Wednesday, September 24, 2008

West Bank Settler riot: what the media left out

By Kim Bullimore
This article has also been published by Palestine Chronicle

On September 13, in response to a 9 year old Israeli settler child living in the "wildcat" outpost of Shalhevet, about half a kilometre from the illegal Israeli colony of Yitzhar, being stabbed by a lone Palestinian, hundreds of illegal settlers rioted en-mass and terrorised several thousand villagers in the Palestinian township of Asira al Qibliya. In the course of the riot at least 8 Palestinians were seriously injured, six by live ammunition fired by the illegal settlers, who also vandalised residential homes and beat unarmed children and adults, while members of the fourth strongest army on earth stood by and let the settlers riot [1].

While much has been made by the illegal settlers and some of the Israeli and international press of the stabbing and "terrorist" attack on Yitzhar, little was said – if anything at all – about the fact that for the past decade the heavily armed settlers of Yitzhar and other nearby illegal Israeli settlements have been violently terrorising the unarmed Palestinian villages around them. Neither was it mentioned that in the last twelve months, such unprovoked attacks by the Yitzhar settlers have increased substantially. Nor was it mentioned that there had also been an increase in similar attacks by other illegal settlers against Palestinian villages in the Qaliqilya and Hebron region of the Occupied Paletinian Territories (OPT).

The intensification of these attacks in all the various regions throughout the occupied West Bank have been well documented by the Israeli military, international and Israeli human rights workers and have also been intermittently been reported in the Israeli media. In the Nablus region where Asira al Qibiliya is located, the attacks carried out by the illegal settlers – in many instances just before, during or after the Jewish Shabbat - have included the poisoning of Palestinian herds of goat and sheep, the torching and burning of hundreds of dunums of Palestinian agricultural land, the invasion of Palestinian villages by armed settlers, the beating and stoning of unarmed Palestinian residents, the destruction of Palestinian property and the firing of homemade missiles at Palestinian villages on several occasions [2]

Illegal settlers attack Asira al Qibiliya, 13 September 2008

On May 16th of this year, myself and my team mate from the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were called out to one of the many ongoing attacks carried out by the Yitzhar settlers against Asira al Qibiliya. On this particular occasion, 30 armed illegal settlers attempted to enter the village, hurling stones at houses and attempting to set alight the wheat fields belonging to the village. Over the next couple of hours an intense standoff occurred between the dozens of well-armed Israeli occupation forces and approximately hundred unarmed young boys and men from Asira al Qibiliya who had attempted to prevent the illegal settlers from entering the village and terrorising the inhabitants. The Israeli military rather than coming to the aid of the unarmed Palestinian villagers, instead opened fire on them with teargas and rubber bullets. One villager was hit in the face with a ricocheting bullet fired by the Israeli occupation forces and a woman and her four children, including a 2 month old baby and three other children under the age of 10 years suffered respiratory problems when the Israeli military threw teargas into their home [3]. According to the family, whose house lies on the outskirts of the village, close to the illegal colony this was not the first time their house had come under attack by either the settlers or the Israeli military. At around 7pm, the Israeli military finally left the village but at the request of the people of Asira al Qibiliya, ourselves and the activists from the ISM -who had arrived in the village during the middle of the standoff - stayed in the village overnight due to fears by the villagers that another attack would be carried out against them.

Because this was not the first attack on the village, over the next few months, IWPS, the ISM, the Ecumenical Accompaniers (EA) and Rabbis for Human Rights developed a roster to allow internationals and Israeli anti-occupation activists to either provide a presence in the village or to be on-call should any more settler attacks occur. Over the next few weeks, the illegal settler of Yitzhar and other illegal colonies attempted to carry out attacks on Asira al Qibiliya and other nearby villages. On a number of these occasions (but not all) the illegal settlers were prevented from entering the various villages or their surround fields, when the villagers demanded that the Israeli military stop them. While the Israeli military did on occasion prevent the illegal settlers from entering into the Palestinian villages, the settlers were never arrested or detained by the Israeli forces for attempting to carry out premeditated, unprovoked and violent attacks.

Despite this, however, settlers were still able to carry out a range of attacks on unarmed Palestinians. On June 16 illegal settlers from Yitzhar physically attacked three Palestinian sheppards from the village of Burin (located about a half hour from Asira al Qibiliya). According to the report issued by UN OCHA oPt (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories), the settlers also stabbed and killed three donkeys [4].

