Happy Holiday!

Happy Holiday!




The Latest From Latuff

Learning long division from Israel

Learning long division from Israel


Will Donald Trump Require Muslims To Enter National Registry?

Will Donald Trump Require Muslims To Enter National Registry?

And finally, the latest interview with Carlos

Exclusive interview with Carlos Latuff, world renowned political cartoonist


Steve Amsel: Peace is the only alternative for Israelis and Palestinians

The video about our interview with Steve Amsel of Desert Peace about peace as the only alternative for Palestine and Israel. Anti-Zionism means opposition to apartheid and oppression, not Anti-Semitism.

The interview can be seen HERE in German ….


And HERE in English


HERE in Italian


He punches hard, he’s opinionated, his commentary is biting, his cartoons are thought provoking, and he doesn’t regret being a magnet for nasty criticism.

He is Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff who doesn’t mince words or hold back on stirring up people, in his country and across continents.

Latuff visiting the Burj El Barajneh area in Beirut (courtesy Latuff)

Latuff visiting the Burj El Barajneh area in Beirut (courtesy Latuff)

Brazilian Cartoonist Carlos Latuff Takes Aim Globally

Magda Abu-Fadil FOR

He punches hard, he’s opinionated, his commentary is biting, his cartoons are thought provoking, and he doesn’t regret being a magnet for nasty criticism.

He is Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff who doesn’t mince words or hold back on stirring up people, in his country and across continents.

“I got threats from cops, Zionists, Islamists, neo-Nazis – the list is long,” he said of his many detractors who have tried to intimidate him on different occasions.

So much so that an American rabbi who called him an anti-Semite castigated theHuffington Post for publishing his cartoons.

Eddy Portnoy, who reviewed Joel Kotek’s book “Cartoons and Extremism: Israel and the Jews in Arab and Western Media” in the progressive Jewish publication The Forward wrote that Latuff’s material was furiously critical of Israel and its leaders in often terribly obnoxious ways.

“His work will surely upset even nominal supporters of Israel, but it is a stretch to categorize his cartoons as antisemitic, and it is a disservice to the fight against genuine antisemitism to have included them,” Portnoy added.

Latuff is unrepentant about his scathing remarks and illustrations. He loves being provocative.

“One of the most notorious threats was in 2006 by a website linked to the Likud,” Latuff noted of the online denunciation by the site close to Israel’s right-wing government.

Screen shot of Likud-linked site that Latuff said attacked him

Screen shot of Likud-linked site that Latuff said attacked him

I asked why he feels so strongly about an issue so far removed geographically since he is not Palestinian – his grandfather hailed from Lebanon.

“I have supported their cause since I visited the West Bank in 1998,” he said.

In a recent cartoon with an Israeli soldier in the likeness of Mark Zuckerberg standing guard at Israel’s “separation wall” and barring a Palestinian youth from entering Facebook, Latuff slammed the social media site for censoring a cartoon critical of Israel.

Screen shot of "@Facebook censors cartoon critical of Israel"

Screen shot of “@Facebook censors cartoon critical of Israel”

In another he took aim at U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for groveling at Israel’s feet to curry favor with American Jews and pro-Israel campaign contributors.

Screen shot of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton  licking Israel's boots

Screen shot of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton
licking Israel’s boots

Latuff also turns his gibes at his country’s authorities.

In one illustration he denounced Brazilian police’s excessive use of force and tweeted that if there were a “violence-o-meter” in the country, the São Paolo police would top the gauge.

Screen shot of "If in #Brazil we had a 'violence-o-meter,' surely the São Paulo  police @PMESP would reach the peak!"

Screen shot of “If in #Brazil we had a ‘violence-o-meter,’ surely the São Paulo
police @PMESP would reach the peak!”

Latuff’s graffiti and cartoons about police brutality earned him arrests in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro.

“They were mostly attempts (at) censorship (of) my work in Brazil,” he explained, adding that highlighting law enforcement officers’ heavy-handedness was a taboo subject.

Asked what inspires him and triggers his creative juices, Latuff replied: “Some issues boil my blood, like police brutality in Brazil and elsewhere, state terrorism, censorship.”

The U.S. gun violence and race debate also come out loud and clear in his cartoons. He’s squarely against what he sees as double standards in how American police officers respond to perceived threats by blacks, minorities and whites.

Screen shot of "This Comic Sums up the Double Standard Used to Excuse  White Violence"

Screen shot of “This Comic Sums up the Double Standard Used to Excuse
White Violence”

He also disparaged President Barack Obama’s tear-shedding speech about guns in America while the U.S. provides weapons to what he termed Syrian mercenaries killing civilians.

Screen shot of "When will you stop sending weapons to #Syria mercenaries  (a.k.a. rebels)? #AskPOTUS"

Screen shot of “When will you stop sending weapons to #Syria mercenaries
(a.k.a. rebels)? #AskPOTUS”

But Latuff’s attacks aren’t limited to the West.

He recently took a swipe at Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, portraying him as a puppeteer in military garb manipulating Egypt’s recent legislative elections to ensure his supporters’ victory.

Screen shot of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi manipulating figures  in Egypt's parliament

Screen shot of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi manipulating figures
in Egypt’s parliament

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan is another favorite target, notably his edicts against journalists and free speech campaigners. In fact, Latuff often tweets remarks in Turkish to accompany his cartoons.

I asked him if he spoke Arabic and if he was conversant in different languages since his tweets often appear in any number of languages.

“No, I ask friends to translate,” he said.

The Middle East’s volatile Sunni-Shiite schism is equally in Latuff’s crosshairs, with an Arab and an Iranian each carrying a barrel of gunpowder and trying to ignite each other’s trailing explosive material.

Screen shot of the suicide Sunni-Shiite strife

Screen shot of the suicide Sunni-Shiite strife

Further east, the cartoonist turns his sights to North Korea’s volatile leader Kim Jong-un drawing him at the center of a nuclear hazardous material sign.

Screen shot of nuclear Kim Jong-un

Screen shot of nuclear Kim Jong-un

This week Latuff drew the Grim Reaper listing cities where he’d wreaked terrorism havoc and the cartoonist expressed solidarity with Indonesians through the “Pray for Jakarta” hashtag.

Screen shot of "#PrayForJakarta"

Screen shot of “#PrayForJakarta”

Earlier this month he revived a 2012 illustration of French caricaturist Stéphane Charbonnier, a/k/a Charb, one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists killed in an attack on that Paris publication to mark the first anniversary of the massacre.

Freelancer Latuff supplies cartoons to several Middle East-related and Brazilian outlets.

His work has been published in Mondoweiss, the Cairo-based alternative Rassd News Network, the London-based Al Quds Al Araby newspaper, Opera Mundi, Sul21, Brasil 247, leftist union bulletins in Brazil and Al-Adab, a progressive cultural magazine in Lebanon.


In a long, in depth interview that covered the span of his career as a performer, director, and show creator, Jon Stewart appeared at a live performance in New York City with comedian Catie Lazarus and discussed the reaction to his announcement last week that he was stepping down from the helm of the hugely popular news satire program The Daily Show.

Myself and many others will miss him 😦


‘People Are Questioning Israel’

Interview with Dr. Mads Gilbert


In an interview with Al Jazeera, Norwegian surgeon Dr. Mads Gilbert speaks of his experiences in Gaza and the changing international perception of Israel.

Related post FROM

Questioning Our Special Relationship with Israel

By Stephanie Westbrook

A “regional economic power.” That’s how ANIMA, the Euro-Mediterranean Network of Investment Promotion Agencies encompassing 70 governmental agencies and international networks, described Israel in its January 2010 Mediterranean Investment Map. The report analyzed the economies of the 27 European Union countries as well as 9 “partner countries.”

And who can argue. Touting an annual GDP growth rate around 5% for the years 2004 to 2008, Israel was also ranked 27 out of 132 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report last fall. It ranked 9th for innovative capacity.

In the 2008 World Competitiveness Yearbook by IMD, Israel comes in 2nd for the number of scientists and engineers in the workforce. No other country in the world spends more on research and development as a percentage of GDP than Israel. Since the year 2000 it has hovered around 4.5%, or twice the average of OECD member countries.

I am not an economist, but I have to wonder why US taxpayers are doling out $3 billion a year in direct military aid to a “regional economic power.” In August 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel was signed committing the US to give, not loan, $30 billion to Israel over 10 years. US taxpayers are directly funding close to 20% of Israel’s annual defense budget. No wonder Israel is able to invest in R&D!

To help put these figures into perspective, a new web site was launched last week that illustrates how your state is contributing to the Israeli defense budget, and what could have instead been done with the money. At www.aidtoisrael.org I learned that my home state of Texas will give more than $2.5 billion over the ten year period. For the same amount, over 2 million people could have been provided with primary health care.

At the 2007 signing ceremony for the $30 billion giveaway, then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, stated, “We consider this 30 billion dollars in assistance to Israel to be an investment in peace.” But peace isn’t exactly what we’ve gotten for our money.

Instead our tax dollars continue to pay for advanced weaponry used to maintain an illegal occupation, culminating a year ago in the Israeli attack on Gaza with US-made F-16 fighter jets, US-made Apache helicopter gunships, US-made naval combat ships, US-made hellfire missiles, US-made tanks and armored personnel carriers, and US-made white phosphorus shells.

Every cent we give Israel is in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act, which specifically prohibits aid to countries that “engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Sales of US weaponry made to Israel are in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which restrict their use to legitimate self-defense.

But weapons we do continue to sell, and aid we do continue to give. And if that weren’t enough, we also provide Israel with special conditions. Unlike all other countries receiving military aid from the US, Israel receives its entire bundle in a lump sum during the first 30 days of the fiscal year. The money sits in an interest bearing account at the Federal Reserve, the interest going to Israel, of course, until 74% of it is funneled back to US weapons manufacturers in the way of purchases for the Israeli Defense ministry. Israel is free to use the remaining 24% to purchase “in house” weapons systems, an arrangement afforded to no other recipient of US military aid.

While we may hear some calls to freeze (or limit or curb) settlement construction, and as of late, for an end to the siege of Gaza, one subject no one on Capitol Hill dares to touch is this massive military aid package given to Israel. The new self-proclaimed “pro-peace pro-Israel” lobby, J-street, has said the subject is not up for discussion.

But some are starting to question our “special relationship” with Israel.

On February 9, Intelligence Squared, the British debate forum, held a debate in New York City – home to the country’s largest Jewish community – asking if the “US should step back from its special relationship with Israel.” Prior to the start of the debate, audience members cast their votes electronically, with 39% in favor, 42% against and 25% undecided.

Arguing for the motion were British author and New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and Colombia professor and author Rashid Khalidi. Former US ambassador to the EU Stuart Eizenstat and former Israeli ambassador to the US Itamar Rabinovich argued against. Cohen spoke of US aid to Israel:

“What also makes the relationship special is the incredible largess that the United States shows towards Israel, over the past decade, $28.9 billion in economic aid. And on top of that, another $30 billion in military aid, that’s almost $60 billion. That’s 10 times the GNP of Haiti that is being gifted to a small country. Now, I ask you, to what end is this money being used. Ladies and gentlemen, we would submit that it ends often inimical to the American interest.”

Following the debate, the audience once again voted on the resolution, this time with a slight majority in favor, 49% for, 47% against and 4% undecided.

The “special relationship” is hereby up for discussion. Pass the word.




Palestinian activist Sam Bahour was interviewed by RT yesterday about the possibilities of  restarting Peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Below you will find  why this is not possible as long as the occupation continues.


Kerry arrived in Israel on Monday, in a direct move to end the four-year stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But activist, Sam Bahour, believes the US official’s attempts are likely to fail as the Palestinians are firm about not starting any peace talks while they remain under Israeli occupation.


‘Palestinians won’t talk peace until Israeli occupation ends’

Palestinians are ‘fed up’ with peace talks and demand action, which the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is unlikely to provide on his Israeli visit, argued Palestinian activist Sam Bahour, in his interview with RT.

Kerry arrived in Israel on Monday, in a direct move to end the four-year stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinians. 

But activist, Sam Bahour, believes the US official’s attempts are likely to fail as the Palestinians are firm about not starting any peace talks while they remain under Israeli occupation.  

RT:  President Barack Obama was in Israel just last month and barely even mentioned the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. Is John Kerry doing all the dirty work?  

Sam Bahour: It’s not clear yet. It seems as if John Kerry’s mission is a continuation of the last 45 years of US policy, which is trying to force the people under occupation, the Palestinians, to come to the table and negotiate their freedom with their occupier. It’s a model that failed for 20 years now during the peace process. And to be honest with you, the Palestinians are fed up with trying to be forced to have to negotiate bilaterally with those who are occupying them. The only thing we should really negotiate now is how the settlements will be dismantled and when the last Israeli soldier is going to leave Palestine. 


