Category: Palestine

GAZA FREEDOM FLOTILLA: EYEWITNESS REPORTS Featuring flotilla survivors Farooq Burney and Kevin Neish

By admin, July 3, 2010 2:49 pm

GAZA FREEDOM FLOTILLA: EYEWITNESS REPORTS

Featuring flotilla survivors Farooq Burney and Kevin Neish

P U B L I C   F O R U M

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Doors open: 6:30 p.m. | Event begins: 7:00 p.m.

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)

Main auditorium, 252 Bloor Street West

TTC: St. George | Public parking available on Bedford Road

Suggested donation at the door: Adult $10 | Student/youth/senior $5

- or -

PWYC (pay what you can): No one will be turned away due to lack of funds

Event on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cxy7fA

In the early hours of May 31, Israeli commandos illegally boarded and seized six ships carrying 663 unarmed humanitarian aid activists from 37 countries, and over 10,000 tons of badly needed aid for the people of Gaza. When the raid was over, nine passengers were dead, dozens more were injured, and hundreds were transferred to Israeli jails.

This illegal military assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has, once again, focused the world’s attention on the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The flotilla’s cargo included food, medicine, medical equipment, toys, books, paper, school supplies, clothing, building materials, and electricity generators – items that Israel has kept out of Gaza since it imposed its illegal blockade in 2007.

The acute humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, as well as the attack on the flotilla, are part of a growing list of Israel’s deadly violations of international law, including its war crimes committed in Gaza and documented in the Goldstone Report (http://bit.ly/99GPQb ), and war crimes committed against the Lebanese people in 2006.

While the United Nations and world states have remained largely silent and complicit, millions of people around the world have responded with outrage about Palestinians’ collective experience of over six decades of Israeli apartheid. Immediately following the attacks, protests were held across Canada and internationally to demand justice for those killed on the flotilla, to demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza, and to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

On the eve of the 5th anniversary of the Palestinian-led BDS campaign, join us for eyewitness accounts and discussion with flotilla activists.

Farooq Burney and Kevin Neish, two of three Canadians who participated in the flotilla, were aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked by Israeli commandos. Farooq and Kevin will share their eyewitness accounts of the raid, and their experiences in Israeli detention. We will also discuss ongoing efforts to end the siege of Gaza, and and what you can do to support the broader BDS campaign to end Israeli apartheid.

Farooq Burney is the Director of Al Fakhoora (http://www.fakhoora.org

), an international campaign to defend the education rights of Palestinian students living in Gaza and the West Bank. He was transporting 65 computers to students in Gaza as part of the humanitarian mission.

Kevin Neish is a social justice and peace activist based in Victoria, BC. A retired engineer, he has participated in numerous solidarity campaigns in Canada, Latin America, and Palestine.

Co-organized by

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

Students Against Israeli Apartheid, a working group of OPIRG Toronto

Endorsed by

Palestine House Community Centre

Palestinian Canadian Congress

Gaza Freedom March

Beit Zatoun

Canadian Arab Federation

Canadian Peace Alliance

Educators for Peace and Justice

Muslim Unity

Canadian Shia Muslims Organization (CASMO)

Independent Jewish Voices

Women in Solidarity with Palestine

Not In Our Name (NION): Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network – Toronto

The Holy Land Awareness and Action Group of Southwest Presbytery (United Church)

Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Toronto

For more information or to endorse, please e-mail flotillareport@gmail.com.

For media requests, please e-mail flotillareport@gmail.com.

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid is part of the growing movement against Israeli Apartheid, and supports the global

campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel until it recognizes the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law.

http://www.caiaweb.org | endapartheid@riseup.net

The Toronto Coalition to Stop the War is Toronto’s city-wide peace coalition, representing over 70 labour, student, faith, and

community organizations, and a member of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

http://www.nowar.ca | info@nowar.ca | 416-795-5863 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              416-795-5863

Raid on the Gaza Flotilla Israel’s Attack on Us All

By admin, May 31, 2010 8:25 pm

Raid on the Gaza Flotilla

Israel’s Attack on Us All

By JONATHAN COOK

Nazareth.

http://www.counterpunch.org

It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged.

How many civilians were killed in Israel’s dawn attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla of aid? We still don’t know. How many wounded? Your guess is as good as mine. Were the aid activists armed with guns? Yes, says Israel. Were they in cahoots with al-Qaeda and Hamas? Certainly, says Israel. Did the soldiers act reasonably? Of course, they faced a lynch, says Israel.

If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.

The passengers on the ships, meanwhile, have been kidnapped by Israel and are unable to provide an alternative version of events. We can guess they will remain in enforced silence until Israel is sure it has set the news agenda.

So before we get swamped by Israeli hasbara let’s reiterate a few simple facts:

* Israeli soldiers invaded these ships in international waters, breaking international law, and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime. The counter-claim by Israeli commanders that their soldiers responded to an imminent “lynch” by civilians should be dismissed with the loud contempt it deserves.

* The Israeli government approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandoes. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby and a Holocaust survivor.

* Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in belligerent occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants. Given that the blockade has put Palestinians there on a starvation diet for the past four years, Israel should long ago have been in the dock for committing a crime against humanity.

Today Israel chose to direct its deadly assault not only at Palestinians under occupation but at the international community itself.
Will our leaders finally be moved to act?
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

Today’s Globe and Mail publishes letter from Naftali Lavie (submitted before the Gaza flotilla massacre) at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/may-31-letters-to-the-editor/article1585912/

:
When the Israeli government spokesman denounces the Gaza solidarity flotilla as a “political prank,” he unwittingly exposes the weakness of Israel’s position. A mere political prank could be conveniently ignored. However, Gaza is under a blockade by land, sea, and air, enforced by Israel and Egypt. Solidarity activists from several countries are sailing to challenge the blockade and hoping to deliver humanitarian goods to the internationally-isolated people of Gaza. If Israel’s navy intercepts the relief ships, that will rightly be seen to be an act of political repression. More than ever, Israel is on a “collision course” with international standards of decency, solidarity, and respect for human rights.
Naftali Lavie, Toronto

CUPW’s Letter to Canadian PM regarding Israeli attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla

By admin, May 31, 2010 10:42 am

By email and mail
May 31, 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa  ON      K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Harper,
I am writing to you on behalf of the 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.  You will be aware that the Israeli navy, in an act of piracy in international waters, has hijacked the international flotilla of ships which was attempting to deliver essential humanitarian aid to Gaza.  The aid includes construction materials which would enable the people of Gaza to rebuild the homes destroyed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

There are nearly 700 people on board the boats, all of whom are civilians from around the world, including Members of Parliament from a number of nations, eminent writers and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. They have undertaken this mission out of concern for the people of Gaza, who are now entering their fourth year under siege, without access to basic necessities. They pose no threat to Israel, and are completely unarmed.

Despite this, the Israeli navy has attacked the flotilla outside of international waters this morning resulting in fatalities estimated by the Israeli military itself as 10 and by news sources at possibly in excess of 20 with another large number injured. Israeli news sources say that hospitals around Ashdod have been told to prepare for many injured people arriving.

I urge you to act swiftly to condemn this attack on the peace flotilla, which was breaking no international laws, and, that you demand to know the fate of those on board the vessels and to ensure that Israel releases the vessels immediately to allow this vital aid to reach its destination. Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Canada and has profusely praised you for maintaining strong relations with Israel, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers believes that you have an obligation to condemn this brutal attack.

Israel’s occupation of Gaza is illegal under international law, and it has been accused in a UN report of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Your obligation must be towards a group of citizens peacefully attempting to deliver humanitarian aid, than to a country which repeatedly violates international treaties.  CUPW calls on you to end the government’s silence over Israel’s aggressive actions against the flotilla, and intervene now to demand its safe passage to Gaza.

CUPW is calling on you to condemn this wanton act of piracy against the peaceful flotilla taking aid to the people of Gaza.  Finally, CUPW is calling upon you to take every step possible to bring about an end to the inhuman treatment of the people of Gaza by acting to end the siege and blockade that is taking place against them by the Israeli Government.

Yours sincerely
Your browser may not support display of this image.

Denis Lemelin
National President
Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Cc: National Executive Board
Regional Executive Cttee
Israeli Embassy to Canada

Truth, Non-Violence and the Palestinian Hills

By admin, May 21, 2010 3:42 pm
There is no shortage of Palestinian Gandhis. (Anne Paq/Activestills)
By Samah Sabawi

http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=15969(Based on a presentation given at Melbourne University Australia on April 30, 2010. The event was sponsored by Students for Palestine. )

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? I get this question at the end of almost every presentation I’ve given on Palestine. This fascination with finding a Palestinian Gandhi has been reflected time and again in newspapers commentary, and political discourse. Obama has promised in his Cairo speech [1] that should Palestinians renounce violence peace will find its way. Singer Bono wished with all his heart for Palestinians to find their Gandhi or their King [2]. A slew of bleeding hearts said it, wrote it, preached it and insisted on it.

The search for the Palestinian Gandhi even manifested itself in well-intentioned projects that end up being incredibly patronizing and condescending to the Palestinians. Take the Gandhi Project [3] for example; an initiative by the Skoll foundation that aims to teach Palestinians non-violence by translating the movie Gandhi and projecting it in cities camps and villages throughout the West Bank.  This project – as well meaning as it appears to be – reflects an almost insulting level of ignorance of the existing Palestinian culture of non-violence and the challenges Palestinians face when protesting non-violently against the brutal apartheid State.

For generations, Palestinians have adopted in their daily lives a culture of non-violent “Sumud”, an Arabic word that means to be “steadfast” and to “persevere”. Through Sumud, Palestinians have been able to protect their identity and to refuse not to exist. After all, since its inception, the Zionist project denied Palestinians their existence. Who can forget the false claim that Palestine was “a land without a people”?

Although Sumud was always part of the Palestinian story, it came to a full bloom as a distinct feature of Palestinian life during and in the aftermath of the six-day war in 1967. Having learned from their 1948 experience, more Palestinians were urged to show sumud and chose to be steadfast remaining on their land regardless of Israel’s war and occupation. Many believe that Palestinian steadfastness and Sumud and their refusal to leave in huge numbers during and after the 1967 war contributed to the reason why Israel wasn’t able to annex the West Bank and the Gaza strip as they had a very high Arab Palestinian population [4] which could have undermined the purity of the Jewish state.

Palestinians exhibit Sumud in their daily lives as they perform what would amount to normal everyday tasks in other places. Palestinian children resist succumbing to the will of their Occupiers non-violently as they make their daily journey to school despite the long waits at the checkpoints and the harassment by Israeli illegal settlers [5].

