Gideon Spiro hits the nail on the head above. When the word ‘security’ is uttered in court, the judges jump to attention at the service of the military and the Shin Bet—not only in the Vanunu case, but in general. When ‘security’ is claimed by the military or Shin Bet, then the defendant and his/her lawyers can be denied knowing the evidence against the client and even knowing the charges brought against the person.
Doors can be closed so that the only persons present are the judge and the prosecuting lawyers and their ‘witnesses.’ Then the wheels of non-justice turn, and an accused can be stuffed into an isolation chamber or other cell for years on end, never knowing what it is that he/she has been accused of. Nice. If you wish to learn more about Administrative Detention, see B’tselem http://www.btselem.org/English/Administrative_Detention/
Tonight’s 6 items are a very mixed bag. They begin with a positive move, Desmond Tutu’s call to a South African opera company that is scheduled to perform Porgy and Bass in Israel, to not come to Israel until racism ends. His call gives way in 2 to a fascist bill—another one–on the way to becoming law.
The 3rd item relates the experience of American converts to Judaism who had hoped to live and raise their children in a Jewish state, but who happen to have one physical ‘deformity’ according to Israeli standards: the color of their skin; it is not white. Ethiopians can confirm the racist attitudes and conduct of Israelis. The Law of return is for White Ashkenazi Jews only, and of course then only when they are ‘loyal’ to the state.
Item 4 reports that lawyers have established a Flotilla Justice Group, item 5 is Gideon Spiro’s longish tirade against the Israeli courts with respect to the Mordechai Vanunu case and in general when security is supposedly an issue.
Item 6 is a longish nostalgic review of past and present Palestinian action in righting their case, “Palestine—Lament for a Just Revolution.’
All the best,
1. Jerusalem Post,
October 26, 2010
Desmond Tutu urges S. African opera not to tour Israel
Nobel laureate says by bringing int’l artists to perform, TA Opera House “advances Israel’s fallacious claim to being a ‘civilized democracy.'”
JOHANNESBURG — Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who earned a Nobel Prize for his peaceful opposition to apartheid, urged Cape Town’s renowned opera troupe not to tour Israel until what he called, “discrimination,” ends there on Tuesday.
In a statement, Tutu compared the Cape Town Opera’s planned visit next month to international artists performing in apartheid South Africa, when it was “a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity.”
Robinson, Carter encourage non-violent Hamas
South African university rejects boycott of Israel
“Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances,” he said.
He added it would be “unconscionable” to perform “Porgy and Bess,” which he says has a “universal message of nondiscrimination.”
Tutu charged that by bringing international artists to perform, the Tel Aviv Opera House “advances Israel’s fallacious claim to being a ‘civilized democracy.'”
Hanna Munitz, the Israeli Opera’s general director, responded in a statement, saying that her house and Cape Town Opera were apolitical.
“The agenda is culture and art, and definitely not politics,” Munitz said. “Both houses relate to culture as a bridge, the aim of which is to be above any political dispute. Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that very big performance companies arrive in Israel from abroad all the time.”
Tutu has long been a sharp critic of Israel. Last month, he backed calls for a South African academic boycott of Israel.
Tutu retired earlier this month, saying he wanted to travel less and spend more time with his family. He did not, though, say he would stop speaking out on issues he has championed.
2. Haaretz Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Shin Bet supports revoking citizenship of Israelis convicted of terror
Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s proposal has been presented as a method of deterring potential criminals from embarking on terrorist activities, seen as targeting Israeli Arabs in particular.
The Shin Bet security service support revoking the citizenship of anyone convicted of terror crimes, it emerged Tuesday during a Knesset debate on a proposal seen as targeting Israeli Arabs.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s proposal suggests giving the court or administrative authorities the right to revoke Israeli citizenship from dual citizens convicted of loyalty-related offenses. For people who have no other citizenship, the law would grant status equivalent to what Israel grants foreign workers.
The Shin Bet’s legal adviser said during deliberations on Tuesday that indeed “such authority must be put in the hands of the court, in one way or another.”
Yishai’s bill has been presented as a method of deterring potential criminals from embarking on terrorist activities. He submitted the proposal on October 11, a day after the cabinet approved a controversial amendment to the citizenship law, which would require non-Jews seeking citizenship to declare loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”
“Declarations and oaths are not sufficient when dealing with cases such as Azmi Bishara and Hanin Zoabi,” Yishai said following the cabinet approval, referring to two Arab Knesset members.
Bishara was accused of treason and fled abroad; Zoabi, a current Knesset member, participated in the Turkish flotilla to break the Gaza blockade in May.
“Anyone who betrays the state will lose his citizenship,” said Yishai.
A similar law, sponsored by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), was introduced in the Knesset a few months ago.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said it had anticipated Yishai’s proposal.
“The revocation of citizenship on grounds of disloyalty is characteristic of shady, totalitarian regimes; in fact, it was commonly used by the Soviet regime,” said Dan Yakir, the association’s legal council. “The accepted view in democratic countries nowadays is that ‘disloyalty’ cannot serve as a pretext for annulling citizenship.”
