It is not clear, however, whether Obama could have made the offer via means other than a letter.

Possibly E Mail? Anyone think of that?

White House: Obama did not send letter to Netanyahu

A researcher with ties to Dennis Ross published an article on Wednesday saying that Obama sent a letter to Netanyahu offering U.S. guarantees in exchange for a two month settlement freeze extension.

The White House denied on Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposing a set of U.S. guarantees to Israel in exchange for Israel extending a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank for another two months.

“No letter was sent to the Prime Minister. We are not going to comment on sensitive diplomatic matters,” said Benjamin Chang, the deputy spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

It is not clear, however, whether Obama could have made the offer via means other than a letter.

Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said that U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell denied that Obama made such an offer to Netanyahu.

In an interview on Nazareth’s A-Shams radio station, Shaath said that Mitchell made the denial during a meeting on Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Shaath added that the Palestinians would not return to the negotiating table unless Israel extends a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and that the Arab League would support that position at its meeting next week.

An article published on Wednesday on the website for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy by David Makovsky, a researcher with ties to Dennis Ross, Barack Obama’s chief advisor on the Middle East, reported that Obama had written a letter Netanyahu in which Obama offered to support the presence of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the Jordan Valley even after the establishment of a Palestinian state, if Israel would agree to a two month settlement building freeze.

Netanyahu was reportedly inclined to reject the offer.

Obama’s letter was said to include a long list of American favors in exchange for an extension of the settlement building freeze, which ended this week. Most of these favors are critical to Israel’s strategic security needs that Netanyahu has been demanding for years.

Other commitments that Obama reportedly offered Netanyahu in the letter include an agreement not to ask for any more building freeze extensions, an agreement to veto any anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution in the next year, and an agreement that the future fate of the settlements be dealt with only as part of a final status agreement with the Palestinians.

Obama’s letter was said to include additional commitments, including a series of guarantees to prevent the smuggling of weapons and missiles into a Palestinian state, a lengthy period of interim security arrangements in the Jordan Valley and a comprehensive regional defense pact for protection from Iran to follow the establishment of the Palestinian state.

The American President also reportedly vowed to upgrade Israel’s security capabilities and increase the three billion dollar security aid package that Israel receives annually. The letter included commitments to advanced weapons and early warning systems, including satellites.


But perhaps we should take a look at Lieberman again in light of his much-condemned United Nations General Assembly speech yesterday and instead feel glad that the true face of Israel is shining to the world because of his position of power.

Avigdor Lieberman’s UN Speech Shows the True Face of Israel

By Alex Kane

PHOTO: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York.

Yisrael Beiteinu’s strong third-place showing in Israel’s February 2009 elections for the Knesset was met with dread and disgust from many different quarters. Avigdor Lieberman, the founder and leader of the far-right party and the current Foreign Minister, ran a campaign filled with fascist overtones as he called for “loyalty oaths” to be signed by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

But perhaps we should take a look at Lieberman again in light of his much-condemned United Nations General Assembly speech yesterday and instead feel glad that the true face of Israel is shining to the world because of his position of power.

At the UN, Lieberman called for a “long-term intermediate agreement” instead of a solution dealing with all the final-status issues, dismissed the notion that the occupation and colonization of Palestine is at the core of the conflict and proposed a deal with the Palestinians that would be “about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities.”  Although Lieberman claimed that he was not talking about “moving populations,” it’s apparent that Lieberman’s plan would result in the expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel to a Palestinian state, all in the service of making Israel an “ethnically pure” Jewish state.

Reactions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Jewish leaders were swift, and the media narrative laid out is that Lieberman’s speech revealed “differences” within Israeli politics about the “peace process.”  The New York Times reports today that “sharp differences within the Israeli government over peace negotiations played out in the unusual setting of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.”

Netanyahu’s office distanced the prime minister from the speech and said that Lieberman’s speech was “not coordinated” with Netanyahu and that Netanyahu wants “direct talks” with the Palestinian Authority to go forward.

The reaction from Netanyahu was about promoting the image of Israel as willing to sit down and negotiate for peace with the Palestinians, which Lieberman’s speech did damage to.  But that’s all it was about–Netanyahu and the State of Israel’s policies are completely in line with Lieberman’s plan of ethnically cleansing the non-Jewish citizens of Israel and of continuing to colonize the West Bank.

Under Netanyahu, the Bedouin village of Al Araqib has been destroyed multiple times to make way for a Jewish National Fund “ambassador forest.”  Netanyahu has presided over the continued colonization of the West Bank, despite talk of a “settlement freeze,” and that’s likely to accelerate in the coming weeks.  An recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling has Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah worried about further dispossession at the hands of Jewish settlers, and Silwan in East Jerusalem is still under the threat of home demolitions to make way for Israeli settlements and a theme park.

The list can go on and on.  Actions speak much louder than words, and the State of Israel under Netanyahu has continued routine Israeli policies of land theft, colonization and slow ethnic cleansing.  That’s not much different than the Israel Lieberman showed at the UN yesterday in words.  Maybe that’s a good thing; the true, ugly face of Israeli policy, which the Palestinians know all-too-well, was shown to the world, further confirming that the “peace talks” are useless, and that Netanyahu is playing a public relations game for the international community while the status quo is sustained.



Jared Malsin adds the following….

Lieberman endorses ethnic cleansing at UN

I’ve been traveling, so I’m slow to blog about these developments, but it’s important to note in this space Israeli Foreign Minister (and settler) Avigdor Lieberman’s endorsement at the UN of a “population exchange” to accompany the creation of a Palestinian state. Here are the key paragraphs from his speech to the General Assembly:
Thus, the guiding principle for a final status agreement must not be land-for-peace but rather, exchange of populated territory. Let me be very clear: I am not speaking about moving populations, but rather about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not an extraordinary insight, and is far less controversial than some may seek to claim. In fact, precisely this notion – that a mismatch between borders and nationalities is a recipe for conflict – has long been accepted as a virtual truism in the academic community.

Leading scholars and highly respected research institutions have even coined the term “Right-Sizing the State” to capture the idea that states and nations must be in balance in order to ensure peace. This is not a controversial political policy. It is an empirical truth.

Netanyahu of course immediately distanced himself from Lieberman’s remarks, as if he were not the foreign minister in his government. This raises the question of why Lieberman, who is usually sequestered away from important diplomacy, was sent to speak at the UN in the first place. Tony Karon suggests that the play here was to “make Bibi’s hardline seem reasonable” by comparison.

The other remarkable thing about Lieberman’s position on this issue is that ideologically more in common with Tzipi Livni and those in the Israeli political “center” who want to maintain a jewish majority no matter the cost.

This further underscores the revelation in Noam Sheizaf’s reporting on Israeli right-wingers who support the one state solution: the important dividing line in Israeli politics may not be between “left” and “right” as defined in the Knesset, but between those who support equal rights for Palestinians and those who don’t, between those who favor partition and those willing to contemplate other scenarios.


An international boycott helped end apartheid – now South Africans are leading world opposition to racism in Israel

South Africa Champions the Academic Boycott of Israel

We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behooves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.Nelson Mandela, December 4,1997

Occupied Ramallah, 30 September 2010 — PACBI welcomes the decision [1] yesterday by the Senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) “not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form” and to set conditions “for the relationship to continue.” The fact that the UJ Senate set an ultimatum [2] of six months for BGU to end its complicity with the occupation army and to end policies of racial discrimination against Palestinians is a truly significant departure from the business-as-usual attitude that had governed agreements between the two institutions until recently.

If the Senate decision was a commendable first step in the right direction towards ending relations with Israeli institutions implicated in apartheid policies and support for the occupation, the real victory lies in the intensive mobilization and awareness raising processes by key activists and academics in South Africa that indicated beyond doubt the groundswell of support for Palestinian rights in the country and that played a key role in influencing the UJ Senate vote. A petition urging UJ to sever links with BGU remarkably gathered more than 250 signatures of academics from all academic institutions in South Africa, including some of the most prominent figures. The mainstream media attention, in South Africa and the West, to the facts about BGU’s complicity and the heavy moral burden placed on the shoulders of South African institutions, in particular, to end all forms of cooperation with any Israeli institution practicing apartheid has been unprecedented, with views favorable to justice and upholding international law gaining wide coverage.

The UJ Senate has requested BGU to “respect UJ’s duty to take seriously allegations of behaviour on the part of BGU’s stakeholders that is incompatible with UJ’s values” and to provide more information about “BGU’s formal policies and informal practices.” Explaining this aspect of the ultimatum, Adam Habib, UJ’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, told Aljazeera [3]:

[W]e know that the BGU has collaborative projects with the Israeli army and we also know that the university implements state policy which invariably results in the discrimination of the Palestinian people. Crucially, there can be no activities between UJ and an Israeli educational institution that discriminated against the Palestinian people.

Salim Vally, a senior researcher at the UJ Faculty of Education and spokesperson for the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC), welcomed the decision saying: “While the PSC supports an unequivocal and unambiguous boycott of all Israeli state institutions, this is a move in the right direction and we are confident that it would lead to a more comprehensive boycott of Israel in the future.” [4]

Regardless of all concerns about the details of the decision, a predicted outcome of a delicate balance of forces in a university that is still dealing with its own apartheid past, it cannot but be viewed as a triumph for the logic of academic boycott against Israel’s complicit academy, as consistently presented by PACBI and its partners worldwide, including in South Africa. It is, indeed, as a significant step in the direction of holding Israeli institutions accountable for their collusion in maintaining the state’s occupation, colonization and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people. As former South African cabinet minister and ANC leader Ronnie Kasrils wrote in the Guadian, “Israeli universities are not being targeted for boycott because of their ethnic or religious identity, but because of their complicity in the Israeli system of apartheid.” [5]

PACBI warmly salutes all those who worked on and who endorsed the campaign to cut links with BGU. The precedent-setting petition, endorsed by the heads of four South African universities and prominent leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana, and Kader Asmal, does not mince words in calling for severing links with BGU and, it implies, with all Israeli institutions complicit in violations of international law [6]:

While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.

Archbishop Tutu defended the call to sever links with complicit Israeli institutions saying [7], “It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice.” Reiterating his unwavering support for the Palestinian-led global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, he eloquently adds:

Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence – but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

While challenging BGU’s complicity, the UJ Senate decision does not fully heed the call by Archbishop Tutu or the 250 South African academics. It makes problematic assumptions and reaches, in part, conceptually and morally flawed conclusions.

First, by conditioning the continuation of links with BGU, among other conditions, on including a Palestinian university in a three-way collaboration, the UJ Senate decision indirectly assumes “parity between justice and injustice,” which Mandela cautioned against, and balance between an institution that is in active partnership with the system of apartheid and occupation and another university that is suffering from this same system. This position is morally untenable, especially when espoused by an academic institution that is transforming itself from an apartheid university to one committed to equality and social justice.

Furthermore, this attempt to cover up an essentially immoral relationship with BGU — that was forged during apartheid at the height of Israel’s partnership with the racist regime in South Africa — by suggesting a Palestinian fig leaf is in direct violation of the long standing position by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education which has consistently called on all Palestinian academic institutions not to cooperate in any form with Israeli universities until the end of the occupation. [8] It is also in conflict with the Palestinian Call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [9] and the Guidelines for the International Boycott of Israel,[10] both widely supported by Palestinian civil society, particularly by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), representing the academic and support staff in all Palestinian universities and colleges. Does enticing the victim of a criminal to “partner” with that criminal make the latter less so?

Second, the statement that “UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications” is quite troubling in its logic, if taken literally, not as interpreted by Prof. Habib above. It basically says that it is acceptable to do business with a criminal entity so long as the particular business done with it is above suspicion. Had this logic been applied to a South African apartheid institution at the height of the international academic boycott, it would have meant continuing business as usual with that racist institution so long as the specific project conducted with it was not directly or indirectly implicated in apartheid policies. The fact that the institution as a whole is guilty of complicity in apartheid would have been deemed irrelevant.

BGU as an institution is guilty of complicity in the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies; nothing can make any “environmental” or “purely scientific” project it conducts with UJ morally acceptable until it comprehensively and verifiably ends this complicity. The culpability of the entire institution in violations of international law and human rights cannot be washed away by narrowing the focus or diverting attention only to details of the project with UJ.

As Archbishop Tutu said:

In the past few years, we have been watching with delight UJ’s transformation from the Rand Afrikaans University, with all its scientific achievements but also ugly ideological commitments. We look forward to an ongoing principled transformation.

A post-apartheid South African university that is in the process of transforming itself to a truly democratic institution cannot possibly complete this necessary transformation while maintaining a partnership with an apartheid institution elsewhere. We sincerely hope that UJ will continue on the path it has taken, by completely severing its links with BGU and any other Israeli institutions complicit in violating international law and human rights.

Also see THIS brilliant piece by Ronnie Kasrils


“Let the Jews, who claim to be the chosen race, prove their title by choosing the way of non–violence for vindicating their position on earth.”–Mahatma Gandhi, Nov. 26, 1938

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

An Israeli Gandhi Siezed at Sea

By Ira Chernus*

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof complained a while back that he was still “waiting for Gandhi” in Palestine. I complained, in turn, that it was hypocritical for Kristof to bewail, and perpetuate the stereotype of, the “violent” Palestinians. Instead he should stay home and call for a new Gandhi here in the U.S., which perpetuates Middle East violence by so consistently supporting Israel, despite its abuses.  Latest example: The feeble statement from the State Department that the U.S. is “disappointed” to see the Israelis resume settlement expansion.

But if Kristof and others need to travel abroad in search of a new Gandhi, it’s worth asking why they go to Palestine and not to Israel. After all, Palestinian violence against Israel has virtually ceased. It’s the Israelis who now inflict nearly all the violence.  Shouldn’t we be looking for the Israeli Gandhi?

The search might not take as long as you think. There are plenty of Israeli Jews nonviolently resisting their own government’s policies of occupation and oppression. The latest to find the public spotlight is Rami Elhanan, a former Israeli soldier who joined other Jewish activists from Israel and around the world as sailors for peace and justice on a boat called the Irene. They were headed for Gaza — bringing medical equipment, fishing nets, textbooks, toys, prosthetic limbs, and other humanitarian supplies, aiming to break the Israeli blockade that deprives the Gazans of such desperately needed materials — when the Israeli military seized them on the high seas.

Rami Elhanan said that he was on the Irene because it was his “moral duty” to act in support of Palestinians in Gaza, because reconciliation is the surest path to peace. That note of duty is certainly a Gandhian touch. But what qualifies him even more as the Israeli Jewish Gandhi is another comment he made to a reporter:  “Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am.”

That comes close to the heart of Gandhian nonviolence. It’s far more than just resisting the impulse to strike out at your enemy. It’s the realization that, as Gandhi put it, “for one who follows the doctrine of ahimsa [nonviolence], there is no room for an enemy; he denies the existence of an enemy.” And it’s the willingness to put your life on the line for the truth that we have no enemies, because we are all equally participants in, and victims of, the same system of violence.

Rami Elhanan did not learn that lesson from studying Gandhi. He learned it from the cruelest experience imaginable:  seeing his 14-year-old daughter Smadar killed in a suicide bombing in 1997. At first, he says, he had the natural reaction:  “I was tormented with anger and grief; I wanted revenge.”  Then he and his wife, Nurit Peled (herself now a well-known peace activist), realized that revenge would do no good because “the blame rests with the occupation. The suicide bomber was a victim just like my daughter, grown crazy out of anger and shame. I don’t forgive and I don’t forget, but when this happened to my daughter I had to ask myself whether I’d contributed in any way. The answer was that I had — my people had, for ruling, dominating and oppressing three-and-a-half million Palestinians for 35 years.”

That’s another important Gandhian insight: Not only are we connected to our so-called “enemies” as victims; we’re also inescapably linked to those who do violence in our name. We cannot escape responsibility for that violence. We can only choose either to acquiesce or to resist.

Then Elhanan learned that he and his wife were not alone. They discovered The Parents Circle – Families Forum, which brings together Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members to violence from the other side and realized that reconciliation is better than hatred and revenge.  Some 800 people from both sides have now joined the group. Rami Elhanan, who serves on PCFF’s board of directors, devotes his life to what he calls the “sacred mission” of spreading its message.  “You can not correct one evil or a wrong by creating another evil,” he says.

In true Gandhian fashion, he extends compassion and understanding to both sides in the conflict, including his fellow Israeli Jews. Most of them “never saw the other side,” he explains, “not the anger, not the pain…not the story… nothing. When the other side started to bite back, after 37 long years of humiliation without any democratic rights, Israelis were overwhelmed and shocked. … From this fear came the anger. From the anger came a very strong public demand for a wall to hide behind.”

In equally true Gandhian fashion, he rejects the idea of severing connection with fellow humans, especially when they are neighbors:  “I don’t believe in walls. I do not think walls create good neighbors. … Walls create hate, especially if you build it in the middle of your neighbor’s living room instead of your own backyard. As a Jew, the most alarming thing for me is that my people … are creating their own ghetto. It will not protect us. … It will make us give up any connection with our neighbors. It will make us feel full of power when we are really powerless. The price of this wall is too high. It will put the very existence of the state of Israel in jeopardy.”

Still in the Gandhian vein, Rami Elhanan extends the web of responsibility to the whole world, “and the world’s behavior is a shame! Today, while these two crazy peoples are massacring each other without any mercy, the free and civilized world led by the US is not only standing aside but rather supporting one side unconditionally at the expense of both sides, prolonging the suffering of both sides.”

Like Gandhi, though, his mission is not to criticize and complain. It is to inspire the will to change, “to convey this very simple truth: We must break down this wall of hatred and fear that divides our two nations. We must turn our pain into hope.”

Hundreds of Israeli Jews who have lost loved ones to violence have embraced this message. But Rami Elhanan stands out as an Israeli Gandhi because he has taken the vital step from inspiring talk to an act of resistance that involved a risk of serious injury or even death.

As the Irene was leaving its port in Cyprus, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) chief of staff went out of his way to warn publicly that “we do not dismiss the possibility of casualties” on ships bound for Gaza. Just before the Irene was stopped by the Israelis, Elhanan said: “They’re demanding that we stop and threatening that should we fail to do so there may be injuries. We are continuing at full force.” Elhanan and the other Jews on board the Irene understood the coded message. They knew that the IDF had killed nine activists at sea on a similar mission last May. They knew the risk they were taking by continuing at full force. Yet they went ahead.

This time no was killed or seriously injured. But there was a major casualty: truth, which is always the first casualty in war. The Israeli naval commandos who interdicted the Irene did commit something like an act of war, using excessive force, including tasering — and then an Israeli military spokseman lied, claiming that the incident was totally peaceful.

There was no need for the violence, since the activists were totally peaceful. But it’s easy to imagine why the commandos who seized the Irene lashed out at fellow Jews. The Irene’s voyage did what all acts of Gandhian resistance should do: force the oppressors and their hired hands into a situation that makes them face the truth of their own immoral actions, in full public view.

Gandhi was sure that this would, eventually, “melt the stoniest heart.”  It seems the Israeli military has not yet faced enough nonviolent resistance to melt. But the commandos’ harsh response suggests they may have been so badly confused and embarrassed that they lost control of themselves.

Or perhaps the violence was a calculated measure, ordered by the IDF’s upper echelon, to send a signal to the world that the Israelis will strike back at anyone — even their own people — who shines too clear a light on the suffering in Gaza. When the IDF’s chief spokesman dismissed the Irene’s voyage as a stunt “to generate media attention and (stage) a provocation,” he may have been more accurately describing the IDF’s response.

There is no reason to think this will deter nonviolent activists in Israel from continuing acts of resistance to the blockade of Gaza — nor to the occupation of the West Bank, where Israeli Jews continue to stand with Palestinians against Israeli violence. Rami Elhanan is hardly unique among his people in his commitment to risk all for the moral truth. Others show the same kind of courage. Their example will surely inspire more and more Israelis to spread the spirit of Gandhi throughout their land, as long as their government continues to block the path to a just peace.

Finally, a personal note: Elhanan’s father-in-law was Israeli General Matti Peled — the man who, more than anyone else, inspired me to become a Jewish peace activist when I heard him speak here in Colorado, nearly 35 years ago. I never met the General personally. He had no way of knowing how deeply his words affected me, leading me to a path that has me writing about his own family’s quest for peace and justice all these years later.

We can never predict, or even know, the full impact of our words and deeds. Nor, as Gandhi taught, should we judge the value of our words and deeds by the impact that we can see. The test is only whether we follow, pursue, and insist upon moral truth, whether we say and do what is right.  Rami Elhanan is among the Israeli Jews who have surely passed that test.

*Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and American Jews at http://chernus.wordpress.com.

Source via Uruknet


Image By Bendib

click on image to enlarge


Commentary by Chippy Dee

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

“The fact finding mission concluded that a series of violations of international law, including international human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to detention.”
Summary of the report of the international
fact finding mission to investigate violations
of international law.
Human Rights Council
15th Session  Agenda item 7

On September 22nd the Brooklyn Law School was the site of a most interesting panel discussion on the subject, Flotilla: Fact, Fiction and the Law.  The speakers were Fatima Mohammadi, a lawyer who was part of the flotilla and aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israeli commandos attacked the ship, Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer, news analyst on Washington Journal (C-Span), Majority Report (Air America), and To The Point (Public Radio International), blogger, and Salon.com columnist, and Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University.  He was also an advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid peace conference (1991) and has been a guest on many TV and radio shows.  The event was sponsored by: Network of Arab-American Professionals of NY, Muslim Law Students Association at BLS, Islamic Law Students Association at BLS, National Lawyers Guild – BLS Chapter, Adalah-NY, and Brooklyn for Peace.  Months after the flotilla to Gaza was attacked there was still great interest in hearing what these speakers had to say.  The auditorium at the BLS Subotnik Center was filled to capacity and people had to be turned away.

Fatima Mohammadi spoke first.  She is an activist who has been in Gaza several times and has witnessed the horrific living conditions there.  Mohammadi brought a part of the Cultures of Resistance film that was successfully smuggled off the Mavi Marmara when the IDF was searching and confiscating all the photos and videos from the passengers so that there would be nothing to counter the Israeli line fed to the press after the assault.  It was a very good copy of the video and she did a commentary as the video was viewed which was very helpful in understanding exactly what was happening at several points.  It showed the arrival of the Zodiac boats in the pre-dawn darkness, blood splattered on the walls before the helicopter arrival (Israel claimed that the IDF only shot passengers as the IDF came down from the helicopters), commandos shooting from the upper deck before the arrival of the helicopters arrived, red laser lights from the weapons targeting people on a lower deck, also before the helicopters arrived, and a book with photographs of some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara that was confiscated from an Israeli soldier.  It is not known if it was meant to be a hit list or a capture alive list.  Passengers could be seen throwing onions at the soldiers and using a sling shot against a helicopter.  There were many people bleeding from gunshot wounds.  That was the only kind of injury, indicating that they had made no direct physical contact with the commandos.  Passengers were carrying them below deck where others were desperately trying to save them.  The injured were surprisingly calm.  Several had been taking photographs at the time they were shot.

Mohammadi said that the Israelis gave no medical aid to the injured and dying until hours later when the ship docked in Israel.  The air conditioning was turned off on the ship and she could smell the blood of those injured in the next room.  She sat with the captain’s one year old son sleeping on her lap.  A soldier, face covered by the black hood he was wearing, kept looking at the child.  She asked him if he had a son too.  His response was to point his weapon at the head of the sleeping child.

One passenger onboard, an Australian, who was badly injured was taken to an Israeli hospital for surgery when they docked.  He said the doctors there treated him well but the soldier guarding him beat him while he was in the hospital.
At one point she stopped the video – there was too much to see (it can be viewed on line: youtube – Israeli Attack on the Mavi Marmara).

She said that Israel had circulated lies about the events that night. There were no weapons on the ship.  People fought the commandos that attacked them with objects at hand – like tools.  The purpose of the flotilla was not to anger or provoke Israel.  It was to help the people of Gaza and show them that they are not forgotten.  It was also to call the attention of the world to what was happening there.  When Mohammadi was there last year she spoke to parents who had to walk around picking up their children’s body parts after Operation Cast Lead.  One family lost 29 members leaving only 4 little girls, now orphans, alive.

Today people all over the world are raising money to send a ship in the flotilla this fall.  In the U.S. fundraising continues.  “Do you have any idea of the effect, the symbolism, that will have?”, she asked.  It will be a repudiation of the U.S. policy of unlimited aid to Israel.  This fall there will be 3 efforts to break the blockade.  A convoy going overland through Europe to get aid to Gaza through the Raffah crossing.  Then the Viva Palestina convoy which will travel through Europe to Syria where they will take a ferry.  Then, finally, another flotilla which the U.S. boat, the Audacity of Hope, flying an American flag, will be part of.  The 3 groups will be bringing mostly building supplies and prefab housing so that the homes, schools, hospitals and roads destroyed in Operation Cast Lead can be repaired.

When the people in the last flotilla were released after spending a few days in an Israeli jail they were met by people from their country’s consulates but the Americans were not – no government officials were there for them.

She ended by saying that all had a role to play in this struggle.  Put your body on the line by going on a convoy or make a financial contribution, support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and spread the truth.

Glenn Greenwald spoke next.  He said he was going to focus on what it was about this episode that resonated and caused such a strong reaction.  The condemnation around the world was more visceral than we’ve seen before.  Diplomatic leaders abandoned niceties.  It was hard to see a ship with a humanitarian mission be attacked with such brutal aggression.  Lives were wiped out in cold blood for no reason.  U.S. commentators were struck dumb – they didn’t reflexively defend Israel.  In the first few days the pro-Israel propaganda machine was disoriented, stunned by the criticism in the U.S. media but after about 3 days they had their story down: the people on the ship were the true aggressors, they were terrorists. How the Israeli and the U.S. propaganda apparatus responded is a potent illustration for how fiction, or lies, could deceive.  It showed how suffocating and false our discourse is and how the pro-Israel propaganda is maintained in the U.S. media.

The legal issues were totally distorted.  First, the IDF seized all documentary evidence of what took place.  Then they arrested all on board the Mavi Marmara and the other ships so Israel could create their own narrative without contradiction.  Israel created a video that began in the middle of the event.  It looked like the passengers on the ship initiated the aggression, fighting the IDF when they climbed down from the helicopters (which they would have had the right to do since this was an act of piracy on international waters).  The manipulated video didn’t start with the actual beginning of the event – the Zodiacs filled with commandos attacking the passengers.  A video can be started at any point in an event to make it look like the other party started the aggression.  As unsophisticated as this attempt was, U.S. media kept showing the video without questioning it.  Greenwald added, imagine if 2 sides are in a dispute and 1 side gets to hold back and manipulate the evidence.  You ought not trust what you are being shown but there was no skepticism.  Israel refused to release videos made on the ship and because of that the finger of guilt should have been pointed at them.  Instead the lies went unchallenged.  Once again they were allowed to present themselves as a victim, as always and without deviation.

The Turkish government responded to the attack very strongly.  The fatalities were Turkish citizens, with one holding U.S./Turkish dual citizenship.  One of the main jobs of any government is to advocate for their citizens abroad.  The Obama administration didn’t do that.  There was no condemnation.  Right wing commentators, and then it leaked into the mainstream, implied that somehow the murdered 19 year old with dual citizenship wasn’t a “real” American citizen like the rest of us.  After all, he lived in Turkey and might have terrorist leanings.  The U.S. government was, therefore, justified in siding with Israel.  This view, a noxious notion, showed anti-Muslim bigotry.  A core principle of this country is that  we don’t have different classes of citizenship.  We are all supposedly equal.

Defenders of Israel had to invent legal reasons why they attacked the ship.  When one of the best armed, most brutal militaries in the world attacks a ship of unarmed civilians in international waters it most certainly is not legal.  Israel invented a defense that began with the premise that the Gaza blockade is legal.  It isn’t.  It is a violation of the Geneva Convention regarding collective punishment.  If, according to Israel, the blockade is to be considered legal, Israel could, therefore, claim the right to board ships in international waters to stop them from breaking the blockade.  It follows then, they can kill those who resist them boarding.  Following this thought process would bring total anarchy.  Imagine, for example, Venezuela announcing a blockade of the U.S., then attacking ships and killing the people on board if they were headed towards the U.S.  Yet the U.S. – Israeli position is that once a blockade is announced there is no limit to what they can do.

The entire world condemned the aggression but, for the most part, the U.S. media didn’t report that condemnation. They presented the story as the U.S. and Israel fighting terrorism on the seas.  The U.S. stood in isolation.  “Any human being with a beating heart and a conscience” is going to react with horror at the idea of innocent human beings being murdered and must conclude that Israel acted “excessively”.  Yet the U.S. congress never gave a thought to Israel crossing a line.  There was total bipartisanship.

With the U.S. trying to improve it’s image in the Muslim world Israel has become a liability.  After the murders on the Mavi Marmara Israel’s Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, stated before the Knesset, “Israel is gradually turning from an  asset to the United States to a burden.”  He was willing to say what nobody in Congress would.

A nation that wants to perpetuate war and aggression must convince itself that it is the victim.  The U.S. and Israel are very well armed yet are perpetual victims.  This leads to a meaningless concept of victimization.

The word “terrorism” is also very malleable and manipulated.  It is impossible to discuss what it even means and that can be easily noted in this instance.  The Israeli attack was pure terrorism – violence against civilians – an attempt to frighten other people out of attempting the same mission.  But the U.S. and Israel define terrorism an anything that defies their will.  And their definition excludes whatever they do.

Aside from being a war crime the event was extremely instructive.  It drew in so many people and we continue to talk about it.  For a few days we saw an erosion of the way Israel is thought about.  The same was true of the attack  on Gaza.  What enables Israel  to do these things is the U.S., and by changing the way we talk about it in the U.S. we can change the struggle.

The final speaker was Professor Rashid Khalidi.  He said that rather than talk about the flotilla he preferred discussing the “transformations in recent years of the way Palestine is treated in the public sphere.”  For 63 years, since the Nakba (catastrophe) when the Palestinians were driven out of Palestine and the “miraculous birth of Israel” only 3 years after the Holocaust we only spoke of 1 side of the issue.  For over 50 years any reference to the dispossession of the Palestinian people was seen as scandalous.  Most Americans know nothing about Palestinians except what they learned from decades of carefully crafted propaganda, the work of seasoned public relations professionals.  Very early in Israel’s history Edward Gottleib, an accomplished public relations expert, hired (for money) a novelist and Zionist, Leon Uris, to  go to Israel and write a novel to be used as a propaganda piece for the state.  The result was Exodus, later made into a movie with Paul Newman as the hero.  This shaped the American image of Israel for decades: a brave little state (David) fighting off the evil, dark Arab hordes (Goliath).  Exodus sold as many copies as Gone With The Wind.

This was only the beginning.  It has continued unabated since then.  Zionism, a wildly successful colonial settler movement, still operates in those terms.  There has been a systematic hoodwinking of the public by public relations professionals, the same ones that recently sold us the Iraq war.

Over the past decade the limits of this indoctrination have become clear, especially among young people, including Jewish young people.  In 2002 Jewish advocacy groups urged Jewish youth to “take back the campus” believing that campuses had been lost to them.  Part of the reason for this change has been the accessibility of alternative information.  More are getting their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than CNN and the New York Times.  There is also a natural skepticism of the hypocrisy of their elders.  At the same time there is a growing segment of the Jewish community, especially among liberals, that has become disenchanted  with Israel’s increasingly right wing pro-occupation, pro-settlement, pro-war with Iran government and their supporters here (AIPAC, ADL) who support Israel on everything without question.  Washington lives in a parallel universe, “They don’t dare stick their heads above the parapet.”

The idea that Palestinians are human beings and entitled to the rights of all people is a very new concept.  25 years ago the Palestinian people were thought not to exist.  Although Israelis are still considered to be the victims, certain realities are creeping into people’s minds.  Recent occurrences have overshadowed the Israel/Holocaust history.  There was a series of events that the news media covered almost in spite of itself.  First, the 1982 attack on Lebanon and seizure of Beirut where Israel caused the death of 17,000, almost all civilians.  Then the brutal repression of the 1st intifada in 1987.  In 2006 there was a 2nd attack on Lebanon when 1,000 civilians were killed.  And finally the murderous assault on Gaza in 2008-2009.  Israel described it as a “war”.  There were 1,400 dead Palestinians, who fought with primitive weapons against the army of Israel, using the most advanced weaponry in the world, which had 13 casualties.  Journalists weren’t allowed into Gaza so Israel was free to determine the narrative.  These events undermined the concept that Israel was the eternal victim of aggression and that it acts only in self defense.  The same was shown in the attack on the flotilla – an act of extraordinary aggression against unarmed civilians bringing humanitarian aid to a people in desperate need because of  the Israeli blockade.

The changes in attitude towards Israel is evident in several areas.  Students no longer accept the Israeli line.  Campuses are open, all sides are aired.  Publishing is more open.  Books about Palestine sell.  They didn’t before.  And there are discussions going on in churches and within the Jewish community.  So, there is reason for long-term optimism.  The myths weren’t created overnight, they won’t disappear overnight.  It will take a lot of work to end the slavish support politicians  give Israel but “the handwriting is on the wall.”
Israel is based on violence.  They have relied on it for decades.  The occupation is violent, ethnic cleansing is violent.  The propaganda line is crumbling before our eyes (a personal note: the Israeli Navy stopping the boat full of Jews attempting to break the blockade of Gaza is on the front page of the New York Times today, 9/28).  Our responsibility, said Khalidi, is to give all we  can to see to it that there is a U.S. boat in the next flotilla to Gaza, to raise the issue of Israel on campus and in our churches, synagogues, mosques, and with the media.  “The tide has turned, the sand castle is dissolving, we have to give it a push.”

The sponsors of the forum organized a very informative event.  Each speaker spoke on a different aspect of the subject and gave a clear, organized, perceptive, and dynamic talk.  All that was said was valuable in increasing the listener’s understanding.  The one thing that I would have liked to hear more about is why the U.S. gives Israel total support no matter what heinous things the Zionist state does.  It is not just fear of AIPAC and the money it controls.  Clearly Israel and the U.S. have mutual interests and the U.S. need for this alliance enables it to further it’s own global interests.  Hearing more about that would have added to an already enlightening evening.








During their interrogation, the Israelis said they wanted to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza as well as bring a message of peace. Yonatan Shapira, a former Israel Air Force pilot who took part in the sail, said soldiers resorted to violence while taking over the boat.

‘Jewish vessel’ passenger: Soldier tasered me

Passengers aboard Gaza-bound vessel refute IDF claims of non-violent takeover. ‘There are no words to describe what we went through,’ former pilot Yonatan Shapira says. Holocaust survivor who took part in sail: I can’t sleep at night because of what Israel is doing to Gazans

The five Israelis who were aboard a Gaza-bound boat that was intercepted by the Israeli Navy on Tuesday were released later the day after being questioned by Ashdod Police on suspicion of illegally entering Israel.

During their interrogation, the Israelis said they wanted to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza as well as bring a message of peace. Yonatan Shapira, a former Israel Air Force pilot who took part in the sail, said soldiers resorted to violence while taking over the boat.

