Dubai murder

January 25, 2011

EDITOR: The Palestine Papers set the Middle East on new path

The importance of the Palestine Papers, appearing as they do after the popular uprising in Tunisia, and while such an uprising is probably in preparation in Egypt, will surely be judged by history, but one can suggest already that the papers may change the future direction of the conflict, for a number of reasons, and in a number of ways.

That the PA was corrupt, inefficient politically and ‘in the pocket’ of the Israelis, must have clear to all and sundry for a very long time, especially to those living in the Middle East. The fact the ‘leaders’ behind the PA failed miserably in the 2006 Palestine elections, is clear evidence to the level of support they garner in Palestine. The fact they continue to rule unelected, is also evidence to their democratic principles.

However, what is at stake here is much higher. Those ‘leaders’ have, according to the already published papers, been better representatives of Israel than of Palestine. They can see (and accept) the rationale for the Jewish state, and are arguaing for it with gusto. They are less persuaded, anmd less persuasive, on the topic of a Palestinian State.

On the topic of the refugees, they have argued for 0.2% of the refugees to be allowed back. That is really great. Never mind that their love object, Zippy Livni, told them that ‘even one refugee’ is too many. They are quite happy for the US authorities to suggest new locations for the refugees – currently it is South America, next it be the South Pole, and maybe the Moon can also be tried… What do they care about the refugees – as they have signed up for the Likud programme, the refugees can get lost.

They also agree to all of the settlements around Jerusalem, bar one, which is mighty nice of them, seeing that that is exactly what Israel wants and expects of them. They also are discussing an ethnic cleansing, moving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Israel to Palestine, in the Triangle area, without ever bothering to ask those Palestinians for their views, just to make Israel more Jewish. Well, they can say – “after all, the US has not asked Chile or Argentina if they wish to take millions of Palestinian refugees, so why should we ask anyone…” So, they are just following the big boys, US and Israel, who, as Livni says to them in one of the documents:”I don’t care about the law, especially international law. I do not accept it.”And who is going to force her to accept it? Not Obama, I don’t think.

Well, all in all, Abass and Kureia are really nice guys, don’t you think? They just don’t wish to create problems for Israel, and why should they? Better that the Palestinians have the problems – after all, they had them for almost seventy years.

Those who think that this will pass and life will be just the same, are very much mistaken, I reckon.

It is also nice to know the MI6, UK’s intelligence arm, is not only illegally infiltrating environmental organisations in Europe with ‘sleeping agent’s which work for years and act an agent provocateurs like the Cheka once did, but also dip their toes into the Palestine puddle, and help to fight the party which won the Palestine elections!

The Palestine Papers Second Installment

Palestine papers: Browse the documents: The Guardian

Use our interactive to explore the most explosive leak ever of confidential documents from inside the Middle East peace process. Click on a location to see related papers

Palestine papers reveal MI6 drew up plan for crackdown on Hamas: The Guardian

• Internment and replacement of imams among measures
• Document proposed ‘direct lines’ to Israeli intelligence
• New files reveal Israel requested assassination of militant

British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. The plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.

The disclosure of the British plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior PA security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.

It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues that need urgent attention.

Under the heading “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists”, the MI6 Palestinian Security Plan recommends “the detention of key middle-ranking officers” of Hamas and other armed groups, adding: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding.”

The latest leaks come as US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said they would “at least for a time, make the situation more difficult”, while the senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath acknowledged that the documents were genuine and Palestinian groups in Latin America reacted with shock to the revelation that former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had privately suggested Palestinian refugees be settled in Chile or Argentina.

Among the newly released confidential PA documents is an extraordinary account of a 2005 meeting between Israel’s then defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and the PA’s interior minister, Nasser Youssef.

Referring to Hassan al-Madhoun, a commander in the armed Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who was held responsible by Israel for a suicide attack the previous year, Mofaz asked Yousef: “We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Yousef replied: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited.” Israel killed Madhoun a few months later in a drone missile attack on his car.

The PLO’s chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior US official David Hale in 2009: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law … We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”

Erekat also complained to US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the documents reveal, undermining the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory, and urged that more be done by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons. In an echo of the proposals in the British documents, Erekat told Hale: “We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the zakat [religious charitable donations] and the sermons in the mosque.”

The intelligence papers highlight the far-reaching official British involvement in building up the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus in the West Bank, which was led from the late 1990s by the CIA and recently has focused on the build-up of forces under General Keith Dayton, who was US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October.

Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer who also worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said that the British documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the Palestinian elections in 2006.

The PA’s security control of the West Bank has become harsher and more extensive since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial in recent years, and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses. In a meeting with Palestinian officials in 2009, Dayton is recorded praising the PA’s security: “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people.

“I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before,” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

Palestine papers: Mosques and radio stations included in secret MI6 plan: The Guardian

Evidence in leaked documents highlights role British officials played in creating and bolstering PA administration
MI6 said the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair, pictured above with Mahmoud Abbas, to tie security policy to a US-led ‘counter-surge’ against Hamas. Photograph: Brian Hendler/Getty Images
The Palestinian Authority’s security strategy to crush Hamas and other armed groups on the West Bank was originally drawn up by Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, leaked papers reveal.

The strategy included internment of leaders and activists, closure of radio stations and replacement of imams in mosques – the bulk of which has since been carried out.

Two documents drafted by the Secret Intelligence Service in conjunction with other Whitehall departments, which are among the cache given to al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian, are understood to have been passed to Jibril Rajoub, former head of PA security in the West Bank, at the beginning of 2004 by an MI6 officer then based at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

The evidence uncovered by the leaked documents highlights the role British officials and security advisers have played in creating and bolstering the PA administration in the West Bank, which is backed and financed by the US, the EU and most Arab states as it pursues what are now all but moribund peace talks with Israel.

Hamas, which won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and is backed by Iran and Syria, carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Israel from the mid-1990s and was the target of Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008. It opposes negotiations with Israel except on a long-term ceasefire and will not recognise it. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller group, has similar positions.

The PA is increasingly the target of domestic and international criticism for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British papers, one of which is headed Palestinian Security Plan – Confidential, included detailed proposals for a new security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted PA contacts” outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, a British/US security “verification team”, and “direct lines” to Israeli intelligence.

Issues include suicide bombing, weapons smuggling, Qassam rockets and “terror finance”. The SIS and other leaked British official documents have been independently authenticated by the Guardian.

In the most controversial section, the 2004 MI6 plan recommends “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists – Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and the [Fatah-linked] Al Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources”.

The document adds: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding” – reflecting a concern to distance the intelligence agency from the PA security organisations’ established reputation for prisoner abuse.

The MI6 strategy, which was drawn up to implement George Bush’s Middle East “road map” as the second Palestinian intifada was winding down, can then be traced through a sequence of more public Palestinian, EU and British documents and plans, and has now been largely implemented by the US and British-advised PA security apparatus.

The leaked intelligence plan can be seen in retrospect as a blueprint for PA security control of the West Bank, which has become harsher and more extensive since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial at a time in recent years and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses.

In a meeting with US official David Hale in September 2009, the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is recorded as saying that PA prime minister Salam Fayyad was “doing everything possible to build the institutions. We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the Zakat [charitable religious donations] and the sermons in the mosques” – echoing what had been proposed nearly six years earlier by British intelligence.

The former MI6 officer Alistair Crooke, who worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said today that the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the 2006 elections.

The CIA played the central role in building up PA security forces from the late 1990s, in close co-operation with the Israeli military and intelligence, detailed in the leaked documents. But particularly after the killing of three US officials in the Gaza strip in 2003, British forces played an increasingly active role – though always in close co-operation with their counterpart US agency, according to diplomatic sources.

The sequence of leaked British documents begins with an unmarked but detailed MI6 draft of the security plan, faxed from the Egyptian embassy, at a time when the agency was working closely with Egyptian intelligence; continues with the second more formal paper jointly drafted by SIS, which floats internment; and is then translated into a series of official papers drafted by the Jerusalem consulate’s military liaison office, which liaises with British special forces, the SAS and SBS.

The documents confirm that by 2005, British projects under the Palestinian security plan – first drafted and passed to the PA under MI6 auspices – included extensive funding of the most controversial parts of the PA security apparatus, including general intelligence, special forces and preventive security under the heading of “UK-Palestinian projects”.

The last in particular has been the subject of repeated and widespread allegations and evidence of torture, including by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. More recently, the British government has denied directly funding the PA’s preventive security.

US general Keith Dayton, who, along with a string of British deputies was in charge of building up Palestinian security forces as US security co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October, is recorded in the leaked Palestinian records as complaining about torture by PA intelligence in a meeting with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat in June 2009. “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them,” Dayton says. “But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people”, adding: “I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

In an interview with al-Jazeera, former Dayton deputy US colonel Phillip Dermer described the PA as constituting a “police state” and its security forces as an outsourced “third Israeli security arm”.

Many of those now arrested and detained in the West Bank appear to have no connection to any armed group or activity. Records of a May 2008 meeting between Israeli general Amos Gilad and the head of PA security forces, Major General Hazem Atallah, refer to a senior Israel security official identified as “Poly” who asked: “How is your fight against ‘civilian’ Hamas: the offices, people in municipalities etc? This is a serious threat.”

Atallah is recorded as replying: “I don’t work at political level, but I agree we need to deal with this” – to which Poly retorts: “Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your president. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.”

Another leaked PA security document from 2005, drawn up by a Palestinian official, confirms the central role played by British officials in “unifying Palestinian security efforts” and identifies a former PA senior security figure, Bashir Nafi, as having “strong ties with the British”.

Along with Abed Alloun, Nafi was a deputy to Rajoub. Alloun and Nafi were killed in a bomb attack in Amman in 2005. Alloun, a Liverpool football fan, told the Guardian in 2003 he had been flown by MI6 to Britain and taken to see Liverpool play at Anfield and given a ball signed by Michael Owen.

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January 21, 2011

EDITOR: The western hypocrisy

The whole world seems to know and care about ONE Israeli soldier caught by Hamas in Gaza few years ago. None of those humanists actually knows or cares at all about the many Palestinian political prisoners – more than 10,000 of them – who are languishing in Israeli jails for many years. One Israeli Jew is obviously more important than ten thousand Palestinians.

Palestinian protesters block France FM from entering Gaza: Haaretz

Demonstrators say infuriated over comments by Michele Alliot-Marie in support of Gilad Shalit; member of Alliot-Marie’s entourage hit in the head.

Hamas security officer trying to clear the way for French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's convoy to enter the Gaza Strip, January 21, 2011. Photo by: Reuters

A crowd of furious Palestinian protesters have tried to block the French foreign minister on her way into the Gaza Strip, jumping on her vehicle and lying on the road.

Dozens of protesters surrounded Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie’s convoy and tried to block her passage through the Erez Crossing from Israel on Friday. The protesters were relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

They were angry about comments made by Alliot-Marie on Thursday in support of Gilad Shalit, an the Israel Defense Forces soldier held by Hamas militants in Gaza since 2006.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said her comments reflected a total bias toward Israel.

Hamas police eventually dispersed the protesters and allowed her through.

A member of Alliot-Marie’s entourage was hit in the head and later examined at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

On Friday afternoon, Alliot-Marie visited the southern town of Sderot.

On Thursday, Alliot-Marie met Aviva and Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit’s parents, in Jerusalem, where she said that Shalit had “been held hostage for over four years. His complete isolation and preventing any sign of life from him is completely inhumane. We demand his immediate release.”

Shalit is a French citizen, and France “is using all its ties in the region to advance his release,” she said.

France’s role in freeing Shalit is secondary because Israel and Hamas chose the German mediator to negotiate the soldier’s release following to his success in dealing with Hezbollah, she said.

Due to the issue’s sensitivity, Alliot-Marie chose not to comment on the talks and the reports about a new deal being negotiated.

Angry protests greet French foreign minister in Gaza: The Guardian

Palestinians pelt Michèle Alliot-Marie’s car with eggs and shoes after she meets family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

Protesters attempt to stop the French foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie’s car as she arrives in Gaza. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features
Palestinian protesters mobbed the car of the French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, as she arrived in Gaza today.

Dozens of people attempted to block Alliot-Marie’s convoy and hurled eggs and shoes at her jeep. The protesters banged on the vehicle and yelled at the minister to leave Gaza, Reuters reported.

The protesters, relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, were furious over comments attributed to the minister a day earlier when she met the parents of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier being held captive by the Islamist group Hamas.

After the meeting Israeli radio quoted Alliot-Marie as saying the continued detention of Gilad Shalit, seized by Palestinian fighters in 2006, was a “war crime”.

A spokeswoman in her entourage told Reuters: “The minister was misquoted by Israeli media over Shalit’s issue.” French reporters travelling with Alliot-Marie said the term “war crime” was actually used by Noam Shalit – Gilad Shalit’s father – and not by the minister.

In her first visit to the region since being appointed foreign minister last year, Alliot-Marie was greeted with hostility by the dozens of demonstrators brandishing photographs of their imprisoned sons and husbands.

Gazans said they were angry that Alliot-Marie had made no mention of the several thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. “Get out of Gaza!” read one banner. “There is one Gilad Shalit but also 7,000 Palestinian prisoners,” said another.

Germany has tried for months to broker a deal to secure Shalit’s release in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners but the sides are deadlocked over several high-profile inmates.

It has been a torrid week for Alliot-Marie. On Monday the Guardian reported that she had outraged liberals and human rights activists by proposing last week to send French security forces to Tunis to shore up the unpopular regime. Three days later the Tunisian dictator fled to Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday she was summoned to explain her remarks to the foreign affairs commission of the national assembly, the lower house of parliament, where she said her offer had been “misrepresented” and had been aimed at helping the Tunisian people, not propping up repression. She was “scandalised” that her comments had been distorted.

Alliot-Marie made a short speech to reporters on Friday saying France remained committed to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “France cares for Gaza. France will not abandon Gaza,” she told Reuters. “I stress to you France’s determination to achieve a dual goal: establishing a Palestinian state and guaranteeing the security of Israel.”

EDITOR: Ban Ki-moon discovers the settlements

As one of Israel’s strongest backers, it is interesting that Ban Ki-moon has just now discovered that settlements are illegal... he used all his powers for years to shield Israel from the implications of its many illegal acts.

UN chief: Settlements are illegal, hamper peace efforts: Haaretz

Palestinians have right to an independent state, Israel has right to live in peace within secure borders, and way must be found for Jerusalem to be capital of two states, Ban Ki-moon tells UN committee.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon slammed Israel’s refusal to halt West Bank settlement building, saying that this refusal seriously hampered peace talks with the Palestinians, AFP reported on Friday.

“Settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, contravene the Road Map obligations of Israel, undermine confidence, prejudge the outcome of the permanent status negotiations and hamper efforts at bringing the parties back to the negotiating table,” he told a UN committee dealing with Palestinian issues on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Arab nations submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but a vote on it is not expected any time soon because of a likely U.S. veto.

The secretary-general also called for a halt to “irresponsible rhetoric” that questions a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and incites hatred and violence.

Palestinians have the right to an independent state, Israel has a right to live in peace within secure borders, and a way must be found for Jerusalem to emerge as the capital of the two states, Ban said.

Diplomats say that the point of the draft resolution condemning settlement building is to highlight Washington’s isolated position on the Security Council, show the Palestinian population that the Palestinian Authority is taking action, and to pressure Israel and the United States on the settlement issue.

Council diplomats said privately that the 15-nation panel was unlikely to take any action on the draft resolution in the near future – if at all – because of the likely veto.

It has nearly 120 co-sponsors, exclusively Arab and other non-aligned nations. UN diplomats said that the draft would probably receive 14 votes in favor and the one veto if put to an immediate vote.

The draft says that “Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts to revive direct peace talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed last year after Israel failed to extend a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

Israel has repeatedly called for a resumption of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel first agrees to halt settlement work.

Obama must call Israeli settlements illegal: The Guardian

US support for a UN resolution on the settlements would remind Netanyahu that there are consequences for breaking the law

“To veto or not to veto?” That is the agonising question that has President Barack Obama pacing the battlements of the White House waiting to dodge the slings and arrows of outraged Aipac. Provoked by the latest demolition in East Jerusalem, no fewer than 120 countries have sponsored a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. Hillary Clinton has also condemned it as “illegitimate”, but the resolution introduces precision by terming the settlements as “illegal”.

In a country where “all politics is local”, and in the face of the economic crisis, Obama could almost be forgiven for dropping the ball in the Middle East game. But his response to the current resolution could well determine whether there is any wind left in the sails of the peace flotilla he launched with his speeches in Egypt and Turkey directed at the Muslim world.

Every other member of the UN security council agrees that settlements are illegal, including Britain and France. The international court of justice has affirmed their illegality. The US once called them illegal, then termed them unhelpful, and currently regards them as “unhelpful” and “illegitimate”. Under the road map of 2003, Israel agreed to stop them, but it has ignored the rest of the world and its best friend, the US, and continued to build. Even President Bill Clinton officially reduced the amount of US loan guarantees by the sum spent on settlements.

In the face of Binyamin Netanyahu’s defiance, so far the US response, engineered by Dennis Ross – who seems to have frozen out the official peace negotiator, George Mitchell – has been to attempt to bribe Israel with billions of dollars, free jet fighters and a free “get out of the security council” card in the form of a veto. The handsome offer was for a temporary moratorium.

Washington’s line is to ignore UN decisions and international law and say that it is up to the parties to negotiate such “permanent-status issues”. The state department itself is clearer on the issues. After years of congressional votes, it still balks at moving the US embassy to Jerusalem (which hosts not a single foreign embassy) because, regardless of eventual negotiations, Israel does not have internationally recognised title to the city.

It is as if you have caught someone stealing your car and the police decide to overlook technical issues like the law and ownership and instead tell you to negotiate with the thief to get occasional access to the back seat.

In this week’s security council debate on the resolution, deputy US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo used theological nicety to explain Washington’s difficulty in supporting a resolution that, on the face of it, reflects US official policy. “We believe that continued settlement expansion is corrosive – not only to peace efforts and the two-state solution – but to Israel’s future itself. The fate of existing settlements is an issue that must be dealt with by the parties, along with the other permanent-status issues – but, like every US administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”

However, she added: “Permanent-status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties – and not by recourse to the security council. We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this council and will continue to do so.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, is usually tactfully absent during such debates, keeping her credibility by allowing deputies to intone the weaselly formulas that disguise the stark truth. Annexation and settlement building are illegal.

Of course, Obama has other problems, such as the economy and healthcare, and on the Middle East must face not only a rabidly pro-Israeli Republican party but also a majority of his own party that would sign up to a resolution declaring the moon to be made of blue cheese if the Israeli lobby demanded it.

Nonetheless, his credibility as president is at stake here. The Republicans do control the House of Representatives, and indeed the chair of the foreign affairs committee is now Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who outflanks the Israeli government on the right. (She has been trying to de-fund UNRWA, the UN’s agency that provides basic services in the occupied territories, even though the Israeli government, which would have to pay if the UN didn’t, opposes her.) But Congress cannot control the US delegation to the UN.

It is surely time for Obama “to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them”. This week, a letter landed on the White House doormat from a phalanx of foreign policy and government professionals urging him to support the resolution. He should take their advice.

The public exasperation implied by support for the security council resolution sends a signal to Netanyahu that there are indeed consequences for ignoring the advice of your best friend, let alone breaking the law. It might make the Israeli prime minister more amenable, and it would certainly send a signal to the Israeli electorate that Netanyahu had terminally alienated the White House.

It would not alienate the American electorate, not even American Jews. Those who support Netanyahu tend to be those who think the president is a foreign-born crypto-Muslim anyway. It would bring cheer to the J-Street movement, whose peacenik views more closely reflect those of most American Jews than Likud does.

And it would do more than any other single act to demonstrate respect for international law and restore the credibility of American diplomacy.

Indeed, Obama could follow up and demand the IRS check on the tax deductibility of American “charities” and foundations that bankroll settlement building, including Irving Moskowitz, who recycles the proceeds of inner-city gambling in the US to buy and demolish property in East Jerusalem, such as the Shepherd Hotel, with the conscious aim of frustrating the declared policy of every US government since 1967. Some of the money, however, he sends as donations to politicians like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

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January 9, 2011

EDITOR: The Boycott is biting, and Israeli academics are running scared!

In a move designed to counter the BDS movement against Israeli academia and its collusion in the occupation and its brutalities, 155 Israeli academics have called for a boycott of the the Ariel College. The assumption is that if they themselves are boycotting Ariel, it will be difficult for the BDS movement to boycott them…

Nonetheless, this is an important development, and a clear sign of the efficacy of the BDS movement’s activities

Israel Prize laureates join academic boycott of settlement university: Haaretz

155 academics sign petition calling Ariel, where the education center is located, an illegal settlement whose existence contravenes international law and the Geneva Convention.

Some 155 university and college faculty members have signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of the Ariel University Center.
In the petition, the lecturers state their “unwillingness to take part in any type of academic activity taking place in the college operating in the settlement of Ariel.” Furthermore, the petition states that “Ariel is not part of the sovereign state of Israel, and therefore it is impossible to require us to appear there.”

Among the signatories are three Israel Prize laureates – professors Yehoshua Kolodny of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Benjamin Isaac of Tel Aviv University and Itamar Procaccia of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“We, academics from a variety of fields and from all the institutions of higher learning in Israel, herein express publicly our opposition to the continued occupation and the establishment of settlements,” the petition states. “Ariel was built on occupied land. Only a few kilometers away from flourishing Ariel, Palestinians live in villages and refugee camps under unbearably harsh conditions and without basic human rights. Not only do they not have access to higher education, some do not even have running water. These are two different realities that create a policy of apartheid,” the petition also says.

The signatories state that Ariel was an illegal settlement whose existence contravened international law and the Geneva Convention. “It was established for the sole purpose of preventing the Palestinians from creating an independent state and thus preventing us, citizens of Israel, from having the chance to ever live in peace in this region.”

The petition was initiated and organized by Nir Gov of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Chemical Physics. Unlike other such initiatives, over a third of the list’s signatories are from the natural and exact sciences.

Gov, who started organizing the petition a few weeks ago, said it was important to show that not only people known from other petitions support a boycott of Ariel, and therefore this petition has among its signatories many scholars who are not from the social sciences and the humanities.

“Israeli academia must differentiate itself from the ‘settlement’ academia,” said Gov. “Only significant differentiation can help our supporters abroad who are working against an academic boycott of Israel. This assistance is important, but all in all it is secondary to the principled stand that the goal of the establishment of the college at Ariel was not teaching and academic research, but political. It may be too late, but we felt a need to state in the clearest language that Israeli academia must not be involved in the settlement project,” Gov also said.

Gov said he encountered some colleagues who agreed with the message of the petition but were afraid to sign. He said such fear, “in the current atmosphere, is understandable, tangible. Even if there is no official action against the signatories, we may pay some sort of price.”

About three weeks ago, the Council For Higher Education issued a public statement against calls by Israeli academics for an academic boycott of Israel. The council, which is headed by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, said such calls “undermine the foundations of the higher education system.”

However, Gov said there is no contradiction between the council’s statement and the petition. “The council says rightly that there is a danger of delegitimization of the academic system in Israel. We say the source of this danger is Ariel and the settlements.”

Yigal Cohen-Orgad, chairman of the Ariel college’s executive committee, said: “A tiny and bizarre minority of some 150 lecturers is behind the petition, out of 7,000 faculty members. The cooperation between the Ariel University Center and many hundreds of scholars from universities in Israel and many hundreds more from 40 universities abroad, is the response to this petition. We know the heads of the universities oppose the call for a boycott and all it entails. I am sure that academia will continue to cooperate with us.”

Hopes of Gaza cast in lead: Al Jazeera online

Israel is gearing up for another major offensive into Gaza, yet the world community still remains bafflingly silent.
Richard Falk

Thousands of Turkish protestors greet with Palestinian and Turkish flags from harbour and boats as the Mavi Marmara ship returns to Istanbul after Israel's deadly raid

It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza – code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis – that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza.

The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new major IDF attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying “It’s not a question of if, but rather of when,” a view that that is shared, according to Ren-Yishai, by “government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region”.

The bloody-minded Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that, “as long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete”. He adds with unconscious irony, “we have not lost our right of self-defence”.

More accurate would be the assertion, “we have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity”.

And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine?

Red herrings

Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations.

Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip, including near the civilian-crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others.

Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes.

As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility. As if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force.

Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: “We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from ‘safe havens’ amid [their] civilians.”

With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenceless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.

Silence is complicity

Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations.

World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of a one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population.

This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations system.

We have witnessed the carnage of ‘preemptive war’ and ‘preventive war’ in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of ‘preemptive peace’ and ‘preventive peace.’ How long must the peoples of the world wait?

It might be well to recall the words of one anonymous Gazan that were uttered in reaction to the attacks of two years ago: “While Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighbourhood, the UN, the EU, and the Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.”

International liberal public opinion enthuses about the new global norm of ‘responsibility to protect,’ but not a hint that if such an idea is to have any credibility it should be applied to Gaza with a sense of urgency where the population has been living under a cruel blockade for more than three years and is now facing new grave dangers.

And even after the commission of the atrocities of 2008-09 have been authenticated over and over by the Goldstone Report, by an exhaustive report issued by the Arab League, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no expectation of Israeli accountability, and the United States effectively uses its diplomatic muscle to bury the issue, encouraging forgetfulness in collaboration with the media.

Truths

It is only civil society that has offered responses appropriate to the moral, legal, and political situation. Whether these responses can achieve their goals, only the future will tell.

The Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla have challenged the blockade more effectively than the UN or governments, leading Israel to retreat, at least rhetorically, claiming to lift the blockade with respect to the entry of humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.

Of course, the behavioural truth contradicts the Israeli rhetoric: sufficient supplies of basic necessities are still not being allowed to enter Gaza; the water and sewage systems are seriously crippled; there is not enough fuel available to maintain adequate electric power; and the damage from Operation Cast Lead remains, causing a desperate housing crisis (more than 100,000 units are needed just to move people from tents).

Also, most students are not allowed to leave Gaza to take advantage of foreign educational opportunities, and the population lives in a locked-in space that is constantly being threatened with violence, night and day.

This portrayal of Gaza is hardly a welcoming prospect for the year 2011. At the same time the spirit of the people living in Gaza should not be underestimated.

I have met Gazans, especially young people, who could be weighed down by the suffering their lives have brought them and their families since their birth, and yet they possess a positive sense of life and its potential, and make every use of any opportunity that comes their way, minimising their problems and expressing warmth toward more fortunate others and enthusiasm about their hopes for their future.

I have found such contact inspirational, and it strengthen my resolve and sense of responsibility: these proud people must be liberated from the oppressive circumstances that constantly imprisons, threatens, impoverishes, sickens, traumatises, maims, kills.

Until this happens, none of us should sleep too comfortably!

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

The IDF uses propaganda like an authoritarian regime: Haaretz

Instead of working toward revealing the truth behind the recent death of an anti-fence demonstrator the IDF is reaching into its bag of lies.
By Gideon Levy
Jawaher Abu Ramah died young. She stood facing the demonstrators against the separation fence in her village, inhaled very large quantities of the gas that Israel Defense Forces soldiers fired that day, collapsed and died several hours later at a Ramallah hospital.

These are definitive facts. The IDF should have immediately issued a statement expressing sorrow for the death of the demonstrator, and said it would investigate the excessive means used for dispersing demonstrations at Bil’in, which had killed Bassem, Jawaher’s brother, for no reason. He was hit by a gas canister fired directly at his chest two and a half years ago.

So, the IDF began with the spreading of lies, making up facts and spinning tales, originating with officers who did not dare identify themselves. Following the investigation into Jawaher’s death, it is also necessary to investigate how the army dares to distort in this way. Perhaps it will disturb Israeli society more than the death of a demonstrator.

It started with the first announcement of the IDF spokesman who spoke of an “illegal demonstration.” Illegal, Avi Benayahu? Stealing land for the construction of enormous settlements and the enrichment of questionable developers is legal; the defense establishment’s continuously ignoring the High Court decision that the fence route needs to be changed is legal; the killing of Bassem is legal; and only the demonstration is illegal. Why is it illegal? Are the Palestinians and the anti-occupation activists not entitled to demonstrate? What demonstrations can be more legitimate than peasants protesting against the theft of their lands – demonstrations that resulted in the High Court ruling? How could the Palestinians demonstrate legally? And why are the IDF and the police capable of dispersing the demonstrations of wild and violent settlers without deaths and only the dispersal of Palestinian demonstrations becomes – not for the first time – fatal?

But that was not enough. The day after Jawaher was killed, the IDF began disseminating lies. It’s not clear why the army chose to embark on this campaign since a day after Jawaher’s death IDF soldiers intentionally killed a youth carrying a bottle at the Bik’ot crossing, but that did not stir any outburst. The IDF left little that it did not disseminate about poor Jawaher. It was said that she died at home in peace, and not in hospital. Oops, it was proved that she died in hospital. When the IDF learned that this trick did not succeed, it came up with other stories, a bag full of lies. Jawaher was not at the demonstration. There are no photos of her. She was there, observing from about 100 meters, and was choked by the smoke.

Another lie from the bag of the IDF: Jawaher had cancer, not just any cancer, but leukemia. She stood at the demonstration and suddenly collapsed and died of leukemia. Where did they pull that from? Perhaps because her father died of leukemia five years ago. Blood? Through its propagandists in the media, the IDF said that the funeral was “strange,” that her face was “covered” and that her body was covered in a “blood-soaked” shroud (perhaps she cut her wrists? ). No one saw the shroud, nor the covered face – only God knows their importance, but whatever. It’s enough that the IDF says leukemia and bloody shroud for the army or right-wing analysts to raid the media and spread their tales.

Jawaher watched the demonstration, inhaled gas, collapsed, was taken, in serious condition, by ambulance, to the hospital and died there the next day. As far as anyone knows, she did not suffer from leukemia. She had complained of vertigo, and the doctor diagnosed an ear infection. There was no autopsy, and the inventions on her medical past only desecrated the honor of the dead and her family. Even if she was taking medicine, as the IDF disseminated, did she not die as a result of inhaling gas?

It’s good to know that the death of Jawaher is on the IDF’s conscience. That is how it should be. All 21 Palestinian anti-fence demonstrators who were killed over the years, and with them dozens activists who were injured, including an American student who lost her eye during the summer, should also be on its conscience. But the way to deal with a troubled conscience needs to be through the exposure of the truth, not through lies. For the attention of the new IDF spokesman: The IDF is not a propaganda ministry of an authoritarian regime.

Click here to continue reading “January 9, 2011″ »

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January 8, 2011

EDITOR: The lies continue! Having caused the death of a female bystander at a peaceful protest in the West Bank (not for the first time) by tear gas, the IOF is doing its best to harm and hurt her family, by publishing lies:

Israeli military and Palestinians clash over death of West Bank woman: The Guardian

The death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, who collapsed after inhaling teargas has sparked a war of words, threatening a controversy akin in scale to 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura’s death in 2000

Mourners carry Jawaher Abu Rahma, a 36-year-old Palestinian woman who died overnight after being teargassed by Israeli troops at a West Bank protest Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Mourners carry Jawaher Abu Rahma, a 36-year-old Palestinian woman who died overnight after being teargassed by Israeli troops at a West Bank protest Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images The death of a Palestinian woman following a West Bank village protest in which teargas was fired by Israeli soldiers has become a battleground of competing narratives between the victim’s family, Israeli military sources and advocates on both sides of the conflict. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, described the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma last weekend as an “Israeli crime carried out by the occupation army against our helpless nation”. In contrast, unnamed Israeli military sources told Yedioth Ahronoth, a mass circulation newspaper: “This is the new Muhammad al-Dura story and an attempt to delegitimise Israel.” Al-Dura was the 12-year-old boy shot dead in Gaza in 2000 while cowering behind his father, who tried to shield him during a gunbattle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. Images of the terrified boy became a symbol of the Second Intifada.

Abu Rahma, 36, died on Saturday after collapsing as she watched a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in Bil’in. Youths had begun throwing stones at soldiers who responded by firing CS gas canisters. According to witnesses, Abu Rahma began vomiting, convulsing and foaming at the mouth. She died in hospital in Ramallah the next day. Her death has afforded extra potency as it followed that of her brother, Bassem, who was killed 20 months earlier after being hit by a high-velocity teargas projectile during a similar protest. Another brother, Ashraf, was injured in the foot in July 2008 in the village of Na’alin after an Israeli soldier fired a rubber-coated steel bullet at point-blank range. The incident was captured on video. The Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, branded Abu Rahma’s death a “war crime”. Hundreds of people joined a protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, at which 11 activists were arrested. The Israeli Defence Force opened an investigation into Abu Rahma’s death. But on Monday, during anonymous briefings to Israeli journalists, military sources questioned accounts from the family, witnesses and the medical authorities. “We did not kill her, there is no proof,” senior officers in the IDF Central Command told Yedioth Ahronoth. “This entire story is very strange.

The Palestinian reports are full of contradictions. The medical reports were fabricated and withheld from us. We believe she suffered from cancer and that she took unusually high doses of medication.” The military sources suggested Abu Rahma may not have been present at the protest and that she suffered from a pre-existing condition likely to have caused her death. The family’s supporters issued a detailed rebuttal of the IDF claims, backed by documentation, and said the military was waging a smear campaign. None of the witnesses to the incident claimed Abu Rahma took part in Friday’s demonstration, but that she had watched from a distance. Her mother, Soubhiya, has said she was with her daughter on a hill at the edge of the village when they were enveloped in teargas. “Soon after that she vomited and collapsed,” she said in a statement to the Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee. “We took her to the nearest road, and from there she was evacuated by ambulance to the hospital where she remained until her death. ” Islam Abu Rahma, a family member who was with Jawaher, also gave testimony: “The wind moved the gas in our direction, making our eyes itch and tear up. After that [Jawaher] began to cough and foam at the mouth. Soon after that she became weak and lay down on the ground … She became terribly weak, vomited violently and foamed at the mouth. She was having difficulty breathing and lost her sense of direction.”

The IDF has questioned the hospital records concerning Abu Rahma’s treatment. One medical report said a blood sample was taken at 2.45pm, but a separate form said she was only admitted at 3.20pm, they said. According to the family, the sample was taken in the hospital emergency room before her admission shortly afterwards to intensive care. The military’s claims that Abu Rahma was suffering from asthma and leukaemia, which could have caused or contributed to her death, have been vigorously disputed. Mohammed Eidh, the director of the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah where Abu Rahma was taken, said she “died from lung failure caused by teargas inhalation, leading to a heart attack”. An official report, signed by Eidh and two other doctors, logged her symptoms and vital signs following “unknown gas inhalation”. She had “no history of chronic disease”, it said. Abu Rahma’s family and doctors said she recently had an inner-ear infection, for which she was given a CT scan, the results of which were normal. The IDF said the gas used in last Friday’s demonstration was identical to that used in previous protests, and is considered non-lethal in an open-air environment. According to Mohammed Khatib, a member of Bil’in’s Popular Co-ordinating Committee which organises the weekly protests against the barrier, the Israeli army was “trying to evade its responsibility for Jawaher’s death with lies and invented narratives that have no basis”.

Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer representing the Abu Rahma family, said the IDF had committed a “cowardly act by anonymously spreading lies without any evidence”. He said he had no confidence that an internal military inquiry, based solely on the testimony of soldiers, would establish the truth of the circumstances of Abu Rahma’s death. “This is a proven way to whitewash what happened.” The IDF issued an official statement on Wednesday saying the inquiry into Abu Rahma’s death had yet to be completed. It added: “The initial information raises questions as to the reliability of Palestinian reports. The medical reports received from the Palestinians also raise many questions and doubts. A number of scenarios have been posited, among them the possibility that Abu Rahma’s death was entirely unrelated to the demonstration last Friday.” An army spokesman told the Guardian: “There’s something weird about the whole situation and there are many questions about the circumstances of her death.” He said he had “no idea” how long the inquiry would take “but we hope for answers as soon as possible”.

Twelve-year-old martyr

On 30 September 2000, on the second day of the second intifada, Muhammad al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, was caught up in gunfire in the Gaza Strip and killed as he cowered against a wall. His father, Jamal, who was also struck by several bullets, tried to protect his son as they sought cover. The shooting and the child’s evident distress were filmed by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman freelancing for a French TV station, and were broadcast around the world. At the end of the clip, Dura is seen slumped over his father’s legs. The Arab world hailed the boy as a martyr. His image appeared on stamps and streets were named after him. The Israeli army initially apologised for the killing, but then backtracked after conducting a controversial investigation in which it cleared itself and blamed Palestinian gunfire for the deaths. Despite claims by some pro-Israel groups that the child is still alive and the incident was staged by the Palestinians, Dura’s death remains an abiding symbol in the Arab world and beyond.

From Bilin to Tel Aviv, outrage at killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmah: The Electronic Intifada

Joseph Dana, 3 January 2011

A photograph of Jawaher Abu Rahmah hangs at her funeral on 1 January. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

“I am in shock, we are in shock,” Hamde Abu Rahmah told me as we stood outside the small cemetery in Bilin where 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahmah was buried on Saturday. One day earlier, on 31 December, Jawaher was killed after inhaling US-made tear-gas fired by Israeli soldiers at demonstrators in the occupied West Bank village. Jawaher’s brother Bassem was killed by Israeli occupation forces in a similar manner in 2009. “We simply did not think that this would happen. We deal with tear-gas on a regular basis but the amount that they used and the strength was something we have not yet seen,” continued Hamde, Jawaher’s cousin who has reported on and photographed Bilin’s regular demonstrations against Israel’s wall and occupation since 2008.

Friday’s demonstration, on New Year’s Eve, was enormous. Over 1,000 people — Palestinians, Israelis and internationals — joined villagers in Bilin to call for an end to Israel’s wall. Israel tried to stop the demonstration before it even began by creating a ring of military checkpoints on roads encircling the village to prevent non-villagers from attending. However, their strategy failed as hundreds of activists trekked through the rolling hills to reach the village. Even prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, briefly joined the demonstration leading from the village center to the area of the wall. How Fayyad reached the village and why he left so quickly was unclear to everyone, some joked that the soldiers let him through the checkpoints because they consider him a Zionist. Once the demonstration reached the village’s agricultural lands, which are bisected by the wall, Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas in every direction including directly at protesters. Wave after wave of tear-gas surrounded demonstrators leaving nearly everyone gasping for air.

One of the demonstrators was Jawaher Abu Rahmah, who lost consciousness from gas inhalation and never recovered. Jawaher was a veteran of the Bilin demonstrations attending every one for the past four years, even after Israel shot and injured her handcuffed and bound brother Ashraf in the neighboring village of Nilin with rubber-coated steel bullets in July 2008, and her other brother Bassem was shot and killed with a tear-gas canister in April 2009. Bassem was killed when an Israeli soldier fired a high velocity tear-gas canister directly at his chest at one of the weekly demonstrations in Bilin. Despite clear video documentation of the murder taken on three different cameras, justice has yet to come for the Abu Rahmah family for Bassem’s death and Israeli soldiers have repeated their deadly repression of occupied Palestinians in Bilin with impunity. Now, an already grieving family has had to bury another one of their relatives after Jawaher’s shocking death on Friday.

Israeli soldiers firing tear-gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters in Bilin on the day Jawaher Abu Rahmah was killed, 31 December. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

Violent repression of unarmed demonstrators Unarmed resistance to Israeli occupation in West Bank villages like Bilin, whose land Israel is stealing to build the wall, has almost always been met with violent repression by the Israeli military. Since 2005, 21 unarmed demonstrators, 10 of whom were children, have been killed in demonstrations throughout the occupied West Bank (“Under Repression,” Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee, September 2010). Israel has developed a three-pronged strategy of military repression of Palestinian non-violence which includes the negligent use of firearms such as in the case in Bassem’s killing, cover up of criminal misconduct, and the use of the occupation’s legal system to crush Palestinian freedom of expression as in the case of Bilin leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah who has been sentenced to a year in jail for his role in organizing non-violent demonstrations. The US-based company, Combined Systems, INC, is the leading American supplier of tear-gas used by the Israeli military against Palestinian protesters. Israel uses a type of tear-gas called CS, which has been blamed for a number of deaths and serious injuries, according to Haaretz (“Protester death shows IDF may be using most dangerous type of tear gas,” 3 January 2011). The Israeli army has often responded to claims of negligent use of tear gas with repeated statements that the demonstration was violent because of stone throwing. They claim that the protesters “provoked” the use of the gas. However, such a claim cannot be made about Friday’s demonstration since Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas from the moment protestors entered their sight. It is obvious that for the army, the mere presence of unarmed demonstrators is reason enough to use chemical weapons against them.

Israeli police make arrests at a protest in Tel Aviv against the army's killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 1 January. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

Israeli solidarity with Bilin In response to Jawaher’s murder, on 1 January hundreds of people demonstrated across the street from Israel’s ministry of defense in Tel Aviv. Protesters chanted “Israel is a police state” and called for an end to the occupation. For more than one hour, protesters successfully blocked a main street in Tel Aviv beside the ministry by sitting in it and blocking traffic. Eight protesters were arrested in the demonstration including Mossi Raz, a former member of the Israeli Parliament. All were later released without charge. Later that evening, Israeli activists descended on the home of the US ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, in the northern Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya. The activists “returned” loads of spent tear gas canisters collected in Bilin by throwing them into the ambassador’s front yard. They also chanted, waking up neighbors, to demand a halt in US military aid to Israel. Eleven demonstrators were arrested, including two women over the age of 60. They have been charged with illegal arms possession and will remain in jail until their hearing on 4 January. More actions are being planned by Israeli activists in response to the army’s killing of Jawaher and in solidarity with Bilin.

The mother of Jawaher Abu Rahmah (center) mourns during her daughter's funeral on 1 January. On the right is a poster of Bassem Abu Rahmah, her other son who was killed in 2009. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

A symbol of resistance Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s death is the latest evidence of Israel’s full-scale war against the defenseless Palestinian people living under occupation. Bilin has become an international symbol of Palestinian nonviolent resistance because of its six-year struggle against the Israeli wall in the West Bank. In 2007, villagers celebrated a small victory when the Israeli high court ruled that the route of the wall in Bilin was illegal and requested the army to change its path. However, the wall’s route has not been changed and as a result the protests have continued. In 2009, leader of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bilin, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was arrested in his Ramallah home. Despite his recognition by the European Union as a “human rights defender,” the Israeli occupation’s legal system found him guilty of “incitement” and “illegal protest.” Abdallah has served his one year sentence in full, yet still sits in an Israeli jail cell because the state has filed an appeal asking for a harsher sentence. The judge has not given a date for his verdict on the appeal. The sadness caused by yet another victim of Israel’s occupation lingered in the air in Bilin on Saturday. However, the determination to continue the struggle was visible in the eyes of villagers as Jawaher Abu Rahmah was placed in the earth next to her brother. Leaders of various other popular committees in occupied West Bank villages like Budrus, Nabi Saleh and Nilin, attended the funeral in a show of support and unified solidarity to continue the demonstrations. They vowed that the unarmed protests will continue despite knowing that the violent repression of the Israeli military will continue as well. The protesters of Bilin and other villages understand that both history and justice are on their side. They have embraced the tactic of unarmed resistance and have opened their struggle to any one willing to join in respect and solidarity, even to an increasing number Israeli Jews. Their moral clarity should be a model for international civil society, which now more than ever needs to support the popular Palestinian struggle. Joseph Dana is a Media Coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee. Click here to continue reading “January 8, 2011″ »

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January 4, 2011

EDITOR: The Lie Machine is as true as it ever was

Not three days after they killed a woman protester, the IDF has already found the ‘truth’, as we knew it would. Apparently, gas had nothing to do with the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah. Well, they certainly did not persuade even the editors of Haaretz, as you can see from their editorial, below. When you have been lying for decades, how can you tell the truth?

IDF: No proof Palestinian woman died from tear gas at protest: Haaretz

Defense sources find inconsistencies in medical report over the death of Jawaher Abu Ramah, who reportedly died after inhaling tear gas at demonstration against West Bank fence.

The Israel Defense Forces said on Monday that the medical report on the death of a Palestinian woman said to have been killed at a West Bank protest contains significant inconsistencies regarding the circumstances of her death.

Bil’in residents claim that Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36 died after inhaling tear gas fired by IDF soldiers during a protest against the West Bank security barrier on Friday.

Military sources said, however, that there was no evidence that Abu Rahmah even participated in Friday’s demonstration against the security barrier in Bil’in – nor that she died from inhaling tear gas.

Following repeated requests from Israel’s defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahma’s death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family’s version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah’s death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the “skunk bombs” used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah’s death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces’ use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.

Eyewitnesses told Haaretz that the tear gas had an immediate and dramatic effect on Abu Rahmah, who within a few minutes after exposure went into convulsions, began foaming at the mouth and lost consciousness.

Abu Rahmah’s brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.

On December 21, Abu Rahmah saw Dr. Khaled Badwan, head of the ear, nose and throat department of Jerusalem’s Augusta Victoria Hospital. He refused to be interviewed for this report.

According to a document obtained by Haaretz, Badwan prescribed a common remedy for dizziness and instructed her to bathe her ear in hot water. Samir said Badwan thought the problem was caused by water trapped in the middle ear, but nevertheless ordered a CT brain scan.

Physicians consulted for this article said Badwan probably suspected another condition.

After receiving normal results from the December 27 brain scan, Abu Rahmah saw Dr. Nasser al-Mualem at the Ramallah hospital, who according to Samir said her problem was common and told her to return in one month.

The medical documents seem to support Samir’s claim that with the exception of the headaches and dizziness, his sister was in generally good health. None of the doctors consulted for this article could think of a condition or symptoms that could be fatal in the presence of tear gas.

The lawyer representing the Abu Rahmah family completely denied the IDF’s claims. Lawyer Michael Sfrad said that Abu Rahma went in for testing a week ago for a routine winter illness.

“According to people I spoke with, [Abu Rahmah] was at the demonstration on Friday but not at the forefront of the protesters,” he said. “After she was injured by the tear gas, she was taken to the village and then transferred to an ambulance. An operational investigation cannot produce reliable findings; therefore we demand a criminal investigation by the military police.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Abu Rahmah’s death calling it a “new Israeli crime carried out by the occupation army against our helpless nation.”

Israel must allow Palestinians to protest in peace: Haaretz Editorial

The IDF should allow the demonstrations at Bil’in to take place. It should act only when there is danger to life and property.
Jawaher Abu Rahmah, a 36-year-old kindergarten teacher, was killed over the weekend after she choked on tear gas while watching the weekly demonstration at her village. Residents and human rights activists from at home and abroad demonstrate against the separation fence that was built on village land. Abu Rahmah died less than two years after her brother Bassem was killed by a tear-gas canister fired directly at his chest at a similar protest. A third brother, Ashraf, was caught on camera as he was shot by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed.

The demonstrations at Bil’in, which have been going on since work to build the fence on village land began in February 2005, are entirely legitimate. The residents have the right to protest the theft of their land for the giant settlements set up around their village. More than three years ago, following such demonstrations, the Supreme Court ordered that the fence’s route be moved to give the village back some of its land – about 700 dunams. The defense establishment has yet to carry out this ruling.

Since the demonstrations against the fence began in the West Bank, 21 protesters have been killed, according to Palestinian sources. This is a chilling statistic that should greatly trouble every Israeli. So should the death of Abu Rahmah. According to the demonstrators, the Israel Defense Forces used particularly large quantities of gas on Friday. An Israeli doctor who takes part in the protests, Daniel Argo, told Haaretz that some tear gas is less dangerous than the kind used by the IDF. So it’s not clear why the army chooses to use the more dangerous type.

The IDF should allow the demonstrations at Bil’in to take place. It should act only when there is danger to life and property. And even then it should act as security forces do in democratic countries when there are demonstrations. Just as the settlers’ protests against the Gaza disengagement passed without deaths, so should the Palestinian protests against the fence pass. There are enough ways to break up demonstrations, if this is at all necessary, without risking the lives of the participants.

Abu Rahmah died in vain. She didn’t endanger anyone. There’s no need to mention the countries where the regimes kill people who demonstrate against them. Israel must not become one of them.

We’re not looking for revenge, says family of Palestinian protester who died after rally: Haaretz

36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahmah died Saturday, a day after inhaling tear gas fired by the IDF at a protest in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

The family isn’t seeking revenge, says a relative of 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahmah, who died Saturday after she inhaled tear gas at a protest in the West Bank village of Bil’in. What they want is an end to the occupation and their land back.

Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists run away from tear gas in the West Bank village of Bil'in, December 31, 2010. Photo by: Reuters

“For me, as relative, her death – a martyred death – at the hands of the Israeli occupation, is an honor for me,” says Abu Nidar Abu Rahmah, Jawaher’s uncle. Her brother, Bassem, was killed in April 2009 by a tear gas canister fired during a demonstration in the same village.

“No one from the army has called us to apologize,” he says. “There is no communication between us and the army. Even when Bassem was hit, we spoke to the army and asked them to send help, and they never did.”

Jawaher had been working in recent years with her younger brother and sister as tailors in Ramallah, says Mohammed Al Khatib, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the village. After Bassem was killed, most of the responsibility for bringing in an income fell on her shoulders.

The father of the family, who had been employed in construction in Israel until diabetes prevented him from working, died six years ago after battling cancer. The family’s impoverished state meant that seven children – five boys and two girls – cut short their high school education and went out to work. The two youngest sons studied at a boarding school in Bethlehem.

Now family matriarch Subhiyeh has four sons and one daughter left. One of her sons, Ashraf, was shot in the leg at close range by an Israel Defense Forces soldier in 2008, after he was arrested and tied, handcuffed and blindfolded, to an IDF jeep. The soldier  who shot him maintained that he was acting on the orders of his commander, Omri Burberg.

Part of the land owned by the family is now used for homes from the settlement of Modi’in Illit. Another part is behind the West Bank separation fence, they expect to get a few dunam back when Israel changes the route of the fence in accordance with a High Court order.

The whole family currently lives in a three-room house. At the time of his death, Bassem had just laid the foundations for a house he intended to build for the entire family. Khatib says that the last thing the women in the village heard Jawaher say was how much she was looking forward to moving into their new home.

“Our family believes in Allah,” says Abu Nidar, “they know and I know that the occupation army has made us all into targets. We are not surprised by anything that happens. Now the family is not seeking vengeance, we just hope that our girl will go to heaven. Jawaher’s mother said she doesn’t want revenge. Allah will avenge us.”

“We have no problem will the people of Israel. We have a problem with the army and the occupation,” he says. “We know that our land will be returned to us even if someone is killed every day. We say this to [Benjamin] Netanyahu: The demonstrations here will not end until we get our land back. We believe in a popular struggle, a non-violent struggle. We don’t want a violent struggle.”

EDITOR: Chomsky gets it wrong again…

In this otherwise interesting article, Chomsky again makes an argument for the Two-State solution, rubishing the One_State solution by defining it thus;

“Therefore those concerned with Palestinian rights should call for Israeli takeover of the entire West Bank, followed by an anti-apartheid struggle of the South African variety that would lead to full citizenship for the Arab population there.”

This is totally nonsensical. No one in Palestine, or no one progressive elsewhere, is considering or proposing this anathema. Chomsky is setting up a straw-man, so he can knock it down. The one-state idea is not based on the racist, ultra-nationalist state of Israel as it now is, but on a future secular, democratic state of ALL ITS CITIZENS. This state cannot, by definition, be Jewish, Muslim or Christian, and will not be Zionist. Hence, Chomsky’s argument against secularism and democracy in Palestine is false, and also anti-democratic. For a thinker of his standing to resort to such low tactics is sad, and proves that for all his critique of Israeli brutalities, he is wedded firmly to the Zionist tennets of a Jewish State.

Breaking the Israel-Palestine Deadlock: truth-out

Monday 03 January 2011
by: Noam Chomsky
Palestinian Abu Ayaesh picks his grape harvest downhill from the homes of the Karmi Zur settlement. (Photo: michaelramallah)
While intensively engaged in illegal settlement expansion, the government of Israel is also seeking to deal with two problems: a global campaign of what it perceives as “delegitimation” – that is, objections to its crimes and withdrawal of participation in them – and a parallel campaign of legitimation of Palestine.

The “delegitimation,” which is progressing rapidly, was carried forward in December by a Human Rights Watch call on the U.S. “to suspend financing to Israel in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel’s spending in support of settlements,” and to monitor contributions to Israel from tax-exempt U.S. organizations that violate international law, “including prohibitions against discrimination” – which would cast a wide net. Amnesty International had already called for an arms embargo on Israel. The legitimation process also took a long step forward in December, when Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil recognized the State of Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank), bringing the number of supporting nations to more than 100.

International lawyer John Whitbeck estimates that 80-90 percent of the world’s population live in states that recognize Palestine, while 10-20 percent recognize the Republic of Kosovo. The U.S. recognizes Kosovo but not Palestine. Accordingly, as Whitbeck writes in Counterpunch, media “act as though Kosovo’s independence were an accomplished fact while Palestine’s independence is only an aspiration which can never be realized without Israeli-American consent,” reflecting the normal workings of power in the international arena.

Given the scale of Israeli settlement of the West Bank, it has been argued for more a decade that the international consensus on a two-state settlement is dead, or mistaken (though evidently most of the world does not agree). Therefore those concerned with Palestinian rights should call for Israeli takeover of the entire West Bank, followed by an anti-apartheid struggle of the South African variety that would lead to full citizenship for the Arab population there.

The argument assumes that Israel would agree to the takeover. It is far more likely that Israel will instead continue the programs leading to annexation of the parts of the West Bank that it is developing, roughly half the area, and take no responsibility for the rest, thus defending itself from the “demographic problem” – too many non-Jews in a Jewish state – and meanwhile severing besieged Gaza from the rest of Palestine.

One analogy between Israel and South Africa merits attention. Once apartheid was implemented, South African nationalists recognized they were becoming international pariahs because of it. In 1958, however, the foreign minister informed the U.S. ambassador that U.N. condemnations and other protests were of little concern as long as South Africa was supported by the global hegemon – the United States. By the 1970s, the U.N. declared an arms embargo, soon followed by boycott campaigns and divestment. South Africa reacted in ways calculated to enrage international opinion. In a gesture of contempt for the U.N. and President Jimmy Carter – who failed to react so as not to disrupt worthless negotiations – South Africa launched a murderous raid on the Cassinga refugee camp in Angola just as the Carter-led “contact group” was to present a settlement for Namibia. The similarity to Israel’s behavior today is striking – for example, the attack on Gaza in January 2009 and on the Gaza freedom flotilla in May 2010.

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When President Reagan took office in 1981, he lent full support to South Africa’s domestic crimes and its murderous depredations in neighboring countries. The policies were justified in the framework of the war on terror that Reagan had declared on coming into office. In 1988, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was designated one of the world’s “more notorious terrorist groups” (Mandela himself was only removed from Washington’s “terrorist list” in 2008). South Africa was defiant, and even triumphant, with its internal enemies crushed, and enjoying solid support from the one state that mattered in the global system.

Shortly after, U.S. policy shifted. U.S. and South African business interests very likely realized they would be better off by ending the apartheid burden. And apartheid soon collapsed. South Africa is not the only recent case where ending U.S. support for crimes has led to significant progress. Can such a transformative shift happen in Israel’s case, clearing the way to a diplomatic settlement? Among the barriers firmly in place are the very close military and intelligence ties between the U.S. and Israel.

The most outspoken support for Israeli crimes comes from the business world. U.S. high-tech industry is closely integrated with its Israeli counterpart. To cite just one example, the world’s largest chip manufacturer, Intel, is establishing its most advanced production unit in Israel.

A U.S. cable released by WikiLeaks reveals that Rafael military industries in Haifa is one of the sites considered vital to U.S. interests due to its production of cluster bombs; Rafael had already moved some operations to the U.S. to gain better access to U.S. aid and markets. There is also a powerful Israel lobby, though of course dwarfed by the business and military lobbies.

Critical cultural facts apply, too. Christian Zionism long precedes Jewish Zionism, and is not restricted to the one-third of the U.S. population that believes in the literal truth of the Bible. When British Gen. Edmund Allenby conquered Jerusalem in 1917, the national press declared him to be Richard the Lionhearted, finally rescuing the Holy Land from the infidels.

Next, Jews must return to the homeland promised to them by the Lord. Articulating a common elite view, Harold Ickes, Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, described Jewish colonization of Palestine as an achievement “without comparison in the history of the human race.”

There is also an instinctive sympathy for a settler-colonial society that is seen to be retracing the history of the U.S. itself, bringing civilization to the lands that the undeserving natives had misused – doctrines deeply rooted in centuries of imperialism.

To break the logjam it will be necessary to dismantle the reigning illusion that the U.S. is an “honest broker” desperately seeking to reconcile recalcitrant adversaries, and to recognize that serious negotiations would be between the U^.S.-Israel and the rest of the world.

If U.S. power centers can be compelled by popular opinion to abandon decades-old rejectionism, many prospects that seem remote might become suddenly possible.

(Noam Chomsky’s most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is “Gaza in Crisis.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.)

© 2011 Noam Chomsky

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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September 8, 2010

Financial Times: Israel’s choice is land or peace: Financial Times

2 Sept 2010
Israeli-Palestinian talks is under way after a carefully choreographed White House ceremony rich in political pieties and low on substance. No sooner was it over than the questions began.
It is not just that, while both sides employ the same words – peace, two-states solution and so on – they mean different things. It is not just that both camps are split and their leaders may not be able to close a deal, were they to reach one. Nor is it just that Israel, as the occupier, able ultimately to count on unconditional US support, is so much more powerful than the occupied Palestinians.
Within weeks the talks could judder to a halt. On September 26, the partial Israeli moratorium on building settlements on occupied Palestinian land expires – and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu says it will not renew it.
While ways of fudging this are being looked at, the settlers’ lobby, powerful within Mr Netanyahu’s coalition and, indeed, his own Likud party, wants none of it.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is under enormous pressure. He has nothing to show for his strategy of seeking a Palestinian state by negotiation. Israel has expanded the occupation, having taken 42 per cent of the West Bank according to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group. To retain what little remains of his credibility, Mr Abbas may be forced to withdraw if the moratorium is not renewed.
The standstill was in any case relative. Exclusions of Palestinians from occupied east Jerusalem have increased. Two Arab villages have just been razed, in the Jordan Valley and Negev desert. Segregated, Israelis-only roads have bulldozed ahead. The situation is explosive enough even without the moratorium timebomb under the talks. Mr Abbas called off West Bank municipal elections in July, even though Hamas – which defeated his Fatah party in the 2006 general elections – was not standing.
While every consideration is being given to the delicacy of Mr Netanyahu’s position, little or none is accorded to Mr Abbas.
Yet, it should be perfectly obvious that talks aimed at the creation of a Palestinian state cannot possibly prosper while Israel continues its strategic colonisation of the land on which that state would be built. The US and its international partners must insist on a cessation of settlement-building.
Would this sink the Israeli coalition? Very possibly. But Mr Netanyahu has options, including an alliance with the centrist Kadima party. Mr Abbas has none.

Fidel Castro tells Ahmadinejad: Stop denying the Holocaust: Haaretz

‘The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust,’ former Cuban leader tells U.S. journal The Atlantic.

Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro has urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop slandering the Jews, according to an article published on the U.S. website The Atlantic on Tuesday.

The ageing revolutionary devoted much of a five-hour conversation to the issue of anti-Semitism, wrote Jeffrey Goldberg, who interviewed Castro in the Cuban capital Havana.

Castro told The Atlantic that the Iranian government should understand the consequences anti-Semitism.

“This went on for maybe two thousand years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.”

He added: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.”

Asked by Goldberg if he would repeat his comments to Ahmadinejad, Castro said. “I am saying this so you can communicate it.”

Following the interview, Goldberg spoke with Haaretz about his impression of the thinking behind Castro’s comments.

“I think he [Castro] realizes he’s gone too far in certain criticisms of Israel,” Goldberg said.

“I think he wants to be a player in this issue; and I think he’s genuinely offended by Holocaust denial.”

Ahmadinejad has publicy called the Holocaust “a myth”, claiming Jews exaggerated the Nazi genocide to win sympathy from European governments.

Legitimizing an obstacle to peace: Haaretz

I have often spoken out in opposition to cultural boycotts… but in the political arena, artists make a statement by their presence or their absence.
By Theodore Bikel
I feel compelled to speak out on the controversy surrounding the Israeli artists who have announced their refusal to perform in the territories. For the record, my career as a performer has spanned 68 years. In my 20s, I was a cofounder of the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv ‏(of that group, I am the last one alive‏). I have resided in America since 1954, and as a concert artist I frequently work in the field of Jewish culture, performing in the languages of our people − Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and even in English, the language spoken by the largest Jewish community in the world.

As president of the Associated Actors & Artistes of America ‏(the umbrella union covering performers in the United States‏), I have often spoken out in opposition to cultural boycotts. I have argued that art opens minds and builds bridges, even when carried into the very heart of enemy territory − perhaps especially then. But life, as we know it, often defies simple formulas. In the political arena, artists make a statement by their presence or their absence.

Pablo Casals, the world-famous cellist, who chose life-long exile from his native Spain because of the fascist dictator who ruled the beloved country of his birth, said this: “My cello is my weapon; I choose where I play, when I play, and before whom I play.”

My own choices have often been dictated by similar sentiments. For many years, when apartheid was the law of the land there, I refused official invitations and lucrative offers to perform in South Africa. Indeed, I have always refused to appear in halls that were racially segregated, whether in America or elsewhere in the world. More than two years ago, I refused an invitation by the mayor of Ariel to appear at the opening of the very same cultural facility then under construction and now at the center of the controversy.

There are weighty reasons why I find myself in full support of the artists’ refusal to perform in the territories. And it should be noted that I am not alone in supporting the courageous stand of our Israeli colleagues. There is a growing list of over 150 prominent artists and arts leaders from the U.S. who have expressed similar concerns to mine.

The cause celebre regarding the new performance facility in Ariel has given rise to statements from the leaders of that community as well as from Prime Minister Netanyahu and the culture minister, Limor Livnat. While the latter asserts that “political disputes should be left outside cultural life and art,” both the prime minister and the settlers’ council make it clear that the matter is not about art at all, but about what they call an attack on Israel “from within.”

The declaration of conscience signed by prominent Israeli artists − among them recipients of the Israel Prize, the highest cultural accolade given by the state − is characterized as emanating from “anti-Zionist leftists” and is described by the prime minister as being part of an “international movement of delegitimization.”

Clearly, anything that is connected to the settlers or to the settlements’ presence beyond the Green Line is political. And, if the refusal of the artists to perform in the territories is tantamount to delegitimization, it follows that any agreement to perform there would amount to legitimizing what many of us ‏(in and outside of Israel‏) believe to be the single most glaring obstacle to peace.

Theodore Bikel is a Tony- and Oscar-nominated actor and musician.

Israeli soldier jailed for killing British activist Tom Hurndall released early: The Guardian

Tasyir Hayb freed from prison with two years remaining on his eight-year sentence for Briton’s manslaughter in Gaza in 2003

Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by Israeli soldier Taysir Hayb in 2003 as he helped Palestinian children cross a street in Gaza. Photograph: Kay Fernandes/Reuters/HO Photograph: Ho/Reuters
The Israeli soldier convicted of killing British activist Tom Hurndall was released from prison today, two years before completing his sentence.

Tasyir Hayb was found guilty of manslaughter in 2005, when a military court found he had violated orders. He was also convicted him of obstruction of justice and false testimony. He has served six years of his eight-year sentence.

Hurndall, then 22, was shot in the head in April 2003 while he was helping Palestinian children cross a street in Rafah, in the Gaza strip. He had been filming with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Hurndall fell into a coma and died the following year.

According to Israeli newspapers, the military prosecution opposed Hayb’s early release, fearing it would damage Israel’s relations with the UK. But a military committee overruled this last month, arguing that Hayb, 27, had been sufficiently rehabilitated.

Tom’s mother, Jocelyn, today said: “From the moment that Tom was shot, we said it wasn’t about the soldier, who is a small part of the machinery, but about the responsibility of the Israeli army and its lack of accountability over civilian killings. To say that the soldier has reformed is to miss the point – the British government needs to hold Israel accountable for its actions.”

Hayb’s release comes as the case against the Israeli state filed by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the American activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Rafah the month before Hurndall was shot, is reconvened in Israel.

Sha’ath: PA will never recognize Israel as Jewish: YNet

Week after launching of direct talks, Palestinian negotiator says recognizing Israel as Jewish state would ‘directly threaten Muslims, Christians’ and prevent Palestinian refugees from ‘returning to their homes’

“The Palestinian Authority will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath said Wednesday, just a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas launched direct talks in Washington.

“Such a declaration would directly threaten the Muslims and Christians in Israel and prevent Palestinian refugees, who left their homes and villages a number of decades ago, from being granted the right to return to them,” Sha’ath told reporters in Ramallah.

The senior Palestinian official said he was not opposed to a Jewish majority in Israel, but stressed that “the Palestinian problem is purely political.”

Sha’ath, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said Netanyahu planned to raise the issue (recognition of Israel as a Jewish state) at Sharm el-Sheikh, where the direct negotiations are set to resume in mid-August, “but we flatly rejected this demand.”

“We won’t expose our people to security and political threats,” he added.

Earlier this week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state is worrying.

“If the international community defines Israel as a Jewish state – such a decision should be approved by the UN,” Aboul Gheit said.

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September 6, 2010

EDITOR: BDS is spreading like bush fire!

Even though the boycott suggested here is limited, this is still another nail in the coffin of the occupation and Israeli Apartheid.Despite all this change, we should not forget one simple fact: None of this would ever have happened, if the world did not listen to the Palestinian call for BDS, and numerous boycotts implemented, by the international community and by the Palestinians.

On their own, Israeli intellectuals are quite content with the occupation. For over four decades, we have not had the flurry of activity we are now seeing, in direct reaction to the BDS movement actions. There is no clearer evidence that the action are successful, and should be contiued and strengthened.

Making history: support for Israeli artists who say NO to normalizing settlements: Jewish Voice for Peace

When some 60 leading Israeli actors and playwrights signed a letter stating they would refuse to play in the new theatre in Ariel, one of Israel’s largest settlements, the attacks from Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport and many others were swift and intense. Over 150 leading Israeli academics and writers-including Amos Oz and David Grossman- came to their defense. It was the first time such mainstream figures had drawn a line around normalizing settlements which are illegal according to international law, and which constitute one of the main impediments to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Inspired by their courage, and responding to a call for international support, Jewish Voice for Peace has developed a statement that has been signed by over 150 theater and film professionals representing some of the most respected and renowned artists in theater, film and television – including Four Pulitzer Prize winners, several recipients of Guggenheim Fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Medal of Honor,and scores of recipients of the highest U.S. acting honors, including Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards, Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and the Oscar.

Rebecca Vilkomerson (rebecca@jvp.org), Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace: “The response of American and UK artists to the courageous actions of their Israeli counterparts is just phenomenal. It is especially notable that so many of the signatories are Jewish with long-standing connections to Israel. We hope that the strong show of solidarity by Americans and UK actors in response to these brave Israelis will help spark a new conversation in both countries, one that acknowledges that the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal by every measure of international law, contribute to the daily violation of human rights of Palestinians, and are a major obstacle to a just peace in the region.”

News Links:

NEWS LINKS:

Ynet: Artists to refuse to perform in Ariel culture hall

New York Times: Boycott of Theater in Israeli Settlement Grows

UK Guardian: Actors boycott West Bank Theater

Text of the statement:

On August 27th, dozens of Israeli actors, directors, and playwrights made the brave decision not to perform in Ariel, one of the largest of the West Bank settlements, which by all standards of international law are clearly illegal.  As American actors, directors, critics and playwrights, we salute our Israeli counterparts for their courageous decision.

Most of us are involved in daily compromises with wrongful acts. When a group of people suddenly have the clarity of mind to see that the next compromise looming up before them is an unbearable one  — and when they somehow find the strength to refuse to cross that line  —  we can’t help but be overjoyed and inspired and grateful.

It’s thrilling to think that these Israeli theatre artists have refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation which they know to be wrong, which violates international law and which is impeding the hope for a just and lasting peace for Israelis an Palestinians alike.  They’ve made a wonderful decision, and they deserve the respect of people everywhere who dream of justice. We stand with them.

*Statement organizers and signatories represent a wide range of political opinions and perspectives, but have come together for the sole purpose of making a joint statement on this one critical issue.
**All identifications and affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsements by any institutions

To read the full list of signatories, use the link above

Artists to refuse to perform in Ariel culture hall: YNet

Prominent actors, directors, playwrights send letter to boards of Israeli theaters in protest of plans to put on shows in news culture auditorium beyond Green Line. Yesha Council vows harsh response to ‘vile, anti-Zionist’ letter

A long line of actors and artists from all fields of the theater industry sent a letter to the boards of Israel’s repertory theaters announcing they will refuse to perform in the new culture auditorium in Ariel, which is located outside the Green Line. It should be noted that tickets have already been sold to productions that include all of Israel’s theaters.

The letter, addressed to the boards of the Cameri, Habima, Beit Lessin, Khan and the Haifa and Beersheba theatres, read: “We wish to express our disgust with the theater’s board’s plans to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel. The actors among us hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in Ariel, as well as in any other settlement. We urge the boards to hold their activity within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line.”

On Wednesday, the Ometz Lesarev (courage to refuse) organization sent a letter to the theaters’ boards and actors requesting they refrain from performing in Ariel. In response, the city’s mayor, Ron Nachman said, “Culture has nothing to do with politics. If the actors and artists want to deal with politics, let them go to the Knesset. The vileness, baseness and hypocrisy of those who work in culture and call on a boycott of us, is intolerable.”

But it seems many in the industry gave in to the organization’s calls, and Friday’s letter included the signatures of dozens of prominent people in the theater business.

Dramaturgist Vardit Shalfi, one of the letter’s initiators, told Ynet on Friday, “Ariel is not a legitimate community, and as such, is against international law and international treaties that the State of Israel has signed. This means anyone performing there would be considered a criminal according to international law. The theater’s boards should inform their actors that there are apartheid roads for Jews only that lead into the settlement of Ariel. The moment we perform there, we are giving legitimization to this settlement’s existence.”

The long list of signatories includes many prominent actors, which could make it difficult for the theaters to decide which shows to put on in Ariel without having to make serious changes to the cast.

The list includes Israel Prize laureate Renee Yerushalmi, actors Yossi Pollack and Itay Tiran, director Ofira Henig, playwrights Joshua Sobol and Savyon Liebrecht and many more.

Yesha Council vows ‘harsh response’
Liebrecht said in response: “I object to the settlement enterprise and obviously, when it comes to theater, it is my duty not to be silent. Until there is a signed peace agreement, Ariel is not a legitimate community. I haven’t crossed the Green Line in years, and as far as I’m concerned, anyone who has decided to live there and wants to enjoy Israeli culture can come to Kfar Saba or any other Israeli city. I believe that if enough actors and people in the theater business sign the letter, the shows won’t go up there.”

Israel Prize laureate Renee Yerushalmi said, “I am not against, but for the future of the State of Israel. These days talks are being head about the Israeli-Palestinian future, and we must allow them to take place to see if there is hope for future existence here. Ariel today is beyond the Green Line and therefore we must not cross it. This applies to theater productions as well.”

Yesha Council said in response: “Our response to the letter signed by a bunch of anti-Zionist leftists and refusniks will be very harsh. This vile letter, which speaks out against the best of the State’s sons who defend them while they are acting on stage, requires a direct, poignant and clear response from the theaters’ boards, and this is what we expect. We will announce our future steps in the coming days.”

The Habima national theater said in response on Friday: “This is the first time the matter of putting on theater shows beyond the Green Line is raised in Israeli discourse. As a national theater, Habima believes discussing the matter is of the utmost importance, but it also calls for an in-depth examination of all the issues it includes… We are looking into the matter.”

Dror Gerber, of the Haifa Theater said, “If the actors are expressing ethical and moral claims in their letter, I consider this problematic. The way to express protest and objection to the occupation is not via boycotting the residents of Ariel. The Haifa Theater was founded in order to bring the art of theater to all the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Tzipi Pines of Beit Lessin said, “I personally object to the occupation and support peace, but there are people living in Ariel who I respect, and I respect their desire to consume culture.”

The Cameri said in response: “We are against boycotts and will perform anywhere where there are people who desire culture and wish to see Israeli theater.”

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August 30, 2010

Israeli actors to boycott new West Bank theatre: The Guardian

60 actors, writers and directors argue that performing in occupied territories would legitimise illegal settlements
Ariel Turgeman, manager of the theatre being built in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, which has prompted a boycott by Israeli actors. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Dozens of Israeli actors, playwrights and directors have signed a letter refusing to take part in productions by leading theatre companies at a new cultural centre in a West Bank settlement, prompting renewed debate over the legitimacy of artistic boycott.

More than 60 have joined the protest over plans by Israel’s national theatre, the Habima, and other leading companies to stage performances in Ariel, a settlement 12 miles inside the West Bank. The letter, to Israel’s culture minister, Limor Livnat, says the new centre for performing arts in Ariel, which is due to open in November after 20 years in construction, would “strengthen the settlement enterprise”.

“We want to express our dismay with the intention of the theatres’ managements to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel and hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in the city, as in any other settlement.” Israel’s theatre companies should “pursue their prolific activity inside the sovereign territory of the state of Israel within the boundaries of the Green Line”.

Livnat said the boycott would cause divisions in Israeli society: “Culture is a bridge in society, and political disputes should be left outside cultural life and art. I call for the scheduled performances to be carried out as scheduled in Ariel and all over the country, as each citizen has the right to consume culture anywhere he chooses.”

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the country was under attack by the international community – including economic, academic and cultural boycotts – and “the last thing we need at this time … is a boycott from within”.

The Habima, Cameri, Beit Lessin and Be’er Shiva theatre companies issued a joint defence of their plans, saying they “will perform in any place where there are theatre-loving Israelis, including the new cultural centre in Ariel. We respect the political views of our actors, but we’ll make sure that the best of Israeli theatre will get to Ariel”. The four companies, plus another two – the Khan and the Haifa – which have also agreed to stage productions in Ariel, all receive state funding.

Ron Nachman, the mayor of Ariel, said: “These actors get salaries from the government, which is sponsoring their theatres. You cannot take the money from the government and then decide your own policies. That is not integrity or honesty. If they disagree [with performing in Ariel], they should resign.”

It was not clear how many of the signatories were listed for planned performances in Ariel. Yousef Swaid, who is appearing in A Railway To Damascus, a production scheduled to be staged in Ariel, told Channel 1 television: “Settlers and settlements are not something that entertain me, and I don’t want to entertain them.” Rami Heuberger, who is not listed, said: “As a stage actor, it is a very, very problematic issue, and I think that so long as settlements are a controversial issue that will be discussed in any negotiations [with the Palestinians], I should not be there.”

Gideon Levy, a leading liberal Israeli commentator, backed the actors’ stance. “Yes, there is a difference between legitimate, sovereign Israel and the areas of its occupation,” he wrote in today’s Haaretz, which first reported the story. “. “Yes, there is a moral difference between appearing here and appearing there in the heart of an illegal settlement … built on a plot of stolen land, in a performance designed to help settlers pass their time pleasantly, while surrounded by people who have been deprived of all their rights.”

The Yesha Council, which represents settlers, said the actors’ letter had been signed by “army evaders and anti-Zionist leftwing activists”.

The actors’ letter follows the refusal of some international artists to perform in Israel because of its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Earlier this summer, Elvis Costello cancelled concerts in Israel, citing the “intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security”. The Pixies, Gil Scott Heron, Santana and Klaxons have also withdrawn from performances.

Ariel, home to almost 20,000 people, was founded in 1978 deep in the West Bank. Israel wants it to remain on its side of any border resulting from peace negotiations with the Palestinians. All settlements on occupied territory are illegal under international law.

Erekat: Israeli religious figure urging genocide of Palestinians: Haaretz

Netanyahu distances himself from remarks by Shas spiritual leader who said earlier that all Palestinians should perish.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Sunday slammed remarks by the spiritual leader of Israel’s leading ultra-Orthodox party, who said the Palestinians should “perish”, saying that it was paramount to incitement to genocide.

Erekat called on the Israeli government to denounce the remarks by Israel’s former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and to take action against racist remarks by other elected officials. He also criticized Israel for allowing the incident to pass without condemnation.

Yosef had said during his weekly Shabbat sermon that the Palestinians, namely Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, should perish from the world. Yosef, a founder of the Shas Party, also described Palestinians as evil, bitter enemies of Israel.

“All these evil people should perish from this world … God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians,” Yosef had said.

The 89-year-old is a respected religious scholar but is also known for vitriolic comments about Arabs, secular Jews, liberals, women and gays, among others.

“Is this how the Israeli government prepares its public for a peace agreement?” Erekat said, days before Israeli and Palestinian leaders were scheduled to meet in Washington for the launch of renewed direct peace negotiations.

“While the PLO is ready to resume negotiations in seriousness and good faith, a member of the Israeli government is calling for our destruction,” Erekat said. “It is an insult to all our efforts to advance the negotiations process.”

Erekat called on Israel “do more about peace and stop spreading hatred” and said Yosef’s comments could be placed within the larger context of Israel’s “policy against a Palestinian state” such as settlement expansion, home demolitions, among other things.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday distanced himself from Yosef’s remarks, but stopped short of a condemnation. “Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s remarks do not reflect Netanyahu’s views, nor do they reflect the stance of the Israeli government,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

“Israel plans to take part in peace negotiations out of a desire to advance toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians that will end the conflict and ensure peace, security and good neighborly relations between the two peoples,” the statement continued.

Israeli Arab MK Jamal Zahalka, chair of the Balad Knesset faction, sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, demanding that Yosef be investigated and tried for racist incitement and incitement to murder.

“Yosef’s comments are especially dangerous because he keeps repeating himself again and again, so he must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” MK Zahalka said.

According to Zahalka, Yosef is not a minor public figure, but a spiritual leader whose religious edicts are adhered to by hundreds of thousands of followers, and his comments can be interpreted as permission to kill Palestinians.

Zahalka added, “If, heaven forbid, a Muslim spiritual leader were to make anti-Jewish comments of this sort, he would be arrested immediately.”

MK Ahmed Tibi, chair of the United Arab List-Ta’al Knesset faction, also responded to Yosef’s comments, saying that the rabbi “has long since turned into the biggest blasphemer, the evilest purveyor of hatred and killing, which are contrary to all religions.”

MK Tibi called upon Yosef to reconsider his call for all evildoers to die, “because without realizing it, he is calling for his own death.”

In the past, Israel has accused the Palestinian government of incitement against the Jewish state, including by naming streets after Palestinian militants.

The Palestinian Authority has dismissed such allegations, though U.S. President Barack Obama told Abbas earlier this year he needs to do more to halt incitement against Israel.

An Assault on Israeli Academic Freedom—and Liberal Values: Chronicle of Higher Education

By Neve Gordon
On May 31, I joined some 50 students and faculty members who gathered outside Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to demonstrate against the Israeli military assault on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid toward Gaza. In response, the next day a few hundred students marched toward the social-sciences building, Israeli flags in hand. Amid the nationalist songs and pro-government chants, there were also shouts demanding my resignation from the university faculty.

One student even proceeded to create a Facebook group whose sole goal is to have me sacked. So far over 2,100 people (many of them nonstudents) have joined. In addition to death wishes and declarations that I should be exiled, the site includes a call on students to spy on me during class. “We believe,” ends a message written to the group, “that if we conduct serious and profound work, we can, with the help of each and every one of you, gather enough material to influence … Neve Gordon’s status at the university, and maybe even bring about his dismissal.”

Such personal attacks are part of a much broader assault on Israeli higher education and its professors. Two recent incidents exemplify the protofascist logic that is being deployed to undermine the pillars of academic freedom in Israel, while also revealing that the assault on Israeli academe is being backed by neoconservative forces in the United States.

The first incident involves a report published by the Institute for Zionist Strategies, in Israel, which analyzed course syllabi in Israeli sociology departments and accused professors of a “post-Zionist” bias. The institute defines post-Zionism as “the pretense to undermine the foundations of the Zionist ethos and an affinity with the radical leftist stream.” In addition to the usual Israeli leftist suspects, intellectuals like Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm also figure in as post-Zionists in the report.

The institute sent the report to the Israel Council for Higher Education, which is the statutory body responsible for Israeli universities, and the council, in turn, sent it to all of the university presidents. Joseph Klafter, president of Tel-Aviv University, actually asked several professors to hand over their syllabi for his perusal, though he later asserted that he had no intention of policing faculty members and was appalled by the report.

A few days later, the top headline of the Israeli daily Haaretz revealed that another right-wing organization, Im Tirtzu (If You Will It), had threatened Ben-Gurion University, where I am a professor and a former chair of the government and politics department. Im Tirtzu told the university’s president, Rivka Carmi, that it would persuade donors to place funds in escrow unless the university took steps “to put an end to the anti-Zionist tilt” in its politics and government department. The organization demanded a change “in the makeup of the department’s faculty and the content of its syllabi,” giving the president a month to meet its ultimatum. This time my head was not the only one it wanted.

President Carmi immediately asserted that Im Tirtzu’s demands were a serious threat to academic freedom. However, Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar, who is also chairman of the Council for Higher Education, restricted his response to a cursory statement that any move aimed at harming donations to universities must be stopped. Mr. Sa’ar’s response was disturbingly predictable. Only a few months earlier, he had spoken at an Im Tirtzu gathering, following its publication of a report about the so-called leftist slant of syllabi in Israeli political-science departments. At the gathering, he asserted that even though he had not read the report, its conclusions would be taken very seriously.

Although the recent scuffle seems to be about academic freedom, the assault on the Israeli academe is actually part of a much wider offensive against liberal values. Numerous forces in Israel are mobilizing in order to press forward an extreme-right political agenda.

They have chosen the universities as their prime target for two main reasons. First, even though Israeli universities as institutions have never condemned any government policy—not least the restrictions on Palestinian universities’ academic freedom—they are home to many vocal critics of Israel’s rights-abusive policies. Those voices are considered traitorous and consequently in need of being stifled. Joining such attacks are Americans like Alan M. Dershowitz, who in a recent visit to Tel-Aviv University called for the resignations of professors who supported the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli goods and divestment from Israeli companies until the country abides by international human-rights law. He named Rachel Giora and Anat Matar, both tenured professors at Tel Aviv University, as part of that group.

Second, all Israeli universities depend on public funds for about 90 percent of their budget. This has been identified as an Achilles heel. The idea is to exploit the firm alliance those right-wing organizations have with government members and provide the ammunition necessary to make financial support for universities conditional on the dissemination of nationalist thought and the suppression of “subversive ideas.” Thus, in the eyes of those right-wing Israeli organizations, the universities are merely arms of the government.

And, yet, Im Tirtzu and other such organizations would not have been effective on their own; they depend on financial support from backers in the United States. As it turns out, some of their ideological allies are willing to dig deep into their pockets to support the cause.

The Rev. John C. Hagee, the leader of Christians United for Israel, has been Im Tirtzu’s sugar daddy, and his ministries have provided the organization with at least $100,000. After Im Tirtzu’s most recent attack, however, even Mr. Hagee concluded that it had gone overboard and decided to stop giving funds. The Hudson Institute, a neoconservative think tank that helped shape the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Institute for Zionist Strategies over the past few years, and was practically its only donor. For Christians United and the Hudson Institute, the attack on academic freedom is clearly also a way of advancing much broader objectives.

The Hudson Institute, for example, has neo-imperialist objectives in the Middle East, and a member of its Board of Trustees is in favor of attacking Iran. Christian United’s eschatological position (whereby the Second Coming is dependent on the gathering of all Jews in Israel), includes support for such an attack. The scary partnership between such Israeli and American organizations helps reveal the true aims of this current assault on academic freedom: to influence Israeli policy and eliminate the few liberal forces that are still active in the country. The atmosphere within Israel is conducive to such intervention.

Nonetheless, Im Tirtzu’s latest threat backfired, as did that of the Institute for Zionist Strategies’ report; the assaults have been foiled for now. The presidents of all the universities in Israel condemned the reports and promised never to bow down to this version of McCarthyism.

Despite those declarations, the rightist organizations have actually made considerable headway. Judging from comments on numerous online news sites, the populist claim that the public’s tax money is being used to criticize Israel has convinced many readers that the universities should be more closely monitored by the government and that “dissident” professors must be fired. Moreover, the fact that the structure of Israeli universities has changed significantly over the past five years, and that now most of the power lies in the hands of presidents rather than the faculty, will no doubt be exploited to continue the assault on academic freedom. Top university administrators are already stating that if the Israeli Knesset approves a law against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for Palestine, the law will be used to fire faculty members who support the movement.

More importantly, there is now the sense among many faculty members that a thought police has been formed—and that many of its officers are actually members of the academic community. The fact that students are turning themselves into spies and that syllabi are being collected sends a chilling message to faculty members across the country. I, for one, have decided to include in my syllabi a notice restricting the use of recording devices during class without my prior consent. And many of my friends are now using Gmail instead of the university e-mail accounts for fear that their correspondence will in some way upset administrators.

Israeli academe, which was once considered a bastion of free speech, has become the testing ground for the success of the assault on liberal values. And although it is still extremely difficult to hurt those who have managed to enter the academic gates, those who have not yet passed the threshold are clearly being monitored.

I know of one case in which a young academic was not hired due to his membership in Courage to Refuse, an organization of reserve soldiers who refuse to do military duty in the West Bank. In a Google and Facebook age, the thought police can easily disqualify a candidate based on petitions signed and even online “friends” one has. Israeli graduate students are following such developments, and for them the message is clear.

While in politics nothing is predetermined, Israel is heading down a slippery slope. Israeli academe is now an arena where some of the most fundamental struggles of a society are being played out. The problem is that instead of struggling over basic human rights, we are now struggling over the right to struggle.

Neve Gordon is a professor of politics and the author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

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