December 2010

December 27, 2010

EDITOR: Two Year after the carnage

Two years after this cataclysmic event, it may seem to many of us that not much has changed, and a now chastened west being more interested in its self-inflicted financial crisis, than in the crisis they have inflicted on Palestine via Israel. This is both true and understandable, and we should work together to change it, but it also hides the reality of change across the world, caused by the extreme brutality of the Gaza carnage. Everywhere around the globe, people were shocked into action – demonstrating, writing for press, media and web, organising a variety of cultural and trade boycott, setting up solidarity groups everywhere against Israeli occupation, barbarity and Apartheid. The movement against Israeli atrocities has at last come of age, has established itself as a moral force and a political reality in most countries; it may well be a young shoot, but it is a strong and growing one, contributing to the isolation of the murderous pariah racist state which Israel has become.

This international movement can only grow, and is the main vehicle for long-term political action against the Israeli regime; the lessons of the Anti-Apartheid movement have been learnt, and a similar global movement is now being built and strengthened – be sure to support it yourself in any way you can!

An Open Letter from Gaza: Two Years after the Massacre, a Demand for Justice: PACBI

We the Palestinians of the Besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, two years on from Israel’s genocidal attack on our families, our houses, our roads, our factories and our schools,  are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting – the time is now to hold Israel to account for its ongoing crimes against us. On the 27th of December 2008, Israel began an indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The assault lasted 22 days, killing 1,417 Palestinians, 352 of them children, according to main-stream Human Rights Organizations.  For a staggering 528 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces let loose their US-supplied F15s, F16s, Merkava Tanks, internationally prohibited White Phosphorous, and bombed and invaded the small Palestinian coastal enclave that is home to 1.5 million, of whom 800,000 are children and over 80 percent UN registered refugees. Around 5,300 remain permanently wounded.

This devastation exceeded in savagery all previous massacres suffered in Gaza, such as the 21children killed in Jabalia in March 2008 or the 19 civilians killed sheltering in their house in the Beit Hanoun Massacre of 2006. The carnage even exceeded the attacks in November 1956 in which Israeli troops indiscriminately rounded up and killed 275 Palestinians in the Southern town of Khan Younis and 111 more in Rafah.

Since the Gaza massacre of 2009, world citizens have undertaken the responsibility to pressure Israel to comply with international law, through a proven strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions. As in the global BDS movement that was so effective in ending the apartheid South African regime, we urge people of conscience to join the BDS call made by over 170 Palestinian organizations in 2005. As in South Africa the imbalance of power and representation in this struggle can be counterbalanced by a powerful international solidarity movement with BDS at the forefront, holding Israeli policy makers to account, something the international governing community has repeatedly failed to do. Similarly, creative civilian efforts such as the Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys must never stop their siege-breaking, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.

Two years have now passed since Israel’s gravest of genocidal acts that should have left people in no doubt of the brutal extent of Israel’s plans for the Palestinians. The murderous navy assault on international activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea magnified to the world the cheapness Israel has assigned to Palestinian llife for so long. The world knows now, yet two years on nothing has changed for Palestinians.

The Goldstone Report came and went: despite its listing count after count of international law contraventions, Israeli “war crimes” and “possible crimes against humanity,” the European Union, the United Nations, the Red Cross, and all major Human Rights Organizations have called for an end to the illegal, medieval siege, it carries on unabated. On 11th November 2010 UNRWA head John Ging said, “There’s been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy…The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt.”

On the 2nd of December, 22 international organizations including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Medical Aid for Palestinians produced the report ‘Dashed Hopes, Continuation of the Gaza Blockade’ calling for international action to force Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade, saying the Palestinians of Gaza under Israeli siege continue to live in the same devastating conditions. Only a week ago Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report “Separate and Unequal” that denounced Israeli policies as Apartheid, echoing similar sentiments by South African anti-apartheid activists.

We Palestinians of Gaza want to live at liberty to meet Palestinian friends or family from Tulkarem, Jerusalem or Nazareth; we want to have the right to travel and move freely.  We want to live without fear of another bombing campaign that leaves hundreds of our children dead and many more injured or with cancers from the contamination of Israel’s white phosphorous and chemical warfare.  We want to live without the humiliations at Israeli checkpoints or the indignity of not providing for our families because of the unemployment brought about by the economic control and the illegal siege.  We are calling for an end to the racism that underpins all this oppression.

We ask: when will the world’s countries act according to the basic premise that people should be treated equally, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or colour – is it so far-fetched that a Palestinian child deserves the same human rights as any other human being? Will you be able to look back and say you stood on the right side of history or will you have sided with the oppressor?

We, therefore, call on the international community to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinian people from Israel’s heinous aggression, immediately ending the siege with full compensation for the destruction of life and infrastructure visited upon us by this explicit policy of collective punishment. Nothing whatsoever justifies the intentional policies of savagery, including the severing of access to the water and electricity supply to 1.5 million people. The international conspiracy of silence towards the genocidal war taking place against the more than 1.5 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.

We also call upon all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations to demand:

– An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of their exercise of democratic choice.
– The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention.
– The immediate release of all political prisoners.

– That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be immediately provided with financial and material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing
– An end to occupation, Apartheid and other war crimes.
– Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the Israeli Occupation Forces in the Gaza Strip.

Boycott Divest and Sanction, join the many International Trade Unions, Universities, Supermarkets and artists and writers who refuse to entertain Apartheid Israel. Speak out for Palestine, for Gaza, and crucially ACT. The time is now.

Besieged Gaza, Palestine

List of signatories – on the link above

EDITOR: Voices of reason in the Israeli racist wilderness

As opposed the the normative repulsive racism which now heads every Israeli media outlet, the articles below are rare examples of the voice of reason, all coming from Palestinians and Israeli Jews on the left of the spectrum, and may well be some of the last such voices to be published by a fast-moving fascistation of the Israeli public sphere; I have included many recent pieces from Haaretz – the other vehicles of the press in Israel are much too right-wing to allow this type of opinion on their pages – as evidence of the delayed shock and realisation of the Israeli liberal elite, who find themselves ina xenophobic, fascist country, and start to realise its frightening features. They should have spoken much earlier, alas; No amount of liberal pressure can or will change this sick body – it has to be changed radically by outside pressure, like Aparheid South Africa was changed. Most of the writers do not yet realise this simple and depressing truth – they have lived under Apatheid all their lives, and yet, like white South Africans, failed to identify its features and dangers;Every Palestinian could have told them about those from personal daily experience!

The Israelis are now looking in the mirror at a face that some of them, on the liberal left, are finding justifiably terrifying, repulsive and unacceptable. They are starting to see themselves as the rest of us see them – as a terrorising, xenophobic, militaristic settler-state, sowing death and destruction all around it, projecting hatred and racism. It is good that at least some Israelis are noticing this, while the great majority of Israel’s Jews are wallowing in this hatred like pigs in ripe excrement. It all gives the lie to the preposterous oxymoron of “Jewish Democracy”…

Jews and Arabs must fight Israel’s racism together: Haaretz

MK Ahmed Tibi

Trends of alienation and despair are evident in Israel’s Arab population, and in this reality it is easy to foster separatism and segregation.
By Ahmed Tibi
Something evil is occurring in Israeli society. Racism and xenophobia are consuming its enlightenment and tolerance, and democracy is becoming more and more endangered. Phenomena that had been on the sidelines are now moving to the forefront. Blatant racism against Israel’s Arab citizens, and hostility to foreigners in general, phenomena that are usually deeply repressed in the collective soul of people and which enlightened governments are careful to lock in a psychological basement are now being released in a murky thrust. Hatred and fear are being reinforced. This is a frightened and insecure society.

Between the rabbis’ letter, the growing public standing of Avigdor Lieberman, loyalty oaths, incitement against Arab officials and the flood of racist laws, the 18th Knesset is the most racist of all time. To the current parliament’s credit, it’s likely that the next one will be worse.

All of this is not happening in a vacuum. The public space and the social atmosphere have been ripening for this dark attack. The Democracy Index – the flagship project of the Israel Democracy Institute – shows that a majority of the Jewish public supports the stifling of minority voices.

Moshe Arens blamed the collapse of Israeli democracy on Arab Knesset members (Israeli Arab MKs don’t always represent Israeli Arabs, Haaretz, Dec. 14). Thus even a “liberal rightist” like Arens, when he came to analyze the society of which he was a leader for many years and investigate the sources of racism bubbling up in that society, ignored the truly damaging elements and preferred to revert to cheap attacks and incitement against elected representatives of the Arab public.

The prolonged occupation, the bloody struggle, the oppression and the contemptuous treatment of Arabs and their rights did not exist in Arens’ analysis. Nor did the continuing exclusion of Israel’s Arab citizens or the lack of Israeli Arab representation in the civil service (just 6.7 percent). Arens did not touch on the inherent discrimination or lack of planning for Arab towns nor the general distance of Arabs from benefits that only the majority enjoys. Arens takes none of these into account. He only repeats the mantras spoken by vegetable sellers in the market.

I am not a spokesman for all Arab lawmakers and I refuse to see us as one entity. There are 14 Arab Knesset members and each has his or her own color, character, style, agenda and emphases. There are some who have made achievements and some who have not; there are those who have earned the public trust and those who have yet to accomplish this. It is only the public that will judge us at the end of the day. But we are all elected public representatives who are no less legitimate than any Jewish MK.
Arens’ sweeping generalization was shameful and not befitting to his style.

I’m not saying that we’re completely perfect, but one must remember that political discourse is dynamic and symbiotic. Therefore a comment, even when it is harsh or in bad taste, is just a comment. We must not forget that we sit in the Knesset as a right not a privilege. Time and time again we’ve been elected by a general public Arens said we don’t represent. A contradiction, it seems to me, and not appropriate for an empirical rationalist like Arens. Some of us are very popular in our public.

Trends of alienation and despair are evident in Israel’s Arab population, and in this reality it is easy to foster separatism and segregation. Many of my colleagues and I try to be a responsible national leadership that grits its teeth and looks to both the near and far future. We cling to the word “democratic” of the phrase “Jewish and democratic”, even when from day to day it seems we have less to hold on to.

Israel’s government ministers are more dangerous, in my view, than the rabbis who cling to the idea of “Jewish”; and from that idea of “Jewish” allow the same dark halakhic ruling to rear its head.

The struggle against racism must be a joint Jewish-Arab effort, just as it was when thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Human Rights Day. As Martin Luther King said, there is no path to peace and equality; peace and equality are the path.

Ahmed Tibi is the deputy speaker of the Knesset, and a member of the Ta’al party.

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