By Milena Rampoldi. In the following my interview with the pro-Palestinian activist Olivia Zemor of Europalestine about Israeli Refuzniks. In my opinion, this tiny group can change the militarist and colonialist system in the State of Israel from inside. 

The Refuzniks – a tiny hope for peace in the Middle East?

Who are the Refuzniks and from where does this term come from?

Today, the term Refuznik is used to define the young Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupation army of their country and declare this in public (while many others try to avoid the military service by leaving the country and without proclaiming their refusal in public).

The term comes from Russian (Otkaznik: “отказник” which derives from the substantive “отказ” meaning refusal, opposition). In the past, Refuzniks were the people who were denied their visa by Soviet authorities. In this case, the term refers to Soviet Jews in particular (even if not all Soviet Refuzniks were Jews).

Why are the Refuzniks important to promote a change within Israeli society?

The Israeli Refuzniks are very few, and they know that their number does not suffice to empower a real change in Israeli society. However, they have to be recognised as brave opponents who prefer remaining in custody for a couple of weeks or months instead of going against their conscience.

There are such a few Refuzniks because only very few Israelis who have been indoctrinated since their childhood by patriotic and victimhood propaganda (“we or them”) are able to distance from it and from the hatred and rubble-rousing against Arabs.

Which are the typical steps in a Refuznik’s life?

At the date of her/his calling up to the Israeli military service, the Refuznik declares that she/he does not want to serve in the Israeli occupation army and declares this in public. She/he asks for recognition as conscientious objector in Israel where this status does not exist.

First, the Refuzniks are condemned to a first time in prison of normally three weeks. Then they are brought to senior military officers who ask them to justify themselves. In general, their justifications and motivations are not accepted, and the Refuzniks go back to prison for another couple of weeks. This period in prison can be repeated several times.

How many Refuzniks are there, and who supports them?

The Refuzniks are between 1 and 3 per year being imprisoned at the same time. We know a couple of dozens of them.

They are supported by the Israeli association Masarvot.

Since a couple of years, the majority of the Refuzniks have been women. Why?  

Perhaps men – more than women – worry about being defamed as weak and as traitors to their country. Probably women are also more sensitive to any form of violence in Israeli society, perceived by them as the consequence of illegal occupation, its brutality, and its dehumanizing characteristics.

How can we support the Refuznik movement from abroad?

It is essential to support the Refuzniks to show that all Jews and all Israeli do not automatically support Israeli politics.

We have to talk about them, publish their photos, write to them, compliment and encourage them. We can also help them financially because they make important, financial sacrifices by renouncing to all the advantages related to military service (study grants, student housing…)

Many Refuzniks call for the boycott against Israel. So, if we support them, we will automatically extend the international BDS campaign.


Originally posted AT


Who’s Afraid of BDS?

The movement to boycott Israel isn’t going away, despite the numerous attempts to quash it. Leading activist Omar Barghouti sits down with Ahmed to explain why.



A couple of days ago, the leader of al Fatah, Marwan Barghouti, published his shocking article on New York Times. He had just started a legendary protest, called the “struggle of the empty stomachs”. Marwan has been able to start an extended non-violent struggle of at least 1.300 prisoners in Israeli prisons, a hunger strike. The objective is to show their reality to the rest of the world, and to make people understand what is going on in this land of denied rights. In his article published by New York Times Marwan attacks the Israeli military forces by using very hard words. The Zionist regime is responsible for the total absence and/or the daily violation of human rights, for daily physical and psychological torture, and also for bad food. 

Image by Carlos Latuff

Day 5 of 1,500 Palestinian detainees’ hunger strike in Israeli occupation jails!

Interview with Khaled, during a rally to support Palestinian prisoners

by Antonietta Chiodo, ProMosaik, English translation by Milena Rampoldi

In these hours, the population wants the competent authorities to take their responsibility to sanction a state whose law is based on the exercise of violence and power against a helpless population. However, as we can see today, this population has not stopped resisting. The President of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen declared his unconditioned solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners. The groups next to Hamas and the Islamic Party have not made a clear decision about whether they will participate to the hunger strike by involving their own members in Israeli prisons or not.

The day after the publication of Barghouti’s article and the extended participation to the hunger strike by prisoners, the Knesset put the leader Marwan Barghouti and other three main organizers of the protest in solitary confinement in the high-security prison in the Northern West Bank next to the city of Jenin. Since the beginning of the protests, the clashes and arrests are increasing, in particular around Nablus, Hebron, and Bethlehem.

Today I went into the streets and talked to a group of people during a solidarity rally for the Palestinian prisoners in hunger strike. Among them there was also an about eight years old handicapped child. Some of them wore gas masks. An ambulance was ready to intervene in case of clashes.

Everywhere the shapes of Israeli soldiers. In sight the separation wall. There are upset garbage containers which make me think about a day full of tensions. During the rally, I talked to Khaled, one of the guys participating to the protests, to ask him a couple of questions about them.

Have there been news from the prisons during these last hours?

No, since the beginning of the hunger strike, Israel has not been giving any information… we have only heard that the leaders of the protest were put into solitary confinement and that many prisoners are not even allowed to talk to their own lawyer.

Do you feel supported by the Palestinian Authority these days?

I cannot answer to this question… I cannot say anything about it… I am just a man who decided to take to the streets these days… as many women and children did… we would like to tell the world what has been happening in this land since seventy years now….  However, politics are the heart of Palestine… the whole world turns around politics, we do not want to know if one is on our part or not… since this is our life, and our freedom, and we will continue our resistance against the occupation, day after day… If you want to know if we trust Abu Mazen …. Then I can answer you: No, Palestine has stopped trusting him since a long time now.

Were there many clashes during these rallies? Do you think others will follow today?

We protest the whole day, also in the evening. They usually attack us in the afternoon or after sunset. As you can see, we have no arms. We just have flags… but we resist. Because resisting is the thing we can do best…. And it is not a coincidence that the majority of people participating to these rallies comes from the refugee camps, in particular from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp.

Do you think that Marwan Barghouti’s initiative will be really helpful?

Yes, I am absolutely convinced that it is a light, an open window so that the world can look into here… so that all can see how strong we the Palestinians are… we prefer dying than continuing to be oppressed and tortured. Our situation has been unchanged for seventy years now… So our fellows have started this struggle, and we have to support them because they are brave men and true examples for us.


Written FOR


I regard Zionism as being the antithesis of everything that is decent, humane and just. As for anti-Zionism, to me, it has no special meaning because I am opposed any individual or organisation — irrespective of ethnicity, religion, or political ideology — that in any way violates the rights of others.

“I regard Zionism as being the antithesis of everything that is decent, humane and just”: William Hanna

By Milena Rampoldi. In the following my interview with the author William Hanna about his new novel entitled Hiramic Brotherhood: Ezekiel’s Temple Prophecy. Set against a backdrop of hatred and violence in the Middle East,the novel delves into the issue of Israel’s ethnic cleansing and addresses racism in the Middle East.


This novel follows journalist Conrad Banner who is intent on filming a documentary in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Inspired by his father — an author and foreign correspondent with numerous journalism awards for his coverage in the Middle East — Banner’s documentary presents a factually impartial account of the conflict.
Hatred and violence was also being continually provoked by Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population which was whitewashed by a form of propaganda known as hasbara, or ‘explanation’. Such propaganda was aimed at an international audience to portray Israeli action and policies — past and present — in a positive light while providing a negative portrayal of Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular.
Along with Jewish activist Adam Peltz and Palestinian guide Sami Hadawi, Banner finds himself unwelcome, resulting in some hazardous and ultimately fatal consequences.
Hiramic Brotherhood is motivated by the blatant denial of human rights to millions of people, and in particular children, by the double standard of Western democracies. Exploring the themes, of culture, racism, religion, and violence, Hanna brings to the fore a compelling story of struggle and divide.
Milena Rampoldi: What is the main reason why you have been engaged for Palestine for years now?
William Hanna: Having grown up as member of a colonial family in Kenya, I recognised — despite being relatively young — the appalling injustice of a system wherein the indigenous population was economically marginalised, maligned, maltreated, and even massacred while white settlers gobbled up more of their land holdings. It was a situation that led to the Mau Mau uprising so that by October 1952 the British declared a state of emergency and sent army reinforcements to Kenya to fight an aggressive counter-insurgency against the rebels.
After leaving school, and during what was then compulsory military training with the Kenya Regiment, I witnessed a more pronounced form of White settler racism towards the Black population — from the sons of White farmers including some Afrikaners — who were determined at any cost to hold onto their farms.
Subsequent to my leaving Kenya, I followed current events including the international community’s boycott of Apartheid in Afrikaner South Africa which eventually caused its demise. That same international community of “humanitarians” — ridden with guilt and hypocrisy over the Holocaust — were being easily blackmailed, bribed, and bullied into ignoring the crimes of Apartheid Israel including its barbaric oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian People.
With time it also became apparent — as noted in my latest book — that while indigenous African people’s were between the 1870s and 1900 subject to European imperialist aggression, diplomatic pressures, military invasions, conquest, colonisation, and the exploitation of their natural resources, they were nonetheless eventually given their independence by the European colonisers. Jewish settlers in Palestine, on the other hand, have no such intention and their sole purpose is to ethnically cleanse and displace the Palestinian people whose land they are gradually but surely stealing. This policy of achieving a state for Jews only through barbaric oppression of the Palestinian people is what motivated me to take up the Palestinian cause.
What happened between your first novel and this one? What changed in Palestine?
The only thing that has happened since my first novel is that I am a few years older and still none the wiser. As for Palestine, the status quo of an illegal Jewish settler land grabbing occupation remains unchanged with a regrettable and incessant escalation in the barbaric oppression and denial of all basic human rights to the Palestinian people by ruthless Jewish occupiers who insist they were “chosen by God” to live in the “Promised land.”
The most harmful changes affecting the hapless Palestinian people are therefore not those occurring in Palestine, but in those taking place in the so-called Western democracies who in the past had staunchly opposed the heinous concept of Apartheid in South Africa. Such changes which have been selfishly instigated by Israel and its supporters include increased coercion — by means of blackmail, bribery, and bullying — of Western leaders and politicians into supporting Israel while ignoring its blatant violations of international law; the intensification of hateful traducement of any individual or organisation critical of Israeli crimes; the escalation of efforts by Israel and its supporters to suppress the right to freedom of expression; the heightening of hysterical accusations of “anti-Semitism” coupled with a dishonest Jewish failure to recognise that “in the struggle against anti-Semitism, the frontline begins in Israel; the surge in Western legislation that criminalises both the criticism and boycotting of Israel; the recent disgraceful withdrawal of a UN report that justifiably accused Israel of establishing an apartheid regime; and the recent U.S. opposition with unprecedented UK criticism of the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of five resolutions critical of Israel. Such changes imposed by Israel and its supporters within the very core of Western “democracies” not only entrenches Israel’s ethnic cleansing in Palestine, but also undermines the universally declared and inalienable rights for all humanity.
Give us a summary of the content of this new novel.
This question is perhaps best answered by the publisher’s intended Advance Information:
Set against a backdrop of hatred and violence in the Middle East, Hiramic Brotherhood: Ezekiels Temple Prophesy delves into the issue of Israels ethnic cleansing and addresses racism in the Middle East.
This novel follows journalist Conrad Banner who is intent on filming a documentary in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Inspired by his father — an author and foreign correspondent with numerous journalism awards for his coverage in the Middle East — Banner’s documentary presents a factually impartial account of the conflict.
Hatred and violence was also being continually provoked by Israels ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population which was whitewashed by a form of propaganda known as hasbara, or ‘explanation. Such propaganda was aimed at an international audience to portray Israeli action and policies — past and present — in a positive light while providing a negative portrayal of Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular.
Along with Jewish activist Adam Peltz and Palestinian guide Sami Hadawi, Banner finds himself unwelcome, resulting in some hazardous and ultimately fatal consequences.
 Hiramic Brotherhood; Ezekiel’s Temple Prophesy is motivated by the blatant denial of human rights to millions of people, and in particular children, by the double standard of Western democracies. Exploring the themes, of culture, racism, religion, and violence, Hanna brings to the fore a compelling story of struggle and divide.
Which is the main objective you pursue with this new book?
The main objective is hopefully to help people — particularly those in the West — realise the catastrophic consequences of continually doing nothing and allowing their political and religious leaders to be corrupted and influenced by the well financed and globally organised pro-Israel lobby.
In 2013, the professor of international law Francis Boyle testified that the Palestinians have been the victims of genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide . .
For over the past six and one-half decades, the Israeli government and its predecessors in law — the Zionist agencies, forces, and terrorist gangs — have ruthlessly implemented a systematic and comprehensive military, political, religious, economic, and cultural campaign with the intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnical, racial, and different religious group (Jews versus Muslims and Christians) constituting the Palestinian people.
How can this book contribute to the discussion around human rights in Palestine?
By making as many people as possible understand that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot be discriminatory or selective, but must be applicable to everyone without exception; to make them understand that Israel’s denial of human rights to the Palestinian people is not just a crime against Palestinians, but also a transgression against all humanity; to make them understand that their failure to act against Israel’s subversion of humanity’s moral values will ultimately result in the destruction of everything they hold dear including their own inalienable rights such as the right to freedom of expression; and to make them understand being pro-Palestinian is not anti-Semitic, but pro-human rights: the same human rights that hypocritical Jews demand for themselves. It is for that reason that I hope that theHiramic Brotherhood: Ezekiel’s Temple Prophesy will be translated into other languages because upholding human rights is the responsibility of all peoples.
What does Zionism and Anti-Zionism mean to you personally?
I regard Zionism as being the antithesis of everything that is decent, humane and just. As for anti-Zionism, to me, it has no special meaning because I am opposed any individual or organisation — irrespective of ethnicity, religion, or political ideology — that in any way violates the rights of others.
Further information at
Originally posted AT


In the following my interview with Jeremy R. Hammond of Foreign Policy Journal. I talked to him about Palestine, journalism, US foreign politics, and about Zionism as a colonialist project.

Jeremy R. Hammond – Israel was a colonialist project from the outset, and so remains today

By Milena Rampoldi

Do you believe the two-state solution is definitively buried?

Israel and the US certainly have been working hard for decades to bury it, but, no, I do not believe they have succeeded. On the contrary, I think right now there is a unique opportunity for the Palestinians to move forward and accomplishing an end to the Israeli occupation, which is essentially equivalent to implementing the two-state solution. The leadership should pursue legal remedy for the Occupying Power’s crimes against the Palestinian people through the international mechanisms that have been available to Palestine since the UN recognized it as a state in 2012; most specifically, through the International Criminal Court (ICC).

What do you believe the next moves of the Trump administration will be in Palestine/Israel and Middle East?

He’ll likely try to pick up the baton from the previous administration and make a feeble and vain effort to restore credibility to the US-led so-called “peace process”. He might, for example, try to persuade the Netanyahu government to implement some kind of limited scaling back of Israel’s illegal settlement activity in the West Bank. The good news is that with Trump in the Oval Office, it seems unlikely the “peace process” could regain any traction even among other governments of the world (it has long since ceased to have any credibility among the publics of the world).

This presents the Palestinian leadership with an opportunity. They must take advantage of the political leverage they gain so long as the “peace process” is dead on account of Israel’s refusal to even limit its illegal activities. If the Palestinian Authority (PA) won’t do what is necessary, the Palestinian people should rise up and dissolve that body – which the PLO has the authority to do – and find new leadership who will.

For me personally, Israel is a neo-colonialist project. What do you think about it?

It is certainly a neo-colonialist project. Going back to the Mandate era, the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate was literally drafted by the organized Zionists, the aim being to implement an occupation regime that would accommodate their goal of displacing and dispossessing the Arab inhabitants with mass waves of Jewish immigration. The idea was that the right to self-determination of Palestine’s inhabitants wouldnot be respected until the Jews became a majority. This was in keeping with the British and Zionists’ concept of “the democratic ideal” (as discussed between Lord Arthur Balfour and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann). It was a colonialist project from the outset, and so remains today.

Tell us about your books!

In late 2008, when Israel began its 22-day full-scale military assault on Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead”, I watched with disgust how the US mainstream media waged a propaganda war against the public, a systematic campaign of deception that served the purpose of manufacturing consent for the US government’s support for Israel’s war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza. I became determined to write a book about it to set the record straight. (My coverage of the US’s support for Israel’s war crimes during that conflict resulted in me receiving a Project Censored Award.)

But I didn’t just want to write about that operation. I wanted to explain the whole conflict in context, to help others understand why this conflict has persisted for so long. Only by fully understanding what the greatest obstacles are can we determine how to move forward. What is required is a paradigm shift, a change in the way the public perceives this issue. We need to fight the propaganda and get the truth out. That is why I set out writing Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2016)

But before I could explain contemporary events, I would need to provide the necessary historical background and explain what the root causes of this conflict are. That would require examining the period from the rise of the Zionist movement in the late 1800s through to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 via the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. So I ended up splintering my book idea and writing a short book titled The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict (2009).

Obstacle to Peace presents historical context as necessary in order to understand more recent events (it focuses primarily on the last decade), but readers will even get more out of it if they first read The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination as a primer to understanding how the conflict originated.Obstacle to Peace will then help readers understand why the conflict persists, how the mainstream media serve to help perpetuate it, and what needs to happen for peace and justice to finally be realized.

How to engage for Palestine today as human rights activists, writer and journalists?

Everyone has their own strengths in terms of knowledge and skills, and it’s up to the individual to determine how best to apply those skills toward achieving peace and justice. My own strengths include research, analysis, and writing, so that is where I’ve focused my energy. I can’t advise others how to focus their energy without knowing their individual strengths. Generally, however, we must continually educate ourselves and then share that knowledge with others until a tipping point is reached and the necessary paradigm shift occurs at which point it will become politically infeasible for the status quo to persist any longer.

Which are the main objectives of Foreign Policy Journal?

I established FPJ to serve as an antidote to the propagandistic reporting of the mainstream media, which serve the role of manufacturing consent for government policy. I’m borrowing this phrase from Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, from their book Manufacturing Consent; they were in turn borrowing the phrase from Walter Lipmann, who had written in the early 20th century about the need for the ruling elites to manufacture the consent of the ruled for the policies they wished to implement to pursue their own self-interests (as opposed to the interests of the public).

It’s my goal with FPJ to help others become better informed about the true nature of US foreign policy and international affairs, as this is a task at which the mainstream media have utterly failed us.


Originally written FOR


Let’s talk about Palestine, giving the podium to an artist who lives in occupied Palestine. He’s Maher Shawamreh, a dance teacher and director of the school of art in Ramallah. In the interview with us he explains how dance communicates peace by extending the soul, and in this way reaching beyond the walls built by intolerance and war.

Maher Shawamreh: Through dance we communicate all cultures of the world

by Antonietta Chiodo,  English Translation by John Catalinotto

He speaks of his love for the arts he teaches daily with the support of his colleagues the Orient & Dance Theatre. His students are children and teenagers. Communication takes place through the vibrations of the body and music. Maher, a man who grew up in a state of siege, managed to create in this modern era the ability to dissolve words and bring peace to life on the stage with the ability to unite different cultures and languages.

As a teacher and highly developed artist he has been allowed in recent years to get a foothold in the West through his shows, and can boast of collaborations with artists from various countries. His ability to draw comparisons and to make use of the arts has enabled him to continually outdo himself regarding technique, using bodily communication to convey freedom to the audiences.

When did you start your engagement with dance and what made you realize that was your life’s path?

As a young man I studied electrical engineering. My career in contemporary dance officially started in 1996. In 1999 I started to do some shows in various regions of Palestine and other countries. I supported myself by working in the workshops. A few years later I started doing more ambitious interpretations, supported by works by works of artists at the high level of Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani. Then I became definitely aware that I could no longer escape or be distracted from dance. It had taken hold of my life and filled my thoughts. To make it clearer, let me explain that dancing is not life itself, but it is my journey in search of my identity. Through dance I became part of the universe and came into contact with God (Allah). Nowadays I realized that dance is a cure, a miracle drug.

Why in human history have artists proven the most valuable ambassadors of peace?

Humans communicate with each other in different languages, in French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish … it is our job to understand each other to the end and apply outselves to the search for different semantic content. Art is a universal language and does not need a specific grammar to be understood. Dance is body language. Awakening sensations and vibrations, dance merges nature and soul. In this way it establishes a communication with the spirit, moved by Allah. At that point you realize that God loves you and through that message you find your inner peace. At the moment in which a body dances, Allah puts the universe in motion. Creating transforms itself into a movement, giving life to a permanent dance. The dance and music give rise to immortality for those who interpret it as well as for those who observe them.

How would you imagine a dance show with Western artists and Palestinians? What music would you choose?

As I mentioned before, dance is the extension of the word of Allah through the body and produces our sensations. We can share this in all the languages ​​of the world. By listening passively, we can touch our souls. We can reflect on ourselves dancing without feeling any fear. Also, dance allows us to simultaneously share different cultures and languages. That’s what I try to convey through my art. I love to dance with live music, moving not only my body but also my soul. The audience that watches my dance convinces me that dance has no boundaries. In fact, it includes the land, the olive trees, the eagle, the rocks, the sea … an elderly woman. It would be necessary to express ourselves freely in the central square of a market to overcome our own personal inner deficiencies through artistic expression. That’s my art expressed in words.

With what secret did you help your students overcome their fear of failing?

My students should be content with themselves and erase everything from their concious thoughts when they dance. Only in this way will they eliminate tensions. I learned to separate from my stress, fleeing far away. When I enter the room and see the first student, all my feelings become positive. And I exist only in that single moment. Through dance, the rage that is intrisic to human beings tends to lose itself in the movements, finally managing to completely dissolve. Dance is capable of creating tolerance. Dancing is like escape for the soul from life and from the world around us.

Have you ever been afraid that one of your students could be taken away by Israeli soldiers?

No, we are not afraid, we were born under occupation.


Originally posted AT


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 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.

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