August 15, 2010

Ben Gurion saves the remnant but which remnant?

Why are both Israel and Germany withholding papers relating to the Eichmann case from public view? I don’t know. But Shraga Elam thinks he knows and maybe he does.

Eradicating Arabs from the Entity: the finishing touches

What does the zionist infested media here say if Israel goes ahead with the finishing touches to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians? According to Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz, we may be about to find out:

Day and night they hear that they are a ‘demographic threat’ or a ‘fifth column,’ that the Negev and Galil must be ‘Judaized,’ that they must be expelled from their lands. Now they hear that the Knesset must be purified of their representatives, as well.
It’s likely to happen. In a society whose institutional defenses of democracy have started to deteriorate, nothing is safe any more. One day, perhaps we will no longer have Arab MKs, or at least none that represent their constituents. And on that day, Arab Israelis will know that their exclusion from their state has become total and complete.
And what do the inciters believe will replace Hadash, United Arab List – Ta’al, and Balad? And who will replace Barakeh, Zuabi and Tibi? What will replace the speeches, difficult and bitter as they are, from the Knesset podium? The campaign trails and assemblies? The public protest that is for the most part law-abiding?
You know the answer very well. The answer is frightening and dangerous.

And it has all happened before. 

Ethnically cleansing the dead

The destruction of an ancient Muslim cemetery by Israel has been going on for decades but the latest round of desecration is possibly the most outrageous when you consider why it is happening:

Yesterday, the day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, at 2:30 in the morning, workers sent by the Israeli authorities, protected by dozens of police, destroyed the tombstones in the last portion of the Mamilla cemetery, an historic Muslim burial ground with graves going back to the 7th Century, hitherto left untouched. The government of Israel has always been fully cognizant of the sanctity and historic significance of the site. Already in 1948, when control of the cemetery reverted to Israel, the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry recognized Mamilla “to be one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, where seventy thousand Muslim warriors of [Saladin’s] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars. Israel will always know to protect and respect this site.” For all that, and despite (proper) Israeli outrage when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated anywhere in the world, the dismantlement of the Mamilla cemetery has been systematic. In the 1960s “Independence Park” was built over a portion of it; subsequently an urban road was built through it, major electrical cables were laid over graves and a parking lot constructed over yet another piece. Now some 1,500 Muslim graves have been cleared in several nighttime operations to make way for…..a $100 million Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity, a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. (Ironically, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director, appeared on Fox News to express his opposition to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, because the site of the 9/11 attack “is a cemetery.”)

Such tolerance! 
August 12, 2010

Irish artists sign cultural boycott pledge – your turn now

I’ve just come back from. Temple Bar. Usually a reserve in central Dublin where we herd tourists, this lunchtime it was taken over by Irish artists who support Palestine. Meeting House Square, a cultural nexus in the city centre, was donated by the managers of Temple Bar Properties as the site where the Irish artists’ boycott of Israel was launched.

So far, over 150 Irish artists – writers, musicians, directors, actors, and actual well…artists – have signed the pledge to respect the boycott of Israel called by Palestinian civil society. Actual pledge and full list of signatories as of yesterday here. Over a dozen have added their names since
In terms of names, we seem to have just about everyone in the Irish traditional music world – Christy Moore, Kila band members, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and more. We also have, or rather Palestine also has the writer Seamus Deane, singer Damien Dempsey, actress Sinead Cusack, artist Bobby Ballagh and director Bob Quinn among others. And that’s just with the launch. We expect many more to sign over the coming weeks and months.
Palestine solidarity work isn’t usually noted for the joyfulness of the actions we organise. But this was a truly joyful event for everyone who turned up. About twenty of the signatories participated in the launch (photos to follow) with several of them performing, including Kila member, Eoin Dillon doing a duet with Lebanese-born jazz musician, Sami Moukkadem. The composer Raymond Deane, whose brainchild it was and who did so much work on encouraging folks to sign, was the compere for the launch. He quoted the PACBI endorsement of the event that noted that Israel uses visiting artists for propaganda just as apartheid South Africa did, and these artists have simply said they will not be used to bolster up an apartheid state.
The idea behind the pledge was that we were a bit tired chasing after artists who have already agreed to play Israel and trying to get them to change their minds. Thinking about it, this is the hardest category of artists to affect. It’s much easier to take pre-emptive action by asking artists to sign the pledge. By creating a solid bank of ethical artists we are building something that will have an effect on all artists who are offered money to break the boycott and play apartheid
So folks, it’s up to you now to do something similar in your countries. We expect more Irish artists will sign this pledge, but if we simply take the figure of 150 and the relative population sizes, the equivalent is about 2,000 British artists or 10,000 American ones. Ar aghaidh libh! 
August 08, 2010

