Twilight Zone / Night of prayer
Gideon Levy

tes from Jerusalem, but is forbidden to go there, even for these most holy prayers.

A few months ago, when his mother was in Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, Jabarin would sneak over there through the sewer pipe leading out of his town. He would remove his pants to wade through the filthy, knee-deep water, come out on the other side of the sewer, and make his way to the holy city. Now this option is gone, too: Israel has sealed off the pipe and closed the route from the old part of Beit Hanina – where he lives – to the new part – located within the Jerusalem city limits.

Beit Hanina, a Jerusalem suburb, even a somewhat prestigious one, is divided between its old and new sections. The old section is cut off from Jerusalem by Road 443, which separates it from the capital, severing its residents from the city that had been the center of their lives. In the old section of Beit Hanina, as in the adjacent towns of Biddu and Beit Iksa, hundreds of apartments stand empty, abandoned by residents because of the separation wall and apartheid Road 443, which is for Israelis, and Israelis only. The highway to Jerusalem is like another separation barrier. The next time you drive on this road, remember that, because of it, Ali Jabarin cannot pray in the place that is sacred to him.

Aged 35 and the father of two daughters, with twin girls on the way, Jabarin works for a charity organization for orphans in Azzariyeh. This week, at his home in Beit Hanina, he told us the story of what happened to him, lingering over the details of every punch and every curse to which he was subjected.

On the morning of September 25, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Jabarin called a friend in the Jerusalem section of Beit Hanina and told him he was going to try to get to him so they could go up to the Al Aqsa mosque together, to spend the night in prayer. Jabarin made his way to the Qalandiyah checkpoint, hoping he would be able to make it to Jerusalem. So far, his prayer was answered. He says there was a crowd of hundreds of Palestinians who had somehow managed to break through the checkpoint, after the soldiers there lost control, and Jabarin found himself among them. He boarded a Palestinian bus and headed for his friend`s home in Beit Hanina.

A few minutes after he got off the bus, as he was walking to his friend`s house, a Border Police Jeep pulled up alongside him; the driver asked for his ID. Jabarin`s ID card, from the territories, prohibits him from being where he was. A woman passing by called out to the Border Police officer: `What do you want from him?` The officer responded with a hail of curses, and Jabarin said to him: `Speak more politely. You`re speaking to a human being.` That is when the beatings and abuse began: Border Police officers don`t like to be scolded about their manners, especially by a Palestinian.

After he refused to get into the Jeep as long as they were speaking rudely to him, Jabarin was physically forced into the vehicle and taken to a Border Police facility in Atarot. He was led down a few steps to a large space where about 70 Palestinian detainees were being held. Some, like him, had been trying to get to the prayer service.

It was during the days of the Ramadan fast, and the prisoners hadn`t had anything to eat or drink since the night before. There were some children and old people among them, too. A security camera was pointed at them the entire time. One of the Border Police officers who was guarding them cursed constantly: `We`ll screw your mother, we`ll screw your sisters, we`ll screw all of you,` and so on. When Jabarin quotes the curses, he lowers his voice, embarrassed.

At some point, the prisoners decided to ignore the curses, and one of them began reading aloud from a Koran he had with him. The Border Police officer ordered him to be quiet. He kept going anyway. The cursing and reading went on for about three hours, until about two in the afternoon. Then a new Border Police officer came, one who spoke fluent Arabic, and he also began cursing the prisoners, in Arabic this time. He directed most of his curses at the fellow who was continuing to read verses from the Koran. Jabarin again couldn`t keep silent, and he stood up and said something to this Border Police officer about his cursing. The officer came over to him; Jabarin thought he wanted to speak to him. Jabarin says he wanted to tell him that there were children and old people in this place and he ought not to be cursing them. But instead of words, punches and kicks began flying at him. The punches were aimed at Jabarin`s head, the kicks at his stomach.

Jabarin got dizzy from the blows that landed on his face and ears, and he soon fell to the floor, dazed. He could feel that he was foaming at the mouth. When he talks about it now, many days after the incident, he looks very upset. It wasn`t just the blows and the curses that hurt him; it was also the fact that it was all done in front of dozens of other prisoners, including some children and teenagers. It was a blow to his dignity as well. After about 10 minutes, he tried to get to his feet but was unable to. He felt dizzy and nauseous, like he needed to throw up. With his last remaining strength, he tottered up the steps and asked the Border Police officers who were there to call him an ambulance and the police. In addition to medical treatment, Jabarin wanted to file a complaint about the beating.

His request went unanswered, and he was ordered to go back down to the detention room. He says he felt his ears exploding with pain. One of the Border Police officers asked who beat him up, adding that, whoever it was, he hadn`t beaten him enough: `He should have killed you.` A man in civilian clothes, armed with a pistol, arrived in the meantime and took Jabarin into his office. Jabarin says he told him that the detainees shouldn`t be spoken to in such a crude way, especially not during the fast. He also asked to know the name of the officer who beat him, but the man in civilian clothes wouldn`t give him the name, or his own name either. Jabarin was returned to the detention room, after being promised that an ambulance would come.

Instead of an ambulance, a man in a Border Police uniform who said he was a doctor arrived. Jabarin asked to see his medical license and was refused. The officer who beat him said, `You annoyed me, and my problem is that I beat you up in front of the camera.` Jabarin replied that he didn`t need a camera, he had 70 witnesses. The Border Police officer asked the detainees if any had seen the beating and were willing to testify, but no one stood up. Jabarin asked who of the young people knew how to read Hebrew, and when someone got up, he asked him to read the name of the officer who had beaten him, which was written in Hebrew on his name tag. Raad Malahala, `or something like that,` was the name. Jabarin says that he was shoved and hit some more whenever he asked for an ambulance. `Don`t tell me you`ve never been beat up before,` the officer who beat him said in surprise.

At around 6:30 P.M., the order came to release the detainees. They were commanded to walk single file, escorted by a Border Police officer, toward the Qalandiyah checkpoint. By the time they were released, more and more illegals had been apprehended, including women and children. At the peak, there were about 100 detainees there, by Jabarin`s estimate. He refused at first to leave on foot and continued asking for an ambulance, but his request was denied. He used his cell phone to call his cousin, Karim Jubran, a researcher for B`tselem (a human rights group) in the Jerusalem area, and told him what was going on. Not long before, when it came time to break the fast, one of the detainees had called out `Allahu Akbar` to mark the end of the fast, and the Border Police officers beat him up, too, according to Jabarin.

Finally, they headed out on foot toward the checkpoint. Jabarin, who could barely stand, trailed behind and was prodded on by a Border Police officer. Eventually, he was lifted onto a Border Police vehicle and driven the rest of the way to the checkpoint. Jabarin`s friend, an activist in the Al-Haq human rights organization, picked him up from the checkpoint in his car and took him straight to the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Ramallah. There he was diagnosed with torn eardrums from the beatings. B`tselem recorded Jabarin`s testimony and is soon planning to lodge a complaint with the Israel Police investigations department.

? ? ?

A Border Police spokesman responded this week: `We are not aware of such an incident. When the complaint is received, it will be investigated by the commander of the `Jerusalem envelope` district. At the same time, we shall submit a complaint to the Police Investigations Department within the framework of the zero tolerance policy for the unauthorized use of force. But first, they will check whether or not the incident actually occurred.`


I am more disappointed in the fact that Yusaf Islam (Cat Stevens) accepted the invitation to perform in Israel than the fact that he was denied entry, on ‘security grounds’.

I am even more disappointed that Mercedes Sousa accepted the invitation as well and is here at the moment to perform. This, despite many personal appeals to her to reconsider performing here…. which is an endorsement of the Apartheid system.

Sousa is, or at least should be, aware of the role the International Solidarity Movements played in helping to restore Democracy to her native Argentina during the days of the fascist dictatorship there. Is it not expecting to much for a person such as herself, a well known advocate of Human Rights, to do the same here?

As for Islam, his actions are nothing less than a disgrace. For a man of his stature to turn his back on his own Islamic brothers and sisters is an unforgivable crime. Much more was expected of him.

The performances were to be at the Peres Centre for Peace, which is an insult in itself. To name a centre dedicated to Peace after an avowed war criminal is unforgivable. The man has lied his way through over 60 years of Israel’s history and continues to do so.



Uncertainty continues to loom over a post-Olmert government while settler violence against West Bank Palestinians reaches a new peak, reports Khalid Amayreh

Israeli President Shimon Peres gave Prime Minister- designate Tzipi Livni two more weeks Monday to form a coalition government amid signs that early general elections in Israel may be in the offing.

Livni has been holding intensive talks with prospective coalition partners for the past four weeks. The talks have so far yielded a “partnership agreement” with the Labour Party, headed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

Livni has also been in contact with the Meretz faction in an effort to include the small centre-left party into her prospective coalition government, which observers view as a relatively easy task.

However, if by 3 November Livni doesn’t succeed in forming a government, elections will be held within 90 days.

Aides to Livni voiced optimism that a coalition government would be ready and get Knesset approval before 3 November, the new deadline.

“We are not done yet because there are still large gaps and there have been many holidays and Sabbaths that have prevented the talks from progressing and gaining momentum. But I don’t think we will need two weeks,” said Yisrael Maimon, a Livni aide.

The main challenge facing Livni continues to be the task of wooing two fundamentalist Jewish religious parties to join the government, mainly in order to secure a parliamentary majority in the Knesset, supporting the government.

The two parties are the Haredi (meaning pious) Shas Party, that generally represents Middle Eastern Jews, and the United Torah Judaism Party, formerly known as Agudat Yisrael, which represents non-Zionist western religious Ashkenazi Jews.

Interestingly, Shas initially voiced reservations about the prime minister-designate being a woman, suggesting that it would be somewhat embarrassing for the religious male ministers of Shas to sit down and meet alone with a woman, which is presumably incompatible with Orthodox Jewish religious law.

Then there are the real problems, namely the uncompromising demands of Shas that the government allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in social welfare to poor families with multiple children. Most of these families are concentrated in both the Haredi and Arab sectors, and many secular Israelis, on the right and left of the political map, are vehemently opposed to “squandering” taxpayers’ money on those who generally don’t serve in the Israeli army.

Serving in the army, the ultimate holy cow in Israel, is the main barometer for obtaining rights and privileges in Israeli society.

Haredi communities (the non-Zionist religious Jewish sector) have been hard-pressed economically and financially as a result of “financial reforms” introduced by former finance minister under Ariel Sharon, Benyamin Netanyahu, which seriously limited child allowances.

Shas is also demanding that as long as the coalition government remains intact, no negotiations over Jerusalem can be conducted with the Palestinian Authority. This condition, however, is seen by many observers as “non- essential”.

According to most observers, Livni is likely to reach a compromise with Shas and probably with the United Torah Judaism Party in a few days.

However, reaching an agreement with these two parties is one thing and maintaining a strong government is another. With two religious parties forming the first line of defence against no-confidence votes in the Knesset, the heterogeneous Livni government wouldn’t be able to pursue meaningful peace talks with the Palestinians, presuming that the government had the will and the desire to do so.

