April 2011

April 23, 2011

EDITOR: The memory of Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin

While abroad memorials are held in many cities for the courageous and innovative activist, the picture at the Jenin camp is more complex, with residents there being much more critical than supportive. One feels deep sadness about Juliano, who has given his life for this activity, like his mother before him, yet remained unrecognised as an important fighter for Palestinian rights, exactly where he acted and worked. It seems his work was a bridge too far for the inhabitatnts of the camp. His theatre was always demanding and uncompromising, and his critique of the PA, while shared by many in Palestine, was too much when coming from an outsider.

Juliano Mer-Khamis – a killing inspired by drama, not politics: The Guardian

Jenin residents claim public opinion turned on director for performing plays that went against Islamic conservative values
Conal Urquhart in Jenin
Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead earlier this month. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
He wanted to create an “art revolution” to help liberate the Palestinian people, but he only managed to alienate those he most wanted to inspire.

Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead earlier this month. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The murder earlier this month of Juliano Mer-Khamis was condemned all over the world but met with a grim silence by the residents of the Jenin refugee camp where he founded his Freedom Theatre. It has emerged that the residents of the camp had serious grievances against the actor-director that may have provided the excuses for an unknown gunman to kill him.

The 52-year-old, born of a Jewish mother and Palestinian father, attracted funding from the UN, Sweden and the UK for his theatre school and productions but many camp residents found his activities offensive.

His death and attitudes to the theatre highlight the conflict of interest between western donors, local elites and the populations they aim to aid; between liberal western values of freedom of expression and a more conservative, traditional world view.

A fatwa-style leaflet circulated in Jenin this week and seen by the Guardian, lists criticisms of Mer-Khamis and suggests that the final impetus for the murder was his plan to stage a controversial German play that explores teenage sexuality.

Mer-Khamis’s mother, Arna, started a drama workshop in Jenin to help children traumatised by the first intifada which began in 1987. In 2002, Mer-Khamis returned to Jenin after the Israeli army’s destruction of a large part of the refugee camp and the theatre his mother founded. He discovered that many of the children his mother had worked with had become gunmen and suicide bombers which he documented in his award-winning film, Arna’s Children.

But he decided that he wanted to continue his mother’s work and create a platform for Palestinian youth to stand up to authority through creativity rather than violence. The Freedom Theatre taught theatre and acting to students, including former gunmen, and staged plays such as Animal Farm and Alice in Wonderland which satirised Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

But while Mer-Khamis entertained thousands and inspired devotion among his disciples, his methods disturbed conservative groups in the refugee camp. The theatre was firebombed twice and Mer-Khamis often envisaged his death at the hands of “a crazy Palestinian gunman”.

A community leader said that Mer-Khamis was respected in the camp for highlighting damage inflicted by the Israeli army but his creation of a politically and social liberal theatre was more controversial.

Adnan al-Hindi, the chairman of the refugee camp’s “popular committee” said that Mer-Khamis had very different values and ideas from the residents, which caused disagreements.

The nature of the disputes varied. Local leaders were offended when David Milliband, the British foreign secretary, visited the theatre in 2009 without co-ordination with Palestinian officials. They were also offended by groups of theatre visitors touring the camp and by comments made by Mer-Khamis in interviews.

“He said that his message was to liberate citizens from the authority of their leaders and children from their parents. Then there was mixing of sexes and dancing. We tried to discuss it with him and persuade him that he was mistaken but to no avail. Public opinion turned against him,” said Hindi.

Inside the camp, rebuilt since its partial destruction in 2002, people were reluctant to speak about Mer-Khamis. A group of elderly women sitting by the roadside, gave their opinion: “God only knows what happened but the theatre was a shameful place.”

A butcher was more forthcoming. Standing in a small room with a portrait of Saddam Hussein and a sparsely stocked cold cabinet, he said he and others were offended by the theatre. “We are Muslims. We have traditions. We looked for our children and found them at the theatre dancing. If he came here to bring jobs that would be good but instead he comes here to corrupt our girls and make women of our boys,” he said.

The leaflet justifying the killing of Mer-Khamis also demands the closure of the theatre and other western organisations, including the British Kenyon Institute, under threat of “jihadi action”.

The leaflet attacks Mer-Khamis for his belief in co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians, “as if we could live with those who stole our land and killed our children”.

It goes on to attack his plays: “What kind of resistance [to occupation] is the play Animal Farm, which made the young men of Palestine bark like dogs and lick the ground in shame and the young women wear the costumes of pigs and roll around the ground in degeneracy?”

The leaflet describes Mer-Khamis as a Jew, a communist and an infidel. “He was not killed for a scene in a play. He was killed for the accumulation of his activities since he came here,” it says.

Mer-Khamis’s most recent project, Spring Awakening, is singled out for particular criticism. The play by Frank Wedekind was banned in Germany in 1891 for its portrayal of teenage sexuality. In recent years a musical adaptation won awards in London and New York.

The leaflet then refers to a telephone conversation between Mer-Khamis and the Arab-Israeli actor, Makram Khouri, in which Khouri advises his friend not to stage the play. According to theatre staff, very few people were aware of the conversation.

The leaflet then praises the man from Jenin refugee camp who carried out the killing. “He did not do it with a silencer, or in the dark but in broad daylight, face to face, and he made sure not to harm the woman and child who were in the car at the time,” the leaflet says.

Palestinian police say that their investigation into the murder continues.

Meanwhile, at the theatre staff remain determined to continue the work of Mer-Khamis despite a sense of paranoia that the killer had a connection to the theatre.

Rawand Arkavi, the theatre co-ordinator who is from Jenin, said: “We were cautious before but now we don’t care if they shoot all of us. We will keep the theatre going.”


Mubarak before and after, By Carlos Latuff

Syria urged to end deadly repression: Al Jazeera English

Obama leads condemnation and accuses Damascus of seeking Iranian help as dozens reported killed in latest protests.
Barack Obama, the US president, has said Syria’s deadly crackdown on protesters “must come to an end now” and accused Damascus of seeking Iranian help to repress its people.

Some 75 protesters were killed on Friday, according to human rights group Amnesty International, in the bloodiest violence in a month of escalating protests against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Local activists have released a list of 103 people who they say were killed in Friday’s crackdown.

“This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now,” said Obama on Friday, dismissing as “not serious” Assad’s lifting of a decades-old emergency law in Syria this week and accused him of seeking help from Iran.

“Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies,” he said.

“We strongly oppose the Syrian government’s treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilising behaviour more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups,” said Obama.

Despite the criticism, Obama did not refer to any potential US consequences should Assad refuse to heed his demands.

UN demands ‘independent’ investigation
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, meanwhile, has condemned the Syrian government’s killing of demonstrators, calling for an “independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings”, his spokesman said on Friday.

“The secretary-general condemns the ongoing violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria, which again has killed and injured many today, and calls for it to stop immediately,” Farhan Haq, Ban’s spokesman, said from the UN headquarters in New York.

Ban said that President Assad’s government must “respect international human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of the press”.

The UN secretary-general stressed that “only an inclusive dialogue and the effective implementation of reforms can address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and ensure social peace and order”.

European condemnation
Jerzy Buzek, the European Parliament chief on Friday also condemned the shooting deaths of protesters in Syria and called for the release of all prisoners of conscience.

“Today’s violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrations all over Syria is unacceptable. The bloodshed has to stop now: this is the government’s first and foremost responsibility,” he said in a statement.

“Any form of violence against peaceful demonstrators must stop: no more killing, no more torture, no more arbitrary arrests. An independent investigation into the deaths of protesters has to be carried out.”

France also urged Syrian authorities to halt their use of violence on anti-government protesters.

“We call on them once more to engage in an inclusive political dialogue without delay and to put into place reforms that respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” said deputy spokeswoman Christine Fages, deputy spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.

She also called for the release of those arrested and for respecting basic rights, including media freedom and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.

Peak of violence
At least 75 people were killed on Friday as security forces use live ammunition and tear gas to quell anti-government protests across the country, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

Friday’s death toll was one of the bloodiest in protests for democratic change – the first since emergency rule was imposed by the ruling Baath Party when it seized power in 1963.

Amnesty International called for an immediate end to the attacks on protesters and for an investigation into the deadly events.

“The Syrian authorities have again responded to peaceful calls for change with bullets and batons,” said Malcolm Smart, the London-based organisation’s director for the Middle East.

“They must immediately halt their attacks on peaceful protesters and instead allow Syrians to gather freely, as international law demands.”

Report: Turkey shows support for Palestinian efforts to seek UN recognition: Haaretz

Turkey’s Ambassador to the UN reportedly says the Palestinian Authority has proved they deserve to attain internationally recognized statehood, while the Turkish president says an Israeli-Palestinian deal is essential for peace in the region.

In a report published Saturday in the Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman, the Turkish Ambassador to the UN expressed his support for Palestinian statehood, urging the international community to follow suit.

“The time has come to show solidarity with the Palestinians and help them to live in peace and dignity,” said the Turkish Ambassador to the UN Ertuğrul Apakan during a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East on Thursday.

According to the report in Today’s Zaman, Apakan said that if the Palestinians prove they are ready to become a full UN member, instead of maintaining their current observer status, the international community should not “turn a blind eye to their just and legitimate appeal.”

“Through their state building efforts, the Palestinian Authority has proven to all the skeptics that they deserve to attain their decades-long target of internationally recognized statehood, even though they continue to suffer under occupation,” said Apakan, according to the report.
In a New York Times editorial Thursday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul spoke of the importance of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that a “dignified and viable Palestine,” living side by side with Israel, would fortify Israel’s security.
According to the report, Gul said that the plight of the Palestinians has been a cause of unrest and conflict in the Middle East and a pretext for extremism in other parts of the world. “Israel cannot afford to be perceived as an apartheid island surrounded by an Arab sea of anger and hostility,” said the Turkish president.
He added that Turkey would benefit from a peaceful Middle East and is “therefore ready to use our full capacity to facilitate constructive negotiations.”
Israel’s relationship with Turkey, once a key Mideast ally, has severely deteriorated since the Gaza war of the winter of 2008-2009, after which Ankara had severely criticized Jerusalem for use of excessive force in a dense civilian population.
The ties between the once stanch allies continued to worsen following Israel’s raid on a Turkish Gaza aid flotilla in May of 2010, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.
Turkey has repeatedly urged Israel to apologize for its boarding of the Gaza flotilla, demanding that it compensate the families of those injured and killed in the incident, demands that were rejected by Israel.
Recently, Turkish officials indicated they rejected a request from Israel to help stop activists sailing to Gaza on the first anniversary of an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship, saying flotilla plan was not Ankara’s concern.

The Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist umbrella group, has said that a flotilla expected in late May would comprise 15 ships with international passengers including Europeans and Americans.
Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, asked the Turkish government this month to help stop the activists, saying sending humanitarian aide to Gaza outside legal channels was a “provocation,” an Israeli diplomatic official told Reuters.
According to the report in Today’s Zaman, the Turkish ambassador the UN said, “It should also be borne in mind that the phenomenon of humanitarian convoys to Gaza cannot simply be explained away as unilateral provocations.”

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April 10, 2011

Both Israel and Hamas say open to truce if other side stops firing: Haaretz

Qassam strikes south of Ashkelon, mortar fire continues on Negev after Palestinian militants launched more than 120 rounds at Israel over the weekend; 19 Palestinians killed in IAF retaliatory attacks.

Both Hamas and Israel on Sunday signaled willingness to agree to a mutual cease-fire to end days of cross-border violence that saw at least 19 Palestinians killed and more than 100 rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would be willing to accept a mutual cease-fire with Hamas if the movement stopped firing from Gaza. “If they stop firing on our communities, we will stop firing. If they stop firing in general, it will be quiet, it will be good,” Barak told Israel Radio.

An Israeli soldier stands on his tank near kibbutz Kerem Shalom just outside the southern Gaza Strip April 8, 2011. Photo by: Reuters

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that “The Palestinian factions are not interested in escalation,” adding: “If the Israeli aggression stopped, it would be natural for calm to be restored.”

Palestinian militants fired approximately 120 rockets and mortars at Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip over the weekend, with tens of thousands of people spending the past few nights in reinforced rooms.

Another three mortar rounds hit the Negev early Sunday and a Qassam rocket exploded south of Ashkelon later in the morning. No casualties were reported, but electricity was temporarily cut in parts of the region.

A total of 38 rockets were fired at Israel on Saturday, 23 of which were aimed at Negev communities and 15 at communities in the Lachish region. There were no injuries in the Palestinian rocket barrage, but damage to homes and poultry runs in the Eshkol region was extensive. Most fell in open areas.

The Israel Air Force’s Iron Dome system has successfully intercepted a total of eight rockets fired at Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva since Thursday.

In Gaza, the death toll among Palestinian militants and civilians climbed to 19 since Israel launched its retaliation for a rocket attack on a school bus that critically wounded a teenager on Thursday.

Asked if Israel was considering a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip to end Hamas’s rule there, Barak said all options were on the table, but that it may not be necessary.

“If it will be necessary, we will act, but when it’s not necessary, we don’t need to,” he said. “Restraint is also a form of strength.”

GOC Southern Command Tal Russo met Friday with the heads of the local authorities near Gaza and said Thursday’s rocket attack on a school bus, which critically injured 16-year-old Daniel Viflic “crossed red lines.”

