Friday, December 18, 2009

Reporting from the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Dear Friends,
as you may have gathered from my last post, I am currently back in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Over the coming weeks, I hope to file regular posts about what is happening on the ground here.

I am still trying to get an accurate assessment of where things are politically. However, the first thing you notice is the deepening and 'normalisation' of the occupation. While there are still arrests, house demolitions and restriction of movement occurring on a daily basis, it is clear that 'normalisation' has been occurring at a much high level than when I was previously here.

Travelling from Hares to Ramallah, this 'normalisation' is evident in the number of the checkpoints which had existed when I was here in all my previous visits that are now "unstaffed" by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). This did not mean, however, Israeli soldiers were no present either at checkpoints or in the surround vicinity. It simply means their ever present presence is not as "visible" as it previously was.

For example, at Zatara, the major junction which divides the middle of the West Bank from the North of the West Bank, while the checkpoint coming from my village is unstaffed, soldiers are still present, armed and on duty at sniper points on the nearby hill and the roundabout. When making the trip a few days back, my team mate and I while waiting for a 'service' (Palestinian shared taxi) to go to Ramallah when we observed the Israeli sniper on the hill top yelling at Palestinians who walked through the junction to get to their villages to stop and lift their trouser legs. Presumably this was to see if they had explosives or weaponry. The second soldier stationed at the round-a-bout at one stage came up to harass the Palestinians near us waiting to also get transport, apparently because they were standing to close to the settler bus shelter (which services the illegal settlers from the colony of Tapuach).

Despite or perhaps because of the increasing "normalisation", the occupation continues to deepen. On the day that my team mate and I arrived in Hares, we were immediately contacted by villagers in both our village and in the neighbouring village about the IOF invasion of the villages and kidnapping of teenage boys (16 yrs) – 5 in Hares and 3 in Dier Istyia. According to the families in Dier Istyia, the children were taken at 2 am in the morning, accused of stone throwing. One has already been sentenced to 80 days jail and a fine of NIS 1500 (around $500 Australian – a small fortune for a Palestinian family).

Earlier in the week, the IOF carried out a number of raids, arresting civil society/non-violent struggle leaders of the anti-occupation struggle in Nablus and Ramallah, with the Ramallah arrest being of Abdullah Abu Rahme, a highly visible leader of the non-violent struggle in Bil'in village. Previously, the IOF have informed the Israeli lawyers working with the leaders of the Bil'in struggle that they would seek to use legal means to destroy the non-violent struggle (note: if Palestinians are arrested, they will often be detained for the length of the court proceedings, which could be up to 14 months, even though they have not been found guilty of anything. Thus by arresting leaders of the non-violent struggle, they can detain them for extended periods of time in order to destroy any organized dissent to Israel's brutal occupation).

On the same day, that non-violent activists in Sheikh Jarrah were being beaten by Israeli police and occupation forces defending the illegal settler, in one of the villages not far from where we live in the West Bank, Israel settlers entered a mosque and burnt the dozens of copies of the Quran, pray mats and furniture. There are now calls by Peres and Netanyahu for the culprits to be caught, but this of course more PR than anything else, as the Israeli military continue to protect and often aid the settlers.

Despite all of this, the Palestinian people remain sumoud (steadfast) and continue to struggle. In the short time I have been back, many of the Palestinians I have spoken to have asked that both myself and other internationals continue to speak out in support of the Palestinian people and their struggle for human rights, freedom and dignity. I have promised them that we would.

As the first anniversary of Israel's murderous war on Gaza looms, please consider what you can do to be part of the campaign to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. It could be as simple as making a donation or writing a letter to your local newspaper or politician or talking to your friends about what is really happening in Palestine. It could be holding an educational film night or stall in your local mall, joining your local Palestine solidarity group, organising a solidarity action or demonstration, moving a motion in support of BDS in your workplace, community group, church or union and getting your colleagues actively involved in the campaign. No matter how big or small, what ever you do helps and is important.

End the Siege of Gaza!
End the Occupation Now!
Free Palestine!

In solidarity, Kim

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Telling Lies about Sheikh Jarrah

In June 2008, I wrote an article called 'Telling Lies about Bil'in' in which I outlined how the Israeli military, assisted by Israel's corporate Zionist media lied about a peaceful non-violent demonstration in the Palestinian village of Bil'in, depicting it as 'violent' in order to justify the Israeli Occupation Forces use of unrestrained violence against the peaceful demonstrators. After 42 years of attempting to justify its brutal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Israeli Occupation Forces lies have become a matter of course. This week the Israeli Occupation Forces and the Israeli police once again engaged in the violent suppression of a non-violent demonstration and then lied about their actions. The only difference this time around was that it took place in Sheikh Jarrah in Occupied East Jerusalem, rather than in Bil'in in the Occupied West Bank.

In the last year more than 50 Palestinians living in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah have been left homeless as a result of being forcibly evicted from their homes by settlers, supported by Israeli occupation forces [1]. For the last 42 years, the 28 Palestinian families (more than 475 people) of the Karm Al-Ja'ouni have been fighting in the Israeli courts to stay in their homes.

The families, all refugees from 1948, originally received their homes by the United Nations Refugees Works Agency (UNWRA) and the Jordanian government, which was in control of East Jerusalem from 1949 until the region was illegally occupied and annexed by Israel during the 1967 war. In 1967, two settler organizations - the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesseth Yisrael Association (which later sold its claim to Nahalat Shimon) - claimed that they owned the land and that they had deeds dating back until 1875. Five years, after their first claim, the settler organizations attempted to register their claims with the Israeli Land Administration. While their claim to ownership was noted in the Land Registry, their claims were never formally registered as a title claim. In 1982, without the families consent, their lawyer agreed to recognize the settler's ownership of the land in return for granting the families legal status of protected tenants. The families, however, refused to pay rent on their own homes and continued to fight the settler's claims in the court. The lawyer's actions, however, provided the settler organizations with the basis for current eviction orders.

Since the 1967 claim, Israeli courts have been presented with irrefutable proof that the settler's claim was a fraud, including Palestinian landowner, Suleiman Darwish Hijazi presenting the court with documents certifying his ownership, as well as tax receipts from 1927. Earlier this year, the families new lawyer, Salah Abu Hussein traveled to Turkey and located documents in the Ottoman Archives in Ankara proving the settler's documents were a forgery. According to March 19 report in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, "the Ottoman document proves that the Sephardic Leadership never purchased the compound but only rented it" and that "another Ottoman document confirms that the document presented by the Jewish [settler] party is not authentic" [2]. All such documentation, however, has been repeatedly dismissed out of hand by the Israeli courts.

Not content to evict the families, the Israeli police have continued to harass the evicted families, who are living on the streets outside their homes, destroying their shelter and protest tents. The families have also had to endure continue intimidation and harassment from the illegal Israeli settlers now occupying their homes [3]

On Friday, 11 December, Israelis from groups such as Anarchists Against the Wall and Tay'yush demonstrated in solidarity with the Palestinian families for the fourth week in a row. My team mate and I joined the 100 or so mostly young Israeli activists as they began the long march to Sheikh Jarrah from Mashbir Plaza/Ben Yehuda St in West Jerusalem. For an hour, we weaved through the streets of West Jerusalem, announcing our presence with the sound of the well organized drum team and chants in Hebrew, and sometimes in English, for freedom for Sheik Jarrah and the settlers to be removed from the homes belong to the Palestinian families.

