a step backwards (UPDATED)

yesterday i had a close encounter with one of jimmy carter’s entourage. i was looking for a book at the american colony hotel bookshop and talking with the owner, munther fahmi, when a white woman came in the shop looking for a place to charge her iphone. munther asked her why carter’s press conference the previous day only had a couple of palestinians invited and the room was brimming with zionist colonists. of course, she did not have a proper answer. i chimed in, of course. i said something to the effect that of course he’s not interested in equality; he’s towing the american line. she asked me if i have read his books. i said, yes. but his book, especially palestine: peace, not apartheid, is deeply problematic because he does not recognize apartheid in 1948 palestine and he refuses to call for refugees’ right of return. and that was that.

carter is here in palestine and heading for gaza today. but yesterday he met with zionist terrorist colonists and he told them that their colony in the west bank shall remain forever:

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter met with settler leaders from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc on Sunday and told them that he believed that their settlement is among the ones which should be able to remain under a final peace deal with the Palestinians.

“This particular settlement is not one that I envision ever being abandoned, or changed over into a Palestinian territory,” Carter said. “This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever.”

palestinian home in beit el sukariya, surrounded by zionist colony of gush etzion
palestinian home in beit el sukariya, surrounded by zionist colony of gush etzion

i am not sure where carter met with these colonists, but i suspect it was not inside their colony. for if he had gone there he would have possibly asked questions about the tent-like shacks that the colony effectively imprisons. you see, gush etzion is on the land of the palestinian village of beit al sukaria not far from where i live. there are still a few remaining palestinian families there who are not allowed to build on their land (hence the plastic bag as roof) and they are fenced in with barbed wires. you can see gush etzion in the background behind this palestinian family’s home. i posted more photographs and wrote about this colony and village a few months ago; you may click on this link to read it. but this is just to give you an idea of what sort of colonies carter deems okay in his so-called opposition to apartheid.

unlike barack obama, carter had some reservations about benjamin netanyahu’s speech the other night, but it seems that most of the world believes netanyahu took a step forward. and what i want to know is: how on earth is that possible?

obama, for instance, found netanyahu as taking a step forward:

Barack Obama has welcomed what he called “positive movement” in a speech by Israel’s prime minister, saying that it paved the way for the restart of “serious talks”.

“Overall, I thought that there was positive movement in the prime minister’s speech. He acknowledged the need for two states,” the US president said of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Sunday speech.

He acknowledged that “there were a lot of conditions” placed by Netanyahu for the creation of a Palestinian state, but added that Israeli and Palestinian conditions could be addressed in negotiations.

“What we are seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks,” he said on Monday.

well, yes, it is possible to start talks as there has been talking for over 16 years, which has led to nothing more than further theft of palestinian land, massacres of palestinian people, and the mass arrests of men, women, and children. my friend and colleague abdel sattar al qassam summed it up best:

The Arabs particularly the Palestinians are mad at Netanyahu’s speech of June 14, 2009. It is deemed militant, extremist, hawkish and destructive of what they call the peace process. Even they are unhappy about the White House that described the speech as a step forward. In this speech, the Israeli Prime Minister totally denied the Palestinian national rights. Although he didn’t talk about the Palestinian right to self-determination, the denial is built in and implicit in the whole speech.

Netanyahu strongly asserted his conviction that Israel exists on the historical land of the Jews, with emphasis on the West Bank (which he called Yahuda and Shomron) as part of this land, but recognized that there are Palestinians living on this land. He said that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinians, and if they do so together with strictly observing the needs of Israeli security they will be granted a disarmed entity (which he called a state) that commits itself to Israel’s security. He said that the refugee problem should be solved outside Israel, and Jerusalem will ever remain the unified capital of Israel. He committed himself to more settlement activities.

I don’t see why the Arabs and the Palestinians are mad. Those who signed the Oslo and Taba Accords knew beforehand that Israel would never reach an agreement with any Arab party without observing Israel’s security and conceding the right of return. The Palestinian leadership practically conceded the right of return at the very moment it recognized Israel, and committed itself to Israel’s security as it accepted to fight what is called Palestinian terrorism. The Palestinian leadership accepted the Geneva initiative that indirectly denies the Palestinian right of return, and has authorized Dayton, the American general, to recruit and train Palestinians on how to fight terrorism; i. e. to fight other Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership has always warned (since 1994) that settlement activities jeopardize the negotiations, but building new settlements, enlarging existing ones, confiscating land, uprooting trees, and demolishing houses went on together with the negotiations. This is also true for Jerusalem which has been under a relentless process of social, economic and cultural transformation.

The Palestinian leadership hasn’t been honest with the Palestinian people. It has been saying something and ratifying something else.

Netanyahu hasn’t announced a policy that is radically different from the policies of other Israeli governments whether led by labor or Kadema parties. Only Netanyahu indirectly pledged to continue what his predecessors started, and to adopt the same policies. What makes Netanyahu a ghost while other prime ministers doves? Netanyahu tells the truth. Apparently, Arab and Palestinian leaders don’t care about the truth, they only hate to be told the truth.

If the Palestinian leadership is truly concerned, it should renounce the accords with Israel, insist on Palestinian national unity, seek new approaches toward the realization of the Palestinian national rights and find ways to meet the expenses of the daily life of the Palestinians. This isn’t a difficult task, and all of what it needs is free will.

unfortunately, abdel sattar is in the minority as the palestinians like saeb erakat and mahmoud abbas who profit off of the “peace process” industry want nothing more than to continue negotiations in spite of their protests over netanyahu’s speech, but for the moment these self-appointed negotiators are feigning threats to halt negotiations as mel frykberg reported in ips:

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who just last week told IPS that Palestinians were in their strongest position ever politically and that this time around the U.S. meant business, also lashed out at Netanyahu’s speech.

