Israel ‘loyalty law’ rejected
An Israeli government committee has rejected a draft bill that would have required Israelis to take an oath of loyalty.
The legislation committee on Sunday scrapped the bill, which had been tabled by the Yisrael Beitenu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister.
The bill was rejected by a vote of eight to three, an official was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
The move effectively strips the proposal of government approval and significantly lowers the chances it would pass into law.
Labor said that the bill, which called for all citizens to take a pledge of allegiance, risked “creating the false impression” that Israel’s Arab citizens were disloyal.
The pledge was a key element in Yisrael Beitenu’s campaigning for the February general election, in which it came in third, winning 15 of the 120 seats in parliament.
The bill by Lieberman’s secular nationalist party was aimed mostly at Israel’s Arab citizens – some 20 per cent of Israel’s population – and also at the ultra-Orthodox population.
Neither group does the military service, which is mandatory for most Israelis.
‘Catastrophe’ bill softened
A related bill on the Nakba, which many Palestinians lament as the “catastrophe” when they fled their homes in the wake of the 1948 creation of Israel, was watered down by the cabinet.
The revised draft law now prohibits any government funds from being used for events marking the Nakba, instead of banning commemorations altogether, a government official was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
“The original bill marked a serious infringement on the freedom of expression, which we deemed excessive,” the official said.
The changes followed a legal review of the bill approved by the cabinet last week, which would have prohibited any events marking Nakba and provided for penalties of up to three years in prison.
US appeal rebuffed
In another development, Israel has refused to bow to US calls that it freeze settlement activity.
“I want to say in a crystal clear manner that the current Israeli government will not accept in any fashion that legal settlement activity be frozen,” Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transport minister and a close ally of Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday.
Netanyahu did not address the issue at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, but the fighting words were echoed by other members of the cabinet, including the Labor party.
Several members of the Israeli cabinet belong to right-leaning or ultra-nationalist parties.
HOW LUCKY we are to have the extreme Right standing guard over our democracy.
This week, the Knesset voted by a large majority (47 to 34) for a law that threatens imprisonment for anyone who dares to deny that Israel is a Jewish and Democratic State.
The private member’s bill, proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev of the “Jewish Home” party, which sailed through its preliminary hearing, promises one year in prison to anyone who publishes “a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”, if the contents of the call might cause “actions of hate, contempt or disloyalty against the state or the institutions of government or the courts”.
One can foresee the next steps. A million and a half Arab citizens cannot be expected to recognize Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State. They want it to be “a state of all its citizens” – Jews, Arabs and others. They also claim with reason that Israel discriminates against them, and therefore is not really democratic. And, in addition, there are also Jews who do not want Israel to be defined as a Jewish State in which non-Jews have the status, at best, of tolerated outsiders.
The consequences are inevitable. The prisons will not be able to hold all those convicted of this crime. There will be a need for concentration camps all over the country to house all the deniers of Israeli democracy.
The police will be unable to deal with so many criminals. It will be necessary to set up a new unit. This may be called “Special Security”, or, in short, SS.
Hopefully, these measures will suffice to preserve our democracy. If not, more stringent steps will have to be taken, such as revoking the citizenship of the democracy-deniers and deporting them from the country, together with the Jewish leftists and all the other enemies of the Jewish democracy.
After the preliminary reading of the bill, it now goes to the Legal Committee of the Knesset, which will prepare it for the first, and soon thereafter for the second and third readings. Within a few weeks or months, it will be the law of the land.
By the way, the bill does not single out Arabs explicitly – even if this is its clear intention, and all those who voted for it understood this. It also prohibits Jews from advocating a change in the state’s definition, or the creation of a bi-national state in all of historic Palestine or spreading any other such unconventional ideas. One can only imagine what would happen in the US if a senator proposed a law to imprison anyone who suggests an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
THE BILL does not stand out at all in our new political landscape.
The sponsors expect Arab citizens to be happy about that event. True, the Palestinians were caused a certain unpleasantness, but that was only a by-product of the foundation of our state. The Independence Day of the Jewish and Democratic State must fill us all with joy. Anyone who does not express this joy should be locked up, and three years may not be enough.
This bill has been confirmed by the Ministerial Commission for Legal Matters, prior to being submitted to the Knesset. Since the rightist government commands a majority in the Knesset, it will be adopted almost automatically. (In the meantime, a slight delay has been caused by one minister, who appealed the decision, so the Ministerial Commission will have to confirm it again.)
The sponsors of the law hope, perhaps, that on Naqba Day the Arabs will dance in the streets, plant Israeli flags on the ruins of some 600 Arab villages that were wiped off the map and offer up their thanks to Allah in the mosques for the miraculous good fortune that was bestowed on them.
THIS TAKES me back to the 60s, when the weekly magazine I edited, Haolam Hazeh, published an Arabic edition. One of its employees was a young man called Rashed Hussein from the village of Musmus. Already as a youth he was a gifted poet with a promising future.
He told me that some years earlier the military governor of his area had summoned him to his office. At the time, all the Arabs in Israel were subject to a military government which controlled their lives in all matters big and small. Without a permit, an Arab citizen could not leave his village or town even for a few hours, nor get a job as a teacher, nor acquire a tractor or dig a well.