Palestinian men and women non-violently challenge their occupiers when they continue to go to work even if it means riding a donkey using back mud roads because they are denied access to the main streets in their villages as well as denied access to the Jewish only roads[6] which Israel has built illegally to connect the settlements. It is worth mentioning here that to build these Jewish only roads Israel has confiscated and carved up pieces of Palestinian land fragmenting and isolating hundreds of communities.

Palestinian families non-violently resist the imposed isolation by the occupiers when they insist on doing their family visits, even though what should be a 10 minute walk at times can take an entire afternoon of waiting for permits, submitting to body searches, waving IDs and waiting and waiting and waiting…. [7]

Even when Palestinians get married and have babies under occupation they are challenging their oppressors in a place where birth registration, family reunification, marriage certificates and building permits are controlled by a state that has one thing in mind – reducing the number of Arabs and paving the way for Jews to colonize their land.

But Palestinians still preserver not only as individuals or families but also as organized communities!  Palestinian NGOs today play a big role in helping the people deal with these issues. Through the method known as Reverse Strike – a non-violent method of resistance that focuses on community building – Palestinian civil society has created alternatives for the people to help lessen their dependency on their oppressors. Palestinian civil society has also successfully built an infrastructure of resistance. Inside the Occupied Territories, non-violent resistance shines through as villages and various Communities take on direct action to protests Israel’s continued assault on their rights, their freedom and their dignity.  The protests of the communities of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah have now become known as the white intifada.  The organization of these protests reflects a healthy and determined Palestinian Civil Society.

Palestinian Civil Society initiated the calls for the BDS campaign and is also working closely with international organizations and individuals to support the Free Gaza campaign. Both campaigns aim at engaging international solidarity groups giving them an important role to play in the liberation struggle. This month, the latest BDS victory was Elvis Costello’s refusal to play in Israel. This happened while the Freedom Flotilla’s three cargo ships and five passenger ships set sail to Gaza. The ships are carrying 5,000 tons of construction materials, medical equipment, and school supplies, as well as around 600 people from 40 countries.  They will once more challenge Israel’s illegal hold over Gaza’s borders, air and sea. We are seeing a fantastic rise in a people to people movement that is inspiring hope for a better future.

In Diaspora as well as inside the OT, Palestinian academia, artists and human rights activists do their part in Palestinian Sumud as they document Israel’s atrocities, write about the injustices, paint pictures, publish articles, sing traditional songs, write books and recite poetry that keeps the Palestinian narrative alive. People like Sari Nussiebeh, Ramzy Baroud, Ismael Shamout, Rima Bana, Mazin Qumsiah, Sam Bahour, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Dr. Sari Makdisi, Ali Abunimah and thousands of others who are hard at work non-violently protecting the Palestinian narrative. They have built the pillars of resistance that have kept the Palestinian identity and culture alive.

As I have shown so far, Palestinian culture of Sumud and non-violent resistance has encompassed direct action, reverse strike and civil disobedience over decades of oppression. There is so much evidence to show that the Palestinian non-violent resistance is and has always been central to the Palestinian struggle. But if that was the case, then where is that Palestinian Gandhi? The answer to that is simple: You are asking the wrong question.

There is no shortage of Palestinian Gandhis in Israel’s jails, at checkpoints, and in refugee camps.  There are even Gandhis as young as five years old walking to school holding on to their backpacks, to their pride and to their dignity while they get stoned and showered with settler garbage.  There are scores of Gandhis in Palestine, young, old, men and women. The problem is how to make these Gandhis visible to a world blinded by ignorance and by prejudice. The correct questions to ask are how do we make the work of the Palestinian Gandhis effective and visible? Can non-violent Sumud ever fulfill its goals of liberation and justice? What are the challenges facing the Palestinian non-violent movement and how can we help overcome these challenges?

There are two major challenges to Palestinian non-violence; the first is Israel’s reaction to peaceful protest. Israel is a country that views itself as being above international universal laws rights and jurisdictions. It often reacts violently to non-violent protests, spraying protesters with chemicals, rubber bullets and tear gas at times claiming their lives. Israel crushes political dissent by arresting political activists even those who hold Israeli citizenship. Israel holds activists on administrative detention without fair trial for indefinite periods of time. In short, Israel doesn’t respond and is not phased by non-violent protests simply because it views all Palestinians peaceful or not as a threat.  The minute a Palestinian baby is born, it is automatically a dangerous threat to the nature of a state that defines itself by its Jewishness. All Palestinians are seen as demographic bombs, they are enemies of the state and therefore no matter what methods Palestinians use – violent or non-violent, Israel will not change its course. It will still view them as enemies that must be fought, crushed and ethnically cleansed.

The other challenge to the Palestinian non-violent movement is that it remains invisible to the international community. Palestinian daily hardships in going to school or work or visiting relatives are all daily acts of non-violent resistance that go by completely unnoticed by Israelis and by the International community. The media is hungry for blood…a peaceful protest that occurs on a weekly basis with civilians sprayed with sewerage water or injured or even killed doesn’t make the news. A child’s journey to school, head held high as Jewish settlers’ children throw garbage at him and stones never makes the headlines.

This pattern of Palestinian invisibility feeds into Israel’s impunity. Soldiers and settlers are not held accountable for their actions and rarely, if ever, has any soldier been punished for degrading, humiliating, or taking the life of an innocent Palestinian. Even when Israel’s impunity reaches extreme levels as it did when they attacked Gaza, committing a long list of war crimes and human rights violations there was not enough international outcry to hold it accountable and to change the course of its actions.

So, where do we go from here? It is clear that the Gandhis of Palestine cannot succeed in their liberation struggle without the help of the international community. Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel.  This idea was inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid. BDS has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations, trade unions and movements representing the Palestinian people in the 1967 and 1948 territories and in the Diaspora.  I urge you to visit the Global BDS website (www.bdsmovement.com) for ideas on how any one of you can help.

Finally, I’d like to say that it is a fallacy to assume that non-violent resistance is not a natural human reaction to oppression, especially when you’re dealing with unarmed civilians, families and communities. Non-violence is not a doctrine that has to be taught, preached, projected on large screens and stuffed down the throats of an indigenous people trying to survive and to have normal lives. Gandhi himself has refused to be seen as an inventor of the methods of non-violence, saying [8]. “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills.” If Gandhi was to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip today, I am sure he would agree that truth and non-violence in Palestine are indeed as old as the Palestinian hills.

- Samah Sabawi is a writer and a human rights activist from Gaza.   She has published numerous articles and poems on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She is the co-author of “The Journey To Peace in Palestine:  From the Song of Deborah to the Simpsons”

Notes:

[1] See White House website.
[2] Ten for the Next Ten by Bono Guest Oped.
[3] “As part of its vision to empower people to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, the Skoll Foundation has partnered with the Global Catalyst Foundation to sponsor the Gandhi Project in the Palestinian Territories.” See here.
[4] Waleed Mustafa, Former Dean of Arts Talking About the Concept of Sumud to Palestine-Family Bethlehem University.
[5] AT-TUWANI: Settler youth harass Palestinians and international human rights workers CPTnet
23 April 2010.
[6] B’tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights:  Restrictions on Movement.
[7] Palestine Monitor:  Exposing Life Under Occupation.
[8]  Brief outline of Ghandhi’s Philosophy – by Stephen Murphy.

If you like this article, please consider making a contribution to the Palestine Chronicle.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti – cominng soon: Palestinian presidential candidate, legislator and Nobel peace prize nominee

By admin, April 28, 2010 12:41 pm

CJPME Logo - En - Fr

Palestinian leader coming soon to four Canadian cities /
Un leader palestinien en tournée au Canada
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti
Maps / Directions


Barghouti - 60 minutes

Last year, Dr. Barghouti was a prominent Palestinian voice on CBS’ 60 Minutes broadcast entitled “Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?” on Jan. 25, 2009.  Click the video above to view the clip. / L’année dernière, le 25 janvier 2009, Dr Barghouti était l’une des voix palestiniennes les plus proéminentes du programme 60 Minutes du réseau CBS intitulé “Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?“. Cliquez sur la vidéo ci-dessus pour visionner l’extrait.

Barghouti - Jon Stewart

Just a few months ago, on Oct. 28, 2009, Dr. Barghouti appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a late-night North American talk and comedy show.  Click the video above to view the clip. / Il y a tout juste quelques mois, le 28 octobre 2009, Dr Barghouti a fait une apparition à l’émission The Daily Show avec Jon Stewart, une émission satirique nord-américaine diffusée en fin de soirée. Cliquez sur la vidéo ci-dessus pour visionner l’extrait.

Coming soon: Palestinian presidential candidate, legislator and Nobel peace prize nominee, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti
La version française suit…
Barghouti Poster
In just over a week, CJPME will be hosting Dr. Mustafa Barghouti for May 6, 7 and 8 on his Canadian tour.  The tour will include Ottawa, Monteal, Toronto and London as follows:


Ottawa, ON
Thursday, May 6, 7:00 p.m.

Montreal, QC
Friday, May 7, 7:30 p.m.

London, ON
Saturday, May 8, 1:30 p.m.

Toronto, ON
Saturday, May 8, 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Barghouti will discuss various aspects of Palestinian political dynamics, and his own perspective regarding a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, in a series of public forums entitled:
Palestinian political dynamics and the realities
for Middle East Peace
Dr. Barghouti’s credentials are impressive:
  • 2010 Nobel Peace Prize nominee
  • 2005 candidate for president of the Palestinian Authority, finishing second to Mahmoud Abbas, with 19% of the vote
  • 2006, elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council, for the Independent Palestine list, a coalition of independents and NGO members
  • 2007, Minister of Information in the Palestinian unity government of March-June 2007
  • Co-founder of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (1989), Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (1979), and the Palestinian National Initiative (2002)
Dr. Barghouti’s address will be followed by a time of Q&A.
Please distribute this email widely to your friends and acquaintances across Canada.
TICKET INFO
Tickets can be purchased at the door while supplies last, or at purchase points in each city.  You may reserve a front-section seat for yourself by buying a ticket on-line (see below.)
Ottawa, ON: Thursday, May 6, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Marion Hall, Room 130, Ottawa University, 140 Louis Pasteur (corner of Marie-Curie), Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5 (map below.) All Ottawa details on Website.  Admission $15, $10 for students with ID.  Ottawa tickets available on-line here, or via telephone at 1-888-222-6608 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-222-6608 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Indent
- Tickets for Ottawa event also available at AA Printing, 2706 Alta Vista Drive (at Bank St.), 613-733-9577 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 613-733-9577 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Montreal, QC: Friday, May 7, 2010, 7:30 p.m.

In partnership with Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights

Location: Leacock Auditorium, Room 132, Leacock Building, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC, H3A 2T7(map below.) Admission $15, $10 for students with ID.  All Montreal details on Website.  Montreal tickets available on-line here, or via telephone at 1-888-222-6608 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-222-6608 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

London, ON: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 1:30 p.m.

