Archive for September, 2009

The issue of Israeli settlements

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, Videos, West Bank with tags , , , , , on 20/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday 20th September 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Despite a wave of protests and talks on the issue, Israeli settlement construction continues.

George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, met Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, during his latest tour of the region and although the meeting was described as “good”  by the prime minister’s office, there was no deal on the thorny issue of settlements.

The US wants Israel to temporarily halt its expansion into Palestinian land, especially in the occupied West Bank.

Mitchell and Netanyahu are set to meet again and the special envoy wants to secure an agreement ahead of possible three-way talks between Netanyahu, Barack Obama, the US president, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

So, where does that leave Obama’s peace initiative? And is the US willing to force its ally to compromise?

Inside Story, with presenter Shiulie Gosh, discusses with guests Raanan Gissen, a former senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, Michael Hudson, a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University, and Azzam Tamimi, the director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought.

Obama to host Netanyahu-Abbas talks

Posted in Fatah, Hamas, History, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday September 20th 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Obama, right, will meet Abbas, left, and Netanyahu seperately before the there-way talks [File: AFP]

The White House has announced that the US president will host three-way talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday.

Barack Obama is due to meet Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, separately before the three go into a joint session, the White House said.

The meeting is expected to take place in New York before a session of the United Nations General Assembly, the White House said, “to lay the groundwork for the relaunch of negotiations, and to create a positive context for those negotiations so that they can succeed”.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, welcomed Obama’s personal involvement in the peace process, but indicated low Palestinian expectations for a positive outcome.

“At this point, I think President Obama must convey to the world that one side is undermining efforts to resolve the peace process,” he told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

“This meeting is not about resuming negotiations. I don’t think we will come out of this meeting with Netanyahu agreeing to resume negotiations or stop settlement expansion.”

‘Comprehensive peace’

Talks have been stalled since Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip last December and Abbas has repeatedly said that they will not restart until Israel commits to a complete freeze of settlement building in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, wrapped up a mission to the Middle East on Friday having failed to secure the concessions necessary for the peace process to resume.

He said that the three-way meeting planned for Tuesday showed Obama’s “deep commitment to comprehensive peace”.Al Jazeera’s John Terrett, reporting from Washington DC, said: “The general assumption was that George Mitchell was flying back to Washington a failure.

“After half a dozen trips to the Middle East he had failed to secure a trilateral meeting at the UN General Assembly next week.

“I suspect the Americans would have preferred to keep the drama going right the way through the opening stages of the General Assembly and out late as Wednesday or Thursday.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to commit to either a permanent stop to settlement expansion, as demanded by the Palestinians, or the year-long halt that Washington was believed to be calling for.

Instead he has suggested that Israel could be prepared to stop building new settlements for six months while negotiations resume.

‘Commitments and agreements’

Maen Areikat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission to the US, said that no conditions had been attached to Tuesday’s planned talks.

“We haven’t laid down any conditions. We have been asking all along for all parties to meet their obligations,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington DC.

“We Palestinians feel that we have met a lot of our obligations under previous commitments and agreements and phase one of the road map [for peace].”Israel so far has failed to meet any of their obligations.”

Areikat said that the efforts of the Obama administration were encouraging but “we will have to see what kind of discussions we will have on Tuesday”.

But Akiva Eldar, the chief political columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, said that it was Abbas that would be under pressure going into the meeting.

“He can’t afford to go home empty handed again, and what I mean by empty handed is without a full commitment from the Israelis to stop all the operations in the settlements,” he said.

“[Netanyahu] can come out of the meeting with President Obama and can say something such as ‘we have agreed on some formula that will alllow the settlers, especially those in Jerusalem, to maintain a normal life’.”

More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements on land occupied by Israel following the 1967 war, land that the Palestinians see as vital to any future independent state.

‘Unrealistic demand’

Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli national security adviser currently with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinians’ demand for a total end to all settlement building was ultimately impossible.

“The demand that there be a total and complete Israeli freeze not only in the West Bank as a whole, but including Jerusalem, was an unrealistic demand,” he said.

“No Israeli prime minister could have agreed to that.”

Meanwhile, Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, condemned Abbas’s decision to meet Netanyahu.

Speaking at prayers in Gaza for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, Haniya said “it does not obligate the Palestinian people to anything”.