The response from Israel's West Jerusalem residents was mixed. Some joined our march, many stood by in shock, others yelled abuse and angrily argued with the Israeli activists, while one unseen person high up in one of the residential apartments pelted the march with eggs, while another person in the same apartment grabbed a house and stuck it out their window to spray the passing march with water.

Water hose spayed from apartment onto demonstrators

Undeterred the march made its way to Sheikh Jarrah. Along the way we also crossed paths with hundreds of Israeli Occupation Force soldiers wandering down the opposite of the street, amongst the road works taking place. For a moment, the chants to free Sheikh Jarrah ceased and the Israeli activists in Hebrew began to call out in unison the refusenik slogan to the passing soldiers "Soldiers listen well, you to have the right to refuse".

We soon entered Sheikh Jarrah and made our way to the home of the Al-Kurd family. The Al-Kurd's became the fifth Palestinian family to be forced from their home on December 1, when settlers occupied one section of their home [4]. Israel's Magistrate Court ruled that an extension added to the Al Kurd's home 10 years ago was illegal and gave permission for Israeli settlers occupy the house The Al-Kurd's appeal was dismissed by the court. The following day, settlers backed by heavily armed private security and Israeli police occupied the home, savagely destroying the families household possessions and dumping them in the yard outside the home.

As we entered the yard, drums beating, it was impossible not to trample over the family's already destroyed possessions strewn around the yard – toys, shoes belong to adults and children alike, a broken table and the little sentimental nick naks which make a house a home. As I looked around the yard, I was astounded to see that the settlers had also ripped the kitchen stove from the section of the Al-Kurd's home they were occupying and dumped in unceremoniously in the front yard. To the right of the occupied house, the Al Kurd family stood quietly and with dignity in a makeshift shelter.

For the next 30 minutes, the very loud protest continued peacefully, chanting and drumming, calling for the settlers to leave the house. Behind the cordon of Israeli police, some of the younger settlers stood watching the demonstration, some attempting to argue with the protestors.

According to the Jerusalem Post's report on the demonstration, however, "Sheikh Jarrah locals and left-wing activists staged a violent protest in the east Jerusalem neighborhood on Friday afternoon against the growing number of Jews moving into houses there" [5]. The JPost went onto state, "A violent clash ensued when security forces attempted to prevent the demonstrators from entering Jewish houses in the neighborhood". Israeli's most liberal newspaper, Haaretz, also reported the lie being told by police that the demonstrators were violent and trying to enter the occupied house. According to Haaretz, "protestors marched from the city centre to Sheikh Jarrah, where police said they tried to enter a home that is partly occupied by Jews before being stopped" and that "Police were instructed to disperse the demonstration, but protestors refused to leave" [6]

This was of course a lie. At no stage did any of the peaceful demonstrators attempt to enter the occupied house and the violence perpetrated on the day came solely had the hands of the Israeli police and military present against unarmed and peaceful demonstrators.

The police violence, as often is the case, came without warning. Suddenly our non-violence was met with violence, as the police began viciously beating those standing closest to the occupied house. Some our number attempted to stand in the way of the police and their immediate victims to stop the attack, others just tried to get out of the way of the vicious attack. The courtyard we were in was small and suddenly between 100 and 120 people were surging towards the only exit and entrance.

At the time, I was simultaneously trying to film what was happening, while moving towards the exit. As I reached the exit, I either fell or was knocked over by the surge of the crowd attempting get out of the way of the brutality of the police.

Suddenly I was being trampled under foot by a hundred people. Recognising it was more dangerous to try and get up, I immediately curled up into a ball to protect myself, as I had been taught in non-violent direct action training. I lay in that position for what seemed like an endless amount of time, my fellow activists tripping over me as the police beat them. Suddenly, one of the Israeli activists and some of the young Palestinian men were trying to pull me out of the way to safety. In the end I was lucky, I ended up with only some bruising to my legs, arms and to my right cheekbone from being kicked in the face.

By this stage the police had violently driven the hundred or more protestors into the street outside the Al Kurd's family home. The police's violence, however, didn't end here. For the next hour, the police brutally continued to beat the non-violent demonstrator and the arrests began. The Israeli activists, skilled in non-violent civil disobedience, however continued to non-violently resist. Drumming, blowing whistles and chanting, they attempting to protect their fellow activists by putting their bodies in front of their comrades who were the target of the police's unrestrained aggression.

Reinforced by dozens more police and Israeli military, the police began to brutally headlock the Israeli activists. Dragging them brutally to the ground and across the hard rocks and pavement. Other police began to spray pepper spay into the eyes of the non-violent activists. Again engaging in time worn civil disobedience tactics, their fellow activist tried to prevent the police vehicles leaving with the arrested by standing in front of it. The number of the police arriving kept increasing as did their violence. At one stage, either private security or police officers with black balaclavas over their faces to hide their identity entered the crowd. Each of them carried long black truncheons, a signal that things were about to get even more violent. However, as the hooded men entered, the crowd surged back towards the other end of the street and suddenly the hooded men were whisked out of sight by other security personnel.

Israeli police use pepper spray on non-violent activist in Sheikh Jarrah

Many of the Israeli activists arrest on the day were women. Later, after the police had finally decided they had made enough arrests, several of the female activists I spoke to reported they had also been sexually assaulted by the Israeli police during the violent attack on the demonstration. One activist, M, told me how when one of the police officers grabbed her breasts (a tactic use by Israeli security forces, which has become common place, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel against woman activists). M told me that she yelled to his commander who was standing nearby that his subordinate was sexually assaulting her. The commander's, however, refused to take action, instead derisively tell her that she was ugly and that his subordinate wouldn't touch her.

In the end the police's brutality resulted in more than 10 people – Palestinian, Israeli and Internationals - being injured and 24 non-violent activist being arrested, the majority of whom were Israelis. Speaking with Israeli activists later, many commented that the force used by the police was unprecedented. They also believed that the order had been given for the police to try and stamp out dissent and solidarity with the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah.

There was no violent demonstration in Sheik Jarrah as the Israeli police and occupation forces claimed. Instead there was once again a peaceful non-violent demonstration, which was met with brutal force by the Israeli police and occupation forces. To justify their brutality and illegal behaviour, the Israelis "security" forces once again lied to its own citizens, the Israeli military and the rest of the world.

In Occupied East Jerusalem, just as in the Occupied West Bank, the Israeli police and military serve the illegal settlers, assisting them to carryout their illegal activity, doing little to stop their rampages and assaults on Palestinians, whose land and homes they have stolen. There are, however, other Israelis: courageous, determined and outspoken, who actively oppose the reign of the settlers and the apartheid policy of their state. Each week they stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and stand up for human rights and freedom. Despite the brutality of their government and their police force and "security" forces, they will be, once again, next week at Sheikh Jarrah to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian families who remain "sumoud" (steadfast) and continued to struggle for their human rights and freedom.

[1] Palestinians evicted in Jerusalem, BBC News, 2 December 2009
[2] Settlers occupying al-Kurd house in Sheikh Jarrah continue to harass evicted Palestinian families, ISM Media release, 8 December 2009
[3] Hasson, N., (2009) Turkish documents prove Arabs own E. Jerusalem building. Haaretz, 19 March.
[4] Armageddon is coming to East Jerusalem, Palestine Monitor, 5 December 2009
[5] Police, locals clash in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem Post, 12 December 2009
[6] Hasson, N., 21 left-wing activists arrested in violent East Jerusalem clashes, Haaretz,
12 December 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Refuting pro-Israel hasbara: Official PGFTU statement in support of Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment campaign against Israel

Dear friends,

as you will be aware with the increasing success of the Palestinian initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) Campaign against Israel, the Israeli state, pro-Zionist media outlets and pro-Israel groups have sought to discredit the campaign.

