April 16, 2009

latuff-plasterBy Latuff

Robert Fisk: How can you trust the cowardly BBC?: The Independent

The BBC Trust is now a mouthpiece for the Israeli lobby which abused Bowen
The BBC Trust’s report on Jeremy Bowen’s dispatches from the Middle East is pusillanimous, cowardly, outrageous, factually wrong and ethically dishonest.
But I am mincing my words.
The trust – how I love that word which so dishonours everything about the BBC – has collapsed, in the most shameful way, against the usual Israeli lobbyists who have claimed – against all the facts – that Bowen was wrong to tell the truth.
Let’s go step by step through this pitiful business. Zionism does indeed instinctively “push out” the frontier. The new Israeli wall – longer and taller than the Berlin Wall although the BBC management cowards still insist its reporters call it a “security barrier” (the translation of the East German phrase for the Berlin Wall) – has gobbled up another 10 per cent of the 22 per cent of “Palestine” that Arafat/Mahmoud Abbas were supposed to negotiate. Bowen’s own brilliant book on the 1967 war, Six Days, makes this land-grab perfectly clear.
Anyone who has read the history of Zionism will be aware that its aim was to dispossess the Arabs and take over Palestine. Why else are Zionists continuing to steal Arab land for Jews, and Jews only, against all international law? Who for a moment can contradict that this defies everyone’s interpretation of international law except its own? Even when the International Court in The Hague stated that the Israeli wall was illegal – the BBC, at this point, was calling it a “fence”! – Israel simply claimed that the court was wrong.
UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 called upon Israel to withdraw its forces from territories that it occupied in the 1967 war – and it refused to do so. The Americans stated for more than 30 years that Israel’s actions were illegal – until the gutless George Bush accepted Israel had the right to keep these illegally held territories. Thus the BBC Trust – how cruel that word “trust” now becomes – has gone along with the Bush definition of Israel’s new boundaries (inside Arab land, of course).
The BBC’s preposterous committee claims that Bowen’s article “breached the rules [sic] on impartiality” because “readers might come away from the article thinking that the interpretation offered was the only sensible view of the war”.
Well, yes of course. Because I suppose the BBC believes that Israel’s claim to own land which in fact belongs to other people is another “sensible” view of the war. The BBC Trust – and I now find this word nauseous each time I tap it on my laptop – says that Bowen didn’t give evidence to prove the Jewish settlement at Har Homa was illegal. But the US authorities said so, right from the start. Our own late foreign secretary, Robin Cook – under screamed abuse from Zionists when he visited the settlement– said the same thing. The fact that the BBC Trust uses the Hebrew name for Har Homa – not the original Arab name, Jebel Abu Ghoneim – shows just how far it is now a mouthpiece for the Israeli lobby which so diligently abused Bowen.

Read this excellent piece in its entirety on the link above!

BTW, if, like Fisk (and me) you have given up on the BBC’s highly biased and censored reports on the Middle East, you can turn to the much better coverage by the English-language Al-Jazeera. You can watch it for free on your PC (or AppleMac) using a software called Livestation, which you can download (for free) from http://www.livestation.com/downloads

See below how it all started:

Leading article: Bad judgement: The Independent

The idea held in some circles that the BBC should be able to float serenely above any criticism of its news reporting has always been silly. Like any media organisation the BBC occasionally makes mistakes. And it is only right that it investigates complaints properly and apologises when it has erred. Indeed, the fact that the BBC is financed by the licence fee makes it all the more important that the Corporation is seen as accountable.
Yet the decision of the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee to censure the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, for breaching the Corporation’s guidelines on accuracy and impartiality demonstrates a terrible absence of good judgement. Mr Bowen’s work has always been scrupulously unbiased. The BBC Trust needs to learn that accountability does not mean swallowing every complaint uncritically. When a good journalist needs to be robustly defended, it must not be afraid to do so.

