Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Top architects accuse Israelis of oppression

Hugh Muir, The Guardian, Saturday May 26, 2007
Leading British architects have accused their counterparts in Israel of complicity in schemes that contribute to the "social, political and economic oppression of Palestinians".

The architects, including Will Alsop, Terry Farrell, Richard MacCormac, Royal Institute of British Architects president Jack Pringle and president-elect Sunand Prasad, have signed a petition organised by the group Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine.

"APJP asserts that the actions of our fellow professionals working with these enterprises are clearly unethical, immoral and contravene universally recognised professional codes of conduct," a spokesman said. "We ask the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) to meet their professional obligations to declare their opposition to this inhuman occupation."

Mr Alsop told Building Design magazine that they felt compelled to act. "This is not against Israel, it's for Palestine," he said. "I think the Palestinians are living in a prison. I'd like fellow colleagues in Israel to feel some responsibility about this shabby treatment. Architects are a fairly humanitarian lot and perhaps they could help."

But the intervention was attacked by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Its chief executive, Jon Benjamin, said: "What they are saying is that they have a certain view and that Israeli architects must publicly declare that to be their position as well." Mr Benjamin said Israeli Arabs and Jews were working together on numerous low-profile but worthy projects in the occupied territories: "The two sides should be encouraged to work together."


Opposing the architects of the occupation
Esther Zandberg, Ha'aretz, May 28, 2007
About 200 British and Israeli architects and academics, including people of international renown, have signed a manifesto initiated by the British organization Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, which calls on Israeli architects and planners to put an end to being "partners in social, political and economic oppression" in the occupied territories, "which violates the professional ethics acceptable to all."

The manifesto points to three representative projects currently promoted by the planning authorities: the master plan for the E1 region between the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, which will prevent Palestinian territorial contiguity; construction in Silwan in East Jerusalem, which involves the demolition of dozens of homes; and a plan to build a luxury neighborhood on the remains of the former Palestinian village of Lifta.

The organization considers participation in these projects, construction in the occupied territories and any planning in Israel that involves discrimination and repression, to be a blatant violation of international conventions, which require professional and ethical responsibility for the social and environmental consequences of planning and construction work. The organization has sent letters on the subject to the International Architects Association and to the Israel Association of United Architects. It has also turned to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and to Minister of Construction and Housing Meir Sheetrit on the matter.


A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture
By Rafi Segal, Eyal Weizman, Meron Benvenisti, Gideon Levy, Oren Yiftachel -Thursday, 27 November 2003

The original exhibit on which this book is based was banned. When this happened, the exhibitors were invited to mount the exhibit in New York.

Censored last year by the Association of Israeli Architects, A Civilian Occupation is the first attempt by Israeli architects, scholars, journalists, and photographers to highlight the role of Israeli architecture in the Middle East conflict.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the declared aim of the Zionist project has been to build a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. From the settlement offensive of the Tower and Stockade villages in the 1930s, through the total planning of the state of Israel soon after its independence, to the colonization of the occupied territories from 1967 to the present, this book reveals how central Israeli architecture has been in securing that aim.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Leichhardt/Hebron sister-city relationship attacked

Hebron sister city anger
Imre Salusinszky, NSW political reporter May 26, 2007

It's the Inner-West Bank
Byron Kaye May 26, 2007 12:00

Off Side in Israel

May 23, 2007
SBS's Dateline reporter Sophie McNeil reports on the discrimination faced by the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Transcript and video here.

Secret Memo: Israel knew occupation was illegal

Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 26 May 2007
A senior legal official who secretly warned the government of Israel after the Six Day War of 1967 that it would be illegal to build Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories has said, for the first time, that he still believes that he was right.

The declaration by Theodor Meron, the Israeli Foreign Ministry's legal adviser at the time and today one of the world's leading international jurists, is a serious blow to Israel's persistent argument that the settlements do not violate international law, particularly as Israel prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the war in June 1967.

The legal opinion, a copy of which has been obtained by The Independent, was marked "Top Secret" and "Extremely Urgent" and reached the unequivocal conclusion, in the words of its author's summary, "that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Judge Meron, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia until 2005, said that, after 40 years of Jewish settlement growth in the West Bank - one of the main problems to be solved in any peace deal: "I believe that I would have given the same opinion today."

Judge Meron, a holocaust survivor, also sheds new light on the aftermath of the 1967 war by disclosing that the Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, was "sympathetic" to his view that civilian settlement would directly conflict with the Hague and Geneva conventions governing the conduct of occupying powers.

Despite the legal opinion, which was forwarded to Levi Eshkol, the Prime Minister, but not made public at the time, the Labour cabinet progressively sanctioned settlements. This paved the way to growth which has resulted in at least 240,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank today.
Judge Meron, 76, is now an appeal judge at the Tribunal. Speaking about his 1967 opinion for the first time, he also tells tomorrow's Independent Magazine: "It's obvious to me that the fact that settlements were established and the pace of the establishment of the settlements made peacemaking much more difficult."Blaming restrictions on Palestinian movement for the devasatation of the Palestinian economy, the World Bank earlier this month acknowledged Israeli security concerns but added that many of the restrictions were aimed at "enhancing the free movement of settlers and the physical and economic expansion of the settlements at the expense of the Palestinian population." The settlements and their "jurisdictions" effectively control about 40 per cent of the area of the West Bank.

The argument that the settlements are illegal, stated in successive UN resolutions, and by the International Court of Justice advisory opinion condemning the separation barrier in 2004, is reinforced by such an authoritative source. It strengthens the political case in any "final status" negotiations on borders with the Palestinians for genuinely equitable land swaps of Israeli territory to a future Palestinian state if Israel is to retain settlement blocks.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon secured a promise in 2004 from President George Bush that large Israeli "population centres" in the West Bank could remain in Israel in any such negotiations. In a subsequent letter to the Palestinians, the President promised that final borders had to be subject to agreement by negotiation.Judge Meron's memorandum was obtained from the Israel State Archives. His subsequent defence of it amounts to a direct challenge to Israel's continuing contention that the Geneva Convention's provisions on settling people in occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank because its annexation by Jordan between 1949 and 1967 had been unilateral.

The memorandum was written in September 1967 as the Eshkol government was already considering Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, seized from Syria during the Six Day War. It says that the international community had already rejected the "argument that the West Bank is not 'normal occupied territory'."

It pointed out that the British ambassador to the United Nations, Lord Caradon, had already asserted that Israel's position was that of an occupier. It added that a decree from the army command saying that military courts would "fulfil Geneva provisions" indicated that Israel thought so too.

Judge Meron also says in his interview that such an argument would not in any case have applied to the Golan Heights which had been undisputed as sovereign Syrian territory prior to the Six Day War.

While the Olmert government has so far rejected calls for peace negotiations by Syria's President Bashir Assad, it has been weighing a welter of internal advice proposing that it explores talks seeking an end to Syrian support for Hizbollah and Hamas in return for restoring the Golan Heights to Syria.

The memorandum, details of which were published by the Israeli writer Gershom Gorenberg last year, also says settlements built on private land would explicitly contravene the 1907 Hague Convention.

The only implicit acknowledgement of the Meron memorandum - which Mr Gorenberg established also went to Moshe Dayan, the triumphant Defence Minister during the Six Day War - was that one of the first West Bank settlements, Kfar Etzion, was initially called a "military outpost" although it was already, in effect, a civilian settlement. The memorandum said there was no legal prohibition against military posts in occupied territory.

Interview: As'ad Abukhalil on the Nahr al-Bared siege

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Lebanon, 24 May 2007
Thousands of Palestinian refugees are fleeing from Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon as five days of fighting by the Lebanese army and a militant group known as Fath al-Islam has left dozens of soldiers and fighters and an unknown number of civilians dead. As the situation of these Palestinian refugees worsens, 59 years after they were first expelled from their homeland into Lebanon, the world looks on in silence.

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah spoke with As'ad Abukhalil, the creator of the Angry Arab News Service blog. Abukhalil explained the origins of Fath al-Islam, the events that led to the violence and what it means for Lebanon and the region.

Imprisoning a Whole Nation

John Pilger - May 24, 2007
Israel is being allowed to destroy the very notion of a state of Palestine and is imprisoning an entire nation. That is clear from the latest attacks on Gaza, whose suffering has become a metaphor for the tragedy imposed on the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. These attacks, reported on Britain's Channel 4 News, were "targeting key militants of Hamas" and the "Hamas infrastructure." The BBC described a "clash" between the same militants and Israeli F-16 aircraft.

Consider one such clash. The militants' car was blown to pieces by a missile from a fighter-bomber. Who were these militants? In my experience, all the people of Gaza are militant in their resistance to their jailer and tormentor. As for the "Hamas infrastructure," this was the headquarters of the party that won last year's democratic elections in Palestine. To report that would give the wrong impression. It would suggest that the people in the car and all the others over the years, the babies and the elderly who have also "clashed" with fighter-bombers, were victims of a monstrous injustice. It would suggest the truth.