In partnership with the Canadian Palestinian Association of London
Location: Room MC-110, Middlesex College, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5B7 (map below.) All London details on Website. Admission $15, $10 for students with ID. London tickets available on-line here, or via telephone at 1-888-222-6608 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-222-6608 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Indent- Tickets for London event also available Law Office of Edward C. Corrigan, 383 Richmond St. Suite 902, London


Toronto, ON: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Location:OISE Auditorium , Room G162, Ground Floor, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St. West (at Bedford Ave.), Toronto, ON, M5S 1V6 (map below.) All Toronto details on Website. Admission $15, $10 for students with ID. Toronto tickets available on-line here, or via telephone at 1-888-222-6608 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-222-6608 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Tickets for Toronto event also available at:
Indent – Toronto Women’s Bookstore: 73 Harbord Street, 416-922-8744 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 416-922-8744 end_of_the_skype_highlighting (Harbord and Spadina)
- Another Story Bookstore: 315 Roncesvalles Ave. (Roncesvalles and Grenadier)
- Beit Zatoun House: 612 Markham Street (two blocks west of Bathurst and Bloor, south side; please note hours: Wednesday, 12 to 6 pm; Thursday & Friday, 12 to 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm)

Dr. Barghouti’s speaking tour is proudly presented by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), with local partners as follows:
- Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights in Montreal
- Canadian Palestinian Association of London in London
For more info on these exciting events, please see CJPME’s Website.
Hope to see you there!

CJPMO accueille un candidat à la présidence palestinienne, législateur et candidat au prix Nobel de la paix, le Dr Mustafa Barghouti

Mustafa Barghouti
Joignez-vous à nous la semaine prochaine pour la nouvelle série de conférences avec Dr. Mustafa Barghouti.  La tournée s’arrêtera dans les villes suivantes:
Ottawa, ON
jeudi, 6 mai, 19h00

Montréal, QC
vendredi, 7 mai, 19h30

London, ON
samedi, 8 mai, 13h30

Toronto, ON
samedi, 8 mai, 19h00

Dans la série de conférences qu’il présentera au Canada, le Dr Barghouti entretiendra son public des différentes dynamiques politiques palestiniennes et de sa propre perspective sur le concept de paix juste en Israël-Palestine, dans une rencontre intitulée:

Les dynamiques politiques palestiniennes et
les réalités de paix au Moyen-Orient


Toutes les conférences seront données en anglais. Dr Barghouti répondra ensuite aux questions qui lui seront posées, tant en anglais qu’en français.
La biographie du Dr Barghouti est impressionnante:
  • Candidat au prix Nobel de la paix 2010;
  • Candidat à la présidence de l’Autorité palestinienne en 2005, ayant terminé en deuxième place derrière Mahmoud Abbas, avec 19% des votes;
  • Élu au Conseil législatif palestinien en 2006, au nom de la Liste indépendante de Palestine, une coalition de candidats indépendants et de membres d’ONG;
  • Ministre de l’Information du gouvernement d’unité palestinienne de mars à juin 2007;
  • Co-fondateur du Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (1989), de l’Union of Palestinian Medial Relief Committees (1979) et du Palestinian National Initiative (2002).
L’allocution du Dr Barghouti sera suivie d’une période de questions et réponses.
Nous vous invitons à distribuer ce courriel librement à tous vos amis et connaissances à travers le Canada.
INFORMATION BILLETS
Les billets peuvent être achetés à la porte jusqu’à épuisement des stocks mais vous pouvez également réserver un siège dans les premières rangées en achetant un billet à l’avance via TicketWeb sur Internet (voir ci-dessous) ou en téléphonant au 1-888-222-6608 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-222-6608 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Ottawa, ON: jeudi, 6 mai 2010, 19h00
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Alice Walker on “Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel”

By admin, April 19, 2010 8:51 am

Alice Walker on “Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel”

Alice-walker-dn

As the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winners are announced, we speak with the first African American woman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for fiction: author, poet and activist Alice Walker. She was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer for her novel The Color Purple. She was written many books since then. Her latest, just out, is called Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel. [includes rush transcript]

Guest:

Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, poet and activist. Her latest book is Overcoming Speechlessness.

Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: The list of winners for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize were announced Monday—among them, Sheri Fink, reporter with the nonprofit investigative news group ProPublica. She won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting for her story in collaboration with the New York Times Magazine on the urgent life-and-death decisions made by doctors at a New Orleans hospital when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, Anthony Shadid walked away with his second Pulitzer for his Washington Post series on the war in Iraq.

Well, my next guest is the first African American woman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for fiction: author, poet, activist, Alice Walker, awarded the 1983 Pulitzer for her novel The Color Purple. She has written many books since then. Her latest, just out, is called Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel. Alice Walker, joining us here in our new firehouse—in our new Democracy Now! studios.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

ALICE WALKER: It’s so beautiful.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, welcome to the greenest TV, radio, internet studios in the country. It’s great to have you here.

ALICE WALKER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: And I look forward to speaking to you tonight at the 92nd Street Y in the public conversation. But Alice, this latest book, why did you call it Overcoming Speechlessness?

ALICE WALKER: I wanted to address what I feel is a real problem that we have in the last century, actually, or even before. And that is that things can be so horrible that people lose the ability to talk about them. And I had this happen when I was in college, actually, when I learned that the King of Belgium had decided that if the Africans in the Belgian Congo could not fulfill their rubber quota that he had imposed on them, he could order their hands to be chopped off. This was so appalling to me as a student, as an eighteen- and nineteen-year-old, that I couldn’t speak about it. I just—I put it somewhere that I left for many years. And I think this has happened over and over to people, that they encounter these brutalities, these atrocities, and they literally can’t talk about them, and so we don’t speak. But if we don’t speak, then there’s more of it, and more people suffer. So it’s a call to overcoming speechlessness.

AMY GOODMAN: We just got word that eight Red Cross staff have been kidnapped by an armed group in the eastern Congo. Seven Congolese and one Swiss national were seized on Friday afternoon near the town of Mai Mai [sic]—well, near the town of—in a South Kivu province by the Mai Mai rebels, this according to the Red Cross. You went to eastern Congo?

ALICE WALKER: I was in eastern Congo, and I met some women who were survivors of enslavement and sexual abuse that was so horrendous that it was a challenge to even hear it and even to see some of the damage. On the other hand, I found that by being there, I gave myself some comfort, because I wasn’t trying to see people at a distance and removing myself, my feelings from them. It was very frightening, because there were lots of soldiers everywhere and people who had been damaged by soldiers, you know, people who had lost limbs. And it was traumatic.

AMY GOODMAN: You began, though, by talking about Rwanda, and then you trace the violence to Congo. Talk about Rwanda.

ALICE WALKER: Yes. Well, in Rwanda, because of the killing of so many Tutsis by the Hutu and the—really a slaughter—

AMY GOODMAN: And you trace it back. You go all the way—

ALICE WALKER: Well, I went all the way back to, again, those Belgians, the Belgians, and before them, the Germans. They came into the Congo, and they decided that the Tutsi people, because they had larger skulls, were more like Europeans, and so they should be in charge of the Hutu people, whose skulls apparently were not as large. Anyway, they instigated this rule of one clan by the other, even though these people had been fairly peaceful living together for centuries. And after they had done this, finally, after many years of domination, a century or so, they left. But they left the Hutu in charge of the Tutsi. And so, eventually, the hatred that had been building over a long, long period erupted into genocide.

And so, I had heard about this awful thing that the Hutu Interahamwe people had killed 800,000 of the Tutsi people. And that again was so awful, I couldn’t really entirely let myself feel what it must be like to actually have your body hacked away from you, which is what happened to all of those people. But eventually, I needed to go there, and so I did. And what I found was, you know, that the Rwandan people have done a wonderful job of memorializing what happened, and they have also elected more women to help run the country than almost anywhere else.

But on the other hand, the soldiers and the murderers, a lot of them, just went into the Congo. And so, we went there, not following them, but because we wanted to see the Congo, which is incredibly beautiful. It is the most exquisite country. I had no idea. I mean, lakes and trees and, you know, just a wonderful place, except that it’s torn to bits by the war. And a lot of the people who did the killing in Rwanda are there, and they had been murdering and abusing the people terribly.

And so, one of the women that I talk about in my book is a woman who had been basically chopped up, and I find it hard to talk about it even now. But she survived, and she is now looking for her children, who survived, one or two of them. The Interahamwe people had shot her son and her husband, killed them. So it’s—you know, it’s a kind of violence in the world now that is truly unspeakable. I mean, that is the part of it, that overcoming speechlessness means speaking about what really is unspeakable because it is so terrible.

AMY GOODMAN: You go, in the book, from Rwanda to eastern Congo to Palestine-Israel.

ALICE WALKER: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: It was your first trip?

ALICE WALKER: To Palestine? Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: What made you go?

ALICE WALKER: Well, I was actually mourning the death of my own sister, and I thought that, oh, she was, you know, much older, and she was sick, and she died, and we’d had a horrible five or six years before she died. And so I thought, you know, when she dies, I won’t be devastated. And I was completely devastated. It was so painful.

And I was out trying to deal with my own devastation, when I learned about a woman in Palestine, during the bombing, who had been—who had lost five of her daughters, and she herself was unconscious. And it just instantly connected me to her. I felt, what will this be like? Who will tell her? Who will tell this woman when she wakes up that “your five daughters are dead”?

And so I felt that I had to go and present myself to this situation and to be attentive to it in a way that I had started being many years before, except that at the time I was married to and then related to, in many ways, to a Jewish person who always said, well, if you see the Palestinian side, almost anything, you know, positive about the Palestinian side, then it means that you are anti-Semitic. And so, this was so shocking to me that it silenced me for a while. I mean, I said a few things, I wrote a few things. But I felt that I had left something undone. And I realize at this point in my life, and years earlier, actually, that there are things in life that call to us, and they’re ours to do. And this was one of the things that was mine to finish.

And so I went to Gaza, and I met with women who had lost everything, and their children, their houses. You know, I sat on the rubble, even though there was the phosphorus powder, because it was just overwhelming to see the injury and the damage that had been done to these people by the Israeli government. And I knew that it was my responsibility as a writer and as a human being to witness this and to write about it. I mean, why else was I—why else am I a writer? You know, why else do I have a conscience? I think that all people who feel that there is injustice in the world anywhere should learn as much of it as they can bear. That is our duty.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you like to read a little from the book, Overcoming Speechlessness?

ALICE WALKER: I’ll try. I don’t have my reading glasses, but I can do my best.

AMY GOODMAN: Maybe “It Feels Familiar”?

ALICE WALKER: OK, yeah. Alright. Oh, where is it? Where is that, Amy? I don’t see it.

AMY GOODMAN: “It Feels Familiar.” Number seventeen.

ALICE WALKER: OK, I think we might—

AMY GOODMAN: Right there.

ALICE WALKER: Oh, yeah, I’m sorry.

“It Feels Familiar.”

“One of the triumphs of the civil rights movement is that when you travel through the South today you do not feel overwhelmed by a residue of grievance and hate. This is the legacy of people brought up in the Christian tradition, true believers of every word Jesus had to say on the issues of justice, loving kindness, and peace. This dovetailed nicely with what we learned of Gandhian nonviolence, brought into the movement by Bayard Rustin, a gay strategist for the civil rights movement. A lot of thought went into how to create ‘the beloved community’ so that our country would not be stuck with a violent hatred between black and white, and with the continuous spectacle, and suffering, of communities going up in flames. The progress is astonishing and I will always love Southerners, black and white, for the way we have all grown. Ironically, though there was so much suffering and despair as the struggle for justice tested us, it is in this very ‘backward’ part of our country today that one is most likely to find simple human helpfulness, thoughtfulness, and disinterested courtesy.

“I speak a little about this American history, but it isn’t history that these women know.” These are the women, the Palestinian women, I’m with. “They’re too young. They’ve never been taught it. It feels irrelevant. Following their example of speaking of their families, I talk about my Southern parents’ teachings during our experience of America’s apartheid years, when white people owned and controlled all the resources and the land, in addition to the political, legal, and military apparatus, and used their power to intimidate black people in the most barbaric and merciless ways. These whites who tormented us daily were like Israelis who have cut down millions of trees planted by Arab Palestinians, stolen Palestinian water, even topsoil. Forcing Palestinians to use separate roads from those they use themselves, they have bulldozed innumerable villages, houses, mosques, and in their place built settlements for strangers who have no connection whatsoever with Palestine: settlers who have been the most rabidly anti-Palestinian of all, attacking the children, the women, everyone, old and young alike, viciously.”

AMY GOODMAN: Alice, I wanted to go back to March 2009—

ALICE WALKER: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —when you were in Gaza, to a video of you there.

    ALICE WALKER: It’s shocking beyond anything I have ever experienced. And it’s actually so horrible that it’s basically unbelievable, even though I’m standing here and I’ve been walking here and I’ve been looking at things here. It still feels like, you know, you could never convince anyone that this is actually what is happening and what has happened to these people and what the Israeli government has done. It will be a very difficult thing for anyone to actually believe in, so it’s totally important that people come to visit and to see for themselves, because the world community, that cares about peace and cares about truth and cares about justice, will have to find a way to deal with this. We cannot let this go as if it’s just OK, especially those of us in the United States who pay for this. You know, I have come here, in part, to see what I’m buying with my tax money.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Alice Walker in 2009, interviewed by my colleague here at Democracy Now!, Anjali Kamat. When you look back at you walking through the rubble of Gaza, your thoughts?

ALICE WALKER: My thought is that I am so glad I was there. I am so glad that I managed to gather myself and present myself to this situation, because it is my responsibility, you know, as a person, as an elder, as someone who cares about the planet, who really wants us all to thrive, you know, or just survive. This is a very thorny issue, and it takes all of us looking at it as carefully as we can to help solve it. It’s not that it’s impossible to solve. But what will help a lot is the insistence by all of us on fairness and on people actually understanding what they’re looking at.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that the Middle East solution is beyond the two-state solution, and you also talk about restorative justice.

ALICE WALKER: Yes, I do, because I believe in restorative justice. I think we could use that here. I mean, I don’t feel great about the past leaders here not being brought to trial, actually, you know. But if we can’t have trial, we could at least have council. I mean, but to let people, any people, just go, after they’ve murdered lots of people and destroyed a lot, is not right. It destroys trust. So—what was the rest of the question?

AMY GOODMAN: And you believe in a one-state solution.

ALICE WALKER: Oh, the one-state solution. Yes, I do. I mean, when I think about my tax money, and I think about, well, you know, given that I’ve already given, and we as a country have given over a trillion dollars to Israel in the last—since, I don’t know, ‘48 or something, but a lot of money that we could have used here, where would I be happiest to see, you know, my money spent? Well, I would be happy seeing my money spent for all the people who live in Palestine. And that means that, you know, the Palestinians who are forced out of their houses, forced off of their land, should come back and share the land, all of it, including the settlements. You know, if I am going to be asked to help pay for settlements, I would like to be, you know, permitted to say who gets to live in them. And I would like the women and children, the Palestinian women and children that I saw, I would like to say—take them by hand and say, “You know what? Look at this. We built this for you. You’re home now.”

AMY GOODMAN: Alice Walker, her latest book, Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel. We will continue our conversation tonight at 8:00 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City at 92nd and Lex. And we will play portions of that here. We’ll also post on our website Anjali’s entire interview with Alice Walker in Gaza last year.

Notes on Israel’s Triumph to Disaster

By admin, March 23, 2010 9:24 am
Socialist  Project - home The   B u l l e t Socialist  Project - home
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 332
March 22, 2010

Notes on Israel’s Triumph to Disaster

Bashir Abu-Manneh

Who will stop Israel in its relentless expropriation of Palestine and from triumphing to disaster? Isaac Deutscher, from whom I borrow my title, believed that the occupation of 1967 would have catastrophic consequences for Israel. It wouldn’t end well, he feared.[1] Israel’s expansion and colonial contempt would only produce more enemies, and its triumph would become its condition of defeat. Looking at Israel’s daily aggressions in the West Bank and Gaza (and inside Israel itself, for that matter), Deutscher’s warning can no longer be ignored today. If Israel has banked on its victory and has convinced itself that its position today is irreversible, then there’s no guaranteeing that the Arabs it holds in so much contempt will always remain defeated and disorganized. No state can predict the future or preempt all human capacities and possibilities. The only thing that Israel can be sure of is that the more it brutalizes and kills and oppresses and strangulates Palestinians, the more Palestinians and other Arabs will be convinced that its future is bleak. Deutscher’s warning should be on every Israeli and peace-loving minds today. What Israel does every day will simply not pass.

Map of  the Middle-East

The left is not in the business of advocating catastrophes. Deutscher’s intention was the complete opposite in fact: he was trying to stop an impending disaster from happening. Like Walter Benjamin, he wanted “to activate the emergency brake” on the human race’s moving train rather than watch it plunge into the abyss.[2] So Deutscher’s warning should really be a question: who will stop Israel from triumphing to disaster? Who can end the insult, injury, and humiliations that Israel daily inflicts on Palestinians and Arabs through its occupation and bring freedom and justice closer? There are many false messiahs these days, and only one redemptive force. Let’s begin with the false ones.

False Messiahs

The U.S. won’t stop Israel, clearly. Not when Israel continues to play such a significant role in guaranteeing its regional interests (by crushing radicals and nationalists). And not when Israel continues to be the USA’s most reliable and stable ally in this volatile region (the Israeli public actually wants closer U.S./Israel ties, unlike Turkey’s or Saudi’s or Egypt’s or Jordan’s public). Since Kissinger, the U.S. has done nothing but support Israel’s deepening colonial expansion in occupied Palestine: diplomatic, financial, and military. For reasonable people, the U.S. is as much a problem for Palestinians as Israel is. For unreasonable ones, they look toward the U.S. for ‘even-handedness’ and ‘brokering peace,’ as if it hasn’t already picked sides at least 40 years ago. Changing the U.S. relationship with Israel is changing U.S. interests in the region: there’s no way round it. No begging, no beseeching, and no ‘change we can believe in’ will achieve that. Only real change: of politics and interests. The right question to pose is not whether the U.S. will put pressure on Israel. But: how can we get the U.S. out of the Middle East? One million Arab dead in Iraq is one million too many. And five million internally and externally displaced is five million too many. Wars and occupations don’t bring peace and security.

What about the Palestinian national movement? Can it stop Israel? The Palestinian Authority (PA) elite has basically co-opted Fatah politically and severely curtailed and diminished its field of independent political maneuver. Fatah has no strategy or plan to get Palestinians out of the current crisis.[3] [PA Chairman and Fatah leader] Mahmoud Abbas and [PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad’s legitimacy in the eyes of the ‘international community’ (the U.S. and its EU backers) is the result of partnering with the occupation not ending it. There is, so to speak, no secular Palestinian national movement any longer. One elite figure after another in the PA competes in finding ways to ‘develop,’ ‘build institutions,’ and uplift Palestine without tackling the root cause of the problem for millions of Palestinians: the occupation regime itself.

Reality of Occupation

These fantasy schemes ignore hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks, hundreds of kilometers of annexation Wall, hundreds of weekly Israeli army raids and arrests, 11 thousand Palestinian prisoners, and daily obstructions, humiliations, and reductions of human life. America actively supports this status quo, not only by injecting funds both directly and indirectly (through the EU and its Arab allies). But also militarily: by training Palestinian forces in terrorizing and torturing their own and crushing their will to resist (how can the PA honestly call for the boycott of Israeli settlement products when it daily does Israel’s bidding in the West Bank?). Funds buy off elite complicity and security training and coordination with Israel crushes Hamas and Islamic Jihad and imprisons hundreds of their men and women every month. Every day Abbas and his dependents speak against a third intifada and obstruct mass rage against Israel. If the third intifada ever comes, it will have to face not only Israel’s brutal army but its own internal Palestinian enemies as well: President Abbas and General Dayton’s foreign-trained colonial enforcers.

To work against the occupation is, as the Israeli insult goes, ‘to go to Gaza.’ Gaza stands as a good example for the Palestinians in the West Bank of what democracy and resistance look like: siege, suffocation, mass unemployment, slow death, and collective punishment. And: mass killing and mass destruction, as the war on Gaza last year testifies. The U.S. and Israel have given Palestinians two options. You either collaborate in administering the occupation (and crush resistance and popular protest by force and terror) or you suffer the harsh consequences of armed struggle. Even Hamas has learnt this very costly lesson and is now actively preventing more radical jihadi groups from firing primitive Qassam rockets into Israel.

Will Hamas see Palestinians out of the occupation? The sober answer is: no it won’t. It hasn’t yet managed to lift Israel’s cruel siege on Gaza, imprisoning 1.5 million Palestinians. Hamas is now in complete control of an imprisoned population which lacks basic human freedoms and rights of travel, employment, security, and education. It even adds Palestinian insult to Israeli injury by coercively enforcing hijab (as it tried to force it on women lawyers in court recently) and by prohibiting male hairdressers from cutting women’s hair in Gaza. As if women’s oppression is a requisite to Palestinian liberation! In addition, the political leverage Hamas has in the Arab world amounts to very little. Having adopted Fatah’s nationalist policy of ‘non-interference in Arab regimes,’ Hamas finds itself (like its previous secular predecessor) trying to secure Palestinian rights in an incredibly hostile Arab-regime environment; one which is not only dependent on the U.S. but is also allied with it against free democratic representation and Islamic radicalism.