Three days later on June 19, both IWPS and UN OCHA oPt documented settlers from Yitzhar and other illegal setters attacking two houses in Burin, stoning Palestinian plated cars and setting fire to the farm lands of Palestinians villagers from Burin, Asira al Qibilya and Urif, destroying more than 800 dunums of olive groves. On the morning of this attack, myself and my team mates at IWPS had received an emergency call from locals in Asira al Qibiliya informing us that the illegal settlers were in the process of torching hundreds of dunums of Palestinian farmland in the area and were carrying out an attack on the nearby village of Burin. Two of my team mates quickly headed to Burin, while myself and another team mate alerted the media and other activists to the attacks.

As my team mates travelled to Burin, I rang contacts in the village. While talking to a Palestinian journalist who was on location in the village, I could hear yelling, shoots being fired and scuffles breaking out as villagers attempted to get to their fields to put out the fires set by the illegal settlers. The Israeli military, however, who had refused to stop the settlers setting the fire, also physically prevented the Palestinian farmers and villagers from getting to their fields to put the blazes out. Our field team also rang to tell us that despite being 15 minutes away from the village, they could see large plumes of smoke in the air and fields burning. Our field team were later to report that around 250 illegal settlers on board coaches who arrived in the area. According to our field team, the Israeli military accompanied the settlers and did not attempt to prevent them from endangering the lives of the villagers or destroying their property [5]. Instead, when the villagers of Burin attempted to defend themselves against the settler attacks, the Israeli military open fire on the unarmed villagers throwing teargas canisters into two of the houses under attacks. As a result an elderly Palestinian woman and a 3 month old baby suffered tear gas inhalation and needed medical attention. In addition, UN OCHA oPt noted that due to the settler attacks, the Israeli military were forced to close the road between Yitzhar colony (in the Nablus region) and Jit village (in the Qalqilya regioni) for seven hours between 11 am and 6pm. [6]

The following month on July 27, IWPS received yet another emergency call from Burin where 25 - 30 illegal settlers were using petrol to set fire to the village's olive and almonds trees after attempting to carry out a stoning attack on Palestinian sheppards [7]. The villagers reported to IWPS that this was the third attack the village had suffered at the hand of the illegal settlers that week.

Illegal settlers tie Palestinian man to telephone pole and beat him
Samoa, Occupied Hebron, July 2008

The failure to mention the growing number of attacks on the Palestinian villages of the Nablus region by the illegal settlers from Yitzhar and other illegal colonies, however, was not the only thing left out of the coverage of the settler riot by much of the Israeli english-language and international media. Also left out was that illegal settlers who reside in Yitzhar are some of the most hardcore and ideological of settlers, with a great many of them being adherents of the violent, racist anti-Arab ideology of American-born Israeli, Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Kahane, who was assassinated by an Egyptian-born American in 1990, was the founder of the racist Jewish Defense League in the USA and Kach (Thus) in Israel. He was also the inspiration for Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives) which was founded by his son. Kahane, who was elected to the Knesset in 1984 called for the expulsion of all Palestinians and Arabs from the Holy Land, the banning of sexual relationships between Jews and non-Jews and also believed that democracy and Judaism were not compatible [8]

In 1994, Kach and Kahane Chai were declared terrorist organisations by the Israeli government (and later the USA) after one of Kach's members, American-born Israeli doctor, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Muslim men, women and children at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and wounded at least 100 others. At the time of the attack Kach issued statements supporting Goldstein's act of mass murder. The following year in 1995, a follower of Kahane, Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin [9].

Jessica Stern in her 2003 book, Terror in the Name of God: Why religious militants kill, notes that prior to Goldstein's murderous attack and the assassination of Rabin, Kach and Kahane Chai had also claimed responsibility for a range of other attacks on Palestinians and Israeli government officials, including the murder of four Palestinians in 1993. Stern also documents that in 2002 Kach leader, Baruch Marzel, was arrested in connection "with a plot to leave a trailer laden with barrels of gasoline and two gas balloons outside a Palestinian girls' school in East Jerusalem" [10].