Self hater?

Israeli airport officials harassed an American of Lebanese descent recently. According to YNET:

Prof. Donna Shalala, who served as the US Secretary of Health and Human Services for eight years under Clinton and is currently the president of the University of Miami, was held for two-and-a-half hours at Ben Gurion Airport during which she underwent a humiliating security debriefing because of her Arab last name – all this despite the fact that her hosts notified the airport ahead of time that she is a VIP…..
When Shalala arrived at the airport, she was not recognized as a VIP and was even afforded what she claims to be “special” treatment because of her Arab last name. She claims she was held for two-and-a-half hours during which she was asked invasive and humiliating personal questions. Despite the delay, she managed to board the flight to the US. Officials who spoke with her said she was deeply offended by the treatment she received.

Deeply offended huh? So what’s this in the Miami Herald:

Shalala, 69, was “delayed by questions and a full luggage search that lasted almost three hours, but she didn’t miss her plane,” said Margot Winick, a University of Miami spokeswoman, in an email.
Shalala was asked personal questions for about two hours, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Shalala was unavailable Saturday morning and university spokespersons declined to comment in detail on the incident, but released a statement from the president:
“While I was inconvenienced, Israel’s security and the security of travelers is far more important,” said Shalala, who is of Lebanese decent. “I have been going in and out of Israel for many years and expect to visit again.”

So what happened at the university between her being “deeply offended” and her expecting “to visit again”?


August 07, 2010

Jewish Chronicle: all the news that’s fit to omit

You’d think a Jewish woman losing an eye when she was shot with a tear gas canister would be news in the Jewish Chronicle but curiously the editor thought that the news was only fit to delete. Check this out from Tony Greenstein’s blog:

Dear Mr Pollard,[Editor of the Jewish Chronicle]
Below is a link to a story I blogged about an ordinary American Jewish student, Emily Honochowicz, who lost an eye peacefully protesting at a checkpoint in Jerusalem, the same day as the Mavi Marmara. A tear gas canister having been shot directly at her.

I realise that the habits of editing tabloid newspapers die hard but isn’t it time you covered not just this but the more general drift towards a police state in Israel? The attacks on secular Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, no supporter of Hamas, a liberated woman but clearly not the type that Israel’s knee-jerk supporters like, being the object of virulent abuse in the Knesset.
Instead of being an echo chamber to Jonathan Hoffman isn’t it about time you actually started reporting the more uncomfortable facts? When people look back this period of the Jewish Chronicle will come to be seen as one of its darkest and least glorious chapters.
Tony Greenstein

Back came the intrepid journalist’s reply:

Dear Mr Greenstein,
Thank you for your email, which will make a fine addition to my ‘delete’ folder.
Stephen Pollard
Sent from my iPhone so please reply to

So spake the editor of the oldest Jewish newspaper in the world.

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ADL denounced by CNN anchor

Well this could be a career decision by a courageous CNN anchor, Fareed Zakaria.

I don’t think any of us has written about the breathtaking hypocrisy of the misnamed Anti-Defamation League in opposing the construction of a mosque and Muslim community centre a good two blocks away from where the World Trade Centre once stood. Well, just quickly, there has been a proposal to construct a mosque about two blocks or so away from “ground zero”. Lots of Tea Bag Types, or whatever they’re called, have opposed the project that they are calling the “ground zero mosque“. And the ADL has lent its weight to what is a nasty islamophobic campaign smearing all Muslims as having been involved in the twin towers attack known as 9//11. Here’s the statement from the ADL:

Ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right,” the ADL said in a statement. “In our judgment, building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.