Erekat said the Israeli premier’s speech had “closed the door to permanent status negotiations. We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it,” said Erekat.

“He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain. The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Netanyahu has flipped it over on its back.”

Erekat has gone as far as to call for annulment of the Arab peace initiative. The Arab initiative was a peace plan sponsored by the Saudis and adopted during the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002. The plan called for normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world in return for Israel withdrawing form occupied Arab land and returning to its internationally recognised borders.

if these statements are made in earnest, it could bode well for a return to the heart of the matter–all the items netanyahu said no to in his speech.

zionist terrorist colonists masked as “liberals” like gideon levy read the speech rather differently, not surprisingly:

The gate was not thrown open last night, although a narrow crack appeared, which in itself is noteworthy. Another small brick was removed from the barricades of the occupation: A right-wing leader said he supports Palestinian statehood.

“Demilitarized, Demilitarized,” he repeated; now all that remains are the utmost margins of the fantasizing, embittered right-wing, a group finally left isolated and abnormal. They are a dangerous contingent, but they are few.

levy’s call for giddiness aside, it should alarm us that zionist colonists in the colony of ofer in between nablus and ramallah saw the speech as supporting their “rights” for “natural growth,” a new buzzword suggesting that they have a right to expand their colonies. dan nolan of al jazeera watched the speech with some of these colonists and reported on their response:

is this what obama meant when he issued a statement calling netanyahu’s speech a “step forward”?:

Wisely, the U.S. took Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Palestinian state at face value. U.S. officials deftly side-stepped the Israeli leader’s constraints. His speech was termed “an important step forward.”

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

for me the heart of the matter in netanyahu’s speech was when he discussed an nakba and palestinian refugees. because although he cannot see it or say it, this is the crux of the issue. this is the root of the problem that began the ethnic cleansing and colonization process of palesitne:

I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been and remains – the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.

In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.

Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.

yes, hostility began long before 1967 because colonization of palestine and the massacre of palestinians began long before 1967. the problem is not with the occupation of the west bank and gaza strip. the problem is with the occupation of all of historic palestine. this is why palestinians have resisted and will continue to resist.

zionist colonist akiva eldar correctly understood the speech as a colonial one, though he failed to perceive the main problem when it came to refugees:

No empathy for the refugees from Jaffa who lost their entire world, not a word for the Muslim connection to Jerusalem – neither a fragment of a quote from the Koran, nor a line of Arabic poetry.

Netanyahu’s provincial remarks were not intended to penetrate the hearts of the hundreds of millions of Al Jazeera viewers in the Muslim world. Instead, he sought to appease Tzipi Hotovely, the settler Likud lawmaker, and make it possible to live peaceably with the settler foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people didn’t even leave him an opening for forging reconciliation with the Arab citizens in the country.

netanyahu could have recited the qur’an until the cows came home, but palestinian refugees want their homes back not the words of their religious text recited by those who have participated in the murdering of their compatriots and the theft of their land. they don’t want an apology, though that would be a start. they want their land back. period.

palestinian novelist susan abulhawa makes it clear what palestinians demand and what their rights are given their dispossession over 61 years ago in an article in dissident voice:

Following Netanyahu’s much anticipated policy speech, politicians and journalists, like mindless automatons, have set about repeating Israel’s tired mantra that Palestinians should recognize Israel’s right to exist. Never mind the fact that the PLO and Palestine Authority have obliged this ludicrous call, not once, but four times. And never mind that Israel has always denied Palestine’s right to exist, not only as a nation, but as individuals seeking a dignified life in our own homeland.

Does anyone find it interesting that Israel is the only country on the planet going around with this incessant insistence that everyone recognize her right to exist? Given that we Palestinians are the ones who have been dispossessed, occupied, and oppressed, one might expect that we should be the ones making such a demand. But t hat isn’t the case. Why? Because our right to exist as a nation is self-evident. We are the natives of that land! We know we have that right. The world knows it. That’s why Palestine doesn’t need Israel or any other country to recognize her right to exist. We are the rightful heirs to that land and this can be verified legally, historically, culturally, and even genetically. And as such, the only true legitimacy Israel will ever have must come from us abdicating our inheritance, our history, and our culture to Israel. That’s why Israel insists we declare she had a right to take everything we ever had – from home and property, cemeteries, churches and mosques, to culture and history and hope.

Israel is a country that was founded by Europeans who came to Palestine, formed terrorist gangs who set about a systematic ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians from their homes on 78% of Historic Palestine in 1948. Those Palestinians and their descendants still languish in refugee camps. Israel attempted a similar scenario in 1967 when they conquered the remainder of Palestine, but Palestinians then couldn’t be dislodged from their homes as easily. This remains true, despite 40 years of Israel’s violent and oppressive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite home demolitions, land confiscations, rapacious building of Jewish-only colonies, endless checkpoints, targeted assassinations, bombings of schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and malls, closures and denials; despite the massive human rights abuses, the imprisonment and torture of men women and children alike, the separation of families, the daily humiliations; despite the massive killings – Palestinians remain. We still resist. We still live, love, and have babies. As much as we can, we rebuild what Israel destroys. Such are rights!

but perhaps there is a silver lining as the speech confirmed to the european union at least that netanyahu is a warmonger who is only interested in getting away with theft. chalk this one up to another victory in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement if it holds:

European Union foreign ministers welcomed on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditional endorsement of a future Palestinian state, but said it was not enough to raise EU-Israel ties to a higher level.

The ministers, who were due to meet Israel’s foreign minister later on Monday, questioned conditions cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for backing a Palestinian state and also his defence of Jewish settlements on occupied land.

UPDATED: watch this interesting discussion about the speech with abdel bari atwan (and two zionists) on kamahl santamaria’s “inside story” on al jazeera:

revolution of the full

last night i was talking to a dear friend in deheishe refugee camp who said “we have a revolution of the full.” he meant that because palestinians have full bellies, meat in their refrigerators there is little resistance here in the west bank. it is an interesting theory to consider: if people resist and fight for their rights more when they don’t have enough to eat than when they do. it is a theory that palestinians in lebanon have uttered many times before, though not quite like this. we had been talking about the day i spent in aqraba. as i wrote last week, there are some nabulsi friends of mine who were organizing to come to aqraba yesterday to join the people in friday prayer. we connected with someone in an najah’s student council and someone in a leftist group called tanweer who was coordinating with the village so we could go and support them. my friends and i wrote a bayan and sent it to the others and at our meeting last week it seemed as if we were all on the same page. they promised at least 100 people would go (which is a paltry sum, i know), but in any case it would be symbolic. here was our bayan:

الساكت عن حقه شيطان أخرس

جماهير شعبنا المناضل,
إخوتنا المتضامنين معنا ومن جميع أنحاء العالم :-
مع استمرار الحكومات الإسرائيلية وإمعانها في سياساتها العنصرية تجاه الشعب الفلسطيني من قتل , وتهجير , وهدم , منذ أكثر من قرن والتي أدت إلى تهجير ثلاثة أرباع شعبنا الى مخيمات اللجوء واستشهاد وجراح مئات الآلاف بن أبناء وطننا .
تأبى الآلة العسكرية الآ أن تثبت السياسة الصهيونية التوسعية على عذابات الشعب الفلسطيني المناضل .
تنفذ الحكومة الإسرائيلية مخططا خطير على عدة مراحل, يستهدف هذه المرة قرية عقربا , وتجبر العديد من المزارعين على الخروج من أراضيهم التي تشكل مرتكز حياتهم ,تصادر عددا من المنازل وتهدد الأهالي بهدم 20 بيتا بالأضافه لمسجد ومدرسة القرية وذلك لإقامة طريق يصل بين المستعمرات الإسرائيلية ( يتسهار , اتمار , جتيت ) .
يبدو أن الحكومة الإسرائيلية توهمت بأن الشعب الفلسطيني قد عدم مقومات النضال,يخشى مواجهة إجراءاتها العنصرية بحق الإنسان والأرض الفلسطينية , مراهنة على عدم اهتمام المواطنين الفلسطينيين بآلام إخوانهم في كل مكان.
ان واجبنا الأخلاقي والوطني والديني يدفعنا إلى تلبية نداء أهالي قرية عقربا ليس بقلوبنا فحسب بل بالمشاركة الفعلية بالدفاع عن الأراضي والبيوت الفلسطينية المهددة بالمصادرة أو الهدم.
و نحن إذ نظهر تضامننا مع إخوتنا فان هذا نابع من أننا على يقين بأن منزلنا قريتنا و حياتنا معرضة لخطر المد الاستيطاني في وقت ما.
ولهذا ندعوكم للمشاركة بفعاليات التضامن مع أهالي قرية عقربا
يوم الجمعة الموافق 27/3/2009.

مشاركتكم , إفشال للمخطط الإسرائيلي الاستعماري العنصري.

نقطة التجمع دوار مدينة نابلس
الساعة التاسعة صباحا للانطلاق نحو القرية المهددة .

ليكن العلم الفلسطيني الراية التي توحدنا والخيمة التي تضمنا جميعا .
إخوانكم لجنة التنسيق الفصائلي وكافة المؤسسات والفعاليات الوطنية في محافظة نابلس.

المرفقات : خارطة مبسطه للقرى المهددة ومراكز التهديد.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor

Dear sister and Brothers:- For more than a century the Israeli government has continued to persist in its racist policies against the Palestinian people which led to displacement more than three-quarters of our people to refugee camps, the creation of martyrs and wounded hundreds of thousands others. The Israeli government is carrying out a dangerous plan. This time it is aimed the village of Aqraba where many farmers are being forced from of their land, the essence of their livelihood. They are confiscating a number of homes by threatening to demolish 20 houses including the village school and mosque in order to establish a road between the Israeli colonies (Yitzhar, Itamar, Getit).The Israeli government seems to be thinking that the Palestinian people have lost their resources to struggle, afraid to face its racist actions against humanity, betting on the people’s lack of attention to the pain of their brothers. We all have a national, moral, fair and humanitarian duty to respond to the people of the village of Aqraba, by appealing not only with our hearts, but also with our active participation to defend the Palestinian land and homes. As we show our solidarity with our brothers, we know for sure that next time our village and our lives will be massively threatened by these colonies’ expansion. For this we invite you to participate in the activities of solidarity and to Struggle with the people of the village of Aqraba.

Friday, the 27th of March 2009.

Your participation is step towards demolishing the colonial racist plans of Israel.

Gathering point, Nablus City Center At 9am then to move on towards the threatened village.

Let the Palestinian flag unify and gathering us all.