In the wake of the attacks carried by the illegal settlers, the Israeli english-language and international media reported that Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated that his government would not allow "pogroms against non-Jews" to be carried out. However, what was not mentioned in the media coverage was that the Israeli Prime Minister only found his voice after the Israeli television media aired extensively footage, obtained by Palestinian, International and Israeli anti-occupation activists, showing the intensity of the attack and that the Israeli military and police had accompanied the settlers to the village and stood by watched as the settlers to carry out the attack on the unarmed village, doing nothing to prevent it. Prior to the footage being shown, Olmert had little to say about this latest settler attack.

Also not mentioned by Olmert or the subsequent media coverage was that such large scale "pogroms" are perpetrated on regular basis by illegal settlers against Palestinians civilians and that the Israeli military and police do nothing to prevent them. This fact has been regularly document by Israeli human rights groups such as B'Tselem. In 2001, they noted in their report, Free Reign: Vigilante settlers and Israel's non-enforcement of the law, that "settler violence against Palestinians is extensive and has been prevalent in the Occupied Territories for many years [11]. B'Tselem noted that between December 1987 and the beginning of October 2001, that 124 Palestinians had been murdered by Israeli settlers, 11 of them between the one year period between September 2000 and October 2001. The report went onto note that the Israeli military and police regularly failed in their duties to protect Palestinians from violent attacks.

Seven years after B'Tselem's Free Reign report, the organisation's website notes that nothing much has changed. According to B'Tselem's website, "when Palestinians attack Israelis, the authorities invoke all means at their disposal – including some that are incompatible with international law and constitute gross violations of human rights – to arrest suspects and bring them to trail. Defendants convicted by military courts can expect harsh sentences" [12 ]. However, according to B'Tselem, "in contrast, when Israeli civilians attack Palestinians, the Israeli authorities employ an undeclared policy of leniency and compromise towards the perpetrators. This policy is reflected in the actions of the officials in charge of law enforcement – the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the Israel Police Force (IPF) – which do not do enough to prevent harm to the life and property of Palestinians and to sop violent attacks by settlers while they are taking place. All law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities demonstrate little interest in uncovering the substantial violence that Israeli civilians commit against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories".

The recent "pogrom" carried out by the illegal settlers of Yitzhar is not an isolated incident or an aberration. Such pogroms happen with frightening regularity and are regularly ignored by the Israeli government who view the illegal settlers as their front line shock troops against the Palestinian population. These attacks are also regularly ignored by the mainstream media, who as media researchers Greg Philo and Mike Berry in their 2004 book, Bad News from Israel, note regularly fail to accurately report what happens in Occupied Palestinian Territories [13].

The failure of the media to do its job and to accurately report what is happening in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza is why it is important for those of us concerned about human rights to support B'Tselem's "Shooting Back" program (where video cameras are provided to vulnerable communities in the OPT), as well as the work of groups like IWPS and ISM who regularly document on the ground the reality of what is happening.

The recent settler riots in Asira al Qibiliya will not be the last to take place in OPT. Until Israel's illegal and brutal occupation is ended and occupation infrastructure such as the illegal colonies, outposts and the apartheid wall are dismantled and the Israeli military that protects them is removed, Palestinians will not be safe in their own homes and there will be no chance at a real peace, which will bring an end to bloodshed on both sides of the conflict.

Al Jazeera - Inside Story: Israeli settler violence (part1) 18 June 2008

[1] Weiss, E., (13 September, 2008) Palestinian stabs Yitzhar boy; settlers riot,7340,L-3595927,00.html

[2] Associated Press (13 July, 2008) Settler arrested in failed rocket attack on Palestinian town

[3] Settlers attack Asira al Qibliya, ISM Report (17 May, 2008)

[4] Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (11 – 17 June, 2008) UN OCHA oPt

[5] IWPS Human Rights Report 360

[6] Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (18 – 24 June, 2008) UN OCHA oPt

[7] Mergui, R., and Simonnot, P., (1987) Israel's Ayatollahs: Meir Kahane and the Far Right in Israel. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Saqi Books

[8] IWPS Human Rights Report 371

[9] Kahane Movement, Anti-Defamation League

[10] Talking with Jewish Extremists (excerpts from Jessica Stern's 2003 book, Terror in the Name of God: Why religious militants kill) Israel's next war, Frontline, PBS

[11] Dudai, R., (2001) Free Reign: Vigilante settlers and Israel's non-enforcement of the law, B'Tselem: Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (Jerusalem)

[12] B'Tselem: Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

[13] Philo, G., and Berry, M., (2004) Bad News from Israel , Pluto Press, London

Monday, September 15, 2008

International Jewish Solidarity Network: opposing Zionism, racism and colonism

Dear friends,

The International Jewish Solidarity Network is a growing international coalition of anti-Zionist Jews. After two years of hard work, the Interntional Jewish Solidarity Network will be launched internationally on September 29.

