Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YmoTgH_XQ0]

Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

DSC00118 DSC00105 DSC00099

DSC00129

It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

no homes for nahr el bared, yet again

the last couple of weeks i was writing a review of rosemary sayigh’s brilliant and important book, the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries, which is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand palestine, palestinian refugees, palestinian resistance, and, of course, the right of return. i was re-reading the book and i was struck by what one palestinian refugee and fighter from nahr el bared refugee camp had to say about his camp being the first to liberate itself from the lebanese army:

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

it is so ironic to think about this when i read the latest news about nahr el bared, which still, until now has yet to allow most of the palestinian refugees (31,000 of them) to return to the camp two years after the lebanese army destroyed it (read electronic lebanon for background on this or search my blog for details about the subject).

here is the latest–from the daily star–in the lebanese government’s plan to make palestinians doubly and triply homeless while denying them civil rights and while not fighting for their right of return to their homes in palestine either:

Palestinian factions staged protests in refugee camps all across the country on Friday to condemn the ongoing delay in reconstructing the battered northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Demonstrations were held in Ain al-Hilweh, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, al-Buss, near the port city of Tyre, and Chatila on the outskirts of the capital, to express solidarity with the refugees of Nahr al-Bared, who have yet to return home two years after the end of the battles between the Lebanese Army and the Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam militant group.

Protestors held banners slamming a recent decision by the Lebanese government to halt the reconstruction process in Nahr al-Bared and voiced their demands in petitions sent to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) officials.

“We ask UNRWA to ease the suffering of Palestinian refugees at Nahr al-Bared and offer them relief,” said the head of Ain al-Hilweh’s Public Committee Abu al-Motassem.

Nahr al-Bared has been in ruins since 2007 when Lebanon witnessed a violent war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam.

Lebanon’s Sate Shura Council recently issued a decision to halt the reconstruction process in the camp based on the discovery of Roman archeological ruins underneath the campsite.

Motassem called on the Lebanese government, UNRWA, the Arab League and the international community to reconsider the State Shura Council’s decision. “Refugees have been waiting for more than two years for the camp’s reconstruction,” he said.

Also in Ain al- Hilweh, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official in south Lebanon Qassem Sobh asked the Lebanese government to find a solution for the “logistic difficulties” even if it meant “buying or renting nearby sites [to house refugees] in order to solve the humanitarian problem.”

The Union of Palestinian Factions official Abu Ahmad Fadel, demanded on Friday that the Lebanese Army put an end to the strict military measures imposed on the Nahr al-Bared refugees.

“We ask that the army reduce the security measures and guarantee the camp’s residents freedom of movement,” he said.

The delay in reconstruction also seems to have had repercussions on Lebanese- Palestinian political ties.

“The Nahr al-Bared issue concerns all Palestinians,” said spokesman of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Ali Mahmoud. “Any attempt to halt the camp’s reconstruction directly affects Lebanese-Palestinian relations” he added.

and here is a news item on the subject in arabic from dunia watan:

إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد وحكمه: نموذج “مثالي” للإقصاء
بقلم ساري حنفي وإسماعيل الشيخ حسن

مخيم نهر البارد فضاء للاستثناء
تبدو الاوضاع المحيطة بتدمير مخيم نهر البارد مثيرة للقلق على أكثر من صعيد. فعلى الرغم من تبرؤ اللاجئين العلني من “فتح الاسلام”، ألقت بعض وسائل الاعلام اللوم فيما يتصل بهذه الظاهرة على المخيم وعلى اللاجئين، وذلك من دون إجراء أي تحقيق يتناول مصادر تمويل هذه المجموعة والجهات التي تقف وراءها. وخلال المعركة تم اعتقال لاجئين فلسطينيين في جميع أنحاء لبنان عند الحواجز التي أقامها الجيش أو قوى الأمن الداخلي، وجرى حصار المخيم وإعلانه منطقة حرب، كما منع الجيش دخول مواد للاغاثة، أو دواء، أو الصحافة. وفي حين فضّل اللاجئون في بداية المعركة البقاء في المخيم خشية أن تؤدي مغادرتهم المخيم الى تدميره بالكامل، فإن القصف العشوائي الشديد الذي لم يستثن المنازل والمدارس والمساجد، أجبر السكان في النهاية على إخلائه تماماً. وهذه هي الحادثة الاولى التي يغادر فيها الفلسطينيون مخيماً لهم من دون الدفاع عنه، الامر الذي يؤكد انتفاء الصلة بين اللاجئين الفلسطينيين و”فتح الاسلام”. وخلال الأشهر الاربعة التي دارت فيها المعركة، تم تدمير المخيم القديم بالكامل، وصار ركاماً بعد هدم 1700 منزل كان يضمها، هدماً كاملاً. وبعد محاولة للهرب قام بها الناجون من مقاتلي “فتح الاسلام”، أعلن الجيش إنهاء عملياته، وخروجه من المعركة منتصراً على الارهاب

العالمي.
ومع أننا نعيش حالياً عصر “الحرب الكونية على الارهاب”، وعلى الرغم من الاوضاع الملتبسة المحيطة باستشهاد جنود الجيش اللبناني غدراً، فإن ثمة ما يدعو الى الشك في أن العرض العشوائي للقوة المفرطة، والذي تجاهل حقوق الانسان والملكية، كان يمكن أن يمارس ضد أي مكان “حضري” لبناني آخر. لكن نظراً الى كون مخيم نهر البارد “فضاء للاستثناء”، أي مستثنى من حماية القانون العام، ويؤوي لاجئين ليسوا بمواطنين، ومحرومين من الحقوق المدنية في لبنان، وتمثّلهم فصائل فلسطينية متناحرة، وتخدمهم وكالة تابعة للأمم المتحدة تفتقر الى التفويض بحمايتهم – فإنه كان في الامكان تدميره بالكامل.

واعتباراً من التاريخ الرسمي لانتهاء القتال في بداية أيلول، وحتى العاشر من تشرين الاول 2007، وُضع مخيم نهر البارد تحت الاشراف الكامل للجيش اللبناني، ولم يُسمح لسكان المخيم بالعودة اليه، ثم عاد بعد ذلك، الآلاف الى المنازل التي تعرضت للحريق والنهب والتخريب المتعمد. ويؤكد الاشخاص الذين قابلناهم، والذين قابلتهم بعثة تقصي الحقائق التابعة لمنظمة العفو الدولية، وجود نمط ممنهج لحرق المنازل ونهبها. كما حملت الكتابات الجدارية العنصرية البذيئة على u]] من بيوت المخيم، أسماء الفرق العسكرية اللبنانية المتعددة (Amnesty International 2006). ويبدو ان عناصر “فتح الاسلام” وبعض سكان المخيم هم من قاموا بأعمال النهب في بداية الامر، لكن الذين تابعوا هذه الاعمال لا بد من أن يكونوا ممن يعتبرون المخيم فضاء للاستثناء وخارج نطاق القانون، يمكن أن يُنهب وأن تُخرَّب الممتلكات فيه عمداً. ولغاية الآن، لم يجر أي تحقيق مستقل، على الرغم من أن منظمة العفو الدولية كتبت بهذا الشأن الى رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية، والى وزارة الدفاع اللبنانية، وطالبت بإجراء تحقيق وبمحاسبة المسؤولين (Amnesty International 2006).

واللافت أنه لم يجر أي نقاش عام في هذا الموضوع المهم. وبما أن المخيم يُعتبر فضاء للاستثناء، فقد شكّل منطقة طوارئ مُنع الشهود من دخولها: فحتى اللحظة لا يُسمح للصحافيين، ولا لمنظمات حقوق الانسان، بدخول المخيم من دون تصريح عسكري خاص. وهذا التعليق للقوانين هو الذي سهّل قيام التخريب المتعمد والنهب، فالسكان الفلسطينيون هم “الانسان المستباح والمُضحى به” (homo sacer، بالمعنى الذي يعطيه جورجيو أغامبن): أناس لا تُخرَّب ممتلكاتهم فحسب، بل تُنهب ايضاً، ومن دون السماح بملاحقة المجرمين.

ويشعر سكان مخيم نهر البارد بأن ما حدث في مخيمهم يمثل جزءاً من مؤامرة مخطط لها ضدهم، فقد قالت الغالبية الساحقة من الاشخاص الذين قابلناهم إنه كان هناك خيارات أخرى لحل مشكلة “فتح الاسلام”، كان من شأنها تفادي تدمير المخيم تدميراً كاملاً. فقد كان في الامكان حل المشكلة من خلال تدخل المقاتلين الفلسطينيين الذين يعرفون جغرافيا المخيم، الامر الذي يجعلهم أكثر كفاdة في هذا النوع من الحروب داخل منطقة كثيفة العمران، وأكثر حساسية إزاء ممتلكات اللاجئين ومبانيهم. أما الخيار الآخر فكان قيام وساطة أكثر فاعلية بين “فتح الاسلام” والجيش اللبناني.

التعاطي مع الحيز:
عملية التخطيط العمراني

استمر وضع الاستثناء وأولوية الأمن في الهيمنة على مشهد ما بعد معركة مخيم نهر البارد، وقد بدا ذلك واضحاً في عملية التخطيط العمراني لإعادة إعمار المخيم. فالهيئة الحكومية الرسمية المسؤولة عن التخطيط في لبنان، هي المديرية العامة للتنظيم المدني، لكن، خلال المناقشات المتعلقة بتطوير المخطط العام، والتي استغرقت عاماً كاملاً، كانت هذه المديرية المذكورة غائبة. والواقع أن الجهة اللبنانية المعنية، التي هيمنت على مشهد التخطيط وعلى المفاوضات، كانت الجيش اللبناني. ويمثل ذلك سابقة خطرة للبنان عامة، وللمخيمات خاصة، وذلك مع تنامي تدخل العنصر العسكري في الشؤون الحكومية المدنية بحجة الدواعي الامنية. إن وجود الجيش كان كفيلاً بإيلاء الأمن الأولوية في المفاوضات الجارية على المخطط التوجيهي العام، ثم تتدخل المديرية العامة للتنظيم المدني في نهاية هذه العملية الطويلة للموافقة رسمياً على المخطط العام.

وعلى رغم المأساة التي تنشأ في أوقات الازمات والحالات الطارئة من هذا النوع، والتي تتفاقم بسبب الفراغ السياسي “الظاهري” في المخيمات الفلسطينية، فإن المأساة، الى جانب ذلك، تتيح الفرصة أمام عدد من الشبكات الاجتماعية، وكذلك أمام الناشطين والحركات السياسية، لتوحيد جهودهم من أجل مواجهة المخاطر التي تواجه جماعة ما، أو مكاناً ما. فعلى المستوى المحلي في المخيم، بدأت المبادرات الشعبية المتعددة، والتي نشأت استجابة لمشكلات معينة محدودة ناجمة عن غياب الحكومة، وعن عدم تأمين الخدمات في المخيم، بتوحيد جهودها ومناقشة ما يمكن، أو يجب عمله، في أثناء سير المعركة وتدمير المخيم.

واللافت في حالة مخيم نهر البارد أن ناشطين وأكاديميين آخرين من مخيمات ومدن وبيئات أخرى، قاموا بتوحيد جهودهم مع المبادرة المحلية. والامر المهم بشكل خاص في هذه الشبكة الممتدة والمتنوعة، هو وجود معماريين ومخططي مدن استفادوا من المعارف التي اكتسبوها من عملهم، ومن دراستهم للسياسات العمرانية المختلفة، ولمشاريع إعادة العمران التي تساعد على تمكين المجموعات، وذلك من أجل وضع استراتيجيات فاعلة في مواجهة مشروع الدولة. وقد أطلقت هذه المبادرة على نفسها اسم “هيئة العمل الاهلي والدراسات لإعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد”.

من جهة أخرى، أنشئ “برنامج” جديد لتحسين المخيمات التابعة لوكالة الغوث (الأونروا)، وذلك من أجل القيام بدور فاعل في إطلاق إعادة الاعمار والتخطيط العمراني، وهو جهد متواصل حالياً. وقد دعا هذا البرنامج الى مبادرة من منظار مختلف، الامر الذي ساهم في إيجاد مشاركة تامة بين وكالة الغوث وهيئة العمل الأهلي والدراسات، تجمع البعد الشعبي الى الخبرة المهنية. وانطلقت هذه المبادرة على الرغم مما وصفه علماء الاجتماع باختفاء الحيز العام الذي دمره العوز الاقتصادي، واستعمرته وسائل الاعلام، عدا السياق السلطوي العربي. كما تتحدى المبادرة المذكورة ما كان يُعتبر في العقود الماضية سلبية بعض اللاجئين الذين نشأوا على لعب دور الضحية.

ولعل سبب هذه الحماسة التي تجلت بين السكان هو اعتقادهم بوجود بعد سياسي في عملية تدمير مخيم نهر البارد، وفي مخطط الحكومة لإعادة إعماره. وقد ظهر ذلك واضحاً في إعلان عدة سياسيين، في أثناء سير المعركة، مخططات لتحسين المخيم تقوم على مبادئ ومعايير غير مقبولة لدى السكان المحليين. وبعد انتهاء المعركة، اتضح تماماً أن المفهوم العام للمخططات كان يرتكز الى شبكة منطقية من الشوارع العريضة التي تسمح بتطبيق ضوابط أمنية فاعلة، والى إسكان اللاجئين في شقق متماثلة بغض النظر عن أنماط عيشهم وبناهم الاجتماعية السابقة.

في أثناء الشهر الثاني من سير المعركة، قدمت هيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد المسودة الاولى لمبادئ إعادة إعمار المخيم، وكانت هذه نتاج ورشات عمل متعددة مع الاهالي، نظمها متطوعون في هيئة إعادة الإعمار، ونتاج اجتماعات مفتوحة واستطلاع آراء من خلال تعبئة استمارات. وبدأت المسودة بمطالبة الناس بالمشاركة في عملية تقويم مساحات البيوت، وأكدت الحاجة الى وضع خطة إعادة إعمار المنازل المدمرة كما كانت في السابق، الامر الذي يؤمن المحافظة على الوحدات السكنية الفردية، وعلى الاحياء، وطرق السير، والمعالم. وتمثل المطلب السياسي، في ما يتعلق بإعادة بناء المخيم، في أن يعود المكان “مخيماً” – وليس بلدة – أي كمكان إقامة موقت.

كان المطلب المعماري الاساسي يتمثل في الحفاظ على نمط البناء المرتبط بالعائلة الممتدة باعتباره حجر الزاوية في مباني المخيم، أي النموذج الذي يتمكن فيه الجيل الأصغر من البناء فوق منزل الوالدين وتأسيس أسر جديدة. ولم يكن سبب اختيار الإبقاء على هذا النموذج من البناء مقتصراً على الرغبة في الحفاظ على التماسك الاجتماعي للقرية فحسب، بل شمل سهولة التوسع المستقبلي وانخفاض تكلفته ايضاً (ولاسيما في بيئة تضم مجموعة سكانية مهمشة لا يسمح لها القانون بالتملك في لبنان). وفي النهاية، أعدت وكالة الغوث، بالاشتراك مع هيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد، خرائط وقاعدة بيانات بواسطة منظومة المعلومات الجغرافية (GIS)، إذ تم توثيق التفصيلات المكانية وتفصيلات الملكية في ما يخص جميع العائلات في المخيم – وذلك لاستعمال المعلومات قاعدة يتم على أساسها وضع المشروع النهائي لإعادة الإعمار.

لكن اعتماد مبدأ المشاركة لم يكن بالمهمة السهلة، فقد نجمت صعوبات بسبب موقف بعض مسؤولي الحكومة اللبنانية الذين لا يؤمنون بالمشاركة الشعبية الحقيقية، وإنما بالتعاون مع منظمات دولية ورسمية فقط، مثل وكالة الغوث، وكذلك موقف بعض مسؤولي منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية. وقامت وحدة تحسين المخيمات في وكالة الغوث بدور رئيسي في تمكين مشاركة الاهالي، وذلك من خلال المشاركة التامة لهيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد في عملية التصميم والمفاوضات كلها. ووافق رئيس الحكومة في نهاية الامر على الاقتراح الذي قدمته وكالة الغوث وهيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد، نظراً الى اقتراب
الموعد النهائي لمؤتمر فيينا الذي اصر فيه المشاركون – المانحون على تقديم خطة إعادة إعمار جاهزة في المؤتمر.

وكانت المفارقة رؤية المسؤولين الحكوميين اللبنانيين يتباهون بعد ذلك، وأمام المانحين ووسائل الإعلام المحلية، بأهمية مبدأ المشاركة في مشروع إعادة الاعمار، وذلك لادراكهم فائدة هذا الامر في تعزيز صورتهم. لكن المسؤولين لم يتبنوا الموقف ذاته في ما يتعلق بمسائل اخرى بالغة الاهمية، وتتصل باعادة الاعمار، كالحقوق المدنية او شكل الحكم او الامن او الاقتصاد، بل حتى الغاء الحالة العسكرية الموجودة في المخيم بعد اكثر من عامين على اندلاع المعركة. وظل الأمن يمثل العامل الرئيسي الذي اثر في قرارات حكومية عدة تتعلق بمسائل متعددة.

حكم المخيم: الرؤى المتضاربة للادارة المشهد المحلي

لا ريب في ان موضوع “إدارة” المخيمات، او الحكم المحلي فيه، غالباً ما يساء عرضه وفهمه، والسبب في ذلك يعود جزئياً الى ان ممارسات الحكم المحلي تتصف بأنها غير رسمية ومتضاربة ومتغيرة، وهي تتنوع من مخيم الى آخر، لكن يمكن وصفها عامة بأنها تتخذ شكل صورة متعددة الطبقة يقوم فيها العديد من الفاعلين والمجموعات والافراد والفصائل بالمناورة والتنافس، وبتدبير أمور الحياة في المخيم. ومع ان الممارسات المذكورة تبدو عصية على الفهم للمراقب الخارجي – فإنها في واقع الامر تمثل انعكاساً لتعقيد السياسة الفلسطينية والوضع الفلسطيني ومفارقاتهما ومصاعبهما في مخيم حضري للاجئين “موقت ودائم” عمره ستون عاماً. وهذه المقالة لا تسعى لتقديم نظرة عامة وشاملة الى آليات الادارة في المخيم ضمن المشهد السياسي – الاجتماعي التاريخي، وذلك على رغم أهمية هذا الموضوع، بل ان الفكرة المهمة في هذه المقالة هي إظهار تفسير الحكومة لـ”مشكلة” المخيمات، وكيفية التدخل التي اختارتها هذه الحكومة.

ان الفاعلين التقليديين في مخيم نهر البارد هم: لجنة شعبية (مؤلفة من ممثلين عن جميع الفصائل، لكن تاريخياً هم ممثلون عن التحالف الموالي لسوريا): لجان الاحياء؛ مجموعة من الوجهاء؛ بعض المنظمات الاهلية. كما يوجد في المخيم عدة لجان ومبادرات شعبية تتبنى قضايا مثل اعادة الاعمار والدفاع عن الحقوق ومصالح التجار، وقد بدأت تؤدي دورأً اكبر في مشهد المخيم. واظهرت ازمة مخيم نهر البارد ضعف الفصائل الفلسطينية التقليدية في ادارة الأزمات عندما تتصرف بمفردها، في معزل عن القوى الاخرى.

وبدلاً من الاعتماد على الفاعلين المحليين في المخيم، قررت الحكومة اللبنانية تغيير الوضع القائم، وتقديم نموذج جديد لادارة المخيم يقوم حصراً على مبدأ اضطلاع قوى الامن الداخلي بإدارة المخيم وبالمراقبة، وذلك من دون التعاطي مع المشكلات الحقيقية للمخيمات او للفلسطينيين في لبنان. وقام فريق خاص بإعداد وثيقة كي تقدم الى مؤتمر المانحين في فيينا الخاص بمخيم نهر البارد.

“وثيقة فيينا”

شاركت الحكومة اللبنانية جزئياً في تجميع مواد “وثيقة فيينا” وصوغها، وذلك من خلال التعاون مع لجنة الحوار اللبنانية – الفلسطينية ومستشاريها، ومع ما عُرف لاحقاً باسم المكتب الفني (RCC) التابع لمكتب رئيس الحكومة. وتجمع “وثيقة فيينا” بين دراسات فنية عدة كانت قد أعدتها وكالة الغوث، ولجنة اعادة اعمار مخيم نهر البارد، والبرنامج الانمائي التابع للامم المتحدة، والبنك الدولي، وشركة خطيب وعلمي، وذلك بهدف تقديم رؤية موحدة شاملة لإعادة إعمار المخيم، ولتكلفة المشروع. وفي حين اعدت الحكومة اللبنانية الوثيقة، رعى المؤتمر كل من النمسا ولبنان وجامعة الدول العربية ووكالة الغوث والاتحاد الاوروبي.

وعلى الرغم من موافقة الفلسطينيين رسمياً على الوثيقة، فان الممثلين السياسيين الفلسطينيين قاموا بدور رمزي فقط في عملية إعدادها الفعلية، نظراً الى افتقار منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية الى هيئات فنية تستطيع القيام بدراسة كهذه، والمشاركة في وضعها وإعدادها. وقد ملأت هذا الفراغ جزئياً مبادرات متعددة صادرة عن منظمات أهلية فلسطينية، وعن خبراء قاموا بدور فاعل في مع البيانات والضغط من خلال وسائل مختلفة رسمية وغير مباشرة، هذا بالاضافة الى آليات مشاركة متعددة لجأت اليها الأمم المتحدة والوكالات الدولية. اما المضمون السياسي للجزء المتعلق بالأمن والادارة في هذه الوثيقة، فيمثل حالة مغايرة تماماً، اذ أعدت الحكومة ومستشاروها تلك المقاطع بشكل كامل وحصري، وفي غياب اي جهة او مشاركة فلسطينية.

تقترح “وثيقة فيينا”: “تأسيس بنية ادارة شفافة وفاعلة في مخيم نهر البارد، ويشمل ذلك تحقيق الأمن وسلطة القانون داخل المخيم من خلال الشرطة المجتمعية (Community Policing)”.

وتطالب الوثيقة المانحين بتقديم الامكانات المادية (5 ملايين دولار) من اجل: “التدريب والمساعدة التقنية لقوى الأمن الداخلي (اللبنانية) بهدف إدخال نظم الشرطة المجتمعية الى مخيم نهر البارد”.

وتمضي الوثيقة لتبين ان: “تطبيق مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية داخل بيئة مخيم نهر البارد تستوجب وجود قوى أمن داخلي (لبناني) داخل المخيم تعمل على تقليل المخاوف والحساسيات الموجودة قبل نزاع مخيم نهر البارد وبعده، فهذا النوع من ضبط الامن يشجع على المشاركة وحل النزاعات. وإن هذه التدابير الامنية الخاصة بمخيم نهر البارد متفق عليها مع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية […]. وان بناء الثقة بين قوى الامن الداخلي وأهالي مخيم نهر البارد سيشجع اهالي المخيم على ان يكونوا داعمين بشكل افضل ومتشجعين على التبليغ عن مشكلات المخيم والامور الامنية. وسيشارك ضباط الشرطة في نشاطات اجتماعية متعددة (خطط شبابية وبرامج اجتماعية)، لإيجاد علاقات اقوى بأهالي المخيم. فالشراكة الوثيقة بين عناصر قوى الأمن الداخلي وبين المجتمع ستساهم في جعل مخيم نهر البارد بعد إعادة اعماره مكاناً اكثر أماناً، وستشجع على تعميم نموذج ناجح للامن في المخيمات الفلسطينية الاخرى في لبنان. وسيتم تعريف كوادر قوى الأمن الداخلي بالتاريخ السياسي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان، وسيتم تدريبهم على ان يتفهموا بصورة اعمق الخصوصيات الثقافية والاجتماعية للمجتمع الفلسطيني. كما سيتم تدريب هذه الكوادر على حل النزاعات وعلى مهارات التواصل”.

ومع ان المجتمع المدني الفلسطيني راوده الشعور بأن وثيقة كهذه كان يجري اعدادها، فان الوثيقة المذكورة لم تعلن الا قبل ايام قليلة من بداية مؤتمر فيينا، وذلك عندما طُبعت ووزعت على الدول المانحة. وقد اطلعت منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية على الوثيقة في الوقت الذي اطلع عليها المانحون الآخرون. وعلى الرغم من اعتراض منظمة التحرير على مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية في اجتماع رسمي عُقد مع السفير خليل مكاوي (رئيس لجنة الحوار)، قبل مؤتمر فيينا ببضعة ايام، لم تجر اي تعديلات على الوثيقة. وفي الواقع/ لم يُعرض اي موقف فلسطيني امام الدول المانحة خلال المؤتمر. اما المبلغ المرصود لتمويل تدريب كوادر قوى الأمن الداخلي، والبالغ خمسة ملايين دولار، فقد جرى تأمينه وتحويله الى الحكومة اللبنانية نتيجة “وثيقة فيينا” ومؤتمرها، وبدأ استشاريون للحكومة العمل على الموضوع من دون معرفة أهالي المخيم.

اختزال الحكم بالموضوع الأمني

على الرغم من ايجاز المقطع الخاص بالادارة في “وثيقة فيينا”، فإنه يعكس بوضوح استمرارية وتطور منهجية التعامل مع المخيمات من زاوية امنية. فعندما يكون موضوع الشرطة هو العنوان الفعلي الوحيد في “وثيقة فيينا” الذي يتطرق الى موضوع “الحكم” في المخيم، فإن هذا استكمال لمنهجية اختزال اللاجئين الفلسطينيين الى مشكلة امنية، واعتبار المخيم “جزيرة امنية”. فقد وضع صانعو السياسة اللبنانيون ومستشاروهم، ومن دون استشارة الأهالي، التصور الموجود في الوثيقة. وفي حين جرى تسويق الوثيقة تحت شعارات الشراكة والشرطة المجتمعية، فإن المجتمع المحلي كان غائباً عند صوغها، وهذا يتناقض مع تعريف الشرطة المجتمعية، أساساً، كاستراتيجيا وفلسفة لضبط الأمن تقومان على مفهوم فحواه ان تفاعل الاهالي ودعمهم هما المساعد في ضبط الجرائم والتعرف الى المشبوهين، ,في احتجاز المخربين، وفي تبليغ رجال الشرطة ما يحدث من مشكلات. ويفشل هذا المنطق ويصعب تطبيقه عندما يفرض على مجتمع يرفضه لاسباب متعددة ستذكر لاحقاً.

وبينما يكمن مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية في خطاب تحسين، ثم تمكين أنشطة معينة ومبادرات المواطنة، فإن هناك تناقضاً في تطبيق أنظمة وقوانين وممارسات تعتمد على تطوير مفهوم المواطنة، على مجموعة سكانية من اللاجئين الموقتين الذين تضن عليهم الدولة المضيفة بحقوقهم الاجتماعية الاساسية.

كان لفقرة الادارة في “وثيقة فيينا” ردة فعل سلبية قوية بين أهالي المخيم، وقد توصلنا الى هذه النتيجة من خلال عدد من المقابلات التي اجريناها، بالاضافة الى العريضة المقدمة، مباشرة، الى رئيس الحكومة، فؤاد السنيورة، والتي وقّعها المئات من أهالي مخيم نهر البارد، ونشرت في صحيفتي “الاخبار” و”السفير” بتاريخ 24/1/2009، إذ اعرب الموقعون عن معارضتهم سياسة الحكومة في التعامل مع مخيمهم من منظور امني، وكذلك خطتها المستقبلية لادارة المخيم.

ويمكن القول ان المضامين السياسية للاقتراح الوارد في “وثيقة فيينا” ستلقي بظلها على اي شراكة او نقاش مع المجتمع المحلي يمكن ان يجريا مستقبلاً. فعلى الرغم من الادعاء ان الاقتراح المذكور تم اعداده بالتنسيق مع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية فإنه لا يوجد في تلك المرحلة اي شراكة حقيقية مع فصائل المنظمة في هذا المشروع، ولا أي تفاهم، ولا أي موافقة عليه.

ان الوثيقة لا تأخذ في الاعتبار الا الحاجات الامنية ووجهة النظر والرؤية اللبنانية، فاللجنة الشعبية عامة، لم تذكر في الاقسام المتعلقة بـ”الحكم” في الوثيقة باعتبارها محاوراً مشاركاً في مسألة الشرطة “المجتمعية”، كما ان الاقتراح يتجاهل بسذاجة المشهد العام السابق للمعركة في مخيم نهر البارد، وهو المشهد الذي يُظهر واقعاً معقداً شديد التنوع من الفاعلية يضم اللجنة الشعبية، والكفاح المسلح، واللجنة الامنية، والفصائل السياسية، ولجان الاحياء، والوجهاء، والنقابات المهنية المتعددة، والمنظمات الأهلية المحلية، وغيرها، الذين يتفاعلون ويتنافسون في ما بينهم بشأن مختلف المسائل التي تلحظ المصلحة العامة للمخيم. وهذا الواقع السابق للمعركة يعكس وجود طاقة ومشاركة في المجال العام تقومان على مشاركة شعبية مكثفة في ادارة شؤون الحياة اليومية.

من المؤكد ان هناك مشكلات لا يستهان بها داخل الادارة المحلية في المخليمات، بما في ذلك النزاعات والممارسات الفاسدة لبعض تلك البنى وتأثيرها السلبي المحتوم في ما يتعلق بمصلحة المخيم، لكن هذا لا يبرر تجاهل الاطر والممارسات السياسية والاجتماعية الموجودة في المخيم.

فإيجاد شراكة فلسطينية – لبنانية حقيقية تقوم على الاحترام وتطوير هذه الأطر والممارسات المحلية في موازاة تطوير آليات واضحة وشفافة للتنسيق مع الجهات اللبنانية، لا يتحقق من خلال تعليم ضباط قوى الأمن الداخلي اللبنانيين “التاريخ السياسي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان… والخصوصيات الثقافية والاجتماعية للمجتمع الفلسطيني”، كما ورد في “وثيقة فيينا”.

إن الأمر الإشكالي هنا هو حصر حاجات “الحكم” (governance) في المخيم ورؤيتها ضمن منظور أمني فقط، وافتراض إمكان تلبية تلك الحاجات بإدخال الشرطة الى المخيم، ذلك بأن هذا الأمر يتجاهل الخطاب المعاصر المتفق عليه عموماً في ما يتعلق بمعنى الحكم الرشيد ومكوناته الأساسية المتعددة من إدارة المكان وتمثيل المجتمع وتنميته وتطويره اقتصادياً. ولا يمكن فصل عملية تطوير الحكم المحلي داخل المخيمات الفلسطينية عن مسألة التعاطي مع الحقوق الفلسطينية ضمن رؤية ومقاربة شاملتين، كما ان الدروس والأدبيات التي تتناول حالة إعادة الاعمار ما بعد الحرب، لا تكف عن ترداد ما تعتقد انه يشكل قواعد اعادة الإعمار الناجحة بعد الحرب، وهذه القواعد هي: (1) اعادة بناء البيئة المكانية، (2) اعادة إقلاع الدورة الاقتصادية، (3) لجان تقصي الحقائق والمصالحة، (4) اقامة حكم رشيد. ولن يتمكن مخيم نهر البارد من التغلب على التحديات الاجتماعية والسياسية والاقتصادية التي يواجهها في مرحلة ما بعد الحرب، إلا من خلال إجراء مراجعة عامة وشاملة، وعندئذ يمكن وضع أسس علاقة لبنانية – فلسطينية راسخة وحقيقية.

أما على ارض الواقع، فان المقاربة السابقة المرتكزة على مفهوم الأمن، استمرت بعد انتهاء المعركة، وذلك من خلال تدابير متعددة: وجود نقاط تفتيش لا لزوم لها، وجود سلك شائك يحيط بالمخيم، منع السكان الفلسطينيين واللبنا نيين الراغبين في دخول المخيم، من دخوله، قبل الحصول على تصريح عسكري، وجود قواعد عسكرية وبحرية. وقد اصبحت هذه الإجراءات المذكورة سمة مميزة لعملية اعادة الاعمار، فعلى سبيل المثال، أقر مجلس الوزراء إنشاء ثكنة عسكرية عند أطراف المخيم القديم بعد انتهاء المعركة مباشرة، كما أنه أصدر في شباط 2009، مرسوماً آخر يقضي بإنشاء قاعدة بحرية على شاطىء نهر البارد، بالاضافة الى استمرار لجنة الحوار وقوى الأمن الداخلي في ممارسة الضغوط لإنشاء مركز للشرطة داخل المخيم القديم. وفي حين تعارض اللجنة الشعبية المحلية هذا الخيار معارضة عنيفة، تلجأ لجنة الحوار الى الضغط على قيادة منظمة التحرير كي تقبل الأمر.

ومن المهم ان نشير هنا الى أن منظمة التحرير تقبل وجود مركز الشرطة من دون استشارة اللجنة المحلية او مناقشتها في الموضوع. وهذا كله يجري من دون ان تؤخذ في الاعتبار الكثافة العمرانية الشديدة في المخيم، إذ ينحصر 1700 مبنn ضمن مساحة لا تتجاوز 190,000م.م.، وتؤوي ما يزيد على 20,000 لاجىء (أي 1100 شخص في الهكتار – وهي إحدى اعلى الكثافات الحضرية في العالم). وفي حين يبدو خيار إنشاء مركز الشرطة عند اطراف المخيم اكثر مراعاة لمشاعر السكان، فإن الحكومة اللبنانية ولجنة الحوار ترفضان مثل هذا الخيار باستمرار. ويبدو ان الحكومة اللبنانية تعتبر مركز الشرطة بحد ذاته بيانا سياسيا يعلن سيطرتها الجديدة التامة على المخيم، وذلك على الرغم من خبرات الدول المضيفة الأخرى في المنطقة التي تفضل إبقاء مراكز الشرطة عند أطراف المخيمات. ففي عمان مثلا، وبعد إنشاء مراكز شرطة وسط المخيمات وإحراقها مرات عدة، أعادت السلطات إنشاء تلك المراكز عند اطراف المخيمات. وفي حين نستطيع الانشغال، وبكل سهولة، في مناقشة ميزات “الشرطة المجتمعية”، أو عدم إمكان تطبيقها، فإن الموضوع الأول الذي يجب مناقشته هو الوضع الأمني الفعلي داخل مخيم نهر البارد. فاذا كان النقاش هو بشأن الجرائم، فإن هذا المخيم لم يكن يشكل مكاناً مغلقاً موبوءاً بها، إذ كانت هذه تطوق عادة، كما كانت تجري ملاحقة من ينتهك حرمة القانون، وهو ما كان يحفظ السلامة العامة في المخيم. أما اذا كان النقاش متعلقاً بوجود “فتح الاسلام”، فيجب التساؤل عن الأسباب الحقيقية التي حالت بين الأطر الفلسطينية وبين التعامل بحزم مع عناصر هذه الظاهرة، وما هي اسباب فشل قوى الأمن الداخلي والجيش اللبناني في اعتقال مجموعة مسلحة كان القسم الاكبر من مكاتبها وقواعدها ومواقع تدريبها ومنازل عناصرها موجوداً خارج الحدود الرسمية لمخيم نهر البارد، أي على ارض تابعة رسمياً للسلطات اللبنانية؟ فمعظم تلك الابنية، في الحقيقة، كان موجوداً في منطقة مجاورة لمخيم نهر البارد، وبعضها في مركز مدينة طرابلس وعلى أطرافها، مثل ابي سمرا. والهدف هنا ليس القاء المسؤولية على الجهات اللبنانية، وانما الاشارة الى ان ظاهرة “فتح الاسلام”، وكثيرا من الظواهر الاخرى التي تهدد أمن اللبنانيين والفلسطينيين معاً، ليسا مجرد نتاج غياب عناصر ضبط الأمن اللبناني.

القضايا الحقيقية هنا تتصل بطبيعة التنسيق وآلياته بين الاطر الفلسطينية واجهزة الدولة اللبنانية (بشقها المدني وليس العسكري وحده)، وذلك يخص المخيم والمنطقة المجاورة له. فمنذ توقف العمل باتفاقية القاهرة (سنة 1969)، ظلت الشروط المرجعية بين الطرفين غامضة وملتبسة في افضل الاحوال، وصار المخيم فضاء معلقا من الوجهة القانونية، اذ اصبحت المخابرات العسكرية تحكمه باعتبار انه “حالة استثناء”.

(جزء متكامل من دراسة أطول
تنشر لاحقا في مجلة
“دراسات فلسطينية”)

(ساري حنفي أستاذ مشارك في الجامعة الاميركية في بيروت، وإسماعيل الشيخ حسن مهندس ومخطط عمراني في جامعة لوفان (بلجيكا)، ويعمل ناشطاً في هيئة العمل الاهلي والدراسات لإعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد.)

it’s official: nakba is removed from the curriculum in occupied palestine

here is the latest news from the zionist terrorist colonist regime:

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar briefed the cabinet on plans for the start of the school year, and announced that the word “nakba” will be taken out of lesson plans.

“It can be said with certainty that Arab Israelis experienced a tragedy in the war, but there will be no use of the word ‘nakba,’ whose meaning is similar to holocaust in this context,” said Sa’ar. “The education system in the Arab sector will revise its studies about the homeland, geography, and society in elementary schools.”

interestingly, palestinian refugees are asking unrwa to remove material about the nazi holocaust from the palestinian curriculum in their schools:

A group of refugee camp committees in the Gaza Strip wants the United Nations to remove history of the Jewish Holocaust from its classroom curriculum.

According to a letter sent to UNRWA director John Ging, the committees urged the refugee agency to scrap its program because mention of the genocide “confirms the Holocaust and raises sympathy for Jews.”

UNRWA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

more examples of why zionism = racism

here are some news items over the past month–just the latest examples in 122+ years of why zionism = racism.

1. An Arab couple whose one-year-old daughter was expelled from an Israeli day-care center on her first day are suing a Jewish mother for damages, accusing her of racist incitement against their child.

Maysa and Shuaa Zuabi, from the village of Sulam in northern Israel, launched the court action last week saying they had been “shocked and humiliated” when the center’s owner told them that six Jewish parents had demanded their daughter’s removal because she is an Arab.

In the first legal action of its kind in Israel, the Zuabis are claiming $80,000 from Neta Kadshai, whom they accuse of being the ringleader.

The girl, Dana, is reported to be the first Arab child ever to attend the day-care center in the rural Jewish community of Merhavia, less than one kilometer from Sulam.

However, human rights lawyers say that, given the narrow range of anti-racism legislation in Israel, the chance of success for the Zuabis is low.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has operated an education system almost entirely segregated between Jews and Arabs.

However, chronic underfunding of Arab schools means that in recent years a small but growing number of Arab parents have sought to move their children into the Jewish system.

Dana was admitted to the day-care center last December, according to the case, after its owner, Ivon Grinwald, told the couple she had a vacant place. However, on Dana’s first day six parents threatened to withdraw their own children if she was not removed.

Kadshai, in particular, is said to have waged a campaign of “slurs and efforts aimed at having [Dana] removed from the day-care center, making it clear that [her] children would not be in the same center as an Arab girl.” Zuabi was summoned to a meeting the same evening at which Grinwald said she could not afford to lose the six children. She returned the contract Zuabi had signed and repaid her advance fees.

Zuabi said that while she was in the office Grinwald received a call from Kadshai again slandering Dana and demanding her removal.

2. A 23-year-old woman of Ethiopian descent claimed that the driver of an Egged No. 5 bus in Rishon Lezion refused to allow her to board his bus because of the color of her skin.

Speaking to Ynet, Yedno Verka recounted last Wednesday’s incident: “As I prepared board the bus, the driver suddenly shut the door. I banged on the glass, but he ignored me. Then a young woman came running towards the bus, and he opened the door for her. I stayed close to her and boarded the bus.

“When the driver saw me he said, ‘what, don’t you understand that I don’t allow Kushim (derogatory term for black people) on board? Are you trying to smash my door in? Were there buses in Ethiopia? Why don’t you walk? In Ethiopia you didn’t even have shoes and here you do, so why don’t you walk?’ I was shaking all over; I couldn’t even speak,” she said.

At this point Verka handed the driver the bus fair, but, according to her, he refused to accept it and said, “Kushit hold on, what’s your hurry? Since you (Ethiopians) made aliyah you’ve become arrogant.”

3. At least 100 students of Ethiopian origin in Petah Tikva do not know what school they will be attending in the fall, with the opening of the school year just two and a half weeks away. The uncertainty stems from the fact that the city’s private schools with an ultra-Orthodox or national Orthodox bent have refused to accept children of Ethiopian origin.

Much of the funding for the private schools comes from the Education Ministry and the city. Education Ministry director general Shimshon Shoshani said Wednesday that the schools that continue to refuse to enroll the children will be fined and may have their licenses suspended.

A few days ago the Petah Tikva municipality told the city’s private schools that they would need to enroll about 70 students of Ethiopian origin. Another 30 students were to be enrolled in the public Orthodox school system, where most Ethiopian-Israeli students go. However, sources at the ministry and municipality said conversations with officials at the private schools indicated that they would refuse to enroll the children.

Administrators at the city’s public Orthodox schools said they would not accept the 30 children as planned.

Sources familiar with the situation said that around 150 to 200 students of Ethiopian origin are to go to school in Petah Tikva.

According to a senior city official, the private schools “told us specifically that they do not intend to register the new students. It’s clear to everyone that the response to the enrollment instruction would be negative, but we had to go public with it to allow the Education Ministry to begin the process of imposing monetary fines.”

4. A trip for some 250 children from Al Jish village, near Safad north of the country, had to be cut short after the manager of a Jewish-run swimming pool refused to allow the organizers of the Jish Church Summer camp, play Arabic music.

Israeli Ynet News published a report on the incident and stated that Jad Salman, the director of the Jish Church Summer Camp, stated that the pool manager was insulting and racist in his statement.

Salman said that this summer camp is conducted by the church every year, and is considered one of the best summer camps among Christians in Israel, the Ynet added.

Salman stated that after he along with the organizers of the trip, and some 250 children entered the country club to swim, he asked the personnel about the location of an electricity connection, but the workers did not give a direct answer and kept sending him around.

Later on, Salman managed to find a power outlet, and connected a stereo system before playing church music.

As soon as he went to fill some drinking water, he noticed that the music had stopped, he went back and the instructors told him that they were asked to stop the Arabic music and were instead given a Hebrew music CD.

He then approached the club manager, Shemi Namimi, and asked him about what is going on, and then the directors said “do not put Arabic music, but you can play Hebrew music”, the Ynet reported.

Salman tried to convince the manager to allow them to play Arabic music, as he told him that this is a summer camp, and that the mother tongue of the children is Arabic.

But the manager just said “There will be no Arab music in the club”. After he heard the response, Salman used a microphone and called on the children to leave the pool.

5. UNRWA’s Hebrew-language outreach program titled “Building Understanding: Epitaph of a Dead Warehouse,” was cancelled by Acre festival authorities in the last days before the UN organization was to present photos and films of their work in Palestine.

The agency had prepared a multimedia theatrical performance that documented the “dramatic last day of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s warehouse in Gaza which was destroyed during the fighting in Gaza on 15th of January 2009,” a program for the evening read.

“[The production] has already been shown in Tel Aviv and Sderot where it was well received,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement. “We presented the piece to the Acre Festival authorities a couple of months ago and they gave an immediate green light and it is surprising that the play should be cancelled by the Festival authorities just hours before our first performance here.”

The festival also booted UNRWA’s photo exhibit and another film from the program.

6. Israel’s national water company announced Tuesday that it would be disconnecting the water in the Bedouin community of Rahat due to an accumulated debt of about $400,000 owed by the town’s municipality.

The 46,281 residents of the town, located in Israel’s desert region, will remain without water for a few hours a day until the municipality settles its debts with Mekorot.

Heads of the Bedouin councils held a meeting with Shlomo Buchbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, in order to discuss their financial difficulties.

Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Sabihan said a plan had been formed in order to pull the municipality from its deficit, which currently stands at around $7.8 million. However he said the plan had not yet been approved.

“Our accounts have been seized,” the mayor told Ynet. “And the employees are not being paid. We’ve been chosen to provide a service I cannot provide.” He said the municipality would strike until the plan was approved.

An official with the Interior Ministry’s southern district said the plan had been approved, but that the ministry still had to cooperate with the Treasury in order to allot funds towards its implementation.

Meanwhile, the data presented by the municipality at the meeting was disheartening. While Rahat exacts municipality taxes from just 30% of its population, 35% receive income support and 26% are eligible for unemployment payment. The city’s rate of unemployment is a whopping 20%, and the average age of its residents is 13.5.

7. The government extended on Sunday, by one year, the force of the Law of Citizenship and Entry into Israel, which prevents people from the Palestinian Authority and enemy states from becoming Israeli citizens by marrying Israeli citizens.

A High Court decision on the legality of the law is pending, and could cause its negation.

8. A Bedouin forum on education has recently filed a complaint with the Prime Minister’s Office inquiring why the government committee tasked with promoting the representation of Arab citizens in government offices did not include a single Arab member.

The forum’s coordinator, Dr. Awad Abu-Freih, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint Arab representatives to the committee.

According to the government’s Civil Service Commission, the number of Israeli Arabs employed by the government does not exceed 6.8 percent of the employees. Last week, the cabinet decided to establish a committee to promote proper representation of Arabs in government offices.

The members of the Bedouin education forum were dismayed to find that the 11-member committee did not include a single Arab member. The committee includes Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Prime Minister’s Office Director Eyal Gabbai and Welfare Ministry Director Nahum Itzkovitch.

“There is no doubt that in the absence of Arab citizens on the committee, the commission may continue to give unfair preference to Jews in appointments, in promotions, and in handing out key positions,” Abu-Freih said in his complaint to the prime minister.

“The promises on fair representation still sound hollow and empty,” he went on to say. “Again and again we will be told that ‘no qualified Arabs could be found for the job.'”

“The services offered to Arab citizens will also continue to be discriminatory,” he continued. “For example, the education services offered to the Arab community in the Negev are neglected and deprived.”

“Out of 20 percent of the population of the state, not one Arab could be found who would be qualified to be honored with serving on the committee?” Abu-Freih asked.

9. Five years after a mounted militia stormed his village, torching houses and killing his relatives, Ibrahim Saad el-Din, a refugee from Sudan’s Darfur region, gazed at remnants of another slaughter: hundreds of shoes worn by Jews killed in a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.

Saad el-Din was among a dozen African refugees brought by an Israeli advocacy group to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial last week, hoping to spur public sympathy for their plight by invoking the Jewish people’s own history fleeing death and persecution.

Over 16,000 asylum seekers have poured into Israel in recent years, most from Africa, posing a unique dilemma for the Jewish state.

Israel is proud of its heritage as a refuge that took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi genocide. But it’s conflicted over refugees from elsewhere. Israel’s many wars with its Arab neighbors have left it distrustful of outsiders, while some fear accepting non-Jews could threaten the state’s Jewish character. As a result, it is struggling with how to handle the non-Jewish newcomers.

“The Jewish past makes us particularly mindful of the dangerous plight of exiles and refugees and the need to help them,” said Yaron Ezrahi, a political science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But the smallness and siege mentality of our country given its hostile environment make us more committed to maintaining our majority.”

Israeli refugee advocates criticize the state, saying stints in jail and the scant support asylum seekers find in Israel fail to honor the memory of Jewish persecution through the ages.

“I think it’s a great shame the way we’re behaving,” said Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. “We have an extremely short memory.”

Israel’s current refugee influx started in 2005, when Egyptian smugglers helped a few hundred Africans sneak into Israel. The government arranged jobs for some, and as stories of their new lives spread, more came.

Just under half are from Eritrea, whose repressive government often detains returned asylum-seekers, according to Amnesty International. About one-third are from south Sudan and Darfur, whose conflicts have left millions dead and homeless, according to the U.N.

Under the U.N.’s Refugee Convention, all those claiming to be refugees should have their cases reviewed, said Sharon Harel of the U.N. refugee agency.

But the sudden influx outstripped the ability of the UNHCR and the government to process them, officials in both bodies said, resulting in stopgap policies that critics say make Israel inhospitable.

Those arriving now are detained for an average of five months — and some more than a year. They then receive release papers that must be renewed every three months but give them no right to work, though the government usually looks the other way when they take under-the-table jobs.

Simona Halperin of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the government has a “full moral and legal commitment” to protecting refugees, but must distinguish them from economic migrants.

Asylum seekers from Sudan pose a unique problem, she said, because their mere entering Israel — which Sudan considers an “enemy state” — prevents their return.

10. The Education Ministry’s budget for special assistance to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds severely discriminates against Arabs, a new study shows. The average per-student allocation in Arab junior high schools amounts to only 20 percent of the average in Jewish junior highs.

The study, published recently in the journal Megamot by Prof. Sorel Cahan of Hebrew University’s School of Education, supports the claims of institutionalized budgetary discrimination that Arab educators have long voiced. On Monday, when the ministry published town-by-town data on what percentage of high school students pass their matriculation exams, most Arab towns were once again at the bottom of the list. A rare exception was Fureidis, where 75.86 percent of students passed – the third highest rate in Israel.

Ordinary classroom hours are allotted to schools on a strictly per-student basis. But the special assistance budget, which totaled NIS 150 million last year, is by nature differential, as its purpose is to give extra assistance to schools with a large proportion of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The money goes toward tutoring, enrichment activities and more.

The special assistance budget is allocated in two stages. First, it is divided between the Jewish and Arab populations based on the number of students in each. Then, it is distributed among schools in each sector based on an index with three components: the percentage of students per school from low-income families, the percentage from large families, and the percentage whose fathers have relatively little schooling.

However, Cahan found, because the Arab sector has more students who meet these criteria but less students overall, “educationally needy” Jewish students receive anywhere from 3.8 to 6.9 times as much funding as equally needy Arab students.

This discrimination defeats the whole point of the special assistance budget, he wrote.

11. The inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Amra have good reason to fear that the harsh tactics used by the Israeli army against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been imported to their small corner of Israel’s Negev desert.

Over the summer, the Tarabin tribe, all of them Israeli citizens, have had the sole access road to their homes sealed off, while the dirt track they must use instead is regularly blocked by temporary checkpoints at which their papers and vehicles are inspected at length.

Coils of razor wire now surround much of the village, and children as young as eight have been arrested in a series of night-time raids.

“Four-fifths of our youngsters now have files with the police and our drivers are being repeatedly fined for supposed traffic violations,” said Tulab Tarabin, one of Amra’s 400 Bedouin inhabitants. “Every time we are stopped, the police ask us: ‘Why don’t you leave?’”

Lawyers and human rights activists say a campaign of pressure is being organised against the Tarabins at the behest of a nearby Jewish community, Omer, which is determined to build a neighbourhood for Israeli army officers on Bedouin land.

“The policy in Israel is that when Jews need land, the Bedouin must move – no matter how long they have been living in their homes or whether their communities predate Israel’s creation,” said Morad al Sana, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority. “The Tarabins’ crime is that they refuse to budge.”

The 180,000 Bedouin in the Negev have never been welcome, says Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva. They are descendants of a few thousand who managed to avoid expulsion from the southern semi-desert region during the 1948 war that founded Israel.

12. The UN says that access to education is a basic human right. But for Palestinian children living in the occupied West Bank, getting to school itself is a challenge. One Bedouin community lost three children in road accidents on their long walk to school. Making matters worse, Israeli authorities are trying to block the building of a school near the community’s home outside Jerusalem.

13. Gaza’s children are starting a new school year, but Israel’s blockade and its January war on the territory mean many are doing so without adequate supplies. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from one school in Gaza where classes are resuming.

14. Black British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove has launched an outspoken attack against the “racist” Israeli government after being abducted from the high seas and imprisoned for seven days.

Jamaica-born Blagrove, who lives in West London, was one of six British nationals taking part in a mercy mission to Gaza who were seized from the vessel Spirit of Humanity on June 30 by Israeli military forces.

The ship, which Blagrove says was illegally boarded in international waters, was bringing a cargo of medicines, children’s toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.

“I’m not concerned with the time that I spent in jail because I am now free, however, there are still thousands of people being persecuted as we speak,” said Blagrove.

“I went on the voyage to deliver medical aid, toys and film a documentary about Palestinians living in Gaza post the 22-day bombing last year however, I was unable to fulfill my mission and have now returned with a bigger story to tell. Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli governmentand the world needs to know.”

Sailing from Larnaca, Cyprus, with a crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, those on board included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

“We were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships.”

Blagrove told how Israeli warships surrounded their vessel threatening to open fire if they did not turn back.

“We were 18 miles of the coast of Gaza and 23 miles outside the international water boundaries. The Israelis made contact with us via radio at approximately 1.30 am. Our ship had been given security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus so we posed no threat, yet the Israeli government insisted that we aborted our journey.

“When we refused to be intimidated, they jammed our instrumentation and blocked our GPS, radar, and navigation systems, putting our lives at risk.

“Before we knew it we were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships and helicopters were also flying over our heads. They stormed our ship and took us against our will to Ashdod Port in Israel.

“They confiscated and destroyed all our equipment including all our medical aid and toys and eventually we were all taken to Ramla High Security Prison where we were imprisoned.”

“Most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans.”

Describing his experience inside Ramla, Blagrove said: “Without insulting the memory of those that have survived the Nazi concentration camps, the prison we were kept in can only be described in that manor. But most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans. I was absolutely dumbfounded!

“Israel operates under a right-wing racist government that discriminates anyone that is non-Jewish.

“The first day I was there, I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison. The next day 300 more Africans were taken in and the prison population continues to grow daily with Africans falling victim to the Israeli judiciary system.

“There were Africans from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia and so on. The prison population in Israel is 90 percent black, which is why I was so welcomed by fellow inmates. There are thousands upon thousands of Africans inside the Israeli prisons.

“I was told atrocious stories. Real harrowing tales and countless inmates that have been transferred from one prison to the other informed me and that every prison is the same and the government is refusing to send them back to their own country.”

“I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison.”

Haunted by the conditions of the prison, he said: “I shared a seven foot by seven foot cell with 14 others. We were constantly being barked at and threatened with physical abuse. If you disobey, prisoners are stripped naked and put inside a hole with no lights or heating. We were seen as sub-human.

“In the corner of the room there was a white plastic bag full of single slices of bread, which was our breakfast, lunch and dinner. If we were lucky they occasional gave us a cup of yoghurt to share.

“The toilets are two tubes and to pass your waste you have to aim and squat. The smell was indescribable because it was a mixture of sweat, urine and feces.”

Explaining that the government officials tried to force him to sign documents in Hebrew, which is illegal as all prisoners must be able to understand what they are consenting too, Blagrove said: “My fellow passengers and I were only kept for seven days because they knew the world was watching.”

helena cobban’s recent article in ips of one zionist terrorist colonist who is renouncing zionism because of its racism, though it appears, not the colonialism:

I’ve never met Dov Yermiya, a Jewish Israeli peace activist who is now 94 years old. But I read of course the book he published in 1983 in which he wrote with anguish about the torture and other gross mistreatment of civilians he witnessed directly during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the year before.

I have it in my hand now.

I just learned, from an open letter published by Uri Avnery, that Yermiya, recently renounced the ideology and practice of Zionism with these stirring words:

“I, a 95 year old Sabra (native born Israeli Jew), who has plowed its fields, planted trees, built a house and fathered sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and also shed his blood in the battle for the founding of the State of Israel,

“Declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem, that I shall stand at attention only on the days of mourning for those fallen on both sides in the wars, and that I look with a broken heart at an Israel that is committing suicide and at the three generations of offspring that I have bred and raised in it.

“… for 42 years, Israel turned what should have been Palestine into a giant detention camp, and is holding a whole people captive under an oppressive and cruel regime, with the sole aim of taking away their country, come what may!!!

“”The IDF eagerly suppresses their efforts at rebellion, with the active assistance of the settlement thugs, by the brutal means of a sophisticated Apartheid and a choking blockade, inhuman harassment of the sick and of women in labor, the destruction of their economy and the theft of their best land and water.

“Over all this there is waving the black flag of the frightening contempt for the life and blood of the Palestinians. Israel will never be forgiven for the terrible toll of blood spilt, and especially the blood of children, in hair-raising quantities… “

yes, the zionist entity does all these things. this is its “normal.” but how to get these abnormal hateful people to wake up, renounce zionism, and voluntarily leave the land (since 70% have dual citizenship) so that palestinian refugees can return…

yes, boycott works.

a couple of weeks ago i posted about the campaign to write to amnesty international in order to get them to comply with the boycott and pull out their funding of a leonard cohen concert in the zionist entity. well, it worked. here is the official statement reporting this victory from the palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”

A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

boycott, divestment, and sanctions is picking up steam in british unions as well as asa winstanley reported in electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago:

The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has won several important victories in recent months. At this summer’s trade union conferences in Britain, BDS activists have made significant progress.

While the campaign has been building momentum in unions globally since the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza has spurred several trade unions and union federations in Britain and Ireland to pass motions more explicitly in favor of BDS. Several are calling for BDS for the first time.

Tom Hickey, a member of the University and College Union’s (UCU) national executive committee, said, “The question of the moral rightness or wrongness [of BDS against Israel] has effectively already been decided.”

Although the Trade Union Congress (the British union federation) has not yet passed a BDS motion, affiliated unions have begun taking up the Palestinian call themselves. So far this summer, the public sector union PCS, the UCU and the Fire Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and government sanctions against the state.

Unions such as public sector union UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, USDAW and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have this summer passed softer motions calling for elements of BDS. These are usually calls for a boycott of settlement goods, or for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel. The CWU and others have condemned the infamous 13 January 2008 statement of the Israeli trade union federation in support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which read: “The Histadrut recognizes the urgent need for the State of Israel to operate against the command and control centers of the organizational terror network …”

In addition, a report has been circulating on the Internet that the rail workers’ union, the RMT, has reversed an earlier policy of “solidarity not boycott” and passed a motion in favor of some sort of BDS policy at their July Annual General Meeting. The official AGM report has yet to be released to the general public, but the RMT’s media office confirmed the report was probably accurate. However, they did not return calls for official confirmation in time for publication.

and folks in ann arbor are taking the bds campaign to their local city council making important arguments about americans funding apartheid in palestine (not to mention occupations and massacres in afghanistan, iraq, and pakistan) rather than using those funds to rebuild cities like detroit where a majority african americans live. palestine think tank posted a video of their city council hearing (and you can use this model to do the same at your municipal level):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

there is also good news about a british bank, blackrock, divesting from the africa-israel company (that has a horrific record of land theft as well as massacres in palestine as well as in africa, as the name indicates):

When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and was offered the opportunity of occupying a building owned by the investment company Africa-Israel Investments, the ambassador refrained. The reason was that the company was also responsible for settlements on the occupied West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments’ main owner is Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Now the UK bank BlackRock has followed in the footsteps of the ambassador.

The bank was for a while the second largest shareholder in the Israeli investment company. Africa-Israel Investments is, among other things, in on the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (above). The construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is in conflict with international law.

It was Norwatch who this past spring revealed BlackRock’s investments in the controversial company and how private investors in Norway could invest in the project by means of the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe.

This was possible through Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon.

But after all 3 banks have taken action, the British bank has now announced its divestment from the Israeli company. This must have happened sometime between June and August, possibly as late as this week.

“We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio,” Johnny Anderson, Information Manager of Skandiabanken, confirmed to Norwatch. The confirmation of the divestment was sent to Skandiabanken the day before yesterday, on 18 August.

“The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds,” Anderson said.

The e-mail from BlackRock to Skandiabanken was sent after the Swedish-Norwegian bank had approached BlackRock with regard to the controversial Israel involvement. That is the first time that Skandiabanken had contacted BlackRock about the case. Also the bank Danica Pensjon end of last week contacted BlackRock about the matter, confirmed Geir Wik, Sales and Marketing Director of Danica Pensjon to Norwatch yesterday.

and the big surprise was to open my local newspaper the other morning, the los angeles times, where i found a prominent op-ed from a zionist terrorist colonist advocating the boycott of the zionist entity. the article is generally good, though this professor, neve gordon, still believes in zionism and his right to be a colonist on palestinian land. but given that he came this far, perhaps an acknowledgment that he does not have a right to land that once belonged to palestinians who are now refugees will be forthcoming. here is the op-ed:

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

nevertheless his op-ed is getting quite a bit of airtime in the zionist entity’s media. thus, yet another sign of their fear of how much the boycott campaign is working. there was one article in today’s ha’aretz in which the education minister slammed gordon. and los angeles jews seem to be foaming at the mouth as this second article in ha’aretz today shows that they want to boycott a university in the zionist entity (a win-win situation! ) there was yet another article responding to gordon’s piece in a zionist rag called the jewish journal, which takes the threats even further: to boycott he arabs.

gordon’s ben gurion university is no different than any other university in the zionist entity that participates in the production of knowledge that enables the colonization of palestine. recently soas authored a report on the extent of tel aviv university’s collaboration in the savaging of gaza (if you follow the link you can download the entire study):

As part of Tel Aviv’s centenary celebration, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London hosted a Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series from January to March 2009.

Taking place in the midst of Israel’s war on Gaza — which had already mobilized SOAS students to organize a number of activities in solidarity with Gaza, including the first student occupation in the UK — students and a number of lecturers expressed their opposition to the lecture series.

The student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing the lecture series’ attempt to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. The School’s Director, Professor Paul Webley, opposed the cancellation and defended the continuation of the lecture series by invoking a prerogative of freedom of speech and citing the pedagogic value of diversities of opinion. Conspicuously absent in the Director’s defense was any engagement with the nature and scope of TAU’s research portfolio.

In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. While the signatories of the briefing paper recognized the importance of freedom of speech, they were also keenly aware of the need to uphold the rights of the oppressed and expressed that no right reigns absolute over the fundamental right to life. It is precisely therefore that it is wholly untenable that partnerships with institutions facilitating, advocating and justifying ongoing war crimes can be legitimized with recourse to an ideal of academic freedom.

compare soas to harvard university’s invitation to a bona fide war criminal of the zionist entity last month as maryam monalisa gharavi and anat matar wrote in electronic intifada last month:

On 9 July Harvard University’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) invited Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, former Israeli military legal adviser, to their online Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum. The stated aim was to bring “objective” discussion to the principle of distinction in international humanitarian law, or what the forum organizers called “combat in civilian population centers and the failure of fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population.”

Although billed as a lecturer in the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University — and therefore as a detached humanitarian law analyst — Colonel Sharvit-Baruch was in fact deeply involved in Israel’s three-week onslaught in Gaza in December and January, that counted its 1,505th victim found under rubble earlier this month. With the devastating operation condemned and mourned worldwide, many asked why a ranking member of an occupying army that flouts its legal obligations should herself receive safe havens at two major universities.

What troubled many of the 200 or so participants who “attended” the talk via a virtual chatroom was that Sharvit-Baruch was cut off from public or legal scrutiny as she relayed her PowerPoint presentation. Questions were posed by the moderators, sanitized of any critical content. Yet the indisputable fact is that the army for which Sharvit-Baruch worked has been accused by all major human rights organizations of committing war crimes in Gaza. Some wondered why Sharvit-Baruch was being given the opportunity to offer a carefully prepared presentation unchallenged in an academic setting, rather than giving testimony to a tribunal or inquiry such as that being conducted Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist heading an independent fact-finding mission into human rights violations during Israel’s attack at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since the event organizers did not ask pointed questions about Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s actual role in Gaza, it is worth doing so here. As head of the International Law department (ILD) at the Israeli Military Advocate General’s office, Sharvit-Baruch is known for green-lighting the bombing of a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed dozens of civil policemen. This was no ordinary airstrike. It was premised on a legal sleight-of-hand: that even traffic cops in Gaza could be considered “legitimate targets” under international law. In a conversation with conscripts at a military prep academy in Israel, school director Danny Zamir noted, “I was terribly surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the killing of the Gaza traffic police on the first day of the operation. They took out 180 traffic cops. As a pilot, I would have questioned that.”

Further, the Israeli army used heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza, against the UNRWA’s headquarters and a UN school in Beit Lahiya. As reported by Judge Goldstone, Gazans trying to relay their civilian status were also hit. Even though the Israeli military tried several times to deny its use, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on white phosphorous use in Gaza quotes an unnamed Israeli official: “at least one month before [white phosphorus] was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications.” HRW found that “in violation of the laws of war, the [Israeli army] generally failed to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm” and “used white phosphorus in an indiscriminate manner causing civilian death and injury.”

Such reckless disregard for the lives of civilians and pathological cover-ups of military operations are recognized by many Israelis within the system itself. According to one Israeli jurist speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the ILD is considered “more militant than any other legal agency in Israel, and willing to adopt the most flexible interpretations of the law in order to justify the [Israel army’s] actions.” Although the ILD personnel “are now very proud of their influence upon the combat” in Gaza, human rights groups have stated that “residents weren’t advised then as to which places were safe, and the roads by which they fled were bombed and turned into death traps.”

One of the most indelible perspectives about Israel’s legal gymnastics to justify its actions comes from Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner. “What is being done today is a revision of international law,” Reisner has said, “and if you do something long enough, the world will accept it. All of international law is built on that an act which is forbidden today can become permissible, if enough states do it.” In expressing how the ILD moves forward by turning back the pages of legal jurisdiction, Reisner says, “We invented the doctrine of the preemptive pinpoint strike, we had to promote it, and in the beginning there were protrusions which made it difficult to fit it easily into the mold of legality. Eight years later, it’s in the middle of the realm of legitimacy.”

Sharvit-Baruch herself explained her vision of international law at a presentation for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “International law is developed according to practices. It changes based on what is happening in the field. These laws must be based on precedents, what already exists. There is flexibility in every law.” By this law of flexibility, the more aberrations of international law a state can legitimize, the more hoary actions it can continue to execute and justify.

Since the attack on Gaza, numerous testimonies of Israeli soldiers published in Israel, have corroborated the accounts of Palestinian witnesses and human rights organizations that serious war crimes were endemic.

Despite the blunt admissions of Israeli soldiers widely published in the Israeli press, it was clear from her calm presentation that Sharvit-Baruch and her cohort live in their own rhetorical universe where even language is assaulted. In the Colonel’s own terminology, non-existent vocabulary in international law such as “capacity builders” and “revolving doors” is coined to pass over accepted terms such as “civilians” and “non-combatants.” Like the US government’s “torture memo” authors — who in contrast to Israel’s were not uniformed ranking members of the army — the Israeli military attempted to reclassify a “civilian” in a manner making it easier to strip them of protections provided by international humanitarian law. “Architecture of words,” said one participant

Despite all this, by her own standards, Sharvit-Baruch and her team could not be faulted for their efficiency: in Gaza, banning all media from entering; assaulting the population with air missiles, sniper ground troops, and white phosphorus; condemning all criticism of military actions as contrary to state security; keeping a chin above the law; attaining a teaching position at Tel Aviv University and finally a prestigious opportunity to address Harvard students and faculty.

but in england they are far more advanced than the united states when it comes to responding to war crimes against palestinians. consider the new (albeit partial) arms embargo against the zionist entity as a penalty for its war crimes in gaza as ian black reported in the guardian:

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

but there is also more bds activism emanating from the zionist entity itself, particularly in the queer community as the monthly review zine reported today:

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

We are disturbed by the cynical manipulation of these deaths to bolster support for the Israeli state and its violent policies. When Israeli politicians say that this is an unprecedented level of violence, and promise to create safety for LGBTQ people in Israel, they are using the promise of safety to hide the violence and domination that is foundational to the Israeli state. When Zionist groups emphasize the growing gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, they are using the illusion of safety to draw support and funding to Israel from liberal queer and Jewish people around the world. We reject these lies, as well as the manipulation of our communities for profit and to increase military and political support for Israel.

Just as we reject the lie that Zionism is premised on the safety of Jews, we reject the lie that Israel prioritizes and values the safety of LGBTQ citizens of Israel. The safety Israel claims to extend to LGBTQ people is false; we do not accept an illusion of safety for some at the expense of self determination for others. No matter who Zionism claims to save or value, nothing can justify the targeting, suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people.

We call on LGBTQ communities to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli violence. Putting words into action, we call on LGBTQ communities across the world to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with full international law, including an immediate end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, a dismantling of the wall, an end to war crimes against the people of Gaza, and for the Palestinian Right of Return.

Specifically, we call on these communities to boycott international LGBTQ events held inside of Israel; to abstain from touring Israel as is marketed to LGBTQ people — with the exception of solidarity visits to Palestine; and to counter and boycott the promotion of Israeli LGBTQ tourism, and Israeli cultural and academic events in the countries in which we reside — unless they are in clear and undivided solidarity with Palestine. By these actions, we show a commitment to justice and humanity consistent with our outrage against this hateful and deadly attack that occurred in Tel Aviv.

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

Ayala Shani
Edo Medicks
Emily Schaeffer
Hamutal Erato
Leiser Peles
Liad Kantorowicz
Moran Livnat
Nitzan Aviv
Noa Abend
Rotem Biran
Roy Wagner
Segev (Lilach) Ben- David
Sonya Soloviov
Tal Shapira
Yossef/a Mekyton
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Ben-David

these actions are all essential in promoting the reality that bds is the only thing that is breaking the zionist entity and that will continue to help it fall to its knees. faris giacaman’s brilliant piece in electronic intifada illustrates precisely why bds is the best mode of solidarity among activists who are against apartheid in palestine:

Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict,” no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel — the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught “to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills — all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation.” They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against “coexistence,” they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that “dialogue” and “fostering coexistence” is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these “dialogue” groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between “both sides of the conflict,” in order to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.” However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the “other” point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to “coexistence” or “reconciliation.”

Such an approach is deemed “balanced” or “moderate,” as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and “talking” will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha — “holding firmly to the truth,” his term for his nonviolent resistance movement — and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government’s colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of “dialogue” for the purpose of “understanding the other side of the story.” Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having “both sides heard.”

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool — not to promote so-called “understanding,” — but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or “having them recognize our humanity.”

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure — not persuasion — will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.” A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce “a single peace activist on either side.” This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be “children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population.” The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped “promote peace culture and dialogue between participants.”

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, “there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 … it became an industry — we call it the peace industry.”

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli “leftists” and “liberals” to feel as if they are doing something admirable to “question themselves,” while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of “coexistence,” and the “liberal” Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of “fostering peace.” A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and “coexistence” groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel’s inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the “conflict” is very complex and multifaceted, where there are “two sides to every story,” and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities — whether they be film screenings or summer camps — can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between “both sides” of the so-called “conflict.” Any call for a “balanced” discourse on this issue — where the motto “there are two sides to every story” is revered almost religiously — is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as “balance.” The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

for those who feel inspired to carry on the bds campaign there is a new campaign to initiate. you can start with locating where wine from the zionist entity is sold, which is, of course, made from stolen grapes in from occupied palestine and syria:

Israel exports roughly $22 million dollars worth of wine a year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned Pelter winery in the Golan Heights benefits from the cool climate and water-rich soil of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 – a move rejected by the United Nations.

Sam Pelter, whose son Tal founded the winery after extensive wine-making studies in Australia, says he combines Australian techniques and technology with Golan grapes. His wines sell at $18-$50 a bottle and are sold in the United States and Europe.

Some 18-20 percent of Israeli wine comes from the Golan, according to wine critic Rogov, though wines made on disputed land can sometimes invite controversy.

Last December, Syria protested to UN leaders that Israel had distributed Golan wine as year-end holiday gifts to UN staff. In 2006, Israel complained that Sweden was labelling Golan wines as coming from Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli settlers also make wine on Arab land in the West Bank, sometimes drawing boycotts by peace activists.

Political sensitivities have not stopped Pelter’s wines making a splash abroad.

on refugees & idps

today is world refugee day. there are 42 million refugees world-wide. there are also 7.6 million palestinian refugees, who are not included in the numbers that the united nations high commission for refugees (unhcr) uses because palestinian refugees fall under the united nations relief and works agency (unrwa) which means something different in terms of protection as well as repatriation. legal scholar susan akram explains the basic legal context that define all refugees under international law and explains the different principles guiding palestinians from other refugees:

A number of international instruments affect the status of Palestinians as refugees and as stateless persons: the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol (Refugee Protocol); the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and the 1961 Convention on the Elimination or Reduction of Statelessness. There are also three international organizations whose activities affect the international legal rights of Palestinian refugees: the United Nations Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Because of the unique circumstances of the original and continued expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands, Palestinians in the diaspora may be stateless persons, refugees or both. (The legal definitions of these terms, as well as the manner in which they are applied to Palestinians, will be discussed below.) As such they should be entitled to the internationally guaranteed rights offered other stateless persons or refugees in the world.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is the most important treaty affecting Palestinian human rights in most of the areas of the world where they find themselves. It is also the primary international instrument governing the rights of refugees and the obligations of states towards them. This Convention, and its 1967 Protocol, incorporate the most widely accepted and applied definition of a refugee, and establish minimum guarantees of protection towards such refugees by state parties. The Refugee Convention and Protocol incorporate two essential state obligations: the application of the now universally accepted definition of “refugee” which appears in Article 1A(2) of the Convention, and the obligatory norm of non-refoulement, which appears in Article 33.1 of the Convention. The principle of non-refoulement requires that a state not return a refugee to a place where his/her life or freedom would be threatened. It is important to note that nowhere in the Refugee Convention or Protocol, nor in any other international human rights instrument, is there an obligation on any state to gratn the status of political asylum or any more permanent status than non-refoulement.

The simple recognition that an individual meets the criteria of a “refugee” as defined in the Convention, however, triggers significant state obligations towards them, not the least of which is the obligation of non-refoulement. The Convention requires states to grant refugees a number of rights which Palestinians are often denied, including: identity papers (Article 27); travel documents (Article 28); freedom from unnecessary restrictions on movement (Article 26); freedom from restrictions on employment (Articles 17 and 18); basic housing (Article 21); welfare (Article 23); education (Article 22); labour and social security rights (Article 24); and freedom of religion (Article 4). It also makes them eligible for more permanent forms of relief such as residence and citizenship, subject to the discretion of the granting state.

The Convention and Protocol define a “refugee” as:

[a person who], owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence is a result of such events, is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

This author contends that the Convention Article 1A(2) definition was never intended to, and does not, apply to Palestinians for several reasons. First, as UN delegates involved with drafting the Refugee Convention pointed out: “[T]he obstacle to the repatriation was not dissatisfaction with their homeland, but the fact that a Member of the United Nations was preventing their return.” Second, the Palestinians as an entire group had already suffered persecution by virtue of their massive expulsion from their homeland for one or more of the grounds enumerated in the definition. Thus, they were given special recognition as a group, or category, and not subject to the individualized refugee definition. Third, the delegates dealt with Palestinians as de facto refugees, referring in a general way to those who were defined by the relief agencies at the time (UNRPR and later UNRWA), but not limiting the term “refugee” to those Palestinians who were in need of relief. Although they did not specifically define them as such, the delegates were referring to Palestinian refugees as persons normally residing in Palestine before 15 May 1948, who lost their homes or livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. For these and other reasons (discussed below, the delegates drafted a separate provision–Article ID–in the Refugee Convention that applies solely to Palestinian refugees.

Refugee Convention Article 1D states:

This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance.

When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this Convention.

Although Palestinian refugees are not specifically mentioned in this provision, it is evident from both the drafting history and the interrelationship of Article 1D with three other instruments that Palestinians are the only group to which the Article applies. The most important reasons for drawing this conclusion are that, first, the drafting history of the provisions clearly reflects that the only refugee population discussed in relation to Article 1D was the Palestinians. Second, one of the paramount concerns of the drafters of the Refugee Convention was that the wished to determine the precise groups of refugees to which the Convention would apply, so they could decide the extent to which the signatory states could accept the refugee burden. There is no indication that Article 1D was drafted with any different intention–that is, with an open-ended reference to other groups of refugees not contemplated by the United Nations at the time. (The universal application of the Refugee Convention definition is a later development with the entry into force of the Refugee Protocol.) Third, there was only one group of refugees considered to be in need of international protection at the time of drafting Article 1D that was receiving “from other organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance,” and that was the Palestinians. Fourth, the interrelationship of the mandates of the United Nations agencies relevant to the needs of Palestinian refugees indicates that these are the agencies referred to by the language of Article 1D. These mandates are reflected in the Statute of the UNHCR, the Regulations governing UNRWA, and UN Resolution 194 establishing the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP).

The UNHCR Statute, paragraph 7(c) provides that “the competence of the High Commissioner…shall not extend to a person…who continues to receive from other organs or agencies of the United Nations protection or assistance.” The “other agencies of the United Nations” originally referred to both UNRWA and the UNCCP. The significance of the language in these provisions lies primarily in the distinction between “protection” and “assistance,” which are substantially different concepts in refugee law. UNRWA’s mandate is solely one of providing assistance to refugees’ basic daily needs by way of food, clothing, and shelter. In contrast, UNHCR’s mandate, in tandem with the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention, establishes a far more comprehensive scheme of protection for refugees qualifying under the Refugee Convention. This regime guarantees to refugees the rights embodied in international human rights conventions, and mandates the UNHCR to represent refugees, including intervening with states on their behalf, to ensure such protections to them. Aside from the distinction between the mandates of UNRWA and UNHCR, the refugee definition applicable to Palestinians is different from and far narrower under UNRWA Regulations than the Refugee Convention definition. Consistent with its assistance mandate, UNRWA applies a refugee definition that relates solely to persons from Palestine meeting certain criteria who are “in need” of such assistance.” (Susan Akram, “Palestinian Refugee Rights under International Law” in Nasser Aruri’s Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return. London: Pluto Press, 2001. 166-169)

2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps
2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps

i realize that the above-quoted passage is rather long, and for some perhaps tedious. but international law, and refugee law more particularly, is complicated. and i think it is important to remember the specificity of the case of palestinian refugees not only because it is world refugee day today, but also because palestinian refugees, unlike the rest of the world’s refugees, do not have an united nations body or agency fighting for their rights as do all other agencies. it was set up like this from the beginning as akram makes clear: unrwa provides assistance, unhcr provides protection and advocacy. this tremendous failing on the part of the united nations means that palestinians have yet another hurdle to face when fighting for their right of return unlike the rest of the world’s refugees. moreover, as a protest in nablus today against unrwa illustrates, unrwa often does not even meet the needs of the refugees it is supposed to be assisting. this is why one can read only one statement for world refugee day on unrwa’s website today in which you will see vapid remarks made by bani ki moon in which he says nothing about the right of return or any political rights of refugees more generally. of course they have organizations like badil, which tirelessly fights for the right of return, but badil does not have the power and weight of the international community behind it, though they do, of course, have the weight of international law behind their work. here is badil’s statement to commemorate world refugee day today:

Statistics released by UN agencies on the occasion of the 2009 World Refugee Day testify to the fact that Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest standing refugee population world wide. They lack access to just solutions and
reparations, including return, because Israel and western governments continue to deny or belittle the scope of the problem and make no effort to respect and implement relevant international law and best practice.

According to a forthcoming Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons for the years 2007-2008 produced by Badil, at least 7.6 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced since 1948 as a consequence of Israel’s systematic policies and practices of colonization, occupation and apartheid. That figure represents 71 percent of the entire worldwide population of 10.6 million Palestinians. Only 28.7 percent of all Palestinians have never been displaced from their homes.

The great majority of the displaced (6.2 million people – 81.5 percent) are Palestinian refugees of 1948 (the Nakba), who were ethnically cleansed in order to make space for the state of Israel and their descendants. This figure includes 4.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations (UNRWA) at the end of 2008. The second major group (940,000 – 12.5%) are Palestinian refugees of 1967, who were displaced during the 1967 Arab-Israel war and their descendants.

More attention and concern should be given to the phenomenon of forced displacement of Palestinians because it is ongoing.

Steadily growing populations of internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the result of ongoing forced displacement in Israel (approximately 335,000 IDPs since 1948) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 (approximately 120,000 IDPs since 1967). Badil’s Survey identifies a set of distinct, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices which induce ongoing forced displacement among the indigenous Palestinian population, including deportation and revocation of residency rights, house demolition, land confiscation, construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements, closure and segregation, as well
as threats to life and physical safety as a result of military operations and harassment by racist Jewish non-state actors. Israeli
governments implement these policies and practices in order to change the demographic composition of certain areas (“Judaization”) and the entire country for the purpose of colonization.

Data about the scope of ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians is illustrative and indicative, because there is no singular institution or agency mandated and resourced to ensure systematic and sustained monitoring and documentation. The total number of persons displaced in 2007 – 2008 is unknown. UN agencies, however, confirm that 100,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the occupied Gaza Strip at during Israel’s military operation at the end of the year; that 198 communities in the OPT currently face forced displacement; and that 60,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are at risk of having their home demolished by Israel.

The Palestinian refugee question has remained unresolved and forced displacement continues, because Western governments and international organizations have been complicit in Israel’s illegal policy and practice of population transfer and have failed to protect the Palestinian people. Indicators of the severe gaps existing in the protection of Palestinian refugees and IDPs are seen in the recent crises in Iraq – where thousands of Palestinian refugees became stranded on the Jordanian/Syrian and Iraqi borders, Lebanon – where 27,000 Palestinians refugees of the Naher al-Bared camp are still waiting to return to their 2007 destroyed camp, and Gaza – where over 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 displaced, most of them 1948 refugees).

On this World Refugees Day, Badil calls upon all those concerned with justice, human rights and peace to:

Challenge Israel’s racist notion of the “Jewish state” and immediately halt its practices of displacement, dispossession and colonization; Strengthen the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in order to ensure that Israel other states become accountable to international law and respect their obligations; Improve the mechanism of international protection so that all Palestinians receive effective protection from, during and after forced displacement, including the right to return as part of durable solutions and reparation; Ensure that the Palestinian refugee question is treated in accordance with international law and UN resolutions in future peace negotiations, including return and reparation.

 A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.
A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.

the situation facing palestinian refugees who lived in nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon is an excellent example of how unrwa fails the palestinian refugees it is supposed to protect. the crisis of nahr el bared is a microcosm of palestinian refugees in general who have become refugees multiple times over and who are often refugees and idps at the same time. the camp (see map above) continues to be controlled by the lebanese army and the majority of the original 31,000 inhabitants have not been allowed to return–let alone return to their homes in palestine. ray smith’s recent report on the situation of the camp from electronic lebanon is below:

Nahr al-Bared camp consists of an “old” and a “new” camp. The original or “old” refugee camp was established in 1949 on a piece of land 16 kilometers north of the Lebanese city of Tripoli. In 1950, the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) started to provide its services to the camp’s residents. Over the years, population density in Nahr al- Bared rose drastically while refugees who could afford it, left the boundaries of the official camp and settled in its immediate vicinity. This area is now referred to as the “new camp” or the “adjacent area” and belongs to the Lebanese municipalities of Muhammara and Bhannine. While the residents of the new camp benefit from UNRWA’s education, health, relief and social services, the agency has no mandate for the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure and houses in this area.

Since the fighting in the camp ended nearly two years ago, most of the so-called “old camp” has been bulldozed and reconstruction is set to begin within the next month. Along the perimeter of the old camp however the ruins of more than 200 houses are still standing. They’re under the sole control of the Lebanese army, which still prevents residents from returning.

In October 2007, approximately one month after the Lebanese army declared victory, the first wave of refugees was allowed back into parts of the new camp. In the following months, the army gradually withdrew from the new camp and returned the houses and ruins to their former residents. However, the handover wasn’t complete. At least 250 houses in the new camp, adjacent to the old camp, remain sealed off by barbed wire, controlled by the Lebanese army and inaccessible to its residents. These areas are now referred to as the “Prime Areas,” known among the refugees under the Arabized term primaat. They consist of A’-, B’-, C’- and E’-Prime.

Adnan, who declined to give his family name, works in a small shop in the Corniche neighborhood, adjacent to area E’. He has been waiting for the handover of the area by the army. “They tell you, ‘Next week, next month.’ But nothing happens. They say, ‘We first have to remove the bombs and the rubble, then we let people in.’ These are empty words. Nobody is honest. They constantly lie to us,” Adnan complained.

Temporary housing serves as the makeshift office of the Nahr al-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC), a grassroots committee heavily involved in the planning of the reconstruction of the old camp. Abu Ali Mawed, an active member of the NBRC, owns one of the 120 buildings in area E and has been waiting for its handover for 21 months. “The army once more says they’ll open the primaat, but first [the army] will need to [clear] them [of] unexploded ordnance devices and rubble. Where have the parties responsible for this work been in the past two years? Let us be honest: This area could be de-mined and cleared within just under a month!”

Ismael Sheikh Hassan, a volunteer architect and planner with the NBRC, said, “The main reason for the delays is the army. They haven’t taken the decision at command level to allow people to return until last month.”

Since the end of May, things have seemed to finally move forward. On 19 May, an UNRWA contractor started clearing rubble in area B’ and de- mining teams took up their work. UNRWA wrote in its weekly update on 3 June that its contractor had finished clearing rubble in areas B’ and C’. In a meeting among the Lebanese army, Nahr al-Bared’s Popular Committee, Palestinian parties and UNRWA on 2 June, the army announced its intention to allow the return of the residents of these two areas within two or three days. As of 7 June however the promise hadn’t been delivered.

Sheikh Hassan explained that the suspension was mainly due to delays in de-mining procedures and those related to miscommunication among the various structures of the Lebanese army. He expected them to open areas B’ and C’ in a few days. There are 40 houses in B’ and 60 buildings in C’ to be handed over. On 11 June, UNRWA announced that they were told by the Lebanese army that the handover of B’ and C’ would take place mid-month.

The army’s procedures have raised doubts. Abu Ali Mawed, the reconstruction commission member, asked, “How could they allow people last year to return to their burnt, looted and destroyed homes to save some of their belongings, if there were still vast amounts of unexploded ordnance lying around? They should have de-mined the area before letting people in. In the primaat, many houses aren’t completely destroyed, which facilitates de-mining. I suppose that the unexploded ordinance have already been cleared and de-mining is only used as an excuse for further delaying the handover.”

According to UNRWA, the army and the Popular Committee will be responsible for announcing and coordinating the schedules and logistics of families returning to the Prime Areas.

Nidal Abdelal of the Palestinian political faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shook his head: “So far, neither the Popular Committee nor UNRWA understand why the army doesn’t hand the primaat over so people can return. The Lebanese army sets dates [but doesn’t deliver]; this has happened four or fives times. And until today, minor problems in the details constantly prevent them from handing over the primaat.”

Abdelal points out that the persistent delays of the handover dates cause skepticism and worries among the refugees. “They even call UNRWA and the Popular Committee liars,” he says. “They tell people a date, then they postpone it. Then they set another date and again postpone it. In the end, the army controls the primaat and is responsible for their handover. They should eventually hand the areas over to UNRWA and the Popular Committee and let people return.”

Another camp resident, Abu Ali Mawed, compared the situation of displaced residents of Nahr al-Bared to that of southern Lebanese displaced during the summer war of 2006: “Israel dropped about one million cluster bombs in the south, but people could immediately return to their homes [once] the war was over. Why have we for two years not been allowed to return to our houses? … We asked these questions to the government, army representatives and politicians many times, but never got clear answers. They kept giving us lame excuses that were far from convincing.”

Besides the upcoming handover of areas B’ and C’, further questions need to be answered. For example: What will happen to the houses in the primaat once they’re accessible? These houses were assessed and will be stabilized and rehabilitated. If this isn’t possible and their owners agree, they’ll be torn down. An anonymous source with UNRWA believes that only a few homeowners will agree to the total destruction of their homes because other landlords have experienced that the Lebanese government doesn’t sign building permits for Palestinians to build in the new camp.

Currently unscheduled is the handover of areas A’ and E’. Sheikh Hassan of the NBRC says there’s speculation “that those areas will be opening in the upcoming months. However, there are no guarantees on this. E’ will definitely be opened first. A’ will be opened last.” Access to E’ seems to depend on the rubble removal and de-mining process in the adjacent two sectors of the old camp, because they’re still heavily contaminated with unexploded ordnance. According to Nidal Ayyub of UNRWA, the Lebanese army so far has “no plan to open [area] A’.”

However, the Lebanese army did have plans for the construction of an army base in Nahr al-Bared. On 16 January, the Lebanese cabinet decided to establish a naval base in the camp as well. Both plans concern mainly areas A’ and E’ and the coastal strip along the old camp. Just months ago, fierce protest to these plans was voiced by the camp’s residents and the government has reportedly dropped its plans. However, only when the Lebanese army finally makes clear its intentions for the handover of the remaining parts of the camp will residents’ worries be dispelled — or their fears for the future of Nahr al-Bared confirmed.

of course palestinian refugees are not the only refugees in the world today, although they are the one refugee population who has been denied their right to return home for the longest period of time. below is a map from the le monde newspaper in 2007 of refugees world wide. while the map is outdated, the general patterns and trends regionally have not changed all that much with the exception of the tremendous recent idp populations in sri lanka and pakistan.

le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide
le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide

an over view of the global refugee crisis by antónio guterres, the un high commissioner for refugees is as follows, but it should be remembered that last year’s report to which guterres refers to does not include recent statistics about idps in pakistan and tamils in sri lanka:

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stands at more than 42 million, including 16 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally.

This overall total reflects global displacement figures compiled at the end of 2008. But the number has already grown substantially since the beginning of this year with more large displacements in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia totaling well over 2.3 million people. And there are more worrisome signs on the horizon.

While some displacement situations are short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. At present, for example, UNHCR counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer. This means that nearly 6 million refugees are living in limbo, with no solutions in sight. Millions more internally displaced people (IDPs) also are unable to go home in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

In addition to prolonged conflict and the increasingly protracted nature of displacement, we are also seeing a decline in the number of refugees and internally displaced people going home. In 2008, about 2 million people were able to repatriate, but that was a sharp drop from the year before. Refugee repatriation (604,000) was down 17 percent in 2008, while IDP returns (1.4 million) dropped by 34 percent. It was the second-lowest repatriation total in 15 years and the decline in part reflects deteriorating security conditions, namely in Afghanistan and Sudan.

In 2008, we also saw a 28 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers making individual claims, to 839,000. South Africa (207,000) was the largest single recipient of individual asylum claims, followed by the United States (49,600), France (35,400) and Sudan (35,100).

The global economic crisis, gaping disparities between North and South, growing xenophobia, climate change, the relentless outbreak of new conflicts and the intractability of old ones all threaten to exacerbate this already massive displacement problem. We and our humanitarian partners are struggling to ensure that these uprooted people and the countries hosting them get the help they need and deserve.

Some 80 percent of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people are in developing nations, underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it as well as the need for more international support. It also puts into proper perspective alarmist claims by populist politicians and media that some industrialised nations are being “flooded” by asylum seekers. Most people forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution remain within their own countries and regions in the developing world.

Major refugee-hosting nations in 2008 included Pakistan (1.8 million); Syria (1.1 million); Iran (980,000); Germany (582,700), Jordan (500,400); Chad (330,500); Tanzania (321,900); and Kenya (320,600). Major countries of origin for refugees included Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (1.9 million), which together account for 45 percent of all UNHCR refugees. Others were Somalia (561,000); Sudan (419,000); Colombia (374,000), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (368,000). Nearly all of these countries are in the developing world.

Unfortunately, however, we cannot say that generosity and wealth are proportional to each other. As conflicts drag on with no political solutions, the pressure on many of these poor countries is nearing the breaking point. They need more international help now. Without it, UNHCR and other aid agencies will be forced to continue making heartbreaking decisions on which necessities must be denied to uprooted families.

Of the global total of uprooted people in 2008, UNHCR cares for 25 million, including a record 14.4 million internally displaced people — up from 13.7million in 2007 — and 10.5 million refugees. The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Although international law distinguishes between refugees, who are protected under the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the internally displaced, who are not, such distinctions are absurd to those who have been forced from their homes and who have lost everything. Uprooted people are equally deserving of help whether they have crossed an international border or not. That is why UNHCR is working with other UN agencies to jointly provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as we do for refugees.

My agency’s caseload of internally displaced has more than doubled since 2005. Displaced populations include Colombia, some 3 million; Iraq 2.6 million; Sudan’s Darfur region, more than 2 million; Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1.5 million; Somalia 1.3 million. Other increases in displacement in 2008 were in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Yemen.

of course most of the above conflicts that create refugee or idp problems can be blamed on covert or overt occupation, wars, and proxy wars initiated or fomented by the united states. but the united states continues to drag its feet with respect to its responsibilities related to refugees, in large part because of either covert operations shielded by proxy fighters or by installing puppet regimes in places like pakistan and afghanistan so that the u.s. can relinquish its responsibilities under international law. two reports on al jazeera today highlight twin poles that many refugees face: return to their homeland or resettle in a third country. most refugees are not able to make such choices, but these reports highlight the difficulties that refugees face in either scenario. the first report is by yvonne ndege who reports on burundi refugees returning home and the challenges they face with respect to their land being occupied by their compatriots because of the government’s take over and re-distribution of the land:

the second report is by nazanine moshiri who reports on difficulties facing afghan refugees resettled in the united kingdom:

in honor of these and all refugees who have the right to determine their own fate–whether reclaiming their rights to return to their homeland or resettling in a third country, here is the amazing suheir hammad’s “on refugees” accompanied by dj k-salaam:

here are hammad’s lyrics:

Of Refuge and Language”

I do not wish
To place words in living mouths
Or bury the dead dishonorably

I am not deaf to cries escaping shelters
That citizens are not refugees
Refugees are not Americans

I will not use language
One way or another
To accommodate my comfort

I will not look away

All I know is this

No peoples ever choose to claim status of dispossessed
No peoples want pity above compassion
No enslaved peoples ever called themselves slaves

What do we pledge allegiance to?
A government that leaves its old
To die of thirst surrounded by water
Is a foreign government

People who are streaming
Illiterate into paperwork
Have long ago been abandoned

I think of coded language
And all that words carry on their backs

I think of how it is always the poor
Who are tagged and boxed with labels
Not of their own choosing

I think of my grandparents
And how some called them refugees
Others called them non-existent
They called themselves landless
Which means homeless

Before the hurricane
No tents were prepared for the fleeing
Because Americans do not live in tents
Tents are for Haiti for Bosnia for Rwanda

Refugees are the rest of the world

Those left to defend their human decency
Against conditions the rich keep their animals from
Those who have too many children
Those who always have open hands and empty bellies
Those whose numbers are massive
Those who seek refuge
From nature’s currents and man’s resources

Those who are forgotten in the mean times

Those who remember

Ahmad from Guinea makes my falafel sandwich and says
So this is your country

Yes Amadou this my country
And these my people

Evacuated as if criminal
Rescued by neighbors
Shot by soldiers

Adamant they belong

The rest of the world can now see
What I have seen

Do not look away

The rest of the world lives here too
In America

and for those who feel inspired to take action today who are in the united states i encourage you to take action against trader joe’s as a part of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that is fighting for the right of palestinian refugees to return to their land:

On Saturday, June 20, activists will gather at Trader Joe’s in different cities to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods such as Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese. A letter was sent to Trader Joe’s on June 6, 2009 but no response has been received yet. More than 200 individuals and organizations signed the letter. Note that we are not calling for a boycott of Trader Joe’s.

Join us in this nationwide action! Plan one in your local community!

mr. carter goes to gaza

there are a lot of people who are very pleased with jimmy carter’s trip to gaza this week. certainly, his trip to gaza helped put gaza back in the news, which is important. but carter’s insistence that there should be a two-state solution with no right of return for palestinian refugees makes me extremely frustrated and unwilling to get behind carter’s political campaigning. he’s right on many issues, such as hamas is a legitimate political party as well as resistance organization, which should be included in any discussion about the future of palestine. and he surprised me by meeting with palestinian families in gaza who have relatives in zionist prisons (11,000+ palestinian political prisoners compared to the 1 zionist pow who gets far too much media attention). still, his refusal to admit that apartheid exists in the entirety of palestine and his refusal to promote the right of return and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement shows that he is not altogether different from most american political leaders. here are his remarks that he made in gaza as posted on the palestine chronicle website:

Director of UNRWA operations John Ging, thank you for inviting me to Gaza. Distinguished guests, children of Gaza, I am grateful for your warm reception.

I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings.

Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment – slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as “security hazards” and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

Almost one-half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

The situation in Gaza is grim, but all hope is not lost. Amidst adversity, you continue to possess both dignity and determination to work towards a brighter tomorrow. That is why educating children is so important.

I have come to Gaza to help the world know what important work you are doing. UNRWA is here to ensure that the 200,000 children in its schools can develop their talent, express their dynamism, and help create the path to a better future.

The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities. UNRWA is teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the struggle for these rights all over the world, Gaza’s children are learning that as you seek justice for yourselves, you must be sure that your behavior provides justice for others.

They are learning that it is wrong to fire rockets that may kill Israeli children. They are learning that arbitrary detention and the summary execution of political opponents is not acceptable. They are learning that the rule of law must be honored here in Gaza.

I would like to congratulate both UNRWA and the children who have completed the human rights curriculum with distinction. They are tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians want more than just to survive. They hope to lead the Arab world, to be a bridge between modern political life and traditions that date back to the Biblical era. The nation you will create must be pluralistic and democratic – the new Palestine that your intellectuals have dreamt about. Palestine must combine the best of the East and the West. The Palestinian state, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

With our new leaders in Washington, my country will move into the forefront of this birth of a new Palestine. We were all reminded of this renewed hope and commitment by President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1 ½ million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies.

Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian Authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement of 1993, but the Arab Peace Initiative is being considered now by all sides.

I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of Gaza, thank you for inviting me and for sharing this happy occasion with me. Congratulations for your achievements.

for now these are just words. it remains to be seen if carter’s words can translate into action even on a small scale. for his part ismail haniyya, who spoke with carter the other day, vowed to work towards a two-state solution:

Ismail Haniyya, Prime Minister of the dissolved government of Hamas in Gaza, stated Tuesday that Hamas supports ant real effort to establish a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The statements of Haniyya came in a press conference with the former US President, Jimmy Carter, who is visiting the region.

“I will push for this aim, I will cooperate with all factions to achieve a parallel and extended ceasefire with Israel”, Haniyya said, “But this ceasefire requires Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and to open the border terminals”.

but seriously: what does that mean exactly? let’s say that all palestinian refugees had the right of return and there were those who returned to their villages in 1948 palestine to live under a regime that only allows jews to have full citizenship and rights and the rest returned to gaza and the west bank. how is it that palestinians are supposed to live a life as a people when the zionist entity has laws forbidding palestinians in 1948 palestine to marry palestinians in gaza and the west bank? how are the supposed to travel around their land with zionists controlling all the borders? and how is it that a so-called state can exist when gaza and the west bank are separated by at best an hour’s drive from one “border” to the other? here is a typical issue facing palestinians that i suspect would not change even if a so-called two-state solution were imposed on palestinians:

Israel has imposed new restrictions barring Palestinians living in Gaza from moving to the West Bank, two Israeli human rights groups said on Tuesday.

According to the new regulation, which was presented by the Israeli state to the High Court of Justice in response to several petitions, no Palestinian living in Gaza is allowed to apply for residency in the West Bank except under exceptional circumstances, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Only Gazans who have close family registered as living in the West Bank will even be considered for a permit to move there, the paper said.

“Israel is systematically taking action to further isolate the Gaza Strip, while increasing the geographic and political separation between Gaza and the West Bank,” said rights groups Gisha and Hamoked.

“The new procedure contradicts a long list of Israeli undertakings to conduct negotiations for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state, including an explicit commitment in the Oslo Accords to preserve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as ‘a single territorial unit,'” the groups said.

According to the regulation, there are three criteria for allowing movement from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, but only if the applicant does not have a “security impediment.”

In order to be considered, a Palestinian living in Gaza must fulfill one of the following criteria, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post:

• Someone who suffers from a chronic medical condition and who has no other family member (not necessarily of the first degree) in Gaza to provide care.

• A minor under the age of 16 living with one parent in Gaza who dies and another living in the West Bank, on condition that there is no relative in Gaza to look after the minor. Even if she does have such relatives, Israel may allow her or her to move, depending on the nature of her relationship with the living parent.

• A person over the age of 65 who is in a “needy situation” and has a “first-degree relative” in the West Bank who can help him, conditional, in part, on not having relatives in the West Bank.

According to the regulation, anyone who meets one of these criteria and is allowed to move, will receive a temporary permit, renewable each year, for seven years. After seven years, if he or she has proven he is not deemed a “security threat,” he or she may be entered in the West Bank population registry.

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

this week al mezan published a statistical report on the savaging of gaza which reveals the following data:

On Sunday 14 June 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights published a statistical report entitled, ‘Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers.’ This report presents figures on the persons killed and property destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its recent invasion of the Gaza Strip codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. The report is currently available in Arabic and will be circulated in English soon.

The introduction to the report provides an overview of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip which was conducted by the IOF during the period 27 January 2008 – 18 January 2009. The report demonstrates that during this invasion, the IOF perpetrated grave and systematic violations of the rules of international law. The report further emphasizes that field investigations clearly indicate that the IOF perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, deliberately targeting civilians, forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands and attacking displaced persons who had fled to temporary shelters flying the United Nations flag.

The report highlights the timing of first attacks launched and their surprise nature which indicates an intention on the part of the IOF to cause the highest possible number of civilian casualties and injuries. In particular, the first wave of attacks coincided with school arrival and departure times placing school children at great risk. (Gazan schools operate a ‘shift’ system with some children attending morning sessions and others afternoon sessions). The report also presents the field investigation methodology.

The report provides the numbers of persons killed and extent of property destroyed by the IOF. During the offensive, the IOF killed or fatally wounded a total of 1410 persons of which 355 were under the age of 18, 110 were women and 240 were resistance fighters. The IOF also partially or fully destroyed 11,135 homes, 209 industrial premises, 724 commercial establishments, 650 vehicles and 6271 (1000 meters) of agricultural land.

The report presents 16 tables addressing the details of persons killed, including socio-economic information, in addition to information related to the incident. Details of damage caused to property are also presented. The numbers of persons killed by unmanned surveillance aircraft (drones) hints that the State of Israel was trying to market its surveillance aircraft, with which hundreds were killed during the Offensive.

The report concludes that Al Mezan investigations, in addition to investigations by other national (Palestinian) and international organizations, present compelling evidence of the perpetration of a large number of grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Fourth Geneva Convention. These crimes include: willful killing, including the targeting of houses while the residents were inside without apparent military necessity; shooting civilians waving white flags; indiscriminate use of excessive forces in civilian areas; targeting civilians and civilian objects without distinction, proportionality or military necessity; using civilians as human shields; targeting medical teams; preventing medical access to the injured; refraining from taking any steps to assist and save the lives of the injured; and targeting United Nations premises and teams. These practices resulted in the killing of large number of civilians.

The report also address the consequences of IOF practices against Gaza residents such as the destruction of water and electricity networks and the blocking and destruction of roads connecting the Gaza Strip, the demolition of large areas of cultivated land and a high number of industrial facilities. These policies caused immense suffering by heavily restricting access to food and medicines, especially after years of siege and closure, which represents collective punishment of the entire population. The report also points at the psychological impact of intensive attacks on residential areas, killing and destruction, as well as the indiscriminate use of warnings to civilians across the Gaza Strip in a context where there was no safe place for civilians to go. The warning announcements were dropped in the centres of towns as well as in the shelters set up by the UN to house the displaced.

The report also addresses the internal Israeli investigation into allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. This investigation was declared closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 by the Israeli military Attorney General 11 days after it commenced. It concluded that the IOF had operated in accordance with international law and did not perpetrate war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The nature of this investigation is a continuation of Israeli practices which offer immunity to its soldiers and leaders. This requires the doubling of efforts to hold the perpetrators of war crimes, or those who ordered them, accountable through channels afforded by international law.

Al Mezan asserts that this practice of offering immunity confirms the firm conviction of observers of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories that the State of Israel does not have the will to investigate crimes perpetrated by its forces. Instead, through statements made by its continued leadership, it deliberately encourages them to perpetrate these crimes and assures them that the political leadership will provide full protection to its forces.

Al Mezan further asserts that the State of Israel’s refusal to conduct an investigation in accordance with relevant international standards, and its provision of protection and immunity to members of its armed forces and government who have perpetrated or ordered war crimes, places the moral responsibility on the shoulders of the international community. Al Mezan stresses that the international community holds both moral and legal responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes in accordance with international legal obligations relevant to the prosecution of war criminals.

Al Mezan condemns in the strongest possible terms the perpetration by the IOF of war crimes in the Gaza Strip. These crimes continue today through collective punishment, and the siege imposed by Israel against the Gaza Strip. Further, Al Mezan condemns the State of Israel’s encouragement of the further perpetration of these crimes by offering protection and immunity to their perpetrators.

Al Mezan calls on the international community to:

· Assume its moral and legal responsibility to end the siege on the Gaza Strip in order to pave the way for reconstruction

· Investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated by the IOF in the Gaza Strip in preparation for perpetrators to be prosecuted and held to account

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

a group of activists and artists recently got together to produce something called “gaza over and over.” it is a 70-page glossy document that catalogues the war crimes committed by the zionist entity in gaza as well as various political and artisitc responses to it such as the khalil bendib and carlos latuff images i posted here. there is also some nice documentation of protests around the world, including the successful boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. you can download their document by going to their website or by clicking this link for the pdf file.

and for someone with much stronger, more factual, historical language who doesn’t only give speeches, but who actually puts his body where his mouth is by doing things like actively supporting boycott, divestment, and sanctions compare this recent piece, posted by pulse media, by ilan pappe to carter. quite a different sort of politics and a point of view that i find it much easier to get behind:

If there is anything new in the never ending sad story of Palestine it is the clear shift in public opinion in this country. I remember coming to these isles in 1980 when supporting the Palestinian cause was confined to the left and in it to a very particular section and ideological stream. The post-holocaust trauma and guilt complex, military and economic interests and the charade of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East all played a role in providing immunity for the state of Israel. Very few were moved, so it seems, by a state that had dispossessed half of Palestine’s native population, demolished half of their villages and towns, discriminated against the minority among them who lived within its borders through an apartheid system and enclaved two million and a half of them in a harsh and oppressive military occupation.

Almost thirty years later and it seems that all these filters and cataracts have been removed. The magnitude of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is well known, the suffering of the people in the occupied territories recorded and described even by the American president as unbearable and inhuman. In a similar way, the destruction and depopulation of the greater Jerusalem area is noted daily and the racist nature of the policies towards the Palestinians in Israel are frequently rebuked and condemned.

The reality today in 2009 is described by the UN as ‘a human catastrophe’. The conscious and conscientious sections of the British society know very well who caused and who produced this catastrophe. This is not related any more to elusive circumstances, or to the ‘conflict’ – it is seen clearly as the outcome of Israeli policies throughout the years. When Desmond Tutu was asked for his reaction to what he saw in the occupied territories he noted sadly that it was worse than Apartheid. He should know.

As in the case of South Africa these decent people, either as individuals or as members of organizations, voice their outrage against the continued oppression, colonization, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Palestine. They are looking for ways of showing their protest and some even hope to impact their government into changing its old policy of indifference and inaction in the face of the continued destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. Many among them are Jews, as these atrocities are done in their name according to the logic of the Zionist ideology, and quite a few among them are veterans of previous civil struggles in this country for similar causes all over the world. They are not confined any more to one political party and they come from all walks of life.

So far the British government is not moved. It was also passive when the anti-Apartheid movement in this country demanded of it to impose sanctions on South Africa. It took several decades for that activism from below to reach the political top. It takes longer in the case of Palestine: guilt about the Holocaust, distorted historical narratives and contemporary misrepresentation of Israel as a democracy seeking peace and the Palestinians as eternal Islamic terrorists blocked the flow of the popular impulse. But it is beginning to find its way and presence, despite the continued accusation of any such demand as being anti-Semitic and the demonization of Islam and Arabs. The third sector, that important link between civilians and government agencies, has shown us the way. One trade union after the other, one professional group after the other, have all sent recently a clear message: enough is enough. It is done in the name of decency, human morality and basic civil commitment not to remain idle in the face of atrocities of the kind Israel has and still is committing against the Palestinian people.

In the last eight years the Israeli criminal policy escalated, and the Palestinian activists were seeking new means to confront it. They have tried it all, armed struggle, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and diplomacy: nothing worked. And yet they are not giving up and now they are proposing a non violent strategy that of boycott, sanctions and divestment. With these means they wish to persuade the Western government to save not only them, but ironically also the Jews in Israel from an imminent catastrophe and bloodshed. This strategy bred the call for cultural boycott on Israel. This demand is voiced by every part of the Palestinian existence: by the civil society under occupation and by Palestinians in Israel. It is supported by the Palestinian refugees and is led by members of the Palestinian exile communities. It came in the right moment and gave individuals and organizations in this country a way to express their disgust at the Israeli policies and at the same time an avenue for participating in the overall pressure on the government to change its policy of providing immunity for the impunity on the ground.

It is bewildering that this shift of public opinion has no impact so far on policy; but again we are reminded of the tortuous way the campaign against apartheid had to go before it became a policy. It is also worth remembering that two brave women in Dublin, toiling on the cashiers in a local supermarket were the ones who began a huge movement of change by refusing to sell South African goods. Twenty nine years later, Britain joined others in imposing sanctions on Apartheid. So while governments hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organised campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use their name or fame for indicating to us all that decent people in this world cannot support what Israel does and what it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their life time. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the more general harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere.

On the other hand, citizens in this country, especially famous ones, who continue to broadcast, quite often out of ignorance or out of more sinister reasons, the fable of Israel as a cultured Western society or as the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ are not only wrong factually. They provide immunity for one of the greatest atrocities in our time. Some of them demand we should leave culture out of our political actions. This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct. Eventually, one day the outrage from below, including in Israel itself, will produce a new policy – the present American administration is already showing early signs of it. History did not look kindly at those film makers who collaborated with McCarthy or endorsed Apartheid. It would adopt a similar attitude to those who are silent about Palestine now.

A good case in point unfolded last month in Edinburgh. Ken Loach led a campaign against the official and financial connections the city’s film festival had with the Israeli embassy. Such a stance was meant to send a message that this embassy represents not only the film makers of Israel but also its generals who massacred the people of Gaza, its tormentors who torture Palestinians in jails, its judges who sent 10,000 Palestinians – half of them children – without trial to prison, its racist mayors who want to expel Arabs from their cities, its architects who built walls and fences to enclave people and prevent them from reaching their fields, schools, cinemas and offices and its politicians who strategise yet again how to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they began in 1948. Ken Loach felt that only a call for boycotting the festival as whole would bring its directors into a moral sense and perspective. He was right; it did, because the case is so clear cut and the action so simple and pure.

It is not surprising that a counter voice was heard. This is an ongoing struggle and would not be won easily. As I write these words, we commemorate the 42nd year of the Israeli occupation, the longest, and one of the cruellest in modern time. But time has also produced the lucidity needed for such decisions. This is why Ken’s action was immediately effective; next time even this would not be necessary. One of his critics tried to point to the fact that people in Israel like Ken’s films, so this was a kind of ingratitude. I can assure this critic that those of us in Israel who watch Ken’s movies are also those who salute him for his bravery and unlike this critic we do not think of this an act similar to a call for Israel’s destruction, but rather the only way of saving Jews and Arabs living there. But it is difficult anyway to take such criticism seriously when it is accompanied by description of the Palestinians as a terrorist entity and Israel as a democracy like Britain. Most of us in this country have moved far away from this propagandist silliness and are ready for change. We are now waiting for the government of these isles to follow suit.