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Updates on Gaza Siege from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on July 10, 2014

Palestinian Toll from Gaza Attack Tops 80, Including 18 Children

The death toll from Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip has more than doubled in 24 hours as the besieged territory comes under relentless bombing. At least 44 Gaza residents have been killed in the past day, bringing the total this week to around 80. The Palestinian news agency Maan reports the dead include 18 children and 10 women. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says more than 600 people have been wounded. In the deadliest single attack since the offensive began, at least seven Palestinian civilians, including five children, were killed when Israeli warplanes bombed several homes in a densely populated area where the victims were sleeping. Bodies were pulled from the rubble of at least three homes and neighboring buildings.

 

Gaza Hospitals Overrun with Victims; Bombing Exceeds 2012 Israeli Assault

Gaza Militants Continue Rocket Attacks on Israel

Israel Rejects Hamas Ceasefire Terms; Minister Floats “Temporary” Gaza Takeover

Israelis Stage Peace Rally in Tel Aviv

Hilleli, Women of Peace: “We believe that this cycle of violence must be ended, and it’s definitely not going to be ended by more violence and by more bombs on Gaza, and it’s not going to help the people in the south and neither the people in Tel Aviv that have been subject to missiles in the past few days.”

 

 

PA Pleads for U.S. Aid to Stop “War Against Palestinian People”

Maen Rashid Areikat, chief PLO envoy to Israel: “I would like to say to President Obama that there is no — you cannot equate between an occupied people and an occupier. And the rising death toll on the Palestinian side tells clearly who is the party that is suffering the most from this violence. … I think the United States should rein in Israel. They are the only country that can rein in Israel, because they are the country that provides the political, military, economic and financial support for Israel, and without that support, Israel cannot escape being accountable for their actions.”

 

 

Obama Admin Continues Backing for Israeli Airstrikes

Jen Psaki: “As you know, we’re encouraging all sides to de-escalate the situation on the ground. But again, Israel has every right to defend themselves and take steps to defend themselves. And as we know, the aggression is currently coming from Hamas in Gaza.”

During the news conference, Psaki repeatedly refused to answer a question on “whether Palestinians have the right to defend themselves.” The Obama administration appears to have decided on a position of backing the Israeli strikes, but cautioning against a ground invasion. In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said the United States hopes to see Israel stop the rocket fire without sending troops into Gaza.

 

Thousands in New York City Protest Israeli Attack on Gaza

Palestinian solidarity rallies have been held around the world in recent days. In New York City, thousands of people protested in front of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations before marching through the streets.

Protester: “We hope to change public opinion so that they understand that Palestinians are not terrorists, that they are defending themselves. It’s an unfair situation that they’re going through. They’re living under occupation. They have no human rights. They have no rights to anything that we enjoy here as Americans.”

 

Muhammed Chaudhry: “At least we’ve got to take the first step, though, a ceasefire, no more violence, no more killing of the innocent, from both parties.”

 

–Democracy Now!, 10 July, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/10/headlines#7101

Posted in Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »

EI: “Why did a rogue group of Occupy activists smear me with ‘terror’ claim?”

Posted by uscsjp on January 16, 2013

On 26 February 2012, a small group of Occupy Oakland activists claimed that I was potentially a “suspected” terrorist in an article they posted on an Occupy Oakland-branded website that they controlled. The resulting spectacle revealed an entrenched and unexamined prejudice against Arabs and Muslims, and a weakness many mainstream, predominantly white activist groups have in openly discussing issues of race and ethnicity.

The article, titled “Occupational Awareness” (see the screengrab at the bottom of this article), is based on several glaring errors in reasoning — the central one being that my “name had been found in Google search results in connection with allegations of terrorist activity.” The premise was fatally misleading, because it was not my name found, but that of another person, with a different surname.

Nevertheless, this acrobatic logic became the basis for their claim of my potential identity as a Palestinian “terror” suspect. Additionally, the article claimed that the person in question “visually and biographically” resembled me. This claim was based on the low-resolution photo of a bearded man with glasses featured in the article, and, apparently, the fact he was arrested in Paraguay.

Other suspected connections were added: connections to “South American drug trafficking”; to “Israeli intelligence”; and to the FBI. The group suggested I may have “entered the movement in order to harm it” and tacked that on to a disclaimer that Occupy did not support “terrorism.” This gave the impression that some kind of “terror” attack might also be imminent.

The “breakaway” group responsible for the article was a faction that had splintered from the main media committee. They later acquiesced to pressure from Occupy Oakland activists and removed the post.

Because of the potential for abusing the messaging power of the media committee revealed by the affair, the entire media committee was dissolved and reconstituted with new guidelines via a general assembly resolution that passed by a 90 percent margin. The splinter group formed the “Occupy Oakland Media Collective,” taking their website, hellaoccupyoakland.org, with them.

I chose not to write about all of this at the time for the safety of myself, family and fellow activists. During the short period the post was up, it had caught the attention of a few right-wing blogs, which soon began circulating the rumor that Occupy was sheltering a “Hamas terrorist,” and I felt I would be putting others in danger by drawing more attention to it.

The core of the issue was effectively swept under the rug, but the narrative that’s emerged among some groups often dismisses the potentially disastrous effects of the group’s actions. I believe its now critical to draw attention to the pernicious reasoning that lay behind the accusation and its potentially disastrous effects.

No evidence

The man I was accused of being — Salah Abdul Karim Yassine — was, ironically, also a victim of a “terror” smear, twice: once by the US State Department, and then again by the media group. Yassine’s name first appears in a State Department report published in 2001 as one of two slim reeds of “evidence” that the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina had become a porous hotbed of “Islamic terrorism.”

