April 24, 2009

Another muted scream: The Electronic Intifada

Sayed Mohamed Dhansay

Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahme in a Ramallah hospital after he was killed on 17 April 2009. (activestills.org)

Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahme in a Ramallah hospital after he was killed on 17 April 2009. (activestills.org)

He stands on a small sandy hilltop wearing a bright yellow t-shirt, cigarette in hand. He is calling out to the soldiers on the other side of the fence “Do not shoot, do not shoot. There are children and internationals here, do not shoot.” Thin white wisps of tear gas linger in the gentle breeze, a moment of calm in the confrontation. Suddenly a tear gas canister whizzes past the camera making an audible “clunk” as it hits something to the right. He tries to let out a scream, but all he manages is a stifled yelp. One can almost hear his breath being cut short as the projectile punctures his chest. Another muted scream of pain. He falls to the ground then jumps up quickly, running a few steps before collapsing again. His body rolls a few times as he hits the ground, his limbs flapping loosely underneath him. Two fellow demonstrators run to him, looking almost surprised and unsure of what has just happened. They turn him over, lifting his shirt and calling his name. But he is unresponsive. His eyes are open but his body lies motionless. His bright yellow shirt now quickly growing a wet red stain over his heart. And so the occupied people of Palestine sacrifice yet another one of their young men. Another one. Again. Just like that. In an instant. Caught live on camera for the world to see. Twenty-nine-year-old Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahme was later pronounced dead at Ramallah hospital on Friday 17 April 2009 after being shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier. A faceless, nameless soldier who will likely never have to explain or account for taking the life of another human being. Basem posed no threat to the security of Israel as he stood atop that hill. He was not armed, nor was he throwing stones. Ironically, he was calling out to the Israeli forces to hold their fire because children and internationals were present, when he was shot. He was involved in a nonviolent demonstration when his own life was so violently taken. Basem is the 18th Palestinian to be killed in nonviolent anti-wall protests in the West Bank since 2004.

Who wants to talk to Hamas?: BBC

Hamas's political leader in Damascus hosts European parliamentarians

Hamas's political leader in Damascus hosts European parliamentarians

Hamas has had more international visitors since US President Barack Obama came to power, and there are signs that the international community is reconsidering its boycott of the Islamist group. Groups of lawmakers from the UK and EU, travelling independently, have made widely publicised visits to Hamas’s exiled leader in Damascus in recent months. Ahmad Youssef, an advisor close to the Islamist movement’s political leaders in Gaza, says official representatives of European governments have also come calling – and not just the Norwegians who have long had contact with Hamas. Mr Youssef says such delegations seem to be “getting the green light from the Americans”. “They are more courageous than during the Bush administration,” he insists. Most of the international community backs Israel’s view that Hamas is a terrorist group, and refuses to deal directly with it. But calls for a rethink have increased since Mr Obama came to power. Some believe there are signs of a subtle change in mood.

Palestinian water crisis deepens: BBC

A World Bank report blames Palestinian mismanagement and Israeli restrictions for severe water shortages in Palestinian areas. Palestinians get only a quarter of the water Israelis have access to. The existing problems affect not just daily supply but the development of water resources, water uses and wastewater management. “Water related humanitarian crisis are in fact chronic in Gaza and parts of the West Bank,” says the report. For their water Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are completely depended on scarce resources controlled by Israel. This has led to “systematic and severe constraints on Palestinian development of water resources”, says the report. But the Palestinian Authority (PA) too gets part of the blame. It is struggling to establish even a basic water infrastructure and management, concludes the report. Water supplies continue to “operate in a very inefficient emergency mode, with far reaching economic, social and environmental consequences”.

Racism conference groups expelled: BBC

The UN has expelled three groups from an anti-racism conference in connection with a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The groups – two Jewish and one Iranian – had been expelled for “unacceptable behaviour”, a spokesman said. Mr Ahmedinejad’s speech, in which he called Israel a racist regime, overshadowed the five-day conference. As he was delivering it, a pair of protesters dressed in wigs threw red noses at him while others shouted. The speech also prompted EU delegates to walk out of the conference. The groups banned from the event are the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), Coexist – a non-governmental organisation affiliated to UEJF – and the Iranian Neda Institute for Political and Scientific Research, UN spokesman Rupert Colville said.

Iran: Ahmadinejad welcomed home: BBC

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has returned home to what has officially been described as a sensational welcome. This follows his controversial speech at a UN anti-racism conference. European delegates walked out when he described Israel as a racist state. France called his address a “hate speech”, while the US called it “vile”. Some countries had boycotted the conference because the Iranian president was appearing. But Iranian state media described Mr Ahmadinejad as the superstar of the conference. According to Iran’s official news agency, a crowd gathered at Tehran airport from the early hours, reports the BBC’s John Leyne in Tehran. When Mr Ahmadinejad emerged they created what the agency called a “very sensational scene” to welcome him home. One pro-government paper said the president had shot the last bullet into the brain of the West. Government opponents have chosen, or been prevented, from making any open criticism, our correspondent adds, although some papers hinted at their scepticism by describing his speech as “controversial”.

UN ‘regrets’ Ahmadinejad speech: BBC

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “misused” an anti-racism conference at which he called Israel a racist state. The Iranian president’s speech sparked wide condemnation and a walkout by EU delegates. Iran criticised Mr Ban’s comments as “one-sided”. The UN said Mr Ahmadinejad had dropped language from his speech describing the Holocaust as “ambiguous and dubious”. Meanwhile, conference delegates adopted a resolution against racism. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the declaration, which also covered issues such as xenophobia and intolerance, was an answer to Mr Ahmadinejad’s tirade. She said the document included a line stating that “the Holocaust must never be forgotten,” and that Iran, as a participating state, had signed up to it. But the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the controversy surrounding the Iranian president’s comments turned what should have been a shining example of the UN at its best into a bitter and divisive farce.

“IDF entertainment group singing Israel’s favourite songs” is to perform at artsdepot this Tuesday, 28 April at 8 pm. More info below. This propaganda stunt for the Israeli army, so close after the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, is unacceptable. While Palestinians are dying in Gaza because of the siege imposed by the Israeli army, the planned Israel 61 celebrations is like dancing on their graves. Most aid is still denied by the siege imposed by the Israeli army. Even drawing and colouring material IFY had sent last month to the traumatised children in Yibna refugee camp in Gaza was barred by the Israeli imposed siege. Israel 61 is celebrating the 61 years most of the 1.5 million Palestinians have been forced to live as refugees. They became refugees 61 years when they were ethnic cleansed from their homes which led to the creation of Israel and they are still denied their right of return. Also, the unrelenting Israeli attacks on the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem is no cause for celebration.

Protest: Write to artsdepot – see details below. Join the protest, starting from 7pm – see details below.

Victory: Bloomsbury Venue cancelled The event was cancelled at Bloomsbury Theatre. This victory against the Israel 61 was reported in the Guardian.

New Venue The Israel 61 event is now moved to artsdepot at North Finchley. The venue is still kept secrete by the organiser, the Zionist Federation [ZF]. Even this morning, 24 April, the Jewish Chronicle still claims: “It will now take place at a secret location in north London” [see here]. Meanwhile we had already launched our public campaign and had already received responses from the artsdepot [see more details below]. The immense anger at the plans to celebrate Israel 61 made us determined to expose this secret location. Thanks to all those who helped find out the new venue, enabling us to inform the venue that the IDF is part of the program, in spite of it no longer being advertised on the ZF website [see here] and launch protests against this grotesque celebration.

Letters to artsdepot We have already exchanged communication with the artsdepot Charles.McKenzie@artsdepot.co.uk , Charles McKenzie, Head of Business Development 020 8369 5471. A summary of the issues will be sent later. One of the issues is that inspite of reports in the Guardian that the IDF will be performing [see link] and the Jewish Chronicle promotes it as “Civvies: Members of the IDF entertainment troupe who are due to take part in the Zionist Federation show, wearing their own clothes” [see http://www.thejc.com/articles/banned-do-they-offend-you <http://www.thejc.com/articles/banned-do-they-offend-you> ], the artsdepot is denying this. It appears the artsdepot relies on the performers and audience not wearing uniform at artsdepot, which is unsatisfactory. So far artsdepot has failed to provide firm details of its claims.

Protest from 7pm 1. Date: Tuesday 28 April 2. Time: Start from 7pm, 3. Location: outside artsdepot at: 5 Nether St, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley N12 0GA. Tube: Northern Line (High Barnet branch) – any of the 3 tube stations: West Finchley, Finchley Central and Woodside Park Buses: 82, 125, 134, 221, 263, 460 4. If you wish, bring your own poster [to ensure the audience is aware of your views]. 5. If you wish, bring your own sound instruments [to ensure the audience hear you]. When protesting we will especially remember the situation of our friends in Yibna refugee camp in Gaza, which gets worse and worse. Earlier this week, a coalition of International Aid Agencies including Oxfam highlighted the continuing inhumane blockade of Gaza by the Israelis, stating that months after the Israeli military offensive, the world stands by while the people of Gaza remain in a state of continuing humanitarian crisis. UNICEF and the UN World Health Organisation this week were alarmed by the increasing numbers of children suffering from acute malnutrition and the trend is deteriorating rapidly. The Zionist Federation compared the show to the BBC 1970’s comedy It Ain’t Half Hot Mum set in the pre-independence Asian sub-continent. Initially their publicity pictured uniformed IDF soldiers, but this was then changed to pictures of these soldiers in civvies. After the event had been cancelled in Bloomsbury Theatre it was re-arranged at the artsdepot, which the Zionist Federation embarrassingly refused to disclose. To paraphrase a more enlightened BBC Comedy, I can’t believe there is a funny side to this grotesque celebration after the slaughter of hundreds of women and children in Gaza by the very same Israeli Army that is promoting a song and dance troupe. Yael Kahn Chair of Islington Friends of Yibna [IFY] Islington_Yibna@yahoo.co.uk 07880 731 865

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