According to IJSN Vision statement (on their website):
The International Jewish Solidarity Network (IJSN) envisions the building of just societies in historic Palestine, the larger region, and other places in which we live. In these societies, safety is sought in joint liberation, not in isolation. We seek to contribute to the global struggles for justice in accordance with our locations and ally ourselves with other liberation and social justice movements. This participation is first and foremost an uncompromising commitment to the liberation of Palestine. We also seek to extricate Jewish identities, histories, cultural and religious practices and politics from Zionism, thus allowing for Jewish plurality and the reemergence of broader Jewish participation in emancipation struggles. The next generation of people of Jewish descent will build continuity with this commitment to justice for all people, in Palestine and beyond.

Please find below the newsletter issued by the IJSN about their upcoming launch and activities including their call for 10 days of solidarity actions with resistance to Zionism and imperialism in Palestine between Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur: September 30 through October 8, 2008

For more information on IJSN you can visit their website at

in solidarity, Kim
ps: the wonderful photographs are from the NO TIME TO CELEBRATE: Jews remember the Nakba website:



International Jewish Solidarity Network
Jews Honor Resistance to Zionism, Racism, Colonialism Network will launch
internationally on 29 September, 2008 with the release of our Charter and our Week of Action: Confront Zionism - Divest from Israel

In This Newsletter

+ Who is the International Jewish Solidarity Network?

+ International building

+ Activities moving forward


+ Work-to-Date

+ "International Resistance to Zionism"

+ The LAUNCH - Give input and join us!

+ Developing a new structure

+ Finding a symbolic name and logo

+ Contact Information


Join us in launching the network!

IJSN will officially launch over the 2008 High Holidays: 1 - 7 October

Launch will begin with the release of our founding Charter and week of actions in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction against Israel and confronting Zionism.

Please click here to see an excerpt of the Charter and join us from 10 - 17 September to give your input.



International Organizing Update

September 2008


Who is the International Jewish Solidarity Network?

This a growing international network of Jews whose identities are not based on Jewish nationalism but on long histories of Jewish participation in liberation struggles from Eastern Europe and Iraq to Brooklyn and Mississippi. In this year of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the colonial State of Israel, we pledge to struggle against both the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the designation of Israel as a Jewish State.

For the past two years, the network has been building an international network of anti-Zionist Jews to support existing and seed new Jewish anti-Zionist organizing in solidarity with Palestinian resistance. As with any other struggle for justice, working locally or even nationally is not enough.

The enemy we face is international, and what we can do is limited unless we find ways to work together across boundaries and regions. We are building an international voice which challenges Zionism and its claim to speak on behalf of Jews worldwide. As an international force, we can contribute to the movement to defeat US-backed Israeli imperialism.

We do this through the following strategies: 1) solidarity with the struggle for Palestinian self-determination, 2) participation in broader anti-imperialist movements, and 3) the extrication of Jewish history, politics, community, and culture from Zionism.

To read more about the network, go to


International building

From July 31 to August 3, 2008, in Berkeley, California, IJSN gathered anti-Zionist activists from continental Europe and the UK, India, Israel, the US and Canada. This first international organizing meeting was preparation for the public launch of the network over the 2008 Jewish high holidays. To read more about the meeting, go to

Since the international meeting we have engaged activists in Morocco and Argentina. The network seeks to expand its work to other parts of the US, Europe, Canada, South and West Asia, South America, South Africa, Australia, and Eastern Europe.

If you are interested in building the work of the network in your city or region, please email us at


We hope you will join us in the following activities moving forward...

To join us in any of this work, or if you have other ideas for the role and work of the network, please email to share your interest, input and thoughts.

* Charter release and Week of Action: On 29 September, 2008, the network will put out its founding Charter with a clear anti-Zionist Jewish analysis and a call for a Week of Action. See sidebar for more information and click here to read more about the Week of Action and add your ideas.

* Popular Tribunals: Over the next 2-3 years the network will organize tribunals that gather testimony in order to expose the tactics of and demand accountability from Zionist institutions and individuals. Visit to read more.

