The headline on a Miami Herald column began, “Time to Start Planning….”.
A Florida newspaper with that headline? Surely, this story will be about finding a place to retire.
Not so fast. “Time to Start Planning . . .” had something else in mind. It was time to plan for RESETTLEMENT.
That sounded rather ominous. Had Sarah Palin’s Death Panels become Resettlement Camps for Florida Old Folks living with the alligators deep in an Everglades swamp?
Turns out this column by Kenneth Bandler, Communications Director for the American Jewish Committee, is not about Florida retirement homes. It is part of AJC’s mandate to support Israel with its own version of reality.
Bandler’s column gives UNRWA–the United Nations Relief and Works Agency–instructions on what it must do next: Start planning for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees. He writes:
With Israeli-Palestinian talks aiming for a permanent peace agreement in a year, shouldn’t UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — start planning to evolve from a refugee support agency to one devoted to resettlement? After all, the final status talks will need to resolve refugees along with borders, security, water and other issues to end the conflict.
Bandler is not alone in attacking UNRWA in the pages of a major American newspaper. Two writers for the Philadelphia Daily News have been reading from the same script as Bandler.
Rex Brynen comments on the Daily News column on his personal blog, PRRN:
In an opinion piece today in the Philadelphia Daily News, Nicole Brackman and Asaf Romirowsky assert that illegal Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories (or, as they prefer to term it, “construction in Israeli towns in the West Bank”) isn’t the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East. No, the real obstacle is the refugee issue, which in turn is kept artificially alive by UNRWA.
The Daily News column begins:
UNRWA is the primary bureaucratic culprit responsible for prolonging and exacerbating the Palestinian refugee issue.
The Canadian government has announced that Canada would defund UNRWA following a report commissioned by the European Parliament documenting that Hamas terrorists have been chosen by the UNRWA labor union to actually administer its facilities, thereby becoming the first Western nation to begin withdrawing support for the agency.
The US would do well to follow that example and use our tax dollars to promote independent Palestinian organizations and private-sector growth.
If the current Palestinian leadership is truly concerned about changing the status of Palestinian society, it should work to remove all the obstacles that are preventing change and democratization. UNRWA – while on its face a progressive nongovernmental organization that provides needed services – is in fact itself obstructing progress in the peace negotiations.
UNRWA benefits as long as the refugee crisis can’t be solved.
Geisweiller writes about the Canadian government and UNRWA, from a different perspective than the pro-Israeli version of the same story in the Daily News. Here is Geisweiller:
When the Conservative Canadian government announced it would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in January, the caretaker agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendents, many deplored how far we’ve strayed from the Canada of Lester B. Pearson, prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner—Canada the peacekeeping nation, the globally respected middle power.
Organizations critical of Israel, or supportive of Palestinian rights, such as the Canadian Arab Federation, the Christian group Kairos, the Parliament’s Rights and Democracy, and UNRWA, have all felt the sting of an unabashedly pro-Israel Canadian government.
Kenneth Bandler’s Miami Herald column on UNRWA includes some harsh criticism of the agency’s “exclusivity” and, of course, the usual distortion of Israel’s “innocence” in the creation of the refugee “problem”. Here is Bandler:
UNRWA is the only international refugee agency dedicated to exclusively benefit one population group, the Palestinians. All other refugees worldwide are covered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which not only provides sustenance but, importantly, also strives to resettle them, to ensure that their refugee status is not a permanent condition.
Originally envisaged as a temporary agency, UNRWA’s mandate, which does not call for resettlement, has been regularly renewed. UNRWA’s original roll of 700,000 refugees grew to include children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, some 4.7 million Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The agency’s staff, some 27,000, is four times the size of the UNHCR workforce, deployed in every other conflict where refugees need help.
Sadly, this human tragedy was preventable. Arab leaders squandered the first opportunity to establish an independent Palestinian state by rejecting the 1947 U.N. plan to divide British Mandatory territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean to create two states, one Jewish, the other Arab.
The 1948 war Arab nations launched to snuff out the fledgling Jewish state produced the refugees.
I don’t have first hand experience with the two UN agencies, but I do know that in his version of “preventable” history Bandler is well outside the version of that history which is available in the writings of many Jewish scholars.
It was a war started by those fearsome Arab nations that “produced the refugees”? This propaganda line is not new. It first arrived on US movie screens in 1945.
A March of Time episode, released in the US after the end of World War II, adopted the Zionist propaganda term in its title, the “Palestine Problem”. The documentary was first shown in American movie theaters in September, 1945. Talk about your long-range planning.
As Commissioner-General of UNRWA, based in Gaza from 2005 through 2010, she knows the refugee situation from the inside. She also knows her UN agencies.
She served as the UN Undersecretary-General, as well as Commissioner-General, of UNRWA until her retirement, and return to the United States, in 2010.
Before moving to Gaza, Abuzayd worked with UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) for 19 years, in Sudan, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Geneva, Bosnia and Washington.
This is part of the response she gave me to the Bandler column. I include it here, with her permission:
His column is so full of inaccuracies and nonsensical propaganda, that I’m not sure where to start. These are very old and very tired (and repeatedly refuted) arguments. The AJC knows very well what they are doing in injecting refuted arguments into the discourse yet again.The comparisons between UNHCR and UNRWA are particularly egregious and wrong on several counts.
Settlement is a very small part (few thousand a year) of UNHCR;s mandate. Settlement is the least favored option only for the most vulnerable. All descendants of all refugees remain refugees until a political solution is found to their plight. The UNRWA staff that Bandler describes as ‘four times’ (actually more than that) of UNHCR’s, are the Palestinian teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, sanitation workers, etc. who offer education and health services.
UNRWA, in fact, has only 130 or so international staff, compared to UNHCR’s 1,500 or so (I’m not up to date on the latter number), but I assume it has grown since I worked for UNHCR, since their budget has trebled.
As you point out in your note to me, the peace process has not concluded, so the parameters of voluntary choice for Palestine refugees have not been determined, though it should be their right to make the choice given to other refugees, that of return, integration in their countries of asylum or resettlement in a third country.
Too bad the Miami Herald did not ask Karen Abuzayd to provide a different reading on the role of the UN agencies who have done such valuable work with Palestinians.
An uninformed public is an easily duped public.
If the American media were not such an integral part of the Israeli propaganda machine, it would have reported on Karen Abuzayd’s speech, “Jerusalem City of Dispossession”, delivered in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, on international Human Rights Day, 2009.
Had this UNRWA leader, an American woman born in Ohio, given her final speech in any other major world city on any topic other than the Palestinians, it would have been an important American news story. The full text of her speech may be found by clicking here. Early in her speech, she said:
It is fitting that on my last official visit to Jerusalem as UNRWA Commissioner General, and on International Human Rights Day, I should come to the Sheikh Jarrah, where the failure of the international community to fulfill the promise of the Universal Declaration is so acutely felt and where the pain and ugliness of dispossession and occupation are so tragically in evidence.
I have said before that “Palestine” is a metaphor for dispossession and that dispossession, along with displacement, is a key feature of the Palestinian experience, indeed of Palestinian identity.
This derives not only from the initial dispossession and displacement of the Palestine refugees in 1948, but more from the fact that 61 years later they and their descendants remain in forced exile, struggling to maintain their very presence on the remnants of their homeland.
The picture of Karen Abuzayd was taken as she delivered her final lecture in Jerusalem.
A TIME TO SPEAK OUT DAY OF ACTION TO DEFEND FREE SPEECH ON NOVEMBER 8
The Harper government is sponsoring a conference of the ‘Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism’ (ICCA) – the CPCCA’s international counterpart – in Ottawa on November 8 and 9. The CPCCA and ICCA have an agenda to attack free speech and to silence legitimate criticism of Israel by falsely conflating this with anti-Semitism.
Independent Jewish Voices, along with many other human rights, peace, union, and Palestinian rights groups, is deeply concerned about the threat to free speech and civil liberties posed by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti Semitism'(CPCCA). It is legitimate and ethically necessary for Canadians of conscience to criticize Israeli human rights abuses and to support non-violent remedies.
A NEW MCCARTHYISM
The Harper government has already slashed funding to NGOs that dared to express support for Palestinian rights, brutally attacked and abused G20 demonstrators, barred British MP George Galloway from entering Canada because of his aid to the people of Gaza, and attacked CUPE, CUPW, and Israeli Apartheid Week activities. The list goes on!
The CPCCA, with Minister of Censorship and Deportation Jason Kenney as one of the CPCCA’s driving forces, aims to entrench these attacks on free speech, for example, by changing hate crime legislation to include legitimate criticism of Israel, by criminalizing BDS campaigns, by pressuring schools to teach that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic, and by pressuring universities to ban events critical of Israel. Already in France, people have been arrested for distributing pamphlets critical of Israel.
The CPCCA held hearings this past year to try to paint a veneer of credibility on its transparent intention to attack free speech in Canada. It ignored many critical submissions. Even the CPCCA’s own witnesses from Canadian universities and the police confirmed that there is no rise in anti-Semitism and called on the CPCCA to respect free speech.
The ICCA conference is intended to distract from this embarrassing result. At a cost of over $451,280 in federal funds, the ICCA conference is closed to the public and the media, and makes no pretence of unbiased research.
STAND UP, FIGHT BACK
1. Organize a day of action for free speech on Monday, November 8.
Local events could include press conferences, protests, teach-ins, or other creative ideas to build the movement to defend free speech. IJV will release a 10 minute video on Nov. 8, which will be posted on YouTube and the IJV web site. Contact Independent Jewish Voices at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like us to send you a copy.
2. Contact your MP and the federal party leaders and demand they stand up for the principle of free speech in Canada and reject any attempts to silence or criminalize legitimate criticism of Israel. You can get their contact info at: http://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E
3. Contact university presidents and human rights offices in your city and ask them also to issue a statement affirming the right of students and faculty to free speech.
4. Sign our Free Speech Petition at http://ijvcanada.org/sign-signez-petition-cpcca-hearings/ which will be released to the press and all MPs on Nov. 8.
5. Send a photo to email@example.com of yourself holding a sign saying “I support free speech” or an anti-CPCCA sign (perhaps with duct tape over your mouth). We will post it on line with a title “This is what Democracy looks like.”
6. Join Independent Jewish Voices: Go to www.ijvcanada.org.
By Gilad Atzmon | November 1, 2010
I have spent the last 10 years elaborating on Jewish national ideology and tribal politics. During my journey of grasping what Zionism and Israel stand for, I came to realize that it is actually the Jewish left – and Jewish Marxists in particular – that provide us with an good glimpse into contemporary Jewish identity, tribal supremacy, marginal politics and tribalism.
The term “Jewish left” is basically an oxymoron. It is a contradiction in terms, because “Jewishness” is a tribal ideology, whilst “the left” are traditionally understood as aspiring to universalism.
On the face of it, the “Jewish left” falls into the same category as Israel and Zionism, in that it is an attempt to form yet another “Jews-only political club”. And as far as the Palestinian solidarity movement is concerned, its role is subject to a growing debate. On the one hand, one can see the political benefit of pointing at the small number of “good Jews” and emphasizing that there are Jews who “oppose Zionism as Jews”. Yet on the other hand, however, accepting the legitimacy of such a racially oriented political affair is in itself an acceptance of yet another form or manifestation of Zionism, for Zionism claims that Jews are primarily Jewish and must operate politically as Jews.1
To a certain extent, then, Jewish anti Zionism can be viewed as just another form of Zionism.
“Jewish dissidence” has two main roles: First, it attempts to depict and promote a positive image of Jews in general.2 Second, it is there to silence and obscure attempts by outsiders to understand the meaning of Jewish identity and Jewish politics within the context of the Jewish state. It is also there to prevent elements in this movement from elaborating on the crucial role of Jewish lobbying.
The Jewish left is there, then, to mute any possible criticism of Jewish politics within the wider left movements. It is there to stop the goyim, or gentiles, from looking into Jewish affairs.
”Paddling in chicken soup has never been my thing”
A decade ago I met the kosher dissidents brigade for the first time. As soon as I began to voice criticism of Israel and Zionism, they started to bounce around me. For a short while, I fitted nicely into their discourse: I was young and energetic. I was an award-winning musician and a promising writer. In their eyes, I was a celebrity – or at least a good reason to celebrate. Their chief commissars reserved the best, and most expensive dining tables ahead of my Orient House Ensemble concerts.
The five penniless grassroots activists followed the trend and came to my free stage Jazz Combo afternoon concerts in the Barbican Centre foyer. They all wanted to believe that I would follow their agenda and become a commissar myself. They were also very quick to preach to me about who were the “bad guys”, those who should be burnt in hell, such as Israel Shahak, Paul Eisen, Israel Shamir and Otto Weininger – these were just a few of the many baddies. As one might guess by now, it didn’t take me too long to admit to myself that there was more wisdom in a single sentence by Eisen, Weininger, Shahak or Shamir than in the entire work of the Jewish left put together. I was quick to make it clear to my new “red” fans that it was not going to work: I was an ex-Israeli and I no longer regarded myself as a Jew any more. I shared nothing with them and I did not believe in their agenda. Indeed, I had left Israel because I wanted to drift as far away as I could from any form of tribal politics.
Paddling in chicken soup has never been my thing.
Naturally, I bought myself at least a half a dozen enemies, and they were quick to run a campaign against me. They tried to silence me, they desperately (and hopelessly) tried to wreck my music career, they mounted pressure on political institutions, media outlets and music venues. One of them even tried to drag me to court.
But they failed all the way through and they failed on every possible level. The more pressure they mounted, the more people read my writing. At a certain point, people around me were convinced that my detractors were actually running my public relations campaign. Moreover, the relentless attempts to silence me could only prove my point. They were there to divert attention from the crucial role of Jewish politics and Jewish identity politics.
I have asked myself often enough: how is it that they failed with me? But I guess that the same internet that successfully defeated the Israeli hasbara, or Israeli propaganda, has also defeated the Jewish left and its hegemony within the movement. In the wider scheme of things, it is totally obvious how marginal the Jewish Marxist discourse is. Its voice within the dissident movement is, in actual fact, insignificant.
I guess also that the fact that I am a popular Jazz artist didn’t make life easy for them. At the time those Jewish commissars labelled me as a racist and an anti-Semite, I was touring the world with two ex Israeli Jews, an Argentinean Jew, a Romanian Gipsy and a Palestinian Oud player. It just couldn’t work for them, and it didn’t.
But here is an interesting twist. In contrast to the contemporary Jewish “red terror”, Zionism comes across as a relatively tolerant endeavour. In recent months I have been approached by every possible Israeli media outlet. In the summer, “Ouvda”, the leading Israeli investigative TV show, asked repeatedly to join me and my band on the road. They were interested in launching a debate and discussing my ideas in primetime. This week, the Israeli Channel 2 TV approached me for a news item. Again, they were interested in my views. Yesterday, I discussed my views for an hour with Guy Elhanan on Israel’s Kol ha-shalom (Voice of Peace).
For the most obvious of reasons, I am very cautious when dealing with the Israeli media. I choose my outlets very carefully. I usually refuse. But I also accept that as a person who cares about the prospect of peace I must keep an open channel with the Israeli public, and two weeks ago I agreed to be interviewed by Ha’aretz writer,Yaron Frid. This was my first published interview in Israel for more than a decade. I must admit that I was shocked to find out that not a single word of mine had been removed or censored. Ha’aretz let me say everything that the kosher “socialists” had consistently tried to stop me from saying.
On my “self-hatred” and Jewishness, the Israeli paper Ha’aretz let me say:
I am not a nice Jew, because I don’t want to be a Jew, because Jewish values don’t really turn me on and all this “Pour out thy wrath on the nations” stuff doesn’t impress me.
It also let me question the entire Zionist ethos, the reality of plunder and deluded historicism, the questions Zionists cannot answer “Why do I live on lands that are not mine, the plundered lands of another people whose owners want to return to them but cannot? Why do I send my children to kill and be killed, after I myself was a soldier, too? Why do I believe all this bullshit about ‘because it’s the land of our forefathers’ and ‘our patrimony’ if I am not even religious?”
And about the Palestinian right of return, I said:
The Israelis can put an end to the conflict in two fucking minutes. Netanyahu gets up tomorrow morning, returns to the Palestinians the lands that belong to them.
They let me express how I would differentiate and define Israel and Palestine:
Palestine is the land and Israel is the state. It took me time to realize that Israel was never my home, but only a fantasy saturated in blood and sweat.
About chosenness, de-Judaization and Jewish identity, I said:
…for Netanyahu and the Israelis to do that [accept the Palestinian right of return], they have to undergo de-Judaization and accept the fact that they are like all peoples and are not the chosen people. So, in my analysis this is not a political, sociopolitical or socioeconomic issue, but something basic that has to do with Jewish identity.
In the interview I compared the Jewish left with national socialism – and Ha’aretz’s editor let it through:
The idea of left-wing Jews is fundamentally sickening. It contains an absolute internal contradiction. If you are leftists, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Jewish or not, so in principle when you present yourselves as leftist Jews you are accepting the idea of national socialism. Nazism.
Ha’aretz, as would be expected, challenged my opposition to Jewish politics:
Atzmon has been accused from every possible platform of disseminating vitriol against Jews. He, though, maintains that he “hates everyone in equal measure”. He’s also been accused of self-hatred, but he is the first to admit this, and in comparison with Otto Weininger – the Austrian Jewish philosopher who converted to Christianity and of whom Hitler said: “There was one good Jew in Germany, and he killed himself” – he is even proud. “Otto and I are good friends.”
But at least Israelis can cope with Otto Weininger and his ideology. However – when I gave a talk about Otto Weininger in a London Marxist bookshop five years ago (Bookmarks), a ”synagogue” of 14 Jewish Marxists unsuccessfully tried to picket the event and to pressure the Socialist Workers Party into submission. Guess what: they failed!
Ha’aretz challenged my take on the Holocaust, yet it printed my answer without changing a single word.
I am fighting against all the disgusting laws and persecutions of those so-called Holocaust deniers – a categorization I don’t accept. I think the Holocaust, like any historical episode, must be open to research, to examination, to discussion and debate.
And Ha’aretz, an Israeli Zionist paper, let me express my thoughts about Israeli mass murderers and their destiny.
It also let me tell Israelis that they are all to blame:
In Israel 94 per cent of the nation supported Operation Cast Lead. On the one hand, you want to behave like a post-enlightenment state and talk to me about individualism, but on the other hand you surround yourselves with a wall and remain attached to a tribal identity.
Yaron Frid ended his piece by saying “Israel lost Gilad” and “The score, for now: 1-0, Palestine leading.”
I was happy with the article. But I was also jealous. For here in Britain we are still far from free to explore these issues.
The message here is plain and simple: Ha’aretz, a Zionist paper, has let me discuss all those intellectual avenues that the “kosher socialists” insist on blocking. A week before my Haaretz special, the Israeli paper featured Mavi Marmara hero Ken O’keefe. Again, Ha’aretz’s coverage was fairly balanced, certainly more balanced than the BBC’s “Panorama”.
The moral is clear : As much as Zionism is repugnant and murderous, it is still way ahead of the Jewish left , simply because it is still, in some regards at least, part of an ongoing and open discourse.
There is no doubt that among the most prolific enemies of Israel and Jewish identity, you will find Israelis and ex Israelis, such as Ilan Pappe, Gideon Levi, Amira Hass, Tali Fahima, Israel Shamir, Israel Shahak, Nurit Peled, Rami Elhanan, Guy Elhanan, Jonathan Shapira,Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Mordechai Vanunu, Uri Avnery, Shimon Tzabar, myself, and others.
We may not always agree with each other, but we let each other be.
Zionism was an attempt to bring about a new Jew: an ethical, productive and authentic being. But Zionism failed all the way through. Israel is a criminal state, and the Israelis are collectively complicit in relentless crimes against humanity. And yet, Zionism has also succeeded in erecting a solid school of eloquent and proud “self-haters”. Israelis are taught to be outspoken and critical. Unlike the Diaspora Jewish left who for some reason operate as a thought-police, Israeli dissidence speaks out. Israelis are trained to celebrate their “symptoms” – and this also applies in the case of dissidence.
Unlike Jewish Marxism, which operates largely as a tribal public relations campaign, Israeli dissidence is an ethical approach. You wouldn’t hear Israeli activists shouting “not in my name”. The Israelis mentioned above do accept that each Israeli crime is committed in their names. They also accept that activism is the crucial shift from guilt to responsibility. Hence, it is also far from surprising that on the “Jewish Boat to Gaza” mission, the veteran Israeli air force pilot Yonatan Shapira – and also Rami Elahanan – both spoke about ethics and humanitarian issues, while the British Jew Richard Kuper was apparently, judging from his words, perhaps more concerned with amending the image of world Jewry.
Being an ex Israeli, I believe that the only thing I can do for Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, myself, my family, my neighbours and humanity is to stand firm and speak my heart against all odds.
I also believe that we all know the truth. We just need to be courageous enough to spit it out.
1. As bizarre as it may sound to some, “Jews against Zionists” (JAZ) and “Jews for BDS” (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) actually affirm the Zionist mantra, in that they operate primarily as Jews. As much as it is impossible for uprooted Palestinians to settle in Israel and become a citizen with equal civil rights, it is also impossible for them to join any of the primarily Jewish groups for Palestine.
2. Richard Kuper, the person behind “Irene – the Jewish Boat to Gaza”, was bold enough to admit it: “Our goal is to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians.”. It is now an established fact that the Jewish boat carried hardly any humanitarian aid for the Gazans: its main mission, as far as Kuper was concerned, seems to have been to amend Jewish reputation.
There is now “no chance” for a two-state solution in Palestine. So said Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in an interview with The Electronic Intifada (EI) on 29 October in Chicago (video).
“The reality goes more toward the one state solution,” Zoabi said, “whether a democratic one-state solution, or a binational one-state solution.”
Elected in 2009, Zoabi represents the National Democratic Alliance, and is the first woman to be elected on the list of an Arab party in Israel.
“We are struggling for a normal state,” Zoabi explained, “which is a state for all of its citizens, [in] which the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews can have full equality. I recognize religious, cultural and national group rights for the Israelis, but inside a democratic and neutral state.”
Zoabi spoke to EI just before she addressed 120 students, faculty and community members in an event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Chicago. During her lecture, and in the interview with EI, Zoabi described the systematic legal, social and cultural discrimination Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens face. Zoabi said she strongly opposes Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state” as this would legitimize and deepen these forms of discrimination.
Zoabi was among dozens of Palestinian citizens injured by Israeli police just two days before her interview with EI. On 27 October, Israeli extremists affiliated with the outlawed Kach movement, founded by the late Meir Kahane, marched through Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian city within Israel. Kahane believed that all Palestinians should be expelled from Israel and the occupied territories. Zoabi described how police attacked Palestinian demonstrators and protected the Israeli extremists.
She arrived in Chicago on Thursday evening, 28 October, directly from Israel with bandages on the back of her neck and lower back, where she had been struck by projectiles fired at close range. She said Israeli police used a kind of weapon which she had not seen before, which caused an intense burning sensation, and showed EI the welts beneath the bandage on her neck.
In May, Zoabi participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was aboard the Mavi Marmara when the ship was attacked by Israeli commandos in international waters. Nine activists were killed and dozens injured in the Israeli attack.
Zoabi strongly criticized Israel’s official inquiry into the incident. Although a member of Israel’s parliament and an eyewitness, Zoabi has not been asked to testify before the inquiry — called the Turkel Committee — but has attended its sessions with other witnesses. She told EI of the open bias and political statements of the committee members, stating “They do not look for the facts. They are just looking for a way to justify the Israeli attack.”
Asked about the prospects for the current US-brokered “peace process,” Zoabi said Israeli society and parliament “doesn’t feel the need for peace. They don’t perceive occupation as a problem. They don’t perceive the siege as a problem. They don’t perceive oppressing the Palestinians as a problem, and they don’t pay the price of occupation or the price of [the] siege [of Gaza].”
While Palestinians suffer intensely, Israel, Zoabi said, viewed its relationship with the Palestinians primarily as a “security problem,” which it has largely resolved through the siege of Gaza, the separation wall in the West Bank, and by “security coordination” with the Palestinian Authority.
Zoabi spoke about the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation and other human rights abuses against Palestinians, and to respect international law.
While she said the effect of BDS within Israel was still marginal, “this kind of campaign has the power raise the debate inside the Israeli society and inside the Knesset.” Israel, she said, “is so sensitive to international criticism and a situation of isolation.”
Even if BDS did not yet have much impact on Israel’s economy, it “can send a political message to the Israelis that we cannot just continue with the occupation, and continue with the siege and with oppressing the Palestinian people without the Israeli society paying a price.”
During her visit to the United States, Zoabi addressed the US Palestinian Community Network’s second Popular Conference for Arabs and Palestinians in the US and is scheduled to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area before returning home.
Today’s demonstration in Bil’in against the Apartheid wall, organized by the Popular Committee of Bil’in, was joined by many local residents, Israeli activists as well as many internationals. As the group moved peacefully towards the Apartheid wall, they chanted to “Freedom to all Palestinian Political Prisoners”. Demonstrators carrying the Palestinian flag crossed through a gate to confront the awaiting soldiers with a simple question, “What are you doing here?”
When the soldiers eventually got tired of the presence of people demanding access to the agricultural lands belonging to Bil’in farmers, they began firing tear gas. The hot gas canisters ignited fires in the dry olive orchards, which residents hurried to extinguish to protect the trees from damage. For a while it was possible to avoid the tear gas, but eventually it became so excessive that the demonstrators had to retreat to the village.
It is a victory for the people every time they mobilize, without guns, to demand justice – an end to a racist wall that separates them from their ancestral lands and from the possibility of living peacefully with Israel. After the demonstration ended, the Israeli Army attacked Bil’in Village by firing tear gas and sound grenades into the village as well as directly in front of residential homes which lead to the people (locals, Israeli’s and Internationals) confronting the Army for over 30 minutes.
At today’s demonstration in Bilin, Iyad Burnat, Head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall along with two members of Popular Committee, Basel Mansor and Sameer Bornat, welcomed two representatives from Norway who joined in with the non-violent demonstration along with other internationals and Palestinians against the illegal Apartheid wall. They were Stine Renate Haheim, a Member of Parliament and Torunn Kanutte Husvik the Mayor of Oslo both members of the Norwegian Labour party.
For over 6 years the residents of Bilin along with internationals have been demonstrating against the illegal wall, with many injuries, arrests and the deaths of some non-violent protesters.
Families in the village of Qusin with properties close to the illegal settlements Shave Shomeron and Shave Shomron, make an attempt to harvest their olives but soldiers forced them to leave.
One of these families has been unable to access their land for the last nine years due to settler attacks and pressure from Israeli soldiers. Another family tried to pick olives about ten days ago but soldiers arrived and stopped them.
According to the Israeli High Court of Justice decision, Palestinian farmers have the right to access their land and soldiers must protect them. Immediately upon the families’ arrival at their land, however, soldiers confronted them and argued that for the protection of them from settler violence, it was necessary for the farmers to leave.
On the evening of October 29, 1956 Israeli troops shot and killed 49 unarmed Palestinian civilians in the village of Kafr Qasem, 20 km east of Tel Aviv near the green line.
Now the village has a population of 18,100 Palestinians, some of whom marched today alongside neighboring Arab villages to commemorate those killed 1956. People marched from the village center to the memorial site and placed candles for those killed; village leaders made speeches in commemoration.
From 1949 till late 1966 the Israeli government decided to consider all its Palestinians citizens a “hostile population “. All major Arab population centers were governed by military administrations and divided into four districts.
Seven Arab villages, including Kafr Qasim, all along the green line, were considered as high infiltration threats. The villages were patrolled regularly by border police (Magav) under the command of Israeli army brigade commander Colonel Issachar Shadmi. Those villages, containing some 40, 000 villagers, were called the Central District.
October 29, 1956
On the day of the massacre, the Israeli army decided to place all seven villages along the green line under a curfew called the War Time Curfew, from 5 in the evening until 6 the following morning. Israeli soldiers were instructed to shoot and kill any villager violating the curfew.
Even though the border police troops were given the order by their commander at 3:30 in the afternoon, they only informed the mayor of Kafr Qasim about an hour later, leaving a window of 30 minutes for the 400 villagers working in the fields or outside the village to come back home.
According to Israeli investigation committee records, from 5:00 pm until 6:30 on October 29, 1956, border police shot and killed 49 villagers from Kafr Qasim as they tried to return home. Among those killed were 23 children and one pregnant woman.
The killed and injured were left unattended through the night. After the curfew ended, villagers took the injured to hospitals and laid the dead to rest in a mass grave.
In his testimony during the investigation, the survivor Jamal Farij said that soldiers shot villagers without any warning. He was driving back to his village along with 28 passengers in a truck.
‘We talked to them. We asked if they wanted our identity cards. They didn’t. Suddenly one of them said, ‘Cut them down’ – and they opened fire on us like a flood.’
Eight Israeli soldiers were charged by the Israeli court and found guilty of murder. The two commanding officers of the unit, Malinki and Dahan, received 17 and 15 years’ imprisonment, respectively. These sentences were later reduced.
Colonel Issachar Shadmi was tried and found guilty only of extending the curfew without authority. He was released after paying a fine of one Israeli cent. On November 1959, after two years, all eight convicted soldiers were released on orders by the Israel Committee for the Release of Prisoners .
Malinki retained his military post and got a promotion to be in charge of security for a top secret Israeli Nuclear Research Center located in the Negev. Dahan was appointed as the head of the “Arab Affairs” department by the city of Ramla, another Palestinian village Israel taken over during 1948.
During Israel’s creation in 1948, and years later, Israeli soldiers shot and killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians. No legal action has been taken against any Israeli leader, commander, or soldier involved in what would later become known as the Palestinian Nakba.
HEBRON — Israeli soldiers occupied a Palestinian home on Thursday in the Baqa’a Valley near Hebron for the third time in two months, a report from the Hebron-based Christian Peacemaker Teams said.
Family members told CPT their father collapsed when he tried to prevent the soldiers entering, and that he was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Last time soldiers occupied the house, his wife had a heart attack and died later in hospital, CPT said.
A family of 15 lives in the home, including 5 children. One son told the peace group that 17 soldiers arrived in military vehicles. A neighbor told CPT workers that he called an ambulance after hearing screams, cries and shots from the house.
International observers with the CPT said seven soldiers stationed outside the house refused to let them enter the home. A military spokesman told them the third floor and the roof of the house would be occupied for 48 hours.
Two other homes were reportedly also occupied in the area, and CPT said the operation was to protect Israeli visitors to Hebron commemorating a Jewish religious event. The occupied houses provided strategic views in all directions, the report noted.
CPT observers said when they left the area, soldiers were installing floodlights and camouflage netting, and had raised an Israeli flag on the roof.
Helen Keller’s pithy observation about American democracy being little more than a choice “between Tweedledum and Tweedledee” was never more true than in the upcoming midterm elections in the ninth congressional district of Illinois.
In a district which includes the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan, the central issue is not the two wars—or is it now three?—the country is fighting, nor is it the tanking economy, in great part caused by those debt-inducing wars. No, the burning issue here is… who cares more about Israel? … continue
Between 20:00 and midnight in Karmiel in the Galilee, vigilantes watch over the entrances to the town, they don’t want any Arabs to visit.
Israeli human rights activists Peace Now (Gush Shalom) said the guards are a “racist right militia” and argue every citizen, regardless of ethnicity, has the right to freedom of movement and do not need explanations to enter a town. The city guards target Arabs living in the surrounding villages, blocking them from enjoying Karmiel’s night life.
The city guards were created by deputy mayor Oren Milstein, whose rise to power began with a “Save the Jewish character of Karmiel” campaign.
“Milstein was elected on a purely racist platform,” said Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery. Along with screening Arabs visiting Karmiel, Avnery said the deputy mayor is trying to keep Arabs from settling in the city by “agitating for Jewish inhabitants to inform on other Jewish inhabitants who are renting or selling [housing] to Arabs.”
In an interview with the right-wing newspaper B’sheva, Milstein said that for Arabs to live in Karmiel “is not correct” since the stated goal of the city, founded in the sixties, was “cutting off Arab settlement.”
Zoning laws keep Arab communities confined and their expansion illegal: they are not permitted to expand or build their own villages. Growing populations have forced them to seek homes outside of their own restricted neighbourhoods, and many have moved to “Jewish” towns, Averny said.
Fatma is a resident of an Arab village neighboring Karmiel. Her sister’s experience is indicative of the problems faced by Arabs in the Galilee. Living in Karmiel, she wanted to buy a house but it proved impossible. When people heard her name and realised she was Arab, they either stated “we don’t sell to Arabs” or doubled the price of the property. Now her sister rents an apartment in Akka but faces the same racism.
“If you want to buy a nice home in a good neighbourhood, you can’t find it,” Fatma said. The only option is to buy in Arab neighbourhoods, which are generally rougher and more deprived than their Jewish counterparts. Most Arabs do not protest to the authorities because they fear the violence from Jewish people. “If you want to live in Karmiel, you have to be quiet and not make problems.”
JPG – 9.9 kb
Gush Shalom leader Uri Averny worries more racist militias could spring up in northern Israel
Averny said Karmiel was founded on territorial racism: the original Bedouin inhabitants were driven off by Jewish settlers.
“Karmiel was built expressly to Judaize the Galilee,”Avnery said. “It is sitting on a plot of land that previously contained Arab villages… the more [Karmiel] grows, the more it dispossesses Arabs.”
Currently, deputy mayor Milstein frets that the Western Galilee is only thirty two percent Jewish. He said in the B’sheva interview, “if we examine the range of only 5 miles around Karmiel, it’s found to be surrounded by 180,000 Arabs.”
“Jews are living in mortal fear that Arabs will become the majority in the Galilee’, Avnery said, and at regular intervals local authorities voice the need to strengthen regional Zionist zeal. He cites How to Judaize the Galilee, a report published in the sixties which caused a scandal at the time but which continues to resurface, as an example of the traditional roots of racist militias and requirements for housing in Israel. Averny predicts the blossoming Arab population of Nazareth will spill into Upper Nazareth and the Jewish community will respond by creating a local militia like Milstein’s ’city guards.’
Avnery and Gush Shalom advocate Alex Keller wrote a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein protesting Karmiel’s guards, but Averny doesn’t have much hope. He believes Weinstein “will do nothing [since] racism has been tolerated for decades in Israel.”
Israeli Journalists have done little, too. No national Israeli paper has covered the creation of Karmiel’s city guards and their prevention of non-Jews entering the city unless completely necessary.
“This covering up by the media is further evidence of the growing acceptability of racism in Israel,” Avnery said. “Four decades ago, people were careful not to mention fascism because of its association with the Holocaust, but now people speak of it openly. [Israeli Welfare Minister] Isaac Herzog has warned fascism is touching the margins of Israeli society but actually it has reached the centre.”
Gush Shalom may go to the Supreme Court to pursue the demand for a criminal investigation of policy clearly violating the law “in its incitement against parts of the population.”
A hundred year old church was burned Friday by right-wing Israeli settlers, who broke a number of windows of the church and hurled Molotov cocktails inside.
The damage to the church was substantial, with burn damage throughout the first floor of the building.
The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897, and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1947, when parishioners were pushed out by armed Jewish gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.
Christians make up 2% of the population of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories – the number used to be around 15%, but many Christians from the Holy Land have emigrated due to the harsh conditions of the Israeli occupation, and discrimination against them by the Israeli state.
This is not the first time that Israeli right-wingers have destroyed churches and church property – a number of Christian churches were destroyed during the second initfada (uprising) that began in 2000, and many more were destroyed by Israeli forces during the 1948 and 67 wars.
In 2006, an Israeli couple tried to firebomb an ancient church in Nazareth, the city where Christians believe that Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago. An Israeli court which tried the case failed to convict the couple of any charges.
A leader in the church attacked on Friday, Zachariah al-Mashriqi, told reporters that the attack on the church was a clear attempt to provoke Palestinians to respond in anger. He urged Palestinian Christians to respond to the attack with virtue and patience.
Al-Mashriqi urged the Israeli government to act responsibly and condemn the attack, and work on investigating the attack to find out who was involved and actually file charges in the case. He asked the Israeli government to protect holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, as these sites come under increasing attack by Israeli settlers.