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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love Wins

The last few days have been difficult. I have learned that two close friends have been denied entry to Israel. They are not allowed to continue their work in Palestine for the next 5-10 years. They are peace workers who have been denied because the Israel government doesn't want people documenting what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Today I had just finished playing basketball to get some positive endorphins flowing. After playing I was driving home and the SUV in front of me had a simple bumper sticker that read, “Love Wins.”

Caught off guard, I turned the music down to think more clearly. Love does win, that's right. I have to keep on believing that despite all of the poverty, lack of access to health care, and war in the world; love will win.

Thanks be to God, Love wins.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Christian Peacemaker Team members denied entry to Israel

On Friday 25 September 2009, the Israeli authorities at Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv, denied entry to CPTer Seán O'Neill. They told O'Neill, a U.S. citizen, that Israel's Ministry of Interior had ordered the denial of entry. In response to enquiries from O'Neill's lawyer, the Israeli authorities stated that the ban was due to a court appearance by O'Neill and Joe Wyse (to whom the Israeli authorities denied entry earlier this month) in March 2009, despite the fact that an Israeli judge had ordered them released without charges.

On 8 March 2009, O'Neill and Wyse were videotaping Israeli settlers who were constructing a road on privately owned Palestinian land near Karmel settlement in the South Hebron Hills. When the Palestinian landowners and CPTers approached the work area, an Israeli settlement security guard began to shout and demand that they leave. The Palestinian landowners remained and requested that the CPTers videotape the work construction on their land. After the police officers arrived, the settlement security guard told them to detain the CPTers. The police did so and held them overnight at Kiryat Arba police station in Hebron. The following day, in a Jerusalem court, the police requested an extension of the CPTers' detention to allow more time for investigating the claim that the CPTers had obstructed a police officer, but an Israeli judge found no justification for their detention and ordered they be released without charges immediately.

Israeli police frequently, at the request of Israeli settlers, arrest Palestinian shepherds or internationals accompanying them. Palestinians arrested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are tried in Israeli military courts. A 2007 report, ‘Backyard Proceedings', published by the Israeli group Yesh Din, found that there were "severe shortcomings and failures in the implementation of due process rights in the military judicial system operating in [the OPT]." As of July 2009, Israel was holding almost 400 Palestinians in administrative detention-detention without charge or trial. At the same time, Israeli settlers frequently commit crimes of violence against Palestinians and internationals with impunity.

A New Name

I need suggestions. 'Sammertime' was the name of this blog from the beginning. Sammertime was my nickname derived from 'Hammertime' of the infamous MC Hammer(credits to Casey Furtado).

But Sammertime doesn't say anything about this blog. You who read this blog know what kinds of things I write about. Mostly about my work in Palestine, but not exclusively.

So people. Rack your brains, come up with a new name for this blog, and post it in the comments. Or if Sammertime should stay the title, speak your mind too.

Quote of the Week: Vol 5

From the website of Chosen People Ministries.
Pray for the Israeli government, that it will have wisdom in planning the future of the nation and its interactions with its neighbors. Pray that the government will utilize the Israeli army and its weapons with wisdom and care.
Wow, that's special. So when you drop a bomb, fill it with care. Maybe label it with a sticker, "Contents explosive; yet filled with care." And when the people under the bombs get angry at the destruction the bombs have wrecked, just try to impart your perspective, that the bomb was sent with wisdom and filled with care.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Disgrace in The Hague - Haaretz - Israel News

Read this article by Gideon Levy. He is a prophetic voice writing about Israel's reaction to the recent report detailing Israel's war crimes.

Disgrace in The Hague - Haaretz - Israel News

Ah Geez, No Settlement Freeze

From Al Jazeera:

Abbas has demanded a full halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a condition for resuming negotiations on a final peace settlement - talks that were broken off in December.

Barack Obama, the US president, has endorsed that call, urging both sides to meet the terms of a 2003 US-backed "road map" for peace.

