What Some Indians Learn about the Middle East in their Textbook

One of the main homegrown board exams in India is the CISCE (Council for the India School Certificate Exams). The eleventh and twelfth standard years require students to study both Indian and global history. While the syllabus doesn’t stipulate which textbook teachers should adopt, many high schools in India seem to use Norman Lowe’s Mastering Modern World History. What the syllabus does delineate is the particular periods or events in history that students should cover in these grades. Of course, how any given teacher chooses to approach the textbook or the syllabus will vary.

Over the course of two years, students learn about the following main events:

1. World War One (with some emphasis on colonialism and imperialism)

2. The Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal

3. The Development of Communism (USSR and China)

4. Japan’s Parliamentary Democracy

5. Fascism and Nazism

6. The Collapse of International Order

7. World War Two (which covers some theatres of war most students don’t learn about, like battles between the Allies and Axis in Egypt, but much of the war’s relationship to Indians and Indian soldiers, like Churchill’s man-made famine, is covered in Indian history not in the world history section)

8. Post World War Two and the Cold War

9. The Middle East

It is this last section that I will explore here as there are some serious problems with Lowe’s text (at least the third edition, published in 1997, which is the one I’ve read) as it attempts to cover West Asia. Although it should be said that the absence of lessons about Africa and Asia more generally–especially given India’s relationship to these places, for example forced migration and labour under the British that affected relations between East Africans and Indians–are troubling. One would hope that a post-independence syllabus would explore not focus so much on imperial and neocolonial powers and their history to the exclusion of the global south. To know further details, follow links embedded in the lines below.

As for the Middle East the ISC syllabus detains what students should know after studying this unit:

(i) Post War conflict in Palestine after World War I, till the formation of the state of Israel. A brief background of Arab nationalism and Zionism in the late 19th century. Impact of World War I: the conflicting promises made to the Arabs, the Jews (Balfour Declaration) and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. All these need to be understood clearly. A general outline of events from 1919 to the Arab Revolt of the late 1930s (the increased immigration of Jews under the mandate and the resultant conflict). The impact of World War II and the intensification of the conflict against Britain’s decision to withdraw – the UNO’s plan. Creation of Israel and the War of Liberation (a chronological account should suffice here).

(ii) The Arab-Israeli Wars from 1948 to Camp David Accord. The following conflicts should be studied – (1948-1949), the Suez Crisis (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), Sadat and the Camp David Accord (1979). For each of these events, the causes and results should be done in some detail. Events to be done very briefly.

(iii) The war in Lebanon. A general account of the war.

There are some distinct problems with the language in this description, which appears to give a so-called balanced view between the British-Zionist colonial project and the indigenous Arab population of the region. Yet the language betrays this illusion by calling the nakba (the catastrophe that befell Palestinians when they were expelled from their land and massacred by Zionist forces) “the war of Liberation”. Additionally, the 1973 war is identified as “the Yom Kippur War”, even though a neutral party would call it the October War (it is also known as the Ramadan War).

It is also striking to see such language given the aims for the course that the syllabus states:

5. To develop the capacity to read historical views in the light of new evidence or new interpretation of evidence.

7. To encourage diminution of ethnocentric prejudices and to develop a more international approach to world history.

8. To develop the ability to express views and arguments clearly using correct terminology of the subject.

9. To familiarise candidates with various types of historical evidence and to provide some awareness of the problems involved in evaluating different kinds of source materials.

These goals are important to keep in mind as one reads through and evaluates Lowe’s textbook. The chapter in his book on the Middle East is called “Conflict in the Middle East”, already setting up a particular way of viewing the region as if fighting of some kind or the other is intrinsic to the place.  He begins by defining the geographical region and the states it includes before explaining Israel’s placement in the region:

The Middle East also contains the small Jewish state of Israel which was set up by the United Nations in 1948 in Palestine. The creation of Israel in Palestine, an area belonging to the Palestinian Arabs, outraged Arab opinion throughout the world…. (221)

Israel is the only state that gets the adjective “small” to describe it even though states like Lebanon are smaller. This is one of the oldest Zionist tactics–to emphasise the size of Israel in order to suggest its vulnerability.

The introduction continues by continuing to highlight Arab sentiments about the Jewish state:

The Arab states refused to recognize Israel as a legal state and they vowed to destroy it. Although there were four short wars between Israel and the various Arab states (1948-9, 1956, 1967 and 1973), Arab attacks failed, and Israel survived. The Arab desire to destroy Israel tended for much of the time to overshadow all other concerns. (221)

This a-contextual summary of the region spends a great deal of energy characterising Arab people as if there are no distinctions among the various peoples and cultures or the regimes governing them (they are all stubborn: “refused”; violent: “destroy”). The book treats all “wars” the same even though the nakba in 1948 was certainly not one and in 1956 and 1967 Israel instigated those wars.

Lowe feigns neutrality by illustrating that viewing history is subjective, without, of course, revealing his point of view:

Interpretations of the Middle East situation vary depending on whose viewpoint one looks at. For example, many British politicians and journalists regarded Colonel Nasser (Egyptian leader 1954-1970) as some kind of dangerous fanatic who was almost as bad as Hitler. On the other hand, most Arabs thought he was a hero, the symbol of the Arab people’s move towards unity and freedom.

To be sure, nowhere in the book does Lowe make a similar statement about Winston Churchill. Indeed, elsewhere in the book, he never suggests that Churchill is anything other than a statesman valiantly fighting the Axis powers. By omitting anything about his role in creating and exacerbating the Bengal famine, Lowe secures Churchill’s position in a Eurocentric version of history. Meanwhile, the mere suggestion of Nasser’s comparison to Hitler helps readers, if reading chronologically will have just finished learning about World War Two, to equate the two leaders. Moreover, throughout the book Lowe never refers to Nasser as President. He only ever calls him “Colonel”, as if to suggest he was a military dictator. Of course, nowhere in the book does Lowe intimate that one might have a different point of view about Palestine or Israel.

In the next section of the book Lowe begins with a factual error, one that conveniently feeds into a Zionist tactic of making the world seem as if there is a battle between Jews and Muslims:

They all speak the Arabic language, they are all Muslims (followers of the religion known as Islam, except for about half the population of Lebanon who are Christian and most of them wanted to see the destruction of Israel so that the Palestinian Arabs could have back the land which they feel is rightfully theirs. (223)

First of all, Arabs belong to several religious groups although most are Muslim (Sunni and Shi’a) and Christian. But there are also Druze, Baha’i, Alawis, and Jews. By Jews I mean Arab Jews who have always lived in the Arab world (as opposed to the European Zionists who worked with the British to colonise Palestinian land). And while it is probably true that most Arabs wanted to see Palestinians rightfully returned to the land from which they were forcibly expelled, without understanding that there was a planned expulsion (known as Plan Dalet), to remove the Palestinians by destroying their villages and massacring innocent civilians, one would likely form a negative opinion about Arab people. It would be like saying that freedom fighters in India–whether Vinayak Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, or Mohandas Gandhi–wanted to destroy the British without ever explaining what the British had subjected Indian people to through the course of their empire. Finally, the use of the word “feel” in the last sentence above–one that Lowe uses quite a bit to describe goals of Arab people, but not Israelis–suggests that it’s merely an emotional attachment to their land or homes and not a legal right. He fails to mention the fact that many Palestinians retain title deeds (some of which are also in Turkey in various archives) to their land and homes. Ironically, it is the Zionist Jews who “feel” that Palestine belongs to them–not the other way around.

When Lowe describes what he calls “interference in the Middle East by other countries”, he leaves quite a bit out, including the Sykes-Picot agreement:

Britain and France had been involved in the Middle East for many years. Britain ruled Egypt from 1882 (when British troops invaded it) until 1922 when the country was given semi-independence under its own king. However, British troops still remained in Egypt and the Egyptians had to continue doing what Britain wanted. By the Versailles Settlement at the end of the First World War, Britain and France were given large areas of the Middle East taken from the defeated Turks, to look after as mandates…Although Britain gave independence to Iraq (1932) and to Jordan (1946), both remained pro-British. France gave independence to Syria and Lebanon (1945) but hoped to maintain some influence in the Middle East. (223)

Once again, it is through his diction that Lowe misleads readers. He accurately states that Britain “invaded” Egypt, but it’s an aside–as if it is not as important as the fact of them ruling that country. It also doesn’t attribute any responsibility to France or Britain for their unilateral take over of land and makes it seem like it’s benign–they “look after” these countries and “gave” them independence. The fact that some Arab countries maintain strong relations with Britain or France is not contextualised either and thus it merely gives credence to the illusion that Britain and France was just a kind, if paternalistic, overseer, taking care of things until they were capable of independence. In reality, both countries partitioned the region and divvied it up between themselves, with careful attention paid to borders that would likely cause future problems so that they could maintain their control. This is especially ironic given U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s speech about nations having the right to self determination just a short time before carving up West Asia. Moreover, this partition ignored promises the British made to Arabs in the region who fought on behalf of the British during World War One in exchange for help creating their own independent states. Instead, the British installed puppets who could be relied upon to uphold British policy in the region.

A theme perpetuated throughout the chapter is that Arabs lacked unity, but it never says why because that would implicate the British and French colonial powers for using divide and rule tactics to maintain that instability. Similarly, the book continues with its negative characterisation of Arab states by saying:

Most of the Arab states had nationalist governments which bitterly resented Western influence. one by one, governments which were thought to be too pro-West were swept away and replaced by regimes which wanted to be non-aligned; this meant being free to act independently of both East (communist bloc) and West. (224).

The desire to be nationalistic and also not under the thumb of another nation should make sense to most Indians; and of course India occupied a similar position during this same period. To make sure readers don’t think this is a positive trait in a state, the tone here is quite negative. One by one Lowe moves on to illustrate how such regimes fell starting with Egypt:

At the end of the Second World War, British troops stayed on in the canal zone (the area around the Suez Canal). This was to enable Britain to control the canal, in which over half the shares owned by the British and French. (224)

Lowe continues explaining how army officers, led by Gamal Abd el Nasser, nationalised the Suez Canal for the Egyptian people. But his language, Egypt “seized power”, makes it seem as if that power didn’t belong to them. Nowhere is any mention of the British desire to create or maintain this canal because of its colonial holdings around the globe, which were also quickly decolonising–especially across Africa as many people across the continent were inspired by Nasser.

For Jordan, Lowe offers little to no context for King Abdullah’s overthrow:

King Abdullah had been given his throne by the British in 1946. He was assassinated in 1951 by nationalists who felt that he was too much under Britain’s thumb. (225)

This point about King Abdullah being “given” the throne by the British certainly suggests that as a result he would be subjected to British control. Indeed, Abdullah, who was killed in Palestine at the al-Aqsa mosque, was killed because he was a puppet of the British.

