on the lebanese elections, or a parliament of civil partition

in blue is written future movement (leader of the march 14 coalition) and the orange sperm represent Aoun's FPM
in blue is written future movement (leader of the march 14 coalition) and the orange sperm represent Aoun's FPM

so big surprise. march 14th/mutaqbal won the lebanese elections. my friends in lebanon either boycotted the elections or they voted for march 8th/opposition. while in many ways this is a big disappointment, in other ways there is a silver lining as my dear friend rami pointed out: the looming economic crisis created by sa’ad hariri will now force him to clean up the mess he has made of lebanon rather than forcing the opposition to that dirty work. historian fawwaz traboulsi offers some great analysis into the lebanese elections prior to the event on kpfa’s “voices of the middle east and north africa.” you can click here to listen to the interview with historian bishara doumani. unfortunately, like the lebanese media, lebanese bloggers are just as sectarian and so it is necessary to read quite a bit of various sources to get a sense of where things stand. here are a few qifa nabki, angry arab, friday lunch club, mxmlsm. my friend matthew cassel has some interesting photographs (like the one below) and commentary on his blog.

green t-shirt translation: "eat my dick" (march 14th victory rally)  (image matthew cassel)

but my favorite writings came from two of my dear friends, one of whom voted yesterday. here is an excerpt of rania’s reflection on voting:

I voted today. I have a purple smudge on my left thumb to prove my “participation in this civil responsibility,” as it is called. (And, contrary to what Ziad Baroud said, the purple smudge does not last a few weeks. It lasts as long two hand-washes and one hot shower.)

i drove up to the Zahle region yesterday to avoid the anticipated traffic, but it seems that most folks from Beirut had already left on Friday, so there was no traffic. Less traffic than a usual week-end. On the way there, I saw a handful of cars with orange flags, a few with yellow flags, and another handful with Lebanese flags. Yes, the Lebanese flag itself had morphed into a representative of a particular party.

This morning, I followed Saad Hariri’s instructions: I woke up early, had coffee, then breakfast, and then voted. I made sure not to vote on an empty stomach. By the time I had my breakfast, it was around 11 am, and I walked down to the small school in the village with my uncle, my uncle’s wife, and a friend from another district who was so repulsed by these elections that she opted out of even a blank vote. The mood in the school was easy going. Representatives — actually, no — volunteers from the political parties were enjoying themselves in the school courtyard. Lots and lots of orange. A bit of blue. A bit more red. And a bit of black shirts with red letters. And two, yes, two men with t-shirts declaring themselves to be “friends” of the candidate from the Lebanese Communist Party.

There was only one small entrance into the school. (And this same entrance was also the only exist.) At the bottom of the 8 steps of the entrance stood an ISF officer.

“One christian male,” he yelled. “We have room for one christian male. One Christian male!”
Inside the school, the village was divided not alphabetically by family, not numerically by identification number (’raqm el sijil’), but rather, by sectarian denomination.

For the first time in my life — and hopefully for the last time — I walked according to the sectarian affiliation of my birth. I was disgusted. In voting for representatives — or, more accurately, in voting against those I don’t want to represent me more than the others — the government was reminding me, yet again, that my affiliation is first to this arbitrary sectarian affiliation, an affiliation that I had rejected all my life.

Inside this small, little-used school, I walked to the end of the hallway to await my turn in the small classroom. The ISF officers inside the school were frustrated at the levels of noise, and at the constant ‘hellos, stop by for coffee afterwards’ greetings.

I walked into the voting booth, after some 30 minutes, and found a small room filled with witnesses.
“Your name?”

“Rania Rifaat el-Masri” I said.

“Rania Rifaat el Masri” he said and I heard my name echoed a few times as the witnesses each checked off my name from the list of constituents.

“Are votes written in red ink acceptable?” I asked.

“No.”

“Use my blue pen,” one election-staffer suggested.

“No, use my blue pen,’ said the ISF officer at the door.

I wondered: what if I had not asked? Would that small white sheet on which I had carefully written 7 names have been rejected? How many small white sheets with red ink would be rejected?

I walked into the covered voting booth and heard someone in the room say, “ah, it seems she will cancel out of a few names. “tshaTeb”.’ In that little blue voting booth was listed the names – and the sectarian affiliations – of each candidate. There was also a bunch of small, square blank white sheets. But no pen or pencil inside. Because I felt that all would be happier if I were to hurry up, I did not take my time reading each name and contemplating the list. I pulled out the three tiny – truly tiny – sheets of paper that each political coalition had given me (one from “Zahle bel ‘alb’, another from ‘ketlet zahle el sha3bieye’ and one from the LCP with only the name of the LCP candidate and with space – allegedly – to write in the other 6 names.) Truly – the coalition’s sheets are teeny. Anyway, I put those teeny sheets away, and wrote my own list, put that small sheet of paper in the envelope, and walked out.

Walking out of the small school, I squeezed by way out of the still crowded entrance/exit. My friend – Perla – had tried, unsuccessfully, to engage opposition political party supporters into conversation. But, they refused. “We don’t talk politics today,” they told her.

The drive back to Beirut was just as uneventful as the drive to el-Bekaa on Saturday.

Contrary to some rumors, some restaurants and cafes in Beirut are open. Perla and I were looking for those open places since both our kitchens are empty. I had been envisioning living off wine and chocolate – all that I have in my kitchen – until Monday evening.

Now, in my apartment in Beirut, I hear Ziad Baroud congratulating Lebanese on the elections, considering that these elections were “in this part of the world.” How wonderful to hear patronizing and orientalist comments made by our Minster of the Interior! (On a technical note, he also said that 58% voted, 20% more than 2005, and most voted in the first two hours.)

I listen to the news now. Following the latest vote-counts. For this evening, I want to put aside my rationality, I want to ignore that whoever wins, the difference will not be grand for this country. Most of the seats have been already been selected, chosen by the coalitions. On the resistance front, there is a difference between the two coalitions. However, on the domestic agenda, all sides have only small differences, quite small. All support the neo-liberal economic agenda – but to varying degrees. All are sectarian – to varying degrees.

I would be all the more excited were there real domestic differences between the two coalitions, particularly if one were of a socialist, secular agenda.

But, for now and for tomorrow, I shall put all those thoughts aside and simply look upon these elections as many other seem to do: to see which color shall win, the orange or the blue, with a bit less excitement than I followed the Soccer World Cup, the Italian or the Brazilian.

And, more fundamentally, I am hoping to see a few losses in these elections.

Good-bye Seniora? Good-bye Murr? Good-bye Fatoush?

and here are rania’s reflections as the results came in late last night:

What do these results tell us?

Seniora, a man who has shown this country (further) economic ruin, who failed to even present a strong face for Lebanon during the July 2006 war, a man who barely knows Saida, has won in Saida. Why? Money.

Zahra, a man who fought in the civil war, who killed in the civil war, has won in Batroun.

And then we have more people who have won on the sole reason that their relative was killed. Nayla Tueni – what does she have to offer other than her father’s memory? (hmm – kind of like Saad Hariri). And Nadim?

And then in Zahle, could it possibly be that Zahle has chosen a man who is one of the grandest and most corrupt thieves, a man who has $4 million on purchasing live lions to decorate his palace, a man who is known for destroying Lebanon’s mountains with his illegal quarries while he was Minister of Tourism, could it be that Zahle has chosen the worst candidate – Fatoush – again?

What does it mean when people are willing to sell their votes?

What does it mean when people are willing to close their minds and allow their bodies to be filled with fear? What does it say about them when they so easily accept scare-tactics about fellow Lebanese? To have such levels of fear, there has to be high levels of ignorance.

And here in lies a larger problem. What kind of a country do we have when we continue to look upon ourselves as a bunch of sects forced to live alongside each other, forced to “co exist” – this destructive rhetoric of “ta-ya-ush”? What kind of a country do we have when we continue to live for the short-short-short term, continue to look upon our history as one of defeat, – ‘hayda lubnan, ma beyet ghayar’, when too many leaders fail to present real programs and real visions (not all, but too many): we have a country whose citizens – wait, we have no citizens, only sects — are more willing to sell their vote to the highest bidder. And what about the political tourism? All those thousands of people that took that free ticket and visited Lebanon and supported their ticket-giver and then turned around and left? What country are they building? A hotel or a country?

The struggle continues.

Or, perhaps, it will begin anew.

wait: i entitled this post “Lebanon’s elections” – but where these elections really Lebanon’s – or where they also Saudi and US and all those other governments that continue to spend millions upon millions of dollars – all in terrible ways

an interesting analysis from Fadi Youssef

“the problem is that people look up to Hariri as an idol as someone who was able to make money which they want to do themselves so they vote for him, the son or the father, voting for the rich person they want to be. To be able to make money, they are willing to sell their souls. Every Lebanese dream of leaving this country and comeback loaded with money. Every Lebanese dreams of leaving this country and comeback loaded with money. It’s our concept of colonialism. It’s a part of our chauvinism”

and here is dear rami’s analysis after the results came in (he boycotted the elections):

The results of the Lebanese elections are out. March 14 won by a comfortable margin. I had predicted this win, but I didn’t think they would win by such a margin. However, the real winners of the Lebanese elections were:

1. Sectarianism. Electoral turn-out was very large because people voted in small districts dominated by one sect. It is likely that people felt that this scale of elections represents them better. In other words, voting for one’s sect is more important than voting for one’s nation.

