May 2009

May 31, 2009

Nadim Rouhana: This suppression is symbolic of a state that fears its past: The Independent

For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, life is becoming a collective Kafkaesque experience. For years, their state has been determined to buttress its Jewish identity by legal, constitutional, cultural, and political means, in spite of the fact that one in five of its residents is an Arab. This latest series of bills is just another part of that effort. In addition to the discrimination they already face in all walks of life, Palestinians will not be able to mourn the Nakba, the loss of their homeland, or express their opposition to Israel as a Jewish state. It is not only that they have been excluded from belonging to their homeland, which has been claimed by people who immigrated there and made exclusively Jewish; it is not only that their people have been expelled, occupied or dispersed to all corners of the world; it is not only that they are legally unequal citizens and even treated as enemies in many areas of life by the very state in which they are citizens. They also have to accept this reality: express loyalty, show no opposition, and even refrain from mourning their loss in public. The expression of the natural feelings of losing their people and homeland, the yearning to rectify injustice, and the quest to transform Israel into a democratic state will be criminalised and punishable by law if the bills are enacted. The Arab citizens have to accept Jewish superiority anchored in constitution and law, accept that their homeland is not really theirs. They have to stop being themselves if they are to avoid being punished by the Jewish state; they have to stop being human altogether. People are short of words to describe what is happening in Israel. It is becoming clear that Israel is fearful not only about the future, it is most fearful about history – and for a reason. Israel can suppress among its Jewish citizens – those who enjoy the privileges of superiority and of taking over a whole homeland – the history of the Nakba and the reality of its continuation for every Palestinian. But Israel must believe that Palestinians are subhuman if it thinks that it can suppress their feelings about the Nakba and their desire for democracy and equality and the yearning for the return of their people. For Israel to face its fear of the future it must first face history. Instead, in defiance of human nature, it is hopelessly seeking to suppress it. The author is the director of the Arab Centre for Applied Social Research in Haifa, Israel, and a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Boston

Leading article: Thought crimes in Israel: The Independent

Any hope that bringing Israel’s right wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu, into government and making its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister would blunt its extremist edge has been rudely shattered. Barely had the ink dried on the coalition agreement than one of the party’s members introduced a bill making it punishable by three years’ imprisonment for any Israeli Arab to mark Nakba, the Palestinian day of mourning for lost lands which coincides with Israel’s independence day. At the same time, Yisrael Beiteinu’s spokesman announced his party’s intention to bring forth legislation enforcing an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish state”. One can see the populist appeal of these measures. Lieberman owed much of his success in the recent election (his party was the third largest in the vote) to playing the “loyalty card” at a time when Israel’s Arab citizens were openly critical of the invasion of Gaza. What he and his party now want are measures which force the one million Arab citizens in the country to pledge absolute loyalty to the state. The Nakba bill, which was approved by the ministerial committee on legislation this week, is bad enough. But the bill for a compulsory oath, which is also due to go before the committee, would be a disaster. It would require anyone seeking citizenship to “make a declaration in which they commit to being loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values and to serve the state as much as required through military or alternative service”. Arab citizens at the moment are not required to do military service given the sensitivities of their situation. There are many in the British National Party who would no doubt like a similar oath over here. But any democracy committed to freedom of expression knows that the road to oppression lies though just such attempts to control the thoughts of its people. And that is especially true of Israel, whose founding fathers expressly committed the new nation to principles of freedom of expression and protection of minorities. Of course Israel is a Jewish state. But it is also a democracy set in an Arab world. Its founders knew that. Let us hope that its current legislature does too.

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May 29, 2009

Israel army kills Hamas commander in Hebron: BBC

The Palestinian Hamas group says Israeli forces have shot dead a leader of its military wing, Abdul Majid Dudeen, near Hebron in the West Bank. Israeli reports said the militant had been wanted for many years, and was suspected of involvement in at least two bomb attacks against Israeli buses. They said Dudeen had been jailed by Palestinian police but was later freed. Hamas holds control Gaza Strip but the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority holds sway in the West Bank. It condemned the killing as a terrorist attack and said the Palestinian Authority should concentrate on protecting people in the West Bank rather than co-operating with the Israeli occupation.

