Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s column in today’s New York Times is part of what the Zionist project has attempted to do for the last 60-plus years: erase the Palestinian narrative out of existence and deny that the Nakba ever occured.
Oren’s Op-Ed piece urges the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people” because affirming Israel’s “Jewishness” is the “very foundation of peace, its DNA. Just as Israel recognizes the existence of a Palestinian people with an inalienable right to self-determination in its homeland, so, too, must the Palestinians accede to the Jewish people’s 3,000-year connection to our homeland and our right to sovereignty there.”
The ambassador states that Palestinians won’t do that because “Palestinian identity as a people has coalesced” around denying Israel’s rightful place as Jewish state, and that it would mean throwing away the Palestinian right of return. Oren is right about the Palestinians not wanting to recognize Israel as a Jewish state because it would negate the right of return, but he’s silent about the other core reason: Israel is emphatically not a Jewish state, because twenty percent of their population are Palestinian citizens of Israel, survivors or descendants of survivors of the Nakba, or the catastrophe, which refers to the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from their land during the fighting that began in 1947.
Oren’s rhetorical erasure of the existence of Palestinian citizens of Israel is purposeful, because bringing their existence up would demolish any exclusive Jewish claim to the land of Israel. It would also bring up uncomfortable questions like: If Israel is a Jewish state, how come there are 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who are not Jewish? Where did they come from? What would declaring Israel as a Jewish state mean to them? Were they there before Israel was created? What happened to them?
Answering those questions truthfully would blow a giant hole through the Zionist narrative of denying the Nakba ever occurred and affirming Israel’s exclusive Jewish character. Oren’s job is to further that narrative.
The self-declared Jewish state is an ethnocracy rather than a liberal democracy. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
In all likelihood, I will be one of the very first non-Jews expected to swear loyalty to Israel as an ideology rather than as a state.
Until now, naturalizing residents, like the country’s soldiers, pledged an oath to Israel and its laws. That is the situation in most countries. But soon, if the Israeli parliament passes a bill being advanced by the government, aspiring citizens will instead be required to uphold the Zionist majority’s presumption that Israel is a “Jewish and democratic state.”
My application for citizenship is due to be considered in the next few months, seven years after my marriage to a Palestinian citizen of Israel. The country’s 1.3 million Palestinians — usually referred to by officials as “Israeli Arabs” — are a fifth of the population. I, like a few others in my position, am likely to make such a pledge through gritted teeth and with my fingers crossed behind my back. Whatever I declare publicly to interior ministry officials will be a lie. Here are the reasons why.
One is that this law is unapologetically racist. It applies only to applicants for citizenship who are non-Jews. That is not because, as most observers assume, all Jews in Israel would willingly make the pledge but because one significant group would refuse, thereby nullifying their right to become Israelis. That group is the ultra-Orthodox, religious fundamentalists distinctive for their black dress, who are the fastest growing group among Israel’s Jewish population. They despise Israel’s secular state institutions and would make a loyalty oath only to a state guided by divine law.
So Israel is demanding from non-Jews what it does not require of Jews.
Another reason is that I do not believe a Jewish state can be democratic, any more than I believe a democratic state can be Jewish. I think the two principles are as incompatible as a “Christian and democratic state” or a “white and democratic state.” I am not alone in this assessment. Eminent academics at Israel’s universities think the same. They have concluded that the self-declared Jewish state qualifies not as a liberal democracy but as a much rarer political entity: an ethnocracy.
One of the leading exponents of this view, Professor Oren Yiftachel of Ben Gurion University in the Negev, points out that in ethnocracies, the democratic aspects of the regime are only skin deep. Its primary goal is to maintain one ethnic group’s dominance over another. Israel, it should be noted, has many laws but none guarantees equality. The discrimination, Prof Yiftachel notes, is legislated into the structure of citizenship so that one ethnic group is entitled to privileges at the expense of the other group in all basic aspects of life: access to land and water, the economy, education, political control, and so on.
Even the ethnic group’s majority status is maintained through sophisticated gerrymandering: Israel gives citizenship to Jewish settlers living outside its recognized borders, while banning the Palestinians it expelled in 1948 from ever enjoying immigration rights that are shared by Jews worldwide.
The third reason is that the new oath itself strengthens an elaborate structure of institutionalized discrimination based on Israel’s citizenship laws.
Few outsiders understand that Israel provides citizenship under two different laws, depending on whether you are a Jew or a non-Jew. All Jews and Jewish immigrants, as well as their spouses, are entitled to automatic citizenship under the Law of Return. Meanwhile, the citizenship of Israel’s Palestinians — as well as that of naturalizing spouses like myself — is governed by the Citizenship Law. It is this bifurcated citizenship that made possible a previous outrage: Israel’s ban on the right of its Palestinian citizens to win citizenship, or often even residency rights, for a Palestinian spouse through naturalization.
It is again the Citizenship Law for Palestinians, not the Law of Return for Jews, that Israel is preparing to revise to force the spouses of Palestinian citizens, myself included, to pledge an oath to the very state that confers on them and their Palestinian partners second-class citizenship.
The fourth reason is that this oath is a classic example of “slippery slope” legislation. Despite the exultations of Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right minister who campaigned under the election slogan “No loyalty, no citizenship,” this law in its current formulation will probably apply to only a few hundred applicants each year.
Currently exempt are all existing citizens, whether Jews or Palestinians; non-Jewish spouses of Jews naturalizing under the Law of Return; and Palestinian partners blocked entirely from the naturalization process. Only the tiny number of non-Jewish spouses of Israel’s Palestinian citizens will have to take the pledge. But few believe that the oath will remain so marginal forever. A principle of tying citizenship rights to a declaration of loyalty is being established in Israel for the first time.
The next targets for this kind of legislation are the non-Zionist political parties of Israel’s Palestinian minority. The Jewish parties are already formulating bills to require parliament members to swear an oath to a “Jewish and democratic state.” That is designed to neuter Israel’s Palestinian parties, all of which share as their main platform a demand that Israel reform from a Jewish state into a “state of all its citizens,” or a liberal democracy.
Next in Lieberman’s sights, of course, are all of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinians, who will be expected to become Zionists or face a loss of citizenship and possibly expulsion. I may be one of the first non-Jews to make this pledge, but many are sure to be forced to follow me.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press).
There was cause for much optimism when President Obama made the first steps towards a ‘reset’ in US-Russian relations by renouncing plans by his predecessor, George Bush, to deploy American missiles in close proximity to the Russian borders on the territory of Poland and the Czech Republic.
And it cleared the way for settling other important problems in bilateral relations. Preparations for signing a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty got off the ground at last, and the no-easy talks on the treaty eventually resulted in an agreement which was signed by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in Prague in May this year.
But as it became clear shortly afterward, the issue is far from simple. At the end of September Bucharest said it was getting ready to sign an agreement on the deployment of an American military base on the territory of Romania. A similar base was to be deployed on the territory of Bulgaria. As it happens, Romania will have the bases instead of Poland, and Bulgaria instead of the Czech Republic. But a change of location makes no difference as far as the end result is concerned. Given the situation, the American moves cause as much concern as before.
As he commented on them, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said: “Russia and the US have discussed the issue of missile defense at length and agreed that there would be no anti-missiles in Poland or the Czech Republic. And all of a sudden, we learn that the missiles are being moved to other European countries. So where is the ‘reset’?”
Among other questions which are brought up in connection with the missile defense program is how long the United States is going to drag its feet over ratifying the new START Treaty. Signed in May, the treaty was supposed to be ratified by the Senate by the middle of September. Now, as the first ten days of October are coming to a close, the opponents to the treaty are preventing the ratification from going ahead by linking it to missile defense. Senator Richard Lugar said a few days ago that the treaty should be supplemented with a special resolution stating that it imposes no restrictions on American plans to develop a missile defense system.
Mighty circles in the US have been doggedly pursuing a missile defense program ever since it was launched by President Ronald Reagan 25 years ago. And the intensity with which they are doing so stays unabated, despite substantial failures and losses. One the latest failures, which cost the US 120 million dollars, was reported recently, when an interceptor missile launched from an air base in Vandenberg, California, failed to hit a hypothetical target and exploded in mid-air.
Professor Richard Garwin, one of the founders of America’s hydrogen bomb, indicated as he spoke in the Senate recently that the American missile defense system in its current shape was useless.
Auditors from a Washington-based audit agency came to an equally disappointing conclusion. They had to admit that missile defense experts had failed to achieve the results they were paid for and that a system they had built was totally ineffective.
The sums allocated for the missile defense program were huge beyond description. Experts estimate that one trillion dollars has been spent on it by now and it will require billions more if continued.
This explains why the masterminds of American missile defense have been so persevering in pursuing it regardless of common sense. Billions of dollars earmarked for missile defense have not been invested into space research as it was promised but landed in the bank accounts of those who have turned it into a gold mine. These people have a lot of weight in present-day Washington. Whether the US policy makers will fall hostage to these mighty groups remains to be seen.
The Public Was Never Warned About the Risks
According to a recent New York Times article, thyroid cancer in the U.S. has been on the rise for nearly 40 years.
The long-standing explanation that this is due to better diagnostics is no longer accepted. This also means that the impacts of radioactive iodine fallout from nuclear weapons testing and Chernobyl cannot be so readily ruled out.
With a half-life of 8.5 days, Iodine-131 rapidly contaminates air, vegetation and milk supplies. Because it is absorbed mostly in the body’s thyroid, radioactive iodine has been linked to thyroid cancer and other types of thyroid damage in humans for several decades. It takes about 90 days for the radioactivity of I-131 to diminish to very small levels. Thyroid cancer can have a latency period as long as 38 years.
According to the National Cancer Institute in 1992, about 150 million curies of radioactive iodine was released in open air from nuclear testing in Nevada, causing heavy contamination of the nation’s milk supplies from the early 1950’s to the early 1960’s. This is more than 20 times the amount estimated to have been released by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. At the time of open air testing, millions of children were drinking this contaminated milk.
In the early 1950s when radioactive fallout was over-exposing film in cardboard made with contaminated straw, the Eastman Kodak company secretly complained and was given routine warnings by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The public was never warned by the U.S. government about the dangers of consuming milk it was contaminating in its quest to amass a nuclear arsenal.
After the ratification of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration established “Protective Action Guides” for Iodine-131 that triggered removal of dairy products from human consumption following nuclear accidents. Had these limits been in place during the open air nuclear testing in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the NCI study indicates that milk supplies would have had to be removed from the markets for months at a time.
The NCI admitted in testimony before the U.S. Congress in 1998, after an investigation by the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, that it suppressed this study for 5 years. The NCI also conceded this may have caused as many as 212,000 excess thyroid cancers.
With trust in the U.S. government sinking like a stone, it’s time for greater transparency about the price paid for nuclear weapons. As former Senator John Glenn (D-OH), a staunch supporter of the military, warned, “What good is it to protect ourselves with nuclear weapons, if we poison our people in the process?”
Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary from 1993 to 1999.
Every other day, the IDF kills a Palestinian civilian with impunity in the occupied territories. And the Israelis have treated these killings as “combat action,” reports B’Tselem in a report on Israeli military killings in the occupied territories, 2006-2009, not including the Gaza war.
From 2006 to 2009, the IDF killed 1,510 Palestinians, not including Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead. Of these 1,510 deaths, 617 were of persons who were not taking part in hostilities.
Regarding these 617 fatalities, BʹTselem demanded an MPIU [Military Police Investigation Unit] investigation into the deaths of 288 of them, who were killed in 148 incidents. Ninety‐five of these incidents occurred in the Gaza Strip, accounting for 230 of the deaths. The other 53 incidents took place in the West Bank and resulted in the killing of 58 Palestinians. One hundred and four of the fatalities were minors under age 18, 23 were persons 50 and above, and 52 were women. One hundred of the Palestinians whose deaths B’Tselem demanded to investigate were killed in 2006, 86 in 2007, 93 in 2008, and 9 in 2009.
Stephen Lendman‘s comment:
Most are witnessed by bystanders whose testimonies are crucial to achieve justice. Yet Israel won’t use them, clearly hiding the truth and obstructing justice.
Further, since September 2000, B’Tselem received no response from the Judge Advocate General’s Office for ” the vast majority” of cases warranting investigation, civilians killed in cold blood, responsible soldiers unpunished.
More from the B’Tselem release:
From the beginning of the first intifada, in December 1987, to the outbreak of the second intifada, in September 2000, the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) investigated almost every case in which Palestinians not taking part in hostilities were killed. At the beginning of the second intifada, the Judge Advocate General’s Office announced that it was defining the situation in the Occupied Territories an “armed conflict,” and that investigations would be opened only in exceptional cases, in which there was a suspicion that a criminal offense had been committed..
B’Tselem protests the sweeping classification of the situation in the Occupied Territories as an “armed conflict,” which effectively grants immunity to soldiers and officers, with the result that soldiers who kill Palestinians not taking part in hostilities are almost never held accountable for their misdeeds. By acting in this way, the army fails to meet its obligation to take all feasible measures to reduce injury to civilians, allows soldiers and officers to violate the law, encourages a trigger-happy attitude, and shows gross disregard for human life.
In July of this year, the United Nations declared access to clean water a human right. The United States was among 41 nations that abstained from supporting the resolution. Since October 15th is Blog for Water Day, a close inspection of a common US practice – fluoridating city water supplies – is in order.
The subject of water fluoridation has been controversial for decades, but a new book, The Case Against Fluoride, won the accolades of a Nobel Laureate:
Sweden rejected fluoridation in the 1970s and, in this excellent book, these three scientists have confirmed the wisdom of that decision. Our children have not suffered greater tooth decay, as World Health Organization figures attest, and in turn our citizens have not borne the other hazards fluoride may cause. In any case, since fluoride is readily available in toothpaste, you don’t have to force it on people.
~ Arvid Carlsson, Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology (2000) and Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology, University of Gothenburg
Published on October 7th, “The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There,” by Paul Connett, James Beck, and Spedding Micklem, warns that water fluoridation “receives no oversight from the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency takes no responsibility for the practice.”
Carl Hays (a Booklist Online reviewer) also applauded the book:
On the eve of the new millennium, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), listed water fluoridation as one of the twentieth-century’s 10 greatest public-health achievements. Yet according to the authors of this painstakingly researched expose of fluoridation’s overall ineffectiveness and toxicity, endorsements such as these from the CDC and other health organizations are motivated more by face-saving politics than credible research.
Fluoridation advocates who have previously branded detractors as conspiracy theorists and shills for junk science will be hard pressed to debunk the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and sound scientific reasoning presented here.
In March of this year, the issue again made news when workers in the Amesbury, Massachusetts water plant found that the bags of fluoride the city had bought from China contained an unknown, non-soluble substance. It comprised 40% of the product.
This month, the video caught the attention of bloggers who focused on the warning label on the sodium fluoride bag seen in the video:
TARGET ORGANS: Heart, Kidneys, Bones, Central Nervous System, Gastrointestinal System, Teeth. Do not get in eyes or on skin. Do not ingest or inhale.
Why are they putting this in our water?
Many scientists oppose adding such a toxic substance to our main drinking supply, yet powerful forces keep our water fluoridated. A short 30-minute film, Professional Perspectives on Water Fluoridation, provides some chilling information.
Even assuming that the given reason for fluoridating our water – to prevent tooth decay – is legitimate, pharmacologists, toxicologists, dentists, and medical doctors explain how mass drugging a population violates medical ethics since it lacks informed consent.
Among the 2,000-plus professionals who call for the ban of this practice, Dr Carlsson states: “It’s absolutely obsolete.” Modern pharmacology recognizes that individuals react differently to the same dosage of a given drug.
Now in this case, you have it in the water and people are drinking different amounts of water. So you have huge variations in the consumption.
Dr Phyllis Mullenix concurs. “The whole name of the game [of pharmacology] is to deliver the right dose to the right person at the right time. And that’s not what fluoridation does.”
Any benefit from fluoride on teeth is only topical. As one scientist put it, “If you want to prevent sunburn, you don’t drink suntan lotion. You put it on your skin.”
Yet, fluoridated municipal water exposes our internal organs to a toxic substance. Children are especially vulnerable, because the blood-brain barrier is not fully developed. Fluoride lowers intelligence. One in three US adults has arthritis, which is a symptom of skeletal fluorosis. Fluoride also causes depression and lethargy, they report.
The World Health Organization advised that a third of US children suffer from dental fluorosis caused by too much fluoride intake.
Professionals in the film also cite a 2006 report by the National Research Council, which urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the maximum amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water.
In the Amesbury news report, we saw bags of sodium chloride. But the form of fluoride added to most municipal water supplies is hexafluorosilicic acid, a waste product of the agricultural phosphate industry. It is not pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride.
Both the book, The Case Against Fluoride, and the film, Professional Perspectives on Water Fluoridation, provide citizens with sound science to use when demanding that city officials end this “unethical, unnecessary, ineffective and dangerous” practice.
Meanwhile, fluoride filtration systems can be purchased for home installation, ranging from around $50 a year to several hundred dollars.
Click here for more information.
Israel is probably one of the most thoroughly segregated and intolerant nations
If Martin Luther King would have been a Palestinian, I sometimes wonder how Israeli authorities would have treated him. This came to mind again when it was reported that an Israeli military court sentenced Palestinian nonviolence activist Abdullah Abu Rahmeh to one year in prison. Evidently, the military tribunal found him guilty of “incitement” and for organizing illegal protests. It also fined him $1,400, a stiff penalty for someone who lost over half of his farmland to land seized by Israeli settlement programs.
Similar to Martin Luther King, Abdullah Abu Rahmeh has experienced years of racial oppression and religious intolerance. Like Martin Luther King who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help achieve equality for blacks, Abdullah Abu Rahmeh is the coordinator of the Bilin Popular Resistance Committee against the Wall and Settlements. Since 2005, the movement has nonviolently challenged Israeli segregation and exclusive religious laws. It has also peacefully resisted Israeli bulldozing of Palestinian homes and annexation of Palestinian villages and land.
As Israeli security and military forces fire teargas canisters into the marching crowd, some of the protests have turned violent. Israeli rubber bullets have killed several protesters too. Still, Palestinian teens have thrown stones at soldiers while protesting. The Israeli military claimed several Palestinian teens confessed Abdullah Abu Rahmeh told them to throw stones. They have accused him of inciting violence and riots. However, Abdullah Abu Rahmeh has denied such charges and instead, he claims to have pursued nonviolent strategies while encouraging the youth to stop throwing stones.
In 1963 and before the Jobs and Civil Rights March on Washington, Martin Luther King brought the movement for equality and freedom to Birmingham, Alabama. President John Kennedy was embroiled with the effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis and appeared distant from the urgent need to initiate a courageous civil rights law for America. After watching newsreel footage of false arrests, police beatings, attack dogs ripping apart protesters, and the city’s fire department hosing passive marchers with enough force to break their bones, some were finally convinced-including President Kennedy-that segregation had to end.
Like Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, Martin Luther King was jailed for his nonviolent direct action campaign in Birmingham. A group of white Alabama ministers put an ad in the New York Times condemning Martin Luther King of being an “agitator” and wanting only to evoke violence and to start a riot. They tried to convince him to end his campaign and to wait, that the future would be better for black Americans. His response, or the Letter From A Birmingham Jail, was written on scraps of paper and in the margins of a newspaper. Can the contents of the letter be applied to Abdullah Abu Rahmeh and Palestinians and Arabs living under Israeli rule and in Occupied Territories?
Therefore, if Martin Luther King was a Palestinian and had been arrested and jailed, like Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, this is what the Letter From An Israeli Jail would say:
I am in Israel because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus says God’ far beyond the boundaries of their home town, I too am compelled to carry the message of freedom beyond my particular home town. Moreover, I am aware of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by and not be concerned about what happens in Israel. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. (1)
Israel is probably one of the most thoroughly segregated and intolerant nations. Its ugly record of police brutality and military incursions are known in every section of the Middle East. Its unjust treatment of Palestinians and Arabs in the courts is a notorious reality, as are the numerous false imprisonments of men, women and children. There have been more unsolved bombings and bulldozing of Palestinian homes and attacks on mosques in Israel than any nation in the Middle East. There have also been unsolved killings and a complete disregard for basic human rights and civil liberties. (2)
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a nation that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I have worked against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. It is the kind of tension that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and unity. (3)
Nations and groups are more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation and religious intolerance. For years now, I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Palestinian with a piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never!” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied. (4)
But when you have seen vicious mobs kill your mothers and fathers at will and bulldoze your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled security forces kick, brutalize, bomb, use as human shields, and dance around and humiliate your Palestinian and Arab sisters and brothers with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your people smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. (5)
One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” There are, in fact, two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation and religious intolerance statutes are unjust because they distort the soul and damage the personality. It gives the segregator and intolerant a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation and intolerance substitutes an “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Segregation and intolerance are existential expressions of man’s tragic separation and awful estrangement. (6)
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. (7)
But the Jewish and American moderates are more devoted to “order” than to justice: who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which his the presence of justice. Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. I had hoped that Jewish and American moderates would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. (8)
Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of global opinion before it can be cured. (9)
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what happened to the Palestinians and Arabs. Something within has reminded them of their birthright of freedom; something without has reminded them that they can gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, they have been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with their black brothers of Africa, and their brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, they are moving with a sense of cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice and religious tolerance. (10)
(Note: Many international human rights organizations have already denounced Israel’s arrest and sentencing of Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During World War Two, Arabs and Palestinians also assisted Jews fleeing Germany and the Third Reich.)
– Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.worldnews.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.beverlydarling.com and wn.com//dallasdarling.
(1) Young, Ralph F., Dissent In America, The Voices That Shaped A Nation. New York, New York: Parson Longman Publishers, 2006., p. 551.
(2) Ibid., p. 552.
(3) Ibid., p. 553.
(4) Ibid., p. 553, 554.
(5) Ibid., p. 554.
(6) Ibid., p. 555.
(7) Ibid., p. 556.
(8) Ibid., p. 556.
(9) Ibid., p. 556.
(10) Ibid., p. 558.
Since I started working at Middle East Children’s Alliance, the MAIA Project to bring clean water to the children of Palestine has become closest to my heart. All of our projects are important for people in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, but the MAIA Project is connected to my history and my family. It takes me back to the days when I struggled with my family to bring clean water to our house so we could drink, cook and, sometimes, have a shower. My mother, sisters and I would carry gallons of water in heavy containers on our heads. Providing this essential for our family made my mother physically strong, her arms and shoulders shaped by her efforts, but her health suffered greatly. Much work and time is required to achieve the basic necessity of clean water. I still remember the weight of the water and the great responsibility on our necks and backs everyday.
Israel controls and uses 89% of the water resources in the West Bank, leaving 11% for the 2.5 million Palestinians. The Israeli Occupation continues to limit Palestinian access to clean water as form of collective punishment by controlling the water resources and distribution and by destroying the water that we are able to get. During Israeli military incursions, and especially during curfews, when we could not leave our homes, Israeli soldiers would shoot the water storage tanks on our roofs. Our water would pour down the sides of our buildings unused. During the recent attack on Gaza, Israel targeted the entire water infrastructure including the largest water purification system in Gaza. They also targeted electrical generators that supported water purification and sewage treatment. This kind of collective punishment is also used against Palestinians inside Israel. Palestinian villages “unrecognized” by the Israeli state are not connected to the national water grid that serves all Jewish communities, and the residents suffer from a lack of clean water.
In 1994 and 2001 I visited Black townships in South Africa. When the inhabitants in the townships explained their daily lives, they focused on the scarcity and difficulty in obtaining clean water. Water, they said, was only for the white people of South Africa. I immediately understood and thought that we could substitute Palestinian refugee camps for the South African townships. It is the same system of oppression. During apartheid access to public spaces, especially public beaches, was restricted according to race. The beautifully maintained beaches were accessible only for the white people. This is the same situation found in Palestine now. Israel severely restricts our access to the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and Lake Tiberias. Palestinians are forced to apply for permits from the Israelis to access these sites, even for a simple visit. Even when limited access is allowed, such as in Gaza, the coastline is often flooded with untreated sewage as a result of damage done by Israeli bombardments.
As I was writing this article, I spoke with Dr. Mona El-Farra, MECA’s Project Director in Gaza. We were discussing the current water situation and she was saying that the tap water in her apartment was unusable. She said “Ziad, the water here is polluted and undrinkable, more than that it is unusable for cleaning. Some people have started to lose their hair from showering with this water. The new business in Gaza is selling clean water from tanks around the city. Of course it is expensive and since few people are employed they cannot buy the water. People here are constantly sick from the lack of clean water.” She added that as a doctor she is seeing an increase in kidney disease, dysentery and other serious medical conditions related to polluted water. If people are lucky enough to survive the Israeli air strikes and sniper fire they go on to face the threat of dirty, dangerous water.
Images from Gaza show water tanks driven around the cities, people waiting in lines for water, and children carrying empty water containers searching for water to fill them. Children in Gaza are missing their childhood. They are defined as children by their age but they live as survivors, not as children. They are taking responsibility to protect themselves and their families. When I was a child in a refugee camp in the West Bank, our struggle to obtain basic necessities to survive was the same. Thirty-five years later, Palestinian children are still forced to grow up too soon.
The Middle East Children’s Alliance is working to support the rights of children, particularly the right of Palestinian children to survive and flourish. In the last two years, MECA’s Maia Project has succeeded in building 22 water purification systems in primary schools and kindergartens giving nearly 25,000 children access to clean water. As a result, thousands of mothers will feel less frightened that their children might be harmed by polluted water. Dr. El-Farra has witnessed the precious moments of accomplishment and pride when a new unit is installed.
MECA’s Maia Project seeks to expand to all the schools in Gaza so more children can realize their right to clean water. In South Africa apartheid has ended, but water injustice is still something the inhabitants of the Black townships and other marginalized communities struggle against on a daily basis. In Palestine, we are still struggling against the Israeli apartheid system that deprives us of our basic human rights, including the right to one of the most important things in life: Water.
Ziad Abbas works for the Middle East Children’s Alliance.
On May 31, the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of ships in International waters. The vessels were carrying humanitarian supplies to the people in the Gaza Strip, who suffer under a punishing blockade by Israel. The stated aims of the flotilla were to draw international attention to the situation in Gaza and the effect of the blockade; to break the blockade; and to deliver humanitarian assistance and supplies to Gaza.During the attack, Israeli soldiers killed 9 people, seriously wounded more than 50, and detained 750. They also confiscated or destroyed equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The United Nations Human Rights Council sent an independent fact finding mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla. The Mission, with Judge Karl T. Hudson-Philips, Q.C., retired Judge of the International Criminal Court presiding, interviewed 112 witnesses and examined forensic and other evidence, assisted by experts in forensic pathology, military issues, and firearms. Israel refused to cooperate with the independent investigation.
In a 56-page draft report [PDF], released on September 21, the Mission concluded that the Israeli military “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct,” the report added, “cannot be justified or condoned on security or any others grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
The Mission made the following findings:
Passengers on the vessels and their luggage were subjected to “security checks similar to those found in airports before boarding, including body searches,” to ensure that they were not carrying weapons. “At no stage was a request made by the Israeli Navy for the cargo to be inspected.”
The Israelis fired live ammunition from an Israeli helicopter onto the top deck of the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, before soldiers boarded the vessel by descending from the aircraft. Although some of the passengers used chairs, sticks, a box of plates and other objects to resist the soldiers, there was “no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship.”
During the operation to secure control of the top deck, the Israeli forces landed soldiers from three helicopters in a 15-minute period. The use of live ammunition resulted in fatal injuries to four passengers and injuries to at least 19 others, 14 with gunshot wounds.
Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who were already wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges and plastic bullets. “There was considerable live fire from Israeli soldiers on the top deck and a number of passengers were injured or killed whilst trying to take refuge inside the door or assisting others to do so.”
Furkan Dogan, a 19-year old with dual Turkish and U.S. citizenship, was one of the people killed by the Israeli forces. He was hit with live fire while filming with a small video camera on the top deck. He received five bullet wounds. “All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound, which was delivered at point blank range while he was lying on the ground on his back.”
Many people were forced to kneel on the outer deck in harsh conditions for many hours and people were subjected to physical mistreatment and verbal abuse, unnecessarily tight handcuffing, and the denial of access to toilets and food.
Israeli authorities confiscated, withheld, and in some cases destroyed the private property of many hundreds of passengers on board the vessels.
There is a “severe humanitarian situation in Gaza, the destruction of the economy and the prevention of reconstruction.” Israel’s blockade was “inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population” in Gaza, and is therefore illegal. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits collective punishment of civilians under occupation. One of the principal motives behind Israel’s imposition of the blockade was “a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas” in the 2005 election. There is “no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment.” In this conclusion, the Mission explicitly supported the findings of Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, as well as those of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The firing of rockets and other munitions of war into Israeli territory from Gaza “constitutes serious violations of international and international humanitarian law. But action in response which constitutes collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza is not lawful in the present or in any circumstances.”
Israel has continuously occupied Gaza despite its unilateral withdrawal of military forces in 2005. Since then, “abject poverty” among refugees has tripled. Israel determines the conditions of life within Gaza. Israel controls the border crossings and the territorial sea adjacent to Gaza, and it has declared a virtual blockade and limits to the fishing zone, thereby regulating economic activity in that zone. Israel maintains complete control of the airspace above Gaza through continuous surveillance, and it makes military incursions and from time to time hits targets within the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Israel regulates the local monetary market of Gaza based on the Israeli currency and controls taxes and customs duties.
The flotilla presented “no imminent threat but the interception was motivated by concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organizers of the flotilla.” There was no reasonable suspicion that the flotilla posed any military risk, and as a result “no case could be made to intercept the vessels in the exercise of belligerent rights or [UN Charter] Article 51 self-defence.”
Not only was the Israeli interception of the flotilla unlawful, “the use of force by the Israeli forces in seizing control of the Mavi Marmara and other vessels was also prima facie unlawful since there was no legal basis for the Israeli forces to conduct an assault and interception in international waters.”
Much of the force used by the Israeli soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara and from the helicopters was “unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers.” At least six of the killings, including that of Dogan, can be characterized as “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions,” which amounted to violations of the right to life and to physical integrity under articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
During the period of detention on board the Mavi Marmara, the passengers were subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment, which “did not respect the inherent dignity of persons who have been deprived of their liberty.”
The Israeli military’s treatment of the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara and in certain instances on board the Challenger 1 amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, in violation of articles 7 and 10 of the ICCPR. The willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health violated article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Other violations included the arbitrary or illegal arrests or detentions, in violation of article 9 of the ICCPR and the parading of detainees at the quayside carrying “the hallmarks of a ‘triumph'” which amounted to a “humiliating spectacle” in violation of article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention.
Serious incidents of physical violence perpetrated by the Israeli military and/or police officers at the Ben Gurion International Airport “clearly constituted grave violations” of the right to security of the person and to human dignity, in violation of article 9 of the ICCPR. In some instances, the treatment amounted to torture.
The confiscation of a large amount of video and photographic footage recorded on electronic and other media by passengers “represents a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence and other information.”
The ICCPR guarantees the victims judicial remedies and reparations proportionate to the gravity of the violations. Torture victims should be afforded medical and psychological care, and article 9 provides for a specific right to compensation.
“The perpetrators of the more serious crimes being masked cannot be identified without the assistance of the Israeli authorities,” the Mission concluded, and urged the Israeli government to assist in their identification. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the UN Human Rights Council a biased commission because it issued the Goldstone Report [PDF] , a 575-page document under the direction of noted Zionist Richard Goldstone, which found Israel guilty of international law violations in its December 2008 – January 2009 war on Gaza. During that war, 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
Israel conducted its own investigation of the flotilla attack, known as the Turkel Commission. It refused to take testimony from any of the victims on the vessels.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also commissioned an investigation, which undertook no primary witness investigation, largely relying on evidence from Israeli officers.
There is no evidence that the United States played any direct role in the attack on the flotilla. However, U.S.-made and U.S.-financed Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, which Israel often employs, were likely used in the assault. Any use of those weapons would violate the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits any recipient of U.S. arms exports from using U.S. weapons except for security within its own borders or for self-defense.
Israel could not maintain its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories without the support of the United States. Three weeks after Israel’s deadly attack on the flotilla, 329 out of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 87 out of 100 senators wrote letters to President Barack Obama supporting what they called Israel’s right to “self-defense.”
Obama has failed to condemn Israel’s actions on May 31, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence of its illegality. If Iran had attacked a humanitarian flotilla in international waters and killed 9 people, there would be certain retaliation from Washington.
Until our government stands up to the powerful Israel lobby in the United States, the Palestinian people, and our own humanity, will continue to be held hostage.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Human Rights Network. See www.marjoriecohn.com.