2. Money. Sectarian money showed that it can really sway elections. Massive amount of money was spent on the electoral campaigns, on buying votes and on flying people in so that they can vote fpr one group or another. On a per capita basis, this must be one of the most expensive election ever. Just like Lebanon’s debt: one of the highest on a per capita basis.

3. Inherited parliamentarism. A large number of “political families” are represented in this parliament: Frangieh, Karameh, Gemayyel, Murr, and the newest addition: Tuwayni, a family which in record time has sent 3 generations to the parliament.

4. Ultra liberal economics. Both sides subscribe to this creed, but the March 14 people have a more formal, structured approach to its implementation. Rough days ahead for the poor.

Now it is all wait and see: will the winners invite the other side, especially the Shi`a block, to take part in the cabinet? Will they give them veto power as in the last government? What will the role of the President, who aligned himself with the March 14 in Jubayl and lost in his own district, be? Will he get the veto power in government? Will the new government avoid the issue of disarming Hizbullah or will it raise it again? How will this be done? To what extent will it allow itself to be manipulated by regional and global powers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the US, who have been actively promoting March 14? Things might totally get out of control if wrong steps are taken. After all, as As Safir put it, the elections re-created the type of Parliament that brought Lebanon to Civil War in 1975. They called it: the Parliament of Civil Partition.

but at least you gotta be entertained by the various election campaign images that matthew blogged and remarkz blogged a few of them as well.

what obama reads (or should read)

the other day amira hass had an article in ha’aretz, which i suspect barack obama did not read. in it she articulates the obvious: that the israeli colonial terrorist state has never been invested in peace, only in war and in a never-ending series of negotiations:

Successive Israeli governments since 1993 certainly must have known what they were doing, being in no hurry to make peace with the Palestinians. As representatives of Israeli society, these governments understood that peace would involve serious damage to national interests.

Economic damage:

The security industry is an important export branch – weapons, ammunition and refinements that are tested daily in Gaza and the West Bank. The Oslo process – negotiations that were never meant to end – allowed Israel to shake off its status as occupying power (obligated to the welfare of the occupied people) and treat the Palestinian territories as independent entities. That is, to use weapons and ammunition at a magnitude Israel could not have otherwise used on the Palestinians after 1967. Protecting the settlements requires constant development of security, surveillance and deterrence equipment such as fences, roadblocks, electronic surveillance, cameras and robots. These are security’s cutting edge in the developed world, and serve banks, companies and luxury neighborhoods next to shantytowns and ethnic enclaves where rebellions must be suppressed.

The collective Israeli creativity in security is fertilized by a state of constant friction between most Israelis and a population defined as hostile. A state of combat over a low flame, and sometimes over a high one, brings together a variety of Israeli temperaments: rambos, computer wizards, people with gifted hands, inventors. Under peace, their chances of meeting would be greatly reduced.

Damage to careers:

Maintaining the occupation and a state of non-peace employs hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Some 70,000 people work in the security industry. Each year, tens of thousands finish their army service with special skills or a desirable sideline. For thousands it becomes their main career: professional soldiers, Shin Bet operatives, foreign consultants, mercenaries, weapons dealers. Therefore peace endangers the careers and professional futures of an important and prestigious stratum of Israelis, a stratum that has a major influence on the government.

Damage to quality of life:

A peace agreement would require equal distribution of water resources throughout the country (from the river to the sea) between Jews and Palestinians, regardless of the desalination of seawater and water-saving techniques. Even now it’s hard for Israelis to get used to saving water because of the drought. It’s not difficult to guess how traumatic a slash in water consumption to equalize distribution would be.

Damage to welfare:

As the past 30 years have shown, settlements flourish as the welfare state contracts. They offer ordinary people what their salaries would not allow them in sovereign Israel, within the borders of June 4, 1967: cheap land, large homes, benefits, subsidies, wide-open spaces, a view, a superior road network and quality education. Even for those Israeli Jews who have not moved there, the settlements illuminate their horizon as an option for a social and economic upgrade. That option is more real than the vague promises of peacetime improvements, an unknown situation.

Peace will also reduce, if not erase entirely, the security pretext for discriminating against Palestinian Israelis – in land distribution, development resources, education, health employment and civil rights (such as marriage and citizenship). People who have gotten used to privilege under a system based on ethnic discrimination see its abrogation as a threat to their welfare.

if there were really “peace,” which of course will never happen without justice (read: right of return for palestinian refugees), then the zionist entity would not be able to dump toxic waste on palestinian land as mel frykberg reported in ips:

“Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor told IPS.

Shuqbah, a village of 5,000, lies near the border of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, not far from Ramallah. Israeli companies have been using land owned by a Palestinian middleman in the village to dump tonnes of garbage for as little as 30 dollars per tonne, significantly cheaper than dumping it at Israeli waste sites.

“For several years Israeli companies have been dumping solid and hazardous waste there,” Mtoor told IPS. “The subsequent burning of toxic waste including items such as x-ray films releases carcinogens into the environment, and this has affected the population, with many people developing asthma and related illnesses.”

The Israelis earlier buried the carcasses of thousands of chickens infected with the avian flu virus near Nablus in the northern West Bank, said Mtoor. The PEA also uncovered 500 barrels of insecticide in Hebron in the southern West Bank. Again, a Palestinian middleman had been paid off to accept the barrels on his property.

if there were an end to colonialism in palestine, which is the only way that a real solution could be maintained, then the zionist entity would have to do something about its maps, including those in its textbooks (see second image below), but also its tourist industry maps as per the one below that they are posting all over london:

wiping palestine off the map: zionist entity's ad campaign in london
wiping palestine off the map: zionist entity's ad campaign in london

the palestine solidarity campaign is asking for people to write letters to protest these ads, which you can do by clicking the link below:

Posters have recently appeared in London Underground tube stations advertising Israel as a tourist destination. The map on the advert depicts Israel as incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Please write to London Underground, the Advertising Standards Agency and CBS Outdoors – the company which manages the poster sites – asking for the removal of these posters, which deliberately deny the existence of Palestine.

zionist entity's textbook showing what it considers to be its borders
zionist entity's textbook showing what it considers to be its borders

of course the zionists, along with their buddy hillary clinton, love to go on and on about palestinians recognizing them and their rights to colonize palestinian land as well as the mythology of palestinian textbooks inciting violence. a lot of this discussion over palestinian textbooks has been about maps–that they don’t recognize borders as delineated by the zionist entity. of course, they never mention the fact that their textbooks–and their colonizing terrorist state in general–have never marked such borders. and palestinians, because this is their land, must show the borders from the river to the sea: this is their history and their future. in any case, yesterday with obama, benjamin netanyahu decided to bring up the textbooks again:

If, however, the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, if they — if they fight terror, they educate their children for peace and to a better future, then I think we can come to a substantive solution that allows the two peoples to live side by side in security and peace. And I add prosperity (inaudible).

for those who still believe this zionist propaganda about the textbooks, you should check out the german georg eckert institute’s study on this, which put to rest several years ago these bogus claims in spite of hillary and company.

but obama was offered another sort of lesson from netanyahu yesterday in the form of a book. not the sort of book that hugo chavez gave to obama–eduardo galeano’s open veins of latin america. the ever inspirational rania blogged about this last month:

Chavez’s gift was a very wise way (if accidental) to get the book international attention and increases its sales and readership — and thus increase awareness on the centuries of colonization and theft of Latin America and thus increase understanding and, potentially, solidarity. Chavez explained: “This book is a monument in our Latin American history. It allows us to learn history, and we have to build on this history.”

but the book netanyahu gave to obama was none other than mark twain’s orientalist tale of traveling in the holy land otherwise known as the innocents abroad:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with a copy of “Pleasure Excursion to the Holy Land,” from Mark Twain’s book “The Innocents Abroad,” when they meet in Washington today. Netanyahu received the book, along with a newly published version in Hebrew (translated by Oded Peled), from the Kinneret Zmora-Bitan publishing house.

In his travel memoir, Twain describes a 1867 trip to the Land of Israel, which he finds a backward and desolate place devoid of culture or law. “Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village,” he states, calling it a country where prosperity had died out, a place of lost splendor and beauty where joy has turned to sorrow, and where silence and death prevail in its holy places.

actually, while i have serious problems with much of twain’s writing about the arab world in this book, an astute reading of it requires one to also see the irony in it. i wonder, for instance, what obama would make of this passage of twain’s travelogue to the region:

This morning‭, ‬during breakfast‭, ‬the usual assemblage of squalid humanity sat patiently without the charmed circle of the camp and waited for such crumbs as pity might bestow upon their misery‭. ‬There were old and young‭,‬ brown skinned and yellow‭. ‬Some of the men were tall and stalwart‭, (‬for one hardly sees any where such splendid-looking men as here in the East‭,)‬ but all the women and children looked worn and sad‭, ‬and distressed with hunger‭. ‬They reminded me much of Indians‭, ‬did these people‭. ‬They had but little clothing‭, ‬but such as they had was fanciful in character and fantastic in its arrangement‭. ‬Any little absurd gewgaw or gimcrack they had they disposed in such a way as to make it attract attention most readily‭. ‬They sat in silence‭, ‬and with tireless patience watched our every motion with that vile‭, ‬uncomplaining impoliteness which is so truly Indian‭, ‬and which makes a white man so nervous and uncomfortable and savage that he wants to exterminate the whole tribe‭.

twain’s entire text, by the way, can be downloaded for free from project gutenberg in six parts (the link above is to part five where this excerpt comes from). but this description of the palestinians–in comparison to indigenous americans–is telling for a number of reasons most notably the reaction colonizers–both american and zionist–have to the indigenous. while perhaps white man in chief, netanyahu, in the zionist entity is not “exterminating” palestinians right now, they are certainly finding other methods of removal from their ethnic, exclusive, colonial, racist, apartheid regime. building jewish-only colonies that force palestinians out of their homes and off of their land is one such method:

Shortly after the meeting between US President, Barack Obama, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli sources said that a new Jewish only settlement would be constructed in the Jordan Valley, less that 20 kilometers away from the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

The new settlement plan was seen by several Palestinian and international officials as a clear Israeli message to the US administration that the country does not intend to halt the construction and expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The plan comes while Israel is formulating more plans to link major Israeli settlements in the West Bank with Jerusalem in spite of the increasing international condemnation.

and yet another eviction and new colony in al quds:

Israel plans to build 250 units of settlement housing after it forcibly evacuates two East Jerusalem families, a lawyer for the Palestinian president’s office said on Tuesday.

Attorney Ahmad Ar-Ruwaidi said Israel plans to level a total of 27 homes on the family’s Shiekh Jarrah properties after the families are removed, “while the world talks about human rights, genocide, and ethnic cleansing.”

“Once again, Israeli judiciary proved that it is a tool in the hands of Israeli settlement organizations which are conducting settlement programs in Al-Bustan and other neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” he said.

The remarks come after the Israeli district court decided on Sunday to fine each family 50,000 US dollars, with a further fine of 50,000 shekels (12,500 US dollars) if they do not evacuate by 19 July, the date of a court hearing.

The eviction order was issued by “Hotza Laphoal” the Israeli institution that executes court orders.

The families are two of the 27 that live in a 28-building complex in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The court ruled in favor of a settler organization, Nahalat Shimon, which claims it is the owner of the buildings. The Palestinians are accused of not paying rent to these self-proclaimed landlords.

but in the meeting between obama and netanyahu yesterday it became clear–or perhaps before yesterday?–that it is not any longer the dismantling colonies that the united states advocates; rather, it just wants them to stop building. good luck with either of those. here is ha’aretz’s take on the meeting:

Obama also reminded Israel of its commitment, under a 2003 U.S.-backed peace road map agreement to cease settlement activity in the West Bank.

“We talked about restarting serious negotiations on issues of Israel and the Palestinians,” Obama said, adding that it was in the interests of both sides “to achieve a two-state solution.”

Netanyahu, in his remarks, reiterated that he supported self-government for the Palestinians but made no mention of a state, a position underscoring a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations.

“We don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want them to govern themselves,” Netanyahu said, echoing statements he has made in the past.

for a real justice-based solution, of course, colonies everywhere in historic palestine must stop. it’s not just about the west bank. it is about historic palestine and justice for refugees. but of course we never hear these words from the zionist entity or the u.s. now it’s just about the colonies (u.s.) or iran (zionist entity). here is jacky rowland’s report for al jazeera laying out these issues before netanyahu went to washington:

but the elephant in the room remains palestinian refugees and their right of return. if obama wants to seek justice, which would lead to peace, in the region then he should read are stories like this one of palestinian nakbas and refugee rights as suleiman abu jazzar tells rami almaghari narrates in electronic intifada:

“Only if we return to our homeland, can there be peace. But as long as [Israel] keeps us refugees, we have no choice to resist them now and for generations to come, until we are back in Beir al-Saba,” said 75-year-old Suleiman Abu Jazzar in his home in the Brazil refugee camp in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.

Along with more than 700,000 other Palestinians, Abu Jazzar was forced from historic Palestine by Zionist forces in 1948, a period referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe) and commemorated in mid-May while Israel celebrates its “Independence Day.” During 1947-48, Zionist paramilitary groups — which later formed the Israeli army — attacked and destroyed more than 450 Palestinian towns and villages. Abu Jazzar’s town of Beir al-Saba was given the Hebrew name of Beersheva by its conquerers.

Abu Jazzar and his family are amongst the more than 4.5 million registered Palestinian refugees living in camps in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon — unable to return to their land, though their right to return is enshrined in international law. There are millions of other Palestinians scattered around the globe comprising the Diaspora, a nation in exile.

“Prior to 1948, we used to live peacefully and happily in our hometown of Beer al-Saba. All out of a sudden, armed Jewish groups attacked the town and displaced my family including myself, as well as many other families,” recalled Abu Jazzar.

“In that period, we fled [to the outskirts of] Beir al-Saba, leaving behind us heaps of barley, our main harvest at that time. When night falls, I recall that myself and other youths of the town, used to sneak into these heaps to bring food for hungry children and women.

“After a while, the Jews began to spot us, and finally we were all displaced form the whole area, leading us to the Gaza Strip, where me and my family were settled in the Rafah area here,” Abu Jazzar said while laying on a sofa in a traditionally-decorated room.

Asked whether residents of Beir al-Saba resisted the Zionist forces, Abu Jazzar put much blame on the Arab countries and armies for the Palestinian refugees’ situation.

“There were no Israeli warplanes at that time, only tanks. Also, their numbers were not that big, but unfortunately we had no guns or weapons. I only recall that someone from the Barahma tribe had a gun. I really blame the Arab armies, which failed us. Their weapons were not that effective. These armies did not even train us how to fight; we were merely farmers and had nothing to do with armament. They are to be blamed for our plight.”

Abu Jazzar endured not only the 1948 dispossession, but he witnessed and survived other Israeli wars and conflicts that he described as more Nakbas for the Palestinian people.

“In 1956, the occupation forces invaded our towns here in Gaza, using tanks and armored vehicles. Also, in 1967, they invaded us again and continued to occupy us until recently. They are not leaving us, they don’t want us to live peacefully,” he said.

More recently, Israeli army launched a three-week comprehensive attack on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians — the majority of them civilians. During this war, Abu Jazzar’s asbestos-roofed house was partially damaged, as Israeli forces destroyed many houses in his neighborhood.

“Only God saved us during the Gaza war, the [Israelis] only want to destroy us completely. I didn’t go anywhere during the war; my family and I remained at the house. Where to go? … In 1948, we left our house and left our farm lands, thinking we would return in a few days. But as you see, son, we are here for 61 years now, and who knows how long we will remain so?”

Umm Salah, Abu Jazzar’s 70-year-old wife, sang a Palestinian folk song about the events of 1948: “You have made us refugees. When we fled al-Ramla and Beir al-Saba, heading to Gaza, carrying our luggage on our shoulders, we wondered: what did you do for us, Ben Gurion [Israel’s first prime minister], you brought us a Nakba!”

Sighing deeply, she said that only God protects them, but she hopes for peace, nevertheless.

“It is true that they are more powerful than us, but where can we go — where? We just resist them by our steadfastness on this land, sticking to our homes,” Umm Salah said.

Both Abu Jazzar and Umm Salah said that they would refuse to take monetary compensation instead of a return to their town of origin. “Our history is there in Palestine,” they said together, “in Beir al-Saba. How could we sell our history?”

The now elderly refugees have evidently passed down their profound connection to their land to their 28-year-old daughter, Laila, who said with great emotion:

“What peace are they talking about? Every day they kill us, our families have lived the suffering for 61 years now. … If there is a truce, this truce cannot last, as they aim to destroy us completely. Look at the last Israeli war on us, they killed many people. We should keep steadfast, until we return to our hometown of Beir al-Saba. We can never accept any compensation, even if we all die one after another.”

apartheid and its boycotts

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

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

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

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

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

The Apartheid Analogy

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

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

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

Israel and the Crime of Apartheid

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonialism and the Role of Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

2 See www.apartheidweek.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appeal for the removal of Hamas from EU terror list !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lebanese academic boycott of zionism launched

in honor of يوم الأرض (land day) and the palestinian national boycott movement’s call for land day to be global bds day the campaign has finally be launched in lebanon here is the article that rania and i wrote in al akhbar today explaining our bayan, which you will find below:

في يوم الأرض… فلنقف مع المقاطعة الأكاديميّة

رانية مصري ــ مارسي نيومن*

إذ نتذكر يوم الأرض في 30 آذار/ مارس 1976 ونحيي ذكراه، ذكرى اليوم الذي قتلت فيه القوات الإسرائيلية ستة فلسطينيين وجرحت حوالى مئة في سخنين خلال تظاهرات غير مسلّحة نُظمت احتجاجاً على مصادرة أراضٍ فلسطينية في الجليل، إذ نتذكر الهمجية الإسرائيلية بحق الفلسطينيين في غزة في كانون الأول/ ديسمبر، إذ ندرك استمرار الاعتداءات بحق الفلسطينيين، إذ نتذكر الأعمال الوحشية العديدة والمتواصلة بحقّ اللبنانيين، دعونا نقف وقفة دعم فعّال لحركة تتمتع بالقوة وبالقدرة الضرورية على المساهمة بشدة في هذا النضال من أجل الحرية وتحقيق الذات ضمن إطار المعركة ضد الصهيونية.

هذه الحركة هي حركة المقاطعة وسحب الاستثمارات وفرض العقوبات، وأحد أبرز مطالبها مقاطعة الشركات الإسرائيلية والعالمية التي تدعم التمييز العنصري والاستعمار اللذَين تمارسهما إسرائيل، والانسحاب منها. ونحن نعرف، من المَثَل الذي قدّمته جنوب أفريقيا، أن استراتيجية تجمع بين المقاومة المسلّحة من جهة، والمقاطعة وسحب الاستثمارات وفرض العقوبات من جهة ثانية، قد أدت إلى انهيار نظام التمييز العنصري، وبالتالي تتمتع بمقومات النجاح. والتركيز على المقاومة الاقتصادية يربط هذه الحركة بجذور حركة المقاومة الفلسطينية التي سعت تاريخياً إلى تحرير فلسطين، كما سائر المنطقة، من إمبريالية يفرضها الغرب من خلال سياساته الاقتصادية الاستعمارية الجديدة.

نعرف أيضاً أن لبنان لا يخلو من المنتجات الصهيونية. من مستحضرات التجميل إلى الثياب، ومن الجرافات إلى القهوة، نستهلك منتجات تنتجها شركات تدعم إسرائيل جوهرياً، إمّا عبر الاستثمار في إسرائيل، وإما بدعم إسرائيل مالياً أو دبلوماسياً (وفيما إلغاء بعض المنتجات الصهيونية، مثل منتجات إنتل، أمر صعب، فإنّ إخلاء أسواقنا من الأكثرية الساحقة من المنتجات، مثل نستله وإيستيه لودر، سوف ينعش اقتصادنا فعلياً عبر زيادة الاستثمارات في المنتجات والأعمال المحلية).

بالإضافة إلى الشكل الواضح الذي تتخذه المقاطعة الاقتصادية (غالباً ما يحدث التباس بينها وبين الحظر)، ثمة وسيلة مهمة تتمثل بالمقاطعة الأكاديمية والثقافية. وتتضمن المقاطعةُ الأكاديمية الإحجامَ عن المشاركة في أي نوع من أنواع التعاون الأكاديمي أو الثقافي مع مؤسسات إسرائيلية، وعن المساهمة فيها والانضمام إلى مشاريع معها، والعمل، في النهاية، على دفع الجامعات نفسها إلى الانسحاب من أي مساهمة أو تعاون مع أي مؤسسة إسرائيلية. الأساتذة الجامعيون في جنوب أفريقيا دعوا أيضاً زملاءهم في أرجاء العالم إلى المقاطعة لنزع الصفة الشرعية عن نظام التمييز العنصري وعزله. وقد نجحت حملة المقاطعة في جنوب أفريقيا بسبب هذا العزل الذي قُرِن بمقاطعة اقتصادية وسحب الاستثمارات، فقاد ذلك في النهاية إلى فرض عقوبات على النظام، ما أدى إلى زواله.

إن أقوى سلاح في المقاطعة الأكاديمية هو رفض تشريع الصهيونية، تلك الإيديولوجية التي بُنيت عليها إسرائيل، الإيديولوجية التي تسمح لمجموعة واحدة من الناس بأن تنهب وتقتل وتطرد، إيديولوجية عنصرية بجوهرها وبكليتها. فالصهيونية هي التي يجب أن تُقهر.

تتنامى حركة المقاطعة الأكاديمية والثقافية لإسرائيل عالمياً، فهي ناشطة في كندا والمملكة المتحدة منذ بضع سنوات الآن، وانتقلت إلى أوستراليا والولايات المتحدة. وتمثّل الدعاية المحيطة بهذه الحركة سلاحاً قوياً بقوة الحركة نفسها، لأنها تدعو أيضاً إلى إعادة التفكير في حق إسرائيل في الوجود كدولة يهودية. حتماً أصبحت حركة المقاطعة قوية جداً الآن لدرجة أن المستعمرين الإسرائيليين يدفعون مليونَي دولار لتحسين صورتهم عالمياً.

لقد ضم أكاديميون من لبنان أصواتهم إلى هذه الحركة المتنامية. فقد وقّعت كلياتٌ من جامعة البلمند، والجامعة الأميركية في بيروت، والجامعة اللبنانية ــ الأميركية، وجامعة سيدة اللويزة، والجامعة اللبنانية، وجامعة بيروت العربية، وجامعة الروح القدس، والجامعة اللبنانية الدولية، والجامعة العالمية، على بيان يدعو إلى مقاطعة تامة لإسرائيل وللمؤسسات الإسرائيلية، ودعوا زملاءنا في العالم أجمع، ولا سيما أولئك في العالم العربي الذين يدّعون التضامن مع الفلسطينيين، إلى مقاطعة كل المؤسسات الأكاديمية والثقافية الإسرائيلية والانسحاب منها انسحاباً شاملاً وثابتاً، وإلى الإحجام عن التطبيع في أي شكل من أشكال التعاون الأكاديمي والثقافي مع مؤسسات إسرائيلية، وعن المساهمة فيها أو إنشاء مشاريع مشتركة معها، وذلك مساهمةً منهم في النضال الهادف إلى إنهاء الاحتلال والاستعمار ونظام التمييز العنصري الذي تفرضه إسرائيل.

لإضافة توقيعك، الرجاء مراجعة الموقع الآتي:
www.boycottzionism.wordpress.com
اليوم، 30 آذار/مارس 2009، هو يوم العمل العالمي لحركة المقاطعة وسحب الاستثمارات وفرض العقوبات. فلنقف معاً.

* رانية مصري هي أستاذة مساعدة في جامعة البلمند، ومارسي نيومن أستاذة مساعدة لمادة اللغة الإنكليزية في جامعة النجاح الوطنية.

عدد الاثنين ٣٠ آذار ٢٠٠٩

here is our bayan:

بيان صادر عن أكاديميّين في لبنان

لقد هاجمت إسرائيل، في هذه الحرب الضارية الأخيرة التي تشنها على الفلسطينيين، جامعة، ووزارة التربية، ومدارس عبر قطاع غزة، والعديد من المدارس التابعة للأونروا. وليست مثل هذه الاعتداءات على مراكز تربوية غريبة عن إسرئيل. فمنذ 1975 خصوصاً، انتهكت إسرائيل حق الفلسطينيين في التعليم عبر إغلاق الجامعات والمدارس ودور الحضانة، ومن خلال قصف مئات المدارس والعديد من الجامعات على امتداد الأراضي الفلسطينية المحتلة، وإطلاق النار وشنّ غارات عليها. ولم تقتصر هذه الأعمال الهجومية على الفلسطينيين، فالاعتداءات الإسرائيلية على المراكز التربوية مألوفة جداً بالنسبة إلينا نحن الأكاديميين في لبنان. وفي آخر عدوان شنته إسرائيل على لبنان سنة 2006 مثلاً، دمرت أكثر من 50 مدرسة في شتى أرجاء البلد، ولا سيما المدارس المخصصة للمحرومين اقتصادياً في الجنوب.

لهذا السبب، نحن الأكاديميين في لبنان، نحثّ زملاءنا، إقليمياً ودولياً، على مناهضة هذه الجرائم المستمرة بحقّ المدارس وعلى دعم هذا الطلب السلمي والمحق بالمقاطعة الأكاديمية وسحب الاستثمارات وفرض العقوبات. وبصورة خاصة، نطلب من زملائنا في العالم أجمع أن يدعموا النداء الذي أطلقته الحملة الفلسطينية للمقاطعة الأكاديمية والثقافية لإسرائيل، لمقاطعة كل المؤسسات الأكاديمية والثقافية والانسحاب منها انسحاباً شاملاً وثابتاً، وللإحجام عن المشاركة في أي شكل من أشكال التعاون الأكاديمي والثقافي أو المساهمة في مشاريع مع مؤسسات إسرائيلية أو الانضمام إليها، وذلك مساهمةً منهم في النضال الهادف إلى إنهاء الاحتلال والاستعمار ونظام التمييز العنصري التي تمارسها إسرائيل.

وندعو كذلك إلى إنفاذ القوانين اللبنانية التي تمنع التطبيع مع إسرائيل، وبالتالي إلى مقاضاة المؤسسات والأفراد في لبنان الذين يخرقون تلك القوانين ويقومون بنشاطات تعاون أو شراكة أو استثمار في إسرائيل أو مع إسرائيليين. ونحن نحيّي البيان الأخير الصادر عن اللجنة الاسكوتلندية من أجل جامعات فلسطين الذي يدعو إلى مقاطعة إسرائيل، والرسالة التي وقّعها 300 أكاديمي كندي ووجهوها إلى رئيس الوزراء هاربر مطالبين بفرض عقوبات على إسرائيل، والدعوة التي أطلقتها لجنة التنسيق بين الاتحاد الكندي لعمال الحقل العام وعمال جامعة أونتاريو والتي تدعم حظر أشكال التعاون بين الجامعات الكندية والإسرائيلية.

بيان يحمل تواقيع أكاديميين في لبنان:

■ أسماء الموقّعين

سوزان عبد الرحيم، سناء أبي ديب، مي عبود، ميشال أبو غنطوس، دانا أبو رحمة، منى أبو ريان، محمد علم الدين، ريان علم الدين، فلاح علي، محمود العلي، ريان الأمين، كرمى بيبي، نبيل دجاني، نبيل فارس، نيكولاس غابرييل، آلين جرماني، صباح غندور، ريما حبيب، سمر هبر، نيكولاس حداد، هراتش هاجيتيان، روجيه حجار، ساري حنفي، سيرين حرب، ديالا حاوي، إهاب حدرج، سامي هرمز، إبراهيم الحصري، مهى عيسى، سامر جبور، بول جهشان، فاطمة الجَميل، ماهر جرّار، رشا الجندي، تامار كاباكيان ـ خاشوليان، فيصل القاق، غادة كلاكش، ربيع كاملة، سمر خليل، نيكولا كوسماتوبولوس، ميشال مجدلاني، جين سعيد مقدسي، جودي مخّول، مايا منصور، مزنة المصري، رانية مصري، زينة مسقاوي، سنتيا منتي، عايدة نعمان، عمر نشابة، هدى نصر الله، يوسف ناصر، مايك أور، حبيب عثمان، جيليان بيغوت، دانيال ف. ريفيرا، جويل رزق، ندى صعب، أمل سعد غريّب، صفية سعادة، نعيم سالم، نسرين السلطي، هيلين سماحة ـ نويهض، ريما صراف، ريتشارد سميث، روزماري صايغ، كيرستين شايد، أوجين سينسينغ ـ دبوس، ربيع سلطان، لينا الطبال، جهاد توما، حنان طوقان، نازك يارد، ماريان يزبك، سمر ذبيان، حسين زيدان، محمد زبيدي، هدى زريق، رامي زريق.

عدد الاثنين ٣٠ آذار ٢٠٠٩

for more information see our website: lebanese campaign for the boycott of zionism

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.

gaza in context

carlos latuff on inside story/al jazeera
carlos latuff on inside story/al jazeera

last night i watched “inside story” with imran garda on al jazeera and was happy to see, finally, some historical context, some useful thinking about the massacre in gaza and the roots of this problem–particularly for the jockeying of power over the palestinians not only by israeli terrorist colonists, but also by regional players who are the pimps and pawns for the west. the historical material i’ve transcribed below, but i strongly recommend watching this discussion, which thankfully has no israeli terrorists spewing their lies, hate, and propaganda; without them one can get at a much richer, much more contextualized analysis. garda interviews journalist robert fisk and mahdi abdul hadi of the palestinian academic society for the study of international affairs in al quds. incidentally, carlos latuff’s latest cartoon was apparently drawn for “inside story,” and al jazeera more generally, to show the lack of media access to gaza, one of the many forms of control the israeli terrorist regime uses to hide its war crimes.

imran garda: is sharm al shaykh a serious summit? the summit that is going on, that is being discussed on sunday? or is it just face-saving for egypt?

mahdi abdul hadi: well, it’s more than face-saving for egypt. it covers europe and the palestinian authority as well as israelis. we witness why the israelis want to unilaterally call for ceasefire and this morning again hamas came with the ceasefire for one week in order to see what lies ahead. sharm al shaykh summit covers 3 aspects.

1. that egypt is again claiming its role as a leader in the region and it has a say;

2. to bring europeans–those who have been very, politically hypocrites looking for israeli security and safety and did nothing, absolutely nothing for the last 22 days of the massacre of the palestinians in gaza. and now they are meeting people halfway for their own society. people are demonstrating in every capitol in europe, as well as looking for humanitarian aid to transfer the palestine question to humanitarian aid. as well as the united nations who accepted to be in one seat in the quartet doing absolutely nothing and run behind condoleeza rice’s decisions. egyptians are trying to balance between the doha conference and the coming kuwait conference–to tell the arab regimes: “i’m here and i have a say.” number one i tried to convince the israelis to hold the ceasefire and they are meeting us halfway while the israelis took the decision a long time ago exactly as mr. robert fisk was saying. in time for obama’s administration, and two to save face for israeli public opinion, and three not to sign a deal with hamas. and they want unilaterally in order not to recognize hamas as they did it exactly with hezbollah in 2006.

the sharm al shaykh conference today is–egypt is saying today–“i’m here, i have a say.” two, europeans are saying “we missed it for 22 days, but we can compensate for humanitarian aid.” three, united nations is saying “we can assist and facilitate.” four, the israelis are all going to open the door for all those hypocrites to say we can do something for those miserable, defeated, beaten, humiliated, destroyed palestinians in gaza.

imran garda: egypt must have fumed when it saw the scenes coming out of the doha summit . here you had hamas on a pedestal. you had khaled mesh’al speaking first alongside all these heads of state, given the legitimacy it so craves and it hasn’t gotten from the israelis and now egypt must have been going ballistic over that.

robert fisk: well, dr. abdul hadi doesn’t mince his words. but i think he’s got it pretty well right. i mean, you gotta realize it’s the fate of autocrats who take money and military assistance from the west as much as the arab potentates, arab kings and princes and presidents do, to have to come to heel and find they are playing second fiddle from time to time. i agree with you on the worthlessness of sharm al shaykh. no one is talking about opening all the borders of gaza to food and fuel, which is what the palestinians want. i think it’s very interesting and i wonder if dr. abdul hadi knows the date today because it is exactly, to this day, the 90th anniversary of the opening of the paris peace conference of 1919 which created the modern middle east through the versailles treaty and crated the whole mess that we’re in now. in fact, on 18th of january 1919, one of the first items on the agenda of the french, and the british, and the germans, and the czechs, and the turks–all of whom are at sharm al shaykh today–was the borders of palestine. well, welcome to the ghosts of the past. i’ll bet they’ll be in sharm al shaykh listening.

imran garda: bashar al assad said at doha that the arab peace initiative of 2002 is dead now. that was his strong declaration. how significant is that statement from the syrian president?

mahdi abdul hadi: just allow me one footnote very quickly to mr. robert fisk. i tend to agree with you as a student of history. 1919 definitely imposed a mandate on the whole arab world and on the region. palestinians were demanding self-determination. and palestinians were demanding to be a part of arab united countries. today we don’t have a paris peace conference of 1919. today we don’t have a madrid conference. we don’t have any of these above conferences. people are waiting to see this young man, obama, and i hope they will not be very much disappointed with him vis-a-vis his agenda in the middle east. israelis jump before anyone else to impose the agenda. security for israel and involving nato and all these european heads of state meeting today in sharm al shaykh to maintain law and order or security for israel first. and then look for the palestinians today as humanitarian aid. and maybe using their assets in order to have a say in daily affairs of palestinian society and try to save mahmoud abbas from sinking in what has really been happening for the last 22 days. to give him sort of legitimacy and recognition after he lost it already from his people. now coming back to bashar al assad’s statement, doha summit was very clear in preparing the agenda for kuwait summit. and that’s why the egyptians today are hosting the sharm al shaykh conference to tell everyone we are concerned not only about the economy, but the palestinian issue and we can have a say in shaping the future of palestine with mahmoud abbas and not with somebody else. doha conference or doha summit put on the agenda that people who are meeting today, wherever they are, under any circumstances, cannot talk any more about the arab initiative of 2002–nor the question of normalization with israel while palestinians are bleeding. this is basically one. number two, to introduce and recognize hamas as sharing the saying of the palestinian future–legitimately elected, responsible, and resistance and having now a say. not only by a statement of mesh’al in doha, but telling the arab summit that tomorrow, in kuwait, you cannot be alone in defeated, divided, weak, no vision, no leadership of fatah and the wider society. these people are resistance and these people are paying the price. and they should be recognized. and the third level, definitely, for europeans who are meeting today in sharm al shaykh, if we want to talk about economy and development, we have to talk from a regional perspective and not limiting it only to gaza. and this is exactly what doha did: it prepared the homework, prepared the draft resolution for kuwaiti summit in order to challenge those who are still wishing to work on the peace process as the old state. today we are entering a new chapter in palestine and the region. the man in the street will not accept the status quo as before. and israelis are very much exposed as liars, as cheaters, as killers, as occupiers, and playing the game of maintaining the status quo and taking the land and transferring the palestine question in terms of people to the arab house: egypt and jordan.

imran garda: interesting that you mentioned the 90th anniversary of the paris peace summit. i wonder in years to come–90 years from now–when people look into the history books and see not only rival factions, but they see rival summits, it will look ridiculous won’t it?

robert fisk: well, we know the man who was at the paris peace conference, who was trying to bring peace to the world, and that was president wilson of the united states, with clemenceau of france there as well, and lloyd george for london. whether we’ll know who nicolas sarkozy is–or gordon brown–in 90 years time–gordon who? nicholas who? look, i think you’ve got to see, i think this summit is intended to enhance mahmoud abbas, who cannot frankly be enhanced. but i think there is an issue that we’re not really dealing with here and that is that i don’t think that hamas won this war. one of the things that struck me in particular is that hamas seemed to think that in its rhetoric that it is the same as hezbollah. and it’s not. that’s a serious error. they do not have the same ability to fight the israeli army as hezbollah had. and what is particularly interesting is their total lack of security. there remains inside gaza, clearly, a forest of collaborators, informers, and spies either working for fatah or working directly for the israelis who were able to give away the addresses of every home and hideout of hamas members and that’s why senior members were killed by the israelis. so what we need to look at is not just hamas as a political organization, but how it really didn’t do very well against the israelis militarily. and i think that it is important to remember these things because hezbollah has a place in the politics of lebanon because militarily it’s worth something, whatever you think of it yourself, whereas hamas i’m not so sure. we’re able to talk about the election in which those pesky palestinians voted for the wrong people, they voted for hamas, but we must also remember the coup in gaza which killed 151 palestinians. i’m not sure that hamas is going to come out of this with its shield shining bright in the sunshine.

imran garda: mahdi abdul hadi had echoes of 1948. he said there might be another partition now. sadly, there might not be a 2 state solution as you had mentioned, but a 3 state solution is something that might be in the cards. what do you make of that?

robert fisk: well that’s pretty well what we’ve got, isn’t it? we’ve got 2 rival governments on the palestinian side, and one government that might be about to lose power to the other one on the israeli side. look, i think it’s a broader argument than just this. the problem is that all these great and good men gathering in sharm al shaykh these wonderful potentate statesmen from the west in particular. they should be dealing with the real issues of the middle east which is really about the subject called justice. instead of that they’re dealing with food and tunnels. for god’s sake. really. what i think that in the middle east, after so many years here, more than 3 decades, is that what everyone tells me they want in the middle east is justice. whether it be about the justice or injustice of dispossession. whether it be about the crust of secret police and secret prisons and torture, which most of the arab regimes impose on their own people with our western support, of course. that’s what people ask for. they don’t ask for human rights, though they’d like some. and they don’t ask for democracy, though we keep throwing it at them and beating them when they don’t vote for the right people. but they want justice and that is what sharm al shaykh should be about. and it’s what doha should have been about. and it’s what kuwait should be about. and again it’s not. the two arab summits are about rivalries between arabs and the sharm al shaykh summit is to clean the hands of western politicians. that is the problem.

one thing that this discussion ignored, however, which most people discussing palestine all too often ignore is that, yes, of course, what we’re looking at is a 3 state solution. that has been true for a long time now. but that 3rd state is not the illegitimate zionist regime; rather, it is the palestinians in 1948 palestine who are always absent. whose voices are far to rarely listened to. who always feel left out of discussions, sold out equally by the palestinian authority, by the united nations, by the west, and by the zionist regime. when abdul hadi, later in the program, talks about how the israeli terrorist regime is crushing palestinian national leadership and pride in the west bank and gaza, he doesn’t mention how this is working in 1948 palestine. i would have loved to see jonathan cook or someone from adalah or the arab human rights association speak to represent this community, especially given its tremendous support for palestinians in gaza throughout the last few weeks and especially because if we want true liberation of palestine they must be included and must be participants in that struggle. i feel like the way they get left out so often is akin to the way in which indians are left out of discussions of south africa which often gets reduced to a black-white issue and it’s not. here, for instance, is what palestinians in 1948 are experiencing as a result of their public support and solidarity with palestinians in gaza:

According to Israeli police reports, at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian and 244 under 18 years old, have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for participating in such demonstrations. Most have been held and then released, but at least 30 of those arrested over the past three weeks are still being held in prison.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations in Haifa, tells IPS that these demonstrations “are part of the uprising here inside the Green Line, to share responsibility and to share the challenge with the people in the Gaza strip.”

As an organiser of many of these solidarity demonstrations inside Israel, Makhoul himself was arrested by the Shin Bet (the Israeli secret service). “They called me, came to my home and held me for four hours,” he tells IPS. “They accused me of being a terrorist and supporting terror. They said that they are watching me and monitoring me.” Israel, he said, “has become a terror state.”

The Shin Bet has accused Makhoul and the hundreds of others arrested of “being a rebel, threatening the security of the State of Israel during war time.”

Makhoul believes that such threats are being implemented by Israel’s security forces “(in order to) break our will and the spirit of our people. But I think our spirit is much, much stronger here in Haifa and in Gaza than the Israeli oppression.”

i also wonder why all the news media and analysts and these conferences continue to talk about mahmoud abbas as if he is still president. his term expired on january 9th and yet the world still treats this normalizer as if he’s president. ma’an news, of course, acknowledges that he is citizen abbas not president abbas any longer. i think the only place that gave this any note was angry arab on the day his term expired. and then again two days later noting how the western regimes still accept abbas as president without noting his expiration date. i wonder if this will be true tomorrow: perhaps these same countries will go on thinking bush is still president of the u.s. too? apparently, abbas is still trying to form some sort of a unity government. as if he can breathe new life into his failed “leadership” of normalization with israeli terrorists, which of course only lead to more massacres, more confiscation of land, more checkpoints, more dispossession. and ban ki-moon proving that he is ever the tool of the west wants to help bolster abbas. i refer you to fisk’s comments on “inside story” as to the impossibility of “enhancing” abbas. but i also refer you to fisk’s recent op-ed in the independent making some of the same points, but importantly also sarcastically chastising ban:

And history was quite forgotten. The Hamas rockets were the result of the food and fuel siege; Israel broke Hamas’s own truce on 4 and 17 November. Forgotten is the fact Hamas won the 2006 elections, although Israel has killed a clutch of the victors.

And there’ll be little time for the peacemakers of Sharm el-Sheikh to reflect on the three UN schools targeted by the Israelis and the slaughter of the civilians inside. Poor old Ban Ki-moon. He tried to make his voice heard just before the ceasefire, saying Israel’s troops had acted “outrageously” and should be “punished” for the third school killing. Some hope. At a Beirut press conference, he admitted he had failed to get a call through to Israel’s Foreign Minister to complain.

It was pathetic. When I asked Mr Ban if he would consider a UN war crimes tribunal in Gaza, he said this would not be for him to “determine”. But only a few journalists bothered to listen to him and his officials were quickly folding up the UN flag on the table. About time too. Bring back the League of Nations. All is forgiven.

What no one noticed yesterday – not the Arabs nor the Israelis nor the portentous men from Europe – was that the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting last night was opening on the 90th anniversary – to the day – of the opening of the 1919 Paris peace conference which created the modern Middle East. One of its main topics was “the borders of Palestine”. There followed the Versailles Treaty. And we know what happened then. The rest really is history. Bring on the ghosts.

the other thing that i think is important in this discussion is the remarks both fisk and abdul hadi made in relation to the fact that people, generally, seem to continue to look to palestinians as a charity case rather than a group of people whose liberation movement needs sustenance. king abudullah of saudi arabia is but one example who speaks meaninglessly about palestinians, who has blood on his hands because he stands by in collusion with israeli terrorists and yet thinks his millions will repair the damage. of course i also donate both time and money, but i have to say that i find it a form of dehumanization that palestinians are looked at in this manner. by far too many people and by far too many regimes. all these disgusting leaders who DID NOTHING for 22 days and yet now they want to donate. it was the same with lebanon. they stood by in their complicit silence during the bombing and then wanted to pour money into lebanon. the people of south lebanon and the people of gaza do not want your crocodile tears nor your charity i guarantee you. they want your support for justice, as fisk says, and what that means is the liberation of palestine, and their right of return home. instead, what we are getting is more israeli terrorist control over rebuilding efforts as well with the approval of the the west and the arab regimes in the region all of whom continue to submit to the will of israeli terrorism.

i think it is worth thinking about some of that history from 1919 to the league of nations and the british mandate, and how it played out vis-a-vis the analysis of historian rashid khalidi. for as the europeans carved up the region leaving with it the scars of various states of colonialism, including in most places that are no longer directly controlled by the british or the french, forms of neocolonialism and internalized colonialism, they sowed the seeds of eternal dispossession and injustice. here is what khalidi says about how the mandate emerged and played out by foreign colonial powers in his book the iron cage: the story of the palestinian struggle for statehood (note: the emphasis is mine):

The Mandate for Palestine included the entire text of the Balfour Declaration, named for the British foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, notably its provisions relating to the establishment in Palestine of a “national home” for the Jewish people. It included six articles (2, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 22) relating to the obligations of the mandatory power to foster and support this endeavor. In both documents, the Palestinians were never once cited by name, whether as Palestinians or as Arabs, and were referred to only as “non-Jewish communities,” possessing solely civil and religious rights; their national and political rights were mentioned in neither. By contrast, national rights were ascribed to the “Jewish people,” and the League of Nations Mandate made it a solemn responsibility of Great Britain to help the Jews create national institutions. The mandatory power was specifically called upon to extend all possible assistance to the growth and development of this national entity, notably by encouraging Jewish immigration and “close settlement on the land.” The tiny Jewish community of Palestine, composing about 10 percent of the country’s population at the time, was thereby placed in a distinctly privileged position. By contrast, the Arab majority, constituting 90 percent of Palestine’s population, was effectively ignored as a national or political entity. While the Mandate’s twenty-eight articles included nine on antiquities, not one related to the Palestinian people per se: they were variously and vaguely defined as a “section of the population,” “natives,” or “peoples and communities.” As far as Great Britian and the League of Nations were concerned, they were definitely not a people.

In consequence of the imposition of this peculiar constitutional structure, the Palestinian people and their leaders faced a cruel dilemma throughout the Mandate period. Starting soon after the British occupation, they repeatedly pressed Great Britain to grant them national rights, notably self-determination, and the political rights, notably representative government, they justifiably considered were their due. They claimed these rights on the basis of the American president Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Article 4 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Allied promises to support Arab independence during World War I, and their natural rights as a people. Each time they did so, however, they were told that they were obliged to accept the terms of the Mandate as a pre-condition for any change in their constitutional position. But these terms denied Palestinians any of these rights, or at best subordinated them completely to the national rights of the Jewish people. Acceptance of the Mandate by the Palestinians would thus have meant their recognition of the privileged national rights of the Jewish community in what they saw as their own country, and formal acceptance of their own legally subordinate position, indeed of their nonexistence as a people. (32-33)

you can see the roots of apartheid from beginning in this history: from the mandate era a jewish minority took control over the land, over the indigenous population. this history speaks to abdul hadi’s comments of specters of the past not only from 1948, but from 1919, 1920 and on down the line. it also demonstrates britain’s continuing hand in this matter. this is why i keep saying that i find it so difficult to watch everyone spinning their wheels, to watch history repeating itself again and again–each time the only difference is that the situation gets worse for palestinians.

for more recent lessons of history i refer you to the blog pulse, which has a really important documentary about the 6 day war in 1967 with an historical corrective in the video it posts, but here is what they say by way of introducing the film clips:

These excellent Dutch videos are an important historical corrective to one of the widely propagated founding myths of the state of Israel, that in 1967 its Six Day wars, which saw Israeli theft and occupation of Palestinian territory, were defensive. These eyewitness accounts and testimonies puts paid to the canard of an ‘existential threat’ that the Israeli political establishment continues to claim — rather, right from the start, the reverse has been true.

A Dutch UN observer in 1966-67, Jan Muhren, describes how he witnessed how Israel provoked their Arab neighbours in the run-up to the Six-Day War on Dutch Nova TV (clips below). The former UN observer in Gaza and the West Bank has said Israel was not under siege by Arab countries preceding the Six-Day War, and that Israel provoked most border incidents, which Muhren surmises was part of its strategy to annex more land.

As the second clip shows, Moshe Dayan admitted as much to Israeli journalist Rami Tal, in an interview only released after Dayan’s death. Dayan corroborates Muhren’s eyewitness accounts that over 80% of the border incidents were Israeli provocations.

meanwhile as the world continues to play with the puppets in the region and with the people’s lives on the ground in egypt, kuwait, qatar, palestinians still have the gruesome task of searching for their loved ones beneath the rubble in gaza. as a result the death toll continues to rise:

Medical sources in the Gaza Strip told Ma’an on Monday that three Palestinians died from wounds obtained during the three-week offensive.

They were being treated at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Ambulance crews also uncovered at least 12 corpses of Palestinians killed in the fighting, many of whom may have bled to death awaiting medical care.

Another 50 injured Palestinians were transferred to hospitals in Egypt through the Rafah border, according to the de facto Health Ministry’s Dr Mo’awyeh Hasanein, who directs the Ambulance and Emergency Care Department.

Paramedics found some 100 bodies under the rubble of collapsed buildings and homes on Sunday, when Israeli forces began their withdrawal.

Inhabitants continued to return to their homes on Monday, surveying the damage and examining the rubble for recoverable belongings.

According to the latest statistics from medical sources in the Strip, at least 1,315 Palestinians were killed during the three-week assault on Gaza, while about 5,500 were wounded. Medical officials say a majority of the injured are women and children, and that almost all are civilians.

importantly, contrary to opinions i hear in jordan, palestinians in gaza do not blame hamas. this is true with people i know there, who i speak to on the phone and who i talked to regularly throughout this bloody massacre–friends, mind you, who tend to not be affiliated with any particular political party, but who rightly see this as a reminder of the need for unity and the need to see this as one resistance, one nation, especially because this is a war against all palestinians in gaza:

Initial estimates state that 15 percent or 20,000 of the Gaza Strip’s buildings have been damaged, with nearly 30,000 Palestinians forced to find shelter in UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) shelters and with family.

Nearly 1,300 Gazans lost their lives, around a third of these children, with a total of more than half of the deaths civilian. The number of injured is pushing 4,000.

“People are extremely angry and the level of hate against Israel is very high. I have lived and worked in Gaza for many years and I have never seen such hatred from the population,” said Qleibo.

Gazans are not blaming Hamas, contrary to Israel’s wishes. “People laugh at Israel’s claims that this was a war against the Islamic resistance organisation and not one aimed at civilians.

“They see this as a war against all Palestinians. The number of civilians killed and maimed and the destruction wrought was way too extreme,” said Qleibo.

in response to this massacre in gaza people continue to respond with boycott, divestment and sanction ACTIONS as opposed to the empty words of political leaders around the world. the latest is from bahrain:

Sixteen Bahraini political organizations have formed an alliance to implement a series of activities and promote initiatives to defend the cause of the Palestinians. It is expected that one of the objectives of the joint effort will be the reopening of the Israel-boycott office, that had been closed by the government in 2005 as a requirement for the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States. During the 23 days of the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip a growing number of parliamentarians already called for a revision of the government’s decision in 2005.

Furthermore, the sixteen Bahraini organizations plan to set up a national plan of action spearheading calls for rallies and holding seminars and conferences to debate Palestine-related issues and mobilize Bahraini citizens and expatriates to express their solidarity with Palestinians in various forms and through a series of events. The plan was announced by Ali Ahmad, a parliamentarian for the Islamic Menbar, who hosted the meeting of the sixteen organizations. He was seconded by Ibrahim Kamal al-Deen, chairman of the left-wing Waad society, who announced: “We will send a letter to King Hamad Bin Eisa al-Khalifa to convey the popular view that we are against any step towards the normalisation of ties with the Zionist entity and against any contact with its people and institutions. We will also plead for the reopening of the Boycott office and for an end to the move to launch a regional forum that includes the Zionists”. The sixteen organizations released a joint statement in which they called upon all Arab and Islamic states to “assume their responsibilities and sever all forms of relations with the Zionists”, adding “the least they can do as a result of this genocide is to recall their diplomats to protest at the crimes perpetrated by the Zionists against the helpless people in Gaza”.

and rania masri and i have a new version of our call to american academics to boycott the zionist regime on electronic intifada. here is a reminder of our main demand:

We urge our fellow academics to not only support this statement in theory, but also in practice by pushing for academic boycott on your campuses. Supporting the human rights of Palestinians is not anti-Semitic; it is about human rights: Palestinian human rights. If this were any other captive population besieged for nineteen days with US-made materiel, we would be outraged and acting. So we are asking you to act now. It is our tax dollars at work that enables this massacre to take place. Let us make apartheid, in all its forms, only present in history books.

some american academics are building momentum, though not necessarily with respect to boycott because most of them still continue to value israeli speech over palestinian lives. and in lebanon rania continues to seek signatures for the lebanese call not only to boycott but to enforce anti-normalization laws against those lebanese professors who choose to normalize with israeli terrorist professors whose institutions and whose scholarship produces the knowledge necessary to continue to create their bloodbath:

We thus stand, as academics in Lebanon, in urging our colleagues, regionally and internationally, to oppose this ongoing scholasticide and to support the just demand for academic boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Specifically, we ask our colleagues worldwide to support the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to comprehensively and consistently boycott and disinvest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joining projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.

We further call on the enforcement of Lebanese anti-normalization laws with Israel, and thus for the prosecution of individuals and institutions in Lebanon that violate those laws and conduct collaborations, associations or investments in Israel or with Israelis.

please click on the link above if you are a professor in lebanon and you want to sign the petition.

transform silence into language and action

i just finished watching my dear friend rania on press tv’s “middle east today.” it was tedious to watch because some delusional zionist was on the show. he–with the help of the show’s host i might add–effectively silenced dr. naji shurab the one voice living in gaza who was on the show. it’s so hard to watch–and it is so hard to be on–this program. i honestly don’t understand why they think they need to air both “sides of the story.” you can read rania’s take on why there are not two sides to this story by clicking on the link above. i have also written about it at length here so i will not repeat myself, except to say there are not two sides to this story about palestine, about gaza. but i will say this: why is it that when it is so difficult to get information out about gaza that we have to hear the voice of a man whose words ooze hate and deceit?

but i want to think further about something rania said and relate it to something norman finkelstein said in shatila refugee camp last winter. rania mentioned the words of miguel d’escoto brockmann to the united nations last week, these are words that are worth repeating:

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann on Monday likened Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks under apartheid.

Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were like “the apartheid of an earlier era,” said Brockmann, of Nicaragua, speaking at the annual debate marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

He added: “We must not be afraid to call something what it is.”

Brockmann stressed that it was important for the United Nations to use the heavily-charged term since it was the institution itself that had passed the International Convention against the crime of apartheid.

okay, brockmann said it. that is significant. it is important. but what does it mean if that language is not transformed into action. the world continues to be silent not only about gaza, but also about palestinians more generally. how can we transform that language now into action? one of the poets who influences my life very deeply is audre lorde (a chapter of my book on breast cancer, which is about lorde, is downloadable on the selected publications tab above). in particular words she spoke at a modern language association meeting, which later became a part of her moving memoir, the cancer journals reads:

Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.

