October 31, 2010

‘Surfing rabbi’ wheeled out: cpgb

The October 24 English Defence League march to the Israeli embassy “in solidarity with Israel” was virtually ignored by Unite Against Fascism. Maciej Zurowski reports

“Palestinians stink,” I heard a female voice shout, as I made my way from the October 23 anti-cuts march in central London to Covent Garden, the day before the English Defence League’s pro-Israel demonstration. Why, it was Roberta Moore, the lovely lady of the EDL’s ‘Jewish Division’, who had decided to brighten up our Saturday afternoon with a bit of racism.

Roberta is a person of many interests: the Brazilian born, ex-Israeli businesswoman counts the Zionist Federation as well as the British National Party among her ‘likes’ on Facebook.[1] The target of her hatred? A small group of Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists handing out leaflets in Monmouth Street about the machinations of Ahava, an Israeli beauty product company with a factory in the Palestinian West Bank and a local outlet.[2] As Roberta stood there grinning vacuously like the reactionary in Ugg boots that she is, the EDL’s entire Jewish Division stood firmly behind her – ie, the other two members.[3]

One of them, a middle-aged woman wrapped in an Israeli flag, interfered whenever pro-Palestine protesters engaged in conversation with passers-by. She was routinely told to get lost. The EDL Jewish Division was completed by a third woman, who periodically shouted, “You’re all Hamas” with a voice so gravelly it would make Lemmy of Motorhead blush.

Also present: a hapless bearded man who waved the LGBT movement’s rainbow flag, while repeatedly shouting, “Hamas kills homos”; and a completely fanaticised silver-haired Zionist who kept exclaiming, “Buy Israeli products here”.[4] With a forceful gesture that verged on assault, he passed me a leaflet appealing to the public to “help the shops in Monmouth Street survive” despite the “disruptive protests”, while casually remarking that “the protesters claim that Israel oppresses the Palestinians – a lie”. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Britain’s new far right. A real motley crew, not like the jack-booted stormtrooper battalions we read about in Socialist Worker at all – and only inadequately preparing us for what we would encounter the following day.

“If those barriers break one day and our lads get through they will murder them all,” said a senior EDL activist in Matthew Taylor’s undercover documentary.[5] On Sunday around 2pm, I suddenly remembered this sentence very vividly, as we faced a 200-strong mob of angry hooligans, with only seven or eight metres and a line of nervous bobbies separating us from them. The stewards had trouble keeping “their lads” from breaking through the shaky fence that delineated the EDL mosh pit. Kensington High Street reverberated with chants of “Scum! Scum! Scum!”, as high-on-hate thugs waved placards such as “UAF = united anarchist fools” at a crowd of no more than 30 counter-protesters.

Given that the SWP had virtually conjured up a Nazi apocalypse in Bolton not too long ago, bussing in hundreds of protesters from all across the UK, Sunday’s ridiculously low anti-fascist turnout did not seem to make any sense. Why was this EDL rally less important than those in Bolton and Dudley? The bulk of counter-protesters was made up of Palestinian youths, who were joined by a small handful of Socialist Workers Party, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Revolutionary Communist Group comrades, as well as a couple of orthodox Jews from the Rabbis for Palestinian Justice campaign. Anarchists, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and other ‘militant’ big mouths were all absent. There was a sense that the left had abandoned the Muslims, and EDL members were not slow to post on its discussion forum that “this proves UAF is finished”.[6]

“It’s hard for us to get a good turnout even if we mobilise,” explained a disappointed UAF activist to us. Had the ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect we had predicted already set in?  (see ‘Leftist dogma and exaggerated threats’ (Weekly Worker August 26) More likely, the SWP was too busy with its Right to Work front in response to Osborne’s spending review to really give a hoot about the EDL this time. On October 19, the SWP’s Martin Smith posted an article criticising Searchlight’s “non-confrontational” bourgeois anti-fascism on the Socialist Worker website,[7] while not saying a word about the upcoming EDL event in central London. Instead, UAF banged the drums for the ‘national demonstration against racism, fascism and Islamophobia’ on Saturday November 6, expressing its “deep concern” about the EDL. This event – obviously not “non-confrontational at all – is backed by the TUC and the rightwing Muslim Council of Britain.

The EDL, meanwhile, was alive and well outside the Israeli embassy. Kevin Caroll, a prominent organiser whose active support for BNP candidates was revealed earlier this year,[8] gave the opening speech, a tedious pot pourri of ‘common sense’ nationalism and Islamophobic clichés. The Muslims want to force-feed us halal meat, he claimed. “Boo,” bleated the crowd, as if prompted by an X Factor studio assistant. Caroll read out violent bits from the Qur’an with a gravitas that suggested he had made some ground-breaking discovery, but it only earned him the same duteous response. The assembled patriots’ attention span was limited when it came to speeches. Again and again, they ran off to push to the front line and confront counter-protesters – that is when their hatred seemed real and uncontrollable.

“We pay your benefits,” they chanted at the anti-fascists. To be honest, it is more likely that the opposite was true. Despite the presence of some petty bourgeois elements in the EDL ranks, here was a dead-end mob largely recruited from the poorest and least employed elements of British society. This did not keep them from mentally inhabiting a parallel universe: in their minds, radical Muslims and politically correct Marxists were about to take over Britain. Meanwhile, back in the real world, a fundamentalist rightwing government is about to undercut the very means that keep these people alive – unchallenged.