But Netanyahu has ruled out stopping construction in East Jerusalem and wants settlements in the West Bank to be able to grow to accommodate the expanding families of current settlers.

So, Obama, this is easy. Exert some pressure. You do it with every other country. Threaten to give them, like, 13 million a day instead of 15. Bibi will be shaking in his boots.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Official Report ---> Denial. Official Report---> Denial. Etc, etc.

A United Nations fact-finding mission had released its report detailing war crimes committed in the Gaza offensive last winter. The 575 page report identifies instances both Israeli and Palestinian militant groups acted in ways that amount to either war crimes, or crimes against humanity.

While both Palestinian and Israeli groups were mentioned in the report, the harshest language was reserved for Israel. The NY Times provides some useful summaries and pulls some good quotes.

The report called Israel’s military assault on Gaza “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

The report claims that:

the Israeli military carried out direct attacks against civilians, including some in which civilians were shot “while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags.”

The report cited other possible crimes by the Israelis, including “wantonly” destroying food production, water and sewerage facilities; striking areas, in an effort to kill a small number of combatants, where significant numbers of civilians were gathered; using Palestinians as human shields; and detaining men, women and children in sand pits. It also called Israel’s use of weapons like white phosphorus “systematically reckless,” and called for banning it in urban areas.

On the Palestinian side, the report said that firing rockets that either deliberately were aimed at Israeli civilians or were so inaccurate as to risk hitting civilians caused widespread trauma and constituted a war crime. It also singled out Palestinian actions within Gaza, including killings and other abuse of members of the rival Fatah political movement as a “serious violation of human rights.”

The Israeli response to the document was not welcoming, understandably.

The Israeli government said it was studying the report, but Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, quickly rejected it, saying it failed to take into account that the operation was in “self-defense.”

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said it had refused to co-operate with the mission, calling it biased from the start.

When the UN committee was beginning their research, they were denied entry to Israel. From the very beginning, Israel had refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission because Israel says the UN Human Rights Council has a record of singling out Israel's human rights violations.

The report also touched on some of the most contentious points of the war and some of the most egregious events.

The panel rejected the Israeli version of events surrounding several of the most contentious episodes of the war.

Israel’s mortar shelling near a United Nations-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering some 1,300 people, killed 35 and wounded up to 40 people, the report said.

The investigation did not exclude the possibility that Israeli forces were responding to fire from an armed Palestinian group, as Israel claimed, but said that this and similar attacks “cannot meet the test of what a reasonable commander would have determined to be an acceptable loss of civilian life for the military advantage sought.”

Israel repeatedly accused Hamas of using mosques to shelter armed men or munitions, and a report by Israel said an attack against the Maqadmah mosque in Jabaliya had killed six known militants.

But the Human Rights Council report said the attack came during evening prayers, when some 300 men and women were in the mosque, and killed 15 people. There were no secondary explosions to indicate the presence of an arms cache.

If Israel wanted to destroy a mosque suspected as an arms cache, it should have done so in the middle of the night, Mr. Goldstone said.

The report also noted that some 10 Israeli shells, including white phosphorus, hit the main Gaza City compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency while up to 700 civilians were sheltered there. The compound contained a huge fuel depot, but the shells kept coming, it said, though United Nations officials spoke to their Israeli military liaison repeatedly.

In another episode, the report said the destruction of a house in which nearly two dozen relatives died, appeared to be “the result of deliberate demolition and not of combat.”

Asked about accusations that he was anti-Israel, Judge Goldstone acknowledged he was Jewish and said, “It is grossly wrong to label a mission or to label a report critical of Israel as being anti-Israel.”

The Israeli government and media immediately began challenging Goldstone and the committee. The Israel Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said “the sole purpose of the report was to undermine Israel's image at the beckoning of countries that are not familiar with the terms 'human rights' and 'war ethics.” He continued, “I can wholeheartedly say that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, and any person examining the facts objectively would agree.”

