Monday, 16 January 2012

Statement on OneVoice

From the committee:

The University of Birmingham Friends of Palestine society will not take part in events with OneVoice as we do not believe they are working towards a just resolution to the occupation of Palestine. The students of every single university in Palestine have signed this statement condemning organisations like One Voice because they “give a false picture of equality between the two parties by ignoring and legitimizing Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people”

On the surface OneVoice looks like a commendable organisation working towards better understanding between Palestinians and Israelis, but in its methods it pursues an agenda that seeks to marginalize Palestinian rights and whitewash Israeli violations of international law.

The idea of OneVoice is to find shared understandings between Palestinians and Israelis that can be used as a foundation for peace. In 2009 they conducted a poll that (they claim) shows most Palestinians and Israelis share a lot of common ground. For them, all that is needed to end the conflict is a grassroots movement to amplify this shared voice of moderation against a minority of extremists. The statistic used to justify this is that 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis find a two state solution “tolerable” or better.

The problem is that a two state solution is very vague and can refer to a huge range of possible positions on a number of issues. If you examine the data on what kind of "two state solution" Palestinians and Israelis want the consensus relied upon by One Voice disappears. The poll finds that 87 percent of Palestinians under occupation consider the “right of return AND compensation” for refugees to be “essential” to a final agreement, but notes that this option was “rejected by 77 [percent] of Israelis as unacceptable.” And that 78 percent of Palestinian respondents considered a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories to the June 1967 line “essential,” while 60 percent of Israelis consider that “unacceptable.”

On every important issue OneVoice, without justification, legitimates the Israeli position in the name of a fictitious moderate majority. The right of refugees to return to their homes (enshrined in international law) has to be compromised so that Israelis can live in an ethnically pure state. Palestinians must compromise their right to the West Bank and East Jerusalem so that Israel can continue to expand. The particular two state solution advocated by One Voice is not in fact a moderate position but almost identical to the one advocated by the Israeli state. This settlement, and organizations like One Voice that push it, are totally unacceptable for anyone who cares about justice or Human rights.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A Game Changer

By Asad Zaidi

If you’re a regular onlooker in Middle East politics you’d be forgiven for thinking “here we go again”. Once more a Palestinian leader addresses the UN on his nation’s plight. Once again an Israeli Prime Minister sticks by his country’s occupation and once again a US President is shown to be almost farcically impartial. And to an extent, you’d be right. Mahmoud Abba’s submission of a bid for statehood will be vetoed at the Security Council by the US. Meanwhile, Netanyahu and Obama have denounced the bid, repeating the tired platitudes that recognition can only come from bilateral talks.  However, if you are that casual onlooker, you’d be wrong to think nothing has changed.

A slight yet noticeable tremor has begun that has the potential to spark a seismic shift in the politics of the Middle East’s most intractable conflict. For the first time in two decades, since the Madrid Conference ushered in the Peace Process in 1991, the Palestinians have turned their back on talks. It was these negotiations, set up by the heavily biased “peace broker” that is the United States that have stalled at every occasion.  They have provided an excuse for Israel to set about, with relish, the dismantlement of the Palestinian dream for self-determination.  Thus, last week’s rejection of that process could potentially mark a radical new development. With the bid for nationhood, Palestinians have turned to international multilateralism, knowing full well that nothing has come from US lead negotiations. And so, with this in mind, Mr Abbas addressed General Assembly.

In a stirring oratory, Abbas made his mark.  He spoke of the Arab Spring that the Palestinian cause was part of, of the repression that the Palestinians had dealt with for decades, and the dead end negotiations. He spoke of offering a hand for a new beginning with the Israeli people and argued that, despite the occupation, the Palestinians wanted peaceful coexistence with Israel. This was a powerful gesture, making a point to address the worries of Israelis, speaking of the process of state building and the careful construction of institutions that would enable security and prosperity. Critics will look at the speech’s limitations.

Arguably, Abbas’s speech left too many unanswered questions.  How would being a member state in the United Nations help the Palestinian cause? What would happen if the UNSC voted in favour? What would happen if the UNSC voted against?  These were missing from the President’s speech.

Nevertheless there was enough substance in his speech for the Arab street to be heartened by his efforts. Celebrations erupted in Ramallah and across the West Bank. For a leader long seen as weak, Abbas was heralded as a hero and it was with some surprise that news correspondents and twitter commentators told the world of Abbas’s newfound popularity amongst a traditionally sceptic public. Not only did this speech re-energise the PLO and its base (long seen as ineffectual and corrupt), but it also leaves unanswered the position of Hamas and puts in sharp focus the role of Israel and the US.

