Yes, India, Israel uses water as a weapon

For the past couple of nights I’ve noticed a new commercial on English language television in India. It seems that Israel is currently promoting tourism on occupied land while hiding their reality of their almost 70-year long colonisation of the land. It seems that now that Indians no longer have a stamp in their passport preventing them from travelling to the world’s 2 apartheid states–South Africa and Israel–they’re pushing tourism, making it appear as if it were any European country. It was shocking to see such a commercial, knowing how many Indians will fall for it, travel there, and never even have a glimpse of what life is like for Palestinians in historic Palestine or the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Here is my response to a similar piece in The Hindu a couple of years ago).

Of course, one would expect that an Israeli agency would promote its own tourism. But what’s even more shocking is that an Indian environmental organisation would fall for such propaganda. And that’s what seemed to happen with India Water Portal. Their piece was lazy–relying solely on the Israeli embassy for their misinformation. And the Indians who published this piece are too enamoured with the mythology of Israelis making the deserts bloom, they credit them with inventions like drip irrigation, which Indians were doing for hundreds–if not thousands–of years before the colony of Israel existed. They seem to be completely oblivious to the realities in Palestine, too, and the way that water is used as a tool of apartheid. Perhaps if they realised, Indian passports would once again be prohibited from entering Israel (wishful thinking, I know).

What bothers me about false reporting on water in India is that so many Indians–Indians who I expect to know better–will repeat this fib about Israel being some agricultural, water genius nation that India should look to as a model. And the Indian government is indeed stepping up its work in that area with collaborative ventures in the agricultural sector.

Israel’s water lies go far back to their early colonisation in the 1940s, but after they accelerated the colonisation of the West Bank, the theft quickened, as Charlotte Silver explains:

The Israeli military has governed all sources of water in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 and 1974, respectively. Originally gained by military conquest, its control has subsequently been affirmed through the Oslo Accords and, increasingly, the work of the Palestinian Authority and international NGOs. 

vp palestine water infographic

In Gaza, because of the ongoing siege of the world’s largest open air prison, the water situation is even worse than in the West Bank, which is why the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) has been actively involved in helping to create solutions to the lack of drinking water:

In the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli Occupation systematically denies Palestinian adequate quality and quantities of water. Palestinian communities inside the state of Israel have less access to water than their Jewish counterparts, as well. Water is diverted from Palestinian resources the West Bank (and previously in Gaza) to illegal Israeli settlements and into Israel. Israel denies materials, fuel, and permits to sustain and expand water systems. Military attacks predictably—and often deliberately—destroy wells, water tanks, pipes, treatment plants, and sewage systems. Widespread poverty prevents people from purchasing clean water or repairing their wells and plumbing. The health and well being of virtually every Palestinian child and adult is affected by the shortage of clean, safe water.

The water crisis in Gaza is extreme. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes in what is now southern Israel to the small and arid Gaza Strip. At the same time, Israel cut off access to water sources around Gaza. The only source available, the Gaza Aquifer, could not support the huge and sudden rise in population, and the water it generates has been steadily deteriorating for more than sixty years. It is currently estimated that 95% of water from the Gaza Aquifer is unfit for human consumption.

It’s pretty simple to surf the Internet and figure out the truth about water in Palestine and Israel’s role in siphoning it for their swimming pools when Palestinians barely get enough to drink, cook, and bathe with. Even Israel’s Ha’aretz has reported on the way Israel creates thirst in Palestinian communities as has the Economist. Amnesty International has published reports on Israel’s use of water as a tool of their apartheid regime.