This situation might eventually force Livni to spend a lot of time and energy trying to appease her inharmonious coalition partners and convince them to stay in the government. The other alternative is the dissolution of the government and the organisation of early general elections, which most opinion polls indicate would be won by right-wing parties and by a large margin.

Meanwhile, one of the main challenges facing the Livni government will be the growing lawlessness and terror of organised Jewish fundamentalist groups, otherwise known as settlers. During the past few weeks, settlers in the hundreds have been assaulting Palestinian olive pickers all over the West Bank.

These assaults and provocations normally take the form of paramilitary Jewish settlers descending from their nearby hilltop colonies onto Palestinian olive pickers, beating them with sticks, shooting at them and cutting off or burning down their groves.

Palestinians, human rights observers and international solidarity activists operating in the occupied territories are speaking of a “phenomenal increase” in both the number and boldness of settler terror and vandalism against Palestinians. So far, dozens of Palestinians have been injured, some seriously, by settler thugs going on the rampage.

In Hebron, settler terrorists assaulted Palestinian olive pickers, international peace activists and journalists, 18 October. And in the northern West Bank, settlers burned down hundreds of grown olive trees.

The ultimate settler goal is to force the Palestinians into exile, by way of organised terror, in order to enable Jews to establish a Jewish religious kingdom that would be ruled by Jewish religious law, or Halacha.

On 19 October, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described settler terror against Palestinian olive pickers as “unbearable”, accusing the Israeli army of colluding with settler terrorists against helpless Palestinian farmers.

“All lines have been crossed in the olive groves this season. I have contacted the Israeli government and the international community in an effort to stop these criminal acts. I can’t understand how Israel can speak of peace while allowing these thugs to attack and terrorise our people.”

The phenomenal rise in organised Jewish terror against virtually helpless Palestinian farmers is not exactly unplanned. According to Israeli sources quoted by The Economist, 16 October, the settler terrorists are following a policy called “Price Tag”, whereby the settlers retaliate violently against the Palestinians whenever the Israeli army tries to dismantle outposts — even individual caravans or huts — that have not been authorised by the Israeli government.

The rampaging terror may not necessarily take place in the same place. “They may hit Palestinians somewhere else. They stone cars, smash windows, burn olive trees and fields. They will attack shepherds, and tangle with the army and police. Their aim is to persuade Israelis that no further forcible dismantlement of Jewish settlements is possible… Now, passive resistance is bolstered by physical retaliation.”

Will the Livni-Barak government be able to face down settler terror? This is the question most observers are asking. But is it hard to answer? From past experience, neither Livni nor Barak will risk their political future by putting up a real resistance to settler thugs.

One Palestinian observer remarked in this regard, “A snake wouldn’t bite its own tail.”


Fatah in turmoil

The sacking of a Palestinian Authority security chief appears to substantiate allegations of direct Fatah collusion with Israel, reports Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah

The sacking by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of Intelligence Chief Tawfiq Tirawi on Tuesday seems to be more than just a “formality” related to the latter reaching the age of retirement, as PA spokesmen have been saying.

Tirawi, along with a number of other PA security chiefs, spearheaded the relentless campaign against Hamas’s supporters and institutions in the West Bank, even to the point of active coordination and collaboration with Israel.

This fact, which became well known to many Palestinians, including Fatah’s followers, eventually rendered most security chiefs a serious liability, undermining Fatah’s image as a national liberation movement.

Moreover, critics, including Hamas, have used the “excesses” to portray the PA as a quisling entity working in concert with Israel against the national cause.

Last month, a number of security chiefs met with commanders of the Israeli army at the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah and reportedly told them: “Israel and the PA are allies against a common enemy, which is Hamas.”

According to Israeli journalist Nahom Barnea, who attended the meeting with the Palestinian officers’ consent, the Palestinian participants asked their Israeli “colleagues” for weapons and training for the purpose of “re-conquering the Gaza Strip”.

Moreover, according to Barnea, the Palestinians also sought to impress the Israeli occupation commanders by citing their crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, with one of them saying, “we usually do more than you ask us to do,” and “we don’t even flinch from entering the mosques when we have to.”

News of the meeting, dubbed by Fatah as a public relations disaster, spread fast through the Internet and in the Hebrew press, embarrassing Fatah and prompting some of its veteran leaders to ask Abbas to fire the security chiefs immediately.

Munzer Irsheid, a former mayor of Jericho and former security figure, now residing in Jordan, suggested in an article published in September that the security chiefs were “traitors to Fatah” and “traitors to Palestine”.

Similarly, Qaddura Fares, a Fatah MP and close confidante to imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Al-Barghouti, called for the “immediate sacking” of the security chiefs who he said didn’t represent Fatah.

The Beit El meeting, along with the perceived close collaboration between the security agencies and the Israeli occupation army, continued to reverberate in the Palestinian arena, with Hamas calling on Abbas to “oust the traitors from your midst”.

One Hamas official in the Hebron region remarked: “How can we possibly have a serious national unity dialogue with people who claim to be patriotic Palestinians in daylight hours while at night they coordinate with the Israeli army the next wave of arrests against our people?”

Earlier this month Fatah MP Isa Qaraqi castigated members of the security agencies, describing them as “panicking rabbits”. He pointed out that thousands of PA security personnel, who are supposed to provide protection for the Palestinian people, flee to their “coops” whenever Israeli occupation troops storm Palestinian population centres.

Qaraqi’s mordant broadside drew sharp reactions from Tirawi and other security officials who responded by arguing that the security agencies gave numerous martyrs for Palestine and that people who drive smart cars and receive hefty salaries were not in a position to question the nationalistic credentials of the soldiers of Palestine.

Tirawi hinted that Qaraqi was effectively aiding Hamas by questioning the integrity of the security agencies. Qaraqi’s supporters retorted forcefully by arguing that “true soldiers of Palestine” don’t spend convivial nights with Israeli occupation army chiefs. “If you are not capable of protecting us, and if you are not capable of protecting yourselves, then what is the justification for your very existence?” one Fatah activist wrote last week.

The heated exchange reflects a growing polarisation between two camps within the Fatah movement: the nationalist, or “Arafatist” camp, which is faithful to the legacy of Yasser Arafat and is determined to maintain the “purity” of the national struggle for independence and freedom; and the so-called “pragmatic camp”, namely the careerist-minded Oslo-era beneficiaries who have profited immensely as a result of the status-quo.

The first camp is represented by such people as Marwan Al-Barghouti and his supporters, Hani Al-Hassan, Farouk Qaddumi and a large number of Fatah MPs and leaders, especially at the grassroots and intermediate levels. The second camp encompasses the security chiefs, PA operatives and functionaries who are small in terms of numbers but powerful due to foreign — especially American — backing and who control the coffers of the PA, Fatah, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

President Abbas and his leading aides, such as Ahmed Qurei, Saeb Ereikat, Nabil Amr and Nabil Shaath are often seen trying to bridge the gap between the two camps in order to present Fatah as a united front, especially in the face of Hamas. However, these bridging efforts have not been successful.

Last week, when top Fatah leaders met in Amman in an effort to set a date for holding the repeatedly delayed Sixth Fatah Congress, acrimonious exchanges between Abbas and Qaddumi underscored the serious chasm between the pro- and anti-Oslo camps. Qaddumi reportedly told Abbas that “You are no Yasser Arafat” and that, “You can’t hold all these portfolios at the same time.”

Abbas is chief of the PLO, chief of Fatah and president of the PA, which means that people like Qaddumi are effectively marginalised.

Nonetheless, the real issue impeding — even preventing — the convening of the congress is that the “pragmatists” (i.e. those who would keep up the peace process no matter what Israel does) are worried that they might be voted out of office in the event that Fatah’s rank and file are allowed to decide who Fatah’s next leaders will be.

Earlier, Intesar Al-Wazeer, Um Jihad, the widow of murdered Fatah military commander Khalil Al-Wazeer (who was assassinated in Tunis by Mossad in 1989) told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that there is “a conspiracy to weaken and marginalise Fatah” by “people who claim to be Fatah”.

Al-Wazeer accused “people around Mahmoud Abbas” of being “indifferent to Fatah” and of “catering only for their own interests”. She also accused Abbas of “only consulting with a small coterie of people around him” who she suggested had a different agenda.

The meeting in Amman ended inconclusively with no definite date set for the congress, although a statement issued by Hakam Balaawi, Fatah’s secretary, said that there was a determination to hold the congress before the end of 2008. Balaawi’s statement, however, can’t be taken for granted for several reasons.

First, more than two years of intensive negotiations with Israel as well as several high-profile international peace conferences have failed to achieve a breakthrough towards ending the 41-year-old Israeli occupation. It is unlikely that Abbas and his supporters will go “empty-handed” to an all-important convention that would determine their political future.

Second, the new US administration and growing political instability in Israel is not conducive to holding a successful Fatah congress and might even militate in favour of the “radicals” who are fed-up with a peace process that has only seen more Palestinian land being stolen by Israel and the dream of Palestinian statehood shattered.

Still, failure to hold the congress before the end of 2008 would undoubtedly complicate things further within Fatah and increase frustration among the movement’s supporters, especially at the grassroots levels, which is further bad news for Abbas.


Innocent children are being targeted and killed in Gaza by Israel forces…. but Israel officially denies these actions.
The following report and video shows it all…. including the denial.
The Israeli military is facing fresh accusations from a Palestinian human rights group that it is responsible for civilian deaths.
And for deliberately targeting children in Gaza.

Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

From AlJazeera via Uruknet

Also read THIS report…..


Image by Abonoon

Ramblings and Reflections……

Following in the footsteps of his ‘Peace Partner’, Ehud Olmert, the former President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, has finally decided to do something.
Olmert thinks the Occupied Lands of Palestine, including East Jerusalem should be handed over to the Palestinians…. a thought he came up with after stepping down as Prime Minister….

Abbas ordered the planting of 7 million olive trees in response to settler attacks. Those settler attacks have been going on for over 40 years!!!!
Where has he been?

Same for the occupied lands… over 40 years of occupation!!!!
Where has Olmert been??

When Abbas first raised the issue of planting the trees he said he was willing to pay for them himself…. interesting that he has that much money to spare while ‘his’ people are literally starving to death.

Brings to mind a little blue and white box that my grandmother had, on it was written Palestinian National Fund.. she was always putting her spare change into that box. She explained to me that it was to go to the new ‘Jewish Homeland’, to be used to plant trees….

Today we see decendents of my grandmother’s generation in Israel destroying the very trees that were there, in some cases for centuries. Aside from that, they make it virtually impossible for the Palestinian farmers to harvest the crops from those trees that remain. These acts are most upsetting as many of these same ‘people’ are decendents of holocaust survivors committing the same crimes today that the nazis committed 60 years ago.