In stark contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech conveyed exactly what Abbas is up against. Rank with clichés that barely hid the mask of bullish contempt he has shown for the Palestinian bid for nationhood, Netanyahu ignored speaking head on about the bid or even settlements, preferring to admonish those who didn’t fight the “crocodile of militant Islam” (what the poor crocodile was doing in Netanyahu’s clunky metaphors is anyone’s guess). He used the old narrative that it was Iran and not Israel that was the biggest threat to the Arab awakening, even warning of how an Arab spring could lead to “An Iranian Winter”.

What followed was a carefully rehearsed talk on the struggle of the Jewish people. Scouring from his perch on the podium for any anti-Semites in the audience, Bibi went on to emphasise Israel’s tiny stature, smaller in width, we were told, than Manhattan and with much nastier neighbours. With his reference of New York landmarks, at times one could be forgiven for thinking this speech was written by an American rather than an Israeli.

The Zionist narrative of history Obama had so perfectly recited just two days earlier was virtually regurgitated by the Israeli PM. The statehood bid was a distraction, IF ONLY Abbas could meet him for a few words in the back offices, something could be worked out. The settlements weren’t the problem, couldn’t Abu Mazen see this? Had he forgotten the monumental sacrifice Israel had undertaken to repatriate its settlers from Gaza in 2000, and to what end? The wild dogs (or perhaps crocodiles) of Hamas had taken the “keys of Gaza” (forgetting to mention how they had won democratic elections of course). Forget the land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, forget the hundreds killed in Operation Cast Lead and the thousands imprisoned in Israeli Prisons, hadn’t Mahmoud Abbas heard of Gilad Shalit?

Abbas had only to acknowledge the Jewish state of Israel, acknowledge all existing preconditions on peace that would limit the nature of the future Palestinian state and then and only then, perhaps, maybe, a few settlements could be moved so a hastily assembled strip of Bantustans could emerge (demilitarised, mind you) as a Palestinian “state”. This state, we were told, would be congratulated before all other countries by Israel.

Netanyahu’s defiant speech does not hide the unsettled position Israel now finds itself in. The “only democracy in the Middle East” moniker (If an occupying state can ever be labelled democratic) is no longer true and the events of the Arab Spring have overtaken Israel. It has lost the initiative and the Palestinian statehood bid is yet another part of this wave of events in the Middle East that leave Israel looking like a reactionary and rejectionist force wading against a tide of change.

Indeed, even former US President, Bill Clinton has argued that Netanyahu has been to blame for the failure of the peace process, with his steadfast refusal to move an inch, even to freeze settlement expansion as a sign of goodwill before talks could begin. However what is clear is that the Palestinians have presented up a game changer, something that puts a spanner in the works of the easy bilateralism that has allowed Israel to do as it pleases, backed by the United States who have vetoed resolutions condemning Israel a staggering 42 times.

What Netanyahu’s speech tells us only reaffirms what many of us already knew; Israel is not serious on peace. Since the Oslo Accords, settler expansion in the occupied territories has rocketed to half a million (Israel Central Bureau of Statistics). The Palestinians achieve nothing by waiting for the occupation to grow around them and leave them with fewer and fewer bargaining chips.

Ultimately, although there are many questions left to be answered, Mahmoud Abbas and his delegation have taken a first, brave step to break out of a cycle of dead end negotiations and have opened up a multilateral debate on the international arena. What happens now and if momentum can be held so that the Palestine issue remains in the spotlight, will be crucial to how this process continues.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

An update from a FoP member in Palestine.

Saturday 30th July

Hey everyone,

I’m currently staying in Seikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, having stayed one night at the ISM appartment in Ramallah for the anti-wall demonstration in the village of Bil’in. My first experience of teargas! Its horrible, but you get used to it….. well, I may have to be in the next few weeks. I managed to document it on my rather crap camera phone, I’ll review it, try to edit it, and show it on this group if its decent.

So speaking of Sheikh Jarrah, I have spent one night here, though not one night with a good sleep. A Palestinian family still resides here, right at the back, no permit to build, with illegal settlers at the front, their “home” adorned with Israeli flags. These people are terrible, they constantly harrass us, and when they stop, it is only for very short intervals. I swear they conduct some kind of rota, so everyone that lives there can wake up in the night at a certain time to have a shot at us. It takes the piss and gets you angry. They swear, insult, spit at us, chucked random crap like water bottles and pistachio nuts (ARRGH, ALLERGIES!), sexually harrassed us (there are oinly women here at the moment, and they were making awkward crude gestures at us to have sex) and past experiences of other ISM-ers has it that they’ve used death threats, throwing oil, collected their vomit to chuck onto us, dog excrement…. gross. They try to snatch our stuff from us, they keep their dogs barking so we can’t ever sleep, and whenever they try to, they manage to find a good time to chuck something at us before we know it. We’ve heard some terrible things about these people how are particularly deranged…. terrible things, involving beastiliaty and underage sex (no I couldn’t believe it either) D-: They won’t really stop. They would go to any length to make you feel realy uncomfortable. Only thing is, we’re still here- they haven’t made us go!

However soul-sucking it is staying in Sheikh Jarrah trying to cope with these idiots, the Palestinian locals stay well and strong, despite constant harrasment etc. so I find that pretty heart-warming. We have our enemies here, but also some kind friends. Judging by how they have been behaving towards us today, it looks like these settlers will be making some more effort to give us all a hard time. Last night was fairly tame. In ISM, people tend to say that as a general kind-of “rule,” nobody should stay in Sheikh Jarrah alongside these settlers for more than two days because you’ll be so tired and frustrated by the end of it. I’m a little concerned about that bottle of “Javel” (bleach) that they have on their outer window sill….. It is mad- how the racist agenda of the governemnt boils and simmers down to these people who we would expect to be more on our “level.” They keep posing awkward questions, like, “Do you like Jews?” etc. and then they say stuff like, “Get out, this is Israel” (Typical, I know) and silly crap like “Arabs have twenty-two countries, so why can’t they get out of Israel?” blah blah blah.

I really don’t have much to say to these people, I just wanna fight, GRRRR. But that would be outta principle with the ISM, right? We have some Palestinian locals and some internationals to watch what they get up to. There is support, there is never one person. And we manage to keep it all together. If I can capture any footage of them tonight (well, I don’t think I’m gonna sleep) then I’ll upload it and see what you all think.



Sunday 31st July

Hello everyone, please let me share another ISM experience….

Trying to figure what’s worse than a racist zionist? A racist zionist misogynist paedophile with beastiality tendencies who likes to collect their own urine and excrement to chuck at you. Yup. This happened last night.

I feel so so awkward sharing this experience on a forum like this one, a nice and friendly forum. But I guess it helps to be exposed tot he reality of things, right? (Well, that’s obvious, lol.)

So, where do I start? I have been in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem for two nights, accompanied with other ISM activists, thank goodness. The first night wasn’t great, the second night was worse. Maybe its that the zionist settlers have found a better excuse to worsen their behaviour, since it became the end of Shabbat for a week. They tend to bring their other zionist friends to join them in their “fun”. A more experienced activist likened the settlers of Sheik Jarrah to the nutty ideological ones of Hebron. Woah.

This is from a trsuted source (i.e. another ISM colleague) who witnessed that, while I went away to the Old City (not for leisurely stuff, to sort out money, honest!) our taunters exposed their, err, “bits” and gestured to “suck”/”fuck.” EWWW! How do these fucking people live with themselves?

Yeah, its all about sexual harrassment with these guys. Makes my skin crawl. Wouldn’t it be HORRID to get chatted up by an illegal zionist settler? “Hey hey there, how about I occupy your territory?” That’s wrong.

I try to film them, but its not easy- they just place their hands in front of my phone, which renders my footage pretty useless.

There’s this guy who is well lanky- he looks like a hillbilly redneck type, only a zionist settler version. Sorry, that was so not PC. And very pervy, ewww.

Whenever I try to film him, he squares up to me and tries to hug me, I think even kiss me. Oh I swear I could just lay into him, he makes me so angry. Then he spat on me. He’s a spitting machine, that’s what he’s good at. Spit, spit, spitting.

We need to take it in turns to sleep, because a few of us have to keep an eye on these idiots. The thing is, they find a good time to strike, they can be tactical. It was my turn to sleep at this point, which was half past two in the morning. You can’t sleep deeply here, on Settler-Watch. I got woken up, a “splosh” on the floor. I jolted out of the bed from my light slumber, only to see my ISM friend at the entrance of our gazebo about to wake me up. I beat her to it. She pointed out at this point, that from the window (which is on the same level as the gazebo) they compiled their excrement and urine in a bottle to pour and chuck it on the floor. Aiming for someone inside, no doubt. Thank goodness I got up.

And so, we spent our night *not* sleeping, but clearing up the yard which we stayed in. Fucking humiliating, innit? It wasn’t the last time they did this. They tried for a second time, hurling it through our gazebo again. This time, it went all over our belongings. So now they’re contaminated, great. And we had no food to eat.

And again, we had to be the ones who cleared it up. This is why they do this in the dark, and at night- its when we’re off-gaurd and so least expect it.

We never slept, not a wink. ISMers staying there need to take turns with their affinity group. Its so draining and soul-sucking. Its hard to feel radical and inspired when you’re watching settlers take the piss outta you and give you absurd tasks (in this case, clearing up their shit.) Staying there for wo nights is said to be enough- any more would probably drive you crazy. Even by seven o’clock in the morning, I was too afraid to sleep in case they had goodness-knows-what in store for us.

There is a Palestinian family there, living at the back at the home of these settlers (ahem.) It is a family that is pretty vulnerable- not only because they are Palestinian, but because Maysa (our wnderful friend) has a mother who is elderly and ill, a sister who has heart function problems and very young chldren. Makes ‘em easy targets for these zionist cowards.

Maysa says that she considers us her family and always makes us feel at home in her place. She is wonderful- After finding out what they did to us that night, she offered to call the police, gather evidence etc and said that the presence of International activists has improved her life, bit by bit. There are some activists who I’ve heard said that zionist attacks on international activists have exacerbted, whereas ones on Palestinians has imporved…..?

I’m grateful that Maysa appreciates us being present. Apparantley as witnesses, international activists can lack imperative for the zionists to behave more viciously towards the Palestinian members of the community, whereas others have rendered such an action useless. I guess that international solidarity works, right?!

There’s something about Palestinians- so resilient, hospitable, friendly! Maysa doesn’t seem bitter at all, bless her and her family. I guess I don’t have much to show the Palestinians, but they sure can teach me a thing or ten. I’m always angry, GRRRR.

She is helping to gather evidence against the setlers who tried to pour toilet matter over us. There was one incident that activists there before me wanted to report something to the police, but they refused to listen because they “don’t speak english.” What callous wankers. She said that when it comes to community action by the cops, they are completely unreliable. To her, it seemed that an international presence counts for much more, and for that, I feel that what we can do is worthwhile and respected.

I hope to keep you in the loop. I was gonna provide film and pictures, but I don’t wanna put anyone off their supper.

So, don’t let anything scare us off- not even flying shit. Our ideas and actions are shit-proof, folks!

Sunday 17th August


I wish I were updating this more often, but alas my internet access is limited, and not just because I am keeping busy lately. As a long-term ISM-er, it has been suggested that I am mostly stationed in Hebron so that I can help maintain a stable presence within this region, especially given that it can be the most volatile area. Especially when it comes to the settlers. Saying that, as Ramadan ends and school begins, children can be vulnerable to physical attacks by settlers. So within a few weeks, we’ll be walking children to school. But seemingly children don’t really like me, we’ll see how that one goes!

ANTI-WALL DEMONSTRATION IN NIL’IN, LAST FRIDAY: Maybe a little more sparse in numbers, since its Ramadan. It is a seemingly quiet demonstration, but its just a matter of time before you are visible to the military as you approach the concrete barrier, and tear gas (in the form of grenades and cannisters. EXTREMELY HOT!) are being fired. They say, if you don’t want to be hit by the tear gas, stay at the front! They fire it so high in the air that it lands meters away from the shebab throwing rocks at the soldiers, so you might be better off at the front…..

It has this thunderous sound to it, its going off right above your head. Or it sounds like popcorn. Or fireworks. Kind of scary. Made me think it was gonna fall on top of me, but that wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t fired on our level, and you’re close to the wall. I think its the type of thing you get used to. Well, certainly the demonstrating Palestinians have to.

In terms of the behavior of the soldiers, they are on the other side of the barrier, but you can still see them through the fence which symbolises where the barrier will continue being built. You see the shebab gesturing and calling them, but they don’t responding to them, only with more and more teargas. Whenever I saw fire starting up across the field, things like settlers burning olive trees sprung to mind, but that is how hot teargas is. The soldiers don’t advance towards the protestors like they do in Bil’in, they remain stationary. Then again, this is my first Nil’in demonstration, so I could be wrong.

People who have been here longer than I have question why the soldiers seem to be more relaxed with demonstrators than usual. Not that they respect Ramadan or anything (though that may be the illusion they would like to set) but perhaps it relates to how much more intense things may become once September arrives? Nil’in- along with Nabi Saleh and various other villages- have experienced house raids during the night, for many nights in a row. Not just for a mere exercise of what power and control they have, but because “it is part of training for September,” suggested one local activist.

The best way I would describe the experience of tear gas, when it effects you, is that it is like rubbing chillies into your face and your eyes, and other parts of your flesh that is exposed. And then there’s the feeling that you want to vomit, you’re constantly spitting, you’re “crying” (well, they don’t call it tear gas for nothing!) and of course, you cannot see. Which is dangerous, considering you are on a hill covered in rocks and stones and are trying to get away from tear gas exploding a few meters away from you!

But if you thought that was bad….. some people were discussing “rumours” that the military wants to use tear gas that causes incontinence….. so if the feeling of having to puke in front of people wasn’t embarassing enough, then how about shitting yourself….. one Palestinian activist seemed confident that this could happen.

ANTI-WALL DEMONSTRATION IN WALAJEH, LAST SATURDAY: Now this one was more peaceful, but that doesn’t mean the soldiers aren’t twats. A local activist from the village called Sheerin gave a lecture on the hilltop to demonstrate/show the 2,000 dinnums (I think that’s the measurement, you do the maths :-P ) of land that would be confiscated by the continuing apartheid wall project. Many people who turned up- Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals were not demonstrating, but clearing up an abandoned building consisting of rocks that was erected and then abandoned in 1938, if I remember correctly….. Still, the soldiers are a few meters from you, standing above to monitor what we were up to. What a daunting feeling it is (not in a good way) to have men in khaki uniforms, sporting huge rifles coming in their numbers to watch what you are doing, but coming and going just to throw you off-guard a bit.

You have to turn up to demonstrations hours earlier, so as not to go through flying checkpoints. I didn’t have my passport with me, so they never saw my ID, but it turns out that I managed to enter the village in the end anyway. Phew!

THIS MONDAY: Me and a few other ISM-ers based in Hebron met up with a local who was going to show us the settlements. But it got cancelled for another day, and so as we were making our way back home, we encountered four soldiers, with their rifles poised walking in a single file fashion. Seemed strange. They entered a building, which looked to me to be a little too quiet and maybe even abandoned? We immediately started to film them and followed them, verbally confronting them all the way. With me, it is typical that I get my knickers in a twist when I confront these types of, err, people. I get kinda angry, GRRR.

They say, “You’re distracting us!” and they try to be diplomatic. Distracting them from what? Raiding a house full of dangerous equipment, like tea cups, matresses, a television….. Our presence coupled with them being filmed at the same time means they tell us to stay back, though we were doing nothing much, apart from questioning them.

An elderly woman emerged from the bathroom that she was using, she was interrupted by the soldiers. Her head was covered with a towel, too late to place her hijaab on. She was encouraging us to come closer as a soldier harassed her, but another inhabitant of the house was gesturing at us to go back.b The poor little grrrl hid behind her mother, seemed frightened :-( Initially, I did not know what to do, apart from see what the soldiers were up to. It was difficult, given that you do not know if that is what the family want. It is routine, they face this all the time, no stranger to arbitrary raids by the military. But I’m glad that we were welcomed into the home afterwards, for tea (“But isn’t it Ramadan?”) and they gave us whatever they had in their fridge, insisted on it! Very generous people, the Palestinians are. Can’t get over it! ^_^ I’m pleased that they appeared grateful that we tried to intervene….. I wonder, what would have been, were we not there, or if we were invisible?

Also on the same day, on our way to Sheikh Jarrah and walking up Salah Ad Din street to monitor the settlers, we encountered two young Palestinian men who owned a small stall near the markets, positioned near the kerb on the pavement. They weren’t working. Rather, they were being detained by three Israeli police (I don’t know exactly what their role is, but I would just say that they are between soldiers and police. That is at least how they look).

Of course we could not ignore it, so we questioned why they were being held, and couldn’t talk? I was told, “This is not your business!” Oh no….. militarist and very macho men shouldn’t tell a young queer feminist grrrl what her business is! He’s lucky I’m in ISM :-P Made me mad, and they were ridiculing us filming them. They were trying to come over all friendly, and make humour out of our concern for these young men being detained. But as such, they have no better way for them to respond than to trivialise how you feel by laughing it off. Wankers.

So, why were they being detained? One Israeli told me it because “they have no ID.” So apparantley having lack of, or no ID makes you a nobody, and they were going to be arrested and sent away. We refused to leave until we were sure these Israelis left the street, but only went a few meters away so we couldn’t see them (but we could, mwah-ha-ha-ha). One ISM-er said she saw them harassing other people on the streets as well.

This was late in the evening, when the fast was broken. These two young men were first approached by those Israelis when they were engaging in prayer. They were told to stop, and they began physically assaulting them, slapping their faces, taking their prayer mats etc. One of those young men, whilst being detained, was clearly very upset and crying. We never saw them being physically assaulted when we were present, so I guess those Israelis saw something of a good PR opportunity once we arrived and started to show concern.

Again, I don’t know whether it is right to stay and observe, in case the Palestinians do not agree with our presence. At the time, we couldn’t communicate with them.

Finally, they were “let off,” and one of them was taken to our ISM shit-proof tent in Sheikh Jarrah. They shook our hands, expressing their gratitude in Arabic and a little broken English.

I was in Sheikh Jarrah for two nights. Another ISM-er was there for four. He described how quiet it has been of late, in terms on the behaviour of the settlers. It varies, its not predictably. I mean, who would ever think of shit coming their way? :-/

Though usually frustrating, some evenings monitoring the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah can consist of just singing “Muslamic Ray Guns” over and over, devising strange chat-up lines that pervy settlers may use, and or course, very deep thought-provoking intellectual and philosophical discussion. Or playing guitar and singing “Old McDonald”, only this time “settlement” replaces “farm.”

I’ve just about managed to keep things together. It can be emotionally draining, and hard to feel radical when there are so many crazy things going on around you, and you can only do so much. Loads of people here have some kinda “guilt complex.”

So, I’m missing you’ll dearly. Noone said it was gonna be easy, I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be a breeze or anything. And with that, I would just say that solidarity with Palestine is not something that begins in Palestine, nor end in Palestine. We must carry it out wherever we are. So, I hope you are all causing and getting into the right amounts of trouble back in the UK! Fight on!

Sunday 21st August

Israeli troops invaded Hebron and arrested around 35-40 people this morning, from 1:30am in response to recent attacks. Those arrested included an elderly man, whose son has also been arrested. The Shabak were also present (domestic intelligence gatherers.) No other reports of similar arrests in the West Bank have yet been confirmed. This news came from other ISM-ers who happened to be on Twitter at the time, right up there in Nablus!

We were awoken by a phone call at around 2:30am, only to come out onto the streets of Hebron to find no military, no police and the like. The word on the street from locals who probably were witnesses was that the military were moving from one place to the next, so not that we could keep up or anything. Perhaps the military have now disappeared, though according to one report that was written at about 6am Israeli time (I’m guessing) the military are still about…..

Oh wait…. my mate’s on Twitter right now, and says that similar arrests have been taking place in Nablus and Bethlehem, esp[ecially at/near Aida refugee camp. So it hasn’t just been in Hebron.

We hope to complete a report on this later today, with interviews etc, the whole shebang.

And it is never bad enough, is it? Nearby Qiryat Arba, a settlement in Hebron, a young 17 year old Palestinian man was killed by settlers who were driving along and ran him over.

Occupation, fuck off.

Thursday 25th August

Maybe some of you have heard of it before, but I’ll put it up here just in case you haven’t:


Tomorrow is a very common day for local demonstrations to take place in the West Bank. Now, plans have it that many popular committees up and down the West Bank are coordinating actions from FOUR areas surrounding Jerusalem, to ease their way into the city and make way for Al-Aqsa Mosque.

These four entrances into Jerusalem- all of which will be expecting demontrators to be present- are….

NORTH- Qalandia
WEST- Biddu, a village located very closely to the Wall
EAST- Shufat
SOUTH- Bethlehem

I wanna tear down Qalandia checkpoint (metaphorically speaking. Gotta keep it safe on Facebook) so I’m planning with an affinity group of internationals to attend the demonstration in Qalandia. Some of us will be attending the demonstration in Bethlehem as well.

As we would expect, the Israeli military will be stepping up their game for this huge protest going through Qalandia, Bethlehem etc. Tear gas and sound bombs aren’t the only things I would expect being fired from them. Hmmm.

Oh alcohol wipes. The only type of alcohol that I like. Perfect for countering tear gas.

Roads from Ramallah to Qalandia will be closed, they know that this is coming. Looks set to be intense, Insh’Allah nothing dreadful will happen. I hope that the worst will only be arrests….. :-/

So, all eyes on Palestine, please!

Love and Rage, xxxxxx

Originally posted at

Friday, 27 May 2011


by the Grinch who stole Christmas ;-)

A common question when discussing the affairs of Israel and the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza is 'why do you criticise Israel so often in comparison with other states?' This question was most recently put to me by several Jewish students after the 'meet the zionists' talk organised by UofB JSoc. I had asked a simple question about the philosophical consistency of Zionism as a concept. It was politely worded and addressed to a good friend of mine on the panel. Yet when I leave several people gather around me to enquire as to why I have 'singled Israel out'. It's bizarre that they assumed I had, never having met me before. This is a bit offensive. No doubt in a way that wasn't intended, but offensive nonetheless. Either it is a direct accusation that I am a racist, which is not the kind of thing that people should go around accusing people of on non-existent evidence, or it is an assumption that I am too stupid to be able to see a broader conspiracy against Israel, which is still pretty insulting. Regardless, I think there are a few overarching reasons why I am particulalrly interested in reading about, and drawing critical attention to, Israel. Some of them are personal, some universal, but all entirely valid reasons. So, to all those curious, here's the answer the question 'why Israel'?