Yassine is alleged to have made terror threats, though there is no evidence of them. Ali Khali Meri, a Lebanese immigrant, with so-called “Hizballah ties” is also named in the report. The State Department’s publication of this report — and subsequent references to it in a Library of Congress document alluded to by the media group — are the only reason that the group learned of the existence of Yassine (“Patterns of Global Terrorism,” 30 April 2001 [PDF]).

Indeed, it was not Yassine, but the State Department’s construct of him that the group discovered. In the words of journalist Kenneth Rapoza — writing on the website Counterpunch — the goal of the report was to facilitate turning “the region into a terrorist and druglord hunting ground” for the US military (“New fakers at the New Yorker,” 14 May 2003).

To achieve this goal, these manufactured cases relied on entrenched bigotry against Arabs to elevate petty crimes to the level of life-threatening concerns — copyright infringement in the case of Meri, illegal entry and use of false documents in the case of Yassine.

The media group’s recycling of the original smear against Yassine — and addition of “drug trafficking” from their own repository of Latino stereotypes — is an ironic testament to how easily such accusations are taken at face value when made by the powerful against marginalized groups. But the group’s article also recasts in microcosm the dangerous climate created by the US both here and abroad, where minor offenses — or the mere suspicion of them — become frightening conspiracies when the accused have a Muslim name and/or Arab ethnicity.

Indeed countless innocent people have been imprisoned following the same logic, based on innuendo or a “suspicion” which reaches steroidal levels when an Arab surname is added. Of these, Khaled el-Masri may be the most easily recognizable today. A German citizen with a name similar to that of an accused member of al-Qaeda, el-Masri was detained solely on suspicion of forged documents. Those documents were suspected of forgery only because of the similarity in names.

El-Masri was “rendered” by US officials, and tortured. The fact that this same reasoning was emulated by a group interested in social justice makes it an all the more disturbing commentary on the pervasive logic of prejudice against Arabs and Muslims.

Ignorant fear

I was accused during a particularly high-profile period of Palestinian advocacy. The article was published less than a week after I gave a short talk on behalf of a prisoner’s rights group about Khader Adnan, then on hunger strike in an Israeli jail, at a rally at San Quentin state prison on 20 February.

A day earlier, I had published a blog post on The Electronic Intifada addressing the double standards applied in the West to questions of nonviolent resistance.

It seems likely that the fear that such views would make Occupy seem “too radical” was partly responsible for the media group’s paranoia. Based on the irrational urgency embedded in the group’s excuse for not double-checking their research, it also seems clear that this was coupled with a basic ignorant fear of the Palestinian struggle. A member of the original media committee — who later joined the media collective and is the former director of the American-Israeli Friendship Committee in California — in fact tweeted complaints about the support Adnan received as a “nonviolent” activist.

It’s obvious that my speech, combined with nearly a decade of pro-Palestinian advocacy on my own blog, and my recent writing for The Electronic Intifada, fed the hysteria that led to the accusation. Even in the most uncharitable and biased view, my interactions with the group did not rise to the level of life or death concern. The concern is reflexively preposterous if stripped of the anti-Palestinian bigotry that has been tacitly accepted by the mainstream.

Despite the advances of the Palestinian solidarity movement and the greater mainstream acceptance of pro-Palestinian positions, this kind of fearful auto-purging exists at every level of the public sphere. The examples range from the tragic destruction of the career of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas to the prosecution of students at the University of California at Irvine, who exercised their free speech rights at an on-campus pro-Israel forum.

Participating in a mass movement in the US shouldn’t also mean that Palestinians, Palestinian solidarity activists and those advocating similarly uphill positions must check their views at the door or be suspected of posing a threat towards the group. Though there are many pitfalls to the discourse on Israeli apartheid, marginalizing it this way all but ensures that mainstream movements will undermine their ability to address those issues most central to social justice — an end to the costly, ongoing military occupations and invasions throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Bizarre interpretation of FBI schemes

There’s little doubt that the group applied a narrative of FBI infiltration cobbled from popular media accounts of government infiltration. But their peculiar needs required a bizarre interpretation of the FBI’s modus operandi.

Over the past several years, the FBI has sent Arab and Muslim infiltrators into Muslim and Arab American institutions and mosques. Their role has been to persuade and/or trick Muslims with poor judgment into saying questionable things or participating in certain acts (“Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned,” Guardian, 16 November 2011).

But the hair-on-fire concerns of the group obscured that methodology. In almost every case, infiltrators are petty criminals who have never been accused of terrorism — for example, Muslims and/or Arabs who have been recruited while serving sentences for fraud and the like. There is no known example of the FBI sending an Arab or Muslim infiltrator to subvert a mainstream organization. That may be for the very reasons I noted earlier, that such voices suffer from sanctions for advocating even mild pro-Arab or Muslim views — and even just from having backgrounds associated with Islam and the Arab world.

In every instance, the “aspirational terror” plots orchestrated by the FBI are not meant to undermine any single movement or group. Rather, they are meant to manufacture “results” in the “domestic anti-terror” crusade. The goal is all the more unlikely because “terror” itself is a construct manufactured for US establishment aims. The FBI’s activities instead create the illusion of endless, but easily characterized, threats and the appearance that the FBI is busy thwarting them to keep Americans safe.

Worse, the media group’s skewed view obscures the real dangers faced by Occupy. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and “aspirational” plots currently being brought to trial reveal a security system infatuated with “anarchists,” and frantically engaged in infiltrating and implicating anarchist-related groups as a subset of Occupy.

This is the same “busy work” methodology behind the targeting of Muslim and Arab groups — and by all accounts, the FBI has been very busy, raiding activist homes for anarchist literature and even setting up a similar “aspirational” phony terror plot aimed at Occupy’s anarchists in Cleveland, fronted by a petty criminal espousing anarchist sympathies (“FBI supplied Occupy Cleveland ‘terrorists’ arrested in May Day plot,” Green is the New Red, 1 May 2012).

In such a context, the idea that the FBI had sent a Muslim former terrorist to infiltrate and subdue the “nonviolence” wing of Occupy Oakland — which the media group claimed to represent — is more than the delusional fantasy than it initially appears to be. It is, instead, seriously hazardous reasoning. In a final irony, for example, baseless accusations against pro-Palestinian activists of being Mossad agents turns out to be one of the tactics recently espoused by an Israeli government official for discrediting them.

Surprisingly, none of these issues ever rose to front and center of the public discussion. Because some of the signatories to the article were people of color, a discourse on racism defined by power dynamics which further confused the issue, dominated the conversation.

Racialized assumptions

Of course, it’s ostensibly crucial to use a functional definition of racism based on power dynamics, but in this case that construction achieved the opposite of the intended effect; it encouraged white members of the media group, and their white advocates, to assure themselves that they had no racist assumptions to examine. In fact, the person who reportedly first found the “evidence” of the “suspected” terrorism, and one of the most vehement in defending it, was a white male, the son of an affluent best-selling author and not from, or residing in, Oakland.

Members of the “Anonymous” community later claimed that he had shared the information with them and that they had warned him that the “evidence” was baseless according to their own research. He and the other members of the group went public regardless. More importantly, since the kind of racialized assumptions the group used in its analysis was an internalized product of a white supremacist structure, this was a worrisome mix of opposing ideals that unfortunately went unexamined.

The discussion about racism, though important, rapidly became confused and distracted from the salient issues. These aren’t just questions facing Arab-American and Muslim activists, or of representation of people of color, or even of profiling. Rather, these are issues that concern radical queers and feminists, anti-establishment labor organizers, and anti-imperialism activists of all races.

These questions concern all people who espouse substantive and honest critiques of US policies and organizations, critiques which are not always popular at any given time, even in the left — these groups can be caught in the middle of witch-hunts not only by the establishment, but also by ostensibly counter-establishment structures.

Undoubtedly, there will be a mass movement successor to Occupy in the coming months or years. And if that successor is to have a broad popular character, an effective focus on US domestic and foreign policy and a resistance to McCarthyite witch-hunts, activists will have to revisit these issues again and again. Hopefully, this story will be of some use in those times.

Jaime Omar Yassin has been involved in alternative media for nearly 20 years. He has written for Extra!, Meatpaper, n+1 and other publications. His writing on the Occupy movement appears in the books Dreaming in Public and We are Many. He has his own blog at Hyphenated-Republic.

 

–The Electronic Intifada, 16 January, 2013

 

http://electronicintifada.net/content/why-did-rogue-group-occupy-activists-smear-me-terror-claim/12099

Posted in Blogroll, Opinion/Editorial | 2 Comments »

AL Jazeera: Hamas agrees to new ceasefire with Israel

Posted by uscsjp on June 23, 2012

A leader of the ruling Hamas said the group had agreed to try anew an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel, after six days of bloodshed in and around the Gaza Strip.

“Our Egyptian brothers have asked us to completely stop firing at Israel: we told the Egyptians that we agree to exchange quiet for quiet with Israel,” Ayman Taha said.

An official close to the group said that the truce would take effect from midnight (21:00 GMT).

Palestinian officials said the latest attack brough the number of people killed so far in Israeli attacks on Saturday to three, and to 15 since this round of violence erupted on Monday.

Palestinian medics said the dead included a little child and that at least 24 others had been wounded.

An attack on Saturday by an Israeli drone killed a Palestinian man, Khaled al-Burai, 25, east of Jabaliya, in the north of Gaza, a medical source said.

Two other Palestinians survived the attack, witnesses said.

Later, in the afternoon, Israeli air raids killed 42-year-old Ussama Ali, and wounded 10 passers-by, according to Abham Abu Selmiya, spokesperson for the emergency services.

Palestinian medics said he was riding a motorcycle in Gaza City’s al-Nasser neighbourhood when he was hit.

Earlier in the day Hamas had threatened to end a three-day-old Egyptian-brokered truce following a series of deadly Israeli air raids.

A statement on Saturday from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said “the air raids by the Zionist enemy are new crimes. We will not stay silent in the face of the crimes”.

Israeli denial

A medic said Ali al-Shawaf, aged six, was killed, and his father and another man wounded east of the city of Khan Younis, but the Israeli military denied it was responsible.

“According to the findings of a preliminary investigation, what happened in Khan Younis had nothing to do with any operation by the Israeli military,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

Witnesses said Israeli aircraft carried out at least four other raids elsewhere in Gaza on Saturday.

One targeted people believed by Israel to be fighters who were travelling in a car in the Zeitoun neighbourhood east of Gaza City after they had fired rockets into Israel, witnesses said.

Two civilian bystanders suffered minor injuries, they said.

Raids also struck the Beit Lahiya area in the north and the Nusseirat and Al-Bureij refugee camps in the centre of the Gaza Strip, without causing any casualties, witnesses said on Saturday.

Overnight raids targeted two camps of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades in the centre and north of Gaza, and a former Hamas security post in Gaza City. They wounded about 20 people, the health ministry said.

Palestinian fighters struck back, firing at least 23 rockets into southern Israel, most of them hitting the town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, Israeli officials said, adding that one man was wounded.

Israel holds Hamas responsible

The Israeli army said the latest raids were in response to rocket fire earlier in the week.

Israel held Hamas responsible for “all terrorist activity coming from the Gaza Strip”, the army statement said.

The latest round of Israeli attacks and Palestinian retaliation began with air raids on Monday morning, just hours after armed men from Sinai carried out an ambush along Israel’s southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian.

Israel has said its sudden surge in Gaza operations was “in no way related” to the border incident, with the military saying the air force was targeting fighters about to attack it.

–Al Jazeera English, 23 June, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/06/2012623134432482179.html

See Also:

‘It is beautiful… not a single Arab to be seen’

Washington,DC- Lydda, a city home to some 20,000 Palestinians in 1948 quickly swelled to a population of 50,000 as refugees flocked from the cleansed city ofJaffa. After four days of siege, Israeli forces carried out expulsion orders during Operation Dani, leaving fewer than 1,000 residents remaining.

Yitzhak Rabin, an Israeli Brigadier General at the time, described how they perpetrated the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and neighbouring Ramle in July of 1948. To this day, however, the Israeli state prevents this description from being printed in Rabin’s memoirs.

I often wonder what must have been going through my grandfather’s head when he, and others among the few who managed to remain, realised the busy municipality that they had once called home had been reduced to a ghost town.

Perhaps they were in shock, an understandable reaction, given the circumstances. Perhaps they were busy attempting to care for the injured, of which there were plenty. Or maybe they were trying to secure their possessions from Israeli looters who ravaged the vacant homes and stores of businessmen-turned-refugees overnight. Israeli historians, such as Tom Segev, note that 1,800 trucks of possessions were looted from Lydda alone.

Once the dust cleared and the shock subsided, reality must have begun to set in. In a few months’ time, the Palestinian Arabs had gone from being a majority living in their ancestral homeland, albeit amid tension, to being a minority living under a state that had just made refugees out of most of their kin and would refuse them re-entry.

Legalising theft

For Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, like Palestinians elsewhere, the Nakba was just beginning. The looting which took place was also a preliminary glimpse into the theft of land, property and identity that would ensue in the coming years.

Ironically, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who Rabin said ordered the expulsion of Palestinians during Operation Dani, expressed shock that Israelis were simply stealing the possessions of Palestinians in Lydda and elsewhere. How he reconciled a moral defence of ethnic cleansing with moral outrage at looting is beyond my comprehension.

Nonetheless, with the establishment of the state ofIsraelon the ruins ofPalestine, theft had to be disguised by legalisms. Prior to the war, Jewish ownership of land inPalestinewas minimal. Now, after the depopulation, the vast majority of land controlled by the Jewish state was not owned by Jews and many of the owners now resided in refugee camps.

To solve this predicament, the Israeli legislature enacted various laws which allowed the state to assume control of 92 per cent of the land. The first step was using a century old Ottoman law (two-empires old at this point) to declare the land “absentee land”. This meant that the owners of the land were not present (because they were refugees not permitted to return) and that the state could assume control of it.

But refugees weren’t the only ones dispossessed by this measure. Palestinians who managed to remain inside the boundaries of the new Israeli state but were prevented from living on their land became internally displaced persons (IDPs). These IDPs falling victim toIsrael’s legalised land theft are known as “present absentees”.

Martial law

With their society decimated, their family members and kin spread across the region in refugee camps fromLebanontoJordantoGaza, their properties looted and land confiscated, Palestinian citizens ofIsraelhad to deal with another reality in the wake of the Nakba: living under martial law.

Israeli martial law, which governed Palestinian Arabs from the establishment of the state to 1966, was based on British Mandate-era emergency regulations. In the 1930s, the British used these regulations as the framework for the repression of the Palestinian Arab uprisings. Then in the 1940s, the British used them to crack down against Zionist dissidents. For this reason, such regulations were decried by Zionists prior to the establishment of the state. Yaacov Shapira, an Israeli attorney in 1946, did not mince words when criticising these laws used by the British against the Zionists at the time and likened them to Nazi Germany. Two years later, Shapira would be serving as the attorney general for the first Israeli government and would adopt these very laws to rule over the Arab minority.

Martial law was similar in many ways to the occupation we know today. During this period, the military government was empowered to deport people from their towns or villages, summon any person to a police station at any time or put under house arrest, use administrative detention or incarceration without charge, confiscate property, impose total or partial curfew, forbid or restrict movement and so on.

This, keep in mind, was not happening in Hebron or Nablus or Ramallah, this was taking place in what many today romanticise as the golden age of “democratic” Israel – inside the green line.

Discriminatory laws

After the depopulation, an Israeli member of the MAPAI secretariat remarked in 1949: “The landscape is also more beautiful. I enjoy it, especially when travelling betweenHaifaand Tel Aviv, and there is not a single Arab to be seen.”

It is this kind of drive for ethnic homogeneity, present since the founding of the Israeli state, that underpins many of the laws that discriminate againstIsrael’s Palestinian Arab citizens. A Jew from anywhere in the world, for example, can move toIsrael- while a Palestinian Arab refugee, born within the present-day borders ofIsraelis not permitted to return. Likewise, laws also prevent Palestinian Arab citizens ofIsraelwho have non-citizen Palestinian spouses from residing inIsraelas a family. This is to prevent what the Israeli prime minister termed “demographic spillover”. This restricts the population of Palestinian citizens ofIsraelfrom marrying from most of their kin because doing so would mean either having to live separately or living outside ofIsrael.

Budgetary spending is also discriminatory. Despite making up over 20 per cent of the population, Palestinian citizens ofIsraelhave watched the state build hundreds of new towns for Israeli Jews, while a handful were built for the Palestinians. Even these towns, such as Rahat, were built in part to concentrate Palestinian Bedouin from unrecognised villages. Many Palestinian Bedouin villages remain unrecognised by the Israeli state, are not provided with civil resources and are left off the electric grid. Al-Arakib, a village in theNegev, has, as of this writing, been demolished by Israeli officials, and rebuilt by its residents, some 38 times.

