Mondoweiss Online Newsletter




Lizzy Ratner and Laila El-Haddad discuss The Goldstone Report on GRITtv
Jan 19, 2011 08:58 pm | Adam Horowitz

More GRITtv

To learn more about The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict


UN rights board calls for complete halt on Israeli settlement activity as home demolitions increase across East Jerusalem
Jan 19, 2011

And more news from Today in Palestine:



Settlers/ Land, Property, Resource Theft & Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

IOA serves demolition notifications to owners of five tents
The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) on Wednesday delivered demolition notices to five Palestinian families living in tents east of Yatta town, south of Al-Khalil city, local sources reported.

IOA bulldozes Palestinian land in OJ
Israeli occupation authorities on Wednesday bulldozed Palestinian land in occupied Jerusalem’s town of Issawiye and destroyed a water well, eyewitnesses reported.

El Arakib after the 10th demolition

Bedouin village razed once again as historic Jerusalem hotel demolished
Following the demolition of the historic Shepherd Hotel and the increase of home demolitions across occupied East Jerusalem, United Nations agencies and European Union officials called for observers and the implementation of international law in Jerusalem.

OPT: East Jerusalem evictions causing suffering, anguish
JERUSALEM Wednesday, January 19, 2011 (IRIN) – Evictions and house demolitions are a growing humanitarian concern for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

UN rights board calls for complete halt on Israeli settlement activity
A UN human rights board called Tuesday on world powers to force Israel to put a dead-end on peace-impeding settlement plans, and expressed sorrow over the world’s lack of political will.

Arab Nations Decide to Submit Draft Resolution on Settlements
Arab envoys resolved to present a formal draft resolution opposing Israel’s illegal settlement construction at the UN Security Council, AFP reported on Tuesday.
Israel seeks to complete “Jerusalem envelope” project this year
As the Israeli settlement enterprise expands throughout East Jerusalem, the state seeks to complete construction of the separation wall by the end of 2011. These two programs make up an integral part of the notorious 2020 plan, which seeks to create a clear Palestinian minority, of less more than 12% of the population, in Jerusalem by the year 2020. The plan, encompassing a vast orray of both formal and informal plans and policies of the Israeli state and various institutions enjoys the financial support of a significant number of American donors. Israel has stepped up its pace over the last decade to complete what has been dubbed the “Jerusalem envelope”, a ring of Jewish Israeli civilian and military presence around East Jerusalem. The envlope aims to encircle the Old City and surrounding regions it hopes to annex in to its territory, cutting off tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites from their own city and isolating others within their own neighborhoods.
Squeezing Silwan, Palestine Monitor
The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan has been the target of Israeli political intimidation. Since the end of December 2010, several prominent community leaders have been arrested and investigated in what members of the Wadi Hilwah Information Center are calling an attempt to quell activism in the cohesive East Jerusalem neighborhood.
WZO Settlements Division Back With Netanyahu
The World Zionist Organisation’s (WZO) Settlements Division is again under the control of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office after a period of nearly four years with the Agriculture Ministry.

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Holding fast to the land in Bethlehem
Jan 19, 2011– For the second year in a row, the Bethlehem Agricultural Directorate, in cooperation with Stop the Wall and several other organizations, began voluntary land reclamation work on Thursday in the area of Wad Abu Bakir in al Khadr. International solidarity activists joined in the voluntary work, which is planned to continue throughout the year.

Report: Olive Harvest 2010
Jan 19, 2011– The olive harvest ended this year, and as in other seasons, both farmers and the land they own faced continuous attacks from Occupation forces and settlers. This report contains data on human rights violations carried out by settlers or military forces against communities across the West Bank, and includes maps of each district where a substantial number of attacks took place.

Two Years after Operation “Cast Lead,” we demand accountability
Two years after Operation “Cast Lead”–Israel’s horrific 22-day all-out assault of the besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip–which killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, Israel continues to collectively punish 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip through an illegal blockade, and to avoid accountability for its actions.  The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation will collect 22,000 signatures in the next 22 days, on the petition below. This petition calls upon the Obama Administration to:

1. Demand that Israel end its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, and  2. Stop blocking the international community from holding Israel accountable for its actions.  Help us reach that goal by signing this petition. After doing so, you can help us spread the word about this petition by alerting your friends. Thanks for taking action!

Presbyterian Groups Call on U.S. Department of Justice to End Subpoenas on Dissenting Activists
NEW YORK—The Israel Palestine Mission Network* (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship(PPF) and the National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus (NMEPC) oppose the misuse of the grand jury process by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the accompanying FBI raids. The DOJ served a total of nine federal grand jury subpoenas to Chicago area Palestinian solidarity activists in the month of December alone, raising the total subpoenas served to 23. These Presbyterian groups call upon their own denominational leadership, as well as Churches for Middle East Peace, the National Council of Churches and all concerned Christian denominations to join them in denouncing the DOJ’s bold attempts to suppress peaceful dissent on the part of those working for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Flotilla planned to mark anniversary of deaths in Gaza waters
BEIRUT: The exiled former Patriarch of occupied Jerusalem Hilarion Kabouji called upon all Arabs Tuesday to support an aid flotilla that could sail to besieged Gaza on May 31, 2011, to mark the first anniversary of deadly Israeli aggression against a similar convoy.
Finland shopping for “battle-tested” Israeli weaponry
Finland’s ministry of defense has narrowed the field in its competition to provide the Finnish army with mini unmanned aerial vehicles. Of the five remaining bidders, four are Israeli firms with deep ties to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.

Canadian B’nai Brith suggests The Bay is practicing boycott without saying so, Phillip Weiss
From Canadian B’nai Brith, Monday, January 17: “Inconsistent explanations from The Bay regarding removal of Ahava products from shelves.”   There have been a variety of responses from representatives at The Bay throughout the past week regarding the removal of the Ahava products from their shelves; yet, each of these representatives has provided a different explanation for the removal of the products, which has led to much confusion.

Israel Targets Free Gaza Movement with Repulsive Propaganda
(MADISON, Wi.) – It is not enough that humanitarian activists on the Mavi Marmara were illegally boarded and attacked in international waters on a peace mission to Gaza.  Nor is it sufficient that nine peace activists on the Mavi Marmara were assassinated in cold blood by Israeli terrorist forces—Furkan Doğan, Necdet Yıldırım, Cevdet Kılıçlar, Ali Haydar Bengi, Cengiz Akyür, Fahri Yaldız, Cengiz Songür, Çetin Topçuloğlu and İbrahim Bilgen.

Through the Looking Glass – Five years in Students for Justice in Palestine, Tom Pessah
Some of the best children’s stories tell us of a secret passageway, a place that looks completely mundane and uninteresting, that turns out to be a gateway to another world: the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, the station where Harry Potter catches the train to Hogwarts, the rabbit hole and looking glass through which Alice passes into Wonderland. Going through the looking glass is a particularly good metaphor for the journey I’ve been through in Students for Justice in Palestine, because when the Israelis I grew up with talked about Palestinians, they were really talking about how they themselves were better than other Israelis: cultivated Tel Avivians constantly criticized the fanatic settlers; bourgeois Ashkenazim were more enlightened than those racist, vulgar working class Mizrahim (especially certain soccer fans); the radical left was so much more sincere than the hypocritical Meretz, but they themselves were ridiculed by the fringe socialist groups – everyone talked about other people’s attitude to Arabs, but no one really knew any.

Human Rights/Humanitarian Issues/Siege

Tunnel worker dies of burns sustained in accident
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Gaza man from succumbed Wednesday to wounds and burns he sustained last week when a fire erupted inside a smuggling tunnel under the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip.  Adham Abu Salmiya, a Gaza medical official, said 24-year-old Ashraf Abu Asar of the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City died of critical burns he sustained working in a smuggling tunnel in Rafah.  Earlier this week, 21-year-old Muhammad Jalal Madi died of similar burns he sustained in the same accident.  The first two victims in 2011 bring the death toll from smuggling tunnel accidents to 156 since 2006.

Palestinian military prosecutors vow to stop arresting civilians, Amira Hass
PA security establishment pledges to Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq stop detaining, trying civilians in the West Bank.

400 Gazans endangered as vital medicine nears depletion
Gaza’s Health Minister Bassem Naim said 400 kidney patients in Gaza are at risk as dialysis solution provided by the World Health Organization is on the brink of running out.

Gaza Strip runs out of cooking gas
No trace of cooking gas was to be found in Gaza Tuesday, fuel companies warned, as the Israeli blockade limits supply and solutions appear unpromising.

Interpal Replies to Report on Blacklisting of 163 Foreign Charities
Interpal has responded in writing to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published last week, regarding Israel’s ban on 163 foreign charities suspected of ‘supporting terrorism’, the Middle East Monitor revealed on Monday.
Voices Beyond Walls
The University of East London is now hosting a screening of nine short films and photography produced by Palestinian youth. “The Re-imagining project: Al Aroub refugee camp and Gaza” exhibition features the creations from teenagers from Al Aroub refugee camp in the West Bank, and Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. The students produced the photos and films during their digital media storytelling workshop this past summer, and exhibitions this fall took place in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Racism and Discrimination

Israeli Arabs earn less than Jews despite working longer hours, data shows
According to 2008 data, average gross salary per household in Israel was much lower for Arabs – NIS 8,818, compared to NIS 14,242 for Jewish households.

Racism In Jewish Schools; “A Dead Arab Is A Good Arab”
A number of teachers working in Jewish Schools in Israel stated that more instances of racism are reaching alarming levels as more students are expressing their views that exceeded their hatred to Arabs to the level of advocating for killing them.

Israeli Racism, Stephen Lendman
Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” It was the basis of South African apartheid and Nazi “master race” superiority above others, especially Jews.  Israel has no constitution. Basic Laws substitute, including statutes affirming exclusive rights for Jews. One is the right of return, granting them automatic citizenship. Goyim are denigrated and not wanted, especially Arabs. David Ben-Gurion once said…

Violence/Aggression/War Crimes

another Palestinian, another terrorist
Israel National News reports that “Israeli tanks and bulldozers crossed several hundred feet into Gaza Tuesday afternoon and killed one terrorist after a bomb exploded near an Israel patrol vehicle at the Gaza separation/security barrier.” I know that this isn’t true, because I know who they killed: Amjad Sami Za’aneen. I know because I got a call from his relative Saber Za’aneen earlier today that there had been an incursion in Beit Hanoun, and because my friends went to the hospital to go interview his family members. They said he’d been collecting rocks with friends in the buffer zone when an Israeli tank unloaded a shell at them. It blew a hole in his abdomen so big he didn’t even make it to the hospital before he died. The murderers’ newspaper says: “it is widely known that the patrol area is a closed military zone.” That’s how they shrug off ripping a hole in a boy’s stomach and ripping a hole in his family’s world. They lie about it. Then they blame the victim. Then they call him a terrorist. Then they refuse to say his name. A friend asked me what we do here, because we cannot do direct action anymore. I told him, we make sure the dead have names.
Palestinian worker hit in IOF shooting
A Palestinian worker collecting gravel in east of Jabalia town, to the north of the Gaza Strip, was hit with Israeli army bullets on Wednesday, medical sources reported.

Israeli police raid Bedouin school, injure five students
Five Palestinian Bedouin students were injured when Israeli policemen and border police stormed their school in Tarabin village, Negev, on Tuesday, local sources reported.

Clashes continue in Bir Ayyub
Clashes erupted today between Palestinian residents of Bir Ayyub district of Silwan and the Israeli military. Troops wantonly dispersed sound grenades at the crowd. Minor clashes also broke out in Baten al-Hawa. No injuries have been reported.
Special forces target Silwan
Israeli police special forces and plainclothes officers were both involved in the violence that swept through Bir Ayyub today in Silwan. Sound bombs were fired inside Palestinian homes, as the violence quickly descended in to confrontations with ordinary citizens of Silwan. It is common knowledge that Israeli undercover forces are extremely active in Silwan, with one resident commenting that “undercover forces have a clear agenda when they come to Silwan, but when they fail to find or apprehend the target they simply arrest anyone, that is nearby or in their way, so that they do not return empty-handed.”
Police chief patrols Silwan
Eyewitnesses report that Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco is moving on foot through Silwan, flanked by senior officers. Franco was seen briefing police officers in the Wadi Hilweh district, then leaving with his delegation for the Ein Silwan area.
Troops stationed throughout Silwan
Israeli military forces are currently stationed at the entrances to Silwan. The most heavy presence is on Wadi Hilweh’s main street at the northern entrance to the village, with military vehicles moving throughout other neighborhoods.
Family of slain Palestinian seeks murder charge (AP)
AP – The family of an American-Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli police still hopes to have the officer who killed him tried for murder, even though the officer was cleared by authorities.*

Israel drops investigation into police shooting of Palestinian
The Palestinian motorist sideswiped police and then tried to flee when they opened fire. Israeli officials say the border policeman who shot the man in the head while he was lying in the road acted reasonably out of fear that the man was a terrorist.,0,3731101.story
Gaza Doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish Two Years After Israeli Attack That Killed 3 Daughters & Niece: “As Long As I Am Breathing, They Are With Me. I Will Never Forget”
Dr. Izzeldeen Abuelaish was a well-known Palestinian gynecologist who spent years working in one of Israeli’s main hospitals. On January 16, 2009, two days before the end of Israel’s brutal 22-day assault on Gaza, his home was shelled twice by Israeli tanks. His three daughters and his niece were killed. He has just written a book about his life called, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey On the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. He joins us in our studio for an extended conversation.

The Deadly Experiment – Israel’s Murderous Testing Ground for ‘Non-Lethal’ Weapons
This article provides additional background information about CSI’s tear gas canisters (used to kill Jawaher Abu Rahmah on January 1), but also includes photographic evidence of another tear gas provider to Israel: Defense Technology Corp., a US company that is owned by BAE Systems in the UK. Telling the story of Israel’s violent repression of nonviolent Palestinian demonstrators, and telling it to U.S. policy-makers, continues to be high on the agenda of the US Campaign.


PA militias kidnap four citizens including three school students in W. Bank
The Fatah-controlled Palestinian authority detained four Palestinian citizens lately because of their affiliation with Hamas in the occupied territories of Jerusalem and Salfit.

Soldiers Kidnap 14 Members Of Fateh, PFLP
Israeli soldiers kidnapped on Wednesday at dawn more than 14 Palestinian youths, all under the age of 21, apparently for their affiliation with the Fateh movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

IOF kidnap 18 Palestinians in W. Bank
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped at dawn Wednesday 18 Palestinian citizens in the West Bank, most of them from Nablus city, during violent raids on their homes.

Jerusalem police detain son of prisoners’ rights activist
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Israeli police at dawn on Tuesday raided the Jerusalem home of Nasser Qaws, head of a prisoners’ center, and detained his teenage son.  Qaws said his 16-year-old son and Fathi Esbitan, 15, were taken to a police station in the city for questioning.  An Israeli police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Palestinian prisoner paralysed after Shabak administered unknown substance
Palestinian prisoners say Shabak drugged a prisoner causing paralysis, a common practice according to rights group Waed, Ahram Online , , January 18, 2011, Palestinian detainees revealed that the Israeli Shabak had drugged a Palestinian prisoner which might have directly resulted in the onset of paralysis., The Palestinian prisoners said that a Shabak officer asked a collaborator in the desert prison of Eichel to put a pill in a coffee cup then hand it to a Palestinian prisoner who then became paralysed., Other serious symptoms manifested such as loss of focus and, among other things, involuntary urination.
Law allows Israel to arrest Gaza man minutes after his release
Israel arrested a Gaza man Wednesday under an unlawful combatant law minutes after releasing him.

Political Developments

U.S. push for Israeli, Palestinian intelligence: WikiLeaks (Reuters)
Reuters – The United States instructed its Middle East diplomats in 2008 to gather data on encrypted Israeli communications and build financial and “biometric” profiles of Palestinian leaders, a leaked embassy cable shows.*

Foreign Ministry sanctions save Netanyahu, Lieberman from coping with Russia’s slap in the face, Akiva Eldar
Labor dispute spares Israel’s politicians from diplomatic embarrassment after Russian president Medvedev confirms Moscow’s recognition of Palestinian state.

Palestinians raise flag at Washington office (AP)
AP – In a symbolic gesture, the Palestinians have raised their flag over their diplomatic mission in Washington for the first time, as they continue a push for international recognition that is complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to restart stalled Mideast peace talks.*

Shin Bet: Palestinians moving to no man’s land around Jerusalem
Diskin tells MKs Egypt can halt smuggling to Gaza within 48 hours, but its level of control in Sinai low; claims Palestinians will seek UN recognition of statehood if peace talks won’t progress.,7340,L-4015651,00.html

Barak’s move enrages Arab Labor members
Party members from Arab sector consider leaving following defense minister’s decision to quit: ‘This is the biggest blow to Left in modern Israeli history’.,7340,L-4015785,00.html
Israelis see Barak’s Labor exit as ploy to keep job: poll
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israelis overwhelmingly believe that Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to leave his Labor Party and form a new faction was an attempt to protect his Cabinet post, a poll showed Tuesday.

Abbas: East Jerusalem is Our Capital and We Will Not Negotiate for It
Jericho – PNN – After what he called a “historic” meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of Jericho army cadets, “Jerusalem is our capital and we will not negotiate for it.”

Other News

Tzipi Livni cancels trip to SA
Israel’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni has cancelled her trip to South Africa following protests from local pro-Palestinian groups.  She was invited by the Jewish Board of Deputies to give a series of talks in Cape Town and Johannesburg later this week.  Livni has been accused of being a war criminal as she was influential in ordering attacks in Gaza in January 2009, in which more than 1,000 people died.

Rights group claims reform victory over PA justice system
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A Palestinian rights group on Tuesday said its campaign to prohibit Palestinian Authority military courts from prosecuting civilians in the West Bank had been successful.  The Ramallah-based Al-Haq announced in a statement that following a three-year campaign, Palestinian General Intelligence officials decided that military arrest warrants would no longer be issued against civilians, and civilians detained as a result of military arrest warrants would be released.
Al-Quds University seeks Israeli recognition of dentistry faculty
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Vice-president of Al-Quds University Hassan Dweik met with Israeli Health Ministry officials on Tuesday to request recognition for the university’s dentistry faculty.  Dweik met the ministry’s director of dental health Shlomo Zusman following intensive efforts by the Arabs Dental Association in Israel, the organization’s secretary Fakhri Hassan said.
Jerusalem set to rule on fate of accused Bosnian collaborator
Israeli citizen Aleksander Cvetkovic is suspected of participating in the murder of between 1,000 and 1,200 Bosnian Muslims.

Prosecution: Charge Rabbi Elon with indecent acts
Jerusalem District Prosecution recommends attorney general to file indictment against religious-Zionist leader on suspicion of committing indecent acts against male teens.,7340,L-4015742,00.html

Obama Depicted As Bin Laden, Orthodox Jew On T-Shirts In Jerusalem (VIDEO)
From Palestinian to ultra-orthodox Jew, President Obama takes on a variety of eyebrow-raising personas emblazoned on T-shirts for sale in souvenir stands across Jerusalem.  But by far the most provocative: the U.S. leader depicted as America’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden.  And according to Al-Jazeera, the popularity of a particular design is often directly influenced by the current views among both Palestinians and Israelis in regard to the U.S. and its policies. But other vendors, such as Sergio Awenstern, have vowed not to carry any Obama merchandise for sale in their shops. “He doesn’t know anything about the Middle East,” Awenstern, who owns a shop in West Jerusalem, said. “He thinks with his smile and charisma he can make anything…here it’s the real world, it’s not Hollywood.”

‘Tears of Gaza’ showing tomorrow in L.A., Adam Horowitz

In a rough style, by way of unique footage, the brutal consequences of modern wars are exposed. The film also depicts the ability of women and children to handle their everyday life after a dramatic war experience. Many of them live in tents or in ruins without walls or roofs. They are all in need of money, food, water and electricity. Others have lost family members, or are left with seriously injured children. Can war solve conflicts or create peace? The film follows three children through the war and the period after the ceasefire.


Who will be the next to recognize an independent Palestinian state?
Sources in New York are placing their bets on Spain being first in Western Europe and say recognition from countries in the Caribbean Islands is soon to come.

Democratic for Jews, Jewish for everyone else, Joseph Dana
Despite the hysteria of the past week, Israeli democracy is in perfect health. Well, for the Jewish citizens of the country anyway. Avigdor Lieberman’s push to investigate leftist NGO’s is a political trick which lacks significant power to change the situation on the ground. Lieberman’s trick was designed to cast the Israeli left as reactionary and quick to cry wolf. It largely achieved its goals. The incredible mobilization to ’save Israeli democracy’ reinforces the notion that democracy for Jews is in perfect health. The left was attacked, people took to the streets and the system worked. If Lieberman’s desire to investigate leftist NGO’s reaches the next level in the parliament, concerned Jewish citizens will surly take the proper recourse under Israeli law.
PA Institutions Essential to Occupation Infrastructure, Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The accomplishments of the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the signing of the Oslo Accords agreements can only be described as a national tragedy. Gaza is under Israeli and international crippling blockade; East Jerusalem and big area of the West Bank have been annexed by Israel; the West Bank has become fractured by the growth of settlement blocks; there are hundreds of checkpoints; many Jews-only roads and “bypass roads” and the separation wall have been built in the West Bank; and the refugees are still denied the right of return.
State Declaration: The Palestinians’ agonizing choices, Issa Khalaf
The US and its Quartet partners want Palestinian-Israeli negotiations concluded by August 2011, coinciding with the date of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to declare a state. To convey the complexity of the issue, and the Palestinians’ fundamental dilemma in their quest for freedom from Israeli occupation, below I list the positives and negatives of declaring a state and offer my interpretations and conclusions of how events may unfold.  (Keep in mind as you read the arguments for declaration that – though the Israelis, supported by the US, insist on a “disputed” status for certain territories including East Jerusalem – the Palestinians have every right to seek statehood/UN membership because the territories, according to international law, UNSC resolutions, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, are illegally occupied.)

‘Goldstone’ becomes a punchline on the Israeli Supreme Court, Lizzy Ratner
Horowitz The Goldstone pbIt’s finally happened.  After being pummeled and bashed, defamed and defiled for nearly 18 months, the name “Richard Goldstone” has finally been demoted to joke status in Israel. And the joker was none other than a Supreme Court justice, one of the 14 people most responsible for guarding the sanctity of law in Israel.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and the silence of friends, Jim Harris
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” –Martin Luther King. We know the most vociferous opponents of Palestinian freedom that walk the halls of Congress. Their words and actions are clearly supportive of the most brutal of Israeli actions against Palestinians, leaving no room for doubt of their racism and total disregard for human rights. They are the Bull Connors of our age. I wonder though if the greatest impediment to advancing new US policies that could help bring peace and justice to the Middle East come not from the Ros-Lehtinens and Chuck Schumers and Steny Hoyers of Congress, but from “friends” in Congress who sometimes say the right thing, but their actions often perpetuate a deadly status quo.
Now Jennifer Rubin says that ‘J Street’ is anti-Semitic, Philip Weiss
This is embarrassing. The Washington Post makes itself a platform for the disgusting assertion that J Street is an Israel-bashing group, and worse. Is The Washington Post for the endless illegal colonization? Is it a branch of the Israel lobby. Evidently. Jennifer Rubin’s column today. Note that Hannah Rosenthal is the head of the anti-anti-Semitism desk at the State Department.

Israel’s Right Wing Future, Lawrence Davidson
The process toward an Israeli style Fascism did not begin (as Sternhell believes) with1967 and the taking of the Occupied Territories. It did not even begin in 1917 and the Balfour Declaration. It began with the very inception of Zionism.

Zionist Left Writes Its Own Obituary, Jonathan Cook
Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, appears to have driven the final nail in the coffin of the Zionist left with his decision to split from the Labor party and create a new ‘centrist, Zionist’ faction in the Israeli parliament. So far four MPs, out of a total of 12, have announced they are following him.  Moments after Barak’s press conference on Monday, the Israeli media suggested that the true architect of the Labor party’s split was the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, according to one of his aides, had planned it like “an elite general staff [military] operation”.
Helen Thomas on the perils of criticizing Israel in the US media
A remarkably fair and respectful segment on legendary journalist Helen Thomas from CNN.

Aluf Benn’s violence-serving narcissism is stereotypical of Israelis, Yaniv Reich
In an op-ed today, Aluf Benn argues that Israel cannot stop Palestinian independence except through the “terrible” options of bombing Iran, calling early elections (like this is equivalently “terrible”), or taking retaliatory action against the Palestinian Authority for daring to seek international support for a state.  “Terrible” is the one adjective Benn manages to produce to describe the notion of bombing a large, sovereign country in order to avoid having to give up your colonies.


Saudi ends Lebanon mediation, says country at risk (Reuters)
Reuters – Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had abandoned mediation efforts in Lebanon between Shi’ite Hezbollah and Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri over the killing of his father and warned that the country’s future was at stake.*

Speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah via Al Manar Channel on 16-1-2011
The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah via Al Manar Channel on 16-1-2011 on the developments following the resignation of the ministers and the toppling of the Lebanese government.
Hizbullah’s plan for dealing with the Hariri tribunal
No one knows what the plan really is (in light of the brief show of unarmed men with black t-shirts early morning in Beirut).  A leading figure of the Lebanese opposition called me months ago and asked me about the secret plan of Hizbullah in Lebanon.  I said: what? You are a figure of the opposition and you meet with them regularly and you still can’t figure out their plan? He said: they are frustratingly secretive. They don’t share their plans with their allies.  I suggested that they seek fortune tellers.
Hizbullah stages show of force in Beirut
BEIRUT: Hizbullah staged a quiet show of force Tuesday that rattled nerves, hours before senior Qatari and Turkish officials began talks in Beirut in an attempt to contain political tension over a U.N.-backed tribunal probing the 2005 killing of statesman Rafik Hariri.
March 14 blasts Hizbullah’s muscle-flexing
BEIRUT: March 14 parties described Hizbullah’s display of force Tuesday as a “masked rehearsal” of a possible armed coup in preparation against Lebanese state institutions and called on the Lebanese Army and security institutions to assume the responsibility of preserving security.

Residents on edge following day of tension in Beirut
BEIRUT: An eerie calm filled the Beirut streets Tuesday as fewer people braved to venture out amid fears the recent political troubles could spill into street fighting. As reports emerged that groups of Hizbullah supporters had assembled in parts of the city in the early hours, anxious parents took their children out of school and people avoided going to work.
Tribunal will seek international cooperation to apprehend accused
BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will seek cooperation from various states in helping apprehend accused individuals following the confirmation of the indictment, the tribunal’s registrar said Tuesday. “We have to depend on countries to assist us in arrests,” Herman von Hebel said.

Jumblatt Says Bellemare Underestimating People
The head of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblatt doubted on Wednesday the credibility of the international tribunal and said Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare’s decision to launch a probe into the latest broadcasts was an underestimation of the Lebanese.   “Bellemare’s statement that he will launch an investigation into the issue is not enough and is an underestimation of the people,” Jumblatt said in a statement.

Hariri’s office: Al-Jadid leaks target ties with Saudi prince
BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Press Office said Tuesday leaked audiotapes of the premier’s meetings with U.N. investigators, aired earlier this week, aimed at targeting the ties of “brotherhood and friendship” between Hariri and Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef.

Sa`id Hariri prostrates before Prince Muhammad Bin Nayif, As`ad Abukhalil
Of course, the New TV’s audio-leaks were highly embarrassing to a prime minister who already has a reputation for recklessness, incompetence and sheer stupidity.  He spoke casually, very casually, in vulgar and coarse language, about various personalities–friends and foes alike (he said, for example, “I made Najib Miqati a prime minister” and said he did not trust Nuhad Mashnuq, one of his own MPs).  But nothing is more embarrassing than talking about Asaf Shawkat and then comparing his “thuggishness” to that of Saudi prince, Muhammad Bin Nayif.  Here, Mini-Hariri issued a statement in which he begs for forgiveness from the prince.
US ambassador in Lebanon, As`ad Abukhalil
“On Monday, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry summoned the United States ambassador, Maura Connelly, whom it criticized for “interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs” after she visited a lawmaker who was undecided about his choice for prime minister. That visit soon became the butt of jokes on Lebanese television. The lawmaker, Nicola Fattoush, is a relatively minor politician; that he warranted a visit by the ambassador illustrated the perception that the next prime minister would not be chosen by Parliament, but by a half-dozen or so foreign embassies in Beirut.” Not half-dozen. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are the key ones. (Believe it or not, Hizbullah has more independence in decision-making in Lebanon about internal Lebanese matters than Syrian puppets have vis-a-vis Syrian regime or US puppets or Saudi puppets have vis-a-vis the Saudi or US governments.) The summon of the US ambassador is seen as an unusual humiliation for the US ambassador, and is unprecedented in Lebanese contemporary history (the only other time that I can think of is when Sulayman Franjiyyah got so pissed at the US when his luggage at JFK were inspected by sniffing dogs back in 1974). As-Safir and Al-Akhbar has details about the summon of the ambassador. The entire event was orchestrated by parliament speaker, Nabih Birri who was furious when he saw the ambassador visiting the insignificant MP, Niqula Fattush. Apparently, the ambassador (who received the idea of the visit from Jeffrey Feltman who is closely coordinating the Hariri camp now) told the minister (a Birri Minister) that he does not have the powers to summon her because his cabinet lost the majority vote. He told her that he knows his prerogatives. She tried to bizarrely explain the visit by saying that she had also visited Michel `Awn (the minister should have reminded her that the ambassador regularly visits leaders of parliamentary blocs and never visits insignificant MPs). Also, MP Fattush himself exposed her lies because he talked to the press after the US ambassador’s visit and made it clear as to why she visited him.
South Lebanon council bans inflammatory posters
SIDON: South Lebanon Governor Nicholas Abu Daher chaired a meeting for the South Lebanon Security Council Tuesday during which attendees agreed on implementing a decision by the Interior Ministry to remove illegal portraits, banners and adverts in the south. The delegates also agreed to ban portraits, banners and ads that might instigate trouble or sectarian tension. Participants also called upon all municipalities in the south to continue placing surveillance cameras in public places.

