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‘Hope’ Floats:
Hey Hollywood, Time to Put Your Money Where Your Morality Is

Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep In America

A coalition of nearly twenty American human rights and peace groups has joined the global justice community and numerous foreign governments in vowing to send more humanitarian aid ships to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza this coming Fall. The coalition, united under the mantle US To Gaza, includes activist organizations such as CodePink, Jews Say No, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Jewish Voice For Peace.In the wake of the deadly Israeli raid on an international flotilla carrying over 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and hundreds of civilian passengers, during which nine activists were murdered (if not outright executed

) by Israeli commandos in international waters, the global call to end the US-backed Israeli siege has grown even more forceful.

Later this year, boats from Europe, Canada, South Africa, India, and the Middle East are expected to set sail for Gaza once again. US To Gaza, which states on its website

that “America pays for the blockade with our tax dollars; Americans must join together to end this collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians,” aims to add a vital American element to this new Freedom Flotilla.

The U.S. boat, which will be named The Audacity of Hope (irony intended), is expected to carry an American peace delegation of forty to sixty passengers and will join its international flotilla partners en route. But purchasing a suitable ship, securing a sailing crew, obtaining the needed licenses and registration, gathering tons of humanitarian aid, and sailing for Gaza is a costly endeavor. It is estimated that at least $370,000 needs to be raised from private donors in the next month for the U.S. ship to become, not merely hopeful audacity, but a necessary reality.
All in all, $370,000 isn’t that much money. For instance, South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual donors giving less than $200 just because he called Barack Obama a liar. If a jackass like Wilson can raise that kind of money for shouting a disingenuous falsehood

, raising funds for a just cause like breaking the illegal Gaza blockade shouldn’t be that hard.

Sure, the fund-raising goal can be hit with 3,700 people each pledging $100 or a mere 370 donations of $1,000 each. But why is the bar for funding justice and fighting illegal collective punishment

so low? Where are the big donors who could single-handedly buy a boat and subsidize the entire delegation? Why does it seem like such a stretch for American supporters of human rights and international law to send an armada of siege-breaking ships to Gaza?

Perhaps, in order to open borders and ship a little bit of hope to suffering Palestinians in the Middle East, US to Gaza organizers should be looking for a lot of financial support from open wallets on the West Coast.
Hollywood has no shortage of outspoken Zionists, ethnic cleansing enthusiasts, and racist, right-wing nutjobs. There are those who condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement and promote Israeli hasbara like Jerry Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen, Minnie Driver, and Natalie Portman (who was also a proud research assistant of Alan Dershowitz and is thanked in his appalling book The Case for Israel); there are those who oppose resistance to Israeli aggression and expansion and laud Israeli assaults that take the lives of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians like actors Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton, Doug Liman, Gary Sinise, Kristen Chenowith, Michael Chiklis, Vivica A. Fox, Nicole Kidman, Pat Sajak, Bernie Mac and William Hurt, along with filmmakers like Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, William Friedkin, Richard Donner and Sam Raimi; there are Zionist zealots like John Malkovich and Richard Dreyfuss; there’s also Jon Voigt


There are celebrities like Jason Alexander, who, despite his work with the two-state promoting OneVoice/Imagine Peace project, was an honored guest at last year’s Friends of the IDF Fundraising Gala and shill for Jewish television programming that endorses violent, fanatical Zionist settler ideologies.  There are fashion designers like Elie Tahari, who donated

a whopping $100,000 at this year’s IDF love-fest in March.

With friends like these, it’s no wonder that the IDF, a foreign military that oppresses and occupies an indigenous population, raised over $20 million in one night at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan. But American donors don’t only fund the Occupation, they also fund illegal Jewish settlements –  to the tune of tax-free hundreds of millions over the past decade – that have now aggressively stolen and colonized over 42% of the West Bank

So where are their anti-occupation, pro-international law counterparts, especially the ones with equally deep pockets? The truth is they’re everywhere.

From Alice Walker to Vanessa Redgrave, Harry Belafonte to Viggo Mortensen, Julie Christie, Wallace Shawn, Alan Rickman, Jonathan Demme, Stephen King, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Irwin, Tilda Swinton, Wim Wenders, Uma Thurman, Debra Winger, Tony Kushner, Roger Ebert, Richard Gere, John Cusack, Sally Kirkland, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, Danny Glover, Oliver Stone, Ed Asner, Sophie Fiennes, Casey Kasem, and Jeremy Pikser,

celebrity support for Palestinian freedom and an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade is widespread in Tinseltown.

Actresses Salma Hayek, Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Andie MacDowell, Lucy Liu, Whitney Houston and Sharon Stone all had their pictures removed

from the website of blood diamond dealer Lev Leviev after being alerted to Leviev’s criminal funding of illegal West Bank settlements.

Musicians like Mos Def, Laurie Anderson, Boots Riley, Steve Earle, David Byrne, Neil Young, Santana, and Roger Waters all publicly oppose Israel’s systematic oppression and land theft and Annie Lennox protested

against the 2008-9 Israel slaughter of over 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza.

Megastars Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan canceled their attendance at this year’s annual Jerusalem Film Festival the day after Israel’s bloody raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and recent performances by The Pixies, Elvis Costello, Gorillaz, Devendra Banhart, and Snoop Dogg were also canceled

for similar – if not identical – reasons.

All of these well-heeled celebrities should take their courageous boycott of Israeli apartheid and aggression even further by funding more humanitarian aid ships. With their help, supplementing the support of small donors, the illegal blockade

can indeed be broken.

The Israeli policy of brutal blockade is clear. In 2006, after Palestinians democratically elected Hamas to the shock and chagrin of both Israel and the US (who had insisted on the elections in the first place), an economic and commercial siege was put into place by Israel as a punishment for Palestinian self-determination. As Dov Weisglass, adviser to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, jokingly declared

, “It’s like an appointment with a dietitian. The Palestinians in Gaza will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.”

Collective punishment, via forced deprivation and near-starvation, is unequivocally illegal. International law is quite clear in this regard. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which has governed Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 (and has been repeatedly affirmed by both the UN Security Council and General Assembly), states plainly:

“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

Furthermore, though the Israeli intention may not have been to kill Palestinians in Gaza via food and medicine shortages, they have more than made up for it with their subsequent use of bombs, missiles, tank shells, bullets, depleted uranium, flechettes, white phosphorous, and DIME weaponry.

Still, Israeli officials such as former-Prime Minster, now Defense Minister, Ehud Barak and Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, Yossi Gal, continue to claim

that “there is no shortage in humanitarian aid to Gaza, as food, fuel and supplies are regularly transferred into Gaza by international organizations.”

No mention is made of the fact that all building material, such as cement, plaster and dry wall, is banned from entering Gaza, in addition to the absurd prohibition

of so-called “dual use” medicines, rope, wood, razors, light bulbs, textiles and fabrics, sewing and hypodermic needles, sewing machines, candles, matches, mattresses, bedsheets, pillowcases, blankets, cutlery, books, newspapers, coffee, tea, cigarettes, clothing, shoes, pencils and paper, fresh meat, seeds, nuts, cilantro, sage, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, vinegar, biscuits, candy, potato chips, jam, chocolate, french fries, canned or dried fruit, notebooks, empty flowerpots, fishing rods or line, livestock, musical instruments, and children’s toys.

Obviously, Israeli officials take no note of the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN which has reported that 61% of Gazans are “food insecure,” of which “65% are children under 18 years

;” the level of anemia in infants is as high as 65.5%, about 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid, and 60% have no daily access to water.

As Rebecca Sargent of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network notes, “Much of the population remains unemployed and thus have no money to buy supplies for themselves. The UN resolution 1860

calls for the unfettered access of aid and commercial goods to Gaza, although it would appear this call has been mostly ignored by the Israeli government’s blockade.”

Also, as of the end of 2009, a U.N. report found that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory,” and also “blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.” Since June 2007, “the number of Palestine refugees unable to access food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water, has tripled” and over 80 UN and aid agencies agree

that “the formal economy in Gaza has collapsed.”

On May 31, the six-ship Gaza Freedom Flotilla was lethally attacked in international waters (the ships had no intention of sailing through Israeli territory) about 80 miles (130 kilometers) off the Gaza coast in an early morning raid by elite Israeli commandos. The attack was conducted after Israel cut off all communications from the ships and surrounded the flotilla with over 20 naval vessels and warships, along with multiple helicopters. In addition to the 45 highly-trained and heavily-armed commandos

who rappelled onto the largest ship, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, murdering at least 9 civilians and wounding about 60 more, about 650 other Israeli troops, including surveillance and support troops alongside those who actually boarded the ships, took part in the illegal assault on the flotilla.

The Mavi Marmara carried 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid on board including 6,000 tons of cement, more than 2,000 tons of iron, 100 prefabricated houses, 500 wheelchairs, crutches, medical equipment, wood and glass for building, electric generators, water purifiers, a mobile dental care facility, and food and had even been confirmed

not to be transporting any weaponry by authorities before its departure.

Another aid ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, carrying 550 tons of cement, 20 tons of paper for printing school books, 25 tons of school supplies, 12 tons of sports equipment and 150 tons of medical supplies, was also illegally seized

by the Israeli Navy a few days later.

On June 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an “easing” of the four-year-long Gaza siege, declaring

, “Today, after we lifted the civilian blockade of Gaza there is no reason or justification for further flotillas.”

Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz reports

that “The highlight of the new policy is to be the creation and distribution of a detailed ‘black list’ of goods that will not be permitted into the Gaza Strip,” continuing that, now, “Only weapons or ‘dual-use’ materials that could be used to manufacture weapons will be on the list. Any item not on the list will be permitted into Gaza.”

As a result of this new policy, items such as car parts, agricultural and fishing tools, cosmetics, perfumes, soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy

are now being imported into Gaza.

Nevertheless, the siege has not ended. Even though coriander, chocolate, and Coca-Cola are now allowed through Israel’s military checkpoints, goods such as cement, steel, iron, fertilizers, gas tanks, drilling equipment and water disinfectant are still prohibited. In fact, The Los Angeles Times reveals

that “the new list of banned and restricted items, which fills several hundred pages, still includes goods and supplies vital to Gaza’s economic recovery.”

Consequently, Karin Laub of Associated Press reports

that “because Israel will continue to ban most travel and exports and restrict the import of desperately needed construction materials, the new rules are unlikely to restore the territory’s devastated economy or allow rebuilding of all that was destroyed in last year’s war [sic].”

In short, Israel’s ongoing crime against humanity in Gaza continues. As long as Israel maintains its military control of Gaza’s economy, land and sea borders, airspace, restricts (or outright denies) the freedom of movement of its 1.5 million imprisoned inhabitants, and continues murdering Palestinians with Apache helicopters, F-15 and F-16 bombers, unmanned drones and remote-controlled machine guns

, Gaza will not be free.

If the negative international attention Israel received after the Mavi Marmara massacre led to the so-called “easing” of the Gaza siege, there’s no telling what a constant barrage of boats might do. Therefore, until this collective punishment of innocent civilians ceases completely and Israel is held accountable

for its crimes, more boats must continue to sail to Gaza. Among those boats should be a massive American contingent, funded by bold and steadfast believers in self-determination, human rights, and international law.  We have paid for the Israeli oppression of Palestine for so long with our tax dollars, it’s now time to fight for Palestinian freedom with our tax-exempt donations.

And so, to all you stars of summer blockbusters and sold-out stadiums, start giving generously so that a fleet of blockade-busting boats can start their engines.


Nima Shirazi is a writer and musician from New York City. He is a contributing columnist for Foreign Policy Journal and Palestine Think Tank. His analysis of United States policy and Middle East issues, particularly with reference to current events in Palestine and Iran, can be found in numerous other online and print publications, such as Palestine Chronicle, Monthly Review, ColdType, Atlantic Free Press, Information Clearing House, OpEdNews, Countercurrents, The Rag Blog, Fluxed Up World, VoltaireNet, The People’s Voice, Axis of Logic, Salem News, Middle East Online, World Can’t Wait, CASMII, Ramallah Online, Kenya Imagine, InfoWars, and Woodstock International. 

He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife and books.

Visit his website at:

Contact him at


International Women’s Peace Service urgently looking for long term volunteers

Dear Friends,
IWPS – International Women’s Peace Service will have to be closed down
if we can not find enough new long term volunteers to continue our work
in Palestine. It would be greatly appreciated if you could publish our
call for volunteers or forward it over your lists!!Thank you so much,
Clara, IWPS
International Human Rights Volunteers Needed in Palestine
The  International  Women¹s Peace Service (IWPS) is a team of
international female human-rights volunteers in Palestine who provide
accompaniment to Palestinian civilians (including farmers during the
annual olive harvest), document and non-violently intervene in
human-rights abuses and support acts of non-violent resistance to end
the Israeli military occupation and construction of the barrier
throughout the West Bank.
IWPS is currently inviting applications from women who would like to
join our team of long-term volunteers.
Successful applicants will be invited to a 9 day training program and
meeting in Portugal (Sept 11th- 19th, 2010) and will serve a minimum
of one 3 month term in the West Bank, Palestine, as well as supporting
our work outside of Palestine.
Applicants should be able to commit to further terms in Palestine of
one to three months in their 2nd and 3rd year of commitment to IWPS.
Short term volunteers are also welcome to apply (

for minimum volunteer periods of 3 weeks

For more information about IWPS and our activities please see our

(please note our website is currently being

If you would like more information and/or would like to receive an
application pack please contact us at applyiwps@gmail. com
Deadline for applications 31st July 2010

Choose Peace: End The Siege On Gaza

By Mairead Maguire

17 July, 2010

Two months have passed since Israel’s attack on a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza, with very tragic results—including nine deaths and 40 injuries. Yet, as this week’s events quietly reveal, it seems Israel will get away with its blatant disrespect for international law and not be held accountable for this disaster.

It was reported on Monday that an Israeli military commission found “no failure” on the part of the commandos who took part in the attack. And while the UN Security Council and human rights groups called for an independent and “credible” inquiry into the matter, there are no such plans in the works. Israel has deemed such independent efforts as “anti-Israel” and a threat to the existence of the state. The result? The US and indeed the rest of the international community stand on the sidelines, doing nothing.

On June 5, I was aboard the MV Rachel Corrie—a ship named for a young American activist who was bulldozed to death by the Israeli army in 2003—heading to Gaza. Just days earlier, we had heard via satellite phone that Israeli commandos had boarded six ships, including the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara, in international water, and had killed and injured many aboard.

As the seventh ship of the Freedom Flotilla, we now found ourselves in a frighteningly similar scenario.

The 19 crew and activists aboard the MV Rachel Corrie heard that 35 heavily armed Israeli commandos were now preparing to board our ship. We sat down on the deck to await their arrival. Some of us wondered whether we would face the same fate as our colleagues aboard the Mavi Marmara.

The killing of unarmed civilians was devastating news to us all. They were not terrorists—they were human beings. Like me, they believed that Gaza should no longer be a place of suffering and isolation for its inhabitants.

And like me, and all of the other activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, they believed in peace.

In the 1970s people told me that peace would not come to Northern Ireland, just as they now tell me that peace is not possible in Israel and Palestine. I lost my niece and two nephews and my sister to the violence in Ireland, and it breaks my heart to see the same fate fall upon so many Israeli and Palestinian families. I have hope and believe that peace will come to Palestine and Israel because I have met so many people there on the ground working to make it happen.

And, just as it brought peace to Northern Ireland, nonviolent resistance will bring peace to this war torn region. That is why I keep coming back to Gaza, much to the Israeli government’s dismay. The last time I attempted to deliver humanitarian aid, in June 2009, I was detained for one week.

On this trip, the world was watching. Many, myself included, believed the tragic events of May 31 would finally open the world’s eyes to the even greater tragedy—Israel’s collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians. The violations of international law committed by Israel are well documented by the United Nations and many independent human rights bodies.

Even so, the violations continue under the guise of “national security”, and a policy of isolating Gaza to weaken Hamas.

It is a policy that clearly is not working. Instead, it has turned Gaza into what has rightly been described as the largest open-air prison in the world. The blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza for the past three years has only punished innocent Palestinians. Lack of access to medical supplies and hospital treatments leads to a loss of life. Bright and eager students are unable to accept spots offered at international universities. Families are unable to rebuild homes destroyed during Israel’s crushing assault on Gaza that killed over 1,400 people in the winter of 2008 and 2009.

And Hamas, Israel’s intended target and the elected representative of the Palestinian people, grows stronger.

Meanwhile, the recent report released by the Israeli military shows that Israel will continue to choose ineffectual policies and violence over peace. In fact, the report went so far as to praise the Israeli commandos who killed nine civilians and injured dozens more, saying they operated “properly, with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness” and that the use of live fire was justified.

A separate inquiry in Israel is underway, led by a retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice. Given the outcome of this first report, there is no reason to be optimistic that this panel will do anything more than reinforce Israel’s culture of impunity. Nothing less than an independent investigation is acceptable to the families of the victims of the raid and, most importantly, the Palestinian people living in Gaza.

It is about time that we open our eyes. The international community must finally stop allowing Israel to act with blatant disregard for international law and human rights. The partial lifting of the siege shows what international pressure can achieve, but it is not enough.

It is time for Israel to choose peace. It is time for world leaders and the international community to join together and call on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza completely, ending the occupation of Palestine and allowing the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.

Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate
Peace People, N.Ireland.


By Anthony Barnes
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Palestinians Suffer for the Sins of Others

PALESTINE’S FUTURE – Deheishe Refugee Camp, 2005 by Unknown


“We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities.

Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal – in Israel; and the other – cruel, injurious – in the occupied territories.

In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.”

 — Former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair, 2002



My boyhood occurred during an era when Jewish delicatessens, not McDonald’s or Burger Kings, were the norm in many neighborhoods of Boston, particularly mine — Roxbury — which, until the late 1960’s, was a predominantly Jewish enclave. So, as it turned out, my earliest exposure to persons of the Jewish faith was largely a product of my fondness for the outstanding kosher hot dogs my friends and I regularly devoured at Max Andrews.

“Max-Ann’s,” as we called it then, was a Jewish deli located on Blue Hill Avenue in close proximity to the Nation of Islam’s Temple No. 11, whose minister at one time, Louis Farrakhan, graduated from the school I later attended Boston English, the nation’s oldest public high school.

At that time, even if out of sheer ignorance I accepted a crass, stereotypical description of what Jews looked like — white people with large noses –I was far more clueless as to what a Jew actually is. Perhaps not surprisingly, in that context, Jewish-ness, if you will, sort of flew under the radar. It held little, if any relevancy to me. That is, until Carl Zidel helped make it relevant. But more about that later

Right now, in light of the recent Israeli flotilla attack, and on the heels of our nation’s own Independence Day celebrations, the issue at hand is my ever-increasing frustration at coming to terms with the seemingly casual disregard much of the American public and the world at large has for the lives and future of nearly 4 million of its fellow human beings.

Of course, I’m referring to the Palestinians, that itinerant tribe, indigenous to the territory we now call Israel, which for decades has existed as an essentially despised and dispersed nation of homeless squatters. Awash in the largely synthetic concern to those nations that matter, they’ve been shuttled from country to country like a nomadic Fourth World outsider class, incongruously infringing upon territories that are about as much their own as those areas of Palestine are to the Israeli settlers who now occupy them. They’ve undergone a soulless and incalculable disregard generally reserved for the world’s un-saintly pariahs, apparently for committing the intolerable sin of fighting to reclaim territories from which they were forcibly removed generations ago.


“It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” –Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 1998.


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 Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more…)

Draw me a Monster

Op-ed, Boaz Okon [legal affairs editor], Yediot, June 22 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Just like in a children’s connect-the-dots coloring book, where connecting random dots creates a picture, so in Israel, if you connect a number of horrifying, multiplying incidents, you begin to see a monster.

Dot number one: a school in Emmanuel segregates students along ethnic lines. The court, upholding the principle of equality, orders the segregation to be canceled, but is held in contempt by an entire prejudiced community. They rely on the old defense plea “tu quique” — “you too” — meaning you too maintain hidden segregation. That is a pathetic and perverse defense, but it is disturbing because the number of mizrahi Jews in academe, the legal institutions and the senior civil service is too low.

Dot number two: MK Hanin Zoabi joined the flotilla to Gaza. As a result, Knesset members shouted at her “go to Gaza.” Zoabi is an Israeli citizen. Even if her actions are infuriating, you cannot incite against her and call for her expulsion. In the US, when an elderly journalist suggested the Jews in Israel go to Poland, the president condemned her and she had to step down. Our legislators are trying to pass laws to block the funding of bodies such as the New Israel Fund or B’Tselem, only because they dare tell us the truth to our faces.

Dot number three: in Hebron there is segregation between Jews and Arabs, and entire streets are blocked to Arab Palestinians. This decree was passed after the Jewish Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Arabs. And as if that weren’t bad enough, Israeli Arabs are not allowed to walk around the streets of Hebron. It turns out that Arab identity in itself constitutes a provocation and pretext for disturbances by Jews. The situation is considered normal, and therefore the segregation regime on Highway 443, which the court canceled on paper, continues to exist in practice.

And another dot: among the senior civil service in Israel, in the courts as well as in academe, the number of Arabs is minute. And another dot:  punishment of Arabs is harsher than of Jews. And another dot: at the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations police are heavy-handed with the demonstrators for Arab rights and gentle with the demonstrators for Jewish rights. And another dot: a judge places obstacles on two men who wish to bring their children born to a surrogate mother to Israel, because of their sexual orientation. And another dot: violation of suspects’ rights is widespread, and more than once false confessions have been extracted from suspects, usually members of minorities, foreign workers or Ethiopians. Nobody investigates the police. The evil spirit, which is quick to convict and loaths differences of opinion and the presumption of innocence, has become part of the culture.

And this too: foreign workers are forbidden from multiplying here, as if they were draft animals. And another dot: gag orders are issued routinely and without justification, and wiretapping orders are issued with a light hand. There is no reaction to illegal wiretapping by the government. In the same way a law is passed to establish a biometric database, despite its violation of privacy, as is the “big brother” law, allowing monitoring of cellular phone calls, e-mail and Internet. And there are many more points concerning the cheapening of the democratic process, buying votes and buying entire parties with offices and benefits. 

These dots are growing evidence of the lack of the spirit of freedom and the emergence of apartheid and fascism. If you look at each dot separately you might miss the bigger picture. Like a child watching a military brigade march, and after seeing the battalions, the batteries and the companies, asking: “And when is the brigade finally coming?” the answer is that while he watched the marching of the battalions, batteries and companies, he was actually watching the brigade. So is the situation in Israel. You do not have to ask where the apartheid is. These events, which are accepted with silence and indifference, together create a picture of a terrible reality.

Why are equal rights dangerous?

In today’s Israel, advocating equal rights for all can prove fatal, writes Ahmad Tibi*

In the 11 years that I have served in Israel’s Knesset I have received numerous death threats. Pulsa Denura (the term for a rabbinical death curse) has evidently taken exception to my consistent call for equal rights for Israel’s Palestinian minority. Recently I received a letter — the second in as many days — that warned: “You have 180 days to live. Your death will be sudden and cruel, accompanied by great pain… “

Last month, I was forcibly removed by armed guards from the Knesset podium. In recent days, colleagues have faced violent and vulgar rhetoric and one was very nearly physically attacked by fellow Knesset members. Much, but not all of this fury, is a consequence of daring to speak out on behalf of Palestinians in the biggest prison in the world, Gaza, a land cruelly and illegally deprived of essential goods. Yet American elected officials seem far more concerned with specious claims against humanitarian aid workers who were violently attacked and abducted by Israel in international waters.

A young American citizen was killed execution-style aboard the lead ship, with one bullet to the chest and four, at close range, to the head. The next day, another young American, Emily Henochowicz, a college student at New York’s prestigious Cooper Union, had her eye shot out by an Israeli-fired tear gas canister as she peacefully protested against the flotilla raid. Days later, a Palestinian man married to an American woman was executed after what appears to have been a traffic accident at an Israeli checkpoint.

American officials have not demanded accountability for these acts of violence. Instead, too many are busy responding to AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which has released a list of members of Congress parroting the group’s talking points. They speak of Israel’s right to “defend itself” from humanitarian workers brutally murdered in international waters by the equivalent of modern-day pirates. It seems that only in the US Congress is this perverted Israeli rationale accepted as reality.

The new American president’s silence is even more disappointing. It reminds us that Palestinian freedom and equal rights are unlikely to be secured by a United States committed to false notions of Israeli security. Since his Cairo speech, President Barack Obama has failed to pursue new policies. In the Middle East, he is regarded as full of fine but empty words. Empty because securing Palestinian freedom and equal rights requires standing up to Israel.

Furthermore, the president is grievously undercut by fellow top Democrats such as Senator Charles Schumer who recently said of Palestinians in Gaza that it made sense “to strangle them economically” because they elected Hamas and “they don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” This racist sadism may play well with some of Senator Schumer’s constituents at the Orthodox Union where he was cheered for his remarks, but it goes over very poorly with Palestinians agonising over stunted and malnourished children. One can imagine the uproar had he suggested economically strangling Israelis for electing neo-fascists such as Avigdor Lieberman.

The one glimmer of hope I see came from President Obama’s National Security Strategy of May 2010. Promisingly, the document calls for “rights for all Israelis”. But the strategy requires crucial elaboration. We have some rights in Israel. The question is whether we will have equal rights and here the document falls silent. The issue is vital as the human rights organisation Adalah has documented over three-dozen Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. As we have learned with Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, constructive ambiguity is not helpful. American support for a “Jewish state” suggests a willingness to relegate Palestinian citizens of that state to inferior standing, much as one would expect for other groups in a “white, Christian state”.

Israel’s current government clearly opposes equal rights and its most extreme members are threatening the overthrow of numerous democratic norms. Foreign Minister Lieberman leads the charge with his loyalty oath that threatens to strip Palestinians of citizenship. More than 20 bills have been introduced since Netanyahu took office in spring 2009 that would exacerbate discrimination against the Palestinian minority.

Between the Scylla of death threats and the Charybdis of expulsion, the standing of Palestinian citizens of Israel is as tenuous as it has been since the lifting of martial law in 1966. Democratic allies of Israel must concern themselves not only with Israel’s 43- year subjugation of Palestinians in the occupied territories, but with the mounting threats being directed at Israel’s minority population by a majority that wrongly deems us a fifth column for demanding to be treated as equal human beings regardless of whether or not we believe in the Torah.

* The writer is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and is a member and deputy speaker of the Knesset.

Palestinian-Israeli Minister Loses Passport For Flotilla Involvement

Palestine Monitor

15 July 2010

On Tuesday, Israeli ministers voted to strip MK Haneen Zouabi of her parliamentary privileges for participating in the Gaza flotilla. The motion, carried by a 34-16 majority in a special committee, is the first of its kind in Knesset (Israeli parliament) history. Prominent academics and representatives of civil rights groups have condemned the decision.

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The ruling is not expected to impact severely on Zouabi’s ministerial duties, but is a reflection of right-wing anger over her travelling on the aid flotilla to Gaza in May. The first female Arab Knesset member has been stripped of her diplomatic passport, her right to have litigation fees covered has been revoked and she is no longer permitted to leave the country.

Zouabi has been the target for hostility since her return from the ill-fated Mavi Marmara , on which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos. Her speeches in the Knesset have been marked by chants of ‘terrorist’ and ‘traitor’ from the floor. During one heated exchange this month, video footage showed MKs attempting to physically attack her.

Yesterday, MK Yariv Levin (Likud), who chaired the committee on rescinding her privileges, told Zouabi “you are unworthy of holding an Israeli ID and you embarrass the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab population and your family”. Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union party, a prominent supporter of the ruling announced “the people of Israel don’t want to see Zouabi in the Knesset.” The attacks reached a farcical level when MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu) presented Zouabi with a home-made Iranian passport, because of her “loyalty to Iran”.

House speaker Reuben Rivlin, who opposed the ruling despite disagreeing with Zouabi’s actions, commented “I believe that everyone should have the right to speak their minds, even if what they say hurts me.”

It is a view shared by Naomi Chazan, former Knesset speaker, MK and current president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), the umbrella group which supports most Israeli human rights groups. “This is the first time in history a Knesset member has been punished in this way, it is unprecedented. You can disagree with what she did but if you suppress freedom of speech and association, it’s a slippery slope. This is part of an increasing, systematic attempt to curtail freedom of speech and because this is a Knesset member its particularly significant. She is representing the opinion of her voters which is precisely her job and if you move away from that principle your entering very dangerous territory.”

Dr. Keudon Rahat, senior political lecturer at the Hebrew university criticised the ruling as ‘undemocratic’. “The danger here is politicians using their power as a majority to attack minorities. I don’t like Zouabi, to me she is as nationalist as (Foreign Minister) Avigdor Lieberman, but she is in no way a threat so the decision is not justified.”

Zouabi herself felt the ruling represented part of a wider campaign against Israel’s Arab citizens, who account for 18% of the population. She recently went on record saying “80% of new laws passed in the Knesset are against Arabs”. Certainly Arab politicians are under increasing pressure. Last week the High Court ordered the expulsion of four elected Hamas officials from their East Jerusalem residences, while Sheikh Raed Salah has just received a five month prison sentence for allegedly spitting on a border guard.

“Israel treats Palestinians not as citizens but as enemies. This hostile dealing comes across all institutions, not just politically or in the Knesset, but also the court system, which is supposed to protect the rights of its citizens,” Zouabi said after the ruling.

More fallout from the flotilla here

Uri Avnery


                        A Parliamentary Mob 

WHEN I was first elected to the Knesset, I was appalled at what I found. I discovered that, with rare exceptions, the intellectual level of the debates was close to zero. They consisted mainly of strings of clichés of the most commonplace variety. During most of the debates, the plenum was almost empty. Most participants spoke vulgar Hebrew. When voting, many members had no idea what they were voting for or against, they just followed the party whip. 

That was 1967, when the Knesset included members like Levy Eshkol and Pinchas Sapir, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin and Yohanan Bader,  Meir Yaari and Yaakov Chazan, for whom today streets, highroads and neighborhoods are named. 

In comparison to the present Knesset, that Knesset now looks like Plato’s Academy.  

WHAT FRIGHTENED me more than anything else was the readiness of members to enact irresponsible laws for the sake of fleeting popularity, especially at times of mass hysteria. One of my first Knesset initiatives was to submit a bill which would have created a second chamber, a kind of Senate, composed of outstanding personalities, with the power to hold up the enactment of new laws and compel the Knesset to reconsider them after an interval. This, I hoped, would prevent laws being hastily adopted in an atmosphere of excitement. 

The bill was not considered seriously, neither by the Knesset nor by the general public. The Knesset almost unanimously voted it down. (After some years, several of the members told me that they regretted their vote.)  The newspapers nicknamed the proposed chamber “the House of Lords” and ridiculed it. Haaretz devoted a whole page of cartoons to the proposal, depicting me in the garb of a British peer. 

So there is no brake. The production of irresponsible laws, most of them racist and anti-democratic, is booming. The more the government itself is turning into an assembly of political hacks, the more the likelihood of its preventing such legislation is diminishing. The present government, the largest, basest and most despised in Israel’s history, is cooperating with the Knesset members who submit such bills, and even initiating them itself. 

The only remaining obstacle to this recklessness is the Supreme Court. In the absence of a written constitution, it has taken upon itself the power to annul scandalous laws that violate democracy and human rights. But the Supreme Court itself is beleaguered by rightists who want to destroy it, and is moving with great caution. It intervenes only in the most extreme cases. 

Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen: parliament, the highest expression of democracy, is itself now posing a dire threat to Israeli democracy.  

THE MAN who personifies this phenomenon more than anyone else is MK Michael Ben-Ari of the “National Union” faction, the heir of Meir Kahane, whose organization “Kach” (“Thus”) was outlawed many years ago because of its openly fascist character. 

Kahane himself was elected to the Knesset only once. The reaction of the other members was unequivocal: whenever he rose to speak, almost all the other members left the hall. The rabbi had to make his speeches before a handful of ultra-right colleagues. 

A few weeks ago I visited the present Knesset for the first time since its election. I went there to listen to a debate about a subject that concerns me too: the decision of the Palestinian Authority to boycott the products of the settlements, a dozen years after Gush Shalom started this boycott. I spent some hours in the building, and from hour to hour my revulsion deepened. 

The main cause was a circumstance I had not been aware of: MK Ben-Ari, the disciple and admirer of Kahane, holds sway there. Not only is he not an isolated outsider on the fringe of parliamentary life, as his mentor had been, but on the contrary, he is at the center. I saw the members of almost all other factions crowding around him in the members’ cafeteria and listening to his perorations with rapt attention in the plenum. No doubt can remain that Kahanism – the Israeli version of fascism – has moved from the margin to center stage. 

Recently, the country witnessed a scene that looked like something from the parliament of South Korea or Japan. 

On the Knesset speaker’s rostrum stood MK Haneen Zoabi of the Arab nationalist Balad faction and tried to explain why she had joined the Gaza aid flotilla that had been attacked by the Israeli navy. MK Anastasia Michaeli, a member of the Lieberman party, jumped from her seat and rushed to the rostrum, letting out blood-curdling shrieks, waving her arms, in order to remove Haneen Zoabi by force. Other members rose from their seats to help Michaeli. Near the speaker, a threatening crowd of Knesset members gathered. Only with great difficulty did the ushers succeed in saving Zoabi from bodily harm. One of the male members shouted at her, in a typical mixture of racism and sexism: “Go to Gaza and see what they will do to a 41 year old unmarried woman!” 

One could not imagine a greater contrast than that between the two MKs. While Haneen Zoabi belongs to a family whose roots in the Nazareth area go back centuries, perhaps to the time of Jesus, Anastasia Michaeli was born in (then) Leningrad. She was elected “Miss St. Petersburg” and then became a fashion model, married an Israeli, converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel at age 24 but sticks to her very Russian first name. She has given birth to eight children. She may be a candidate for the Israeli Sarah Palin, who, after all, was also once a beauty queen..  

As far as I could make out, not a single Jewish member raised a finger to defend Zoabi during the tumult. Nothing but some half-hearted protest from the Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, and a Meretz member, Chaim Oron. 

In all the 61 years of its existence, the Knesset had not seen such a sight. Within a minute the sovereign assembly turned into a parliamentary lynch mob. 

One does not have to support the ideology of Balad to respect the impressive personality of Haneen Zoabi. She speaks fluently and persuasively, has degrees from two Israeli universities, fights for the rights of women within the Israeli-Arab community and is the first female member of an Arab party in the Knesset. Israeli democracy could be proud of her. She belongs to a large Arab extended family. The brother of her grandfather was the mayor of Nazareth, one uncle was a deputy minister and another a Supreme Court judge. (Indeed, on my first day in the Knesset I proposed that another member of the Zoabi family be elected as Speaker.)  

This week, the Knesset decided by a large majority to adopt a proposal by Michael Ben-Ari, supported by Likud and Kadima members, to strip Haneen Zoabi of her parliamentary privileges. Even before, Interior Minister Eli Yishai had asked the Legal Advisor to the Government for approval of his plan to strip Zoabi of her Israeli citizenship on the grounds of treason. One of the Knesset members shouted at her: “You have no place in the Israeli Knesset! You have no right to hold an Israeli identity card!” 

On the very same day, the Knesset took action against the founder of Zoabi’s party, Azmi Bishara. In a preliminary hearing, it approved a bill – this one, too, supported by both Likud and Kadima members – aimed at denying Bishara his pension, which is due after his resignation from the Knesset. (He is staying abroad, after being threatened with an indictment for espionage.)  

The proud parents of these initiatives, which enjoy massive support from Likud, Kadima, Lieberman’s party and all the religious factions, do not hide their intention to expel all the Arabs from parliament and establish at long last a pure Jewish Knesset. The latest decisions of the Knesset are but parts of a prolonged campaign, which gives birth almost every week to new initiatives from publicity-hungry members, who know that the more racist and anti-democratic their bills are, the more popular they will be with their electorate. 

Such was this weeks Knesset decision to condition the acquisition of citizenship on the candidate’s swearing allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”, thus demanding that Arabs (especially foreign Arab spouses of Arab citizens) subscribe to the Zionist ideology. The equivalent would be the demand that new American citizens swear allegiance to the USA as a “white Anglo-Saxon protestant state”.   

There seems to be no limit to this parliamentary irresponsibility. All red lines have been crossed long ago. This does not concern only the parliamentary representation of more than 20% of Israel’s citizens, but there is a growing tendency towards depriving all Arab citizens of their citizenship altogether.     

THIS TENDENCY is connected with the ongoing attack on the status of the Arabs in East Jerusalem. 

This week I was present at the hearing in Jerusalem’s magistrates court on the detention of Muhammed Abu Ter, one of the four Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament from Jerusalem. The hearing was held in a tiny room, which can seat only about a dozen spectators. I succeeded only with great difficulty in getting in. 

