How Israel deals with nonviolent Palestinian protest
Jun 14, 2011
Watch this video from Nabi Saleh:
You might recognize the woman in the video. She is the same mother who fought as her 11-year old child was abducted by the Israeli military (video below). This is yet another tactic Israel has used to try to break the back of the nonviolent protests in the West Bank.
I was recently in Nabi Saleh during the delegation I co-led with Anna Baltzer. I met the brave people of Nabi Saleh who face this level of abuse week in and week out for protesting the theft of their land. As I sat with the families’ missing loved ones in Israeli prisons and they showed these videos, I watched them not only as a journalist and activist, but also the father of young children. I was horrified and couldn’t keep from crying.
As I listened to the stories in Nabi Saleh I marveled at the protesters’ courage, persistence and discipline at maintaining nonviolent protest in the face of such barbarity. I doubt I would be able to make the same choice.
Tales of a fourth grade Zionist
Jun 14, 2011
The Awl has run a wonderful piece by Village Voice film editor Allison Benedikt on coming to reconsider everything she was taught growing up about Israel. The piece begins when Benedikt is in third grade, and discusses the special role that Jewish summer camps played in creating her Jewish identity and connection to Israel. It ends with her making a decision on how to raise her own kids (“My best memories from childhood are from camp, and I will never, ever send my kids there.”) This isn’t a unique story for this site, but rarely is it told so well. You really need to read the whole thing (and the comments are great too), but here is a longish excerpt from Benedikt’s piece “Life After Zionist Summer Camp“:
The summer before college I return to the camp of my youth, in Wisconsin, as a counselor. I get the sense that it’s not a good idea to tell the campers that I’m not going to Israel in the fall, or that, though I do expect to make aliyah eventually, I’m not 100% sure. It’s a great summer. I am a Jewish leader! I’m still not really sure who Jabotinsky is, but the important thing is that the kids don’t know that I don’t know. It seems a little late for me to ask a friend.
College: I opt to live in the “Jewish dorm,” Markley Hall. I have trouble making friends. I gain a lot of weight. In November, Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated and I am sick not to be there. I talk to my friends on the phone long-distance and feel very removed. I don’t fit in anywhere. I hate college. I should have gone to Israel.
Freshman year happens. Sophomore year happens. Finally, my chance: I return to Mount Scopus, this time to attend Hebrew University for my junior year abroad. I make friends immediately, get a boyfriend, Craig, and feel like myself again. Early on, there’s a bombing in the shuk. The next week my friends and I go as a group to that same shuk—we will not be cowed. There are no other major attacks that year, at least as far I know. I don’t read the newspaper or watch the news while there, but Craig’s parents awesomely ship the “Seinfeld” series finale to him. We all chip in to rent a hotel room for the Oscars. My older sister comes to visit and looks up a friend from college who recently moved to Tel Aviv. I get the sense that they are more than friends.
I turn 21 in Jerusalem and must at this point know about the occupation, but who can say, really? I’m “not political.” But I have picked up the bullet points: In 1948, the Palestinians chose to leave Israel and now they want it back. They were offered part of the land and turned it down. Their Arab brothers in Jordan and Egypt won’t take them. They don’t “help their own” like we do. Israel has been at war for its entire existence, and the price of losing that war is another Holocaust. “Haven” is the word my parents always use. The world hates the Jews. We need a “haven”—and America isn’t it.
I rent a car with friends for a weekend up north, and know that there are certain places we shouldn’t drive. We take a trip to the Sinai and play cards with the really cool Arab hostel workers who give us drugs, and our guide for the trek up Mt. Sinai is very friendly, so we tip him well. I go to Jordan for a weekend with another girl from school, meet two sketchy Israeli guys at a café, and wisely decide to go camping with them in some remote patch of desert that night. If they are Israeli, they must be safe. I spend a couple of weekends with old friends from camp who are now serving in the IDF. I feel this weird sadness/emptiness/nausea in my stomach whenever I am with them. They look like they are playing dress-up in their uniforms. I should feel proud, but I don’t.
I go back to Ann Arbor. Senior year. I work at Zingerman’s, its own kind of cult, and fall for a coworker who spells his name not Marc but Mark. All of a sudden, I’m dating a non-Jew—a term he thinks is really funny. As if the world is divided like that! (It isn’t?) My parents aren’t too happy about Mark-with-a-K. “If you don’t date them, you won’t marry them,” they always said. I knew at least one couple who got divorced “because the wife wasn’t Jewish.” I didn’t want to get divorced.