What will it take for Indians to understand the truth, the reality of what really goes on with water in Palestine? Perhaps a trip, but not to Israel; one to the occupied territories where tourists also get first-hand experiences with inequity and water as well as all the other visible and less visible forms of apartheid.

daily-water

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Breaking Through to the Hindu and other recent developments

I was a bit surprised to learn that The Hindu newspaper carried coverage of the American Studies Association boycott resolution in its pages. It hardly seemed like international news to me. But what was more surprising is that it came in the form of Zionist articles by American columnists David Brooks (New York Times) and Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post). Both articles repeat stale propaganda about Israel and the boycott movement, which if they had been even fact checked some of that could have been reduced. In any case, I wrote my own response to them, which was published in today’s paper, although it was edited so I’ll post the original version below:

In the print edition of The Hindu on 11 January 2014, a column by Charles Karauthammer appeared from the newswire about the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent resolution to boycott Israel. As a member of the ASA for almost twenty years, and as the person who initiated this move towards boycott in the spring of 2005, I find it a bit odd that such an article (the second, actually, as The Hindu published a wire piece by David Brooks a couple of weeks ago arguing more or less the same point) would appear in the pages of an Indian newspaper given that the bone of contention is from quite an American point of view. Moreover, Indians know from experience what the power of boycott can do when fighting a foreign colonial power on one’s land.

Brooks and Krauthammer may offer readers many opinions, but there is very little grounded in facts, which a quick perusal of the ASA’s website would reveal. For example, Brooks, for example, thinks that the problem is only the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; curiously Gaza doesn’t come into his frame. Both writers paint a portrait of an Israel that looks like it’s a beautiful, democratic society with just a few minor flaws that need to be worked out. Let me offer your readers a different American viewpoint, and one that comes from an American Jew who has spent several years teaching at Palestinian universities in the West Bank cities of Jerusalem and Nablus; there I had a front-row seat to the myriad ways that Israel actively interfered with the lives of Palestinian scholars and students, making teaching, conducting research, or merely going to school next to impossible.

Any way one examines the conditions of Palestinians, including access to education, there are problems whether in the West Bank, Gaza, or Israel itself. Israel has a segregated school system (similar to the “separate but equal” system the U.S. created for African Americans) as detailed in a recent Human Rights Watch report. Israel routinely targets schools in its invasions of Palestine (and Lebanon); during its 2008 war against Gaza, Israel targeted a United Nations school and the Islamic University of Gaza. In the West Bank, where I spent most of my time, students were routinely kept from attending university and school because of the checkpoint and Jewish-only road system. Last summer the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report detailing the extent to which Palestinian children between the ages of twelve and seventeen are kidnapped from their homes at night, detained in military prisons where they are tortured, often until they agree to become informants on their family and community. If I had more space to write, I could produce a dissertation on the ways in which Palestinian youth are singled out by Israeli soldiers, abused, and prevented from pursuing their education.

Instead of exploring the reality of Palestinians, Krauthammer and Brooks deflect attention by either asking why Israel is “singled out” (answer: because as a state it singles itself out out as in its special relationship with the U.S., for which it is handsomely rewarded financially, militarily, and through UN vetoes). Those who pay taxes in the U.S. and who are part of the boycott movement do not want our tax dollars to continue funding these activities. In Israel, as in South Africa under its apartheid regime, universities are state-run and help produce the knowledge that undergirds the practices and policies that further the occupation and colonization of Palestinians.

But Brooks and Krauthammer would have it that the ASA operated out of either anti-Semitism or discrimination against Israeli scholars. In fact, the resolution, in keeping with the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, calls for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions only. Neither the movement in Palestine nor the West nor in India targets any individual on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the ASA resolution also acknowledges the fact that Israeli scholars are a part of this movement as well.

The false claim of “anti-Semitism” is often trotted out by Zionists—Christian and Jewish alike—who wish to remind their audience of violence perpetuated by Europeans against European Jews. But in the history of West Asia this charge is ironic given the fact that Arabs are far more Semitic than European Jews like me and given the fact that the people living under a brutal colonial regime are Palestinians, Syrians (in the Occupied Golan Heights), and Lebanese in the remaining five villages that Israel continues to illegally occupy.