US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to US Foreign Service workers during a "meet & greet" at the US Counsulate General on April 8, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel (AFP Photo / Pool Paul J. Richards)


US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to US Foreign Service workers during a “meet & greet” at the US Counsulate General on April 8, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel (AFP Photo / Pool Paul J. Richards)


RT: Many people in the Middle East put all hope in the Obama administration’s ability to breathe new life into peace negotiations, yet they are still in collapse. Is the American administration running out of solutions?  

SB: Yes, as long as the American administration – whether it’s Obama’s or previous administrations – refuse to apply international law to this conflict, they can pull solutions out of the hat until they’re blue in the face – nothing will be successful. At the end of the day, this is a military occupation. Even the US recognizes it as a military occupation. That means the Fourth Geneva Convention applies. What needs to happen is for this occupation to end. Once it ends, the Palestinians – in good faith – could start negotiations with Israel to be able to find a final status solution. But to ask the Palestinians to negotiate while they’re under the boot of occupation is no longer acceptable and it’s rather disingenuous. 

RT:  Reports on Sunday say that Hamas arrested Westerners it claims were spying inside the Gaza strip. Was this a deliberate signal to the US and why was it sent?  

SB: I haven’t received enough information to know, but I can tell you for a fact that on the ground things are very messy right now. Not only is there a forced separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but also Israel has forced separation between the west bank and Jerusalem. This continued fragmentation of our land and separation of the Palestinian people is causing our own society’s fabric to come apart. And this latest episode is one of those sad links in a long chain that has been created by the pressures of this occupation over 45 years. 

And that’s one of the reasons the Palestinian community is no longer willing to accept the ‘talk of peace’. We’re now willing to see, who’s willing to walk the ‘walk of peace’. And that means to start ending this occupation tomorrow morning instead of continuing to talk about it, while the Palestinians are under that boot of occupation.


Click HERE to see original source and video


 In my list of Associates there is a name Chippy Dee. That is a nickname that my cousin Fran was given many moons ago when we were teenagers. I still call her that, but she’s all grown up now and making headlines on Mondoweiss’ Blog. Here is the article and video that appeared there today…. Now you can put a face to her name 🙂  Her husband Bud is at her side (in the yellow raincoat).

Why Fran Korotzer stopped saying ‘ethnic cleansing’ and started saying ‘genocide’

by Philip Weiss

Yesterday afternoon in the rain, a group of protesters stood outside Google headquarters in Manhattan to leaflet against Google’s partnership with the Israeli university the Technion (providing classroom space to students in the years till Cornell and the Technion are scheduled to open a new campus on Roosevelt Island).

Two of those protesters are Fran and Bud Korotzer. I talked with Fran, a retired clerical worker at Baruch College, about what she was doing there, and was moved by her softspoken but firm statements, by her appearance, and by her dignity in a humble service. Maybe you will be too. 

The interview’s long, so a guide: Korotzer describes the importance of explaining Israel’s actions to people on the street in New York; speaks of the strains in her relations with other Jews, some of whom can be nasty; describes diversity of opinion in the Jewish community; and tells me why it does not matter that she has never been to Israel. The blog on which she’s depended for information is Steve Amsel’s, Desert Peace.

The action was organized by New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT). It goes on every two weeks. Alex Kane wrote about it here.


 Stephane Hessel who passed away last week at age 95 was a former French resistance fighter. He is seen here urging young people to take to the streets and show their outrage. Ray Suarez and Hessel discuss his book, “Time For Outrage,” which is also titled “Indignez-Vous!” in French.
Order the book online AT


Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian cause. East Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state. If Jerusalem is lost, the whole concept and idea of Palestinian statehood is lost, and the possibility of peace is lost. And Jerusalem is an important place for all of humanity, a holy place for Muslims, Christians, and the Jewish people. It should be the place where peace begins.

Mustafa Bargouti: Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian cause

by Elsa Rassbach* 
mustafa barghouti Mustafa Barghouti at a demonstration in Bil’in, 2010. (Photo: Dan Halutz)

Every year on March 30th Palestinians around the world celebrate Land Day, which commemorates a general strike and marches in 1976 against Israeli land appropriation, an event that was a pivotal event in bringing about Palestinian national unity. This year Palestinians throughout the Middle East and in the Diaspora will commemorate Land Day by calling attention to the dangers facing Jerusalem.

The Israeli government has long denied most Palestinians – whether Muslim or Christian – access to Jerusalem, even to visit holy sites. The organizers of the Global March allege that through methods of ethnic cleansing, Israel has been forcing Jerusalem’s remaining Arab inhabitants out, thus endangering the multi-religious, multi-ethnic character of the city that is the intended capital of Palestine.

On March 30th, the Palestinians will attempt to get as close to Jerusalem as they can: whether at the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, at checkpoints in the West Bank, or at the Erez crossing in Gaza. There will also be a demonstration in Jerusalem itself. The Palestinians will be joined by supporters from five continents. An eminent Advisory Board includes the Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire. Solidarity vigils and actions are also planned on March 30th at Israeli Embassies and other locations in sixty cities around the world.

The Palestinian coalition organizing this Global March to Jerusalem is perhaps unprecedented in its breadth. Equally unprecedented is the Israeli campaign against the March, which has included faux Websites and Facebook pages to mislead participants regarding gathering places. After seventy supporters from India, Malaysia, Pakistan and other Asian countries visited Iran on their way to Lebanon to join the March, the Israeli press alleged that the March is directed from Iran and that violent “clashes” with Israeli forces are planned.

Among the most outspoken Palestinian supporters and organizers of the Global March is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, 58, the well-known nonviolence advocate. As General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Bargouti played a key role in recent attempts to bring Hamas and Fatah together. He is medical doctor educated in the former Soviet Union, the US and Jerusalem; he founded and leads Palestinian Medical Relief society, which provides health care in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In 2005 Dr. Bargouti ran for presidency of the Palestinian National Authority and won 19% of the vote. He resides in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Elsa Rassbach: You have joined with Palestinians from many different political perspectives and many places in the world to call for a Global March to Jerusalem. What is this initiative about?

Mustafa Bargouti: It’s an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people. It will take place on Land Day, March 30th, a day that symbolizes the unity of Palestinians in the struggle for freedom and dignity and against theft of their land. We hope to bring to the world’s attention the very grave violations that Israel is committing against Jerusalem. Both the UN and The International Court of Justice hold that annexation of East Jerusalem, which is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is a violation of international law.

ER: But there is illegal Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land throughout the Occupied Territories and also within Israel. Why the focus on Jerusalem?

MB: Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian cause. East Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state. If Jerusalem is lost, the whole concept and idea of Palestinian statehood is lost, and the possibility of peace is lost. And Jerusalem is an important place for all of humanity, a holy place for Muslims, Christians, and the Jewish people. It should be the place where peace begins.

Today in Jerusalem you see the Israeli system of segregation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the sharpest possible way. If a Palestinian man from Jerusalem marries a woman in Ramallah, only sixteen kilometers away, he will not be able to live with her. The Israelis will never grant her the right to move to Jerusalem, but if he moves to Ramallah, he will lose his ID and his residency permit in Jerusalem. And the permit may be withdrawn for political reasons as well. Though I was born in Jerusalem and worked there as a medical doctor for fifteen years, after I ran for president in 2005, the Israeli Army thereafter has refused to allow me in. Most Palestinians including Christians and Muslims, also cannot enter.

But any Jewish person from anywhere in the world who decides to immigrate to Israel, whether from Siberia or the United States, will immediately be granted the right to live in Jerusalem or anywhere else in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Jerusalem is accessible to every Jewish person. It should be accessible to everybody. Many Jewish people from Israel and other parts of the world agree and are participating in and even organizing the Global March.

ER: Among the demands of the March is “the right of return.” Why would Palestinians who live in historical Palestine support such a demand? 

MB: This demand means a lot to us, too, because there are huge numbers of refugees living in Gaza and West Bank who are denied access to the place they were forced to leave. Even Palestinians living in Israel who carry Israeli citizenship are not allowed to return home to their villages in Israel like Iqrit and Kafr Bir’im. The right of return is a right recognized by international law under a special UN resolution, 194. We do understand that its implementation will have to be negotiated, but the right itself has to be respected.

ER: Last year on May 15th, Nakba Day and also Israeli Independence Day, Israeli soldiers killed dozens and wounded hundreds of unarmed Palestinians who tried to cross over the borders of Lebanon and Syria. Could the Global March lead to a repeat of such violence? 

MB: The March will be an act of peace, an act of nonviolence, and that’s why Palestinians everywhere are united in supporting it. It reflects the consensus of Palestinians today on adopting nonviolence totally. We know that Israel is capable of terrible violence. All the organizers in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Israel/Palestine are aware of this risk. We hope that the U.S. and the European countries will pressure Israel not use violence against our nonviolence.

*Elsa Rassbach is a filmmaker and journalist. Member of CodePink living in Germany.  Part of the European organizing committee of Global March to Jerusalem.


Written FOR


Interview with the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement
Also see THIS DesertPeace Editorial from the archives.
Huwaida Arraf with kids in Khan Younis.

Huwaida Arraf: ‘They have lies to spin; we have truths to tell’

by Yousef M. Aljamal

Yousef M. Aljamal of Gaza’s Center for Political Development Studies interviews with Huwaida Arraf, cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement:

Aljamal: First, could you please give us a brief introduction about ISM?

Arraf: The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. We founded this international coalition to support and strengthen the Palestinian popular resistance by providing the Palestinian people with a resource — international protection and a voice — with which to resist, nonviolently, an overwhelming military occupation force.

The resources the Israeli government has at its disposal are well-known – over $3 billion in military aid from the U.S., hundreds of millions of dollars in private funds, and the unquestioned diplomatic support of the only superpower in the world exercised through its veto in the UN Security Council of any resolution that would compel Israel to abide by international law. The Palestinians also need strong resources.

We focus on providing support for the Palestinian unarmed resistance, not because we take a hostile view to the armed resistance, but rather because we believe that unarmed resistance is strategically more advantageous to Palestinians. Seeing as Israel is superior to us militarily, it’s better not to fight them in that arena, but rather in an arena where we are stronger, or at least where we have the possibility of building up our strength. This arena is that of the popular struggle, or the strategic unarmed resistance. I also must note, that while I, personally, and the ISM as an organization, recognize the Palestinian right to use armed struggle to resist occupation (even if we don’t engage in or actively support it), we strongly believe that armed resistance MUST adhere to international law. It is true that Israel frequently violates the laws that regulate armed conflict, but we do ourselves no service by doing the same.

The first ISM campaign was in August of 2001. At that time over 50 civilians from various countries came to the Occupied Palestinian Territory to engage in a 2-week, coordinated campaign of nonviolent direct-action against occupation forces and policies. Since that time we’ve had nearly 7500 civilians from all over the world come join us. Many of our volunteers come North America and Europe, but we’ve also had a number of volunteers from Latin America, Africa and various Asian countries. The socio-economic and age range of the volunteers is vast, with the average age being over 30. A number of volunteers have been over the age of 60 and we’ve even had people in their eighties join us.

Internationals joining the Palestinian struggle is important for 4 key reasons, and these form the foundation of the ISM:

1) Protection: an international presence at Palestinian civilian actions/protests can insure a certain level of protection for the Palestinian people engaged in nonviolent resistance. Palestinians acting/resisting alone are often met with harsh and even lethal forms of violence by Israeli occupation forces, including arbitrary, long-term arrest, beating, severe injury and sometimes even death. The Israeli occupation forces have succeeded to label every Palestinian man, woman and child as a potential terrorists and thereby justify their actions. No body holds Israel accountable for Palestinian lives, but foreign civilians do have governments responsible for them and are harder to label as “terrorists.” As such, when internationals are present with Palestinians at popular actions, lethal forms of violence are usually not used by most Israeli soldiers.

2) Message to the mainstream media:
The Palestinian struggle is not being accurately reported by the mainstream corporate international media. Example: When Israeli troops open fire and kill Palestinian civilians, it is often reported as “clashes” and very rarely by what it really is, Israeli forces opening fire on civilians. The mainstream media tends to show the Israeli – Palestinian conflict as one in which two sides are fighting over a piece of land and can’t live together, instead of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, dignity, and human rights that it is. Palestinians are inaccurately depicted as violent people who hate Jews and want to destroy Israel. Internationals of various social, national and religious backgrounds, joining Palestinians in the freedom struggle can help to dispel this notion. The ISM volunteers from all over the world that join us can reach out to their respective media sources and give Palestinians the voice that we don’t have.