* Consciousness Raising: We will continue to engage in public education including forums, art exhibits, digital stories and workshops to the increase visibility of anti-Zionist narratives.

* Cross-movement building: Through supporting an anti-Zionist politic in the movements our members already participate in for racial, economic and gender justice, IJSN seeks to broaden support for the Palestinian struggle for justice.

* North American Organizing Meeting: At this gathering, activists from the US and Canada will develop long-term strategy, campaigns, and programs for partnership with broader Palestine solidarity work in the region.

* Education and Leadership Development: Through Unlearning Zionism workshops, Organizing Institutes, mentorship systems, and our Study to Action curriculum, study group program and educational resource website, the network will build the collective analysis, strategy and capacity of anti-Zionist Jewish participation in Palestine solidarity organizing. Read more about the Study to Action program at

* Participation in existing Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaigns and other efforts to challenge Zionism: The network will not lead BDS efforts, but will encourage and support participation of its members in local, national and international campaigns.

* Supporting joint struggle between Jews of Arab, Persian and Asian descent and Palestinians: IJSN activists in Israel are developing relationships of joint struggle against Zionism and Israeli apartheid.

* Building of Academic, Jews of Color and Jews of Arab descent, Student, Cultural/Artist, Youth, Spiritual/Religious Sector Networks.



Participate and partner with us as we launch!

We need your participation and partnership in launching and evolving the programs and infrastructure of the network

Give input into the charter, week of action, symbolic name, logo and structure by clicking on the following links:

* Charter
* Week of Action
* Symbolic name and logo
* Structure

Visit to sign up for updates on the Charter release and Week of Action.


Previous Work

To read about the network's previous activities - including the Study to Action program, Nakba at 60 organizing, and participation in the Palestinian Popular Conference, the Cairo Conference and Liberation Forum and the US Social Forum - please visit


"International Resistance to Zionism"

Leading up to our first international meeting, IJSN held forums in London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. These events were very well received, with 120, 100 and 40 attendees respectively. Watch footage of the forum in London. Read and view photos from the forum in San Francisco. Listen to radio broadcasts from Los Angeles.



Please join us in a week of action from
1 - 7 October: Confront Zionism - Divest from Israel

Confront Zionism: Support the Palestinian call for boycotting Zionist and Israeli cultural, educational, sporting and political events and the academic boycott. Confront Zionist organizations that support Israeli Apartheid, censor and target individuals and organizations for criticism of Israel, and collaborate in US-European Islamophobia. Expose Jewish organizations that confuse support of Israel with defense of Jews and disguise economic and political support for Israel and Zionism as Jewish cultural and community work.

Divest from Israel: Support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israelthrough actions that target Israeli goods.

*Put the Charter out into the World:
Use the founding Charter as an opportunity to voice and bring visibility to anti-Zionist politics through educational, cultural and spiritual events and creative action.

*Please click here to see a full description of the Week of Action.

*Help us develop a new structure

*Toward preparing for broader participation in the network, IJSN is developing a representative structure for coordination, consultation and communication across and between local, regional and international organizing.

*Over the next year we hope to evolve and practice this representative structure to support and increase the connections across local and regional self-organizing, while continuing to grow our capacity for internationally coordinated actions and campaigns (initiated at any level of the network).We need your help as we figure out how to do this.

*Finding a symbolic name and logo for the network

In the coming month we will be searching for a symbolic name and logo for the network.

Join us in an online brainstorm and discussion of possible symbolic names and logos for the network.

Contact Information

You can reach the network at: Email -, Web -

Thank you for your contributions and support in building this network!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All the hearts of the people are my identity: the life and death of a poet

Mahmoud Darwish - the voice of a dispossessed people

By Kim Bullimore, September 2008

In 1964, a 22-year-old Palestinian poet named Mahmoud Darwish shared the struggle of his people with the world, writing: “Record!/ I am an Arab/ And my identity card is number fifty thousand/ I have eight children/ And the ninth is coming after a summer/ Will you be angry? … Record! I am an Arab/ I have a name without a title/ ... My roots/ Were entrenched before the birth of time/ And before the opening of the eras/ Before the pines, and the olive trees/ And before the grass grew ... Record!/ I am an Arab/ You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors/ And the land which I cultivated/ Along with my children/ And you left nothing for us/ Except for these rocks./ ... Record on the top of the first page: I do not hate people/ Nor do I encroach/ But if I become hungry/ The usurper’s flesh will be my food/ Beware/ Beware/ Of my hunger/ And my anger!”