With Iran, the only non Arab state discussed in this chapter, much more detail is provided, although not much context and serious key facts are left out:

The Western-educated Shah (ruler) of Iran, Reza Pahlevi, resisted the Russians and signed a defence treaty with the USA (1950); they provided him with economic and military aid, including tanks and jet fighters. The Americans saw the situation as part of the Cold War–Iran was yet another front on which the communists must be prevented from advancing. However, there was a strong nationalist movement in Iran which resented all foreign influence. This soon began to turn against the USA and against Britain too. This was because Britain held a majority of the shares int he Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and its refinery at Abadan. it was widely felt that the British were taking too much of the profits, and in 1951 the Premier of Iran, Dr. Mussadiq, nationalized the company (took it under control of the Iranian government). However, most of the world, encouraged by Britain, boycotted Iran’s oil exports and Mussadiq was forced to resign. (225)

Reza Shah Pahlevi ran a dictatorship that was financially supported by the U.S. Meanwhile Britain controlled the money from Iran’s primary natural resource: oil. What upset Britain, at first, was the fact that the people of Iran democratically elected Mossadegh and then he proceeded to nationalise Iranian oil for the Iranian people. Britain was incensed by this and enlisted the help of the U.S. to overthrow Mossadegh. Kermit Roosevelt, for the CIA, worked tirelessly to make that happen in the first CIA coup. Language like Mossadegh was “forced to resign” leaves out quite a crucial detail, such as the U.S. role in making that happen. Likewise, as with Egypt’s Suez Canal, Lowe paints a picture as if the canal and the oil fields somehow rightly belong to Britain because they invested money in it. The reimposition of the Shah, furthermore, led to more American control over Iran, which ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Not unsurprisingly, Mossadegh’s actions ultimately inspired Nasser in Egypt and Nasser would also be subjected to a violent reaction from Britain in the form of a war in 1956.

When it comes to narrating the history of Israel, Lowe fails yet again as all he seems to be able to offer is a biblical one:

The origin of the problem went back almost 2000 years to the year AD 71, when most of the Jews were driven out of Palestine, which was then their homeland, by the Romans. (226)

The problem with this assertion is that the Romans never exiled any population. This is a Zionist myth, not a historical fact. Regardless, even if one tends to view the Bible as a history textbook, for a people absent for such a long time to violently uproot the people living in that land is unconscionable. Just imagine how Indians would feel if people who fled during the partition decided to come back and reclaim their homes and land. It hasn’t been even a century, and yet I imagine that people in India would not be willing to give up their homes and land.

Lowe jumps, as most Zionists do in their historical accounts, from AD 71 to 1897 when Theodor Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement. He explains a narrow context for its creation:

Zionists were people who believed that Jews ought to be able to go back to Palestine and have what they called “a national homeland”; in other words, a Jewish state. Jews had recently suffered persecution in Russia, France, and Germany, and a Jewish state would provide a safe refuge for jews from all over the world. The problem was that Palestine was inhabited by Arabs, who were alarmed at the prospect of losing their land to the Jews. (226)

Here a combination of misinformation and obfuscation through language makes this paragraph above sound quite reasonable. But there are problems. First, throughout this chapter, Lowe uses the word Arab to refer to Palestinians, something Zionists do because it makes it seem like, according to their narrative, that they have a number of places to live and the Jews have nowhere, so why not just give up their homeland for the European and Russian Jews. Second, Palestinians didn’t have a problem with their land being taken over because the people doing it were Jews; indeed there were many Palestinian Jews at that time residing in Palestine. They had a problem that anyone would take over their homeland. Lowe also fails to mention the depths to which Herzl’s endeavour was a colonial one. Both his admiration for Cecil Rhodes and his desire to make a Jewish homeland in Uganda or Argentina (because they were both controled by the British), makes this point clear. Finally, the desire for a specifically Jewish state, in a country where there were several religious groups living side-by-side, also reveals the problem of this project. However, Lowe’s reminder of oppression Jews faced at the hands of Europeans and Russians seems to somehow rationalise this (in the same way British Puritans who colonised North America rationalise their theft of indigenous land).

Lowe continues his attempt at explaining the history of Israel by distorting it further:

The British hoped to persuade Jews and Arabs to live together peacefully in the same state; they failed to understand the deep religious gulf between the two. Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany after 1933 caused a flood of refugees, and by 1940 about half the population of Palestine was Jewish. In 1937 the British Peel Commission proposed dividing Palestine into two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish, but the Arabs rejected the idea. (226)

Characterising the problem in Palestine as a religious one is a typical Zionist strategy, as I noted above. Further, Lowe continues to juxtapose problems European or Ashkenazi Jews experienced in Europe with Arabs, who had nothing to do with it. It is true that many Jewish people became refugees who sought a new home. But Lowe fails to tell his readers that both the U.S. and Britain closed its doors on them, refusing to allow them to even temporarily settle on their soil. This was a part of empire’s strategy to push them into Palestine so the West could have a foothold in the region. At the time this also was important for Britain so it could secure its hold over the Suez Canal, and thus an easier transportation route to India. Also left out of this is the fact that for four years prior to and following the Peel Commission, Palestinians led one of the longest resistance campaigns in history–which included work stoppage, striking, and a host of innovative activities to stop British and Zionist colonisation of their land. Yes, when a partition plan was presented to Palestinians, they rejected it. Is there a group of people in the world who wouldn’t fight to keep their land if they had the choice? (For maps indicating how much Palestinians were being asked to give up at this stage see here, here, and here.)

To his credit, Lowe does reveal that there was a Zionist terrorist campaign targeting Palestinians and British alike once the British, under pressure from the increasing conflict, limited the Jewish immigration numbers:

The Jews, after all that their race had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, were determined to fight for their “national home”. They began a terrorist campaign against both Arabs and British; one of the most spectacular incidents was the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which the British were using as their headquarters; 91 people were killed and many more injured. (226)

The precursor to this admission of Zionist terrorism–although what is not mentioned is the targeting of Palestinians, which happened exerted a far greater toll–is the mention of Jews as a “race.” Aside from the fact that race is a social construct, there is no ethnically or genealogically unique group of Jews. As with other monotheisms, Jews proselytised, thus creating Jews from various cultural backgrounds. As for Zionist terrorism, it was extensive and far reaching all dictated by a plan to remove Palestinians from Palestine.

The final fib Lowe tells about the creation of Israel is the so-called war that ensued after Israel declared its independence:

In May 1948 Ben Gurion declared the independence of the new state of Israel. It was immediately attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. (227)

The sentences above move beyond mythology and into the realm of fantasy, as many historians have illustrated over the last couple of decades. First of all, the Zionist Plan Dalet, to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous population had already been well under way for a few years prior to 1948. Many Zionists were part of the British army and received military training and had greater access to sophisticated weapons. The Palestinians, as well as the Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Iraqis barely had an army at all. The ration was about 50,000 Zionist soldiers to 10,000 Palestinians (plus a moderate number of Arab irregulars–not any state army). What the repetition of this myth does, is perpetuate the biblically-rooted fantasy that Israel is a tiny David surrounded by a sea of Goliaths.

In spite of these facts, Lowe amplifies his Zionist sense that it was some kind of extraordinary feat that Israel won the so-called war:

Most people expected the Arabs to win easily, but against seemingly overwhelming odds, the Israelis defeated them and even captured more of Palestine than the UN partition had given them. (227)

He gives only a cursory and vague nod to the Zionist-created Palestinian refugee problem:

After some Jews had slaughtered the entire population of an Arab village in Israel, nearly a million Arabs fled into Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where they had to live in miserable refugee camps. Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. The USA, Britain and France guaranteed Israel’s frontiers, but the Arab states did not regard the ceasefire as permanent. They would not recognize the legality of Israel, and they regarded this war as only the first round int he struggle to destroy Israel and liberate Palestine. (227-228)

It is likely that Lowe is referring to Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem, which has become infamous for the Zionist massacre there. However, this massacre was committed on 9 April–a good month before Israel declared its statehood and before its so-called “war of independence” began. Deir Yassin is an important milestone in Palestinian history, mostly because it scared other Palestinians into flight. But it was by no means the only massacre committed by Zionist militias (all of which became folded into the Israeli army after independence).

The most egregious oversight, however, is Lowe’s glossing over the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of over 500 villages, which were later forested over by the Jewish National Fund so that Palestinians could not return. He also fails to mention that Palestinians have the right to return to their land as enshrined in UN Resolution 194.

Finally, Lowe reiterates the idea that the Arab states are being difficult, stubborn, and defiant for not recognising Israel like Western states did. Once again, in the absence of context as to why people were so appalled at the take over of Palestinian land is conveniently left out.

After this section rooted in 1948, Lowe skips ahead to 1956 and the Suez War. Here, too, his theme continues of demonising Arabs, especially Nasser:

Colonel Nasser, the new ruler of Egypt, was aggressively in favour of Arab unity and independence, including the liberation of Palestine from the Jews; almost everything he did irritated the British, Americans or French: He organized guerrilla fighters known as fedayeen (self-sacrificers) to carry out sabotage and murder inside Israel, and Egyptian ships blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba leading to the Israeli port of Eliat. (228)

The use of the adverb “aggressively”, something Lowe never does when describing Israelis, posits Nasser once again as an unreasonable and dangerous man. But this paragraph also pieces together bits of history from different historical moments, none of which are related to the war in 1956. He blockaded the port in the Gulf of Aqaba in 1967. Palestinian freedom fighters made a much more powerful dent in their struggle during the 1960s–both after this particular war. Through his tone and cherry-picked events, Lowe also suggests Nasser was a problem for helping Algerians in their anti-colonial war against France and for siding with Russia in order to obtain weapons at the height of the Cold War.

Lowe does accurately portray the origin of the war as a “planned Israeli invasion of Egypt”, which he thinks “was a brilliant success” while British and French forces bombed Egyptian airbases (230). He mentions the U.S. demanding the war be halted, signaling a win for Egypt, and the positive effect the war had on Algerians who were fighting for independence, but he doesn’t mention Nasser’s triumphant influence from Ghana to India and everywhere in between.

The next war Lowe skips ahead to is the June 1967 War, which Israelis call the Six Day War. He claims that leading up to this war, a newly independent and left-leaning Iraq wanted to “wipe Israel off the map” (231). He says:

The Arab states had not signed a peace treaty at the end of the 1948-9 war and were still refusing to give Israel official recognition. In 1967 they joined together again in a determined attempt to destroy Israel. The lead was taken by Iraq, Syria and Egypt. (231)

Lowe also characterises the growing Palestinian armed resistance movement  in Syria, which “supported El Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Movement, a more effective guerrilla force than the fedayeen” (231). Fatah was very much a part of the fedayeen whether in Syria or Jordan. While he does reveal that “The Israelis decided that the best policy was to attack first rather than wait to be defeated”, because troops amassed “along their frontiers” (232).

Of course, Israel’s success in that war meant it enlarged its colonial territories, including Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and the rest of historic Palestine: the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Lowe mentions that “this time [the Israelis] had ignored a UN order to return the captured territory” (232). But actually, Israel has ignored every single UN resolution related to their territory. This resolution was Security Council Resolution 242, which made clear that in international law no state may hold onto, or move a civilian population into, a territory acquired by war. It also reiterated the necessity of solving the Palestinian refugee problem, a problem that was greatly increased with this new war.