In particular, with increasing support for the campaign coming from trade unions around the world, Israel and pro-Israel groups have engaged in hasbara claiming that the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) does not support the campaign. This was despite the fact that the PGFTU, along with other Palestinian trade unions signed onto the original 2005 Palestinian Unified Call for BDS and that the PGFTU and other trade unions are members of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (the national Palestinian steering committee for the BDS campaign). See:

Over the last few months the Histadrut (Israel's key trade union federation), along with the recently founded pro-Israel trade union lobby group, TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) have sought to perpetuate this hasbara about the PGFTU and the BDS campaign.

Recently both TULIP (running a report from Trade Union Friends of Israel and the Jewish Chronicle ( ran stories claiming that the head of the PGFTU, Shaher Sa'ad had stated that the PGFTU were not interested in participating in the BDS campaign. Following the news story, the BNC issued a press release which included Mr Sa'ad denial of such a statement.

At the same time the PGFTU issued a statement (in Arabic) clearly outlining their support for BDS. The statement has now been translated into English and is below.

Also below is the BNC Press release welcoming the PGFTU's reaffirmation of support and participation in the BDS campaign.

Please feel free to distribute to your networks.

In solidarity,



A Statement* by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and the Palestinian Trade Union Blocs and Frameworks

25 November 2009

Based on the national and trade union position, which PGFTU has always been a part of, representing the unified national and trade union framework for all Palestinian trade union and labor blocs and frameworks, PGFTU with all its organizations, branches and member trade unions stresses its advanced historic and national role in the Palestinian national movement [in the struggle] to accomplish the national tasks, at the forefront of which is putting an end to the Israeli occupation and colonization and establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and with the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from which they were expelled.

In addition, our Federation unambiguously states its principled and committed position for the boycott of Israel in all international forums, and appreciates all international forces, institutions and trade unions that stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and adopt this position. PGFTU and its member trade unions reiterates that is has been and will always be a key and authentic part of the Palestinian national coalition for the boycott [the BDS National Committee, BNC] and confirms the necessity of supporting the national Palestinian production and of building an [independent] economy free from economic dependency.


Together we continue on the path of national and social struggle

Long live the unity of our people and its national forces

Long like the unity of the Palestinian trade union movement

Glory and immortality to our martyrs and freedom to our prisoners.

Palestine – 25 November 2009

Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)

Secretary General Shaher Sa’ed and the members of the Executive Committee

Endorsed by: Youth Workers Movement, Central Office for the Workers Movement, Progressive

Workers Block, Progressive Labor Union Front, Workers Unity Block, Workers Struggle Block,

Labor Solidarity Organization

*Arabic original:

Report on PGFTU's Website (Arabic):

Shaher Sa'ad (on right) meeting with international trade union representatives (photo: PGFTU website)


BNC Warmly Welcomes PGFTU's Statement Confirming Unambiguous Endorsement of BDS

[Press Release: 1 December 2009]
The Palestinian BDS National Committee, BNC, warmly welcomes the statement issued on 25 November 2009 by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) -- signed by its Secretary General, Mr. Shaher Sa'ad, and its Executive Committee, and endorsed by all the main Palestinian trade union blocs that are represented in the Federation. In particular, the BNC welcomes PGFTU's affirmation of its "principled and committed position for the boycott of Israel" and its praise of international trade unions and other civil society organizations that stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights and adopt the boycott against Israel.
We are further encouraged by PGFTU's commitment to remaining a "key and authentic component" of the large civil society coalition that leads the global BDS movement, the BNC.

While Mr. Sa'ad himself signed PGFTU's endorsement of the BDS Call when it was first launched on 9 July 2005, this new statement by the leadership of PGFTU confirms the Federation's unqualified commitment to BDS in the struggle "to accomplish the national [Palestinian] tasks, at the forefront of which is putting an end to the Israeli occupation and colonization and establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and with the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from which they were expelled," as the Federation's just-released statement affirms.

All three Palestinian trade union federations -- the General Union of Palestinian Workers (a constituent mass organization of the PLO), PGFTU and the Palestinian Federation of Independent Trade Unions -- have endorsed BDS against Israel and have been part of the BNC since its inception. This has provided a unified Palestinian labor voice in support of boycotting Israel until it ends its three-tiered oppression of the Palestinian people: its occupation and colonization of the 1967 occupied territory; its institutionalized system of racial discrimination, or apartheid; and its denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian refugees, especially their right to return to their homes of origin.

Despite this complete unity behind BDS, Zionist media outlets as well as Israel lobby groups in the West have launched a campaign of deception and disinformation, using unofficial utterances by this or that Palestinian trade union official to claim that part of the Palestinian trade union movement was unenthusiastic about the boycott or, worse yet, in favor of normal relations with Israel and its complicit institutions. This hasbara was most vigorous in the UK, where well-oiled pressure groups, like Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI), kept the fraud going and tried to influence major trade unions not to support BDS. With the truth finally being revealed about Israel's war crimes, apartheid and colonial policies, however, motions supporting BDS were passed with overwhelming majorities in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Scottish Trade Union Congress, several major British unions and, finally, the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), leaving the Israel trade union lobby in tatters, facing imminent collapse. With the steady and remarkable spread of BDS among major labor unions across the World, the Israel lobby has evidently reached a level of despair that is compelling it to intensify its reliance on fabrications, intimidation and outright lies in its abortive attempts to hinder the growth of the boycott.

In the latest fatal blow to whatever credibility these Israel lobby groups may still have had in some trade unions, PGFTU's Secretary General himself accused TUFI of fabricating or misrepresenting the statement they attributed to him in a Jewish Chronicle article on November 12, in which he allegedly distanced the Federation from BDS. The BNC and the Palestinian labor movement afterwards strongly urged PGFTU to issue an official statement committing itself to the BDS campaign and thus putting an end to all the rumors and innuendo spread by the Zionist lobby in the West that shed any doubt on PGFTU’s commitment to the boycott. By issuing this recent, clearly-worded statement, PGFTU has confirmed that it not only unequivocally supports the boycott against Israel but that it also still considers itself an integral part of the BDS campaign leadership, the BNC.

The Palestinian labor movement has never been as united as it is today in supporting the boycott against Israel and calling on all international trade unions and trade union federations to endorse BDS as the most effective form of solidarity with the people of Palestine in general and our working class in particular. Furthermore, we repeat our appeal to all international trade unions to sever their links with the Histadrut, a racist organization that has always played a key role in perpetuating Israel's occupation, colonization and system of racial discrimination, and that has justified and applauded Israel's war crimes in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

As the struggle against apartheid in South Africa has shown, effective and consistent international solidarity with an oppressed people is best expressed in forms that the oppressed themselves call for. Since 2005, Palestinian civil society, including its trade union federations and all the trade union political blocs, has been united in calling on people of conscience and institutions around the world, particularly trade unions, to endorse BDS against Israel and to implement the boycott in diverse ways that best suit their respective contexts. BDS remains our best hope to end Israel’s occupation and apartheid and to attain our UN-recognized rights, particularly our right to self determination.

The Palestinian Civil Society BDS National Committee (BNC)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tony Blair and the Emperor's New Clothes

Dear friends,
please find below, in case you missed it, a wonderful article which appeared on the website of Bethlehem based Palestinian News Agency, Maan News.

The article is an interview with the Alexandra Darby, the niece of Tony Blair (former British PM now Middle East Quartet Envoy) and her mother, Lauren Booth (Blair's sister in law). In August 2008, Booth, who is a journalist and broadcaster, was one of the participants on the Free Gaza boats, which helped break the siege of Gaza. Booth subsequently spent a month or more in Gaza working as a human rights volunteer and reporting on the siege. She has since returned to Palestine to participate in the Peace Cycle, bringing her daughter with her.

During their visit to Hebron, Booth and her daughter, just happened to cross paths with Tony Blair's cavalcade which had been in Hebron as well. Alex notes, after her and her mother spoke with local Palestinian residents, that her uncle visit reminded her of the Hans Christian Andersen fable of "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Alex told Maan: “Do you know the story of the emperor’s new clothes?" she asks, "Well the emperor is blinded by what they do, because for real there is nothing there. And I think that’s what they are doing, because when he went to visit the Old City, and well, the Israelis didn’t make him go through the metal bit to get into the mosque; he went through the wide bit. So he thinks, ‘Well, then it's right what they say, these people aren’t poor, these people aren’t under an occupation.’ That’s what they are trying to make him see, so he can make others see the same.”

What a wonderful comment from such a young person!

In solidarity,


Quartet envoy's eight-year-old niece sees the real Palestine

published 22/10/09 and updated on 27/10/09

Bethlehem - Ma’an - Eight-year-old Alexandra Darby, the niece of Quartet envoy Tony Blair, toured the West Bank this week on a bicycle, peddling an estimated 200 kilometers from Amman to Jerusalem.

Asked what she will tell her school friends about the Peace Cycle journey, Alex reflected, “I’ll tell them that the people here are very nice, not like they say in the newspapers.”

Alex Darby - photo by Maan News.

The West Bank is not a usual vacation site for most eight-year-olds. But, as mother, journalist and activist Lauren Booth explained, “She’s been asking me for the last five years why she can’t go to Palestine, and despite the fact that the Israelis can make it bloody trying to get in and out, the greeting here I knew would be so sensational for her that I didn’t have a reason not to bring her.”

Why doesn't Alex think other kids get to come to Palestine? “Because, of course, the telly, which says Palestinians are not like us, that they are a revolting people, a violent people, a nasty people, it’s mad. In fact it’s the exact opposite, it’s the Israelis.”

Alex and Tony visit Hebron

On Tuesday, Alex visited Hebron with the Peace Cycle Group. As she entered the streets leading to the Old City, she saw her uncle’s motorcade drive away.

While in the city, mom Lauren had heard the Quartet envoy, and husband of her sister, may be in the area. “We tried to wave them down,” she said, but “they thought we were just waving at them [as fans] so they just waved back. They thought people on the streets were waving at them, which was a bit frustrating.”

But it meant Alex had the fortuitous experience of meeting the people who had just escorted Blair around the city. His visit was reported as a chance for Blair to hear about the troubles of Palestinians in Hebron so he could better inform the decisions of the Quartet as it pushes its Middle East peace Road Map.

“As soon as Blair left, we arrived and got to speak to the local dignitaries and to the police who had been part of showing him around, and their disappointment was total,” Lauren explained.

“He was shown into the mosque and cheered in by Israeli soldiers. He went not through the cattle grid and the humiliation of checkpoints that the local population has to go through to get to their own mosque; he went in through open doors used only by Israelis. How is he going to learn, and make any judgment about what the Palestinian people need, if that’s the sort of trip he makes?”

Tony Blair - former British PM and now Middle East Quartet Envoy.

Touring the area with her mom and the group, listening to the way people talked about Blair’s visit, and what he was supposed to be doing, reminded Alex of the Hans Christian Andersen fable The Emperor’s New Clothes. The tale is of a leader who hires swindlers to make him new robes and is fooled into believing they are made of a magical fabric that only the worthy can see.

“Do you know the story of the emperor’s new clothes?" she asks, "Well the emperor is blinded by what they do, because for real there is nothing there. And I think that’s what they are doing, because when he went to visit the Old City, and well, the Israelis didn’t make him go through the metal bit to get into the mosque; he went through the wide bit. So he thinks, ‘Well, then it's right what they say, these people aren’t poor, these people aren’t under an occupation.’ That’s what they are trying to make him see, so he can make others see the same.”

“The Palestinian Authority is culpable in this as well,” Lauren adds, “they arrange these visits so that he doesn’t have tea with a local family; they go along with these supposed security issues that allow Israel to protect foreign diplomats from the supposedly violent Palestinians and they never get to see the real situation.”

Alex, however, saw the real Hebron.

“I felt a bit scared in Hebron,” she admits, tucking her legs up into the chair, “You never really could be alone. When you came in there are Israelis looking down at you, then we got to one bit, there was this big thing the Israelis could look through just to see far-er, and he had a big gun,” Alex said describing the guard towers that dot the Old City.

“She has been afraid twice,” Lauren explained, “both times because of settlers, and that’s disappointing that she had to feel that. I never want any child to have to go through that, but she did… and it really affected her.”

Going home

Wednesday was the last night for Alex and Lauren in Palestine, so thoughts turned to what would happen when she returned to class.

What did she tell her friends before leaving? “I’ve told them about the siege, but they don’t listen, my best friend listens though.”

What will she tell them when she gets back? “I think it’s a mad idea to build a wall, to think of people getting guns and building a giant wall around France and saying ‘This is England;’ it’s mad.”

Does she think her visit will prompt them to come and see the place for themselves? “I don’t really think they will, because if I tell them about the soldiers they’ll be scared… I think their parents would come first, to get to know some people and make friends, then when they know the people quite well and that they’re nice, then perhaps they’ll bring their children.”

Peace Cycle - photo by Maan News.

That comment prompts an idea in Lauren, who, along with the other members of the Peace Cycle Team, has used the trip to make connections with local initiatives, hoping to pair them with organizations in the UK and Europe. “You need to know the people first, you’re right. Do you think your classmates would want to Skype with the kids in Jenin that you met?”

Alex nods, excited about the prospect of keeping in touch with some of her new friends.

“I have brought the most precious thing in my life to Palestine with the knowledge that she will be loved and cared for,” Lauren says as the buss rolls up to take the group to a school for the blind in Beit Jala, “and that she has found this to be a place where children are adored and not in the least like she would have expected it to be as a child exposed to the news.”

Getting nervous about the visit, Alex asks if we want to hear the song she will share with the children at the school.

“Are you ready?

Free my people Palestine - Sing it loud
We will never let you die - Sing it loud
Palestine West Bank Ramallah Gaza, this is for the child that is looking for an answer
I wish I could take your tears and turn them into laughter
Long live Palestine, Long live Gaza!”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Today in Jerusalem

Dear friends,

My friend, Dominique, who I worked with in Palestine a year or two ago is currently back in Palestine working with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

Please find below Dominique's account of what happened in Jerusalem today when the Israeli state destroyed more Palestinian homes.

I have asked her if I could share her account of it with all of you and she was fine for me to pass it on. As you will see, Dominique's writing is informative, insightful and very moving.

According to Dominique in another post I recieved from her, all up today three house were demolished and 40 people were left homeless. As she notes in her blog, the rains and winter have just started and I can say for personal experience, winter is very, very cold in Palestine.

With her permission, I will also be regularly posting up a variety of her updates onto the Live from Occupied Palestine blog.