The poem, “Identity Card”, was to become one of Darwish’s most famous, a symbol of cultural and political resistance to Israel’s forced dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their homeland. Darwish’s poetry, filled with Arab romanticism, political insight and protest, and often transformed into song, spoke to millions of Palestinians and Arabs around the world, resulting in him becoming the most well known and loved of Palestinian poets.

Darwish died in Houston, Texas, on August 9, age 67, as a result of complications from heart surgery. Like many of his generation, he was not a spectator but an active participant in the modern history of Palestine. His poetry recorded the losses of the Palestinian people as well as their resistance and refusal to bow to the calamity that befell them in 1948. His death therefore has come as a shock to millions of Palestinians worldwide. More than 10,000 turned out to pay their respects to their poet on August 14, when his body was brought home to be buried within the grounds of Ramallah Cultural Palace in the Occupied West Bank.
Refugee childhood

Born in 1941 in the village of al-Birwa in northern Palestine, Darwish became a refugee in 1948, when his family was forced to flee Zionist terror gangs that attacked and destroyed their village. In 1949, Darwish and his family returned from Lebanon to live “illegally” as “internally displaced” refugees in the new Israeli state. In an interview with the British Guardian daily in 2002, he recounted: “We lived again as refugees, this time in our own country. It’s a collective experience. This wound I’ll never forget.”

Along with more than 150,000 other internally displaced Palestinians, Darwish experienced the harshness of Israeli military rule from 1948 to 1966. Palestinians with Israeli residency or citizenship endured harsh restrictions on their movements, including being forced to obtain special permits to travel to and from their villages, limitations on where they could work, restrictions on their political and civil rights to freedom of speech and to organise politically. During this period, more than 80% of Palestinian-owned land within Israel was confiscated and placed under exclusive Jewish control and use.

In 1960, at the age of 19, Darwish published his first collection of poems, Asafir Bil Ajniha (Wingless Birds). The following year, he joined the Israeli Communist Party and began to publish his poetry in a range of leftist newspapers. In 1964, his second anthology of poetry, Awraq Al Zaytun (Leaves of Olives) was published; it included the celebrated “Identity Card”. As a result of his poetry and political activity from 1961 to 1970, Darwish was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned. When “Identity Card” was transformed into a protest song in 1967, becoming a collective cry of defiance against the Israeli oppressor, Darwish was again arrested.
First intifada

In 1970, he travelled to the USSR to study political economy. A year later, however, he left Moscow for Egypt. In 1973, he joined the Palestine Liberation Organisation, resulting in Israel banning him from re-entering his homeland for more than 26 years. Darwish served on the PLO executive committee from 1987 to 1993 and wrote the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, which was announced by Yasser Arafat in Algeria.

In 1988, at the height of the first Palestinian intifada, Darwish wrote a poem that shook Israeli society to its core. The poem, “Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words”, aimed at Israel’s occupation army, which was violently putting down the unarmed Palestinian intifada. It was direct and uncompromising: “O those who pass between fleeting words/ Carry your names, and be gone/ Rid our time of your hours, and be gone/ Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea/ And the sand of memory/ Take what pictures you will, so that you understand/ That which you never will:/ How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky/”

Darwish concluded: “It is time for you to be gone/ Live wherever you like, but do not live among us/ It is time for you to be gone/ Die wherever you like, but do not die among us/ For we have work to do on our land/ We have a past here/ We have the first cry of life/ We the present, the present and a future/ We have the world here and the hereafter/ So leave our country/ Our land, our sea/ Our wheat, our salt, our wounds/ Everything, and leave/ The memories of memory/ Those who pass between fleeting words!”

Although Darwish was later to say the poem was not one of his best, he was amazed at the fear the poem aroused in both the Israeli “left” and those in control of the Zionist state. In the grip of the intifada, Israel’s then prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, quoted the poem in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to “prove” that the PLO posed a threat to existence of the Zionist state. In response, Darwish said that he found it “difficult to believe that the most militarily powerful country in the Middle East is threatened by a poem”.

The first intifada forced Israel to the negotiating table. However, the resultant Oslo Accords signed by PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1993 caused Darwish to resign from the PLO executive committee in protest. In the 2002 interview with the Guardian, he stated that with the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian people “woke up to find that they had no past”. Oslo, Darwish believed, would do little to bring justice, peace or a national homeland to the Palestinian people. In the wake of the failure of the accords, Darwish later said: “I hoped I was wrong. I am very sad that I was right!”