After they were elected in democratic elections, in conformity with Israel’s explicit obligation under the Oslo agreement to allow the Arabs in East Jerusalem to take part, the government announced that their “permanent resident” status had been revoked. 

What does that mean? When Israel “annexed” East Jerusalem in 1967, the government did not dream of conferring citizenship on the inhabitants, which would have significantly increased the percentage of Arab voters in Israel. Neither did they invent a new status for them. Lacking other alternatives, the inhabitants became “permanent residents”, a status devised for foreigners who wish to stay in Israel. The Minister of the Interior has the right to revoke this status and deport such people to their countries of origin.  

Clearly, this definition of “permanent residents” should not apply to the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. They and their forefathers were born there, they have no other citizenship and no other place of residence. The revoking of their status turns them into politically homeless people without protection of any kind. 

The state lawyers argued in court that with the cancellation of his “permanent resident” status, Abu Ter has become an “illegal person” whose refusal to leave the city warrants unlimited detention. 

(A few hours earlier, the Supreme Court dealt with our petition concerning the investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident. We won a partial, but significant, victory: for the first time in its history, the Supreme Court agreed to interfere in a matter concerning a commission of inquiry. The court decided that if the commission requires the testimony of military officers and the government tries to prevent this, the court will intervene.) 

IF SOME people are trying to delude themselves into believing that the parliamentary mob will harm “only Arabs”, they are vastly mistaken. The only question is: who is next in line? 

This week, the Knesset gave the first reading to a bill to impose heavy penalties on any Israeli who advocates a boycott on Israel, in general, and on economic enterprises, universities and other Israeli institutions, including settlements, in particular. Any such institution will be entitled to an indemnity of 5000 dollars from every supporter of the boycott. 

A call for boycott is a democratic means of expression. I object very much to a general boycott on Israel, but (following Voltaire) am ready to fight for everybody’s right to call for such a boycott. The real aim of the bill is, of course, to protect the settlements: it is designed to deter those who call for a boycott of the products of the settlements which exist on occupied land outside the borders of the state. This includes me and my friends. 

Since the foundation of Israel, it has never stopped boasting of being the “Only Democracy in the Middle East”. This is the jewel in the crown of Israeli propaganda. The Knesset is the symbol of this democracy. 

It seems that the parliamentary mob, which has taken over the Knesset, is determined to destroy this image once and for all, so that Israel will find its proper place somewhere between Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Tricky Bibi

Israel has had many rightist leaders since Menachem Begin promised “many Elon Morehs,” but there has never been one like Netanyahu, who wants to do it by deceit.

By Gideon Levy

This video should have been banned for broadcast to minors. This video should have been shown in every home in Israel, then sent to Washington and Ramallah. Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel. Channel 10 presented: The real (and deceitful ) face of Binyamin Netanyahu. Broadcast on Friday night on “This Week with Miki Rosenthal,” it was filmed secretly in 2001, during a visit by Citizen Netanyahu to the home of a bereaved family in the settlement of Ofra, and astoundingly, it has not created a stir.

The scene was both pathetic and outrageous. The last of Netanyahu’s devoted followers, who believe he is the man who will bring peace, would have immediately changed their minds. Presidents Barack Obama and Shimon Peres, who continue to maintain that Netanyahu will bring peace, would be talking differently had they seen this secretly filmed video clip. Even the objection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to conducting direct negotiations with the man from the video would be understandable. What is there to discuss with a huckster whose sole purpose is “to give 2 percent in order to prevent 100 percent,” as his father told him, quoting his grandfather.

Israel has had many rightist leaders since Menachem Begin promised “many Elon Morehs,” but there has never been one like Netanyahu, who wants to do it by deceit, to mock America, trick the Palestinians and lead us all astray. The man in the video betrays himself in his own words as a con artist, and now he is again prime minister of Israel. Don’t try to claim that he has changed since then. Such a crooked way of thinking does not change over the years.

Forget the Bar-Ilan University speech, forget the virtual achievements in his last visit to the United States; this is the real Netanyahu. No more claims that the Palestinians are to blame for the failure of the Oslo Accords. Netanyahu exposed the naked truth to his hosts at Ofra: he destroyed the Oslo accords with his own hands and deeds, and he’s even proud of it. After years in which we were told that the Palestinians are to blame, the truth has emerged from the horse’s mouth.

And how did he do it? He recalled how he conditioned his signing of the 1997 Hebron agreement on American consent that there be no withdrawals from “specified military locations,” and insisted he choose those same locations, such as the whole of the Jordan Valley, for example. “Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords,” he boasts. The real Netanyahu also brags about his knowledge of America: “I know what America is. America is something that can be moved easily.” For the White House’s information.

He calls then-U.S. President Bill Clinton “extremely pro-Palestinian,” and says the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea. With such retrograde beliefs, no one can convincingly argue that he wants an agreement.

These remarks are profoundly depressing. They bear out all of our fears and suspicions: that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn’t believe the Palestinians and doesn’t believe in the chance of an agreement with them, who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes. There’s no point in talking about Netanyahu’s impossible rightist coalition as an obstacle to progress. From now on, just say that Netanyahu doesn’t want it.

What if Kadima joins the government and Yisrael Beiteinu leaves? Nothing will change. What if Danny Danon goes leftist and Tzipi Hotovely joins Peace Now? Netanyahu doesn’t want it.

If he had said so honestly, as he did when he thought the camera in Ofra was turned off, then he could have been forgiven for his extreme positions. It’s his right to think that way and get elected for it. The people will have gotten what they chose. But when Netanyahu hides his real positions under camouflage netting and entangles them in webs of deceit, he not only reduces the chances of reaching an agreement, he also damages Israel’s political culture. Many people may want a right-wing, nationalist prime minister, but a prime minister who is a con artist? Is is too much to expect of Netanyahu that he speak to us precisely as he spoke in Ofra? Why do a handful of settlers deserve to know the truth, and not us? Tell us the truth, Netanyahu. Talk to us as if the cameras were off, just as you thought then, in 2001 in Ofra.

Robert Fisk: They’re all grovelling and you can guess the reason

Freedom and democracy

17 July 2010

It is the season of grovelling.

Only a week after CNN’s Octavia Nasr and the British ambassador to Beirut, Frances Guy, dared to suggest that Sayyed Hassan Fadlallah of Lebanon was a nice old chap rather than the super-terrorist the Americans have always claimed him to be, the grovelling began. First Ms Nasr, already fired by the grovelling CNN for her effrontery in calling Fadlallah a “giant”, grovelled herself. Rather than tell the world what a cowardly outfit she had been working for, she announced that hers was “a simplistic comment and I’m sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work. That’s not the case at all”.

What is this garbage? Nasr never gave the impression that she supported “Fadlallah’s life’s work”. She merely expressed her regret that the old boy was dead, adding – inaccurately – that he had been part of Hizbollah. I don’t know what her pompous (and, of course, equally grovelling) “senior vice president” said to her when she was given her marching orders. But like victims of the Spanish Inquisition, Nasr actually ended up apologising for sins she had never even been accused of. Then within hours, British ambassador Guy began her own self-flagellation, expressing her regrets that she may have offended anyone (and we all know what that means) by her “personal attempt to offer some reflections of a figure who, while controversial, was also highly influential in Lebanon’s history and who offered spiritual guidance to many Muslims in need”.

I loved the “controversial” bit – the usual “fuck you” word for anyone you want to praise without incurring the wrath of, well, you know who. The Foreign Office itself took down poor Ms Guy’s blogapop on old Fadlallah, thus proving – as Arab journalists leapt to point out this week – that while Britain proclaims the virtues of democracy and the free press to the grovelling newspaper owners and grotty emirs of the Middle East, it is the first to grovel when anything might offend you know who.

For that was the collective sin of Misses Nasr and Guy. What they said might have made Israel’s supporters angry. And that will never do. The reality is that CNN should have told Israel’s lobbyists to get lost, and the Foreign Office – which was indeed upbraided by the Israeli foreign ministry – should have asked the Israeli government when it is going to stop thieving Arab land. But as my old mate Rami Khoury put it in the Jordanian press this week, “We in the Middle East are used to this sort of racist intellectual terrorism. American and British citizens who occasionally dare to speak accurately about the Middle East and its people are still learning about the full price of the truth when Israeli interests are in the room.”

Which brings us, of course, to the Grovel of the Week, the unctuous, weak-willed, cringing figure of Barack “Change” Obama as he strode the White House lawn with Netanyahu himself. For here was the champion of the underdog, the “understanding” president who could fix the Middle East – finding it “harder that he thought”, according to his spokesman – proving that mid-term elections are more important than all the injustice in the Middle East. It is more than a year now since Netanyahu responded in cabinet to Obama’s first criticisms with the remark: “This guy doesn’t get it, does he?” (The quote comes from an excellent Israeli source of mine.) Ever since, Netanyahu has been McChrystalling Obama on a near-weekly basis, and Obama has been alternatively hissing and purring, banning Netanyahu from photo calls, but then – as those elections draw nearer – rolling over and talking about how the brave Netanyahu, whose government has just destroyed some more Arab homes in East Jerusalem, is taking “risks for peace”.

Needless to say, the only good guys in this story are the courageous Jewish Americans who oppose the thieves in Netanyahu’s government and the racism of his foreign minister, the Ahmadinejad-like Avigdor Lieberman. And which Western newspaper was bold enough to point out that the house destruction in Jerusalem “effectively end(ed) an unofficial freeze of such internationally condemned demolitions”? The New York Times? The Washington Post? No, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, of course. And anyone who thinks Haaretz is alone in condemning the illegal actions of the Israelis should read the excellent Jewish magazine Tikun in the US, which goes for Israel’s Likud lobbyists – for they are Likudists – like a tiger. Their latest target was Neal Sher, the Likudist who used to be in the US Justice Department and who is trying to persuade La Clintone to ban Judge Goldstone from America (where he holds a university professorship) for accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza. And whose government was it that also condemned Goldstone’s report? Well, Obama’s of course.

Looking back, the Obama grovelling started in that famous Cairo reach-out-to-the-Muslim-world speech, when he referred to the Palestinian “relocation” of 1948 (as if the Palestinian Arabs got up one morning on the birth of Israel and decided that they all wanted to go on holiday to Lebanon). But the moment the world should have got wise was when Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. A man of greater dignity would have acknowledged the honour of such an award, but explained that his own unworthiness prevented him from accepting. But he did accept. He wanted the Nobel Prize. It was more important to accept it even though he did not deserve it. And now? Well, we’ve all been watching the little groveller this week. Middle East peace? Further colonisation of Arab land? Crisis in southern Lebanon? The continued siege of Gaza? Forget it. Think of mid-term elections. Remember the fate of Nasr and Guy. And grovel.

More from Robert Fisk


Israeli government faces contempt case for ignoring Arab rights

By Jonathan Cook

17 July, 2010

Nazareth: The Israeli government is facing legal action for contempt over its refusal to implement a Supreme Court ruling that it end a policy of awarding preferential budgets to Jewish communities, including settlements, rather than much poorer Palestinian Arab towns and villages inside Israel.

The contempt case on behalf of Israel’s Palestinian minority comes in the wake of growing criticism of the government for ignoring court decisions it does not like — a trend that has been noted by the Supreme Court justices themselves.
Yehudit Karp, a former deputy attorney general, compiled a list of 12 recent court rulings the government has refused to implement, but legal groups believe there are more examples. Many of the disregarded judgements confer benefits on Palestinians, either in the occupied territories or inside Israel, or penalise the settlers.
Critics have accused the government of violating the rule of law and warned that the defiance has been possible chiefly because right-wing politicians and religious groups have severely eroded the Supreme Court’s authority over the past few years.
Senior members of the current right-wing government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including the justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, have repeatedly criticised the court for what they call its “judicial activism”, or interference in matters they believe should be decided by the parliament alone.
Legal experts, however, warn that, because Israel lacks a constitution, the court is the only bulwark against a tyrannical Jewish majority abusing the rights of the country’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, as well as 4 million Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.
Ilan Saban, a law professor at Haifa University, said: “Unlike most — if not all — other democracies, Israel lacks a political culture that respects limits on the power of the majority.”
Even the protections offered by Israel’s basic laws, he said, were not deeply entrenched and could easily be re-legislated. The lack of both a formal constitution and a tradition of political tolerance, he added, was “a dangerous cocktail”.
Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper went further, warning recently that, in “slandering the judiciary”, government officials had provoked a crisis that could “lead to the destruction of Israeli democracy”.
The country’s highest court is due to rule in the coming weeks on whether the government is in contempt of a ruling the court made four years ago to end a discriminatory scheme, known as National Priority Areas (NPA), that provides extra education funding to eligible communities.
The High Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella political body representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, launched the case because only four small Palestinian villages were classified in NPAs, against some 550 Jewish communities. The scheme, introduced in 1998, is believed to have deprived Palestinian citizens, a fifth of Israel’s population, of millions of dollars.
Although the court ruled in February 2006 that the scheme must be scrapped, the government has issued a series of extensions until at least 2012.
Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre that launched the contempt petition, said: “This case has become a symbol of how the government refuses to implement decisions it does not like, especially ones relating to constitutional protection and minority rights.”
However, she said that punishing the state for its actions would not be easy. “After all, the court is not going to jail the government. The best we can hope for is a fine.”
The NPA case is only one of several that have highlighted a growing trend of law-breaking by the government.
Ms Zaher said Adalah had at least half a dozen other cases in which it was considering contempt actions. Most referred either to the treatment of Bedouin villages in the Negev the state refuses to recognise and to which it denies services, or to the failure to allocate equal resources to Arab schools.
In its most recent annual report, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the country’s largest legal rights group, listed several examples of Supreme Court orders to dismantle sections of the separation barrier built on Palestinian land in the West Bank that have been disregarded.
In one hearing, in October 2009, Dorit Beinisch, president of the court, accused the government of taking “the law into its own hands” and treating her rulings as “mere recommendations”.
She had been angered by the fact that an order to remove the barrier around the Palestinian village of Azzoun, near Qalqilya, had been ignored for three years. The judges had learnt that the hidden reason for building the barrier had been to help expand the neighbouring settlement of Tzufim.
Similarly, in May, the court found that the government had continued construction on a road between the settlements of Eli and Hayovel despite a ruling that it must stop. In a harshly worded response, the judges said: “It is inconceivable that the state does not know what is unfolding right beneath its nose.”
Last month the supreme court again castigated the government for ignoring an order from last year to demolish a sewage purification plant built in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on privately owned Palestinian land in violation of Israeli law.
Other prominent cases in which officials are defying court rulings involve the refusal to demolish a synagogue built by settlers; the failure to build hundreds of classrooms for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem; and the continuing practice of “binding” foreign workers to a single employer.
Late last year, the justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, warned that he was considering legislation that would allow the parliament to bypass the Supreme Court, even in cases where the judges have struck down a law on the grounds that it contravenes a basic law.
The government’s flouting of these rulings has been possible because of growing public disenchantment with the courts, observers have warned.
Last month a survey by Haifa University found that among Israeli Jews who were not ultra-Orthodox or settlers — both groups tend to reject the court’s authority — only 36 per cent expressed great faith in its decisions. That was down from 61 per cent in 2000.
Among settlers the figure was 20 per cent, down from 46 per cent a decade ago.
Aryeh Rattner, a law professor who conducted the research, partly attributed the decline in the court’s standing to its “excessive involvement” in what he called controversial religious, social and defence issues.
However, Prof Saban said the “activism” the court has been accused of was more illusory than real, and that it was often reluctant to intervene in cases where violations of rights were clearcut. In the National Priority Areas case, he said, lawyers had been challenging the patently discriminatory scheme since its introduction in 1998.
“The court took nearly 10 years to rule against the scheme, and since then the government has evaded implementing the decision until at least 2012. In other words, the petitioners are likely to be without a remedy for 14 years. That hardly qualifies as activism.”
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is


A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

“They want us to be loyal to the occupation”: Muhammad Totah interviewed

Max Blumenthal, The Electronic Intifada, 15 July 2010

Muhammad Totah (Max Blumenthal)

On 9 July, as Israeli Border Police officers brutalized demonstrators at the weekly protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, forcing them away from a street where several homes had been seized by radical right-wing Jewish settlers, I visited the Jerusalem International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters just a few hundred meters away.

Though the din of protest chants and police megaphones could not be heard from the ICRC center, the three Palestinian legislators who had staged a sit-in there for more than a week to protest their forced expulsion from Jerusalem insisted that their plight was the same as the families forced from their homes down the street.
“All the Israeli steps in East Jerusalem are designed to evacuate Jerusalem of its Palestinian heritage,” remarked Muhammad Totah, an elected Palestinian Legislative Council member who has been ordered to permanently leave Jerusalem by the Israeli government. “Whether it’s through home demolition, taking homes or deporting us, the goal is the same.”
According to the Israel’s Ministry of the Interior, the three legislators are guilty of a vaguely defined “breach of trust,” ostensibly for their membership in a foreign government. The charge leveled against them recalls nothing more than the campaign platform of the far-right Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which demanded the mass expulsion of “disloyal” Palestinian citizens of Israel.
For this reason, the Israel-based legal advocacy group Adalah described the Israeli government’s actions as “characteristic of dark and totalitarian regimes” (“Motion for Injunction filed to Israeli Supreme Court to Stop Imminent Deportation Process of Palestinian Legislative Council Members from Jerusalem

,” 15 June 2010).

The lawmakers’ problems began in 2006 when they ran for the Palestinian Legislative Council in the West Bank as members of the Change and Reform list, an offshoot of Hamas. Though the Israeli government allowed the men to campaign for office and vote for the Chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, as soon as they were elected, Israel warned them to resign from office or face the cancellation of their status as residents of Jerusalem.
When they failed to heed the Israeli government’s demand, in June 2006, the men were arrested and sentenced to two to four years in prison. Two days after they were released, the Israeli police confiscated their identification cards and ordered them to leave Jerusalem for another part of the West Bank.
As a result of the expulsion orders, the first of their kind since 1967, the three lawmakers are virtual hostages in the city their families have lived in for generations — if they leave the Red Cross center they will be immediately arrested. Their colleague, Muhammad Abu Tir, is already in an Israeli jail cell. Despite having been separated from their families for years, they remain steadfast in their rejection of the government’s orders, fearing that their expulsion will open the door for mass deportations of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, along with the rest of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula, which was returned to Egypt in a peace deal a decade later. No country recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, and the UN Security Council has declared repeatedly that Israel’s occupation of all the territories it seized in 1967 is governed by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, a treaty Israel was compelled to sign which specifically forbids an occupying power from expelling civilians from the territory it occupies. Thus the legislators’ expulsion has been issued in explicit violation of binding international law.
Totah told me that the Israeli interior ministry has a list of 315 members of Palestinian civil society in East Jerusalem — academics, lawmakers, activists — whom it plans to expel in the near future on charges of disloyalty to the Jewish state. “They are trying to legalize the Nakba,” Totah remarked, using the Arabic word Palestinians use to describe their mass expulsion from their homeland in 1948.
I talked with the 42-year-old Totah for a half hour in the leafy courtyard of the ICRC headquarters. He was visibly tired, having spent the past two days in meetings with British parliamentarians, the head of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Church and left-wing Israeli groups ranging from Anarchists Against The Wall to Gush Shalom. While a wiry young boy rushed around the yard, serving us a seemingly endless stream of Turkish coffee shots, Totah described to me his experience as a prisoner in his hometown.
Max Blumenthal: The Israeli government says you are guilty of a “breach of trust.” Does this mean they are accusing you of disloyalty to the state?
Muhammad Totah: The main reason they are expelling us is that we are accused of disloyalty. And every one on the list [of 315 Palestinian civil society members Israel seeks to expel] is accused of disloyalty. They want us to be loyal to the occupation. This is insane! So they are seeking any excuse to get rid of us. They want us to leave at any price. Basically, they want to finish the project that they began in 1948 because it has taken too long.
MB: Why did you decide to conduct a sit-in inside the Red Cross headquarters?
MT: We are determined to prevent the occupation from coming and taking us away. Beyond that, we are using our time here to make sure the international community hears our case. The occupation is against all international laws and we believe if the door of deportation is open in Jerusalem, it means that hundreds or even thousands will be deported. Right now, we are in danger of being arrested at any time. In fact, our colleague Abu Tir was arrested last month. So they could come at any time for us.
MB: Do you believe the Israelis would go as far as raiding a Red Cross center in Jerusalem to carry out your expulsion?
MT: The occupation will do anything. They are killing people constantly, demolishing buildings and doing what they have done for years. Ten thousand Palestinians are in currently in prison. So yes, we would not be surprised by such an action.
MB: Has the international community responded to your protest?
MT: We sent a letter to [US] President [Barack] Obama and asked him to interfere and to put pressure on the Israeli side to cancel this illegal decision. So far, we have not heard a response. We have sat with [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas two times and he said that he had sent my letters to all the human rights organization and USAID [the US Agency for International Development] and sent letters to the occupation authorities and he said they’re making communications all the time time. But until now nothing on the ground. We have put out a call for international human rights organizations as well. And we have sent letters to all the leaders of Islamic and Arab states.
Our letters stress that our protest is not about our case in particular, but that it is about all the Palestinians living in Jerusalem. We believe that this decision is designed to begin a process that will empty Jerusalem of Palestinian people. The UN and international community admits that East Jerusalem is occupied by Israel, so clearly this is an illegal decision under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
MB: How much of Israel’s decision is motivated by your affiliation with Hamas and how does the tension between Hamas and Fatah effect the Palestinian Authority’s involvement in the case?
MT: This is an international case. It has nothing to do with Fatah and Hamas. There is a list of over 300 people who will be deported after us — the heart of Palestinian civil society in East Jerusalem — and for this reason all the parties in Jerusalem are united against this decision. They feel that we are the first and they will be the second. We know that the occupation doesn’t discriminate between political parties.
MB: How has your predicament affected your family?
MT: My son who is six years old does not want to leave the house anymore. He said, “I will not leave the house until my father comes back!” As soon as I was released from prison I was sent to so many meetings right away and couldn’t see my family, who I had hardly seen for four years. Now he’s having his own protest at home. “I will not leave home!” he says. This is a very big problem for me because I don’t want to break his heart. One of my children who is even younger wakes up every night screaming and crying with terrible nightmares. “Why are you crying?” my wife says. He says, “The soldiers are coming to throw me in jail!” My wife is suffering because of course we have been split for a very long time. The occupation wants to scare my family and if any information gets to my wife or children about what is happening to me they become extremely upset. This is not just my problem, though. All my colleagues are suffering this same way.
MB: How much of a burden has been placed on you by the Palestinian community in Jerusalem to resist your expulsion?
MT: The fact is that if we accept the deportation it means we accept deportation for thousand of Palestinians in Jerusalem. Even as hard as it is to be here without our families for so long we think that is the only means we have to declare that [our expulsion] is illegal and is against all international laws. We have nowhere else to go. This is our original country and our original city. My father was born here; my grandfather was born here so we have been here hundreds of years. All we are demanding is to stay in our homes and we are sure that we will get it because it’s our right and the deportation is against all international laws.
MB: If deporting you is the first step in a plan for mass deportations, what do you think Israel’s end game is?
MT: We think that there is a plan from the Israeli side to make East Jerusalem Jewish and they have many practices to do so. One of them that is the most dangerous is our deportation. If they demolish your house, you can always build another building. But deporting people — how can you talk about a city without people? What they want is to legalize the Nakba.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author working in Israel-Palestine. His articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Huffington Post,, Al-Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Architectural planning for a different future

Sarah Irving, The Electronic Intifada, 15 July 2010

Ush Grab, occupied West Bank. (Decolonizing Architecture)

“If you live under a colonial regime, the first thing you are prevented from doing is thinking about a future,” proclaims Sandi Hilal. “This is the first thing that the occupation imposes on you. And to propose in Palestine right now a future where you can plan, imagine, is something which is very important.”

Hilal is one of the founding trio at Decolonizing Architecture, a project which, according to its website, “uses architecture to articulate the spatial dimension of a process of decolonization.” In practical terms, according to director Alessandro Petti, the project brings together a “collective of artists, architects and scholars” which mixes residencies and studio work. Some of the collective’s work is an artistic, gallery-based contemplation of what a future, post-colonization Palestinian landscape might mean. An example is its July/August 2010 participation in The Spacemakers, an UK exhibition which, according to its website, “explores artistic perspectives on the immediate challenges of creating a home, in some of today’s most diverse and harried urban landscapes.”
Lest this look like another detached artistic endeavor with little connection to the realities of occupation, the collective is firmly rooted in West Bank life. Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti both live in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour located near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Hilal works with refugee camp improvement programs sponsored by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). One of Decolonizing Architecture’s most active roles has been in the struggle for the West Bank hilltop of Ush Ghrab, where Israeli settlers have been trying to take over a decommissioned Israeli military base and encroach on surrounding Palestinian farmland.
“In 2007,” Petti explains, “after a decade of engaging in spatial analysis and theory and taking the conflict over Palestine as our main case study,” he, Hilal and Eyal Weizman, their London-based colleague, “tried to shift the mode of our engagement and establish an architectural practice based around a studio residency in Bethlehem.” The group wanted, Petti says, to be more “oppositional” but also to create “propositions” and ways for themselves and for ordinary people to think about a future beyond the current political impasse and its impact on Palestinian housing, travel, health and education.
Petti explains: “We are dealing with a complex set of architectural problems centered around one of the most important dilemmas around political practice — how to act propositionally and critically [in] an environment where the political power is so dramatically distorted in favor of the colonizer?” In a practical sense, the group engages with issues of whether useful intervention is possible without becoming complicit with the Israeli colonial regime.
For the thinkers at Decolonizing Architecture, the term “decolonization” is key, representing a way to think about the concrete effects on the ground of the occupation, and of solutions to it. The current focuses for negotiations and discussions, the one, two and three-state solutions are, says Petti, “trapped in a kind of top-down perspective, each with its own self-referential logic.” So the collective’s thought goes beyond replacing one set of power structures, those of occupation, with a second set, those of a putative Palestinian state.
In practice, this means taking the architecture of occupation and, rather than simply using it for the same purpose under a different power, finding new ways for it to serve everyday uses. As Eyal Weizman points out, the destruction of the Gaza settlements during the Israeli withdrawal of 2005 created toxic waste which has poisoned the Strip’s already sparse water supplies.
“In Palestine we find that there are basically three different approaches dealing with evacuated colonial structures: destruction, re-occupation and subversion,” says Petti. “The impulse of destruction seeks to turn time backwards, reverse the development into virgin nature, the time at which a set of new beginnings can be articulated. Another strong contention has been to re-occupy the colonial structure and re-use it in a similar way to that used under the colonial regime. But such repossession tends to replicate the colonial power relations in space.”
Decolonizing Architecture proposes another option: subversion. In 2007, the collective’s first project sought to rethink the Israeli settlement of Psagot, near the Palestinian town of al-Bireh in the occupied West Bank. Their vision of a post-occupation, reconstituted Psagot did not simply transfer Palestinian families into settler homes, retaining the spatial separation, creating what Petti calls “a gated community for the Palestinian elite.” Instead, the group found a 1950s Palestinian map of the hill now occupied by Psagot and superimposed it on plans of the settlement, using it to suggest ways in which sharply-defined modern structures could be blurred back into the surrounding landscape, introducing public spaces within the settlement, reintroducing relationships between Psagot and the neighboring homes of al-Bireh, and breaking down the rigid divisions within the Israeli settlement, with their separating walls between homes and between public and private spaces.
“But then in 2008 we actually had the opportunity to engage in a real case of decolonization,” says Petti. After the military base at Ush Ghrab was evacuated by the Israeli army in 2006 a debate began over the use of the land, with proposals including a hospital, public park and children’s play area. The side of the hill was rapidly opened up into public gardens, but after settlers tried to reclaim the summit, the area became the scene of regular demonstrations between the Israeli extremists who form the nucleus of most settlements, and local Palestinian residents and their international supporters.
Decolonizing Architecture’s role shifted from drawing up the requested architectural plans for the Beit Sahour municipality and implementing solutions. This included painting over settler graffiti on the hilltop buildings as well as drawing up documentation for the legal struggle to keep Ush Ghrab out of settler hands. It also involved working with the Palestine Wildlife Society to think of ways in which Israeli military buildings can be “subverted” into breeding sites for local bird species.
“This project,” says Petti, “deals with a fundamental question of how Israeli military bases could be reused, recycled or reorientated by Palestinians after the moment that the military power discharges it.”
The impact of Decolonizing Architecture’s role at Ush Ghrab and of its explorations of the possibilities for sites such as Psagot have, Petti claims, started to shift thinking amongst local planners and municipalities in the occupied West Bank.
“Before we started, we don’t believe there was any thinking going on about Area C,” he says. Under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, “Area C” is under full Israeli control and represents the majority of the land in the occupied West Bank.
Envisioning what might be done with evacuated settlements might seem pie-in-the-sky, but Petti believes that thinking beyond the current political realities is vital. “The municipalities weren’t preventing research on this,” he says, “but it was a kind of self-censorship. It is not our solutions which are important, but allowing people to say, ‘I have to think and write about this because this is our land, these are our houses.’ Some of our students had a good point, that Palestinian workers built these houses, so it makes no sense to destroy them, it makes more sense to use them. Now, if you go to al-Bireh’s municipality, their planning maps include Psagot.”
“I have to admit that when we began this project, the three of us were not absolutely aware of the potential of the process itself, how important it is to propose a process,” says Sandi Hilal. “Until now, the Israelis have been the ones who are planning and the Palestinians are the ones who are reacting.” Decolonizing Architecture, she insists, “begins from the end,” taking the reality of the occupied West Bank and wider Palestinian life and taking back for her fellow Palestinians “the right to plan their own future.”
She also vehemently defends this position. Rather than returning to the analytical approach which all three members followed as students and scholars, Decolonizing Architecture deals with the “common ground” of daily life, exploring practical ways to re-appropriate Israel’s architectural “facts on the ground.” “Because otherwise we will be explaining and re-explaining the same thing,” Hilal says. Of a 2011 architectural residency which the group is currently recruiting for, she declares: “if you come as a scholar and see [Israel’s] wall or settlements for the first time, I can understand your reactions. But if you think that you have a tabula rasa and that you will be the first one to give a perspective to the wall, you will absolutely not be permitted to think like this.”
As Decolonizing Architecture develops, says Petti, it engages with new aspects of the decolonization process. Working with the inhabitants of Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, the collective is trying to think with second, third and fourth generation Palestinian refugees about how they can substantively improve their living conditions within the camp, without giving up their claims to the land they were forced off in 1948.
As well as looking at this issue through the experiences of refugees living in the occupied West Bank, they emphasize the role of Palestinians living within Israel and the “returns” they exercise on a daily basis. Working with the Israeli group Zochrot, they have created a “Book of Returns” which uses interviews and drawings to create “a collection of ideas for an effective return of Palestinian refugees” and inform debate about what return might actually mean in a practical sense — both for Palestinians coming to their ancestral homes, and for the West Bank and in the refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
“There is the main Israeli narrative about the right of return, which is the invasion of the barbarians, but Palestinians have a similar kind of image, that they will come back the day after this right is recognized,” says Petti. “We were thinking about the contemporary practice around this right and images of how significant camps are in many Arab cities, and how political space needs to be created in the Middle East in order to allow people to not have to choose between a life in Beirut or a life in Palestine, but how it is possible to combine both of them.”
Sarah Irving (,” is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06. She now writes full-time on a range of issues, including Palestine. Her first book, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs

, co-authored with Sharyn Lock, was published in January 2010.

The Spacemakers will be featured at the Edinburgh Art Festival 30 July-24 August 2010. For more information visit The Delfina Foundation


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Twilight Zone:

 Gestures to the Palestinians

While the prime minister is dispensing promises about easing restrictions in the territories, Israel is expelling hundreds of shepherds from the Jordan Valley

Which is crueler? Expelling an urban family from its home in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, or bulldozing a meager tent encampment of shepherds living on private Jordan Valley land they leased, destroying their water tanks, their tents and their sheep pens, and expelling families with many children from the land on which they live? It’s hard to say. But while the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions are attracting interest in Israel and elsewhere, hardly anyone notices or protests what’s going on in the Jordan Valley.

Shepherd Abdel Razeq Bani Awda (right) and one of his sons. In winter, they’ll have to leave here to

Shepherd Abdel Razeq Bani Awda (right) and one of his sons. In winter, they’ll have to leave here too.

Photo by: Limor Edrey

There, far from view, Israel has been trying for several years to methodically remove Palestinian inhabitants from wide swaths of land. And in a week when the prime minister was making more promises about a “package of gestures” to the Palestinians, in order to curry favor in Washington, the Civil Administration bulldozers brutally destroyed several more encampments, leaving dozens of residents helpless and destitute under the open sky. But the Jordan Valley is far from the public eye and the public heart, and there Israel can do as it pleases.

One look at the landscape tells the whole story: The settlement of Beka’ot, with its lush greenery and plentiful electricity and water at one end of the magnificent valley, and the ruins of the meager shepherd encampments at the other end, with no electricity, no water, no nothing. One picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a far cry from the words of the old propagandistic song once sung by the Central Command musical troupe, about the little settlement in the Valley that “guarded the line, called out for peace and served up hope in the form of colorful flowers.” Calls for peace? Gestures of hope? Go ask the neighbors about that.

This week, Dafna Banai, an activist from Machsom Watch, described the most recent expulsions: 15 families were expelled from their encampments on July 1; the week before, another 16 families received demolition and evacuation orders. For more than a year, the entire valley has been strewn with dozens of cement blocks preventing entry and warning of “firing zones” wherever Palestinians live. Israel already has enclosed all the territory west of Highway 90 with impassable ditches, and residents can exit only twice a week, when Israel opens the locked gates on the roads.

Israel declares huge amounts of private Palestinian land as firing zones and expels the residents under the false and self-righteous guise of concern for their welfare, lest they be harmed by the military training; but these firing zones are always to be found solely on Palestinian land, and never on settlement land. Have you ever heard of any settlers being expelled from their homes because their settlement was declared part of a firing zone? But against these wretched shepherds in the Jordan Valley, anything goes. This is Israeli justice, this is equality as practiced by the Israel Defense Forces.

Perhaps the explanation for this appalling expulsion policy can be found in comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicized last Friday on Channel 10. During a condolence visit to the home of a settler family in 2001, Netanyahu divulged his dastardly plan: He told his hosts he would proclaim the entire Jordan Valley a “designated military site.”

This is how the prime minister thought to mock the Americans at the time, so they would let Israel do as it pleases in the Jordan Valley. Now he is prime minister again, and his trick is working splendidly. A Jordan Valley cleansed of Palestinians will one day be more easily annexed to Israel.

The Civil Administration, naturally, attempts to deceive, dissemble and disregard all this. What connection could it possibly have with acts of systematic expulsion? After all, it is simply concerned with the welfare of the residents and the preservation of law and order. If an expulsion is taking place, the administration is not the one making the decisions; it’s just acting as a contractor.

In any event, what’s going on here is “self-evacuation,” as the spokesman put it, and “abandoned structures.”

“This is a matter of tin structures and tents, which were set up recently, without the necessary permits, in firing zones, endangering the inhabitants’ lives,” the spokesman said. “Most of the structures under discussion were abandoned independently by their residents, and a few were destroyed. Most of the people who built these structures own permanent homes in the valley, and most of the structures were already abandoned on the day they were destroyed.”

Owners of permanent homes? Have you heard of settlers being evacuated because they have another house in Petah Tikva?

On second thought: The expulsion in the Jordan Valley is worse than that of Sheikh Jarrah. It is more systematic, more large-scale, and it’s being committed against a weaker population. But the demonstrators won’t come here. It’s too far away.

The most closed open area

In an empty room that serves as the headquarters of a remote village council, local activists elaborate on their fears: Israel is seeking to expel all the area’s shepherds to here. Two big spiders silently spin their web on the ceiling. In the past month, dozens of families have received demolition and evacuation orders, all in accordance with the law, of course, the law of the occupation.

The elderly Abdel Rahim Basharat says it’s not a village, it’s a prison.

“If you close off the shepherds from every direction, to them it’s a jail, because their lives are tied to the land. If they are made to move to this village, they’ll have to sell their flocks, their only source of income. Taking our lands from us is the same as taking our lives.”

Basharat has a question: “Does Area C mean evacuation and expulsion?”

And what will you tell him? What can one tell him?

And he has another question: “Why don’t you ask about the water problem?”

Ataf Abu al-Rub, the B’Tselem investigator in the area, explains: “Sometimes these shepherds hear water trickling through the pipes that pass through their fields on the way to settlements, but they are forbidden to use it. Sometimes they hear the crackle of electricity in the high-tension wires, but the electricity is meant only for the settlers.”

Al-Rub says this is the most closed open area in the world. Four families have already left for the village, after the encampments were repeatedly destroyed and they tired of hopeless battle. The rest are persisting in a desperate fight for survival. We go out to see, driving past harvested wheat fields on our way to the sites of destruction.

Abdel Razeq Bani Awda’s family already has erected a new encampment. On July 1, the previous one was destroyed, and its ruins lie on the opposite hillside. They’d lived there for 15 years, on private land that belongs to a resident of Tubas who leased it to them. They have documents to prove it. Now they are stuck in the middle of a wheat field; when winter and planting times comes around, they’ll have to leave here, too. This is the fifth place they’ve moved to in the past few years, since Israel began implementing its policy of evacuation and expulsion. Two families – a father and son and their children, and 160 sheep, their only source of income. The sheep are now crowded into new pens, seeking shelter from the heat.

What will the children eat?

The road is too treacherous for our car, as we make our way up the hill from the ruins of their recently destroyed camp. Hardly anything is left of it. Strewn about the ground are some wrecked tent stakes, a spoon, a rusty kettle, a blackened coffee pot, a spilled container of tehina and a broken-down refrigerator. Remnants of a meager life. Basharat asks why Israel is also destroying the water tanks.

“The tents are one thing, but why the water tanks? Sometimes they empty them of water. What will the children drink? And why do they always come when times are the toughest, or in the middle of summer, when the heat is terrible, or during the rains, when there is no other shelter? It’s not by coincidence. And why do they destroy the taboun ovens? They know it takes four to five days to build a new taboun, and in the meantime we have no bread. Do they want us to die of hunger and thirst? Is that what they really want? Our children know the Israeli army is the one doing this. And what do they expect them to remember when they grow up?”

Basharat’s questions go unanswered, echoing through the valley. We sit beneath the remnants of a tin shack that wasn’t thoroughly destroyed. An old refrigerator door serves as a bench, until it, too, collapses beneath us. The Bani Awda family will return here in the winter. They have no other choice. They have already re-erected one tent. Across the way, Beka’ot is blooming; there is a spa there.

On the western part of the hillside is another ruined encampment. This is where Hassan Bani Awda’s family lived before they migrated eastward. Another encampment, closer to Beka’ot, is still standing. Nine times this family has had its home destroyed. We sit in silence and gaze out at the valley. It could be so beautiful, if not for the ugliness of the expulsion. We make our way to the next encampment.

An old wooden chair has an old sticker attached to it: “Israel is Strong with Shimon Peres.” Israel is also strong with Benjamin Netanyahu, especially in dealing with the weak: Mohammed Bani Awda and his 11 children are also living under the threat of expulsion. He has 270 sheep and a combine that belongs to the landowner from Tubas. This family already has been forced to move four times. Now they’ve been instructed to tear down just the storehouse for the sheep’s food. Is Mohammed afraid? He says: “They’re going step-by-step. They started in the east and when they finish clearing out there they’ll come here too. We’ll be the next stage.”

The two shepherds, Basharat and Bani Awda, consult with one another. What to do? Bani Awda suggests appealing to the High Court, and Basharat says there’s no point.

“There’s no point appealing to Israeli law and justice. They’ll declare the whole Jordan Valley a military zone and that will be the end of the story.”

Mohammed’s son Jihad, a 19-year-old shepherd, wears a New York baseball cap. He says he dreams of going there one day, but all of us in the tent knew it will never happen. It’s unlikely that he’ll every get as far as Jerusalem

Israel to introduce new citizenship requirement

16 July 2010


At the moment, anyone adopting Israeli citizenship declares that they will be “a loyal citizen of the State of Israel” in the ceremony before they get their passport. That is about to change in a very significant way. From Sunday, they must add, “a Jewish and democratic state”.

At the same time, the government will now refuse to issue permits to anyone born or living in Gaza allowing them to enter Israel. At a stroke, this “democratic state” will be prohibiting Gaza’s Palestinian refugees from ever returning to their land inside what is now called Israel. This is despite the fact that the refugees have every right in international law to return to the homes from which they were driven. The reason given by Israel is that “the Gaza Strip region continues to constitute a security threat to Israel and its citizens”.

IOA reduces food to Palestinian captives in Negev prison

Palestinian Information Center


— The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) has decided Thursday to reduce the amount of food it gives to the Palestinian captives in the Negev desert prison in another clear violation of international laws and conventions on prisoners.

In a statement it issued Thursday, the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) revealed that it received many complaints from the Palestinian captives in that prison of reducing the amount of food to nearly one-half.
In addition, the PPS said that the IOA is still mistreating families of the prisoners, including searching elderly mothers of the captives in a humiliating manner, and refusing to allow entry of clothes or money to prisoners.
Moreover, the PPS revealed that the IOA refused to install new electric fans or repair the damaged ones inside the prison despite the unbearable summer heat inside the prison alleging it wants to “save electricity”.

:: Article nr. 67981 sent on 16-jul-2010 15:30 ECT

Palestinians unite on housing rights

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 15 July 2010

A Palestinian family stands on top of the rubble of their home in Beit Hanina after it was destroyed by Israeli authorities on 13 July 2010. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

The al-Rajabi family of the Beit Hanina neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem were made homeless on Tuesday, 13 July, after Israeli demolition vehicles razed their home to the ground. Five other homes and structures were destroyed earlier in the day in the Issawiya and Jabal al-Mukabber neighborhoods, also in East Jerusalem.

Speaking to Sherine Tadros of Al-Jazeera English following the demolition, Linda al-Rajabi, mother of five children, said that Israeli police ordered her family to immediately evacuate their home and remove all of their belongings from inside. “They demolished the house without giving a warning or anything,” al-Rajabi told Tadros. “[The Israelis] can build 600 settlements, and I am in a shack … and they demolished it” (“Israel destroys Palestinian homes

,” 13 July 2010 ).

Israeli officials ordered the demolition of the al-Rajabi home because it was “built without permits,” a long-standing policy of justification of home demolitions. In a statement, the Israeli government said the homes were “illegally built and uninhabited.” Through a court order, the buildings were destroyed.
The al-Rajabi home was rebuilt a second time last year after Israeli bulldozers destroyed the first home in 2008. With assistance from local nongovernmental organizations, including the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), the home had been reconstructed as the family worked with an attorney to obtain legal building permits — to no avail.
“The Jerusalem municipality demolished six houses in East Jerusalem claiming they were built illegally, ignoring the fact that the municipality makes it impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits in order to build legally,” ICAHD stated in a press release. “These demolitions come after an unofficial six-month halt to home demolitions in East Jerusalem, although within that period several uninhabited Palestinian-owned structures were nevertheless demolished. The suspension of demolitions came as a result of pressure from the international community, particularly from the US administration which has repeatedly criticized the practice” (“Jerusalem Municipality demolishes 6 houses across East Jerusalem,

” 14 July 2010).

The US State Department, upon hearing that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government demolished the homes in East Jerusalem, urged “all parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust.” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley added that the US was “concerned” about Tuesday’s demolitions.
These demolitions come on the heels of Monday’s decision by the Jerusalem municipal committee to pre-approve 32 new Jewish-only apartment units in the illegal Pisgat Zeev settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. Pisgat Zeev abuts the Beit Hanina neighborhood.
ICAHD added in its statement that Netanyahu’s government has declared new “building plans for East Jerusalem settlements,” solidifying this plan with the resumption of home demolitions. “Both actions are a clear declaration that the Government of Israel is not interested in good faith negotiations. Instead, the government and settlers continue creating facts on the ground intended to Judaize East Jerusalem and strengthen Israeli sovereignty over it, thereby preventing the possibility for a future division of the city in which East Jerusalem could form the capital of a Palestinian State,” ICAHD reported.

Palestinians in Dhammash protest against home demolitions. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

Meanwhile, about 35 kilometers west of occupied East Jerusalem, also on Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists led a demonstration through the city of Ramle near Tel Aviv to protest the planned demolition of 13 homes in the Dhammash village, sandwiched between Ramle and Lydd. For months, the Palestinian residents of Dhammash have been living in constant threat of losing their homes in their village, which has been “unrecognized” by the State of Israel since 1948. Residents of Dhammash are Israeli citizens and pay taxes, but do not receive any services as the state refuses to acknowledge their presence.

The residents were able to petition the court several months ago to suspend the demolition orders while they attempted to pressure the government into officially recognizing the village, which would finally grant the village municipal services and basic infrastructure.
But that court order expired this week, and Israeli officials stated that the homes would be demolished because they still lacked the proper building permits. As the entire village is officially “unrecognized,” the government has classified the homes as “illegal,” thereby exposing them to imminent demolition. Dhammash residents told The Electronic Intifada in March that the municipality plans to construct Jewish-only condominium complexes on the village’s land.
The Petach Tikva municipal court is currently holding hearings on whether or not to go ahead with the government’s plan to raze the homes in Dhammash. Approximately 600 persons currently live in 70 houses in the village.
Tuesday’s demonstration culminated in a plan to protest outside the courthouse on Wednesday. Internationally-renowned hip hop group DAM set up a flatbed truck in the middle of the village and performed for the crowd. DAM’s members, all from the neighboring city of Lydd, have helped to organize a weeks-long summer camp in Dhammash — for local and international children and adults — to bring attention to the critical situation in the village and to build widespread solidarity.
On Wednesday, 14 July, following the demonstration in Ramle, the municipal court decided to once again freeze the demolition orders for three months and to resume court hearings in October. Members of the local popular committees stated in a press release that they believe the decision to suspend the demolitions was a direct result of expanded and successful community organizing and growing media attention focused on Dhammash. Attorneys for Dhammash residents are also planning to appeal the demolition orders entirely before the court hearings resume in October.
Several weeks ago, residents from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — where violent takeovers of Palestinian homes by Jewish settlers have been ongoing but met with sustained protest — joined dozens of activists and came to Dhammash to show unity in struggle. In turn, Dhammash villagers have been active in the regular protests in Sheikh Jarrah.
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Israeli Occupation bulldoze six Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

15 July 2010 15:45


Israeli Occupation bulldoze six Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Local Palestinians warned that the demolitions carried out on Tuesday may constitute the start of wider demolition operations in several neighbourhoods in Jerusalem

Reports from Jerusalem confirm that since Tuesday morning the Israeli Occupation Municipality has destroyed a number of houses in the Beit Hanina, Jabal El Makbar, and Isawiya districts of the city.

The sources added that the Occupation forces destroyed three houses in Isawiya: The first of them is owned by Mahmoud Isawi and was under construction; the second – a two-storey building – owned by an elderly female, Sabah Abu Ramila, also under construction and the third owned by Khalil Dari.

Elsewhere in the town of Beit Hanina, the Occupation forces destroyed the home of Rashed Al Rashq, leaving homeless his six-member family.

In the area of Jabal Al Makbar, Israel razed three residential rooms owned by In’am Al Tawil, leaving nine persons – including three children – homeless. And for the second time, Israel demolished a home owned by Musa Mashahra, leaving his six-member family homeless.
Local Palestinians warned that the demolitions carried out on Tuesday may constitute the start of wider demolition operations in several neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, especially those located near the Old City. They called upon regional and international organizations to act to stop the Occupation’s policies and demolitions.

Today, in the West Bank, a reservoir belonging to the Jabar family was demolished by the Civil Administration, and other buildings are threatened.  (This, despite the fact that the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, which already has four large municipal swimming pools, is constructing a water park complete with an artificial lake.)

the Israeli authorities have demolished 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and new orders are issued daily — the current wave of demolitions can only be explained on the background of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington a few weeks ago.

ICAHD Denounces Israeli Demolitions (and American Enabling)

by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions


July 14, 2010

After an unofficial nine-month “moratorium,” the Israeli government has returned with a vengeance to its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.  Yesterday, July 13, six homes were demolished in East Jerusalem.

In Jabal Mukaber, the homes of the Tawil family (15 people) and the Masrawi family (six people) were demolished.  In Beit Hanina, the municipality demolished the home of the Rajabi family (6 people).  And in Issawaiyeh, three homes in advanced stages of construction were demolished: one of the Dari family, another belonging to the Nasser family and a third of the Abu Rameileh family.

Today, in the West Bank, a reservoir belonging to the Jabar family was demolished by the Civil Administration, and other buildings are threatened.  (This, despite the fact that the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, which already has four large municipal swimming pools, is constructing a water park complete with an artificial lake.)

All this, plus municipal approval for the demolition of 22 homes in the Silwan neighborhood, continued pressure to remove Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah — and the approval by the municipality this week of 54 new housing units for the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement.