Somehow, I don’t think the grandmothers of yesteryear would be too happy with the situation today…. many came to America from war torn areas in Europe… it was not in their wildest dreams for those horrors to continue in their name. All I can say is that THEY ARE NOT BEING DONE IN MY NAME!


When charges were brought originally against Ehren, there were five counts. The two counts of giving interviews to reporters Sara Olson and Dahr Jamail were dropped in the first court martial. In order to save Olson and Jamail from complying with the subpoenas served to them by the military, Ehren stipulated to having made the statements. The military then set aside those charges without prejudice.

When Judge Head called the mistrial, in the first court martial, it was over the strong objection of Ehren’s counsel, and initially against the wishes of the prosecution. After going behind closed doors the prosecution emerged, requested a mistrial, mistrial was granted. Eric Seitz, Ehren’s attorney said at that time that it was his opinion that he could not be tried again because it would be a clear case of double jeopardy.

Judge Settle agreed, the mistrial was mishandled by the military, and just because they blew it, they don’t get a second chance.

When the military pursued a second court martial, Ehren appealed all the way up to the highest military court on double jeopardy grounds and lost. Then last October, his new attorneys appealed in Federal Court to Judge Settle, a former JAG prosecuting attorney himself. In November Judge Settle handed down a temporary injunction.

Ehren has been cleared of being retried for the counts he faced in the first court martial. However, this time around the military added back in the two counts of conduct unbecoming (the interviews with Olson and Jamail) and did not offer the same deal to stipulate. So now Judge Settle has left it up to the military to appeal his ruling as well as continue on concerning those two counts.

Although Ehren’s commission was up over a year ago, the military has not released him. He still reports to his desk job at Fort Lewis. Furthermore, he is still confined to travel no further than a 150 mile radius of Fort Lewis.

Judge Blocks Retrial of War Objector on Key Counts

SEATTLE (AP) — The Army can’t retry a Fort Lewis-based Iraq war objector on
several key charges because that would violate the soldier’s constitutional
protection against double jeopardy, a federal judge ruled late Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle of Tacoma said the government could
not retry 1st Lt. Ehren Watada on charges of missing his unit’s deployment to
Iraq in June 2006 and for denouncing President Bush and the war.

To do so would violate Watada’s Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice
for the same charges, Settle held.
”He dismissed the heart of their case,” Watada lawyer Jim Lobsenz said.
”We’re very pleased. It’s taken a long time.”
The judge kicked back to the military trial court for further consideration
two other conduct unbecoming an officer charges against Watada, opening the
door to further court proceedings. Both of those charges involve public
interviews Watada gave to reporters.

Settle said the military court should consider whether there are
”constitutional defects” to retrying Watada on those charges before a civil court
In a statement late Tuesday, a Fort Lewis spokesman said the base’s
commanding general, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., had not yet had a chance to
review the ruling in depth.
”Once that review is complete, he will be able to make a decision on the way
forward with this case,” the spokesman said.

Watada contended that the war is illegal and that he would be a party to war
crimes if he served in Iraq. His first court-martial ended in a mistrial in
February 2007.
Lobsenz had said it was a mistake for a mistrial to be declared in that case.

On Tuesday, Settle agreed, noting that the trial judge ”did not exercise
sound discretion” when he failed to determine whether a mistrial was

Thanks to Robin for supplying the above info and writing the intro.


Israel Targets Palestinian Students
By Mohammed Omer

GAZA CITY, The letter of acceptance that 28-year-old Hazem Hussain got for a business graduate programme in a Californian university once brought joy. Now he does not know what to do with it.

He has admission, and a visa to the U.S., but the Israelis will not let him leave.

“I have tried to get out through every means possible for a year now,” he says. “But I am not able to go.” The semester started some weeks ago.

Twenty-two-year old Saed Badawi got admission to a German university, but he too is stuck. “I am devastated by this — getting my visa renewed will take a long time, with all the new procedures and requirements.”

Eighteen-year-old Juliet Al-Tork, accepted in Jordan’s Al-Yarmouk University for a translations course, is among the hundreds not being allowed by Israel to leave. “All young people are given the chance to study, and I am not.”

“Israel is preventing the very people it should be encouraging,” says Sari Bashi, executive director of the Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, a human rights Israeli group lobbying on behalf of Palestinian students against the closure policy. “Israel is not just denying Palestinian rights, it is also hurting its own interests.” Bashi says that close to a thousand students attempt to leave Gaza each year to pursue higher education; universities in Gaza offer only undergraduate degrees. This year about a third of them were allowed out.

“By letting out a few people, Israel has been able to deflect attention from the hundreds of students and 1.5 million people still trapped in Gaza,” Bashi says. “Punishing innocent civilians for the behaviour of political leaders violates international prohibitions, and qualifies as collective punishment.”

Egypt’s complicity has been especially troubling for the students. Egypt could well let these students through its Rafah border crossing. It does let in students from Gaza to its own universities. And, students say, if Hamas leaders can go into Egypt, why not they.

Israeli security has on occasion pursued students even after they have left. A Fulbright scholar had his visa revoked upon arrival in Washington DC after Israel tagged him with an unspecified security warning.

The official Israeli explanation is summed up in a Jul. 7, 2008 letter from then Knesset member and Israeli minister for foreign affairs, Tsippi Livni: “The policy of not permitting exit abroad for students from Gaza is part of the Security Cabinet decision from 19.09.07 which defined Gaza as a hostile entity and placed restrictions on the borders for passage of goods and movement of people from the Strip and to it except for humanitarian cases.”

Israel declared Gaza a “hostile entity” after failing to overthrow the elected government in an attempted coup with the help of U.S.-trained Fatah fighters during the summer of 2007.

There is now a Stranded Students Committee. Its representative Murad Bahloul says members are planning to erect a tent close to the Rafah border in protest. “All students have agreed to go on hunger strike until we are let out and allowed to attend our universities,” he says.

Bahloul was accepted by a British university last year but was never allowed by the Israelis to leave. This year a Malaysian university granted him a place to study construction management, and he fears this opportunity will be missed too.

With every passing day, futures fade. “I feel so disappointed, Hazem Hussein says. “I can’t continue my education. I can’t cross, and this keeps me away from the free world.” If he cannot leave soon, he loses another year – at least.



How much do you really know about America’s presidents?
By Ian Randal Strock

The Quiz can be found HERE

Source via Robin


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

Palestinian granted posthumous entry to Israel

By Ali Waked

Did red tape contribute to a Palestinian patient`s death? The family members of Gaza Strip resident Mahmoud abu-Amro claimed Sunday that the military`s procrastination in giving the 58-year-old cancer patient the necessary clearance to receive treatment in Israel was the direct cause of his death.

Abu-Amro had been a patient of the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv for the past two years, undergoing his last session in February of 2008. According to his family, when he tried to enter Israel for treatment through Erez crossing in March, he was refused passage due to security concerns.

Abu-Amro reportedly arrived at the crossing with two medical briefs, written by Dr. Michal Lotem, an oncologist at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem and Dr. Ella Evron an oncologist at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, citing he was in need of urgent medical care.

`The patient is suffering from a terminal disease. The treatment can both prolong his life and ease his suffering… it has a basic humanitarian purpose,` wrote Dr. Lotem.

Risky business

The family petitioned the Israeli authorities several times, via the Physicians for Human Rights association, requesting their patriarch be allowed entry to Israel for treatment.

Abu-Amro even met with a Shin Bet officer at Erez crossing, where he was told – according to his son, Dr. Salman abu-Amro – that one of his sons `was growing a beard and praying in a mosque, and that he should stand up against Hamas.`

`Yes, my brother is praying and he has a beard – as he has had for the past few years – but he has never been affiliated with any organization and it has never stopped my father from getting treatments in Israel before.

`How can my brother having a beard turn into the kind of security risk that would prevent my father form getting treatment?` Salman wondered.

His father, he added, was instructed to order his son to stop visiting the mosque, `but as for speaking against Hamas, my father told (the officer) that if the United States and Israel have not been able to overpower Hamas, it is unlikely that a 58-year-old cancer patient could help them.`

`Inhumane approach`

Following a Physicians for Human Rights and several Arab Knesset members` plea on abu-Amro`s behalf, the Shin Bet and the IDF eventually granted him and two other patient entry to Israel. The three were scheduled to enter the country last week, but abu-Amro died several days before arriving at the Sourasky Medical Center.

According to his son, days after abu-Amro`s death, the family was notified that the he would be able to enter Israel earlier than planned. `They only did it to look good for the human rights groups, but I`m sure they agreed to push up the date only because they knew my father was already dead.

`We are treated like a bunch pf papers, like people who have no feelings,` said Salman. `The Israeli authorities` approach in inhumane,` he added, saying he knows of at least three more patients who died because they were denied entry to Israel for treatment.

Hadas Ziv, head of Physicians for Human Rights, said that `the security forces deny patients entry for treatment as a default measure, citing security concerns. Now more then ever, we need the public and the politicians to get involved in these cases in order to facilitate the patients.`

Meretz-Yahad Chairman Chaim Oron added that `it is impossible to have a situation in which the Defense Ministry`s bureaucracy claims lives. I urge Defense Minister Ehud Barak to elasticize patients` criteria and allow those in need to get treatment.`



A traitor in Baghdad, a traitor in Kabul

By Khalid Amayreh

Traitors, irrespective of time and place, are enemies of their own peoples and motherlands. They are also enemies of the most fundamental human morality.

One, of course, should not worship his country. A morally enlightened citizen should refrain from supporting his own country, or more correctly his government if it chooses to do wrong and adopt policies that are manifestly immoral.

The notorious Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and the genocidal American imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan are two classical examples of criminal policies that good men and women of conscience ought to strongly reject and resist.

Indeed, opposing such policies is the ultimate expression of true patriotism, whereas supporting one’s country -right or wrong- reflects mindless jingoism and moral bankruptcy. This factor ultimately draws the line of distinction between civility and savagery and between enlightenment and primitiveness.

However, moral depravity occurs when citizens of a given country collaborates with foreign invaders to effect goals that are decidedly criminal and evil. Such is the case of the Iraqi government.

Nuri al Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq, might think that he is serving the interests of his country by allowing American imperialism to gain a permanent foothold in Iraq.

He might be tempted to argue that many countries around the world are hosting American military bases without having their respective national sovereignty compromised.

He is wrong.

First of all, Iraq is not Japan or even South Korea. The American military presence in Iraq is not designed to help the Iraqis achieve true independence, stability and prosperity.

The American occupation forces are in Iraq in order to destroy Iraq, which they have done to a large extent, torment Iraqis, and transform the land of Harun al Rashid into a virtual Zionist colony serving “ global Jewish-Zionist interests.”

Moreover, the Americans seem hell-bent on arrogating Iraqi oil by turning Iraq into a banana republic, a mere cheap market for American products.

Another important reason behind the American occupation of Iraq is to forestall the potential of Iraq becoming a threat to Zionist military supremacy once again. Otherwise, why would Mossad agents scour Iraq from north to south and from east to west to assassinate top Iraqi scientists, probably in collusion with American, Kurdish and (Iraqi) intelligence services.