3) Personal witness and transmitting of information:
International civilians joining Palestinians on the ground can bear witness and return home to talk to their communities about what is happening. We encourage volunteers to talk to their friends, family, and colleagues when they return home, as well as to organize larger speaking events where they can present what they experienced to community members and to the media. This information and education can then be used to lobby policy makers in an effort to change US foreign policy. Currently we have many ISM volunteers and groups actively engaged in local Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) efforts, which is a powerful form of nonviolent resistance that is having a psychological as well as a financial impact on Israel. The kind of eyewitness reporting that ISM engages in helps to generate more action in support of the Palestinian freedom struggle.

4) Break isolation / provide hope:
The occupation isolates Palestinians and cuts the Palestinian people off from the rest of the world and from each other. At the very least, international civilians have been able to raise the morale of the Palestinian people living under occupation by standing with them and saying, “you are not alone.” We feel that this helps create or return hope that is vital to our struggle – hope that Israel keeps trying to extinguish. Hope, that people acting together can change things, has been a cornerstone of our philosophy.

While the primary purpose of the ISM has been to engage in and support the Palestinian unarmed, civilian-based freedom struggle against occupation, at times when aggression of the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians has increased, the ISM took up a role in providing humanitarian assistance and protection by using their status as internationals to escort doctors, ambulances, schoolchildren and other civilians to work, hospital and school. We have also engaged in internationals only efforts to disrupt military operations. Prime examples of these include breaking through Israel’s military cordons to put internationals in the presidential compound as well as in the Church of the Nativity when they were both under siege in 2002.

Aljamal: Well, What is the role of ISM to encounter Israeli propaganda?

Arraf: As I mentioned above, ISM provides people from all over the world to come and see with their own eyes what is happening on the ground in Palestine and to take part in the popular resistance. This kind of first-hand experience is important to countering the Israeli propaganda machine in three ways: (1) it provides many people from different backgrounds speaking different languages to give eyewitness accounts from places where Israeli attacks and other atrocities take place. This increases the likelihood that journalists will get information that they might not otherwise receive, as well as gets information out about what is happening in Palestine using alternative media sources; (2) when the volunteers return to their homes, their first-hand experience, stories and pictures provide a compelling and hard-to-argue-with narrative for other people that would not otherwise get this kind of information; and (3) the experience ends up being life-changing for so many volunteers and therefore they are driven to work hard when they return to their countries. It is this drive that is behind a lot of the activism for Palestine on college campuses, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts, and others.

I believe that all of the above combined plays a very important and effective role in countering Israeli propaganda. This is not to say that we’re “winning” but we have to remember that Israel spends upward of $1 billion per year on their public relations efforts, compared to almost nothing that we spend. They have professional public relations firms working for them; we have the free voices of the people. They have lies to spin; we have truths to tell. Their money and political power might buy them the mainstream media and the politicians, but not for long as we continue to inform and mobilize the masses…

Aljamal: Do Palestinian communities in the West play a positive role in exposing Israel’s crimes?

Arraf: This is not an easy question to answer. My direct experience is with the United States where, unfortunately for too long, we were disorganized and divided in addition to many members of the Palestinian community choosing to be apolitical. Add to this the fact that what was mobilized around generally had to do with raising money to provide aid to Palestine. While this is important, Palestinian communities in the west focused all of their energies (which have been limited) to responding to the crises that Israel is so good at creating. In other words, we have been, and largely still are, reacting and giving our money to aid and not the political efforts that might lead to a change in the situation that has left Palestinians in need of aid.

That said, I have noticed a shift in recent years and young Palestinian activists have been leading this shift.

Aljamal: You played a major role in breaking Gaza’s siege and brought dozens of activists to Gaza. You were one of the activists on The Freedom Flotilla that was attacked in the International waters in May 2010. Do you think that Israel has lost its reputation as “the only democracy in the Middle East” in the West after its attacks on Gaza in 2008-2009 and its attack on The Freedom Flotilla?

Arraf: No, I don’t think that Israel’s brutal aggression has anything to do with its reputation as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” We must remember that democratic governments commit unspeakable crimes. Just look at what the US and the UK have done and are doing to Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a couple. Israel’s self-proclaimed status as the “only democracy in the Middle East” should be challenged from a more factual basis. First, Israel is not the only entity in the Middle East with democratic types of government. What about the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon? In terms of the former, we don’t have a country to call a democracy, but we do have democratic traditions. No one will deny that our 2006 elections were democratic, free, and fair (something Israel, with the support of the international community, punished us for when they did not like the outcome!); in terms of Lebanon, she’s more accurately described as a republic, which is actually better form of government than a democracy. A republic (which can be democratic) is governed under a constitution that places certain limits on the voice of the majority in order to protect the rights of the minority, something that a democracy does not do.

But even if one considers Israel a democracy, this doesn’t mean Israel is not guilty of horrific crimes, which must be stopped. Perhaps the best analogy to make here is to that of the United States prior to the late 1960s. Everyone recognizes that the US is a democratic country. Well, the U.S. was a democracy while it practiced slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, and after that, continued outright racism against the black minority in the US, depriving black people of equal rights and opportunity, not to mention subjecting them to degrading and abusive treatment. Just because Israel may be considered a democracy for its citizens this doesn’t mean that it’s not occupying, oppressing, killing, and maiming; it doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t practice racism against its minority population; and it doesn’t mean that Israel is not a colonial, apartheid regime, which is not only illegal, but a crime against humanity.

In terms of its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza – Operation Cast Lead, and its lethal attack on the Freedom Flotilla, Israel lost something more important than its reputation as a democracy. Israel lost its image of victimhood, and perhaps for the first time, was exposed clearly as a violent aggressor.

Aljamal: Does the Palestinian rift hinder ISM efforts to get the Palestinian voice heard in the West? How?

Arraf: Undoubtedly this rift hinders efforts. First of all, it allows questions about the divisions to be raised and detracts from the core issues. Second, it provides fuel for Zionists who love to point to the chaos in Palestinian society and our violence against each other in order to justify their repression and boost their colonialist claims. Third, it divides our community outside (albeit to a lesser extent) as it does inside.

That said, I’m going to point to a larger issue than the split between Fatah and Hamas. We have not been able to capitalize properly on the international solidarity movement with Palestine due to our lack of a unified representative leadership for our national liberation struggle. In theory, this leadership is supposed to be the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but the PLO has been deliberately marginalized and for the past 18+ years existing in name only as an unelected and unrepresentative institution. This absence of a unified national resistance movement means that we also do not have a national strategy for effective resistance and are unable to communicate effectively with the solidarity movement what we want and what we want them to do to support us. To give an example of how this not only prevents us from taking full advantage of the solidarity movement but how it can actually be harmful to our efforts, I will refer to a UN Conference of Civil Society Organizations in Solidarity with the Palestinian People that I spoke at in 2002. I clearly remember an organizer of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee in South Africa telling us how they were working on promoting a boycott of Israel and even pressuring the South African government to cut relations with Israel. The South African government asked the Palestinian Representative Office in South Africa whether or not boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel was a demand of the Palestinian leadership? The Palestinian Ambassador said no. In this case, and in many others, the “official” Palestinian leadership hindered the ability of a solidarity organization to advocate for Palestine.

To make up for this absence of a unified national leadership with an effective strategy for fighting the occupation, Palestinians civil society has tried to step up and make their voices heard. The most successful example of this is the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). By releasing a statement and a call to action endorsed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, we gave the solidarity movement some direction. So, Palestinian civil society has been trying to make up for what I consider a massive failure of our leadership. This is not enough however. I strongly believe that Palestinians, not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in 48 and all over the world need to focus on building or rebuilding a unified representative leadership to lead our national struggle forward. One of the ways to do this is by reviving the PLO and its institutions, starting with direct elections to the Palestine National Council (PNC).

Aljamal: You likely heard about “The Israel Project”, if Palestinians need to encounter such a project, what are the main points they need to shed light on?

Arraf: I don’t think that we need to focus on countering this project per se. We should focus on setting the agenda and shaping the debate. It is the Israel Project that should continue scrambling to devise ways to counter what we are doing. Everything the Israel Project produces is really empty and devoid of any truth, designed to manipulate people who don’t have accurate information and to give people that are already under the influence of the Israeli lobby hollow words and arguments to use to defend their support of Israel. This is all easily countered by facts and information that we put out.

If I would recommend that we take anything from the Israel Project, it is their focus on using language that resonates with the audience that it is trying to reach. This is one thing for us to keep in mind in our communications. Sometimes, we can really turn people away by using language that people might think is extreme, or that doesn’t mean much to them. Highly emotional language and images are understandable, but not very effective. This is not to say that we should not appeal to people’s emotions, we should, but through personal stories told in calm language. For example, an image of an elderly man standing in a cage that is one of Israel’s checkpoints can expose the racism and deliberate degradation that is part of Israel’s policies. People can relate to this, imagining their own fathers subjected to such humiliating treatment. Whereas if we show a picture of a bloody body, this will likely only inflame the emotions of those who already support our cause. Others will not relate this to a deliberate policy that is unjust, but rather to the unfortunate results of war. Israelis can show similar pictures.

Aljamal: If you have a message to the Palestinian young bloggers and writers who write in English, what would you say?

Arraf:I would say that I need to take advice from them! It’s wonderful that we have so many talented young writers. I don’t write much at all, which is a great weakness. I feel that our young Palestinian writers know better than me, but for the sake of stressing a few important points:

(1) Strive for accuracy: It’s often hard to get accurate information fast, but the more one focuses on her/his information accuracy, the more s/he will become a credible source of information, not only for the general public, but also for journalists. This is one thing we’ve tried to do with ISM volunteers. Because we have ISM volunteers in sensitive places where journalists do not often go, we have stressed the importance of getting accurate information that we can pass along to journalists in the hopes that they will report on actions and incidents. If you give a journalist wrong information, s/he will not be likely to use you as a source again. However, if you consistently provide accurate, reliable information, you will become a source for journalists and others, which can only be helpful in disseminating news about what is happening in Palestine.

(2) No need to exaggerate: This is another piece of advice we give to ISM volunteers. The things that happen in Palestine on a daily basis are bad enough, so there is no need to exaggerate anything. Tell it like it is.

(3) Personal stories: You want to try to relate to your readers and have them relate to you. I think this is best done through personal stories and experiences.

Aljamal: New Media motivated Arab youths express themselves, do you believe that Palestinians can make use of it to get rid of the occupation? How?

Arraf: New media, alternative media, social media – all of these can be used as tools in fighting the occupation. We will need more than media to get rid of the occupation, but effective use of various new media tools to communicate information and organize collective action can greatly strengthen us.

To get rid of the occupation, we have to change people’s behavior; we have to create situations where people’s actions that support the Israeli occupation are altered in order to weaken the occupation. For example – soldiers who refuse to serve in the Israeli army can help weaken Israel’s military capabilities; Israeli society that wakes up from it’s indifference or government-supporting trance can increase pressure on the Israeli government to alter its policies; governments that impose sanctions on Israel can weaken Israel’s political and economic power; people, organizations, and institutions that boycott Israel can create pressure on Israeli society to pressure its government, and create an image crisis for the Israeli state, etc. To motivate these and other sectors of society to act, we need to communicate effectively, and here, we use new media as a tool to disseminate information and to organize.

For example, as I talked about above, ISM volunteers go back to their home countries and spread the word about what’s happening in Palestine. We then want to transform this knowledge into action – to lobby government officials to change their policies and stop supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid, to boycott Israel, etc. So we use new media and other communication tools to inform, so that we can then turn that information and knowledge into action.

Also in terms of organization, we’ve seen how social media has helped to mobilize people. We can use social media tools to organize coordinated actions around the world designed to put pressure on Israel. But while social media can be a great organizing tool, I think that we should be careful about relying only on social media, especially for organizing local actions. We should not forget that many people don’t use the Internet, don’t use Facebook and Twitter as a source of information and we need to reach these people too. So, these media tools should be used in addition to other traditional means of communication

Aljamal: Why do you believe that one-state solution is the best one to the conflict?

Arraf: I actually do not advocate the one-state solution. This doesn’t mean that I support the two-state solution either. Rather, I take a “rights-based approach.” This means that I focus on the rights that we’re struggling to achieve and don’t spend time arguing about one state or two. In reality, I don’t care if it’s 10 states or no states, as long as the rights of Palestinians and all people are respected and implemented. This includes the right of our refugees to return and to compensation for their losses, the right to complete equality under the law, and other rights currently denied to Palestinians. As a political solution, one state would likely achieve this best. However, if two states were proposed that included the right of all refugees to return to their homes (even if not the exact homes they lived in) inside 48 Palestine, and guaranteed equality for all people, meaning that Israel would NOT be defined as a Jewish state, but a state that represented all her people equally, then that could also work. Since the two-state solution that has been and is currently talked about does not guarantee the above, in principle, I am opposed to it. But, instead of spending time arguing that one state is better, I choose to focus on the rights that we’re fighting for. This is my personal approach. I don’t argue that it’s the best approach, but I do feel that it focuses us on principles and rights, which are hard to argue with. For example, a Zionist argument against the one-state solution is that it seeks to wipe out Israel. Whereas it’s hard for a Zionist to say that they can’t agree to total equality of citizens within the state. I would say to a Zionist “no, I don’t want to wipe out Israel, but I want to be treated equally inside Israel.” This means that Israel cannot define itself as a Jewish state, because then it would need to maintain a Jewish majority. This means that it would need to take steps to ensure that Jews remain a majority, including preventing Palestinian families from reuniting, continuing to recruit Jews to bring to Israel while keeping Palestinians out, perhaps some day restricting the number of children Palestinians inside Israel can have!”

CPDS is a Gaza based non-profit organization facilitating Palestinians representing themselves “in the tongues of its own people”, to convey their own message to the world and enhance Palestine’s presence in world forums and international organizations.


Originally appeared AT


DesertPeace had the honour to conduct an exclusive interview with Gerry McLochlainn this morning. Gerry is on the National Committee of the Irish Ship To Gaza. More info can be found HERE.
The interview follows….


Gerry MacLochlainn  is a Sinn Fein Councillor in Derry. Active in the Irish Civil Rights campaign, Gerry took part in the Burntollet Civil Rights march which was brutally attacked. Gerry is a former Maths teacher, he studied philosophy and maths at University College Wales, Aberystwyth. He is a former Irish Political Prisoner in England. On his release he headed up the Sinn Fein office in London and was active in the struggle to release of the Guildford 4. In 2009, Gerry led the 2nd convoy into Gaza after the invasion and he co-founded Derry Friends of Palestine. During operation Cast Lead he persuaded Derry City Council to support a boycott of Israeli goods until Israel withdraws from the occupied territories. Derry was the first city in Ireland to pass such a motion. He returned to Gaza again to bring the Mayor of Derry to meet with the Mayor of Khan Younis to begin a twinning process between the two cities. Gerry was a keynote speaker in Geneva at the first International Conference in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli Jails, organised by U-Free. He is a member of the International Steering Committee of Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human and a member of the Irish Ship to Gaza national committee.


DesertPeace: According to the inroduction, I believe this will be your third trip to Gaza. After the brutal attack by the Israeli navy on the Mavi Marmara a year ago, are you in any way concerned for your personal safety this time?


Gerry MacLochlainn: I have to be honest and yes – I am concerned and I think I would foolish if I were not. The shocking slaughter of unarmed people aboard the Mavi Marmara made it clear that Israel is prepared to cross any line to protect its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and blockade of Gaza. If you oppose, even peacefully as we are doing, Israeli policy in Palestine and against Palestinians you are fair game as far as the IDF is concerned.

But no matter how concerned I am – I have to do what is right. The governments of the world should be leading our flotilla into Gaza but they stand idly by. It falls to us then the ordinary citizens of this world to act for humanity. Someone has to step up and if not me who? I can’t leave it to others.

So we will set sail, we will strive to each Gaza, we do so publicly, peacefully and with no desire to harm to contribute to the harming of anyone, including the IDF who are threatening us with extreme violence if we do not turn back.

BUT although we are peaceful, although we threaten no-one, we will not be bullied, we will not turn back. We will not surrender our boats and we will try to reach Gaza.

We may not succeed on this occasion but the siege will be broken and the blockade will be lifted. Israel can menace, maim or even murder but it can no more stop us or those who follow than it can stop the tide.

Palestine will be free and its ports will be open to the world as are the ports of any other country.


DP: Are there any long term plans for activities back in Ireland once you return from this trip?


GM: Yes. I am a Sinn Féin Councillor as you know and my city council has voted to boycott Israeli goods. I recently brought our Mayor out to Gaza to meet the Mayor of Khan Younis, Mohammed al Farra, and we intend to build up a relationship between our two municipalities.

I am talking to business men and local community groups, schools and sporting associations to develop links with our sisters and brothers in  Khan Younis.

The Derry Friends of Palestine, of which I am a member, has a programme of work to do to assist the people of Gaza. We will soon be making a significant contribution to health care in Khan Younis. The details of this intervention will be announced in the near future.

But more than that I plan to continue to bear witness to the crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. Along with my colleagues, the Irish Friends of Palestine and my party, Sinn Féin I intend to continue to mobilise opinion to peaceful protest at every manifestation of Zionist aggression.

I intend to be a peaceful but very persistent opponent of Israel so longs as it refuses to deal with its neighbours as equals.


DP: As an elected official, do you feel that your solidarity work for the people of Palestine in any way could hurt your political career? I am aware that many people in Ireland identify personally with the Palestinians because of their own struggles for Freedom and Independence. Can you elaborate on this?


GM: Well I suppose the big advantage of being in Ireland, and being an Irish Republican in Ireland is that your support comes from people who know all about imperialism, about land grabs about suppression, and who know just which side they are on. Consequently advocacy for Palestine will not damage anyone’s political career in Ireland.

I well remember, during my time in jail in England as our hungers strikers died, the women of Gaza took to the streets to salute and support our comrades. They reached into our prison cells on our behalf that day and we gladly reach into theirs now.

Our message is simple, Palestine, you have sisters and brothers in Ireland. You will never have to face the enemy alone. I shout aloud – The Irish are coming!


DP: Sinn Fein has always been in the forefront of the struggle, are there other groups working with you on these International issues?


GM: Sinn Fein is of course one of the largest parties on the island and one of the two major components of the government in the north and is a major opposition party in the South. The fact that our party has a principled position in support of Palestine means that these politics are now heard at the heart of government.

But it is fair to say that the breadth of support for Palestine in Ireland spreads beyond the Republican base. Nearly every party has some support for Palestine within its ranks. This is a potential major advantage for the people of Palestine because, as their case becomes better known, the support will spread further.

We believe that we can influence Irish foreign policy to take a principled stand on the Palestine issue at an international diplomatic level. We will co-operate with the widest array of parties and trends to achieve that.


DP: Gerry, it’s been a pleasure. I wish you a safe trip and hopeully one day we can celebrate together in a Jerusalem that belongs to all of the people, not just the chosen few.


GM: Inshallah! Thank you. It has been a pleasure for me too.


Unlike most young Jews that visit Israel to ‘seek out their roots’ or to study, Lucas Koerner came here to express his feelings against the Occupation. His bravery lead to his being beaten by Israeli police and his subsequent  arrest.
In his own words…. “My government is responsible and I’m here to say not in my name and not in the name of US citizens.”
Below, he speaks to the Electronic Intifada about his nightmare in Jerusalem….

US citizen in Jerusalem arrest video speaks to EI

Maureen Clare Murphy*

American Jewish activist and university student Lucas Koerner was arrested in Jerusalem on 1 June — when thousands of right-wing Israelis, including settlers, marked “Jerusalem Day” by provocatively marching through Palestinian East Jerusalem to celebrate the “unification” of the city.

Koerner’s violent arrest by Israeli police was captured on video and has been viewed by a quarter of a million persons at the time of publication.

In the video, Koerner, wearing a the traditional checkered Palestinian kuffiyeh scarf and a Jewish kippah (skullcap) with a small Palestinian flag pin, identifies himself as a Jewish American and displays his US passport. “My government is responsible and I’m here to say not in my name and not in the name of US citizens,” he says.

The video then shows him being pulled from a crowd and violently arrested by Israeli police, who push him to the ground. One officer is seen putting his knee on Koerner’s neck. He is then roughly forced into a police truck.

Koerner recounts his arrest on his blog, Stronger Than Slavery, where he writes: “Throughout the whole affair, the only thing audible coming from the policemen was a constant stream of curses words, ‘motherfucker,’ ‘piece of shit,’ etc., which was to me a ringing confirmation of how infuriated and threatened they were by a 19-year-old wearing a kippah and a keffiyeh standing with the Palestinians.”

The Electronic Intifada editor Maureen Clare Murphy, who blogged about Koerner’s arrest last week, interviewed the young American activist upon his return to the United States and shortly after his release from Israeli detention. Koerner discusses his activism and what happened after his arrest. When asked whether he would pursue legal measures to protest his arrest, Koerner said that his family are considering their options.

Maureen Clare Murphy: What brought you to Palestine?

Lucas Koerner: I’ve been an activist on a number of fronts for a long time and in particular Palestine solidarity for past three years or so. And for the past three or four years I’ve always wanted to go, I’ve never had the opportunity, it never came together. Finally someone told me about Interfaith Peace Builders, I applied for a scholarship, they gave me a scholarship and then I decided to go [on one of their delegations]. My main motivation was that being an activist, you can know all the facts, you can have all the graphs, all the tables, all the presentations, but when it comes down to it, none of that is a substitution for first-hand empirical experience of actually going and seeing it for yourself. That was the primary motivation.

I was there for eleven days, however I was supposed to stay for five weeks.

MCM: Have you been active in the solidarity movement in the US?

LK: I live in Philadelphia during the summer but I go to school in Boston. When I was in high school in Philadelphia I was involved with American Jews for Just Peace – Philadelphia. In my high school I started something of a Palestinian solidarity-type group or anti-war group. It wasn’t much of a group but we tried our best to show films, try to do whatever we could. I was also in touch with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

MCM: How did you get involved in solidarity with Palestine?

LK: I’ve been involved tenuously in anti-war activism around Iraq and Afghanistan since I was in 9th grade, since I was 15; I went to my first demonstration with my dad … [Palestine has] always been a fixture my political consciousness but it was really Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza massacre of late ‘08 early ‘09, that prompted me and compelled me beyond anything else to take on this work as my primary calling. I just couldn’t stay silent any longer.

MCM: Why were you protesting the day you were arrested?

LK: It wasn’t originally a protest at all or demonstration. Initially my friends and I, or my fellow delegates on our trip, were going down to watch the march and basically we were just holding up peace signs, we had our kuffiyehs on. We basically tried to make a statement as Americans that in the aftermath of Netanyahu’s speech before Congress and Obama’s speech before AIPAC, that we do not endorse Israel’s occupation and all of the concomitant violations of international law and injustices that go with it.

We had just came back from Hebron [in the occupied West Bank] earlier that day. It was really what we saw in Hebron — the utter segregation that the city has fallen under with the occupation, the division of the city into basically two zones — the center of the city is basically off limits to the [Palestinian] residents of the city. It’s ground zero of the occupation as many regard it, particularly in terms of settler brutality, and the absolute complicity of the IDF [Israeli military]. But seeing that and returning on Jerusalem Day to our hotel in East Jerusalem, and seeing these miles and miles of white and blue and all of these people jubilantly celebrating the conquest of East Jerusalem, celebrating the occupation in East Jerusalem, the chutzpah of all, that really affected us all and that is what prompted us to do what we did.

MCM: What was it like in Israeli detention?

LK: I was detained for almost two days. I was taken to a police station right afterwards, where I was held for about four hours before I saw a lawyer. I was threatened numerous times with being tased and being put to sleep by various weapons they had. I continually demanded my lawyer and for my persistence they threatened me numerous times. I was then taken to prison where I spent the night in the ER; the doctor determined I had to go there because of my injures, though it was nothing serious beyond superficial wounds. The next day I was taken to court where I was put under house arrest. However the prosecution appealed that decision within the hour and the district court judge stayed the decision, so I had to stay the night in the Russian Compound, the Israeli jail.

What struck me most about my time in prison is that it is a reflection of the rest of Israeli society in that it’s completely segregated. I was placed against my will in the Jewish cell. I asked to be put in the Arab cell. The Jewish cell conditions weren’t bad at all; it was still jail, but it was bearable. I did see the Arab cell or at least one of the Arab cells and the conditions there were absolutely abominable. … We had furniture, we had beds of some sort, we had a clean bathroom. They had nothing. Just a bench and an open toilet. The conditions were horrible. That’s what struck me most.

MCM: Did you get any support from the US consulate?

I received no support from the US consulate. My friends and family had contacted them and, from what I heard, they basically said that this happens a lot and there’s nothing [they] can do. They didn’t even come to my trials.

[The trials were] all done in Hebrew. It was lucky that I had a local activist there who could translate for me. The Israeli judicial system is very strange in that you can’t have a lawyer while being questioned. I was not allowed to have a lawyer present while being questioned and there are no laws within Israel that prevent you from being almost indefinitely detained before being charged. I was never formally charged but I was detained for two days.

