Monday, December 27, 2010

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak sentenced to 3 months in prison

Dear friends,

Prominent Israeli activist, Yonathan (Jonathan) Pollak has just been sentenced to 3 months prison for participating in a Critical Mass bicycle ride protest against Israel's 2008 all out assault on the people of Gaza.

Yonathan's arrest was politically motivated, as his lawyer Gaby Lasky has outlined.

Yonathan has been a leading activist involved in the the joint Palestinian-Israeli popular struggle against Israeli occupation and apartheid for a number of years. He is one of the founders of the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and active in the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC)

Please find below the media release issued by the PSCC on Yonathan's sentencing. Also included is Yonathan's speech to the court about his arrest and sentencing.

In solidarity,

Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee Press Release
Monday, 27 December 2010

Israeli Activist Jonathan Pollak Sentenced to 3 Months in Prison; Tells Judge "I'll Go to prison With my Head Held High"

Pollak in Court - photo courtesy of Active Stills

Pollak was sentenced to three months imprisonment this morning at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court for his participation in a 2008 bicycle in protest of the siege on Gaza. He will begin serving his sentence on Januray 11th.

Tel Aviv Magistrates court judge Yitzhak Yitzhak convicted Pollak of illegal assembly for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass ride against the siege on Gaza and then sentenced him to three months imprisonment that will begin on January 11th, 2011. Pollak was the only one detained at the said protest, and was accused of doing nothing other than riding his bicycle in the same manner as the rest of the protesters. The conviction activates an older three-month suspended sentence, imposed on Pollak in a previous trial for protesting the construction of the Separation Barrier. An additional three months prison term was also imposed for the current conviction, which will be served concurrently.

On his conviction, Pollak argued for his sentence, saying "I find myself unable to express remorse in this case [...]. If His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza's inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation." See Pollak's full statement bellow.

For more details: Jonathan Pollak +972-54-632-7736

Pollak outside of court - photo courtesy of Active Stills

On January 31, 2008, some 30 protesters participated in a Critical Mass bicycle ride through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest of the siege on Gaza. During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event. The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak's arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions.

The arrest and consequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak's behavior at the time of the event; Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the only one to be singled out. Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv on a regular basis, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more sever obstruction of traffic (e.g. the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles) did not result in arrests, and surely did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment.

Adv. Gaby Lasky, Pollak's lawyer: "The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”

Pollak at a demonstration in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Pollak's sentencing argument:
Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offence. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza. And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legally vehicles belonging on the road, we may have slightly slowed down traffic. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride, something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.

As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day's events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza's inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel's control over the Palestinians.

His Honor has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics, but of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This Court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defense when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the Police's conduct, but even from the testimonies which were admitted, it became clear such a selectiveness exists.

The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation.

In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31st, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society's privileged sons.

I am not surprised by the Court's decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person's right to protest.

Indeed, as the Prosecution pointed out, a suspended prison sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law. And, although I still maintain I did not commit any offense whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed.

I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza's inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Disband the Palestinian Authority

Dear friends,
a very insightful article by Lamis Andoni on the call for the disbanding of the Palestinian Authority.

The article was first publish on Al Jazeera and reprinted by Maan News Agency.

in solidarity, Kim


Disband the PA - Lamis Andoni
Published Wednesday 08/12/2010 (updated) 08/12/2010 19:15
Maan News Agency

In interviews and statements, as well as in private meetings, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said that he is presiding over an authority without any authority and that the very existence of the Palestinian Authority has made Israel's occupation "the cheapest ever".

Abbas is simply reaching the same conclusion that many Palestinians have long understood: negotiations, under the prevailing conditions, will not lead to the end of the Israeli occupation, let alone the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

In a recent interview with Palestinian state television, Abbas warned that if all efforts to establish a Palestinian state fail he will dissolve the PA and ask Israel to assume responsibility for the occupation. His threats are neither a manoeuvre nor a clearly planned strategy. They are rather an expression of despair and a reflection of the mood of the Palestinian people - who see the PA as merely facilitating the continuation of the Israeli occupation while removing the need for it to pay for its actions.

Disbanding the PA would mean a return to direct Israeli occupation and could be used by Israel as a pretext for escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people. But the Palestinians have reached breaking point. Seventeen years of talks have stopped neither Israeli land theft nor the displacement of Palestinians.

The idea of dissolving the PA has many supporters - both inside the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora. But this must not be a leap in the dark: the Palestinians must be prepared for the consequences of such a move and it must be undertaken as part of a clearly defined resistance strategy.

Neither Abbas nor his opponents, however, have indicated that they are developing any such strategy - for just as Abbas was expressing his despair, Hamas was indicating a greater degree of flexibility towards any possible outcome of, the currently stalled, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In a speech last week, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, said his movement was prepared to accept the results of a referendum if negotiations reach an historic compromise that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state on the territories occupied during the 1967 war.

It is not the first time that Hamas has signalled its willingness to accept a two-state solution, but its timing - when the talks are effectively frozen and there is no prospect for progress should they resume - is surprising. Haniyeh's statement suggests that the two leaderships, in Ramallah and Gaza, have no idea how to recapture the initiative required to lead the Palestinian people out of the stagnant situation they are in.

Abbas has raised a couple of prospects. Firstly, he has suggested looking to the UN Security Council for recognition of a Palestinian state. This is mainly intended to affirm the 'occupied' status of the Palestinian territories and to thus block Israel from annexing Jewish settlements. Secondly, he has discussed handing responsibility for the Palestinian territories over to the UN. Both of these options would likely be obstructed by a US veto at the UN Security Council.

But any alternative option the Palestinians choose cannot succeed without first establishing national unity and mobilising popular resistance. A serious battle of wills will ensue, and the Palestinians must be prepared.

An international battle for recognition of a Palestinian state must be based on a clear vision and preparedness to confront Israeli actions. For international support alone will not lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Regardless of whether Palestinians opt for a one- or two-state solution, they cannot avoid a battle to end the occupation under which they currently live.

The options Abbas speaks of would place the PA face-to-face with the Israeli occupation, so the question remains: is the PA ready for this? The answer would appear to be no.

The PA cannot be taken seriously as long as it accommodates Israeli terms and demands. Israel continues to prevent the movement of goods and people, to conduct raids and arrests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to strike at the Gaza Strip. Thus a prerequisite for any significant Palestinian move must be an immediate halt to security coordination between Israel and the PA.

Abbas' justification for such coordination is that if Palestinians "behave" Israel can make no case for postponing ending the occupation. But the only outcome thus far has been the weakening of Palestinian resistance, while Israel has had a free hand to launch military forays into the Palestinian territories, to confiscate more land and to kill more people.

The next step for Hamas and the PA must be genuine unification - without this, disbanding the PA could result in a highly destructive power struggle - based on a joint agreement over an alternative to the now defunct talks. Dissolving the PA should be a significant consideration within this plan, but only once a political and economic strategy has been formulated.

The PA currently pays the salaries of 150,000 people, so disbanding it would have a huge impact on the economy. Before the PA was created, the Palestine Liberation Organization contributed funds to help Palestinians stay steadfast in the face of the economic strains of occupation. A similar plan, involving all Palestinians, must now be devised - assuming that Arab states, as should be expected, will fail to offer the Palestinians financial support.

