August 15, 2010

IDF razes wall dividing Jewish and Arab areas of East Jerusalem: Haaretz

Work starts to remove concrete barrier at Gilo built in 2002, later becoming one of the enduring symbols of the Second Intifada.

Work began in East Jerusalem Monday morning to remove one of the city’s enduring symbols of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a two-meter-high concrete barrier built to separate the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo from the Arab district of Beit Jalla.

A section of the concrete barrier separaing Gilo from Bait Jalla Photo by: Alex Livak

The army’s home front command began the demolition at the request of Jerusalem’s municipality, after security checks suggested that the wall, designed to protect Gilo residents from sniper fire, was no longer needed.

Gilo was sealed off from Beit Jalla eight years ago, when the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising saw violence flare across the West Bank. In response, the Israel Defense Forces launch Operation Defensive Shield, the largest military deployment in the Palestinian territories since 1967.

“The wall was built at the time of Defensive Shield and right now we don’t see a problem in getting rid of it,” said Lt. Col. Hezi Ravivo, a military engineer in charge of the demolition.

During the two years between the start of the intifada in 2000 and the construction of the wall two years later, Gilo was hit regular sniper and machine gun fire, with one attack seriously wounding a Border Guard.

Today Gilo is quieter. “I don’t expect the gunfire to resume,” Ravivo said.

“If the need arises we can put it up again,” he said, adding that in the current security climate, it would even be safe for Israeli tour guides and groups to enter Bethlehem, a major Palestinian city that lies just south of Jerusalem.

But the demolition has angered local residents, who say the army has left them exposed.

“It gave us a certain feeling of security,” said Aviva Klein, who lives nearby. “I didn’t feel the wall was shutting me in – I felt safe.”

The army said in a statement: “The IDF will continue to protect the citizens of the State of Israel continuing to assess the changing security climate.”

EDITOR: BDS takes off in a big way

The next stage of the BDS campaign is here, and no one in particular is responsible for it! Groups form all over Europe, totally independently, and add their particular campaign to the struggle against Israel’s atrocities. The BDS campaign has become a chain-reaction, each new act starting other in its wake!

150 Irish artists announce Israel cultural boycott: Haaretz

Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign signs artists to pledge saying they will refrain from performing in Israel as long as it abuses Palestinian human rights.
More than 150 Irish artists and intellectuals have declared Saturday a boycott of Israel, saying they would not perform or exhibit in Israel until Israel ceases what they call its abuse of Palestinian human rights.

The artists signed a statement, pledging that they refrain from engaging in cultural activity with Israel “until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights”.

Speaking to the Irish Times, the head of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Raymond Dean, said that artists that perform in Israel are backing it whether they like it or not.”

“You can’t really pin this down…at least an end of the occupation of Palestine; dismantling or at least stopping the settlements; and Israel negotiating in good faith with the Palestinians,” Dean said.

The statement comes as more and more artists scheduled to perform in Israel, such Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Jill Scott Heron, Santana, The Klaxons and the Gorillaz Sound System, have canceled their shows, in what appeared to be a response to Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last May, which resulted in the death of 9 flotilla activists.

Only last month, British electronica duo Leftfield announced that they would be canceling their scheduled performance in Israel on August 31st due what they referred to as production problems.

“Unfortunately Leftfield will not be able to perform at the Heineken Music Conference on the 31st August due to unforeseen production problems,” the duo wrote on the Facebook fan page dedicated to their current tour.

Meanwhile, on the duo’s official Facebook page they published a letter sent to them by the organization Boycott Israel calling for them to “postpone your planned concert in Israel this summer, indefinitely.”

The letter, scanned and posted on their page, stated that in light of Israel’s deadly raid on the Gaza flotilla in May, they urged the musicians to take a stand and protest Israel’s actions by canceling the show.

“Performing in Israel today means crossing an international picket line,” the letter said, adding that, “your visit here will be construed as a vote of confidence in Israel’s oppressive policies.”

In their cancellation statement the group made no reference to the letter, despite the fact that they had made it public by posting it on their Facebook page.