The final war explored between Israel and its neighbours is the one war that Israel didn’t initiate. In this scenario countries like Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, at least in part, to recover territory that Israel had illegally occupied since the previous war in 1967. For Lowe, the war was caused because:

Pressure was brought to bear on the Arab states by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under its leader Yasser Arafat, for some further action. When very little happened, a more extreme group within the PLO, called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, embarked on a series of terrorist attacks to draw world attention to the grave injustice being done to the Arabs of Palestine. (232)

This statement, which opens this section of the chapter, is extremely vague, although when one reads on it is clear that he is referring to Palestinians having to resort to new strategies to call attention to their plight. But in relation to what action or what did or didn’t happen, it remains unclear. Interestingly, like many Zionists, it is after the PFLP’s attacks that the word Palestine began, finally, to appear in the mainstream media. As if to reinforce Lowe’s opinion of painting Palestinians as terrorists here, he includes a photograph of Palestinian children whom he describes as follows:

The child soldiers of the Palestine refugee camps; trained from the age of 7, these boys and girls would be ready for front-line service by the age of 15. (234)

Note: there are no photographs of Israeli soldiers in training nor are there any photographs of Israelis except for Menachem Begin signing a peace treaty with Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat. Thus, through images Lowe is able to show Israelis as those who are striving for peace, and Palestinians as desiring to maintain a state of war.

Israel won this war, too, largely because of its increasing arsenal gifted from the American  government. But it sparked an important response from oil producing countries, creating an oil embargo that resulted in a global energy crisis.

The next jump in history moves to the peace accord signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, a treaty that would cost President Sadat his life for isolating Palestinians and the rest of the region. Lowe tells readers that “Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, bravely announced that he would continue the Camp David agreement” (236).

From this event he shifts to Israel’s peace treaty with the PLO. Oddly, this jump in time skips over the first intifada, a popular movement that ran the gamut from refusal to pay taxes to throwing stones at Israel armoured tanks. It is this development that likely led to pressuring the PLO into signing the Oslo Accords. Lowe fails to highlight the way that this agreement was one sided, as it sent Palestinians down the road which would force them to constantly make concessions for little to nothing in return. Instead, he merely states that in addition to the PLO and Israel recognising one another:

the Palestinians were to be given limited self-rule in Jericho (on the West Bank) and in part of the Gaza Strip, areas occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Israeli troops would be withdrawn from these areas. (237)

Today it is clear that each and every so-called peace treaty Israel pushed Palestinians into signing was another tactic to increase its colonial rule of Palestinians. And just as Israel has never honoured a UN resolution, it has never honoured any promise made in its treaties. As a way to relieve Israel from any blame, because “four bombings carried out by the militant Palestinian group, Hamas claimed 63 lives” (237). Of course, Israel’s divide and conquer colonial practice that helped to bolster Hamas is not mentioned in the textbook.

The last three sections cover other wars: Lebanon’s civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In its section on Lebanon, Lowe brings up the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in ways that is both confused and quite uninformed:

The presence of Palestinian refugees from Israel: This complicated the situation even more. By 1975 there were at least half a million of them living in squalid camps away from the main centres of population. The Palestinians were not popular in Lebanon because they were continually involved in frontier incidents with Israel, provoking the Israelis to hit back at the Palestinians in southern Lebanon. In particular, the Palestinians, being left-wing and Muslim, alarmed conservative and Christian Maronites who looked on the Palestinians as a dangerous destabilising influence. By 1975 the PLO had its headquarters in Lebanon, and this meant that Syria, the chief supporter of the PLO, was constantly interfering in Lebanon’s affairs. (240)

First, Palestinian refugees were forced into Lebanon by Zionists before the state of Israel existed. They are refugees from Palestine, not from Israel. Second, Palestinians do not necessarily live away from main centres of population (Sur, Saida, Beirut, Trablus). Indeed, in Beirut there are several camps within the city itself. Third, Palestinians are not only Muslim and not only leftist–whether fighters or not. Indeed, many Palestinian fighters were Christian and many were not leftists.

But throughout this section, Lowe represents the Lebanese Civil War in highly sectarian ways. While part of the issue is certainly Lebanon’s sectarianism, it is not as simplistic as Lowe makes it out to be. Because he sees Palestinians as mainly Muslim and Lebanese as mainly Christian, here is how he characterises the fighting:

In the south, bordering on Israel, fighting soon broke out between Palestinians and Christians; the Israelis seized this opportunity to send troops in to help the Christians. A small semi-independent Christian state of Free Lebanon was declared under Major Haddad. The Israelis supported this because it acted as a buffer zone to protect them from further Palestinian attacks. (240)

Instead of truthfully explaining that Haddad’s army–known as the South Lebanese Army–was not independent because it was a proxy militia for Israel, Lowe merely tells readers it was a Christian group wanting to protect themselves and the border. Moreover, to further complicate the sectarian nature of Lowe’s book, SLA ran Khiam prison, in cahoots with the Israelis, where freedom fighters such as Soha Bechara, a Lebanese Christian communist woman, were held and tortured for years.

Elsewhere Lowe continues to take plays from Zionists by rationalising attacks on Palestinians by calling it a “reprisal”:

In 1982, in reprisal for a Palestinian attack on Israel, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon and penetrated as far as Beirut. For a time the Gemayels, supported by the Israelis, were in control of Beirut. During this period the Palestinians were expelled from Beirut, and from then on the PLO was divided. (240).

This passage elides several points. True, Israel was aligned with the Phalangists or Kata’eb political party in Lebanon, a right-wing Maronite (Christian) group. Although he makes it clear that Israel “invaded” Lebanon (not its first time to do so either, and certainly not its last), the notion that Israel was aligned with a particular militia makes it seem as though they were somehow welcome. More horrendous is his use of the word “reprisal” to suggest that whatever Israel did–something Lowe elides here–was warranted. What he forgets to tell his readers is that 1982 is precisely the moment when Israel perpetrated on defenceless Palestinians in the Beirut refugee camp Shatila (and the surrounding neighbourhood of Sabra) under the cover of the Phalange militia. Even Israel’s Kahan Commission found Ariel Sharon guilty for his part in orchestrating the massacre.

In the final two sections of the chapter, Lowe covers up more key points as he glosses over the conflict between Iran and Iraq and later the U.S. and Iraq. But the conclusion to the chapter seems to be the one place where some truth emerges as well through both his tone and language:

The war and its aftermath were very revealing about the motives of the West and the great powers. Their primary concern was not with international justice and moral questions of right and wrong, but with their own self-interest. They only took action against Saddam in the first place because they felt he was threatening their oil supplies. Often in the past when other small nations had been invaded, no international action had been taken. For example, when East Timor was occupied by neighbouring Indonesia in 1975, the rest of the world ignored it, because their interests were not threatened. (244)

It is quite odd to see Lowe making such a statement at the beginning of the paragraph, and then regress so ignorantly at the conclusion of the paragraph and chapter. It is also strange that he sees self-interest here, but not elsewhere–for example Britain’s desire to control the Suez Canal or Iranian oil fields. But the icing on the cake is this conclusion when he imagines that the world ignored it because their interests weren’t threatened. Indeed, the West, especially the United States, actively participated in the massacre and occupation of East Timor.

While this is just a small response to one chapter in a history book, I could certainly continue examining and pointing out inconsistencies, omissions, and false statements throughout the volume. It should be a reminder that we cannot accept any text at face value and that we should question what we read.

i committed massive crimes against humanity and all i got was this lousy t-shirt

on thursday united nations special rapporteur richard falk released his report on the war crimes and crimes against humanity unleashed by israeli terrorists against palestinians in gaza here is reuters’ stephanie nebehay report:

Falk called for an independent experts group to probe possible war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas. It should gather eyewitness testimony as well as explanations from Israeli and Palestinian military commanders.

Violations included Israel’s alleged “targeting of schools, mosques and ambulances” during the offensive, which lasted from Dec. 27 to Jan. 18, and its use of weapons including white phosphorus, as well as Hamas’s firing of rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Falk said that Israel’s blockade of the coastal strip of 1.5 million people violated the Geneva Conventions and this suggested further war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

The aggression was not legally justified and may represent a “crime against peace” — a principle established at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, according to Falk, an American law professor who serves as the Human Rights Council’s independent investigator.

Falk, who is Jewish, suggested the Security Council might set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal to establish accountability for war crimes in Gaza, noting Israel has not signed the Rome statutes establishing the International Criminal Court.

He was denied entry to Israel two weeks before the assault started, forcing him to abort a planned mission to Gaza. In his report, he said that the refusal had set an “unfortunate precedent” for treatment of a special rapporteur.

On Monday, he is to present his report formally to the Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum where Islamic and African countries backed by China, Cuba and Russia have a majority. Neither Israel nor its chief ally the United States are members.

meanwhile douglas hamilton of reuters begins to shed light on the theological undergirding of those massive war crimes:

Rabbis in the Israeli army told battlefield troops in January’s Gaza offensive that they were fighting a “religious war” against gentiles, according to one army commander’s account published on Friday.

“Their message was very clear: we are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land,” he said.

a day after falk released his report a series of testimonies by israeli terrorists were published in ha’aretz. because ha’aretz is a newspaper of israeli terrorists, of course, they try to pretend like these are just a few bad apples (anyone remember how the u.s. covered abu ghraib?). in any case, i will post some of these statements below because i know for a fact this characterizes the entire israeli terrorist population (all of whom are conscripted in its terrorist army and all of whom are colonists here). hoda abdel-hamid’s report from zeitoun, gaza for al jazeera shows us the context of one of the main testimonies from the first such report:

amos herel’s second and more extensive report in ha’aretz documenting these testimonies was entitled “shooting and crying.” i think this is an apt title given the fact that it goes a long way to showing the normal course of israeli terrorists: this is why i have such a huge problem with israeli terrorist films like waltz with bashir (see yesterday’s post for links on this) and also why it is impossible for israeli terrorists to “investigate” themselves. even if they show a hint of remorse it means nothing: when a group of people behave as terrorists for 122 years, and continually shoot and cry, they are crying wolf. we know they will do it again. their tears mean nothing to us. in any case here are some excerpts (click link for the full stories) of what some of these so-called weeping soldiers had to say (apparently the names below are pseudonyms):

Aviv: “At first the specified action was to go into a house. We were supposed to go in with an armored personnel carrier called an Achzarit [literally, Cruel] to burst through the lower door, to start shooting inside and then … I call this murder … in effect, we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified – we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself: Where is the logic in this?

“From above they said it was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn’t fled. I didn’t really understand: On the one hand they don’t really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they’re telling us they hadn’t fled so it’s their fault … This also scared me a bit. I tried to exert some influence, insofar as is possible from within my subordinate position, to change this. In the end the specification involved going into a house, operating megaphones and telling [the tenants]: ‘Come on, everyone get out, you have five minutes, leave the house, anyone who doesn’t get out gets killed.’

“I went to our soldiers and said, ‘The order has changed. We go into the house, they have five minutes to escape, we check each person who goes out individually to see that he has no weapons, and then we start going into the house floor by floor to clean it out … This means going into the house, opening fire at everything that moves , throwing a grenade, all those things. And then there was a very annoying moment. One of my soldiers came to me and asked, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘What isn’t clear? We don’t want to kill innocent civilians.’ He goes, ‘Yeah? Anyone who’s in there is a terrorist, that’s a known fact.’ I said, ‘Do you think the people there will really run away? No one will run away.’ He says, ‘That’s clear,’ and then his buddies join in: ‘We need to murder any person who’s in there. Yeah, any person who’s in Gaza is a terrorist,’ and all the other things that they stuff our heads with, in the media.

“And then I try to explain to the guy that not everyone who is in there is a terrorist, and that after he kills, say, three children and four mothers, we’ll go upstairs and kill another 20 or so people. And in the end it turns out that [there are] eight floors times five apartments on a floor – something like a minimum of 40 or 50 families that you murder. I tried to explain why we had to let them leave, and only then go into the houses. It didn’t really help. This is really frustrating, to see that they understand that inside Gaza you are allowed to do anything you want, to break down doors of houses for no reason other than it’s cool.