Obama ‘confident’ on two-state solution: BBC

US President Barack Obama says he is confident that Israel will recognise that a two-state solution is in the best interests of its security. Speaking after White House talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Obama again urged Israel to freeze settlement expansion. Israel has insisted it will allow existing settlements to expand, despite pressure from Washington.
President Obama also said Palestinians must rein in anti-Israeli violence. For his part, Mr Abbas said he was committed to all obligations under the Mid-East peace plan “roadmap”. However, without a halt to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinians have said there can be no progress towards peace.
‘Israel’s interests’
Mr Obama said he was a “strong believer in a two-state solution” and believed Israel would recognise that it was in the best interests of its long-term security. He said it was important for all countries, but particularly Arab states, to be supportive of the two-state solution. “I am confident that we can move this forward if all parties are ready to meet their obligations,” he said. Mr Abbas said the need for progress in the stalled process was urgent. He added that “time is of the essence” – a phrase also used by Mr Obama.

Mr. Abbas goes to Washington: The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah,  29 May 2009

If the Oval Office guest list is an indicator, US President Barack Obama is making good on his commitment to try to revive the long-dead Arab-Israeli peace process. On 18 May President Obama received Israel’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; on 28 May he met with Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. As this process gets under way, the United States — Israel’s main arms supplier, financier and international apologist — faces huge hurdles. It is deeply mistrusted by Palestinians and Arabs generally, and the new administration has not done much to rebuild trust. Obama has, like former US President George W. Bush, expressed support for Palestinian statehood, but he has made no criticisms of Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip — which killed more than 1,400 people last winter, mostly civilians — despite evidence from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UN investigators of egregious Israeli war crimes. Nor has he pressured Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are refugees, are effectively imprisoned and deprived of basic necessities. Obama has told Netanyahu firmly that Israel must stop building settlements on expropriated Palestinian land in the West Bank, but such words have been uttered by the president’s predecessors. Unless these statements are followed by decisive action — perhaps to limit American subsidies to Israel — there’s no reason to believe the lip service that failed in the past will suddenly be more effective.
On the Palestinian side, Obama is talking to the wrong man: more than half of residents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories do not consider Abbas the “legitimate” president of the Palestinians, according to a March survey by Fafo, a Norwegian research organization. Eighty-seven percent want the Fatah faction, which Abbas heads, to have new leaders. Hamas, by contrast, emerged from Israel’s attack on Gaza with enhanced legitimacy and popularity. That attack was only the latest of numerous efforts to topple the movement following its decisive victory in the 2006 legislative elections. In addition to the Israeli siege, these efforts have included a failed insurgency by Contra-style anti-Hamas militias nominally loyal to Abbas and funded and trained by the United States under the supervision of Lieut. Gen. Keith Dayton. If Obama were serious about making real progress, one of the first things he would do is ditch the Bush-era policy of backing Palestinian puppets and lift the American veto on reconciliation efforts aimed at creating a unified, representative and credible Palestinian leadership.
None of these problems is entirely new, though the challenges, having festered for years, may be tougher to deal with now. Netanyahu did add one obstacle, however, when he came to Washington. In accord with his anticipated strategy of delay, he insisted that Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist as a “Jewish state” as a condition of any peace agreement. Obama seemingly endorsed this demand when he said, “It is in US national security interests to assure that Israel’s security as an independent Jewish state is maintained.”

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May 27, 2009

British academic union deals one more blow to business-as-usual with the Israeli academy: PACBI

Once again, the membership of the University and College Union (UCU) has not let Palestinians down.  The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes our British colleagues for their steadfast and principled support for the cause of justice and peace in Palestine and for adopting, at the UCU’s annual congress on 27 May 2009, significant steps in the direction of applying effective pressure on Israel and holding it accountable for its colonial and apartheid policies which violate international law and fundamental human rights. Coming four months after the end of Israel’s brutal war of aggression on the occupied Gaza Strip, the UCU motions on Palestine could not be more appropriate or relevant, emphasizing the need to end Israel’s criminal impunity through pressure on it and on institutions complicit in its violation of international law and fundamental human rights.

The UCU’s recognition of “the complicity of Israeli educational institutions in colonisation and military preparation,” its belief “that international pressure is necessary to force Israel to abide by international law,” and its determination to “renew urgently its call to members to reflect on the moral and political appropriateness of collaboration with Israeli educational institutions” as well as to urge “branches to discuss prior to Congress 2010 the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign” are the strongest indicators to date that the Union has taken another significant step forward in the consistent direction of ending business-as-usual with Israeli academic institutions.

