Thursday, March 31, 2011

on The Escalation: The Dance with Fire

From blogger Alex Keller in Israel...

How exactly did the escalation start? Even though it happened only last week, it is by no means clear exactly how it started. Commentators argue about who was the first to shoot and who responded, and why, and just who wanted it (if at all anyone really wanted it, on either side of the border).
Alex Fishman, military commentator for Yediot Ahronot, who disposes of very good sources within the army, wrote a week ago a detailed and rather critical description under the headline "You told us to shoot – we shoot":
"It began accidentally, with a miscalculation, an excessive reaction to the shooting of a Qassam missile, which threatens to develop into a new comprehensive conflict. Now both sides already start pasting unto this chain of events their whole series of weighty political and security arguments. Both sides heat themselves up and lead Gaza towards an uncontrolled explosion. The army has in store a whole armory of retaliations to retaliations to retaliations and so on. (...)
The aggressive message sent down from the cabinet was well absorbed in the army – from now on, there should be a smashing response to each event. After a Qassam missile fired by an ephemeral group landed in an open field , the IDF struck at Netzarim, killing two Hamas militants, one of them apparently a senior member. Someone in the Southern Command went a step too far in translating the instructions of the political leadership - . - "You told us to shoot – we shoot".(...)
The army was waiting for a response, and hoping that also this time it will be limited to the shooting of some anti-tank missile. On Friday, the IDF was on alert because of the fog that prevailed in the area. Then, Hamas and Jihad opened up with 120mm mortars, aimed at six locations within Israel - with an emphasis on military camps. The IDF responded by firing rockets, mortars and tank guns at predetermined targets. At noon, when the fog dispersed, assault helicopters also went into action. The Dance of Fire started."
So wrote Alex Fishman on the pages of Yediot Ahronot last Sunday (March 20). On the following days, the Dance of Fire spun faster and faster, and the missiles fell at Be'er Sheva and Ashdod, and the pupils stayed home in fear for their lives in un-fortified shool buildings. Politicians competed with each other in crying out for war and war and war to the bitter end. In the Sajaya neighborhood of Gaza, four members of the Hilo Family were killed when an Israeli shell landed on their house by mistake. Sure, it was an unfortunate mistake by the army. As they explained, they had used an inaccurate mortar system because at that moment the more accurate system was not available. And the Government of Israel was quick to express its regret about the harm to innocents, but its expressions of sorrow were not really well received in Gaza where TV repeatedly broadcasted photos of the body of the 11-year-old Mohammed Jihad Al-Hilo who was killed by the shell. And the next day a bomb exploded on a crowded street in Jerusalem, killing a Christian British woman who came to Jerusalem to learn Hebrew so as to better translate the Bible to an African tongue, and some thirty-passers-by were wounded, some of whom would bear the scars long after we have all forgotten this incident. And banner headlines in Israel's newspapers said that Terrorism had come baack after a long absence, and horrible scenes were depicted on huge photographs of the scene of the attack, and politicians outdid themselves in competing with each other to make cries of war and war and war to the bitter end. And the army went on to kill more Palestinians in Gaza, and since these were confirmed as having been terrorists the government expressed no regret for killing them and in fact took some pride in it.
And in Yediot Aharonot, Alex Fishman played a quite different tune from that in his own article earlier in the week: "The army is pushing for an escalation. In a policy briefing held yesterday morning with the Prime Minister, the army manifested a very combative attitude. As the army sees it, an all-out confrontation with the Hamas government at Gaza is almost preordained. If not now, it will happen in another year or two. Unless we act today, we will pay the price for going gradually into the escalation. Israel, says the army, should restore its deterrence, which has been eroded since the days of "Cast Lead". We should have struck hard at Hamas already a month ago, when the Grad rocket came down on Beersheba for the first time. Now the blow must be even more painful. If not an overwhelming military strike, or a partial ground operation, the obvious next step on the scale of violence should be a return to the era of targeted killing of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships. In the IDF's view, this would be the most effective move, speaking the language which the Palestinian leadership understands best. "
So spoke – as of Wednesday, March 23 - Alex Fishman, the man who already for many years serves as an unofficial army spokesman.
"In the IDF's view, this would be the most effective move, speaking the language which the Palestinian leadership understands best." The problem is that this language was spoken quite often before, and where did it lead us?Posted by Adam Keller אדם קלר at 1:17 PM

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

counterpunch article

Israel's Latest Racist Laws
Who is Annexing Whom?

IN A rare late-night session, the Knesset has finally adopted two obnoxious racist laws. Both are clearly directed against Israel’s Arab citizens, a fifth of the population.

The first makes it possible to annul the citizenship of persons found guilty of offences against the security of the state. Israel prides itself on having a great variety of such laws. Annulling citizenship on such grounds is contrary to international law and conventions.

The second is more sophisticated. It allows communities of less than 400 families to appoint “admission committees” which can prevent unsuitable persons from living there. Very shrewdly, it specifically forbids the rejection of candidates because of race, religion etc. – but that paragraph is tantamount to a wink. An Arab applicant will simply be rejected because of his many children or lack of military service.

A majority of members did not bother to show up for the vote. After all, it was late and they have families, too. Who knows, some may even have been ashamed to vote.

But far worse is a third law that is certain to pass its final stages within a few weeks: the law to outlaw the boycott of the settlements.

* * *

SINCE ITS early stages, the original crude text of this bill has been refined somewhat.

As it stands now, the law will punish any person or association publicly calling for a boycott of Israel – economic, academic or cultural. “Israel”, according to this law, means any Israeli enterprise or person, in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel. Simply put: it is all about the settlements. And not only about the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was initiated by Gush Shalom some 13 years ago, but also about the recent refusal of actors to perform in the settlement of Ariel and the call by academics not to support the so-called University Center there. It also applies, of course, to any call for the boycott of an Israeli university or an Israeli commercial enterprise.

This is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation: it is anti-democratic, discriminatory, annexationist, and altogether unconstitutional.

* * *

EVERYBODY HAS the right to buy or not to buy whatever he or she desires, from whomsoever he or she chooses. That is so obvious that it needs no confirmation. It is a part of the right to free expression guaranteed by any constitution worth its salt, and an essential element of a free market economy.

I may buy from the store on the corner, because I like the owner, and shun the supermarket opposite, which exploits its employees. Companies expend huge sums of money to convince me to buy their products rather than others.

What about ideologically motivated campaigns? Years ago, while on a visit to New York, I was persuaded not to buy grapes produced in California, because the owners oppressed the Mexican migrant workers. This boycott went on for a long time and was – if I remember right – successful. Nobody dared to suggest that such boycotts should be outlawed.

Here in Israel, rabbis of many communities regularly paste up posters calling upon their flock not to buy at certain shops, which they believe are not kosher, or not kosher enough. Such calls are commonplace.

Such publications are fully compatible with human rights. Citizens for whom pork is an abomination, have the right to be informed about which shops sell pork and which do not. As far as I know, no one in Israel has ever contested this right.

Sooner or later, some anti-religious groups will publish calls to boycott kosher shops, which pay the rabbis - some of them the most intolerant of their kind – heavy levies for their certificates. They support a vast religious establishment that openly advocates turning Israel into a “Halakha state” – the Jewish equivalent of a Muslim “Shari’a state”. Many thousands of Kashrut supervisors and myriads of other religious functionaries are paid for by the largely secular public.

So what about an anti-rabbinical boycott? It can hardly be forbidden, since religious and anti-religious are guaranteed equal rights.

SO IT appears that not all ideologically motivated boycotts are wrong. Nor do the initiators of this particular bill – racists of the Lieberman school, Likud rightists and Kadima “centrists” – claim this. For them, boycotts are only wrong if they are directed against the nationalist, annexationist policies of this government.

Full Article

"No to Boycott, Yes to Suicide"

Excerpts from a Haaretz article by Moshe Shoked, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Tel Aviv University. It was published in Hebrew and translated by Ofer Naiman.

The Knesset is entitled to believe that the entire world is against us, and make laws in that spirit, but in the Middle East's only democracy, one is still allowed to argue that the state is committing suicide.

It is hard not to recall the 1930s and 1940s, when another great nation took its own life under a mad vision of border expansion. And the most terrible aspect of this is that before Berlin was destroyed, Germany's leaders, as well as the majority of its citizens, had not turned their backs on the insanity of the Greater Germany dream. Like the postcards circulated by the protagonists of Hans Fallada's book, "Alone in Berlin", my articles, and articles written by others, are disturbing the peace of the real patriots, the believers in the divine promise to Abraham, those who distort the lessons of the Holocaust, and the silent majority sheepishly following the vacuous, frightening slogans of the right wing.

...As part of the nationalist education at our schools, we lead our youth on expeditions to the killing furnaces of Poland, for the upkeep of the belief in our right way, and we lead them on visits to the tombs of our ancient patriarchs in Nablus and Hebron, to reaffirm the mythological right.

We have managed to coerce US President Barack Obama into making a fool of himself for us, in front of the whole world. Who will not believe now that the world is indeed ruled by Elders of Zion languishing on heaps of dollars, which serve them in the moving and shaking of the globe? Who will not look forward eagerly to the day when the Jewish lobby's power is eroded, and its "Zionist extension", guarding its patriarchs' tombs is left abandoned, exposed to the vengeance of its enemies?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

Today the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans sang the Armed Man: A Mass for Peace at the Holy Names Cathedral at Loyola University. The intensity of the piece kept hitting me as I heard it from the ears of a new audience. I got goosebumps when we sang the last line of Torches, and I was so happy to sing Better is Peace, as if we'd actually been through the war and it was finally over. I kept watching the people in the pews and wondering what they thought of the wars being fought now, and how much potential we had to make the end of our piece a reality. There's a question to keep pondering, in the meantime, check out the mass:

The Armed Man (medieval popular song)
The armed man is to be feared;
We must all protect ourselves with an iron coat of mail!

Call to Prayers (Adhaan)
God is Great
I bear witness that there is no God but the One God
I bear Witness that Mohammad is the Messenger of God
Make haste towards prayer
Make haste towards salvation
God is Great
There is no God but the One God

Kyrie (Catholic mass)
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Save Me from Bloody Men (Psalm 59)
Be merciful unto me, O God.
For man would swallow me up.
He fighting daily oppresseth me.
Mine enemies would daily swallow me up.
For they be many that fight against me.
O thou most high.
Defend me from them that rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from bloody men.

Sanctus (Catholic mass)
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Sabaoth!
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory--Hosanna in the highest!

Hymn Before Action (Rudyard Kipling)
The earth is full of anger, The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness Go up against out path:
Ere yet we loose the legions Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders, Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and fro-ward bearing, Proud heart, rebellious brow
Deaf ear and soul uncaring, We seek They mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee, The fool that pssed thee by,
Our times are known before Thee, Lord grant us strength to die!