3. October 26, 2010 Tuesday 18 Heshvan 5771
US converts accuse immigration inspectors of assault
Family claims officers beat man, kicked pregnant wife in stomach in their Ashkelon home; spokeswoman says family lying, officers were attacked.
A family of African American converts on Wednesday accused immigration inspectors of assaulting them in their house in Ashkelon, during an arrest that took place Tuesday evening.
Sean Garret, who arrived with his wife’s family in Israel from Kansas City in July, said they came to Israel in order to live a full Jewish life after completing their Conservative conversion.
Charging that one officer kicked his pregnant wife in the stomach, and that others beat him, he expressed amazement and dismay that state officials had treated them so badly.
The Population Immigration and Borders Authority spokeswoman said in response that it was the officers, from the Oz unit, who were attacked, and she described the family as “impudent liars.”
According to Garret, he and his family – his wife, one-year-old daughter, mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law – were sitting in their rented apartment in Ashkelon on Tuesday evening when they heard knocks at the door. When his mother in law, Trina Woodcox, went to open it, she was met by two immigration officers who entered the house and demanded to see everyone’s passports.
Garrett said that they provided the officers with their documents, and the officers began making phone calls to their base office. Once the calls were completed, Garret said that the officers told them that everybody checked out except for Woodcox and Garrett himself, and demanded the two come with them to the headquarters in Beersheba, claiming they were illegal residents.
“I was in the bathroom trying to give my daughter a bath when the officers barged in and attempted to grab hold of me and pull me out. They then started asking to see all sorts of documents like marriage licenses and birth certificates,” said Garrett.
According to Garret, the officers physically escorted Garrett and Woodcox downstairs to a van parked in front of the building and shoved them into the vehicle.
“At first they pushed my mother- in-law into the car roughly, pulling her hair and dragging her by force. When I tried to get them off her, two guys grabbed me and one officer started taking swings at my wife, who is pregnant and was carrying our daughter in her arms.”
Arrett said that one officer kicked his wife in the stomach while another one slammed him into the car and placed handcuffs on his wrist.
“They put the handcuffs on me extra tight, causing me deep cuts and bruises. They then tied me to the seat with the handcuffs and began beating me,” said Garrett.
Woodcox was left behind and the officers headed to the headquarters with Garrett. On the way to Beersheba, the officers stopped at the Ashkelon police station to file a complaint against Garrett for assault, while he remained handcuffed in the van for half-an-hour.
“During the whole ride, the officers took turns beating me and swearing at me. One of them called me a mother f–––er and a f–––ing nigger.”
At the police station two additional officers entered the van, which then made its way to Beersheba.
According to Garrett, after an hour at the headquarters, his case was cleared up, the authorities realized that they had made a mistake and he was driven back home.
“Nobody apologized or offered an explanation. They just told me I was okay and sent me away.
This isn’t going to make us leave or sour us on Israel. We came here because we wanted to live a full Jewish life. I’m just amazed that we went through all that because of a misunderstanding.”
The officers’ version, described by PIBA spokeswoman Sabine Hadad, was very different.
According to Hadad, the officers saw the two brothers-in-law, young men in their early twenties, outside the building and asked to see their documents.
She said the two took the officers up to the apartment. The officers asked to see their passports and discovered that they were residing in Israel on an invalid visa.
“Claiming that the officers attacked them is simply ridiculous.
It was they who attacked our guys, resulting in injuries to two of our officers. One of the men has a criminal record both here and in the United States. The Ashkelon police also didn’t believe them and refused to accept their complaint at the station when they tried to file on Wednesday morning,” said Hadad.
According to Hadad, the family’s legal status is currently being investigated by the Ministry of Interior to see if their conversion is valid. “They are not entitled to immigrate by virtue of the Law of Return,” she said. “All converts must be approved in Israel. Right now they are American foreign nationals who are waiting for approval.”
Hadad said that the Oz unit would not take the event sitting down and that there is a limit to what foreign nationals can do to Israeli officials. “They don’t deserve to be given a platform.
They are impudent. What do you think would happen to me if I attacked a US immigration official over there?” she asked.
According to Nicole Maor, legal counsel for the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, the family made two attempts to file complaints against the inspectors at the Ashkelon police station, and was twice denied.
“That in itself is unheard of.
Fine, they can say they don’t believe them, but to refuse to accept a complaint is outrageous,” she said in a phone interview.
She said that it was impossible to begin legal proceedings before filing a complaint and that she hoped the family would be able to do so as soon as possible.
“I am currently collecting photos and compiling testimonies from the family members and neighbors,” said Maor.
Meanwhile, the Masorti (Conservative) Movement has written a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch, demanding that they investigate the event and bring to justice the “violent officers.”
“The family decided to immigrate to Israel and is active in the Netsach Israel congregation in Ashkelon. Their dream is to live a full Jewish life here in Israel,” the letter stated. “However, their skin color is not white, but black.”