In short, the United States wants to destroy or neutralize Iraq on Israel’s behalf. Wasn’t that the main factor behind the American invasion, occupation and virtual destruction of the ancient land of Mesopotamia ?

In truth, the current Iraqi leadership seems to have lost any sense of national honor and dignity. This is obvious from the shocking complacency displayed toward the very country that murdered or caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis…all “ because if it is good for America it is worth it,” as the evil-minded Madeline Albright put it several years ago.

Today, the traitor of Baghdad, the Ibn al-Alqami of our time ( Ibn Al-‘Alqami was the vizier of the last Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, Al- Musta’sim, who is accused of opening the gates of Baghdad to the armies of Hulago) is effectively allowing the US to maintain a number of military and air-bases on Iraqi soil which would be used against fellow Arab and Muslim countries, or at least to maintain America’s hegemony over oil fields in the region.

Equally obscene is the Iraqi leader’s initial consent to granting American soldiers who murder and rape Iraqis a virtual immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts.

What happened to the honor of Iraq and the Iraqi people? Is it being trampled upon, not only by the Zionist-American invaders, but also by Iraq’s own quisling government and its so-called prime minister who doesn’t stop claiming to be serving the national interests of his country and people?

Would any honorable Iraqi, Sunni or Shiite, Arab or non-Arab, Christian or Muslim, accept such humiliating “agreements” that would grant the rapists of our daughters and murderers of our children immunity from prosecution by Iraqi judges?

Are Americans a special breed of people to whom the laws of man and God don’t apply? Would the American Congress and government ever agree to grant a foreigner living in the U.S. immunity from prosecution by American courts in the event he or she committed a felony, or even a misdemeanor, on American soil?

Or is Iraq becoming just another “Palestinian Authority” whereby Nazi-like Israeli soldiers are given a caret blanch to violate Palestinian population centers around-the-clock while thousands of American-trained Palestinian “soldiers” and “officers “are confined to their coops…because the agreements say so!!

And now the traitor of Kabul, Hamid Karzi, the so-called “President of Afghanistan” who represents even a cheaper and more pornographic type of quislings than the traitor of Baghdad.

What else can one speak of a man who probably enjoys watching American and NATO pilots rain death and wreak havoc on innocent Afghani men, women and children sleeping in their mud huts in the Afghan countryside?

Persons, let alone leaders, who behave as such are really scum, vermin and dirty animals that ought to be eradicated.

Well, this is the age of American democracy in the Muslim world. Salam, Shalom, Peace…and the American way!!!


Photo essay: Colonialism in the West Bank
Scott Weinstein

The following photo essay from 2003 is by Montreal photographer and community worker Scott Weinstein, who traveled to Palestine to work with the Palestine Red Crescent Society as a registered nurse. His photographs document the contemporary realities of Israeli colonialism and occupation in the West Bank, specifically focusing on settler violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank city of Hebron. As documented by numerous human rights organizations, Israeli settlers have beaten Palestinian civilians and forced many Palestinians to leave the historic city center in Hebron, traditionally an important and vibrant Palestinian center of commerce in the West Bank.

Israel’s wall next to Har Homa settlement in the West Bank.

A street in the West Bank city of Hebron, where most Palestinians have been forced out by Israeli settlers. Israeli symbols are painted by settlers as signs of victory. In the background is a new Israeli settler building.

Hebron is continuously being ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian population. Israeli settlers, some seen in the building in the background, are protected by the Israeli military and bolstered by outside donors.

The Palestinian market in Hebron have been taken over by Israeli settlers, who drop trash and rocks on Palestinians below. The Palestinian market in the Old City of Hebron, once a node of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank, is now almost completely shut down.

A Palestinian woman looks out from her window in Hebron onto a street that has been almost completely cleansed of Palestinians. A Star of David has been painted on the wall by the Israeli settlers.

Scott Weinstein has worked in Palestine with the Palestine Red Crescent Society as a registered nurse. Currently, Weinstein is working with Independent Jewish Voices, associated with the Canada-wide Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians, a network of progressive Jewish people in Canada opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.



Once again, Uri Avnery tells it ‘as it is’. A history of Akko,as well as the real reasons behind the ‘riots’…. in general, FACTS that you would not read about in the Corporate Media….
The following essay is one of Avnery’s best, it’s a must read.

Is Akko Burning?

By Uri Avnery

THROUGHOUT ITS thousands of years of history, Akko has never been an Israelite town.

Even according to the mythological story of the Bible, the Israelites did not conquer the city, which was already an ancient port. The first chapter of the Book of Judges, which contradicts much of the description given in the Book of Joshua, states unequivocally: “Neither did [the tribe of] Asher drive out the inhabitants of Akko. (Judges 1:31)

Only a few of the world’s cities can boast such a stormy and checkered history as Akko (Akka in Arabic, Acre in French and English), the main port of the country. It was a Canaanite-Phoenician town, traded with Egypt, rebelled against Assyria, confronted the Jewish Hasmoneans, was conquered by the Crusaders, served as a battle-ground for the legendary Saladin and the no less legendary Richard the Lion-Hearted, was the capital of the semi-independent Arab state of the Galilee under Daher al-Omar and withstood the siege of Napoleon. All these periods have left their traces in Akko, in the form of buildings and walls. A fascinating town, perhaps the most beautiful – and surely the most interesting – after Jerusalem.

During some of these periods, there existed in Akko a small Jewish community, but it never was a Jewish town. On the contrary: among the Rabbis there was an ongoing discussion whether Akko, from the point of view of religious law (Halacha), belonged to Eretz Israel at all. This was important, because certain commandments apply only to the Land of Israel. Some rabbis believed that Akko did not belong, while others asserted that at least a part of the town did. (That did not prevent us in our youth from singing “Akko, too, belongs to Eretz Israel” – meaning the old Crusaders’ fortress on the sea-shore, where the British held prisoners from the Jewish underground organizations.)

In the 1948 war, Akko was occupied by the Israeli forces, and since then it has lived under Israeli rule: 60 years out of a history of 5000 years and more.

This is the background of last week’s events in Akko. The Arab inhabitants consider Akko as the town of their forefathers, which was forcibly occupied by the Jews. The Jewish inhabitants consider it a Jewish town, in which the Arabs are a tolerated minority – at most.

For years the town was covered by a thin blanket of hypocrisy. Everybody praised and celebrated the wonderful co-existence there. Until the blanket was torn, and the naked truth was exposed.

I AM a very secular person. I have always advocated a complete separation between state and religion, even in the days when that sounded like a crazy idea. But it has never entered my mind to drive on Yom Kippur. There is no law forbidding it, no law is necessary.

For a traditional Jew, Yom Kippur is a day like no other. Even if one does not really believe that on this day God makes the final decision about the life or death of every human being for the next year and writes it all down in a large book, one senses that one has to respect the feelings of those who do believe. I would not drive on Yom Kippur in a Jewish neighborhood, just as I would not eat in public during Ramadan in an Arab neighborhood.

It is difficult to know what the Arab driver Tawfiq Jamal was thinking of when he entered a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in his car on Yom Kippur. It is reasonable to assume that he did not do it out of malice, as a provocation, but rather out of stupidity or carelessness.

The reaction was predictable. An angry Jewish crowd chased him into an Arab house and besieged him there. In a distant Arab neighborhood the loudspeakers of the mosques blared out that Arabs had been killed and that an Arab was in mortal danger. Excited Arab youngsters tried to reach the house of the besieged Arab family but were blocked by the police. They gave vent to their feelings by wrecking Jewish shops and cars. Jewish youths, reinforced by members of the extreme right, burned down the homes of Arab inhabitants, who became refugees in their own town. In a few minutes, 60 years of “co-existence” were wiped out – proof that in the “mixed” town there is no real co-existence, only two communities who hate each other’s guts.

IT IS easy to understand this hatred. As in other “mixed” towns, indeed as in the whole of Israel, the Arab public is discriminated against by the state and municipal authorities. Smaller budgets, inferior education facilities, poorer housing, crowded neighborhoods.

The Arab citizens are the victims of a vicious circle. They live in crowded towns and neighborhoods that have turned into neglected ghettos. When the standard of living of the inhabitants rises, there is a desperate demand for a better environment and better housing. Young couples leave the neglected and underfunded Arab neighborhoods and move into Jewish areas, something that immediately arouses opposition and resentment. The same has happened to Afro-Americans in the USA, and before them to the Jews there and elsewhere.

All the talk about equality, good neighborliness and co-existence goes up in smoke when Arab families live in a hostile Jewish environment. Reasons are always to be found, and the incursion of Tawfiq Jamal was only an especially grievous example.

Such a situation can be found in many places on earth. Religious, nationalistic, ethnic or community sensitivities can explode at any time. It took a hundred years after the emancipation of the slaves in the US until the civil rights laws were enacted, and during those years there were regular lynchings. Another 40 years passed before a black candidate could come near the White House. The police in London is notorious for its racism, citizens of Turkish origin are discriminated against in Berlin, an African can play football for the French national team but has no chance of becoming president.

In these respects, Akko is no different from the rest of the world.

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE said that each of us contains a little racist. The only difference is between those who recognize and try to overcome him and those who give in to him.

As chance would have it, I spent Yom Kippur, while the riots were shaking Akko, reading the fascinating book by William Polk, “Neighbors and Strangers”, which deals with the origins of racism. Like other animals, ancient man lived from hunting and gathering. He roamed around with his extended family, a group of no more than fifty people, in an area that was barely sufficient for their subsistence. Every stranger who entered his territory was a mortal threat, while he tried to invade his neighbor’s territory in order to increase his chances of survival. In other words: the fear of the stranger and the urge to drive him out are deeply embedded in our biological heritage and have been for millions of years.

Racism can be overcome, or at least reined in, but that needs conscious, systematic and consistent treatment. In Akko – as in other places in the country – there has been no such treatment.

In this country the racism is, of course, connected with the national conflict which has been going on already for five generations. The Akko events are just another episode in the war between the two peoples of this country.

The Jewish extreme right, including the hard core of the settlers, does not hide its intention of driving out all the Arabs and turning the entire country into a purely Jewish state. Meaning: ethnic cleansing. It looks like the dream of a small minority, but public opinion research shows that this tendency is gnawing at a much wider public, even if only in a half-conscious way, hidden and denied.

In the Arab community, there are probably some who dream about the good old days, before the Jews came to this country and took it by force.

When Jews carry out a pogrom in Akko, whatever the immediate reason, it becomes a national event. The burning of Arab homes in a Jewish neighborhood at once arouses fear of ethnic cleansing. When the Arab young people storm into a Jewish neighborhood in order to save an endangered Arab brother, it immediately evokes memories of the 1929 massacre of the Jews in Hebron – which, at the time, was also a “mixed” town.

THERE IS reasonable hope that at some future time we shall end the national conflict and reach a peaceful solution that both peoples will accept (if only because there is no alternative.) A Palestinian state will come into being side by side with Israel, and both peoples will understand that this is the best possible solution.

(The Akko events should give rise to second thoughts in the mind of anyone who believes in the “One-State solution”‘ where Jews and Arabs would live in brotherhood and equality. Such a “solution” would turn the entire country into one big Akko.)

But peace, based on two states living side by side, will not automatically solve the problem of the Arab citizens in Israel, a state that defines itself as “Jewish”. We must be ready for a long, consistent fight over the character of our state.

The extreme rightist Avigdor Liberman has proposed that the Arab villages on the Israeli side of the Green Line should be attached to the Palestinian state, in return for the Jewish settlement blocs beyond the Green Line that would be attached to Israel. That would not affect, of course, the Arab inhabitants of Akko, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth and the Galilee villages. But even in the villages near the Green Line, no Arab agrees to this idea. Although Liberman proposes to turn over the entire villages to the Palestinian state together with all their lands and properties, not a single Arab voice has been raised in agreement.

Why? The million and a half Arab citizens in Israel do not like the government’s policies, the flag and the national anthem, not to mention the treatment of the population in the occupied territories. But they prefer the Israeli democracy, the social progress, the National Insurance system and the social services. They are rooted in the life and mores of Israel much more deeply than they themselves recognize. They want to be citizens in this state, but on terms of equality and mutual respect.

The Jews who dream of ethnic cleansing do not understand how large a contribution the Arab community makes to Israel. Like the other inhabitants of Israel, they work here, they contribute to the GNP, they pay their taxes like everybody else. Like all of us, they have no alternative – they pay value-added tax on everything they buy and they, too, get their salaries only after income tax is deducted.

There are many questions that have to be recognized and discussed, and from which conclusions must be drawn. Is it desirable or not desirable, at this stage, for Arabs to live in Jewish neighborhoods and Jews in Arab neighborhoods? How can the Arab neighborhoods be elevated economically to the level of Jewish neighborhoods, in practice and not only in talk? Should every Jewish child learn Arabic and every Arab child learn Hebrew, as the mayor of Haifa proposed this week? Should Arab education receive the same status and the same budgets as, for example, the independent but government-funded Jewish Orthodox education system? Should autonomous Arab institutions be established? Finding solutions to these problems, or at least to some of them, is a vital part of the fight against racism – attacking its roots, and not only its symptoms.

Actually, there is no alternative: the citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs, are “condemned” to live together, whether they like it or not. But, as the Akko events have shown again, the joint fabric is still weak. In order to change this, we must all have the courage to look the problem in the eye, to see it as it is, without hypocrisy or falsification. This is the only way we can find solutions.



Image by Ismael Shammout

Twilight Zone / Night fell, and the search began
Gideon Levy

It`s routine under the occupation: On any night soldiers are liable to raid any house in the territories and do as they wish. Sometimes it ends with nothing, a futile search. Sometimes it ends with arrests. It always involves great fear and sometimes even death, as in the tragic case of Maryam Ayad, 60, who died during a superfluous nighttime search in which nothing was found.

Nobody thinks about the terror these searches sow among thousands of little children, women and old people. Nobody thinks about the blatant and crude invasion of the privacy of peaceful citizens while they are sleeping. Palestinians, as you know, are never `trauma victims,` that`s for Jews only. It happens every single night and sometimes it ends badly, very badly.

Although an army medic determined that Ayad died of a heart attack, it`s not clear how he arrived at this determination. Although the Spokesman`s Office of the Israel Defense Forces claimed that there was no `demonstration of violence` on the part of the soldiers, the dead woman`s daughter and daughter-in-law, who witnessed the incident, say one of them pushed her. Ayad hit her head as she fell, bleeding profusely. Without an autopsy nobody can determine what caused her death, neither the medic nor the IDF Spokesman.

But we can believe the women of the family when they say that one of the soldiers did in fact push Ayad toward the stone barrier at the entrance, when the family exercised no violence against those invading their home. Anyone who pushes a 60-year-old grandmother bears responsibility for her death, whatever the circumstances. Anyone who approves indiscriminate nighttime searches bears responsibility for the daily and intolerable harassment of innocent families.

The way to the Ayad home transverses mountain and deserts. Before the wall dividing Abu Dis down the middle was built, they were a few minutes` drive from East Jerusalem. Now one must descend to the desert, drive past Ma`aleh Adumim and Azariyah – a frightening detour – until reaching the eastern side of the town with a wall in the middle. Next to the wall is the skeleton of the Palestinian Parliament building that was supposed to be located here, a silent memorial to the illusions of the past.

Saturday night, September 20. The last days of summer, and Abed Ayad took a mattress outside into the concrete yard and went to sleep. Maryam, his wife, sat across from him on the concrete wall at the entrance to the house, playing with Yusuf, 4, one of their three grandchildren. The house has two floors. Abed and Maryam live with their college student daughter on the ground floor. Their son and his family have the upstairs.

The son was in Ramallah. At about 9 P.M. his wife, Nadia, went upstairs to put two of the children to bed. Abed is an unemployed plumber. He worked in Jerusalem his whole life, until the city was separated from him. His shock at the death of his wife is still evident.

Abed woke sometime after 10 P.M. to the sounds of people talking. He saw that a large group of armed soldiers in uniform as well as three masked men had entered the yard, the same yard where we are now sitting, Maryam`s faded bloodstains still visible on the concrete floor.

`Where are the students?` one of the soldiers asked in Arabic. Students from Al Quds University, located in Abu Dis, rent space in many of the homes in the town. The basements of the Ayads` home and neighboring homes house students who cannot easily return home at night, because of the checkpoints.

The soldier ordered Abed to enter the house, turn on the lights and bring out all its residents. Then the soldiers went in and conducted a search. Abed says the soldiers were polite and well-behaved, with the exception of the masked men, who were rude. Maryam tried to persuade the soldiers not to go upstairs: `There are little children sleeping upstairs,` she told them, but according to Abed one of the masked men told her: `We`ll kill anyone who stays there.`

Abed tried to explain that they could not go upstairs – perhaps his daughter-in-law was not dressed, and then the soldiers fired two shots into the air. Yusuf asked his grandmother fearfully: `What, did they come to kill us?` and Maryam tried to calm him down and told him that they had only come to look for thieves. The family says Maryam did not look panicked or frightened. Abed went upstairs and told Nadia to come down. She left the two little ones, Yassin, 3, and Mohammed, 2, asleep in their beds.

When Nadia came downstairs she saw the soldiers and the masked men, who spoke to her in Arabic. They said there were about 20 soldiers in the yard. One asked why she hadn`t brought the children down and she explained that they were sleeping. The soldier said they would kill anyone who remained inside. Nadia asked to go upstairs to bring them down, but the soldiers ordered her into the yard.

In the yard Nadia saw her mother-in-law sitting with Yusuf on the stone parapet. Nadia`s sister-in-law, Hiba, the student, sat across from her. Nadia sat down with them and asked her mother-in-law to tell her what had happened. Maryam said the soldiers were looking for students. Hiba says one of the masked men was particularly tense and belligerent. Yusuf again asked: `Did they come to kill us?` and his mother tried to reassure him. They only came to arrest people, she said.

Memorial posters still cover the window bars. Abed is self-absorbed, looking down at the floor, his toothless mouth silent. The soldiers said to go upstairs, where little Yassin and Mohammed were still sleeping. Nadia said Maryam stood up and tried again to convince them not to go up. From here on in, everything happened in an instant.

Nadia says one of the soldiers pushed Maryam. She fell back and sat on the low stone parapet. Then she lost her balance and fell backward onto the concrete floor, hitting the back of her neck. Nadia thought she was simply dizzy and had lost her balance. She tried to lift her, but Maryam was too heavy. Nadia sprinkled water on her face. She says Maryam emitted a gurgling noise, and then she noticed the pool of blood under her mother-in-law`s head. Nadia began shouting for help.

Abed, who was upstairs, heard his daughter shouting, `They`ve killed Mother, they`ve killed Mother.` He came down, frightened, and saw his wife lying on her back, in a pool of her own blood.

An army medic tried to resuscitate Maryam. The family told him that Maryam had undergone a cardiac catheterization about two years earlier, at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem, and was on medication but felt well. Soon after, the medic said he was sorry but Maryam was dead. The family says a neighbor who is a physician was called in but was not allowed to approach. The ambulance they called was also kept away. Neighbors began to gather. After the medic pronounced Maryam dead the soldiers left. At 1:30 A.M., three and a half hours after the search began, Maryam was buried in the Abu Dis cemetery.

The IDF Spokesman said this week in response: `In the course of an IDF operation on the night of September 21 in Abu Dis, south of Bethlehem, a Palestinian woman of about 60 tripped on the steps of the house. An IDF medic at the site tried for about half an hour to resuscitate her before declaring her dead. During the resuscitation attempt the woman`s family told the medic that the woman was a heart patient. A thorough investigation of the incident indicates that there is no connection between the woman`s death and the operational activity on the site. The operational force checked out the compound and when the woman fell there was no eye contact, physical contact or demonstration of violence of any kind between the force and the woman. The medic who determined her death confirmed with certainty that the woman suffered a heart attack, fell down the stairs and died.`

A word about the Spokesman`s reply: Abu Dis is not south of Bethlehem, but north of it. The woman fell not on the stairs but on the stone parapet in the yard. Witnesses state she was pushed by one of the soldiers; and it is very doubtful, as we have mentioned, that the cause of death can be determined.



Israeli children held hands last month at a ceremony to unveil the Tolerance Monument in Jerusalem, which was erected between an Arab area and a Jewish one.

Symbol of Peace Stands at Divide Between Troubled Jerusalem’s East and West

JERUSALEM — One recent autumn evening, under a full moon, a monument to tolerance was unveiled on a ridge high above this revered and contested city, sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews. A soaring bronze column split down the middle, with a spindly, gilded olive tree reaching up through the chasm, it seemed to encapsulate both the promise and the fragility of peace in a city increasingly on edge.

The monument, the gift of a Polish billionaire, was erected on the invisible seam between one of the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the predominantly Jewish West. At the ceremony, there were ethereal moments, suggestive of a greater harmony, as the strains of an orchestra mingled with the Muslim call to prayer from countless minarets.

But this has also been a site of tremendous discord, a tangible reminder of how fractured the city really is.

Down the slope lies Jebel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem that Israel captured from the Jordanians in 1967. Last March, a gunman set out from here and headed to the Mercaz Harav Jewish seminary in the West. He sprayed the mostly teenage students there with automatic weapon fire, killing eight before being shot dead himself. It was the worst act of terrorism perpetrated in the city in four years.

The road in front of the monument was the scene of angry demonstrations then by Jewish religious nationalists, who demanded the demolition of the gunman’s family home.

