Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Abbas at the UN: Swan song of the 'peace process'?

Mahmoud Abbas surprised even his critics on September 23 by giving a stirring and emotional speech to the UN General Assembly as part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s highly publicised bid for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. Abbas, who is the chair of the PLO and who continues to be touted by Israel and the USA as the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) despite the fact his electoral mandate expired more than two and half years ago, spoke with dignity and compassion of the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

In his 40-minute speech, Abbas recalled the forcible removal of Palestinians in 1948, saying that he and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians “were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora ... one of the worst operations of uprooting, destruction and removal of a vibrant and cohesive society that had been contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East”. 

Abbas went on to talk about Israel’s expanding settlements, noting not only that they “embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the Palestinian people” but also that the building of Israeli colonies on Palestinian territory violates both international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions.
The most surprising part of Abbas’ speech came when he described Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, the building of the apartheid wall, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the displacement of Palestinian owners and residents as “a multi-pronged policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at pushing them away from their ancestral home”. It is hard to recall any previous occasion when Abbas described Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies in such a way. 

While there was much to applaud in Abbas’ speech, there were equally as many flaws and problems, most of which were an articulation of the flaws and problems in the PLO’s political strategy in relation to the UN statehood bid and in its broader strategy for winning national liberation.

Negotiations strategy

For almost two decades, the primary strategy of the PLO leadership has relied on negotiations and has relegated other political activity, such as mass mobilisations, to being a secondary tactic. As Abbas noted repeatedly before his UN speech, “Our first, second and third priority is negotiations ... No matter what happens at the UN, we have to return to negotiations.”

This strategy reflects the fact that the leaders of the PLO and the PA are bourgeois nationalists. Their aim is to establish a Palestinian state, but one that will accommodate a capitalist economy and privilege a moneyed elite. While they will use mass mobilisations as a tactic, they do not see them as a way of winning national liberation. Rather, they see mass mobilisations as something they can turn on and off at will in order to impact on the atmosphere for negotiations. In addition, Abbas and other leaders of the PA and PLO know that ongoing organisation for mass mobilisation could develop a grassroots independent base that might challenge their leadership.


This is why more and more Palestinian activists and commentators, as well as solidarity supporters, have criticised the PLO UN statehood bid as doing little to challenge reality on the ground for Palestinians. In the wake of Abbas’ speech, a range of Palestinian commentators noted that not only was the speech riven with contradictions, but it also failed to break free of the fruitless “peace process”, which for the last two decades has resulted only in a further entrenchment of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. 

As Saree Makdisi noted during his October 5 Edward Said Memorial Lecture hosted by the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, Abbas’ speech sought to “tactically reframe rather than strategically transform the pointless negotiations game that he and his associates have been embarked on for two decades now”. Makdisi, the nephew of the late renowned Palestinian academic Edward Said, went on to note that “the statehood gambit at the UN carries enormous political risks for the entire Palestinian people that Mr. Abbas and his associates have entered into without even consulting them”. 

Palestinian refugee and development economist Raja Khalidi noted in his September 12 article for the independent Arabic web journal Jadiliya: “[A] wide swath of Palestinian activists consider the statehood initiative problematic from legal and representational angles, because of its primary focus on statehood rather than the panoply of denied Palestinian rights”. According to Khalidi, “For them [Palestinian activists] the bid for state-recognition is better abandoned or possibly reformulated, as it might lead to either an even more complex situation or hollow diplomatic victory”.

The divisions within the Palestinian national liberation movement around the statehood bid have manifested primarily along geographical and generational lines. While there has been a range of dissenting voices emanating from the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly as the date of the bid came closer, the strongest opposition was initially voiced by Palestinians in exile. What is noticeable about the dissenting voices, from within the occupied territories and from the diaspora, is that they have been overwhelmingly young.

