Archive | July 18th, 2014

Following missile attack last Saturday, al-Wafa Hospital receives warnings of new round of bombings


El Wafa Hospital, struck by missile

El Wafa Hospital, struck by missile last Saturday

After sustaining five missiles last Saturday, Al-Wafa Hospital in Gaza City received disturbing phone calls last night warning of a new round of bombings. The rehabilitation center, which currently serves 39 patients including 14 requiring urgent care, first received a phone call after the bombings on Saturday from someone with a “thick Israeli accent,” asking if anyone had been hurt.  In preparation for an attack of this nature, hospital administrators had already moved all patients from the top floor at the beginning of the Israeli assault, and fortunately did not experience any injuries or deaths.

Last night, however, Al-Wafa received another set of concerning phone calls. International volunteers at the hospital report that someone claiming to be from the “Defense department of the Israeli forces” called at 23:05, telling everyone to evacuate by morning.

Just a few minutes later, at 23:10, the hospital received a recorded message stating that the downtown neighborhood of Shajaia, with a population of approximately 100,000 people, should also evacuate by the following morning.

Then again, at 23:55, another call reiterated the request to leave, saying the hospital would be bombed by 08:00.  “Because we don’t want innocent people to get hurt, we care about innocent people, [we] ask you to leave because we are doing a mass operation in your area,” the caller stated.

Hospital administrators sought the intervention of the World Health Organization, which contacted the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF reportedly contradicted their prior message to the hospital when speaking with the WHO. “It is a hospital, so we won’t bomb it,” the IDF reportedly told the WHO.

The IDF’s retraction of the warning, however, comes four days after another rehabilitation center, Al-Shifa in Jabaliya, was bombed, killing four; Al-Wafa was hit with five missiles that same day.

For now, however, hospital personnel and the international volunteers are staying put.  “We are not going to evacuate,” stated Basman Alashi, Al-Wafa’s executive director. “We are staying. I believe it is part of their [the Israeli military] propaganda, part of the scare tactics they use.”

Despite numerous phone calls, IDF spokespeople continue to ignore requests for justification for Saturday’s attack, and cannot offer any information about a potential attack in a few hours.  “If they received a message to leave, they should leave,” said one spokesperson.

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Report: Hamas offers I$raHell 10 conditions for a 10 year truce


Hamas graffiti in the West Bank, 2006. (Photo: Wikipedia)

“Hamas” graffiti in the West Bank, 2006. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Hamas is offering Israel a 10-year truce if it accepts 10 conditions. The Jerusalem Post reports, based on an Israeli Channel 2 newscast, that Azmi Bishara announced the proposal on Al Jazeera television today.   Bishara, a former Israeli Knesset member, fled Israel in 2007 after being accused of spying for Hezbollah. He is currently living in Qatar where he is a high level government advisor.

According to Ma’ariv (Hebrew) these are the conditions:

Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.

Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths.

Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.

Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under U.N. supervision.

Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.

Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations.

International forces on the borders.

Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement.

Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.

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Watch: New Yorkers pierce through pro-war gathering with chants of ‘stop bombing Gaza now’


The easiest thing in the world for New York politicians–scratch that, any politician–is voicing support for Israel. It helps their fundraising and vote totals, and anything short of cheering on Israel’s military is a wish for negative media coverage.

But New Yorkers who are fed up with Israel’s assaults on Gaza, and the political class’ full-throated support for operations that kill scores of Palestinian civilians, are trying their damnedest to make Israel/Palestine contested ground. On Monday,dozens of protesters gathered outside the gates of City Hall to voice their anger at New York politicians’ show of support for Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” which has killed over 200 people, the vast majority of them civilians.

The protesters’ target was a “New York Stands With Israel” press conference organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC)–a powerhouse establishment group–the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York and the Jewish Caucus of the New York City Council. Attendees included Congressional Democrats like Charlie Rangel, Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel; State Senators and Assemblyman; various City Council members and Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General in New York.

Vice‘s Michael Tracey, whom Nadler called an “ass” for asking about U.S. culpability in the Gaza death toll, has an colorful account of the scene:

One by one, these officials uncritically repeated talking points disseminated by the Israeli government…

[E]merging NYC power-broker David Greenfield, bemoaned the lack of “context” in which the current conflict is depicted by Israel’s critics. Agreeing with the need for additional context, I asked him whether invoking the specter of rockets raining down on Manhattan to justify the current actions of the Israeli government was also devoid of context, given that New York City is not occupying, embargoing, or dropping bombs on a neighboring people.

As Greenfield began to answer the question, a particularly obnoxious New York State Assemblyman, Phillip Goldfeder of Queens, sauntered over. Goldfeder interrupted the conversation by cackling about my concern for Palestinian civilian deaths. When I pointed out that children getting extinguished in the dead of night under questionable pretext is a serious matter, the assemblyman escalated said cackling. Even Councilman Greenfield, who was in the process of defending the Israeli government’s actions and is by all accounts a devout backer of Israel, appeared put off by Goldfeder’s conduct.

As the politicians stepped up to the mic one by one to voice support for Israel, protesters outside the “stand with Israel event”–they weren’t allowed in and demonstrators were removed from City Hall grounds–successfully made their voices heard inside the press conference. Indeed, much of the press coverage of the event led with reports on the demonstrators.

“The people outside protesting are protesting because innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed. It would seem to me the protest would be with Hamas because you cannot negotiate for peace if you cannot control those people who are supposed to be your negotiating partners,” Harlem Democratic kingmaker Rangel said at the rally, as the New York Observer’s Ross Barkan reported. After the event was over,City Councilman David Greenfield told reporters that “we had a pro-terrorism rally going on out there.”

This headline-capturing protest comes after New York activists tried to put New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in the hot seat over his remarks to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in which he said being “a defender of Israel” is part of his mayoral job description. De Blasio is often described as representing a new era of Democratic Party politics, one of unabashed progressivism. That progressivism has been wholly absent when it comes to Israel/Palestine. But the activists that gathered outside of City Hall, and that criticized him when he spoke to AIPAC, are at the very least trying to make full-throated support for Israel a controversial position in New York–a surely gargantuan task.

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The trojan horse of liberal Zionism


There are many Zionist myths we would do well to dispel, but perhaps none of them is more directly damaging to building a movement in effective solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination than the myth that liberal Zionism is on their side. (A very useful book debunking this myth has been written recently, of which I coauthored a summative review.) The Zionist left in Israel, and liberal Zionism more broadly, speaks in the language of universalism: democracy, rights, and even justice. However, rather than challenging Israel’s unjust and illegal policies and practices, “liberal” Zionists end up defining the limitations to how Israel is challenged, if not themselves implementing policies that maintain the consistent repression of the Palestinian people. Liberal Zionism plays the role of the Trojan horse that effortlessly enters the camp; it’s important that the Palestine solidarity movement learn to recognize it as a warning sign of the legions advancing behind it.

Prior appearances

As the book mentioned above attests, the history of the state of Israel is loaded with examples of how the Zionist left and its liberal counterparts around the world (most significantly the U.S. government) have informed and shaped unjust Israeli policies by playing this role of the Trojan horse. I will mention only two of the most recent and significant.

The first example is the Oslo Accords. Palestinian protest against Israeli repression, including extrajudicial killings, mass detentions, house demolitions and deportations, culminated in 1987 with the first intifada. The Zionist left was in political power in Israel when the “conflict” was “resolved” with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Palestinian rejection of the Oslo Accords is now quite common knowledge due to the end of that agreement in 2000, when the second intifada erupted in protest against the increase of those same repressive conditions. During their implementation, every aspect of living under occupation – such as Israeli settlement building, the enclosure of the Gaza Strip, lack of access to water, electricity and freedom of movement – worsened rather than being alleviated. And notably, when the second intifada erupted out of this suffocating and oppressive “peace,” it burst the liberal bubble. Those who had joined the ranks of the Zionist left fled, many now swelling the ranks of the right, which has since easily adopted its rhetoric.

The second example of Zionist left policies advancing Israeli violence and suppression is Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza strip. In the wake of the first intifada, during the “peace” of the Oslo Accords, Gaza was completely enclosed and became the outdoor prison (and most densely populated place in the world) that it is today. Israel’s unilateral withdrawal, promoted as a way to support Palestinian autonomy, was eagerly supported by the Zionist left. What it did, however, was to create an isolated Palestinian enclave that could be blockaded, attacked with white phosphorus, and starved of food, water and electricity. It created a testing ground for control and occupation by armed drones which now provide the lucrative export of goods and services for Israel’s arms industry. And it created the enclosed space in which 1.7 million people are entrapped, terrorized and killed by 160 airstrikes in just one night of Israel’s current assault.

The pattern of Zionist left support for policies that maintain and advance Israeli state building through repression and violence repeats over and over. While the current circumstances are different in their specifics, the same kind of danger lies ahead.

The Trojan horse returns – mapping the current battle ground

A state that perpetrates collective punishment and incites the racist violence that we see in Israel today is hard pressed to defend its democratic claims. Israel explains its violence as retaliation. What it consistently fails to explain is its ethnic cleansing of most of the indigenous population and then preventing it from returning. Or its more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian people in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures. The most formidable challenge to false claims of democracy is the success of the Palestinian people to be heard despite the impunity of the Israeli state to attempt to silence them. The Palestinian will simply has not capitulated as Israeli strategists hoped and expected it would by now.

The level of state violence Israel currently reigns on the Palestinian people occurs in the context of additional challenges to its legitimacy at the diplomatic level and from the civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. On the diplomatic front, during negotiation efforts, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority leveraged nonmember observer-state status won at the United Nations in 2012 by joining 15 international bodies. This new status also enables the Palestinian Authority to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and charge Israel with war crimes, an option of which Israel is well aware. In June, after seven years of division and rivalry, the two main Palestinian factions had joined to create a Palestinian unity government, a major blow to the division of Palestinians that Israel both orchestrates and encourages to great benefit. Likewise, the success of the Palestinian civil society call for BDS continues to gain significant ground with states, corporations, unions and associations around the world, creating both political and economic pressure on Israel.

With all of these gains made in the face of outrageous odds, we can count on liberal Zionist interventions to support Israel in maintaining power. An excellent example was offered by the founder of the Center for Middle East Peace in Washington, D.C., S. Daniel Abraham. In mid-January as “peace negotiations” began to falter, he warned in a Ha’aretz article against undermining negotiations with settlement expansion in light of the Palestinian gains made above:

If Israel continues with its policy of settlement expansion and is viewed as not being forthcoming with the Palestinians, Israel’s friends will then be hard pressed to counter the treacherous international efforts to isolate it. Unfortunately, economic and legal sanctions against Israel and Israelis will become prevalent. Ultimately, Israel will find itself on the defendant’s seat in international tribunals. The delegitimization campaign against it will worsen. Isolation will grow. Friends will become few. Even though Israel won’t be solely responsible, it will still have to face this difficult reality.

And he offers his analysis (my emphasis is added):

My many years of involvement in the peace process teach me that the approaching decision is unlike previous ones. This is a watershed moment after which Israel will face a completely different situation – one which will be governed by new realities much less favorable than those Israel faces today. If Kerry’s mission fails, Israel will miss a historic window of opportunity to achieve an agreement that is optimal from its viewpoint. In the future, Israel may be forced to accept a bad agreement or live without an agreement, thereby compromising its Jewish or democratic character….

Abraham’s comments came after the move made by Israel in November 2013, during the negotiation process, to push forward plans for nearly 20,000 new settlement units – at which the United States was likewise dismayed. Based on their liberal Zionist stances, these players similarly saw Israel as undermining an opportunity for reaching an “agreement that would be optimal from its viewpoint” and were trying to save Israel from itself.

Attempts to preserve Israel’s economic and political power are not expressions of support for Palestinian rights or self-determination. Demonstrations against the same negotiations had occurred on the streets of Ramallah demanding that they not be pursued. Initially, every Palestinian political party except Fatah had rejected the talks. Unable to participate in the same way, Palestinian refugees living in diasporagathered on the Internet to voice their rejection of the negotiations via petition. In their statement in solidarity with the California prisoner’s hunger strike, just after the negotiations were announced, the Palestinian Youth Movement asked that we “refuse all options that detract from the fundamental right to resist and fight for decent living for our families and people.”

If the negotiations brokered by Kerry had ‘ended the conflict,’ it would also have made those voices once again virtually inaudible to the international community. This silence is crucial to those who would deny the Palestinian people the right to return to the land they or their families were removed from during the expulsion of 750,000 people in 1948. Beyond the basic moral need to right this wrong, there are grievous material needs to address: some of those people are now currently trapped in the Gaza Strip, others are still in refugee camps throughout the region, and still others are now surviving the unimaginable circumstances of being ethnically cleansed from Syrian camps.

There are numerous other reasons that Palestinian people would be opposed to the negotiations: Control over the borders of what would become a Palestinian state is not something Israel is willing to cede. Jerusalem has been virtually surrounded by settlements. The West Bank has been divided by those same settlements, shrunk by the wall, carved up into enclaves and its water taken. This fragmented and dispersed people would become part of a Palestinian ‘economy’ even further reliant on Israel than it is now. Extensive planning has gone into a Palestinian Economic Initiative that outlines the trademark neoliberal ‘structural reforms’ of an outward-facing economy – in this case, outward toward Israel first. As with previous “peace” strategies, what would be gained from this plan is a new form of subjugation of the Palestinian people, the suppression of the Palestinian struggle, and without their call to hear, the withering of the Palestine solidarity movement.

And where does the Zionist right land on all this? Amos Yadlin, head the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a former chief of Military Intelligence, also thought that the Israeli push for settlements during negotiations was a set up for “losing the blame game.” He did not expect Palestinian acceptance of the negotiation agreements or a third intifada, because he assessed they would think neither to be in their interests. However, he agreed with the assessment of what he called a “diplomatic intifada” which could include a claim made in the ICC and more BDS successes. His suggestion, made at the end of January, 2014, is a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, essentially enforcing a “two-state solution” in which it retains complete control.

[If the Palestinians] are unlikely to approve an agreement that will end the conflict, forfeit Palestinian claims of a “right of return,” and take into consideration Israel’s security demands – then Israel should get the US, France, Germany and England behind the idea of unilateral Israeli steps toward a two-state solution.

The seemingly disparate propositions of the Zionist left and right converge and reinforce each other in this crucial way: they both deny Palestinian demands and basic rights in order to maintain a Jewish exclusionary state by creating alongside it a Palestinian auxiliary state-let. If Israel has a “partner” that will capitulate to these requirements, “peace” is a viable strategy. Otherwise, it will beat back and diabolize Palestinian resistance, weaken or destroy the new Palestinian unity government, and when they can claim “no partner,” unilaterally impose the same outcome.

Maps are more useful if we read the keys

The project of building, maintaining and expanding an exclusive Jewish state in Palestine through exclusion, subjugation and expulsion of the Palestinian people has been unrelenting. The specific strategies employed in this process by the Zionist left (and right, although their outright violence has been more consistent) have evolved over time in response to conditions created by the determination of the Palestinian people to resist it. Identifying these strategies, understanding the impact they have, and challenging them accordingly makes solidarity efforts more useful.

With the recent and seeming demise of the prospects for a two-state solution through negotiations, and the Palestinian civil society call for BDS heard far and wide, it is increasingly common for the Zionist left in Israel, liberal Zionists more broadly (American Jews predominantly), most governments, and an increasing number of corporations and large non-governmental organizations (i.e. Oxfam) to claim support for Palestinian human rights while also safeguarding Zionism and a Jewish state in Palestine. This position leads to a variety of forms of support for “boycott” including “growing Jewish support for boycott” that are not actually responses to the call made by Palestinian civil society. Rather than supporting the demands put forward by those they are claiming to defend, they adopt and adapt the strategy of boycott in ways that support their own interests. But one cannot “advocate” for Palestinian rights and defend an undemocratic Jewish state at the same time; this undermines rather than creates the conditions for meaningful resolution.

That’s why it’s unhelpful, for example, to assume that any presence of boycott in the mainstream press will advance the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. There was a wave of this activity in the U.S. and Israel as negotiations were faltering this past spring.

Jonathon Cook was appropriately wary to claim there had been an increase of commentary critical on Israel in the New York Times, but noted as a milestonetheir publishing of Omar Barghouti’s op-ed on BDS. It is a milestone that the NYT found it advantageous to give a platform to him and the boycott movement; the discussion of boycott has become inescapable. However, it is because of the widespread, liberal interpretations of boycott against Israel that they were able to create a platform for “debate” that mirrored and magnified justification for the two-state solution under negotiation rather than the actual BDS demands:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Each one of the BDS demands is supported by international law, which Israel systematically breaks with impunity, regardless of how many UN resolutions are ratified along the way. It is therefore less astonishing that the NYT would title the collection of letters to the editor in response to this debate with the seemingly evenhanded question: “Is a Boycott of Israel Just?

Likewise, the news piece on Israeli TV, reported about on the independent Israeli web magazine +972 as impressive, read much like a commercial offering the Israeli public an argument for how a two-state solution (and end of the ‘67 occupation in its current form) would be good for business and technology (because that’s where boycott is having an impact) and therefore more beneficial to the growth of the Israeli state.

Overcoming silence and misrepresentation in the media can serve as a major breakthrough in shifting the public opinion necessary to overcoming Israeli impunity. However, we must take the historic and consistent strategies of liberal Zionism into account when assessing which kind of press will shift public opinion by shedding light on the validity of Palestinian demands, and which kind of press will serve as a Trojan horse. Otherwise, we risk being deceived by yet another use of the call for “peace” – or even “Palestinian rights” – as a strategy for maintaining an exclusively Jewish and undemocratic Israeli state.

Suggestions upon sighting a Trojan horse

When the Oslo Accords were signed, any dissention from this “peace program” was quelled or judged as absurd. Critiques of the Accords, discussions about Zionism as a political project or ideology, and the colonial history and expulsion of 1948 were all taboo. The Palestine solidarity movement of the past was floundering without a publicly acknowledged raison d’être which the public could understand and rally around.

The second intifada rejected and broke this enforced silence and made incredible headway in exposing its rhetoric. A task of a Palestine solidarity movement is to not feed, and to help to deflect, any “solutions” that would undermine these accomplishments. In this moment of horrific escalation of Israeli military violence – coinciding with horrific vigilantism – genuine support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination can be shown by joining in the rejection of Israel’s racist exclusion and repression, naming the Trojan horse when you see it, and climbing down out of it if you are inside. Here are some ideas for action:

Expose Trojan horses in the press; write letters to the editor that challenge the assumptions of support for “peace” or Palestinian rights that risk further entrenching the normalization of unequal relations between peoples in the region.

Cease support for and openly oppose diplomatic proposals or organizing campaigns or that can be used to justify a two-state solution which does not comply with Palestinian demands, including addressing the Palestinian right to return. This includes boycotts that focus on goods produced in the West Bank while not including goods produced inside of Israel.

Cease support for and openly challenge the purpose of organizing that reinforces the idea that Jewish positions on Israel/Palestine range only from the Zionist right to the Zionist left.

Join protests around the world in support of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

Attempts to quell Palestinian resistance to injustice continue to escalate. Hopefully they will not “end” with yet another form of the same repression. International solidarity efforts can increase the odds of meaningful resolution by becoming more effective at echoing Palestinian demands. Let us not allow ourselves to be duped into supporting more of the same, even when it appears innocently dressed.

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Lessons from Gaza


Images of death and destruction flood our media as Israel continues its onslaught on the people of Gaza. Every time I turn on my computer the number of dead and wounded has risen and still Netanyahu promises more bombs and more strikes. For an imprisoned community (1.7 million people living in 365km-squared bounded by a wall and the sea) there is no place to run. This is the third time in 6 years that the people of Gaza have had to endure such an attack.

While working with an international aid organization in Jerusalem I was able to visit Gaza several times in the past few years. Through these visits I was able to see a very different Gaza than what is portrayed in Western media. The people I met told a story of pain, suffering, resilience and joy, and taught me important life-lessons.

Members of Al Bashawy Family in their home. The patriarch of the family (red kuffiyeh) remembers life in Jaffa before 1948. (Photo: Rachelle Friesen)Members of Al Bashawy Family in their home. The patriarch of the family (red kuffiyeh) remembers life in Jaffa before 1948. (Photo: Rachelle Friesen)

I met the father of the Al Bashawy family in January, 2014. It had been one month since the December storm had flooded Gaza. He lived in a humble dwelling made of corrugated metal, gyp-rock, and scrap pieces of wood with his son, his son’s wife and children, and other family members. When the flood hit, both sewage and flood waters filled and destroyed his home along with their limited household goods.

The Al Bashawy patriarch is 86. This means he still remembers the war of 1948. Greater still, he remembers life before 1948, before hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were thrown into exile. The father is originally from Jaffa. When he was a teen, he and his father bought and sold horses throughout Palestine; from Jaffa to Jerusalem to Hebron. His eyes sparkled as he remembered those days. As we stood in his house that was suffering from mold and destruction, I asked what he wanted from his future. His answer was clear: to return to his city of Jaffa. Despite 66 years of being denied his homeland, enduring several wars and now a flood, he remained hopeful of his eventual return. This man taught me the importance to continue to live for the dream of justice, even if it has been denied for so long.

In 2013 I visited a children’s center in Khan Younis. There I was greeted by a group of 12- year- old girls that were eager to tell me a story. The girls complained about a teacher in their school. She was abusive, rude, and frequently yelled at the girls. The girls had talked to the adults at the center and instead of the center directly interfering, the staff guided the girls towards a way to solve the problem. The girls had confronted the teacher on previous occasions about her behaviour, however her treatment of the girls had only worsened. So the girls planned a demonstration. Frustrated by the teacher’s abusive behaviour and the power imbalance before them, the girls began chanting anti-dictator slogans in the classroom. The entire classroom became a place for the girls to assert their rights. After the protest the teacher said she would change her ways. The students appreciated the change, however they promised that if she returned to her negative behaviour, they would stage a weekly demonstration in the classroom. These girls taught me the courage to stand up for yourself and others even when facing power imbalance.

This past spring I returned to Khan Younis to assist in a training. After finishing a long day, the trainer and I hopped into a taxi. The driver was grinning as he handed us a bag of fruits. He was so excited that guava had just begun to grow and he had picked them just for us. He then drove throughout Khan Younis, showing us various fruit trees, vegetables, and irrigation systems. At one point he jumped out of the car and pulled up a potato plant to show us. After facing a brutal 7 year blockade, Gaza is lacking many things such as clean water, fuel, and medicine, yet our driver showed us the beauty of what Gaza had to offer. After the extensive tour we tried to pay him, yet he refused payment. All he asked was that the next time we were in Khan Younis we would have the time to meet his family. Our driver taught me the importance that despite the circumstances we face, the oppression and injustice that are out of our control, we can find things in life to celebrate and be proud of.

The first time I went to Gaza I knew very little Arabic. As my translator went to a meeting I was left with Khaled, the director of the host organization. He knew very little English. We sat there drinking coffee, trying to discuss politics and life. A lot of his words flew by my ears without understanding and I am sure he pretended to understand my broken Arabic. However in the moment we sat together we understood each other. We developed a friendship. Over time as my Arabic improved, so did our conversations. There were and still are times when we are completely lost in what the other person is trying to say, but at the end of the day, the underlying message is that we are here for each other in a profound friendship that does not need a language. Khaled taught me the importance of friendship and relationship building, despite the physical barriers placed between us.

Family of Ibrahim Mansur gather in the mourning tent. (Photo: Rachelle Friesen)

Family of Ibrahim Mansur gather in the mourning tent. (Photo: Rachelle Friesen)

In March, 2014 I met the family of Ibrahim Mansur. Ibrahim was the father of 9 children facing difficult economic times. His employment was to pick gravel. The blockade does not allow for building materials into Gaza, so people desperate for income are forced to pick gravel, often close to the buffer zone. Four days before we arrived, he had been picking gravel when the Israeli military shot him in the head. He died instantly in front of his son.

Mohammad (left) on the shores of Gaza. (Photo: Rachelle Friesen)

Mohammad (left) on the shores of Gaza. (Photo: Rachelle Friesen)

On this same trip I met with a group of fisherman on the coast of Gaza. Mohammad, in his early twenties, was fishing when Israeli gunships had stopped him, told him to undress and swim towards their boat. He followed their orders and upon arriving at their boat was promptly arrested. From there he was taken to Erez detention facility. He was released hours later, still without his clothes. The journalist I was with asked him why he had been arrested. He responded “for living.” Mohammad and Ibrahim taught me that in a system that seeks the complete control and suppression of a population, the act of living is punishable even by death, as a result every breath we take becomes an act of resistance.

One of my dear friends I met in Gaza is Majeda. She is a strong vocal woman working for a local NGO. Day in and day out she sees the impact of the occupation, the siege, and war forced upon her people. She walks with them, she hears them, and she loves them. At the same time she mediates with funders for the center as they ask for another report, indicator, and budget often insensitive to struggles of the people the funders claim to helping. Yet Majeda continues. Speaking at conferences, writing articles, updating her facebook she willingly reopens her wounds of trauma in order to get people to understand what the people in Gaza are forced to endure. She fights not just for herself but for her family, her neighbours and her people. Majeda has taught me the importance of love for humanity and that love means fighting for justice.

Tonight as the bombs drop on a Gaza I think of my friends and the stories of the people that have impacted me. I worry for their safety. While the international community remains silent, I am angry that this is allowed to happen yet again. Yet, I am reminded of the lessons that I have learned in Gaza: to dream of justice, to stand up despite power imbalance, to build relationship, to celebrate what you have, that life is resistance, and the importance of loving humanity. As Rafeef Ziadeh states in her poetry, the people of Gaza taught me life.

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Palestine turns Israeli bombs into art


How do Palestinians keep going on, with Israel being there and stuff?

Well, ever heard of Palestine’s special talent for life? Here it is. Palestinians turning into art Israeli bombs and missiles.










This post originally appeared on Refaat Alareer’s website “In Gaza, My Gaza!“. These images were collected from several Palestinian forums and Facebook pages. The author does not know who is creating them.

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Rachel Maddow ignores the story in I$raHell/Palestine



On the last day of June, shortly after three Israeli teens had been kidnapped and Palestine was about to be attacked, Rachel Maddow ran a three-minute segment on the developing issues in the region. The short piece ran at the very end of her show, but she explained to her viewers that, “No one quite knows what daybreak is going to bring. We’ll keep you apprised of developments.”

This turned out to be something of an inaccurate statement, especially if she was not just referring to her network, MSNBC, but specifically referencing her program,The Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow hasn’t mentioned the conflict once since touching upon it fleetingly last month; not one word about dead Palestinian civilians, not even Muhammed Abu Khdeir, the boy who was burned to death by Israeli vigilantes. Since the ascent of Barack Obama, MSNBC has been defined by its liberal outlook and, like many American progressives, they frequently come up short when it comes to the subject of Israel. However, Maddow’s silence is especially glaring, even by the standards of MSNBC: Joy Reid did a segment on Tariq Abu Khdeir, the Florida teen, who was beaten by Israeli police while protesting his cousin’s murder and Chris Hayes analyzed the vast differential between civilian deaths.

During the first week of July, Maddow’s producer Steve Benen defended the show’s lack of coverage, to journalist Zaid Jilani, by citing that one three-minute clip and pointing out that the staff had been off for the holiday. However, their return from Independence Day celebrations yielded no new analysis of America’s favorite client state. Maddow spent the week covering things like John McCain confusing two people with similar names, the Republican National Convention “jinx”, and, of course, Chris Christie. These are all staples of the MSNBC experience, red meat for an Obama-supporting demographic that loves to hear about how silly the GOP is and the only people who don’t groan when Ed Schultz conducts audience polls like, “Are Republicans Angier than Two Black Labs Fighting Over a Toy?” Of course, one of the problems with trusting MSNBC, as some sort of viable alternative to other corporate media, is that this entire act is frequently trotted out in lieu of developing stories that transcend the contours of America’s rotted two-party system. So, viewers hear about Sarah Palin’s latest wacky observation rather than hear something about Chelsea Manning, Obama breaking a strike in Philly, or the demolition of Palestinian homes. During an appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher, Maddow defended MSNBC’s unrelenting coverage of The Christie Bridge Scandal, which has become the liberal Benghazi, explaining that she was, “totally obsessed with the Christie story, unapologetically.” When, the admittedly ridiculous, Charles Cooke suggested that, perhaps, MSNBC was focusing on the Governor of New Jersey so much because he might be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016, Maddow mocked the idea as if it was one of the craziest things she had ever heard.

Maddow’s snark is symbolic. Unlike Fox News, which seems to be stocked with a decent amount of snake oil salesmen, the MSNBC staff are some of the least cynical people working in media today. Last summer, I wrote a book on the politics of the network and, if there was one consistent element that popped up with each personality I researched, it was their unrelenting belief that they can work on any story they want. Rachel Maddow really thinks she has the freedom to cover anything in Israel if she wanted to and, if she did decide to cover it, she reallybelieves she would produce something completely objective. People who think Maddow is being censored, on the subject of Israel, have probably never heard her pontificate on the subject. For a good crash-course on her perception of the conflict, watch her intro to a story from 2009:

 “You undoubtedly saw the headlines today: ‘Israel Launches Third Day of Attacks on Gaza,’ It is a tiny country, a Jewish state, right smack-dab in the middle of the Arab world. Surrounded on all sides by Arab nations, many of whom do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Israel was, in a sense, conceived by war. A day after it declared its independence in May, 1948, it was attacked by five neighboring countries, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. What followed were decades of endless wars, fought on and near Israeli soil. A war with Egypt in 1956, another with Egypt and Jordan and Syria in 1967, another with Egypt and Syria in 1973, one with Lebanon in 1982, and so on, and so on, and so on. And on top of various military entanglements with its neighbors, Israel has also been embroiled in various uprisings within its own borders, among the Palestinian people. You all recall that famous handshake, at the White House, right? Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, agreeing to a Declaration of Principles, that said the Palestinians would be allowed to govern themselves in two areas, in the West Bank, a swath of land along Israel’s border with Jordan, and another tiny sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea, that’s known as the Gaza Strip. The war being fought at this hour is in that little sliver of land, the Gaza Strip—it’s actually only about twice the size of Washington D.C.

Now, Israel withdrew from that land in 2005, but they still control the airspace, the territorial waters, and the Gaza-Israeli border. They’re currently [uh] enforcing an embargo on the Gaza Strip. Once the Palestinians [aggrieved some uh] achieved some degree of independence there, they did what independent people do—what the U.S. in fact, encouraged them to do. They held elections. And in those elections, the ruling nationalist party, Yassar Arafat’s party, Fatah, was defeated soundly by Hamas. Now, Fatah was no League of Women Voters, but say what you will about them, they did begrudgingly accept, theoretically, Israel’s right to exist. Hamas? Not so much. Not so much at all. The charter of Hamas explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel. [Uh] Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union. The net result of that election for Israel? Yet another neighbor bent on its complete destruction. Israel says rockets and mortars lobbed from Gaza into Israel killed nine Israeli civilians since the beginning of this year. A shaky ceasefire between Gaza and Israel that had been brokered by Egypt, that expired just a little more than a week ago. On Saturday then, there was a surprise, broad-daylight, coordinated air-assault, by the Israeli military, on what Israel says were military targets in Gaza.

Another round of headlines that scream, ‘Chaos in the Middle East,’ ‘Chaos in the Middle East Erupts Again.’ More than 300 dead on the Palestinian side in the last three days. Three confirmed dead so far on the Israeli side. Israel’s critics decry a ‘disproportionate response’ to the rocket fire, and emboldened Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei says that any Muslim who dies in defense of Gaza would be deemed a martyr. Israel’s defenders decry the Hamas government’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and, of course, the unprovoked missile fire into southern Israel. Today, Israel’s United Nations ambassador said the goal of Israel’s military offensive is to, quote, ‘destroy completely’ Hamas.

Meanwhile, Palestinian rocket fire into Israel continued, despite the massive Israeli military attack. Now, as President Bush refuses to interrupt his last vacation as President to say anything about the Middle East tinderbox he purports to focus on so intently, is there hope that our new Presidential leadership in our country could make a difference there? Or [i-is] is this a situation in which there will always be violence which precludes a political solution—and without a political solution, we can’t ever have anything but more violence? Do you think that our kids, and their kids, and their kids will inexorably, inevitably, read the same headlines from the Middle East that we do now, and that we have for so many years?

There are many problems with Maddow’s historical analysis here, but let’s start with, perhaps, the biggest one: she doesn’t mention the United States government’s connection to Israel, or the billions of dollars, in American taxpayer money, that Israel receives every year. Israel’s occupation of Palestine is, frequently, covered in mainstream media like it’s a confounding puzzle that can’t possibly be solved, but yanking United States support for it is, quite obviously, the logical starting point. The fact Maddow stays within this narrative is interesting, as she is the author a book critiquing America’s devotion to war, but don’t read Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, expecting to hear much about Israel: the country is barely mentioned and the longest passage, has nothing to do with Palestine, but concerns its connection to Reagan’s Iran policy.


Maddow also references the election of Hamas as if it occurred in a vacuum, with no mention of fact the organization was incubated by Israel or any comment regarding why their message resonated with the citizens of Palestine. She doesn’t point out that Hamas has, previously, sought to negotiate a state along the 1967 borders, contrary to popular belief. She doesn’t say anything about how Palestinian leadership has colluded with Israel and, continually, sold out the population.

Maddow’s concluding speculation, that this conflict might rage on for future generations, presents the situation as nothing more than a senseless cycle of violence, perpetrated by both sides, possibly for the rest of our lives. But there’s nothing senseless about it, if one understands the basic principles of US hegemony or the idea of Zionism. Palestine isn’t a puzzle that can only be comprehended by policy experts, it’s a country being subjected to daily brutalities and an international scandal far more disturbing than any nefarious traffic jam in New Jersey.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Rachel Maddow ignores the story in I$raHell/Palestine

Each one is a world


We were sitting at Lincoln Park in West Seattle, with a handful of friends who had gathered for a picnic potluck, awaiting others who would be joining us shortly.

A Facebook message came through on my Smartphone from my friend Yousef Munayyer.

Hey Jen, just saw some news about a young man from the Shurrab family in khan yunis being the latest victim, Name is Tayseer. Have you heard from Amer recently?

Amer Shurrab was, as a matter of fact, sitting across the picnic table from me at that very moment.  He  had come for a few day visit from Monterrey, where he is finishing his MBA. Though we had planned the visit weeks before the shit hit the fan in Gaza, the timing of it felt oddly right. I think it felt somewhat comforting to Amer to be surrounded by people who had some notion of what he was going through, and the beautiful Pacific Northwest was allowing some respite from the obsessive news-checking and strangling stress that is inevitable when one’s family is under bombardment.

Amer Shurrab

Amer Shurrab

We had just returned to Seattle after spending the last two days in Olympia with Rachel Corrie’s family. In between deep acknowledgment of the horror of the situation in Gaza, some of it spoken and some of it silent, we spent several hours on Mt Rainier. Just a few hours earlier, Amer took his first ride in a kayak.

And then, as we were waiting for other Seattle friends and activists to come and meet Amer, which had been the impetus of organizing the picnic potluck, Yousef’s message came through over Facebook.

I walked around the picnic table where everyone was introducing themselves and gently touched Amer on the shoulder, asking him to step aside from the group with me. He did, and I showed him Yousef’s message.

“Is he a relative?” I asked.

Amer’s face instantly clouded with fear and worry. “It may be my cousin Mohammed Tayseer,” he answered. He immediately pulled out his phone, and walked up a path towards the woods so he could call his family with some measure of privacy. I stared at him for a moment as he sat on the railing of the path, head bowed down, cell phone pressed against his ear, and could think only about the incident that led to Amer and I re-connecting after many years of not having been in touch–the incident in January 2009 during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” when two of his brothers were killed and his father injured.    In the months and years since that horrific event, I had grown very close to Amer, holding him in my heart as family. I had visited his family in Khan Younis twice–the first visit is described in this blog post and the 2nd visit, tragically, just two days after his father passed unexpectedly, due at least in part to the grief and stress related to the murder of his sons.

And now. And now, here was Amer, on the phone to confirm if the most recent killing in Gaza was another member of his family.

Amer continued to sit on the rail, head down, but his arm with the phone was dropped limply by his side. I approached.

“Was it your cousin?”

It was.

I went back to the group at the picnic table. Amer needed a few minutes alone, he told me, and he would join us when he felt ready.

The mood of the gathering shifted instantly. Where there had been casual, light conversation, there was now mostly silence laden with sadness, anger, dread,  and, overlaying it all, worry for Amer, who was now sitting on a log by the water’s edge, head still bowed. The only clear thought echoing through my mind in those next minutes: This is so unfair. This is so fucking, fucking unfair.

I saw a rather large group approach and walked towards them to see who was joining us. It was my friend Kara, and her husband Hakim, who is from Gaza. With them were Hakim’s six-year old sister Hiba and his mother, who he had been working on bringing to the U.S. from the Gaza strip for months but had managed to get out, in the end, just a day before the bombardment began. Other friends from Gaza, one from the same neighborhood that Amer is from, joined shortly afterwards.

I sent a quick prayer of thanks for the new arrivals. There were people here who shared Amer’s pain.

Hakim and his friends Anas and Mohammed lit coals on a barbeque and started to grill meat patties, chop peppers and tomatoes. Hiba found some sidewalk chalk and began to draw a stick figure of a smiling little girl under a big colorful tree, next to a house. Amer came back from his perch by the sea and soberly joined the group which had now trebled in size and had the Gazan dialect of Arabic chatter intermingling with English and the wafting odors of grilled meat prepared with Middle Eastern spices.

Hiba gave Amer a rock she had specially decorated for him with the sidewalk chalk. People began to eat.

In some way, we needed to directly confront, as a group, what had just happened to Amer’s cousin, what was happening to every family in Gaza. We had to find a way to hold space for the pain and the loss. And to honor those who had been killed these last 8 days, those that loved them, and those that were living in terror that they, or their family member, would be next.

And so, as the sun set and the mountains turned a deep purple, our group of 17 (6 of them from Gaza) gathered tightly together around the picnic table. Passing around a smartphone with the information loaded, we read aloud, one by one, the name and age of every one of the 194 human beings who had been killed in Gaza (as well as the one Israeli killed) since the assault began. A reminder that those killed are not numbers. They are people. Many of them children. Some of those children even younger than Hiba. Each one with a family. Each one an entire world.

The web-based list had not been updated in the last hour.  Amer’s cousin was not yet on it. But we didn’t need a website to know his name.

“Mohammed Tayseer Shurrab,” Amer said in a strong voice when the last name on the smartphone had been read.  Insha’allah ,he added, this would be the last name. Insha’allah, the list would grow no longer. Then, as the mountains deepened from purple to black, Amer led us in a prayer for the dead.

We held silence together for a moment.  Anas and Hakim spoke about what this simple act of solidarity meant to them.

Then, we shifted our circle from around the picnic table to around Hiba’s chalk drawing. It was by the narrowest of threads that the six-year-old girl was not, at that moment, shuddering under fierce explosions from bombs dropped by warplanes and drones.

The drawing: A smiling girl. A home. A tree.

What every child deserves to draw.

What every child deserves to know.

This post originally appeared on Jen Marlow’s website View from the donkey’s saddle.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, GazaComments Off on Each one is a world

I$raHell strike kills four Palestinian children playing soccer on Gaza beach



Four Palestinian children from the same family were killed today by an Israeli attack, a deadly, harrowing event witnessed by many Western journalists. Above is footage from NBC of a mother searching for her son, who was killed in the attack.

Initial reports were that the children were slain because of Israeli naval shelling, though Israeli journalists are reporting that it was an air strike.

The Agence France Presse reports their names and ages as: Ismail Mahmoud Bakir, 9, Ahed Atef Bakir, 10, Zakariya Ahed Bakir, 10, and Mohammad Ramiz Bakir, 11. The four kids from the Bakir family were playing soccer on a Gaza beach. The news outlet Media 24 posted this photo purportedly showing the before and after of the attack:


Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on I$raHell strike kills four Palestinian children playing soccer on Gaza beach

“Lone Wolf” Law Enforcement: America’s Real “Homegrown Extremism”

Global Research

Eric Holder wants to convey his all-consuming concern over “lone wolf homegrown violent extremists” who have “domestic concerns”.

On July 13 Holder remarked on ABCs This Week that such bogeys keep him up late at night as he and his cohorts attempt to monitor them, anticipate what it is that they are going to do.”[1]

(Click on the link above to see the video.).

The Attorney General’s hand wringing is compounded by the Southern Poverty Law Centers most recent research report. The document seeks to inform “law enforcement about the increasingly hostile anti-government movement” the SPLC claims “has grown from 150 groups in 2008 to nearly 1,100 last year.[2]

In early June, the study intones,

two rabid government haters who spent time at the [Bundy] ranch, Jerad and Amanda Miller, strolled into a Las Vegas pizza parlor, walked past a pair of police officers eating lunch, turned and executed the two men [sic]. Leaving a Gadsden Dont Tread on Me Flag, a note saying the revolution had begun and a swastika on the officers bodies, the couple went on to murder another man before dying in a shootout with police.[3]

The overall publicity offensive comes one month after Holder announced the re-establishment of the DOJs Committee on Domestic Terrorism, initially begun following the bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building and scuttled in 2001.[4]

While Holder and the SPLC unsurprisingly promote the Vegas shooting as a genuine event, there are several uncertain features of the alleged massacre that have been left wholly unaddressed by major media–the foremost being that the Millers were police informants and probable provocateurs. Further, they had been kicked off of the Bundy ranch because of their unusual remarks and behavior.[5]

Despite the Vegas incident’s dubious features, it is a foremost element in cultivating an atmosphere of tension surrounding “extremist” attitudes and hostility toward police exhibited in social media. For example, the topic of [e]escalating danger by anti-government extremists dominated a four-hour discussion on homeland security held at the National Sheriffs Association conference in June. According to one sheriff in attendance, such extremism is the single greatest concern that faces our deputies today.[5]

But recent history strongly suggests how Holders crocodile fears and the SPLCs associated terror mongering are grossly disingenuous. The DOJs foremost policing agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has since 9/11 been the nations greatest purveyor of domestic terrorism. What goes unstated in corporate news media coverage of the issue is the fact that the FBIs wanton extremism is self-generated largely to marshal public opinion behind the so-called war on terror and thereby justify the broader police states continued existence and expansion.

As journalist Trevor Aaronson revealed after an extensive examination of the FBIs post-9/11 anti-terrorism techniques, for over a decade the agency

has built the largest network of spies ever to exist in the United Stateswith ten times as many informants on the streets today as there were during the infamous Cointelpro operations under J. Edgar Hooverwith the majority of these spies focused on ferreting out terrorism in Muslim communities.[6]

With this in mind, one neednt stretch their imagination very far to consider the designs the FBI is likely undertaking to foster its war on [domestic] terrorism. Such immense schemes are more than sufficient cause to further rethink the already ambiguous roles played by the Vegas shooters in last months apparent massacre.

Eric Holder and the SPLC are well aware of their own duplicity. The fact that they parade around waving the flag of civil rights should by no means place them beyond the deep scrutiny they so richly deserve. Moreover, their fear-based sermonizing is pitched to the most obtuse and impressionable sectors of the publicthose the media routinely inoculate against historical reality, critical thought, and informed citizenship.


[1] One-on-One with Eric Holder: Homegrown Terror Threat, ABCs This Week, July 13, 2014.

[2] Jason Sickles, Online Rants, Antigovernment Fuel Fears of US Cop Killings, Yahoo News, July 14, 2014.

[3] War in the West: The Bundy Ranch Standoff and the American Radical Right, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama, July 2014, 6. The methodology employed by the SPLC employs topurport a growth of “hate groups” is at best dubious. See James F. Tracy, Extremist Publicity and Historical Reality,” Memory Hole Blog, March 14, 2013.

[4] Statement by Attorney General Holder on Reestablishment of Committee on Domestic Terrorism, US Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, Washington DC, June 3, 2014.

[5] Jerad and Amanda Miller: Were Vegas Shooters Informants ‘Gone Off the Reservation‘?” 21st Century Wire, June 23, 2014.

[6] Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBIs Manufactured War on Terrorism, New York: Ig Publishing, 2013, 16.

Posted in USAComments Off on “Lone Wolf” Law Enforcement: America’s Real “Homegrown Extremism”

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