“You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won’t say anything. To write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing in understanding how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It’s what I’ll remember the most.”

“One of our officers, a company commander, saw someone coming on some road, a woman, an old woman. She was walking along pretty far away, but close enough so you could take out someone you saw there. If she were suspicious, not suspicious – I don’t know. In the end, he sent people up to the roof, to take her out with their weapons. From the description of this story, I simply felt it was murder in cold blood.”

Zamir: “I don’t understand. Why did he shoot her?”

Aviv: “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman, on whom I didn’t see any weapon. The order was to take the person out, that woman, the moment you see her.”

Zvi: “Aviv’s descriptions are accurate, but it’s possible to understand where this is coming from. And that woman, you don’t know whether she’s … She wasn’t supposed to be there, because there were announcements and there were bombings. Logic says she shouldn’t be there. The way you describe it, as murder in cold blood, that isn’t right. It’s known that they have lookouts and that sort of thing.”…

Ram: “What I do remember in particular at the beginning is the feeling of almost a religious mission. My sergeant is a student at a hesder yeshiva [a program that combines religious study and military service]. Before we went in, he assembled the whole platoon and led the prayer for those going into battle. A brigade rabbi was there, who afterward came into Gaza and went around patting us on the shoulder and encouraging us, and praying with people. And also when we were inside they sent in those booklets, full of Psalms, a ton of Psalms. I think that at least in the house I was in for a week, we could have filled a room with the Psalms they sent us, and other booklets like that.

“There was a huge gap between what the Education Corps sent out and what the IDF rabbinate sent out. The Education Corps published a pamphlet for commanders – something about the history of Israel’s fighting in Gaza from 1948 to the present. The rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles, and … their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war. From my position as a commander and ‘explainer,’ I attempted to talk about the politics – the streams in Palestinian society, about how not everyone who is in Gaza is Hamas, and not every inhabitant wants to vanquish us. I wanted to explain to the soldiers that this war is not a war for the sanctification of the holy name, but rather one to stop the Qassams.”

Zamir: “I would like to ask the pilots who are here, Gideon and Yonatan, to tell us a little about their perspective. As an infantryman, this has always interested me. How does it feel when you bomb a city like that?”

Gideon: “First of all, about what you have said concerning the crazy amounts of firepower: Right in the first foray in the fighting, the quantities were very impressive, very large, and this is mainly what sent all the Hamasniks into hiding in the deepest shelters and kept them from showing their faces until some two weeks after the fighting.

“In general the way that it works for us, just so you will understand the differences a bit, is that at night I would come to the squadron, do one foray in Gaza and go home to sleep. I go home to sleep in Tel Aviv, in my warm bed. I’m not stuck in a bed in the home of a Palestinian family, so life is a little better.

“When I’m with the squadron, I don’t see a terrorist who is launching a Qassam and then decide to fly out to get him. There is a whole system that supports us, that serves as eyes, ears and intelligence for every plane that takes off, and creates more and more targets in real-time, of one level of legitimacy or another. In any case, I try to believe that these are targets [determined according to] the highest possible level of legitimacy….

Yossi: “No. Not at all. On the contrary: In most of the houses graffiti was left behind and things like that.”

Zamir: “That’s simply behaving like animals.”

Yossi: “You aren’t supposed to be concentrating on folding blankets when you’re being shot at.”…

Zamir: “After the Six-Day War, when people came back from the fighting, they sat in circles and described what they had been through. For many years the people who did this were said to be ‘shooting and crying.’ In 1983, when we came back from the Lebanon War, the same things were said about us. We need to think about the events we have been through. We need to grapple with them also, in terms of establishing a standard or different norms….

there is stuff i left out. flat out lies, for instance. funnily enough herel wrote an op-ed after this saying that the soldiers were telling the truth–not for the reasons i am discussing, however. one of the israeli terrorists says that when they left palestinian homes in gaza where that they occupied they cleaned up. the reality is they shat on the floor, wrote racist graffiti on the walls, and broke furniture and trashed the homes. i know this not only because of what i have read from many eyewitness accounts (much of which i have posted here), but also because i witnessed this in south lebanon after the israeli terrorists invaded homes there. they did this in the village of markaba and many other places, too. this is their normal behavior. i think the last part that i quoted from sums it all up rather well, however, they seem to do this after every invasion and massacre and atrocity they commit: they sit around and discuss it, some claim to have remorse, and then they do it again. and again. and again. if these terrorists claim to have a moral bone in their bodies then they can make a choice to say no. to leave. (70% of israeli terrorists hold dual citizenship).

all of this makes me think about the trial of adolf eichmann and hannah arendt’s description of his trial as evidence of the “banality of evil.” in an interview with samuel grafton in 1963, arendt elaborated on her use of this term in ways that are rather apt here not only because of the consistent, continuous crimes by israeli terrorists against palestinians, lebanese, and syrians, but also because of the looming possibility of a war crimes tribunal. here is what she said to grafton:

It is of course true that evil was commonplace in Nazi Germany and that ‘there were many Eichmanns,’ as the title of a German book about Eichmann reads. But I did not mean this. I meant that evil is not radical, going to the roods (radix), that it has no depth, and that for this very reason it is so terribly difficult to think about, since thinking, by definition, wants to reach the roots. Evil is a surface phenomenon, and instead of being radical, is merely extreme. We resist evil by not being swept away by the surface of things, by stopping ourselves and beginning to think–that is, by reaching another dimension than the horizon of everyday life. In other words, the more superficial someone is, the more likely he will be to yield to evil. An indication of such superficiality is the use of clichés, and Eichmann, God knows, was a perfect example. Each time he was tempted to think for himself, he said: Who am I to judge if all around me–that is, the atmosphere in which we unthinkingly live–that it is right to murder innocent people? Or to put it slightly differently: Each time Eichmann tried to think, he thought immediately of his career, which up to the end was the thing uppermost in his mind.” (from Arendt’s The Jewish Writings, 479-480).

as one of the israeli terrorists quoted above noted that the media there keeps them from thinking–and more importantly acting. but it is not just their media. it is their entire society from its schools to its government. and all claims to the contrary from before an nakba until now zionists have practiced these sorts of atrocities consistently. and, of course, they’ve always gone unpunished. part of the problem with having an unthinking, unquestioning society means that they believe the lies of their government; they believe the stereotypes of palestinians taught in their schools and in their media. in sherine tadros’ report on these same testimonies we hear one of the chief israeli terrorists, avital leibovich making the outlandish claim that israeli terrorists work hard to “save lives on both sides of the border.” this was in the context of these damning testimonies. you can watch for yourself and see this as well as tadros giving us tours of a typical method of trashing palestinian houses in gaza by these israeli terrorists:

to be sure whatever infinitesimal percentage of the israeli terrorist society may feel a shred of remorse at present, they do not speak for the masses. indeed, israeli terrorists–those in their terrorist army now and those who will be in the future–are now sporting tshirts gloating about their participation in mass murder (see photographs below):

racist-zionist-shirt-11

racist-zionist-tshirts1

the article with the photographs is in hebrew so i don’t know what it says, but the version in english, according to uri blau of ha’aretz, the tshirts say:

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit’s commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, “We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill” were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn’t exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan “Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!” had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

“It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town,” he explains. “The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.”…

A shirt printed up just this week for soldiers of the Lavi battalion, who spent three years in the West Bank, reads: “We came, we saw, we destroyed!” – alongside images of weapons, an angry soldier and a Palestinian village with a ruined mosque in the center.

the israeli terrorist journalist whose words are quoted above, later in the article, calls this tshirt making the “race to be unique.” more aptly put: “the race to be more racist.” they murder and destroy and then run around wearing tshirts bragging about it. these sentiments are similar to those written as graffiti on the walls of palestinian homes in gaza that israeli terrorists took over, after massacring families, as reported in electronic intifada by the palestinian centre for human rights:

In the Zeitoun district, where 27 members of the Samouni family were killed in an air strike while taking shelter in a building they had been placed in by the Israeli army, there are more chilling messages on the walls. In Talal Samouni’s home Israeli soldiers wrote the words “Die you all,” “Make war not peace,” “Arabs need to die” and a gravestone engraved with the words “Arabs 1948-2009” referring to the dates between the creation of the state of Israel and its latest military offensive.

A stairwell in Rashad Helmi Samouni’s house a few doors down includes the following sentences written in chalk:

“There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs.”

“Bad for the Arabs is good for me.”

“A good Arab is an Arab in the grave.”

“Peace now, but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs.”

one of the teams of the national lawyer’s guild investigators, radhika sainath, who recently traveled to gaza to document war crimes echoed these same reports, as well as a number of other violations in electronic intifada:

While I do not know what Israel hoped to achieve with its invasion, I do know the goal was not to stop Hamas rockets. In a house in al-Zeitoun, the walls, ceilings and doors are covered in graffiti that reads, in Hebrew and English, “Death to the Arabs,” “An Arab brave [a real Arab] is an Arab in a grave,” and “he who dreams Givati [the Israeli infantry brigade], kills Arabs.” Such sayings do not stop Hamas rockets. Covering prayer rugs in feces serves no military objective. Tearing up college diplomas and giving bottles of urine to detained children asking for water are not acts of self-defense.

hoda abdel-hamid has another report on al jazeera documenting how these war crimes affected khaled from abd rabo whose two daughters, souad and amel, were murdered. his other daughter samar was paralyzed. their house was leveled. the entire neighborhood was destroyed. because of the blockade he cannot get cement for a proper burial for his girls. because his identification card was buried in the rubble of his home he cannot travel to be with his 4 year old daughter in belgium where she is seeking treatment:

finally there is a list of all the martyrs murdered in cold blood by israeli terrorists in gaza produced by the palestinian centre for human rights. it is 66 pages long and it is in arabic. you can download it by clicking this link.

and, finally, this week on al jazeera’s “focus on gaza” with imran garda details further war crimes. garda also has an important discussion with marwan bishara. i always like watching bishara and think he is an amazing political analyst, but i do think that when you see him interviewed by garda, who continues to be one of the best interviewers at al jazeera, the discussion contains much more substance:

on the ongoing nakba and promises of new palestinian refugees

fishdevouring5

we have a language problem. i really think that we need to shift how we talk about the zionist entity. more and more i feel like we need to do things to move away from how we speak about zionist colonialism in order to make connections between colonialism in palestine and elsewhere in the world. for instance, the word colonialism itself helps us to make the link to colonialism from india to algeria to mexico to south africa. certainly there are differences in terms of how colonialism played out depending on which nation did the colonizing, but there are some patterns they all share: building of schools, use of media and oftentimes religious institutions to entrench internalized colonialism or the view that the colonizer is superior, should be emulated, is civilized and of course for the creation of collaborators; building of prisons; theft of land and natural resources; killing massive numbers of indigenous people and forcibly removing them from their land; destroying homes; converting people to the colonizer’s religion. give or take one or two of these items colonialism all looks the same. zionist colonialism really is not that different. and the use of this word, as opposed to “occupation” makes it clear that we are talking about every square inch of palestine, not just the west bank and gaza strip.

dsc00045

the main difference that i notice among the various historical colonial contexts and the current one in palestine is technology as well as the fact that this conolization of palestine is ongoing. it has been with us for 122 years now and it has never stopped. not for a single day. my friend said he would wassef take me to witness one of the more recent colonial projects in al quds. wassef is from the old city, but he has been going to the solidarity tent in al bustan, in the silwan area of al quds because the families there are staying in their homes and neighborhood to resist this most recent land grab. as we drove down to the valley where al bustan lies, most of the roads were closed off by israeli terrorist border police. on most roads in the west bank israeli terrorists distinguish between palestinian and israeli cars by the license plates (yellow for israeli, white for palestinian). of course palestinians in 1948 and in al quds also have yellow plates so they can usually drive on these roads, except for the fact that there are checkpoints that restrict the entrance of any yellow plated car (nablus, for instance). but now in the silwan area they are checking to see who is jewish and who is not. jews may drive into the valley and palestinians may not. fortunately, wassef found a way to drive down there by sneaking around the israeli terrorists.

dsc00046

the houses that are slated for demolition so that israeli colonists can take over the land–both for tourist projects and for their terrorist families–keep increasing in number and location every day. donald macintyre reports on the specific tourist project that will be built on stolen palestinian land for the independent:

But Mr Qafishi – who walks most Fridays from his house in the Old City’s historic basin to the Al Aqsa mosque 10 minutes to pray – is not alone. His house is one of 88 in Silwan’s crowded Bustan neighbourhood to have been served with similar orders, to make way for an archaeological park and tourist site – or what one of the plan’s opponents, the Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann, calls “something with the trappings of a Jewish evangelical theme park of the religious-nationalist right … an ersatz biblical village.”

