Monday, 25 August 2008

Peace ships break through Israel's blockade of Gaza

Andra Jackson, The Age, 25 August 2008
Two peace ships organised by a Melbourne man, Michael Shaik, have broken through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The ships, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, set out from Cyprus on Friday with dozens of human rights activists from around the world, carrying children's hearing aids to the Palestinian territory.

Two years of planning went into running the blockade after Mr Shaik came up with the idea of challenging Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and access to basic services.

Israel, with US backing and Egyptian help, has controlled entry and exit from Gaza since its withdrawal in 2005, but virtually sealed off its 1.5 million people last summer after the militant Islamists Hamas put down a Fatah coup attempt.

Those on the Greek-flagged ships included Eliza Ernshire, 32, of Newcastle, NSW, Israeli human rights activist Jeff Halper and journalist Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister and current Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

"We will surely try to bring the boats back again," activist Huwaida Arraf said. "The goal is to open a route between Cyprus and Gaza. People here are just ecstatic to see that someone cares."

At one stage on the 30-hour trip the navigation and communications systems on both ships failed. Some activists accused Israel of jamming the systems, which Israel denied.

But despite the Israeli authorities warning it would treat them as pirates, the ships were allowed to enter Gaza's harbour.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shiron said: "They wanted provocation at sea, but they won't get it. We know who the passengers are and what they are bringing with them and so we have no problem letting them through."

A 2000-strong crowd turned out to greet the ships as they sailed into Gaza Port on Saturday night.

Speaking to London's Times , Ms Booth challenged Mr Blair to "show some guts" and visit Gaza to witness the suffering of its inhabitants.

Mr Shaik, 39, a former Defence Department employee and now a full-time advocate for the Melbourne-based lobby group Australians for Palestine, yesterday hailed the ships' arrival as "a great victory for human rights and international law".

"Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip is one of the great crimes of the 21st century, which the governments of the West and the Arab League are abetting by their silence," he said.

Thousands of activists from around the world have so far raised $70,000 towards the purchase of the ships, which would be retained to take goods to and from Gaza, Mr Shaik said.


Inside Story - The Gaza blockade

Inside story - The Gaza blockade
Part 1

Part 2

Activists arrive in the Gaza strip to stress the plight of the people in that area. Is this the beginning of a process to end the siege?

Jeff Halper: 'Ordinary people can do something'

The view from the boat
Ofri Ilani, Ha'aretz, August 25, 2008
Haaretz spoke last night by phone with Jeff Halper, an Israeli professor who was among the activists who sailed to Gaza.

"We proved that ordinary people can do something and succeed," he said. "Even Tony Blair can't go to Gaza, but ordinary people with drive can. The welcome was amazing. There were tens of thousands of people. People came out in boats and on windsurfers to meet us. Children swam out to sea and flashed the victory sign. I feel like we're fresh air entering a prison where a million and half people are living.

"I tell myself: We're in the modern world, the 21st century, and yet such excitement - over what? Over something we take for granted, that two boats arrived. Here it's a national holiday. Their isolation is so complete," he said.

Halper said that Gazans were eager to speak Hebrew with him, and to reminisce about the years they spent working in Israel. "Our impression that Gaza is Hamas, that there is only hatred there, is mistaken," he said, adding that he learned that "we are more of an obstacle to peace than the Palestinians."

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Inside Story - Mahmoud Darwish remembered

August 15, 2008
The life of the Arab world's most celebrated poet is over. We ask: How will all those touched by the work of Mahmoud Darwish remember him? In this day and age, Can the pen mobilize the conscious of the masses to pick up the sword? Mahmoud Darwish was, after all, a poet not a politician.

Part 2

The legacy of Mahmoud Darwish

August 14, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish composed his first poem at the age of 12, going on to publish more than 20 volumes of poetry throughout his lifetime, penning verse that became embedded into the Palestinian consciousness. He lived a life of resistance, jailed several times by the Israelis.

Part 1

Part 2

Sari Nusseibeh: 'We are running out of time for a two-state solution'

'We are running out of time for a two-state solution'
Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, 16 August 2008
At the end of my conversation with Sari Nusseibeh at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, the highly respected president of Al-Quds University - and cosignatory of "The People's Choice," a peace plan that he formulated with former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon - told me he wouldn't be surprised if one of the Palestinian residents of the city ran for mayor in the municipal elections in November. The candidate would not run as a representative of Jerusalem per se, Nusseibeh stressed. Rather, he would be running on behalf of all Palestinians in the occupied territories.

"Why don't you do it?" I blurt out. The 59-year-old son of Anwar Nusseibeh, a Jordanian government minister, does not smile. "It's possible," says the professor of Islamic philosophy, who briefly replaced Faisal Husseini a few years ago as the top Palestinian official in East Jerusalem. "Anything is possible," he adds without batting an eyelid.

Nusseibeh's previous contention that the Oslo "house of cards" had begun to collapse was further confirmed by this week's report in Haaretz regarding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's latest peace offering (Israel would annex 7 percent of the West Bank and compensate the Palestinians with territory in the Negev, which would be equivalent to 5.5 percent of West Bank land; an agreement on the future of Jerusalem would be postponed to a later date; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel; and the entire plan would be implemented after Hamas is removed from power in the Gaza Strip).

Nusseibeh says he knows full well what happens during negotiations - or, to be more specific, what does not happen. For over 20 years the Palestinian leadership has been trying to persuade their people to agree to a state along the June 4, 1967, lines, while Israel has been destroying that option, Nusseibeh explains, adding: "You cannot negotiate anything about final status if you don't talk about Jerusalem. Final status consists primarily, I believe, of Jerusalem and refugees. If you want to postpone Jerusalem, you postpone refugees. Really, you are not dealing with the problem. You have to discuss these issues, and that is exactly where the trade-off has to be made."

Is Sari Nusseibeh, the secular Palestinian, the symbol of moderation, Ayalon's guy, burying the two-state solution?

"I still favor a two-state solution and will continue to do so, but to the extent that you discover it's not practical anymore or that it's not going to happen, you start to think about what the alternatives are. I think that the feeling is there are two courses taking place that are opposed to one another. On one hand, there is what people are saying and thinking, on both sides. There is the sense that we are running out of time, that if we want a two-state solution, we need to implement it quickly.

"But on the other hand, if we are looking at what is happening on the ground, in Israel and the occupied territories, you see things happening in the opposite direction, as if they are not connected to reality. Thought is running in one direction, reality in the other."

Nusseibeh says the struggle for a one-state solution could take a form similar to some of the nonviolent struggles waged by oppressed ethnic groups in other places.

"We can fight for equal rights, rights of existence, return and equality, and we could take it slowly over the years and there could be a peaceful movement - like in South Africa," he notes. "I think one should maybe begin on the Palestinian side, to begin a debate, to reengage in the idea of one state."

'Jerusalem is out'

"We have failed in the last 15 years," Nusseibeh continues, "to create the world we wanted to create. We were supposed to be very clever; we convinced ourselves that we were going to be very democratic and clean, a model for the rest of the Arab world. And Jerusalem was supposed to be our capital. That's what we believed. But then it turned out that all of this was total rubbish. Jerusalem is out, all we have is Ramallah. And we lost Gaza. There is corruption and inefficiency. This is not what we vouched for when we sat back in the early 1980s and ideologized the two-state solution.

"It so happens that Fatah, in particular, the mainstream party and the only viable alternative to extremes on the left or on the right, now needs a strategy, an ideology. Because the ideology that Fatah has adopted over the last 15 years - a two-state solution - seems to be faltering, and with it, Fatah is faltering. So it is time maybe to rethink, to bring Fatah around to a new idea, the old-new idea, of one state. "

The recent "bulldozer terrorism" in Jerusalem did not highlight the difficulties inherent in a binational state model?

"These are isolated incidents, but they do reflect a major sickness in our Jerusalem Arab society. A sickness that has resulted in pressure, schizophrenia, the fact that these people speak Hebrew, and listen to Hebrew songs, go out with Israeli girlfriends while at the same time they live in Arab neighborhoods and under the influence of Muslim culture. There are contradictory forces pulling at them.

"What is the driving force behind a two-state solution? The fact that it seems more acceptable to a majority of people on both sides and therefore more applicable. The primary motivation is to minimize human suffering. This is what we should all be looking at. If there will be a one-state solution, it will not come today or tomorrow. It's a long, protracted thing, not the ideal solution. Unless, in an ideal world, people really want to be together, then it is the ideal solution. The best solution, the one that causes the least pain and that can actually be instrumental to a one-state solution, is to have peace now, and acceptance of one another on the basis of two states."

Is this an ultimatum?

"That's an ultimatum. Unless a major breakthrough happens by the end of this year, in my opinion we should start trying to strive for equality. Back in the 1980s, before the first intifada, I was saying there was schizophrenia in the body politic of the Palestinian people. It was like the head was going in one direction, which was the direction of seeking independence, national identity - but the body was slowly immersed in the Israeli system, and I said it can't last because it looks like it will snap. Either the body will join the head so that there will be a civil disobedience campaign, or the head will have to join the body, so that there will be a civil rights campaign, to become part of the Israeli system.

"Fifty, 100, 200 years down the road there will be some kind of conclusion. Sometime in the future - however far away this future is - I believe we'll be living at peace with one another, in some way or another. I am not sure how, whether in one state or two states, or in a confederation of states, but people finally will come to live at peace. In the meantime, we will simply cause pain to one another. It's tragic. It is very tragic, because we know we can do it now. That today it is possible with some guts, leadership, vision, we can make it happen today, we can reach a peaceful solution today. [The Arab Peace Initiative proposed in 2002] is a fantastic chance. The Palestinians have adopted it, they'll go with it all the way. It is a perfect chance. It doesn't even mention right of return. It is even better than the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan, but I am willing to accept it."

'Dead money'

Asked why he - who realizes so well how complicated it will be to reach a fair and logical solution regarding Jerusalem - is opposed to Olmert's idea of postponing discussion on that issue, Nusseibeh says he hopes that the prime minister is not repeating the same mistake made by Ehud Barak at Camp David, and that the idea of postponement was broached strictly for public relations purposes.

"Because for Israel, however important Jerusalem may be, the primary factor is the Jewish character [of the state]. And however important the refugees might be, what is more important for the Palestinians and Muslims is Jerusalem. It is the issue over which the most extremist of refugees will be willing to make a sacrifice. Let's hope this is not where [Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] are disagreeing. If that is what they're disagreeing about, then there's no hope. We have to do everything now, we have to put everything on the table.

"The facts on the ground are making [the situation] irreversible," Nusseibeh warns. "Take the Clinton parameters - Palestinian neighborhoods are Palestinian sovereignty, Jewish neighborhoods are Jewish sovereignty. They are acceptable in principle, but with realities on the ground, like the expulsion of Arab families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and the inhabitation of those areas by Jewish settlers, it's going to be unacceptable on a practical level. That's why we don't have time."

You ruffled some feathers among the Palestinian leadership when you recently asked the Europeans to halt financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. Someone even wondered whether you would be willing to give up the aid provided for Al-Quds University.

"Ramallah's reaction was a bit worried. They called me a few times, a bit worried."

Nusseibeh adds that the PA is still dogged by corruption - different from the corruption of which Olmert is accused - whereby donor states subsidize thousands of salaried employees at nonprofit organizations. This creates what he sees as an unhealthy dependency on foreign entities.

"We have a terrible situation. Our political bible, our platform, our moral values - we need to be brought together again. If not for creating a state, then for our own sanity and for own values as a people. Apart from in Ramallah, everybody is living under very bad conditions. The occupation is terrible. The siege is everywhere. Pressure. As it is, the Europeans are financing the occupation. And the Europeans are happy, because they feel they're doing something, it cleans their conscience. And the Israelis are happy because they're not paying for it. And the Palestinians are happy because they are getting their wages paid. It keeps the economy going, and people are getting complacent about it. It's dead money [going] after dead money."

Nusseibeh mentions the recent meeting he had with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the British consulate in Jerusalem, together with four other Palestinians, during which the premier stated he would like to assume a role in the peace process more central than that of a cash register. "I said, I want to tell you what you can do to transform yourself from a payer into a player: Make your money payments conditional on tangible progress in the peace process."

Not long ago, the professor continues, "I was in Brussels. I gave a talk and I said to the Europeans: If you want to pass on money, do it only on the condition we build a state, in which case it makes sense for you to spend money to build us an international airport. But if in the end there isn't going to be an independent Palestinian state, why waste your money? Waste your money, if you need to, on integrating us into Israeli society. Makes more sense. Pay the money for us to become part of Israel, to have equal rights. Raise our level of education, bring our standards of living up. But to have the PA taking all this money, creating all this debt, makes no sense. Maybe the Europeans should link the aid they are giving us to real progress in peace talks, so that both the Israelis and the Palestinians will be shocked out of their complacency, or lack of commitment."

What do you make of the growing support among Palestinians for the dismantlement of the PA?

"The PA has no use. If we fail to reach a peace agreement by the end of this year, I believe it would be best to go back to the period when we were living happily under occupation. We had a small civil administration, they were paying back some $20 million a year to the Israeli treasury, so they were making money off us. Today, we are creating, year after year, bigger deficits. We are spending billions, we have 160,000 employees, half of them are security personnel, who give us no security whatsoever, we are spending masses of money on guns, which we only use against each other and which provide us no security. The whole thing is a mess."

Nusseibeh says that to this day, the Palestinians have opposed taking part in the Jerusalem municipal elections because they feared doing so would sever the link between Jerusalem's Arabs and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Now, given the diminishing likelihood of a two-state solution, perhaps it is time for the Palestinians to reconsider.

"People in Jerusalem - why should they attach themselves to the Muqata, to Ramallah? There is no reason. There's nothing. The municipal election in Jerusalem [could serve as a launching point for seeking equal rights in a binational state]. We begin with Jerusalem, not as a separate part, but as a spearhead of the entire Palestinian body. Why not? Why not turn the weakness into a strength?

Are you disappointed by the Israeli peace camp? Did your partner, Ami Ayalon, who joined the same government you now accuse of distancing itself from your proposal, betray you?

"I respect Ami Ayalon. He is a very honest person, that is something that has always attracted me to him. It is not a betrayal of me personally. I look upon it as the ultimate submission by the individual to the wheels of history. You reach the point where you feel no longer able to do what you want, to steer the wheels in the direction you want them to go. And you submit, and become a part of the machine. So it's not really a betrayal. It's rather an expression of weakness. I am sad more than surprised. I recognize it as part of human weakness.

"I was still hoping because, before he went to the Labor Party, he came and spoke to me. I like this about him. I knew what he was doing. People were pushing him for a long time, trying to get him into the system, and he resisted. But then at one stage, I think he made up his mind: 'Maybe I can lead the Labor Party, and then this is the best place for me to be.' I said, fine, do it. I was unhappy that ... he became marginalized as minister without portfolio."

Nusseibeh says he lost touch with Ayalon since the latter became a minister.

Asked if Abbas would be able to muster Palestinian support for an agreement like "The People's Choice," Nusseibeh says both the Palestinian president and Olmert need to courageously take on their respective opposition camps. For instance, if Abbas "would come to the Palestinian people and say, 'I initialed such a document. I want to dissolve the legislative council and run for election and this is going to be my political platform. Not only for me as a president, but also as leader of Fatah.' Let us assume that he does this and then he creates a debate in our society. It will be a very far-reaching, democratic debate, in which he will be looked upon as presenting his project. [This would] mark the beginning of a process, of a struggle.

"I believe that on Israeli side, Olmert could do the same. We don't know whether both leaders will be reelected, but it's worth doing, even if they're not, because at least we know we've given this peace agreement a chance."

Ami Ayalon says, in response: "I agree with Sari Nusseibeh that time is running out for the two-state solution. He voices the frustration and desperation of the Palestinians, and we have to consider that. If a man like him, a son of a Palestinian refugee who relinquished his right of return and was bodily attacked because of it, comes to the conclusion that the two-state solution is no longer an option, it means that the whole pragmatic Palestinian approach is crumbling.

"I share his view that Olmert missed a chance to get an agreement due to efforts to insure his own political survival. The Labor Party will not succeed in getting back in power by attacking the other parties, but only by raising the common banner of security and political agreements."

Houston Memorial for Mahmoud Darwish

Sunday, August 10th, 2008 - A memorial service was held in Houston, Texas for the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

His body was brought into the mosque for prayers and then carried in a procession on Eastside Street.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Democracy Now : Famous Palestian poet Mahmoud Darwish dies

Mahmoud Darwish, Poet Laureate of the Palestinians, 1941-2008

Three days of mourning have been declared in the West Bank and Gaza to mark the death of Mahmoud Darwish, the Poet Laureate of the Palestinians. Darwish was considered one of the most important Arab poets, a towering literary figure for over four decades. The poetry of Mahmoud Darwish is well known and loved across the Arab world by people from all walks of life.