Despite claims that Palestinian houses, reservoirs and other buildings are “illegal,” demolition is merely another face of ethnic cleansing, since the Jerusalem municipality, the Ministry of Interior and the Civil Administration of the West Bank all deny Palestinians the right to build homes on their own property.  Although the pressure to demolish is constant — the Israeli authorities have demolished 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and new orders are issued daily — the current wave of demolitions can only be explained on the background of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington a few weeks ago.  For the past decade or so demolition orders can be executed only with the approval of the Prime Minister’s Office; these are not municipal-level decisions, even if the municipality presses for demolitions.

Only one of two explanations for the wave of demolitions is therefore possible.  Either Israel has received a green (OK, blinking orange) light that the US will not object vociferously to demolitions — and, in fact, the State Department issued a mild statement describing the demolitions as “unhelpful,” the same term Hillary Clinton used when homes were demolished during her visit to Ramallah.  Or Netanyahu, flush from his victory over Obama in the Biden affair, when Congress overwhelmingly supported the Israeli position of building settlements over that of their own Administration, felt free to return to his aggressive policies of “judaization.”  Basking in the warm embrace he just received at the White House, Netanyahu knows he has nothing to fear from an increasingly weakened Obama Administration.

It is becoming obvious — if it wasn’t already — that the United States will not, or cannot, “deliver” a just peace in Israel-Palestine.  Even if an Administration tries to pursue a more critical line towards Israel, its hands will inevitably be tied by Congress.  The time has come to pursue a “working around America” strategy, mobilizing the civil societies of Europe, Latin America, Africa and perhaps Asia as well to create a global consensus that either presses for a just solution to the conflict on its own, or prods the US to become constructively involved by virtue of its international isolation.  The present wave of demolitions demonstrates the bankruptcy and ineffectiveness of the American “approach.”  24,000 demolitions later (and counting), it is time to look elsewhere.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.  Please visit our websites:,, and


Inspiring: Children confront soldiers in Nabi Saleh

Beit Jala Demonstration 4 July 2010

AIC video: Al-Walaja Reality

Dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation in Bil’ins weekly demonstration 16 July against the wall

PCHR Condemns Restrictions Imposed by the Two Governments in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Activities Organized by Hizb Ut Tahrir




After less than a minute, much tear gas was shot into the crowd, both cylinder shaped and the regular round shaped. As people ran towards the village, gas continued to be shot, in addition to a few stun grenades. About ten soldiers lined up on the road, preventing people to come close to the gate, while another ten went in among the olive trees, shooting tear gas from a closer distance. The cylinder shaped tear gas canisters can cause severe damage when they hit from a short distance.

Today a young boy was hit in his stomach, fortunately from such distance that did not cause a serious injury. Another 12 year old boy carrying a camera to document military violence, passed out from too much tear gas, and had to be taken back to the village. No arrests were made today, in spite of much effort from the Israeli army, and the demonstration came to an end after 1,5 hours.

Israeli Forces Kill One Palestinian Woman and Wound Another Three Civilians, Including Two Women, in Central Gaza




Wednesday, 14 July 2010 10:00

Ref: 60/2010


On Tuesday evening, 13 July 2010, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed a Palestinian woman and wounded another three civilians (an elderly man and two women), all of the same family, after bombarding their home with artillery shells. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this crime, which constitute the highest degree of disregard for Palestinian civilians’ lives. PCHR stresses that failure to open investigations into the actions of suspected Israeli soldiers officially encourages them to commit further crimes. 


According to investigations conducted by PCHR and statements given by a member of the victims’ family, at approximately 20:45 on Tuesday, 13 July 2010, a number of women from the Abu Sa’id family from the Gaza Valley village, in the central Gaza Strip, were sitting near their house, which is approximately 400 meters from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. At this time, Israeli troops positioned at the border fired two artillery shells at the house; the troops were unprovoked and the witnesses could not suggest any reason for the attack.


 As a result, Amira Jaber Abu Sa’id, 30, was wounded by shrapnel to the shoulder and her sister-in-law, Sana’a Ahmed Abu Sa’id, 26, was wounded by shrapnel to the feet. Members of the Abu Sa’id family phoned the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to send ambulances to the area. Ambulances arrived at the area fifteen minutes later, but were unable to reach the targeted house because IOF continued to fire on the area. The ambulances were forced to drive back to Deir al-Balah. At this time, Ne’ma Yousef Abu Sa’id, 33, remembered that her three-year-old child was still outside the house. She went to find her child, but IOF fired a third shell at her. Ne’ma was killed instantly by shrapnel to the head and the abdomen. Her father-in-law, Jaber Abu Sa’id, 65, was also wounded by shrapnel wounds to the right thigh. The family continued to call the PRCS. Approximately one and a half hours later, a PRCS ambulance arrived at the scene after coordination with the Israeli authorities through the Palestinian Liaison Office. The ambulance transferred the dead woman and the wounded to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al- Balah. Medical sources at the hospital affirmed that Ne’ma Abu Sa’id died of shrapnel wounds from an artillery shell. The wounds of the other persons were described as moderate. 



PCHR condemns this crime, and:


  1. Stresses that this crime is a part of a series of continuous crimes committed by IOF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) with total disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians. 

  2. Calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes, and calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to fulfill their obligation under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, as well as their obligation under Article 146 to search for and prosecute those who are responsible for perpetrating grave breaches of the Convention as such breaches constitute war crimes according to Article 147 of the Convention and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).

A call from Gazans to the world: “Keep trying to break the siege”

Posted on: July 15, 2010 | ShareThis

A press conference organised in anticipation of the Almathea aid ship

In a press conference at the port of Gaza city yesterday government officials, fishing associations, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups reiterated their support for the attempts by international activists to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by sea.

Yesterday (July 14th 2010) many people amassed at the Gazan port to urge on the latest attempt by activists to enter the strip, this time by a Libyan chartered aid ship. It was the first serious attempt to enter Gaza by sea since the horrifying attack by the Israeli navy on the Free Gaza Flotilla and the Mavi Marmara which saw 9 Turkish activists killed.

Mahfouz Kabariti, President of Palestine Sailing Federation and Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime Sports, was communicating with the Amalthea as it neared Gazan waters: “The last contact we had with them was at midnight and since then communication was cut by the Israeli navy. They told us the boat was surrounded by Israeli gunships, but that they were determined to attempt to dock in Gaza and not take the option offered by the Egyptian government to dock in El Arish.”

According to Mahfouz the roll of the Freedom Flotilla missions are two-fold: “First is the arrival with aid, and materials such as construction supplies still banned by the blockade. The second is to put a spotlight on the suffering of the people here. Even if they are attacked, the second message highlights even more the extent to which Israel will go to keep us in Gaza isolated from the rest of the world with this illegal blockade of our people.”

Amjad Shawa, Gaza Coordinator for Palestinian NGOs: “It is not enough to demand some kind of minor reduction of this illegal siege.”

As well as government representatives and the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, Amjad Shawa, Gaza Coordinator for  Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (PNGO) was present. He emphasised the importance of international civil society persisting in trying to break the siege.

The need is especially acute because so far Israel’s response has only been to reduce the blockade on Gaza by a tiny fraction. The European Union, the United Nations, countless human rights groups and the International Committee for the Red Cross have all expressed the need for a return to the free flow of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. This must include construction materials which are sorely needed to help rebuild the 17,000 houses severely damaged in the 3 week attack over the New Year period of 2009 that left over 1500 dead including over 400 children.

“Nothing has changed here,” says Amjad. “Just some more consumer products…but 80% of the people here still depend on humanitarian aid. It is not enough to demand some kind of minor reduction of this illegal siege. But we are thankful that the siege on Gaza has not been forgotten, and that our people are still in the minds of the world. These kinds of solidarity actions are very important for Gazans, we see that others share with us the values of justice and the principals of human rights.”

A Gaza resident holding pictures of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi – whose charity sponsored the aid ship – and his father, Libyan leader Muammar Gadhaf

When asked about the role of the international community to pressure Israel, Amjad is more critical: “We are so sorry that the international community until now has made no real intervention, put no real pressure on Israel to lift the siege totally or exerted pressure on Israel to have a transparent and accountable international inquiry into the Israeli crimes on the freedom flotillas.

“Still today we’re waiting for real international pressure from the international community.  We hope that Israel will not use this silence as a chance to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people and international solidarity workers.”

The Libyan chartered boat was eventually forced to dock in El Arish, Egypt, after a wall of Israeli gunboats blocked its passage through to Gaza.  But the Palestinians remain heartened by these attempts and the further missions planned this September. Says Mahfouz: “People here feel grateful to those internationals who try to arrive at the Gaza beach, it’s so important to us that other people worry and support us.”

Updated on July 15, 2010

Libyan Aid Ship for Gaza Unloading Supplies in Egypt

NOVANews 15 July 2010

Egyptian Red Crescent personel wait for the docking of the Libyan aid vessel, the Amalthea, at the port of the coastal city of al Arish, Egypt, 15 Jul 2010

Photo: AP

Egyptian Red Crescent personnel wait for the docking of the Libyan aid vessel, the Amalthea, at the port of the coastal city of al Arish, Egypt, 15 Jul 2010

An aid group in Egypt has begun unloading supplies from a Libyan ship that initially tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt’s Red Crescent Society began the process Thursday of unloading the estimated 2,000 tons of aid aboard the Amalthea, preparing it for transport to Gaza by land.  The ship docked late Wednesday at Egypt’s El-Arish port.

Egyptian officials say the aid will go through Israeli checkpoints.  The Libyan-based charity that sponsored the Amalthea says some of its representatives will accompany the aid, but that its delegation will not include the nine pro-Palestinian activists who had traveled on the ship itself.

VOA’s Meredith Buel speaks with Middle East Monitor host Susan Yackee:


The Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation had wanted the ship to take the supplies directly to Gaza.  But officials said they docked at the Egyptian port late Wednesday to avoid a confrontation with the Israeli navy.  Activists on the ship said Israeli naval vessels repeatedly blocked their attempts to reach Gaza by sea.  The foundation’s executive director, Youssef Sawani, also said the Israelis even threatened to take over the ship if it persisted in its attempts to break through the naval blockade.

An Israeli spokesman denied an ultimatum had been given.
Six weeks ago, Israeli commandos intercepted another Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine activists – eight Turks and one Turkish-American – and sparking international outrage. Israel says its forces acted in self-defense after passengers on the Turkish aid ship attacked them.
Since the fatal encounter in May, global pressure has forced Israel to ease its land blockade on Gaza to allow in goods that do not have a potential military use.  
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged Libya on Tuesday to avoid confrontation and allow the Israelis to inspect the vessel, said to be carrying 2,000 tons of aid supplies.  The activists on board the Amalthea are affiliated with the ship’s sponsor, a charity run by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.



Large South African convoy to move to Gaza soon

17 July 2010

Written by Omar Ghraieb

altGaza, July 17, (Pal Telegraph) The Secretary-General of a Relief Foundation of South Africa, Dr. Walid Al-Saadi, revealed the current processing of the biggest convoy of relief emanating from South Africa to the Gaza Strip after the next month of Ramadan, in order to help the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza and break the siege imposed since more than four years.

Al-Saadi said as soon as he arrived for the Rafah crossing with a delegation of solidarity, consisted of three peace activists from South Africa in solidarity with Palestine, accompanied by trucks loaded with medicine and school bags plus children’s milk, he said: “This visit is a test to see the road and how to access to Gaza and the situation here, and in order to boot for the arrival of a huge upcoming convoy from South Africa.”

He noted that the visit has two objectives: the first is to reach the besieged Palestinian people and to consolidate and strengthen the steadfastness of facing the occupation and the participation in Gaza’s besieged people’s suffering and the second goal and most important is the media illustrating the image in the Gaza Strip to the African people who do not know anything about Gaza and live in a state of uncertainty, owing to the media misleading news.

“I represent the solidarity of the South African Government and people with the people of Gaza and the just cause because the African people have suffered from racial discrimination for many years along the lines just like the Palestinian people, Thus there is a synergy between the two peoples and uniformity in the suffering”, Al-Saadi added.

He continued: “Our arrival to Gaza means the arrival of South Africa as a whole to Gaza, the whole South African people wish access to Gaza and to break the siege, and the evidence of this is the intensive contacts we receive and they are still coming in from the moment we went out until we got Gaza, exceeding Over 150-Connection.

Al-Saadi noted that they will stay in Gaza for several days, and will meet with many MPs and leading figures in the government, as well as field visits to regions that have been subjected to destruction in the recent war against Gaza, calling on all institutions whether official orunofficial to run more convoys to Gaza.


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