It is, of course, easy for those Palestinians in exile, with comfortable jobs, to call for an immediate dissolution of the PA - it is also very understandable as Israel will be under no pressure to end its occupation as long as it pays little or no cost for it. But, should the Palestinian leadership formulate a new resistance strategy, all Palestinians must be prepared to shoulder the responsibility for it. The onus is now on the PA to start this process and the only way to do that is to end all coordination and cooperation with Israel.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs. This article originally appeared on Al-Jazeera International and is republished here with permission from the author.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Boycott apartheid Israel: national campaign launched

Home » Issue 28: November-December 2010
Direct Action

Boycott apartheid Israel: national campaign launched

By Kim Bullimore and Sahal Al-Ruwaili

More than 150 Palestine solidarity activists and supporters of human rights from around Australia gathered in Melbourne October 29-31 for Australia’s first national boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) conference in support of Palestine.

The conference represented a watershed moment in Australian Palestine solidarity work. It was organised in support of the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for the boycott of Israel. The 2005 call, issued by 171 Palestinian civil society organisations, appealed for a comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against apartheid Israel as a focal point of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law. The BDS campaign calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands and the dismantling of the apartheid wall; equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel; and upholding the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
International law

In August, Julia Terreu, one of the organisers of the Australian BDS conference, told Direct Action that the conference is an important initiative because Israel flagrantly flouts international law. “Israel continues to carry out its siege and occupation of Gaza and illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and more recently we saw the illegal attack on the humanitarian flotilla on its way to Gaza and the murder of nine human rights activists by Israeli commandos.” Terreu went on to say: “As the BDS campaign continues to grow in leaps and bounds internationally, it is time for supporters of human rights and justice in Australia to come together and develop a national campaign in support of BDS and the Palestinian people”.

International guest speaker Rafeef Ziadah, speaking on behalf of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, told delegates at the October 29 launch of the conference: “Australian activists were key in shutting down South African apartheid. It is time to make history again by shutting down Israeli apartheid, and this weekend we are going to start doing that together.”

Speaking with Direct Action, Rafeef Ziadah, who is also a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said the conference was “an important step in coordinating a national BDS campaign across Australia to put pressure on Israel to simply abide by international law”.

Also speaking at the launch of the conference, which was chaired by well-known Australian media personality and political commentator Bryan Dawe, were Palestinian academic and radio presenter Yousef Alreemawi, Jerusalem-based Israeli activist Ofer Neiman from “BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within” and the secretary of Unions ACT in Canberra, Kim Sattler.

On October 30, visiting American Jewish activist and author Anna Baltzer also addressed the conference. Baltzer, a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service in Palestine and author of A Witness in Palestine, spoke on BDS and the popular struggle in Palestine. Baltzer was joined by Alex Whisson from Australians for Palestine, who discussed the history of BDS and civil disobedience. In the session on “Struggle and Solidarity”, Rafeef Ziadah was joined by Palestinian-Australian poet and writer Samah Sabawi and the secretary of the Victorian Maritime Union of Australia and president of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, Kevin Bracken, to discuss the international solidarity campaign.

Sabawi noted: “Israeli propagandists attacking the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement often claim that pro-Palestinian activists hide behind words like international humanitarian law to promote a hidden agenda aimed at demonising and delegitimising Israel ... But there is no hidden agenda. We are explicit and clear in what we say and what we call for. We don’t hide behind international humanitarian law; we stand by it. This is precisely why Israeli propagandists have good reason to worry. Israel knows that its fight to legitimise its behaviour cannot be won for as long as the BDS movement continues to expose its violations.” Sabawi also noted that Israel in its effort to “exonerate itself of accountability” was seeking to “redefine the rules of international humanitarian law and undermine international bodies and institutions”. She noted: “If Israel succeeds, Palestinians will not be the only ones to suffer. The implications of legitimising Israel’s behaviour will have far-reaching effects on all citizens of this globe.”
Union solidarity

In the same session, Kevin Bracken discussed the importance of worker and union solidarity with the Palestinian people. In the last year the BDS campaign has begun to draw support from a number of Australian trade unions and labour councils. One of the aims of the conference was to extend that support among trade unions, as well as the wider Australian community. The conference was successful in bringing together members of more than 20 different unions across Australia. In addition, five Australian trade unions sent official delegations to the conference to participate in the discussion around the practical implementation of the BDS campaign and resolutions.

On the final day of the conference, long-time unionists Kevin Davis and Ginny Adams discussed apartheid in relation to international law, how it applied to South Africa and in what ways could it apply to Israel, while Sabawi and Kim Bullimore from the International Women’s Peace Service in Palestine, tackled the issue of countering Israeli efforts to delegitimise the BDS campaign.

The final session of the conference unanimously adopted a calendar of BDS actions and activities to be carried out nationally over the next 12 months. Conference organisers urged all attendees “to build on the momentum of the conference and work together to build the strongest possible grassroots campaign to hold Israel accountable for its actions”.

One of the conference highlights was the “Concert for Palestine”, which formally launched Australian Artists Against Apartheid. Performers at the concert included Fear of A Brown Planet, the Conch, the Phil Monsour Band, Jafra and Rafeef Ziadah. Phil Monsour, one of the organisers of the conference and concert, told Direct Action in September: “The nature of the apartheid system in Israel is slowly seeping into the consciousness of people outside the Middle East and will hopefully lead to artists of conscience not only supporting the boycott but also using music to help expose the nature of the apartheid system in Israel to a mass audience”.

With the conclusion of the conference, participants have begun plans for a range of BDS actions and activities around the theme “Don’t buy Israeli apartheid for Christmas”.

To find out more about the Australian BDS campaign visit the Australian Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign for Palestine website or email

[Kim Bullimore is the convener of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Melbourne and a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in Australia. She is one of the organisers of the Australian BDS Conference. Sahal Al-Ruwaili is a Palestine solidarity activist with Action for Palestine in Adelaide.]

The Silwan riots and 'peace negotiations'

Home » Issue 27: October 2010 Direct Action
The Silwan riots and 'peace negotiations'

By Kim Bullimore

On September 23, Samir Shirhan, a 34-year-old Palestinian father of five, was shot dead by an Israeli private security guard paid by the Israeli government to protect illegal settlers attempting to colonise the Silwan neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem.

In the days following the shooting, East Jerusalem erupted in demonstrations and riots, sparking claims that a third intifada was in the making. More than 1000 East Jerusalem Palestinians participated in Shirhan’s funeral and protested his murder. In the hours following the funeral, rioting broke out, cars and buses being burned. In response, the Israeli state entered the Harem al Sharif (Temple Mount), attacking demonstrators.

The murder of Shirhan occurred as US President Barack Obama and his administration were trying once again to resuscitate the failed “peace negotiations”. Direct negotiations resumed on September 22, but stalled almost immediately, with Israel demanding that the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” and refusing to implement a freeze on illegal settlement building in the occupied West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.
End of fake ‘freeze’

On September 26, Israel’s 10-month “temporary freeze” on settlement building ended. However, as a range of Israeli and international human rights groups have noted, the supposed freeze was a sham. According to a Settlement Watch report published in February by the Israeli Peace Now group, there have been repeated violations of the freeze. The report noted, “Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai admitted that 29 settlements breached the settlement freeze order”. At the time, Peace Now noted that it had recorded at least another five settlements carrying out construction work. Peace Now, as well as international human rights organisations such as the International Women’s Peace Service, which is located in the occupied territories, also noted that much of the illegal settlement activity was carried out under cover of darkness.

