Wednesday, April 9, 2014

BDS and Zionist lawfare in Australia: Palestine solidarity still under attack

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article in Red Flag on the Shurat HaDin SLAPP suit against Professor Jake Lynch and the Zionist lawfare campaign against BDS and BDS activists.

As I noted in a previous Red Flag article on the court case:

Lawfare proponents such as Shurat HaDin regularly use SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation) to try to damage political opponents by either financially crippling them or tying them up in court and/or to win public relations victories for the lawfare proponent. In most instances, SLAPP suit proponents do not expect to win their suit. Their primary goal is to prevent public participation and political activism through intimidation and mounting legal costs.
 You can read my earlier articles published by Red Flag about the campaign against Professor Lynch here and here.

in solidarity, Kim

Palestine solidarity still under attack

by Kim Bullimore: RedFlag - 7 April 2014


Professor Jake Lynch director of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and supporter of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

In October 2013, the Israel-based law centre Shurat HaDin filed a test case in the Australian Federal Court against Professor Jake Lynch, the director of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, over his support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Similar “lawfare” cases, which seek to intimidate supporters of BDS, have also been carried out in France, the UK and in the USA.

Lawfare proponents, such as Shurat HaDin, regularly use SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation) to smear political opponents and tie them up in court or financially cripple them.

The court case against Lynch centres on his refusal to sponsor an application by Israeli academic, Dan Avnon, for a fellowship at Sydney University.

Shurat HaDin accused Lynch and the BDS campaign of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. However, as Lynch explains to Red Flag, he declined to support Avnon’s application not because he was Israeli or Jewish but because the fellowship which Avnon was applying for was a bilateral, funded fellowship between Sydney University and the Hebrew University in Israel.

The BDS campaign promotes boycotts of businesses and institutions that either directly or indirectly contribute to human rights abuses against Palestinians, violate international law or participate in “rebranding” campaigns that white wash Israel’s human rights and war crimes record.

“Through this collaboration at an institutional level, we effectively internalise the Hebrew University’s complicity in the occupation [of Palestine]”, says Lynch.

“It runs training courses for the military; its Mount Scopus campus is partly built on land seized from its rightful Palestinian owners, and the chairman (sic) of its Board of Governors is Michael Federmann, who is also Chairman of Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s biggest arms dealers.

“I reserve my right not to participate in, or cooperate with a scheme to which I object in principle.”

On March 14, Justice Alan Robertson provisionally rejected as inadmissible large sections of Shurat HaDin’s statements and affidavits because they did not establish any facts pertinent to the case.

In October, when Shurat HaDin launched the action, it submitted a sweeping 30-page claim. According to Shurat HaDin, Lynch not only discriminated against Avnon but was also responsible for depriving all Israelis of cultural, academic and other opportunities.

Lynch’s lawyers rejected all charges and asked for the complaint to be struck down.

In rejecting much of Shurat HaDin’s claims, Justice Robertson noted that they had failed to include clear facts linking Lynch’s support for BDS with specific acts of racial discrimination. “You’ll have to do a lot of work to persuade me of the correctness of that position”, he said.

Lynch’s lawyers argue that the case is politically motivated and part of the broader offensive by the Israeli state against the BDS campaign. They also noted Lynch’s refusal to sponsor Avnon had not caused him any disadvantage and that he had successfully taken up another fellowship at the university.

The political nature of Shurat HaDin’s complaint is evident: not only has Avnon not been approached by Shurat HaDin to join the suit, be a witness or even submit an affidavit, the Israeli lawfare group is not seeking any financial penalties against Lynch should they win the case.

Instead it is demanding that Lynch publicly renounce the boycott campaign and apologise for supporting it.

It is also attempting to have support for the Palestinian boycott campaign against Israel ruled illegal under Australian law.

Shurat HaDin’s lawfare attack on Lynch, academic freedom and freedom of speech has been condemned by more than 2,000 Australian and international human rights advocates from more than 60 countries. The case has been adjourned until 24 April.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome to the new look "Live from Occupied Palestine"

Dear friends,
as you will no doubt notice, Live from Occupied Palestine, has had a template makeover.  I have had a number of friends and visitors to the blog tell me over the past year that they found the white on black hard on their eyes and difficult to read at times.  It has also been a couple of years since I last updated the look of the blog, so I decided to go ahead with a small make over.   The blog is basically the same, with the same feeds and links retained.  The only thing that is different is the template, background colour and I have moved some gadgets to different spots.  I am not sure how long I will retain this new look but thought it was worth trying it out for a while.

I hope you find the new look attractive and that it makes it easier for people to read the post entries.

Thank you once again for your continuing support of Live from Occupied Palestine!  And don't forget, I now also have a Live from Occupied Palestine Facebook page, which I update more regularly with news items on Palestine. You can find it here.

In solidarity, Kim

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The failure of 20 years of "peace talks"

Dear friends,
it has now been 20 years since the Oslo Accords.  When Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) began the so-called "peace talks", they were scheduled to conclude within 5 years.  Twenty years later, the fake "peace process" continues. Under the guise of the "peace" talks, Israel has continued to ethnically cleanse Palestinains from their lands and has deepen its occupation of Palestinian land. Over the past 20 years, Israel has strengthened and expanded its apartheid policies and today segregation defines landscape in the Occupied West Bank, Occupied East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Visualising Palestine and AIDA (the Association of International Development Agencies) have produced an infographic which highlights the failure of 20 years of "peace talks". 

You can check out Visualing Palestine and there very useful and information infographic series by clicking here.

In solidarity, Kim

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Film: Journey into an Invisible War - documenting Israel's settler colonialism, violence and ethnic cleansing in the Occupied West Bank

Dear friends,
Al Jazeera recently posted the following documentary by French film producer and reporter Paul Moriera about the "invisible war" by Israel's illegal settlers against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank. 

The film documents Israel's ongoing settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The film examines the ongoing encroachment of new illegal Israeli colonies onto Palestinian land and the violence perpetrated by illegal settlers and the Israeli military who defends them, against Palestinians.  Al Jazeera, in their description of the film, note that: "In new hilltop settlements, built on stolen land, he [Moriera]encounters the sometimes startling intolerance of their ultra-orthodox communities who will do whatever they can to take more".

In particular, Moriera's film looks at the situation in Hebron, where three illegal colonies are located inside the largest city in the Occupied West Bank.  Moriera examines the "street-by-street apartheid" imposed on Palestinians who have always lived in Hebron.

The film exposes the fantasy of so-called "peace process" and "two-state solution" with Al Jazeera noting in their introduction to the film: "With every square metre of territory that is taken, with every Palestinian olive grove that is burnt down, or house that is demolished, the land available for an independent Palestine state shrinks a little more".

I have embedded the film below. It runs for 48 minutes and well worth watching.

In solidarity,

Journey into an Invisible War: 48 minutes

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Palestinian Land Day: resisting Israel's ethnic cleansing.

2014 Palestinian Land Day march @ Arraba/Shakhnin. Photo by Uri Weltmann.

Dear friends,
Sunday, March 30 marks the 36th anniversary of Palestinian Land Day (Youm al-Ard’) In 1976, the Israeli government's announcement of a plan to expropriate more than 60,000 of dunams of Palestinian-Arab-owned land in the Galilee for "security" and settlement purposes. 
Palestinian citizens of Israel called a general strike and marches were organised.  This was the first significant act of civil disobedience by Palestinians inside 1948.  Between 1948 and 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel had been forced to live under military rule and curfew (something which had not applied to Jewish citizens of the Zionist state).  During this period, Palestinians freedom of movement, political activity, free speech, freedom of association and civil rights were severely restricted.   Palestinians were prevented from engaging in any type of political activity and were restricted in what jobs they could hold and what education they could pursue. Villages were regularly placed under curfew and Palestinians had to obtain permits to travel from one village to another.   

While Martial Law formally ended in 1966, Israel has continued its apartheid practices, both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Zionist state (for more on this see my article: Israel's Apartheid)

The 1976 protests against the announced land grab was the first mass act of resistance after years of military rule.  Systematic expropriation, inside the Zionist state since 1948, had reduced Palestinian land ownership from approximately 94% prior to the Nakba to less than 3% in 1976.

Determined to crack down on the protests, the Israeli state imposed curfews on Palestinian villages in the Galilee and the north of Israel where the largest demonstrations were to take place. The peaceful demonstration of thousands of Palestinians and supporters was attacked by 4000 Israeli police and military, resulting in the death of six unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and hundreds wounded and hundreds more arrested. Today across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside 48 (Israel), Palestinians will commemorate Land Day with marches and demonstrations.

The Palestinian martyrs of Land Day, March 30, 1976 were:  Raja Hussein Abu Rayya (30) from Sakhnin; Muhsin Hasan Said Taha (15) from Kufr Kanna; Khader Eid Mahmoud Khalaila (24) from Sakhnin; Khayr Mohammad Salim Yasin (23) from Arraba; Khadija Qasem Shawahneh (23) from Sakhnin and; Rafat Ali Az-Zheiri (21) from Nur Shams refugee camp.

Israel, today, still continues its land grab and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Zionist state. 
Since 1967, when Israel seized control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the Zionist state has continued its expansion of illegal colonies. Today, more than half a million Israeli settlers reside illegally in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, doubling the figure of 241,500 that existed prior to the Oslo agreement in early 1990s.

Israel's expansion and construction of illegal settlements has resulted in both more and more Palestinian land being confiscated, as well as Palestinian resources, including water resources.
In January 2014, Friends of the Earth International noted that:
"Many communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) suffer from a lack of access to adequate, safe, and clean water, due to Israeli water policies and practices which discriminate against the Palestinian population of the OPT, and the encroachment by Israeli settlers on Palestinian water resources. (For the full text of their statement, click here)

Inside the Zionist state, Israel is currently seeking to ethnically cleanse between 40,000 and 70,000 Palestinian Bedouin from their homes and land in the Naqab (Negev) desert.  Under the Prawer Plan approximately 40 villages will be uprooted and more than 850,000 dunums of land will be confiscated by the Israeli state.

Palestinians both inside the Zionist state and in the Occupied Territories have been protesting against the Prawer Plan and what will be Israel's biggest mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian since 1948 and 1967.  Several national and international days of actions have taken place to protests Israel's latest land grab. (for more information on the Prawer Plan and the protest against it, see my earlier posts here, here, here, here, here , here and here)

I have included below a translation of an account by an Israeli policeman on the unprovoked attack by Israeli forces on the peaceful demonstration.  The article has been translated from Hebrew by my friend, Ofer Neiman, who is an Israeli activist with the "Boycott from Within" campaign - the campaign by Israeli citizens in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign (click here for more information on the Boycott from Within campaign).

I have also embedded the French documentary, The Land Speaks Arabic which looks at the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and includes interviews with Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed from their lands and homes.

in solidarity,


The Land Speaks Arabic - 60 minutes

An Israeli policeman's account of Land Day, 1976

On March 30, 1976, Israeli police repressed protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel against the confiscation of Arab land in the Galilee for use by Jewish citizens. Six protesters were killed, some 100 wounded and hundreds were arrested. Ever since, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark Land Day on March 30. ‘Ha’olam Hazeh,’ a magazine published by Uri Avnery, was the only Israeli media outlet to challenge the state’s narrative of the events at the time. The following, a testimony from an Israeli police officer who was present that day, is short item ‘Ha’olam Hazeh’ published following the Land Day events.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

I was unfortunate (the swelling on my forehead will attest to that) to be a part of the police forces which were supposed to pacify the riots which had broken out amongst the Arabs of the Galilee on the day they called “Land Day.”

Reading the reports by journalists who were present on the ground, I cannot but throw down the yoke of silence imposed on me as a police officer, and set the record straight regarding a number of issues.

I am not a man of the left, but aspects of my view of what happened in the Galilee on March 30 [1976] will surely have me annexed to the left-wing bloc, for this bloc, in my opinion, is, to my dismay, the bloc holding the objective view.

On March 30 at 12:30 in the morning, my unit was called to a briefing, which was engulfed in hatred towards Arabs, and in which expressions mandating violence for the sake of violence against those who have violated our sleep, the Arabs, were voiced. When we reached the place, no stones awaited us, and therefore our ‘forces’ invaded the village in armored vehicles – associations with my parents’ stories about the British Mandate [come to mind].

In the face of the villagers’ practical discontent, the officers began to fight back with their submachine guns. These officers were very pleased with themselves, since after all, it is not every day that one can be a hero with such ease. And more than all others, a first sergeant and a logistics officer found relief from their abhorrence of the bureaucratic apparatus by shooting at the panicked villagers (the latter even hit two, one of them, it turned out, died due to this).

After the villagers fled, the forces entered some of the homes and began to take their rage out on their entire contents. I witnessed one such incident, in which glassware, the television set, the record player, pictures and other objects were smashed to pieces. Such images cannot but remind me of the poems by Bialik and Tchernichovsky about the pogroms waged against the Jews [in Russia] at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century.

The thing which terrified me most of all was the immense hatred of Arabs running through the veins of most of my fellow policemen, a hatred which was relieved only in the slightest on March 30.

We must shake off our hatred of the sons of Ishmael, for the sake of justifying our legitimate right to reside on this land.

Originally published by Ha’Olam Hazeh, 1976. Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Israel's abuse of Palestinian children: Breaking the Silence responds to Zionist lobby and critics of John Lyons "Stone Cold Justice" report

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, on February 10 this year, Australia's oldest and highly acclaimed investigative journalism program, 4 Corners ran a report by journalist John Lyons on Israel's abuse of Palestinian child prisoners.  The report, Stone Cold Justice, has been viewed widely both in Australia and internationally. 

since John Lyons excellent report about Israel's arrest and abuse of Palestinian child prisoners went to air, there has been a concerted attempt by Zionist and pro-Israel apologists to try and undermine and discredit the report.  

As I noted in previous blogs on Lyons' report, there has been a concerted attempted by Zionists and pro-Israel apologists to try and undermine and discredit Lyons' report.  This began even before the report went to air, with Zionist groups in Australia sending briefing sheets to supporters asking them to complain to the ABC (Australian Broad Cast Corporation) about the report.

John Lyons has since published an article in defense of his report, pointing out that Zionist critics deliberately choose to ignore Israeli realities.  You can read Lyons article here, along with my comments on the campaign to discredit his report.

Breaking the Silence, who were interviewed by Lyons as part of the Stone Cold Justice report have  now also responded to the Zionist critics.  Breaking the Silence is made up of  former Israeli combat soldiers who have served in the Israeli occupation forces since the beginning of the Second Intifada.  Founded in 2004, the organisation seeks to expose to the Israeli public the reality of everyday life for Palestinians, living under military occupation.  In the statement issued by Breaking the Silence in response to Zionist critics, Yehuda Shaul (who founded the group), notes that critics of the both Breaking the Silence and the report are engaged in "mudslinging ... while turning a blind eye to reality".

In their statement (which was published by the right-wing Australian Zionist newsite, J-Wire), Breaking the Silence addresses the deliberate distortions and lies, not only about their organisation and the Lyons report but also about Israel's occupation policies, as well as the attempts by pro-Zionist/pro-Israel groups to white wash Israel's human rights abuses.  I have included their full statement below.

While I do not necessarily agree with all of Shaul's politics, Breaking the Silence has and does make useful and important contribution in exposing Israel's occupation and its human rights abuses.  As such I think its is important that both Shaul's voice and Breaking the Silence be heard.

For my earlier posts on Lyons' Stone Cold Justice report:

  • Reporter John Lyons responds to Zionist critics of his Four Corners report on Israel's abuse of Palestinian children:  click here.

  • Four Corners: Stone Cold Justice - Israel's abuse of Palestinian child prisoners: click here.
In solidarity, 

Breaking The Silence responds to AIJAC

Read on for article
The ABC Four Corners on the treatment of Palestinian children by the IDF was addressed by The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. The leader of Israeli advocacy group Breaking the Silence responds.

From Yehuda Shaul:

Yehuda Shaul in Hebron
Yehuda Shaul in Hebron   Pic:   Quique Kierzenbaum

I have been a member of Breaking the Silence since its founding in 2004. The organization has grown steadily since into what it is today: nearly 1000 combat soldiers breaking the silence about their service in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The stories we tell are not easy to hear, we understand that. But the choice our audience has to make is whether to sincerely listen to us, as veterans, or to begin mudslinging while turning a blind eye to the reality. It saddens me that Jamie Hyams and Ahron Shapiro of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) have chosen the latter by slandering our role in ABC’s “Four Corners” program about children’s rights in the Occupied Territories.

As an organization, Breaking the Silence has a policy of avoiding responses to each and every unfounded smear against us by groups that simply copy and paste the misinformation promulgated by the extremist right-wing organization, NGO Monitor. It is unfortunate that AIJAC has stooped to NGO Monitor’s reckless tactics, which never cease to remind us of the dark days of 1950’s McCarthyism. Yet for the sake of the Australian public, we believe AIJAC’s attack allows us the opportunity to set the record straight.

Hyams and Shapiro begin vilifying our work by claiming that we publish “anonymous testimony… that generally can’t be verified.” We invite AIJAC to view the 700 publicly accessible videos of our members who have agreed to reveal their identity. There are many more who have gone public in other ways – to newspapers and in conferences, for example. We also remind AIJAC that each of our testimonies undergoes a rigorous verification process where we crosscheck testimonies with one another and with sources on the ground. As responsible veterans, we also pass every testimony we publish through an official IDF censor to ensure we don’t reveal state secrets. For the record, to this day not a single one of our testimonies has been shown to be false.

In Israel today, the norm is for soldiers to avoid speaking about what we did during our service in the territories. Our fear stems not from the threat of a potential lawsuit, but from the social stigma our society places upon those who tell the ugly truth. Does AIJAC not recognize that they are reinforcing this paradigm? Whether or not they appreciate what we have to say, we demand AIJAC respect our choice and right to speak out as veterans.

In AIJAC’s article, Hyams and Shapiro go on to claim that Breaking the Silence “publish[es] the bulk of [our] material in English, rather than Hebrew.” Neither, however, had the lucidity to simply count the testimonies available on our website – for which there are over 1,800 in Hebrew and just 500 in English. Although our work is primarily conducted in Hebrew, we believe it is our imperative to publish in English as well because the wider public has a right to receive information from people that were on the ground rather than from secondhand sources passing on distorted versions of events.

Hyams and Shapiro continue spreading misinformation by referring to our hundreds of soldier testimonies as “hardly amount[ing] to human rights abuses.” If they had only taken the time to look through them, they would have been privy to soldiers detailing assassinations, house demolitions, and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, to name but a few examples. I am not sure whether Hyams and Shapiro are unaware of these testimonies or whether they are genuinely asking their readers to believe that such acts are merely instances “that may have made soldiers uncomfortable” rather than severe human rights violations.

Instead of dealing with the facts, AIJAC prefers to perpetuate NGO Monitor’s smears about us receiving donations from foreign sources. It is unclear why they have chosen this stale slander when Haaretz has reported that more than half of the contributions to Israeli politicians of all stars and stripes in the last campaign have come from overseas. Does AIJAC take issue with Benjamin Netanyahu’s patriotism? Because 97% of his most recent campaign budget came from outside of Israel. By the way, it is important to note that AIJAC does not make its own funding sources publicly available, in stark contrast with Breaking the Silence’s policy of transparency. We are tremendously proud of our donors. Is AIJAC proud of theirs?

In addition, Hyams and Shapiro take issue with me saying during the ABC program that “when [soldiers] see settlers attacking a Palestinian, our orders are not to intervene.” As a former Israeli combat commander, I believe I know a little more about both the orders I received from my superiors and the orders I personally gave to my soldiers. We have countless soldier testimonies, from varied units stationed all over the West Bank, which have shared the exact same sentiment. I direct AIJAC to the media section of our website where they can find plenty of recent evidence for the lack of IDF intervention (1) (2) (3) and law enforcement (1) (2) (3) with regard to settler attacks on Palestinians.

Hyams and Shapiro go on to suggest that settler violence is not a routine occurrence, but rather that the ABC program “cherry-picked from incidents going back several years.” This is a preposterous assertion that could only come from individuals completely unfamiliar with everyday life in the Occupied Territories. It only takes a peek through a recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report to see that a group of armed Israeli settlers from Yitzhar beat Palestinian farmers with pipes, a middle-aged Palestinian and his 6-year-old son were stoned, and over 150 young olive trees were uprooted just the other week. This is tamer than usual – with an average of 6 incidents of settler violence each week resulting in civilian casualties or property damage so far in 2014 and 8 each week the year prior. Reports suggest that such attacks have largely gone unpunished. The truth is that settler violence is the norm in the territories, day in and day out.

But the most glaring example of AIJAC’s complete disconnect from the reality on the ground is their allegation that The Australian’s reporter John Lyons contradicts me in discussing the army’s escorting of children in the South Hebron Hills.  If they were only aware of the context leading up to the state ordering the military escort, they would know that this is a case of the exception that proves the rule.

The story of the military escort begins with the Palestinian children of the South Hebron Hills, some as young as 8-years-old, walking from their village of Tuba to a school in neighboring at-Tuwani. Settlers from the nearby outpost, called “Ma’on Farm,” launched attacks on these children – often perpetrated by masked men using clubs and chains. In 2005, children were ceaselessly harassed and assaulted; in one instance, four children were evacuated to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. These attacks on children must be placed in the context of the 70 violent acts by settlers recorded that year, including stoning Palestinians shepherds, poisoning their water cisterns and grazing fields, wounding and killing their livestock, and burning their crops.

The army ignored these events, even when Israeli and international activists began likewise becoming the victims of this brutality in their attempt to protect the children with their own bodies. Influential Israeli public figures began drawing attention to the phenomenon after hearing about a spree of nearly a dozen attacks on children during the span of just one month in April-May of 2006. It is only because of this intense public pressure that the case saw a massive intervention by Israeli Members of Knesset, which forced the army to escort the children. The pressure to maintain the escort continues even today.

It is important to note that the army escort has not stopped settler attacks on Palestinian children, since the assailants have now began targeting the soldiers as well. AIJAC is invited to read one of our testimonies from a soldier who served in the battalion required to escort the children in 2006. He describes how a settler gang stoned the soldiers, one of them losing his consciousness after being hit, and yet not a single soul was even brought in for investigation. By the way, although the law was not enforced on the settler, IDF soldiers were reprimanded for firing a warning shot in attempt to stop the settlers from stoning the children.

As an Israeli patriot and a former IDF soldier, I understand that the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. I understand that looking in the mirror and seeing the society you dearly love act so brutishly is painful. I understand that you do not want to believe what happens on a day-to-day basis in the Occupied Territories. Neither did we. But now we have broken our silence. It is time for you – AIJAC – to hear us out, rather than taking NGO Monitor’s hand and doing your best to silence us.

Yehuda Shaul served as an infantry soldier and commander in the IDF between March 2001 and March 2004. He is the founder of Breaking the Silence.”