Ari Shavit, writing for Haaretz, continued with the line Foreign Ministry's line of thinking that the UN committee was biased against Israel.

Only in matters involving Israel, do international law and justice suddenly discover that they have teeth. Only when Israel is involved is the judgment administered out of context. Only Israel is required to uphold a moral standard no superpower or Middle Eastern state is required to uphold.

Shavit makes this point in an attempt to say that Israel is not the only country committing war crimes, just look at “the United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka or Turkey.” Shavit suggests that world superpowers and middle eastern countries should not be exempt from these investigations (especially not the U.S. regarding its potential crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan).

I agree with Shavit that no countries should be exempt from investigations in possible war crimes. But the fact that other countries that should be under investigation are not under investigation, does not exempt Israel from being held accountable for its own 'war crimes' or 'crimes against humanity.'

The Jerusalem Post's editorial on September 16 continues the denial of wrongdoing and Goldstone smear campaign.

The learned judge's concoction, based heavily on unverifiable claims from avowedly non-objective sources, some of them long-since discredited, is a feat of cynical superficiality, without appropriate distinction between terror and defense. The distorted picture justifies the Foreign Ministry's reaction of "nausea and fury."

Yet nobody here is surprised. The verdict was sealed before the probe had begun.

Goldstone, the South African judge who also conducted investigations in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, spoke for himself today in the NY Times. He defended the purpose of the fact-finding mission and reiterated that investigations need to continue to take place to hold the guilty accountable, both Israelis and Hamas militants.

Unfortunately, both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces. I am unaware of any case where a Hamas fighter was punished for deliberately shooting a rocket into a civilian area in Israel — on the contrary, Hamas leaders repeatedly praise such acts. While Israel has begun investigations into alleged violations by its forces in the Gaza conflict, they are unlikely to be serious and objective.
Absent credible local investigations, the international community has a role to play. If justice for civilian victims cannot be obtained through local authorities, then foreign governments must act. There are various mechanisms through which to pursue international justice. The International Criminal Court and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by other countries against violators of the Geneva Conventions are among them. But they all share one overarching aim: to hold accountable those who violate the laws of war. They are built on the premise that abusive fighters and their commanders can face justice, even if their government or ruling authority is not willing to take that step.

Amira Hass, writing for Haaretz, reminds us that this isn't the first report casting this level of suspicion upon the IDF's actions in Operation Cast Lead.

B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Haaretz and the international media - to Israelis, these have all fallen into the trash bin of the mendacious Palestinians. In the best case, they have become trapped in their own pure-hearted naivete, and in the worst, into collaborating with efforts to besmirch Israel and bolster prejudices against it. Like the Serbs of yore, we Israelis continue thinking it's the world that is wrong, and only we who are right.
Israel struck a civilian population that remains under its control, it didn't fulfill its obligation to distinguish between civilians and militants and used military force disproportionate with the tangible threat to its own civilians. Air Force drones and helicopters fired deadly missiles at civilians, many of them children; the Tank Corps and Navy shelled civilian neighborhoods with weapons not designed for precision strikes; soldiers received orders to fire on rescue crews; others fired on civilians carrying white flags; and others killed people in or near their homes. Troops used Gazans as human shields, soldiers detained civilians in abusive conditions, the army used white phosphorus shells in dense civilian areas and, on the eve of withdrawing, destroyed wide residential, industrial and agricultural areas.

There is only thing worse than denial - the admission that the IDF indeed acted as has been described, but that these actions are both normal and appropriate.

My own analysis: No one is above accountability. I agree with the voices calling for the United States and other nations to be investigated instead of being allowed to sit on the sidelines and point the finger. All nations whose military or armed forces take actions amounting to 'war crimes' or 'crimes against humanity' should be investigated and prosecuted. International criminal courts exist for a reason and should be used where appropriate.

Israel is not above the law. The fact that the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) has repeatedly called on Israel to amend its human rights violations is not because the UNHRC is anti-semitic (Goldstone is in fact Jewish), but rather it's because Israel consistently violated the human rights of Palestinians, whom are occupied by Israel. As Amira Hass wisely pointed out, this UN report is not the first official critique of Israel's behavior in Operation Cast Lead, and it will not be the last. The UN, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Haaretz have all released articles and reports documenting the war crimes committed by Israel in the recent offensive in Gaza.

And finally, the distinctions that Israel and the international community make between 'state defense' and 'terrorism' are absurd and need to stop. Indiscriminate violence is indiscriminate violence, whether it is used by an 'official' state army or by an 'unofficial' armed group. Palestine does not have a national army, so according to the Israeli logic of justifiable self-defense, how would Palestinians justifiably defend themselves? It seems any armed resistance of defense they take, would be chalked up to terrorism (in fact we have seen that is the case). I don't accept Shimon Peres' statement that the report fails “to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self-defense." It could very conceivably be argued that Hamas was exercising its right for self-defense against the aggressor, Israel. Those distinctions are meaningless.

The point is that bombing civilian populations is morally reprehensible, whether you are Hamas or the IDF, and whether you call it resistance or self-defense. The IDF should not held to a different standard than Hamas because the IDF is an 'official' army or because they are the 'most moral army in the world.' All should be held accountable to the overwhelming evidence which has again been presented.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quote of the Week: Vol 4

A report was released by the UN Commission assigned to find if Israel or Palestine had committed war crimes in Operation Cast Lead. The UN found crimes against humanity from the Israeli and Palestinian side. Israel said the report was biased and harsh. But the official responses are priceless.
Israel's envoy to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, said that Israel was "committed to international law."

The foreign ministry added, "Israel is completely committed to acting in accordance with international law."
For more accuracy, please insert the word "violating" before "international law" in both sentences.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In the Hotel California

Loyal readers,

I won't be blogging from Palestine, cause I am not in Palestine. I will try to post links of videos and articles I come across this next month. If I am outraged by op-ed pieces about Israel/Palestine, I will try to write rebuttals. I return to Palestine in mid-October.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Israeli Military Delivers Demolition Orders for Six Palestinian Houses


At Tuwani: Israeli Military Delivers Demolition Orders for Six Palestinian

13 September 2009

[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 are illegal. Settlement outposts are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

In the afternoon of 13 September, members from the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), accompanied by Israeli soldiers, delivered demolition orders for six Palestinian houses near the village of At-Tuwani.

One of the houses issued a demolition order.

The houses were recently built on privately-owned Palestinian land in Humra valley. On the night of 16 July, while some of the houses were still under construction, one building was destroyed and a nearby olive tree was damaged. The Palestinian family suspected the house had been destroyed by Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement Ma'on or the outpost Havat Ma'on. The family began rebuilding their house the next day.

On 20 July 2009 the Israeli military delivered stop work orders on the houses and two other structures, including a cistern. Now that demolition orders have been issued the families fear the Israeli military will soon destroy the houses.

The Israeli military severely restricts Palestinian building in the South Hebron Hills area, designated Area C under the Oslo Accords and under full Israeli control. However, the nearby Israeli settlements of Ma'on and Carmel and the outposts of Avigail and Havot Ma'on continue to expand.
Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have documented continuous settlement expansion since 2004.

Photos from the day are available at:

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Arabic Language is the New C4

Going through Israeli security is always an adventure. Entering the airport, the first security official asks you a few questions about your stay in Israel, makes some judgments about your responses, your appearance, and gives you a sticker with a number. I got number a 5 (a 5 out of 6 -- 6 being the most 'risky' passenger). Here we go again, I think, hours of questioning and getting a personal escort onto the airplane. As I move into the level 5 security area, three security officials are assigned to me and immediately begin opening up my bags. Every item in my bags are swabbed. My toiletries bag is opened and given the full treatment: deodorant, Q-tips, toothpaste, razor, lotion, everything. I am asked to put my feet on the rail one at a time, in order for my shoes to be swabbed, checking for dangerous or suspicious chemicals.

“Sir, it appears you have a computer in your bag, please take it out.”

I take out my computer and lay it on the table. The official swabs the exterior of the computer, opens the computer to swab the screen, mousepad, and keyboard. The keyboard. He pauses on the keyboard, and takes a good look. His demeanor stiffens as he turns to his college and utters something in Hebrew, all of which I can make out is the Hebrew word for “Arabic.”

“Sir, why do you have Arabic letters on your keyboard?”

“I am learning the language.”

The official briskly walks away from the area where I am being examined. Those previously questioning me were wearing black slacks and white collared shirts. The official who was questioning me returns with a man in a black suit. I am guessing he is the boss, I mean come on, it's a suit. As the suit approaches, the woman who was continuing to search my bag finds some papers with Arabic text. With a look of urgency, she turns to the suit and fans out the papers in order for him to see. Ironically these are vocabulary sheets. The paper which I can see most clearly has clothing vocabulary. The Arabic words for underwear, bra, suit, swimming suit.

“Sir why are you learning Arabic?”

“Arabic is an interesting language and is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world. So I decided to learn it.”

The man in the black suit reaches below the desk and pulls into view a roll of stickers, the same stickers that initially identified me as security level 5. The man pulls off several level 6 stickers, placing them on my passport and my luggage.

I have been upgraded to level 6. Maybe level 6 is reserved for Arabs, people who look Arab, or people who speak Arabic. They almost made a big mistake identifying me as level 5, geez, someone is getting fired for not giving me a 6 from the beginning.

The questioning continues about my time spent in Israel and about my Arabic studies. Where have I studied, with whom, and why. I have a Jordanian stamp in my passport so I am asked whether I know anyone “from there. Any friends, any family, anyone?”

“No. No one.”

My insides are boiling by this point, but I cope by laughing out loud. It's the only thing I can do to keep from yelling at the top of my lungs and aggressively shortening the distance between myself and the officials.

“Is learning Arabic a crime? It's a fucking language, people. It's how people communicate. Language is communication. It's how you order bread, or understand a newspaper, or tell someone you love them. And also, is it a problem if I know someone from Jordan? What would happen if I said I had family there? What would happen if I led you to believe I had 'connections' in the Arab world? What if I told you the truth about what I do: that I live in a Palestinian village in area C, under full Israeli military occupation. Schoolchildren, farmers, and shepherds are attacked by Israeli settlers and illegally chased off their land by soldiers and police. I try to help people in their fight to retain their land, their rights, and their dignity. That's why I am here.” I would like to say those things, but unfortunately that might get me blacklisted, and thus unable to enter the country for 5-10 years. Working for human rights is not a respected line of work here at airport security.

The fact that learning Arabic raises suspicions and that it gets you promoted from level 5 to level 6 is troubling. I am just an American with Arabic letters on his keyboard. What does this say about the place of Israel Arabs within Israeli society? They are Israeli citizens and their first language is Arabic. What does this say about the future of a two-state solution, one-state solution, or any solution at all? In any agreement, will Israeli Arabs be forever terror suspects, because of their language? According to Israeli security efforts, an entire people, culture, and language are suspicious by definition.

Sometimes I don't know what else to do. Sometimes I just laugh.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Quote of the Week: Vol 3

Fatah spokesman and Revolutionary Council member Fahmi Al-Za'arir said, "Resistance and struggle are legitimate means for any society under occupation. The only way to end the resistance is to end and remove the occupation.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Carter vs. the Israeli Lobby

Jimmy Carter recently went to Israel/Palestine. On 6 September he wrote a column for the Washington Post about his trip. I disagree with Carter on some points, especially when he speaks with slight disdain about moving towards a one state solution. I believe a one-state solution is the only feasible solution, and it will have to be a secular democratic state with full rights for all citizens. But nonetheless, my critique of Carter's column is not my purpose here. I am thrilled that Carter is visiting Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel and speaking truthfully and honestly about what he sees there.

(Enter neoconservative pundits/Israeli lobby)

Despite Carter's stories about what he saw in Palestine and what he hopes for, he is criticized by Elliot Abrams in his 7 September column in the Post. I will spend the rest of my time unpacking Abrams' column. (Reading both columns - especially Abrams' - will help this blog make more sense)
There are other ways to measure quality of life in the West Bank: The International Monetary Fund recently stated that "macroeconomic conditions in the West Bank have improved" largely because "Israeli restrictions on internal trade and the passage of people have been relaxed significantly."
I am glad the IMF is so generous towards Israel, that they are making life much easier for Palestinians (see The Shock Doctrine for a not so rosy picture of the IMF). But really this is degrees of economic strangulation. Israeli controls everything that comes in and out of the West Bank, and has much more strict regulations on the Gaza Strip. Restrictions on trade have relaxed from allowing nothing in, to allowing some things in. This is not to be applauded, not yet. Carter isn't lying when he says that, "Israel prevents any cement, lumber, seeds, fertilizer and hundreds of other needed materials from entering through Gaza's gates." That's a reality.

Abrams continues:
Carter states that Gaza is a "walled-in ghetto" and that "Israel prevents any cement, lumber, seeds, fertilizer and hundreds of other needed materials from entering through Gaza's gates." But Gaza is not an enclave surrounded by Israel; it has a border with Egypt. Every commodity that Carter says is needed can be supplied by Egypt, a point he overlooks in his efforts to blame Palestinian problems exclusively on the Jewish state.
First, Gaza is a "walled-in ghetto." Abrams is correct that Gaza does share a border with Egypt. But this is a classic pro-Israel strategy, to blame other Arab nations. If only the Arab nations would help Palestine, if only other Arab nations would accept Palestinian refugees there wouldn't be a refugee crisis. But the fact is that Israeli is occupying Palestine, not Egypt. Also, Egypt has a treaty with Israel, so I will go out on a limb and say that if Egypt opened its border completely with Gaza, the treaty would be compromised. In addition, I am guessing Egypt's status as the 2nd biggest benefactor of U.S. aid (behind Israel) would be compromised.
Similarly, he says that "[s]ome additional goods from Egypt reach Gaza through underground tunnels," phrasing that suggests the "additional goods" may help reduce shortages. In fact, they include missiles and rockets, thousands of which have been fired into Israel since its troops left Gaza in 2005. While Carter warns that a Palestinian "civil rights struggle" is in the offing, he says nothing about Palestinian violence in the real world -- in which Palestinian terrorist groups continue to attack Israel and where all of Gaza is, of course, in the hands of one such group, Hamas.
True. Additional goods to reach Gaza via the tunnels from Egypt, and those goods do help shortages. True, rockets and missiles also come through the tunnels. Why have those rockets been fired at Israel? Because Palestinians are born terrorists and are taught to hate in madrassas? No. Rather, because of 61 years of displacement and 42 years of cruel occupation. Also, Carter is the ONLY voice not mentioning Palestinian violence. In Obama's June 4 Cairo address, Obama spoke about Palestinian violence. He failed to speak about Palestinian nonviolence or Israeli violence. Palestinian violence is the largest obstacle to peace from Obama's and Abrams' perspectives. I applaud Carter for speaking about Palestinian nonviolence, because it DOES exist and it is a movement that is quickly growing in Palestinian society. Just scroll down on this blog to see some recent examples of Palestinian nonviolence.
Carter claims that the expansion of Israeli settlements is "rapidly" taking Palestinian land. Yet four years ago Israel gave up the Gaza Strip and all the settlements there (plus four small West Bank settlements); moreover, Carter presents no data suggesting that Israel's West Bank settlements are actually expanding physically.
Israeli already controls more than 50% of the West Bank, it doesn't need to 'rapidly' take Palestinian land for its control of Palestinian land to be appalling. I would like to rephrase Abrams second sentence in this paragraph. "Yet four years ago Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip (yet began a cruel and crushing siege of the territory) and gave up all the settlements (settlements which no country in the world recognized as legitimate, and which violated countless UN resolutions and humanitarian laws of which Israel was a signatory)." I cannot allow Abrams to use his tone to make Israel look so generous in removing settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip and from 'four small West Bank settlements' (out of more than 200). Last point, see Al Jazeera's article from 7 September that suggests that West Bank settlements "are actually expanding." Also, I took pictures and video yesterday of 'actual' settlement expansion from the illegal outpost Havat Ma'on. Two new houses are being built, new caravans, as well as several fences to steal Palestinian privately-owned land.
Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter's claim that "a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key" to a peace agreement. Not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza -- no, the sole "key" is Israeli settlements.
Every world leader that has spoken with Netanyahu in the past months has told him that this is the biggest issue, even Obama said this. Are they are just bullshitting Bibi? No, it's good advice because no Palestinian group will sit down with Israel to negotiate while Israeli continues to build settlements. That is the most disingenuous practice imaginable, to build settlements while discussing the land on which settlements are being built.
The Hamas coup in Gaza
That was a fair democratic election. Hamas ousted Fatah after they won the election, after they were labeled to be a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union. But don't paint it like it was a coup from the get-go. It was an election. Fatah lost because they were corrupt, and the people knew it.
Indeed the words "Hamas" and "terrorism" do not appear in Carter's column
True, that's not the point of the column. It's the same reason he didn't use the words "Operation Cast Lead," "Israeli state terrorism," or"white phosphorous."
Carter fantasizes about a "nonviolent civil rights struggle" that bears no relationship to the terrorist violence that has plagued Palestinian society, and killed Israelis, for decades.
I am sorry, but that is borderline racist, if not fully racist. Certain Palestinian individuals have resorted to violence because of their utter desperation and because the Israeli occupation has stripped them of any hope of a better future. Palestinian society is NOT defined by terrorist violence. In the Western media, yes it is, but in reality, no. That would be like saying the Israeli society is plagued by a desire to bomb and chemically burn suffering Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. That's racist. You cannot speak about an entire society as terrorists. What about the nonviolent resisters in Bil'in and Ni'ilin and the South Hebron hills, are they plagued by terrorist violence, have they killed Israelis for decades?

And is it really a fantasy, Elliot? Is it a fantasy that nonviolence will prevail, that it will continue to grow in popularity as a morally and strategically superior strategy? I don't believe so.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Settlers Use Slingshots Against Palestinians

I shot and edited this video, I can account for its credibility. Settlers chased Palestinians off Palestinian land and then threw stones with slingshots at the Palestinians and internationals. These Palestinian shepherds are not trying to be provocative or antagonistic, but are simply trying to graze their flocks on land where there is food.

If Palestinians were caught on video, chasing settlers and slinging rocks at them in order to chase them off the land; well, they would certainly be arrested. Palestinians are often arrested for much less. In fact, when Palestinian children in At-Tuwani (where this video was shot) were recently accused of snacking on some cherries from a settler orchard, settlers came into the village with M-16s and said that anyone caught stealing cherries would be shot.

Palestinians are prosecuted for throwing stones, and thus, Israeli settlers from Havat Ma'on should be prosecuted for throwing stones, in addition to their crimes of beating children, stealing land, and building illegal settlements.

Israel's Brutal Response to Nonviolent Resistance

This video is a quick summary of things I have been writing about on this blog recently. The occupation's response to nonviolent resistance in Bil'in is very similar to what is happening here in the South Hebron hills. It's very similar to what happened to Nasser from At-Tuwani, which I documented here.

Nonviolent resistance organizers are arrested and huge sums of money and are demanded for their release. Or as in the cases of Mohammed Khatib's and a leader in the South Hebron hills, organizers are restricted from participating in demonstrations.

This is a good reminder that nonviolent resistance is powerful and the government fears it. But it's also a reminder of the brutal Israeli system of occupation that Palestinians are under.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sweet Sounds from the WCC

The World Council of Churches said some things that made me smile. I'd like to tell you about it.
In his final address to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, general secretary Rev. Samuel Kobia called Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories a "sin against God."
I agree. Treating people "created in the image of God" as less than human beings is a "sin against God." Trapping people in the world's largest open-air prison and subjecting them to checkpoints, roadblocks, daily humiliation, denial of right of return, etc, etc, is unjust. It's sinful.

So the Samuel Kobia made a great speech, but more importantly, the WCC as a large body representing over 560 million Christians worldwide, passed some great resolutions.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee called on the Israeli government to freeze and begin to dismantle settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. It also encouraged a commitment to non-violence and peace negotiations, and reiterated the need for an international boycott of products and services from settlements.

In a public "Statement on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" passed today in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of its 26 August - 2 September meeting, the WCC central committee called "upon the government of Israel to urgently implement an open-ended freeze in good-faith on all settlement construction and expansion as a first step towards the dismantlement of all settlements".
The committee considered some 200 settlements with more than 450,000 settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories to be "illegal, unjust, incompatible with peace and antithetical to the legitimate interests of the state of Israel".

Even as "Israel's own right to exist in security evokes sympathy and solidarity around the world", the committee states, "its policies of expansion and annexation generate dismay or hostility". For the committee there is a clear distinction to be made "between the legitimate interests of the state of Israel and its illegal settlements".
The World Council of Churches also:
invited "member churches and faithful to give moral and practical support to non-violent acts of resistance to the confiscation of land, the destruction of Palestinian properties and the eviction of people from their homes and lands".

The statement "reiterates the need for an international boycott of settlement products and services". WCC member churches "must not be complicit in illegal activities on occupied territory" and therefore should "practice morally responsible investment in order to influence businesses linked to the Israeli occupation and its illegal settlements", the statement says.

The illegal settlements "and their corresponding infrastructure including the separation wall" have dire consequences on the life and dignity of Palestinian people, the WCC statement says.

Settlements deny Palestinians access to "land and water resources", "restrict their freedom of movement, diminish their basic human dignity and, in many cases, their right to life", impede their "right to education and access to health care", and "destroy the Palestinian economy". In these ways they increase "the sense of dispossession and despair".

In addition to that, "illegal settlements in and around Jerusalem endanger the future of the holy city", which "should be open to all and shared by the two peoples and the three religions".

The WCC central committee calls on member churches to "pray for and assist people who are suffering" as a result of settlement activity and "hear the call of the churches of Jerusalem for concrete actions by the international ecumenical community toward a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis".
I tend to agree. Nonviolent resistance, including actions and demonstrations against specific Israeli policies, in addition to joining the campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, is the answer to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Palestinians and Israelis need a just peace, not peace at any cost.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Prayers Before Battle

I found myself reading accounts of Israeli soldiers going into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in January. I end up reading these things on my 'days off,' which is really a poor idea. I end up trembling and shaking at my computer as I read these accounts, knowing that war isn't pretty and happy and victorious, not for everyone. War instead kills and maims people, destroys buildings and destroys life. I came across a prayer that Israeli soldiers said before they went into Gaza.
"May God...grant us the merit of triumphing over our enemies and putting them in their place. May the power and courage of Israel be exalted, and may we fulfill the verse: ‘And all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of the Lord is upon you, and they will stand in awe of you.'"
I am scared of this theology. Believing that God is on your side, assisting you in putting your enemies in their place (which in many cases meant a bloodied young boy draped lifeless across his mother's lap) is extremely dangerous. There is extreme danger in believing that God will assist your national army in overcoming your enemy so that the world may see that God is on your Israel's side. This is bad theology. Bad theology kills people. Bad theology killed Israeli soldiers. Bad theology killed lots of people in Gaza.

Also, see this account of an American Jew's experience in Gaza. After praying the prayer before battle with his comrades, he says, "We went into Gaza, and God went into Gaza with us."