"Some say," said the Channel 4 reporter, that "Hamas has courted this [attack] ..." Perhaps he was referring to the rockets fired at Israel from within the prison of Gaza which killed no one. Under international law an occupied people has the right to use arms against the occupier's forces. This right is never reported. The Channel 4 reporter referred to an "endless war," suggesting equivalents. There is no war. There is resistance among the poorest, most vulnerable people on earth to an enduring, illegal occupation imposed by the world's fourth largest military power, whose weapons of mass destruction range from cluster bombs to thermonuclear devices, bankrolled by the superpower. In the past six years alone, wrote the historian Ilan Pappé, "Israeli forces have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children."

Consider how this power works. According to documents obtained by United Press International, the Israelis once secretly funded Hamas as "a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] by using a competing religious alternative," in the words of a former CIA official.

Today, Israel and the US have reversed this ploy and openly back Hamas's rival, Fatah, with bribes of millions of dollars. Israel recently secretly allowed 500 Fatah fighters to cross into Gaza from Egypt, where they had been trained by another American client, the Cairo dictatorship. The Israelis' aim is to undermine the elected Palestinian government and ignite a civil war. They have not quite succeeded. In response, the Palestinians forged a government of national unity, of both Hamas and Fatah. The latest attacks are aimed at destroying this.

With Gaza secured in chaos and the West Bank walled in, the Israeli plan, wrote the Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi, is "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted collaborationists. Look to the Iraq of today ..."

On 19 May, the Guardian received this letter from Omar Jabary al-Sarafeh, a Ramallah resident: "Land, water and air are under constant sight of a sophisticated military surveillance system that makes Gaza like The Truman Show," he wrote. "In this film every Gazan actor has a predefined role and the [Israeli] army behaves as a director ... The Gaza strip needs to be shown as what it is ... an Israeli laboratory backed by the international community where human beings are used as rabbits to test the most dramatic and perverse practices of economic suffocation and starvation."

The remarkable Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has described the starvation sweeping Gaza's more than a million and a quarter inhabitants and the "thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people unable to receive any treatment ... The shadows of human beings roam the ruins ... They only know the [Israeli army] will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions."

Whenever I have been in Gaza, I have been consumed by this melancholia, as if I were a trespasser in a secret place of mourning. Skeins of smoke from wood fires hang over the same Mediterranean Sea that free peoples know, but not here. Along beaches that tourists would regard as picturesque trudge the incarcerated of Gaza; lines of sepia figures become silhouettes, marching at the water's edge, through lapping sewage. The water and power are cut off, yet again, when the generators are bombed, yet again. Iconic murals on walls pockmarked by bullets commemorate the dead, such as the family of 18 men, women and children who "clashed" with a 500lb American/Israeli bomb, dropped on their block of flats as they slept. Presumably, they were militants.

More than 40 percent of the population of Gaza are children under the age of 15. Reporting on a four-year field study in occupied Palestine for the British Medical Journal, Dr. Derek Summerfield wrote that "two-thirds of the 621 children killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest – the sniper's wound." A friend of mine with the United Nations calls them "children of the dust." Their wonderful childishness, their rowdiness and giggles and charm, belie their nightmare.

I met Dr. Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist who heads one of several children's community health projects in Gaza. He told me about his latest survey. "The statistic I personally find unbearable," he said, "is that 99.4 percent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma, you see why: 99.2 percent of the study group's homes were bombarded; 97.5 percent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 percent witnessed shootings; 95.8 percent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed."

He said children as young as three faced the dichotomy caused by having to cope with these conditions. They dreamt about becoming doctors and nurses, then this was overtaken by an apocalyptic vision of themselves as the next generation of suicide bombers. They experienced this invariably after an attack by the Israelis. For some boys, their heroes were no longer football players, but a confusion of Palestinian "martyrs" and even the enemy, "because Israeli soldiers are the strongest and have Apache gunships."

Shortly before he died, Edward Said bitterly reproached foreign journalists for what he called their destructive role in "stripping the context of Palestinian violence, the response of a desperate and horribly oppressed people, and the terrible suffering from which it arises." Just as the invasion of Iraq was a "war by media," so the same can be said of the grotesquely one-sided "conflict" in Palestine. As the pioneering work of the Glasgow University Media Group shows, television viewers are rarely told that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation; the term "occupied territories" is seldom explained. Only 9 percent of young people interviewed in the UK know that the Israelis are the occupying force and the illegal settlers are Jewish; many believe them to be Palestinian. The selective use of language by broadcasters is crucial in maintaining this confusion and ignorance. Words such as "terrorism," "murder" and "savage, cold-blooded killing" describe the deaths of Israelis, almost never Palestinians.

There are honorable exceptions. The kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston is one of them. Yet, amidst the avalanche of coverage of his abduction, no mention is made of the thousands of Palestinians abducted by Israel, many of whom will not see their families for years. There are no appeals for them. In Jerusalem, the Foreign Press Association documents the shooting and intimidation of its members by Israeli soldiers. In one eight-month period, as many journalists, including the CNN bureau chief in Jerusalem, were wounded by the Israelis, some of them seriously. In each case, the FPA complained. In each case, there was no satisfactory reply.

A censorship by omission runs deep in western journalism on Israel, especially in the US. Hamas is dismissed as a "terrorist group sworn to Israel's destruction" and one that "refuses to recognize Israel and wants to fight not talk." This theme suppresses the truth: that Israel is bent on Palestine's destruction. Moreover, Hamas's long-standing proposals for a ten-year cease-fire are ignored, along with a recent, hopeful ideological shift within Hamas itself that amounts to a historic acceptance of the sovereignty of Israel. "The [Hamas] charter is not the Quran," said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. "Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions ... If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don't think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis [for a solution]."

When I last saw Gaza, driving towards the Israeli checkpoint and the razor wire, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering from inside the walled compounds. Children were responsible for this, I was told. They make flagpoles out of sticks tied together and one or two will climb on to a wall and hold the flag between them, silently. They do it when there are foreigners around and they believe they can tell the world.

And now, a fetus

Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, 20 May 2007
Memorial posters decorate the walls of the Rafidiya government hospital in Nablus, covering earlier posters of countless young people who have been killed. But this poster is like nothing we have seen before: a fetus covered in its own blood, its tiny head blown up by the bullet that struck its mother, and the caption - “Who gave you the right to steal his life?”

The killing of the unborn child, Daoud, by Israel Defense Forces troops raises a series of moral, legal and philosophical questions. Is the killing of a fetus manslaughter? Is it murder? And how old is the victim? But all these questions are dwarfed by the woman lying stunned and injured in the maternity ward of the hospital in Nablus, in agony, with all kinds of tubes attached to her, refusing to answer a single question.

It is obvious that Maha Katouni is still in a state of trauma. Wounded in the abdomen, she lies in bed, her elderly mother by her side. The tube in her nose makes it hard for her to speak. She is 30 years old and was in the seventh month of pregnancy, a mother who got up in the middle of the night to protect her three small children, sleeping in the other room, from the bullets that were whistling by outside. As soon as she got out of bed, the bullet struck her. Bleeding, she fell on the nightstand by her bed. Maha survived, but Daoud - as she and her husband planned to name their son - was removed from her womb with a bullet wound to the head.

“And babies?” a reporter once asked an American soldier who had taken part in the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War. His succinct answer was just as chilling as the question. “Babies.”

And now, a fetus.

The day before, I had been in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, accompanied by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, comparing the horrors of apartheid to the Israeli occupation in the territories. The next afternoon I was here, in the Rafidiya maternity ward, standing before the bed of the wounded Maha, who had lost her baby.

The biggest hospital in the territories is practically deserted, barely functioning. It has been this way for two months now. Like the other hospitals in the West Bank, Rafidiya accepts only emergency cases, because of the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority, which also prevents the workers here from being paid. Only 20 of the hospital’s 168 beds are currently occupied, and only about a third of the hospital’s 380 staff members show up for work. In the emergency room we saw just one patient, who had arrived that morning. The rest of the beds were empty. In the past two and a half months, the workers have received just NIS 1,500 per person, from funds provided by the European Union.

Hospital director Dr. Khaled Salah says that the staff and patients don’t come to the hospital because of the difficulties in getting to Nablus and the cost of the trip, which has risen significantly because of the checkpoints. The Hawara checkpoint and the Beit Iba checkpoint, the two checkpoints on the city’s outskirts, are relatively deserted, because of the difficulty in getting past them.