Your brothers of the Coordination Committee of all factional and national actors and institutions in Nablus

Annexes: a simplified map of the threatened villages and the centers of that threat

nablussoutheasternvillages-mashariq-al-bitawi-villages-page-2731-copy

the bayan was altered by the people we met with at tanweer as follows:

دعوه خاصه

اتحاد لجان العمل الزراعي و مجلس بلدي عقربا واللجنه المحليه للمقاومه الشعبية ان الاحتلال الصهيوني لا يزال ممعنا في سياسته التوسعيه الاستيطانيه العنصريه والتي لا تعرف حدودا ولا احتراما لايه قواننين دوليه ومشاعر انسانيه.ان ما يحدث اليوم في القدس الحبيبه وفي باقي المواقع وفي بلدتنا عقربا حيث سيتم هدم المنازل وتدمير ابار المياه وقطع الكهرباء وتفريغ الارض من ساكنيها فاننا نتشرف بدعوتكم لحضور مهرجان الصمود و التصدي المزمع عقده في بلده عقربا يوم الجمعه الموافق الساعه الوتاحده والنصف بعد الظهر لمكان مدرسه عقربا الثانويه للبنين حضوركم دعما لاهلكم في عقربا ورفضا لسياسة الاحتلال العنصري

Private invitation

The Agricultural Work Committees Union Aqraba Village Council and Local Committee of the popular resistance

At this time the Israeli occupation continues to move forward with its racist settlement expansion policy, which knows no limits
without taking any consideration of the human right to be free and safe on their own land and without honoring or respecting international law. What is happening today in our beloved Jerusalem is also happening in many other Palestinian sites like our Aqraba village. The racist apartheid regime will start it is campaign by demolishing a number of houses and cut the people off from their electricity to unload the land of its inhabitants. For all that and more, we proudly invitie you to attend the repel festival
that will take place on the threatened land of Aqraba village.

On Friday 27-3-2009 ,1:30 PM
Aqraba Secondary School for Boys
Your attending is a support for people Aqraba and rejection of the occupation racist policy

in the end my friends and i–a small group of about 6–decided to go ahead with our plans to go in the morning to join the people in friday prayer in the mosque that is threatened to be destroyed. we arrived and it seemed that the people from the valley–the area that is under threat–were had come up to the center of the village on the mountain above to join this so-called “festival.” (the word–المهرجان–sounds strange when translated into english in this context and other contexts like the festival of al awda organization in baddawi refugee camp in lebanon.) when we arrived it also seemed that the israeli terrorists knew what was up. in fact, all morning huwara checkpoint in nablus had been closed down and no one was allowed to pass. we had to go through beitiba checkpoint anyway because i had the yellow license plates and did not want to waste time figuring out if we could cross huwara and then spend an hour driving all the way around the other side. but when we arrived we were told that in aqraba’s valley the israeli terrorist soldiers were waiting for us. we spent the morning meeting people in this organization–the union of agrucultural working committees–which seems to do good, non-political party affiliated work. it is helping palestinians to resist by helping them access their lands and continue to farm it even when it is confiscated, even if it exists on the other side of the apartheid wall. apparently, the palestinian authority does not help them at all and does not like their work because they think that this organization wants to steal some power (“they think we want a piece of their cake” was the exact expression used). this is, for me, a sign that they are a group that deserves respect and is doing important work.

aqraba village center
aqraba village center

it was still unclear what was happening but then they wanted us to move to the school for the “festival.” after that we would go down to the village. so we walked over to the school. i had thought that at least we would be having this “festival” in the school that is threatened, but it wasn’t. when we arrived there were hundreds of chairs and a sound system set up. my friend remarked that this costs a lot of money. and all of a sudden it became clear what this “festival” would consist of: men from the village giving speeches. we obliged because if this is what the wanted to do, we were there to support them. but at the same time my nabulsi friends wanted to meet with the people in the valley and see for themselves what was happening and see how they could support them. we wound up waiting for a few hours. even the nabulsi tv crew that came along wound up having to leave because the story was not these speeches, but the people down below. we did wind up meeting a couple of people while we were waiting, however, who came to talk to us. they brought documents with them showing us the papers, over the years, that have been used to steal the land from the people of aqraba. one of them agreed to come speak in nablus about this: our thinking was if we could not bring nabulsis to aqraba, we would bring people from aqraba to nablus. one of these men also commented that he has had absolutely no support from the palestinian authority.

one of the documents about aqraba's land rights & confiscation
one of the documents about aqraba's land rights & confiscation

i did not end up staying for the speeches because after 5 hours of waiting i had to leave. i got to see the scouts marching in with their drums and flags (and thank god they were all only palestinian flags–no political party flags in sight). and i heard the opening speech and someone reciting from the qur’an (though i found it odd that they read something about musa when they could have read a sura about the land, about olive trees, about something that is actually related to the context).

scouts at aqraba school
scouts at aqraba school

during the 5 hours of waiting we had many discussions with the people in the village. some people kept focusing on the microscopic issues without relating the situation in aqraba to the global problem of land theft in palestine. and i was still fuming over saeb erekat’s statement the other day about his commitment to a “two state solution.” but that so-called palestinian “two state solution,” which is 3 state catastrophe (gaza, 1948, west bank), basically will mean that an ever decreasing part of the west bank will be palestine. but the west bank is a small fraction of palestine. i keep thinking if the erekats fo palestine get their way eventually ramallah will be palestine and that is it. or maybe not even that: maybe the israeli terrorists will finally have their way and all palestinians will be pushed into jordan.

aqraba boys next to olive trees to be planted in the valley
aqraba boys next to olive trees to be planted in the valley

i had been asked to give a speech yesterday and if i had been able to stay i would have said only this: that we must liberate the land. most of the time my mantra is the right of return. and it still is. but that right of return is connected to the land. it is not only about my friends in lebanon who demand and deserve their right to return: and return to their villages NOT to ramallah. but because the israeli terrorist regime is in the business of constantly creating new refugees i think we need to imagine a mantra that is more encompassing. i was thinking about the use of a mantra, too, not in the spiritual sense, but in a secular one. people who pray using a mantra do it to cleanse their mind. if people here had a political mantra that was something along the lines of “liberate the land” then maybe they could get rid of these other words that dominate their thinking: words like occupation and checkpoints and two states. liberating the land has always been the goal of refugees. maybe if we use this mantra to change thinking and then behavior we can renew that commitment.