Leftfiled joined a growing list of artists and musicians who have recently canceled their shows in Israel due to political reasons, among others.

Top ministers: Israel will reject any Quartet preconditions for direct talks: Haaretz

Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators expected to announce resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, call for Palestinian state within two years.

Israel will reject any preconditions set forth by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators in regard to scheduled resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a forum of seven senior cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decided Sunday evening.

The Quartet – the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – was expected to make an announcement regarding the resumption of direct talks on Monday.

U.S. sources said Sunday that the Quartet would call for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders within a year or two.

A senior government source said Sunday that “the Quartet announcement could serve as camouflage for Palestinian preconditions, and that is unacceptable.”

He added that the U.S. administration will issue another announcement later in the week, defining the terms of the negotiations and serving as a compromise between the Israeli and the Palestinian viewpoints.

Meanwhile Sunday, a senior official in the Obama administration told Haaretz that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would announce the start of direct peace talks in only “a matter of days.”

A number of minor details still need to be clarified with Abbas and Netanyahu that will open the way for direct talks, the official added.

Hamas, 10 other groups reject all forms of compromise with Israel: Haaretz

Joint statement comes ahead of a possible round of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Eleven militant Palestinian groups based in Syria warned on Sunday against a “concession and compromise” policy ahead of a possible round of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The message from the groups, which include Gaza rulers Hamas as well as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine factions, appeared directed at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas is under pressure to enter direct negotiations with Israel, after months of U.S.-brokered proximity talks between the two sides.

Damascus-based Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Sunday that the factions’ representatives issued the statement after discussions held at his house in the Syrian capital and that they rejected all forms of compromise with Israel.

The U.S. and the “Zionists,” the statement said, were “aiming to wipe out the national rights of the Palestinians and to cover up the practices of the occupation, settlement expansion and Judaizing the land.”

Abbas has said he will not agree to direct talks with Israel without a complete halt to settlement building, agreement on final borders and a timetable for a deal.

Netanyahu approves building new classrooms in settlements: Haaretz

Despite settlement construction freeze and Defense Ministry opposition, 23 new structures to be erected in violation of law to meet settlers’ educational needs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday approved the erection of 23 mobile classrooms in West Bank settlements, even though there is no official construction plan that would allow this move.

Netanyahu declared a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements in November of last year in efforts to relaunch stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership has demanded a complete halt to Israeli construction on land slated for a future Palestinian state.

The prime minister’s decision comes in the wake of an aggressive debate between the Ministry of Justice and the Defense and Education ministries.

The Education Ministry has announced that there is a need for 23 new buildings, in 12 different West Bank settlements, to cater to the needs of the local education authorities. The Defense Ministry has confirmed these needs, but the deputy attorney general ultimately rejected the request due to the absence of proper construction authorization. He explained that even the most dire of educational needs mustn’t circumvent the law.

Consequently, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar approached the prime minister in his office on Saturday in a meeting with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, and the three decided that 23 caravans will be dispatched to the settlements and that the prime minister will simultaneously push for legal authorization.

The Defense Ministry opposed the erection of the classrooms, saying that the educational needs of the settlers could not trump the law. Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s stance was taken into consideration, as it was decided that in the smaller illegal outposts no classrooms would by built, regardless of the education needs of the settlers there.

The heads of the Eretz Yisrael lobby, MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Aryeh Eldad, lauded the prime minister for “stepping in to solve the problem.” In a statement they released, the lobby wrote that “we’re glad that common sense overpowered bureaucracy and dullness and the students of Judea and Samaria will get to study under the same conditions as the rest of Israel’s students.”

Arab nations urge U.S. to end support of Israel’s nuclear secrecy: Haaretz

Ignoring U.S. warning, Arab League pushes for international inspections of Israel’s nuclear program.

Ignoring a U.S. warning, Arab nations are urging Washington and other powers to end support of Israel’s nuclear secrecy and to push for international inspections of Israel’s nuclear program, diplomats told The Associated Press Sunday.

Islamic nations have long called for Israel – which is widely believed to have nuclear arms – to open its program. But the fact that the Arab League has directly approached Washington and other Israeli allies for support at the September meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency is significant, considering that U.S. President Barack Obama last month warned against using that forum to single out Israel.

Obama then suggested that such a move would likely kill hopes of breakthrough talks on a Mideast nuclear-free zone, as proposed by the United Nations’ 189-member Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference three months ago.

Over Israeli objections, the planned 2012 talks were backed by the U.S. and other nuclear powers for the first time since Arab nations pushed for such a gathering 15 years ago.

The Arab appeal to pressure Israel to open its nuclear program to inspectors also threatens to deflect attention from Iran, which Washington and its allies now consider a grave nuclear proliferation threat, even though Tehran insists it is not developing nuclear weapons.

The Arab appeal is contained in an Aug. 8 letter signed by Arab League chief Amr Moussa. It asks for backing of a resolution that Arab nations will submit to the September assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A draft of the resolution expresses concern about Israel’s nuclear program and urges it to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to open its atomic activities to outside inspection. A cover note asks the Belgian Embassy in Cairo to transmit the letter and the draft to Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, who now holds the rotating European Union presidency.

Diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and familiar with the issue told the AP that the letter was also sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Britain and France – the four other permanent UN Security Council members.

All the diplomats who agreed to discuss the issue with the AP asked for anonymity because of the confidentiality of their information.

Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed in a statement last month to work together to oppose efforts to single out Israel at the 150-nation International Atomic Energy Agency conference.

On the proposed Mideast nuclear-free zone talks, their statement warned that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening such a conference unlikely.

But the Arab letter argues that singling out Israel is not the aim: “Singling out a state assumes that there are a number of states in the same position and only one state was singled out,” the letter says. Referring to the Nonproliferation Treaty, it says: “The fact is that all the states in the region have acceded to the NPT except Israel.”

Israel is commonly assumed to have nuclear weapons but refuses to confirm or deny the assumption.

The latest pressure puts Israel in an uncomfortable position. It wants the international community to take stern action to prevent Iran from obtaining atomic weapons but at the same time brushes off calls to come clean about its own nuclear capabilities.

Passions have grown since September when the International Atomic Energy Agency assembly overrode Western objections to pass a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years.

The result was a setback not only for Israel but also for the United States and other supporters of Israel.

Because the resolution passed by only a four-vote margin, lobbying by both sides has intensified ahead of next month’s meeting.

Three diplomats from International Atomic Energy Agency member nations said the EU and the U.S. were meeting or planning to meet with possible undecided nations to seek their support of Israel, even as the Arab bloc continues pushing for support for its resolution.

The U.S. and its allies consider Iran the region’s greatest proliferation threat, fearing that Tehran is trying to achieve the capacity to make nuclear weapons despite its assertion that it is only building a civilian program to generate power.

They also say Syria – which, like Iran is under International Atomic Energy Agency investigation – ran a clandestine nuclear program, at least until Israeli warplanes destroyed what they describe as a nearly finished plutonium-producing reactor two years ago. Syria denies these allegations.

But Islamic nations insist that Israel is the true danger in the Middle East, saying they fear its nuclear weapons capacity.

Hamas creates volunteer program for Gaza’s idle youth: The Electronic Intifada

Rami Almeghari writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 10 August 2010
University graduates have a hard time finding work in besieged Gaza.
Israel’s siege has had a disproportionate effect on Gaza’s youth. Over half of the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents are under the age of 18, and thousands of young Gazans are unemployed. Hamas authorities in Gaza recently announced a voluntary employment program for Palestinian youth to get involved in their communities.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) recently reported that unemployment in Gaza has reached over 40 percent (“Gaza is a man-made crisis”). Two-thirds of Gaza’s population are “food insecure” according to UN figures and are reliant on aid agencies such as UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, for basic subsistence.

UNRWA provides a job creation programs for thousands of university graduates. Others accept employment in various non-governmental institutions on a voluntary basis, hoping they may get some experience.

Jobless and with few opportunities for extra-curricular activities, Gaza’s youth sit idle in coffee shops or in front of their houses. Eight months ago, the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza announced a recruitment drive for several hundred police personnel. These new and replacement positions were created after Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, including more than two hundred civilian police officers and recruits, and wounded thousands. Roughly 14,000 men, including university graduates, applied for the positions.

“We have noticed that the energy of Gaza’s youth is being depleted by useless things, so we thought that their energy should be directed into useful activities. Hopefully by allowing those youth to work for the various security bodies for a period of six to twelve months, youth will be able to serve their community,” explained Ihab al-Ghussein, the spokesperson for the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza.

The new volunteer program has yet to be implemented. “The matter is under deliberations by high-ranking officials within the security bodies. If the plan is approved, then it will be submitted for approval by the parliament and the cabinet,” added al-Ghussein.

Al-Ghussein said that the “voluntary draft” would not create a financial burden for Hamas. Although he admitted that there would be “some financial responsibility,” al-Ghussein explained that the youth volunteers would be “engaged in community service tasks, rather than actual security work.”

According to the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza, there are roughly 18,000 formal security personnel within the different security branches, including the police, the civil defense, the intelligence division and the national security forces.

Al-Ghussein explained that prior to Hamas’s takeover of Gaza amidst factional fighting with the rival Fatah faction in June 2007, “There were more than 45,000 recruits within the Palestinian Authority’s security services.” He added that “We need more personnel to do the job properly, yet we are unable to add more forces to our current numbers.”

Al-Ghussein insisted that “The recent draft announcement is not meant to increase the number [of security personnel] in order to preempt any unity agreement with the Fatah party.” Fatah is led by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, and has been in negotiations with Hamas to re-establish a national unity government for over four years. Abbas was elected in 2005 and his term in office expired in January 2009, however, he continues to rule under controversial emergency powers.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

“Arabs, get out”: Haaretz

If the inciters succeed in expelling the Arab MKs from the Knesset, it will be the final straw. Forget justice: it’s plain stupid… and frightening.
By Gideon Levy
Alright, let’s say they succeed. Let’s say that the racist nationalist members of Knesset achieve their aspirations to kick the Arab member out of the Knesset. Let’s assume that the aspirations of the sweet-lipped extremist Otniel Schneller, the “democrat” Ofir Akunis, and the nationalist Avigdor Lieberman come to pass and the Knesset is free of Arabs.

What would happen next? Behind this incitement campaign, like every other, there is no motivation other than arousing the darkest and most basest instincts: ‘Arabs, get out’ – not to mention ‘Death to the Arabs.’ So the Arabs are out, what then?

Even in the second round of the verbal lynching of Knesset member Hanin Zuabi this past weekend, including all the lies ( she “fought with Israeli soldiers,” joined the “terrorists,” “objected to removing evacuating wounded soldiers”) put forward by politicians and television show hosts, calls arose to eject her from the Knesset, naturally.

It’s already completely kosher – the calls to eject Hanin, and you, Ahmed Tibi, Mohammed Barakeh, Jamal Zahalka, and their friends are no longer only right-wing fantasy. The legitimization of the calls, in the wake of the crushing silence of most other politicians, demonstrates how deeply the aspiration behind it has put down roots.

They may be ignoramuses when it comes to democratic ideals – but those calling for the ejection of Arab MKs must at least say what will happen once Israeli Arabs are deprived of representation in the Knesset. Will Arab citizens vote for Yisrael Beitenu? Doubtful. Will they vote for Akunis in the primaries? Unlikely.

Will they place their ballot for McCarthyist Kadima? Change their views and join the Zionist movement, which brought them the Nakba – only don’t ever mention it? Become Zu Artzeinu activists? Im Tirtzu foamers-at-the-mouth? Or maybe somehow they’ll disappear entirely?

The State of Israel owes a great debt to the Arab public and to the members of Knesset that represent it. They are more separatist than the Basques in Spain (although with many more reasons to be separatist than the Basques), and also, of course, much less violent and subversive than them.

The fact that they have yet to choose to boycott the state and its institutions and to stop participating in the game of democracy, which is corrupt to begin with, as far as they are concerned – a game from which they are almost completely excluded – is nothing short of amazing.

Instead of thanking them for this, instead of appreciating their tolerance and restraint, their basic loyalty – we push them out, specifically now. Forget morals and democracy, justice and equality – is there anything stupider than this? Is it not clear to the inciters what the alternative is to the continued participation of the Arabs in the game of democracy?

The lives of Arab Israelis bear no resemblance to the lives of a Jewish Israeli. He is born into crowded conditions and neglected neighborhoods. In 62 years, the state has not lifted a finger to help the Arab populace, which constitutes a full fifth of the state’s citizens, to establish a single new settlement.

The Arabs are weaned on deprivation from birth, the discrimination follows them from their earliest days. They can never bring up their past, they cannot define themselves as they wish (‘Palestinian?’ How dare they?), and sometimes they don’t even feel comfortable speaking their own language.

Try being an Arab and finding an apartment or a job. Surrounded by Zionist institutions that work to banish them, from the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund to the Israel Lands Administration, a new set of laws intended to repress them, a justice system that discriminates between them and the Jewish citizens – an entire web of life of a second-class citizen in every way possible.

Day and night they hear that they are a ‘demographic threat’ or a ‘fifth column,’ that the Negev and Galil must be ‘Judaized,’ that they must be expelled from their lands. Now they hear that the Knesset must be purified of their representatives, as well.

It’s likely to happen. In a society whose institutional defenses of democracy have started to deteriorate, nothing is safe any more. One day, perhaps we will no longer have Arab MKs, or at least none that represent their constituents. And on that day, Arab Israelis will know that their exclusion from their state has become total and complete.

And what do the inciters believe will replace Hadash, United Arab List – Ta’al, and Balad? And who will replace Barakeh, Zuabi and Tibi? What will replace the speeches, difficult and bitter as they are, from the Knesset podium? The campaign trails and assemblies? The public protest that is for the most part law-abiding?

You know the answer very well. The answer is frightening and dangerous.

Words without Borders “dialogue” violates Palestinian boycott call: The Electronic Intifada

Haidar Eid, 9 August 2010
An initiative recently launched by the prestigious online literature magazine Words without Borders entitled “Cross-Cultural-Dialogues in the Middle East,” rings alarm bells in light of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

The initiators of this series of articles are Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, who describes herself as being of Iranian Muslim background, and Chana Morgenstern, an Israeli fiction writer, who met as graduate students at Brown University in the United States. Van der Vliet Oloomi and Morgenstern are now in Jerusalem undertaking to travel around “crossing borders,” and opening “dialogue” with persons from many different cultural and political locations.

In their statement of purpose, Van der Vliet Oloomi and Morgenstern explain that: “We are hoping to gain a broader perspective on the ways in which contemporary Palestinian cultures negotiate the region’s complex and hybrid social landscape.”

They add, “The series, as we foresee it, will cover emerging guerilla poetry movements, collaborations between Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals and writers, interviews with international and local film makers, reviews of the Jerusalem Film Festival, as well as an overview of various grassroots cultural organizations in the West Bank” (“New Blog Series: Cross-Cultural-Dialogues In the Middle East,” 29 July 2010).

Though this statement of purpose may be intentionally vague, it is important for anyone who wishes to engage in serious “dialogue” in this area to be aware that a condition of utmost serious conflict exists between a colonial, apartheid occupying power — Israel — and the indigenous people. As part of a strategy for nonviolent resistance, the Palestinians have issued an international call for BDS against Israel until it complies with international law and respects the universality of human rights.

Briefly stated, the BDS call sets out the following demands: Israel must end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the West Bank wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194 (“Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel,” 9 July 2005).

Is the Israeli partner in this project going to acknowledge the horror inflicted on its Palestinian counterpart? There are no two “equal” parties here: there is one side that has colonized both history and the land, ethnically cleansed most of the natives, and has been discriminating racially against the 1.5 million Palestinians who remain inside Israel as nominal citizens, as well as the millions more in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the diaspora. Is this proposed dialogue going to “speak truth to power” and take cognizance of the three demands endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society organizations?

Indeed, the guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), explicitly warn against events or projects that promote “false symmetry or balance.” PACBI condemns initiatives “based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the ‘conflict,'” as “intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible” because they often seek “to encourage dialogue or ‘reconciliation between the two sides'” without ever acknowledging basic injustices and power imbalances. Thus, such initiatives serve to “promote the normalization of oppression and injustice.”

Under these guidelines, all “events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott” (“Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel,” 20 July 2009).

In discourse with those living in Palestine/Israel, it must be borne in mind that Israel holds thousands of political prisoners, among them many children. Millions of displaced Palestinians reside in refugee camps under conditions of deprivation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, and many others are scattered all over the world. When the United Nations recognized Israel it was on condition that the refugees be allowed to return, a condition that, though promised by Israel’s tearful representative Abba Eban, has never been fulfilled.

The Gaza Strip, where I live, remains under a stifling siege notwithstanding international demands that the siege be lifted. International shipments of vitally needed medical supplies, food, clothing, and building materials have been systematically diverted by Israel using pirate-like raids against ships in international waters, as well as overland caravans. The last attack resulted in the massacre of nine peace activists and the injury of several dozen others aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israel attacked it and other vessels in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May.

Because I am a Palestinian, I do not have the option of “crossing borders” like Van der Vliet Oloomi and Morgenstern. Along with the other 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, my horizons are confined to this narrow strip of land. If we in Gaza were Jews, then under Israel’s racist system, we would not only be invited back to our homes throughout historic Palestine, but provided all sorts of subsidies, housing and support. This mass imprisonment of 1.5 million human beings, most of us refugees, just because we are the “wrong” religion, finds precedents only in the darkest chapters of human history.

Not only are we imprisoned, but we are subjected to regular attack. During its 23-day long assault on Gaza starting in December 2008, Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The UN-commissioned Goldstone Report as well as numerous local and international human rights organizations documented illegal use of weapons such as white phosphorus and cluster bombs. Of the thousands of homes, schools and businesses intentionally destroyed or seriously damaged by Israeli bombing and bulldozers, only a fraction has been rebuilt, since Israel uses the pretext of “security” to prevent the shipment of cement and other building materials into Gaza.

But the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank is also dire. The gigantic apartheid separation wall cuts Palestinians from their social, economic and cultural centers and prevents them from working their land. Hundreds of checkpoints prevent normal travel including visits to hospitals for essential medical care and attendance at schools and universities for both students and teachers or just to maintain normal family and social life.

A new report by the British-based Save The Children non-governmental organization documents that in certain places in the West Bank, malnutrition is even worse than in Gaza: 61 percent of children in Gaza are seriously malnourished, but up to 79 percent of children in “pockets of poverty” in the West Bank are malnourished as well. In both Gaza and the West Bank, “targeted killings” — extra-judicial executions — are a common Israeli practice.

Unless the well-meaning bloggers and Words without Borders are prepared to take into account this climate of colonial-settler oppression, it is doubtful that their ministrations can bear fruit. An appeal can be made to Israeli individuals and institutions to join the boycott — and some courageous Israelis have indeed done so — like members of the group Boycott from Within.

How do Palestinians negotiate this “hybrid social landscape?” By raising their own and others’ consciousness that we are under a state of siege, facing the daily threat of extermination, and using all means in our power to resist and to preserve our communities and our culture.

Unfortunately the Words without Borders initiative appears oblivious to these realities and speaks about Palestinians and Israelis in a language that obscures vast power differences that must be at the center of any serious, engaged and principled inquiry or action.

Given these realities and the fact that this project is a blatant violation of the boycott guidelines endorsed by most Palestinian intellectuals, it is unlikely that many Palestinians will choose to participate. Those who do participate will not be members of the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, or the Palestinian Writers’ Union, or even most Palestinian universities. Indeed, the choice is clear to the vast majority of Palestinians, and intellectuals must recognize that true “cross-cultural dialogue” is impossible when one voice is being stifled, silenced and erased by another.

Dr. Haidar Eid is an associate professor of Cultural Studies at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University and on the steering committee of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

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