Israeli politics and the West: the more it changes, the more it stays the same: Dialogue Review

By Haim Bresheeth
n the wake of the criminal attack on Gaza, started by Israel on December 27, 2008, and lasting more than a month, leading to the death of around 1500 Palestinians, the wounding of many thousands, and the destruction of the infrastructure in the Gaza strip, and in the light of the results of the Israeli elections, one is advised to review the situation; this is even more urgent when one considers the growing opposition to Israel in many parts of the world, and the better understanding in many quarters of the unjust, criminal and extreme methods of Zionism, in trying to secure its continued hold over Palestine. Will Gaza lead to a change in the relationship to Israel, especially in the western democracies? What are the likely developments we can foresee as a result of public opinion and political elite changes due to the Gaza barbarities, and the new stance of the Netanyahu regime? What, if anything, has changed, and what does this change offer, or threaten?
For over four decades, ever since 1967 and the devastating war started by Israel, ending with full Israeli control over the whole of Palestine, western nations have been playing an odd and damaging game, one which in reality has made a just political solution in the Middle East all but impossible. Under the guise of different statements, policies and ideologies, one factor has remained constant – the unwavering, and unprincipled support of the Israeli political system by all Western governments, with scant (or totally absent) regard to the Palestinian people and its rights, not to mention its plight. During this whole period, and in the face of numerous UN and Security Council resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories of Palestine, and to vacate its illegal settlements, Israel was able to continue settling the said territories, with wanton disregard of the UN, the Security Council, the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and too many international convention to list here, notably those on torture, nuclear proliferation, Chemical and Biological weapons and war crimes, to mention the main ones. One can hardly think of any other regime on earth which has broken, negated or ignored international law more systematically than Israel: it has invaded and conquered four of its neighbouring countries (it is still occupying territories which belong, or belonged to all four), it has attacked installations in a number of other countries, such as Tunisia, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, and had developed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction with total impunity, not to mention the active support from France, UK and USA.

Read the whole artricle on the link above

The Palestinian question, the Kurdish movement and the Turkish left: Dialogue Review

By Kenan Kalyon
f one first cursorily glances at the Palestinian question, one can analyse it very simply as a “national question” of a well known kind: it shows almost all the features that are specific to a national struggle since, basically, two peoples exist. One of them is oppressed, the other one is the oppressor. The Palestinian nation has been fighting for decades for its right to self-determination and it has repeatedly been granted that right by international legal bodies.
According to a well known argument, there is one single, straightforward solution: the oppressor people must recognise the right of the oppressed people along with all the consequences and independent Palestine must be created on the Gaza and West Bank territories to join in the family of States existing around the world. The Turkish Left considers that the solution is that simple. If, however one gives the Palestinian solution a more in-depth examination, one can perceive that such simplification is – in this case – incorrect, and that the Palestinian question belongs to quite a different category than other national questions. Why?
First, we are facing not a regional but a “universal” question. “Universal” because it is neither an Arab versus Israeli conflict, nor a conflict which would simply be tied to the status of Jerusalem (for the three religions).
This question is actually based on a global, especially Western, question: the “Jewish question”. During the process of formation of Nation-States that saw nationalisms gain ground, the Jews became the chosen targets of the mounting bourgeoisies. They were repressed, turned out of their homes, systematically destroyed. The Dreyfus trial took place even in a country with a revolutionary, secular and republican tradition such as France. In many countries, hostility against the Jews turned into the mounting wave of racism and fascism. We know much about the Holocaust implemented by the Nazis. Zionism put this curse to use in order to become a majority trend among the Jews, which led to the foundation of the Israeli State.
Thus, as the Western world had failed to solve its own “Jewish question”, and above all, had exported it abroad, the Jewish populations turned to the task of finding a new homeland. And thus it was that the Palestinians were preyed on in their turn by the Jews. The Palestinian question is a universal question for just that reason.
In that framework, we must give a radical answer to the following question: is the State of Israel legitimate? Can a State that deprives a people of its homeland be legitimate? What is the root of the legitimacy of that State which continues to systematically settle colonists in territories on to which it relentlessly expands? The more so a it is a Theocratic State?