Hamas beseeches Egypt to ease the siege and open Rafah, while Egypt uses its control of Rafah and the deep underground wall it is building, which will cut off Gaza’s last remaining lifeline, in order to force Hamas to accept the U.S. conditions for Palestinian reconciliation (renouncing violence and recognizing previous agreements). Before reconciling with Fatah, Hamas needs, as far as the Egyptians are concerned, to become Fatah. So Hamas calls Palestinians in the West Bank out for a ‘third intifada,’ but to no visible effect. Palestinians come out, as this week, when Israeli provocation is completely intolerable or when they feel they can achieve something. After the defeat of two intifadas, Palestinians are understandably very wary of another intifada failing.

Redemptive Force

What Palestinians as a collective decide to do is ultimately the most important question. Only they can stop Israel. Most Palestinians are fed up with Palestinian political factionalism and PA corruption and subservience. They see no real way out through reconciliation or unity, though they still want it: the divisions seem too deep and the U.S. is too much of an obstacle. They also recognize that armed resistance has failed against one of the most powerful and brutal armies in the world. Israel unleashed itself on Gaza for 22 days as the world watched and did nothing. Why play the game of force when the balance of power is rigged against you to such a disproportionate extent?

The closest Palestinians got to challenging and undermining the Israeli occupation is in the unarmed mass resistance of the first intifada. This remains the most effective way to defeating Israel politically and to achieving Palestinian rights. It is hard to predict the future, but many believe that a popular uprising will eventually come. Will the coming rebellion be spontaneous and risk dissipating or will it be organized effectively, prioritizing mass self-mobilization over armed confrontation? Will the PA and Israel be able to crush it by force and coercion (by freezing the wages on which 140,000 PA employees and their families in the West Bank and Gaza depend), or will Israel finally succeed in pushing Palestinians toward civil war?

Not much is clear yet. But one thing is certain: international public opinion would welcome a mass Palestinian revolt. Voices for boycott and sanctions against Israeli apartheid would grow. Voices to lift the siege on Gaza would strengthen. And Israel would again confirm itself in popular world opinion as a pariah state. Will that cause a crack in its own flawed self-image? One hopes so. Will Israelis come to see themselves for what they really are: brutal, self-indulgent occupiers who are holding a whole people hostage? They may well do. There are certainly some beleaguered Israeli anti-occupation groups who are in desperate need for supporters and sympathizers. It would be nice to see them welcomed in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv rather than harassed by the general public, arrested by the police, and generally bullied and humiliated.

If the Arab peoples move as well, and if their spontaneous support is organized and mobilized to greater effect, then the U.S. presence in the region can also be weakened. And that is no small thing. Arab hearts still lie in Palestine. It can still move a whole nation like no other cause in the region. Though the present looks bleak, collective acts of resistance can still create vast possibilities. •

Bashir Abu-Manneh teaches English at Barnard College.

Footnotes

1. Isaac Deutscher, “On the Israeli-Arab War,” New Left Review, I/44 (July-August 1967), 30-45: “I am convinced that the latest, all-too-easy triumph of Israeli arms will be seen one day, in a not very remote future, to have been a disaster in the first instance for Israel itself” (30). And: “The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase: ‘Man kann sich totsiegen!‘ ‘You can rush yourself victoriously into your grave.’ This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow” (39).

2. Quoted in Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’ (London: Verso, 2005), pp. 66-7.

3. International Crisis Group, Palestine: Salvaging Fatah, Middle East Report no. 91 (12 November 2009).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( The   B u l l e t ))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Decline of Israel

By admin, March 13, 2010 2:34 pm
The Decline of Israel

Middle East Online
March 12, 2010
<http://www.middle- east-online. com/english/ opinion/? id=37809>

New Left Project

In a wide-ranging interview with the New Left Project, Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook describes the increasingly repressive nature of Israeli society and the prospects for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict

NLP: What did you make of Ehud Barak’s recent comparison of Israel to South Africa?

JC: We should be extremely wary of ascribing a leftwing agenda to senior Israeli politicians who make use of the word “apartheid” in the Israeli-Palestinian context. Barak was not claiming that Israel is an apartheid state when he addressed the high-powered delegates at the Herzliya conference last month; he was warning the Netanyahu government that its approach to the two-state solution was endangering Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of the world that would eventually lead to it being called an apartheid state. He was politicking. His goal was to intimidate Netanyahu into signing up to his, and the Israeli centre’s, long-standing agenda of “unilateral separation”: statehood imposed on the Palestinians as a series of bantustans (be sure, the irony is entirely lost on Barak and others). Barak knows that Netanyahu currently has no intention of creating any kind of Palestinian state, even a bogus one, despite his commitments to the US.

The last senior Israeli politician to talk of “apartheid” was Ehud Olmert, and it is worth remembering why he used the term. It was back in November 2003, when he was deputy prime minister and desperately trying to scare his boss, Ariel Sharon, into reversing his long-standing support for the settlements and adopt instead the disengagement plan for Gaza. Olmert’s thinking was that by severing Gaza from the Greater Israel project – by pretending the occupation had ended there – Israel could buy a few more years before it faced a Palestinian majority and the danger of being compared to apartheid South Africa. It worked and Sharon became the improbable “man of peace” for which he is today remembered. (Strangely, Olmert, like Barak, defined apartheid in purely mathematical terms: Israeli rule over the Palestinians would only qualify as apartheid at the moment Jews became a numerical minority.)

Barak is playing a similar game with Netanyahu, this time trying to pressure him to separate from the main populated areas of the West Bank. It is not surprising the task has fallen to the Labor leader. The two other chief exponents of unilateral separation are out of the way: Olmert is standing trial and Tzipi Livni is in the wilderness of opposition. Barak is hoping to apply pressure from inside the government. Barak is eminently qualified for the job. He took on the mantel of the Oslo process after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination and then tried to engineer the final separation implicit in Oslo at Camp David in 2000 – on extremely advantageous terms for Israel.

Can he succeed in changing Netanyahu’s mind? It seems unlikely.

NLP: Avi Shlaim recently described Tony Blair as ‘Gaza’s Great Betrayer’. What do you make of Tony Blair’s role as Middle East peace envoy?

JC: Blair is a glorified salesman, selling the same snakeoil to different customers.

First, he is here to provide a façade of Western concern about mending the Middle East. He suggests that the West is committed to action even as it fails to intervene and the situation of the Palestinians generally, and those in Gaza in particular, deteriorates rapidly. He sells us the continuing dispossession of the Palestinians in a bottle labelled “peace”.

He is also here as a sort of European proconsul to advise the Americans on how to repackage their policies. The US has become aware that it has lost all credibility with the rest of the world on this issue. Blair’s job is to redesign the bottle labelled “US honest broker” so that we will be prepared to buy the product again.

His next task is to try to wheedle out of Israel any minor concession he can secure on behalf of the Palestinians and persuade Tel Aviv to cooperate in selling an empty bottle labelled “hope” as a breakthrough in the peace process.

And finally, he is here to create the impression that his chief task is to defend the interests of the Palestinians. To this end, he collects the three bottles, puts them in some pretty wrapping paper and writes on the label “Palestinian state”.

For his labours he is being handsomely rewarded, especially by Israel.

NLP: You have described how Israel is becoming increasingly repressive regarding its own Arab population. In what ways?

JC: Let’s be clear: Israel has always been “repressive” of its Palestinian minority. Its first two decades were marked by a very harsh military government for the Palestinian population inside Israel. Thousands of Bedouin, for example, were expelled from their homes in the Negev several years after Israel’s establishment and forced into the Sinai. Israel’s past should not be glorified.

What I have argued is that the direction taken by Israeli policy since the Oslo process began has been increasingly dangerous for the Palestinian minority. Before Oslo, Israel was chiefly interested in containing and controlling the minority. After Oslo, it has been trying to engineer a situation in which it can claim to no longer be responsible for the Palestinians inside Israel with formal citizenship.

This is intimately tied to Israel’s more general policy of “unilateral separation” from the Palestinians under occupation: in Gaza, through the disengagement; in the West Bank, through the building of the wall. Israel’s chief concern is that – post-separation, were Palestinian citizens to remain inside the Jewish state – they would have far greater legitimacy in demanding the same rights as Jews. Israelis regard that as an existential threat to their state: Palestinian citizens could use their power, for example, to demand a right of return for their relatives and thereby create a Palestinian majority. The problem for Israel is that Palestinian citizens can expose the sham of Israel’s claims to being a democratic state.

So as part of its policy of separation, Israel has been thinking about how to get rid of the Palestinian minority, or at the very least how to disenfranchise it in a way that appears democratic. It is a long game that I describe in detail in my book Blood and Religion.

Policymakers are considering different approaches, from physically expelling Israel’s Palestinian citizens to the bantustans in the territories to stripping them incrementally of their remaining citizenship rights, in the hope that they will choose to leave. At the moment we are seeing the latter policy being pursued, but there are plenty of people in the government who want the former policy implemented when the political climate is right.

NLP: The frequent claim by Israeli officials is that Israel is a democracy and that Israeli Arabs are afforded the same rights as other citizens. What is your view?

JC: The widely shared assumption that Israel is a democracy is a strange one.

This is a democracy without defined borders, encompassing parts of a foreign territory, the West Bank, in which one ethnic / religious group – the Jewish settlers – has been given the vote while another – the Palestinians – has not. Those settlers, who are living outside the internationally recognised borders of Israel, actually put Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman into power.

It is also a democracy that has transferred control over 13 per cent of its sovereign territory (and a large proportion of its inhabited land) to an external organisation, the Jewish National Fund, which prevents a significant proportion of Israel’s own citizenry – the 20 per cent who are Palestinian – from having access to that land, again based on ethnic / religious criteria.

It is a democracy that historically gerrymandered its electoral constituency by expelling most of the indigenous population outside its borders – now referred to as the Palestinian refugees – to ensure a Jewish majority. It has continued to gerrymander its voting base by giving one ethnic group, Jews around the world, an automatic right to become citizens while denying that same right to another ethnic group, Palestinian Arabs.

This is a democracy that, despite a plethora of parties and the necessity of creating broad coalition governments, has consistently ensured that one set of parties (the Palestinian and anti-Zionist ones) has been excluded from government. In fact, Israel’s “democracy” is not a competition between different visions of society, as you would expect, but a country driven by a single ideology called Zionism. In that sense, there has been one-party rule in Israel since its birth. All the many parties that have participated in government over the years have agreed on one thing: that Israel should be a state that gives privileges to citizens who belong to one ethnic group. Where there is disagreement, it is over narrow sectoral interests or over how to manage the details of the occupation – an issue related to territory outside Israel’s borders.