You can visit her blog: De L'autre Cote du Mur (From The Other Side of the Wall), which has a range of photos as well at

In solidarity,

Dominique writes:

Today in Jerusalem

2 November, 2009

When talking about Palestine and Palestinian's rights it is difficult to decide where to start. So I will just tell you day about my day of today.

9:39am: I am drinking my second cup of tea, trying to do my arabic homework, (last minute as usual) when I got a text message “ DWG alert : demolition ongoing of a structure in Abu Dur in East Jerusalem. For further info call xxx”. I ring the number, try to get info about this address and figure out if it is still time to get there or if everything is already over.

I jump into a taxi, and start grumbling against Jerusalem's traffic. When we reach Abu Dur, a truck blocks the street. I get out the taxi, decided to find the place walking. But I realize I am in a very Jewish and “bourgeois” neighbourhood. Obviously nobody is going to demolish anything here. Did I misunderstood the indication? Did the taxi driver make a bad joke? I get down the hill looking for buldozers. Finally the neighbourhood's look changes. Smaller houses, pourer, narrow streets. Much more arabic looking. And suddenly 4 soldiers heavily equipped. They stare at me. I don't look very local. “Where are you going?” “I'm visiting” “Visiting whom? “nobody, just looking for a nice place to take photos” “Passport?”

Soldiers at today's house demolitions making way for bulldozer
Photo by ICAHD:

10:25am: After checking my passport they let me go through. I hate them but at least I know I am on the right way now. And a few hundreds meters further I reach the crime scene. The house, I mean the rubble.

A woman crying, another shouting her anger. Buldozers and police left a few minutes ago. Men from the family and neighbours are already active trying to clean the place. They received an order from the municipal representative to clear out all the rubble that used to be their home within a week, otherwise they would receive a fine.

The few belongings the family managed to save are piled on the street. A children bike, books, a cupboard, toys, kitchen items. That's it. 2 houses, 16 persons just lost their all house, home, history, dignity, hope.

The father of the family fainted twice during the demolition, and was hospitalized.

Atmosphere is oppressive. A few people taking pictures, a few journalists. I meet people from Icahd, the ngo I volunteer with. Closed faces. What can we do or say? I don't know and feel ashamed and sad.

11am: Time to go. I'm already late for my arabic class though I promised myself I would not miss any.

During an hour and half I try to focus on grammar. I don't feel comfortable to speak about much with other students. This is life in Israel. Deal with ignorance at the best, and hate at the worst in your daily life.But I am the lucky one, I can go from one side to the other.

13h50: I am at Icahd' office in West Jerusalem. I am determined to focus on the advocacy document I am supposed to work on.

14h: phone call: new house demolition in Beit Hanina. We try to get more information before jumping into a taxi again, an arab one preferably cause others usually refuse to go to this part of Jerusalem.

14h30 : still in the taxi, tens of phone calls to try to locate the house.

15h : we found it. Again to late. Buldozers left half an hour ago. 22 persons homeless. A family with 10 children, plus grand-children. This house was built seven years ago. They have already payed 42000 shekels ( more than 8000 euros) as fines to 'regularize' their situation. Yesterday, the court ruled it was illegal. This morning the family received demolition order. this afternoon the buldozers.
Some families live years under demolition order. Not them. You never know when and where they are going to demolish one of the thousands of houses declared illegal. And one day, you see the buldozers coming, you have ten minutes to pack and then it's over. A woman from the family fainted when she saw the buldozers. The army called an ambulance. The ambulance treated her. Then the army gave the family the bill for the ambulance... They will then receive the bill for the demolition cost. Arrogance, cynism have no limit here.

A few months ago, the municipality told the family that if they would destroy by themselves the small annex they have, they would not touch the main house. The owner did it. He took off the roof and walls of the adjacent small building. Now he has absolutely nothing.

Is it necessary to add that it is raining and cold winter has just started.

I am there with an israeli activist from Icahd. Communication is therefore in hebrew. I can just take a few pictures. The only one smiling here is the little girl, maybe 4 years old. She asks me “Leish?” showing the destroyed house. This, I understand : “Why?”. I cannot answer anything, in whatever language.

After a few months of pause, the municipality of Jerusalem has clearly reinstated its illegal and racist policy of house demolitions in East Jerusalem. 11 within the last 3 weeks. These houses are ruled illegal by a municipality which does not grant any construction permits to Arabs but who promotes illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

My day is not over but it's enough for now, Masalama.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Obama backs Netanyahu's position on 'peace negotiations'

By Kim Bullimore
Direct Action, Issue 16 October 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in the wake of US President Barak Obama’s first speech to the United Nations General Assembly and the September 22 meeting in New York between Netanyahu, Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In his September 23 UN speech, Obama confirmed that Washington had retreated on its previous demand that Israel halt building new illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, stating that “the time has come to re-launch [peace] negotiations — without preconditions”.

“I’m pleased that President Obama accepted my request that there should be no preconditions”, Netanyahu told Israel Radio in a telephone interview later that same day. He also said: “I commend this important speech of Obama’s and his call to renew the peace process without preconditions. I commend his unequivocal support of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Obama’s accommodation to Netanyahu’s position, however, was not a surprise, as the previous day Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, revealed that Washington was about to back down on the “demand” that Israel temporarily freeze settlement building. Mitchell told Reuters news agency: “Neither the president nor the Secretary [of State, Hillary Clinton] nor I have ever said of any one issue ... that it is a precondition to negotiation.” He went onto say, “we do not believe in preconditions. We do not impose them and we urge others not to impose preconditions.”

While both Mitchell and Obama claimed that there should be “no pre-conditions” on peace negotiations, both made it clear that this only applied to Israel and that the Palestinians were expected to meet a number of “pre-conditions”, including recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state”, thus negating the right of Palestinian refugees driven into exile by the Zionists in 1948 to return to their homeland, and ending armed resistance to Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories seized in June 1967.

Despite claims by the Abbas and his team of negotiators that Obama had recognised the right of Palestinian state to exist in the territory seized in 1967, Obama did no such thing. Instead, while he noted that Palestinians needed a contiguous territory and that the 1967 occupation must end, he made no call for removal of all of the Israeli settlements from the occupied West Bank and East Jersusalem, nor for the dismantling of Israel’s apartheid wall. As a result, Obama has given Washington’s stamp of approval for Israel to retain some, if not all, of Israel’s illegal settlement infrastructure built on stolen Palestinian land. Ofir Akunis, an MP from Netanyahu’s Likud party told the September 24 Tel Aviv Haaretz daily that this means “construction in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] will continue alongside the diplomatic talks” with the Palestinian Authority.

With Obama’s tacit blessing, Israel will continue to create “facts on the ground”, ensuring that more and more Palestinian land is illegally annexed to Israel. Since 1993, when Israel agreed to begin peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel’s continued settlement construction in the occupied West Bank has resulted in the illegal Israeli settler population doubling to approximately 300,000, while the number of settlers living in occupied East Jerusalem is estimated to be around 180,000.

Prior to Obama’s UN speech, there had been much speculation in the corporate media that Obama would “pressure” Israel to stop settlement activity in order to clear the way for a resumption of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, which has been under intense pressure from the Palestinian masses not to do so until this activity was halted. According to Paul Woodward, the editor of the well-respected web journal, War in Context, Obama’s UN speech revealed “that in the end, it turned out that ‘pressure’ from the Obama Administration amounts to strong words with no visible force behind them”. Woodward went onto point out that this “pressure” comes “in the form of sternness — no doubt quite effective when Obama insists to [his daughters] Malia and Natasha that it’s bedtime, but not very impressive when it’s directed at the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu”.

