June 12, 2012

EDITOR: The perfect ploy…

Having made some 800,000 Palestinians refugees in 1948, and over 250,000 in 1967 (according to Israeli figures…) and then never allowing them to return to their homes, which were then destroyed or given to Israeli Jews, Israel is not quite happy enough with the result. It must now stop the payment to the refugees and their families, as to lower the figures of the refugee total. The morality of this is really beyond me, or as the biblical prophet has said: “Have thou murdered and then inherited?” (Hebrew: Hartsachta Vegam Yarashta) – yes, they have murdered and expelled, then destroyed and inherited. But, this seems to be OK, because they are the Chosen People.

And you know what? They are likely to succeed this time also, unless we kick up a mighty fuss about this travesty! We must stop this; This kind of atrocious behaviour, amongst other evils,  also gives rise to anti-Semitism.

In the meantime, back on the farm: Israeli border Police are searching high and low for anyone black and arresting them, to later deport them by force. Strange Fruit, indeed… the fruit of Zionist racism.

Israeli MK, AIPAC behind Senate bid to cut total number of Palestinian refugees: IOA

12 JUNE 2012
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz – 12 June 2012

Newly passed amendment requires State Department to specify how many of the 5 million Palestinians who receive aid from the UN are refugees who were personally displaced from their homes in 1948, and how many are their descendants.

Capitol Hill in Washington was rocked late last month when the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment requiring the State Department, for the first time, to do a “count” of Palestinian refugees.

The amendment required the State Department to specify how many of the five million Palestinians who receive aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are refugees who were personally displaced from their homes in 1948, and how many are descendants of those refugees.

Known as the Kirk Amendment, after its sponsor, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), considered one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Washington, the bill conceals within its 150-plus words a fierce battle between Republican legislators and the State Department over the United States’ relationship with UN institutions.

Every year the United States allocates $250 million to UNRWA, which provides food as well as health, education and employment services to millions of Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For years Congressional representatives have been trying to reduce U.S. contributions to the agency, on the grounds that UNRWA was born in sin and that its policies are anti-Israeli.

What is not common knowledge in the Beltway is that the Kirk Amendment got its start in the Jerusalem office of MK Einat Wilf (Atzmaut ), who toiled for months, together with AIPAC lobbyists and Kirk’s staff, to promote the change.

Last September, as the Palestinians prepared their unilateral bid at the UN, Wilf met with representatives of the pro-Israel lobby in Israel. “I asked them why they weren’t doing anything about UNRWA,” Wilf says, adding: “The answer I got was that figures in the Israeli government had blocked such moves in the past.”

Wilf met with senior Defense Ministry policy official Amos Gilad and explained that she sought to end the agency’s policy of giving refugee status to successive generations of Palestinian refugees. “UNRWA’s activities perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of solving it,” Wilf says.

In a letter he sent Wilf in January, Gilad set the boundaries for her initiate, writing that the UNRWA budget should not be harmed , and that “UNRWA plays an important role in aiding the Palestinian population.”

“One must prevent a circumstance which endangers the continued transfer of these [UNRWA] services, services that align with Israeli interests,” Gilad added.

After Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Ron Dermer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign-policy adviser, gave their approval to Wilf’s efforts, she returned to AIPAC staffers and also approached Steven J. Rosen, a former foreign policy director for the organization who now works for a Washington think tank, to get things rolling on Capitol Hill.

In April Wilf and Rosen met with Kirk’s deputy chief of staff, Richard Goldberg. Kirk is recovering from a stroke he suffered a few months ago, and Goldberg is promoting the senator’s legislative efforts.

After a preliminary draft of the bill was worded, AIPAC officials went on board in an attempt to pass it, holding meeting with many of the senators on the appropriations committee in an attempt to sway them into supporting the legislation.

However, opposing the move were State Department officials, who went as far as sending a harshly worded letter to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Patrick Leahy.

In the letter, the State Department indicated that the United States recognized the refugee status of 5 million Palestinians, and accepts UNRWA’s definition of refugee descendents as refugees themselves.

While the State Department’s opposition succeeded in altering the bill, it did not bring about its cancellation, with the legislation eventually passed in the panel.

The amendment serves as a precedent since it represents the first time that a Senate committee sets demands to the American administration concerning UNRWA’s through legislation, even if it’s only the demand to report.

Responding to the report, Wilf said that her position was that “settlement building and the continued status of Palestinian refugees are both obstacles to peace.”

“I have nothing against the descendents of refugees and I’m not asking them to give up of their dream of returning, but if we want a two-state solution, UNRAW can’t continue to aid an inflation of refugees,” she added, saying: “It ends up harming peace.”

Michel Platini welcomes #Israel to #UEFA - #MahmoudSarsak, by Carlos Latuff

How hunger strikers “tied the hands of the occupation”: a view from Israeli prison: The Electronic Intifada

Ameer Makhoul,  Gilboa Prison 9 June 2012

A demonstration in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Jaffa, 12 May 2012. (Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

Palestinians have achieved three consecutive victories in the last few months. In October 2011, there was the release of prisoners (the exchange deal involving the kidnapped Israeli soldier).

Then there was a series of individual hunger strikes, which lasted for unparalleled periods of time. These began with Khader Adnan, who went on hunger strike to protest against the Israeli policy of administrative detention.

Adnan’s action spurred an open-ended hunger strike by prisoners, started by more than a thousand prisoners on 17 April. It ended on 14 May, with more than 2,000 prisoners taking part. The strike began a new page in the history of the Palestinian struggle for liberation, written by the prisoners along with their Arab and international supporters.

The agreement signed on 14 May 2012 between the authorities in charge of the strike and Israel — with Egyptian and international mediation and guarantees — confirmed that the prisoner movement not only scored a major achievement, but realized a clear victory. We can now speak of two periods, the before and after, with the watershed moment being the hunger strike of 2012.

Clear aims, coordination and preparation

From the beginning, the strike had several strong points. The most important of these was the clarity of its aims — key goals achievable through struggle and determination. These goals fused with the significant and highly conscious coordination between the prisoners on strike and those leading it inside the prisons, and between the latter and the wider political authorities outside.

Strong points became clear. There was no detailed involvement with everyday demands and issues. Thereby, a situation was avoided where larger aims would become entangled with specific demands. This tied the hands of the occupation, which could not manipulate these aims.

A huge role was also played by the strong, clear approach to the media taken by the leadership of the strike, while Israel failed in its attempts to broadcast a contrary view. There was also an accurate reading of Palestinian, Arab and international realities. A central goal was determined through prior planning — the possibility of reviving the Palestinian popular movement and making the most of the significant Egyptian role as a principal party to support the strike and guarantee the achievement of its goals. This risk proved worthwhile as was evident in the Egyptian sponsorship of the agreement to end the strike.

Another significant achievement was the clear preparation and the impressive readiness of the international solidarity movements to launch their campaigns all over the world, particularly in Europe and America, to support the prisoners in their fight for freedom. They declared 17 April as Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

This resulted in international public pressure in favor of the Palestinians’ right to confront the collusion of their government with the Israeli occupiers. These movements adopted a clear discourse on the humanitarian and political rights demanded by the prisoners. They also proved the importance of cumulative efforts to internationalize the cause of the prisoners and the cause of Palestine.

The strike adopted an approach which has blown the policy of “postponement” — imposed by Israel with official American and European support — out of the water. This is what happened in Oslo, where crucial components of the Palestinian issue were postponed to fit the policy of dictation and domination over the Palestinian leadership.

One of the issues postponed under that formula was the release of prisoners, but this too was brought back to the top of the official Palestinian agenda by the strike. The strikers refused to accept that the prisoners were pawns under the mercy of the occupation.

The strike also succeeded in neutralizing the negative effect of Israeli public opinion by not addressing it at all. This is because if it had moved, it would have gone against the just demands of the prisoners. It is a colonialist public opinion, extremely hostile to Palestinian rights, and therefore cannot support its own victims.

Only one victorious side

There is a difference between achieving specific matters within a wider set of demands and achieving all the goals of a decisive act of struggle. There is also a difference between a clear victory and a case in which each side thinks they’ve won. The outcome of the strike, as expressed in the agreement, is clear — there is only one victorious side, the prisoners.

This was the first time that negotiations were carried out directly with those involved in the case. It is also the first time a decision has been made by the occupier — the General Security Service (Shabak or Shin Bet) — not the Israeli Prison Service, which in the scale of Israeli oppression is just a subcontractor of the Shabak and the security services.

The strike neutralized the Israeli Prison Service and the longer it went on the more direct the dealings with the principal player, the Shabak, became. This is because of the strength of the strike and its solid basis. It forced the Israeli apparatus to reveal itself, because it limited its ability to manipulate and maneuver.

But the most important issue here is the success of the strike in removing the strategic oppression tools the Shabak has used for decades, particularly the laws of administrative detention and solitary confinement in prisons. In this way, the rules of a deeply rooted, coercive game were broken.

As a result of its strength, the strike also revealed the hostility and criminality of the Israeli judicial system, which since its conception has been an instrument to whitewash the racist colonialist project, the Israeli state’s crimes. It gave them legitimacy, justifying administrative procedures, the British mandate’s emergency laws, and continuous solitary confinement, all under the guise of security. And here we saw the Shabak forced to back down over some of them, confirming that the Israeli judicial system played and still plays the role of “palace guards” for the ruling security apparatus.

As for the popular international movement, which turned into official efforts, the Arab role, particularly the Egyptian, and the carrying out of multi-sided negotiations (the prisoners, Israel, Egypt and international pressure) — all these created a new atmosphere, an equation more akin to real negotiations than simply an occupying country dealing with its victims. The strike also confirmed that Israel’s power is not absolute, that its strength and sway can crumble in the face of targeted Palestinian efforts.

Dissolving divisions and boundaries

It is true that the strike was not comprehensive. It was Hamas who took the decision to launch it, along with Islamic Jihad, and with the support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Members of the Palestine Liberation Organization/Fatah took part in it. Those who initiated the strike kept their word when they guaranteed that all factions were represented in the authoritative body and leadership of the strike, each according to their role and numbers.

Although the strike included no more than a third of the prisoners, with Hamas being the most heavily represented, this in no way weakens its legitimacy. There might have been an argument prior to the strike about declaring it officially, but the moment it began, it became the prisoners’ strike. It became the responsibility of those prisoners taking part in it, and even those who were not, to make it succeed, support it, and share responsibility for it.

The strike proved that when our people or the prisoners’ movement engage in large-scale battles with the occupying oppressive state, the whole nation gets involved.

It is worth confirming that support for the Palestinian cause and Palestinian rights in their entirety is above political factions, rendering such divisions marginal and the people united. When the struggle of our people in Galilee, the Triangle, the Naqab desert and the coast meets with that in Jerusalem, Gaza, the West Bank and those in exile, all boundaries between our people dissolve.

Mobilizing every corner of the homeland

Reconciliation is not the goal of the Palestinian people, it is the responsibility of the political factions involved. The goals of the Palestinian people are return, freedom, liberating the homeland and the people, and self-determination. What is more important than reconciliation is the unity of the struggle and its integration on the basis of the fundamentals of Palestinian rights, not on curtailing them.

This is where the strike succeeded in mobilizing an unprecedented Palestinian movement in every corner of the homeland. With the support of the international movement, this turned the equation on its head in the last stages of the strike, when the prisoners became the ones holding the occupiers and the prisons under siege.

The Palestinian popular movement was followed by an important and effective movement. The initiative launched by the prisoners’ affairs ministry, the freed prisoners, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization is a promising model for overcoming factional divisions.

It is now clear that coordination is possible, roles can be complementary, even if the divisions continue. It is clear that the unity of the goal and the people over the prisoners’ struggle is the basis. This is an integrated working model which is capable of achieving victories.

In his last speech in February 1965, Malcolm X said: “The only thing power respects is power.” This is one of the most important lessons of the strike. How do we create this power through determination and justice, and how do we use it well as prisoners and as a people? We must not forget that the most important goal of the prisoners, and the people, is freedom, and that requires more power. The hunger strike in 2012 is a victory on the road to freedom.

Ameer Makhoul is a Palestinian civil society leader and political prisoner at Gilboa Prison.

This article is co-published by Al Akhbar English and translated from Arabic.

 

Head of Arab political party harassed, detained at Israeli airport: IOA

Press release:  National Democratic Party
7 June 2012

The National Democratic Party has accused Israel’s security services of repeatedly harassing one of its leaders each time he leaves and enters Israel.

The NDP, which represents Israel’s large minority of Arab Palestinian citizens and has three members sitting in the Israeli parliament, has suffered a campaign of persecution from the Israeli security services for many years.

The latest incident occurred last month, when Awad Abdel Fattah, the NDP’s secretary-general, returned from a speaking tour in Europe. Among his engagements, he met Finland’s Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja, and leaders of political parties in Belgium and Sweden to discuss the increasingly repressive political atmosphere in Israel towards the country’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens.

When Mr Abdel Fattah exited the plane in the early hours of May 3 he was pulled aside for interrogation and detained for more than two hours without his passport. When repeated requests for its return were ignored, and he was not given a reason for his detention, he told the security staff to keep the passport and headed towards baggage reclaim.

It was the third time in a month that he had suffered such treatment at Ben Gurion airport.

At baggage reclaim, Mr Abdel Fattah was surrounded by security staff and threatened with arrest. Only when Mr Abdel Fattah caused a scene in the baggage reclaim area, in front of other passengers, was he told that the decision to detain him been “an order from higher-up”.

This was confirmed a short time later by a senior member of the security police who arrived to speak to Mr Abdel Fattah privately.

Mr Abdel Fattah recounted: “He told me that the matter was not in the hands of the police but had come from the intelligence services. He suggested that members of my party in the Knesset should call the Minister of Internal Security.

“Minutes later, apparently because of the embarrassment I had caused them, they returned my passport and let me go. At this point, at 6am, I had been detained for three hours.”

Earlier, his wife, Fathiyya Hussein (Abdel Fattah), who returned on the same flight from a business trip to Brussels, was threatened with arrest when she refused to leave the airport without her husband.

The NDP has suffered a campaign of persecution and intimidation from the Israeli security services over the past decade. Despite being a legal party, its former leader, Azmi Bishara, was forced into exile and its members are regularly called in for interrogation by the intelligence services, during which they are often warned to quit the party.

Mr Abdel Fattah has been arrested for his political activities on several occasions, including most recently in 2009 when he led a demonstration against Israel’s attack on Gaza, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

Mr Abdel Fattah added: “The goal of this policy of targeting our party is to restrict our freedom of political action and to humiliate and insult representatives of the Arab public.

“It is part of the systematic persecution of our party and its leaders, an attempt to smear our image and make us look dangerous to the general public.”

Israel’s harassment of its Palestinian citizens at Ben Gurion airport has come under increasing scrutiny. A year ago the Supreme Court demanded that the airport authorities and the Israeli intelligence service, the Shin Bet, explain why security checks were being conducted in a discriminatory manner against Arab citizens.

Mr Abdel Fattah’s treatment coincides with other revelations of harassment and a lack of accountability from security staff at Ben Gurion airport.

Several passengers arriving from abroad with Arab names say security officials demanded they log into their private email accounts so that the contents could be read. Lawyers argue that the policy violates Israeli law.

Africans fear more violence as Knesset members incite racism in Tel Aviv: The Electronic Intifada

Mya Guarnieri,  Tel Aviv 11 June 2012

Israeli parliamentarian Miri Regev described Africans in Israel as a “cancer” in Israel’s body. (Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

TEL AVIV (IPS) – It’s Saturday night in south Tel Aviv. Amine Zegata, a 36-year-old refugee from Eritrea, is reopening the small bar he owns in the HaTikva neighborhood. The pub was closed after Jewish Israelis smashed his windows and the bottles within during the race riots two weeks back. But Zegata has been assaulted twice since then. Violence against African refugees is continuing.

On the evening of 23 May, a number of Jewish Israelis gathered in south Tel Aviv to protest the presence of Africans in their neighborhood. Members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, gave inflammatory speeches at the rally. Miri Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, declared that Africans are a “cancer” in Israel’s body. Michael Ben Ari from the far-right National Union party claimed that Africans are rapists, and said the “time for talk is over.”

Mobs responded to such speeches by chasing and beating asylum-seekers, vandalizing African-owned stores, and breaking the windshield of a car carrying African men.

Zegata said that the violence “isn’t over.” After assaulting him twice following the riots, local Israelis have warned him to stop repairing his bar, and threatened to crack his head open.

Locals have already cracked the new glass storefront Zegata put in to replace the one that was smashed. Zegata said he is less worried about his business than about his safety. “The glass, this isn’t a problem,” he said in fluent Hebrew, pointing to the cracks. “If they break the glass, I can switch it, I can buy a new one. But life, you can’t buy.”

Sigal Rozen of the Israeli organization Hotline for Migrant Workers said it was impossible to know how many Africans have faced intimidation and assaults in the wake of the race riots. Some asylum-seekers have been coming daily to the organization with complaints about violence, but Rozen says most refugees who have been harassed or attacked by Jewish Israelis do not approach migrant support groups or the police for help.

Knife attacks

Rozen offered the example of a refugee stabbed by Jewish Israelis in south Tel Aviv. Rozen ran into the man as she was visiting Levinsky park in south Tel Aviv where many homeless asylum-seekers gather. The man took his shirt off to show her fresh stitches on his stomach. “He said, ‘this is what they did to me in HaTikva neighborhood.’”

As Zegata and Rozen both point out, violence against African refugees is not new. Four months before the race riots, Zegata was beaten up by a group of Jewish Israeli teenagers. He was hospitalized briefly.

Numerous other attacks have taken place. A particularly brutal incident came last year when some African girls were jumped by a group of Jewish Israeli youth. The teenagers shouted racial slurs at the girls, who are Israeli-born daughters of Nigerian migrant workers. One of the attackers was armed with a knife. One girl needed medical treatment for her injuries.

Some Africans in south Tel Aviv say they face constant harassment from Jewish Israeli residents. Zegata opened his bar eight months ago and has had trouble for six months. Several months ago, he also had problems at home. After returning from work late one night, someone opened the window and dropped lit matches into his apartment.

“Nowhere to go”

Abraham Alu is a 35-year-old refugee from South Sudan who sells plastic shoes on a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the Neve Shaanan neighborhood. Locals approach him nearly every day, telling him to “go home.”

Alu is frightened and feels that he and other Africans need to leave Israel for their own safety. But, he said, “There’s nowhere to go.”

Alu fled Sudan when he was seven after he saw his mother and father murdered by militiamen. He eventually ended up in Egypt where refugees are not permitted to work legally. In 2005, Alu was one of the 3,000 African asylum-seekers who spent three months camped out in front of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offices in Cairo to protest their treatment.

The demonstrators also called on the UNHCR to help them move to other countries. Egyptian police attacked the protest with water cannons and batons, leading to the death of more than twenty Africans, including a four-year-old girl. Fearing for his life, Alu headed to Israel.

Israel is home to approximately 60,000 African asylum-seekers, 85 percent of them from Eritrea and Sudan. These men, women and children get group protection against deportation, and Israel gives visas to the refugees. Although they remain in the state legally, the state does not allow the refugees to work.

African asylum-seekers take odd jobs and crowd into cheap apartments in poor neighborhoods, including south Tel Aviv. Those who cannot scrape together the money for rent live in parks.

Knesset members have participated in anti-African protests like the one that led to violence last month since the demonstrations began in 2010. Most of the Knesset members who have joined in are from the far-right. But Miri Regev belongs to Likud, a mainstream party led by Netanyahu, a popular prime minister who enjoys high approval ratings from the Israeli public.

While Regev faced sharp criticism for inciting violence against African refugees, government officials have long used inflammatory language. Speaking to Army Radio in 2009, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that asylum-seekers bring “a profusion of diseases” to the country. In 2010, Netanyahu remarked that Africans pose “a concrete threat to the Jewish and democratic character” of Israel.

In new assault, Israel group’s US front asks City of Los Angeles to sue professor for criticizing Israel: Ali Abunima on EI Blog

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 06/12/2012 – 14:22
In a new assault on free speech, the US front for Israeli group Shurat Hadin is asking the City Attorney of Los Angeles to sue California State University, Northridge mathematics professor David Klein.

The Global Frontier Justice Center claims that Klein is “misusing” state resources by using his university-hosted personal website to express critical opinions and calls for the academic boycott of Israel.

The Global Frontier Justice Center made the request after California Attorney General Kamala Harris rejected a similar request last month saying that there was no evidence Klein had done anything wrong.

Klein, an organizer with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, became aware of the new effort to silence him when he received a copy of a 5 June letter from Meir Katz, a lawyer for the Global Frontier Justice Center, addressed to Carmen A. Trutanich, the City Attorney of Los Angeles.

Attorney General “abdicating her responsibilities” by refusing to crack down on Israel criticism

Klein provided a scanned copy of the letter to The Electronic Intifada. Katz’s letter recalls his group’s 2 April request to California Attorney General Harris for prosecution of Klein, and Harris’ response, which Katz criticizes (emphasis added):

On May 17, we received a response from Ms. Harris’ office. It claimed that Ms. Harris “carefully reviewed” our letter of April 2 and concluded that “the evidence [we] provided does not support a finding of misuse of [state resources].” This, of course, is impossible. The evidence is not in question. Perhaps Ms. Harris disagrees with our legal analysis, but she provided no contrary analysis. More likely, she is merely abdicating her responsibilities as Attorney General of the State of California.

Zionist group wants City of Los Angeles to act as censor on behalf of Israel

The letter goes on to request that the City of Los Angeles pursue Klein on behalf of the people of California, and suggests that the City could benefit financially:

As you know, CAL. GOV’T CODE § 8314 authorizes civil actions to be “brought in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General or by any district attorney or any city attorney of a city having a population in excess of 750,000.” If the Attorney General does not wish to enforce the laws of her state, somebody must. We hope that somebody is you.

The statute continues: “If the action is brought by a city attorney, the moneys recovered shall be paid to the treasurer of that city.” The taxpayers of Los Angeles deserve to have this money that has been expropriated from them in violation of law to be returned to them.

Lawsuit would cost taxpayers, not gain them money

Not only has the California Attorney General already rejected the Global Frontier Justice Center’s spurious legal theory, but the claim that Los Angeles could gain financially is equally absurd.

Even if there were any merit to the claim that Klein were “misusing” state resources, the marginal cost of his university-hosted personal website is nil. Its existence almost certainly imposes no measurable financial burden on the State of California.

A politically-motivated prosecution or lawsuit against Klein, by contrast, would cost tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of dollars of public funds at a time when California is slashing basic services to its population.

The City Attorney’s office has not escaped these cuts. As the Los Angeles Times noted, Trutanich – who is running for District Attorney – “has had his budget slashed deeply, and like many city workers, his lawyers had to absorb furlough days. To the credit of his lawyers, though, many kept working without pay on their forced days off.”

Destroying free speech rights to protect Israel

Would any responsible official put unpaid lawyers on such a case? And for what? To create a nightmare regime where almost any online speech within California’s public universities would have to be expensively and oppressively policed by the state?

Klein told me that the latest assault by the Global Justice Frontier Center “is just one of many actions taken by the AMCHA Initiative,” a California Zionist group that collaborates with the Global Frontier Justice Center, “and other Zionist organizations during the past year to suppress free speech on California State University campuses when that speech criticizes the apartheid government of Israel.”

It is also unlikely to be the last.

Letter from Meir Katz to City Attorney of Los Angeles: Meir Katz Letter

EDITOR: Blood diamonds

Where there is blood in Africa, there are blood diamonds, and where you find these, you also find Israelis… Israel is the largest exporter of processed diamonds, and many of these originate in the dark recesses of this awful industry.

Mining group ENRC urged to reveal details of controversial Congo deals: Guardian

Campaigners want Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation to publish results of inquiry into links with Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler
Simon Goodley
The Guardian, Tuesday 12 June 2012

A truck winds its way out of a mine in Fungurume, in southern Democratic Republic of Congo Photograph: Katrina Manson/Reuters

Controversial links between the FTSE 100 mining group Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and an Israeli businessman with high-level contacts in the Democratic Republic of Congo have returned to plague the company on the eve of its annual general meeting in London on Tuesday.

Anti-corruption campaigner Global Witness is urging ENRC to publish the results of an internal inquiry into allegations made by at least two whistleblowers at the firm, which is understood to include an investigation into the group’s ties to Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler.

Gertler has been dogged by accusations that a close relationship with DRC president Joseph Kabila has allowed him to buy interests in the country’s mining assets on the cheap. The Global Witness report states: “The offshore shell companies associated with Mr Gertler and paid by ENRC are obscure entities which have been registered in secrecy jurisdictions and have therefore not declared their full list of beneficiaries. Global Witness believes that these offshore structures could allow corrupt Congolese officials to benefit from these deals. If this is correct, ENRC may have poured money into corrupt transactions.”

ENRC has acquired stakes in mining concessions from Gertler at prices that appear to have delivered the Israeli’s offshore companies handsome – and speedy – profits. The FTSE 100 group’s purchases have also been criticised for being at levels significantly less than the true market value, meaning the company and its partner could have profited at the expense of one of the poorest populations on Earth.

The call for more transparency at ENRC comes after the mining company’s new chairman, Mehmet Dalman, refused to back Gertler in an interview with the Guardian last week. When asked if he has ever had any concerns about doing business with the Israeli, Dalman replied: “You know that is such a leading question I’m not even going to respond to it, right? … Any comment I make, whatever you write down, it will not look right. Why would I answer that question? It is a no-win situation for me. Don’t give me questions that I will look bad on, right? Come on. Be fair.”

The Global Witness report lists five deals it is concerned about that ENRC has completed in the DRC. Its questions centre on how Gertler’s offshore companies “obtained their licences in deals that were conducted in secrecy and not subject to public tenders”; how the offshore entities “have not revealed their full list of beneficiaries [so] there is a risk that these beneficiaries could include corrupt Congolese officials”; and how “in at least two cases ENRC bankrolled the initial purchases by Gertler-related offshore companies instead of doing business directly with the Congolese government”.

Scrutiny of these deals – plus similar transactions conducted with Gertler by FTSE 100 commodity trader Glencore – have led to promises of a parliamentary investigation. Last month, Pauline Latham MP, a member of the international development select committee, issued a statement asking: “Are London-listed firms using Dan Gertler and shell companies to navigate around anti-bribery legislation?”

Glencore, ENRC and Gertler deny any wrongdoing and say the transactions were properly conducted. In response to the Global Witness report, ENRC said: “ENRC is committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance and implements a zero-tolerance policy to bribery and corruption across all of our operations. In bringing significant and much-needed investment to the DRC, ENRC has fully complied with regulations and disclosure obligations.” A spokesman for Gertler’s Fleurette Group said: “Fleurette has continually stated that the only beneficiaries [of Fleurette Group] are the Gertler Family Trust for the family members of Dan Gertler.”

 West Bank theatre pays price for freedom: AJTV English

Staff of Freedom Theatre in Jenin, whose co-founder was killed last year, complain of arrests and harassment.
Jillian Kestler-DAmours Last Modified: 11 Jun 2012 09:59

”]Jerusalem – Micaela Miranda woke up at 3am last Wednesday to the sound of dogs barking. When she reached her front door, she saw six armed Israeli soldiers jumping over the gate that leads to her Jenin home.

Minutes later, the soldiers took her husband away.

“I just saw him disappearing in the dark with the commander and another three soldiers,” Miranda said. “The house was full of soldiers all around. They were at the house for one hour.”

Miranda’s husband, Nabil Al-Raee, is the artistic director of the renowned Freedom Theatre in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

According to Miranda, he is currently being held incommunicado at the Jalame detention facility in northern Israel, and his attorney has been unable to ascertain the exact reason for his arrest.

“Nabil is an artist. Everyone who knows him knows that he never committed a crime except for expressing what he thinks. He spoke out as a way to resist injustice,” Miranda said.

String of arrests

The Israeli army confirmed Al-Raee’s arrest, telling Agence France-Presse last week that he “was arrested overnight in Jenin on suspicion of involvement in illegal activity”. No further details have been made available.

Nabil Al-Raee is being held at the Jalame detention facility in northern Israel, his wife says [Freedom Theatre]
Al-Raee is the latest in a string of people affiliated with the Freedom Theatre who have been arrested over the past year. These included a 20-year-old lead actor, a member of the theatre’s board of directors, and various staff members.

Additionally, the Israeli army has broken theatre windows and equipment and shot live ammunition during night raids conducted in the camp, and intimidated and ransacked homes of theatre employees.

The Israeli authorities originally said the arrests were related to the ongoing investigation into the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis, a well-known Palestinian-Israeli actor and director who was shot and killed in April 2011 in front of the Freedom Theatre.

Mer-Khamis co-founded the theatre in 2006 as a way to empower Palestinian youth in the camp and encourage creative expression as a method of resistance to both the restrictions imposed by traditional Palestinian society and the Israeli occupation.

According to Freedom Theatre Managing Director Jonathan Stanczak, however, since Freedom Theatre employees have always co-operated with the investigation into Mer-Khamis’ death, the arrests can be seen as part of an intimidation campaign meant to discourage people from joining.

“We were very clear that we want to participate and contribute to any investigation regarding the murder of Juliano, but we strongly oppose the means and methods they used to conduct these interrogations,” Stanczak said.

He explained that three weeks ago, the Israeli intelligence agency (known as Shabak or the Shin Bet, according to its Hebrew acronym) called nearly half of all Freedom Theatre employees into interrogation at an Israeli army base near Jenin. Stanczak said that the questions asked during these interviews related to Mer-Khamis’ murder, the activities of the Freedom Theatre, and things happening in the Jenin refugee camp.

“Everybody complied and came to the appointments and contributed any information they could, including Nabil and Micaela. Why, if only three weeks ago, people came and answered all questions they could, do they now come to Nabil’s house, in front of his family, and take him from his house?” Stanczak said.

The Jenin refugee camp, a 0.42 square kilometre area in the north of the occupied West Bank, is home to over 16,000 registered Palestinian refugees, more than half of whom are under the age of 24.

The camp was severely damaged during the Second Intifada, when it was a centre of armed Palestinian resistance. Clashes in the camp in 2002 between the Israeli army and Palestinian fighters lasted 10 days and left many dead, 150 buildings destroyed and more than 430 families homeless.

Today, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has jurisdiction over the camp. It began a criminal investigation into Mer-Khamis’ death immediately after he was killed in April 2011. The Israelis also began their own investigation shortly thereafter, run jointly by the Israeli army, police, and Shabak.

To date, no one has been charged. On the one-year anniversary of Mer-Khamis’ death earlier this year, a demonstration was held in front of the Muqata, the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, demanding justice.

Memorials were also held in Haifa and Jaffa to commemorate Mer-Khamis and the Freedom Theatre’s work, which continues despite Mer-Khamis’ absence and has expanded to not only include theatre and acting, but filmmaking, dance, and other forms of artistic expression, as well.

Pressure from within

“When critical discourse starts to arise in society, this is very good. We are happy that some people are questioning what we do.”

– Jonathan Stanczak

In recent years, pressure on the Freedom Theatre has also come from within Palestinian society. According to Stanczak, attempts were made to burn down the theatre in 2008, and Palestinians in the camp levied threats against actors and staff, telling them to stop what they were doing.

“We are a place where creative ideas and new perspectives are generated. Of course, there are people in society that are against this,” Stanczak said.

A play staged by the Freedom Theatre in 2009, for instance, was adapted from George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm” and dealt with the limits imposed within Palestinian society and the corruption of the Palestinian leadership. While it was well-received and was shown to packed audiences, it was also highly criticised.

“This is proof that we actually have an affect. When critical discourse starts to arise in society, this is very good. We are happy that some people are questioning what we do,” Stanczak said.

The Freedom Theatre has also staged adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Waiting for Godot, and its actors have performed across the West Bank, Egypt, the United States and in various European cities.

For Micaela Miranda, while having no contact with her husband and no information about why he was arrested is painful for both herself and her young daughter, the outpouring of support she’s received is a reminder of the impact the Freedom Theatre is having.

“This is the only positive side of it, to know that there are a lot of people that support Nabil and his work,” she said, adding, “We are here to empower the [Palestinian] society about their identity and this is exactly what Israel is working against. It is a threat.”

Follow Jillian Kestler-D’Amours on Twitter @jilldamours.
email: bricup@bricup.org.uk
www.bricup.org.uk
London film-goers offered free wine – but sadly it’s
from an illegal Israeli winery!
An open letter to
Martin Davidson CMG, Chief Executive of the British Council
Graham Sheffield CBE, Director Arts for the British Council
London, 12 June 2012
Dear Martin Davidson and Graham Sheffield,

We’re worried about something. The British Council appears to be inviting London film-goers to collude in a breach of international law. Can you confirm whether or not this is your intention?
The first ever Israeli Film and Television Festival is due to take place in London cinemas this week, starting June 14. The British Council are sponsors, along with the Israeli embassy, BICOM, and various British and Israeli business interests, including the Golan Heights Winery. This is what particularly worries us.
The festival is promising ‘a special tasting by Golan Wines’ before many of the screenings. But the Golan Heights Winery is in territory illegally annexed by Israel. We’ve checked UN Security Council resolution 497 of 1981, which says the Israeli annexation is ‘null and void and without international legal effect’.
The British government voted for this resolution, and we can’t find any evidence that it’s officially changed its position.
Your sponsorship of a festival that is offering illegally-produced wines from illegally annexed territory to London film-goers is troubling, to say the least.
Will you be warning everyone before they raise a glass to their lips that the wine producers are breaking international law? And since it’s the British Foreign Secretary who is, according to your website, ‘answerable to parliament for the policies, operations and performance of the British Council’, did you check with him before you entered a partnership that violates UK government policy?
We respectfully request you, as a matter of urgency, to withdraw your sponsorship from the festival and the related ‘Industry Day’.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Haim Bresheeth
Jenny Morgan
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

Comment | Ilan Pappé: the boycott will work, an Israeli perspective: ceasefiremagazine

In the second of our exclusive extracts from “The Case For Sanctions Against Israel,” Ilan Pappé, celebrated Israeli Historian and author, argues that the BDS movement is the best means to end Israel’s oppressive occupation and prevent another Nakba.

By Ilan Pappe
I have been a political activist for most of my adult life. In all these years, I have believed deeply that the unbearable and unacceptable reality of Israel and Palestine could only be changed from within. This is why I have been ceaselessly devoted to persuading Jewish society—to which I belong and into which I was born—that its basic policy in the land was wrong and disastrous.

As for so many others, the options for me were clear: I could either join politics from above, or counter it from below. I began by joining the Labor Party in the 1980s, and then the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), when I declined an offer to join the Knesset.

At the same time, I focused my energies on working alongside others within educational and peace NGOs, even chairing two such institutions: the left-Zionist Institute for Peace Studies in Givat Haviva, and the non-Zionist Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies. In both circles, veteran and younger colleagues alike sought to create constructive dialogue with our compatriots, in the hope of influencing present policy for future reconciliation. It was mainly a campaign of information about crimes and atrocities committed by Israel since 1948, and a plea for a future based on equal human and civil rights.

For an activist, the realization that change from within is unattainable not only grows from an intellectual or political process, but is more than anything else an admission of defeat. And it was this fear of defeatism that prevented me from adopting a more resolute position for a very long time.
After almost thirty years of activism and historical research, I became convinced that the balance of power in Palestine and Israel pre-empted any possibility for a transformation within Jewish Israeli society in the foreseeable future. Though rather late in the game, I came to realize that the problem was not a particular policy or a specific government, but one more deeply rooted in the ideological infrastructure informing Israeli decisions on Palestine and the Palestinians ever since 1948. I have described this ideology elsewhere as a hybrid between colonialism and romantic nationalism.[1]

Today, Israel is a formidable settler-colonialist state, unwilling to transform or compromise, and eager to crush by whatever means necessary any resistance to its control and rule in historical Palestine. Beginning with the ethnic cleansing of 80 percent of Palestine in 1948, and Israel’s occupation of the remaining 20 percent of the land in 1967, Palestinians in Israel are now enclaved in mega-prisons, bantustans, and besieged cantons, and singled out through discriminatory policies.

Meanwhile, millions of Palestinian refugees around the world have no way to return home, and time has only weakened, if not annihilated, all internal challenges to this ideological infrastructure. Even as I write, the Israeli settler state continues to further colonize and uproot the indigenous people of Palestine.

Admittedly, Israel is not a straightforward case study in colonialism,[2] nor can the solutions to either the 1967 occupation or the question of Palestine as a whole be easily described as decolonization. Unlike most colonialist projects, the Zionist movement had no clear metropolis, and because it far predates the age of colonialism, describing it in that way would be anachronistic. But these paradigms are still highly relevant to the situation, for two reasons. The first is that diplomatic efforts in Palestine since 1936 and the peace process that began in 1967 have only increased the number of Israeli settlements in Palestine, from less than 10 percent of Palestine in 1936 to over 90 per cent of the country today.

Thus it seems that the message from the peace brokers, mainly Americans ever since 1970, is that peace can be achieved without any significant limit being placed on the settlements, or colonies, in Palestine. True, settlers have periodically been evicted from Gaza settlements and some other isolated outposts, but this did not alter the overall matrix of colonial control, with all its systematic daily abuses of civil and human rights.

The occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the oppression of the Palestinians inside Israel, and the denial of the refugees’ right of return will continue as long as these policies (occupation, oppression, and denial) were packaged as a comprehensive peace settlement to be endorsed by obedient Palestinian and Arab partners.

The second reason for viewing the situation through the lens of colonialism and anti-colonialism is that it allows us a fresh look at the raison d’être of the peace process. The basic objective, apart from the creation of two separate states, is for Israel to withdraw from areas it occupied in 1967.

But this is contingent upon Israeli security concerns being satisfied, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has articulated as the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and the rest of Israel’s political center has articulated as the existence of a demilitarized future Palestinian state only in parts of the occupied territories. The consensus is that, after withdrawal, the army will still keep an eye on Palestine from the Jewish settlement blocs, East Jerusalem, the Jordanian border, and the other side of the walls and fences surrounding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Whether or not the Quartet, or even the present US administration, seeks a more comprehensive withdrawal and a more sovereign Palestinian state, no one in the international community has seriously challenged the Israeli demand that its concerns first be satisfied. The peace process only requires a change in the Palestinian agenda, leaving the Israeli agenda untouched.

In other words, the message from abroad to Israel is that peace does not require any transformation from within. In fact, it even leaves Israel room for interpretation: the Israeli government, apprehensive of the reaction of hardline settlers, was unwilling to evict them from isolated posts in the occupied territories. That even the weak Palestinian leadership has refused to accept this rationale has allowed the Israelis to claim that the Palestinians are stubborn and inflexible, and therefore that Israel is entitled to pursue unilateral policies to safeguard its national security (the infamous “ingathering policy,” as coined by Ehud Olmert).[3]

Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that the peace process has actually deterred the colonizer and occupier from transforming its mentality and ideology. As long as the international community waits for the oppressed to transform their positions, while validating those upheld by the oppressor since 1967, this will remain the most brutal occupation the world has seen since World War II.

The annals of colonialism and decolonization teach us that an end to the military presence and occupation was a condition sine qua non for meaningful negotiations between colonizer and colonized even to begin.
An unconditional end to Israel’s military presence in the lives of more than three million Palestinians should be the precondition for any negotiations, which can only develop when the relationship between the two sides is not oppressive but equal.

In most cases, occupiers have not decided to leave. They were forced out, usually through a prolonged and bloody armed struggle. This has been attempted with very little success in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In fewer cases, success was achieved by applying external pressure on the rogue power or state in the very last stage of decolonization. The latter strategy is more attractive. In any case, the Israeli paradigm of “peace” is not going to shift unless it is pressured from the outside, or forced to do so on the ground.

Even before one begins to define more specifically what such outside pressure entails, it is essential not to confuse the means (pressure) with the objective (finding a formula for joint living). In other words, it is important to emphasize that pressure is meant to trigger meaningful negotiations, not take their place. So while I still believe that change from within is key to bringing about a lasting solution to the question of the refugees, the predicament of the Palestinian minority in Israel, and the future of Jerusalem, other steps must first be taken for this to be achieved.

What kind a pressure is necessary? South Africa has provided the most illuminating and inspiring historical example for those leading this debate, while, on the ground, activists and NGOs under occupation have sought nonviolent means both to resist the occupation and to expand the forms of resistance beyond suicide bombing and the %ring of Qassam missiles from Gaza. These two impulses produced the BDS campaign against Israel. It is not a coordinated campaign operated by some secret cabal. It began as a call from within the civil society under occupation, endorsed by other Palestinian groups, and translated into individual and collective actions worldwide.

These actions vary in focus and form, from boycotting Israeli products to severing ties with academic institutes in Israel.

Some are individual displays of protest; others are organized campaigns. What they have in common is their message of outrage against the atrocities on the ground in Palestine—but the campaign’s elasticity has made it into a broad process powerful enough to produce a new public mood and atmosphere, without any clear focal point.

For the few Israelis who sponsored the campaign early on, it was a definitive moment that clearly stated our position vis-à-vis the origins, nature, and policies of our state. But in hindsight, it also seems to have provided moral sponsorship, which has been helpful for the success of the campaign.

Supporting BDS remains a drastic act for an Israeli peace activist. It excludes one immediately from the consensus and from the accepted discourse in Israel. Palestinians pay a higher price for the struggle, and those of us who choose this path should not expect to be rewarded or even praised. But it does involve putting yourself in direct confrontation with the state, your own society, and quite often friends and family. For all intents and purposes, this is to cross the final red line—to say farewell to the tribe.

This is why any one of us deciding to join the call should make such a decision wholeheartedly, and with a clear sense of its implications.

But there is really no other alternative. Any other option—from indifference, through soft criticism, and up to full endorsement of Israeli policy—is a wilful decision to be an accomplice to crimes against humanity. The closing of the public mind in Israel, the persistent hold of the settlers over Israeli society, the inbuilt racism within the Jewish population, the dehumanization of the Palestinians, and the vested interests of the army and industry in keeping the occupied territories—all of these mean that we are in for a very long period of callous and oppressive occupation. Thus, the responsibility of Israeli Jews is far greater than that of anyone else involved in advancing peace in Israel and Palestine. Israeli Jews are coming to realize this fact, and this is why the number who support pressuring Israel from the outside is growing by the day. It is still a very small group, but it does form the nucleus of the future Israeli peace camp.

Much can be learned from the Oslo process. There, the Israelis employed the discourse of peace as a convenient way of maintaining the occupation (aided for a while by Palestinian leaders who fell prey to US–Israeli deception tactics). This meant that an end to the occupation was vetoed not only by the “hawks,” but also the “doves,” who were not really interested in stopping it. That is why concentrated and effective pressure on Israel needs to be applied by the world at large. Such pressure proved successful in the past, particularly in the case of South Africa; and pressure is also necessary to prevent the worst scenarios from becoming realities.

After the massacre in Gaza in January 2009, it was hard to see how things could get worse, but they can—with no halt to the expansion of settlements, and continuing assaults on Gaza, the Israeli repertoire of evil has not yet been exhausted. The problem is that the governments of Europe, and especially the US, are not likely to endorse the BDS campaign. But one is reminded of the trials and tribulations of the boycott campaign against South Africa, which emanated from civil societies and not from the corridors of power.

In many ways, the most encouraging news comes from the most unlikely quarter: US campuses. The enthusiasm and commitment of hundreds of local students have helped in the last decade to bring the idea of divestment to US society—a society that was regarded as a lost cause by the global campaign for Palestine. They have faced formidable foes: both the effective and cynical AIPAC, and the fanatical Christian Zionists. But they offer a new way of engaging with Israel, not only for the sake of Palestinians, but also for Jews worldwide.

In Europe, an admirable coalition of Muslims, Jews, and Christians is advancing this agenda against fierce accusations of anti-Semitism. The presence of a few Israelis among them has helped to fend off these vicious and totally false allegations. I do not regard the moral and active support of Israelis like myself as the most important ingredient in this campaign. But connections with progressive and radical Jewish dissidents in Israel are vital to the campaign. They are a bridge to a wider public in Israel, which will eventually have to be incorporated. Pariah status will hopefully persuade Israel to abandon its policies of war crimes and abuses of human rights. We hope to empower those on the outside who are now engaged in the campaign, and we are empowered ourselves by their actions.

All of us, it seems, need clear targets, and to remain vigilant against simplistic generalizations about the boycott being against Israel for being Jewish, or against the Jews for being in Israel. That is simply not true. The millions of Jews in Israel must be reckoned with. It is a living organism that will remain part of any future solution. However, it is first our sacred duty to end the oppressive occupation and to prevent another Nakba—and the best means for achieving this is a sustained boycott and divestment campaign.

See also: Comment | Hind Awwad “Six Years of BDS: Success!”

This article is an original extract from The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, published by Verso on 15th May 2012, in which a cast of international voices argue for boycott, divestment and sanctions. The book features contributions from: John Berger, Slavoj Žižek, Angela Davis, Mustafa Barghouti, Ken Loach, Neve Gordon, Naomi Klein, Omar Barghouti, Ilan Pappe and many more.

The Case for Sanctions Against Israel
Audrea Lim (Editor)
Publication: 15th May 2012
ISBN: 978 1 84467 450 3
Price: £9.99
256 pages
Publisher: Verso Books

Permalink Print