USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Archive for June, 2012

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

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


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“Good Guinness, deliver us! Israel demolishes Arab village 38 times”

Posted by uscsjp on June 16, 2012

Published: 15 June, 2012, 15:11
Edited: 15 June, 2012, 19:31
Palestinian villagers have addressed the Guinness Book of World Records to register a ruinous “record”. A Bedouin village in Israel has been demolished 38 times by Israeli authorities, who say people in the village do not have building permits.
Al-Araqeeb village with population of 500 residents in the Negev claim their some 40 homes have been destroyed over three dozen times by Israel Land Administration. Residents of the Al-Turi Arab Bedouin tribe insist they are being pushed off their own land.
“We have ownership documents that go back to the Ottoman era,” the head of the Committee for the Defense of al-Araqeeb, Awad Abu Farih, stated to Anatolian news agency.
The residents believe that the village’s centuries-old cemetery could serve as strong evidence of their historic rights.
But since Israel was created 63 years ago, when the Ottoman Empire had already pushed up the daisies, Israeli officials have disregarded the antique documents and called for demolition teams over and over again.
Despite the unceasing governmental acts of destruction, the villagers remain firm and full of self-righteous belief, continuing to resist Israeli authorities.
“Every time they demolish our houses, we rebuild them and we will keep doing that even if the demolitions reach 99. We will never leave our land,” Abu Farih said.
With the Arab Spring raging in the Middle East, the world seems to have forgotten about Israeli-Palestinian tensions, which certainly are still there to stay.
It is likely that Israel is unwilling to create a precedent by allowing Bedouins of Al-Araqeeb village to stay and build. The whole territory of Israel was once carved out of Palestinian lands. After the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 up to 700,000 Palestinians had to flee their land, which officially became Israel in 1949.
Thus, if Israel recognizes the Al-Araqeeb inhabitants’ rights to this land, it could potentially inspire thousands of Palestinians to follow suit.
Confrontation has been lasting for years. The latest demolition of villagers’ dwellings happened on May 23. All possessions that were inside the houses were confiscated.
Despite their determination, the villagers are living lives full of fear that their habitations could be destroyed any day.
“Our village has become a living example of the flagrant violations committed by the Israeli authorities against its Arab population,” Awad Abu Farih stated.
Since they cannot expect assistance from anywhere else, the villagers are considering an official address to the Guinness Book of World Records to draw international attention to their case.
Jeff Halper, executive director of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, told RT that this application is an act of desperation.
“[The villagers] have turned to Israeli courts for years and years. Israeli activists have gone down and tried to resist the acts of demolitions. There has been an international campaign against the Jewish National Fund, which is behind the demolition of these homes and nothing has helped,” he explained.
The activist believes that world’s attention is the last resort the villagers can rely on, saying that there is a chance to force Israeli government to do just through public opinion and international law.

–RT, 15 June, 2012

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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

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

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