Thursday, May 31, 2007

TAKE IT OUT ON THE PALESTINIANS

With Iraq a lost cause, a desperate-for-success U.S. administration is unleashing its fury on the long-demonized Palestinians. It is an open secret throughout the Middle East that the latest intra-Palestinian violence in Gaza has the hand of Israel and Washington all over it. Even the Washington Post reported (May 17) that "Israel this week allowed the Palestinian party Fatah to bring into the Gaza Strip as many as 500 fresh troops trained under a U.S.-coordinated program to counter Hamas... The troops' deployment illustrates the increasingly partisan role that Israel and the Bush administration are taking in the volatile Palestinian political situation."

Veteran South African journalist and TIME.com senior editor Tony Karon cut to the heart of what's happening under the headline "Palestinian Pinochet Makes His Move":
"The Fatah gunmen who are reported to have initiated the breakdown of the Palestinian unity government may profess fealty to President Abbas, but it's not from him that they get their orders. They answer is Mohammed Dahlan, the Gaza warlord who has long been Washington's anointed favorite to play the role of a Palestinian Pinochet. Needless to say, only a U.S. administration as deluded about its ability to reorder Arab political realities in line with its own fantasies - and also, frankly, as utterly contemptuous of Arab life and of Arab democracy - as the current one would imagine that the Palestinians could be starved, battered and manipulated into choosing a Washington-approved political leadership."

Israeli government officials say outright that their own bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza (combined with support for Dahlan) is designed to destroy the Palestinian unity government and any Palestinian faction resistant to Israeli political demands. (Against this backdrop, the June 10 "The World Says No to Israeli Occupation" Mobilization - go to http://www.endtheoccupation.org/ for full information - is more important than ever.

Palestinian civilians are also the main victims of the current fighting at Palestinian refugee camps in northern Lebanon. The U.S.-supplied Lebanese army is bombarding civilian areas in its fight with the Al-Qaeda-linked militant Sunni group Fatah al-Islam. Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee to other camps where they are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Ironically, as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh told CNN International, it is U.S. policy that nurtured Fatah al-Islam in the first place:
"The current situation is much like that during the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s - which gave rise to al Qaeda - with the same people involved in both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and the same pattern of the U.S. using jihadists that the Saudis assure us they can control. Since the Israelis lost the war with [the Shia-based] Hezbollah last summer, the fear of Hezbollah in the White House, is acute. As a result... we're in the business of supporting the Sunnis anywhere we can against the Shia... We're in the business of creating... sectarian violence."

From War Times, May 30, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mazin Qumsiyeh reports on Boston

1) Israeli "Independence" = Palestinian Dispossession
2) Palestinian Refugees
1948 - 800,000
2007 - 6 Million +
Right of Return for all Refugees

These are the two banners we (Jews, Christians, Muslims, others) snuck by the intensive security and unfurled Sunday at an event dubbed by the organizers "New England Celebrates Israel" (ofcourse it was only a small and shrinking fraction of racist and misinformed Jews in the area who joined the "celebration"). The direct action led by conscientious Jews riled the racist festival in Foxboro, MA and raised a ruckus. Some activists were not let in (security had their car license plate numbers apparently ahead of time, see report below from Tarak, one of those who did not manage to get in). But enough of us got through (>40 plus legal observers) to make this a very successful event. Kudus to the participants. The demonstration was visually so impressive that racist Zionists tried to block us with their bodies and umbrellas so that their fellow attendees do not see the messages about Palestinian dispossession. When we took our overshirts off, the black shirts had signs for depopulated Palestinian villages: e.g.

Al-Maghar Population: 1740, destroyed 6/10/1048 1 of 531 depopulated Palestinian villages.

My video of the event is posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9lsB4HVhDQ
Still Pictures and press releases posted at http://questionisrael.blogspot.com/


We will be showing a video on refugees and I will be speaking on the subject Tuesday May 22nd at 7pm at 44 Danforth St, in Jamaica Plain, Massachussetts.

Please consider writing to the media including letters to the editor. And let us all mobilize for June 10-11 in Washington DC (see endtheoccupation.org).

Below are other reports and notes on the successful action in Foxboro, MA:
-----------------------------------
Boston Does not celebrate Israel
http://www.thecornerreport.com/index.php?p=1737&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1#more1737

----------------------------------

Message from Tarak

Drove up to Walpole, MA today - home of the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium where a 'New England Celebrates Israel' day was taking place on stadium premises indoors at the very huge Dana Farber Field house. Of course I didn't go to really do the Celebrate Israel thing but rather to be part of a very well organized counter demonstration to remember the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe). The plan was for people to wear black t-shirts under their shirts - we were each given 81/2 by 11 stick on sheets printed with the name in Arabic and English of a Palestinian village destroyed in 1948 and the number of people who lived in that village. You all know that 531 villages were destroyed and/or occupied then. There were about 50 of us and the planning for this, which was in the works for 4 months, was very impressive.

All details had been covered, press, security, contingency plans, back up, etc. We had a location to meet at before the event to go over details and get the stick ons. Two women carried large banners in under their skirts. At a command, once everyone that could get in was inside, the two women would take out the banners, 14 others would help hold them up and the rest of us would take off our outer shits to reveal the stick ons. Of course we were all aware of the potential for confrontation with the thousands of pro Zionists who would be attending he event but we hoped to avoid anything like that. There was heavy security at the stadium. State Police and a private security group in black overcoats
looking very ominous. You would have to show picture ID to get in. After our initial meeting I decided to drive to the stadium with 3 of the organizers and leave my truck which has all my radical bumper stickers and would have been a dead give away that I was not really a Zionist.

We four in the car I was in, got busted anyway. Somehow they knew who we were or at least that we weren't there to "celebrate" Israel. As we were in the long line of cars waiting to get in one of
those private security guys along with some state police pulled us out of the line off to the side and started questioning us. They took our IDs and after about 15 minutes of us sitting in the car with a number of cops around us, they gave us printed sheets with our names on it saying we were not welcome and if we come back to Gillette Stadium we will be arrested for trespassing. The private security guy, who was nastier than the cops (the cops were relatively polite - but firm) before we left tried to take our pictures but we got a better shot of him than he did of us. Anyway, a few other people didn't make it in but some 40 did and the event went off well. Actually the police inside protected the demonstrators until they were told to leave - about 5 solid minutes with banners and t-shirts unfurled. Tarak

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Israelis plan more homes on occupied land

· Jerusalem council wants three new settlements
· Palestinians say move will sabotage two-state aim

Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv
Friday May 11, 2007
The Guardian



Jerusalem's city council plans to build three new Jewish settlements on land it occupied in 1967, in contravention of international law, it was announced yesterday. The estates will be built on land that has been earmarked for a future Palestinian state, close to Bethlehem and Ramallah.

International law forbids construction on land acquired by war, but since 1967 Israel has built homes for around 500,000 Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The construction is planned to link existing Jewish settlements in Jerusalem with each other and with settlements in the West Bank. Saeb Erekat, the head of negotiations for the Palestinians, said the building plans suggested that Israel had no real interest in peace. "Today it is obvious that Israel wants Jerusalem for only some of Jerusalem's people," he said. "I wish Israel would do what majorities of both Palestinians and Israelis want: accept the two-state solution and accept peace."

While Israel says that it supports the creation of a Palestinian state, its building projects - which include walls, fences, bypasses and tunnels as well as settlements - restrict the amount of land that would be available to the new state.

In 1967 Israel annexed East Jerusalem, but most of its residents are in limbo, neither residents of Israel, nor of the West Bank. To ensure its hold on East Jerusalem Israel has built a series of settlements which divide the city from its hinterland in the West Bank. The annexation was condemned by the UN and has not been recognised by any major country.

"By severing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," Mr Erekat said, "the Jerusalem-area wall and settlements mean no viable Palestinian state, no Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and thus no viable two-state solution."

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said the government made no distinction between East Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. "There is a difference between Jerusalem, where we have sovereignty, and the West Bank where we do not and whose future will be the subject of future negotiations."

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the new communities would be aimed at housing ultra-orthodox Jews, the fastest growing sector of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. The paper quoted the planning committee as saying that "the committee sees fit to announce its intention to change the district outline plan in order to allow construction in additional areas of the city: Walaja, Givat Alona, the Atarot airport area, and more."

Yehoshua Pollak, the chairman of the committee, told Haaretz that up to 10,000 homes could be built in the area of Walaja, between the south-west of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. "If you strengthen Walaja, you strengthen the connection with the Etzion bloc through the tunnel road," he said. The Etzion block is a group of settlements south of Bethlehem which Israel hopes to keep, although its official position is that their future would be discussed in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The decision of the Jerusalem committee must be accepted by a national planning committee before construction can begin. A spokesman for Jerusalem city council said no final decision on the projects had been made, but there was an urgent need to build 20,000 new homes. "The local committee for housing and construction is considering various proposals for new neighbourhoods, all inside the municipal area of Jerusalem," he said.

Checkpoints hurt Israeli security, says World Bank

· Restrictions 'devastating Palestinian economy'
· Prosperity would benefit both sides, report claims

Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv
Thursday May 10, 2007
The Guardian

Israel's system of controls on the Palestinian territories is preventing a revival of their economies and damaging Israel's security, according to a report published by the World Bank yesterday.
The report finds that freedom of movement for Palestinians is the exception rather than the norm, in spite of a series of commitments by Israel to ensure the opposite. David Craig, the World Bank country director for the West Bank and Gaza, said Israeli restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza had devastated the Palestinian economy.

"The restriction system has caused a rise in transaction costs, making Palestinian goods increasingly uncompetitive. Even more importantly, the system has created such a high level of uncertainty and inefficiency that the normal conduct of business in the West Bank has become exceedingly difficult and investment has been stymie," he said.

The report said both societies would benefit from Palestinian prosperity, which it says would lead to a decrease in violence. According to the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians, there should be free movement of people and vehicles.

But the rise in the number of settlers in the West Bank, not including Jerusalem, from 125,000 in 1993 to 250,000 now, combined with the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, has led to Israel placing Palestinians under severe restrictions.

Even as the violence has subsided, the number of roadblocks has increased. The World Bank notes that in 2006 there were 44% more roadblocks than in 2005.

The report describes the array of restrictions imposed on every Palestinian. As well as the physical barriers, Israel limits freedom through the use of administrative practices and permit policies which prevent Palestinians from moving home, getting work, investing in business and moving outside their immediate locality.

A Palestinian wanting to move from one area to another must get a permit and a separate one for any vehicle.

The report said that there is no transparency in the way permits are granted and they can be revoked at any time.

Some permits insist on a return to the holder's home town by 7pm.

The World Bank estimates that more than 50% of the West Bank is closed off to Palestinians without a permit.

Israel's security concerns should be addressed, the report said, but security tended to mean the restriction of Palestinian life to protect the freedom of settlers.

Sarit Arbell, a spokeswoman for the Israeli organisation Checkpoint Watch, said that Israeli policies were pushing Palestinians "into poverty and third-world living conditions ... the checkpoint and barrier regime that the state of Israel imposes on Palestinian towns and villages deep inside Palestinian territory prevents them from living a normal everyday life, humiliating them on a daily basis and intensifying despair and extremism."

The report says that the restrictions on Palestinians must be eased if their economy is to improve.

"Palestinian economic revival is predicated on an integrated economic entity with freedom of movement between the West bank and Gaza and within the West Bank, unfettered Palestinian access to West Bank land for economic purposes, and reliable access to world markets," said Mr Craig. "The restriction system has significantly undermined these conditions. Restoring sustainable Palestinian economic growth is dependent on its dismantling."

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said that Israel could not be blamed for all the problems of the Palestinians.

"We have no interest in seeing Palestinian hardship but our measures are defensive. There have been times when we have removed checkpoints only to put them back after a terrorist attack," he said.

"I can understand that Palestinians see some of the measures as arbitrary but when we have made efforts to liberalise this has been exploited by extremists."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Why Israel is after me

Subject: [ePalestine] LA TIMES: Why Israel is after me (By Azmi Bishara) - A MUST READ

Dear friends,

Please take a minute to thank the Los Angeles Times for running his powerful opinion at a time when Israel and its supporters are smearing him.

Write to letters@latimes.com. Letters should be 200 words or less and include your name, address and telephone (for identification purposes only).

Enough is enough!
Sam

-------------------------

Why Israel is after me
By Azmi Bishara

AZMI BISHARA was a member of the Knesset until his resignation in April.

May 3, 2007

Amman, Jordan ˜ I AM A PALESTINIAN from Nazareth, a citizen of Israel and was, until last month, a member of the Israeli parliament.

But now, in an ironic twist reminiscent of France's Dreyfus affair ˜ in which a French Jew was accused of disloyalty to the state ˜ the government of Israel is accusing me of aiding the enemy during Israel's failed war against Lebanon in July.

Israeli police apparently suspect me of passing information to a foreign agent and of receiving money in return. Under Israeli law, anyone ˜ a journalist or a personal friend ˜ can be defined as a "foreign agent" by the Israeli security apparatus. Such charges can lead to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The allegations are ridiculous. Needless to say, Hezbollah ˜ Israel's enemy in Lebanon ˜ has independently gathered more security information about Israel than any Arab Knesset member could possibly provide. What's more, unlike those in Israel's parliament who have been involved in acts of violence, I have never used violence or participated in wars. My instruments of persuasion, in contrast, are simply words in books, articles and speeches.

These trumped-up charges, which I firmly reject and deny, are only the latest in a series of attempts to silence me and others involved in the struggle of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel to live in a state of all its citizens, not one that grants rights and privileges to Jews that it denies to non-Jews.

When Israel was established in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in fear. My family was among the minority that escaped that fate, remaining instead on the land where we had long lived. The Israeli state, established exclusively for Jews, embarked immediately on transforming us into foreigners in our own country.

For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we, as Israeli citizens, lived under military rule with pass laws that controlled our every movement. We watched Jewish Israeli towns spring up over destroyed Palestinian villages.

Today we make up 20% of Israel's population. We do not drink at separate water fountains or sit at the back of the bus. We vote and can serve in the parliament. But we face legal, institutional and informal discrimination in all spheres of life.

More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews. The Law of Return, for example, grants automatic citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world. Yet Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to the country they were forced to leave in 1948. The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty ˜ Israel's "Bill of Rights" ˜ defines the state as "Jewish" rather than a state for all its citizens. Thus Israel is more for Jews living in Los Angeles or Paris than it is for native Palestinians.

Israel acknowledges itself to be a state of one particular religious group. Anyone committed to democracy will readily admit that equal citizenship cannot exist under such conditions.

Most of our children attend schools that are separate but unequal. According to recent polls, two-thirds of Israeli Jews would refuse to live next to an Arab and nearly half would not allow a Palestinian into their home.

I have certainly ruffled feathers in Israel. In addition to speaking out on the subjects above, I have also asserted the right of the Lebanese people, and of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to resist Israel's illegal military occupation. I do not see those who fight for freedom as my enemies.

This may discomfort Jewish Israelis, but they cannot deny us our history and identity any more than we can negate the ties that bind them to world Jewry. After all, it is not we, but Israeli Jews who immigrated to this land. Immigrants might be asked to give up their former identity in exchange for equal citizenship, but we are not immigrants.

During my years in the Knesset, the attorney general indicted me for voicing my political opinions (the charges were dropped), lobbied to have my parliamentary immunity revoked and sought unsuccessfully to disqualify my political party from participating in elections ˜ all because I believe Israel should be a state for all its citizens and because I have spoken out against Israeli military occupation. Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman ˜ an immigrant from Moldova ˜ declared that Palestinian citizens of Israel "have no place here," that we should "take our bundles and get lost." After I met with a leader of the Palestinian Authority from Hamas, Lieberman called for my execution.

The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate not just me but all Palestinian citizens of Israel. But we will not be intimidated. We will not bow to permanent servitude in the land of our ancestors or to being severed from our natural connections to the Arab world. Our community leaders joined together recently to issue a blueprint for a state free of ethnic and religious discrimination in all spheres. If we turn back from our path to freedom now, we will consign future generations to the discrimination we have faced for six decades.

Americans know from their own history of institutional discrimination the tactics that have been used against civil rights leaders. These include telephone bugging, police surveillance, political delegitimization and criminalization of dissent through false accusations. Israel is continuing to use these tactics at a time when the world no longer tolerates such practices as compatible with democracy.

Why then does the U.S. government continue to fully support a country whose very identity and institutions are based on ethnic and religious discrimination that victimize its own citizens?

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-bishara3may03,0,2351340.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail