Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem
Chair of West Midland PSC
Another day of rockets from Gaza to Israel, and planes from Israel bombing various targets. So far, at 22:00 local time, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries. Which does not mean that there has been no destruction (mainly by IAF bombing) or fear on both sides.
Tonight’s message contains a variety of items. I begin with 2 from WAFA about happenings in the West Bank. One of these is about demolitions in Salfit. Salfit is the name of the main city of a governate (I guess in America a governate would be similar to a county, sorry that I can’t furnish additional comparisons for other countries). Additionally it is the governate—the entire area—itself. The first item about 71 houses to be demolished refers to the governate, not to Salfit the city. Burkin, one of the communities in the Salfit governate, had demolition notices handed out to most of its homes years ago. So far they still stand. The tiny village is visible as you drive east on road 5, in the direction of Ariel, and is quite near an industrial area (the Barqan Industrial complex), which Ariel Sharon hoped would swallow up Burkin and continue all the way west beyond the green line. That has not happened. Ariel has not grown—at least not nearly as much as the man it is named for, Ariel Sharon, had hoped. But that does not mean that Burkan’s residents can feel safe in their homes. Almost every village in the Salfit area has some homes hanging by a thread, with bulldozers liable to come any day or minute to destroy.
The 2nd report from WAFA, about prisoners being photographed for their captors’ pleasure, brings up memories from Iraq and the famous photos of prisoner mistreatment and humiliation.
Items 2, 3, and 4 are about treatment of the Nakba (i.e., Catastrophe) in Israel. Item 2 is from 2009, and is included because it shows when the trend to eliminate the Nakba from memory began in earnest by deleting it from textbooks. Item 3 is the BBC report on the newly passed law, and item 4 is a Palestinian’s view of the law. The law criminalizing commemorations of the Nakba is equivalent to, say, Germany criminalizing the observance of the Holocaust because it puts Germany in an ugly light. Israel wants to erase Palestinian history. But one can no more erase the Nakba than one can erase the Holocaust or any other historical fact.
In item 5 is a letter from a father unhappy with Israel’s militaristic and racist education. He shares with us what his 2ndgrade son learns in school.
Gideon Levy declares in item 6 that “Israel’s dissidents are saving the country” insofar as they are one aspect in these dark times that are positive. I do not agree with Levy that the dissidents all are “Israel’s true patriots, who fear for its fate and are concerned over its image.” I do not consider myself a patriot, and I doubt that I am alone. Likewise, it’s not Israel’s image that concerns many dissidents but its human rights violations, its military occupation, colonization, and ethnic cleansing. I do not speak for all dissidents, because we are by no means a homogenous group. But I’m sure that there are others who share my view.
Item 7 is an open letter from Omar Barghouti to Egypt, and about Palestinians, too.
Item 8 brings us back to detentions and imprisonment of Palestinian leaders of non-violent resistance to the occupation and colonization. This, too, is a use of force. When will Israel’s leaders and military learn that the use of force will not bring peace or security. Only justice will accomplish that.
Am still hoping that tomorrow will be a better day, one, say, in which President Obama will announce that he has cut off all the military aid to Israel so that it will have to depend more on dialogue and justice than on the use of force, which till today has killed many but has not brought an iota of security to anyone.
All the best,
1. Palestine News and Information Agency WAFA
(a) 71 Houses to be Demolished in Salfit
Date : 24/3/2011
SALFIT, March 24, 2011 (WAFA) – Israeli Authority Thursday handed demolition notices to Palestinians in Salfit, in the west bank.
The Mayor of Burkin, a village west of Salfit, Akrama Samara, told WAFA that people of Burkin are severely attacked by settlers, in addition to demolishing their houses.
He said that 71 demolition notices were handed to Palestinians, while 16 houses were actually demolished in the last two decades.
These houses are inhabited by Palestinian families and demolishing them will displace theses families and create a massacre, he added.
Samara said that the purpose of this campaign against Palestinians is obvious and clear and it comes under the process of land confiscation and settlement expansion at the expense of our lands and lives.
Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, Nasfat Khuffash, told WAFA that hundred of houses in Salfit might be demolished under lame excuses like building with no permits; since the occupation authority prohibits building outside the organized boarders.
Khuffash said that the occupation authority is executing a hidden massacre in Salfit by cutting the roads with check points and bypass roads that isolates villages from each other.
(b) Israeli soldiers Take Pictures of Palestinian Prisoners to Humiliate them
RAMALLAH, March 24, 2011 (WAFA) – Israeli forces Thursday took pictures of prisoners with mobile phones in Israeli prisoners to humiliate and degrade them. Prisoners told the prison’s lawyer that the Israeli soldiers physically assaulted them. They put helmets on their heads and took pictures of them with their mobile phones, as a way of degrading them. Prisoner’s Club stressed that this incident is not the first of its kind.It considered that taking pictures of prisoners during detention to humiliate them is not accepted by any law and is considered a crime to be added to the list of the Israeli crimes. The prisoners demanded the international community to step in and put an end to the Israeli violations.M.H./F.R.
2. BBC July 22, 2009
Israeli textbooks to drop ‘Nakba’
Israel’s education ministry is to drop from an Arabic language textbook a term describing the creation of the state of Israel as “the catastrophe”.
The Arabic word “nakba” has been used with Israeli-Arab pupils since 2007. It does not appear in Hebrew textbooks.
Education Minister Gideon Saar said no state could be expected to portray its own foundation as a catastrophe.
Israeli Arab MP Hana Sweid called the move an attack on Palestinian identity and collective memory.
The passage in question, which occurs in one textbook aimed at Arab children aged eight or nine, describes the 1948 war, which followed Israel’s creation, in the following terms: “The Arabs call the war the Nakba – a war of catastrophe, loss and humiliation – and the Jews call it the Independence War.”
“ There is no reason that the official curriculum should present the establishment of the state of Israel as a ‘catastrophe’ ”
Gideon Saar Education Minister
The sentence was introduced when Yuli Tamir of the centre-left Labour party was education minister.
Ms Tamir’s successor in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing administration, Mr Saar, said: “There is no reason that the official curriculum of the state of Israel should present the establishment of the state as a ‘holocaust’ or ‘catastrophe’.”
Mr Saar added that state education for children was not supposed entail the de-legitimising of that state.
“Including the term in the official curriculum of the Arab sector was a mistake, a mistake that will not repeat itself in the new curriculum, which is currently being revised,” he concluded.
Correspondents say most Hebrew-language history books, especially when written for schoolchildren, focus on the heroism of Israeli forces in 1948 and gloss over the mass exile of Palestinians.
If it is mentioned at all it is attributed to a voluntary flight, rather than the deliberate expulsion which later revisionist historians have uncovered from archive sources.
The term Nakba is usually applied to the loss suffered by millions of Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and subsequent conflicts; their fate remains a key factor in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Jafar Farrah, director of Israeli-Arab advocacy group Moussawa, told the BBC that removing the word Nakba from textbooks would not stop Arabs from using it, but it would complicate relations.
Far-right members of the Israeli government are pursuing legislation to make it illegal in Israel to commemorate the Nakba, as Palestinians and their supporters do every 15 May.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/07/22 19:12:17 GMT
© BBC 2011
3. BBC 23 March 2011 Last updated at 16:30 GMT
Israel passes controversial funding law
By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Jerusalem Nakba Day – as Palestinians call it – is an important date in the political calendar
The Israeli parliament has passed a law that allows the state to deny funding to institutions that question the country’s existence as a Jewish state.
Civil rights groups say the law restricts the freedom of expression of Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up about a fifth of Israel’s population.
The controversial law brought in by the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party was passed by a vote of 37 to 25.
The new law has been called the Nakba bill, the Arabic word for catastrophe.
Palestinians use the term to refer to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of them fled or were forced from their homes.
Under the new law, groups involved in activities that deny Israel’s existence as a Jewish state can be prevented from receiving public funding.
Those activities include marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.
Civil rights and Israeli Arab politicians say the law is undemocratic and unfairly singles out Israel’s Arab citizens.