New book – Sabra and Shatila 9781438964027_cover.indd

At this time of the 60th commemoration for the 1948 Palestinian Nakba/ethnic cleansing of 88% of the Palestinian Arab population from what became the Zionist State of Israel, this second edition of the documentary study ‘Sabra & Shatila’ brings us to contemplate the ‘pogrom’ of these refugee camps resulting in some 3,000 deaths over a three-day period. The orginal edition, in 1984, gave a voice for the Jewish oppositon to the rampage and tragedy of Zionism.

About the Author
Abraham Weizfeld is an activist, since 1967, with the Palestinian and socialist movements of Canada and Québec, including Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal. Raised in a refugee Jewish family of parents who escaped the ghettos of Warsaw and Lublin, he carries the heritage of the Jewish Workers’ Bund of Warsaw, a socialist Jewish movement that contested the Zionist minority tendency in the Jewish political culture. His two published works are Sabra and Shatila (1984, 2009) and The End of Zionism: and the liberation of the Jewish People (Clarity, 1989), and anthology of Jewish dissident writings. A new edition by Clarity Press will become available.
After meeting Yasser Arafat in Beirut, during the 1980 solidarity conference, he worked as assistant to the unofficial Palestine Embassy during the first Israel invasion of Lebanon in 1982-85. His doctoral thesis accepted in the Département de science politique at the Université du Québec à Montréal, in 2005 with the Faculté de science politique et droit, critiqued the Hegelian concept of ‘Nation-State’. The Thesis is entitled ‘Nation, Society and The State: the reconciliation of Palestinian and Jewish Nationhood’. Co-founder of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians, Weizfeld works to build the international Jewish opposition.

Scottish Palestine campaigners fight charges of “racial motivation”: SPSC

Five Palestine supporters arrested last year for disrupting a concert by an Israeli group are due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday.
The campaigners, all members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), stood up during the Aug 29th Edinburgh Festival performance of the Jerusalem Quartet and made statements including “End the Siege of Gaza—Boycott Israel!”
The campaigners were originally charged with Breach of the Peace, and had been due to be tried on March 9th. However, at an Intermediate Diet one week before the trial, the Procurator Fiscal made a motion to desert that case and bring forward new charges that their Israeli boycott protest was “racially motivated”.
Sofia MacLeod, SPSC Secretary, and one of the five accused said, “Given the absurd nature of a charge clearly designed to criminalise the growing campaign to boycott Apartheid Israel until it respects Palestinian human rights, rather than oppose the new charges, we welcomed the opportunity to highlight that to boycott Israel is the opposite of racist.”
Late last year, the UN General Assembly President, Miguel d’escoto Brockmann, was condemned by pro-Israel groups when he described Israel as “apartheid” and recommended that the UN follow “the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign [to that used against Apartheid South Africa] of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”
Campaign chair and fellow accused, Mick Napier, said, “The International Court of Justice advised in 2004 that signatories to the Geneva Conventions (including the UK) have an obligation to act to ensure that Israel dismantles its illegal settlements and the Apartheid separation wall that steals yet more Palestinian land.
“With the complete failure by the UK and other governments to fulfill those obligations, Israel feels able to break international law with impunity. The devastating result is what we saw in Gaza earlier this year with a death toll in excess of 1300, including 300 children. If our government won’t act to uphold international law, the responsibility falls on ordinary citizens through our power of protest and boycott.”

Netanyahu calls for recognition: BBC

Israel’s new PM says he will discuss a Palestinian state only if Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
Benjamin Netanyahu was speaking to US President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Middle East about prospects for peace.
Mr Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud party, has not previously endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state.
The envoy, George Mitchell, reiterated US support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, in talks with the Israeli president and foreign minister.
But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the diplomatic process was at a “dead end” and a new approach was needed.
A senior official in Mr Netanyahu’s office quoted the new prime minister as telling Mr Mitchell: “Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognise Israel as a Jewish state before talking about two states for two peoples.”
The US envoy is having dinner with Mr Netanyahu on Thursday before travelling to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian leaders on Friday.
Mutual doubts
Mr Mitchell arrived in Israel to a changed political landscape, says the BBC’s Tim Franks in Jerusalem.
Senior Israeli and Palestinian figures doubt each other’s ability and will to come to a full peace deal, our correspondent adds.
In a BBC interview, Israeli deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon confirmed that the new government was committed to the 2003 roadmap peace plan, which outlines a staged peace process leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