Our good friend Roberta Moore made an appearance and gave a fairly toned-down speech. She lectured some Muslims watching from a safe distance that they could “stay here”, but “You will assimilate, and you will follow British law.” The star of the day, though, was no doubt Nachum Shifren, also known as the ‘surfing rabbi’, whom Roberta had especially flown in from the US at EDL expense. A far-right Republican, frequent agitator at Tea Party rallies and candidate for the California state legislature, Shifren is your man if you consider governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be too much of a bleeding heart liberal.

The rabbi, who is considered an embarrassment by more moderate Zionists, assured the EDL mob that “you won’t understand my words, but you will feel my meaning” before shouting slogans in Hebrew at the Israeli embassy. The crowd reacted with bewilderment and some laughter until the Rabbi started to speak the language they truly understood, agitating against “liberals who preach multiculturalism” and especially the “damn communists” behind the police line. The mob cheered violently, and we felt a little less safe for a minute or two.

Later, the police escorted the EDL to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, where the surfing rabbi spewed more venom, while EDL casuals destroyed an Islamic info stall, throwing the Muslims’ table across a fence. “When we get control of this country, I’ll make sure your ass is out of here,” shouted the rabbi. Scuffles erupted and if you were a Muslim you certainly would not want to run into these lads on their way home.

But make no mistake, comrades: the left is now officially established as the EDL’s other main target – a development the organisation’s leaders counted on from day one. “Persecuted for being English by the UAF”, goes the official EDL anthem,[9] and in a sense we are all UAF now, whether we like it or not. More random attacks against leftists have been reported, the most recent incident taking place in front of the University of London Union, where an EDL casual beat up a member of the Stalinist CPGB-ML – though not without receiving a few good punches himself. The EDL has also been preparing files on journalists and photographers who report their activities, while issuing death threats to others.[10]

While the bulk of the left stylised the EDL into the BNP’s own SA, our own ‘let’s wait and see what happens’ attitude may have been a little too laid back at times. True, we analysed the EDL carefully, without hysterical exaggeration, and without the SWP’s desire to paint it as the coming of the Fourth Reich at all costs. We were correctly agitating for the only long-term solution, a Communist Party, instead of alliances with the liberal bourgeoisie. We also looked to the 1920s German KPD and its tactically flexible approach to countering fascism. But despite its flexibility – which included Querfront cooperation with the far right through national Bolshevik, anti-Semitic and “After Hitler, us” slogans in the Rote Fahne paper[11] – the KPD tactics ultimately proved disastrous. Obediently, the rank and file waited forever for the leadership to declare it was the “right time” to strike.

As the pro-imperialist EDL is forging links with the reactionary American Tea Party movement, which in all likelihood will increase its financial and organisational resources, we must continue to observe and analyse this very organically British, embryonic fascist movement arising before our eyes. But cool-headed analysis and a correct long-term strategy does not mean inactivity, lack of solidarity, the absence of short-term self-defence tactics and avoiding confrontation at all costs.

Notes

1. Israel’s liberal daily, Ha’aretz, suggests that Roberta is a follower of the late Rabbi Kahane, founder of far-right American terrorist group, the Jewish Defence League, and Israel’s neo-fascist Kach party: www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/what-are-israeli-flags-and-jewish-activists-doing-at-demonstrations-sponsored-by-the-english-defence-league-1.307803 . The Jewish Socialist Group’s Charlie Pottins thinks so too: randompottins.blogspot.com/2010/08/snap-what-united-david-and-roberta.html
2. For more information on the Free Palestine fortnightly demo go to freepalestinefortnightlydemo.wordpress.com
3. A Ha’aretz reader comments that the EDL Jewish Division consists of Roberta Moore (aka Morrigan Elemeth), Shoshanna/Cassandra Victoria and Stella Solomons (EDL forum user name ‘getonwithit’), who is apparently “also a BNP activist”: www.haaretz.com/misc/comment-page/roberta-moore-19.1198229 . According to her Facebook profile, Solomons holds a media studies degree from Birkbeck University – see what identity politics can do for you!
4. I believe it was Jonathan Hoffman, vice chair of the Zionist Federation, who frequently appears alongside the EDL Jewish Division’s trio infernal.
5. Watch the documentary at www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/may/28/english-defence-league-guardian-investigation
6. This did not stop the Iranian-owned Press TV channel from fantasising about “hundreds of protesters”: www.presstv.ir/detail/148122.html
7. ‘Anti-fascism – do we confront or comply’? at socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=22786
8. See www.bristolred.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/young-british-and-confused
9. The song is played by a band called Arthur and the Bandits and sounds like a cross between bad Oasis and Skrewdriver without a guitar tuner. It can be found on Youtube.
10. See www.zimbio.com/Orly+Taitz/articles/_q9Hi7GBIQ9/EDL+prepare+files+journalists+photographers
11. For more on the Querfront, read the paragraph on ‘National Bolshevism’ at www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Newint/Kessler.html

South Africa is already here: Haaretz

The government is trying to build a protected autonomy for the Jewish majority and a stunted autonomy for the Arab minority.
By Zvi Bar’el

How could the Israeli public allow a few dozen racists go down into the lion’s den of Umm al-Fahm on their own? Do Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir represent only themselves or just the fringes of the extreme right? After all, thousands of Israeli citizens agreed when they heard the thugs’ explanations of the reasons for their march.

Hundreds of thousands in Israel are pleased with the Citizenship Law, glad that the bill will, when it passes – and it will pass – allow discrimination against Arabs who will want to buy a home in a Jewish community, and the majority of the public considers MK Hanin Zuabi a traitor.

Where were all these people while the fascists marched through Umm al-Fahm? Suddenly they are not comfortable being seen with those who reflect precisely the zeitgeist?

Participating in this march should have been Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, MKs Anastassia Michaeli and David Rotem, the settler leadership, the followers of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the heads and residents of Jewish communities in the Galilee, as well as the owners of homes in Tel Aviv and Ra’anana who refuse to rent apartments to Arabs. This march should have carried the banner “[National] Pride Parade.” Alas, only 1,300 participants showed up, along with the police force that protected them.

But they are certainly not alone. They simply do not need yet another demonstration. Israel’s apartheid movement is coming out of the woodwork and is taking on a formal, legal shape. It is moving from voluntary apartheid, which hides its ugliness through justifications of “cultural differences” and “historic neglect” which only requires a little funding and a couple of more sewage pipes to make everything right – to a purposeful, open, obligatory apartheid, which no longer requires any justification.

In South Africa of the 1950s, the whites were afraid even of the white immigrants, lest they bring with them liberal ideas that would affect the local volk.

But mostly they feared the blacks. In a short period of time the insular white community adopted a series of laws that were meant to preserve their purity. In 1949, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act was passed; in 1950 and 1957 the Immorality Act and amendment made interracial sexual relations a criminal offense carrying a seven year prison sentence. In 1950, in the Population Registration Act, each citizen was categorized racially. In 1953 the Bantu Education Act was passed which established that the blacks will receive a different and lesser education than the whites, and in 1950 the Group Areas Act was passed which determined “group regions,” establishing where each racial group could live and which led to the expulsion of 3.5 million blacks from their homes.

This listing is presented here as a service to the racists in the Knesset, in case they did not know what kind of legislation to propose in order to complete their plan. This is also a public service for those who did not participate in the Umm al-Fahm march, so that they will know what they should require of their representatives.

With considerable delay, the South African Group Areas Act is now being copied into Israel’s book of laws. An individual can no longer purchase land, build a home or even rent an apartment in small communities in which the absorption committee opposes their presence. According to Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the law will “protect” 68.3 percent of all communities in Israel from being “stained.”

The remainder of communities, and especially the large cities, will have to continue, for the mean time, to make do with voluntary apartheid. But the days will also come, as they did in South Africa, when an appropriate solution was found for its cities. It will be possible, for example, to grant homeowners committees the authority to determine who can buy or rent an apartment in a building. After all, what is good about a small community should also be good in an even smaller building. And of course a law which encourages snitching will also be passed.

So, while the government of Israel is trying to gain Palestinian recognition for its Jewish identity, it is building within it the double identity of the state. A protected autonomy for the Jewish majority and a stunted autonomy for the Arab minority.

Israel is quickly defining the borders of the Arab autonomy and through apartheid legislation it is granting the Arab minority a legal standing of enclaves with lesser rights; of a cultural-ethnic region which, because it is being expelled from the broader who, can also demand international recognition for its unique standing.

Shas spiritual leader may back ban on renting to Arabs: Haaaretz

Former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef cites centuries-old interpretation of halakhic ruling barring the sale of land to non-Jews.

A former chief rabbi of Israel on Thursday backed a centuries-old interpretation of Jewish religious law barring the sale of land to non-Jews.

Days after a group of rabbis urged Safed residents not to rent apartments to Arabs, former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef reiterated a 500-year-old halakhic ruling barring the sale of land in the Land of Israel to non-Jews – a move that appeared to be a show of support for the other rabbis.

With an increasing number of Arab students enrolling at Safed College, the city has also seen a rise in Arab students renting apartments there.

Rabbi Yosef’s comments on Thursday were made at a beit midrash, an institution for religious studies, and contradicted remarks he made last Saturday night to a more general audience in Jerusalem.

Yesterday he addressed halakha, Jewish religious law, in greater detail.

Rabbi Yosef, who has been known to make controversial comments in the past, cited rulings based on the Book of Deuteronomy related to the Jewish people’s inheritance of the land, the presence of other peoples on the land, and that the Jews should not make a covenant with them “nor show mercy unto them.”

According to Yosef, this has been understood to mean barring the sale of land to non-Jews, based on an interpretation by Rabbi Yosef Caro, the 16th-century author of the codification of Jewish law, the Shulhan Arukh.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef did not, however, explicitly address the issue of renting apartments to non-Jews.

In yesterday’s lesson, he said “selling to [non-Jews], even for a lot of money, is not allowed. We won’t let them take control of us here.”

The former chief rabbi is the spiritual leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which refused to comment on his remarks.

In recent months, some rabbis and right-wing activists have campaigned against the sale of apartments to Arabs, particularly in mixed Arab-Jewish towns.

Two focal points of this effort are the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, where followers of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg of the Yitzhar settlement have been active, and Safed, where a group of rabbis claimed two weeks ago that the call not to rent to Arabs is supported by halakha. The latter event unleashed a storm of controversy in the Knesset, and led to stone-throwing last Saturday at Arab students’ apartments in Safed.

The Abraham Fund Initiatives, which promotes coexistence between Jews and Arabs, condemned Rabbi Yosef’s latest remarks, describing them as racist and having deepened the alienation between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The organization said that the leader of a Sephardi-based movement, a community the Abraham Fund said had suffered from neglect and discrimination for many years, would be expected not to lend a hand to incitement, but instead work to promote tolerance.