While Netanyahu has emerged in a much stronger position, the New York “tripartite summit” has resulted in the wholesale undermining of Abbas’ position. Previously Abbas had refused to meet with Netanyahu or restart negotiations without a clear commitment from Israel to halt settlement activity. Abbas has sought to salvage his reputation by claiming he was forced into the meeting by Obama, with one of his staffers telling the September 24 Jerusalem Post, Abbas “couldn’t resist the heavy pressure the Americans put on him. In fact, he went to the meeting with Netanyahu against his will.”

Abbas’ capitulation, however, reflects the fundamental flaw in the Fatah leadership’s whole strategy for advancing the Palestinian national liberation cause — reliance on getting Washington to pressure Israel to accede to Palestinian demands, rather than exerting pressure on the Israel rulers by mobilising the Palestinian masses to resist Israel’s illegal occupation. “In all honesty, we want to protect our relations with President Obama under any conditions”, Abbas told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper after the New York summit. “We don’t want to come out with a crisis with the Americans, or create a crisis.”

The assumption behind Abbas’ strategy is that Washington is a neutral mediator, when in reality it is Israel’s prime backer. And while the Israeli rulers pay lip-service to the idea of the Palestinians eventually having an independent state, their real goal, which they have continuously worked at since Israel was set up in 1948, is to assert Israeli control over the entirety of Palestine.

Since having colluded with Washington in the toppling of the popularly elected Hamas-led PA government, Abbas has increasingly lost credibility among the Palestinian masses as an effective leader of their struggle for their national rights. His capitulation on the conditions for restarting negotiations with Israel will only further erode his standing. Hamas denounced Abbas for attending the New York summit, with Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri saying, “the only person to benefit from the New York meeting is Netanyahu because it will improve his image and give him cover to continue building settlements”.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vale Marek Edelman - anti-fascist, anti-Zionist, freedom fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto

Dear friends,
many of you may have already read that Marek Edelman died last week. Edelman was one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis during World War II. He was a member of the Bund and an anti-Zionist, remaining one until his death last week. While Zionism tries to claim Edelman and his comrades to help further the Zionist cause and myth, Edelman and his comrades (as Tony Greenstein writes below)were "the living proof that Jews could fight anti-Semitism where they lived and didn’t have to escape to a state mirrored on the principles of their oppressors in someone else's land in Palestine. Above all he [Edelman] excoriated the Jewish collaborators and traitors who the Zionists had seen fit to call ‘heroes’. He didn’t fit in with or conform to Zionism’s narrative of the Holocaust".

In 2002, Edelman revealed he had not waived from his principle that one must stand against injustice and oppression, when he publicly sided with the Palestinian resistance, much to the outrage of the Zionist and Israeli leadership.

Edelman should be remembered for the man and hero he was - a freedom fighter, who never waived from his principles or beliefs and who stood against injustice, racism, occupation and oppression.

Below is Tony Greenstein's obituary on Marek Edelman - anti-fascist, anti-Zionist, freedom fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto.

In solidarity,


Marek Edelman - Death of an anti-fascist hero of the Warsaw Jewish Resistance
Last Commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt Dies Aged 90

By Tony Greenstein

On October 2nd 2009, Marek Edelman, Deputy Leader of ZOB, the Jewish Fighting Organisation in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, died aged 90. Marek Edelman who, after the death of Mordechai Anielwicz, became Commander of ZOB, was a living legend as well as a world famous heart surgeon. He led the Bund units in the area of the Brushworks and the Tobins factories.

In December 1990 I reviewed his book The Ghetto Fights in Return 5, a Jewish anti-Zionist magazine.

Marek Edelman was a member of the anti-Zionist Bund, the General Jewish Workers Union of Poland. The Bund has originally been formed as the General Jewish Workers Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, but the Stalinists had eliminated it and its leadership.

Edelman’s life was the stuff of fiction. From fighting in the Ghetto Uprising, escaping via the sewers to the ‘Aryan’ side of Warsaw, a founder of Solidarity in Poland who was briefly imprisoned by the Stalinists.

Edelman was the living proof that Jews could fight anti-Semitism where they lived and didn’t have to escape to a state mirrored on the principles of their oppressors in someone else's land in Palestine. Above all he excoriated the Jewish collaborators and traitors who the Zionists had seen fit to call ‘heroes’. He didn’t fit in with or conform to Zionism’s narrative of the Holocaust.

Today Zionism praises the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but in the 1930’s and 1940’s it treated and made deals with the Nazis. In the Ghetto the Jewish leadership did nothing as two-thirds of the Jews were deported without resistance. The Chairman of the Judenrat, Adam Czerniakow, a General Zionist and compared to most leaders of the Judenrat, an honourable man, committed suicide. 'what could we do’ was the familiar refrain of the Jewish leadership. But the Bund, which delayed the setting up of the Ghetto through demonstrations and mass mobilisation, believed in relying on the masses, not the lying words of the Nazi enemy.

Edelman as a young man

Zionism had always preached the line of least resistance. As the anti-Nazi Boycott of German goods was launched in Britain and the USA in 1933 by the Jewish labour movement, the Zionist leaders negotiated an economic transfer agreement (Ha'avara) that led to 60% of capital investment in Palestine between 1933 and 1939 coming from Nazi Germany.

Edelman became a ‘non-person’ in Israel. He challenged the Zionist fable that the holocaust was part of a continuous road that led to the Israeli state and that the Ghetto Uprising was part of that same road. Having abandoned the Jews of Europe to their fate, Zionism created the myth that resistance to the Nazis was a Zionist endeavour.

As Yitzhak Laor noted in his review in Ha'aretz of 26.12.04. of Ruth Linn’s, Escaping Auschwitz: A Culture of Forgetting

‘How long did it take before we finally learned that there had been anti-Zionists among the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising? Who was Marek Edelman? Why could he show up from time to time at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot (“Ghetto Fighters”) to sit down and chat with his soul mate Antek Zuckerman, while we, as readers, were kept in the dark as to the man’s charm and greatness? Because the collective memory was unable to tolerate people who had consciously chosen not to identify with the Zionist enterprise, even in the context of Holocaust memory.’

Linn’s book dealt with another Jewish hero of the holocaust hero, Rudolf Vrba, who with Alfred Wetzler, escaped from Auschwitz, to warn the 800,000 Hungarian Jews that they were next on the Nazi butchers’ list. Their detailed description of the gas chambers and the location of their murder, the Auschwitz Protocols, was suppressed by the Zionist press and movement until the Swiss newspapers , the War Refugee Board and the Vatican, among others, blew the whistle.

The reason for the silencing of Edelman and Vrba was because the Holocaust has been harnessed to the cause the dispossession of the Palestinians. The Palestinians were the new Nazis and anyone who disagreed was also an anti-Semite. As Richard Goldstone found out this week when Israel's finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, accused him of being an anti-Semite. (BREAKING NEWS - Israel Finance Minister: Goldstone Is 'Anti-Semite').

As Idith Zertal wrote:

"Nationalizing the ghetto uprisings was a way of nationalizing the narrative and removing all the contradictory, non-Zionist elements…. The fact that the umbrella organizations involved in the rebellion included all the political parties was minimized or obscured. Of all the efforts to hush up and disguise the truth, the case of Marek Edelman is perhaps the most glaring."