“No one is authorised, not the PLO nor anyone else, to sign any agreement that violates the rights of the nation and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Gaza’s water supply near collapse

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege with tags , on 17/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by Mel Frykberg

Date published: 17th September 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada (originally published in Inter Press Service)

_____

A pool of untreated sewage water in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya, September 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) – The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that Gaza’s access to safe supply of drinking water could cease at any time. The World Health Organization (WHO) says outbreaks of disease could be triggered as a consequence.

The warnings follow a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report Monday that “Gaza’s underground water system is in danger of collapse after recent conflict compounded by years of overuse and contamination.”

“An outbreak of Hepatitis A and parasitic infections could occur at any time,” Mahmoed Daher from WHO in Gaza told IPS. “Already the number of people, especially children, suffering from diarrhea has risen dramatically.”

“We have noticed an increase in people suffering from kidney diseases from water contaminated with toxins, as well as babies born with an unnatural blue tinge,” Munther Shoblak from Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) told IPS.

The UNEP report focuses on a rise in saltwater intrusion from the sea caused by over-extraction of ground water, and pollution from sewage and agricultural run-off, with toxic levels high enough to put infants at risk of nitrate poisoning.

Gaza’s underground aquifer is the sole water source for its 1.5 million people. Only 5-10 percent of the water now is fit for human consumption.

The average per capita daily consumption of water for personal and domestic use in Gaza is 91 liters. WHO recommends 100-150 liters daily. Israelis consume 280 liters per day.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported last week that at least 10,000 Gazans remain without access to the water network. Furthermore, access to water is limited on average to six to eight hours from one to four days a week for the entire population.

“Approximately 150-160 million cubic meters (mcm) are extracted from Gaza’s underground aquifer annually. Due to a regional drought over the last few years only about 65 mcm has flown back into the aquifer annually. This leaves a shortfall of 100 mcm,” says Shoblak.

Sewage-contaminated seawater and agricultural overflow contaminated with toxins have been flowing into the aquifer’s deficit. The CMWU is only able to partially treat some of the 80 million liters of sewage pumped out to sea on a daily basis due to a shortage of spare parts, fuel, and electricity cuts.

During Israel’s bombardment of Gaza during the December-January war, the strip’s already degraded infrastructure was heavily targeted.

CMWU estimates that about six million dollars worth damage was caused to major water and sanitation infrastructure during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s code name for its war.

Over 30 kilometers of water networks were damaged or destroyed by the Israeli military in addition to 11 wells operated by the water authorities in Gaza. More than 6,000 roof tanks and 840 household connections were damaged.

There is an urgent need for cement, pipes, pumps, transformers and electrical spare parts to implement numerous projects in the water and wastewater sector.

Some 1,250 tons of cement are currently needed for the repair of water storage tanks alone. But Israel’s blockade prevents cement from being brought into Gaza.

Javier Cordoba, the ICRC water and habitation coordinator who is supervising Red Cross reconstruction efforts in Gaza says the situation is very fragile. “A lack of construction material and parts has led to a de-development of the water infrastructure, which could collapse at any minute,” Cordoba told IPS.

“The whole system is inter-connected,” Cordoba says. “Water wells use mechanical pumps to supply Gazan homes with water. The shortage of mechanical pumps and other spare parts has reduced the number of wells able to operate.”

Electricity shortages force the wells to rely on back-up generators. Israel’s blockade not only limits electricity supplies but the supply of industrial fuel too.

The ICRC has been working on ingenious methods to get around the blockade to bring temporary relief to Gazans.

“We have managed to build a new, albeit primitive, wastewater plant in Rafah in the south of Gaza. We used pieces of the wall which used to divide Gaza from the Sinai peninsula, before the wall was blown up last year, for the basic structure.

“We also succeeded in finding limited spare parts from Gaza to operate the plant,” said Cordoba. “But this is just an interim solution, and the well will only last about five years. The more permanent and sophisticated wastewater management plant in northern Gaza still requires imported parts from Israel.”

Cordoba added: “In order to relieve the pressure on the aquifer we have been digging a number of shallow wells. These again are only temporary and don’t supply much water like the deeper ones, but they allow the municipalities to function again.”

UNEP estimates that more than $1.5 billion may be needed over 20 years to restore the aquifer back to health, including the establishment of desalination plants to take pressure off the underground water supplies.

“The international community also has to fulfill its obligations in regard to economic pledges and promises it made to establish desalination and wastewater projects,” Shoblak told IPS. “Political pressure needs to be applied to Israel to allow for reconstruction and repairs.”

The UNEP report warns: “Unless the degradation trend is reversed now, damage could take centuries to reverse.”

Resistance in Gaza: Young Palestinians Find Their Voice Through Hip-Hop

Posted in Activism, Gaza, Palestine, Siege with tags , on 17/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by Jordan Flaherty

Date published: 10th June 2009

Source: Left Turn

_____

The Maqusi Towers in Gaza City look a bit like US housing projects. The neighborhood consists of several tall apartment buildings grouped together in the northern part of town. It is also ground zero for Gaza’s growing Hip-Hop community. On a recent evening in one small but well-decorated apartment, a dozen rappers and their friends and families relaxed, danced, smoked flavored tobacco, and rapped the lyrics to some of their songs.

The occasion was a post-show celebration of the taping of Hip Hop Kom, an American Idol-type talent competition for Palestinian rappers. Fifteen acts from across Palestine performed on Thursday night, and the show was broadcast simultaneously in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah. Through the use of video conferencing and projection, each city could see and hear the performances happening in the other. Five groups from Gaza participated, and Gazawians came in first, third, and fourth place.

The Gaza City show was held in a small theatre in the Palestine Red Crescent building. Although only publicized by word of mouth, nearly 200 young people filled the theatre, loudly cheering for the rappers and breakdance crew who took the stage.

One of the organizers of the contest, a charismatic literature major named Ayman Meghames, is a minor celebrity here. Part of Gaza’s first Hip-Hop group – named PR: Palestinian Rapperz – Ayman dedicates his time to supporting and publicizing Gaza’s young music scene.

Armed with a ready smile, Ayman was seemingly everywhere at once that night. He was on stage introducing the acts, helping with technical difficulties, greeting friends, and coordinating with the West Bank organizers.

For Ayman, making music is a form of resistance to war and occupation, and also a tool to communicate the reality of life in Palestine. “Most of our lyrics are about the occupation,” he tells me. “Lately we’ve also started singing about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Any problem, it needs to be written about.” Rapper Chuck D, from the group Public Enemy, once called rap music the CNN for Black America. For Ayman and his friends, music is their weapon to break media silence. “Most of the world believes we are the terrorists,” he says. “And the media is closed to us, so we get our message out through Hip-Hop.”

One of the first acts to take the stage was a duo called Black Unit Band. Mohammed Wafy, one of the two singers, displays the innocent charm of a teen pop star as he jumps from the stage and into the audience. Tall and skinny with a shock of black hair, Mohammed is 18 and looks younger. Khaled Harara, the other singer (and Mohammed’s next door neighbor) is a few years older and several pounds heavier, but no less energetic on stage.

As the evening progressed, the energy in the room continued to rise. The next act featured six members from two combined groups (DA MCs, and RG, for Revolutionary Guys) now collectively called DARG Team. The crowd was up on their feet, many of them singing along as the performers displayed a range of lyrical stylings.

In Mohammed Wafy’s apartment, the perfomers waited anxiously for the results of the contest. The call came in on Ayman’s cel phone. Putting it on speaker, everyone listened as the results were announced: DARG team had come in first place, and Black Unit had placed third. There were no hurt feelings apparent for those that didn’t win – for these young performers, every victory is a shared victory. DARG members will now go on to Denmark to produce an album (if they can get out of Gaza).

Fadi Bakhet, a studious and slightly preppy looking Afro-Palestinian in wire -rimmed glasses, is DARG’s manager, and also the brother of one of the members. As the night continued, the gathering moved to his apartment. They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazawians gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

These stories may seem incongruent with much of the international reporting about Gaza and the Hamas government. But it is exactly for this reason that they should be told.

If you follow the reporting on Palestine in the US media, you may imagine a fundamentalist state. Hamas-stan, as at least one Israeli commentator has called it. You may imagine a nation of terrorists, where women are oppressed and men launch rockets. But perhaps when we learn that Palestinian families swim on Friday afternoons, that they study literature in the day and rap about imprisoned friends at night, we can rethink the US’ unquestioning support for Israeli aggression against this almost entirely defenseless population.

Yesterday, I visited a journalism class at the Islamic University, taught by Rami Almeghari. The students had many questions, but one young woman’s words in particular stayed with me. “What can we do to reach people in America and tell them how things really are here,” she asked. “How can we get them to listen, and to see?”