The governor received Rashed cordially, offered him coffee and paid lavish compliments to his poetry. Then he came to the point: in a month’s time, Independence Day was due, and the governor was going to hold a big reception for the Arab “notables”; he asked Rashed to write a special poem for the occasion.
Rashed was a proud youngster, nationalist to the core, and not lacking in courage. He explained to the governor that Independence Day was no joyful day for him, since his relatives had been driven from their homes and most of the Musmus village’s land had also been expropriated.
When Rashed arrived back at his village some hours later, he could not help noticing that his neighbors were looking at him in a peculiar way. When he entered his home, he was shocked. All the members of his family were sitting on the floor, the women lamenting at the top of their voices, the children huddling fearfully in a corner. His first thought was that somebody had died.
“What have you done to us!” one of the women cried, “What did we do to you?”
“You have destroyed the family,” another shouted, “You have finished us!”
It appeared that the governor had called the family and told them that Rashed had refused to fulfill his duty to the state. The threat was clear: from now on, the extended family, one of the largest in the village, would be on the black list of the military government. The consequences were clear to everyone.
Rashed could not stand up against the lamentation of his family. He gave in and wrote the poem, as requested. But something inside him was broken. Some years later he emigrated to the US, got a job there at the PLO office and died tragically: he was burned alive in his bed after going to sleep, it appears, while smoking a cigarette.
THESE DAYS are gone forever. We took part in many stormy demonstrations against the military government until it was finally abolished in 1966. As a newly elected Member of Parliament, I had the privilege of voting for its abolition.
The fearful and subservient Arab minority, then amounting to some 200 thousand souls, has recovered its self-esteem. A second and third generation has grown up, its downtrodden national pride has raised its head again, and today they are a large and self-confident community of 1.5 million. But the attitude of the Jewish Right has not changed for the better. On the contrary.
In the Knesset bakery (the Hebrew word for bakery is Mafia) some new pastries are being baked. One of them is a bill that stipulates that anyone applying for Israeli citizenship must declare their loyalty to “the Jewish, Zionist and Democratic State”, and also undertake to serve in the army or its civilian alternative. Its sponsor is MK David Rotem of the “Israel is Our Home” party, who also happens to be the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee.
A declaration of loyalty to the state and its laws – a framework designed to safeguard the wellbeing and the rights of its citizens – is reasonable. But loyalty to the “Zionist” state? Zionism is an ideology, and in a democratic state the ideology can change from time to time. It would be like declaring loyalty to a “capitalist” USA, a “rightist Italy”, a ”leftist” Spain, a “Catholic Poland” or a “nationalist” Russia.
This would not be a problem for the tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews in Israel who reject Zionism, since Jews will not be touched by this law. They obtain citizenship automatically the moment they arrive in Israel.
Another bill waiting for its turn before the Ministerial Committee proposes changing the declaration that every new Knesset Member has to make before assuming office. Instead of loyalty “to the State of Israel and its laws”, as now, he or she will be required to declare their loyalty “to the Jewish, Zionist and Democratic State of Israel, its symbols and its values”. That would exclude almost automatically all the elected Arabs, since declaring loyalty to the “Zionist” state would mean that no Arab would ever vote for them again.
It would also be a problem for the Orthodox members of the Knesset, who cannot declare loyalty to Zionism. According to Orthodox doctrine, the Zionists are depraved sinners and the Zionist flag is unclean. God exiled the Jews from this country because of their wickedness, and only God can permit them to return. Zionism, by preempting the job of the Messiah, has committed an unpardonable sin, and many Orthodox Rabbis chose to remain in Europe and be murdered by the Nazis rather than committing the Zionist sin of going to Palestine.
THE FACTORY of racist laws with a distinct fascist odor is now working at full steam. That is built into the new coalition.
At its center is the Likud party, a good part of which is pure racist (sorry for the oxymoron). To its right there is the ultra-racist Shas party, to the right of which is Lieberman’s ultra-ultra racist “Israel is our Home” party, the ultra-ultra-ultra racist “Jewish Home” party, and to its right the even more racist “National Union” party, which includes outright Kahanists and stands with one foot in the coalition and the other on the moon.
All these factions are trying to outdo each other. When one proposes a crazy bill, the next is compelled to propose an even crazier one, and so on.
All this is possible because Israel has no constitution. The ability of the Supreme Court to annul laws that contradict the “basic laws” is not anchored anywhere, and the Rightist parties are trying to abolish it. Not for nothing did Avigdor Lieberman demand – and get – the Justice and Police ministries.
Just now, when the governments of the US and Israel are clearly on a collision course over the settlements, this racist fever may infect all parts of the coalition.
If one goes to sleep with a dog, one should not be surprised to wake up with fleas (may the dogs among my readers pardon me). Those who elected such a government, and even more so those who joined it, should not be surprised by its laws, which ostensibly safeguard Jewish democracy.
The most appropriate name for these holy warriors would be “Racists for Democracy”.
Rattling the Cage: A little respect for the Nakba
It’s touch-and-go now whether Israel Beiteinu’s “Nakba law” will make it through the Knesset, but even if it does, I have no doubt it will be struck down by the Supreme Court. The law would make it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, to publicly mourn the 1948 Palestinian Nakba (“catastrophe”), which a small but influential minority of Israeli Arabs do around Yom Ha’atzma’ut.
The Nakba law is a gross violation of freedom of expression, something the Supreme Court wouldn’t tolerate. Still, the controversy is making Jews and Arabs in this country hate each other just a little bit more, so Israel Beiteinu is getting what it wants.
Among Jews, the debate seems to be between nationalists who say the State of Israel shouldn’t allow citizens to brand its creation a “catastrophe,” and liberals who say such gestures are infuriating but, for the sake of democracy, must be allowed.
Yet even the liberal argument here is misguided, because when Israeli Arabs speak of the catastrophe of 1948, they don’t mean the creation of the State of Israel, they mean the price that Palestinians, including themselves, paid for it.
By nakba, they mean the 700,000 Palestinians who became refugees; they mean the 400-odd Arab villages that Israel bulldozed after the War of Independence; they mean the loss of their national home.
HOW DO I know this? Because this is what Israeli Arabs, ranging from Labor Party voters to Islamic Movement election boycotters, have told me.
Mahmoud Abu Rajab is a veteran newspaper editor in Nazareth who usually supports Labor, but who also has good things to say about the Likud. Yet even he says Israeli Arabs are entitled to mourn what happened to them during the War of Independence. “The time of Israel’s creation was a time of catastrophe for Arab citizens. That’s something no one, neither Jew nor Arab, can deny.”
Ibrahim Shawahna is a Hadash supporter who spends Yom Ha’atzma’ut going to the site of a former Galilee Arab village, now an IDF base, where his wife’s family lived before 1948. But though he commemorates Nakba Day, he does not want to overthrow the state. “This is our country and I won’t be part of any attempt to destroy it. What I want is equality.”
Even Hashem Abdel Rahman, the former mayor of Umm el-Fahm and a member of the Islamic Movement’s radical “northern faction,” told me that when Israeli Arabs say “nakba,” they don’t mean the birth of Israel. “That’s a mistaken notion,” he said, adding that he even “recognized the State of Israel.”
These and other Israeli Arabs I talked to had no need to lie; with few exceptions, they complained openly and bitterly about a history of injustice.
BUT GO tell Israeli Jews that Nakba Day is not a call to insurrection, that while Israeli Arabs are not Zionists, and while they have loads of resentment, they are not enemies of the state. Go tell Jews here that with very, very few exceptions, Israeli Arabs are and always have been nonviolent, and that on balance, they are Israel’s victims, not victimizers.
Good luck. The Jewish public has gotten so it can only believe the worst about Arabs, even the hapless ones in this country; thus, a memorial march to the site of a Galilee village that got erased after the War of Independence is seen as an act of subversion.
You don’t have to read polls to know that Israeli Arabs are becoming more radical in their attitudes. And what should we expect? The October 2000 riots were a bloody disaster for them, not us, and ever since then they’ve been basically ostracized. They’ve watched the Palestinians get bashed up by the IDF, most recently and ferociously in Operation Cast Lead, and now a demagogue who’s built his career on their backs is the country’s foreign minister.
What better time to introduce the Nakba law?
The Jewish public has to understand that 20 percent of the citizens of this country were part of the losing side in the War of Independence, and that they lost a great deal. The Jewish public also has to admit that since that war ended, the civil status of this minority has never been anything but separate and unequal.
We cannot expect members of this minority to have warm, patriotic feelings about the state. We cannot expect them to forget what the creation of Israel cost them, personally and nationally. Like nearly all Jews, I blame the Palestinians, including those who remained in what would become Israel, for starting the war that proved to be their catastrophe. But we shouldn’t be so egocentric as to expect them to agree with us.
What we can rightfully expect, though, is that whatever Israeli Arabs think, whatever they wish, they not turn to violence. And with rare individual exceptions, they haven’t. They protest, but they don’t revolt. They aren’t a threat to this country – not even on Nakba Day.
While we Jews are celebrating what the War of Independence did for us, can’t we show a bit of magnanimity to the Arab citizens who are mourning what it did to them?
Inquiring about his condition out of curiosity, I asked him “How are you Yasser?” In a very tiny voice full of sadness he replied “I have no chance to live as I am bedridden since two years ago, and nothing changed”. His condition is severe, due to paralysis he’s unable to do anything without assistance. Moving closer to him, I can see his body keeps shaking. Yasser requires moment to moment care from his parents. The medical device which enables him to breath is powered by electricity. He and his family live in constant fear of power cuts.
Yasser has not received any education since his accident, due to his bedridden status. “Yasser is my oldest son. He is so clever and he always keeps good reputation among his peers and the people around” said the father. “As all young children who witnessed the recent war in Gaza, Yasser struggled emotionally during the bombing and air strikes” his father added. During my visit, I noticed a completely destroyed home closely to Yasser’s.
When the neighboring home was destroyed, Yasser was left without power for an extended period, forced to rely on backup generators to survive. “We were so scared of his health condition deteriorating during the war” said his father. His father informed us his medical operation is so sensitive, and the operations necessary for improvement very costly. “No one helping us to afford this operation, it costs $150 000; I keep searching for associations to help us find funding to improve Yassers health condition” said the father.