US Palestinians converging to help shape homeland’s future: The Electronic Intifada

Andrew Dalack, 29 October 2010

When activists from across the United States convened in August 2008 for the US Palestinian Community Network’s first Popular Conference, few people knew what to expect. The energy at the conference was palpable as organizations, individuals and families from our communities across the country, as well as solidarity forces allied with our cause, came together to participate in healthy discussions, necessary debates and to study our victories and failures to help strengthen the ongoing movement to realize justice in Palestine.

This weekend in Chicago, the second Popular Conference for Arabs and Palestinians in the US (http://popular.palestineconference.org) promises to continue to push our movement forward. After more than six decades of colonization, forced dispossession, home demolitions, occupation and apartheid, Palestinians remain steadfast in their refutation of the Israeli assertion that “The old will die, and the young will soon forget.” Students, youth, elders, women, men, professionals, artists and workers will convene in order to continue to build strong institutions that represent all Palestinian and Arab social sectors. Through these institutions, the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) continues to develop a representative national body of Palestinians and Arabs capable of and empowered to unify our voice and affirm the right of the Palestinians in exile to participate fully in shaping Palestine’s future.

This conference has dozens of leading Palestinian and Arab grassroots organizers, activists and educators leading workshops and panel discussions. It includes tracks and Palestinian Movement Assemblies (PMAs) for women, civil and national rights, and students and youth, respectively; as well as a focus on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) organizing and the institutionalization of our work. These will culminate in a participatory General Assembly, in which a USPCN plan of action for the next period will be drafted.

In an effort to create an environment that encourages conference participants to explore and celebrate the Arab and Palestinian culture, the conference also features an evening of music and song with the world-renowned Marcel Khalife, poetry from Tahani Salah, hip-hop from Excentrik, a bazaar with merchandise and literature from and about Palestine, and a children’s track with educational activities and a performance by the Olive Tree Circus. We will also hear from Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Knesset and survivor of the vicious Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s Mavi Marmara, and Ghassan Ben Jiddo will broadcast Al-Jazeera’s Hiwar Maftuh (Open Dialogue) live from the conference.

USPCN realizes that there are elements of our community who desire to separate — politically and physically — Palestinians in the West Bank from those living everywhere else. Such an attempt represents a betrayal of the Palestine liberation movement, the Arab national struggle and the trust of millions of Palestinian refugees anxiously awaiting the opportunity to return to their homeland freely. “Peace” negotiations that exclude not only specific Palestinian political parties, but also the voice of the majority of our people, have always failed, and will continue to fail as long as such talks undermine Palestinian unity by propping up an undemocratic Palestinian Authority that works virtually at the behest of Israel. This year’s slogan — Palestine: One Land. One People. One Destiny — challenges us to recognize that our organizing in the US is essential in achieving the Right of Return for all refugees and their descendants, the end of Israeli occupation and colonization and self-determination and liberty for the Palestinian people.

Andrew Dalack is a graduate of the University of Michigan and is on the coordinating committee of USPCN.

Formulas for siege: Haaretz Editorial

The use of mathematical euqations to calculate basic humanitarian needs cannot help but raise parallels with the most monstrous uses of science.

For three years, officers from COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, have used mathematical formulas to monitor food and other basic necessities imported into the Gaza Strip. The formula Z/C=D, for example, was used to measure the “breathing space” Gaza residents had before stocks of a given product were depleted.

In January, representatives of the State Prosecutor’s Office and COGAT were still denying in court that the formulas existed. But a determined and commendable legal battle by the nonprofit Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, together with reporting by Amira Hass in Haaretz, ultimately brought the documents to light.

The documents that were disclosed displayed the inhumanity of Israel’s closure policy in all its glory. But the blockade had long since proven itself to be not only an immoral instrument of policy, but also an ineffective one. None of its declared aims has been achieved: not the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and not the weakening of Hamas, which has only reinforced its rule under the closure.

Israel has apparently understood this, even if outrageously belatedly and only following international pressure. The Turkish-sponsored flotilla convinced it to relax the blockade a bit.

But the use of mathematical formulas to calculate basic humanitarian needs cannot help but raise parallels with the most monstrous uses of science. Blood-curdling calculations were made over the suffering of a civilian population numbering 1.5 million individuals. This inhumanity was also expressed in the cynical wording of the documents.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Amos Gilad, under whose command these formulas were used, bears responsibility not only for the moral obtuseness they reflect, but also for the foolish attempt to lie to the court and conceal information both from it and from the public.

The use of these documents, whose disclosure was essential to understand the thinking of those responsible for the blockade, has ceased. But we must remember that even if the siege has been eased, it continues to exist. Almost no one can enter Gaza or leave it, and the same is true of merchandise for export, which is of critical importance to the territory’s economy.

Now that Israel has discarded these despicable formulas and eased the closure, the time has come to end it completely.

Aiming at the siege: Al Ahram Weekly

While a new aid convoy has reached Gaza, the Israeli siege on the beleaguered Strip appears as firm as ever, writes Saleh Al-Naami
International peace activists with the Viva Palestina aid convoy celebrate as they cross into Gaza at the Rafah border crossing
The jeep transporting Fayza Sufayer, 45, had barely crossed the border from Egypt into Gaza when she jumped out and kissed the ground several times, in gratitude of her arrival in Gaza. Sufayer was one of 315 Arab and foreign supporters who arrived on 21 October in Gaza as part of the Lifeline 5 convoy that came to Gaza to express solidarity with the besieged Strip. Sufayer wears a face veil that reveals only her eyes, but this was enough to convey the emotion: she left Gaza for Jordan when she was 10 years old, lived there since, getting married and raising a family.

Sufayer headed to Lazikia from Jordan to join the Lifeline 5 convoy. As tears streamed down her face, Sufayer explained that she travelled with her son, her son-in-law and nine other Jordanian women to demonstrate their solidarity with those under siege in Gaza. “I have tried several times to come to Gaza, but I was unsuccessful,” she stated. “The occupation was an obstacle, as were the border closures and blockade.”

Layla Fares, 30, one of Sufayer’s travel companions, said she and her sister came to Gaza with a message from their father to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh: “As sure as we were expelled from our land, we will one day return; the occupation will end sooner or later.” Fares added that her father always urges his children and grandchildren to read everything that is written about Palestine so they are knowledgeable about it, especially the town from which they were expelled, “so it is not forgotten or lost in their memories, and he assures them that one day they are certain to return.”

Fares hopes that the blockade on Gaza will be lifted soon so she and her family can visit, as her father wishes, as does every other Palestinian living in the Diaspora.

The people of Gaza warmly welcomed the Lifeline 5 convoy once the Egyptian authorities granted them passage into Gaza with their aide caravan of mostly medical supplies. The group essentially consisted of supporters from Algeria, Jordan and Mauritania, as well as other Arab countries. One Algerian truck driver in the caravan said that he participated in the convoy to protest against the unjust siege on Gaza, adding that many Algerians want to take part in future convoys.

The Egyptian authorities barred former British MP George Galloway and 16 other supporters from entering Egypt and taking part in the caravan. Cairo declared Galloway persona non grata when he strongly criticised the Egyptian government after he led Lifeline 4 into Gaza.

Last week’s convoy left London and passed through Syria and Turkey before heading for Gaza. The Palestinian Ministry of Health welcomed the new medical supplies, targeted to meet pressing medical needs in Gaza. Unfortunately, most of the medical aid delivered by previous convoys did not meet Gaza’s needs or was medication close to its expiration date.

The convoy also included predominantly Arab nationals who demonstrated their solidarity in a variety of ways. In a symbolic gesture, Essam Juda, the mayor of Jabalya in northern Gaza, signed a sister-city protocol with the mayor of the Mauritanian town of Tekent, Al-Mami Weld Ababa, on Saturday. The two mayors said that by becoming sister towns, their hometowns would exchange information, experience and assistance on cultural, services and humanitarian issues, and bolster cultural dialogue between the two sides.

The ceremony was attended by the deputy speaker of Mauritania’s parliament, Mohamed Al-Mami, and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in Mauritania’s Senate, Omar Al-Fath Weld Sidi Abdel-Qader, and the leader of the Democratic Bloc in the Mauritanian parliament Abdel-Rahman Weld.

The arrival of Lifeline 5 coincided with more electricity outages in Gaza, which last eight hours every day because of low fuel reserves at the sole power plant in Gaza — currently only partially operational. Hundreds of supporters attending the ceremony in their honour, hosted by Haniyeh’s government at Rashad Al-Shawwa Cultural Centre on Friday night, could clearly hear the hum of power generators because of an electricity outage.

Adnan Abu Hasna, media adviser for UNRWA in Gaza, said that Israel continues to block the passage of construction material to build UNRWA schools in Gaza, using unacceptable claims as pretext. The English language Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli military sources reject the construction of UNRWA schools because they are located close to Hamas bases while Haniyeh’s government gave UNRWA land on which to build the schools.

Abu Hasna rejects these claims, saying that the planned schools are located in areas that are desolate, destroyed during Israel’s last war on Gaza. He added that the decision to build the schools came in response to calls by the local community for more schools because existing ones are overflowing with students. The spokesman continued that UNRWA turned down 40,000 students because there was no room in its schools.

According to Mohamed Sawalha, chairman of the British Muslim Initiative and one of the organisers of the convoy to Gaza, preparations for a new Freedom Flotilla are well underway. Sawalha refused to give more detail, but said that if Israel does not end the blockade on Gaza, “the free people of the world will surprise it with more steps which demonstrate their determination in rejecting the injustice imposed on the Palestinians.”

Sawalha declared that if all supporters were able to participate, there would be hundreds of thousands.

In recent weeks, Gaza has been visited by several foreign delegations, the latest being of “the Elders”, a global group of high-profile figures including former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, and Indian activist Ela Bhatt. After meeting with Haniyeh, Robinson said that a peaceful settlement cannot be reached without the participation of Hamas and that it is necessary to include the group in the negotiations process. She added that continued settlement building and withholding the basic needs of Palestinians “thwarts the hopes of both people in a two-state solution.”

Despite the fact that Lifeline 5 reached Gaza, an end to the blockade remains out of sight. Lifting the siege would require the support of the Palestinian Authority and Arab capitals, and there is no sign that this will happen soon.

Israel is proud to present: The aggressor-victim: Haaretz

Israelis have always loved victimization, not only when we were real victims, as often was the case in our history, but also when we were the aggressors, occupiers and abusers.

By Gideon Levy

Once upon a time the staple piece of clothing was the blue shirt of the Labor Movement, and songwriter Mordechai Zeira sang about it: “And it’s much better than all jewels.” A new generation has arrived, and its shirt is darker. Today it’s black and bears the legend: We are all the victims of Goldstone.

Dozens of friends of the two Givati Brigade soldiers arrived wearing these infuriating shirts at a military court a few days ago. Their friends had been convicted of overextending their authority while risking the life of an 11-year-old, and to be precise, of conduct unbecoming of soldiers. The soldiers received the scandalous support of senior officers, and the two convicted men have become heroes.

Israel is proud to present: The aggressor-vicitim. History has known crueler and even longer occupations than the Israeli one, and there have been much worse attacks on civilian populations than Operation Cast Lead. But there has never been an occupier who presented himself like that, as a victim.

From the days of Golda Meir, who said we will never forgive the Arabs for forcing us to hurt their children, to the combatants who shot and wept, we have set, courtesy of the Givati troops, a new record of Israeli chutzpah: We are all the victims of Goldstone.

The victimhood, it turns out, belongs not to an 11-year-old child whose life was put at risk and who has been suffering from insomnia ever since, but the soldiers who ordered him to check for explosives, in clear contradiction of a ruling by the Supreme Court.

Not the Samouni family, 21 of whose members were butchered when the same Givati Brigade, under the same commander, bombed the house into which the soldiers ordered the family, but the brigade commander, Ilan Malka, whose conduct is now being investigated, shamefully late. And certainly not the residents of Gaza, who experienced Cast Lead with its hardships, horrors, destruction and war crimes, but the soldiers, who share responsibility with the commanders and politicians.

We’ve always loved victimization, not only when we were real victims, as often was the case in our history, but also when we were the aggressors, occupiers and abusers. And we don’t only cast ourselves as victims, but as the only victims. But observe our perception of our wrongdoing. It started with denial, then changed to suppression, then to shamelessness, then to dehumanization and demonization, until we arrived at the current stage: A pride parade.

The soldiers taking pictures of themselves dancing with prisoners and posing with corpses are proud of what they do. They upload the footage onto the Web, for all to see, and friends of the two Givati troops are equally proud of what their mates have done. They’re proud of the conduct of people who broke the law. Their solidarity may be understandable, but it’s much more difficult to understand the support of their brigade commander, Col. Moni Katz, and Maj. Gen. (res. ) Uzi Dayan.

What are they saying – that the soldiers acted correctly? That they should not be punished? That they are victims? In that case, we have little to claim from the soldiers, who were only acting according to the spirit emanating from their superiors. But most difficult to understand is the widespread public support for the two. Just like the Nahariya policeman convicted of placing bombs to injure suspected mobsters, they are local heroes and national victims to many.

Do we really want to be proud of the soldiers ordering children to risk their lives, in violation of the law? Is this how we want the army to behave? Will Israeli public opinion never accept that war has rules and that if Israeli soldiers break them, they must be punished? True, they may have been carrying out orders, they may have been jaded and exhausted after three weeks of the assault on Gaza, as the court has heard. But casting them as victims testifies to the chaos overtaking Israel.

So we should go back to basics. The victims of Cast Lead are the 1.5 million residents of Gaza. The “victims” of the Goldstone report are not the two convicts, but their own victims. The shirts worn by their friends in court are proof that these basic truths have been blurred and distorted beyond recognition.

Want to weaken Hamas? Open Gaza’s gates: Haaretz

Israel’s policy, meant to overthrow Hamas by prohibiting production and manufacturing, has failed miserably.
By Amira Hass

Do you really want to weaken Hamas? Surprise it. Go back and open Gaza’s gates – to ordinary human movement, not just to cherries, shavers and a handful of pious Muslims who manage to wend their way past the Egyptian bureaucracy. Open the Erez checkpoint. Then you’ll see how Gazans yearn for life.

Let young people study outside the Gaza Strip. Despite the exasperating presence of Israel’s foreign rule, in the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank those young people will encounter a form of diversity that is becoming extinct in Gaza. They will discover that such diversity is better than the monolithic reality imposed by Israel’s siege and messianic politics. Allow female pupils and female teachers to tour their land and see that the world is more complicated than brainwashing television programs and competitions to obtain relief packages. Consider this: Diplomats report that most Hamas summer camps in Gaza have been closed; most children preferred camps operated by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

Stop suffocating manufacturers who have become impoverished over the past five years. Challenge those who call for a boycott, and allow the forcibly unemployed to find work in Israel. Let’s see if Hamas can stop them from doing that. The Kav La’oved worker’s hotline will campaign devotedly against their exploitation, while Palestinian organizations will try to dissuade them, softly or not, from working in Israel.

Yet their self-esteem, buoyed by the fact that they are again providing for their families, will find its place among such internal contradictions. Let cement and iron enter Gaza so engineers, builders and painters can get back to work. They will rebuild the rubble, along with their attitudes on life.

When residents from Hebron, Nazareth and foreign countries travel to the Khan Yunis coast, or visit a cultural center north of the Al-Shatti refugee camp, their illusions about the wonders of the religious-totalitarian regime will evaporate. The earlier the quarantine in which Gazans were put some 20 years ago is broken, the harder it will be for Hamas to tighten the bridle.

The apocryphal legend says that the closure – the regime of movement restrictions – was imposed on the Palestinians because of the strengthening Islamic movement and the terror strikes against Israeli citizens. But the sequence of events should be read the opposite way: The policy of mass confinement took root in January 1991, before the suicide attacks in Israel. This is a society that was progressively allowed less access to the outside world and experienced ever-more sophisticated variants of Israeli oppression and a lack of concrete solutions from the PLO leadership. Under such circumstances, is it any wonder Allah’s earthly emissaries managed to find their way to people’s hearts?

If the Israeli government’s policy indeed meant to overthrow Hamas by prohibiting production and manufacturing, and by using mathematical formulas to make sure that the animals’ – excuse me, the human beings’ – nourishment does not slip beyond a red line, then it has failed miserably. This failure was evident before Israel was compelled by international pressure to annul the restrictions on the entry of consumer goods. Gaza residents’ famously high threshold of pain and endurance levels let them get by the past three dark years. Unjustly, this resilience is attributed to Hamas.

Appearing increasingly self-confident and self-satisfied, Hamas is consolidating its rule. True, it relies on stifling dissent, intimidation and oppression (like its rival, the Palestinian Authority ). But thanks to its strong talent for improvisation, Hamas is learning to serve the population and supply vital needs under extremely hostile circumstances. Are those policy makers who devised the draconian restrictions that foolish to think that bans on chocolate and toys and the destruction of the manufacturing sector would stir an uprising against Hamas or convince it to deliver the keys of power to Mahmoud Abbas?

It would be wrong to dismiss the wisdom of our leaders. Perhaps they’ve gotten exactly what they wanted – to strengthen Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both for perpetuating the intentional division between Gaza and the West Bank and to encourage perpetual low-intensity warfare (which sometimes escalates ).

Only under such circumstances do our leaders know how to function, while securing their people’s support.

Segregation of Jews and Arabs in 2010 Israel is almost absolute: Haaretz

For those of us who live here, it is something we take for granted. But visitors from abroad cannot believe their eyes.
By Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu

Under the guise of the deceptively mundane name “Amendment to the Cooperative Associations Bill,” the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee this week finalized a bill intended to bypass previous rulings of the High Court of Justice. If indeed this legislation is approved by the Knesset plenum, it will not be possible to describe it as anything other than an apartheid law.

Ten years ago, the High Court of Justice ordered the town of Katzir to accept the family of Adel and Iman Kaadan, Arab citizens of Israel, as members of the community. Seven years later, the court issued a similar ruling against the Galilee village of Rakefet, which, like Katzir, is Jewish. Now, however, the legislature has come up with a proper “Zionist” response to the justices: If it becomes law, the amendment will give acceptance committees of communal villages the authority to limit residence in their towns exclusively to Jews.

Using polished and sanitized language, the bill would allow such committees in small rural suburbs to reject applications from families that “are incompatible with the social-cultural fabric of the community, and where there are grounds to assume that they will disrupt this fabric.”

In other words, if admissions committees were previously forced to exercise some degree of creativity if they wanted to hide their national-ethnic grounds for rejecting Arabs, now, as Rabbi Akiva said, “All is foreseen, and freedom of choice is granted” (Pirkei Avot 3 ). Arabs? Not here. Sorry, the law is with us on this.

Those who feign innocence, including some from the center of our political map, will say, “The bill is not intended to keep out Arabs. What’s wrong with supporting the right of communities to protect their unique way of life?”

Indeed, what is wrong with that? There’s no argument that the vegetarians of Moshav Amirim, in the Galilee, have a right to defend themselves against an invasion of carnivores, just as the practitioners of transcendental meditation at Hararit, in the Misgav region, need to be able to meditate without interruption, but those communities are genuinely unique in character. This is not the case for the dozens of yeshuvim kehilati’im (literally, “community settlements” ) all over Israel, whose principal cultural feature is the fact that their residents are Jewish and Zionist – hardly a population under imminent threat, whose unique way of life needs protection.

Several months ago, we were given a glimpse of just how quickly the new law will be implemented, when several such villages, anticipating the Knesset’s action, hurriedly established bylaws that effectively barred Arabs. In the communities of Yuvalim and Manof, in the Misgav area, applicants are now required to declare their allegiance to the Zionist vision, while in Mitzpe Aviv, a bit to the south, applicants must declare their identification with the values of Zionism and the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

It’s not as if Arab families are standing in line to move to these gated communities, which were established mainly in the 1970s and ’80s by Zionist organizations like the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund for the purpose of “Judaizing” areas like the Negev and the Galilee. No one ever expected these towns to provide the answer to the horrendous housing shortage faced by Israel’s Arab population. For them, not a single new town has been established since 1948, with the exception of a few impoverished Bedouin settlements in the Negev. Nor has the central government seen fit to assist or give approval to the existing Arab municipalities in the drawing up of master plans that would allow them to implement a program of growth and development to meet the needs of a growing population or mitigate their poor quality of life.

And this is without even mentioning cities like Upper Nazareth, Safed or Carmiel, where a variety of statements have been made – sometimes by the most senior municipal officials themselves – that are designed to push Arabs out or prevent their integration into these cities.

Segregation of Jews and Arabs in Israel of 2010 is almost absolute. For those of us who live here, it is something we take for granted. But visitors from abroad cannot believe their eyes: segregated education, segregated businesses, separate entertainment venues, different languages, separate political parties … and of course, segregated housing. In many senses, this is the way members of both groups want things to be, but such separation only contributes to the growing mutual alienation of Jews and Arabs.

Several courageous attempts – particularly in mixed cities and regions – have been made to change the situation, bridge the rifts and promote integration. These range from efforts to develop mixed educational frameworks, to joint economic ventures and other interventions intended to foster good neighborly relations based on equal opportunity. Until now, these attempts addressed a situation of de facto segregation. From today, however, segregation will be de jure, to the shame of Israel.

Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu is the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, an organization that promotes coexistence and equality between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.

Jonathan Cook: Israeli police shoot Haneen Zoabi in back: IOA

Posted by admin on Oct 28th, 2010 and filed under FEATURED COMMENTARIES, Israel, Jonathan Cook. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
By Jonathan Cook, www.jkcook.net – 28 Oct 2010
Protest met with rubber bullets: Israeli police shoot ‘hated’ Arab legislator in back
Israeli police injured two Arab legislators on Wedensay in violent clashes provoked by Jewish rightwing extremists staging a march through the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.
Haneen Zoubi, a parliament member who has become a national hate figure in Israel and received hundreds of death threats since her participation in an aid flotilla to Gaza in the summer, was among those hurt.
Ms Zoubi reported being hit in the back and neck by rubber bullets as she fled the area when police opened fire. In an interview, she said she believed she had been specifically targeted by police snipers after they identified her.
Police denied her claims, saying they had used only tear gas and stun grenades.
Some 1,500 police were reported to have faced off with hundreds of Arab and Jewish demonstrators in the town.
Shimon Koren, the northern police commander, admitted special paramilitary forces had been used against the Arab counter-demonstration, as well as an undercover unit more usually deployed at Palestinian protests in the West Bank.
An officer disguised as an Arab demonstrator, from the so-called “mistarvim unit”, was among the injured, apparently after police fired a stun grenade at him by mistake.
Ms Zoubi harshly criticised the police violence. “The police proved that they are a far more dangerous threat to me and other Arab citizens than the fascist group that came to Umm al-Fahm,” she said.
The march was organised by far-right settlers allied to Kach, a movement that demands the expulsion of Palestinians from both Israel and the occupied territories. The movement was formally outlawed in 1994, but has continued to flourish openly among some settler groups.
The organisers said they were demanding the banning of the Islamic Movement, which has its headquarters in Umm al-Fahm.
The Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has angered Israeli officials by heading a campaign in Jerusalem’s Old City to highlight what he says is an attempted Israeli takeover of the Haram al-Sharif compound that includes the al-Aqsa mosque.
He was also on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza in May, and claimed at the time that Israeli commandos had tried to assassinate him. Nine passengers were killed, some of them by close-range shots to their heads.
The sheikh is currently serving a three-month jail sentence over clashes with the Israeli security forces close to the al-Aqsa mosque.
Michael Ben Ari, a former Kach member and now an MP with the rightwing National Union party, who attended the march, said Israel must not be a “stupid democracy and let people who want to destroy us have a voice”.
Baruch Marzel, one of the march organisers, told Israel Radio: “If the Kach Party was outlawed, then the Islamic Movement deserves to be outlawed 1,000 times over.”
On hearing of Ms Zoubi’s injuries, he added: “It was worth going to Umm el-Fahm. She is our enemy.”
Afu Aghbaria, an Arab MP with the joint Jewish-Arab Communist party, was also hurt. He said he had been hit in the leg.
Arab leaders said the clash had been triggered by undercover police who began thowing stones from among the demonstrators — a tactic that the unit has been caught on film using at protests in the West Bank.
Mohammed Zeidan, head of the Higher Follow-Up Committee, the main political body for Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise a fifth of the total population, condemned the police actions.
“Racism is no longer found only in documents or on the margins, like with Marzel, but has become a phenomenon among decision-makers and carried out on the ground. What happened today in Umm al-Fahm is a menacing escalation.”
The committee demanded a state investigation into what it called “exaggerated violence” by the police.
Police said nine Arab demonstrators had been arrested for stone-throwing.
Four police officers were reported to be lightly injured. The far-right marchers were escorted away by police, unharmed.
Ms Zoubi, a first-term MP, shot to notoriety this summer after she was among the first passengers to be released following Israel’s violent takeover of the Mavi Marmara.
Ms Zoubi contradicted the Israeli account that the nine passengers had been killed by commandos defending themselves, accusing the navy of opening fire on the ship before any commandos had boarded. She also claimed several passengers had been allowed to bleed to death.
She was provided with a body guard for several weeks after receiving a spate of deaths threats and general villification in the parliament.
The Israeli police have been criticised in the past for lying about the strong-arm methods used to quell protests by the country’s Arab citizens.
A state commission of inquiry found in 2003 that the police had used live ammunition and rubber bullets, in violation of its own regulations, to suppress solidarity demonstrations inside Israel at the start of the second intifada.
Thirteen Arab citizens were killed and hundreds injured in a few days of clashes in 2000. Police had falsely claimed that the deaths had been caused by “friendly fire” from among the demonstrators.
A recently parliamentary report revealed that there were only 382 Muslims in Israel’s 21,000-strong national police force – or less than 2 per cent.
The establishment of the undercover “mistarvim” unit against the country’s Arab population caused outrage among civil rights groups when it was first revealed last year.
The far-right march in Umm al-Fahm was timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary this week of the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded Kach. At a commemoration service in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel told hundreds who attended that the government was allowing the Palestinians to “establish an Ishmael state in Israel”.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

Permalink Print