Charge! (John Dreyden/Jonathan Swift)
The trumpets loud Clangor Excites us to Arms, excites us to Arms,
With shrill notes of anger and mortal alarms, of anger and mortal alarms
How blest is he who for his country dies, who for his country dies?
The double, double beat of the thundering drum,
Cries Hark! The foes come. Hark! The foes come,
Charge 'tis, too late, too late to retreat,

Angry Flames (Toge Sankichi)
Pushing up through smoke
From a world half darkened by overhanging cloud,
The shroud that mushroomed out
And struck the dome of the sky,
Black, red, blue, Dance in the air,
Scatter glittering sparks already tower OVER THE WHOLE CITY.
Quivering like seaweed
The mass of flames spurts forward.
Popping up in the dense smoke,
Crawling out
Wreathed in fire,
Countless human beings on all FOURS
In a heap of embers that erupt and subside,
Hair rent,
Rigid in DEATH
There smolders a curse.

Torches (The Mahabharata)
The animals scattered in all direcgtions,
Screaming terrible screams.
Many were burning, others were butnt,
All were shattered and scattered mindlessly,
Their eyes bulging,
Some hugged their sons,
Others their fathers and mothers,
Unable to let them go,
And so they died.
Others leapt up in their thousands, faces disfigured
And were consumed by the fire,
Everywhere were bodies sqirming on the ground,
Wings, eyes and paws all burning,
They breathed their last as living torches.

Agnus Dei (Catholic mass)
Lamb of God, who taest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us; Grant us peace.

Now the Guns Have Stopped (Guy Wilson)
Silent, so silent, now,
Now the guns have stopped.
I have survived all,
I who knew I would not.
But now you are not here.
I shall go home, alone;
And must try to live life as before
And hide my grief
For you, my dearest friend,
Who should be with me now,
Not cold, too soon,
And in your grave,

Benedictus (Catholic mass)
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosannah in the highest.

Better is Peace (Mallory/Anon/Tennyson/Revelations 21:4)
Better is peace than always war,
And better is peace than evermore war.

The armed man is to be feared;
We must all protect ourselves with an iron coat of mail!

Ring out the thousand wars of old.
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring happy bells across the snow.
The year is going, let him go,

Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valient man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand.
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
The year is going, let him go,
Ring out the false, ring in the true!

God shall wipe away all tears
And there shall be no more death,
Neither sorrow not crying,
Neither shall there be anymore pain.
Praise the Lord.
Starting this fall, I'll be going to the demonstrations in Bil'in/Nabi Saleh every Friday. Bil'in is very supportive of Nabi Saleh, as they undergo many of the same hardships: night raids, arrests of minors, detention of prominent organizers--Bil'in's Abdullah Abu Rahma was just released after serving 15 months for incitement, and a few days ago the IDF stormed the house of Nabi Saleh's Bassem Tamimi, the coordinator of the Nabi Saleh Popular Committee, hitting his wife and daughter in an attempt to seize their cameras during his arrest. Aside from being illegal, unethical, and well, a little fascist, it's just impractical. Does anyone really believe that arresting non-violent activists for incitement will have anything but an inciting effect?

Joseph Dana-Waves of Arrests in Weekly Nabi Saleh Demonstrations

Only a day after the arrest of Bassem Tamimi, the coordinator of the village’s popular committee, the IDF has escalated its attempts to suppress protest in Nabi Saleh. During the early hours of the morning, long before the weekly demonstration began, large groups of Israeli soldiers and Border Police deployed on the three roads leading into Nabi Saleh, and in the groves surrounding the village, bringing movement in and out of the village to a standstill. Three Israeli activists were detained in the groves as they tried to march, despite the siege ... When the demonstration began, protesters skirted the soldiers by walking between the houses, and managed to reach the road leading to the spring threatened by settler takeover. When the soldiers noticed the march peacefully heading towards the spring, they immediately opened fire at it, shooting tear-gas projectiles directly at the crowd.

The following article in YNet describes the organization of the Nabi Saleh demonstrations as semi-militaristic and funded by the Palestinian Authority and foreign sources. It's so disheartening to read the comments on YNet and see that people actually believe this garbage.

YNet-Secrets of Nabi Saleh protests

Left-wing activist Jonathan Pollack said, "It is intriguing that the police forgot to mention that the wild tales described in the article are all based on the testimony of a fourteen year-old boy who was taken from his bed in the dark of night and on gunpoint, beaten by the soldiers and then interrogated the morning after without being allowed sleep. It is even more fascinating that the police forgot to mention that it has already been proved in court that the boy was questioned in absence of his parents, albeit obliged by law, was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was denied legal consul.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On World Water Day, support the academic boycott call

I didn't recognize her name until I got to the end of this article, but I met Susan last fall at the Middle East Film Fest. She was on a solo speaking tour, talking about her experience working with LifeSource in the West Bank.

Full article by Susan Koppelman and Nidal Hatim

Palestinian water rights denied

Israel prevents Palestinians from developing normal water infrastructure and from continuing to use the natural resources that Palestinians have been using for centuries. According to consumption figures from the Israeli Hydrological Service and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Palestinians are limited to merely 17 percent of the water under the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, even though more than 80 percent of the rain that recharges the shared groundwater falls over the West Bank. Israelis consume on average more than 3.5 times as much water per capita than Palestinians (see B'Tselem, "The gap in water consumption between Palestinians and Israelis"). Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley export water-intensive crops to Europe, virtually exporting an amount of water equal to about one quarter of the total amount of water that 2.5 million Palestinians have for domestic purposes, agriculture and industry -- while many Palestinians survive on just twenty liters of water per person per day! Meanwhile, springs located amid Palestinian farmland between Palestinian villages continue to be stolen by illegal Israeli settlers with the support of the Israeli military, such as those at Nabi Saleh in the northern Ramallah district and Wadrahal in the Bethlehem district, just to name two recent examples where the theft is current or only recently transpired.