and i thought about this last night as friends and i watched some old palestinian liberation organization (plo) films that i have from lebanon. the films are striking because no one talks about ramallah or two states: they all talk about exactly this–liberating the land. it is striking to hear this and to see the resistance fighters–especially the one film that i love because it shows the fidayeen and the lajaeen as connected. we see the fidayeen reading letters from refugee children thanking them for fighting for their right of return and for liberating their land. this is a history, these are images that my friends here have not seen before. of course, part of the reason is that most such films were destroyed when israeli terrorists bombed the plo archives in beirut in 1982. but the few remaining films need to be distributed and shared here as it not only shows a history, it can be used to point people in the right direction in the future.

and to be sure: i don’t think that people need to be starving in order to fight for their rights. but i do think it is telling that resistance in gaza and in lebanon have been far different than here in the west bank. at the same time if we look to um al fahm this week we can see that one need not be hungry for anything other than their rights in order to resist. i don’t think this idea about the fact that people are not hungry tells the whole story, but i do think that this forced separation makes it impossible for palestinians to be connected, to learn from one another, and to share each other’s strategies for liberating the land.

liberate the land. liberate the land. see it works…it is a good mantra, sa7?

how about no voice!

here is a group i would love to silence. it is called “one voice.” i say: how about no voice! apparently it is old, but someone tweeted it today so i just learned about it. this group is quite skilled in masking who they really are about (this is the first clue that it is a hardcore zionist organization dedicated to preserving the racist, zionist, colonist, terrorist state). to start with the term “one voice” is a sort of euphemism, i think, for some sort of unified solution and masks their goal of continuing the zionist colonization of palestinian land. you can get some idea of who they are from their faq page:

How is OneVoice different from other ‘peace’ groups?

We are dedicated to conflict resolution. Israelis and Palestinians at a grassroots level want to find a resolution to this conflict and agree in broad terms on the parameters for that resolution. They do not necessarily like or love each other, but they recognize that to guarantee their own freedom, security, and viability, they have to assure the same for the other side. We are committed to mobilizing people behind this belief to effect real change. We are a grassroots, non-partisan, joint Israeli-Palestinian organization – not imposing ideas from above, but helping people on the ground to find and frame their own answers.

Why do you believe in a two-state solution?

OneVoice does not have its own views on how a peace agreement should look – we are simply codifying the views of the masses, and building off of the groundwork laid by past agreements and proposals, which are accepted by the majority of Israelis & Palestinians as the basis for negotiating a two-state solution. The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, according to all major polls, agree that a two-state solution is the only way to end this conflict.

Is it really a parallel movement? Are both sides really represented?

This is the most commonly asked question by people on both sides. Each side perceives that the other lacks a contingent of moderates willing to lead their people to compromise. Exactly the same amount of money goes into programming in Israel as it does in Palestine.

What many people are unable to see, which we uniquely can, is that whether on the left or on the right, Israeli or Palestinian, the overwhelming majority on each side would choose co-existence and mutual respect over co-extermination and mutual ruination. In spite of any apprehension or skepticism they share, they ultimately express a commitment and desire to participate with us.

Is this an attempt to impose a Western solution on a uniquely Middle Eastern problem?

The OneVoice solution is coming from the Middle East; it is not being imposed on anyone. Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis were involved in its inception and now more than 600,000 are members. OneVoice is shaped according to what people who live in the region believe will work. In this regard, we provide a neutral gateway towards consensus that is not linked to any existing entrenched power. OneVoice is a non-biased, grassroots platform that derives its legitimacy from popular participation.

first of all, the notion that this is some sort of grassroots movement that palestinians support is 100% hooey. sure, maybe they have a few collaborators on board (read: those who support american-zionist colonialism here), but that does not mean that the majority of palestinians support this initiative. i can tell you point blank: they do not. there is no clear position on the most important issues, like the right of return, for instance, and they treat palestinians here as if these are only people who live in the west bank–not in 1948 palestine, not in refugee camps in lebanon, jordan, syria, not in the diaspora. of course they cannot because if they were to do so they would have to deal with the right of return. and they do not.

but what is most telling, i think, is the page that lists the board members. the “honorary board” lists palestinians who normalize and who are completely discredited and disrespected among palestinians like saeb erakat. he is as bad as his cohorts on this list like zionnazis martin indyk and dennis ross. it also lists jim zogby who, like ziad asali who sits on the trustees advisory council, do a great job promoting the zionist agenda in the u.s. the rest of the names, one can safely assume, are there to do the zionists’ bidding to ensure that palestinian refugees never have the right of return and that their bantustan situation will continue to increase. make no mistake about it: if indyk and ross are on board we can expect a disastrous outcome for palestinians. period.

then you look at their “parners” page you will notice that they have all sorts of organizations that masquerade as “neutral,” but are really fronts for zionist propaganda–organizations like middle east web as well as arab american organizations that are complicit with the zionist agenda in the u.s. like american task force on palestine. and, perhaps, the real clue is in the organizations that promote normalization (read: force palestinians to be as submissive as possible in their own oppression so zionists can steal more land and murder more palestinians); these groups include: the geneva initiative and ipcri.

how these groups got on the website is another question–whether they support its work or not, for instance. apparently, when the organization began they just put various groups on the website without asking for permission first. they did this with the middle east children’s alliance (meca), and as soon as people at meca found out and requested that they remove their name and logo. apparently, they did not understand that meant meca was not interested in their so-called “peace” initiative and someone at this “one voice” group asked them to send out some email to meca’s list. when they said no, meca got this email, which i quote with permission:

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for your elaborated answer. I find it hard to understand why would you choose not to support an organization that calls for a non violent solution based on 2 states and rapid negotiations, but I guess it is your choice.

PS. Children not living under occupation are also bedwetting and have nightmares, whether it is because of missiles flying over their heads and on their houses for the last 7 years or because of suicide bombers and terrorism. Life and the reality in the Middle east is not as one sided as you portray. The apartheid analogy is nothing more then a propaganda tool, that has nothing to do with reality, and is used to take advantage of peace-seeking people, with historical guilt, by demonizing Israel and the Israelis. What you see in the media is only the bloody stories that sell. They are not always true, and more importantly they are far from being all the story or even a big part of it.

Yours,
Sefi Kedmi

typical zionist answer: the think that the bias is against the them. yet another way of deflecting attention from the reality of their daily thieving and murderous colonial project. ben white had an excellent critique of this pseudo-“peace” initiative in the guardian two years ago, which is worth reading:

We’ve had Live 8 and Live Earth, and this week, albeit on a smaller scale, we almost had One Million Voices. Organised by the OneVoice group, the declared aim was to bring together Palestinians and Israelis in simultaneous events in Tel Aviv, Jericho, London, Washington and Ottawa to voice support for the “moderates” and call for a negotiated two-state solution.

The plans fell through, amid bitter claim and counter-claim, as artists lined up for the Jericho event cancelled, and the Tel Aviv concert followed suit. This followed grassroots pressure by Palestinians who objected to what they see as yet another attempt to promote a false peace that fails to address the structural injustices driving the conflict.

Indeed, despite the peace rhetoric – and the claim that they represent a unique popular call – OneVoice’s approach suffers from the same flaws that have bedevilled official “peace” efforts from Oslo to the Quartet. Such errors were amply demonstrated in Seth Freedman’s column, which implied that the main obstacle to peace is the “extremism” that exists on both sides.

This interpretation of the situation in Palestine/Israel is only possible through a heavy airbrushing of history and a fundamental misreading of the present. Strikingly, the Tel Aviv concert was scheduled to take place in Hayarkon Park – the same location where, almost 60 years ago, the Palestinian village of Jarisha was wiped off the map by Jewish armed forces.

Its residents shared the same fate as almost 800,000 other Palestinians, expelled from what became Israel and prevented to this day from returning home, their land confiscated. Yet official OneVoice material gives the impression that the conflict only began 40 years ago, when Israel occupied the rest of Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem).

Condemning the “extremist minority” of both sides sounds laudable. Of course, “both sides” use violence, and of course, there is hatred and religious extremism among both Palestinians and Israelis. The crucial point, however, is that Israel has all the power. Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, not the other way round. Palestinian cities are besieged by a modern, hi-tech Israeli army and subjected to closure, raids and bombardment – not the other way round.

Zionist colonisation is not the preserve of a fanatical fringe in Israel – it is fundamental to the state’s identity and practice. As Martin Luther King said: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Since Israel continues to show no intention of relinquishing its role as colonial overlord, it’s no good to condemn “both sides”, as if there is equality between occupier and occupied.

Unsurprisingly, those with intimate firsthand experience of this apartheid are under no illusions about the usefulness of toothless “peace processes”. Earlier this week, the UN human rights envoy for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, John Dugard, condemned the Quartet for failing to safeguard Palestinian rights. The BBC’s Tim Franks noted that many diplomats and officials based in the region “would agree with Mr Dugard’s political analysis” yet refrain from agreeing publicly.

The language of moderation is all the rage, from OneVoice to Condoleezza Rice, from the aborted peace concerts to the forthcoming November peace conference. It’s a seductive dichotomy; on the one side are those who light the flame of peace, who strive for a “mass awakening” to the “forces of light and friendship and love”. On the other side are the extremists who threaten, smear and mislead; they are wickedly intransigent – they stifle, snuff out hope and burn flags.

But what is a “moderate”? In recent times, “moderate” has been applied to some rather unlikely characters in the Middle East. For the US, UK and Israeli governments, these include states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. None of these permit much genuine freedom of expression; all of them oppress opposition movements. In fact, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

It seems “moderation” has nothing to do with whether you refrain from the torture of political activists or the flogging of “deviants”, and everything to do with your obedience to US policies and Israeli interests. That is what unites the Saudi royals, the Egyptian president and the Jordanian king.

Meanwhile, groups like ISM, and Another Voice are condemned by Freedman and OneVoice as “extremists” out to “eradicate the other side”, and accused of making unnamed and unspecified threats. Yet these groups are committed to the defence of human rights and international law, and are made up of tireless Israelis, Palestinians and internationals. Their categorisation as “extremists” then, is actually a reflection of their refusal to accept sugar-coated apartheid or well-meaning platitudes that serve the status quo.

It may be an uncomfortable truth, but peace for both peoples comes no closer if the fundamental power disparity between Israel and the stateless, occupied and dispossessed Palestinians is obscured. Confronting the vested interests that perpetuate Palestine’s conquest may not win you awards from Jordanian monarchs or praise from the US state department; but it ultimately brings you a lot closer to peace.

as for kedmi thinking that apartheid does not apply, i think we would do well to look at omar barghouti’s recent article on the subject, which i quote from, in part, below:

Israel’s repressive and racist policies in the 1967-occupied Palestinian territory have been recognized as constituting apartheid by a host of opinion leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US president, Jimmy Carter, and former UN Special Rapporteur for human rights, Prof. John Dugard, among others. In the same vein, former Israeli Attorney General, Michael Ben-Yair, wrote in a 2002 article in Ha’aretz describing Israel’s regime in the OPT, “We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. … In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories….” [36]

However, the applicability of the crime of apartheid as defined in UN conventions to Israel itself has, for the most part, been either inadvertently glossed over or intentionally ignored as an explosive subject that has every potential to invite the vengeful wrath of powerful pro-Israel lobbies. Regardless, one cannot but examine the facts and analyze Israel’s system of governance accordingly.