In the months since, two Palestinians driving large construction vehicles and a third behind the wheel of a BMW have rammed vehicles and pedestrians in West Jerusalem, killing three Israelis and wounding scores, deliberately, according to the police. All the drivers, who were killed on the spot, were residents of East Jerusalem, including Jebel Mukaber. None were known to have had any strong political affiliations.

“We live in fear,” said an Israeli woman, Mazal Tzabah, 64, at a bus stop in Armon Hanatziv, the Jewish neighborhood bordering Jebel Mukaber. “We don’t know who is good from bad.”

About a quarter of a million Palestinians, mostly Muslim, live in the generally poorer and less developed Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, making up a third of the city’s population. Almost 200,000 Jews live alongside them in a patchwork of new neighborhoods, like Armon Hanatziv, that have been built over the 1967 boundaries on territory the Palestinians demand as the capital of their future state.

Adding to the mélange, a number of Jewish housing projects have sprung up like minisettlements in existing Arab neighborhoods, including Nof Zion, a luxury apartment complex that is being marketed to religious Jews and that sits at the entrance of Jebel Mukaber. Meanwhile, an increasing number of Arab families are quietly moving into Jewish areas on both sides of the 1967 line.

The police report a sharp increase in the number of East Jerusalem residents arrested for involvement in violence or the planning of attacks in the past year. While the city has experienced worse violence, like the deadly bus and cafe bombings of previous years, most of those were carried out by Palestinians who came in from the West Bank.

Since Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its united, sovereign capital, there are no permanent barriers in the heart of the city; its Palestinian residents, unlike West Bankers, have free access to all parts.

In this tense arrangement, tolerance is often tested. When sectarian rioting broke out on Oct. 8 between Jews and Arabs in the mixed city of Acre in northern Israel, the police immediately went on high alert in East Jerusalem for fear the violence could spread.

Many Jewish residents say they live in trepidation. Arab residents charge that rather than trying to find a political solution for the city, Israel is trying to Judaize the eastern part and squeeze the Palestinians out.

Meaningful social interaction is rare. But even amid the rising antagonism, some are trying to reach across the psychological divide.

On Sept. 21, young Jewish and Palestinian musicians came together for a joint rock concert sponsored by the United States Consulate at the historic Y.M.C.A. building on King David Street — the site of one of the construction vehicle attacks in July — under the slogan “the mic is more powerful than the gun.”

One of the performers, Muhammad Mughrabi, 21, a rapper from the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, says his friends there think it strange that he appears with Israelis.

“Until I was 15, all the Israelis I met were soldiers, and I was very afraid,” he said.

There are other examples of coexistence. Groups of Israeli and Palestinian women meet to discuss weight issues, brought together by an American-Israeli filmmaker who founded the project in 2006, making a documentary called “A Slim Peace.”

Ir Amim, an Israeli group that advocates an equitable political solution for Jerusalem, is offering tours of East Jerusalem to show Israelis what life looks like on the other side.

Beyond that, the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel has been organizing modest people-to-people exchanges between East and West Jerusalem for years.

Jerusalem is “a very weird city,” said Ron Kronish, the council’s director. “Life goes on, but the amount of separate living is staggering.”

He added, “The question is how do real people live amidst conflict, and how can you best mitigate it, meaning having a little less hatred.”

Yet the tensions persist. The night after the Y.M.C.A. concert, which ended with a warm if chaotic improvisation of Bob Marley’s “No More Trouble,” a 19-year-old from Jebel Mukaber took his brother’s BMW and rammed it into a group of off-duty soldiers and civilians, wounding several, outside the Old City at a point where the East meets West.

Mourners who gathered at his spacious family home were convinced that the youth, an inexperienced driver with no license, was involved in a simple traffic accident and was needlessly killed by one of the soldiers.

“All he cared about, as far as I know, was to have a nice car and listen to music,” said Omar Baidun, 45, a businessman and family friend.

Yet there were no doubts about the driver’s intentions in the Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv.

Dalia Ben Shitreet, 47, an Israeli hairdresser who lives on the outer rim of the neighborhood, only a street away from Jebel Mukaber, said that she was “for coexistence” and that some of her clients and occupants of her own apartment building were Muslim Arabs.

But she added that she was afraid to walk out at night; that Jebel Mukaber was “hostile” and should be “razed to its foundations — though I am sorry and ashamed to say it.”

Source (including video)


The Phantom Peace

Sonja Karkar

A discarded sign, all that is left from the Gaza seaport project

The end of Ehud Olmert’s Israeli Prime Ministership should see the likely new leader Tzipi Livni continue peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. She will have a difficult time. The illegal settlement movement supported by every Israeli administration to date has burgeoned out-of-control and its right-wing leaders are vehemently opposed to negotiating land for peace. More than likely, we will see Livni use the same stalling tactics that have up until now allowed land grabs from the Palestinians for the Zionist dream of a greater Israel. After all, Livni was nurtured on that dream. What that means is a fifteen-year peace process ominously poised for failure – not just politically, but economically.

The 1993 Oslo Peace Accords were supposed to offer the Palestinians the political freedom and economic independence to which they have always been entitled. Since then, Palestinian society has been taken on a rollercoaster ride of promises, lies, provocations and chaos with not a single benefit to show for its painful concessions.

So much has been made of Oslo’s promise of new beginnings when in actual fact the real historic moment of peace occurred when Palestinian Chairman Arafat agreed to a two-state solution at the UN General Assembly in 1988, accepting on behalf of his people, Israel’s “right to exist” on 78 percent of the land stolen from them. That was the hard-won chance for resolving the conflict that Israel should have grasped with both hands. However, Israel was never going to let go its dreams of taking all of the land, and the Oslo Accords and every renewed peace process since then, have simply paid lip-service to Palestinian aspirations while Israel has pursued its own objectives in defiance of international law.

Powerful Israeli interests, and not Arafat’s intransigence or Palestinian terrorism, have caused Oslo’s failures. From the beginning, Israel and the World Bank violated the economic clauses of the Accords supposedly designed to improve and stimulate recovery from the disastrous circumstances that had already been visited on the Palestinians by Israel’s military assaults and occupation in the previous decades. As the Harvard University political economist Dr Sara Roy points out, “decades of expropriation and deinstitutionalisation had long ago robbed Palestine of its potential for development, ensuring that no viable economic (and hence political structure) could emerge.” (1) And, a viable Palestinian economy is essential for the functioning of an independent Palestinian state.

No sooner had control of Oslo’s economic development programs shifted to the World Bank, than the basic infrastructure that was supposed to have been built was reported as “repairs” to infrastructure when none in fact existed, while the building of a casino in Jericho took precedence over essential ports, roads and canals. As Israel’s major newspaper Haaretz reported earlier this year, “the casino was one of the most corruption-laden aspects of the Oslo Accords”. (2) Those who were involved reads like a Who’s Who of the Israeli political establishment – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Primer Ministers Netanyahu and Sharon, Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Sharon’s advisor Dov Weissglas in concert with an Austrian-Jewish businessman Martin Schlaff who is now being investigated for giving millions of dollars in bribes to Lieberman and Sharon.

The “Gaza and Jericho First” stage of the Oslo Accords, provided the perfect opportunity for gambling tycoons to by-pass Israel where gambling is illegal. The casino took in around a million dollars a day from Israelis streaming into Occupied Jericho for the pleasure of gambling while the Palestinians were barely able to put food on the table. When the Gaza airport and seaport were finally built due to European Union efforts along with roads, waterways and the Palestinian broadcasting station, Israel set about destroying each of them citing security reasons. Conservatively, Israel’s destruction of infrastructure from 1994-1999 has been estimated at $3.5 billion, whilst lost potential income for the Palestinian economy has been estimated at around $6.4 billion, the total loss far exceeding the overall international assistance received by the Palestinian people during those years. (3)

The deliberate pauperisation of the Palestinian economy was further exacerbated by the punitive closure of Palestinian society. A complicated system of checkpoints and roadblocks severely restricted the movement of Palestinians and goods and prevented Palestinians from travelling to Israel for work. Unemployment hit record highs going from less than 7 percent before 1993 to 25 percent in the West Bank and 38 percent in Gaza in the first quarter of 1996. (4) What is not widely known is that Israel had created a Palestinian economy deeply dependent on its own during the previous 30 years, which meant that closure was now far more devastating than it would have been otherwise.

As the living standards plummeted and destitution pervaded every level of Palestinian society, Palestinians reacted angrily. But, Palestinian violence was not wholesale. Subjected to a barrage of provocations, minority groups and traumatised individuals committed most of the violence with homemade weapons. One of those early provocations was the terrorist attack and killing of 50 praying Palestinians in a Hebron mosque by right-wing extremist Baruch Goldstein who is today venerated by the Kach settler movement to which he belonged. Nevertheless, Israel launched reprisals each time against the entire Palestinian population – almost half under the age of 15 – using the powerful force of its military arsenal in defiance of international law, which prohibits collective punishment. Even so, international public opinion has not been swayed, then or now, by the non-violent efforts of Palestinian resistance carried out weekly by community groups in towns and villages all over the West Bank. Instead, it remains fixated on Palestinian armed attacks and suicide bombings without any regard for the disintegration of Palestinian society under Israel’s humiliating control and human rights abuses.

By 2000, the Palestinians were highly charged, especially after Arafat was derided for refusing to negotiate “peace” when he walked away from Barak’s much-lauded “generous” offer at Camp David. Concessions on Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return were not his alone to make and Barak knew it. To bolster his own political ambitions, Barak was able to persuade the public that Arafat had pre-planned the Second Intifada while negotiating peace and had sought to destroy Israel through the return of millions of refugees. Israeli researchers though have shown that the heads of Israel’s Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet security service dismissed the existence of any such plan and that Israeli public opinion – hitherto ready for territorial concessions even during periods of violence – had been manipulated by Barak to accept that Palestinians had chosen terror instead of peace to achieve their objectives. (5)

At the same time, Israel increased its settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian territories, in spite of the Oslo Accords prohibiting “any change in the status of the West Bank…” Throughout the last fifteen years, successive Israeli governments have all continued to build these illegal housing estates for waves of Jewish settlers from abroad while the Palestinians are being pushed into arid areas creating a series of disconnected Bantustans much like what was created in Apartheid South Africa. Despite Israeli-only roads, concrete walls, electric fencing and military zones separating the two peoples, Israel promotes these modern housing estates as “normal” developments. In effect, it has forced the Palestinians into a system of complete dependency where Israel controls all borders, Gaza’s territorial waters and 80% of all the water resources.

Prevented from producing and competing with Israel’s economy, the Palestinians became forced consumers and this is perpetuated by foreign aid. Effectively international donors foot the bill while Israeli companies reap the profits out of the desperate need of an entire population under Israel’s occupation. Foreign aid has done nothing to revitalise the economy, and has only made the Palestinians one of the most aid-dependent populations in the world. According to the latest World Bank report, “aid and reform are unlikely to revive the Palestinian economy unless Israel removes economic restrictions at the same time”. (6) Even so, with a staggering 98 percent of Gaza’s industry now inactive due to Israel’s punitive sanctions, (7) removing those restrictions will not bring about economic recovery any time soon, if at all. The magnitude of social destruction is incomprehensible as 1.4 million people grapple with failing sewers, sewage-polluted water, rationed food, practically no electricity or fuel and a crumbling infrastructure of roads, schools, hospitals, transport system and other normal municipal services. This systematic “de-development” is spiralling into an unprecedented humanitarian crisis likely to have grave political consequences.