Maha lies in bed, her eyes closed. A green headscarf covers her head. Her skin is ashen. Every once in a while she opens her eyes but then quickly closes them again. Once in a while she also murmurs a few words in a feeble voice and then goes quiet again. How are you? Silence. Maha is a resident of the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus. She is married to Rifat, a 36-year-old school janitor, and the couple have three children: Jihad, 10; Jawad, 7; and Jad, 3. Two uncles and her mother watch over her, not budging from her bedside. For the father of the family, it’s too hard to be here. He’s still in shock.

Last Wednesday was an ordinary day in the Katouni household. The father went to work, the kids went to school, and in the evening everyone went to bed - the parents in their bedroom and the three children in their room in the third-floor apartment. Shortly after two in the morning, Maha was startled awake by the loud sounds of gunfire from the street. She didn’t even manage to turn on the light when she got up to run to the kids’ room next door, to reassure her three little boys and keep them from getting scared. The gunfire was very heavy. The window of her room was open and her bed was close to the window.

Maha got out of bed, took one step, and then the bullet struck her in the lower back. She fell onto the nightstand. Another bullet struck the nightstand. Soldiers from the Nahal patrol battalion were standing on the roofs of the surrounding buildings. “Wherever we are sent - to there we go,” the poet Yaakov Orland once wrote in “The Nahal Anthem,” sung by the Nahal entertainment troupe, which also sang “The Song of Peace.”

Rifat rushed to call an ambulance. The children, who had awakened, were hysterical, especially the youngest, 3-year-old Jad, at the sight of the blood trickling from the front and back of their pregnant mother, who lay wounded on the floor. The bullet had struck her from behind, passed through the fetus’ head and the mother’s intestines and exited through the abdomen.

Family members say that about 45 minutes went by before the ambulance from the Medical Relief organization was permitted to approach. In the meantime, Maha’s mother, Umm Ibrahim, tried to leave her home nearby to come to her daughter’s aid. Umm Ibrahim says that when she tried to leave her house there was gunfire; she hurried back inside. “It’s a miracle that I was saved,” says the woman in the white headscarf. She could not reach her injured daughter and would not see her until two hours later, in the hospital.

The pain is written all over Maha’s face. One of her brothers somehow managed to cross the line of fire and get to her house; he tried to stanch the gaping wound in her stomach with a towel. Her husband, Rifat, was paralyzed with shock. Umm Ibrahim says that her son, who tended to Maha, could see through the hole in her abdomen that the fetus had been wounded in the head and was dead.

The gunfire finally subsided at around three in the morning and they were able to take Maha out to the street, carried by her brother and the paramedic from the ambulance that had parked in the nearby alley. The brother says that on the way to the hospital they were stopped twice by soldiers, who wanted to check the wounded woman’s identity and to make sure there were no wanted men hiding in the ambulance. Maha was barely conscious when she reached the hospital, but her mother says she understood right away that she had lost the baby.

The family says the IDF enters the camp nearly every night and that there is almost always gunfire. Umm Ibrahim managed to get to the hospital at four in the morning, when her daughter was in the operating room and the dead fetus had already been removed.

Dr. Ihab Shareideh was the surgeon who was summoned to the hospital in the middle of the night to operate on Maha. He says that her recovery has been more difficult and slower than usual, not only because of her injuries, but because of her traumatized mental state. Fortunately, not many blood vessels were injured, so the delay in getting her to the hospital did not cause further damage. It is too soon to gauge the extent of the damage to her digestive system, or to say whether she will be able to get pregnant again. The fetus died as a result of the bullet that penetrated its brain on the way to the mother’s intestines.

The anesthesiologist, Dr. Iyad Salim, a resident of nearby Hawara, roams the hospital corridors. On his cell phone camera is a video of the operation and the removal of the fetus. So close to being a fully developed baby, with a bullet wound to the head. The memorial poster shows the etus bleeding from the head. The image is unbearable.

They were going to call him Daoud, after an uncle, and also after a resident of the camp who was killed. At home they had everything ready: new clothes, diapers and a crib passed down from his older brothers. Daoud was buried in the camp cemetery. Only a few close family members attended the funeral of the unborn baby.

At press time, no response had been received from the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.

Howard's dubious Jewish National Fund honor

Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 21 May 2007
There is something worrying about a prime minister of a liberal, democratic country who imposes values on his country's citizens and those who wish to become citizens, yet does not adhere to those values when he regards it politically expedient to ignore them. This is precisely what Prime Minister John Howard has done in accepting the "honour" of having a forest named after him in Israel's Negev Desert and also the Jerusalem Prize for his support of Israel and its "values". And John Howard is in good company: Sir Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke -- both former Australian prime ministers -- also have forests in Israel named after them, as well as a former governor-general, Sir Zelman Cowen.

The naming of the John Howard forest was arranged by a quasi-private land agency, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which deliberately discriminates against non-Jews in its allocation of long-lease agreements. This arrangement services Israel's apartheid policies aimed at bringing about the Judaisation of all of the land originally known as historic Palestine. The Israeli government relies on the JNF and international Zionist organizations to bring in Jews from abroad to settle on land forcibly taken from the non-Jewish inhabitants -- a practice which is discriminatory and illegal. Already the JNF holds 13 per cent of the land and now is currently advertising its "Blueprint Negev" as "A Miracle in the Desert". Only Jews will have access to the new development in keeping with the JNF's charter, which is focused on looking after Jews globally.

The Negev Desert was and is the home of the indigenous Bedouin Arabs who are now citizens of present-day Israel. Some 80,000 have been living in 45 unrecognised villages in the southern Negev Desert and although they have a right to vote in Israel's national elections and have a duty to pay taxes if they work, they have been calculatingly ignored when the Israeli government approves of planning projects for new Jewish communities. Their lands have been systematically confiscated and thousands of them have been forced to live in poor and densely populated shanty towns that is anathema to their traditional life on the land. These shanty towns are totally neglected by the Israeli government and the Bedouins have no access to even basic infrastructure like water, electricity and sewage. There are no roads or medical and welfare services and no municipal authority to administer services. The Bedouins, therefore, have no access to any authority that might issue permits for building and when out of necessity they do build, they live in constant fear of having their homes destroyed.

The similarity of conditions between the Bedouin Arabs and black South Africans during the Apartheid era is obvious. Like the white South Africans, Jewish Israelis seek to preserve their privileged position in Israel at all costs, tragically to the detriment of the non-Jewish citizens. All Israel's policies, therefore, are geared to ensure the exclusivity and security of the Jewish state. Thus, mass expulsions followed by home demolitions and razing of villages is a familiar story in Israel just as forced removal was the modus operandi in South Africa. Under Israel's former Prime Minister Sharon, a five-year plan was approved by the Israeli cabinet, to force the Bedouins living in the unrecognised villages to leave. There was no consultation, just a gradual increase in house demolitions, the spraying of herbicide on crops to stop land cultivation and the filing of eviction suits. Places were renamed and Jewish towns, villages and cooperatives were built in place of the Bedouin villages. The Bedouins, who once owned 94 per cent of the total land, have had their land declared state property. They now own less than three per cent, and those who refuse to leave their unrecognised villages, are called "squatters".

The JNF -- which has marketed itself in the last decade as a premier Zionist environmental organization -- plans to settle half a million Israelis in the Negev in 25 low density housing communities over ten years. But, what the JNF calls the last great natural reserve of Israel, has been the subject of legal proceedings by Bedouin Arabs wanting to reclaim their land, and John Howard's forest sits right in the middle of this disputed land. It would have been far more prudent for our prime minister to decline these honours than associate himself with a state that practices racial discrimination and human rights abuses against its own non-Jewish citizens. After all, Howard was at great pains to stop the Australian cricket team from playing in Zimbabwe as a protest against Robert Mugabe's "grubby" regime. Equally and clearly, the JNF's acts on behalf of Israel, do not measure up to our Australian values of a fair go, tolerance and inclusion. The prime minister ought to bring his values into line with the rest of Australia, instead of associating himself so unreservedly with Israel.

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia.


Ben-Gurion "sold" land belonging to Palestinian refugees to the Jewish National Fund
Meron Benvenisti, Ha'aretz, 29/05/2007
Of the more than 2.5 million dunams owned by the JNF, two million dunams were not purchased with the small coins put into the blue boxes, but were rather lands abandoned by Arabs that David Ben-Gurion, in a typical maneuver, "sold" to the JNF in 1949-1950. The first deal was clinched on January 27, 1949. It included the sale of a million dunams of abandoned land in various areas in return for about 18 million Israeli pounds.

This was an improper and also an illegal decision. The Israeli government sold the JNF lands that it did not own, but which had rather been captured in the war (and even the laws that it had enacted by then did not grant the state ownership of these lands). Ben-Gurion thereby achieved three aims. First of all, he transferred responsibility for the abandoned lands, on which new settlements were planned, from the Mapam party, which held the agriculture portfolio, to the JNF, which was under the influence of his own party, Mapai. Secondly, he could claim to have clean hands with respect to the continued confiscation of lands. And thirdly, he established a political fact that barred the way to the refugees' return.