Defenders of the idea that Israel is a democracy point to the country’s universal suffrage. But that is hardly sufficient grounds for classing Israel as a democracy. Israel was also considered a democracy in the 1950s and early 1960s – before the occupation began – when a fifth of the populace, the Palestinian minority inside Israel, lived under a military government. Then as now, they had the vote but during that period they could not leave their villages without a permit from the authorities.

My point is that giving the vote to 20 per cent of the electorate that is Palestinian is no proof of democracy if Israeli Jews have rigged their “democracy” beforehand through ethnic cleansing (the 1948 war); through discriminatory immigration policies (the Law of Return); and through the manipulation of borders to include the settlers while excluding the occupied Palestinians, even though both live in the same territory.

Israeli academics who consider these things have had to devise new classifications to cope with these strange features of the Israeli “democratic” landscape. The generous ones call it an “ethnic democracy”; the more critical ones an “ethnocracy”. Most are agreed, however, that it is not the liberal democracy of most Westerners’ imaginations.

NLP: You describe the long time anti-occupation activist and writer Uri Avnery as being a “compromised critic” of Israel. What do you mean by this? What is wrong with Avnery’s position on the occupation?

JC: There’s nothing wrong with Avnery’s position on the occupation. He wants to end it, and he has worked strenuously and bravely to do so over many decades.

The problem derives from our, his readers’, tendency to misunderstand his reasons for seeking an end to the occupation, and in that sense I think his role in the Palestinian solidarity movement has not been entirely helpful. Avnery wants the occupation to end but, it is clear from his writings, he is driven primarily by a desire to protect Israel as a Jewish state, the kind of ethnocratic state I have just described. Avnery does not hide this: he has always declared himself a proud Zionist. But in my view, his attachment to a state privileging Jews compromises his ability to critique the inherent logic of Zionism and to respond to Israel’s fast-moving policies on the ground, especially the goals of separation.

In a sense Avnery is stuck romantically in the 1970s and 1980s, the heydey of Palestinian resistance. Then the Palestinian struggle was much more straightforward: it was for national liberation. In those days Avnery’s battle was chiefly inside the Palestine Liberation Organisation, not inside Israel. He favoured a two-state solution when many in the PLO were promoting a vision of a single democratic state encompassing both Palestinians and Israelis. As we know, Avnery won that ideological battle: Arafat signed up to the two-state vision and eventually became the head of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian government-in- waiting.

But with Oslo, and formal Palestinian consent to the partition of historic Palestine, Avnery had to switch the focus of his struggle back to Israel, where there was much more resistance to the idea. While the Palestinian leaders were willing, even enthusiastic participants in the Oslo process, Israel’s leaders were much more cynical. They wanted a Palestinian dictatorship in the OPTs, led by Arafat, that would suppress all dissent while Israel would continue exploiting the land and water resources and the Palestinian labour-force through a series of industrial zones.

Because of his emotional investment in the separation policy of Oslo, Avnery has been very slow to appreciate Israel’s bad faith in this process. As the horrors of the wall and the massacres in Gaza have unfolded, I have started to see in his writings a very belated caution, a hesitation. That is to be welcomed. But I think looking to Avnery for guidance about where the Palestinian struggle against the occupation should head now – for instance, on the question of boycott, divestment and sanctions – is probably unwise. On other matters, he still has many fascinating insights to offer.

NLP: You are an advocate of a one state solution to the conflict. Given the overwhelming opposition of most Israelis to such a solution how is this to come about?

JC: Let me make an initial qualification. I do not regard myself as being an “advocate” for any particular solution to the conflict. I would happily support a two-state solution if I thought it was possible. I do not have a view about which technical arrangement is needed for Palestinians and Israelis to live happy, secure lives. If that can be achieved in a two-state solution, then I am all in favour.

My support for one state follows from the fact that I have yet to see anyone making a convincing case for two states, given the current realities. Those in the progressive community who advocate for the two-state solution seem to do so because their knowledge of the conflict is based on understandings a decade or more out of date, and typically because they know little about what drives Israeli policies inside Israel’s internationally recognised borders – which is hardly surprising, given the dearth of reporting on the subject.

This relates to the question of how Israelis can be won over. If the criterion for deciding whether a solution is viable is whether it is acceptable to Israeli Jewish public opinion, then the two-state crowd have exactly the same problem as the one-state crowd. There is no popular backing in Israel for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders; a connection between the West Bank and Gaza; open borders for the Palestinian state and the right for it to forge diplomatic alliances as it chooses; a Palestinian army and air force; Palestinian rights to their water resources; Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital; and so on. Almost no Israeli Jews would vote for a government advocating that solution.

When we hear of polls showing an Israeli majority for a two-state solution, that is not what the respondents are referring to: they mean a series of bantustans surrounded by Israeli territory and settlers; severe controls on Palestinian movement between those bantustans; Palestine’s capital in Abu Dis or some other village near Jerusalem; Israel’s continuing control of the water; no Palestinian army; and so on. The Israeli public’s vision of Palestine is the same as its leadership’s: an extension of the Gaza model to the West Bank.

So we might as well forget about pandering to Israeli public opinion for the moment. It will change when it is offered a different cost-benefit calculus for its continuing rule over the Palestinians, as occurred among white South Africans who were encouraged to turn against the apartheid regime. That is the purpose of campaigns like boycott, divestment and sanctions. Let’s think instead about workable solutions that accord with the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live decent lives.

Interestingly, despite the mistaken assumption that Israelis favour a (real) two-state solution over a one-state solution, there are now indications that a broad coalition of Israelis accept that the moment for a two-state solution has passed. Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, is one from the Zionist left. But surprisingly he was recently joined by Tzipi Hotovely, an influential MP from Netanyahu’s Likud party, who argues for granting citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank.

NLP: Other writers such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein argue in favour of a two-state solution, pointing out that world opinion and international law is firmly on the side of such a solution. How do you respond?

JC: Much as I respect Finkelstein and Chomsky, I find those arguments unconvincing.

“World opinion” in this case means little more than opinion in Washington, and as Chomsky has eloquently pointed out on many occasions the US, along with Israel, is the rejectionist party to the conflict. In fact, it is precisely because the US and Israel are the rejectionist camp that we should be wary of accepting that a two-state arrangement is a viable solution to the conflict now that the leaderships of both countries ostensibly support it.

Rather I would argue that the US and Israel pay lipserve to a two-state solution to provide cover for the emerging reality on the ground, in which Jewish privilege is being maintained in a unilaterally imposed one-state solution by Israel. Without that cover, the apartheid nature of the regime and the creeping programme of ethnic cleansing would be blindingly obvious to everyone.

Since Oslo, Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Livni all understood that “world opinion” could be kept at bay only as long as Israel appeared to favour a two-state solution. Netanyahu has embarrassed the West, and the US in particular, by dropping that pretence. It is why he is so unpopular and why we are starting to see more critical coverage of Israel in the media. Things are not worse, at least in the occupied territories, than they were under Olmert and co (in fact, it could be argued that they are moderately better), but it is much easier for journalists to cover some of the reality now. I guess this is a way of bringing Netanyahu into line.

The international law argument in this context is not much more helpful. While international law offers a discrete and invaluable set of principles when it comes to determining the rules of war, for instance, matters are not so straightforward when related to borders and territory.

Which bit of international law are we referring to? Why not take as our reference point the 1947 partition plan, which would see nearly half of historic Palestine returned to the Palestinians, and Jerusalem under international control? And what are we to make of UN Resolution 242, which refers to “the acquisition of territories” in the English version and “the acquisition of the territories” in the French version? Should the Palestinians be offered 28 per cent of their homeland or less than 28 per cent? And what do the Oslo accords mean in practice for Palestinian statehood, given that the final status issues were left open?

One can argue over these points endlessly, and dwelling on them to the exclusion of all other considerations is a recipe for helping the powerful in their struggle to ensure that the status quo – the occupation – is maintained.

The primary goals of international law are twofold: to safeguard the dignity of human beings; and to ensure their right to self-determination. In my view, those aims cannot be realised in a two-state solution, given both the realities on the ground and the conditions on Palestinian sovereignty being demanded by Israel and the international community.

Instead we should look to international law to provide a frame of reference for finding a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it should not tie our hands. The objective is to find a practical and creative political arrangement that has legitimacy in the eyes of both parties and can ensure that Israelis and Palestinians lead happy, secure lives. The goal here is not a technical solution; it is an enduring peace.

NLP: British media coverage of the conflict is typically more sympathetic towards Israel than towards Palestinians and generally fails to give proper historical background to the conflict. Why do you believe the British media behaves in this way regarding the conflict?

JC: There are various reasons that are sometimes difficult to disentangle. For the sake of simplicity, I will separate them into three categories: practical issues facing journalists covering the conflict; expectations imposed by the supposed “professionalism” of journalism; and ideological and structural constraints that reflect the fact that the dominant journalism practised today is a journalism cowed by corporate interests.

Of the practical issues, one of the most important – though least spoken of, for obvious reasons – is the fact that foreign desks prefer to appoint Jewish reporters to cover the conflict. In part the preference for Jewish reporters reflects an assessment, and probably a correct one, by editors that Israel, not the Palestinians, makes the news and that Jewish reporters will fare better as they negotiate the corridors of power in a self-declared Jewish state. Faced with candidates for the job, a foreign editor will often take the easy choice of a Jew who speaks fluent Hebrew, has family here who will provide ready-made contacts, and has some sort of commitment to living here and gaining a deeper understanding of (Israeli) life. Of course, those are precisely the reasons why an editor ought to judge the reporter unsuitable, but in practice it does not work that way.

I know from my own experiences that most Israeli officials try to find out whether you are Jewish before they will build any kind of intimacy with you as a reporter. That works to the advantage of Jewish reporters when a job comes up in Jerusalem.

I should add that the historical tendency of the British media to appoint Jewish reporters has diminished in recent years, possibly because the desks have become more self-conscious about it. But it is still very strong among the American media, and it is the American media that set the news agenda on the conflict. The NYT’s Ethan Bronner is fairly typical on that score and the paper’s indulgent decision to allow him to continue in his posting after revelations of a clear conflict of interest – that his son has joined the Israeli army – simply highlights the point.

A second practical issue is the location of British bureaus: in Jewish West Jerusalem. That results in a natural identification with Israeli concerns. It would be just as easy, and cheaper, to locate journalists a short distance away in Ramallah, or even in a Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, but few if any do so.

Then there are the local sources of information that a reporter relies on. He or she reads the Israeli media, most of which have English editions, and comes to understand the conflict through the analyses and commentaries of Israeli journalists. This is even more true for those reporters who read Hebrew. Are there any British journalists reading the Palestinian media in Arabic? I doubt it.

