Sunday, 29 July 2007
ISM, 21 July 2007
Another woman sobbed as she told an international human rights activist that 20 or more soldiers remained in her house for two hours. “They brought sandwiches. They destroyed my home and then they ate their lunch,” said she. “My children were so scared they hid under the bed in the room we were forced into.” The mother was allowed to leave the room in which her children hid only to serve water to the soldiers occupying her living room.
Friday, 20 July 2007
Every day the Knesset has the option of passing laws that will advance Israel as a democratic Jewish state or turn it into a racist Jewish state. There is a very thin line between the two. This week, the line was crossed. If the Knesset legal counselor did not consider the bill entitled "the Jewish National Fund Law" as sufficiently racist to keep it off the agenda, it is hard to imagine what legislation she will consider racist.
Is the JNF racist?
Shahar Ilan, Ha'aretz, 25 July 2007
Here is an embarrassing fact: In 1957, when the Knesset passed the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Law, one of the great leaders of Mapam (the United Workers Party), Yaakov Hazan, said: "The JNF lands, which were purchased with the money of the Jewish people, are sacred for Jewish settlement, just as the Muslim waqf [land held in religious trust] is sacred to the Muslim community." Now, Hazan's ideological successor, Haim Oron (Meretz), argues that the bill seeking to designate JNF lands for Jews only is racist. Oron explained that "only a fossilized movement doesn't change its mind over the years." Yet one cannot help but wonder how what was sacred turned into racism.
Article 3A of the JNF's articles of incorporation states that one of its goals is to purchase and lease lands on which to settle Jews. The JNF bill, which passed its preliminary reading last week, requires the state to manage JNF lands in keeping with this principle. The bill, by the way, is not intended to circumvent a High Court of Justice ruling; its goal is to preempt a ruling on a petition now before the High Court. In other words, it is a preemptive bypass of the High Court. The immediate reason for the bill was Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's opinion that the lease of JNF lands to non-Jews should be permitted. Thus for now, this is a bill to bypass Mazuz.
The Knesset presidium has the authority to bar racist laws from the floor. But the Knesset's legal adviser, Nurit Elstein, ruled that "only bills whose essentially racist nature cries out to heaven and shakes the very foundations" should be barred. Elstein felt that the JNF bill does not cry out to heaven. But is it silently racist?
Alissa Wise, July 27 2007
We visited Al Lajoun with Abu Omar, whose grandfather was killed by the Israeli army in 1948 and who is now, along with other families from Al Lajoun, bringing a case to the Israeli High Court to try to get their land back. During the war in 1948, he and most of the villagers of Al Lajoun fled to Um il Fahm, now a Palestinian city within Israel (it is right outside the Green Line, and there have been suggestions by Israel to bring it into the West Bank in exchange for other other land to be brought into Israel).
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is busy reforesting the village of Al Lajoun, where they make use of an old Ottoman law that says that if you work the land for 7 years, it becomes yours. This is a common practice of JNF.
When someone buys a tree for Israel from the JNF it is often wielded as a weapon in this way. The JNF plants its trees on Palestinian land, to disguise the remnants of the villages there or to take advantage of this law to confiscate it.
One of the leaders of demonstrations in Gaza calling for the release of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston was a Palestinian news cameraman, Imad Ghanem. On 5 July, he was shot by Israeli soldiers as he filmed them invading Gaza. A Reuters video shows bullets hitting his body as he lay on the ground. An ambulance trying to reach him was also attacked. The Israelis described him as a “legitimate target.” The International Federation of Journalists called the shooting “a vicious and brutal example of deliberate targeting of a journalist”. At the age of 21, he has had both legs amputated.
Dr David Halpin, a British trauma surgeon who works with Palestinian children, emailed the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen. “The BBC should report the alleged details about the shooting,” he wrote. “It should honour Alan [Johnston] as a journalist by reporting the facts, uncomfortable as they might be to Israel.”
He received no reply.
The atrocity was reported in two sentences on the BBC online. Along with 11 Palestinian civilians killed by the Israelis on the same day, Alan Johnston’s now legless champion slipped into what George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four called the memory hole. (It was Winston Smith’s job at the Ministry of Truth to make disappear all facts embarrassing to Big Brother.)
While Alan Johnston was being held, I was asked by the BBC World Service if I would say a few words of support for him. I readily agreed, and suggested I also mention the thousands of Palestinians abducted and held hostage. The answer was a polite no; and all the other hostages remained in the memory hole. Or, as Harold Pinter wrote of such unmentionables: “It never happened. Nothing ever happened… It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
Laura Conti, The Alternative Information Center (AIC), 18 July 2007
The national female team, which was founded about two years ago with the participation of girls from Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho and Gaza, is indeed the only team that has to practice in four different places due to the limited mobility afforded by the Wall and Israeli occupation. In fact, the team only have the ability to work together during their matches abroad.
When we go to Jordan for tournaments,” said Samar Araj, the athletic director of the team, “we need all the day. First we pass through Wadi’nar, from the Palestinian frontier, then from the Israeli controls, where they stop us for hours, questioning the girls and the coach, and checking if anybody is involved in politics. After that we pass to the Jordan side where they question us again. This is our problem,” remarks Honey, “We can’t meet or practice together.”
The Israeli state is trying desperately to foreclose all exceptions to its unequivocally racist land laws, writes Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
Israel's parliament last week approved by an overwhelming majority the first reading of a bill to ensure that much of the country's inhabited land remains accessible to Jewish citizens only -- a move described by one leading local newspaper as turning Israel into a "racist Jewish state".
The private member's bill, called the Jewish National Fund Law, has received cross-party support. The first reading was approved by 64 legislators, with 16 -- most of them Arab MKs -- opposed. Supporters ranged from former premier Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, to Ami Ayalon, a recent challenger to head the Labour Party.
The legislation is designed to nullify the threat posed by a Supreme Court judgment, reached in 2000, that potentially opens the door to thousands of Arab families leaving the tightly controlled areas assigned to them and choosing where they live. Currently Arab citizens, who comprise a fifth of the population, are barred from buying homes in most of the country.
The move is the latest in a series of battles since Israel's establishment in 1948 to ensure exclusive Jewish control of land through an international Zionist organisation known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF). By the time of Israel's founding, the JNF had bought about six per cent of historic Palestine for Jewish settlement. Rather than demanding that these territories be handed over by the JNF, the new state authorities assigned the organisation a special, quasi-governmental status. The JNF was also given a significant share of the lands and property confiscated from hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled during the 1948 War.
Today, the state has nationalised 80 per cent of land inside Israel, and the JNF holds another 13 per cent. Neither sells land to private owners on the grounds that it is being held in trust for worldwide Jewry. Instead, they offer long-term leases on the land in their possession.
The JNF has far more power than the division of land suggests, however: its 13 per cent share is reported to include some 70 per cent of the country's inhabited land; it effectively controls a government body known as the Israel Lands Authority that manages the 93 per cent of land owned by the state and the JNF; and it dominates committees set up to vet applicants to hundreds of rural communities.
Because the JNF charter forbids it from selling or leasing land to non-Jews, this arrangement has allowed the JNF to discriminate against Arab citizens on behalf of the government. The JNF's control of the Israel Lands Authority and the vetting committees has ensured that Arab citizens are excluded from most of the 93 per cent of nationalised land.
Instead they have been restricted to the three per cent of Israel on which Arab communities already exist or which is privately owned by Arab citizens, though even much of this land falls under the jurisdiction of Jewish regional councils that refuse to allow Arab families to build on it. Dozens of other Arab communities are classified as illegal because the state refuses to recognise them, even though they predate Israel's establishment.
The JNF's stranglehold on the management of Israeli land was finally challenged in 2000 when the Supreme Court compelled the vetting committee of a rural community, Katzir, to consider the application of an Arab family, the Kaadans, for a plot of land advertised for sale. Katzir's committee, which until the ruling had been refusing even to deal with the Kaadans' application, subsequently rejected the family on the grounds that they were not "socially suitable". Seven years later the court has yet to offer the Kaadans proper redress.
However, the Kaadans ruling opened the way for other Arab families to demand the right to bid for homes in communities designed only for Jews. The JNF has twice tried to market homes in a new neighbourhood of Karmiel, a town in the Galilee, but has been forced to cancel the tender on each occasion when families from a nearby Arab community, Sakhnin, applied. A petition to the Supreme Court submitted in 2004 on behalf of the Arab families has yet to be heard.
In the meantime, the JNF is reported to be considering withdrawing from the long-standing arrangement that places the Israel Lands Authority in charge of managing all public land, including JNF land. As the court ruling applies only to land managed by the Israel Lands Authority, the JNF would be still entitled to discriminate if it marketed its own housing schemes without the help of the Israel Lands Authority.
The government has been desperately seeking a way both to maintain its relationship with the JNF and not to provoke a second court ruling against it. Earlier this year it announced that land was to be offered to Jews and Arabs without discrimination. In compensation, the JNF would be given state land of equal value every time it was forced to lease land to an Arab family.
The scheme has been criticised by human rights groups which fear it will perpetuate and ultimately exacerbate discrimination by increasing the amount of land under JNF ownership: the JNF will still own the land it is leasing to Arab families but it will also be sold additional land from the state.