1) Israel is a democracy -

Ostensibly concerned with the ideals of democratic representation, Israel markets itself as 'the only democracy in the Middle East'. Democracy is a hard sell in much of the world, and it takes a hit when democracies act badly. As a liberal democracy with low-corruption and high-pluralism, Israel represents the governance ideals I stand for, so I have an interest in whether or not the 'only Middle Eastern democracy' acts morally.

2) Change is possible -

Given that Israel is a democracy with a free media, things like boycotts could potentially change policy. This is a tangible link between people in the UK and the Israeli state. The same cannot be said for North Korea, or some other random dictatorship, where my consumer action would have zero impact.

3) Israel has lots of very vocal supporters in this country -

It would be unusual for me to get into a row with a friend over her rabid support for Zanu-PF. That's probably because I tend not to come across that many Zimbabweans. However, there are lots of people around me posting facebook links to, having conversations about, and campaigning for Israel. Consequently, it's not in any way surprising that Israel gets discussed in my life, and the life of the average person in the UK, more than Zimbabwe.

4) Israel's human rights violations are pretty considerable -

I know that lots of people, certainly those to whom this note is directed, may well find this to be a simple half-truth, or a partisan 'narrative', or misleading, but you're just going to have to swallow it. Israel is in complete violation of the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice regarding the conditions of its occupation. That, even on its own, is justification for great attention to be given to Israel. Add to that the massively disproportionate kill ratio, exceeding 200:1 at times, seldom rivlled in non-genocide conflict in the modern period, and you've got a pretty hefty cause for concern. That's not singling out Israel, that's paying attention to a very serious conflict where one side is recurrently suffering huge losses.

5) Friends live there -

Through my years of debating at international competitions such as the World Championships, I have met friends who are Israeli. It's interesting to know what is going on in your friends' country.

6) It has parallels with other situations that gained worldwide attention and were ended during my lifetime –

With South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, you had a state with an ethnically divided population, one side with overwhelming power, distributed amongst a wide spectrum of beliefs, with the largest political representations of the black population committing acts of terrorism (hundreds of instances of ‘necklacing’, for example). There are quite clear, if imperfect, parallels.

7) My heritage is Irish -

This has parallels with the struggle for Irish independence and with the troubles in Northern Ireland.

8) Colonialism -

Israel was enabled through the colonialism of my country. As such, there is a moral connection that I feel with regard to its actions that I don't feel towards, say, Japan.

From the committee...

In response to the group of students who thought it was amusing to write the following message in chalk outside the library: “In 2008, 1400 Palestinians voted the log flume their favourite ride at Alton Towers”, remember this: We will never forget the 1,400 people that were massacred in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008, and we are determined to campaign for the human rights of the Palestinian people and to bring their oppressors to justice.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Israeli Apartheid.

The use of Apartheid to describe Israel is seen as very controversial but it really shouldn’t be. Two peoples live under Israeli sovereignty, Palestinians and Jews. The Palestinians are the majority but have no real self determination over any significant part of their lives. Depending on whether they live in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza they are subjected to differing levels of discrimination and oppression that denies their basic human rights and keeps them as second class subjects.

This fits exactly the both the ICSPCA (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid) and the ICC (International Criminal Court) definitions of Apartheid. The ICSPA definition states that the crime of Apartheid shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” The inhuman acts undeniably committed by Israel include (among others): murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment, denial to freedom of movement and residence, expropriation of landed property and Persecution of organizations and persons-by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms-because they oppose apartheid.[1]

Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC states "The crime of apartheid" means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime. The acts referred to in paragraph 1, committed by Israel, include (among others): murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law and torture[2].

The apartheid analogy is so accepted and applicable it is regularly used by figures within Israel, experts on international law and human rights, and figures on both sides of the fight to end South African Apartheid.

Israeli Society

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert writes: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories) the state of Israel is finished".

Another former Prime Minister Ehud Barack writes: "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Another former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been quoted as calling 'the Bantustan solution' as the most appropriate for dealing with the Palestinians.

David Ben-Gurion reportedly said on Israeli radio after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War that Israel would become an apartheid state if it did not "rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible[3]"

Israel's former Attorney General Michael Ben Yair has written that "Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one - progressive, liberal - in Israel; and the other - cruel, injurious - in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture."

Yossi Paritsky, former infrastructure minister wrote an article called “our Apartheid state"

Israel's former education minister Shulamit Aloni has saidthe state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population”.

Israeli newspapers like Haaretz constantly discuss and refer to the 'apartheid regime' in the occupied territories sometimes without even qualification[4].

Human rights and International Law

B’tselem (Israeli Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) "Israel has established in the Occupied Territories a separation cum discrimination regime, in which it maintains two systems of laws, and a person’s rights are based on his or her national origin. This regime is the only of its kind in the world, and brings to mind dark regimes of the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa."

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel has described the situation in the occupied West Bank as being "reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa."

Richard A. Falk reported to the General Assembly Third Committee "It is the opinion of the current Special Rapporteur that the nature of the occupation as of 2010 substantiates earlier allegations of colonialism and apartheid in evidence and law to a greater extent than was the case even three years ago. The entrenching of colonialist and apartheid features of the Israeli occupation has been a cumulative process. The longer it continues, the more difficult it is to overcome and the more serious is the abridgement of fundamental Palestinian rights."

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann has said Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were like "the apartheid of an earlier era," and that "We must not be afraid to call something what it is."

Jimmy Carter Has said on numerous occasions that “Israel’s apartheid policies are worse than South Africa’s”

Figures in the Apartheid Regime

Hendrik Verwoerd, former Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, said in 1961 that "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.[5]"

Former deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti recounts a meeting with an Apartheid official who compared Israeli-Palestinian relations to South African policy for the Transkei. When the Israelis expressed their shock he said "I understand your reaction. But aren't we actually doing the same thing? We are faced with the same existential problem; therefore we arrive at the same solution. The only difference is that yours is pragmatic and ours is ideological."[6]

F.W de Klerk former and last Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa wrote “what apartheid originally wanted to achieve is what everybody now says is the solution for Israel and Palestine”

Anti-Apartheid Activists

Desmond Tutu condemns “Apartheid in the Holy Land” along with prominent activists Ronnie Kasrils, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Dennis Goldberg and Arun Ghandhi Arun Ghandi (Mahatma’s grandson) said “When I come here and see the situation [in the Palestinian territories], I find that what is happening here is ten times worse than what I had experienced in South Africa. This is Apartheid"

Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of South Africa says that conditions for the Palestinians are "worse than conditions were for Blacks under the Apartheid regime." The South African Government has on two separate occasions condemned Israeli Apartheid.

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) released a 300 page report indicating that Israel is “practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Its executive summary states that “Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three 'pillars' of apartheid.”

· The first pillar "derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews".

· The second pillar is reflected in "Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians".

· The third pillar is "Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group."

John Dugard (regarded as the father of human rights in South Africa) wrote an extensive report to the UN on human rights in the OPT, concluding that there is "an apartheid regime in the territories worse than the one that existed in South Africa.". After establishing multitudinous human rights abuses by the Israeli authorities he writes: “Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.”

Criticisms of the Apartheid analogy usually take one of two forms. Either they just focus on the undeniable differences[7] between Israel and Apartheid South Africa without acknowledging the similarities or the legal definition of Apartheid. Or they try to remove the occupied territories from the equation and just talk about Palestinians within Israel. The problem with this is that Israel doesn’t (and has never) had any plans to give real self determination to the Palestinians. The policies pursued by Israel since 1967 establish and maintain domination by one racial group of persons over another racial group of persons and systematically oppress them. The failure of the international community to punish Israel for its repeated violations of international law, including the crime of apartheid, necessitates us to take action.

[2] See above.

[5] The linked articles are reports about the collusion between Apartheid South Africa and Israel. That are well worth reading for themselves.

[6] Benvenisti, Meron, Conflicts and Contradictions, New York: Villard Books, 1986. p. 112

[7] It is true that there are significant differences between Israel and South Africa, but apartheid regimes need not be exactly the same for them to be categorised as such, only that there exists a systematic regime of one racial group dominating another. There is a key difference between Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid, the motive behind them. In South Africa the whites were dependent on the black population for their labour but did not want to give equal rights. However Israel does not want to exploit the Palestinians as such; it wants them out so as to maintain the "Jewishness" of the state, the same reason why it expelled the majority of the non-Jewish population of Palestine in 1948. As the editor-in-chief of the South African Sunday Times Mondli Makhanya wrote in July 2008 "It seems to me that the Israelis would like the Palestinians to disappear. There was never anything like that in our case. The whites did not want the blacks to disappear." But placing people under harsh military rule with no civil or social rights because they're Arabs whilst another people living on the same land live under Israeli civil law and receive generous state subsidies because they're Jews is still apartheid regardless of the reasons.