For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it. For others, it is to share and spread also those words that are meaningful to us. But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone can we survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth.

language has power. and it has certainly been made to work against palestinians on so many levels. but the converse can be true if we all actively work on it. collectively. finkelstein talked about how zionists have been skilled at using what should be nothing pieces of paper (e.g., the balfour declaration) and turning a meaningless letter into a state on someone else’s land. he asked people in the audience how can palestinians use the myriad united nations resolutions to get their land back. on the level of international law palestinians have won the battle in so many ways. but the world remains silent in the face of these words. these words that are laws. international laws that the world ignores.

so the president of the un general assembly called israel an apartheid state. he stated a fact in a space that represents the international community, international laws. some people are hailing him for making this powerful speech so early on in his tenure as the head of the un general assembly. how can this be turned into momentum for change?

in london some people are christmas caroling for change. kabobfest has a video today from cnn of a jewish woman who is writing christmas carols that play with the traditional lyrics:

“Twelve assassinations, Eleven homes demolished, Ten wells obstructed, Nine sniper towers, Eight gunships firing, Seven checkpoints blocking, Six tanks a-rolling, Five settlement rings, Four falling bombs, Three trench guns, Two trampled doves, And an uprooted olive tree!”

imagine going from house to house singing these lyrics and handing out bethlehem postcards from if americans knew.

these words are powerful. they can be used: but they must be used to a particular effect. to render the zionist state a pariah state. to use these words–especially those words that carry weight–to end this siege on gaza and the siege over the rest of palestine and all palestinian refugee camps in the region more generally. this language must be used to enunciate the increasing devastation in gaza like the flour and electricity shortages:

The 1.6 million civilians of the Gaza Strip are being denied all their rights to freedom of movement, and are confined inside Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating amidst chronic fuel shortages, and shortages of goods, including essential food items. The Gaza power plant has been forced to shut down due to lack of fuel, and Gazans are now totally dependent on electricity generated from Israel, and to a lesser extent, Egypt. There are also chronic severe shortages of domestic cooking gas. Regarding essential food items, IOF have not permitted any consignments of flour to enter the Gaza Strip for one week (this does not apply to the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, which has its own flour stocks), and current stocks are sufficient for just less than three days. Five of the six flour mills in the Gaza Strip have been forced to close.

language must be used to reveal the psychological trauma palestinians in gaza are experiencing:

Israel’s siege on Gaza, now in its 19th month, has wreaked havoc on all aspects of life and significant attention has been paid in particular to the economic consequences of border closures and blockade. However, an overlooked epidemic threatens the social and familial ties that bond the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Living under a constant state of crisis in which their livelihoods have been denied, the people of Gaza’s once exemplary resilience and determination are giving way to an unfathomable sea of depression and psychological illnesses.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, as a direct result of Israel’s siege, 65 percent of households in Gaza struggle to obtain basic needs such as food, clothing and medicine. Among those struggling is Fouzan Salah, a 35-year-old father of four. Fouzan, who owned a tailoring factory with his brother, began selling his sewing machines in January of this year in order to feed his family. Since Israel began restricting the entry of goods and raw material into Gaza, an estimated 55 percent of private sector establishments have shut down and 97 percent of industrial establishments ceased their operations. Such was the fate of Fouzan’s factory, which received all of its fabric from Israel. The family now has no income and is in danger of losing its home. They Salahs currently rely on charity and the assistance of others, surviving on one, sometimes two small meals a day.

Consequently, Fouzan suffers from severe depression. Despair, worthlessness, incapacitation and emasculation is how Fouzan described the feelings he carries within him each day to the next. “I wasn’t worried when the siege first began,” he said. “I was just like everyone else and it was absurd to think that Israel would continue to enforce the siege on an entire population. It was unimaginable to even conceive that they would take away the livelihoods of all of us civilians. But I was wrong, we were all wrong. And now I’m still like everyone else, living a nightmare. It didn’t take me that long to reach this realization, and that’s when the depression hit me hard.”

the language must be bold and loud like brockmann’s not muted like un secretary general ban–but it must also be backed up with action not merely muted complaints:

All crossings for goods going into Gaza from Israel remained closed today, with no fuel, humanitarian supplies or commercial commodities reaching the 1.5 million inhabitants, the United Nations reported today.

The Kerem Shalom crossing was last open on 27 November, the Nahal Oz fuel pipelines and Karni conveyer belt last functioned on 26 November, and the crossings at Sufa have been closed since 13 September, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported.

UN officials, from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on downwards, have repeatedly called on Israel to urgently permit the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians. At the same time, Mr. Ban has reiterated his condemnation of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza against Israeli civilian targets, which Israel has cited as a reason for the closures.

this language may be written in reports, but it then must be backed up by action. yet again another united nations report, more findings that support palestinians: but what will the un do exactly? what will we pressure them to do?

The UN Human Rights Council must ensure Israel ends “institutionalised racism and discrimination” against Palestinians when it examines the Jewish state’s rights record, Palestinian groups urged Wednesday.

Israel will be examined on its human rights record by the Council on Thursday under the “Universal Periodic Review” process which puts every UN member state under the spotlight.

“Institutionalised racism and discrimination on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race and religion are root causes of the ongoing forcible internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people,” seven Palestinian rights groups said in a report submitted to the Council.

“In conjunction with Israel’s self-identification as a Jewish and democratic state, the Palestinian citizens of Israel are afforded no constitutional protection against racial discrimination. By this Israel is failing to comply with its obligations under international human rights law,” the report said.

the word must make states like the zionist regime (and yes other states including the u.s. on the list below) into pariah states with loud language that shames them into dissolution for doing things like refusing to sign the ban on cluster bombs, cluster bombs that continue to maim and kill people in southern lebanon:

Governments from around the world today began signing an international convention banning the production of cluster bombs, millions of which lie unexploded across dozens of countries and have killed and maimed thousands of civilians.

At the Oslo signing ceremony, Norway, which has led the efforts to ban cluster munitions, was the first country to sign. It was followed by Laos, where cluster bombs dropped by US planes more than 30 years ago are still killing civilians; and Lebanon, which was attacked with the weapons by Israel.

By the end of tomorrow, around 100 of the United Nations’ 192 members will have signed up. Once 30 countries have ratified the convention, it will become part of international humanitarian law.

There are a number of notable absentees, including the US, China, Russia, India and Pakistan, as well as Israel, which fired cluster bombs during the 2006 Lebanon war.

there are so many other reasons to speak out, to speak loudly, to shout, to scream, to push for action. and there is momentum building in the united nations. we must put pressure, we must insist that they take action. here is one idea from snorre lindquist and lasse wilhelmson:

The UN should use the word apartheid in connection with Israel and consider sanctions with the former South Africa serving as a model. Miguel dÉscoto Brockman, president of the UN General Assembly, conveyed this message at a meeting on November 24th 2008 with the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon present.

The 1976 Nobel peace prize laureate, Mairead McGuire from Ireland, recently suggested a popular movement demanding that the UN revoke Israel’s membership. The international community now needs to put tangible pressure on Israel in order to stop its war crimes.

Not once, during the past 60 years, has Israel shown any intention of living up to the requirements stipulated by the UN, in connection with the country’s membership in 1948, namely that the Palestinians who had been evicted from their homes should be allowed to return at the earliest possible opportunity. Moreover, Israel holds the hardly flattering world record of ignoring UN resolutions.

It can be questioned from the aspect of human rights legislation whether Israel is a legitimate state. Established practice between states usually requires borders that are legally maintained and a constitution, neither of which Israel has. These requirements are also named in the UN resolution (181) Partition Plan for Palestine, approved by the General Assembly in November 1947. The plan was accepted by the Zionists Jews in Palestine but rejected for excellent reasons as unjust by the Arab states. Only decisions made by the UN Security Council are mandatory. Later on, Israel unilaterally laid claim to a considerably larger portion of land than that suggested by the UN.

The eviction of eighty per cent of the Palestinians who lived west of the 1947 armistice line, and Israel’s refusal to allow them to return is the human rights argument for expelling Israel from the UN. Not only has Israel played the Partition Plan false but has, by its actions, thwarted the grounds – fragile from the start – for its UN membership.

Israel makes use of various strategies to achieve its goals, the same goals as for over a hundred years ago: As few and as well controlled and weakened Palestinians as possible in areas as small as possible between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan. And to try and get acceptance worldwide for the theft of land that is vital to the “state” that calls itself “Jewish and democratic”. This obviously bears no similarity to a peace process.

Why does nobody ever comment on the fact that Israel’s prime minister never misses an opportunity to harp on about how important it is that the rest of the world and the Palestinians recognise Israel, not as a democratic country for all its citizens, but as a “Jewish state”?

What would we have said if South Africa’s Prime Minister, in a similar way, had demanded recognition of South Africa as a “white and democratic state”, thus de facto accepting the racist apartheid system that allowed non-whites to be classified as lesser human beings?

In the article The end of Zionism, published in the Guardian on September the 15th 2003 the Jewish dissident and former speaker of Knesset, Avraham Burg wrote:

“Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out … We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew … The prime minister should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racism or democracy.”

No support can be found in The UN recommendation concerning a Jewish and a Palestinian state for unequal rights for the citizens of each country. Neither is there any indication as to how a “Jewish” state could become Jewish. There is support, however, for the intention that demographic conditions should be held intact at partition. Interpreting into the text an intention concerning characteristics of a “Jewish state” tailored to the ideology of Zionism is wholly in contradiction with the text of the resolution.

Even the Balfour Declaration, which entirely lacks human rights status, notes that the Jewish national home in Palestine should in no way encroach upon the rights of the Palestinians. Neither did US President Truman recognise Israel as a Jewish state. On the contrary, he ruled out precisely that formulation before making his decision to recognise Israel.

Thus, the legitimacy of a “Jewish state” so urgently sought by Israel lacks support in international documents that concern the building of the state. Israel’s government is, of course, fully aware of this. Why else would it keep on searching for this recognition?

The UN should now embark on a boycott of the apartheid state of Israel and, with the threat of expulsion from the UN, demand that Israel allows the evicted Palestinian refugees to return in accordance with the UN resolutions 194 and 3236.

With this done, meaningful peace talks can proceed and various solutions be reached for co-habitation with equal rights for all people between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan. No such solution can be compatible with the preservation of a Jewish apartheid state.

now here is some language we can use. yes, let’s work to hold the un accountable to its language, to its words. to boycott the zionist state. to force it to comply with these un resolutions which would force it to cease from being a jewish state once refugees are allowed to return. this is the key to a lasting solution. and we cannot let these words wither away. we must act now.