Those of us active in the boycott movement around the globe do so out of a desire to see Palestinian people achieve justice meaning the right of return for Palestinian refugees and compensation as per UN Resolution 194. We believe that there shouldn’t be any nation with special status. We believe that when the UN makes a resolution all nations must abide by them not just countries bullied by the powers governing the Security Council and their allies.

Marcy Newman is an independent scholar and author of The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans and a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

There have been some more terrific pieces about the boycott in the press in the last couple of weeks, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) resolution, which doesn’t go as far as the ASA, but at lest it is taking the correct steps in that direction.

First, here is a terrific action alert from Adalah New York for people who want to respond and support the ASA. There is also a petition to sign to support the ASA, but you must be a member. This is especially essential since yesterday Forbes had the audacity to publish an openly ad hominem attack by Richard Behar about several of my colleagues and friends in the ASA who have been working tirelessly over the last several years to make this resolution happen.

Steven Salaita has a brilliant piece in Electronic Intifada called “Ten Things We’ve Learned About Opposition to Academic Boycott,” which pretty much responds to Behar and whatever other Zionist hack wants to do to try to belittle our work. Also, USACBI posted a brilliant piece this week called “This is What an Academic Boycott Looks Like” for people who are sincerely interested in understanding our work. Also here is the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) statement of solidarity with the ASA.

Second, the U.S. Green Party issued a press release supporting the ASA’s resolution.

Then there are a couple of great pieces in university newspapers from Bowdoin, Syracuse, and Tufts. Bill Mullen did a radio interview about the resolution and Democracy Now! hosted a debate, although the choice of debaters isn’t great.

Meanwhile at the MLA annual meeting, another one of my former academic homes, a resolution was passed, although it focused on the lack of human rights and academic freedom. A petition is here for people who want to sign it (you don’t need to be a member to do so). Here are some articles covering the MLA resolution and what transpired at the various panels there:

Liz Schulman’s “Boycott Panel at MLA Draws Applause and Fearful Questions”

Alex Kane’s “MLA Delegates Pass Measure Against Israel Denying Entry to Academics”

Bruce Robbins’ “‘Common Sense Has Moved On’: Report from MLA Debate on Israel”

David Palumbo-Liu’s “Modern Language Association Prepared to Talk Seriously About Palestine”

Finally, in the midst of all this, Ariel “the butcher” Sharon died. But instead of publishing an article from an Indian point of view, once again The Hindu resorted to a Zionist writer, Ethan Bronner, from the news wire. Many people have torn this and other whitewashed obituaries to shreds already, but today The Hindu also published a terrific, contextually rich piece by Vijay Prashad that highlights the damaging work that Sharon did, along with the BJP, to erode a history of solidarity between Palestinians and Indians:

In 2003, Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India. He had been invited by the BJP-led government to cement the newfound ties between India and Israel. At that time, The Hindu wrote, “New Delhi has sent out wrong signals by playing host to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at this particular juncture… Even if it was possible to set aside [Sharon’s] appalling personal history, his apparent distaste for a just and permanent settlement with the Palestinians cannot be ignored. Even moderate constituencies in Arab countries are convinced that Mr. Sharon was largely responsible for scuttling the Oslo process. The policies Israel has implemented under his stewardship have aggravated the violent confrontation with the Palestinians.” Nonetheless, the Bharatiya Janata Party and later the Congress endorsed Israeli policy by its new attachment to Tel Aviv. India quickly became the largest importer of Israeli arms, unwittingly helping the Israeli economy in its principal task — to pursue the occupation of the Palestinians.

Not all of India embraced its leaders’ camaraderie with Sharon. “Katil Sharon se yaari, sharam karo Atal Bihari [shame on you, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for befriending the murderous Sharon],” and similar slogans echoed across the country at Sharon’s death, despite the warm condolence message crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office. India’s government, which once led the Non-Aligned world to defend the rights of the Palestinians, is now reticent to be critical of Israel and allows itself to celebrate the life of a man whose day in court was postponed because of his Western allies.