Now, the ADL give awards for this and that and this Farood Zakaria got the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. The what? Never mind what. It was a prize that this Farood Zakaria got and now he’s returning it. This is from the Huffington Post:

Five years ago, the ADL honored me with its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize,” Zakaria writes in next week’s Newsweek. “I was thrilled to get the award from an organization that I had long admired. But I cannot in good conscience keep it anymore. I have returned both the handsome plaque and the $10,000 honorarium that came with it. I urge the ADL to reverse its decision. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain a reputation.

This guy writes for Newsweek and is a CNN anchor. I hope we won’t be placing ex- in front of those job titles he currently still has. Mind you, how did he ever admire the ADL?

But he is a plucky chap. Foxman is on the case:

“I am not only saddened but stunned and somewhat speechless by your decision to return the ADL Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, you accepted in 2005,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a letter to Zakaria. “As someone I greatly respect for engaging in discussion and dialogue with an open mind I would have expected you to reach out to me before coming to judgment.”
Foxman added that the League “did not oppose the right for an Islamic Center or a mosque to be built” but rather “[made] an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity.”

But the plucky chap responded:

Does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?

Of course not! According to Foxman, the Palestinians don’t even have the right to be anguished.


August 05, 2010

Lebanese army no longer working for Israel

Gideon Levy has an informative piece in Ha’aretz today about the sheer hypocrisy of Israel’s dealings with the natives and neighbours of Palestine:

And now that we’ve recited ad nauseum the explanations of Israel Defense Forces propaganda for what happened Tuesday at the northern border, the facts should also be looked at.
On Tuesday morning, Israel requested “coordination” with UNIFIL to carry out another “exposing” operation on the border fence. UNIFIL asked the IDF to postpone the operation, because its commander is abroad. The IDF didn’t care. UNIFIL won’t stop us.
At noon the tree-cutters set out. The Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers shouted at them to stop. In Lebanon they say their soldiers also fired warning shots in the air. If they did, it didn’t stop the IDF.
The tree branches were cut and blood was shed on both sides of the border. Shed in vain.
True, Israel maintains that the area across the fence is its territory, and UNIFIL officially confirmed that yesterday. But a fence is a fence: In Gaza it’s enough to get near the fence for us to shoot to kill. In the West Bank the fence’s route bears no resemblance to the Green Line, and still Palestinians are forbidden from crossing it.
In Lebanon we made different rules: the fence is just a fence, we’re allowed to cross it and do whatever we like on the other side, sometimes in sovereign Lebanese territory. We can routinely fly in Lebanese airspace and sometimes invade as well.
This area was under Israeli occupation for 18 years, without us ever acknowledging it. It was an occupation no less brutal than the one in the territories, but whitewashed well. “The security zone,” we called it. So now, as well, we can do what we like.
But suddenly there was a change. How did our analysts put it? Recently there’s been “abnormal firing” at Israeli aircraft. After all, order must be maintained: We’re allowed to fly in Lebanese airspace, they are not permitted to shoot.
But Tuesday’s incident, which was blown out of proportion here as if it were cause for a war that only the famed Israeli “restraint” prevented, should be seen in its wider context. For months now the drums of war have been beating here again. Rat-a-tat, danger, Scuds from Syria, war in the north.
No one asks why and wherefore, it’s just that summer’s here, and with it our usual threats of war. But a UN report published this week held Israel fully responsible for creating this dangerous tension.
In this overheated atmosphere the IDF should have been careful when lighting its matches. UNIFIL requests a delay of an operation? The area is explosive? The work should have been postponed. Maybe the Lebanese Army is more determined now to protect its country’s sovereignty – that is not only its right, but its duty – and a Lebanese commander who sees the IDF operating across the fence might give an order to shoot, even unjustifiably.
Who better than the IDF knows the pattern of shooting at any real or imagined violation? Just ask the soldiers at the separation fence or guarding Gaza. But Israel arrogantly dismissed UNIFIL’s request for a delay.
It’s the same arrogance behind the demand that the U.S. and France stop arming the Lebanese military. Only our military is allowed to build up arms. After years in which Israel demanded that the Lebanese Army take responsibility for what is happening in southern Lebanon, it is now doing so and we’ve changed our tune. Why? Because it stopped behaving like Israel’s subcontractor and is starting to act like the army of a sovereign state.

Fisk also has an interesting take on the events of Tuesday just gone, in today’s Independent.

Mark Steel has a very funny comment piece in The Independent today. It’s about these inquiries that get held into the circumstances surrounding wars and attacks on civilians and deals mostly with Israel’s ridiculous inquiry into its attack on the Gaza flotilla but also mentions Israel’s stated intention to co-operate with the UN inquiry on the same thing. I’ll just post the last paragraph here but the whole thing is well worth a read:

bit by bit Israel is finding it has to answer for itself publicly, and the old excuses are not so easily accepted. From now on they’ll have to put a bit more thought into their bollocks, which has got to be for the good.

I don’t know. I presume that if Israel is truly co-operating with a UN inquiry then it has been rigged in their favour much like its own inquiry. 

August 02, 2010

Nakba 2010?

Well not really. The nakba that began in 1947 if not earlier, is still continuing that’s all. See this article on the recent eviction of Bedouin from the Negev on Max Blumenthal’s site:

On July 26, Israeli police demolished 45 buildings in the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib, razing the entire village to the ground to make way for a Jewish National Fund forest. The destruction was part of a larger project to force the Bedouin community of the Negev away from their ancestral lands and into seven Indian reservation-style communities the Israeli government has constructed for them. The land will then be open for Jewish settlers, including young couples in the army and those who may someday be evacuated from the West Bank after a peace treaty is signed. For now, the Israeli government intends to uproot as many villages as possible and erase them from the map by establishing “facts on the ground” in the form of JNF forests. (See video of of al-Arakib’s demolition here).

Arab Negev News publisher Ata Abu Madyam supplied me with a series of photos he took of the civilians in action. They depicted Israeli high school students who appeared to have volunteered as members of the Israeli police civilian guard (I am working on identifying some participants by name). Prior to the demolitions, the student volunteers were sent into the villagers’ homes to extract their furniture and belongings. A number of villagers including Madyam told me the volunteers smashed windows and mirrors in their homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plain site of the owners. Finally, according to Matyam, the volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes.

“What we learned from the summer camp of destruction,” Madyam remarked, “is that Israeli youth are not being educated on democracy, they are being raised on racism.” (The cover of the latest issue of Madyam’s Arab Negev News features a photo of Palestinians being expelled to Jordan in 1948 juxtaposed with a photo of a family fleeing al-Arakib last week. The headline reads, “Nakba 2010.”)

Still at least the JNF is making the desert green again… 

This is interesting. Ha’aretz reports that Israel is keeping documents under wraps that have already been hidden for 50 years.

The material was not accessible to the public previously, and the new regulations merely put a retroactive stamp of legality on the closure of the archives, which until now was sealed illegally. The state archivist warned that some of the classified materials “has implications over [Israel’s] adherence to international law.”His words suggest that the state will be seen as an outlaw if the past deeds of the security and intelligence services are made public. But his explanations are not reasonable. Israel, which this year celebrated its 62nd birthday, can and must confront the less than heroic chapters in its past and reveal them to the public and for historical study. The public has a right to know about the decisions made by the state’s founders, even if they involved violations of human rights, covering up crimes or harassing political opponents by security means. The country is mature and strong enough to absorb the criticism that could arise if, for example, previously unpublished testimonies are discovered about the events at Deir Yassin. 

This is easy for Ha’aretz to say but we’re just getting through the queazy feeling Israel gave its allies over the flotilla. Do they really want the wider world to see an Israeli imprimatur on the truth of its questionable legality?