The strongest argument given by — sometimes well-meaning — experts who dismiss the apartheid label for Israel is that the analogy between Israel and South Africa is not exact and, in many respects, Israel’s oppression is even more severe, demanding a different designation altogether. The problem with this argument is that it assumes, quite incorrectly, that apartheid is a South African trademark and, therefore, that every regime accused of practicing apartheid must be shown to be identical to South Africa’s apartheid regime of yesteryear. Apartheid, however, although brought to world attention and given its name by the racist regime in South Africa, has been recognized by the UN for decades as a generalized crime with a universal definition.

The Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1976 defines apartheid [37] as “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa” which have “the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them, in particular by means such as segregation, expropriation of land, and denial of the right to leave and return to their country, the right to a nationality and the right to freedom of movement and residence” (Article II). The similarity to South Africa is cited not as a condition but in recognition of its status as a historic precedent.

As a recent in-depth strategic position paper [38] published by the Palestinian BDS National Committee states, Israel’s origins, laws and policies against the Palestinian people fit to a large extent the definition of apartheid. The conceptual origins of Israel’s unique form of apartheid are found in Zionism, a racist European ideology that was adopted by the dominant stream of the Zionist movement (World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency, Jewish National Fund, among others) in order to justify and recruit political support for its colonial project of establishing an exclusive Jewish state in historic Palestine. Political Zionists dismissed the indigenous population of Palestine as non-existent in the famous Zionist slogan of “a land without a people;” making this a self-fulfilling prophecy, Zionist forces forcibly displaced 750,000-900,000 Palestinians from their homeland and destroyed hundreds of the depopulated Palestinian villages in an operation termed “cleaning the landscape” that lasted until 1960. [39]

Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people amounts to apartheid precisely because it displays many of the main features of the crime as defined by international law:

1. Racial discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian people who became citizens of the State of Israel was formalized and institutionalized through the creation by law of a “Jewish nationality”, which is distinct from Israeli citizenship. No “Israeli” nationality exists in Israel, and the Supreme Court has persistently refused to recognize one as it would end the system of Jewish supremacy in Israel. The 1950 Law of Return entitles all Jews — and only Jews — to the rights of nationals, namely the right to enter “Eretz Yisrael” (Israel and the OPT) and immediately enjoy full legal and political rights. “Jewish nationality” under the Law of Return is extraterritorial in contravention of international public law norms pertaining to nationality. It includes Jewish citizens of other countries, irrespective of whether they wish to be part of the collective of “Jewish nationals,” and excludes “non-Jews” (i.e., Palestinians) from nationality rights in Israel.

2. The 1952 Citizenship Law [40] has created a discriminatory two-tier legal system whereby Jews hold nationality and citizenship, while the remaining indigenous Palestinian citizens hold only citizenship. [41] Under Israeli law the status of Jewish nationality is accompanied with first-class rights and benefits which are not granted to Palestinian citizens.

3. The Israeli Status Law of 1952 authorizes the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries, including the Jewish National Fund, to control most of the land in Israel, for the exclusive benefit of Jews. In 1998, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, CESCR, expressed [42] grave concern about this law and stated that large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to these agencies constitute an institutionalized form of discrimination, because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties to non-Jewish citizens of the State.

4. Return of Palestinian refugees and Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs), as required by international law, has been prevented by means of force and legislation on racist grounds. Simply because they are not Jews, Palestinian refugees were excluded from entitlement to citizenship in the State of Israel under the 1952 Citizenship Law. They were “denationalized” and turned into stateless refugees in violation of the law of state succession. Their land and other property were confiscated by the State. The approximately 150,000 Palestinians who remained in Israel after the 1948 Nakba were placed under a military regime (1948 – 1966) similar to the regime currently in place in the OPT.

For decades, racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel in every vital aspect of life has been the norm. From land ownership to education to health to jobs to housing, the indigenous Palestinians have been denied equality by the State’s laws and policies. For instance, they are not allowed, to buy or rent land in about 93% of the state lands of Israel. [43] To this date, polls consistently show overwhelming majorities of Israeli Jews standing in opposition to full equality with the indigenous Palestinians in the state. [44] So the fact those Palestinians can vote, unlike their black African counterpart under South African apartheid, becomes almost a formality, a tokenism of sorts, clearly designed to project a deceptive image of democracy and fend off well-justified accusations of apartheid. [45]

Even in cancer research [46], Israeli apartheid is strongly present. In June 2001, the Health Ministry published a map of the geographical distribution of malignant diseases in Israel during the years 1984-1999. The report did not include a single Palestinian community in Israel, with the exception of Rahat, ostensibly due to “budgetary problems.” This research is particularly important because, in Israel, only when a correlation is shown between the presence of polluting sites and the incidence of malignant disease is it possible to prevent installation of new hazards, or demand tighter environmental standards. By intentionally omitting Palestinian towns in its extensive cancer mapping, the Health Ministry has indirectly given a green light to polluters to relocate to Palestinian towns inside Israel — not to mention in the OPT. The results of such health apartheid are ominous. In the past three decades the rate of malignant diseases in the Palestinian population in Israel has risen 3 to 4 times higher than among the Jewish population. A spokesperson for the Israeli Center against Racism commented, “The report has produced two different groups. One, an overprivileged group, whose lives are dear to the state and to the Health Ministry; a second, whose lives are of no importance to the state.”