He returned to live in his homeland finally in the late 1990s, continuing to be a voice of his people, giving expression to their pain, yearnings and joys. The words within his 30 collections of poetry and prose, published in 35 languages, reflected the experience of millions of his countrymen and women and were their collective memory.

When Darwish wrote in the poem “Passport” that he carried within his identity, “All the wheat fields/ All the prisons/ All the white tombstones/ All the barbed boundaries/ All the waving handkerchiefs” and that “all the hearts of the people are my identity”, he spoke in the collective voice of his people. And while death has claimed him, his words of struggle and resistance will live on among his people, giving them a voice that can never be taken from them.

To listen to Mahmoud Darwish reading his poetry visit his official website at:

This article was first published in Direct Action No 4 (September 2008) at

Monday, September 1, 2008

A time to raise our voices: an update from Kim

Dear friends,
thank you to so many of you who have posted to Live from Occupied Palestine or emailed me personally with your support and well wishes. Thank you for your unwaivering support and the many kind words you have sent me. They have been greatly and very much appreciated.

After spending over a year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, over the period of 18 months, I have now returned home to Australia for a spell from what has become my other home and a place I have grown to love deeply. I am planning to return to Palestine sometime in the not too distant future but for now that I am back in Australia, where I will continue to be part of and support the wonderful work of the International Women's Peace Service in Palestine (

While I am back in Australia, I hope also to continue to contribute to the raising of awareness about Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation and the struggle of the Palestinian people in Australia.

I am very excited by the work that is being done by a range of fabulous and highly committed Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists in Australia and am hoping that I will be able to contribute in some small way to this work (please see some of the links to the different Australian groups on this blogsite).

In the meantime,the Live from Occupied Palestine blog will continue to be maintained, so please continue to visit it. I hope to continue to provide relevant and up to date information coming straight out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to also provide other information on campaigns and activities happening both in Australian and internationally in support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

Now that I am home, I will also continue to contribute for a range social justice forums, including Palestine Chronicle ( and the new Australian socialist newspaper, Direct Action (, both of which are fantastic forums which not only campaign for and support the struggle of the people of Palestine, but are also active in supporting other social justice and progressive campaigns.

As the brutal Israeli occupation continues, now in its 41st year, and the leaders of the so-called free world turn a blind eye, it is more important then ever that we take a stand and raise our voices in support of human rights and the just struggle being carried out by the people of Palestine.

On the ground in Palestine, the Palestinian people have not given up and neither should we.

In Ni’lin, Bil’in, al Khader, Umm Sulummuna and so many other villages throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Palestinian people have in the face of overwhelming odds continued to remain sumoud (steadfast) and to oppose the oppressive Israeli occupation. In Gaza, despite, a devastating siege which has plunged the region into an ever deepening humanitarian crisis, the people of Gaza have also not given up hope and neither should we.

In the past two weeks we have seen the wonderful and inspiring arrival of the SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza in the port of Gaza breaking the brutal and illegal siege imposed by the Israeli Zionist state – a siege which has been backed by the US and which the European Union has done little to oppose.

It is the actions of everyday, ordinary people from all walks of life and cultures and all religious and non-religious backgrounds such as those who sailed on the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty, who are moved by compassion, a sense of justice and a love of their fellow human beings, who are our shining lights, our beacons of hope and our inspiration - not the so-called “leaders” of the world who sit by and do nothing, while so many throughout the world suffer, not just in Occupied Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, but also elsewhere.

The Palestinian, Israeli and International activists aboard the two small wooden boats, supported by so many others around the world who believe in social justice, humanity and human rights, have taken to heart the words that Che Guevara penned and enacted so many years ago that “we must strive every day so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force” [1].

It is this love of humanity that moves us in our belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live in dignity, justice and freedom and not under the heal of a brutal occupation and oppression. And it is this love of humanity that moves us to continue to struggle for a better world and to support the struggle of the Palestinian people. And it is this love of humanity which carries us in our conviction that one day Palestine and its people will be free.

Thankyou once again for all your support.

For a Free Palestine and an end to the occupation now!

In solidarity, Kim

[1] Socialism and the Man in Cuba by Che Guevara 1965