Friday, 31 August 2007

Video: Soldiers Beat Palestinian Demonstrators in Bil’in

Today marked the 134th consecutive demonstration in Bil’in Village against settlement activity on village land and against the building of the apartheid wall, which separates local villagers from their farmland. About 40 Palestinian, Israeli and international demonstrators participated this week. The weekly demonstration accompanies a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the attempt to expand settlements in the area, which recently resulted in the collapse of the Heftsiba real estate company, an Israeli firm which is responsible for much of the settlement construction and sales in the West Bank.

What do Palestinians really think?

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, August 27, 2007
"Palestinian poll finds support for Fatah government over Hamas."
That headline from the International Herald Tribune, one of many
similar ones last week, must have warmed the hearts of supporters of
the illegal, unelected and Israeli-backed Ramallah "government" of
Salam Fayyad. Last June Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and the
national unity government he headed, and appointed Fayyad without
the legally required endorsement of the Palestinian legislative
council. This followed Hamas' rout of the US and Israeli-backed
militias of Fatah warlord Mohammed Dahlan in the Gaza Strip.

Does this poll vindicate the US and Israeli strategy of funding and
arming Palestinian collaborator leaders in Ramallah, and Abbas'
strategy of embracing Israel, cracking down on the resistance,
colluding in a cruel siege on his people in Gaza, and refusing all
dialogue with Hamas? A closer look at the poll results as well as
the context suggests the opposite.

An important marker has been passed

John Pilger, New Statesman, 23 August 2007
Those calling for a boycott of Israel were once distant voices. Now the discussion has gone global. It is growing inexorably and will not be silenced.
The courageous Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, believes a single democratic state, to which the Palestinian refugees are given the right of return, is the only feasible and just solution, and that a sanctions and boycott campaign is critical in achieving this. Would the Israeli population be moved by a worldwide boycott?

Although they would rarely admit it, South Africa's whites were moved enough to support an historic change. A boycott of Israeli institutions, goods and services, says Pappé, "will not change the [Israeli] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [the premises of Zionism] are racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose."

And so would the rest of us.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Israel's oppressive architecture of occupation

Eyal Weizman interview: Israel's oppressive architecture of occupation
Socialist Worker 2065 Anindya Bhattacharyya, 21 August 2007
Dissident architect Eyal Weizman explains the mechanics of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The occupied West Bank, 1999. A group of Israeli settlers complain that their mobile phone reception cuts out on a bend in a road from Jerusalem to their settlements.

The mobile phone company Orange agrees to put up an antenna on a hill overlooking the bend.

The hill happens to be owned by Palestinian farmers, but since mobile phone reception is a “security issue”, the mast construction can go ahead without the farmers’ permission.

Other companies agree to supply electricity and water to the construction site on the hill.

In May 2001 an Israeli security guard moves on to the site and connects his cabin to the water and electricity mains. Then his wife and children move in with him.

In March 2002 five more families join him to create the settler outpost of Migron. The Israeli ministry for construction and housing builds a nursery, while donations from abroad build a synagogue.

By mid-2006 Migron is a fully fledged illegal settlement comprising 60 trailers on a hilltop around the antenna, overlooking the Palestinian lands below.

This blow-by-blow account of just one example of the ongoing Israeli colonisation of Palestine appears in the opening pages of a fascinating new book by Eyal Weizman, the dissident Israeli architect.

Called Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, it is an extraordinarily detailed account of exactly how the occupation works in practice, focusing on the physical organisation of space and the political dynamics that shape it.

The 300 page book is packed with fascinating diagrams and photographs that shed a revealing light on almost every aspect of the occupation.


It explains the way that housing projects in Jerusalem are clad with a specific kind of stone to give the houses a “Biblical” look, and the use of one-way mirrors at border posts in the West Bank.

Eyal Weizman started work on the book in 2001 when he was commissioned by B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, to help document how Palestinian rights were being violated through the planning of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

This work was later turned into an exhibition and book called A Civilian Occupation. The Israeli Association of Architects commissioned the project – only to prevent the exhibition from being shown and then destroy 5,000 copies of the book.

Today Eyal Weizman lives and works in London as director of the Centre for Architectural Research at Goldsmiths College.

His students work on a variety of similar projects that combine architectural and political analysis, including studies of Dubai, Beirut and United Nations protectorates in the former Yugoslavia.

I asked Eyal what had prompted him to write the book – and what the significance was of its subtitle referring to the “architecture of occupation”.

“As I was working, it seemed to me more and more that the entire occupation, the entire formation of the terrain itself, could be thought of in the same way as you think of the structure of a building,” he says.

“This first occurred to me while reading the Oslo Accords of 1993. The partition of the territory put forward there is not two dimensional but three dimensional – it partitions a volume, rather than a land, giving Palestinians some bits of land while maintaining the subterranean water reservoirs and airspace for Israel.

“As soon as you imagine geopolitics operating in a volume like that, architecture comes into play.”

This analogy led him to consider how architectural analysis could be applied to a military and political situation: “For instance, what’s the most basic analytic tool you use if you’re an architecture student and you want to understand a building? You draw a cross-section through it.

“In fact, the book Hollow Land is structured as a cross-section through the entire Occupied Territories. The first chapter is about the underground water reservoirs.

“Then it looks at the archaeology, then the valleys, the hills and finally the airspace. It’s a series of episodes that make up a volume, layer by layer, chapter by chapter.

“So you can think of the entire occupation as if it was some kind of complex building, such as an airport or a shopping mall, with security corridors inbound and outbound, and movement through it.”

This focus on the material organisation of Israel’s encroachment into the West Bank might sound rather dry – but in fact Hollow Land’s relentless and patient accumulation of details throws the human catastrophe of the occupation into even starker light.

One particularly chilling section of the book discusses Israeli military techniques for sending assassination squads into the dense urban sprawl of Palestinian settlements.

Rather than use the alleyways and paths of the settlement – and risk ambush – the Israeli soldiers simply blast their way in a straight line through to their target. They cut holes in the walls of residential buildings and literally march straight through people’s living rooms.

To train the occupation troops the Israelis have built a fake Palestinian settlement in the Negev desert – whose buildings are ready equipped with holes cuts into their walls. The US has now started building similar fake villages to train its troops for the occupation of Iraq.

Hollow Land does not just document the shape of the Israeli occupation – it also looks into the dynamics that created that shape in the first place. “It’s about the way in which politics, culture and other formative forces register themselves in the organisational form of the landscape,” says Eyal.

“The idea is that you look at a piece of architecture, or any piece of design, and study it as a consequence of conflicts, forces, practices and so on. So form becomes a kind of diagram of the forces that create it – process is frozen into form.”

One example of this is the Migron settlement described at the beginning of the book, which arises out of the interplay of a whole host of actors – Israeli settlers, mobile phone companies, utility firms, state institutions, the army and so on.

Eyal is keen to stress how “settlements emerge out of organisational chaos”. The very nature of the occupation is one of “uncoordinated coordination”, where the government allows degrees of freedom to rough elements and then denies its involvement. He says this is characterised by “micro-processes that become wheels in larger processes”.

The wall

A key example of this is the construction of the “separation wall” in the Occupied Territories – a huge barrier designed to wall off the Palestinians into tiny enclaves while annexing vast portions of the West Bank for Israel.

The wall is fiercely controversial even within Israel, and its precise route is constantly being contested. As a result the wall snakes through the West Bank in a curiously fluid manner, sometimes swinging out east to take in an illegal Israeli settlement, at other times being pushed back west again.

“The trick is to understand how the wall is flexible without justifying it as benign – it’s a dangerous flexibility!” says Eyal.

“But what the course of the wall registers the most is opposition to it – the constant petitions of Israeli NGOs to the Israeli high court of justice and the weekly demonstrations by Israeli human rights groups, for instance.”

In a striking analogy, Eyal suggests that the space of possible routes of the wall maps the spectrum of official Israeli politics – the doves seeking a wall to as close to Israel’s pre-1967 borders as possible, the hawks wanting to push the wall out towards Jordan.

The wall’s route reflects the dynamic between these two forces.

But for Eyal the problem is that fierce battles over the precise route of the wall can fail to challenge the wall’s very existence.

“These micro-political acts of resistance are paradoxical because by pursuing the lesser evil they allow the greater evil of the wall to exist and function,” he says. “The opposition to the wall becomes part of what designs it – it becomes complicit in the wall.”

Eyal argues that this paradox is part of a larger pattern whereby the occupation has absorbed and incorporated the views of the human rights organisations and NGOs at work in the Occupied Territories.

Human rights

“In some cases human rights organisations end up influencing the design plans for checkpoints,” he notes.

“They end up sustaining the occupation. They go to the military and plead for certain things. Governance always needs carrots and sticks – it operates not just on the basis of threats, but by absorbing the opposition into a governing system.”

One example of this is the fact that Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on food aid from international donors.

“If humanitarian organisations did not feed Palestinians in Gaza there would be a crisis – some 1.8 million Palestinians live off international aid,” he says.

“Consequently a significant part of Israeli intelligence is to monitor the levels of hunger in Gaza and keep it just at the level that the world will tolerate. This level changes – a level of hunger that would not have been tolerated in the 1990s is tolerated now.”

Eyal is aware that this might sound “anti-humanitarian” but he insists he is not suggesting that NGOs should simply down tools and leave the Palestinians to their fate.

Rather it’s a matter of a clear sighted acknowledgement that even the best intentioned and most benign of humanitarian organisations operating in the Occupied Territories is to a certain extent complicit, and, to a certain extent, part of the problem.

Ultimately Eyal says he is pessimistic over the current prospects for Palestinians. He believes the madness and terror of the occupation stem out of the paradoxes of trying to partition the land in the first place into separate “Israeli” and “Palestinian” territories.

“You have to understand the idea that guides the Israeli occupation, which is how to resolve the paradox of maintaining overall control while ensuring separation,” he says.

“It’s very different from other kinds of colonial geography – for instance, the ‘bantustans’ in apartheid South Africa were special designated zones, but with Israel and Palestine you get overlapping claims over the same sites woven together into mutually exclusive separate networks that try to never cross.”

This pattern of settlements and camps arranged in space, connected by bridges and tunnels, has a long history. “This is something you get from the very first attempt to divide Israel and Palestine,” Eyal notes.

“If you look at plans from the 1920s and 1930s prepared for the League of Nations during the mandate period by diplomats and mapmakers, you’ll see that nobody could find a line that separates Israel from Palestine – it was always a matter of building bridges or tunnels over or under the other’s territory to maintain continuity.

“So my critique throughout the book is against the politics of partition. I want to show how paradoxical partition is – and that it just cannot operate physically.”


Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation by Eyal Weizman is published by Verso

© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Marrickville and Bethlehem sisters to sign

Rashell Habib, Inner West Courier, Tuesday 21 August, 2007
A five-person delegation from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem is hoping to arrive in Australia this week, after overcoming reported attempts by Israeli officials in Tel Aviv to delay visa applications.

The delegation includes Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, his wife Marcelle, Father Amjad Sabbara from the Church of the Nativity and lawyer Anton Salman.

The delegation plans to arrive in Sydney on Thursday to sign a sister city agreement with Marrickville Council.

Claims by the Jewish community that Marrickville Council could inadvertently fund the Islamic terror group Hamas through its sister city relationship with Bethlehem have been strongly rejected by the council which has voted to formalise the sister city agreement.

Speaking to the Courier from Bethlehem before his visit, Mr Batarseh said his group had been waiting for the visa application process to be approved.

"We sent out applications for the visas and we called Tel Aviv and asked about the visas and they said we just have to wait, so we wait," he said.

Mr Batarseh said he was looking forward to coming to Australia to clear any misconception sections of the media and other organisations had put forward about Bethlehem.

"After everything that has been said and written about us we are looking forward to coming and making things clear," he said. "There are all these things being said against myself and council and they are all lies.

"We are peace-seeking people and we intend to let people know our exact position, that we seek peace and justice."

Marrickville resident and member of Friends of Bethlehem Jennifer Killen said the organisation was alarmed to hear reports of alleged Israeli officials' attempts to delay the visa applications.

"It is ridiculous, Mr Batarseh has travelled around the world including America and only recently was in Glasgow to formalise a city agreement," Ms Killen said.

The Propaganda Machine

Jonathan Cook - The Guardian - August 20, 2007
The goal of hasbara is to disseminate good news about Israel, largely independent of whether the news is true or not.
It is an honour of a kind, I suppose, to briefly have the most active thread on the Comment is free site. But not much of one when 95% of the posts rarely rose above the level of vitriolic name-calling. The posters probably know that by now I am immune to playground taunts of "scum" and "Nazi", but the abuse, I suspect, is meant more as a warning to others who might criticise Israel. Keep quite - or else.

Volcanic outbursts of hatred on Cif greet anyone who objects to Israel's policies: in my case, I sinned by pointing out that its leaders have turned the small community of Jews in Tehran into pawns in a struggle to persuade the world that Iran is a genocidal threat to world Jewry. My point was that Israel's concern is entirely hollow. It simply wants to mobilise support for an attack on Iran, either by itself or the US.

Some posters to this site seem to be aware of the organised nature of these critic-bashing campaigns. They note that sites like rally the faithful to the cause. But most posters are probably not aware that giyus and its ilk are only the tip of a much larger effort called "hasbara" by Israel and its supporters. Usually the word is translated as "advocacy for Israel". I call it by its proper name: propaganda.

The main goal of hasbara is constantly to disseminate good news about Israel, largely independent of whether the news is true or not, in the hope that over time a benevolent image of Israel will be reinforced. Here's an example: in 2000 it was reported that an Israeli court ruling had ended the country's system of land apartheid, a legally enforced territorial separation that keeps Jewish and Arab citizens apart in most of country. To this day apologists cite this ruling as proof of equality in Israel, even though the decision only applied to one Arab family, has yet to be enforced, and the Israeli parliament is currently passing legislation to make sure it never is.

But the charm offensive is only the upside of their work. The downside is, as Cif posters know well, a relentless campaign to target, discredit and silence critics of Israel. It can take many forms, not only name-calling. I was intrigued to see several posters thought I had no right to criticise Israel because my wife is an Israeli citizen, though - and this is presumably her and my offence - she also happens to be a Palestinian. They would have a field day - but fail to see their own double standards - were I to suggest that only non-Jews be allowed to apologise for Israel.

A few posters made what appeared to be a substantive point: why had I failed to note that, while today 25,000 Jews live in Tehran, another 80,000 have fled? But look closer and the case crumbles. The overwhelming majority of those 80,000 Jews left in the wake of the country's Islamic revolution in 1979 - that is, nearly 30 years ago. They are irrelevant to Israel's current claims that the Iranian leadership is preparing to commit a genocide against the Jews. In any case, most of those fleeing Jews left because they were middle class and secular and saw no future in an Islamic state, despite reassurances from Ayatollah Khomeini that they would left in peace. In other words, they left - like many other Iranians - for economic reasons, not political or religious ones.

Other posters simply lied, in the great tradition of hasbara. Several suggested I had written that Rafik Hariri was killed by Israel. I hadn't, and you can check my website to be sure. I had also apparently written that the two Israeli soldiers killed in a Hizbullah operation last year were caught on Lebanese soil. Again a search failed to find the story. No matter. Truth is not what hasbara is about.

And if all this fails to discredit a critic of Israel, simply label him an anti-semite, and the argument can be closed. Game, set and match.

I am not sure if any other country or cause encourages this kind of mainly voluntary propaganda work, but I am sure that no other country or cause has the human resources that Israel can rely on to carry it out. There are thousands of people sitting at their computers ready to pounce. (I know because I have received abusive emails from them, unless it's just a handful with thousands of different email addresses.) They do not need orders or much guidance. They do it because they love Israel and see it as part of their life's work to protect Israel's image.

Doubtless, they believe what they write too. If you have been raised to live in constant fear of anti-semitism, and to see an anti-semitic impulse lurking in the recessses of every non-Jewish mind (an observation that is often publicly made in the Israeli and American media but less often here), then what other motive could someone like me have but anti-semitism for writing what I do? The logic is satisfyingly circular.

But Cif posters may be less aware of how the rest of the Israel lobby works. Giyus is, in fact, the most amateurish part of its operation. These are the "shock troops" on the front line. They overwhelm by force of numbers only. Far more effective are the lobby's "snipers". They pick off anyone the shock troops have failed to frighten off and whose voice might be heard in places where it matters: particularly in the American media and on US campuses. Tony Judt has recently felt their ire, as have Professors Walt and Mearsheimer.

A separate lobby system, particularly Aipac, is dedicated to intimidating elected American representatives. This obsession with preserving Israel's image in the US is not surprising: the country's fate as an occupying, military power in the Middle East will, after all, be decided in Washington. In the main, the professional Israel lobby cares little about what is said in the European media, although as British newspaper websites like the Guardian start to penetrate the other side of the Atlantic that is changing. There may yet come a day when we will miss the abusive giyus crowd.

The professional Israel lobby have respectable names like Camera (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Reporting in America), Honest Reporting and the Anti-Defamation League.

Camera has a section dedicated to "naming and shaming" some of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East. You'll find a page dedicated to the Guardian's former Jerusalem correspondent, Chris McGreal, after he made the ultimate faux pas of comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa, a country he knows intimately. There are many who share the honour: the Independent's Donald MacIntyre, Tim McGirk of Time magazine, Molly Moore of the Washington Post, Jim Muir and Kylie Morris of the BBC, Greg Myre and Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times. And that's just a fraction of those whose surname begins with M.


Israel ups the stakes in the propaganda war
Stewart Purvis, November 20, 2006
Amir Gissin talked last week of plans to get Israeli video onto sites like YouTube which he said were viewed by opinion "shapers". And his cousin Dr Ra'anan Gissin, formerly Ariel Sharon's media adviser, has endorsed the idea of having picture power at the country's disposal ready for future conflicts. Referring to Israel's opponents, he put it in his usual direct way: "You need to shoot a picture before you shoot them."

SourceWatch: Hasbara refers to the propaganda efforts to sell Israel, justify its actions, and defend it in world opinion. The premise of hasbara is that Israel's problems are a matter of better propaganda, and not one of an underlying unjust situation.

Israeli court seizes land from Cremisan Monastery in Bethlehem area

Ablad Darwish, Ma'an News, Bethlehem
22 August, 2007
Father Anton Beloni from Genova in Colombia (b.1831 d. 1903), laid the foundation stone in the building of Cremisan Monastery in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank. He could not know that Israeli authorities would sentence it to lifetime imprisonment in 2007. The monastery owns an area of thousands of hectares, including a convent and chapel, along with dozens of houses, belonging to local Palestinians, who used to fund themselves from the agricultural products of the fertile land.

On 10th July 2007, Israeli authorities declared military order #T-07-75, stating that 2000 dunums of land were to be confiscated. Seven days were given in which to raise any objections to the Tel Aviv authorities.

Father Anton arrived from Genova 148 years ago. He was named "Father of orphans", as he attended to, and took care of, dozens of orphans in Beit Jala.

In 1885, he arrived to live in the area, purchasing the lands of Cremisan from Sheikh Qabalan Dahdah and Father Emil Zakaria. Father Anton started to build the monastery, which included an orphanage and a school for theology and philosophy. Thousands of trees were planted by the priest during this time.

Fast-forward to 2007, and an Israeli court issues an order to confiscate 2000 dunums for the establishment of the separation wall, the route of which crosses the road to the Cremisan land from the nearby town of Beit Jala, depriving worshippers of access to the monastery.

Ghayyath Nassar, attorney for the Beit Jala municipality told me that, not only will 2,000 dunums of land be confiscated, the fate of 11 Palestinian family homes remain unknown.

"Some will be destroyed, some have the separation wall just three metres from them," he says. A kindergarten will be also enclosed on the opposite side of the wall to the monastry and West Bank land.

After a long fight through the Israeli courts, a gate will be established in the wall to allow the children to attend the nursery. The passage through the gate is due to be controlled by the Israeli army, notorious in the area for not opening other gates for access to farmland by Palestinian farmers.

The owner of one of the houses under threat, Yusra Al-Arja, stated that she built the small home six years ago, and now will face the separation wall every day. A further homeowner, Nicole Al-Alam, declared "I own a small house, which I inherited from my sisters, who built it before 1948. I tried to maintain it as best I could. I also inherited six dunums of land around the house, which I planted with olives, apricots and figs, to help as part of my family's income." She does not know if she will be able to remain, if the land and home will continue to belong to her, or if her home is to be confiscated for the construction of the separation wall.

The other families in the area are understandably also worried about the future of their homes and lands. The other houses belong to the families of Al-Araj, Az-Zumar, Zrinah and Qintar respectively.

The architect of Beit Jala municipality, Samya Zait, stated her sadness over the impending construction, stating that these families do not know the fate of their homes and lands.


Israeli forces demolish thousands of forest trees owned by Cremisan Monastery
Ma'an News, Bethlehem, 15 / 08 / 2007

Teaching Under Apartheid in Palestine

20 August 2007
Teaching Under Apartheid in Palestine
Leena: When I first decided to go to Palestine to teach kids English and yoga my main concerns were managing the kids’ behavior, assessing their needs and maintaining their interest. After all, those are the most challenging issues I face everyday in my classroom in Philadelphia. In the US I rarely get through an entire unit and to actually teach without a behavior related incident interrupting class is a very rare event. I quickly found it to be quite the opposite in Tel Rumeida which left me feeling like a fish out of water in the beginning.


If anyone reading this is considering teaching kids in Palestine, especially in Tel Rumeida, I must say please do it! You won’t regret it. The experience, the place, the people and most importantly the kids will capture your heart and change your life forever, in the most positive way. I say this because this is exactly what happened to me and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Nearly All the War Crimes Were Israel's

The Second Lebanon War, A Year Later
Jonathan Cook - August 16, 2007

Last weekend, an editorial in the liberal Haaretz newspaper went so far as to admit that this was "a war initiated by Israel against a relatively small guerrilla group". Israel's supporters, including high-profile defenders like Alan Dershowitz in the US who claimed that Israel had no choice but to bomb Lebanon, must have been squirming in their seats.

There are several reasons why Ha'aretz may have reached this new assessment.

Recent reports have revealed that one of the main justifications for Hizbullah's continuing resistance -- that Israel failed to withdraw fully from Lebanese territory in 2000 -- is now supported by the UN.

Last month its cartographers quietly admitted that Lebanon is right in claiming sovereignty over a small fertile area known as the Shebaa Farms, still occupied by Israel. Israel argues that the territory is Syrian and will be returned in future peace talks with Damascus, even though Syria backs Lebanon's position.

The UN's admission has been mostly ignored by the international media.

Concern in Gaza's hospitals as power cuts hit

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh visits Gaza's emergency wards where electricity is keeping children alive. Doctors fear what could happen now the only power station has been shut down. 20.08.07

VIDEO: Maria Aman's story on BBC World News

August 22, 2007

"Her injuries are forever, for the rest of her life"
Report, The Electronic Intifada, Aug 10, 2007

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The Hebron tactic

Amira Hass - Ha'aretz - 8th August 2007
For about 25 minutes, they behaved liked lords of the land: One man, followed later by a young guy, descended from Mitzpeh Yair, one of the unauthorized outposts in the southern Mt. Hebron area, and prevented a United Nations jeep from traveling. UN directives prohibit leaving the vehicle in such cases, in order to avoid an escalation of friction. And so we, three Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) staffers and two Haaretz journalists, were forced to watch them demonstrate their lordliness from inside the car: The older one blocked the vehicle, in the middle of the unpaved road, with his body. Using hand movements, he ordered the engine shut down. When that didn’t happen, he jumped on the hood and then on the roof and back on the hood, and finally lay back on the windshield and played with the wipers, taking them apart. The driver progressed slowly down the track, and the man leaned back on the windshield with force, until it broke and shards went into the driver’s eyes.

In the meantime, the younger guy appeared. He tried opening the doors of the jeep, screaming, “show me your identity cards” and placing big rocks in front of the wheels. By the time the army and police drove up, the older man yelled at Haaretz photographer Alex Levac: “Go back to where you came from.” When he realized that Levac was a Jew and born in this country, he shouted: “Traitor, going with the UN.” Both the older man and younger guy living at the outpost were born abroad. The younger man, a British citizen, has not yet been given new-immigrant status.

But what does that matter? It also didn’t matter that the soldier described them as “problematic” and that the police are familiar with the older man from previous incidents of harassment. Nor did it matter that the police officers did not believe their absurd story that we had been in their olive grove and that we had tried to run the older man over. The tactic is one that is well-known from Hebron, the same tactic that helped to cleanse the Old City of most of its Palestinian residents: Jews harass and bully and then threaten to lodge complaints against their victims with the Israeli police.

Harassment and sabotage of a much more serious nature than what we experienced has become routine for the Palestinian shepherds and farmers in the area. As a result, about 850 of the 3,500 or so inhabitants of the area known as Masafer Yatta (Yatta’s periphery) have left their habitations, in caves and tent encampments. Sometimes it is their access to water sources that is damaged, sometimes their herds, other times themselves. They have piles of papers attesting to the police complaints they have submitted. Until they stopped filing complaints.

It is easy to blame the two men, or those like them. But they practice terrorizing Palestinians because Israeli authorities let them do so.

In their own way, they do the same thing the “legitimate” occupation authorities do: They drive the Palestinians off their land to make room for Jews. In other words, they are following orders.

About 10 days ago, a Civil Administration inspector impounded a tractor and water tanker belonging to the Hadidyah, a community of farmers and herders in the northern Jordan Valley, as a pressure tactic aimed at getting them to leave their tent encampment on the grounds that it is located in a closed military area. They are one of dozens of communities that have been living in the valley for many decades. Since 1967 the Hadidyah have been displaced four times. Using all sorts of inventive tactics, the occupation authorities have turned these communities into unauthorized residents on their own land.

The springs and wells they used were turned over to the Mekorot Water Company: The water from the national company’s drilling nearby is used by the “legitimate” settlers and its use by the Hadidyah is prohibited. As a result, they have to truck in water from a distant spring. The army has declared large areas of the valley firing zones. They end at the boundaries of the settlements.

The Israeli authorities have refused to rezone land to enable the community to live in the place the elders remember as their childhood home. But the adjacent land has been rezoned for the residence of Jews, Israeli citizens. Now the Civil Administration is hoping that thirst will drive them out of the piece of land allotted to them, which no longer has any land suitable for agriculture or grazing. That is Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians in a nutshell, and talk of peace has not stopped it. The residents of the unauthorized outposts are merely imitating it and receiving both inspiration and protection from it.

Hebron store owner: Eviction was a façade

Ali Waked - YNet - 8th August, 2007
Owner of one of stores in city's wholesale market invaded by Jewish families tells Ynet evacuation will not change a thing: 'Everything that took place there was mainly meant for the cameras, but there were no clashes. The army and the settlers have the same goal'

"The so-called clashes between the IDF and the settlers are one big façade," Ziad Sarsur, the owner of one of the two stores taken over by Jewish families in Hebron's wholesale market, told Ynet on Wednesday.

The evacuation of the two families and hundreds of right-wing activists was completed by large police and Border Guard forces on Tuesday morning.

"Yesterday the merchants and I saw the commotion on television and laughed. What a poor and unsuccessful façade," Sarsur said. "Everyone knows that the army and the State of Israel and the settlers all do the same thing.

"One settler walks down the street accompanied by two jeeps, so how will they suddenly clash? The settlers are also much stronger and more influential than the army and I have no doubt that they will reinvade our businesses."

In 1993, after the massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein against Muslim worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs, Sarsur and hundreds of other Palestinian merchants were removed from their businesses and stores in the wholesale market.

Now, as far as he is concerned, the evacuation of Jewish families from the areas is meaningless.

"Whether the settlers are inside the market or were evacuated from it – I don't see a difference, because I cannot return to my business and my store. I have been expelled for more than 13 years. In order to enter the street where the business is located – not the business itself, but only the street – I have to coordinate with the Israeli side, and even then they don't give us permits."

According to Sarsur, before the settlers invaded the market he had approached the army and asked to take some of his belongings, but was turned down.

A day after the eviction, Sarsur recalled how he and his friends were evicted after the 1992 massacre.

"I was evacuated from a business which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, from which I would distribute fruit and vegetables to many stores in Hebron," he said.

"No one thought about providing us with an alternative or compensating us. The family lives of dozens of people depended on this business, and in one day we found ourselves on the street without any livelihood."

A number of High Court discussions did not convince the State to let the Palestinian merchants return to their businesses and homes in the wholesale market area.

Months after he was evacuated from his business, Sarsur paid 86,000 Jordanian dinars (about $120,000) and opened a store in the alternative market built by the Hebron municipality. He is still there, waiting for the day he will be allowed to return to the old market.

Soldiers and settlers together, on same road

"The funniest thing is the talks about large army and police forces arriving to prevent the settlers from reaching the confrontation area," Sarsur said, in reference to Tuesday's evacuation. "Whoever says that is either lying or did not see what went on here.

"Soldiers and settlers walked down the same road and street together. Everything that happened there was mainly for the cameras, but in practice there were no clashes. Both the army and the settlers have the same goal, which is to rob the Palestinians of their property.

Abdel Hadi Hantash of the Palestinian Land Defense Committee in Hebron said that disagreement is over the identity of the houses' rightful owners.

"The truth is that all these houses and stores are Palestinian property with documents, and therefore what happened yesterday is ridiculous. Two thieves arguing over who the property belongs to. This is an argument which is a façade, and by no means an evacuation, because the settlers' presence is illegal," he said.

Palestinians sources reported that not far from the scene of Tuesday's clashes there were at least another 10 Jewish families living in stores and houses they had taken over in the area.

"One or two places are enough for a façade. They don't need a set around every 10 stores, although I know there are at least 30 such stores and houses," a local Palestinian activist said.


Jacky Rowland from Al Jazeera English reports on the eviction of some settlers in Hebron - August 7, 2007


Hebron: Reflection on Reportage of an Eviction in Hebron
Kathie Uhler, 10 August 2007
What is profoundly unsettling for me is the exaggeration of the need for military and other security personnel, of the numbers of such personnel reputedly present, aswell as of the numbers of activists and protestors, and of their reputed violence.

What is to be gained by all this hype?

What is even more disturbing, however, is the minimizing in the Israeli and other presses of the real violence of Israeli citizens, both settlers and security personnel, against Palestinians and internationals, that I and other CPTers have witnessed and endured each day, and increasingly so in recent days.

Ten masked teenaged Israelis attacked one Palestinian in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron on 5 August, for example. Again, Israeli settlers beat two international volunteers at the Palestinian house illegally occupied by squatters in March 2007 that they named, "Beit Shalom," on 6 August while Israeli soldiers stood and watched.

The ongoing violence of squatting in a Palestinian neighborhood is itself another egregious example of Israeli minimizing and supporting crimes against humanity justified under the banner of self-produced security needs in an occupation that has gone bad.

The reportage of an event, like the eviction of the Israeli settlers in the market place, leads one to believe that the Israeli government staged it for political purposes.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Haaretz Article Ignores Bil’in

Dennis Fox : Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
What stands out most for me in this Haaretz article on the extraordinary growth rate of ultra-orthodox West Bank settlers is that, despite the primary focus on Modi’in Ilit and Beitar Ilit, there is no mention at all of Bil’in and Saffa, the Palestinian villages that have now lost much of their land to the growing Modi’in complex.


Why Ha'aretz Is A Piece Of Crap
Lawrence of Cyberia : October 22, 2004
Ha’aretz is a lot like the BBC: a news outlet that enjoys a reputation for progressive, liberal reporting, despite the fact that its fundamental bias is not really pro-Right or pro-Left at all, but strongly pro-Establishment.

Ha’aretz is “liberal” in exactly the same way: it gives a platform to outstanding individuals who will challenge conventional wisdom on Israeli affairs in a way that the newspaper as a whole will not.

There is one area of Ha’aretz’ reporting that I doubt I have ever relied on however, and that is their reporting of I.D.F. affairs.

The two faces of Ha'aretz
Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada, 5 April 2003
Dear reader, as Israel slides ever deeper into a morass of racism and ethnic solipsism, please do not lean too heavily on Haaretz to understand how or why this "light unto the nations" has grown so dim.

Haaretz and the Military Press Bureau - Who Inspires Whom?
Oznik News, December 10, 2002
Military press releases in English Lack Parts Of Hebrew versions, reports Haaretz - in its Hebrew edition only.

Looking Behind Ha'aretz's Liberal Image
Ran HaCohen, October 2, 2002
In the last two years – which saw both the Intifada and the launching of its English on-line edition – Ha'aretz has taken a sharp turn to the nationalistic right.

Israeli army bulldozes trees in a village near Bethlehem

Israeli army bulldozes trees in a village near Bethlehem
Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMC News - August 15, 2007
Israeli army bulldozers started to bulldoze trees in a forest located near Al Walaja west of Bethlehem city in the southern part of the West Bank on Wednesday morning.

Witnesses said that the attacked forest consists of 2200 trees and belongs to Cremisan Catholic convent and winery. The Israeli army plans to build a section of the illegal Wall there.

If this section of the Wall will be completed the Bethlehem district will lose all its lands in addition Al Walaja and nearby villages will be cut off from the village and will be totally isolated because of the Wall.

Israeli forces demolish thousands of forest trees owned by Cremisan Monastery
Ma'an News, Bethlehem, 15 / 08 / 2007
The Israeli forces on Wednesday began to raze hundreds of forest trees belonging to the Cremisan monastery near Beit Jala, in the southern occupied Palestinian West Bank.

Ma'an's correspondent stated that workers have begun demolishing trees under the supervision of Israeli soldiers.

The area to be destroyed includes around 2,150 forest trees, some of which are over 200 years old.

The trees are being razed in order to erect the illegal separation wall, which is located near the border of Jerusalem.

The Cremisan Monastery was founded in 1883 on the ruins of a seventh century Byzantine monastery. It is well-known for producing Cremisan Wine from local grapes.


Bethlehem: Rebuilding Homes in Al Walaja
ISM Report - July 16th, 2007
Starting on monday July 9th, 2007, ISM volunteers joined skilled Palestinian workers and international volunteers from EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) and Holy Land Trust, in coordination with ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) in rebuilding a house in Al Walaja vilage that had been demolished by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Al Walaja Village is now located 8 kilometers west of Bethlehem, and has 65 houses and one mosque slated for demolition, though the location of the village has changed over the years according to the whim of Israel. When the Israeli State formed in 1948 the village was moved from the Jerusalem hills (where it had been located for more than a hundred years) to a nearby location reduced from its original size by 90%. By 1967 half of the village had left, half remained.

State harassment continued; in the 1970s, Israel limited building permits for Al Walaja villagers. In 1981 Israel issued orders to annex the village into the Jerusalem municipality, to become Israeli public land, but did not provide services or rights to the people living there that were normally accorded to Jerusalem residents; villagers received orange ID cards instead of blue as a tactic to drive them away.

This has taken its toll. Villagers now must be over 40 to obtain a work permit as a laborer in Israel, unemployment is high and many people leave to the UAE to find work. Those that stay are faced with a landscape increasingly surrounded by settlements, of which Har Gilo is the closest. The Israeli government has planned to build the apartheid wall entirely around Al Walaja, so that it is surrounded, with one entrance. A village of 2000 people surrounded by a wall and illegal settlements, with little chance to work, and houses slated for demolition. It is not a pretty picture.

When volunteers from ISM joined the building of the house of Monder and Seham Salem, what struck us was their brave face of resistance in front of all this repression, but what also struck us was their story. Their house, the house they built with their own money, was first demolished in January of 2006, they were told they didn’t have a permit. After having their house demolished without any warning they were forced to live in a tent in the winter for two months. They rebuilt their house after this with money pooled from the local villagers, and tried to get a permit, but after it was built it was demolished again in December 2006 because they were told the apartheid wall was due to cross their property. Again, they were not given any warning.


Feast of the Tree
Toine van Teeffelen : January 31, 2005
Now we hear that on the western side of Bethlehem, at the edge of Beit Jala, the Wall is going to arise in the Cremisan convent's fields.

The Cremisan fields are full of trees, a significant part likely being cut off to make place for the military road alongside the barrier. The theology students at the Salesian seminary there may have to continue their studies in Jerusalem as the seminary will become increasingly inaccessible, so we hear. And let us not forget the tens of thousands of other Palestinian trees annually cut down for whatever purpose, such as the expansion of settlements or the construction of bypass roads.

Together with dozens of other Bethlehem and Beit Sahouri families, Mary's uncle has for some years been unable to reach his olive trees on the other side of the Wall or the barbed wire that separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem. Consider how he lost his trees, which used to be part of traditional Bethlehem lands.


Living in a Cage
ARIJ - January 17, 2004
According to the latest Israeli plan, which was published on the Internet at the Israeli Ministry of Defense Website; the village of Al-Walaja, will be totally isolated in a completely disconnected canton.

Cremisan road mentioned earlier is an alternative road which goes through the Cremisan convent (Salesian Seminary) private property was always used by Al-Walaja inhabitants as an alternative road to go to Bethlehem. The road was refurbished and asphalted recently through the help of the United States government to the Palestinian People and the project was funded by the USAID in order to provide access to the village and facilitate the movement for the villagers to reach Bethlehem.


Olive Branch from Jerusalem
Issue No. 159 - Saturday, 15 June 2002
The Patriarch ordained at the end of last month three priests and four deacons for the Salesian Seminary of Cremisan, the ordination took place in St Peter in Gallicantu Church.

"Her injuries are forever, for the rest of her life"

"Her injuries are forever, for the rest of her life"
Report, The Electronic Intifada, Aug 10, 2007
On a Saturday morning in mid May 2006, Hamdi Aman, aged 30 from Gaza, had his world turned upside down. Four members of his family died in an Israeli air strike aimed at an Islamic Jihad activist in Gaza.

He is concerned that his daughter, Maria, set to celebrate her sixth birthday next week, will be forced to leave the Israeli hospital where she is being treated for serious injuries sustained in the attack. The authorities want her to go to Ramallah, in the West Bank, but medical workers and Hamdi are worried this will harm Maria.

"It was a Saturday morning. There were eight of us in the vehicle going to visit a relative in hospital. We didn't know about the Israeli plane overhead looking for Ahmed Dahduh [from the Islamic Jihad].

"We were talking and then suddenly something hit us. I didn't know at first what it was.

"My mother, Hannan, died. My wife, Naima, and my eldest son, Muhanned, died. My youngest son Mo'men, who just turned four last week, got shrapnel wounds and so did I. My uncle died a month and 10 days later from his wounds.

"My daughter Maria was thrown out of the window. She became paralyzed from the neck down from the injuries to her brain and spinal cord.

"She can only breathe through a ventilator hooked up to her wheelchair. She controls the chair with her chin.

"Her injuries are forever, for the rest of her life.

"Mo'men was injured again a few months later, while Maria was in hospital, in another Israeli airstrike in Gaza. They were trying to kill another militant. The hospital psychologist had to tell me about it. Mo'men is now here with me in Jerusalem.

"We had to fight for Maria to get treatment in Israel. Lawyers and activists helped as did some people from the Israeli media. The Palestinian hospitals in Gaza could not treat her. Even the Israeli doctors call her a 'unique case.'

"On Thursday [2 August] last week I got a letter from the Israeli ministry [of defense] saying they would transfer her [Maria] to Ramallah. But they can't treat her there. Children in better condition than Maria come from Ramallah to Israel for treatment.

"What if she has to cross through a checkpoint? If anything happened to her ventilator, no one would be able to help her, she would die within minutes. She has had problems with it several times already. She can't be left alone for a minute.

"I have no words to describe my responsibilities. I have to take care of everything for her, she can't do anything on her own. But she is a growing girl, and I am a man and she has lost her mother. It will get harder.

"At first, I couldn't get a permit to stay in Israel. But I had to be by her side. So I slept on a mattress near her hospital bed, illegally, for seven months, until they gave me a permit.

"She gets excellent treatment here. I don't want her to go anywhere else, where she won't get the treatment she needs. It's only from God, a miracle that she's alive. She could die if she is sent to a place that cannot treat her as she requires.

"I want her to stay in Jerusalem. The bilingual [Hebrew-Arabic] school has accepted her for next year.

"She's paralyzed. All she has left is her mind. She needs to study. You should see her use the computer in the hospital, she moves the mouse with her chin. She loves it and she is good at it.

"I want Israel to take responsibility for her, give her the care she needs. I never asked them for anything, not for my dead wife, my mother, my eldest son. But please, just treat Maria. Give her the best treatment."


Border Control / A fatal hospital discharge
Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, August 7, 2007
Four months ago the Civil Administration's Health Coordinator, Dalia Bassa, told Hamdi Aman that within a few days he would have to remove his daughter from the only hospital in the Middle East that specializes in artificial respiration for children.

The media's intervention won Mariya a reprieve, but only temporarily.

The little girl trapped by a quirk of war
Uzi Mahnaimi, The Sunday Times, February 25, 2007
FOR five-year-old Marya Aman and her father Hamdi, the respiratory ward of Alyn hospital in Jerusalem has become a prison and her terrible injuries a life sentence.

Paralysed from the neck down when an Israeli missile destroyed her family’s car in Gaza last May, the Palestinian girl is caught in a dilemma that only the tortured politics of the Middle East could have contrived.

She cannot leave the Israeli hospital where her father tends her round the clock — feeding her, bathing her and changing her catheters — because she has nowhere to go within reach of the medical care she needs.

Her 29-year-old father cannot leave without risking automatic deportation to Gaza and separation from his child.

Mariya of the sorrows
Gideon Levy, Haaretz, June 16, 2006

Collateral Damage: An Entire Gaza Family
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, May 31 2006

Neta Golan on the beginning of the ISM

Neta Golan, a Jewish Canadian-Israeli activist, talks about how the International Solidarity Movement started.


It's My Story: From Rosedale to Ramallah
BBC Radio, Thursday 2 October 2003 : Listen HERE
Neta Golan is a young Canadian Jewish woman who has crossed over to the other side of the Middle East conflict. Neta's family emigrated to Israel from a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Rosedale in Toronto when she was nine. Her father told her "Israel is our only country now". She once shared her family's attitudes towards Arabs as obstacles to a greater Israel.

Then Neta Golan began to change her way of seeing the Palestinians. She helped launch the International Solidarity Movement, an organisation that uses peaceful means to protect Arab rights and protest against the occupation of Palestine. Neta now lives permanently in the West Bank. She's married a Palestinian and in the spring of this year she gave birth to her first child. Neta Golan is blunt in her appraisal: Israel has never come to terms with the Holocaust and the failure to do so means that history repeats itself save it is the Palestinians who are oppressed and murdered.

Under the guise of the Oslo accords, Israel has been building dozens of new settlements in the West Bank, all of them mini-recreations of European ghettos: walled communities surrounded by hostile territory. But the difference, she says, is that it is the Jews who are choosing to create these 'new ghettos,' rather than being forced into them by European anti-Semitism. Her views and the frankness with which she delivers them have made Neta a target of hate among right wing Israelis.


The long journey from Nablus to Tel Aviv
Neta Golan writing from Nablus, occupied Palestine, Live from Palestine, Jun 25, 2003
My father passed away last week.

I took Nawal, my two month old daughter, and attempted to go to Tel Aviv to attend the funeral and grieve with my family. Nablus, the city I live in, was besieged and completely sealed off.

This has been the case for most of the last two years. Israeli soldiers threatened to shoot anyone approaching the checkpoint.

On the day of my father's funeral we were "only" delayed for an hour. It was the third time Nawal made this journey since her birth.

Despite the risk involved in getting in and out I came often because I knew my father was dying. I needed him to see his first grandchild, to tell him I loved him, to say goodbye. After the funeral we spent a week with our Israeli family.

My husband, who is Palestinian, is forbidden to enter the part of Israel/Palestine that was occupied in 1948. It was hard that he could not be with me. But I knew that I was privileged to be able to grieve with my family.

I kept thinking of my friend Amal, one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, with huge hazel eyes and dark black hair. Her family was forced to leave Palestine for Jordan before she was born. Her husband, Abed, is from the West Bank. They have two beautiful children. If she leaves the West Bank, to see her family in Jordan, she will not be allowed back. Her parents have only seen their grandchildren in pictures. Her father was old and ill and she could not see him. He died and she could not be at his burial or comfort her mother.

Today, she refuses to accept that her father is dead. It is not death that she can't deal with, for people living under occupation must live with death every day. It is that fact that she was forced to choose her husband and children over her parents that she can not live with. Her hair has suddenly began going white.

The policy of denying spouses of Palestinians residency is one of the many forms that ethnic cleansing takes here. It is a policy as old as the state of Israel but Sharon takes special pride in it. In his election campaign he boasted that he had stopped Palestinians from entering Israel (greater) by stopping family reunification completely. Amal will never see her father again. Many thousands of Palestinians share her fate.

Palestinians cross back into Gaza

Civilians re-enter the Gaza Strip after spending ten weeks stranded at the Rafah border crossing. David Chater reports for Al Jazeera English, 9 August 2007.

Bilin: Four Detained as Military get Physical with Demonstrators

ISM Report - Bilin, 10th August 2007
About 100 international, Palestinian, and Israeli activists, and demonstrators, gathered in Bil’in village on the morning of August 10th 2007 for what was to be the 131st demonstration against the illegal Apartheid wall and the Israeli settlement of Modiin Ilit.

Demonstrators marched enthusiastically towards the Apartheid wall, chanting and shouting, expressing to the world and media about their hopes for an end to the occupation, their desire to see the Apartheid wall brought down, and wish for the soldiers to go home. As with most demonstrations in Bil’in, things didn’t stay enthusiastic for very long as Israeli soldiers and border police quickly released a hail of tear gas canisters and sound grenades upon the demonstrators.


A Village Makes Its Own Protest
Nora Barrows-Friedman - Inter Press Service - August 13, 2007

Israel has stated that the purpose of the wall is to prevent suicide bomb attacks, but critics maintain that the underlying intention is to annex as much land as possible to the expanding Israeli settlement colonies inside the occupied West Bank.

Many small farming villages such as Bili'in, which are dependent on agricultural exports to both local and wider communities, have been extremely vulnerable to both economic and social decay after the building of the Israeli wall.

"If we look at the wall, which has confiscated some of the main resources for the Palestinian villagers - namely, the fertile land and the underground water tables - the economic and social structures in the Palestinian areas are changing very rapidly," Jamal Jumaa, coordinator with the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in Ramallah told IPS.

"Right now, 51 villages have been isolated from their agricultural land, and farmers who have been farming their land for generations are now having to find work in nearby cities or elsewhere. This has changed the society in general from agricultural-based to industrial-based.

"Behind the wall, Israel creates industrial zones. So you have Palestinians losing their land because of the wall and the settlements, then being forced to find work, becoming cheap labour for Israeli industry."

Non-violent protests against the encroaching apartheid wall have become a regular and daily occurrence across the West Bank, but in Bili'in, international activists too have maintained a visible presence at the weekly protests.

"The Israelis are trying to push how far they can go," an elderly British-born U.S. citizen who has joined the protesters told IPS. "And we have to say, 'You've gone too far already.' So we have to protest. And they are hoping the world will keep quiet. And people coming from all over the world here are showing that we won't keep quiet. I'm from England, but I live in America where my tax dollars are paying for that (tear) gas that just attacked me. So I'm paying for that. It's an outrage."

No asylum for Palestinians in Canada

Al Jazeera English - 11 August, 2007
The Canadian government doesn't keep official numbers but it's estimated there are between 200-300 stateless Palestinians living in Canada.

At least 100 of those have already had their requests for asylum turned down and have or will be deported back to refugee camps in Lebanon.

The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam

Henry Siegman - London Review of Books, Vol. 29 No. 16 - August 16, 2007
When Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush met at the White House in June, they concluded that Hamas’s violent ousting of Fatah from Gaza – which brought down the Palestinian national unity government brokered by the Saudis in Mecca in March – had presented the world with a new ‘window of opportunity’. (Never has a failed peace process enjoyed so many windows of opportunity.)

Monday, 13 August 2007

Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour

Max Blumenthal's latest takes us on a shocking and at times bizarre tour of right-wing Pastor John Hagee's annual Washington-Israel Summit, blowing the cover off the Christian Zionist movement in the process. Starring Joe Lieberman, Tom DeLay, Pastor John Hagee, Ambassador Dore Gold and a host of rapture-ready evangelicals praying for Armaggedon.

26th July, 2007 - Max Blumenthal:
On July 16, I attended Christians United for Israel’s annual Washington-Israel Summit. Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby. Hagee and his minions have forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain. In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and elements of the Israeli government.

I have covered the Christian right intensely for over four years. During this time, I attended dozens of Christian right conferences, regularly monitored movement publications and radio shows, and interviewed scores of its key leaders. I have never witnessed any spectacle as politically extreme, outrageous, or bizarre as the one Christians United for Israel produced last week in Washington.

Peace in Iraq is inextricably linked to a Palestinian settlement

Michael Shaik - The Age - August 13, 2007
Should Israel's colonisation of the West Bank continue, the US will find itself defending what former US president Jimmy Carter has described as a regime of apartheid in which Jews and Palestinians living in the same area are subject to different laws and differential access to resources. Should America succumb to Israeli pressure to isolate Iran, it will lose the war in Iraq.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

VIDEO: Is a Two State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Still Possible?

Rev. Naim Ateek and Jeff Halper discuss how Israel's policy of apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza make a two-state solution unlikely and even impossible. The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek is the founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Halper is the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

They spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Monday, February 12th, 2007. The event was sponsored by the Council for the National Interest Foundation and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Anarchists Under Fire

A battle is being waged in the Israeli courts against anarchists who help Palestinian villagers.

Neve Gordon - The Guardian - July 30, 2007
Last month marked the occupation’s 40th anniversary, and no more than 4,000 people gathered in Tel-Aviv to protest Israel’s longstanding military rule. Of the demonstrators who did show up, only a few hundred are what one could call ardent activists -- people who have dedicated their life to peace and justice

Among the most committed of these are Israel’s anarchists ( Yet, over the past two years they have been under an ongoing attack, and it is becoming more and more difficult for them to continue their struggle.


Dennis Fox: I’ve mentioned Anarchists Against the Wall several times on this blog, in connection to the weekly Bil’in protests and other issues. I met several of the members in Tel Aviv as well as Bil’in. I’ll second Gordon’s call to send whatever support you can.


Saturday, 11 August 2007

An Interview with Rauda Morcos on Palestinian Gay Women

Out of the Closet in Palestine
Susanna Mendoza, Alternative Information Center (AIC): Thursday, 9 August 2007
The Alternative Information Center (AIC) spoke with Rauda Morcos about the situation for Palestinian gay women in Palestine/Israel. Rauda, a Palestinian from Nazareth is a poet, peace activist, feminist, and cofounder and coordinator of ASWAT: Palestinian Gay Women.


Rauda Morcos in Belgium and Netherlands
Photo Report Tour by Lieve Snellings: November, 2006

Queering Palestinian Solidarity Activism
Yoshie Furuhashi : Sunday, June 06, 2004
However well-intentioned white male queer activists may be, their actions would be effective only when they prove themselves as reliable allies of GLBT Palestinians, rather than ineptly trying to zap a multiracial interfaith demonstration for free Palestine. OutRage! might begin by listening to Rauda Morcos, the coordinator of ASWAT [Voice], which is a Palestinian lesbian group endeavoring to develop a lesbian-feminist perspective within Arab society and to formulate its own criticism of the politics of the Israeli occupation, autonomously of Israeli lesbian and gay projects.

Making Zionism Gay or Queering Israel into Post-Zionism?
Yoshie Furuhashi : Monday, June 07, 2004

June 8th, 2006
Apropos of forming queer communities, there was one question asked by a middle-aged white lesbian (my assumption, yes) that was particularly ridiculous but got such a well-put answer that I feel like I need to write it out here: “Let’s say I was a lesbian and lived in the West Bank and didn’t have a computer to access your listserv, and I wanted to find other lesbians. Is there a bar or neighborhood where I might go?”

And Morcos answered the woman, looking at her straight in the face and not skipping a beat, “If you lived in the West Bank, you would never ask that question. Because we are under occupation, it’s a war zone! We don’t go to bars very often.” The woman said, “Well, where do *you* meet lesbians?” Morcos answered, “I met most of my friends at demonstrations, through my activism, or my writing group. There was one bar in Ramallah that LGBT people used to go to but it was bombed by the Israeli army. I don’t go to bars very often.”

The Nakba in Israeli textbooks and official discourse

Ben White - The Electronic Intifada - August 2, 2007
As the BBC reported, "for the first time" the "Palestinian denunciation of the creation of Israel in 1948" had been included. This incident afforded a perfect opportunity for seeing how the Nakba -- what Palestinians called their expulsion by Zionist forces from their homes and villages in what is now Israel during 1947-48 -- is viewed by "official" discourse in the West (through the filter of the mainstream media), and within Israel itself.

Most mainstream news stories about the Israeli textbook were infused with a positive tone, and typical headlines described the development as "acknowledging" Palestinian suffering, "adding perspective," or "admitting" the Palestinian view (LA Times-Washington Post, San Francisco Gate, Sydney Morning Herald). Taking the online BBC report as an example, however, we find that this apparent move towards objectivity is deeply problematic.


The story TV news won't tell
The Observer, Sunday June 20, 2004
For 10 years Tim Llewellyn was the BBC's Middle East correspondent. In this passionately argued polemic he accuses British broadcasters, including his former employer, of systematic bias in covering the Arab-Israeli conflict, giving undue prominence to the views of Jerusalem while disregarding the roots of the crisis.

By Former BBC Middle East Correspondent, Tim Llewellyn

By Former BBC Middle East Correspondent, Tim Llewellyn

Israel's Jewish problem in Tehran

Jonathan Cook - The Electronic Intifada - 6 August 2007
Iran is the new Nazi Germany and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Hitler. Or so Israeli officials have been declaring for months as they and their American allies try to persuade the doubters in Washington that an attack on Tehran is essential. And if the latest media reports are to be trusted, it looks like they may again be winning the battle for hearts and minds: US Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be diverting the White House back on track to launch a military strike.

Earlier this year Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's opposition leader and the man who appears to be styling himself scaremonger-in-chief, told us: "It's 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs." Of Ahmadinejad, he said: "He is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state."

A few weeks ago, as Israel's military intelligence claimed -- as it has been doing regularly since the early 1990s -- that Iran is only a year or so away from the "point of no return" on developing a nuclear warhead, Netanyahu was at it again. "Iran could be the first undeterrable nuclear power," he warned, adding: "This is a Jewish problem like Hitler was a Jewish problem ... The future of the Jewish people depends on the future of Israel."

But Netanyahu has been far from alone in making extravagant claims about a looming genocide from Iran. Israel's new president, Shimon Peres, has compared an Iranian nuclear bomb to a "flying concentration camp." And the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told a German newspaper last year: "[Ahmadinejad] speaks as Hitler did in his time of the extermination of the entire Jewish nation."

There is an interesting problem with selling the "Iran as Nazi Germany" line. If Ahmadinejad really is Hitler, ready to commit genocide against Israel's Jews as soon as he can get his hands on a nuclear weapon, why are some 25,000 Jews living peacefully in Iran and more than reluctant to leave despite repeated enticements from Israel and American Jews?

What is the basis for Israel's dire forecasts -- the ideological scaffolding being erected, presumably, to justify an attack on Iran? Helpfully, as US President George W. Bush defended his Iraq policies last month, he reminded us yet again of the menace Iran supposedly poses: it is "threatening to wipe Israel off the map."

This myth has been endlessly recycled since a translating error was made of a speech Ahmadinejad delivered nearly two years ago. Farsi experts have verified that the Iranian president, far from threatening to destroy Israel, was quoting from an earlier speech by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in which he reassured supporters of the Palestinians that "the Zionist regime in Jerusalem" would "vanish from the page of time."

He was not threatening to exterminate Jews or even Israel. He was comparing Israel's occupation of the Palestinians with other illegitimate systems of rule whose time had passed, including the Shahs who once ruled Iran, apartheid South Africa and the Soviet empire.

Nonetheless, this erroneous translation has survived and prospered because Israel and its supporters have exploited it for their own crude propaganda purposes.

In the meantime, the 25,000-strong Iranian Jewish community is the largest in the Middle East outside Israel and traces its roots back 3,000 years. As one of several non-Muslim minorities in Iran, Jews there suffer discrimination, but they are certainly no worse off than the one million Palestinian citizens of Israel -- and far better off than Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Iranian Jews have little influence on decision-making and are not allowed to hold senior posts in the army or bureaucracy. But they enjoy many freedoms. They have an elected representative in parliament, they practice their religion openly in synagogues, their charities are funded by the Jewish diaspora, and they can travel freely, including to Israel. In Tehran there are six kosher butchers and about 30 synagogues. Ahmadinejad's office recently made a donation to a Jewish hospital in Tehran.

As Ciamak Moresadegh, an Iranian Jewish leader, observed: "If you think Judaism and Zionism are one, it is like thinking Islam and the Taliban are the same, and they are not." Iran's leaders denounce Zionism, which they blame for fueling discrimination against the Palestinians, but they have also repeatedly avowed that they have no problem with Jews, Judaism or even the state of Israel.

Ahmadinejad, caricatured as a merchant of genocide, has in fact called for "regime change" -- and then only in the sense that he believes a referendum should be held of all inhabitants of Israel and the occupied territories, including refugees from war, on the nature of the government.

Despite the absence of any threat to Iran's Jews, the Israeli media recently reported that the Israeli government has been trying to find new ways to entice Iranian Jews to Israel. The Ma'ariv newspaper pointed out that previous schemes had found few takers. There was, noted the report, "a lack of desire on the part of thousands of Iranian Jews to leave." According to the New York-based Forward newspaper, a campaign to convince Iranian Jews to emigrate to Israel caused only 152 out of these 25,000 Jews to leave Iran between October 2005 and September 2006, and most of them were said to have emigrated for economic reasons, not political ones.

To step up these efforts -- and presumably to avoid the embarrassing incongruence of claiming an imminent second Holocaust while thousands of Jews live happily in Tehran -- Israel is now backing a move by Jewish donors to guarantee every Iranian Jewish family $60,000 to settle in Israel, in addition to a host of existing financial incentives that are offered to Jewish immigrants, including loans and cheap mortgages.

The announcement was met with scorn by the Society of Iranian Jews, which issued a statement that their national identity was not for sale. "The identity of Iranian Jews is not tradable for any amount of money. Iranian Jews are among the most ancient Iranians. Iran's Jews love their Iranian identity and their culture, so threats and this immature political enticement will not achieve their aim of wiping out the identity of Iranian Jews."

However, this financial gesture may not only be unwelcome but self-fulfilling too, if past experience is the yardstick. Israel introduced a similar scheme a few years ago, when Argentina's economy plunged into deep recession, broadcasting an offer of $20,000 to every Jew who settled in Israel. Months later the Israeli media reported a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Argentina, only adding to the pressure on Jews there to leave. Of course, there was no mention of a possible causal connection between the attacks and Israel's generous offer to Jews to abandon their homeland as other Argentinians sank into poverty.

But if financial enticements -- and a possible popular backlash -- fail to move Iranian Jews, there is good reason to fear that Israel may resort to other, more dubious ways of encouraging them to emigrate. That is certainly a path Israel has chosen before with other communities of Arab Jews, whom it has regarded either as a pool of potential spies and agents provocateurs to be used when needed or as "human dust," in the words of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, to be recruited to Israel's "demographic battle" against the Palestinians.

In "Operation Susannah" of 1954, for example, Israel recklessly recruited a group of Egyptian Jews to stage a series of explosions in Egypt in a bid to discourage Britain from withdrawing from the Suez Canal zone. When the plot came to light, it naturally cast a shadow of disloyalty over Egypt's wider Jewish community. Following Israel's invasion and occupation of Sinai two years later, the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled some 25,000 Egyptian Jews and, after others were imprisoned on suspicion of spying, the rest soon left.

Even more notoriously, Israel went to greater lengths to ensure the exit of the Arab world's largest Jewish population, in Iraq. In 1950 a series of bombs targeted on Jews in Baghdad forced a rapid exodus of some 130,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel, convinced that Arab extremists were behind the attacks. Only later did it emerge that the bombs had been planted by members of the Zionist underground, supported by the Israeli government.

Now, Iran's Jews may find themselves treated in much the same manner -- as simple human fodder. Stories are growing of Israel exploiting the free movement between Iran and Israel enjoyed by Iranian Jews and their Israeli relatives to carry out spying operations on Iran's nuclear program. Such reports have come from reliable sources such as the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, citing US government officials.

The fallout from such actions is not difficult to predict. Besieged by the US and the international community, Tehran is cracking down on dissent and minority groups, fearful that its own grip on power is shaky and that the well-publicized subversion being carried out by US and Israeli agents is likely only to be stepped up. So far most officials in Tehran have been careful to avoid suggesting that Iran's Jews have double loyalties, as has the local Jewish community itself, both of them aware of Israel's interests in provoking such a confrontation. But as the strains increase, and Israel's need to prove Tehran's genocidal intent grows ever stronger, that policy may end up being forfeited -- and with it the future of Iran's Jews.

More important than the welfare of Iranian Jewish families, it seems, is the value of Iranian Jews as a propaganda tool in Israel's battle to persuade the world that coexistence with the Muslim world is impossible. For those who want to engineer a clash of civilizations, the 3,000-year-old Jewish legacy in Iran is not something to be treasured, only another obstacle to war.

Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, is the author of Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State (Pluto Press, 2006). His website is

Mahmoud Abbas' war against the Palestinian people

Ali Abunimah - The Electronic Intifada - 10 August 2007
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was apparently more delighted by the banquet prepared for him by the wife of Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat than he was with meeting President Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho the day before yesterday," the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported on its website on 8 August, citing Israel's Channel 10 television station.

Channel 10's correspondent spoke of the "hospitality and warmth" that marked Abbas' reception of Olmert and his delegation, noting that "Erekat's wife insisted on personally preparing and serving" the banquet. Olmert, the report added, "was unable to conceal his delight and appetite for the rich food and for the hospitality and generosity" the Israelis received from their Palestinian hosts.

Behind all the theater, the results of the meeting were as meagre as can be expected. Olmert publicly affirmed his commitment to the "two-state solution," while spokesmen briefed the press that Israel was not ready to discuss any fundamental issues, such as borders, halting colonial settlements, or the rights of refugees. The exercise was aimed at maintaining the fiction of a "peace process" from which Abbas will supposedly one day be able to deliver results.

Yet while he treats Olmert to delicacies in Jericho, Abbas is doing his best to ensure that Palestinians in Gaza continue to suffer and starve due to the closure of the commercial and civilian crossings and tightened siege imposed by Israel since Hamas fighters routed US- and Israeli-backed Fatah militias in early June.

A source who works directly with Abbas' ministers in the unelected and illegal "emergency government" of Salam Fayyad in Ramallah wrote to me that "Abbas has explicitly ordered the Rafah border to close and remain closed with the purpose of strangling Hamas." The source, who was motivated to speak out by his outrage, but requested anonymity because he fears reprisals, added that Abbas "is ready to see his own people die for his political games." The source added that while Abbas' official public relations pronouncements are that the border is to be opened at once, "what is going on in the meetings is the opposite."

What my source confirmed had already been revealed by Haaretz in a 8 July article that reported that Abbas "asked Israel and Egypt prevent the movement of people from Egypt to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing" and that "Abbas and a number of his aides asked that the request not be made public" ("Abbas asks for Rafah Gaza-Egypt crossing point to remain closed," Haaretz, 18 July 2007).

Abbas' policy of colluding with Israel to starve his own people is having its effect. The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA issued a desperate appeal for the borders of the besieged strip to be reopened. Filippo Grandi, the agency's deputy commissioner general warned in a 9 August statement that within weeks Gaza could "be one hundred percent aid dependent" (Press Statement by Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner General, UNRWA, Gaza City, 9 August 2007.)

All 600 garment factories in Gaza have shut down because they cannot import raw materials and 90 percent of factories involved in the construction industry have closed, the BBC reported on 9 August, citing figures given by the UN. As many as 120,000 workers in Gaza are likely to lose their jobs, and even UNRWA and the United Nations Development Programme have had to halt construction of shelters for refugees. ("UN warns over Gaza economic woe," BBC News, 9 August 2007.)

In what might be a tacit admission of Abbas' complicity, Grandi made a direct appeal not only to Israel, but to the "Palestinian authorities" to take "immediate steps to open up the Karni Crossing, to imports and exports, as well as humanitarian goods." He added, "Only this will allow the little that remains of Gaza's economy to survive."

As the people in Gaza suffer strangulation, thousands of their relatives were stranded in desperate conditions on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, refugees exiled even from their place of exile. Many are people in poor health who went to Egypt to seek medical treatment, and at least 31 have died while waiting to return home.

On the political front, Hamas has continued to react to Abbas' escalating war with equanimity, issuing daily calls for dialogue, reconciliation and a return to a national unity government. Despite the siege, it has also continued to hold its own successfully, paying the wages of thousands of government employees whose salaries Abbas and Fayyad had confiscated.

Abbas, while literally embracing the occupier and colonizer, has continued to angrily reject any intra-Palestinian dialogue. Yet it is doubtful how long this position will be tenable. Abbas, under a veto from the Bush administration refuses to talk, even as some senior Israelis have started to advocate direct dialogue with Hamas.

One of those is Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Halevy said, "I don't say we should talk to Hamas out of sympathy to them. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Hamas. I think they are a ghastly crowd ... But I have not seen anybody who says the Abbas-Fayyad tandem is going to do the job" ("What if Israel Talked to Hamas? Ex-Spymaster's Plan, Seen as Heresy by Some," Wall Street Journal, 1 August 2007).

Halevy expressed doubts about the US strategy of trying to prop up Abbas and isolate Hamas, calling it "political fantasy." He called for Israel to negotiate a long-term truce with Hamas, something the movement has already offered. Halevy, the Journal reported, "is part of a small band of public figures who now say that, because of Hamas's growing clout, it is becoming impossible to avoid such a dialogue. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the group in a recent interview with National Public Radio."

Unashamed, Abbas carries on; he recently received another large arms shipment -- 1,000 rifles -- coordinated by Israel and Jordan to strengthen his militias against Hamas. All these provocations are having an effect. While Hamas' civilian leadership continues to offer olive branches, the rank and file of the resistance movement are showing signs that their patience is wearing thin.

Following Fayyad's recent call for all resistance forces to unilaterally disarm in front of the occupation, and the subsequent publication of his "government program" that omitted mention of armed struggle, the Palestinian Resistance Committees (PRC) issued an ominous warning. In a 28 July press conference a spokesman for the group -- a coalition of resistance fighters from various factions including Fatah, responsible for capturing the Israeli prisoner of war Gilad Shalit -- "dubbed Abbas, Fayyad and other members of the government the 'Ramallah traitors' and vowed they will receive an 'identical response as to the Israeli occupation'" ("PRC: Fayad and 'Ramallah traitors' targets for attack," Haaretz, 28 July 2007).

Meanwhile, another Hamas member, Mou'aiad Bani Odeh, 22, died in an Israeli hospital after being transferred from al-Juneid prison, run by Abbas' forces. Bani Odeh, Hamas alleges, succumbed to injuries resulting from torture inflicted by Abbas' men, who continue their campaign of repression against Hamas members throughout the West Bank. ("Hamas member dies after being tortured in jail run by Palestinian Authority," Ma'an News, 10 August 2007.)

The signs are that unless Abbas and his entourage reverse course and end their war against the Palestinian people, the apparent calm that now prevails will soon be shattered by another storm.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.