Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Last Refuge

Gideon Levy with the Israeli daily Haaretz:
So let us admit the truth: The occupier deserves to be boycotted. As long as the Israelis pay no price for the occupation, the occupation will not end, and therefore the only way open to the opponents of the occupation is to take concrete means that will make the Israelis understand that the injustice they are perpetrating comes with a price tag.
Levy continues:
Boycott is the next logical step, he believes, because all else has failed. Forty-two years of fruitless fighting from within and an occupation that is only growing stronger, dictate stepping up the struggle. We tried demonstrations but the masses did not come; we tried conferences but they led nowhere. All that's left is to give in, to go on with the routine of our lives, like all the Israelis, to shut our eyes and hope for the best - or to intensify the struggle, in conjunction with the intensification of the occupation. The Israeli soldiers who shoot at civilian demonstrators in Bil'in or Na'alin, almost like in Iran, are perpetrating a far more illegitimate act against the state's rule of law than those calling for an international boycott. But no one will urge the revocation of their citizenship.
If Israel were sure it is right, it would not be so frightened and be so aggressive against everyone who objects to its official line. If we were convinced that the soldiers of Breaking the Silence are making up stories and that Gordon's call for a boycott and his description of Israel as an apartheid state are unjust, we would not be so abusive toward them.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Occupation as Actor

The oppressed and the oppressors are often understood as categories of people. The oppressed are always embodied. Their suffering can be seen, quantified, and analyzed. Oppressors are often embodied as well. Their abuses of power can be seen, quantified, and critiqued.

Spending time in the occupied Palestinian territories one can immediately identify the oppressed and oppressor in clear terms. Oppressors are easily identified by their their large weapons, their disregard for international law, their position of power and impunity, and their refusal to the respect the lives of a particular ethnic group.

Yet recently, I have been seeing how oppressors can be disembodied, abstract actors. I recognized this phenomenon as I have heard Palestinians refer to 'the occupation' as an actor in situations. An example is the recent electricity situation in At-Tuwani.

I recently asked a village leader what the status was on the electricity situation. “Really, Sam, it's a big problem. They will tell the media and Tony Blair's office that it's no problem. But then when we start working on the power lines the occupation will tell us to stop working, that the electricity is forbidden.”

One would usually expect to see soldiers, settlers, police, border police, or the Israeli government where 'the occupation' sits in the previous sentence. I am sure that a real person came to tell the village that working on the electricity was forbidden. Nonetheless, the point remains that the disembodied actor called the occupation is operating in some real sense. It is being used in this case because the person who said the electrical work is forbidden will probably never be seen again. If the work continues, another face of the occupation will appear and issue orders that came from a mysterious party called the occupation.

Tony Blair's office said that the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), which is responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs in Area C, has given permission for the work to continue. Yet, when the work begins, the occupation says no.

The occupation is being used by this Palestinian man as a means of describing the impossibility of navigating the network of overlapping oppressors in the system. The DCO might issue a stop work order, which comes from an unknown source somewhere in the Israeli government. Then the stop work order will be implemented by Israeli soldiers or Israeli police, whose faces are constantly changing. Adding to the quagmire, a Palestinian may get a different answer to the lawfulness of the electricity depending on who they ask. It's an overblown good cop – bad cop scenario in which the individual actors are representatives of the occupation.

The occupation is an actor amidst the array of actors under the umbrella of the occupation. The oppressors may be police, soldiers, border police, government officials, settlers, or the occupation. The occupation as an actor is effective because no embodied individual can be held accountable. Individuals are continually unaccountable for their actions, because they are pawns taking direction from the occupation; in some cases they are even figures claiming to disagree with the character or mandate of the occupation. Palestinians are able to face only temporary and varying faces of the occupation, but never the occupation itself.

Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath speaks to this disembodied oppressor with individuals acting out the oppression (emphasis mine):

The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came. They came in closed cars and the felt the dry earth with their fingers, and sometimes they drove big earth augers into the ground for soil tests. The tenants, from their sun-beaten dooryards, watched uneasily when the closed cars drove along the fields. And at last the owner men drove into the dooryards and sat in their cars to talk out of the windows. The tenant men stood beside the cars for a while, and then squatted on their hams and found sticks with which to mark the dust.

Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or a finance company owned the land, t
he owner man said, The bank - or the Company - needs - wants - insists - must have - as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.

The squatters nodded - they knew, God knew. If they could just rotate the crops they might pump blood back into the land.

Well, it's too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger then they were. A man can hold land if he can just eat and pay taxes; he can do that. Yes, he can do that until his crops fail one day and he has to borrow money from the bank.

But - you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits: they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so.

The squatting men raised their eyes to understand. Can’t we just hang on? Maybe the next year will be a good year. God knows how much cotton next year. And with all the wars – God knows what price cotton will bring. Don’t they make explosives out of cotton? And uniforms? Get enough wars and cotton’ll hit the ceiling. Next year maybe. They looked up questioningly.