Those opposed to the PLO bid raised two main objections. The first is that the majority of the Palestinian people were excluded from the decision making process — both those living in the occupied territories and those living in Israel or exile around the world. The second main objection raised by critics has centred on the fact that the whole statehood bid is disconnected from the reality experienced by most Palestinians.
Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of Electronic Intifada, noted in a September 19 Foreign Affairs article: “The opposition, and there is a great deal of it, stems from three main sources: the vague bid could lead to unintended consequences; pursuing statehood above all else endangers equality and refugee rights; and there is no democratic mandate for the Palestinian Authority to act on behalf of Palestinians or to gamble with their rights and future”.

Unforeseen results

However, many critics, both Palestinians and solidarity activists, have noted that the bid brought two unforeseen achievements. Firstly, it all but marked the death of the Olso Accord, revealing that after almost 20 years of fruitless negotiations the Palestinian people were no closer to liberation or statehood. Secondly, the PLO’s bid categorically discredited the USA as a supposed neutral arbiter of the Middle East peace process. Not only has the Obama administration threatened to veto the UN bid, but the US Congress has already moved to freeze hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority because the PLO refused to drop the UN bid.

The PLO’s bid has also strengthened the confidence of a new generation of Palestinian leaders, whose growing discontent with the older generation in the PLO and the PA became more manifest and vocal. This new generation believes that there is a need to go back to the basics of building a popular mass movement and mass mobilisations both in the occupied territories and internationally, and that the focus should be on the struggle for statehood connected organically to the struggle for Palestinian human rights.

The UN bid has contributed to a developing clarity among this new generation that self-determination will be achieved only by building a mass popular movement against Israeli colonialism, occupation and apartheid. For many of these young leaders, this can and should be done in conjunction with the Palestinian unarmed popular resistance in the occupied territories and with the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against the Israeli state initiated by Palestinian civil society.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sydney BDS "flashmob" at Max Brenner

Dear friends,
a terrific video from Sydney BDS activists, who recently conducted a flashmob at Max Brenner.  I have included the blurb from the video below, along with the video.

Max Brenner  is owned by the Strauss Group — one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasizes its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for soldiers. Strauss boasts support for the Golani and Givati Brigades, which were heavily involved in Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip in the Winter of 2008-09, which resulted in the killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians, the majority civilians, including approximately 350 children. While Strauss has removed information about their support for the Golani and Givati brigades from their English language website, information about the company’s support for both brigades remains on their Hebrew language site.

 In solidarity,

Video Blurb: On Thursday 13 October 2011, Jews against the Occupation Sydney led a flash mob action outside Max Brenner Chocolate Shop in the Westfield Plaza, Bondi Junction, Sydney. We were supported by the Socialist Alliance, the Socialist Alternative, Actively Radical TV and other Palestine solidarity activists.

We support the call by Palestinian civil society for boycotts, divestment sanctions against Israel because the State of Israel continues to defy international law and the human and national rights of the Palestinians.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Video: Occupy Melbourne NOT Palestine!

Dear friends,
over the last few months, I have been trying my hand at learning videography.  As you will be aware, the "Occupy" protests have now gone global and Melbourne also joined the global day in solidarity on Saturday 15 October.   Coincidently, the same day for the international "Occupy" actions was also the same day we had scheduled a pro-Palestine, BDS action here in Melbourne. 

The video above while predominately focused on Occupy Melbourne activities, also includes a few minutes footage of the pro-Palestine BDS/Max Brenner action.  I will be putting together a longer video about the Palestine action later this week.

In solidarity, Kim

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street not Palestine!

BDS National Committee Statement
Occupy Wall Street not Palestine!
We are part of the world’s 99% yearning for freedom, justice and equal rights!

If a people one day wills to live  fate must answer its call
And the night must fade and the chain must break
-- Abou-Al-kacem El-Chebbi (Tunisia)

Occupied Palestine, October 13 -The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest Palestinian civil society coalition struggling for Palestinian rights, is proud to stand in solidarity with the movements struggling for a new world based on democracy, human rights and economic justice. From New York to Athens, from Madrid to Santiago, from Bahrain to Rome, these huge mobilisations provide a much needed reminder of something that Palestinians have always known – that another world, a dignifying one, is possible and ordinary people can create it.

Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rights, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace. We can no longer afford to be splintered and divided; we can no longer ignore our obligations to join hands in the struggle against wars and corporate exploitation and for a human-friendly world community not a profit-maximizing jungle.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and its counterparts across the US, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere are -- at least partially -- inspired by the Arab Spring for democracy and social justice. Leaders of the Arab popular revolts tell us that they, in turn, were largely inspired by our own, decades-old struggle against Israel’s occupation of our land, its system of discrimination that matches the UN’s definition of apartheid, and its denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.

The rapidly emerging movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is a key and effective part of the Palestinian struggle. Anchored in universal principles of human rights and struggling for freedom, justice and equality, the BDS movement, established in 2005, is deeply rooted in decades of Palestinian peaceful resistance to colonial oppression and is inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid as well as the civil rights movement in the US. It is adopted by a near consensus among Palestinians everywhere, with all the main political parties, trade unions, professional syndicates, women’s unions, student groups, NGO networks and refugee advocacy networks represented in the BNC, the reference for this growing movement to end Israeli impunity.

The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a global effort of groups, from South Africa to Britain, from Canada to India, and within Israel itself, all committed to ending Israel’s denial of basic Palestinian rights. It is endorsed by towering moral leaders of the calibre of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Holocaust survivor and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Stephane Hessel. It is supported by world renowned cultural and intellectual figures such as Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, Judith Butler, Sarah Schulman, John Berger, Ken Loach, John Greyson, and Adrienne Rich.  Massive trade union federations such as COSATU (South Africa), CUT (Brazil), TUC (UK), ICTU (Ireland), among many others, have also adopted BDS.

The movement has scored in the last two years some spectacular achievements when internationally renowned artists and music groups heeded the cultural boycott of Israel and refused to perform there or cancelled scheduled appearances. These have included the Pixies, Elvis Costello, Snoop Dogg, Meg Ryan, Vanessa Paradis, Gil Scott-Heron, among many others. The Norwegian state pension fund, among others, major European banks and some corporations have all been convinced to divest from businesses implicated in Israel’s violations of international law. Increasingly, BDS is recognized as a civic movement capable of ending Israeli impunity and, crucially, contributing to the global struggle against the war-mongering, racist agenda which Israel has persistently played a key role in. 

So as you break your own chains and build your own effective resistance against corporate tyranny, we ask you to demand a just peace for all the peoples in the Middle East, based on international law and equal human rights. Palestinians, too, are part of the 99% around the world that suffer at the hands of the 1% whose greed and ruthless quest for hegemony have led to unspeakable suffering and endless war. Corporate power has not just profited from our suffering but has colluded in maintaining Israel’s occupation and apartheid to perpetuate an unjust order that profits oil and military companies and multinational financial institutions.

We call upon all the spreading social movements of the world to think critically when considering their attitude towards the Israeli ‘social justice’ protests, which have almost completely ignored the key issue at the heart of all of the problems faced by ordinary Palestinians and even Israelis: Israel’s costly system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people. Without putting an end to that multi-tiered Israeli system of oppression, our entire region will never enjoy a comprehensive and lasting peace, one that is based on justice and human rights.

Money for jobs, health and education, not for racist oppression and occupation!

Nowhere is this more important than in the United States. Despite Israel’s persistent denial of Palestinian rights, the US has provided Israel with unconditional political and military assistance that directly contributes to the denial of Palestinian rights, but also to the problems faced by ordinary US citizens. Could the $24bn of military aid provided to Israel in the period 2000-2009 not been better spent on schools, healthcare and other essential services? Did Israel not play a major role in prodding the US to launch and continue its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at immense human and material cost, mainly borne by the poorest in those countries? 

But, we must remind ourselves all the time that this struggle will never be easy, and reaching our objectives never inevitable. As Martin Luther King once said:

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." 

The refreshing scenes of determined peaceful protest for justice from around the world tell us that we, the 99% of the world, are in the process of straightening our backs, collectively, with unwavering fortitude and boundless hope.

BNC Secretariat

 Wall St protests - End American military aid to Israel

 Palestinian women demonstrating outside of Ofer military prison in support of Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nariman Tamimi's letter to the world: support Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike

Dear friends,
please find below an article, which includes an appeal from my friend Nariman Tamimi calling for support for the current Palestinian political prisoners hunger strike taking place  Nariman is one of the amazing women from An Nabi Saleh whose courage is beyond words. 