The new bill seeks to prevent even the government's proposed minor concession by nullifying the Supreme Court ruling. The legislation states: "The leasing of JNF lands for the purpose of settling Jews will not be seen as unacceptable discrimination." Before the legislators voted, the Knesset's legal adviser, Nurit Elstein, cleared the bill of accusations that it was racist.
Arab Knesset member Wassel Taha, of the National Democratic Assembly, said: "Only an insane Knesset would pass a racist law that affirms the great land theft of 1948 and turns it into Jews-only property."
When I went to the orientation for international students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, I expected the ethos to be pro-Israeli. However, I was taken aback by the level of anti-Palestinian propaganda and fear-mongering.
Jerusalem: Hebrew University part II, Seán O'Neill, July 28, 2007
Until I studied at Hebrew University, with mostly American Jewish but alsoIsraeli students, I did not understand just how high the level of fear is amongmany of Israel's Jewish citizens and American visitors. When I tell many of myfellow students that I stay on the Mount of Olives, a Palestinian neighborhoodnear campus, their eyes open wide and their faces tighten, as if I'm eithercrazy or in imminent danger. When I explain that I work in the West Bank, andgo there often to visit friends, their jaws drop.
Saturday, 21 July 2007
It's been described as a violation of human rights, now it's prompting dire economic consequences.
The effects of Israel's so-called security wall are sharply felt in the communities of Arab East Jerusalem.
Friday, 20 July 2007
Palestinian activists have nervously decided to hand in their arms in exchange for an amnesty from Israel. But are they correct in trusting the Israelis not to assassinate them in future? Not according to seasoned Israeli commentators, writes Saleh Al-Naami.
Alex Fishman, a military commentator for Yediot Aharanot, observed that all the Palestinian activists that Israel said it would take off its wanted list would remain under surveillance by Israeli intelligence so that they could be easily nabbed whenever security officials in Tel Aviv deemed it necessary.
Israeli Channel 2 defence correspondent, Ronny Daniel was amused by Fatah activists' talking about "retiring" from the fight. He quipped that the Israeli security services would never be satisfied until the activists were "retired from the face of this earth."
Israel arrests 300 Fatah affiliates prior to the release of 250
Nablus – Ma'an – Statistical evidence has revealed that the Israeli authorities have intensified their arrest campaigns against Palestinians in the West Bank in the past two weeks, especially after the Sharm el Sheikh summit of Middle Eastern leaders. During the summit Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, promised to release 250 prisoners affiliated to the Fatah movement.
The pledge was portrayed as a gesture of good will towards the Palestinians.
Fatah's information office issued a statement announcing that Israel has apprehended more than 300 Palestinians affiliated to the Fatah movement over the past two weeks. The number arrested in just two weeks has already exceeded the number of detainees proposed to be freed by Olmert.
Goodwill: Israel style
CNN International acknowledged the arrest of over 200 before releasing 250. They also acknowledged that there are some 11,000 prisoners in Israeli prisons.
20 July 2007: Alan Fisher reports for Al Jazeera English on one of the 'freed' Palestinian prisoners:
More than 250 Palestinian prisoners are freed by Israel.
Their release is being seen as a gesture of support for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Not one of the released prisoners is from Hamas.
Around 85 per cent of those freed are from Abbas' Fatah faction.
The rest from smaller groups, like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
But the number is just a fraction of nearly 10,000 Palestinians still held in Israeli jails.
The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.
So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.
The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe—take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.
There is a pioneering study by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watch TV news in Britain. More than 90 percent thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched, the less they knew—Danny Schecter's famous phrase.
Speech delivered at the Chicago Socialism 2007 Conference on Saturday June 16 2007
View here or :
John Pilger on Al Jazeera:
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
David Chater, Al Jazeera English, 14 July 2007
An intentional policy of legal and physical segregation by Israeli authorities is being imposed in the name of security for Israeli settlers in Hebron.
But the systematic harrassment of Palestinians by settlers and an ever-tightening military clampdown has resulted in what Hebron's Palestinian community is calling "ethnic cleansing".
Monday, 16 July 2007
“We’ve tried to enter Palestine by land. We’ve tried to arrive by air. Now we’re getting serious. We’re taking a ship”.
In August 2007, up to 70 human rights activists from 13 countries will attempt to non-violently break the Israeli and international siege of the densely populated Gaza Strip by sailing a ship into Gazan territorial waters with US$25,000 worth of humanitarian aid to donate to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Israel has prevented the activists — who include teachers, students, musicians, politicians and holocaust survivors — from carrying out humanitarian work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The campaign aims to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and to pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation.
Green Left Weekly spoke to three activists involved in the campaign.
Sharyn, who lives in Britain, gained the dubious distinction in 2002 of becoming the first international peace activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to be shot by the Israeli military, just four days after she arrived in the OPT. Despite this, Sharyn returned a further five times to carry out human rights work in the OPT before she was placed on the Israeli government’s official blacklist of individuals prevented from entering Israel and the OPT.
Fellow Australian activist Michael, who was the ISM’s media officer in 2003 when US activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death while trying to prevent an Israeli armoured bulldozer from demolishing a home in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, has also been blacklisted by Israel. When Michael tried to return to Palestine in 2004, he was detained for a week as a “security risk” and deported without ever leaving Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.
According to Sharyn, “this blacklist has been [Israel’s] plan B after plan A of simply shooting us drew international condemnation”. Both Michael and Sharyn told GLW that the idea for the Break the Siege campaign was born in November 2006 because so many human rights and peace activists had been prevented from entering the OPT.
According to Michael, “The original idea was for these peace activists to arrive simultaneously at Ben Gurion airport and demand admittance to the OPT. However, it was soon decided that the real story was not Israel’s treatment of internationals, but of the Palestinians themselves, and that we needed to focus on Israel’s siege of Gaza.” This led to the plan to charter a boat.
“Israel claims that since it pulled its settlers out of Gaza, the strip is a ‘foreign country’ that is no longer under Israeli occupation. If this is the case then its total control over Gaza’s air space, territorial waters and border crossings [including those into Egypt] is a gross violation of international law”, Michael said.
“The purpose of the mission is to draw attention to the fact that Israel is using its illegal choke hold on Gaza to wage economic warfare on an already desperately impoverished population by arbitrarily closing the strip’s border crossings to exports, restricting the supply of food and medicines, closing offshore fisheries to Palestinian fishermen and brazenly stealing customs duties that belong to the Palestinian people.”
According to Sharyn, Break the Siege is about showing “solidarity with people who are living under terrible conditions” and letting the “Palestinians know they are not forgotten”, as well as placing international pressure on Israel.
Should they make it to Gaza, Sharyn expects “to be given gallons of sugary tea and have multiple families attempt to feed me their entire week’s food supply in one sitting”. However she doesn’t expect the same welcome from the Israeli military, which is likely to “make it very evident” that it holds Gaza “in an iron grip” and “will attempt to stop our boat reaching the port. Since our Israeli colleagues will be on board with us, I hope the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] will decide a violent attack wouldn’t be a good idea.”
Also travelling on the ship will be 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, whose parent’s perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hedy told GLW she received “a wake up call” about Israel and Palestine in 1982 when she learned “about the massacres in the two refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon”.
“I needed to find out what and why it happened; what preceded it, what had taken place since 1948. The more I learned and the more I understood, the more I began to speak out publicly against the policies and practices of the Israeli government and military.”
Hedy hopes that the Break the Siege campaign will also serve as a “wake up call” for others and will contribute to a sustained global campaign to educate people about the reality of what is going on in the OPT.
Michael said the activists hoped that the campaign would assist in “mobilising people against Israeli apartheid” and that people would not only publicise and help finance the campaign, but also organise solidarity actions around the world to coincide with the ship’s departure and its arrival in Gaza.
“The Israel-Palestine conflict has become the defining struggle between racism and justice in the world today. It is impossible to support justice, human rights and democracy without opposing Israeli apartheid”, Michael said.
The Break the Siege campaign needs your support. Visit http://www.freegaza.org.
Sunday, 15 July 2007
On 28 June 1967, Israel implemented legislation that established de facto the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem to the State of Israel. Al-Haq takes the opportunity of the 40th anniversary of this unlawful action to remind international community that, despite the claims of successive Israeli governments, Palestinian East Jerusalem remains occupied territory under international law.
Accordingly, any measures, legislative or otherwise, aimed at altering the status of the city and depriving the Palestinian civilian population of the protections afforded by international humanitarian law, have no validity.
The World Bank said on Thursday the prolonged closure of Israel's border crossings with Hamas-controlled Gaza could lead to the coastal strip's "irreversible" economic collapse.
The international lending agency delivered that stark assessment during a closed-door meeting of aid groups and private sector organisations.
Israel has largely closed the Karni commercial crossing, Gaza's economic lifeline, in an effort to isolate Hamas after it seized control of the Gaza Strip a month ago.
Israel has allowed humanitarian aid into the territory through smaller crossings.
While aid groups said this should be sufficient to head off a food shortage in the territory of 1.5 million people, they warned Gaza's economy would be devastated.
Almost all Gaza businesses depend on imported raw materials and other supplies that must pass through the strip's shuttered crossings with Israel.
"The pillars of Gaza's economy have weakened over the years. Now, with a sustained closure on this current scale, they would be at risk of virtually irreversible collapse," Faris Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank's acting country director for the West Bank and Gaza, told the aid groups.
A copy of the World Bank's presentation was obtained by Reuters from a participant in the meeting.