Famous Palestian poet dies - Mahmoud Darwish - Part 1

Part 2

Remembering Mahmoud Darwish

August 10, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish, the award-winning Palestinian poet, has died aged 67, after heart surgery in a Texas hospital.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland takes a look at a man who widely loved man by Palestinians and poetry-lovers alike.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Top US military officer heads to Israel with Iran on the agenda

Top US military officer heads to Israel with Iran on the agenda
AFP, 26 June 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen was expected in Israel this week for discussions including Iran, the Pentagon said Wednesday, amid speculation Israel is seeking Washington's tacit approval to strike Tehran's nuclear program.

The press office of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that Mullen left the United States on Tuesday "to go overseas to visit counterparts as well as combatant commands, and Israel is not his only stop."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters the trip had been on the schedule for "months."

"I believe this is a routine opportunity for Chairman Mullen to engage his counterpart in Israel on military-to-military matters, as he does in much of his travels around the world," Morrell said.

"I will say this, though: Obviously, when Chairman Mullen goes to Israel and speaks with the Israelis, they will no doubt discuss the threat posed by Iran, as we discuss it in this building, in other buildings in this town."

Morrell recalled that Washington was committed to resolving the nuclear threat posed by Iran through diplomacy and international sanctions, "while at the same time holding out the option of a military strike, if necessary."

"But the military strike is not our first choice," he said. "Never has been. And we continue to pursue economic and diplomatic pressures as the policy of this government."

US media have reported that more than 100 Israeli fighter jets participated in a training exercise with Greece earlier this month to prepare for a possible long-distance strike -- a maneuver seen as a warning against Iran.

Iran has defied UN sanctions and international demands by pressing on with its disputed uranium enrichment program, which Washington and Israel fear would be used to build a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense chief, said in an interview published in the Russian press Wednesday that Iran would be "annihilated" if it tried to attack Israel.

But, he said, "we are not planning any attack against Iran."

According to the US television network CBS, Israel does not want to wait until the new administration that will succeed US President George W. Bush in January to strike Iranian nuclear sites.

"The Israelis have been assured by the Bush administration that the Bush administration will not allow Iran to nuclearize," CBS consultant Michael Oren said.

"Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next administration vis-a-vis Iran," said Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research facility.

Speculation about a possible Israeli strike heated up this week after former UN ambassador John Bolton suggested in an interview with London's Daily Telegraph that Israel could attack Iran between the November 4 election and January.

VIDEO: Is Israel preparing to bomb Iran?

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
The New York Times reported Friday that Israel recently carried out a major military exercise that Pentagon officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter planes took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece.

Part 1:

Part 2:

US concern over Israeli bomb 'rehearsal'

US concern over Israeli bomb 'rehearsal'
Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, The Age, Washington, June 21, 2008
Israel conducted a major military exercise earlier this month that US officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

US officials said that more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in manoeuvres over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece during the first week of June.

The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refuelling tankers flew more than 1500 kilometres, about the same distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, US officials said.

A spokesman for the Israeli military would only say that the country's air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel".

But the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by US and other foreign intelligence agencies.

A senior Pentagon official said one Israeli goal was to practise all details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles.

A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the US and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing weapons-grade uranium continued to falter.

However, several US officials said they did not believe that such a strike, which would have political and security implications across the region and could complicate the Bush Administration's "war on terror", was imminent.

Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defence minister and military chief of staff who is now a deputy prime minister, warned in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Israel might have no choice but to attack.

"If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack," Mr Mofaz said in the interview published on June 6, the day after the unpublicised exercise ended.

Iran has shown signs that it is taking the Israeli warnings seriously, by beefing up its air defences, including increasing air patrols. In one instance, Iran scrambled F-4 jets to double-check an Iraqi civilian flight from Baghdad to Tehran.

"They are clearly nervous about this and have their air defence on guard," a Bush Administration official said.

Many US experts believe that any such attack could only delay and not eliminate Iran's nuclear program. Much of the program's infrastructure is underground, making precise targeting difficult. There is also concern that not all of the facilities have been detected. Many analysts say the sort of multiple attacks that would be required are beyond Israel's present capability.

Iran is also taking steps to better defend its nuclear facilities. Two sets of advanced Russian-made radar systems were recently delivered to Iran. US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in February that Iran was close to acquiring Russian-produced SA-20 surface-to-air missiles.

A National Intelligence Estimate issued in December by US intelligence agencies assessed that Iran had suspended work on weapons design in late 2003. The report stated that it was unclear if that work had resumed. It also noted that Iran's work on uranium enrichment and on missiles, two steps that Iran would need to take to field a nuclear weapon, had continued.

In late May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran's suspected work on nuclear matters was a "matter of serious concern" and that the Iranians owed the agency "substantial explanations".

However, agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei also condemned Israel's September raid on Syria, saying countries undermined global security by taking the law into their own hands. Over the past three decades, Israel has carried out two unilateral attacks against suspected nuclear sites in the Middle East.

Much of the planning appears to reflect a commitment by Israel's military leaders to ensure that its armed forces are adequately trained, an imperative driven home by the difficulties the Israel Defence Forces encountered in their 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon.


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

16 year old boy murdered by Israeli soldiers at Huwarra checkpoint

16 year old boy murdered by Israeli soldiers at Huwarra checkpoint
20 May, 2008
At 7pm on Monday 19th May, a 16 year old boy, Fihme Abdel Jawad Dardouk, was murdered by Israeli soldiers at the Huwarra checkpoint in Nablus.


Death at Hawara - Iqbal Khaldun
I've just been told that a teenage boy was shot dead at Hawara at 7pm yesterday, about 4 hours after I went through there myself. The Israeli news is claiming the soldiers foiled a suicide attack. Eyewitnesses contacted so far say he was not carrying any explosives but had a mobile phone strapped to his belt with headphones in his ears. When told to put his hands in the air he misunderstood and thought the soldiers wanted him to lift his shirt to show he had no explosives around his chest. I've been told the soldiers spoke in Hebrew, a language the boy is unlikely to know owing to the fact that he was Palestinian. More on this soon...

UPDATE: I think one of the soldiers who shot Fehmi was also one of the soldiers trying to give me a hard time yesterday. According to reports she was the soldier in charge of the checkpoint and from what I could gather one of the soldiers I spoke to, the woman, looked like she was the one in charge because she was seated in a booth while others were standing below her. It's like living in an alternate universe over here sometimes.

We're just here to say hi: terror squad

Arjun Ramachandran, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 13, 2008
With its ceramics classes and preschool storytime sessions, Leichhardt library - like most suburban libraries - is usually a pretty calm place.

But the "fear of god'' was reportedly put into its librarian when counter terrorism officers paid a visit to speak about an upcoming exhibition called "Al-Nakba", which means "catastrophe".

"Al-Nakba", a pictorial exhibition about Palestine and Israel, should have opened at Leichhardt municipal library last Friday.

But after the police visit on Thursday night, it was suddenly cancelled the next morning.

Friends of Hebron, a local activitist group, had been working on the exhibition of photos, poems and articles for eight months after the library agreed to host it last year.

"We set up the exhibition at the library on Thursday night and the librarian ... approved the exhibition, and said that it could be seen by children and other people,'' said Carole Lawson, a Friends of Hebron member.

Felt threatened

"But then that night, the [police] anti-terrorism squad visited the library and told her she had to vet the exhibition.

"They wanted to put the fear of god into the library staff and want the staff to feel threatened.''

On Friday morning, Ms Lawson said she received a call to tell her the exhibition had been pulled down.

"It's the censorship of Palestine - apparently the anti-terrorism squad decides what we can see on the public walls of a library.''

The librarian, Marilyn Taylor, would not speak to

Leichhardt mayor Carolyn Allen confirmed police had visited the library on Thursday night, but said council, not police, had decided to pull down the exhibition because it hadn't met the council's criteria for such projects, which include not being divisive.

Counter Terrorism police just saying 'Hi!'

A police media spokesman said the officers were from the community contact unit, which falls within its Counter Terrorism operations. They had not visited the the library to to tell it to cancel the exhibition, but only to "say hi'' to Friends of Hebron members, he said.

"They went to introduce themselves to members of the community setting up the display and just to let them know who they are and what they are about. [Speaking with community groups] is part of their charter.

"When they got there the librarian was the only one there ... they just had a quick chat to the librarian.''

There had only been "a couple'' of officers involved, the spokesman said. He could not say what they said to her.

Cr Allen said the council pulled the exhibition down the morning after police visited because it had not had a chance to properly vet it.

Vetting exhibitions

Last year, council decided all projects - like the Al-Nakba exhibition - would first need to be assessed by a panel of councillors to ensure they were not divisive, she said.

This had not been done with Al-Nakba, and she blamed the late realisation of this on "a breakdown of managerial process''.

"I think it's regrettable that [the library] didn't talk about it earlier.

"I accept people might view it as [censorship] but ... I'm just implementing our policy that any exhibition that has our councils name on it needed to go through this process of making sure its not being divisive.

She said the visit by police had not influenced the decision.

"I suppose the librarian may have been a bit alarmed and concerned they had the anti-terrorism squad. I thought it was quite funny that the anti-terrorism squad would come [to a local library] - I found that a bit alarmist at the time.

Nothing disturbing

Ms Lawson said there was nothing alarming or disturbing about the exhibition, and that it merely raised the plight of "Palestinian refugees'' living in Hebron, about 30 kilometres south of Jerusalem.

"The exhibition was taken down because it was about Palestine, the dispossession of Palestinians and what's going on in Hebron," she said.

But Cr Allen said: "The people doing this exhibition clearly knew it wasn't in the general understanding of our agreement."

She objected to some captions, including one that said Palestinian children going to school needed protection from children from Israel who where throwing stones.

"Being in a public library is different to being in an exhibition space. If you're in an exhibition space and someone knows they are going into the exhibition, they expect to be educated and confronted. But most people going into a library just want to return books."

Two people, one state - deal with them together

Maher Mughrabi, The Age, May 15, 2008
The unique Palestinian-Israeli situation demands a different approach.
In August 2004, the Israeli politician Shulamit Aloni received an invitation to a memorial. The event being commemorated was a massacre of Jews by Arabs in the city of Hebron during British rule of Palestine in 1929. The invitation said that it would be a state occasion, attended by Reuven Rivlin, then speaker of Israel's parliament.

In July 2006, this time in Jerusalem, a ceremony was held to honour the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel by members of the Zionist underground fighting British rule. That attack killed 91 people. The ceremony was not sponsored by the state, but it was attended by Benjamin Netanyahu, a former Israeli prime minister and the country's opposition leader.

The King David ceremony drew a protest from the British ambassador to Israel, who objected to "an act of terrorism" being dignified. Yet for Netanyahu and many other Israelis, that bombing is part of a heroic liberation struggle.

This year, for Israelis and Palestinians, is punctuated by anniversaries from 60 years ago. But as we have seen, who you are can play a big part in what you choose to remember, and how. It can even divide people according to when they remember: Palestinians today mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, using the Gregorian calendar, while Jews mark the same event — Yom Ha'Atzmaut, or independence day — on May 8, using the Hebrew calendar.

That one nation's triumph is another's injury might strike us as obvious — that's history. But what happens when two peoples lay claim to one land?
When she got her invitation to the memorial, Aloni was quick to note that Hebron — which is called al-Khalil in Arabic, in memory of the patriarch Abraham — is not inside the recognised boundaries of the state of Israel. By contrast, Deir Yassin — which in April 1948 was the scene of a massacre of Arabs by Jews — is inside those boundaries.

There is no place in Israel's official memory for those killed at Deir Yassin. The village was razed and a mental health complex built on the site.

Elsewhere in Israel, the Arab village of Ein Houd, near Haifa, still stands, but today is an Israeli artists' colony.

Some of the families driven from its houses can be found two kilometres up the hill, living in "New Ein Houd", a village they built without Israeli government approval.

At the height of the peace process in 1994, the state recognised that village's existence and moved to give its inhabitants — Israeli citizens, lest we forget — mains electricity and roads. Within 18 months, a new government had withdrawn that recognition and funding.

Those who talk about peace between Palestinians and Israelis today frequently talk about separate states for separate peoples, before going on to congratulate Israel on 60 years of statehood.

But as today's armed Jewish settlers in the occupied territories and unrecognised villagers in Israel show, the two peoples do not live in separate spaces but under separate regimes.

It is this separation that affects Palestinians whether they hold Israeli passports, live under occupation in the West Bank or under siege in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian cannot build a house, plant a tree, buy land, ask someone for their hand in marriage or vote in an election without wondering when Israeli state power might undo their decision.

Israel's supporters often point out that Palestinians suffer discrimination in surrounding Arab countries as well. It is true, and Palestinians haven't forgotten. But there is a crucial difference: when Israel does these things, it does them to Palestinians in the place they come from.

It is the failure to recognise this simple fact — that there is no past and no present between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea without the Palestinian Arabs — that has doomed all talk of peace for more than 80 years.

A few Jewish Israelis have grasped this, forming groups such as Zochrot (Remembrance), dedicated to marking Palestinian presence on the land, or Yesh Gvul (There Is A Limit), which seeks to pull Israeli soldiers back to the Green Line that is the state's only recognised boundary (and which for years has been absent from Israel's school textbooks). There are Israelis fighting alongside Palestinians for equal rights.

But what would it look like if world leaders grasped this principle? Firstly, it would mean no mention of Israel's achievement without connecting it to the facts of Palestinian deprivation and the need for reconciliation.

Reconciliation would require foreign governments to avoid meeting Israeli leaders without democratically elected Palestinian leaders present, and vice versa. Trade and cultural relations would also have to acknowledge that until there are two recognised and sovereign states, Palestinians and Israelis must be engaged with in tandem or not at all.

In modern international relations, this would be a highly unusual arrangement. But to pretend that Palestinians and Jewish Israelis are separate parties on an equal footing, and that the usual approach to peacemaking between states therefore applies, is to condemn both peoples to further years of fruitless photo opportunities in foreign capitals while ordinary people are killed in their streets and homes.

Maher Mughrabi is a staff writer and part of the Palestinian diaspora.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Elite Policy and the "Axis of Evil"

Noam Chomsky, ZNet, 1 May, 2008
In January, the Hamas-led prison break allowed Gazans for the first time in years to go shopping in nearby Egyptian towns, plainly a serious criminal act because it slightly undermined U.S.-Israeli strangulation of these unpeople. But the powerful quickly recognized that these events too could turn into "good news." Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai "said openly what some senior Israeli officials would only say anonymously," Stephen Erlanger reported in the New York Times: the prison-break might allow Israel to rid itself of any responsibility for Gaza after having reduced it to devastation and misery in 40 years of brutal occupation, keeping it only for target practice and, of course, under full military occupation, its borders sealed by Israeli forces on land, sea, and air, apart from an opening to Egypt (in the unlikely event that Egypt would agree).

That appealing prospect would complement Israel's ongoing criminal actions in the West Bank, carefully designed along the lines already outlined to ensure that there will be no viable future for Palestinians there. At the same time, Israel can turn to solving its
internal "demographic problem," the presence of non-Jews in a Jewish
state. The ultra-nationalist Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman was
harshly condemned as a racist in Israel when he advanced the idea of
forcing Arab citizens of Israel into a derisory "Palestinian state,"
presenting this to the world as a "land swap." His proposal is slowly
being incorporated into the mainstream. Israel National News reported
in April that Knesset member Otniel Schneller of the governing party
Kadima, "considered to be one of the people closest and most loyal to
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," proposed a plan that "appears very
similar to one touted by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman,"
though Schneller says his plan would be "more gradual" and the Arabs
affected "will remain citizens of Israel even though their territory
will belong to the [Palestinian Authority and], they will not be
allowed to resettle in other areas of Israel." Of course the unpeople
are not consulted.

In December Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the last hope of many
Israeli doves, adopted the same position. An eventual Palestinian
state, she suggested, would "be the national answer to the
Palestinians" in the territories and those "who live in different
refugee camps or in Israel." With Israeli Arabs dispatched to their
"natural" place, Israel would then achieve the long-sought goal of
freeing itself from the Arab taint, a stand that is familiar enough in
U.S. history, for example in Thomas Jefferson's hope, never achieved,
that the rising empire of liberty would be free of "blot or mixture,"
red or black.

For Israel, this is no small matter. Despite heroic efforts by its
apologists, it is not easy to conceal the fact that a "democratic
Jewish state" is no more acceptable to liberal opinion than a
"democratic Christian state" or a "democratic white state," as long as
the blot or mixture is not removed. Such notions could be tolerated if
the religious/ethnic identification were mostly symbolic, like
selecting an official day of rest. But in the case of Israel, it goes
far beyond that. The most extreme departure from minimal democratic
principles is the complex array of laws and bureaucratic arrangements
designed to vest control of over 90 percent of the land in the hands
of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organization committed to using
charitable funds in ways that are "directly or indirectly beneficial
to persons of Jewish religion, race or origin," so its documents
explain: "a public institution recognized by the Government of Israel
and the World Zionist Organization as the exclusive instrument for the
development of Israel's lands," restricted to Jewish use, in
perpetuity (with marginal exceptions), and barred to non-Jewish labor
(though the principle is often ignored for imported cheap labor). This
extreme violation of elementary civil rights, funded by all American
citizens thanks to the tax-free status of the JNF, finally reached
Israel's High Court in 2000, in a case brought by an Arab couple who
had been barred from the town of Katzir. The Court ruled in their
favor, in a narrow decision, which seems to have been barely
implemented. Seven years later, a young Arab couple was barred from
the town of Rakefet, on state land, on grounds of "social
incompatibility" (Scott Peterson, Washington Post, December 20, 2007),
a very rare report. Again, none of this is unfamiliar in the U.S.
After all, it took a century before the 14th Amendment was even
formally recog- nized by the courts and it still is far from

For Palestinians, there are now two options. One is that the U.S. and
Israel will abandon their unilateral rejectionism of the past 30 years
and accept the international consensus on a two-state settlement, in
accord with international law—and, incidentally, in accord with the
wishes of a large majority of Americans. That is not impossible,
though the two rejectionist states are working hard to render it so. A
settlement along these lines came close in negotiations in Taba Egypt
in January 2001 and might have been reached, participants reported,
had Israeli Prime Minister Barak not called off the negotiations
prematurely. The framework for these negotiations was Clinton's
"parameters" of December 2000, issued after he recognized that the
Camp David proposals earlier that year were unacceptable. It is
commonly claimed that Arafat rejected the parameters. However, as
Clinton made clear and explicit, both sides had accepted the
parameters, in both cases with reservations, which they sought to
reconcile in Taba a few weeks later—and apparently almost succeeded.
There have been unofficial negotiations since that have produced
similar proposals. Though possibilities diminish as U.S.-Israeli
settlement and infrastructure programs proceed, they have not been
eliminated. By now the international consensus is near universal,
supported by the Arab League, Iran, Hamas, in fact every relevant
actor apart from the U.S. and Israel.

A second possibility is the one that the U.S.-Israel are actually
implementing, along the lines just described. Palestinians will then
be consigned to their Gaza prison and to West Bank cantons, perhaps
joined by Israeli Arab citizens as well if the
Lieberman-Schneller-Livni plans are implemented. For the occupied
territories, that will realize the intentions expressed by Moshe Dayan
to his Labor Party cabinet colleagues in the early years of the
occupation: Israel should tell the Palestinian refugees in the
territories that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like
dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process
leads." The general conception was articulated by Labor Party leader
Haim Herzog, later president, in 1972: "I do not deny the Palestinians
a place or stand or opinion on every matter.... But certainly I am not
prepared to consider them as partners in any respect in a land that
has been consecrated in the hands of our nation for thousands of
years. For the Jews of this land there cannot be any partner."

A third possibility would be a binational state. That was a feasible
option in the early years of the occupation, perhaps a federal
arrangement leading to eventual closer integration as circumstances
permit. There was even some support for similar ideas within Israeli
military intelligence, but the grant of any political rights to
Palestinians was shot down by the governing Labor Party. Proposals to
that effect were made (by me in particular), but elicited only
hysteria. The opportunity was lost by the mid-1970s when Palestinian
national rights reached the international agenda and the two-state
consensus took shape. The first U.S. veto of a two-state resolution at
the Security Council, advanced by the major Arab states, was in 1976.
Washingon's rejectionist stance continues to the present, with the
exception of Clinton's last month in office. Some form of unitary
state remains a distant possibility through agreement among the
parties, as a later stage in a process that begins with a two-state
settlement. There is no other form of advocacy of such an outcome, if
we understand advocacy to include a process leading from here to
there; mere proposal, in contrast, is free for the asking.

It is of some interest, perhaps, that when advocacy of a unitary
binational state had some prospects, it was anathema, while today,
when it is completely unfeasible, it is greeted with respect and is
advocated in leading journals. The reason, perhaps, is that it serves
to undermine the prospect of a two-state settlement.

Advocates of a binational (one-state) settlement argue that on its
present course, Israel will become a pariah state like apartheid South
Africa, with a large Palestinian population deprived of rights, laying
the basis for a civil rights struggle leading to a unitary democratic
state. There is no reason to believe that the U.S., Israel, or any
other Western state would allow anything like that to happen. Rather,
they will proceed exactly as they are now doing in the territories
today, taking no responsibility for Palestinians who are left to rot
in the various prisons and cantons that may dot the landscape, far
from the eyes of Israelis travelling on their segregated superhighways
to their well-subsidized West Bank towns and suburbs, controlling the
crucial water resources of the region, and benefiting from their ties with U.S. and other international corporations that are evidently pleased to see a loyal military power at the periphery of the crucial Middle East region, with an advanced high tech economy and close links to Washington.

Envisioning the End of Israeli Apartheid: An Interview With Ali Abunimah

Envisioning the End of Israeli Apartheid: An Interview With Ali Abunimah
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
A Black Agenda Report Interview by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

Why is Israel an apartheid state? What are the similarities between it and the old South African regime? Is the separate Palestinian state talked about by Bush and the foreign policy elite of both Democrats and Republicans a real solution? Is the separate Palestinian state any different from Indian reservations, or the bantustans South Africa tried to impose on its black citizens? Can the Israeli state as it exists today ever be legitimate? Is there a practical, peaceful way out of the Israel-Palestine dilemma, and if so, what is it?

Chicago-based Palestinian educator Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, took the time to explore these questions with us.

Envisioning the End of Israeli Apartheid: An Interview With Ali Abunimah
by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

B DIXON:: Tell us how long you have been doing Electronic Intifada, and why you started it.

A. ABUNIMAH: Along with several other collaborators I started
Electronic Intifada about four and a half years ago. We did it for
much the same reason that you started Black Agenda Report, because
there were vibrant and important concerns and conversations going on
among the Palestinian people and their allies, conversations of which
we could find no trace in the mainstream media. In the beginning we
did a lot of political analysis, which we still do, along with some
coverage of Palestinian arts and culture. Lately we have been
emphasizing on first-hand, on-the-ground coverage of life as it is
lived by Palestinians under the occupation and blockade.

The conversation about Israel-Palestine in this country might as well
be about some other universe, it contains so many misconceptions and
outright lies. There has been very little very little attention given
to the context, to the history and daily lives of Palestinians living
under Israeli military occupation, living under apartheid-like laws
and practices in Israel. There's been very little attention given to
Palestinian art, music and culture, to the Palestinian Diaspora, which
is world wide by now, including here in the United States,. These are
all things you very rarely find reflected in the mainstream media, and
when you do it's often from a very distorted perspective. The
so-called experts on Palestine and Palestinians are very often those
who do not wish the best for the people of Palestine. That's why
Electronic Intifada exists.

B. DIXON:: You made a reference to apartheid-like laws in
Israel-Palestine. What should Americans know about that situation, and
if there was one thing that black people in particular needed to know
about these apartheid-like laws and situations in Israel-Palestine,
what would that be?

A. ABUNIMAH: I've been focuses a lot on this in recent years. I
devoted a chapter in my book One Country to the lessons of South
Africa for how we can move forward in Israel-Palestine. Looking at
some of the comparisons between Israel and South Africa, there's so
much to know. One of the things to know is we are not having this
discussion in the United States. But in the rest of the world they are
having it. Some of the key anti-apartheid leaders that are known by
Americans, and known by many black Americans, like Archbishop Desmond
Tutu have been very, very forthright in stating that what is happening
to Palestinians is apartheid. Ronnie Kasrils, a minister in the south
African government who happens to be Jewish. He has been one of the
most outspoken allies of the Palestinians, declaring that Israel is an
apartheid state.

And of course many Israeli leaders say it. For example just today
(April 25, 2008) in Ha'aretz, the newspaper of record in Israel, a
former member of Knesset, Israeli politician Yossi Sarid has an
article entitled "Yes, It's Apartheid". In which he compares Israel to
the apartheid state of south Africa.

The other thing I think is important to know is the history, that
throughout the 1970s and 80s, when black Americans were leading the
struggle against apartheid in this country, when they were the
conscience of this country in terms of putting apartheid South Africa
on the American political agenda, Israel was one of the key supporters
of apartheid South Africa. Israel is the country that systematically
violated the international arms embargo on South Africa. The weapons
used to beat and kill black demonstrators and freedom fighters in
South African townships were made in Israel, right down to the water
cannon used in the townships... the fighter jets, the gunboats, all
the heavy armament of the South African military used were in large
part supplied by Israel.

It's less well known, there is less hard evidence about it, although
some information is in the public domain regarding Israeili-South
African cooperation in their nuclear weapons programs.

B. DIXON::: We've in the midst of a presidential election here. What
difference will it make who gets elected US president to someone
living right now, say, in Gaza and to the Palestinian Diaspora?

A. ABUNIMAH: I am very pessimistic that it makes any difference at
all, because the tone and content of the politics on this issue in the
United States is really a competition to see who can be the most
pro-Israel candidate. That has been the case across the board with the
three candidates who are out there now. All three are competing to be
the most pro-Israeli to the point where Hillary Clinton has threatened
to "totally obliterate Iran" on behalf of Israel.

Barack Obama too has been, from his past and I know some of this
because I knew him hack in his Chicago days, he was much more
sympathetic and much more attuned to the plight of the Palestinians.
He used to be a lot more open minded, and now he is busy denying all
that and trying to portray himself as a stalwart and unconditional
supporter of Israel. So I don't see much change coming from mainstream
politics. I think we have to keep pushing from the grassroots for the
kind of change we want to see, that's where it will have to come from.

That's where it came from with the anti-apartheid struggle. The Reagan
administration didn't want to impose sanctions. Congress didn't want
to impost sanctions. There was a grassroots movement from the civil
rights leaders from the black churches and from others that finally
put pressure on the establishment to begin to do the right thing.

B. DIXON:: Back to Obama, we've got a lot of people who say that he's
just shammin', he's just doing what he has to do to get elected, doing
what he has to do to get in, but once he gets in, he's going to bring

A. ABUNIMAH: None of us can know what's deep down in his heart, we
have to take him ast his word. He says he is going to stand by Israel,
tha he's going to veto any UN resolutions which criticize Israel, the
he thinks Palestinians are largely to blame for their own problems..
We have to take his word for that, and hold him accountable for the
positions which he has stated. As for whether he is going to turn
around and do something different, well, I understand that a lot of
people hope that will be the case. But the reality of politics in this
country is that the things you have to do to get elected are the same
things you have to do to stay in office. I don't see what wold really
push him to change.

B. DIXON:: Tell us what is the Nakbah

A. ABUNIMAH: The Nakbah is an Arabic word, el nakbah. It means the
catastrophe. Palestinians use to to describe the events which took
place in late 1947 and continued into late 1948, when three quarters
of the Palestinan population were ethnically cleansed from their that the state of Israel could be established upon the ruins
of their society. In that process, 750,000 Palestinian were forced out
of their homes by an organized campaign carried out by the Zionist
movment. It wasn't yet the Israeli state. More than 500 Palestinian
towns, villages and cities were depopulated and destroyed, and the
Palestinians were driven into exile.

We're now in the third or fourth generation of that, though acutally
for many it's still a first generation experience. My parents for
example, lived though that, so this is very much a live and ongoing
catastrophe, not something that is only in the past because thisof
ethnic cleansing is continuing in Palestine against Palestinians who
are still there.

B. DIXON: How is it continuing?

A. ABUNIMAH: It's continuing in many ways. The irony of it is that
although the Zionist leaders very clearly intended, and this is
something that the Israili historian Ilan Pape talks about in his
latest book, The Ethnic Cleansiing of Palestine. They had a very claer
intentiuon to get rid of the Palestinians because you cn't set up a
Jewish state in a place where the majority of the population is not

They had to get rid of that majority population. Despite that, the
Palestinian population today is actually larger, with more
Palestinians living in Palestine than any time before. They have a
very high birth rate, and they have a very strong commitment to their
land, regardless of the obstacles put in their way.

What Israel has been trying to do is exclude or expel the Palestinians
politically and literally. They do it by taking their land to build
fortified Jewish-only settlements which the American media calls
"neighborhoods". They do it by building walls around entire
Palestinian cities and communities, a wall the rest of the world
outside the United States calls "the apartheid wall". We can see that
not only in Gaza, where almost a million and a half Palestinians are
confined to a vast open air prison. We can see it by the other
Palestinian cities and towns that are surrounded by these walls and
barbed wire fences. It's a process of physical expulsion as well, as
every day more and more land is taken, more and more Palestinians are
pushed off it.

Israel has moved this population in exactly the same ways that the
former South African government did when it tried to pen up its black
population in bantustans.

It's exactly the same thing that South Africa did when they said OK,
blacks are physically present on this land but we are going to make
your politically invisible gy creating these fake independent states.
If you want citizenship, if you want the right to vote, go home to one
of your bantustans and exercise your political rights there, but you
don't get to vote for the real government of the country.

B DIXON Exactly what is goiing on in Gaza right now, and what is
collective punishment

A. ABUNIMAH: Imagine that here on my block in Chicago, a kid is
accused of a crime, let's say robbing a store. Instead of the police
looking for the individual, arresting and charging that person with a
crime, they simply surround the block with armored vehicles and tanks,
order everyone out of their houses, arrest all the men, or simply
destroy the entire block. That is an example of the kind of collective
punishments which have been implemented against Palestinians for
decades. Israelis claim that they are defending themselves against the
Palestinians, but that's just like saying the United States was
defending itself against the Native Americans.

So now Gaza is totally cut off from the outside world. There are a
million and a half Palestinians living there, I have friends living
there. We try to stay in touch by email when they have electricity,
but the electricity is frequently cut off by the Israelis who deny
Gaza the fuel to keep the power plants running. The universities have
shut down because there is no power, cancer patients are dying because
they can't get chemotherapy, the lives of dialysis patients are
threatened because they cannot get the treatment they need. People
cannot get to school to work, can't keep their businesses open. Eighty
percent of the population, and these are proud, independent-minded
people, are subsisting on charity, on rations handed out by the UN,
malnutrition is rampant....

B DIXON: And why would the Israeli government do that?

A. ABUNIMAH: We've reprinted the statements of Israeli officials at
Electronic Intifada which appeared in the Israeli press. They say
their objective is to put pressure on the Palestinian populaiton so
they will put pressure on their leaders to submit to what we want.
Palestinians had a democratic election, back in 2006 and they elected
the "wrong leaders"., leaders which Israel and the United States don't
want, so they have to be starved into submission for that crime.

B. DIXON: We hear all the time from the mouths of the US Secretary of
State, from Bush, from the presidential candidates about what they
call an independent Palestinian state, but which you call a bantustan.
What's wrong with an independent Palestinian state?

A. ABUNIMAH: What's wrong with an independent Palestinian state is
that it' is a bantustan, just like the little back country South
African reservations to which the apartheid government proposed to
relocate most of its black population. A so-called independent
Palestinian state is a complete farce, with no possibility of an
independent economy, since Palestinian territory is divided into
dozens of pieces separated by Israeli-only roads and fortified
settlements, by walls, barbed wire and checkpoints.

In the case of South Africa, nobody bought it. The South African
people didn't buy it, and no country in the world acknowledged these
little puppets as real independent states. Most importantly, the South
African leadership, Nelson Mandela and the ANC refused to play this
game. They said we want our whole country, we want our full rights.

The difference, I would say, between the proposed Palestinian state
and the bantustans is that the bantustans actually had more territory,
and more resources than the fake Palestinian state. The Palestinian
state is simply a ruse to hide and to perpetuate the fact of Israeli

B. DIXON: If a separate Palestinian state is no solution, then what
needs to happen in Israel-Palestine?

A. ABUNIMAH: We have to recognize that in Israel-Palestine today there
are 10.8 million people. 48% of them are NOT Israeli Jews. The
majority population right now are Palestinians and others, with the
numbers of Jews and Palestinians being about equal, at just under
half. Another five percent who are neither Palestinians nor Jews make
up the rest. But the trends are very clear. Within five to ten years
at most, Palestinians will be an absolute majority of the population
of the state of Israel-Palestine, just as they were sixty years ago.

What we need to be saying is that this Jewish minority has a right to
live in peace. It has a right to be secure. It has a right to be part
of the country. It cannot have better rights and special rights over
the rest of the population. It must not have the exclusive right to
determine the destiny of the country. What we need to do, and this is
what I have been arguing with other Palestinians, is we need to be
talking not about a separate Palestinian state because that is a pipe
dream. The geography doesn't work, the economy doesn't work.

We should be calling for full civil and economic rights for everyone
who lives within the boundaries of the country, whether they are
Jewish or Palestinian or anything else. And of course we need to be
calling for full decolonization, for reparations and restitution for
the victims of the current regime.

Those are the two things that have to happen; equality and
restitution. Legal equality without restitution is not enough, as we
know from the history of this country. There also has to be active
restitution for the victims. I don't see why Palestinians and Israeli
Jews cannot live together peacefully under such a situation.

B. DIXON: The picture you have painted for us is not a bright and
happy one. What if anything, makes you hopeful?

A. ABUNIMAH: What makes me hopeful is that 60 years of catastrophe
have not dimmed the will of Palestinians to see justice done. 60 years
of brutality, of oppression, by Israel have not succeeded in
establishing the legitimacy of that regime. Each day, the Israelis
have to wake up and prove to the world that their state has a right to
exist as what they call a Jewish state, and what I call an apartheid
state. They have not been able to succeed. There is growing,
nonviolent global political movement to bring justice to Palestinians,
and only that can bring peace to Israelis.

Apartheid and colonialism lasted for 300 years before they were
brought down. The Soviet Union lasted for eighty years, and nobody
anticipated its collapse either. You look at the history of this
country where there is so much further to go, and yet there was change
here as a result of social movements, not from the top down, but from
the bottom up, coming from the efforts of people who decided they were
not going to take this any more, that they would stand up for their
rights. Every single one of these social movements has prevailed
against overwhelming odds, and against enemies determined to hold onto
power at any cost.

So Palestinians are in good company in this struggle, and we are in a
position to put forth a vision of justice that can serve all the
people living in Israel-Palestine.


Mr. Abunimah is the author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, and co-counder of Electronic Intifada. EI publishes news, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about
the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Palestinian perspective. EI is the leading Palestinian portal for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its depiction in the media.

Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Israel to build 100 settlement homes, including in West Bank

Israel to build 100 settlement homes, including in West Bank
Laurie Copans in Jerusalem, Associated Press, 18 April 2008

The Israeli government revealed plans Friday to build 100 homes in two Jewish settlements — one of them deep in the West Bank — in violation of its pledge to freeze settlement expansion.

Palestinian officials said the new construction in the settlements of Ariel and Elkana is undermining U.S.-backed efforts to reach a peace deal by the end of 2008.

Since a U.S.-hosted Mideast peace conference in November, Israel has announced several new building projects in areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians for their future state. However, Friday's announcement marked the first time the Israeli government approved construction deep in the West Bank.

An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new construction apparently is part of ongoing negotiations between the Israeli government and Jewish settler leaders. Approval for the 100 homes came in return for the recent voluntary evacuation of two small unauthorized settlement outposts, the official said.

The construction bids were published in an advertisement by the Israeli Housing Ministry in the daily Haaretz. Housing Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

"This undermines our efforts to make 2008 the year of peace," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Under a U.S.-backed peace plan, Israel is required to dismantle dozens of illegal outposts and halt construction in established settlements. Under the same plan, the Palestinians are required to rein in and disarm militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper in an interview published Friday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is aware of Israel's position that it will continue to build in settlement blocs. Several of those blocs are close to Israel, but Ariel and Elkana are deep inside the West Bank.

Recent Israeli construction in Jerusalem prompted Abbas to briefly call off the peace talks. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as a future capital but Israel annexed the sector of the city to its capital after capturing it in 1967.

Also Friday, Israel sealed the West Bank and Gaza for the duration of the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday. Holiday closures are routine, and bar most Palestinians from entering Israel.

In a West Bank raid, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian militant leader, Hani al-Kabi, in the Balata refugee camp next to the city of Nablus.

Al-Kabi had fled a Palestinian jail a month ago, violating the conditions of a deal with Israel that would have granted him amnesty. An Islamic Jihad militant was seriously wounded in the same raid, medics said.

The Palestinian Authority wants Israel to halt such raids in areas where Palestinian security forces are seeking to establish control, particularly around Nablus. The Israeli military says Palestinian forces are not doing enough to rein in militants.

Still, Palestinian security forces will be able to reopen 20 police stations in rural areas of the West Bank for the first time in eight years of fighting. About 500 Palestinian police officers will deploy in West Bank villages, said Peter Lerner, an Israeli military official. Overall security control in these areas will remain in Israeli hands, but Palestinians will have presence to enforce the law.

Also Friday, a Reuters photographer was injured in the leg by a rubber-coated steel pellet fired by Israeli troops trying to break up a weekly protest against the construction of Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank, witnesses said. The Israeli military had no comment.

On Wednesday, a cameraman with Reuters was among 21 Palestinians killed in the bloodiest day in Gaza in more than a month.

Egyptian efforts to mediate a Gaza cease-fire and a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas are bogged down.

A prominent Hamas official said Friday that Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants two years ago, will not be released until hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are freed.

"Gilad will not see the light, will not see his mother, will not see his father, God willing, as long as our heroic prisoners do not see their families, in their houses," Mushir al-Masri said in a speech.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said he wants to meet with Hamas to try to win Shalit's release and has asked former President Jimmy Carter to help arrange an encounter.

Yishai was the only Israeli Cabinet minister to meet Carter when he visited Israel and the Palestinians territories earlier this week. He said Friday if he does meet with Hamas, he would not discuss Israel-Gaza fighting to avoid violating the government ban on negotiating with the militants.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Israel plans 100 houses in West Bank settlements

Israel plans 100 houses in West Bank settlements
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian, Friday April 18 2008

Israel's housing ministry announced plans today to build 100 new homes in two settlements in the occupied West Bank, drawing swift criticism from Palestinian officials.

In an advertisement in the Ha'aretz newspaper, the ministry invited construction companies to bid for the rights to build 48 homes in Ariel, a major settlement, and 52 homes in a smaller settlement called Elkana.

It was the first time since peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians began last November that the Israeli government had announced construction in settlements so deep inside the West Bank.

The talks are based on the US road map to peace, which requires Israel to freeze all settlement activity and to withdraw from some of its furthest outposts in the West Bank.

However, in a wide-ranging interview with an Israeli newspaper today, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, repeated his plans to continue construction within the major settlement blocs, despite the on-going talks.

Previous construction tenders have been issued for homes in settlements in east Jerusalem since the peace talks started.

More than 400,000 people live in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which most of the international community regards as illegal.

"We condemn these plans and resolutions, which really undermine the peace process," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. He said the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, would raise the settlement expansion in talks with the US president, George Bush, in Washington next week.

In an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Olmert insisted the peace talks were "serious negotiations" but he also defended the construction plans.

"It was clear from day one, both to Abu Mazen and to Bush and Rice, that in the population centres, the areas mentioned by Bush in his letter from April 2004, construction would continue," Olmert told the paper. "I didn't do this because someone applied pressure. I say today too: Beitar will be built, the Etzion bloc will be built, they will build in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. It is completely clear that in any future arrangement, these areas will remain in Israel's hands."

Beitar Illit and the Etzion bloc are major settlements south of Jerusalem and Pisgat Ze'ev is a settlement in north-east Jerusalem. The letter written by Bush to Israel's then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has proved controversial because in it the US president suggested that in a future agreement Israel could hold onto some unnamed major settlements in the West Bank even though this is bitterly disputed by the Palestinians.

Pro-Israel lobby appoints first campus watchdog

Pro-Israel lobby appoints first campus watchdog
Brendan O'Keefe, The Australian, April 16, 2008

Joel Burnie, 23, the first campus co-ordinator to promote Israel and Jewish culture, doubts there is systematic academic bias against Israel.

"I'd like to do some proper investigation to see if there is a systemic problem but I do not believe there is," said Mr Burnie, a Monash University arts-law student. "(But) we need to make sure that all academic opinions are being expressed equally on campus."

