Category Archives: Palestine

History repeats with a twist

By Andrew Wander in on June 2nd, 2010

The Exodus 1947
carried Jewish refugees bound for Palestine
The raid on the Mavi Mamara has
parallels with another chapter of history in the region.

It was a military raid on a civilian ship bound for Palestine,
carried out in the international waters of the Mediterranean to prevent
the boat from reaching its blockaded destination.
When the soldiers boarded they met with stiffer resistance than they
expected, and so they used force, killing some of the passengers and
injuring many others.
The commandeered ship was towed to port and the survivors were
detained, before being deported amid a storm of international
The year was 1947, and the boat – the Exodus
- was carrying Jewish refugees seeking to land without the
permission of the British military force in charge of Palestine.
The incident, which left three dead, is now seen as a key event in
the lead up to the end of the British mandate in Palestine and the
establishment of the state of Israel.
Israeli historians will be hoping that this week’s raid on the
humanitarian flotilla that was bound for Gaza will not be Israel’s own Exodus
It is too early to tell whether the incident will change the way the
world sees Israel’s strangling blockade of the Gaza Strip. But the
parallels between this week’s events and those of 1947 will be enough to
worry Israeli historians.
In 1947, international sympathy for Holocaust-surviving Jews and
their quest for a homeland crystalised around the treatment of those on
board the Exodus, who were eventually sent, in a move of
stunning insensitivity given recent history, to detention camps in
In 2010, it is the residents of Gaza, themselves stateless and
suffering in the aftermath of a brutal conflict, whose plight has been
highlighted by a misjudged military assualt.
The violence on board the Mavi Mamara is being seen as a
symptom of the blockade on Gaza, just as the events of 1947 were seen as
evidence of a deep unfairness in the treatment of refugee Holocaust
Then, there was a recognition that the status quo was not tenable,
and a year later, the state of Israel was founded.
As a result of Israel’s raid on the Mavi Mamara, it is
today’s bitter status quo that is now being questioned. It is
unclear whether the incident will, like the Exodus did 63 years
ago, represent a tipping point, or just another sad milestone on a road
to further suffering.
There are as many differences as similarities between the two
situations. It would be wrong to make too much of the parallels.
But it would also be wrong to disregard them. Tipping points tend not
to be visible until they have been crossed.

The Muslim guardian of Israel’s daily bread

The Muslim guardian of Israel’s daily bread

For more than a decade, an Arab hotel manager has helped Orthodox Jews to observe the Passover – by buying up forbidden foods. Ben Lynfield reports

Jaaber Hussein, a hotel manager, prepares to take control of much of Israel's bread, beer and pasta


Jaaber Hussein, a hotel manager, prepares to take control of much of Israel’s bread, beer and pasta

When Jaaber Hussein signs an agreement with Israel’s Chief Rabbis tomorrow, he will be inking the only Arab-Jewish accord sure to be meticulously observed by both sides. The deal will make him the owner for one week of all bread, pasta and beer in Israel – well a huge amount of it anyway. The contract, signed for the past 12 years by the Muslim hotel food manager, is part of the traditional celebrations ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Jews are forbidden by biblical injunction to possess leavened bread, or chametz, during Passover and ironically an Arab is needed to properly observe the holiday. The agreement with Mr Hussein offers a way of complying with religious edicts without having to wastefully destroy massive quantities of food.

Through legal acrobatics, the forbidden goods belonging to the Israeli state are simply sold to Mr Hussein for the duration of Passover and then revert back to the state once the holiday is over. Like the government’s adherence to the Sabbath and to dietary laws, the ceremony sets Israel apart as a Jewish state that upholds religious traditions.

Mr Hussein, a resident of the Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem, sees nothing odd in the arrangement, believing there are affinities between his Islamic faith and Judaism. He relishes the role the Jewish state has assigned him, one that puts his picture on the front pages of Israeli newspapers year after year.

“I see this as a way to help people with whom I work and live,” he said.

Mr Hussein was a natural choice for the ritual because he works in a hotel that stringently observes Jewish dietary laws. He even keeps some of the strictures at home.

“There are many things that are close in the two religions. If not for politics, the religions would get along very well,” he explains. One example he cites is the halal slaughtering of meat, which he likens to kosher slaughtering.

Passover, which celebrates the biblical exodus from slavery in Egypt, starts on Wednesday night and lasts for seven days, eight outside Israel.

The reason for the prohibition of leavened bread is, according to the Bible, that the Israelites departed Egypt in such haste that their bread did not have a chance to rise and so they ate the cracker-like unleavened bread known as matza.

Many of their descendants in modern Israel defer to this dictum every spring to the extent that a kind of fermented dough fixation suffuses the country. Housewives become the new slaves, scrubbing and vacuum cleaning to remove every trace of chametz. Religious men scald pots in the streets, making them kosher for the holiday.

For the Orthodox, there can be no half-measures. A single crumb that evades detection could spoil everything for Passover.

Those families who do not want the extra workload simply check in to kosher hotels and escape the ardour. Even secular Israelis stock up on pita bread and put it in their freezers so that they too have enough supplies to survive the week.

Tomorrow, Mr Hussein will put down a cash deposit of $4,800 (some 20,000 shekels or £3,245) for the $150m worth of leavened products he acquires from state companies, the prison service and the national stock of emergency supplies. The deposit will be returned at the end of the holiday, unless he decides to come up with the full value of the products. In that case he could, in theory, keep them all.

At the close of the holiday, the foodstuffs purchased by Mr Hussein revert back to their original owners, who have given the Chief Rabbis the power of attorney over their leavened products. “It’s a firm, strong agreement done in the best way,” Mr Hussein said.

But Israelis are divided on whether the state should be enforcing Passover. A law introduced by religious parties in 1986 bans the display of bread in public areas, except in those where there is a non-Jewish majority. But a court decision last year said it was legal for restaurants to sell leavened products during Passover on the grounds that they are not public spaces. The move sparked anger among the ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This year, ultra-Orthodox activists in Jerusalem sent warning letters to stores, telling them not to sell bread or pizza because this could bring divine punishment on the city. And the chief rabbinate called for supermarkets to install a computer program that would enable cash registers to detect unleavened products by their bar codes so sales could be stopped. Supermarkets cover over their chametz with papers, but the rabbis are concerned that some customers lift the covers and buy proscribed foods.

Variations of the contract between the Israeli state and Mr Hussein are being signed all over
the world between selected non-Jews and rabbis, including those in the UK. The ceremony, like the absence of civil marriages in the country, reflects “some elements of theocracy” in the Israeli state, says Menachem Friedman, a sociologist at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. “Israel is a unique state – very modern on the one hand but with very strong religious traditional elements on the other. Every government keeps this ritual.”

In one final Passover twist, the restaurants of Mr Hussein’s town, Abu Ghosh, are gearing up for what is always their busiest week of the year, catering to secular Jews who want to get away from the holiday’s dietary strictures.

“It is also nice that you have people who don’t keep Passover, who eat leavened bread,” Mr Hussein said. “It is good that we are also able to help the people who are not religious.”

Despite his goodwill, the chief rabbinate staffers do not seem overly attached to Israel’s Arab of Passover. “It is true he is enabling people to celebrate the holiday, but if he didn’t do it, there are plenty of other people who would,” said Avi Blumenthal, an aide to Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

Israel’s hidden plans to take over Jerusalem

alJazeera Magazine – Israel’s hidden plans to take over Jerusalem

Israel’s hidden plans to take over Jerusalem
30/05/2007 06:12:00 PM GMT Comments (15) Add a comment Print E-mail to friend

By Amina Anderson

For 40 years, Israel has been trying to tighten its grip on Jerusalem and its holy sites. But using weapons only couldn’t help this plan. That’s why the Israelis decided to use concrete to achieve their target.