We can’t depend on it. The bank – the monster has to have profits all the time. It can’t wait. It’ll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can’t stay one size.

The squatting men looked down again. What do you want us to do? We can’t take less share of the crop – we’re half starved now. The kids are hungry all the time. We got no clothes, torn an’ ragged. If all the neighbors weren’t the same, we’d be ashamed to go to meetings.

And at last the owner men came to the point. The tenant system won’t work any more. One man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families. Pay him a wage and take all the crop. We have to do it.
We don’t like to do it. But the monster’s sick. Something’s happened to the monster…You’ll have to get off the land. The plows’ll go through the dooryard…We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men,

No, you’re wrong – quite wrong there.
The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.

Steinbeck's words are profound, but it must be emphasized that the people who speak for the occupation cannot be absolved from responsibility for their participation in the occupation, and thus their participation in oppression. The occupation is something more than soldiers, settlers, and politicians; although it is in fact comprised of those characters. The occupation was created by humans and is something that can, in fact, be dismantled by humans. In fact, it will be dismantled. Inshallah

Friday, August 28, 2009

Obama is Backing Down from Settlement Freeze Insistence

The Obama administration appears to be backing down on its insistence that Israel halt all settlement activity as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.
We saw this coming, miles away.
"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met," Crowley (US State Dept. spokesperson) said. "Ultimately," he added, "this is not a process by which the United States will impose conditions on Israel, on the Palestinian Authority, on other countries.
This is not a process by which the U.S. will impose conditions on Israel? Really? What does that scenario look like, when the U.S. will impose conditions on Israel? That scenario is more serious than skirting the peace process by continuing settlement expansion in the West Bank? It's more serious than continuing the siege on Gaza? It's more serious than Operation Cast Lead?
Getting Arab buy-in on such a deal will be difficult, particularly since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume negotiations with Israel until there is a full freeze on settlements. U.S. officials said Thursday that they will continue to press Israel for as broad a suspension as possible.
So basically, whatever you can do, Israel, we are behind you. From another article in Haaretz, it's clear that Israel can't commit to much of a freeze.
The Obama administration has agreed to Israel's request to remove East Jerusalem from negotiations on the impending settlement freeze...
U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has recognized the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. The officials said the U.S. will not endorse new construction there, but would not demand Jerusalem publicly announce a freeze.
Netanyahu "cannot" announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem? How do you mean? The fact is he can announce that. It's baffling to me that the part of these discussions/negotiations do not include acknowledgment that the U.S. gives Israel $15 million per DAY. How can Obama say, "freeze all settlement construction," and Netanyahu say, "No." It's like a child telling his mother that his sack lunches aren't good enough, that he wants more Capri Suns and Gushers, and somehow the mother doesn't understand that she holds all the cards because she buys the food and makes the lunch. And somehow we end up in a situation where this is the result...
The new Israeli proposal will exclude some 2,500 housing units on which construction has already started.

Additionally, in special cases where it is necessary to keep "normal life," Netanyahu wants to be able to erect public buildings in the settlements - mainly kindergartens and schools.

Finally, Israel wants the freeze to have a clear "exit plan." In Israel's view, the freeze is a confidence-building measure that must be matched by reciprocal steps from the PA and Arab states. If these fail to materialize, Israel wants an American guarantee that it will not oppose renewed building.
This is a mad, mad world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Effects of the Israeli 'Judicial' System

Nasser was arrested for resisting the illegal Israeli occupation. Nasser was arrested for asserting his right to build a house on his own land.

The Israeli judicial system demanded 25,000 NIS for Nasser's release. This was not bail, it won't be paid back. It was a fine, a ransom for his release.

My colleagues and I, with CPT, had over 3 hours of footage from the day of the arrest. There were more than 40 witnesses who were present throughout the duration of the incident. Nothing incriminates Nasser; the opposite is true, every piece and footage and every witness would completely absolve Nasser of any charge.

Tellingly, no one from At-Tuwani was asked to take the stand or instructed to produce evidence. On the contrary, Nasser inexplicably sat in jail for 35 days while court dates were postponed. Finally 15,000NIS was agreed upon.

A friend of Nasser's organized the fundraising effort knowing money was the only way to get out of the situation. One must pay off the unjust system, to provide financial support to a racist legal system. In order to free Nasser, one man sold all of his livestock and gave nearly all of his savings (set aside to expand his house for his expanding family). Other friends and acquaintances of Nasser were asked to give what they could in hope that Nasser would be released.

15,000NIS was taken to the court, only to find that 15,000 was never agreed upon by the court. The actual amount was 20,000NIS. The man who had sold his goats and given his savings had to ask more people for more money. After the additional 5,000NIS was raised, the money was taken to the court, all 20,000NIS. The court said they could only accept money on Sundays. So Nasser sat in jail, waiting for Sunday to come.