The current version of the law is more moderate than the original, which called for prison sentences for anyone holding Nakba memorial events.
4. Haaretz Thursday,
March 24, 2011
The Palestinian narrative has won
When the Knesset approves legislation banning the Nakba commemoration, it seems surreal. Yet, there is also something good in this commotion. At least, there’s no denial of the Nakba.
By Oudeh Basharat
When the teacher asked us first-graders in Kfar Yafia what we do on Independence Day – it’s “day” in the uninspired Jewish term, “holiday” in the imaginative Arab language – I answered excitedly: We go to Ma’alul.
Ma’alul is my parents’ village, whose residents were uprooted in 1948. Indeed, it was a holiday, when the military administration, in its generosity, loosened its grip a little and turned a blind eye to the crowds “celebrating” Independence Day on the ruins of the villages from which they had been uprooted.
At the time I, the refugee, felt privileged. I told my friends how we visited a church and a mosque, strolled along the paths, and how we gathered by the fountain.
Do you hold gatherings here as well, they asked. No, I said with spiritual elation. In Ma’alul the gatherings are more beautiful. How does Bertolt Brecht put it – in the homeland, even the voice sounds clearer.
Today, more than 40 years later, my daughter Hala is in first grade and feels the same sense of privilege. She, too, has Ma’alul.
They didn’t use the word “nakba” then. The popular expression was “al hajij” (forced migration ), and was enough to raise a storm of emotions – a mixture of sadness, loss, anger, helplessness, compassion and yearning. The poet Salem Jubran said: “As the mother loves her disabled son…I will love you my homeland.”
What would we have done in their place, I always ask myself. The challenge they faced was so great, I answer myself – beyond their capability to grasp, not to speak of dealing with it.
The term “Nakba” sounds like a natural disaster and still provokes debate. Those who object to it say what happened was not a natural disaster. That’s true. But what counts is that the event is seen as a disaster of proportions beyond anything human beings are capable of generating.
So when the Knesset approves legislation banning the Nakba commemoration, it seems surreal. The Nakba is an ongoing event. No solution has been found for the refugee problem; the Arab population is discriminated against; senior cabinet ministers are threatening a sequel to the Nakba and Prime Minister Netanyahu defined the demographic issue, i.e. the Arabs’ presence in their homeland, as the gravest problem.
Yet, there is also something good in this commotion. At least, there’s no denial of the Nakba. Nobody claims the whole thing is a fairy-tale. The Palestinian narrative has won. The narrative that in ’48 a people was exiled, by force, from its land, has been seared into Israeli and global consciousness. A vibrant, lively nation lived in Palestine, and a brutal act severed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. They were brutally and mercilessly thrown into the desert of doom and oblivion.
Instead of conducting a discourse, the Gadhafi-like types here – the Liebermans and their kind – are threatening a massive bombardment “house by house, zanga-zanga” of every good part in Israeli society. They won’t rest until they destroy any memory of the word “Nakba.” They will use this opportunity to eliminate every trace of democracy as well.
What gives us room for optimism is that this running amok has awakened Israeli public opinion against the murky fascistic wave. Perhaps this absurd law will provoke a dialogue about the events that took place in 1948, as a way to reconcile the two peoples. Avoiding such a dialogue will only add to the conflagration, for the surest way to get stuck in an entanglement is to ignore it.
5. From Amir Terkel
March 24, 2011
You probably remember my son Noam in kindergarten learning numbers with tanks, soldiers and army emblems.
Noam is in second grade now and an avid reader. [ so there’s still hope in the age of the iphone… (( – : ]
One of his favorites library books as was mine is Dani Din the invisible child super hero.
The up side is we now have Dina Din who joined him, (lets hear it for girl super heroes!)
The down side is that the incitement left me speechless, see back cover of book to get an idea, and it only gets worse in the book
They are fighting the “Murderous Hamas”
on a suicide mission, they are also taught in the book by president Clinton (!!!!) that they need to face death with bravery.
who deemed this language appropriate for 2nd 3rd and 4th graders?
Can you imagine our reaction to a Palestinian children book glorifying the fight against the Murderous IDF?
or the masked armed men who kidnapped my friends 14 year old son from his home 3 weeks ago with the family at gun point. (accused of stone throwing at soldiers in his village)
Anyways, The book was published in 1997.
I know from the papers that there’s supposed to be cooperation between the Palestinian and Israelis on stopping incitement, do you know anything about it?
Do you think we Can we do anything to stop these books from being published?
I feel a little better just having the ability to share this with someone, but I’m still heartbroken and disparaged and what these books mean for raising our kids in Israel.
Thank you, and keep up the good work.
March 24, 2011
Israel’s dissidents are saving the country
The dissidents do not need to apologize for anything. Their country owes them a great deal.
By Gideon Levy
Imagine a different Israel in the eyes of the world. There is no B’Tselem, no Breaking the Silence, no Anarchists Against the Fence, no Gush Shalom. There is no New Israel Fund and no small band of radical and dissenting intellectuals and journalists. Imagine a different Israel, which silences and crushes every such voice. Imagine how it would look to the world.
The little sympathy Israel still receives it owes to these groups. The campaign of delegitimization against it, the real one and the one we invent, we owe to Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Beiteinu, to Benjamin Netanyahu and the flood of anti-democratic laws of his people and of Kadima, to the unbridled Israel Defense Forces and to the settlers who know no boundaries. One day of Operation Cast Lead did Israel more damage than all the critical articles taken together; the fatal attack on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara dragged down Israel’s image more than all the anti-Israeli lectures taken together; the “Nakba Law” stank more than all the petitions.
The ever-growing initiative to boycott, excoriate and ostracize Israel was born out of the pictures of Gaza and the scenes from the Marmara. The fact that there are Israelis who have joined the criticism can only be chalked up to Israel’s dwindling credit in universities in the United States, in the academic world of Europe and in newspapers in both places. Just imagine how Israel would look without them: North Korea.
The government’s ambassadors and its propagandists can barely persuade anyone in the world, except themselves. The destroyers of Israeli democracy can only stoke the fire higher and higher against it. The critical voices still being heard, in commendable freedom, arouse the world’s esteem. The dissidents are now the best explainers of Israel, whose regime is still to its credit.
About two weeks ago, I was invited to the Jewish Book Week in London, following the publication in English of my book “The Punishment of Gaza.” The Jewish establishment in Britain threatened to boycott the event, the organizers considered hiring security guards, and roughly 500 people, mainly middle-of-the-road Jews, filled the hall, asked questions and mainly, in their modest way, expressed great sympathy. I spoke, as I always do, against the occupation, the injustices and the damage it does to Israel and to the Palestinians, against the attacks on Israeli democracy as I have written in the hundreds of articles that have been published in Haaretz in Hebrew and in English, and as I did at the London School of Economics and Trinity University in Dublin.
As on previous occasions, a “spy” from the Israeli Embassy was sent to Trinity – this one, an Israeli student who was asked to write down what I said and convey it to the embassy. The embassy quickly dispatched a report to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and the Foreign Ministry quickly leaked it to a well-known newspaper, which published only my harshest statements, without context – and there you have it: the indictment of a dissident.
One can ignore the way the embassy spies on journalists, evoking dark regimes. I would be glad to see a government representative at my lectures who was not under cover, if they have any interest. But one cannot ignore the message conveyed by such conduct – that of a witch hunt against a journalist whose opinions diverge from the party line.
In the new high-tech world, there is no longer a difference between what is written and what is said from here or from there. In the new world, which is mainly hostile to Israel, there is significance to alternative voices coming out of Israel, voices other than the official, threatening and harmful. These voices belong to Israel’s true patriots, who fear for its fate and are concerned over its image much more than the people who are threatening to silence them. The dissidents do not need to apologize to their country for anything. Their country owes them a great deal: They are the force that is saving its image in the world. “Thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth from thee”? (Isaiah 49:17 ) Indeed, indeed. Netanyahu and Lieberman, the lawmakers on the right and the instigators of nationalism and racism, the hilltop youth and the indifferent of Tel Aviv. Ask (almost ) any European or American intellectual.
7. On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 7:14 PM, Portside Moderator <[email protected]> wrote:
This article was first published at Huffington Post, where
the paragraph on Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions twice was
edited out twice without the author’s approval.
Incidentally, the Newspaper Guild of America has just
called on its 26,000 members to back the boycott of HuffPo
MondoWeiss published the full letter; below
I Wish You Egypt: An open letter to people of conscience
in the West
by OMAR BARGHOUTI on MARCH 23, 2011
I wish you Egypt!
I wish you empowerment to resist; to fight for social and
economic justice; to win your real freedom and equal
I wish you the will and skill to break out of your
carefully concealed prison walls. See, in our part of the
world, prison walls and thick inviolable doors are all too
overt, obvious, over-bearing, choking; this is why we
remain restive, rebellious, agitated, and always in
preparation for our day of freedom, of light, when we
gather a critical mass of people power enough to cross all
the hitherto categorical red lines. We can then smash the
thick, cold ugly, rusty chains that have incarcerated our
minds and bodies for all our lives like the overpowering
stench of a rotting corpse in our claustrophobic prison
Your prison cells, however, are quite different. The walls
are well hidden lest they evoke your will to resist. There
is no door to your prison cell — you may roam about
“freely,” never recognizing the much larger prison you are
still confined to.
I wish you Egypt so you can decolonize your minds, for
only then can you envision real liberty, real justice,
real equality, and real dignity.
I wish you Egypt so you can tear apart the sheet with the
multiple-choice question, “what do you want?”, for all the
answers you are given are dead wrong. Your only choice
there seems to be between evil and a lesser one.
I wish you Egypt so you can, like the Tunisians, the
Egyptians, the Libyans, the Bahrainis, the Yemenis, and
certainly the Palestinians, shout “No! We do not want to
select the least wrong answer. We want another choice
altogether that is not on your damned list.” Given the
choice between slavery and death, we unequivocally opt for
freedom and dignified life — no slavery, and no death.
I wish you Egypt so you can collectively, democratically,
and responsibly re-build your societies; to reset the
rules so as to serve the people, not savage capital and
its banking arm; to end racism and all sorts of
discrimination; to look after and be in harmony with the
environment; to cut wars and war crimes, not jobs,
benefits and public services; to invest in education and
healthcare, not in fossil fuel and weapons research; to
overthrow the repressive, tyrannical rule of
multinationals; and to get the hell out of Afghanistan,
Iraq, and everywhere else where under the guise of
“spreading democracy” your self-righteous crusades have
spread social and cultural disintegration, abject poverty
and utter hopelessness.
I wish you Egypt so you can fulfill your countries’ legal
and moral obligations to help rebuild the ravished,
de-developed economies and societies of your former — or
current — colonies, so that their young men can find
their own homelands viable, livable and lovable again,
instead of risking death — or worse — on the high seas
to reach your mirage-washed shores, giving up loved ones
and a place they once called home. You see, they’re “here”
because you were there… and we all know what you did
I wish you Egypt so you can rekindle the spirit of the
South African anti-apartheid struggle by holding Israel
accountable to international law and universal principles
of human rights, by adopting boycott, divestment and
sanctions, called for by an overwhelming majority in
Palestinian civil society. There is no more effective,
non-violent way to end Israel’s occupation, racial
discrimination and decades-old denial of the UN-sanctioned
right of Palestinian refugees to return.
Our oppression and yours are deeply interrelated and
intertwined — it is never a zero-sum game! Our joint
struggle for universal rights and freedoms is not merely a
self gratifying slogan that we raise; rather, it is a
fight for true emancipation and self determination, an
idea whose time has vociferously arrived.
After Egypt, it is our time. It is time for Palestinian
freedom and justice. It is time for all the people of this
world, particularly the most exploited and downtrodden, to
reassert our common humanity and reclaim control over our
I wish you Egypt!
Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights activist,
former resident of Egypt, and author of Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions (BDS): The Global Struggle for
Palestinian Rights (Haymarket Books, 2011)
Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.