Archive | April 22nd, 2010


         *   The war journalist action figure

The war journalist action figure

Calling all wannabe embedded reporters, keen to diligently fellate the military and watch our good boys killing the enemy wherever they may be?

If you’ve been searching for the perfect gift for the news photographer in your life, search no more.

In the fall of 2004, Chrono Toys released War Journalist, a 1:6 scale action figure complete with a realistic-looking Canon 1-series SLR camera, three interchangeable Canon lenses, body armour, photo vest, ballistic helmet, ID card holder, handheld GPS unit, laptop and more.

The fully-articulated action figure, part of the company’s Chronicle Collectibles line, is available widely from online retailers for about US$60. A recent eBay auction (with lots of pictures) for a War Journalist saw the bidding top out at US$107.50.

Action-HQ has an interview with one of the designers of the War Journalist, who says the 12-inch tall replica was “inspired by a friend of mine who was a freelance photographer providing battlefield shots for various press agencies.”

Throwing Palestinians out of their homes

And the removals begin:

De facto government officials refused to accept a Gaza man into the Strip following his deportation from Israel on Thursday, security sources said, heightening tensions around a new military law expanding the definition of an “infiltrator.”

The man, 36-year-old Saber Al-Beyari, had been granted a temporary residence permit 15 years earlier so he could live with his wife, a Palestinian citizen of Israel living in her native Yaffa, a small Palestinian community encompassed by what is now Tel Aviv.

Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Al-Beyari was taken from a hospital in the area and deported directly to Gaza without explanation. The sources said he arrived at the Erez crossing at noon.

Once on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, de facto government officials refused to receive Al-Beyari into the coastal enclave, in what officials called an effort to prevent Israel from implementing the policy.

Stranded at the border area, Al-Beyari said he was awaiting the help of Human rights organizations so he could return to his family in Yaffa.

Democracy in Cuba? Not any time soon

I was interviewed recently by Michael Hershman of Radio Free Europe about the civil situation in Cuba. My main message is that democracy in some form may well come to Cuba one day but at the moment both the insane US embargo and authoritarian Havana regime makes this very unlikely:

Civil society in Cuba, long-embattled, appears to be gaining new momentum following the death of a political prisoner and fresh support from the Catholic Church.

Recent events have focused attention on Cuba’s imprisoned opposition activists. On February 23, jailed activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after a hunger strike lasting more than 80 days. Classified as a political prisoner by Amnesty International after his arrest in 2003, Tamayo had launched his fast to protest prison beatings and other abuses.

The day after his death, another jailed dissident, Guillermo Farinas, began his own hunger strike.

Farinas’s health has since deteriorated, and he has been kept alive through periodic intravenous feedings. Should Farinas die, another activist has already announced he will take up the hunger strike.

Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega has appealed to Farinas to end his hunger strike.

But earlier this week, the Catholic prelate, in an outspoken interview with a local Catholic newsletter, said Cuba was facing its deepest crisis in years. He urged the communist authorities to free all political prisoners and said there was a national consensus that the government must change — and change “quickly.”

Difficulties Facing Government, Opposition

The Caribbean island state is facing its deepest economic slowdown since the Soviet Union collapsed. Three hurricanes, the global financial crisis, and the continuing trade embargo by the United States have piled further pressure on the authorities.

The Ladies in White take part in a protest march in Havana on March 18.

The wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners have redoubled protests of their own, hoping to keep the focus on their jailed relatives. This group, called the “Ladies in White” because of their white dress, has been harassed by the authorities.

After years of peaceful Sunday demonstrations, the group was informed two weeks ago that it will need official permission for future protests.

“Not only the hunger strike but the gatherings of the women [Ladies in White], I believe, will have a very powerful political impact,” says Jose Botafogo Goncalves, a longtime Brazilian diplomat and former minister.

“And with international communications today making censorship difficult, news [of what is happening in Cuba] will disseminate through the world media. I believe this will accelerate political transformation in Cuba.”

According to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a scholar at the California-based Independent Institute and the son of one of Latin America’s leading intellectuals, the Cuban authorities are feeling increasingly under threat at home.

Vargas Llosa says that the effect of recent events have been “so powerful that you’ve seen for the very first time in half a century Castro — in this case Raul Castro — publicly speaking against a domestic opposition. Until now they had even refused to recognize that there was such a thing as a domestic opposition.”

Whatever its international reach, Cuba’s opposition still struggles with its own internal communications.

Due to government policy, less than 5 percent of Cubans are online — one of the lowest rates in Latin America. Journalist Antony Loewenstein says Cuban dissidents have relied on photocopiers more than the Internet to spread their message.

“Their main form of getting information out was through using a photocopier,” Loewenstein says. “Now in many other countries these days you may as well put up flyers around the city, but again most people communicate or get information out — like in Iran, say — by the web, via blogs, via Facebook, via Twitter, whatever it may be. But in Cuba that is simply not the case.”

Not In Vain

Despite these difficulties, Cuba’s opposition seems to have gained new resolve.

Veteran National Public Radio correspondent Tom Gjelten, who has covered Cuban events as well as dissident movements in the former communist world, says he does not expect change to happen quickly.

“Unfortunately I think that the dissident movement in Cuba, unlike the dissident movement in the former Soviet bloc and Eastern Europe, is very weak. People largely are unfamiliar with the dissidents, they don’t have much of a following in Cuba,” Gjelten says.

“I think there is a tremendous amount of alienation and cynicism in Cuba, but I think when the end of that regime comes it’s likely going to come more from people within the regime itself.”

Vargas Llosa, on the other hand, is more optimistic, saying that “the dynamics that destroyed other communist regimes in the last three decades have clearly not been in play with the same force inside Cuba.”

“But for the first time you begin to see something that wasn’t there before which is a certain level of organization, a certain level of resistance, and the willingness to take the sacrifice all the way to actually a life and death situation,” Vargas Llosa adds.

Vargas Llosa says the Cuban hunger strike, at the very least, could redefine the current concept of martyrdom. He says young people today tend to associate the concept of martyrdom with terrorism.

“So the notion that [in] this tiny corner of the world in the Western Hemisphere called Cuba, suddenly a group of people [are] willing to sacrifice their lives,” he says, “not in order to cause harm to anybody else and not for a cause that is delegitimized but is actually quite legitimate — which is the cause of freedom in a country that has been under oppression for 50 years — is really quite remarkable.”

US Democrat still talks about Israel’s land blooming (like it’s 1948)

If you want to know why Israel is a state religion in the US, look no further than this statement by Democrat Jan Schakowsky on the Jewish state’s 62nd birthday. It’s as if the Arabs simply don’t exist:

WASHINGTON, DC (April 21, 2010) – Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) made the following statement on the House floor to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.

Madam Speaker, I rise to honor the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State of Israel.  Israel has weathered decades of war and terrorism but it remains a thriving democracy and America’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East.

As a very young child, I remember the immense pride and joy my family felt when the Jewish State became a reality.  I had the privilege of traveling once again to Israel earlier this month, and again I was struck by the resilience, courage, and innovation of the Israeli people, as well as their pride in the beautifully lush country they have built in the desert. 

I thought about my childhood again and the number of times I had saved my nickels and dimes to by a tree certificate that we used for birthdays and anniversaries to plant trees in Israel and make that desert bloom.

No longer just a longing of the Jewish people, Israel today is a leader in technology, energy, and scientific innovation – including medical innovation.  It is also the only democratic state in the Middle East and our steadfast friend, ally, and partner.

Today, we mark the 62nd anniversary of the State of Israel and celebrate the unbreakable bonds between our two countries. Sixty-two years after the U.S. became the first country to recognize the new State of Israel we still share common dreams and continue to strengthen our critical relationship.

Just minutes after the declaration of the founding of the State of Israel, President Harry Truman recognized that country and it began a 62-year-long commitment, non-partisan, bipartisan – universal throughout our country – recognizing the importance of our relationship with the State of Israel. I believe that this Congress of the United States maintains that dedication and will forever more. Thank you.

Palestinians are dying to visit another dictatorship

This is almost comical. One authoritarian state goes to an occupied people and asks them to come as tourists. Because Palestinians are dead keen to see another occupation?

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau is to hold its first Tourism Road Show at Ramallah City in Palestine on Thursday.

This will be the first time a trade or tourism delegation from Sri Lanka will be visiting Palestine.

Officials of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board who will be in Ramallah for the Road Show will be accompanied by a group of dancers.

The Palestinian tourism sector will be represented by 36 members of the Palestinian Society for Tourism and Travel Agents. The Palestine Tourism and Antiquities Minister Dr. Khloud Daibes will be the Chief Guest at the show.

The Road Show is expected to exchange views regarding problems connected with trade and the method of increasing the flow of tourists between Palestine and Sri Lanka.

Apart from visiting the country as tourists, Palestinians now visit Sri Lanka for trade purposes as well.

In January this year a trade delegation visited Sri Lanka on the invitation of Sri Lanka Export Development Board.

Tea importers from Palestine now visit Sri Lanka to purchase their requirements direct and 90% of the tea consumed in Palestine comes from Sri Lanka.

The Tamil desire for independence remains strong in Australia

Australian Tamils have spoken:

99.4 percent of those who cast votes in the Tamil referendum across Australia last weekend said “yes” to the formation of independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam in the contiguous north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. The results were announced Thursday at a press conference held at NSW State Parliament in front of state and national media. 8,272 out of the registered, numbering around 10,000, participated in the polls.

The number of eligible Eezham Tamil voters in Australia is estimated to be around 15,000. The formation of Tamil Eelam was assented by 8,154. The negative votes were 51 and 67 were invalid.

Tamils vote for independence — and will vote against Labor

My following article appears in today’s Crikey:

Australia’s Tamil community want an independent homeland in Sri Lanka. And they want respect from a Federal Government here that is now denying visa applications to their people.

Last weekend saw thousands of Australian Tamils vote on the Vaddukoddai Resolution in a show of support for an independent Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka. They’ve told Crikey they’re angered by Kevin Rudd’s statements on refugees; some are preparing to campaign against sitting members during the federal election.

Results show overwhelming support locally as elections in Norway, France, Canada, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Britain saw 99% of voting Tamils back the proposal. The vote has no real political consequence, though it proves the potency of the idea of independence for a traumatised people who simply don’t trust a majority Sinhalese-Buddhist elite to treat them with equality.

I was an election monitor on Sunday in the outer Sydney suburb of Oxley Park (and visited another polling booth in Homebush) and spoke to countless Tamils who expressed their growing anger at Labor’s refugee policies. Many said they would vote Greens for the first time in their lives.

Some live in marginal seats, such as Parramatta (Labor’s Julie Owens), Greenway (Liberal’s Louise Markus), Bennelong (Labor’s Maxine McKew) and Lowe (Labor’s John Murphy). Crikey understands some Tamils are seriously considering contributing to targeted campaigns in some seats against sitting Labor members.

Labor’s Holroyd City Council Councillor Tamil Vasee Rajadurai told Crikey he was “disappointed” with Rudd’s latest refugee shift. Although he called the Prime Minister a “compassionate” man who apologised to the Stolen Generations and would never sink to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s race-baiting level, he asked the Australian government to understand that Tamils were increasingly fleeing Sri Lanka for a reason.

The Councillor said that it would take years before viable Tamil politicians would emerge in Sri Lanka due to the level of intimidation by government forces in the north and east of the country.

Vyramuthu Vijayasivajie, who arrived in Australia 17 years ago, epitomised the sentiment I heard all day. He always voted Labor but said this year he would for the first time be voting Greens. His antipathy towards the Federal Government was palpable.

In the final stages of the war last year he told me the ALP “stayed silent; while in opposition, Kevin Rudd and the party were quite vocal about the situation in Sri Lanka.” During the crisis, he continued, the Greens spoke out against the atrocities and he was especially happy to hear leader Bob Brown condemn Colombo’s onslaught and the Rudd government’s silence.

Vijayasivajie, 56, met Labor MP Julie Owens last year and told her that if he had no family in Australia he would want to join the Tamils in their fight against the Sri Lankan forces. “She didn’t say much to that,” he said.

He was “angry” with Rudd’s hardening of refugee policy and was scared of “another Tampa”. He personally knew of Tamil women raped by Sri Lankan armed gangs in the country’s north, roaming at night in the areas where Tamils are released after enforced detention.

During last week’s Community Cabinet Meeting in Sydney, Immigration Minister Chris Evans was asked by two Tamils to justify the Rudd government’s suspension of refugee claims from Sri Lanka. Evans claimed the security situation in Sri Lanka had “improved” and two “democratic” elections had been held since the end of the conflict in May 2009. The minister believed in “positive engagement” with Colombo “to provide more security for the Tamil people” — “shouting from the sidelines” was futile.

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon — running for a Senate seat in this year’s federal election — told Crikey that her party is currently crafting its election strategy but she is hearing a great deal of frustration with ALP policy on Tamil and Afghan refugees.

There is “considerable disquiet in inner-city seats [such as Lindsay Tanner’s seat of Melbourne] where people are outraged that Rudd, who was elected with great promise and hope, had not ended the inhumanity that the Howard government had displayed towards refugees.”

But the ALP may also have troubles in outer Sydney seats such as Reid, Rhiannon argued, because the Greens had “carved much territory” after the 2001 Tampa affair. The party saw a mass influx of new members.

A number of Tamils told me, and this is confirmed by Rhiannon, that Rudd’s asylum seeker stance is denying Tamils and Afghanis due process, a position arguably harsher than under Howard. This is because their claims aren’t even being considered; they are being denied a rightful hearing. It may be “worse than temporary protection visas”, Rhiannon says.

Councillor Rajadurai told me the “President of Sri Lanka has the opportunity in his hands to begin reconciliation [with Tamils] now. It’s the best time to do this now but the signs are not there.”

Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution

The students paying the price for Ahmadinejad’s arrogance

Because we haven’t forgotten about the Islamic Republic’s barbarism:

Bahareh Hedayat belongs to another group of Iranians that has been among the most active in the protests, most brave in its defiance, and most repressed by the state’s basij militia and other official thugs: she is a student leader, arrested (as she had been in 2007 and after the June election) on 31 December 2009 and held since in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Bahareh is not alone and I write of her merely as an example of many other conscientious activists who have endured staggering hardship in these epic months.

Bahareh is an elected representative of the traditionally male-dominated Tahkim Vahdat, the national student union formed after a decree issued by Ayatollah Khomeini at the dawn of the 1979 revolution. It gradually acquired legitimacy by conducting free elections in which Iran’s entire student population voted; it thus evolved into an independent, pro-democracy organisation and one of the state’s most vocal critics.

Bahareh’s interrogation, which had kept her in isolation from her fellow-prisoners, ended in March 2010. But as further punishment she was transferred from Evin’s section 209 (for “political” detainees) to section 350 (a women’s unit); a high-security section which houses those convicted of drug-trafficking  and murder among other tough crimes.

Iranian prisoners in certain categories qualify for the right to make one three-minute telephone-call per week. For Bahareh, the natural day to make contact with the outside world was 6 April: both her 29th birthday and her wedding anniversary.

Her husband Ahmad Aminian, her family and friends and a group of her student-union colleagues gathered in her small flat to wait for the call. Bahareh did call that evening – and was able to talk for as long as she wanted, for her hardened fellow-inmates had turned over to her their own precious allocation.

Judt on dissing Israel but liking Judaism

A moral Jewish voice, Tony Judt, hs long refused to be bound by Zionist tribalism. Human rights matter more than blindly following Israel.

But he’s fiercely proudly of being Jewish. I agree:

I reject the authority of the rabbis—all of them (and for this I have rabbinical authority on my side). I participate in no Jewish community life, nor do I practice Jewish rituals. I don’t make a point of socializing with Jews in particular—and for the most part I haven’t married them.

 I am not a “lapsed” Jew, having never conformed to requirements in the first place. I don’t “love Israel” (either in the modern sense or in the original generic meaning of loving the Jewish people), and I don’t care if the sentiment is reciprocated. But whenever anyone asks me whether or not I am Jewish, I unhesitatingly respond in the affirmative and would be ashamed to do otherwise.

Not all politicians are in bed with Washington and Tel Aviv

What’s this? A senior Western politician questioning American and Israeli criminality? No wonder the political and media elites don’t like him and the public do. He speaks unspoken truths:

Nick Clegg, the party leader dominating the British election campaign, has refused to rule out a push to be foreign secretary in a coalition government.

And in unusually strong language for a prominent British politician, the Liberal Democrat leader also urged greater independence from US foreign policy and a more demanding European attitude towards Israel yesterday.

Mr Clegg said Britain should no longer be “joined at the hip with our American friends”, arguing that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq invasion “was a war about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown doing America’s bidding”.

He said Israel had used disproportionate force in Gaza and kept Palestinians in poverty so Europe should use its “economic muscle”, including arms embargoes, to change the Israeli government’s policies.

“I think, as a European, as a British politician, we can’t only leave it to the US to exert influence in the Middle East,” he said.

Mr Clegg’s tough comments on foreign policy will receive unprecedented attention because of his strong performance in last week’s first-ever British televised leadership debate, which led to the greatest turnaround recorded by polls in the middle of a British election campaign.

The Liberal Democrats soared to the top of opinion polls, producing the exact reverse of the last general election result – with the Lib Dems first, the Conservatives second, followed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party.

The polls suggest Labour could still win with the largest number of MPs on May 6 but the Lib Dems would hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

A common feature of coalition governments across Europe has been the appointment of the leader of the second-largest party as foreign minister. Mr Clegg was non-committal when asked whether he would demand that job as one of the prices of Liberal Democrat support for a coalition.

“That really is putting carts spectacularly before horses,” said Mr Clegg, who speaks five languages and began his career as a European Union trade negotiator.

All parties are anxious to see whether Mr Clegg can maintain his momentum in tomorrow’s second televised debate, in which the main topic will be foreign policy.

While reserving some of his strongest criticisms yesterday for George W. Bush’s administration, Mr Clegg had a slap at Moscow, saying Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had “ruthlessly” used Russia’s gas wealth to divide Europe.

He said the conventional wisdom in Britain had long been that “the linchpin around which all the British foreign policy should be organised is the Atlantic relationship between the UK and the US”.

That made sense during the Cold War “but those days are past” and it was no longer smart “to unambiguously be joined at the hip with our American friends”, he said.

“There is nothing wrong with just acknowledging that there are . . . in recent years very profound differences between ourselves and US administrations, particularly at the height of the George Bush-Dick Cheney orchestrated war on terror.”

He added: “I think it is almost sometimes embarrassing the way in which Conservative and Labour politicians talk in this kind of slavish way about `the special relationship’ (with the US).

“If you speak to hard-nosed folk in Washington they say, `Yeah, it is a good relationship but it is not the special relationship’.”

“So if they are moving on, why on earth don’t we?”

Mr Clegg called for united sanctions against Iran but denied military action would stop its nuclear ambitions.

“The great risk of sabre-rattling about the possibility of military action in Iran, of course, is that you strengthen the very forces in Iran that we want to weaken, (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and the other hardline leadership in Iran.”

Mr Clegg described the EU as an “economic giant and a political pygmy in the Middle East”.

“On Israel, my view has always been that whilst the ideology of Israel’s enemies in Hamas . . . is odious, and the use of terror . . . unacceptable, I also feel that it is simply not in Israel’s long-term interests to have 1.5-1.8 million people in a state of wretched grinding poverty in a tiny, tiny sliver of land in Gaza seething with ever greater radicalism, extremism and hatred right on your doorstep and that the military methods used in Operation Cast Lead were disproportionate,” he said.


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Board of Deputies of British Jews will not tolerate allegations of intolerance

Here’s a remarkable report in the Jewish Chronicle. It appears that Board of Deputies officers walked out of a talk addressed by a Liberal Democrat lord because he criticised the intolerance of Israel’s Likud led government:

Lord Wallace, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader in the Lords, has defended Baroness Tonge’s “over-emotional approach” to Palestinian rights in a wide-ranging address to the Board of Deputies on Sunday.

He explained that she has not been expelled from the party because “we do sadly find the current Likud Party very intolerant of all criticism”.

His remarks prompted a number of Deputies to walk out in protest.

Baroness Tonge was sacked as Lib Dem spokesman on health in February after suggesting Israel should set up an inquiry to refute allegations that its rescue teams in Haiti were trafficking organs from earthquake victims.

Lord Wallace, who is a LibDem spokesman on international affairs, told the Board: “She answered a deliberately provocative question from the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle… I think Jenny Tonge is over-emotional, mistaken.

“She did not say that body parts had been taken in Haiti…She was trapped by a question from the Jewish Chronicle which she should have known better than to answer.”

It’s interesting that Lord William Wallace is wise to JC tactics but the walkout by the deputies, according to the JC, wasn’t because of Jenny Tonge, it was because he criticised Likud. So now the BoD has gone from being the Board of Deputies of British Jews through the Board of Deputies of British zionists to the Board of Deputies of British Likudniks.

Maybe they walked out because they thought he was being unfair to Yisrael Beiteinu by not mentioning them. Perhaps he’ll get a chance to mention them after the next Israeli elections or before the next British ones.

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Didi Remez | April 22, 2010  | Categories: Diplomacy, Jerusalem | URL:

If Elie Wiesel now wants to run a full page ad in Maariv, I think I can get him a good price: $10,000-$20,000. It’s a tabloid, however, so he’ll have to reformat his Washington Post ad on Jerusalem.

On a more serious note, this is a potentially significant report that should be handled with care. Ben Caspit has a history of sacrificing precision for the sake of sensation and the source, Peres, is an incurable optimist, to put it mildly. Not that one should attach to much value to Eli Yishai’s denial either.

 Rabbi Ovadia Yosef supports halting construction in Jerusalem

Ben Caspit, Maariv, April 22 2010 [page 6 with front page headline | Hebrew online original here]

Zio=Nazi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef believes that Israel must rebuild its relationship with the US administration at any price, even if this means stopping to build in Jerusalem.

This emerges from the details of a talk that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef held with President Shimon Peres about three weeks ago. Sources who learned the details of the talk told Ma’ariv yesterday that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef used very clear and sharp language, and this included an explicit statement supporting a temporary halt to construction in Jerusalem.

The meeting between Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and President Peres took place on Friday morning almost three weeks ago, in the framework of Peres’s traditional visits to important leaders on the intermediate days of Passover. In the course of the meeting, Peres reviewed for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef the state of relations between Israel and the US, the depth of the crisis and its harsh ramifications for Israel’s situation and standing.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, say people who were at the meeting, took it hard. Yosef said, “everything must be done to work things out with the Americans, we must pay any price to rebuild the relationship, we must not provoke the nations and kingdoms of the world,” and more in the same vein.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef further said that it is possible to stop construction in Jerusalem for a time and to focus construction efforts in other areas such as central Israel, and that nothing would happen if we started building in Jerusalem again in a few years, after the crisis had passed.

When Peres described for him the compromise proposal (which Peres raised to Netanyahu), whereby Israel would declare a complete construction halt in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also expressed support for this proposal.

Peres, the sources say, pointed out that Netanyahu also agreed to this proposal but refused to declare so publicly.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s statements reveal a situation in Shas in which the student, i.e., Eli Yishai, is more extreme than his mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. In response to Ma’ariv’s question, Eli Yishai said yesterday, “this never happened.”

The President’s Residence had no comment. The transcript of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s statement was checked and cross referenced, among others, with people who spoke with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef after Peres’s visit. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef confirmed them. 





Open Letter to Gil Scott-Heron: Don’t Play Zio=Nazi Apartheid !

Palestine Occupied Ramallah, 21 April 2010

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
(PACBI) is gravely disappointed by the announcement that well-known,
progressive artist Gil Scott-Heron is due to perform in Israel on May 25.
We call upon Mr. Scott-Heron, a member of United Artists Against Apartheid
in the 1980’s and a featured singer on the breakthrough song ‘Don’t Play
Sun City’, not to play apartheid Israel.

We urge you as an influential artist, and, more importantly, as a
well-known activist on issues of social justice and equality, not to
perform in Israel, a state that maintains a cruel system of occupation,
colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people and has been
widely accused by UN experts and leading human rights organizations of
committing war crimes and grave violations of human rights.  

Your performance in Israel would stand in stark contrast to your
anti-apartheid, anti-racist record and simply be part of Israel’s attempt
to ‘re-brand’ and whitewash its apartheid system.

Your work has been an inspiration to activists around the world who are
fighting for justice alongside the Palestinian people; do not tarnish your
record and this admiration by turning a blind eye to the realities of
Israeli apartheid.

 A performance in Israel would come a year and a half
after Israel’s bloody military assault against the occupied Gaza Strip
which left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 were children, and
5380 injured.

The 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, the
overwhelming majority of whom are refugees, were subjected to three weeks
of relentless Israeli state terror, whereby Israeli warplanes
systematically targeted civilian areas, reducing whole neighbourhoods and
vital civilian infrastructure to rubble and partially destroying Gaza’s
leading university and scores of schools, including several run by the UN,
where civilians, including children, were taking shelter. This criminal
assault came after months of a crippling and ongoing Israeli siege of

The situation for Palestinians outside Gaza does not fare well either.
Palestinian refugees, the majority of the Palestinian population, are not
allowed to return to their homes from which they were expelled in 1948.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated as second class citizens where
rampant discrimination and differential access to services is the norm.

Palestinians in the West Bank are locked in by an Apartheid wall with its
connected system of Israeli-only roads, settlements and checkpoints.
Literally, Palestinian areas are transformed into open air prisoners and
laboratories for the latest Israeli weaponry.

If you have any doubts that the situation of Palestinians is similar to
that of black South African’s under apartheid, we urge you to heed the
words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who in a recent letter to Berkeley
students wrote: “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I
have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me
so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist
system of Apartheid.

I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.” [1]

In the face of decades of unrelenting oppression, Palestinian civil
society has called upon supporters of the struggle for freedom and justice
throughout the world to take a stand and heed our call for boycott,
divestment and sanctions against Israel until it recognises Palestinian
rights and fully complies with international law.

Many prominent international cultural figures including John Berger, Ken Loach, Arundhati Roy, Roger Waters, John Williams, among others, have declared their support for the boycott. Other renowned international artists, including Sting, Bono, Snoop Dog, Jean Luc Goddard and Joan Manuel Serrat have also heeded our call and cancelled their gigs or participation in festivals in Israel [2].

Your performance in Israel would be the equivalent to having performed in
Sun City during South Africa’s Apartheid era, in violation of the
international boycott unanimously endorsed by the oppressed South
Africans.  We hope that you will not play apartheid Israel.


pacbi@pacbi. org

http://www.huffingt desmond-tutu/ divesting- from-injustice_ b_534994. html

[2] See International Guidelines for the Academic Boycott of Israel
http://www.pacbi. org/etemplate. php?id=1107&key=international% 20academic% 20boycott

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