This discrimination must be seen in the wider context of Israel’s perception of Palestinians by leading Israeli politicians, intellectuals, academics and mass media outlets as a “demographic threat” that needs to be dealt with resolutely; thus the rise of openly fascist parties in the recent parliamentary elections. Echoing a popular view in Israel, a ranking academic, Major General (reserve) Shlomo Gazit from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, preaches: “Democracy has to be subordinated to demography.”[47] And now, the fanatic right Israeli leader, Avigdor Lieberman, and his supporters are saying democracy has to be subordinated to loyalty to Jewish supremacy.

The complicity of Western governments in all this horrific violation of international law and basic human rights has led many analysts to view the role of the West as profoundly flawed, both morally and legally. The comprehensive impunity enjoyed by Israel has allowed it to project itself and to act as an uncontrollable “mad dog” — an image advocated by Moshe Dayan decades ago and endorsed most recently by Israeli military historian, Martin Van Creveld [48] — in an attempt to make the Palestinians submit to its colonial will, to accept slavery as fate.

This criminal impunity and categorical denial of rights, more than anything else, were the main motivation behind the Palestinian BDS campaign.

Since 9 July 2005, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions have been advocated by virtually the entire Palestinian civil society everywhere as an effective form of solidarity that has a real potential to bring about an end to Western complicity with Israel and, therefore, to Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid. During and ever since Israel’s criminal war on Gaza, Palestinian civil society has stood more united than ever in urging people of conscience all over the world to hold Israel accountable for its crimes by treating it as South Africa was under apartheid rule. In response, unions, academic groups, faith-based organizations, political parties, social movements and others have adopted creative, context-sensitive and sustainable BDS campaigns, from South Africa to Norway, from Australia to Canada, from Britain to Venezuela, and even from the podium of the President of the UN General Assembly. [49]

Israel’s state terrorism in Gaza, enabled by virtually unlimited support from the US and Western governments in general, was a key catalyst in spreading and deepening BDS around the world, prompting advocates of Palestinian rights to feel that our South Africa moment has finally arrived. Israel is now widely perceived, at a grassroots level, as an international pariah that commits war crimes with impunity and that needs to be held accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights.

for readers who are too racist to take the word of a palestinian, how about a jewish south african man who lived through apartheid in south africa and who has witnessed it in palestine as well? ronnie kasrils also published a piece this week comparing the two regimes:

It is by no means difficult to recognize from afar, as Verwoerd had been able to do, that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. Verwoerd’s successor, Balthazar John Vorster visited Israel after the 1973 October War, when Egypt in a rare victory regained the Suez Canal and Sinai from Israel. After that Israel and South Africa were virtually twinned as military allies for Pretoria helped supply Israel militarily in the immediacy of its 1973 setback and Israel came to support apartheid South Africa at the height of sanctions with weaponry and technology – from naval ships and the conversion of supersonic fighter planes to assistance in building six nuclear bombs and the creation of an arms industry.

For the liberation movements of southern Africa, Israel and apartheid South Africa represented a racist, colonial axis. It was noted that people like Vorster had been Nazi sympathizers, interned during World War II – yet feted as heroes in Israel and incidentally never again referred to by South African Zionists as an anti-Semite!. This did not surprise those that came to understand the true racist nature and character of Zionist Israel.

Time and space does not allow further elaboration, but it is instructive to add that in its conduct and methods of repression, Israel came to resemble more and more apartheid South Africa at its zenith – even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents, collective punishment and the aggression against neighboring states.

Certainly we South Africans can identify the pathological cause, fuelling the hate, of Israel’s political-military elite and public in general. Neither is this difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenseless civilians – women, children, the elderly amongst them. In fact was this not the pathological racist ideology that fuelled Hitler’s war lust and implementation of the Holocaust?

I will state clearly, without exaggeration, that any South African, whether involved in the freedom struggle, or motivated by basic human decency, who visits the Occupied Palestinian Territories are shocked to the core at the situation they encounter and agree with Archbishop Tutu’s comment that what the Palestinians are experiencing is far worse than what happened in South Africa, where the Sharpeville massacre of 69 civilians in 1960 became international symbol of apartheid cruelty.

for those of you who want to know what palestinians want and what serves their interests you can check out these websites:

one state democratic group

and

global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement

PS: i meant to post this last night but it slipped my mind. the reason this old organization is on my mind now is because it is in the news:

Sir Paul McCartney officially joined the International Board of Advisors of the OneVoice movement, a grassroots organization aiming at broadcasting the views of what it calls the “overwhelming majority” of moderates in both Israel and Palestine.

The Board of Directors already includes actors Danny DeVito and Jason Alexander, as well as international dignitaries and political figures like Dennis Ross.

McCartney met with OneVoice Israel Chairwoman Irit Admoni Perlman during his visit to the region in September and was later asked to join the board, according to the statement.

“They told me that the vast majority of people in both societies are moderates and simply want a better life for their families and themselves,” a statement from the organization quoted McCartney as saying, “This gave me great hope that, one day, people like them will help to bring about a peaceful resolution to the troubles in the area. I am, therefore, happy to lend my support in this way to the cause of peace.”

notice that not only did mccartney ignore the boycott and come to the israeli terrorist state, but he also ONLY met with an israeli terrorist, not any palestinians. but his group represents both sides–as if there can be two sides when you have the colonizer and the colonized.