Archive | December 19th, 2011



Thousands of us already joined the call to stop the cruel “infiltrators” bill! We have less than 72 hours till the vote and we need to make sure our voices are being heard: MK Dov Khenin will read our message and the number of signers during Knesset discussion on the bill, so send this to everyone to spread the word!


Dear friends

Image removed by sender.

In less than a week, the Knesset could vote on a shocking bill that would send refugees fleeing persecution to endless detention in jail – including small children. Public pressure scuttled this harmful bill last year, and if enough of us raise our voices in outrage now, we can kill the bill again – click to send a message to Knesset members now:

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In less than a week, the Knesset could vote on a shocking bill that would send refugees fleeing persecution and torture to endless detention in our jails – including small children. Only our outcry now can stop this horrifying proposal.

The draft law, which flouts basic Israeli and international legal obligations and Jewish moral codes, would make people seeking safety from atrocities face years of detention – and even slam citizens helping them with as little as a glass of water with a 5-year prison sentence! Last year, public pressure succeeded in pushing the bill off the government agenda – and if enough of us voice our objections to this inhuman measure now, we can kill the bill again.

Ministers like Eli Ishai and PM Netanyahu insisted on reintroducing the bill, but we can stop them in their tracks. As Israelis, we don’t need to be reminded of the dark times when similar laws determined the fate of our people — but apparently, our government does. Click below to send a direct message to all faction heads, and to the members of the Knesset Committee discussing the bill, urging them to stop this cruel legislation now, and forward to everyone you know, so the Knesset will not be able to ignore our call:

Next week, the Knesset Committee for Internal Affairs will finish discussing the bill and approve it for final vote, sending refugees fleeing slavery life in the Eritrean army to 3 years of dentition without trial and locking up for life refugees from the genocide in Darfur, together with their children. The PM’s office claims this bill would only target illegal migrant laborers – heartless enough in itself – while in fact Israel has no adequate mechanism to handle refugees, leaving asylum-seekers to flagrant abuses of their human rights.

Israel’s capacity to absorb migrants is limited, but this is no excuse for not having a humane refugee policy to protect the world’s most vulnerable people who arrive desperate for our help. Let’s encourage our political representatives to reset their moral compass and reclaim the values of compassion and safety our country was founded on. Add your voice to this urgent call, and let’s make sure our representatives are flooded with our messages now:

Time after time, the Avaaz community has joined to protect the rights of the most vulnerable and ensure that political point-scoring doesn’t trump fundamental human values. When our government sought to fragment the protesters’ unity this summer, we stuck together — and we can stand unified once more, against xenophobic and heartless politics. Let’s show our politicians now that the people who come to Israel desperate for safety and refuge have our support, and stand together behind our democratic values.

With hope and determination,

Raluca in Israel, Stephanie, Emma and the whole Avaaz team


Short video explaining the dangers of the bill, produced by Hotline for Migrant Workers, presented by Eli Finish: 

ACRI and Hotline for Migrant Workers publication on the bill (Hebrew): 

Full draft of the current version of the bill (Hebrew): 

Short video from anti-African rally in TLV – MK Ben-Ari talks about the bill: 

Posted in CampaignsComments Off on ZIO-NAZI RACIST REGIME



Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

Dear All,

I have just been released from jail, after three days inside. I was arrested last Friday, together with 22 others, in the village of Nabi Saleh, during a demonstration commemorating the murder of Mustafa Tamimi. Our arrest took place as we peacefully protested near the entrance to the Jewish-only settlement of Halamish, which is built on lands stolen from Nabi Saleh.

Minutes after we got to the gate, Israeli Border Police officers moved in to remove us from the scene. Palestinians, Israeli and international activists, we were all shackled and dragged away into military jeeps that transported us to the adjacent military base, which is in fact part of the settlement.

In the military base, still shackled, I was assaulted by a settler who hit me in the face, leaving me with a bloody nose. Shortly after, the settler also attacked a female Israeli activist who was by my side. The soldiers and policemen present did not prevent the attack, nor did they bother to detain the settler after the fact. Instead, the zip-tie locks on my hands were removed, only for my arms to be bound again, this time behind my back.

Hours later, at the police station, I learned that to cover up their responsibility for my attack, the soldiers have laid a bogus complaint against me for assaulting them. My hands were tied, my face was bleeding, but it was I who spent the night in the inside of prison cell.

Mohammed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh was also arrested during that same demonstration. While the police decided to release all the others, he and I were to remain in jail. During our demonstrations, soldiers often take pictures, to later use them as “incriminating evidence”.

This time, the soldiers used one such picture to accuse Mohammed of throwing stones during a demonstration a few weeks or months back. The man pictured in that photograph is not Mohammed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, regardless, he remains in jail. Military law allows Israel to keep us Palestinians in jail for eight days before seeing a judge, and even then, it is a soldier in uniform who is the so called neutral arbitrator.

As the prison doors closed behind me, my happiness was clouded by the fact that Mohammed Tamimi was not released. The battle for his freedom is only beginning, as our lawyers prepare the petition for his release. If you can, please help us fund legal aidfor him and for the countless others who are regularly arrested protesting Israeli Occupation.

I would also like to use this letter to extend my gratitude to Ayala Shani, an Israeli comrade who was arrested with me. She refused the injustice of being released while both me and Mohammed Tamimi were still detained. As these words are written, she is still in jail, despite having been offered her freedom twice already by Israeli courts.

Mohammed Khatib

Mohammed Khatib

Posted in Human RightsComments Off on I HAVE JUST BEEN RELEASED FROM NAZI CAMP

Book review: How Zionism paved way for permanent war



Gabriel Piterberg noted in his masterful 2008 book The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel that the “achievements of the comparative study of settler colonialism have been at once scholarly and political,” that the young field “creates a language that amounts to a transformative alternative to the way in which these settler societies narrate themselves in their own words.”

Yet, like many academic fields, comparative settler-colonial studies has a difficult time translating into the sphere of organizing for policy change. The bridge between the academic and activist worlds is mostly missing. So one purpose of reviewing books such as the newly released collection Studies in Settler Colonialism for The Electronic Intifada is to help bridge the gap between the grassroots and the “ivory tower.”

Comparative settler-colonial studies carries tremendous potential for anti-colonial organizing in Palestine (as well as in countries that are the products of a settler-led colonization such as the US, Canada and Australia). Its baseline understanding is, as Piterberg put it, “the history of the interaction with the dispossessed is the history of who the settlers collectively are,” indigenous removal being the sine qua non of creating a settler society. In short, the field does not stop with describing the events of settler colonization. Instead it describes the political structure, settler colonialism, that endures long after the initial colonizing events. The field is vibrant but small, making Studies in Settler Colonialism: Politics, Identity and Culture an important addition to a growing body of work.

Fiction turned into fact

Editors Fiona Bateman and Lionel Pilkington open by stating that the collection “arises from a conviction that a policy of expansion based on the notion of ‘unoccupied’ or ‘virgin’ territories is also founded on a commitment to annihilate native or indigenous peoples. In focusing on the territory in settler colonial contexts, the confrontation and extreme violence necessary to create these empty spaces of the colonists’ imagination is frequently obscured” (1). This phrasing helps to understand an important element of the Zionist narrative. Early Zionists imagined Palestine as “a land without people for a people without land.” This is the “empty space of the colonists’ imagination” of which Bateman and Pilkington write. It was long ago discarded as fiction but it retains a popular relevance in Israel, though most will quickly acknowledge that it’s not actually true.

But in a way, it did become true. What a stronger party imagines — the “empty spaces of the colonists’ imagination,” “a land without a people” — might well be realized against a weaker party. In 1948, Palestine was made “a land without a people” not for “a people without land,” but by creating “a people without land,” the refugees driven from Palestine. The framework of settler-colonialism shows the power of settler narratives and their importance becomes readily apparent.

Claire McLisky’s terrific chapter “(En)gendering Faith?: Love, Marriage and the Evangelical Mission on the Settler Colonial Frontier” focuses primarily on Australian missionary work but is relevant for Palestine. She describes the uses of gender in settler-colonialism and throws stark light onto the Israeli language of “demographic suicide” — or a “demographic bomb” when describing the pending Palestinian majority in areas under direct Israeli control.

Prominent “doves” like Uri Savir, the chief Israeli negotiator at Oslo and president of the Peres Center for Peace, refer to Palestinian reproduction as a “demographic reality” made “into a time bomb in [Israel’s] democratic system” even while condemning the racism of the Israeli right-wing (Savir’s Corner: In need of a new system,” The Jerusalem Post, 24 November 2011).

Right-wingers such as University of Haifa geography Arnon Soffer state things more clearly. “I’m against the increase of the Arab population in Israel,” Soffer said in the Forward(Sounding the alarm about Israel’s demographic crisis,” 9 January 2004).

The threat, effectively, of “too many Arabs” has been invoked by Israelis and others as a reason to establish a Palestinian state — for example, when then-US Secretary of State George Schultz told Congress in 1988 that Palestinian reproduction is “a very large, clearly ticking demographic time bomb” (“Shultz, Seeing Arab ‘Time Bomb,’ Urges Israelis to Rethink Borders,” The New York Times, 11 March 1988).

Palestinian reproduction seen as a “weapon”

Those using such language declare Palestinian reproduction to be threatening, problematic, or even apocalyptic. Either way, it’s seen as a weapon. McLisky’s chapter begins by framing this same idea in the terms of Australian settler-colonialism. “Heterosexual love, marriage and reproduction have always occupied an ambivalent place in settler colonies like Australia,” she writes. “While reproduction of the ‘right’ sort of settlers is imperative to the numerical increase of the colonizing population, indigenous peoples’ reproduction is more problematic” (106).

Daniel Carey’s chapter “Spenser, Purchas, and the Poetics of Colonial Settlement” also approaches gender and settler-colonialism through looking at how Ireland and Virginia were described by Edmund Spenser and Samuel Purchas as a “virgin bride to be wooed” (38).

John Patrick Montaño’s “’Dycheyng and Hegeying’: The Material Culture of the Tudor Plantations in Ireland” provides a compelling framework for understanding the meaning of Israeli architecture, including the wall and the settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank. He writes, “if we follow cultural geographers in seeing landscape as rife with meaning, then we can read the built environment as a document or ideological text created to convey a particular message or view of the world” (49). He adds, “officials considered the […] material culture of stone houses, roads, hedges, fences, walls fields, forts and towns as an essential tool in transforming the landscape and people of Ireland” (49).

This framework could be quoted almost verbatim to describe the various campaigns of Zionist colonization and Judaization — the transforming of Palestine into Israel — from 1882 onwards, and certainly those done consciously as Judaization campaigns in East Jerusalem, the Negev (Naqab) and Galilee.

Robert J.C. Young’s “International Anti-Colonialism: The Fenian Invasions of Canada” offers a historical look at a different internationalization of anti-colonial resistance. The Fenian Brotherhood organized armed invasions of British-colonized Canada as part of the Irish resistance to the English colonization of Ireland. Yet they did so by becoming a part of the settler society in the United States. Though not explicitly asked, this offers a compelling question for Palestinians in the United States, Canada and Australia: How do you organize in a completely anti-colonial way?

The “logic” of settler-colonialism

John Collins seeks to explore “Palestine in the context of the global environment that emerged immediately after World War II” (170) in his “A Dream Deterred: Palestine from Total War to Total Peace.” He situates the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that led to Israel’s formation, inside several global trends, especially those related to strategic doctrine and population control. In doing so, he writes, “the Nakba prophetically illuminates a larger set of stories whose full significance is only emerging today” (170). He notes that settler-colonialism’s logic of indigenous removal gives it “a crucial role in the story of how the world of sovereign war waged against specific external enemies gradually gave way to the world of permanent war waged in the name of protecting life” (173).

Collins’s chapter also underscores the relevance of settler-colonialism to the US’ “war on terror.” He writes, “Not accidentally, settler states (primarily the United States, Israel and apartheid South Africa) were leaders in the thirty-year development of an entire industry devoted to the study, prevention and combating of ‘terrorism.’ Today’s US-led Global War on Terrorism, which shares with neoliberal globalization ‘the unbounded surface of the earth as [its] territorial frame of reference,’ would have been impossible without the discursive and ideological space constructed through the ‘terrorism’ industry. In carrying out its own projects, in other words, settler colonialism did much to bring about a globalized world of permanent war in which there is no longer any ‘outside’ (if there ever was)” (173).

Salah D. Hassan’s “Displaced Nations: Israeli Settlers and Palestinian Refugees” starts with a short thesis of Israel as a settler-colonial nation, somewhat unnecessary in a book about the structures of settler-colonialism (though vital almost anywhere outside this volume). Hassan then introduces simultaneous narratives of Zionist settlement and Palestinian displacement. The connection between the two is at one level obvious, but as Piterberg noted, the indigenous presence is “putatively inconsequential” inside the settler narrative.

Fitting Palestinian dispossession inside the context of Israeli settlement recognizes the interrelation between the two. It is a step beyond recognizing that Israel played a role in driving out Palestinian refugees, noting instead that Palestinian removal is an inherent to Israeli settler colonialism. Hassan continues following Israeli settlement and Palestinian removal through the chapter finally comparing and contrasting the Israeli Law of Return (which privileges Jews over other prospective and current citizens of Israel) with the Palestinian right of return.

Problematic view of Zionism

Saree Makdisi critiques Labor Zionism in his chapter “Zionism Then and Now.” Labor Zionism is the the ideology of David Ben Gurion, Chaim Arlosoroff and others associated with the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) based around labor organizing — the Histadrut union primarily — more recently seen as the Labor Party of Ehud Barak, Amir Peretz, Shelly Yacimovich and Shimon Peres.

He compares and contrasts Labor Zionism with the Revisionist Zionism associated with the secular Israeli right-wing (Likud and other parties) using novelist Amos Oz’s writings. Makdisi uses “hardcore Zionism” and “softcore Zionism” to distinguish Revisionist and Labor Zionism and this reads a little off, but the point is clear enough. More problematically, he makes several basic mistakes.

He writes, “For the most part, when we speak of settler colonialism today, we are referring to colonial projects that took place in the distant past … There is however, one form of enduring settler colonialism from the twentieth century. I refer, of course, to Zionism” (237). Here he unsuccessfully contradicts many of the other chapters in the book which describe ongoing settler-colonialism.

Makdisi seems to understand settler-colonialism (a structure) as settler-colonization (an event), despite the conclusions of his own chapter (the persistent shared ideology of indigenous removal in revisionist and Labor Zionism). Even by Makdisi’s understanding, the US colonization of Hawaii shares the same time-frame as Zionism; while the Chinese Han colonization of Tibet is much younger. Further, his conclusion that Zionism has not “matured or developed ideologically” (255) rings false and stems from this same misconception. Both Revisionist and Labor Zionism have undergone significant changes — not to mention the radical transformation of National Religious Zionism — but they have remained settler-colonial.

Then there are the little things. He notes that UN Resolution 181 (the plan to divide Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state) was approved in “upstate New York” (239) instead of in Lake Success, a small village on Long Island, not “upstate.” The list goes on. Makdisi’s insightful critique of Amos Oz’s work and its situation in a comparison of “softcore” and “hardcore” Zionism — a clever effort that demonstrates the shared anti-Palestinian ideology between the two — is partially lost under a series of distracting errors and misconceptions. Such errors from Makdisi, judging by his fine earlier works, are quite surprising.

Worth the read

Studies in Settler Colonialism is exceptionally useful for how we discuss and conceive of anti-colonial organizing. Several terrific chapters aren’t even mentioned here in this review for lack of space. That is why it so frustrating that few will ever read this book — its $85 price tag will keep it out of the hands of most public libraries and individual buyers. It deserves a wide readership, but it is economically inaccessible and will largely stay inside academia.

Most outrageously, it is completely unaffordable for the overwhelming majority of indigenous people whose dispossession is so searingly critiqued inside its pages (though who hardly need to read this book to understand settler-colonialism).

But it is more than worth the read if one can track it down. Such a broad selection of chapters from Ireland to Hawaii to Australia to Palestine on will greatly inform readers on how settler-colonialism actually works. Even old hands to the issue will find fresh analysis and insight, sometimes directly, sometimes through comparison. In order to change what’s going on, we must educate ourselves and others about what is going on. Some of that education can be found in this book.

Posted in LiteratureComments Off on Book review: How Zionism paved way for permanent war

Separated as prisoners, reunited in Gaza on release


Loai Odeh (left) with Samer Abu Seir

On 19 December, the second and last group of Palestinian prisoners to be exchanged for a captured Israeli soldier is expected to be released. The 550 men slated for release will at long last taste freedom after years — for some, decades — behind bars. Their stories will likely be similar to the 447 freed in October.

While imprisoned Israeli authorities did virtually everything to obliterate the detainees’ moorings to reality and their connections to their culture, families and fellow prisoners — from prohibiting visits for months at a time, to forcing repeated moves to disrupt any new-found friendships, to imposing solitary confinement, sometimes for years at a time. Some prisoners crack. One freed prisoner I met during my recent trip to Gaza had been isolated for 15 years; he seemed unable to sustain a conversation with anyone else, instead muttering softly to himself virtually nonstop.

But what also stands out despite these unimaginable hardships is prisoners’ tenacity in finding small, yet powerful ways to resist and hold on to their sense of identity and purpose. This is the story of Samer Abu Seir and Loai Odeh — two men who met in prison and have remained friends ever since — but they speak for so many others.

Abu Seir grew up in East Jerusalem, in the midst of the turmoil of the first intifada. The enduring symbol of the 1980s uprising is one of young men and boys throwing stones at Israeli troops advancing in tanks, and Abu Seir was one of them. He joined the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) when he was 16.

“The movement wasn’t very well organized then,” Abu Seir recalled on 1 December through an interpreter, while sitting in a temporary apartment in the Gaza Strip, before moving to his new home provided by the Hamas government. “We were grouped into cells, and we weren’t as savvy then as people are now about how to work ‘invisibly.’ Our names were well-known.”

When he was 22, his PFLP cell killed two Israeli soldiers from a unit invading his neighborhood; Abu Seir wasn’t personally involved, but he was caught up in the dragnet. In the dead of night, troops suddenly appeared at his home, breaking in and hitting and kicking him before dragging him away. His mother — who had raised her three sons and two daughters alone since her husband died when the children were small — was away in Jordan at the time. When she heard the news of her son’s capture, she came rushing home and waited for hours outside the interrogation center where Abu Seir was being held.

She never got to see him, however. Abu Seir was interrogated for 15 days, and held another three months before a trial was held.

“They wanted names of other people I was involved with, so the treatment was very harsh,” he recalled. “They made me take off all of my clothes except my underwear, and then forced me to lie on the cold floor, or outside in the snow. It was winter.”

Internal conflict

When it wasn’t naturally freezing outside, the Israelis resorted to what Abu Seir called “the fridge” — a small room with the air-conditioning blowing at full blast. When one is left there for days, with no clothing or blankets, it is a form of torture, he said. The cold seeps into a prisoner’s bones and seems to settle in permanently.

“You suffer an internal conflict,” he explained. “I was very young, and the interrogators told me that some of my best friends, who had been imprisoned before me, had already told them everything about me … So why not say whatever they wanted? But I just kept thinking of my family. I didn’t want them to be in my place.”

In the end, Abu Seir signed a paper “confessing” to the facts of the cell’s actions, sticking to what the Israelis had already known. He was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. “Just one lifetime,” he said with a slight smile. So many of his fellow prisoners received sentences of multiple lifetimes.

In the 24 years that followed, Abu Seir figured he was moved to every one of Israel’s prisons. The longest time he spent in any one place, he said, was three or four years. And at one point, he was kept in solitary confinement for three and a half years.

Although family visits were supposed to be permitted every three months, that “privilege” was often revoked as punishment for any sign of disobedience. In one instance, Abu Seir waited for ten months before a visit was allowed.

Even when visits were permitted, however, the process was humiliating. His mother and siblings had to pass through many checkpoints to get to the prison, followed by hours of waiting and intrusive body searches before they were allowed to see their son and brother. (It’s worth a reminder: Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits forcible transfers of people from an occupied territory. But Israel has been doing just that since 1967.)

None of the prison guards with whom Abu Seir came into contact over the years showed any real sympathy — not surprising, he thinks, since the most right-leaning of Israeli citizens are chosen for that job. But the worst of the lot seemed to always be transplanted Americans, he said with a twinkle in his eye as he looked at me.

Despite all their efforts, however, the Israelis were ultimately defeated where it counts the most: Abu Seir and his fellow prisoners kept resisting.

“The purpose behind Israel’s imprisonment is to isolate us from our ethics and morals, to cause internal conflict, to make us think about surrendering to get better treatment,” he explained. “We lived in prison, yes. But the prison didn’t live within us.”

The prisoners — usually grouped eight to a section — elected a leader who found inventive ways to network with the other representatives throughout the jail. The various leaders made decisions for the entire prison population. When they chose to take a stand — whether it be through a petition or hunger strike — they did it as a group, with no exceptions.

Sometimes, it was over relatively small irritants — like the time when the Israeli guards ordered them not to watch TV during official inmate counts, a ritual conducted three times a day. It was petty, but just one more way for the Israelis to exert their domination. The prisoners chose to refuse, watching TV anyway. The response was swift — no family visits or daily exercise breaks. But, said Abu Seir, it was even more important that the prisoners proved they were still willing to stand up as a group.

Finding a new strength

“Life in prison just made us stronger,” he said. “When you go on a hunger strike, and go without food for days and days, you find abilities and a strength you didn’t know you had. When it comes to defending our very identity and culture, Israel will never be stronger than we are.”

One concrete proof of the failure of Israel’s attempts to break Palestinians’ bond with each other is Loai Odeh, another freed prisoner who joined Abu Seir for the interview.

Odeh was “radicalized” when he was arrested for the first time when he was just 11, for waving the Palestinian flag on the streets of East Jerusalem — an act declared illegal by the occupying forces. He was arrested two more times after that before he was imprisoned during the second intifada, with a sentence of 28 years. He recalls his mother attempting to shield him with her body when the Israelis came for him. However, she was forced to give him up when the soldiers used another relative as a shield.

Odeh met Abu Seir in the early stages of Odeh’s ten years of imprisonment, and then they were separated for the remainder of their sentences.

“You start feeling weak if you feel abandoned, and the Israelis did everything they could to make us feel that way,” Odeh said. The time he remembered feeling most like he was losing that sense of “connection” to the society beyond the bars was when he got news via Israeli radio of the split in the unity government between Hamas and Fatah in 2007. “That made me wonder if everything I had struggled for would be lost in internal fighting,” he recalled.

“The biggest challenge is to be able to resist yourself, to defeat the longing for freedom and your family, which makes you weak and tempted to give up,” he said. “I looked for small ways to re-assert my own sense of identity and control. There is always a way, no matter how insignificant. Like, when the guards prohibited smoking while waiting for families to arrive on visit days, I decided to quit smoking. I quit that day, so my enemy would not win.”

Both Odeh and Abu Seir also used education as a form of resistance. Although a limited variety of books were made available to prisoners by the International Committee of the Red Cross, formal education was banned until 1996.

After that, Palestinian prisoners were allowed to pursue self-study in a narrow range of subjects through a distance-learning program. Odeh would have liked to study psychology, and Abu Seir wanted to learn mechanical engineering; however, sociology was the only program offered them. When an Israeli soldier was captured by Palestinian resistance fighters in 2007, that came to a halt as well.

Today, the two men are reunited in the Gaza Strip. Although the West Bank is their home, they were not allowed to return there under the exchange deal negotiated with the Israeli government. After a brief visit was allowed for their mothers, they are now alone, learning to fit into yet another new community.

What their future holds is not certain yet, and they acknowledged that it will not be an easy adjustment. They were welcomed along with the other 131 prisoners “deported” to Gaza, with party after party for the “returning heroes.” The Hamas administration in Gaza has helped the released prisoners by securing and paying for housing. But Abu Seir compares this early transition stage to a “festival.” Once the attention dies down, the hard work will begin.

“I want to finish my bachelor’s degree, find work, start a family,” said Abu Seir. “But my fellow inmates who remain in prison [of which there are still more than 5,000] will always be in my mind. I was basically raised by some of them, educated by them. We cannot rest until they are free as well.”

Odeh, who is struggling to be reunited with his fiancee, a Palestinian living in Haifa, added that he can never truly rest until he returns to his real home, in Jerusalem. For him and other Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and its population of fellow Palestinians are so close, and yet so far — divided by a barrier Israel has effectively used to separate brother from brother, wife from husband.

“Jerusalem will always be my ultimate dream,” said Odeh. “And I will never stop seeking my return.”

Posted in Human RightsComments Off on Separated as prisoners, reunited in Gaza on release

West Bank village steps up protests against Zio-Nazi theft of land

Palestinians holding flags face Israeli soldiers

Palestinians in Kufr Qaddoum demand access to their farmland, October 2011.

For approximately five months, the residents of Kufr Qaddoum have united to demonstrate against the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim and the Israeli military’s closure of their village’s main road. Kufr Qaddoum, a West Bank village so old that, according to legend, Abraham was circumcised there with an axe, has since 1976 been plagued by Kedumim, a 3,000-inhabitant Israeli settlement that now surrounds the village on five hilltops. Kufr Qaddoum’s main road, which passes through Kedumim to link the village to Nablus, was closed by the Israeli military in 2003.

“The people of Kufr Qaddoum used this road long before the settlements came,” said Murad Shttaiwa, spokesman for the demonstrators. “Before 2003, we could drive through the settlement with no problems. Between 2004 and 2005, after the road was closed to cars, we walked through the settlement with no problems.”

In 2005, the road became closed to foot traffic as well. Before the new, indirect route to Nablus was constructed in 2008, “we used to walk and drive down unpaved dirt roads around Kedumim, but the settlers would still throw stones at cars and people,” Shttaiwa explained. “We would not react to it … for three years, we used to travel on a road made for animals.”

Now that Kufr Qaddoum’s main road is closed to villagers, a 13-kilometer straight journey to Nablus has turned into a 26-kilometer detour through a busy West Bank artery. “Three people have actually died trying to get through the main road,” Shttaiwa said, “because they were ill in ambulances, and the soldiers wouldn’t let the ambulance through.”

Taking the closures to court

When the road was first closed in 2003, villagers organized a single demonstration. “It was very peaceful,” Shttaiwa said. “The people left work and came, took their cars to where the barrier is [on the road], and then just sat and talked. We spoke with the soldiers and the soldiers stated to us that the road will eventually be opened.”

When the soldiers’ promise failed to materialize, however, villagers took the issue to court in 2004. After five years of waiting, in November 2010 Kufr Qaddoum finally received a positive response from the Israeli court system, authorizing its Palestinian villagers to use the road again. At that time, however, the Israeli military groundlessly claimed that the road is “unsuitable” and “unsafe” for human traffic. After all legal appeals failed, villagers decided to organize weekly demonstrations in July 2011.

Since then, Kufr Qaddoum has consistently held one of the most tight-knit, well-organized and well-attended Palestinian-led demonstrations against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank.

Hundreds of villagers, united with international activists and flanked by gas-masked media teams, walk down the main road towards Kedumim week after week, demanding the right to movement. “I’m very happy that a lot of people from the village are coming out for the demonstrations,” said Shttaiwa. “Even during Ramadan we thought people would fall back from protesting, but they still came out in numbers. Even during harvesting, they did not fall back, they still came out in numbers — after the harvest, they would put away their equipment and come out for the demonstrations.”

Funeral for the occupation

At the front line of the demonstration, villagers often stage a telling spectacle. A week before Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s president, gave a speech to the UN in September, villagers held a mock funeral for the occupation on 16 September, carrying a coffin draped with an Israeli flag.

A video of the demonstration, produced by the International Solidarity Movement, shows villagers setting the coffin ablaze moments before a phalanx of Israeli soldiers opened fire with tear gas (Kafr Qaddoum September 16 2011,” 16 September 2011).

Later in September, villagers burnt an effigy of Benjamin Netanyahu after holding a mock trial condemning the Israeli prime minister for war crimes (“Kufr Qaddoum demands access,” International Solidarity Movement, 30 September 2011).

Demonstrations in Kufr Qaddoum have been accompanied by everything from a donkey painted with an Israeli flag to a live band from the Netherlands.

As demonstrations show no signs of losing steam, the Israeli military has escalated its attacks on Kufr Qaddoum. A recent report by the Palestinian news agency WAFAindicated that 12 persons — including five Palestinian children — were attacked with heavy tear gas and stun grenades during a weekly demonstration (Israeli soldiers suppress Kufr Qaddoum weekly anti-settlements march,” 4 November 2011).

“Even though the demonstrations and the barriers are 500 meters away” from the village, explained Shttaiwa, “the soldiers will get closer and closer … [on 11 November], the soldiers got so close they were right outside my house, and the tear gas got inside the house, so my two-year-old son smelled it, and came up to me and said ‘Daddy, my eyes hurt!’”

Aggression gets worse

The military enters the village, in Shttaiwa’s words, because “the protests are getting stronger and stronger, and they want to stop the protests, so they are becoming more violent and more aggressive.” The Israeli military is also conducting frequent night raids into the village. Four days before a protest on 21 October, the army entered the village at night and arrested nine people (“Permission to enter their own lands: Kufr Qaddoum rampaged again by military,” International Solidarity Movement, 21 October 2011).

Though protests focus on the closure of their main road, the villagers of Kufr Qaddoum resist an occupation which touches on all aspects of their lives. More than half of the village’s land, approximately 11,800 dunams (one dunam equals 1,000 square meters), is situated in Area C of the West Bank — an area under the full administration of the Israeli army. Under the carve-up of the West Bank made by the 1993 Oslo accords, Area C includes all Israeli settlements and most of the Jordan Valley.

That means villagers need permission to access their own land from the Israeli District Coordinating Office. Olive harvesters, therefore, are unable to prepare their trees for the harvest throughout the year, and are only given a few days to complete the harvest itself.

Eyal Ha-Leuveni, a researcher with Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, told The Electronic Intifada that it is “very difficult” for Palestinians who own land around the Kedumim settlement to go through the permit process. “First you have to prove your ownership of the land, and this depends on your family history — if one family member was involved in a crime, likely no family member will get a permit,” Ha-Leuveni said. “The permit process can take years, and in the meantime you get a temporary permit, which is very insecure.”

In addition, Palestinian farmlands in Area C are often stolen by settlers. In March 2008, a legal battle, waged by lawyers from Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din on behalf of Kufr Qaddoum residents, helped expose the method of land takeover characteristic of Kedumim and other settlements across the West Bank (Court case reveals how settlers illegally grab West Bank lands,” Haaretz, 17 March 2008).

Kedumim’s local council members would map the “abandoned lands” around the settlements, even if they were outside the council’s jurisdiction, with the aim of taking them over. The council would “allocate” the lands to settlers, who would sign an official form stating that they have no ownership claim; and that the council is entitled to evict them whenever it sees fit, in return for compensating them solely for their investment in cultivating the land.

Kedumim’s former security chief, Michael Bar-Neder, testified that the land “allocation” was followed by an effort to expand the settlement. Bar-Neder said that once the settlers seized the lands, an application would be made to the military commander to declare them as owned by the State of Israel, since under an Israeli “law” covering the West Bank, anyone who does not cultivate his land for three years forfeits ownership of it (Court case reveals how settlers illegally grab West Bank lands,” Haaretz, 17 March 2008).

It is important to emphasize that Israel’s “laws” regarding the West Bank lack any legitimacy as all Israeli settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. In violation of international law, Israel has seized West Bank land, in the words of Ha-Leuveni, “first by military orders, then by state land, then by private acquisition.”

The area where Kedumim now sits, said Ha-Leuveni, “is land that was first taken by military orders, where the army claimed the land was needed for military needs. Israel abandoned this justification in the 1980s, but it did not return any of this land to Palestinian owners.”

In a process that accelerated throughout the 1980s, West Bank land transferred from military to state ownership. “All the policy of declaring state land,” added Ha-Nuevi, “is an Israeli invention. There are large parts of the ‘state land’ of Qedumim that were owned or at least cultivated by Palestinians before Israel called it state land.”

According to a July 2010 report on Kedumim by B’Tselem, “construction of approximately 59 [Kedumim] units deviated from the ‘state lands’ allotted to the settlement; two permanent structures and 12 caravans were erected on private Palestinian land; and a new neighborhood, comprising some 30 caravans, was built west of the settlement, deviating from the allotted ‘state land.’” (“By Hook and By Crook: Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank,” B’Tselem, July 2010).

In addition, Israel plans to erect a wall between Kedumim and Kufr Qaddoum, which, according to a 2005 report by The Economist, would grab another 5,000 dunams more than the 5,000 Kufr Qaddoum has already lost (“Life in the armpits of Palestine, 7 April 2005).

Shttaiwa estimated that Kufr Qaddoum has already lost 58 percent of its land to Kedumim, and will lose 80 percent upon completion of the wall. Contrary to the Kedumim security officer’s statement, quoted in The Economist, that “not one centimeter of Qedumim is built on land known for sure to be private,” a 2009 B’Tselem map details that much of Qedumim is built entirely on privately-owned Palestinian land (Private Palestinian land in the built-up and municipal area of Kedumim,” B’Tselem, 2009).

Illegal appropriation of Kufr Qaddoum land to the settlement

This process of illegal appropriation has plagued Kufr Qaddoum since the establishment of Kedumim in 1976. “Every year the settlement has expanded,” Shttaiwa told The Electronic Intifada. “Since the settlement came it has been expanding, as well as stealing more and more land. Over the years they have also attacked people harvesting their olives, thrown stones at them, and stolen their olives. It has gotten worse in recent years.”

Settler violence, Shttaiwa explained, increased after the first intifada, in which Kufr Qaddoum played a minimal role. “At the beginning we had no problems … [but] now these settlers are known to be pretty violent,” he said. “In the first intifada they killed a male from here and injured another one as well. After the second intifada, they began attacking olive trees.”

Two years ago, settlers spray-painted “This is Israel” and other graffiti upon the burial stones of a Kufr Qaddoum cemetery.

In testimony given to B’Tselem last year, farmer ‘Abd a-Latif ‘Obeid said that over the years, Kedumim settlers have intentionally sabotaged his olive harvest, dumped burning refuse onto his land, and stolen more than fifty dunams to build greenhouses and a park (Testimony: Israel seizes land and hampers access for farmers near the Kedumim settlement,” B’Tselem, 21 June 2010).

“We’ve been suffering from this situation since 1984,” he states in the report. “All the land seizures, the settler attacks, and the need to coordinate entry are aimed at expanding the Kedumim settlement, which already has a large amount of land, and at taking, little by little, the rest of our land. They force us to neglect our land so it will be easier for them to annex it to the settlement.”

In addition, Kufr Qaddoum suffers from the socio-economic effects of occupation. A 2007 report by the Jerusalem-based Land Research Center estimates that, since 2002, 75 percent of Kufr Qaddoum’s residents became unemployed after construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank and closure of Kufr Qaddoum’s main road shut out many possibilities for income generation in Israel and Nablus (“Closing of Israeli roads in Kafr Qaddum village,” Land Research Center, 7 February 2007).

Now, almost half of Kufr Qaddoum’s residents depend on foreign aid for living, and emigration has reached a record high of 10-15 percent of the total population.

“Everyone is affected”

The demonstrations in Kufr Qaddoum are a long-overdue response to the suffering the village has endured for decades. The whole village comes out to demonstrate — college students who are tired of paying 20 shekels ($5) a day to get to take an extended detour to school in Nablus; farmers who are tired of living in fear, tired of seeing their olive trees burnt, their land stolen, their livelihoods ruined; villagers who demand the right to move freely down a road that is their own.

“In Kufr Qaddoum and throughout Palestine,” Shttaiwa explained, “we do not have demonstrations for the sake of the demonstration itself. None of us likes to be dead, or likes to smell tear gas, or likes to damage his house. We only want our rights. We always say to the Israeli army, ‘give us our rights and we will not go for demonstrations. Leave our land and we will not go to demonstrations.’ That is our message in Palestine.”

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on West Bank village steps up protests against Zio-Nazi theft of land

New film documents resilience of Bedouin village destroyed 30 times


For nearly a year and a half, the Bedouin villagers of al-Araqib in the Naqab (Negev) have been incessantly brutalized by the Israeli government and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in an ongoing, broad-daylight ethnic cleansing operation.

The village has been razed to the ground approximately thirty times since July 2010, and yet, as The Electronic Intifada has reported, the villagers — who are Israeli citizens — remain steadfast by rebuilding, regrouping and resisting after each demolition.

Focusing especially on the courage and determination of al-Araqib’s women, young and old, as forefronts of the resistance, the new documentary film Sumoud (steadfastness in Arabic) offers a valuable glimpse into the daily struggle of villagers to hold onto their land, their livelihoods and their heritage.

Nora Barrows-Friedman spoke with Jillian Kestler-D’Amours — filmmaker, journalist and frequent contributor to The Electronic Intifada — about Sumoud, which she filmed, edited, and directed for the Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Jerusalem, and the ongoing struggle in al-Araqib.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Tell us about the film, Sumoud, what time period it encompasses and what it’s all about.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours: Filming for Sumoud started after the second demolition of the village, so at the end of July, beginning of August 2010. It tells the story of the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Naqab, near Bir al-Sabe [Beer Sheva], to which on 27 July 2010,the Israeli authorities sent 1,700 soldiers and police officers to destroy 45 structures and make 300 Israeli citizens homeless, including 200 children.

They uprooted olive trees and crushed livestock under bulldozers. It was a horrifying scene. So the film starts there — and looks at how since that time the village has been destroyed more than thirty times in the span of a year.

What’s interesting about the film is that some of the main village residents in the film are women. So it shows the struggle of this small village and how the residents, and especially the women, have been able to rebuild their homes and have really persevered against extreme Israeli state violence and destruction.

NBF: When was the last time that al-Araqib was destroyed?

JKD: The last time was a week or two weeks before Eid al-Adha [in November].

NBF: You’ve been going there for the last 17 months. As a filmmaker, as a journalist, what have been some of the most significant moments that you’ve witnessed since July 2010, not only making this film but going back time and time again and seeing the village destroyed, and really getting to know the community?

JKD: There are so many significant moments, many from different periods. And through these moments, you can see the impact on the residents — both incredibly devastating, of course, and also moments that encompass some of the most beautiful things about the village. Through the last eighteen months, through all of this, the residents have been able to maintain their humanity, their generosity, their compassion, their openness.

At the beginning, during the first few demolitions, groups of activists would sleep over the night before the expected demolition. So the night before the fifth demolition, which was in September 2010, I was staying with a family. And a friend, a photographer, called me and said that they had just got into the village, and there were 12 army trucks at the [nearby] junction — he said, “they’re coming in an hour.” So I get this phone call, I jump up, wake up the family I was staying with, and say, “the police are coming.”

And I remember these young children, these two boys about nine and five years old — just the fear and panic on their faces, yelling to their parents to pack their belongings into the cars, just this total panic. Because they knew that it was happening again. It just breaks your heart to see this happen, and that these children know what it means when they get woken up at five in the morning.

At the same time, there have been a lot of wonderful moments in the village with these families. I was lucky enough to spend Eid with a family last year and this year — and just to see them in celebration, despite that we’re all sitting on the floor, in a makeshift tent that’s just wooden beams and a tarp over the top — but these families are still so happy to welcome people and to have some joy. The fact that they can still be happy and so proud … it’s nice to be able to see that as well.

NBF: You mentioned that during the beginning, Israeli and international activists would come and be in solidarity, try to stop the bulldozers. Now, a year and a half and thirty demolitions later, are there activists still coming to al-Araqib, or have they moved on to another issue?

JKD: It’s a good question. Definitely the activists who are in Beer Sheva have worked tirelessly with the villagers, not only in al-Araqib but in so many of the other Bedouin villages which are threatened and facing similar demolition orders. Structures are being demolished every day in the Naqab. So they’re working day in and day out, working in the village, checking in with the community to see how they’re doing.

The number of activists from Tel Aviv, from Jerusalem, and from a little bit further out, has definitely dropped off. It’s a long struggle, and it’s not sexy, if you will. But there are definitely activists who still go. And when there are demolitions, people try to get down there, even if they can’t get there when the bulldozers arrive, they’ll get there afterwards, they’ll call the villagers. Especially the activists who have personal connections with the villagers, they’ll check in with a phone call and see how they’re doing, if they can bring anything, if they need anything.

NBF: Getting back to the film, tell us why you wanted to make a film about what’s happening in al-Araqib, as opposed to any other topic that’s so relevant right now in Palestine, and what you hope people who watch it get out of it.

JKD: I think there’s a few reasons — to me, the first demolition was so shocking. The display of this brute force that the Israeli state deemed necessary to get 300 people, 200 kids out of their homes to demolish … it was a shock. At the same time, we hear all the time how bad it is in Gaza, and how bad it is in the West Bank, and it’s framed in this discourse of occupation — but then you see al-Araqib. The villagers are Israeli citizens, so it doesn’t have anything to do with where these villages are in a geographic context. The point is that [the villagers in al-Araqib] simply aren’t Jewish citizens. You see that policy crossing over the green line [Israel’s internationally-recognized armistice line with the occupied West Bank]. And you also see the shock in the Bedouin communities who say, we’re citizens, what did we do?

And many of them define themselves as Israeli. And yet they’re being attacked, they’re being brutalized, and their villages are being destroyed.

It’s also very timely now with all the Israeli government’s announcements that it will be forcing 30,000 Bedouins out of the Naqab, if not more — I think it’s a spark that will ignite the entire country, the entire conflict. It’s very dangerous what the Israelis are doing — they’re radicalizing a community of 180,000 people. And it’s going to erupt, and it’s something that we should be aware of.

As a Canadian, I see such clear parallels to the First Nations struggles, the indigenous struggles back home. What’s happening in al-Araqib is such a clear forced displacement happening in front of our eyes; when you think that this is something of the past, when you think that this can’t happen today. And it’s happening, slowly, in different parts and especially in the Naqab. That’s what drew me into the story. It’s not only about Palestine, but it’s also about the colonial histories of Canada and the US, and it’s the links that people need to make.

In making the film, I knew it was important to include the voices of the village’s population of women and girls. Because while home demolitions impact women the hardest, and it’s the most difficult for them, in al-Araqib I think that what’s interesting to see is how the demolitions have empowered the women of the village. They are the ones now leading demonstrations, they’re now speaking to the media, they’re the ones who are shouting. It’s not that they’ve “found their voice,” but they have finally been given a space to get their voice heard now more than before — so I’m hoping that comes across in the film.

Some of the strongest women I’ve met over the past year and a half have been from al-Araqib.

NBF: For solidarity activists who are just starting to realize what’s happening in the Naqab, how can they use the information in your film to further their activism?

JKD: In the case of al-Araqib, what’s interesting is the involvement of the Jewish National Fund in what’s happening there. The fact that they’re planning to build a forest over the village — for international solidarity activists, that information is really key. The JNF gets its money from donations from Americans, from Canadians, from Europeans and abroad, and that’s something that activists need to use as the way to get communities hooked to why does this matter to us.

They need to know that their donations are being used to further what’s happening in al-Araqib, and all across Palestine since 1948.

Activists can use Sumoud to draw attention to what’s happening across Palestine, and to take responsibility as well — our governments are supporting this, and donations to theJNF in Canada are tax-exempt. And that’s a problem, because the money is going to plant trees over people’s villages.

NBF: When is the film out, and where can people see it?

JKD: We have DVDs ready and available online from the Alternative Information Center website, and we’re organizing screenings right now in Ramallah, Beit Sahour, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv. We’re planning on screening it abroad, in the US and Canada at film festivals, and hopefully it’ll be online as well. But for now, through the DVDs and screenings, we’re hopefully getting as many people as possible to see it, and therefore to support the people of al-Araqib.

Posted in Human RightsComments Off on New film documents resilience of Bedouin village destroyed 30 times

Can the Palestinians revolt?

by Mohammed Suliman 

Mustafa, a stone-thrower

Mustafa Tamimi died for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, or as Jonathan Pollak put it, because “he dared to speak a truth, with his hands, in a place where the truth is forbidden.”

Sorrowfully, Palestinians have mourned the painful loss of a courageous man. Not that he is the first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli soldiers, nor is he the first unarmed, peaceful protester— unless one regards stones as one kind of heavy armament— to be shot dead at point blank range, and, certainly, he will not be the last to be heartlessly murdered in this brutal way. Mustafa isn’t also the first one whose death was followed by scores of people live on Twitter as his fellow activists provided minute-by-minute coverage of what was going on on the sad Friday in Nabi Saleh.

Although he is the first protester from the small village of Nabi Saleh to be murdered by the Israeli killing machine, this is not the reason why, I believe, Mustafa’s death is a significant chapter in the Palestinian resistance which, could have constituted the climax of such an immensely rich history of nonviolent resistance, which is often misrepresented or, at best, overlooked in Western media discourse.

Why a new Intifada?

It might be wishful thinking rather than logical reason to say that Mustafa’s death could have been the spark that ignited a new Intifada. But why I say so is because, given the facts on the ground, it was, and still is, about time that the Palestinians started a new Intifada.

First, the scope of the Israeli occupation’s outrageous crimes and violations of basic human rights is awfully unprecedented. In the Gaza Strip, these crimes usually take the form of sporadic F16 and unmanned drones’ bombings of the densely populated enclave resulting in the inevitable death of innocent civilians and children coupled with the hermetic siege that has been imposed for the past five years while, in the West Bank, they primarily manifest themselves in ceaseless ethnic cleansing which embraces a variety of criminal activity, namely land expropriations, house demolitions, property confiscations, expulsions, midnight house raids, illegal detentions and the list goes on.

Moreover, in face of all this generous amount of human rights violations and flagrant breaches of international law, the international community has proved to be absolutely futile, for it has shamelessly failed to hold Israel accountable for its crimes, prevent it from carrying on its violations in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel with impunity, or take any positive measures to protect the Palestinians’ lives or guarantee the fulfilment of their rights enshrined in international law and UN resolutions.

To top it all, the naked failure of the so called Palestinian leadership, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to advance the Palestinian struggle in any possibly helpful way has proved them to be worthless at best. In fact, the way their inability to overcome their disagreements over the past five years has influenced the course of action considerably in favour of the Israeli occupation and has made many Palestinians aware of the fact that their disagreements are fundamentally irreconcilable, therefore, increasing their discontent with both powerless leaderships.

Most importantly, after nearly two decades of the so called peace process starting with the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, there is now growing awareness amongst Palestinians, although with varying degrees of willingness to accept the fact, that the Palestinian Authority, chiefly due to its utter dependency on the international community and Western donors, is most impotent to bring about—not to say the fulfilment of the Palestinian rights— any positive change with regard to the Palestinians’ conditions in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel. Contrary to that, since the end of the first Palestinian Intifada and the advent of the peace process and with its unprecedented concessions, the PA has started the Palestinians down the slippery slope toward an uncertain future leaving them under the thumb of the Israeli occupation who entirely dominated every single aspect of their lives.

Shifting the discourse, shifting the course of action

Therefore, it is clear that what the Palestinians need at this stage of the Palestinian struggle is, above anything else, a prime shift in the discourse from one that is characterized by the equivalency of the conflicting parties; i.e. two equivalent parties seated at the negotiating table in the case of the PA and Israel, or two equivalent parties “exchanging rocket fire” in the case of Hamas and Israel, to one of a whole civilian population forced to live under military occupation, subjected to all forms of racism, oppression and injustice and fighting for freedom, justice, equality and full rights.

In other words, the discourse should be veered away from that of the limited elite leadership represented in both political parties, Hamas and Fatah, regardless the fact that they still maintain relatively huge support amongst Palestinians, to one that is more representative of all the sectors of the Palestinian people. This requires the formation, which needs not be systematic, organised or physical, of one contentious movement that can help direct the massive amount of energy, faith and frustration of particularly the young people in the right direction toward the creation of a massive grassroots collective movement against the continuous crimes and unjust policies of the Israeli occupation.

Incentives, mobilisation, and opportunity

In theory, people’s recourse to collective action can be explained by incentives, means of mobilisation and/or political opportunities. However, most of the time, grievances form the backbone of contentious movements and— as Ted Gurr explains in his book Why Men Rebel— collective action (e.g. protests, rebellions, civil wars…etc.) has its roots in relative deprivation which results in people’s frustration galvanizing them to employ violence collectively or, one might add, to embark on any kind of collective action.

In the context of the Palestinian people, the grievances of the Palestinians not only form an incentive but rather they are the root of the problem for they have been present since, and as a consequence to, the creation of the state of Israel and the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their lands.

Nonetheless, that fact that collective violence, let alone other forms of nonviolent collective action, has recently been seen as a rational phenomenon helps explain why the Palestinians don’t seem to be inclined to take part in any form of popular mass movement.  According to the theory, people don’t feel inclined to get involved in collective action unless they have a good reason to do so; i.e. unless they’re convinced they will stand to benefit from their involvement. This benefit usually takes the form of short term materialistic gains.

Considering the massive amount of money Western donors supply the PA with, which according to the Congressional Report, made “the Palestinians…the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid worldwide, and with a shattered economy, mostly dependent on external support to meet basic needs”, the costs for any engagement in collective action in the Palestinian territories seem to be higher. The PA uses this money to pay its employees’ their salaries, to pay for water, gas, and electricity supplies, to build the institutions and infrastructure necessary for the establishment of the Palestinian state on bits and pieces of land. In short, this money is used to keep the Palestinians in check.

Besides that, the PA constitutes the hugest physical obstacle that prevents the Palestinians from being in direct contact with the Israeli occupation. The Israeli occupation has become an unapproachable entity thanks to PA’s “security cooperation” activities according to which the task of managing the “undisciplined barbarians” becomes its direct responsibility, and in case it fails to fulfil it, it has to be punished by cutting off the aid money. The PA’s Dayton-trained security apparatus has continually made sure that it held the Palestinians back from being in touch with the Israeli occupation through various policies and particularly during demonstrations where it steered them away from any point of contact with the Israeli soldiers. This explains the absence of a potentially powerful opportunity to help the Palestinians engage thoroughly in any kind of mass movement.

With regard to mobilisation, although they didn’t have the sufficient economic endowments which are necessary to mobilise other people, the Palestinians have had every social means at their disposal: a shared identity, a shared culture, a shared language, shared past experiences, and, for the most part, a shared religion. Based on the above shared commonalities, I would argue, it should be enough for the Palestinians to be able to start off a mass grassroots struggle.

A missed opportunity?

The precedents to Mustafa Tamimi’s death, one likes to believe, seem to have provided a perfect context for the Palestinians to start a new Intifada, at least in Nabi Saleh and neighbouring villages, away from Ramallah, the headquarters of the PA.

Mustafa’s death could have been the opportunity that had finally opened up before the Palestinians to rise up and start off a mass civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation. Similar to what happened in late September 2000, following Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa mosque just two months after the failure of the Camp David peace summit, the Palestinians could have mobilised themselves, taken to the streets and engaged in open-ended mass civil disobedience propelled by the brutal murder of Mustafa as well as being greatly charged by the failure of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN Security Council just recently. As I explained above, it’s no wonder this didn’t happen, however.

Until every Palestinian picks up their stone, there is no reason to think there is going to be an Intifada any time soon. Until the PA stops being an occupation in disguise doing Israel’s business of keeping the Palestinians in check; until the Palestinians realise they are not going anywhere near liberation with PA and Hamas officials continuing to monopolise Palestinian decision-making; until every Palestinian feels ready to speak the truth with their hands, and until every Palestinian becomes a stone-thrower, may Mustafa’s memory be a blessing.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Can the Palestinians revolt?

Fight continues for academic freedom in the US

Submitted by nora 


A professor at North Carolina State University is fighting the university and the state government over what seems to be a clear-cut case of discrimination and censorship due to her outspoken criticism of Israeli policy in Palestine.

Dr. Terri Ginsberg was a popular film studies professor at NCSU. But after she began publicly criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the US-Israel alliance and Zionism (inside and outside the classroom), Ginsberg faced immediate retaliation from the university administration. As I reported back in January 2010 for The Electronic Intifada, she was “punished with partial removal from — and interference in — duty, non-renewal of contract and rejection from a tenure-track position” in 2008.

In a phone interview several days ago, Ginsberg told me that since she lost her job atNCSU, she has been essentially “blacklisted from other university teaching positions” across the country. She added that she’s applied to more than 150 jobs, and she can’t even get an interview — something, she said, that is very unusual for her and for someone with her publishing and teaching track record.

After nearly a year of exploratory panels, grievance reviews, litigation hearings and mediations by and with the university administration, Ginsberg and her lawyer, Rima Kapitan, filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina Superior Court, which in October 2010 dismissed the case, thereby favoring NCSU’s denial of tenure.

Ginsberg posted on her blog about the case that during the week of depositions,

NCSU admitted that it suppressed my speech critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestine liberation struggle while I was under its employ as a visiting professor, and that it chose not to interview or hire me for a tenure-track position because of my scholarship focusing on Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the “Jewish.” Amazingly, the University claims that it has the right to suppress, refuse and reject on the basis of these considerations!  As we proceed, we will obviously be arguing against such claims.

Following the court’s ruling in favor of NCSU, Ginsberg and Kapitan filed an appeal this past June to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. However, on 15 November, the appeals court dismissed the appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Rendering free speech “meaningless”

In a press release following the appeals court’s decision, Kapitan stated that:

The Court, despite finding that several University officials were uncomfortable with Dr. Ginsberg’s speech concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, held that there was no causal link between that speech and the University’s sudden decision not to hire her for a tenure-track position days later. The Court’s opinion was in error for several reasons. It misapplied the summary judgment standard and made factual determinations about disputed issues that should have been decided by a jury. Specifically, it ignored voluminous evidence Dr. Ginsberg supplied calling into question the University’s claims about its stated reasons for her non-hire, as well as circumstantial evidence suggesting that hostility to Dr. Ginsberg’s speech motivated the decision. Among the most troubling claims the Court accepted without question was NCSU’s contention that Dr. Ginsberg was too qualified for the position, despite the fact that NCSU’s own policy documents state that it hires the best tenure-track professors it can, and despite the fact that before her speech about Palestine/Israel, the University was enthusiastic about Dr. Ginsberg’s candidacy.  For the Court to accept without analysis the University’s claims about Dr. Ginsberg’s non-hire when those claims were vigorously disputed not only usurped the role of the jury in the justice system, but rendered the North Carolina Constitution’s free speech section, which is even stronger than its federal counterpart, meaningless in the employment setting.  Dr. Ginsberg will now request a review of the ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

“We weren’t surprised”

 In our interview, Ginsberg said that she and her legal team “weren’t surprised” by the decisions of the two courts. She added:

Going back to the lower courts and even the original faculty senate when I filed a grievance, and then when I hired Rima Kapitan when we filed the grievance with a circuit court, everyone has consistently ignored evidence, refused to even consider the facts, and has made perfunctory decisions [with prejudice regarding] all of the documentation that we’ve supplied. Given that history, we weren’t suprised that our appeal was denied. I’m enraged and insulted at the abuse of the law. This makes a travesty of employment law, and this is a complete disregard of the implications for academic workers nationally … I was a “contingent worker” — that’s one of the basic reasons given by the university as to why I was not eligible to receive a campus hearing once I had filed a grievance.

According to Ginsberg, contingent labor in universities comprises approximately 70 percent of all academic faculty.

“Zionism needs to be interrogated in a legitimate scholarly fashion”

 I asked Ginsberg if her work, research and outspokenness on Palestinian issues has been deterred by the last several years of intimidation and academic blacklisting. “No, not in the least,” she replied, adding,

I have taken the opportunity during this time of unemployment to step up research on this area. I have done a lot of writing and continue to publish writing on this issue, inluding [one of my specialties,] cinema of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This one example of what I’m doing and how my convictions have even been strengthened. One sees how these people who are either Zionists or cowed by Zionist pressure, such as the Israeli lobby … one sees how insidious and unscrupulous and vicious they are.  It’s indicative of the weakness of our system: that really a small group of people representing a particular ideology can have such influence on policy and on the actions of institutions throughout our society. There is a fundamental strucutral problem within our system that needs to be addressed, and perhaps radically needs to be transformed.

One of the strategies we are engaging in, in a broader sense, is that we want to take my case as an opportunity to expand public education on the issue of Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Zionism needs to be discussed, interrogated in a legitimate scholarly fashion, which is what I’ve been doing. We need to spread the word about the significance of cases like mine, by contacting media, by writing blogs, any way possible about what’s happening in our country, and around the world.

Additionally, on her blog, Ginsberg said that the appellate decision of the court should “set off alarm bells for those who abhor racism and inequality and strive for the protection of constitutional rights for all citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or class status.” She added:

Our justice system should not be allowed to get away with silencing critical academic speech in order to protect opposing views simply because they reflect wealthy and powerful interests, nor should academic faculty become intimidated from  speaking critically for fear of being disciplined or losing their jobs.

The fact that I have not yet been permitted a formal hearing, either on the NCSUcampus or within the court system, resonates clearly with the history of the Palestinian struggle. Palestinians are seldom given the opportunity to air their views freely—without, that is, interference from dominant ideological interests calling for “balanced” or “neutral” discussion. Nor has the longtime suffering of Palestinians been acknowledged by its primary instigator, the State of Israel, which to this day officially refuses to admit having committed the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of Palestine), and in fact has moved recently to criminalize any discussion of that event within Israeli society.  Similarly the Israel Lobby in theU.S. has tried repeatedly to introduce congressional legislation which, in the name of “combating anti-Semitism,” would criminalize speech critical of Israel, thereby travestying not only the First Amendment but the entire spirit of the Bill of Rights.

Ginsberg’s most recent articles and scholarly writings can be found at the bottom of her blog post on the updates in her case. Contact information for Ginsberg and Kapitan can also be found on that webpage. The Electronic Intifada will continue to update our readers as the legal proceedings continue.

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Veolia tries to sugar-coat its complicity in Zio-Nazi violations of international law

 by Adri Nieuwhof 

Veolia is involved in several Israeli projects in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law. It is still involved in the Israeli Jerusalem Light Rail project connecting illegal Israeli colonies to Jerusalem. The company also operates four bus lines running between Israel and illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Furthermore, Veolia owns and operates through its subsidiaries Tovlan landfill which processes Israeli waste on occupied Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley. Veolia tries to sugar-coat its complicity in Israeli violations of international law by offering a pittance to the Palestinian villagers of Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley. The company has placed three refuse containers there for free waste collection.

Jerusalem Light Rail: impact on Shuafat

Veolia continues to be involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail project. According to Haaretz, the State of Israel has held up the sale of Veolia’s share in the light rail to Egged. Moreover, the company will continue to deliver consultancy services to Egged if the deal materializes.

Two weeks ago I discussed the impact of the light rail on Shuafat with resident Ibrahim Yousef.1 Yousef lives opposite the second stop of the light rail in Shuafat village. The main road from East Jerusalem to Ramallah passes through Shuafat and Beit Hanina. The road is used by many Palestinians and used to have two to three lanes in each direction. Over the years, the settlers have surrounded the neighborhood. Pisgat Zeev settlement is located to the north, Ramot settlement to the west and French Hill settlement to the south of Shuafat. Israel has built a huge settler road that links the settlements with West Jerusalem. In Shuafat, the settler road crosses the Palestinian main road. An Israeli security tower is located at the crossing.

The Jerusalem Light Rail has been constructed in the middle of the main road in Shuafat. Only one very tight lane is left for the Palestinians, explains Yousef. A traffic light has been added about every 300 meters – in all about eight on the Shuafat stretch. These traffic lights have slowed down the traffic. “It is only about ten seconds green.”

The strange phenomenon of traffic lights that leave a ridiculously short time for Palestinians to pass was reported by Al-Jazeera last year. The reporter actually shows the different treatment of settlers and Palestinians at the crossing between the settler road and the Palestinian road in Shuafat. Settlers have three times more time to pass the crossing on a three-lane road. Palestinians have 26 seconds to pass the crossing on a single lane. Cameras that flash when cars ignore the red light face the Palestinian road.

Yousef adds that Palestinians in Shuafat “noticed a militarization of the area. There are armed guards. We have 360 degree cameras opposite the Mosque, overseeing the middle station in Shuafat. All is seen, every move we make. We have a roundabout where armed security guards are on watch. When I go out of my door it feels like the neighborhood is colonized. The visual impact of the light rail when it comes full of settlers from Pisgat Zeev, it feels like colonization, occupation. Most of my friends have used the light rail because it was free. The settlers were not comfortable with the Palestinians in the light rail.”

Since 1 December people have to pay for a ticket. It will cost NIS 6.40 (US$ 1.70), which is more than the NIS 5 (US$ 1.32) they have to pay for a ride on a Palestinian bus to Jerusalem. Yousef expects a decline in the number of Palestinians using the light rail because of the higher costs of a ticket.

Jerusalem Light Rail: line of friction

The Israeli press has reported on several incidents relating to the Jerusalem Light Rail. On 5 December, Palestinians damaged one of the carriages of a passing light rail by throwing stones. “The new train has been the target of repeated attacks by some disgruntled Arabs who are angry at the inclusion of their neighborhood on the route”, reported Arurz Sheva. It was not the first time the light rail was attacked. Palestinians from Shuafat threw stones at the light rail on 10 October, smashing a window pane of one of the cars.

Another incident took place on 29 November when a Jewish girl used a personal canister of tear gas to spray at Palestinian girls in a clash between a group of Jewish and Palestinian girls in one of the rail carriages.

“The Jerusalem Light Rail will be a point of friction”, says Yousef, when I ask him to comment on recent reports on the clashes. All other areas are more segregated. “The light rail is the less segregated, it is inevitable that it leads to friction.”

Waste dumping in the Jordan Valley

Subsidiaries of Veolia own and operate Tovlan landfill which processes Israeli waste in the occupied Jordan Valley. This week, I spoke with Fathy Khdirat – a human rights defender from the Jordan Valley. Khdirat informed me that Veolia had offered three containers for free waste collection to Jiftlik, a village in the Jordan Valley. However, Veolia’s move cannot conceal the company’s role in the dumping of Israeli waste on Palestinian land in Tovlan landfill.

I asked Omar Barghouti – author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS): The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights” – to comment on Veolia’s offer to Jiftlik. He said: “As Desmond Tutu said, we do not need anyone to polish our chains; we want to break them altogether. Veolia is trying to hide or sugar-coat its horrific complicity in Israeli violations of international law, even war crimes, by throwing some bones to ghettoized Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley. This is beyond humiliating; it is racist and criminal. Derail Veolia!”

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Euro Crisis: Britain’s Financial Arsonist Returns to the Scene of the Crime

By Finian Cunningham

The incendiary finance capitalism unleashed by Britain 25 years ago is at the heart of Europe’s raging debt woes

You either have to admire British Prime Minister David Cameron’s brass neck, or wince at his arrogant stupidity. The smart money is probably on the latter option.

For here you had the British leader heading to the European Union summit convened last week to “salvage” the EU from its the terminal debt crisis – a crisis that is threatening the survival of the Euro single currency, the political future of the European Union and may even be sounding the death knell for the faltering capitalist world economy.

Yet, given the stakes involved, all Cameron wanted to do was exploit the crisis in order to claw further concessions for the City of London’s stock exchange. Such self-serving opportunism was rebuffed by his German and French counterparts, whereupon Cameron stomped his feet and declared that Britain would exercise its veto over EU plans for tighter fiscal controls on member states.  The British veto may now hamper the EU’s ability to assuage the financial markets, which are daily extracting pounds of flesh with exorbitant rates of borrowing on government bonds.

Not that the leaders of the other 26 EU states are acting as noble knights in shining armour, vying to protect their populaces from further economic suffering. The revised EU treaty they have in mind will only deepen that suffering by expanding austerity and cutbacks for the majority of people across Europe. The fiscal and economic policies of member states will henceforth be dictated by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That is, national sovereignty supposedly serving the people, according to their votes, is to be replaced by the rule of unelected bankers and technocrats. In a very real way, the debt crisis of Europe is serving to usher in a dictatorship of finance capitalism.  As Paul Craig Roberts noted recently on Global Research with regard to the EU – “the banks have taken over” [1].

Ironically, it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French collaborator, Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who are foremost in marching mainland Europe into the arms of this dictatorship.

However, Cameron’s one-man crusade at the EU summit was no act of Churchillian defiance to defend the rights of the people in the face of financial fascism. Britain under this present Conservative leader has been bludgeoned with one of the most draconian austerity budgets inflicted anywhere across Europe, wielded without mercy against workers and aimed deliberately at placating first and foremost the finance markets. Indeed, Cameron’s government is one of the main advocates of deeper social spending cuts for the rest of Europe.

So the notion that the British leader was in some way making a fight-them-on-the-beaches kind-of stand towards other European leaders/quislings of finance capital is risible.

And what is even more risible is that the sole objective of Cameron and his foreign secretary William Hague was to secure concessions for the City of London. Many people in Europe have good reason to believe that it is the City of London and its brand of finance capitalism that has created and provoked the debt crisis in the first place.

It was Cameron’s much-admired predecessor Margaret Thatcher who oversaw the systematic deregulation of the London Stock Exchange, starting in 1986 with what became known as the “Big Bang” – the wholesale removal of controls on financial transactions. From then on, the British economy went from one based on manufacture and production to one hallmarked by financial speculation. London became the money capital of the world, outflanking New York. The financialisation of other economies would follow the British slash-and-burn economic path, as the new culture of predatory financiers and investors used speculative profiteering to gut manufacturing bases.

The deregulation of financial markets was a showpiece policy of subsequent British governments, whether Conservative or Labour. It spawned a plethora of “financial innovations” such as hostile takeovers, downsizing, short selling and derivative trading, whereby money and debt were recycled and multiplied fictitiously – with inevitable catastrophic consequences. This of course is the ineluctable, historic dynamic of late capitalism. The system tends to mount up massive poverty and thereby becomes incapable of producing goods and services because the conventional profit system becomes exhausted. That is why late capitalism has more and more turned into a form of debt-ridden financial arson in order to recklessly eke out the last reserves of profit.

In previous centuries, it was England that innovated industrial capitalism. At the end of the 20th Century it was the British (and their Anglo-American culprits) who have the dubious honour of unleashing finance capitalism on the rest of the world. The new brand of capitalism can be traced directly to the collapse of banks and institutions, such as Barings, Lehman Brothers and Long-Term Capital Management, and to the collapse of pension funds and property assets dragging millions of people into debt. And now this particular British innovation of incendiary capitalism can be traced to the collapse of entire countries.

The spectacle of bankrupt David Cameron swaggering over to Europe to ask equally bankrupt European governments for more deregulatory concessions for the City of London is about as stupefying as an arsonist returning to the scene of the crime – and asking for more gasoline.

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