“We are in the midst of action, and we will weigh all options of response,” Russo added.

According to the head of emergency medical services in Gaza, Adham Abu-Salmiya, most of those hit were civilians, and among the dead were several women and children.

Five Palestinians were killed on Thursday, and 10 on Friday, among them a 45-year-old woman, Najah Kadih, and her 25-year-old daughter, Nadal Kadih, in Khan Yunis, according to Palestinian reports.

The IDF said it regretted the deaths of non-combatants but accused Hamas of continuing to operate from within civilian population concentrations.

Two of those killed Friday were identified as members of the military wings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Balal al-Ariar and Riyad Shehada, according to statements from those groups.

Among the dead was also a 10-year-old boy, Wail al-Jaro.

According to Hamas, two senior militants of the Hamas military wing were killed Saturday morning and one was critically injured when the vehicle in which they were riding was fired on from the air west of Rafah.

The two men killed were identified by Palestinian sources as Taysir Abu Sanima and Mohammad al-Uja. Abu Sanima is suspected of involvement in the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and is also believed to have been behind the firing of Katyusha rockets a few months ago from Sinai to Eilat.

Reports from Gaza say that the Israel Defense Forces fired heavy artillery from tanks and cannons as well as from the air, including from F-16s.

A 30-year-old militant of the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zoheir Albar, was killed in an artillery strike on the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. Three more militants were injured in the same incident, two of them seriously.

Palestinian sources reported Saturday that a civilian in his 50s, Ahmed Azeituna, was killed by an artillery shell in Jabalya, north of Gaza City.

Hamas denounced what it called international silence in the face of Israeli aggression, particularly by the European Union, considering that Hamas had announced a cease-fire after it fired at the school bus Thursday.

The Arab League is to convene an emergency meeting today in response to a demand by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas called on the Arab League and the European Union to pressure Israel to stop the fighting.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Saturday that Israel had continued artillery and aerial fire on civilian concentrations and while Hamas did not want to be dragged into conflict with Israel, it could not ignore what he said was Israel’s aggression. The Hamas military wing said it would respond accordingly to Israeli aggression and Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida said: “Palestinian blood is not for forfeiting.”

Security sources said Saturday that as long as rocket fire continued from the Gaza Strip, Israel would continue extensive air attacks there.

Security sources also said that while the Hamas government in the Strip wants to calm the situation, the military wing continues to allow rocket fire from its own people and other factions.

Senior Egyptian officials met over the weekend with senior Israeli and Hamas figures to try to prevent further escalation in Gaza.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Bureau said Israel did not want escalation, but that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided on his return to Israel on Friday from Berlin and Czech Republic to respond resolutely to fire from the Gaza Strip to create deterrence.

Netanyahu met over the weekend with Defense Minister Barak and spoke with other defense officials over the phone.

Israel wouldn’t need propaganda if it changed its policies: Haaretz

dawn to dusk. But how many times have you seen a foreign diplomat in Israel explaining how right his country is? Who would listen to him?
By Gideon Levy
What do Israel and Syria have in common? Not much, but both have ministries of hasbara. No such thing exists in the West. No such thing exists in democracies. But in Israel, we have falafel and a minister of hasbara, who is known as the minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs. The Israeli president, prime minister, cabinet members and MKs fly all over the world on useless hasbara missions. Israeli diplomats deal with hasbara from dawn to dusk.

But how many times have you seen a foreign diplomat in Israel explaining how right his country is? Who would listen to him? How many times have other countries’ ministers been guests here on hasbara missions? What would come out of them? As for us, Richard Goldstone has changed direction, so we’ll leverage it using Israel’s embassies: The Palestinians are firing Qassams at the south. We’ll use the Qassams for hasbara. And yet, how amazing: Never has Israel’s image been at such a low point.

The enlightened world doesn’t need propaganda, which we call hasbara in Israel. Elsewhere it’s understood that policy is the best and worst hasbara. A country’s image is determined by the media, which conveys reports, pictures and information, not propaganda, which has no buyers in the modern world. It’s crazy and primitive to believe that if only we have hasbara, if the people who explain Israel are good at their jobs, canny propagandists and seasoned PR people, look how our position would change, how the world would stand and cheer us. It’s a waste of time and money. The day Israel changes its policy it won’t need hasbara anymore; until then, it’s useless anyway.

It was the late Ambassador Yohanan Meroz who coined the word “hasbarable.” Some things, he said, were not hasbarable. Israel’s current policy, for example. The world has seen the Qassams landing in Israel over the past few days, and perhaps it condemns the Palestinians. Then it sees Israel’s harsh response, including many dead and wounded in Gaza, is infuriated and its heart goes out to Gaza. No hasbara will change that.

The world knows that this is a battle between the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David, and its heart is with the underdog. The world heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak of a two-state solution and was filled with hope. But after two years of total deadlock, hollow talk, illusions, Israel’s unreasonable setting of conditions and the construction of more and more settlements, the world has condemned Israel. No hasbara can change that.

Hasbara will not overcome the unequivocal fact that Israel has been an occupying power for more than four decades. No propaganda can persuade people of good conscience that we’re right as long as millions of Palestinians are living without rights.

Even Israel’s impressive wins at tennis and basketball and its home-grown supermodels will not change that. President Shimon Peres can circumnavigate the globe a thousand times and nothing will change. Statesmen and journalists may be amazed by his energy and charm, but they will not change their opinion about Israel because of him. “Mr. Hasbara,” Netanyahu, with his polished American English, is now one of the most excoriated statesmen in the world. If only he would change direction, he wouldn’t need his television tricks. In contrast, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, a colorless man with broken English, garners much more sympathy; his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, was an icon.

That’s how it is in the land of the brainwashed. We believe in hasbara because it works for us. With most of the media pro-government, hasbara has a proven track record in Israel. The campaigns dehumanizing and demonizing the Palestinians have sown fear and hatred no less than that sown by Palestinian terror. The fanning of nationalist and false patriotic flames have sown an evil wind and reaped a whirlwind.

But media outlets elsewhere have no intention of taking part in a hasbara campaign. There, they know the basic facts: Occupation is illegal, immoral and unjust. It produces violent opposition that in the end will be accepted with understanding and perhaps even with sympathy. So let’s say: Enough hasbara, let’s have policies that are just.

Haaretz WikiLeaks exclusive / Netanyahu’s ‘friend’ Sarkozy tried to dodge the PM: Haaretz

In their report of a June 2009 meeting between the French president and the Israeli premier − who claim to be friends − French officials said Sarkozy tried to avoid a tete-a-tete with his guest.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Paris at the end of June 2009, he was sure he was going to be meeting a friend.

Less than three months earlier the new government of Israel he headed had been sworn in, and 10 days earlier he had delivered the address that U.S. President Barack Obama expected of him − the so-called “Bar-Ilan speech.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Netanyahu considered a personal friend, was presumed to be one of the incoming prime minister’s allies in the European arena.

Netanyahu and Sarkozy became acquainted thanks to Meir Habib, a leader of the Jewish community in France. Since 2003 they had met several times, in Israel and in France; they had even shared a cozy dinner with their wives when Sarkozy − still a cabinet minister − visited Israel ‏(with his wife at the time, Cecilia‏).

A detailed cable about their meeting, written on June 29, 2009 by Kathleen Allegrone, the political attache at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, depicts Sarkozy as a person who is sometimes tied down to an official position that he cannot change as president, even though he might want to do so personally.

The cable also indicates that even though he is supposedly a friend to Netanyahu, Sarkozy − the European leader upon whom the Israeli premier should be able to rely more than any other − had reservations about him and preferred not to be left alone with him.

The report on the meeting is based on the briefing provided to the Americans by Boris Boillon, at the time Sarkozy’s adviser on Middle East affairs and one of the president’s veteran associates. Boillon subsequently left the Elysee Palace for a posting as his country’s ambassador in Iraq, where he served from 2009 to 2011.

Recently Sarkozy hastily appointed him ambassador to Tunisia in order to restore some of France’s diplomatic honor after it failed to predict the revolution there.

According to the American report, during the preparations for the meeting with the prime minister, Sarkozy refused to agree to Netanyahu’s request that they confer one-on-one. “After a tete-a-tete, each side says what it wants” about the things said in the meeting, explains the memo. In fact, the meeting was held in the presence of advisers from both sides.

During the meeting Sarkozy, “while conveying his feelings of ‘personal friendship’ to … nonetheless deliberately ignored two direct appeals by Netanyahu to break off for a one-on-one exchange.”

According to a French Foreign Ministry source who also briefed the U.S. officials, it was Sarkozy who “drove the meeting from start to finish,” and he who talked most of the time, not allowing Netanyahu “to set traps” for him.

For his part, according to the French reports, Sarkozy was assertive on the issue of the Jewish settlements in the territories. He demanded that Netanyahu act on the matter of dismantling roadblocks in the West Bank − and in general spoke against the settlement project, telling the Israeli, “You have nothing to gain from them,” and “They provide no security.”

At these moments Netanyahu looked “offended,” say the French, though he did not respond. Daniel Levy, an official of the Israeli Embassy in Paris who also briefed the Americans, confined himself to reporting that there was “no real discussion” between the two leaders.

There was, however, discussion of the Bar-Ilan speech, which Netanyahu had delivered on June 14. According to the French account, it was Sarkozy who first brought up the subject, telling Netanyahu that the Palestinians “must have a state of their own.”

When Netanyahu pulled out the speech, Sarkozy said it was “good but insufficient” and refused to show enthusiasm over the prime minister’s explicit use of the words “Palestinian state.” The French president believes Israel has no time to waste, said the report: “Time is against us.” In general, he said, “The longer you wait, the more support you will lose.”

At the meeting, Netanyahu raised the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. According to the American document, the French president’s adviser admitted that during the meeting Sarkozy agreed, in principle, to support the notion of Israel as a Jewish state, but explained that in public, Sarkozy will go no further than to mention “two states for two peoples.”

The reason for this? Sarkozy was “worried that any mention of the Jewish nature of the State of Israel will ‘insult’ the Palestinians …, who could interpret a statement as ‘a sign that we don’t support the right of return.’”

The French adviser concluded that Sarkozy “believes in a Jewish nation state for the Jewish people … he believes that’s why Israel was created.” Thus Sarkozy “privately recognizes Israel as a Jewish state” − but is not prepared to say these things “publicly,” not even for the sake of his friend Netanyahu.

Israel: Stuck in the collapsing certainties of tyranny and corruption?: Dialogue

April 2011, 5th
By Haim Bresheeth
An important plank of the Israeli anti-Arab propaganda was the pretence that Israel, despite insisting on calling itself a Jewish State, and speaking of ‘Jewish democracy’, was somehow also the only secular democracy in the Middle East, while all other regimes were either fundamentalist Islamic states, such as Saudi Arabia, or confessional states, such as Lebanon. The pronounced illiberal nature of some of the Arab regimes, and their attitudes towards other religions and cultures, especially in the case of the Wahabis, was a persuasive argument in supporting Israel’s westernised value-system. This was so despite the growing and swift Judaisation of the state, and its intensely unequal and racist policies towards the non-Jews under its control. It was a question of comparability – relative to the worst Arab states, Israel looked like an identifiable western democracy, especially to the uncritical eye of the western news media machine, with its orientalist, pro-Israeli bias.
It is of course too early to evaluate either the success, exact nature, or the longevity of the Arab Spring of 2011. The shockwaves of this political earthquake are still spreading as these lines are written, and will continue for some time, as the long-term patterns of change clarify and establish themselves. Some patterns are already evident, however, and could be discussed as surprisingly prevalent, and crucially important for any future developments.
The first is the fact that in all the protest movements in the Arab world, and also extending to Iran’s Green Revolution of 2009, the Islamic parties and sentiments were all but missing from the process, and played either no roll, or a small and insignificant one in the movement for change. This was not only in contrast to Israeli predictions, but also of those of the western intelligence community, strongly influenced by Israeli analysis and outlook. Their warnings of the Moslem Brotherhood being behind the Egyptian uprising were so clearly unsupported by events, that the Brotherhood’s leadership has come under pressure from its members to play a larger role in the developments…
A related misapprehension, also strongly supported by Israeli propaganda, was the claim that the protest was mainly fuelled by anti-Israeli (and according to some deluded commentators, even anti-Semitic) sentiments, and would by its nature bring about anti-Israeli governments into being, and revive the Arab-Israeli wars. While it is clear that the Egyptian revolt was also directed at Mubarak’s servile attitude towards Israel, and his role in enforcing the illegal Gaza blockade, acting as an agent of Israeli policy, the revolt was surely driven by the main complaints – the corrupt, undemocratic and oppressive nature of his regime, which was also what made his reactionary policies towards Palestine possible. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict as such did not play an important role in the Arab wave of protests. It is indeed probable that a democratically-elected Egyptian government is unlikely to continue the Mubarak policies towards Israel, but there was no sign of anti-Israel sentiment as the main driver of the protest. This was crucially an Egyptian protest, concentrating on Egyptian issues – freedom, justice, civil liberties, food and work, and an end to police brutality and the illegalities of the regime and the Mukhabarat.
The reaction of Israelis from across the political spectrum to the Arab Spring was strikingly unified and telling – not a single voice from the political arena welcomed the incredible wave of democratic energy and action across the Arab world, and the speakers and writers have all voiced deep consternation and concern about the loss of their favoured interlocutors – the various tyrants they have been dealing with, and especially that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
In a Guardian piece published at the height of the Libyan conflict, the Israeli editor-at-large of the liberal Haaretz daily, Aluf Benn, has clearly described the unified reaction:” Even in its third month, the Arab revolution fails to resonate positively in Israel. The Israeli news media devote a lot of space to dramatic events in the region, but our self-centered political discourse remains the same. It cannot see beyond the recent escalation across the Gaza border, or the approaching possibility of a Palestinian declaration of statehood in September. Israel’s leaders are missing the old order in the Arab world, sensing only trouble in the unfolding and perhaps inevitable change”1. As Israel has modeled itself as the servant of western interests in the region, it has set itself up as an opponent of the genuine interest of the Arab world and its citizens, by definition, and it finds it difficult if not impossible to shake this role off, to see the new region as an opportunity rather than a further threat. Benn points this out: No serious political figure in Israel has reached out to the revolutionaries, celebrating their achievement or suggesting we need to know them better since they might share values and ambitions with secular, liberal Israelis2. Democratic governments in the Arab world will, by definition, less reliable from the Israeli-Zionist point of view – they may, one hopes, be less corrupt and less pliable to pressure from Israel and its western allies, less willing to serve its interests, and less willing to subdue the Palestinians on Israel’s behalf, as was done so dependently by Mubarak for long decades.
So, one result of the Arab Spring, a seemingly unintended consequence of this complex process of socio-political change, is the fact that unless Israel changes its priorities and behaviour radically, it will find its current modus operandi impossible to continue with, even with the level of support it currently enjoys from the USA, EU, and western allies elsewhere. It is no longer a question of presentation – Israel would indeed be unable use the old slogan of the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, (which was a lie even in the past) but will also have to start behaving more democratically, or it will stand out from its neighbours in a most unwelcome manner. Its brutal and racist nature were indeed increasingly noted over the decades of the occupation post 1967, but were always ameliorated by the undemocratic nature of the region in which it was situated; this may no longer be a likely outcome – the comparison will be made with democratic states, rather than with tyrannies whose citizens are devoid of human and political rights. If Israel chooses, as seems most likely, to continue its illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, it is more likely to meet with international censure of its policies and actions, probably leading to a global campaign, resembling that of the Anti-Apartheid movement, with boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) being increasingly enacted against it, and forcing it to abandon those policies in the long run, under global pressure.
This putative result of the current conflagration is not only probable because of Israeli action or inaction, but will be mainly forced as a result of the likely changes in power balance over the next few decades. With the decline of western, American and European power and the rising of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia India and China, one is also likely to see a marked rise in the political fortunes of Middle Eastern countries, which under future democratic leadership will find their just place in the pecking order. Egypt under Mubarak was a pawn of the west; Egypt under a democratic government will climb up from its insignificance and servility, to mention just one example. Such likely changes will also bring about changes in the way western powers relate to the Arab world, and are also likely to bring about long-overdue changes to the UN and its Security Council, where the out-of-date, undemocratic veto of the old imperial powers still pertains. A world where the US cannot easily and automatically veto any resolution relating to Israel, will be a very different proposition, and hence Israel’s continued angst about the changes in the region and the world are to be understood in the context of the long-term trends, not just the short-term power changes in individual countries. In the long run, the Israeli mission of ridding Palestine of its indigenous population cannot prevail, when we take into account the direction of change.
Now, it would be interesting to examine the likelihood and potential for change in Israel, as the trends of global change must also be evident to Israeli politicians. Could Israel, voluntarily and willingly, offer a major change in its priorities, when faced with the new realities? This question was broached recently by Gideon Levy, writing on the day after Mubarak fell:” The news from Egypt is good news, not only for that country and the Arab world, but for the entire world, including Israel. Now is the time to be happy for the Egyptian people, to hope that this amazing revolution will not go wrong. Let us lay aside all our fears – of anarchy, of the Muslim Brotherhood or a military regime – and let this great gamble have its say. Let us not wallow in the dangers; now is the time to bask in the light that shines from the Nile, after 18 days of popular, democratic struggle.”3 One is left genuinely wondering if Levy has indeed believed in the possibility of such adulation as his own, being shared across society in Israel, or has written the piece ironically, knowing well the impossibility of such a change of heart. The almost palpable feeling of relief which was evident across the globe with Mubarak’s departure, was evident by its total absence in Israel – a sentiment that Israel must have shared only with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Yemen… Indeed what was evident is the opposite – a feeling of despair for the deposed tyrant.
This striking difference between the sentiments in Israel and the rest of the world can only be explained by the many decades of instrumental colonialism, where colonial reality forms consciousness, and where being dictates thought. One is what one does, after all, and it is impossible to continue to uphold liberal and progressive values if one is daily involved with brutalities and injustice. Many Israeli intellectuals try to fool themselves (and the rest of us), cliaming that even after four and half decades of iniquitous occupation, they are still holding up human rights and liberal values. This is plainly untenable, and the total lack of fraternity towards the Tahrir Square victory over tyranny, is the clearest evidence of such emotional and intellectual salto mortale by Israeli ‘liberals’ being sheer nonsense. By its very nature, Israeli society has excepted itself from the great mass of humanity which has expressed its elation with the fall of a brutal regime in Egypt, achieved by unarmed massed with the slogan ‘Salmieh’ (‘peaceably’ or ‘peacefully’) being the most common one. It seems certain that, like the South African Apartheid state before it, Israel will only relent under the most intense political, financial and cultural pressure from the world community. That pressure is now developing swiftly, and is now more likely than ever to lead to the collapse of the apartheid state in the Middle East.
[1]Benn, A Israel is blind to the Arab revolution, in Haaretz, March 24th, 2011, p. 31, and on http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/23/israel-blind-to-arab-revolution?INTCMP=SRCH, accessed on March 25th, 2011.
[3] Levy, G Israel Must Congratulate Egypt, Haaretz, February 13th, 2011, and also on http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-must-congratulate-egypt-1.343039″, accessed on March 25th, 2011

Israel should recognize Palestinian statehood: Haaretz

Instead of fearing a declaration of Palestinian statehood, Israel could join the international community and accept it, ceasing to view it as an enemy and existential threat.
By Zvi Bar’el
The waiting and expectation are nerve-racking. Each day another page is ripped from the year’s calendar, and the political seismographs are already going wild. In contrast to the Tsunami in Japan, the forecast regarding our own affairs is known in advance. “A political tsunami is anticipated,” declared the defense minister. He, however, is just a forecaster and not a planner. Like any forecaster, the defense minister simply issued a report and has no control over events. Neither he nor anyone else decides when September will come, it being the month which follows August and precedes October. Nor is Barak locking himself in his office to draft political lines of defense. A diplomatic or strategic plan? A peace initiative? Not with Barak – in another five months, he is bound to yell “I told you so,” and he will be right. After all, he talked about a political tsunami.

Barak is not the only member of the government who is issuing warnings. The garrulous leader who heads the government, and also the figure who is called the foreign minister, wave threatening fists and warn that “Israel will take unilateral steps should the Palestinians issue a statehood declaration.” That such statements impress anyone is to be doubted. While these politicians articulate drivel, analysts at the United Nations say that 130, or perhaps 150 countries will recognize the Palestinian state, and even the U.S. position cannot be anticipated in advance.

When the U.S. cast a veto on a proposed resolution condemning the settlements, it made clear that this would be its last veto on the topic – but anything is possible. Will the U.S. be the last brick in a collapsing wall of resistance, or will it join the supporters of the statehood declaration? Obama does not seem to have an alternative plan, and has learned that Israeli promises do not come with timetables for their implementation.

Instead of waiting for a miracle – that is a new Israeli or American initiative – it is prudent to accept as a working assumption that a Palestinian state will win recognition this September, and that in the immediate aftermath of such recognition Ramallah will fill itself with official diplomatic installations of most countries of the world. Yet that will constitute just the symbolic side of recognition – it will represent a form of historic reckoning with Israeli leaderships that derisively dismissed the UN and its resolutions. What will Israel do? Boycott countries that send ambassadors to Palestine? Not allow them to enter Palestine via Ben-Gurion Airport?

As a member of the UN, the state of Palestine will have a new legal and international status, one which allows it to make claims against Israel in international criminal courts, or establish an airport without Israeli authorization. And the status will allow Palestine to demand international action against Israel’s occupation – not just paper denunciations but genuine sanctions, and perhaps even the deployment of UN troops to protect the security of Palestine’s citizens. The Palestinians will not even need to launch a new violent or nonviolent intifada. International anger with Israel has reached the point whereby the internationalization of the dispute will solve all the Palestinians’ problems.

But there is another possibility. In this scenario, Israel could join the international community, recognize the Palestinian state, cease to view it as an enemy and existential threat, and even take part in a meeting of donor states that the Palestinians are sure to organize after their state wins recognition. September does not have to be a threat; it does not have to be a gladiator ring in which only one contestant remains alive.

The dread of September can turn into a constructive launching pad if Israel announces now that the negotiations it is asked to carry out, in order to leave the territories, will be conducted with an internationally recognized state and not with the Palestinian Authority. This will alter the agenda, but not necessarily to Israel’s detriment. Negotiations would not beget a Palestinian state; the opposite would happen. The iron rule that has always derailed negotiation processes – this being the idea that Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state would come at the end of the process – would turn into the starting point of talks.

The new Palestinian state would also have to compromise. It would not be able to issue threats of leaving the process, or breaking the rules of the game. Once a state is established there is no turning back, and its borders can only be established after the state itself is established.

This will also be an opportunity to build a new alliance, including Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, and provide real content to the Arab proposal for regional peace. Those who fear international recognition being afforded to the Palestinian rebellion via the recognition of statehood should be at ease – the Palestinian cause already has international legitimacy. So September should just start already.

Lia Tarachansky: On reporting from Palestine and Israel: IOA

9 APRIL 2011
Paul Jay of The Real News Network interviews Lia Tarachansky – Apr 6-7, 2011
Part I: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=6512
Part II: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=6532

Lia Tarachansky about how she went from growing up in an Israeli settlement to reporting on the Middle East for TRNN.

Part I

More at The Real News

Paul Jay interviews Lia Tarachansky, The Real News Middle East correspondent. Tarachansky covers the political economy of the occupation, while also focusing on international law and its applicability to the conflict. Having grown up in an Israeli settlement in the heart of the occupied West Bank, Tarachansky speaks about how denial of narrative fuels a conflict where the two peoples, the Israelis and Palestinians, become further segregated, physically, socially, and psychologically.

Part II

More at The Real News
In the second part of Paul Jay’s interview with Lia Tarachansky, she talks about the stories she produced while working for The Real News Network in the Middle East. While in the region, Tarachansky investigated who benefits from the occupation and attempted to provide context for the news. Now, she is heading back to the region to establish a permanent base on the ground, working with both Israeli and Palestinian journalists to dedicated to independent media.


Lia Tarachanskyis an Israeli-Canadian journalist with The Real News Network covering the Middle East. She is also currently working on her first documentary, Seven Deadly Myths, a Journeyman Pictures co-production.

Part I Transcript

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Lia Tarachansky covered Israel and Palestine for The Real News Network for ten months last year, and she’s about to go back. Now joining us from Ottawa, about to get on an airplane for Israel and Palestine, is Lia Tarachansky. Thanks for joining us, Lia.


JAY: So most of our viewers have watched your material, I’m sure, with great interest, but they don’t know very much about you. So why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your background, and then how you came to doing journalism about the Middle East?

TARACHANSKY: I came to Israel in the 1991 immigration from the former Soviet Union, along with 1 million other Russians. And as part of that immigration, we were one of the biggest populations to move to the West Bank to settle in the growing settlements in the mid ’90s during the–what’s known as the Oslo years, the beginning of the peace negotiations. So I grew up on a settlement in the occupied West Bank, and about a decade ago we moved to Canada and started writing quite a bit. And then The Real News took me to Toronto and trained me in video production.

JAY: Now, I was with you in Israel a few months ago, and we went back to the settlement you grew up in. And there was a moment there where you looked out from between the houses and you saw a Palestinian village. Talk a bit about that moment.

TARACHANSKY: Sure. You had the great misfortune to capture me in one of the most emotionally charged moments I had. And the whole settlement is sort of like a giant amoeba resting on a huge hill. And we go to the highest point and we overlook it, and we just sort of said something along the lines of why don’t we do a quick throw and say, “I’m Lia Tarachansky, I work for The Real News,” you know, “this is where I grew up”? And while we’re in the middle of doing this, you know, I stand up, and all of a sudden–I don’t know if you remember this, but the call to prayer starts. And I suddenly realize, as I’m looking in the camera and you were asking me all these questions, that it was the first time in my life that I was hearing this call to prayer. And so that started a very long process of thinking about how it is possible to grow up for years in the heart of the occupied Palestinian territories and never factor in that there are Palestinians everywhere. I mean, we grow up knowing that there’s The Enemy everywhere (capital T, capital E), but we never think of it as the people that make up The Enemy. So it’s not only a denial through politics; it’s such a deep psychological denial that we physically don’t see or don’t hear, or at least I didn’t, until [inaudible] gone back.

JAY: And just–again, so people get the geographic picture, it’s not that you couldn’t look up and see them. It’s as you said at the moment: it’s like they’re invisible. It’s not that they’re not there to be seen.

TARACHANSKY: Sure. And I think the same thing is true on the other side, because most Palestinians in the Palestinian territories have never seen an Israeli just exist. They’ve seen soldiers, some of them have seen settlers, but they’ve never seen, you know, like, a Jewish person or an Israeli person just go to the store or play in a kindergarten or, you know, buy groceries. They’ve never seen the normalized Israeli. So in their mind, as far as I understand from speaking to Palestinians, that is also an entire context that’s missing.

JAY: And part of that is because a lot of the settlements have these settler-only roads between settlements to get back and forth to Israel proper that Palestinians are not allowed to. So you could–I guess you could live in a settlement, travel on those roads, and as you’re saying, never meet a Palestinian directly that lived in villages right next to you.

TARACHANSKY: Sure. And, I mean, in Ariel during the Oslo years, before the whole system of Apartheid roads became really solidified, we had to travel through Palestinian villages to get to Israel proper. And, of course, the adults, you know, did it for ideological reasons, for economic reasons, for historical reasons, but for us who grew up in these settlements, you grow up and you never factor in the humanity of the other. And that’s very important if you’re going to produce a nation of people who are willing and happy to go and serve in the army.

JAY: I remember when we were there I asked you, why do people hate each other, and you said you don’t think it’s that we hate each other; it’s both sides are afraid of each other.

TARACHANSKY: There is such a disconnect between the human beings that it’s more fear of the other. And when you rationalize the entire conflict, you boil it down to its facts, right? We talk to people, and you just talk about the facts, you know, intransigence and the failure of the negotiations. And it always ends at these big things like, well, how can we trust them? So these big questions. So it’s not even about the facts at the end of the day; it’s about these big metaphysical questions that have no answer.

JAY: Now, you’re going back in just a couple of weeks. What are you going to focus on? What–in this next seven-month gig in Israel and Palestine, what are you going to be looking for?

TARACHANSKY: Well, part of my assignment is to establish a permanent presence for The Real News in the Middle East. So I will be speaking to and training and trying to find Palestinian and Israeli journalists to carry on coverage of Israel-Palestine when I’m no longer there. But my main focus all along has been–from previous stories and will continue now, is to focus not only on filling in the context of the conflict, so how we end up in the conflict, but also talking about who benefits from the conflict, who’s building the settlements and the wall, and what are the–who are the people and what are the corporations that really benefit from the conflict continuing.

JAY: Now, I think one of the things we’re going to try to do differently this year is produce more of the stories in Hebrew, and perhaps Arabic as well, and do translations, so people in the region can watch the stories. But just to end up, what do you hope for people in North America and Europe that are watching? And what do you hope they see through your eyes? And then, what do you hope people in the region may see through your eyes?

TARACHANSKY: First of all, of course, one of the things that we always fight for on The Real News is context, is understanding why things happen. And I find that even amongst the community of the people who are very engaged with the conflict and very involved, there’s very, very shallow understanding of why things happen. So that’s number one. But besides that, the main point of what I’m trying to get at is that this situation in the Middle East is not exceptional. The reason it started, the reason it continues, and the people who benefit from this conflict, it’s almost insulting how typical it is in the methods and in the interests that are served. So one of the things we try to show by focusing on political economy is that these conflicts continue because it’s in the interests of business. And, for example, one of the stories I’ll be focusing on when I get there is the privatization of the occupation. So one of the stories I did about a year ago talks about how the Israeli military is trying to make as much of this conflict automatic as possible to minimize the human contact between the soldiers and the people that they’re occupying, the Palestinians.

JAY: This was the story you did, I think, with–titled “Remote control occupation”.

TARACHANSKY: With the Second Intifada over, Israel is changing its approach to the occupation through new technology. Israel’s annual military spending as a percentage of GDP outnumbers even that of the United States threefold, yet this figure does not even include the cost of the occupation, estimated at $9 billion a year. Most of Israel’s defence industry is owned by the government. However, Israel is looking to privatize the maintenance of the occupation and make it possible to maintain control remotely.

SHIR HEVER: The commanders of the army are the least interested in the boring minutia and details of controlling the checkpoints, controlling the daily lives of Palestinians. They’re much more excited about developing new offensive weapons, fancy aircraft, and that sort of thing. So they’re trying to find ways to save on manpower costs and to make the army, the military, more focused on actual fighting of wars. Occupation has changed the priorities of the Israeli military over years, and that was very apparent in 2006 in the war with Lebanon.

JAY: Thanks for joining us. And in the continuation of our interview with Lia, we’re going to talk more about the work she did over the last year when she was there and show you a little bit of it. Please join us again on The Real News Network.

End of Part I Transcript

Part II Transcript


PAUL JAY: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. We’re continuing our conversation with our Real News journalist who covers Israel and Palestine, is about to go back, Lia Tarachansky. Thanks for joining us again, Lia.

LIA TARACHANSKY: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: So talk to us about some of the stories. You produced many stories for us when you were there. But–so which ones jump out for you?

TARACHANSKY: The stories that jump out at me are the stories that are very much missing in the mainstream corporate media, stories that, for example, show the aftereffect of an incident. So while, you know, local media covers something that happens, we often cover what happens right afterwards, which is the most important part, the cannon fodder. One story particularly was after a settler was killed, and the entire corporate media was covering the death of the settler. Something similar just happened with a family of five in the settlement of /”i.t@.mAl/. But what was missing was the complete invasion and shutting down of the West Bank, the invasion of the city of Nablus, and the assassination of three Palestinians.

TARACHANSKY: On the night of December 26, dozens of Israeli Army jeeps and bulldozers occupied the streets of the Old City in Nablus. Witnesses reported that more than 70 soldiers were involved in the raid operation. The Real News spoke to Tahani Sarkaji, Raed Sarkaji’s wife, who witnesses the raid during which he was assassinated.

TARACHANSKY: Other stories are political economy stories that investigate who benefits from the conflict, specifically what people and what companies benefit from privatizing the occupation.

TARACHANSKY: The family is listed in the Israeli daily Haaretz list of 100 most influential people in Israel. Besides its investment in AHAVA, the Livnat family profits in various ways from the economy of the occupation. The Livnat family sits on the board of IDB Holdings Corporation, Israel’s largest investment conglomerate. Many of the family’s subsidiaries and firms are also part of the IDB enterprise. Many benefit directly from the occupation by either placing their factories in the West Bank or building the infrastructure of the settlement network. For example, some of the Livnat family’s biggest investments are in agricultural firms that grow produce in the West Bank and the occupied Golan Heights. Their IDB companies also produce cement for the construction of the segregation wall.

TARACHANSKY: And also stories that really paint a context. So, for example, we did a story that investigates specifically the methodology behind how settlers take over Palestinian land. So how they go, they establish an outpost, exactly how that outpost grows into a settlement, how the government interacts with that outpost, how they get set up with electricity and water, etc., and how they manage to grow and take more land and more land. So the stories that really fill in the blanks that the corporate mainstream media leaves behind.

JAY: I thought one of the stories that I thought was most interesting was one we did about a town that’s sort of leading the way in a new form of resistance or civil disobedience. Talk a bit about that.

TARACHANSKY: Sure. Well, Palestinian nonviolent resistance has been going on for decades. And, actually, Palestinian leaders such as Marwan Barghouti have been calling for a boycott, you know, decades ago. So–but now we see global coverage of that nonviolent resistance through villages like Bil’in, which is a fairly famous village at this point that has a weekly protest against the Segregation Fence. And, actually, the Israeli high court, Supreme Court, actually voted in favor of that village. But the army refuses to abide by the Supreme Court ruling. So I did a story that looks at how Bil’in is at the center of this mass nonviolent movement. And if you look at the West Bank now, every week, usually around the weekends, there’s weekly protests that go on for years. So Bil’in has been going on for six years now, I believe, where every single Friday the village protests the wall, and every single Friday they get shot at by tear gas and water cannons and rubber bullets or real bullets by the Army. So this village is sort of at the center of a nonviolent resistance that’s really flourishing throughout the West Bank.

JAY: And to what extent–when you say “really flourishing”, how much is that developing? And I guess one of the things you might want to be covering when you go back is the consequences or effect of the uprising across the whole Arab world and how this is affecting the Palestinian struggle. Do you get some sense of that yet?

TARACHANSKY: I think that the repression, the Israeli repression of nonviolent resistance has been going on for–you know, since as long as it’s been–the nonviolent resistance has been going on. But one shift that we’ve seen is that because of Israeli noncooperation, Israeli activists cooperating in solidarity with this resistance, what we’re seeing now is a new wave of Israeli repression of Israeli nonviolent activists. And that’s been really increasing in the past six months to a point where Israeli activists have their houses raided, they get called by the Israeli intelligence, they get interrogated. So that’s new. I think that the uprisings in the Arab world sort of leave most Israelis in the dark, because I think most Israelis have never considered the possibility that the Arab people that live around them are, first of all, all different nationalities and communities and they want different things, and they’re not some big monolith of the Arab world countries. And, also, I don’t think that Israelis really consider that these people have–you know, really passionately want democracy. I think that the stereotypes we’ve internalized about the Arab world don’t include the democratic movement. So I think that these democratic movements from Tunisia to Algeria, Libya, you know, Egypt, etc., are going to really open the eyes of a lot of Israelis. And I don’t know what effect that’s going to have on the nonviolent resistance, but what I do know is that when I returned to Israel and started working for The Real News, I would go to the weekly protests also in East Jerusalem, in neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, and it would be 200 people, and by the time I left Israel the last time, there would be 1,000 people. So this movement is growing. And what’s really inspiring is that this is a persistent movement of Israelis and Palestinians working hand-in-hand in complete solidarity, and they are relentless. They go week in and week out, every single Friday, every single Saturday, every single Sunday, and they protest every single week, despite the constant repression.

JAY: How do you assess other coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian issues?

TARACHANSKY: One thing I think the mainstream media really fails at doing is demonstrating the daily occupation and the daily life in Israel with the constant militarism that our society is undergoing. And by hiring a local Israeli journalist and a local Palestinian journalist, I think The Real News is really breaking through a wall that the mainstream media always seems to hit its head against, which is trusting the native people that live in the land to cover their own society. And I think that only an Israeli and a Palestinian journalist can really understand the inside of the reality of their life and the political map to really cover the region in a way that portrays what that conflict looks like on a daily basis. And mainstream journalists, you know, they typically get flown into Israel, they stay in Jerusalem for three, maybe, months, at most four months, and they go on these short assignments to the territories or to Israel, and they never really build any relationships with the local people on the ground that really demonstrate and in some ways empower those people to represent their own society for themselves. So I think that that’s–.

JAY: There’s another angle, too, which–as the American networks have so clearly internalized the idea of American national interest as a starting point for these issues and this sort of alliance with Israel, Al Jazeera, which on the whole does, you know, more interesting work, I think, than the mainstream US networks, still, it’s owned by the emir of Qatar, and Qatar’s a player in the region, and there’s been a lot of critique about how they’re covering Bahrain, and one has to keep it in mind. Russia Today, clearly it likes to critique just about anything American and has a certain amount of Russian interest in mind.

TARACHANSKY: Being independent means that when out and covering the conflict, I don’t need to worry about having our funding cut off when I’m calling in an occupation or when I’m showing what the Israeli army does after an incident happens, and I think that that’s very, very important, especially because of the way that the conflict currently is portrayed is always from the point of view of Western interests and not from the point of view of the fodder, the cannon fodder, the effect of those interests on the people on the ground.

JAY: Well, thanks very much for joining us, Lia.

TARACHANSKY: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And if you want to see more of Lia’s work, it’s all down here below the player in a collection. And if you’d like to see more work from the Middle East, don’t forget the donate buttons here, because for Lia to go do that, you’ve got to punch this. Thanks for joining us.

End of Transcript

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April 7, 2011

Goldstone has paved the path for a second Gaza war: Haaretz

Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to ask him: What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you ‘self-hating Jew’?
By Gideon Levy
All at once the last doubts have disappeared and the question marks have become exclamation points. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu Al-Aish wrote a short book in which he invented the killing of his three daughters. The 29 dead from the Al-Simoni family are now vacationing in the Caribbean. The white phosphorus was only the pyrotechnics of a war film. The white-flag wavers who were shot were a mirage in the desert, as were the reports about the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. “Cast lead” has returned to being a phrase in a Hanukkah children’s song.

A surprising and unexplained article in The Washington Post by Richard Goldstone caused rejoicing here, a Goldstone party, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time. In fact, Israeli PR reaped a victory, and for that congratulations are in order. But the questions remain as oppressive as ever, and Goldstone’s article didn’t answer them – if only it had erased all the fears and suspicions.

Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to honor him now as well, but still has to ask him: What happened? What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you “self-hating Jew”? This you could have known before.

Was it the two reports by Judge Mary McGowan Davis that led to your change of heart? If so, you should read them carefully. In her second report, which was published about a month ago and for some reason received no mention in Israel, the New York judge wrote that nothing indicates that Israel launched an investigation into the people who designed, planned, commanded and supervised Operation Cast Lead. So how do you know which policy lay behind the cases you investigated? And what’s this enthusiasm that seized you in light of the investigations by the Israel Defense Forces after your report?

You have to be a particularly sworn lover of Israel, as you say you are, to believe that the IDF, like any other organization, can investigate itself. You have to be a blind lover of Zion to be satisfied with investigations for the sake of investigations that produced no acceptance of responsibility and virtually no trials. Just one soldier is being tried for killing.

But let’s put aside the torments and indecision of the no-longer-young Goldstone. Let’s also put aside the reports by the human rights organizations. Let’s make do with the findings of the IDF itself. According to Military Intelligence, 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation, 709 of them terrorists, 162 who may or may not have been armed, 295 bystanders, 80 under the age of 16 and 46 women.

All the other findings described a more serious picture, but let’s believe the IDF. Isn’t the killing of about 300 civilians, including dozens of women and children, a reason for penetrating national soul-searching? Were all of them killed by mistake? If so, don’t 300 different mistakes require conclusions? Is this the behavior of the most moral army in the world? If not, who takes responsibility?

Operation Cast Lead was not a war. The differences in power between the two sides, the science-fiction army versus the barefoot Qassam launchers, doesn’t justify things when the blow was so disproportionate. It was a harsh attack against a crowded and helpless civilian population, among which terrorists hid. We can believe that the IDF didn’t deliberately kill civilians, we don’t have murdering soldiers as in other armies, but neither did the IDF do enough to prevent them from being killed. The fact is, they were killed, and so many of them. Our doctrine of zero casualties has a price.

Goldstone has won again. First he forced the IDF to begin investigating itself and to put together a new ethics code; now he unwittingly has given a green light for Operation Cast Lead 2. Leave him alone. We’re talking about our image, not his. Are we pleased with what happened? Are we really proud of Operation Cast Lead?

Peres’ peace push in Washington is hopeless: Haaretz Editorial

Netanyahu sees the conflict with the Palestinians as a public relations problem and refuses to pursue any Israeli political initiatives. He believes that if he can just manage to convince “the world” that the Palestinians are to blame for the stalled peace talks, he will have done his job.

In recent days, President Shimon Peres has been busy defending the domestic and international stature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At home, Peres helped Netanyahu stave off criticism over his indulgent flights abroad; and on Tuesday, Peres traveled to Washington to present Netanyahu’s positions to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The reports from the White House were not surprising: Obama praised Peres, while offering recycled cliches about the opportunity for peace. The reports that came out of Israel at the same time, about the construction of hundreds of apartments in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, were not surprising either, and neither was the U.S. State Department’s routine criticism of the settlements.

There’s nothing new here; everything is operating as usual. Netanyahu is buying time, the settlements are expanding, and Peres is talking about peace and backing up the government. After sending Peres to D.C., Netanyahu went to Berlin and Prague himself yesterday, in an effort to secure international support for his struggle against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The prime minister wants to depict Abbas as a non-partner and to keep the Palestinians from declaring independence in September, with the United Nations behind them.

Netanyahu sees the conflict with the Palestinians as a public relations problem, one that can be resolved by conveying better messages than the other guy. He refuses to pursue any Israeli political initiatives; at most, the prime minister hints at some vague steps he intends to take. He believes that if he can just manage to convince “the world” that the Palestinians are to blame for the stalled peace talks, he will have done his job. Netanyahu is hoping and betting that Obama, who recently announced that he will be seeking reelection, will not intercede.

This is a dangerous and harmful approach. Rather than paving the way to a deal with the Palestinians, it leads solely to an intensification of the occupation and the conflict. Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel is moving inexorably closer to a political disaster and an international boycott. The peace initiative put forth this week by former senior security officials and leaders in the business and academic sectors expresses public opposition to the prime minister’s policy of digging in rather than moving forward. Such opposition, and not Peres’ pointless talks in Washington, is how we can restart the negotiations and rescue Israel from its political crisis.

Egypt students, workers and Brotherhood join Youth Coalition in calling for “Cleansing Friday”: Ahram online

Tomorrow is expected to witness large scale demonstrations as the forces of the 25 January revolution join in calling for a “Friday of Cleansing”, demanding the dismantling of the old regime and retribution
Ahram Online, Thursday 7 Apr 2011

Art students from the University of Helwan decorate the walls of the arts academy with murals commemorating the revolution (Photo: AP Photo/Manoocher Deghati)

Last week’s “Save the Revolution” day saw tens of thousands gather in Tahrir Square calling for all unmet revolutionary demands to be addressed, including the trial of Hosni Mubarak and all corrupt members of his inner circle and family, the formation of a presidential committee and the retrieval of the former ruling National Democratic Party’s funds. The atmosphere in Tahrir, according to many activists, was almost reminiscent of the first 18 days of the popular uprising which resulted in the ousting of former president Mubarak.

The absence of the MB was quite palpable. An Ahram Online correspondent reported from Tahrir last Friday that the Islamist group was conspicuously absent from the square. However, MB youth member Mohamed Heikal Abbas says the Brotherhood had received word of the Coalition of the Revolutionary Youth’s call for protest too late. Nevertheless, youth members of the group, such as Abbas went down to the square, he says.

This week, however, the Brotherhood has announced plans to participate.

The committee which called for this weeks protest intends to focus on one primary demand: the arrest and prosecution of  Mubarak and his family members, who ‎are all under house arrest in Sharm El-Sheikh, pending an investigation.

Bringing to justice all former oligarchs such as Fathi ‎Sorour, Safwat El-Sherif and Zakaria Azmi was also highlighted as a major demand. ‎The former heads of Parliament, the Upper House and Mubarak’s office respectively ‎were the inner circle of the old guard supporting the ousted president during his 30 year dictatorship. ‎

They are also held accountable for the counter-revolution, which resulted in over 600 protesters being killed ‎and several thousand injured.‎

The last protest  which called for similar demands was followed by the decision to freeze their assets as welll as a court ruling allowing for their bank accounts to be inspected.‎

Students staging the now weeks-long sit-in at Cairo University released a statement on Tuesday also calling for a a Tahrir protest..

The students are demanding the removal of the university’s president as well as the heads of faculties.

The statement released also included demands to investigate all allegations of corruption at the university, revoke all charges against students for demonstrating and a formal apology from the university president for allowing military police to enter the campus and disperse a student sit-in.

Joining the student groups, youth coalitions and the Brotherhood will be textile workers from Shebin El-Kom and El-Mahalla, according to Kamal El-Fayoumi, a trade unionist from El-Mahalla Textiles. Trade unionists and workers have decided to meet in Tahrir Square on Friday to demand the removal of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU), the return of privatised companies to the public sector, a minimum monthly wage of LE1,200 and the trial of the corrupt “gang”, including Mubarak, former minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieldin, former minister of manpower and emigration Aisha Abdel Hady and Said El-Gohary, general-secretary of the textile and yarn union – viewed as a branch of the corrupt, state-controlled EFTU.

Hamas announces cease-fire on part of all Gaza factions: Haaretz

Following cross-border fighting flare-up, Hamas says cease-fire, agreed upon by all Gaza factions, to come into effect starting Thursday night.

Hamas announced Thursday that a cease-fire on the part of all factions in the Gaza Strip will come into effect at 11 P.M. local time.

Officials in Hamas said that the decision was made following a meeting between all Gaza factions and Arab agents.

The Hamas offer comes as fighting flared in Gaza on Thursday after a Palestinian anti-tank missile hit an Israeli school bus, wounding two, and Israeli forces retaliated with planes and artillery, killing five Palestinians.

Palestinian medics said at least 30 people were injured in three hours of attacks by Israeli forces. Firing tapered off after nightfall.

A 50-year old Palestinian in east Gaza was killed by shelling in the afternoon and four others were killed by air attacks in the south near the border with Egypt.

A 16-year-old Israeli boy on the bus was seriously wounded and its driver was injured.

Armed Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, took responsibility for the attack on the bus, saying it was retaliating for Israel’s killing of three Palestinian militants in an air strike on Saturday.

An Israeli F-16 warplane bombed a major security compound of the Islamist Hamas group which rules Gaza, rocking Gaza City with a big explosion and wounding at least one person there.

“We hope this situation will be contained, but we will not shy away from taking all the necessary action, offensive and defensive, to protect our country and to protect our citizens,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference during a visit to Prague.

The IDF said 45 rockets and mortars were launched into Israeli territory from Gaza in the space of three hours, the heaviest fire in two weeks. There were no immediate reports of further Israeli casualties as a result.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Western powers to intervene “to stop this aggression”, the official Wafa news agency reported from Ramallah in the West Bank.

Abbas also urged Palestinian militants not to give Israel an excuse to hit Gaza.

The missile attack followed a relative lull in cross-border fire between Gaza and Israel after a sudden rise in violence last month in which at least 16 Palestinians were killed.

Israel and Hamas had signaled readiness to return to a de facto ceasefire which has kept the border relatively quiet since the end of the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war.

A Hamas spokesman on Thursday repeated that his movement wants “calm” to return to the tense standoff.

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April 6, 2011

EDITOR: The Goldstone festival rolls on!

Ever since Goldstone has atoned and recanted under Zionist pressure, and did all he could to undermine his own report on the Gaza massacre, Zionists of all sizes and flavours have come out of their holes, and are having a field day with the same old excuses. The leader of the pack is the old hand with helping Israel when it is in real trouble, non other than Jonathan Friedland, the lefty Guardian Zionist. One has to retort back with disgust at the article he managed to concoct in support of Israel on this occasion – after all, he is deending the murder of iover 1400 people! So what are the arguments?

1. Israel is always singled out: Why gang on Israel, when the world is full of mad dictators, who, according to JF, are ‘worse’

2. The UN is a useless organisation specialising in anti-Israel motions

3. The UN inquiry only looked into the behaviour of Israel, but not into that of Hamas

4. Hamas did not have its own inquiry, but Israel did

5. This concentration on Israel is obsessive and has a serious undertone

Now JF does not tell us in so many words why he thinks the whole world is so mad to gang up on the poor and helpless Israelis, but those who read him on a long term basis in the Guardian, remember his article more or less celebrating the fact there are so many anti-semites around in Europe… Takes no genius to work out that the world is full of antisemitism, otherwise why ingle out Israel?…

This twaddle is getting paraded in the Guardian for years, a show of tribal loyalty of the worst kind, and all this under a lefty ‘concerned’ cover. Today the paint seemed to have peeled off, and the cover much dented, showing the Zionist below…

There is hardly space here to refute JF’s silly and obsequious arguments, but just few reminders:

1. No one singles Israel out – it does so itself! The state of the ‘chosen people’ has made the indigenous population of Palestine into refugees in 1948, 1967, and many times since. No other nation has suffered 75% of its people becoming refugees over few months, and then refused entry into their own country. Despite numerous UN resolution (yeah, infers JF, but the UN must be anti-semitic, or it would not pass so many resolutions on Palestine…) Israel has refused to allow any of them back into their country and homes, even when its own High Court has so ordered!Which other country can boast of 64 years of unbroken oppression

2. Israel has broken most of the requirements of the Geneva Convention over six decades and more, moving its own Jewish population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, building illegal settlements, confiscating land, and oppressing the population under siege which the Convention forces them to care for and protect. Jonathan Friedland seems to either think this OK, or to roughshod and hope we all forget it.

3. Israel has occupied and held illegally territories of Four Arab nations for decades, breaking all records. Unless one wishes to go back to the days of the Third Reich during the Second World War, Israel holds the record unchallenged! It destroyed Beyrut and South Lebanon so many times, and killed so many people, that keeping track has become impossible. It also amanged to totally disregard all UN resolutions – the same ones Jonathan Friedland is so worked up about. Israel has been the most committed and systematic law breaker since the second World War, producing nuclear, biological and chmeical armaments against all traeties, refusing to join the War Crimes legislation (like the US). Need we go on?

So who is singling whom out?

4. Hamas needs an inquiry? Fo what? To discover Israel has moved into Gaza with all its mighty army, killed almost 1500 Palestinians, a third of them children, and suffered 13 dead, 4 of which it dispatched itself? For discovering this, you do not need an inquiry, you need a radio, or computer with internet connection, or a library with some newspapers… Has Hamas moved into Israel? Can it at all fight Israel seriously, or cause real harm?

5. One-sided inquiry? This is like saying: let us look into both sides and their behaviour – the Wehrmacht in September 1939 moving into the Poland, and the Polish forces behaviour defending their country, in order to work out who is right here. Excellent.

6. If the concentration on Israel is obsessive indeed, and unjustified, why does Joanthan Friedland not come out and say so? That would be at least honest, rather than inferring it slyly. Well, he does not do so, as even he knows such a false claim will invalidate his arguments altogether. Is there another single country which gets more support – financial, political, military, diplomatic – from the most powerful nations on earth? Describing Israel again as the victim is disgustingly insincere, but so normalised by Zionism, that most people tend to believe in it until they read the papers. Israel – the victim?!

Now read the vile article itself, if you have not yet done so:

Where’s the Goldstone report into Sri Lanka, Congo, Darfur – or Britain?: The Guardian

The Arab spring proves that Israel is not even the biggest issue in the Middle East – yet it gets all the attention
Jonathan Friedland
If you want a glimpse of the anger and heartache caused by the Goldstone report into the Gaza conflict of 2008-9, you could do worse than take a trip to the National Theatre. There a new and absorbing play, The Holy Rosenbergs, imagines the rift in a British Jewish family sparked by the daughter’s work as a lawyer for a Goldstone-like inquiry into Israeli conduct in Gaza. It is the eve of her brother’s funeral, and the local rabbi urges her to stay away: if she attends, pro-Israel activists will demonstrate at the cemetery.

If that sounds a stretch, think again. A year ago, Richard Goldstone – the eminent judge who had headed a UN fact-finding mission to Gaza – was told by key players in the South African Jewish community that he should not come to the synagogue where his grandson was due to have his bar mitzvah: if Goldstone showed his face, the 13 year-old’s big day would be disrupted by protests.

In the end, the row was resolved, but that is about the only part of the Goldstone saga that was: the rest remains fiercely contested, for reasons which point to a much larger story than simply the tale of one man and his report.

That particular battle has been reignited by the op-ed piece the judge wrote last week in the Washington Post “reconsidering” his own report and withdrawing what had been his most devastating finding. Goldstone wrote that the latest evidence “indicate[s] that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”.

The import of that sentence can hardly be exaggerated. His original suggestion that Israel had been guilty of “wilful killings” of “protected persons” had been received as the most damning indictment possible, an international mark of Cain on Israel’s forehead. Anti-Israel activists had seized on it; many Israel supporters branded Goldstone a traitor, ignoring his own description of himself as a proud Zionist.

Now the two camps are strapping on their rhetorical armour all over again. Israel advocates are savouring the Goldstone semi-retraction as sweet vindication, believing the entire report can now be trashed; Israel’s opponents are looking for those unwithdrawn charges that still have to be answered. One side revels in Goldstone’s bald declaration that “Hamas has done nothing” to follow the report’s key recommendation – which was for both Israel and Hamas to investigate the charges against them. The other notes the gravity of the outstanding claims and the fact that Israel’s own investigations, while numbering 400, have led to all too few prosecutions.

None of this will bring back the more than 700 noncombatants, many of them children, who were killed in Gaza during those appalling winter weeks. Nor will it end the argument chiefly because, as many have noted, Goldstone was never going to be a cool, legal process but a burningly political one. That was baked in from the start, in a way that points to that wider and deeper problem.

For who was it that commissioned Goldstone and his team to look into Gaza? It was the UN Human Rights Council. That sounds like an eminently respectable body – until you look at its record. A 2010 analysis showed that very nearly half of all the resolutions it had passed related to Israel: 32 out of 67. And guess which country is the only one to be under permanent review, on the agenda for every single meeting? Israel. There is only one rapporteur whose mandate never expires. No, it’s not the person charged with probing Belarus, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, despite the hideous human rights records of those nations. It is Israel. The UNHRC, whose predecessor body was once, laughably, chaired by Libya, had originally asked Goldstone to probe just one side of the Gaza war: it was only the judge’s own insistence that he investigate Hamas too that widened his remit. No wonder Goldstone says now of the body he served that its “history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted”.

We can laugh at an organisation so potty it would put a murderous tyrant like Muammar Gaddafi in charge of monitoring human rights around the globe. But in its belief that no country in the world behaves worse or matters more, a belief expressed by the sheer volume of attention it pays to Israel, it reflects a view that is alarmingly widespread.

Many respectable folks have spent decades insisting that the “core issue” in the Middle East, if not the world, is the Israel-Palestine conflict – that it is the “running sore” whose eventual healing will heal the wider region and beyond.

That was always gold-plated nonsense, but now the Arab spring has come along to prove it. Now the world can see that the peoples of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain have troubles aplenty that have nothing to do with Israel. There could be peace between Israelis and Palestinians tomorrow, but it wouldn’t relieve those in Damascus or Manama or Sana’a from the yoke of tyranny. For them, Israel is not “the heart of the matter”, as the cliche always insisted it was. The heart of the matter are the regimes who have oppressed them day in, day out, for 40 years or more.

Yet it is not the suffering of these hundreds of millions of Arabs which has attracted the sympathy of the UN Human Rights Council. Nor has it stirred the compassion of left-leaning liberal types who pride themselves on thei r care for the oppressed. Few places get them excited the way Israel does.

So in 2009 Sri Lanka could kill between 7,000 and 20,000 civilians, displacing 300,000 more in its bombardment of the Tamils at about the same time as the Gaza conflict – but you will search in vain for the Goldstone report into Sri Lankan war crimes. Nor will you find Caryl Churchill writing a play called Seven Sri Lankan Children – asking what exactly is it in the Sri Lankan mentality that allows them to be so brutal.

There is no Goldstone or Churchill to probe the 4 million deaths in the Congo, the slaughtered in Darfur or the murdered in the Ivory Coast, let alone the civilian deaths inflicted by the US and Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one is proposing an academic boycott of those nations or any of the other serial violators of human rights. Tellingly, two members of the four-person board of the LSE’s Middle East Centre are firm advocates of cutting all scholarly ties to Israel – but were only too happy for the college to receive £1.5m from the Gaddafi family.

Many will say that there is indeed a double standard – but it benefits Israel, routinely protected by a US veto at the UN unavailable to those weaker states deemed hostile. That may be true of the most powerful western governments. But when it comes to the academic, cultural and, yes, the media sphere, the bias often works the other way around.

To be clear, this is not to deny that there is a desperately serious problem in Israel-Palestine. There is, and Israelis and Palestinians need it to be solved. I fully understand why Jews and Palestinians regard their conflict as the central issue in the universe. But for the rest of the world to see it that way – the way those who despatched Judge Goldstone saw it – makes no sense at all.

EDITOR: But the Guardian Editorial itself disagrees with Friedland!

Very unusually, the Guardian Editorial is refusing to tow the line which is dictated by Friedland! Unheard of. They must all be anti-semites…

Goldstone report: the unanswered questions: The Guardian Editorial

Indiscriminate warfare, as opposed to deliberate killing, was undoubtedly Israel’s state policy

It is difficult, in this digital world of instant claim and rebuttal, to say that you were wrong. But Richard Goldstone’s retraction of one of the claims of the report that he chaired – that Israel targeted civilians in the war on Gaza as a matter of policy – is one such instance. Mr Goldstone deserves credit for honesty. It is another matter altogether to decide whether all the other claims of a 575-page report are now invalidated. The Goldstone report was a fact-finding mission, not a judicial inquiry. It was not a document of verdict, but put forward evidence for further investigation. So which facts caused Mr Goldstone to retract? Three, principally: that the shelling of a home in which 22 members of one family died was the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image; that the officer was still under investigation; and that Israel has since investigated over 400 allegations of operational misconduct. Had he known then what he knows now, he concludes, the report would have been very different.

Two of the three other members of the mission disagree with their former chairman’s change of heart. Hina Jilani, who served on a similar fact-finding mission on Darfur, said that nothing changed the substance of the original report, and Desmond Travers, an expert on international criminal investigations, still feels the tenor of the report stands “in its entirety”. Mr Goldstone has parted company with the other members of his mission. It is therefore worth returning to the original report. The retracted allegation refers to the attack which killed 22 members of the Samouni family, who, following instructions from Israeli soldiers, were sheltering in a house in Zeitoun. But there are 35 other incidents that Goldstone’s team investigated. It found seven cases where civilians were shot leaving their homes waving white flags; a direct and intentional attack on a hospital which may amount to a war crime; numerous incidents where ambulances were prevented from attending to the severely injured; nine attacks on civilian infrastructure with no military significance, such as flour mills, chickens farms, sewage works and water wells – all part of a campaign to deprive civilians of basic necessities. The key paragraph of the report states: “The Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility.” On the Samouni killings it states that even if it amounted to an operational error and the mission concludes that a mistake was made, “state responsibility of Israel for an internationally wrongful act” would remain. All of this still stands, as does the charge that Hamas’s rockets deliberately targeted Israeli civilians.

Clear to one side the superheated flak of the debate today. It arises from Israel’s current international isolation, of which the Gaza operation formed only a part. It is now said that the Goldstone report became the cornerstone of a campaign to delegitimise Israel. None of this is relevant to what happened in Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, events which led to the deaths of 1,396 Palestinians, 763 of whom, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, were not taking part in hostilities when they were killed. The report did not in fact claim that Israel set out deliberately to murder civilians. It said that Operation Cast Lead was “deliberately disproportionate” and intended to “punish, humiliate and terrorise”. That charge stands unanswered. Indiscriminate warfare, as opposed to deliberate killing, was undoubtedly state policy. Shooting the messenger is always easier than dealing with the message itself. This time, the messenger had the grace to shoot himself. It does not change what happened in Gaza, nor what will happen the next time war breaks out.

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April 5, 2011

EDITOR: Events move fast after Juliano’s murder

This senseless murder (well, is there another type of murder…) has shocked us all who knew and loved him and his work. Theories are flying about who is behind this atrocity and the PA had just arrested someone for the murder. I have heard three main theories about who might be behind it: Extreme Islamists, the Israeli Shin Beth (directly or indirectly, through a collaborator ), and the local settlers. We may find out who it really was in the next few days, or we may not. Mazin Qumsieh has made an important point today: What we should concentrate about is making Juliano a symbol of life together, of democratic and secular Palestine, of the freedom and centrality of art in the life of a nation. It is clear that Juliano was murdered because of his art, becuase of his politics, because of who he was and what he did. We should not forget him, and should not forget his amazing parents, Saliba Khamis and Arna Mer, two pioneers of secular, democratic Palestine!

Palestinians arrest suspect in murder of Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis: Haaretz

PA police arrested and are interrogating former al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades militant who was released from Israeli prison more than five years ago, and is now a suspect in murder of Mer-Khamis.

Palestinian security forces arrested on Tuesday a suspect in the killing of Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin on Monday.

According to a security official, Palestinian police have been probing the man – a former al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades militant who was released from Israeli prison more than five years ago – but he has yet to confess to the murder.

Israeli Arab actor Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead in Jenin on April 4, 2011 Photo by: Daniel Tchetchik

Mer-Khamis, 53, an Israeli actor and political activist was shot dead on Monday outside a theater which he founded in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Jenin police Chief Mohammed Tayyim said Mer-Khamis was shot five times by masked Palestinian militants. Israeli security forces are also investigating the circumstances of his murder.

Mer-Khamis was affiliated with a local theater in Jenin, established by his mother in the 1980s. In 2006, Mer-Khamis opened the Freedom Theater in Jenin, along with Zakariya Zubeidi, the former military leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades in the West Bank city.

Zubeidi said in a press conference held at the Freedom Theater on Tuesday that he believed that either a country or organization was behind the murder of his friend.

He said the masked killer seemed to have been trained and that they shot Mer-Khamis in the chest and head seven times.

The Freedom Theater had faced threats before; it was torched twice in the past, and the threats persisted despite Zubeidi’s appointment.

Some of the criticism focused on the fact that the theater offered co-ed activities, despite prohibition in the Islamic moral code.

Gideon Levy remembers Juliano Mer-Khamis: An Arab, a Jew, a human being: Haaretz

Juliano Mer-Khamis was one of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.

By Gideon Levy

A little over a month ago, Juliano Mer-Khamis stood on the stage of his Freedom Theater at the edge of the Jenin refugee camp.

Directing his remarks at the young, noisy group of children making its first-ever visit to a theater, he said: “This is a dangerous show, with subversive messages. Whoever talks will be thrown out of the hall.”

Juliano Mer-Khamis in Tel Aviv, March 29, 2006. Photo by: Daniel Tchetchik

A hush came over the audience. For the next 75 minutes, I watched one of the loveliest, most stylish, political plays I had ever seen.

None of the children interrupted the show, with the exception of one infant who burst into tears at the sight of the servant hanging on a rope.

The Freedom Theater presents “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll. Directed by Juliano Mer-Khamis, with Udi Aloni as playwright.

I first saw Mer-Khamis in another time and another place. It was in the late 1980s, when he stood for a number of days in the front yard of the Israel Fringe Theater festival in Acre, his naked body dipped with oil as part of a one-man show that knew no end. Years later I caught “Arna’s Children,” a brilliant film which he co-directed with his dying mother, Arna Mer, the founder of the theatre in Jenin and the daughter of the doctor who cured malaria in Rosh Pina. It is arguably the most moving film ever created about the Israeli occupation.

Since then, I have met him on numerous occasions, always in the camp. This tall, strapping, handsome man who oozed charisma, a Jew and an Arab on account of his parents – perhaps a Jew in the eyes of the Arabs and an Arab in the eyes of the Jews – decided to devote his life to Jenin, where he lived as an Israeli and as a human being. One of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.

The seven bullets extinguished the light of courage that he radiated. “Jule was murdered,” a trembling voice belonging to a refugee camp resident on the other end of the phone told me. My voice also trembled.

Goldstone’s Gaza report stands, UN insists: The Guardian

Judge’s informal remarks ‘do not invalidate findings’, says colleague on fact-finding mission into Israeli attack on Gaza

Richard Goldstone on a 2009 visit to a house destroyed during Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/AP
The UN has roundly rebuffed remarks by the South African judge Richard Goldstone that cast doubt on the report into the Gaza war that bears his name, causing rifts within the UN and furious debate across the Middle East.

In the first public sign of a split within the four-person committee that compiled the report into the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008, the Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani has openly contradicted Goldstone’s comments. In an interview with the Middle East Monitor, she said that the UN report still stood.

“No process or acceptable procedure would invalidate the UN report; if it does happen, it would be seen as a suspect move. The UN cannot allow impunity to remain, and will have to act if it wants to remain a credible international governing body,” she said.

Jilani sat with Goldstone on the fact-finding mission that looked into allegations of war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas during the three-week war. The other two members of the committee, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, could not be reached for comment.

Goldstone made his remarks in an article in the Washington Post in which he said that he regretted aspects of the report that he chaired, including the suggestion that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians. Had he been aware of evidence that had since come to light, he wrote, “the Goldstone report would have been a different document”.

In a further indication of his U-turn, the Israeli paper, Yediot Ahronot, said the judge planned to press for his report to be nullified.

The report, published in September 2009, found that Israelis involved in the Gaza war should face “individual criminal responsibility” for potential war crimes. Some 1,400 Palestinians died, at least 50% of whom were civilians, and 13 Israelis.

But the inquiry was carried out without Israeli co-operation, and information uncovered by Israel’s own investigations since then had changed his understanding of events, Goldstone said.

Though the judge’s comments have rekindled the heated debate that followed the Gaza war, they are unlikely to lead to any immediate action on the part of the UN. Cedric Sapey, spokesman for the UN human rights council that commissioned the report, said: “The UN will not revoke a report on the basis of an article in a newspaper. The views Mr Goldstone expressed are his own personal views.”

A move to change or withdraw the report would either require a formal written complaint from Goldstone, backed unanimously by his three fellow authors, or a vote by the UN general assembly or the human rights council, Sapey said.

Israel has leapt on the Goldstone article, arguing it proves that the original UN report was flawed. The interior minister, Eli Yishai, said he had contacted Goldstone to thank him. “As a Jew, he understands well the story of the Jewish people’s suffering,” he told Israeli army radio.

An Israeli official said the government would now try to get a re-evaluation of the report as well as “asking our legal experts to see how it affects the legal harassment” of Israeli politicians and officers, particularly in the UK.

Goldstone’s article comes at a particularly sensitive time for Israel. The human rights council has recommended the UN general assembly passes the Gaza report to the security council with the aim of referring both Israel and Hamas to the international criminal court for alleged war crimes. Any such move would almost certainly be blocked by the US, Israel’s main ally, which has the power of veto, though a referral could still prove politically damaging.

The Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs said Goldstone’s intervention was immaterial. “The Goldstone Report remains a valid and important document highlighting the need for a full and genuine investigation. Nothing in Justice Goldstone’s personal comments changes the essential need to provide the victims of the assault on the Gaza Strip with access to justice.”

Khalil Shiqaqi, a Palestinian political scientist, said it was clear that no one had read exactly what Judge Goldstone had written. “The Israelis think that Goldstone has overturned what was written in his report and the Palestinians have taken their cue from them. What he has actually done is slightly modified his controversial view that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians. Very few people among the international community or non-governmentable bodies said the same thing.

“If he retracted one thing, there was much he did not retract, such as Israel’s deliberate destruction of houses in the Gaza Strip.”

EDITOR: Have they been sleeping somewhere until now?

Some of Israel past top soldiers are now calling for a two-state agreement, about forty years after it became impossible because of their own policies and actions. Don’t they have any shame? By now, they are flogging a dead horse.

Leading Israelis push for two-state solution with new peace initiative: The Guardian

Many military and security personnel join group pushing for peace treaties with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians

A father weeps at the funeral of his 21-year-old son, killed on Tuesday by Israeli fire in northern Gaza. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

A group of prominent Israelis, including heads of the army and security services, hope to revive the peace initiative by announcing details of possible treaties with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.

The Israeli Peace Initiative, a two-page document, states that Israel will withdraw from the land it occupied in 1967 in both the West Bank and the Golan Heights, and pay compensation to refugees. The document has been given to Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who has said he will read it with interest.

The authors of the document, which will be launched at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, say that it is partly inspired by the revolutions that have taken place in the Middle East. It presents an opportunity for Israelis to participate in the “winds of change” blowing through the Middle East, they say.

“We looked around at what was happening in neighbouring countries and we said to ourselves, ‘It is about time that the Israeli public raised its voice as well.’ We feel this initiative can bring along many members of the public,” Danny Yatom, the former head of the Israeli external security agency, Mossad, told the New York Times.

The group aims to generate public support for a peace agreement that will force the Israeli government to re-engage with the Palestinians, who have suspended meetings in protest at continued settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinians see such building as an attempt to create “facts on the ground” that obstruct negotiations.

Yaakov Perry, a former head of Shin Bet, the internal security agency, said he hoped that the plan would galvanise the Israeli government in this time of change around the Middle East.

“We are isolated internationally and seen to be against peace,” he told the New York Times. “I hope this will make a small contribution to pushing our prime minister forward. It is about time that Israel initiates something on peace.”

The Israeli Peace Initiative recognises the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which was sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia, as “a historic effort made by the Arab states to reach a breakthrough and achieve peace on a regional basis”. The Israeli initiative endorses the Arab statement that “a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties”.

The initiative lays out the framework for peace agreements between Israel, Syria and the Palestinians. It calls for a sovereign and independent Palestinian state based on the borders between Israel and Jordan in 1967 but modified to ensure territorial contiguity for the Palestinian state. Some settlements would be placed under Israeli control.

Compensation would be paid to refugees and their host countries by Israel and the international community, according to the initiative, but the refugees would be able to return only to the Palestinian state, with a few exceptions who would be allowed to return to what is now Israel. The plan also calls for a road link between the West Bank and Gaza, which would cut across Israeli territory but would be under Palestinian control.

It also calls for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights over five years in order to achieve peace with Syria and a peace agreement with Lebanon.

Dan Meridor, the deputy prime minister, speaking at an event in Jerusalem, said he had not yet studied the document. “The paradigm is clear, that is a two-state solution, but the other elements should be negotiated, not dictated,” he said.

Referring to the uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East, he said: “Some people say that we should wait for the aftershocks to happen, for everything to settle down, but I don’t believe we can wait.”

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March 4, 2011

EDITOR: Sad turn of Judge Goldstone

The turn about of Goldstone is a gift to Israel, and he must know how terribly he has damaged the case of Palestine and Gaza for justice after the brutalities of 2008/9. Ilan Pappe’s piece below deals with this sad betrayal in detail. It is sad that the consistent pressure by Israel and its henchmen has at last driven him to this shameful position. It seems that the rule of ‘no one can get away with severely criticising Israel, especially not Jews’ is still in force.

Goldstone’s shameful U-turn: The Electronic Intifada

Ilan Pappe, 4 April 2011

Judge Richard Goldstone in the Gaza Strip, June 2009. (UN Photo)

“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document.” Thus opens Judge Richard Goldstone’s much-discussed op-ed in The Washington Post. I have a strong feeling that the editor might have tampered with the text and that the original sentence ought to have read something like: “If I had known then that the report would turn me into a self-hating Jew in the eyes of my beloved Israel and my own Jewish community in South Africa, the Goldstone report would never have been written at all.” And if that wasn’t the original sentence, it is certainly the subtext of Goldstone’s article.

This shameful U-turn did not happen this week. It comes after more than a year and a half of a sustained campaign of intimidation and character assassination against the judge, a campaign whose like in the past destroyed mighty people such as US Senator William Fulbright who was shot down politically for his brave attempt to disclose AIPAC’s illegal dealings with the State of Israel.

Already In October 2009, Goldstone told CNN, “I’ve got a great love for Israel” and “I’ve worked for many Israeli causes and continue to do so” (Video: “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” 4 October 2009).

Given the fact that at the time he made this declaration of love he did not have any new evidence, as he claims now, one may wonder how could this love could not be at least weakened by what he discovered when writing, along with other members of the UN commission, his original report.

But worse was to come and exactly a year ago, in April 2010, the campaign against him reached new heights, or rather, lows. It was led by the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, Avrom Krengel, who tried to prevent Goldstone from participating in his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Johannesburg since “Goldstone caused irreparable damage to the Jewish people as a whole.”

The South African Zionist Federation threatened to picket outside the synagogue during the ceremony. Worse was the interference of South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, who chastised Goldstone for “doing greater damage to the State of Israel.” Last February, Goldstone said that “Hamas perpetrated war crimes, but Israel did not,” in an interview that was not broadcast, according to a 3 April report the website of Israel’s Channel 2. It was not enough: the Israelis demanded much more.

Readers might ask “so what?” and “why could Goldstone not withstand the heat?” Good questions, but alas the Zionization of Jewish communities and the false identification of Jewishness with Zionism is still a powerful disincentive that prevents liberal Jews from boldly facing Israel and its crimes.

Every now and again many liberal Jews seem to liberate themselves and allow their conscience, rather than their fear, to lead them. However, many seem unable stick to their more universalist inclinations for too long where Israel is concerned. The risk of being defined as a “self-hating Jew” with all the ramifications of such an accusation is a real and frightening prospect for them. You have to be in this position to understand the power of this terror.

Just weeks ago, Israeli military intelligence announced it had created a special unit to monitor, confront, and possibly hunt down, individuals and bodies suspected of “delegitimizing” Israel abroad. In light of this, perhaps quite a few of the faint-hearted felt standing up to Israel was not worth it.

We should have recognized that Goldstone was one of them when he stated that, despite his report, he remains a Zionist. This adjective, “Zionist,” is far more meaningful and charged than is usually assumed. You cannot claim to be one if you oppose the ideology of the apartheid State of Israel. You can remain one if you just rebuke the state for a certain criminal policy and fail to see the connection between the ideology and that policy. “I am a Zionist” is a declaration of loyalty to a frame of mind that cannot accept the 2009 Goldstone Report. You can either be a Zionist or blame Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity — if you do both, you will crack sooner rather than later.

That this mea culpa has nothing to do with new facts is clear when one examines the “evidence” brought by Goldstone to explain his retraction. To be honest, one should say that one did not have to be the world expert on international law to know that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza in 2009. The reports of bodies such as Breaking the Silence and the UN representatives on the ground attested to it, before and after the Goldstone report. It was also not the only evidence.

The pictures and images we saw on our screens and those we saw on the ground told only one story of a criminal policy intending to kill, wound and maim as a collective punishment. “The Palestinians are going to bring upon themselves a Holocaust,” promised Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy minister of defense to the people of Gaza on 29 February 2008.

There is only one new piece of evidence Goldstone brings and this is an internal Israeli army investigation that explains that one of the cases suspected as a war crime was due to a mistake by the Israeli army that is still being investigated. This must be a winning card: a claim by the Israeli army that massive killings by Palestinians were a “mistake.”

Ever since the creation of the State of Israel, the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel were either terrorists or killed by “mistake.” So 29 out of 1,400 deaths were killed by an unfortunate mistake? Only ideological commitment could base a revision of the report on an internal inquiry of the Israeli army focusing only on one of dozens of instances of unlawful killing and massacring. So it cannot be new evidence that caused Goldstone to write this article. Rather, it is his wish to return to the Zionist comfort zone that propelled this bizarre and faulty article.

This is also clear from the way he escalates his language against Hamas in the article and de-escalates his words toward Israel. And he hopes that this would absolve him of Israel’s righteous fury. But he is wrong, very wrong. Only a few hours passed from the publication of the article until Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and of course the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate President Shimon Peres commissioned Goldstone with a new role in life: he is expected to move from one campus to the other and hop from one public venue to the next in the service of a new and pious Israel. He may choose not to do it; but then again he might not be allowed to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah as a retaliation.

Goldstone and his colleagues wrote a very detailed report, but they were quite reserved in their conclusions. The picture unfolding from Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations was far more horrendous and was described less in the clinical and legal language that quite often fails to convey the magnitude of the horror. It was first western public opinion that understood better than Goldstone the implications of his report. Israel’s international legitimacy has suffered an unprecedented blow. He was genuinely shocked to learn that this was the result.

We have been there before. In the late 1980s, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote a similar, sterile, account of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Palestinian academics such as Edward Said, Nur Masalha and Walid Khalidi were the ones who pointed to the significant implications for Israel’s identity and self-image, and nature of the archival material he unearthed.

Morris too cowered under pressure and asked to be re-admitted to the tribe. He went very far with his mea culpa and re-emerged as an extreme anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racist: suggesting putting the Arabs in cages and promoting the idea of another ethnic cleansing. Goldstone can go in that direction too; or at least this is what the Israelis expect him to do now.

Professionally, both Morris and Goldstone tried to retreat to a position that claimed, as Goldstone does in The Washington Post article, that Israel can only be judged by its intentions not the consequences of its deeds. Therefore only the Israeli army, in both cases, can be a reliable source for knowing what these intentions were. Very few decent and intelligent people in the world would accept such a bizarre analysis and explanation.

Goldstone has not entered as yet the lunatic fringe of ultra-Zionism as Morris did. But if he is not careful the future promises to be a pleasant journey with the likes of Morris, Alan Dershowitz (who already said that Goldstone is a “repentant Jew”) between annual meetings of the AIPAC rottweilers and the wacky conventions of the Christian Zionists. He would soon find out that once you cower in the face of Zionism — you are expected to go all the way or be at the very same spot you thought you had successfully left behind you.

Winning Zionist love in the short-term is far less important than losing the world’s respect in the long-run. Palestine should choose its friends with care: they cannot be faint-hearted nor can they claim to be Zionists as well as champions of peace, justice and human rights in Palestine.

Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. His most recent book is Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel (Pluto Press, 2010).

Heading toward an Israeli apartheid state: Haaretz

Israeli racism, whose natural ‘hothouse’ is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset.
By Daniel Blatman
It has been 60 years since the apartheid state was established in South Africa. In March 1951, a few years after the racist National Party came to power, racial segregation was anchored in law. As was common in other countries that adopted racist laws in the 20th century, those in South Africa were accompanied by “laundered” explanations.

Hitler declared after the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed in 1935 that they would create a suitable basis for a separate but worthy existence for Jews in Germany alongside German society. The race laws in South Africa established that people of different colors cannot exist when mixed with each other – only in separate, protected spaces.

The tsunami of racist laws passed by the Knesset in recent months is also being explained by reasoned and worthy arguments: the right of small communities to preserve their own character (the Acceptance Committees Law ); the state’s right to prevent hostile use of the funds it allocates to education and culture (the Nakba Law ); and the right to deny citizenship to persons convicted of espionage or treason (the Citizenship Law ). But I believe that as in other historical instances, the aim of this legislation is the gradual establishment of an apartheid state in Israel, and the future separation on a racial basis of Jews and non-Jews.

An apartheid state is not created in the blink of an eye. What was created in Germany in 1935 was the outcome of a long and sometimes violent debate, which had been ongoing since the middle of the 19th century, about the place of Jews in modern Germany and Europe. Indeed, the desire to isolate and distance the Jews from society – legally and socially – was part of the belief system of anti-Semites in Europe for decades before Hitler came into power.

In this respect the Nazi regime, along with other regimes that passed racial separation laws (among them those in Romania, Hungary, Italy and Vichy France in 1940 ), only anchored in legislation a reality that had already been enthusiastically received by the populace. Of course, when such laws were enacted, the regimes involved did not support or imagine that at the end of the road, a “final solution” was waiting in its Nazi format. However, once the seeds were sown, no one was able to figure out what fruit they would bear.

The historical background of the Israeli apartheid state-in-the-making that is emerging before our eyes should be sought in 1967. It is part of a process that has been going on for about 44 years: What started as rule over another people has gradually ripened – especially since the latter part of the 1970s – into a colonialism that is nurturing a regime of oppression and discrimination with regard to the Palestinian population. It is robbing that population of its land and of its basic civil rights, and is encouraging a minority group (the settlers ) to develop a crude, violent attitude toward the Arabs in the territories. This was exactly the reality that, after many years, led to the establishment of the apartheid state in South Africa.

In her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt draws a sharp picture of the process of the development of the society of racial segregation in South Africa, from the start of the Dutch Boer colonialist settlement there. Assumption of racial superiority – the subordination of the black population – was the only way the “whites” could adjust to life in the midst of that race. The nurturance of feelings of racial supremacy, to which were added the belief in cultural superiority and the justification for economic exploitation – these are what, in a decades-long process, gave rise to the need to anchor this situation in proper legislation.

Thus, the dehumanization of the blacks, who at the start of the colonization period were perceived as no more than enhanced work animals, led to the establishment of a regime of racial separation 60 years ago in South Africa, which for decades left tens of millions of black people mired in a situation of harsh poverty, exploitation and atrophy.

It is not hard to identify this sort of worldview developing – with respect to Arabs – among widening circles of settlers in the territories and among their supporters within the (pre-Six Day War ) Green Line. It also has quite a number of supporters in the Knesset, even if they will not admit this outright.

Israeli racism, whose natural “hothouse” is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset. Only people who avoid looking at the broad historical context of such a process are still able to believe it is possible to stop the emergence of an Israeli apartheid state without getting rid of the colonialist-racist grip on the territories.

Prof. Blatman is a Holocaust researcher and head of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

EDITOR: A new attack on Gaza? A new attack on the new flotilla?

Always believe Israel when it threatens violence. Normally, the result is even worse than promised. Now, new threats are made daily, against Gaza and Hamas, and against the new Flotilla, planned for May. It will be a mistake to think that those are idle threats – they certainly mean to be brutal again, and who shall stop them? President Obama, who has run to save Libya, after he kept quiet about Gaza? The UK, who has been the most hypocritcial about Israeli atrocities? France, a great supporter of Israel come what may? And we need not even mention Italy or Germany. No one will intervene this time, when they will commit war crimes, any more than they did last time, and in the meantime, the UK government will get rid of Universal Jurisdiction, so that the war criminals would not have to worry any more about justice.

Why would Netanyahu attack Gaza again? For a number of stupid reasons. First, he has nothing else to do, as he has scuppered by design all talks about talks with the Palestinians. Secondly, Israel is getting excited about the UN recognising a Palestinian state in the 1967 Occupied Territories, including Gaza and East Jerusalem. While the UN, this corrupt organisation, is totally unlikely to do so in September, with the west working overtime against any such possibility, Israel is getting geared up to derail any talks about a solution, by preparing to murder more Palestinians in Gaza – the only ‘policy’ they seem to have left now.

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April 2, 2011

EDITOR: BDS is high on the cultural agenda

As the campaign against Israel’s continued occupation and its atrocities is strengthening, the issue of cultural boycott is coming to the fore in many contexts. Below is a piece by Gillian Slovo, going some way towards suggesting there is a place for sucha boycott ion the case of Palestine, but not quite going the whole way. As president of PEN, she is somewhat limited in the positions she may adopt, I reckon.

Should writers heed calls for boycotts?: The Guardian

‘Calls for cultural boycotts pose a special challenge for me. After all, I am a product of my South African heritage’
At last weekend’s PEN International conference on writers in prison, a Sri Lankan journalist, Lokeesan Appuththurai, described how, during the Sri Lankan government’s 2009 onslaught against the Tamils, the only safe way to get a report out was to switch on your mobile phone, rapidly type and send – and then, just as rapidly, switch off. And there was one other essential precaution to take if you wanted to stay alive: you had to make sure to keep on the move. If you didn’t, the Sri Lankan military would use your mobile signal to fix your coordinates and bomb you. “We don’t need a writers in prison committee in Sri Lanka,” Appuththurai ended his speech, “because in my country they don’t put writers in prison. They just kill them.”

No wonder then, that Sri Lanka’s Galle literary festival has come under scrutiny. A recent call by the French-based organisation Reporters Sans Frontières to boycott this year’s festival was signed by a list of high-profile names that included Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali. The festival, they said, gave “legitimacy to the Sri Lankan government’s suppression of free speech”.

The festival organisers were quick to rebut this charge. Theirs was a private initiative, they said, privately funded, and, rather than suppressing speech, it provided a forum for discussion. The opening session of this year’s festival, titled After Shock, was a debate about the legacy of civil wars, including Sri Lanka’s. The festival organisers seemed to have won the argument: among the invitees from all over the world, South Africa’s Damon Galgut was the lone boycotter.

Calls for cultural boycotts such as this one pose a special challenge for me. I am, after all, the new president of English PEN, whose work is focused not only on the defence of persecuted writers but also on the expansion of cultural engagement. At the same time I am a product of my South African heritage and of an early political engagement framed by the boycotts that helped to bring down the apartheid regime.

I lived through so many years of boycotting South Africa that I had to train myself out of the habit of rejecting Outspan oranges. And it wasn’t only South African goods we shunned. There was rugby and cricket, with the worldwide Stop the Tour protests that hit sports-mad white South Africa where it really hurt. And there were cultural boycotts that saw actors refusing to play on segregated stages, writers refusing to go on tour, and academics refusing inter-university collaborations. When, at his inauguration as president, Nelson Mandela articulated his country’s relief that it would no longer be the “skunk” of the world, it was a sign that these boycotts had, in their own small way, helped to make the change.

So I was uneasy during a recent Radio 4 Front Row programme, when I was booked to discuss the issue of cultural engagement and boycott with the Sri Lankan writer and artist Roma Tearne. Ours was the most sisterly of debates. We started out on the Galle Festival, with Tearne arguing that, although she wouldn’t stop writers from going, she would never go herself because there would be no space for open discussion. I, who had been to Galle the previous year, countered with my experience of an audience – albeit an elite audience, as is the case for most literary festivals – that was ravenous to talk politics and, in particular, to talk Sri Lankan politics. And then, inevitably, our conversation turned to Ian McEwan.

McEwan had recently been awarded the Jerusalem prize, given to writers whose work deals with themes of individual freedom in society. Like Margaret Atwood, who had previously ignored appeals not to accept the Dan David prize that was given by Tel Aviv University, McEwan refused calls to boycott his prize, choosing instead to weave into his acceptance speech an acknowledgment of the injustice of the evictions, demolitions and purchases of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and to donate money to an organisation that brings together Israeli and Palestinian former fighters.

As we discussed McEwan’s decision, Tearne and I switched sides. She supported McEwan’s decision and I demurred. To my mind, accepting a prize from Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, who has presided over the evictions, demolitions and compulsory purchases that McEwan condemned, risked normalising these policies. McEwan had struck a blow for freedom of expression, and yet, if that expression is used by others to justify the unjustifiable, how free then is it?

Tearne and I are not the only ones to puzzle over the complexities of the issue. As they walked me to the lift, the show’s producers said they’d had trouble finding writers to discuss the subject on air, not only because writers never like criticising other writers, but because many of us find ourselves pulled in conflicting directions. The call for the Galle boycott, for example, gained strength during the Jaipur literary festival. Yet if Galle is to be boycotted because of the Sri Lankan government’s abuse of human rights, then do India’s actions in Kashmir make Jaipur a suitable case for boycott? Does the exploitation of workers in Dubai make its film festival a no-go area? Does Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq mean that England’s many literary events should be shunned? A week tomorrow I will be debating the issue with Rachel Holmes and Romesh Gunesekera during PEN’s Free the Word festival in London.

The South African cultural boycott didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was called for by the African National Congress, which represented the majority of South Africans, and it ran alongside a United Nations condemnation of apartheid, a worldwide protest movement and economic sanctions. That, it seems to me, is the way to go. It is easy enough to embarrass a writer – many of us feel keenly the injustices around us – into making a grand gesture. Better perhaps to campaign effectively for real change . This might include putting pressure on global companies to make it more difficult for a government such as that in Sri Lanka to use mobile phone signals to kill its opponents.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Supports UA NMM Divestment Campaign, Mock Wall: Nomoredeaths

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Dear University of Arizona Community,

I am writing today to express my wholehearted support of the students in No Más Muertes/No More Deaths humanitarian/migrant-rights group and their institutional statement advocating divestment or business severance from the Caterpillar and Motorola corporations.  I appreciate their insistence for your school to terminate this relationship on the grounds of these companies providing military-style technology and assistance to U.S. forces committing systematic abuses in Arizona and nationwide.  I also think it is important that the students are highlighting these same companies that provide similar technology and assistance for Israel to use in its illegal military occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands.

When an immigrant is criminalized in Arizona or elsewhere in the U.S. for not having the right papers as he tries to make a living, I stand with him.  When a Palestinian man stands for hours at an Israeli military checkpoint in order to get to his job and make a living, I stand with him.  And I ask you to stand with me, with them, as the students are at the threshold of a new movement that seeks justice by withdrawing support for injustice.

I am not speaking from an ivory tower.  Degradation and humiliation of innocent people harassed over their “legal” status and documentation was prevalent throughout the reign of Apartheid. We lived it—police waking an individual up in the middle of the night and hauling him/her off to jail for not having his/her documents on hand while s/he slept.  The fact that they were in his/her nightstand near the bed was not good enough.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who, through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.  Students played a leading role in that struggle, and I write this letter with a special indebtedness to and earnest gratitude for your school, the University of Arizona, for its role in advocating equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid.

The same issue of equality is what motivates the students’ divestment movement today, linking the issues of immigrant/indigenous rights in the U.S. and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  The movement students are leading in Arizona to better the conditions there and in Palestine is politically refreshing and should be an inspiration to us all.

It was with immense joy that I learned of the massive mock apartheid wall the students erected through your campus to bring these issues to the forefront.  The students cleverly label their mock border wall “Concrete Connections” to symbolize the intersection of interests that guide U.S. policy in militarized Arizona and in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

I was reminded of how similarly touched I was when I visited American campuses like yours in the 1980s and saw students creating mock shanty towns and demonstrating in the baking sun to protest the brutal conditions of Apartheid.  Is my hope that the creative action by the students will inspire a new movement of mock walls dividing campuses across the U.S. to show how the militarized border not only runs along Arizona and the Southwestern region but everywhere in the United States where communities of immigrants, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities are raided, abused or exploited.  Such demonstrations can also show that in every corner of the United States sits the potential to help end the Israeli occupation by withdrawing U.S. funding and support which makes it possible.

The abuses faced by people in Arizona and in Palestine are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally consistent, non-violent acts to oppose them.  It is no more wrong to call out the U.S. governments—at the federal and Arizona state levels—for their abuses in Arizona and throughout the country than it was to call out the Apartheid regime for its abuses.  Nor is it wrong to single out Israel for its abuses in the occupied Palestinian territory as it was to single out the Apartheid regime for its abuses.

I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, the students are on the right track and are doing the right thing.  They are doing the moral thing.  They are doing that which is incumbent on them as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.

With these truths and principles in mind, I join with the students in No Más Muertes and implore your school to divest any form of business investment, whether stocks, bonds, or other business agreements, from companies such as Caterpillar and Motorola, as a symbolic gesture of non-participation in conditions and practices that are abominable.  To those who wrongly accuse us of unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and dignity.

It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli and U.S./AZ governments, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians—for migrant, indigenous, and all peoples regardless of immigration status; a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute, including national citizenship.  Students are helping to pave that path to a just peace and they deserve your support.  I encourage you to stand firm on the side of what is right.

God bless you.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Cape Town, South Africa)

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