Bilal Kayed’s strike ends with agreement for his freedom; continued mobilization critical for fellow prisoners
In a press conference held on Thursday morning, 25 August, Sahar Francis, the executive director of Addameer, confirmed that Bilal Kayed had ended his hunger strike after 71 days following the conclusion of an agreement with Israeli occupation prison administration that he will be released in December 2016, with no renewal of administrative detention.
In the press conference, joined by Kayed’s brother Mahmoud Kayed, as well as Prisoners’ Affairs Committee chair Issa Qaraqe and Osama al-Saadi of the Joint List, Francis noted that occupation security officials had earlier stated that they demanded Kayed be deported to Jordan for four years and noted their intention of keeping him in administrative detention for years. Kayed is held in the intensive care unit at Barzilai hospital and was moved there on 19 August as he refused to consume sugar or vitamin B1. He suffers from blurred vision, difficulty breathing and severe pain throughout his body. He will receive treatment until his condition improves considerably and he is returned to health.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes Bilal Kayed for his victory and achievement in the defense of Palestinian rights from the constant attempts of the Israeli occupation to expand, enlarge and intensify the scope of the imprisonment of Palestinian leaders and struggles. We extend our warmest congratulations to Bilal, his struggling family who were at the forefront of his support campaign, his lawyers and advocates with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and his fellow Palestinian prisoners who engaged in a series of collective hunger strikes within Israeli prisons. Kayed’s fellow prisoners of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were subject to isolation, the targeting of leaders Ahmad Sa’adat, Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, Wael Jaghoub and Kamil Abu Hanish among others, excessive daily fines, harassment and assaults, and denial of family and legal visits. We salute the Palestinian people throughout occupied Palestine and in exile, including in the refugee camps of Lebanon, who repeatedly took the streets and mobilized in support of Kayed’s battle for freedom, directly confronting the occupation as well as the international institutions and states that refused to stand for justice for Palestinian prisoners.
Furthermore, Samidoun salutes all of the international activists, organizations and movements that came together to stand beside Bilal Kayed and beside the Palestinian people in this battle of freedom. From the outstanding efforts of the Irish movement for freedom for Bilal Kayed, to the ongoing and constant actions in New York City and Berlin, to the honorary citizenship granted to Bilal in Naples, to the organizers of the Black liberation movement who expressed their solidarity, to the organizers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Turkey, the UK, Ireland, Scotland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Finland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain and elsewhere who have mobilized in support of Bilal Kayed, international mobilization has escalated to new heights in support of the Palestinian prisoners in this struggle.
We urge the importance of continued mobilization and action in support of Palestinian prisoners, particularly the current hunger strikers, Mahmoud al-Balboul, on strike since 1 July; Mohammed al-Balboul, his brother, on strike since 4 July; and Ayed al-Herama and Malik al-Qadi, on strike since 14 July, all protesting administrative detention without charge or trial – and for continued mobilization in support of the action of all of the Palestinian prisoners, struggling for freedom from Israeli imprisonment, and for freedom and liberation for the Palestinian people throughout Palestine.
In the past 15 years, the U.S. military machine has attacked 17 countries. The many peace and justice organizations and individuals attacked in Terry Burke’s In These Times article [article date August 15, 2016] have a long history of opposition to ALL U.S. wars, interventions, invasions, drone attacks, military coups, blockades, and sanctions on numerous countries around the world.
The military aggression of the United States, the expansion of NATO, the efforts at encirclement of Russia and China with weapons shields, CIA destabilizations in Latin America and the massively destructive U.S. wars in Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East and North Africa, along with the massive arms deals with U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, have created terrible destruction and millions of deaths and refugees. UNAC, a peace and justice coalition with organizations and individuals from different perspectives, seeks to counter the corporate media propaganda and politicians’ justifications for each of these wars and for expanding U.S. militarism.
These wars collectively, and each of them individually, are for U.S. economic and geopolitical domination. None of these wars have resulted in increased security or stability for the countries targeted or for the people of the U.S.
It is from this perspective that we oppose the U.S. war in Syria. We oppose the U.S. bombing that has ruined so much of the vital infrastructure, and we oppose the U.S.-coordinated arming and financing of numerous armed groups and the devastating sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on the people of Syria.
Terry Burke cites her past work in the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee as the basis of her position on Syria. However, this distorted reasoning would have led Terry and the antiwar movement to support the U.S. backed Contra forces in Nicaragua as “democratic and progressive forces”. The U.S. role in Central America was to covertly arm contra forces to impose regime change in Nicaragua while funding and arming Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squads. This destructive policy created millions of refugees from Central America in the 1980s, just as U.S. policies of regime change in the past 12 years of war in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere has created even more refugees.
The U.S. is coordinating Saudi, Israeli, Qatar, Turkish and EU efforts of bombing and of arming opposition groups. The stated goal from the beginning has been regime change in Syria. Regime change, as in Iraq and Libya, means the complete destruction of every secular state institution, including the very structures that provided full access to free education, free health care, electrification, potable water, modern infrastructure, irrigation and communication.
Years of U.S. sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya did not succeed in carrying out regime change, although they created great hardships and dislocations in each economy. Up to 1.5 million people died due to U.S. sanctions in Iraq alone.
Today, as we watch two candidates running for president who threaten increased and terrible interventions in Syria, we are seeing a big increase in U.S. propaganda. Take, for example, the August 11, 2016 article by Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on the breakdown of the [February 2016] ceasefire. FAIR, a media watchdog group, exposed the fact that it was groups supported by the U.S. fighting alongside the al Nusra Front – the al Qaida group in Syria – that actually broke the ceasefire, yet the media blamed the Syrian government and the Russians for the breakdown. Much of what we see in the U.S. media related to the situation in Syria is the same kind of propaganda with the goal of building greater support for war.
Terry Burke claims we are “U.S.-centric” for opposing our government’s attacks on Syria and attempts at regime change in that country. She claims that we have “ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices.” But who has ignored what? Where in the U.S. corporate media are the voices of Syrians (both pro and anti-Assad) who want an end to the ISIS/Al-Qaida/U.S./NATO intervention in their country and have rallied to the side of their government to end it? The U.S. corporate media and some so-called progressives in the U.S. have focused on vilifying Assad rather than the U.S.-led war on Syria, which only leads to strengthening the forces who seek regime change and war. Should we add our voices to that chorus? Is that the best way to end U.S. intervention in Syria, which the overwhelming majority of Syrians oppose? We think not.
The March 13, 2016 UNAC protest, ‘A Day of Peace and Solidarity’ [Facebook], is the basis of Burke’s claims that “a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement.” Why? Because the “anti-war protest in New York City included people carrying the flag of the brutal Assad regime…”
It is true that Syrians came to that demonstration and carried the flag of their country. Do Syrians not have the right to carry their flag? Is it the place of the U.S. anti-war movement to tell people from any country that is under attack by the U.S. that they do not have the right to carry their country’s flag? That is not the role of our movement; we oppose our government’s illegal and immoral aggression against all countries and do not lecture the people of that country on whom they should support or not support.
If antiwar activists and organizations in the U.S. condemn U.S. bombings and aggression in Syria as our primary concern, rather than denouncing “Assad’s crimes”, we are branded “pro-Assad”. Burke attacks us for having signs like “U.S. Hands Off Syria” and “No U.S. War on Syria.” These she says are “U.S.-centric.” Were similar slogans used during the Vietnam War, Afghan War, and Iraq War also U.S.-centric? The U.S. is the most militarily aggressive country in the world. It has around 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries in the world combined. We in the U.S. have an obligation to humanity to demand that our government stop the aggression and bring the troops home from Syria and all of the more than 130 countries where there are U.S. troops.
Burke accuses the antiwar movement of ignoring progressive Syrian voices but she is highly selective in identifying the “Syrian perspective” as those who are anti-Assad. We must ask her why she ignores the Syrian voices that seek to end the U.S./NATO/ISIS/Al-Qaida attacks on their country.
Burke believes that the primary feature of the Syrian conflict is fighting between two camps of Syrians. However, this is not the case. Syria has been invaded by extremists such as ISIS and al Nusra. Tens of thousands of mercenaries have poured into this small country to overthrow the government, a goal which the U.S. and NATO share. They have been supported by bombings, logistics and harsh sanctions against Syria from the U.S. and NATO. Though the U.S. has claimed it is there to attack the extremists, there had not been much damage to them until Russia entered the fighting– and then, in a matter of weeks, the tide turned. The oil that ISIS takes from Syria and uses to help fund their operations has been left untouched by the U.S and its allies until Russia started bombing their oil operations.
The antiwar movement can agree on non-intervention and self-determination. Aligning with those anti-Assad Syrians who support U.S. intervention in Syria can only divide and weaken our movement, which needs to be united today, perhaps more than ever.
We urge the antiwar movement to reject the ideas that Terry Burke presents in her article and demand that the U.S. and NATO stop the bombing, stop the sanctions, stop the flow of weapons and stop the funding. This will stop the extremist groups. Then the people of Syria can alone decide their fate.
 Organizations and people attacked by Terry Burke in her article in In These Times include United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), U.S. Peace Council, Syrian American Forum, Veterans for Peace, Manhattan Green Party, WarIsACrime.org, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Syrian American Will Association, ANSWER Coalition, Anti-War Committee Chicago, Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Mint Press News, AntiWar.com, Consortium News, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity including members William Binney, Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern; dedicated activists like David Swanson and Kathy Kelly, as well as journalists Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gareth Porter and Robert Parry.
The Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC):
Marilyn Levin – UNAC co-coordinator
Joe Lombardo – UNAC co-coordinator
Margaret Kimberley – Senior columnist, Black Agenda Report
Joe Iosbaker – Chicago Anti-war Committee
Sara Flounders – Co-director, International Action Center
Bernadette Ellorin – Chairperson, BAYAN, U.S.A
Judy Bello – Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Abayomi Azikiwe – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice
Phil Wilayto – Editor, The Virginia Defender
Jeff Mackler – Northern California UNAC
If you want to add your name to this statement, please email UNACpeace@gmail.com with your name and the name of your organization. If it is an organizational endorsement of the statement, please note that in your email or simply click here:
Glasgow Celtic Football Club is arguably Scotland’s most famous and successful team, but rarely does it make headlines beyond the sports pages; until now. Celtic’s fans have demonstrated an unprecedented act of solidarity with the people of Palestine, and it is going viral.
What have the generous folk in Scotland done? Quite simply, in terms of peaceful civil rights movements, they have produced a “game changer” which will go on to have a profound effect on the future of the already powerful global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Thousands of ordinary Celtic fans picked up and waved Palestinian flags at their Celtic Park Stadium during a match against an Israeli team, as reported here in MEMO ; the flag-waving demonstration flew in the face of police advice. This simple but powerful act of mass defiance created a storm of media attention across the Middle East, which has now propelled Celtic alongside the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United in terms of stature and popularity in the region.
Football’s European governing body, UEFA, warned that it would fine Celtic for its fans actions, but the fans retorted that they would match any fine imposed on the club, pound for pound, in donations to Palestinian causes. True to their word, the Green Brigade has raised nearly £100,000 in a crowdfunding appeal for Palestinian charities; the total continues to rise.
By way of showing their appreciation, Palestinians have come together to produce video messages like this one on social networks declaring, “We are all Celtic.”
In a statement, the Green Brigade explained that Celtic fans waved Palestinian flags at the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August in an act of solidarity which “has earned our club respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from UEFA, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’.”
In response to what the group calls a “petty and politically partisan act” by UEFA, Celtic fans remain determined to make a positive contribution to the game. “We are today launching a campaign to #matchthefineforpalestine. We aim to raise £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian cultural centre in Aida Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. From our members’ experiences as volunteers in Palestine we know the huge importance of both organisations’ work and have developed close contacts with them.”
MAP has thanked the Celtic fans publicly on its website here and confirms that all funds will go to mending broken limbs in Gaza and other vitally important projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and refugee camps. Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the occupied West Bank; it has for 66 years played temporary home to Palestinians expelled forcibly by Israel from their homes in Hebron and Jerusalem.
Aida’s residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the concrete monstrosity, neighbouring illegal Jewish settlements and military checkpoints. For the young people of the camp, the Lajee Centre at its heart offers hope and an escape from the realities of life under Israeli occupation. Its programme of arts, culture and sporting activities are a lifeline for its impoverished and oppressed people.
Last year, the centre built Aida’s only football pitch; previously, residents played on a recreation ground that has now been stolen by the snaking wall. Within months of opening, the new pitch was severely damaged by tear gas canisters fired onto it by Israeli soldiers. It is now protected by metal netting.
It is this sort of action by the Zionist State which football fans say should be tackled by the likes of UEFA and FIFA, football’s world governing body, by threatening Israel with expulsion from international football tournaments. Undeterred, however, and inspired by the fundraising actions of the Green Brigade, the centre says that it is going to form the camp’s first ever football club and name it Aida Celtic. The team will play in the Bethlehem Youth League at the start of 2017 and will host a tournament for teams from all of the West Bank’s refugee camps in spring next year. The donation from Glasgow Celtic fans will enable the Lajee management to buy a minibus for transporting players to matches and its other activities around Palestine.
“It will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends,” said Salah Ajarma, the Lajee Centre’s Coordinator. “Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in the camp.”
The crowdfunding target was originally £15,000, which was the amount of a previous fine imposed by UEFA on Celtic for a similar action by fans. That penalty did not deter the Celtic faithful. “If we were to allow an Israeli team to come to Celtic without any challenge to Israeli policies then that normalises Israel’s war crimes,” said a Green Brigade spokesperson.
Celtic Football Club insists that it will not comment on recent events until UEFA has concluded its disciplinary proceedings. In the meantime, Israeli police have warned that Palestinian flag-waving at the return leg of the match, at which 250 Celtic fans are expected to attend, “will not be tolerated” according to a Guardian newspaper report.
“This was very much home grown and very deep and very profound,” said Mick Napier, a co-founder of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. “There are moments in a campaign where something burst outs into the public domain that was never imagined and has a huge effect. It was a mass public declaration that the injustices of the brutal Palestinian occupation will not be tolerated.” He described the protest at Celtic Park Stadium as hugely significant. “There aren’t very many democratic avenues for ordinary people to demonstrate this sort of huge public outpouring. What happened in the stadium that night cannot be ignored and will alarm the Israeli authorities and send out a clear message of support for the BDS movement.”
Napier pointed out that the primary task of protesting through BDS is to send a message to the beleaguered people of Palestine that they’re not alone. “You can put up with being in a prison if you know there’s real solidarity out there for you. This gesture from Celtic Park also shows Palestinians that there’s a huge gulf between our rulers and the ordinary people.” The actions of the Celtic fans, he added, will encourage and give support to the BDS movement at a time when supporters of Israel are trying to criminalise the entirely peaceful campaign. The generosity and solidarity of Glasgow Celtic fans is a game changer indeed.
India’s junior Foreign Minister Mubashir Javed Akbar met Assad in Damascus on 20 August 2016 [Image: Ministry of External Affairs, India]
During a weekend meeting with an Indian official, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has invited India to play an active role in the reconstruction of the Syrian economy.
India’s junior Foreign Minister Mubashir Javed Akbar met Assad in Damascus on Saturday. The visit will boost Syrian President Assad’s efforts to highlight continued critical support for his government.
State media reports in both countries quoted sources as saying New Delhi and Damascus have reasserted their rejection of “foreign interference in the internal affairs of states”.
The two sides discussed terrorism, faith equality and the need to upgrade bilateral security consultations, the Press Trust of India quoted Indian government sources.
As a growing power, India has a role to play in meeting the challenge of terrorism, Assad has said as the two countries agreed to upgrade their security consultations.
BRICS are opposed to the ouster of Assad as sought by the US and its allies.
Earlier in May, South African junior Foreign Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo had also called on Assad in Damascus to discuss the crisis.
Assad had told the South African Minister that the BRICS countries have played a key role in decreasing western hegemony in global affairs.
During the Indian Minister’s visit on Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said terrorism is the common adversary of both Syria and India.
There was an agreement between both sides for further upgrading security consultations, sources said.
No details of the security cooperation has been provided by the Indian government yet.
On Saturday, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Indian Foreign Ministry, tweeted a picture of Assad and the Indian Minister.
“During his official visit to Syria, MoS
@mjakbar called on President Bashar Al Assad in Damascus today,” Swarup said.
The Indian Minister stressed that “India is ready to offer all that could help in alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people and contribute effectively to the development process and reconstruction in Syria”, Syrian state news agency SANA said.
During the meeting, Assad also welcomed India’s objective position on the conflict in Syria and both leaders acknowledged that terrorism was a global problem.
“As a growing power, India has a role to play in meeting the challenge of terrorism,” Assad said.
On his part, Akbar, during their meeting, said “the age of destruction” should give way to the age of “reconstruction” in Syria.
Russia, which is aiding the Syrian government’s fight against ISIL and the Al-Nusra front, said on Thursday it was willing to support weekly 48-hour ceasefires to allow aid to reach besieged areas.
The conventional wisdom that politics should be kept out of sport, that sport and politics do not mix, is a myth propagated by an establishment for whom political engagement on any level, apart from that which involves passively entering a voting booth to put your ‘X’ in the appropriate box, is deemed a threat to the status quo.
In truth, sports and politics are two sides of the same coin simply because politics and life are two sides of the same coin.
When it comes to football there is no more political an institution than Celtic Football Club in Glasgow. Formed in 1888 by an Irish Catholic cleric known as Brother Walfrid to raise money to feed and minister to the material needs of poverty-stricken Irish immigrants in the West of Scotland — a migrant community whose presence was regarded as anathema to a native population and workforce on the basis that they were people of an alien religion and culture, competing for the same jobs and thereby lowering the wages of all workers by dint of that eternal law of capitalist economics, supply and demand. It reminds us that we live in a country and a society in Britain that has scarred the world with an Empire that sowed misery and despair on a grand scale when in its pomp, and whose legacy remains a distorting factor across the world to this day.
The consequence for the Irish in Scotland in the late 19th century was that their assimilation into mainstream society was blocked, forcing them to create parallel social structures and organisations of their own for the purposes of survival — material and cultural. Celtic FC came into being as part of this process.
Out of this history has derived a concrete identity and set of values that generations of Celtic fans have embraced, upheld, and carried with pride. Aligned with the republican and nationalist community in the North of Ireland, with their bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers FC associated with Ireland’s loyalist and unionist community, Celtic supporters are typically among the most politically aware and conscious of any demographic in society. For them Celtic is more than just another football club it is a political and social institution, one that has always stood and must continue to stand for justice in the face of injustice, racism, oppression, and apartheid wherever and whenever it arises.
Which brings us onto the furore over the intention of Celtic supporters to fly Palestinian flags during the club’s European Champions League qualifying fixture against Hapoel Beer Sheva of Israel. Celtic supporters, along with the aforementioned republican and nationalist community in Ireland, have embraced the Palestinian struggle against occupation and apartheid as their own. It is an affinity based on a shared experience of colonial oppression and the religious, cultural, and racial bigotry upon which it rests. Laid bare, Israel is a settler colonial state that exists at the negation of the Palestinian people, a people whose existence has been reduced to a living hell on a daily basis as a consequence.
Aside from an occupation that has been extant since 1967, the same year that Celtic FC were making history in Europe, aside from the theft of evermore Palestinian land and resources, the expansion of illegal settlements, economic embargo, hundreds of military checkpoints making free passage impossible, and the erection of an apartheid wall; aside from all that the Palestinians have been subjected to numerous full scale military assaults over the years, utilising the most lethal and destructive weaponry in existence, in which thousands of civilians, women and children among them, have been slaughtered or seriously injured and maimed.
The idea that those who carry Palestinian flags are motivated by anything other than the desire to express solidarity with those suffering injustice and oppression, that instead it is antisemitism and racism which drives such people, this is utterly grotesque and deserving of contempt.
It is not Israel’s Jewish character that is the issue, as those who attempt to delegitimise the Palestinian struggle and those who support it continually maintain. It is Israel’s apartheid character that is the issue, and where better to demonstrate resistance to apartheid than in a packed football stadium alongside thousands of others.
The Palestinian flag is more than a national symbol; it has taken on the mantle of a symbol of defiance in the face of colonial oppression and apartheid, both of which the Ireland to which Celtic FC is historically and culturally rooted has experienced in its long and tortured history.
Sport does not exist in a vacuum and the struggle for justice cannot and should not be parked outside a football stadium for ninety seconds much less ninety minutes. It is why the attempt to ban the Palestinian flag from Celtic Park is tantamount to an attempt to ban justice from Celtic Park.
If such a ban is implemented and succeeds the rumbling that greets it will be the sound of Brother Walfrid turning in his grave.
John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1
Sport is often regarded as a “no go” area for politics, especially by those states intent on portraying an air of normality around their regimes on the world stage. The best opportunities for this sort of charade are presented at international sporting and cultural events. Bizarrely, in Israel’s case this means European sporting platforms even though the Zionist State is not part of Europe; it is squatting in the Middle East, shoehorned into parts of historic Palestine between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
As the international community becomes more aware of the injustices meted out on the Palestinian people by Israel, protests have increased, despite the best attempts of the state and its supporters to silence dissenting voices. Efforts to stifle free speech and the right to protest in the democratic world does not go down very well.
Hence, when the fans of Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic Football Club were instructed not to fly Palestinian flags during a match between their team and Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva the outcome was fairly predictable; thousands of flags were waved by the crowd in defiance of the UEFA diktat. Now Celtic FC faces a penalty from the European governing body of the sport after the mass flag-waving during a Champions League playoff match; Celtic won 5-2, by the way.
If UEFA goes ahead and fines the Scottish club it will expose double-standards at play in the sporting world. The organisation’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Committee fined Celtic two years ago when fans also waved Palestinian flags during a match. The committee took action based on Article 16 (2) (e) of its regulations, which forbids political, ideological and religious messages at sports events.
However, the same disciplinary committee regularly turns a blind eye to the racism and violence meted out by some of Israel’s fans at home and away. Palestinian or Muslim footballers playing in matches against Beitar Jerusalem have been met with chants of “Death to Arabs” from the stands; as far as I’m aware, UEFA has failed to take any action against the club and its fans.
Furthermore, thugs in the crowd at Beitar — encouraged by the silence of the Israel Football Association to sanction the club for its fans’ behaviour — continue with their abuse. As a result, Beitar remains a sanctuary for racism in Israel. Its fans wave banners proclaiming “Beitar forever pure”, which is their way of pointing out that it does not sign any Arab players even though 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian Arabs.
Assaults against Palestinians on match days, including women and children, are regular occurrences, but neither the Israel FA nor UEFA appear to be willing to end such racism. Attempts by Israel to stop Palestinian football fixtures have been well documented in Middle East Monitor, with interference regularly crossing the jurisdiction between UEFA and football’s world ruling body, FIFA.
The Israel FA not only remains silent when attacks against Palestinian sports are committed routinely, but it is also complicit with the occupation, having accepted five teams from illegal Israeli settlements. All of this is not lost on ordinary football and sporting fans around the world who refuse to be silent about such injustice. Many believe that sporting events should be used as platforms to promote peace and not to whitewash the occupation of Palestinian lands or the brutal actions of an apartheid state.
It is not Celtic FC which should be punished, but the State of Israel; it should be excluded not just from football competitions but also from major tournaments like the Olympic Games. Six members of the Palestinian team, including the 55-year-old dressage rider and German businessman Christian Zimmerman, had their official uniforms and equipment impounded by Israeli customs.
Before the games began in Rio, Munther Masalmeh, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Olympic Committee, told the media that the team’s gear had not cleared customs. “We got one shipment several months ago and we have not been able to bring it in,” he explained. “We were forced to travel without our equipment and to buy it in Brazil instead.”
In a further act of interference in the Palestinian Olympic team, Issam Qishta, the head of the Palestinian delegation, was banned by the Israeli authorities from leaving the Gaza Strip to join the Rio-bound group. The more that Tel Aviv meddles in the sporting affairs of Palestine, the more that genuine fans of sport around the world will rise up and protest.
The only common goal achieved by the Zionist State is that young Palestine athletes and their supporters resent their occupiers and are reminded constantly — on a daily basis — of the injustices of the Israeli occupation. Instead of thinking about fining courageous Celtic fans thousands of miles away in Scotland, UEFA should pressure Israel by threatening to expel it from European football.
The democratic world should also add pressure on Israel through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement until Palestinian athletes are free to train, play and compete at the highest levels of international sport without being impeded or having their training or equipment stopped by Israeli oppression. The amazing show of support for Palestinians this week was organised via a Facebook group called “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice”. Organisers called on Celtic fans to support the BDS movement and oppose what they called “Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism and countless massacres” of the Palestinian people.
“When someone represents Israeli institutions it is sadly never merely a game,” they said. “Football, UEFA, and Celtic FC are being used to whitewash Israel’s true nature and give this rogue state an air of normality and acceptance it should not and cannot enjoy until its impunity ends and it is answerable to international law and faces sanctions for the countless UN resolutions it had breached.”
During its Apartheid years, South Africa, where most sports were segregated based on race, found itself barred from the Olympics, suspended from world football and excluded from cricket tours. International rugby teams also came under strong pressure to stay away.
Until similar sporting boycotts are imposed on Israel it seems that the Zionist State will continue to persecute and target Palestinian athletes. If Palestinians cannot play sport freely, then the world’s governing bodies will be seen as legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. The fans of Celtic FC may be ordinary men and women, but they are extraordinary human beings for standing up for justice.
The Celtic football team faces a penalty from UEFA after the Scottish club’s fans waved Palestinian flags during a Champions League playoff match against Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva. The not-so-warm welcome was followed by a defeat for Israel: Celtic FC won the match 5-2.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) forbids political statement displays at football matches. Prior to showdown, fans had been warned that any political protest inside the stadium would result in repercussions from the governing authority, which could lead to fines or even Celtic Park stadium closure.
Scottish police urged fans to not bring Palestinian flags, threatening them with arrest, the Daily Record reported. Under Scottish law anyone found guilty of inciting “hatred against a group of persons based on their membership (or presumed membership) of a group,” could be detained.
But despite the UEFA warning, the Scottish fans went on to display Palestinian flags at the match, handed out prior to the game by “Palestine Alliance” activists.
The mass action to show support for the Palestinian cause was organized via a Facebook group titled “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice”, which according to the group registered over 1,200 in attendance.
In organizing the event the activists called on Celtic fans to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, and what the group called “Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and countless massacres of the Palestinian people.”
The activists also urged UEFA to join their cause and not support Israel and its policies.
“When someone is representing Israeli state institutions it is sadly never merely a game; football, UEFA, and Celtic FC are being used to whitewash Israel’s true nature and give this rogue state an air of normality and acceptance it should not and cannot enjoy until it’s impunity ends and it is answerable to international law and faces sanctions for the countless UN resolutions it had breached,” the group said on Facebook.
Israeli and American Jewish media have become willing facilitators of yet another fraud perpetrated by right-wing MKs and their NGO counterparts. The Knesset foreign affairs committee began the fraud by titling the hearing, “Singling Out Jewish Students by BDS on U.S. Campuses.” MK Anat Berko, who touts herself as a former IDF colonel and “expert” on Islamist terror, made flagrantly false claims that the BDS movement compiled lists of Jewish students along with their addresses. Berko is the solon who claimed Palestine doesn’t exist because there is no “P” in Arabic. Not to be outdone, MKs from Yesh Atid and Labor also chimed in supporting this hash of a hearing. The charges were formulated as if this were BDS’ first step toward a Final Solution of the Israel Problem. For those pro-Israelists without a sense of humor, the above sentence was meant entirely ironically.
Arutz 7, a settler website, ran this headline: Jews Persecuted Around the World. A video of some of the proceedings (in Hebrew) is here. NGO Monitor, a group whose leader was sued successfully for libel by an Israeli Palestinian non-profit group, even claimed that BDS’ anti-Semitic activism could be criminal in nature. Another NGO, Reservists to the Front, which was founded to combat Breaking the Silence, joined in claiming (without any evidence) that there were 941 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2015. 90 were committed on campuses. He added, for good measure:
Jewish students are the most persecuted minorities on U.S. campuses, bar none.
Former Shin Bet chief and current Likud MK testified not just to his histrionic view of BDS, but his abject racism:
“BDS is an anti-Semitic wave against Jews. To my sorrow, it exists in nations considered enlightened and campuses considered intellectual [sic]. The style of BDS activists bring an Olympic judo medal, but nothing respectable. A great portion of BDS activism springs from the frustration of recent years when the subject of Palestine has sunk from the international agenda.”
Dichter continued his delusional rant thanking the Reservists group for the fake claims they offered: “The things done against Jewish students are carried out with the intent of harming Israel.”
The former domestic security agency chief was alluding to a bit of guerilla theater in which Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) placed “eviction notices” under the dormitory room doors of students at NYU. Jewish students who received the notices filed complaints with the administration that they were targeted because they were Jews. In reality, two dormitories received the flyers. One of them contained a Shabbat elevator for observant Jewish students. Both buildings contained both Jewish and non-Jewish students and there is no evidence that Jewish students were the only ones targeted for the notices.
NGO Monitor claimed that SJP deliberately distributed eviction notices to non-Jewish students so it could not be prosecuted for a hate crime. Again, an evidence-free claim. This action did not involve, as the media reports allege, any lists of Jewish students, their mail or e-mail addresses. None of the reports substantiate this claim with any evidence whatsoever. There is no evidence. Even the ADL, not known for its fondness for BDS acknowledged this in the Forward :
“According to our research, there is no evidence pointing to Students for Justice in Palestine compiling specific lists of Jewish students.”
Even more virulent pro-Israel groups stepped back from Berko’s hoax:
… Officials from the Zionist Organization of America and Stand With Us…. told the Forward they had no knowledge of this sort of activity taking place.
But that didn’t stop other members of the pro-Israel media. The Times of Israel (which Jeffrey Goldberg calls a “highly credible” publication):
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian student advocacy group, has been compiling lists of Jewish students on college campuses in North America and detailing their dorm address information, raising fears for the students’ safety, Israel Radio reports.
The report came as the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee met earlier Tuesday to discuss Israel boycott efforts at US colleges.
Israel HaYom also went to town on the report. It’s come to smell like a bunch of flies buzzing around a corpse of a story. That’s what all the lies amount to. Defending the indefensible. You get tired of having to defend Israel’s oppression and so you turn the tables and blame the accusers, the victims. They’re not the real victims, you are. They hate you. Want you dead. You? You did nothing wrong. It’s all their fault. Focus it all on them. Then they won’t be able to shine the light back at you and what you’ve done.
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, is showing consistency in her subservience to the Israel-First-hidden-hand of government. At a recent Green Party convention, Ms. May voted against the majority of delegates who approved a motion offering the party’s support for Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestment movement. The BDS campaign is being mounted worldwide in response to the anti-Palestinian apartheid policies of Israel.
I say congratulations to the Green Party membership! I share the position of the majority who voted for the Green Party to support BDS. This vote demonstrates that Elizabeth May does not speak for the majority of the Green Party membership and therefore she should resign.
With her vote against BDS, Elizabeth May has demonstrated where her loyalties lie. Ms. May also demonstrated those loyalties in her recent reaction to my “Sorry Mom, I was wrong about the holocaust” video. Ms. May did the federal state’s bidding in her media hit job on me. She issued a press release condemning me without any recognition of my years of dedicated work for the Green Party of Canada. My contributions included several runs for elected office as a Green Party candidate federally and provincially.
Ms. May misrepresented the facts about the 2015 election, saying they denied my candidacy when in fact I had already formally separated myself from the GPC. Ms. May also distorted reality by declaring that the GPC would terminate my membership at the earliest opportunity, when in fact I had rescinded my membership a year earlier. I had resigned on matters of principle, based in part on Ms. May’s untenable position on 9/11. An excerpt from my letter of resignation is published here.
Elizabeth May has shown her true colours. “The hastily adopted [BDS] policy could draw accusations of anti-Semitism” she said. Voltaire described this type of behaviour best: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize”.
My understanding of the roots of the Green Party is that we stood for peace, and that we agreed we would not align our political organization with the genocidal war agenda of the biggest bullies on the planet. Elizabeth May has betrayed the vision of the Green Party founders by showing where she stands on Canada-Israeli relations.
Monika Schaefer is a violin teacher living in Jasper Alberta in Japer National Park. She has been very active as a political activist in the peace movement, the environmental movement, the 9/11 truth movement and now in the movement for Open Debate on the Holocaust.
71 Years On, We’re Still Dodging Bullets While Australia Leads The Charge To Promote Nuclear Weapons
Early August marks the anniversaries of the atomic bombings on August 6 and 9, 1945, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – dates which most often come and go with little to offer except a terrifying reminder of humanity’s capacity to destroy ourselves. Nevertheless, we’ve made it to 71 years, having tempted fate with tens of thousands of the most destructive devices ever created, escaping within a whisker of global catastrophe more times than bears thinking about.
Still, there are over 15,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of just nine nations – Russia, the US, China, France, the UK, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Double standards that divide the world into nuclear weapons haves and have nots are writ large – stark, provocative and unsustainable.
However, in this 71st anniversary year, some good news is creeping in. The stranglehold that the nuclear-armed states have held on the disarmament agenda is starting to unravel. In recent years, a groundswell of governments and civil society actors have demanded with increasing clarity and effect that humanitarian imperatives take precedence over the military doctrines of nine countries.
In a nutshell, the effects of a nuclear weapon explosion are so catastrophic that the weapons must never be used again. As a result, 127 nations and counting have signed the “Humanitarian Pledge” that commits them to efforts to “stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate” the weapons.
These are not empty words. The UN has initiated an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) which met in February and May this year in Geneva, and will meet for the last time from August 5 to 19, to discuss “legal provisions and norms” for a nuclear weapons free world.
The group will make recommendations to the UN General Assembly which meets later in the year, and negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons are high on the list of expected recommendations. Already, some nations are urging the commencement of such negotiations as early as 2017.
The OEWG’s dreary title is unfortunate, for its very existence is nothing short of historic. It is bringing us closer than we have ever been to stigmatising, banning and eliminating the worst of all weapons of mass destruction.
The Australian government’s role, notwithstanding its ineffectual murmurings about how bad the weapons are, has been to lead the charge in opposing the growing push for a ban treaty, arguing that, without the support of the nations with the weapons, it’s an impractical process. That’s a bit like arguing that we must consult with criminals about the sort of laws they’d agree to before we enact any.
It also misrepresents the purpose of a ban treaty, which is to delegitimise and stigmatise the weapons and change the legal landscape by which nations are judged.
Australia’s stance, of course, has everything to do with our reliance on “extended nuclear deterrence”, which is a preparedness to have US weapons destroy cities on our behalf. Just which cities, or in what circumstances, the government refuses to say.
Two other classes of weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological – are both explicitly banned by treaty. In 2014, former UN high representative for disarmament affairs, Angela Kane, described the strong stigma that the prohibitions attract:
“How many states today boast that they are ‘biological-weapon states’ or ‘chemical-weapon states’? Who is arguing now that bubonic plague or polio are legitimate to use as weapons under any circumstance, whether in an attack or in retaliation?”
Let’s look at the example of the UK, whose leader in 2003 helped initiate a catastrophic war based on the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. On July 18 this year, the British parliament voted strongly in favour of renewing, at budget-breaking expense, the country’s own WMD program, the Trident nuclear submarines.
The new British PM, Theresa May confirmed that she would be prepared to press the button that unleashes them. No doubt she is aware that when Trident was chosen in 1980 as a replacement for its predecessor, Polaris, it was estimated to be capable of killing up to 10 million Russians.
If, however, a ban treaty were already in place, the pressure that could have been exerted for Britain to abandon these horrific weapons is likely to have been overwhelming. To vote to renew a WMD program is bad enough, but to do so when the vast majority of the world’s governments have banned these weapons because they are immoral and illegitimate could prove one step too far.
If we’re serious about a nuclear weapons free world, it is imperative that the current momentum for a ban treaty is not lost. The nuclear-armed states and their supporters such as Australia are doing their best to undermine it. From the perspective of the rest of the world however, criminals are not the best people to have control of the law.
Finally the “never again” plea from the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has a glimmer of optimism about it. We face enormous opportunities as well as challenges.
BETHLEHEM – The Israeli government announced on Sunday that it was launching a task force to identify and deport members from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, marking the latest attack on left-wing and pro-Palestinian activism by Israel.
In a statement released by Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri, Israeli Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan decided on Sunday during a meeting to form a joint task force to “expel and ban the entry of BDS activists” into Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
“We must not allow BDS activists to enter to state of Israel. This is a necessary step, given the malicious intentions of these activists to delegitimize and spread lies and distortions about the reality in our region,” Erdan was quoted as saying in the statement, adding that the boycott movement against Israel “must have a price.”
“Fighting against Israeli boycott starts by fighting those who undermine the State of Israel,” Deri said. “We have a responsibility to do everything possible to crush any boycott and to state clearly that we will not allow the State of Israel to be harmed. Forming the task force is an important step in that direction.”
Without citing any names, the statement estimated that “hundreds” of pro-Palestinian activists and dozens of organizations were currently in Israel “to gather information and use it to boycott Israel, and harm its citizens,” and that the task force would also try to prevent the entrance of activists in the future.
The statement also alleged that BDS activists traveled to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to “incite” Palestinians.
It remained unclear on Sunday evening whether the task force would only focus on foreign activists, or whether its activities would also extend to tracking and monitoring Palestinian and Israeli advocates of BDS.
Sunday’s announcement was only the latest step taken by the Israeli government to target pro-Palestinian activism.
The BDS movement was founded in July 2005 by a swath of Palestinian civil society as a peaceful movement to restore Palestinian rights in accordance with international law through strategies of boycotting Israeli products and cultural institutions, divesting from companies complicit in violations against Palestinians, and implementing state sanctions against the Israeli government.
The boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has gained momentum over the past year, with activists targeting companies that act in compliance with Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In late July, the Black Lives Matter movement — which denounces police violence against African-Americans in the United States — came out in support of BDS, stating that it was committed to “global struggle, solidarity, and support of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement to fight for freedom, justice and equality for Palestinian people and to end international support of the occupation.”
The Israeli government has grown increasingly concerned about the growth of the BDS movement, as the movement’s support base has expanded to include companies, universities and religious institutions around the world divesting from organizations complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.
In January, the Israeli Knesset held a conference to discuss ways to combat BDS, and dedicated 100 million shekels ($26 million) of the government’s 2016 budget to the issue.
In May, Israel issued a travel ban on BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, a permanent resident in Israel, with Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, stating at the time that the decision reflected “the lengths [Israel] will go in order to stop the spread of the non-violent BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.”
More recently, Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, passed a controversial NGO “transparency bill” into law on July 12, compelling organizations to reveal their sources of funding if more than half came from public foreign entities — a law which human rights groups and opposition Knesset members condemned for seeking to “silence criticism” of Israel and delegitimize left-wing groups.
Opposition leader in the Knesset Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Camp party then slammed the law for “symbolizing the budding fascism that is rising and flourishing in Israeli society” and making a “mockery” of the “right to organize, which is a sacred founding principle of a democratic society.”
The ISM is a Palestinian led movement with a mandate to support Palestinian nonviolent popular resistance to Israeli military occupation and apartheid. Palestinian led nonviolent resistance includes the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel, until it adheres to its obligations under international law.
ISM volunteers also accompany children to school and farmers to harvest their olives in areas where they face ongoing settler and military violence. We find that our presence sometimes results in reducing the level of lethal force used by the Israeli military against unarmed Palestinians. Further isolation of Palestinians by denying access and/or deporting human rights activists aims to make Palestinian communities already vulnerable and suffering from abuse even more vulnerable.
As a civilian population living under military occupation Palestinians in the occupied territories are promised protection under international law. All parties signed to the fourth Geneva Convention have the obligation to insure that others, including Israel, adhere to international law. Civilians are being called on to fill in the gap created by the failure of governments and official international bodies to provide protection and fulfill their obligations.
Israel’s isolation of Palestinians both by denying Palestinians and their supporters access to Palestine as well as by denying Palestinians including human rights defenders the right to leave Palestine is not a new strategy. It is most brutal and lethal in the besieged Gaza strip but all parts of Palestine are under some degree of siege.
We condemn Israeli suppression of Palestinian nonviolent resistance. The recent announcement by the occupation authorities that they will attempt to further isolate Palestinians indicates the occupation authorities unwillingness to do the only thing that will actually bring an end to Israel’s isolation – to adhere to international law, end the occupation and grant Palestinians their rights.
See the statement By the Boycott National Committee here.