A week before the decision on the sale of the million dunams, the United Nations General Assembly had passed Resolution 194, under which the refugees were to be permitted to return to their homes, and if they chose not to return, they would receive compensation. Ben-Gurion did not want Israel's sovereignty to be sullied by matters that stank of illegality, deviation from international norms and immorality.

The heads of the JNF knew very well that the sale was illegal, but it was important to them to establish that the JNF would continue serving as the institution that held the Jewish people's lands and developed them for purposes of settlement. They insisted that the government commit itself to "making (in the future) all the legal arrangements so that the lands will be registered under the JNF's full ownership under the laws of the State of Israel."

B'Tselem calls for criminal investigation into Gaza bombing

Report, B'Tselem, 24 May 2007
22 May 2007 -- In an attack in the Sheja'iyeh neighborhood in Gaza on 20 May, the Israeli air force killed eight persons. Seven of them were members of the al-Haya family, relatives of Khalil al-Haya, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The dead included three minors, aged sixteen and seventeen, and two men, aged fifty-six and sixty-four. Another four people were injured in the attack, two of them severely. The other two suffered light wounds and were discharged from the hospital.

The Israeli military subsequently announced that the attack was directed at members of the military wing of Hamas who were in the yard of the house. The military contended that five of the persons killed were armed members of Hamas, and only three were civilians. A later statement, however, named the target of the attack as Samah Farwaneh, allegedly a senior member of Hamas and responsible for the firing of Qassam rockets and the gunfire attack on an employee of the Electric Company on 19 March. Farwaneh was killed in the attack. No details were provided regarding the other victims' involvement in the hostilities.

The testimonies given to B'Tselem do not support the contention that most of the dead were armed Hamas members. Two persons injured in the attack stated that none of the dead were armed, and only two of them, Farwaneh and 'Ala al-Haya, 21, were Hamas activists. The victims were sitting in the tin-covered divan [a structure in which guests are hosted] of the al-Haya family. Farwaneh, who was active in the military wing of Hamas, passed by and was invited by the family to drink coffee. Later, when the family heard the sound of an air force drone, they decided to leave the structure and were then shot by the missiles.

Taking into account the nature of the location, the planners of the attack should have expected there was a risk that many bystanders would be injured, and should have taken cautionary means to prevent such a result.

The principle of proportionality, which is one of the pillars of international humanitarian law, states that it is forbidden to carry out an attack, even if it is aimed at a legitimate military target, knowing that the attack will result in injury to civilians in excess of the military advantage anticipated from the attack.

According to the army's version as well, Samah Farwaneh was not firing rockets at the time he was killed. Therefore, even if he could be considered a legitimate military target, it is not at all clear that the circumstances in which he was killed accord with the principle of proportionality.

Breach of the principle of proportionality is deemed a war crime, for which the persons responsible bear personal responsibility. The circumstances of the incident and its results raise serious concern that the bombing was disproportionate, and might constitute a war crime.

B'Tselem has requested the judge advocate general to immediately order a Military Police investigation into the matter.

Sderot created the Gaza Strip

Philip Rizk writing from the Gaza Strip, occupied Palestine, Live from Palestine, 22 May 2007
Yesterday eight members of one family were murdered on the spot in Israel's latest military strike on Gaza. The target, doctor Khaleel Al-Haya, a Hamas member, remained unharmed. Later in the day Islamic Jihad responded by firing two homemade rockets into Gaza. One Israeli citizen was killed, another wounded.

This sounds like a horrible, but straightforward series of events. The only aspect that calls for attention is that one of these attacks is considered terrorism, while the other is mentioned in most media outlets only in passing, and referred to as a legitimate attempt on a bad man's life. As Israel's extra-judicial assassinations in Gaza once again become the norm, Gaza is being cast into deeper and deeper despair.

A month ago I visited Sderot and met with Dvora Babyan, an Israeli citizen of Iranian and Libyan descent. A homemade Qassam rocket hit her house on April 21 causing damage to the building but causing no fatalities. Having come from Gaza that morning, I had the sense I was overhearing Dvora's words as if spoken to a Palestinian living in Gaza.

"We have sense, we are not barbarians. They are barbarians, we want peace but they are not interested ... When we strike we have to take into consideration the civilians, they don't do this," she said.

Dvora's mindset entails a particular logic that Israel's aggression, because a familiar military apparatus is carrying it out, necessarily verifies its legitimacy. It barely matters who is killed or how many bystanders are dead if the intentions are those of a recognized military body. Why?

Because behind the decision to carry out one such execution is expected to be a well-thought out and legal procedure, unknown to all and yet accepted by the general public. The targeting of a certain Hamas actor is a foreign scene; a rocket hitting a villa in a nice neighborhood of Sderot on the other hand is too close to home not to become a successful headline that grips reader's attention.

In her thought process Dvora simply avoids the fact that in this rocket attack on the Gaza Strip eight civilians were killed, including a 16-year-old boy and two men over 60; for since these civilians were killed by the army, they must be legitimate targets. At the least their deaths must have been a worthwhile sacrifice in light of the threat posed by the assassination's intended target.

Going one level deeper and trying to assess the moral dimension of such a perspective, it seems that by placing on a scale the death of a Palestinian family on one side and the security of an Israeli community on the other, the balance is retained. The only matter here being that such an imagined weighing is itself a logical fallacy, because the targeted deaths of innocents will never provide security, it will only harbor further revenge. The myth of violence comes into play here, that the assassinations of a few will create security for many. In reality, this myth provides cover up for Israel's actions of the past. Dvora went on in desperation, "Where will I go? This is my country, this is my home, there is no other place."

Sadly, Dvora would be surprised to know that these questions are not foreign to the Palestinians living only kilometers from her home.

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes this: "the Jewish state would not have come into existence without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them ... There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing."

Today Gaza is reaping the consequences of this "necessary" ethnic cleansing. Refugees arriving in Gaza in 1948 must have asked themselves, "Where will I go? This is my country, that was my home, there is no other place." The home they were referring to lay in the uprooted villages most of which were destroyed shortly after their Palestinian inhabitants were driven from them. No insurance agents came to assess the damages in Palestinian homes that day. No journalists came to write reports. They must have been haunted by that same question, "what barbarian would do this to me?"

The difference between these two cases of questioning is the fact that the coming into existence of Sderot created the hell that the Gaza Strip is today. A little town by the name of Sderot become home to poor immigrants in the early '50s, only years after it had been cleared of Palestinians living in what was the village of Najd. Another resident of Sderot told me that when he got there in 1989 he thought he was in "the safest place in the world, in the middle of nowhere." And yet, it was not the middle of nowhere, he had moved onto what was once someone else's land and adjacent to where that displaced person and their displaced descendents were held imprisoned. There, his displaced neighbors daily faces the consequences of the past. This past is what is allowing for the hell of that very town, Sderot.

"Fear is the hardest thing ... People rather go shopping in [the near by town of] Ashqelon than in Sderot because it is safer," Dvora said.

Gazans have nowhere to escape to.

Today fear fills the hearts of Gaza's people. A fear that they may one day return from their perpetual search for charity and donation empty handed (80 percent of Gazans are receiving international food aid); a fear of waking to another day of hopelessness (70 percent of Gazans are either unemployed or largely unpaid government employees); a fear that the economic disaster they are experiencing today may overcome their lives (60 percent of the population live under the poverty level of $2 per day); a fear is that this economic crisis will divide the entire population in inter-factional feuding and result in a lawless chaos as factions and political parties vie for the little power that does exist in Gaza.

Over the course of the past week Israel has begun to evacuate Israeli citizens from Sderot and has moved them into a camp in Tel Aviv. Gaza's only outlet to the world via Egypt has been closed for the past ten days as Gaza's citizens remains locked in Gaza, like a detention center. When the border opens it is only the lucky few who can "go shopping in Ashqelon."

Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German who has lived in Gaza since August 2005 where he works and writes. Philip runs a blog: tabulagaza.com.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Boycott: The only weapon available

An academic and cultural boycott of Israel is the only way of protecting the Palestinians.

Hilary Rose, The Guardian, Saturday May 26, 2007
I am typing this just a few hundred yards from the hall in Holborn where in 1959 the ANC, with most of its leadership in prison or exile, called for an international boycott of apartheid South Africa. Both the ANC - committed to armed struggle - and pacifists like Desmond Tutu saw boycott as their remaining weapon. As we know, this call was initially only answered by civil society - including the British university teachers' union. It took many years before governments, and the UN itself, intervened and Freedom Day finally arrived.Today it is hard to see what weapons, other than the counterproductive, though legitimate, armed intifada (though legitimacy does not extend to suicide bombers killing civilians) the even harder pressed Palestinians have. Their land is occupied, they suffer from illegal house demolitions, illegal settlements in the occupied territories, so-called targeted assassinations which kill civilians, torture and indefinite detention without charge.