Since the shooting of Shirhan, Israeli police have actively taken the side of the settler guard, who claimed he had stopped at a local petrol station and was attacked by Palestinians throwing rocks. However, other Palestinians who were present when Shirhan was shot have claimed that Shirhan was simply returning home from work and the settler guard blocked his path; an argument broke out, which resulted in the security guard shooting him. According to a report on the shooting in Haaretz on September 24, Palestinian witnesses who arrived at the scene of the shooting stated that there were “no stones or other objects in the street after the shooting” and that “there was no other evidence stones had been thrown at the guard”.According to Israeli activist Daniel Dukarevich on the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity website, “From the moment that the murder took place the Jerusalem Police started a comprehensive operation to silence the matter. Large police forces surrounded the event site and prevented people from getting near. When it became known that a man was shot in Silwan, the police spokesperson stated that it was the result of a dispute between clans. This announcement was made hours after police forces were at the site and had already questioned the security guard”.

The partisan approach of the Israeli police is unsurprising given their past record of refusing to enforce Israeli court decisions for the eviction of illegal settlers in the neighbourhood, while pro-actively policing and evicting Palestinians from their homes to make way for illegal Israeli settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, another Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
Police funding

In January, Israel’s leading Hebrew newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, reported that the link between the Israeli police and the illegal settlers is not only ideological but also economic. According to Yedioth Ahronoth’s January 22 edition, its investigation into the new Israeli police headquarters being built in East Jerusalem found that “only a small portion of the funding originates from the state. The bulk of the money comes from private organisations with a clear right wing orientation: the Bukhara Community Trust, and the Shalem Foundation — a subsidiary formed by the Jerusalem-based El’ad NGO.”

Since seizing the territory in 1967, Israel has actively sought to “Judaise” East Jerusalem illegally and to expel the Palestinian population. A range of settler organisations, backed by consecutive Israeli governments, have attempted to “Judaise” Palestinian neighbourhoods. According to Dukarevich, US $17.5 million is spent each year by the Ministry of Housing to guard the illegal settlers who have occupied Palestinian homes and neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. In Silwan, the attempt has been spearheaded by El’ad, a settler group that seeks to construct an “archaeological” park where the “City of David” once stood.

In February 2009, the Jerusalem municipality announced a plan to relocate approximately 1500 Palestinian civilians and demolish 88 houses in the Al Bustan section of Silwan in order to build a national park called “the King’s Valley”. According to the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem, which monitors Israeli colonisation in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories, the colonisation of Silwan has escalated since 1991, with more than 40 Palestinian homes being taken over by force by illegal settlers. Al Bustan became the most targeted sector of the neighbourhood because of its proximity to the western wall of the Old City.

In a September 24 editorial, Haaretz noted that the attempt by settlers to use archaeology to colonise the Silwan neighbourhood has been backed by the Israeli state: “Under the guise of archaeological excavations and ‘restoring the glory of old’, the El’ad association has managed to penetrate large areas of the village, which contains the City of David. But El’ad would not have managed to implement its plans without assistance from state bodies: the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which turned over administration of the site to El’ad, the Jerusalem Municipality, which offered help, and cooperation from the Israel Antiquities Authority”.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rafeef Ziadah - It is time to make history again: speech at launch of the national Australian BDS conference, 29 - 31st October 2010

Dear friends,
as promised here is some fantastic video shot at the first ever national Australian BDS conference in Melbourne Austrralia.

Rafeef Ziadah is Palestinian refugee, academic, unionist and spoken word artist. Rafeef is a member of the steering committee for Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Rafeef was the key note speaker, speaking on behalf of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, at the recent national Australian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference in Melbourne Australia (from October 29-31, 2010)

The video below is of Rafeef's speech at the Conference Launch on October 29.

In solidarity, Kim

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MEDIA RELEASE For Immediate Release – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign in Support of Palestinian Human Rights Moves Forward in Australia A

Dear friends,
please find below the media release issued at the conclusion of the successful BDS conference in Melbourne, Australia.

In solidarity, Kim



For Immediate Release –

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign in Support of Palestinian Human Rights Moves Forward in Australia After Landmark Conference

4 November, 2010

From October 29-31 more than 150 Palestine solidarity activists and supporters of human rights gathered in Melbourne for Australia's first national Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) conference. The conference represents a watershed moment in the Palestinian solidarity movement in Australia with activists across various campaigns coming together and addressing the way forward in the global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

The conference was launched with a public meeting on October 29 at the Victorian State Library, chaired by the ABC's Bryan Dawe and addressed by Palestinian artist and activist Rafeef Ziadah speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC). Also speaking was Palestinian academic and radio presenter, Yousef Alreemawi, Jerusalem based Israeli activist Ofer Neiman from "BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within" and Kim Sattler, the Secretary of
Unions ACT in Canberra.

Keynote speaker Rafeef Ziadah, a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, explained "this conference is an important step in coordinating a national BDS campaign across Australia to put pressure on Israel to simply abide by international law".

Other guest speakers included prominent American Jewish activist Anna Baltzer and Australian-Palestinian author and activist Samah Sabawi.

One of the conference highlights was a concert on the Saturday that formally launched Australian Artists Against Apartheid (AAAA).

On the labour movement front, the conference helped to bring together unionists who are members of twenty different unions across Australia, with five Australian unions sending official delegations to the conference to discuss practical implementation of BDS resolutions.

The conference unanimously adopted a calendar of BDS actions to be carried out over the next 12 months. Conference organizers urged all attendees ''to build on the momentum of the conference and work together to build the strongest possible grassroots campaign to hold Israel accountable for its actions."

The conference was organized in response to the call by 171 Palestinian civil-society organizations in July 2005 for the international community to implement a comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) strategy against apartheid Israel as the focal point of solidarity efforts with the Palestinian people.

Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with
international law.

Media Contact:

For more information on the Australian BDS Conference:

A month of not so-quiteness!

Dear friends,
I have just realised that it has been a month since I last published a post here. Although things have been quite on the blogging front, things have been very busy in the "real" world :)

For the last four or five months, myself and several other Australian Palestine solidarity activists have been working hard on pulling together Australia's first national Boycott Divestment and Sanctions conference in support of Palestine.
Unfortunately, this meant that in the last four weeks in the lead up to the conference, I have had little time for blogging.

However, the wonderful news is that the conference was a great success! The conference resulted in bringing together in Melbourne more than 150 activists and supporters of human rights from around the countryto discuss kick starting a national BDS campaign in Australia in support of the Palestinian people.

Over the next few days, I will be posting up a range reports, media releases and video clip shot at the conference.

In solidarity, Kim

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Update: Australian BDS Conference: 29 - 31st October 2010


Building Solidarity, Combating Occupation and Apartheid
National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference
Melbourne, 29 - 31 October 2010

- activism in support of Palestine -

Endorsed by the Palestinian BDS National Committee

Our confirmed speakers so far include:

Rafeef Ziadah
Rafeef is a Palestinian activist, unionist and spoken word artist. She is a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) Rafeef is also a founding member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) promoting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestement and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Canada and an organizer of the international Israeli Apartheid Week. Rafeef is a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and was a member of the CUPE’s international solidarity committee for 3 years

Anna Baltzer
Anna is a Jewish-American Columbia graduate and Fulbright, who has worked as a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service in the Occupied West Bank, documenting human rights abuses and supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to the Occupation. Anna is the author of the book Witness in Palestine and speaks widely in the USA and internationally on the Palestinian struggle for human rights and self-determination. Anna is being brought to Australia as part of a national speaking tour organised by Australians for Palestine and will speak at the Australian national BDS conference on Saturday.