Obama: Abbas must talk while Israel expands

I’ve read in a couple of places now that Obama has written to Abbas telling him that he has to attend talks with Israel so as to make it look like there’s a peace process processing. Apparently this will legitimise the conquest of the bits of Palestine that haven’t already been conquered by zionists. Let’s see what the Daily Telegraph says about this:

After months of placing the onus on Israel to lay the groundwork for new negotiations, Mr Obama’s decision to change tack represents a desperate bid to salvage the long-stalled peace process from total collapse.

In a letter delivered to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, two weeks ago, the US president said he expected objections to direct talks to be dropped by early August, according to a version leaked to the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.

According to the 16-point missive, Mr Abbas’s compliance would lead to renewed American support for Palestinian statehood, while resistance would result in painful consequences.
“Obama will regard any rejection of his proposal to move to direct talks as absolutely unacceptable,” the letter read. “Such rejection will have consequences, in the form of a loss of trust in President Abbas and the Palestinian side. There will also be other effects on US-Palestinian relations.”

Given that Israel has carte blanche to build in occupied territory and to slaughter Palestinian civilians the mind boggles as to what the Americans are actually threatening. 

July 31, 2010

Watch the money-go-round

Here’s a little chunk of a Robert Fisk article from today’s Independent:

an extraordinary – almost obscenely beautiful – financial arrangement in “Palestine”. The EU funds millions of pounds’ worth of projects in Gaza. These are regularly destroyed by Israel’s American-made weaponry. So it goes like this. European taxpayers fork out for the projects. US taxpayers fork out for the weapons which Israel uses to destroy them. Then EU taxpayers fork out for the whole lot to be rebuilt. And then US taxpayers… Well, you’ve got the point.

That’s just by the by. The article is titled Israel has crept into the EU without anyone noticing.


July 29, 2010

MKs in the UK

Zionists are often fond of pointing out that there are Arab members of the Israeli parliament and that this somehow proves that Israel is not a racist state, indeed that it is a normal functioning democracy. Well these two “Israeli”-Arab visitors to the UK parliament have other ideas. See this from the UK’s Jewish Chronicle:

Israeli Arab Knesset members have launched a blistering attack on the Jewish state and its Parliament, declaring Israel “racist, fascist and worse than apartheid South Africa”.Speaking to supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at the House of Commons on Wednesday, MK Haneen Zoubi said: “Israel is much worse than the apartheid regime in South Africa. There were no ethnic cleansing policies there, but there are those policies in Israel.”
Demand for entrance to the event was so great that supporters filled two committee rooms.
One campaigner said the current Palestinian mood lent itself to a third intifada, an “intifada for democracy”.
In May Ms Zoubi, 41, was on the lead boat in the Gaza flotilla and addressed the Knesset by phone while on board. She was interrupted with shouts of “Go to Gaza, traitor” by Jewish MKs.
Speaking at the PSC event she said: “Everyone in Europe who supports Israel, financially and politically, must know they also support its racism, oppression, occupation and siege.
“The racism and discrimination against Palestinians in Israel is systematic. It’s not a policy, it’s an ideology. No-one can support the siege and call themselves a human being.”
Ms Zoubi attacked Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s proposal to require all new Israeli citizens to swear an oath of allegiance recognising the country as a Jewish state.
She said she would campaign for democracy for “Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews” alike.
Jamal Zahalka, an MK since 2003, said the Knesset had passed “racist laws” that discriminated against Israeli Arabs.
“There is democracy, and then there is Israeli democracy,” he said. “I say, give me my land and keep your ‘democracy’. We should focus on the end of the occupation, the end of the siege and the end of the settlements. A two-state solution is losing time and becoming impractical.” 

Gratifying to know that it was such a well attended meeting.


Blix can’t cover his tracks

Sami Ramadani in The Guardian’s Comment is free on Hans Blix’s “evidence” to the Chilcott “inquiry”:

Yesterday it was Hans Blix’s turn to appear before the laid back and suitably emotionless inquisitors. The former chief UN weapons inspector revealed nothing we didn’t know. He told Chilcot there was no justification for war, because his inspectors found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; and he told them that he had needed a few more months to finish his task.
As an Iraqi living in Britain, and fearful for my compatriots back home, I remember waiting with bated breath for Blix to utter those undiluted words when he appeared before the UN security council in 2003, 11 days before the war of aggression was launched. Back then, he minced his words, providing enough ambiguity for Tony Blair and Jack Straw to push on with their plans to drag Britain into the US-led war.
Like a lot of politicians with guilty consciences, Blix has thrown his weight behind justice and morality only after the fact.

But of course, Blix won’t be paying the price that Iraq and its people are now paying, details of which are in the main body of the article.


July 28, 2010

Friend of Israel befriends Turkey and Gaza

David Cameron is (or was) in Turkey yesterday and he must have pleased his Turkish hosts with all he had to say. For example, The Independent reports that he made a “ferocious attack on Israel”:

In comments that will play well in Turkey, Mr Cameron frankly addressed the situation in Gaza. Speaking to business leaders in Ankara, Mr Cameron condemned Israel’s land and sea blockade of Gaza, aimed at weakening the Islamist group Hamas, which seized control of the strip in 2007.
“Let me be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change,” said Mr Cameron, reiterating comments that he made earlier to the House of Commons. “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, applauded Mr Cameron’s words, and repeated his condemnation of the flotilla assault in international waters, comparing it to Somali piracy.
Israel’s relations with Turkey, already strained after the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict, further deteriorated when Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship of a flotilla aimed at breaching the Gaza blockade. Israeli troops killed nine activists, mostly Turks, prompting an international outcry.
Mr Cameron yesterday reiterated earlier comments that the attack was “unacceptable” and called for a “swift, transparent and rigorous” investigation of the raid.

Interesting stuff. Remember that documentary some months ago where Peter Oborne bemoaned the power of the lobby, you know which lobby, over the Tory party? Former Jewish Chronicle journo now with the Daily Telegraph, Julian Kossoff remembers it:

Last year a Channel 4 documentary sought to prove that the “wealthy Jewish lobby” (yawn) were Conservative Party paymasters. If that was the case they should now ask for a refund. David Cameron has blindsided the Conservative friends of Israel and the Israeli government by calling Gaza a “prison camp” and saying the Gaza flotilla raid was “completely unacceptable”. Hopes that he would be an uncritical friend have now rapidly dissolved.The Prime Minister has revealed that his policy towards Israel will be carrot-and-stick. Last week there was jubilation over the lifting of thethreat of war crimes prosecutions of Israeli politicians and military leaders. Now this very public dressing down will leave Jerusalem fuming; the Israelis may even detect the hand of President Obama.
But the fact is not even Israel’s greatest allies can stomach the more brutal aspects of Israel’s conflict with Hamas. Israel’s leaders may not be able to distinguish between terrorists and innocent civilians but the rest of the world thinks it can – and it won’t countenance the continued, pointless suffering, any longer.
That doesn’t mean the likes of Cameron and Obama are “anti-Israel” (or even more ridiculous, anti-Semitic) or that they want to jeopardise its security. Both men’s commitment to the future of the Jewish state is unquestionable, they just want Israel to show a little more compassion. And so do I. 

The question here is just how imperative is Israel’s lack of compassion to the zionist project? Violence has always served Israel very well. But Cameron’s speech and Kossoff’s article in the most pro-Israel of the broadsheets on-line both go to show how far Israel’s star has fallen in the eyes of its western supporters in recent years. Long may it continue, but not too long I hope.

Around the time of the last flotilla – the massacred one – Richard Irvine had an interesting article in the Guardian. Richard (personal interest disclosure: he’s also from Ireland) was pointing out the similarities between the Mavi Marmara and The Exodus. The latter was the ship taking Jewish refugees to Palestine in 1947; it provoked international outrage when British forces boarded it, killing several passengers and preventing it from reaching Palestine.

While the comparison was clever and the article interesting, what struck me forcefully were the differences between the two ships. At its most basic, there were Jews on The Exodus. With a few exceptions, there were no Palestinians on the Mavi Marmara or any other ship on the flotilla. The Exodus served as an example of Jews doing things for themselves – liberating themselves from the Displaced Person’s camps in Europe – this is what gave the story its power. The Mavi Marmara and Freedom Flotilla is an example of other people doing things for Palestinians. As a story, it pushes Palestinians to the margins.
This is not meant to be a criticism of the flotilla tactic, but rather a reflection on its opportunity costs. All tactics come with these opportunity costs, these paths closed off, resources spent that could have be used elsewhere. Nothing – no political action anyway – is perfect. But that’s not to stop us trying to make them more perfect.
But before looking at these costs and weaknesses, we need to recognise that the flotillas have probably been the most successful tactic used to promote Palestine solidarity. As a way of demonstrating and creating international solidarity with Palestine it is unparalleled. As a means of reaching out to the public in our home countries and giving them a way of getting involved, it has surpassed anything else we’ve done. For instance in Ireland, thousands donated their fivers and tenners for bags of cement to Gaza and once this was done, these people were invested in the convoy; they were part of Palestine solidarity in an immediate and (sorry for the pun) concrete way. Connected in a way they hadn’t been before. And while comparisons with Sharpeville (or more extremely with 9/11) may be overstated, the flotillas have made the world aware as never before, of the brutality and random cruelty of the Israeli regime. Israel, unlike South Africa, has been able to get away with killing schoolchildren. But killing (non-Palestinian) aid activists was a step too far, too much for the rest of the world to stomach.
Yet things have been lost. One of the prime things cast overboard in the stories about the flotilla has been the agency of Palestinians. The stories are all about the activists and the aid. This, after all, is what made them easier to sell to the media. At the most cynical, there was the shock factor that Israel has descended to killing and brutalising white(ish) people, not just Arabs, Palestinians. But one does not need to be cynical – in Ireland the last flotilla was about ‘area man’, people from Cork, Donegal, somewhere nearby. It’s easy to get our media to write up stories about our generosity and our actions, be it a group of nurses raising money for medicines or retired bus-drivers on a sponsored run for the flotilla. This is all good. It makes solidarity much more immediate, more real for people than stories about foreigners in a far away land once again doing unspeakable things to each other.
But where are the Palestinians in these stories? They are indistinct, the object of aid, the victims of oppression. They are not seen as agents capable of liberating themselves, but passively awaiting our aid, our bravery. Not actors in this drama but once again assigned the role of spectators to their own history. Activists may be empowered by the flotilla story, but does this correspondingly disempower Palestinians? Perhaps not; the stories Irish or British people tell themselves so as to get involved in solidarity activism aren’t necessarily listened to by Palestinians. They have their own narrativws of action.
And yet… the mantle of despair and victimhood placed over Palestinians must have some effect. This is something solidarity activists are aware of. Speaking from experience, the Irish flotilla people were trying to assign agency to Palestinians, stressing the point of view of Gazans, how Palestinians are trying to break the siege, how they want the borders to be opened so the can be self-reliant, not recipients of aid. But actions speak louder than words and the flotilla tactic remains an action in which Palestinians are largely absent.
We can ask then whether this tactic builds Palestinian capacity to resist, or control of their own struggle. Long-term the hope is that it will – it will help end the siege, enabling Palestinians to have more control over their own futures. But asking the question more specifically: does the process of building the flotilla build Palestinian capacity inside the Occupied Territories? Also does it build specifically Palestinian diaspora activism and capacity the same way it builds other international solidarity activism? Should we be worried if it doesn’t? Considering that it is Palestinian struggle that will win freedom for Palestine, with international solidarity activism simply playing an ancillary role – I’d say yes, definitely.
Relating the flotilla tactic to domestic solidarity activism offers a useful pointer. There is a second opportunity cost to flotillas – the costs to international solidarity organisations to raise millions, only to have the millions captured by Israel. This is simply part of the cost of organising around sending people to Gaza, rather than around domestic activism. Groups like the ISM and EAPPI have been dealing with this quandary for years now. They recognise that Palestinians are pretty clear about what they want – it’s not so much for international activists to act as heroes in Israel/Palestine as for them to get involved in home country work when they return. These two groups stress this point, and in Ireland at any rate, so does the Free Gaza Movement, creating a good balance between flotilla work and domestic activism.
I can only speak for the Irish experience, but speaking for it, the flotilla organisers and participants have done a brilliant job in promoting and getting involved in Palestine solidarity work in this country. They have met ministers and local politicians, done press conferences and interviews, and have spoken up and down the country encouraging people to get active in solidarity work and to boycott, boycott, boycott Israel. This is aside from their work in trying to get another flotilla up and running. They have kept to an exhausting schedule upon returning, when it would have been much easier to lie back and recover from the trauma and craziness of the flotilla. They deserve the highest of praise for this. So, while there are undoubtedly some who would fetishise the flotilla, the majority of organisers and participants here most certainly do not, and conscientiously and deliberately promote domestic activism.
And so rephrasing the rather rhetorical questions I made above, can the same balance be made with respect to conscientiously and deliberately promoting Palestinian activities in the Occupied Territories and diaspora? It’s a difficult one to answer, but should be addressed. How about – even symbolically, getting the ships to take back something from Palestinians in Gaza – symbols of future exports from Gaza? Or ensure that there are Gazans on the organising committee, in constant contact with Western journalists. Or alternatively, using the flotilla to push and expand Palestinian diaspora political activism. After all, if we’re making comparisons with the Exodus, how about a boat with Palestinian exiles sailing to Gaza (They’d need to be citizens of other countries, so Israel’s brutality will hopefully be restrained).
To end: Of course there are some shortcomings in the flotilla tactic. But they’re not insurmountable. It should be possible to think of imaginative ways to overcome any weaknesses in what has already proved to be an imaginative, motivating and above all, effective tactic.

Posted by David L @ 1:36 PM Comments (4)

Obama allows PLO to fly the flag

I had no idea that Palestinian representatives, even not very representative ones, had no right to fly their flag in washington. See this from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

The Obama administration will allow the PLO office in Washington to fly the Palestinian flag and assume the title of “delegation.”
The change in status comes with no enhancement in diplomatic status, U.S. officials said.
The new privileges for the Palestine Liberation Organization office do not mean the representation has “any diplomatic privileges or immunities,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said last Friday.
“At the request of the PLO representative, which we have granted given the improvement in the relations between the United States and Palestinians, they have requested permission to fly the Palestinian flag,” he said. “And they have requested permission to call themselves the General Delegation of the PLO, which is a name that conforms to how they describe their missions in Europe, Canada, and several Latin American countries.”

But Israel lobbyists shouldn’t worry:

Crowley said the steps have symbolic value and reflect improved relations between the United States and Palestinians, but they have no meaning under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It’s only a flag after all.
So no diplomatic status for the PLO but still not all of Israel’s representatives are happy:

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking member on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, tied her efforts to eject the PLO from Washington to congressional efforts to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another law that presidents have routinely waived since its passage in 1995.
“Instead of giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it’s time for us to kick the PLO out of the U.S. once and for all and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs,” she said in a statement.

No Palestine flag, no Palestine representation, no Palestine at all. The whole shebang is Israel according to Rep.Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla). 

A friend sent me this artist’s impression of what Israel might look like in ten years time:

State-wide censorship of sexually explicit material on the internet. Laws prohibiting driving vehicles on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Women allowed to bathe in the Mediterranean only a few hours a week. The face of Baruch Goldstein on the 20 shekel bill. A national holiday celebrating our spiritual founding father, Rabbi Meir Kahane

The artist is Yosi Even Kama and the report is in Ha’aretz.
PS – “Rabbi” Meir Kahane is the chap who advocated laws like this one.

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