Archive | June 18th, 2010





Corporate lobbyists are controlling our democracy.

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Click here to help the other 98% of us take it back.

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How many times have we all read the newspaper and wondered, “How do we rescue our democracy from corporate lobbyists?”

Evidence that our democracy is broken is all around us, from the foreclosure signs in our neighborhoods to the oil washing up on our beaches.

We need a grassroots groundswell to take on the corporations that are holding our democracy hostage. So a bunch of progressive groups are launching an ambitious project to create a new blueprint, written by all of us together, for putting the People back in charge of our government. Together we can make democracy work for the other 98% of us who DON’T have corporate lobbyists in Washington.

We’re calling it Stand for Democracy. Hundreds of folks have submitted ideas for how to curb corporate influence: And you can join the fun. It just takes five minutes to rate and submit some ideas — just click here to get started:

Once we’ve all had a chance to see and rate some of the ideas, we’ll announce the top 20 finalists and ask everyone to choose the five ideas that, together, would do the best job of making our democracy work for regular people.

Of course, fixing our democracy is a huge job. And nobody expects we can fix it in a month or a year. But it’s a problem we have to tackle. As we saw again and again this year — from the insurance companies killing the public option to the oil and coal companies blocking clean energy legislation — the change we voted for in 2008 will be impossible to achieve until we take on the influence of these corporations and their puppets in Washington, D.C.

Right now, there’s so much frustration across the political spectrum with Washington that we have a real window to push for reform. But it’ll only work if we all get involved. And the first step is to agree on what we want. Be part of that process: Click here to take five minutes to rate some ideas for our collective agenda.

Thanks for making democracy work for the other 98% of us.


Drew Hudson
TrueMajority / USAction




The meaning of strangulation



  By Mark LeVine

Israel has been strangling the Palestinian economy since the occupation began [GALLO/GETTY]

The remarks were not made in anger or haste, as were the now infamous, flippant and ill-conceived comments that cost White House reporter Helen Thomas her job, if not her legacy. Instead, they were made quite deliberately, with an air of thoughtfulness, while leaning over a lectern, as if lecturing to a class.

Thomas was forced into retirement for declaring that Jews “should get the hell out of Palestine,” but New York Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful politicians in the US, has avoided any criticism or even major press coverage for remarks he made only days later that supported the continued “economic strangulation” of Gaza; in part, because, he essentially argues, the inhabitants of the benighted Strip are not Jewish.

Schumer made his remarks during a brief talk to the Orthodox Union, a well-known politically conservative Jewish educational, outreach and social service organisation.The talk covered several foreign policy issues, including Iran and Israel/Palestine. When the topic turned to the Israeli attack on the Gaza aid flotilla Schumer began by explaining that the “Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution”. But that is not all, he continued: “They don’t believe in the Torah, in David.”

Because of this, and because they chose to elect Hamas, Schumer went on to argue, Israel is right – and the US should support its desire – “to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go”.

Indeed, whether deliberately or because he does not understand the nature of Israeli policies vis-a-vis Gaza, Schumer did not actually use the word “blockade;” instead describing Israeli actions as a “boycott”.

Only when Palestinians see the light, “when there’s some moderation and cooperation, can [they] have an economic advancement”.

Opinions that matter

White House reporter Helen Thomas resigned after her now infamous comments [AP]

With all due respect to Helen Thomas and her illustrious career, she was merely a columnist, with no political power and a relatively small readership. When she adopted opinions or arguments that contradicted the facts or were morally problematic, they were easily rebutted in the public sphere.

Charles Schumer, however, is an extremely powerful senator who serves on some of that body’s most powerful committees, such as banking and judiciary.

Moreover, through his representation of New York, the state with the largest Jewish population in the US, he is a leading pro-Israel voice in congress who has the ability directly to impact the nature of US policy towards Israel and the Middle East more broadly.

In other words, what Senator Schumer says actually can cost people – Palestinians, Israelis, Americans – their livelihoods and even their lives, not to mention help prolong or alleviate one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. And yet no one in official Washington even blinked.

To consider the implications of these comments, it is worth considering what would happen if any Arab or Muslim, never mind a US senator, explained that because Israelis do not support a two-state solution, and do not believe in the Quran – that is, have not converted to Islam – and have voted in one of the most right-wing governments in their country’s history, the US, or the world more broadly, is justified in trying to “strangle Israel economically” until it moderates its policies.

Imagine the uproar. Consider what would happen to the person – a columnist or congressman – who made such a comment. Yet hardly anyone has even noticed, never mind considered the implications of Schumer’s remarks, which on YouTube have garnered about 1,500 views. Not a single major US newspaper has even written, let alone editorialised, about them, in contrast to the plethora of editorials and op-eds in response to Thomas’ remarks, one clip of which has been viewed well over 1.6 million times.

It is hard to know what to call Schumer’s argument that, because Palestinians “don’t believe in the Torah, in David,” they can be strangled.

He specifically says “there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death,” but he does not quite explain how “strangling” an economy that has already been nearly destroyed during 40 years of occupation can do anything but cause immense suffering to the people living in it, as numerous reports by the UN, Israeli, Palestinian and international aid organisations have documented in great detail.

Indeed, to “strangle” an entire people economically can only mean to try to destroy their ability to survive as a national group, which is a crime against humanity.

Official bigotry unchallenged

These are among the most ethnically and religiously bigoted and even inciteful public remarks by a senior American politician I have heard in a long time.

And the fact Schumer could make them without a hint of anger, as if he was merely stating the obvious, and feel no need to recant them after video of the talk was circulated on the internet (several calls to Schumer’s press secretary asking for clarification were not answered), is as telling as it is worrisome.

It is also worth noting that besides the moral problems associated with his positions, almost every one of his arguments are factually inaccurate. The strong majority of Palestinians continue to support a two-state solution (74 per cent in an April 2009 poll), even thought the process meant to achieve it has delivered little but misery for them for almost two decades. They moderated their ideology and behaviour as part of Oslo and were met with an ever more intensive occupation in response.

Israel has, in fact, been strangling the Palestinian economy since the inception of the occupation, “de-developing” not just Gaza but the West Bank until Oslo, and then closing off the Territories physically while ensuring that they could not develop an autonomous economy as the central component of Oslo’s economic protocols.

Indeed, it is precisely the intensification of the occupation that led to the breakdown of negotiations, the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada, the massive violence of Israel’s response, and the election of Hamas in response to these dynamics. Even senior Israeli generals have admitted that their harsh actions have only strengthened Hamas.

Collective punishment

The ‘economic strangulation’ of Gaza amounts to collective punishment [Getty Images]

Schumer also fails to realise that by advocating the “economic strangulation” of Gaza he is calling for collective punishment of a civilian population in order to change its political beliefs or views.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he should know that this is essentially the definition of terrorism used by the US government, which in several federal statutes, including the Patriot Act, define terrorism as  involving acts that “appear to be intended … to intimidate or coerce a civilian population … to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [or] affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping …” (USA Patriot Act, Title VIII, Sec. 802).

Israel’s policies of economic strangulation have clearly – and admittedly – been intended to force a change in behaviour, and are inseparable from its policies of assassination and kidnappings which have also been practiced by the US under the guise of drone strikes and renditions (it is also likely not coincidental that Senator Schumer also supported the use of torture by the Bush administration in 2004).

How does Senator Schumer think advocating economic strangulation will actually improve Israel’s security, help moderate Palestinians, or, as should be a major concern for a US senator, improve the US’ position in the eyes of the Muslims world as his party’s president, Barack Obama, has been trying to do since taking office?

Moreover, his comments suggest that if Israel manages to choke Palestinians into compliance, the most he is willing to support is the sort of “economic peace” or development promised by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, as an alternative to actual sovereignty and independence. If so, that would put him in direct confrontation with Obama’s strongly-stated support for Palestinian statehood.

Finally, it might serve Senator Schumer to know that within Islam there is in fact an acceptance of the Torah and David, as the Torah (tawrat in Arabic) is considered one of the Holy Books of God, whose corruption by humans led to subsequent revelations until the final, according to Islamic theology, uncorrupted revelation, that comprised the Quran. Moreover, David is considered a prophet and another set of books, the Zabur, or songs/psalms, is attributed to him.

Perhaps if Schumer understood this basic theological relationship between Judaism and Islam, he might be less predisposed to imagining that Israelis and Palestinians are inevitably at odds, and that the latter will act irrationally and with malice against Israel no matter what Israel does and therefore the safest policy from Israel’s perspective is, if not actual strangulation, at least continuous repression.

Obama’s challenge

Schumer’s comments have received far less media attention than Thomas’ [Getty Images]

If Schumer thinks this way, many if not most of his colleagues, and the majority of the American media and political spheres, do as well.

If this is what he is up against, no wonder Obama is finding it so hard to change US policy towards the conflict.

It would be one thing if Schumer’s views impacted only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But his remarks to the Orthodox Union also touched upon Iran, and did so in a way that provide some alarming insight into what is likely the consensus of the senate about the goal of US policies towards the Islamic Republic.

Specifically, Schumer described a bill presently in reconciliation between the house and senate that would prevent any company that sold gasoline directly or indirectly to Iran from selling oil products in the US. If passed, such a bill would significantly impact Iran because while it is a major petroleum exporter, Iran in fact imports a larger share of the gasoline it uses for domestic consumption.

After describing the bill and its potential impact, Schumer added off-handedly, as if it was too obvious really to need mentioning, that “the whole idea is to bring the Iranian regime down”.

He added: “There is a lot of discontent … the people of Iran want economic advancement above all … If we can stop that economic advancement we can hurt the country economically. That might be the spark that brings the people … that brings the regime, which is fundamentally not popular and works by fear, down.”

It seems that to Schumer what is good for Israel in Gaza is good for the US in Iran; engage in blatant attempts at regime change, even if doing so is a violation of international law; hurt or strangle a country economically in order to cause the people to suffer enough that they rise up against the government to whose existence you are opposed; and if none of that works, keep applying more pressure, until, presumably, there is no choice but to take military action.

Senator Schumer’s words seem to represent the mainstream of opinion inside the Washington political establishment. They would seem, thus far, not to be the official policies of the Obama administration, but if the president does not articulate a clear agenda that includes bold action to break the logjams in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Iran and the Western powers, Schumer’s views will likely become the de facto fall-back strategy of whatever administration is in power in two years’ time.

And this will most likely mean a lot more suffering for Palestinians and Iranians, and ultimately, for Israelis and Americans as well.

Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).




Blockade of ‘Mavi Marmara’ continues, stateside

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

We all say that things are moving in a good direction. Well, in power politics, here’s a disastrous story: The Daily News reports on three New York politicians joining a campaign to investigate Gaza flotilla activists who are coming here to speak. And not just any New York pols, but Christine Quinn, who we thought was good on the issue, and Congress people Charlie Rangel and Carolyn Maloney, who ought to know better. Grim news. A real bow to extremists, and reminiscent of the 1950s. Imagine them trying this with the civil rights movement…

Local officials are demanding that the State Department investigate the visa applications of Gaza flotilla activists before two of them speak at a Brooklyn church.

“We have an obligation to protect our borders against Hamas,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Queens) said at a Times Square press conference Monday that included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem). “Use extra caution. Take this threat seriously.”

She and other members of New York‘s congressional delegation pledged to deliver a petition with more than 23,000 signatures demanding the State Department do visa checks of Mavi Marmara ship passengers planning a speaking tour that includes a stop at the House of the Lord Church in Boerum Hill on Thursday.

When will ‘NYT’ get around to printing Emily Henochowicz’s name?

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Today’s print edition of the Times has an article by Isabel Kershner about violence in the Palestinian West Bank.  An Israeli police vehicle was shot at near Hebron, and one officer, Yehoshua Sofer, was killed.  He was named. 

But the Times print edition has still never mentioned  — not once — Emily Henochowicz, the brave young art student at Cooper Union in New York who lost an eye on May 31 to an Israeli tear gas canister. She has appeared in Robert Mackey’s blog, and in a couple of comments from readers, but the paper’s reporters and editors have still not found room to even name her.

Three American girls are left fatherless by Jerusalem killing

Posted: 15 Jun 2010


These are the three American daughters of Ziad al-Jilani, who was killed Friday night in Jerusalem after praying, when he came too close to a “flying checkpoint” maintained by the Israelis, who shot him. The al-Jilani family has said that he lost control of his car amid rock-throwing; they have called for a full investigation of his killing.

Iman al-Jilani, the girls’ aunt, writes: “Hannah is on the left and she is 17, Mirage on the right and she is 15, and the youngest is Yasmeen and she is 7 years old.” They are all American citizens, as is their mother, Moira, who is now a widow. They have Jerusalem residency but are not citizens of Israel. 

The Israelis have characterized Ziad al-Jilani as a terrorist.

The family says that Ziad al-Jilani, 40, was planning to take his girls to dinner after he prayed. I wonder how many American politicians will speak up for these young constituents, and demand answers…

Oh and al-Jilani’s sister just sent me this photo of father and daughters riding. I wonder: What will it take to wake Americans to the anti-Arab racism of our policies in the Middle East? A wholesome family? There are countless families of that description in the occupied territories. Some of them just don’t look like the kids next door…riding

Israeli investigation on flotilla will be biased (and Netanyahu leaked the results already)

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Israel has announced the creation of a committee of inquiry to look into the Israeli naval raid on a flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza that ended in the deaths of nine people.

But the make-up of the committee makes clear that this investigation will not be “impartial, credible and transparent,” as the UN Security Council called for in the aftermath of the flotilla raid. Although the United States has applauded the Israeli announcement, the UN is reportedly skeptical and is keeping the option of an international probe “on the table.”

This announcement is just the latest middle finger to the world from Israel.

There a number of problems with the panel tasked to investigate the Israeli actions aboard the flotilla, but the most glaring is the people who will sit on it. The chairman of the panel, former Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Tirkel, told Army Radio that “he opposed bringing in foreign observers and made clear that he is not a devotee of drawing conclusions about individuals and dismissing those responsible for failures,” according to a Haaretz editorial.

Two foreign observers–who won’t have the right to vote on anything related to the commission–will indeed be on the panel, but one them is David Trimble, who, as Richard Silverstein points out, “is a co-founder of the newly launched Israel advocacy group, Friends of Israel, joining John Bolton, Dore Gold, and Spain’s former right-wing prime minister, Jose Aznar.” Is there better company than John Bolton and Dore Gold to be close with when joining an “credible” inquiry investigating Israel’s deadly use of force against unarmed activists trying to break the siege of Gaza?

Other participants of the “impartial” committee include a former Israeli general. No Israeli soldiers will be questioned.

The results of the investigation have already been leaked to the press by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Haaretz reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Monday’s cabinet meeting that the main goal of the Gaza flotilla probe is to prove to the world that the Israel Navy operation on the Gaza-bound aid ship was appropriate and met international standards.

“The government decision will make it clear to the world that Israel is acting legally, responsibly, and with complete transparency,” said Netanyahu.

The anticipation of what the panel will say is killing me.

Bloomberg, and Carnegie expert too, say Obama’s changed nothing re Israel

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Bloomberg says that the flotilla incident demonstrates that Obama’s relationship with Israel is no different from Bush and Clinton’s.”Obama’s Israel Policy Showing No Difference With Clinton-Bush.”

Oh, and an important data point: the other day at Carnegie, Christopher Heffelfinger, who I believe is a genuine scholar of Islam at West Point, said the same thing:

“[Since Cairo] in reality none of the policies have changed. So I think it’s not difficult for them [extremists] to make an argument that, hey, whoever you elect, there’s no difference, you know? And the situation in Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinian question, is no closer to being resolved. It doesn’t seem any – look any closer during this administration.”

Heffelfinger also referred to “atrocities” in Gaza, and the panel was moderated by Chris Boucek, who struck me as fairminded. Carnegie seems to have stirred from its thuggery during the Anatol Lieven days.

Don’t forget the two-day detention of the flotilla members

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Right after the flotilla incident, I passed along a friend’s wise point that people who undertake acts of Palestinian solidarity will have Palestinian experiences. People who try to break blockades will be shot at. Journalists who stand up for Palestinian freedom will get marginalized.

Well here is a video about events on the Mavi Marmara told by Farooq Burney of, (an international campaign that aims to secure the freedom to learn for Palestinian students in Gaza and the West Bank). Burney was one of three Canadians aboard the boat; he was carrying 65 computers to students in Gaza.

What is noteworthy about his story is a, his description of a friend dying in front of him at a time when bullets were flying around and hitting many passengers, and b, his description of two days of detention in Israel, without contact with his embassy or a lawyer or his family. The two days of detention seem to have been the most degrading experience that Burney had. He was humiliated and frightened, he says, and his family was worried sick the whole time. Of course they thought he was dead.

The experience was capped by a visit from a bunch of Israeli teenagers, apparently trainees in the prison, who gaped at the internationals. “Basically in a way laughing at us.” Burney says that episode is engraved in his mind forever.

I pass this along with the reminder that there are about 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Some of them are detained without being charged. Some are young teenagers accused of throwing rocks. Burney got a taste of their experience, and it was embittering. 

During the World Cup, I saw a report on Mandela’s prison notebooks, and the humiliations that never broke him, and of his triumphant release. When will we ever learn…

(Oh and I wonder what has happened to those computers…)

Who knew that the Israeli blockade is ‘economic warfare’?

Posted: 14 Jun 2010

When the corporate media explain the logic behind Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, they turn to what Israel says officially and publicly. For example, today’s New York Times, in an article on an Israeli government–backed investigation into the deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla heading to Gaza, states:

Israel argues that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons or materials needed to make them, and to weaken Hamas control.

This sounds similar to a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently justified the siege by saying that “Gaza is a terror state funded by the Iranians, and therefore we must try to prevent any weapons from being brought into Gaza by air, sea and land.” (David Samel noted the propagation of the weapons rationale here the other day.)

But the Israelis must know that the blockade has not accomplished this, as materials for weapons are reportedly smuggled in to Gaza via underground tunnels that go from Egypt to Gaza.

So if the blockade isn’t working, why does it still exist? A June 9 article that appeared in McClatchy Newspapers puts the Israeli logic behind blockading Gaza this way:

In response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.

“A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,'” the government said.

McClatchy obtained the government’s written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year.

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn’t imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza.

The revelation that Israel’s blockade is not about security and actually about punishing the Palestinians for putting Hamas in power isn’t new, though. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, infamously said that the purpose of the economic sanctions against Gaza is to “put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Israel has also characterized the purpose behind the siege as one that promotes “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

These frank admissions that the blockade of Gaza is designed to punish its civilian population, however, are missing from the majority of our media outlets. A Nexis search only turns up mentions of the Israeli government document about “economic warfare” in publications associated with McClatchy. And before the document was revealed, the Weisglass comment was rarely mentioned in the U.S. media. Perhaps U.S. media outlets think that reporting that Israel is engaged in collective punishment is too harsh for American ears.

This article originally appeared at the national media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s blog.

North American Jews meet to ‘confront racism and Israeli apartheid’

Posted: 14 Jun 2010

USAoJ poster FOR WEB

You can learn about this historic gathering at And here’s more from the Electronic Intifada article “Jewish challenges to Zionism on the rise in the US“:

Accountability of Israeli, US government and international Zionist support for Israel will not come from a shift in US policy but through shifting American public opinion and debate, fomenting popular movement, using international and US legal sanctions and supporting the Palestinian call for BDS. The 2010 US Assembly of Jews seeks to contribute to these efforts and reflects a significant departure from Zionism that has been building since the second Palestinian intifada broke the stranglehold of the Oslo accords.

It has continuity with a long history of Jewish participation in struggles for human emancipation. Ours are among the growing voices of Jews who seek a departure from the course that Zionism has been and continues down — a course that is a betrayal of our humanity as it simultaneously denies that of Palestinians.

Muslim Student Union threatened with suspension for disrupting Israeli Ambassador

Posted: 14 Jun 2010

More on the suppression of Muslim and Arab-American speech. From the LA Times:

The Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine should be suspended for one year for its involvement in repeated disruptions of a February speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, according to a disciplinary report released by the university.

The Muslim Student Union has appealed the recommendation.

The speech about U.S.-Israeli relations was interrupted 10 times by students who got up and yelled out things like, “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech.”

From birthright to boycott

Posted: 14 Jun 2010

A recent post by Adam Horowitz asked what it will take for liberal Zionists to come around and support a boycott. My mind was changed by going to Israel on a Birthright trip and seeing firsthand the effects of the wall and checkpoints. However, I doubt that a full scale boycott of Israel will catch on in the American Jewish community. My recent project, the Boycott Toolkit, enables an open discussion of what exactly a boycott of the occupation should involve, lets users choose their own level of involvement, and lists concrete steps for action.

I was brought up in a religiously conservative but politically liberal Jewish community. While I was aware of and interested in politics, I didn’t consider myself an activist. Like most American Jews, I was aware of the ongoing peace process and lamented the inability of both sides to resolve their differences. A trip to Israel and the West Bank shattered my preconception of the two parties as equal antagonists, and convinced me to become more politically active and outspoken.

I joined a Taglit-Birthright trip in the summer of 2007 after graduating from college. Along with a group of twenty other young American Jews, I went to Israel for the first time and we did all the things that are supposed to connect us to our cultural and religious heritage. We met soldiers, visited Yad Vashem and cried at the Wailing Wall. We climbed Masada at dawn and surveyed the beautiful land that was once promised to our people, and was now ours.

However, while walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, or driving along highways to the Dead Sea, I could see that not all was well in this beautiful land. From a vantage point atop the ancient stone walls, a new concrete wall snakes across the landscape, and settlements stand out starkly on hilltops. Our bus was protected by an armed guard at all times, and he warned us sternly not to venture into Palestinian territory. Danger awaited there, kidnapping or lynching was possible, hatred and discrimination a certainty. He could not have been more wrong.

After the planned activities of the trip were over, we were released from the protection of the tour guides and guards. I returned to Jerusalem with two friends and took a bus to the Bethlehem checkpoint. We approached the monstrous concrete and steel gates with trepidation and entered the maw of the security zone. With our American passports, we were waved through by bored looking young women, really girls no older than I was, but who were surrounded by thick glass and armed with automatic weapons.

The Palestinians were subject to more stringent checking, including a biometric scan of the veins in their hands. When I put my hand in the scanner, the guard gave me a withering look, as if it should be clear that I wasn’t subject to the same rules as everyone else in line. This sort of racial profiling may be effective, but it made my stomach churn.

Leaving the checkpoint, we entered a different world. While the Jerusalem side has a proper bus turnaround, in Bethlehem the road dead-ends into the wall and a throng of taxi drivers stand waiting for business. We were approached by a man with a yellow Mercedes, a baseball cap, and large weary eyes.

 Communicating through his broken English and our worse Arabic we negotiated a tour of the town, learning about its millennia of history and how it had changed since the wall cut it off from Jerusalem. We passed dozens of shuttered businesses and were taken to a dusty souvenir store that opened just for us. I bought ornaments I didn’t need to show my gratitude.

We only spent a few hours in Bethlehem that first time, and were relieved when we crossed the checkpoint back to Jerusalem. We would never see the city the same way again, knowing that an entirely different world lay on the other side of the wall. I have since returned to Israel and the West Bank many times, but crossing checkpoints still gives me the sense that I am crossing a land divided against itself, and that a great injustice is being done in my name.

Returning to the United States, I began graduate study at the MIT Media Lab with the Center for Future Civic Media. Research here is focused on building online tools for organizing real-world communities, and I set out to apply this knowledge to my community of interest: American Jews. I have released three projects that speak to this audience, which grew progressively more action-oriented.

In January 2009 I created VirtualGaza, a space for Gazans to break the information blockade by telling their own stories without a media filter. I spent the following summer meeting with Israeli and Palestinian activists in the West Bank. GroundTruth aggregates geographic information, the path of the wall and the green line, the location of Palestinian neighborhoods and Israeli settlements, the hundreds of checkpoints that disrupt traffic, and displays it in an interface familiar to users of Google Maps.

 Most of this information is published there for the first time in a reusable and open format. This project provides a local geographic context that is crucial to understanding the reality on the ground.

For my masters thesis, I am building an application to organize collective economic action, inspired by the BDS movement and the concept of smart sanctions. While a wholesale boycott of Israel can engender hostile feelings in even liberal American Jews, the Boycott Toolkit provides detailed information on specific companies and their relationship to the conflict. It asks users to take either positive or negative action by buying or boycotting products, and is open for community contributions.

Building upon work by WhoProfits and Gush Shalom, the Boycott Toolkit already includes information on companies that are based in the settlements and industrial zones, vineyards in the occupied Golan Heights, and Palestinian products that support peaceful development. Stores that sell these products are listed and mapped, so consumers can alter their economic behavior to match their politics.

If you see products you recognize, please add stores in your area that sell them, so that we can track our impact in our own local communities. If you have other information about corporate complicity in the occupation, please add it so we can all benefit from your research. I know that these projects by themselves will not resolve the conflict. But if we can change the minds of other Jews like myself, who are vaguely aware of the issues but feel powerless to do anything about it, all our small actions taken together can bring us closer to peace.

Josh Levinger is a graduate student and researcher at the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT, where his work lies at the intersection of technology and politics.


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Transatlantic Jewish coalition set to break the siege of Gaza

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Within days after the attack on the Mavi Marmara, European activists announced a Jewish Boat to sail in July from an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean, attempting to break the siege imposed by Israel in 2006. The boat is sponsored by a coalition of international Jewish organizations dedicated to peace with justice in Israel/Palestine, including the ”Jüdische Stimme” (‘Jewish Voice’ for a Just Peace in the Near East), along with European Jews for a Just Peace in the Near East (EJJP) and Jews for Justice For Palestinians (UK). American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP) will serve as the U.S. Coordinator, creating a transatlantic partnership. The small boat’s cargo will include school books, medicines and medical equipment.

Why a Jewish boat? Lots of reasons. The universal values contained in the ethical tradition of Judaism don’t include ‘Do unto others as was done unto us.’ For Jews to publicly confront the Israeli government’s policies of occupation, apartheid, and siege on a world stage highlights the political nature of the conflict and discredits those who insist on framing it strictly in ethnic and/or religious terms. I like best the answer from Glyn Secker, the Jewish Boat’s captain, a British Jew, and longtime activist with Jews for Justice for Palestinians in the UK: “As Jews we should stand as a beacon for human rights, not as an internationally known perpetrator of atrocities.”

These may be reasons enough for us to pour our hearts and souls, as well as the contents of our pockets, into supporting this effort. And imagine telling our grandchildren that in response to Israel’s stranglehold on 1.5 million Palestinian people in Gaza, and in solidarity with the international movement, we sent a boat of Jewish activists to break the blockade. For additional information and to make a contribution, go to:

‘Global citizens must respond where governments have failed’

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

Stéphane Hessel, a diplomat, former ambassador, Holocaust survivor and participant in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writing in support of BDS in the Huffington Post:

The absence of meaningful action from governments to hold Israel accountable to international law leaves open one path for citizens of conscience: to take this responsibility upon themselves, as done against apartheid South Africa. Non-violent citizen-led initiatives, exemplified by the Flotilla and the various boycott and divestment campaigns around the world, present the most promising way to overcome the failure of world governments to stand up to Israel’s intransigence and lawless behavior. By flagrantly attacking the aid ship, Israel has inadvertently brought unprecedented awareness and condemnation not only of its fatal siege of Gaza but also of the wider context of Israel’s occupation practices in the Palestinian Territories, its denial of Palestinian refugee rights, and its apartheid policies against the indigenous, “non-Jewish” citizens of Israel.

The Freedom Flotilla brings to mind the kind of civil society solidarity initiatives which brought an end to segregation laws in the US and apartheid in South Africa, an analogy impossible to ignore. Like the apartheid regime of South Africa, Israel’s reaction has been to label this non-violent act an “intentional provocation.” As in the case of South Africa, the call for international solidarity, in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) came from an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society unions and organizations in 2005, and is being embraced by citizens of conscience and social movements worldwide. The BDS initiative calls for effectively isolating Israel, its complicit business, academic and cultural institutions, as well as companies profiting from its human rights violations and illegal policies, as long as these policies continue.

I believe that the BDS initiative is a moral strategy which has demonstrated its potential for success.

After killing Ziad al-Jilani, Israel now seeks to question his American widow (where is Congress?)

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

widowMarian Houk reports that the Israelis searched the al-Jilani house in recent days, following the killing at a checkpoint Friday night of Ziad al-Jilani, a 40-year-old Palestinian father of three. And regarding his widow, an American, Moira al-Jilani (who is shown above right with her late husband and their youngest daughter, Yameen):

Israeli police investigators Monday summoned for questioning the widow and three young daughters of the Palestinian man killed last Friday by Israeli Border Police at a “flying checkpoint” they had set up in Wadi Joz.

Frightened and distraught, the bereaved family instead went to the American Consulate in East Jerusalem, where they were told they must cooperate with the investigation — but advised to do it with legal assistance.

Another friend tells us that Moira’s laptop has been confiscated.

One possible framework for a single state in Israel/Palestine

Posted: 15 Jun 2010

The Occupation has so far dragged on for 43 years, but I don’t think it can possibly last another 43 years, or even another decade. The world (like Mondoweiss) is increasingly focused on the injustice of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. Living in Israel, it feels like the country is entering a crisis/breakdown phase and will soon have to reconstruct itself.

Readers of Mondoweiss are familiar with the seminal books and articles advocating a one-state solution written by Tony Judt, Ali Abunimah, Virginia Tilley and others. The idea of a one-state solution is inspiring to those of us who would prefer to live in a country founded on universal concepts of human freedom and dignity rather than one held captive by religious doctrine and tribal loyalty. Even though a one-state solution faces discouraging obstacles, it is important to begin to imagine what a single state could look like.

First, the obstacles:

The vast majority of Israelis don’t want a bi-national state, nor do most Palestinians. Indeed, it seems like all the high-profile one-state advocates (except Meron Benvenisti) reside overseas, mostly in ivory towers. Assuming that one couldn’t or shouldn’t force a one-state solution down Israeli and Palestinian throats, how does one convince them to adopt it willingly? And how does one even begin to campaign for such a solution without being cut off at the knees by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities?

Second, it’s doubtful whether two peoples with so much horrendous conflict and resulting bad blood between them could join together and function as citizens of the same country. Might it not be a recipe for endless revenge and civil war? Perhaps the Israelis and Palestinians need fifty or a hundred years to cool off before we can talk about living in the same country.

Third, Uri Avnery may be correct in his claim that the vast socio-economic gaps between Israelis and Palestinians would make co-existence in one state impossible.

Fourth, even under better circumstances, multi-ethnic states face exceptional challenges. The history of Quebec separatism is instructive, and even Belgium, which was supposed to serve as an example of bi-cultural brotherhood, suffers from collapsing governments, secession threats, and officially-sanctioned efforts to prevent French-speakers from buying houses in the Flemish-speaking suburbs of Brussels.

Belgium has peace, freedom, prosperity, democracy, and perhaps the best beer and chocolate in the world, but none of that is enough to keep Flemings and Walloons from squabbling eternally over trifles. The problem is that human beings like to fight, so if we haven’t got anything big to fight about, we’ll fight about little things. Therefore, political solutions ought to moderate our aggressive impulses and channel them in more positive directions. Regarding which, the Belgian experience highlights the difficulty of linguistic divisions, which may be even more challenging than religious or ethnic divides, for the simple reason that people can’t possibly cooperate if they can’t talk to each other.

Fifth, in Israel, the scope of democracy, equality and human rights is tragically limited by religious fanaticism and ethnic tribalism, and that’s even more true of the Arab states. While Jews and Arabs are individually quite capable of assimilating successfully into multi-cultural liberal democracies, it may be that on the group level, we’re simply too tribal in our thinking to create one of our own.

In short, although a secular democratic state is in theory greatly preferable to an ethnocracy, I’m not convinced that a one-state solution is possible or even desirable here, given the circumstances. Perhaps the sensible solution is two states, more or less along the ’67 lines, and any settlers who want to remain in Palestine are welcome to do so, for as long as they can.

Right now, my bottom line is ambivalence. Insofar as I think that a one state solution would strengthen democracy, outlaw discrimination and enshrine religious (and secular) freedom, I’m for it; but insofar as I think that it would ultimately foster dictatorship and civil war, I’m against it. That’s why I’d like to encourage wider discussion of how, concretely, a one-state solution might be implemented.

If the idea of a one-state solution is to be more than an idealistic fantasy (or alternatively a threat designed to scare Israel into ending the Occupation), the details deserve serious consideration. Here, at any rate, is one Israeli’s first attempt at conceptualizing the transformation of Israel and the Occupied Territories into a single, unified state. Comments are welcome.

A Plan for a New State in Israel-Palestine

Article One – The State

The State shall supersede the present State of Israel and build on its existing legal and governmental structures, with the modifications outlined below.

The State shall be named Israel-Palestine, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Canaan, or another name ultimately approved by a simple majority of its citizens voting in a national referendum.

The territory of the State shall encompass the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine plus the Golan Heights, the latter pending the conclusion of a peace agreement with the Syrian Arab Republic.

The official languages of the State shall be Hebrew, Arabic and English.

The national anthem and flag of the State shall embody positive themes that unify its people. A representative body shall solicit compositions and submit the best of them for ultimate approval by a simple majority of citizens voting in a national referendum.

Article Two – Citizenship and Immigration

Citizenship in the State shall be granted to (1) all citizens of the State of Israel, (2) all legal permanent residents of the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, and (3) all persons born within the territory of the State (excluding the Golan Heights), along with their spouses and minor children.

There shall be a twenty-year moratorium on immigration.

Note: One reason to limit immigration is that the State is small and densely populated, with a relatively high birth rate. More important, an immigration moratorium would prevent religious and ethnic groups from attempting to use immigration policy to augment their numbers and relative strength. It is expected that at the time of the State’s founding, no religious or ethnic group will constitute an absolute majority, which, it is hoped, will necessitate and facilitate negotiation, compromise and cooperation in matters of public policy.

In other words, there shall be no collective right of return for the Jewish or Palestinian people, at least for a generation. I realize that’s an enormously controversial proposition, one which I plan to address at greater length in a subsequent post.

With respect to refugees from the territory of the State, and their descendants, the State will work with the international community to (1) require other states where such persons reside to grant them citizenship and equal rights under the law, and (2) provide financial and other assistance to those in need of it. With respect to citizens of the State who are refugees from other states, and their descendants, the State shall forgo all claims.

Article Three – Government

The government of the State shall be democratic. All citizens residing within the State shall have the right to vote in national elections.

No political office shall be allocated to, or reserved for, members of a particular religious, ethnic or other group. All offices shall be open to all candidates.

Note: To prevent Lebanese-style factionalism.

At least half of the members of the State’s legislature shall be elected on the basis of geographic constituencies.

Note: The current, exclusively party-list system does not provide effective representation to most voters.

All segments of the populace shall be fairly represented within all branches and at all levels of the civil service and the military.

Article Four – Human Rights

The State shall protect human rights as defined by international law. The generality of this provision shall not be construed as being limited by more specific provisions within this document.

No religious organization shall be an organ of the State or funded by the State.

Civil marriage and divorce shall be available to all citizens of the State.

The State shall prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services based on religion, ethnicity, race or gender, except insofar as discrimination in employment is necessary to ensure (1) a representative civil service and military as described above, (2) an integrated national service as described below, and (3) the employment of economically disadvantaged workers on public works projects as described below.

Article Five – Social Rights and Obligations

The workweek shall run from Sunday to Thursday. Workers shall not be required to work, except to provide vital services, on the following national holidays: the two days of Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur; the first day of Sukkot; Shemini Atzeret; the first and last days of Pesach; the three days of Eid Al-Fitr; the four days of Eid Al-Adha; the four days of Nabi Shu’ayb; and Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, according to both the Catholic and Orthodox calendars.

The State shall provide social insurance and health care to all of its citizens, legal permanent residents and foreign workers.

The State shall provide free compulsory education to the children of all its citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign workers. Such education shall include, at a minimum, (1) development of a high level of literacy and numeracy, (2) intensive training in all three official languages of the State, and (3) imparting the fundamentals of history, geography, political science, economics, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, literature and the arts. All private education must include the previously-described core curriculum.

The State shall not provide child allowances for the third and subsequent children in each family.

Note: Israeli government subsidies of large families facilitate non-participation in the work force and the growth of religious extremism.

All citizens of the State shall be required to perform national service upon reaching the age of eighteen. National service shall be devoted to assisting vulnerable members of the community, protecting the environment, assisting law enforcement, serving in the military, or other appropriate endeavors. To build social cohesion, all national service units shall be integrated to contain members from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Article Six – Infrastructure and Environment

The State shall devote substantial resources to the construction and improvement of infrastructure – including roads, water, electricity, mail service, telecommunications, government offices, schools, medical facilities, and public parks – in underserved areas, until substantial equality is achieved.

The State shall build water desalination and purification plants to alleviate the threat of water shortages.

The State shall grant priority in employment on public works projects to economically disadvantaged sectors of the populace.

The State shall encourage and facilitate the use of public transportation and non-motorized transportation rather than private automobiles.

The State shall discourage the building of individual private dwellings on large plots of land and encourage the preservation and development of open public spaces.

Article Seven – Means of Establishing the State

Proponents of the establishment of the State shall initially focus their efforts on a sustained legal, political, and diplomatic campaign to win voting rights for legal permanent residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the national elections of the State of Israel. Once voting rights are won, the other reforms outlined in this plan shall be implemented.

Note: Much pro-Palestinian activism in Israel and the Occupied Territories, including the noble protests in Bil’in and Sheikh Jarrah, may unfortunately be used to characterize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being primarily a struggle between two tribes over land. A campaign for Palestinian voting rights would elevate the discourse to the level of basic equality and human rights.

Ben Zakkai is a pseudonym, the author prefers to remain anonymous.


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Adri Nieuwhof: Ahava campaign comes to court

The Electronic Intifada, 17 June 2010

In France, the campaign to boycott Ahava Dead Sea cosmetics has entered a new phase with boycott, divestment and sanctions advocates taking legal action against the Sephora cosmetics retail chain’s contract with the company.

Ahava manufactures its cosmetics in a factory in the illegal Mitzpe Shalem settlement in the occupied West Bank. However, Ahava labels its skin care products as originating from “The Dead Sea, Israel.” The Israeli settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya co-founded Ahava’s factory Dead Sea Laboratories and own 44 percent of the shares of the company.

Both Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya are close to the shores of the Dead Sea, exploiting it for tourism. The mud used in Ahava products is taken from a site near Kaliya, along the occupied shores of the Dead Sea. Ahava uses Palestinian natural resources without permission and compensation. In addition, Ahava runs an information center for tourists in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement.

In its authoritative ruling in 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reaffirmed the illegality of settlement construction, which includes the construction of industrial sites in the settlements. Ahava’s factory and tourist center are therefore built in violation of international law.

Ahava’s firm connection with Israeli settlements is at the heart of the legal action undertaken by the French-based Coordination des Appels pour une Paix Juste au Proche Orient (CAPJPO) against Sephora at the end of May. Sephora, a division of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group (LVMH), sells Ahava cosmetics in its stores.

For almost a year activists have protested the store’s retailing of Ahava products, calling on the public to support the protest by sending messages to the French company appealing to them to take the products off their shelves (Boycott of Ahava Dead Sea products makes an impact”). Sephora has refused to do so and is now been taken to court by CAPJPO, which claims that the company’s contract with Ahava is illegal because the cosmetics are produced in illegal settlements.

In its complaint that was filed to the court of Nanterre at the end of May, CAPJPO argues that in retailing Ahava products, Sephora is supporting the violation of international law.

Palestine solidarity activists in the US have also embarked upon boycott campaigns targeting Ahava.

In the US, Ahava is sold by Ricky’s NYC, a family-owned chain store in New York City, Lord & Taylor in Washington, and Nordstrom department stores amongst other retailers. The department stores have drawn the attention of activists from the American peace group CodePink.

 CodePink’s Stolen Beauty Campaign targets Ahava Dead Sea cosmetics with colorful protests that include the messages “Ahava is dirty business” and “Ahava puts a pretty face on its crimes.”

The CodePink campaign and the work of other solidarity groups has had an impact. Bad publicity caused Sex & the City star Kristin Davis to be dropped as a spokesperson for Ahava and as a goodwill ambassador for the international organization Oxfam after activists called on her to end her paid promotional appearances for Ahava.

Activists with CodePink, dubbed the Pink Police, have also undertaken direct action to “block the crime scenes” in the stores where the Ahava products are sold (BDS Austin Activism — Ahava Protest”). Activists have sent letters to Nordstrom, explaining that selling Ahava products contradicts the company’s membership in Business for Social Responsibility, a global nonprofit organization.

Ahava has attempted to deflect criticism and defend its theft of Palestinian resources by claiming that “The Dead Sea and its treasures are international and do not belong to one nation.”

Meanwhile, CodePink has called on the publisher of the The Lonely Planet travel guides to drop a recommendation in future editions of the Israel and the Palestinian Territories Guidebook for shopping at the Ahava Factory Outlet and Store, based in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement.

CodePink informed The Lonely Planet editors of an international boycott campaign against Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories because of the company’s illegal practices. The Lonely Planet publicist has replied that the comment would be forwarded to the editor and authors.

Despite its tarnished image, Ahava plans to open a flagship store in New York City, in addition to its international stores in Berlin, London and Singapore. Last year, it began collaborating with Teva Nederland to promote its products to Dutch pharmacies. Teva Nederland — a market leader in generic medicines, serving the majority of Dutch pharmacies — is a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., an Israeli company with branches in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Teva Nederland introduced Ahava in fifty pharmacies in 2009 and planned to expand this number to 300 in 2010. In addition, the Israel Export & Cooperation Institute reported in April on a possible joint venture between Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Ahava cosmetics to develop a dermo-cosmetics line together.

However, the boycott campaign will make it difficult for Ahava to expand its markets. At the end of 2009, in response to a call from the Dutch Bathrobes Brigades, a group campaigning for a boycott of Ahava cosmetics, several Dutch pharmacists expressed their support of the campaign and stated their refusal to put Ahava products on their shelves.

Solidarity activists will continue to make an impact on Ahava’s profit margins as the international boycott movement gains steam in the wake of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

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From Ireland’s Bloody Sunday martyrs to those of Palestine



Moscow, June 18, 2010 (Pal Telegraph—by Rachael Rudolph):  After 38 years, the martyrs of Bloody Sunday have been vindicated in an investigation that has spanned more than a decade.  The Bloody Sunday Inquiry released its ten volume report on 15 June 2010, exonerating the 13 massacred and scores of others injured during a march organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in Derry on 30 January 1972.  The report laid blame where it rightfully belonged: with those British soldiers who committed the atrocity.  When shall the martyrs of Palestine be vindicated and the blame rightly placed on the door of Apartheid Israel?

The final Report released by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry situates the massacre within the historical context in which the dreadful event occurred.  Looking at events leading up to Bloody Sunday, as well as Northern Ireland’s struggle with the British government during that time, one will find parallels between its actions and that of Apartheid Israel.   Parallels will be found not just between the actions committed against Palestinians, but also by the Apartheid Entity’s treatment of internationals supporting the Palestinian struggle against occupation, suppression, repression and for the right of self-determination.

The British government proclaimed direct rule over Northern Ireland, which was followed by resistance in all its forms to end domination, occupation, subjugation and repression.  Similarly, Apartheid Israel proclaimed direct military rule over the occupied Palestinian Territories in 1967 and Palestinian resistance followed in the footsteps of the Northern Irish resistance.  The people of Northern Ireland wanted the right to govern themselves, and the Palestinians continue to want a state to call their home.

In 1971, the British government banned nonviolent protests and began a policy of internment without the right to trial.  Apartheid Israel has a long standing history of interring Palestinians without trial.  One need only look at the various reports issued by human rights groups inside and outside of Palestine, international governmental organizations such as the United Nations, or nongovernmental organizations such as the Carter Foundation for the statistics on the harsh treatment and lack of due process afforded to Palestinian detainees by the Apartheid Entity.

Another policy implemented by the British government in the 1970s was a ban on protests.  During times of direct Israeli-Apartheid military occupation, protests were often banned and Palestinians interred.  Following an end to direct military rule of the Palestinian territories, protests and marches have occurred where Palestinians and internationals were stopped and incarcerated.  People need only look to this year’s Palm Sunday protest in the West Bank for an example and they may recall that not only did the Apartheid Entity detain internationals and Palestinians but a horse and donkey were also held.    There have been many other incidents over the span of 62 years where Palestinians have suffered from not only interment, but also expulsion and systematic extermination through small and large scale campaigns of intentional targeting by the Apartheid Entity.

While the United States condemned British action during Bloody Sunday and supported resistance to British colonization of Northern Ireland, it, among some others in the International Community, has supported Apartheid Israel’s occupation of Palestinians, a policy of the internment of Gazans that began following the Apartheid military’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the systematic killing of Palestinians in the name of so-called security.  Should we have really expected a different reaction from the United States and some others in the International Community?

The reaction by some states in the International Community are similar to the reactions during the rule of the South African Apartheid Government, the events following the win of the democratically elected Islamic Salvation Front and those afterward in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Algeria. History, however, demonstrates that a combination of support from at least some states in the International Community and concerned humanitarians worldwide led to the convening of commissions to investigate state actions.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry was commissioned in 1998 under the Trial of Inquiry Act of 1921.  It was established to uncover the truth of the events that occurred leading up to and on the day of the Derry March in 1972; however, it was not the first commission established.  The first commission was established on the day following the massacre.  Its biased findings were released 11 weeks later, where upon the commission claimed that shots had been fired at British soldiers, who in turn responded killing 13 and injuring scores of others.  One later died of the injuries sustained, thereby bringing the total number of martyrs to 14.  Following the 1972 commission, the British government regretted the massacre and the report of the first commission justified the actions of the British soldiers, implying they were taken in the name of security.

Apartheid-Israel’s government claimed it regretted the actions taken by its soldiers with the Freedom Flotilla, but claimed there was no choice.  Action against the flotilla was taken in the name of security; unarmed men, women and children accompanying humanitarian aid violate the security of the Apartheid Entity.  A careful perusal of statements issued by the Apartheid Entity from 1973 to the present, using any newswire database, one will find utterances of regret for having to take actions against the Palestinians.  These expressions of regret are given only following international criticism of its actions, while simultaneously placing the blame upon those martyred or injured.  Apartheid Israel failed to participate in the Tribunal convened following its massacre of Palestinians during the 2008-2009 Gaza War.  It has, however, with pressure from the International Community, including the United States, agreed to convene a commission to investigate the Freedom Flotilla Massacre.

Will the Apartheid’s commission end in a manner similar to the first Bloody Sunday Commission?   Will the commission be quickly concluded and biased? Will the commission take more than a decade like that of the second Bloody Sunday Inquiry?  There is another question that should also be asked:  why have states in the International Community pressured the Apartheid Entity to convene and participate in a commission to investigate the events on the Freedom Flotilla, but not for it to participate in an investigation of the massacre of Palestinians during the Gaza War?  Are the states that represent us in the International Community declaring that the lives of Palestinians are not equal to that of others? Will concerned humanitarians worldwide continue allowing their governments to assign unequal values to life, liberty and justice?

Maybe the silence concerning the massacre of Palestinians by some states in the International Community is because they have their own bloody history.  Regardless of whether that is the case, history demonstrates that when concerned humanitarians join forces against policies of domination, occupation, subjugation and repression, the people are triumphant and governments are forced into action.  Like the martyrs of Bloody Sunday, one day the martyrs of Palestine, including those internationals who have given their life or were injured, will be vindicated and commemorated worldwide.  They will be forever remembered for their heroic actions because the voice of the voiceless will not relent until injustice is reversed and justice as prevailed, and until the Gaza siege has been completely lifted and a Palestinian state declared.  The battle will be long and hard, but one day Palestinians and concerned humanitarians from around the world shall overcome.

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