It's a heartbreaking story, and I haven't even mentioned the 4 boys and the loving wife who grieved for the return of their father. But the heartbreak extends to what this judicial system does to Palestinian nonviolent resistance. The story of Nasser is not unique, in fact many similar stories are coming out of Bil'in right now. Resisters are arrested, held in prison for unreasonable lengths of time, and huge sums of money are demanded to ensure their release.

Those engaging in nonviolent resistance (or in many cases those attempting to access their private lands for plowing, planting, of grazing) have to seriously weigh the consequences of their actions. Isolated communities without connections to organizations with deep pockets for legal fees, cannot afford to resist the illegal occupation of their land and denial of their rights. Fear of financial burdens causes people to think twice before going to the action, or taking their sheep within sight of the settlement (even if you own the land).

The Israel judicial system is not coincidentally made to function the way it does. The Israeli judicial system processes and punishes Palestinians in a very calculated manner. Placing huge fines on Palestinian NV resisters cripples the resistance and also has a ripple-effect across communities. The money demanded for Nasser had an immediate economic effect on the community, as an unexpected expense came into their midst. Additionally, people are forced to resist the occupation with calculation. Asserting one's right to self-determination to have sovereignty over your life and your land, must be asserted in certain times and places, or else you run the risk of the community being faced with a 20,000NIS fine.

See recent articles about Nasser by my colleague.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Musings on the First Day of Ramadan 2009

Ramadan رمضان

+My first day of Ramadan began in Tuba, a small village in the South Hebron Hills. I was staying with a family that is devoutly religious, and would surely be observing Ramadan. For the majority of the evening (before fasting began), I was grilled about whether I would fast, if I have fasted before, for how long I have fasted, and about what fasting means for Muslims. The usual christian practice of fasting food, but still drinking water was decidedly unimpressive to these Muslims who go without food, water, cigarettes, and more during the daylight hours of Ramadan. I tried to explain, yes, we drink water, but sometimes we fast for 24 or 48 hours. To which the question came, “Yeah but you drink water right?”

+After telling the family that I would fast the following day, inshallah (God willing), they informed me that we would be arising at 3:30am to eat a meal (in order to fill your stomach before the sun rises). So early in the morning the mother of the family started rousing people, and we all got out of bed at our own paces. The mother had been up for some time in order to prepare bread, olive oil, cheese, and tea. We ate, to fill our stomachs; and drank, not only to quench our thirst but also to provide hydration for the coming day. As I retired to bed, the father of the family prayed and sang a passage of the Quran. Prayer and the reading of the Quran are important aspects of Ramadan. Many Muslims read the entire Quran during Ramadan.

+Waking at sunrise, I was dismayed to remember I couldn't rinse out my mouth. That dryness would stay with my for quite a while, unfortunately.

+The shepherds I went out with that morning were quick to dismiss any questions about whether they were hungry, thirsty, or in need or a smoke. The response was usually, “God will help me.” It didn't seem to be an issue of having to struggle through your body's adjustment to a completely different eating, drinking, and sleeping rhythm. The focus was on God's greatness, generosity, and ability to help them through the fasting. This makes sense if the purpose of Ramadan is to take your focus away from bodily pleasures and reorient your life towards God.

+On the flip side, there were very honest admissions from others throughout the day. Such as, “It is so hot today,” or “Ramadan is so difficult this year,” or “Oh God, help me, this is hard.”

+A common expression is رمضان كريم (ramadan kariim, meaning Ramadan is generous) to which people reply اللة اكرم (allahu akram, meaning God is more generous).

+I broke my fast because of a wicked sore throat, which I tried to remedy with throat lozenges and water. I was bummed about this because I was planning on fasting for Ramadan. We are now in the 3rd day of Ramadan and the sore throat is still lingering. I fear that once I am feeling better I won't have the drive to begin the fast again. I had my reservations about fasting because it's not my tradition and not my religion. Yet at the same time I wanted to experience this total reorientation of living patterns, in order to point one's life towards God in a more intentional way. Our friends in the village don't seem to be offended either way, whether we are fasting or are not. There is a respect that we are Christians, and Ramadan isn't our holiday. But there is also a respect for people who do decide to fast (but usually it comes with a reminder of the other things we are supposed to do more of – prayer, giving to those in need, etc.)

+Bab il-Hara, a Syrian television program that runs during Ramadan, was blaring from all the TVs. This is a very popular show that seems to be known across the Arab world, or at least across بلاد الشام Bilad ash-Sham (the region including Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan).

+Our neighbor, an 7 year-old boy, was fasting. By about 4pm he looked like the walking dead. He came to our house asking to borrow something and it looked like he might pass out after he got the request out of his mouth. After their family ate that evening, I am sure he was bouncing off the walls like usual.

+The markets in Al Khalil (Hebron) are bustling during the day. Eating is more of an event during Ramadan and markets are packed with shoppers and mosque-goers. Street vendors that sell street food are either closed or converted. Because people aren't grabbing a falafel on-the-go, they change to offer traditional Ramadan deserts, breads, or juices.

+There are theme songs on the radio for Ramadan. One of them was quite catchy with a chorus exclaiming in melodious tones, “Ramdan Kariim.” I tried to find a clip of it online to share with you, but to no avail.

Ramadan Kariim!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boycott, Di-vest, and Sanctions

Great video. Checkitout.

The Emperor's Clothes
featuring Invincible

In January 2009, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip, causing massive damage to civilian infrastructure, killing more than 1,300 Palestinians and wounding 5,300. Israel has held Gaza under siege, controlling the borders, air and water space, preventing even the most basic humanitarian goods from entering.

The Emperor’s Clothes is a call to action. One of the most effective strategies we can pursue right now is boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, as we demand an end to Israel's 60-plus years of occupation and war on Palestinian life.

People Not Places

Writeup from Waging Nonviolence:

Although she was born in Israel to Jewish parents and raised in Ann Arbor Michigan, Detroit-based MC Invincible has a pretty deep understanding of the issues facing Palestinians, as evidenced by the above music video for her song “People Not Places.” In fact, it would be near impossible for any Westerner to fully comprehend the song’s many historical and cultural references without reading her very insightful lyrics page.

Invincible (whose name is Ilana Weaver) says it took years to write the song, but that it was originally inspired by a conversation she had with her mom, who responded to a question about missing Israel, by saying, “I miss people. I don’t miss places.” But given that so many indigenous people were displaced to create the nation state of Israel, Invincible says she came to see “what a priviledge it was to not miss this place and to not prioritize that connection between people and places.”

The song and video then became a product of her recently launched project Emergence Travel Agency, which aims to create “media that resists displacement, gentrification, colonization, occupation, obstruction of movement, denial of the right to leave, and denial of the right to return.”

The “People Not Places” video follows through on that objective. In it, Invincible plays two characters, explained by her website as: “a Birthright Israel tour recruiter, styled as a used car salesman; and herself, subverting the recruiter’s mission by exposing the buried Palestinian significance of each location in the tour.” The video is also interspersed with interviews of Palestinians and people from other displaced refugee communities.

The effect is extremely moving and provocative. But not just because the message is so strong and on point. Invincible is also an undeniably talented MC. Were it not for that fact, her message could easily fall flat.

Her skills have not gone unrecognized. Last year, the Detroit Metro Times ran a cover story on Invincible, calling her “one of the best emcees in the country.” Talib Kweli has also given her a shout out as “One of the most talented emcees I’ve ever heard black or white, male or female…”

Hopefully we’ll be hearing plenty more from her.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not Again, Mike

I thought I got Mike Huckabee out of my system, but then he wrote a piece about his recent trip to Israel. Update: I didn't get Mike Huckabee out of my system.

See Huckabee's newest post from Israel

Huckabee starts with a pointless analysis of his visit to Israel contrasted with Pelosi's trip to Syria. But he demonstrates his warped perception of reality as the piece progresses.
As a private citizen, I have commented on what I have seen based on my past experiences. When I visited Israel in the 1970’s and 1980’s I had no problem visiting Nablus. But this time, I couldn’t go because I was with Israelis, and they cannot enter Nablus or Bethlehem or Ramallah. I commented on this because I thought it was remarkable that there are places Israelis can’t go in their own country.
Dude, Mike. Nablus, Bethlehem, NOR Ramallah are in Israel. And seriously, it's not some unjust practice that prohibits Israelis from going to Nablus. I mean for God's sake, most Palestinians cannot even go to East Jerusalem, an area OUTSIDE of Israel. But if it's all Israel, then that supports your idea to establish a Palestinian state some place else, “outside” of the Jewish homeland (read: everything between the sea and the river).
Just as I believe that Israelis should be able to travel to all parts of their country, I believe they should be able to live wherever they want in that country, and that the U. S. government should not tell an Israeli family that they can’t add a nursery to their house when they welcome a new baby, or tell an Israeli village that they can’t add a classroom to their schoolhouse.
Again, Israelis CAN travel to all parts of their country. Palestinians CANNOT travel to all parts of their country. And it's not the rogue U.S. Government telling Israel they can't build settlements, it's the law. It's international law, that's who. Also, Israelis CAN “live wherever they want” in their country, and they CAN “add a nursery” or “add a classroom to their schoolhouse,” as long as it is in “their country.” They are not allowed to build nurseries and schools on someone else's land in someone else's country.
As a candidate President Obama never told the American people that if he was elected, he would order a draconian freeze on all settlement activity with no exceptions.
True, Obama never told the American people he would order draconian (definition: exceedingly harsh; very severe) measures in accordance with international law, without exception. Don't pretend like it's some unreasonable thing to order a settlement freeze, Mike. The world recognizes that settlements (called colonies in some english-speaking countries) are illegal.
President Obama announced that, “Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward.” With whom are the Israelis supposed to move forward? With the Hamas terrorists of the Gaza Strip? With Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas who barely controls the sidewalk in front of his office in the West Bank? Yet President Obama took the ball out of the Palestinians’ court and said that it wasn’t their wanton destruction of life and property that was holding back the peace process, no, it was Israeli construction. Nothing about the Palestinians’ recognizing Israel’s basic right to exist or renouncing terror to move the process forward, no, it was all the fault of those pesky settlements.
It is racist to lump 'Palestinians' into a monogamous group that seeks “wanton destruction of life and property.” Also, Mike, if someone kicked you out of your house and your country, and you lived in poor conditions as a refugee under brutal siege and occupation, would you recognize the 'right of existence' for the criminal who kicked you out of your house? I bet that would be hard to do while being denied many of your basic liberties and rights by the occupying forces.

I look forward to Mike coming back to Israel in January, hopefully not just settlers are on his itinerary next time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fear is a Powerful Tool of the Occupation (even against sheep)

Sheep in the South Hebron Hills often have to run from predators. Sheep usually run to avoid attack or death, or both. Predators often desire to injure and/or kill the sheep, but don't intend to eat the sheep. An odd predator indeed. The most common predators in the South Hebron Hills are Israeli settlers, soldiers, and police. These armed actors often target sheep by shooting rifles, throwing stones, kicking, or simply chasing the sheep. These actions are carried out as a means to instill fear into the Palestinian shepherds and also in order to harm the sheep, an economic staple for Palestinians in the area.

August 17 was a relatively calm day for Tuba shepherds (as opposed to Maghayir Al-Abeed shepherds who were chased in a car by settlers who then slung rocks at the Palestinian shepherds and their sheep, all within sight of the Tuba shepherds, video coming soon), without the presence of predators. The morning quiet was soon disrupted by a growing sound. As the sound grew to an overwhelming level, an Apache helicopter appeared over the hill. The sheep, fearing the approach of a predator, began to scatter, running away from the growling machine. The helicopter flashed across the skyline, floating alarmingly close to the hillsides. The shepherds reacted quickly, attempting to halt the charge of the sheep, calming their fears produced this false predator.


The fear instilled in Palestinians is a powerful tool of the occupation. The fear is used to dissuade resisters from actively opposing the occupation. There is fear of fines, imprisonment, beatings, torture, and even death (a blog coming soon on this topic specifically).

Quite ironically, the fear extends to Palestinian sheep as well, who run away from Israeli military helicopters. The all-encompassing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories uses fear as a powerful tool. It even affects the sheep.

(Yes, this is offered in jest, a bit. I thought it was funny that sheep scattered when they saw the Israeli military, 'twas ironic. But the whole thing about 'fear as a tool of the occupation' is serious, more to come on the topic.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mike, Oh Mike, Tell Me You Are Kidding!?

This guy is fully delusional. Really. Seriously.

"How many people in America would tolerate it if Israeli politicians told Americans what neighborhoods they could live in."

"Segregation is a policy that doesn't promote relationships and healing."
"We ought to be worried about Iran."

"It's unrealistic for Jerusalem to become a divided city, it needs to become a united city."

"We all want to see peace in the Middle East...most Americans understand that people have a right to live where they want to live, it's a part of liberty, it's a part of freedom. We understand that in the United States"

"Israel is the closet thing to a true-pure democratic government in the Middle East, almost the world."

"It's unrealistic to say that Israelis shouldn't live in the context of their country where they wish."
Oh Boy, this guy really is delusional. I won't comment fully on this video, I don't have the energy. But his last sentence requires a rebuttal. Ok...Israeli Jewish settlements in the West Bank ARE NOT ISRAEL. Gaza and the West Bank are the PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, not Israel. Those territories are under brutal Israeli occupation.

Using the analogy that people would be angry if foreign lawmakers told U.S. citizens where they can and cannot live is really a terrible analogy. It's can't even be called an analogy because it's not close to analagous.

Huckabee also said during his recent trip to Israel said that the international community should consider establishing a Palestinian state some place else.

"The question is should the Palestinians have a place to call their own? Yes, I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That's what I think has to be honestly assessed as virtually unrealistic."

On the contrary the Jewish homeland was established in the middle of Palestine, and in the 61 years since, Israel has developed a strategic system of removing the remaining Palestinians from the land (Slavoj Zizek recently commented on this "ethnic cleansing" ). Israel has also maintained a brutal occupation for the last 42 years.

And lastly, what does the 'context of their country' mean. Mike, if your definition of 'their country' wasn't contentious, couldn't you have just said, 'their country.' The whole 'context' language just leads me to believe you are stretching the truth a bit. A little less John Hagee and Tim Lahaye, you nutcase.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Obama's America is Not Delivering the Goods.

From Haaretz, by Gideon Levy
With great sorrow and deep consternation, we hereby declare the death of the latest hope. Perhaps rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase the famous quote by Mark Twain, but the fears are being validated day after day. Barack Obama's America is not delivering the goods. Sharing a glass of beer with a racist cop and a pat on the back of Hugo Chavez are not what we hoped for; wholesale negotiations on freezing settlement construction are also not what we expected. Just over six months after the most promising president of all began his term, perhaps hope has a last breath left, but it is on its deathbed.

He came into office amid much hoopla. The Cairo speech ignited half the globe. Making settlements the top priority gave rise to the hope that, finally, a statesman is sitting in the White House who understands that the root of all evil is the occupation, and that the root of the occupation's evil is the settlements. From Cairo, it seemed possible to take off. The sky was the limit.

Then the administration fell into the trap set by Israel and is showing no signs of recovery.
A settlement freeze, something that should have seen understood by a prime minister who speaks with such bluster about two states - a peripheral matter that Israel committed to in the road map - has suddenly turned into a central issue. Special envoy George Mitchell is wasting his time and prestige with petty haggling. A half-year freeze or a full year? What about the 2,500 apartment units already under construction? And what about natural growth? And kindergartens?

Perhaps they will reach a compromise and agree on nine months, not including natural growth though allowing completion of apartments already under construction. A grand accomplishment.

Jerusalem has imposed its will on Washington. Once again we are at the starting point - dealing with trifles from which it is impossible to make the big leap over the great divide.

We expected more from Obama. Menachem Begin promised less, and he made peace within the same amount of time after he took office. When the main issue is dismantling the settlements, the pulsating momentum that came with Obama is petering out. Instead, we are paddling in shallow water. Mitchell Schmitchel. What's in it for peace? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will once again meet him in London at the end of the month. A "magic formula" for a settlement freeze may be found there, but the momentum is gone.

Not in Israel, though. Here people quickly sensed that there is nothing to fear from Obama, and the fetters were taken off. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quick to declare that there is no Palestinian partner, even after the Fatah conference elected the most moderate leadership that has ever been assembled in Palestine. Afterward, in a blatant act of provocation, he brought a Torah scroll into the heart of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, in full view of television cameras, just so America can see who's boss around here.

Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, another two politicians who smell American weakness, were quick to declare during a visit to Ma'aleh Adumim that Israel will not freeze any construction. To hell with Obama. The settlers continue to move into more homes in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu is silent and Israelis sense that the "danger" has passed. Israel is once again permitted to do as it pleases. The landlord has once again gone insane. Except that the landlord has gone insane because the real landlord is showing signs of weakness, signs of folding, signs of losing interest in events in the region that most endangers world peace.

Nothing remains from the speeches in Cairo and Bar-Ilan University. Obama is silent, and Yishai speaks. Even "Israel's friends" in Washington, friends of the occupation, are once again rearing their heads.

One source familiar with Obama's inner circle likened him this week to a man who inflates a number of balloons every day in the hope that one of them will rise. He will reach his goal. The source compared him to Shimon Peres, an analogy that should insult Obama. The trial balloons the U.S. president sends our way have yet to take off. One can, of course, wait for the next balloon, the Obama peace plan, but time is running out. And Israel is not sitting idly by.

The minute Jerusalem detected a lack of American determination, it returned to its evil ways and excuses. "There is no partner," "Abu Mazen is weak," "Hamas is strong." And there are demands to recognize a Jewish state and for the right to fly over Saudi Arabia - anything in order to do nothing.

An America that will not pressure Israel is an America that will not bring peace. True, one cannot expect the U.S. president to want to make peace more than the Palestinians and Israelis, but he is the world's responsible adult, its great hope. Those of us who are here, Mr. President, are sinking in the wretched mud, in "injury time."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where is Nasser?

A man came to our house, asking, “Where is Nasser? Is Nasser here?”

I didn't quite know how to respond, because Nasser is in jail. He's not in jail because he did anything wrong. He's in jail because he's Palestinian, and because he's living in the South Hebron hills in Area C, an area under full Israeli control. He's in jail because the mission of the Israeli military and police is to protect settlers, whatever the behavior of those settlers may be. Nasser was arrested because he tried to build a house, a house the settlers didn't want him to build, and thus, the military and police didn't want him to build.

I turned to the man and quietly responded, “Sorry, but Nasser is in jail.” I didn't know what else to say.

“Where?” he asked.

“I think he is in jail in Jerusalem, he has been in jail for nearly a month.”

The man raised his eyebrows and walked away disappointed, but not apparently surprised or perturbed.

This speaks to the situations of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). Friends and family being arrested isn't a rarity for Palestinians in the OPT. But of course, it's hard and challenging for families to be without a father, husband, and provider. But this is part of life under Israeli occupation. People are arrested and no one knows when they will get out. Court dates are postponed while the 'defendant' sits in jail, often large sums of money are demanded in order for the Palestinian to be released (the most recent sum demanded for Nasser is 25,000 NIS – nearly $7,000). This is the racist system that is in place. A system that privileges Israelis, and imprisons Palestinians committed to resisting the occupation; resisting in order to regain their land stolen by settlers, and to assert their right to be treated as human beings.

See my previous blog post for the full story, with video and pictures.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"We reserve the right to resistance, legitimate under international law".

Israeli and Palestinian news outlets have been abuzz with information leaking out of the Fatah conference, currently being held in Bethlehem. The most discussed aspects of the conference were surrounding Mahmoud Abbas’ statements about many forms of resistance being legitimate if the peace process fails to yield results. Abbas said, “The popular resistance being carried out by our people against the settlements, the separation fence, and the destruction and expropriation of homes is an example of our people's ability to conceive various forms of struggle that can penetrate the conscience of the world and mobilize the support of the peoples.”

"I salute and express my esteem for our people in [East] Jerusalem, in Bil'in, in Ni'lin, in Ma'sra, and everywhere defenseless demonstrators armed only with hope, determination, and belief in victory [participate] in demonstrations that express their opposition to the deeds of the occupation.”

Abbas later expressed that armed resistance is one of those means of legitimate resistance, saying that that “military option has not been abandoned.” The Israeli media took this statement and ran with it. Israel Harel, writing for Haaretz, commented that the Israeli right had intentionally allowed the conference to take place and permitted delegates to attend in hopes that Fatah would show it’s true colors, namely that Fatah is full of a bunch of terrorists. Harel concluded that Abbas’ statements proved that “he was and remains a terrorist.” Thus, the delegates at the Fatah conference, namely Abbas, demonstrated to Israelis and to the world that there is no Palestinian partner for peace.

To provide some context for Abbas’ words, the official political platform of Fatah states, “the struggle stems from the Palestinian people's right to oppose the occupation and the settlements, the expulsion and the racist discrimination – and this right is [a] right guaranteed by international law. Our revolutionary struggle began with armed struggle against the armed robbery of our land; however, it was never limited to armed struggle alone, but included various means and methods, such as struggle by peaceful means with limited violence: intifada, demonstrations, strikes, civil uprising, clashes with settler gangs, political, media, judicial, and diplomatic struggle, and negotiation with the occupation authorities.”

So rather than immediately calling Abbas’ a terrorist, one should compare the Abbas’ statements and the Fatah charter with international law. In 1960, the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The first two articles have the most relevance for us. Article 1 states: "that the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights." Article 2 states: "that all peoples have the right to self-determination, but that this necessarily includes the right freely to determine their political status and freely to pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

Therefore, the Palestinian peoples’ right to resistance is directly linked with the denial of their fundamental human rights, specifically the right of self-determination, by the Israeli regime.

(As a side) I would caution Israel Harel of Haaretz from throwing around labels like ‘terrorist,’ when the Israeli military just completed its onslaught in Gaza in which the majority of those killed were civilians. The killing (or attempted killing) of civilian targets is what many mean by ‘terrorism,’ and if these labels are to be used, then national militaries should not be excepted.

Marwan Al-Barghouti, a senior Fatah member imprisoned in Israel, summed things up succinctly when he said that "resistance to the Israeli occupation is a national obligation, and it is a legitimate right.” And in terms of which forms of resistance, "Fatah believes in a combination of all forms of struggle, and it will not abandon, thwart, or rule out any form of struggle. As long as a single Israeli soldier or settler remains on the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, Fatah will not relinquish the option of resistance.

International law permits resistance to occupation, domination, subjugation, and denial of human rights. The forms of resistance that Palestinians’ choose is uniquely their choice. Yet the words of Muhanned ‘Abd Al-Hamid provide some valuable insight in my estimation.

The result of armed resistance like in the second intifada was: 11,000 prisoners, 4,000 martyrs, the building of the racist separation fence, the Judaization of Jerusalem, the doubling of the number of settlers, and the destruction of the infrastructure of society and of the government. Doesn't this demand that we stop for a minute, in light of these tragic outcomes? Isn't the aim of resistance to defeat the occupation – not the society that carries out the resistance? Why don't we think about other forms of struggle when the resistance is not accomplishing its goals?

"Resistance is survival and steadfastness. It is planting trees, developing education, boycotting Israeli products, [launching] a popular uprising against the racist separation fence, building homes in [East] Jerusalem, reopening the institutions [there], struggling against all forms of corruption, boycotting companies that contribute to the Judaization of Jerusalem and also to the building of the fence and the settlements, and also boycotting companies that supply arms and equipment to the occupation army. There are a hundred more ways of resistance that will damage the occupation more than they will damage us, and that will make ending the occupation an achievable goal – while preserving the legitimate right of resistance under conditions that will not harm the security and interests of the [Palestinian] people.

*Thanks to MEMRI for much of this translation

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Throwing Stones at Kids

Children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed are usually escorted to school by the IDF. WHY? Because settlers chase, insult, and attack the kids without an escort (and sometimes this happens with an IDF escort). Sometimes the IDF refuses to come, such as this day, when the IDF refused to escort the children despite the fact that there was a summer school festival.

These Palestinian children walked the long way around the settlment of Ma'on and outpost of Havat Ma'on. They did not take the direct path, along the road, but instead traversed the hillsides because it is a safer route. But as you can see, the route was not safe enough. And frankly, it will never be safe enough until Havat Ma'on is evacuated.

This video makes me extremely concerned about the cycles of violence, hatred, and racism that are so evidently being passed onto the next generation.

Commentary on East Jerusalem Evictions

Click here to read an important Haaretz piece on the East Jerusalem, Shiekh Jarrah, evictions. Gideon Levy says that the court's ruling which allowed the evictions displays "the rule of law's true state in Israel: racist and applying a double-standard, with separate legal systems for Jews and Arabs."

An important read for all people who are settlers on other people's land.

May the international community listen to the Israeli/Palestinian calls for recognition of the apartheid measures of the Israeli courts and government.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Palestinian Families Evicted in East Jerusalem

From the BBC:

Israeli police have evicted nine Palestinian families living in two houses in occupied East Jerusalem.

Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately.

The operation to evict the 53 Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city was carried out before dawn on Sunday by police clad in black riot gear.

It followed a ruling by Israel's Supreme Court that Jewish families owned the land. Israel wants to build a block of 20 apartments in the area.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Quote of the Week: Vol 2

"It is an odd reading of Christian Ethics to support the powerful Israeli state in its mistreatment of dispossessed Palestinians and its suppression of their rights."
-John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israeli Lobby

Electrical Lines as Apartheid

30 July 2009
AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Demand that Quartet pressure Israel to revoke demolition order for electricity pylons

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

On Tuesday, 28 July, members of the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO)—the branch of the Israeli army that administers civilian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)—issued a demolition order for the newly constructed electricity pylons in the South Hebron Hills village of At-Tuwani. These pylons would connect the village to the Palestinian electricity grid in nearby towns.

Tony Blair, special envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East* visited At-Tuwani on March 19, 2009. (See AT-TUWANI: At-Tuwani hosts former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to address Israeli occupation and violence in the southern West Bank.) During his visit, Blair assured villagers that the DCO had given oral permission for electricity construction work.

On 25 May 2009, the DCO entered the village of At-Tuwani, ordered villagers to halt construction work on new electricity pylons in the village, but produced no written orders (see AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Demand that Israeli occupying forces allow At-Tuwani to bring electricity into their village.)

Saber Hreni, head of the At-Tuwani Village Council, wrote to Blair on 26 May, “We hope that in your role as envoy for the Quartet, you can be of assistance to us in contacting the Israeli government with the hopes of procuring written permission for these projects. We fear without written permission our problems will continue.”

Blair did not respond to concerns of the villagers regarding permission to erect the electricity pylons.


Contact the Office of the Quartet and ask them to pressure Israel to revoke the demolition order for the pylons and allow the At-Tuwani villagers access to electricity.

Stefan Szetesi
Private Sector Development Officer


Olivia Otecosky

Telephone: +972 2 633 3333

The Quartet on the Middle East is the body—consisting of representatives of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia—responsible for facilitating peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (See Tony Blair is currently the special envoy for the Quartet.

Currently At-Tuwani receives only four hours electricity a day, supplied by a diesel generator operated and paid for by the villagers. The Israeli settlement and outposts of Ma’on, Havat Ma’on, and Avigail, located within two km of At-Tuwani, are supplied by electricity from the main Israeli power grid.

Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible for the general welfare of the occupied Palestinian civilian population.* Whilst providing electricity and water to Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories, the Israeli authorities fail to supply these basic services to Palestinian towns and villages. In this most recent move, they are now threatening to demolish the villagers’ attempts to improve their living conditions by connecting to the Palestinian electrical grid.

* International Humanitarian law (1907 Hague Regulation and 1949 Fourth Geneva Conventions) obliges the occupying power to ensure the welfare of the occupied population.