Samah Sabawi

Samah is an Australian-Palestinian writer and social justice activist. She is co-author of Journey to Peace in Palestine and a former executive director of the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.

Ofer Neiman
Ofer Neiman is a co-editor of the Occupation Magazine, and one of the activists in the Israeli support group for the BDS campaign, “BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within”. He works as an editor and a translator. He believes that Israeli peace and anti-occupation groups will not be able to change reality from within, without support from the outside. Ofer will join the conference launch via internet/video hook up from Jerusalem.

Kevin Bracken
Kevin is a long-time unionist and supporter of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, as well as other social justice issues. Kevin is currently the Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Maritime Union of Australia and the President of the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

Yousef Alreemawi
Yousef is a Palestinian academic and advocate for Palestinian and refugee rights. Yousef also presents Palestine Remembered, Australia’s only English language program on Palestine, on Radio 3CR. He is also the founder of ASPIRE – the Australian Society for Palestinian Iraqi Refugees Emergency – an humanitarian project which seeks to resettle in Australia, Palestinian-Iraqi refugees living in refugee camps on the Iraq/Syrian border.

Alex Whisson
Alex is a long time Palestine solidarity activist. He is the former convenor of Friends of Palestine in Western Australia and is currently the Public Advocate for Australians for Palestine in Melbourne

Kim Sattler
Kim is a long-time unionist, who was active in the South African anti-apartheid campaign. Kim is currently the Secretary of Unions ACT in Canberra. Kim has recently returned from Palestine, where she participated in the Union Aid Abroad APHEDA Middle East Study Tour 2010

Ginny Adams
Ginny is an organiser with the Health and Community Sector Union. Ginny has been active in the Palestinian and refugee rights campaigns for more than 10 years. She recently returned from Palestine, where she participated in the Union Aid Abroad APHEDA Middle East Study Tour 2010

Ken Davis
Ken is a long-time unionist and social justice campaigner. He is a member of the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine in Sydney.

Conference Registration: All weekend $30/22 (incl: Conference launch meeting) Daily $15/$10 Conference Launch meeting $5
Conference registration: email

FRIDAY – 29th October
7pm – 9pm The international Boycott campaign and the struggle for a Free Palestine
VENUE: STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA, cnr of La Trobe and Swanston St, Melbourne
Rafeef Ziadah (Palestinian BNC)
Kim Sattler (Secretary, Unions ACT)
Yousef Al Reemawi (Palestinian academic)
Ofer Neiman (BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from Within Israel)

SATURDAY – 30th October
8.45 – 9.15am Registration

9.15am Welcome/Opening Conference Organising Committee
9.30am – 10.45amPopular struggle: BDS and a short history of civil disobedience and struggle in Palestine and internationally

Alex Whisson – Australians for Palestine
Anna Baltzer - author, Witness in Palestine

10.45-11.15am Break

11.15am – 12.45pm Struggle and Solidarity: Lessons from Palestine Solidarity work internationally
Samah Sabawi – Palestinian writer/former Executive Director of National Council on Canada Arab Relations
Rafeef Ziadah - Palestinian BDS National Committee
Kevin Bracken, State Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia (Vic)

12.45pm-1.30pm Lunch

1.30pm – 2.30pm National Targets Proposals - Conference organising committee

2.30pm – 4pm Discussion of proposed National Targets Break into sectoral groups – Unions Campus/Faith based/ Community/Culture

4pm– 4.30pm Break

4.30pm – 5.45pm Solidarity in Action workshops
(1) Australian Flotilla project – Gaza Defence Committee
(2) Palestinian-Iraqi refugees and re-settlement in Australia – ASPIRE
(3) Lessons from Students for Palestine
(4) Volunteering in Palestine – International Women’s Peace Service

Fear of a Brown Planet,
The Brothahood,
The Conch,
hil Monsour Band and;
Rafeef Ziadah

Middle East Food and drinks available



9am – 9.30pm Registration and welcome

9.30pm – 10.45am Apartheid: South Africa, Israel and international law.
Ken Davis - Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine
Ginny Adams – union organiser

10.45am- 11.15am Break

11.15am-12.15pm Palestine Q & A with Rafeef Ziadah and others

12.15pm 1pm lunch

1pm – 2.30pm Hasbara busting: Countering Israel’s propaganda war and attempts to delegitimise BDS.
Samah Sawbawi - Palestinian writer/former Executive Director of National Council on Canada Arab Relations
Kim Bullimore – International Women’s Peace Service-Palestine

2.30pm –3pm Break

3 pm – 4.45pm Decision on National BDS target/campaign

4.45pm – 5pm Closing of conference

Monday, September 20, 2010

Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouin

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article published in Direct Action. Since the publication of the article al-Arakib has been destroyed for a fifth time.

in solidarity, Kim

Home » Issue 26: September 2010
Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouin

By Kim Bullimore

Israeli military and police razed the Bedouin village of al-Arakib in the Negev desert for a fourth time on August 17, leaving homeless more than 300 Palestinian Bedouin from the al-Turi tribe, the majority of them children.

The village was first razed on July 27 by so-called Green Patrols from the Israeli Land Administration, under the protection of more than 1500 heavily armed police. According to a July 27 report by the Bethlehem-based Alternative Information Centre, the police were “carrying firearms and stun grenades, followed by a special patrol unit, helicopter, mounted horsemen and bulldozers”. The Green Patrol, using bulldozers, destroyed 45 structures, including dozens of homes, as well as agricultural buildings and livestock pens.

Al-Arakib is home to the al-Turi tribe and is one of 45 “unrecognised” villages in the Negev. These villages are home to more than 80,000 Palestinian Bedouin, approximately half of the Bedouin population of the region. Despite the majority of the villages being in existence before the establishment of the Israeli state, repeated Israeli governments have refused to give them legal status. As a result, the villages are systematically excluded from government maps and the provision of local and national government infrastructure, such as electricity, water, telephone lines and educational and health facilities and services.
Ban on development

Video by Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana

According to Adalah, the Legal Centre for the Arab Minority in Israel, “the [Israeli] government refuses to allow any physical infrastructure development in these villages, thus prohibiting the building and repairing of homes and the construction of paved roads and proper sewage facilities in these communities. New construction requires a permit from the government; however, without a local council, the residents do not have an office from which to request a permit. Consequently, any new construction by the residents is declared illegal and potentially targeted for demolition.”

According to Professor Oren Yiftachel, an Israeli researcher and human rights lawyer who has represented Bedouin communities in courts and planning forums, the al-Turi tribe were forcibly relocated in the 1950s from their traditional land, which al-Arakib village is built on. The villagers, however, returned to the land in defiance of the Israeli state a decade ago, establishing al-Arakib.

In 1948, prior to the establishment of the Israeli state, more than 100,000 Palestinian Bedouin, making up 95 tribes, lived in the Negev (or Naqab as it is known in Arabic). They made up approximately 99% of the region’s inhabitants. In mid-1948, however, the Bedouin, along with other Palestinian Arabs, were ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces. In the wake of the 1948 Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), which marked the destruction of Palestinian society by Zionist forces, only 19 tribes remained inside the ceasefire lines, which became the 1948 boundaries for the newly created Zionist state.

Palestinian Bedouin family from al-Arakib watch their home destroyed
Photo courtesy of Active Stills.

According to Hazem Jamjoum, the editor of al-Majdal — a journal published by the Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugees rights - “the approximately 10,000 Palestinian Bedouin who managed to remain in the Naqab were systematically rounded up and forcibly transferred and confined to the so-called Siyaj (fenced) area located in the north-east corner of the Naqab, just south of the West Bank, in a triangle marked by the towns of Beersheba, Arad and Dimona”. These “fenced” or “closed” areas made up about 10% of the ancestral land belonging to the Palestinian Bedouin. Jamjoum notes in the Autumn 2008-Winter 2009 edition of al-Majdal: “[B]y the early 1950s, more than 90,000 Palestinian Bedouin were forcibly displaced, most of them becoming refugees in the adjacent Gaza strip, West Bank, Sinai Peninsula and Jordan”.
‘Dead’ land

In an article for Haaretz’s online Hebrew edition on August 6 (translated by the Middle East News Service), Yiftachel notes that the Israeli state declared all Palestinian Bedouin land in 1948 “dead” land, claiming the land was unsettled, unassigned and uncultivated. However, “Bedouin lands were managed for generations by a well functioning traditional land ownership system, which allocated residential, agricultural and grazing lands, and adjudicated on land disputes, under the approval of the Ottoman and British rulers. While the Bedouin did not register their land in the British land title books (a fact used against them by Israel), no-one can seriously say that the lands around Beersheba were ‘dead’.” Yiftachel points out that the claim by the Israeli state that the land in the Negev was “dead” resembles the terra nullius doctrine in Australia, which claimed that Australia was an “empty land” prior to being colonised by the British.

Between 1948 and 1967, the dispossession and oppression of Palestinian Bedouin and Arabs continued under a discriminatory martial law that did not apply to Jewish Israelis. As a result, Palestinian citizens of Israel were not allowed to leave or enter their towns unless they were granted permits to do so, their employment was restricted and they were subjected to regular curfew.

Israeli highschoolers volunteering as "police guards" watching the destruction of al-Arakib cheered as the Bedouin's houses were destroyed. Earlier they had enter the house to remove furniture. See Max Blumenthal's report at:
Photo by Ata Abu Madyam of Arab Negev News.

In 1952, Israel granted citizenship to the Palestinian Bedouin, along with other internally displaced Palestinian refugees who found themselves inside the new Zionist state. However, as Jamjoum notes, Israel conditioned the citizenship upon the Bedouin registering with one of the 18 tribes formally recognised by the state and remaining sedentary permanently in government-built towns.

During the period of martial law, Palestinian Bedouin were kept under surveillance by the military Unit 101 and Green Patrols under the auspices of the minister of agriculture (at the time Ariel Sharon). The primary role of the two units was to maintain military control over the Palestinian Bedouin and to continue the ethnic cleansing of the tribes, which were systematically expelled up until 1954. The Green Patrols were created to fight Bedouin “infiltration” into their former ancestral lands, which had now been claimed by the Israeli state. The main aim of the patrols was to prevent the Bedouin from re-establishing residence on their ancestral land.

In addition, the Israeli state seeks to prevent Bedouin use of the land by planting trees via the Jewish National Fund. While the JNF claims that it is rehabilitating the land, critics claim the main purpose of the tree planting is to ensure control of the land and the Bedouin. According to Nasser Victor Rego, writing on the Middle East Online website, the primary purpose of the plan is to free the land of “obstacles” and “nuisances” in order to free the land for Jewish settlement. Rego points out: “These ‘obstacles’ and ‘nuisances’ are the Arab Bedouin of the Naqab”.

Bedouin boy sitting in the ruins of his destroyed house. Photo by Dr Lawerence Davidson.

Similarly on December 8, 2008, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper carried an article outlining the JNF’s plan to increase the number of trees being planted in the Negev. However, Dr. Yehoshua Shkedi, director of the science division of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, noted that the JNF often carries out tree planting “without proper planning and changes areas containing a rich variety of unique plants and animals”. Shkedi told Haaretz: “We’ve spoken to the JNF people about this a number of times and have tried to persuade them to change the way they work, but nothing helps”. Haaretz also noted that many experts had pointed out that “the purpose of the planting is to keep illegal Bedouin construction at bay”.

Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin is a part of its overall ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs. However, despite, the destruction of al-Arakib, the al-Turi tribe and other Palestinian Bedouin have vowed to continue to rebuild al-Arakib and other razed villages. On July 27, Israel’s YNet news service quoted al-Arakib spokesperson and local resident Dr. Awad Abu-Farikh as saying: “Today we got a close glimpse of the government’s true face. We were stunned to witness the violent force being used. The black-clad special unit forces are the true face of Lieberman’s [leader of the anti-Arab Yisrael Beiteinu party and Israeli foreign minister] democracy. This operation is the first step in the uprooting of many villages. We shall return to our villages, build our homes and not leave this place.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What Israel wants from the Palestinians, it takes

Dear friends,
a very good article by Palestinian-American journalist Ahmed Moor in the LA Times.

in solidarity, Kim


What Israel wants from the Palestinians, it takes
By colonizing the West Bank and depriving Palestinians of basic rights, Israel has made a two-state solution impossible.

By Ahmed Moor

September 17, 2010,0,4480633.story

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael B. Oren, argues in his Sept. 15 Times Op-Ed article that Israelis want peace, and I believe him. They've said so often enough. But the Israelis want lots of other things too.

For instance, they want the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, they want the Palestinian aquifers situated beneath the West Bank, and they want to preserve their racial privilege in the Jewish state. They also want to shear the Gaza Strip from Palestine.

Most of all, the Israelis want Palestinian quiescence in the face of Israeli wants. Those wants have made the two-state solution impossible to implement.

For decades, the Israelis have taken what they want from the Palestinians. Consequently, there are about 500,000 settlers in Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, the Israelis are discovering that what one wants and what one can afford sometimes diverge.

Some Israelis — but apparently not Oren — are beginning to realize that the deep, irreversible colonization of territory comes with a price: the end of the Jewish state as it is. It's a painful lesson to learn, especially after decades of superpower indulgence. America's obsequious coddling turns out to have been a curse for the Jewish state. Serious cost-benefit analyses around occupation policies — collectively, apartheid — were evidently never conducted.

When Israel killed 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza — proportionally equivalent to 300,000 Americans — in Operation Cast Lead, incoming President Obama stayed mum. The Israelis counted on and got American cover. But they didn't anticipate the impact of Richard Goldstone's damning report on world opinion and the American layperson's views. No one seems to have ever asked, "Wait, what will killing more than 300 children do to our image abroad? Can we afford to launch an assault against a defenseless and captive population just because President Bush says we can while Obama remains silent?"

Oren's words fail to obscure the "facts on the ground" Israel has established in recent decades. These facts were engineered to entrench Israel's permanent presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The conversation the ambassador is engaging in would have been timelier 42 years ago before Israel's colonies killed the two-state solution, which was never an equitable solution anyway.

Today, the ambassador's words are not just empty platitudes to peace but also effectively irrelevant. That's because honest and well-informed observers understand that there will never be a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.

Obama's circus — the so-called peace process — is designed only to pacify the perennial bugaboo of U.S. politics. The Israel lobby wants to promote the illusion that Israelis want a Palestinian state to enable the continued colonization of occupied land. It's unclear why anyone seems to think that the theatrics are an effective smokescreen at this late stage.