Several of the UCU Congress resolutions on Palestine amount to a clear decision to challenge the notion that Israel’s complicit institutions, including the academy, can be “normal” partners of any self-respecting British institution.  Indeed, it has to be recognized by academics the world over that Israeli universities, in particular, are part and parcel of the structures of domination and oppression of the Palestinian people.  Far from being neutral, Israeli academic institutions are all state funded; they have played a direct and indirect role in promoting, justifying, developing or otherwise abetting the state‘s racist policies and persistent violations of human rights and international law.  It is significant that not only have Israeli academic institutions failed to condemn the state‘s colonial policies and practices and the longstanding siege of Palestinian education, they have facilitated and enabled the collaboration of their academic departments, faculty members and researchers with the Israeli military-security establishment, above all in the occupation regime, in flagrant violation of the principles of the independence of universities and academics.

Moreover, by welcoming “the campaign amongst students … for disinvestment from arms companies” trading with Israel; calling for “ending of [Israeli] apartheid;” demanding that “the British government bans arms sales and economic support for Israel;” calling for “a ban on imports of all goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the [occupied Palestinian territory];” and insisting that “Israel [is] tried for human rights violations,” the UCU has unequivocally decided to contribute in an effective and morally consistent manner to Palestinian and international efforts aimed at ending Israel’s impunity and holding it accountable for its atrocities and grave violations of Palestinian rights.

PACBI especially welcomes the UCU congress decision to host an international, inter-union conference for supporters of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) this coming autumn “to investigate the lawful implementation of the strategy, including an option of institutional boycotts.”  Convening such a forum will be a crucial opportunity for Union members to engage publicly with the issue of academic boycott and to have a chance to openly discuss and debate the rationale for such an institutional boycott and the consistency of its implementation with the law, countering attempts by Israel lobby groups to interpret the law in the most anti-democratic and draconian form with the intention of silencing debate.

The historic significance of the UCU membership’s vote to overwhelmingly endorse BDS cannot be overshadowed by the Union’s decision to declare the relevant resolution void due to legal advice. PACBI is quite disappointed that legal threats are being used by the Israel lobby to intimidate academics supporting the boycott and to curtail freedom of expression. We recognize that groups opposed to the Israel boycott have resorted to such anti-democratic measures after their resounding failure to stop the spread of support for the academic boycott, particularly in the United Kingdom. The argument they repeat, that a boycott of Israeli universities would be somehow “discriminatory,” is absolutely erroneous and intentionally deceptive, particularly because it accuses boycott supporters of targeting Israeli academics, disingenuously ignoring the fact that the PACBI Call for boycott has consistently targeted Israeli academic and cultural institutions, not individuals, and is based on universalist values that reject all forms of discrimination and racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

We sincerely hope that the UCU will soon follow the admirable example of the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), which resolved at its meeting in April 2009 to support the steadily spreading BDS campaign against Israel.

This genuine expression of solidarity with Palestine by British academic trade unionists is particularly timely in light of the recent Israeli war of aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza.  During this lethal assault, during which many well-documented Israeli war crimes were committed, 1440 Palestinians were murdered (of whom over 400 were children), 5380 were injured, and scores of institutions—including a university and several schools— and residential neighborhoods were partially or completely destroyed. Israel’s diplomatic immunity and status as a state above the law of nations must be challenged.  Academic and cultural boycotts are effective measures available to world civil society to indicate its intolerance of oppression and as a means to bear pressure upon Israel to cease its campaign of ethnic cleansing against and colonial control over the Palestinian people. The 2004 PACBI call for boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions [1], like the Palestinian civil society‘s widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in 2005 [2], is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring it to an end.

The UCU has proven beyond doubt that effective solidarity with the oppressed is the most morally and politically sound contribution to the struggle to end oppression and to promote human rights as well as a just and peaceful future for all.

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[1] The Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions (http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm ) is endorsed by the major federations and associations of academics and professionals, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). It is supported by dozens of civil society institutions in Palestine, like the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network (PNGO).
[2] http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52

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May 25, 2009

The Israelis have now declared awar not just on Palestine, but on memory itself!