To Whom it May Concern
The patient was transferred to the emergency department 18 months ago. At that time, the diagnosis was quadriplegia, punctured larynx and the patient required an artificial respiratory system.
After that period of observation, this diagnosis was confirmed: Quadriplegia, punctured larynx and the patient required an artificial respiratory system and X-rays were taken, medical examination, radiology on neck vertebrae and general X-rays. It was obvious that the second vertebra was broken due to abullet lodged in the patients neck.
The patient was admitted to the internal medicine department for treatment, critical observation, and for manual physiotherapy. What he now requires is an instrument to electrically stimulate the diaphragm and injection of stem cells in the spinal cord. The patient is still in the hospital undergoing medical treatment and physiotherapy.
The patient is under the care of: department of neurology, rehabilitation & physiotherapy department and intensive care department.
Dr. Mostafa Arafa, Hospital General Director: Hafez Mohamed Hafez
A child called Feras died 2 days ago due to Israeli siege. Yasser might face the same fate soon.
See the death of Feras here: http://www.paltelegraph.com/hot-topic…
Story by Ayman Quader
PT reporter in Gaza
National dialogue remains stalled as accusations rise within Fatah itself against the Ramallah leadership, writes Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
The chronic and brewing crisis within Fatah is not only creating tension — even conditions of implosion — inside the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mainstream faction. It is also hindering a breakthrough in national reconciliation talks with Hamas.
Last week, Egypt, which has been brokering Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo, warned the two factions that Egypt wouldn’t continue to serve as an “open guesthouse” forever. The tacit Egyptian warning came after the two largest Palestinian political groups failed to resolve the issues that remain contentious between them, including power-sharing arrangements in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip have argued that Fatah and Hamas would have achieved a breakthrough in the last session of talks in Cairo had it not been for “the intransigence and ill will” on the part of the “extreme right wing” of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Hamas had repeatedly accused figures representing this camp, including President Mahmoud Abbas and his allies in Ramallah, of not really being “enthusiastic about reconciliation with Hamas”. “The thing they fear most is the formation of a national unity government, or government of national reconciliation, since such a government would interfere with their own anti-patriotic designs and parochial calculations,” said Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum.
“These people have become hostage to their own parochial interests and are therefore disinterested in genuine national reconciliation,” he reiterated.
This week, Fatah leader and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei confirmed that a great deal of progress had been made in the Cairo reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas. “It was agreed that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and that the organisation would have to be reformed. We also agreed that the elections to the presidency and to the Legislative Council will be held on 25 January 2010, but we still differ on the electoral system [to be used].”
Qurei pointed out that Hamas was still refusing to commit itself to previous agreements reached between the PA and Israel. “Their proposal that they will only ‘respect the agreements’ doesn’t satisfy us.”
Qurei added that Egypt proposed setting up a joint team that would serve as an interim umbrella, and that Egyptian mediators made it clear to both factions that they were not willing to be an interminable guesthouse and that a decision would have to be reached by July.
Nonetheless, there are some issues that even the Egyptians won’t be able to tackle. These include demands by the “Abbas camp” that any unity or national reconciliation government would have to recognise Israel. For Hamas this is an absolute red line for religious, ideological, moral and political reasons.
According to Ahmed Youssef, advisor to the Gaza-based Hamas government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas proposed the formation of an “ad hoc” government whose main task would be preparing for the 2010 elections and providing essential services to the Palestinian people, while the PLO would continue to deal with political process, including possible peace talks with Israel.
Some sources have suggested that Abbas’s intransigence with regards to reconciliation talks with Hamas is aimed, at least in part, at pressuring his rivals within Fatah — people like Farouk Qadoumi, who have been showing a certain propensity to accommodate Hamas’s views with regard the peace process. Moreover, Abbas is apparently worried that “giving too many concessions” to Hamas would weaken his own position within Fatah, undermine Western — especially American — backing of the Ramallah-based regime, and eventually harm Fatah’s election prospects in 2010.
Meanwhile, the PA’s security agencies continue to arrest and detain hundreds of pro-Hamas sympathisers, mainly on concocted charges pertaining to their support for the movement. Some of the detainees reportedly have been severely tortured and hospitalised, prompting Hamas to accuse the Western-backed regime in Ramallah of “undermining every chance for national reconciliation”.
The PA claims that the arrests are not political in nature and that suspects are arrested for violating the rule of law. However, according to most observers and human rights groups operating in the West Bank, PA claims in this regard “lack in credibility”. Hamas has consistently complained that the rounding up and torturing of its supporters in the West Bank has “a poisoning effect on reconciliation efforts”.
Meanwhile, it is increasingly obvious the internal Fatah crisis is deepening and exacerbating over the convening of the movement’s Sixth Congress. Fatah leaders, both inside and outside the occupied territories, have been attacking Abbas and his allies, accusing them of “pushing Fatah to the abyss”.
Last week, Fatah leader Qaddura Fares, an ally and confidante of imprisoned Fatah Secretary- General Marwan Barghouti, was quoted as asking, “What sort of democratic movement is that which doesn’t hold election for 20 years?” Barghouti is widely viewed as a chief rival of Abbas and some circles have suggested that the PA leader actually dreads an Israeli decision to free Barghouti, possibly in the context of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.