As Zertal pointed out, the "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust," edited by Israel Gutman, one of Israel's Establishment Holocaust Historians at Yad Vashem, is very vague about Edelman's role, and devotes only one column to him. (The Living Dead, Yitzhak Laor)

Marek Edelman’s book, The Ghetto is Fighting, was first published in Poland in 1945 and republished in Britain in 1990. Given that this was the only first-hand account by a leader of the Uprising, it is hardly accidental that it took 56 years, until 2001, before it was published in Israel.

“Like Vrba, Edelman ‘ascended’ to Israel, refusing to become the ‘dead and obedient hero who could be moulded along with the political order of that time. On the contrary he remained alive and kicking and refusing and, therefore, extremely inconvenient for the creation of a heroic Zionist condensing and compensating myth.’ Zertal, I. Death and the Nation, 56-7 (Translation from Hebrew).

Fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto

As another survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Professor Israel Shahak, wrote in a letter published on 19 May 1989 in Kol Ha'ir, Jerusalem:

Nearly all the work of administration, and later the work of transporting hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths, was carried out by Jewish collaborators. Before the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising… the Jewish underground killed, with perfect justification, every Jewish collaborator they could find. If they had not done so the Uprising could never have started. The majority of the population of the Ghetto hated the collaborators far more than the German Nazis….

the entire Nazi success in easy and continued rule over millions of people stemmed from the subtle and diabolical use of collaborators… This, and not what is 'instilled' was the reality. Of the Yad Vashem (official state Holocaust museum in Jerusalem - Ed.) theatre, I do not wish to speak, at all. It, and its vile exploits, such as honouring South Africa collaborators with the Nazis [the visit of South African Premier John Vorster to Israel - TG) are truly beneath contempt.

And this is the reason for the silencing and invisibility of Marek Edelman and Rudolf Vrba. They were living proof that Zionism was not and never was a movement of resistance in Europe, but a movement of collaboration. Ironically, given that Zionism accuses its Jewish opponents of ‘self-hatred’, it is as Antony Lerman points out in the Guardian, ‘arguable that Zionism was actually a display of it.’

Warsaw Ghetto fighters

Of course there were many Zionists who, despite their Zionism, fought against the Nazis. They included the Commander of ZOB, Mordechai Anielwicz of Hashomer Hatzair. But he too began the fightback with a declaration that his Zionist work in Poland had been wasted years. Even as preparations for the Uprising were underway, Zionist collaborators such as Abraham Gancawajch of Hashomer Hatzair were targeted (unsuccessfully in his case) for assassination.

As John Rose notes in his obituary in the summer of 2002,

Edelman, intervened in Israel's show trial of jailed Palestinian resistance leader, Marwan Barghouti. He wrote a letter of solidarity to the Palestinian movement, and though he criticised the suicide bombers, its tone infuriated the Israeli government and its press. Edelman had always resented Israel's claim on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a symbol of Jewish liberation. Now he said this belonged to the Palestinians.

He addressed his letter to the Palestinian ZOB, "commanders of the Palestinian military, paramilitary and partisan operations – to all the soldiers of the Palestinian fighting organisations". The old Jewish anti-Nazi Ghetto fighter had placed his immense moral authority at the disposable of the only side he deemed worthy of it.

And this is the response to those who query the connection between the Palestinian fighters and the Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister, Moshe Arens, in Ha'aretz: reveals that when trying to get Edelman an award of an honorary doctorate from an Israeli university, Vrba received one in 1999 from Haifa University as a result of Ruth Linn’s efforts, ‘I ran into stubborn opposition led by Holocaust historians in Israel.’ These were the Zionists' establishment historians, people such as Yehuda Bauer, Yisrael Guttman, Gili Fatran and Otto dov Kulka, who have been in the forefront of Zionising and nationalising the Holocaust. Their task is to rewrite the history of the Holocaust so that it becomes the property of those who, in their time, were the real Jewish self-haters and collaborators.

Arens wrote of Edelman that

‘He had received Poland's highest honor, and at the 65th commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal. He died not having received the recognition from Israel that he so richly deserved.’

Some would say that he was doubly fortunate in this respect!

Tony Greenstein

Friday, September 25, 2009

Free Mohammad Othman, Palestine’s first BDS Prisoner of Conscience!

Dear friends,
Mohammed Othman, Palestinian activist involved in the BDS campaign has been arrested by the Israeli state on his return from a trip to Norway.

Please find details of his arrest and what you can do to assist in the campaign to free him. Please take action where you can.

I have also included a link to a Podcast from the International Middle East Media Centre of an interview with Mohammed.

In solidarity, Kim


Free Mohammad Othman,

Palestine’s first BDS Prisoner of Conscience!

Photo credit: Photos courtesy from Free Mohammad Othman

On Tuesday, September 22, Mohammad Othman (33 years old)—a Palestinian human rights activist and advocate of the non-violent civil society campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)—was arrested by Israeli authorities at the Allenby Crossing, the border terminal between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory. He was returning from a trip to Norway—where he had been promoting BDS—when he was detained, arrested and then moved to a prison where he is being held for a military hearing scheduled for next Tuesday.

While Mohammad is only one of the approximately 11,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, he has become the first Palestinian to be imprisoned by Israel in response to BDS advocacy activity. With BDS campaigns around the world gaining momentum, Israel has increasingly come under pressure to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights. It is precisely the spectacular rise in the effectiveness of the BDS campaign and its successes in the Western mainstream that seems to have prompted Israel to take such a draconian measure against a prominent and indefatigable BDS activist.

Mohammad has dedicated the last ten years of his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. His village, Jayyous, in the occupied West Bank, has lost most of its fertile agricultural land to Israel’s illegal Wall and colonial settlements. He has campaigned with the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign against the dispossession of Palestinian farmers and has urged for mechanisms of accountability for Israeli violations of international law and human rights, based on the Palestinian call for BDS, issued on 9 July 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice at the Hague had found Israel’s Wall and colonies illegal.

Demonstration outside Israeli embassy in Norway demanding Mohammad's freedom
Photo credit: Photos courtesy from Free Mohammad Othman

Mohammad’s trips to Norway—during which he met with senior officials including Finance Minister Kristen Halvorsen—reflect the increasing international support for effective mechanisms of upholding international law and Palestinian rights. Norway’s state Pension Fund recently announced that it had divested from Elbit Systems, the Israeli company which provides both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other military technology for Occupation forces as well as security systems for the Wall and settlements. The decision came after representatives of the fund’s Ethics Council met with Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists, including Mohammad, who accompanied them on a tour of Jayyous and other West Bank villages affected by the Wall.

Since Israel’s illegal war of aggression on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 that killed over 1400 people, predominantly civilians, the BDS movement has grown exponentially and gained wide support among conscientious individuals, unions and international civil society in general, as well as among some governments. In the last two weeks, more countries have followed Norway’s example. The Brazilian Parliament has expressed itself against the ratification of a Free Trade Agreement with Israel until a Palestinian state is established, and the government of Spain denied settlement-based Ariel University College permission to participate in a high profile academic architecture competition. With the BDS movement making significant gains worldwide, human rights defenders like Mohammad are likely to be increasingly targeted by the Israeli government in its efforts to evade accountability for its ongoing violations of international law.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy from Free Mohammad Othman

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) calls on all those who support basic human rights, whether or not they endorse BDS, international solidarity groups and human rights organizations to act urgently to bring attention to this case and apply due pressure to achieve the immediate and unconditional release of Palestinian human rights activist Mohammad Othman.

It is crucial that the international community combat Israeli attempts to criminalize human rights activists adopting BDS or any other popular struggle aimed at ending violations of international law and upholding universal principles of human rights.

Recommended Actions:

* Encourage others to join this campaign through petitions, demonstrations and / or letter writing / phone calling. Please provide them with contact information and details;
* Urge your representatives at consular offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem/Ramallah to demand the immediate release of Mohammad Othman. (For your consular contacts, see:;
* Let the Israeli Embassy in your country know that you are campaigning for Mohammad’s release and for a just and lasting peace based on international law.
* Bring the case of Palestine’s first BDS prisoner of conscience to the attention of local and national media outlets;
* Follow the blog and facebook to free Mohammad Othman to see the latest updates and action alerts.



For more information contact:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Palestine's Peaceful Struggle

Dear friends,
an article by Mohammed Khatib, one of the leaders of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall, and the increased campaign by Israel and its occupation forces to crush the non-violent Palestinian struggle against the wall and occupation.

in solidarity,

Palestine's Peaceful Struggle
By Mohammed Khatib, September 11, 2009
The Nation

A few weeks ago, in the dead of night, dozens of Israeli soldiers with painted faces burst violently into my home. If only they had knocked, I would have opened the door. They arrested me. My wife, Lamia, was left alone with our four children. My youngest, 3-year-old Khaled, woke up to the image of Israeli soldiers with painted faces who were taking his father away. He has not stopped crying since. A few nights ago he woke up in terror, sobbing: "Daddy, why did you let the soldiers take me?" That's the way our children sleep--in a constant state of fear.
Many Americans know that the Obama administration has been pushing the Israeli government to accept a freeze on settlement construction. What is not commonly known is that even as Israel negotiates with the United States, it has been taking steps, including my arrest, to crush the growing Palestinian nonviolent movement opposing Israel's construction of settlements and the wall on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Mohammed Khatib in Montreal

For over five years the residents of Bil'in and other villages have been protesting against Israel's separation wall, which cuts off our village's land for the sake of Israeli settlement expansion. We have even taken the struggle to the courts. The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in July 2004 that the wall, where it has been built inside the West Bank, is illegal under international law, as are all Israeli settlements. In September 2007, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the wall in Bil'in, which separates us from 50 percent of our land, is illegal according to Israeli law. The wall has yet to have moved.

The Israeli army is using more-lethal weapons and greater violence against protesters, and arresting many people, including many protest organizers. In Bil'in alone, twenty-nine residents have been arrested in the past three months. Twelve of them are children. Almost all were arrested during military raids in the middle of the night. Their detention has been extended repeatedly.

But the charges against them are baseless. As one example, I have been charged with stone throwing. I was released on bail with draconian terms only after my lawyers showed the court passport stamps proving that I was abroad at the time of the alleged offense. My friend, Adeeb Abu-Rahme, 37 years old and the father of nine, has been imprisoned for more than six weeks, though the charges against him are just as absurd.

Every Friday in Bil'in, we march to the wall in peaceful protest, along with our Israeli and international partners. Once a year we hold an international conference about the popular nonviolent struggle. Together we learn and gain inspiration. We struggle together to bring down the many walls between people that the occupation is creating. We've repeatedly addressed the Israeli soldiers here, telling them we are not against them as people, but that we oppose their actions as an occupying military force.

Still, nineteen demonstrators have been killed by the Israeli army in these nonviolent demonstrations against the wall. Many have been injured, including Israeli and international activists protesting with us. Here in Bil'in we recently lost our friend Bassem Abu Rahme, who was fatally shot by soldiers in April while he was imploring them to stop shooting at demonstrators.

Bassem Abu Rahme at a non-violent demonstration against the Wall in Bil'in

Bassem Abu Rahme was shot with a high velocity tear gas cannister by the Israeli military and dies shortly after.

Several months ago we were warned by Israel's occupation forces that they intended to crush the popular struggle.

Why has the Israeli government decided now to increase the suppression of demonstrations and to break the spirit of protest leaders? Maybe because they realize that the nonviolent struggle is spreading, that more and more villages have created popular committees that are organizing demonstrations. Perhaps the crackdown is a result of their concern and the growing international movement for the boycott of companies and businessmen such as Lev Leviev who are involved in Israel's land grab. Or maybe they fear that the new American government could learn through our demonstrations that Israel's wall is a means to annex land for the growing settlements, and that nonviolent Palestinian protests are being brutally suppressed.

Israel's actions suggest that it is intimidated by people struggling for their rights in a nonviolent manner. The Israeli government seems to believe that Palestinians who struggle while partnering with Israeli activists endanger Israel's occupation and that tearing down human walls is a dangerous act. Perhaps what the state of Israel fears most of all is the hope that people can live together based on justice and equality for all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Support the Gaza Freedom March!!

Dear friends,
many of you will be aware of the Gaza Freedom March, which is set to take place in January of 2010. It has now been endorsed by Palestinian Civil Society Organisations and they have issued a call for individuals and organisations to endorse and support the March.

Many Palestinian solidarity supporters around the world are planning to join the March in January in person, but many of us may not be able to do so for a range of reasons. If we are not able to join the March in person, solidarity can be show in our home towns and countries by organising solidarity actions to draw attention to the March and the illegal siege of Gaza, demonstrating the world-wide, international support for the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom and the ending of Israel's illegal and brutal occupation and siege.

Please consider how you or your group can support this very important campaign and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

in solidarity,


Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

We are writing to invite you to endorse the Pledge of the Gaza Freedom March, a creative initiative with historic potential organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. The March is aimed at mobilizing active and effective support from around the world for ending Israel’s illegal and immoral siege on Gaza, currently the most pressing of all Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights. To endorse the Pledge, please click here and enter your name -- or your organization’s name -- in the box provided at the bottom.

Also reproduced at the end of this letter, after the Pledge, is the organizers’ Statement of Context which provides the necessary Palestinian context of the siege, namely Israel’s occupation, its decades-old denial of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights, and Palestinian civil resistance to that oppression.

The Gaza Freedom March has won the endorsement of a decisive majority in Palestinian civil society. Aside from the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associaitions, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

The March, planned for January 2010, to commemorate Israel's illegal war of aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza, is expected to draw many prominent figures and massive activist participation from across the world. The organizers have shown exceptional moral courage and a true sense of solidarity in drafting the Pledge and the Statement of Context. We salute them all for their principled and consistent commitment to applying international law and universal human rights to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. We deeply appreciate their solidarity with our struggle for freedom and our inalienable right to self determination.

Anchored solely in international law and universal human rights, the Gaza Freedom March appeals to international organizations and conscientious citizens with diverse political backgrounds on the basis of their common abhorrence of the immense injustice embodied in the atrocious siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees.

With massive participation of internationals, led by prominent leaders, alongside Palestinians in Gaza the world can no longer ignore its moral duty to end this criminal siege, and Israel can no longer count on its current impunity to last long. We strongly urge you to endorse the Pledge and to help secure more endorsements.

Haidar Eid (Gaza)

Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

* The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …


Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On January 1, 2010, we will mark the New Year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context

For a list of endorsers, please click here.


Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a "form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel's obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention." Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a "serious violation of international law." The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated "like animals," and has called for "ending of the siege of Gaza" that is depriving "one and a half million people of the necessities of life."

One of the world's leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege "is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union."

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel's annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. ... I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel's siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to "quicken" the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel's bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 - January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel's flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.