First they wanted the PLO to recognise Israel. That done, nothing happened. Now they want them to recognise it as a Jewish State. Good luck – I do not recognise this myself, so why should the Palestinians? Next, they will be asked to speak Yiddish only. Then, he may talk to them.

About what? About Yiddish culture, I suppose. The Isrtaeli game is one of moving the goalpost towards the horizon, constantly and carefully, so that you do not notice it ever moved, just that you are always at the same impossible distance from anything resembling a solution. I reckon the Palestinians should demand that Israel recognises that Palestine is an Arab country, instead.

Netanyahu demands Palestinians recognize ‘Jewish state’: Ha’aretz

By Akiva Eldar, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, and ReutersPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Thursday that his government would condition talks over Palestinian statehood on the Palestinians first recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. “Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognize Israel as a Jewish state before talking about two states for two peoples,” a senior official in Netanyahu’s office quoted the new prime minister as telling Mitchell, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East. Another Israeli official said Netanyahu saw Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state as “a crucial element in moving forward with the political dialogue”. Mitchell had been expected to ask the prime minister during their meeting to clarify Israel’s position regarding the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria. In back-to-back meetings with Israeli leaders, Mitchell stressed Obama’s commitment to the goal of a two-state solution, “in which a Palestinian state is living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel”, to end the decades-old conflict. “That is our objective. That is what we will pursue vigorously in the coming months,” Mitchell said. Meanwhile, a decision has been made in Washington to follow a regional peace plan that will be based on the Arab peace initiative, bolstered by international security guarantees for Israel. Under this plan, Arab states will proceed with normalization of their ties to Israel in parallel with progress in the negotiations to be held on the Palestinian and Syrian tracks.

IAF destroys booby-trapped Gaza building near Israel border: Ha’aretz

The Israel Air Force on Thursday destroyed a booby-trapped building in Gaza close to the security fence along the border with Israel, the army said. The airstrike was the first such attack in the Hamas-ruled territory in over a month. It came after Gaza militants fired a Qassam rocket into Israel on Wednesday, ending a two-week lull in cross-border rocket fire. Residents said that no one was wounded in the attack.

The house was empty at the time of the blast, residents and officials of the Hamas Islamist group said. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday evening that Israel would consider its response to the rocket attack on the Negev. “This evening, a lone rocket [was launched] in the direction of Kibbutz Magen. It is still unclear as to who fired it, but after the Mimouna, we will weigh how we need to respond,” Barak said.

Livni to Mitchell: We don’t gain from stagnant peace process: Ha’aretz

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni told visiting United States envoy George Mitchell on Thursday that lack of progress in the peace process was not to Israel’s benefit. The opposition leader, who negotiated with the Palestinian Authority toward a peace accord as foreign minister in Israel’s last government, also told Mitchell that Israel must determine its borders at the same time as fighting terror. Livni’s comments came shortly after her replacement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, told George Mitchell that a different approach was needed to solve the Middle East conflict, because that of past Israeli governments had failed. “New ideas” must be found, because the path taken by previous governments did not lead to “good places, to say the least,” Lieberman told Mitchell, who arrived in Israel Wednesday night.
This was Mitchell’s third round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah since his appointment, and the first during the tenure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A statement released by Lieberman’s office quoted the minister as saying, “Past prime ministers were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions and the result of the Olmert-Livni government was the second Lebanon war, the operation in Gaza, severance of relations with Qatar and Mauritania, [abducted Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit still in captivity and the peace process at a dead end.” In response, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it means Israel will not conduct peace talks. “It’s very obvious that this government rejects a two-state solution and the agreements [already] signed,” he told The Associated Press by telephone.