Mark says something mean about Israel and I am confused. Or he is. He must be. I better find out. But I don’t, really. Or I do, but just a little. I find out just enough to know that I don’t want to know more. I graduate with my Jewish identity intact!
That summer, something happens. I start lying to my parents. I know how this sounds—whoa, lying!—but really, I had always aimed to please. I tell my parents I’m headed to Columbus to visit Shayna when I’m really headed to Ann Arbor to visit Mark. I take an LSAT class but in my gut know that I’m not going to law school. I tell my sister that when I move to New York in the fall, I’m going to “do my own thing.” I’m not going to live on the Upper West Side like she does or go to B’nai Jeshurun on Friday nights. I read about dance parties in New York magazine and think this might be something I’d like to do instead. I start berating my parents for the Jewish community work they’ve been doing all their adult lives. Why the fuck are we helping our own? We don’t need any help! We’re rich! I am so right.
New York. I rent a cheap place in Brooklyn with a Canadian friend from Hebrew U. I get a job as a paralegal, eventually split with Mark, and go on some awkward blind dates with nebbishy Jews and fratty Jews but only Jews. My sister decides to move to Jerusalem. I am proud. I take a car with her to the airport, cry hysterically when she gets on the plane, and then go to the ATM to take out money for my cab ride home. The ATM must be broken: It won’t give me any money! Some really cute guy sees me breaking down at the cash machine, we start talking, and he offers to share a car with me back to Brooklyn, his treat. His name is Josh Mensch, so, yeah—I’m safe. I eventually go on a few dates with this Josh Mensch character, who it turns out is not a member of the tribe. What are the odds?! He also has some pretty funny ideas about Israel and is in a band. Swoon. It doesn’t last, but it is starting to seem like I have a type and that type is not Zionist.
I do well on my LSATs but have not actually applied to law school, so clearly I am not becoming a lawyer. Through sheer force of will and also nepotism, I get a magazine job. I start flirting with John, one of the few staffers who isn’t Jewish (after flirting with another of the few). He flirts back! My sister visits New York and I blow off a Shabbat dinner in her honor and instead get drinks with John. This time it lasts.
John fills my head with allllllllllllll kinds of bullshit. Stuff about the Israelis being occupiers, about Israel not being a real democracy, about the dangers of ethnic nationalism—a term I really hadn’t heard applied to Israel before. (Okay, fine, I hadn’t heard it at all.) My parents worry that I’m being brainwashed. We get in huge fights on the same topic over and over again and have terribly awkward dinners where John insists on bringing up Israel and pissing off my Mom. I act as moderator and it is the worst. John buys every book about Israel that’s ever been published, and then reads them all so he can win any argument with my family. What he doesn’t realize is that my parents don’t do facts on this issue. They do feelings. Israel is who they are. Gradually, and then also all of a sudden, it’s no longer who I am—and I am angry.
Read the entire piece at The Awl.
UN: As Gaza siege enters its fifth year, unemployment stands at 45%
Jun 14, 2011
From UNRWA’s Gaza blockade anniversary report:
As the Gaza blockade moves into its fifth year, a new report by the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, says broad unemployment in the second half of 2010 reached an unprecedented 45.2 per cent, one of the highest in the world. The report released today, finds that real wages continued to decline under the weight of persistently high unemployment, falling 34.5 per cent since the first half of 2006.
“These are disturbing trends,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, “and the refugees, which make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”
The UNRWA report finds that the private sector was particularly badly hit compared to the government sector. In the second half of 2010 businesses shed over 8,000 jobs, a decline in employment of nearly 8 per cent relative to the first half of the year. By contrast, the Hamas-dominated public sector grew by nearly 3 per cent during the same period.
“Our research indicates that since 2007, Hamas has been able to increase public employment by at least one-fifth,” said Gunness. “Even more striking, in what should have been a relatively good year for the Gaza private sector with the supposed easing of the blockade, the public sector generated 70 per cent of all net job growth as between second-half 2009 and second-half 2010. If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed. But it has certainly been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region.”
Download a PDF of the full UN report here .
In Gaza, young Palestinians lead a global movement
Jun 14, 2011
On a warm, sunny afternoon, I met Eman Sourani and Rana Baker in an airy outdoor café several blocks from the port of Gaza. Both are members of the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI). Sourani, a 22-year-old English literature student at Al-Aqsa University, cofounded the group after Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, while Baker, a 19-year-old blogger and a business administration student at the Islamic University of Gaza, joined it during Israeli Apartheid Week, a global event in March 2011.
PSCABI is the student arm of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), itself part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee. Since its July 2005 founding by Palestinian organizations from Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and the diaspora, BDS has grown into a formidable global movement with an impressive record of victories.
In the last month alone, the University and College Union (UCU) and the University of London Union (ULU), respectively the largest academic labor union in the United Kingdom and the largest student union in Europe, voted to support it and sever their ties with Israeli institutions; UK Prime Minister David Cameron quietly resigned his post as Honorary Chairman of the Jewish National Fund, implicated in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian lands; students at the United States’ DePaul University voted by a nearly 80% margin (although without reaching the necessary quorum) to remove Sabra hummus, linked to the Israeli military, from their campus; the French-Belgian bank Dexia announced the impending sale of its Israeli subsidiary, “even at a loss;” and musicians Andy McKee and Marc Almond cancelled appearances in Israel.
Although not all acknowledged the role of the campaign in their decisions, each was a target of it. Meanwhile, battles rage against the US pension fund TIAA-CREF; Israeli national institutions like the Histadrut and State of Israel Bonds; the Israeli produce exporter Carmel Agrexco; the French construction firms Alstom and Derail Veolia; the beauty suppliers Ahava, Estee Lauder, L’Oréal, and Seacret Dead Sea; and dozens of other institutions complicit in Israeli crimes, as well as performers like Paul Simon and Jello Biafra, who plan to violate the cultural boycott by playing Tel Aviv.
“Even some South Africans like Desmond Tutu have said that what they did in thirty years, the Palestinians did in three,” Sourani told me over tea. “The boycott is a lesson of the success of the South Africans. And why not? Nothing is imposible. When people hear that Palestinians are doing something like this, that we are taking action, they believe in the idea and the issue much more.”
Baker agreed with her about the importance of South Africa. “We like to address apartheid,” she said. “We like to use this word, because it really emphasizes what is happening. Of course we have the apartheid wall. We have the checkpoints like they had in South Africa. What does an apartheid wall represent but apartheid? What else do checkpoints represent?”
“We think that BDS is a very effective way to resist Israel,” Baker continued. “Why? Because the pillars of BDS represents all Palestinians. The core issues of the Palestinian cause are the right to return, the ending of the occupation, and equality between Palestinians and Jews within the Israeli state or borders. So we think that being a real Palestinian-led movement that represents all Palestinians is very important. And this makes it able to grow, makes it able to expand within each and every cause. It represents every Palestinian in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel, and in the diáspora. BDS is established on those pillars. And the most important pillar, in my opinion, is the right to return. This movement, the march of return, is also a powerful campaign to make people understand that we have not forgotten our right to return. When Ben-Gurion said that old would die and the young forget, he was totally mistaken! Of course the old will die, but they have children, they have grandchildren, and we will never forget. We are Palestinian.”
”We have Palestinian identity, and Palestinian identity is a great responsibility,” Sourani added. “So we have to act. We have to fight Zionism. We have to be aware of what is going on, because being aware means that we are alive. It gives meaning to our lives. I myself give the definition that life is politics here in Gaza. It is all of what we live.”
How does PSCABI fight Zionism, I asked? “We as youth and students address youth and students about the academic boycott, and connect it with the cultural boycott,” Sourani answered. “We make videos to send to universities and have video conferences with them. We just tell people that we are here. You should know about Gaza, and you should know about Israel and the reality of its apartheid. Some of our biggest successes are the University of Johannesburg boycotting Ben Gurion University, or the biggest student union in London refusing to deal with Israel.”
“We also write letters to celebrities who are going to perform in Israel, asking them not to entertain apartheid, and we are actually succeeding in this,” said Baker. “Many, many of them have been stopped from performing in Israel, and some actually became BDS advocates.”
How do they work with BDS activists elsewhere? “I think is important that we talk with them, that we have a discussion about BDS here and BDS there,” said Baker.” We want to see what they do there and learn from them, and they might also see what we do and learn from us. So we can share our experiences in BDS, our stories, and they can use our stories and spread them out to gain more support for BDS.”
“The young Palestinians nowadays are very creative, in writing, blogging, video making; many, many things,” said Sourani. “I am very proud of my generation. They are so creative, really. I meet and talk to anyone who does anything: maybe blogging, a site, a Facebook account, a Twitter. Youth everywhere are doing fantastic things. They just need to be linked with Palestinians ourselves.”
“We want more links with people outside,” said Baker. “We want more actions and more communication. The more you communicate with people, the more the idea becomes big and it grows. And BDS is growing. Citizens, and students, and young, and old, are engaging themselves in BDS, outside and inside and everywhere. It is actually, in its core, a popular struggle, and it is civil resistance.”