For other excellent coverage, which doesn’t include much of Al Jazeera’s shameful, borderline hagiographic tributes, see these pieces:

Democracy Now!’s interviews with Rashid Khalidi, Noam Chomsky, and Avi Shlaim

As’ad AbuKhalil’s “Ariel Sharon: International War Criminal Remembered”

Jonathan Cook’s “The Legacy of Ariel ‘the bulldozer’ Sharon”

Max Blumenthal’s “How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel’s Destiny”

Ahmed Moor’s “Ariel Sharon: The Architect of Terror”

David Samel’s “Bronner Whitewashes Sharon’s Atrocities”

Peter Hart’s “How the Big Papers Remember Ariel Sharon”

“The Hindu” Strikes Again: Normalizing Israeli “Sports”

In last week’s The Hindu, Arundhati Hazra wrote an article entitled “Kicking it with Krav Maga.” The article writes about this so-called Israeli martial arts form as if it were just an ordinary method of learning self defense.  But in reality, like most things Israeli, it is anything but innocuous. Ironically I had just come across a great passage in Max Blumenthal’s terrific new book, Goliath, in which he offers a succinct description of Krav Maga:

Krav Maga, a hyper-aggressive Israeli brans of hand-to-hand combat that focuses on neutralizing an opponent as quickly as possible by targeting the most vulnerable parts of their body–by gouging their eyeballs, smashing their genitals, or “fish hooking” their mouth. The soldier emphasized the importance of breaking out of chokeholds, though not to prevent rapes or street attacks. ‘The scenario was you’re in a shopping mall, there’s a terrorist with a bomb, and he’s grabbing you by the arm or trying to choke you to kill everyone, so this was how we were told we’d get out. And this was part of a larger narrative designed to prepare us to be soldiers by the time we were finished with middle school,” Lia recalled. “The idea wasn’t to make us into good citizens with democratic values–it was all about preparing us to be good soldiers fighting the Palestinians” (181).

Blumenthal is sharing an episode a journalist who grew up Ariel settlement. She’s sharing her experience of how Krav Maga was taught to her and the other colonist youth. It may not be taught precisely that way in Bangalore. However, understanding why this is being exported and its relationship to Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is important.

A couple of years ago Richard Silverstein reported on this phenomenon in the west:

For those of you who see those pictures of IDF soldiers beating Palestinian demonstrators and feel a surge of Jewish pride, then krav maga (literally “contact fighting”) is just for you:

They say many of their students come to Krav Maga not only for self-defense, but also to feel a connection to their family in Israel…

Everybody feels a connection to the soldiers, whether they are Jewish or not,” Mor said. “Soldiers and their fighting spirit, we really teach fighting spirit here.”

“…I’m not coming from Israel and I’m not Jewish, yet I believe that the army is so strong and so prepared that I’m willing to practice this every day of my life. I love it…”

And we love it too.  Someone has to report this use of hasbara to Israel’s Hasbara minister.  He’ll undoubtedly want to disseminate news of this brilliant new use of pro-Israel propaganda world-wide, just as he’s touting the co-optation of the European rabbinate on behalf of expounding the joys of Israel to a doubting European public.

Indeed it is quite the hasbara outfit as it does its job of normalizing Israel and people’s relationship to the colonial entity because Indians in Bangalore taking Krav Maga classes will probably say that they’re merely taking a self-defense class. And while that may be the intention, there are deeper and more pernicious elements afloat.

“The Hindu” Promotes Tourism to Apartheid Israel

Yesterday morning I was enjoying reading the Sunday edition of The Hindu newspaper. That is, until I got to the final page of the paper where I saw an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “Ten Things to do In Israel,” which  ahistorically, acontextually promotes Indian travel to a settler-colonial, racist, apartheid state.

Here is my response to that piece, which I just emailed to the newspaper’s editor:

9 September 2013

Dear Editor:

In yesterday’s The Hindu Magazine section, you published an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “10 Things to do in Israel.” I found the article to be shocking and offensive. Since when did it become normal for Indians to promote travel to a settler-colonial apartheid state? I would suggest a more apt article for you to publish in your newspaper’s pages entitled, “Ten Reasons Not to go to Israel.” The list could include the following justifications:

  1. Israel practices apartheid and is a settler-colonial state. Just as the British were a settler-colonial state in India and just as South Africa was an apartheid regime, Israel is a combination of these two racist state systems of the past. Just as the British Empire created its settler-colonial state in India, they too enabled the set up of a colonial entity by partitioning the Levant after World War I. Since 2002, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has unequivocally compared the practices of apartheid by Israel with the former regime in South Africa.
  2. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 stipulates that Palestinian who were forcibly removed from their homes during the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (Israel’s premeditated “Plan Dalet” to eliminate the indigenous population), should be allowed to return to their homes and be compensated financially for the losses they incurred, much like Jews were offered compensation after World War II.
  3. The ethnic cleansing operations of 1948 have never ended: it is ongoing. For the most recent example of this, one need only look at the Negev desert where yet again the Bedouin community is being forcibly removed from their land. But this is also an ongoing project in places like Jaffa and Jerusalem, places that Anand seems to only see as tourist destinations.
  4. Israel likes to promote itself as an country that has “made the deserts bloom,” which, ignores the centuries of cultivation established by indigenous Palestinians. Israel’s ability to cultivate stolen Palestinian land comes from their ongoing theft of natural resources, like water, which they exploit for their settlement swimming pools while Palestinians are left with little to no water for bathing and drinking.
  5. Anand recommends tourists visit Israel’s Nazi holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, which is located on the land of the Palestinian village, Deir Yassin, which notably endured one of the most infamous massacres during Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations of 1948. The depopulated village ironically hosts this museum about the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Europe.
  6. The article also recommends that people spend time sampling food like felafel. Anand fails to mention that this is an Arab food not an Israeli one. Like most Israeli “culture,” felafel was studied and adopted by Zionist Jews who colonized Palestinian land. Likewise, the Jaffa oranges mentioned in the article were world renowned produce that Palestinians exported globally prior to their forced removal from their land. In addition to coopting Palestinian culture and branding it Israeli, Israel has consistently been on a mission to commit cultural genocide by imposing various laws—many of which date from the British Mandate era—to prevent Palestinian literature, music, dance, and theatre from being produced and shared publicly.
  7. Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom have been on ongoing hunger strikes for the past few years, and many of whom are children, are being held for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is resisting the ongoing colonization of their land. Just as Indians were political prisoners of the British during the Raj, Palestinians are also fighting to get their country back and those who work towards this end, regardless of age or gender, are often imprisoned.
  8. Since its formation, Israel has repeatedly promoted the ironic idea that it is always at risk of being thrown into the sea by its neighbors. The reality is that since its inception, Israel has been a belligerent regime and the fourth most powerful military in the world, propped up by the United States, of course. On a daily basis, Israel’s army fires at fishermen in Gaza; they regularly capture shepherds in Lebanon, and most recently they have bombed Syria and are pushing for the U.S. to invade Syria as well.
  9. Palestinians who live in Israel, who call themselves 1948 Palestinians because they are the people who managed to remain on their land against all odds are second-class citizens, just as Indians were under the British Raj. 1948 Palestinians do not have equal rights because they live in a state that defines itself as Jewish and Palestinians are either Christian, Druze, Baha’i, or Muslim.
  10. Don’t go to Israel. Go to Palestine. Show your solidarity with the Palestinian people. Join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement inspired by India’s boycott movement and later South Africa’s. Join the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Traveling to Israel promotes their economy and therefore enables it to continue its brutal and ruthless colonial system. India remembers all too well what colonialism means. Why would Indians want to promote its continuation in another location?