As Palestinians Mark 68 Years of Nakba, We Must Step Up Our Work
Today Palestinians worldwide commemorate the Nakba, the catastrophe, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately expelled from their homes by Zionist forces to create the state of Israel. There are now more than seven million Palestinian refugees waiting to return to their homeland, unable to do so because Israel refuses to honor their right of return.
While we commemorate the events of 1948, it is important to understand that the Nakba is not a onetime event andimpacts Palestinians everywhere on a daily basis. Palestinian refugees in Gaza,where 70% of the population are refugees, and Syria,where more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed by bombardment from the Syrian regime,face constant military assaults.Ethnic cleansing in historic Palestine continues. In 2015 alone, 221,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced as Israel pursues its colonization project.
Below are some resources about the Nakba and the importance of thePalestinian right of return for establishing a just and lasting peace. Please use them in your organizing for Palestinian rights.
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Follow#Nakba, #Nakba68, and #NakbaDay on Twitter for more articles, pictures, and videos.
We must step up our work in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. And there is something you can do right now!
The United Methodist Church General Conference is happening now in Portland, OR and US Campaign member group United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) is pushing for several divestment resolutions that will end the church’s involvement in the occupation. UMKR needs you to help launch a social media storm to show the church that support for Palestinian rights and divestment is widespread!
If you are on Facebook, like UMKR’s page and share their updates.
If you are on Twitter, tweet your support using #UMCGC. Follow and retweet tweets from @UMKairosResp, @fosnalive, and #KairosGC2016. These accounts will also let you know when you can watch live stream of the resolutions being discussed and voted on.
You can also click on the tweets below to post them automatically. Each tweet includes a link to more information.
The US is planning to provide Israel with the largest military aid package in the history of the two countries, the Times of Israel reported on Monday citing a White House official.
A large majority of US senators have called to increase foreign aid to Israel.
“We are preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide the largest single package of aid to any country in the history of the United States,” a White House official told Reuters.
As many as 83 out of 100 US Senators signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to increase foreign aid to Israel and to immediately sign an agreement on a new defence package.
The letter was drafted by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Senator Chris Cowans and was signed by 51 Republicans and 32 Democrats including Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
The United States currently gives Israel $3.1 billion annually in military aid, but Israel wants to increase it to $5 billion a year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that he would wait for Obama’s successor to get what Israel wants.
US Vice President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu during his last visit to Israel last month that the aid package would be “smaller than what Israel seeks”, but stressed that the amount will reflect the security needs of the country.
On Monday, June 13, 2016, Rasmea Odeh will appear with her attorneys before Judge Gershwin Drain for a status conference at the federal courthouse in Detroit, Michigan. Supporters will travel to Detroit as well, as they have done for all the previous court dates, to urge for a new trial for this Palestinian American icon who was convicted of a politically-motivated immigration charge in 2014, and sentenced to 18 months in prison and deportation last year.
In a February 2016 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Judge Drain, saying he had wrongfully barred the testimony of a torture expert that was critical to Rasmea’s defense. At the trial, Rasmea was not allowed to tell the entire story of Israel forcing her to falsely confess to bombings in 1969, when she endured over three weeks of vicious sexual, physical, and psychological torture at the hands of the Israeli military.
Rasmea suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of this torture, which, according to world renowned psychologist, Dr. Mary Fabri, caused her to suppress the horrible recollection of the arrest when she answered questions on her immigration application. Judge Drain excluded Dr. Fabri’s testimony from the trial, and disallowed any evidence about the rape and torture. Appeals court judges sided with Rasmea’s defense team, and sent the case back to district court. If Judge Drain cannot determine new legal avenues to exclude the expert testimony, Rasmea will be granted a new trial.
“The conviction of Rasmea Odeh was a travesty of justice. Rasmea is a hero, who has dedicated her life to organizing for Palestinian liberation, and to building a society with dignity and justice for all. We will stand with Rasmea in Detroit on June 13, as we have been many times before, and call for a new trial, where she can finally tell her story,” said Jess Sundin of the national Rasmea Defense Committee.
Members of the committee were in DC just this week pressing Rasmea’s case to legislators, including Congressmen Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez, respectively.
The committee is asking supporters to make plans to be in Detroit on the morning of June 13, and to donate to support the legal and community-based organizing work ahead. For more information, visit justice4rasmea.org and follow #Justice4Rasmea.
Adbusters is launching a #AlltheNewsThatsFitToPrint campaign to take on the biased reporting at The New York Times.
For years now, The New York Times has had a pro-Israeli bias in much of its coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Its writers report in-depth about Israel’s plight and suffering, but fail to document the Palestinian side of the story with anywhere near the same level of detail or humanity.
The problem is that a number of The New York Times‘ journalists have close family ties to Israel and its military.
In 2010, it was discovered that Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner had a son enlisted in Israel’s military. The Electronic Intifada described it as a conflict of interest.
Current senior reporter Isabel Kershner is married to Hirsh Goodman, a senior employee at the Institute for National Security Studies, a think tank with close ties to Israel’s government and armed forces.
David Brooks has a son in the Israel Defense Forces—at the very moment that Brooks may be writing a column about the fraught sensitivities of the Arab-Israeli conflict, his child is taking up arms against the Palestinians.
We wrote a letter to The New York Times asking them to provide pertinent biographical details of its writer’s backgrounds. They refused to print it.
Share your thoughts about this on social media. Contact public editor Margaret Sullivan [@sulliview] and demand that every time they print an article, details of the writer’s background be disclosed. Contact Kershner [@IKershner], Brooks [@nytdavidbrooks], Bronner [@ethanbronner], tell them we want to see Palestinian issues treated with the same care and integrity as any other issue. Share the letter they refused to print. And let’s get #AlltheNewsThatsFitToPrint and #nytimedisclaimer trending!
This is the perfect moment for what is perhaps the most influential newspaper in the world to change the tone of its reporting on the Middle East.
For the wild,
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Re: Israel Polarized Over Soldier Who Killed Wounded Palestinian (March 30, 2016)
Isabel Kershner’s latest article compels me to question your objectivity towards the Israel- Palestine conflict. This story is typical of Kershner’s reporting: she writes in-depth about Israel’s reaction to the shooting of a Palestinian assailant, but fails to document the Palestinian response with the same level of detail or humanity. Like her pieces on January 28 th and February 18 th , Kershner neglects to address both sides of the tragedy.
This is not the first time your paper has been accused of a pro-Israeli bias. In 2010, The New York Timescame under fire when an independent publication discovered Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner had a son enlisted in Israel’s military. The Electronic Intifada described it as a conflict of interest, and your own Public Editor agreed.
Readers similarly deserve to know that Kershner is married to Hirsh Goodman, a senior employee at the Institute for National Security Studies: a think tank with close ties to Israel’s government and armed forces. They also deserve to know that Times columnist David Brooks, like Bronner, has a son in the Israel Defense Forces. At the very moment that Brooks may be writing a column about the fraught sensitivities in the Arab-Israeli war, his child is taking up arms against the Palestinians.
I am not suggesting that these or other writers’ private lives necessarily bias their work. That is for each individual reader to decide. But the myth of perfect journalistic objectivity has been set aside; the influence of subjectivity is now understood to be significant, and with that recognition comes an urgent need for transparency.
In the 2010 Bronner case, The Times responded by providing a disclaimer at the bottom of just one of his articles. Clearly, this is inadequate. I urge you to provide relevant biographical details at the end of any article where private interests or relationships potentially conflict with the ideal of fair and accurate reporting. At the very least, this is an issue that warrants substantive debate among your journalists and your readers.
Police arrested 17 activists denouncing the “Jewish establishment’s support of the occupation of Palestine” on April 20 in the lobby of the Anti-Defamation League during one of a series of Passover protests organized by anti-occupation group If Not Now.
Before they were cuffed and shuffled into New York Police Department vans, the young activists had sat cross-legged on the lobby floor, leading a larger crowd in their version of a Passover Seder.
They banged on the floor, danced in circles and sang familiar Hebrew songs. The Seder’s ten plagues included “subjecting Palestinians to daily humiliation” and “destroying the Palestinian economy.” A hand-drawn cardboard Seder plate rested next to a sculpted tinfoil goblet, reserved for Elijah.
“We act now to build a Jewish community that recognizes that we cannot be free absent the freedom for Palestinians,” the text of one handout read.
Passersby paused, snapping photos on their cameras, to take in the unusual scene — around 100 Jewish activists singing and dancing in the glass-walled lobby of a midtown office. One young woman turned to the assembled crowd as she was led away by police, so that her shirt was in full view. “No liberation with occupation,” it read.
If Not Now, which formed two years ago to protest the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict and Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, staged several other Passover-themed events this week.
Six were arrested in Boston, where they rallied outside the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In Washington D.C., activists gathered outside Hillel.
But the New York protest took on another layer of significance as one prominent New York activist has been at the center of national controversy.
Simone Zimmerman, an If Not Now co-founder, made headlines last week when she was named Jewish outreach coordinator for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Her peers celebrated. But, just days later, she was suspended from that position after an old Facebook post resurfaced, in which Zimmerman had used profanity and insulted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Abe Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League, denounced Zimmerman and the Zionist Organization of America followed suit.
“She is entitled to say what she wants, but there is something bizarre about making her the liaison for the Jewish community,” Foxman said in a Wednesday interview with the Forward. “Either she wasn’t vetted — or worse, she was.”
Foxman said he took issue with Zimmerman’s criticism of Israel during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Her comments “go to the essence of questioning and challenging Israel’s credibility.”
Foxman declined to comment about the 17 activists’ arrest, deferring to the ADL.
“ADL had no role whatsoever in the arrest of the protesters,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO stressed in a Thursday statement . “The protesters trespassed in the lobby of a private office building in which ADL happens to be one of dozens of tenants.”
“ADL and [If Not Now] … share the same goal,” Greenblatt continued, “a two-state solution that provides for the safety and security of Israel and a viable Palestinian state.”
If Not Now, however, has not taken any specific position on a two-state solution, nor the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel — another divisive topic in the Jewish establishment.
“It is unfortunate that [If Not Now] seems to be more interested in spectacles and ultimatums than in discussion and dialogue grappling with the difficult issues involved in achieving peace,” Greenblatt said. “Nevertheless, our doors are open, and our invitation to speak with [If Not Now] still stands.”
Zimmerman stood in the background at Wednesday’s protest. She declined to speak with the Forward, but her friends rallied around her, posing for photos and intoning her name during the rally.
“Simone speaks for my kind of Judaism,” said Gabrielle Egan, an If Not Now activist from Canada.
If Not Now first took shape online in 2014, as a rallying hash tag on social media during the latest Israel-Gaza conflict. Many participants had been involved in J Street, but had become dissatisfied with that organization’s position on the conflict. Several activists describe their involvement with If Not Now as a sort of Jewish homecoming.
“These are people who grew up in a post-peace process environment,” said Peter Beinart, a mentor to Zimmerman and a leading voice in liberal Zionism. “If you look at If Not Now, there is a deep alienation, a dissatisfaction with the Jewish community’s lack of discussion.”
Now observed annually as Land Day, these events marked the first organized popular rebellion by Palestinians inside present-day Israel. They had undergone three decades of disenfranchisement and intimidation.
In 1948, Zionist militias, which would later constitute the Israeli army, occupied the majority of historic Palestine.
Using force and the threat of force, some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled.
Those who remained in the territory then unilaterally declared as Israel were granted Israeli citizenship, but the new authorities imposed military rule on them that was not lifted until 1966.
Even after military rule, systematic Israeli attempts to squelch Palestinian dissent and colonize both land and minds continued.
The Zionist project is fixated on controlling as much land as possible with as few Palestinians on it as possible. It has used both naked violence and legal frameworks to gradually reduce Palestinian land ownership in present-day Israel to just a tiny fraction of what it was before 1948.
Land Day was an act of resistance to an Israeli government plan to confiscate thousands of acres in the north of historic Palestine.
But it was also a form of collective defiance against attempts to erase Palestinian identity. The workers and farmers Israel had tried to turn into obedient subjects took to the streets en masse on 30 March to fight for their lands and to take control of their destiny.
The Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba and Deir Hanna — known as the Land Day Triangle — were the most affected by the confiscation plans and witnessed the most violence.
They were Khadija Shawahna, a 23-year-old farmer who was killed by an Israeli bullet while looking for her brother among the demonstrators; Khader Khalayleh, shot with a bullet to the head as he tried to help a wounded teacher and protester; Khayr Yasin, shot dead by Israeli soldiers during an unarmed protest in Arraba; Raja Abu Rayya, killed by soldiers after defying a curfew to protest the killing of Khalayleh; Muhsin Taha, a 15-year-old boy killed during a large protest in the village of Kufr Kana near Nazareth and Rafat Zuhairi, a student and refugee killed by soldiers who raided the town of Taybeh before a demonstration.
The grievances and injustices that sparked the protests in March 1976 linger throughout Palestine today. But those injustices are not exclusive to Palestinians.
Four decades later, on the other side of the globe, at least three prominent indigenous land defenders were assassinated for resisting the onslaught of multinationals on their rivers and forests.
The assassination of indigenous Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres on 3 March captured international attention. She was the cofounder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras.
She was well known for organizing campaigns against hydroelectric power projects, particularly against construction of the Agua Zarca dam on the territory of the indigenous Lenca people.
Cáceres was shot dead in her home at La Esperanza one day shy of her birthday. She had long complained of death threats from the police, army and corporations.
But she would not be the only victim of state-backed corporate and police brutality that month.
Less than two weeks after her death, fellow activist Nelson Garcia was shot in the face and killed by unidentified gunmen after spending the day with the Río Chiquito community.
More than one hundred Honduran police and military officers had evicted dozens of Lenca families from their land.
On 12 March, another activist, Walter Méndez Barrios, was assassinated near his home in Guatemala. He had been a prominent environmental leader who fought against deforestation and hydroelectric projects, and for community-based, sustainable forest management.
Forefront of struggle
Indigenous activists in Latin America are at the forefront of the struggle to save Mother Earth and prevent the privatization of natural resources, the dispossession of rural communities and the exploitation of the most vulnerable under the guise of growth and development. And thus they bear the brunt of repression.
A report published by the group Global Witness found that of the 116 environmental activists known to have been killed in 2014, 40 percent of them were indigenous and three-quarters were in Central and Latin America amid disputes over mining, agri-business and hydroelectric power.
These activists pay the price for leading the fight against a deadly neoliberal assault, protected by state terror and on many occasions directly backed by the United States, as in the case of Honduras.
In fact, Berta Cáceres had singled out Hillary Clinton for her support as secretary of state of the 2009 coup in Honduras and the subsequent whitewashing of atrocities in its wake.
The social movements sprouting in Central and Latin America grasp the multiple facets of their fight and the need to connect the struggle against the corporations seizing their lands with resistance to capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, militarism and environmental destruction.
A feminist, an anti-capitalist and a staunch opponent of US imperialism, Berta Cáceres was acutely aware of the intersection of these battles and repeatedly called for solidarity between social movements around the world.
Her internationalist perspective was not mere rhetoric, but resulted in action, as it led her to create bonds between her movement and other grassroots movements outside Honduras.
Her perspective has expanded even beyond Latin America.
For Palestinians, Honduras and Guatemala might seem too distant, even too irrelevant for our struggle. And while there are some apparent stark differences in our lived realities and in the faces of our oppressors, there are commonalities as well.
In Palestine as well as in many parts of Central and Latin America, the oppression is directly sponsored by US military and financial aid. And in all these places our collective survival rests upon defending and preserving our land.
Similarly, our struggle for self-determination is inseparable from the struggle against capitalism and militarism.
This does not mean that the forms of resistance employed in Central and Latin America should simply be copied in Palestine or vice versa. Rather, it means that we can create strategic alliances that draw from our respective experiences and build a global movement.
To survive, repressive regimes collaborate with one another and to defeat them, oppressed peoples have to create networks of solidarity.
Transnational corporations are so good at blurring borders to increase their profits; we should break those same borders to create a decolonized, more humane, just and diverse world.
“Berta was a force rooted in the past and imagining a different, decolonized future, free of the three systemic forces she routinely identified as her true enemies. Capitalism, racism and patriarchy,” freelance journalist and friend Jesse Freeston said of Cáceres.
To honor her, and to confront those who murdered her, it is necessary to step up the fight and to revive the spirit of Land Day in Palestine and Honduras and throughout the Middle East and the Americas.
Representative Hank Johnson organized 10 of his fellow lawmakers, including Senator Patrick Leahy, to sign on to a letter to the State Department, urging them to investigate “gross violations of human rights” by Israel and Egypt.
Here is why this is so important: these lawmakers implored Secretary Kerry to determine if these reports of human rights violations triggered the Leahy Law and if so, “to take the appropriate action called for under this law.” The Leahy Law prohibits the U.S. from providing military aid to foreign military units who commit human rights abuses, which means that some of Israel’s military aid could be cut off. This is huge.
The backlash against these lawmakers has already begun, which is why we need tomake our support loud and clear by thanking Rep. Johnson!
A few weeks ago CODEPINK launched a petition asking Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to reject the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) invitation to speak at their annual policy conference in Washington DC. About a week later, Sanders announced that he was skipping the conference! Sanders is the only presidential candidate in American history to have declined an invitation to speak at AIPAC. Shortly afterwards, Sanders released a statement to AIPAC in which he expressing ed empathy for Palestinian suffering and promised, if elected, to be a friend to both Palestinians and Israelis.
While we applaud Sanders for skipping the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference and for his commendable statement in recognition of Palestinians’ human rights, we also know that more is needed. This is why while Donald Trump was inside addressing AIPAC, CODEPINK was outside protesting and engaging in civil disobedience.
The struggle for justice in Palestine has seen a lot of wins lately. Along with Sanders heeding our call to reject AIPAC, the month of March saw numerous wins in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, including a massive victory for CODEPINK’s Ahava campaign.
We know that when we fight, we win. That is why we are keeping the pressure up. CODEPINK is proud to be part of the Stolen Homes campaign asking Airbnb to stop listing homes in illegal Israeli settlements. Check out this mock website and leave a review telling Airbnb that they should abide by international law.
Together we can bring peace and equality to all people in Israel/Palestine.