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has appointed him inaugural (part-time) student program co-ordinator for universities across the country. It's a joint venture with the US campus movement StandWithUs, which advertises itself as "the next generation of Israel advocacy".

Australian academe was a "rogues' gallery of anti-Zionists", Ted Lapkin, former AIJAC director of policy analysis, wrote in Quadrant magazine in 2006.

Asked if his role had been created to counter anti-Israel bias or anti-Semitic activity, Mr Burnie said: "This position has not been created out of an emergent necessity." Rather, he would be "an on-campus advocate for Israel and Jewish culture". "The role involves promotion of Israeli culture and promotion of Israeli speakers that may come out to Australia. It will give students access to these people so they can listen and be educated."

AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein said in a statement that the Burnie appointment represented a "serious effort to increase understanding about the Middle East at Australian universities".

"It demonstrates that AIJAC and SWU appreciate how important campuses are in shaping public opinion," he said.

SWU president Esther Renzer welcomed Mr Burnie's appointment on, saying: "When Jewish and non-Jewish students are presented with a comprehensive and balanced picture of Israel, they understand that what they might read in the newspapers, or hear on radio, or see on television, is not always true or fair."

Last year Mr Burnie was national president of the Australian Union of Jewish Students.

He said would continue the inter-faith work he did through that organisation, talking with Muslim and Christian student groups. In his five years on three campuses, he had found relations between students to be "quite healthy".

"People can interact socially; I don't think there's too much of a problem," he said.

"But we need to help students become better informed about what is a complicated situation (in the Middle East)."

Israeli leaders shun Carter

Israeli leaders shun Carter
Ed O'Loughlin, The Age, 15 April 2008

Shunned by Israeli political leaders, former US president Jimmy Carter says he will go ahead with plans to meet the leader of Hamas to promote peace in the Middle East.

Mr Carter was speaking in Jerusalem on Sunday after Israel's four most senior politicians — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu — declined to meet him. Mr Carter has also been criticised by the US State Department and all three US presidential candidates.

According to Israeli media, the leaders are angered by Mr Carter's decision to meet exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus this week. Israelis were also offended by Mr Carter's 2006 book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, in which he compared Israel's military occupation and colonisation of seized Arab territories with the policies of apartheid South Africa.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, who met Mr Carter, reportedly accused him of "causing significant damage to Israel and the peace process in recent years".

In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Mr Carter said he believed that for peace talks to work all parties had to be engaged.

"Hamas' position is that they are perfectly willing for (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) to represent them in all direct negotiations with the Israelis, and they also maintain that they will accept any agreement that he brokers with Israelis provided it will be submitted to the Palestinians in a referendum. Hamas is also willing to accept a mutual ceasefire with Israel," Mr Carter said.

"I do not agree with … the unwillingness to talk to someone who disagrees with you unless he agrees with all your prerequisites."

■Representatives of Lebanon and Iran have pulled out of a conference in Qatar due to Ms Livni's attendance. She is to give a speech calling for Arab support for Mr Abbas against Hamas and unity against Iran.

Reuters cameraman talks to Al Jazeera

April 17, 2008
Fadl Shanaa, who was killed by an Israeli missile on April 16, spoke to Al Jazeera in February.

He was interviewed as part of a series called 'Shoot the Messenger' that focuses on the increased dangers that journalists are facing in covering the story. He had survived an Israeli air raid in 2006.

Palestinians killed in Israeli raids into Gaza

April 16, 2008
More than 20 Palestinians have died in the Gaza Strip as Israel unleashed military strikes and troops moved into the centre of the territory.

A journalist was also killed in the attacks.

It makes 16 April one of the deadliest days in Gaza for weeks.

But army leaders say the operations were routine and aimed against fighters suspected of launching rockets into southern Israel.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from Jerusalem.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

VIDEO: Frontline USA - Lobbying for Israel

April 05, 2008

Avi Lewis examines the powerful Israeli lobby and its affects on Capitol Hill.

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, 5 April 2008

A Settler Attack at Izhar (Burin) Checkpoint

31st March, 2008
A settler tried to run over and then attacked human rights activist at the Izhar (Burin) checkpoint. The settler gave orders to the soldiers at the checkpoint and ignored a police officer who tried to call him in for questioning. Despite witnessing the entire incidence, the soldiers who were present chose not to intervene.

Filmed by Merav Amir, Machsom Watch

Settlers attack Palestinians and Israelis at Kfar Qadum

2nd April, 2008

Settlers attack Palestinians and Israeli supporters in Kfar Qaddum. The attack took place at a Palestinian house on land which is recognized as private Palestinian land even by the Israeli army. The settlers have invaded the house and renamed the place Shvut Ami. After settlers were evacuated by the army the Palestinian owners of the
land along with Israeli supporters attempted to take hold of the house. In no time, dozens of settlers arrived and soon began attacking the Palestinians and their supporters.

After making a token effort to prevent the settlers from returning to the house the border police stood by and watched as the attacks continued. Only hours earlier the border police had about 100 troops available but when it was time to protect Palestinians from settler attack less than 10 soldiers were assigned to the place. Those present did not even make a serious attempt to carry out the stated goal of evacuating the settlers from the house.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Gaza one of the top ten most dangerous places in the world

Stories for Monday, 31 March 2008

Produced by Kate Pinnock, THE WIRE

Listen HERE

The Gaza strip and the West Bank are ranked in the top ten of the worlds most unstable and dangerous areas, according to Jane's Information Group. The group does a check on every country recognized as an individual state or territory by the United Nations.

As Kevin Rudd seeks to make Australia a middle power, creative force in international politics, what are they doing about Gaza? This was the critical issue at the weekly forum "Politics in the Pub" held in Sydney's Surrey Hills last Friday night. Featured in story: Ross Burns Australia's former ambassador to Israel and Dr. Izzat Abdulhadi, the Australian representative for the Palestinian Authority.

Hawara Checkpoint - West Bank

Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint protesting on the day of Palestinian land day.

Land Day at Sakhnin

March 30, 2008

Israel has agreed to remove about 50 of its more than 500 checkpoints in the occupied West Bank - a move it says is designed to help the Palestinian economy.

The announcement came on what Palestinians call Land Day, an annual day of protest triggered by the deaths of six Arabs during a demonstration in 1976.

Monday, 24 March 2008

This land was theirs

The Jewish Advocate

This land was theirs

On March 20, 1941, Yosef Weitz of the Jewish National Fund wrote: “The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer.” On this day in 1948, almost two months before the first "Arab-Israeli war" technically began, the 1,125 inhabitants of the Palestinian village Umm Khalid fled a Haganah military operation. Like their brethren from more than 500 villages, they likely thought they would return to their homes within a few weeks, after the fighting blew over and new political borders were or were not drawn.

Instead, more than 6 million Palestinian people remain refugees to this day, some in refugee camps not far from their original towns, others in established communities in Europe and the US, all forbidden from returning to their homeland for one reason: they are not Jewish.

Yosef Weitz’s wish was granted. In my name, and in the name of Jewish people throughout the world, an indigenous population was almost completely expelled. Village names have been removed from the map, houses blown up, and new forests planted. In Arabic, this is called the Nakba, or catastrophe. In Israel, this is called "independence."

Last month I went with a man from Umm il Fahm (a Palestinian city in Israel) to his original village of Lajun, only a few miles away. Adnan’s land is now a JNF forest “belonging” to Kibbutz Megiddo. As we walk the stone path he points to each side of the road, naming the families that used to live there: Mahamid, Mahajne, Jabrin…. The land there is not naturally rocky; the stones that we walk on are a graveyard of destroyed houses. Adnan was only six years old when the Haganah’s bullets flew over his head and he and his family fled. But he remembers. He tears up as we stop at the site of his destroyed house and says, “Welcome to my home.”

Adnan is an Israeli citizen, yet the land that was stolen from him has been given to a body that refuses to let him live on it. As an American Jew, I could move to Lajun/Megiddo tomorrow, gain full citizenship rights, and live on the land that Adnan’s family has tended for centuries. Adnan, who lives just a few minutes away, is forbidden from doing so.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, let us remember Adnan. Let us remember the inhabitants of Umm Khalid. Let us remember more than 6 million people whose basic human rights have been deprived for 60 years, and let us, as Jewish people with a history of oppression and a tradition of social justice, work for the right of indigenous people to return to their land. This is our only hope for true peace and security in the region.

Hannah Mermelstein is a co-founder of Birthright Unplugged and lives in Boston, Philadelphia and Ramallah.

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