"A solution must be reached very soon, if not immediately... Otherwise, Gaza's dependence on humanitarian assistance could become a long-term and comprehensive situation. These impacts will be difficult to reverse," Hadad-Zervos said.
According to statistics compiled by the Palestine Trade Center and the Palestinian Federation of Industries, more than 3,190 Gaza businesses have temporarily shut down in the last month. Some 65,800 workers have also been temporarily laid off.
Up to 54 percent of employment in Gaza is generated by the private sector, representing more than 100,000 jobs.
Hadad-Zervos said a loss of a third of those jobs would translate into unemployment levels of over 37 percent, up from 30 percent at the beginning of the year. He said unemployment could reach the unprecedented level of 44 percent.
Israel wants to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while allowing funds and goods to flow to President Mahmoud Abbas's emergency administration in the West Bank.
Israel controls the land crossings between Gaza and Israel, as well as Gaza's air space and territorial waters. Israel does not allow the crossing of people or goods by sea or air.
Basic needs reaching Gaza but economy near collapse
Report, The Electronic Intifada, 13 July 2007
12 July 2007 (IRIN) - While humanitarian aid flows into the Gaza Strip are meeting most of the basic needs of the Palestinians, industries are unable to export their goods. This has lead to mass layoffs and unemployment in the already impoverished enclave.
Businessmen in Gaza speak of over 30,000 layoffs as a result of the lockdown on the Gaza Strip initiated after fighting between the Islamist group Hamas and Fatah last month, which ended when the former seized control over the strip.
About 80 percent of private sector businesses have closed, and the remaining establishments are operating at around 60 percent capacity, Paltrade, a local business group, reported. Also, Israel has cancelled the Gaza customs code, making importing goods more difficult.
"The economy in Gaza is grinding to a halt," said an aid worker.
World Bank statistics indicate over 80 percent of Gazans live below a poverty line of US$2.41 a day.
The recent assumption of control in Gaza by Hamas may be more illusory than US media has represented it as. As Eyal Weizman makes clear in is fascinating and detailed book Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation, there are innumerable and often invisible security apparatus set up across the region that ensure almost absolute control of the region's surface, airspace and subterranean acreage by the IDF and other Israeli security forces.
The book, which takes the idea of an architecture of oppression written about by Mike Davis in his book City of Quartz and applies it to the paranoid security regime of Tel Aviv, is a tale of the intentional construction of a suburban security state. It is a state that provides an illusory reality of swimming pools and ranch housing for the occupiers and an increasingly barren, crowded life for the occupied.
Weizman is the Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College of the University of London, so he knows about architecture. His work with various NGOs and human rights groups in Palestine has given him the opportunity to observe Israel's ongoing campaign to disconnect (if not eradicate) the Palestinians from their land. As his book makes clear, this campaign is not accidental, nor is it something that only began because of the armed struggle waged by Palestinians against Tel Aviv's occupation. It is, in fact and deed, part and parcel of the Israeli project from its inception. Furthermore, this campaign has been waged in the military and architectural sphere in collusion with Israel's imperial cohorts--primarily the United States and Britain.
Saturday, 14 July 2007
Three Years Later: The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier Since the International Court of Justice Opinion
Three years ago today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion stating that the route of Israel's Barrier in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its associated permit and gate regime, constitute a serious breach of international law.
In this Special Focus, OCHA looks at several communities in the northern West Bank that have been severed by the Barrier from their neighbouring communities, from agricultural lands and livelihoods.
Friday, 13 July 2007
July the 30th 2006, the day the Israeli airforce launched a series of airstrikes killing dozens of people, many of them children. Zeina Khodr recently travelled to Qana for this report, one year on.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) -- representing trade unions and trades councils from the whole island of Ireland -- have today passed two motions on Palestine that are extremely critical of the actions of the Israeli government in its oppression of the Palestinian people. The two motions condemn Israel for its human rights abuses, its policy of ethnic cleansing and its war crimes. The motions have been proposed by Belfast Trades Council and by Derry Trades Council. Both motions go into considerable detail about the suffering endured by the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.
Conference also criticizes the British and Irish governments and the European Union for the failed policy of "constructive engagement." It characterizes EU policy as one of as "appeasement," and in particular criticises the EU for failing to end the preferential trading status granted to Israel under the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement -- as it is formally obligated to do under the human rights clause in Article 2 of that agreement.
In voting for the motions Conference has not only brought to the attention of the world the massive and enduring injustices being carried out by the Israeli state and by those who collude with it -- companies such as Caterpillar and Irish Cement Roadholdings -- but it has also authorized the leadership of the Irish trade union movement to undertake a wide range of measures to oppose such oppressive actions and to register its solidarity. These include a commitment to "actively and vigorously" promote a policy of boycott and of divestment, to make direct representations to government and to the EU, and to mobilize EU-wide trade union solidarity action. Conference also called upon ICTU to send a senior delegation to the Palestinian territories to establish solidarity links. It also welcomed the establishment by ICTU of Trade Union Friends of Palestine.
The ICTU is the largest mass organization of the Irish working class. It represents all sections of labor -- from low-paid to senior management -- and all sectors of industry and employment. At its last Biennial Delegate Conference in 2005 the ICTU commited itself to "campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian people." In its actions today conference has put meat on the bones of that policy. It is highly significant and it should be noted that there was no opposition at all to any of the motions, despite the fact that they represent what must be one of the strongest positions adopted by any trade union congress in the world. Today's conference has thereby demonstrated that all sections of the Irish working class and of Irish civil society continue to be appalled at the inhumanity of Israeli state policy. It demonstrates that the people of Ireland -- north and south -- are steadfast in their commitment to stand in solidarity alongside their long-suffering and heroic Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
For decades, efforts to create a just peace for Palestinians and Israeli Jews have failed. The current crisis has further set back hopes for a political solution to the conflict.
In this context, a group of scholars, journalists and activists met in Madrid, at the invitation of Universidad Complutense de Madrid, for five days of intensive discussion on alternatives to this ongoing impasse, framed by their belief that a democratic state in all of historic Palestine provides the only moral and practical basis for a just, sustainable peace.
Presentations were informed by the understanding that the attempt to partition historic Palestine, regarded by the major powers as a solution to the conflict, has failed to bring about justice and peace or to offer a genuine process leading towards them. It was argued that the two-state approach encourages separation where equality and coexistence are imperative.
Participants presented the two-state approach as failing to take into account physical and political realities on the ground and presuming false parity in power and moral claims between the two peoples.
Discussions ranged through many other issues including the forms of domination Israel exercises over the Palestinians and the racist practices this entails, such as ethnic cleansing, forms of apartheid, a legal system in Israel built on ethnic discrimination, and the denial of the Palestinian right of return, as well as how to define the rights of Israeli Jews. The discussions considered ways of reframing the question in terms of a struggle for equality and justice, equal citizenship for all the people in the land, and decolonization. Participants debated interpretations of international law, the nature of the conflict, Zionism, the role of religion, and re-imagining national identities.
Many issues for further discussion, action and research emerged, including forms of internal and international solidarity with Palestinians (such as boycott, divestment and sanctions), the lessons from other similarly structured conflicts including South Africa and Northern Ireland, rethinking the relationship between state and citizen, and how to organize a post-conflict society so that it provides a secure and dignified life to Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
The participants shared a committment to engaging deeply with these issues, in the context of their commitment to a democratic solution that will offer an enduring and just peace in a single state, and invite the widest possible participation in this quest.
The participants in the conference were:
Pedro Chavez Giraldo
Carlos Prieto Del Campo
This press release was issued on 6 July 2007 by the speakers in the course "Palestine-Israel: Un Pais, Un Estado," which took place from 2-6 July 2007 as part of the Summer Program of Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
Agenda in English
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
In July 1950, Majdal - today Ashkelon - was still a mixed town. About 3,000 Palestinians lived there in a closed, fenced-off ghetto, next to the recently arrived Jewish residents. Before the 1948 war, Majdal had been a commercial and administrative center with a population of 12,000.
It also had religious importance: nearby, amid the ruins of ancient Ashkelon, stood Mash'had Nabi Hussein, an 11th-century structure where, according to tradition, the head of Hussein Bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was interred; his death in Karbala, Iraq, marked the onset of the rift between Shi'ites and Sunnis. Muslim pilgrims, both Shi'ite and Sunni, would visit the site. But after July 1950, there was nothing left for them to visit: that's when the Israel Defense Forces blew up Mash'had Nabi Hussein.
This was not the only Muslim holy place destroyed after Israel's War of Independence.
According to a book by Dr. Meron Benvenisti, of the 160 mosques in the Palestinian villages incorporated into Israel under the armistice agreements, fewer than 40 are still standing. What is unusual about the case of Mash'had Nabi Hussein is that the demolition is documented, and direct responsibility was taken by none other than the GOC Southern Command at the time, an officer named Moshe Dayan.
The documentation shows that the holy site was blown up deliberately, as part of a broader operation that included at least two additional mosques, one in Yavneh and the other in Ashdod.
A member of the establishment is responsible for the documentation: Shmuel Yeivin, then the director of the Department of Antiquities, the forerunner of the present-day Antiquities Authority. Yeivin, as noted by Raz Kletter, an archaeologist who has studied the first two decades of archaeology in Israel, was neither a political activist nor a champion for Arab rights.
As Kletter explains, he was simply a scientist, a disciple of the British school and a member of the Mandate government's Department of Antiquities who believed that ancient sites and holy places needed to be preserved, whether they were sacred to Jews, Christians or Muslims. In line with his convictions, he fired off letters of protest and was considered a nudnik by the IDF.
"I received a report that not long ago, the army blew up the big building in the ruins of Ashkelon, which is known by the name of Maqam al-Nabi Hussein and is a holy site for the Muslim community," Yeivin wrote on July 24, 1950, to Lieutenant Colonel Yaakov Patt, the head of the department for special missions in the Defense Ministry, and sent a copy to chief of staff Yigael Yadin and other senior officers. "That building was still standing during my last visit to the site, on June 10 - in other words, the army authorities found no reason to demolish it from the conquest until the middle of 1950. I find it hard to imagine the site was blown up due to infiltrators, as they have not stopped infiltrating the area during this entire period."
The detonation, by the way, was extremely successful. Of the ancient and holy site, not so much as a stone remained.
al majdal, is named after one of the depopulated Palestinian cities in the south of Palestine now known as the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Unlike many others towns and villages in Palestine, not all of the people of al-Majdal Jad, as it was known, had fled or were evicted from their town during the war of 1948. More than a 1,500 residents remained steadfast until 1950, when they were finally evicted by a combination of Israeli military force and bureaucratic measures reminicent of the current Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing applied against the Palestinian inhabitants in the eastern areas of occupied Jerusalem. Thus, Palestinians of al-Majdal Jad were turned into refugees, most of them finding shelter in the nearby Gaza Strip. Like other Palestinian refugees, they have not disappeared. They have remained close to their homes and lands. Of old age now, they, their children and grandchildren have built a new, temporary existence and identity as refugees. For the past 50 years, they have built new hopes and dreams based on the international recognition of their right of return, and struggled for the day when they would live as free citizens in al-Majdal/Ashkelon.
Peter Hounam - The Sunday Times - July 8, 2007
Is there ever to be any hope of justice for Mordechai Vanunu in an Israeli court? Last week’s unexpected decision by a Jerusalem magistrate to jail him for six months is another bitter defeat for the nuclear whistleblower after more than 20 years of clashes with the Israeli authorities.
His crime this time was to have given a number of interviews to the foreign press, including The Sunday Times, not one of which had the slightest security implications. His simple act of talking to foreign journalists was a transgression too far for a system bent on making him bow to its will.
The first and most serious charge Vanunu faced related to an interview I arranged with him when he came out of prison three years ago.
He had spent nearly 18 years in jail, 11½ in solitary confinement, for revealing the secrets of his country’s nuclear weapons production plant to this newspaper. While the story was being compiled he had been kidnapped after being lured from London to Rome by a woman Mossad agent, and was then found guilty of treason and espionage.
Vanunu intended to leave Israel for a new life in the United States on his release but the authorities forbade it and ordered him to report his movements, stay away from ports and airports, and have no communication with foreigners.
Through his family I arranged his first interview so that there would be no breach of the regulations. We asked Yael Lotan, an Israeli journalist, to conduct it and we used an Israeli camera crew.
Vanunu talked in detail about his motive for revealing the secrets, his kidnapping and his ordeal in prison but said nothing sensitive about his work at the Dimona nuclear plant. Nevertheless the Israeli government banned me from returning to Israel and two years later the interview was one of 21 cited by the prosecution as violations of his orders. His lawyers obtained a temporary suspension of my banning order and I arrived in court eager to show the charge naming me as interviewer was false.
I was surprised when the prosecution lawyer made only a lackadaisical attempt to cross-examine me. Judge Yoel Tzur even allowed me a few minutes to talk to Vanunu, who seemed confident about the outcome. I urged the judge to send a signal to the authorities that the restrictions placed on Vanunu were not only inhumane but unnecessary as he had no more secrets to disclose.
In April Vanunu was found guilty of 14 violations, including the interview I had been accused of conducting. Even then it was widely supposed he would receive a suspended sentence.
Tzur’s decision last Monday to send him back to prison therefore came as a shock to defence and prosecution alike. He is free pending a decision on whether to appeal.
Sunday, 8 July 2007
The Associated Press
Published: July 7, 2007
Two more media advocacy groups condemned the shooting of a cameraman for Hamas TV, who lay wounded on the ground when he came under more fire during a clash with Israeli troops.
The incident, captured by TV cameras, took place Thursday, during heavy fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in central Gaza. The cameraman, Imad Ghanem, had to have both legs amputated as a result of his injuries.
Israeli army spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibowitch, has said it was not clear who shot Ghanem, a cameraman for the Hamas-allied Al Aqsa TV, though she did not deny it could have been Israeli troops. There are no plans to investigate, she said.
Leibowitch said the cameraman was a legitimate target because he was with the Hamas gunmen firing at Israeli forces, was separated from other journalists covering the clash, and could have been carrying a weapon.
On Friday, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists condemned the shooting and called for an investigation.
Two more media advocacy groups, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, also issued protests.
"The Israeli military's repeated attacks on media and journalists during military operations are unacceptable and constitute violations of international humanitarian law," said Reporters Without Borders. The group demanded an investigation into why soldiers continued firing toward Ghanem after he had been injured.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also called for an investigation.
"We are horrified by the Israeli forces apparent targeting of cameraman Imad Ghanem," the group's executive director, Joel Simon, said. "He was carrying out legitimate journalistic duties when he was seriously wounded. Deliberate targeting of journalists cannot be justified. We call on the Israeli army to investigate this incident fully and make its findings public."
Al Jazeera News
This afternoon, in the West Bank town of Bi’lin outside of Ramallah, approximately 70 demonstrators attempted to approach the annexation barrier which snakes through Palestinian land. The peaceful protesters included Palestinian members of the community, Israelis, and international observers from the International Solidarity Movement and the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. Though the annexation wall has been completed in the area, the weekly protests against the wall have shown that resistance to the wall will not fade.
As the protest began, with chants and flags waving, the marchers were not able to approach the wall itself; rather, the IOF had blocked the road with barbed wire, and as marchers tried to cross, the soldiers unleashed a volley of tear gas and rubber bullets. A young Palestinian was shot in the foot and an elderly man was rendered unconscious by the fumes. The IOF continued harassing the peaceful demonstration until the crowd dispersed.
Hamdan identified the large Dagmoush clan as Johnston’s captors and said that now Mohammad Dahlan’s Preventive Security Service’s had abandoned Gaza, the Hamas leadership was focusing on gaining Johnston’s release. The resolution of the Gaza situation, and the imposition of political stability, had given Hamas the opportunity to focus on Johnston. After Dahlan’s forces were routed, on June 15, it became their top priority. “We are working to have the man secure and safe,” Hamdan said. “If we do anything wrong they may hurt him so we are making the pressure slowly in order to have him released.”
Hamdan was naturally reticent to give any details of Hamas’s strategy for gaining Johnston’s release, though it was soon clear that the leadership had adopted a less than subtle set of tactics to win his freedom. “We are talking to some senior members of the family, telling them this will not help the whole family, and they have to play a role. They can’t cover their backs while they are kidnapping this man,” Hamdan said. Another Palestinian leader was less charitable: “These people are not Rhodes scholars,” he said of the Dagmoush’s. “This is essentially a criminal gang, a politicized political gang, but a gang. They understand the use of force.”
At first, Hamas worked carefully — slowly bringing pressure against the family. The Hamas leadership was particularly sensitive to the pleadings of British officials, including Richard Makepeace, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, who held a series of quiet meetings with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City. But the go-slow approach advocated by Makepeace soon gave way to a tougher line. The key to gaining Johnston’s release was convincing 28-year-old Mumtaz Dagmoush, the leader of the family, that there would be a steep price to pay should any harm come to the BBC reporter. Hamas’s message to Dagmoush was clear: if he cooperated, he and his family would be left alone, but if he did not — and if something were to happen to Johnston — then he and the Dagmoush would have to face the armed might of Hamas’s Executive Force, now firmly in control in Gaza.
West Bank settlements have been allocated huge amounts of land, but use very little of it, according to a Peace Now report.
Only nine percent of the area under settlement jurisdiction has been built on, and only 12 percent is being used at all, the report said, citing Civil Administration figures.
But despite their huge unused land reserves, 90 percent of the settlements exceed their boundaries, and about one-third of the territory they do use lies outside their jurisdiction, the report added.
The origins of the Hamas action in Gaza lie in the reaction of the international community, and of Fatah, to Hamas's overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections of January 2006.
The term "de facto binational state" is preferable to the occupier/occupied paradigm, because it describes the mutual dependence of both societies, as well as the physical, economic, symbolic and cultural ties that cannot be severed except at an intolerable cost. Describing the situation as de facto binational is not prescriptive but descriptive, and it does not indicate parity between Israelis and Palestinians--on the contrary, it stresses the total dominance of the Jewish-Israeli nation, which controls a Palestinian nation that is fragmented both territorially and socially.
Thursday, 14 June 2007
Yesterday, I was asked by an Italian journalist why the Alternative Information Center (AIC) is not participating in the Florence conference entitled “Peace NGO Conference.” I gave her two answers: first, because the AIC was not invited, which is not surprising, and second, because even if we would have been invited, we would have declined the invitation. There are two major reasons to oppose, or better—to ignore, the Florence initiative. The first one is related to its platform, the second reason to its very nature.