Nahhas denies sending bodyguards to surround office of ministry director
BEIRUT: Caretaker Telecommunication Minister Charbel Nahhas denied reports Tuesday that his bodyguards besieged the offices of General Director Abdel Menhem Youssef, the head of the ministry’s investment and maintenance department.
The Assassins of Lebanon, Who’s to blame for the death of Rafiq Hariri?, Justin Raimondo
Those who believed we would see a significant change in America’s misguided – indeed, suicidal – foreign policy of global intervention, especially in the volatile Middle East, have surely been sorely disappointed by what President Obama has wrought. InAfghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the region, the present administration has simply continued and even amplified the same failed policies that have brought us to our present pass. Continuity, rather than change, is the leitmotif of US foreign policy in the Age of Obama: like a great ship that is steering its own path, rather than being steered by the captain, America’s imperial course is on automatic pilot.


Suicide bomber driving ambulance kills seven at Iraqi guard HQ
Vehicle packed with explosives crashes through gate and destroys building. A suicide bomber driving an ambulance packed with explosives crashed through the front gate of an Iraqi guard force headquarters today, killing at least seven people and destroying a building, officials said.  It follows a suicide bombing yesterday that killed 65 people in a crowd of police recruits and shattered a relative calm that had lasted for weeks across Iraq. Both attacks were on familiar targets. Militants frequently hit Iraq’s security forces to try to keep the country off balance as US troops prepare to withdraw fully at the end of this year.

Two suicide bombings rock Baquba
The casualties toll of the suicide bombing led by a terrorist driving a booby trapped car that took place this morning East Baaquba at the gate of vital facilities affiliated to the Ministry of Interior rose to 76 dead and wounded.

Tuesday: 66 Iraqis Killed, 175 Wounded
At least 66 Iraqis were killed and 175 more were wounded, mostly in one attack in Tikrit. The rest of the reported attacks were in Baghdad or just north of the capital. The curious lack of reporting outside of central Iraq likely is due to a lack of reporters, or perhaps censorship, than an actual decrease in attacks. What little news does escape point to daily attacks still occurring in some cities, such as Mosul.
Iraq: unexploded munitions put civilians at risk
Landmines, unexploded ordnance and other lethal debris of war are still a serious threat in Iraq. They add to the many hardships that Iraqi civilians must deal with as a consequence of decades of armed conflict. The ICRC recently stepped up its efforts to help the civilian population get back on their feet by launching an initiative to reduce the impact of weapon contamination.
Iraq province cuts supplies to national grid (AFP)
AFP – Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province said it had stopped supplying electricity to the national grid on Tuesday, in a bold move to force the central government’s hand in a dispute over power rationing.*

Two Iraqi provinces reject government’s bid for national census
Iraqi government’s attempts to organize a national count have all but failed.  The count has been postponed two times and currently it is not known when it is going to take place.  Initially, three provinces rejected government terms for the count, saying that conditions in their areas were not secure enough for it to succeed.  But the Province of Diyala, one of the country’s most restive, has eventually accepted the terms. The province, of which  Baaquba is the capital, has a sizeable Kurdish minority.\2011-01-17\kurd.htm

Iraqi government to create 171,000 new jobs but unemployment still high
This year will see the creation of 171,000 new jobs, according to the latest ruling by the Iraqi parliament.  The new jobs are part of the government efforts to fight unemployment but officials say they will not alleviate unemployment in the country which they estimate at more than 15%.  Iraq has one of the world’s most bloated public sectors. The government is the single largest employer in the country.\2011-01-18\kurd.htm

Carnage in Iraq: How the Blowback Will Affect Maliki ( – The Prime Minister has yet to appoint a security minister, choosing to handle the portfolio himself in the interm. But the attacks and incidents just keep happening.*

U.N. refugee agency very concerned at Sweden’s Iraqi deportations
GENEVA: The U.N. refugee agency expressed Tuesday strong concern at reports that Sweden plans to send 25 Iraqis back to Baghdad despite repeated advice that conditions are unsafe there. Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) pointed out that a Christian Iraqi who was deported last October.
UK government blocks release of Blair Iraq notes
British authorities have refused to publish notes that Tony Blair sent to President George W. Bush before the Iraq war, prompting a complaint Tuesday from the chief of a public inquiry into the divisive conflict.

Tunisia & Political Ramifications
Tunisia leader ‘barred from politics’ while in Saudi
Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been barred from any political activity relating to his country while he shelters in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said Wednesday., “This act [of sheltering Ben Ali] should not lead to any kind of activity in Tunisia from the kingdom … There are conditions, and no act in this regard will be allowed,” Faisal told Saudi television., Saudi Arabia has kept a total blackout on Ben Ali’s activities since he who landed early on Saturday in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with six members of his family.

Swiss to freeze Ben Ali funds
Swiss govt orders freeze on ex-Tunisian president’s funds, while his country opens an inquiry into the family’s assets.

Exiled opposition leader returns to Tunisa
Tunisia’s so-called unity government is barely a day old and already four members from the opposition have quit, undermining its legitimacy. Police clashed with protesters for another day in the capital, Tunis. And there were emotional scenes at the airport, where opposition leader Moncef Marzouki arrived after more than 10 years in exile in France. He received a raptuous welcome. Hashem Ahelbarra reports.

Tunisian unity government loses 3 opposition figures
Demonstrators keep up the pressure against allowing members of former President Zine el Abedine ben Ali’s ruling party in the government. Three opposition members of the Cabinet quit.  Tunisia’s day-old unity government faced an early crisis Tuesday as at least three former opposition figures quit the Cabinet, apparently under pressure from rank-and-file members opposed to the inclusion of six members of the previous regime in the transition administration meant to pave the way for new elections.,0,5510933.story
Tunisia PM ‘quits ruling party’
Tunisia’s interim president and prime minister quit the ruling RCD party, in an apparent bid to defuse anger over the make-up of a day-old government, reports say.

The Lede: Tunisian Blogger Joins Government
A leading Tunisian blogger and activist has gone from prison to cabinet minister in less than a week.

Obama, Egypt’s Mubarak discuss Tunisia, Lebanon
WASHINGTON, Jan 18 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday about the U.S. desire for calm in Tunisia and thanked him for Egypt’s support for a U.N.-backed tribunal set up to try the assassins of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri. Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after the worst unrest of his two decades in power. The country has been in turmoil as its caretaker prime minister tries to assemble a national unity cabinet.
After Tunisia, ‘electrified’ Arab world sets sights on brewing revolt in Egypt
Teen sets self on fire in France Member of Pirate Party given position in Tunisian government In a sign that an “electrified” Arab world has been inspired by the events in Tunisia to rise up against their governments, opposition leaders in Egypt have called for an open revolt in the country on January 25.
Man threatens to torch himself in front of PA building
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A resident of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday threatened to set himself on fire in front of the Palestinian Authority’s cabinet building.  In apparent imitations of a Tunisian whose self-torching sparked a revolution, nine people have set themselves on fire across the Arab world, including three in Egypt.

Seventh Algerian sets herself on fire
ALGIERS — Two people in Algeria set themselves on fire on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total number of attempted public suicides to seven in a week, in replica of a protest that sparked a popular revolution in neighboring Tunisia.

The Saudi plan for the Islamization of the Tunisian Uprising
The Tunisian Uprising (it is not a Revolution as of yet–it all depends whether it leads to thorough deep social and economic and political changes in Tunisia–and please stop using those cute Western labels like Jasmin Revolution and Batata Revolution, they annoy me a great deal) is going through a crucial phase.  It all depends.  No Revolution succeeds with one strike: the success of Revolution is a function of pushing through AFTER the initial successes.  The old regime is trying–with US/French/Saudi (and Arab state system) to be resurrected.  The old regime bizarrely kept the key four ministries of the Tunisian cabinet.  Leftist and nationalist rebels in Tunisia are aware of those dangers, as they tell me.  They can’t succeed until they push ahead for more radical changes.  Yet, there is also a danger to spoil what has been a secular uprising: Qatar AND Saudi Arabia are both pushing and promoting the lousy Tunisian Islamist, Rashid Ghannushi who will be returning to Tunis.  Ghannushi freely admits that he and his lousy Nahdah Party had no role whatsoever in the uprising and yet he is being promoted because the Arab state system is afraid of the consequences of a secular Arab uprising.  The lousy tele-Islamist, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, is a friend of Ghannushi and he also pushes for his promotion–presumably at Aljazeera where Qaradawi unfortunately still wields great influence.
Tunisian Opposition Activist: “Is Democracy Possible in the Arab World? Tunisians from All Around Tunisia are Saying ‘Yes'”
Tunisia has announced an interim national unity government days after a popular revolt ousted the president from power in the first Middle East revolution in a generation. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Friday after a month of unprecedented protests gripped the country. Thousands took to the streets to demonstrate against unemployment, high food prices, corruption and government repression. At least 80 people were killed in a crackdown by government security forces. We go to the capital city Tunis to speak with opposition activist, Fares Mabrouk.
Juan Cole: Tunisia Uprising “Spearheaded by Labor Movements, Internet Activists, by Rural Workers; It’s a Populist Revolution”
In the wake of the ouster of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, we speak with University of Michigan History Professor Juan Cole. “This is the first popular revolution since 1979,” Cole says. “This revolution was spearheaded by labor movements, internet activists, by rural workers. It’s a populist revolution, and not particularly dominated in any way by Islamic themes, it seems to be a largely secular development.”