Certainly my situation pales in comparison to that faced by Palestinian activists who face administrative detention — which is six months or more, as many as 18 months often — without being charged with anything. This is the legal structure of occupation and I had a very small dose of it. In my trial I was given house arrest, though the police wanted to hold me for a week without charging me with everything — and that was certainly a possibility, and why I had to come home.

MCM: What kind of reaction have you seen since you’ve been arrested?

LK: The reaction that I’ve received so far from the volume of Facebook messages and messages to my blog have been overwhelmingly positive, just great displays of love and solidarity which I greatly appreciate, though there’s hate mail starting to trickle in. The video has reached such a wide audience primarily because of my privileged position as an American Jew. I think that this kind of injustice which was perpetrated against me would make headlines and provoke such a visceral response. But my treatment, again, was moderate by the standards faced by Israeli and Palestinian activists in [the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood] Sheikh Jarrah and in a weekly basis in [the West Bank villages] Biln or Nilin, and their videos are only seen by a few hundred people. It’s the fact that I’m an American Jew that [the video] has seen such a wide audience.

MCM: What are your next plans for your solidarity work?

LK: I’m planning on doing some activism with some outfits in Philadelphia — American Jews for Just Peace, other groups. When I return to Boston in the fall I will continue my work as a leader of Tufts Students of Justice in Palestine and we do a lot of work with other SJP chapters throughout the city and CODEPINK and American Jews for Peace – Boston. I just hope to be able to share my experiences, not just my arrest, but everything else I saw prior to my arrest, in as wide a forum as I can.

*Maureen Clare Murphy is managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and an activist based in Chicago.

See the video here if you haven’t already….



Our Associate, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, speaks of his most recent arrest in the interview below. His ‘crime’, as was in previous incidents, he is a Palestinian.
“Whether one uses armed struggle or nonviolence, the aim has to be to liberate oneself. Nobody engages in these things because they love to do these things. My own personal judgment is that the moral issue must enter into the equation. Of course, other people may have a different judgment. And while I respect their backgrounds, I also respectfully may disagree with the tools used.”

Interview: Mazin Qumsiyeh on popular resistance and breaking the spell of fear

David Cronin*

Israeli forces have repeatedly harassed and detained Mazin Qumsiyeh during protests against the wall and occupation in al-Walaja village.

In his latest book Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, Mazin Qumsiyeh counters the conventional wisdom promoted by the Israeli propaganda machine and the mainstream Western media, which conflates the Palestinian struggle against occupation with “terrorism.” Qumsiyeh, a former professor of genetics who taught at Yale and Duke universities, returned to his native village of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem in the occupied West three years ago. He currently blogs at Popular Resistance. The Electronic Intifada contributor David Cronin interviewed Qumsiyeh about his new book and activism.

David Cronin: You were arrested in May in the West Bank village of al-Walaja. I’ve seen a video on YouTube, in which — a moment before the arrest — you are pleading with Israeli soldiers not to use violence against peaceful protesters. What were the circumstances that led you to make that appeal?

Mazin Qumsiyeh: I saw a group of soldiers run up a hill and grab a young guy and start beating him. They were using pepper spray against his head and mouth, even though he didn’t do anything. I walked a few steps so that I was close to him, then they pushed me down.

The accusation that was leveled against me was that I had participated in an illegal demonstration. But it was the presence of soldiers there that was illegal, not the presence of people in the village of al-Walaja.

DC: What happened after your arrest?

MQ: For 24 hours, I was taken to various detention facilities in different places. It was 24 hours of harassment and without any sleep. That was the biggest part of it. When I finally got to the actual prison [Ofer], the prison itself was not that bad in terms of treatment. They tried to get me to sign a paper saying I was not mistreated. I said: “I’m not signing any papers. Go to hell.”

DC: How many times have you been arrested?

MQ: It depends how you define “arrested.” Israel can hold you for hours and hours, days and days, without [charging] you. I have been arrested [and] charged three times. In terms of detention [I have been held], maybe 10 or 12 times.

It has always been for short periods of two days, things like that. When I get arrested, the Israeli government gets thousands of letters, hundreds of inquiries. Palestinian young people, who don’t have the kind of international network that I have, tend to be mistreated more and can be kept in administrative detention for months.

DC: After living in the United States for 27 years, you returned to Palestine three years ago. Why did you decide to go home?

MQ: It was a question of where I could be the most useful [to the Palestinian struggle]. Up to three years ago, I felt I could be more useful outside Palestine. Then, my feeling was that I could be more useful in Palestine. It was a subjective feeling, rather than an objective or scientific feeling.

DC: In your latest book, you explain how both nonviolent resistance and armed struggle involve sacrifice and that neither is risk-free. You appear, though, to have a preference for nonviolent resistance. Can you explain why?

MQ: Whether one uses armed struggle or nonviolence, the aim has to be to liberate oneself. Nobody engages in these things because they love to do these things. My own personal judgment is that the moral issue must enter into the equation. Of course, other people may have a different judgment. And while I respect their backgrounds, I also respectfully may disagree with the tools used.

DC: You have documented how the history of Palestinian resistance has been overwhelmingly nonviolent. What do you say, then, to those Western journalists who tend to regard Palestinian resistance as synonymous with suicide bombing?

MQ: Every anti-colonial struggle, every uprising has been a mixed bag. In South Africa, there were incidents where blacks engaged in horrific acts as individual human beings. But to characterize the Soweto Uprising by saying it was violent and involved “necklacing” [placing tires around the necks of suspected informers and burning them alive] is wrong and crude and reprehensible. You cannot make such generalizations.

DC: You have argued that Jesus Christ may have been the first Palestinian political martyr. Why do you say that?

MQ: Jesus Christ was born in a land called Palestine. He spoke Aramaic, which predated Arabic. He was certainly killed because of his nonviolent resistance.

DC: What is your message, then, to Christian Zionists?

MQ: They must be reading a different Bible to the one I’m reading. Even the Old Testament says the promise of a good life has to do with a moral position, with obeying God and obeying the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill.”

If you do something horrible, how are you deserving of a piece of land? That is totally a contradiction of the sense of morality and justice, that religion is supposed to be about. Is it Judaism to use white phosphorous on unarmed civilians or to kill hundreds of them?

Christian Zionism is an oxymoron. You cannot be a Zionist and a Christian at the same time, in my humble opinion.

DC: You have called the diplomatic initiative to have the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state this coming September dangerous. Please explain.

MQ: Activists and human rights defenders around the world should be very wary of the so-called September initiative. The idea of recognizing a Palestinian state on 1967 borders is fine if it is accompanied with a declaration recognizing the rights of Palestinians. But there is no mention of rights in the way it is being discussed at the moment.

Nowhere in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does it say that Palestinians have a right to raise a particular flag. But it does say we have the right to free movement, we have the right to land, we have the right to be treated equally.

DC: You have outlined parallels between how the issue of Palestinian statehood is being handled and the behavior of the South African government during the apartheid era. In particular, you have drawn an analogy to the type of Palestinian state now being envisaged with the supposedly self-governing Bantustans that the apartheid government established for blacks in parts of South Africa and South West Africa. Can you summarize those parallels?

MQ: Of course, every historical situation is unique but we do have similarities with apartheid South Africa. South Africa said “we do want to recognize South African Bantustans as states” and even approached the United Nations and said “we recognize the Bantustans as states.” For the same reasons, [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu has said “fine, we can have a Palestinian state under certain conditions.”

What the West might be doing is aiding and abetting the notion of apartheid, putting [the Palestinian] people in Bantustans and saying “we recognize you as a state but without the rights to free movement, resources, land, any basic rights.”

DC: What’s the most shocking thing you have seen?

MQ:: The most shocking thing that one cannot ever get accustomed to is the crude racism, the sense of superiority the Zionists have over us. That is always the root of the problem, the sense that God has chosen them and that they have the rights to the land. From this emanates lots of things: land confiscations, the wall, ill-treatment of prisoners.

DC: What role should people of conscience internationally play in resisting the occupation?

MQ: Obviously, Western governments are colluding with Zionism. They have been partners in this crime against humanity going back to the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Balfour Declaration [early twentieth century decisions by Britain and France on carving up the Middle East and endorsing Zionist colonization, respectively]. And fully-fledged partners, not merely puppets.

Howard Zinn said “you can’t be neutral on a moving train.” So for the public in Australia or America, being neutral means literally colluding with the occupiers. They have to chose: collude with war crimes or get off the train and engage at a human level to correct this.

One of the first duties of activists is to speak truth to power. This is always repeated ad nauseam in the human rights community, so go do it. People need to break the spell of fear. Once they believe in their own hearts they can do things, then nothing is impossible. That is what the Egyptian people taught us in Tahrir Square.

*David Cronin’s book Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation is published by Pluto Press.




The movement has three demands: an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and the dismantling of the separation barrier, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. To meet these goals, the BDS movement advocates boycotting Israeli products and institutions, divesting from companies profiting from the occupation and government sanctions on Israel.

Boycott Israel Movement Creates ‘Sea Change’: An Interview with Palestinian Human Rights Activist Omar Barghouti

By Alex Kane
CREDIT: Leo Garcia

CREDIT: Leo Garcia
Modeled on the international campaign of economic and political pressure that helped bring an end to South African apartheid nearly two decades ago, the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories has notched notable victories of late.

Achievements include the announcement in April that the flagship London outlet of Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics company that reportedly manufactures its products in an illegal West Bank settlement, is losing its lease in response to years of protest. In February, legendary folk singer Pete Seeger joined a roster of artists honoring the boycott of Israel, including Elvis Costello, Dustin Hoffman, Gil Scott-Heron, Johnny Depp and the Pixies.

Defenders of Israel dismiss these victories as minor irritants, but the government has reacted with alarm. In February the Knesset gave initial approval to a bill criminalizing advocacy of BDS. Israeli commentators, including the influential Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute, have called the BDS movement a “strategic threat” to the state of Israel. And the United States, Israel’s patron, has joined the chorus of critics. “When academics from Israel are boycotted — this is not objecting to a policy — this is anti-Semitism,” Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s envoy on combating anti-Semitism, said in an April 2 speech.

Rosenthal’s statement came right after the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem approved a long-delayed visa for Omar Barghouti, a leading figure in the BDS movement. Author of the new book, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, Barghouti was forced to postpone a tour of U.S. college campuses after his visa was held up for four months. In response an international campaign bombarded the consulate with phone calls and emails.

The attempt at scuttling Barghouti’s tour comes as no surprise in the context of increased U.S. and Israeli government scrutiny of the BDS movement’s growing popularity. Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal refers to Barghouti as “one of the BDS movement’s most effective strategists and promoters.”

I met up with Barghouti after his publisher, Haymarket Books, rescheduled his tour for April. Sitting in a crowded coffee shop in Manhattan, Barghouti talked about building on his experience as an anti-apartheid campaigner by focusing his attention on U.S. college campuses. “When I was in the anti-apartheid movement, we knew that we won when Columbia, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton divested. That was the beginning of the end for the apartheid system in South Africa.”

Barghouti describes his book as “about a movement that’s still growing very rapidly, in fact, and changing and transforming and gaining many more supporters. [The book is] taking stock of the main intellectual basis for the movement, the main achievements, the main challenges and where we go forward from here.”

The movement has three demands: an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and the dismantling of the separation barrier, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. To meet these goals, the BDS movement advocates boycotting Israeli products and institutions, divesting from companies profiting from the occupation and government sanctions on Israel.

Critics of BDS allege that the movement seeks to “delegitimize” Israel. Barghouti dismisses such charges: “It’s at best hypocritical, unfounded and totally baseless. In the anti-apartheid movement in the South African days — which I was a part of — no one claimed that opposing apartheid in South Africa was delegitimizing South Africans, Afrikaners, whites, English South Africans. It was seen as delegitimizing apartheid, as it was …. We’re delegitimizing occupation, apartheid and denial of rights. We’re not delegitimizing any people as such.”

It’s clear from the responses of powerful governments that the BDS movement is chipping away at key bastions of support for Israel in the West — exactly the movement’s goal, says Barghouti. “I think we’ve already won the battle for hearts and minds in many places in the West, especially in Western Europe. … Recent polls show Europeans view Israel, together with North Korea, Iran and Pakistan, as the most important threats to world peace. So, Israel is down there in that league, and the BDS movement has played a key role.”

But in the United States the stakes are even higher. Barghouti says, “It’s too early to mention a real, substantial shift in the [mainstream] discourse in the U.S. on the Palestinian-Israeli colonial conflict,” but at the grassroots level and on college campuses there is “a sea change in terms of the discourse.”

For example, New York University’s Students for Justice in Palestine just kicked off a divestment campaign on their campus, and students at the University of Arizona have recently launched a similar effort.

The BDS movement in the United States is up against powerful forces. At the urging of the Israeli government, organizations such as the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs have pledged to spend $6 million in the next three years to combat BDS initiatives. Nonetheless, left-wing Jewish groups such as the Zionist group Meretz USA have begun to embrace the logic of boycott. A prime example is Jewish Voice for Peace, which is currently leading a campaign to pressure the TIAA-CREF retirement fund to drop holdings from companies that profit from the occupation.

“Many Jewish groups who were previously sitting on the fence before the Israeli massacre in Gaza took sides in support of Palestinian rights after Gaza. Increasingly, they’re moving in the direction of BDS,” says Barghouti.

Some activists have argued that the BDS movement may now also benefit from the Arab uprisings, which have captivated and inspired many Americans, as seen by the union protests in Wisconsin.

“Most of the Arab uprisings give credit to the Palestinian intifada, the first intifada, as the main inspiration for their revolutions. In turn, we are very inspired by the peoples’ revolutions, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. Most importantly, there’s been a drastic, irreversible transformation in the balance of powers after the Egyptian revolution,” Barghouti says.

Written FOR


Interview with the late Juliano Mer-Khamis: “We are freedom fighters”
Maryam Monalisa Gharavi*

A portrait of Juliano Mer-Khamis hangs outside the Freedom Theatre where he was killed one day earlier. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

Actor-director Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead by a masked gunman yesterday outside the Freedom Theatre that he co-founded in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Jenin in 2006. Born in Nazareth in 1958 to Saliba Khamis, a Palestinian Christian leader of the Israeli Communist Party, and Arna Mer, an Israeli Jewish dramatist, Juliano memorably described himself as “100 percent Palestinian, and 100 percent Jewish.” 

Julian had tried to get his film Arna’s Children, (presented below) which documents his mother’s extraordinary transformation from a young settler in 1948 to a drama teacher in the Jenin refugee camp, shown widely. As he discusses in the previously unpublished interview which follows, the film was met with little success the first time. In 2006, he returned as indefatigably as ever, and I met him for the first time at a screening of his film at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Despite the scarce number of people in attendance that night (which Juliano loudly called attention to), one grasped the general astonishment that accompanied viewing this rare and unforgettable work. Juliano paced the room after the film, a passionate cadence rising in his voice as he described the devastations of occupation and the hazards of filmmaking.

Though Arna’s Children is a documentary, the time markers of the film relegate it closer to a work of fiction. Like other works of art centered on the loss of historic Palestine, most notably the characters who return to their pre-1948 homes in Ghassan Kanafani’s Returning to Haifa, Juliano constructed a narrative that is almost impossible to recreate or imagine from any other point of view.

In one shot of the film, the sequencing of events binds a shot of Juliano alongside his mother’s wrapped body at a hospital with a subsequent shot of the Israeli army bulldozing Arna’s Stone Theatre in April 2002. The Stone Theatre was part of Arna’s larger cultural project, Care and Learning, founded to allow the children of Jenin — faced with a crushing and seemingly inescapable military occupation — a creative outlet for their chronic trauma. The theater was leveled by the Israeli incursion, which Juliano captured on film. The historical date of both these events align almost miraculously, but the montages of destruction — his mother’s corpse and the ruins of the beloved theatre — are superimposed as mutually ravaged bodies.

I interviewed Juliano at Boston’s South Station on 4 April 2006 just before he caught a train to the New York screening — exactly five years before he was killed just outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, the locus of his life’s most notable work.

Juliano’s resume as an actor is well-documented, and the details of his biography are sure to be revisited in the aftermath of his murder. It was his cinematic and personal relationship to the refugee camp in Jenin and his complex relationship to Israel that most concerned us in this conversation.

Juliano’s tone in this interview will be familiar to all who knew him: brutally honest, sardonic and always with an unflinching eye toward the original historic pitfalls of Israel and the Palestinians. He candidly discusses the social engineering of Israeli society, his mother’s visionary work in Jenin and his own path from paratrooper to filmmaker/activist. My hope is that it is read as a fragment of discourse alongside the rest of his film and activism work, which together formed the unlikely and uncompromising triumph of art, what artist Paul Chan has called “freedom without force.”

The following is an excerpt from my 2006 interview with Juliano Mer-Khamis.

Maryam Monalist Gharavi: How long was Arna’s Children banned in Israel?


Juliano Mer-Khamis at the opening of the Freedom Theatre’s We Won’t Forget Lebanon 2006, January 2007. (Tess Scheflan/ActiveStills)
Juliano Mer-Khamis: It was not really banned. It was silenced. Journalists who wanted to write about the film could not get through the editorial decisions. There were two TV programs made about the film and cancelled at the last moment. We could not find a distributor in Israel for the film or cinemas to screen it. There were certain moments when some critics and journalists used the film as an outlet for their own frustrations, which were imposed on them by censorship and by directing or imposing a very certain discourse on the media by the government. I’m talking about issuing papers, in which were written ‘words you can use and cannot use,’ ‘certain questions you are not allowed to ask’ and the way you [are allowed to] ask those questions. If you speak to a Palestinian or to the military you have to change your expressions and the terms you use. So this outlet gave them the courage, I believe, to write, and since then they legitimized the film in Israel and it was screened all over the country. 

MMG: Arna gave a poignant speech upon accepting the Right Livelihood Award at the Swedish parliament. She said that as Rosh Pina [the Israeli settlement where she lived following the Palestinian Nakba of 1948] grew and developed, the nearby Arab village al-Jauna was “erased from the face of the earth,” its Palestinian inhabitants becoming refugees, along with 700,000 others, “through sheer robbery and forced displacement.” What do you think stops other Israelis from coming to the same conclusion as your mother?

JMK: That’s a very interesting question. I’ll give you just the framework in which I can analyze this process of history that enabled Israel to confiscate, to settle and to colonize Palestine and not go through the path my mother chose. The reasons are many but the main reason you must understand is that since the Zionist movement was created, it manipulated the history of the Jews, especially the Holocaust period, and used forces around it to create one of the most successful colonies in Palestine. And since then, the victim philosophy or victim theory or victim policy of Jews and Israelis used all means and all aspects in their history since the pogroms — what they call the persecutions in Russia during the Czar period — till the announcement of hundreds of suicide warnings coming to Israel. From that to here, we see a policy of fear, a ghetto mentality, a policy that distracts the average Israeli from the truth. Frightened and victimized people can justify any crime they do and it enables them to live with their conscience in a very comfortable way like most of the Israelis. Once you are a victim, it’s very easy to create dehumanization and demonization of the other, and this is the success of the first Israeli propaganda in the Zionist movement.

MMG: In the scene of your mother’s body at the mortuary, you comment somewhat half-heartedly that the only place that would bury her was the kibbutz. What happened after she died?

JMK: My mother could not be buried because she refused to be buried in a religious ceremony or funeral. Israel is not a democracy; it’s a theocracy. The religion is not separated from the state so all issues concerning the privacy of life — marriage, burial and many other aspects — are controlled by the religious authorities, so you cannot be buried in a civilian funeral. The only way to do it is buy a piece of land in some kibbutzim, which refused to sell us a piece of land because of the politics of my mother. It’s not a very popular thing in a civilian, non-religious way. And then I had to take the coffin home. And it stayed in my house for three days and I could not find a place to bury her. So I announced in a press conference that she was going to be buried in the garden of my house. There was a big scandal, police came, a lot of TV and media [came], violent warnings were issued against me. There were big demonstrations around the house, till I got a phone call from friends from a kibbutz, Ramot Menashe, who are from the left side of the map, and they came from Argentina. Nice Zionist Israelis, maybe post-Zionist. They offered a piece of land there. And the funny thing is that while we were looking for a place to bury my mother, there were discussions in Jenin to offer me to bring her for burial there, in the shahid’s [martyr’s] graveyard. They told me there was one Fatah leader, who was humorously saying, “Well, guys, look, it’s an honor to have Arna with us here, a great honor, the only thing is maybe in about fifty years’ time some Jewish archaeologists will come here and say there are some Jewish bones here and they’re going to confiscate the land of Jenin.” [Laughs] They do it. Even if they find the Jewish bones of a dog, they take the place. That’s the place they do it. Every place they confiscate they find the bones of a Jew and that’s how they justify the ownership of the land, by finding bones.

MMG: There was a recent, widely-publicized Haaretz poll that 68 percent of Israelis would not live in the same building as an Arab.

JMK: I have it here.

MMG: So the logic runs that if you don’t want to live next to a Palestinian, why be buried next to one?

JMK: Yeah. And almost 50 percent of Israelis think the Arabs inside the ’48 [boundary], inside Israel, are a [demographic] and security threat. These are their neighbors, so imagine what kind of relationships, imagine what kind of democracy this is.

MMG: I thought one of the most important scenes in the film occurred when Alaa’s house, as well as Ashraf’s [two of Arna’s theatre students in the film], had been destroyed in Jenin, and your mother asks them to express their anger, even to hit her. You end up with this tension, as elsewhere in the film, of a tragicomedy. You find the audience laughing through their teeth.

JMK: [Arna] was trained as a psychodramatist. She was successful at it.

MMG: How would you respond to pro-Zionists watching your film, that despite your mother’s “rehabilitation of the Arab mind,” the child actors become “terrorists?”

JMK: It’s a very sick question, not yours, but the pro-Zionist attitude that thinks the problem of violence is the violence of children and not the violence of the Israeli occupation and it’s exactly to turn the pyramid upside down again, and I mean to use the propaganda to turn the question [upside down]. The question is not about the Israeli soldiers’ violence. You don’t have to heal the children in Jenin. We didn’t try to heal their violence.

We tried to challenge it into more productive ways. And more productive ways are not an alternative to resistance. What we were doing in the theatre is not trying to be a replacement or an alternative to the resistance of the Palestinians in the struggle for liberation. Just the opposite. This must be clear. I know it’s not good for fundraising, because I’m not a social worker, I’m not a good Jew going to help the Arabs, and I’m not a philanthropic Palestinian who comes to feed the poor. We are joining, by all means, the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people, which is our liberation struggle. Everybody who is connected to this project says that he feels that he is also occupied by the Zionist movement, by the military regime of Israel, and by its policy. Either he lives in Jenin, or in Haifa, or in Tel Aviv. Nobody joined this project to heal. We’re not healers. We’re not good Christians. We are freedom fighters.

MMG: The film was cancelled in many cities?

JMK: Yeah, the screenings of it. It was sold, but not broadcast and also in Israel in many places. I don’t know, this is for you to judge, but I believe that people will try to boycott or create difficulties to screen this film. Of course, that’s why we’re pushing it so hard, trying to do it by ourselves. But just to clarify the theatre

, joining the Palestinian intifada, by our definition: we believe that the strongest struggle today should be cultural, moral. This must be clear. We are not teaching the boys and the girls how to use arms or how to create explosives, but we expose them to discourse of liberation, of liberty. We expose them to art, culture, music — which I believe can create better people for the future, and I hope that some of them, some of our friends in Jenin, will lead … and continue the resistance against the occupation through this project, through this theatre.

MMG: Israeli director Yehuda “Judd” Ne’eman says he came to filmmaking “through the slaughterhouse of modern warfare.” He says he was disillusioned by art in the face of war atrocities, but, I’m quoting, “When the situation in my country deteriorates politically, when my body deteriorates physically, it’s high time to believe in art.” Is that different or similar to your own mission across political and artistic fault lines?

JMK: The same aspects and same starting points apply for me. Art, in our case, can combine and generate and mobilize other aspects of resistance. All I care about is resistance. I’m not doing art for the sake of art. I don’t believe in art for the sake of art. I think art can generate and motivate and combine and create a universal, liberated discourse. This is my concern about art. On the other side there is the therapeutic level, and the therapeutic level is not to heal. This is very important if you can point it out — it’s not to heal anybody from his violence. It’s to create an awareness they can use in the right way. Not against themselves.

MMG: You served in the Israeli army but quit after you were asked to stop your father’s Palestinian relatives at a military checkpoint. How significant was that event as a turning point in your political and even artistic formation?

JMK: It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But I was boiling since I tried to disguise myself. The outfit could not fit, you see? I could not fit the outfit. And it blew up in my face that certain day in the checkpoint, but I was boiling for years.

MMG: How long did you serve?

JMK: I served for one and a half years, but in a very intensive special forces unit [the Paratroopers Brigade]. I don’t regret it, I must be honest. First of all, from the practical side, it saved my life many times during this theatre-making and the film. I know all aspects of the Israeli army, I speak Hebrew, I know the language, I know how to deal with them. It’s like combat training for life. And on the other hand, I penetrated the deepest sources of the Israeli propaganda, the smallest cells of Israeli society, which is fertilized in the army. The army in Israel is the essence of life, the army in Israel is the discourse of life, the army in Israeli is the foundation of the society. Once you penetrate this and you understand the dynamics, you can oppose and create and use it for yourself.

*Maryam Monalisa Gharavi has contributed poetry and critical writing to various publications. Her films have been screened at Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Harvard Film Archive, Pacific Film Archive and elsewhere. She is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature and Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University.

Written FOR


Following is a video interview with Kris Petersen. Kris was involved in a battle less than a month ago with Brooklyn College, a battle that he won ….  for all of us!


“It’s a reimagining of the middle east, what is possible,” says poet Remi Kanazi of the revolution in Egypt.

What does regime change mean for the Palestinian people? And what effect will the wave of civil rights protests and activism across Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, Iran and Libya have?

Presented BY


He stressed that Suleiman was a CIA/Mossad agent who was willing to do anything for a price

Mamdouh Habib interview on new US/Israeli Egyptian pet Omar Suleiman

By Antony Loewenstein

Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured and tortured in the years after September 11 in both Egypt and Guantanamo Bay.

For years, “war on terror” supporters defamed Habib and claimed he was lying about his allegations of mistreatment. However last year in just one case against the Australian Murdoch press, he won a small victory:

The courts have delivered another win to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib, declaring that he was defamed by News Ltd columnist Piers Akerman, paving the way for a hefty payout.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned a 2008 judgment in favour of Mr Akerman’s publisher Nationwide News and yesterday ordered them to pay Mr Habib’s legal costs in the five-year-old battle.

It was the second win for Mr Habib in a month after the full court of the Federal Court upheld an appeal in his mammoth compensation case against the federal government for allegedly aiding and abetting his torture by foreign agents.

Another hearing will now be held to determine what damages he will receive for the 2005 article in The Daily Telegraph and other News Ltd newspapers, headlined ”Mr Habib, it’s time to tell the full story”.

Today, with the Egyptian uprisings in full swing, the man tapped by the US, Israel and the West to lead the country, Omar Suleiman, was one of Habib’s torturers and there is intense scrutiny of who this man truly is.

I interviewed Habib exclusively tonight in Sydney about Suleiman, his calls for the torturer-in-chief to be charged, his knowledge about all the figures complicit in his rendition and his support for the Egyptian protests. He stressed that Suleiman was a CIA/Mossad agent who was willing to do anything for a price:

I reviewed Habib’s book, My Story, in 2008 for the Sydney Morning Herald and it tells a powerful story. The extracts below are all the references to Suleiman:


The guard quickly told me that the very big boss was coming to talk to me, and that I must be well behaved and co-operate. Everyone was nervous. I have since found out that the boss was Omar Suleiman, head of all Egyptian security. He was known for personally supervising the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and sending reports to the CIA. In the beginning, he was often present during my interrogations. He must have thought that he had a big fish when I was sent to him by the Americans and Australians.

I was sitting in a chair, hooded, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. He came up to me. His voice was deep and rough. He spoke to me in Egyptian and English. He said, “Listen, you don’t know who I am, but I am the one who has your life in his hands. Every single person in this building has his life in my hands. I just make the decision.”

I said, “I hope your decision is that you make me die straight away.”

“No, I don’t want you to die now. I want you to die slowly.” He went on, “I can’t stay with you; my time is too valuable to stay here. You only have me to save you. I’m your saviour. You have to tell me everything, if you want to be saved. What do you say?”

“I have nothing to tell you.”

“You think I can’t destroy you just like that?” He clapped his hands together.

“I don’t know”. I was feeling confused. Everything was unreal.

“If God came down and tried to take you by the hand, I would not let him. You are under my control. Let me show you something that will convince you.”

The guard then guided me out of the room and through an area where I could see, from below the blindfold, the trunks of palm trees. We then went through another door back inside, and descended some steps. We entered a room. They sat me down.

“Now you are going to tell me that you planned a terrorist attack”, Suleiman persisted.

“I haven’t planned any attacks.”

“I give you my word that you will be a rich man if you tell me you have been planning attacks. Don’t you trust me?” he asked.

“I don’t trust anyone”, I replied.

Immediately he slapped me hard across the face and knocked off the blindfold; I clearly saw his face.

“That’s it. That’s it. I don’t want to see this man again until he co-operates and tells me he’s been planning a terrorist attack! he yelled at the others in the room, then stormed out.

The guard came up to me, upset that I hadn’t co-operated.

I said to him, “You have to let me go soon; it’s nearly 48 hours.”

He looked at me, surprised, and asked, “How long do you think you’ve been here?”

“A day”, I replied.

“Man, you’ve been here for more than a week.”

They then took me to another room, where they tortured me relentlessly, stripping me naked and applying electric shocks everywhere on my body. The next thing I remember was seeing the general again. He came into the room with a man from Turkistan; he was a big man but was stooped over, because his hands were chained to the shackles of his feet, preventing him from standing upright.

“This guy is no use to us anymore. This is what is going to happen to you. We’ve had him for one hour, and this is what happens.”

Suddenly, a guy they called Hamish, which means snake, came at the poor man from behind and gave him a terrible karate kick that sent him crashing across the room. A guard went over to shake him, but he didn’t respond. Turning to the general, the guard said, “Basha, I think he’s dead.”

“Throw him away then. Let the dogs have him.”

They dragged the dead man out.

“What do you think of that?” asked the general, staring into my face.

“At least he can rest now”, I replied.

Then they brought another man in. This man, I think, was from Europe – his exclamations of pain didn’t sound like those of someone from the Middle East. He was in a terrible state. The guard came in with a machine and started to wire up the guy to it. They told the poor man that they were going to give him a full electric shock, measuring ten on the scale. Before they even turned the machine on, the man started to gasp and then slumped in the chair. I think he died of a heart attack.

The general said that there was one more person I had to see. “This person will make you see that we can keep you here for as long as we want, all of your life, if we choose.”

There was a window in the room, covered by a curtain. The general drew back a curtain, and I saw the top half of a very sick, thin man. He was sitting on a chair on the other side of the glass, facing me.

“You know this guy?” the general asked.

“No”, I replied.

“That’s strange – he’s your friend from Australia.”

I looked again, and was horrified to see that it was Mohammed Abbas, a man I had known in Australia who had worked for Telstra [Australian telecommunications company]. He had travelled to Egypt in 1999, and had never been seen again.

“He is going to be your neighbour for the rest of your life.”

It was then that I knew I was in Egypt, without a doubt. They then took Abbas away and closed the curtain.


After the first interrogation with Suleiman, I believed the Egyptians weren’t interested in where I had been; they only wanted me to confess to being a terrorist and having plotted terrorist attacks so they could sell the information to the United States and Australia. I decided then that I wouldn’t answer questions or explain anything; but, as a consequence, I was badly tortured in Egypt.


The Egyptians didn’t like Maha [Habib’s wife] at all. One day, I overheard Omar Suleiman saying to someone, “I would love to bring Maha here.” I have no idea when this was but the memory of these few words is very vivid in my mind. Fortunately, though, Suleiman could never have gotten hold of Maha, because she is Lebanese born and an Australian citizen. Suleiman, before my release from Egypt, often threatened that he would get me back if I ever said anything bad about Egypt.

After years of slamming Habib’s claims of torture, the Australian government has recently implicitly acknowledged the validity of his allegations:

Last December 17 in Sydney, officers representing the federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland signed a secret deal with former terror suspect Mamdouh Habib.

It featured an undisclosed compensation payout in return for Habib dropping his long-running civil suit claiming commonwealth complicity in his 2001 arrest, rendition, detention and torture in Pakistan, Egypt and Guantanamo Bay.

The secrecy clause preventing details of the deal being made public prolonged a decade-long cover-up of exactly what the Australian government and its officers knew about Habib’s CIA rendition to Egypt, where he was held in barbarous conditions and tortured for seven months, before being transferred to Cuba. Since Habib returned to Australia in January 2005, successive governments and the security agencies have denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, this ugly episode.

The commonwealth has used every legal device at its disposal to keep the sordid details under wraps, routinely frustrating media and legal efforts to get to the truth, in the name of national security.

In 2007 a judge in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal lashed out at ASIO’s repeated refusal to release information on Habib, asking: “Why should we take your word for it when again and again we find things that are said to be the subject of national security concerns turn out not to be? I mean it looks like an easy way out for ASIO: when in doubt, just say ‘national security’.”

The hush-hush settlement seemed set to stamp the Habib case closed for good. But with the ink on it hardly dry, startling claims have emerged about Australia’s connivance in the brutal maltreatment of one of its citizens.

The new testimony is in the form of witness statements obtained by Habib and tendered to commonwealth lawyers – but not until now made public – which apparently precipitated the December deal.

These accounts have not been tested in court but, if true, they provide damning evidence of Australia’s collusion, and expose as lies the repeated insistence that Australia had no knowledge of or involvement in Habib’s ordeal.

A decade after the event, it is now possible to piece together the sorry story of Australia’s treatment of Habib, based on court testimony, witness statements, government documents released from court files and under freedom of information, and insider accounts. It is a disturbing tale.

Habib was arrested in Pakistan days after the September 11 attacks on the US. He has always maintained he was there to look at relocating his family, while Australian investigators claim he had been in an al-Qa’ida training camp, which Habib still denies.

Either way, he was of keen interest to the authorities, particularly the CIA, because of his acquaintance with the militants who carried out the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993.

Australian officials visited Habib, along with FBI and CIA agents, three times while he was detained in Islamabad in late October 2001.

A few days later he was handed over to the Americans, handcuffed, shackled, hooded, with his mouth and eyes taped and a bag over his head, and flown to Bagram air base in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Egypt.

For the next seven months there he was subjected to relentless interrogation, beatings, electric shocks, water torture, sexual assault, cigarette burns and more.

For years, the Australian authorities denied any knowledge of Habib’s detention in Egypt.

It was only in 2008 that the Australian Federal Police revealed that his pending transfer had been raised by US officials in Pakistan before the event, and then discussed in Canberra among officers from the AFP, ASIO, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the attorney-general’s and prime minister’s departments, who “agreed that the Australian government could not agree to the transfer of Mr Habib to Egypt”, evidence to the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee in May 2008 shows.

“Plausible deniability” was thus achieved, while Habib’s transfer went ahead anyway. US terrorism investigators have said it is inconceivable the rendition would have proceeded without Australia knowing, and intelligence insiders say those involved in Habib’s case were in no doubt as to where he was being sent. Habib has always maintained Australian officials were present during his transfer to, and detention in, Cairo.

For their part, the government and security agencies have steadfastly denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, his time in Egypt, even insisting they were never sure he was there at all.

Both ASIO and the DFAT have stated they had no contact with Habib in Egypt. But the untested witness statements obtained for Habib’s civil suit, and now reported exclusively in The Weekend Australian, tell a different story.

One statement, by a former Egyptian military intelligence officer who worked at the Cairo prison where terror suspects were held, says Australian officials were present when Habib arrived and throughout his detention.

“During Habib’s presence some of the Australian officials attended many times . . . The same official who attended the first time used to come with them,” the statement says. “Habib was tortured a lot and all the time, as the foreign intelligence wanted quick and fast information.”

The officer, whose name does not appear in the translation of his statement seen by The Weekend Australian, said he was prepared

to testify in court, if he was given protection.

Another statement was obtained from a fellow detainee of Habib’s in Egypt and later Guantanamo Bay, Pakistani-Saudi national Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni. Madni was captured by the CIA in Jakarta in January 2002 and rendered to Egypt and later Guantanamo Bay, accused of being a member of al-Qa’ida. He was finally released in August 2009 and reunited with his family in Lahore, Pakistan.

Madni describes spending three months in a 6 by 8 foot (1.8m by 2.4m) underground cell, and being tortured by similar methods to those described by Habib.

He recounts, “I could hear Mamdouh Habib screaming in pain during his interrogation”, and recalls being told by prison staff that the Australian was very sick and possibly dying.

Madni also claims Australian officials were there.

“Egyptian, Australian, Israeli (Mossad) and US intelligence agencies were involved in my interrogations . . . The Egyptian interrogator told me that the Australian intelligence organisation wanted to ask me questions about Mamdouh Habib . . . An officer . . . asked me questions like ‘How did you know or where did you meet Mamdouh Habib?”‘

These disturbing allegations will presumably be central to a fresh inquiry ordered this week by the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence, the watchdog that oversees our intelligence and security agencies.

Julia Gillard requested the inquiry, apparently after the settlement was reached, and after Habib wrote to the Prime Minister telling her he had witnesses who could confirm the presence of Australian officials in Egypt.

The Prime Minister’s office confirms Gillard has asked the Inspector-General to inquire into “the actions of relevant Australian agencies” in relation to Habib’s arrest and detention overseas. A spokesperson tells Focus: “A number of serious allegations have been made in relation to this matter and it is appropriate for the Prime Minister to request that they be properly examined. The IGIS Act requires inquiries to be conducted in private.” But the spokesperson did not say if the results will be released.

Furthermore, Canberra has now launched an investigation into Habib’s allegations that Australian officials were present during his interrogations in Egypt in Cairo in 2001 when Suleiman was abusing Habib.

Habib is a key witness able to reliably confirm the real role Suleiman plays in today’s Egypt. Barack Obama and his Western allies should strongly condemn the abuses in Mubarak’s Egypt and demand accountability for the crimes committed in his name.

As Habib told me tonight, it is impossible for Suleiman, with his bloody record, to lead Egypt into a better future. With the latest reports indicating that Suleiman and Mubarak are ramping up torture against protesters (here and here), Habib’s voice and experience should be heard loud and clear.



An Interview with Kristofer Petersen-Overton


Another Professor Fired for Views on Middle East


Brooklyn College fired PhD student Kristofer Petersen-Overton yesterday, one day after New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) sent a letter to BC president Karen Gould accusing Petersen-Overton of being an “overt supporter of terrorism.” Hikind has complained in interviews that Petersen-Overton’s academic work is anti-Israel, and that his attempt to “understand” suicide bombing is unfathomable. Petersen-Overton and I are colleagues at the CUNY Graduate Center.

JS: You were preparing to instruct a course on the Middle East and were fired. What happened?

KPO: I was hired by Mark Ungar at Brooklyn College’s political science department on the recommendation of Dov Waxman at the Graduate Center. I went in for an interview, and he was impressed with my credentials. I have an MA and I’ve published on the situation [in the Middle East], and he said “I would be honored to have you.” And this was for a grad level seminar, which is not lecture-based, meaning that our classes would be discussion-oriented and not some sort of alleged platform.

JS: What was the official explanation for your firing, and why doesn’t it make sense?

KPO: I have not once been contacted by the department itself, but I was told that the official reason I have been fired is that I don’t have a PhD, which is untrue, because no student teaching this course has a PhD, and there are of course many student teachers at BC who do not have their PhD’s. And I’ll point out that I am somewhat more qualified than many student teachers because I came into the program with a Master’s degree, which many students who are teaching for CUNY don’t have.

I was fired immediately after Dov Hikind contacted the school. He is an especially radical assemblyman who goes after people who he perceives as being anti-Israel. He’s actually made a career out of targeting people for alleged anti-Israel bias.

JS: And the charge of bias is doubly problematic. Because, one, it’s inaccurate. But, two, even if it were accurate, what does it imply?

KPO: We all come to the table with our personal political views; there’s not a single professor who doesn’t have their own views. So it all comes down to how one approaches those views, and I devoted an entire class in the syllabus to the subject of objectivity and humanism, meaning I wanted to put this issue of bias on the table to facilitate open and productive discussions.

JS: What does your firing suggest about contemporary politics and higher education?

KPO: They’ve targeted professors up for tenure for so long and have been relatively unsuccessful except for several cases, like with Norman Finkelstein (JS: and, among others, Nicholas De Genova and Thaddeus Russell, at Columbia University and Barnard College, respectively), now I think they’re going after graduate students before their careers even begin. One of the most direct implications of this which is deeply troubling is not the fact that people take issue with one particular class, which is inevitable, but the way in which the college administration caved so quickly – for it to occur within 24 hours is incredible to me, and the school never even consulted me. For this to be decided by a state official poking his nose in a college syllabus is Orwellian. I’ve received tremendous support, which I’m very grateful for. Norman Finkelstein wrote me, and after I contacted Neve Gordon he (Gordon) contacted BC’s provost, writing that he reviewed my syllabus and that it was excellent and reflected a number of different perspectives, noting that the textbook was mainstream and “emphasizes the Zionist narrative.” He also read a scholarly paper I had written, and wrote that he was “struck by (my) academic rigor.”

JS: What can people do to lend support?

I would be greatly appreciative if people can send an email to the provost, even better a letter, and tomorrow it would be great if people could call, and more importantly if people could disseminate this story. It’s especially disgusting that they would go after a grad student, because they have not only impacted my career but also my income and health insurance.

Office of the Provost (William A. Tramontano)
Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11210







Also see This related post from Muzzle Watch





These families don’t have to imagine as they attempt to ‘celebrate’ the

Eid without a father and husband

Evie Soli

An interview with the wives of Abdallah and Adeeb Abu Rahma

Al Eid is a holy time of the year for Muslims. Families gather and visit each other over the four holidays, which are for most a time for families to be together. When one member of the family is missing, it makes it hard to enjoy Al Eid in the same way. Thousands of families of Palestinian political prisoners are suffering because a family member is in prison. For Majida, wife of Abdallah Abu Rahma who has now been held for one year in Israeli jail under the accusation of “incitement,” every day without her husband is difficult. She expresses the pain of seeing her children missing their dad not only during Eid, but every day. Louma (8) and Layam (7) used to go with Abdallah on family visits, and are now crying when talking about their dad. His 1 and-a-half-year-old son Layath does not even remember his dad as he was only 7 months old the night Abdallah was arrested. “He says Baba when he sees Abdallah’s picture, but of course he does not know him, since he was just a baby”, Majida says. Also, for Adeeb Abu Rahma’s children, Eid is not the same without their father. Both families were hoping to have their fathers home for Eid, but the military prosecution managed to postpone the release in both cases.

Arrested in front of his children

Abdallah’s wife Majida and daughters Louma (8) and Layam (8) during preparations for Eid.


I meet Majida and her children during the preparations for Eid. Louma and Layam are helping their mother in the house, while she is making the Palestinian dish “dawali” (rice rolled in grape leaves). She recalls the night when the family was brutally woken up by the Israeli Army breaking into their house: “I woke up by someone knocking the door 1:30am on the 10th of December (2009). Abdallah said it might be soldiers – because who else would come to pay a visit at that time?” Suddenly the door was broken down, and armed soldiers stormed the house. Abdallah was taken out in the stairway, with four soldiers blocking him from seeing his wife and children. He was not allowed to go back to say goodbye or to change his clothes, only his two daughters could pass the soldiers to see him one last time. He had to change from night clothes in the stairway. Nine army jeeps and dogs were waiting outside the house. Majida explains how the daughters reacted: “Louma asked: Am I dreaming? Did soldiers take my dad? Layam was asking the same – they both thought it was a nightmare.”

Missing their father

In the months before Abdallah was arrested almost one year ago, the army was carrying out frequent raids to look for him. The children were used to being woken up by masked soldiers entering the house at night, and were traumatized. After her father was arrested in the last night raid, 8 year old Layam told her mother that she was happy that the soldiers would not come back now. “Imagine how sad it is to hear that for a mother”, Majida says, “But now, when we speak about Abdallah, she cries. They both laugh and cry in the same time, because they miss him and they love him and remember him as a caring father and a friend. And I miss him too.”

While we are talking, Layath is grabbing a 2 meter long flagpole, saying “la, la l’jdar!” (no, no to the wall!), seeming as if he is on his way to a demonstration. “His name means ‘Lion’. He is small, but he is strong. He has to be strong” his mother says. He does not know what happened to his father, but he will when he gets older. The families of the people involved in Bil’in’s non-violent struggle against the Wall and settlements cannot sleep safely at night. Dozens of houses have been raided at night, and children are suffering from trauma after seeing fathers and brothers brutally taken away by masked soldiers. Sleep difficulties, bedwetting, and disorders are common consequences among children who have experienced Israeli soldiers storming their homes at night. Many, like Abdallah’s children, have also seen soldiers beat someone up during a raid.

“Eid is not Eid”

Three of Adeeb’s children: Ahmad (10), Batoul (4) and Falasteen (8)


Five months before Abdallah was taken from his home, his cousin Adeeb Abu Rahma was arrested in a demonstration in Bil’in. His wife has only been allowed to visit him once at Ofer Military Prison where both Adeeb and Abdallah are held. Adeeb’s daughter Radja (20) has not been able to see him at all, due to what Israel calls “security reasons”. This Eid is not the same as before for the family consisting of Adeeb’s wife and 9 children, aged from 4 to 20. Radja says, “This Eid there is not happiness like there used to be in this family. In Eid our family used to be together, visiting and having guests. Our father is not here, and we all miss him. Eid is not Eid without him.”

After Adeeb’ arrest, the family hoped he would be released shortly. However, after weeks and then months of waiting, the Israeli Military Court sentenced him to 1 year, and his family hoped that they would see him soon since he had almost served his sentence. But the military prosecution appealed and now Adeeb is to be released the 12th December. Exactly 1.5 years will have passed since Radja saw her father the last time.

Struggling financially

The financial situation has been hard the last 1.5 years. There is no big brother to help support the family financially. The eldest son Mohammed is 16 years old and still in school. Two daughters are in university, and are now struggling to pay the fees. The family’s income is from their small market, but their household is suffering from the absence of Adeeb’s income as a taxi driver. Umm Mohammed is also alone in her responsibility to raise the children; though they are all helping out as best they can, most of the children are not old enough to have responsibility. She misses her husband, and has been present in every court hearing so that at least she can see Adeeb. But she has not been allowed to talk to him except for the one time she was allowed to visit. Radja explains how Batoul (4) reacted when she visited her father in prison: “She did not understand why he could not be home. At home she cried and was constantly nervous. She asked: Why did they take him? When she saw him in prison she was in shock, she would not speak. After a while, when she realized that he is not coming home, she started to talk. But what can we answer to her question? It’s clear that they took him and still are keeping him because they are afraid of the success of the non-violent demonstrations. It scares them that through the demonstrations the world can see what Israel is doing to us, so they fabricate evidence against the leaders and put them in prison. All Batoul knows is that her father is taken away from her and she does not understand why.”

Success in spite of suffering

Both Adeeb and Abdallah’s families are obviously strong, though given no choice but to manage without their husband and father. They have been waiting in uncertainty for months before the trials, and suffering severe disappointment since the appeal, which deprived the children of their fathers for another half a year. Adeeb Abu Rahma was in July sentenced to 1 year for “encouraging violence”, and another 6 months may be added on Thursday when the state prosecution appeals his sentence. Abdallah Abu Rahma was, according to the first court decision, supposed to be released this week, but his release is now postponed. Despite the frustrations and constant ache, both Adeeb’s and Abdallah’s families express hope because they know why they were arrested. Majida says:

“My husband was visible. He went to every demonstration, and spoke up against the Wall and the settlement. In spite of our suffering, and his son now growing up without knowing his father, we know that his actions were successful. Israel was so threatened by the demonstrations that they had to remove strong characters like my husband and Adeeb.”


Abdallah Abu Rahmah

Abdallah Abu Rahmah has been a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements since its conception in 2004.

At 2am on 10 December 2009 (international Human Rights Day), exactly one year after Abdallah Abu Rahma received the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal from the International League for Human Rights, nine military vehicles surrounded his home in Ramallah. Israeli soldiers broke the door down, extracted Abdallah from his bed, blindfolded him and took him into custody.

After being convicted in September of incitement and organizing illegal marches, on October 12th, Abdallah Abu Rahmah was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment plus 6 months suspended sentence for 3 years and a fine of 5,000 NIS.

Following Abu Rahma’s convicition, the European Union put out a statement condemning the Persecution of Abu Rahmah. Representatives of all EU member states declared that they consider the route of the separation wall built on Palestinian land to be illegal, and that, as Abu Rahmah was “a human rights defender” participating in peaceful protests against this wall, they are concerned about his sentence of 12 months in prison by an Israeli military court.

The military prosecution against Abdallah Abu Rahmah will be petitioning to extend his detention on Thursday, November 18th, the day of his scheduled release.


Adeeb Abu Rahmah

Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a leading activist in the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was arrested at 1:30pm on 10 July 2009 while taking part in the weekly demonstration against the wall in Bil’in.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison for crimes of “incitement” (urging the villagers to come to the weekly protests), but the military prosecution appealed his sentence so he is still in prison after 15 months, pending the decision about the prosecution’s appeal.

Adeeb’s case relied on the forced confessions of four Bil’in youth – 14, 15 and 16 years old – arrested during a night raid by Israeli soldiers and forced to state that Adeeb told them to throw stones at the soldiers.



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