Anger over Palestinian Nakba ban proposal:BBC

Israeli campaigners and left-wing lawmakers have condemned moves to ban Israeli Arabs from marking the Nakba – the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation. On Sunday a government panel backed putting the bill, proposed by the party of far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, before the Israeli Knesset. A Labour minister opposed it; Hadash, a mainly Arab party, called it “racist”. Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war after Israel declared independence. About 20% of Israel’s population are descended from Arab citizens of British Mandate Palestine who remained on the territory that became Israel.
Strengthening unity
Along with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and around the world, Israeli Arabs mark the yearly Nakba anniversary on 15 May with mourning and commemoration events. Israelis celebrate their Independence Day, marking the creation of their state, at the same time of year, although according to the Hebrew calendar. Under the proposed legislation, people caught marking the Nakba could be jailed for up to three years.
Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, says the bill is “intended to strengthen unity in the state of Israel”. The Hadash MK Hanna Swaid called it “racist and immoral” and “a fierce insult on democratic and political rights”. Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, said it “could impair freedom of expression and freedom of protest and achieve the opposite goal – increasing alienation and strengthening extremists”.
He is a member of the Labour party, which is part of the right-leaning governing coalition, together with Yisrael Beiteinu party and led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Legitimate right
Correspondents say that although there have been unsuccessful attempts to introduce similar bills in the past, the right-wing make-up of the current government gives this one more chance of passing – although it has many hurdles to clear yet.
An Israeli rights organisation, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, (Acri) said the committee’s initial approval of the bill was “a sign of a democracy losing its bearings”.
“Marking the Nakba does not threaten the safety of the State of Israel, but is rather a legitimate and fundamental human right of any person, group or people, expressing grief at the face of a disaster they experienced,” said Acri president Sammi Michael.
Mr Lieberman’s party also wants to introduce a loyalty pledge, which would demand that Israeli-Arabs swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist and democratic” state, before they can be issued with their ID papers. Israel Beiteinu spokesman Tal Nahum said the measure would be discussed by the cabinet on Sunday and the first parliamentary vote would be the following Wednesday. Avigdor Lieberman raised concerns during Israeli military operations in Gaza in January and December that some Israeli-Arabs were opening expressing sympathy with Hamas – which controls Gaza and which launches militant attacks on Israel and which, in its charter, is sworn to the state’s destruction.

The Big Questions: “Is Israel Racist”: BBC1

Last Sunday, Selma James and me had to defend this judgement, despite the programme beinga crude setup, and the presenter clearly supportive of Israel. To watch the debate, use the link above.

Israel: ‘No need to finish’ W Bank barrier: BBCwall 4

Israel began building the barrier several years ago

Israel began building the barrier several years ago

The head of Israel’s security service has said there is no security reason for continuing construction of Israel’s barrier through the West Bank.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told a parliamentary committee that Israel had enough capabilities to prevent attacks from the Palestinian territory.
Since building began years ago, Israel has maintained that it is a security measure to keep out attackers. Palestinians reject this, seeing it as a land grab. The UN has criticised Israel, citing an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that parts of the barrier built inside Palestinian territory in the West Bank – 90% of the route – are contrary to international law.
Gaza attacks
Meanwhile, Israeli police say a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza has landed in the town of Sderot, causing damage but no casualties.
Several people were treated for shock after the rocket struck the backyard of a house. It was one of very few rockets launched from Gaza in recent weeks.   Israeli security officials have said the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, is trying to maintain a truce so it can re-arm following Israel’s offensive earlier this year. Later, Israeli forces were reported to have bombed an area on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, hours after the Sderot attack. It was apparently targeted at tunnels which Israel says are used to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

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May 24, 2009

The Zionists are reaacting evrywhere to the bDS call, inventing bizarre organisations like TULIP below, in order to bamboozle the naive and simple-minded, who, afetr 42 years of occupation,stillthink we need to smile at each other more often,and that will resolve all... On a more positive note – this proves their desperation and urgency, and the fact they recognise, as below, that the BDSmovement is provbably unstoppable!

Unions move to overturn Israel boycott: May 21, 2009

Article from: The Australian LAST month, the Scottish Trade Unions Congress became the latest in a series of unions to call for a boycott of Israeli products. Support for boycotting, divesting from and sanctions against the Jewish state appears to be growing by leaps and bounds. It has already won considerable support from trade unions in South Africa, Ireland, Britain and Norway. It seems unstoppable. But we intend to stop it. TULIP – Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine – is a new global movement that believes in engaging with workers and their unions in Israel and Palestine, promoting co-operation and reconciliation. We do not believe in boycotts, divestment and sanctions. We believe in peace and in a two-state solution to the conflict. Our new global movement seeks allies in unions and non-governmental organisations everywhere who want to work together to demand respect for all Palestinians, Israelis and guest workers living in that region. We believe we can take significant strides towards peace and reconciliation if we support those striving to improve the living standards of all working people in the region. There are outstanding examples of co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian unions that need to be encouraged. For example, there’s a remarkable initiative launched by the International Transport Workers Federation to make life much easier for Palestinian drivers. This has been a small but ground-breaking union agreement encouraging dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli national trade union centres, as well as individual unions and their members on both sides of the divide. This agreement will help improve the livelihoods of hard-working union truckers and their families. As we write this the ITF is organising to move this important project to a higher level with the co-operation of the Israel trade union congress Histadrut and the Palestinian transport workers union. This model is a firm rejection of those in trade unions promoting an Israel boycott movement. This model upholds the traditional role of trade unions when faced with disputes of this kind: bridging the gap between nations at war, encouraging peace, justice and conciliation. It is a trade union tradition and role that we are particularly proud to uphold. We also applaud the role of the International Trade Union Confederation, which has helped to broker co-operation agreements between the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. It is unfortunate that in recent years a number of national unions and trade union centres have changed course and abandoned that role.

No hope or change from Obama-Netanyahu meeting: The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah,21 May 2009 Seldom has an encounter between an American and Israeli leader been as hyped as this week’s meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As expected, Obama committed himself to diplomacy with Iran and pledged an enormous effort to achieve a two-state solution. Netanyahu continued to incite confrontation with Iran and refused to commit himself to a Palestinian state. On the surface it may seem there are real differences and that the forces arrayed on each side — including the formidable Israel lobby — are gearing up for an epic battle to determine the fate of US-Israeli relations. But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Obama applies unprecedented pressure to force Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. What would such a deal look like? The outlines were suggested in the recent report sent to Obama by a group of US elder statesmen headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The document, warning that there was only a “six to twelve month window” before all chances for peace evaporated, called on the US to forcefully advocate the creation of a Palestinian state. But this would be a demilitarized truncated state “based on” the 1967 borders. Israel would annex large West Bank settlements and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. This “state” would be occupied indefinitely by a NATO-led “multinational force,” which the Scowcroft group suggests could also include Israeli soldiers (see “A last chance for a two-state Israel-Palestine agreement, 2009). Of course the Scowcroft proposal does not necessarily represent Obama administration thinking, but it expresses the pervasive peace process industry consensus that views such an outcome as “reasonable,” “pragmatic” and all but inevitable, and it accords with Obama’s own statements opposing the right of return and supporting Israel’s demand to to be recognized as a “Jewish state.” In other words, what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist, and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds. Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another “peace process” after making a show of resisting American pressure (or extracting more American concessions or money). He knows the chances of ever getting to the stated destination are nil. Obama will not apply significant pressure, and even if he did, it is unclear on whom he would apply it, since on the Palestinian side there are no leaders ready, willing and able to carry off a second Oslo-style fraud against their people.

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May 17, 2009

Israel PM ‘may back two states’: BBC

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be prepared to endorse a peace process leading to an independent Palestinian state, his defence minister has said.
Ehud Barak, a long-time rival now part of Israel’s governing coalition, spoke ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s first meeting with US President Obama in Washington. He told Israeli TV a regional deal could be struck within three years. Mr Netanyahu has so far been unwilling to discuss a two-state solution, saying only he wants a “fresh approach”. He recently made his first visits out of Israel since taking office, travelling to Egypt and Jordan during the past week. A two-state solution based on independent Palestinian statehood is a goal strongly backed by the US and by Jordan and Egypt, Israel’s only allies among Arab states.
‘Fresh approach’
President Obama is expected to push Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue when they meet for talks at the White House on Monday.
Mr Barak, the Labour leader, says his long-time rival is ready to take a pragmatic approach to peace negotiations. “Netanyahu will tell Obama: We’re willing to engage in a process whose end is a regional peace accord,” he told Channel 2 TV. He stopped short of saying that Mr Netanyahu would back a two-state solution while in Washington in the coming week, but suggested an independent Palestinian state could emerge from a revived peace process.

Have we not been here before? Like two hundred times… well, it worked until now, so it will work this time as well. They will say anything in order to be allowed to continue stealing Palestine.

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May 14, 2009

Elite IDF soldier confesses to looting Gaza home during war: Ha’aretz

An elite Israel Defense Forces soldier confessed on Tuesday to stealing a credit card from a home in northern Gaza during the recent offensive against Hamas and using it to withdraw NIS 1,600 in Israel. The soldier, who serves in the Givati infantry unit’s reconnaissance battalion, was arrested last week with one of his comrades. The second soldier was released after his friend confessed.Following the soldier’s confession, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit relayed: “The IDF examines every incident that is not in line with the laws of the state and the principles of the IDF.” The army’s police investigative unit launched a probe into the allegations last month after receiving a complaint. A Palestinian residing in the northern Gaza Strip claimed his credit card was stolen during Operation Cast Lead, the codename for Israel’s offensive against Hamas. A short while later, his credit card statement revealed that a number of products were purchased in Israel. In the statement released Tuesday by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the army further said: “In light of the nature of the complaint, the military prosecution ordered the Military Police Investigation unit to open probes in which they would take evidence in order to examine the claims.”

“As is customary,” the unit added, “the investigations are accompanied by prosecutors for operational matters who will check the findings and recommend steps to take, should this be found necessary. “Following these claims two soldiers were arrested for investigation by the Military Police Investigation unit.”

New report: The Electronic Police State

2008 National Rankings
Most of us are aware that our governments monitor nearly every form of electronic communication. We are also aware of private companies doing
the same. This strikes most of us as slightly troubling, but very few of us say or do much about it. There are two primary reasons for this:
1. We really don’t see how it is going to hurt us. Mass surveillance is certainly a new, odd, and perhaps an ominous thing, but we just
don’t see a complete picture or a smoking gun. 2. We are constantly surrounded with messages that say, “Only crazy people complain about the government.”
However, the biggest obstacle to our understanding is this: The usual image of a “police state” includes secret police dragging people out of their homes at night, with scenes out of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR. The problem with these images is that they are horribly outdated. That’s how things worked during your grandfather’s war – that is not how things work now. An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine. An electronic police state is characterized by this:
State use of electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens.
The two crucial facts about the information gathered under an electronic police state are these:
1. It is criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial.
2. It is gathered universally and silently, and only later organized for use in prosecutions.
In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every email you send, every Internet site you surf, every post you make, every
check you write, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping… are all criminal evidence, and they are held in searchable databases, for a long,
long time. Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad whenever they care enough to do so. You can be prosecuted whenever
they feel like it – the evidence is already in their database.

The list includes 52 states, and here are the first nine:

Here are the 52 states and their rankings:
1. China
2. North Korea
3. Belarus
4. Russia
5. United Kingdom: England & Wales
6. United States of America
7. Singapore
8. Israel

Surprise, surprise!

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May 12, 2009

To all our critics who jhave already written off the Leonard Cohen call which we have made, please read the report below, and reassess your certainties… I really do not believe we have heard the last on this issue.

Anti-Israel activists urge Leonard Cohen to nix T.A. show: Ha’aretz

Anti-Israel activists are stepping up efforts to dissuade Leonard Cohen from performing in Israel in September. The activists urge supporters to “apply pressure during his tour by local groups along his path,” in their most recent appeal, which was circulated on Monday in various pro-Palestinian mailing lists. They added that letters “and various actions” might prove “instrumental in helping him take the decision to cancel his last concert.” This, they explain, is because “it is obvious the situation in Palestine and Israel is quite clear to Leonard Cohen, to judge by his song entitled Questions for Shomrim. The poem begins with the words “And will my people build a new Dachau
and call it love, security, Jewish culture.” It also reads: “You were our singing heroes in ’48, do you dare ask yourselves what you are now” and: “now my son must die for he’s an Arab.” The anti-Israel activists called on supporters to write to Cohen’s manager and leave messages on his official online forum. They published a list of destinations on Cohen’s tour, ending with Israel “if we are not successful.” In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Leonard Cohen flew to Israel to perform before reserves and regular soldiers fighting in the Sinai desert. Two main letters of protest against the concert have been circulated so far. The most recent one was co-signed by a hundred Israelis and Palestinians, who wrote that Israel’s “ruthless, criminal bashing of the Palestinians has met with little international criticism.” Addressing Cohen and urging him to cancel, the Israelis said: “We cannot envision you cooperating with continued Israeli defiance of justice and morality; we cannot envision you playing a part in the Israeli charade of self-righteousness.” They included the poem Questions for Shomrim in their appeal.
The first letter of protest was published last month by Pro-Palestinian professors from the U.K. from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, who warned Cohen that he would be performing “for a public that by a very large majority had no qualms about its military forces’ onslaught” in Gaza. The scholars – Haim Bresheeth, Mike Cushman, Hilary Rose and Jonathan Rosenhead, added: “You will perform in a state whose propaganda services will extract every ounce of mileage from your presence. They will use it to whitewash their war crimes.” The authors of the letter explained that Cohen needs to cancel the show in Ramat Gan lest it be attended by Arab-killing Israeli soldiers who are “drinking beer” and “playing backgammon with their mates and going to discotheques.”

Below you can read the letter sent to the Jewish Chronicle, affter they published the article by Mr. Freedland. We have asked them to publish it as a ‘right of reply’ letter, but we got no reply, of course… So much for the openness of the JC to other Jewish voices, apart from their own!