Lingering in the psyche

Indeed, the Nakba is the central and uniting experience of Palestinians everywhere. It comes as no surprise then that Palestinian citizens ofIsraelalive today, who did not experience the Nakba first hand,still have political views shaped by the events of 1948.

Polls of Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, performed as recently as 2010, uncovered interesting trends in the views of respondents based on whether they have relatives who were refugees. Those who have refugee relatives were almost three times as likely to identify as Palestinian first (instead of Arab, Muslim or Israeli) than those who did not. They are twice as likely to support Iran’s right to a nuclear program, twice as likely to reject Israel’s defining itself as a “Jewish State” and twice as likely to oppose a loyalty oath to the state of Israel.

For Palestinians inIsrael, it is clear that the Nakba still lingers as a major factor, determining their views toward the state that governs them.

In sum, the Nakba and its implications has, since the transformative events of 1948, continued to directly impact the Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state. While Palestinians exist across various borders as refugees, residents or citizens of different states, the Nakba continues to be the tie that binds them. This is not only because of a shared memory from the lives of their grandparents, but also because varying, often harsh, present realities rooted in events of the Nakba can only be relegated to distant memory if a peace, based on justice for the Nakba, can be achieved.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Centre inWashington,DC.

–Al Jazeera English, 15 May, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/2012513125011309135.html

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

EI: “Mavi Marmara indictments herald an end to Israeli impunity”

Posted by uscsjp on June 4, 2012

As one of the activists on the Mavi Marmara, I was overjoyed at the news that Turkey had this month issued indictments against those responsible for Israel’s assault on unarmed humanitarian aid workers sailing in international waters for Gaza two years ago today.

Nine were killed, and 189 injured at the hands of Israeli commandos. The Mavi Marmara has become another moment in history where Israel’s violent response to international solidarity with Palestine exposed the reality of Israel’s crimes, and the resulting growth of solidarity has further strengthened the movement for justice for Palestine.

You don’t send commandos onto a civilian ship, armed with lethal ammunition, unless you intend to use it. Yet if Israel’s intention in attacking the Mavi Marmara and killing passengers was to intimidate solidarity activists, and prevent future acts of solidarity with Palestinians, it very badly failed.

In the immediate aftermath, mass demonstrations took place around the world. Egypt came under intense pressure to open the Rafah border with Gaza.

I was approached by activists desperate to participate in a future flotilla. The first Freedom Flotilla became so iconic that Israel felt it had to stop a second flotilla from even leaving port — a combination of sabotage, and sustained pressure on Greece, where the boats were due to sail from.

Symbol of Israel’s cruelty

Today, the Mavi Marmara symbolizes how Israel was so desperate to prevent electric wheelchairs, baby food and computers from reaching Gaza that it attacked boats in international waters and shot, tasered, beat and humiliated passengers, who were kidnapped and thrown into Israeli prison.

Israeli commandos systematically attempted to destroy all footage of the attack, removing all phones, cameras and videos. But despite this, the few images that were smuggled out, combined with the testimony of survivors, exposed Israel’s criminal activities.

The Israeli military is used to attacking Palestinian men, women and children and getting away with it. They were simply using the same techniques against us. But now at least it couldn’t happen unnoticed and without protest.

Terror just as vivid today

After 31 May 2010 I spent months having to bear witness to the attack on the Mavi Marmara, unable to fully express my emotions. Two years on, the memories are just as vivid.

I remember coming up on deck before dawn to see Israeli warships and inflatables bristling with commandos armed to the teeth with the latest weaponry, ready to fire on unarmed passengers. I remember the whirr of the helicopters above the ship, the commandos descending onto the top of the Mavi Marmara.

I remember Cevdet Kılıçlar being carried on a stretcher back to the deck where I was standing — which before Israel’s assault had been the café — one of the main spaces where we sat, drank tea and got to know one another.

Cevdet had been filming the attack when he was shot in his forehead from above by Israeli commandos. I remember the sound of bullets in the air as I was told to go downstairs, and the endless wait while we sat below deck with the dead, dying and seriously injured, while announcements were made from our loudspeakers saying that we were not resisting, and we needed urgent medical help.

We had no response from the Israeli army for 105 minutes — apart from guns with laser sights being pointed through the windows at our heads.

I remember us all handcuffed on the deck in the boiling sun after the Israeli commandos overtook the ship, not knowing how many of us had been killed.

I remember, after the Turkish government’s intervention and the international outrage forced Israel to release us from prison, being driven in a windowless prison van to the airport, seeing the motionless face of my Turkish friend Cigdem, and then her desperate grip on my hand as we sat together and watched others who had been kidnapped and imprisoned with us board the planes for Istanbul. Cigdem was refusing to leave without the body of her husband, who had been killed on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos.

Ending Israeli impunity

Our collective memories of what happened before dawn broke on 31 May 2010 have woven together, through individual testimonies, through the witness statements taken by the UN Human Rights Council’s investigation, and through the legal action currently being taken in Turkey.

Israel is used to violating international law with impunity, and international bodies consistently fail to bring Israel to justice for its crimes against the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, Israel’s internal investigations simply serve to get those responsible off the hook for crimes such as those that took place on the Mavi Marmara and the murder of the Samouni family in Gaza during the massacre of 2008-09 (see Ali Abunimah, “Slamming the door to justice on Palestinians,” Al Jazeera English, 7 May 2012).

The UNHCR inquiry into Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara, which concludes that the assault by the Israeli military “was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,” further highlights the notorious refusal of the Israeli system to deliver justice, not just for us on this occasion, but for Palestinians on every occasion.

So Turkey’s rejection of a payoff of $6 million, and instead indicting four top Israeli generals, is a worrying signal for Israel that its “get out of jail free” cards have an expiry date. The increased solidarity around the world with Palestine will sends a clear message to the Israeli government that every attack it launches on Palestinians or their supporters simply galvanizes international solidarity for the people it so brutally oppresses.

Sarah Colborne is Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain.

–The Electronic Intifada, 31 May, 2012

http://electronicintifada.net/content/mavi-marmara-indictments-herald-end-israeli-impunity/11347

See Also:

“Norman Finkelstein: Waning Jewish American Support for Israel Boosts Chances for Middle EastPeace”

“Well over a year into the Arab Spring, the author and scholar Norman Finkelstein argues that there is a new, albeit quieter, awakening happening here in the United States that could provide a major boost to the winds of change in the Middle East. In his new book, “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End,” Finkelstein contends that American Jewish support for the Israeli government is undergoing a major shift. After decades of staunch backing for Israel that began with the 1967 war through the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, to the repression of two Palestinian intifadas, Finkelstein says that a new generation of American Jews are no longer adopting reflexive support for the state that speaks in their name. With this shift in American Jewish opinion, Finkelstein sees a new opportunity for achieving a just Middle East peace…”

–Democracy Now!, 4 June, 2012

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/4/norman_finkelstein_waning_jewish_american_support

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Tom Friedman’s Lame Advice and other stories

Posted by uscsjp on May 3, 2012

 First, latest news from Democracy Now!:

Palestinian Hunger Strikers Near Death as Solidarity Protests Continue

Protests are continuing in the occupiedWest Bankin an ongoing show of solidarity with a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. On Wednesday, Israeli troops fired tear gas at hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators marching on the military camp of Ofer. More than 1,400 Palestinian prisoners are currently on a hunger strike to protestIsrael’s policy of indefinite detention without charge. A doctor with Physicians for Human Rights said at least two prisoners are near death.

Graciela Carmon: “Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, they are striking for 63 days or 62 days, and their physical condition is catastrophic.”

Israeli Military Clears Soldiers in Killings of Gaza Relatives

The Israeli military has ended an internal probe of its killing of 21 members of a Palestinian family, concluding it was not at fault. The ordeal of the Samouni family drew international attention after it was revealed Israeli forces shelled their homes and then blocked medical aid. In addition to the 21 dead, another 45 relatives were injured, most of them children. But this week, the Israeli military said its review of the massacre had found no evidence of a war crime or deliberate targeting of civilians. Zahwa Samouni, whose husband Atiyah died in the attack, criticized the Israeli probe.

Zahwa Samouni: “This is not a solution. They executed my husband in front of his children before 16 people. They executed him while he had his hands up in the air, and then they opened fire at us. I have a child who is injured, and only 10 days ago he had his last surgery.”

Report:U.S.Accepts Israeli Request to Thwart U.N. Probe of Settlements

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting the Obama administration has agreed to an Israeli government request to thwart a U.N. panel investigating settlements in the occupiedWest Bank. The White House’s so-called “Middle Eastpeace” envoy, David Hale, reportedly asked U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay to postpone the panel’s investigation indefinitely. The White House apparently hopes to delay the panel as long as possible in the hopes of eventually quashing it altogether.

–Democracy Now!, 3 May, 2012

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/3/headlines#531

Tom Friedman’s latest advice to Palestinians: accept a farce of a state

“…The entity that Friedman and others envision for the Palestinians would not have control of its own borders, its airspace, its coastline, or its water resources. It would have no military. It would be non-contiguous and gerrymandered, ridden with enclaves of heavily armed and hostile religious and racist fanatics; and criss-crossed by roads that could be used by the fanatics but not the Palestinians. How is that a state? And without a Palestinian state, how is there a two-state solution?

The point of Friedman’s preposterous proposal is not to suggest to the Palestinians a strategy for ending their tribulations, but rather to help Israel’s supporters among his readers relieve themselves of any feeling of moral culpability — as after all, the onus is on the Palestinians to carry his map.”

–Titus North, The Electronic Intifada, 23 April 2012

http://electronicintifada.net/content/tom-friedmans-latest-advice-palestinians-accept-farce-state/11201

Israel Plots an Endgame

“…There is no doubt that Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine, which sees Palestinians continuing to subsist in physical fragmentation and permanent occupation. Unless a popular Palestinian uprising takes hold, no one is likely to challenge what is actually an Israeli declaration of war against the Palestinian people.”

–Ramzy Baroud, CounterPunch, May 03, 2012

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/03/israels-plots-an-endgame/

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Israel Bombs Gaza; Finkelstein Denounces BDS

Posted by uscsjp on March 12, 2012

21 Palestinians in Gaza Die in Israeli Air Strikes

Israeli air strikes on Gaza have entered their fourth day. The strikes have killed at least 21 Palestinians and injured 73 others. Three Palestinians died overnight, including a 15-year-old boy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the strikes for “as long as necessary.” Militants in Gaza have fired 180 rockets into Israel in response to the air strikes. Four Israelis have been injured. Schools have been shut down in the region for two days. Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti accused the Israelis of trying to create the tension of war in the region.

Mustafa Barghouti: “Israel was trying to break the calm. While Palestinians were committed to the truce, (Israel was trying) to find a way out for its crisis and to create the tension of war in the area.”

Palestinian militants began firing rockets after an Israeli jet killed Zuhair al-Qaisi on Friday in a targeted killing. He was the head of the Popular Resistance Committees militant group.

 

–Democracy Now!, 12 March, 2012

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/12/headlines#1

Abunimah: Finkelstein, BDS and the destruction of Israel

Chicago,IL- In a recent and highly controversial interview, Norman Finkelstein, long a scourge ofIsrael, turned his guns on Palestinians and their supporters. He accused the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement of being a “cult”, and claimed that its achievements were mostly exaggerated.

But what exercised Finkelstein most was his conclusion that if implemented, the demands of the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS, would amount to “the destruction ofIsrael”.

Finkelstein lay into the three “tiers” of the BDS call: that Israel end its occupation of Arab lands conquered in 1967; that it end all forms of discrimination and guarantee equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and that it respect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees, including the right of return.

“They don’t wantIsrael,” Finkelstein declared, “They think they’re being very clever. They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs inIsrael. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s noIsrael”…

–Ali Abunimah, Al Jazeera, 28 February, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012227111759385177.html

 

 

Posted in Activism/Divestment, Analysis, Blogroll | Leave a Comment »

Two Palestinian Children Killed by Israeli Mortar

Posted by uscsjp on March 7, 2012

Abandoned Israeli Mortar Kills 2 Palestinian Children

 

In the Occupied Territories, two Palestinian children were killed on Tuesday when an abandoned Israeli mortar exploded in the Occupied West Bank. The governor of Hebron, Kamel Hameed, denounced Israel for the children’s deaths.

Kamel Hameed: “It’s clear from all the indications and the finds that we have that these children found leftovers of the Israeli army, and it led to the loss of their lives. These are ongoing crimes.”

 

–Democracy Now!, 7 March 2012

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/7/headlines#7

 

Posted in Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »

“Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan to be Released from Israeli Jail After 66-Day Hunger Strike”

Posted by uscsjp on February 21, 2012

Israel’s Justice Ministry says that the authorities will not renew the detention of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 66 days. He is being held in Israel without charge or trial. Under the deal, Adnan will be released on April 17. Doctors previously said Adnan was at immediate risk of death. We speak to three guests about his case: his sister, Maali Mousa; Bill Van Esveld, researcher at Human Rights Watch; and Danny Morrison, a friend of the late Irish republican activist Bobby Sands, who died on his 66th day of a hunger strike in 1981. “[Adnan] told us that, ‘I am going on this hunger strike until I have an honorable deal or getting out from this jail,'” said Mousa about her recent visit to see her brother. “But in the same time, his spirits were very high.” Van Esveld accused Israel of violating international law by holding a Palestinian from the West Bank inside Israel. “It’s a violation of Israel’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to detain people from the occupied West Bank in prisons, or hospitals, in this case, that are inside Israel,” he said…

 

–Democracy Now, 21 February, 2012

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/21/palestinian_prisoner_khader_adnan_to_be

 

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

“Starving for freedom: The hunger strike of Khader Adnan”

Posted by uscsjp on February 14, 2012

Amman, Jordan – By the time you read these words, Khader Adnan could be dead. After 58 full days on hunger strike, his body is already well past the stage where his vital organs may cease to function at any moment. But Khader Adnan is dying to live.

The 33-year-old Palestinian baker, husband, father, and graduate student has refused food since December 18, a day after he was arrested in a nighttime raid on his family home by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank. He has lost over 40 kgs and his wife Randa and young daughters have described his appearance as “shocking”.

Adnan, whom Israel says is a member of Islamic Jihad, was given a four month “administrative detention” order by the Israeli military – meaning that he is held without being charged for any crime or trial, a practice continued by Israel that dates back to British colonial days.

Yesterday an Israeli military court rejected Adnan’s appeal against the arbitrary detention. Having vowed to maintain his hunger strike until he is released or charged, the judge – an Israeli military officer – might as well have sentenced Khader Adnan to death, unless there is urgent international intervention.

Though the life in his body hangs on by a thread, his spirit is unbroken.

“The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners,” Adnan wrote in a letter published through his lawyer, “I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey.”

According to Amnesty International, which has issued two urgent appeals on Adnan’s behalf, as of December 31 last year, 307 Palestinians were in Israeli administrative detention, including 21 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council that was elected in January 2006.

“I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on,” Adnan wrote in his letter.

In addition to Amnesty, Human Rights Watch too has heard Adnan’s message, calling on Israel to release or charge him.

Adnan’s insistence on his dignity and autonomy and his unwillingness to be broken by an overwhelmingly powerful oppressor contrasts starkly with the increasingly directionless and unprincipled actions of Palestinian leaders who continue to make dubious “reconciliation” deals that go nowhere, and pursue “negotiations” with Israel that have no chance of liberating Khader Adnan, his young daughters and millions of their countrywomen and men from Israel’s occupation, colonisation and apartheid.

Adnan’s fast has drawn support from people all over the world. Hundreds staged peaceful protests outside Israel’s Ofer Prison – where they were met with violence and arrests by Israeli police – and other protests were held as far as Washington DC, New York and Chicago. Many others have fasted in solidarity with Adnan.

Khader Adnan’s struggle reminds us that nonviolence is not the easy choice. It is often the harder one.

Yet the world is still failing to act. The Palestinian prisoner’s group Addameer undoubtedly spoke for many when it declared that it “holds the international community responsible for not taking action to save Khader’s life”. It demanded “that the European Union, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross intervene with Israel immediately before it is too late”.

And there has been silence too from prominent voices such Nick Kristof, the New York Times columnist famous for using individual stories to draw attention to human rights abuses around the world. In a 2010 column titled “Waiting for Gandhi“, Kristof scolded Palestinians for not adopting nonviolent tactics.

Of course Kristof was ignoring or simply ignorant of the rich history and present of such popular resistance in Palestine ably documented by Mazin Qumsiyeh in his recent book, Popular Resistance in Palestine: a History of Hope and Empowerment- which includes hunger strikes. Last Autumn hundreds of Palestinian prisoners spent weeks on hunger strike against punitive Israreli prison conditions, and many are on hunger strike now in solidarity with Adnan.

“If Kristof and others claim to be ‘waiting for Gandhi’ why haven’t they spoken up for Adnan?”

But if Kristof and others claim to be “waiting for Gandhi” why haven’t they spoken up for Adnan? After all it was Mahatma Gandhi himself who when repeatedly imprisoned by the British famously used hunger strikes to draw international attention to his people’s cause.

In more recent memory are the Irish hunger strikes by IRA and Republican prisoners in Belfast’s Maze Prison in 1980-81. Ten of the men – most famously Bobby Sands, just 27 years-old, who endured 66 days – fasted to death. During his strike Sands was even elected a member of the British Parliament – a fact murals on the walls of Belfast still commemorate by affixing the letters “MP” after his name.

The government of Margaret Thatcher refused to yield to the demands of the hunger strikers to be treated as political prisoners. Yet their sacrifice galvanised global support and greatly embarrassed the British, pressure that arguably contributed to eventual peace.

Last week Tommy McKearney, who spent 53 days on hunger strike in 1980, sent a video message of solidarity with Khader Adnan. McKearney, himself a former member of the IRA, lived to contribute to peace in his country, just as his comrades did with their deaths.

But Bobby Sands and his comrades need not have died had wiser, more humane policies prevailed at the time. And Khader Adnan need not die today or tomorrow. But it will take the world to speak out now to save him.

The determination, unflinching courage and self-sacrifice of Adnan’s hunger strike has captured the imagination and support of people everywhere. He deserves our respect, but more importantly right now, he needs us to raise our voices.

Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He is a co-founder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and a policy adviser with Al-Shabaka.

Follow him at: @AliAbunimah

 

–Al Jazeera English, 14 February, 2012

 

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/20122148513674313.html

 

See Also:

Israel Hedges its Bets on Syria

Herzliya, Israel - Officials here are waffling over what position to take in response to the Syrian uprising. During the early days of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, officials in Tel Aviv kept a low profile in relation to their northern neighbour. In conventional wisdom, they pursued what has been termed as a policy of “better the devil we know” – that supporting the status quo was better than not knowing what came next…

–Roxanne Horesh, Al Jazeera, 14 February, 2012

 

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/02/2012298108853411.html

 

 

 

Posted in Blogroll, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Rosenberg: The real ‘invented’ people

Posted by uscsjp on December 26, 2011

It is hard to believe that anyone who defends Israel’s legitimacy as a state would buy into former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s argument that Palestine is an “invented nation”.

The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people – Israel and the Israelis – from scratch. The first Hebrew-speaking child in 1900 years, Ittamar Ben-Avi, was not born until 1882. His father, the brilliant linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, created a modern language for him to speak by improvising from the language of the Bible.

The founder of the Israeli state was Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an assimilated Viennese writer who was convinced by the Dreyfus trial in France – and the horrendous right-wing anti-Semitism that resulted from it – that Jews had to get out of Europe.

In 1897, he wrote the book that would essentially inaugurate the Zionist movement. It was called Der Judenstaat (meaning “the Jews’ state” or “the Jewish State”), which was his proposal for moving the Jews out of Europe and into their own country.

He didn’t specify where the Jewish homeland should be. He was more concerned about quickly obtaining territory anywhere for Jews to seek refuge.

Later, he decided that Palestine made the most sense because that was where the Jewish people both began and exercised self-determination in ancient times, and where there already was a small minority of Jews. But he also spoke of finding a place in Africa or the Americas if Palestine was unavailable.

The reaction to Herzl’s idea was primarily that he was a bit crazy. Jews committed to assimilation insisted that Jews were not a nation, but a religious faith. Their nationalities were French, German, Polish, Iraqi or American – not some imaginary Jewish nationality that had not existed for 1900 years.

100 years ago: ‘just an idea’

As late as 1943, during the worst days of the Holocaust, the American Jewish Committee – which adhered to the assimilationist view – resigned from the body created by American Jews to respond to the Nazi catastrophe over its “demand for the eventual establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine”.

Seventy-plus years later, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world (more authentic than some, in fact).

The Hebrew language is spoken by millions of Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli culture is unique: Bearing little resemblance to any other in the world. In fact, diaspora Jews have as little in common with Israelis as African-Americans have with Africans.

Israelis are not just Jews who happen to live in Palestine, even though the concept of Israel-ness started just over a hundred years ago as nothing but an idea. They are Israelis, entitled to self-determination, peace and security in their own land.

And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel).

Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day.

The answer to this is: So what?

What makes a people real?

Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The Polish nation existed between 1790 and 1918 even though the state was erased from the map – divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary. It achieved independence in 1918 only to again lose it to the Nazis, and then the Soviets from 1939 until 1989. Would anyone today argue that the Polish nation was invented?

The idea of it is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians… ) whose national existence would have been unimaginable a few centuries ago.

The second argument is that Palestinians never thought of themselves as Palestinians until Jews started moving into their territory, that Palestinian nationalism is a response to Zionism.

Again, so what?

When European Jews docked in Jaffa, Palestine in the early immigration waves of the late 19th century, there were Arabs waiting at the port. When the Jews purchased land, it was Arabs who had to move out.

And if those Arabs didn’t call themselves Palestinians until the Zionist movement began, neither did the Jews call themselves Israelis. Until 1948, they were just Jews. But each of the two peoples knew who they were and who the other was.

The bottom line is that today, the Palestinian nation is as authentic as the Israeli nation – and vice versa. Those who think either is going away are blinded by hatred.

To put it simply, the first part of the phrase self-determination is the word self. Both nations have the absolute right to define themselves as two nations which, hopefully, will evolve into two states. The alternative is national catastrophe not for one nation, but for two.
But why would Newt Gingrich care about that?

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.


–Al Jazeera English, 24 December, 2011

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/12/2011122495928144388.html

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »

 
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