“That was enough to cause the immigration police to come unannounced to their home in the night and confront the family, including the grandmother, the pregnant woman and the baby, with relentless violence, only later to discover that it was a mistake,” contends the letter, written by the executive director of the Masorti Movement, Yizhar Hess.
“Instead of embracing this family with warmth, the State of Israel abused them twice. It both doubted the family’s Judaism because they converted through the Conservative system, and it has raised its hand against them just because it is easy to do so against someone whose skin is not white,” wrote Hess.
October 26, 2010 Tuesday 18 Heshvan 5771
Photo by: Courtesy
Jewish world embraces family reportedly beaten by Oz unit
In light of alleged attack on Woodcox family, foreign workers group calls on gov’t to look into excessive force by immigration inspectors.
Support from all over the Jewish world has been pouring in to the Woodcox household in Ashkelon, following the attack that the family allegedly suffered at the hands of Oz immigration inspectors last week.
Oz officials, on the other hand, insist that their inspectors were the ones who were assaulted.
The family’s former congregation, B’nai Jehudah in Overland Park, Kansas, a Reform synagogue, has raised upwards of $3,600 in three days to help the Woodcoxes. The family is living in poverty, and Jews from across the globe have called and written to express solidarity with it and voice their outrage at the alleged actions of the immigration unit’s inspectors.
The Kansas congregation’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff, sent an urgent letter to all his congregants on Sunday in which he briefly outlined the details of the case and urged them to show support.
“Many of you know Michael and Trina Woodcox, and their children. For those of you who don’t, the Woodcox family is African-American, came to us a few years ago seeking to learn more about Judaism. Despite living far from our building and despite the ridicule and confusion others in the black community expressed over their embracing of Judaism, they formally chose to become Jewish,” the letter read.
Nemitoff went on to describe last Tuesday’s incident, in which violence broke out between the family and the inspectors, resulting in bruises to nearly all the family members, including a woman seven month’s pregnant and a one-year-old child, and to two inspectors.
“Suffice it to say that the family is physically and emotionally bruised and battered. And it seems as though this all occurred because this wonderful Jewish family – who only wants to live in Israel in peace – was of a skin color that some found offensive,” continued the letter.
The Woodcox family, comprising seven people, is waiting for their petition for citizenship under the Law of Return to be authorized by the Interior Ministry. A ministry spokeswoman said the family’s legal status is being investigated by to see if their conversion is valid.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Trina Woodcox said she had received the money sent to the family from the congregation in Kansas and was continually receiving letters and phone calls from supporters.
The conservative congregation in Ashkelon, Kehillat Netzach Israel, has provided the family with warm meals and prayers.
“We attended Shabbat services at the synagogue and were overwhelmed by the expressions of love and support we received,” Woodcox said. “It is important to me to say to all the well-wishers that this experience has not shaken our faith in Judaism. The outpouring of love has only increased our faith.”
What the family has yet to receive is any formal response from the state regarding their complaint about the confrontation.
“We haven’t heard anything from the police or the Ministry of Interior since the incident took place. The only ones we’ve heard from is the United States Embassy, who wrote to me asking if we wanted their assistance,” Woodcox said.
“I’m not sure what the embassy can do, but if they can help make sure that the offending officers are brought to justice, that is all we can hope for.”
The family’s lawyer, Nicole Maor of the Israel Religious Action Center, said she sent out a formal letter, including hospital reports and witness testimonies, to all of the relevant authorities, but had yet to hear back from them.
In her letter to the Interior Ministry, Maor asked that the family’s immigration process be expedited in light of the incident and given the family’s difficult financial state, but had received no response to that request, either.
An Ashkelon police spokeswoman told the Post that the case was under investigation.
In light of the alleged attack on the Woodcox family, a foreign workers advocacy group, the Migrant Workers Hotline, has called on government agencies, including the civil service commissioner, the interior minister and the head of the Oz unit, to look into excessive use of force by Oz inspectors.
“The Migrant Workers Hotline has fielded four complaints of unreasonable use of force by Oz inspectors against foreign workers and asylumseekers over the last three months,” the group’s spokeswoman said. “All the attacks took place during routine document inspections and in at least two of the cases, the violence continued even after the people had been handcuffed.”
The NGO also raised concerns that there is no body in Israel authorized to oversee the activities of Oz inspectors.
“The unit functions without the oversight of any body that can inspect their behavior, criticize their actions or, if need be, take disciplinary action against them,” the spokeswoman said. “While in cases of police violence there is the Police Investigations Department, an external body that has the authority to investigate excessive use of force by police officers, it’s as if Oz inspectors, who belong to the Interior Ministry, are above the law.
“There is no point person at the Civil Service Commission, the body that formally oversees all government agencies, who is assigned the role and has the authority to investigate Oz inspectors and to whom plaintiffs can be referred,” she added.
“It is an unacceptable state of affairs when foreigners, migrant workers and asylum-seekers find themselves being bounced around from one place to another without having the ability to complain.”
4. [forwarded by huwaida arraf ]
Lawyers establish Flotilla Justice Group to coordinate legal action
on behalf of flotilla victims
[Doha, Qatar, 25 October] International legal experts and lawyers representing victims of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla today announced the establishment of the “Flotilla Justice Group.” The announcement came at the conclusion of a two-day meeting held on 23 and 24 October, aimed at coordinating legal actions to hold Israel accountable for its 31 May 2010 attack on the Freedom Flotilla. The meeting, hosted by the Doha-based Al Fakhoora campaign, brought together 70 representatives from 20 countries, to follow up on work that began at the first lawyers’ meeting held in Istanbul on 15 July.
The international advocacy groups, legal and media experts, and lawyers in attendance met in a number of workshops to devise a comprehensive strategy for national, regional and international legal action, inter-organizational coordination, and media mobilization. “The Flotilla Justice Group” will serve as a coordination mechanism for facilitating communication and the exchange of information between lawyers working on behalf of flotilla victims around the world.
Bettahar Boudjellal, a Qatar-based international human rights expert, said, “Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla breached international, human rights and humanitarian law. Our efforts to unify the legal actions through a designated coordination apparatus will allow us to collectively bring the State of Israel to justice. More importantly, it will serve as a foundation for responding to Israel’s future violations.”
The conference workshops were led by prominent personalities within the growing movement to end Israel’s strangulation of Gaza as well as its persistent human rights violations throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. Participants in the meeting included representatives from the following countries: Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Palestine, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yemen.
“The creation of the Flotilla Justice Group is a vital step forward on the road to holding Israel accountable for its attack on our flotilla, and their ongoing abuse of the Palestinian people” said the Freedom Flotilla organizers.
Organizations and firms participating in the conference included: the Turkish İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı (IHH), the Free Gaza Movement, European Campaign to End Siege on Gaza (ECESG), Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), the Elmadag Law Firm from Turkey, Mazlumdar — the Turkish Human Rights Association, the UK-based Hickman and Rose law firm, Ship to Gaza – Greece, Ship to Gaza – Sweden, Indonesian Muslims’ Lawyer Team, the Muslim Lawyers Association of South Africa, and others.
Fakhoora is an international campaign which aims to secure the freedom to learn for Palestinian students in Gaza and the West Bank. The campaign is named after a United Nations girls’ prep school in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp that was the scene of an attack by Israeli tank shells on January 6, 2009.
5. RSS Feeds
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it
Red Rag: Letter to the judges of the Supreme Court after the rejection of Mordechai Vanunu’s appeal
By: Gideon Spiro
21 October 2010
Judicial wickedness and imperviousness
21 October 2010
To the honourable Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, Hanan Meltzer
Judges of the Supreme Court,
On 11 October 2010 you ruled on the appeal of Mordechai Vanunu for the lifting of the restrictions that have been imposed on him. As long as they are in effect, he is not a free man. Six years after he was released from the prison where he was incarcerated for 18 years, of which 12 years were in solitary confinement, the ISA (Shabak – Shin Bet) and the head of security at the Defence Ministry are still digging their fangs into Vanunu and sucking his blood like vampires while whispering into his ear: “Express remorse, admit that you made a mistake,” and he has not submitted. He remains at peace with himself, his actions and his conscience: against nuclear arms and for the right of the public to know the scale of the holocaust that the government is cooking up behind the walls of the nuclear reactor at Dimona.
The ritual has been repeated every year since his release from prison in April 2004: an appeal to the High Court of Justice for the lifting of the restrictions according to which he is forbidden to leave Israel, to move freely and to talk to tourists. The ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief feed the judges secret information to the effect that Vanunu is concealing in his brain details that has not yet revealed, and for that reason he represents a danger. The judges adopt the position of the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief, even though the testimony of nuclear experts from Israel and abroad has proven and still proves that Vanunu cannot possibly be in possession of any secret information, that all he knew on nuclear matters he disclosed to the British weekly Sunday Times in 1986.
This year too the spectacle has been repeated. Vanunu’s lawyers make their case, the State representative replies, then comes the shameful part in which you receive secret information, and after that a closed session is held in the presence of representatives of the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief, Vanunu and his lawyers being obliged to leave the room. They cannot fulfill their role of examining and challenging the secret information. I believe that if the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief were questioned by Vanunu’s lawyers, Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, it would emerge that most if not all of that secret information is based on lies, rumours, informers and provocations (for example, an ISA agent dresses up like a tourist and asks Vanunu whether Israel has nuclear weapons, and other such corrupt methods).
You are behaving like attentive employees of the security services, as is the practice in tyrannical regimes. Their representatives sat in the courtroom and made sure that you did not deviate to the right or to the left and that you would play your roles according to their plans, and that is what happened. You were not satisfied until you could publish your ruling on 13 October, Mordechai Vanunu’s birthday. That is no coincidence, but rather a deliberate act that was done at the dictates of the security services. Their thirst for revenge is unquenchable. They fed you every possible detail, and you played your part willingly. That is how simpletons lacking in understanding behave, not judges  who consider themselves enlightened. Such wickedness and imperviousness are intended to rub more salt into the wounds.
I assume that you are not stupid – that you know that after 24 years during which Mordechai Vanunu has not been inside the reactor at Dimona, he constitutes absolutely no security threat. Moreover, as one who is in contact with Mordechai Vanunu, and meets with him frequently, I have not learned from him any detail whatsoever, even the most trivial, about Israel’s nuclear activities.
On the contrary, from sources on Internet websites and international newspapers, most of which is reproduced in the Israeli media, I was in possession of information on Israel’s nuclear armament that was concealed from Vanunu during his time in prison. Vanunu learned more from me than I learned from him. Zvi Tal, who was the judge at the Jerusalem District Court who sentenced Vanunu to 18 years in prison, and later became a judge on the Supreme Court, wrote in his book Until the Sunrise that was published not long ago, that “it is hard to understand what this technician could reveal that he has not already revealed.”
It seems that in the “Jewish Republic of Israel” you are acting as if you were in the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” and tremble like leaves in the wind when confronted by the security services. Judicial independence, which you praise to the skies in official publications, is buried as if it had never existed when you sit opposite the representatives of the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief. The prestige that is enjoyed by Supreme Court judges when they sit as judges in the High Court of Justice is exposed as a fraud when you deliberate on security matters. Justice dissipates and instead of breathing the rarefied air of adherence to the principles of human rights, you sink into the stinking swamp of a base court characterized by submissiveness and squalour.
Recently Vanunu received the news that the International League for Human Rights in Berlin chose him as the recipient of the Carl von Ossietzky human rights medal for 2010. It is one of the most prestigious prizes in the realm of human rights in Europe in general and in Germany in particular. For those of you who do not know who Carl von Ossietzky was, here are some details taken from Wikipedia:
Carl von Ossietzky was a German journalist and pacifist, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
In the still-democratic Weimar Republic, Carl von Ossietzky was arrested, put on trial and imprisoned for an infraction similar to that of which Vanunu was convicted 60 years later. In 1929 Carl von Ossietzky published information in his newspaper about the fact that Germany was establishing an air force in collaboration with the Soviet Union in contravention of the Versailles Treaty. In 1931 he was put on trial for treason, convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison (Weimar Germany, which was on the verge of the transition to the Nazi regime, still showed itself to be relatively civilized compared to the State of Israel that sentenced Vanunu to 18 years).
Over the years Ossietzky warned about Adolf Hitler. With the rise of the Nazis to power in January 1933 Ossietzky continued to speak out and expressed opposition to the new regime. After the burning of the Reichstag on 28 February 1933, he was arrested again, and kept at first in the Spandau prison, and afterwards sent to the Esterwegen concentration camp near Oldenburg, and then to other camps.
Carl von Ossietzky was declared the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 1935. The Nazis could not prevent the giving of the prize, but they did not release Ossietzky, who was hospitalized due to abuses he had experienced in the concentration camp. From his sickbed Ossietzky succeeded in smuggling an announcement that he accepted the prize, despite the threat that such an action would lead to his being removed from the “German national community” (Deutsche Volksgemeinschaft).
In May 1936 he was sent to a police hospital near Berlin due to a serious case of tuberculosis that he had contracted. He spent the last months of his life there. He died on 4 May 1938, while still in the hospital, in detention, from complications of tuberculosis related to the harsh conditions of his incarceration. The university at Oldenburg is named after him.
The Carl von Ossietzky medal has been awarded since 1962.
Among the dozens of recipients of the medal are the writers Gnter Grass and Heinrich Bצll, recipients of the Nobel Prize for literature; the Reverend Heinrich Gruber, who rescued Jews during the Nazi regime until he was arrested in 1940 and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, and who later continued to help Jews who remained in Germany after the Second World War; Lea Rosh, the moving spirit behind the creation of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin; the writer Gnter Wallraff, who exposed the Nazis who were embedded in German political and economic life; the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire; Hans Koschnick, a German politician from the Social Democratic Party, who was a member of the Bundestag, the mayor of Bremen and from 1994 to 1996 an emissary of the European Community in Bosnia, and who in 1998 received an honourary doctorate from the University of Haifa for his contribution to society; the Reverend Martin Niemצller, a human rights activist who struggled against Nazism, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1937 and jailed in the Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps until he was freed by the Allies in 1945.
Reverend Niemצller was the author of the well-known quotation: “In Germany the Nazis first came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist; then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a member of a trade union; then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out, because I was Protestant; and then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak out for me.”
To that illustrious list is now added Mordechai Vanunu.
The award ceremony will take place in December in Berlin. But Mordechai Vanunu will not be able to travel to receive the medal, because of the ban, imposed with your approval, on his leaving the country. You are thereby entering into the company of Nazi Germany, which prevented the departure of Carl von Ossietzky in 1935; the Soviet Union, which prevented the departure of Andrei Sakharov to recieve his Nobel Peace Prize in 1975; Communist China, which has barred the departure of the human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010, who is now serving an 11-year sentence for writing a manifesto calling for freedom of expression. I would remind you that Mordechai Vanunu was abducted, tried (a fixed trial behind closed doors) and imprisoned by Israel because he availed himself of the democratic right of freedom of expression, and because he realized the public’s right to know.
You are a link in a chain of judicial travesties that transcends regimes and national borders. You will not be absolved of that.
1. This sentence contains a pun in Hebrew: “simpletons” is “shotim,” and “judges” is “shoftim.”
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
6. [Forwarded by David McReynolds
October 26, 2010]
Palestine: Lament for the Revolution
London Review of Books
by Karma Nabulsi
Nowadays, when Palestinian activists in their twenties and thirties
meet up with veterans of the Palestinian struggle, they show an
unexpected thoughtfulness towards the older, revolutionary generation,
to which I belong. This is nothing like the courtesy extended as a
matter of course to older people in our part of the world: it is more
intimate and more poignant. What brings us together is always the need
to discuss the options before us, and to see if a plan can be made.
Everyone argues, laughs, shouts and tells black jokes. But whenever a
proper discussion begins, the suddenly lowered voices of our
frustrated young people, many of them at the heart of the fierce
protests on university campuses and in rights campaigns elsewhere,
have the same tone I used to hear in the voices of our young ambulance
workers in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s: an elegiac gentleness
towards the hopelessly wounded, towards those who were already beyond
The way Palestinians see things, the fragmentation of the body politic
– externally engineered, and increasingly internally driven – has now
been achieved. This summer, even the liberal Israeli press began to
notice that the key people in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s
capital in the West Bank, no longer discuss strategies of liberation
but rather the huge business deals that prey on the public
imagination. Every institution or overarching structure that once
united Palestinians has now crumbled and been swept away. The gulf
between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah, between
Palestinians inside Palestine and the millions of refugees outside it,
between city and village, town and refugee camp, now seems
unbridgeable. The elites are tiny and the numbers of the dispossessed
and the disenfranchised increase every day. There is, at this moment,
no single body able to claim legitimately to represent all
Palestinians; no body able to set out a collective policy or national
programme of liberation. There is no plan.
The feeling of paralysis doesn’t only affect the Palestinians. It is
found too among the hundreds of international institutions and less
formal groups involved in the thriving carpet-bagging industry of the
Middle East Peace Process. The US, the UN, the EU, their special
envoys and fact-finding commissions, their human rights monitors,
lawyers and NGOs, the policy think tanks, the growing legion of
international humanitarian agencies, the dialogue groups and peace
groups, all came to the same conclusion shortly after the start of the
second Intifada in the autumn of 2000. Over the last decade, these
bodies have produced thousands of institutional memos, governmental
reports, official démarches, human rights briefings, summaries,
analyses, legal inquiries into war crimes and human rights abuses,
academic books and articles. And they have pretty much nailed it:
Palestinians are enduring the entrenched effects not only of a
military occupation, but of a colonial regime that practises
The predicament is understood and widely accepted, yet Palestinians
and non-Palestinians appear equally baffled. Protest and denunciation
have achieved very little. How are we to respond in a way that will
allow us to prevail? The vocabulary required to form a policy is
entirely absent both nationally and internationally. Palestinians are
currently trapped in a historical moment that – as the contemporary
world sees it – belongs to the past. The language the situation
demands had life only inside an ideology which has now disappeared.
Everyone else has moved on. In a world whose intellectual framework is
derived from university courses in postcolonial or cultural studies,
from the discourse of post-nationalism, or human rights, or global
governance, from post-conflict and security literature, the
Palestinians are stuck fast in historical amber. They can’t move on,
and the language that could assist them to do so is as extinct as
Aramaic. No one cares any longer for talk of liberation: in fact,
people flinch at the sound of it – it is unfashionable, embarrassing,
reactionary even to speak of revolution today. Twenty-first-century
eyes read revolutionary engagement as the first stage on the road to
the guillotine or the Gulag. Advanced now well beyond the epic and
heroic stages of its history, the West views its own revolutionary
roots through the decadent backward gaze of Carl Schmitt. Seen through
that prism, Palestinians remain stubbornly – one could almost say,
wilfully – in the anti-colonial, revolutionary phase of their history.
So the questions debated by Palestinians are the same now as they ever
were: how to organise, how to mobilise, how to unify? There remains a
constant sense of emergency, but Palestinians with long memories agree
that we are at a nadir in our history of resistance. The only sign of
forward movement lies in the tide of revulsion at Israel’s belligerent
policies, which Palestinian civil society organisations have
channelled into a vivid and well-organised campaign of solidarity
through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
Exactly 50 years ago, Palestinians were at a similar stage of social
and political fragmentation brought about by defeat and dispossession
and the anomie that followed the Nakba of 1948. Without a country or
the protection of a sovereign state, they were confronting, on the one
hand, Israel, and on the other, sundry Arab regimes: between them they
controlled every aspect of Palestinians’ social and civic lives as
well as their physical space. They lived deep in the dust and disease
of tent cities, without personal papers or property. In 1955, a young
Palestinian writer, Ghassan Kanafani, moved to Kuwait from Syria,
where he had been a teacher at a school set up for refugees by the UN,
after himself being expelled from Palestine with his family in 1948.
One of his people’s most perceptive chroniclers, he described their
mood in his diary: ‘The only thing we know is that tomorrow will be no
better than today, and that we are waiting on the shore, yearning, for
a boat that will not come. We are sentenced to be separated from
everything – except from our own destruction.’
But what appeared to Kanafani to be the collective end was in fact its
extraordinary beginning. By the end of the decade, the revolution had
found a language and a form. For the first time in a century of
rebellions and uprisings against foreign rule, Palestinians could
mount a collective challenge to international, Israeli and Arab
coercion, and unify sufficiently to represent themselves. Even a
cursory study of the history of revolutions over the last 300 years
reveals three elements essential to their origins. First, a plethora
of revolutionary pamphlets, declarations and discussions issuing from
different factions together begin to shape a shared understanding of
the injustices that have to be overturned. A call to arms requires a
convincing appraisal of the balance of forces if enough people are to
be persuaded to embark on such a risky enterprise. The history of
Palestinian attempts to achieve freedom would give anyone pause: two
generations who tried lie buried in the cemeteries of more than two
Second, it is revolutionaries who make revolutions, and not the other
way around. During the national mobilisation of the 1960s and 1970s,
some joined the party, others the movement, but most simply joined the
Palestinian revolution. It was taken for granted that one belonged to
one of the parties, which were themselves embedded in the broader
national liberation movement under the umbrella of the Palestine
Liberation Organisation, a formal institution set up in 1964 by Arab
states, which was captured from the Palestinian elite by the
resistance groups a few years later. Empowered by becoming part of a
fast-moving popular revolution, Palestinians – exiled, scattered and
defeated as they were – achieved the two elusive things they have
constantly sought: representation and unity.
If you raise the painful subject of this earlier time among
Palestinians today, the usual effect is to revive the over-theoretical
debate about when exactly the revolution died. (A discussion of its
strengths and weaknesses would be more useful.) Some say it ended
after Black September in Jordan in 1970; others that it ended in 1975
at the start of the Lebanese civil war. The majority see Israel’s
invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which brought about the comprehensive
destruction of the PLO’s infrastructure, as having killed it off. The
communiqués and declarations issued during the first Intifada, which
took place in the occupied Palestinian territories between 1987 and
1993, were expressed in the language of revolution, but everyone
agrees that it was all over by 1991, when the Madrid peace process was
accepted on such unequal terms. That entire period of Palestinian
history has fallen into disrepute for a number of reasons – not least
having to watch its ghoulish remains driving around in official cars
in Ramallah or posing at the White House – so the benefits are never
assessed, or potentially useful lessons drawn.
Unity and representation are the common goods Palestinians must
realise in order to advance their cause, and these clearly can’t be
achieved via any of the options currently being suggested to us: not
the distribution of the PA’s power between Hamas and Fatah (since the
only representative institutional structure for all Palestinians is
the Palestinian National Council, the parliament-in-exile of the PLO);
not a US-sponsored peace process; and not the plan for Palestinian
statehood proposed by the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, according to
which the institutions of an independent state will be built in the
face of a still expanding military occupation. Already by the 1970s,
thanks to its fluid institutional architecture, the revolution was
able to overcome national borders, protect its independence from the
Arab regimes and convey its demands to the solidarity movements who
supported it and exerted pressure on its behalf. Other national
liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s – the FLN, ANC, Swapo, the
Sandinistas – had to operate with their leaders underground and in
exile, developing their strategy outside the country while the
population remained rooted in the land they hoped to liberate. For
Palestinians, whose national politics were undone in an instant over a
single year in 1948, it took the concerted actions of tens of
thousands of cadres across the region to hold the people together
while at the same time putting sufficient pressure on those
governments, both Western and Arab, that would have preferred to see
us capitulate to Israel. The mood of that short period, as I remember
it, was profoundly popular and democratic: pluralist, multi-party,
universalist, secular and highly progressive. Palestinians who dared
not join in – businessmen, academics, the money-grubbing classes –
were carried along in its wake, and obeyed its mandate. Today we could
not be further from that fleeting moment of unity the revolution once
The experience of revolutionary life is difficult to describe. It is
as much metaphysical as imaginative, combining urgency,
purposefulness, seriousness and hard work, with a near celebratory
sense of adventure and overriding optimism – a sort of carnival
atmosphere of citizens’ rule. Key to its success is that this
heightened state is consciously and collectively maintained by tens of
thousands of people at the same time. If you get tired for a few hours
or days, you know others are holding the ring.
The third, counterintuitive feature of revolutions is that they are
usually launched by astonishingly small groups of individuals. The
Palestinian revolution was no exception. Young Palestinians today,
caught in the grind of their daily struggle, feel unable to make
contact with their own past: its stories are like fairytales, out of
their reach. The appropriate model for the emergence of the
Palestinian movement of the 1960s and 1970s isn’t the Leninist
vanguard party but the revolutions that established democracies in
19th-century Europe, where the acts of a few were matched, and then
rapidly overtaken, by an entire nation, all of whose members
considered themselves leaders. No one here waits around for
What usually goes unmentioned in the history books is the dangerous
and seemingly interminable slog that is required to build up to any
revolution’s launch: it may take years, even decades, once the match
is lit, for it to ignite a mobilisation large enough to create a truly
One of the individuals who still keeps the revolutionary spirit alive
in these bleak times phoned me this week, and this time I rang him
back. (Often I can’t face talking to him because his situation is so
terrible.) Ziyad was a key activist in the first Intifada when he was
a student at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, and for the last 20
years he has dedicated his life in Gaza to what is commonly known as
‘mobilising from below’. Ziyad is, or was, head of the Rafah refugee
camp’s popular committee, the local elected body, legendary now for
its history of civic resistance to Israeli rule. Ziyad is like an
artist, restlessly exploring ways to preserve people’s humanity amid
the oppression and misery of southern Gaza. His cool eye and steady
nerve, together with a seemingly inexhaustible affection for others,
have kept him from turning away in despair at the things he has seen.
At the height of the war on Gaza, he managed to create and sustain the
only committee that included all the factions, with Fatah members
working alongside Hamas, or vice versa. Members of other committees
that had previously tried this (including his own) had been kneecapped
for their pains.
Ziyad spent much of last year in prison in Gaza, and, as it turned out
when I returned his call, some of this year’s Ramadan as well. ‘Oh
no!’ I said, ‘What happened this time?’ He said that he’d been trying
to organise in the elementary schools. This struck me as one of the
funniest things I had heard in a long time: Ziyad laughed, too, when
he began telling me about it. He had tried to organise a prize-giving
in the camp for some of the students, but the current administration
in Gaza didn’t like the idea at all. ‘I am not selecting children from
Hamas families or Fatah families,’ he said, ‘just those who had done
well in school. I had to try something!’
What the administration in Gaza does not like, Ziyad said, is the idea
of movement, of freedom, of opening things up from below, of bringing
people together for any common purpose at all. I told him I had spoken
to Adnan in Beirut only that morning, and that the story was no
different there: Adnan has been forced to stay at home for months now,
unable to move. Until last year, he had worked closely with another
old friend of mine, Kamal Medhat, a child of the revolution who was
not so different from Ziyad in his determination to go it alone while
carrying everyone with him.
Just over a year ago Kamal was assassinated by a car bomb in south
Lebanon. He had been trying to urge people forward towards national
unity, and to attack the political corruption then entrenched in the
refugee camps: these two objectives, it soon became clear, were
intertwined. He was making a very successful job of it, for he brought
formidable experience to the task. Already a legend as a young man,
Kamal was responsible for, among many other things, the security of
the leadership when the revolution was centred in Beirut, and attempts
against it took place on an almost daily basis. An obituary in the
Arab press noted that ‘he constantly criticised Arafat, who would
laugh.’ This was true: Kamal could be brutally honest, but he made
everyone in the room feel happy, taking and giving endless orders,
joking, and being especially encouraging to young cadres, though also
quite tough. I witnessed at least a dozen acts of bravery by Kamal in
the 1970s and early 1980s. After the PLO leadership was evacuated to
Tunis in 1982, he returned to Lebanon to help lift the military siege
of the Palestinian refugee camps by the Syrians and their proxies. In
the 1990s, in disagreement with the leadership’s negotiating strategy,
he absented himself from public life, studying for a doctorate in
international law, staying very quiet. We lost track of each other
until a few years ago, when he burst back onto the scene in Lebanon,
unchanged and undefeated, now the second in command at the PLO embassy that had finally been re-established there.
I went to his funeral; we all walked the familiar path to the
Palestinian cemetery, accompanied by thousands of refugees, clapping
and singing and shouting revolutionary slogans. After the 40 days of
mourning I returned to Beirut, where the traditional memorial meeting
was convened at the Unesco palace. The hall was packed with
Palestinians from the refugee camps across Lebanon, and black and
white images of the handsome Kamal at different stages of his life
succeeded one another on a screen behind the stage. Most of the
Palestinian leaders were at an urgent meeting in Amman, and couldn’t
attend. The eerie pockets of silence at various moments throughout the
ceremony were bound up, it seemed to me, with the implications of his
death (don’t organise, don’t push, don’t try to change things for the
better). Something felt as if it was about to give.
His family, with whom I was staying, had asked me to speak about him,
as Kamal had been an early teacher of mine. Afterwards, in the foyer,
a stream of young people came up to me. They wanted me to know exactly
what he had meant to them: ‘Kamal was the only one who spoke up for
us’; ‘Kamal listened to us, he stood with us’; ‘He fought for us’; ‘He
encouraged us.’ One after another, they told me stories of what he
did. Each had recognised his revolutionary spirit, I thought, as I
watched them wander away afterwards into the streets of Beirut.
[Karma Nabulsi, a fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford and tutor in
politics, was a representative of the PLO in Lebanon, Tunis and the