Today, Israel will cite the demographic problem it faces with a Palestinian population fast catching up in size to the Israeli population. It is a problem of Israel’s making and one that it could solve tomorrow if it was not moving systematically and determinedly to expand its territory and fulfil its colonial ambitions for a Greater Israel. It will not be long before the 4 million Palestinians being herded into reservations will be as much a problem for Israel to police as it will be for the Palestinians to endure. The word apartheid looms large. If comparisons begin to be made with Apartheid South Africa, Israel will have to justify its existence as an exclusively Jewish state under a whole new set of rules. Thus, the more it normalises its current position and keeps talking about peace, the less likely there is of that happening. Once the Palestinians are crushed economically, they will have few choices left: it will be slave labour in the industrial estates now being built or transfer if they survive. With time, Palestinians will simply vanish into the ether as if they never existed. That is the truth that is being silenced and that is a narrative that the public needs to hear.

– Sonja Karkar is affiliated with Women for Palestine, Melbourne – Australia. She contributed this article to


[1] Roy, Sara, A Dubai on the Mediterranean, London Review of Books, 3 November 2005
[2] Halevi, Ezra, Expose links Olmert, Lieberman and Sharon to Jericho
Casino, Israel National News, 13 October 2008,
[3] United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Secretary General; A/60/90, 14 November 2005, (d) Assistance to the Palestinian people – Mr Mansour (Palestine)
[4] Farsakh, Leila, Economic Viability of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: Is it possible without Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty? The MIT
Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies, 2001
[5] Siegman, Henry, ³Sharon and the Future of Palestine², The New York Review of Books, Vol 51, No 19, December 2004
[6] World Bank. Palestinian Economic Prospects: Aid, Access and Reform, 22 September 2008, p.12
[7] Ibid, p.8

Via Uruknet


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff



It’s not easy or even fun to be an expatriate. Unless you didn’t know, that is just a highfalutin word that is used especially for American emigrants. Why the special word? Because people who “leave” America are expected to see it with a critical (perhaps even artistic) eye, and Americans who “remain” are expected to disregard the criticism, and even accuse the expat of Anti-Americanism or sheer snobbery. In writing, you will see the word distorted to “ex-patriot”.

I’ve never been a “patriot”. I’ve never served in the armed forces. I’ve never done anything more than my “duty” as a citizen, paying taxes, voting when I could and showing up when called to jury duty. I’ve gotten very little in return, to be frank. Whenever I needed urgent medical care, I’ve had to pay out of my pocket. Health insurance certainly doesn’t cover everything, and a collapsed lung in 1984 cost me over seven thousand dollars because my HMO specified that I should not opt for the nearest hospital, but should have gone to “theirs”. Thank God I refused to be admitted to a room after the ER, because I felt deep down that I had greatly sinned. I figured that I would be paying a surplus for my audacity to allow the ambulance to take me to my local hospital. When I got the bill three weeks later, it is another miracle that I did not die of a heart attack.

I put myself through college by working full-time as well as taking out a student loan, every penny of which I paid back to you, America. In a way, I contributed to your economic growth, I produced, consumed, got sick enough for you, got an expensive higher education while barely scraping by myself. In my humble opinion, you owe me.

Yes, I am a product of the country by virtue of birth, at times a pawn or even a victim of its limited vision, like every citizen of every country. I’ve been compelled to pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands. I had my hand on my heart and was sure they were keeping their part of the bargain with that guarantee of Liberty and Justice for All. But who’s really going to go into checking all those details? Children ask only the right questions, or at least, grown-ups give them comforting answers.

Yet, being American gets on my nerves more and more as I watch America do their “big show”. I’ve seen elections and campaigns all my life. I know it’s a circus, the most expensive show on earth. But I am at the point where I want to shout at you, America. “Can you please get serious and stop the show?”

You act like you are the most important nation on Earth, the best, number one. I would like to know what gives you this idea. If it weren’t for your military might, what would you really be?

Your economy is a shambles and you rescue those who have destroyed it with the taxes of your own workers? The stock markets of the world have crashed because they are controlled by the vicissitudes of Wall Street and the Dollar. Thanks! We really appreciate it over here. But we don’t expect you to do the right thing. No, I don’t mean bail anyone else out, but just to APOLOGISE. That’s a silly fantasy, I know. While you are concentrating on erecting Holocaust monuments in Florida and Washington, where are your monuments to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? To the victims of the genocide of the indigenous people of your continent? To the Africans you dragged over in chains and forced into slavery? That might force you to apologise for your sins and crimes, and it’s better to avoid that. Break for Commercial.

But you drag things anyway, America, not only slaves to your shores. You dragged us into your Global War on Terror. If someone isn’t your ally, fighting at your command, you are entitled to put an embargo on them, attack them and occupy their land.

You impose your energy and pollution policies without concern about the international agreements. However, if other countries violate or even threaten to violate international agreements, they are aided if they are Israel, or punished (if they are your Rogue States). If other States determine their own policies, they become friends or enemies according to your own interests, whipping up international consensus to get nations involved in wars for or with you. You occupy foreign lands with your military bases – yes, even your allied nations have bases that are “pieces of America” abroad. It might be normal to you, but I wonder if you would like having pieces of other countries on your own soil.

Haven’t you had enough of wars you can’t win and which only drain resources? Or is that the only way you have found to take your own people’s attention off of their deteriorating Social Security, their abysmal health care programs and the constant outsourcing of their labour? If the enemy is “out there”, the devil in the backyard can play merrily.

Americans get thrown onto the streets in a parade of deepening poverty that makes the American Dream look like a joke to anyone who has eyes to see it. But the homeless don’t vote, you can’t register “a non-address”, so they don’t matter anyway. Some even think they had it coming… tough luck.

So, Americans are convinced they are going to have some bright future, with the change they can believe in, or even the change they need. Good for them. When they wake up, please tell them that we are sick to the teeth of the show. Sick of the parade of wives and children and ministers. Sick of the smiling and nodding human wall that claps at every empty word uttered by the leaders who have been bought and sold precisely by the same folks who have bought and sold the American citizen up the river.

Americans complain about the system too, don’t get me wrong. But why do they never lift a pinky finger to change the voting system? The dreaded Electoral College…. man, I remember them saying that would be a thing of the past about 6 campaigns ago. The deceptive Black Box voting and uncounted Absentee Votes will give a bit of drama to the election night coverage, but the pundits will assure us everything is totally fair and without a loop.

Race is always an issue, and isn’t this sad? In a nation that can boast the mystery of diversity, the great melting pot, why does every candidate have to be the standard carbon copy as far as policy and beliefs, catering to a certain profile of voter that is far more conservative than most people I know would admit? I thought that those great ideals such as separation of Church and State, All Men are Created Equal and whatnot were at least something to aim for. But the candidates are parading their “personal Christian Minister” around, (until he says something embarrassing, then they are expected to dump him unceremoniously), doing race-specific campaigning and denying that America is still as racist as it was in the 60s.

If I tell people I’d only use my (uncounted, most likely) Absentee Vote to elect Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney, my progressive friends tell me I am helping the Republicans get elected. I beg to differ. Even if they don’t get the votes, they get elected sometimes. Even if the people are “sick of things” a wartime president gets re-elected. It’s happened before, in fact, it always happens, and even without the smoke and whistles, the Americans realise what is in their immediate interests, they always go for the most warlike Party, the one that can assure them “cheap oil”. What have I got to do with it? Why should I play a part in that game and cast a vote for one of the two showmen? They have both tired me out with their finger-pointing, their two-steps, their pats on the backs, their baby-kissing and Minister and lobby ass-licking.

I refuse. I refuse to play the game. They can force me to watch the show, but they can’t make me applaud.

So America, get on with your elections. But get it over with quickly. Put one of your favourite sons in office. It really doesn’t matter who it is. The rest of the world expects it will keep getting four more years of your war, your cultural and economic hegemony, your air and water pollution, your toxic waste and occupation of land and space. Four more years of your arrogance and refusal to apologise. Bring It On.



Palestinian children inspect the car of Hamdallah Afaneh after an attack by Israeli settlers while Afaneh was harvesting olives in the West Bank village of Azmout, near the city of Nablus. Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinian farmers almost daily since the beginning of the olive harvest, particularly in the Nablus area. (Rami Swidan, Maan Images)
Last week the Jerusalem Post carried an article about the use of video cameras to expose the violence of settlers against Palestinians. One particular group called NGO Monitor, based here in Israel seemed visibly upset that these ongoing attacks against innocent Palestinian civilians are now being caught on videotapes, thanks to the efforts of B’Tselem.

The following article shows how the use of these videos might be the deterrent needed against those attacks……

When settlers strike, Palestinians point and shoot video

An Israeli human rights group hopes the 150 video cameras it gave to West Bank Palestinians deter the rising tide of attacks by radical settlers.

By Ilene R. Prusher

Reporter Ilene Prusher discusses recent West Bank violence and one possible deterrent.

Nahla Mohammed says that it happens almost every weekend. Right-wing Israeli settlers from nearby Yitzhar come to vandalize houses such as hers, which are on the edge of the Palestinian village of Asira il-Qabliya.

When she hears them coming, she makes sure her children are inside, locks up, and waits with a small video camera that she was given by Btselem, a human rights group. She tries to capture them cutting water mains, breaking windows, or scrawling graffiti on the sides of the Arab houses.

Video cameras like hers have emerged as a new nonviolent weapon for West Bank Palestinians – who face a rising number of attacks at the hands of settlers anxious over their fate in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But the Palestinian video footage often ends up on Israeli TV, thus becoming a tool for both deterrence and justice.

“We’re trying to use the cameras to reduce the level of violence as a whole. When settlers see the camera, we hope that they will behave less violently,” says Sarit Michaeli, the spokeswoman for Btselem.

“We also want to use the footage to provide to the Israeli media to raise awareness of the problems and to pressure the law enforcement bodies to do their job.”

Btselem has given out 150 cameras as part of its Shooting Back program that started slowly last year and is beginning to show results. Already, footage shot by Palestinians has been used in at least 20 cases involving settler violence.

In one well-publicized case in June, four masked settlers were filmed clubbing three members of a Palestinian family grazing their flock south of the Susiya settlement, near Hebron.

“All of them had their faces covered,” says Ms. Michaeli. “So, therefore, those who were arrested as suspects were released.”

Israeli police have 407 criminal cases against Israelis involved in public disturbances in the West Bank since the beginning of the year.

Danny Poleg, a spokesman for the Israeli police division that covers all of the West Bank, said that between January and August of this year, there was an 11 percent increase in reports of violent incidents over the same period last year.

Settlers on edge

The clash of settlers and Palestinians, especially in this part of the northern West Bank, seems to have become chronic and even cyclical. It rears its head particularly strongly at this time of year, when Palestinians start the olive harvest and have regular run-ins with settlers.

Palestinians says settlers often sabotage their season by cutting down or burning trees, or otherwise preventing them from reaching their orchards.

Settlers deny such activity but say that Palestinians are trying to “illegally” expand their sphere of agricultural influence and take over land the settlers see as their own. Settlers also complain of damage to their crops by Palestinians.

Even though the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has not made major tracks in recent months, many here expect that it could in the near future and this may mean they will be forcibly removed from their homes.

And in Yitzhar, this sort of anxiety about their future is leading to an increasing sense of not being represented by their own government, army, or the Yesha – the leadership arm of the settler movement that many viewed as having “collaborated” with the government during Israel’s disengagement from Gaza three years ago.

Now, the more radical wing of the settler movement is trying to show that any move to evacuate settlements – even small outposts – will be met with a tidal wave of resistance.

“Some historians of the conflict say that the settlers are feeling weakened by the increasing pressure of the international community on Israeli public,” says Yaron Ezrahi, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University. “They think Amona [a settlement outpost where police clashed violently with right-wing activists in Feb. 2006] increased their deterrence, so they want more of that.”

Moreover, the younger generation of settlers look at some of the founders of the religious settlers’ movement, called Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) as having “sold out” because of their attempt to work in conjunction with the government.

“It has now reached a point in which the violence is also now directed against even the leaders of Gush Emunim, who are considered by the new young generation to be too moderate,” Professor Ezrahi says.

Video camera as a deterrent

“We don’t start up with them. They start up with us,” says Mohammed, a mother of four. “They want to take our house, our land. But we had this land registered in the time of our grandfathers. If they would stay in their place and we stay in ours, there could be peace.”

On many occasions she’s rushed to turn on her video camera when settlers come – which she says happens every week – for her house in particular. It’s one that is closest to Yitzhar. The problem is that in the process of wanting to stay away from the windows, which the settlers try to break, sometimes she captures only sound and not the video.

“The settlers have even come and tried to reach in through the window to take the camera,” she says. “But this is the most we can do, because if we try to call the army to complain, they don’t do anything. They’re here to protect the settlers, not us.”

Btselem says that the “attacks include throwing stones at passing cars, physically attacking farmers, burning crops, and stealing livestock.”

Israeli officials seem to be taking notice.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the establishment of an inter-agency task force to coordinate efforts to rein in settler violence, according to reports in the Israeli media. The task force would include representatives from the agencies that deal with settler violence in the West Bank, including the police, the army, the Ministry of Justice, and the Shin Bet internal security agency, the Jerusalem Post reported.

‘We’re in a war’

On the other side of the hill from Mohammed’s family in Asira il-Qabliya lives Hillel Ben Shlomo and his family. He doesn’t see the attacks on the Palestinian village as unprovoked at all. To him, it’s deterrence.

A month ago his family was made homeless when a Palestinian from Asira il-Qabliya burned the Yitzhar settlement and set fire to his house, stabbing a 9-year-old several times before being shot dead by another settler. Mr. Ben Shlomo and his family were away for the weekend.

“You can’t imagine after such a scene, we should stay silent. You can’t expect people not to defend themselves,” says Ben Shlomo, sitting in his temporary mobile home. “In a war, we should act as if we’re in a war.”

His wife, sitting quietly nearby, defends the acts of revenge. “All our people do when they go into villages is make noise and break windows and say, ‘If you hurt us, it won’t go without comment.’ It’s only for deterrence,” she says.

Amid increasing recognition of the problem of settler violence toward Palestinians, the people of Yitzhar and other nearby settlements see the Israeli establishment – from the politicians to the police – as part of the problem, and are hunkering down for further confrontations. They have recently formed a group called “The Settlers Committee of Samaria. It is advertising with pamphlets and posters that encourage people to sign on to a new “Samaria Pact” dedicated to expanding the settlers’ presence there.

One of the spokesmen from Yitzhar, Yigal Amitai, explains what this means to him.

“Yitzhar is not dependent on the state. We think that in order to advance the situation, we need to take charge of our future,” Mr. Amitai says. “A small elite stole the state of Israel from the people of Israel.”



Germany 1938


Israel 2008

Pogrom Acre-style

Khalid Amayreh

The word takes on a new meaning as Jews celebrate the Day of Atonement, reports Khalid Amayreh from Acre

Racism raised its ugly head in the northern coastal town of Acre this week, exposing Israelis’ shocking bigotry and intolerance towards its non-Jewish citizens, especially the sizeable Palestinian minority which constitutes nearly one fourth of Israel’s population.

It all started the evening of 8 October, the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, when an unsuspecting local Arab resident of the city drove his car through a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, reportedly to pick up his daughter from her fiancé’s family home.

Upon spotting the middle-aged man, dozens of Jewish fanatics ganged up on the man, beating him and stoning his car, injuring him and his son.

“Suddenly, five metres from the building we were trying to reach, a group of young men came out and started shouting Mavet le Arabim! [Death to the Arabs!] and throwing big rocks at us. My son was hit in the face, back and chest. I dragged my son out of the car and we all ran up the stairs,” said Jamal Tawfik.

Soon, hundreds of Jewish fanatics converged at the scene, shouting anti-Arab slogans, and preventing Tawfik and his son, who was badly bleeding, from reaching hospital.

“We eventually succeeded in leaving the building, jumped over a number of ditches, and headed for a police car. Suddenly Jewish youths spotted us and began throwing rocks at us. We got into the car, but the police officer couldn’t get the engine started.

“Eventually, the officer told us, ‘Forget it. Run for your lives!’ So we all ran away though we had no idea where we were. I saw a construction site. We entered a guard’s hut and asked him to protect us. We hid on the floor, and the mob passed us by. It was the Jewish guard, Nessim, that saved our lives.”

Having let the man escape “from under their very eyes” — remember, this is at the start of the Day of Atonement, when Jews ask God for forgiveness for their sins — the fanatics then laid siege to the Arab home where the man’s daughter was staying, chantting Mavet le Arabim! and “Arabs out of Acre!”

Soon afterwards, word reached the old town, where the town’s Arabs are concentrated, that a local Arab was being lynched and killed by Jewish extremists and that Jews were laying siege to an Arab home in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. This prompted dozens of youths to take to the streets in an effort to rescue the Arab family.

However, as the disgruntled youths were heading towards the home in the northeastern suburb of the town, police reinforcements intervened, shooting tear gas, rubber bullets and beating the Arab protesters, effectively preventing them from reaching the building where the Arab family was being besieged. As many as 20 protesters were reportedly injured.

Infuriated by police brutality, the protesters vented their frustration on parked Jewish cars and shops, smashing windscreens and vandalising property. Israeli sources said some 40 shops and a hundred cars were damaged, which further enraged the Jewish inhabitants of the city.

The Jews retaliated by torching several Arab homes.

Seeking to justify the hysterical overreaction to the original “provocation”, the rumour was spread that the hapless prospective father- in-law was paid by “extremist Arab elements” to provoke the Jews and that he was drunk, smoking and playing his car stereo loud.

The man categorically denied all these charges, saying, “I am a religious man and the last thing I would do is to hurt people’s feelings. I just want to go home, I am a religious Muslim. I don’t drink at all, and I wasn’t playing music. I wonder where the police are getting this information from?”

Some sources spoke of dozens of Jewish settlers from the West Bank, including followers of Rabbi Meir Kahana, who advocates ethnic cleansing of non-Jews from Israel-Palestine, arriving in Acre to further incite violence against the Arabs.

However, even without the arrival of such settlers, many Jews of Acre needed no further incitement to jump on the bandwagon of hate. One Jewish lady shouted at reporters, “Get all the Arabs out of here. We don’t want them here. They’ve made our lives a misery.”

One particularly nasty message that was posted on extremist Jewish sites reads, “We will no longer buy anything from Arabs, we will not honour any of their holidays or any of their holy places. Arabs of Acre, go find you place in the villages.” The message was signed with the following epigram: “A Jew is the son of a king; and Arab is the son of a dog.”

As tension and incitement continued, Jewish and Arab youths hurled rocks at each other at the Acre train station and other “friction areas” with several people sustaining injuries.

According to the Mosawwa (equality) Centre for Arab Human Rights, 14 Arab families, a total of 50 people, were left homeless after Jewish hooligans either burned their homes or forced them to fee, stealing or destroying their property. Earlier, the families narrated to reporters how Jewish thugs threatened to lynch them if they didn’t leave their homes, forcing them to leave without taking anything with them but the clothes they were wearing.

Arab leaders, including Knesset members, accused the police of siding with Jewish rioters against the Arabs. The charges are supported by the fact that the police failed to stop rampaging Jewish fanatics even five days after the original incident.

The Israeli government called on the police to take decisive action to stop the violence, with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying that there was a feeling that the inhabitants of the city were being “held hostage by a group of extremists”.

However, despite this seemingly even- handed approach to the violence, it was clear that Israeli politicians were reluctant to call a spade a spade, given the pre-electioneering atmosphere in Israel.

Avigdor Leiberman, a notorious right-wing politician and former cabinet minister, described the events in Acre as a clear vindication of his calls for the expulsion of non-Jews from Israel.

On Monday, 13 October, the police arrested Jamal Jawfik, apparently to appease Jews in Acre. Arab Knesset member Ahmed Teibi called the arrest “unreasonable” and “amounting to punishing the victim instead of punishing the criminal. This is a kind of appeasement, the police are only trying to appease Jewish hooliganism at the expense of the Arab citizens of Israel.”

The communal violence in Acre, Jewish and Arab leaders admit, epitomises the simmering tension that could eventually spark a wider conflagration in the so-called “mixed towns” such as Jaffa, Haifa, Ramleh and Lod.

Haaretz quoted a community activist in Lod (Al-Led) as saying that they were worried that the violence could spread to their town. “I don’t know if it will be happen in a day, two days, or two months, but it is certainly a possibility,” said Buthaina Debit, who pointed out that the Arab community was suffering from social and economic distress due to long-standing discrimination by the Israeli state.

“It happened in Acre, but I thought it would happen in Lod because there are masses of Arab residents who have nothing to lose, and there are many poor Jews stuck here. Acre could just be the beginning.”

A Jewish activist, also interviewed by Haaretz, warned that what happened in Acre was a signal to all those involved. “Too many people are sitting on the fence. This is the time to act, for both government and social organisations. We must invest in the mixed cities,” said Aviv Wasserman.

Interestingly, even Olmert himself recognised that the Arab citizens of Israel are discriminated against and that this discrimination creates frustration and indignation amongst the Arabs against the state.

But Olmert, as was the case with all his predecessors, wouldn’t say why he failed to rectify this systematic discrimination which renders the claim that Israel is “democratic state” devoid of meaning.

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