Court: Dichter cannot be sued in U.S. over 2002 Gaza bombing: Ha’aretz

A New York federal appeals court said on Thursday that former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter cannot be sued in the United States for 15 deaths in a Gaza City bombing. The court said the former security official was immune under common law from being held responsible for the July 2002 bombing of an apartment complex. Dichter was director of the Shin Bet at the time. A lower court rejected a 2005 lawsuit. It sought class action status for bombing survivors and victims’ families. The families tried to sue under laws used by Holocaust survivors and relatives of people killed or tortured under despotic regimes.

I expect nothing else from a New York courthouse.

A marginal matter: Ha’aretz

By Gideon Levy
The 18th Knesset is different from all its predecessors. It is the first that does not have a Jewish MK whose guiding principle is the struggle against the occupation. Since the 7th Knesset, the first to be elected after the Six-Day War, we have not had a parliament like this one, devoid of Jewish anti-occupation activists. As such, the new Knesset precisely reflects the popular zeitgeist, in which the occupation is completely missing from the national agenda, and there is no reason to disturb our legislators with the issue. Nonetheless, the fact that the most pivotal issue facing our country and society does not warrant a solitary feeble voice, the fact that not even one Jewish MK, let alone one Zionist party in the Knesset, was elected to battle the occupation cannot but arouse surprise and concern. We have representatives for the environmentalists and settlers, the religious and social-welfare issues, for feminists, gays and people with disabilities. Only the occupation has been left without a voice.

There was always at least one Knesset party that raised this banner. There were always MKs who viewed this as their central issue. Now the occupation has nothing. Even the Jewish MK from Hadash waves the green flag only. Meretz has three MKs – one environmentalist, one waving the social-welfare banner, one focused on the economy. None represent the most important struggle of all. The occupation remains the domain of the marginalized Arab parties in the Knesset. This is a shameful development for Israeli democracy, one in which 120 witnesses can attest to the Knesset’s hollowness. At a time when half the world is preoccupied with the Israeli occupation, the Israeli voters make their position clear: This struggle does not interest them in the least. The occupation can wait. Our decline to this state was gradual. From the 1970s, when the conversation at every Friday night gather quickly turned into an charged, emotional discussion over “the future of the territories,” when it was said that for every two Israelis there were three opinions, we have reached the point where for every Israeli there is barely one opinion, certainly with regard to the future of this country’s dark backyard.

Hamas murals depict abducted IDF soldier Shalit in 30 years: Ha’aretz

Hamas members painting the Gilad Shalit mural Wednesday

Hamas members painting the Gilad Shalit mural Wednesday

By Haaretz ServiceHamas militants painted murals of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit and missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad Wednesday night in the Jabalyah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The graffiti portrays Shalit as he looks in 2009 next to a mock-up of how the soldier will look after another 30 years in captivity, his hair grey and his face beset by wrinkles. The murals were painted during a demonstration held to mark Prisoners’ Day, presumably in a bid to tilt Israeli public opinion in favor of a prisoner exchange with Hamas. During a rally held four months ago to mark the 21st anniversary of the founding of Hamas, the Islamic group performed a skit where an operative dressed in an IDF uniform mimicked Shalit, portraying the soldier complaining in Hebrew about how he “misses mommy and daddy.”

Singer Leonard Cohen to perform in Israel: Ha’aretz

After countless rumors and anxious anticipation, Leonard Cohen will arrive in Israel this coming September, as part of his European tour. According to the singer’s official forum, Cohen, who will turn 75 later this year, is expected to perform in Israel on September 24th. An attorney for Marcel Abraham, who will produce the concert, confirmed to Haaretz that the Israeli gig will indeed take place, and said that he has received an E-mail finalizing Cohen’s arrival. Although the location of the event has yet to be determined, Abraham’s attorney Hagi Schterweiss said Ramat Gan stadium is being considered as a possible venue. Schterweiss concluded by saying he expects the concert will be one of the best ever to have taken place in Israel.