Yet the reality is that Palestine/Israel is already one country. Five hundred thousand settler-colonists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have congealed in place; small numbers may be evacuated, but the vast majority are not going anywhere.

Furthermore, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stand for no one and nothing. The two men have no democratic mandate. Their terms in office having long expired, they are propped up by American and Israeli leaders who seek weak leaders as more apt to concede fundamental Palestinian rights. Of course, these are concessions they are incapable of making legitimately.

Abbas' presidential term ended in January 2009, and Fayyad was illegally reappointed after the Fatah coup attempt against Hamas in June 2007. They cooperate so extensively with Israeli forces that the Palestinian Authority is more like a subcontracted colonial government than an adversarial negotiating party.

Obama recently asserted that Abbas knows "the window for creating a Palestinian state is closing." But Abbas, Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are already too late. Unless Abbas accepts noncontiguous "Bantustans" and uses U.S.-trained forces to enforce the abandonment of Palestinian rights, one state will become increasingly clear to all involved as the only alternative to apartheid. In effect, Israel will have colonized itself out of existence.

As in South Africa, it is time for Israeli leaders to embrace a pluralistic and humanistic vision for the state. Rather than lecture on Israel's desire for a lopsided "peace," Oren should begin to imagine a state in which each person — Jewish or non-Jewish — is equal under the law irrespective of religion or race. He can begin to imagine an apartheid-free society.

To see it in practice, he could travel through the American South. Yes, the American South and post-apartheid South Africa are not perfect, but they are dramatically improved over the reality of 50 years ago — a discriminatory and racist reality still endured today by Palestinians.

To be fair, we Palestinians also want a lot. We want what people everywhere else do: to live as free human beings in our country, in the absence of a foreign military occupation. We want to return to our towns and cities that were ethnically cleansed of us in 1948. We want to vote for our government, the one that controls every aspect of our lives. We want a united Jerusalem. And, when the state is united, we want an ambassador who speaks for all of us, not just the Jewish half of the country.

Put differently, we want equality and justice.

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian American journalist living in Beirut.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The International Women¹s Peace Service (IWPS) is a team of international female human-rights volunteers in Palestine who provide accompaniment to Palestinian civilians (including farmers during the annual olive harvest), document and non-violently intervene in human-rights abuses and support acts of non-violent resistance to end the Israeli military occupation and construction of the barrier throughout the West Bank.

IWPS is currently inviting applications from women based in Australia and New Zealand who would like to join our team of long-term volunteers.

We are also inviting applications from women who would like to work with IWPS on a short term basis.

Long-term volunteer applicants will be expected to serve a minimum of one 3 month term in the West Bank, Palestine, as well as supporting our work outside of Palestine. Applicants should be able to commit to further terms in Palestine of one to three months in their 2nd and 3rd year of commitment to IWPS.

Please visit our Long Term Volunteer Page on our website (www.iwps,info) for more information or alternatively you can request an application pack by emailing us at

We are also accepting application from women who would like to work with IWPS on a short term basis in 2010 and 2011 (minimum of 3 weeks). Please visit our Short Term Volunteer Page on our website ( for more information.

Successful Australian and New Zealand applicants (both long-term and short-term) will be invited to 4 day training program and meeting in Melbourne, Australia (November 12 – 15th).

If you would like more information and/or would like to receive an Application Package please visit our Volunteer Pages at where you will find Application Documents, Contact information, answers to Frequently Asked Questions and suggestions about other ways you can help our efforts or you can email us at:

Deadline for Australian/New Zealand applications: 8 October, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Israel escalates assaults on democratic rights

Dear friends,
please find below my article on escalting assault on democratic rights in Israel which appeared in the August edition of Direct Action.

in solidarity, Kim

**Home » Issue 25: August 2010
Israel escalates assaults on democratic rights

By Kim Bullimore

Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Israeli Knesset, was stripped of her parliamentary privileges on July 13 following her participation in the Gaza flotilla, which was attacked by Israeli commandos who murdered nine human rights activists.

Zoabi attacked in the Israeli Knesset when speaking about the murder on the Mavi Marmara.
Zoabi, one of the 10 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who are members of the Knesset, was stripped of her right to hold a diplomatic passport, the right to free legal counsel in case she faces trial and all privileges related to travelling overseas as a member of parliament. Zoabi also faces threats of criminal charges by Israel’s Attorney General Department for her participation in the flotilla.
Assault in parliament

Zoabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked, recounted her experience to the Knesset on 2 June. According to the June 3 Jerusalem Post, Knesset members from both the coalition and opposition parties not only sought to shout down Zoabi, but also physically charged the podium in an attempt to stop her from continuing her speech. When other Palestinian members of the Knesset attempted to prevent the physical attacks on Zoabi, they were also attacked.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Likud member Miri Regev screamed abuse at Zoabi, yelling at her “Go back to Gaza, you traitor”, while another member from the supposedly centrist Kadima party accused Zoabi of being a terrorist. On June 2, Israeli news site YNet reported that during the session, Moshe Mutz Matalon, from the openly racist anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu party, also praised the murder of the nine human rights activists on the Mavi Marmara, saying, “Unfortunately, the [commando] fighters acted with too much restraint. They left only nine floating voters.”

Before being screamed down, Zoabi stated that she felt it was her moral and political duty to participate in the flotilla and to oppose the imprisonment of 1.5 million people. Zoabi also pointed out to those calling her a criminal, that unlike the Israeli commandos, she did not murder anyone. In a press release later issued by her parliamentary office, Zoabi noted: “Israel, following the international reaction to its bloody attack on the humanitarian flotilla, is embarrassed and confused. Unable to deal with the shock and anger of the international community, I have become their punching bag.”

In an attempt to silence Zoabi and other members of the Knesset who did not toe the Zionist line, a number of Knesset members announced that they had drafted legislation to punish Zoabi for exercising her right to freedom of speech and to prevent her from running in future Knesset elections.
Silencing critics

Zoabi about to board the Mavi Marmara

US Jewish blogger Tony Greenstein wrote on June 8 that the attacks on Zoabi were an attack on the entirety of Israel’s Palestinian Arab population. According to Greenstein, “What we are seeing is not merely a personal vendetta but a deliberate and concerted attempt to humiliate, intimidate and persecute a political representative of Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise 20% of the population”.

The attack on Zoabi, while a part of the campaign to silence and further marginalise Israel’s Palestinian citizens, is also part of a broader attempt to silence internal critics, both Palestinian and Jewish, of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. In May, Dr Omar Saeed, a member of Zoabi’s Balad party and Amir Makhoul, the director general of Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-based Associations) were arrested when their homes were raided in the middle of the night. The two men were accused of spying for Hezbollah. Their arrests were not initially made public due to the military censor, a department of the Israeli government, imposing a gag order preventing the media from reporting the arrests. The arrests became public knowledge in Israel only after international bloggers began a campaign to free Makhoul, forcing the Israeli military to lift the gag order.

Amir Makhoul giving a speech before his arrest

On June 8, Saeed was sentenced to seven months’ jail after striking a plea bargain with the state, which charged him with “servicing an illegal organisation” rather than “contact with a foreign agent” and “delivery of information for the benefit the enemy”. In a media statement, Saeed’s legal team noted, “The cancellation of the most serious charges against Dr. Saeed proves that the State Prosecution inflated the charges to begin with in order to justify its arbitrary and illegal actions ... against him”. The flimsiness of the case was demonstrated in a June 8 article published by YNet. According to YNet, while an apparent Hezbollah agent had approached the 50-year-old Saeed in Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt in 2008, Saeed had rejected the alleged agent’s overtures and later ripped up the contact details given to him, rebuffing any further contact.

