Mondoweiss Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

June 5 protest showed that Netanyahu lied to Congress when he bragged on freedom of worship

Jun 10, 2011

Alex Kane

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress last month, he proclaimed proudly that “only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city.”

This is a lie, as a key youth organizer based in Ramallah recently told me in a phone interview. A few days before he returned back to Palestine after a trip to the United States, Fadi Quran said that Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel to Jerusalem would be plain to see on the June 5 protest commemorating the Naksa. Quran is an organizer with the March 15 youth movement, which first demonstrated in favor of Palestinian reconciliation.

He was right.

Hundreds of Palestinian protesters who marched on the Israeli Defense Forces’ Qalandia checkpoint that separates Jerusalem from Ramallah were met with tear-gas and rubber bullets. Dozens of injuries were reported. The demonstrators, as shown in this YouTube video circulated on the internet, demanded that they be allowed free access to Jerusalem. Israel strictly controls Palestinian access to Jerusalem.

Quran told me:

On June 5, we’re going to ask the world the question, ‘Why are five million Palestinians prevented from getting to Jerusalem?’ And if they are prevented, then didn’t Netanyahu just lie to the American Congress, and if so, why did they stand up and clap for him when he said that lie? We’re going to make these types of lies, and this type of false rhetoric, obvious. And the question then will be, are the people who believe in justice going to stand up on the side of those fighting for their rights, or are they going to stay on the side of those who are unfair and unjust and survive by stripping people of their dignity?

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist and blogger based in New York City, writes on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia atalexbkane.wordpress.com, where this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Obama hides meeting with top Bahraini leader—and mutes criticism of crackdown

Jun 10, 2011

Seham

and other news from the Arab uprisings:

Bahrain
Bahrain Shiite cleric: No talks under clampdown (AP)
AP – Bahrain’s most senior Shiite cleric says there is no chance for talks with the Gulf nation’s Sunni rulers while security forces maintain their clampdowns on protesters demanding equal rights and political freedoms.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110610/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_bahrain
Obama Hides Meeting with Top Bahraini Leader—And Mutes Criticism of Ongoing Crackdown
Amidst an intensifying crackdown on anti-government protesters in the tiny Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain, President Obama met Tuesday with Crown Prince Salman bin Isa al-Khalifa, a visit that was not announced beforehand. We speak with Nabeel Rajab, president of Bahrain’s Center for Human Rights, based in Manama. “On the ground, we don’t see anything, any signal, that makes us optimistic that the government has the willingness to go for a dialogue with the opposition and to listen to the grievances and the demands of the people,” says Rajab, noting that soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain continue to arrest protesters and the doctors treating those injured during pro-democracy demonstrations. [includes rush transcript]
link to www.democracynow.org
Bahrain bans human rights seminar
Bahrain’s leading opposition party says the government has imposed a ban on a seminar detailing abuses committed by the ruling regime during its brutal crackdown of anti-regime protests.
link to presstv.com

Opposition: 400 Bahrainis on trial after protests (Reuters)
Reuters – About 400 people have been put on trial in Bahrain for their roles in weeks of protests that rocked the Gulf island kingdom this year, a leading opposition group said on Thursday, but the government disputed the figure.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110609/wl_nm/us_bahrain_trials
Bahrain’s unseen protests fall on deaf ears (Reuters)
Reuters – In a poor district of Bahrain’s capital, a few hundred people marched through cramped, crumbling alleyways banging pans and screaming, “Down with the regime.”
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110609/wl_nm/us_bahrain_protest
Bahrain bans human rights seminar
Bahrain’s leading opposition party says the government has imposed a ban on a seminar detailing abuses committed by the ruling regime during its brutal crackdown of anti-regime protests. “Authorities have banned a presentation on ‘the atrocities of human rights violations since February 14’,” the Islamic National Accord Association (al-Wefaq) announced on Wednesday.
link to presstv.com
Regular flights to Baghdad resume
Austrian Airlines has resumed flights to Baghdad after 21 years, becoming the first major Western carrier offering a regular service to the Iraqi capital. The Austrian Airlines plane touched down yesterday afternoon at Baghdad International Airport.
link to www.independent.co.uk
Bahrain to resume Lebanon flights
Bahraini carrier Gulf Air has announced its flights to Lebanon will be resumed on June 12, following its suspension in late March, Deutsche Press Agenture has reported.
link to www.ameinfo.com
The U.S. and Bahrain: How to Talk Just Tough Enough with an Ally (Time.com)
Time.com – After some blunt language in May, the President and the Secretary of State issue more conciliatory words to Bahrain’s visiting Crown Prince. Will that help ease the repression?
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110609/wl_time/08599207655900
Ghazi Farhan
TO APPRECIATE how all-encompassing the dragnet sweeping Bahrain to quash the island’s Arab awakening has been, consider Ghazi Farhan. A dapper 31-year-old property executive, Mr Farhan manages three restaurants and a set of stables. Amid his pictures on Facebook is one of him at a tea party with Prince Charles.
link to www.economist.com
Egypt
Mussa wants peace with Israel but not at any price (AFP)
AFP – The Arab League’s outgoing chief and Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Mussa told French television on Thursday that he wants to work for peace between Israel and Palestinians but not at any price.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110609/wl_mideast_afp/arabegyptisraeldiplomacy
Egypt denies resuming gas supply to Israel
The Egyptian oil ministry has denied media rumors that Egypt resumed Tuesday pumping gas to Israel.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq
Egypt: A new constitution first?
A group of Egyptian NGOs, echoing calls from various political parties and youth groups, have issued a statement backing the Tunisian model of transition, namely that a new constitution should be drafted before parliamentary and presidential elections take place. This is a position that is gaining traction among a lot of people, reflecting in part a lack of trust in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and in part the fear of Islamist-dominated parliament in the next elections.
link to www.arabist.net
Egypt’s unfinished revolution
Hundreds of families were evicted from their homes in Egypt, in January. Promised to be moved into government housing quickly, these Egyptians still live in tents. If the revolution was about reclaiming Egyptian dignity — then what happens to these homeless citizens remains its unfinished business. Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports from Cairo.
link to www.youtube.com
Tahrir Square documents: for Zionists to freak out some more
Raed sent me this:  “Thought you might be interested in this archive of documents from the revolutionaries in Egypt. My favorite of course is the one that states that “the liberation of Cairo is not complete without the liberation of Jerusalem”. Wonder if Friedman or Ajami will ever understand…”
link to angryarab.blogspot.com
Samir Amin, “Middle Classes, American-style ‘Democracy,’ and the Muslim Brotherhood”
The middle classes as a whole rally around only the democratic objective, without necessarily objecting to the “market” (such as it is) or to Egypt’s international alignment wholesale. Not to be neglected is the role of a group of bloggers who take part, consciously or not, in a veritable conspiracy organized by the CIA. Its animators are usually young people from the wealthy classes, extremely Americanized, who nevertheless present themselves as “opponents” of the established dictatorships. The theme of democracy, in the version required for its manipulation by Washington, is uppermost in their discourse on the “Net.”
link to mrzine.monthlyreview.org
How Do You Finance Social Justice in Egypt? Jadaliyya Interview With Journalist Wael Gamal
This is our third in a series of interviews we conducted in Cairo during our recent trip. We had the fortune to meet with a friend and prominent journalist, Wael Gamal, whose column in al-Shurouq’s economy section is closely followed in Egypt and beyond–and is also published here on Jadaliyya (see video below). We discussed the overarching question of “social justice” after the revolution. In particular, how do you finance social justice in a country like Egypt?
link to www.jadaliyya.com
Jordan
Jordan Tries to Remake Its Political Machinery
Whether Parliament approves recommendations from a National Dialogue Committee on reforming politics is an open question.
link to feeds.nytimes.com
Libya
Gaddafi no longer in charge of anything in Libya except army – Libyan rebel deputy leader
Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat – Deputy leader of the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council [NTC], Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, stressed that Gaddafi is no longer in charge of anything inside Libya, except for the army, which he is using to crush the Libyan people. Ghoga claimed that Gaddafi was no longer even in control of the capital Tripoli, and stressed that the NTC forces are approximately 70 km from Tripoli, and gaining ground every day.
link to www.asharq-e.com
Gaddafi A Legitimate Target, Says NATO Official
(CNN) — A U.N. resolution justifies the targeting of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a senior NATO military official with operational knowledge of the Libya mission told CNN Thursday.
link to www.huffingtonpost.com
Fresh NATO airstrikes rock Tripoli
Fresh airstrikes hit Tripoli late on Wednesday as NATO continue to pound targets in the Libyan capital.
http://english.aljazeera.net//news/africa/2011/06/201168223922140673.html
$1.1 Billion in Aid Pledged to Libyan Rebels
The nations intervening in Libya promised the funds as senior officials continued to predict that the collapse of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government could be imminent.
link to www.nytimes.com
Libya fears boom over land mines
There is growing concern in Libya about munitions left behind by military factions following months of conflict between Gaddafi’s forces and rebels. Safety teams inspecting the aftermath of battle zones have found an alarming number of unexploded rockets and mines around the eastern city of Ajdabiya and are trying to dispose all of them. Sue Turton reports from Ajdabiya.
link to www.youtube.com
Libya rebel council may include extremists, Panetta says
CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers that worries about some members of the Libyan rebels’ ruling body are ‘legitimate.’ President Obama’s nominee for secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, told the Senate that he is concerned that some leaders of Libya’s opposition may be extremists, even as officials disclosed that U.S. aid for those fighting Moammar Kadafi will fall far short of what the rebel group says it needs.
link to feeds.latimes.com
Visual diary shows Libyan soldier at war
Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive pictures taken by a young Libyan soldier before he died in battle. The images give a telling insight into the reality of the war in Libya from the perspective of the government troops. Tony Birtley reports.
link to www.youtube.com
Qaddafi ordered sex drugs for Libya rapes, ICC prosecutor says
Investigators have evidence that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi ordered mass rapes and bought containers of sex drugs to encourage troops to attack women, the chief ICC prosecutor said. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he may ask for a new charge of mass rape to be made against the Libyan strongman.
link to www.alarabiya.net
Opposition forces edge towards Tripoli
Gaddaffi forces are advancing towards the opposition-held city of Misrata. But rebel fighters are continuing their campaign on several fronts, their progress has been slow but steady as they continue to take ground from Gaddafi forces. Al Jazeera’s James Bays reports from Yafran in the western mountain region of Libya.
link to www.youtube.com
We’ll turn our guns on Libyan rebels if they attack civilians, Nato threatens
UK and Nato forces would be prepared to turn their guns on their present allies, Libya’s rebels, if they attacked civilians loyal to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, British officials stated yesterday.
link to www.independent.co.uk
Women in the Crossfire
Iman Obeidi became famous in March when she burst into the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli and accused Libyan forces of raping her. She was quickly taken by authorities, but eventually found her way to Qatar to seek refugee status in the West.
link to www.hrw.org
Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, Royal Funds Buy Peace for Now
This oil-rich kingdom is spending $130 billion to pump up salaries, build housing and finance religious organizations, effectively neutralizing any opposition.
link to feeds.nytimes.com
Saudi fear of revolutions
“Little did Riyadh know that the most severe strategic blow to its regional influence would come not from Tehran, or Tehran’s agents in Baghdad – but Cairo, its closest Arab friend. The ousting of Mubarak did not only mean the loss of a strong ally, but the collapse of the old balance of power. The region could no longer be divided on a Riyadh-Cairo v Tehran-Damascus axis. Revolutions have struck in both camps: in “moderate” Egypt and Tunisia, as in “hardline” Damascus and Tripoli. The principal challenge for the Saudi regime is no longer the influence of Syria, Iran or Hezbollah, but the contagion of revolutions.”
link to angryarab.blogspot.com
This Saudi propagandist is bragging about Saudi military strength
A bunch of Hawthi rebels with primitive weapons chased Saudi elite forces who can still be seen on Youtube running for their lives:  “The foundation for this more robust strategic posture is Saudi Arabia’s investment of around $150 billion in its military. This includes a potential expansion of the National Guard and Armed Forces by at least 120,000 troops, and a further 60,000 troops for the security services at the Interior Ministry, notably in the special and various police forces. A portion of these will join units that could be deployed beyond the Kingdom’s borders.  In addition, approximately 1,000 new state-of-the-art combat tanks may be added to the Army, and the Air Force will see its capabilities significantly improve with the doubling of its high quality combat airplanes to about 500 advanced aircraft.  A massive new missile defense system is in the works. Finally, the two main fleets of the Navy will undergo extensive expansion and a complete refurbishment of existing assets.  As part of this new defense doctrine, the leadership has decided to meet the country’s growing needs for new equipment by diversifying among American, European and Asian military suppliers.”
link to angryarab.blogspot.com
Syria
‘Many killed’ amid fresh Syria protests
Activists say at least 23 people have been killed, most of them after the army shelled town in northern Idlib province.
link to english.aljazeera.net
Syrian army starts crackdown in northern town
Troops deployed in Jisr al-Shughur, as deaths are reported in protests elsewhere in the country after Friday prayers.
link to english.aljazeera.net
Syria: What happened at Jisr al-Shugour?
A few days ago a battle took place in the northern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shugour that drove refugees into Turkey for the first time since the uprising started and was possibly a first sign of defection or mutiny from the security services.
link to www.arabist.net

Fears for Syrian child protesters amid fresh reports of deaths
New reports of child protesters being tortured and killed in Syria raise concerns about the treatment of those still in detention.
link to www.amnesty.org
Turkey Syria Refugees Now Number About 1,600: Official
GUVECCI, Turkey — About 1,000 Syrians fleeing violence crossed into Turkey overnight, raising the total number of refugees in the country to 1,600, a Turkish official said Thursday. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country will continue to accept all Syrians who flee, but he also has urged Syria’s government to adopt reforms aimed at ending the unrest.
link to www.huffingtonpost.com
Syrian soldier ‘ordered to fire’ on peaceful protesters
A former member of the Republican Guard has told Amnesty International that he and other soldiers were ordered to open fire on unarmed pro-reform demonstrators.
link to www.amnesty.org
The Lede: Videos Show Defectors From Syrian Army, Activists Say
Two videos uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday purport to show defectors from Syria’s security forces. If genuine, the accounts they give offer an insight into the behavior of the Syrian security forces and the internal strains they face.
link to feeds.nytimes.com
Syrian reports suggest divisions in security forces
An official Syrian news report says the gunmen who killed soldiers in Jisr Shughur were wearing military uniforms. If true, it lends credence to reports of clashes between security forces loyal to Assad and others who oppose the crackdown on protesters. Gunmen in “military uniform and government cars” were responsible for the recent killings of as many as 120 Syrian security forces in the northwestern city of Jisr Shughur, the official Syrian Arab News Agency said Wednesday.
link to feeds.latimes.com
Syrians decry ‘torture’ of teenage protester
Video emerges appearing to show body of Syrian boy killed in crackdown, as Russia rejects Security Council resolution.
link to english.aljazeera.net
Has Syria’s peaceful uprising turned into an insurrection?
The Syrian regime’s claims that 120 soldiers and security personnel were killed in Jisr al-Shughur over the weekend have intensified the debate over who is behind the uptick in armed resistance.
link to rss.csmonitor.com
Day of the clans in Syria
Elements of the Syrian opposition movement have marked tomorrow as the Day of the Clans.  When I hear of any revival of the reactionary clans or tribes and their polygamous male elders, I always detect the hand of colonial powers. They always rejuvenate, empower, fund, and arm the tribes to push their agenda: this is true of Western colonial powers and of Israel.  Am I saying that the protests in Syria are the making of outside colonial powers? No, I will repeat what I say: there are two forces going on in Syria: there is a genuine, real, and sincere domestic protest movement, and there is an outside external conspiracy managed by Saudi Arabia through the reactionary Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.   It is the task of progressives who want the downfall of the Syrian regime (people like me) to stress the need for regime change (not reform) and for fierce opposition of the Saudi-managed elements of the Syrian opposition.  Finally, the notion that all protests in Syria are part of an outside conspiracy, as is claimed by the Syrian regime, should be dismissed out of hand.
link to angryarab.blogspot.com
Syrian Communist Party (the Bakdash branch)
The Syrian Communist Party and the Iraqi Communist Parties are among the worst in the region.  Both have lent support to the Ba`thist rules, and both have stood by why the regimes killed and tortured communists.  The Syrian Communist Party (Bakdsah branch) has issued a communique enthusiastically supporting regime oppression and repression.
link to angryarab.blogspot.com
Is there really a ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’?
Probably not.
link to rss.csmonitor.com
Yemen
Yemen Protesters Continue To Demand Wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Ouster
SANAA, Yemen — Nearly 100,000 Yemenis protested Friday in a main square of the capital demanding that the wounded president, currently outside the country, be removed from power. The rally, held after weekly Muslim prayers, was the biggest since President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded in a blast that hit a mosque where he was praying in his presidential palace on June 3. Heavily burned, Saleh was rushed to Saudi Arabia for treatment along with a number of top officials from his regime who also were wounded in the blast.
link to www.huffingtonpost.com
Ahmed Ali Saleh, Yemen President’s Son, Fights To Maintain Father’s Power
SANAA, Yemen — Yemen’s president, out of the country recuperating from wounds from an attack on his palace, still has a powerful hand on the ground at home: his son. Ahmed Ali Saleh commands Yemen’s most highly trained troops, has them deployed in the streets of the capital and seems determined to preserve his father’s rule against enormous pressure at home and abroad. The grip of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son – and his nephews, who also command major military units – locks Yemen into a standoff between his forces and the opposition that, if it drags on, will almost inevitably collapse back into new violence. It also appears to be a major obstacle in U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate an end to the crisis while the president is away.
link to www.huffingtonpost.com
Yemen’s Saleh out of intensive care: state media
SANAA (AFP) – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is out of intensive care in neighbouring Saudi Arabia where he is being treated for bomb blast wounds, state media said, prompting celebratory gunfire.
link to www.aawsat.com
YEMEN: The human cost of the conflict
DUBAI 09 June 2011 (IRIN) – Political violence has displaced thousands in Yemen, while a three-fold increase in the cost of food and water, combined with fuel shortages, is straining the ability of families to cope, aid workers warn.
link to www.irinnews.org
Abalysis/Op-ed
Out of Arabia
I have a piece in this week’s roundtable in Bitterlemons International, on US foreign policy in the Middle East after the Arab spring. In it I make a radical argument (at least within foreign policy circles, outside of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich anyway) that America needs to end its imperial posture in the Middle East, that the Arab spring provided an opportunity to articulate this and that Obama failed to do so clearly in his speech. I call this argument “Out of Arabia” and the piece is here. The other contributions are by Dan Kurtzer, Joel Beinin and Chuck Freilich, and all but Kurtzer’s are fairly critical of the Obama administration. Kurtzer’s piece argues that Obama introduced a new idea of individual self-determination in his recent speech, with possible far-reaching consequences. All are worth a gander.
link to www.arabist.net
AMERICA’S ON-AGAIN / OFF-AGAIN LOVE AFFAIR WITH IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Seymour Hersh, the acclaimed journalist who, in 1970, won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and has subsequently broken many other important stories dealing with America’s foreign and national security policies (e.g., prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib), has published his most recent article, on U.S. intelligence assessments of Iran’s nuclear […]
link to www.raceforiran.com

Surgeries canceled in Gaza due to lack of supplies

Jun 10, 2011

Kate

and other news from Today in Palestine:

Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers
I’m either an illegal citizen of one state, or an inferior citizen in another / Jalal Abukhater
RAMALLAH Salem-News 10 June – I am considered under the Israeli law to be an illegal citizen of the Palestinian West Bank and I am supposed to avoid it as an area of danger while Jewish settlers are allowed to come from all over the world and settle legally (under Israeli law) in the Palestinian West Bank. I am a Palestinian who lives in the occupied eastern part of Jerusalem. I am required to carry around my blue identification card which permits me to cross checkpoints daily from my house in Jerusalem to my school in Ramallah and vice versa. Carrying the blue identification card enables me to travel “freely” across the West Bank and 1948 Palestine while those carrying West Bank and Gaza IDs are not able to leave those areas without special Israeli issued permits. Having said that, however, carrying this blue ID is more of a curse than it is a blessing.
link to salem-news.com
Jerusalem Old City’s Jewish Quarter almost entirely haredi
Haaretz 10 June — Neighborhood has resumed the ultra-Orthodox character it had before the 1948 War of Independence … Rubin and Bar also noted that finds from archaeological digs carried out in the Jewish Quarter are displayed to the public in ways that highlight the area’s Jewish history at the expense of its Christian and Muslim history. A sign in the Jewish Quarter designating the location of a Crusader-era church, for example, has been replaced with one that simply labels the location an archaeological park.  
link to www.haaretz.com
Syria refugee’s dream of return ends in tragedy
JERUSALEM (AFP) 10 June — When Ezzat Maswadi burst across the ceasefire line from Syria into the occupied Golan Heights, he thought his chance to return to Jerusalem — the city of his birth — had finally come. But the return that Maswadi had longed for was not to be, and his attempts to reach the Holy City would eventually lead to his death, three weeks later, in the fields between Syria and the Golan town of Majdal Shams. Born to a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in 1977, Maswadi grew up in the nearby town of Al-Eizariya until 1984, when his family moved first to Jordan and then to Syria. His father moved back to Jerusalem shortly afterward, but Maswadi and his mother were told they had lost their residency permits under an Israeli law which quietly revoked the residency of anyone who stayed away more than three years.
link to www.maannews.net
Returning from afar
JPost 9 June — …In the farthest reaches of northeast India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh, live the Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “the sons of Manasseh”). They are descendants of one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel… And now, after so many centuries, God is rewarding them for their faithfulness and bringing them back. Over the past decade, Shavei Israel has brought 1,700 Bnei Menashe to Israel, where they have been absorbed successfully into the Jewish state. Another 7,232 remain in India, awaiting their chance to return. Over the past year, Israel’s government has been deliberating whether to allow the rest of the community to make aliya. It is expected soon to pass a decision that will enable all the remaining Bnei Menashe to come home to Zion.
link to www.jpost.com
Incursions / Clashes
Israeli police enter Al Aqsa Mosque, firing tear gas to disperse stone-throwing Palestinians
Israeli police stormed the venerated Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Friday, firing teargas at Palestinians who had assembled there. The police briefly entered the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound after Friday prayers and fired tear gas towards stone-throwing youths, police and mosque officials said. “After prayers some of the Arab youths started throwing stones,” a Jerusalem police spokeswoman said. “There were no injuries but when the stone throwing continued, police and border police entered the mosque compound to disperse the youths before leaving.” Police fired tear gas and one person was arrested, she said. A spokesman for the Islamic authorities that run the mosque said one or two youths had been throwing stones, but the incident ended quickly. The sprawling mosque compound contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock [shrine] and is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
link to www.alarabiya.net
Palestinian injured in clashes with settlers near Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 10 June — A 65-year-old Palestinian was shot and injured Friday during clashes with Israeli settlers and soldiers near Ramallah, witnesses said. Locals told Ma‘an that dozens of settlers tried to enter an illegal outpost near Kafr Malik village, which had been evacuated by Israeli forces. Villagers tried to stop the settlers, who were supported by Israeli soldiers. Clashes erupted and Yousif Hamad Al-Qaq was shot and injured, onlookers said.
link to www.maannews.net
PCHR: Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory – June 2-8
Shooting: During the reporting period, IOF wounded 30 Palestinian civilians, including 12 children and a woman, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Twenty nine of them were wounded in the West Bank and the thirtieth was wounded in the Gaza Strip, and the majority of them were wounded in peaceful demonstrations. In the West Bank, On 02 June 2011, a Palestinian child from Fraata village, northeast of Qalqilya, was wounded when a group of settlers from “Havat Gilad” settlement raided Palestinian lands in Fraata village and set fire to lands planted with wheat and stoned Palestinian farmers. The settlers then called IOF who rushed to the scene to provide protection to settlers. IOF started firing tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at Palestinians. Asaad al-Tawil, 16, was hit as a result by a tear gas canister to his left eye … In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian civilian was wounded on 07 June 2011 when IOF positioning on observation towers at the border near Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing, in the far north of the Gaza Strip, opened intensive fire at a group of Palestinian and international demonstrators who were nearly 300 meters from the border fence to the north of the Agricultural School of al-Azhar University, north of Beit Hanoun.. ..
link to www.uruknet.info
Activism / Solidarity
2 injured in Hebron anti-settlement rally
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 10 June — Israeli forces injured two Palestinians and detained two activists on Friday at a demonstration against illegal settlements near Hebron, activists said. Rateb Al-Habor, coordinator of the local committee against settlements, said dozens of Palestinian and international activists joined the peaceful rally after Friday prayers. Al-Habor said Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters. He said Adham Muhammad Ahmad Shawaheen, 22, and Fadel Ahmad Muhammad Ad-Dababseh, were both hit by tear-gas canisters. Israeli forces detained Qasem Muhammad Hasan Abu Arram, 50, and a 30-year-old Israeli activist, he added.
link to www.maannews.net
Photos: Protest in Nabi Saleh consumed by tear gas / Joseph Dana
972mag 10 June — Unusually high levels of tear gas were used in an attempt to crush the weekly unarmed demonstration today at Nabi Saleh. Roughly 40 new (and many first time) Israeli supporters joined the demonstration today, led by IPCRI director Gershom Baskin. From the demonstration, Baskin repeatedly contacted the Israeli army and informed them of the high numbers of Israelis present and the desire to maintain a non-violent, unarmed demonstration. Despite this, the demonstrators were only able to march about 100 meters inside the village before they were attacked by tear gas.
link to 972mag.com
At-Tuwani reflections: Healing the trees
CPT 7 June — We start slowly, our delegation members, several men, a handful of women, a sprinkling of children. As we walk out of the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani the procession grows, women cutting across fields, children scrambling down hillsides.  Some of the boys carry hoes; the women swing buckets; a young child waves a Palestinian flag.  We are on our way to a small olive orchard in the valley to take part in a healing ritual, but the conversation, in Arabic, sounds chatty, neighbors exchanging the tidbits that make up daily life.  A few of the children try to bring us into the loop with their schoolroom English; we try a few Arabic phrases.  When we reach the orchard, we pause.  I know in my head that Israeli settlers who live across the valley from At-Tuwani sometimes sneak down at night and chop down the villagers’ olive trees.  But seeing the wounded trees myself cuts more deeply. The breaks are jagged, branches twisting off the trunk, the silver-green leaves curling in the dust.  Ten trees have been hacked off, an attempt to chop down Palestinian life in the South Hebron Hills.
link to cpt.org
Jewish outrage as Greens host Gaza ‘freedom’ event
Australian 11 June — The NSW Greens continue to support protests against Israel, with the party’s upper house leader David Shoebridge to host a function at Parliament House next week for an activist group preparing to head to Gaza. Jewish community leaders have criticised the Greens’ hosting of the Farewell to Freedom Flotilla event, saying it uses taxpayer-funded facilities to encourage groups to break international law.
link to www.theaustralian.com.au
Gaza – under siege for 1,458 days now
Ministry: Surgeries canceled in Gaza due to shortages
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 10 June — Doctors in Gaza have been forced to cancel surgeries due to critical shortages of medicine and supplies, a health ministry official said Friday. Ministry undersecretary Hasen Khalef said eye surgeries, and operations on blood vessels and nerves were among those canceled due to the lack of medication. Gaza Health Minister Bassem Naem said prescheduled surgeries — including children’s operations, cardiac catheterization, laparoscopic surgery and bone and nerve operations — would be stopped … Khalef said dental clinics and general practice clinics would be forced to close soon, and that health centers would reduce their hours because of the shortages.
link to www.maannews.net
Israel closes sole Gaza crossing for goods and aid
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 10 June — Israeli authorities decided to close Gaza’s sole operating crossing for goods and aid until Sunday, Palestinian officials said … Egypt ended its role in Israel’s siege on May 28, permanently reopening the Rafah crossing on its border with Gaza. While the decision allowed the free movement of most Gaza residents for the first time in four years, the terminal is not equipped for the import or export of goods or aid.
link to www.maannews.net
Cairo denies reports of arms smuggling through Egypt
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma‘an) 10 June — Military leaders in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday denied allegations that new smuggling routes had been established through Egypt into Gaza. The Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv on Friday said Israeli security officials had received information that weapons were being smuggled from Libya to the Gaza Strip via Egypt. According to the report, the uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had allowed the flow of arms into the hands of arms dealers and “terror organizations” in Libya … Egyptian military sources denied the report, and said no weapons entered Egypt from Libya, noting that officers inspected all passengers entering from Libya through As-Saloum crossing.
link to www.maannews.net
Palestinians plan ‘flotilla march’
Ynet 10 June — Pro-Palestinian activists have issued a Facebook call urging supporters to stage yet another march – the “return march” – this time to coincide with the arrival of the second Gaza-bound flotilla, planned for late June. The organizers said that this march is meant to commemorate “Nakba Day” and “Naksa Day” casualties. Once again, they urged participants to storm all of Israel’s borders.
link to www.ynetnews.com
US activists prepare to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza / Alex Kane
EI 10 June — Recent weeks have seen renewed attention on the blockade of Gaza as international activists’ efforts to break Israel’s blockade with a flotilla come to a head. The Israeli government has begun to ramp up its propaganda efforts, claiming the flotilla has ties to terrorism. The United States government has warned activists working against the blockade, with a State Department spokesman telling reporters earlier this month that “groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions” (State Department press briefing, 1 June 2011). But while the flotilla is only beginning to make headlines now, it’s been a long time in the works. The organizing for an American boat to join the flotilla began a year ago.
link to electronicintifada.net
Israel warns Inmarsat over Gaza flotilla
7 June — JERUSALEM: An Israeli group said yesterday that it had warned satellite navigation giant Inmarsat it could face legal action for providing services to ships trying to breach the naval blockade on Gaza. The Israel Law Centre said it had sent a letter to London-based Inmarsat cautioning it that supplying navigation services to a flotilla of 15 ships which is expected to sail for Gaza later this month, would violate the US Neutrality Act that bars helping groups considered hostile to an allied country. Inmarsat “is exposing itself to criminal liability and massive financial suits if it supplies satellite services to boats participating in the flotilla to Gaza,” the Centre said.
link to www.kuwaittimes.net
Inside the jail of Gaza – Walking to the Buffer Zone  / Johnny Barber
Counterpunch 10-12 June — We marched to the buffer zone with about 20 others including members of the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative who have been organizing non-violent demonstrations for the past three years, as well as several members of GYBO (Gaza Youth Break Out). Carrying flags and alternately chanting, singing and walking in silence we approached the Israeli border. This is a no go zone for Palestinians. Israel has deemed that 300 meters from the wall is a buffer zone, so Palestinian farmland is taken away. Waving flags and chanting we reached the edge of the buffer zone and continued walking. Almost immediately, dust kicked up just ahead of us, a warning shot rang out. We stopped, daring to go no further. Climbing a small embankment we waved our Palestinian flags and chanted to the soldiers hidden in the guard towers. Not five minutes passed and 2 shots rang out, one kicking up dust at our feet. 19 year old Mohammed Kafarna grabbed his neck, turned, and ran back in the direction we had come. He had been hit with shrapnel
link to www.counterpunch.org
Detention
Israel detains Hamas leader from Jenin
JENIN (Ma‘an) 10 June — Israeli forces detained Hamas leader and former minister Wasfi Qabaha overnight Thursday from his home in the West Bank city of Jenin, witnesses said. Locals said soldiers surrounded Qabaha’s home amid intensive shooting and took the 50-year-old to an unknown location. In 2007, Qabaha was arrested by Israeli forces and detained without charge for three years under administrative detention.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops detained eight Palestinians overnight from the West Bank. Locals in Hussan village west of Bethlehem said Israeli troops detained 22-year-old Muhammad Shusha in a dawn raid on his father’s home.
link to www.maannews.net
Palestinian women stripped naked during provocative prison search.
WEST BANK, (PIC) 9 June — Four Palestinian women detained at the Israeli HaSharon prison were stripped naked during a humiliating and provocative cell search, those women told the Ahrar prisoner studies center. The names of the women held for alleged security reasons were left undisclosed. The search was conducted by ten female and five male prison guards and security and intelligence officials as well as the director of Room 2, where the women reside. The crew was looking for a mobile phone allegedly smuggled into the prison by one of the women. Each woman was strip searched separately inside the unit in a way they described as humiliating and “conflicting with ethics and morals.”
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk
Israeli jailer takes photos of Palestinian captive during a strip search
RAMALLAH, (PIC) 10 June — The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) has strongly deprecated Thursday the Israeli occupation authority over the “strip search” policy it practices against the Palestinian captives in its jails. Lawyer of the PPS revealed that an Israeli guard in Majeddo prison took some pictures of a Palestinian captive after he subjected him to a strip search prompting the captive to strongly protest this Israeli assault against him … The Israeli practice was meant to humiliate Palestinian captives and is a blatant violation of international laws and ethics on prisoners. The captive went on hunger-strike for three days to protest the Israeli action against him. He was placed in solitary confinement before the guards forcibly transferred him and his three comrades to Shatta, the PPS pointed out.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk
Hamas: PA detained affiliate
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 10 June — Hamas on Friday accused Palestinian Authority security forces of detaining a party member from Siris village near Jenin. The Islamist movement said forces from the Fatah-led PA detained Islam Abu Ali, a student at the Arab American University in Jenin. On Tuesday, Hamas said PA forces detained four party affiliates across the West Bank.
link to www.maannews.net
Political / Diplomatic / International news
Real peace only possible ‘if Hamas on board’
JERUSALEM (AFP) 10 June — A lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is only possible if Hamas is involved, a group of former top statesmen and diplomats said in a letter made public on Friday. In the letter, which is addressed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, 24 former international figures warned against the dangers of rejecting a recent Palestinian unity deal aimed at ending years of bad blood between the secular Fatah faction and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Israel slammed the deal as a “great victory for terrorism” in a move which found echoes in Washington, with US President Barack Obama describing it as “an enormous obstacle to peace.”
link to www.maannews.net
Haniyeh: No differences among Hamas leaders
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 10 June — Gaza government Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that there were no internal differences among Hamas leaders. Speaking at Friday prayers in Gaza City, the premier denied media reports of internal disagreements within the Islamist movement … Haniyeh said Hamas would not negotiate with Israel or concede Palestinians’ rights. In May, Damascus-based Hamas chief Khalid Mash‘al said the party was willing to allow the PLO to negotiate with Israel for a period of time in order to prove that talks would lead nowhere.
link to www.maannews.net
Hamas leaders open Facebook pages in attempt to woo Palestinian public
Haaretz 10 June — A few leading Hamas figures have opened Facebook pages over the past few weeks, as part of the organization’s broader attempt to win hearts and minds among the Palestinian public to reverse its declining support in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. According to an opinion poll published Wednesday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, 39.2 percent of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have faith in Fatah, while only 16.6 percent put their trust in Hamas. Hamas is now trying to rebrand itself as a more open and, above all, a more moderate movement.
link to www.haaretz.com
Haaretz exclusive: Secret cables show Israel’s battle plan over Palestinian UN bid
10 June — Israel has started mobilizing its embassies for the battle against UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September, ordering its diplomats to convey that this would delegitimize Israel and foil any chance for future peace talks. Envoys are being asked to lobby the highest possible officials in their countries of service, muster support from local Jewish communities, ply the media with articles arguing against recognition and even ask for a call or quick visit from a top Israeli official if they think it would help. Foreign Ministry Director General Rafael Barak and the heads of various ministry departments sent out classified cables outlining the battle plan to the embassies over the past week, after earlier ordering all the country’s diplomats to cancel any vacations planned for September. The contents of the cables reached Haaretz and are reported here in full. 
link to www.haaretz.com
Minister: Berlin to advise Palestinians against statehood bid
BERLIN (AFP) 10 June — A high-level German diplomatic mission to the Middle East will try to convince Palestinians next week to drop plans to gain UN recognition for an independent state in September, a minister said Friday.
link to www.maannews.net
US senators oppose Israel return to 1967 lines
AFP 10 June — US senators proposed a resolution on Thursday opposing any Israeli withdrawal to 1967 lines, dealing a symbolic blow to President Barack Obama’s efforts to renew peace talks. “It is contrary to United States policy and national security to have the borders of Israel return to the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967,” read the text introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent. The resolution, which enjoys the support of some 30 other senators [out of 100], including Democrats, says US policy aims to “support and facilitate Israel in maintaining defensible borders.”
link to www.ynetnews.com
Other news
Al-Quds Brigades arrest suspected collaborator
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) — Islamic Jihad’s armed wing the Al-Quds Brigades on Friday announced the arrest of a collaborator accused of involvement in the assassination of 16 resistance fighters. The brigades said the collaborator was identified after several months of intensive monitoring and interrogations by the group’s security department … The collaborator was handed over to the Hamas-led Interior Ministry in Gaza to be brought to trial, the brigades said. The Hamas-led government in Gaza has executed six men accused of collaboration, most recently on May 4.
link to www.maannews.net
Low-profile, influential Hamas founder Shama dies
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 10 June — A founder of Hamas in the Gaza Strip died Friday of a stroke after decades as an influential yet little-known figure at the helm of the Palestinian militant organization. He was 76. Muhammad Hassan Sham‘a, revered by Hamas loyalists but nearly anonymous outside Gaza, was one of the eight founders of the Islamist group in the 1980s. After his death, Hamas publicly announced Friday for the first time that Sham‘a had been the leader of the secretive Shura Council, its top governing body.
The identity of the council’s members is a closely guarded secret because of fears they could be targeted by Israel. The founder and first leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 2004.
link to www.google.com
Agriculture ministry: Watermelons not contaminated
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 10 June — The Palestinian Authority agriculture ministry said Thursday that reports of toxic chemicals in watermelons in the West Bank were false. According to media reports, watermelons grown in settlements and sold in the West Bank contained traces of hormones and pesticides. The ministry said it conducted tests on watermelon samples from across the West Bank at the An-Najjah University in Nablus, but found no traces of contamination. Watermelons grown in illegal settlements are sold in the West Bank despite a government-led boycott of settlement produce. Palestinian Authority Agriculture Minster Ismail Du’eik said the government had a trade agreement with Israel to buy watermelons from settlements, in exchange for Israel buying Palestinian-grown cucumbers, the official PA news Agency Wafa reported.
link to www.maannews.net
Light rail segregation has heavy price / Tali Farkash
Ynet 10 June — Allotting one of train’s cars to sexual segregation may be democratic, but zealots won’t stop there … While Israelis were busy with the cheesecakes and flower arrangements that go along with Shavuot earlier this week, haredi zealots have been busy with their next battle: Imposing the ‘kosher bus’ rules on the Jerusalem light rail …  in actuality, the light rail is just another battle in the war on gendered freedom of movement in Israel. This war is no longer just about specific buses in specific haredi areas. It is a nationwide war which currently includes sidewalks, supermarkets, planes, and HMOs with separate medical services.
link to www.ynetnews.com
Analysis / Opinion
UK anti-Sharia legislator backed Israel group calling for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians / Ali Abunimah
EI blog 9 June — A legislator who has introduced an ‘anti-Sharia’ bill into the UK parliament supposedly in the name of equality agreed to serve as co-president of an Israeli organization that favors expulsion of Palestinians, denies the Nakba, and espouses extreme anti-Muslim views … Cox’s endorsement of extremist racist The Jerusalem Summit, and her introduction of laws targeting Muslims in the UK in the name of “equality” is a marker of the increasingly close alliance between Zionists and Islamophobes and their attempt to stir up Islamophobia in Europe and the United States in order to bolster support for Israel as a supposed bulwark against a mythical Muslim invasion characterized by “creeping Sharia.” Just this week in the United States, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain said he would require a special loyalty oath to be administered to Muslims appointed to government positions. There is not such much a creeping, but rather a galloping alliance between pro-Israel extremists and Islamophobes that is causing dangerous polarization in the United States and Europe, largely for the sake of Israel.
link to electronicintifada.net
Pro-Israelis turning US into Islamophobic police state / Maidhc Ó Cathail
MEMO 10 June — The recent call by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for increased rail safety funding and the creation of a “no-ride” list for Amtrak trains is yet another reminder of just who is stoking fear of Muslims in America. In an interview last year with a Jewish radio talk show in New York, Senator Schumer said he believed that HaShem (an Orthodox Jewish term for “God”) gave him the name “Schumer” — which means “guardian” — so that he could fulfill his “very important” role in the U.S. Senate as a “guardian of Israel.” Presumably, Schumer’s God-given role also includes turning the country he is actually paid to represent — the United States — into an Islamophobic police state. Americans wondering what happened to their freedoms since 9/11 need to understand the key role played by ardent pro-Israelis like Schumer in undermining their civil liberties under the guise of protecting them from terrorism.
link to www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk
This Week in History: RFK is shot a year after Six Day War
JPost 10 June — Robert Kennedy is shot by a Christian Palestinian man from Jerusalem upset by the senator’s pledge to supply Israel with Phantom fighter jets —  Born in 1944, Sirhan Sirhan fled his Jerusalem home during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Soon thereafter, he and his entire family moved to the United States where he attended school, including several years at a local college. But despite his many years in the US, Sirhan’s heart remained with the Palestinian people. Following the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, he told American news program Inside Edition in a 1989 interview, he was “downcast and crestfallen.” … Robert Kennedy, the younger brother of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy, had been a hero to Sirhan Sirhan. “He was my champion, he was the defender of the downtrodden,” he later said in an interview, believing himself to be the downtrodden that RFK had pledged to defend. But when Sirhan heard that Kennedy was promising to supply military jets to Israel, he felt personally betrayed  … Sirhan Sirhan remains in a California prison to this day.
link to www.jpost.com
groups.yahoo.com/group/f_shadi (listserv)
www.theheadlines.com (archives)

One missile, one playground: The will of Gaza

Jun 10, 2011

Ramzy Baroud

A “Hamas commander” drove a beat-up gray van in northern Gaza and theatrically spoke on his walkie-talkie as I sat in the passenger seat. The van was almost barren, save for the most basic equipment propelling it to move forward over the bumpy roads of an overcrowded refugee camp.

Iyad was not here to show me any militant training camp, or even to assess the damage that had befallen the impoverished Gaza Strip during Israel’s devastating war, Operation Cast Lead, which killed and wounded thousands in 2008-09. Scars of the damage sustained during the three-week onslaught are still visible throughout the Strip. Iyad was here to show me his latest personal project: a playground for refugee children.

At first glance, the “playground” did not seem impressive at all. All I noticed was a small plot of dirt jammed between two unsightly concrete buildings.

“So, what do you think?” asked Iyad, with a proud smile. His attempt at growing a full beard was not entirely successful, giving him a younger, albeit disheveled appearance.

“It’s impressive,” I replied, still trying to understand the nature of the accomplishment.

I learned later that the achievement was creating space out of the debris. At one time prior to December 2008, when an Israeli missile decided to drop in, a family had lived in this spot. The house had collapsed, and its residents became mere posters of mourned Palestinian faces adorning the walls of other houses in the neighborhood.

Iyad and few of “Shabab Al-Masjid” — youth of the mosque — cleared almost everything, using only their bare hands and other primitive means. The siege had made it nearly impossible to access modern technology to clear the uncountable tons of concrete scattered in and around Gaza as a result of the war. Cement remains a precious commodity in an area that needs building material above most other resources. People here somehow remain positive.

“And here will be a soccer field,” continued Iyad, who seemed to have no budget whatsoever, except the will of the “shabab”.

Predictably, Iyad’s residence is located in a refugee camp. What seemed to be a large crack around much of the house was in fact a mark left by an Israeli missile, which blew up most of the house. Iyad’s entire family — his brothers, their wives and about two dozen children — were watching TV in a room that miraculously managed to stay still as the house imploded. The neighbors rushed looking for dead and survivors, only to find everyone alive and well.

Iyad smiled in wonder.

When the unmanned drone began circling above his head, Iyad knew that the Israelis had located him. So he began running.

“I didn’t want them to know where I lived, so I began running without a clear sense of direction,” said Iyad, who reiterated that he always prepared himself for such a moment. “I am not scared of death. Life and death is in God’s hand, not some Israeli pilot, but I worried about my family.”

Then, Iyad’s house came down.

Since then, the house has been rebuilt, although in a haphazard way. New additions to the house stand above the deep cracks. There are no guarantees that the foundation is safe, or if the house is even inhabitable at all. Oblivious to war, death, unarmed drones and shaky foundations, the children are full of life.

Three of the boys in Iyad’s household carry the same name. It was the name of Iyad’s brother who was killed by an Israeli sniper as he protested the occupation during the First Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) of 1987. It was this very event that changed Iyad’s life forever. In a moment, the little boy had become a man, as expected of any “brother of a martyr”.

Iyad’s niece — a cute girl in a checkered dress — was asked to perform her nashid, a song she had learned in the street. She did so with untold enthusiasm. The song referenced paradise and martyrs and “right of return,” and of children facing missiles with bare chests. The crowed clapped, and the girl huddled by my side bashfully. Perhaps she had not expected such a passionate response from her audience. She was five years old.

Iyad, who is now studying at a local Gaza university, already speaks of a Master’s degree and a teaching career. He also remains consumed by his playground and the challenges awaiting him and the “youth of the mosque” once the uneven ground is completely flattened.

His nieces and nephews sing for the martyrs, but they are also keen to do their homework. They discuss end-of-year exams with dread and excitement. All the boys are fans of Barcelona, and devotees of a man named Lionel Messi.

“When I grow up, I wanted to study physical education,” said one of the boys, a teenager of about 14. ‘I will specialize in soccer, just like Messi’s major at the University of Barcelona,’ he added excitedly.
I laughed, and so did everyone else.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com.

Challenging anti-Semitism must be rooted in opposing racism, not defending Israel

Jun 10, 2011

Yaman Salahi

Yale’s recent decision to terminate the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism is slowly drawing more attention, the news emerging initially in the dark recesses of the New York Post and slowly making its way out to the Jerusalem Post. I had occasion to criticize the center for an overtly right-wing, anti-Muslim conference that it hosted last year in the Yale Daily News and in the Washington Post’s OnFaith feature. While Yale’s official position is that the center was closed because it failed to produce quality scholarship or to sufficiently involve campus faculty, right-wing websites like the New York Post have suggested that the real reasons lie elsewhere. In particular, commentators have hinted that the center was closed because it may have encumbered the solicitation of Arab money, as if that forms a significant part of Yale’s funding, and because criticism of Muslims is, supposedly, too politically incorrect for Yale to handle – despite the dividends that aggressive and abusive language about Muslims often pays in American politics.

Set aside the clearly suspect undertones in those two claims. Whatever actually led to the university’s decision is left, for now, to the exclusive knowledge of insiders and their private motivations. But if it were true that Yale cancelled the program to appeal to donors – rather unlikely as that appears – then its decision would deserve nothing but opprobrium. In truth, the center merited criticism because it pursued an agenda that did a disservice to the study of anti-Semitism by entangling it with crude anti-Muslim and anti-Arab politics. Though the center was ostensibly about one form of racism, it was blind to the point of denial about other kinds that were on open display at its events, particularly against Arabs and Palestinians.

It is truly regrettable that the center delegitimized its own work in this fashion, not least because we are at an important crossroads when it comes to ideas about anti-Semitism. For decades, the idea of anti-Semitism has been in the hands of people who have used it to defend terrible injustices by Israel. My criticism of the center rested on the principle that racism is wrong because of what it does, not because of whom it targets. I was pointing to the tension between nationalist opposition to racism and humanist opposition to racism. So long as the study of and opposition to anti-Semitism is rooted in Zionist nationalism rather than humanism, it is a project doomed to produce irreconcilable conflicts and great harms rather than more possibilities for justice. If, on the other hand, opposition to anti-Semitism is based on a sense of justice, then it is simply inconsistent to perpetuate injustice in Palestine on the basis of opposition to anti-Semitism. The two positions – opposition to anti-Semitism and active support for justice, freedom, and equality for the Palestinians – must, instead, accommodate and reinforce one another.

The Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism failed to do that. Rather, its work was the justification of Israeli violence, militarization, and dispossession, regardless of its human costs. Its chief business was political, to rationalize support for Israel and its policies as a type of anti-racism, as absurd as that may seem. Much can be said about the center’s political agenda, but the core idea that it promoted, namely, that anti-Semitism is an attack on Israeli nationalism rather than an attack on human dignity, must continue to be challenged, even if the center is now closed.

Yaman Salahi is third-year law student at Yale and a a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

More lies Weiner told us (#9: Jordan River is eastern border of Israel)

Jun 10, 2011

Lizzy Ratner

Today the media is once again aflutter with the “Sext, Lies, and Weinergate” scandal: Weiner’s wife is pregnant! His fellow Democrats are ready to dump him! His fifth lady friend has come forward! Hour by hour, sordid new details emerge, all breathlessly reported. And yet, as with all sex scandals, the prurient, puritanical thrill of watching a dog go down soon gives way to the feeling that the guy is getting it for the wrong crime. Sure the guy is a sleaze with a serious death wish – or is it God complex? – but what about the fact that he’s also a latter-day Jabotinsky who’s content to lie and deny for the sake of occupation, dispossession, and institutionalized inequality?

On Tuesday, Phil resurrected – and debunked – some of the more outrageous lies Weiner told during a March debate with former Congressman Brian Baird about Gaza and the Goldstone Report. (The debate was sponsored by the Nation Institute on behalf of our book, The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.) Today we offer you round two of Weiner’s tall tales and outright lies. Among his more outlandish claims: Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal and not all that bad; Gaza is not occupied; Hamas cast the first stone; and perhaps the biggest head-spinner of all, Israeli settlement activity is not taking place on Palestinian lands but in Israel.

Herewith, lies 6 through 12.

Lies 6 & 7: Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal and hasn’t caused serious humanitarian hardship anyway.

Weiner: There is a blockade that is legal under the Geneva Convention going on right now by the Israelis and the Egyptians on against Gaza. Why? Because they’re at war! I don’t like that, I wish they weren’t. They’re at war. At times of war, you do not let in things that can be used to build – to build bunkers, to do these other things. Fifteen thousand tons of humanitarian aid flows into Gaza each and every week. That goes in in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Let’s start with Falsehood #6, the claim that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal. This is simply untrue, and the reasons are several. The first is that blockades are only, or at least primarily, deemed legal in situations of international and armed conflict, which the Israel-Gaza conflict most certainly is not. In fact, because Israel remains the de facto occupying power of Gaza – and this gets us to reason number two – it is required by international law not only to protect the civilians under its control but to guarantee sufficient access to food and medical supplies. The blockade, which has reduced food and other humanitarian supplies to a trickle, clearly violates this obligation, but that’s hardly all. The blockade is also widely considered to be a form of collective punishment inflicted on the people of Gaza for their support of Hamas – a fact that Israel has all but admitted – and collective punishment is not merely not legal, it is a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions. A war crime.

Or as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said:

International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and … it is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on civilians.

I have consistently reported to member states that the blockade is illegal and must be lifted.

As to Falsehood #7, Weiner’s claims that 15,000 tons of humanitarian aid flow into Gaza each day so life can’t be all that bad, where does one begin? HereHere? What about here?

The devastating effect of Israel’s blockade has been well documented by journalists, human rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and, of course, Palestinians. The Goldstone Report also dedicated pages of ink to chronicling the blockade’s humanitarian and human rights toll on the people of Gaza.

But you know what? Why listen to all these sources when you can just listen to Israeli officials themselves, as paraphrased in one of the US cables released by Wikileaks?

“As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed … on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”

Lie 8: Israel no longer occupies Gaza.

Weiner: And is Gaza occupied? Let me just clear this up, is Gaza occupied, Brian?
Baird: I think it absolutely is.
Weiner: OK, so right now there are Israelis in Gaza?
Baird: No, but there are US-made F16s and US-made weaponry and a host of other –
Weiner: But not in Gaza.
Baird: On any given day, Israelis can enter Gaza.
Weiner: Yes, on any given day they can enter there, but they are not in Gaza today.
Baird: I don’t know that.
Weiner: They don’t occupy Gaza today. Yet the Goldstone Report characterized Gaza as still being occupied.

This is a popular meme, particularly among Israeli politicians and right-wing Zionists who love to claim that Gaza has not been occupied since Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. But pretty much everyone else in the international community, with the probable exception of the United States, continues to regard Gaza as being occupied. And with good reason. When a population is hemmed in on all sides by a foreign power, its borders closed and policed, even its airspace controlled; when that power controls everything from taxes to currency; and when it pays the local population occasional, unexpected visits in the form of military incursions, it’s hard to claim that the foreign power isn’t in control.

Here’s how the Goldstone Report sums up the situation:

Given the specific geopolitical configuration of the Gaza Strip, the powers that Israel exercises from the borders enable it to determine the conditions of life within the Gaza Strip. Israel controls the border crossings … and decides what and who gets in or out of the Gaza Strip. It also controls the territorial sea adjacent to the Gaza Strip and has declared a virtual blockade and limits to the fishing zone, thereby regulating economic activity in that zone. It also keeps complete control of the airspace of the Gaza Strip, inter alia, through continuous surveillance by aircraft and unmanned aviation vehicles (UAVs) or drones. It makes military incursions and from time to time hit targets within the Gaza Strip. No-go areas are declared within the Gaza Strip near the border where Israeli settlements used to be and enforced by the Israeli armed forces. Furthermore, Israel regulates the local monetary market based on the Israeli currency (the new sheqel) and controls taxes and custom duties.

The Goldstone Report’s conclusion? “The ultimate authority over the Occupied Palestinian Territory still lies with Israel.”

Lie 9: Israel’s ongoing settlement activity is not taking place on Palestinian lands but within Israel.

Weiner: There are people who believe that settlement activity is going on in Palestinian territories. There are people who believe that. I don’t believe that.

This one is a real head-scratcher. As Roger Cohen, New York Times columnist and moderator of the Baird-Weiner debate, pointed out at the time, even the Israeli government acknowledges – heck, proclaims – that it is building settlements. So how can Weiner claim there’s no “settlement activity” in Palestinian territories? There’s really only one possible answer, but it’s such an extreme, ludicrous answer, it seems impossible that Weiner could actually believe it. And yet – well, let’s just run the tape.

Cohen: Where do you think the settlement growth is happening right now?

Weiner: What do you mean, where do I think it’s happening?

Cohen: You just said it’s happening in Israel, where in Israel?

Weiner: I don’t follow your question. What do you mean where it’s happening? It’s a matter of fact where the settlement’s happening. I don’t understand your question.

Cohen: Well, I’m asking you whether – you said it’s in Israel, as far as I know, the settlement growth is in the West Bank.

Weiner: I believe it is in Israel.

Baird: Tony, are you saying that wherever there is a settlement it is by definition Israel?

Weiner: I am saying that at some point, and it’s not going to be the three of us, but at some point, Palestinians and Israelis are going to negotiate where development is going to be able to happen, where the border exists; right now the settlement that’s going on is going on in Israel. That’s not a controversial thing to say. I mean, that’s a matter of fact. You may want in the future, where Israeli homes are, to say that’s the Palestinian border but that’s not the case yet.

Cohen: Congressman, where for you is the border of Israel?

Weiner: Where is the border – how – do you want me to describe it on a map?

Cohen: I don’t know, where is it?

Weiner: Mr. Moderator-of-this-Debate, how do you want me to do that?

Cohen: One border is the sea, where is the eastern border?

Weiner: The Jordan River.

Ah-ha! So there it is. Weiner doesn’t think that any “settlement activity” is taking place on Palestinian lands because he doesn’t think that Palestinian lands exist. He thinks that Israel sprawls from the Jordan River to the sea, which is in perfect accord with the views of Bibi Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, and, well, far too many Israeli administrations, but just happens to contradict International law. In fact, the International Court of Justice has specifically found that Israel’s practice of building settlements — essentially, transferring large chunks of its civilian population into territory it occupies — is a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Apparently, every government in the world, with the exception of Israel, agrees.

Lies 10, 11, and 12: Hamas started the Gaza Conflict by firing rockets into Israel; Israel merely carpet-bombed whole neighborhoods of Gaza in self-defense, a right which the Goldstone Report doesn’t recognize.

Weiner: Yes, it was terrible, it was a terrible, damaging war, but it was initiated by Hamas after 12000 rockets. It is a right of a people to defend themselves and you would not know that reading the Goldstone Report.

Here we have another doozy, a case of three lies in one. Happily for us, Jerome Slater has tackled all of them at one point or another in his many writings on the Gaza conflict and the Goldstone Report. Just read this and this. In particular, he has done a brilliant job of puncturing the self-defense claim, demonstrating how it is both factually and philosophically impossible. The fact part is simple: in the months preceding Operation Cast Lead, Israel and Hamas had a truce that Israel broke (on Nov. 4, 2008) in an attack that killed six men from Hamas; and when Hamas offered to renew the truce in exchange for Israel easing the siege, Israel demurred – and, several weeks later, launched Cast Lead. As to the philosophical argument, it boils down to this: “there can be no right of self-defense when illegitimate and violent repression engenders resistance—and that holds true even when the form of resistance, terrorism (a fair description of Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians) is itself morally wrong.”

As to Weiner’s claim that the Goldstone Report ignores Israel’s right to self-defense, well, anyone who’s read even a fraction of the document knows this isn’t the case. As Slater has written:

“First, while the report condemned the Israeli methods of warfare, it accepted that the purpose of Cast Lead was legitimate: Israel, it said, had a right to “defend itself” against Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks aimed at Israeli towns and villages. In his oped, Goldstone reiterated this argument: “I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within.”

So there you have it. Anthony Weiner showed up to a packed hall in New York this past March and spewed at least twelve big, bogus claims about Israel, Palestine, and the Gaza Conflict. And he clearly hadn’t read the Goldstone Report. But if his brother and sister congresspeople get their way, he might soon have a lot of time on his hands. One way he could fill it? By cracking open the Goldstone Report.

Stepping in where the international community has failed: An interview with Frank Barat

Jun 10, 2011

Emanuel Stoakes

As the peace process remains at a standstill and Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and deny basic Palestinian human rights with impunity, many people wonder – what hope is there for any kind of a “just” peace? One person in a unique position to answer this question is Frank Barat, a co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Modeled on the original Russell Tribunals, which were organized by Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre to investigate war crimes in Vietnam, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine is an international effort created “to promote and sustain a citizen’s initiative in support of the rights of the Palestinian people, with public international law as a legal frame of reference.”

I sat down with Barat to discuss the Russell Tribunal and the current state of affairs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Frank, you are known for your work with the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, can you tell us a bit about this group and what they do, what their aims are?

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) is an International People’s Tribunal created following the international community’s inaction regarding Israel’s recognized violations of International law.

The RToP proceedings, which comprise a number of sessions, deal with different aspects of the complicity and responsibilities of States, international organisations and corporations in the on-going occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the perpetuation of the violations of international law committed by Israel. They also aim to highlight the continuity and comprehensiveness of the Israeli policy that aims ultimately to render impossible the establishment of a Palestinian state.

”The legality of the Russell Tribunal comes from both its absolute powerlessness and its universality”. The RToP has no legal status, and draws its strength from the will of citizens who wish to put an end to the impunity that Israel enjoys while denying the Palestinians their most basic rights. It does not compete with other jurisdictions (domestic or international), but works in complementarity with them to enforce the law in Palestine.

On 1 -3 March 2010, the first international session of the RToP was organized in Barcelona, to consider the complicities and responsibilities of the European Union and its Member States in the on-going occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the perpetuation of the violations of international law by Israel, with complete impunity.

The conclusions of this first session emphasize the shortcomings of the EU and its member states in implementing international law (promoting the right to self-determination, the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, universal jurisdiction…) and European law (the Association Agreement, respect for the rule of origin, arms exports to Israel in contradiction with the European code of conduct, products exported from the settlements, settlements participation in European research programs…). They were sent to all the European heads of government and foreign affairs ministers, to the presidents of the European Union, Commission and Parliament, to the United Nations, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League.

The second international session of the RToP took place in London, on the 20, 21 and 22 November 2010. It examined International corporate complicity in Israel’s Violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

The jury concluded that the concerned corporations are complicit in Israeli violations of international law – including war crimes. For this, corporations may be liable under civil or criminal law in domestic law courts, and Corporate actors may be liable under international criminal law and/or under domestic criminal law if they have taken decisions as a result of which corporations have become involved in assisting Israel’s violations of international law. States have an obligation to enforce existing law against corporations where they are acting in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law standards. The Tribunal also called upon individuals, groups and organizations to take all necessary measures to secure compliance of corporations with international human rights and humanitarian law standards.

The 3rd international Session of the RToP will take place in November 2011 in South Africa. It will deal with the applicability of the crime of apartheid to Israel in regards of its treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinians Territories (OPT) and in Israel itself.

Egypt has declared that it has opened the Rafah crossing- a big move, likely to cause a strong reaction from within the Israeli political establishment- what do you think the implications of this will be for Gazans and Palestinians in general, and, moreover, can / will it stay open?

Egypt announced on 25 May that Rafah border will be permanently opened from Saturday 28 May, from 9am to 9pm, everyday expect Fridays and holidays.

Let’s not forget that restrictions will still apply. All women and children under the age of 18 will be allowed to leave as well as all men over 40. For men between 18 and 40, a VISA will be needed, granted from Ramallah. So far, there is not an Egyptian bureau in Ramallah, able to do this. [The Egyptian authorities have recently said that they intend to open one soon]

This is of course great news for the people of Gaza, some of them having been stuck in the Gaza Strip for decades with virtually no chance of ever leaving the small enclave. The opening of the border will definitely improve Gazans’ life. When you have been imprisoned in a cage for years, an opening, as small as it is, acts like a lifeline. The people of the Gaza Strip might feel a little bit more human, thanks to this. It is also important, in desperate situations not to feel abandoned, to feel like you have support from other people. The fact that the Egyptian uprising led to the opening of the Rafah border is fantastic news. The Palestinians living in Gaza knew for years that the Egyptian people were and are supportive of their plight. The problem was that under the rule of the western backed dictator Mubarak, any uprising [they were some, contrary to what the mainstream media wanted us to believe] were dealt with brutal force, imprisonment, torture and often killings. Now that Mubarak has gone, thanks to the amazing steadfastness of the Egyptian people, things are different.

In the grander scheme of things, the opening of the Rafah border is also a huge blow to Israeli hasbara [propaganda]. For years, Israel and its allies [the US, the EU….] were able to say that “even the Palestinian Arab Brothers agree with us and think it’s necessary to have the borders closed. It’s not only us. If you are angry at the blockade, why don’t you boycott Egypt?”

This is now over.

Now Israel is back against the wall and there is no exit. The illegal siege of Gaza [collective punishment, forbidden under International Law] has to end.

The opening of the Rafah crossing is great news but in terms of standard of living, it won’t change much. The people of the Gaza Strip will finally be able to have freedom of movement [an inalienable right under the UN charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] but will still be lacking the resources and materials to live a normal life.

Will the border stay open? This will depend on the next government of Egypt but I assume that once opened it will be very difficult for any government to close it again.

What do you make of the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah? Why do you think it has happened at this time? What do you think the consequences will be?

It’s obviously a very important step forward, but we’re not sure yet, what the agreement will really mean in practice. Most mainstream commentators have called this ‘the re-unification of the Palestinian People’, which is of course, media talk and wrong. The Palestinian people have always been united. Fatah and Hamas are political parties, a completely different entity to the Palestinian people; whether you live in Europe or in the Middle East, there is a huge gap between the people, and their leaders.

Coming back to what the agreement will mean on a day to day basis, we have not had the answer yet. It seems so far that not many things will change. The P.A will still deal with security [in collaboration with Israel] and with potential ‘negotiations’ and Salam Fayyad could remain PM. Not much of a change for the people of the West Bank then.

We have to wait for a unity government to be formed, a political program to be put together, to really know what this agreement means.

So far, it’s an announcement. Not much more.

The fact that is happened now is very relevant and easy to understand. The PA has lost any credibility it had left after the Palestine Papers [a series of leaked documents detailing past negotiations between the PA and Israel amongst other matters], Hamas is seen more and more as a repressive entity in the Gaza Strip, there is the prospect of the unilateral declaration at the UN in September and the ‘Arab Spring’ meant that both the PA and Hamas knew they had to do something quick, or face an internal uprising.

As for the consequences in the international community, nothing happened that was not expected. Israel condemned the move and said that it won’t deal with Hamas [even if they have secretly dealt with the party for years regarding Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped Israeli soldier], the U.S as usual, is following the Israeli line, and the EU issues statements that lack substance and mean very little politically.

Let’s hope, that the “Arab Spring” has meant that those actors [aka imperial powers] will have less and less relevance in Palestinians internal affairs.

Do you think that anti-Semitism either within the Arab world or within the Pro-Palestinian Left is under-addressed? Certain statements in the Hamas charter are a case in point- added to other occasional statements made by anti-Zionists that get publicly exposed. Many Jewish friends of mine seem to feel racism of this sort can infect political movements, especially the anti-Zionist movement; do you think this an accurate viewpoint?

There is anti-Semitism in the world, yes. Like there is racism in the world. It’s a sad reality. Most of the time it comes from a lack of education. Most racists do not like “the other” because they do not know “the other”. The same applies to Palestine-Israel. The Israeli government is making it harder and harder for Palestinians and Israelis to meet, and then, via the media, the education system…creates a very distorted picture of the Palestinians and the Arabs in general. Which makes it very difficult for a young Israeli to feel anything else than hatred towards them.

The same applies to some part of Palestinian society.

Still, it is important to make the difference between a Jew and a Zionist. Not all Jews are Zionists, far from it, and some of the most ardent Zionists are in fact, Christians. (The Christian Zionist movement in the US is huge).

The Palestinians will go to the UN in September; it seems very likely, to ask for recognition of their state. The US is considered almost certain to block this. Where will that leave the Palestinian cause?

This is not a done deal. Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that they will go to the U.N, if they cannot find an agreement to go back to the negotiating table. I think that the P.A knows that at the end of the day, they need negotiations more than a declaration of independence for their own survival.

The talked about UN declaration of a State, is a very dodgy concept under international law. Let’s remember that in 1988, Arafat already declared a State and nothing changed.

Another question is: What do the Palestinian need? A virtual State or freedom and an end to the occupation?

The argument put forward by the PA is that if the General Assembly votes for [it will], Israel will have to face international law and will be in a very tricky position. This argument is very weak. Syria and Lebanon are members of the UN, and have been for years. Has Israel stopped occupying parts of their land? Stopped bombing them? Started respecting International Law?

Of course not.

Also, the President of UN GA, Joseph Deiss, declared on Saturday 28 May that ‘US Veto would block a vote on Palestinian Statehood’ and that no State could become member of UN without recommendation from UN SC. Which in fact means that Mahmoud Abbas’ plan is now null. The US will definitely vote against as will probably do a few European countries [Obama has very openly said that he asked his European partners not to recognise the Palestinian State in September. And when a master gives orders….]. End of story then. Recognition by most members of UN GA will therefore be a strictly symbolic one. Is that really what the Palestinians need?

Israel does not care about International Law, and it won’t change if the GA recognises the Palestinian State. As long as the US keeps vetoing anything when it comes to Israel, Israel is fine.

The Palestinian cause will be left where it is now. A quite interesting place in fact. With the uprising in the Arab world, the people are slowly regaining power. Palestinian civil society, is slowly taking charge, regardless of what the politicians say. With the BDS movement growing faster and faster, and peaceful resistance spreading, one has to remain optimistic about the Palestinian cause.

Is the next assault on the Palestinians or an Intifada against Israel, inevitable?

The assault on the Palestinians, by Israel, has never stopped. People are being injured and killed on a weekly basis in Gaza. Fishermen are fired upon on a daily basis as are people cultivating their land. The assault is non-stop. In the West Bank, daily incursions by the Israeli Army, kidnapping, beatings…are also a daily occurrence. Inside Israel, more and more Palestinians are also been arrested, sent to jail, and never charged with anything.

If you’re talking about a large scale assault [i.e. Operation Cast Lead]. Yes, it is inevitable. Israel thrives on war, is addicted to it.

Can you comment on the impact of the sanctions on Gaza by the Israeli state on the civilian population- what do you think its aims are, whether they are likely to succeed, and the effect on the life of ordinary Gazans?

Like all sanctions [i.e. the example of Iraq pre-the second gulf war] the Israeli blockade [backed by the US and the EU] on Gaza has had a terrible effect on the civilian population.

Huge rise in prices, impossibility to rebuild after ‘Operation Cast Lead’, 80% of the water being undrinkable due to lack of material, 80% of people depending on aid to survive, and most people living under the poverty line. Most reports [from Amnesty international, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Human Rights Watch, The ICRC, Christian Aid, PCHR, PHR Israel] are pretty terrifying.

The psychological impact of the sanctions and a people living under a constant state of fear has also been terrible. The population in Gaza is demographically one of the youngest on the planet. Nearly 55% of the people are under 18. Recent surveys conducted by The Lancet and other organisations have found out that 70% of the youth was depressed and had lost the will to live.

Success depends on what they was their goal in the first place. The official goal was to “destabilise Hamas”. This has not worked.

The real goal was to “put the Palestinians on a diet, to starve them slowly”. If the blockade continues for much longer, this is likely to succeed.

Let’s reframe this a bit. We are talking of a people living under occupation, in something that is worse than a prison [prisoners have rights, even in jail], we’re talking about a population essentially made of refugees. This people, is being subjected to a crippling siege by its occupier, with the acquiescence of the International Community. Have you ever heard of something like this happening before?

Returning to current affairs, what do you make of Obama’s endorsement of a two-state solution on the June 1967 borders? Do you believe that he is sincere, and do you think he will succeed in getting this to happen?

Firstly, let’s remember that what Obama gave is called a speech. It’s a speech, and only that. We should stop relying on what politicians say. We should judge them on their actions. Words are useless.

Even more when they come from the mouth of a politician that has started his re-election campaign.

Secondly, the important speech Obama gave was in front of AIPAC. Not the one he gave a few days prior to this.

Thirdly, Obama never said he endorsed a two state solution on the June 1967 borders. Quite the opposite actually. It’s called double speak. The mainstream media simply repeated Obama’ words, and it made the headlines. Obama said that the future Palestinian borders will be based on the June 1967 borders, with huge land swaps. Which in real talk means “the future Palestinian borders won’t be based on the 1967 line” [which should be called 1949 armistice line].

It is crucial to remember that in fact that Palestinian State has to be based on 1949 armistice line is not debatable. The UN Charter forbids the acquisition of territory through war. If the US and Israel disagree with this, they should leave the UN, or be kicked out of it.

So yes, I believe he is sincere at that his vision of a Bantustan-filled Palestinian State is a possibility and should not be discounted. I also believe that this won’t happen, thanks to Palestinian resistance, steadfastness and the support from the people, all around the world.

What do think of Netanyahu’s speech to congress recently, and the reaction to it by the American politicians in attendance (standing ovations, applause, etc.)?

Once again, this is nothing new. ¾ of the members of congress were at the AIPAC annual conference and support Israel regardless of what the State does.

Netanyahu really spoke in front of his congress. He got more standing ovations than Obama received during his State of the Union address.

What is scary is that Netanyahu’s speech was in fact the end of any possibility of negotiations and future peace deals. (no to 67 borders, no to refugees, no to Jerusalem as shared capital..) Some Palestinians rightly called it “a declaration of war”. The fact that congress raised in fawning unison hearing that is very worrying.

On the other hand, Mark Twain once called member of congress “the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes”. So….

If, hypothetically, the Palestinians agreed to all of Netanyahu’s demands, what do you think the result would be for them?

The Palestine Papers revealed that the Palestinians negotiators were pretty close to agreeing to every single Israeli demands…and more.

What did Barak, Olmert, Livni did?….They asked for more and more and more. This will never stop, and that is why, in my opinion, negotiations are useless.

One of the weakest [politically] occupied people in history cannot negotiate with a most powerful occupier. It does not make sense. There is always going to be one loser. It’s a reality.

It is even harder to negotiate with a government that repeatedly said that “you were not a people”, “you did not exist” and that in fact, want ‘Eretz Israel’, the Zionist dream, a state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river.

If the Palestinians were to agree to Netanyahu’s demands, they’ll end up either in Jordan or Egypt. Period.

What do you make of Hamas’ mourning for Osama Bin Laden, their targeting of Israeli civilians (including children- thrown into stark relief recently by the killing of children on a schoolbus), their alleged torture of Palestinian political opponents in the light of human rights values that are held up by Western activists? Surely Hamas have committed indefensible acts, and should be the subject of moral scrutiny as much as Israel?

Yes, Hamas should be the subject of moral scrutiny as much as Israel….once Palestine is liberated. Hamas has committed, and still commits reprehensible acts, but Hamas has never been given the chance to properly govern. Once Palestine is liberated, then, yes, Hamas and Fatah will need to answer serious questions. Till then, I refuse to ‘judge’ a party that is also, as are its people, under occupation.

It is a lot more important to scrutinise the actions of country that calls itself “the only democracy in the Middle East” and its allies that while they value human rights in words, do completely the opposite in their actions (Coalition invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, drones bombing in Pakistan, extra judicial killings all over the world, supporting dictators in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia….)

Does the IDF torture minors?

Yes they do and the mainstream media never talks about this, although it is well documented. More than 700 children are arrested or kidnapped by Israel each year and end up being subjected to torture in Israel jails.

The list of examples is too long so I’ll simply direct you to Defence for Children International reports.

On a personal level, have you been to the Occupied territories & Gaza? And if so, what was the overall impression that you took from visiting there?

I have regularly travelled to the West Bank in the last few years but never had the chance to visit the Gaza Strip. I know that it will eventually happen.

What I found, each time I visited, was that the Palestinian people were the kindest, friendly, most politically aware and most resolute and steadfast people I had ever met. I look forward to each visit immensely and often feel more at home in Palestine than in Europe.

This is what keeps me and thousands of internationals around the world, going.

Deep down, we know that those amazing people will one day have freedom. Helping them achieve this is a moral duty, an obligation, for anyone that cares about justice, human rights and wants to work for a world based on more humane values.

What do you think of the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority- given that they have been accused of complicity in the oppression of Palestinians by some commentators?

The P.A is a creation of the Oslo accords and its mandate ended in 1999. The question of legitimacy therefore needs to be addressed. In 2006, Hamas won the legislative elections with a big margin, which again, raise the question of the P.A legitimacy nowadays.

On the ground, the P.A and its security apparatus are more and more seen as the proxy of the Israeli Army. The street of Nablus, Jenin…are now patrolled by P.A forces and people are stopped at road blocks, not by the Israeli Army, but by their own security forces. Which really makes for an Orwellian situation. The P.A has also helped Israel in arresting and imprisoning members of Hamas in the West Bank.

But really, this is all part of the Oslo accords, which, as Edward Said put it, were created to make this occupation less costly and easier to run for Israel, an occupation by proxy, where the Palestinians do the job of Israel.

Do you unequivocally condemn Palestinian attacks on innocent civilians? Can acts of violence against children or civilians ever be justified if we are to criticize the same actions when they are committed by Israel?

Of course. Any acts of violence that targets civilians should be condemned, whoever commits it.

In your forthcoming book, “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” one assumes that you are to critique corporate “sponsorship” for want of a better word, of Israeli occupation. How deep does this relationship go, and how complicit are UK businesses (including arms companies), and perhaps more invidiously, the UK government in the unlawful actions of the occupation?

For more information about this, I will advise people to visit the Russell Tribunal on Palestine website and to buy the book when it comes out in October.

A project called “Who profits?”  ran by some extraordinary Israeli and Palestinian women is collecting information on all corporations involved in the occupation. People should check out their website for more information.

There are those that hold that the settlements are not illegal under international law as the West Bank was claimed in a defensive operation and are negotiated territory. What is your response?

I have never heard such a statement. International Law is what it is, and it applies to all countries. There is no International Law for Israel and International Law for everyone else. The same Laws apply to everyone.

Under International Law, the settlements, that in fact should be called colonies, are illegal. Period.

The United Nations Security Council recently voted, affirmatively, on a resolution (vetoed only by the USA) saying so.

There is no debate about this.

Frank Barat is a Human Rights activist based in the UK. He is the coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and the views expressed in this interview are solely his.. He has edited 2 books, “Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians”, by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe (out now) and “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” with Asa Winstanley (out in October).

Emanuel Stoakes is a British writer and independent journalist based in New Zealand, he has interviewed a number of key Palestinian activists and hosts a blog at: http://emanuelstoakes.wordpress.com

If you were 12 years old and they were ethnically cleansing your neighborhood– well, you’d stop being a child too

Jun 10, 2011

Philip Weiss

Where is the American press? Unbelievable video from The Guardian, and B’Tselem, shot by beautiful Palestinian twins of 12, showing the ethnic cleansing of their neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Every home taken over by settlers. “Enter any home in Sheikh Jarrah and you will find a sad story,” says young Muhammed with precocious wisdom. Why are Palestinian children of 12 years old so politicized? Because they have to be. Because American Zionist Jews have licensed this segregation and dispossession. Because Obama has signed off on this. Because American tourists show up and an out of control woman cries “You’re a murderer” at the child photographer. Why isn’t this in the American press? Why is even Lesley Stahl’s 60 Minutes piece on Silwan, rebroadcast the other day, situated inside the Israeli narrative (albeit showing it to be crazy)?

Imagine Wasserman Schultz talking about the ‘demographic’ threat to Arizona

Jun 10, 2011

Anonymous

Anthony Weiner is hardly alone in reconciling extreme positions on Israel and Palestine with domestic American progressivism. There’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, whose concerns re a demographic threat to Israel we picked up yesterday. Writes a friend:

Such a split personality. The repression which she thinks healthy and necessary when exercised against Palestinians she would denounce if applied to any other people in any other part of the world. Compare her statement (1) below and the slightly altered version (2).

(1) “Now more than ever, Israel needs America’s unwavering support as it faces an unavoidable demographic reality. Between the rapidly growing Palestinian population, the uncertainty of the changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, and the intention of the Palestinians to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state at the United Nations this fall with international pressure to validate this unacceptable action, this is a watershed moment for Israel.”

(2) “Now more than ever, Arizona needs America’s unwavering support as it faces an unavoidable demographic reality. Between the rapidly growing Mexican population, the uncertainty of the changes sweeping the entire United States, and the intention of old legal immigrants as well as new illegal immigrants to unilaterally claim their rights by using their numbers as a wedge in American politics in the coming elections, this is a watershed moment for the loyalty of all native Americans.”

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