“There are no words to describe what we went through,” he said. “The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit is trying to paint a picture as though the takeover was not violent, but the soldiers’ actions were violent and disgusting. I was tasered by a soldier. Our message is that the occupation in Gaza cannot continue.”
Reuven Moskowitz, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who was also aboard the vessel, backed Shapira’s claim. “We are people who came with a message of peace and we did not anticipate a burst of violence against us, but the officers acted violently.
“I can’t sleep at night because of what we are dong to the Arabs in Gaza. This situation is unacceptable, particularly because of our history,” he said.

The army said no violence was used during the takeover.


Also see THIS report from HaAretz


Let Abbas, whose term of office already expired a long time ago, let him resign and retire in dignity.

Abbas is unfit to lead the Palestinian people
by Khalid Amayreh

The reaction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to the latest Zionist provocations, including the all-out settlement expansion drive in the West Bank, has been disastrous and calamitous.

Abbas  has issued a plethora of  conflicting statements, some signaling his willingness to remain engaged in the so-called “peace process” with Israel. This is despite the fact that Israel keeps trampling on that damned, whoring process, if only by embarking on more settlement building, and more land theft at the Palestinians’ expense.

This is not a minor matter. The occupied territories are the proverbial disputed piece of cheese which Israel keeps devouring  around the clock  to the extent that most Palestinians are justifiably worried  that  no territories will  be left for establishing a viable and territorially contiguous state that is worthy of the name. Some, including this writer, believe that it is already too late for Palestinian statehood.

When Abbas is speaking to a Palestinian audience, he expresses his dissatisfaction with Israel and warns that he may pull out of the American-brokered talks with Israel.

It is not very difficult to diagnose Abbas’s duplicity and inconsistency. The PA leader can’t displease Washington for obvious reasons.

The financial bloodline upon which the deformed Ramallah entity depends comes from Washington. Moreover, Abbas realizes that should Obama or the US congress, both under effective Jewish control, clear their throats, a financial and economic earthquake would instantaneously occur in Ramallah and thousands of civil servants would lose their jobs and their salaries.

This is how stupid and bankrupt regimes that allow themselves to be hostage to foreign countries end up because he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Abbas often claims that this is not the case with his authority. However, his words in this regard can’t really be believed.

In the meantime, Abbas, like other despotic dictators in the Arab world, would very much want to retain a semblance of popular legitimacy. This he does by pretending that he is still faithful to Palestinian national constants when in fact he is striving to destroy them, knowingly or unknowingly, by way of lying to the public and desensitizing the Palestinian masses.

In the past few years, many people gave Abbas the benefit of the doubt, citing the immense international pressure  which he was subjected to as well as the phenomenal weakness overwhelming the Arab world.

However, there are things that can’t be justified under any circumstances, but Abbas doesn’t seem to know the difference.

Abbas keeps lowering the Palestinian national ceilings by allowing Israel to gain more time to build more settlements. And when the steps he is demanded to make prove too embarrassing or too scandalous, like resuming peace talks in the absence of a settlement expansion freeze by Israel, Abbas hastens to Cairo or Amman or Riyadh, begging Arab leaders to save him. The next day, he would reappear in Ramallah to tell the frustrated Palestinian masses that “I can’t not refuse to take the advice of our brotherly Arab leaders.”

In the not-too-distant past, Arab leaders did give us truly brotherly advice. They would urge us to reject Zionist schemes and resist Zionist aggression. “However, for many years now, the only Arab advice we have been receiving from most Arab capitals is a demoralizing message calling on us to surrender to Israel and cede all or most of our legitimate rights, including the right to freedom and independence.

In brief, the Arab regimes want us to “be happy and not worry.” In other words, these regimes are a liability, not an asset in the struggle for the liberation of our countries from shackles of Zionism.

I don’t know for sure why Abbas is behaving the way he does. Is he senile? Is he not fully aware of what he is doing? Does he have a blind faith in Barack Obama, the man who shakes at the mere notion of criticizing Israeli insolence and arrogance of power?

Ok, cowardice is a natural phenomenon just as courage and wisdom and other attributes, good or bad. However, it is illogical to entrust the enduring Palestinian cause to a man who is unable and unfit to navigate the national boat to the shore of safety.

Like the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Abbas refuses to face reality as it is. He is also becoming increasingly peripatetic, preferring to be far away from the theatre of events. He also prefers very much to listen to himself, and when one confronts him with news or views he doesn’t like to hear, he get nervous asks the speaker to shut up.

Abbas on many occasions justifiably attacked the governance style of Yasser Arafat. He thought that the second intifada was a disaster for the Palestinians.  However, instead of suggesting a wiser approach, Abbas has effectively reached the conclusion that surrendering to Israel is the best alternative, not knowing that Israel is very much like a treacherous crocodile, the more meat you give it, the more it demands.

Indeed, the latest gestures Abbas and his aides have been making toward Israel have not only been scandalous from the view point of Palestinian national dignity. They have also been politically disastrous.

In the final analysis, displaying weakness and compromising our people’s dignity will not make Israel come to terms with our usurped rights.

Today, the Palestinian cause stands at a crossroad as the US seems both unwilling and unable to pressure the Zionist regime to end the occupation that started in 1967.

I am not a prophet of doom and gloom. However, it is difficult to believe that the US would be able to force Israel to return to the 1967 borders when it can’t get the Zionist regime to extend a partial and insignificant settlement freeze for a few more months.

As to what should the Palestinian leadership do in the face of Zionist insolence and American connivance with it, the matter shouldn’t be too complicated. Let Abbas, whose term of office already expired a long time ago, let him resign and retire in dignity.


Gaza family narrowly escapes Israeli airstrike

GAZA CITY  A Palestinian family from the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip narrowly escaped death when an Israeli drone fired a missile at the family’s home Monday night, relatives said.

The shelling coincided with an airstrike on the nearby Al-Bureij camp killing three militants.

Kamal Abu Shamla, an inspector in the Gaza Strip’s Ministry of Education, told Ma’an that his and his brother’s family of 30 escaped death “only by a miracle” after their 3-story home was hit by Israeli missile.

Abu Shamla explained that the missile hit an apartment under construction on the third floor, destroying the water tanks on the roof and damaging walls and windows.

He wondered why his home was shelled asserting that no one in his family is affiliated to any military groups.

Israel’s army has confirmed the attack on Al-Bureij, which it said came in response to projectile fire.

The military said in a statement that its air force “targeted and identified hitting a number of militants preparing to fire rockets from the central Gaza Strip into Israel.”

“The IDF remains committed to protecting the citizens of Israel and will continue to act against terror. The IDF holds Hamas solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip,” it added.

Source via Uruknet


Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?

For three decades, the writer and journalist Gideon Levy has been a lone voice, telling his readers the truth about what goes on in the Occupied Territories.

Interview by Johann Hari


Gideon Levy, Israeli journalist and author

Gideon Levy is the most hated man in Israel – and perhaps the most heroic. This “good Tel Aviv boy” – a sober, serious child of the Jewish state – has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli Defence Force, been threatened with being “beaten to a pulp” on the country’s streets, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as “a security risk.” This is because he has done something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda. “My modest mission,” he says, “is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” And for that, many people want him silenced.

The story of Gideon Levy – and the attempt to deride, suppress or deny his words – is the story of Israel distilled. If he loses, Israel itself is lost.

I meet him in a hotel bar in Scotland, as part of his European tour to promote his new book, ‘The Punishment of Gaza’. The 57 year-old looks like an Eastern European intellectual on a day off – tall and broad and dressed in black, speaking accented English in a lyrical baritone. He seems so at home in the world of book festivals and black coffee that it is hard, at first, to picture him on the last occasion he was in Gaza – in November, 2006, before the Israeli government changed the law to stop him going.

He reported that day on a killing, another of the hundreds he has documented over the years. As twenty little children pulled up in their school bus at the Indira Gandhi kindergarten, their 20 year-old teacher, Najawa Khalif, waved to them – and an Israel shell hit her and she was blasted to pieces in front of them. He arrived a day later, to find the shaking children drawing pictures of the chunks of her corpse. The children were “astonished to see a Jew without weapons. All they had ever seen were soldiers and settlers.”

“My biggest struggle,” he says, “is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us? So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”

So he describes the lives of ordinary Palestinians like Najawa and her pupils in the pages of Ha’aretz, Israel’s establishment newspaper. The tales read like Chekovian short stories of trapped people, in which nothing happens, and everything happens, and the only escape is death. One article was entitled “The last meal of the Wahbas family.” He wrote: “They’d all sat down to have lunch at home: the mother Fatma, three months pregnant; her daughter Farah, two; her son Khaled, one; Fatma’s brother, Dr Zakariya Ahmed; his daughter in law Shayma, nine months pregnant; and the seventy-eight year old grandmother. A Wahba family gathering in Khan Yunis in honour of Dr Ahmed, who’d arrived home six days earlier from Saudi Arabia. A big boom is heard outside. Fatma hurriedly scoops up the littlest one and tries to escape to an inner room, but another boom follows immediately. This time is a direct hit.”

In small biographical details, he recovers their humanity from the blankness of an ever-growing death toll. The Wahbas had tried for years to have a child before she finally became pregnant at the age of 36. The grandmother tried to lift little Khaled off the floor: that’s when she realised her son and daughter were dead.

Levy uses a simple technique. He asks his fellow Israelis: how would we feel, if this was done to us by a vastly superior military power? Once, in Jenin, his car was stuck behind an ambulance at a checkpoint for an hour. He saw there was a sick woman in the back and asked the driver what was going on, and he was told the ambulances were always made to wait this long. Furious, he asked the Israeli soldiers how they would feel if it was their mother in the ambulance – and they looked bemused at first, then angry, pointing their guns at him and telling him to shut up.

“I am amazed again and again at how little Israelis know of what’s going on fifteen minutes away from their homes,” he says. “The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.” He gives an example. During Operation Cast Lead, the Israel bombing of blockaded Gaza in 2008-9,  “a dog – an Israeli dog – was killed by a Qassam rocket and it on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines.”

At times, the occupation seems to him less tragic than absurd. In 2009, Spain’s most famous clown, Ivan Prado, agreed to attend a clowning festival on Ramallah in the West Bank. He was detained at the airport in Israel, and then deported “for security reasons.” Levy leans forward and asks: “Was the clown considering transferring Spain’s vast stockpiles of laughter to hostile elements? Joke bombs to the jihadists? A devastating punch line to Hamas?”

Yet the absurdity nearly killed him. In the summer of 2003, he was travelling in a clearly marked Israeli taxi on the West Bank. He explains: “At a certain stage the army stopped us and asked what we were doing there. We showed them our papers, which were all in order. They sent us up a road – and when we went onto this road, they shot us. They directed their fire to the centre of the front window. Straight at the head. No shooting in the air, no megaphone calling to stop, no shooting at the wheels. Shoot to kill immediately. If it hadn’t been bullet-proof, I wouldn’t be here now. I don’t think they knew who we were. They shot us like they would shoot anyone else. They were trigger-happy, as they always are. It was like having a cigarette. They didn’t shoot just one bullet. The whole car was full of bullets. Do they know who they are going to kill? No. They don’t know and don’t care.”

He shakes his head with a hardened bewilderment. “They shoot at the Palestinians like this on a daily basis. You have only heard about this because, for once, they shot at an Israeli.”

I “Who lived in this house? Where is he now?”

How did Gideon Levy become so different to his countrymen? Why does he offer empathy to the Palestinians while so many others offer only bullets and bombs? At first, he was just like them: his argument with other Israelis is an argument with his younger self. He was born in 1953 in Tel Aviv and as a young man “I was totally nationalistic, like everyone else. I thought – we are the best, and the Arabs just want to kill. I didn’t question.”

He was fourteen during the Six Day War, and soon after his parents took him to see the newly conquered Occupied Territories. “We were so proud going to see Rachel’s Tomb [in Bethlehem] and we just didn’t see the Palestinians. We looked right through them, like they were invisible,” he says. “It had always been like that. We were passing as children so many ruins [of Palestinian villages that had been ethnically cleansed in 1948]. We never asked: ‘Who lived in this house? Where is he now? He must be alive. He must be somewhere.’ It was part of the landscape, like a tree, like a river.” Long into his twenties, “I would see settlers cutting down olive trees and soldiers mistreating Palestinian women at the checkpoints, and I would think, ‘These are exceptions, not part of government policy.’”

Levy says he became different due to “an accident.” He carried out his military service with Israeli Army Radio and then continued working as a journalist, “so I started going to the Occupied Territories a lot, which most Israelis don’t do. And after a while, gradually, I came to see them as they really are.”

But can that be all? Plenty of Israelis go to the territories – not least the occupying troops and settlers – without recoiling. “I think it was also – you see, my parents were refugees. I saw what it had done to them. So I suppose… I saw these people and thought of my parents.” Levy’s father was a German Jewish lawyer from the Sudetenland. At the age of 26 – in 1939, as it was becoming inescapably clear the Nazis were determined to stage a genocide in Europe – he went with his parents to the railway station in Prague, and they waved him goodbye. “He never saw them or heard from them again,” Levy says. “He never found out what happened to them. If he had not left, he would not have lived.” For six months he lived on a boat filled with refugees, being turned away from port after port, until finally they made it to British Mandate Palestine, as it then was.

“My father was traumatised for his whole life,” he says. “He never really settled in Israel. He never really learned to speak anything but broken Hebrew. He came to Israel with his PhD and he had to make his living, so he started to work in a bakery and to sell cakes from door to door on his bicycle. It must have been a terrible humiliation to be a PhD in law and be knocking on doors offering cakes. He refused to learn to be a lawyer again. He became a minor clerk. I think this is what smashed him, y’know? He lived here sixty years, he had his family, had his happiness but he was really a stranger. A foreigner, in his own country? He was always outraged by things, small things. He couldn’t understand how people would dare to phone between two and four in the afternoon. It horrified him. He never understood what is the concept of overdraft in the bank. Every Israeli has an overdraft, but if he heard somebody was one pound overdrawn, he was horrified.”

His father “never” talked about home. “Any time I tried to encourage him to talk about it, he would close down. He never went back. There was nothing [to go back to], the whole village was destroyed. He left a whole life there. He left a fiancé, a career, everything. I am very sorry I didn’t push him harder to talk because I was young, so I didn’t have much interest. That’s the problem. When we are curious about our parents, they are gone.”

Levy’s father never saw any parallels between the fact he was turned into a refugee, and the 800,000 Palestinians who were turned into refugees by the creation of the state of Israel. “Never! People didn’t think like that. We never discussed it, ever.” Yet in the territories, Levy began to see flickers of his father everywhere – in the broken men and women never able to settle, dreaming forever of going home.

Then, slowly, Levy began to realise their tragedy seeped deeper still into his own life – into the ground beneath his feet and the very bricks of the Israeli town where he lives, Sheikh Munis. It is built on the wreckage of “one of the 416 Palestinian villages Israel wiped off the face of the earth in 1948,” he says. “The swimming pool where I swim every morning was the irrigation grove they used to water the village’s groves. My house stands on one of the groves. The land was ‘redeemed’ by force, its 2,230 inhabitants were surrounded and threatened. They fled, never to return. Somewhere, perhaps in a refugee camp in terrible poverty, lives the family of the farmer who plowed the land where my house now stands.” He adds that it is “stupid and wrong” to compare it to the Holocaust, but says that man is a traumatized refugee just as surely as Levy’s father – and even now, if he ended up in the territories, he and his children and grandchildren live under blockade, or violent military occupation.

The historian Isaac Deutscher once offered an analogy for the creation of the state of Israel. A Jewish man jumps from a burning building, and he lands on a Palestinian, horribly injuring him. Can the jumping man be blamed? Levy’s father really was running for his life: it was Palestine, or a concentration camp. Yet Levy says that the analogy is imperfect – because now the jumping man is still, sixty years later, smashing the head of the man he landed on against the ground, and beating up his children and grandchildren too. “1948 is still here. 1948 is still in the refugee camps. 1948 is still calling for a solution,” he says. “Israel is doing the very same thing now… dehumanising the Palestinians where it can, and ethnic cleansing wherever it’s possible. 1948 is not over. Not by a long way.”

II The scam of “peace talks”

Levy looks out across the hotel bar where we are sitting and across the Middle East, as if the dry sands of the Negev desert were washing towards us. Any conversation about the region is now dominated by a string of propaganda myths, he says, and perhaps the most basic is the belief that Israel is a democracy. “Today we have three kinds of people living under Israeli rule,” he explains. “We have Jewish Israelis, who have full democracy and have full civil rights. We have the Israeli Arabs, who have Israeli citizenship but are severely discriminated against. And we have the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, who live without any civil rights, and without any human rights. Is that a democracy?”

He sits back and asks in a low tone, as if talking about a terminally ill friend: “How can you say it is a democracy when, in 62 years, there was not one single Arab village established? I don’t have to tell you how many Jewish towns and villages were established. Not one Arab village. How can you say it’s a democracy when research has shown repeatedly that Jews and Arabs get different punishments for the same crime? How can you say it’s a democracy when a Palestinian student can hardly rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, because when they hear his accent or his name almost nobody will rent to him? How can you say Israel is a democracy when? Jerusalem invests 577 shekels a year in a pupil in [Palestinian] East Jerusalem and 2372 shekels a year in a pupil from [Jewish] West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because of the child’s ethnicity! Every part of our society is racist.”

“I want to be proud of my country,” he says. “I am an Israeli patriot. I want us to do the right thing.” So this requires him to point out that Palestinian violence is – in truth – much more limited than Israeli violence, and usually a reaction to it. “The first twenty years of the occupation passed quietly, and we did not lift a finger to end it. Instead, under cover of the quiet, we built the enormous, criminal settlement enterprise,” where Palestinian land is seized by Jewish religious fundamentalists who claim it was given to them by God. Only then – after a long period of theft, and after their attempts at peaceful resistance were met with brutal violence – did the Palestinians become violent themselves. “What would happen if the Palestinians had not fired Qassams [the rockets shot at Southern Israel, including civilian towns]? Would Israel have lifted the economic siege? Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda. Nobody would give any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they had not behaved violently.”

He unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians, but adds: “The Qassams have a context. They are almost always fired after an IDF assassination operation, and there have been many of these.” Yet the Israeli attitude is that “we are allowed to bomb anything we want but they are not allowed to launch Qassams.” It is a view summarised by Haim Ramon, the justice minister at time of Second Lebanon War: “We are allowed to destroy everything.”

Even the terms we use to discuss Operation Cast Lead are wrong, Levy argues. “That wasn’t a war. It was a brutal assault on a helpless, imprisoned population. You can call a match between Mike Tyson and a 5 year old child boxing, but the proportions, oh, the proportions.” Israel “frequently targeted medical crews, [and] shelled a UN-run school that served as a shelter for residents, who bled to death over days as the IDF prevented their evacuation by shooting and shelling… A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organisation. They say as a justification that Hamas hides among the civilian population. As if the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv is not located in the heart of a civilian population! As if there are places in Gaza that are not in the heart of a civilian population!”

He appeals to anybody who is sincerely concerned about Israel’s safety and security to join him in telling Israelis the truth in plain language. “A real friend does not pick up the bill for an addict’s drugs: he packs the friend off to rehab instead. Today, only those who speak up against Israel’s policies – who denounce the occupation, the blockade, and the war – are the nation’s true friends.” The people who defend Israel’s current course are “betraying the country” by encouraging it on “the path to disaster. A child who has seen his house destroyed, his brother killed, and his father humiliated will not easily forgive.”

These supposed ‘friends of Israel’ are in practice friends of Islamic fundamentalism, he believes. “Why do they have to give the fundamentalists more excuses, more fury, more opportunities, more recruits? Look at Gaza. Gaza was totally secular not long ago. Now you can hardly get alcohol today in Gaza, after all the brutality. Religious fundamentalism is always the language people turn to in despair, if everything else fails. If Gaza had been a free society it would not have become like this. We gave them recruits.”

Levy believes the greatest myth – the one hanging over the Middle East like perfume sprayed onto a corpse – is the idea of the current ‘peace talks’ led by the United States. There was a time when he too believed in them. At the height of the Oslo talks in the 1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin negotiated with Yassir Arafat, “at the end of a visit I turned and, in a gesture straight out of the movies, waved Gaza farewell. Goodbye occupied Gaza, farewell! We are never to meet again, at least not in your occupied state. How foolish!”

Now, he says, he is convinced it was “a scam” from the start, doomed to fail. How does he know? “There is a very simple litmus test for any peace talks. A necessity for peace is for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. So if you are going to dismantle settlements soon, you’d stop building more now, right? They carried on building them all through Oslo. And today, Netanyahu is refusing to freeze construction, the barest of the bare minimum. It tells you all you need.”

He says Netanyahu has – like the supposedly more left-wing alternatives, Ehud Barak and Tzipip Livni – always opposed real peace talks, and even privately bragged about destroying the Oslo process. In 1997, during his first term as Israeli leader, he insisted he would only continue with the talks if a clause was added saying Israel would not have to withdraw from undefined “military locations” – and he was later caught on tape boasting: “Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo accords.” If he bragged about “stopping” the last peace process, why would he want this one to succeed? Levy adds: “And how can you make peace with only half the Palestinian population? How can you leave out Hamas and Gaza?”

These fake peace talks are worse than no talks at all, Levy believes. “If there are negotiations, there won’t be international pressure. Quiet, we’re in discussions, settlement can go on uninterrupted. That is why futile negotiations are dangerous negotiations. Under the cover of such talks, the chances for peace will grow even dimmer… The clear subtext is Netanyahu’s desire to get American support for bombing Iran. To do that, he thinks he needs to at least pay lip-service to Obama’s requests for talks. That’s why he’s doing this.”

After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice: “The facts are clear. Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent, and condescending Israel of today. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation programme for Israel.”

III Waving Israeli flags made in China

According to the opinion polls, most Israelis support a two-state solution – yet they elect governments that expand the settlements and so make a two-state solution impossible. “You would need a psychiatrist to explain this contradiction,” Levy says. “Do they expect two states to fall from the sky? Today, the Israelis have no reason to make any changes,” he continues. “Life in Israel is wonderful. You can sit in Tel Aviv and have a great life. Nobody talks about the occupation. So why would they bother [to change]? The majority of Israelis think about the next vacation and the next jeep and all the rest doesn’t interest them any more.” They are drenched in history, and yet oblivious to it.

In Israel, the nation’s “town square has been empty for years. If there were no significant protests during Operation Cast Lead, then there is no left to speak of. The only group campaigning for anything other than their personal whims are the settlers, who are very active.” So how can change happen? He says he is “very pessimistic”, and the most likely future is a society turning to ever-more naked “apartheid.” With a shake of the head, he says: “We had now two wars, the flotilla – it doesn’t seem that Israel has learned any lesson, and it doesn’t seem that Israel is paying any price. The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative.”

It sounds like he is making the case for boycotting Israel, but his position is more complex. “Firstly, the Israeli opposition to the boycott is incredibly hypocritical. Israel itself is one of the world’s most prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. So Israelis cannot complain if this is used against them.”

He shifts in his seat. “But I do not boycott Israel. I could have done it, I could have left Israel. But I don’t intend to leave Israel. Never. I can’t call on others to do what I will not do… There is also the question of whether it will work. I am not sure Israelis would make the connection. Look at the terror that happened in 2002 and 2003: life in Israel was really horrifying, the exploding buses, the suicide-bombers. But no Israeli made the connection between the occupation and the terror. For them, the terror was just the ‘proof’ that the Palestinians are monsters,  that they were born to kill, that they are not human beings and that’s it. And if you just dare to make the connection, people will tell you ‘you justify terror ’ and you are a traitor. I suspect it would be the same with sanctions. The condemnation after Cast Lead and the flotilla only made Israel more nationalistic. If [a boycott was] seen as the judgement of the world they would be effective. But Israelis are more likely to take them as ‘proof’ the world is anti-Semitic and will always hate us.”

He believes only one kind of pressure would bring Israel back to sanity and safety: “The day the president of the United States decides to put an end to the occupation, it will cease. Because Israel was never so dependent on the United States as it is now. Never. Not only economically, not only militarily but above all politically. Israel is totally isolated today, except for America.” He was initially hopeful that Barack Obama would do this – he recalls having tears in his eyes as he delivered his victory speech in Grant Park – but he says he has only promoted “tiny steps, almost nothing, when big steps are needed.” It isn’t only bad for Israel – it is bad for America. “The occupation is the best excuse for many worldwide terror organisations. It’s not always genuine but they use it. Why do you let them use it? Why give them this fury? Why not you solve it once and for all when the, when the solution is so simple?”

For progress, “the right-wing American Jews who become orgiastic whenever Israel kills and destroys” would have to be exposed as “Israel’s enemies”, condemning the country they supposedly love to eternal war. “It is the right-wing American Jews who write the most disgusting letters. They say I am Hitler’s grandson, that they pray my children get cancer? It is because I touch a nerve with them. There is something there.” These right-wingers claim to be opposed to Iran, but Levy points out they vehemently oppose the two available steps that would immediately isolate Iran and strip Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh of his best propaganda-excuses: “peace with Syria and peace with the Palestinians, both of which are on offer, and both of which are rejected by Israel. They are the best way to undermine Iran.”

He refuses to cede Israel to people “who wave their Israeli flags made in China and dream of a Knesset cleansed of Arabs and an Israel with no [human rights organisation] B’Tselem.” He looks angry, indignant. “I will never leave. It’s my place on earth. It’s my language, it’s my culture. Even the criticism that I carry and the shame that I carry come from my deep belonging to the place. I will leave only if I be forced to leave. They would have to tear me out.”

IV A whistle in the dark

Does he think this is a real possibility – that his freedom could be taken from him, in Israel itself? “Oh, very easily,” he says. “It’s already taken from me by banning me from going to Gaza, and this is just a start. I have great freedom to write and to appear on television in Israel, and I have a very good life, but I don’t take my freedom for granted, not at all. If this current extreme nationalist atmosphere continues in Israel in one, two, three years time?” He sighs. “There may be new restrictions, Ha’aretz may close down – God forbid – I don’t take anything for granted. I will not be surprised if Israeli Palestinian parties are criminalized at the next election, for example. Already they are going after the NGOs [Non-Government Organizations that campaign for Palestinian rights]. There is already a majority in the opinion polls who want to punish people who expose wrong-doing by the military and want to restrict the human rights groups.”

There is also the danger of a freelance attack. Last year, a man with a large dog strutted up to Levy near his home and announced: “I have wanted to beat you to a pulp for a long time.” Levy only narrowly escaped, and the man was never caught. He says now: “I am scared but I don’t live on the fear.  But to tell you that my night sleep is as yours… I’m not sure. Any noise, my first association is ‘maybe now, it’s coming’.  But there was never any concrete case in which I really thought ‘here it comes’. But I know it might come.”

Has he ever considered not speaking the truth, and diluting his statements? He laughs – and for the only time in our interview, his eloquent torrents of words begin to sputter. “I wish I could! No way I could. I mean, this is not an option at all. Really, I can’t. How can I? No way. I feel lonely but my private, er, surrounding is supportive, part of it at least. And there are still Israelis who appreciate what I do.  If you walk with me in the streets of Tel Aviv you will see all kinds of reactions but also very positive reactions. It is hard but I mean it’s?it’s?what other choice do I have?”

He says his private life is supportive “in part”. What’s the part that isn’t? For the past few years, he says, he has dated non-Israeli women – “I couldn’t be with a nationalistic person who said those things about the Palestinians” – but his two sons don’t read anything he writes, “and they have different politics from me. I think it was difficult for them, quite difficult.” Are they right-wingers? “No, no, no, nothing like that. As they get older, they are coming to my views more. But they don’t read my work. No,” he says, looking down, “they don’t read it.”

The long history of the Jewish people has a recurring beat – every few centuries, a brave Jewish figure stands up to warn his people they are have ended up on an immoral or foolish path that can only end in catastrophe, and implores them to change course. The first prophet, Amos, warned that the Kingdom of Israel would be destroyed because the Jewish people had forgotten the need for justice and generosity – and he was shunned for it. Baruch Spinoza saw beyond the Jewish fundamentalism of his day to a materialist universe that could be explained scientifically – and he was excommunicated, even as he cleared the path for the great Jewish geniuses to come. Could Levy, in time, be seen as a Jewish prophet in the unlikely wilderness of a Jewish state, calling his people back to a moral path?

He nods faintly, and smiles. “Noam Chomsky once wrote to me that I was like the early Jewish prophets. It was the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me. But… well… My opponents would say it’s a long tradition of self-hating Jews. But I don’t take that seriously. For sure, I feel that I belong to a tradition of self-criticism. I deeply believe in self-criticism.” But it leaves him in bewildering situations: “Many times I am standing among Palestinian demonstrators, my back to the Palestinians, my face to the Israeli soldiers, and they were shooting in our direction. They are my people, and they are my army. The people I’m standing among are supposed to be the enemy. It is…” He shakes his head. There must be times, I say, when you ask: what’s a nice Jewish boy doing in a state like this?

But then, as if it has been nagging at him, he returns abruptly to an earlier question. “I am very pessimistic, sure. Outside pressure can be effective if it’s an American one but I don’t see it happening. Other pressure from other parts of the world might be not effective. The Israeli society will not change on its own, and the Palestinians are too weak to change it. But having said this, I must say, if we had been sitting here in the late 1980s and you had told me that the Berlin wall will fall within months, that the Soviet Union will fall within months, that parts of the regime in South Africa will fall within months, I would have laughed at you. Perhaps the only hope I have is that this occupation regime hopefully is already so rotten that maybe it will fall by itself one day. You have to be realistic enough to believe in miracles.”

In the meantime, Gideon Levy will carry on patiently documenting his country’s crimes, and trying to call his people back to a righteous path. He frowns a little – as if he is picturing Najawa Khalif blown to pieces in front of her school bus, or his own broken father – and says to me: “A whistle in the dark is still a whistle.”



Image by Pete Pasho


To borrow the words of  Elias Akleh, I am not in the habit or in the business of arguing with my critics. Everybody is entitled to her/his own opinion. Those are my sentiments exactly. However, when arguments are presented in a most civil way as was done in Dr. Akleh’s response to my post, ‘The Demonization of the Jews’, dialog is definitely not out of the question.

I was not aware of the response until last evening when the Managing Editor of MWC News sent me a link to the following; Zionism vs Judaism. It took me by surprise as my post refuting his was written a month ago.

I presented the view that Dr. Akleh’s opinions were anti-Semitic. His response was I would like, first, to point out to dear Mr. Amsel that my Palestinian Arab roots go back thousands of years ago to the Semitic speaking tribes indigenous to Palestine. Thus I could never be anti-Semite (anti-self) compared to self-hating Jew. Despite the Jewish attempts to monopolize the term people understand that Jews are not the only Semitic-speaking tribe. Many of the Hebrew words are the same Arabic words with a little semantic twist. I can respond as well by pointing out that my Jewish roots go back thousands of years as well, to the bloodline of Aaron, the brother of Moses. My views in no way challenge you as a Palestinian, merely your views on the Jewish people.

Dr. Akleh seems to be under the assumption that all Jews, or at least most are observant. Nothing is further from the truth, including those that live in Israel which is officially a secular state despite the number of ultra orthodox parties represented in the Knesset. When he states As for the accusation of being anti-Jewish or anti-Judaic I like to invite Mr. Amsel and all my readers to refer to any internationally acknowledged Bible to verify that all the quotes I mentioned in my articles, criticized above, are authentic literal quotes from the Judaic Torah; Five Books Moses in the Old Testament. According to observant Jews, as Mr. Amsel noted, the Torah was handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai by God. This makes it the most sacred Judaic scripture. Citing quotes from this most sacred Judaic scripture does not make me anti-Jewish; rather it reveals the ugly racist and genocidal realities of this so call divine Torah (god’s gift). I am not challenging the quotes mentioned in his text, but I am asking why he opted to chose only those that can be interpreted as racist and genocidal (which he rightly states). One of the articles that I refuted ends with A blood thirsty genocidal destructive god such as this Judaic god cannot be the real God. He is a pagan god. Indeed he is really Lucifer himself in the soul. Does the good Doctor not realise that the ‘Judaic God’ and the Islamic God are one in the same? His understanding of Islam itself seems as misunderstood as his views on Judaism. As I stated in my original post, Nowhere in Islamic texts is that view given… it is the personal view of the author.

He further claims that Jews demonstrating against Zionist Israel can be divided into two main groups; Israeli Jews living in Israel (occupied Palestine), and international Jews living outside of Israel. The few international Jews are motivated by their humanity to demonstrate against the inhumane racist ethnic cleansing policies of the Zionist Israeli government against the Palestinians, the same way they are motivated to defend the human rights of any other group. FEW???  Even the extremist Jews keep a growing list of over 7,000 ‘self-hating Jews’. This site can be found AT.  A list, which BTW, I am a proud member of.

There are many more than those 7,000 both in Israel and internationally. Many put their lives on the line for the Palestinian Cause. The most recent example are those onboard the ‘Jewish Boat’ heading towards Gaza as I write this. Some of those onboard are observant Jews… and definitely not all zionists.

If you go to the side bar of my Blog you will find other Blogs linked as favourites of mine. Among them are many written by Jews, again, definitely not zionists.

The rebuttal ends with Opposite to the claims of many misinformed and misguided good intentions writers, such as Mr. Amsel and other non-Jewish writers, Zionism is Judaism incarnated in a different name. Again assuming what is wrong, and stating that all who disagree with him are misinformed. Perhaps it is he, the good Doctor that is misinformed.

I understand his bitterness,  even his justified anger towards the state of Israel. In his own biographical notes it is stated that His family was first evicted from Haifa after the “Nakba” of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the “Nakseh” of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.

It is my hope that one day, in the very near future, Dr.Akleh and myself can sit in HIS home together in the State of Palestine and muse over a potful of Arabic coffee…. justice will not be served until that State is established, with the Right of Return for ALL that were forced to leave by the zionists.


A boat with 9 Jewish activists aboard sets sail from Famagusta harbor in the Turkish-occupied north of ethnically divided Cyprus in a bid to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Sept. 26, 2010    Photo by AP

Israel commandos ‘peacefully’ board Jewish Gaza-bound aid boat

IDF says commandos peacefully intercepted the ‘Irene’, the latest vessel to try to breach an on the Palestinian territory in the wake of Israel’s deadly flotilla raid in May.

Israeli naval commandos have peacefully boarded a Jewish aid boat attempting to break a naval blockade on Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said at 11:30 A.M. Tuesday.

“IDF naval forces recently boarded the yacht ‘Irene’, and it is currently being led to the Ashdod seaport along with its passengers,” the military said in statement that branded the boat a “provocation yacht”.

IDF chief spokesman Avi Benayahu deplored the fact that “naval forces and fighters are being diverted from our main mission” to “a surreal assignment” of intercepting a boatload of activists.

“Its entire intention was to generate media attention and (stage) a provocation. This matter is especially regrettable as we are talking about a group of Jews and of Israeli citizens, and even someone who has worn an IDF officer’s uniform.”

Before boarding, the navy transmitted two warnings to the boat, which refused to turn back and sailed further into the blockade area, the IDF said.

Shortly before, an Israeli warship had hailed the catamaran carrying Jewish activists toward the blockaded Gaza Strip, according to the group’s website.

An Israeli destroyer was cutting off the boat’s path and another small boat was also approaching, the ‘Jewish Boat to Gaza’ website posted minutes before reports of the interception.

At around 11:00 A.M., a navy boat shadowing the ‘Irene’ made radio contact with the activists, asking: “Where are you going? Where did you come from? What nationalities are on board?” according to the website

The crew replied:

“They came from Farmagusta, the nationalities on board are British, American, German and Israelis, we are going!” the website said.

The Irene is the latest vessel to try to breach the 3-year-old embargo on the Palestinian territory in the wake of the deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish-led flotilla in May, which drew international condemnation.

Earlier, Capt. Glynn Secker said he expected the navy to intercept the Irene, which is carrying nine Jewish activists from Israel and other countries.

“We will not obey them, we will not help them,” Secker said. “But we will not confront them physically. We will engage in no violence.”

Israel had asked the vessel, which Secker said was carrying medicines, therapeutic toys, water purifiers and outboard engines, to dock in an Israeli port. Cargo that receives security clearance would be transported to Gaza.

In the end, Secker predicted, the catamaran would be towed to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, as has happened with other blockade-busting ships.

The Israeli foreign ministry has labeled the voyage a politically motivated provocation.
Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed in May when Israeli commandos raided the lead ship in the Turkish-led flotilla. Both sides claimed they acted in self-defense.

The international condemnation triggered by the deaths forced Israel to relax its land blockade of Gaza but the naval blockade remains in force. Israel, with Egypt’s cooperation, imposed the blockade after Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June 2007.

The measure was intended to keep out weapons, turn Gazans against their militant Hamas rulers and pressure the group to free a captive Israeli soldier. Those aims were not achieved but the embargo deepened the misery of Gaza’s 1.5 million people.

Activists behind the convoy involved in May’s deadly raid have said they will send a new flotilla of at least eight ships to try to break the blockade by the end of this year. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella group of pro-Palestinian activist behind the efforts, said no date has been set.


Another report and video can be found HERE

The crew…..


To date the struggle had focused on the eastern part of the neighborhood. Three families have thus far been evicted from the area and 25 more are under threat of eviction.

One of the Palestinian families that could be evicted from their

homes as a result of a September 26 court ruling.

Photo by: Michal Fatta

Dozens of Arab families may be evicted from East Jerusalem neighborhood under court ruling

Judges reject appeal by Palestinians claiming to own a large plot in the western portion of Sheikh Jarrah, enabling settlers to move ahead with plans to build in the area.

A Supreme Court ruling Sunday may allow settler groups to move into dozens more homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Justices Yoram Danziger, Esther Hayut and Miriam Naor unanimously rejected an appeal by Palestinians claiming to own a large plot in the western portion of the neighborhood. The court ruled that the custodian general, and other owners, including settler representatives, succeeded in proving they owned the property.

The decision means the properties’ owners will be able to initiate proceedings for the eviction of dozens of Palestinian families living on the property.

Moreover, the settlers will be able to move ahead with plans to build in the area.

Aryeh King, one of the leaders of the settlement movement in East Jerusalem said yesterday that in two days three Palestinian families whose leases are ending are expected to be evicted from their homes. The plan is for Jewish families to move in.

King also said that he is advancing a project to build dozens of housing units for Jews in the neighborhood.

Sheikh Jarrah has been a bone of contention between Jewish groups – who call the neighborhood Shimon Hatzadik after the ancient rabbi they believe is buried there – and Palestinians living there. Tensions have risen over the last year as the court has allowed Jewish groups to reclaim homes they said they were forced to leave after 1948, thereby allowing them to evict Palestinian families in favor of Jewish ones.

To date the struggle had focused on the eastern part of the neighborhood. Three families have thus far been evicted from the area and 25 more are under threat of eviction.

Settlers ready to claim plots

However a settler group had made preparations to claim plots in the western segment.

Following the Six-Day War, the custodian general took over the homes and the properties in the area. Over the years the custodian general restored some of the properties to the legal Jewish owners. Other properties were bought by groups that identify themselves with the settlers – either directly by the custodian general or by the inheritors.

Among those owning property in the neighborhood is American businessman Irwin Moskowitz, who is considered an important patron of settlement activity.

Yithzak Memo, another right-wing activist involved in settlement in the western portion of the neighborhood, also bought property in the area.

King says that right-wing groups own about half the homes in the neighborhood.

In 1997 Palestinians sued, arguing that the property on which Jews settled in the 19th century had not been sold to them but leased and that the ownership remained Palestinian. In 2006 the Jerusalem District Court rejected the suit and they appealed to the Supreme Court.

Sunday the Supreme Court rejected their appeal and ruled that Jews are the owners of the homes. The ruling, written by Danziger, states that the Palestinians failed to prove the terms of the lease between the original owners and the Jews who lived in the neighborhood.

Evidence that payments for the lease were made were rejected by the court as constituting evidence that the Jews did not buy the property.

The legal significance of the ruling is that the status of the Palestinians living in the eastern portion of the neighborhood is now the same as that of those living in the western side – subletting Jewish owned property.

Sources familiar with the issue say that henceforth it will be easier for settler groups to evict Palestinians from the area.



The following was sent to me by my S I S (sister in struggle), Sinead MacLochlainn of the Derry Friends of Palestine.…… it says it all!

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

Freedom Flotilla 2

10 Reasons for Going

As many of you already know, I will be travelling on the next Freedom Flotilla to break the siege on Gaza’s seaport. Although I have been to Gaza I have never been on a flotilla to Gaza and after what happened on the last flotilla I have been worried about telling my Mum that I will be part of the next flotilla.  When I told her, she of course was very worried, given the aggression and lack of respect for human rights by Israel. The fact that they boarded ships in international water like pirates and murdered 9 people.  She said to me “But why do YOU have to go?” After much thought, and with the time nearing, I thought I should give her my 10 reasons for going on the flotilla.

Dear Mum,

Do you remember when I was very young and I asked you why black people in America were not allowed to ride on a bus, or go to school with white people, or to eat alongside white people in a restaurant? You told me this was racism and it was wrong, that we are all created equal in God’s eyes no matter where we come from.

You taught me to accept all people and to be blind to colour and race.

This is why I am going

Do you remember when I saw a disabled man in a wheelchair struggling to get into a shop on his own. There were many people in front of the shop who ignored him as he struggled to get in, but you said we should help him. You told me that I should always offer my help to those who were struggling.

This is why I am going

And do you remember the first time I saw someone who had been burned in a fire, their face twisted, distorted and frightening. I wanted to run away and hide my eyes. But you told me to look past what I see on the outside, you said it was like wearing a mask, you said a beautiful person was behind that mask and if I looked hard enough I would see this. You taught me to see that being different can be beautiful.

This is why I am going.

Do you remember when I was only small and it was Christmas time and there was a campaign for poor families who had no gifts for their children. You asked me if I wanted to give them one of my own gifts that you had bought for me. At first I didn’t want to, I was selfish, but you told me that if I did I would get a better gift in return, the gift of compassion.  And you were right.

You taught me compassion

This is why I am going

Do you remember when I was learning to ride my bike. I kept falling off, over and over again and all the kids were laughing at me. I said I would never be able to do it and wanted to give up. You told me I could do anything if I put my mind to it, you said I should always try until I succeed. You taught me to be persistent.

This is why I am going.

Do you remember when we were walking down the street and I saw a man drop his wallet. I picked it up and you looked at me and said I should return it. I ran up and returned it to the man, he gave me a reward for being honest. You taught me there are rewards for doing the right thing.

This is why I am going.

Do you remember when I was little and I was afraid of the dark? You said “what is it you fear?” I said I feared what I could not see. You told me there was nothing in the dark that was not there in the light. You taught me to overcome my fears.

This is why I am going

Do you remember when I found our wee cat outside after it was hit by a car? The neighbours said I should just leave it alone that it was going to die anyway. But you said we should try and help her.  You told me to have hope, and that miracles can happen . She survived. You taught me to have hope and to believe in miracles.

This is why I am going

Do you remember when I asked why Irish people were treated so badly in the North, why were they being shot, jailed and beaten. You told me there were soldiers who had stolen our land and were occupying our country and oppressing our people. You said this was wrong. You taught me to always resist injustice.

This is why I am going.

And lastly, do you remember when I read the “Diary of Anne Frank” and I asked you why people would do such a thing to innocent people. You told me that brave people risked their own lives to shelter Anne Frank from the Nazi’s who blamed the Jews for all their woes, you said good people must always do what they can against evil. You said this type of hatred should never happen again, to anyone.

This is why I am going

So Mum, to answer your question, I am going to help Free Palestine. I am going because of everything you taught me growing up, because you made me the person I am today.

Why am I going? I am going because of you….

The above and more can be found at THIS site.


As a political activist during the turbulent 60’s I had many personal ‘dealings’ with agents representing the FBI. I always referred to them as the Big Kahunas, as their major mission was to intimidate. They used the pretext of their ‘visits’ to get information on fellow activists, which was totally unnecessary as they had an entire network of ‘spies’ in our ranks. It was all about intimidation and fear…. nothing more, nothing less, the very tactics of the Big Kahuna himself. In some cases they were successful as we saw some of the weakest links run and hide with their tails between their legs. For the most part, it was a total waste of time on their part as no information was given to them and our activities continued.

Most of us saw these agents as representatives of America’s biggest crime syndicate. The very group that harassed our leadership (MLK), that took part in the murders of our fellow activists working in Mississippi. THEY were the criminals in our eyes, not us.

Yes, we stood up to the Big Kahuna then….. and the activists of today are doing the same! The following was written by an activist living in the Chicago area…..

FBI Raids will not Silence our Movement

I remember this feeling, I thought as I read that on
Friday the FBI raided the homes of peace and justice activists in Minneapolis and here in Chicago. It’s the same way I feel whenever the Israeli government decides it’s time to round up Palestinians nonviolent activists. In these situations I always find that I feel a little bit confused, a little bit scared, and very, very powerless.

The thing is – that’s exactly what a government trying to squash political opposition wants its citizens to feel. When the FBI raided the home of Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner, they didn’t make any arrests. They just took 30 boxes of papers and personal items. Some of those papers showed the labor activism and peace activist that Joe and Stephanie have been involved in for so long. The rest of it? Strictly personal items, like baby pictures and letters. That’s a tactic designed to scare Joe and Stephanie and their friends. And why does our government want to intimidate us? “All we ever did was work against U.S. military aid to the governments of Colombia and Israel and to support the peoples of Colombia and Israel in their struggle for justice,” said Joe.

We have a choice now. We can become scared and and stop talking about about how the United States and Israel are systematically violating human rights in the name of empire-building, or we keep moving forward with renewed energy. Yesterday, activists held a press conference calling this so-called terrorist investigation what it is: political intimidation. Tomorrow, we’ll be rallying again and I’m asking you to join us. Because speaking out is what it takes to maintain a democracy.

For myself, I keep thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of Palestinians who’ve been arrested for their nonviolent resistance: who was tortured for grazing his sheep on his land, Nasser who spent a month in jail for building a house, Hafez who was beaten and arrested for protesting the wall, the guys from Tuba who keep being arrested for doing farm work, the three boys who were taken by Israel soldiers and handed over to settlers who beat them. I’m thinking about all of the political prisoners, including Amer Makhoul, who are in Israeli jails right now. They are why I’m will not be intimated and silenced. I learned from Palestinians the meaning of “samoud,” steadfastness. We’re not going to give up.


A related post, including a timetable of planned protests can be seen HERE
The following article (including 2 videos) is a must read as well…. From The Indypendent

FBI Raids Target Antiwar Activists in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Michigan


Settlers Open Fire At Palestinian Homes In Jerusalem

by Saed Bannoura

A number of Jewish settlers, working as security guards, opened fire on Saturday at night at a number of Palestinian homes in Al Sa’diyya neighborhood, in occupied East Jerusalem; no injuries were reported. A local woman was wounded in a separate attack.

File - Graffiti Written by Jewish Settlers - palestinenote.com
File – Graffiti Written by Jewish Settlers

– palestinenote.com

The Israeli police arrived at the scene and closed the neighborhood preventing the residents from leaving their homes.