BRICUP is sending Cohen aletter requesting that he desists from this rash step of playing for murderers and war criminal in the state of occupation. Check BRICUP to sign petition.

Peres: Talk of IDF attack on Iran is ‘not true’: Ha’aretz

President Shimon Peres on Thursday dismissed speculations that Israel is planning to attack Iran over its contentious nuclear program.
Peres told visiting U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell that the key to containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions would not be found in a military realm. “All the talk about a possible attack by Israel on Iran is not true,” said Peres. “The solution in Iran is not military.” He said that progress with Iran depended on international cooperation and exploring whether dialogue presented a real opportunity or if Tehran was just stalling, according to a statement from Peres’ office. During their talks, Mitchell assured Peres that the U.S. is committed to Israel’s security as well as a two-state solution. The U.S. envoy is plannning to meet later Thursday with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president’s remarks came days after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that an Israeli attack would not end Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, in a report released by the U.S. Army Times. Gates told U.S. Marine Corps students in Quantico, VA that the use of military action would only unify the divisive elements in Iran and enflame hatred toward Israel.

If Peres is already dismissing it, then the attack is almost certain…

Hundreds of Muslim protesters block Jewish entry to Temple Mount: Ha’aretz

Hundreds of Muslims gathered Thursday at the foot of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, to prevent Jewish worshippers from entering the Temple Mount for a planned prayer service. The Muslim protesters began arriving Wednesday evening, gathering on the slope leading to the Temple Mount area. The rise, which overlooks the Western Wall, is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims, and houses a sacred site for both religions. The Islamic Movement had opposed the prayer session, and police said they would allow the Jews to pray on the Mount, but not to engage in any other activities in the area.

The rhetoric of “peace”: The Electronic Intifada

Ziyaad Lunat

Benjamin Netanyahu's promise of "economic peace" means the beginning of a new stage of colonization. (Moti Milrod/MaanImages)

Benjamin Netanyahu's promise of "economic peace" means the beginning of a new stage of colonization. (Moti Milrod/MaanImages)

The Israelis have offered the Palestinians many types of “peace.” Their first attempt to reach out to the Palestinians was in 1948 with an offer of a “racist peace.” Ethnic cleansing was the basis of a “racist peace” where Zionist terrorists drove out two thirds of the Palestinian population from their homes. Its logic was that expulsion would end strife between Zionists and Palestinians (by eliminating one side) enabling the Zionists to enjoy peace in an ethnic Jewish haven. The Palestinians, stubborn as they were, refused a racist Zionist state as the basis for “peace.”
Israel relentlessly extended its hand to the Palestinians offering them a “military peace” instead. Deterrence was the basis of a “military peace” where a Zionist state armed to the teeth would instill fear in the hearts of the Palestinians. Its logic was that through military deterrence the Palestinians would accept their condition of displacement. Soon after their expulsion in 1948, Palestinian refugees continuously attempted to return to their properties. The Zionists initiated a campaign of reprisals to deny their right to return. Hundreds were killed in this way, massacres included Qibya in 1953, Lebanon in 1982, Jenin in 2002 and Gaza in 2009. Palestinians however rejected Zionist military domination as the basis for “peace.”
While the above two peace offers were crude, Israel devised an “apartheid peace” as a more elaborate proposal to the Palestinians, hoping they would finally reciprocate. Physical separation between Jews and Arab Palestinians was the basis for an “apartheid peace.” Its logic was that the Palestinians would be given limited autonomy to manage their internal affairs and build their own institutions but their demands would have to eventually fall short of full sovereignty. Some Palestinians were co-opted in signing the Oslo accords in 1993, accepting apartheid as the basis for “peace.”

Punitive house demolitions as “deterrence”: The Electronic Intifada

Marian Houk

Palestinians inspect the house of a Palestinian fighter after it was demolished by Israeli troops during a military operation in the West Bank town of Sedia near Tulkarem, March 2008. (Mouid Ashqar/MaanImages)

Palestinians inspect the house of a Palestinian fighter after it was demolished by Israeli troops during a military operation in the West Bank town of Sedia near Tulkarem, March 2008. (Mouid Ashqar/MaanImages)

By the time we arrived in Sur Bahir, a Palestinian village near Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on the afternoon of 7 April, it was calm. At the entrance to the village, in a small traffic circle where three olive trees were planted, there were rocks all over the road, the only sign of what had happened suddenly earlier that day. Everything was all over, but the grief and the anger. At 6am, some 2,000 Israeli border police and special forces and other personnel descended on the village to demolish a wing of a house that belonged to the family of a Palestinian construction worker who allegedly went on a rampage while operating a bulldozer last July. Three Israelis were killed and dozens injured before the bulldozer driver, Husam Taysir Dwayat, was stopped when he was shot by passers-by. He was then finished off by a special elite mobile unit of trained sharp-shooters who ride around Jerusalem on black motorcycles with red military license plates, wearing black helmets and black jackets, and carrying black weapons slung across their chests and shoulders.
There was little hesitation by Israeli officials, journalists and society at large before they asserted that this had been a terror attack. It was not thought for a moment that it might have been an accident, or a mistake gone badly wrong. There was a later suggestion that the driver was drug-dependent and was having sudden withdrawal symptoms, but that was not reported in the mainstream media. According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, “lawyers for the Dwayat family argued that he was suffering from a mental illness.” Meanwhile, the family of the driver has maintained that Dwayat was innocent and that he did not intend to attack. Nevertheless, there were immediate calls for the demolition of Dwayat’s family home, which was carried out last week.

The quintessential Palestinian experience: The Electronic Intifada

Laila El-Haddad writing from the United States, Live from Palestine

Laila El-Haddad and her daughter, Noor, in the US in 2008.

Laila El-Haddad and her daughter, Noor, in the US in 2008.

“Its not very comfortable in there is it?” said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head. “Its OK. We’re fine,” I replied wearily, delirious after being awake for 30 hours straight. “You could be in there for days you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?”
It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for three months.
The trips to the outdoor recreation store in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The insect repellent, the mosquito netting, the water purifier, the potty toppers for my kids and the granola bars and portion-sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself, just in case I got stuck at the crossing. The crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now.
In addition packing the suitcases, we were also packing up our house — my husband Yassine was finishing up his residency at Duke University and set to start a medical fellowship at Johns Hopkins in July. In the meantime, we were “closing shop,” putting our things in storage, selling the rest, and heading overseas: me to Gaza, my husband to Lebanon to visit his family; and eventually I was to meet him there (assuming I could get into Gaza, and then assuming I could get out). Yassine is a third-generation Palestinian refugee from the village of Waarit al-Siris in northern historic Palestine; he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and holds a laissez passer for Palestinian refugees. Israel denies him return to his own home — or even to the home of his spouse in Gaza. So when we go overseas, we often go our separate ways; we cannot live legally, as a unit, as a family, in our own homes.

Aid rots outside Gaza: The Electronic Intifada

Erin Cunningham

AL-ARISH, Egypt (IPS) – Hundreds of thousands of tons of aid intended for the Gaza Strip is piling up in cities across Egypt’s North Sinai region, despite recent calls from the United Nations to ease aid flow restrictions to the embattled territory in the wake of Israel’s 22-day assault. Food, medicine, blankets, infant food and other supplies for Gaza’s 1.5 million people, coming from governments and non-governmental agencies around the world, are being stored in warehouses, parking lots, stadiums and on airport runways across Egypt’s North Sinai governorate.
Egypt shares a 14-kilometer border with Gaza that has been closed more or less permanently since the Islamist movement Hamas took control of the territory in June 2007. Flour, pasta, sugar, coffee, chocolate, tomato sauce, lentils, date bars, juice, chickpeas, blankets, hospital beds, catheter tubes and other humanitarian-based items are all sitting in at least eight storage points in and around al-Arish, a city in North Sinai approximately 50 kilometers from Gaza’s border. Three months after the end of the war, much of the aid has either rotted or been irreparably damaged as a result of both rain and sunshine, and Egypt’s refusal to open the Rafah crossing. “To be honest, most of this aid will never make it to Gaza,” a local government official told IPS on condition of anonymity. “A lot of the food here will have to be thrown away.” The Gaza Strip was the target of Israel’s three-week operation codenamed “Cast Lead,” where both the enclave’s civilian population and an already decrepit infrastructure were pummeled by powerful Israeli weaponry, leaving some 1,400 dead and over 5,000 injured by the time a unilateral ceasefire was called by Israel 18 January.

Finding a sense of home in “Salt of this Sea”: The Electronic Intifada

Maymanah Farhat

A scene from Salt of this Sea

A scene from Salt of this Sea

Annemarie Jacir’s Salt of this Sea (2008) is the first full-length feature film by a Palestinian female director. Since its world premier at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, it has toured the world and is scheduled to screen at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York at the end of the month. Originally from Bethlehem, Jacir is a central figure of contemporary Palestinian cinema. In recent years she has established herself as an apt experimental filmmaker with such poignant shorts as like twenty impossibles (2003) and An Explanation (then burn the ashes) (2005), while demonstrating her talents as an exceptional cinematographer in the stunning documentary A Few Crumbs for the Birds (2005), a collaboration with Nassim Amaouche. As a curator she has been instrumental in supporting the work of her colleagues in the global scene, most notably by co-founding Dreams of a Nation, an independent collective that promotes and documents Palestinian filmmaking.
Aspiring to be the first Palestinian “heist film,” the plot of Salt of this Sea focuses on Soraya (Suheir Hammad), a Palestinian woman born in Brooklyn who travels to Ramallah to retrieve the savings her grandfather left in a local bank prior to his expulsion in 1948. Disconcerted and disturbed by the reality she finds in Palestine, Soraya’s frustration quickly turns to indignation after encountering incessant bureaucracy (a byproduct of the occupation) and a bank manager who downplays her insistence on retrieving her grandfather’s funds. With the help of Emad (Saleh Bakri), a charming waiter who anxiously awaits the opportunity to study abroad, and Marwan (Riyad Ideis), a laid-back filmmaker, she devises to rob the bank in order to recover the money. Once their plan is executed they have no choice but to live on the run, heading for Jerusalem before making their way to the coast and arriving at Soraya’s family home in the port-city of Jaffa.
Shortly after their arrival, Soraya finds her grandfather’s home and is invited in by the Israeli woman who now lives there. While she sees remnants of the home her grandfather built, with its ornate tiles that line the floor and old wooden doors, she is confronted with a jarring experience — the space has been completely transformed by an Israeli artist who, although against the occupation, dismisses Soraya’s claims of ownership of the house. The woman is in her late 20s or early 30s, the same age as Soraya, an apparent comment on the disparities between the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. This scenario recalls the real life event of pioneering female painter Tamam al-Akhal who returned to her family home in Jaffa after being expelled in 1948 only to find that an Israeli female artist had converted it into a home/gallery.

The transportation branch of the French multinational corporation Veolia just lost a contract worth 750 millions euros in Bordeaux.
This contract was about the management of the biggest urban network in France. It went to Keolis, a subsidiary of SNCF.
The Greater Bordeaux local government said that its decision was based on commercial factors, but the implication of Veolia in a controversial tramway project in Jerusalem (the “Jerusalem light railway”) provoked intense debates everywhere.
Indeed French corporations Veolia and Alstom have been called into question for several years because of their participation in a project to build a tramway in Jerusalem, designed to link West Jerusalem (Israel) with illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This contract has caused great controversy on the political ethics of Veolia.
The General Manager for France of Veolia Transport, Francis Grass, said that Veolia has “very important questions […], the feeling that things are not done fairly” … In fact, Veolia’s involvement in the situation of apartheid has already lead to the loss of several contracts, and this is just the beginning.
BDS group Bordeaux
(The BDS campaign – it stands for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions- aims at isolating the state of Israel as long as it does not obey international law)

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