Taxes are gathered by Israel, but not, as international law requires, returned. As a consequence, both education and healthcare services - the infrastructure of civil society - are utterly impoverished. On top of these abuses of human rights is the wall, declared illegal by the international court. The obligation of every state signed up to international law is to help enforce it. European governments sit on their hands, while the US vetoes action through the UN security council.

The wall claims to give security to Israelis, but it also separates Palestinian from Palestinian, farmers from their land, children from their schools, students and teachers from their universities. Students who once travelled from Gaza to Birzeit University on the West Bank were prevented from completing their studies by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Today Gazans are no longer permitted to study at Birzeit; instead they remain in Gaza, which has become a vast concentration camp. The president of Birzeit was kidnapped by Israeli forces, dumped in Jordan and not permitted to return for many years. The university was shut by the IDF for three years, and even now access is frequently denied for hours or days with sudden roadblocks.

Faced with these brutal abuses Israeli academics, excepting a handful of brave dissenters, have remained silent - less surprising if we understand that Israeli academics serve in the military. One distinguished natural scientist explained to me that he served until he was 55. This is not discussed by Israeli academics, yet for many non-Israelis the image of the small boy terrified in his father's arms deliberately shot by the IDF is printed in our memories. Even within Israel itself, the universities, sitting on occupied Palestinian land, share institutionally in the general discrimination against Arab-Israelis (20% of the population).

In these desperate circumstances it is not surprising that South African leaders, from Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish ex-head of the armed wing of the ANC to Bishop Desmond Tutu, declare that the sufferings of the Palestinians are worse than those of black South Africans under Apartheid. Those who know apartheid at first hand are well able to recognise a racist state. And all the blustering by the Israel lobby cannot wash this away.

The call from Palestinians for an academic and cultural boycott did not come from any political party but from Palestinian civil society itself. They saw that any claim to academic freedom and even the right to education was being destroyed. As members of civil society we have to consider such a moral and political call. Some, like the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine and the solidarity movement, have accepted the challenge. But it doesn't matter that every part of civil society responds in the same way.

What matters is that pressure is put on Israel until it complies with international law and works for a just peace. Thus British doctors are questioning the legitimacy of Israel's medical association, which condones torture; artists and filmmakers have called for a boycott, and a galaxy of international architects, including several Israelis and Palestinians, published a challenge on Thursday to Israeli architects concerning their human rights record and their professional ethics. Boycotts and such professional pressures are not fast in their effects, but like water dripping on a stone, eventually the stone wears away.

· Hilary Rose is the co-convenor of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup). http://www.bricup.co.uk/

Cry, the beloved country

Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, 25 May 2007
PRETORIA, South Africa - It was like being in the movies. Only there would you see an inert photo suddenly come to life. We were standing at the memorial museum in Soweto, next to a photo of a dead boy with other children around him, and our guide Antoinette was telling us about it. Antoinette said that the young girl in the picture was her.

The photo is at the entrance of the museum, built to commemorate the blacks' struggle against apartheid, which began here. Across the way is Nelson Mandela's tiny hut, nearby is the house of Desmond Tutu and down the street is the present home of Winnie Mandela.

The picture was stunningly familiar to us. We were four: MK Ran Cohen (Meretz); Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations; Diana Buttu, a former legal advisor to the PLO; and myself. We were all making the same associations: Hector is Mohammed al-Dura; the white soldiers shooting at children are us.

The passage of time was evident with Antoinette. The teenager in the picture was now a woman in her late forties. Her brother would have been 44, but a bullet from the rifle of a white policeman deprived him of the chance to witness the miracle of how the cruel racist regime collapsed.

It was another UN conference about peace with the Palestinians, but this time it was being held in a particularly "loaded" location. We were only two Israelis there, but the calling cards I collected were quite varied: Arab and African ambassadors, the previous Egyptian foreign minister, representatives of Muslim countries and diplomats posted in Pretoria. The Syrian ambassador smiled and did not offer his card; the Libyan ambassador did the same. But they listened to us attentively.

The new regime has been good for South Africa; no Palestinian refugee camp looks nearly as attractive as Soweto 2007. But not far away is a shantytown called Alexandra and the sights there are worse than in any Palestinian refugee camp we've seen. This is where South African blacks who haven't been able to pull themselves out of poverty live, together with refugees from neighboring Zimbabwe.

Less than a kilometer separates the impoverished Alexandra from a fancy Johannesburg neighborhood called Sandton. There, behind the electric fences and personal bodyguards, hide the city's wealthy - many of them Jews and a good number former Israelis. On Shabbat we ate cholent. On Friday night we dined with a former Israeli from Nahalal. We drove to Alexandra with a guy who originally hails from Tivon, who has been here for 30 years and owns a huge agricultural enterprise that employs 1,800 black workers earning $2 an hour.

It's impossible not to admire what has occurred in this battered land since the yoke of white tyranny was lifted.

Not in his name

At the conference luncheon, Ronnie Kasrils, South Africa's minister for intelligence services, hurried over to grab a seat next to us. Kasrils, a Jew, had never been to Israel (where he has relatives) until his visit to the territories earlier in the month, when he invited Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to his country. He then made his first, quick trip to Tel Aviv, saw Rabin Square and ate fish in Jaffa. "It was the most pleasant evening I had," he acknowledges.

Tom Segev once wrote that he is "a guy I wouldn't choose to be stuck in an elevator with," but I would be glad to get stuck with Ronnie Kasrils, inside or outside an elevator. He is a Jew in conflict with his people, perhaps also with his identity - a courageous freedom fighter and communist, who joined the oppressed race in its struggle, was exiled from his country for 27 years and is now a minister.

A son of Lithuanian Jews, who had a bar mitzvah and belonged to Jewish youth movements, Kasrils is one of the most fascinating characters to come out of the local Jewish community - which now thoroughly denounces him. He brandishes his Jewishness openly, perhaps defiantly, even when he recently made an official visit to Iran and Syria. He once founded a movement called "Not in My Name," to underscore his disassociation from the injustices committed by Israel in the territories. Ronnie Kasrils hates the Israeli occupation.

When we talked he said the Israeli occupation is worse than apartheid: The whites never shelled the black neighborhoods with tanks and artillery.

Just like the pogroms

If this warm, outgoing 69-year-old has any personal security protection, it is invisible. We sat in a vacant room in a building on the University of Pretoria campus and talked. "You're an Israeli and I'm a South African," he emphasized immediately, as if to negate any common identity. "I'm confident that the circle will be closed one day and people will understand that I'm not anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli ... It really pains me as a Jew that in this country such hostility has developed toward Israel, because of its treatment of the Palestinians ...

"When we saw on television the drama going on in your country, the oppressive pictures of the methods you use toward the Palestinians, the uprooting of trees, the tanks entering Jenin, and the old woman weeping over the demolition of her house and crying 'The Jews, the Jews' - it's just like what my grandmother used to tell me about the pogroms: The Cossacks are coming, the Cossacks are coming. I'm trying to say: It's not the Jews, it's Zionisms that's doing this. So I decided to get up and say something. I found this in the Jewish tradition: to open your mouth, in the name of conscience.

"The man who greeted me when I returned to South Africa after the years of exile was Rabbi Cyril Harris ... He gave me a red skullcap with a dedication: to the freedom fighter. When I started to express criticism of Israel, I thought that the Jews would denounce Ariel Sharon, but then I found out that I was naive. I was stunned to see that the Jewish community here didn't care who was in power in Israel and how extreme the policy was against the Palestinians ...
They would blindly support any government. Rabbi Harris became my enemy. He called me a fringe Jew and my response was: We were the only ones who stood up against apartheid and now we're the minority against the injustice.

"When I visited the territories I also passed through Israel and I saw the forests that cover the remnants of the Palestinian villages. As a former forestry minister, this was especially striking to me. I also went into a few settlements. It was insane. Young Americans spat on the flag that was on my car. The occupation reminds me of the darkest days of apartheid, but we never saw tanks and planes firing at a civilian population. It's a monstrousness I'd never seen before. The wall you built, the checkpoints and the roads for Jews only - it turns the stomach, even for someone who grew up under apartheid. It's a hundred times worse.

"We know from our experience that oppression motivates resistance and that the more savage the oppression, the harsher the resistance. At a certain point in time you think that the oppression is working, and that you're controlling the other people, imprisoning its leaders and its activists, but the resistance will triumph in the end.

"We saw the entrance to Qalqilyah, the wall, the people standing hours in line at the checkpoints. It's a beautiful country, I love its landscapes, but I know that it's big enough to contain more people. Israel has developed very impressively, but how much more impressive it would be if you brought about a just solution ... I don't care if it's two states or one - it's up to you, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to decide.

"I had coffee with the commander of the Erez checkpoint. It reminded me of the central prison in Pretoria, a place I've visited many times. And it was so awful to go through this thing in order to get to Gaza. At first I said that I don't want to speak with the man at the checkpoint, but then I decided that was foolish. The Israelis were actually very nice to me.

"What is Zionism to me? When I was 10 years old, it meant security and a national home for the Jews. I waved the Israeli flag at my bar mitzvah and I was very proud of my Judaism. The first book I received for my bar mitzvah was 'The Revolt,' by Menachem Begin. My biggest hero was Asher Ginsberg, Ahad Ha'am ... Later on I started reading not only Herzl, but also [historians] Ilan Pappe, Benny Morris and Tom Segev, and I came to see 1948 in a different light. I understood that it was an ethnic cleansing.

"South Africa changed me and strengthened my South African identity. And then I began to understand that the main problem of Zionism is the exclusivity of the establishment of a national home and the concept of the chosen people. Very soon I started to oppose it. The establishment of a national home for Jews alone seemed to me like a parallel of apartheid. The apartheid leaders also spoke about a chosen people. In 1961, prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd said that Israel is like South Africa. That opened my eyes. For many years we were also aware of the military cooperation between Israel and South Africa - a joint offensive naval force, missile boats, the Cheetah planes and the big secret of the nuclear weapons. Prime minister Johannes Vorster, who had a declared Nazi past, received a hero's welcome from you. This added to my feelings regarding Israel.

"I am very conscious of the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism, but my experience here leads me to one conclusion: that all forms of racism must be fought by means of a common struggle. I have a dream: That you will change your outlook, as happened here, and that change will come. When politicians reach agreements, it's amazing how fast ordinary folks can come to a change in thinking. Change the leadership and the economic conditions and you'll see how easy the change is."

On the Academic Boycott of Israel

Virginia Tilley, The Electronic Intifada, 27 May 2007
Academics don't like academic boycotts. In fact, we detest external limits of any kind. We treasure our own universities for offering precious sanctuary for critical debate (even though they rarely do) and we don't like to see any of them banned, even for ostensibly laudable reasons. Sure, universities in some countries are little more than fig leaves for their regimes. But that's not usually their fault. So we avoid the lectures of state hacks rather than denounce them and we protect the universities so that they can nurture that rare point of light.

Still, in very exceptional cases, an academic boycott comes onto our agenda. This happens when a country's universities are recognized as central players in legitimizing a regime that systematically inflicts massive human rights abuses on its own people and any pretence that the universities are independent fortresses of principled intellectual thought becomes too insulting to the human conscience. But since universities in many oppressive regimes fit those criteria, in practice a second condition is required: their faculties have the freedom to act differently.

In democratic countries where human rights abuses abound as rampantly as in Israel, it is not tenable that faculty entertain and promote the notion that their institutions -- cranking out the architects and professional foot soldiers of occupation -- have no role in those abuses and can join in mixed company as fine upstanding members of the international scholarly club. It is especially not tenable when universities themselves perpetrate discrimination in their research and their grants and admission policies. University faculties are supposed to hold their institutions accountable to basic standards of objectivity, fairness, and non-discrimination. Where they are capable of acting on those standards and refuse, the hack becomes the hypocrite. Moral paralysis becomes moral culpability.

On this reasoning, back in the 1980s offended foreign academics launched an academic boycott of apartheid South Africa, whose universities were finally rightly identified as bastions of white supremacy and whose white faculties, privileged by racial democracy, could be held accountable. Similarly, we now see a boycott of Israeli universities being urged by, among others, Britain's University and College Union. Israeli academics, naturally enough, are appalled by the idea of a boycott and the Israeli government is worried that the idea is gaining momentum. Hence an Israeli academic delegation has to come to England to wage battle against the boycott, and all the old banners once waved by apartheid's defenders -- 'academic freedom', 'balance', 'proportionality' -- are being waved again in this one.

Israeli academic arguments are indeed too reminiscent of apartheid South Africa to escape the comparison. Especially, South African academics trying to defeat the boycott typically avoided discussing the abuses of apartheid. Israeli academic arguments against the boycott also do not discuss the reason for it, which is Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and the subjugation of almost four million civilians under military rule. Instead, they stress the need for 'balance' -- which, in Israeli parlance, is a code word for shifting attention entirely away from the occupation to reiterate a tired canon of Israeli innocence, victimhood, and deniability. And because they do not discuss the occupation, they do not address their own universities' responsibility for it.

Whatever our conceits of political neutrality, academics never work in a vacuum. In conflict zones, our work is as inherently political as any other activity. For example, let us briefly suspend disbelief and accept Ben-Gurion University Professor Zvi Hacohen's claim, cited in Ha'aretz (15 May 2007) that 'there is widespread cooperation between our universities and Palestinian and Jordanian universities', although he does not specify what this 'widespread' cooperation is. His argument is hardly supported by Palestinian faculty, whose only public voice on the question has been to support the boycott.

But in any case, he cannot pretend that such collaboration is apolitical when Palestinian research partners are held captive under draconian military rule by his own government and the occupation is wrecking their families' hopes and lives, their institutions' viability, and their entire community's basic safety. Nor can he pretend that his own university is politically neutral when it subsists partly on privileges gained by such appalling human rights violations and conducts research designed to preserve and strengthen those privileges.

Ignoring such complicity is not neutral: it is enabling. It promotes a veneer of normalcy over a ghastly human rights situation and so helps shelter it from scrutiny.

Israel's defenders in this controversy also protest that a boycott violates the moral economy of academic work. 'Communication, understanding and international collaboration is what this field is all about,' said Professor Miriam Schlesinger of Bar Ilan University, who was asked to resign from the board of a translation journal because she is Israeli. Yet the ethic of communication, understanding, and collaboration with Palestinian universities is precisely what Israeli universities have unacceptably abandoned. Instead, Israeli scholars are casually allowing Palestinian institutions to crumble on their doorsteps, at the hands of their own government, while they themselves share elevated discussions in the paneled salons of Oxford and Cambridge.

A third argument is that a boycott is too sweeping, punishing Israel's intellectual progressives along with nationalist reactionaries and passive enablers. Schlesinger even calls it 'collective punishment' -- an unfortunate reference, since Israel's occupation and brutalization of some 4 million people is often denounced as collective punishment and the phrase suggests, again, that peculiar Israeli interpretation of the word 'balance'. Yet collective punishment is wrong where collective responsibility is lacking. Palestinian civilians in a refugee camp are not capable of controlling and therefore not responsible for what some militants do to resist occupation, and resisting occupation is a human right in any case. Israeli professors have the capacity to take a stand against human rights abuses furthered by their own institutions and therefore have the moral responsibility to do so.

Hence it is also false moral symmetry for Dr. Schlesinger to equate her right to serve on the board of an academic journal with the right of Palestinian students to university education. She was denied her board position not just because she is Israeli but because she is complicit, through the privileges and power she enjoys through her nationality and her job, with a brutal occupation. Palestinians are being denied their right to education solely because they are not Jews. The former ban, even if controversial, is a moral gesture; the latter ban is a racist one.

A fourth argument is that Israel is being unfairly singled out. For example, since the US and Britain have recently teamed up to kill, or cause to die or be killed, hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, surely a better case can be made for boycotting them. This argument trips over the grave of South African apartheid, however, for South Africa attempted the same claim of proportionality and the world had none of it. For one thing, state sins are not measured by death counts alone, nor are they ranked by their measurable gravity. If they were, we would focus on just one conflict at a time.

For another, Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip is not a foreign policy gone wrong. The entire Israeli state system -- its laws, its policies, its ideology of Jewish statehood, the privileges that serve its Jewish-national society -- is implicated in a grand demographic strategy to exclude, imprison, and subjugate some 50 percent of the state's own territorial population solely on the basis of their ethnic identity. This distinguishes Israel from other states behaving badly by casting it into the particular moral abyss of an apartheid state.

And there's the rub. The small but growing international boycott of Israel signals that the political ground is shifting -- that its occupation is sliding conceptually, if not yet legally, into an apartheid model. The UN International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines 'the crime of apartheid' as 'inhuman acts' similar to apartheid, such as 'the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups' by denying 'the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality [citizenship], the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association'. The Convention particularly prohibits any measures 'designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos'.

If this package does not sound like Israel's military rule over Palestinians, it is hard to imagine what apartheid outside South Africa would look like or how the Convention might ever be applied again.

Israel hotly rejects the apartheid analogy, of course, partly on grounds that Palestinians are not a racial group but a national or ethnic group (defined in the negative, as non-Jews). Also, Palestinians are not supposed to be Israel's citizens, but rather are considered citizens of some nonexistent state that may exist some time in the future. But no one looking at the dismembered and walled West Bank enclaves now left to the Palestinians can imagine that these prison camps are intended to constitute a state, and the distinction between ethnicity and race in this context is losing all meaning. The A-word is everywhere now, and the boycott is one signal that the apartheid paradigm is seeding broadly into international civil society. Israel's hapless academics are fast losing ground fast to its growth.

Because they are in denial about the horrors of the occupation itself, Israeli academics protesting the boycott may not grasp its real purpose, which is to force them to confront those horrors. It is not acceptable for them to insist on ivory-tower privileges with so terrible a human rights catastrophe as the occupation stark on their doorstep, perpetrated by their own government and involving their own institutions in its cruelties and deceptions. When Dr. Schlesinger protests that being treated according to her nationality rather than her individual character 'was a blow,' she misses the entire point. To claim a right to principled treatment, one must extend it to others. Israeli academics must become serious about according their Palestinian colleagues the dignity and respect they expect themselves. When they do, given their formidable talents and resources, the occupation will face its toughest opponents.

Virginia Tilley is a US citizen now working as a senior researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria. She is the author of The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock.

PACBI Appeal: Boycott the Israeli Academy Now!

PACBI Appeal to British Academics, 24 May 2007
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the courage and moral consistency of British academics who support an institutional academic boycott of Israel similar to that imposed on apartheid South Africa in the past. We specifically welcome the motions submitted to the upcoming University and College Union (UCU) Council in Bournemouth that recognize the complicity of the Israeli academy in the occupation, urge academics "to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions," oppose any upgrade of Israel's EU status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law, and call for the circulation of the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to UCU members. We urge UCU delegates to support these motions, fulfilling the mandate of academics and intellectuals to speak out against oppression and injustice.

Heartened by the growing international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Palestinian academics, trade unionists, professionals, and human rights activists will be eagerly following the deliberations of the Council when it convenes on May 30. The British academics’ initiative is particularly timely due to Israel’s escalation of its oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel has continued with unprecedented impunity its indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians, at least a third of whom are children; confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources; construction of the apartheid Wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; and wanton destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands, infrastructure and entire civilian neighborhoods. A report recently published by the World Bank scolds Israel for breaking up the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) into “cantons” thereby curtailing Palestinian freedom of movement through impeding access to “work, school, shopping, healthcare facilities and agricultural land.” These colonial and racist policies have lately prompted the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the OPT to join Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, and many others in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa.

But why boycott the Israeli academy? Almost sixty years since the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their lands, and after forty years of Israeli military occupation and colonization of Arab land, Israeli universities, think tanks and research centers have remained an integral and complicit part of the structures of oppression in Israel. They have played a direct or indirect role in promoting, developing or supporting the state’s violation of human rights and international law. It is significant that no Israeli academic body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor have academic institutions or representative bodies of Israeli academics criticized their government’s longstanding siege of Palestinian education. We note in particular that the Coordinating Council of Israel's University Faculty Associations, which is touring the UK currently to try and dissuade UCU delegates from supporting the boycott, has remained silent on the serious damage the Israeli state has wrought upon the basic infrastructure of higher education in Palestine. It is indeed ironic that these representatives of Israeli academics, while pleading for respect for their academic freedom, have shown scant regard for the basic freedoms of Palestinians, including those of academics.

The Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions (http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm) is endorsed by the major federations and associations of academics and professionals and is supported by dozens of civil society institutions in Palestine. Like the Palestinian civil society’s widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), it is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring an end to oppression. Palestinians are appealing to academics, professionals, artists and other activists in the world to work to bring an end to a regime that practices colonial oppression, racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, and which denies the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.

PACBI hopes that the UCU will join the growing international movement by showing that no business as usual can be conducted with the Israeli academy until it takes a clear and unequivocal stand against the forms of oppression practiced by the Israeli state. Until it does so, the Israeli academy--as a major institutional upholder of the prevailing order--cannot expect exemption from the boycott. Boycott and divestment are among the most effective, morally sound non-violent forms of action available to people of conscience the world over. Palestinians are sincerely grateful to those who recognize that, since justice cannot be expected from the international centers of world power, they must organize and apply effective pressure on Israel to further the cause of justice and genuine peace. In the face of Israel’s oppression, silence means acquiescence.

Endorsed by:

- The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)

- The Coalition of Political Parties in Palestine

- The Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)

- The Palestinian BDS Campaign

- The Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign


* In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian political parties, unions (including the PGFTU and the PFUUPE), associations, and organizations endorsed the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law: http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=66_0_1_10_M11

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Family’s trees uprooted in Artas, Palestinian Information Minister attacked by Israeli soldiers

20 May 2007

On Sunday morning, May 20, Israeli Occupation Forces destroyed an apricot and date orchard comprised of 28 trees in the village of Artas near Bethlehem. Four Israeli activists were arrested.

At 5:30 AM, approximately 40 soldiers came and forcibly removed approximately 60 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who had been maintaining a presence on the land since Wednesday, May 16. Soldiers hit and kicked activists who had chained themselves to trees, and forcibly threw others over a stone wall, including elderly Palestinian women. After the activists had been removed, the bulldozer entered the land and the army uprooted the trees and ripped apart the land.

Israel’s apartheid wall is being built through the village of Artas to allow for the expansion of the Efrat settlement and is confiscating approximately 4000 dunums of land. Two new settlement neighborhoods, Tamar and Dagan are being built on the land and will be attached to Efrat. This expansion is illegal under international law and the so-called “Road Map to Peace.” Sewage from Efrat will be piped out through this former orchard.

Later, at 1:30 pm, Palestinian Information Minister Dr. Mustafa Barghouti arrived at the demolition site in Artas. There, he held a press conference, highlighting speakers from the village and their recent trauma. Shortly after the media left, according to Mohammad Abu Swai, about 50 Israeli soldiers entered the site and started to brutalize the crowd. Dr. Barghouti was hit with a soldier’s club from behind.

Abu Swai explained, “The soldiers are acting like animals! They are hiiting anyone in their path, including the Minister!”

Soldiers are still currently stationed in the village. Palestinians were planning to replant their uprooted trees, including an additional 30 trees that were just purchased.

Like most settlements, Efrat was started illegally as an outpost but was later approved by the Israeli supreme court.

The orchard belonged to the Abu Swai family.

Video footage of demolition available upon request.

For more information:

Arabic: Awad Swai 0598305810
English: Jesus Martinez 0599943157
Hebrew/English/Arabic: Adar 0525444866


The Israeli army attack farmers and peace activists near Bethlehem
Sunday May 20, 2007
Ghassan Bannoura, IMEMC

A massive Israeli army force attacked and beaten up a group of Palestinian farmers and peace activists in Artas village located to the south east of Bethlehem city in the southern West Bank on Sunday afternoon.

A group of Palestinian activists from stop bleeding of Bethlehem campaign and local farmers from the village of Artass joined by the Palestinian minister of information Dr. Mustafa Al Barghouthi started to plant trees in a land that is owned by local farmers, which the army demolished trees in on Sunday morning to make way for a sewage pip e for a nearby Israeli settlement.

IMEMC corresponded on location reported that while the group planting trees the Israeli soldiers attacked them using rifle buts and batons, several people were heavily beaten among them Dr. Barghouthi.

On Wednesday morning, at least 30 Palestinian, International and Israeli peace activists and farmers attempted to prevent the Israeli army from bulldozing land near the village of Artas, the protestors arrived at the site after receiving news that bulldozers were approaching the village.

The Israeli army is bulldozing the land near the Monastery in order to build the wall in the area. Troops prevented the peace activists from reaching the bulldozers and claimed the area as a closed military zone. When asked, troops failed to provide any evidence proving that the construction site was a closed military zone.

On Thursday, the popular committee activists set up tents on the site and decided to stay overnight to guard the area from further bulldozing attempts. On Saturday late night soldiers arrived to the tents location and took photos, after several hours, on Sunday early in the morning the soldiers came with bulldozers, forced farmers and their supporters out then demolished the tents and that trees.

IMEMC correspondent stated that the army is still attacking any one who tries to plant trees or to protect the old trees from being illegal demolished against all laws known to human kind.

Artas Orchard destroyed to make way for settlement sewage

May 20th, 2007

On Sunday morning May 20, Israeli Occupation Forces destroyed an apricot and date orchard comprising of 28 trees in the village of Artas near Bethlehem. Four Israeli peace activists were arrested. Video footage is available.

At 5:30 AM, approximately 40 soldiers came and forcibly removed approximately 60 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who had been maintaining a presence on the land since Wednesday, May 16. Soldiers hit and kicked activists who had chained themselves to trees, including elderly Palestinian women. After the activists had been removed, the army uprooted the trees and bulldozed the land.

The apartheid wall is being built through the village of Artas to allow for the expansion of the Efrata settlement and is confiscating approximately 4000 dunums of land. Two new settlement neighborhoods, Tamar and Dagan are being built on the land and will be attached to Efrata. This expansion goes against international law and the Roadmap for Peace. Sewage from Efrata will be piped out through this former orchard.

Like most settlements, Efrata was started illegally but was later approved by the Israeli supreme court.

The orchard belonged to the Abu Swai family.

For more information:

Arabic: Awad Swai 0598305810
English: Jesus Martinez 0599943157
Hebrew/English/Arabic: Adar 0525444866


Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, 17 May 2007

A number of nonviolent protestors stop Israeli bulldozers in Artas village near Bethlehem

Mohammad Abu Swai, who holds the deeds to this land, explains the situation in Artas village:

The Israeli army has already started to demolish some of the trees in the village of Artas to make way for a sewer system, leading from the Illegal Israeli Settlement of Efrat.

On May 15, 2007, Mohammad Abu Swai, the owner of the trees, was interviewed. Israeli and international solidarity activists were present on the land to prevent the demolition of the trees. The army, however, postponed the demolition, until the following day or possibly Sunday... We shall soon find out...


A number of nonviolent protestors stop Israeli bulldozers in Artas village near Bethlehem
George Rishmawi - IMEMC News, Wednesday May 16, 2007
At least 30 Palestinian, International and Israeli peace activists and farmers are preventing the Israeli army from bulldozing land near the village of Artas south of Bethlehem on Wednesday morning.

At least 30 Palestinian, International and Israeli peace activists and farmers are preventing the Israeli army from bulldozing land near the village of Artas south of Bethlehem on Wednesday morning.

The Protestors arrived to the site after they received news about the bulldozers near the village.Israeli army is bulldozing the land near the Monastery in order to build the wall in that area.

Troops prevented the peace activists from reaching the bulldozers, and claimed the area as a closed military zone.

Hussam Jubran, one of the coordinators of the "Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem" campaign told IMEMC that the soldiers did failed to provide any document proving that the construction area is a closed military zone.

The "Stop the Bleeding of Bethlehem" campaign aims at mobilizing more Palestinians to nonviolently resist the wall, settlements, land confiscation and other forms of the Israeli military occupation in Bethlehem.

On Tuesday, the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bethlehem organized a peaceful protest on a settler road to commemorate the 59 anniversary of the Nakba of 1948.


Martinez, ISM, 16 May 2007
Artas is a beautiful village, as are her apricot trees and her people. As Israeli bulldozers ripped away the hilltop in the distance to make way for military roads, settler roads, and a place for the militarily-funded Bedouin security personnel to sleep at night and guard the construction site, farmers from Artas whipped up some delicious tea and thanked us all for coming to resist the demolition of their fields.

But the rain came and pushed all the soldiers away. Villagers from Artas believe they will be back in the morning.

Update to come.

We’ll be back there too.


Please don’t sh*t on the apricots
Yifat Appelbaum, May 17th, 2007
Today I feel frustrated. I sat in a cute little apricot orchard in a village near Beit Lahem as the army watched us through binoculars from the hill, a menacing bulldozer in the background. They’re going to ‘doze this orchard to make way for sewage pipes from the Efrata settlement. New sections of Efrata are being built on the hill above the orchard.

I was imagining all the problems that are going to happen once the settlers move in; villagers will need special permits to access their land. These permits will be difficult to obtain. Even if they do get permits, they will still be subject to the whims of the army who can either let them work the land or not, depending on their mood or the mood of the settlers controlling them. It will become like a hell, like so much of the west bank is already becoming. This has happened hundreds of times already.


More footage from Artas village, May 16, 2007
Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals are trying to prevent the Israeli Occupation Force from uprooting the trees of local farmers.
Part 1:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TjrvhHR20
Part 2:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9r9ylTGi-0
Part 3:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM1zNBn7Jbc


17 May, 2006
The Segregation Wall threatens the lands of Artas Village, Southwest Bethlehem City

2 September,1999
Sacrilege in the Bethlehem District Villages of Artas and El Walajeh

Perpetuating conflict

The Age, May 16, 2007
John Howard's acceptance of a Zionist award will not help bringabout Middle East peace, writes Maher Mughrabi.

On May 20, Prime Minister John Howard will receive the Jerusalem Prize from the State Zionist Council of Victoria, the Zionist Federation of Australia and Israel's World Zionist Organisation "for his support of the Jewish community and Israel".

It's no secret that Israel enjoys support from both sides of the political establishment; Labor and Liberal leaders compete to secure the favour of Australia's Jewish community, but the matter goes deeper than that. From Kevin Rudd's stories of an ALP government casting the first vote at the UN for partition of Palestine to Tony Abbott's proclamation after Bali that "we are all Israelis now", Australian leaders promote the notion that this country is bound to Israel by shared democratic values against the backdrop of an undemocratic Middle East.

The truth of the matter is that democracy is an elusive and easily damaged aspiration, a system of snakes and ladders that many Middle Eastern countries tumble down and climb up. No sensible analysis of the region can possibly rest on the illusion that Iran - which elected first the reformer Mohammad Khatami and then the radical populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - is no more a democracy than Syria.

Israel is at odds with the Palestinian Authority, which has existed for little more than a decade and has already held numerous fair elections. Yet Israel has long been at peace with Egypt, a police state, and has full diplomatic ties with Uzbekistan, an out-and-out dictatorship.

To say, then, that Israel is "a democracy in good standing" is a bit like saying Philip Ruddock is a member of Amnesty International - as a statement of fact, it leaves too much out.

If you want to know how much, read The Age's Saturday crossword. On March 31, it contained this clue: "What is the nationality of someone from Haifa? (7)"

The answer is "Israeli". It is also incorrect. You see, there is no such thing as Israeli nationality. In 1970, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that there was such a thing as Jewish nationality, and such a thing as Arab nationality, but not Israeli nationality. And while Israel's Arab citizens have the vote, the state - defined by law as Jewish - discriminates against them when it comes to immigration, state resources, where they can live and even who they can marry.

It is strangely appropriate, therefore, that Howard will receive his award at a function of the Jewish National Fund, which identifies itself as "the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners - Jewish people everywhere". Try imagining an Australian version of this: "The Aussie National Fund is the caretaker of the land of Australia, on behalf of its owners - Anglo-Celtic people everywhere."

See the problem? This formula makes Israel the land of many people who are not its citizens, and denies the land to many who are its citizens. Democracy? Not as Australians know it. As the Israeli scholar Bernard Avishai puts it: "It was impossible to tell . . . whether Israel's founders were building a (mainly) Jewish democratic state or a (mainly) democratic Jewish state. The confusion was, and is, unsustainable."

Yet even in the years of the Middle East peace process, this "confusion" was not only sustained but amplified. Regardless of progress or setbacks, the number of Israelis building in occupied territory and claiming it as an eternal part of their homeland has increased steadily. In "established" towns, such as Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim, this goes on with Government funding and support, in "disputed" areas such as Hebron and Homesh with Government's acquiescence, but always with Israeli guns and Israeli law to buttress the Jewish population and cow the Arab population.

So when Howard tells the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne that he supports Israel's "courageous defence of her territorial integrity", we are once again in crossword-puzzle land. As anyone who has been to the West Bank in the past 40 years can tell you, there is no such thing as Israeli territorial integrity. To quote Avishai again: "On June 24 (of 2002), President Bush challenged the Palestinian people to 'build a practising democracy based on tolerance and liberty'. Israel is far ahead of the Palestinians on that score, but in crucial respects America's challenge is for Israel, too, and Israeli settlements reveal how well it is met."

Israel's decision to hold an inquiry into last year's invasion of Lebanon has been cited as further proof of its democratic superiority. But even here, appearances can deceive. From the secret Olshan-Dori Commission in the 1950s and the Kahan Commission after the Lebanon War in the 1980s to the Or Commission findings published in 2003, what such inquiries have shown time and again is a state in which the military operates without proper political oversight and the defence minister can conduct acts of war and even terrorism without keeping the prime minister or cabinet fully informed.

The Agranat Commission, held after a war the Arab states started on Yom Kippur in 1973, described Israel's military as in the grip of a "conceptzia" - or mindset - that saw a concerted attack by Arab states as impossible, and criticised Israel's elected leaders for not questioning that mindset. Today, Israel's conceptzia is that talks with its Palestinian neighbour are rendered impossible by terrorism and that unilateral military measures are the answer.

As Shuki Mairovich wrote recently in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, the Winograd report is already being read by Israelis not as proof that last year's war was unnecessary but that it was wrongly conducted, "and public discourse is preparing for the demand that will come, sooner or later, to bring former generals back to steer the ship of state".

In stoking the militarist mindset, and the notion that the Middle East can be divided into "good guys" and "bad guys", Australian politicians such as Howard, Rudd and others may receive many honours from Israeli and Jewish organisations. But they should also know that they are helping to perpetuate conflict and in doing so neglecting not only the question of Palestine but also that of Israel's truest interests.

Maher Mughrabi is a staff writer.