Nariman has been arrested and imprisoned twice for her non-violent activism against Israel's occupation.  Nariman is a videographer who regularly documents Israel's brutal repression against her village, An Nabi Saleh (for more information on the village's non-violent struggle click here)

Currently, Nariman's husband Bassam Tamimi is imprisoned in Israel's military occupation jail for the "crime" of organising non-violent resistance to Israel's occupation and apartheid polices.  Bassam, who is also a dear friend, is one of the hundreds of political prisoners currently on strike.

For more information on the hunger strike click here

in solidarity,

A letter from Nariman Tamimi to the world
By Diana Alzeer 

On 27 September 2011 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons announced the start of a campaign of disobedience to protest an escalating series of punitive measures taken against them by the Israeli Prison Service. Today marks the 8th day of their hunger strike. A call for Solidarity actions around the world has been issued for this friday 7/10, to find your local solidarity action please check : https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=231330736923906

 Today outside a sit-in at the Red Cross in Ramallah I met with Nariman Al Tamimi from Al Nabi Saleh village.  Nariman is an ex-prisoner herself and the wife of the political prisoner 'Bassem Al Tamimi'. As a resident of the village her family has been suffering from the Israeli occupation on a daily basis. In the space of 5 years she has been shot a total of 7 times, while her eldest son Wa’d who is 14 years old has been shot with rubber bullets over 10 times. Furthermore, their house faces the threat of immediate demolition by Israeli forces.

Due to her history Nariman has became a symbol of ‘somoud’- steadfastness- to many Palestinians. Despite the endless tragedies she is continually facing she never wavered from demanding for her and her people’s full legitimate rights. Today from the sit-in in Ramallah, Nariman wished to send a message to the world urging them to take solidarity actions with the hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

“I want to tell the world about international law and all the human rights resolutions that are meant to protect human rights including the rights of prisoners of war. I would like to ask why these laws are not protecting our prisoners? Why are the human rights activists are not doing anything regarding the Israeli violations? Why is the world still silent?

All we want is to be able to see our sons, daughters, husbands, fathers and mothers. We want them to be treated according to International Law. We want to have our rights like anyone else around the world. I am sure the most of you heard about the Israeli captured militant 'Gilad Shalit', but I wonder if you heard about the 8000 Gilad Shalits in Israeli jails? Most of the them are civilians, including children and women. I call all human rights organizations and activists to take the side of justice and save our prisoners”

Statistics of Palestinian Political Prisoners:
-340 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli Prisons

-There are well over 120 women in Israeli prisons, 17 of these women are mothers. 2 of which gave birth in prison. The youngest female currently held is 12 years of age.

-The majority of these detainees are being held in violation of the IV Geneva Convention in prisons outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

(Source: Addameer, Human rights centre and prisoners support)

Say NO to injustice and take part of the solidarity actions with Palestinian Prisoners for more details click here

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

23 Israeli activists and Palestinians injured by settlers: Israel Police turned a blind eye to a lynching

Dear friends,
Since Friday, Israeli and international alternative media have been reporting what has been described as a "pogrom" by Israeli activists.  While the alternative media was reporting the attack, the attack was largely ignored by the Israeli mainstream / commercial media for several days, despite the fact that video of the attack clearly showed Israeli police offices participating in the settler attack, which left 23 activists and Palestinians injured and extensive property damage to activists cars.  When the media did report the incident, they gave significant coverage to unsubstantiated claims by Israeli settlers, despite the fact that much of the attack by the settlers had been caught on video. 
I have included below an eyewitness report from one of the activists at Anatot, which was eventually published in Haaretz.  I have also included some of the video shot by activists of the attack.   