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and his reporting on post-Katrina New Orleans shared a journalism award from New America Media. His work has been published and broadcast in outlets including Die Zeit (in Germany), Clarin (in Argentina), Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, and Democracy Now. He is currently traveling in Gaza with a delegation of journalists, organizers and human rights workers from the US south. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org.

Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

Posted in Palestine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 2nd Septembre 2009

Source: Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

_____

An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival:

(Le texte français suit l’anglais – Spanish text also below)

September 2, 2009

As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched “Brand Israel,” a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. Brand Israel would take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars, and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science and culture. An article in Canadian Jewish News quotes Israeli consul general Amir Gissin as saying that Toronto would be the test city for a promotion that could then be deployed around the world. According to Gissin, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. (Andy Levy-Alzenkopf, “Brand Israel set to launch in GTA,” Canadian Jewish News, August 28, 2008.)

In 2009, TIFF announced that it would inaugurate its new City to City program with a focus on Tel Aviv. According to program notes by Festival co-director and City to City programmer Cameron Bailey, “The ten films in this year’s City to City programme will showcase the complex currents running through today’s Tel Aviv. Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2009, Tel Aviv is a young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity.”

The emphasis on ‘diversity’ in City to City is empty given the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program. Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine’s main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada. Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city’s past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.

We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year’s brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime.

This letter was drafted by the following ad hoc committee:

Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, Canada

Israeli Arabs deserve better

Posted in Activism, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine with tags , , , , , , , on 14/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by Seth Freedman

Date published: Monday 14th September 2009

Source: The Guardian

_____

Israeli Arabs deserve better

Israel’s Arabs are right to call for a strike. Their sense of disenfranchisement is a problem too serious to ignore.

The announcement that the Israeli Arab leadership is calling for a general strike next month demonstrates the further deterioration of relations between the authorities and the beleaguered Arab citizens of the state. The 1.3 million Arabs living within Israel’s borders have never had the most cordial of relationships with the country’s rulers, and in the wake of the hard-right coalition’s election victory the gulf has grown even wider – culminating in the symbolic protest set for 1 October.

The date chosen is no accident: it marks nine years to the day since 13 Israeli Arab demonstrators were shot dead by Israeli police during a previous general strike – a set of killings that left societal scars that remain unhealed almost a decade later. The government’s latest set of proposals – such as the plan to ban the word “nakba” from school textbooks, and to link schools’ funding to their success rate in sending students to enlist in the army – have rubbed salt into wounds that continue to fester throughout the Arab community, culminating in the decision to down tools and speak out against their treatment.

The sense of disenfranchisement felt by the Israeli Arab minority is, according to academic Bernard Avishai, a problem too serious to be swept under the carpet by Israel’s leaders. Action must be taken, he urged, “to prevent a terrible intifada”, fearing a mass explosion of tension that will dwarf anything that’s gone on “in Gaza and the West Bank”.

“Israeli Arabs live in townships on the edge of Israeli cities; their intellectual elite go to Israeli universities and assimilate, while those not in those circles join drug gangs and jihadist cults.” He said that the Israeli Arab community expects to be treated as “full citizens of this country, nothing less” and unless this happens, tensions will spill over onto the streets.

The anti-Arab bias of senior Israeli politicians and military figures is well documented, and causes far more concern to the Israeli Arab community than the equally insidious behaviour of radical settler leaders and their cohorts. Unsavoury as the likes of Baruch Marzel and his merry men may be, their actions can in part be dismissed as the rantings and ravings of extremists living on the fringes of society. However, when similarly racist and discriminatory calls to arms emanate within mainstream Israeli society – from the upper echelons of power all the way down to street level – it is little wonder the Israeli Arab leadership take the situation so seriously.

Last month, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman took aim at Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset and leader of the Arab nationalist party in Israel. “Our central problem is not the Palestinians,” declared Lieberman, “but Ahmed Tibi and his ilk: they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined.” Such incendiary talk is nothing new for Lieberman; in November 2006 he ratcheted up tension by comparing Israeli Arab nationalists with Hitler and his henchmen: “The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in the Knesset.”

His proclamations are, quite rightly, denounced by those who recognise the menace latent in his words. “When the foreign minister says that, ordinary Israelis understand that he is calling for me to be killed as a terrorist,” said Tibi in relation to Lieberman’s recent outburst. “It is the most dangerous incitement.” Politicians lead by example, and Lieberman knows full well the impact the statements he makes can have on the man on the Israeli street.

Israeli Arabs have good reason to believe that they will never be fully accepted by Israeli society, despite assertions to the contrary on the part of more conciliatory and diplomatic members of Israeli officialdom. The proof is not simply the unabashed racism of the likes of Lieberman and Aharonovitch, nor the paucity of state provision of basic services in Arab towns and cities compared with the funding given to their Jewish counterparts.

Rather, the malaise is far more entrenched and permanent than isolated incidents of prejudice. The very fact that Israel is and plans to forever remain a Jewish state – and wouldn’t tolerate the election of an Arab prime minister or ruling coalition, despite all the claims that the system is truly democratic – gives the lie to any suggestion that Israeli Arabs can ever have an equal footing in Israeli society, or that the country is genuinely a state for all its citizens.

Against such a backdrop, the fears of the Israeli Arab community are entirely understandable. That the community has opted for peaceful demonstration against the status quo by way of general strikes, rather than violent resistance in the vein of their peers in the West Bank and Gaza, is a fortuitous state of affairs for the rest of Israeli society. But the longer their grievances are left unheeded, the more likely the dam is to eventually burst, and Israel’s rulers would do well to heed the caution of both Avishai and the Israeli Arab leadership. Israeli Arabs deserve better from those ruling the roost in Israel, as do Israeli Jews by extension – though if past performance is any guide to the future, the division and discrimination is doomed to continue for many years to come.

Udi Aloni Answering Noa

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege with tags , , on 13/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by: Udi Aloni

Date Published: 1st September 2009

Source: Ynet

_____

Answering Noa

Filmmaker Udi Aloni, creator of 2006’s ‘Forgiveness’ and Shulamit Aloni’s son, answers Noa’s open letter to Gazans

Israeli-American director Udi Aloni, creator of the 2006 film Forgiveness (Mechilot, winner of the Woodstock Film Festival Audience Award and Shulamit Aloni’s son, replies to the letter written by Israeli singer Noa to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and worldwide:

Dear Achinoam Nini,

I chose to answer you, and not the entire raging Right, because I believe that the betrayal of the peace camp, at this of all times, exceeds the damage caused by the Right a thousand fold. The ease with which the peace camp gives itself over to the roars of war hinders the creation of a meaningful movement that could a true resistance to occupation.

Peace Cry
Noa writes open letter to Gazans / Ynet
Internationally renowned Israeli singer Noa writes moving letter appealing to Palestinians in Gaza and everywhere, calling for eradication of common enemy: Fanaticism
Full Story


You roll your eyes, use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel – that for over 60 years, has been occupying and humiliating them. “I know where your heart is! It is just where mine is, with my children, with the earth, with the heavens, with music, with HOPE!!” you write; but Achinoam, we took their land and imprisoned them in the ghetto called Gaza.

We have covered their skies with fighter jets, soaring like the angels from hell and scattering random death. What hope are you talking about? We destroyed any chance for moderation and mutual life the moment we plundered their land while sitting with them at the negotiation table. We may have spoken of peace, but we were robbing them blind. They wanted the land given to them by international law, and we spoke in the name of Jehovah.

Who are the secular people of Gaza supposed to turn to, when we trample on international law, and when the rest of the enlightened world ignores their cry? When enlightenment fails and moderation is seen as a weakness, religious fanaticism gives a sense of empowerment. Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under siege in Masada, you could get a better sense of what’s happening in Gaza.

The seculars in Gaza find it hard to speak against Hamas when their ghetto is being bombarded all day and all night. You would probably say that ‘we would not need to shell them if they held their fire,’ but they fire because they are fighting for more that the right to live in the prison called Gaza. They are fighting for the right to live as free citizens in an independent country – just as we do.

“I know that deep in your hearts YOU WISH for the demise of this beast called Hamas who has terrorized and murdered you, who has turned Gaza into a trash heap of poverty, disease and misery,” you write. But Hamas is not the monster, my dear Achinoam. It is the monster’s son.

The Israeli occupation is the monster. It and only it is responsible for the poverty and the sickness and the horror. We were so frightened of their secular leadership, which undermined our fantasy of the Land of Israel, that we chose to fund and support Hamas, hoping that by a policy of divide and conquer were could go on with the occupation forever; but when the tables have turned, you choose to blame the effect instead of the cause.

You write, “I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. And that these killers will find what little compassion may still exist in their hearts and STOP using you and your children as human shields for their cowardice and crimes.” It is the same as if your Palestinian sister would write: “Let us hope that Hamas does the job for you, and rids you of the Jewish Right.”

So maybe, instead of ordering around a people whose every glimmer of hope we have surgically eliminated, you could help your brothers and sisters in Palestine rid themselves of the occupation, oppression and the arrogant colonialism inflicted by your country. Only then can you urge them to fight democratically and return Palestine to the mental state it was in before we pushed it into the corner of the wall that we built.

And if your brethren in Palestine choose Hamas, you have to respect their choice, just as the world’s nations respected Israel when it chose the murderous (Ariel) Sharon. Hamas is theirs to fight, just like you fought him. That is what democracy is about. Only then can you and your brethren in both Palestine and Israel share – as equals – the joy of the land, the sky and the music; only then can we fight for equality together, for every man and woman living living in our holy land. Amen.

Ian Pappe: Israel ‘committing memorycide’

Posted in History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 12/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by: Ian Pappe

Date published: 6th July 2008

Source: Aljazeera English

_____

Israel ‘committing memorycide’
By Ilan Pappe

Ilan Pappe says Israel needs to acknowledge the crime it committed
against the Palestinian people


As part of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the anniversary of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian ‘Nakba’, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reflects upon the events of 1948 and how they led to 60 years of division between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Between February, 1948 and December,1948 the Israeli army systematically occupied the Palestinian villages and towns, expelled by force the population and in most cases also destroyed the houses, looted their belongings and took over their material and cultural possessions. This was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

During the ethnic cleansing, wherever there was resistance by the population the result was a massacre. We have more than 30 cases of such massacres where a few thousand Palestinians were massacred by the Israeli forces throughout the operation of the ethnic cleansing.

Pappe says the Israeli army systematically
forced Palestinians from their homes

The Israeli army became a bit tired toward the end of the operation and the Palestinian villages became more aware of what was awaiting them and therefore in the Upper Galilee the Israeli army did not succeed in expelling all of the villages. This is why today we have what we call the Arab-Israelis or Israeli-Arabs.

This is a group of 50 to 60 villages that remained within the state of Israel and its population was steadfast and was not expelled over to the other side of the border – to Lebanon or Syria.

The international community was aware of the ethnic cleansing but the international community, especially in the West, decided not to confront head on the Jewish community in Palestine after the Holocaust.

And, therefore, there was a kind of conspiracy of silence and again the international community did not react and was complacent and this was very important for the Israelis because it showed them that they can adopt as a state ideology ethnic cleansing and ethnic purity.

Erasing history

Part of any ethnic cleansing operation is not just wiping out the population and expelling it from the earth. A very typical part of ethnic cleansing is wiping people out of history.

For ethnic cleansing to be an effective and successful operation you also have to wipe people out of memory and the Israelis are very good at it. They did it in two ways.

They built Jewish settlements over the Palestinian villages they expelled and quite often gave them names that reflected the Palestinian name as a kind of testimony to the Palestinians that this is totally now in the hands of Israel and there is no chance in the world of bringing the clock backwards.

Pappe says many former Palestinian villages
were turned into recreational spaces

The other way they did it is planting trees – usually European pine trees – over the ruins of the village and turning the village into recreational spaces where you do exactly the opposite of commemoration – you live the day, you enjoy life, it is all about leisure and pleasure.

That is a very powerful tool for ‘memorycide’. In fact, much of the Palestinian effort should have been but was never unfortunately – or only recently began – was to fight against that ‘memorycide’ by at least bringing back the memory of what happened.

I think that there should be no reason in the world that two people – the Palestinians and the Jews – despite everything that happened in the past should not be able live together effective and in one state.

You need three things for that to happen. You need closure for the 1948 story – namely you need an Israeli acknowledgment of the crime it committed against the Palestinian people.

The second thing that you need is you need to make Israel accountable for this and the only way of making Israel accountable is by, at least in principle, accepting the Palestinian refugees right of return.

And thirdly you need a change in the Palestinian and Arab position towards the idea of a Jewish presence in Palestine as something legitimate and natural and not as an alien colonialist force.

I think these principles have to emerge and so far the political elites on both sides are unwilling to accept them.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Gaza we are coming

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, International community, Israeli occupation, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Siege, Videos with tags , , , , on 11/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 11th September 2009

Source: Aljazeera English

_____

In August 2008, two wooden Greek ships laden with 44 activists from 17 different countries managed something no other vessel had in 41 years and broke the marine blockade that Israel has unilaterally imposed in Gaza, in contravention of  international law.

The mission was the brainchild of the Free Gaza Movement, founded in 2006, who realised that the only realistic way of breaking through the blockade was via the sea.

However the project was fraught with delays and risks from the outset and in the words of Paul Larudee from the group: “This project died a thousand deaths and every time it was about to die someone, somebody new, stepped forward to save the project.”

The last such person was Vangelis Pissias, a Greek who was touched by the Palestinian issue during his youth in Egypt and provided the boats for the group to undertake the mission to Gaza.

All involved were aware of the perilous nature of the mission. Previous attempts have been thwarted and boats even exploded. Activists have also been found dead in suspicious circumstances.

It explores the motives of those involved including the ordinary Greeks who volunteered to participate in this dangerous but successful operation.

It also recounts how the boats were built secretly in Greek shipyards, the logistics involved, the attempts to thwart the mission and why it was laden with such historical importance and pressure to succeed.

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4

No windows, pens in Gaza’s classrooms

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Hamas, International community, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 10/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 10th September 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

_____

No windows, pens in Gaza’s classrooms
Report, The Electronic Intifada, 10 September 2009

Elementary school students in the Gaza Strip. (Erica Silverman/IRIN)

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) – Some 1,200 students at al-Karmel High School for boys in Gaza City returned to class on 25 August without history and English textbooks, or notebooks and pens — all unavailable on the local market.

Severe damage to the school, caused during the 23-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip which ended on 18 January, has yet to be repaired. Al-Karmel’s principal, Majed Yasin, has had to cover scores of broken windows with plastic sheeting.

“The entire west side of the school was damaged adjacent to Abbas police station which was targeted on 27 December,” said Yasin. “We have yet to repair the $65,000-worth of damage, since glass and other building materials are still unavailable.”

Educational institutions across Gaza are still reeling from the effects of the Israeli offensive, compounded by the more than two-year-long Israeli blockade (tightened after Hamas seized power in June 2007), according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At least 280 schools out of 641 in Gaza were damaged and 18 destroyed during the military operation. None have been rebuilt or repaired to date due to continued restrictions on the entry of construction materials, OCHA reported.

At the start of the new school year, all 387 government-run primary and secondary schools serving 240,000 students — and 33 private sector schools serving 17,000 students — lack essential education materials, according to the education ministry in Gaza.

“The war had, and continues to have, a severely negative impact on the entire education system,” Yousef Ibrahim, deputy education minister in Gaza, said. “About 15,000 students from government schools have been transferred to other schools for second shifts, significantly shortening class time.”

He said the damaged schools lacked toilets and water and electricity networks; their classrooms were overcrowded, and they also suffered from shortages of basic items such as desks, doors, chairs and ink for printing.

UNRWA schools affected

More than 80 percent of government-run schools and those run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) now have a second shift, according to Ibrahim.

The 221 primary and secondary schools run by UNRWA (in addition to government- and privately-run schools) are also struggling to accommodate 200,000 students this school year.

“We have only provided the minimum amount of stationery and textbooks to our students, since it is very difficult to bring in these materials and they are unavailable on the local market,” said UNRWA spokesperson Milina Shahin in Gaza.

UNRWA schools are also missing items such as lab equipment, calculators, desks, tables, chairs and even crayons, said Shahin.

UNRWA planned to build 100 new schools this year, but has had to give up the idea due to a lack of building materials. Thirty-five UNRWA schools are still without windows as a result of the offensive, due to a lack of glass, Shahin said.

Truckloads of stationery await clearance

Since the beginning of 2009, Israel has allowed 174 truckloads of educational materials to enter Gaza. Of these, only two were carrying stationery, in July and August, OCHA said.

According to the Palestine Trade Centre (PalTrade) and local suppliers, there are nearly 120 truckloads of stationery awaiting clearance to enter.

Ghazi Hamad, head of borders and crossings under the Hamas-led government in Gaza, said some educational materials, such as notebooks and clothing, had entered Gaza via underground tunnels from Egypt, but this was only a token amount.

Teaching has also been affected by the Fatah-Hamas rift: Of the 11,000 teachers in Gaza, 7,000 are employed by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah (occupied West Bank). Half of these did not return to teach this school year, according to deputy education minister Ibrahim.

“We had to replace them with less qualified teachers, while they chose to stay at home,” he said.

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.