Similarly, Israeli spokespeople are much more likely to be sources of information: they usually speak English; they are accessible, especially if you are Jewish and seen as “sympathetic” to Israel; and they are authoritative from the point of view of the correspondents. By contrast, the Palestinians are in a much weaker position. Who counts as a Palestinian spokesperson? Usually reporters turn to the Palestinian Authority for comments, even though the PA’s agenda is severely compromised and Palestinian opinion is deeply divided. In addition, official Palestinian spokespeople are often hamstrung by a rigid bureaucracy, lack of accountability, problems of language, and little knowledge of the decisions being taken in Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem that shape their lives.

Issues deriving from journalism’s so-called “professionalism” must be factored in too. The professional training of journalists encourages them to believe that there are objective criteria that define what counts as news. A consequence is that professional journalists are expected to follow similar lines of inquiry and turn to the same groups of “neutral” contacts. This justifies both the hunting-in-packs philosophy that underpins most mainstream journalism and the reliance on establishment sources whom journalists use to interpret the news story.

In the case of Israel-Palestine, we end up with very similar looking accounts of the conflict that are usually filtered through the perspectives of a narrow elite of politicians, academics and diplomats who share in the main fanciful assumptions about the conflict: that there is a meaningful peace process; that Israeli leaders are acting in good faith; that the occupation is unpleasant but temporary; that the Palestinians are their own worst enemies or genetically prone to terrorism; that the occupation in Gaza has ended; that the Americans are a neutral broker in the conflict; and so on.

“Balance” is also seen as an essential quality in any professional news report. Balance of the “Israel said-the Palestinians said” variety encourages a view that the two sides in the conflict are equal. It favours the status quo, which favours Israel because it is the dominant party.

Another issue that skews coverage is the fact that professional journalists are supposed to take directions in their coverage from senior editors, usually thousands of miles away. The mainstream media is very hierarchical and few journalists will risk engaging in repeated fights with senior editors if they wish to be successful. The problem is that those editors have formed their views of the conflict in part by reading influential columnists, particularly those in the US who are considered to be close to the centres of power. That means that Zionist commentators like Thomas Friedman and the late William Safire shape British editors’ understanding of the region and therefore also the sort of coverage they expect from their reporters. Professional journalists do not usually invent things to satisfy their editors but they do steer clear of certain topics and lines of inquiry that conflict with their editors’ assumptions.

This tendency is strongly reinforced by the pro-Israel lobby in Britain, which gives reporters and their editors a hard time whenever they depart from common, and usually erroneous, assumptions about Israel. The sheer weight of the lobby, both in terms of its leaders’ connections to the British elites and its large number of foot soldiers, makes it very intimidating to the media. Minor matters of interpretation by a reporter can quickly be blown into a full-scale scandal of biased reporting or accusations of anti-Semitism. Even accurate reporting that is critical of Israel can be damaging to a journalist’s reputation, as Jeremy Bowen found out last year when absurd complaints against him were upheld by the BBC Trust.

The effect of the lobby in Britain is further heightened by the far greater power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US. British editors, as we have already noted, look to US commentators for guidance about the conflict. So the US lobby, in shaping the views of the American media, also affects the British media’s conceptions too.

These last problems are closely related to the much larger structural and ideological issues affecting modern journalism that direct the coverage of Israel-Palestine.

In my early career working for British newspapers, I was a very traditional liberal journalist. Only when I turned freelance, moved to the Middle East and started covering the Israel-Palestine conflict from a Palestinian city did I discover that most of my life-long assumptions about the liberal British media were untenable. It was a period of rapid and profound disillusionment. Out here, I was faced with a stark choice: report the conflict in the same distorted and misleading manner adopted by the mainstream reporters or become a so-called “dissident” journalist. I struggled with the first option for a while, publishing in the Guardian and the International Herald Tribune when I could, but it was with a heavy conscience. It was during this period that I heard about the propaganda model of Ed Hermann and Noam Chomsky, as well as websites like Media Lens, which finally made sense of my own experiences as a journalist.

The structural problem of modern journalism is a huge subject I cannot do more than outline here.

Professional journalism exists in its current state because it is subsidised by fabulously wealthy owners and fabulously wealthy advertisers, both of whom share the interests of the corporate elites that rule our societies. The corporate-owned media ensures its journalists share its corporate values through a process of “filtering”. Journalists who make it to a position like Jerusalem bureau chief, for example, have gone through a very lengthy selection process that weeds out anyone considered undesirable. Typically an undesirable journalist fails to abide by the implicit rules of the profession: she is not intimidated in the face of power and authority, she looks beyond the elites to other sources of information, she rejects the bogus idea of objectivity and neutrality, and so on. Such journalists either get stuck in lowly jobs or are pushed out.

The result is a sort of Darwinian natural selection that ensures corporate, clubbable journalists rise to the top and select in their image those who follow behind them.

Given this analysis of corporate journalism, it becomes much easier to understand why the media in the West, where financial, military and industrial interests prevail, should demonstrate a much greater sympathy for Israel’s concerns than the Palestinians’ .

- Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net

. This interview was contributed to PalestineChronicle. com. (This interview first appeared on the website of the New Left Project at: http://newleftproje ct.org)

A View From Toronto – A Hub of “Israel Delegitimization”

By admin, March 11, 2010 11:03 am
Socialist Project - home The   B u l l e t Socialist Project - home
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 322
March 10, 2010

A View From Toronto – A Hub of
“Israel Delegitimization”

Rafeef Ziadah

As a Palestinian refugee, the city of Toronto has always been a place of exile to me. I usually think of it as a large (rather cold) waiting room on my way back to Haifa where my grandparents were born. However, following the publication of a recent report by the prominent Israeli think-tank, the Reut Institute, I felt some pride for my adopted city.[1] The Reut Institute declared Toronto a “hub of Israel delegitimization” and that the growing campaign calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel had become a “strategic threat.” The report confirmed to those of us involved in the BDS movement that our work was not in vain. The tireless work of many people around the world to build an effective movement to challenge Israeli apartheid was beginning to pay off. The aim of this article is to look at the key arguments of the Reut Institute’s report and to use them to interpret the response to the recently-concluded Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), held in Toronto (and also started there) and numerous cities across Canada and the world.

Delegitimization Network

The premise of the Reut Institute Report is that there is a Resistance Network (made up of groups like Hizbullah and Hamas) and a Delegitimization Network. Toronto falls into the latter as a key hub of BDS activities around the world. According to the report, the delegitimization network aims to “eliminate the Zionist model by turning Israel into a pariah state through challenging the moral legitimacy of its authorities and very existence (as opposed to its policies); tying its military hands through the use of non-military tools such as international law; and undermining its economy through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions.”

It is true that the BDS movement has been based on clear principles of human rights and international law and attempts to use these as a means of “tying [Israel's] military hands.” These principles are summarized in the three demands found in the Palestinian BDS Call, signed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in July 2005:

  1. ending the occupation and dismantling the Apartheid wall;
  2. equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
  3. the right of return for Palestinian refugees.[2]

In the academic and cultural fields, the BDS movement derives its perspective from the Palestinian Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued a year earlier in July 2004.[3] These two calls represent the most authoritative and widely supported strategic statements to have emerged from Palestine in decades, signed onto by all political factions, labour, student and women organizations, and refugee groups. What the Reut Institute calls a “delegitimization network” is a Palestinian-led movement initiated by those living under Israeli apartheid and exiled from their land. It is this call for solidarity that cities around the world are taking up.

Israeli Apartheid Week - poster

It is also true that the BDS movement aims to build awareness of Israel as a rogue state. Israel was established in 1948 by forcibly displacing the overwhelming majority of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population from their homeland. Today, Palestinian refugees are prevented from returning to our homes and lands from which they were expelled. In contrast, any person who claims Jewish descent from anywhere in the world may become an Israeli citizen under the so-called Law of Return. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, not a state of all its citizens. This is apartheid, and is sustained through an elaborate system of laws, policies, and practices that discriminate openly against Palestinian citizens of the state (of course within the apartheid logic their identity is denied and they are called Arab-Israelis, not Palestinian). All of these points are well-documented and understood by Palestinians, international human rights experts, and those with an intimate experience of South African apartheid.[4]

Today, the West Bank is surrounded by an apartheid wall and Palestinians are being rounded into ever smaller ghettos. Literally the earth is shrinking and closing down on us wherever we are – simply for the crime of being stateless Palestinians. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are still barred from seventy-one professions. On the borders of Iraq, there are Palestinian refugees stranded in the desert with no country willing to accept them. The fundamental cause of these abuses is an inability to return to our homes. One does not cease to be Palestinian when outside the borders of the occupied territories. After trying every possible path to achieve our basic human rights (from armed struggle to negotiations), it is clearer today more than ever that what is needed is a movement to isolate Israeli Apartheid in the manner of South African apartheid. Since the so called ‘international community’ seems to be oblivious to the conditions that Palestinians are living in (conditions that the most imaginative of science fiction writers could not predict), the only option left is to make a pariah state of Israel for its crimes until it feels the necessity to comply with international law. Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions are a legitimate tool in this strategy – they help to educate about Israeli crimes against Palestinians and, more importantly, they move people beyond basic condemnation to effective action.

Grassroots Versus Top-down

The Reut report is also correct when it claims that:

“While Israel works ‘from the center to the periphery’ or ‘top-down,’ [the delegitimization networks] work ‘from the periphery to the center’ and ‘bottom-up.’ While Israel emphasizes formal state-to-state relations with political and business elites, delegitimizers focus on non-governmental organizations, academia, grassroots movements, and the general public.”

Yes, the BDS movement does work on the grassroots level. That is what movements for social justice have historically done and certainly how the movement against South African apartheid was organized. The fight against apartheid in South Africa was not initiated by politicians – as a matter of fact, most officials supported apartheid until it became untenable for them to do so. It was the average person who pushed for BDS in their unions, schools, places of work, and places of worship that created this mass pressure.

On the other hand, Israel does naturally find allies at the state-to-state level (as the Reut Institute acknowledges). This is a partial explanation of why Israeli Apartheid Week in Canada was denounced by official government bodies. Just last week, when the Conservative Member of the Ontario Legislature, Peter Shurman, put forward a motion condemning the week in the provincial parliament, the motion was passed. MPP Shurman stated that the term apartheid is “poisonous” and “odious.” For the second year running, Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff spoke out against the week saying “Israeli Apartheid Week is part of a global campaign of calls for divestment, boycotts and proclamations, and it should be condemned unequivocally and absolutely.” In the House of Commons, a motion was put forward that stated:

“This House considers itself to be a friend of the State of Israel … [and] is concerned about expressions of anti-Semitism under the guise of “Israeli Apartheid Week” … [and] explicitly condemns any action in Canada as well as internationally that would equate the State of Israel with the rejected and racist policy of apartheid.”

Using the term anti-Semitism in this context is nothing but a smear tactic with no factual evidence to support it. From its inception, the BDS movement and Israeli Apartheid Week activities have been explicitly rooted in universal values and principles. The BDS Call categorically rejects all forms of racism, racial discrimination and colonial oppression. What these elite-level condemnations show, however, is that Israeli apartheid does indeed have strong “formal state-to-state relations with the political and business elite” in Canada. The interests of these elites coincide in their support of colonial oppression in the Middle East. Otherwise, it is puzzling why, in the midst of a severe economic crisis, Canadian parliaments choose to debate an educational week on university campuses. Why is it essential for politicians across the spectrum to denounce the use of the term apartheid? Since when is it the business of politicians to censor what terms citizens can and cannot use to describe another state?

There is nothing ‘poisonous’ about using a legal term and debating factual matters regarding a state with a long record of human rights violations. There have been many excellent articles written about the use of the term apartheid (both for legal and comparative reasons), and endless quotes have been circulated by prominent academics and many South African activists making the comparison.[5] The issue here is why such unwarranted hysteria over a week of educational events organized on a university campus by students? Canadian politicians seem to have gained a strong interest in student activism because of IAW, but are not nearly as interested in passing motions when it comes to addressing the state of the educational system or the prohibitive fees that students are expected to pay.

According to a B’nai Brith press release issued on the 25th of February 2010, congratulating the Ontario Legislature for passing the pro-Israel motion, they hope “today’s resolution is an important first step toward what must be an outright ban of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’.” This is the dilemma faced by the supporters of Israeli apartheid – to be a friend of Israel means to support the Canadian state in censoring its own people. The apartheid logic does not only exist within the borders of Israel (yet undefined), but spills into the international arena to states that see themselves as natural allies of Israel. The fact that the Ontario Legislative Assembly would deem it important to defend Israel’s human rights record speaks volumes about the nature of Canadian politics. In this manner, the grassroots work of the BDS movement inevitably grows to encompass questions of free speech and the need to defend democratic spaces in Canada from the repressive intervention of legislative bodies.

Whether these resolutions are, indeed, preparations for a full banning of IAW remains to be seen. However, the severity of the attack is an admission that IAW is effective in reaching a wide audience and in exposing apartheid Israel. Israeli Apartheid Week is growing exponentially each year. This year it hit a record number of 60 cities around the world. The arguments about Israel being an apartheid state are being heard. The condemnations from these official state bodies in Canada only puts them at odds with the move toward the recognition in international law by human rights agencies in the Middle East of the abuses of Palestinians by the Israeli state as, in fact, posed by the BDS movement.

Dealing with the “Hubs”

In their document, the Reut Institute specifically describes what they call ‘hubs of delegitimization’ and ‘catalysts’ within these hubs:

“Hubs are units of the network that have extraordinary influence on the values, priorities, and patterns of conduct of the network due to a very high number of links to other units; Catalysts are units of the network that dedicate themselves to its cause by mobilizing financial and human resources, collecting information and turning it into knowledge, developing the ideology, and serving as its organizing and orchestrating engine.”

The report then advises that Israel must focus “on the hubs of delegitimization such as London, Toronto, Madrid, or the Bay Area and undermining its catalysts.” To re-interpret the jargon of state security operatives, the report is saying Israel must focus on cities where the BDS movement is strong and try to attack key activists to stop them doing the work they do. There is nothing new in this for Israel (and it continues to carry out in violation of international law any number of extra-territorial actions in defence of Zionism). The apartheid logic does not remain contained within Israel’s borders. Israel, in order to maintain its apartheid system, must attack anyone that is successful in exposing it. The Reut document states clearly that “Israel is faced with a potentially existential threat, and must treat it as such by focusing its intelligence agencies, allocating appropriate resources, developing new knowledge, designing a strategy, and executing it.” The logic of the defence of an apartheid state, as in the case of South Africa, leads to a ratcheting up of repression.

The Reut Institute report also urges Israel to cultivate its own networks and catalysts. All indications suggest that they are failing hopelessly at this task. This year’s attempts by the pro-apartheid camp to undermine Israeli Apartheid Week were breathtakingly stupid. At the top of the list would have to be Israel’s infamous “Size Doesn’t Matter” campaign: if all Israel has to defend its actions are pictures of beaches, women in bikinis, and thinly veiled references to male organs – they are in deep trouble. The pro-Israeli students egged on to confront IAW activists and speakers show an utter lack of initiative or ability to think for themselves. In any debate, they simply recited a list of five questions they have been taught to ask seemingly without any knowledge of the region or critical capacity to engage actively in argument. In contrast, BDS student activists are producing inspiring posters and music, organizing creative actions, building solidarity with other struggles for social justice. One can hardly blame the pro-Israel students though – it is an unpleasant and impossible task to support apartheid and make it look aesthetically pleasing at the same time.

This year marks five years since the BDS call from Palestine. The successes have been plenty and the movement is gaining momentum. The fact that a report urges Israel to consider this movement an existential threat means the campaign is hitting a nerve in the apartheid psyche. Israel is not used to fighting non-military battles. But it seems they want to bring a different type of fight to the “hubs.” In true Israeli fashion the Reut institute has already mentioned the term “sabotage” and the use of “intelligence agencies” as way to harass the growing Palestinian solidarity movement and the BDS campaign. But we know we are on the right side of this struggle. So from the Toronto hub of ‘Israel delegitimization,’ we say “yalla bring it.” •

Rafeef Ziadah is a founding member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) in Toronto and an organizer of Israeli Apartheid Week. Her latest CD, “Hadeel,” can be heard and purchased at www.rafeefziadah.ca.


Footnotes

1. See “The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall,” (retrieved March 2, 2010). The Reut Institute focuses on providing strategic support to the Israeli state, often around its ‘national security’ concerns.

2. Palestinian United Call for BDS against Israel.

3. Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

4. For a detailed report on this see United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation.

5. Ibid.

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Israel Is an Apartheid State and That is Why They Are Losing Legitimacy

By admin, March 4, 2010 12:26 am
The   B u l l e t Socialist Project - home
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 320
March 4, 2010

Israel Is an Apartheid State and
That is Why They Are Losing Legitimacy

Judy Rebick

Before Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) even began members of the Ontario Legislature and the Canadian Parliament are falling all over each other to denounce it. I can’t remember another time when elected legislators formally denounced a student activity like this. Perhaps during the 1950s when McCarthyism was rampant but that was before my time.

Last week the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a resolution denouncing Israel Apartheid Week submitted by PC Peter Shure who said calling Israel an apartheid state was “close to hate speech.” While there were only 30 MPPs in the Legislature at the time, NDP MPP Cheri di Novo was one of them and spoke in favour of the resolution. This week a Conservative MP is introducing a resolution calling IAW anti-Semitic.

Before I deal with why these unprecedented attacks are taking place, I’d like to share with you a great talk I heard last night at Ryerson from Na’eem Jeena (view video below), a leading activist and academic from South Africa who works for Palestinian solidarity. He told us that South African apartheid had three pillars of apartheid and Israel shares all three.

1. Different rights for different races. In the case of Israel, it is different rights for Jews and for non-Jews. For example the law of return of 1950 says Jews can return to Israel and be given citizenship even if they have no links to the country other than mythical biblical ones; whereas Palestinians cannot return even if their parents or grandparents lived there.

2. Separation of so-called racial groups into different geographical areas. Even within the borders of Israel, 93 percent of land is reserved as a national land trust or Jewish National Fund land is for the exclusive use of Jews. The 20 percent of the population that is Palestinians living in Israel have to share access to the 7 percent of private land that is left. The Israeli Supreme Court has made a number of decisions that Palestinians cannot live on Jewish lands. There are not only residential areas that are banned to Palestinians but there are separate roads for Jews and Palestinians. That was never true in South Africa even in times of crisis. Moreover Palestinians have less access to water than Jews living nearby.

Finally the movement of Palestinians is severely restricted much more so than were blacks in South Africa. The famous pass laws in South Africa meant that blacks had to show government issued passes to move around but Palestinians are even more restricted by walls and checkpoints and if they live in the Gaza Strip can’t leave at all.

3. Security and Repression Matrix of Laws and Security. There was serious repression in the black townships but there were never tanks or planes buzzing overhead like there is in West Bank. Israeli military violence against Palestinian communities, says Jeena, is far worse than anything suffered by blacks in South Africa during apartheid.

If Israel is becoming a pariah in the world it is not because of anti-Semitism, it is because they are practicing a form of apartheid even more egregious than that practiced in South Africa. Others have compiled comments from some of the most respected leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa who see what Israel is doing as apartheid. There is a reason why the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is strongest in South Africa. People there recognize apartheid when they see it.

Finally the UN Convention on Apartheid condemns the crime of apartheid that refers to a series of inhuman acts – including murder, torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, exploitation, marginalization, and persecution – committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining the domination of one racial group by another. If the shoe fits.

So why are politicians including some from the NDP setting a student activity like IAW in their sites? An all party coalition of parliamentarians has been holding hearings on what they call the “new anti-Semitism,” by which they mean criticism of Israel. They heard from every University President who appeared before them that there is no rise of anti-Semitism on their campuses and yet the false rumours of such a rise persist because of the equation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Israel is beginning to see that the non-violent anti-apartheid and BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is a greater threat to their power than the any military threat. In Israel and Palestine, they are moving to arrest non-violent activists who are leading the movement there. And they are using all their economic and political power to push friendly governments to move against these protests. But there is a problem. It’s called democracy and freedom of speech. However much you might disagree that Israel practices apartheid, you cannot shut down a discussion of the issue or a demonstration or disinvestment campaign against Israel because freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic right in most Western countries. In Canada, the only way to shut down the movement is to vilify it as hateful or anti-Semitic. That is what our parliamentarians are now trying to do.

I am Jewish and have been working on and off for Palestinian rights for many years, as have many other Jews who feel a special responsibility to speak out against injustices committed by Israel. During that time, I have rarely experienced any anti-Semitism. In the IAW organizing, I have experienced none. If Israel is losing legitimacy in the world, it is because of what their government is doing to the Palestinians, not because of anti-Semitism. This attempt to shut down criticism of Israel is the most frightening assault on freedom of speech I have ever seen in this country. Whether or not you think Israeli Apartheid Week is the best name for this week of discussion supporting Palestinian rights, please write your MP and your MPP and tell them you think it is wrong for Parliamentarians to denounce this kind of educational activity. •

Judy Rebick is the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy and maintains a blog at transformingpower.ca where this article first appeared.

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