Over the last 5 years the number of settler attacks against Palestinians has been steadily increasing.  In the last two or three years, attacks by settlers have included the torching of mosques, the burning of Palestinian fieldsand the slaughter of Palestinian livestock, as well as the invasion of Palestinian villages and destruction of Palestinian water tanks and homes.  Many of these attacks have seen settlers beating and violent attacks on unarmed Palestinians.  In the last year, the escalation in the number of attacks has resulted in even Shin Bet, Israel's secret police, warning against settler extremism (but as the following article notes, Shin Bet's concern about settler attacks is not necessary because they are concerned about the attacks of settlers against Palestinians or Israeli anti-occupation activists but because settlers may start to attack Israeli police and military personnel. For more click here

in solidarity, Kim




Israel Police turned a blind eye to a lynching

What happened Friday afternoon at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot was a pogrom, a lynching. Media outlets that don't see fit to report a pogrom of this magnitude are partners in the policy, or the sins of omission, of abandonment.

By Eyal Raz: Haaretz, 4 October 2011

Were you ever at a lynching? Were you ever someplace where an unbridled mob was beating you and your friends and then chasing you to beat you again? Were you ever the victim of wild violence before the blind eyes of policemen who ignored your desperate calls for help? Have you ever felt abandoned? The following story begins with with blood, but its point is the abandonment.

What happened Friday afternoon at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot was a pogrom, a lynching. There's no other way to describe an event in which hundreds of large men are wildly beating and pursuing a nonviolent group of male and female activists for an extended period of time. There's no way to convey to those who weren't there the threatening sense of the approaching dark - not in words, not in pictures, not even in video.

They came to destroy, to break, perhaps even to kill. They used their hands, their fists and their teeth, along with stones, pipes and knives. They aimed for the photographers, the women, for the young and the old alike. They brought individuals down to the ground and assaulted them as they lay there, surrounded. They pounced on the hindmost of those trying to flee as they pursued their battered victims.

And all this was taking place before the very eyes of the police, who didn't do a thing to prevent people from being hurt. It all passed, as usual, in a thunderous silence.

Those who abandoned the Palestinian family that had come to work its land that Friday afternoon were not the rioters who sent the family to the hospital. Those who allowed the mob to wreak havoc on the Ta'ayush and Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity activists who were present at the site that evening stood outside the circle of assailants. They did their bit, but they personally are just one rib of a multilayered structure.

How can one explain the blind eye turned by the policemen present at the site? How can one explain why they didn't know, or didn't think, that their job was to stop the pogrom?

Perhaps the fact that Anatot's residents aren't radicals like Baruch Marzel played a role. Anatot residents aren't "hilltop youth" or "wild weeds." They are ordinary Israelis, former Jerusalemites who upgraded themselves to a "quality of life" settlement - including employees of the police, who were given preferential purchasing terms there. There are even suspicions, based on testimony and evidence gathered over the last few days, that a few of the rioters were off-duty policemen themselves.

And perhaps it is the deep-rooted hatred of "Arabs" and "leftists." Perhaps this hatred also made it easier for those on duty at the Shai District police stations, who received our calls for help, not to rush to send forces there. And even when two patrol cars did finally arrive, the policemen devoted most of their energy to informing the battered activists that an order had been issued declaring the site a closed military zone, which they were now violating.

And you should know that these are the same police stations at which the victims are supposed to file their complaints. It was, for instance, to one of them that a friend of mine was referred when he sought to repair his destroyed car. So far, he has refrained from doing so, for fear of meeting his assailants there.
Today, there is no protection for anyone who isn't on the side of the establishment, who isn't in the right-wing camp. And in the absence of such protection on the part of the agencies entrusted with upholding the law, responsibility passes to the media, which gives the public information.

Media outlets that don't see fit to report a pogrom of this magnitude are partners in the policy, or the sins of omission, of abandonment. The same goes for those who term it a "confrontation," or a "clash," or any of those other laundered words that indicate mutuality; and for those who fail to do their job of investigating and checking the facts and make do with "reporting each side's version of events;" and for those who opt to downplay a news story that they know full well would, under other circumstances, immediately become the lead headline.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor," Desmond Tutu once wrote. This story begins with blood, but its point is the abandonment. For that is what will enable more blood to be shed in the future. And anyone who doesn't cry out against it is a party to it.
The writer is an activist in the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement.