Archive | July 8th, 2011

Noam Sheizaf: “Air Flotilla” successful in exposing IsraHelli blockade of West Bank

NOVANEWS

Israeli authorities deployed hundreds of police officers to arrest and deport pro-Palestinian visitors. The Minister of Tourism announced that “good tourists” will be greeted with flowers 

Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv (photo: N i c o_)
Panic. There is no other way to describe the Israeli reaction to a plan organized by a few activists—no more than a thousand, according to the most generous estimates—to try and travel to the West Bank via Ben Gurion International Airport. A handful of those visitors arrived  (five of them have already been deported), and it seems that the whole country has gone mad.
Haaretz has reported a special deployment of hundreds of police officers and special units both inside and outside the terminals, “in case one of the arrivals tries to set himself on fire.” The Petach Tikva court, in charge of the airport area, is to have more arrest judges on alert, and the minister for Hasbara (propaganda) Yuli Edelstein demanded that the government take no chances, “because we should remember what happened on 9/11.”

All this, lets not forget, in order to welcome between a few dozen to a few hundred Westerners (most of them quite old, according to reports), who would arrive on separate flights and on different hours, who went through extensive security checks before boarding their planes, and who openly declared their intentions to visit the Palestinian territories. This is the national threat that has captured all the headlines for some days now in a country armed with one of the strongest armies in the world as well as an extensive arsenal of nuclear bombs.

While events at the airport are more absurd than tragic (there is a torrent of jokes on twitter about this, like: “attention all units, attention all units, a Swedish woman is now getting off flight 465″, or “security personnel have been ordered to report all those not singing ‘Heve’nu Shalom’ at landing”), one cannot watch the government’s handling of this situation and not question the judgment of Israeli decision makers, or wonder about the things they are capable of doing if and when they sense a more substantial threat. One of the sole voices of reason was Yedioth’s Eitan Haber, former secretary of Prime Minister Rabin, whose commentary today had the title: “We simply lost it” (“ירדנו מהפסים”).
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The lunacy started at the top. Earlier this week, Netanyahu’s office has released a statement saying that the “welcome to Palestine” campaign “is part of a continuing effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” This call for action was supposed to have expired long ago from over use (I wonder what doesn’t constitute, in Netanyahu’s eyes “an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist?”), but it did spark the desired result in the government. Internal Security Minister Itzhak Aharonowitz (Israel Beitenu) has put his forces on high alert, promising “not to let the hooligans enter Israel,” and senior police officers promised “harsh treatment” for those who will manage to board their flights to Tel Aviv.

The real nugget was revealed today, when Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov sent his people to the airport to hand flowers to those arrivals that are not planning to travel to the West Bank. “Handcuffs to the activists, flowers to the tourists,” one of the headlines read. The tourism office, it was reported, fears that arrivals to Israel will “meet unpleasant sights of riots and arrests.”
“My office will welcome [“normal”] tourists in a respectful way that will convey the message that Israel is asafe, advanced and attractive place to visit,” Minister Mazesnikow told the press. His statement would have seemed to invoke the practices of the Soviet regime, if I weren’t sure that Mazesnikow, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, knew better.

There is a deeper point to make here: By dividing the tourists to “evil” ones and to “good” and “honest” ones, according to their political motivation and their views on the Palestinian issue, Israel is confirming the logic of the BDS movement – that any business or contact with Israel is political, and probably serves Israeli policy. Much in the way the Israeli Foreign Ministry promotes on its Facebook wall articles on artists who plan to visit Israel next to pieces denouncing the Palestinians, the tourism office now views every visit to the county, whether for business, religious or personal reasons, as a sign of support in the face of “an effort to undermine our existence.”
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In recent days, government officials have made a single talking point regarding the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign: that every country has the right do defend its sovereignty. If the United States, France and Japan can reject people from entering their territory without bothering to cite their reasons, why can’t Israel? Yet these are the same people who on any other week of the year deny even the term “occupation”, claiming that since the Oslo agreement, “Palestinians control their own lives.” PR people and supporters of the Israeli government repeat this idea all the time, and while everyone familiar with the reality in the West Bank knows that the Palestinian Authority has more or less the authority of a local US municipality, it is always surprising how widespread is the notion that Israel has effectively removed its control from the territories.
Here, for example, is a quote the glossary section in the internet site of the Propaganda organization “Stand with US”

Israel never formally annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and wish to have their own state. Today, Palestinians have their own government, the Palestinian Authority.

This is Morton Klein, head of Zionist of America, in often-cited 2002 article titled “There is no Occupation“:

Following the signing of the Oslo accords, the Israelis withdrew from nearly half of the territories, including the cities where 98.5% of Palestinian Arabs reside. The notion that the Palestinian Arabs are living under “Israeli occupation” is simply false. The areas from which Israel has not withdrawn are virtually uninhabited, except for the 2% where Israelis reside.
And this is another mouthpiece for the occupation, Washington Post’s blogger Jennifer Rubin:
Now ninety-five percent of Palestinians are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is responsible for everything from local police to schools. Israel’s official interaction with West Bank Palestinians is limited to intelligence gathering and extraction of terrorists.

The Welcome to Palestine campaign was meant to prove that not only did Israel never remove its control from the Palestinians, but also that the West Bank is effectively under an Israeli blockade. Every person and all good entering the Palestinian Authority must be cleared first by Israel. Some might argue that this is a legitimate security precaution, but the history of this policy proves that security concerns are not the factor determining whether people receive permission to enter or leave the West Bank; rather, the determining factor is the political need to maintain the occupation. Two high profile recent cases were that of Prof. Noam Chomsky and a Spanish Clown, both of whom were denied entry for their support of Palestinian independence, but these kind of things happen on a daily basis.

Considering all this, it’s clear that even before a dozen activists landed here, the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign won the day. Israel has played its part perfectly, spreading threats and promising to immediately deport anyone who stated his intention to visit the West Bank or cited a political motivation for his travel. Israel has even prevented a couple of Dutch pro-Palestinian journalists from boarding an El-Al flight, perhaps fearing that they might report something Jerusalem won’t like.

When the first news items on the “air flotilla” appeared in the Hebrew media, some of Israelis wondered in comments why the activists didn’t enter the West Bank through the crossing point at the Jordanian border, believing it to be controlled by the Palestinians themselves. The myth of the Oslo withdrawal was so successful, that even some Israelis took it as a fact.

After a week of headlines on the activists’ invasion, everybody knows that even more than Gaza—which can be entered through Rafah, where there is no Israeli presence—the West Bank is under an Israeli blockade.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Noam Sheizaf: “Air Flotilla” successful in exposing IsraHelli blockade of West Bank

“NATO countries…face increasing pressure to end the bombing campaign and seem desperate to find a quick exit”

NOVANEWS

I am amused by how smoothly the NYT correspondent in Libya refers to colonial strategies for ending the war: “NATO countries…face increasing pressure to end the bombing campaign and seem desperate to find a quick exit, either by arming the rebels or by killing Colonel Qaddafi with airstrikes.” In other words, assassination after belligerent attacks. Are we going to start seeing mea culpas from all the pro-Palestinian writers who defended the assault in defense of the Libyan “revolutionaries”? Do these people realize that they are the Thomas Friedman, Michael Ignatieff, David Rieff, and Samantha Power of theannus obamanis 2011? You found a war where imperial power could bomb Arabs and you could clap. Book reviewing for The New Republic will shortly follow. Clean the blood off your hands and start counting the money, please.

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Posted in PoliticsComments Off on “NATO countries…face increasing pressure to end the bombing campaign and seem desperate to find a quick exit”

Dorothy Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

Dear Friends,

Israel is now in throes about the ‘flytilla’ whose purpose, it was thought, and apparently is to some degree still thought in the ruling circles, was to cause commotion and a to-do at the airport.  This is no more the purpose of the flytilla than bringing humanitarian aid is the main purpose of the flotilla.  The aim of the flotilla is to break the blockade of Gaza. The aim or the flytilla is to break Israel’s hold on who can and who cannot enter the West Bank.

Anyone wanting to go to the WB to visit family, to tour, or for other normal reasons must go through Israel.  It holds the keys to the WB, whether one flies in from Jordan or from the main airport in Israel, Ben Gurion.  Israel does not allow people to enter the WB via Ben Gurion airport.  The purpose of the flytilla is to challenge this.  People were to come to the airport and state that they intended to go to the WB—some perhaps might not, might only go directly so that the security at the airport will never know.

In any event, I met today with a group of about 14 pro-Palestinian activists from France who arrived this morning and entered Israel with no problem at all.  Interesting.  I was delighted to know that they had had no problems entering, and was also somewhat surprised, pleasantly so.

Tonight there are only 5 items, and 2 of these are brief.  I have to admit that between meeting with activists and keeping my ear to the radio for updates on the flightilla, I did not read much on the internet, even though I was curious to see how the foreign press was treating the flightilla.  If the story is hot, it should be hotter yet tomorrow.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, item 1 informs us of a new organization “Recognition Now.”  It’s purpose is to oversee the rights of the Arabs in the Negev.  The name comes from the fact that there are some 40 Arab villages in the Negev (and several more in the north) that are “unrecognized” by Israel.  Neither the fact that most of these villages have been where they are prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, nor the fact that many of their males have served in Israel’s military has helped recognize them.  Because they are unrecognized, they are denied all infrastructure—that is roads, electricity, running water, and also schools, medical clinics, etc etc etc.  This is notwithstanding the fact that a Jew who wishes to establish a farm or other means of livelihood in the Negev is given all that is denied to the Bedouins—all the infrastructure, even though it be for a single family.  The Bedouin villages are farming and animal husbanding communities.  They together occupy not more than 2% of the Negev.  But Israel wants them out.   They are Israeli citizens and, quite naturally, want equality and recognition.  Thus the new organization.  I wish them much luck.

Item 2 is an announcement of an exhibit.  Most of you will not see it, as it is in Israel.  But the name and content is worth knowing: “We never finished 1948.”  Indeed! How true.

In item 3 Amira Hass claims that Israel’s handling of the flotilla was “anything but smart.”

Item 4 is BBC’s report on the flytilla.

Item 5 is pure joy.  It’s funny.  It makes much the same point as Amira does, that the government’s conduct with the flytilla is anything but smart, however, Bradley Burston does it in an amusing way.  Glad to give you something to enjoy for a change.

That’s it.  Tomorrow will be an interesting day.  Will report.

All the best,

Dorothy

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1.  [For information about unrecognized villages see The Association of Forty

http://www.assoc40.org/

“Unrecognized” Villages of the Naqab [‘Negev’ in Hebrew]

http://www.hic-net.org/document.asp?PID=580 ]

———————

From Recognition Now

Leaders within the Arab-Bedouins of the Negev have established a Public Committee for the Rights of Arabs in the Negev,

Recognition Now!

This committee includes Negev representatives of all Arab parties, leaders from the unrecognized villages, NGOs and community activists. Its aim, as its name indicates, is to protect and promote the rights of the Arab-Bedouins of the Negev.

Recognize Now will strive to receive recognition of:

·       The unrecognized villages,

·       The right to resources allowing an honorable livelihood,

·       The right to villages planned to meet the community’s economic and cultural needs,

·       The right to their lands, and –

·         The right to dignity as citizens with equal rights

We will update you of the government’s policies and actions towards the Bedouin of the Negev, and of our actions to protect and promote the rights of our community. We will also inform you of any actions you can take to help us in our struggle for our rights.

Recognition Now calls out to the Government of Israel to take measures concerning the integration of the Arab-Bedouin community of the Negev into the region based on the principles of partnership, equality, human rights, and a future of prosperity for all the Negev residents.

Respectfully yours,

Halil El-Amour and Dr. Awad Abu-Friech, Recognition Now. recognizenow@gmail.com

מנהיגים בקהילה הערבית-בדואית בנגב ייסדו ועדה ציבורית לזכויות הערבים בנגב:

“הכרה עכשיו!”

בוועדה זו נציגות של המפגלות הערביות, מנהיגים מהקהילה ומהכפרים הבלתי מוכרים, ארגונים, ופעילים קהילתיים. מטרת הוועדה, כפי שמעיד שמה, היא להגן על, ולקדם את זכויות הערבים-הבדואים בנגב.

הכרה עכשיו יפעל לקידום ההכרה:

·        בכפרים הבלתי מוכרים

·        בזכות למשאבים שיאפשרו קיום בכבוד

·        בזכות לתכנון השומרת על ערכי התרבות ומקורות הפרנסה של הקהילה

·        בזכות לאדמותיהם

·        בזכות לשוויון עם שאר אזרחי ישראל.

אנחנו נעדכן אתכם במדיניות ובפעולות המדינה כלפי המיעוט הערבי-בדואי בנגב, וכן בפעולות שאנו נוקטים בכדי להגן על, ולקדם את הזכויות של בני הקהילה שלנו. גם ניידע אתכם כיצד תוכלו לתמוך ולעזור במאבקנו זה.

“הכרה עכשיו” קוראת לממשלה לשלב את האוכלוסייה הערבית בנגב במרחב מתוך תפיסת שיתוף, שוויון, זכויות אדם, ועתיד של שגשוג לכלל תושבי הנגב.

בברכה, חליל אל-עמור ודר’ עוואד אבו-פריח, הכרה עכשיו. recognizenow@gmail.com

الاعتراف الان

Recognition Now

הכרה עכשיו

اللجنة الشعبية لحقوق العرب في النقب               הוועד הציבורי למען זכויות הערבים בנגב

ص. ب 5730 بئر السبع                                         ת”ד 5730 באר שבע

קיבלת הודעה זו מכיוון שאתה מנוי לקבוצה ‘NegevBedouin’ בקבוצות Google.

כדי לפרסם הודעות בקבוצה זו, שלח דוא”ל ל-NegevBedouin@googlegroups.com.

כדי לבטל את המינוי שלך לקבוצה זו, שלח הודעת דוא”ל ל-NegevBedouin‏‏+unsubscribe@‏googlegroups.cלאפשרויות נוספות, בקר בקבוצה זו בכתובת http://groups.google.com/group/NegevBedouin?hl=iw.om

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2. “WE NEVER FINISHED 1948”

THE CONTINUING CAMPAIGN OF INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE

A new project by the photographers collective Activestills

“For us, the ongoing Occupation is not merely an event arising out of the 1967 war, but a continuation of 1948, conceptually and militarily. That “we have not finished 1948,” a slogan commonly heard in Israel and attributed to Moshe Dayan, refers to the fact that half the population of the Land of Israel is now Palestinian. “

Opening on Monday 11.07.11 at 18:30, as part of the “Art&Activism Festival”

Tel Aviv Cinematheque – Sprinzak Street no 2,  Tel Aviv

The event on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=102038019891355

The event on the Cinematheque’s website:

http://www.cinema.co.il/movies/movie.asp?movieId=7191

The project was done with the collaboration of the Israeli committee against house demolitions

==================================================

3.  Haaretz,

July 07, 2011

In dealing with flotilla, Israel is anything but smart

Outsourcing, aggressive and vocal diplomacy and ridiculous lies thwarted the flotilla, but they have not taken Gaza off the international agenda.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/in-dealing-with-flotilla-israel-is-anything-but-smart-1.371879

By Amira Hass

CRETE – Like an anti-Semitic caricature, Israel has extended its long tentacles around the globe in an effort to stop 10 decades-old ships from sailing to Gaza. Many Israelis interpreted this as a great victory.

The story could be read as follows: The Greek government wanted to save people whom it surely views as eccentrics and professional trouble-makers, even if naive, from a traumatic and perhaps even fatal experience. The Greek foreign minister rejected claims that Israeli pressure led his government to ban the flotilla’s departure. He explained that Greece wanted to prevent a “humanitarian disaster” in the event of a clash between the Israel Defense Forces and the protesters.

Indeed, a Greek police officer – one of those who tried (in vain ) to discover from passengers on the Tahrir who was piloting their ship – did not beat around the bush. We wanted to save you from the Israeli army, he told one of them. The Jew of the blood libel, of whom one must be wary, has been replaced by an Israeli navy commando.

In anti-Semitic caricatures, the cunning Jew is doomed to lose and his control over the world is fated to come to an end. But Israel’s government is revising the caricature and sketching a glorious victory. A war of attrition, in the form of mysterious breakdowns and unprecedented red tape by the Greek authorities, thwarted the flotilla’s original plan to anchor off the Gaza coast. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly thanked the Greek government, he knew full well what he was thanking it for.

We must now await future media leaks to know what exactly Greece received in exchange, other than closer military ties. Perhaps money, to complete the caricature?

This is a convenient time to be using pressure tactics. Greece’s socialist government is in a fragile situation, as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are forcing the country to adopt an austerity plan that most of its people oppose. True, the fact that Greece has become a subcontractor of the Israeli army did not bring the masses into the streets, but there is no doubt about it: The sympathy of the Greek soldiers who arrested the Tahrir’s passengers and of the bureaucrats who delayed them was with the flotilla and with Gaza, not with their government’s orders. That’s all we need: another country whose government gets along well with Israel in complete opposition to popular sentiment.

The flotilla’s organizers added a term from the world of business and globalization to their description of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. Israel, they said, was outsourcing the industry of the blockade on Gaza. In exchange for reward, a foreign government – Greece – took on an active role and adopted a deliberate policy of keeping the Gaza Strip one huge prison.

Logic dictates that a government whose policy validates anti-Semitic stereotypes ought to worry Israelis and Jews worldwide. But the Israeli government is doing what its voters want and believe in. For there is one stereotype that has not been recycled here: that of the wise Jew.

Outsourcing, aggressive and vocal diplomacy and ridiculous lies thwarted the flotilla, but they have not taken Gaza off the international agenda. If Israel – which knew full well that there was not one gram of explosives aboard the ships – had let them sail to Gaza, the flotilla would not have preoccupied the international media as it did.

Blocking the flotilla did not discourage the organizers, who are graduates of the anti-apartheid and anti-white supremacy struggles. Rather, it provided ample proof of how white Israel is. As a result, blocking the flotilla only increased their motivation to keep placing the Palestinians’ demand for freedom at the forefront of the international agenda.

=========================================

4  BBC 7 July 2011

Israel set for Gaza aid ‘flytilla’ as boats blocked

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14061848

Ben Gurion airport is on high alert for the arrival of the activists

Israel has stepped up security at Tel Aviv airport, ahead of the arrival of 500 pro-Palestinian activists, most of them French nationals, on Friday.

The so-called “flytilla” comes as the Greek authorities have blocked the sailing of an aid flotilla trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The moves come on the first anniversary of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla.

Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the lead ship, causing an international outcry.

As a result, Israel eased its blockade on the impoverished Palestinian territory, allowing in more food and humanitarian goods.

Israel says the restrictions are necessary to stop weapons smuggling and to put pressure on Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has governed Gaza alone since 2007.

The UN has characterised the measures as the collective punishment of Gaza’s population of 1.6 million people.

‘Undesirable’

The Dignite is part of a 10-ship Freedom Flotilla II

Organisers of the Welcome to Palestine campaign, which the media has dubbed the “flytilla”, say it expects more than 500 activists to fly in from the US and Europe to spend a week visiting Palestinian families.

All are “non-violent pacifists”, the group said in a statement, dismissing Israeli media speculation about plans to stage protests or sit-ins at the airport.

However, a number of activists were turned back at Paris’s Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport as they tried to board a flight to Tel Aviv on the Hungarian airline Malev.

An airport spokesman told AFP news agency their reservations had been cancelled at the request of Israeli authorities who had issued a “list of undesirable persons”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered authorities to “act with determination, while trying to avoid unnecessary friction” with anyone taking part in a provocation, a statement from his office said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the AFP news agency on Thursday that preparations were underway at Ben Gurion: “There is a large police presence in and around the airport to prevent any disturbances,” he said.

Boat blocked

Meanwhile, the Greek coast guard intercepted the lone remaining boat from a 10-ship aid convoy that has been trying to sail to Gaza since the end of June.

The French boat – Dignite al-Karama – was detained for “administrative reasons” on a refuelling stop in Crete, organisers said.

Israeli officials have dismissed as “ridiculous” claims by the organisers that Israel has sabotaged two ships – one Irish and one Swedish – and pressured the Greek authorities to block the sailings of the French yacht, as well as US and Canadian vessels.

The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators – the UN, US, EU and Russia – has urged activists to avoid a potential confrontation with Israel, pointing to last year’s deadly clashes on the Freedom Flotilla that left nine activists dead.

Israel increased sanctions on Gaza in 2006 after militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. It tightened them further still a year later when Hamas ousted rival Palestinian organisation Fatah from the territory.

Although the Islamist group won Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006, it refuses to recognise Israel or to renounce violence and is designated in the West as a terror organisation.

Israel eased the restrictions last year in response to international pressure following the activists’ deaths.

=============================

5.  Haaretz,

July 07, 2011


Israel’s message: Hate thy pro-Palestinian activist

Where Israel is concerned, a democracy that cannot bring itself to allow non-violent protest has already turned on itself.

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/israel-s-message-hate-thy-pro-palestinian-activist-1.371999

By Bradley Burston

Tags: Israel occupation Gaza flotilla

This weekend in synagogues the world over, Jews will be reading the story of Balak. In Israel, this will also be Shabbat Mashat, the Sabbath of the Pro-Palestinian Flightilla.

As luck would have it, both stories are about occupation. And about hatred.

The Biblical narrative (Numbers 22:2 – 25:9) begins just after the Children of Israel, en route to the Promised Land from Egypt, have won sweeping military victories and occupied the towns and territories of kingdom after kingdom.

Moab, east of the Jordan River, opposite the West Bank town of Jericho, is next in the path of Moses and his people. Moab’s king, Balak, outnumbered and terrified, sends for Bilaam, a highly recommended hired-gun diviner from the East. Per Balak’s order, Bilaam rides in, and tries over and over to curse the Israelites and cause them to be defeated.

In a peculiarly cinematic series of scenes, however, Bilaam is repeatedly blocked from doing so, by an angel armed with a drawn sword, by his own (now-talking) donkey, and by the Lord Himself. In the end, Bilaam’s attempts at damning Balak’s enemies turn to blessings, among them the Ma Tovu prayer, prominent in Jewish liturgy to this day, giving voice to wonder and reverence for synagogues and other places of worship.

Time and Jewish tradition have not been kind to Bilaam, who became a prototype of the non-Jew responsible for all of our problems – including those which, as a consequence of occupation, are to a great extent self-inflicted.

In the best tradition of the worst Israeli hasbara, American-Israeli Orthodox Rabbi Berel Wein, spins the hapless but poetic Bilaam as a terrorist, Balak as an arch-terrorist – and, for good measure, throws in human rights activists as accomplices to terror homicide:

“It is not the suicide bomber – Bilaam – that is the only guilty party in terrorist attacks. It is the Balaks who send them and support them, that are certainly equally as guilty.”

“The pious human rights organizations that promote only hatred and violence under the guise of doing good deeds are also responsible for the loss of the precious lives of innocents caused by those whom they so nurture and support.”

What Rabbi Wein fails to mention is that the real threat to the Israelites in the story of Balak comes from the actions of the Israelites themselves. After Bilaam gives up and goes home, God is enraged by the Israelites’ immorality and idol worship, and lets loose a plague which kills 24,000 of the Israelites. (Later rabbis frame Bilaam for the killings).

In Israel, meanwhile, officials have been working overtime doing no little framing of their own. As pro-Palestinian activists, reportedly ranging in age from nine to 89, prepared to fly into Ben-Gurion Airport to demonstrate against the embargo on Gaza and the occupation, curses took wing from the diviners of hasbara.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a press release calling the the arrival of the activists an attempt “to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” It was, they said, part of a broader effort to breach Israel’s “borders and its sovereignty, by sea, land and air.”

Lest there be any doubt as to the severity of the threat, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahronowitz “These hooligans who seek to break the law and disturb the peace will not be allowed into Israel.”

The activists’ aim, Ahronowitz told reporters, was nothing less than “attacking our legitimacy in our own land.” He ruled out demonstrations by the activists as illegal.

For months now, Israeli officials have described the participants of the flotilla campaign as terrorists, more recently (although with a subsequent Bilaam-like reversal) telling foreign media that the activists were planning to use “chemical weaponry,” stockpiling sulfur to dump on Israeli security forces and set them alight.

The parallels to Bilaam don’t end there. On Thursday, one of the organizers of the pro-Palestinian protest told Ynet that without Israel’s exhaustive, high-profile efforts to condemn and curse the activists’ fly-in, the campaign would never have gotten off the ground.

“We should be thanking Netanyahu, because without him, this wouldn’t have worked,” the organizer said. “If we would have paid thousands of shekels in PR, it would not have worked out so well.”

For those of us who live in Israel, perhaps the most useful section of the week’s Torah portion is a part that barely makes it into the text.  At the very close, occupation has led Moses’ people to worship idols (which we, the contemporary Children of Israel, have repurposed as settlements), as well as to corruption, and immoral behavior.

The message from the government, meanwhile, remains, Hate Thy Pro-Palestinian Activist. It’s certainly true that many if not most of the activists hate Israel at least as much as Israel hates them. But, as King Balak learned to his dismay, hatred and fear, as practiced by nations, have a tendency to boomerang.

Where Israel is concerned, a democracy that cannot bring itself to allow non-violent protest has already turned on itself.

Stay tuned. Within a few hours, we should learn who plays Bilaam in this version, who plays Balak, and, most tellingly perhaps, who plays the ass.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Dorothy Online Newsletter

TRADE NOT AID KEN’S TOUR

NOVANEWS

(IF YOU HAVE A LOOK AT KEN’S SPEAKING TOUR, YOU WILL SEE THAT KEN HAS 3 SCHEDULED DATES BOOKED ONLY. HE IS HOPING THAT PEOPLE WILL INVITE HIM TO SPEAK ON THE OTHER SCHEDULED DATES AND ASSIST HIM WITH FUND-RAISING.)

Trade No Aid UK Tour – July 10 to July 28

by Ken O’Keefe on Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 9:13pm

The Trade Not Aid Mission to Gaza (a partnership of Aloha Palestine and the Samouni Project) is beginning a 17 city tour of the UK on July 10th in Birmingham at the Reading Mela (Asian Music & Culture Festival) in Palmer Park.  I will speak at the festival and at select cities on the tour.  Topics will include what I saw on my recent 6 month visit to Gaza, the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni, and of course the details of the Trade Not Aid Mission.  I will also discuss the status of the Samouni Project and the classroom and educational program we will complete upon our arrival in Gaza.  I will also address the well-orchestrated Zionist attack attempting to defame me. 

Most importantly however, we will connect Palestinian supporters in the UK with Palestinians in Gaza in a physical, tangible way.  We will even have beautiful hand made items “Made in Palestine” for sale at our marquee tent, as well as products made by the Samouni family themselves.

We will travel with our 18 ton truck in order to collect specific items including medical aid, raw materials and equipment that is highly useful for the people of Gaza to get back on their own two feet and shed their charitable dependency status.  More details to come at out website (http://Trade-Not-Aid.net).

The bottom line is there is no plan like Trade Not Aid for Palestine, when you hear the details you will know just how intelligent and serious this mission is… and then you will know why the Zionists and their agents are so scared of us.

If you would like to host an event for us, notify local media, set up interviews or worthwhile meetings, or a speaking engagement for myself or Dr. Saeb Shaath from Gaza, then message me, we will make something happen.

We are visiting 17 cities, many of you have strong contacts in these cities; now is the time to use them and do something real for Palestine.  I look forward to hearing from you.  TJP

Our Facebook Event page can be found here;
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=162120560522682&ref=ts

Tour Schedule
Reading 10th July (Sunday 12pm – 9pm) Reading – Reading Mela 2011, Palmer Park, Wokingham Road, Reading, RG6 1LF

Birmingham 11th July (Monday 12pm – 9pm)

Leicester 12th July (Tuesday 12pm – 9pm) – Jame Masjid, 51 Asfordby Street, Leicester, LE5 3QG

Liverpool 13th July (Wednesday 12pm – 9pm)

Manchester 14th July (Thursday 12pm – 9pm)

Bradford 15th July (Friday 12pm – 9pm)

Newcastle 17th July (Sunday 12pm – 9pm)

Glasgow 18th July (Monday 12pm – 9pm)

Blackburn 19th July (Tuesday 12pm – 9pm)

Nottingham 20th July (Wednesday 12pm – 9pm) – The Market Place, Hyson Green, next to ASDA, NG7 6AP

Birmingham 21st July (Thursday 12pm – 9pm)

London 22nd July (Friday 12pm – 9pm)

London 23rd July (Saturday 12pm – 9pm)

Luton 24th July (Sunday 12pm – 9pm)

Milton Keynes 24th July (Sunday 12pm – 9pm)

Slough July 25th (Monday 12pm – 9pm)

Bristol July 26th (Tuesday 12pm – 9pm)

Gloucester July 27th (Wednesday 12pm – 9pm)

Swansea July 28th (Thursday 12pm – 9pm)

Posted in CampaignsComments Off on TRADE NOT AID KEN’S TOUR

A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

Amnesty UK calls for end to privatised removals from Britain

Posted: 07 Jul 2011

 

As Western countries increasingly outsource many aspects of life to unaccountable corporations desperate to make money from misery, resistance is both necessary and moral. Bravo Amnesty UK:

The UK Government must conduct a complete and radical overhaul of the current system of enforced removals from the UK, according to a new briefing and campaign launched today (7 July) by Amnesty International UK.

Private security companies, contracted by the UK Government, have reportedly used dangerous and improper control and restraint techniques. In the 2010 case of Jimmy Mubenga at least, these appear to have resulted in someone’s death. One such technique was nick-named by contractors “Carpet Karaoke”, as it involved forcing an individual’s face down towards the carpet with such force that they were only able to scream inarticulately ‘like a bad karaoke singer’. It involves the seated detainee being handcuffed, with a tight seatbelt through the cuffs and their head pushed down between their legs. There is a serious risk of death by positional asphyxia when this technique is used.

Other cases featured in the Amnesty briefing include a Moroccan national who claims his arm was broken when he was restrained by his arms and legs and was dropped down the stairs of the airplane; and a refused asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who said he struggled to breathe and feared he was going to die when security staff put a knee on his chest and sat on him, after he resisted his removal at Heathrow.

Sources with direct working experience of enforced removals have told Amnesty about serious failings in the training of private contractors conducting forced removals. Staff are trained in control and restraint techniques that are unsuitable for use on aircraft; there is no mandatory training in the safe use of handcuffs and restraints; and there is no watertight system in place to ensure that those accredited to conduct removals have received the required level of training. The reportedly widespread use of sub-contractors to fill staff shortages also raises further serious concerns about training and accountability.

How privatised care destroys souls (but makes nice amounts of cash)

Posted: 06 Jul 2011

 

British journalist Clare Sambrook on just another day in Britain:

“You’re a big boy now so I have to search you,” said the immigration officer to the five-year-old, donning latex gloves and patting him down at a Heathrow Airport detention facility run by outsourcing giant G4S.

The child had been booked into Terminal 4’s “short term holding facility” as a “visitor” which meant that his detention would have gone unrecorded but for a surprise visit by two of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Prisons on 3rd March this year.

The boy, an EU national, had been returning home to Britain with his father, a non-EU national, after a family visit to the father’s country of origin. The Inspectors noted that the child was detained “without the necessary authority”.

Their “Report on an unannounced inspection of the short-term holding facility at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4”,published today [8], found that in three months to February 2011 the lock-up had held 78 children, including eight unaccompanied minors. Their average stay was 9.9 hours, twelve children were held for more than 18 hours — the longest detention being 23.9 hours. Not all staff were CRB checked.

This, more than a year after the Coalition Government pledged to end the detention of children for immigration purposes, and six months after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg claimed it had been accomplished [9].

The five-year-old subjected to the latex “rub-down search” then witnessed his father’s humiliation. The father’s phone was confiscated, but, say the Inspectors, he was not offered the free telephone call to which he was entitled.

Instead of being taken to the family room, which had children’s toys, books and posters (but no natural light nor access to fresh air), the father and child were held in the adult room.

Delusions of the Palestinian Authority

Posted: 06 Jul 2011

After decades of fruitless negotiations, we still have the sad and sorry sight of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat saying this in the US yesterday:

We are in contact with all Quartet members. All they have to do is to make the Israeli government accept a two-state solution based on ‘67 borders with mutually agreed land swaps, as President Obama outlined in his speech, and to stop settlement activity.

News flash to the PA; Israel loves occupation and has no intention of ending it.

Wikileaks contributed to the Arab Spring?

Posted: 06 Jul 2011

Julian Assange says it played a factor in the US being less able to back dictators in the region:

So, Cablegate as a whole caused these elites that prop each other up into region within the Arab speaking countries, and, within, between Europe and these countries and between the United States and these countries, to have to deal with their own political crises, and not spend time giving intelligence briefings on activists, or sending in, um, the SAS, or other support, and activists within Tunisia saw this, very quickly, I think they started to see an opportunity, and that information, uh, our site, a number of Wikileaks sites, were then immedietly, um, banned by the Tunisian government, Al Akbar was banned by the Tunisian government, a hacker attack was launched on Al Akbar, many had been launched at us but we had come to defend against them.

Al Akbar was taken down, their whole newspaper was redirected to a Saudi sex site, believe it or not, there is such a thing as a Saudi sex site, and they rested it back through involvement to the foreign, the foreign ministry back in Lebanon, and then, what I believe to be state-based computer hackers, cause of the degree, the sophistication of the attack, came in and wiped out all of Al Akbar’s cable publishing efforts.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

Mondoweiss Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

South African advertising watchdog rules that Israel can be referred to as an ‘apartheid state’

Jul 07, 2011

Kate

South Africa ASA ruling: Israel can be labeled an apartheid state
Johannesburg (PNN) 7 July — Earlier this week in a bold statement against Israel, South Africa’s media watchdog the ‘Advertising Standards Agency’ (ASA), dismissed complaints relating to an advert of 5fm radio that called for a boycott of Israel while comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa. The advert aired in South Africa in February this year, starred Dave Randall, lead guitarist of the band Faithless, where he stated: “Twenty years ago I would not have played in apartheid South Africa; today I refuse to play in Israel. Be on the right side of history. Don’t entertain apartheid. Join the international boycott of Israel.” As a result an official complaint was filed to ASA by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), expressing that the adverts claim that Israel was an Apartheid State was “untrue, not supported by any evidence… and contains a lie which amounts to false propaganda.” This week the ASA completely dismissed every complaint made by SAJBD against the advert.

And more news from Today in Palestine:

Land, property, resources, culture theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Apartheid

Candlelit rally in J’lem in solidarity with officials threatened with exile
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 6 July — Hundreds of Jerusalemite natives went on a candle march on Tuesday evening in solidarity with the three officials who are still facing a deportation order from their holy city issued by the Israeli occupation authority (IOA).  The protesters gathered in the soccer field of the neighborhood before heading to the Red Cross headquarters in the holy city where they held a candlelit vigil outside the building … The Red Cross building has become the home of two Jerusalemite lawmakers and one former minister since the IOA issued its arbitrary exile order against them last year.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd

IOF storm Issawiya area, violently attack its young men
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 7 July — A number of Palestinian young men from Issawiya district in occupied Jerusalem were badly wounded last night when an Israeli military force stormed their area all of a sudden and started to open fire at them. Eyewitnesses said one of the young men called Ahmed Al-Masri sustained a serious injury in his neck as he was near his workplace in the area …
In a separate incident, the IOF on Wednesday stormed Marda village in Salfit district and ransacked the house of a Palestinian detainee in Israeli jails. Eyewitnesses said Israeli troops violently raided the house of prisoner Rami Suleiman and smashed its furniture after they locked up all members of his family in one room for nearly two hours. The mother of prisoner Suleiman suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the violent raid and was taken to a hospital in Nablus city to receive medical care. The IOF also kidnapped Hosam Suleiman, a student at Annajah university, from his home in Marda village. Another family in the same village was handed a summons from the invading troops ordering their 19-year old son, Qutaiba Rasmi, to meet intelligence officers for interrogation.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87M

Rebuilding Al Hadidiya (video included)
JVS 6 July — Today activists from the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign joined the community of Al Hadidya as they pitched new tents, replacing ones that had been destroyed 2 weeks ago by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Six tents were distributed to four different families affected by the demolitions, and errected meters from where their former tents stood. The families have remained steadfast on their land despite repeated attempts to displace them, and continue to rebuild despite repeated demolitions … Al Hadidya is located in the northern Jordan Valley between the illegal settlements Ro’i and Beka’ot, which were built partly on their farmland.
link to www.jordanvalleysolidarity.org

Settlers

PA report: Israeli settler violence on the rise
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an/AFP) 7 July — Israeli settler violence against Palestinians increased “dramatically” in June, according to a Palestinian Authority report released Wednesday. The report documented 139 attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank by the Israeli army and settlers during the month, including the demolition of 95 buildings and over 3,600 olive trees and vines. Fires in the villages of Madama on Tuesday, and in Aqraba on Monday, both near Nablus, were also attributed to settler violence, the report said … A spokesperson from the Palestinian government media center said the incidents “are part of a campaign to terrorize Palestinian farmers and their families. When settlers destroy trees by burning or bulldozing, they are destroying a family’s means of earning its living.” The spokesperson highlighted poor accountability for settler violence saying “such attacks are so frequent that the Israeli authorities must be able to take action if they choose to. But there is little evidence of settlers being brought to justice. They seem to be above Israeli law.”
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP he was unaware of any statistics indicating a rise in violence in the West Bank.”Any reports of violence, whether by settlers or by Palestinians, is investigated and dealt with after an official complaint is received,” he said. Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din about complaints of settler offenses have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations fail to lead to a prosecution.
link to www.maannews.net

More than a half million settlers in West Bank, East Jerusalem
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 7 July — The Israeli Population Registry said Thursday that there are more than 334,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. According to Israeli media outlets, data suggests that the greatest hike in settler population was recorded in Kiryat Sever. But the figure does not include settlements surrounding occupied Jerusalem. The latest data shows that nearly 180,000 Jews have settled there, placing the number of Jewish settlers in the territories occupied after 1967 at over a half million.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bc

Violence / Incursions

IOF soldiers advance hundreds of meters [into the] south of Gaza Strip
KHAN YOUNIS (PIC) 7 July — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) advanced hundreds of meters to the east of Khan Younis on Thursday morning amidst indiscriminate shooting and firing of smoke bombs. Local sources told the PIC reporter that IOF troops in a number of army tanks and military bulldozers infiltrated 300 meters east of Abasan Al-Kabira and bulldozed the area amidst random firing of live bullets. The sources said that the soldiers were bulldozing land along the border fence and were heading southwards toward Khuza‘a village in the vicinity of Khan Younis.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcO

Israeli soldier injured by explosion in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 7 July 16:08 — An explosion in Khan Younis lightly injured an Israeli soldier Thursday morning, Israeli media reported. Five Israeli tanks and several bulldozers entered approximately 300 meters into the southern Gaza governorate, witnesses said. Israeli daily Haaretz reported that an explosive device planted near the soldiers tank had exploded causing shrapnel wounds.
link to www.maannews.net

Fatah group claims responsibility for Gaza explosion
GAZA (Ma‘an) 7 July 21:57 — An armed group affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigade, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility on Thursday for detonating an explosive charge near Israeli armored vehicles in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
link to www.maannews.net

Israeli forces surround Jenin refugee camp
JENIN (Ma‘an) 7 July — Israeli forces entered Jenin Thursday morning, surrounding the city’s refugee camp, locals said Thursday, noting that no detentions were reported. Police told Ma‘an that 15 Israeli military vehicles approached Jenin camp and surrounded it for around an hour, before withdrawing without any house raids or detentions.
link to www.maannews.net

Gaza

Egypt to increase passenger numbers at Rafah crossing
GAZA (Ma‘an) 7 July — The Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Gaza Strip Mohammad Awad said Thursday that the government has received assurances from Egyptian officials that the country will begin increasing the volume of passengers using the Rafah crossing. “The problem of the crossing was presented to more than one official in the Egyptian government, the military council, intelligence and ministry of foreign affairs, who promised to help in gradually increasing the number.” … The Egyptians did not set a deadline for completing improvements to the Rafah crossing.
link to www.maannews.net

In Pictures: Women of Gaza
AJE 6 July — Despite the devastation Palestinians of the Gaza Strip have faced due to the ongoing Israeli siege and occupation, an elegant community spirit prevails. Life continues, as do traditions and self-respect – resistance to suffering has become standard. Women are continuing to care for their families, striving for education and pursuing careers. This is a look at the everyday lives of women in Gaza.
link to english.aljazeera.net

There’s more to Gaza than broken slabs of concrete / Sami Kishawi
[photos] EI 7 July — …Decades of occupation, years of siege, and intermittent invasions are typically employed as subject headers for most reporting about the Gaza Strip. But despite how these topics represent one very dominating aspect of life in Gaza, they inexcusably ignore the more uplifting aspects of reality including Gaza’s cultural vibrancy, its territory-wide coziness, and its population’s sheer resiliency in resisting the oppression that constantly befalls it … When was the last time you saw photographs of Gaza’s rooftops and its glowing night lights? When was the last time you read an article on a businessman’s success story in Gaza? Have you ever even heard of the Thai stir-fry with an Arab twist served in the busy al-Rimal district of Gaza City to hungry bystanders? These are the questions I face from Gaza’s city-dwellers on a daily basis and these are the questions that journalists and news agencies should really begin to consider and incorporate in their reportage of life in the Gaza Strip.
link to electronicintifada.net

Remembering Vittorio Arrigoni  — Stay Human summer camp
ISM 7 July — At Vittorio’s funeral in Gaza the crowds chanted “Viktor is with the fisherman, Viktor is with the farmers”, Vittorio is still with the people of Gaza. He lives on in their hearts. He has been honored with a football tournament in Rafah, with a street in Gaza, with a school in the Jordan Valley, but I think that perhaps the honor that would be closest to his heart is the Vittorio Arrigoni — Stay Human summer camp in Beit Hanoun. Vittorio had worked in Beit Hanoun his entire time in Gaza. Riding in ambulances during Cast Lead and supporting the weekly demonstrations against the buffer zone since then. The Fursan Al Ghad Youth Center honored him by naming their summer camp in his honor
link to palsolidarity.org

UNRWA: Name has not changed
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 7 July — An UNRWA spokesperson said Thursday that the Palestinian refugee agency has not changed its name, after reports of a new title sparked protests in Gaza on Tuesday. Adnan Abu Hasnah said the only change was a logo update which actually added the term UNRWA, in English and Arabic, to the image.
link to www.maannews.net

Detention

Children not exempt from widespread torture in Israeli detention
EI 6 July — Sleep-deprived and suffering from a broken leg, 16-year-old Muhammad Halabiyeh endured days of torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers and police officers, who punched him repeatedly in the face and abdomen, shoved needles into his hand and leg and threatened the Palestinian teenager with sexual abuse. Arrested near his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis in February 2010, Halabiyeh confessed after days of abuse and torture to the charge that he threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli army base. More than one year after his arrest, which was spent in Israeli custody, Halabiyeh was found guilty in an Israeli military court. His conviction came despite the fact that the Israeli military judge in his case stated that she believed the teenager was tortured. However, the judge argued that there was no evidence that his confession was the direct result of the torture he endured..
http://electronicintifada.net/content/children-not-exempt-widespread-torture-israeli-detention/10143

Group says three detainees placed in solitary confinement
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 6 July — Three Palestinians in Israeli custody were placed in solitary confinement Tuesday, a prisoners rights group said, as Israel stripped detainees of privileges under new guidelines. Rawhi Mishthi, Atef Al-Masri and Hassan Fayyad were placed in solitary confinement at the Hadarim prison in line with a new policy of pressuring Hamas by placing supporters under stress, the detainees center said.
link to www.maannews.net

Report: The number of children kidnapped this year markedly rose
RAMALLAH (PIC) 7 July — Ansar Al-Asra (advocates for prisoners) society said it documented the detention of 1,552 Palestinian citizens in the first half of this year, including 215 children. According a report released by the society on Thursday, there was a marked increase in the kidnapping of Palestinian minors this year and their number rose to 350 children. 19 Palestinian lawmakers from Hamas Movement were also among the detainees who were kidnapped during this year.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bc

Israeli forces arrest daughter of Al-Bireh mayor
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 6 July — “Israel’s army has arrested Bushra Al-Tawil, 18, daughter of Jamal Al-Tawil, Mayor of Al-Bireh, after raiding her family home in the Um Ash-Sharayet neighborhood in Al-Bireh,” a researcher from the organization Ahmed Al-Beitawi said. Israeli soldiers raided the house and seized computers and personal documents, before taking Bushra to the Russian compound for interrogation. Bushra Al-Tawil had finished her Tawjihi, or general secondary, exams two days ago, Al-Beitawi said. Israeli forces had arrested her father, the current mayor of Al-Bireh, during the first Intifada. Jamal Al-Tawil was detained for several months under administrative detention without being charged.
link to www.maannews.net

Soldiers seize Palestinian in raid on Bethlehem camp
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 6 July — Israeli forces detained a young man at dawn Wednesday in the occupied West Bank. Abdul Qader Al-Zighari, 24, of Duheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, was detained, his brother Ali said. An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma‘an the army arrested four Palestinians in the West Bank overnight.
link to www.maannews.net

Israeli military court sends MP Zeidan to administrative detention
RAMALLAH (PIC) 7 July — An Israeli military court on Wednesday transferred Palestinian lawmaker from Hamas Abdulrahman Zeidan to administrative detention for six months … The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped MP Zeidan from his home in Deir Ghusun village, northeast of Tulkarem, earlier last month and locked him in Megiddo jail.
The same Israeli court also ordered on the same day the administrative detention of senior Hamas official Nazih Abu Aoun and his son-in-law Ahmed Malaysha for six months. Abu Aoun and his son-in-law were kidnapped a few days ago from their home and taken to Megiddo prison.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd

Tamimi still on hunger strike
GAZA (PIC) 7 July — The Waed society for prisoners affirmed that the Palestinian prisoner Ahlam Al-Tamimi was still on hunger strike for the 9th day running insisting on meeting all her demands. Former prisoner and board member of Waed Samar Subaih told the PIC on Thursday that news reports that Tamimi ended her hunger strike were not true.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2b

Israeli Druze sentenced to 8 months in prison for violence on Naksa Day
Haaretz 7 July — A Nazareth court sentenced a Majdal Shams resident to eight months in prison for hurling rocks at Israeli security forces on Naksa Day, June 5th. The resident of the northern Druze village, 37-year-old Nasser Shaer, was also fined 2,500 shekels.
link to www.haaretz.com

Nablus court sentences man to 7 years for ‘aiding enemy’
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 7 July — A Nablus court sentenced a man to seven years imprisonment and hard labor on Thursday for collaboration with Israel. The man, identified only as A.J. from Nablus in the northern West Bank, was charged with aiding the Israeli military since 2005. Public Prosecutor’s Office representative Hussam Khalaf said the man was charged under article 110 of the Penal Code of 1960.
link to www.maannews.net

Security arrests longest running spy in Gaza Strip
GAZA (PIC) 7 July — Security services have arrested the longest running Israeli agent in the Gaza Strip, security sources said. The agent, A.H., is in his fifties and has been spying for Israel for the past 23 years after returning from a neighboring Arab state, Al-Majd security site said, quoting sources. The source said A.H. continued to cooperate with Israeli intelligence during this period. He also frequently travelled to the West Bank and Arab countries. According to the sources, A.H. held several sensitive and prestigious positions in the former authority and had links with leading figures in one Palestinian organization.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2b

Flotillas

French boat to Gaza blocked in Crete
JERUSALEM (AFP) 7 July  — A lone French yacht carrying activists hoping to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza was on Thursday blocked in Crete by the Greek coast guard when it stopped to refuel, an organizer said. “The Dignite/Al Karama was taken to Sitia in Crete by the Greek coast guard after being stopped in a nearby port while it was refueling,” Claude Leostic told AFP by telephone from Paris. “The authorities are stopping the boat from setting sail for various administrative reasons,” Leostic said. The boat, which is carrying 12 pro-Palestinian activists, had sneaked out of a Greek port early on Tuesday
link to www.maannews.net

Second flotilla ship sets sail to Gaza
ATHENS (PIC) 7 July 09:14 — A Swedish-Norwegian ship [Juliano] has managed to set sail to Gaza as the second ship on Freedom Flotilla II despite an official ban that Greek authorities have enforced on the flotilla’s vessels, the European campaign to end the siege on Gaza has reported. That was after the crew managed to repair the ship’s propeller, which was sabotaged by men suspected of having links with the Israeli Mossad. The ECESG, a key flotilla organizer, said in a press statement that technicians have repaired the damage and the crew has been able to meet onerous conditions Greek authorities have set on the ship’s sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel’s maritime siege of the tiny coastal enclave.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87

In dealing with the flotilla, Israel is anything but smart / Amira Hass
Haaretz 7 July — Outsourcing, aggressive and vocal diplomacy and ridiculous lies thwarted the flotilla, but they have not taken Gaza off the international agenda.
link to www.haaretz.com

Flotilla report delayed at Turkey’s behest
Ynet 7 July —  Though an inquiry committee investigating the 2010 flotilla has already drawn conclusions, the UN has agreed to postpone its due date for the report until Turkey and Israel come to an agreement on its content, Israeli officials say. The request to delay the report came from Turkey. Its findings, some of which have already been published, indicate that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal as well as its raid of the Mavi Marmara.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Fly-in / Flytilla / Flightilla

Tourism Ministry launches ‘Welcome Mat’ initiative
Ynet 7 July 11:34 —  Following the near military operation-style preparations for the foreign activists “Gaza fly-in” to Ben Gurion International Airport, the Tourism Ministry announced Thursday that it was “preparing to welcome the thousands of tourists expected to arrive in Israel this weekend.” The ministry also said that the Ben Gurion Airport branch of the Tourism Ministry would be reinforced by additional employees who will welcome the tourists with flowers and explanatory pamphlets.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Incoming tourists receive flowers
Ynet 7 July 23:47 — One tourist hopes some flowers are saved for fly-in activists, ‘to show them Israel is not just scary’ — Representatives of Israel’s Tourism Ministry handed out flowers to people arriving in Ben Gurion International Airport Thursday evening, as promised earlier by Minister Stats Misezhnikov. Incoming passengers mainly appeared bewildered by the gesture
link to www.ynetnews.com

Israel police decrease presence at airport after pro-Palestinian activists stopped abroad
Haaretz 7 July 22:57 — Police believe most of the 300 pro-Palestinian activists blacklisted by Israel to be prevented from flying at airports abroad; Israel security forces lower state of alert — The first wave of activists is due to arrive between 1 A.M. and 4 A.M. overnight Thursday, but police believe only a small number of activists will actually be arriving …
France’s foreign ministry expressed concern about the risk of clashes between activists and Israeli security forces if the former reached their destination. “France is worried by the risk of incidents and clashes that could develop at Tel Aviv airport on Friday,” spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement. [How nice to know they are so concerned for activists’ welfare — just like the Greek gov’t with the flotilla.]
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-police-decrease-presence-at-airport-after-pro-palestinian-activists-stopped-abroad-1.372016

Israel instructs foreign airlines to prevent departure of 300 pro-Palestinian activists
Haaretz 7 July 19:07 — Transportation Ministry hands foreign airlines blacklist of 300 passengers who will be refused entry to Israel; move may prevent activists from reaching Israel …Thus far, no activists were known to be prevented from boarding flights abroad, but most of the flights are only expected to depart on Thursday night. “This event will end with either no problems or as a catastrophe. There will not be a middle ground,” a senior official at Ben-Gurion International Airport told Haaretz. He said that it only takes about 30 activists to make a scene at the airport for media outlets to widely report on it and thus hand the activists their victory. A senior official at a European airline told Haaretz that this was an unprecedented request on Israel’s part. “In the past we have gotten one or two names that authorities had banned their entry,” he said. “This move is problematic because if we receive an updated list later on, we will have to fly back the plane at the expense of other passengers who had purchased regular tickets.” On Thursday at 10 P.M., a military command post will be opened at Ben-Gurion, in order to directly tend to the pro-Palestinian activists expected to arrive over the weekend.
link to www.haaretz.com

Israel bars 300 activists from flying to Israel
Ynet 7 July 18:34 — Ahead of fly-in, state issues blacklist of pro-Palestinian activists blocked from boarding Israel-bound flights. Organizer says airlines complying, cites emails sent to passengers canceling trips ‘as per Israel’s instructions’ .. .Israel told the airlines that the blacklisted individuals, most of whom come from France, are unauthorized to enter the state … One organizer, Nicholas Shashani, told Ynet that an airline official told them that she was following the Israeli Interior Ministry’s orders, and showed them the list of barred individuals. Shashani claimed that they filed a complaint with police at the airport.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Gaza fly-in organizers thank Bibi for PR
Ynet 7 July — Left wing activists and the organizers of the planned pro-Palestinian fly-in to Ben Gurion Airport thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch for the extensive publicity their endeavor has been garnering in the global media.  “We should be thanking Netanyahu because without him this wouldn’t have worked,” one of the fly-in organizers said Thursday. “If we would have paid thousands of shekels in PR it would not have worked our so well,” he added.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Political / Diplomatic / International news

US renews objections to Palestinian statehood bid
WASHINGTON (AFP) 7 July — The United States warned Palestinians against seeking UN recognition of a future state not first defined in talks with Israel, as a top Palestinian official met with US diplomats. “We don’t see a contradiction between the efforts being exerted to revive the peace process and our bid to go to the UN,” senior PLO official and former chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told reporters after his talks at the US State Department.
Amid the diplomatic tussling, the US House of Representatives churned towards voting by week’s end on a symbolic resolution warning the Palestinians they risk US aid cuts if they pursue their plans at the United Nations. The House was expected to overwhelmingly back the measure authored by Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer just one week after the Senate passed a similar resolution.
The resolution also urges Obama to consider suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority pending a view of a unity deal between president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the rival faction Hamas. “Any Palestinian unity government must publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with Israel,” it says.
link to www.maannews.net

Abbas postpones formation of unity government in bid to appease Western allies
Haaretz/AP 7 July — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may hold off on the formation of a unity government with the Islamic militant group Hamas to avoid alienating his Western allies ahead of a UN vote on statehood, a senior PLO official said Thursday.
link to www.haaretz.com

Netanyahu falls short of securing Bulgarian pledge against Palestinian UN bid
Reuters 7 July — PM meets with Bulgarian counterpart in Sofia, commends him on Bulgaria’s Holocaust record in effort to buttress Balkan bonds ahead of UN vote on Palestinians state in September.
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-falls-short-of-securing-bulgarian-pledge-against-palestinian-un-bid-1.371971

Turkmenistan rejects Israeli ambassador, says he is ‘Mossad spy’
Haaretz 6 July — Turkmen Foreign Ministry says Israel’s designated ambassador Haim Koren’s past employment as instructor at the National Security College is proof of his involvement in espionage –…This follows Turkmenistan’s refusal in late 2009 to accept Israel’s first candidate, Reuven Daniel, who had served in the Mossad in the past. 
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/turkmenistan-rejects-israeli-ambassador-says-he-is-mossad-spy-1.371845

China grants Israeli envoy honorary citizenship
Ynet 6 July — Mayor of Chengdu holds ceremony for Amos Nadai, first foreign ambassador ever to be given such honor … The ties between both countries grew stronger following the devastating earthquake that took place in China in 2008, when Israel helped out with the rehabilitation efforts. Last November the relations between Israel and the city of Chengdu peaked when the Chinese celebrated “Israel Week.”
link to www.ynetnews.com

US: Israel included in terror watch list by mistake
WASHINGTON (Ynet) 7 July – Israeli diplomats stationed in the United States was surprised to discover that Israel was one of 36 countries included in a new Homeland Security terror watch list.  The list, which was attached to a May 10 document from the DHS Inspector General’s office, also included a number of other close US allies such as Turkey, Bahrain, Morocco and Philippines.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Other news

MADA reports 13 violations against journalists in occupied territories last month
Ramallah (PNN) 7 July — The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has reported today that it monitored 13 violations against journalists during the month of June. The occupying Israeli army was the main perpetrator of the violations; however violations from the Palestinian security services also exist. The Israeli occupying force was involved in arresting, detaining, assaulting and preventing travel of journalists. Such abuses greatly obstruct journalists from doing their work.[Details of some violations follow]
link to english.pnn.ps

PCBS: Graduate unemployment improving, but slowly
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) 7 July — …The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said 44.8 percent of Palestinians who completed university degrees were not in employment, an improvement on the 2009 figure of 47 percent.
link to www.maannews.net

British documents reveal Begin refused entry to UK in 1950s
Haaretz 7 July — Britain refused to allow Menachem Begin, “leader of the notorious terrorist organisation Irgun,” to visit London in the 1950s, documents released by Britain’s National Archives this week reveal.
link to www.haaretz.com

Ministers facing corruption charges could lose immunity
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 7 July — The Palestinian Authority anti-corruption chief announced Thursday that the legal immunity of several ministers has been removed to make way for corruption charges. Head of the anti-corruption commission Rafiq An-Natsheh told state radio broadcaster Voice of Palestine that President Mahmoud Abbas supported the move in order to end corruption in the government. A number of ministers are accused of presiding over financial and administrative mismanagement, unfair hiring policies, and pilfering ministerial budgets for their own use, An-Natsheh said.
link to www.maannews.net

Leak causes Negev’s worst ever environmental disaster
Ynet 7 July — Ministry takes out work cessation order against Eilat-Askelon Pipeline Company, they in turn disavow responsibility following jet fuel leak that ravaged Nahal Zin nature reserve … The Environmental Protection Ministry and the Nature and Parks Authority estimate that the leak reached a depth of up to 5 meters in some places. As for the restoration process, current estimations see the need for the removal of tens of thousands of cubic meters of contaminated soil from the area.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Analysis / Opinion

East Jerusalem suffers heroin plague / Kieron Monks
AJE 6 July — Activists fight to save addicts in towns without prospects or security — “I didn’t think I would ever stop”, Abu Salah tells the circle. “After 14 years of buying and selling, hashish, heroin and cocaine, I had lost control of my life. I had no job. I would never speak to my family.” His story, and the clinic we are sitting in, is an indication of how Palestine’s drug problem is fast becoming a crisis. The towns in and around East Jerusalem have become breeding grounds for addiction, made vulnerable by poverty and a lack of security. Unlike neighbouring Egypt and Lebanon, Palestine has no historic connection with the drugs trade. Its arrival has been sudden and spectacular, with heroin in particular spreading like wildfire. Al Quds University estimates there are over 6,000 addicts in East Jerusalem today, compared with 300 in 1986. In the town of Al Ram, pressed up against Israel’s Separation Barrier, degradation has set in. Once a lively suburb of Jerusalem, since 2006 it has been locked out by the Barrier, which surrounds it on three sides. The effect of this sudden disconnection from the city has been devastating. One-third of all businesses have been forced to close, 75 per cent of youths under 24 are unemployed, and around half of the town’s 62,000 residents have been denied the ID they require to enter Jerusalem. Al Ram, like neighbouring Abu Dis and Al Ezzariya, has been left in limbo … Addressing the supply to Palestinians is problematic, given the lack of autonomy in and around Jerusalem. It is a widely held belief among Palestinians that the Israeli authorities encourage addiction in Arabs, in a conspiratorial effort to undermine their national aspirations. While such a claim is impossible to prove, and likely exaggerated, there is little effort from Israeli police to halt the supply to Arabs. The same dealers can be seen in plain sight day after day.
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/06/201162874544676539.html

What is the ‘right’ type of resistance? / Ibrahim Shikaki
AJE 6 July — Media coverage of the Palestinian resistance movement is shaped to fit the Western narrative of nonviolence — Over the past few months, several international media outlets have published articles fixating on the so-called “new” Palestinian nonviolent movement. Two fallacies have accompanied such reporting and analysis. First the use of the term “nonviolent” and its connotations; and second, the narrative surrounding the movement. Unfortunately, the source of these articles is often respected media outlets that have reported fairly on the Palestinian cause, including Al Jazeera English.The latest articles in the series are Al Jazeera English’s “Green shoots emerge at Qalandia checkpoint”,  the Economist blog’s “Here comes your non-violent resistance”,  and Time magazine’s“Palestinian Border Protests: The Arab Spring model for confronting Israel”.  The articles are replete with quotes such as “but the traditional resistance of burning tires and throwing stones will not change overnight. We need to give the world a picture of nonviolent Palestinian resistance”, and “we’re going to continue marching in nonviolence until it is very clear in the international media who is violating human rights”.
link to english.aljazeera.net

Human dignity in Jerusalem / Rashid Khalidi
Jadaliyya 5 July — The lengthy history of Jerusalem is distinguished by diverse episodes of both benevolent tolerance and inhumane intolerance. For several lengthy periods, such as most of the nineteenth century, a spirit of coexistence generally characterized the holy city. On too many other occasions, it witnessed sectarian persecution and cruel massacres. Two of the most horrific of these episodes took place after Jerusalem was captured following a prolonged siege, once by the Persians in 614 CE, and again by the Crusaders in 1099. In both cases, the victors slaughtered thousands of the city’s residents. An area adjacent to the ancient Mamilla Pool west of the city walls of Jerusalem was the scene of the first of these massacres, as well as the burial site of its victims. This place of carnage subsequently became the most reputed Muslim burial place in Palestine, the Maman Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery. Thus the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center’s ongoing project to build a “Center for Human Dignity,” or alternatively the “Museum of Tolerance,” on part of the Mamilla cemetery is not the first indignity that this venerable site has witnessed. This construction project has continued in spite of repeated protests by Palestinians and Israelis, and two unsuccessful litigation attempts in Israeli courts.
link to www.jadaliyya.com

Inside Torah Hamelech, the Jewish extremist terror tract endorsed by state-employed rabbis / Max Blumenthal
[with VIDEO] 7 July — Why is Torat Hamelech so explosive? Yuval Dror, an Israeli journalist and academic, excerpted some of the book’s most incendiary passages. What appeared was Jewish exclusivism in its most extreme form, with non-Jews deemed permissible to kill, or Rodef, for the most inconsequential of wartime acts, including providing moral support to gentile armies. The book is a virtual manual for Jewish extremist terror designed to justify the mass slaughter of civilians. And in that respect, it is not entirely different from the Israeli military’s Dahiya Doctrine, or Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin’s concept of “asymmetrical warfare.” The key difference seems to be the crude, almost childlike logic the book’s author, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, marshals to justify the killing of non-Jewish civilians. Here are passages from Torat Hamelech, as excerpted by Dror and translated by Dena Bugel-Shunra:
link to maxblumenthal.com

groups.yahoo.com/group/f_shadi (listserv)
www.theheadlines.org (archive).

UN report on ‘Freedom Flotilla I’ was questioned from the start

Jul 07, 2011

Alex Kane

Media outlets are reporting that the results of a United Nations inquiry into last year’s raid on the first “Freedom Flotilla” is set to be released soon, though diplomatic wrangling between Turkey and Israel appear to have held up publication of the report for now.

The reports indicate that the inquiry has found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law, but that the Israelis used “excessive force” during their naval raid on the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many observers have cast doubt on the impartiality of the report given the panel’s make-up–a point boosted by the fact that the UN appears to be sanctioning an Israeli blockade that numerous UN-affiliated reports and individuals have concluded is an illegal act of collective punishment.

This inquiry was separate from a UN Human Rights Council report released in September 2010, which found that Israeli forces violated international law in attacking the flotilla and used “unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate” force. Israel, just as they did during the Goldstone mission, did not cooperate with that report. On the other hand, Israel did cooperate with the panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and it appears that cooperation has, at least partially, paid off.

The New York Times reports:

Diplomats said Turkey and Israel were eager to find a compromise over the wording of the report by a United Nations committee that is led by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand and has Turkish and Israeli representatives. Diplomats said the committee’s findings — made following heated deliberations that lasted nearly a year — would be likely to leave both countries uncomfortable.

According to United Nations diplomats, the latest draft of the report asserts that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal, but that in some cases its commandos had used excessive force in seizing the ship. Turkey, the diplomats said, is taken to task for having made an insufficient effort to prevent the ship from sailing. In addition, the motives of the I.H.H., the charity that organized the flotilla, are called into question.

The report’s released has been delayed amid squabbling over its wording, although it could be made public as soon as Thursday.

For many, the panel was discredited from the start. This report–written shortly after the announcement of the establishment of the UN inquiry–from Inter Press Service explains why:

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS: “How truly independent will this inquiry be?” That’s the key question, he said.

“My initial concern is that the panel membership appears to be tied in with politically powerful interests — not a good sign. Whether this will be a clarifying or whitewashing effort remains to be seen,” he added.

[Phyllis] Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies told IPS that the irony, of course, is that the international and UN-backed team reflects Israel’s continuing US-backed influence at the United Nations.

In particular, the appointment of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez “guaranteed” the “failure” of the report, as an analysis that appeared in theElectronic Intifada put it. Uribe himself is implicated in massive human rights abuses and is a known supporter of the State of Israel. An excerpt from the Electronic Intifada piece:

It is hard to believe that, in spite of Uribe’s appalling human rights record, he has been chosen to be part of a UN human rights commission. Going beyond Uribe himself, any representative of the Colombian state must be suspect when it comes to investigating human rights violations as official and “unofficial” state-sanctioned human rights abusers act with impunity; 98 percent of such cases remain unprosecuted (“Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia,” February 2009).

It also strains credibility to believe that Colombia, the biggest recipient of US military “aid” after Israel and Egypt, a country that has agreed to host seven new US military bases on its territory last year, can be impartial in relation to Israel. Both the Israeli and Colombian governments share an ideological approach to their opponents, based on a belief that respecting human rights is a non-issue when it comes to pursuing their military goals against rebel groups. Unsurprisingly, there is also large-scale military cooperation between the two rogue states.

In recent years, according to news reports, Israel has become Colombia’s number one weapon supplier, with arms worth tens of millions of dollars, “including Kfir aircraft, drones, weapons and intelligence systems” being used against opponents of the Colombian regime (“Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia,” Ynet, 10 August 2007). According to a senior Israeli defense official, “Israel’s methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia” (“Colombia’s FM: We share your resilience,” 30 April 2010)…

The admiration is mutual, and Uribe undertakes his role of impartial investigator weighed down with awards from various Zionist organizations. These include the American Jewish Committee’s “Light unto the Nations Award” and descending further into Orwellian doublespeak, the “Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism” from B’nai Brith.

While the Colombian government and Uribe are entitled to their choice of friends, this — to say the least — indicates that there will be no objectivity whatsoever with regard to Uribe’s role in the commission.

It appears that Israel only agreed to cooperate with this particular UN inquiry as there is very little chance this commission will take an independent stance and deliver an unbiased verdict on the brutal Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Indeed, Israel has declined to cooperate with the other UN commission into the attack appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. It can be reasonably argued that Colombian and Israeli cooperation in this matter is a further step towards jointly “doing more in terms of the fight against terrorism” (to paraphrase Bermudez’ remarks in Israel).

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist currently based in Amman, Jordan, blogs on Israel/Palestine at alexbkane.wordpress.com, where this post originally appeared.Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Ron Paul blasts ‘transparently one-sided’ Congress on Israel/Palestine

Jul 07, 2011

Philip Weiss

Ron Paul’s statement yesterday on that Congressional resolution opposing the Palestinian statehood initiative in the U.N. and opposing Hamas-Fatah reconciliation:

Mr. Speaker I rise in opposition to this resolution. While I certainly share the hope for peace in the Middle East and a solution to the ongoing conflict, I do not believe that peace will result if we continue to do the same things while hoping for different results.  The US has been involved in this process for decades, spending billions of dollars we do not have, yet we never seem to get much closer to a solution. I believe the best solution is to embrace non-interventionism, which allows those most directly involved to solve their own problems.

This resolution not only further entangles the US in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, but it sets out the kind of outcome the United States would accept in advance. While I prefer our disengagement from that conflict, I must wonder how the US expects to be seen as an “honest broker” when it dictates the terms of a solution in such a transparently one-sided manner.

In the resolution before us, all demands are made of only one side in the conflict. Do supporters of this resolution really believe the actors in the Middle East and the rest of the world do not notice? We do no favors to the Israelis or to the Palestinians when we involve ourselves in such a manner and block any negotiations that may take place without US participation. They have the incentives to find a way to live in peace and we must allow them to find that solution on their own.  As always, congressional attitudes toward the peace process in the Middle East reveal hubris and self-importance. Only those who must live together in the Middle East can craft a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.

Israel deports five activists and bars journalists from boarding plane in preparation for ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign

Jul 07, 2011

Adam Horowitz

Israel is gearing up for the “Welcome the Palestine” campaign. Five activists have already been detained and deported, and El Al Airlines barred two Dutch journalists from boarding a flight from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv to cover the protest and the flotilla to Gaza.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, a professor at Bethlehem University, author of Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment and international coordinator for the Palestine Justice Network which has helped organize the protest, writes about the importance of the”Welcome to Palestine Campaign” and how it fits into the history of Palestinian popular resistance for the Electronic Intifada:

This week, hundreds of activists plan on challenging Israel’s apartheid apartheid by flying in to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv as part of the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative. Heraclitis once stated that “There is nothing permanent except change,” and indeed human history is a chronicle of change — and the Welcome to Palestine project follows that tradition.

No change happens without challenging the status quo. Few people reflect even on modern history to understand how we achieved things like civil rights in the US, enlightenment in Europe, ending slavery, giving women the right to vote and establishing democracies around the world. All these changes from an unjust situation (thestatus quo) required the agency of mass movement.

On our horizon today is of course the mass movement of Arab peopleyearning for freedom from decades of dictatorships — many of those structures created and supported by the West.

Rebellion against injustice of course is also a hallmark of the struggle against apartheid in Palestine, a struggle that can be traced back to the first Zionist colony built 131 years ago and that took a giant leap forward by the 1948 founding of the racist state of Israel as a culmination and embodiment of this colonial venture, and the subsequent expansion of this state in 1967 to occupy the rest of Palestine . . .

Our next step toward freedom is a series of events are the plans taking place between 9-16 when hundreds of men, women and children are planning to fly into Tel Aviv to visit us in Palestine. The international community must recognize our basic human right to receive visitors from abroad and support the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment.

With the delay in the sailing of the Freedom Flotilla, these two initiatives may coincide temporally. As Israel works to isolate us, we invite you to join with us openly and proudly as the decent human beings you are. We do not accept the attempts to keep us apart or to force you to speak less than with the honesty you are used to.

Guests will enjoy Palestinian hospitality and a program of networking, fellowship and volunteer peace work in Palestinian towns and villages. Local activist groups in Europe and in the United States have organized delegations and hundreds have booked their flights. Once here, much can be done. But whether you volunteer or participate in any of these initiatives or any others, the key word is participation. There are ongoing revolutions everywhere against tyranny. Human spirits cannot be enslaved forever. We must all join in the struggle for freedom because silence is indeed complicity.

Read the entire article “Challenging Israeli apartheid — by plane” here.

In response to biased IDF report on Gaza, the International Red Cross says ‘the situation is grave and serious’

Jul 07, 2011

Johanna Nouri

In late April the spokesman of the Israeli army (IDF) published an interview with Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the Red Cross in Gaza. According to this article Redmatn says that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, life seems to be reasonably normal, products are available in shops, there are restaurants and even a beautiful beach.

The Israeli press (such as the Jerusalem PostHaaretz and Arutz Sheva) as well as numerous predominantly pro-Israel websites reported on the interview. Many were eager to state that the reports available up to now, not only by the Red Cross but by the UN and the World Bank for instance as well, were grossly exaggerating when describing the situation of Gaza, as illustrated by headlines such as ‘The Red Cross admits…’. As if by magic the Red Cross transformed from an organization sometimes accused of being biased into the messenger of the truth.

As is often the case, reality is not that simple. The article was published by a party in the conflict: the IDF. The message seems to run counter to recent publications from the same source (the Red Cross, or rather: the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross), which show a very worrying picture of Gaza.

That’s a situation demanding counterchecking the information, which is exactly what I did when I contacted ICRC’s Jerusalem office, which is responsible for promoting compliance with humanitarian law in Israel and the Occupied Territories. I asked them to comment on the statements made by their employee Mathilde De Riedmatten. ICRC spokesman Cecilia Goin emailed me from Jerusalem:

‘the article was edited and therefore, does not reflect ICRC’s view of the current humanitarian situation in Gaza. Independently from what has been reported, what is important is that the situation is grave and serious.’

Why she refers to the situation as ‘grave and serious’ is made clear by what she wrote more:

‘Regarding the article published by IDF web site please be aware that it contains many inaccuracies and, as such, does not fully reflect ICRC’s view of the situation in Gaza. The life of 1.5 million people in the Strip is far from being a normal and dignified life. The extremely high unemployment rate, the lack of freedom of movement, the problematic access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation, as well as the continuous threat of violence affects the lives of Gaza people on a daily basis. In addition, an almost absolute ban on exports and limited imports hamper a sustainable economic recovery, which is essential to any viable development.’

In The Netherlands tv station PowNed and others mentioned the article. In Dutch parliament the new ‘Red Cross position’ was raised by the spokespersons of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party and the ruling Party for Freedom and Democracy in a debate about the upcoming second Gaza Flotilla. The Freedom Party’s spokesperson went so far as to say that there is no suffering because the Gazans’ life expectancy is good. The line of argumentation was simple: if there is no humanitarian crisis, there is no need for humanitarian assistance and therefore an aid convoy would not be necessary. Foreign Affairs secretary Uri Rosenthal was apparently referring to the IDF article when he stated that the Red Cross does not label the situation in Gaza as an absolute emergency. And other parties’ spokesmen did not give the impression that they checked the article at the source: the Red Cross as well.

Had they done so, then just like Joop (Dutch opinion site) editor Hasna El Maroudi they would have found that The Netherlands Red Cross distances itself from the IDF reports. Had they verified, then the ICRC spokeswoman would have told them that the IDF article contains many inaccuracies and was edited, and as such does not reflect ICRC’s view on the current humanitarian situation in Gaza. A situation that ICRC still characterizes as ‘ grave and serious’, ‘far from being a normal and dignified life’.

The spokeswoman pointed out to me a couple of recent ICRC articles that do portray the alarming humanitarian situation in Gaza accurately. Three months ago the organization reported that despite the easing of the closure and the partial lifting of export bans, continued restrictions on the movement of people and difficulties in importing building materials still hamper sustainable economic recovery and dash any hope of leading a normal and dignified life. According to the World Bank 2010 data, the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high at 39 per cent.

Gaza is still facing a drugs shortage and as well as a serious electricity shortage. Power cuts during treatment puts dialysis patients at great risk. This could be treated by medication, but the necessary drugs are not available. Patients with other chronic diseases such as haemophilia and cancer are experiencing the same problems. Power fluctuations take a heavy toll on medical machines, resulting in frequent breakdowns. To make the necessary repairs spare parts are needed, but there is a shortage and import takes several months. Gaza’s one and only power station experiences the same problem: it was partially destroyed by Israeli shelling in 2006 and the building materials required to carry out repairs are not allowed in. Backup generators require scarce fuel. Nevertheless 43 thousand patients received emergency surgical care or treatment at the Artificial Limbs and Polio Centre, mainly thanks to the ICRC, which in 2010 supplied 242 tonnes of drugs, disposables, consumables, spare parts, training and technical assistance to the health ministry for hospitals in Gaza.

The water and sanitation infrastructure is problematic as well. Every day, thousands of liters of untreated wastewater are dumped into the Wadi Gaza. The water snakes through densely populated urban areas on its way to the sea, jeopardizing the health of the population and exposing them to parasites such as amoebae and giardia. On top of that, the wastewater is contaminating the coastline and endangering biodiversity. The quality of drinking water is deteriorating rapidly, with nitrate and chloride levels up to seven times above the level set by the World Health Organization. Much of the water from the Gaza aquifer is undrinkable and gradually becoming more saline. Rehabilitation of the water and sanitation infrastructure requires spare parts and building materials such as cement, steel and water pipes which are still scarce because of the restrictions on the import of construction materials.

Mathilde De Riedmatten of the ICRC in Gaza is concerned about the fact that the one and a half million people in Gaza are unable to live a normal and dignified life as well. In an interview on the ICRC website published mid-May she not only notes the abovementioned factors, but also points to the structural violence and its impact on the civilian population of Gaza. Her statements include the following:

‘Gaza is more dependent than ever on outside aid. For young people – fully 50 per cent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are under 18 years of age – there is a crushing lack of prospects, and it is a constant struggle for them to maintain hope in the future.

The strict limits on imports and the almost absolute ban on exports imposed by Israel make economic recovery impossible. The unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 40 per cent. It will remain ruinously high as long as the economy fails to recover. This difficult situation exacerbates the considerable hardship already caused by the collapse of previously prosperous branches of the economy.

Over the years, access to land suitable for agriculture has been eroded by restrictions imposed in the areas near Israel and the levelling of land and destruction of trees by the Israel Defense Forces. To make matters worse, the high price or even total lack of some farm inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, etc., and the lack of export opportunities have weighed heavily on the primary sector. In addition, many fishermen have lost their livelihood as a result of Israel reducing the area at sea within which it allows fishing to three nautical miles from Gaza’s coastline.

Because Israel retains effective control over the Gaza Strip, in particular by maintaining authority over the movement of people and goods, it must fulfil its obligations under the law of occupation and allow the civilian population to lead as normal a life as possible.’

Johanna Nouri is a Dutch blogger, married to a Jordanian. Her main topics are the Middle East, the humitarian impact of war and violence, migration and islam. She works as a project manager, trainer and consultant in non-governmental organizations for war trauma and refugees.

Steve Walt edges ever closer to… One democratic state

Jul 07, 2011

Philip Weiss

The most noble work inside the American establishment on our issue right now is to challenge our leaders on the two-state solution and say, How do you see that coming to pass? As I frequently say, I’m not against Partition (aren’t they about to do Partition in the Sudan?) but on what terms? What has Israel left the Palestinians with? Does it mean anything to you that Israel keeps stealing water and land and houses every day, and denies Muslims access to Jerusalem?

At Foreign Policy, Steve Walt uses Akiva Eldar’s brave piece in Haaretz on the death of the two-state solution to try and break the news inside the U.S.– and savage Dennis Ross’s responsibility for two-state’s demise. This argument is a noble one because if our leaders start to change their minds on this question, and American Jews start to wake up to democracy, the likelihood of massive bloodshed decreases. Italic is mine:

In what other line of work could someone fail consistently for two decades and still have a job? If you were a baseball manager and your team didn’t make the playoffs for two decades running, you’d have been canned long ago. If you were a CEO and you lost money for twenty straight years, the Board of Directors or the shareholders would have hired a replacement long ago. If you were a dean or a university president and faculty quality, student achievement and the size of the endowment kept declining on your watch, it’s a safe bet you’d be told that your services were no longer required.

But when it comes to U.S. Middle East policy, there is hardly any accountability. And the tragic irony is that advisors like Ross — who make no secret of their deep attachment to Israel — have in fact done an excellent job of scuttling prospects for a two-state solution that is Israel’s best hope of long-term security and international acceptances. After all, the only alternatives to “two states for two peoples” are 1) a binational democracy (which means the end of Zionism), 2) another round of ethnic cleansing (which would be a crime against humanity), or 3) some form of apartheid, with the Palestinians confined to a shrinking set of disconnected enclaves under de facto Israel control. And let’s not forget that this affects us too: our one-sided mismanagement of the “peace process” is one of the main reasons the United States is so unpopular throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

If Eldar is right — and I obviously think he is — then the post-Oslo peace process is over and the two-state solution is either dead or on life support. And as I’ve said repeatedly, if that is the case, then which of the alternatives listed above will the United States support?Which of the various possible solutions to the long conflict over the Holy Land are consistent with America’s supposed commitment to democracy, individual freedom, and basic human rights? (Hint: the United States is a liberal democracy where all races, religions and ethnic group are supposed to enjoy equal rights). When the two-state option is dead and buried and everyone admits it, what will presidents and secretaries of state say when they are asked what alternative they now support? For that matter, how would Dennis Ross answer that question?

NYC launch party for ‘Fast Times in Palestine’

Jul 07, 2011

annie

No fair! Why is all the fun in NYC? The official book launch of Fast Times in Palestine is coming up tonight. And Pamela Olson has invited everyone!

Being an enamored fan of this book I mentioned I’d be following up with a few more excerpts. Before I leave you with another brief vignette I wanted to reiterate why I think this is an important book. It’s extremely accessible and I don’t use that word lightly. Its inviting pace coupled with historical data and personal stories make this a book that will resonate with a multitude of readers whether young, old or in between. It brought back lots of memories for me (lying in bed hearing Israeli rockets or whatever it is they shoot off the coast at night to remind you of their constant presence) and tugged at my heart, but this book also makes for a perfect primer for those otherwise reluctants (like friends or parents that just don’t ‘get it’). Because Olson’s voice is young, fresh and inquisitive she doesn’t just sway, she touches and captures.

First the party invitation, then an excerpt from the book:

Join me and host Noor Elashi for the OFFICIAL BOOK LAUNCH of Fast Times in Palestine! The program will include a presentation, interview, readings, Q&A, book signing, lots of laughs, and FREE Mediterranean Food (including mini-musakhan, my favorite Palestinian dish).

Time:
Thursday, July 7 at 7pm

Place:
The New School’s fabulous Wollman Hall
65 West 11th St. (at 6th Avenue), 5th Floor
New York, NY

RSVP: Facebook or projectpalestinenyc@gmail.com

Below is a segment from Invasion Party:

Yasmine invited an even mix of foreigners and Palestinians to our house one evening. It was a going away party for a Norwegian woman who was taking a new job in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, the weather was perfect, and we congregated in out little overgrown front yard under a fig tree to drink Taybeh beer and eat barbecue chicken pizza from a restaurant called Angelo’s.

We were still talking about the Wall when we heard a sudden commotion. I glanced up and saw Yasmine ushering guests into the house as if an unexpected thunderstorm had broken out. Behind her an Israeli army Jeep, its yellow lights flashing, pulled up next to our house. Yasmine shut the door once everyone was inside. Soon we began hearing muffled explosions. Our guest took it in stride for the most part, vainly making guesses as to how far away each explosion was and what kind of damage it might have done.

I was terrified. Israeli soldiers had just killed a professor and his son in Nablus with no repercussions. Professor Salah had been joking around with his family, assuring them everyone would be OK, just minutes before he and his son were killed. If the Israeli army bombed our house, they could probably blame faulty-top secret intelligence, or claim a wanted man was hiding among us, and that would be that. For all I knew there might actually be a wanted man in a neighbor’s house, and he might get flushed out and seek shelter in ours.

The American man turned to me. “This is odd. Incursions like this are pretty rare in Ramallah these days.”
“Why?”
“Well, this is where the centers of power are located, and most of the press and ex-pats. The foreign aid money flows thru Ramallah, so it attracts the most qualified and connected people. If business is good here, it gives us less of an incentive to rock the boat.”

The army Jeep stayed next to our house for the rest of the night, blocking access to the main road. I stayed up with our trapped guests as long as I could, then I went to my room and tried to figure out where I could put my bed so it would have the slimmest profile in case a bullet happened to slice through a window. I soon gave up because I was too scared to do anything but pass the window quickly and lay down on my bed as flat as I could. I woke several times with a clod sweat, groggy with dreams, half expecting the house to blow up at any minute.

The Jeep was gone the next morning, and so were our guests. When I got to work, I learned that six people had been arrested, three of whom worked for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. All were taken to unknown places. Arafat’s compound was surrounded again. Someone said two houses were demolished, several doors blown down, and two children injured. Details were sketchy because a curfew had been in place during the incursion, which meant anyone who ventured outdoors risked being shot on site.

For more information about the book, click here.

To read Chapter One of Fast Timesclick here.

To purchase the book on Amazon.com, click here.

To purchase the eBook, click here.

Olsen has also been helping the Gaza Freedom team edit their book and turn it into an eBook, check it out

[This post updates the original party announcement 2 days back]

How many synagogues will give their blessing to July 15 march?

Jul 07, 2011

Philip Weiss

OK, so on July 15 there are going to be marches for freedom all over Palestine. And in Israel they’re going to have a solidarity march that writer Yael Sternhell compares to southern whites marching against segregation. Sternhell’s point sent one reader running to this: a 1965 sermon by Rabbi William Frankel at a synagogue in Wilmette, Illinois, after he took part in the march in Montgomery, Alabama.

I excerpt the sermon to make one point: Look how easy it was for American Jews to come out against segregation in the ’60s. (And yes, mom, there was self-interest at work). How many synagogues are standing up now for freedom?

Harry Truman called the March “silly.” It was not silly. The Montgomery March was a historic symbol.Unless one has lived in the deep South, one cannot appreciate the full impact of that event. For 30,000 men and women, black and white, to march on what was once the capital of the Confederacy over which the Confederate flag and not the stars and stripes still flies; to hold a mass meeting for three-and-a-half hoursbeneath the windows of the Governor of Alabama; to sing “We shall overcome” and to hear certain that thehistoric significance of the moment was not lost on the power structure of the South. It has brought to theforefront some of the responsible white elements and even the attitude of the Governor has changedsomewhat in recent days. History was on the march that day and as Dr. King said “No one ain’t going to turnus around.”

Allow me to add a personal note. I have been pleased by the numerous calls and letters which I received in support of my trip. During the evening prior to my departure for Alabama, a Synagogue officer called me toinform me, in the name of the Board of Directors, that I would be going south not merely as an individual but as a representative of my congregation. This was a most gratifying gesture.I hope that these sentiments will continue when the Civil Rights struggle moves…

Do you deny Israel’s right to exist in a lowcut red dress?

Jul 07, 2011

annie

File under: “I thought I’d seen it all.” Dimi Reider introduces us to one of the most outlandish (“excruciatingly bad“) attempts at hasbara I’ve ever seen.

+972 was able to confirm through a source the video was commissioned by the GOI.

,

Is this for real? Your guess is as good as mine. This is so embarrassingly counterproductive one feels it simply has to be satire. But then again, so is our foreign policy.

Reider’s assessment of the video is right on, I recommend the link.

(Hat tip ddi)

Update: Benjamin Doherty has an update at Electronic Intifada giving some background on the video:

[Dimi Reider] identified the actress as Aimee Neistat. Max Blumenthal looked further and found that “Neistat is a Haaretz employee who translates Hebrew content into English.” She also wrote articles for The Jerusalem Post between 2007 and 2010.

The Electronic Intifada has learned that Zed Films produced the short video. Gil Roeh, the founder of Zed Films, wrote the script. The actor in the film is named Björn Nordholm. These facts were on the Zed Films web site as “recent news” on 22 June 2011 but have since been scrubbed. The Google cache of the pagestates:

“Rorschach test” video

We finished filming to “Rorschach test” video Staring Aimee Neistat and Bjorn Nordholm, Script: Gil Roeh.. Editing now. The video we’ll [sic] be out soon..

Israelis are like the whites in Alabama in the 60s (Not in the NYT, in Haaretz)

Jul 07, 2011

Philip Weiss

A sorrow and a pity. That the New York Times and CBS are not Every Day banging the tocsin of freedom, that august American media institutions do not have the character or ability to say what Haaretz reminds us, Israel/Palestine is Jim Crow. Yael Sternhell, writing a piece that should be on the front page of the Times. And writing it lonely: For Israeli society is against Sternhell in her call for support of Palestinian freedom. I’m told this is a landmark piece inside Israel, Sternhell is a former news anchor and the daughter of Zeev Sternhell.

We, the Jews who live in Israel, participate each day, each hour, in the denial of basic rights to Palestinian citizens, in the perpetuation of the settlements and the occupation. We’re in a similar position to that of many whites in the United States in the 1960s.

Most of us find it hard to support the Palestinian struggle for independence, whether out of laziness, indifference or a basic loathing of those we’ve been told all our lives are a necessary enemy. Most of us find it hard to stand up to the story told by the government and most of the media that the Palestinian declaration of independence is a disaster for Israel, exactly as most whites in the South saw the granting of voting rights to blacks as the end of civilization.

Most of us find it hard to believe that it’s possible to live together in peace, just as those whites in Alabama found it hard to imagine life in a free society in which members of all races have the same rights.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Mondoweiss Online Newsletter

“Sprirt Of Rachel Corrie” docks in Egypt, cargo transferred to Gaza.

NOVANEWS

 

“Sprirt Of Rachel Corrie” docks in Egypt, cargo transferred to Gaza. 

Today, after seven weeks at sea, the “Spirit of Rachel Corrie” (MV Finch) has been allowed to berth at the El Arish port in Egypt.

Members of our Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) who are in El Arish to oversee the operation, say that they have unloaded the PVC pipes, weighing some 32 tonnes onto seven trucks and it would be sent to Gaza immediately.

Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, President of the Perdana Global Peace Organisation said, “I wish to express my gratitude to the Egyptian Prime Minister Dr Essam Sharaf whom I met during my trip to Cairo last week for helping to expedite the whole process. It is my fervent hope that the new Egyptian Government will continue to support our cause in extending assistance to Palestinians especially in Gaza who have been placed under illegal siege by the Tel Aviv regime since 2007. On our part, we will continue to be committed in opposing and challenging the siege that is nothing less than an act of genocide by the Israeli regime on the whole population of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Posted in EgyptComments Off on “Sprirt Of Rachel Corrie” docks in Egypt, cargo transferred to Gaza.

Greece halts Gaza-bound French boat, Dignite El Karameh.

NOVANEWS

The Greek coast guard on the island of Crete has blocked a small French boat carrying activists to the impoverished Gaza Strip, says an organizer. Claude Leostic with the French boat Dignite El Karameh said the vessel “was taken to Sitia in Crete by the Greek coast guard after being stopped in a nearby port while it was refueling,” AFP reported on Thursday. “The authorities are stopping the boat from setting sail for various administrative reasons,” Leostic added. Dignite El Karameh, which is carrying 12 pro-Palestinian activists, departed from a Greek port on Tuesday despite the country’s ban on Gaza-bound aid ships.

In a separate development, another French vessel’s attempt to sail to Gaza was also thwarted on Monday by the Greek coast guard officials. The Louise Michel, with 24 passengers on board, was circled by Greek vessels as it started up its engines. Greek coast guards on Monday also intercepted the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation) vessel with at least 50 pro-Palestinian activists onboard. More than 300 activists from 22 countries have signed up to participate in Freedom Flotilla II. Members of the flotilla say the Greek government is blocking the humanitarian convoy on behalf of the Israeli regime.

Greece has recently expanded its ties with Israel, as the two sides are currently holding preliminary talks on potential energy deals. The Israeli military attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, 2010, killing nine Turkish nationals aboard the Turkish-flagged MV Mavi Marmara, and injuring about 50 other activists that were part of the team on the six-ship convoy. The Tel Aviv regime has ordered the Israeli navy to use all possible means to prevent the incoming international aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip, but the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II organizers insist that they will push ahead with their aid mission.

Posted in GazaComments Off on Greece halts Gaza-bound French boat, Dignite El Karameh.

Greece asks IsraHell for teargas grenades

NOVANEWS

Ongoing riots throughout country, depletion of teargas inventory prompt Athens police to ask Israel for urgent delivery of crowd dispersal means

Itamar Eichner

Greek authorities contacted Israel this weekend with an urgent request for teargas grenades to be used against the wave of riots that broke out in the country last week, Athens police reported on Sunday.

A similar request was made to other countries, including Germany. It was reported that the country’s entire teargas grenade inventory of 4,600 units was depleted.
This is not the first time the Greeks turn to Israel in an emergency. Last year Israel sent 55 firefighters to aid the Greeks in putting out the massive wildfires that spread out through the country.
A few days ago the Greek president presented the Israeli firefighters with merit awards in a ceremony held at the Greek Embassy in Israel.

Sources from the Israeli Embassy in Greece said the request for teargas grenades had not yet been made, but that it was possible the Greeks turned to private Israeli companiesIsraeli sources said the request was understandable due to the geographical proximity of the two countries and the fact that the Greek government is aware of Israel’s large stock of crowd dispersal means including tear gas grenades. 

 

 

 

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Greece asks IsraHell for teargas grenades

Is Palestine Next?

NOVANEWS

Adam Shatz

 

You are invited to read this free essay from the London Review of Books.Register for free with no commitment and enjoy seven days of unlimited access to the LRB website and archive of over 12,500 essays and reviews.

No one in the Arab world was watching the news more closely than the Palestinians during the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The first emotion they experienced was disbelief; the second – particularly when they saw Palestinian flags being raised in Tahrir Square – was relief that they were no longer alone. Arab lethargy has been a virtual article of faith among Palestinians, who felt that their neighbours had betrayed them in 1948 and had done nothing to help them since. The Palestinian national movement, which rose to prominence under Yasir Arafat’s leadership in the late 1960s, was defined in large part by its belief that Palestinians had to rely on themselves. Mahmoud Darwish was not the only one to note that during the siege of Beirut in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon in an attempt to crush the PLO, tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv but the Arabs were too busy watching the World Cup Final to take to the streets.

The old Arab order was buried in Tahrir Square. Young revolutionaries rose up against a regime which for three decades had stood in the way of Palestinian aspirations. It seemed too good to be true and some pundits in Palestine wondered whether it wasn’t an American conspiracy. But it wasn’t, and Palestinians began to re-examine what had been one of their most disabling convictions: the belief that the US controls the Middle Eastern chessboard, and that the Arab world is powerless against America and Israel. ‘There has been a kind of epistemic break,’ a young Palestinian said to me. The excitement among Palestinians sometimes seems to be mixed with unease, even envy: the spotlight has been stolen from them. As a Hamas councilwoman in Nablus put it, ‘For 60 years they were watching us. Now we are watching them.’ But Palestinians have prided themselves on being the vanguard of protest in the Arab world and they will not be content to remain spectators for long.

In the absence of a state and an army, Darwish wrote in one of his best-known poems, Palestinians live in a ‘country of words’. The conversation that they are having is only beginning to translate into action. What was clear to me during the three weeks I spent recently in the West Bank is that the Arab revolutions have emboldened them to ask for more, both from Israel and from themselves, even if that means preparing for a much longer struggle.

The most immediate consequence of the Arab Spring in Palestine has been the end – or rather the beginning of the end – of what Palestinians call the Division: the grim struggle between Fatah and Hamas that broke out after Hamas’s victory in the 2006 elections and its pre-emptive takeover a year later of the Gaza Strip. Ending the Division has long been a popular demand, especially in Gaza, but neither party has made it a priority. Little divides Fatah and Hamas when it comes to a solution (both support the 1967 borders) or, for that matter, to the resistance (neither is pursuing it).

Still, both sides had plenty of reasons to maintain their separate strongholds, above all their desire to retain their monopolies of political power, guns and money – whether it comes in foreign aid packages or through tunnels. Hamas was in no rush to sign an agreement that would involve unacceptable compromises, such as giving up control of security in Gaza, or recognising Israel. Fatah was in even less of a hurry, since the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority benefited richly from the Western backing it received for keeping Hamas in its place, policing citizens of the West Bank on behalf of Israel, and pursuing negotiations with the Jewish state.

The Sulta – as the PA is known in the West Bank – was convinced that negotiations were the Palestinians’ only option, and the Americans insisted that negotiations were impossible if Hamas entered the government. Talks between Fatah and Hamas to repair the Division became a futile exercise, brokered as they were by an Egyptian government which, in concert with the US and Israel, was doing its best to prop up the PA and to weaken Hamas. A flurry of local petitions was drafted in support of reconciliation, but Mahmoud Abbas made sure they went nowhere. When advocates of reconciliation set up a stand in the centre of Nablus to gather signatures a few years ago, a member of PA security destroyed the table they were sitting at. ‘What’s this unity appeal?’ Abbas sneered when another group supporting reconciliation came to his office. One of them started to talk about the prisoners held in PA jails. Abbas apparently flew into a rage, ‘shouting as if he were a little boy and claiming he didn’t have any political prisoners’.

That meeting was in 2009. The Egyptian revolution has upended the calculations that made the Division such a good investment for Abbas. The first foreign minister in Egypt’s transitional government, Nabil al-Araby, made it clear when he took office that Egypt’s policies on Palestine would be overhauled. Egypt would open the Rafah crossing to provide relief for the people of Gaza, it would promote Palestinian unity, not the interests of a single faction, and it would no longer be quite so deferential to Israel in such matters as the sale of natural gas and relations with Iran.
Abbas reasoned that the regional balance of forces had shifted in favour of unity. The Americans couldn’t publicly oppose a deal between Hamas and Fatah if they wanted to maintain good relations with Egypt, and cutting off aid to the PA was no longer a realistic option: in the eyes of the Europeans, the PA was simply too big to fail. And so, where Abbas’s own people couldn’t persuade him, the Egyptians did. The night I arrived in Ramallah, Wafa Abdel-Rahman, the host of a political talk show, told me how it happened. In April, Azzam al-Ahmad, a high-ranking Fatah official, was in Cairo when Egyptian intelligence asked him if he’d be willing to meet Abu Marzook, the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau in Damascus, who was in town for a medical procedure. Abbas gave him the green light, and two days later, under Egyptian mediation, an agreement was cobbled together. The announcement stunned Palestinians, including members of Fatah’s central committee: Abbas hadn’t bothered to inform his own people of the talks.

I went to see Taysir Nasrallah, a Fatah official who in 2007 was one of the authors of the Nablus Reconciliation Statement, a document Abbas had previously ignored but which has now been adopted as part of the Cairo agreement. He looked bemused when I asked him about the importance of the demonstrations in March organised by young Palestinian activists on Facebook, which were described by some Western journalists as the dawn of a new era in Palestinian politics. ‘The PA gave them tents and let them sing, but it was the regional equation that made the difference,’ he said. When Abbas lost Mubarak, and then Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, angered his Syrian hosts by refusing to support their crackdown, Fatah and Hamas were forced to look to each other. ‘I am afraid this won’t be a real reconciliation because the reasons for it are external,’ Nasrallah said. He sees little change so far in Nablus: opponents of the PA remain in jail, and Hamas members don’t dare wave their flags at demonstrations or take out large amounts of cash at ATMs for fear of arrest. (After the reconciliation ceremony in Cairo, I was told, Hamas leaders called men who had been shot in the knees during the seizure of power in Gaza and offered them financial compensation.

‘They weren’t offering to punish those who committed the crimes,’ my source says. ‘No one is talking about justice.’) Within days of the unity agreement, Israel withheld funds from taxes and customs from the PA to protest at Hamas’s inclusion in a provisional unity government (they were later released, under American pressure); when I met Nasrallah he still hadn’t received his monthly pay cheque. ‘We’re two weeks into the month, and 180,000 people don’t have their salaries. How is this reconciliation for real if I’m not paid? I don’t see reconciliation, and I don’t see my money.’

Nasrallah and I drove to a convention centre in downtown Nablus, where, in a ballroom painted pink and lavender, hundreds of Palestinian notables had gathered for a lunch to celebrate the reconciliation. The host was Munib al-Masri, the ‘Palestinian Rothschild’, whose fortune is estimated to account for a third of Palestine’s economy. (He is the West Bank’s largest private employer.) A tall, wiry man in his late seventies, Masri was making the rounds, pressing the flesh and posing for photographers. He is said to have political ambitions. His palace (he calls it the Palestine House), an Italianate villa with Versailles-like gardens and a collection of Picassos, could be seen from the terrace, looming over the hills of Nablus. There was a lavish spread: platters of lamb on heaps of rice, sprinkled with almonds and served with yogurt.

An army of waiters danced around the room serving plates of kunafa and little cups of coffee. Everyone from Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank was there, but members of different factions sat at separate tables, and kept one another at arm’s length – except, of course, during the photo-ops. I noticed Nabil Shaath, a veteran Fatah official and Arafat loyalist, beaming in a natty business suit, having his photograph taken beside Aziz Dweik of Hamas, the white-bearded, grinning Islamist who became speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, the last time elections were held in Palestine. ‘Look at the way they’re smiling,’ Nasrallah pointed out. ‘You can see in their eyes that they’re lying.’

The sun was setting as I took a taxi back to Ramallah. ‘See the settlements?’ my driver said. ‘They have the hills, we just have the plains. They have stolen not only our land but our lives.’ He wasn’t impressed by the unity agreement. ‘They are fighting over chairs.’ This is a common sentiment: disgust with the factions runs deep in both the West Bank and Gaza. The unity agreement, as one close observer put it, is ‘built on landmines’, and a question mark hangs over the future of Abbas’s prime minister, Salam Fayyad. Abbas, backed strongly by the West, wants Fayyad to remain in office, while Hamas – particularly the leadership in Gaza – distrusts him because of his extensive security co-operation with Israel. On the other hand, Fayyad himself has said that he would sooner step down than jeopardise Palestinian unity.

But even if he did resign, that would still leave an even bigger landmine in place: the US and Israel’s continued opposition – quite fierce opposition – to the inclusion of Hamas in a unity government, despite Hamas’s agreement not to oppose the resumption of peace talks. Indeed, the US pressure on Abbas to keep Fayyad no matter the cost may be a way of scuttling the unity agreement without anything being said in public. It will, however, be risky for Abbas to abandon the reconciliation process, particularly if he is seen as having done so under American and Israeli pressure. After all, Palestinians can hardly fight the occupation if they are fighting each other.

And Abbas can hardly go to the UN in September and request formal recognition of the Palestinian state – as he has announced he will – if there are two Palestinian leaderships pursuing opposed agendas. The declaration of statehood is the culmination of Fayyad’s project to build state institutions and promote neoliberal ‘reform’ while still under occupation. ‘The mission has been accomplished,’ he recently told Haaretz: the PA has done everything the world has asked of it, having restored law and order and established the infrastructure of statehood. Many Palestinians ridicule Fayyad’s claim – ‘instead of a state, we got a ministry in charge of garbage disposal’ – but the ball is now in the world’s court to recognise Palestine as a state.
Abbas’s plan to make his declaration in September is a gamble. Fayyad has long questioned the tactical wisdom of declaring statehood unilaterally while the occupation remains deeply entrenched. Palestinians, he warns, could find themselves in a ‘Mickey Mouse’ state, recognised by the world but without the sovereignty a state requires, if the US uses its power in the General Assembly to prevent Palestine from getting the votes it needs to attain full UN membership. In his speech on the Middle East in May, Obama echoed the Israeli view that declaring statehood is an unacceptable form of unilateralism. If Palestine isn’t recognised, some Palestinian officials have hinted, there could be unrest, even a third intifada.

The statehood declaration matters to the leadership, which wants the fruits of diplomatic recognition, and hopes to sell that recognition as a victory for the national cause. But it doesn’t stir much enthusiasm in the West Bank. One reason is that it’s a toothless strategy: ‘Who cares if we get recognised as a state if the Israelis can still block the roads?’ Another is that the declaration sticks to the modest, 1967 parameters at the very moment the Netanyahu government is building a Greater Israel. If Israel continues to act as if 1948 never ended, and shows no sign of wanting to reach a compromise on the 1967 borders, many Palestinians say, why shouldn’t we call for more too?

And there’s yet another reason for the lack of interest in the declaration: as the prospect of a genuine – a sovereign and independent – Palestinian state has receded, another discourse has returned, one with much deeper roots in the Palestinian political imagination than talk of statehood, and much closer to the ideas that inspired the Arab uprisings. It’s often forgotten that until the mid-1970s, Palestinians were looking not to establish a state but to achieve ‘national liberation’, to restore their rights in the land from which they had been driven – beginning with the right of return. Palestinians rarely talk about statehood, but they often talk about their rights; statehood is viewed, at best, as a means to achieve them. And because they don’t often talk about statehood, it seems unlikely that the failure to win recognition at the UN would be enough to spark an uprising. Any sign of serious unrest, moreover, would not be viewed kindly by the PA, which would do everything in its power to prevent a third intifada that might sweep it away.

Indeed, the PA already uses the American-trained National Security Force to undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation. (Hamas, in Gaza, has cracked down on protest even more harshly.) ‘They are the police of the occupation,’ Myassar Atyani, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told me. ‘Their leadership is not Palestinian, it is Israeli.’ On 15 May – the day Palestinians commemorate their Nakba – more than a thousand Palestinians, mainly young men, marched to the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and clashed with Israeli soldiers; but when Atyani tried to lead a group of demonstrators to the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus, PA security forces stopped them.

The road from Ramallah to Qalandia is in Area C, which is not controlled by the PA; the road from Nablus to Hawara is in Area A, which is. And protesters who have attempted to march to settlements along PA-controlled roads have also found themselves turned back. It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land. This is, not surprisingly, a source of considerable anger and shame in the West Bank. The question is whether Palestinians will grow exasperated enough to confront the Sulta.

Atyani, like a number of people I met in Nablus, predicts a third intifada in the next two years, but the spirit of insurgency is hard to detect in Ramallah, the centrepiece of the Fayyad plan for state-building and economic growth. Built with an infusion of foreign aid and investment from wealthy Palestinians in the diaspora, the PA’s capital is a bustling little bubble of chic restaurants and espresso lounges, telecoms companies and NGOs, where revolutionaries have reinvented themselves as power-point professionals, the Israeli army seldom intrudes and where, so long as you don’t wander beyond Area A, you can almost forget that Palestine is still occupied. Being the beneficiary of a PA salary – those 180,000 salaries trickle down to nearly a million dependants in the West Bank – is a powerful incentive to steer clear of political dissent; so is the easy credit Fayyad has made available.

Fayyad, who worked for the IMF before becoming Arafat’s finance minister in 2001, is a technocrat with little feel for the Palestinian street, but he has won some respect, even from those who see him as America’s man in Ramallah, by clamping down on the officials whose housing and expenses were being covered by the PA, and by building new roads and other infrastructure. Fayyad’s critics call him a ‘good manager of the occupation’, a ‘builder of apartheid roads’, ‘the sugar daddy who got us hooked on aid’, and it’s all true: but the improvements are seductive and, until the bubble pops, few will grumble.

The price of this semblance of normality – and of the $1.7 billion dollars in annual aid over which Fayyad has almost complete discretionary power – is the deepened security co-operation with Israel, which many Palestinians find difficult to stomach, and the creation of a police state; but it is a price most are prepared to pay, for now. ‘It will take a strong shock – a Bouazizi – before Palestinians rise up again,’ said my friend Souad, a journalist in Ramallah. When they do, she says, the third intifada will look more like the first than the second. In the West, the two intifadas blur into a single image, but in Palestine they are seen as distinct, even opposed. The First Intifada, between 1987 and 1993, was a popular insurrection that took the form largely of demonstrations, strikes and the non-payment of taxes; the most lethal – and most symbolic – weapon was the stone.
When the Second Intifada began in late September 2000 following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, it looked much like the first, but Israel’s response did not: the IDF, by its own account, fired more than a million bullets during the first few weeks. Before long, the intifada had turned into an armed struggle; there was much talk of emulating Hizbullah’s campaign of guerrilla warfare, which only a few months earlier had driven the IDF from Southern Lebanon.
The stone was exchanged for the gun and eventually the suicide bomb; the theatre of conflict was extended deep inside the Green Line, as ‘martyrdom operations’ were carried out in Israeli cities. The IDF responded with tanks and helicopters, but what was asymmetric warfare in Lebanon was a losing battle in Palestine. As militias with competing agendas clashed, young men with guns turned from resistance to brigandage and extortion, and people began referring to the intifada as an intifawda (fawda is Arabic for ‘chaos’). It was Fayyad who restored law and order. And, as Palestinians began to breathe more easily in the rubble of their cities, many came to see the intifada – or intifawda – as a perversion of West Bank political tradition. ‘Our way of resisting,’ Souad said, ‘is to throw stones or burn tyres, not the armed struggle – that’s the tradition of the Palestinians in Lebanon. The Second Intifada wasn’t a Palestinian intifada. Israel lured us into a fight we couldn’t win, and we took the bait.’

A consensus has been building over the last few years that the Palestinians need to recover the First Intifada’s model of (largely) non-violent mass mobilisation: a model that led to the recognition of the PLO by Israel, and which was later applied with even greater success in the Arab revolutions. In the early days of the Second Intifada it was almost impossible to speak out against the armed struggle unless you wanted to be called a collaborator. Advocates of non-violence such as Mustapha Barghouti and Hanan Ashrawi, who pointed out that the armed struggle played to Israel’s advantage, appeared to be out of step with the people.

Things have changed now. Suicide attacks on buses and restaurants in Israeli cities made it easier for Israel to equate the Palestinian struggle with jihadi terrorism, and Palestinian society paid a steep price in lives and infrastructure. After the rocket attacks of 2008 more than a thousand Palestinians were killed under Israeli bombardment in Operation Cast Lead – a ‘victory’ Hamas can’t afford to repeat. Mass, non-violent mobilisation, meanwhile, has revealed its power, not just in Tunis and Cairo, but also in Palestinian villages, where local people organised into ‘popular resistance committees’ have been fighting the confiscation of their farmland by settlers and by Israel’s so-called security fence. The popular committees have given people a taste of their own power, and in a few places they have forced Israel to move the wall a little closer to the 1967 lines; the victories are small, and often fleeting, but to Palestinian farmers they make a difference.

On a scorching day in mid-May, I went to Bilin, a village of about 1700 people west of Ramallah, to talk to Muhammad al-Khatib, a leader of its popular resistance committee. Every Friday after prayers for the last six years, a group of about a hundred people – villagers, international activists and radical Israelis – has marched to an electrified section of the security fence which cuts Bilin off from much of its farmland. As soon as they approach the fence, soldiers respond with tear gas, ‘sonic bombs’ and water cannons filled with ‘skunk’ water that leaves an odour of sewage on whatever it touches; when the stone-throwing begins, they shoot rubber bullets and sometimes live ammunition; often they set fire to crops. Until the protests began, Bilin had an unsavoury reputation among Palestinians as a centre of the Village Leagues, a collaborationist organisation set up in the early 1980s when Sharon was defence minister.

Today Bilin – along with the villages of Nilin, Budros and Nabi Saleh – is a heroic symbol of Palestinian defiance. In a recent speech in the Knesset, Netanyahu spoke about this dusty little village as if it were an existential threat to the Jewish state, mentioning a protest in Bilin when ‘a young girl was walking along holding a large symbolic key. Every Palestinian knows what that key symbolises. This is not the key to their homes in Bilin, Ramallah or Nablus. It is the key to our homes in Jaffa, Acre, Haifa and Ramle.’ That girl, Khatib told me proudly, was his six-year-old daughter.

Many of Bilin’s leaders have been jailed, and one has been killed; Khatib’s close ally Adib Abu Rahman was shot four times in the legs and imprisoned for more than a year. But the presence of Israeli activists imposes a certain restraint on the IDF, and builds trust with Palestinians, especially, Khatib said, ‘when people saw the Israelis getting injured’. The welcome extended to Israelis also sends a message; it shows, he said, that ‘we are not against the Israelis because they are Jewish, we are against the occupation.’ I asked him how he thought the conflict might be solved. ‘I am not for one state or for two states,’ he said, something you often hear from Palestinians. ‘I am for equality. The principles of equality and human rights are global principles, and they are no less applicable here than elsewhere.’ Bilin’s struggle is beginning to achieve results: in late June – four years after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the electric fence had to be moved – the IDF started to dismantle parts of it, though much of the village’s land will remain on the Israeli side of the border.

Khatib is a member of Fatah, which gave its official blessing to the work of the popular committees at its last congress two years ago. But members of all the factions, including Hamas, are involved in the committees, and the Hamas sympathisers I met were careful to praise non-violence: they have come to see its strategic if not its moral virtues. And though the PA has been keen to discourage protests it can’t control – particularly if they might lead to clashes with Israeli soldiers or settlers – Fayyad has set aside a small portion of the PA’s budget for the popular committees; he is a ‘friend of Bilin’, Khatib says, and occasionally shows up at the Friday demonstrations. Some Palestinians – particularly members of the Ramallah elite – dismiss the demonstrations as ineffectual rituals, a way for foreigners and Israelis to feel good about themselves. But however limited in scope, the work of the committees has shown that Palestinian military weakness can be converted into a strength.

‘If you want to beat Mike Tyson, you don’t invite him into the ring, you invite him to the chessboard,’ Husam Zomlot, the brash young deputy of Fatah’s Department of Foreign Relations, explained to me. ‘On Nakba Day a thousand people marched to Qalandia. Once we manage to get 100,000 people marching there, let’s see what Tyson will do. Will they use a nuclear bomb? Will they use their F-16s?’ Zomlot, who grew up in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza before studying at Birzeit University and the LSE, talks about strategy as if he were a sports coach. The ‘time of negotiations’, he claimed with obvious (though perhaps premature) relief, is over: even Abbas, he said, has realised that negotiations can go nowhere so long as Israel refuses to reach a deal based on the 1967 borders.

Having withdrawn from negotiations, Zomlot continued, the PLO’s plan is to pursue a long-term strategy of non-violent resistance on two parallel tracks: mass protests in villages and at checkpoints and settlements; and diplomatic and economic pressure tactics such as the statehood declaration at the UN and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a movement launched in 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank. BDS, inspired by the boycott of apartheid South Africa, is aimed not only at Israeli products but at institutions ranging from companies that supply weapons to the IDF to – more controversially – universities and cultural organisations; it has attracted increasing support among activists in the West, particularly on university campuses. The Israeli government has responded with a fierce international campaign, claiming BDS is an effort to ‘delegitimise’ the Jewish state; in his speech on the Middle East, Obama adopted the same language.

American disapproval would once have counted against these strategies, but America is no longer seen by the leadership to hold the keys to liberation. ‘Obama, the poor man, he got into the ring with Netanyahu and he got a bloody nose while the whole world was watching,’ Zomlot said. ‘Should we wait for America to come around? We’ve been waiting for 20 years. The depressing fact is that America is impotent.’ But the Arabs, at last, are not. ‘The region has changed irreversibly,’ Zomlot said, ‘but Israel still has the manual of 1948. The removal of the Arab regimes that stood in the way of the Palestinians is neutralising Israel’s machine. If the Israelis don’t change, they will end up as a tiny minority in a sea of Arab democracies. I hope they will come back to their senses before it’s too late.’ But it may already be too late for partition. ‘I’m afraid we’re beyond the two states,’ he said. ‘Drive to Nablus. It’s Israel – all the roads to Nablus. Look at the map: the settlements are the core, they have the highways and the infrastructure, while Palestinian cities are the periphery, connected by bypass roads.’

When we met, Zomlot had just returned from Washington after a failed mission to persuade senior officials in the State Department and National Security Council to support the Palestinian declaration of statehood. I asked him why he was devoting time to a project he no longer thought feasible. Statehood, he explained, was a tactic, not a goal. ‘The struggle to end injustice is cumulative,’ he said. ‘You don’t waste all the diplomatic gains that you’ve achieved in the last 40 years. If the two-state solution materialises, Palestinians will accept it. If it doesn’t, we move to a different strategy.

In any case, our strategic objective isn’t two states or one state, but to end the occupation, to ensure that the right of return is implemented, and to establish equal rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Whether these objectives are achieved in one state, or two states, or a hundred states, doesn’t matter to most Palestinians.’ Palestinians may not be strong enough yet to achieve their objectives, but at least they can block the Israelis from achieving theirs. ‘We have options. The apocalyptic option is to dissolve the PA, but we can also withdraw security co-operation, or transform the PA into a resistance authority. What’s happened in the last 20 years is not set in stone. It could be undone.’

Zomlot is clearly hoping that these tactics might restore some of Fatah’s credibility among Palestinians, but it may be that the Fatah era is drawing to a close. Hussam Khader is a Fatah leader who played an important part in both intifadas. During the First Intifada, he was burned with cigarettes in front of his parents, and deported to Southern Lebanon; during the Second Intifada, he spent six years in an Israeli prison for funnelling money from Hizbullah to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Like Taysir Nasrallah, he’s considered a leader of the so-called Fatah ‘young guard’, which fought Arafat’s corruption and called for internal democracy, but at 50 he’s no longer young, and is the first to admit that he and his comrades have to make way for others. ‘You see where Aziz is sitting?’ he said, pointing to a journalist who had joined us. ‘That’s where Hamas will be sitting once I pack up my office. That is the nature of history. After the reconciliation, this will be the era of Hamas, the era of Khaled Meshaal.’

Khader is not alone in this assessment. Meshaal, whom Mossad came very close to killing in a botched assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997, has a growing influence in Palestinian politics. Militant yet pragmatic, he has cultivated relationships not only with Iran and Syria but with Turkey, Qatar and the transitional government in Egypt. At 56 he is two decades younger than Abbas and bears a passing resemblance to George Clooney, but relative youth is not the only thing that sets him apart from Abbas. Where Abbas is an autocrat with little taste for democratic niceties, Meshaal is said to canvas opinion before reaching decisions. He is also a forceful and articulate speaker: it was his speech, not Abbas’s that most impressed at the Cairo reconciliation ceremony. Many Palestinians see him as a far less compromised figure, because of his refusal to recognise Israel while the occupation continues.

As Khader sees it, Hamas is using Gaza as a bargaining chip. ‘Hamas is holding on to Gaza in the same way they’re holding on to Gilad Shalit. They don’t want to keep Gaza for ever, they want to trade it for the bigger prize.’ Sources close to Hamas confirmed that it would be happy to give up Gaza – and even to assume a much reduced role in governing the Occupied Territories – if it could join the PLO on equitable terms and have members on its executive committee: whoever leads that committee leads Palestine. It also insists that it must keep the Qassam Brigades, its military wing, as insurance against Fatah as much as against Israel. Hamas, Khader said, is strong not just in the West Bank, but in the influential diaspora communities of Europe and North America. And it has received a powerful boost from the revolution in Egypt, where its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood could become the dominant bloc in parliament, if not the ruling party. However much the Israelis may loathe Hamas, he said, Hamas has more to offer them than Fatah: ‘Hamas can stop the rocket fire, Fatah can’t. And I am sure the US will open a dialogue with them, if only to weaken the jihadis.’

Less than two weeks after our meeting, Khader was back in jail: arrested in the middle of the night by the IDF, along with several members of Hamas, and placed in administrative detention, where he remains. But on the day I talked to him, he seemed surprisingly serene for a man contemplating the decline of his own political movement. ‘The stone never stopped the river,’ he said, sipping his coffee. ‘The stone will dissolve with time.’ Very Zen, I said. He laughed. ‘I am a student of history. Sooner or later, and it might take another hundred years, we will liberate all of Palestine, from the river to the sea. Don’t believe we will continue for ever in peace negotiations. These will fail, just as the leaves of the trees fall in autumn. Israel is like the British Mandate, like Babylon. These states eventually pass. Ninety per cent of Israelis are originally from outside Palestine. One day they will even leave Tel Aviv.’

The question of the refugees, off the table during the Oslo years, has reasserted itself. Few Palestinians I spoke to believe they will return to their ancestral homes in Israel, but the right of return, inscribed in UN Resolution 194, is considered sacred, and the passions it stirs are more intense than ever. Several Palestinians told me they had no desire to return, but none would say it on record: ‘giving up the right of return’ – before Israel has even recognised it – is regarded by many as treason. ‘The right of return is a right,’ a friend in Nablus whose family is originally from Haifa explained, ‘so give me my right, and then let me decide how to implement it. I have made a life for myself in Nablus, and I don’t plan to return to Haifa, but I would like to take my children there. I am not talking about throwing the Jews into the sea.’ For many, perhaps most Palestinians, the right of return is now less about physical repatriation than about Israeli acknowledgment of the crimes of the Nakba and about reparations – and, just as important, about the restoration of their freedom of movement inside the entire country, regardless of whether it is called Israel or Palestine.

The idea of return is, of course, connected to nostalgia for the Palestine lost in 1948, and sharpened by Israel’s refusal to allow for the creation of a state on the 1967 lines. Gideon Levy, the columnist for Haaretz who has reported from the Occupied Territories for three decades, puts it very well: ‘If you don’t have hope, you go backwards in time and you start dreaming, even dreaming about something that isn’t a personal memory of yours.’ But in the Palestinian imagination the idea of return has always been not so much about reclaiming the past as redeeming it. It is about culture and honour as much as about politics, and to question it – or to appear to renege on it, as the Palestinian negotiators were revealed to be doing by al-Jazeera’s leakedPalestine Papers – is to question, even to deny, Palestinian identity.[*] Determined to prove that its passion for return is no less feverish than its constituents’, the PA mounted a boisterous street fair in al-Manara on Nakba Day.

Children were having their faces painted the colours of the Palestinian flag, red, green, black and white and men were marching with an enormous key. ‘Nakba at 63’ posters were ubiquitous: ‘Dear Haifa, we are returning,’ one said. The PA was pulling out all the stops, but it was clear that this tightly choreographed event was designed to channel, as much as express, popular longings: the tents were set up to prevent people from protesting at nearby checkpoints and settlements.

The PA had no part at all in the main event of the day: an unprecedented march to the border by thousands of Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Occupied Territories, co-ordinated by activists on Facebook and Twitter. At least a dozen people were killed by Israeli soldiers, but more than a hundred succeeded in crossing into the Druze town of Majdal Shams in the Golan, including a 28-year-old man called Hassan Hijazi, who made it all the way to Jaffa, his ancestral city, travelling there on a bus with Israeli soldiers who had no idea they were sitting next to a ‘security threat’; he turned himself in to the Israeli police after visiting his grandparents’ house. A spectacular enactment of the drama of return, shown live on TV news broadcasts, the crossings electrified people in the West Bank. ‘For 63 years, Israel has tried to un-nation us, to turn us into West Bankers, Gazans, East Jerusalem residents, “Israeli Arabs” and refugees, but on Nakba day we were united,’ Husam Zomlot said.

The technologies Palestinians used to co-ordinate their movements exploited an Israeli weakness. ‘The military was totally unprepared for the border crossings,’ Yossi Gurvitz, a journalist in Tel Aviv who writes on intelligence affairs, told me, because the upper echelons of Israeli intelligence have an institutional bias in favour of secret information acquired through spies, collaborators, prisoners and phone taps, and tend to discount what is publicly available. ‘I doubt Yuval Diskin’ – the former chief of Shin Bet – ‘even knows how to do a Google search,’ he said. The IDF’s violent and clumsy response to the crossings made them look more like Mubarak’s police than like the invincible Israeli soldiers of legend.

A few days after the protests of 15 May, I met two of the young activists who helped organise them. Ibrahim Shikaki, an economist, and Haya al-Fara, who works for the PA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have studied the example of Tunisia and Egypt closely. Both of them see the struggle for reconciliation as a distraction from a much more important matter: the lack of democracy in the Palestinian movement, and the exclusion from decision-making of Palestinians outside the Occupied Territories – both in the diaspora and inside Israel. ‘One of the things the factions do so well is to hijack the energy of the movement,’ Shikaki told me. ‘Our biggest fear,’ al-Fara said, ‘is that elections for the Palestinian National Council will be held, but the quota system will be maintained, with Fatah and Hamas dividing the pie among themselves.’ The PNC is the body that meets every two years to decide the direction the PLO should take and to elect its executive committee.

What Shikaki and al-Fara are calling for is a new PNC, voted into office in transparent elections based on the principle of one Palestinian, one vote: by which they mean all Palestinians, wherever they may live. Shikaki and al-Fara, together with activists outside Palestine such as Karma Nabulsi, are pushing forward the registration of Palestinians scattered throughout the diaspora, most of them living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, but still emotionally bound to the villages their families left in Palestine. The concentration of power in the hands of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories has, they believe, not only deprived the Palestinian majority of a voice in their future, but cost their cause some of its moral grandeur. ‘It’s time for us to sit down and reflect on what the peace process of the last 20 years has brought us,’ Shikaki said, ‘and that is a decision for all Palestinians.’

The call for a new PNC might seem like mere procedural reform, but the leaders of Palestine’s factions aren’t likely to see it that way: any increase in the power of the refugees, or of the 1.5 million Palestinians inside Israel, would threaten their interests (registration in the diaspora could add more than two million voters to the roll). Shikaki and al-Fara have the wider perspective – and perhaps the utopianism – that comes from having lived abroad. Al-Fara, brought up in Cairo by Gazan parents, said she felt ‘chained’ when she moved to Ramallah. ‘The society was suffering from fatigue, and people had been blinded by a narrative imposed by the PA. In Ramallah you can pretend everything is OK, but it’s a lie: as soon as you leave the bubble, you’re confronted by the occupation.’

Shikaki and al-Fara’s laments about the inauthenticity of their lives in Ramallah, the lethargy and complacency of their society and the corruptions of old men in power struck a familiar chord: one hears such talk from student radicals in the West. What’s different is their confidence that the future belongs to them. Politics in Palestine has always been a patriarchal affair, but after the events in Tahrir Square that too is changing. ‘The fact that youth played such an important role in the revolutions in the Arab world has given us a lot of courage,’ Shikaki said. ‘And older people have become more afraid of the young, or at least more afraid of disagreeing with us.’ Unlike the PLO and Hamas – unlike most people in the West Bank – they are calling for a single democratic state in all of Palestine. ‘My grandfather was from Zarnouka, which is inside the Green Line,’ Shikaki said.

‘The two-state solution means I can’t go there, while any Jewish person, from anywhere in the world, can go to Israel, become a citizen, and live in my grandfather’s house. I can’t accept this.’ His father, he says, still supports a two-state solution. ‘Whenever we have a political discussion, it ends in 15 minutes because I start screaming at him.’ Al-Fara said her colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ask her: ‘Who are you to advocate these views? You weren’t here during the intifada, you didn’t see bodies in the street.’ Last year a group of activists put up posters in Ramallah in support of a single democratic state, with the colours of the Palestinian and Israeli flags. Within 24 hours the posters had been defaced with such slogans as ‘our martyrs want to see freedom, they don’t want to see our annihilation.’

It will be even harder, I suggested, to persuade Israeli Jews to support a one-state solution. ‘I haven’t thought a lot about the Israeli side,’ Shikaki admitted. ‘But, you know, the oppressor isn’t supposed to have a say in how the oppressed gets rid of oppression. And in a few years, we’ll be the same number as the Israeli Jews, and later we’ll become the majority. Time is on our side. I’m not saying this will be easy, but what the Arab revolutions have taught us is that we can dream.’ ‘They have also taught us,’ al-Fara said, ‘that the impossible is possible.’

This sort of talk worries Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the PLO negotiating team. A Canadian-Palestinian who is a firm supporter of a single state, she’s concerned that its young advocates are thinking about it in terms of a ‘victory’ over Israeli Jews, rather than coexistence with them. ‘Their argument is that Jews in Israel will come around to their vision – or not – like the whites in South Africa, and that we’ll just slide into one state. But in South Africa you had a 90-10 population ratio, and here it’s 50-50, so numbers won’t get you there. Their view is why should we have to reach out to them? But if you’re going to create a healthy and productive society, wouldn’t it make sense to reach out to them? This is what the ANC did. They had a place for white South Africans in their constitution, and in their struggle. If you believe in a single democratic state, you have to think about what it would mean for Arabs and Jews to live together. What would the school system look like? What would be the place of religion?’

The discourse of coexistence, Buttu believes, was one of the casualties of the Oslo era, as Israel consolidated its project of separation during the ‘peace process’. The borders between the Occupied Territories and Israel, which had been open from 1967 to 1991, were closed and Palestinians who worked in Israel were replaced by foreign labour. Palestinians had fewer and fewer interactions with any Jews who weren’t soldiers or settlers. The idea of living with Jews – a central tenet of large sections of the Palestinian movement during the First Intifada – gave way to a vision of struggle against a faceless coloniser. When Israel began to build the wall, Palestinians retreated in pride and defiance behind a separation wall of their own.
Many now refuse to associate even with those Israelis who are in sympathy with the Palestinian struggle. Amira Hass, the great left-wing Israeli journalist for Haaretz, who is based in Ramallah, was prevented from studying Arabic at Birzeit; Daniel Barenboim has been vilified by some leaders of the boycott movement on the grounds that the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Arab-Israeli youth orchestra he created with Edward Said, is promoting ‘normalisation’ with the Zionist state. One BDS leader told me with eerie self-assurance that Said would have shut down the orchestra in line with BDS demands. There was even a debate within BDS about whether the Bilin protests ought to be boycotted because of the participation of Israeli Jews who might call themselves Zionists. ‘These people don’t go to Bilin,’ Buttu said. ‘They prefer to issue fatwas from their laptops, and if you question the logic behind the fatwas, you get called a traitor.’

I asked the writer and lawyer Raja Shehadeh, who founded the human rights organisation Al-Haq and advised the PLO during the Madrid talks before retiring from politics, about this disengagement from dialogue with Israelis, which appears to have become such a point of pride among a small but influential group of young, progressive, Western-educated Palestinians. As he sees it, hostility to coexistence, on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians, is a product of borders, not the other way round. ‘People have internalised these borders, and what used to be possible now seems impossible. But these borders can disappear, and once they do, perceptions can change very quickly.’ Whether or not the solution is one or two states – Shehadeh himself speaks somewhat romantically of a Palestinian state in a neo-Ottoman federation with Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, in which people can move freely between borders – Palestinians and Israeli Jews have a common future. ‘Look, I am against Zionism but Zionism is a historical matter, and Israeli Jews are not going to leave. But there will have to be a different set of relations, based on equality rather than exclusion and domination.’

There is, of course, a large group of Palestinians who, while living side by side with Israeli Jews, have sought to establish more democratic relations between the two peoples: the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise more than 20 per cent of the state’s population. For 63 years, they have struggled to defend their rights and to preserve their language and identity in a Jewish state that has fought just as tenaciously to deny its binational character. About 130,000 in number in 1948, they have since increased more than tenfold: a telling sign of their determination to remain in their homeland. Netanyahu received one of his 29 standing ovations in his speech to the US Congress in May when he boasted that ‘of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa … less than one half of one per cent are truly free, and they are all citizens of Israel’, but very few Palestinians in Israel would describe themselves as free. In the words of the novelist Sayed Kashua, they see themselves not as citizens but as ‘almost citizens’.

Subject to military rule between 1948 and 1966, the Palestinian minority has become partially integrated into Israel over the years. Fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew, it has been remarkably loyal to a state that has shown it little loyalty in return. In the 1980s and 1990s, Kashua writes in his novel Let It Be Morning, ‘they not only resigned themselves to be citizens of Israel, they even grew to like their citizenship and were worried it might be taken away from them.’ But when the Second Intifada erupted in October 2000, 13 Palestinian citizens were shot dead, 12 of them inside the Green Line: ‘Two days of demonstrations had been enough for the state to delegitimise its Arab population, to repudiate their citizenship.’ ‘The illusion that we were immune because of our Israeli citizenship was shattered,’ the novelist Ala Hlehel told me. ‘People decided to be careful.’

Since then, the Palestinians ‘inside’ have been in a state of alert, subject to increasing threats and harassment, as well as the usual programme of land confiscation and home demolitions. The nationalist Balad Party’s charismatic leader, Azmi Bishara, a member of the Knesset, was forced into exile after being accused of aiding Hizbullah during the 2006 war. Although no formal indictment was ever issued against him, the Knesset passed a special law to strip him of his salary and pension benefits, and there has been pressure for his citizenship to be revoked. His call for Israel to become ‘a state for all its citizens’ – a modern democracy based on the separation of state and ethnicity, without special privileges for Jews – made him a target of the authorities; he was also despised for his unapologetic Arab nationalism, something Palestinian politicians of an earlier, more cautious generation had been careful to hold in check, at least in public.

With Bishara effectively banished, the Knesset has passed a number of discriminatory laws which make it harder for Arabs to purchase or inherit land, and to bring spouses from the Occupied Territories to live with them inside Israel; the new Budget Foundations Law, targeted at Arab cultural organisations, authorises the finance minister to cut funding to any institution that holds activities commemorating the Nakba. As Palestinians see it, the aim of these laws, along with the increasingly strident declarations about Israel being a Jewish state, is to make their lives so unpleasant that they will leave. Surveys indicate that many Jews, perhaps a majority, would be happy if they did; the idea of ‘transfer’ is part of mainstream political thinking. ‘The Jewish majority is becoming blocked,’ Hlehel said. ‘According to the latest surveys a third of them say if there’s a war we should put the Arabs in camps. They’re talking about camps, can you imagine?’

When Palestinians inside Israel hear Netanyahu and Obama – or Abbas – speak of ‘land swaps’ in any future peace agreement, they fear that those in ‘swapped’ areas will be dumped into another state, stripped of Israeli citizenship and, just as important, of their right to move freely without permits, searches and checkpoints: they will get Ramallah and Nablus, which they can already go to, and lose Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth and the Galilee – not to mention Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. The journalist hero of Let It Be Morning wakes up one day to discover that, as the result of a ‘historic peace treaty’, his village, Wadi Ara, is no longer in Israel. ‘I think we’re Palestinian now,’ he says to his wife, as white jeeps with UN flags drive past his window. ‘We’ve been transferred to the Palestinian Authority.’

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has in fact proposed to transfer Wadi Ara to the PA in return for ‘settlement blocs’ in the West Bank. Palestinians inside Israel support the creation of a Palestinian state, but they don’t want it to be established over their heads, or at their expense. ‘I’m afraid that Abbas will cut a deal with Israel without taking us into account,’ Hlehel said, ‘and the Israelis will come to us and say: “If you want to live in a Palestinian state, go live in Ramallah.”’

Palestinians inside Israel, like Palestinians in the West Bank, are learning the effectiveness of mass, non-violent mobilisation; young people in particular are starting to communicate with people in the Occupied Territories and in neighbouring Arab countries, using Facebook and Twitter to organise themselves. People who a few years ago were admirers of Sheikh Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, are now saying that they ‘don’t need his rhetoric of resistance because they have discovered their own power and their own voice’.

Or, perhaps, rediscovered them: the Palestinians inside, as a national minority in a Jewish state, have a rich history of civil rights struggle. And though their interests can sometimes clash with the interests of those in the Occupied Territories, their emphasis on rights and cultural identity rather than statehood increasingly converges with the thinking of Palestinians in the West Bank. ‘This conflict is about two major issues, the right of return and the Law of Return,’ Hassan Jabareen, the general director of Adalah, a legal centre for Palestinian rights in Israel, said, referring to the 1950 law which allows Jews from anywhere in the world to become citizens of Israel, even as Palestinian refugees and their descendants are denied their right to return, or even enter. ‘All the rest,’ he continued, ‘is footnotes. Once the indigenous people are given their right of return, the Law of Return will not be a problem, and the state can be normalised.

The question of how to divide the territory can come later, and it will be much easier then.’ So long as Israel accepts the right of return, and acknowledges the historic injustice of the Nakba, he said, ‘whether democracy takes the form of one, two or three states is irrelevant to me.’ The reality, however, is that Israel is day by day consolidating itself as a Jewish state, at the expense of Palestinians inside. I asked Jabareen if he was afraid. ‘We are an indigenous people, so we don’t have that fear of being a minority. Haven’t you noticed the quietness that Palestinians have, that resilience?’

The resilience of Palestinians under conditions that would madden most people, their curious lack of urgency about the situation, is indeed striking. No less striking is the contrast with the Israeli mood. When you ask Israeli Jews about the future of the Jewish state, you’re often met by panic, even apocalyptic fear, whether it’s about the ‘demographic threat’ posed by the Arab birthrate, the Iranian nuclear programme, the rise of Arab democracies that won’t be as friendly to Israel, or – in the case of the dwindling number of Israeli liberals – the prospect of Israel becoming another Middle Eastern theocracy, or sliding into a Balkans-style civil war between Jews and Arabs.

The historian Tom Segev told me that Israelis today remind him of ‘the Japanese who lived under the nuclear reactor. Israelis know the explosion will come, but they don’t know how to stop it.’ Palestinians may be frustrated, but they’re not gloomy about their future. They are patient because they are confident, and they are becoming more, not less confident as a result of the Arab Spring, even as Israel seeks to expand, and to force them to recognise it as a Jewish state. The announcement of new settlements is even welcomed by some Palestinians on the grounds that the settlements bring the one-state solution closer: in the Middle East, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between winning and losing.

The Arab world may be impatient for the Palestinians to rebel, but they are not. When they are ready to mobilise, they will; meanwhile they will continue to prepare, and to wait until the time is right, as they have for the last 63 years. This waiting should not be mistaken for passivity; it is a deeply political act – even a long-term strategy according to Ramzi Suleiman, a behavioural theorist in the department of psychology at the University of Haifa and a member of Hadash, Israel’s largely Arab Communist Party. When I asked him whether there was any connection between his politics and the models he studies in his academic work, he drew this analogy:

Let’s say we have two players, and one is given $100 which he has to divide with the other, in conditions of complete anonymity. The divider makes a proposal which the other player can accept or reject. If she accepts it, everyone goes home. If she rejects it, both players get nothing. According to game theory, a rational player who’s interested in increasing his profits, and who assumes the other player is rational as well, will offer her maybe $1, since otherwise she will get nothing. The Israelis are game theorists, so they were very upset that the Palestinians didn’t accept what they viewed as a very generous offer. Since the Palestinians had nothing, the Israelis thought they were irrational.

But rejecting a low offer may be rational in the long term. And what we find in laboratory experiments is that the divider usually offers around 40 per cent, which is much higher than what game theory predicts and also higher than what the Israelis have offered. So the Israelis are good game theorists, but they are short-sighted. Because if the game is repeated, it’s not in the weaker party’s interests to accept a low offer. It makes more sense for me to show that I’m not cheap, and that you can’t buy me so easily, even if nobody sees us. Now let’s say others are looking, people I might interact with in the future. If they see me accept a low offer, they might say I’m someone who accepts low offers and I’ll get a reputation. I might even begin to think of myself as cheap too.

Suleiman pointed out that this strategy of sticking to one’s red lines while waiting for a better offer to come along has a name in Palestinian political culture. It is calledsumud, or ‘steadfastness’. ‘Sumud, in game theory, is the last line of defence of the weak,’ he said. ‘The weak person has to be steady. If he accepts the unfair situation, it’s like admitting that it’s fair, and the stronger party can take more.’ Israelis may have been angry when the ‘peace process’ collapsed, but Palestinians felt exhilarated because ‘when you reject an insulting offer your dignity is preserved.

If you keep your dignity you can’t be walked on, and your chances of survival are increased.’ And if you keep playing the game then the weaker party has the advantage over time. ‘So the Palestinians are right in thinking, game theoretically, that time is on their side.’ It’s less clear whether this strategy will bear fruit outside the university. But as long as Israel continues to put forward offers no Palestinian leader can accept, and as long as the other Arabs are closely watching the two sides play, Palestinians are in no hurry at all.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Is Palestine Next?

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