Discriminatory policies in wastewater infrastructure development are also appalling, and particularly relevant to understanding why we are getting behind this call on the University of Johannesburg to terminate its cooperation with Ben-Gurion University.

The biggest obstacle to wastewater treatment in the West Bank is Israeli negotiators, Israeli policy-makers and the Israeli military. The Palestinian Authority has funds ready from the international donor community for the development of wastewater infrastructure, the plans are ready, everything is ready -- but Israeli permission is denied. Even one time, in a 15-year window, when Israeli permission was given for the Salfit Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Israeli military interfered and shut down the project (see World Bank, "Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development" [PDF]). Israel paid the German contractors an apology worth one million shekels for shutting down the project after it had been fully permitted. Meanwhile, the rest of the wastewater projects applied for from 1996 on, still were not permitted by 2010, again, despite millions of dollars of funds at the ready, leaving only one completed wastewater treatment facility in the West Bank, one that was built in the tiny window after the Oslo accords before the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee was formed.

Today in Gaza, Israel's blockade is preventing the import of building materials, spare parts and energy needed for even the most basic treatment of wastewater. Even PVC for the pipe factory is prohibited. Chemicals for desalinating the brackish water that comes from the ground are prohibited. Several sewage basins built as a project of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Rafah, along Gaza's southern border with Egypt, were lined with slabs from the cement wall that once existed along the border between Gaza and Egypt and which was dismantled when Hamas came to power. In Beit Lahiya, in the north of the Gaza Strip, a foreseeable collapse of a sewage basin caused five residents of the village Umm al-Nasser to drown to death in sewage, because materials needed were denied entry despite desperate calls on Israel from local authorities and the UN to avert this disaster. The UN and other agencies continue to invest hundreds upon thousands of hours in negotiating with Israeli authorities for the entrance of certain priority materials, including the most basic spare parts and building supplies needed for safe water and sewage infrastructure.

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, despite paying equal or higher taxes (for not serving in the army), sewage infrastructure is not a given. Some Palestinian neighborhoods of Lydd, for example, do not have basic sewage pipes, while Jewish Israelis who have moved to the city in recent years receive necessary sewage infrastructure.

Boycotting Israel ... from within

Israelis explain why they joined the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement by Mya Guarnieri

'Renouncing my privileges'

Ronnie Barkan, 34, explains that he took his first step towards the boycott 15 years ago, when he refused to complete his mandatory military service.

"There's a lot of social pressure [in Israel]," Barkan says. "We're raised to be soldiers from kindergarten. We're taught that it's our duty [to serve in the army] and you're a parasite or traitor if you don't want to serve."

"What is even worse is that people are raised to be deeply racist," he adds. "Everything is targeted at supporting [Jewish] privilege as the masters of the land. Supporting BDS means renouncing my privileges in this land and insisting on equality for all."

Barkan likens his joining of the boycott movement to the "whites who denounced their apartheid privileges and joined the black struggle in South Africa".

When I cringe at the "a-word," apartheid, Barkan counters: "Israel clearly falls under the legal definition of the 'crime of apartheid' as defined in the Rome Statute."

'Never again to anybody'

Some oppose BDS because it includes recognition of the Palestinian right of return. These critics say that the demographic shift would impinge on Jewish self-determination. But Barkan argues that "the underlying foundation [of the movement] is universally recognised human rights and international law".

He emphasises that BDS respects human rights for both Palestinians and Jews and includes proponents of a bi-national, democratic state as well as those who believe a two-state solution is the best answer to the conflict.

He also stresses that BDS is not anti-Semitic. Nor is it anti-Israeli.

"The boycott campaign is not targeting Israelis; it is targeting the criminal policies of Israel and the institutions that are complicit, not individuals," he says.

"So let's say an Israeli academic or musician goes abroad and he is turned away from a conference or a venue just because he's Israeli ... " I begin to ask.

"No, no, this doesn't fall under the [boycott guidelines]," Barkan says.

"Because that's not a boycott. It's racism," I say.

"Exactly," Barkan responds, adding that the Palestinian call for BDS is "a very responsible call" that "makes a differentiation between institutions and individuals and it is clearly a boycott of criminal institutions and their representatives".

"Whenever there is a grey area," he adds, "we take the gentler approach."

Still, Barkan has faced criticism for his role in the boycott movement.

"My grandmother who went to Auschwitz tells me, 'You can think whatever you want but don't speak up about your politics because it's not nice,' I tell her, 'You know who didn't speak up 70 years ago.'"

Barkan adds: "I think that the main lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is 'never again to anybody' not 'never again to the Jews.'"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jordan Vally Blues

This is a documentary by an organization called Life Source, which monitors water distribution in the West Bank.

Did you know that Israeli settlers get 73 times more water per person than Palestinians in the West Bank? Al Aqaba, mentioned below, hasn't received permission from the Israeli government to build a pipe system, so it has to buy its water from Israel. I'll be taking some short showers.

Jordan Valley Blues

Water is a Life Source: The View from the West Bank by Nicky Elliot
A few miles south of where we catch our breath, the situation for farmers is even worse. Residents of the Jordan Valley once labelled the ‘vegetable basket’ of Palestine, have to contend with serious and increasing obstacles to water access. In many villages, such as Al Aqaba, there is no pipe system to serve the residents or the agriculture they rely on. In order to have such an extravagant infrastructure as running water the residents must apply for permits: permission is regularly denied without reason. Instead of piped water, they must buy tanks of water from the Israeli company Merkolat at inflated prices (as well as paying a high fee to transport the water). Agriculture then, is a costly business to get into in the Jordan Valley. Meanwhile, nearby settlements thrive (and where business is tough massive government subsidies ease financial concerns) and when the summer months roll in the residents will enjoy well-watered lawns and swimming pools.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My choir is performing on Sunday!

New Orleans Symphony Chorus presents
Karl Jenkins'
The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace
Holy Name Cathedral, Loyola University
Sunday, March 26
$20 general public, $10 for students

With the help of Rebuilding Alliance, I'm going to be teaching in Al Aqaba next year.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

UJ ENDS ISRAELI LINKS - Historic moment for boycott of Israel movement

Today, setting a worldwide precedent in the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has effectively severed ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).

This was after UJ’s Senate rejected a last ditch motion by pro-Israeli lobbyists to have two separate bilateral agreements - one with a Palestinian University and another with an Israeli University. UJ chose instead to uphold its previous Senate Resolution that required taking leadership from Palestinian universities. Palestinian universities unanimously rejected any collaboration with BGU (in any form) and have come out in full support of the the academic boycott of Israel. UJ chose to respect this.

UJ is the first institution to officially sever relations with an Israeli university - a landmark moment in the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel campaign. Throughout the campaign, academics and international human rights activists have been anticipating this decision. This boycott decision, coming from a South African institution, is of particular significance. This has set a precedent and must start a domino boycott effect!

The movement to end ties with BGU was boosted by the overwhelming support given to the UJ Petition ( - a statement and campaign in support of UJ academics and students who were calling on their university to end its apartheid-era relationship with BGU. As the UJ senate met today, over 400 South African academics, including nine Vice-Chancellors and Deputy Vice-Chancellors, had signed the UJ Petition.

Included in the list of supporters are some of South Africa’s leading voices: Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana and Sampie Terreblanche. South Africa's popular cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Bishop Rubin Phillips, former Minister Ronnie Kasrils and leading social activist Zackie Achmat also backed the campaign.

Further, over 100 internationals began to lend their support, including several prominent international scholars: Professors Judith Butler, Vijay Prashad, Michael Burawoy, Wendy Brown, Ernesto Laclau, and acclaimed British author, John Berger.

Today UJ has made history by upholding and advancing academic moral integrity. Palestinians, South Africans and the international academic and solidarity community celebrate this decisive victory in isolating Israeli apartheid and supporting freedom, dignity and justice for the Palestinian people. UJ now continues the anti-apartheid movement - against Apartheid Israel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tikkun Daily Blog-The Right of Return for New Orleanians and Palestinians: An Interview With Jordan Flaherty

Jordan Flaherty is the author of Floodlines: Community Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six.

How did you get involved in the struggle for justice in Palestine and what connections do you see to the struggle for justice in New Orleans?

In the late 90’s, I started following news of what was happening in Palestine, and I felt like I couldn’t understand what was happening without going there. I first went in 2001. Even for someone who is as cynical about our media as I am about the US government, I was still really shocked by the difference between what was reported in the US and the reality on the ground that Palestinians face. I was also really inspired by the struggle that has been going on there for decades and the many ways in which people have shown resistance. I found the courage and friendliness that people show while under this brutal occupation really incredible.

Since living in New Orleans, I have also been really inspired by the history of struggle here. There’s this Arabic word, Somoud, or steadfastness, that really applies to the struggle of Palestinians and New Orleanians, particularly post-Katrina. It conveys the idea that the very heart of the struggle is the struggle to exist in the face of displacement against incredible odds. As Mazin Qumsiyeh has said, simple acts like getting married, going to school, or reading a book become acts of resistance under occupation.

Similarly, in New Orleans, after Katrina, various obstacles were put in place to stop working class African Americans from returning to New Orleans. Exclusionary systems like the criminal justice system and the housing system discouraged folks from returning. Yet when I talked to people, over and over again, they would express that they returned to New Orleans as an act of resistance. One New Orleanian, referring to their desire to return and rebuild, said “they’ve underestimated the determination of people like me to resist to our last breath.”

Monday, March 21, 2011


I just watched a documentary on Netflix called Defamation. It was made by Yoav Shamir, an Israeli filmmaker who walks around candidly interviewing figures like Abe Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, Norman Finkelstein, John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby, and Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom, to name a few. The only word to describe that film would be tense, whether it was between bitter rivals (Foxman and Finkelstein, oh my goodness), or a couple having a discreet, but intense debate just inches from the camera. The source of this tension was an argument that was easy to boil down: Is anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism the same thing? The Anti-Defamation League says yes. Anti-Zionists like Finkelstein, Mearsheimer and Avnery say no, there is nothing anti-Jewish about criticizing Israel.

This distinction is important when regarding the work of an organization like the ADL, says Uri Avnery, the founder of Gush Shalom: "The ADL isn't fighting anti-Semitism, they're fighting criticism of Israel." One rabbi from Brooklyn also told Yoav that he distrusted information coming from people who make a career out of blood or hatred. That if finding hatred is their job, they must provoke the very thing they're fighting. "And now I'm on the ADL blacklist, and Abe Foxman won't come to my house for dinner, but what can you do...." That didn't sound like a light confession....

The most intense part of the film was when Yoav accompanied a class of Israeli high schoolers on a trip to Poland to see the concentration camps. They were protected by a secret service agent who told them that Poland was full of anti-Semites and they shouldn't leave the hotel at night because it was a hostile place for Jews. Hearing these kids talk so non-chalantly about how hated they are was just heartbreaking. It made me so angry at the adults who were instilling all that fear. And it's terrifying to think they're about to join the army with that mindset.

But I understand why the obsession with anti-Semitism is so strong. If it can't be used to explain acts of violence against Israel, then the justification for Israel would slowly get chipped away. The teacher on the school trip confessed to Yoav after the students visited Auschwitz that Israel would never have a normal people if it continued to live so close to the dead, and that was Yoav's ending theme, that it was counterproductive to keep young generations stuck in the past, that now was the time to look forward.

So that was Defamation. Yoav's earlier work is called Checkpoint, where he just videotaped Israeli checkpoints and compiled his footage into an 80-minute documentary. I could only watch a few minutes, but it's worth seeing...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The U.S. Boat to Gaza, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, is committed to breaking the siege of Gaza by sailing a U.S. flagged ship in the International Freedom Flotilla this May. Around the country thousands of people have been contributing, organizing, fundraising, and preparing to support THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. Not everyone can sail on the boat, but you all are just as much a part of the campaign as the passengers and the crew.

We are happy to announce the launch of an exciting new effort
-- To Gaza with Love -- to collect letters from people in the
U.S. to the people of Gaza. Your letters will be precious cargo on
the ship.

THE AUDACITY OF HOPE will challenge the complicity of the U.S. government in the isolation and imprisonment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. We are committed to breaking our government's support of the brutal Israeli military and policies of "delegitimizing" Palestine and destroying Palestinian life. This campaign will add to those voices actively breaking the silence and confronting the lies and distortions.

The blockade is not just a blockade on goods, but also on human contact and communication. Your personal message will reach people who have literally been imprisoned by the Israeli siege and blockade. Your letters will build solidarity and make a human connection. They will convey our dedication to ending the Israeli occupation, and the liberation of Palestine guided by international law, justice and human rights.

Already mothers, farmers, teachers, students, cab drivers and artists are writing. Whether it's a letter from a U.S. mother to a mother in Gaza, a child in the U.S. to a child in Gaza, or letters from students, teachers, business people, religious leaders to their counterparts in Gaza, the siege cannot withstand the power of our words to break through.

Alice Walker talked about the radical power of love to create change. The campaign To Gaza with Love allows you and thousands of other people to be part of that change.

Please write your letter today.

To participate in To Gaza with Love

- Write a letter and then encourage your friends and family to join this collective action of friendship and solidarity with the Palestinian people.

- Organize letter writing parties in your home, school or place of worship.

- You can simply write a few lines on a postcard, a few paragraphs on paper or a card, or film a short video clip.

- Be creative. The only restriction is we need to be able to get it to Gaza. If you do a sculpture or a wall mural, you will have to send us a picture, not the real thing.

Where to Send Letters

Letters To Gaza
119 West 72nd Street
New York, New York 10023

How We Will Share These Letters

When THE AUDACITY OF HOPE sails, your letters and messages will be part of its cargo. Meanwhile, we will send some of these messages right away and make them public through Twitter, Facebook, on our website, and in statements to the press. We'd also like to archive them and create an exhibit or book.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ahmad Habash is a Palestinian film maker and animator. I just saw his short film, Fatenah, about a woman in Gaza who gets diagnosed with breast cancer and has to confront the lack of good medical treatment in Gaza, along with the heavy restrictions placed on travel out of Gaza by the Israeli military. I remember seeing soldiers like that in the West Bank. When you're shoved and gassed and sound-bombed, It's so easy to hate them. Then you remember that they are the ones most dehumanized by the occupation, like our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that's the saddest thing.

Anyways, Habash does some great animation/sand art. Check it out.

From the Memory of the Sand

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Move Over AIPAC

CODEPINK is having a conference/rally on the weekend AIPAC is having their annual policy meeting in Washington D.C. If you look at the list of special guests you'll see "clown doctor Patch Adams." He's been to Gaza! Go Patch!


“No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from the American national interest… while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.”
– John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby, keynote speakers at Move Over AIPAC gathering May 21-24

As we cheer on historic people’s uprisings across the Arab world, the Israeli government and The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), its lobbying arm here in the United States, are increasingly worried. This week Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Israel may ask for an additional $20 billion in military aid—over and above the $3 billion a year Israel already receives—in order to “prepare for possible threats.”

Are they kidding? Enough is enough. U.S. taxpayers have been supporting the Israeli government’s illegal settlements, siege of Gaza, and abuses of Palestinians in large part because our Congress is beholden to the AIPAC lobby. It’s time to break the AIPAC stranglehold.

From May 21 to 24, 2011, in Washington DC, join CODEPINK, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a coalition of over 80 organizations at an historic gathering called "Move Over AIPAC: Building a New US Middle East Policy."

It is timed to coincide with the annual policy meeting of AIPAC, which will feature Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, members of the Obama administration and hundreds of members of Congress.

Our Move Over AIPAC gathering will expose the lobby's negative influence on U.S. policy and promote an alternative approach that respects the rights of all people in the region. We’ll provide trainings, workshops, press conferences, book signings, cultural events, and culminate with peaceful, creative protests outside the AIPAC convention itself. Our keynote speakers include The Israel Lobby authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, writer Alice Walker, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, authors Nadia Hijab and Phyllis Bennis, Palestinian blogger Laila El Haddad, Jewish Voice for Peace Director Rebecca Vilkomerson, peacemakers Cindy and Craig Corrie, Israeli researcher Dalit Baum, clown doctor Patch Adams, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, union organizer Bill Fletcher, human rights advocate Anna Baltzer, and many more!

Register today to join us in DC! Plus, sign up here and RSVP on facebook. Spaces are limited and will fill up quickly, so sign up today!

Let’s also stop the Israeli government from getting more of our scarce tax dollars. Tell your Congressional representative to stop military aid to Israel and use the money to fund green jobs, schools, and healthcare here at home!

With renewed resolve for peace and justice in the Middle East,
Medea Benjamin, Rae Abileah, Shaden Dowaitt, Jean Desiree, and the CODEPINK team

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday after Mardi Gras.

For those who have the whole week off, it's a day to lie in bed and nurse oneself back to health and/or sanity. You'll need just enough of both to enjoy the St Patty's Day parade on Saturday. Ahhhhhhhhhh it never ends. Scratch the sanity bit, I don't think it's possible to be sane here. But I'm not complaining.

I would have also spent my Ash Wednesday in recovery mode, but HBO's Treme wanted to take advantage of the spirit (and filth) left over from Mardi Gras, so I got to join 100 costumed extras for a shooting of their Mardi Gras episode! We had to enact a Krewe of St. Ann funeral and Mardi Gras Day on Bourbon St, but unfortunately our nighttime takes stumbling down St Charles were canned. I really wanted to get yelled at by David Morse in a police uniform. I headed home and my streetcar approached this post-apocolyptic scene in front of City Hall (the show had requested the city not clean up the beads and garbage), Simon and Morse and the lucky extra who got to play the lone drunk were still filming, and Morse stood waving at the streetcar as if we were on a tour of Universal Studios. It was an odd moment.

All in all, my first Mardi Gras was fantastic. I got to see the parades at every stage, from Marengo to Polymnia to Gravier to Tchoupitoulas, and at every angle, from the front of the crowd, on a ladder, on a balcony....I also got to sample some of the finest cuisine in New Orleans, thanks to my foodie guests who came prepared with lists and reservations. John Besh's August and Cochon were definite highlights. But nothing compares to good friends and the knowledge that in rain or shine, sickness or health, no matter how late, how early, how far we had to walk, in whatever shoes, we would power through until Tuesday afternoon and that's what we did. Great success.

And I'm a little more in love with this city than I was before. Everyone I told this to asked, "I mean, how could you ever leave?"

I don't know. But I'll think about that as I go downstairs to eat some red beans and rice smothered in cheese.
I didn't even know about Eris, but it's a non-exclusive Krewe that second-lines through the French Quarter (without a permit) every Mardi Gras. This year the parade got attacked by the NOPD and there's an ongoing investigation....

Here's a post from the Louisiana Justice Institute that pulled together some of the eyewitness accounts...

One arrestee had a broken cheekbone and a large, matted bloody wound on the back of his head from being beaten with a police baton. Later, this injury would require surgical staples. On the wall where we were kneeling, there was a growing bloodstain behind his head where his injury had bled onto the drywall. "He's bleeding," said another of the arrestees. "Officer, that man needs medical attention."

"I say you could speak? Shut the fuck up," the officer currently watching us replied. A couple of the arrestees had earlier been demanding lawyers, and he had told them to shut the fuck up too. He was big on that phrase...

An officer walked in cradling his hand and smiling. "You need hospital?" The silence-oriented officer asked him.

"Yeah, I'm going in a minute," said the officer with the wounded hand. "I knocked motherfuckers tonight, tell you what."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Israeli Apartheid Week

I was so busy celebrating Mardi Gras that I forgot to "celebrate" Israeli Apartheid Week! So I'm glad it's been extended to two weeks, for one, it's great to see all of these peaceful, educational, justice-driven events happening all over the world, and secondly, I just like to use the word "fortnight."

A word on that word, "celebrate." The Jerusalem Post, among other sites, is referring to people who are taking action and generally observing Israeli Apartheid Week as "celebrating" it. As if apartheid could bring anyone joy. It reminds me of the term "pro-abortion," which is one of the many ties you could make between Zionism and neo-conservatism. Fear the baby killers, fear the anti-semites! Strange how the people who cry anti-semitism don't seem to know what a semite is....

New Orleans isn't a host city for IAW, but there are about 40 in this list.

Here's the 2005 Statement issued by over 170 Palestinian civil organizations calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The campaign has made important gains in countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States .

Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and in the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression,

We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Haaretz treats IAW pretty fairly, and JPost is....having a hissy fit. The usual retort on other sites and blogs is that these events are anti-semetic and because they don't also focus on human rights abuses in Arab states, their sole purpose is to deligitimize Israel. What a tired, old theory. Really.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." -Franklin D. Roosevelt.

What could be more important to understand than this: fear destroys more than its protects, and Zionism is a culture of fear. There is a braver, more constructive way out of this mess.

Haaretz-What does Israeli Apartheid Week actually achieve?

JPost-Free speech too, for Israel's advocates
This was published in the Palestine Chronicle a year ago...

Omar Barghouti-Our South Africa Moment Has Arrived

Gaza: the West’s Complicity in War Crimes

As early as 2007, Richard Falk, a prominent international law expert at Princeton University and the current UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), called the Western-supported Israeli siege of Gaza “a prelude to genocide”[4] and, later, “a Holocaust in the making.”[5] Falk, who happens to be Jewish, argued that the siege is especially disturbing because it vividly expresses “a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”[6]

Using more diplomatic language, Sara Roy [7], a Harvard University expert on development in the OPT, accuses the EU, along with the US, of complicity in a deliberate Israeli policy of “de-development” of the OPT, killing any possibility of creating an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. By providing the Palestinians with “tangible benefits such as higher income and improved infrastructure,” Roy argues, the EU was hoping to buy Palestinian support for substantial concessions in the so-called “peace negotiations.” She concludes, “The logic of international law was abandoned in the interest of maintaining a failed political process.”

An examination of the Israeli siege of Gaza, most of whose population are refugees forcibly displaced [8] by Zionists -- and later Israel -- during the 1948 Nakba, can elucidate this “de-development” policy which amounts to collective punishment, as most legal experts agree. During this ongoing -- now 21-month-old -- siege, more than 80% of the 1.5 million Palestinians caged into the world’s “largest open-air prison” have been pushed into poverty and dependency on international humanitarian assistance; the entire economic infrastructure has been systematically decimated, with more than 95% of the factories forced to shut down, driving poverty and unemployment below sub-Saharan African standards; educational institutions have been unable to function properly due to lack of fuel and electricity for prolonged periods; the health care system is on the verge of collapse, and hundreds of patients in need of critical health care, particularly cancer and kidney patients, have died after being denied access to medical facilities outside Gaza.

The longer term effects of the siege are even more daunting.[9] According to the World Health Organization chronic malnutrition and dietary-related diseases have alarmingly increased, resulting in rampant low birth weights; anemia in more than two thirds of all children age one year and younger; and stunted growth in close to 13.2% of children under age five. Moreover, preventable diseases, caused by polluted water and inadequate sewage processing, started spreading wildly. Thousands, mainly children, have suffered serious hearing problems due to Israel’s once concentrated use of sonic booms for weeks on end. A whole generation of Palestinian children in Gaza will suffer severe developmental and psychological disorders for many years to come, health studies have shown. There is also a significant increase already in the rate of incidence of cancer and other deadly diseases directly related to Israeli-inflicted pollution and health care denial.

Reacting to the devastating impact of Israel’s siege, Karen Abu Zayd, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, warned [10]:

“Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution with the knowledge, acquiescence and — some would say — encouragement of the international community. …Humanitarian and human development work was never meant to function in an environment devoid of constructive efforts to resolve conflict or to address its underlying causes. Indeed, humanitarian work is profoundly undermined in a context where there is implicit or active complicity in creating conditions of mass suffering.”

It is this aspect of the siege, the processes leading to the slow death of masses of people and to inhibiting the development of a generation of Palestinian children that prompted Falk’s eye-opening description of Israel’s siege as constituting acts of genocide.

Former Israeli education minister and leftist leader, Shulamit Aloni, adopted years ago this designation of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians under its occupation. As early as 2003, she condemned an Israeli atrocity that pales in comparison with the Israeli massacres just committed in Gaza saying [11]:

“So it's not yet genocide of the terrible and unique style of which we were past victims. And as one of the smart [Israeli] Generals told me, we do not have crematoria and gas chambers. Is anything less than that consistent with Jewish ethics? Did he ever hear how an entire people said that it did not know what was done in its name?”

Full Article

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What will it take?

Cabinet: All West Bank outposts on private Palestinian land to go by year's end.

In their latest e-mail update, Peace Now regarded this as a success. Bibi agreed to dismantle illegal settlement outposts if they were built on private Palestinian land. So they're chipping away. It's a step in the right direction. My question is, how seriously is this gesture going to be taken, and how successfully will it legitimize all the other settlements that were built on Israel's "state land" in the West Bank?

And what will it take for Israel to give back the "state land" that was acquired through shady, outdated laws?

By Hook or By Crook: How to Build an Illegal Settlement (B'Tselem)

"We'll make a pastrami sandwich of them. Yes, we'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years' time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart."
Ariel Sharon, 1973

"We'll Make a Pastrami Sandwich of Them": review of the documentary Iron Wall (The Green Left)

No suprise the settlement of Ariel (creepily named the Ariel Finger) is named after Mr. Sharon.

So how do these settlements get funded? Through the Israeli government and generous American donors...
L.A. Donors Play Role in Israeli Settlements (Jewish Journal)


The only uplifting thing about that Haaretz article were the comments. Usually there's some right vs. left exchange, but thus far everyone seems like everyone can see through Bibi's attempt to normalize the settlement enterprise.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I don't think this guy is deserving of the attention he gets, not to mention the money he makes off of cutesy metaphors and theories that hopefully will never stick. Like the Golden Arches Theory. But I'm posting it here because I liked the response to yesterday's Op-Ed piece (found below)...

This is Just the Start-Thomas Friedman

Future historians will long puzzle over how the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, managed to trigger popular uprisings across the Arab/Muslim world. We know the big causes — tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media. But since being in Egypt, I’ve been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I’d call the “not-so-obvious forces” that fed this mass revolt. Here it is:

Americans have never fully appreciated what a radical thing we did —in the eyes of the rest of the world — in electing an African-American with the middle name Hussein as president.

Read on...

This is Just the Start-and It Never Fucking Ends

Future historians will long puzzle over how I was given an international platform to freely pontificate on the Arab people and be remunerated handsomely for it. It is true that I am not the only person in the world who formulates dubious theories based on scant or no evidence which I then harangue people with. Other people do it. They are called taxi drivers. But they are not as rich as me and haven’t been awarded three Pulitizer Prizes.

Since I’ve been here in Egypt I’ve been putting together a list of “the-absolutely-irrelevant forces” that have captured the captive Arab mind and ignited the simmering coals of the instant garden BBQ that is the Middle East. You might ask why, since I am in Egypt, I don’t ask an Egyptian – possibly two Egyptians – about what inspired them to completely ignore my theories on the Arab peoples and take to the streets. The answer is this: I am Thomas Friedman and I write a column in the New York Times.

Full parody from