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Violence and Resistance in Palestine

An African American Perspective on Israel/Palestine

By Ajamu Baraka | November 19, 2014

For the many thousands of tourists who fly into Israel/Palestine every year, landing in the modern Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv marks the beginning of a great adventure in the “holy land.” But for members of the “African Heritage” delegation, flying into Ben-Gurion was fraught with tension and foreboding. Before departing the U.S. on October 27, our delegation rehearsed how we would move and act, role-playing what to say and what to avoid when we would face Israel’s first line of defense – its custom officials at the airport.

The normally simple act of landing, showing that prized blue book that is the U.S. passport and passing effortlessly through customs and into the country, was something that we understood might not be automatic for us. And indeed it wasn’t – within an hour of our landing our delegation’s co-leader, a young Palestinian woman, was detained. We later found out that she was interrogated, held overnight, and deported the next day.

As our delegation slowly made its way through Israel’s entry process those first couple of hours at the airport, we did not quite grasp that our experience at the airport would not be the first of the strange dualities that we would experience and witness of life in Israel/Palestine. The gaggle of wide-eyed excited tourists that were happy to be in the country greatly contrasted with our already lived experience of Israel as a police state on guard against all threats, real and imagined.

The delegation and program:

The African Heritage delegation was made up of activists, educators, journalists, clergy, students and folks representing the full spectrum of African American life in all of its diversity. Sponsored by the Interfaith Peace Builders, an organization of dedicated young activists experienced in organizing delegations to Israel/Palestine, the individual members of our delegation had various positions and motivations for being a part of the delegation. But a genuine feeling of solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people and a desire to better understand the situation in order to share what we observed with our constituencies where we lived and worked emerged as the common denominator that united most of us.

Our ambitious agenda included meetings and visits that took us across the country. From East Jerusalem to “Israel proper” through to the West Bank and down to the Negev desert, we met with peace activists, political activists, clergy, the settler community of Hebron, Palestinian-Arab Bedouin women, and lived with Palestinian families in Bil’in and the Deheisheh refugee camp. It was an exhilarating and emotionally exhausting experience that touched us all in very personal ways.

The never ending conflict?

The deeply troubling impression that I came away with was that a negotiated, relatively “peaceful” resolution of the conflict is impossible and that those individuals who believe that the Israeli state would grant sovereignty and respect the human rights of Palestinians within the context of either a one or two state solution are either naive regarding the nature of Israel’s settler project or fundamentally dishonest.

The obscene level of investment in the infrastructure of repression in the occupied territories along with the most aggressive settlement policies since the 67 war clearly demonstrates that the Israeli state has no interest in a negotiated settlement with Palestinians.

Indeed the “facts on the ground” all point toward policies of permanent control of Palestinian life and land. Those facts include the over six hundred thousand Israeli settlers in the West Bank and settlement expansion into Palestinian East Jerusalem, the so-called security wall that is more an enclosure wall to expropriate Palestinian land, and the emergence over the last 15 years of a right- wing, militarized Israeli civil society symbolized by the popular support given to the governing coalition anchored by the right-wing Lukid party. These facts coupled with the complete collapse of what is referred to as liberalism within Israel, suggest that the current political alignments and power relations shatter any illusions that a domestic constituency strong enough to counter the hegemony of the Zionist positions exist anywhere in Israel.

On the Palestinian side, there are deep divisions among the leadership of Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian organizations, despite the so-called unity government that was established in June of this year. I was struck by the number of people who have lost all faith in the Palestinian authority created out of the Oslo process. Yet at the level of the “people,” Palestinians living in the occupied territories are still united in their steadfast commitment to resist the occupation.

Unity on the issue of Palestinian resistance stems primarily from the daily indignities of life under military occupation and the repressive brutality that is a permanent feature of Palestinian life. Our delegation observed and experienced, if only briefly, life under military occupation as we moved through military checkpoints throughout the country but especially in the West Bank.

In the village of Bil’in, a community in resistance that was documented in the Academy Award nominated film Five Broken Cameras, our delegation was hosted by the village’s popular resistance committee. As part of our visit we were taken down to the separation wall or what many of us call the apartheid wall. Without provocation or warnings of any kind, the delegation suddenly found itself on the receiving end of a barrage of Israeli gas grenades. After having to run back to our cars through gas, we were informed by our hosts that since the authorities were aware that internationals were in the town for the night we should be aware that there was a possibility that soldiers might raid houses that night to arrest us, something that has happened before.

Two days later, we once again experienced the duality of experiences reflected in the lives and positions of Palestinians. In the morning we met with the Holy Land Trust, an organization that is committed to developing what it calls a spiritual, pragmatic and strategic approach to the ongoing conflict. It sees its work of reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews as a viable model for realizing a joint community that respected each other and was committed to justice, political equality and peaceful coexistence. That evening, however, we stayed in the Deheisheh refugee camp, a camp located near Bethlehem that was established after the expulsion of the more than 750,000 Palestinians in the war of 1948 that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel. Our hosts at Deheisheh were clear that for them, peaceful coexistence was impossible in a settler-colonial context that did not allow them to recoup all of the land that they argue was stolen by the Israeli state.

A week after returning from the super-charged, repressive environment that is Israel/Palestine, it is not surprising that Jerusalem is now being consumed by an intensification of violence. From what I observed, the allegations that Israeli settlers lynched Yousuf al-Ramouni, a Palestinian bus driver in Jerusalem that then sparked the retaliatory killing of four Israeli’s, is not surprising nor beyond the realm of possibility. Settler and state violence are central components of the colonial project. And violence as part of Israel’s colonial project has always been strategically deployed. It is used as a means of social control but by manipulating issues to evoke Palestinian resistance it is used to support Israel’s narrative as victim. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon adroitly used this device to provide the pretext for destroying the last vestiges of the Oslo process and the functionality of the Palestinian Authority. In the aftermath of the disastrous assault on Gaza that resulted in a public relations defeat for Israel and has even led some European governments to recognize a Palestinian state, it appears that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has gone back to the Sharon playbook. The closure of the A-Aqsa Mosque a few weeks ago had the predictable results of Palestinian Muslim resistance that Israel is attempting to use to its advantage.

The consciously provoked violence in Jerusalem also has another effect. It diverts attention away from political and material basis of the “conflict” – Israel’s brutal occupation and illegal theft of Palestinian land.

As one activist framed the political conundrum: “if a two state solution in which Palestinians were offered the 28% [of the] land mass of historic Palestine with borders between this state and Israel that approximated the 67 green line and a just solution to Palestinian refugees as part of the Oslo process in the 90s, it would have been hard to accept but it might have been viable.” But for this activist and many others in Palestine, it is now clear that the Israeli state never intended to seriously consider establishing a viable Palestinian state or resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees in a just manner.

Difficult as it was, traveling to Palestine and seeing first hand the realities on the ground was a political necessity and an eye opener. One can read about the repression, the growing expressions of racism, and see images from time to time of Israeli brutality, but nothing really prepares you for being thrust into that oppressive reality. And for those of us who reside in oppressive communities where our lives and dignity are also under constant attack, we can feel the humiliation and degradation experienced by Palestinians which after a few days becomes emotionally overwhelming.

During my activist life I have traveled to many of the counties that Western colonial/capitalist leaders characterized as despotic totalitarian states – the old Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba before 1989 – but in none of those states did I witness the systematic mechanism of population control and scientific repression that I witness in “democratic” Israel. The security walls, towers, checkpoints, and armed settlers created an aura of insecurity and impending assault on one’s dignity at any time. I left that space wondering how anyone with a modicum of humanity and any sense of morality could reconcile living in that environment from the spoils of Palestinian dispossession and degradation and how any nation could support the Israeli political project.

Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States.

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Hungary to start South Stream construction in 2015 despite western pressure

RT | November 19, 2014

Hungary plans to break ground next year on its stretch of the South Stream pipeline to send natural gas from Russia to Europe. It is in defiance of EU and US calls to halt the project over frosty relations with Moscow.

One major reason Hungary has thrown its support into South Stream is the lack of a better option since the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, which was supposed to deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, failed.

“Nabucco will not be built and after nearly 10 years of hesitation, and especially in light of the Ukraine situation, we need to act. This is a necessity,” Hungarian Energy Minister Andras Aradszki told Reuters.

Earlier Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Washington is putting pressure on Budapest for cooperating with Russia over energy.

Gazprom’s $45 billion South Stream project will deliver about 64 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, Russia’s biggest client, without unreliable passage through Ukraine.