Open Letter to Jonathan Freedland at the Jewish Chronicle:

In a typically snide and self-satisfied article, published in last week’s JC (“A very futile boycott”, April 30th, 2009), the Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland is oozing schadenfreude over the ‘failure of the boycott’ against Israeli institutions. He obviously does not follow the news, or maybe he just ignores it. In gloating over Leonard Cohen’s planned visit to Israel, he manages to carefully disregard the growing success of the boycott, both in the UK and abroad. Only a couple of weeks ago, a motion for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel was passed by the Scottish TUC.  Recently Veolia, the multinational building the Jerusalem tram lines on occupied land held illegally, has lost very large contracts in Sweden and Bordeaux, as a result of the boycott campaign. We could go on.  This success is the result of a number of important factors: Many Jews have joined (or initiated) the local campaigns, and at last, ordinary people feel they can playa role in this endless saga, and act like they did against apartheid, rather than rely on spineless diplomacy delivering only further disasters.

The rationale for Freedland’s festive tone is an odd one: a ‘mistake’ made by us because we wrote to Leonard Cohen invoking his Buddhism rather than his Judaism. Freedland could have worked this out for himself. Most of Judaic current sentiment seems to be anchored in that part of the Jewish tradition which is Xenophobic and hateful towards the other, supporting any military excess with nationalistic and racist arguments. Of course, there is in Judaism a very different tradition, not one which Freedland himself appears to support, unfortunately. This is the tradition of Hillel the Elder: “Do not do unto your friend, that which you will not have done unto you”. This is the best of Judaism – a liberal, progressive, and open-minded attitude towards the Ger, the ‘other in your midst’. This attitude was clearly missing from most of Israeli politics and public discourse in the last few decades, and is even more absent now. Would Hillel the Elder have backed the massacre of the innocents which Israel has carried out in Gaza, Lebanon, and so many other places? It seems clear to us what his position would be – support the weak, disenfranchised and dispossessed. If Leonard Cohen, hardly ‘our hero’, as stated by Freedland, also chooses to ignore Hillel the Elder, then he is neither a good Buddhist, nor a good Jew. That would, indeed, be a great pity, as he is held in high regard by many who like his music and enjoy it.

Prof. Haim Bresheeth, UEL
Mike Cushman, LSE
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, LSE

Steve Bell, The Guardian, May 12, 2009

Steve Bell, The Guardian, May 12, 2009

Below you can see the letters page of today’s Guardian, with comments about the Max Hastings article on Saturday. While he quite appropriately decribes how ‘he fell out of love’ with Israel, it is important to read his article and realise how misguided he still is, though he now thinks he has already worked things out…

Military myths in the history of Israel: The Guardian

The Guardian,     Tuesday 12 May 2009

Max Hastings proves not just what he set out to do – that Israel no longer should have our support (How I fell out of love with Israel, 9 May). What oozes at us from every line is his biased and one-sided view of the conflict. The Zionist myth which drove him to Israel in 1969 is alive and well in his memory – it is the physical reality which has failed him. In his adulatory description, all Israelis and their deeds seem to him “brilliant”, “stunning” and “bright”, terms he could not apply to any Palestinian, essentially because he relates no meetings he had with any of them, on the same terms he describes his many meetings with Israelis. This gives away some of his political perspective. Arabs and Palestinians are but extras in this narrative, it seems.
When discussing the Israeli occupation army, the so-called IDF, he notes that “morally, if not militarily, it is a shadow of the force that fought in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973″. Well, well … Any reading of Israeli history by the group known as the New Historians, such as Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe, would have proved to him that his misguided view of Israel, Zionism and the IDF was, and is, totally inaccurate. This army, which destroyed Gaza, had also destroyed Beirut. This is the army which set out on a bizarre colonial journey in 1956, together with the dying empires. Time to give up on the militarised myth!
Professor Haim Bresheeth
University of East London

Max Hastings’s account of how he fell in love and then out of love with Israel is certainly touching. But his belief that Amos Oz’s 1979 prophecy to him has been fulfilled, ie that Israel would end up behaving no better than its neighbours, is unjustified, and his reference to “Israeli military excesses in Gaza” wrong. Rather than resign himself to Oz’s negative prognostications, he should heed the words of Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who during the recent Gaza war gave this assessment of Israel’s operations: “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”
Alastair Albright
London

Max Hastings has said, far more eloquently than I could, exactly how I feel about Israel. I too was an enthusiast at its creation in 1948 but then the horrors of Auschwitz were still fresh in our minds and we chose to overlook the terrorist activities of the Stern Gang and the Irgun in achieving the Zionist goal of nationhood and to ignore the plight of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees. Palestinians are living in hopeless misery which can only find expression in the hatred of their oppressors. Only an imposed arbitration can have any prospect of bringing peace, and that would have to involve the return of the occupied territories under UN resolutions 242 and 338.
Harvey Quilliam
Maghull, Merseyside

Below is the link to Max Hastings’ article, for those of you who have missed reading it.

