Monday, January 29, 2007

Bishop Desmond Tutu on Apartheid

Bishop Desmond Tutu taken from and describing the book: "Speaking the Truth About Zionism and Israel" (edited by Rev. Michael Prior, Melisende, 2004): "In our struggle for justice and peace in South Africa we had to learn to speak - and listen to - hard truths. Our experience should encourage all who strive for justice and peace in the Holy Land. My visits to the Holy Land remind me so much of South Africa: apartheid is back, complete with the "Separation Wall" and bantustans. History, it seems, repeats itself. Yet, if peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come also to the Holy Land. I welcome this book that exposes some of the hardest truths about Israel-Palestine. The distinguished contributors - from Israel, Palestine, the US, the UK and Ireland, women and men, Jews, Christians and Muslims - speak their Truth. Reconciliation will follow later."

(thanks, Mazin)

Civil War in Palestine (from local student's blog)

Sunday, January 28, 2007
Palestinians fight and Israelis smile
Israel's plan is working. Nineteen Palestinians were killed in internecine fighting yesterday in the Gaza strip; seventy-something were injured. Here in the West Bank, twenty-five Hamas activists were captured by Fateh armed men. I'm sure you've read this, or will read it, in American or European press. I will therefore tell you some things you probably will not read there.

Firstly, in a development that I cannot quite understand yet, as soon as it became apparent that Fateh was going to do their dirty work for them, the Israelis slightly eased travel restrictions on Palestinians traveling throughout the West Bank.

Second, an arms race, led, as usual, by the United States and its ally, Israel, has begun in the Palestinian occupied territories. Ha'aretz reported today that in yesterday's fighting, Fateh men were able to ward off a group of Hamas militants using 'armored vehicles and personnel carriers' (in other words, military jeeps and small tanks). Never have the Palestinians, any of them, had access to such weaponry. The arms race is a central part of the United States' and Israel's plan to overthrow the Palestinian elected government in a violent coup. Like many of their most brilliant and sinister ideas, this one revolves around the age-old colonial tactic of employing one faction of the dispossessed to do their bidding for them and crush those who are slightly more radical in opposition to the colonists. Fateh is this easy-to-control faction, and they are indeed following through with the Bush-Olmert plan to destroy the legitimacy of the Palestinian government---and along the way, distract the Palestinians from doing what they should be doing. That is, fighting the occupation and developing, not demolishing, their society.

I wrote a while back about how this is happening but for simplicity's sake will say it again. The US has pledged 80 million dollars to the Palestinians. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, ALL of the money will be controlled not by the Parliament, but by Abbas himself. Most of it is earmarked for the military training, by American commanders, of Abbas' 'Presidential Guard'. Death squad, anyone?

Meanwhile, as the US beefs up Fateh's so-called 'security' services, Iran and Syria are reportedly following suit in increasing their military aid and weapons shipments to the Hamas fighters.

Sounds like Afghanistan, huh? Well, I wouldn't be surprised if, and in fact will predict here for the world to see, that these weapons, both those of Fateh and Hamas, someday end up killing or targeting the occupation. Unfortunately, that day is not today. In the meantime, Palestinians are engaging in a West-driven power struggle over the keys to the government. Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens are still under occupation, and the government seems to have forgotten about its responsibilities to its people.

Finally, and most horrifyingly, I read today on the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper the following headline, 'A Relative Win', followed by the byline 'For the first time since clashes began, Hamas casualties outnumbered those of Fateh'.

I click on the link to the story, nervous about what I assume I will find therein---Israelis gloating about how this one tactic in their larger strategy to destroy the Palestinians is succeeding. (Hurrah!) Unfortunately, my assumption is mostly correct. And even more disturbing are the comments left by Israeli and foreign readers. Just a sample of the racist remarks: 'Sadly, this is how the Arabs of Palestine communicate' and 'May it continue to be a back and forth battle'.

Check out the article for yourself if you like:

But! If you are going to read those half-truths, please also see this brilliant piece by Hasan Abu Nimah, the former Jordanian representative to the United Nations:

And see this one, too, by longtime MidEast reporter Jonathan Cook:

Or, for a primer of the 'civil war' situation and how it developed, see the ElectronicIntifada sourcepage at:

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Democrats "ready to act?" I doubt it.

Recently, I received an email letter from Howard Dean on behalf of the Democratic Party. He said the Democrats are "ready to act." He wants me to write my local newspaper to voice opposition to the President’s troop increase for Iraq. This is what I wrote back.

Dear Howard,

I disagree with your bold contention that the Democrats are ready to act. If they were, they would have immediately gone on the offensive to begin proceedings to impeach George W. Bush. The man is a criminal by law. He has broken and bent the laws of our land. He and the neo-cons are destroying the Constitution or at the very least riding roughshod over it. And the Democrats are letting him! We are not talking about clumsy mistakes - of which he makes plenty - but the President, Vice President and his Cabinet have lied to the people and Congress. Maybe you and our newly elected Democratic Congress don't get that but the people who elected this new congress do.

So it seems to me the first order of business would be impeachment proceedings but Nancy Pelosi says that is not on the agenda, consequently the man in the White House and his fellow crooks are emboldened. Now this is what will happen: Your Democratic Congress, many of whom rubber stamped Bush’s previous lies to America, will now attempt to block his escalation of the war. They will fail. And what's amazing is, the Democrats, as you say, think they have reason to be “upbeat.” They can't see the forest for the trees. This never-really-elected President will again be empowered by his victory over Congress and do still more damage. He will put more troops in Iraq and this bloody war will drag on. More children will die, more families be uprooted, more villages destroyed and more American service people will die and be grievously wounded.

Meanwhile, the issue of Israeli apartheid in Palestine, ethnic cleansing of Arabs and the oppresive Occupation in general are taboo subjects in Congress.

But the privileged members of the Senate and House, who have no children in Iraq, will continue to play politics, will not risk anything, not take any chances even though the President and his cronies are busy wrecking what is left of civilization both by war and absolutely horrid environmental policies, not to mention torture, illicit spying, detention of innocents and denial of universal right of habeas corpus. The Democrats will have failed the country once again because, with exceptions like Maurice Hinchey, Dennis Kucinich and a few others, they have not an ounce of courage - something I thought you once had. Party politics has robbed you of that. Once you spoke your mind for the truth, now you just try to strengthen the party. What a difference.


Tarak Kauff

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted on Tue, Jan. 02, 2007


Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel

By George Bisharat

Americans owe a debt to former President Jimmy Carter for speaking long hidden but vital truths. His book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid breaks the taboo barring criticism in the United States of Israel's discriminatory treatment of Palestinians. Our government's tacit acceptance of Israel's unfair policies causes global hostility against us.

Israel's friends have attacked Carter, a Nobel laureate who has worked tirelessly for Middle East peace, even raising the specter of anti-Semitism. Genuine anti-Semitism is abhorrent. But exploiting the term to quash legitimate criticism of another system of racial oppression, and to tarnish a principled man, is indefensible. Criticizing Israeli government policies - a staple in Israeli newspapers - is no more anti-Semitic than criticizing the Bush administration is anti-American.

The word apartheid typically evokes images of former South Africa, but it also refers to any institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another. Carter applies the term only to Israel's rule of the occupied Palestinian territories, where it has established more than 200 Jewish-only settlements and a network of roads and other services to support them. These settlements violate international law and the rights of Palestinian property owners. Carter maintains that "greed for land," not racism, fuels Israel's settlement drive. He is only partially right.

Israel is seizing land and water from Palestinians for Jews. Resources are being transferred, under the guns of Israel's military occupation, from one disempowered group - Palestinian Christians and Muslims - to another, preferred group - Jews. That is racism, pure and simple.

Moreover, there is abundant evidence that Israel discriminates against Palestinians elsewhere. The "Israeli Arabs" - about 1.4 million Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens who live in Israel - vote in elections. But they are a subordinated and marginalized minority. The Star of David on Israel's flag symbolically tells Palestinian citizens: "You do not belong." Israel's Law of Return grants rights of automatic citizenship to Jews anywhere in the world, while those rights are denied to 750,000 Palestinian refugees who were forced or fled in fear from their homes in what became Israel in 1948.

Israel's Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty establishes the state as a "Jewish democracy" although 24 percent of the population is non-Jewish. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, counted 20 laws that explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews.

The government favors Jews over Palestinians in the allocation of resources. Palestinian children in Israel attend "separate and unequal" schools that receive a fraction of the funding awarded to Jewish schools, according to Human Rights Watch. Many Palestinian villages, some predating the establishment of Israel, are unrecognized by the government, do not appear on maps, and thus receive no running water, electricity, or access roads. Since 1948, scores of new communities have been founded for Jews, but none for Palestinians, causing them severe residential overcrowding.

Anti-Arab bigotry is rarely condemned in Israeli public discourse, in which Palestinians are routinely construed as a "demographic threat." Palestinians in Israel's soccer league have played to chants of "Death to Arabs!" Israeli academic Daniel Bar-Tal studied 124 Israeli school texts, finding that they commonly depicted Arabs as inferior, backward, violent, and immoral. A 2006 survey revealed that two-thirds of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in a building with an Arab, nearly half would not allow a Palestinian in their home, and 40 percent want the government to encourage emigration by Palestinian citizens. Last March, Israeli voters awarded 11 parliamentary seats to the Israel Beitenu Party, which advocates drawing Israel's borders to exclude 500,000 of its current Palestinian citizens.

Some say that Palestinian citizens in Israel enjoy better circumstances than those in surrounding Arab countries. Ironically, white South Africans made identical claims to defend their version of apartheid, as is made clear in books such as Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull.

Americans are awakening to the costs of our unconditional support of Israel. We urgently need frank debate to chart policies that honor our values, advance our interests, and promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is telling that it took a former president, immune from electoral pressures, to show the way.

The debate should now be extended. Are Israel's founding ideals truly consistent with democracy? Can a state established in a multiethnic milieu be simultaneously "Jewish" and "democratic"? Isn't strife the predictable yield of preserving the dominance of Jews in Israel over a native Palestinian population? Does our unconditional aid merely enable Israel to continue abusing Palestinian rights with impunity, deepening regional hostilities and distancing peace? Isn't it time that Israel lived by rules observed in any democracy - including equal rights for all?

George Bisharat ( is a professor of law at University of California Hastings College of the Law. He writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Apartheid in the Holy Land

Desmond Tutu Monday April 29, 2002

In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.

On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?

I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: "Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews."

My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured.

The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.

Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or - I hope - to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?

My brother Naim Ateek has said what we used to say: "I am not pro-this people or that. I am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti-injustice, anti-oppression."

But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?

People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful - very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.

Injustice and oppression will never prevail. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: what is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment.

We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God's dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers.

Desmond Tutu is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission. This address was given at a conference on Ending the Occupation held in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier this month. A longer version appears in the current edition of Church Times.