As Marrickville Council’s BDS resolution was thrashed out in the media, misinformation about it abounded, writes Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the global BDS movement
The Palestinian civil society campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel came under attack in recent weeks from Murdoch media outlets, politicians and various interest groups as Sydney’s Marrickville Council struggled to keep the BDS resolution that they had adopted in December last year. The wild distortions and outright fabrications against BDS and its supporters in Sydney peaked in an article by Leo Shanahan, “Greens’ boycott rebounds”, published in The Australian on the day of the Council meeting when the BDS motion was rescinded.
Marrickville Council has since reaffirmed its support for the principles of the BDS campaign by actually spelling out the three fundamental Palestinian rights that constitute the minimum requirements for the Palestinian people to exercise our right to self determination.
Although the Council, after months of unprecedented bullying, threats, smear campaigns, and intimidation orchestrated by well-oiled Israel lobby groups, felt compelled not to put that principled support into action in the form of specific BDS measures, the fact that it stood its ground defending these basic Palestinian rights, as outlined in the BDS Call, is praiseworthy and quite inspiring. BDS is about asserting our long forgotten rights, first and foremost. Action to achieve those rights can come later, when the ground is fertile enough and resistance to intellectual terror and misinformation is higher.
Regardless, the record needs to be set straight. Misrepresentations of the type that litters Shanahan’s article should not go unchallenged. As the great Palestinian thinker Edward Said once said, “[D]espite the abuse and vilification that any outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and self determination earns for him or herself, the truth deserves to be spoken …”
Shanahan dismissively writes, “The BDS is a movement advocated by a multitude of left-wing political parties, universities, trade unions and other local governments throughout the world.” He writes this even though he admits just a few lines above that BDS is a Palestinian-led movement. In fact, BDS is called for by the largest and broadest coalition ever created of Palestinian civil society institutions, political parties, trade unions and NGO networks.
On 9 July 2005, the Palestinian BDS Call was issued, endorsed by more than 170 of the leading institutions in Palestinian society. It called for holding Israel to account for its three-tiered system of oppression, for its persistent violations of international law to compel it to end its 1967 occupation of all Arab lands, including East Jerusalem; its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens which was described in the 2010 US Department of State human rights report as constituting “institutional, legal and societal discrimination”; and respecting the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, as stipulate in UN Resolution 194.
Shanahan quotes a member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies making a baseless claim about me. He claims that I had said that BDS aims at “getting a Palestine next to a Palestine rather than a Palestine next to Israel.” This is categorically false; I never made this statement.
Israel lobby propagandists have intentionally fabricated this claim by omitting its crucial context to insinuate that the BDS movement is bent on what they characterise as the “destruction of Israel”. The remark above was part of a quote that I cited in an article and several presentations; it was first stated by a prominent Palestinian academic who argued that the right of return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with international law would lead, from an Israeli perspective, to a Palestine next to a Palestine. The point he was making is that Israel would not allow this aspect of international law to be implemented in order to maintain its ethnocentric and exclusivist nature in a two-state settlement. In responding to his argument, I insisted that the right of refugees to return home is deeply enshrined in international law and that implementing it would not “destroy” anyone or any people; it would simply end Israel’s apartheid regime and pave the road to real justice and democracy. If an unjust version of the two-state settlement is conditioned upon giving up the right of return, I argued, then we can do without that solution, but we cannot possibly surrender the UN-sanctioned rights of the refugees who make up two thirds of the Palestinian people.
For more than 28 years, I have, in my personal capacity, consistently and openly advocated a secular democratic state in the entire area of historic Palestine, where everyone enjoys equal rights, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or any identity attribute. This, to my mind, is the most ethically consistent formula that can accommodate the inalienable right of Palestian people to self determination with the rights of all the inhabitants of the land to justice, peace, equality, and democratic rights.
But this is certainly not the position of the BDS movement. The movement has consistently advocated a rights-based approach, consistently refraining from endorsing either of the one-state or two-state solutions. Any review of the hundreds of statements and media interviews by the BDS National Committee (BNC), the massive Palestinian coalition leading the international BDS movement, will confirm this. The BNC’s vision is for freedom, justice, and equal rights for all, regardless of identity and no matter what political solution is reached. People’s rights must be protected and respected above everything else. Furthermore, as a movement anchored in the universal principle of equality of all humans, BDS is firmly opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
This humanist platform is the essence of the BDS movement and the key behind its impressive growth. Many international trade union federations of the size of the Brazilian CUT (representing more than 20 million workers) and the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) and of the great symbolic significance of the South African COSATU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, have joined the BDS campaign, selecting diverse forms of implementing it. Faith-based groups, Jewish organisations, leading artists and music groups, and iconic moral leaders of the calibre of Archbishop Desmond Tutu also support the boycott of Israel, drawing parallels with the ultimately successful boycott and divestment campaign utilised in the strategy to end apartheid in South Africa.
In his article, Shanahan also unquestioningly repeats the inaccurate claim that implementation of BDS “would cost Marrickville ratepayers $3.7 million”, an assertion that lazily ignores the track record of local council implementation of BDS.
Scores of councils across Europe have, at no cost at all, heeded the BDS call by excluding the French company Veolia from bidding on contracts. Why? Due to its involvement in an Israeli rail system serving illegal settlements that has been criticised by the UN Human Rights Council. Veolia is now considering ending its involvement. Local councils in Spain voted to support BDS and implemented their policy simply by switching bottled water provider to one other than Eden Springs, an Israeli company that sources its water from the Israeli-Occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Whether it is local councils changing service providers, artists such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and U2’s Bono refusing to play in Israel, or the University of Johannesburg severing its ties with an Israeli university complicit with violations of international law, standing up against Israeli spartheid needn’t cost a thing. It does, however, express a moral stand with the oppressed.
Finally, regarding the often discussed issue of violence and counter-violence, it is crucial to emphasise that Israel’s occupation, colonisation and denial of refugee rights are the roots of all violence. Israel’s illegal and patently immoral siege of Gaza, described recently by British Prime Minister David Cameron as a large “prison camp,” is the embodiment of violence. Israel’s gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem is one of the cruelest manifestations of a policy of state violence aimed at further expulsion and dispossession of the indigenous Palestinians. To end all violence once must snuff out its causes: Israel’s decades-long, ruthless occupation and apartheid.
Those who truly care about all human life, as I do, and who think that any civilian life lost is a life too many should do their utmost to support the exceptionally effective, manifestly creative, morally consistent and impeccably non-violent BDS movement to end Israel’s impunity and violations of international law.
As Archbishop Tutu says :
Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence — but surely we must recognize that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
The Marrickville Council was on the right side of history when it first chose to endorse the global BDS campaign. It remains so by insisting on Palestinian rights, despite the tactical setback. Brave Australians had done the same when responding to the calls from the oppressed South African majority under apartheid. We expect no less from conscientious Australians today in response to our urgent appeal for effective solidarity. I have no doubt that one day commentators and activists will mark Marrickville’s decision as the true beginning of mainstreaming BDS in Australia and of finally standing up to Israel’s lobby and for the rights of Palestinians.
Biofuel Company Towns
More than three years ago torrential rains flooded the northern and central regions of the state of Chiapas. The rain seriously affected more than 1,200 families in 34 municipalities. This disaster, coupled with the inept dredging strategies of the National Water Commission (Conagua) and the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE), kept 404 households in 33 villages and 960 hectares of productive land under water for more than three months.Of all those concerned, the community of Juan de Grijalva suffered the worst fate: it was buried by the breaking away of a hill in the town of Ostuacán, in northern Chiapas. Shortly after the tragedy, the government, in the guise of a ‘philanthropic organisation’, held out its hand in solidarity to the people of Juan de Grijalva. Two years later they erected the brand new city of Nuevo Juan de Grijalva, the first Sustainable Rural City (SRC) in the whole of Mexico.
From being a poor village, Juan de Grijalva had become a leading city that had all the services that any Mexican could wish for: decent housing and quality basic services; drinking water; a water purification plant; drainage and sewerage; a waste treatment plant; electricity and public lighting using solar voltaic cells; a communications tower for fixed and mobile telephones; access to the Internet and information networks; a comprehensive basic education centre equipped with advanced technology; kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools; and a Health Centre with expanded services in the area of telemedicine equipment and technology. In addition, the inhabitants of the newly developed city were provided with opportunities for decent and gainful employment. Projects were launched for intensive production such as: greenhouses, nurseries, packing stations for tomatoes, poultry farms and a dairy processing plant. They also started ‘productive reconversion’, which allows residents to keep their land by replacing traditional crops with others of high commercial value.
It all sounded too good to be true. And, indeed, the dream became a nightmare. The city was from the beginning doomed to failure. There was not even the will to make a decent project: the houses are mousetraps, the basic services are inadequate, the health centers do not even have doctors, etc. But beyond these ‘details’, the new town is part of a state-wide program to rearrange the scattered population. As if we were in the sixteenth century, the aim is to create ‘authentic Indian villages’.
An Imposed Project
Under the pretext that most of the villages of Chiapas are scattered and that this high dispersion makes the provision of services and the economic and social development of communities difficult, the Rural Cities Program aims to focus on rural people in small villages. The aim is twofold: firstly, to take the land away from the small farmers (campesinos) and exploit it (with the participation of large businesses) and secondly, to concentrate the inhabitants of several villages in one place to serve as an ‘industrial reserve army’.
The ‘Believing People’ (el Pueblo Creyente) from the parish of San Pedro Chenalhó expressed it in these terms: “We are concerned that the rural cities project has been imposed, and that the people in the communities have not been consulted as to whether they agree with it or not, and if they do consult them, the consultation is based on lies and omissions, the government does not say clearly what this mega project actually brings or whether it is for the good or ill of the people. For example, it does not explain what ‘productive reconversion’ means, or who will be the beneficiaries of this reconversion.
“Rural cities were not invented by the state and federal government of this administration, but have a very long history, going back, for example, to the colonization of Latin America. At that time they were not called ‘rural cities’ but were known as ‘reducciones’, with the aim of making control of the population easier and more efficient in order to collect taxes (tribute), to use the people as labour for mines, plantations (most frequently sugar cane), for the construction of cities for the Spanish, and, of course, for political and military control. It is also true that then, as now, they argued that there would be benefits for the population directly affected, that by concentrating a population they can be provided with access to basic services of potable water, education, health, etc..”
The Wider Context
To address the issue of fighting poverty here in Chiapas, we must analyze the Sustainable Rural Cities in a broader context. On the one hand, in 2008 the presidents of Colombia, Mexico and other Central American countries signed the trade agreement Plan Mesoamerica (a new version of the Plan Puebla Panama). The purpose of this plan is to create an infrastructure and trade corridor that connects Southern Mexico to Colombia, and this area is intended to serve big capital. On the other hand, the political and economic plan of the World Bank, outlined in their report entitled ‘New Economic Geography’, suggests that economic integration is the fundamental way to bring development to all corners of the world. This report emphasizes population density as a key factor for the economic development of any country.
The construction of Santiago El Pinar, the second SRC, clearly unveils another facet of the project: that of a counterinsurgency strategy devised by the Chiapas government against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). Located very close to the Zapatista autonomous municipalities of San Juan de la Libertad and San Andrés Sakamch’en, the ‘city’ breaks down the traditional ways of life, and forces people to enter the capitalist mode of production of small businesses oriented towards the external market. Clearly, the Sustainable Rural City is a challenge to the Zapatista caracoles, who have built true autonomous systems of health, education and production. It seems that the government forgets that it is dealing with the same people who took up arms in January 1994, a dignified people and one increasingly more aware.
As we said, so far they have established two Sustainable Rural Cities: Nuevo Juan Grijalva and Santiago El Pinar. There are three more under construction: Jaltenango, Ixhuatan and Emiliano Zapata (and a final one in the process of being built: Copainalá). It is obvious that private interests are a fundamental component of the Sustainable Rural Cities, so it does not take much imagination to realize who the real beneficiaries of this project are. Certain companies (among whom stand out Telmex, Fundación Azteca, BBVA Bancomer, Banamex, Grupo Carso, Farmacias del Ahorro and Coparmex) who operate through their ‘third level’ employees (the governor and his cronies), and certain university institutions (IPN and UNACH ) are the ones who have assessed, evaluated and supported with funding the construction of the ‘self-sustaining cities’. All these have a place of honor on the Advisory Council of the Sustainable Rural Cities.
With even more irony, these companies have their place within the very broad commercial corridors included in the plans of these ‘cities’, in places where little is known about money and where the people are still dying of curable diseases. Now, the residents will not only be free to sell their labour, but they will also be free to obtain un-repayable micro-loans, cell phones, domestic electrical appliances by means of small payments, and other ‘benefits’ that the modern world brings.
No Longer Slaves?
In fact, the two Sustainable Rural Cities are a disaster for their new inhabitants. The plan promoted by the government is solely focused on benefiting the companies involved in the construction of these cities. We all need to inform ourselves about these illusions and publicly denounce the government’s plans.
The Sustainable Rural Cities affect all the communities of Chiapas and are intended to alienate the people from their land, thus making the land available to large multinational corporations who focus on “cheap labour”, destroying ancient farming practices, imposing community development models and forcing the population into the financial circle of capitalism. We conclude with the words of the Civil Society organisation The Bees (Las Abejas):
“We are not the only ones who know that this project [of rural cities] is part of the Mesoamerica Project, previously Plan Puebla Panama. This plan did not start with the bad government of Calderon nor with that of Sabines, but with Salinas de Gortari when he signed NAFTA (the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) which caused the uprising of our Zapatista brothers and sisters in the year 1994.
[...] Now they say we are no longer slaves, but it is just the same to make us work in their Mesoamerica Project with its plans for mines, sweatshops and plantations, which explains the campaign that the bad government is starting. This campaign is to have what they call ‘productive restructuring’.
“They do not explain much what this means, but we understand that now they do not want us to sow our cornfields (milpa), and our other ancestral foods any longer. They tell us that it is better for us to sow African (oil) palm and pine nuts, the reason they give us for this is to prevent fires.
“But what we see is that with the corn and beans we nourish ourselves; with oil palms and pine nuts they plan to produce biofuels to feed the cars and trucks. Do cars have more right to the food of Mother Earth than we do?”
Article originally published in Spanish by Koman Ilel, 26th April 2011
The induced euphoria that characterizes discussions within the mainstream media around the upcoming declaration of an independent Palestinian state in September, ignores the stark realities on the ground and the warnings of critical commentators. Depicting such a declaration as a “breakthrough,” and a “challenge” to the defunct “peace process” and the right-wing government of Israel, serves to obscure Israel’s continued denial of Palestinian rights while reinforcing the international community’s implicit endorsement of an apartheid state in the Middle East.
The drive for recognition is led by Salam Fayyad, the appointed prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. It is based on the decision made during the 1970s by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to adopt the more flexible program of a “two-state solution.” This program maintains that the Palestinian question, the essence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, can be resolved with the establishment of an “independent state” in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. In this program Palestinian refugees would return to the state of “Palestine” but not to their homes in Israel, which defines itself as “the state of Jews.” Yet “independence” does not deal with this issue, neither does it heed calls made by the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel to transform the struggle into an anti-apartheid movement since they are treated as third-class citizens.
All this is supposed to be implemented after the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza. Or will it merely be a redeployment of forces as witnessed during the Oslo period? Yet proponents of this strategy claim that independence guarantees that Israel will deal with the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank as one people, and that the Palestinian question can be resolved according to international law, thus satisfying the minimum political and national rights of the Palestinian people. Forget about the fact that Israel has as many as 573 permanent barriers and checkpoints around the occupied West Bank, as well as an additional 69 “flying” checkpoints (“Promoting employment and entrepreneurship …,” Food and Agricultural Organization, 2010). And you might also want to ignore the fact that the existing Jewish-only colonies and roads and other Israeli infrastructure effectively annex more than 54 percent of the West Bank.
At the 1991 Madrid Conference, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s hawkish government did not even accept the Palestinian “right” to administrative autonomy. However, with the coming of the “dovish” Meretz/Labor government, led by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, the PLO leadership conducted behind-the-curtains negotiations in Norway. By signing the Oslo accords, Israel was released of the heavy burden of administering Gaza and the seven crowded cities of the West Bank. The first intifada was ended by an official — and secret — PLO decision without achieving its interim national goals, namely “freedom and independence,” and without the consent of the people the organization purported to represent.
This same idea of “independence” was once rejected by the PLO, because it did not address the “minimum legitimate rights” of Palestinians and because it is the antithesis of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. What is proposed in place of these rights is a state in name only. In other words, the Palestinians must accept full autonomy on a fraction of their land, and never think of sovereignty or control of borders, water reserves and most importantly, the return of the refugees. That was the Oslo agreement and it is also the intended “Declaration of Independence.” No wonder, then, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes it clear that he might agree to a Palestinian state through negotiations.
Nor does this declaration promise to be in accordance with the 1947 UN partition plan, which granted the Palestinians only 47 percent of historic Palestine even though they comprised more than two-thirds of the population. Once declared, the future “independent” Palestinian state will occupy less than 20 percent of historic Palestine. By creating a Bantustan and calling it a “viable state,” Israel will get rid of the burden of 3.5 million Palestinians. The PA will rule over the maximum number of Palestinians on the minimum number of fragments of land — fragments that we can call “The State of Palestine.” This “state” will be recognized by tens of countries — South Africa’s infamous bantusan tribal chiefs must be very envious!
One can only assume that the much-talked about and celebrated “independence” will simply reinforce the same role that the PA played under Oslo. Namely providing policing and security measures designed to disarm the Palestinian resistance groups. These were the first demands made of the Palestinians at Oslo in 1993, Camp David in 2000, Annapolis in 2007 and Washington last year. Meanwhile, within this framework of negotiations and demands, no commitments or obligations are imposed on Israel.
Just as the Oslo accords signified the end of popular, nonviolent resistance of the first intifada, this declaration of independence has a similar goal, namely ending the growing international support for the Palestinian cause since Israel’s 2008-09 winter onslaught on Gaza and its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last May. Yet it falls short of providing Palestinians with the minimal protection and security from any future Israeli attacks and atrocities. The invasion and siege of Gaza was a product of Oslo. Before the Oslo accords were signed, Israel never used its full arsenal of F-16s, phosphorous bombs, and DIME weapons to attack refugee camps in the Gaza and the West Bank. More than 1,200 Palestinians were killed from 1987-1993 during the first intifada. Israel eclipsed that number during its three-week invasion in 2009; it managed to brutally kill more than 1,400 in Gaza alone. This does not include the victims of Israel’s siege in place since 2006 which has been marked by closures and repeated Israeli attacks before the invasion of Gaza and since.
Ultimately, what this intended “declaration of independence” offers the Palestinian people is a mirage, an “independent homeland” that is a bantustan in disguise. Although it is recognized by so many friendly countries, it stops short of providing Palestinians freedom and liberation. Critical debate — as opposed to one that is biased, demagogic — requires scrutiny of the distortions of history through ideological misrepresentations. What needs to be addressed is an historical human vision of the Palestinian and Jewish questions, a vision that never denies the rights of a people, which guarantees complete equality and abolishes apartheid — instead of recognizing a new Bantustan 17 years after the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor with Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, where this essay was first pubilshed.
The US administration says it will not release photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, deepening suspicions over Washington’s claim of killing the notorious terrorist.
In a prerecorded interview with CBS on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said he has decided not to publish the disturbing images purportedly of al-Qaeda chief’s dead body, because of concerns that they might become “a propaganda tool”, AFP reported.
“I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk,” Obama stated.
“There is no doubt that bin Laden is dead. Certainly there is… no doubt among al-Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.” White House spokesman Jay Carney quoted Obama as saying, as he read an excerpt of the president’s interview to the reporters. [...]
Obama’s decision not to offer any photographic evidence of the killing has thrown doubt on the reported US operation, with many analysts saying that that bin Laden is either still alive or had been dead several years ago. … Full article
Also from Press TV:
The Pakistani people say they do not believe US reports that Osama bin Laden had lived in a compound near a Pakistani military base in Abbottabad since 2005. [...]
Some analysts say there is a possibility that the al-Qaeda militants were living in the compound under the surveillance of ISI when the US military carried out the operation. They say the operation was a show prearranged between the US and ISI and that bin Laden was not in the house as he had already been killed. [...]
Meanwhile, contradictory stories are emerging from the White House about the military operation. One of the contradictions includes comments that bin Laden was unarmed but put up resistance.
Many believe American Special Forces could have arrested the al-Qaeda leader without having to kill him and a question raised is why bin Laden’s body was buried at sea so soon after his death.
A US official says bin Laden’s body has been buried at sea, alleging that his hasty burial was in accordance with Islamic law, which requires burial within 24 hours of death. This while burial at sea is not an Islamic practice and Islam does not determine a time-frame for burial. – Full article
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rejects assassination as a tactic and affirms the legitimacy of resistance
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has rejected assassination as a tactic in a response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US troops. The group also confirmed that while it rejects violence it supports legitimate resistance against foreign occupation of any country.
In an official statement, the Brotherhood called on Western people and governments alike “to stop linking Islam with terrorism” in order to correct “the erroneous image that has been promoted deliberately for several years.”
“Resistance against foreign occupation is a legitimate right sanctioned by all religions and international agreements,” said the Brotherhood’s statement. “Trying to confuse the issue by blurring the line between legitimate resistance and violence against innocent people is a deliberate ploy by the Zionist lobby.”
According to the statement, the Muslim Brotherhood is against the use of violence in general and assassination in particular. “We support fair trials for criminals, no matter what kind of crime they have committed.”
The Brotherhood demanded that the United States, NATO and the European Union “announce the end of the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinians” as a matter of urgency. It also called upon the United States to end its intelligence operations against those who oppose its policies and stop interfering in the internal affairs of Arab and Muslim countries.
Tal Aviv – Chairman of the Israeli Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security Shaul Mofaz of the right wing Kadima party asked the Israeli government to assassinate Palestinian leaders like the US did with Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Mofaz added that the new US assassination strategy comes from Israel’s policies of targeting Palestinian leaders after the attack on the Israeli Olympics team in Germany back in 1972.
During an interview with Israeli radio on Tuesday morning Mofaz said that the Israeli assassination strategy proved to be successful adding that it must be resumed targeting Hamas leaders based in Gaza if attacks come from there.
Even though international law prohibits the use of extra judicial assassination policies, Mofaz said that this is a legitimate act.
Yesterday, a majority of Councilors from Markham City Council adopted a motion to censor “Israeli Apartheid Week” that is organized each year in March by students on Canadian universities.
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is a week of lectures and film screenings that takes place peacefully on campuses each year and hosts prominent academics and community leaders to very high-level political and academic discussions.
IAW condemns all forms of racism and discrimination. It explicitly condemns anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, and homophobia. Many Jewish students are involved in organizing IAW.
This year, for the seventh year, IAW was held in 95 cities and more than 75 universities on six continents, including 3 cities in Israel and 4 cities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Ironically, the motion passed by Markham City Council aims to deny Canadian students and academics the rights of freedom of expression and academic freedom, rights that are enjoyed by Israeli students and academics. In addition it interferes in University affairs.
The motion creates the absurd situation where Canadian students and academics are allowed to freely criticize their own government but are banned from criticizing a foreign government.
The motion put forward by Councilor Shore is one of those several attempts currently being undertaken to censor and suppress public debate on this subject in order to shield Israel’s actions from scrutiny and criticism.
Such actions are an attack on free speech the likes of which we have not seen since the 1950s McCarthy witch hunts.
By its decision, Markham City Council ignored the comprehensive study undertaken by Toronto City staff that determined the use of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” does not promote hatred or discrimination, and does not violate the Criminal Code or the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Markham City Council also ignored the compelling evidence introduced from the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, the Conference of Southern African Christian Churches, the Association of Civil Rights of Israel and the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, that irrefutably proves Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel are systematically discriminated against and that the situation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza is reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa.
The spectrum of diversity was well-represented by those who spoke against the motion and in support of free speech and Palestinian rights. Those presenters included Jews, Christians and Muslims of all ages and gender, and from various ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Understandably, Councilor Shore’s motion placed the other Councilors in a corner. Markham City Council had unfortunately decided recently to send a trade mission to Israel. The rejection of Councilor Shore’s motion would have implied that they condone the labeling of Israel as an Apartheid state and would have placed them in the awkward position of doing business with an apartheid regime.
Regrettably, this politically expedient decision runs counter to the Town of Markham’s stated mission to recognize and accept the diversity of its residents, to respect the differences in all peoples and their right to hold different opinions, to promote the value of human rights, and to oppose racism and discrimination.
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CAF National President
RAMALLAH — An Israeli military court sentenced Palestinian writer Ahmad Qatamish to six months of administrative detention late Tuesday, in an order that appeared to have been tampered with, Palestinian human rights group Addameer said Wednesday.
Israeli judicial authorities had indicated that Qatamish was to be released Tuesday, following 13 days of detention in Israel’s Ofer jail, but a last minute order was issued containing inaccurate information, the group said in a statement.
Qatamish’s lawyer was told by Ofer military court at noon Tuesday that the writer and intellectual would be release by 5 p.m. that day, the statement said, and Qatamish was given the same information by the Israeli prison service.
At 5:30 p.m. the court summoned Qatamish’s lawyer, indicating his detention would be extended, however the counsel was later assured by the military prosecutor that he would be released.
At 7:45 p.m. the lawyer was told a decision would be taken by 9 p.m., and 30 minutes before this deadline, informed that an administrative detention order had been issued for Qatamish.
Addameer said it had a copy of the order, which “disgracefully appears to be a copy of someone else’s detention order that has been tampered with to include Mr. Qatamish’s name.”
“This is clear evidence that these orders are not actually issued by the Israeli military commander of the West Bank after careful review of all the evidence against the suspect in question, but rather orchestrated by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and the military prosecution,” the statement continued.
Addameer added that the order is for an “extension” of Qatamish’s administrative detention, despite his not being detained under such conditions for several years.
The order also states that the writer is suspected of being a Hamas member, the group said, calling the claim “absurd” as the previous week Israeli police accused Qatamish of membership of leftist faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the group with which he has historically been associated.
Addameer added that the administrative detention order is for six months, and no date for review of the ruling has been set. The group called for the annulment of the order, saying it was a “case of arbitrary detention motivated solely by [Qatamish's] opinions and peaceful activism.”
Qatamish was detained on April 21 from his Ramallah home by Israeli troops, and since held at the Ofer detention center at the Beituniya Israeli military base in the West Bank.
He has had several spells in Israeli jails, and spent 17 years in hiding from 1976 to 1992 to avoid re-arrest.
In 1992 Qatamish was held by Israel without charge for six years, writing about his experiences of torture and ill treatment in his prison memoir ‘I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush [fez].’
Following an international campaign for his release, he was freed in 1998, and has since been banned from traveling outside Palestinian territory.
He went on to finish his doctorate in political science and has since lectured at Al-Quds University and founded the Munif Barghouti Research Center.
The media and world bodies have ignored the Bahrain protests, making it difficult to know what is happening. Emails from an activist in Bahrain illuminate some of the occurrences and highlight how the struggle has grown from seeking equality in life to receiving a punishing death.
Hope this email finds you well.
To update you on recent events in Bahrain:
Report by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights: Thousands are subjected to dismissal of work as part of severe clampdown on all who joined or openly supported the protest movement. King’s son says: No escape for opponents of his father:
ILO Director-General sounds alarm on situation of workers in Bahrain:
“Policemen Murder Suspects Go On Trial before the Lower State Safety Court”
“Bahrain University Fires College Dean, 7 Teachers, 25Administrators and 62 Students”
“It has also sacked 25 administrators, 62 students and suspended 8 others for a whole academic year. Five other students enrolled at foreign universities for their PhD degrees had their state scholarships stopped.” It is important to note that the incident of the University of Bahrain was mentioned in the BCHR report on “Unfounded stories of sectarian clashes and violence by protesters”:
“Ministry of Social Affairs has decided to dissolve the Bahrain Teacher’s Society and suspend the Bahrain Medical Society today.” President of the Bahrain Teacher’s Society, was arrested today.
“The US officials expressed thanks and respect to HRH the Crown Prince praising the kingdom’s ongoing development march for the past tenors as well as Bahrain’s pioneering regional and international role.”
URGENT NEWS; A prominent human rights defender and former Mena director at Frontline defenders, Abdulhadi Alhkawaja has just been arrested along with two of his son-in-laws- Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed. They broke the front door to the house and then beat them severely along with Mohammad Almasqati, the president of the Bahrain youth society of human rights. But they through Mohammad into a room and told him not to come out and then closed the door. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was beaten so severely that the blood stain is still visible on the stair case. And when his oldest daughter, Zainab, tried to intervene she was beaten as well.
On their search for Abdulhadi Alkhawaja they went to his apartment first and didn’t find him there. They then went to his cousin’s house and he wasn’t there either but his cousin, Habib Alhalwachi, was and they arrested him. They finally went to the home of his daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja, and found him, arrested him and two others as mentioned above. Urgent pleas for intervention as all three are under arrest, high risk of torture, and their lives may be in danger.
Today the Ministry of Interior released news that two detainees died while in custody. The first, Ali Isa Saqer, who was charged with allegedly running over a policeman and killing him, was said to have “created chaos at the detention center and that led to the interference of security forces to bring situation to normal, but he resisted them and sustained various injuries in the process. He was referred to the hospital and died later.”
The second man, Zakariya Rashid Hassan, was allegedly “found dead on Saturday morning at the Detention Center.” The MOI alleges that he died due to sickle cell anemia. This is the second case of death allegedly due to sickle cell anemia in detention centers by Bahraini Authorities.All detainees (currently numbered at around 600, amongst them 25 women two of whom are pregnant) are at very high risk of torture, and their lives are at threat. I will be sending the updated list as soon as it is translated in English.
In an update on the Al-Khawaja case, Minister of foreign affairs wrote on twitter: “He (Alkhawaja) was arrested for charges to be brought against him legally . He violently resisted the arrest and had to be subdued” and then went on to say: “He (Alkhawaja) is not a reformer. He called for the overthrow of the legitimate regime”
You can read the details of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s arrest as told by his daughter who was present at the time to Human Rights Watch:
There are still ongoing protests and candlelit vigils which get attacked every night in different villages in Bahrain causing more injuries. Tens of people are staying at home despite serious injuries, some with shrapnel in their eyes, out of fear of going to the hospitals which are still under the control of the security forces.
Again, we call for urgent intervention as many lives are under threat.
I am writing to you in urgency as we have pictures which now show that Isa Saqer, who’s death the Ministry of Interior announced yesterday, show torture marks on his body. The pictures are graphic. It is important to note that Zakaria alAsheri, who’s death was also announced yesterday, is a blogger who was arrested because of his responsibility for www.al-dair.net. Al Asheri’s family has informed us that Zakaria never had sickle cell anemia, which the authorities said was the cause of death. Again, all detainees are under high risk of torture and their lives are at threat.
There is still no news about Abdulhadi Alkhawaja or his sons-in-law. Their whereabouts are still unknown and lawyers have not been able to reach them. There is grave concern for his well-being and and his life. There is concern for Abdulhadi’s eldest daughter, Zainab, who has been talking to the media about her father’s arrest and has been working on documenting cases. She has already received death threats and threats of arrest from members of the royal family due to her speaking out. Zahra Alsingace, Abduljalil AlSingace’s 23 year old daughter, was arrested and interrogated today for a few hours then released. They made her open her facebook page and went through it. Her older brother Hussain remains in detainment as does her father, and her brother Hassan is in hiding as the authorities are looking for him.
After broadcasting the pictures I sent you of Isa Saqer and a video of him, the Ministry of Interior put news on their formal website that Nabeel Rajab was to be referred to the Military Public Prosecutor for allegedly having “published in his twitter account a fabricated image of “Ali Isa Saqer” who died on 9 April 2011″ We have reason to believe that he is at high risk of arrest. If Nabeel does get arrested, and after the arrest of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Mohammed AlMasqati and Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdah (who is in hiding) will be the only human rights activists left inside Bahrain.
Hope this email finds you well.
Defense lawyer Mohammed AlTajer was arrested by Bahraini authorities on the 15th of April. You can read the Human Rights Watch report about it here.
Zainab Alkhawaja’s health has deteriorated immensely and she was moved to a hospital where her family was told that if they give her IV they would have to inform the Ministry of Interior. She went home without receiving the IV. Thereabouts of her father Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and her family members are still unknown. Groups are launching a mass hunger strike starting tomorrow in Bahrain. There are also people around the world who have said that they will join the hunger strike as well.
# 30 women are being detained, 3 of them are reportedly pregnant;
# 571 men have been detained;
# An estimated 20-25% of those detained are under the age of 18 years old, with the youngest being 12 years old, Ahmed Ali Abbas Yahya Thamer;
# 40 people are listed as “missing” and not included in the numbers above;
# 17 doctors have been detained;
# Some of those detained were taken from their hospital beds worthy were being treated for injuries received;# Others were taken in the pre-dawn hours from their homes by masked and armed security forces who produced no ID’s, warrants or official charges;
# Most of those detained have been without contact with their familiar with legal counsel of any sort;
# At least 4 people have died during detention, and the govt claims they died from kidney failure or sickle cell disease, but families deny health conditions and clear indications of torture are present on their bodies; and
# The whereabouts of most of the detainees are not known.
Mr Fadhel Abbasof the National Democratic Assembly was not allowed to travel on the 15thof April when he tried to leave to Tunisia for a conference. No reason was given for his travel ban. I have attached copy of the letter sent to the Oxford Aviation Academy asking them to immediately send back certain Bahraini students.
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja called his wife today to let her know that he will be appearing before a military court tomorrow (21st April) at 8am (Bahrain time). He also asked for some clothes. No official charges have been declared against him yet. His sons in law also requested clothes to be brought to what is known as the “Qala’a”, the ministry of interior. His daughter Zainab ended her hunger strike today. Yesterday: “Seven people accused of murdering policemen Kashef Ahmed Mandhour and Mohammed Farooq Abdulsamad have today appeared before the Lower National Safety Court.”
University of Bahrain dismisses 200 students, academicians, admins, employees and security guards:
Amnesty International puts out an urgent appeal on detained defense lawyer Mohammed AlTajer who’s brother has now also been detained, Mohsin AlTajer. Several more arrests have taken place, amongst them a few women. The number of detainees until yesterday was 802, amongst them 52 women, not counting the arrests that took place today. There is still an ongoing campaign of demolishing Shiaa mosques and vandalizing “Matams” which belong to the Shia’a sect.
Hope this email finds you well.
Amnesty International: Ebrahim Sharif feared tortured
OMCT: Ongoing incommunicado and arbitrary detention of Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
Alkhawaja’s family fears he is being subjected to torture as his voice was very weak when he called and he kept repeating “the oppression is great“. There is fear that Alkhawaja may be undergoing military trial without allowing him lawyers or contact with his family.
Important report by Physicians for Human Rights
A group of female students and teachers were rounded up at a governmental high school, interrogated and beaten, please read more at the bottom of this email. After Nasser bin Hamad promised on national television that “a wall will fall on the heads of all those who called for the fall of the regime”, and that they knew who was with them and who was against them; a loyalty campaign was started under his patronage telling people to sign a pledge of allegiance for the King.
Presence of security forces inside villages to terrorize residents.
27 Shia’a mosques have been demolished by security forces in Bahrain. Some of these mosques have important historical and religious context.
This is a video someone put together documenting the demolitions and some of the vandalizing acts against other religious Shia’a institutions .
More than 100 “Mudhayefat” (stands that are built usually for distribution of food and drink during Shia’a religious events) have also been taken down.
Video documenting some of the human rights violations in Bahrain:
I am alarmed that many governments around the world continue to stay silent about the massive human rights violations taking place in Bahrain. It is especially alarming to see those considered allies to Bahrain to continue to say nothing to their ally which is terrorizing it’s own people on a daily basis, and with 800+ detainees under high risk of torture. I urge all of you to do what you can to pressure your governments to take a stronger stand on the violations taking place in Bahrain. Silence about the violations in Bahrain will also give a green light to other oppressive regimes in far they can go in suppressing protests in their countries before international community will take a strong stand.
In alarming news, the military general prosecutor has called for the death sentence for 7 men charged with killing police officers.
More arrests are taking place on an almost daily basis. Authorities have announced today that they will be releasing 312 detainees, updated list of detainees will be sent out as soon as it is ready.
Ali Hassan AlSingace: 19 years old
Qasim Hasan Matar: 20 years old
Saeed Abduljalil Saeed: 19 years old
AbdulAziz AbdulRidha: 24 years old
Isa Abdulla Kadhem: 19 years old
Sayed Sadiq Ali: 19 years old
Hussain Jaffar: 19 years old
As taken from the Bahrain News Agency:
On the website (video 2) the “confessions” have been broadcasted, which seem to be the only “evidence” provided by the prosecution.
Manama, April 28 (BNA) — The National Safety Lower Court on Thursday condemned Ali Abdullah Hassan Al Singees, Qasim Hasan Matar Ahmad, Saeed Abduljalil Saeed and Abdulaziz Abdulridha Ibrahim Husain to death for their role in the killing of Policemen Kashef Ahmed Madhoor and Mohammed Farooq Abdulsamad.
The court also condemned Isa Abdullah Kadhem Ali, Sayyed Sadiq Ali Mahdi and Husain Jaafar Abdulkareem to life in prison for their role in the twin murders. The case of the murders by the seven men was referred to the court following an intensive investigation by the competent authorities. Lawyers have the right to appeal the verdict before the National Safety Court of Appeals. Present at the session during which the verdict was pronounced were journalists from the local media, representative from human rights organisations, relatives of the defendants, lawyers and the defendants. Kashef Ahmed Mandhoor and Mohammed Farooq Abdulsamad were murdered last month when they were deliberately hit by vans and run over in one of the most gruesome murders in Bahrain. The killing was captured on camera and displayed on TV networks and on social networks Facebook and You Tube. The defendants had all their legal rights in line with human rights standards and had lawyers representing them during the trial. They were also allowed to contact their families. The trial sessions were attended by representative from human rights organisations and relatives of the defendants.
Dan Lieberman can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mérida – Following the announcement by the U.S. government that its forces had supposedly killed Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, in Pakistan, the Venezuelan government released an official statement, rejecting the use of “terror to fight terrorism”.
The statement criticises the “military operation carried out by U.S. forces in Pakistan without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities” and reminds the public that bin Laden was trained by U.S. intelligence before becoming a “pretext for the current wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, assuming bin Laden’s announced death is true, demands an immediate stop to the occupation and violence provoked by the U.S. in Central Asia with the alleged intention of neutralizing bin Laden.”
“Considering the atrocities and illegal nature of the methods used by the U.S. government, the Venezuelan government is still convinced – as it warned in 2001 – that terrorism cannot be fought with more terror, nor can violence be fought with more violence. The Venezuelan government is convinced that respect for the people’s dignity and sovereignty is an indispensable condition to consolidate global peace and security,” the statement continued.
Venezuelan vice-president Elias Jaua criticised the celebration of the killing of bin Laden, as has been happening in the United States, and said, “I never cease to be surprised by how crime and murder has been naturalised, and how it’s celebrated.”
Legislator Celia Flores, speaking on behalf of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) at a press conference, agreed, saying her party “celebrates life not death,” and the party wanted to reaffirm its position against terrorism and for peace and an ending of all military aggression, globally.
Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) legislator Carolus Wimmer also commented that “[U.S. President Barack] Obama is legitimising execution without trial as an imperialist policy”.
“This practice delegitimises…institutions that they [the U.S.] themselves created within the system of the United Nations…such as the International Criminal Court. What do such institutions exist for if execution is applied and the opposing party isn’t permitted any kind of defence,” he said.
“I think the peoples of the Middle East and of Northern Africa should request that the U.S. troops leave their territory…because this [bin Laden] was their main excuse for being there,” Wimmer concluded.
Flores also condemned the killing of the son and three grandchildren of Libyan head of state Muammar El Gaddafi after a bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Through a press release, the Venezuelan ministry of foreign affairs also commented on the Libyan events, saying, “This vile crime is particularly serious as it was preceded by the illegal bombing of the national Libyan television headquarters…just a few hours after the Libyan leader [Gaddafi] had put together a proposal for a negotiated solution to the crisis, clearly showing who wants war and who wants peace.”
The statement called the bombings “cruel and cowardly, that day after day massacres civilians of that sister African nation” and communicated Chavez’s condolences to Libya and the family of the victims.
The statement concluded affirming that “the Bolivarian government demands the United Nations condemn this act of war.”
A senior Palestinian source reported that the Hamas and Fateh movements agreed that the current Prime Minister in the West Bank, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, will not be heading the new interim unity government that would be formed after the unity deal is officially signed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source told UPI that both Hamas and Fateh movements agreed on removing Fayyad, and added that this decision does not mean totally removing him from the government as some officials are calling for appointing him as a Minister of Finance for his ability to obtain international and financial support due to his good relations with donor countries.
The new head of the interim government will likely be from the Gaza Strip.
The government will not carry a political agenda, and will have certain tasks headed by ensuring a positive atmosphere for a lasting reconciliation, preparing for the new general and presidential elections, and to supervise the reconstruction of Gaza.
Other tasks of the government include resolving the social and administrative effects of the internal rifts and conflict, and to reform all Palestinian institutions, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
All political prisoners held by Fateh in the West Bank and by Hamas in Gaza will be released following the official ceremony of signing the deal, while the Legislative Council will be resuming its duties in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The security forces will be controlled and run by the unity government.
The general, presidential and National Council elections will be consecutively held one year after the deal is signed.
The elections will be held under Arab and International supervision, and an elections court headed by a judge, and eight supervising judges, will be formed to ensure fair and transparent elections.