Two days earlier, on June 6, Makhoul, whose lawyers had been prevented from seeing him for 12 days and who suspected he’d been tortured in custody, was finally able to speak with the Israeli media when his court case began. Makhoul said his and Saeed’s arrests, as well as the attacks on Zoabi, had nothing to do with security, but were part of “a trend of breaking the bones of political figures”.

The Israeli state’s attack on dissenting citizens, particularly Palestinian Arab citizens, is nothing new. Since its beginning, the Zionist state has sought punitive control of the Palestinian population in both Israel and the occupied territories. From 1948 until 1966, Palestinians living inside Israel, despite nominally being Israeli citizens, were subject to military regulations. Unlike Jewish citizens, Palestinian Arabs were subject to severe restrictions on their movement and prohibited from organising politically; Palestinian Arab political associations and parties were banned and Palestinian Arab publications censored.
New campaigns

Since the 2009 Israeli election, which resulted in Yisrael Beteinu forming government with Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, dozens of anti-democratic laws, specifically aimed at further marginalising Palestinian citizens, have been introduced into the Knesset. The last year has also brought a dramatic increase in the attacks, both in the Knesset and in broader Israeli society, on the political and civil rights of Jewish Israelis who oppose the government’s occupation and apartheid policies.

While Yisrael Beteinu, Likud and Kadima have introduced and supported bills to criminalise and jail any Israeli citizen advocating for the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, extreme right groups have launched a campaign against a range of Israeli human rights and civil society organisations. In early 2010, a campus-based group, Im Tirtzu, which receives partial funding from the Christians for Israel lobby led by anti-Semitic preacher John Hagee, targeted Naomi Chazan and the New Israel Fund (NIF). Im Tirtzu’s campaign, which included full-page advertisements, sought to depict Chazan and the NIF as treasonous informants. The attack also sought to discredit the many Israeli human rights and civil society groups that had received NIF funding and had exposed the human rights abuses carried out by Israel in the occupied territories, as well as the war crimes it engaged in during its 22-day assault on Gaza in 2008-2009.

In April 2010, a survey commissioned by the Tel Aviv University-based Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research found that the majority of Jewish Israelis held similar positions to that of Im Tirtzu, favouring closing down Israeli human rights organisations that exposed human rights abuses by Israel’s military. According to the survey, more than half of the Jewish Israelis surveyed believe that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel, while nearly 58% believed that Israeli human rights organisations that expose abuses carried out by Israel shouldn’t be allowed to operate freely. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on April 28 stated, “The poll also found that most of the respondents favour punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defence establishment”. In addition, 65% believed that the Israeli media should be censored and barred from publishing any news deemed by defence officials to endanger state security.

In reaction to the survey, Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at Tel Aviv University, told Haaretz, “Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy”, and “the public recognises the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic”.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Israel's Gaza siege: a crime against humanity

Dear friends,
Here are some of the recent articles I have written, which appeared in Direct Action.

in solidarity, Kim Home » Issue 24: July 2010


Israel's Gaza siege: a crime against humanity

By Kim Bullimore

Israel announced on June 17 that it would “liberalise” its three-year siege of Gaza, allowing more categories of goods to enter the blockaded territory. Non-essential items such as tomato sauce, snacks, mayonnaise and cosmetics will now be allowed in. However, building materials such as cement, pipes and iron — essential for the reconstruction of housing, much of which was destroyed by Israel’s 22-day bombing campaign in 2008-09 — will remain prohibited.

According to the June 21 Tel Aviv Haaretz newspaper, Israel will retain the “right” to ban “dual-use” construction materials that it claims could be used by the Palestinian resistance to rebuild military facilities and manufacture weapons. Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation that deals specifically with legal issues related to freedom of movement within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, noted in a statement on June 17 that the “liberalisation” advocated by the Israeli Security Cabinet enacted little more than “cosmetic changes” and did little to change the situation for the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Gisha said that Israel’s siege of Gaza has little to do with security and instead is part of a policy of “economic warfare” designed supposedly to weaken support for Hamas. Gisha went on to state: “In the context of that policy, Israel deliberately prevents Gaza residents from receiving raw materials, exporting finished products and travelling into and out of Gaza”. Rather than introducing cosmetic changes to the blockade, Gisha called on Israel to adopt “a policy that recognises the rights of Palestinian residents of Gaza not just to consume but also to produce [goods] and to travel”.
Planned murder

The announcement of the “liberalisation” of the siege came in the wake of international outrage at Israel’s murder of nine human rights activists and wounding of up to 30 others, aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters on May 31. The nine-boat flotilla, carrying more than 650 human rights activists, doctors, parliamentarians and journalists, was organised jointly by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish human rights organisation Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). The flotilla sought to break Israel’s illegal three-year siege of the Gaza Strip and deliver more than 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid. The nine were killed when Israeli commandos boarded and attacked with live ammunition the largest of the boats, the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara.

The Israeli government, along with the Israeli and international media, has attempted to portray the deadly commando attack as a “bungled raid”. However, before the attack, Israeli media carried a number of stories in both English and Hebrew outlining the Israeli government’s intention to use violence against the flotilla and its unarmed passengers. Awarding-winning US Jewish freelance journalist Max Blumenthal wrote in a June 6 article on his blog that statements by senior Israeli military commanders prior to the departure of the flotilla towards Gaza revealed that “the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak”. On May 28, three days before the attack on the boats, Israel’s Maariv newspaper carried an article in Hebrew entitled, “Head to Head in the Heart of the Sea”, which outlined the intention of the Israeli military to use brutal force.

Footage shoot by Iara Lee on the Mavi Marmara. Lee was able to retain the footage despite the IOF trying to confiscate all footage shot by activists.

According to Blumenthal’s English translation of the Maariv article, the Israeli operation against the boats would be led by Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Maron, who told Maariv, “If the people aboard the boats will not agree to turn around, the operation will transfer to the stage of force”. According to Maron, the operational plan included approval for using “live fire” if the commandos deemed it necessary. The article also outlined that, once the commandos boarded the boats, they would “inspect them looking for sabotage materials and fighting tools”. As Blumenthal notes, “The plan to search for ‘sabotage materials’ also foreshadowed the [Israeli military’s] post-raid propaganda campaign”.

Despite Israeli military illegally attempting to confiscate all photographic and film footage from the activists in an attempt ensure that Israel’s version of events dominated media coverage of the attack, the Israeli government’s torrent of justification was repeatedly challenged by a range of independent journalists, both inside Israel and internationally. As a result, the Israeli government and military were forced to retreat from a number of claims they had made, including that 40 flotilla participants were “al Qaeda mercenaries”. The Israeli military was also forced to admit that it had doctored the audio on footage it released of the assault on the Mavi Marmara.

With the release of the hundreds of human rights activists from Israeli detention, photographs and video footage that activists were able to retain were released. They revealed that far from attempting to “lynch” the attacking commandos, as Israel claimed, the activists were attacked and attempted to defend themselves. The footage also revealed that activists had sought to give medical aid to injured soldiers.
BDS campaign strengthened

The outrage at the murder of the nine activists has put Israel under increased international pressure to end its illegal siege and has increased support for the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. On June 2, the UN Human Rights Council voted overwhelmingly (32 to 2) to strongly condemn Israel’s actions against the humanitarian flotilla and call for an end to the siege of Gaza. On May 31, the day of the massacre, Professor Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Dubai’s Gulf News: “It is essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless and murderous behaviour, including political leaders who issued the orders, be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts … The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political imperative, and needs to be supported and strengthened everywhere”.

Turkey, South Africa and Nicaragua recalled their ambassadors from Israel and/or suspended diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. The Turkish parliament, in reaction to nine of its nationals being murdered, voted unanimously to “revise the political, military and economic relations with Israel” and to “seek justice against Israel through national and international legal authorities”. On June 14, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demanded Israel immediately lift its Gaza blockade. “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law”, the ICRC stated. Under such law, collective punishment of a whole population is a crime against humanity.

On June 1, the Palestinian BDS National Committee issued a statement condemning the murders and calling on the international community to intensify its support for BDS. In reaction to its call for transport and dock workers and unions around the world to refuse to load or offload Israeli ships and airplanes, the Swedish Port Workers Union voted to implement a blockade of Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel from June 15 to 29. The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, which pioneered the boycott against Israeli maritime trade in February 2009 by refusing to offload a ship in Durban, also heeded the Palestinian appeal, advocating “an escalation of the boycott of Israeli goods”, calling upon its members “not to allow any Israeli ship to dock or unload” and calling upon fellow trade unionists not to handle them. On June 20, more than 700 protesters were able to stop the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship at the port of Oakland in San Francisco Bay.

In Australia, 11 unions and state labour councils have now publicly announced support for the BDS campaign. The Western Australia branch of the Maritime Union of Australia was the first to support the campaign, joining in January 2009. It was joined just prior to the attack on the flotilla by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union.

In the wake of the attack, the Australian Services Union NSW and ACT branches, the Health and Community Services Union Victoria, Australian Education Union, Geelong Trades Hall Council, South Coast Labour Council (NSW) and Newcastle Trades Hall Council all announced support for BDS and called for the lifting of the siege of Gaza. The national secretary of the MUA, along with the Australian Nurses Federation, NSW Teachers Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), while not announcing support for the BDS campaign, issued statements condemning Israel’s attack on the flotilla and calling for the end of the siege.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Update No 2: 27 July, 2010


Building Solidarity, Combating Occupation and Apartheid
National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference
Melbourne, 29 - 31 October 2010
- activism in support of Palestine -

Dear friends and supporters,
Thank you for your emails and words of support. We have been overwhelmed and delighted by the positive response to the conference call. We are currently working on the conference program and agenda and hope to have an initial program to you all shortly.

In the meantime, endorsements for the conference have continued to come in and in the last week we have received endorsements for the conference from:
• Australians for Palestine (Melbourne)
• Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (Canberra)
• Women in Black (Melbourne)
• Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth (FAMSY)
• Garth Smith (Organiser, Seminars in the Sand, Byron Bay)
• Maxine Caron (Organiser, Seminars in the Sand, Byron Bay);

They have joined the following individuals, community and solidarity groups in endorsing the call for the conference:

• Yousef Alreemawi; advocate for Palestine, academic and refugee activist.
• Leyal Asku - Lawyer.
• Fay Waddington (Palestine Solidarity Queensland)
• Kim Sattler (Secretary Unions ACT)
• Ginny Adams (Organiser, Health and Community Services Union)
• Kathryn Kelly (former ISM activist)

• Friends of Palestine Western Australia (Perth)
• Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne)
• Students for Palestine (Victoria)
• Action for Palestine (Adelaide)
• Justice for Palestine (Brisbane)
• Australian-Palestinian Cultural Centre
• Palestine Remembered @ Radio 3CR; Australia's only radio program that it totally dedicated to the Palestinian cause in English

We would like to encourage all supporters of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice to endorse and support this very important initiative. If you would like to endorse and support the call for the conference, please contact us on

We will send out regular updates on the endorsements and the planning for the conference over the next couple of months.

You can keep up with news of what is happening with the conference by joining our email announcement group at: (or email us at and let us know you want to be added to the announcement list and we will add you).

Or by joining us on Facebook at:!/group.php?gid=123970357646027

We will also keep our blog regularly updated:

Thank you again and we look forward to seeing everyone in October,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Building Solidarity, Combating Occupation and Apartheid: A call for a national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference (Australia)

Building Solidarity, Combating Occupation and Apartheid
A call for a national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference
Melbourne, 29 - 31 October 2010
- activism in support of Palestine -

As supporters of the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination, we have come together to initiate a call for a two and half day, national Australian BDS conference to be held in Melbourne on October 29- 31, 2010.

Over the two and half days of the conference, we hope to bring together people from all over Australia, who are already active in the Palestine solidarity movement, as well as anyone who is interested in learning more about BDS and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice.

Plenaries will address the history of civil resistance and boycotts, including an analysis of apartheid in South Africa and Palestine; colonialism in Australia and Palestine; and lessons from Palestine solidarity work internationally. In addition, there will be workshops and strategy sessions focused on the development of a national BDS network and campaign in Australia, including strategy sessions focused on developing the involvement of the Union and Labour movement, Student and Campus groups, Community and Faith based groups and art and cultural groups in the campaign; as well as also developing research and media groups to support the campaign.

Background information:
In 2005, Palestinian civil society, including more than 171 Palestinian organisations, political parties, trade unions, associations, coalitions, initiated a Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) campaign against Israel. Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.

Over the past five years, the Palestinian BDS campaign against Israel has gone from strength to strength internationally, with trade unions, student groups and other sectors of the community announcing support for the campaign. However, in Australia, the campaign is still in its infancy.

In 2009, millions of ordinary people in Australia, and around the world, protested in condemnation of Israel’s brutal all-out bombing of 1.5 million Palestinian civilians residing in the open-air prison know as the Gaza Strip. In the past few weeks, we have again seen hundreds of thousands of people around the world take to the streets to protest Israel’s murderous attacks on the international humanitarian flotilla on May 31st, which was carrying 700 human rights activists who were attempting to break Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza, and deliver more than 10,000 tonnes of much needed humanitarian aid. Israel’s pre-mediated violent attack on the flotilla left 9 international human rights activists dead and dozens more wounded.

Israel continues to carry out its siege and occupation of Gaza and illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As the BDS campaign continues to grow in leaps in bounds internationally, it is time for supporters of human rights and justice in Australia to come together as part of a national campaign in support of BDS and the Palestinian people.

We hope that you will join us in October for Australia’s first national BDS conference in support of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice.

To endorse this call or to help with the organising of the conference, please contact us at:

Or visit our blog at:

Signatories: (organisations for identification purposes only)

Julia Terreu (Adelaide)
Action for Palestine
Independent radio broadcaster

Phil Monsour (Brisbane)
Musician and Activist.
Union Aid Abroad APHEDA Middle East Study Tour 2010 delegate for the Queensland Teachers Union

Kim Bullimore (Melbourne)
Volunteer, International Women’s Peace Service in Palestine
Independent journalist and writer on the Israel-Palestine conflict

Sarah Haynes (Perth)
Treasurer, Friends of Palestine (Western Australia)

Rachel Johnson (Sydney)
Volunteer, International Solidarity Movement, Palestine.