Since 1967, East Jerusalem has been occupied by the Israelis, who started building lives for themselves until today. As soon as the area was captured, the Israeli government devised plans to build neighborhoods to connect the Israeli enclave of Mount Scopus, which holds the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, with Jewish populated west Jerusalem.

From the mid 1970’s until the 1980’s, Israel has been mainly concerned with building the Jewish neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov, Gilo and Ramot Allon in East Jerusalem. Israel also expanded the boundaries of East Jerusalem from two square miles to 27 square miles.

“The plan was very simple: to get hold of the area and to consolidate control over the area, creating urban facts,” said Meron Benvenisti, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem in the 1970s. “It was exactly like a military strategic plan to take hold of the high ground, empty land and build there.”

At the Jerusalem Institute Think Tank, Kimhi, the head researcher also said: “All those areas were looking over Jerusalem … all of them were army positions, so it was quite easy for the government to enter the shoes of the Jordanians that left and expropriate it”.

Israel expansion episodes continued. In the 1980s, the government started building a string of West Bank settlements just outside the Jerusalem, including the vast hilltop enclave of Maaleh Adumim, which created a ring around East Jerusalem.

Along the way, Israel refused to take any complaints regarding the violation of the international law, claiming that it’s working on an unoccupied land. Moreover, the Israelis were making sure that the original Arabs are allowed no building permits, which drove them out of the city.

As a final episode, Israel now resumes the journey they started 40 years ago. Settlement construction began again; extensions are being developed in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and only the finishing touches remain for a police station in an area known as E1.

Apartments in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the old city are now being sold and major projects are being planned in other Arab areas.

“If you have Jewish life east of the Old City, obviously it’s going to make it harder to divide the city,” said Daniel Luria, a spokesman for the Ateret HaCohanim group, which settled 1200 Jews near East Jerusalem holy sites.

Even though Arabs face major difficulties in obtaining authorization for construction, “View of Zion” complex easily issued all the required papers. Now this complex is expected to hold 395 apartments, a hotel, shopping center and a sports club, where sales are already conducted to mostly Jews residing in the United States.

The project forced Arabs to build illegally risking evacuation and legal penalties every minute.

Despite the fact that many Israeli are claiming that this new complex would improve the neighborhood and that it is only intended for the overall wellbeing, Arab residents are concerned over another Israeli project that further disrupts their lives.

The Palestinians are being isolated by Israel’s towering concrete wall along the West Bank, which cut off tens of thousands of Jerusalem’s Arab residents. While the Israeli government is claiming that the Arabs are drawing the wrong conclusions, Palestinians remain skeptical about where they will end up if the Jewish community continues to grow in East Jerusalem.

Therefore, Palestinians remain helpless while the Jewish settlers take more steps to cement their control over the occupied territories.

“You get angry. But what can we do?” Mervat Zayeha, a Palestinian who resides in East Jerusalem, asked, looking at the construction. “It is not in our hands.”

Source: AJP

Israel’s persecution of Christians

alJazeera Magazine – Israel’s persecution of Christians

Israel’s persecution of Christians
11/05/2008 10:44:00 AM GMT Comments (41) Add a comment Print E-mail to friend
Instead of Christian worshippers, armed Israeli soldiers crowded the entrance to the Church.

By Dr. Elias Akleh
Instead of Christian worshippers, armed Israeli soldiers crowded the entrance to the Church.

Greek Orthodox Christian celebrations of Saturday’s Holy Fire and Sunday’s Easter in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem late April were violated and spoiled by aggressive interruptions of Israeli army and police.

Instead of Christian worshippers, armed Israeli soldiers crowded the entrance to the Church. Instead of lighted candles, police batons were raised. Instead of musical bands playing their instruments, Israeli soldiers brandished their automatic weapons, and instead of celebrating, Palestinian Christians were confronted by Israeli police, were beaten, and many were arrested.

Since the early hours of the day hundreds of armed Israeli forces descended on the old city of Jerusalem, erected steel barriers closing its gates, established checkpoints within the city’s narrow streets leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and installed closed captioned video cameras to monitor worshippers.

The Old City was, again, under occupation by Israeli military and police. Palestinian Christian worshippers from West Bank, from Gaza Strip, from 1948 occupied Palestinian cities, and even local Jerusalemite Palestinian Christians were denied access to the church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the St. Jacob Church to celebrate Easter.

They were told that they had to obtain a military permit in order pray in the church. Many Christian worshippers, who insisted on performing their religious rights free from any military restrictions as they had done throughout the many past generations, tried to force their way through the Israeli barriers, but were met with savage beating, with tear gassing, and with arrest.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate denounced the Israeli measures denying Christian
worshippers access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Official spokesman to the
Patriarchate father Issa Misleh said the Patriarchate denounces the measures taken by the
Israeli security forces against Christian worshippers during Holy Saturday celebrations.

Father Misleh said, “The manner in which the Israeli police officers dealt with worshippers heading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Greek Orthodox Monastery to perform religious duties has gone beyond limits. Thousands of worshippers where forbidden to walk in the streets of the old city and many of them, including women and elderly civilians, were physically assaulted.”

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, himself, criticized the Israeli suppressive measures stating: “I refuse such actions against my congregation. The Greek Orthodox Church will cooperate with the rest of the Churches in joint action to put a stop to what happened today and to guarantee the Religious freedom for the people”.

Church officials explained that praying is the right of all the people and no one has the right to prevent worshippers from conducting their ritual and religious duties especially in the City of Jerusalem.

The following press release was issued by different local Christian organizations criticizing the measures taken by the Israeli forces during the religious celebration, where Christians were harassed, singled out and prevented from worshipping freely in violation of the “Status Quo Law” that has existed for hundreds of years to regulate the different religious celebrations

“The Laity Committee in the Holy Land/East Jerusalem

26 April 2008

Christians Harassed in Jerusalem during Orthodox Easter Celebrations

During the Orthodox Easter celebrations, Palestinian Christians were denied their right to worship freely in Jerusalem; they were not allowed to arrive to the Orthodox Patriarchate where celebrations normally take place, and they were not allowed to reach the St. Jacob Cathedral near the Christian Quarter of the Old City.

Since the early hours of the day, the Israeli police had set up barricades at the Gates of the Old City, and when Christian worshipers arrived the Israeli police started shouting at them and pushing them, and there was an incident when the police threw tear gas and beat the Christian worshipers with clubs.

It was obvious that Christians were singled out, compared to Jewish worshipers who arrive in hundreds of thousands to celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem.The number of Palestinian Christians who arrive to the Old City for Easter does not exceed two thousand persons, and this is a manageable number that can be accommodated.

Moreover, there is no need for the police to interfere anyway, because the celebrations have been going on smoothly throughout the years, and there has never been an incident of violence or damage that warrants the closure.

The worshipers were stunned to see that a statement had been circulated by the police and posted on the wall of the Patriarchate, saying that whomever wants to worship in St. Jacob Cathedral must have a permit. This is indeed a flagrant violation of the rights of Christians to worship freely, and what makes the violation more dramatic is that it took place in Jerusalem on a holy day.

The presence of Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City, and the celebration procedures, are part of a Law that has been in place since 300 years. That law, known as the Status Quo Agreement, regulates the celebrations, and according to that Law, Christians have the right to access the Patriarchate and St. Jacob Cathedral. Preventing worshipers from entering is a violation of the Status Quo Agreement.

Such violations by the police should stop. The steps taken against Christians are illegal. We call upon the Consulates, Embassies, Christian organizations, and human rights organizations, to intervene immediately, so the harassment of Christians in Jerusalem will stop.”

Religious freedom has been restricted by the Israeli military since its illegal occupation of the city. Jerusalem, a holy city for the three major religions has been off limit to the local Muslim as well as Christian Palestinians but not to Jewish Israelis.

Pictures of Muslim worshippers kneeling in prayer behind the Israeli military checkpoints have been widespread in media resources all over the globe. Christian worshippers have no better luck, unfortunately media does not capture their hardships except in the major Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas.

Christian Palestinian Jerusalemites suffer the most because Israel is adopting a silent policy of evacuating Jerusalem from its Christian citizens to make it a Jewish-only city.

While Muslim and Christian religious freedom is severely restricted by the Israeli government, Jewish Israelis are given the ultimate religious freedom to the point of intoxication.

Jewish Israeli worshippers are given free access to the narrow streets of the Old City. They rush through the streets chanting and dancing loudly without any respect to the feelings of the local citizens. They smash the goods of any open Palestinian shops. Palestinians learnt to close their shops and stick to their homes during such extravagant Jewish celebration. Israeli worshippers spend most of the day and night dancing and drinking alcohol and blatantly provoking Palestinian residents of the city.

Armed Israeli soldiers can also been seen during these Jewish religious celebrations. Yet their presence is
not to secure order and peace, but to protect the tumultuous and mostly drunken extremist Jewish Israeli worshippers from any Palestinian reaction to their provocations and disturbances of peace.

Palestinian Jerusalemites had barely forgotten the insulting provocations of the religiously extremist Jewish Israelis and the harassment of Israeli forces a week before the Jewish celebration of their Passover. In contrast, Christian Palestinians are denied access to their holy places during one of their holiest day of the year.

The presence of hundreds of Israeli armed soldiers and police forces in the city is clear evidence that Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian city. The Israeli claim of securing religious freedom to worship and to have easy access to the holy places for the followers of the three religions in the city of Jerusalem is a mere propaganda.

The suppressive measures of the Israeli forces against peaceful Christian worshippers during Easter are clear contradictions to this claim. These suppressive measures indicate a deliberate form of religious persecution that stems from the extremist religious ideology of God’s chosen people and the rejection of all others (Goyims).
Source: AJP

Holy Land lost

alJazeera Magazine – Holy Land lost

Holy Land lost
10/07/2008 02:02:00 PM GMT Comments (27) Add a comment Print E-mail to friend
As Israeli settlements grew, the Palestinians lost freedom of movement

By Dr. James Zogby

As Israeli settlements grew, the Palestinians lost freedom of movement

The very words “The Holy Land” evoke powerful images. But the pictures that come to mind are rapidly disappearing from the landscape.

The occupation of the West Bank, once a military and political reality that dominated the lives of Palestinians, has become concretized: with massive housing projects connected by ribbons of highways; a wall and barbed wire barrier wending its way from North to South, cutting through villages, encapsulating others; and hundreds of checkpoints – all overtaking and transforming the once open terrain.

Raja Shehadeh has described all this in vivid detail in his most recent book, “Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape.” A hiker from a young age, Shehadeh tells his story in a novel way.

Detailing six walks he has taken in and around his home in Ramallah during the last 30 years, he invites his readers to witness the transformations that have occurred, that increasingly circumscribed his movements, and marred his beloved land.

In his early years, Shehadeh set out roaming the hillsides to discover the life his parents and grandparents lived. The hills of the West Bank, once described by Western travelers as desolate and barren, come to life in Shehadeh’s narrative.

Dry one season, yes, but in the spring they were covered with flowers and new life. Conforming to this rough environment, generations of Palestinian farmers adapted their lives to the seasons and mastered these hills, naming every spring, wadi and cliff, and cultivating olives, grapes and family plots.

It was the world they knew and the land they loved.

As they defined the land, it, too, defined them, shaping Palestinian culture and social relations for generations.

This is what Shehadeh saw, in the beginning. The cycle of life, at one with its environment, that had existed for millennia. It was the Holy Land we know from picture postcards, lithographs and biblical stories.

But it is being lost, and this is a tragedy – not only for the Palestinians, but especially for them.

“The biography of these hills is in many ways my own, the victories and failures of the struggle to save this land also mine. But the persistent pain at the failure of that struggle would in time be shared by Arabs, Jews, and lovers of nature anywhere in the world. All would grieve, as I have, at the continuing destruction of an exquisitely beautiful place.”

As the book progresses, the landscape changes, because of the ever-increasing intrusions of the occupation. Walks became more difficult and, in some cases, fraught with danger.

“The other day I had to plead with a soldier to be allowed to return home. I told him that I really did not know a curfew had been imposed on Ramallah. I was away all day and hadn’t listened to the news. ‘I’m tired,’ I said, ‘please let me through.’ Oh, the humiliation of pleading with a stranger for something so basic.”

“How unaware many trekkers around the world are of what a luxury it is to be able to walk in the land they love without anger, fear or insecurity, just to be able to walk without political arguments…without the fear of losing what they’ve come to love, without the anxiety that they will be deprived of the right to enjoy it.”

As settlements grew (there are now almost a half million Israelis living in settlements in these occupied lands), not only did Palestinians lose ancestral lands and agricultural areas, they also lost freedom of movement, their way of life, and their hope for the future.

“The [settlement] master plan viewed our presence here as a constraint and was aimed at preventing ‘undesirable development.’ By creating new human settlements where none existed, connecting them with roads and isolating existing ones, it would not only strangle our communities but also destroy this beautiful land, and in a matter of a few years change what had been preserved for centuries.”

Jerusalem, too, was impacted. At first, cut off from the rest of the West Bank by a ring of settlements and a maze of highways, and now by a meandering and oppressive wall, the heart has been excised from the rest Palestine. Both the city, itself, and its once surrounding communities have suffered. The impact has been economic, social, cultural, and psychological.

“As we descended toward East Jerusalem…I realized that the beautiful Dome of the Rock was no longer visible. It was concealed by new construction. This was by design. Not only had Israeli city planners obstructed the view of this familiar landmark – they had also constructed a wide highway along the periphery of Arab East Jerusalem, restricting its growth and separating it from the rest of the city. Highways are more effective barriers than walls in keeping neighborhoods apart. Walls can always be demolished. But once built, roads become a cruel reality that is more difficult to change…

“No visitor would now sigh, let alone fall on his knees as many a conqueror and pilgrim in the past had done, upon beholding the Old City nestled in the hills. Now contorted, full of obstructions, walls and ugly blocks, it is a tortured city that has lost its soul.”

There is much more to “Palestinian Walks.” Woven through the narrative are stories of the author’s family, and accounts of legal challenges to land confiscations (Shehadeh is a famed human rights lawyer.) This is not an explicitly political book, filled with diatribes and prescriptions. Nor it is a hopeful book.

“As our Palestinian world shrinks, that of the Israelis expands, with more settlements being built, destroying forever the wadis and cliffs, flattening hills, and transforming the precious land that many Palestinians will never know.”

But it is real, and it is disturbing, and deserves to be read by everyone who calls that land Holy.

– Dr. James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute. For comments or information, contact James Zogby.

Source: Middle East Online

Wake up, Christians, or lose the Holy Land

alJazeera Magazine – Wake up, Christians, or lose the Holy Land

Wake up, Christians, or lose the Holy Land
30/03/2009 05:00:00 PM GMT Comments (51) Add a comment Print E-mail to friend
( Western Christendom doesn’t really give a damn about the Holy Land and its people.

By Stuart Littlewood

A British man recently applied to the Church of England to have his baptism into the Christian faith cancelled. Five months, he argued, was too young to decide his religious fate. Now 56, he’s against the indoctrination of children in any religion.

In Spain, I read that the mayor of El Borge has written to the local bishop asking for his baptism to be deleted and his name removed from Church records. He too considers baptism to be a dubious practice because of the age at which it is carried out. Other Spaniards are reported to want out of the Christian faith.

Logging off from the Church has crossed my mind also, but for different reasons. For me it’s the realisation that western Christendom doesn’t really give a damn about the Holy Land and its people, and couldn’t care less that it is being stolen by Zionists who are unwilling to live there in harmony with other faiths. These violent intruders want the entire place for themselves – exclusively – and they are willing to murder, pillage, destroy, ethnically cleanse, and stoop to all manner of inhuman crimes to snatch it, in the name of worldwide Jewry.

Most people in the West, including Christians in their leafy suburbs, turn a blind eye. They are possibly ignorant, but more likely they are misinformed by those who have a twisted view of the scriptures and now swell the ranks of Zionist sympathisers while still posing as devout Christians. The hang out in groups like Christian Friends of Israel and Anglican Friends of Israel, which are part of the wider Friends of Israel network that has its stooges embedded at all levels in our political, business, religious and social fabric.

The Holy Land is at the very centre of the Christian Church’s teachings. It is Christianity’s raison d’être. The Catholic Church at least keeps a considerable presence there, serving Christian and Muslim alike, and resists as best it can Israel’s continual encroachments on its freedom. The dozen or so patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem also speak out strongly from time to time.

But few people in the West seem to realise how seriously Israel’s notorious ‘administrative’ controls disrupt the life and work of the Church. How many are aware that no Muslim or Palestinian Christian living outside Jerusalem is allowed to visit the Holy Places in the Old City? This goes for priests, too, although the Israeli military may, when it suits their mood, grant permits restricted to certain entry points and limiting the duration of stay. These bully-boy tactics make pastoral work a nightmare and participation at major religious occasions well-nigh impossible.

The freedom of the Church was set out in the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel in 1993 (but never ratified by the Knesset, I’m told). Buried deep within this document is the clause: The State of Israel recognizes the right of the Catholic Church to carry out its religious, moral, educational and charitable functions, and to have its own institutions, and to train, appoint and deploy its own personnel in the said institutions or for the said functions to these ends.

It turns out to be another worthless promise from a regime that ignores countless UN resolutions, disregards International Court of Justice rulings, is contemptuous of human rights and Geneva Conventions, yet claims to be a western-style liberal democracy sharing our values.

Last week the Israeli authorities deployed police reinforcements to prevent the Palestinians from holding cultural events in East Jerusalem to mark the city’s designation as the 2009 “capital of Arab culture”. East Jerusalem, as everyone knows, is officially Palestinian territory and includes the Old City. Palestinians naturally regard it as the capital of their future state; but the Israelis – unlawfully – claim it is their “eternal and undivided capital”. They intend to make their cruel grip on it permanent.

Criticise Israel in the US and you’ll lose your job. Criticise Israel in the UK and the Jewish establishment and their quasi-Christian friends hurl accusations of anti-semitism. Dare to support the victims of Israeli aggression and you’ll get banned by the freaky Canadian government and vilified, like George Galloway.

The Israelis’ game is clearly to hinder and paralyse Christianity in the Holy Land. It is a process that has been going on for a very long time. When Palestine was under British mandate, Christians accounted for 20 per cent of the population. Sixty-one years of hostilities, dispossession, interference and economic ruination have whittled their numbers down to less than 2 per cent. At this rate there will soon be no Christians left in the land where Christianity was born.

And what is the head of our Anglican Church doing? Last November, while Israel was meticulously planning its blitzkrieg against Gaza’s civilians (including the Christian community) and their democratically elected government, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, joined the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, in a visit to the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland to demonstrate their joint solidarity against the extremes of hostility and genocide.

“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity – a place where the name of God was profaned because the image of God in human beings was abused and disfigured,” said the Archbishop. “How shall we be able to read the signs of the times, the indications that evil is gathering force once again and societies are slipping towards the same collective corruption and moral sickness that made the Shoah possible?”

The signs are there to plainly see, Dr Williams. Evil has indeed gathered its forces again and, as you surely noticed, certain societies have already slipped into the moral cesspit. Look no further than the hell-hole that the Holy Land has been turned into by the Israeli occupation.

So when can we expect a pilgrimage by the Archbishop and the Chief Rabbi to sniff the stench of profanity in the Gaza Strip? And what do they have to say about the relentless theft and judaisation of Jerusalem, I wonder?

Back in the days of the Crusades the Archbishops of Canterbury included Christian men of action like Baldwin and Hubert Walter, who donned armour and took up their sword to fight the good fight (as they saw it) for their belief in the Holy City and what it stood for. Times are different now, but unless the Western Church shows firmer leadership and more grit it will lose the Holy Land and more of its followers will renounce their baptism.

– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.
Source: Middle East Online

Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?

60 Minutes: Growing Number Of Israelis, Palestinians Say Two-State Solution Is No Longer Possible

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Is Peace Out Of Reach?

Has peace in the Middle East become nothing more than a pipe dream? As Bob Simon reports, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians feel that a two-state solution is no longer possible. | Share/Embed

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(CBS) Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by. For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state.

It’s known as the “two-state” solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can’t have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.

Daniella Weiss moved from Israel to the West Bank 33 years ago. She has been the mayor of a large settlement.

“I think that settlements prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the land of Israel. This is the goal. And this is the reality,” Weiss told 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon.

Though settlers and Palestinians don’t agree on anything, most do agree now that a peace deal has been overtaken by events.

“While my heart still wants to believe that the two-state solution is possible, my brain keeps telling me the opposite because of what I see in terms of the building of settlements. So, these settlers are destroying the potential peace for both people that would have been created if we had a two-state solution,” Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, once a former candidate for Palestinian president, told Simon.

And he told 60 Minutes Israel’s invasion of Gaza – all the death and destruction in response to rockets from Hamas – convinces him that Israel does not want a two-state solution. “My heart is deeply broken, and I am very worried that what Israel has done has furthered us much further from the possibility of [a] two-state solution.”

Palestinians had hoped to establish their state on the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware. But Israelis have split it up with scores of settlements, and hundreds of miles of new highways that only settlers can use. Palestinians have to drive – or ride – on the older roads.

When they want to travel from one town to another, they have to submit to humiliating delays at checkpoints and roadblocks. There are more than 600 of them on the West Bank.

Asked why there are so many checkpoints, Dr. Barghouti said, “I think the main goal is to fragment the West Bank. Maybe a little bit of them can be justified because they say it’s for security. But I think the vast majority of them are basically to block the movement of people from one place to another.”

Here’s how they block Barghouti: he was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Jerusalem and worked in a hospital there for 14 years. Four years ago he moved to a town just 10 miles away, but now, because he no longer lives in Jerusalem, he can’t get back in – ever.

He says he can’t get a permit to go. “I asked for a permit to go to Jerusalem during the last year, the last years about 16 times. And 16 times they were rejected. Like most Palestinians, I don’t have a permit to go to the city I was born in, to the city I used to work in, to the city where my sister lives.”

What he’s up against are scores of Israeli settlements dominating the lowlands like crusader fortresses. Many are little cities, and none of them existed 40 years ago. The Israelis always take the high ground, sometimes the hills, and sometimes the homes. And sometimes Arabs are occupied inside their own homes.

One house for example is the highest house on the highest hill overlooking the town of Nablus. 60 Minutes learned that Israeli soldiers often corral the four families who live there and take over the house to monitor movement down below.

Simon and the 60 Minutes team went to an apartment owned by a Mr. Nassif. That morning, Israeli soldiers had apparently entered the apartment, without notice, and remained there when Simon knocked on the door.

“We cannot speak with you, there are soldiers,” Nassif told Simon. “We are in prison here.”

Asked what was happening, Nassif says, “They are keeping us here and the soldiers are upstairs, we cannot move. We cannot speak with you.”

Nassif said he couldn’t leave the house and didn’t know how long he’d have to stay in place. Asked if they were paying him any money, he told Simon, “You are kidding?”

Abdul Nassif, a bank manager said he had to get to his bank to open the safe, but one of the soldiers wouldn’t let him go. He told 60 Minutes whenever the soldiers come they wake everybody up, and herd them into a kitchen for hours while soldiers sleep in their beds. They can’t leave or use the phone, or let 60 Minutes in.


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Eyewitness in Gaza: Yesterday and Tomorrow


Israel Admits White Phosphorous Use in Gaza
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George Mitchell from N.Ireland to Mideast
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Main Story
15:21 01/24/2009
Eyewitness in Gaza: Yesterday and Tomorrow
‘Whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here.’ (UNRWA/AFP)
By Ewa Jasiewicz – Gaza

We’re like trees, we have our roots and they allow us to grow, little by little, we grow up and then they cut us down. But, whatever they throw at us, whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here – Om Bassim, Jabaliya Camp, January 2009.

‘Our Home’

At the beginning of this war, when the bombs first started falling intensively, I remember lying on a mattress, late at night, I don’t remember where, maybe in Beit Hanoun hospital, maybe in Beit Lahiya. As I slipped into sleep, I could hear explosions, thuds, one after the other, some near, some distant, some to our east, to our west, again and again. In my semi-consciousness I felt they were all going off in my house, in my home, that the bombs were exploding in different rooms, upstairs, downstairs, next door, under me, over me. I didn’t feel fear, I felt a closeness, a holding together. Maybe it was a consequence of Gaza being an incarcerated space, a walled camp, so small and close-knit, a prison, but also, a house, a home, with families in every part, every corner, every room, a community of relatives from north to south, every explosion and massacre felt acutely, felt intimately as if it had happened to ones own family, in the home, this home.

The war was felt and heard in every home, it invaded some homes, soldiers occupied and destroyed peoples homes, tank shells, burning white phosphorous and bulldozers smashed homes, some people were buried under their homes, some are still entombed in their homes. Where is this home now? 50,000 people are homless according to the UN. Living in tents, classrooms, crowded rooms in the homes of relatives, under tarpaulin stretched over roofless rooms on family land, still standing. If the bombing resumes, and the attacks resume, this will still be a home to the people of Gaza, each bomb, and each hit, acutely felt, shuddered and shouldered by each community and family. My friend Om Bassem, mother of nine, living in Jabaliya explained calmly yesterday, ‘They besiege us and take away our electricity, ok, we carry it, they take away our gas, our flour, our food, ok, take it, we can take it, they take away our drinking water, take it. And our children, a mother grows her son until adulthood, focusing on nothing but bringing up her children, and then he is taken away, and we take it. We spend our whole lives working, saving, building, our homes for us and our children and our children’s children, and then they destroy it, bomb it to the ground, and we take it. We’re like trees, we have our roots and they allow us to grow, little by little, we grow up and then they cut us down. But, whatever they throw at us, whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here, we can take anything they do to us. God is big, God is bigger. And thanks be to God for all of this. We are steadfast’. And she smiles.

To the Dead Zone

We got the call early Sunday morning. We finally had ‘co-ordination’ to get into the closed military zones that Israeli forces had been occupying for the past three weeks. These were the ‘closed military zones’ in which ambulance staff, the Red Cross and UN had been fired upon and rescuers killed trying to enter.

These ‘closed areas’, these blind spots and dead zones, are Towam, Zaiytoun, Atatra, Ezbit Abed Rubbu, Toffah. These are communities, neighbourhoods, with schools and shops and homes that people would sit out in front of, on plastic chairs drinking tea, fingering prayer beads, staring at the sparkling blue sea, communities with farmland, orange orchards and strawberry fields. All locked down. The medics from the Red Crescent would come back by turns stunned and weary eyed. An old man with a gunshot wound to his head clasping a white flag from Atatra, bodies trameled by tanks – unidentifiable – and the girl, the famous, red, half eaten girl, Shahed Abu Halim, aged one and a half according to paramedics, left to die and half eaten by dogs, her body a beacon of horror for everyone who saw her being brought in to Kamal Odwan hospital in Jabaliya.

So many times, our ambulances skimmed the edges of these dead zones, where families were imprisoned, snipers holding them effectively hostage, the dead lying in the street unclaimed, witnessed daily by neighbours and loved ones. On occasion we managed to grab bodies on the periphery, mangled by missiles shot from surveillance drones. With the Ministry of Health ambulances, we rode to Karama – Dignity – where two men were reportedly found dead by rescue workers having bled to an undignified death from treatable injuries. Unreachable.

These were the areas that civilians had been shot dead trying to exit, some gunned down whilst holding white flags such as Ibtisam Ahmad Kanoon, 40, from Atatrah, who lay dying from 11.30am until 2pm the next day until relatives could carry her out. Her husband, son and mother all walking with her – her son Mohammad Bassam Mohammad al Kanoora, 23, injured by shrapnel to the head and Zahiye Mohammad Ahmad al Kanoora, 60, injured in the back.

Like the family of Musbah Ayoub, 64, from Izbet Abed Rubbu, who bled to death from shrapnel injuries to his legs, as relatives frantically called the Red Crescent and Red Cross for three days.

Like Wael Yusef Abu Jerahd, 21, from Zeitoun who was hit by tank shell shrapnel as he went to get a drink of water in his home. He lay dying for four hours, his family calling for help and appealing to Israeli occupation soldiers to enable his evacuation. Instead Israeli forces killed two paramedics traveling in a Libyan Red Crescent jeep attempting to get to him, and occupied the family’s home, imprisoning the family, 12 people, in a small kitchen along with their dead son, for three days. When the family were finally allowed to leave, they had two members to carry for over a kilometer over broken ground and trashed industrial sites; their son Wael, and his 64-year old mother, who couldn’t walk because of her diabetic condition and fresh nervous break-down over the killing of her son and her days and nights by his dead side, as Israeli occupation soldiers shot from her house.

The stories of those who bled to death because Israeli forces would not allow ambulance access to collect them, and the families who had to witness their demise and live with their bodies, run the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip. When ambulances could finally enter some areas, they were stoned by desperate and abandoned relatives. It is a war crime, under the Geneva Conventions, to prevent the passage of or target emergency staff who are trying to collect the injured.

The Walking Living

We made out at the break of dawn, red lights rotating into action, speeding towards Towam, close to Atatrah. Drizzle mixed with a haze of white phosphoric smoke, like a thin grey gauze over our eyes. Above us, surprisingly, and awesomely, soared a rainbow, high, wide and perfect, arching over the grey broken streets of Jabaliya and the freshly bombed Taha mosque with its’ insides spilled over the road, the knocked down houses like knocked out teeth, downed power lines, blown out and blackened apartment blocks, grey all around us, but if we looked up, a beautiful technicolour arch.

The first body was that of a young man, face down and crumpled outside the doors of the Noor Al Hooda mosque, his navy jumper singed from shrapnel injuries.

Behind us was a wasteland. Where houses had been, just days earlier, there were jagged edges of crushed walls, mangled with clothes, glass, books, furniture; houses turned into a lumpy sea of lost belongings, bombed and bulldozed into the ground. Amidst all this, was the crumpled body of Miriam Abdul Rahman Shaker Abu Daher, aged 87. It was her arm that we saw first, sticking out of a dusty blanket, trapped under rubble. We managed to hoist her onto a stretcher, paramedics took her away and I was left standing next to a man. ‘That was my mother’ he said to me. He explained what happened: ‘We left three days ago (15th January) with our children and we came back for her, but we couldn’t get to her, we called the Red Cross, they couldn’t help. They bulldozed everything here, maybe more than 20 houses. We thought we could return, we didn’t think they would do all this We couldn’t come back for three days so we don’t know how she died, maybe she died of the cold? After a few hours we had come back and planes were shooting at us, we were just meters away from our house, but the shooting was too much. We thought if the soldiers came they wouldn’t harm her because she’s so old, we thought maybe they would give her food or look after her. We didn’t expect them to bulldoze the whole area’, explained Awad Abdullah Mustapha Abu Daher, 45 years old. We took four dead into our ambulance. The Red Crescent would take another 32 before the day was over.

A column of people was walking slowly, some with donkey carts, some rumbling over the clod ground on motorbikes. All making their way home, for the first time, to Atatrah. Atatrah, with its new blasted out school, holes big enough to drive through, a crippled mosque, and burnt houses smoked above us, sloped up on a hill, with rolling strawberry fields and palm trees and the beach behind it, such a beautiful place to live, lush and alive and green. Now, according to locals, its almost unidentifiable, residents  are disorientated by the missing houses, confused between the lost streets and new ‘streets’ – tracts bulldozed between houses, gaping holes in half buildings and land churned into sand. I followed the column. Walking behind it was reminiscent of so many funeral processions that have trod the streets of Gaza and Palestine as a whole. A slow column, a long walk, an intergenerational walk, a thousand backs in front of us, for the dead, for the living, for the jailed, a return after eviction, a return after each invasion, The Walk, after being released from every imprisonment in every temporary prison by Israeli soldiers, the Beit Lahiya High School, a neighbour’s home, The Walk back all the time and through time, to overcome grief, dispossession, humiliation, a collective walk. I wanted to accompany that walk.

Climbing up the main road, pulverized and impassable by car, a group of 10 men come walking towards us carrying their heavy dead wrapped in blankets, struggling to find their footing on their descent. We spend the rest of the day searching for the dead, along with everybody else, another collective walk, a collective search, ‘Where are the martyrs? Are there martyrs here?’ and to everyone, the Arabic Islamic expressions of condolences and goodwill, ‘Thanks be to God for your peace’, ‘God will give’, ‘God protect you’. We are following the scent of rotting corpses, the scent sometimes of already decayed flesh, or decaying animals – a donkey, a goat, dogs, a horse. One man we bring from Toam, Moayan Abu Hussain, 37, is brought to us by donkey cart, his badly decomposed and bloated body wrapped in two blankets. He fills the white zip up heavy plastic body bag.

The following day, again, in the morning, bodies are being brought out of the ground, from crushed homes, and from tunnels. At the top of Ezbet Abed-Rubbu, early in the morning, we ride to retrieve three bodies, three men, fighters, from the Sobuh family. Locals say they were trapped in their tunnel when collaborators told the Israeli army they were there and the tunnel was collapsed from both ends, starving them of oxygen and entombing them in a slow death. What does resistance mean when sea, air and land are controlled by the occupier? Going underground is literal. The walk now is becoming a crawl. F16s soar low above our heads, and continue to in the intervening days, a reminder of who dominates here. As local men dig up their dead, the stench overwhelming, spitting out death as they work, digging, the men finally surface, to be wrapped immediately in blankets, in front of an audience, the perpetual witnesses here to every crime, every death, every aftermath.

The crowd of perhaps one hundred, strives to pack into the ambulance along with their loved ones, crying, keening, clamoring at the white plastic bags. A boy of maybe 8, with a face etched older with trauma, shouts in a voice of a man, ‘Hasby Allah wa Naeme al Wakee!” – ‘God will judge them!’ But who will judge the Israeli occupation forces and their leaders, political and military, who have perpetrated war crime after war crime here in Gaza? It has to be us. We need to take up our consciences and humanity and translate judgment into action.

Yesterday was a fast-forward blur of destruction, mass pain, broken bodies, lifeless beings, terror on the streets, in homes, in mosques, in ambulances, in hospitals. Yesterday, people were being physically dismembered and today remain so, many still recovering on intensive care units in France, Egypt, Israel. The same states that stayed silent and complicit in this massacre, now take the broken into their bellies and return them patched up, back into a killing zone, a prison where the guards can shoot back in, plough back in and break them all over again at any given moment.

Torture and Relief

Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, people were tortured underneath hospitals, burnt, fractured, torn up, and then taken upstairs to be repaired, in the full knowledge, that one they were whole again, skin growing back together again, the same awaited them, they would be taken back down, to be tortured again, the healing a mocking, a thwarted, negated process in itself because of the looming knowledge that it was only to be followed by a repetition of the breaking. This type of collective torture is being practiced here and the complicit are those who allow it to happen, and that do not create the conditions to stop this cycle of devastation. People keep being recycled through this trauma, generation after generation, through fresh weapons, new chemicals, new prisons and new ways of the international community maintaining silence, complicity and support for Israeli occupation.

Families are familiar now with the trawling delegations and caseworkers, notebooks in hand, I include myself in this walk, the walk of the hundreds of journalists, human rights workers, Red Crescent, Red Cross, United Nations workers, asking the same questions, noting the same details, preparing families for temporary shelters, giving out plastic sheeting for broken windows and replacement doors, blankets, emergency food packages, tents, cooking stoves, everyone expects them and expects us; the same donor agencies and charities, rolling up their sleaves to issue fresh appeals and re-build the same community centers, police stations, hospitals, that were rebuilt after the last annihilation; a rewound and fast-forwarded cycle of destruction and reconstruction, yesterday and tomorrow being blurred together into a circle of a collectively expected return to ruins and a slow rebuilding, again and again. It is no wonder that ‘human rights’ workers and the notes and testimonies frantically taken down with shock and condolence, time after time, year after year are met with replies of ‘Its all empty, write it down but what will it change? It’s all empty’. There is no post-traumatic stress disorder here because there is no real ‘post’ to the traumatic stress. Traumatic events keep on happening again and again, relief un-processed, grief unprocessed, as people watch and wait and brace themselves for the next attack.


People are left with snippets, fragments, of their loved ones, literally and in memory. Nuggets of film shot on mobile phones pass through multiple hands, of the last of their loved ones, wrapped in white sheets, with hands and tears pouring over them, screaming and screaming, to be shown and shared with fresh tears in real time, again. Like the five from the Abu Sultan, Abbas and Soosa families, demolished by a tank shell shot into their home as they were drinking morning tea on their doorstep in Shaimaa, Beit Lahiya. Paramedics could not reach them for half an hour as they lay bleeding in pieces outside their home. Asma Abu Sultan, 22, watched her father, brother and uncle bleed to death, ‘It was 10.30am and we were drinking tea together in our home when we heard this gigantic bang, I saw my uncle at the door, injured, we went inside, I saw they had no chests, no hand, one was still breathing, I said ‘get up my brother’ I was telling him please, get up, please don’t die, he started to bear witness to God, then he said your father has died. He was draining of life, the blood draining from his face, but he was still alive, and then we couldn’t get an ambulance because they kept getting bombed, we kept asking everyone to help us, after half an hour he died from shrapnel wounds to the heart’.

Pieces. One afternoon, in the yesterdays of this war, we were called out to respond to a car bombing in Gaza City. We arrived on the scene, in bright light, to Palestine square, close to the Ahly al Arabi Hospital. Two injured had already been taken away. The car was a mangled sliced heap. Somehow there was no burning. We picked up a large, headless, man, still bleeding. Nobody wanted to touch him, they were terrified of him. Before we left the scene, someone put a small plastic ID card in my hand, Arabic script and his head, his face, bearded, in his late 30s, taken alive, he looked strong. I couldn’t let go of it, as the ambulance bounced along the broken streets, he behind us, handless, legs torn open, on a rickety stretcher, I held it in both hands, and couldn’t let go of it, keeping it in my hand wrapped round one end of the stretcher, pressed together, trying to keep it together somehow, close to his body.

A few nights ago, I sat by candlelight with my friend and his 9-year-old son Abed, in Beit Lahiya. I had bought him stickers depicting the human body, the brain, illustrated piece by piece, the human intestinal system, muscular network, the insides of the human eye, the heart, its valves and arteries. Abed fingered them, spread out over the kitchen table in the candlelight, these pieces, pieces Id seen outside bodies, spilled onto the streets of Gaza. Here they were in his hands, on the table in front of us, in one dimensional colour. He began to sing, ‘We’re steadfast, steadfast we remain, during this siege, and we remain steadfast’. He sang the words over and over again, fingering the stickers flickering in the candlelight until he sang himself into drowsiness. ‘Get up and go to sleep’, his father said and we kissed him and he left.

Everyone is trying to pick up the pieces of their invaded lives here, yesterday’s attacks and the severing of families from one another, will take years to reconnect, and rebuild, bring together again.

Yesterday can happen again. People expect a tomorrow when Israel will escalate its attacks and go further, casting more lead. Some believe this was a rehearsal for a deeper war, a litmus test that Israel won, because in 21 days of attacks, the international community kept shining a green light for Israel to continue to bomb and kill without restraint. The endgame being a pacified, acquiescent Gaza, with a weak Palestinian Authority, under the control of Israel or, if unrealized, an evicted Gaza, realized through provocations from Israel, extra judicial killings and surprise incursions, eventually responded to with rocket fire from the resistance and then a massive attack and push southward of the population into the Sinai and an Egyptian protectorate, new camps, and a new redrawing of a map already redrawn so many times through exile and empire.

Yesterday can happen again, a tomorrow that people here have been struggling for over sixty years, still dim, still distant, still carried but harder to imagine in the midst of the grief endured under siege here. The difference we can make is to seize today. The difference between yesterday and the horror, and dispossession and shock all here are still reeling from, and the tomorrow that could bring more of the same, reproducing, re-cycling, the same terrorization and cutting down of people as they pray, walk, sit, stand, heal, fight, the difference between yesterday and tomorrow is our today.


I told many people, friends, taxi drivers, doctors, policemen, about the peoples’ strike on EDO-MBM Technologies in Brighton, UK this month. EDO manufactures the bomb release mechanism for F16s. Activists filmed themselves explaining to camera that they were decommissioning the facility in protest at the company’s complicity in the war on the Palestinian people, and specifically the killing of the people of Gaza. Over a quarter of a million pounds worth of damage was caused as activists threw computers out of windows and smashed equipment. They had taken their resistance out of the powerful but symbolic realm of the streets and into the offices of those responsible for arming Israel, physically imobilising their business. Three remain on remand in prison.

When I recounted this action to people, I saw an expression come over their faces that I hadn’t encountered before when talking about international solidarity. It was a kind of respect, a dawning smile, a sense of surprised pride, a tiny move towards a leveling between the blood sacrifices and living hell of so many here, and sacrifices made by people on comparative comfort zones on the other side of the world – for them. What would the parents of the children blown up by F16s here do if they could? What would we do if our children were being cut down by war planes and we knew where these weapons were being manufactured and we could confront these arms dealers and stop them arming those responsible for killing our children? Would we not stop them, would we not make the move from the streets to the factories, offices and facilities where these deaths, tomorrow’s deaths are in the making, and disarm them, save lives at the physical root of the production of the means of killing? Save lives there so that exhausted and besieged doctors here do not have to try to, under appalling conditions and against all odds; enforce international law outside ourselves, because noone else will do it for us. People here are expecting solidarity activism to go further, and needing it to go much much further.

A friend here, a well-respected intellectual and activist, run ragged through the war participating in interview after interview, writing piece after piece, pieces of resistance writing, expressed his sense of failure last night, that he didn’t do enough. That the resistance was dying for all of us, sacrificing for all of us, paying the ultimate price, and what was he doing? Sitting in his comfort zone, his writing a relief, for himself, to himself, making him feel better and stronger but where were his words going? What was the relationship between the words he was writing and speaking and stopping the death, stopping the invading occupation forces? Look at the completeness of Che Guevara, a doctor, a writer, a fighter, a complete man, and what was he, a writer, an academic, activist, but unable to pick up a gun or a body? Crucially, what was ‘enough’ and when have we done ‘enough’?

Our Lines and ‘Enough’

‘Enough’ is relative, and ‘enough’ is subjective and incredibly personal, but, a tentative attempt to unpick the crushing pressure of guilt – guilt on all our backs, all over the world, of an impotence and a sense of failure to influence, and a struggle build the means and the movements, to influence change – I think a tentative definition of enough could be, to transgress, to cross our own lines of possibility.

Our own lines of what we believe we can and cannot do have been authored by others and adopted by ourselves. Lines drawn by authorities, re-inscribed with violence and drawn thick with the threat of detention, imprisonment, the denial of everything that makes life worth living; contact with loved ones, freedom of movement, a natural stimulation of our senses through interaction with our natural environment, our sense of identity, all radically curtailed and undermined through incarceration. And death, the final line, the full stop imposed by absolute power onto the living bodies of those daring to resist, armed or unarmed, lives slammed shut by surveillance plane missiles zapped them into the ground. F16s exploding houses full of people. Ended. All ended. A line drawn under their lives. But where are our lines? ‘Enough’ will be an ever extending horizon, the edge always ahead of us, but we will never get close to where we need to be as a critical mass to effect change unless we cross our own lines of fear.

‘Enough’ is when you know you can do more, and you know you can take a step forward into a space of activism that you have never entered before and you do it. ‘Enough’ is when you know, you have pushed yourself, when you took risks and made sacrifices that you knew would be painful, knew could weigh heavy, could change your life forever, but you did it. When you knew the potential consequences of your actions but you confronted your fears and took the step forward, stepping over your own line. From stepping out into the streets for the first time to demonstrate, to picking up a chair and barricading yourself into your university, to telling the world you’re going to decommission an arms factory or war plane or settlement produce facility and doing it, we need to cross our own lines of fear, hesitation, and apprehension. We can push our movements forward, person by person, group by group, party by party, network by network, by crossing our lines and making sacrifices, small compared to the intensive blood letting, loss and devastation here.

Direct action, strike action, popular occupations, tactics used by Palestinians in the first intifada, and smashed by Israeli counter-tactics of siege, intensified occupation and massive military onslaught, all legitimized by our international governments. The counter-onslaught shows no signs of abatement.

We need to redraw our own battle lines and go further, to do the ‘enough’ we want to do and be the ‘enough’ we want to be. Our consciences and history demands this. It’s not enough and it will be too late for a new history, authored by others, to judge us, we have to make our own. It is not God that will judge us, it will be our brothers and sisters here in Palestine and in our international community, the widows, the orphans, the childless parents, the living left behind after the dead.

We can’t afford yesterday to repeat itself. We cannot wait until tomorrow happens to us. Between yesterday and tomorrow is today and we need to build our intifada today. Our intifada of solidarity needs to grow beyond demonstrations, and to put Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) politics into practice through direct action. The BDS campaign was initiated and called for by over 135 Palestinian grassroots organizations in 2005, a call that needs to be amplified and spread internationally, targeting the corporations and institutions enabling Israel to keep violating international law and destroying peoples lives. Through direct action, popular disarmament of Israel, and a real grassroots democracy movement, we can collectively come into our ‘enough’. We can affect that which hasn’t happened yet, we can change what happens tomorrow. This is our intifada, this is our today.

- Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement (

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Israelis are living high on US expense account

By Michael Backman
The Age
January 17, 2009

THERE’S a memorable scene in the Stephen Spielberg film ‘Munich’. After the 1972 Munich Olympic Games killings of Israeli athletes, prime 
minister Golda Meir tells confidants she wants to show the plotters that killing Jews “is expensive”. She then organises for the assassination 
of each of the plotters.

Today, it is Israel itself that has become expensive. Most directly, it is very expensive to the US, which subsidises and arms it.

But Israel’s utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends has imposed big costs on us all. We have paid for Israel’s 
failure with bombs on London public transport, bombs in bars in Bali, and even the loss of the World Trade Centre towers in New York.

It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don’t like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in 
response. Rather, it is Israel — or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians — that is at the nub of these events.

The world’s Muslims have no head: no overarching caliph or pope equivalent exists — no single power source with whom to negotiate. 
Instead, Islam is remarkably decentralised. So, how extraordinary that Israel and the West have managed to unite this headless, diverse, 
dispersed grouping without any institutional framework, around just one issue — anger at the treatment of the Palestinians.

Otherwise dispersed groups of Muslims do seem to feel for one another in a way that Christians and others do not.

In this respect, the international Islamic community is like a body: kick it in the leg and the rest of the body feels it. Kick it hard enough and 
the entire body will be energised to defend itself. Pictures of distraught Gazan mothers beside the mutilated bodies of their children are 
circulating right now among Muslim communities worldwide. It is pictures like these that make them want to do something.

Consider Malaysia. Every citizen of this outpost of Islam has printed in his or her passport that the passport is not valid for Israel. And given 
that Malaysians are not allowed to hold dual citizenship, this essentially means that every Malaysian citizen, including the 40% who are not 
Muslims, are banned from visiting Israel.

“When will Malaysia recognise Israel?” I once asked the then finance minister. “Once Israel treats the Palestinians better,” was his reply. 
How would he determine that? “When the Palestinians tell us,” he said. It is not Israel’s right to exist that is at issue.

The enmity many Muslims now feel for Israel has nothing to do with religion. The historical persecutors of the Jews have been Christians — 
their punishment for the death of Jesus. Jews and Muslims have lived in peace for hundreds of years in many parts of the Islamic world. 
When Catholic Spain and Portugal expelled its Jews, the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul invited them in. It is the Palestinian issue that has 
ruined all this.

Of course, today Israel must defend itself. If the residents of Bendigo started firing rockets into Melbourne you would expect Melbourne to 
retaliate. But what must Melbourne have done to Bendigo to make them do such a thing? Constantly slapping an opponent in the face, 
kicking it down to its knees, and watching it struggle in the dirt will not teach the opponent to love or respect you. It teaches only hatred.

Persecuting people does not weaken them. Israel should know that. The Jews have been persecuted for centuries. It didn’t destroy them 
but gave them the impetus to survive.

One characteristic that is common among persecuted groups is a strong investment in education — when people’s physical wealth is in 
danger of destruction from war and persecution one store of wealth that stays with individuals even when they must flee as refugees is 
education. It explains why such groups often insist on their own schools — education is too important to be entrusted to others.

Hamas did not enjoy the support of all the people of Gaza. It does now. Why does Israel keep getting it wrong?

Trekking in Nepal is fashionable among young Israelis. So much so that many shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara have signs in Hebrew. But 
once you get on the trekking circuit and speak with local Nepalese guides and guesthouse operators you soon discover how disliked the 
Israelis are. Many guesthouses in this poor country will even tell Israeli trekking groups that they are full rather than accept them. This has 
nothing to do with religion or politics: Nepalese people are some of the warmest, most hospitable in the world. Rather, they say that the 
young Israelis are rude, arrogant, and argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means.

Israel needs to change. The Parsees of India might provide a model. The Parsees are a very tiny, very rich ethnic and religious minority. 
They own perhaps most of the land in central Mumbai as well as the country’s largest conglomerate. And yet ordinary Indians admire and 
respect them. Violence against them is unthinkable.

How have they achieved this? They are not flashy or arrogant. Their overriding characteristic is a deep interest in the welfare of others. 
They have established hospitals, libraries, schools, museums and many other institutions and, most importantly, not for the Parsee 
community exclusively but for everyone. So the Parsees have peace and the Israelis do not.

Left: Images purportedly from Gaza such as this example have 
been circulated by e-mail in Malaysia and Indonesia in recent 
weeks, accompanied by text in Malay which translates in part as: “I 
cry because I’m a muslim, and my brothers are being killed!” And 
so Muslims worldwide are being energised and drawn into a conflict 
which otherwise has no direct bearing on them.

How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state’s legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures while lying on the ground outside Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip. With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza’s prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.

Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion’s share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.

In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.

Israel’s settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

Israel likes to portray itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. Yet Israel has never in its entire history done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and has done a great deal to undermine it. Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes to suppress Palestinian nationalism. Despite all the handicaps, the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon. In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognise the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organisation.

America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel’s propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.

The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel’s terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.

The timing of the war was determined by political expediency. A general election is scheduled for 10 February and, in the lead-up to the election, all the main contenders are looking for an opportunity to prove their toughness. The army top brass had been champing at the bit to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas in order to remove the stain left on their reputation by the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006. Israel’s cynical leaders could also count on apathy and impotence of the pro-western Arab regimes and on blind support from President Bush in the twilight of his term in the White House. Bush readily obliged by putting all the blame for the crisis on Hamas, vetoing proposals at the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire and issuing Israel with a free pass to mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted – a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, “crying and shooting”.

To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak – terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel’s entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

The brutality of Israel’s soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel’s objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel’s forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel’s spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel’s actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel’s objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel’s concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.

This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

• Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and of Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace.