of nonviolent American peace activist Tristan Anderson from California. Tristan underwent surgery to remove part of his frontal lobe and is still lying unconscious in an Israeli hospital. In 2003, the Israeli military plowed down American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect a civilian home from demolition in Gaza. Shortly thereafter, an Israeli sniper shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall as he rescued Palestinian children from Israeli gunfire. He lay in a coma for nine months before he died.

rory mccarthy wrote about the murder of bassem abu rahme yesterday in the guardian as well in the context of the weekly nonviolent protests in bil’in village, though mccarthy’s judgmental tone at palestinians who throw stones at israeli terrorists lobbing american-made tear gas canisters (produced at the new jersey based u.s. federal laboratories) and rubber-coated steel bullets at palestinians is problematic:

Friday’s demonstration lasted around three hours. The crowd repeatedly surged towards the fence, then retreated under clouds of teargas. The military sounded a constant, high-pitched siren, interspersed with warnings in Arabic and Hebrew: “Go back. You with the flag, go back” and, incongruously, in English: “You are entering a naval vessel exclusion zone. Reverse course immediately.”

The Bil’in demonstration was always intended to be non-violent, although on Friday, as is often the case, there were half a dozen younger, angrier men lobbing stones at the soldiers with slingshots. The Israeli military, for its part, fires teargas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and sometimes live ammunition at the crowd.

There have long been Palestinian advocates of non-violence, but they were drowned out by the militancy of the second intifada, the uprising that began in late 2000 and erupted into waves of appalling suicide bombings.

Eyad Burnat, 36, has spent long hours in discussions with the young men of Bil’in, a small village of fewer than 2,000, convincing them of the merits of “civil grassroots resistance”.

there are so many problems with these various critiques of palestinians, usually made by foreigners, about palestinians’ right to armed resistance. for one thing the question that never goes away that huwaida asks–where is the palestinian gandhi–is completely ahistorical. indians did not win independence solely based on nonviolent resistance. there was a long history of armed resistance against the british before gandhi took center stage as radhika sainath explains in the electronic intifada:

In Gaza, Palestinians have once again been blamed for their own deaths. The British made a similar argument 151 years ago when they killed thousands of Indian civilians — 1,200 in a single village — in response to the largest anti-colonial uprising of the 19th century. If Israel truly desires peace with the Palestinians and safety for its citizens, it should look back to one of the greatest, and misunderstood, independence movements in history.

Most people believe India won its independence from the British exclusively through Gandhi’s famous strategy of nonviolence. They’re wrong; armed resistance has deep roots in India. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, Hindus and Muslims serving in the infantry for the British East Indian Company revolted against the British Empire, killing British officers and civilians alike. While the majority of these cavalrymen were Hindu, Muslims also partook in the rebellion. These Muslim fighters called themselves “jihadis” and even “suicide ghazis.”

The British quashed the revolt, but for the next 90 years Indian violence, even terrorism, in response continued. In the early 20th century, Indian militants, frustrated with the Congress party — the party of Gandhi and Nehru — regularly resorted to acts of violence to overthrow the British. Official government reports note 210 “revolutionary outrages” and at least 1,000 “terrorists” involved in more than 101 attempted attacks between 1906 and 1917 in the state of Bengal alone (see Peter Heehs, “Terrorism in India During the Freedom Struggle,” The Historian, 22 March 1993). One young revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, later referred to as “Shaheed” Bhagat Singh, bombed the Legislative Assembly in 1929.

On the other hand, Palestinians are usually portrayed in Israel and the West as exclusively militants or terrorists. Yet Palestinians have a vibrant, albeit unsuccessful, history of nonviolent resistance. In 1936, the Palestinians maintained a six-month general strike, the beginning of what became known as the Great Arab Revolt. The British retaliated by declaring martial law, jailing and killing large numbers of Palestinians, and destroying numerous Palestinian homes. The revolt lasted for three years and was the largest and longest anti-colonial uprising in the British Empire.

all of this is making me think of rachel corrie, perhaps because i am teaching her play, my name is rachel corrie, in my drama class. to be sure, i taught fateh azzam’s ansar: the true story of an israeli military detention center and el funoun’s from haifa to beirut and beyond first so that my students had an opportunity to read and consider palestinian theatre first. i do not approve of people just privileging the white man’s perspective, as it were, over palestinians’ perspectives. and my students, until this semester, have never encountered drama written and produced by palestinians so this was important for me to do. but i also think reading corrie’s play is useful for a number of reasons not the least of which is its context as a play that was censored in the united states and the context of the international action revolving around boycotting caterpillar in relation to corrie’s death as well as so many palestinians who have died at the hands of american-made caterpillar d-9 bulldozers and whose homes have been destroyed as well. more on that shortly. but i want to first share a part of a monologue from the play that is supposed to be an email that corrie sends home to her mother who, at the time, had asked her about palestinian violence and whose email seemed to be alluding to that age-old question about the palestinian gandhi:

So when someone says that any act of Palestinian violence justifies Israel’s actions not only do I question that logic in light of international law and the right of people to legitimate armed struggle in defence of their land and their families; not only do I question that logic in light of the fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits collective punishment, prohibits the transfer of an occupying country’s population into an occupied area, prohibits the expropriation of water resources and the destruction of civilian infrastructure such as farms; not only do I question that logic in light of the notion that fifty-year-old Russian guns and homemade explosives can have any impact on the activities of one of the world’s largest militaries, backed by the world’s only superpower, I also question that logic on the basis of common sense.

If any of us had our lives and our welfare completely strangled and lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment with no means of economic survival and our houses demolished; if they came and destroyed all the greenhouses that we’d been cultivating for the last however long do you not think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves the best they could?

You asked me about non-violent resistance, and I mentioned the first intifada. The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance. (48)

unfortunately, organizations like human rights watch feed into this point of view by alternately perpetuating the idea that palestinians do not have a right to armed resistance or by suggesting that there is somehow an equal playing field for palestinians resisting israeli colonialism.

in an article in electronic intifada from a few years ago, jonathan cook offers an important critique of human rights watch, one that he repeats in his amazing book disappearing palestine. the article is a critique of a report by human rights watch denying palestinians the right to non-violent resistance by women and children congregating in large numbers around buildings suspected of being targets of israeli terrorism in order to prevent the bombardment. here is cook’s critique of human rights watch’s denial of palestinian resistance–whether armed or nonviolent:

In language that would have made George Orwell shudder, one of the world’s leading organisations for the protection of human rights ignored the continuing violation of the Palestinians’ right to security and a roof over their heads and argued instead: “There is no excuse for calling [Palestinian] civilians to the scene of a planned [Israeli] attack. Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful.”

On HRW’s interpretation, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be war criminals. There is good reason to believe that this reading of international law is wrong, if not Kafkaesque. Popular and peaceful resistance to the oppressive policies of occupying powers and autocratic rulers, in India and South Africa for example, has always been, by its very nature, a risky venture in which civilians are liable to be killed or injured. Responsibility for those deaths must fall on those doing the oppressing, not those resisting, particularly when they are employing nonviolent means. On HRW’s interpretation, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be war criminals.

cook goes on to provide some advice to human rights watch and some context for why their reports are so often biased in favor of the colonizing apartheid zionist entity. he thinks about this in terms of priorities, context, and like corrie, common sense:

Priorities: Every day HRW has to choose which of the many abuses of international law taking place around the world it highlights. It manages to record only a tiny fraction of them. The assumption of many outsiders may be that it focuses on only the most egregious examples. That would be wrong.

The simple truth is that the worse a state’s track record on human rights, the easier ride it gets, relatively speaking, from human rights organisations. That is both because, if abuses are repeated often enough, they become so commonplace as to go unremarked, and because, if the abuses are wide-ranging and systematic, only a small number of the offences will be noted.

Israel, unlike the Palestinians, benefits in both these respects.

Context: The actions of Palestinians occur in a context in which all of their rights are already under the control of their occupier, Israel, and can be violated at its whim. This means that it is problematic, from a human rights perspective, to place the weight of culpability on the Palestinians without laying far greater weight at the same time on the situation to which the Palestinians are reacting.

Here is an example. HRW and other human rights organisations have taken the Palestinians to task for the extrajudicial killings of those suspected of collaborating with the Israeli security forces.

Although it is blindingly obvious that the lynching of an alleged collaborator is a violation of that person’s fundamental right to life, HRW’s position of simply blaming the Palestinians for this practice raises two critical problems.

First, it fudges the issue of accountability.

In the case of a “targeted assassination”, Israel’s version of extrajudicial killing, we have an address to hold accountable: the apparatus of a state in the forms of the Israeli army which carried out the murder and the Israeli politicians who approved it. (These officials are also responsible for the bystanders who are invariably killed along with the target.)

Palestinians carrying out a lynching are committing a crime punishable under ordinary domestic law; while the Israeli army carrying out a “targeted assassination” is committing state terrorism, which must be tried in the court of world opinion. But unless it can be shown that the lynchings are planned and coordinated at a high level, a human rights organisation cannot apply the same standards by which it judges a state to a crowd of Palestinians, people gripped by anger and the thirst for revenge. The two are not equivalent and cannot be held to account in the same way.

Second, HRW’s position ignores the context in which the lynching takes place.

The Palestinian resistance to occupation has failed to realise its goals mainly because of Israel’s extensive network of collaborators, individuals who have usually been terrorised by threats to themselves or their family and/or by torture into “co-operating” with Israel’s occupation forces.

The great majority of planned attacks are foiled because one member of the team is collaborating with Israel. He or she not only sabotages the attack but often also gives Israel the information it needs to kill the leaders of the resistance (as well as bystanders). Collaborators, though common in the West Bank and Gaza, are much despised — and for good reason. They make the goal of national liberation impossible.

Palestinians have been struggling to find ways to make collaboration less appealing. When the Israeli army is threatening to jail your son, or refusing a permit for your wife to receive the hospital treatment she needs, you may agree to do terrible things. Armed groups and many ordinary Palestinians countenance the lynchings because they are seen as a counterweight to Israel’s own powerful techniques of intimidation — a deterrence, even if a largely unsuccessful one.

In issuing a report on the extra-judicial killing of Palestinian collaborators, therefore, groups like HRW have a duty to highlight first and with much greater emphasis the responsibility of Israel and its decades-long occupation for the lynchings, as the context in which Palestinians are forced to mimic the barbarity of those oppressing them to stand any chance of defeating them.

The press release denouncing the Palestinians for choosing collectively and peacefully to resist house demolitions, while not concentrating on the violations committed by Israel in destroying the houses and using military forms of intimidation and punishment against civilians, is a travesty for this very same reason.

Common sense: And finally human rights organisations must never abandon common sense, the connecting thread of our humanity, when making judgments about where their priorities lie.

In the past few months Gaza has sunk into a humanitarian disaster engineered by Israel and the international community. What has been HRW’s response? It is worth examining its most recent reports, those on the front page of the Mideast section of its website last week, when the latest press release was issued. Four stories relate to Israel and Palestine.

Three criticise Palestinian militants and the wider society in various ways: for encouraging the use of “human shields”, for firing home-made rockets into Israel, and for failing to protect women from domestic violence. One report mildly rebukes Israel, urging the government to ensure that the army properly investigates the reasons for the shelling that killed 19 Palestinian inhabitants of Beit Hanoun.

This shameful imbalance, both in the number of reports being issued against each party and in terms of the failure to hold accountable the side committing the far greater abuses of human rights, has become the HRW’s standard procedure in Israel-Palestine.

But in its latest release, on human shields, HRW plumbs new depths, stripping Palestinians of the right to organise nonviolent forms of resistance and seek new ways of showing solidarity in the face of illegal occupation. In short, HRW treats the people of Gaza as mere rats in a laboratory — the Israeli army’s view of them — to be experimented on at will.

HRW’s priorities in Israel-Palestine prove it has lost its moral bearings.

i think that cook’s analysis is important as human rights watch has done little to change its ways in the past few years. for one thing human rights watch is repeating this phenomenon with its latest report on hamas warning them to stop killings and torture. but if you read the report, which i refuse to quote here, you see none of the above critiques taken into consideration (and for the record i know that people at human rights watch do read cook’s writing). there is no context, no common sense, and no sense of priorities. in the midst of massive, daily human rights violations against palestinians by israeli terrorists, human rights watch chooses to write about this. moreover, if they used their reports in a way that would push for palestinians to liberate their land and achieve a just freedom this issue could hopefully solve itself.

for instance, what makes one become a collaborator in the first place–the origin of the issue in the human rights watch report on hamas. israeli terrorists force palestinians into positions of collaboration for many reasons: to get out of prison, to see a loved one in prison, to go to al quds to pray, to go to an israeli terrorist hospital, to travel to jordan, to access your land, to keep your house from being demolished. many of these things can be arranged–albeit temporarily–by agreeing to become a collaborator. on al jazeera ayman mohyeldin reported on one of these recent phenomenons of fishermen in gaza being recruited and pressured by israeli terrorists to become collaborators:

still the question for me that persists is why human rights watch chooses to focus on a palestinian so-called violation without contextualizing it and at the expense of the daily violations against palestinians by the zionist entity. one of those violations is collective punishment–oftentimes in the form of punitive house demolitions as marian houk explains in electronic intifada:

According to ICAHD, “house demolitions are clearly a case of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law, in particular Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).”

In the year 2000, Ir Amim reported, there were only nine house demolitions in East Jerusalem — after “then-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek announced that he would refrain from most demolitions in East Jerusalem, saying in effect that it was not right to punish people for building illegally when they were not permitted to build legally.” However, Ir Amim says, “there are in excess of 1,500 outstanding judicial demolition orders that have been issued but not yet executed … these orders never expire, and tens of thousands of residents in East Jerusalem live in perpetual fear that they may awake to the sound of bulldozers on any given morning. Consequently … every demolition understandably evokes widespread fear throughout East Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem’s new mayor, Nir Barakat, has vowed to carry out home demolition orders vigorously, under the guise of implementing the “rule of law.”

According to B’Tselem, some 688 Palestinian houses were demolished in East Jerusalem alone between 1999 and 2008, the majority by the Jerusalem municipality, the rest by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. At least another 207 Palestinian homes were destroyed in East Jerusalem between 1988 and 1998 — and three years of data are missing for that decade.

Thousands of Palestinian homes have also been demolished in Gaza, although Israel claims this in most cases this was done for reasons of “military necessity.” In addition, 4,000 buildings were destroyed (and tens of thousands damaged) in various operations before and after Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza, including during the recent invasion.

The Jerusalem Post recently reported that the Israeli army was very pleased with the performance of unmanned D-9 bulldozers that were used in the Gaza Strip during the closing days of the Gaza invasion. D-9s are huge machines built by the Caterpillar Corporation and then armored by Israeli Military Industries. It was reported in 2003 that work was beginning on the development of a version that can be operated unmanned by remote control — but their use has never previously been confirmed and an Israeli army spokesperson stated to this reporter that “its general policy is not to discuss the type of weapons we used.”

During her recent visit to the region, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was widely quoted as saying that demolition and eviction orders were “unhelpful.” But she was speaking about pending demolition and eviction orders issued against hundreds of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — 88 in the Silwan neighborhood alone, just outside the walls of the Old City in East Jerusalem, to make way for what one Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinian rights called a “Jewish theme park.”

caterpillar bulldozer in the mikfiyya neighborhood of nablus
caterpillar bulldozer in the mikfiyya neighborhood of nablus

a related issue to all of this is the nonviolent boycott campaign targeting a number of companies, including caterpillar. the stop caterpillar campaign asks people to not buy caterpillar products, to divest from them among other activities because of the way this company profits as a result of destroying palestinian homes and murdering palestinian people. yet i always find it strange how prevalent caterpillar bulldozers are in palestine. the photograph above i took while i walked to school yesterday, but i could have taken it in any number of locations around the west bank of palestine. and it is not just the bulldozer itself. it is the clothes, too.

caterpillar shoes for sale in the old city of nablus
caterpillar shoes for sale in the old city of nablus

the photograph above, like the bulldozer itself, is ubiquitous here in palestine. i could have taken that same photo in any clothing shop anywhere around palestine. and this is frustrating. but it seems to me that the reason for this disconnection is part branding and part unconsciousness about connecting the dots. my students, for instance, yesterday know the clothes as “cat” but the bulldozers as “caterpillar” and thus don’t connect the two, even though the logo is the same. but also even though students see the caterpillar d9 bulldozers on television and know what they do to palestinian people and houses they don’t connect this with their own practices, with boycott. it is strange for me that they cannot see the irony in the fact that the same bulldozer company vehicles that destroy palestinian lives every day are also used to build palestinian homes, which will likely, one day be destroyed by yet another caterpillar bulldozer.

this is, of course, only one of many human rights violations that palestinians must live with on a daily basis. there are rarely any international reports on such violations, for many of the reasons cook makes clear. but there is a great desire to resist by any means necessary: both armed resistance and nonviolent resistance. the two exist together in any struggle for liberation whether india or south africa. but what i want to know is while westerners persist in asking ad nauseum “where is the palestinian gandhi?” why don’t they ask where is the zionist f.w. de klerk?

jeel al oslo

after school on thursday some of my students came with me to what was supposed to be a meeting to discuss plans for nabuls is to support palestinians in aqraba. there is a leftist organization here called tanweer that does various projects, many of them educational–especially educating palestinians about their history since the schools certainly are not doing that. i met these folks because when my student from aqraba went with me to meet with the student council on campus the student we met with took me downtown to meet with the people at tanweer. another friend joined us as well. i really liked this group in terms of their thinking as well as the fact that they are doing organizing work with a leftist ideology that is not affiliated with any political party (though, of course, posters of george habash and others decorate the walls). i was most impressed with the student from the student council, too. he’s a really smart guy from al ‘ain refugee camp who is studying journalism. i was a bit surprised that this is where he took me given that the majority of the student council at my university is fatah. and, actually, i said something about this at the end of that first meeting and he said, that he was, in fact, fatah. but he didn’t sound like fatah. he sounded nationalistic. he sounded leftist. and this is what surprised me. especially someone his age. more on this in a bit.

my students and i arrived at the office downtown an hour late because i had to teach my class. but we were told there would be a movie first and that the meeting would be after. somehow that schedule was inverted and they decided to show a movie second. i didn’t realize this until after the film, however. given the conversations we had the last time i had expected tanweer to show nationalistic palestinian films in arabic about palestinians. instead, they showed two films about rachel corrie that they downloaded. i had not seen them before, though the clips were not new to me. almost all was in english with no arabic subtitles (except for some clips of amy goodman speaking on mbc tv) for an audience that is not fluent in english. i was annoyed to say the least. i had had the same feeling earlier in the day: i needed to print out some papers for class and i was unable to do so in my department so i went to the public relations office. while i was waiting for my document to print i noticed that the only martyr posters on the wall were of tom hurndell and rachel corrie. this is in contradistinction to the hundreds of palestinian martyrs all over nablus–in the old city, in the refugee camps. but here at the university we seem to only recognize the ajaneb martyrs.

after the film an older palestinian man spoke about the importance of rachel corrie as a “humanitarian” and other ajaneb as “humanitarian” people who come here to palestine. this word for me has become like nails on a chalkboard. i recalled reading something by natalie abou shakra a couple of months ago when she too had an adverse reaction to this word, which captures exactly how i feel:

I extremely despise it when someone categorizes me as a journalist, or as a “humanitarian activist”… I am neither. My activism is political and social… radical. Please do not call me humanitarian. We live in the midst of the era of human rights production and matters of the sort. We witness humanitarian international law being broken daily… do you think we want to be labeled as “humanitarian”? No! My role, our role, is greater than that… much greater than that… we are a revolution, we support an armed struggle and an armed resistance for liberation… Fanonians par excellence… Hasta la Victoria Siempre! Free Palestine! Down with totalitarian Arab regimes, down with colonialism, imperialism, occupation and oppression! No negotiations are allowed after massacres, genocides and schemes of ethnic cleansing… the vocabulary and diction used in such times are extremely important…

i am here to support palestinian resistance in various forms. the use of this word “humanitarian,” to me implies that palestinians are some sort of charity case who are not capable of taking care of themselves, of fighting this battle themselves. neither of these are true. then he started talking about people in the audience who needed to go back to their countries and form associations with palestinian associations to help people here. he wanted foreigners to continue to help with their “non-violent” resistance. i turned around and realized that there were foreigners in the audience. not a lot, but they were there. and this film and this man’s speech reflected a reality that was non-existent when i was in the tanweer offices prior to this meeting. i mentioned these things when he was finished speaking. i mentioned that the families in aqraba wanted palestinians to join them. they wanted to feel solidarity with palestinians not only with foreigners, which is what i thought the meeting was about. he responded that in 2002 there was a lot of palestinian solidarity, but because of the checkpoints that has been made more difficult. too, he mentioned the conflict between fatah and hamas as contributing to the problem by dividing the people. one of the foreigners spoke up and said that the focus on rachel corrie is because she took herself out of her comfort zone and fought someone else’s fight. but, you see, this is why i don’t like going to meetings with ajaneb: because the focus becomes something else. it becomes a meeting about foreigners. if we had been talking about something useful–like getting foreigners to rent yellow-plated cars and help get palestinians from nablus to aqraba that would be one thing. but we moved away from what was supposed to be the subject of the meeting: the needs and desires of palestinians in aqraba. we could have been watching a film about palestinian resistance or other anti-colonial resistance struggles and learned from those models or examples. we could have been looking at palestinian history. but we were not. even the library at this tanweer center is named after rachel corrie. not the greatest resistance writer in palestine, ghassan kanafani.

it occurred to me that one of the issues that palestinians are facing here is related to morale. to pride. resistance to the british, to the zionists, to the lebanese army, to the jordanian army: all of this seems to have been forgotten. these are situations when palestinians–even if only for a short while–liberated themselves. yes, often with support from local people, and sometimes with support from internationals, but the sweet taste of freedom when one takes that freedom for themselves is irreplaceable. the discussion went on. one of my friends talked about non-violent resistance as new to palestinians (it’s not, but i’ll get to that in a minute). one of the women i knew in the audience who is one of the leaders in pflp in nablus spoke about the need for armed resistance and the way this sort of emphasis on nonviolence often negates the right to armed struggle. of course, i’m for both types of resistance. boycott, divestment, and sanctions is a kind of nonviolent resistance. so is writing. so is the friday prayer in aqraba that we are organizing. but we need all forms. they work together. this is what so many important anti-colonial writers say in their archive from chinua achebe to ghassan kanafani.

i want to share some excerpts from rosemary sayigh’s brilliant and important book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries to get at some of these issues that came up in the meeting and that i confront frequently here. one of the main aspects of palestinian history that really seems to be lacking here is about palestinian resistance. sayigh’s work is unparalleled on this and so many other issues because it is based on oral history, because she collected these histories when people still remembered the initial phases of british-zionist colonization of their land, because she published this in 1979 when the palestinian resistance movement was still fresh. for all these reasons and so much more i think what she shares in her book is so necessary for all of us to learn from palestinian history about what has worked, where problems were, and how can this knowledge be used to work in the right direction for the liberation of palestine. too, i think that remembering what the goals of liberation were is essential because it is so very sad to consider how far away from those goals are people now seem to be. in describing various people she interviews in her work she characterizes them as: jeel falasteen, jeel an nakba, jeel al thawra, in other words by generation. had this been published later we would most certainly see jeel al intifada. but what i suspect part of the problem here is now is that we have jeel al oslo as it were. and this generation is one that has, i would argue, suffered the most with respect to internalized colonialism (an entire childhood reared only on israeli terrorist television), a childhood when normalization became acceptable to the leaders who have been blindly followed for some bizarre reason, a generation in which palestinians have become prisoners inside their bantustan jails. i think learning from the previous generations can help this generation a lot, however. for it is not as if this generation is so far removed from the others. and indeed the jeel an nakba experienced similar sorts of impotence due to the extreme trauma suffered through the dispossession and mass murder they experienced from 1947-1949. but out of that came resistance and various levels of liberation. and i hope–and why i teach what i teach–that inspiration from the same sources of the past, and learning the lessons of the past, can turn jeel al oslo into a jeel al thawra jedeed.

first, i begin with jeel falasteen with sayigh’s analysis of land sales early on in zionist colonization of palestine shows an important fellaheen success in their resistance:

Peasant landlessness started before the Mandate with single sales of large areas of land by the Ottoman Administration and by non-Palestinian owners. These sales, many of which included whole villages, confronted the peasants with their first experience of legal eviction, something which had never been part of the fellaheen fate. It is striking that their immediate, spontaneous response was violent resistance–a resistance which found, however, no echo in other segments of Palestinian society. Such large transactions–the most notorious being the sale in the early 1920s of 240,000 dunums in the fertile Vale of Esdraelon by the Beirut merchant family of Sursock–would have been impossible after the first few years of the Mandate owing to the rapid growth of nationalist sentiment. From then on, Zionist land acquisition was faced with obstacles that the founders of the movement had not anticipated.

In spite of the energy and funds deployed by the Jewish Land Purchasing Agency and its sister organizations, the proportion of Jewish-owned land rose far more slowly than their population. By 1926, only 4 percent of all land (including state land) was Jewish-owned, and it took another eight years for this figure to reach 5 per cent. By the end of 1946, the last year for which official figures exist, it had not gone beyond 6 per cent. Peasant resistance to land sales is abundantly clear in these figures. (36)

second, i think it is important to look at how sayigh characterizes the palestinian rebellion of 1936-39 and its context:

The Palestinian Rebellion of 1936-39 was the most sustained phase of militant anti-imperialist struggle in the Arab world before the Algerian War of Independence. At its peak in 1938 it had mobilized an estimated 15,000 militants around a core of from 1,000 to 1,500 full-time fighters, forcing the British to increase their occupying army from one to two divisions (about 20,000 troops). As well as the British forces, the Palestinian guerrillas faced Zionist paramilitary organizations now well beyond the embryonic stage. It has been estimated that 5,000 Palestinians wee killed and 14,000 wounded through British action, excluding victims of Zionist attack. In one year alone, 1938, 5,679 Palestinians were jailed.

Older camp Palestinians well remember the Rebellion of 1936, which they see as the parent of the Armed Struggle Revolution of 1965. Some remember taking part in it; others who were children at the time remember feeling pride if “sons” of their village were among the guerrillas. Methods of suppression included aerial bombardment, the mass dynamiting of villages suspected of helping the “rebels,” beating men with strips of prickly pear bush, and entering homes to ransack food stocks. A man who was a small child in 1939 remembers reprisals against his village:

There’s a picture stamped on my mind of all the people–men, women, and children–gathered together on the threshing floor. Later when I asked about the incident, they told me that the British had collected all the people there and blown up the whole village. I think it was in 1939. They said that some people working with the Revolution had taken shelter in the village; also a bridge leading to it had been blown up. This was enough for the British to destroy all the houses. But the people went down to the city (Acre) to get help to rebuild.

(43-44)

of course when one looks at policies and practices of the british occupation of palestine, one sees that many of the same are now used by the israeli terrorist colonists. most of the important resistance work was done by the fellaheen because they had the most to lose–and after they lost it and became refugees, of course the fellaheen-laja’een are those who became the leaders of resistance in the next generation. what also remains somewhat the same is this constant need to look to leaders rather than to the people. but a closer look at resistance to the british-zionist take over of palestine shows us, through sayigh’s assessment, that it was the palestinian masses who led the struggle:

It was symptomatic of the distance between the political and militant wings of the nationalist movement that when the first guerrilla leader, Sheikh Qassam, was killed soon after his call to armed struggle in 1935, none of the leading national figures attended his funeral. None of the military leaders of the 1936 Rebellion were from the ruling class. Few anecdotes give a clearer picture of the incapacity of the Palestinian traditional leaders for serious struggle than the one told by a “former intelligence officer” to the author of a study on the 1936 Rebellion. A group of bedouin gathered in Beersheba telephoned to the Mufti asking what action they should take in support of the uprising that was beginning to spread through the country in the wake of the killing of the District Commissioner for Galilee. The Mufti’s reply to them was to do whatever they thought fit, and though his reply may have been due to knowledge that his telephone was tapped, all accounts of the Rebellion and the six months’ strike that preceded it make it clear that the people of Palestine led their leadership, not vice versa. Objectively, the role of the notables was to facilitate British domination. In yielding to the pressures of pro-British Arab politicians, like Nuri Said of Iraq and Emir Abdullah of Jordan, for an end to the Rebellion, the Arab Higher Committee threw away all the lessons of political organization that they could have learnt from the uprising, in spite of its ultimate repression. Instead, naively, they accepted the British White Paper of 1939 as a real gain, though every experience they had had of British rule should have taught them that concessions made by the Administration in Palestine would be negated by Zionist pressure on the Home government. (52)

the above description of who was leading the resistance is important because we see the same with the palestinian resistance movement and the intifada. but we also see the signing of papers at the expense of the people in order to serve the israeli colonial masters (read: oslo) with those who rose to leadership positions with in the plo (read: yasir ‘arafat). these mistakes should be studied and analyzed so that they do not keep getting repeated. if people see how masses of palestinians empowered themselves in spite of their leaders then perhaps things might be different. there was a fourth important element i want to highlight with respect to resistance and that is labor organizing. sayigh quotes a peasant man who became a union organizer in haifa:

In the last years we began to think of building a political party based on the workers’ movement and to combine union work with national struggle. As a preparation, we formed a number of co-operatives, outside the workers’ union, including the tobacco farmers, fisherman and others… We intended also to form a secret organization, but there wasn’t time, for in 1947 came the Partition Plan, and what followed it, the Disaster and dispersion.

The reason we did not form a political party was that, after studying the project, we realized that its leaders would not be from the working class, but from their friends, doctors, engineers, lawyers, who would make the party work for their interests, not for the workers. so we decided to postpone until we had enough working class leaders. But the time we had was too short to form the party correctly…

The League was active in so many ways, organizing strikes, co-operatives, demonstrations. The most outstanding even in this period was the Haifa Oil Refinery strike where we hit Zionist workers and engineers who were trying to control the Refinery. Our workers in the British military camps used to write reports; in the ports of Jaffa and Haifa they kept watch on the activities of the Histadrut.

After this, the leadership of the national movement tried to incorporate the workers while suppressing their union membership. We told them that it’s our duty to participate in the national struggle, not as employees, but as representatives of the working class. There was a long struggle between the League adn other political organizations, especially between Hajj Amin and Sami Taha, who began to become a national figure after his confrontation with Aneuran Bevan, Foreign Minister of the Labour government, at a conference in London attended by the Arab regimes and the Palestinian workers’ movement, when Taha said: “Down with imperialist Britain in Palestine!”

This made Hajj Amin afraid. He saw a powerful personality opposing him, enjoying popular support from the workers, government employees and farmers in the co-operative leagues. In September 1947, Sami Taha was assassinated by criminal hands, instigated by the leadership that could not separate itself from the agent Arab regimes, and that was so afraid of struggle. (57-58)

resistance changed for jeel an nakba for a variety of reasons. sayigh quotes the story of a resistance movement leader about what happened in his village and how he resisted the best he could given the circumstances:

I was one of the people who was against evacuation and because I believed this I stayed in my village until the people left. I suggested to them staying in the fields instead of the houses because of the danger of bombardment, and then go back and face our fate, even if it was to be killed. When the Zionists occupied our village, I was one of those arrested.

One of the political errors of our leadership was that they didn’t prevent evacuation. We should have stayed. I had a rifle and a Sten gun. My father told me, “The Zionists are coming, you know what they do to girls, take your two sisters and go to Lebanon.” I said, “I prefer to shoot my sisters, and shoot you all, and keep the last bullet for myself. This would be better than leaving.” Then they took our village and I was arrested, and they left. But our leadership was outside in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. When the leaders are out they can’t tell the people to stay. (90)

it was not only men who resisted–even if that resistance meant staying on one’s land as long as possible and fighting with whatever means one might have. resistance also meant that when most refugees fled, they did not flee across the border right away; many stayed moving from one village to the next in order to return when the fighting stopped. sayigh quotes a woman from kweikat who shows how she resisted during an nakba:

I was twelve when we left our village. We went to a village called Abu Sinan. We were a family, three girls, three boys, mother, father, and grandfather, and we had nothing to eat. I used to take my younger brother and sister and creep back to get things from our home. My mother used to punish me for it, but I wasn’t afraid of the Jews. I used to go in and get soap, flour, food to eat. One time when I was carrying a heavy sack of flour I trod on an electric wire which rang an alarm bell. That’s when I fell and hurt my back. Another time the soldiers nearly caught us in our house, but we hid in the cupboard. It was our country, but we had become thieves in it!

We used to get watermelon, okra, tomatoes and corn from our village. It was our land, we had sowed it, and we wanted to harvest it. Sometimes my mtoher and my aunt used to go at night–it was about eight or ten kilometres’ walk. Once when they went, the guards saw them and shot my aunt in the head. (92-93)

even after palestinians became refugees in the early years they found ways to resist their conditions in the newly formed refugee camps as a result of the host countries and of unrwa. a palestinian refugee in trablus told sayigh about palestinians resisting towteen early on–when urnwa wanted them to accept permanent status in their host countries rather than fight for their right to return:

We felt that UNRWA had a certain policy that aimed at settling us. They wanted us to forget Palestine, so they started work projects to give us employment. This was part of the recommendation of the Clapp Report. They used to give loans to people to set them up in small businesses such as “shoe-mender or carpenter”; then they’d take away their ration cards. More dangerous was the way they tried to encourage emigration to Australia or America. They’d give a man a ticket, and take away his ration card. We opposed all this, through publications and secret meetings, night visits and diwans–these weren’t prohibited. Politically conscious people used to go to these gatherings and take part in the conversation. We opposed these projects because we felt that, living in poverty, we would stay attached to our land. (112)

not only is resistance consistent across palestinian history, but, as the above speaker makes clear, so is the level of sacrifice palestinians are willing to endure in order to claim their right of return. and in spite of that poverty one can see how palestinians in the camps saw education as an important site of resistance too:

I was among the first group of students from Nahr al-Bared school. There were 70 to 80 of us in the first tent school. There weren’t any seats or school equipment–we’d sit on the sand or bring stones from the shore to sit on. Twelve of us managed to pass the Certificat and were transferred to the House of Education in Tripoli. There we really felt the depth of the Disaster, from our living conditions and the way they treated us. There we were, in torn clothes, sitting next to sons of Tripoli who had different clothes for every season, and pocket money. They put us Palestinians in the section for orphans; that way they got our rations from UNRWA as well as aid given by different charitable organizations that used to help the refugees. In spite of all this, we had faith that there was no road but education. We used to go down into the street at night to study under the street lamps. (124)

another aspect of what was needed to build resistance, which grew under the extreme repression in the first decade and a half palestinian refugees lived in lebanon was the way that palestinians increasingly saw themselves as part of one big watan in a way that transcended family or village bonds as sayigh explains using a recollection from someone in jeel al thawra:

The Resistance Movement, the idea of the Return, have transformed a nostalgia for normality into a conscious assumption of the abnormality of struggle. In this spirit a young teacher told me of a current Israeli attack on Rashidiyyeh camp which might have killed one of his cousins, adding, “But he is no different to me than any other Palestinian.” (139)

the above sentiment seems lost to me, but it is one that needs to be cultivated and returned to. and there is much to return to in jeel al thawra on a number of different levels. for one thing if one goes to its roots and to the emergence of fatah one finds that there is much to be gained if fatah returned to its origins as sayigh describes it:

For Fateh’s leaders, the urgent need created by the 1967 defeat was to prevent the Arab governments from negotiating, from a position of weakness, an end to the Palestinian liberation struggle in return for Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the June War. Their long-term hope was that Palestinian guerrilla operations would act as a spark to rekindle the broader Arab struggle against imperialist domination that had lost momentum in the narrow interests of neocolonial regimes. (149)

the need to connect the liberation of palestine to the neocolonial and imperial interests in the rest of the arab world could not be more true today. it has, unfortunately, gotten worse not better and thus these roots of resistance would benefit the entire region if people returned to it. equally important then, as now, is the way that gains by the resistance affects the mood of the entire population in a way that then supports and sustains the resistance fighters, helping them to become steadfast. after the battle of karameh in 1968 in jordan, sayigh quotes someone in the resistance in beirut describing its significance:

We saw our young men eager to go to training camps in the Ghor, and to take part in operations. They’d come back with stories of the war; so, instead of telling the old stories, people began to tell these new stories, about how our young men were fighting. the whole nature of talk changed, as if there had been a deep psychological change among our people. (158)

the above passage shows how important the mood of the people can be for the struggle. this is key. but so too is the bit about telling stories: imagine if accurate stories and histories of palestinian resistance were circulated and told the same way pop music on cell phones of jeel al oslo are circulated how different things might be here. what one also learns from the early part of the resistance struggle is how strong solidarity was among the people beyond palestinians as one important narrative from a lebanese fighter shows:

I come from the South, from a village on the border of occupied Palestine. Like the Palestinians, my family left our village in 1949 because the Zionists carried out a massacre in Hula, a village near ours, where they killed about seventy young men in a mosque. A great number of Lebanese from the border villages were forced to leave in this way, and they lived in Beirut in the same conditions as the refugees.

After the Palestinian Revolution, in 1968, we went back to our village, to live with the people there. There were daily fedayeen operations against the Zionist enemy’s settlements. This created a revolutionary tide. The masses all supported the Revolution because they saw it was the only force able to stand up and say No after the defeat of 1967.

At that time our material resources were few, and we had to rely on donations from the people. For a long time the masses were supplying all our needs, even clothes and food. On night patrol, we would knock on doors as we passed through the villages, and people would give us food and shelter…

Before everything else, there must be an everyday political relationship with the masses, to look at their problems, and help them to solve them, especially through their own consciousness….

In 1969, there were many battles between us and the Lebanese Army and that is when we saw the villagers rise against the army. I remember particularly Majdel Silm, where the army put a force estimated at brigade size around the town to besiege a group of a hundred fedayeen. The population made a demonstration against the army, protecting the fedayeen with their own bodies. This is the incident I consider the most expression of fusion between us and the masses at the that time. (164)

this kind of palestinian-lebanese unity against the state was so important and needs to be cultivated yet again. certainly because hezbollah is strong int he south some of that solidarity still exists, but hezbollah continues to be primarily committed to lebanese national interests not to the liberation of palestine with respect to its action, though not its rhetoric. but that kind of unity in palestine and among palestinians could usefully be cultivated as well. it is this kind of unity that led to palestinians liberating their refugee camps from the control of the lebanese army, one of the first major victories in lebanon and one that also has a lot to teach us on a number of levels as one resistance fighter from nahr el bared narrates:

They brought tanks and the army tried to enter the camps. That day, we can remember with pride, we brought out the few guns that we had–they were eleven. We did well at first, but then we ran out of ammunition. A rumour ran round the camp that the ammunition was finished and we tried to calm the people by telling them that rescue would come from the Resistance. But we didn’t really know whether it would come. But what was amazing was that people returned to what they had been in 1948, preferring to die rather than to live in humiliation. Women were hollering because it was the first time a gun had been seen defending the camp. It was the first battle that we didn’t lose. The children were between the fighters, collecting the empty cartridges although the bullets were like rain. It was the first time that people held knives and sticks and stood in front of their homes, ready to fight. (169)

this sort of collective action, which is sorely lacking today was extensive as a man from rashiddiyyeh refugee camp told sayigh:

It was impossible to find a person who didn’t want to invite the fedayeen and offer his home as an office. It was felt to be shameful not to be the first to give the fighters food, water, shelter. The people were ready to sacrifice everything they had for the Revolution. When we said we needed money, the women would give their gold earrings, bracelets, watches. And whatever they gave, they felt it was nothing. (175)

a fateh militant who sayigh interviewed after managing to get a degree as an engineer made an important statement about the relationship between what people do in their lives and the necessity of connecting that back to the resistance:

I thought of the things I must do to return to my country. I participated in all strikes and demonstrations on Palestinian issues. Finally, I joined one of the Resistance organizations, which represents for me the peak of my political consciousness. As an engineer, i feel there is a link between my specialization and the aims of the Revolution, so I am using my knowledge in a magazine for our fighters. There can be no separation between theory and action. (189)

one of the crucial aspects of sayigh’s work is that she focuses on the people, the masses, not the leaders. part of this is related to the fact that she took these oral histories in the early 1970s. but one of her assessments at that time is significant and must be thought about as i believe that it has a lot to do with problems that later emerged as a result of the hero worship that was nonexistent when she wrote her book:

The absence of hero-worship of the leaders of the Revolution is striking. The photos of shuhuada‘ are much more visible on the street walls of camps than those of the Resistance leaders, and people praise the latter sparingly, saying, “They live the lives of the people.” If one falls, another will take his place. It is the invincibility of the Palestinian people as a whole, not a given party or leadership, that people mean when they say, drinking coffee, ‘Revolution until victory!'” (190)

towards the end of her book, when sayigh is working towards her conclusion she offers an assessment of the resistance movement, which unfortunately does read a bit anachronistic, but is worth pondering given how things have changed in the last 30 years:

The effects of mass Palestinian struggle on the Arab scene will be slower to reveal their shape, because of the complex interplay between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces. As the Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi has argued, a Palestinian state in the West Bank would tend to stabilize the present regimes and status quo. A mini-Palestine hemmed in by Israel on one side and Jordan on the other would have little scope for playing the role of “fire under ashes” which Palestinian militants have seen as their since 1948. This would be a solution that would leave Israel’s nature as a militaristic and racist state unchanged, and all the arguments that Khalidi puts forward to convince Americans of the proposed state’s harmlessness are ones that make it unattractive for the masses. No Palestinian state could afford to become, as Jordan is, an instrument for suppressing the liberation struggle. And even if a West Bank state emerges, it will not be able to accommodate the majority of Palestinians. The dispersion will continue to exist, with all the pressures it generates towards changing the status quo.

In Lebanon, hostility to the idea of a West Bank state has been strong among camp Palestinians from the time of its first launching in 1973. They mostly came from Galilee and the coastal cities, and have no homes to return to in the West Bank. Many do not regard the West Bank as a serious proposal, but rather as a means to divide the Resistance Movement.Their opposition to it comes through pungently in comments like these:

There is not one of our people who has not sacrificed, and is not willing to sacrifice. But we must see our leadership announcing revolutionary programmes instead of flying to meet this king and that president, and working towards concessions that will humiliate our people.

We have a Revolution and the Arab states are offering us a state. A people’s war doesn’t last ten years only, it goes on until it achieves something.

These remarks reflect the attitude of the PFLP towards the PRM leadership’s adoption, since 1973, of a moderate, compromising stance towards a settlement. While there are indications that Fateh’s leaders believed in the genuineness of the West Bank state proposal when it was first put out, it is not likely that they are as ready to sell out the Revolution as the Rejection Front claims. There will have to be clear political gains from negotiation, or, as a camp mother said, “All our sons’ blood will have been shed in vain.” Not only the Rejection Front but the mass of Fateh’s following expect the leadership to reject submissive solutions, even if the alternative is to return once more clandestinely to struggle. (196-197)

and one final paragraph of note that is also a bit anachronistic, but also an important reminder about why palestinians have had to, and could benefit again, by creating a massive armed resistance struggle that is unified:

Israel offers them no choice except between non-existence or struggle. Their lack of militancy between 1948 and 1967 brought them no nearer peaceful repatriation; now their militancy is used by Israel to justify its own continuing aggression. The cycle is a familiar one in settler societies; and only when Israel is correctly analysed as a settler society will Palestinian violence be correctly understood. And only then will progress be made towards breaking the cycle. (200)

there is so much more that i could share from this amazing volume, rich with history and insight. but what i think is significant about some of these excerpts is the way in which it illustrates how important solidarity and unity is. it shows that it has existed before and i think it can happen again. it shows people talking about liberating themselves and their land as their goals, something which has not changed. it shows how the leaders do not always speak for the people and that the people are successful when they unite and that they really do not need these leaders. people need to trust themselves and their righteousness. it also shows how important solidarity and unified resistance is for group morale.

jeel al oslo need not be detached from their history and from their rights to liberate their land. but i think that there is a serious relationship between the two. knowing not just these bits and pieces, but the totality of palestinian history and its struggle for liberating every square inch of palestine can go a long way to helping palestinians unify towards this goal once again. the leaders are really irrelevant. we know from history that leaders rarely put the interests of their people first. but the new generation can make a different choice. it can make the decision to be unified, to reject the american-zionist divide and rule colonial tactic. it can unify and re-imagine resistance in a way that will achieve a goal that fits all palestinians’ needs: liberation of the land.

on ajaneb

of course before i begin such a post i must say up front that what i say about anjaneb here includes me, as i am also a foreigner in palestine. i cannot help but think about what it means to be a foreigner every day i am here. having a consciousness about what it means to be a foreigner here–having white skin as well as carrying an american passport. this consciousness is akin to living with and understanding what it means to have white privilege in the united states. but here it means something different. it means that most of the time i can cross checkpoints with ease. it means that i can go to 1948 palestine. it means i can leave the country (though it does not necessarily mean i can return).

some palestinians are suspicious of foreigners, though not as much as they should be. foreigners are here for all sorts of reasons (i am focusing on americans here but some of this can apply to other internationals). some are here to spy on palestinians for the american and israeli terrorists. some are here to aid american imperialism through usaid, state department, or u.s. embassy “projects” (witness the most recent imperial efforts of the americans in palestine: training palestinian authority security, read: crack down further on palestinian resistance to israeli colonialism and terrorism). some foreigners are here out of curiosity, as tourists. they want to see for themselves what the real story of palestine is. some foreigners are here to do charity work, these foreigners tend to view palestinians as a charity case. they often come here to tell palestinians what they need rather than listening to what palestinians actually want, rather than helping palestinians build their own projects based on their own initiatives and ingenuity. some foreigners are here to do missionary work in churches and schools (thanks tam tam for reminding me). some foreigners come to boost a cv (also from tam tam). some come here to do research, as journalists, or to write books, often profiting off of palestinians’ tragedies (too rare are the cases of journalists like jonathan cook and nora barrows-friedman). some come to work here with palestinians or at palestinian institutions for a variety of reasons, some problematic, some not. some foreigners come because they want to do “peace” work. these foreigners think that the zionist entity has a right to exist.

then there are the foreigners who come as activists, to do solidarity work. some of these people come for reasons listed above and then become activists. most of us come with varying levels of consciousness or language skills when we arrive. even those of us who come with an understanding of the context in palestine, seeing it up close certainly changes many of us forever. many solidarity activists participate in direct action work with organizations like the international solidarity movement (ism), which i worked with when i first lived here in 2005. of course there are all sorts of different people who work with ism and it seems that most of the foreigners i met at that time had good intentions, were working in solidarity with palestinians in a way that wasn’t imposing some sort of western style of activism on palestinians, but rather following the lead of palestinians. and although i have mixed feelings about ism now, for a variety of reasons, some of which i have posted hear on earlier blog posts, i do think it is important for foreigners to work with palestinians who are resisting the continual theft of their land.

rachel corrie, of course, was one of those people. today is the sixth anniversary of her death. people are commemorating it and marking this anniversary in various places around the world and in palestine. as it happens another ism activist was shot, though not murdered, this week. democracy now! has a report both on tristan anderson, the man shot in the face with a tear gas canister a couple of days ago in the village of ni’in and also an interview with rachel corrie’s parents who were recently in gaza with code pink.

let me be clear: i think that it is important that people like tristan or rachel come here to do this work. what i object to is the way that their deaths or injuries become more important than the daily murders, kidnappings, injuries, land and house confiscation that palestinians endure every day. what very few people report on, especially in the western media, but sometimes even in palestinian media, are the names of the palestinians who are murdered by israeli terrorists. this is sort of like everyone knowing and naming the israeli terrorists held in gaza and no one knowing or using the names of the thousands of palestinians murdered by israeli terrorists. i have a problem with the fact that all sorts of people around the world know rachel’s name, and probably now tristan’s, but how many of them know the names of the thousands of palestinians murdered every year? case in point, check out the story on ma’an news, based in beit lahem, on the shooting of tristan:

Israeli soldiers critically wounded an American peace activist after launching a tear-gas canister at his head and shot four Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah, on Friday.

“He had a large hole in the front of his head, and his brain was visible,” one protester said of the injuries to the American activist.

Dozens of others choked on tear gas at an otherwise peaceful demonstration against the Israeli separation wall. The protest is a weekly event attended regularly by international peace activists, many affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement.

Demonstrators marched through the streets of Ni’lin toward the Israeli separation wall chanting slogans calling for Palestinian national unity and for resistance to the occupation. Then “the Israeli soldiers attacked the peaceful demonstration using rubber-coated bullets gas and stun grenades.”

The coordinator of the anti-wall Popular Committee in the village, A’hed Al- Khawaja, added, “Four were injured [and] others choked after inhaling gas.”

Later in the day the AP reported that one ISM activist, Tristan Anderson of Oakland, California, was in critical condition at a Tel Aviv hospital. The agency quoted one hospital official as saying “he’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests.”

According to Teah Lunqvist, another protestor, “Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500 meters.”

“I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After five minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed,” she said.

In 2003 Rachel Corrie, another ISM peace activist, was crushed by a bulldozer as she stood protecting the home of a Palestinian family from Israeli demolition.

of course, here we know tristan’s name and all the details about his case, but nothing of the four palestinians who were shot. this is not always the case. last summer when a 10 year old palestinian boy was murdered in nil’in ism published a report listing the names of the martyrs of the village:

A 10 year old boy called Ahmed Ussam Yusef Mousa was shot dead at approximately 6pm near the Palestinian village of Nil’in. He was shot once in the head at close range with live ammunition. According to eye witnesses a group of youths attempted to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village.Without warning, they were fired upon and Ahmed was killed. Israeli newspaper Maariv reported in March that the Israeli authorities have given a new order to border police operating along the apartheid wall surrounding Jerusalem. They can now open fire directly on Palestinians who try to demonstrate near the barrier. But sniping is forbidden if there are Israeli or foreign citizens amongst demonstrators.

Demonstrations have been held almost every day for the past few weeks as near Nil’in against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court in the Hague in 2004. The wall will deprive the village of almost 2,500 Dunums of agricultural land, and put the existence of the entirely community in doubt.

The Israeli Army and Border Police have been increasingly ill-disciplined and violent in response to the demonstrations. News came this morning that Israeli Battalion Commander Lt. Col Omri, had been sent on 10 days compulsory leave as a punishment for his conduct at Nil’in. Omri held a 27 year old Palestinian detainee Ashraf Abu Rahma by the shoulder while one of his men shot Abu Rahma with a rubber coated steel bullet at very close range. Abu Rahma was blindfolded and his hands were bound when he was shot in the foot.

At least 11 other Palestinians have died protesting against Israeli’s apartheid wall. Their names are:

Mohammad Fadel Hashem Rayan, age 25.

Zakaria MaHmud Salem, age 28.

Abdal Rahman Abu Eid, age 62.

Mohammad Daud Badwan, age 21.

Diaa Abdel Karim Abu Eid, age 24.

Hussain mahmud Awwad Aliyan, age 17.

Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14.

Alaa Mohammad Abdel Rahman Khalil, age 14.

Jamal Jaber Ibrahim Assi, age 15.

Odai Mofeed Mahmud Assi, age 14.

Mahayub Nimer Assi, age 15.

To date, none of the soldiers who killed demonstrators has been prosecuted.

last summer there was a widely publicized case of a palestinian from nil’in who was blindfolded and handcuffed who was shot by israeli terrorists; it was publicized because it was videotaped, and likely because an b’tselem disseminated it:

Today, B’Tselem is publishing a video clip documenting a soldier firing a rubber coated steel bullet, from extremely close range, at a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. The shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holing the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired.

The incident took place on 7 July, in Nil’in, a village in the West Bank. A Palestinian demonstrator, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was stopped by soldiers, who cuffed and blindfolded him for about thirty minutes, during which time, according to Abu-Rahma, they beat him. Afterwards, a group of soldiers and border policemen led him to an army jeep. The video clip shows a soldier aim his weapon at the demonstrator’s legs, from about 1.5 meters away, and fire a rubber coated steel bullet at him. Abu-Rahma stated that the bullet hit his left toe, received treatment from an army medic, and released by the soldiers.

shooting at and murdering palestinians who dare to resist israeli colonial terrorism is par for the course, but more often than not they go unnamed. last week the injured 8 palestinians in nil’in, all of who also went unnamed in ma’an’s report.

rachel corrie’s parents, cindy and craig corrie, thankfully, do not fall into this pattern of forgetting that there are far more palestinians who die, who are shot, whose homes are destroyed, whose land is stolen. they wrote a statement today in honor of their daughter’s death, which is notable precisely for this reason and for the overall context they provide, which does not place their daughter at the center, but rather the palestinians whose cause she was fighting for:

We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to others.

Friday, 13 March, we learned of the tragic injury to American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in the head with a tear gas canister in Nilin village in the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration opposing the construction of the annexation wall through the village’s land. On the same day, a Nilin resident was shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four residents of Nilin have been killed in the past eight months as villagers and their supporters have courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice — a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the village’s remaining land.

Those who have died are 10-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29 July 2008; Yousef Amira (17), shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on 30 July 2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on 8 December 2008. On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so.

We are writing this message from Cairo where we returned after a visit to Gaza with the Code Pink delegation from the United States. Fifty-eight women and men successfully passed through Rafah crossing on Saturday, 7 March to challenge the border closures and siege and to celebrate International Women’s Day with the strong and courageous women of Gaza.

Rachel would be very happy that our spirited delegation made this journey. North to south throughout the Strip, we witnessed the sweeping destruction of neighborhoods, municipal buildings, police stations, mosques and schools — casualties of the Israeli military assaults in December and January. When we asked about the personal impact of the attacks on those we met, we heard repeatedly of the loss of mothers, fathers, children, cousins and friends. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports 1,434 Palestinian dead and more than 5,000 injured, among them 288 children and 121 women.

We walked through the farming village of Khoza in the south where 50 homes were destroyed during the land invasion. A young boy scrambled through a hole in the rubble to show us the basement he and his family crouched in as a bulldozer crushed their house upon them. We heard of Rafiya, who lead the frightened women and children of this neighborhood away from threatening Israeli military bulldozers, only to be struck down and killed by an Israeli soldier’s sniper fire as she walked in the street carrying her white flag.

Repeatedly, we were told by Palestinians, and by the internationals on the ground supporting them, that there is no ceasefire. Indeed, bomb blasts from the border area punctuated our conversations as we arrived and departed Gaza. On our last night, we sat by a fire in the moonlight in the remains of a friend’s farmyard and listened to him tell of how the Israeli military destroyed his home in 2004, and of how this second home was shattered on 6 February. This time, it was Israeli rockets from Apache helicopters that struck the house. A stand of wheat remained and rustled soothingly in the breeze as we talked, but our attention shifted quickly when F-16s streaked high across the night sky and our friend explained that if the planes tipped to the side, they would strike.

Everywhere, the psychological costs of the recent and ongoing attacks for all Gazans, but especially for the children, were sadly apparent. It is not only those who suffer the greatest losses that carry the scars of all that has happened. It is those, too, who witnessed from their school, bodies flying in the air when police cadets were bombed across the street and those who felt and heard the terrifying blasts of missiles falling near their own homes. It is the children who each day must walk past the unexplainable and inhumane destruction that has occurred.

In Rachel’s case, though a thorough, credible and transparent investigation was promised by the Israeli government, after six years, the position of the US government remains that such an investigation has not taken place. In March 2008, Michele Bernier-Toff, Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services at the Department of State, wrote, “We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored.” Now, the attacks on all the people of Gaza and the recent one on Tristan Anderson in Nilin cry out for investigation and accountability. We call on President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and members of Congress to act with fortitude and courage to ensure that the atrocities that have occurred are addressed by the Israeli government and through relevant international and US law. We ask them to act immediately and persistently to stop the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military, not to encourage it.

Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to enter briefly into the lives of Rachel’s Palestinian friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and heartened by their song, dance and laughter amidst the tears. Rachel wrote in 2003, “I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity — laughter, generosity, family time — against the incredible horror occurring in their lives … I am also discovering a degree of strength and the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances … I think the word is dignity.” On this sixth anniversary of Rachel’s killing, we echo her sentiments.

i was thinking about these issues this week in a number of different contexts. part of why we know who rachel corrie is today is because of the work of her parents–the foundation in her memory, the publications of her writings. indeed, i am teaching the play, my name is rachel corrie, in my drama class later this semester. to be sure, i would much rather be teaching a play by palestinian american betty shamieh. unfortunately, there is too much sexual content and if i had problems with a raisin in the sun, i suspect i’d be kicked out of nablus if i taught one of her plays. but i have a problem of the foreigner being one of the only voices writing in such a way for the theatre. but of palestinian martyrs how many of them were playwrights? how many of them left behind writings that were published? (yes, of course, palestinian writers and intellectuals have long been targets for assassination by israeli terrorists, most famously ghassan kanafani, but as far as i know none were playwrights.) however, i am also teaching a palestinian play, ansar: a true story from an israeli military detention center by fateh azzam, ismail dabbagh, ‘abed ju’beh, and nidal khatib. but i wonder how many people know of this play compared to the widely produced play by/about corrie? i find this sad.

too, there are other ways that corrie’s memory lives on in a way that often feels like it supersedes voices of palestinians. in howard zinn’s voices of a people’s history, rachel corrie is one of the voices represented (so is the always brilliant, fabulous rania masri). one of the reasons why i have long been a fan of howard zinn is because of the way he writes history–focusing on the resistance against state powers:

By giving public expression to rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present—VOICES seeks to educate and inspire a new generation working for social justice.

now this historical work is preformed as readings of these voices to bring them alive. below is alice walker reading rachel corrie’s words follwed by danny glover reading frederick douglass’ words:

there are others on the voices website where you can watch others read the words of important people who stood up for justice. and clearly rachel was one of those people. but what of the millions of palestinians who have done that for 122 years? why are their voices not included? okay, yes, i know that the emphasis is on americans, but there are so many americans whose work and words have fueled resistance against israeli colonialism of their land. and even some of lebanese american ameen rihani’s writings in the u.s. about the coloniziation of palestine as it was happening would be important and interesting to include in such a project. but their names are largely absent (indeed very few arab americans at all are featured in this project of zinn’s).

i posted a second video above of the words of frederick douglass because i thought about him today as well. the play i am currently teaching, athol fugard’s master harold and the boys, had an allusion to abraham lincoln by sam, a black south african character living under apartheid who imagined lincoln as a “man of magnitude.” my students had lincoln fresh in their mind because, unfortunately, it seems that many went to that propaganda talk by the u.s. consulate on the mythology of lincoln freeing the slaves. i asked them to think about an analogy. earlier this semester the students went on strike–at all palestinian universities–because their student loans were being taken away from them. as a result of this the loans were reinstated. i asked them if this happened as a result of the university presidents or the presidents of banks who signed the papers changing the ruling. they said, no, of course not! so i talked to them about hundreds of years of resistance among the slaves on a variety of levels. i talked about the resistance of nat turner and freerick douglass. we have to think about the abolition of slavery in the same way: that is the oppressed who fought for justice, yes, often alongside allies, but it is the those who liberate themselves who taste freedom. at the same time, i made sure my students understood the relationship between the building of prisons in the u.s. and the end of slavery so they can see the continuum that exists. but slavery in a prison is different: ordinary people cannot see it. they don’t know about it. and the people are so demonized in a way that crosses all sorts of class and race lines so that there is little solidarity around the abolition of prisons.

i think about these issues a lot right now, partially because the chapter i am writing has a lot to do with palestinian history. i spend so much time reading it, but in the tradition of zinn i find that the most meaningful history comes from oral history. i find that it is more powerful. i find the work of oral historians like rosemary sayigh so important. indeed, i see similar threads in her work and in zinn’s: both take the stories of the people who resist, who struggle, who fight for justice, for their rights. they make those voices central in order to tell their story, their history. the more history i read the less meaning i find in other histories, especially those that focus on the leaders, who always, everywhere, are interested in money and power and little else.

get out of your chair and boycott

move over women’s history month…march has a new and improved form of educational and activist energy to it now. as march is now boycott divestment and sanctions (bds) month. read below to see how you can participate:

Join the US Campaign and our allies around the world in a month of action supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel’s military occupation. March offers many opportunities for action, including Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-8), Rachel Corrie Remembrance Day (March 16) and Global BDS Action Day (March 30). We also urgently need to support Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine’s recent victory winning campus divestment from Israeli Apartheid.

Two weeks ago, Hampshire College announced that it was divesting from a mutual fund which has holdings in six corporations that support Israel’s military occupation. Now Hampshire’s administration is caving to pressure from Alan Dershowitz and trying to reinvest in two of these corporations – Motorola and Terex. Write to Hampshire College’s President, Ralph Hexter, and tell him to stand strong for divestment. Click here to send him an email! Click here to organize locally for our national boycott of Motorola.

Israeli Apartheid Week: March 1-8

Educate your community about the apartheid conditions in Israel/Palestine and come together to take action for justice. Learn more about our anti-apartheid framework by clicking here. Find out what other US Campaign groups are doing to observe Israeli Apartheid Week by clicking here, or click here to post your own events.

Rachel Corrie Remembrance Day: March 16

Honor the life and legacy of Rachel Corrie, a young American peace activist who was killed by an Israeli soldier who ran her over with a Caterpillar bulldozer. Celebrate Rachel’s life by continuing her struggle for justice for the people of Gaza and an end to home demolitions. Click here to learn more about Rachel Corrie Day. Find out what other US Campaign groups are doing to remember Rachel Corrie by clicking here, or click here to post your own event.

Global BDS Action Day: March 30

The World Social Forum has called for a Global BDS Action Day to coincide with Palestinian Land Day – the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians struggling against land expropriation in the Galilee. Take action to isolate the corporations supporting the continued expropriation of Palestinian land and occupation of Palestinian people. Find out what other US Campaign groups are doing on Global BDS Action Day by clicking here, or click here to post your own event.

Action Ideas

1) Support Divestment at Hampshire College

Send an email to the Hampshire College president asking him to insist on truly socially responsible investment, including divesting from Motorola and Terex, two corporations which directly profit from human rights abuses and violations of international law.

2) Become a local Hang Up On Motorola Organizer

Help grow the BDS movement by joining over 200 groups and individuals around the country in boycotting Motorola until it stops supporting Israel’s military occupation. Click here to sign our pledge not to buy Motorola products until Moto respects Palestinian human rights. Learn more about the Hang Up On Motorola boycott by clicking here or click here to order your own organizing kit. You can also join our Motorola Facebook group by clicking here.

3) Start a Divestment Campaign

Show corporations that profiting from human rights abuses and apartheid are never acceptable. Learn more about divesting from Caterpillar and other corporations supporting Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. Click here for general divestment information.

4) Support Coordinated Shareholder Meeting Action

March Is Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Make a tax-deductible donation to support our activities around the Motorola and Caterpillar shareholder meetings. We have an inside-outside strategy for both shareholder meetings that will include advertising, media outreach, and introducing shareholder resolutions focusing on human rights. Make these plans reality – click here to support the US Campaign’s BDS campaigns.

of course an important component of boycotting is buycotting, which is why i have a section of links in the sidebar of ways to get around products from or supporting the zionist entity. and it seems that in the united kingdom buycotting palestinian olive oil is taking off:

In an unintended consequence of Israel’s offensive in Gaza last month, sales of Palestinian olive oil in Britain are soaring, importers have said.

The devastating conflict, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed, has prompted a surge in demand for the product in apparent sympathy for the Palestinians. Equal Exchange, a seller of Fairtrade products, reported a threefold increase in sales of olive oil from the West Bank in January compared with a year ago.

“We have run out of one-litre bottles and we expect sales to double to 400 tonnes this year compared to 2008,” said Barry Murdoch, the sales director of Equal Exchange.

The company Zaytoun, also established to sell Palestinian olive oil in the UK, reported a fourfold rise in sales last month instead of the usual post-Christmas lull. Zaytoun, established by two Britons, Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson, takes its name from the Arabic word for olive.

and the sports boycott is still trying to rear its head, but unfortunately, there are still too many inconsistencies. nevertheless, at least there are some repercussions from protesting and pressure:

The Davis Cup match between Sweden and Israel will go ahead as planned — without spectators in the southern city of Malmo — after an attempt to move the venue to Stockholm fell through.

Swedish organizers on Tuesday cited security concerns for the closed-door policy because anti-Israeli demonstrations are expected during the best-of-five series on March 6-8. But the volley of words between the two Swedish cities, which comes after the United Arab Emirates stopped an Israeli player from a tennis tournament in Dubai, has an unmistakable political dimension.

however, it seems that dubai has lost its nerve with respect to a consistent policy in line with boycott:

Only vigilant spectators would have spotted the armed guards, the absence of any Arabs among the line judges and the fact that the umpire was barred from mentioning the nationality of the surprisingly unflustered player in the dark Fila tennis shirt, Andy Ram.

It was 28-year-old Ram’s nationality that made this match far from ordinary. His appearance in Dubai, the first ever by an Israeli, would have been unthinkable just a week ago when his compatriot Shahar Peer was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates in a decision that provoked an international storm of outrage.

The tight security was part of an apparent attempt by the organisers to justify their earlier, much-criticised decision – for which they were fined a record $300,000 by the Women’s Tennis Association. The UAE authorities had claimed Peer was denied a visa for fear of antagonising fans following the recent attacks in Gaza.

the palestinian futball association, in keeping with palestinian civil society, is asking for the sports boycott to take hold:

In a statement today Jibril Rajoub, the head of Palestinian Football Association, has stated that the international community should boycott Israeli athletes, as long as Israel does not allow the Palestinian sports movement to function normally. He noted that Israeli authorities have hindered travels of Palestinian athletes to take part in functions.

“There is a need for the international community to review its policies towards Israel. No Israeli sportsperson should be hosted if Israel does not agree to free Palestinian sport from suppression and injustice,” said Rajoub.

on the academic front we have a new american college seeking to divest from the zionist entity, haverford college. here is their statement, created by haverford alumni:

We, the undersigned alumni and associates of Haverford College, deplore the ongoing atrocities and injustices committed by the State of Israel against Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Acknowledging that Haverford’s divestment from South Africa had a positive impact on ending apartheid, we demand that Haverford College divest fully from any entity that contributes to or supports the apartheid in Israel/Palestine. Divestment targets include:

* U.S. companies doing business in Israel;
* companies that manufacture or sell military equipment used by Israel;
* Israeli companies;
* any other holdings that financially support or sustain Israeli state sponsored apartheid.

In solidarity with those living under an unjust occupation, we pledge to continue this campaign until Haverford acts in accord with its Quaker tradition and invests in peace.

meanwhile in canada students continue to face stiff penalties for their anti-israel apartheid week activities (read below to see what you can do to help):

Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA York) received notice of a 30-day suspension, a $1000 fine and an individual fine of $250 for the student signatory for the group. In explaining these measures, York University administration cites a demonstration organized in solidarity with students in Gaza, stating that “your club actively participated in a rally in Vari Hall on February 12, using various sound amplification devices and other noise making instruments.”

The University alleges that ‘sound amplification’ disrupted classes but fails to note that SAIA York quickly moved the rally away from Vari Hall in order to deliver a letter to the University administration. It should also be noted that the maximum monetary penalty has been imposed by the administration without following the verification process outlined in the university’s “Student Code of Conduct”. In doing so, the administration has violated its own procedures. Furthermore, the university has repeatedly failed to respond numerous complaints filed by SAIA members and their community allies over racist and sexist commentary directed at them by members of pro-Israel advocacy organizations present on that day

These discriminatory and punitive measures come a week prior to the scheduled launch of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) at York University on March 3-8 (www.apartheidweek.org). Pro-Israel organizations have applied immense, coordinated and nation-wide pressure to shut down IAW, including placing full-page advertisements in national newspapers calling on universities to prevent IAW from occurring. The repressive activities of the York administration must be clearly seen in this light.

It is shocking to see university administrations respond to these racist calls to stifle free speech and student organizing around Israeli Apartheid. At Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, university administrations have banned the IAW poster. At the University of Toronto, University President David Naylor has recently been exposed through a Freedom of Information Request to have personally been involved in shutting down a Palestine solidarity event on campus. [see the articles listed below for further detail on this repression].

The attempt by the pro Israel organizations to prevent IAW from occurring is full confirmation that the debate against Israeli Apartheid has been won. In the wake of Israel’s massacres in Gaza, student and public opinion is clearly on the side of justice. Israel is now understood as an apartheid state and the only response of pro-Israel organizations is to harass and repress student organizing. They will fail.

** Please email and phone the following individuals in protest against these repressive measures.

Robert J. Tiffin (Vice President Students)
rjtiffin [at] yorku.ca
+1 416 736 5955

Mamdouh Shoukri (University President)
mshoukri [at] yorku.ca
+1 416 736 5200

** Further Links:

1) Carleton Students Against Israeli Apartheid
http://carleton.saia.ca

2) Exposed: University of Toronto suppresses pro-Palestinian activism
By Lisa Schofield, February 18, 2009
http://www.rabble.ca/news/exposed-university-toronto-suppressed-pro-palestinian-activism

3) Academic Freedom Threatened in Ontario Universities
By Margaret Aziza Pappano
http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet187.html

4) Israeli Apartheid Week Schedule
http://www.apartheidweek.org

Sample letter to send to York University administration (mshoukri [at] yorku.ca, rjtiffin [at] yorku.ca):

President Mamdouh Shoukri,
Vice President Robert Tiffin,

I was shocked and appalled to learn that the student group, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) was penalized for holding a demonstration on campus in solidarity with the students in Gaza. One would expect that an academic institution like York University would condemn the destruction of Palestinian academic institutions by the Israeli army. Instead, York University is banning protest, and penalizing students for demonstrating against such crimes.

It is a shame that an institution which is built on the principle of freedom of expression, and that the senior administration which is entrusted with upholding freedom of speech, are restricting speech and penalizing students engaged in legitimate protest. This reflects badly on York University’s reputation.

It seems that York University is bowing under the pressure by external pro-Israel advocacy groups who are working hard to silence any voice that supports the Palestinian cause. It is sad to see that the administration is not providing protection to the students expressing their views and feelings against Israel’s crimes.

I strongly urge you to reconsider your problematic position and cancel the fines. I also strongly urge you to uphold the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom, and to allow students to express themselves freely without the influence of external pro-Israel lobbying groups. This is your duty even if you do not agree with views expressed.

Sincerely yours,

[——-]

meanwhile on the other side of the atlantic, another university is occupied for divestment & boycott!:

Our demands are as follows:

1. That the University of Plymouth issue a statement condemning the recent and continuing atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza strip. The University should officially denounce the attacks on civilians, the systematic obstruction of humanitarian aid and the targeting of academic institutions, hospitals, places of worship and international peace keeping facilities.

2. That the University of Plymouth cease to invest directly or indirectly in companies complicit in human rights abuses in the Gaza strip and internationally.

3. That no Israeli goods or goods produced by companies that have directly funded the State of Israel be sold on campus.

4. That the University of Plymouth provide complete financial scholarships for six students from Gaza University which has been bombed by the Israeli military.

5. That any surplus educational resources available to the University of Plymouth are provided to Gaza University and that the shipping of these resources be fully paid for by the University of Plymouth.

6. That there be no legal, financial, or academic measures taken against anyone involved in or supporting the occupation. All those involved will be guaranteed free movement in and out of the occupied space, with open access to electricity and internet.

We await your response to organise a formal meeting between delegates of our occupation and with university management to negotiate these demands.

To keep up with things as they progress, check out our blog at: http://plymouthunioccupation.blogspot.com/

For more information, email plymouthunioccupation [at] gmail.com

stephen lendman has an article out that details at length why the terrorist state of israel should be boycotted. it begins as follows (click link to read the rest):

Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won’t do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.

In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure – in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”

In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained:

“What I see here is worse than what we experienced – the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw….racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa.”

Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya, went further: “When you observe from afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. It is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid.”

enough choices/reasons to get up off your asses and do something?

the backlash & the steadfast

you knew it was coming. it’s always sort of present for people in north america but i feel that it would be less so if more people were braver about speaking out. if more people were willing to take risks in their personal lives to help others who cannot in the same way. it is happening on several fronts. first, in the theatre with lying zionists twisting the truth–the thing they do best–in order to make sure that people think they are the only victim as per jeffrey goldberg about caryl churchill’s new play:

The playwright Caryl Churchill’s new anti-Jewish agitprop play, “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” has opened in London. The details are over at Harry’s Place. Suffice it to say two things: One, this isn’t surprising, given the peculiar attitude of some of the English to the Jews. Two: Just because it’s not surprising doesn’t mean it’s not shocking. The mainstreaming of the worst anti-Jewish stereotypes — for instance, that Jews glory in the shedding of non-Jewish blood — is upon us.

if you want to see for yourself how a play that represents palestinians in a positive way gets twisted into anti-semitism you can download it here. of course this is not the first time new york theatre groups cracked down to censor art representing palestinians–even when it is not about palestinians directly. you can read the transcript on democracy now! about the play my name is rachel corrie being censored to get a sense of how this played out a few years ago.

the other casualty is joel kovel whose contract at bard college has been terminated because of his work to eradicate zionism. here is joel’s statement, in part, including what you can do to help at the bottom:

Bard has effectively crafted for itself an image as a bastion of progressive thought. Its efforts were crowned with being anointed in 2005 by the /Princeton Review /as the second-most progressive college in the United States, the journal adding that Bard “puts the ‘liberal’ in ‘liberal arts.'” But “liberal” thought evidently has its limits; and my work against Zionism has encountered these. A fundamental principle of mine is that the educator must criticize the injustices of the world, whether or not this involves him or her in conflict with the powers that be. The systematic failure of the academy to do so plays no small role in the perpetuation of injustice and state violence. In no sphere of political action does this principle apply more vigorously than with the question of Zionism; and in no country is this issue more strategically important than in the United States, given the fact that United States support is necessary for Israel’s behavior.

The worse this behavior, the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism. I take the view, then, that Israeli human rights abuses are deeply engrained in a culture of impunity granted chiefly, though not exclusively, in the United States—which culture arises from suppression of debate and open inquiry within those institutions, such as colleges, whose social role it is to enlighten the public. Therefore, if the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity. In my view, Bard College is one such institution. It has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza. This notion is of course, not just descriptive of a place like Bard. It is also the context within which the critic of such a place and the Zionist ideology it enables becomes marginalized, and then removed.

For further information: www.codz.org; Joel Kovel, “Overcoming
Impunity,” /The Link/ Jan-March 2009 (www.ameu.org).

To write the Bard administration:

President Leon Botstein <president [at] bard.edu.

Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou

joel’s book is an important one and he needs to be supported. i wish i had the time to lend to him as i did with norman finkelstein when he faced the same sort of situation at depaul a few years ago. joel’s book overcoming zionism is a very important book that is influencing many people and getting them to move away from zionism.

and canadian professors are also facing censorship and repression due to their teaching, research, service related to palestine. yet one more way we can see how academic freedom is pretty much an outmoded idea and nonexistent, particularly in north america. unless you think praise of the terrorist state of israel with no mention of palestinians as a kind of mandate for faculty and students as academic freedom. there is now a petition and statement people may sign:

To sign the open letter send an e-mail to faculty [at] caiaweb.org

Defend Freedom of Speech

Open Letter to university community regarding Palestinian Rights and Canadian Universities

The last two years have seen increasing efforts to limit advocacy of Palestinian rights on Canadian universities, amounting to a pattern of the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These include:

* Statements from 19 university presidents in the summer of 2007 to foreclose debate on the academic boycott of Israel, citing “academic freedom”.

* Visits to Israel by eight university presidents in the summer of 2008, with no equivalent outreach to Palestinian institutions.

* Efforts to ban the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid” at McMaster University in February-March 2008, overturned only through a campaign of protest

* Discipline against students involved in peaceful protests for Palestinian rights at York University in March in 2008

* Attempted discipline against a faculty member who addressed a rally against Israeli Apartheid at York University in 2008

* A pattern of cancellation of room bookings for meetings concerning Palestinian rights at the University of Toronto and York University in 2008

* The use of security clearance requirements and fees to cover security costs to impede campus meetings about Palestinian rights

We the undersigned:

* Defend the right to freedom of speech about Palestine for all members of the university community, including freedom to use the term ‘apartheid’ to identify and debate certain policies associated with the state of Israel and the freedom to support, facilitate and participate freely in activities under the rubric of “Israeli apartheid week”

* Call for an end to the silencing of speech around Palestine, removing extraordinary requirements for security clearance and fees for security services

* Support increased ties to Palestinian institutions and scholars, and activities to support the right to education and academic freedom of Palestinians

israeli-apartheid-week-2009-poster

yes, it is apartheid week that time of the year when academics, universities, and zionists of every stripe work extra hard to crack down on those who are off the zionist message of cover ups and lies. and so it is not only faculty who are affected, it is also students in canada who are facing a similar battle:

Restrictions and harassment are experienced by pro-Palestinian activists on most Canadian campuses; this can take many different forms. At York University, for example, the latest tool of repression is the “Student Code of Conduct,” a draconian document that could potentially be used to ban any form of protest. At McMaster, it was in the form of a blanket ban on the use of the term “Israeli apartheid.” The University of Toronto (UofT) has seen a broad range of tactics being used against student organizers, but it seems that the administration has decided to focus its effort on combating pro-Palestinian activism through an old-new tool: denial of space for meeting and holding events.

Securing space for student activists at UofT has always been a hard task for student organizations. But it seems that the University has shifted its tactics from mounting bureaucratic obstacles and technical hurdles, to outright denial of the right to book space. UofT seems to have declared a full fledged war against its Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students. Most recently, this came in the form of denying room bookings for a conference planned by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a student group and action group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), in October 2008.

SAIA, along with student groups at York University and other campuses, had planned a student conference, entitled “Standing Against Apartheid: Building Cross-Campus Solidarity with Palestine,” for the first weekend of October 2008. The conference was meant to strengthen the student movement against Israeli apartheid, and to share strategies for the future, including planning the annual Israeli Apartheid Week.

margaret aziza pappano offers some analysis of the situation facing canadian professors and students alike:

While most academics would agree that a university should be a place where critical debate is fostered, what is academic freedom when the freedom to attend classes without being bombed isn’t even assured? Academic freedom falters it seems when it comes to Palestine, whether in the Middle East or in North America. Not only is there no realizable academic freedom for Palestinians, but also, even in North America, students and faculty raising critical viewpoints about Israel find themselves muffled, accused of anti-Semitism, threatened with disciplinary action, or, in the case of former Depaul University professor, Norman Finkelstein, out of a job entirely.

In Canada, the annual educational event known at “Israeli Apartheid week,” held on university campuses, has faced repeated attempts to suppress it. What justification can be found to block an event in which scholars and activists speak about the history of the region, with a focus on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, information that is taught in history and political science classes and available in books published by university presses? Yet, 125 University of Toronto faculty members signed a letter, published in the National Post, in which they “request[ed] that the administration stop this hateful and divisive event from returning to our University.”

More worrisome, however, is that the administration on some campuses has actually endeavoured to comply, a trend that should alarm anyone who cares about the integrity of their university. In February of last year, the McMaster University administration attempted to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid” by Student Union clubs on campus, including “activities promoted under the banner, ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’” It was only after a concerted protest and huge rally that the administration backed down from what would likely have been an illegal action anyway.

This year’s event has been marked by a similar action at Carleton University. The Israeli Apartheid week poster was banned by the university’s Equity Services because of its graphic, a drawing of an Israeli bomb being dropped on a child, who is labeled “Gaza.” The SAIA (Students Against Israeli Apartheid) chapter was informed that the “image could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario human rights code.” The interim Provost and Vice President of Carleton, Feridun Hamdullahpur, circulated a letter to the entire Carleton community in which he threatened indefinite expulsion for anyone contravening the code; although vaguely worded, the letter alludes to “harassment and intolerance which can take the form of inappropriately challenging or questioning a person’s race or beliefs.” One has to wonder how this stock anti-war graphic can be seen as “inappropriate,” unless Carleton is concerned to protect Israel’s image rather than the rights of its students to free expression.

York University and the University of Toronto have both witnessed similar attempts to harass students and faculty expressing advocacy for Palestinian rights.

for those who are wanting to organize apartheid week on their campuses here is a new trailer for this year’s activities:

in the united states, the new york university students aborted their campaign early and their most recent post on their blog reads, in part, as follows:

However, we also recognize that our occupation was not a full success. When we succeeded, we did so because the passion of our movement shone through the smoke and mirrors cast by the NYU administration. When we failed it was only because we underestimated the lengths NYU will go to in order to deter any real criticism of its policies.

The administration demonstrated their steadfast commitment to ignoring its students. Members of Take Back NYU! didn’t even see the face of NYU negotiator Lynne Brown until 26 hours into the occupation. Throughout, the administration only gave disingenuous offers of discussion without negotiation, which the students readily rejected. NYU’s refusal to negotiate contrasts sharply with good-faith negotiations made by other universities during similar occupations.

We believe that our occupation gave NYU the opportunity to become a leader among universities and to build our community around strong commitments to democracy, transparency and respect for human rights. Instead, NYU said ‘pass’ and chose to stick to its narrow interests at the expense of genuine discussion.

In the course of defending its secrets, NYU put students and its security guards at risk by encouraging the use of physical force to end a non-violent protest. NYPD officers used billy-clubs and mace against demonstrators outside the building. These acts of aggression have gone unmentioned and unquestioned in the course of NYU’s handling of the occupation.

This protest is just a beginning to what is to come. The action made national and international news, and showcased the real power of the new student movement sweeping the globe. Here in New York, a City Council member, Charles Barron, has publicly endorsed our campaign and shamed the University for its mishandling of student protest. Actions at universities around the city will continue in the weeks to come.

students at hampshire college are, of course, also facing pressure from the zionist police watchdogs, though are not bending to their will quite so easily as the students at nyu:

UNDER PRESSURE from pro-Israel apologists led by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, administrators at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., issued a “statement of clarification” about the recent decision to divest from six corporations that profited from and supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

But student activists aren’t going to quietly accept Hampshire’s shameful attempt to wriggle out of a decision the college should be proud of.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Hampshire announced in a February 12 press release that they had succeeded in pressuring Hampshire’s board of trustees to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestinians and their supporters around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Howard Zinn and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, greeted the news with joy.

“This is a monumental and historic step in the struggle for Palestinian equality, self- determination and peace in the Holy Land by nonviolent means,” wrote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leader in the struggle against South African apartheid, in a message of support sent to members of Hampshire SJP.

“I see what these students have accomplished as a replica of the support of their college of our struggle against apartheid in South Africa,” he continued, in reference to Hampshire’s place of prestige as the first institution of higher education to divest from South Africa. “Hampshire College’s decision to divest should be a guiding example to all institutions of higher learning.”

But within hours of SJP’s announcement, the pro-Israel counteroffensive began. Dershowitz, a virulent supporter of Israel, called Matan Cohen and Brian Van Slyke, two members of SJP, to threaten an international campaign to divest from Hampshire College–a threat that carries some sting for Hampshire, which is a small institution with a history of financial difficulties.

Dershowitz is notorious for his relentless personal and professional attacks on those who speak out against Israel’s crimes. In 2007, for example, Norman Finkelstein, a renowned scholar and an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies, was denied tenure at DePaul University after Dershowitz put pressure on faculty and the administration.

perhaps if the nyu students followed the example of the students at hampshire or their colleagues on the other side of the atlantic ocean they would have seen what happens when you remain steadfast as was the case with strathclyde university:

GLASGOW, February 21 – Students at Strathclyde University won the vote on Thursday to cut the university’s ties with arms manufacturer BAE Systems which supplied components used by the Israeli military in the recent massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Students win majority support in historic AGM

The vote, which took place in relation to a motion submitted by a group of students to their Union’s General Meeting (AGM) – the student’s highest decision-making body – won with an overwhelming majority of the over 200 students who queued in the union’s corridors and stairs to participate in the event. Such a high student attendance had been unprecedented in any previous AGM, most of which failed in the past 10 years to even reach quorum.

Despite attempts by the Union’s administration to dilute the substance of the motion and have it voted upon by the conservative Student Representative Council (SRC) – who had already rejected a similar popular motion two years earlier given the uncomfortable position it placed the University vis-à-vis its corporate funders – the fervent group of passionate students were successful in galvanising sufficient support amongst their fellows to turn the motion into student policy.

Within just a couple of weeks from occupying the McCance Building – heart of the University’s administration – the original 60 students involved in the occupation have already gained the support of a sizable number of their fellow students.

Occupation encourages University to take action

With the national media reporting on the new wave of student activism, and with regular updates being posted on occupation.org, the official site centralising information about UK universities in occupation, the Strathclyde student group has been able to spread its message and influence far beyond the university’s walls.

Within hours of starting the peaceful occupation, messages of support were flowing in from students across the UK, and around the world, with some touching declarations of solidarity received directly from Palestinian students closely monitoring the students’ activities.

What followed was a series of exhausting negotiations between the students and the University’s Principle and Secretary to ensure that the occupation would deliver more than just a message of solidarity to the people of Palestine.

By the end of the second day of the occupation, the students achieved a remarkable victory when the Principle agreed to end with immediate effect the university’s purchasing contract with the water-supplying company Eden Springs – whose Israeli-owned parent company has been found to be operating commercial activities in breach of international law within the Occupied Territories.

Following the recent bombings of Palestinian universities by the Israeli army, the Principle also agreed to make 3 scholarships available to Palestinian students from Gaza, pledging to incite other Scottish universities to follow suit and possibly pull resources together for the creation of a Scottish-wide fund.

University denies major R&D funding from the arms industry

As part of the occupation, students also requested that the University cut its ties with the arms industry after discovering that major research contracts were underway between the university’s engineering department and BAE Systems – the UK’s largest arms manufacturer and supplier to the Israeli army of components used in the targeting systems of F-16 fighter-bombers responsible for the killing of Palestinian civilians, including children and women.

Data acquired through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to the University last year by Strathclyde student and prominent Scottish political figure Tommy Sheridan, revealed that BAE systems invested £7.8 million between 2000 and 2007 in joint research projects with the University’s engineering department. FoIs also revealed that several other companies involved in the arms trade, including BAe subsidiaries, had ties with the University’s research departments – with many of the contracts still under way.

Peter West, Secretary of the University, denied the allegations and confirmed only the existence of one contract between the University and BAE Systems for a total of £5000.

University is to look for alternative and ethical sources of funding

The students will now proceed with the submission of a series of FoIs to the university to verify the exact scale of current investments channelled into the University’s research labs by the arms industry.

Meanwhile, some engineering students at Strathclyde fear that the dissolution of the university’s ties with BAE Systems will impact negatively on the department and their career prospects.

In order to allay these fears, a number of their fellow engineering students supporting the occupation are now encouraging a debate within the department to look at possible alternative channels of funding from non-lethal industries, including green and civil technologies.

students at st. andrews university are now occupying their campus and i hope they can remain steadfast and remain committed to the ideals they set forth in their demands:

Specifically we demand that the university:

1) Immediately suspends and pledges not to renew its contract with Eden Springs, the Israeli water company which illegally steals water from the Golan Heights. It is not enough that this contract run out this year, it must be cancelled now.

2) Puts in place a review process with the aim of suspending all ties to organisations that are publicly known to supply the Israeli military. This would specifically include:

a) Cutting all ties to BAE Systems, which provides sub-systems/components for Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft. These ties would include BAE funding of research projects at St Andrews University, industrial placements at BAE Systems as part of degrees at the University, and the hosting of any representatives of BAE Systems as part of events at the University;

b) Cutting the University’s ties with the Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre (SEAS-DTC), a Ministry of Defence-funded organisation designed to foster collaboration between military industry and academia. Both BAE Systems and Smiths Group are members of this organisation; in addition to BAE’s links with Israel, Smiths Group also provides Israel’s military with F-16 components;

c) Cutting all ties to the British Government’s military apparatus. Britain has consistently provided Israel with arms and military equipment, and Israeli military officials have attested to the importance of the essential items provided by Britain. The University’s ties include military research projects conducted at St Andrews and funded by, among others, the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory;

d) Establishing an ethics committee with the responsibility of ensuring that the University of St Andrews does not accept any income in the future from organisations linked to the Israeli military.

3) Sets up a scholarship program for Palestinian Students and commits to a minimum of 10 scholarships. This would send out an important symbolic message that we will not turn a blind eye to the Palestinian students who are unable to study because of the attacks on educational infrastructure and constant state of terror which prevents students from attending university.

4) Organizes a collection on campus, including a broadcasting of the DEC appeal, for aid for Gaza, makes available non-monetary aid such as course books, desks etc. and also establishes links with the Islamic University of Gaza in order to find out how it might aid with reconstruction.

5) Following the letter signed by fifty medical students, that Bute Medical School provides medical aid for Palestine in the form of medical equipment and drugs and through supporting organizations such as medical aid for Palestine (supported by Medsin).

in the consumer sector one thing which may be backlash was a story the other day that sounded promising: a coop supermarket boycotting israeli terrorist goods:

The 15,000 member food co-op in Park Slope is considering a ban on Israeli products because of the conflict in the Mideast. Officials there are now debating making an international statement after a member’s proposal to take a symbolic stand against Israel.

So far the co-op staff has identified just four products from Israel, but they say it’s possible there are others out of the 10,000 products offered at the co-op.

but apparently this story was too good to be true…:

For the record: The Park Slope Food Co-op is NOT considering a ban on Israeli-made or -grown products.

This myth, reported around the globe by the Jewish Forward and dozens of blogs that seem to regard the 16,000-member supermarket as some kind of anti-Israel committee rather than a great place for produce, evolved from a stray comment at an open meeting in January, when a Co-op member who identified herself only as Hima inquired about whether the Co-op sells Israeli products.

but there are still those who are keeping the pressure on in various ways, for instance those protesting the exhibition planned at a british museum of israeli terrorist “scientific achievements” as reported on press tv:

and egyptian workers are also organizing against jordanian complicity in their normalizing with israeli terrorists:

In an unprecedented action, the first following the recent Israeli war on Gaza, workers of an Egyptian Fertilizers Company in Suez protested on Saturday February 7th against the export of fertilizers to Israel.

The Fertilizers Egyptian Company is owned by Sawiris family, Naguib Sawiris ranks 62 in Forbes’ world’s richest list, while his father Onsi ranks 96 and his brother Nassif ranks 226, under the name Orascom construction company. Fertilizers Egyptian Company signed an agreement to export 1000 tons of phosphate fertilizer to Israel, at a rate of 100 tons per week. An estimated 800 Egyptians work at this factory.

Two days prior to the protest, workers were surprised by a request from the administration to process an order of unmarked bags that will be transferred by Jordanian trucks to an undisclosed location. As a result, about 100 workers went on strike and refused to process the order because they believed, rightly, that the cargo will travel to Israel.

When the company administration learned about the situation, they broke the strike by threatening the workers of dismissal and deducted 15 days of salary from all workers at the company.

In Egypt things are changing very fast, especially in the last three years, solidarity movements with Palestine and labour movements are taking more and more actions against the Egyptian regime in solidarity with Palestine and also for labour rights in Egypt.

it is worth looking at jeff handmaker’s recap of recent bds achievements in electronic intifada:

* A growing number of politicians in Europe and North America have put forward uncomfortable, probing questions to their governments and clearly want to do more. One example is the “Break the Silence” campaign within the Dutch Labor Party.

* Numerous letters and opinion pieces have been published by prominent figures in major national newspapers, including statement by prominent lawyers and professors published by The Sunday Times on 11 January 2009.

* The global “Derail Veolia” campaign has grown in leaps and bounds. An important success was the decision by the Stockholm municipality to cancel an agreement with Veolia Transport, on the basis of its involvement in the Jerusalem light-rail project, to the tune of several billion euros.

* There have been calls for international investigations of war crimes from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the head of UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestine refugees) and the UN Secretary General as well as scores of high-profile international lawyers around the world.

* The European Parliament managed to halt negotiations on strengthening the trading relationship between the EU and Israel in the framework of the Association Agreement and there are new, emboldened efforts to try and get the Association Agreement suspended altogether.

* Countless demonstrations have taken place in villages, towns and cities around the world, from Cape Town to Swansea and from Stockholm to Montreal and they are attracting decent publicity. Where there has been no television crew present, activists have made effective use of online resources such as YouTube.

* In South Africa there was a major success when dockworkers affiliated with SATAWU and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) refused to unload a ship containing Israeli goods. The story made national headlines for several days.

* Academic boycott is taking hold in academic institutions around the world — students in particular have been leading the way on this, but academics also.

for those who want to keep up the pressure or start something new, now is the time to do it in keeping with calls coming from palestinian civil society:

In December 2008, Israel decided to mark the 60th anniversary of its existence the same way it had established itself — perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 23 days, Israel killed more than 1,300 and injured at least 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The irony of history is that Israel targeted those Palestinians — and their descendants — whom it had expelled from their homes and pushed into refugeehood in Gaza in 1948, whose land it has stolen, whom it has oppressed since 1967 by means of a brutal military occupation, and whom it had tried to starve into submission by means of a criminal blockade of food, fuel and electricity in the 18 months preceding the military assault. We cannot wait for Israel to zero in on its next objective. Palestine has today become the test of our indispensable morality and our common humanity.

We therefore call on all to unite our different capacities and struggles in a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel on 30 March 2009.

The mobilization coincides with the Palestinian Land Day, the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Galilee in struggle against massive land expropriation, and forms part of the Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from 28 March 28 to 4 April.

We urge the people and their organizations around the globe to mobilize in concrete and visible boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) actions to make this day a historic step in this new anti-apartheid movementand for the fulfilment of the rights and dignity of the people and the accountability of the powerful. In our 30 March BDS actions, we will particularly focus on:

* Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.

* Legal action to end Israel’s impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.

* Cancelling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel.

The time for the world to fully adopt and implement the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is now. This campaign has to become an urgent part of every struggle for justice and humanity, by adopting widespread action against Israeli products, companies, academic and cultural institutions, sports groups, international corporations supporting Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and military occupation and pressuring governments for sanctions. It must be sustained until Israel provides free access to Gaza, dismantles the Apartheid Wall and ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands; recognizes the right of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

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.

analogizing gaza; or, what’s in a name?

palestinians_mocking_peace_mr_fish

quiqui is on a roll today on kabobfest. first she asks us: when it will be time for us all to overthrow our governments? then she asks us, sarcastically, how’s that “ceasefire” is working out given the fact that more palestinians were murdered by israeli terrorists today. she cites this story from ma’an news:

A Gazan farmer is dead and his son injured by Israeli fire less than ten hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip Sunday morning, medical sources confirmed.

The farmer was identified as 24-year-old Abd As-Samad Abu Rejlieh, who was shot as he went out to his lands to inspect the damage from the 22-day Israeli incursion.

Israeli fire also hit a mother and her daughter in their home in the northern Strip town of Beit Hanoun, both were injured.

Since the ceasefire went into effect at 2am Sunday morning, one is dead and several injured. Medical crews continue to dig bodies out of Gaza rubble.

this so-called “ceasefire” is bringing with it some dangerous dimensions such as further collusion between american and israeli terrorists in the form of american soldiers (as if we didn’t have enough to deal with in the form of american jews who are illegal colonists and soldiers at checkpoints all over the west bank):

Just before Saturday’s decision by Israeli officials to declare a ‘ceasefire’ in Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni received a signed assurance from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the US government would provide security and intelligence personnel to assist the Israeli military in its ongoing military occupation of all Palestinian land.

and gordon brown signed a similar agreement after speaking with a forked tongue–at once criticizing livni for her terrorist targeting of civilians in gaza and at the same time offering her even greater military support to continue her terrorist project:

In a statement Sunday by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister criticized Israel for targeting civilians in a ground and air assault that has left over 1200 dead in 3 weeks. But at the same time, officials in the British government were busy signing agreements with the Israeli military that would commit British intelligence and security resources to supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

the cynic in me wonders if brown’s collusion is related to the natural gas resources recently discovered in gaza:

The military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves.

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.

and of course the israeli terrorists have not yet left gaza and who knows what their plans are since no “ceasefire” was negotiated between parties, nothing has been written down. but there are israeli colonist terrorists making their own plans in relation to this gaza occupation:

More than three years after being forcibly expelled from their homes, a group of former Gush Katif residents is demanding that the Israeli government allow them to return.

we’ll see how long this so-called “ceasefire” lasts. in any case it has enabled palestinians in gaza to return home and see the damage and pull out the bodies. here are some al jazeera reports showing people beginning to assess the damage. first imran khan reports from zeitoun:

sherine tadros went to the samouni house, the site of the massive massacre of the samouni family; she met the few surviving members of the family in the hospital and now she went to the site of the bombing where israeli terrorist tanks were still encircling the area and terrorizing the people:

as you can see in tadros’ report the bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble and so far today 95 new martyrs have been recovered from the rubble:

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Sunday that medics and residents located the bodies of 95 Palestinians who were killed during the Israeli offensive and their bodies were buried under the rubble of shelled homes and facilities.

The sources added that 1305 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive and more than 5450 were wounded. Among the killed residents were 417 children, 108 women, 120 elderly, 14 medics, 4 reporters and five internationals.

eva barlett describes what it was like to go out and to assess the damage and destruction today:

Today was the first day that medics and journalists were able to reach areas occupied by the invading Israeli troops. Palestinians by this point, by weeks ago, were desperate for any semblance of a normal life, though normality here is far from normality anywhere else. They were desperate to return to their homes, survey the damage and if possible repair it, find displaced family members, or their corpses, as well as neighbours, friends.

Not everyone returned home to stay; many could be seen returning to where their homes were, or had stood, to retrieve anything worthwhile. Donkey carts and taxis were piled with blankets, clothes, cooking pots, cupboards, pieces of furniture, people…

I went straight to Ezbat Abed Rabbo, the area east of Jabaliya which had been cut off since day 1 of the ground invasion, over 2 weeks ago. The Red Crescent had been receiving calls to evacuate the injured and dead since day 1, and were prevented, at gunpoint, by gunfire, from reaching those needing evacuation. We heard the cries of those who managed to escape, their stories of being locked in homes at gunpoint, losing family members to point-blank assassinations or house-bombings.

And although the area was crammed with troubled, panicked, residents, many of them injured, without water, without food, with homes occupied by Israeli soldiers, I worried particularly about one man: the father of my friends.

We had no idea if he was alive, though we knew he’d stayed in the area. My panic was great, daily, I felt like I had said goodbye to a grandfather.

I bee-lined for his house, though had a hard time doing it since the streets and the land were turned upside-down, torn apart, filled with carcasses of houses and animals.

He was there, miraculously, noble in his traditional gown, long beard, hat. But he looked shattered.

“He cried for us,” his son told me. “He didn’t know if we were alive or dead.” So the confusion and desperation was both ways. Utterly cut off from one another, we were but mirror examples of families and loved ones all over the Gaza Strip. And we were luckier, because we are all alive. Except his wife, my friend’s mother, who was killed on the very first day of attacks. But now everything is relative and we cling desperately to the positive, for its all there is to cling to.

I have so much to tell, so many photos that don’t do justice to the suffering, heart-break, trauma, psychological damage, and despondency of people here. So many smells ingrained in my memory, that when sniffed will bring images of dead children, burned houses, chemical fires.

Slamming doors will forever remind of the missiles slamming the earth, the life below.

And just visiting the few areas I saw today, so many people, so desperate to tell their stories, tell of their anguish. For some the anguish is immense: pulverized homes, killed family members, corpses unretrieved, sanctimony and all that is sacred defiled. For others, the suffering is in the tragedy of shattered dreams, of every personal item destroyed or lost. It all matters, and they were all desperate to tell me. And I to listen. But quickly their words became a blur, a swirl of agony. My basic Arabic began to fail me as I wrote their ailments, their losses.

I will go back, to take careful inventory of the destruction, physical and emotional. Many of those who returned to where their homes were have to return to overcrowded schools with memories of slaughters even within school premises.

While the bombs may have stopped, for now, the terror remains. F-16s still flew low, terrifyingly low, today, so loud, so unpredictable. No one here has any reason to believe any words Israeli leaders proclaim. Only reason to believe in the worst. But out of necessity, we must hope for the best.

there are many photographs and there is film footage on eva’s website, which document the unreal devastation. it gives you a sense of precisely why people will continue to feel terrorized regardless of whether or not israeli terrorists are physically present inside gaza or whether they merely are controlling the air, land, and sea borders.

there have been a number of writers thinking about the relationship between this latest massacre in gaza in relation to the holocaust in nazi germany. and this is one of many holocausts or nakbas or massacres or genocides–pick your strong word of choice–over the course of sixty one years of israeli colonialist terrorist history. there are many who warn against such labels because of the historical or legal inaccuracy of such analogies as robert fisk does in his op ed this week, though he does make an interesting comparison in relation to international criminal courts or war crimes tribunals and gaza:

I should add that I had a sneaking sympathy for the Syrian foreign minister who this week asked why a whole international tribunal has been set up in the Hague to investigate the murder of one man – Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri – while no such tribunal is set up to investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 Palestinians.

nevertheless a number of blogs have published a photo essay this week asking readers to think about the visual parallels between the warsaw ghetto or nazi germany and palestine. i am only posting one photograph from each category so i encourage those interested in seeing the rest to click on the link.

arrests4

checkpoints3

civilizedchildre12

destroyinghomes2

walls1

westernpropaganda2

british labor minister, sir gerald kaufman, whose family survived the holocaust, found it important to make this analogy–between the holocaust and the massacres in gaza. and i don’t think that doing so is to make some sort of historically inaccurate claim. what kaufman is saying, for instance, is that the behavior we are witnessing is like nazi behavior.

My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count.

On Sky News a few days ago, the spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibovich, was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians — the total is now 1,000. She replied instantly that “500 of them were militants.”

That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose that the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.

The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserts that her Government will have no dealings with Hamas, because they are terrorists. Tzipi Livni’s father was Eitan Livni, chief operations officer of the terrorist Irgun Zvai Leumi, who organised the blowing-up of the King David hotel in Jerusalem, in which 91 victims were killed, including four Jews.

Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism. Jewish terrorists hanged two British sergeants and booby-trapped their corpses. Irgun, together with the terrorist Stern gang, massacred 254 Palestinians in 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin. Today, the current Israeli Government indicate that they would be willing, in circumstances acceptable to them, to negotiate with the Palestinian President Abbas of Fatah. It is too late for that. They could have negotiated with Fatah’s previous leader, Yasser Arafat, who was a friend of mine. Instead, they besieged him in a bunker in Ramallah, where I visited him. Because of the failings of Fatah since Arafat’s death, Hamas won the Palestinian election in 2006. Hamas is a deeply nasty organisation, but it was democratically elected, and it is the only game in town. The boycotting of Hamas, including by our Government, has been a culpable error, from which dreadful consequences have followed.

the blog pulse posted this video of sam husseini questioning tzipi livni in washington dc and added this analysis and film footage from the real news:

The times they are a-changing! Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni called a ‘terrorist’ at the National Press Club. And then the brilliant Sam Husseini steps in to raise the the all important question (which I have raised on several occasions here) that if the alleged blockade of the Gulf of Tiran by Nasser in ‘67 was sufficient casus belli for an Israeli assault on Egypt, then why isn’t the Israeli blockade of Gaza sufficient pretext for Hamas rockets?

This is unprecedented: Israelis have hitherto received a free ride from all of the US (and most of UK) media. Likewise, the moderators here appeared happy enough to let Livni bloviate until things started getting unruly. How did the NPC uphold its commitment to free speech? By cutting their mics.

and of course the word nakba is used again and again and again by palestinians who continue to experience nakba after nakba. here is the latest evidence of a new gaza nakba:

tents-in-egypt

Under cover of announcing humanitarian relief for injured Palestinians, it is now emerging that Israel is planning the transfer of tens of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt.

Evidence of the Israeli transfer plan has been sent to London based Islington Friends of Yibna** [IFY]. Earlier today, Sat 17 Jan 09, IFY received a photo of tents [see attached] outside the main hospital in Egyptian Rafah, near the border with Gaza.

The white tents with no markings are being erected by the Egyptian Army, starting last night, Fri 16 Jan 09. The photo was taken this morning [Sat 17 January 09]. The soldiers stated that 5,000 tents were planned for refugees from Gaza.

Further information is available from our contacts in the Egyptian side of Rafah [Rafah was divided by Israel after it occupied Gaza and Sinai in 1967; Israel divided Rafah when Sinai was returned to Egypt].

From our contacts in Yibna Refugee Camp in Gaza we have learnt that, in the north east of Rafah, near the Egyptian border, Israeli tanks have surrounded and sealed off the Al Sarayh neighbourhood, for more than the last 48 hours. There are many injured people trapped there, the Israelis are not allowing access for the Red Cross and many people are dying of their wounds, isolated and with no medical treatment.

We have grave concerns that Israel will target the Al Sarayh neighbourhood to be the first to be transferred and that this might be within the next 24h.

one reason for the use of particular words or to create certain analogies is to shake people up–to wake them up enough to do something. to get them to see that regardless of the differences there is a tremendous human travesty, a massacre upon massacre upon 61 years of ethnic cleansing. john pilger had an interesting article on the subject of diction and also the silence among many of those who dare not to speak out:

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. “Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic,” she wrote on 31 December. “But I’m not talking about World War Two, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad (the president of Iran) or Ashkenazi Jews. What I’m referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years … Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn’t get more anti-Semitic than this.” She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. “I am in the midst of a genocide,” wrote Corrie, “which I am also indirectly supporting and for which my government is largely responsible.”

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of “responsibility.” Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plea for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third Writers’ Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 3,500 jammed the auditorium and a thousand were turned away. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: “The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are.”

i am thankful every time i read a piece chastizing academics for their silence, and thus complicity, in this gaza massacre that will continue now regardless, albeit it will just look different. it will be less visible. but there was yet another final blow today from the israeli terrorists and i bet you very few academics–or anyone else for that matter–will be outraged by this:

PACBI learned today from its Steering Committee member, Dr. Haidar Eid, that the headquarters of the University Teachers Association-Palestine, in Gaza, was bombed by the Israeli occupation forces during their indiscriminate, willful destruction campaign in the Tal el-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City on Friday.

This latest wanton attack on an academic organization is far from being an exception. It is only the latest episode in what Oxford University academic Karma Nabulsi has termed “scholasticide,” or Israel’s systematic and intentional destruction of Palestinian education centers. In its current war on Gaza alone, Israel has bombed the ministry of education, the Islamic University of Gaza, and tens of schools, including at least 4 UNRWA schools, after having largely destroyed the infrastructure of teaching throughout the year and a half of its illegal and criminal siege of the densely populated Gaza Strip.

The UTA headquarters is a detached two-story building that is clearly marked with the Association’s name. The bombed structure, which now stands without a roof, has sustained heavy structural damage and may be in danger of collapsing any time.

but a few are speaking out publicly. here are some israeli academics who i will refrain from calling terrorists as they are calling for bds:

The leaders of the western world are wringing their hands in despair at the sight of the horrors inflicted on Gaza (Gaza crisis, 16 January). The UN general secretary, the French president and others are holding intensive discussions with some of the leaders of the Middle East in an attempt to put an end to the carnage in Gaza. Word, words, words.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian civilians get killed, thousands are bleeding to death, tens of thousands are uprooted and wandering in vain in search of some shelter to protect them. The Israeli army bombs hospitals and Unrwa relief centres, and, defying international convention, it uses white phosphorus bombs against civilians. “What else can we do?” these leaders keep asking. Well, here is what you can do: move from words to deeds. Only immediate, decisive and strict sanctions against the state of Israel and its limitless aggression will make it realise that there’s a limit.

We, as Israeli citizens, raise our voices to call on EU leaders: use sanctions against Israel’s brutal policies and join the active protests of Bolivia and Venezuela. We appeal to the citizens of Europe: please attend to the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation’s call, supported by more than 540 Israeli citizens (www.freegaza.org/en/home/): boycott Israeli goods and Israeli institutions; follow resolutions such as those made by the cities of Athens, Birmingham and Cambridge (US). This is the only road left. Help us all, please!

omar says the list of signatories is longer than what appeared in the above guardian article. here is a full list of their names:

Signatories (provided by authors — only partial list appeared in the Guardian)

Gish Amit
Adv. Abeer Baker
Iris Bar
Yoram Bar Haim
Prof. Daphna Carmeli (Haifa University)
Prof. Yoram Carmeli (Haifa University)
Keren Dotan
Ronit Dovrat
Dr. Judith Druks (City University, London)
Rona Even
Dr. Ovadia Ezra (Tel Aviv University)
Prof. Rachel Giora (Tel Aviv University)
Neta Golan
Tamar Goldschmidt
Adar Grayevsky
Dalia Hager
Haim Hanegbi
Rosamine Hayeem
Ala Hlehel
Aya Kaniuk
Lana Khaskia
Prof. Vered Kraus (Haifa University)
Yael Lerer
Dr. Aim Deuel Luski (Tel Aviv University)
Eilat Maoz
Moshe Machover
Prof. Charles Manekin (University of Maryland)
Dr. Ruchama Marton
Dr. Anat Matar (Tel Aviv University)
Rela Mazali
Prof. Yitzhak Y. Melamed (John Hopkins University)
Dorothy Naor
Dr. David Nir
Annie Ohayon
Noam Paiola
Michal Peer
Sigal Perelman
Amit Perelson
Jonathan Pollak
Prof. Yehuda Shenhav (Tel Aviv University)
Dr. Kobi Snitz (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)
Ruth Tenne
Adv. Lea Tsemel
Michael Varshavsky
Oded Wolkstein
Sergio Yahni

and other good news: bolivia is taking the lead in the criminal court process:

Bolivia is seeking to take Tel Aviv to International Criminal Court over the brutal atrocities the Israeli forces have committed in Gaza.

The Andean state says it is intended to make regional allies take a unified stance against “the Israeli political and military leaders responsible for the offensive on the Gaza Strip” and make it to stand trial at the international body in the Hague, said Sacha Llorenti, whose portfolio covers civil society.

Moves to begin the legal process will begin “probably next week,” Bolivia’s deputy justice and human rights minister Wilfredo Chavez told journalists during the visit to Geneva, AFP reported on Friday.

and similar bds progress is being made in new zealand:

“The New Zealand Government must do all it can to stop the inhumane bombing of Gaza by the Israeli Government” CTU President Helen Kelly said today.

In response to calls for support from the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and the International Trade Union Confederation, the NZCTU is calling on the New Zealand Government to take a number of practical actions including:
• Revoking the credentials of the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand.
• Cutting contacts with Israeli military and intelligence officials outside of official UN sponsored peacekeeping or observer liaison.
• Ensuring that New Zealand does not import goods manufactured, in whole or in part, in the Occupied Territories.
• Ensuring that the New Zealand government does not make use of Israeli products or services in its procurement provisions.
• Taking steps to ensure that New Zealand sourced goods and services are not used by Israel to further its occupation of Palestinian lands.
• Ending the ‘Working Holiday Scheme’ for young Israelis.
• Attending meetings specific to, and advocate within, international organisations for the rights of the Palestinian people.
“These actions are similar to those taken by the Government in relation to Fiji and are an appropriate and proportionate response to the totally disproportionate actions of Israel against the people of Gaza” Helen Kelly said.

and kudos to qatar for taking steps towards anti-normalization with the zionist state. may other arab countries follow its lead:

Qatar has closed Israel’s trade office in the small Gulf Arab state and ordered its staff to leave because of the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

The Qatar News Agency says the head of the Israeli trade office was summoned Sunday morning and given a memorandum containing the decision to close the office, according to the Foreign Ministry.

now we just need people to build these actions against normalization with the zionist entity and do the same with the u.s. which is equally complicit in all of these war crimes:

According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, between 2004 and 2007 the U.S. Defense Department gave $818 million worth of fuel to the Israeli military. The total amount was 479 million gallons, the equivalent of about 66 gallons per Israeli citizen. In 2008, an additional $280 million in fuel was given to the Israeli military, again at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. The U.S. has even paid the cost of shipping the fuel from U.S. refineries to ports in Israel.

In 2008, the fuel shipped to Israel from U.S. refineries accounted for 2 percent of Israel’s $13.3 billion defense budget. Publicly available data shows that about 2 percent of the U.S. Defense Department’s budget is also spent on oil. A senior analyst at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, says the Israel Defense Force’s fuel use is most likely similar to that of the U.S. Defense Department. In other words, the Israeli military is spending about the same percentage of its defense budget on oil as the U.S. is. Therefore it’s possible that the U.S. is providing most, or perhaps even all, of the Israeli military’s fuel needs.

What’s more, Israel does not need the U.S. handout. Its own recently privatized refineries, located at Haifa and Ashdod, could supply all of the fuel needed by the Israeli military. Those same refineries are now producing and selling jet fuel and other refined products on the open market. But rather than purchase lower-cost jet fuel from its own refineries, the Israeli military is using U.S. taxpayer money to buy and ship large quantities of fuel from U.S. refineries.

should it matter that there are no gas ovens in gaza?

59495_wm_457x400

so there are no gas ovens in gaza. but really, does it matter. they are trapped in a concentration camp and they are being slaughtered by the minute. here is the definition from the oxford english dictionary of a concentration camp:

a place where large numbers of people, esp. political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution.

this definition clearly applies to gaza. and the mass slaughter by israeli terrorist forces suggests that they are doing just what was done to them. even comedian rosanne barr is saying that they are behaving like nazis.

for the last 45 minutes israeli terrorists added to their siege of gaza fire by land. israeli terrorist media is egging on their terrorist forces. so while the israeli terrorist tanks have yet to invade gaza, they are now firing from the land border, as well as by sea and air. more leaflets landed today urging palestinians to flee. and where exactly shall 1.5 million palestinians flee? there is no airport and they are being bombarded by air. no ships have come to rescue them and they are being bombarded by sea. and all land borders are closed and now they are being bombarded by land. not a square inch of gaza is being spared. nowhere is safe. a few palestinians were allowed to leave if they had foreign passports and some foreigners left as well. but there are others who refused to leave, who are staying to witness, to stay with loved ones, to resist this terrorist bombardment.

ayman mohyeldin just reported on al jazeera that he received a weekly bulletin from the united nations that stated some grim facts:

80% can no longer support self and depend on aid
15 electrical transformers bombed so access to electricity
500 palestinians in rafah have been made refugees because their homes were destroyed and they are now staying in un shelters
some goods are trickling in, the vast majority of hospitals cannot cope: blood, food, medicine supplies are in acute in shortage

here is the latest al jazeera report on the week of israeli terrorism unleashed on gaza:

i’ve been watching protests on tv all day. al jazeera is the only channel on in the university cafeteria now. the mood is somber, as well it should be. people just watch in quiet. we are all shocked. we cannot believe how much worse it is getting. and when you look at all the people in the streets in cities across the world it is amazing that world leaders either remain silent or give their full support to israeli terrorism, like george bush and barack obama. the ever eloquent ali abunimah made an important point about obama’s complicity and silence in an editorial in the guardian yesterday; i am not quoting the whole thing, but you definitely should click the link to read the rest:

But as more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured – the majority civilians – since Israel began its savage bombardment of Gaza on 27 December, Obama has maintained his silence. “There is only one president at a time,” his spokesmen tell the media. This convenient excuse has not applied, say, to Obama’s detailed interventions on the economy, or his condemnation of the “coordinated attacks on innocent civilians” in Mumbai in November.

The Mumbai attacks were a clear-cut case of innocent people being slaughtered. The situation in the Middle East however is seen as more “complicated” and so polite opinion accepts Obama’s silence not as the approval for Israel’s actions that it certainly is, but as responsible statesmanship.

It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel’s murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament.

1230676764gaza_massacre_17

compare abunimah’s analysis with this satire by jerry ghenelli on what would happen if the israeli terrorists attacked the u.s.:

The government of Israel today launched a massive air assault on suspected terrorist targets along major coastal cities in the United States of America. In an operation termed “Friendly Enemy,” hundreds of Israeli F-16 fighter jets streaked across the Atlantic in precise formation and fired surgical air strikes at alleged terrorist strongholds in densely populated Muslim communities all along the northeast corridor of the United States. The American-made Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets then continued south, inflicting massive destruction in densely populated Muslim communities along many southeastern US states as well.

Reaction to the attacks on the US was swift. President Bush and President-Elect Obama both appealed for restraint, but stated emphatically, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

President Bush, who took an oath to defend the US and to preserve, protect and defend it against all foreign and domestic enemies, stated that the War on Terror must be fought anywhere and everywhere in the world, even on US soil, if necessary. “Our close relationship with Israel, our steadfast ally in the War on Terror, requires extraordinary sacrifices by the American people and requires exceptions to both US and international law,” said Bush.

this sort of silence seems ludicrous, but of course this is precisely what americans complicit in the massacre in gaza are doing. they just don’t care because palestinians are dying. if americans were dying perhaps they would care, though not if those americans were in gaza helping palestinians (remember rachel corrie?). and, of course, there are others who are silent. in his article abunimah also lends his criticism to various complicit american journalist and legislators, but importantly he also lends his critique to american professors who have remained silent, complicit like all the rest:

Similarly, we can expect that the American university professors who have publicly opposed the academic boycott of Israel on grounds of protecting “academic freedom” will remain just as silent about Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza as they have about Israel’s other attacks on Palestinian academic institutions.

indeed i have been writing to american professors in organizations like the american studies association over the past week who offer the same lame excuses about why they still refuse to call for a boycott of the terrorist state of israel: things like believing in dialogue and freedom of expression. since when did this become more important than human lives? and i really wonder if these were jews would they behave the same way. i think not. they would all get together and rally around bulls*&^ slogans like “never again” and talk about the nazi holocaust.

funeral

david lloyd has an amazing article that historicizes and compares the warsaw ghetto in nazi germany to the gaza concentration camp that is currently besieged by american weapons and israeli terrorism. like the abumimah piece it is important to read the whole thing, but the crux of what i find significant is this:

The right of the Palestinian people to resist is as indubitable as the right of the Jews of Warsaw to resist the Nazis, or of the Polish or French people to fight against their occupation by the Nazis. Israel is not the West’s proxy in the so-called global war against terrorism. It is a state that itself inflicts terror, and does so with a force and brutality far exceeding anything available to the most violent of terrorist organizations. It is a state whose colonial aim, to occupy and to settle land historically occupied by another people in order to provide unlimited Lebensraum for its own ethnic group, is evidenced every day in the continuing expansion of the illegal settlements on the West Bank. It is an apartheid state, whose self-declared constitution as a “Jewish State for a Jewish People” should have no more international legitimacy than South Africa’s “white state for a white people” or Northern Ireland’s “Protestant State for a Protestant people”, both of which finally fell to a combination of military and civil resistance and international opprobrium.

It is long beyond time for Israel, now the exception in every respect among nations, to be held accountable to the norms of international law. It is time for Israel to be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other state that bases its polity on sectarianism and racism, that has established one set of laws for one ethnic group and another for the rest. It is time for Israel to by judged by the international law that everywhere condemns extended occupation, condemns collective punishment, war against civilians, population transfers or ethnic cleansing, dispossession of the occupied people and the settlement of their lands. It is time for us to name Israel what it is so long as it continues to pursue the most extreme of Zionist visions: a colonial, apartheid state with neither legitimacy nor a deserved place among the community of democratic nations.

It is time for us to cease the appeasement of Israel. Even the most ardent of appeasers of Nazi Germany never supplied Germany with arms or foreign aid, with fighter planes with which to bomb civilians, never labeled the resistance to Nazism “terrorism”, never actively participated in the German stranglehold on the ghettos where it confined its subject populations. “Constructive engagement” did not work with South Africa; numerous U.N. General Assembly resolutions that have expressed the virtually unanimous international condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its wars against its neighbors have not worked. It is time for the truth about Israel to be disseminated, even against the most effective control of the western media by Israel’s lobbyists. It is time for all who care about justice and peace, for human rights, for the fate of the innocent and the oppressed, the stateless and the dispossessed, make our voices heard. Let it not be said that in their most extreme hour of need, the Palestinian people were abandoned by the world, as the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto were abandoned in 1943.

in yet another brilliant analysis israeli historian ilan pappe writes for electronic intifada a piece that calls for targeting the enemy–zionism and its constant history of genocide and ethnic cleansing–through boycott, divestment and sanctions as was the main effective tactic in south africa under apartheid. as with the other articles i’m quoting, this is essential reading so i encourage you to click on the link to read the entire piece:

Similarly, we may be able to find the popular, as distinct from the high brow academic, way of explaining clearly that Israel’s policy — in the last 60 years — stems from a racist hegemonic ideology called Zionism, shielded by endless layers of righteous fury. Despite the predictable accusation of anti-Semitism and what have you, it is time to associate in the public mind the Zionist ideology with the by now familiar historical landmarks of the land: the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza. Very much as the Apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology — in its most consensual and simplistic variety — allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern that cannot only be discussed in the academic ivory towers, but has to be part of the political discourse on the contemporary reality in Palestine today.

Some of us, namely those committed to justice and peace in Palestine, unwittingly evade this debate by focusing, and this is understandable, on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) — the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Struggling against the criminal policies there is an urgent mission. But this should not convey the message that the powers that be in the West adopted gladly by a cue from Israel, that Palestine is only in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that the Palestinians are only the people living in those territories. We should expand the representation of Palestine geographically and demographically by telling the historical narrative of the events in 1948 and ever since and demand equal human and civil rights to all the people who live, or used to live, in what today is Israel and the OPT.

By connecting the Zionist ideology and the policies of the past with the present atrocities, we will be able to provide a clear and logical explanation for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Challenging by nonviolent means a self-righteous ideological state that allows itself, aided by a mute world, to dispossess and destroy the indigenous people of Palestine, is a just and moral cause. It is also an effective way of galvanizing the public opinion not only against the present genocidal policies in Gaza, but hopefully one that would prevent future atrocities. But more importantly than anything else it will puncture the balloon of self-righteous fury that suffocates the Palestinians every times it inflates. It will help end the Western immunity to Israel’s impunity. Without that immunity, one hopes more and more people in Israel will begin to see the real nature of the crimes committed in their name and their fury would be directed against those who trapped them and the Palestinians in this unnecessary cycle of bloodshed and violence.

lama-and-haia-donkey-300x238

another israeli professor, oren ben-dor contextualizes the siege of gaza in terms of the refugees living in gaza and their original villages that they have a right to return to. here is part of how he explains israeli terrorism in counterpunch:

Thus, what is in fact being “preserved” is the unwillingness, or rather the inability, of Israelis to question their own state’s apartheid foundation. The concealing mantra about Hamas’s rocket firing versus Israel’s legitimate self-defence cynically conscripts both the Palestinians of Gaza and the Israelis of Sderot. Shielding the Jewish state’s unwillingness to deal with colonial and racist Zionism is more important than all of them.

Accepting the right of Israel to securely exist as a Jewish state has now become the bench mark for political moderation. Obama is already singing the song. Egalitarian anti-Zionists who challenge that right readily fail the test. This anti-Zionist voice is inclusive and moderate. It insists that injustices to Palestinians stem from the very premise of statehood that Israel is based on. Injustices to Palestinians encompass the whole of historic Palestine in a way which cannot be partitioned so that they become visible only in the territories, including Gaza, which Israel occupied in 1967. Let us, then, break the idle chatter about self-defence that merely levels “criticisms” against Israel but by that legitimises it: the origin of the violence in Gaza is intimately linked to the manner the Israeli state came into being and to the continuing toleration of the apartheid premise at its very essence. Israel should not be “reformed” or “condemned” but replaced with a single egalitarian structure over all historic Palestine.

Israel needs a continuing cycle of violence. As long as this cycle is provoked through daily oppression, Israelis can sustain that haven in which they can unite behind their inability to examine their apartheid mentality. Violence maintains a zone in which that existential threat of old stifles any possibility for genuine empathy and egalitarian self-reflection. At the same time, violence is a necessary means for entrenching the purported legitimacy of what is claimed to be the only alternative to this violence. That alternative is no other than the “surprisingly” failing, “sane”, “reasonable” and “moderate” “peace process” towards two states, a process which aims to legitimise the apartheid state once and for all. The discourse has been hijacked in such a way that the urgent calls for the immediate cessation of violence resuscitate that non-starter, the essentially unjust two states project that will ensure the continuation of violence.

jennifer lowenstein also has a great piece on counterpunch detailing exactly why this massacre in gaza has nothing to do with hamas. here is what she says at its conclusion:

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d’etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of Israel’s reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?

The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.

1230776183gaza_massacre_5

it is now nighttime in palestine. in the last few hours bombing has intensified. you can see huge explosions going off behind the journalists on al jazeera. israeli terrorists just bombed a mosque in beit lahia with american-made weapons and planes. it just happened so i don’t know the full scale, but it happened during prayer. the mosque was filled with men praying. 11 people killed so far, 22 critically injured. this is what said abdelwahed describes what night is like in gaza;

Its totally dark. More than 80% of the Gaza city is covered by utter darkness. One cannot see his finger in the dark! Meantime, outside, there are drones buzzing overhead, choppers roaming in the sky. Inside again, children are unwilling to go to bed despite their bed time! They are fearful of nightmares, bad dreams, bombing, explosions, and what not! The routine sounds of the air crafts has been going on for more than six days and nights. And when it suddenly disappears…

… BANG …

continuous bangs! … series of explosions. … other horrible explosions. … blasts … flames in the distance. … children jump up from their beds. Scared … frightened. … anxious … they do not know what to do! They want to hide anywhere, but there is nowhere to go too? It sounds like the bang was under their mattresses. What to do again? Just nothing but wait! How can you convince your child to wait? And to wait for what? Next, one hears ambulances sirens and fire brigades. Thus, one comes back to himself to realize that he is in Gaza and he is operating a small generator to write this message to the world in the new year 2009.

081227-abunimah-gaza

fida qishta from rafah wrote a beautiful diary published in today’s guardian that chronicles her week of siege by israeli terrorists and then she asks:

A short message to the pilots in the Israeli F-16s: does it make you feel happy to kill Palestinian children and women? Do you feel it’s your duty? Killing every child and woman, man and teenager in Gaza? I don’t know what exactly you feel, what exactly you think, but please think of your mother and sister, your son and daughter.

59483_wm_457x400

and in the midst of this bloodbath, life goes on in some ways, as my dear friend jen marlowe wrote today about her friend abeer who is about to have a baby:

Abeer was excited when I called her today.

“It’s my time, Jen!” she told me breathlessly. “The baby might come today or tomorrow-any moment now!”

Last time I saw Abeer, a year ago, she had shown me pictures of her fiancé, a teacher, and last time we spoke, months ago, she told me she was pregnant. But I had no idea how far along she was and that she was about to give birth now.

Now, of all times.

Abeer lives in the Gaza Strip. She has been waiting for her water to break the last four days as missiles rained down, killing over 380 Palestinians.

I wanted to express whole-hearted joy. This will be Abeer’s first child, her parents’ first grandchild. But I felt panic at the news. Gaza is enduring the bloodiest, most vicious attack in the over forty years of Israeli occupation. I couldn’t imagine Abeer, whom I’ve known since she was fifteen years old and visited many times in her cramped home in Khan Younes refugee camp, giving birth to the sound of explosions in the background.

Abeer expressed some trepidation herself. “I’m frightened,” she told me. “The situation in Gaza is really terrible. And bringing a child into the world is such a huge responsibility. How can I guarantee my baby’s safety?”

world protest continues. shelling continues. bombing continues. no one’s safety can be guaranteed, even a new baby. that is the point of terrorism: civilians are targeted. in mosques. in ambulances. in schools. in hospitals. on farms. in their homes. nowhere is safe. this is a concentration camp. for all you people who cry “never again,” why do you remain silent now? what will it take for you to do something? perhaps we should gather millions of jews in gaza and then perhaps someone would do something?

there are now 457 martyrs. 2,300 injured in 8 days.

for those who are still seeking to understand what is happening and sift through the american-israeli terrorist propaganda you can read this on if americans knew website (they also have many pamphlets and flyers related to other facts about palestine that you can download).

also there is a new petition from the faculty for israeli-palestinian peace, though this is a totally lame organization, it is yet one more way you can lend your voice of protest.

money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Go after the evil doers

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

2) Make the rich take responsibility

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

3) Do what the Swedes do

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

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

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

5) Open the First National People’s Bank

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

6) Jump start the “trickle up” economy

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

7) Use the trillion to fund universal health care

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

8 ) Send Oprah

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

9) Believe in capitalism

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

10) Bail out Lori

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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