This has moved to another page: Open Letter to Israeli Academics, July 2014
To see the statement signed by the Israeli academics we have called upon, and the list of signatories, see this link
EDITOR: How many times will we have to mark this day with the occupation and injustices continuing?
The Nakba is almost as old as I am myself (always was… I was born in 1946) and I now feel the terrible weight of it more than ever before. Having been involved in ant-Zionist activity for over four decades, I sometimes feel we have achieved very little in all this time. Apartheid is now stronger than ever, and Israel itself seems to be stronger than when I started my activity in the early 1970s; not only stronger militarilly, but it has also become an economic success story, marketing death and destruction to every corner of the globe under the banner of ‘security’ and ‘defence’. Never before was Israel so safe with its protectors in the west – US and the EU, Canada and Australia. Never before were the Palestinians so divided, weak and leaderless, as well as totally in awe of the might of the occupation army, navy and airforce, supplied by the same allies. Never before was Israel’s war against its critics so expansive and expensive. Never before were the settlements so toxic and vast, so central in Israel’s heart of government. It all seems so hopelerss on overcast days in London.
On the other hand, one then remebers the great successes of the BDS campaign recently, crowned by Prof. Hawking retraction from the President’s Conference 2013 in Israel, and the many smaller ones dotted all around the globe, coming thick and fast. The Gursian poll of its readers found two thirds of them supported the move by Hawking, and in the US, the public severe critique of Israel rose by 10% to 41%; of course, the governemnts of these publics are only more committed to continue and support Israeli atrocities, so this becomes a real political issue in these countries, one we will have to develop and exploit. No doubt the BDS campaign has now started to hurt Israel. and it is fighting back with all its might, and with its friends in high places. We have no such resources at our command, neither did we have them in the 1979s and 1980s, when fighting Apartheid in South Africa. But the struggle was won then.
In Occupied Palestine, the struggle goes on, regardless. Israel and its allies have not managed to defeat or subdue the struggle by Hamas in Gaza, despite all the death and destruction which they meted out to the blockaded city. Despite the PA submissiveness, Israel has not managed to force it to sign away the teritory, as it wishes to do. The links between Palestine and communities all over the world is only intensifying.
In the wider arena, the so-called Arab Spring is uncertain and spluttering, and in many places, especially in Syria and the Gulf, has gone into reverse. Nonetheless, the historical process of democratisation of the Arab East is afoot, and likely to be long, painful, and ultimately successful. A democratic Arab East will never play Israel’s dirty games, like Mubarak and Sadat did. This success of this process is crucial for a just solution in Palestine.
It was won simply because of the great wave of public sympathy to the cause of defeating the unjust and inhumane forces of apartheid and racism; this can happen again, and is most likely to, if only we can bring the struggle for just peace and equality in Palestine to the public attention everywhere, and BDS is the best tool for this task. We will just have to go on, be even better at it, and we shall win over racism and apartheid in Palestine. The single, democratic state in Palestine will be there one day.
14 MAY 2013
By WAFA – Palestine News and Infor Agency – 14 May 2013
RAMALLAH – On the eve of the Nakba (catastrophe) 65th anniversary, the refugees make almost half of the total Palestinian population, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said Tuesday.
While statistical data show that refugees constitute 44.2% of the total Palestinian population in Palestine, records by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) showed that there were 5.3 million registered Palestinian refugees by mid-2013, constituting 45.7% of the total Palestinian population worldwide, said the PCBS.
It said 59% of the refugees live in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, 17% in the West Bank and 24% in Gaza Strip.
About 29% of registered refugees live in 58 refugee camps, of which 10 are in Jordan, nine in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, 19 in the West Bank, and eight in Gaza Strip.
The PCBS said, however, that these estimates represent the minimum number of Palestinian refugees, given the fact that there are many non-registered refugees.
These estimates also do not include Palestinians who were displaced between 1949 and the 1967 war and do not include the non-refugees who left or were forced to leave as a result of the war in 1967.
The number of Palestinians who remained in their towns and village in 1948 after the Nakba was estimated at 154,000. Their number is now estimated as 1.4 million on the 65rd anniversary of the Nakba.
In 1948, 1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages in historic Palestine. The Israelis controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba.
More than 800,000 of the population were driven out of their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighboring Arab countries and other countries of the world.
The Palestinian population worldwide is estimated 11.6 million by the end of 2012, said the PCBS. This means that the number of Palestinians worldwide has multiplied eight-fold in the 65 years since the Nakba.
A total of 5.8 million live in historic Palestine and this number is expected to rise to 7.2 million by the end of 2020, based on current growth rates, said the PCBS.
EDITOR:Letter to Hawking, that made him pull out from the Pered do
Below is the letter sent to Hawking by a large and influential group of scientists. The Caricature apopeared in Forward, the Jewish paper of NYC, but having tried it on two Zionists, I can report they took it straight, and did not get the irony… Good evidence Zionism is bad for you; it certainly damages your humour gland…
This letter was distributed by Jonathan Rosenhead of BRICUP
27 April 2013
Dear Professor Hawking,
It is entirely natural to wish to accept an invitation to a high profile event of this kind. But can we ask you to reflect further before exercising that reflex.
Israel has many special features which should give pause, and which indeed are already persuading many academics and cultural figures not to participate with official Israeli institutions. Here are a few of them:
Discrimination against Palestinians: Israel systematically discriminates against the Palestinians who make up 20 per cent of its population in ways that would be illegal in Britain.
Systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law: The UN Fact-Finding Mission on the 2008-09 Gaza Conflict concluded that the preceding blockade of Gaza amounted to “collective punishment” of the people of Gaza. Furthermore it found that Israel’s Cast Lead offensive involved numerous breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the likelihood that ”war crimes and crimes against humanity” had been committed.
Illegal settlement: Israel has systematically transferred Jewish settlers into the territories occupied in 1967. These transfers breach the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).
Access to higher education: Israel places multiple roadblocks, physical, financial and legal, in the way of higher education, both for its own Palestinian citizens and those under occupation.
Additional information about these claims can be found on the attached sheet.
Israel has a name for the promotion of its cultural and scientific standing – ‘Brand Israel’. This is a deliberate policy of camouflaging its oppressive acts behind a cultured veneer. Since 2005, organisations that comprise practically the whole of Palestinian civil society have called on foreign academics to engage with individual Israeli academics if they wish, but to have nothing to do with state-funded Israeli institutions. By heeding their call we, and you, can provide moral backing to our Palestinian colleagues whose teaching and research have been severely compromised by multiple Israeli policies. We can also indicate to Israeli opinion that participation in the global community comes with obligations.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called the Palestinians’ plight under Israeli control, “worse than Apartheid”. Iain Banks this month wrote of the Palestinian people that “collectively we have turned our backs on their suffering for far too long”. We very much hope that you will refuse this invitation.
Mohamed El Gomati
Malcolm Levitt FRS
Tim Shallice FRS
Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Electronics, Food Physics, Information Systems, Linguistics, Mathematics, Medicine, Operational Research, Philosophy, Psychology, Technology, Tectonics
Cambridge University, Imperial College, Kings College London, University of Leeds, London School of Economics, Newcastle University, Open University, University of Southampton, University College London, Warwick University, University of York and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1. My name is Cynthia McKinney and I served as a Member of the U.S. Congress for 12 years. During my time in Congress, I strove to make respect for human rights a central feature in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. Amid minor successes, I have to say that my efforts while, broadly appreciated by many, failed miserably. That failure stems in part from the peculiarities of U.S. politics that allow policy formulation to deviate from and in many cases become diametrically opposed to the values of the people of the U.S. Sadly, what we in the U.S. call “special interests” are able to buy public policy by way of campaign contributions and misleading media campaigns. These “special interests” are aided and abetted in the U.S. by a concentrated media that has no obligation according to U.S. court decisions to tell the public the truth. In other words, U.S. media have won in U.S. court the right to knowingly lie to the people they ostensibly serve. I will briefly delve into this unusual and anti-”democratic” state of affairs now controlling in the U.S. once again before I conclude my remarks.
2. After my tenure in Congress, I became involved in international human rights activism. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (which was its war against Hamas and others), I joined with a group of human rights activists who tried to deliver medical supplies to the people of Gaza; the Israeli Military stopped us. While in international waters, an Israeli Defense Forces warship rammed the pleasure boat that I was on with the other volunteers, and totally destroyed our boat. Neither the medical supplies nor us volunteers reached Gaza.
3. Approximately six months later, we, the volunteers from the first thwarted effort, reassembled in order to make another attempt to reach Gaza by sea, traveling through international waters, with the hopes of entering into Palestine by way of Gaza’s territorial waters. By this time, Operation Cast Lead had ended, President Barack Obama had been sworn in, and he had appealed publicly for an easing of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Gazans had made an appeal for school supplies for the children still reeling from the trauma of three weeks of what the United Nations called “one of the most violent episodes in the recent history of the Palestinian territory.” So, some of us answered that call with school supplies for the children and building supplies for the adults so that Gaza could rebuild from the devastation after Operation Cast Lead. On this effort to answer a humanitarian call for help, I, along with 20 other volunteers, was kidnapped by the Israeli military while in international waters, our boat was seized, we were taken by an extremely circuitous route to Israel where we never intended to go, and I was incarcerated in an Israeli prison for 7 days. Sadly, what I witnessed while in Israeli prison pointed to Israel as an apartheid state and the gross mistreatment of, particularly, Ethiopian women who had been lured to the “Holy Land” for job opportunities that vaporized because they were not of the correct religion. In addition to that, my observation at the time was that Ethiopian Jews are used as an important pillar–even enforcer, ironically, of Israeli apartheid. I can expand on this aspect of my observations later if there are specific questions or requests for more information from this body or from individuals in attendance at this Conference.
4. Needless to say, for a second time, I was prevented from entering Gaza. Upon hearing of my ordeal, Member of Parliament George Galloway who was in Cairo leading “Viva Palestina USA,” contacted me and invited me to come to Cairo and enter Gaza by land, which I did. Upon entering Gaza, I was able to see the destruction inflicted on the people by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. I scooped up a bit of the soil and put it in this container. Sadly, as noted in the Goldstone Report and admitted by the Israeli Defense Forces, this Gaza soil is probably contaminated with whatever remains of the chemicals that were used by the Israelis against the people of Gaza: chemicals ranging from white phosphorus to inert metals. And while I unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation in Congress to end the use of depleted uranium in U.S. munitions because of the health effects, the Goldstone Report mentions that allegations were made that Israel used depleted uranium during Operation Cast Lead, which also might be in this soil. The United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights is also aware that civilian targets were bombed and totally destroyed. I visited a few of those targets.
5. One stop on my private tour of the destruction in Gaza was the American International School and amid the rubble I spotted a bright yellow something that I couldn’t quite make out what it was. So, I climbed through the jutted shards of concrete and exposed rebar to retrieve the object. This is that object: an English language children’s art book stamped with the initials of the American International School in Gaza., “AISG.” I was standing in what was left of the School’s library.
6. Another stop on my tour of the effects of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was a neighborhood school, not nearly as big and grand as the American School. There, I could see the path of one missile that blew a hole clear through several walls of the school. There were markings on the chalkboard, including the Star of David. I saw several cans of peanuts on the floor. This is one of them. It is written in Hebrew. The Israeli soldiers blew up the school and then sat down in its ruins and enjoyed peanuts and drew religious and political markings on the chalkboard.
7. Both boats that I was on were seized by the Israelis and destroyed by them. The humanitarian aid on the boats did not reach Gaza and only token aid was delivered by the land convoy to the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza., the bulk of it stranded in Egypt, not allowed into Gaza by the Egyptians or the Israelis.
8. What is amazing is not only that this happens over and over again, but that Israeli leaders who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, leave office, and are never held accountable for their policies., as was done by victims of Augusto Pinochet, and as is being done currently by the International Criminal Court. Another aspect of this impunity is that Israel continues to receive U.S. weapons and technology which it uses against civilians in contravention of U.S. law. As these weapons are used or become outdated, the U.S. replenishes Israel’s weapons stock every year.
9. One measure of this impunity is brought to bear by the pro-Israel Lobby that operates in the political sphere of the U.S. I am a former Member of Congress because pro-Israel sympathizers known as the “pro-Israel Lobby” ensured my ouster from Congress and that of many other Members of Congress who dared to try and draw attention to U.S. law, Israel’s human rights violations, Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons, or any other inconvenient facts that were better buried and left unknown.
10. What many of you might not know, because these things just aren’t discussed as widely as they should be, is that many of those Members of Congress who were put out of office by the pro-Israel Lobby were the stolen children of Africa, descendants of Africans trafficked in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I will call the names of a few and tell you where you can find information about them as they tell their own stories:
· Gus Savage, Member of Congress from Chicago, Illinois was targeted for defeat by the pro-Israel Lobby because he dared to engage in foreign relations within the purview of a Member of Congress on the African Continent, in Egypt among other places. He recounted his ordeal on the Floor of the House of Representatives and revealed the secrets of the pro-Israel Lobby on the Congressional Record where students and others interested in this topic can find his words today: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r101:20:./temp/~r101lw459S:e0:
· Earl Hilliard, Member of Congress from Birmingham, Alabama was the first Black Member of Congress to serve the people of Alabama since the U.S. Civil War’s Reconstruction Era. He was ejected from the Congress by the pro-Israel Lobby because he, like Gus Savage, traveled to Africa, and in particular to Libya. He also traveled to Lebanon and learned of new weapons for that time, that had been used there by Israel. For this transgression, Earl Hilliard had to go. He is interviewed in a Dutch documentary that is available on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ6WLB9oRUk) where he describes the vicious campaign that was run against him by the pro-Israel Lobby.
· And then, there’s me. Just this month, I published a book entitled, “Ain’t Nothing Like Freedom,” (http://www.claritypress.com/McKinneyII.html) in which I describe just a few of the tactics that were used against me by the pro-Israel Lobby to destroy my career in Congress.
· These three political “take-downs” were very publicly done in order to send a message to others who might also be inclined to speak up out of moral conviction, as Savage, Hilliard, and I did.
· This weeding out also occurs on the local level with state and local elected officials like my father and others targeted for defeat because of the potential threat to the interests of the pro-Israel Lobby that they pose.
· In addition, on a public and private level, targeted individuals have to endure soft repression that makes life difficult. All of this needs to be put on the record if one is to fully understand the power of the pro-Israel Lobby and the pall that it casts on the political process in the U.S. and from what I have been told, also in Europe.
· Finally, the political landscape for Blacks in the U.S. is negatively affected by this weeding out process, because their strongest and most outspoken authentic leaders are vulnerable to the challenges from candidates that are well funded by outside “special interests.”
11. In light of this, I would like to put this thought to you: can you even imagine what U.S. policy would be like at the United Nations if the will of the people were carried out without the interference of the pro-Israel Lobby? The Durban World Conference Against Racism was a watershed that could be revisited time and time again with U.S. support and participation, except that powerful Lobbies want otherwise. I know, it’s hard to imagine things differently. But it is not hard for me and that is one vision that keeps me going: U.S. policy made in the image of the values of the people of the U.S. At a Conference whose theme is African solidarity with the Palestinian people, I thought it was important to mention not only how the pro-Israel Lobby skews politics in the U.S. against the Palestinians, but also against African-descendants inside the U.S.
12. I focus on this important aspect of policymaking by focusing on who gets to make the policy because I believe that this is one key reason why Palestinians are forced to suffer while, at best platitudes and delay, serve as the effective policies of the US and European countries.
13. The short version of this tragic story is that pro-Israel forces inside the U.S. are willing to use their money to buy political influence and protection for Israel across the political spectrum while the same cannot be said of pro-peace, pro-justice forces. I liken the situation to game day when one team shows up in beautiful new uniforms with all of the latest and best equipment, primed and ready to execute its strategy in the game of play, while the other team doesn’t even show up on the pitch. I believe that one remaining untested justice frontier is the political battleground in U.S. and European capitals. It is inside these essential capitals that pro-Israel Lobbies have become comfortable operating with very little opposition from the other side.
14. I am tired of losing when, I believe, we really do not have to lose. I fundamentally believe that the people of this world are good and want peace. I have spoken to Afghanis and Pakistanis, to Yemenis and to Somalis, Palestinians and Americans, and I find them to be peace-loving peoples.
15. So, how do we move from where we are to where we need to be? That is the fundamental question. I focus on the political because the political creates the legal. And the political creates impunity.
16. Just in my personal experiences, I have outlined breaches of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international law, and U.S. law by the occupying power: Israel.
17. I served as a juror on the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine that recently concluded its Sessions with a finding that both the U.S. and Europe are guilty of contributing to the atmosphere of impunity with which apartheid Israel carries out its policies against Palestinians and anyone who stands in its way.
18. I also recently served as an Official Observer as the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission received testimony from Palestinians on their treatment inside Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories.
19. Through my service with both of these organizations, I have met too many courageous Palestinians and Israelis who want to live peacefully with each other and who put their lives and their livelihoods on the line every day for peace and the rule of law. I do believe that much of the suffering could be alleviated if we would put sufficient energy and resources behind putting out in public view how the pro-Israel Lobby misdirects U.S. and European policies and prevents pro-peace and justice politicians from ever having the opportunity to put those values, along with our basic human dignity, permanently on the table for public debate.
20. Finally, I am not Palestinian. I am not Arab. I am not Muslim. But I am human. And that is enough for me to acknowledge the dignity of others who are oppressed and to epitomize what this Conference is all about: African Solidarity with the Palestinian People for the Achievement of its inalienable rights, including the sovereignty and independence of the State of Palestine.
21. Thank you.
Many Palestinians remember and reference al-Nakba, also known as the Catastrophe, on May 15 every year. The event marks the expulsion of nearly a million Palestinians, while their villages were destroyed. The destruction of Palestine in 1947-48 ushered in the birth of Israel.
Older generations relay the harsh and oppressive memory of their collective experience to younger Palestinians, many of whom live their own Nakbas today.
In covering al-Nakba, sympathetic Arab and other media play sad music and show black and white footage of displaced, frightened refugees. They rightly emphasize the concept of Sumud, steadfastness, as they show Palestinian of all ages holding unto the rusty keys of their homes and insisting on their right of return.
Other, less sympathetic media discuss al-Nakba, if at all, as a side note – a nuisance in the Israeli narrative of a nation’s supposedly miraculous birth and its progression to an idyllic oasis of democracy.
What such reductionist representations often fail to show is that while al-Nakbastarted, it never truly finished.
|David Ben Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel, once prophesized that “the old (refugees) will die and the young will forget.” He spoke with the harshness of a conqueror|
Those who underwent the pain, harm and loss of al-Nakba are yet to receive the justice that was promised to them by the international community. UN Resolution 194 states that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date” (Article 11).
Those who wrought this injustice are also yet to achieve their ultimate objectives in Palestine. After all, Israel doesn’t have defined boundaries by accident.
David Ben Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel, once prophesized that “the old (refugees) will die and the young will forget.” He spoke with the harshness of a conqueror. Ben Gurion carried out his war plans to the furthest extent possible. Every region in Palestine that was meant to be taken was captured, its people were expelled or massacred in their homes and villages. Ben Guiron ‘cleansed’ the land, but he failed to cleanse Israel’s past. Memory persists.
Ben Gurion referenced my own family’s village – Beit Daras – which witnessed three battles and a massacre. In an entry in his diaries on May 12, 1948, he wrote: “Beit Daras was mortared. Fifty Arabs (were killed). The (villages of) Bashit and Sawafir were occupied. There is mass exodus from nearby areas (neighbors in Majdal). We sustained 5 dead and 15 wounded. ” (War Diaries, 1947-1949).
Beit Daras Fighters
|Those who underwent the pain, harm and loss of al-Nakba are yet to receive the justice that was promised to them by the international community|
More than fifty people were killed in Beit Daras that day. An old Gaza woman, Um Mohammed – who I discussed in my last book, My Father was a Freedom Fighter – refers to what is likely the same event:
“The town was under bombardment, and it was surrounded from all directions. There was no way out. The armed men (the Beit Daras fighters) said they were going to check on the road to Isdud, to see if it was open. They moved forward and shot few shots to see if someone would return fire. No one did. But they (the Zionist forces) were hiding and waiting to ambush the people. The armed men returned and told the people to evacuate the women and children. The people went out (including) those who were gathered at my huge house, the family house. There were mostly children and kids in the house. The Jewish (soldiers) let the people get out, and then they whipped them with bombs and machine guns. More people fell than those who were able to run. My sister and I…started running through the fields; we’d fall and get up. My sister and I escaped together holding each other’s hands. The people who took the main road were either killed or injured. The firing was falling on the people like sand. The bombs from one side and the machine guns from the other.”
|Read More on Palestinian Crisis:|
Ben Gurion would not necessarily doubt Um Mohammed’s account. He candidly stated: “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves…politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves…The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country” (as quoted in Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle, pp. 91-2).
Everyday for Palestine is a “Nakba”
It is precisely for this reason that neither the old nor the young have forgotten. Every day is another manifestation of the same protracted al-Nakba that has lasted 64 years now. Young people’s hardships today are inextricably linked to the violent and horrific uprooting decades ago.
Al-Nakba has also remained an ongoing project through generations of Israeli Zionists. When Ben Gurion died in 1973, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in his mid-twenties.
He was then serving his last year in the Israeli army, and today he rules Israel with a coalition that includes almost three quarters of the Israeli parliament. Like most Israeli leaders, he continues to contribute to the very discourse by which Palestine was conquered.
He speaks of peace, while his soldiers and armed settlers take over Palestinian homes and farms.
He makes repeated offers to Palestinians for ‘unconditional’ talks, as he repeats his violent rejection of every Palestinian aspiration. His lobby in Washington is much stronger than ever before.
He reigns supreme, as he continues to fulfill the ‘vision’ of early Zionists.
|More people fell than those who were able to run. My sister and I…started running through the fields; we’d fall and get up. My sister and I escaped together holding each other’s hands.|
Old keys and deeds of stolen lands attest to the intergenerational experience that is Al-Nakba.
Today, Palestinians continue to be herded behind military checkpoints. They are denied the right to proper medical care, and their ancient olive trees are ruthlessly bulldozed.
What Israel has not been able to control, however, is the resolve of Palestinians. The prison, the checkpoint and the gun reside in our collective memory in a way that cannot be held captive, controlled, or shot.
In fact, Al-Nakba is not a specific date or an estimation of time, but the entirety of those 64 years and counting. The event must not be assigned to the shelves of history, not as long as refugees are still refugees and settlers continue to rob Palestinian land. As long as Netanyahu speaks the language of Ben Gurion, other ‘catastrophic’ episodes will follow. And as long as Palestinians hold on to their keys and deeds, the old may die but the young will never forget.
EDITOR: Israel prepares for war with Syria
It seems that the preparations for war with Syria are being completed in Israel, and the poiece published in Haaretz this morning is for selling this war to the population, still under shock by the results of the elections, which hve turned the tables on the electorate. There is nothing like a war to divert the good people of israel…
Iran reportedly convinced President Bashar Assad to assist and supply Hezbollah in opening a new front against Israel from Syrian territory.
The report in the Arabic-language publication says Damascus was convinced of the need to set up a new military front against Israel in the Golan Heights, and also agreed to assist and supply Hezbollah in the campaign.
Syria was also persuaded, it says, to let any Arab or Muslim who desires to join the fight against Israel to do so.
According to the paper, which quoted an unnamed Iranian source, Tehran asks to send the international community a clear message that it is determined to prevent the fall of the Assad’s regime.
Last week Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that Syria would supply his organization with ‘game-changing weapons’ in response to recent air raids near Damascus, which foreign reports attributed to Israel.
In response to the alleged attacks, he said, Damascus would provide the Lebanese militia with sophisticated weapons that it has not received in the past, adding that Hezbollah would support any group seeking to confront Israel in the Golan Heights.
However, despite the report, officials in the Arab world expressed doubt over the possibility that Damascus will in fact take part in the opening a front in the Golan due to Israel’s stance that it would hold Assad responsible for any attack coming from Syrian territory. It is believed that Israel would immediately respond to such attacks and strike targets in Syria and Lebanon.
EDITOR: Gaza suffers again, without any ill-effect in Israel after their brutal attack this week
Immediately after the limp and submissive Obama visit, with its ‘eternal love for Israel’ theme, Israel returned to the fold, reminding us who is boss in the Middle East… Thank you, Obama, for being the non-entity which allows Israel to continue illegally torturing two million Palestinians in Gaza, with your political, financial and emotional support! You have made the US a full partner in this crime. You must be pleased that now hunger will be added to these crimes.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri urged Unrwa to rethink its decision
The UN says it is suspending all its food distribution centres in the Gaza Strip after protesters angered by aid cutbacks stormed one of its compounds.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said the centres would stay closed until it received security assurances for its property and staff.
It said it was trying to mitigate the effects caused by cuts in cash payments to some of Gaza’s poorest families.
Unrwa provides aid for an estimated 800,000 Palestinians in Gaza.
It runs dozens of schools and medical clinics and distributes food to many of the territory’s 1.7 million residents, but says it is grappling with a huge budget deficit.
Correspondents say the suspension of food aid will cause more hardship for people in Gaza already hit by Israeli and Egyptian controls on its borders.
An Unrwa statement said the storming of its Gaza field office was “a dramatic and disturbing escalation in a series of demonstrations that have taken place over the past week”.
“We fully understand the impact the decision to suspend cash assistance had on some of our beneficiaries,” Robert Turner, head of the agency’s Gaza operations, said in the statement.
“What happened today was completely unacceptable. The situation could very easily have resulted in serious injuries to Unrwa staff and to the demonstrators. This escalation, apparently pre-planned, was unwarranted and unprecedented.”
He added: “All relief and distribution centres will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that Unrwa operations can continue unhindered.”
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas which governs Gaza, said they condemned any violence against Unrwa but described the decision to close the food centres as “unjustified”.
“When the administration of Unrwa asked the Palestinian security to intervene they arrived and stopped the chaos. We are asking Unrwa to rethink their decision,” he said.
Unrwa says financial support for its programmes to help Palestinian refugees hasn’t kept up with the deepening poverty of those in need.
It says it is currently grappling with a deficit of more than $67m (£44m).
EDITOR: The UCU case lost by Anthony Julius is continuing to make waves
Even the Jewish Chronicle could not but agree with the Tribunal that the case was ill-advised, to say the least! Surely they will be crucified for this report by the likes of Ronnie Fraser and Jonathan Hoffman…
A failed legal challenge to the anti-Israeli policies of Britain’s lecturers’ union has divided opinion as community activists try to grapple with the repercussions
An employment tribunal last week dismissed a claim of harassment against the University College Union (UCU) by the director of the Academic Friends of Israel, Ronnie Fraser, who had accused the union of “institutional antisemitism”.
In his judgment, Judge Anthony Snelson, who presided over the three-person tribunal, attacked the claim as “a sorry saga”, which represented “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means”.
One lawyer active in Jewish affairs, Jonathan Goldberg QC, commented: “This enormous but legally flawed lawsuit was an act of epic folly by all concerned which will negatively impact our community for a long time to come. You only bring such showcase litigation if you are certain to win.”
Lawsuit will have negative impact on our community for a long time’
The chairman of UK Lawyers for Israel, Jonathan Turner, also questioned the wisdom of bringing the action. “I had deep misgivings and feared it would fail,” he said. But he called it “a reverse, not a disaster”, suggesting that lessons could be learned on “which cases to fight and how”.
Anthony Julius, of solicitors Mishcon de Reya, who had represented Mr Fraser, was unavailable for comment this week.
But communal organisations which had supported the lawsuit closed ranks. A spokesman for Fair Play, the anti-boycott campaign founded by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Years of campaigning inside UCU had convinced us and many union members that the union was incapable of fairly tackling complaints of antisemitism by itself. Supporting Ronnie was the right thing to do.”
A number of JLC members are understood to have contributed to Mr Fraser’s fighting fund.
Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush, who is a lawyer, said that “many aspects of this ruling surprised and disappointed me, not least the suggestion that the case was brought for a political end. A trade union member who feels that he is the victim of racial harassment or antisemitism is surely entitled to bring a claim without being labelled as politically motivated.”
The tribunal stated that a belief in Zionism or attachment to Israel was “not intrinsically a part of Jewishness” and was not an aspect that could be protected under equality law.
Eric Moonman, co-president of the Zionist Federation, said that this was a “wrong and worrying interpretation. It presents a very real issue for a different campaign to make sure there is an accepted definition of Jewishness which highlights the integral nature of Israel to Jews.”
Mr Fraser had argued that a succession of anti-Israel resolutions passed by the union’s annual congress, and the resulting incidents, had created an inhospitable climate for Jews.
But the tribunal said that while he may have found certain comments upsetting, they did not amount to harassment in the legal sense.
While the panel found him a “sincere” witness, it contrasted his “down-to-earth style” with the “magnificent prose” in which his lawyers had couched his case.
Although some of Mr Fraser’s witnesses were “impressive”, the tribunal was highly critical of others, saying they were “more disposed to score points or play to the gallery”.
Evidence that Jewish speakers were jeered and harassed at union congresses was found to be “false”, while JLC chief executive Jeremy Newmark’s cited reason for his exclusion from a UCU meeting was “untrue”.
The tribunal panel was also unimpressed with the “glib evidence” of MP John Mann and former MP Denis MacShane, key figures in the All-Party Parliamentary Campaign against Antisemitism.
The panel said it was troubled by a “worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression” underlying the claim. It was also critical of its “gargantuan scale”, with 23 bundles and 29 oral witnesses for Mr Fraser plus four written testimonies — compared to five witnesses and two written testimonies for the defence.
Mr Fraser said that, while naturally “disappointed” at the outcome, he would continue to campaign as a member of the Board of Deputies “to accept a definition of Jewishness which includes a connection with Israel”.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said that Mr Fraser would “be treated with respect within the union as will his views on this question. Not that a decision has been made. I hope in turn that he, and others who share his views, will play an active part in the union and its debates rather than seek recourse to the law.”
In a statement released by the British Committee for Universities for Palestine, UCU executive member Tom Hickey welcomed “a landmark judgment. The accusation of antisemitism against UCU because it supports a boycott is absurd.”
Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner said that the argument that attachment to Israel was not an intrinsic part of Jewishness could be an issue to raise in appeal.
“Discrimination law is unpredictable,” he said, “as shown by the recent European Court of Rights judgments on religious discrimination.
“However, even if an appeal was successful on the legal points, it would still be difficult to overcome the very significant factual findings — the claimant needs to show that there was harassment in his case.
“Perhaps even more problematic would be persuading an appeal court to wade into the vexed and arguable political — that is, not legal — question of whether anti-Zionism can plausibly amount to racism.
Given the court’s comments about this ‘sorry saga’, this may be the last we hear of that argument for some time.”
To no one’s surprise a Zionist claque has swiftly assembled to denounce the findings of the Fraser vs UCU Employment Tribunal. It would appear that according to these voices the only business a the next meeting of UCU’s national executive will not be fighting the massive cuts in UK higher and further education but debating when and in what format to reissue The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Hysterical rubbish, of course but we have to explore why the reaction is so unbalanced. Fraser and his legal advisors chose the legal terrain and the scope of their action, not UCU. They chose their schedule of witnesses who declaimed and dissembled but failed to address the matters that Fraser wished the tribunal to consider.
Anthony White, counsel for UCU, demolished their testimony but was only able to do so with such effectiveness because they were such poor witnesses. Ever since the tribunal, Fraser’s self-proclaimed friends have been picking over 50 pages of closely argued legal findings trying to claim they are simultaneously technically narrow and the most wide-ranging antisemitic text of recent years.
Hirsh and Susskind et al fail to grasp at least two very basic points. They solipsistically believe it is all about the Jews; they cannot understand or believe that it is about the Palestinians.
For the vast majority of those active in support of Palestinian rights it was the oppression of Palestinians that led them to activity. They only started to consider Zionism as an ideology when they started to enquire why Israel was behaving so badly and so criminally. At that point they encountered the Zionist justification for occupation and oppression and took a stance of either deploring the degradation of a potentially positive movement or took a more radical stance of identifying Zionist ideology, in itself, at the heart of the problem.
The absence of the Palestinians even as objects, let alone actors, in the Zionist exclusionary Jewish narrative tells us all we need to know about why being anti-Zionist is radically different from being an anti-Semite. Anti-Zionism is a stance against a pernicious anti-Palestinian racism. Zionism is an ideology that allows Israel to behave as it does while simultaneously believing that Israel conforms to the norms of liberal, law-based democracy.
Secondly, they continually ask, ‘why only boycott Israel?’ The Palestinian call for BDS is the only extant call for boycott by a significant national liberation movement. Other movements and peoples call for different forms of support each of which must be considered on its merits.
Israel’s crimes are not measured on a Richter scale of oppression against those of China or Burma or Zimbabwe and only be the subject of campaigns when they reach the hotly contested pinnacle at the top of the Premiership of abuse. That the crimes are profound and continuing is a sufficient justification.
Other regimes are the subject of regular denunciation and sanction by western governments, Israel is singled out not by our opposition but by the condoning of its actions by the USA; its massive military and civil aid; and its systematic cover at the Security Council. Similarly the EU treats Israel, in defiance of geography, as a surrogate, if displaced, part of Europe and grants the privileges of association without requiring the fulfilment of Council of Europe human rights standards.
None of this is deny the possibility, and occasional reality, of support for Palestinian rights being motivated by malice towards Jews. We have a duty to criticise and condemn such behaviour when we see it and the Palestinian rights movement is, in general, self-aware and self critical on this. Fraser and his team were unable to discover any such motivation behind the actions of UCU officers and activists and are now reduced to asserting that its absence can only be the result of a wider collaboration to conceal it. Such concealment is beyond the limited ability of UCU, PSC, BRICUP, the Employment Tribunal Service or other presumed conspirators. Its absence is just that, an absence.
Mike Cushman is a member of BRICUP and is a UCU branch secretary and a regular speaker in favour of Palestinian rights at successive UCU congresses. His interventions were regularly referred to by Fraser and his witnesses.
EDITOR: Another BDS success!
Academic Trade unionists in Ireland have just called for BDS and an academic Boycott of Israel!
At its Annual Congress on Thursday 4th April 2013, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) became the first academic union in Europe to endorse the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel. The motion, which refers to Israel as an “apartheid state”, calls for “all members to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programmes” was passed by a unanimous vote during today’s morning session.
The motion further calls on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to “step up its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel until it lifts its illegal siege of Gaza and its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and agrees to abide by International law and all UN Resolutions against it”, and on the TUI to conduct an awareness campaign amongst members on the need for BDS. The motion was a composite motion proposed by the TUI Executive Committee and TUI Dublin Colleges Branch. It was presented by Jim Roche, a lecturer in the DIT School of Architecture and member of the TUI Dublin Colleges Union branch, and seconded by Gerry Quinn, Vice President of the TUI.
Speaking after the successful passage of the motion, Jim Roche said: “I am very pleased that this motion was passed with such support by TUI members, especially coming the day after Israeli occupation forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank yesterday. BDS is a noble non-violent method of resisting Israeli militarism, occupation and apartheid, and there is no question that Israel is implementing apartheid policies against the Palestinians. Indeed, many veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa have said that it’s worse than what was experienced there.”
Mr. Roche pointed to the desperate situation of Palestinian education under occupation saying that: “Palestinians are struggling for the right to education under extremely difficult conditions. They are eager for it, as shown by the large numbers of students in third level education inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territories. Education has always been a target of the Israeli occupation, seeing forced closures of universities, disruption under checkpoint, closure and curfew regimes, and arrests, beatings and killing of both students and teachers. Sometimes, such as during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza, educational institutions have been militarily attacked. In fact I have just returned from a solidarity visit to Gaza where I had the opportunity to hear first-hand from Palestinian educators and students about their difficulties. The unanimous passage of this motion that shows that the Palestinian struggle for freedom, of which academic freedom is a key part, resonates with TUI members and sends a strong message of solidarity to their counterparts in Palestine”
Mr. Roche concluded: “We proposed this motion as we believe that, as with South Africa, the trade union movement has a vital role to play in helping apply pressure to end Israeli apartheid and occupation. I am proud that the TUI has taken a clear stand, and now support a full academic boycott of Israel in line with the Palestinian call for BDS”.
Dr. David Landy, a member of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and founder member of Academics for Palestine welcomed the motion saying: “This is an historic precedent, being the first such motion in Europe to explicitly call for an academic boycott of Israel. We congratulate the TUI and call on all Irish, British and European academic unions to move similar motions. Undoubtedly apologists for Israeli apartheid will complain that such motions stifle academic freedom, but this is nonsense. The Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel is an institutional boycott, not a boycott of individuals. Ironically, those that will jump to complain about this motion will have no words of condemnation for the de facto boycott imposed on Palestinian education by Israel, nor for its continuing attacks on Palestinian education, students and educators”.
The TUI Motion in full reads:
241. Executive Committee/Dublin Colleges(x4)
TUI demand that ICTU step up its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel until it lifts its illegal siege of Gaza and its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and agrees to abide by International law and all UN Resolutions against it.
Congress instructs the Executive Committee to:
(a) Conduct an awareness campaign amongst TUI members on the need for BDS
(b) Request all members to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programmes. (ENDS)
The Palestinian Call for a Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel can be read here:
Jim Roche is a lecturer in DIT School of Architecture and a member of the TUI Dublin Colleges Branch He is also PRO of the Irish Anti-War Movement and a member of both the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Gaza Action Ireland.
David Landy is a lecturer in the TCD Department of Sociology, a member of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign national committee and a founder member of Academics for Palestine
Posted April 4, 2013 in Academic Boycott, Apartheid, BDS, BNC, Cultural Boycott, Gaza, Human Rights, National Rights, Political Rights, Press releases, West Bank.
EDITOR: Telling the truth is illegal in Israel…
The Zionist Lawfare is now a feature not just in the US, UK and France, but also in Israel itself. Soon it may be either illegal, or just technically impossible to write the truth about Israel’s illegal occupation, with both newspapers and journalists being made to pay for reporting the truth. It had to come, I suppose. A Jewish democracy is not for Jews who have a conscience, it seems.
For writing this article, Amira Hass is now to be taken to court, as will be the Haaretz editor who published it, by the criminal fraternity of the illegal settlements in the West Bank… when those who break the law take you to court for telling about their crimes, you can be sure you live in the only Jewish democracy on earth!
Haaretz article causes storm in political circles.
The Council of Settlements in the West Bank have demanded the opening of a police investigation into the Haaretz newspapers and its journalist, Amira Hass, following the publication of an article yesterday which addressed the issue of Palestinian rights to throw rocks as a means of self-defence.On Thursday, Maarev newspaper added that the secretary-general and the regional head of the Council had both submitted written reports to the Jerusalem police demanding an investigation of the newspaper and the journalist, as the article allegedly incites violence.
The Council’s report asserted that, “The article cheers on and praises the rock-throwers and gives them the right to do so, but ignores the fact that rock-throwing is a dangerous violation and endangers the lives of Israeli residents and soldiers. Such acts have resulted in a number of deaths and dangerous wounds.”
Yesterday, the “Judiciary of the land of Israel” made a request to the government’s Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, to investigate the alleged incitement published in the article.
The article also caused a storm in political circles, and Knesset member from The Jewish Home party, Orit Strock, said that it was “dangerous incitement toward violent acts against civilians and an encouragement to assault soldiers”. She also expressed astonishment that an Israeli newspaper would publish an article which, according to her, promotes bloodshed and violence.
In the same vein, Likud Member of the Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, made a statement saying that “Haas’ words are condemnable and are considered an expression of disloyalty to the state.”
He also added that, “The article by Haas delights those who don’t recognize that the state between the sea and the river belongs to the Jewish people alone.”
It would make sense for Palestinian schools to give classes in resistance: how to build multiple ‘tower and stockade’ villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; how to identify soldiers who flung you handcuffed to the floor of the jeep, in order to submit a complaint.
Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part − though it’s not always spelled out − of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources.
The violence of 19-year-old soldiers, their 45-year-old commanders, and the bureaucrats, jurists and lawyers is dictated by reality. Their job is to protect the fruits of violence instilled in foreign occupation − resources, profits, power and privileges.
Steadfastness (Sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalized violence, is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause. Unfortunately, this is true not only in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, but also within Israel’s recognized borders, although the violence and the resistance to it are expressed differently. But on both sides of the Green Line, the levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis’ blindness in believing that their violence can remain in control forever.
Often hurling stones is borne of boredom, excessive hormones, mimicry, boastfulness and competition. But in the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of “We’ve had enough of you, occupiers.”
After all, teenagers could find other ways to give vent to their hormones without risking arrests, fines, injuries and death.
Even if it is a right and duty, various forms of steadfastness and resisting the foreign regime, as well as its rules and limitations, should be taught and developed. Limitations could include the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons.
It would make sense for Palestinian schools to introduce basic classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; comparing different struggles against colonialism in different countries; how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives; methods to exhaust the military system and its representatives; a weekly day of work in the lands beyond the separation barrier; how to remember identifying details of soldiers who flung you handcuffed to the floor of the jeep, in order to submit a complaint; the rights of detainees and how to insist on them in real time; how to overcome fear of interrogators; and mass efforts to realize the right of movement. Come to think of it, Palestinian adults could also make use of these lessons, perhaps in place of their drills, training in dispersing protests, and practice in spying on Facebook posts.
When high school students were drafted two years ago for the campaign of boycotting settlement products, it seemed like a move in the right direction. But it stopped there, without going further, without broadening the context. Such lessons would have been perfectly in tune with the tactics of appealing to the United Nations − civil disobedience on the ground and defiance of power in diplomacy.
So why are such classes absent from the Palestinian curriculum? Part of the explanation lies with the opposition of the donor states and Israel’s punitive measures. But it is also due to inertia, laziness, flawed reasoning, misunderstanding and the personal gains of some parts of society. In fact the rationale for the existence of the Palestinian Authority engendered one basic rule in the last two decades − adaptation to the existing situation. Thus, a contradiction and a clash have been created between the inner syntax of the Palestinian Authority and that of the Palestinian people.
In a letter sent to the chief of EU foreign policy Catherine Ashton, 23 members of European Parliament called for the suspension of EU-Israel Association Agreement.
It is very unique that such a significant, cross-party initiative has been taken by MEP`s to call outright for suspension of the Association Agreement.
Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland
Vice-President/High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Rue de La 200
cc: European Commissioner for International Trade, Mr Karel de Gucht.
Strasbourg, 11 March 2013
Honourable High Representative,
According to article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) the Union’s external actions
shall be guided by the principles which inspired its own creation, development and
enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law,
the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for
human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the
UN Charter and international law.
Also before the Lisbon treaty introduced a legally binding obligation, the EU included
conditionality clauses with respect to human rights and democratic principles in its
international association and trade agreements. For the EU to remain a credible negotiator visà-
vis third countries, and to improve human rights and fundamental freedoms through its
economic power and actions, it is necessary that the EU enforces these conditionality clauses.
Since taking office you have consistently1, on behalf of the EU, voiced concerns and
condemned the ongoing settlement activity by Israel’s government throughout the Occupied
Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The EU has consistently stated that all
settlement construction is illegal under international law and constitutes and obstacle to peace,
particularly an agreed two-state solution. Regrettably, it is fair to say that up to date the EU’s
objections did not have any effect on change of policy. We need a new approach and decisive
The legal framework for EU-Israel relations is provided by the EU-Israel Association
Agreement, or the “Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement’. The Agreement is based on
mutual respect for human rights and democratic principles, as explicitly stated in article 2 of
the Agreement. The ongoing authorisation for settlement activity of the Israeli government, as
well as several human rights abuses that have been extensively documented by the United
1 Statements of 2 December 2012, 8 November 2012, 19 October 2012, 22 August 2012, 8 June 2012, 22 February
2012, 20 December 2011, 2 November 2011, 15 October 2011, 27 September 2011, 17 August 2011, 12 August
2011, 5 August 2011, 6 April 2011, 9 January 2011, 9 November 2010, 16 May 2010, and 10 March 2010.
Nations2 and international human rights organizations3, are in breach of Israel’s commitments
under article 2 of the Agreement.
Recent discussions in the European Parliament about the signing of an ‘Additional Protocol to
the Euro-Mediterranean’ on the ‘Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial
Products (CAA)’ highlighted the Parliament’s concerns about the EU’s ongoing trade
relationship with Israel despite policies in breach of the Association Agreement. These
concerns should be addressed at the appropriate level; the Association Agreement.
One of the main aims of the Association Agreement is to enhance political dialogue between
the two parties. The violation of international law and human rights by the Israeli
government’s activities, and the lack of response to the EU’s calls to respect international law,
in particular a moratorium on settlement expansion, compels the EU to engage more deeply in
a political dialogue with Israel on these troubling issues which need to be formally and duly
addressed in the context of the Association Agreement.
The EU should take the lead in observing international law and protecting and promoting
universal human rights. We therefore call upon the Commission to formally address the
aforementioned concerns as soon as possible in the Association Committee, as established by
article 67 of the Association Agreement and to consider the (partial) suspension of the
Agreement. We also ask for your reaction and a serious proposal to address this crucial issue.
Marietje Schaake MEP (ALDE)
Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP (GREENS)
Margrete Auken MEP (GREENS)
Franziska Brantner MEP (GREENS)
Tarja Cronberg MEP (GREENS)
Chris Davies MEP (ALDE)
Andrew Duff MEP (ALDE)
Ismail Ertug MEP (S&D)
Véronique De Keyser MEP (S&D)
Nicole Kiil-Nielsen MEP (GREENS)
Liisa Jaakonsaari MEP (S&D)
David Martin MEP (S&D)
Emilio Menéndez del Valle MEP (S&D)
María Muñiz De Urquiza MEP (S&D)
Norbert Neuser MEP (S&D)
Niccolò Rinaldi MEP (ALDE)
Judith Sargentini MEP (GREENS)
Helmut Scholz MEP (GUE/NGL)
Joanna Senyszyn MEP (S&D)
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides MEP (GUE/NGL)
Alexandra Thein MEP ALDE)
Ivo Vajgl MEP (ALDE)
Graham Watson MEP (ALDE)
2 Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli
settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the
Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem;
3 Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/israel-palestine; Amnesty International:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories; Freedom House:
EDITOR: BDS wins against the combined forces of Zionism in Britain!
Israel and the Zionist establishment have defined Britain as the main front in Europe, and maybe even elsewhere, the territory in which ant-Zionism has the greatest potential to harm Israel, and the one they must win in order to stop the march of anti-Zionism. Huge sums of money have been allocated to fight this supposedly mighty enemy, and the funding comes both from Israel and the indigenous British Jewish community. enormous effort has been put into setting up a large network of Israel Studies centres at universities, bringing Israeli culture to Britain, and acting in the social and political spheres, as well as the legal one, against any criticism of Israel, slight as it may be. In this battle, the BBC and the Guardian have been two of the main targets, as the main expressions of the liberal, dominant tradition of the middle class in Britain. The working class, with its unions and various institutions, was not forgotten either, and Zionism has infiltrated all unions and the Labour party, making sure, through organisation such as Labour Friends of Israel, that the political machinery supposedly representing the working class in Britain takes a position of ardent support of Zionism, whatever crimes it is involved in. The unions in Britain were for a while neglected, bearing in mind the gradual weakening they have encountered under Thatcher and since.
The academic unions were always a target for Zioinist, as they grouped together some of the most radical and progressive voices in Europe, not just in Britain. Especially NATFHE, the union dominant in the Polytechnics, which became the new universities after 1992, took a progressive position on Zionism and Palestine, supporting the rights of the Palestinians, and calling, just before it was wound up in the unification with AUT, for an academic boycott of Israel. The union resulting from the merger of NATFHE and AUT, UCU, (University and College Union) has been more conservative, but gradually the voice of the left has been increasing, and since 2005, and the Palestinian call for academic boycott, and the setting up of BRICUP as the academic support organisation in the UK, the strength of arguments against Issrael continued brutal and illegal occupation has taken on a central role within UCU. Many resolutions calling for action against various aspects of Israel’s academia and its collaboration with the apartheid regime and its iniquities have been successful and persuasive, not just within UCU, but well beyond its narrow confines – other unions have been influenced and joined the ranks of institutions calling for international action against the continued oppression of the Palestinian people.
This continued and increasing success of anti-Zionist policies in the British Labour movement was seen as a great danger to Israel’s position in Europe, and a number of initiatives have been formulated by the Hasbarah machine. Originally, naive planners in Israel believed that the mere sending of an Israeli delegation of senior academics to the UK will help to convert the opposition to ardent Zionists overnight… Such a delegation, made up of seven senior professors, one from each of Israel’s universities, protected by armed guard of 15 security agents, was touring Britain in 2005, and hectoring the British academics in the well-known and aggressive manner of the Israeli Hasbarah. This effort was probably responsible for converting more academics to the BDS view than most efforts of the BDS supporters… the arrogance and narrow-mindedness of the delegation, its unthinking racism, and its a-historical perspectives have done much to persuade British academics that the BDS is the only viable position to take. In the wake of this fiasco, a new position was worked out, based on home-brewed opposition to BDS. A group called Engage was set up, with active support of the Israeli Hasbarah machinery, made up of Jewish academics and intellectuals, and led by such luminaries and David Hirsh, and sub-titling itself as the ‘ant-racist campaign against antisemitism’. the concept of antisemitism was central to the new group, and they spent all their time trying to confuse the British public, equating opposition to Israel and its aggressive, colonialist militarism as antisemitic. The spread of Jewish Studies centres was key to this new effort of tarring opposition to Israel as antisemitic. Few in number, but rich in resources, they were active in all of UCU’s forums, trying to reverse the growing opposition to Israel and Zionism within the union, and the Labour movement as such.
To begin with, it seemed they would be successful. Their website was well-funded and active, but events were against them. Reality is a real problem, of course. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of propagandists, and their obvious skill at twisting facts, reality comes and frustrates their hard work. Such was the case with Engage. They were trapped from the start withing the strait-jacket of Israeli crimes and iniquities, forced to support these, sometimes against their own best judgements, as the Hasbarah pressure-group in Britain. The Lebanon war in Summer 2006 – not an event which could be explained away, and the brutal Gaza massacres on December 2008/January 2009 were their undoing – some of their members found it impossible to continue supporting Israel’s position, and others took a back seat and remained silent. Only the hard-liners and extremists, such as David Hirsh, stayed and continued, but without much effect. Thus was the UCU front abandoned.
The post-Gaza situation looked desperate for the Engagenics, and for the Hasbarah efforts, until the concept of Lawfare, an imaginative creation of Israel’s great defenders in the US, Deshowitz of Harvard, came to the rescue. If you can’t persuade them, went the Dershowitz maxim, you can at least use the law to make them shut up. Dershowitz has announced that he has over one hundred lawyers working on this front, and that anyone criticising Israel will face legal action and be branded as an antisemite, hence bringing about the defeat of the international opposition to Israel. Much activity was spent on changing the legal definition of antisemitism in Europe, and making anti-Zionism, and normal and liberal criticising of Israeli atrocities branded as antisemitism.
Again, this great effort looked as if it may be successful. UCU and other unions have made sure that all its resolutions criticising Israel were never carried out in practice, so as not to bring the union into a legal conflict with Israel and its powerful allies within the Jewish community, and the ruling elite. Despite its ardent efforts to emasculate its own democratically voted-for resolutions, UCU ended up in court, taken to task by one of its members, claiming antisemitic harassment… the story below is the bottom line of this court case, brought before an Industrial tribunal, at great cost to the public and UCU, and lasting 20 days of hearings. The bizarre case was thrown out by the Tribunal, which severely criticised both the claimant himself as well as his erstwhile legal representative, the famous Anthony Julius of the wealthy Mishcon law firm. The language and arguments of the Tribunal in its ruling also make an appeal impossible. The lie has been exposed and blamed. wherefore now for the Engagenics, and the Hasbarah warriors in Britain?
Ronnie Fraser, a Zionist member of UCU (University and College Union), with the support of leaders of the UK Jewish establishment attempted to sue his Union for antisemitism on account of its discussions of the situation in Palestine/Israel and its consideration of activity in support of Palestinian rights.
In an unusually robust judgement the tribunal found the case “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means” and a case which showed a “worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression”. In considering whether to accept the ten complaints raised by Fraser the tribunal used such phrases as:
“devoid of any merit”, “palpably groundless”, “obviously untenable”, “the Claimant again fails to make out any arguable complaint “, “obviously hopeless”.
In their review of the quality of the witnesses the tribunal concluded:
We regret to say that we have rejected as untrue the evidence of Ms Ashworth and Mr Newmark concerning the incident at the 2008 Congress (see our findings under complaint (8) above). Evidence given to us about booing. jeering and harassing of Jewish speakers at Congress debates was also false, as truthful witnesses on the Claimant’s side accepted. One painfully ill-judged example of playing to the gallery was Mr Newmark’s preposterous claim, in answer to the suggestion in cross- examination that he had attempted to push his way into the 2008 meeting, that a ‘pushy Jew’ stereotype was being applied to him. The opinions of witnesses were not, of course, our concern and in most instances they were in any event unremarkable and certainly not unreasonable. One exception was a remark of Mr Newmark in the context of the academic boycott controversy in 2007 that the union was “no longer a fit arena for free speech”, a comment which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing. We did not derive assistance from the two Members of Parliament who appeared before us. Both gave glib evidence, appearing supremely confident of the rightness of their positions. For Or MacShane, it seemed that all answers lay in the MacPherson Report (the effect of which he appeared to misunderstand). Mr Mann could manage without even that assistance. He told us that the leaders of the Respondents were at fault for the way in which they conducted debates but did not enlighten us as to what they were doing wrong or what they should be doing differently. He did not claim ever to have witnessed any Congress or other UCU meeting. And when it came to anti- Semitism in the context of debate about the Middle East, he announced, “It’s clear to me where the line is … ” but unfortunately eschewed the opportunity to locate it for us. Both parliamentarians clearly enjoyed making speeches. Neither seemed at ease with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking.
This is another example of the use of the courts in a lawfare campaign to silence criticism of the policies of Israel and support for Palestinian Rights.
You can read the full findings of of the tribunal, BRICUP’s reaction and other reports on our website at http://bricup.org.uk/#236
Follow BRICUP on twitter www.twitter.com/bricup
Keep up to date with the academic boycott at www.bricup.org.uk
A blistering rejection of pro-Israel activist Ronnie Fraser’s case against the academic union, UCU, was published on Seder night by a London employment tribunal.
In a 49-page ruling, the Employment Judge, AM Snelson, sitting with Mr A Grant and Lady Sedley, rejected Mr Fraser’s claims of unlawful harassment by the UCU, and dismissed the entire proceedings.
The reserved judgment was issued in respect of nearly three weeks of hearings which took place in October and November last year. In a stern rebuke in the conclusion of the judgment, Judge Snelson wrote: “Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means…What makes this litigation doubly regrettable is its gargantuan scale.”
The judge rebuked the litigants, saying “the Employment Tribunals are a hard-pressed public service and it is not right that their limited resources should be squandered as they have been.”
Although the tribunal said that Mr Fraser had impressed them “as a sincere witness” with “nothing synthetic about his displays of emotion”, there were harsh words for several others who gave evidence during the hearing, particularly the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark, whose testimony was rejected as untrue.
Two MPs – one has since resigned from Parliament – were also criticised for giving “glib evidence, appearing supremely confident of the rightness of their positions… Both parliamentarians clearly enjoyed making speeches. Neither seemed at ease with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking.”
27 MARCH 2013 | BY JACK GROVE
A Jewish academic who claimed the University and College Union’s policy on Palestine constituted harassment has been rebuked by an employment tribunal for misusing the legal process.
Ronnie Fraser, a further education lecturer and founding director of Academic Friends of Israel, argued that the UCU was institutionally anti-Semitic owing to motions passed in favour of a boycott of Israel.
Despite enlisting the services of Anthony Julius, best known as Diana, Princess of Wales’ divorce lawyer and a partner at Mishcon de Reya, all of his 10 claims of harassment have been “dismissed in their totality”.
During the 20-day hearing in December, Mr Fraser called several witnesses to give evidence, including Howard Jacobson, the Booker Prize winning novelist, John Mann MP, the former MP Denis MacShane and numerous leading Jewish academics.
However, in its judgment, which was published on 25 March, Mr Fraser’s claim is strongly criticised by the tribunal members.
The action is branded by tribunal panel members as “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means” and a case which showed a “worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression”.
Mr Fraser, the child of refugees who fled Nazi Germany, is viewed as a “sincere witness”, but the tribunal notes his “political experience” and are not impressed by his claim that the tone of several debates at the UCU’s annual congress “violated his dignity”, thereby constituting harassment.
“No doubt some of the things said in the course of debates were upsetting, but to say they violated his dignity…is to overstate his case hugely,” the judgment says.
“The claimant [Mr Fraser] is a campaigner,” it adds.
“He chooses to engage in the politics of the union in support of Israel and in opposition to activists to the Palestinian cause.
“When a rugby player takes the field he must accept his fair share of minor injuries. Similarly, a political activist accepts the risk of being offended or hurt on occasions by things said or done by his opponents (who themselves take on a corresponding risk).”
Scorn is also invoked for Mr Julius’s decision to pursue certain points, with complaints variously dismissed as “palpably groundless”, “obviously hopeless” and “devoid of any merit”.
The “sorry saga” had also acquired a “gargantuan scale” that required a 20-day hearing and a 23 volumes of evidence which was “manifestly excessive and disproportionate”, the tribunal adds.
“Our analysis to date has despatched almost the entire case as manifestly unmeritorious,” it concludes.
Several complaints were also made with reference to the wrong act of Parliament, while some were also “out of time” as the incident has occurred too long ago to bring to the tribunal.
The judgment also says public resources had been “squandered” conducting such a long case, while “nor should the [UCU] have been put to the trouble and expense of defending proceedings of this order”.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “This has been an extremely difficult period for the UCU staff and members involved in defending the union’s position and I am especially pleased therefore that the tribunal found our witnesses to be careful and accurate.
“The claimant, while unsuccessful, of course had the right to challenge the union in the courts and will be treated with respect within the union as will his views on this question.
“Now that a decision has been made I hope in turn that he, and others who share his views, will play an active part in the union and its debates rather than seek recourse to the law.”
A British judge comprehensively dismissed a high-profile legal attack on theUniversity and College Union, it emerged on Monday. The case was brought after democratic union bodies discussed boycotts of Israel.
An Employment Tribunal ruled the claim of “institutional anti-Semitism,” brought by union member and Academic Friends of Israel director Ronnie Fraser, was dismissed on all counts.
The ruling is a dramatic and comprehensive defeat for the Israeli “lawfare” strategy, and may even have backfired for its proponents who today descended into acrimonious internal back-biting.
In the 49-page ruling, the three-person tribunal comprehensively considered the 10 points of the detailed complaint, brought on behalf of Fraser by high-profile pro-Israel lawyer Anthony Julius.
After dismissing each one of them in detail (“without substance … devoid of any merit … palpably groundless … untenable … obviously hopeless”), the document appears to foreclose the possibility of another such “lawfare” attack ever being brought to court again (at least using UK Tribunals).
“Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated” (paragraph 178, my emphasis).
It is this key passage of the ruling that means anti-Palestinian activists may rue the day they ever contemplated “the wreckage of this litigation,” as the judge frankly puts it (para. 181).
The judge raises serious concerns that a “hard-pressed” public service like the Tribunals should have “their limited resources … squandered [by Fraser] as they have been in this case.” Nor “should the Respondents [the union] have been put to the trouble and expense of defending proceedings of this order or anything like it” (para. 180).
Another important finding is that “a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel … cannot amount to a protected characteristic” under the Equality Act of 2010. This properly sets a clear red line between Zionism and Judaism (or Jewish identity).
Julius’s competence was also called into doubt by the panel, after he “referred in support of his argument to a concept unfamiliar to us and not, so far as we are aware, known to our law, namely ‘institutional responsibility’ ” (para. 22).
The panel was also “troubled by the implications of the claim. Underlying it we sense a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression” (para 179). This is clearly a reference to (among others) Jeremy Newmark, a witness for Fraser, and the head of the Jewish Leadership Council.
He once said the union was “no longer a fit arena for free speech” – this is described by the judge as “extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”
The judge also found that parts of Newmark’s evidence before the tribunal were “preposterous” and “untrue.” Testimony by Jane Ashworth, of the anti-boycott groupEngage, was also found to be false.
Two members of parliament who appeared as witnesses for Fraser were also criticized. John Mann MP and Denis MacShane MP “clearly enjoyed making speeches. [But] neither seems at ease with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking” (para. 148).
While there is some minor criticism of the union on procedural grounds, in the main there is mostly praise. Of the witnesses called by the union, the judgment says “we found all of them careful and accurate” (para. 149).
The panel “spent an entire day” listening to recordings of union debates in Congress (its annual decision-making conference which regional delegates are sent to): “In our judgment, the proceedings were well-ordered and balanced.”
Fraser’s case had alleged union debates that discussed the issue of boycotting Israel were systematically biased against him on the basis of his Jewishness. In fact, the judge found that Jewish union members spoke on both the pro- and anti-boycott sides of debates, which were “managed in an even-handed fashion.”
The verdict is a comprehensive defeat for Israel’s lawfare project, supporters of Israeli war crimes and assorted Zionist fanatics in the UK.
There were early signs today of internal fallout, as the recriminations began.
Writing on Facebook, leading Engage figure, and witness in the case David Hirshaccused the verdict itself of being anti-Semitic: “That which Ronnie experiences as antisemitism is what the Tribunal finds to be precisely the right and courageous way to treat him.”
Commenting on the same post, two Zionist activists then fall out, giving their competing analyses of what went wrong. David Toube of the Islamophobic, pro-Israel, pro-war blog Harry’s Place advocated the idea (anti-Semitic in itself) that Jews should get out of Britain: “I recommend that Jews who want to stand and fight against antisemitism, emigrate to Israel.”
But Jonathan Hoffman, formerly a leading figure at the Zionist Federation, tried to look on the bright side: “maybe it is useful as a staging post – for example to a change in the law or to a [sic] radical rethink in Jewish Community organization.”
The union’s general secretary Sally Hunt said in a press release: “I am delighted that the Tribunal has made such a clear and overwhelming judgment in UCU’s favor. There are many different views within UCU and wider society about Israel and Palestine and this decision upholds our and others’ right to freedom of expression and to continue to properly debate these and other difficult questions.”
EDITOR: Habemus Papam!
Yes, Israel has anew government, and it is so new, it resembles nothing we have seen before – it is so farfetched, it makes the last government look almost normal. Read below what good old Kobi Nov thinks about it. And right he is.
Ashkenazi secular men will occupy all four of the government’s senior positions.There is nary a Mizrahi, Orthodox Jew, Arab or woman among them.
Our new loves, the people we just voted into office after such careful consideration, are now building us a new home. But what kind of home will it be? Who will live on the top floor and who on the ground floor? Who will live separately, in the servants’ quarters? And who will be confined in the basement? Who will live outside in the yard, under the open sky? And who will live beyond the fence? And how impervious will that fence be? Will the neighbors be allowed to visit or only to peek in from behind the plants?
The demographic make-up of the new Israeli government is clear and unambiguous, correctly reflecting the outcome of the election. The heads of the five parties that make constitute it – Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett and Tzipi Livni – are all wealthy Ashkenazi Jews. Out of the five, four are men; only the adjunct is a female. Rich Ashkenazi secular men will occupy all four of the government’s senior positions (prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and finance minister ). There is nary a Mizrahi, Orthodox Jew, Arab or woman among them. Out of the whole cabinet (which at this writing has not yet been finalized ), 100 percent are Jews, approximately 80 percent of the ministers are men, approximately 80 percent are Ashkenazi and approximately 80 percent are secular. No matter how you look at it, our newly elected government is dominated by the white (Ashkenazi Jewish ) man. It is an utterly colonial government, seemingly taken from the heart of the deepest darkness of centuries past and transplanted, in one fell stroke of the democratic sword, into the heart of the 21st century. It is disguised, impersonating – just the way its colonial predecessors did – enlightened European progress. A government of the villa in the jungle.
And as in every instance of colonialism, its policy will be simple and clear. The white rulers will have privileges – human rights, they call them these days – as if they were Europeans for all intents and purposes. Their taxes will be reduced, their income will rise, their garbage will be recycled, their education will improve, their culture will be subsidized, their women equalized, their gay people married, and a good time will be had by all.
The lower, inferior classes, those whose dark pigmentation impairs the purity of color and race, almost to the point of Arabness, or those whose skullcap and sidecurls are too black for the delicate culture of the enlightened ones, or who do not believe thoroughly enough in the good and beneficent god of capitalism – they will all, or mostly, be called upon and forced from now on, in the name of equality, to bear the burden. That is, to pay by the sweat of their brow and their daily wage for the privileges of the men and women of the pure, white, beautiful, justified upper classes.
Outside the fence, in the jungle behind the security wall, the main purpose of which is to conceal from us what we are doing to them, those whom we consider animals will continue to live. We will take care of them good and proper, by robbing, shooting, exploiting, expelling, thwarting and shooting them down, by curfew, stolen water, spoiled water, and all the other means that our Jewish brain can invent to make their lives deathly miserable. And once every two months we’ll send them Tzipi Livni, wearing a cork hat and armed with colored beads, to show the world what a great diplomatic process we have going on here.
And there we have it, a sacred new order, straight out of the 17th century.
EDITOR: US is staunchly Zionist
For my Palestinian friends who still expect and hope the US will resolve the conflict, this reading might be a sobering one. There is nothing for us to expect from that corner. We must concentrate on BDS and opposing Zionism in all quarters.
ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday also finds that 55 percent of Americans sympathize with Israel, compared to 9 percent that side with Palestinians.
Most Americans, regardless of political sympathies, believe the United States should cease its intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, an ABC poll released on Monday reveals.
The poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, shows that 55 percent of Americans sympathize with Israel compared to only 9 percent that side with the Palestinian Authority; the rest of those questioned were undecided. The ABC poll was released just days before Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel and the West Bank as president.
The ABC poll also found that seven in 10 of those questioned – regardless of which side they support – prefer to leave the negotiations to the Palestinians and the Israelis, rather than seeing the U.S. take a leading role.
The ABC News poll results emphasize that 66 to 70 percent of those questioned – regardless of religious and political affiliation – believe that the two sides should handle negotiations without U.S. intervention.
According to the ABC News poll, American support for Israel is illustrated by 34 percent saying the Obama administration has put too little pressure on the Palestinian Authority with only 8 percent polled responding that there is too much pressure.
In contrast, the split is about even concerning the question of whether the administration has put too much or too little pressure on Israel. About four in 10 Americans, think the U.S. has appropriately pressured each side in the conflict.
Religion is a factor in the poll’s results, with support for Israel being highest among evangelical white Protestants at 76 percent and falls to 55 percent among non-evangelical white Protestants and Catholics. Those who are not religiously affiliated have the least amount of sympathy for Israel with only 39 percent polled affirming support.
Republicans and conservatives alike show the most support for Israel among partisan groups – more than seven in 10. This number drops to about five in 10 moderates, independents and Democrats, and to just 39 percent of liberals, with more saying they favor neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority.
Age is another influence on American public opinion about Israel, with two-thirds of seniors showing support. A little less than half (48 percent) of younger adults polled side with the Jewish state, and 57 percent of 40- to 64-year-olds. The majority of seniors also think the Obama administration is putting too much pressure on Israel and not enough on the Palestinian Authority.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect. Partisan divisions are 33-25-35 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone March 7-10, 2013, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents.
EDITOR: New heights of racist behaviour in Israel
As disgusting and shocking as the facts below, they should hardly surprise us. Zionism was always racist, and not just against the Palestinians (as Goys – non-Jews – and as the indigenous population of Palestine) but also against the ghetto Jews and the Mizrahi Jews – the Jews from the Arab world. When racism is oozing from all sides – the home, school, street, the army, the media, government legislation and actions – everywhere in Israel racism is present – how could Israelis not be racist? Most also believe in the bizarre notion of being the chosen people, so this goes especially well with racist views. That they see themselves as ‘proud racists’ is a direct result of their daily life in an apartheid state.
Israelis, including at least one person identifying himself as a soldier, reacted with genocidal joy on Facebook to the horrifying news this morning that 17 Palestinians returning from a pilgrimage had been killed in a bus accident in Jordan and dozens more injured. Early reports had put the number of dead at 14.
According to The Jordan Times, the accident occurred as the bus descended toward the Jordan Valley “and slammed into a passenger vehicle causing it to overturn. The bus then slammed into a truck and the two vehicles crashed resulting in the deaths and the high number of injuries.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better morning than this,” wrote Facebook user Kobi Yaacov Saroussi under an item about the accident on the Facebook page of Israel’s Channel 2, “Shame there isn’t another zero at the end [of the number of victims].”
Kobi Yaacov Saroussi is disappointed there weren’t ten times as many deaths.
There were dozens more similar comments. Facebook user Demri Alice wrote“Finally it’s possible to ‘Like’ something,” to which she added a smiley face.
In horrifying deaths of Palestinians, Demri Alice finally find something to “Like” on Facebook.
Many were brief. Tomer Reuven simply commented “Very good.”
“Great! Let’s hope everyone on the bus was an Arab!” said Eitan Wolfer Eifergan.
“I’ve never tolerated Arabs,” wrote Kobi Noga, “I’m an extreme rightist. We should kill them all.”
Kobi Noga, self-described “extreme rightist,” thinks all Arabs should be killed.
Shenhav Sharbit, using the perjorative term “arboushim” – roughly the equivalent of the N-word – said Arabs could “all die” and that was “all good.”
Shenhav Sharbit uses a racist epithet for Arabs to express her joy at their deaths.
In a screenshot from his Facebook page, Chen Shaptiban is seen in a uniform bearing the tree symbol indicating that he is a member of the Israeli army’s Golani Brigade.
Among the most horrifying of the many horrifying comments were those of Chen Shaptiban who, based on a photo on his Facebook page, appears to be a member of the Israeli army’s notorious “Golani brigade” which was recently in the news because some of its members have posted shocking photographs on Instagram. One ofShaptiban’s reactions to the road accident was this:
May all Arabs die. There is no place for Arabs in the land of Israel. Maybe it sounds terrible to some people in north Tel Aviv, but they too do not deserve to live in this state, and yes, I am a proud racist, proud of my state and the soldiers guarding it!
Some Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Jews objected to the pervasive racism. Facebook user Marwan Momo, for example, wrote, “You keep crying Holocaust Holocaust but look how you talk!”
Gilad Kapeliuk wrote, “The sickening racism does not surprise me …. I’m ashamed to be part of this nation.”
But Avigail Mishaiv replied to Kapeliuk, “Gaza is waiting for you with open arms. You can go and be proud over there.
Golani soldier Shaptiban also retorted, “Gilad, you leftists are the cancer in the state, traitors to the state, the garbage of Israeli society.”
Regev Cohen, responding to another Facebook user, whom he addressed with a homophobic epithet, wrote, “All the terrorists in the world, all the fucking martyrs, who are they? Arabs and Muslims” before referring to Arabs as “barbarians” and “human waste.”
Ori Avraham reacted to criticism of the racist statements from a user called “Irit” by telling her, “Do you know what the biggest dream of the Muslims is? To exterminate all the Jews by any means, so be quiet.”
It is important to emphasize that the racist comments in this incident were not rare or exceptional, but numerous and pervasive.
While the comments above were collected from the Facebook page of Israel’s Channel 2, many similar racist comments could be seen just as frequently under the news item about the crash on the Facebook page of Walla! News, another major Israeli media outlet.
Nor is this an isolated incident. The Electronic Intifada has previously documented numerous examples of Israelis expressing shocking racism and calls for racist and genocidal violence on Facebook.
Today’s disgusting comments are also reminiscent of what happened when someIsraelis expressed delight after a number of Palestinian children were killed in a bus accident in February last year.
It is also notable that while the habitual expressions of joy by Israelis at the deaths and suffering of Palestinians go largely unremarked, an Egyptian activist, Samira Ibrahim, was the focus of worldwide condemnation recently after her nomination for a White House award was withdrawn when it came to light that she had expressed joy on Twitter at the deaths of Israelis in the July 2012 bombing of a bus in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas among other objectionable and racist comments.
This shocking and pervasive racism is not harmless. Many of those expressing it are members of Israeli occupation forces who hold immense power over the Palestinian population.
In at least one case we know about, an Israeli occupation “border policeman,”Maxim Vinogradov, had expressed a desire on Facebook to assist in “annihilating” Arabs just one week before he shot dead Palestinian father Ziad Jilani at a checkpoint in eastern occupied Jerusalem, a killing for which Jilani’s family continues to seek justice.
EDITOR: Below, a very long article by Ben Ehrenreich, in NYTIMES magazine. It is interesting and well informed and well-worth reading.
Protesters fleeing from tear gas launched by the Israel Defense Forces. In the background, the Israeli settlement of Halamish
By BEN EHRENREICH
On the evening of Feb. 10, the living room of Bassem Tamimi’s house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh was filled with friends and relatives smoking and sipping coffee, waiting for Bassem to return from prison. His oldest son, Waed, 16, was curled on the couch with his 6-year-old brother, Salam, playing video games on the iPhone that the prime minister of Turkey had given their sister, Ahed. She had been flown to Istanbul to receive an award after photos of her shaking her fist at an armed Israeli soldier won her, at 11, a brief but startling international celebrity. Their brother Abu Yazan, who is 9, was on a tear in the yard, wrestling with an Israeli activist friend of Bassem’s. Nariman, the children’s mother, crouched in a side room, making the final preparations for her husband’s homecoming meal, laughing at the two photographers competing for shots from the narrow doorway as she spread onions onto oiled flatbreads.
On the living-room wall was a “Free Bassem Tamimi” poster, left over from his last imprisonment for helping to organize the village’s weekly protests against the Israeli occupation, which he has done since 2009. He was gone for 13 months that time, then home for 5 before he was arrested again in October. A lot happened during this latest stint: another brief war in Gaza, a vote in the United Nations granting observer statehood to Palestine, the announcement of plans to build 3,400 homes for settlers, an election in Israel. Protests were spreading around the West Bank.
That night, the call came at about 7:30. Twenty people squeezed into three small cars and headed to the village square. More neighbors and cousins arrived on foot. (All of Nabi Saleh’s 550 residents are related by blood or marriage, and nearly all share the surname Tamimi.) Then a dark Ford pulled slowly into the square, and everyone fell silent.
Bassem, who is 45, stepped out of the car, straight-spined, his blue eyes glowing in the lamplight. He seemed a little thinner and grayer than the last time I saw him, in July. He hugged and kissed his eldest son. Ahed was next, then one by one, in silence, Bassem embraced family and friends, Palestinian activists from Ramallah and Jerusalem, Israeli leftists from Tel Aviv. When he had greeted everyone, he walked to the cemetery and stopped in front of the still-unmarked grave of his brother-in-law Rushdie, who was shot by Israeli soldiers in November while Bassem was in prison. He closed his eyes and said a quick prayer before moving on to the tomb of Mustafa Tamimi, who died after being hit in the face by a tear-gas canister in December 2011.
Back at home, Bassem looked dazed. Nariman broke down in his arms and rushed outside to hide her tears. The village was still mourning Rushdie’s death, but the young men couldn’t keep up the solemnity for long. They started with little Hamoudi, the son of Bassem’s cousin, tossing him higher and higher in the air above the yard. They set him down and took turns tossing one another up into the night sky, laughing and shouting as if they never had anything to grieve.
From most south-facing windows in Nabi Saleh, you can see the red roofs of Halamish, the Israeli settlement on the hilltop across the valley. It has been there since 1977, founded by members of the messianic nationalist group Gush Emunim, and growing steadily since on land that once belonged to residents of Nabi Saleh and another Palestinian village. Next to Halamish is an Israeli military base, and in the valley between Nabi Saleh and the settlement, across the highway and up a dirt path, a small freshwater spring, which Palestinians had long called Ein al-Kos, bubbles out of a low stone cliff. In the summer of 2008, although the land surrounding the spring has for generations belonged to the family of Bashir Tamimi, who is 57, the youth of Halamish began building the first of a series of low pools that collect its waters. Later they added a bench and an arbor for shade. (Years after, the settlers retroactively applied for a building permit, which Israeli authorities refused to issue, ruling that “the applicants did not prove their rights to the relevant land.” Recently, several of the structures have been removed.) When Palestinians came to tend to their crops in the fields beside it, the settlers, villagers said, threatened and threw stones at them.
It took the people of Nabi Saleh more than a year to get themselves organized. In December 2009 they held their first march, protesting not just the loss of the spring but also the entire complex system of control — of permits, checkpoints, walls, prisons — through which Israel maintains its hold on the region. Nabi Saleh quickly became the most spirited of the dozen or so West Bank villages that hold weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. Since the demonstrations began, more than 100 people in the village have been jailed. Nariman told me that by her count, as of February, clashes with the army have caused 432 injuries, more than half to minors. The momentum has been hard to maintain — the weeks go by, and nothing changes for the better — but still, despite the arrests, the injuries and the deaths, every Friday after the midday prayer, the villagers, joined at times by equal numbers of journalists and Israeli and foreign activists, try to march from the center of town to the spring, a distance of perhaps half a mile. And every Friday, Israeli soldiers stop them with some combination of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, water-cannon blasts of a noxious liquid known as “skunk” and occasionally live fire.
Last summer, I spent three weeks in Nabi Saleh, staying in Bassem and Nariman’s home. When I arrived in June, Bassem had just been released from prison. In March 2011, Israeli soldiers raided the house to arrest him. Among lesser charges, he had been accused in a military court of “incitement,” organizing “unauthorized processions” and soliciting the village youth to throw stones. (In 2010, 99.74 percent of the Palestinians tried in military courts were convicted.) The terms of Bassem’s release forbade him to take part in demonstrations, which are all effectively illegal under Israeli military law, so on the first Friday after I arrived, just after the midday call to prayer, he walked with me only as far as the square, where about 50 villagers had gathered in the shade of an old mulberry tree. They were joined by a handful of Palestinian activists from Ramallah and East Jerusalem, mainly young women; perhaps a dozen college-age European and American activists; a half-dozen Israelis, also mainly women — young anarchists in black boots and jeans, variously pierced. Together they headed down the road, clapping and chanting in Arabic and English. Bassem’s son Abu Yazan, licking a Popsicle, marched at the back of the crowd.
Then there were the journalists, scurrying up hillsides in search of better vantage points. In the early days of the protests, the village teemed with reporters from across the globe, there to document the tiny village’s struggle against the occupation. “Sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t,” Mohammad Tamimi, who is 24 and coordinates the village’s social-media campaign, would tell me later. Events in the Middle East — the revolution in Egypt and civil war in Syria — and the unchanging routine of the weekly marches have made it that much harder to hold the world’s attention. That Friday there was just one Palestinian television crew and a few Israeli and European photographers, the regulars among them in steel helmets.
In the protests’ first year, to make sure that the demonstrations — and the fate of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation — didn’t remain hidden behind the walls and fences that surround the West Bank, Mohammad began posting news to a blog and later a Facebook page (now approaching 4,000 followers) under the name Tamimi Press. Soon Tamimi Press morphed into a homegrown media team: Bilal Tamimi shooting video and uploading protest highlights to his YouTube channel; Helme taking photographs; and Mohammad e-mailing news releases to 500-odd reporters and activists. Manal, who is married to Bilal, supplements the effort with a steady outpouring of tweets (@screamingtamimi).
News of the protests moves swiftly around the globe, bouncing among blogs on the left and right. Left-leaning papers like Britain’s Guardian and Israel’s Haaretz still cover major events in the village — deaths and funerals, Bassem’s arrests and releases — but a right-wing Israeli news site has for the last year begun to recycle the same headline week after week: “Arabs, Leftists Riot in Nabi Saleh.” Meanwhile, a pilgrimage to Nabi Saleh has achieved a measure of cachet among young European activists, the way a stint with the Zapatistas did in Mexico in the 1990s. For a time, Nariman regularly prepared a vegan feast for the exhausted outsiders who lingered after the protests. (Among the first things she asked me when I arrived was whether I was a vegan. Her face brightened when I said no.)
Whatever success they have had in the press, the people of Nabi Saleh are intensely conscious of everything they have not achieved. The occupation, of course, persists. When I arrived in June, the demonstrators had not once made it to the spring. Usually they didn’t get much past the main road, where they would turn and find the soldiers waiting around the bend. That week though, they decided to cut straight down the hillside toward the spring. Bashir led the procession, waving a flag. As usual, Israeli Army jeeps were waiting below the spring. The four soldiers standing outside them looked confused — it seemed they hadn’t expected the protesters to make it so far. The villagers marched past them to the spring, where they surprised three settlers eating lunch in the shade, still wet from a dip in one of the pools. One wore only soggy briefs and a rifle slung over his chest.
The kids raced past. The grown-ups filed in, chatting and smoking. More soldiers arrived in body armor, carrying rifles and grenade launchers. Waed and Abu Yazan kicked a soccer ball until a boy spotted a bright orange carp in one of the pools and Abu Yazan and others tried to catch it with their bare hands, splashing until the water went cloudy and the carp disappeared.
Four settlers appeared on the ledge above the spring, young men in sunglasses and jeans, one of them carrying an automatic rifle. Beside me, a sturdy, bald officer from the Israel Defense Forces argued with an Israeli protester. “I let you come,” the officer insisted. “Now you have to go.”
The children piled onto the swing the settlers had built and swung furiously, singing. A young settler argued with the I.D.F. officer, insisting that he clear the protesters away.
“What difference does 10 minutes make?” the officer said.
“Every 10 seconds makes a difference,” the settler answered.
But before their 10 minutes were up, one hour after they arrived, the villagers gathered the children and left as they had come, clapping and chanting, their defiance buoyed by joy. For the first time in two and a half years, they had made it to the spring.
They headed back along the highway, which meant they would have to pass the road leading to Halamish. Ahed, her blond hair in a long braid, clutched a cousin at the front of the procession. As they approached the road, a border-police officer tossed a stun grenade — a device that makes a loud bang and a flash but theoretically, at least, causes no bodily harm — at Ahed’s feet, and then another, and another. Within a few seconds, the marchers were racing up the hill back toward their village, tear-gas grenades streaking through the sky above their heads.
On warm summer evenings, life in Nabi Saleh could feel almost idyllic. Everyone knows everyone. Children run in laughing swarms from house to house. One night, Bassem and Nariman sat outside sharing a water pipe as Nariman read a translated Dan Brown novel and little Salam pranced gleefully about, announcing, “I am Salam, and life is beautiful!”
Bassem is employed by the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry in a department charged with approving entrance visas for Palestinians living abroad. In practice, he said, P.A. officials “have no authority” — the real decisions are made in Israel and passed to the P.A. for rubber-stamping. Among other things, this meant that Bassem rarely had to report to his office in Ramallah, leaving his days free to care for his ailing mother — she died several weeks after I left the village last summer — and strategizing on the phone, meeting international visitors and talking to me over many cups of strong, unsweetened coffee. We would talk in the living room, over the hum of an Al Jazeera newscast. A framed image of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque hung above the television (more out of nationalist pride than piety: Bassem’s outlook was thoroughly secular).
Though many people in Nabi Saleh have been jailed, only Bassem was declared a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. Foreign diplomats attended his court hearings in 2011. Bassem’s charisma surely has something to do with the attention. A strange, radiant calm seemed to hover around him. He rarely smiled, and tended to drop weighty pronouncements (“Our destiny is to resist”) in ordinary speech, but I saw his reserve crumble whenever one of his children climbed into his lap.
When Israeli forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Bassem was 10 weeks old. His mother hid with him in a cave until the fighting ended. He remembers playing in the abandoned British police outpost that is now the center of the I.D.F. base next to Halamish, and accompanying the older kids who took their sheep to pasture on the hilltop where the settlement now stands. His mother went to the spring for water every day. The settlers arrived when he was 9.
Halamish is now fully established and cozier than most gated communities in the United States. Behind the razor wire and chain-link perimeter fence, past the gate and the armed guard, there are playgrounds, a covered pool, a community center and amphitheater, a clinic, a library, a school and several synagogues. The roads are well paved and lined with flowers, the yards lush with lemon trees. Halamish now functions as a commuter suburb; many of the residents work in white-collar jobs in Tel Aviv or Modi’in. The settlement’s population has grown to more than double that of Nabi Saleh.
I first met Shifra Blass, the spokeswoman for Halamish, in 2010. She talked about how empty the West Bank — she used the biblical name, Judea and Samaria — was when she and her husband emigrated from the U.S. in the early 1970s, intent on establishing a Jewish presence in a land they believed had been promised to them. Relations with the surrounding villages, she told me, had remained cordial, friendly even, until the first intifada. (When I asked people in Nabi Saleh about this, no one remembered it that way.) During the second intifada, three residents of the settlement, Blass said, were killed by gunfire on nearby roads. They weren’t near the village, but attitudes hardened.
When I visited her again last month, she was not eager to talk to me about the conflict over the spring and the lands surrounding it. “We want to live our lives and not spend time on it,” Blass said. She dismissed the weekly demonstrations as the creation of “outside agitators who come here and stir the pot — internationalists, anarchists, whatever.” It was all a show, she said, theater for a gullible news media. “I’ll tell you something: it’s unpleasant.” On Fridays, she said, the wind sometimes carries the tear gas across the valley into the settlement. “We have some grown children who say they cannot come home from university for Shabbat because of the tear gas. They call and say, ‘Tell me how bad it is, because if it’s really bad, I’m not coming.’ ”
When the first intifada broke out in late 1987, Nabi Saleh was, as it is now, a flash point. The road that passes between the village and the settlement connects the central West Bank to Tel Aviv: a simple barricade could halt the flow of Palestinian laborers into Israel. Bassem was one of the main Fatah youth activists for the region, organizing the strikes, boycotts and demonstrations that characterized that uprising. (Nabi Saleh is solidly loyal to Fatah, the secular nationalist party that rules the West Bank; Hamas, the militant Islamist movement that governs Gaza, has its supporters elsewhere in the West Bank but has never had a foothold in the village.) He would be jailed seven times during the intifada and, he says, was never charged with a crime. Before his most recent arrest, I asked him how much time he had spent in prison. He added up the months: “Around four years.”
After one arrest in 1993, Bassem told me, an Israeli interrogator shook him with such force that he fell into a coma for eight days. He has a nickel-size scar on his temple from emergency brain surgery during that time. His sister died while he was in prison. She was struck by a soldier and fell down a flight of courthouse stairs, according to her son Mahmoud, who was with her to attend the trial of his brother. (The I.D.F. did not comment on this allegation.)
Bassem nonetheless speaks of those years, as many Palestinians his age do, with something like nostalgia. The first intifada broke out spontaneously — it started in Gaza with a car accident, when an Israeli tank transporter killed four Palestinian laborers. The uprising was, initially, an experience of solidarity on a national scale. Its primary weapons were the sort that transform weakness into strength: the stone, the barricade, the boycott, the strike. The Israeli response to the revolt — in 1988, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin reportedly authorized soldiers to break the limbs of unarmed demonstrators — began tilting international public opinion toward the Palestinian cause for the first time in decades. By the uprising’s third year, however, power had shifted to the P.L.O. hierarchy. The first Bush administration pushed Israel to negotiate, leading eventually to the 1993 Oslo Accord, which created the Palestinian Authority as an interim body pending a “final status” agreement.
But little was resolved in Oslo. A second intifada erupted in 2000, at first mostly following the model set by the earlier uprising. Palestinians blocked roads and threw stones. The I.D.F. took over a house in Nabi Saleh. Children tossed snakes, scorpions and what Bassem euphemistically called “wastewater” through the windows. The soldiers withdrew. Then came the heavy wave of suicide bombings, which Bassem termed “the big mistake.” An overwhelming majority of Israeli casualties during the uprising occurred in about 100 suicide attacks, most against civilians. A bombing at one Tel Aviv disco in 2001 killed 21 teenagers. “Politically, we went backward,” Bassem said. Much of the international good will gained over the previous decade was squandered. Taking up arms wasn’t, for Bassem, a moral error so much as a strategic one. He and everyone else I spoke with in the village insisted they had the right to armed resistance; they just don’t think it works. Bassem could reel off a list of Nabi Saleh’s accomplishments. Of some — Nabi Saleh, he said, had more advanced degrees than any village — he was simply proud. Others — one of the first military actions after Oslo, the first woman to participate in a suicide attack — involved more complicated emotions.
In 1993, Bassem told me, his cousin Said Tamimi killed a settler near Ramallah. Eight years later, another villager, Ahlam Tamimi escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed, eight of them minors. Ahlam, who now lives in exile in Jordan, and Said, who is in prison in Israel, remain much-loved in Nabi Saleh. Though everyone I spoke with in the village appeared keenly aware of the corrosive effects of violence — “This will kill the children,” Manal said, “to think about hatred and revenge” — they resented being asked to forswear bloodshed when it was so routinely visited upon them. Said, Manal told me, “lost his father, uncle, aunt, sister — they were all killed. How can you blame him?”
The losses of the second intifada were enormous. Nearly 5,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis died. Israeli assassination campaigns and the I.D.F.’s siege of West Bank cities left the Palestinian leadership decimated and discouraged. By the end of 2005, Yasir Arafat was dead, Israel had pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, had reached a truce with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The uprising sputtered out. The economy was ruined, Gaza and the West Bank were more isolated from each other than ever, and Palestinians were divided, defeated and exhausted.
But in 2003, while the intifada was still raging, Bassem and others from Nabi Saleh began attending demonstrations in Budrus, 20 minutes away. Budrus was in danger of being cut off from the rest of the West Bank by Israel’s planned separation barrier, the concrete and chain-link divide that snakes along the border and in many places juts deeply into Palestinian territory. Residents began demonstrating. Foreign and Israeli activists joined the protests. Fatah and Hamas loyalists marched side by side. The Israeli Army responded aggressively: at times with tear gas, beatings and arrests; at times with live ammunition. Palestinians elsewhere were fighting with Kalashnikovs, but the people of Budrus decided, said Ayed Morrar, an old friend of Bassem’s who organized the movement there, that unarmed resistance “would stress the occupation more.”
The strategy appeared to work. After 55 demonstrations, the Israeli government agreed to shift the route of the barrier to the so-called 1967 green line. The tactic spread to other villages: Biddu, Ni’lin, Al Ma’asara and in 2009, Nabi Saleh. Together they formed what is known as the “popular resistance,” a loosely coordinated effort that has maintained what has arguably been the only form of active and organized resistance to the Israeli presence in the West Bank since the end of the second intifada in 2005. Nabi Saleh, Bassem hoped, could model a form of resistance for the rest of the West Bank. The goal was to demonstrate that it was still possible to struggle and to do so without taking up arms, so that when the spark came, if it came, resistance might spread as it had during the first intifada. “If there is a third intifada,” he said, “we want to be the ones who started it.”
Bassem saw three options. “To be silent is to accept the situation,” he said, “and we don’t accept the situation.” Fighting with guns and bombs could only bring catastrophe. Israel was vastly more powerful, he said. “But by popular resistance, we can push its power aside.”
As small as the demonstrations were, they appeared to create considerable anxiety in Israel. Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told me that while the West Bank demonstrations do not pose an “existential threat” to Israel, they “certainly could be more problematic in the short term” than a conventional armed revolt. Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the I.D.F., took issue with the idea that the weekly protests were a form of nonviolent resistance. In an e-mail he described the protests as “violent and illegal rioting that take place around Judea and Samaria, and where large rocks, Molotov cocktails, improvised grenades and burning tires are used against security forces. Dubbing these simply demonstrations is an understatement — more than 200 security-force personnel have been injured in recent years at these riots.” (Molotov cocktails are sometimes thrown at protests at the checkpoints of Beitunia and Kalandia but never, Bassem said, in Nabi Saleh.) Buchman said that the I.D.F. “employs an array of tactics as part of an overall strategy intended to curb these riots and the ensuing acts of violence.” He added that “every attempt is made to minimize physical friction and risk of casualties” among both the I.D.F. and the “rioters.”
One senior military commander, who would agree to be interviewed only on the condition that his name not be used, told me: “When the second intifada broke out, it was very difficult, but it was very easy to understand what we had to do. You have the enemy, he shoots at you, you have to kill him.” Facing down demonstrators armed with slings and stones or with nothing at all is less clear-cut. “As an Israeli citizen,” the commander said, “I prefer stones. As a professional military officer, I prefer to meet tanks and troops.”
But armies, by their nature, have one default response to opposition: force. One soldier who served in Nabi Saleh testified to the Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence about preparing for Friday protests. “It’s like some kind of game,” he said. “Everyone wants to arm themselves with as much ammo as possible. . . . You have lots of stun grenades . . . so they’re thrown for the sake of throwing, at people who are not suspected of anything. And in the end, you tell your friend at the Friday-night dinner table: ‘Wow! I fired this much.’ ”
According to a leaked 2010 U.S. State Department memo, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi of Israel “expressed frustration” with the West Bank protests to American diplomats, and “warned that the I.D.F. will start to be more assertive in how it deals with these demonstrations, even demonstrations that appear peaceful.” The memo concluded that “less-violent demonstrations are likely to stymie the I.D.F.,” citing the Israeli Defense Ministry policy chief Amos Gilad’s admission to U.S. officials, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”
Sagi Tal, a former I.D.F. soldier, who was stationed near the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin, which also held weekly demonstrations, explained to me that his unit sometimes conducted night raids to gather intelligence or make arrests and sometimes simply so “that they should feel that we are here and we are watching them.”
After dinner one Sunday, Nariman put on a DVD shot both by her and Bilal, the village videographer. (“From the beginning,” Bilal told me at the march on the previous Friday, filming calmly as tear-gas grenades landed all around us, “we decided that the media is the most important thing in the popular resistance.”) We watched a clip shot in the house in which we sat: soldiers banged on the door late at night; they rifled through the boys’ room as Salam and Abu Yazan cowered beneath the covers and Nariman yelled in Arabic: “What manliness this is! What a proud army you’re part of!” The soldiers confiscated a gas mask, two computers, Waed’s camera and two of his schoolbooks — geography and Palestinian history. (In an e-mail, an I.D.F. spokesman described such night raids as “pre-emptive measures, taken in order to assure the security and stability in the area.”)
We watched footage of Nariman being arrested with Bilal’s wife, Manal, early in 2010. Soldiers had fired tear gas into Manal’s house, Nariman explained. Manal ran in to fetch her children, and when she came out, a soldier ordered her back in. She refused, so they arrested her. Nariman tried to intervene, and they arrested her too. They spent 10 days in prisons where, they say, they were beaten repeatedly, strip-searched and held for two days without food before each was dumped at the side of a road. (The I.D.F.’s Buchman said, “No exceptional incidents were recorded during these arrests.” He added that no complaints were filed with military authorities.)
We watched a clip of crying children being passed from a gas-filled room out a second-story window, down a human ladder to the street. Early on, the villagers took all the children to one house during demonstrations, but when the soldiers began firing gas grenades into homes, the villagers decided it was safer to let them join the protests. We watched footage of a soldier dragging a 9-year-old boy in the street, of another soldier striking Manal’s 70-year-old mother. Finally, Nariman shook her head and turned off the disc player. “Glee” was on.
One Friday, shortly after the marchers had barricaded the road with boulders and burning tires in order to keep the army out of the village center, a white truck sped around the bend, a jet of liquid arcing from the water cannon mounted on its cab. Someone yelled, “Skunk!” and everyone bolted. Skunk water smells like many things, but mainly it smells like feces. Nariman wasn’t fast enough. A blast of skunk knocked her off her feet. Moments later, she was standing defiantly, letting the cannon soak her and waving a Palestinian flag at the truck’s grated windshield. An hour or so later, smelling of skunk and shampoo, she was serving tea to a dozen protesters.
Every Friday was a little different. Some demonstrations were short and others almost endless. Some were comic, others not at all. Some days the I.D.F. entered the village, and others they stuck to the hills. Sometimes they made arrests. The basic structure, though, varied little week to week: a few minutes of marching, tear gas fired, then hours of the village youth — the shebab, they’re called — throwing stones while dodging tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets until the sun set and everyone went home. Or failed to make it home.
It was strange, asymmetric combat: a few dozen masked shebab ranging in age from 8 to 38, armed with slings and stones, against 20 or more soldiers in armored vehicles and on foot, dressed in helmets and body armor, toting radios and automatic weapons. Theshebab put a great deal of thought into tactics, trying to flank and surprise the soldiers. But even when their plans were perfectly executed, they could not do much more than irritate their enemies. The soldiers, though, would inevitably respond with more sophisticated weaponry, which would motivate the shebab to gather more stones Friday after Friday despite — and because of — the fact that nothing ever seemed to change, for the better at least.
I asked one of the boys why he threw stones, knowing how futile it was. “I want to help my country and my village, and I can’t,” he said. “I can just throw stones.”
“We see our stones as our message,” Bassem explained. The message they carried, he said, was “We don’t accept you.” While Bassem spoke admiringly of Mahatma Gandhi, he didn’t worry over whether stone-throwing counted as violence. The question annoyed him: Israel uses far greater and more lethal force on a regular basis, he pointed out, without being asked to clarify its attitude toward violence. If the loincloth functioned as the sign of Gandhi’s resistance, of India’s nakedness in front of British colonial might, Bassem said, “Our sign is the stone.” The weekly clashes with the I.D.F. were hence in part symbolic. The stones were not just flinty yellow rocks, but symbols of defiance, of a refusal to submit to occupation, regardless of the odds. The army’s weapons bore messages of their own: of economic and technological power, of international support. More than one resident of Nabi Saleh reminded me that the tear gas used there is made by a company based in Pennsylvania.
One afternoon, I visited the family of Mustafa Tamimi, who was 28 when he died in December 2011 after being shot at close range with a tear-gas canister from the back of an Israeli Army jeep. (An I.D.F. investigation concluded, according to Buchman, that when the soldier fired the canister “his field of vision was obscured.”) The walls were covered with framed photos: an action shot of Mustafa in profile, his face behind a red Spider-Man mask as he slung a stone at soldiers outside the frame.
In the weeks before her son’s death, Ekhlas, his mother, told me that soldiers had twice come to the house looking for him. When she got a call that Friday asking her to bring Mustafa’s ID to the watchtower, she thought he’d been arrested, “like all the other times.” Beside me, Bahaa, a tall young man who was Mustafa’s best friend, scrolled through photos on a laptop, switching back and forth between a shot of Mustafa falling to the ground a few feet behind an I.D.F. jeep, and another, taken moments later, of his crushed and bloody face.
Ekhlas told me about a dream she’d had. Mustafa was standing on the roof, wearing his red mask. There were soldiers in the distance. She called to him: “Mustafa, come down! Everyone thinks you are dead — it’s better that they don’t see you.”
He turned to her, she said, and told her: “No. I’m standing here so that they will see me.”
“This is the worst time for us,” Bassem confided to me last summer. He meant not just that the villagers have less to show for their sacrifices each week, but that things felt grim outside the village too. Everyone I spoke with who was old enough to remember agreed that conditions for Palestinians are far worse now than they were before the first intifada. The checkpoints, the raids, the permit system, add up to more daily humiliation than Palestinians have ever faced. The number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has more than tripled since the Oslo Accords. Assaults on Palestinians by settlers are so common that they rarely made the news. The resistance, though, remained limited to a few scattered villages like Nabi Saleh and a small urban youth movement.
I sat down one afternoon in Ramallah with Samir Shehadeh, a former literature professor from Nabi Saleh who was one of the intellectual architects of the first intifada and whom I met several times at Bassem’s house. I reminded him of the car accident that ignited the first uprising and asked what kind of spark it would take to mobilize Palestinians to fight again. “The situation is 1,000 times worse,” he said. “There are thousands of possible sparks,” and still nothing has happened.
In the 1980s, youth organizers like Bassem focused on volunteer work: helping farmers in the fields, educating their children. They built trust and established the social networks that would later allow the resistance to coordinate its actions without waiting for orders from above. Those networks no longer exist. Instead there’s the Palestinian Authority. Immediately after the first Oslo Accord in 1993, the scholar Edward Said predicted that “the P.L.O. will . . . become Israel’s enforcer.” Oslo gave birth to a phantom state, an extensive but largely impotent administrative apparatus, with Israel remaining in effective control of the Palestine Authority’s finances, its borders, its water resources — of every major and many minor aspects of Palestinian life. More gallingly to many, Oslo, in Said’s words, gave “official Palestinian consent to continued occupation,” creating a local elite whose privilege depends on the perpetuation of the status quo.
That elite lives comfortably within the so-called “Ramallah bubble”: the bright and relatively carefree world of cafes, NGO salaries and imported goods that characterize life in the West Bank’s provisional capital. During the day, the clothing shops and fast-food franchises are filled. New high-rises are going up everywhere. “I didn’t lose my sister and my cousin and part of my life,” Bassem said, “for the sons of the ministers” to drive expensive cars.
Worse than any corruption, though, was the apparent normalcy. Settlements are visible on the neighboring hilltops, but there are no checkpoints inside Ramallah. The I.D.F. only occasionally enters the city, and usually only at night. Few Palestinians still work inside Israel, and not many can scrape a living from the fields. For the thousands of waiters, clerks, engineers, warehouse workers, mechanics and bureaucrats who spend their days in the city and return to their villages every evening, Ramallah — which has a full-time population of less than 100,000 — holds out the possibility of forgetting the occupation and pursuing a career, saving up for a car, sending the children to college.
But the checkpoints, the settlements and the soldiers are waiting just outside town, and the illusion of normalcy made Nabi Saleh’s task more difficult. If Palestinians believed they could live better by playing along, who would bother to fight? When Bassem was jailed in decades past, he said, prisoners were impatient to get out and resume their struggles. This time, he ran into old friends who couldn’t understand why he was still fighting instead of making money off the spoils of the occupation. “They said to me: ‘You’re smart — why are you doing this? Don’t you learn?’ ”
At times the Palestinian Authority acts as a more immediate obstacle to resistance. Shortly after the protests began in Nabi Saleh, Bassem was contacted by P.A. security officials. The demonstrations were O.K., he said they told him, as long as they didn’t cross into areas in which the P.A. has jurisdiction — as long, that is, as they did not force the P.A. to take a side, to either directly challenge the Israelis or repress their own people. (A spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, Gen. Adnan Damiri, denied this and said that the Palestinian Authority fully supports all peaceful demonstrations.) In Hebron, P.A. forces have stopped protesters from marching into the Israeli-controlled sector of the city. “This isn’t collaboration,” an I.D.F. spokesman, who would only talk to me on the condition that he not be named, assured me.“Israel has a set of interests, the P.A. has a set of interests and those interests happen to overlap.”
Bassem saw no easy way to break the torpor and ignite a more widespread popular resistance. “They have the power,” he said of the P.A., “more than the Israelis, to stop us.” The Palestinian Authority employs 160,000 Palestinians, which means it controls the livelihoods of about a quarter of West Bank households. One night I asked Bassem and Bilal, who works for the Ministry of Public Health, how many people in Nabi Saleh depend on P.A. salaries. It took them a few minutes to add up the names. “Let’s say two-thirds of the village,” Bilal concluded.
Last summer, my final Friday in Nabi Saleh was supposed to be a short day. One of theshebab was getting engaged to a girl from a neighboring village, and everyone planned to attend the betrothal ceremony. The demonstration would end at 3.
Four armored cars waited at the bend in the road, the skunk truck idling behind them. Manal pointed to the civilian policemen accompanying the soldiers. “There is a new policy that they can arrest internationals,” she explained. Earlier that month, as part of the effort to combat what Israelis call the “internationalization” of the conflict, the defense forces issued an order authorizing Israeli immigration police to arrest foreigners in the West Bank.
About half the marchers headed down the hillside. Soldiers waiting below arrested four Israelis and detained Bashir, the owner of the land around the spring. Everyone cheered as Mohammad raced uphill, outrunning the soldiers. (Three months later they would catch up to him in a night raid on his father’s house. He was imprisoned until late December.) I saw Nariman standing in the road with a Scottish woman. I walked over. Two soldiers grabbed the Scottish protester. Two more took me by the arms, pulled me to a jeep and shoved me in. I showed my press card to the driver. His expression didn’t change. Two frightened young women, both British, were already locked inside. After almost an hour, the soldiers brought a Swede and an Italian who had been hiding in the convenience-store bathroom. More soldiers piled in. I showed one my press card and asked if he understood that I was a journalist. He nodded. Finally, the driver pulled onto the road. As we passed the gas station, the shebab ran after us.
“They were so beautiful a few minutes ago, right?” the soldier beside me said as theshebab’s stones clanged against the jeep. “They were so cute.”
They drove us to the old British police station in the I.D.F. base in Halamish. While I was sitting on a bench, an I.D.F. spokesman called my cellphone to inform me that no journalists with press cards had been detained in Nabi Saleh. I disagreed. (The next day, according to Agence France-Presse, the I.D.F. denied I had been arrested.) A half-hour later, an officer escorted me to the gate.
As I walked back to Nabi Saleh, the road was empty, but the air was still peppery with tear gas. I made it back in time for the engagement party and flew home the next day. The five activists detained with me were deported. Two nights after I left, soldiers raided Bassem’s house. The following week, they raided the village five days in a row.
This past October, the popular resistance movement began to shift tactics, trying to break the routine of weekly demonstrations. They blocked a settler road west of Ramallah, and the following week staged a protest inside an Israeli-owned supermarket in the settlement industrial zone of Shaar Binyamin. Bassem was arrested outside the market — soldiers grabbed at Nariman and dragged Bassem off when he stepped forward to put his arms around her. Less than two weeks later, Waed was arrested at a Friday demonstration. Soldiers beat him, he said, “with their fists and their rifles.” When he appeared in court, Waed was still bruised. The judge threw out the charges. But while he was detained, he was in the same prison as his father and saw him briefly there. “When I said goodbye to him,” Waed told me with obvious pride, “he had tears in his eyes. I was stronger than him.”
On the day of Waed’s arrest, a camera caught Ahed shaking her fist, demanding that soldiers tell her where they were taking her brother. The Internet took over: video of the tiny, bare-armed blond girl facing down a soldier went viral. She and Nariman were invited to Istanbul, where, to their surprise, Nariman said, they were greeted at the airport by dozens of children wearing T-shirts printed with Ahed’s photo. They drove past billboards displaying Ahed’s image. Reporters followed them everywhere. Crowds gathered when they walked in the streets. They were taken to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the southeastern city of Urfa, Nariman said, and flew back with him to Istanbul on his plane.
Not everyone reacted so enthusiastically. One right-wing blogger dubbed Ahed “Shirley Temper.” The Israeli news site Ynet took the images as evidence that “Palestinian protesters use children to needle I.D.F. soldiers in the hope of provoking a violent response.”
In mid-November, Israeli rockets began falling on Gaza. Protests spread throughout the West Bank. “We thought it was the start of the third intifada,” Manal told me. The demonstrations in Nabi Saleh stretched beyond their usual Friday-evening terminus. One Saturday in November, Nariman’s brother Rushdie — who worked as a policeman near Ramallah and was rarely home on Fridays — joined the shebab on the hill. He was standing beside Waed when he was hit by a rubber-coated bullet. Then the soldiers began shooting live ammunition, but Rushdie was hurt and couldn’t run. As he lay on the ground, a soldier shot him in the back from a few meters away. Nariman ran to the hillside with her video camera and found her brother lying wounded. “I wanted to attack the soldier and die with Rushdie right there, but I knew I had to be stronger than that,” Nariman said. “Why is it required of me to be more humane than they are?” Rushdie, who was 31, died two days later. An I.D.F. investigation found that soldiers fired 80 shots of live ammunition and neglected to “control the fire.” The unit’s commander was reportedly relieved of his command.
When the fighting stopped in Gaza, the protests in the West Bank ceased. I went back to Nabi Saleh in January, three weeks before Bassem was expected home. The village seemed listless and depressed, as if everyone were convinced of the futility of continuing. On my first Friday back, the demonstration ended early: the shebab had a soccer match in another village. It rained the next week, and everyone went home after an hour. “We are still living the shock of Rushdie’s killing,” Mohammad told me.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, though, momentum was building. In late November, Netanyahu announced plans to build 3,400 settlement units in an area known as E1, effectively cutting off Jerusalem from the West Bank. Just before I arrived in January, popular-resistance activists tried something new, erecting a tent “village” called Bab al-Shams in E1, symbolically appropriating the methods of land confiscation employed by settlers. “The time has come now to change the rules of the game,” the organizers wrote in a news release, “for us to establish facts on the ground — our own land.” The numbers were relatively small — about 250 people took part, including Nariman and a few others from Nabi Saleh — and, on direct orders from Netanyahu, soldiers evicted everyone two days later, but the movement was once again making headlines around the globe. Copycat encampments went up all over the West Bank — some in areas where the popular resistance had not previously been active.
The day after his release, Bassem told me that even sitting in prison he had felt “a sense of joy” when he learned about Bab al-Shams. The popular resistance was finally spreading beyond the village demonstrations. “We have to create a sense of renewal,” he said, “not only in Nabi Saleh but on a larger scale.” The village’s losses — and his own — he acknowledged, were daunting. “The price is now higher,” he said, but “if we don’t continue, it would mean that the occupation has succeeded.” It would take constant creativity, he said, to hold onto the momentum. He didn’t know what it would look like yet, but just talking about it seemed to add inches to his height.
Within days, thousands of Palestinians would protest around the West Bank, first in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strikes to demand an end to the indefinite detention of Palestinians without trial, later in outrage at the death of a 30-year-old prisoner named Arafat Jaradat. Once again, the words “third intifada” were buzzing through the press. Avi Dichter, the head of Israeli domestic security during the second intifada and the current minister of Home Front Defense, cautioned in a radio interview that an “incorrect response by the security forces” might push the protests into full-out revolt.
When I saw Bassem in February, I asked him whether he was worried that the uprising might finally arrive at Nabi Saleh’s moment of greatest self-doubt, that it might catch the village drowsing. “It doesn’t matter who is resisting,” he said. “What’s important is that they are resisting.”
On the last Friday I was there, the wind was against the demonstrators. Nearly every grenade the soldiers fired, regardless of how far away it landed, blew a cloud of gas up the road right at them. A dozen or so villagers watched the clashes from the relative safety of the hillside. Bassem’s cousin Naji was sitting on a couch cushion. Mahmoud, Bassem’s nephew, poured coffee into clear plastic cups. Bright red poppies dotted the hill between the rocks. The way was clear, but no one tried to walk down to the spring.
When the demonstration seemed over, I trekked back to the village with a young Israeli in a black “Anarchy Is for Lovers” T-shirt. He told me about his childhood on a kibbutz bordering the Gaza Strip. His parents were “right-wing Zionists,” he said, “hard-core.” They didn’t talk to him anymore. A group of soldiers appeared behind us, and we ducked into Nariman’s yard as they tossed a few stun grenades over the wall. Later that evening, at Naji’s house, I watched Bilal’s video of the same soldiers as they strolled down the drive, lobbing tear-gas grenades until they reached their jeeps. They piled in and closed the armored doors. One door opened a crack. A hand emerged. It tossed one last grenade toward the camera. Gas streamed out, the door closed and the jeep sped off down the road.
Ben Ehrenreich won a 2011 National Magazine Award in feature writing. His most recent novel is “Ether,” published by City Lights Books.
EDITOR: Israel is working hard to silence filmmakers!
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi are to face legal action and serious harassment after the international success of their documentary 5 Broken Cameras. The intention is not only to break the filmmakers and punish them, but also to frighten others. The excellent Guy Davidi speaks about this to Huffpost, on video. The fascist Israeli state will stop at nothing. These filmmakers will need our support!
If you have not seen the film, rush to where it is showing, or get it on Amazon or netfix!
EDITOR: lone voices in the wilderness
The pogrom continues, as Israeli society keeps quiet about the lynch attempts, and the political leaders could not care less. As cases multiply, the claim that these are the isolated actions of disturbed individuals seem bizarre. Those are the actions of a society which is deeply disturbed, well beyond that which was already quite disturbing in recent Israel with its racist tradition. Uri Misgav and Ilene Prusher are the few who expose this national scandal of silent accommodation of pogroms.
No one has stood up. Neither the president of Israel nor the prime minister. Neither the minister of education nor the minister of justice. Neither chairmen of political parties nor mayors.
A young man from Tel Aviv who was injured in a road accident last week wrote on Facebook: “In the emergency room at Ichilov, on the bed next to mine, lay the waiter who was beaten by a mob because he is an Arab. He didn’t stop crying, and I wanted them to run me over again.”
The waiter had fallen victim to an attack by a gang of revelers at a beach restaurant. His sin was that he cleared the mayonnaise from their table before they had finished eating. This happened just a few days after an Israeli Arab, this time a cleaning worker, suffered very serious head injuries in a nighttime lynch attempt. Here too the attackers were Jewish partiers, here too it happened on the shores of the first Hebrew city. In that same week a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem was attacked by a gang of male and female Jews. The windows of a car driven by a Jewish teacher who was taking an Arab friend with her to offer condolences to a colleague were shattered by stones hurled by yeshiva students.
The public figures who arose to condemn the series of attacks – Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino – represent the operational side of things. They deserve to be saluted. Their policemen were sent to bring the guilty parties to justice and in some of the cases they have already completed their work. This is the minimum expected of a state of law, but in Israel of 2013 it turns out it is also the maximum. And this is already a horrifying phenomenon, even more so than the attacks themselves. History has proven that the mob has no depth. It functions as a channel or as a tool. The mob is not the real story. The important questions are what atmosphere prepares the ground for its actions and how they are received.
It is not complicated to understand why Arabs are attacked in Israel. The young man in a daze at Ichilov Medical Center belongs to a minority. Most of the public sees Arabs as second-class citizens, if as citizens at all, potential traitors who don’t rise for the singing of “Hatikva.” (“Without loyalty there is no citizenship,” said Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman). They don’t serve in the army (“equal sharing of the burden,” as the slogan goes) and therefore a wide variety of employment opportunities are closed to them, as is the right to live among Jews who seek a better standard of living (“acceptance committees” in rural communities). Their representatives are traditionally banned from being part of the government coalition (“Jewish majority”) and recently also from a bloc in parliament (“the Zouabis,” in the words of Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid, with whom he would never team up.)
This perception of superiority, this shameless racism, is increasing among parts of the religious and ultra-Orthodox public, where it is additionally validated by rabbinical rulings. Over the years this outlook has received legal encouragement from the state in the form of lenient treatment of Jews who harm Arabs. A case in point: the indictment for mere incitement which was filed against some of the participants in the lynch mob last year in Zion Square in Jerusalem. And beneath it all bubbles a national blood feud and the Israel Defense Forces’ melting pot, which trains Israelis to see Arabs through the sights of a gun, and which beyond the Green Line – Israel’s pre-1967 borders – initiates daily damage to the rights and dignity of Palestinians.
These basic givens could at least have been moderated a bit by means of displays of public leadership. Not clickings of the tongue, but rather, by means of simple a human action: visits to the people who were attacked. To ask how they are, to express regret and to send a sharp, clear message to the cameras and the microphones. But no one has stood up. Neither the president of Israel nor the prime minister. Neither the minister of education nor the minister of justice. Neither chairmen of political parties nor mayors.
This is the spirit of the times. It is manifested clearly in the words of the head of the Har Adar local council, Col. (res.) Aviram Cohen, who in reply to questions from Haaretz about a prohibition on movement by Palestinian workers in the community where they are building the houses, replied: “I don’t want there to be friction with Palestinians who are moving around freely. Incidentally, I also have a problem with feral dogs and I am also dealing with them. Not that I am comparing, heaven forefend.”
When an Arab attacks a Jew, he’s a terrorist, he’s been taught to hate. When a Jew attacks an Arab, he’s just a loner, an oddball, a bad egg. But we’ve seen so many bad eggs at this point that something here has begun to stink.
A schoolteacher was attacked on a Jerusalem street last week for no other reason than that she was wearing the headscarf of a religious Muslim woman. The pack of religious teenagers who accosted Wahad Abu-Zamira and her colleague Revital Valkov called the latter “a Jewish bitch who has Arab friends.”
A week earlier, a different Arab woman was attacked while she was waiting at a station of the Jerusalem light rail – the same rapid transit line which,when it opened not a year and-a-half ago, was touted as a peace train that would encourage coexistence between East and West Jerusalem. Teenage girls punched the woman – an ugly image caught on camera and transmitted across the world – but insist the veiled woman pushed them first.
Lest we pretend this is solely a Jerusalem problem, there was a similar racist incident in Upper Nazareth on Saturday night. But let’s also stop pretending that this is an aberration: just a few bad eggs, the riff-raff, a mean little cell of soccer fans that calls itself La Familia, that gang of fanswho want Beitar Jerusalem’s two recently acquired players, Chechan Muslims, off the team.
Let’s face it: Israel has a racism problem. Not just in the middle of a war or intifada, when expressions of hatred can be explained away against the backdrop of terrorism and rocket attacks, but also during times of “quiet,” as Israelis like to call it – because no one dares call it peace.
A woman being attacked while wearing a hijab in Jerusalem should disturb us as much as a Jew getting beat up for wearing a kippa in Paris. But acts of racism and hate crimes are becoming such a regular feature in the news lately that they almost seem like background noise, the price of life in a country with a perpetually unsolved conflict.
The Ministry of Education issued a statement after the latest attack, condemning the behavior towards Abu-Zamira, who is after all its employee – she and Valkov teach at a Ramat Hasharon junior high school and had come to Jerusalem to pay a condolence call at the home of the school’s principal. Haaretz reported the ministry’s statement in a story late last week:
“Because a number of violent and racist incidents have occurred recently, Education Ministry director-general Dalit Stauber has instructed that this coming Sunday, March 10, an hour of class time be devoted to a discussion on how to prevent such phenomena and their destructive ramifications for society,” theministry said in a statement, adding that relevant materials would be posted on the ministry website.
I decided to follow up on this directive to spend an hour of class time discussing the problem. I posted the question on two Facebook groups of parents who live in Israel – which together make up a total of about 1,450 members. Many people responded to say that they’d spoken about it with their teenagers, and not one found that the issue had actually been addressed as promised.
When I posed this to the Education Ministry and asked for a response to the apparent non-compliance of many schools, spokesman Shaul Pe’er sent me a one-line email in response: “All schools in Israel dealt with the matter!”
Phew. So glad that’s been dealt with.
I asked my friend Debora Siegel, a veteran teacher of English at Jerusalem’s prestigious Leyada, the popular name for the Hebrew University High School. She hadn’t received any particular instruction to address the issue for an hour on Sunday, and she would know: She’s also a mehanechet, the Israeli equivalent of a homeroom teacher. But it happens she brought it up in class, which she’s been doing more often, because the incidents seem to be growing in number.
“It feels like it’s getting worse and worse, though the kids tell me it’s always going on and it’s not new, that it’s just in the news more,” says Siegel, who immigrated to Israel from the U.S. and brings in texts from American writers such as Maya Angelou and Flannery O’Connor, along with readings on the civil rights movement. “I feel that the racism is more rampant, and that it’s happening all over the country. I notice it more from the kids’ mouths and in the newspapers. It’s not just about Arabs, it’s against foreign workers, it’s against Haredim.”
The school has been working on its own initiative, for example, to build bridges with schools in East Jerusalem. On Tuesday a group of students from Beit Hanina will be visiting Leyada and talking about their views on nonviolent protest, and how their lives are affected by living near a checkpoint.
Gilead Amir, the school’s principal, also doesn’t recall being informed of any specific directive from the Education Ministry to deal with the issue on March 10, though perhaps he missed it, he says.
“The idea to respond is good, and asking to us address the issue is something I support,” he says. “But it’s only meaningful when it comes as an enhancement to something that schools are dealing with as a part of their regular educational program. The point is not to stop and discuss the issue for an hour. What’s important is that it’s on the school’s agenda on a regular basis.” Leyada – a magnet school for bright kids – clearly thinks it’s a priority. It’s doubtful that the schools that need it most agree.
But the issue is so much larger than what the Ministry of Education says schools should do, and ultimately don’t do. Some of the most powerful messages are sent out by the police, when they release teenagers who are suspected of being responsible for the incident almost as soon as they’re arrested – as was the case in the attack on Abu-Samira.
Or when they accidentally lose hours of crucial taped testimony in the case of the “lynch” in Zion Square last summer, when an anti-Arab crowd of teenagers beat East Jerusalemite Jamal Julani within an inch of his life, leaving him unconscious and with no memory of the incident. (Two of the eight suspects will be convicted merely of “incitement to violence” in a plea bargain, the others’ cases are pending.) Or when no one is brought to justice in case of the Molotov cocktail attack on a Palestinian taxi during the same awful week last August; The attack horrifically burned seven members of the same family. (No arrests have been made in the attack on the Jayada family from Nahalin, other than the questioning of a few Bat Ayin youths who were released days later.)
A group called Tag Meir – or Light Tag, a pun on the growth of the “price tag” attacks perpetrated by extreme right-wingers – called for demonstration against the violence Sunday night. The turnout was small – no more than 200 people – “especially compared to last year’s rallies for economic reform held at the same spot,” noted journalist Lauren Gelfond Feldinger in her Facebook status. No major politicians – including the prime minister, in front of whose house the protest was held – bothered to show up.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the double-standards. When an Arab attacks a Jew, he’s a terrorist, he’s with the movement, he’s been taught to hate. When a Jew attacks an Arab, he’s just a loner, an oddball, a bad egg. But we’ve seen so many bad eggs at this point that something here has begun to stink – and can no longer be explained away as a phenomenon on the fringes.
EDITOR: Nothing to add to the report below. It unfortunately speaks too loudly for itself. Only a very sick society could come up with this.
Israeli forces have sprayed Palestinian homes in the village of Nabi Saleh with raw sewage as a punishment for organising weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall built on occupied West Bank land. Human rights watchdog B’Tselem published a video showing Israel’s armoured tanker trucks fitted with “water cannons” which spray the foul fluid at Palestinian protesters.B’Tselem said in a statement that the Israeli forces also targeted all the houses of the village with the sewage. The powerful jet broke windows and caused a great deal of damage in the houses, said the Israeli organisation. “It also causes environmental damage,” it pointed out. The non-lethal weapon has been added to the Israelis’ armoury for crowd control, said B’Tselem, even though the video shows clearly that it is also used against Palestinian-owned property.
The Israeli military has been looking for an alternative to tear gas canisters for crowd control, claiming that the Palestinians now know how to cope with the gas and its effects.
EDITOR: And they tell us boycott does not work…
Defense Ministry surprised at decision; company vows to appeal.
By Ora Coren | Mar.07, 2012
India has barred Israel Military Industries, as well as five other foreign defense contractors, from bidding for defense contracts in the country for 10 years. IMI was notified yesterday of Monday’s decision by the Indian Ministry of Defense and says it will appeal.
The ban followed an investigation by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. The agency, which completed its probe in 2009, concluded that there was sufficient evidence to implicate the blacklisted firms in bribing Sudipta Ghosh, the former director of Ordnance Factories, and other officers to win six contracts.
The companies were given hearings but the ministry found their explanations lacking.
The CBI recommended that action be taken against the companies. The decision is expected to affect not only IMI’s activities in India but also those of other Israeli defense firms.
Although the outcome of the investigation had long been known, the Israeli defense establishment greeted the decision with surprise. Defense officials said they thought the hearing process for IMI was still continuing. Earlier yesterday IMI said it hadn’t received official notice of the blacklist decision; the notice did however arrive later in the day.
“The Defense Ministry was surprised to hear of the decision by the Indian Ministry of Defense, because the hearing process for IMI against the intent of imposing sanctions on it had not been completed, and especially since IMI had very good claims against the move,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement yesterday, adding that it will consult with IMI on a response.
IMI said in a statement that it did and does obey the law and will continue to work with the Indian authorities to resolve the issue. In any case, it said, it plans to appeal on the grounds that the conclusion is based on “erroneous facts” and ignores information submitted by the company.
It is thought that IMI had only begun developing its operations in the Indian market and had signed an agreement to build a factory – the agreement that triggered the investigation. Since the probe began IMI has all but frozen its activities in India; no other deals have been reported.
India is considered a key export market for Israeli defense companies. All the players, including Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems, bid for Indian tenders. Some Israeli defense manufacturers are building factories in India, mainly to meet the requirements of reciprocal procurement agreements.
Industry sources outside IMI have expressed concern that IMI’s presence on the blacklist could affect other Israeli firms, though there have been no signs of any recoil yet.
They also suggested that the Indian decision could hamstring Israeli government efforts to privatize IMI. Since India had been considered one of its biggest customers, the loss could diminish IMI’s value.
The other companies placed on the blacklist were Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Rheinmetall Air Defence Zurich, Corporation Defence Russia, T.S. Kisan & Co. and R.K. Machine Tools. The last two are Indian companies.
Bribery allegations abound
In the past, Israel Aerospace Industries had been accused of landing jobs by bribing Indian officials. The company denied the allegations and was not part of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe.
Nor has there been any mention of adding IAI to the blacklist. After publication of the suspicions, IAI won billions of dollars worth of deals in India.
Earlier this week it turned out that Soltam, a member of the Elbit Systems group of companies, had been blacklisted by the Philippines back in July 2011, for one year.
Soltam is well known in Israeli households for its stainless steel cookware, but in military circles it’s better known for making advanced artillery systems, mortars, ammunition and auxiliary equipment. Elbit Systems bought the controlling interest in Soltam in 2010, after Soltam was accused of bribing officials in Kazakhstan. The company denied the allegations.
Soltam’s client in the Philippines was the army. The allegation against it isn’t corruption, it’s failing to deliver two orders before an October 2010 deadline. Elbit Systems did not comment on the move by Manila.
EDITOR: Is there something that Israel’s apologists cannot justify? Apparently not.
One of the UK’s leading academics says supporters of Israel need to accept historical facts that Israel committed “ethnic cleansing” in 1948 — and be clear that there is no contradiction between this and their support of Israel.
Oxford’s first professor of Israel studies, Derek Penslar, made the comments to the JC following a well-attended lecture at Manchester University’s Centre for Jewish Studies. The chair was made possible in 2011 through a £3 million endowment from the Stanley and Zea Lewis Foundation.
Professor Penslar said pro-Israelis needed to catch up with the past 30 years of academic scholarship that has accepted the “vast bulk of findings” by Zionist revisionist historians such as Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe about Israel’s actions in 1948.
He said: “What happened to the Palestinians, the Naqba, was not a genocide. It was horrible, but it was not a genocide. Genocide means that you wipe out a people. It wasn’t a genocide. It was ethnic cleansing.”
In his lecture, Professor Penslar made clear that there was no evidence to accept the conclusions of some who claimed that early Zionist leaders had a policy or programme of forced expulsions of Palestinians.
But, the professor said afterwards, people like him “could not lie about ethnic cleansing because of some concern that some extremist is going to try to use my words, to back up a point of view that he or she holds anyway.
“So people are refusing to believe [what happened], not because it’s not true, but even if it is true they do not want to distribute it. What I’m saying is that scholars have an obligation to tell the truth”.
The Palestinian struggle has been very interesting in terms of evidence about women’s place in society. The first Intifada, started in December 1987, was a time that women played an immense role; Not only were the street and community events led by women, but women were amongst the national and regional organisers of the resistance. Huge numbers of women ended up in jail, and became politically educated as a result. The great challenges of continuing daily life under such stress fell on women’s shoulders, as usual. There were no arms used by the protesters, which was also the result of women’s involvement. The whole Intifada grew from the ground up, and was a true popular uprising.
During the second Intifada, things were very different. The PLO has settled in Palestine in the meantime; the Oslo agreements were signed, then spurned and ignored by Israel. The Intifada started with a religious-linked event – the reaction to Sharon’s visit to the Haram Al-Sharif, intended to inflame Muslim and Arab opinion. It did so, and the Intifada started with armed resistance across Palestine, more or less excluding the masses of the population, with women’s involvement being minimal. The resitance was led by the armed organisations, with the PA playing a role itself in the early stages, until it started to police the events on Israel’s behalf. This pattern held for a number of years. Despite the great human cost, and enormous suffering, the Palestinian struggle has suffered during the last decade some serious reverses – especially since the building of the Apartheid wall, and the Gaza massacre during December 2008/January 2009, and since than in November 2012. Israel has acted illegally and brutally, seemingly without any efficient international resistance to its continued oppression in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Indeed, the violent nature of the struggle has sometimes assisted Israel in its propaganda war against Palestine, and has helped to galvanise Western support for Israeli war crimes – the violence of the weak, Fanon noted, is never treated in the same way as the violence of the mighty…
The current round of events is very different again. The continued atrocities everywhere, the speeding up of settlements and land theft, the completion of the Apartheid Wall, the growing daily evidence of racism and apartheid in all aspects of daily life, and recently, the murders and torture of Palestinian detainees in prison, as well as the long hunger strike by prisoners – all these have led to the renewal of popular struggle across the West Bank. Despite the great effort by the PA to control the demonstrations across the West Bank, the events now are led by activists and not by the armed resistance groups. Women are again playing there proper role in the struggle, and it is non-violent, direct action (NVDA) which directs the actions. May this trend continue and strengthen! A popular struggle is always the one likely to produce the more positive results.