This is no mere local zoning row. The largest planned demolition operation in Jerusalem since the Six Day War in 1967, it would trigger the eviction of 1,500 residents in what Palestinian officials say amounts to ethnic cleansing.

The project by the government, Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, and the settler organisations has become a potential flashpoint and the most imminent test of whether Arab East Jerusalem can ever become the capital of a future Palestinian state or remain entrenched in Israel, as the Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants it to be.

thus, the land confiscation is not just about al bustan. it’s not just about silwan. saed bannoura reports on this expanding land grab:

Palestinian sources in Jerusalem reported that the number of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem to whom Israel officially handed eviction notices for demolition has reached 179. On Thursday, the Jerusalem Municipality handed down 36 new orders to evict families in al-Abasiyya neighborhood, in Silwan area.

The 36 families are living in two apartment buildings in “al-Sheikh Project”. A total of 230 Palestinians, mainly women and children, will lose their homes should the demolition orders be implemented.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Authorities handed eviction orders to 55 Palestinian families in Shu’fat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, after claiming that the properties were constructed without permits.

88 similar orders were handed to families in al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan.

A report prepared by the research department of the al-Quds Center for Social and Economic Rights revealed that the number of homes threatened with demolition since the beginning of this year is over 200.

The report explains that 88 of these homes are located inside the al-Bustan neighborhood; 55 homes in Shu’fat refugee camp (500 residents); 35 homes for Bedouin families on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road and Arr al-Beik area of the Anata town, north east of Jerusalem, along with 66 flats in al-Esawiyya town.

55 families from al-Esawiyya received eviction notices in November and December 2008.

The report states that the number of homes demolished by Israel since the beginning of the year now stands at 30 in different neighborhoods and towns in the Jerusalem area.

Human rights groups stated that Israel’s policy of home demolitions will cause the displacement of thousands of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, which will be the largest mass expulsion of Palestinians since 1967.

Meanwhile, as Israel is demolishing Palestinian homes, the Israeli Authorities and the Jerusalem Municipality have stepped up the incentives for settlers, settlement construction and expansion.

The Israeli Peace Now Movement stated in a press release on Tuesday that the Israeli Housing Ministry is planning to build more than 73,000 units for Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The movement warned that the number of settlers in the occupied West Bank will be doubled if the upcoming Israeli government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, implements these plans.

these numbers have increased quite a bit since hillary clinton was in ramallah and called this colonial/ethnic cleansing project “unhelpful.” apparently, she also promised to tell the israeli terrorists to stop (for those who believed her i’ve got a bridge i can sell you…). her unwillingness to do anything to help palestinians–EVER!–is evident in the fact that even though the residents of silwan sent her a letter appealing to her she ignored them (i mean, i can understand why one would want to ignore the former president mahmoud abbas, but not a letter from the people, which you can read if you click here.) of course that was never going to happen as mark landler reports in the new york times today:

In Israel, Mrs. Clinton did not publicly broach settlements at all. And she only gingerly raised the issue of border crossings to Gaza, which Israel has mostly kept closed, drawing criticism from European leaders and human rights groups.

because these “settlements,” as the new york times calls them are not being challenged or questioned by anyone in the international community, palestinians are yet again left to their own devices when it comes to resisting colonialism. and because these so-called illegal “settlements” are what colonists build on stolen land where they intend to live we must use a different sort of language to name them in a more descriptive way: in other words these are colonies. and not just because they are within the so-called 1967 borders. these are colonies like every israeli terrorist house that dots the landscape of palestine. every last one of them. what was done, and what continues to be done in 1948 palestine is the same as what is done here in al quds and elsewhere around the west bank. (for those who want to know more about this, read badil’s most recent issue of al majdal magazine on palestine’s ongoing nakba for lots of thoroughly researched material on the subject.)

dsc00048

and the increase in promises of house demolition, eviction notices, and the overall ethnic cleansing part of the zionist colonization project is not limited to al quds, of course. just this week alone there have been a number of new such papers delivered by israeli terrorists to palestinians. for instance, near nablus there will be land confiscated and palestinians turned into refugees as saed bannoura reports:

The Israeli Authorities handed on Wednesday fifteen Palestinian residents of Aqraba town, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, military orders to demolish 15 homes, barns, tin-houses for the sheep, and water wells located in Khirbit Al Taweel, which belong to Aqraba village.

Local sources reported that Israeli soldiers and members of the so-called Civil Administration Office, which is controlled by the Israeli army, invaded the village on Wednesday morning and handed the orders to the residents.

The Israeli Authorities informed the residents that they have until March 26 to evacuate the properties in question.

Khirbit Al Taweel is a Palestinian village known as one of the best grazing areas. Its inhabitants own livestock, especially sheep, and depend on their sheep as the main source of livelihood especially after the village lost thousands of Dunams for Israeli settlements and military camps in the eastern part of the village.

It is worth mentioning that some of the homes Israel intends to demolish were built before Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 war.

israeli colonists often try to rationalize the theft of palestinian land and their forceful eviction of palestinians by saying they had no building permits (palestinians are not allowed to get such permits to build on land that they own). so oftentimes such statements are made about if a home was built before 1967 or not in order to state that homes built at any point in time on palestinian land are “illegal,” a reversal of the truth when it is the illegal israeli colonist terrorists whose very presence on this land is illegal. in the village of al bustan, where all of the photographs posted here were taken on saturday, there were a variety of homes, some dating back to 1870 as you can see in the ottoman style architecture in one of the shots. others were built later as people’s families expanded. but every last one of them was built on palestinian-owned land, land that has been passed down from generation to generation.

of course it does not matter who owns the land to israeli colonists and it never has mattered. if it had there would have been no nakba in the first place. instead, we have an ongoing nakba here. in khalil here are new house demolition orders and land confiscation as well:

Dozens of residents of al-Baq’a village, east of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, are on the verge of losing their homes as the Israeli Army intends to demolish the homes under the pretext of being built without a construction permit.

The residents, who received notices from the Israeli Army on Wednesday, stated that they are determined to remain in their homes. The military orders include demolishing water containers.

One of the residents told the Maan News Agency that the residents in this area are surrounded by settlements and bypass roads only used by the settlers.

“We will not leave our homes and lands no matter what it takes,” he said, “they stole our lands for settlements and bypass roads, now they want to take our homes and remove us from the area.”

He called on various human rights groups to intervene before the residents are displaced and expelled from their own lands and homes.

The new military orders are particularly concerned with eight homes and four pools used for irrigation. The owners of these properties were identified as Azmi Jaber, Bilal Azmi Jaber, Nader Abdul-Aziz Jaber, Motee’ Jaber, Ayyad Jaber, Hasan Jaber, Abdul-Wahab Jaber, Sa’id Jaber, Faraj Jaber, Ziad Jaber and Badawi Abdul-Latif Al Rajabi.

Hebron governor, Dr. Hussein al-A’raj, said that the Israeli policy of demolishing homes in Hebron is part of Israel’s policy to remove Palestinians from their lands, similar to the ongoing attacks against Palestinians and their homes in East Jerusalem.

“The new extremist right government in Israel is starting a new policy of ending the peace process,” the governor said. “This violates the Road Map peace plan; it proves that Israel was not serious in implementing it”

al-A’raj demanded the Palestinian negotiators freeze all talks with Israel, and called on the Quartet committee for peace in the Middle East, and President Barrack Obama, to act on their vows to resolve the Palestinian issue.

dsc00050

land is now being confiscated in villages around ramallah as well, as was reported today as ghassan bannoura reports:

The Israeli army decided on Monday to confiscate 35.5 acres of land owned by farmers from the village of Ni’lin near the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

The villagers said that they found the military order at the gate of the Wall Israel is building of the villagers land.

The popular committee of Nil’in reported that they have contacted the village layer to raise the case at the Israeli court, they added that in the 80s the army tried to take over the same area but the villagers won case and stop the army from taking the land.

The village of Nil’in is the scene of weekly nonviolent protests against the Israeli illegal wall since over a year.

and back up in the north here, near qalqilia, in the village of wadi rasha, israeli terrorists invaded, arrested solidarity activists, and chopped down palestinian olive trees (notice the caterpillar bulldozer razing palestinian farm land at the end of the video):

adam horowitz of the blog mondoweiss offers some insight into the above video showing how ethnic cleansing happens:

While the world looks elsewhere, Israel continues its methodical assault on the West Bank. The video above was shot yesterday in the Palestinian village Wadi Rasha. The village is located north of Jerusalem and caught in the area between the green line (Israel’s internationally recognized border) and the separation barrier. This area is called the seam zone and has been the site of the most intense ethnic cleansing in the West Bank as Israel is colonizing the area with the expectation that the barrier will become its new border if it is forced into a two state agreement….

The resident of Wadi Rasha says it better than any commentator could:

The industrial area of Alfe Menashe was built on land stolen from us. Now they steal the land that you see here. We have no other income but through our land.

This village has been here since about 150-200 years ago. Givat Tal has been there for 3.5 or 4 years. Alfe Menashe has been there for 25 years. I am 38 years old, older than it. I was born in this village. I am not allowed to build houses. I am not allowed to pass (into Israel) to go to work. I am not even allowed to pass to my own land. As you see, they stole from me everything. They left all the village 33 dunams from 1500.

dsc00061

the bulldozers have not yet arrived in al quds, but palestinians are preparing. they are steadfast. they told me that they refuse to leave, that they learned from history and they will not allow israeli terrorist colonists to steal their land, even if it means that only their blood remains on their land, they told me they will not leave. in fact, even the children are not going to school because the families i spoke with are afraid that if the send their children to school that their houses will be confiscated while their children are gone. apparently those children who are attending school are doing so in a context of great trauma as this ma’an news report reveals:

Israeli authorities at the moment say they have no plans to raze the neighborhood. In the meantime, the inhabitants of Bustan wait for the bulldozers. On Monday two more houses were destroyed. Their owners said that they received no warning.