Egypt-Based Political Analyst: “The First Lesson from Tunisia is that Revolution is Possible”
We speak to Issandr El Amrani, an independent political analyst and writer based in Cairo who writes the popular blog He says the revolution in Tunisia is having an electrifying effect throughout the Arab world. “The first lesson from Tunisia is that revolution is possible,” says El Amrani. “You have to remember that there hasn’t been anything like this in the Arab world for decades.”
Anthony Shadid in Beirut: Tunisia Has “Electrified People Across the Arab World”
We speak with journalist Anthony Shadid, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, who is in Beirut where the government collapsed last week. Tunisia “has electrified people across the Arab world,” Shadid says. “Mainly for that prospect of change, that change can actually occur in a lot of countries that seem almost ossified at this point.”

Colonial nostalgia and lying
“The French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, today defended her controversial offer to help Tunisia’s deposed president restore order days before he was ousted.  Alliot-Marie had been summoned to explain her remarks, made last week, to the Assemblée Nationale’s foreign affairs commission.  The cabinet minister had offered to share the expertise of French security forces “recognised throughout the world” to help control the uprising.  Since Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Friday, France has attempted to distance itself from the former leader, refusing him exile and ordering a block on his family’s property and money held in France.  Today, Alliot-Marie fended off opposition calls for her resignation and told parliamentarians that France, along with other countries, had “not seen events coming”.  “Let’s face it, we were all of us – politicians, diplomats, researchers, journalists – taken by surprise by the jasmine revolution,” Alliot-Marie said.  She said her offer had been “misrepresented” and had been aimed at helping the Tunisian people, not propping up repression.”
The first Arab popular Revolution: all Arab deposed dictators flee to Saudi Arabia
Comrade Khaled, a Syrian scientist, sent me this (I cite with his permission): “My research confirmed that the first popular revolution that removed a tyrant in the Middle East was in 1955, when Adeeb Al-Shishakly had to flee to… Saudi Arabia following mass demonstrations that were accompanied by rebellions in the Northern Army Command (Aleppo),  the Central Command (Homs) and both the Coastal Command and the Syrian Navy (Lattakia). Soon, the Army units around Damascus (Katana and ‘Adra) informed Shishakly that they are not fighting their fellow Syrian soldiers, nor moving to Damascus to stop the demonstrations. So, he
packed his cases and went off to his friends in the South.  Al-Shishakly later headed to Argentina with his loot (7 suitcases of banknotes) and was later assassinated by a Druz who sought revenge for the murder of some 100 people in Jabal Al-Arab (formerly and hopefully soon, Jabal Al-Duruz) where the son of the Commander of the Syrian Revolution Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash (as he was labeled by the Syrians during the struggle against France) was murdered by the volleys of tanks against villages and rebels.  May be the Tunisians should retain the Cup because the Tunisian Army did not actually rebel, nor did it begin troop movements to bring the
Tunisian Shishakly down, but simply, according to some reports, refused to obey orders.  For Tunis and the Tunisians, whose Arab hospitality and affection I enjoyed on my regular visits for a decade, I am ready to deliver the Cup in person after hugging each one of them – that is if I can bring my head down from the pride they instilled in me!”

For the Arab world, the revolution will be televised, on Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera’s rapid-paced, visceral coverage of the Tunisian upheaval has riveted viewers across the Middle East. Many see it as a big voice in a landscape of burgeoning Arab dissent. But governments accuse it of bias.  In cafes and living rooms across the Middle East, the whirling montages and breathless journalists of Al Jazeera are defining the narrative of Tunisia’s upheaval for millions of Arabs riveted by the toppling of a dictator.,0,3896531.story

U.S. and Other World News

Military to probe allegations unarmed Afghan teen was killed
Canadian military police have launched an investigation into allegations that an unarmed Afghan teen was shot in the back of the head during a Canadian military raid in 2007.

ElBaradei: West hyping perceived atomic threat from Iran
TEHRAN/VIENNA: The former head of the U.N. atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday the West is “hyping” the perceived nuclear threat from Iran while the Iranian president said Tehran is making steady progress in its nuclear program.
Military strike on Iran is what unites Netanyahu and Barak
Barak, with his ranks and medals, can give Netanyahu the kind of backing he needs to advance aggressive moves on the Iranian.

Iran Has Evidence Of US Computer Attack
Saeed Jalili told NBC News in an interview aired on Monday that an Iranian investigation uncovered evidence that the United States was involved in the cyberattack.
US Embassy Cables: : US advised to sabotage Iran nuclear sites by German thinktank
As Stuxnet cyber attack pinned on US and Israel, US embassy cable reveals advice to use undercover operations.

Libyan news agency makes rare criticism of the army
RABAT, Jan 18 (Reuters) – A Libyan news agency, that has links to a son of leader Muammar Gaddafi, has accused some military officers of corruption and demanded that civilians lead the defence ministry, in a rare criticism of the country’s army.  In a piece from its political editor, Libya Press, part of the Al Ghad media group founded by reform-minded Saif al-Islam said the 130,000-strong army was bloated and inefficient.

Turkey still keen on joining E.U. despite European obstructions: senior official
ANKARA: Turkey still considers joining the E.U. as a main goal despite obstruction by some European states like France, a senior Turkish official has said. “Joining the European Union is a main goal for Turkey. This will enhance democracy and the personal rights of individuals,” Burak Erdenir, deputy secretary general for E.U. affairs, told a group of Lebanese journalists.

Western media and Angry Arab, As`ad Abukhalil
I am so impatient with Western media, these days.  I tell my students the story of an epiphanic moment more than five years ago when I was in the middle of an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN when I suddenly felt that I am despising myself for discussing the Middle East with the likes of Anderson Cooper. I then decided to avoid it at all cost.  I get frustrated and it is not worth it for me and I dont derive pleasure from watching myself on TV.  I try to stick to Arab media (although I am of course boycotted by most Arab (Saudi-financed) media.  Just yesterday, someone at Aljazeera English asked me to tape a 30 seconds comment about Tunisia. I of course, refused.  She then added–as if we are in a bargaining session–that she can offer me 60 seconds, and I of course refused.  And then someone at CNN wanted to talk to me about self-immolations in Islam. I almost screamed.

Seymour Hersh unleashed
DOHA, Qatar—David Remnick, call your office.  In a speech billed as a discussion of the Bush and Obama eras, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday expressing his disappointment with President Barack Obama and his dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. foreign policy.  “Just when we needed an angry black man,” he began, his arm perched jauntily on the podium, “we didn’t get one.”  It quickly went downhill from there.

Maheen Haq, Muslim Girl, Pulled From Basketball Game Over Headscarf
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — A Muslim mother and father from Maryland say they were upset when a referee made their daughter sit out the first half of a basketball game because of safety concerns about her headscarf.  Dr. Mohammad and Anina Haq (hahk) of Hagerstown said Tuesday that 12-year-old Maheen was allowed back in the game Saturday wearing her head covering after Mid-Maryland Girls Basketball league officials conferred on liability issues.


Macy Gray criticizes Israeli policy; asks if she should play in Tel Aviv
Jan 19, 2011
Samuel J. Nichols

Macy Gray is reconsidering the concerts she has planned for Tel Aviv. On Facebook, Gray had the following for her fans:

I’m booked for 2 shows in TelAviv. I’m getting alot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wana go. I gotta lotta fans there I dont want to cancel on and I dont know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?

Before we go any further, this if fantastic. BDS opponents love to suggest that BDS stifles debate, but on the contrary, BDS fosters debate, and this is exhibit A. It’s also noteworthy that Macy Gray clearly states her negative views of Israeli government policies. What the Israeli government is doing to Palestinians is, in fact, ‘disgusting.’ Well said, Macy. 

Macy Gray’s post went up on Monday and the feedback was sparse but largely supportive of her Tel Aviv concerts.  The feedback significantly picked up today (January 19th) and took an overwhelming turn towards asking Gray NOT to perform in Tel Aviv. Go read the responses for yourself, and more importantly, give Macy Gray your two cents.   

Note: You’ll have to ‘like’ Gray’s main page before you comment on the Tel Aviv concerts. 

(h/t to @ibnezra ‘s tweet)


Citing ‘national security,’ coalition of realists and liberals (Freeman-Zogby-Beinart) call on Obama to condemn settlements

Jan 19, 2011

Philip Weiss


This is big. This is the new coalition to push the neocon Project for the New American Century into the dustbin of history. Fifty public figures, including commentators and former officials, have called on Obama to stand with the majority in the U.N. Security Council against the Israeli settlement project in Israel as a matter of U.S. national security. Among the signatories, Amjad Atallah, Chas Freeman, James Zogby, Andrew Sullivan, Peter Beinart. Many realists, Nitze, Wilkerson. Paul Pillar, Bill Quandt, Mike Desch, Carla Hills former trade rep Note the absence of Israel lobbyists. I.e., they can’t even condemn the settlement project. Jeffrey Goldberg was surely asked. Or they don’t like references to American lives on the line in the Middle East. Notice how few Jews are on the list, and what pressure people like Beinart and Rabbi Beerman of L.A. are exposing themselves to within the monolithic American Jewish leadership. Excerpts:

The time has come for a clear signal from the United States to the parties and to the broader international community that the United States can and will approach the conflict with the objectivity, consistency and respect for international law required if it is to play a constructive role in the conflict’s resolution…


As you made clear, Mr. President, in your landmark Cairo speech of June 2009, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

There are today over half a million Israelis living beyond the 1967 line – greatly complicating the realization of a two-state solution. That number has grown dramatically in the years since the peace process was launched: in 1993 there were 111,000 settlers in the West Bank alone; in 2010 that number surpassed 300,000.

The settlements are clearly illegal according to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention – a status recognized in an opinion issued by the State Department’s legal advisor on April 28, 1978, a position which has never since been revised.

That official US legal opinion describes the settlements as being “inconsistent with international law”. US policy across nine administrations has been to oppose the settlements, with the focus for the last two decades being on the incompatibility of settlement construction with efforts to advance peace. The Quartet Roadmap, for instance, issued during the Bush presidency in 2003, called on Israel to “freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth.”…

At this critical juncture, how the US chooses to cast its vote on a settlements resolution will have a defining effect on our standing as a broker in Middle East peace. But the impact of this vote will be felt well beyond the arena of Israeli-Palestinian deal-making – our seriousness as a guarantor of international law and international legitimacy is at stake.

America’s credibility in a crucial region of the world is on the line – a region in which hundreds of thousands of our troops are deployed and where we face the greatest threats and challenges to our security. This vote is an American national security interest vote par excellence. We urge you to do the right thing.


‘Tears of Gaza’ showing tomorrow in L.A.

Jan 19, 2011

Adam Horowitz

I really want to see this movie, hopefully it’s headed to New York sometime soon. Here’s the info:

A film screening of the documentary followed by a Q&A session with director
Vibeke Løkkeberg [Norway].
Thursday, January 20, 2011
7:00 PM
A51 Humanities Building


From the event website:


In a rough style, by way of unique footage, the brutal consequences of modern wars are exposed. The film also depicts the ability of women and children to handle their everyday life after a dramatic war experience. Many of them live in tents or in ruins without walls or roofs. They are all in need of money, food, water and electricity. Others have lost family members, or are left with seriously injured children. Can war solve conflicts or create peace? The film follows three children through the war and the period after the ceasefire.


Disturbing, powerful and emotionally devastating, Tears of Gaza is less a conventional documentary than a record – presented with minimal gloss – of the 2008 to 2009 bombing of Gaza by the Israeli military. Photographed by several Palestinian cameramen both during and after the offensive, this powerful film by director Vibeke Løkkeberg focuses on the impact of the attacks on the civilian population.

The film shuttles between the actual bombings and the aftermath on the streets and in the hospitals. The footage of the bombs landing is indelible and horrifying, but it is on par with much of the explicit imagery on hand. White phosphorous bombs rain over families and children, leaving bodies too charred to be identified. The footage here is extremely graphic and includes children’s bodies being pulled from ruins. Recounting the horrors she has witnessed, one young girl collapses and sinks out of the frame.

Years of economic embargo have left the area deprived of resources and have strained an already impoverished infrastructure. The wounded are carried to hospital for lack of ambulances, and an absence of fire trucks leaves home owners to put out fires on their own. What’s immediately apparent is that decades of military activity have made the population angry, nihilistic and vengeful. As one young boy says, “Even if they give us the world, we will not forget.” Løkkeberg contrasts these scenes with footage of bachelor parties, weddings and visits to the beach – social activities that epitomize daily life in Gaza during more peaceful times.

Tears of Gaza makes no overriding speeches or analyses. The situation leading up to the incursion is never mentioned. While this strategy may antagonize some, it’s a useful method for highlighting the effects of the violence on the civilian population. Similar events certainly occurred in Dresden, Tokyo, Baghdad and Sarajevo, but of course Gaza isn’t those places. Tears of Gaza demands that we examine the costs of war on a civilian populace. The result is horrifying, gut-wrenching and unforgettable.


Jan 19, 2011

Issa Khalaf

State Declaration: The Palestinians’ agonizing choices

The US and its Quartet partners want Palestinian-Israeli negotiations concluded by August 2011, coinciding with the date of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to declare a state. To convey the complexity of the issue, and the Palestinians’ fundamental dilemma in their quest for freedom from Israeli occupation, below I list the positives and negatives of declaring a state and offer my interpretations and conclusions of how events may unfold.  (Keep in mind as you read the arguments for declaration that – though the Israelis, supported by the US, insist on a “disputed” status for certain territories including East Jerusalem – the Palestinians have every right to seek statehood/UN membership because the territories, according to international law, UNSC resolutions, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, are illegally occupied.) 

The Argument for Declaration:

  • The “international community” already recognizes the right of the Palestinians to a state on the 1967 borders; a declaration of statehood is not revolutionary but a logical follow up, including to the building of state institutions. It is preparation for the “endgame,” a final peace and settling of all disputes. Palestine’s UN membership is merely consistent with the target date, August 2011, of the state’s completion. UN membership, in case of failure of talks, is the only viable alternative strategy towards the two states option. This is unlike the first declaration of statehood in 1988, which was more symbolic than substantive and in which formal UN membership as sovereign state was not sought


  • State building in the run up to declaration proves the Palestinians can run their own state, reject violent methods of resistance, and apply non-violent methods of resistance including public relations, BDS, peaceful protests, and boycott of Israeli settlement products. The Palestinian security apparatus, delivering on the rule of law, undergirds and defends the peace strategy while allowing social and economic development to take place

  • If bilateral talks go nowhere (as of course they have so far), Palestinians will declare a state in the hope Palestine is admitted into the UN. Naturally, American recognition of such a declared state would be essential. It could be that Obama will use this as unstated leverage against Israeli obstructionism. But the administration has to publicly announce its support for such a declaration; so far it has not. The US, with view to its wars and interests in the Middle East, wishes to conclude a peace agreement quickly, cognizant that the Palestine question is at the heart of American difficulties in the Arab and Muslim worlds. This is vital for its national security

  • State declaration/UN membership may break the deadlock of the past 40 years and gain momentum for two states and bring the conflict to an end. International community may line up behind the Palestinians, that is, legally support and protect them, not take sides against Israel, because UN mediation by definition is neutral and good for both sides

  • Instead as before, in 1988 when the PLO declared a state and its acceptance of a two state solution but lacked actual sovereignty, the goal this time around, again, “if talks fail,” is several: Gain UN membership via a General Assembly recommendation to the Security Council. Obtain a UNSC resolution that gives the UN authority to determine the specifics of a two state settlement including solutions to “final status” issues, especially borders. Allow the UN to mediate a settlement after both sides submit their minimal respective positions

  • Theoretically, UN membership allows the Palestinians (the defunct PLO or PNA) to request, before a peace treaty and end-of-conflict is achieved, a multinational force presence—also beneficial to Israel’s security—and other Palestine requests to facilitate peace and normalization, all before a final peace treaty

  • Democratic, internationally supervised elections could also follow such membership and UN intervention, and whose outcome the international community must respect and support; this may have the effect of reunifying the Palestinians, Hamas and PNA, Gaza and West Bank (this is an objective assessment, not one necessarily supported by the PNA elite—and certainly not by the US and Israel—whose Fatah awaits to replace Hamas in Gaza)

  • Ultimately, UNSC mediation and intervention may avoid violence or war and maintain momentum towards the resolution of conflict, allowing even the hesitant Western Europeans to get in on the peacemaking act

  • UN takeover of achieving peace between the two parties avoids never-ending half way or transitional measures such as autonomy or provisional borders and unfinished peace, tactics the Israelis use consistently, lethally detrimental to the Palestinians whose goal is a comprehensive peace

The Argument Against Declaration:

  • Israel might see it as a hostile move and may declare its own unilateral borders, which would include all the annexations and those lands not yet annexed, thereby preempting any possibility of the Palestinians recovering all the occupied territories including Arab East Jerusalem. (Note: This is where the Israelis are going now, anyway, except they want to sanctify their expansion with formal Palestinian acceptance in the form of a “peace treaty”)

  • Israel may revert to violence, or stage a provocation as it has endless times since 1948, to subvert any such move or momentum

  • The US, as the preeminent permanent member of the Security Council and, because of domestic politics, hopelessly one sided, would veto any such move; it may also revert to withdrawing aid and imposing punishing sanctions to coerce the Palestinians to bend, which basically means in support of what Israel wants

These arguments imply that declaring a state is smart but that it’s a bad idea because of its consequences. However, those Palestinians who reject such a declaration do so because it is fundamentally inimical to the Palestinian people and their national aspirations. Thus:

  • The US is aiming not for a peace treaty by August 2011, but a framework or accord of sorts delineating the principles, bases, and actualities of a final settlement. After that it’s negotiation time, whose goal is to come to an agreement on the myriad differences; for how long, it’s not known, perhaps years, to achieve some sort of final peace treaty. By that time Israel would have consolidated its expansion

  • Palestinian statehood, the great quest of the Palestinian people for the past 100 years, has, in effect and over the decades, been grotesquely diluted, rapidly since the 1967 occupation, from territorial sovereignty and self-determination to continuing Israeli control and domination by other means, especially via yet another perpetual transitional agreement devoid of sovereign content

  • The US, in line with Israel, is pushing “negotiations” without the framework of international law and conventions and UN resolutions, without even an acknowledgment, much less a commitment, that the end goal is ending the illegal occupation. The US no longer even requires an innocuous, temporary “freeze,” that expansion and colonization stop, including in Arab East Jerusalem, during negotiations, because of Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu

  • The PLO and its PNA mutation could not achieve independence and sovereignty during two decades of negotiations (since 1990s Oslo), thanks to Israeli obstruction and delay; in fact, annexations and colonial settlements grew considerably during these negotiations. Now, in a miserably weaker, extremely vulnerable position, the Palestinians have virtually no chance of succeeding in ending the occupation

  • Any agreement entered into by Abbas and Fayyad, if, crucially, not put to a referendum, may thus sign away Palestinian national rights: from refugee return to borders to impaired sovereignty to a denuded state, not to mention the permanent spin-off of Gaza and its unending torment. It is vital to understand: an agreement will not change Israel’s control and expansion but may grant it the gift of end-of-conflict without much in return except surrender of Palestinian rights and freedom

  • Such an agreement, deemed satisfying to the Palestinians, will unravel international and civil society support, allowing Israel a yet freer, hidden hand with the Palestinians, now in a Bantustan state, and most probably aggravate Palestinian dependency and captivity under the guise of independence

  • The PA dutifully adheres to the US-Israeli plans to impose a settlement on the Palestinians without popular and democratic support and at the great cost of perpetuating Palestinian divisions. Its decayed, externally shaped institutions and decisions do not represent the Palestinian people’s will, in the occupied territories and everywhere else, and the Palestinians are badly in need of revitalizing democratic, participatory, and accountable institutions that could develop and unify around a strategy for liberation, focused around grass roots organizing in Palestinian society and Palestinian Diaspora communities

Why Declaring A State May Not Succeed:

I believe the Palestinian fate will unfold in the latter direction; that is, determined by the realities summarized under negatives of statehood declaration. For a unilaterally declared state/UN membership to succeed requires the following: True US neutrality—and primacy of American interests over Israel or any other party—between the two sides, and therefore refraining from veto. US commitment to international law and UN resolutions to settle the conflict. Real Israeli commitment to peace, a two state settlement based on UN resolutions, international law, and the Geneva Convention.

US abdication of its monopoly on negotiations and the “peace process” to UN mediation. PA elite acceptance of the outcome of democratic elections, even if they lose. Europeans forging ahead in support of state declaration regardless of the US position. The Arab states supporting the Palestinians’ push at the UN regardless of US pressure and threats. In my opinion, these will not happen. It may happen in the next decade, when the US has economically exhausted itself in its external adventures and begins global retrenchment and whose support for Israel will take a back seat to American domestic priorities.

What the Obama Administration May Be Up To:

The apparent ambiguous, low key, but not publicly and officially declared, support of the Obama administration for Palestinian state building and declaration of statehood is real and not real. Embroiled in two wars and sensing a decline in its global primacy, the US military and national security require an equitable resolution to Israel-Palestine, but no US government, because of domestic politics, will draw a line in the sand with the Israelis. The US’s most likely purpose for supporting the Palestinian deadline is to pressure the intransigent Israelis to compromise, and the US doesn’t require much from its erstwhile ally.

It’s always easier for the West and authoritarian Arab states to (literally) sacrifice the Palestinians than confront the Israelis. A peace deal would give Obama a great lift with the Jewish establishment in the 2012 presidential elections, because after all, hypothetically, Israel would have come to such peace of its own volition. However, the last thing the US wants is reversion of the conflict to UN mediation. Under UN mediation, the international law and UN resolutions the US abandoned regarding Palestine (since at least Clinton’s time), to Israel’s favor, will be reclaimed.

Under US auspices and monopoly, on the other hand, a peace settlement, more easily imposed on the Palestinians, can potentially include Israel’s annexations and colonies (not just “land swaps”) and subsume true Palestinian economic and political viability, much less the issue of refugee return. For Israel, what’s better than such an end of conflict, with the Palestinians recognizing an Israel now in control of 90 percent of historic Palestine and enjoying carte blanche “right” to attack its wretched neighboring Palestine state when it deems fit, as a right of self defense, against “terrorism”?

So the US is desperate to conclude a peace deal, or a framework leading to such, through bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, hence—with Hillary’s constant refrain that only through negotiations can a Palestinian state be founded—its immense pressure on Abbas and company to stay the American-determined course. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are trying their level best to realize their UN option of statehood and membership without eliciting US hostility and active opposition. This is the consequence, for the PNA, of committing itself to the elusive benevolence of Israel’s congenital advocate.

The Real and Imminent Danger for the Palestinians:

As I’ve emphasized on numerous occasions elsewhere, what the Palestinians must concern themselves with most of all is staying on the land, internalizing this as a basic survival imperative. Second, they absolutely must not revert to violent resistance or armed struggle—capabilities they lack as effective political tools anyway—for that would be the green light for Israeli obliteration and erosion of external sympathy and support. Third, they must frame their struggle for what it is, as one for human rights and freedom.

The historical Zionist momentum to dispossess them completely is at its most frightful, culminating moment. It’s as potentially dangerous as 1948, especially because of the Zionist fear and urgency of demographic parity and even, according to some demographers, already actualized Palestinian demographic superiority in historic Palestine. The Palestinian people in the occupied territories and elsewhere need all the organized political and moral support that global civil society can give.

The Palestinian Conundrum:

In light of the ineluctable shrinkage of Palestine, its progressive loss to relentless Israeli expansion and colonization for the past 63 years, it’s agonizing to think that something must be done before the Palestinians lose everything as the Israelis are racing against time to gobble up as much as they could. 

Therefore, what if one thinks the unthinkable, a last desperate course if nothing, including obtaining UN membership, pans out; and that is, for Palestine to pursue statehood/UN membership even if the American/Israeli imposed cost is a denuded state, a Bantustan?  Realizing a sovereign state, regardless of how weak and small and un-sovereign in practice, affords, at minimum and ideally, the Palestinians legal and political safeguards against Israeli depredations and expansion. Also, over a couple of decades, Israel-Palestine may evolve into a bi-national, federated, or closely cooperative entity anyway because of the sheer force of demographic changes and the positive effects of peace and normalization.  For the two peoples’ destiny, inhabiting such a tiny piece of land, is inseparable.

The price, of course is accepting an end-of-conflict peace treaty that gives away Palestinian territory and rights, as explained above, which render them trouble makers and aggressors should they subsequently claim the remainder of the currently occupied Palestinian territories. Another problem is that such a move would represent only the elite and a small minority of the Palestinian people, which may portend future instability. Capitulation, of course, is what the Israelis are after (short of disappearing all the Palestinians) and the Americans are busily obliging them.

What the Palestinians agree to and give away, is irreversible. Again, should the Palestinians settle for anything they could get, before they lose everything, in return for a sovereign state of any proportion, abdicating the justice of international law and UN resolutions because, in any case, in the final, long term, karmic (and short term imminent demographic) balance, they’ll end up politically and economically integrating, at some level, with the Israeli Jews in historic Palestine?

This is the Palestinian conundrum, and their violent subjugation to it is obscenely, morally wrong and unjust.  (This line of thought implies, inaccurately, the Palestinians have no countervailing strengths to achieve their goals, no options to counter what’s happening to them.  I’ll address this in a future post.) (14 January 2011)


Jan 19, 2011

Tom Pessah

Through the Looking Glass – Five years in Students for Justice in Palestine

Some of the best children’s stories tell us of a secret passageway, a place that looks completely mundane and uninteresting, that turns out to be a gateway to another world: the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, the station where Harry Potter catches the train to Hogwarts, the rabbit hole and looking glass through which Alice passes into Wonderland. Going through the looking glass is a particularly good metaphor for the journey I’ve been through in Students for Justice in Palestine, because when the Israelis I grew up with talked about Palestinians, they were really talking about how they themselves were better than other Israelis:

cultivated Tel Avivians constantly criticized the fanatic settlers; bourgeois Ashkenazim were more enlightened than those racist, vulgar working class Mizrahim (especially certain soccer fans); the radical left was so much more sincere than the hypocritical Meretz, but they themselves were ridiculed by the fringe socialist groups – everyone talked about other people’s attitude to Arabs, but no one really knew any.

In a country that with about 20% Palestinian citizens, life in North Tel Aviv was segregated to an extreme degree: apart from the greengrocers, the odd waiter at a hummus joint, the occasional child who cleaned the stairs in our house, I made it into my twenties in the biggest industrial and cultural center of the country without one Palestinian acquaintance, and without having any friend who even knew any. None in my school, certainly none in my family; most incredibly, even in university, where I became affiliated with Hadash/alJabhah – the country’s only officially Jewish-Arab political party, there was a Jewish Hadash student group and an Arab one. It never occurred to me that this was problematic – segregation seemed so natural that I never stopped to think about it.

I have so many stories to tell about the UC Berkeley chapter of SJP that I joined almost five years ago, when it was reestablished in the spring of 2006 – material for more than one post. But I want to share the profound joy of being an activist. It seems almost obscene: how can we talk about our pleasure in what we do, when the situation on the ground in Israel/Palestine remains so horrible, when people are still dying every week from the prevention of medical treatment, from sniping at buffer-zones, from the shooting of protestors?

But I don’t mean pleasure as a form of entertainment. I’m thinking of Helen Keller, who said “Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” I’m thinking of my biggest role models, the heroes of the Popular Committee of Bil’in, who get tear-gassed, beaten up, fined, imprisoned, wounded and even killed, and never lose their creativity, never lose the ability to paint themselves blue in their weekly protests and dress up as the Na’vi from Avatar.

I’m thinking of the twinkle in Mohammed Khatib’s eye when he explained why he was so happy to see Israeli activists joining him (finally he got to see the soldiers beating someone else up); I’m thinking of the scene in the documentary Bil’in My Love where Wajeeh Burnat tries to get his sheep to chant slogans against the occupation; I’m thinking of the recent flashmob action in St. Louis, where the protestors sang and danced so movingly for a boycott of Motorola (which is profiting from the occupation); I’m thinking of my friend and colleague Dina Omar, reciting her June-December 2005: First Time Home:

I refuse Israel
Bombing me into submission
beating me into compromise
suffocating me into silence
exhausting me into inaction
this is our action
our living testament
that torture does not work
I will
dance, fight, yell, plead
debka, zagrett, kick, scream
read, write, sing, bleed
and love
love you into submission
I will love you like Mahmoud Darwish
for our misery
cuz we are the same
I will love you
like Moses loves his people
to take them to the promise land
to part the red sea with his bare hands
I will love you
ultra orthodox Jewish man
walks urgent in the old city
head buried into the Torah
making love to the scriptures
I will love you
Cuz we are both people of the sun
I will love you
Cuz the sun will beat its heat down on us till we are one


Listen to the power of those words! Listen to their rhythm!

They remind me of another source of joy. Growing up as a Jew in Israel, there is no message you imbibe more deeply than kol ha-olam negdeinu, the entire world is against us. On the holidays you hear how in every generation “they” stood over us in order to destroy us; in school you study almost no Israeli history, but an entire year about the Holocaust; you learn hardly anything about Arabs outside the context of war, but you are definitely expected to attend the yearly remembrance ceremonies for dead soldiers; and in the media, of course, every pronouncement that could be construed as anti-Israeli is seized upon and analyzed endlessly: everything, everything is a codeword for “throw the Jews into the sea.” The Right of Return can only mean a new Holocaust; international protests against the occupation are a natural continuation of medieval anti-semitism; soldiers armed to the teeth are the innocent targets of menacing thirteen-year-olds who hurl rocks at them. We have the strongest army in the region, nuclear weapons, the unconditional support of the world’s biggest superpower – and we still let politicians and generals terrify us to death.

Paradoxically, becoming politically aware can actually strengthen these establishment messages. You ask yourself – if we really massacred and dispossessed so many people in 1948, if we continue to kill or wound civilians almost every week in Gaza and the West Bank, if Palestinians citizens of Israel face such overwhelming discrimination every moment of their lives – well, they must all hate us: I would, if I were them. And if they do, isn’t it all hopeless?

But here is the biggest wonder of Wonderland: in spite of going through hardships I cannot even imagine, in spite of having family members live through this horrible history that I am only reading about, in spite of hearing infuriating news of attacks on friends and co-nationals, or co-religionists, on a daily basis – people still retain their solidarity, their compassion, their love.

I can hear one of our newer SJP members, who narrowly escaped Israeli bombs in Lebanon in 2006, talking with pride about the recent reestablishment of the Beirut synagogue; I remember Palestinian darbukas drumming away to accompany Passover songs at our SJP seders; I recall Mohammed Talat’s poignant tribute to the young Jewish activists who disrupted Netanyahu’s speech; I think of my mentor, Ibtesam Salman, welcoming me into SJP and never forgetting to ask about my family “back home;” the many occasions when one of SJP’s best organizers, Yaman Salahi, has spoken up against anti-Semitism; I look to the visiting Palestinian scholar who led us so well last year, Ibrahim Shikaki, and his profound speech during the divestment hearings: he emphasized this was not at all about Americans and Israelis graciously saving Palestinians; quite the opposite, it was the Palestinians giving us the opportunity to step out of our oppressor role.

I can also picture my first activist visit to the West Bank, on a food convoy to Bethlehem with Ta’ayush in 2003: the man who came up to me, shook my hand and said: “the army killed my brother. And I am so glad to see you here”.

Someone was recently telling me they can’t even imagine what winning would look like, what liberation would be. I sometimes take a stab at that; but what is most vivid for me is seeing this liberation in people: watching them shed the fears that their families and their environment instilled in them (“being an activist in this country is dangerous for us Muslims;” “you’re a Jew, don’t betray your community;” “stay out of this – what you’re doing is anti-semitic;” “you don’t know enough to get involved”).

You can see it in their faces: they are no longer nervous when they speak. They are surprised themselves at the power of their own words. Something they had only said quietly in their heads, or in front of their computer screen, was bursting out in public, with great force and eloquence. This happened again and again during the divestment hearings. People asked me how I could smile when I delivered my first speech at the UC Berkeley divestment hearings:

I was, after all, talking about war crimes. But remember what Helen Keller said: “Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” That’s exactly how I felt.

I truly believe we will see the end of the occupation in our lifetimes. We are resourceful and creative and full of untapped power. We have proven strategies that actually work, like BDS. We have the support of allies from around the world, working simultaneously to end all this suffering. All we need is more people to commit to spending some time for the cause. Yes, if you get more involved you will be attacked and called names. You will expose yourself to some very harsh realities. You will sometimes feel disappointed by people from your own side.

You may end up losing some friends. But in addition to all that, you may also experience the rush of this profound, transformative joy that comes from making the news, instead of following it. Won’t you join us?

Tom Pessah is a graduate sociology student at UC Berkeley, and has been a board member of the local SJP chapter for five years.


Jan 19, 2011

Cat Rabenstine

Stories from the Holy Land

I’ve lived in the Holy Land for the last seven months. This is my last week in Bethlehem before I head to India for a month, so I’ve been taking care of business. My apartment is nearly packed up: a pile of donations, a pile to leave with friends and a pile to take with me.

Just a few days ago, I went to the Jordanian Consular office in Ramallah to get a visa for my upcoming trip. After traveling two hours to get there, it was closed. 
I made a new friend, a guy who also needed a visa and was equally disappointed to find the office locked.

The policeman guarding the embassy immediately sauntered over to chat with us, gun slung over his torso like a shield.

He was from Nablus and only twenty years old, though he appeared to be in his late twenties. He was built, with dark skin and a great smile. His English was better than my Arabic, which really doesn’t take much. We bantered back and forth, not really understanding each other but we enjoyed the company.

Towards the end of our conversation we finally exchanged names. Mine: Cate. My new Irish friend’s: Johnny. The policeman’s: Hammam.

I giggled. Johnny gave me a strange look. Hamman rolled his eyes to the sky.

“Hammam?” I asked, just to be sure.

“Not hammam, it’s Hammam,” he said in clarification.

Now here is where I have to explain to those who don’t speak a lick of Arabic, that it is a very difficult language. Letters that, to an Arabic speaker sound completely different, to me sound exactly the same. Think of fifteen and fifty. If you say them fast, they almost sound alike. Maybe that is what it’s like.

I also should tell you that “hammam” means bathroom. (Where is the bathroom? “Wen El Hammam?”)

So for the next few minutes we practiced the difference between Hammam and hammam. I never quite got it. But Hammam was a good sport and handled my giggles with a smile.

“Your name means bathroom!”

“La! Hammam! Not hammam! Say it…”

Johnny and I finally decided it was time to go. As we walked down the hill, headed back to downtown Ramallah, he said, “I thought you were crazy when you started laughing at his name. You were laughing at a man with a gun!”

It was a fun morning, even if I didn’t get the visa I needed. It means I have to change my travel plans a bit, but I still smile when I think of Hammam’s refreshing sense of humor and tenacity to struggle through a conversation mainly in English. I had a great time.

Today I did another errand. I traveled to Jerusalem to send a letter.

Hopefully you’re thinking, “But I thought she lived in Bethlehem? Why would she travel to a different city simply to send a letter?”

Good question.


When I went to the Manger Square post office in Bethlehem, they said it would take at least 20 days to arrive, if not longer. All Palestinian mail is sent to Israel first, for security reasons, he said.

So the next day I traveled an hour to Jerusalem to go to an Israeli post office. I crossed a checkpoint and rode the Arab bus #24 into the Old City. Then I walked up the hill to the post office on Jaffa St.

There, I was able to pay extra to have my urgent letter arrive in three days.

As I returned to the Arab bus station to catch the #21 back to Bethlehem, I wondered what I would have done if I were Palestinian and didn’t have the golden ticket, or a special ID, that allows me to enter Israel.

My American passport gets me through checkpoints in a hot minute, but if I were a Palestinian without permission to enter Israel, that letter would have taken 20 days to arrive. I would have had no other option.

In the Holy Land, Palestinians are second-class citizens. They do not control their mail. They do not control their roads. They do not control their borders. They do not have access to the sea without Israeli permission. There is a Wall being built around them and, sometimes, they are the ones hired to build it.

Some of my stories from the Holy Land are about humorous misunderstandings. But most of them are about Walls and checkpoints, machine guns and raids, struggles and perseverance.

Cat Rabenstine is a freelance journalist living in the West Bank for the past seven months.  She maintains and teaches journalism workshops.


Jan 19, 2011


Sarah Palin finds an, unh, amen corner in Israel

This rated home-page coverage in Haaretz: comparison of Sarah Palin to Menachem Begin from the leader of a rightwing American Jewish group that supports Palin.

Remember that Zev Chafets–Menachem Begin’s former press secretary, who is from the United States– wrote the laudatory New York Times Magazine pieces on Rush Limbaugh and Mike Huckabee; and Chafets more recently has published a flattering biography of Limbaugh. So the Israeli right is cornering the foreign market on the talents of the American populist right. To judge by the visits and announced visits to Israel, by Limbaugh, Huckabee, and Palin, it’s a two-way traffic.


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Now Jennifer Rubin says that ‘J Street’ is anti-Semitic
Jan 19, 2011 08:20 am | Philip Weiss

This is embarrassing. The Washington Post makes itself a platform for the disgusting assertion that J Street is an Israel-bashing group, and worse. Is The Washington Post for the endless illegal colonization? Is it a branch of the Israel lobby. Evidently. Jennifer Rubin’s column today. Note that Hannah Rosenthal is the head of the anti-anti-Semitism desk at the State Department.

First, J Street escorted Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill, and now the Israel-bashing group puts out this: “J Street is speaking out against the Knesset’s approval of a commission of inquiry into Israeli human rights and civil society non-governmental organizations. We are deeply troubled by the increasing strands of racism, authoritarianism and McCarthyism emerging throughout Israel’s politics and society.” Why, that sounds like the demonization, delegitimization and double standards that Hannah Rosenthal would deplore.


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