Two weeks ago, Abbas abruptly decided to terminate the Sixth Congress preparatory committee, which had been meeting in Amman for months in an effort to set up the agenda for the long overdue conference, announced that the congress would be held in Bethlehem on 1 July. The decision, which was taken without coordination with Fatah leaders, drew angry reactions from many quarters within Fatah.
Mohamed Jihad, a prominent leader of the movement based in Amman, accused Abbas of “holding Fatah and the entire Palestinian cause to the whims of a person known as Salam Fayyad”. Jihad, a member of the dissolved preparatory committee, also castigated the formation of the new government in Ramallah, calling it an “anti-national government”. He urged Fatah supporters everywhere “to be vigilant in order to confront the conspiracies being worked out against the Palestinian cause”.
For his part, Qadoumi has reiterated his fierce opposition to holding the Sixth Congress under the Israeli occupation, arguing that it would be absurd and futile to “hold a conference that is aimed at expediting the struggle against the Israeli occupation under the umbrella of the occupation itself”. Speaking in interview with Al-Kefah Al-Arabi journal this week, Qadoumi lambasted Abbas for exceeding the confines of his authority, arguing that Abbas had no right to dissolve the preparatory committee that he said had the exclusive authority to determine the date and venue and all other details pertaining to the Fatah convention.
“The important thing is that the preparatory committee has decided to hold the conference outside occupied Palestine since holding it under the Israeli occupation would seriously undermine its ability to take decisions that are incompatible with Zionist interests. There is simply no safety, no security, and no guarantee that everyone would be able to access the conference venue without Israeli interference. For all these reasons, we are not confident that the deliberations of the conference would be immune from Israeli interference. Hence, holding the conference in the West Bank under the canopy of the occupation would be illegitimate, irresponsible and unacceptable,” Qadoumi said.
In this light, it is widely expected that were Abbas to insist on holding Fatah’s Sixth Congress in the West Bank under the current circumstances it would lead to the deepening and widening of the rift between rival camps within Fatah. Some observers predict that the conference will be put on hold indefinitely pending more appropriate circumstances, both within Fatah and at a national level.
Israelis and Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their capital
Israeli police have shut down a Palestinian theatre in East Jerusalem.
The action, on Thursday, prevented the closing event of an international literature festival from taking place.
Police said they were acting on a court order, issued after intelligence indicated that the Palestinian Authority was involved in the event.
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967 and has annexed the area. This is not recognised by the international community.
The British consul-general in Jerusalem , Richard Makepeace, was attending the event.
“I think all lovers of literature would regard this as a very regrettable moment and regrettable decision,” he added.
Mr Makepeace said the festival’s closing event would be reorganised to take place at the British Council in Jerusalem.
The Israeli authorities often take action against events in East Jerusalem they see as connected to the Palestinian Authority.
Saturday’s opening event at the same theatre was also shut down.
A police notice said the closure was on the orders of Israel’s internal security minister on the grounds of a breach of interim peace accords from the 1990s.
These laid the framework for talks on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but left the status of Jerusalem to be determined by further negotiation.
Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and declares it part of its eternal capital.
Palestinians hope to establish their capital in the area.
CAIRO — To increase international pressure for Pres. Obama to call on Israel to end its blockade of war-torn Gaza, just days before Obama delivers his first speech from the Arab world here, TOMORROW a 66-person, largely American delegation will attempt to cross through the heavily policed, blockaded Egyptian city of Rafah into Gaza.
The delegation, which will bring toys and playground building materials for Gazan children, will also collect signatures for an international petition calling on Obama to visit Gaza during his upcoming Middle East tour so he can witness the damage himself. The delegation will deliver to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by June 4 in time for his historic speech.
“We think if President Obama is serious about being even-handed and reversing our country’s past favoritism towards Israel then he should visit Gaza himself,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and co-organizer of the delegation. “We’re sure that if he saw and heard about the suffering personally, he would put the required pressure on the governments of both Israel and Egypt to open the borders now.”
The international delegation, which will enter Gaza at the invitation of the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), will visit with social service agencies that care for children, deliver sports equipment and toys to schools, and build three playgrounds.
CODEPINK, a women-led peace group, has led several delegations to Gaza to witness, firsthand, the devastation caused by the 22-day Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip that began last December. The group is particularly concerned about the children of Gaza, who make up more than half of the population. Approximately 400 children were killed during the 22 day attack and an estimated 1,346 Gazan children were left without one or both of their parents as a result of the recent Israeli assault. The majority of the children in Gaza were traumatized by the attack and invasion.
“If President Obama can, at the last minute, add a visit to Saudi Arabia to have a private dinner with the King, then he certainly can go to Gaza,” said Col. Ann Wright, co-leader of the delegation and a retired U.S. Army colonel and a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.
Check the CODE PINK Website for updates
Photos courtesy of Irish4Palestine
CODE PINK DELEGATION ENTERS GAZA
We have some great news to report!!! The day started out with a 3am call from one of our delegations in Al Arish saying that secret police had contacted them at 2pm to intimidate them and say they would not get into Gaza. We, in Cairo, told them to go on to the border and see what happens.
Then at 9am in the morning, when all three groups got in their buses to go to the border, they were stopped at the first checkpoint, surrounded by riot police, and not allowed to even get off the bus. They were told that there were military exercises going on in the area and that they could not move forward to the border. Meanwhile, they saw other cars going in and out. But they were forced to turn around to go back to Al Arish.
Ann, Tighe and I were furious, planning all sorts of things-press conferences to denounce the treatment of our delegations, protests, etc. Our first step, however, was to go to the Egyptian foreign ministry’s Office of Palestinian Affairs to see if they could help. We ended spending about 4 hours with the two people in charge of Egyptian relations with Gaza while they talked to the intelligence services and police, trying to get the group official permission and get that permission to all the officials of various Egyptian agencies at the checkpoints and the border.
Phone calls were flying back and forth, back and forth, as we followed the group’s progress, step by step, from Al Arish through all the checkpoints and finally to the border.
Out of all three delegations (Canadian, New York and student delegation from Cairo), only one person was turned back–a Palestinian student with a brand new passport that had not had her basic visa for Egypt transferred into it.
But all the rest-66 in total-made it through into Gaza. Yipppppeeee.
We are all thrilled, and are eager to get the next group of 70 who will be crossing on Saturday, May 30.
It was terrific teamwork between the folks at the border, those of us in Cairo, and our contacts back in the US and Canada who were advocating on our behalf. Thanks to all who helped.
Today we made another dent in the armor that is imprisoning the people of Gaza. Thanks everyone.
Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, Tighe Barry
CodePink Delegation (click for updates)
By Mohammed Omer
By Khalid Amayreh
There is always fresh evidence justifying the Israeli-Nazi analogy. In recent days and weeks, a number of Israeli officials and lawmakers proposed “draft laws” that would effectively formalize Israel’s de facto racism and seriously restrict the human and civil rights of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.
One of the proposals being discussed would criminalize the commemoration of Nakba by Palestinians holding the Israeli citizenship. Predictably, the brazenly racist proposal has infuriated Israel’s 1.5-million- strong Palestinian community.
One Israeli Palestinian parliamentarian compared the proposed law with an imagined promulgation by Germany of a law banning all Jewish activities commemorating the holocaust.
The lawmaker’s remarks are not far-fetched. After all, the Nakba or catastrophe is the Palestinian holocaust, whether we like or not. True, the scope may not be identical in both cases. However, it is also true that Zionists have wrested the Palestinian people historical homeland form its rightful native inhabitants, destroyed their homes and towns, and expelled them to the four corners of the globe.
More to the point, the Palestinians are the longest-suffering people in modern history. They are still being haphazardly killed in the hundreds and thousands by a Gestapo-like army which claims to be the “most moral army in the world.” Palestinian homes are still being demolished, Palestinian land is still being stolen on a daily basis, and millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and especially Gaza Strip are still being hounded, starved, tormented, savaged and terrorized by the very country that shamelessly claims to be the only true democracy in the Middle East.
One of the most thuggish Israeli leaders who has been promoting Israel’s manifestly racist discourse against non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular is Aryeh Eldad of the Nazi-like Ichud Leumi, or National Union.
This party holds more or less the same ideas and perceptions toward the Palestinian people that the German Nazis held against the Jews and other “untermenschen.” It advocates genocide, ethnic cleansing, discriminatory treatment of non-Jews as well as wanton home demolitions and land confiscation of land owned by Palestinians.
Some of the party’s associates have called for “wiping off the goyem (non-Jews) from ‘the Land of Israel pursuant Biblical methods.”
The term “Biblical methods” refer to the genocidal wars the ancient Israelites waged against the Canaanite tribes in Palestine as recorded in the Bible.
A few days ago, Eldad proposed that Jordan be “transformed” into a Palestinian state and that Palestinians in the West Bank be granted the Jordanian citizenship.
The proposal would impose the Israeli sovereignty on “all mandatory Palestine” from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and prepare the psychological and legal ground for the ultimate deportation of the estimated 5.1 million Palestinians from their ancestral homeland.
Interestingly, many Israeli leaders from various political parties have expressed keen interest in the diabolical proposal. Indeed, those who voiced reservations about the proposal did so on the ground that it was “unrealistic” and “impractical” not immoral and criminal.
In fact, even Labor party lawmakers in the Likud-led government voted in favor of referring the proposal to further discussion by the Knesset.
Eldad has a long history of making bluntly-fascist and racist provocations against the Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line as well as against Islam and Muslims.
Nearly six months ago, he hosted in West Jerusalem a virulently anti-Islam “seminar” in which a number of fascist-minded speakers from Israel and abroad took part.
The one-day seminar was addressed by notorious Islamophobes such as Daniel Pipes, an American-Jewish supremacist, Dutch Legislator Greet Wilders and Eldad himself.
After making characteristically venomous remarks against Islam, the Quran and Muslims, Wilders received a standing ovation.
A few years ago Eldad suggested that non-Jews were not true human beings.
He was quoted as saying during a protest against the eviction by the Israeli army of a small settler outpost in the West Bank that “it was sad that the army was treating real human beings as if they were Arabs.”
Eldad has also been a focal advocate of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in East Jerusalem where successive Israeli governments have been trying to besiege Arab demographic presence while actively encouraging Jewish settlement activities in and around the occupied Arab city.
Arab Knesset member Ahmed Teibi has described Eldad and likeminded Jewish leaders as “representing and embodying the ugly face of racism and fascism.”
“If Eldad and his ilk were living in any European country, they would be thrown behind bars immediately. The fact that they are thriving in Israel speaks volumes about the poisoned political environment in this country.”
Teibi said the roots of Palestinians in occupied Palestine were deeper, much deeper, than the shallow roots of most Israeli Jews.
“Every honest person in this world can attest that every Jewish town or village is built on the ruins of an Arab town and village.”
I believe that honest people around the world are morally obligated to call the spade a spade, irrespective of whose hands the shovel happens to be.
Today, the ugly face of fascism is rising in Israel, and a Jewish Third Reich must never be allowed to evolve and prosper into a full-fledged Hitlerian monster at the hands of the very people who have made the epithet “Nazi” one of the ugliest words in all languages of the world.
Hence, the entire humanity is urged to combat and defeat the new Nazism now thriving in Israel. The fact that this Nazism is having a Jewish garment is totally irrelevant. Evil doesn’t become kosher or innocuous when done by Jews.
May 27, 2009 at 08:31 (Cartoons)
Direct from Ireland
Convoy of Hope for Gaza
European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza
Tuesday 26th May 2009
Tuesday 26th – the delegates from the convoy that were permitted to enter Gaza by the Egyptian Authorities awoke to see Gaza City this morning. It has been a surreal 24 hours.
Only yesterday, we were waking up after a night on the floor of the Rafah checkpoint. Where we were inexplicably stranded when the Egyptian authorities after stamping our exit visas, then revoked our permissions and we were stopped from entering Rafah. From our arrival to the crossing area at noon on Sunday, there followed 24 hours of anxious waiting, discussing, waiting, rumouring and speculating and then some more waiting while the organisers and the elected representatives spoke to various officials to attempt to discover the cause of the delay and to negotiate the release of the medical aid convoy including 25 ambulances a kidney dialysis machine, wheelchairs and tens of thousands of pounds worth of medicines.
The Egyptian authorities had proposed allowing just ten people through. This would be the elected politicians and some representatives of the convoy – Then, the Egyptians said; After those 10 members had entered Gaza and the rest of the members on the Egyptian side had departed, at that point the aid would be driven across by drivers from Gaza.
This was unacceptable to the delegates, who had seen stockpiles of aid on the Egyptian border that had laid there for months. Much of it perishable and now ruined or destroyed. The delegates decided they would rather bring the material and goods home, in order to show the world what the Siege of Gaza means in practice, rather than leave it to rot in some Egyptian warehouse.
The Egyptians stood their ground, and in a move which shocked and confused delegates, the authorities announced that we had to accept their offer or remove ourselves immediately from the crossing within 20 minutes, or we would be forcefully removed. Scores of riot police were seen at the rear of the building.
With people in wheelchairs, and anxious children to be concerned about, the convoy decided not to give any excuse to those who would refuse to let medical aid reach a desperate people in Gaza. The delegates decided to drive their vehicles back to Port Said and sail the aid back home to Europe. Where the huge amount of humanitarian aid would then become a touring monument, to the inhumanity of the siege of Gaza.
The media that had been waiting on the Rafah side of the border for more than 24 hours began to try to contact delegates by mobile phone. Pressure mounted as word was spreading of the aid waiting just 50 meters from Gaza.
Two Irish women leaving Gaza managed to get to the door of the hall where we were camped and asked to see me having heard that a Sinn Fein councillor was with the delegations.
They told me of the thousands who were lining the streets of Gaza to see the aid convoy arrive. People were desperate they said, and they were so proud that an Irish person was with the aid convoy. They told of the desperate need for basic medical equipment and medicines; and hoped that we would get through. They told me that they themselves, had waited all day yesterday in the baking heat for the arrival of the aid convoy.
Then they told me a spine chilling report from inside Gaza. They said that earlier that morning, Monday 25th, Israeli planes had streaked overhead and a loud explosion was heard outside the Europa hospital in Gaza. Thousands of leaflets were released warning Palestinians that Israel had now decided to declare up to 300 m inside Gaza from the border – not just with Israel but at Rafah too – a security zone. Any Palestinian who entered there without their permission, would be shot the Israelis threatened.
The convoy delegates then attempted one more time to negotiate and move things forward. Eventually and offer was made and ultimately agreed upon. The Egyptians would allow 20 convoy members to cross, along with the aid and vehicles into Gaza. The remaining members would have to leave the border and return to Cairo.
This was a difficult issue for the convoy as it mean that the majority of them, who had saved so hard and collected so much to purchase this equipment would have to turn back after weeks of delay in Egypt and not see the aid going to those who needed. Unselfishly the delegates agreed to the restriction in order to allow the aid through to the people of Gaza who needed it desperately.
Then there was a difficult period where the leaders of each group tried to select the people who should enter. Eventually a list was prepared and whilst many people were angry and upset at their omission it was accepted that we had little option but to accede to the restrictions if the aid was to be delivered.
Ultimately the list comprised the following:
Italian MP Fernando Rossi and Monia Benini, Italian Mohammad Abu Ali, plus 4 European citizens with disabilities, Gerry MacLochlainn of Sinn Fein, and a representative from each member country of the convoy.
Later that night (around 10pm) the Egyptian authorities moved quickly – and we were re-issued with our passports. Yesterdays stamp was cancelled and a new one issued to allow me and 21 others (We managed to add another two children to the list at the last minute). We were hustled to the border and climbed into some of the ambulances – one last security check at the gate and we crossed into the no-mans-land of a security zone where we could see the Israeli checkpoint about a kilometre away and we were finally in Gaza.
People clambered over the cars to give us flowers, Palestine flags, and just to wave or shake our hands. We were in Gaza among the Palestinian people who are living in the “world’s biggest concentration camp” – imprisoned in their own country and even denied basic medical aid.
When the waiting throng, including the Social Affairs Minister, heard that I was from Ireland and from Sinn Féin, a man was pushed forward to meet with me. “Hello” he said, “I am a former prisoner – I spent 14 years in an Israeli gaol” he said. Then another man cried into my hear “Tiocfaidh Ar Lá” which means “Our Day Will Come” in Irish.
I was finally among a people I have admired for so many years; and amongst those people, I felt at home.
Palestine~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Progress update….. posted at 3:22 PM GMTSeveral things to tell, first there has been a live interview on PRESSTV which I just saw from Gaza interviewing the convoy Organiser. Also, the delegates went to a hospital today and handed over the medical aid, there was a press conference there as well, which we may see on presstv at some point. There is a huge media presence from around the world and members are constantly being interviewed. just before the two PRESSTV interviews I mentioned there was a live interview by Al Quds for those who get that channel (sadly I don’t)
Photos, I have received some, others are still uploading, it takes a long time the Internet connection there is awful and the electricity goes out from time to time. Welcome to Gaza life. The photos I have received so far I have placed in a slideshow so you can see them all. I will post individual ones later on when I have time to sort them. The slide show begins with Italian MP Fernando Rossi in Egypt, then shows other members of the convoy in Egypt, then heading to Port Said where they loaded the Vehicles, then on to the Rafah border and into the terminal compound where they spent the night. Then it ends with the first three vehicles going through late last night. Again I have more loading now and when they are done I’ll post them as well, so everyone can see them. Maybe you can see your friends or loved ones who are on the convoy representing your country or group.
Click HERE to see slideshow~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Progress update…. posted at 7:20 PM GMT
Italian MP Fernando Rossi Slams Silence on GazaI am not sure if my friend will have any more news for me today. I gave her my mobile phone before she left because I promised to pay for all the phonecalls but my phone battery dies quickly and I was talking to her not long ago and the phone was going so she will have to charge it now and given the electricity goes off and on in Gaza, we will see if it is charged again before the night ends. Really looking forward to getting that phone bill LOL….not. But, I did find out that the convoy members toured Gaza today and visited hospitals and witnessed the devastation. I was told the politicians, Italian MP Rossi and Sinn Fein Rep Maclochlainn did a press conference at a hospital today, but I have been unable to find anything on that conference online. I wonder if there are any other politicians on this convoy, I never see reports about any others except these two. Here is an article I did find about Rossi below:Italian senator slams world’s silence on Gaza blockade
GAZA, May 26– An Italian parliamentarian Tuesday slammed the international community’s idle stance towards the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Those who do not say “no” to this siege and “no” for this oppression in Gaza are against freedom of Palestinian people, said Italian senator Fernando Rossi, who arrived in Gaza Monday night with a European aid convoy.
“Every one of us, either those who entered Gaza or those who remained outside… is sharing a Gazan thought and heart,” he told a press conference with deposed Hamas Minister of Works Ahmed al-Kurd.
Egypt only allowed 20 European activists into Gaza and prevented the others from entering. It also allowed 40 trucks with medical aid into the coastal strip.
Israel sealed off the Gaza Strip in June 2007 when Hamas routed security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and seized control of Gaza.
Egypt also maintained the closure of Rafah crossing point, the only way for Gazans to the outside world, since a U.S.-brokered protocol said the crossing can not open without the presence of Abbas’ forces and EU monitors. link
11 May 2009
Address to the 63rd Session of the General Assembly on the 60th Anniversary of Israel’s Admission
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you very much.
Direct from IRELAND…… 8PM GMT
OMG They are crossing the border RIGHT NOW!!!
SIEGE IS BROKEN
I’m so excited I can’t type right now
put on presstv and aljazeera there are media inside Gaza
I can’t belive it I’m in tears
they are IN GAZA
I am so happy for all the Palestinians on the convoy who got home tonight. I can hardly type this update. There are media everywhere and cameras, but so far no big news agency has shown anything on TV yet as I am checking constantly as I type.I expect more reports and photos tonight, now that they are inside!! So check back after the greeting is over.
And for the Irish people a very special greeting from Gaza was given to Gerry MacLochlainn the Sinn Fein Irish Representative as he arrived in Gaza.
That greeting is below AND they said it in Irish:
For those who do not know that phrase, it comes from the Irish struggle for freedom, translated it means “our day will come”
I’m crying now