Mazen Abu Diab, a member of a local committee set up to protest the demolitions, described the sense of anxiety that the pending demolition orders creates: “Yesterday I saw a little boy walking home from school, and he was carrying a backpack that was much too large for him, and when I asked him why, I found that he had put his most treasured possessions in the bag, his family photos – he was afraid that his house would be destroyed while he was not there.”

there are other palestinians who resort to a more tragic reaction to the house demolition orders, as mohammed assadi reports for reuters:

When Palestinian Sharif Attoun asked bulldozer driver Ziad Dabash to flatten his home in Arab East Jerusalem, his friend was heartbroken.

But for Attoun, watching his 13-year-old house being demolished by a friend was a lesser evil: If Dabash wouldn’t do it, Israeli authorities would have, a move that comes with some $20,000 in demolition fees and possible imprisonment.

Attoun’s ordeal is not uncommon among some 260,000 Palestinians living in Arab East Jerusalem who say Israeli municipal authorities in the city often deny them building permits.

“I never thought of razing my own home and paying rent,” said Attoun, a 36-year-old elevator technician, waving a copy of the Israeli demolition order.

dsc00064

there are so many articles, even in the mainstream western media, especially about silwan, likely because this is the largest zionist terrorist land theft since 1967. and yet no one does anything. here is some of the context to this long-term terrorist activity by the zionist entity as reported by richard boudreaux for the los angeles times:

If carried out, the plan would cause the largest swath of demolitions in East Jerusalem since its postwar annexation by Israel, which has not been internationally recognized.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called Clinton’s criticism “a lot of hot air” and said the U.S. was trying to interfere with his authority to control zoning and his plans to promote tourism.

“If you build illegal houses, you pay the consequences,” he told a group of American correspondents, saying he had expressed that view personally to Clinton. “I expect people to obey the law.”

The experience of three generations of Jalajels, however, sheds light on the complex and volatile realities that make any Israeli-Palestinian turf battle here much more than a legal issue. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent state for them; the mayor and the right-wing Likud party, which is expected to lead the next government, insist on keeping all of Jerusalem under Israeli control.

Jalajel, a retired Jordanian army officer and construction worker, has four sons. When they married and started families, they began applying in the 1970s for permits to build new homes on their half-acre plot.

By then Israeli authorities had become concerned about the rise in Arab population, perceived as a threat to their rule, and had set a goal to limit the number of Arabs in Jerusalem to about one-fourth of the city’s population. Jalajel’s building requests were denied.

He built anyway, adding a floor to the original structure and erecting two other buildings on the property. When his grandchildren married and started families, some of them, too, applied for building permits and were rejected. And like their grandfather and fathers, they built anyway, adding a third floor to the original house and a second floor to one of the others.

The family says it has paid more than $17,000 in fines to stave off demolition of the three buildings, carved into nine apartments for 48 Jalajels.

The same thing has happened elsewhere across East Jerusalem. City Hall made it almost impossible for Arabs to build legally, so they built illegally. Today Arabs make up a bit more than one-third of the city’s 752,000 residents.

dsc00074

no one is doing anything, although rory mccarthy, in a report for the guardian, discloses that there is evidence that this has been planned for quite some time and for particular reasons:

A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of “actively pursuing the illegal annexation” of East Jerusalem.

The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks. “Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making,” says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel’s legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: “Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications.”

mccarthy also has a powerful audio slideshow on the guardian’s website about mahmoud al abassi from silwan that documents the first of these house demolitions in silwan. now mahmoud and his 7 family members are homeless. are idps. are refugees living in a tent.

this is one of the many reasons so many solidarity tents are popping up all over al quds so people can try to prevent the fate of mahmoud al abassi’s family in their neighborhoods. at the same time, people in al bustan told me that they feel like the way in which these new orders for land confiscation keep coming up every day in new places are meant to divide the people. when each day a new neighborhood is alerted to the fact that they are next, how is it that people can resist? their resistance becomes staying in their homes to keep their community from being razed like the 531 palestinian villages destroyed by zionists in order to create their colonies all over 1948 palestine. still, there are solidarity tents popping up all over al quds:

Palestinians from Ras Khamis neighborhood, near Jerusalem’s old city, set up a protest camp near their homes in protest against Israel’s decision to demolish their neighborhood.

The Israeli municipality says that there are 55 homes in the Palestinian Ras Khamis neighborhood that are built without the required permissions.

and in jebel zeitoun:

Palestinian residents of al-Sahl area, in the Mount of Olives, al-Tour area of East Jerusalem, installed a protest camp on the rubble of a home that was demolished by Israel two weeks ago.

these tents are sent up in their palestinian neighborhoods, which in the silwan area are already surrounded by israeli colonists as you can see in one of the photographs i have–it is of an enormous israeli terrorist flag that is 7 stories tall. that was a palestinian building, as this report on al arabiya explains:

conn hallinan’s article for counterpunch this week demonstrates how mainstream such policies of ethnic cleansing and jewish supremacy are in the zionist entity’s regime:

One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel—in the words of advocates “transfer”—its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.

Such sentiment is hardly new among Israeli extremists, and it has long been advocated by racist Jewish organizations like Kach, the party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups like the National Union, which doubled its Knesset representation in the last election.

But “transfer” is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. “My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines,” Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, “and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ‘ your national solution lies elsewhere.’”

Such talk has consequences.

According to the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents have risen sharply. “Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy,” says Sami Michael, the organization’s president. Among the Association’s findings:

* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage Arab emigration;

* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the government;

* 56 percent agree with the statement that “Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development”;

* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.

* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building as Arabs.

dsc00080

perhaps part of the thinking about this renewed attempt to steal more land from palestinians in al quds is religiously motivated. though i am not one who believes the bible is a real estate guidebook. but this is how zionists view not only religion but also history and archaeology, always distorting it to serve their own colonial terrorist interests. yigal bronner and neve gordon explain the reason why israeli terrorists are stealing the land using a religious rationale:

According to the Old Testament, King David established Jerusalem as his capital, but the Jews were later conquered and expelled. Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War four decades ago, and ever since Israeli archaeologists have been trying (unsuccessfully) to produce proof of David’s presence in that area. Occasionally they have even refrained from documenting the long Muslim presence, which is the cultural heritage of the Palestinian inhabitants. And, at any rate, the fact that not a single Muslim structure has been preserved in the entire national park that has been set up in Silwan is a clear indication of this erasure strategy. By concentrating almost entirely on unearthing the remains of the Judean kingdom, while ignoring the subsequent 3,000 years, archaeologists have violated several ethical rules as stipulated by the World Archaeological Congress. Those include the acknowledgment of the “indigenous cultural heritage, including sites, places, objects, artifacts, human remains” as well as establishing “equitable partnerships and relationships” between archaeologists and indigenous peoples whose cultural heritage is being investigated.

of course for me i always come back to those ten commandments: didn’t it say thou shalt not steal? thou shalt not kill? and yet the entire israeli colonial project is based upon this premise. this is what they practice, what they teach, how they live. today israeli terrorist settler colonists decided to invade the al aqsa mosque grounds:

A group of 30 Israeli extremists’ settlers stormed the courtyard of the Al Aqsa mosque in the old city of Jerusalem at midday on Monday.

Palestinian worshipers said that the group were disguised as tourists and as soon as they were at the main courtyard they started to conduct prayers for the Jewish holiday Purim.

Local sources said that Israeli troops and police arrived at the location and moved the settlers away.

Al Aqsa mosque is the third holiest place for Muslims; Jewish extremists say that the mosque was built on top of the Suleiman Temple, a claim that was not proven by archeologists.

In related news, the Israeli military announced a total closure on the Palestinian areas because of the Jewish holiday Purim. The army announced that the closure will be implemented from Monday till Wednesday.

ah, yes, another jewish holiday, another period in which those of us living here will be imprisoned under a “closure.” funny how the fact that today is the prophet mohammed’s birthday and yet the israeli terrorists just invade one of the holiest places for muslims and nothing happens. however, the other day sheikh ikrima sabri stated that he thinks a third intifada could be sparked by such triggers:

Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, Head of the Higher Islamic Committee, the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said that a third Palestinian Intifada in defense of Jerusalem and its holy sites, combined with resisting Israel’s transfer policies against the Palestinians, is not a far stretch.

unfortunately, there seems to be little to no resistance here. and i always find it disturbing that people claim or promise to have an intifada because of a religious site and not when thousands of palestinians are threatened with losing their homes and becoming refugees.

dsc00082

there was one lone act of resistance this week, though there are relatively few describing it as such. if only this became a massive, orchestrated effort–i love the idea of taking the tool of the colonizer and turning it into a weapon against them as sana abdullah reports:

It has been speculated that the attack by a 26-year-old Palestinian man ramming a bulldozer into an Israeli police car in Jerusalem was linked to Israeli plans to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, widely believed to be part of the Jewish state’s strategy to change the face of the holy city by expelling its Arab residents.

Palestinian sources said that the man who attacked the police car on Thursday, Mirii al-Radaydeh, was a resident of East Jerusalem and married with one child. He had no history of militancy and acted alone, suggesting that he was responding in rage against escalating Israeli policies against Arab Jerusalemites.

Radaydeh was the fourth Palestinian driver of a construction vehicle to go on the rampage against Israelis in West Jerusalem since last July.

Palestinian officials are warning that protests against evictions, demolitions, expanding Jewish settlements and attempts to consolidate the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem will turn more violent if these measures are not reversed.

Thursday’s attack, which the Israelis called a “terrorist” act, slightly injured the two policemen in their police car before the Palestinian was shot dead by a nearby policeman and a passing taxi driver.

here is some video footage of this act of resistance from no comment tv:

other ways to resist: boycott of course! just think of how many shekels you spend every day on israeli products and just think of all the ways they use that profit to further colonize palestine:

Palestinians consume 2.6 billion shekels worth of Israeli goods each year. According to official Palestinian statistics, 28 percent of this money goes towards the purchase of Israeli cement.

Palestinians consume 30 million shekels worth of medicines produced in Israel every year, and 10 million worth of gold manufactured in Israel.

and, finally, dam and abeer’s (sabreena da witch) amazing rap song “born here” is worth watching and remembering about how this is done in 1948 palestine, too. this song was written and the video was performed a few years back in response to such a demolition, which occurs there regularly as well:

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.

on disappearing

i’m still thinking about disappearance. i have been thinking about this since i heard esmail nashif’s really fascinating, original talk at the muwatin conference a few weeks ago. though he was speaking about a different type of disappearance: one that gives palestinians agency. a new strategy of resistance. a disappearance underground, to reorganize, to regroup, to restrategize. it really is hard not to think about disappearance in a general sense when you live in palestine because people disappear every day. palestinians are exiled, murdered jailed, dispossessed of their land, they go underground. Things disappear, too; palestinian homes are demolished, villages are destroyed. these are all kinds of disappearance.

and still other things disappear. information disappears. evidence disappears. or access to information disappears. the zionist regime commits crimes every day for decades and where does it go? where are the journalists in the west to report on it? where are the human rights workers to cover it? where is the united nations? the rest of the world. they seem to disappear, too, when it is convenient for them.

voices disappear. people’s voices get silenced. arab leaders normalize relations with the zionist state and contribute to the disappearance of liberation. a liberation movement disappears and becomes as a pseudo-state. united nations resolutions are passed and forgotten; they disappear, too. ngos subsume palestinian creativity and agency.

of course, it is that initial disappearance: that presupposes all of these aforementioned disappearances and continues the practice of disappearance. it is the disappearance of the palestinians who are refugees and the disappearance of their land. jonathan cook’s new book, disappearing palestine, which i just started reading connects past and present disapperances in crucial ways. he is a journalist i admire greatly and whose books i always get as soon as they come out. a rarity in the world of journalism: one who delves into historical context and who is committed to the struggle of all palestinians, including those living in 1948 palestine where he resides. i want to quote at length from his introduction because it gets at how these various disappearances are connected in important ways:

Israel’s enduring approach to the Palestinians–and the assumption, in Zionist thinking, of their eventual disappearance–was illuminated to me during a visit to a nature park close by the northern Jewish town of Beit Shean, built on the ruins of the Arab town Bisan after the 1948 war that established Israel. There I came across a small fortified settlement constructed entirely of wood–a replica of Tel Amal, one of the earliest frontier outposts in Zionism’s battle against the Palestinians for territory. The original enclosure and tall watchtower at its centre–known as a tower-and stockade–was built in 1936 to protect “Judaized” land in the Beit Shean valley from the Arab Revolt, a Palestinian uprising against Britain’s increasingly overt support for Jewish immigration. A militia was stationed at Tel Amal, its members taking turns in the tower to keep watch over their comrades from the neighboring kibbutz of Beit Alpha working the fields below. Once the land was secure, a new kibbutz, Nir David, was safely established next to the enclosure. The kibbutzniks then extended their reach by building a new outpost further along the valley. Within a few years there were several dozen such tower-and-stockades erected across Palestine.

Tel Amal was the physical embodiment of the Zionist philosophy of “dunam after dunam, goat after goat”: the whole of Palestine could be occupied step by step, and wrested from the natives. Moshe Sharett, one of the Jewish Agency’s leaders and a later prime minister, observed that the point of the tower-and-stockades “was to change the map of Eretz Israel by erecting new settlements, to make it as difficult as possible to solve the problems of this land by means of division or cantonization.” Compromise over territory was not part of the Zionist plan. In 1938, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the pre-state Jewish government, declared that, once his forces were strong enough, “we will abolish the partition of the country [between Jews and Palestinians] and will expand to the whole Land of Israel.”

At the end of the war of 1948, when the threat that the Palestinians might reclaim their land had been decisively thwarted, the remaining tower-and-stockades were converted into kibbutzim or moshavim. These rural cooperative communities, which for several decades attracted young people from around the world wanting to show solidarity with the new Jewish state, explicitly ban from membership the fifth of the country’s population who are Palestinian (the vestiges of the Palestinian population expelled in 1948). Today such communities control most of Israel’s usable land, holding it in trust for world Jewry rather than Israel’s citizenry.

Later, after the Six-Day War of 1967, the tower-and-stockade would become the prototype for Israel’s land-grabbing settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. In the early stages, armed civilians, usually religious fanatics, were encouraged to move into hostile territory to establish settlements to surround and fragment Palestinian communities. As these settlements were secured, less ideological Israelis were tempted there with offers of financial incentives from the state, such as cheap housing and low-interest loans. Today the job of the tower-and-stockade has passed from these established colonies to what Israelis sometimes call “illegal outposts,” small satellites of the main settlements in the West Bank that the government claims to oppose but that invariably become legal over time. The outposts have proved an ideal way to extend the boundaries of the main colonies and steal yet more land from the Palestinians. Inhabited by the most fanatical and violent of the settlers, the so-called “hilltop youth,” the outposts are sometimes justified as necessary by Israeli politicians because of the “natural growth” of the main settlements’ populations. But in truth their purpose is to consume vast areas of Palestinain land, which disappears at is “redeemed,” concentrating the rural Palestinian population into ever-narrowing confined spaces or driving them into the main West Bank cities for safety.

Today, the Tel Amal museum is the destination for endless parties of schoolchildren, there as part of their Zionist education to learn about the pioneering spirit of earlier generations. The youngsters are encouraged not only to reimagine conditions in the enclosure’s spartan living quarters but also actively to re-create the period, donning the khaki shorts and denim shirts of the kibbutzniks. Scaling the watchtower, the children pretend to survey the horizon, on the lookout for the Arab “enemy.” At Tel Amal, Israeli schoolchildren have the chance to re-enact the battle of redemption and celebrate the acquisition of territory. In the process, some are doubtless persuaded not only of Israel’s glorious past but also of the need to continue the struggle to take land from the Palestinians on Israel’s new frontiers in the occupied territories.

Zionism’s need to root Jews in the “Land of Israel” has always required a corollary: the uprooting of the native population. Whether adopting the settlers’ messianic language of returning to the Promised Land, the pioneer rhetoric of “redeeming” the land, or the bureaucratic jargon of “Judaizing” land, Zionists have been encouraged to regard their national identity as intimately tied to control over territory and the displacement of non-Jews who claim rival ownership. The staking of an indisputable claim to Palestine resonates with Zionists in several interrelated ways, including in the security, imaginary, and religious-mythical realms. It promises a personal and collective safety supposedly unattainable for populations that are stateless. It reinvents the supposedly weak Diaspora Jew led to the European gas chamber; now he is liberated, casting off his wandering and compromised nature to toil the land and become a muscular “Sabra” Jew. And inevitably it feeds on ideas of chosenness and return, the Jewish people’s armour against the twin dangers of modernity–secularism and assimilation. (4-6)

the continuity between pre-state and occupied land with respect to zionist policies, as cook shows, has always been about making palestinians disappear. whether it is golda meir doing it rhetorically and stating that “there is no such thing” as palestinian people. or whether it is literally disappearing villages, like bisan, so that we have to search for the ruins of palestinian life before an nakba. the disappearing act continues when israeli schoolchildren are taught a heavily propagandized, militarized curriculum of which this field trip cook describes is just one minor example. of course, this fact also disappears, especially in the u.s. media that only focuses on the american-israeli illegal settler itamar marcus’ racist propagandist venture as in a u.s. news and world report article this week. a fellow blogger, jillian york, wrote about this on the huffington post in which she quoted me.

the reason i love cook’s writing so much is that he never disappears palestinians in his writing. instead, what disappears is the zionist propaganda that characterizes too much of the world’s english language media. i’ve posted the film on this blog before, but for people who want to understand how palestinians voices and reality get disappeared from the media you should watch the film peace, propaganda, and the promised land. i will post it again though because it is important for people to watch it:

the film is old, but unfortunately the information conveyed in it remains true. there was a perfect example of this today. this morning i read a story about israelis announcing a new public relations campaign in one of their newspapers:

Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and Israel’s ambassadors around the world are preparing to launch a global effort in a bid to secure backing for the anticipated operation in the Gaza Strip.

The campaign is intended to create an ‘international umbrella’ of support for the intensification of military action against Hamas, and possibly prevent the passing of UN Security Council resolutions against Israel.

and just a few moments later i saw that england’s independent had already picked up the piece:

The Israeli government faced growing pressure to adopt a tough military posture against Hamas as renewed rocket attacks against southern Israel moved to the fore of the Israeli election campaign yesterday.

what you learn in the documentary peace, propaganda, and the promised land is that the zionist regime writes press releases for the information they want to disseminate. lazy american and european journalists reproduce that material without doing the work of investigating, finding out the context, examining its effect on palestinians. the problem is that the other side of the story always already disappears in this process. the colonists’ voice works in tandem with the international media and palestinians struggle to get heard. to not be disappeared.

what you don’t see in the western media is the daily ways that the zionist regime, through their terrorist military, works to make palestinians disappear with american-made weapons. for instance, american media did not report on the israeli terrorist forces’ attack on gaza last night:

Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Sunday night that a woman was wounded after the Israeli Army fired a surface-to-surface missile at a group of fighters east of Gaza city.

Medical sources at Kamal Adwan hospital reported that the Palestinian woman suffered mild-to-moderate wounds.

likewise palestinians disappeared into israeli jails last night, another story not reported in the western media:

Israeli forces confirmed that they seized 10 Palestinians this morning during raids in the West Bank, Maan news agency reported.

Three Palestinians were arrested in the city of Jenin, and seven more were arrested in the city of Nablus. All were stated by Israeli Military sources as “wanted”.

Palestinian security forces said in a statement that three others, not mentioned in the Israel’s account, were taken from their homes near the Israeli annexation wall in the town of Zeita, just north of Tulkarem.

Those arrested in the town of Zeita were identified as Kifah Abu Al-Izz, age 18, Nasr Abu Al-Izz, Age 22, and Muhammad Abu Al-‘Izz, age 30.

this erasure from the media is like a triple disappearance: first palestinians disappear into israeli jails for years, decades on end, next their absence is ignored, and their context as political prisoners is erased thus branding them terrorists, yet another label that erases them once more into a subhuman category. palestinians are always painted as extremists while israelis who are racists, terrorists are branded in ways that always infers that those who engage in racist activities are extremists (read: not the norm):

Extremists spray-painted “Mohammed is a pig” and “Death to Arabs” early Sunday on the walls and doors of the Sea Mosque in Jaffa, sparking the fury of the Islamic Movement in the mixed Arab-Jewish city.

The hate slogans also included “Kahane was right,” a reference to the slain Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the outlawed anti-Arab Kach movement, and “No peace without the House of Peace,” alluding to the Hebron structure from which dozens of far-right activists were evicted earlier this month.

but it is the norm. i have yet to see a palestinian mosque in a village that the zionists disappeared that doesn’t say precisely the same thing. same graffiti everywhere.

the disappearance here has two sides: one the refugees who are physically absent and the other is the people in 1948 palestine who are forced to disappear on a daily basis in all sorts of ways–to be rendered invisible. when they get to visible, when they are too present, various israeli terrorists–some in uniform, some not–come into suppress 1948 palestinians. it can drive one to a sense of madness as emile habiby describes in his masterful novel the secret life of saeed, the pessoptimist. in this novel there are many forms of disappearance–including actual disappearances in some magical realist chapters–but the one i am thinking of is the way that internalized colonialism disappears the “real” saeed, the protagonist, whomever he may actually be. habiby’s humor is absurdist and in this particular scene over the top as he rides in the van on his way to prison. as they drive through 1948 palestine, saeed looks out the window and comments about the palestinian villages he notices. the “big man” (the israeli disappearing saeed to jail) proceeds to correct saeed to ensure the village’s original name is disappeared in actuality, historically, and in memory:

I found that we were then at a crossroad between Nazareth and Nahal, passing the plain of Ibn Amir. the big man signalled to the policemen through the glass window separating him from “the dogs.” They led me out and stuffed me in between the big man and the driver. I made myself comfortable and sighed, breathed the fresh air deep, and remarked, “Oh, I see we’re in the plain of Ibn Amir.”

Obviously annoyed, he corrected me: “No, it’s the Yizarel plain!”

“‘What’s in a name?’ as Shakespeare put it,” I soothed him.

I spoke the line in English,causing him to murmur, “oh, so you quote Shakespeare, do you?”

I smiled, relaxing. But I noticed that the big man was growing ominously under his breath. Had I known what this implied, I’d have been better off keeping my knowledge of Shakespeare within my heart rather than quoting him by heart.

As we descended further down into the plain toward its city of Affulah, with the hills of Nazareth to our left, the big man began reciting to me the principles governing my new life in prison, the etiquette of behavior toward the jailers who were my superiors and the other inmates who were my inferiors. He promised, moreover, to get me promoted to a liaison position.

While he was going through these lessons, I became ever more certain that what is required of us inside prison is no different than what is required of us on the outside. My delight at this discovery was so great that I exclaimed joyfully, “Why, God bless you, sir!”

He went on, “If a jailer should call you, your first response must be: ‘Yes sir!’ And if he should tell you off, you must reply: ‘At your command, sir!’ And if you should hear your fellow inmates engaging in any conversation that threatens the security of the prison, even by implication, you must inform the warden. Now if he should give you a beating, then say–”

I interrupted him with the proper response, “That’s your right, sir!”

“How did you know that? Were you ever imprisoned before?”

“Oh, no. God forbid, sir, that anyone should have beaten you to this favor! I have merely noticed according to your account of prison rules of etiquette and behavior that your prisons treat inmates with great humanitarianism and compassion–just as you treat us on the outside. And we behave the same, too. But how do you punish Arabs who are criminals, sir?”

“This bothers us considerably. That’s why our minister general has said that our occupation has been the most compassionate known on earth ever since Paradise was liberated from its occupation by Adam and Eve. Among our leadership there are some who believe that we treat Arabs inside prisons even better than we treat them outside, though this latter treatment is, as you know, excellent. These same leaders are convinced that we thus encourage them to continue to resist our civilizational mission in the new territories, just like those ungrateful African cannibals who eat their benefactors.”

“How do you mean, sir?”

“Well, take for example our policy of punishing people with exile. This we award them without their going to jail. If they once entered jail, they would become as firmly established there as the British occupation was.”

“Yes, God bless you indeed, sir!”

“And we demolish their homes when they’re outside, but when they’re inside prison we let them occupy themselves building.”

“That’s really great! God bless you! But what do they build?”

“New prisons and new cells in old jails; and they plant shade trees around them too.”

“God bless you again! But why do you demolish their homes outside the prisons?”

“To exterminate the rats that build their nests in them. This way we save them from the plague.”

“God bless and save you! But could you explain that?”

“This was the justification, pure and humanitarian, made by the Ministry of Health, and quoted by the minister of defense when he explained the reasons compelling us to demolish the houses in the Jiftlick villages in the lowlands. That was the response he gave to the accusations thrown in our faces in the Knesset by that Jewish Communist congressman, that stooge of Nasser, King Husain, the Emir of Kuwait, and Shaikh Qabus!”

“And was he shut up?”

“Actually, they really screwed him.”

“How, exactly?”

“The speaker prevented him from continuing his speech. Democracy is not mere chaos, my boy. Now the Communists, as you know, are chaos mongers. Their representatives refused to obey the rules of democracy, and the speaker had him forcibly ejected from the sitting. That screwed him, alright!”

By now the police car was leaving the city of Affulah on the Bisan road, which led to my new residence. On both sides refreshing water was being sprayed on to the green vegetation, fresh in the very heart of summer. Suddenly the big man, cramped there with me and the driver in the front seat of that dogcart, was transformed into a poet.

While I sat there being my usual Pessomptimistic self, he was ecstatic: “Verdant fields! Green on your right and on your left; green everywhere! We have given life to what was dead. This is why we have named the borders of former Israel the Green Belt. For beyond them lie barren mountains and desert reaches, a wilderness calling out to us, ‘Come ye hither, tractors of civilization!'”

“If you had been with me, boy, when we crossed the Latrun road on our way to Jerusalem, you would have seen the Green Belt: the greenery of our pine-clad hills, trees everywhere hugging one another, branch intertwined with branch, while lovers embraced beneath them. Then you would have seen, facing these green-robed hills, your barren mountains devoid of any cover that could hide their naked rocks. There they remained, weeping for a quarter of a century, shedding all their earth. Let us wipe the tears dry while you weep away, building your palaces on the rock above.”

“Was this why you demolished the Latrun villages, Imwas, Yalu, and Bait Nuba, and drove the inhabitants away, master?”

“But we gave the monastery to the monks, for a tourist attraction. And we left the graveyards to those buried there, out of our faith in God. These great expanses, however, are ours, our inheritance from the war. ‘Let bygones be bygones.’ That’s an American proverb of German origin.” (123-126)

this dialogue between saeed and the “big man” comes towards the end of the novel. it is probably difficult to understand the satire and sarcasm here if you do not understand the history. but in american terms it is like an african american slave thanking his “master” for destroying his native africa, enslaving him, torturing him (in other words, what is known as an uncle tom). here we see saeed, a palestinian, ironically thanking his israeli “master” for destroying palestinian villages, forcing palestinians to flee their land and become refugees, and for imprisoning him. in other words: saeed thanks the “big man” for zionist disappearances of palestine and palestinians.

i love absurdism in most forms and the most gifted palestinian film director, elia suleiman, who comes from nasra (nazareth) as so many palestinian directors do, is especially good at it. his 1996 film, chronicle of a disappearance (which is finally out on dvd) also makes use of this theme of disappearance in an absurdist style. it has been a long time since i have seen the film. but here is a trailer of elia suleiman’s other brilliant film divine intervention, (which tam tam seems to be too stubborn to watch…still) :

and here is an interview with elia suleiman:

it is interesting that as i write this it makes me think of a friend from shatila refugee camp in lebanon who is a young, gifted filmmaker himself. suleiman is his favorite director and this young friend has the artistic vision to create the sort of cinema in this same tradition. but i learned today that he has disappeared. literally. he went to france for a conference and disappeared.

israeli = illegal

There are many forms of resistance as I’ve often written about here. Palestinians have always used a variety of such methods. And indeed it took decades before they resorted to their right to armed resistance against the Jewish settler colonists and the British who imposed this colonial context on them vis-a-vis the Zionist project of dispossession forced them off their land. But regardless of the form of resistance the British, the Zionists, and later the Israelis used various methods to squash all forms of resistance: literature, music was banned; non-violent protests or strikes curtailed; armed resistance always outmatched militarily. Americans and Israelis love to pretend like there is not a history of non-violent resistance in Palestine–or a present for that matter. They often characterize such protests in their military and media as violent in order to rationalize their always violent and lethal responses to such protests. Today we see this in Jenin where Palestinians protested against illegal Israeli settlements:

Israeli troops attacked a peaceful demonstration protesting the continued construction of Israeli settlements and the separation wall on Friday morning south of Jenin.

The protest took place near the evacuated settlement of Homesh located between Jenin and Nablus. When the demonstrators reached the abandoned area Israeli soldiers attacked them with rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs.

Note: those rubber bullets are always more accurately described as rubber-coated steel bullets.

For a glimpse into what people in Jenin were protesting, here is a report by Jacky Rowland on illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and what it costs Palestinians’ continued dispossession:

Interestingly, as Rowland reports in the Al Jazeera clip, Israelis break all sorts of laws all the time–both their own and international. There was a report today in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Ehud Barak’s lawbreaking behavior in relation to continuing illegal settlement expansion in spite of the so-called “roadmap” to “peace.”

In January Barak asked that all construction projects in the West Bank be brought to him for authorization. Data received by Haaretz suggests that since April, Barak has authorized the following construction projects in the West Bank:

* The marketing of at least 400 housing units and plots, of which 315 homes and 32 plots are in Beitar Ilit, 48 homes and 19 plots in Ariel, and 40 housing units and and a commercial center at Efrat.

* The construction of some 60 homes in a neighborhood that is several kilometers away from its mother settlement of Eshkolot, in southern Mount Hebron, but is included in its municipal jurisdiction.

* The registration and publication of construction projects in Ariel, Modi’in Ilit, Ma’aleh Adumim, Mevo Horon, Oranit, Efrat, Givat Ze’ev, Beit El, Neveh Daniel, Alon Shvut, Har Adar, Kochav Ya’akov and Talmon. The two latter settlements are situated to the east of the separation fence.

* Mekorot, the Israeli water company, was given permission to prepare plans in Kiryat Arba, which is also situated east of the fence.

* Authorization to plan “an experimental electricity production farm” in southern Mount Hebron.

* Renewal of authorization for the marketing of 31 homes and commercial properties in Beitar Ilit.

* The planning of a cemetery in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim.

* The allocation of 4.6 dunams (just over one acre) for the development of a nature reserve in the Prat stream in Wadi Kelt, which is east of the fence.

* The allotment of plots for the construction of public buildings in the neighborhood of Matityahu-East in Modi’in Ilit (which has been partially built on lands of the Palestinian village of Bil’in). Similar allotments were made in Elkana, Kfar Oranim, Kedumim and Beit Aryeh.

Note: fence=26 foot tall apartheid wall. How is it that the world can continue to look away, to deny facts, to pretend like it is Palestinians who break laws, when it is the occupying Zionist Jews who stole and who steal land, who massacred and who massacre Palestinians on a regular basis? Palestinians are incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison that is Gaza and are subjected to forced starvation once again and they resist this militarily as is their right under international law:

The Abu Ali Mustafa, An-Nasser and Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the launch of 11 projectiles which landed near Ashkelon at dawn on Friday.

In response, the Israeli army launched an airstrike against the area they believed the projectile to have been fired. The Israeli army said two Palestinians were wounded in this attack.

The brigades are the armed wings of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the armed wing of Hamas respectively.

According to Israeli media eight projectiles landed in the western Negev Friday morning and reported that one Israeli woman in Sderot was lightly injured.

To get a glimpse into the bigger picture related to what is happening in Gaza right now–yet again–Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story” yesterday had a good discussion that highlights the overall context:

While the U.S. may be slow in catching on to this humanitarian crisis that continues unabated for decades and worsens by the year, month, week, day, minute, other countries, thankfully, are slowly (unfortunately at a snail’s pace) catching up:

Relations between Israel and Britain remained strained on Thursday over Downing Street’s intention to label products manufactured in West Bank settlements, a week before the expected arrival of British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Miliband, to the Middle East.

Miliband, who will visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon next week, is expected to talk to Israeli officials over the settlements in the West Bank and his country’s proposed plan to label products manufactured in them. “This initiative is a serious and substantial problem in relations between the two countries, and is generating a sense of crisis,” a senior diplomat in Jerusalem said.

Note: one should boycott everything and anything from the Zionist state–and for those who have the willpower from the U.S. as well.

And can you imagine any American leader even coming close to what came out of Switzerland today?:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel said the demolitions violated the 1949 Geneva Conventions, regarded as the cornerstone of international law on the obligations of warring and occupying powers. The Fourth Convention states that occupying powers must respect the property of civilian populations under their control.

Switzerland said it lodged a formal protest with the Israeli Foreign Ministry over recent demolitions, which now bring the tally to more than 600 destroyed homes in East Jerusalem and 1,600 altogether in the West Bank since 2000.

The Swiss statement, using unusually harsh language, said the neutral country regards the recent incidents as violations of international humanitarian law and notes no military need to justify the destruction of these houses.

The Swiss statement called East Jerusalem an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory – a phrase that could anger hardline Jewish groups that believe Israel should maintain control over the entire city. Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, but Palestinians claim the territory as the capital of their hoped-for state.

Note: actually, Palestinians don’t “claim” the territory: it is legally theirs. Just like all of 1948 historical Palestine. Every square inch.