What do they ask of outsiders? “The important thing is that they take action,” Sourani replied. “This is what we are looking for. We don’t look for passion, we don’t look for tears, we don’t look for romantic speech. We just look for actions. Whatever small action you can take is something beautiful. This is the basis of BDS, that we don’t wait for talk.”
“Let’s mention here the the recent action taken by people in the United States during the AIPAC speech,” said Baker. “I think this was really effective, when young students stood up and spoke out for Palestine, students who had no relation to Palestinian identity, except that they understood the issue, they understood what is right and what is wrong, and they took action. Even if they knew that they might be harmed, or might get fired from somewhere. We think that this is really important, and this is a success for BDS.”
“An important thing we do at the end of every video conference is to give them a request: Come to Gaza,” said Sourani. “People will not act before understanding. You can come, live with us, and see how students can’t get get books, how students can’t get scholarships abroad, how students would die to go, but have nightmares about Rafah Border before going to London, for example. We can’t go to places in our own country! We can’t study, for example, in Bethlehem, in Ramallah, in Najah University. I actually was planning for that, but of course it is imposible.
“This is about human rights and international law, how the world Works,” she added. “As you live there peacefully, Palestinians have the right to live. The rights your students have to move, to learn, to travel everywhere, to get scholarships, we also need. So we need people to understand, to study the issue, and to act. This is what we are doing.”
And other Palestinians? “I want all Palestinians, not only us in BDS, to engage in boycotting Israel,” Baker replied. “I want all of them to become politically aware. And this is also something we work on in BDS. We don’t just discuss BDS in the meetings of our core group. We talk about it in our universities. We invite people to our events. In the future, we really hope that each and every Palestinian becomes aware of BDS, and implements BDS so that it becomes a part of his or her life.
“We also like to participate in events that are held worldwide, like Israeli Apartheid Week,” she said. “We had one here this year, and it was really successful. We try talk to many academics and important activists, like Ilan Pappé and Ramzy Baroud. It’s really good how many people here want to know about BDS. They really want to listen.”
“The amazing thing about PSCABI is that all the political blocs here support it and agree on the academic boycott,” added Sourani.
What else, I asked in closing? “We want people to know that we’re not dying of hunger,” said Baker. “We’re not begging. We’re not shedding tears. We’re taking action on our own behalf. We’re trying to raise awareness, to link people, to make them understand and make them more involved in independent political groups that are peacefully resisting Israel and the occupation.”
“BDS is a Palestinian voice,” said Sourani. “This is what people need to hear, to listen to everywhere. We refuse occupation. I’m proud of doing this work. I’m a Palestinian; I’m not silent. That is the idea.
“I don’t want peace before justice. I’m looking for justice. And justice means the end of apartheid, the end of racism, and the end of occupation. So I need justice first, and then, when we are all equal people, we will look for peace.”
Joe Catron is a resident of Brooklyn, New York and a current member of the International Solidarity Movement – Gaza Strip. He writes in a personal capacity.
Rightwing Israelis stage race-baiting action, bringing Sudanese refugees to posh Tel Aviv pool
Jun 14, 2011
Picture is from nrg online. And here’s a video of the action. And the report in the Jerusalem Post:
Right wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir and MK [Member of Knesset] Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) brought dozens of Sudanese refugees to the pool at Tel Aviv’s Gordon Beach on Sunday. They intended to make a statement about the refugee situation in south Tel Aviv.
From a settler website, contrasting the southern and northern sections of Tel Aviv.
MK Michael Ben Ari of the National Union gave Israel’s smug leftist elites some food for thought Monday when he led 40 Sudanese infiltrators into Tel Aviv’s Gordon Pool, a favorite watering hole for the city’s posh set….
[H]e intends to show what he says is the Israeli leftists’ hypocrisy, in demanding that infiltrators be allowed to live in Tel Aviv, when they know that their own neighborhoods are not the ones that have to absorb the problematic foreign population.
From the JPost story:
“You northerners care about human rights? Then give them human rights in Gordon, Afeka, and Ramat Aviv,”said Ben-Gvir to a group of pool-goers. He continued, “south Tel Aviv is the back yard of the State of Israel… and we want to make the division equal, refugees everywhere, not just in Tikva neighborhood,” Army Radio reported.
For several months Ben-Avi and Ben-Gvir have claimed that north Tel Aviv residents only support the rights of refugees when they stay in their own neighborhoods.