The paradox of Israel’s pursuit of might: The Guardian

My fuller comment has appeared on Comment is Free/The Guardian:

Time to give up the myth!

By Haim Bresheeth
Old myths die hard! One of the most resilient myths in progressive circles is that of the ‘pure Zionist project, which was defiled by late practice. One such example of this myth in action was the recent article by Max Hastings (How I fell out of love with Israel, Guardian, May 9th) where he indeed admits to no longer being hooked by this specific political movement, as he was some decades ago, but in describing his process of reckoning, he is also describing how difficult it is to shake the Zionist habit.
What oozes at us from every line, is his biased and one-sided view of the conflict, without the slightest attempt at balancing it. It is not difficult to see where exactly he got that version of reality – he ‘always liked soldiers and spent many months over the decades speaking to them ‘under the starry skies of the Middle East; it hardly needs saying that the soldiers he was fraternising with were exclusively Israeli – he mentions no others – and from his many expressions of admiration for their deeds and their manner, and the fact that he started dressing in what he calls a ‘thinly-disguised version of the IDF uniform, it is clear that he had a model before him, one he wished to emulate. All this may be understandable in young and impressionable journalist, and Israel has made a science of luring and snaring such people over the decades. What is less obvious is how the myth has stuck, and how even now, some four decades after his first fateful visit to Israel, he still describes an odd Arcadian utopia of soldiery, as the pure and moral Zionism. The Zionist myth which drove him to Israel in 1969, seems to be alive and well in his memoires and memory – it is the physical reality which has failed.
One cannot escape the nagging suspicion that Hastings has avoided reading about Israels wars, which, for a mature journalist is less understandable. When discussing the Israeli occupation army, the so-called IDF, he notes that morally, if not militarily, it is a shadow of the force that fought in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. So the IDF in those wars, Hastings is telling us, in no uncertain terms, was ‘moral, and superior to the occupation army of today. Well, well…
Any serious reading of Israeli history by members of the group widely known as the ‘New Historians, such as (the racist) Benny Morris and the historian of the ethnic cleaning of Palestine, Ilan Pappe, would have proved to him, once and for all, that his misguided view of Israel, Zionism and the IDF was, and is, highly ideological and imaginary. Which one of those wars was exactly ‘moral? The 1948 war, in which Israel has expelled 760,000 Palestinians from their own country, then denied them a return, as demanded by the UN? Maybe he is not aware of the many massacres which those researchers has unearthed, by simply ploughing through the IDF archives?
Now, could he possibly mean the 1956 war? This is a war in which Israel has joined the two sinking empires of Great Britain and France, a war so colonially outrageous and illegal, that the USSR and the USA have together called it so, and have forced the combatants out of Sinai by a nuclear warning? What reason could Israel possibly have to attack Egypt, but as an accessory to a bizarre colonial adventure, reminiscent of the worst gunboat diplomacy of the 19th century? Was this the moral war Hastings has referred to? Let us also remember that for over three years before that war, a young IDF officer by the name of Ariel Sharon, a commander of Israels death squad named ‘Unit 101, has attacked a number of Palestinian villages, towns and refugee camps, with a terrifying toll in civilian lives? Was this the high moral standard he holds so dear?
Of course, the 1967 war is a candidate for a moral war, we may be told by Hastings, and by other naïve supporters of military Zionism; there is nothing further from the truth. This was a war, which like in 1956, Israel started and shot the ‘first bullet as President De Gaulle has famously put it. President Nasser was unable and unwilling to go to war against Israel, and has indeed asked Israel for a peace treaty a short time beforehand, only to be ignored. The war had two objectives, and achieved both: To break Nasser grip on middle eastern politics, and to gain control of the parts of Palestine still in Arab hands – the 22% of Palestine which Israel did not control. The results of this ‘moral war were the occupation lasting till now, the hundreds of Jewish settlements built in Syria, Palestine (then still part of Jordan) and Egypt, including the Gaza Strip. A campaign of terror has started against Palestinian aspirations for their own country, following UN resolutions to this effect, and it was this highly ‘moral army that has continually quashed Palestinian hopes for some kind of normality in their lifetime.
Time to give up the myth!

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