Russia is Hungary’s biggest source of natural gas, and in 2013 the country bought 6 billion cubic meters. Hungary hopes the pipeline will be complete by 2017.

Ministers from Russia also confirmed construction will begin in 2015.

“Today the sides confirmed all their commitments signed under the South Stream project,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday after talks with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto.

Hungary, along with Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Austria, still support the project despite EU attempts to stall it due to the political rift with Moscow, said Energy Minister Aradszki.

Proponents inside the EU argue the project is critical for EU energy security as it will provide a direct and reliable pipeline to Russia. Opponents argue that it is a step backwards for EU energy independence, as it deepens reliance on neighboring Russia.

On November 4, the Hungarian parliament approved the construction of the South Stream pipeline without European Union agreement.

The EU says South Stream will violate its Third Energy Package, which doesn’t allow one single company to both produce and transport oil and gas.

In September Hungary indefinitely halted gas shipments to Ukraine after securing a new deal with Russian gas major Gazprom, which the West saw as a move towards Russia’s orbit.

In 2013, Russia sold 162.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe and expects to sell at least 155 billion cubic meters this year.

READ MORE: Hungary under ‘great pressure’ from US over its energy deals with Russia

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

The Double Standards on Bank Crimes

By William R. Polk | Consortium News | November 18, 2014

Permit me to put on a different hat. Admittedly, it is moth-eaten and worn with age, but it may still rank as a hat. It dates back to the late 1960s when I became a member of the board of directors of a small bank near the University of Chicago where I was then teaching.

The Hyde Park Bank was both “progressive” in that it lent money to a variety of “minority” (that is mainly black-owned) enterprises and successful in that it acquired several other Chicago-area banks and founded two more. It was ultimately “sold down the river” to become through various mergers a part of the Chase system. But I made enough money from it — despite the fact that it was both progressive and honest — to put my children through college.

Let me address that issue of honesty. I served as chairman of the audit committee of the Board and so was schooled in what might be termed the ethics or at least the legalities of banking. I was sternly told that I was the “point man” of the Board and that if bank employees engaged in illegal or even imprudent activities, I was both legally and morally bound — and commercially wisely guided in my own interests — to report them. Otherwise, I was personally culpable. It would not be the bank that was guilty but I.

It is from this background that I have watched the various Treasury and Justice Department agreements to punish banking irregularities and/or felonies. Some of these abuses have been huge. As William K. Black points out in his book The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, the old fashioned way, hiding behind a bandana and waving a pistol, was not very efficient. People like John Dillinger and Slick Willie Sutton were amateurs. They made off with just the small change.

What they didn’t know was that banks keep little more than the change physically in their buildings. The really big money is in their distant accounts. But that, of course, is well known to the truly professional bank thieves. They would not bother threatening the clerks who cash the checks and accept the deposits.

The serious thieves would go where the big money is. Which is what they did, making off with the real stuff through various kinds of market and exchange manipulations, abuses which have brought fines of  about $100 billion in the U.S., about a quarter of that amount in Europe and more than $4 billion more in the UK .

Staggering figures, but what do they indicate? First, of course, that means some people have been stealing the world blind and at least a few got caught. That should be horrifying to us all because their behavior caused – or at least greatly intensified – the world financial crisis in which so many people were grievously hurt.

But some of us sigh with relief, knowing that the fines show that “the system works” and that bad actions bring retribution on the guilty. But wait a minute. Is this really so?

As we all know from the media, not a single bank officer has been put into prison for actions that cost the United States an almost unimaginable amount of money and cost many of our fellow citizens their homes and jobs. To the best of my knowledge none of the culprits has even been charged.

Rather, what the government has done is to fine the banks. But even if we accept the legal fiction that corporations are “persons,” that is a rather curious action for three reasons:

First, whether banks are or are not legally “persons,” they do not make decisions. It is the officers who make the decisions and the directors who either allow them to do so or do not prevent them from doing so. In other words, putting it bluntly, there are identifiable human beings who are making the decisions and are responsible for those decisions. Banks do not act; bank officials act.

Second, if a bank is fined, who pays the fine? The answer is simple: the stockholders. Some of them will be officers and directors, admittedly, but most are not. Some of the stockholders, no doubt, are public entities — pension funds, colleges and universities, foundations – while many others are simply private citizens who have no hand in the illegal or immoral activities. That is to say, in the current policy of our government, many of them are being punished for what they did not do.

The third reason why I find the government reaction curious is proportionality – does the punishment, even if it were correctly directed, fit the crime? It seems to me ludicrous to suggest that it does. If a druggie can be sent to  prison for being caught with a few ounces of heroin in his pocket or if a robber who holds up a filling station for $50 is imprisoned for five years,  what should happen to the person who “steals” a billion dollars or whose violation of the law causes millions of people to lose their houses and jobs?

It seems to me that we urgently need to rethink the relationship of our financial institutions and those who run them to the law and demand that the government stop evading its evident, logical and legal responsibilities. It needs to enforce the law or the financial world, on which we obviously so heavily depend, will be just a jungle, red in tooth and claw, where the strong eat the weak.

Or, is the power of the money already too strong? Is the law just a scrap of paper applied disproportionately to people without money or power? Obviously, the fountainhead of our legal system, Congress, almost to each man or woman in it, is for rent or for sale. Indeed, Congress no longer makes even a pretense of  making the national wellbeing as its guide.

But, from my former days in the U.S. government, I was sure that officials in the Executive Branch were more honorable — or perhaps just more fearful of being caught. Today, I am less sure. Are they now, too, “on the take?” If not, why do the people in charge of the Departments of the Treasury and Justice close their eyes to illegal actions by bank officers responsible for financial crimes?

Doing so is, in effect, to give our financial system a poison pill from which our Republic may not be able to recover. Almost worse: Why do so few citizens seem to care?

~

William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , | Comments Off on The Double Standards on Bank Crimes

Medical associations throw support behind Guantanamo nurse who refused to force-feed

Reprieve | November 19, 2014

Medical groups including the American Nurses Association (ANA) have come out in support of a nurse who refused to force-feed a hunger-striking Guantanamo detainee.

The nurse’s refusal to carry out the practice – which is banned by, among others, the World Medical Association – was revealed by a client of international human rights NGO Reprieve in a letter to his lawyer at the charity.

The ANA wrote last month to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arguing that the nurse should not be punished for his ethical decision not to force-feed hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo. The unnamed nurse had his deployment cut short after his refusal to force-feed and the military is now considering whether to discharge him honourably, dishonourably, or allow him to continue to serve out the two remaining years of his service. If he is discharged the nurse, who has already served 18 years in the military, will not receive his service, his pension and possibly his veterans’ benefits.

148 men remain detained without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay. Last summer a mass hunger strike by detainees, peacefully protesting their indefinite detention, brought force-feeding to the world’s attention. In a recent landmark case a US federal judge recently ordered the US government to release video tapes of Reprieve’s client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, being force-fed. The US government is expected to appeal the decision.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director of Reprieve and attorney for men in Guantanamo, said: “The video footage I have seen shows the grim reality of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay. In refusing to force-feed, this nurse did nothing other than stand by his professional ethical obligations that have served him well throughout a long career – as the American Nurses Association has rightly recognised. The DOD must not persecute this man for doing the right thing.”

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | | Comments Off on Medical associations throw support behind Guantanamo nurse who refused to force-feed

Israel to Admit 6,000 Ukrainian Jewish Refugees

ALRAY | November 17, 2014

The Israeli government plans to provide shelter to 6,000 Jews who were internally displaced by the conflict in Ukraine, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Sunday.

The Israeli plan comes in light of the domestic infighting taking place in Ukraine, which is leading to the displacement of hundreds of the country’s Jews, according to Maariv.

Israeli authorities have secretly begun the construction of refugee camps to receive displaced Ukrainian Jews under the supervision of Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, said the newspaper.

Maariv, however, did not specify the location of these camps.

The newspaper noted that about 6,000 Jews are currently homeless in eastern Ukraine, and that Israeli authorities paid to ensure their settlement in temporary camps before they’re transferred to Israel.

It was not possible to get official comment from the Israel authorities regarding the report.

Last month, a source close to the project told Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post that considerable resources have been allocated to provide Ukraine’s Jews who have been affected by the fighting there with food, clothing and shelter.

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments

US Police Visit Israel to Learn New Strategies

teleSUR | November 17, 2014

Police officers from Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, which is one of the countries with the most militarized police corps, visited Israel, which has one of the most repressive security agencies, to learn “cutting-edge policing strategies and technologies.”

The public security officials attended the Third International Homeland Security Conference held last week in Tel Aviv.

The U.S. delegation was led by the Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who spoke at the conference, according to the Jewish United Fund (JUF), which sent the officials to Israel.

Several areas were addressed during the conference, including cybersecurity, emergency preparedness, counterterrorism and critical infrastructure, such as ports, airports, trains and pipelines.

Both countries have recently been under the radar for the repressive and violent methods that their police corps use against their population.

As an example, United States security agencies have been condemned over the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, where heavily armed policemen dispersed huge protests and riots that erupted in August after officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenage African-American boy.

Witnesses assert that Brown had his arms raised before being shot, six times. But Wilson claims he feared for his life after Brown resisted arrest.

Policemen that attended Ferguson to “control” the riots were seen using automatic rifles, camouflage uniforms and tactical equipment. Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars condemned authorities for that and asserted that the policemen were better equipped and armed than they were when at war in the aforementioned countries.

“Lets remind the officers were facing unarmed angry civilians and that the U.S. soldiers were fighting a regular army and insurgent groups, all of them using heavy weapons,” the veterans said in a joint statement.

On the other hand, Israeli security corps, who are always questioned over their lack of respect toward human and civil rights, have always been criticized for the repressive methods they use against Palestinians.

They use tear gas, rubber bullets and even real bullets to disperse demonstrations, while Palestinians throw rocks. Dozens of videos demonstrate how Israeli policemen and soldiers hit children and unarmed Palestinians.

And most recently, Israeli security agencies have staged several clashes with dozens of Palestinians after agents blocked access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the most holiest sites in the world for Muslims.

However, United States is not the only country that is learning Israeli methods. Agencies from over 60 nations sent representatives to the security conference in the Israeli capital, according to the JUF.

“We will now bring the lessons home; our community should feel secure knowing that the relationships in Chicago and Cook County between homeland security, law enforcement, emergency management and JUF is a testament to the strong relationships, common interests and shared concerns of everyone,” said McCarthy.​

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 2 Comments

High Court will hear case of UK torture and rendition victim

Reprieve | November 19, 2014

A High Court judge has said that a victim of UK rendition and torture can proceed with his claims against the British Government.

In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Leggatt found that the court would be “failing in its duty” if it did not deal with the claims of Yunus Rahmatullah, from Pakistan. Mr Rahmatullah was seized by UK forces in Iraq in 2004 and tortured before being handed over to the US and rendered to Bagram prison in Afghanistan, via the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He suffered a further decade of secret US detention before he was finally released in June this year.

The UK long denied any involvement in rendition, before being forced to correct the record in Parliament in 2008, when then-Defence Secretary John Hutton publically admitted that the rendition of Mr Rahmatullah and another man, Amanatullah Ali, had taken place.

The judgment by Mr Justice Leggatt, published this morning, confirms he was unconvinced by the Government’s ‘Foreign Act of State’ argument – the theory that a British court cannot hear cases where the UK has cooperated with another state, in this case the US, in wrongdoing. Mr Leggatt wrote: “If it is necessary to adjudicate on whether acts of US personnel were lawful… in order to decide whether the defendants violated the claimant’s legal rights, then the court can and must do so.”

Today’s judgment follows a recent Court of Appeal ruling that a separate renditions case – Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and anor v Jack Straw and ors – should be heard, despite similar claims by the British Government that doing so would damage US-UK relations.

Kat Craig, legal director at charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Rahmatullah, said: “Yunus Rahmatullah suffered some of the most shocking abuses of the ‘war on terror’ – now we know the Government’s attempt to avoid accountability for his ordeal is without merit. The fact is that victims of British rendition and torture, like Yunus, deserve their day in court – the Government must accept this, and be prepared to answer for its past actions.”

Sapna Malik, Partner at Leigh Day said: “The High Court has rightly stated that it would be failing in its duty if it refused to adjudicate upon the allegations made in these claims just because it may be required to make findings about the conduct of US personnel. It is now high time for the British government to abandon its attempts to evade judicial scrutiny of its conduct in operations involving the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that justice may finally be served for what has passed and lessons learned for the future.”

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on High Court will hear case of UK torture and rendition victim