Furthermore, clashes were reported after a group of Palestinian youths took off to the streets and burnt tires. The Israeli Police claimed that a Molotov cocktail was also hurled at a settlers’ home in East Jerusalem.

In related news, a 35-year-old Palestinian woman was wounded while standing on her balcony in Al Esawiyya town in East Jerusalem.

The woman was hit in the head by a rubber-coated bullet fired by the army; her condition was described as mild-to-moderate. She was moved to Hadassah Israeli hospital in the city.

A Palestinian infant died on Friday after inhaling gas fired by the army in East Jerusalem. The 12-month-old infant was identified as Mohammad Abu Sneina.

Source via Uruknet


Perhaps a larger stone is needed to keep him in hell where he belongs…

Emergency Actions to Support Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists

Stop FBI Raids and Harassment

We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists.  The FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis on Friday, September 24, 2010.  The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war.   The FBI has indicated that the grand jury is investigating the activists for possible material support of terrorism charges.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation.  The activists are involved with many groups, including:  the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

We ask people of conscience to join us in fighting this political repression, as we continue working to build the movements against US war and occupation.

Take Action:

Call the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 or write an email to:  AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.


**Stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.

**Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.

**End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

Plan and Support national days of protest at FBI offices or Federal Buildings, September 27 and 28th.

A demonstration has been called at the Minneapolis FBI Office Monday, 4:30, September 27th(111 Washington Ave. S.).

In Solidarity, the Anti-War Committee – http://www.antiwarcommittee.org

List of cities with upcoming demonstrations (as of 9/26/10)

Minneapolis MN: Monday: 4:30, FBI Office Monday, 111 Washington Ave. S.

Chicago, IL: Monday: 4:30 FBI Building, 2111 W. Roosevelt Rd.

NYC: Tues. 4:30 to 6pm Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza,

Newark, NJ: Tues 5 to 6pm Federal Building Broad Street

Washington DC: Tues 4:30 – 5:30 FBI Building 935 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

Detroit MI: Tuesday 4:30 McNamara Federal Building

Buffalo, NY: 4:30 at FBI Building – Corner of So. Elmwood Ave. & Niagara St.

Durham NC: on Monday, 12 noon Federal Building, 323 E Chapel Hill St

Raleigh NC.: Tuesday 9 am. Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave

Asheville, NC: Tuesday

Atlanta, GA, Tues Noon, FBI Building

Gainesville, FL on Monday, 4:30 PM at FBI Building

Salt Lake City, Utah, 9 AM on Monday at Federal Building

Action call FROM

A related video that is a must watch…..


‘Jewish boat to Gaza’ leaves Cyprus

By Caroline-Nelly Perrot

Passengers on the Jewish Boat to Gaza gather for a group

photograph before their departure. Photo by Vish Vishvanath/Metro

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus — A boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Europe and the United States set sail Sunday from Cyprus bound for Gaza, in a bid to run Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian territory, an AFP reporter said.

The boat, named “Irene,” left the port of Famagusta in the Turkish-held north of the divided eastern Mediterranean island in the early afternoon carrying eight activists, three of whom are crew members, and two journalists.

Reuven Moskovitz, an 82-year-old passenger who survived the Nazi Holocaust, told AFP he felt duty-bound to attempt the voyage, which is expected to take around 36 hours.

“It is a sacred duty for me, as a (Holocaust) survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children,” Moskovitz said.

Yonatan Shapira, a former pilot for the Israel Defense Forces and crew member on the British-flagged sailing boat, said they were not looking for a confrontation.

“We have a policy of non-violence and non-confrontation,” he said.

“But if the Israeli army stops the boat, we will not help them to take it to Ashdod,” he said, referring to a port in southern Israel where other blockade runners have been taken after being stopped by the navy.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly warned that Israel will intercept any ship nearing Gaza, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.

In May, Israeli forces tried to stop a six-ship flotilla heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong, and nine Turkish activists were killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation.

“The boat’s cargo includes symbolic aid in the form of children’s toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza’s fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for orthopaedic medical care in Gaza’s hospitals,” said a statement from the organisers, Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

Richard Kuper, a member of the organising group, said that “the Jewish Boat to Gaza is a symbolic act of protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the siege of Gaza, and a message of solidarity to Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice.

“Israeli government policies are not supported by all Jews.” Kuper said in the statement.

“We are banging our head on a very hard wall of hatred. Our hope is to make little cracks on that wall, so that in the end it will fall,” said activist Rami Elhanan, who is also on the boat.

“Whatever happens, the worst thing has already happened to me, I am not afraid of what is coming next,” said Elhanan, who lost her daughter in a 1997 suicide bombing.

Moskovitz, the Holocaust survivor, said he still remained a Zionist.

“The state of Israel was a big dream, and it has become reality. We have to make sure it does not become a nightmare,” he said.

“I am a Zionist, I still believe I have a right to be here, but not to rob Palestinians from their land and steal the rights of 1.5 million people.”

Last week, a report by the UN Human Rights Council found there was clear evidence to back prosecutions against Israel for killing and torture when its troops stormed the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the May flotilla.

In a scathing report, it also threw out Israel’s argument that the aid activists were violent, thereby justifying the decision by Israeli soldiers to open fire.

Israel rejected the report out of hand as “biased” and “one-sided.”

Israel says its commandos only resorted to force after they were attacked when they rappelled onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, but pro-Palestinian activists on board say the soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed.

A separate inquiry into the incident has been set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and several more inquiries into the raid are also being pursued by Israel and Turkey.


Crew members and passengers are available for interviews….

Satellite phone on board for contact to the passengers: 00 8821668610337

Media Contact in London for interviewing the Boat’s organizers: Yosh, 0044 7816 448307 media@jewishboattogaza.org

JNews contact in Israel: Miri 00972 549270796

Passengers and crew for interview:

Reuven Moskovitz, from Israel, is a founding member of the Jewish-Arab village Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) and a holocaust survivor. Speaks German, Hebrew and English.

Rami Elhanan, from Israel, who lost his daughter Smadar to a suicide bombing in 1997 and is a founding member of the Bereaved Families Circle of Israelis and Palestinians who lost their loved ones to the conflict. Speaks Hebrew and English.

Lilian Rosengarten, from the US, is a peace activist and psychotherapist. She was a refugee from Nazi Germany. Speaks English and German.

Yonatan Shapira, from Israel, is an ex-IDF pilot and now an activist for Combatants for Peace. Speaks Hebrew and English.

Glyn Secker, from the UK, is the boat’s captain and a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Speaks English.

Dr. Edith Lutz, from Germany, is a peace activist and a nurse. She was on the first boat to Gaza in 2008. Speaks German and English.

Alison Prager, from the UK, is a teacher and peace activist. She is media coordinator for the boat. Speaks English.

Itamar Shapira, from Israel, is Yonatan’s brother, and a member of the boat’s crew. Speaks Hebrew, Spanish and English.

Eli Osherov,  Israesli reporter from Israel Channel 10 News.

Supporters: Jewish organizations and individuals from UK, Holland, Germany, US, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, Australia and Israel.

Organizers and sponsors: European Jews for a Just Peace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK), Juedische Stimme fuer einen gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Germany), American Jews for a Just Peace (USA), Jewish Voice for Peace (USA), Jews Against the Occupation Sydney.


I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, “Why are our memories so short?” Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?

Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The University of Johannesburg’s Senate will next week meet to decide whether to end its relationship with an Israeli institution, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on the grounds of that university’s active support for and involvement in the Israeli military. Archbishop Desmond Tutu supports the move. He explains why

” My heart aches. I say, “Why are our memories so short.” ” Jacob Zuma

“The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own.

We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.” – Nelson Mandela, December 4 1997

Struggles for freedom and justices are fraught with huge moral dilemmas. How can we commit ourselves to virtue – before its political triumph – when such commitment may lead to ostracism from our political allies and even our closest partners and friends? Are we willing to speak out for justice when the moral choice that we make for an oppressed community may invite phone calls from the powerful or when possible research funding will be withdrawn from us? When we say “Never again!” do we mean “Never again!”, or do we mean “Never again to us!”?

Our responses to these questions are an indication of whether we are really interested in human rights and justice or whether our commitment is simply to secure a few deals for ourselves, our communities and our institutions – but in the process walking over our ideals even while we claim we are on our way to achieving them?

The issue of a principled commitment to justice lies at the heart of responses to the suffering of the Palestinian people and it is the absence of such a commitment that enables many to turn a blind eye to it.

Consider for a moment the numerous honorary doctorates that Nelson Mandela and I have received from universities across the globe. During the years of apartheid many of these same universities denied tenure to faculty who were “too political” because of their commitment to the struggle against apartheid. They refused to divest from South Africa because “it will hurt the blacks” (investing in apartheid South Africa was not seen as a political act; divesting was).

Let this inconsistency please not be the case with support for the Palestinians in their struggle against occupation.

I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, “Why are our memories so short?” Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?

Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about all the downtrodden?

Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence – but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

South African universities with their own long and complex histories of both support for apartheid and resistance to it should know something about the value of this nonviolent option.

The University of Johannesburg has a chance to do the right thing, at a time when it is unsexy. I have time and time again said that we do not want to hurt the Jewish people gratuitously and, despite our deep responsibility to honour the memory of the Holocaust and to ensure it never happens again (to anyone), this must not allow us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians today.

I support the petition by some of the most prominent South African academics who call on the University of Johannesburg to terminate its agreement with Ben-Gurion University in Israel (BGU). These petitioners note that: “All scholarly work takes place within larger social contexts – particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.” It can never be business as usual.

Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation. For example, BGU offers a fast-tracked programme of training to Israeli Air Force pilots.

In the past few years, we have been watching with delight UJ’s transformation from the Rand Afrikaans University, with all its scientific achievements but also ugly ideological commitments. We look forward to an ongoing principled transformation. We don’t want UJ to wait until others’ victories have been achieved before offering honorary doctorates to the Palestinian Mandelas or Tutus in 20 years’ time.

Written FOR

Sent by Omar Barghouti who added the following….

This is the genuine voice of wisdom of a uniquely courageous, principled and inspiring moral leader of our times.


A post dealing with the background of the above can be read HERE


Peace didn’t happen then….

It certainly isn’t happening now either

Following The Killing of Jerusalem Infant, Clashes Renew Leading To Dozens Of Injuries

by Saed Bannoura

After an infant from Al Esawiyya in East Jerusalem died due to teargas inhalation on Friday, clashes were reported Saturday evening between dozens of residents and Israeli soldiers leading to dozens of injuries among the residents.

The clashes took place in several Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem while more Israeli soldiers and policemen were deployed in the area.

The army attempted to invade Al Esawiyya town but dozens of youths took off to the streets and hurled stones and empty bottles at them. The army fired gas bombs, rubber-coated bullets and rounds of live ammunition leading to several injuries.

Clashes were also reported in Silwan town, south of the Al Aqsa Mosque, and in the neighborhoods of Al Tour, Ras Al Amoud, Al Suwwana, and in Shu’fat refugee camp.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army claimed that more than three hours after ongoing clashes, a number of Palestinians fired rounds of live into the air while marching in the funeral of the slain child. If confirmed, this would be the first time Palestinians use a weapon during clashes in Jerusalem.

The infant who died due to teargas inhalation Friday evening was identified as Mohammad Abu Sneina, 1; he initially suffered breathing difficulties as a result of inhaling gas fired by the army, but all efforts to save his life failed.

Source via Uruknet


Video: Arabs face discrimination in Israel

Discrimination faced by Palestinians living within Israel’s borders remains one of the key sticking points in Middle East peace talks.

Umm al-Fahm is a town made up almost entirely of Palestinian Israelis – those who found themselves within the new border when Israel was created in 1948.

Israel’s declaration of independence, the equivalent of a constitution, states that all citizens are equal but the one-fifth of the population who are Palestinian, believe they are less equal than others.

Al Jazeera’s Dan Nolan reports from Umm al-Fahm, Israel.

Al Jazeera via Uruknet

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