Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sheikh Jarrah activists respond to Elie Wiesel's "Jerusalem is above politics" advertisements

Dear friends,

As you may be aware, last week Elie Wiesel, a prominent American supporter of Israel and a former recipient of the Noble Peace Prize, took out full page advertisements in the New York Times and Washington Post claiming that Jerusalem, as a city, was "above politics".

In the advertisments, Wiesel denied any Muslim connection to Jerusalem and claimed that all Jews, Christians and Muslims have unfettered access to their places of worship in Jerusalem. In addition, Wiesel claimed that all Jews, Christians and Muslims could build and reside anywhere in Jerusalem.

Weisel's denial of a Muslim connection to Jerusalem, of course, denies the very important place that Jerusalem has in both Islam as a religion and in Islamic history. In addition, his claims that all Christians and Muslims have unfettered access to worship at their shrines in Jersualem is an outright lie, as is his claim that they can build anywhere and reside anywhere in Jersualem.

Palestinian Muslims and Christians are regularly denied access to their holy shrines in Jerusalem and they are regularly denied the right to build "their homes anywhere in the city". Indeed, the policy of the Israel state is to push Palestinian Muslims and Christians out of the city, in order to "Judiaze" it. Wiesel in claiming that Jerusalem is "above politics", also denies the internationally recognised fact that East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory.

In response to Wiesel's advertisements titled "For Jerusalem", more than 100 Israeli Jewish activists living in Jerusalem, who are active in the solidarity struggle with the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah who have been evicted from their homes in order for Jewish settlers to take over their homes, have published their own letter entitled "From Jerusalem".

The Sheikh Jarrah activists point out that Weisel speaks of a "celestial Jerusalem", while they live in an earthly one in which Palestinian freedom of movement is denied and where Palestinians are evicted from their homes and where Zionist politicians seek to "franticly Judaize" the city.

I have included below the letter by the Shiekh Jarrah activists (and the link to their website) and the text of the advertisements taken out by Wiesel.

In solidarity,


From Jerusalem, an open letter to Elie Wiesel

Dear Mr. Wiesel,

We write to you from Jerusalem to convey our frustration, even outrage, at your recently published letter on Jerusalem. We are Jewish Jerusalemites – residents by choice of a battered city, a city used and abused, ransacked time and again first by foreign conquerors and now by its own politicians. We cannot recognize our city in the sentimental abstraction you call by its name.

Our Jerusalem is concrete, its hills covered with limestone houses and pine trees; its streets lined with synagogues, mosques and churches. Your Jerusalem is an ideal, an object of prayers and a bearer of the collective memory of a people whose members actually bear many individual memories. Our Jerusalem is populated with people, young and old, women and men, who wish their city to be a symbol of dignity - not of hubris, inequality and discrimination. You speak of the celestial Jerusalem; we live in the earthly one.

For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one. For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.

Indeed, your claim that Jerusalem is above politics is doubly outrageous. First, because contemporary Jerusalem was created by a political decision and politics alone keeps it formally unified. The tortuous municipal boundaries of today’s Jerusalem were drawn by Israeli generals and politicians shortly after the 1967 war. Feigning to unify an ancient city, they created an unwieldy behemoth, encircling dozens of Palestinian villages which were never part of Jerusalem. Stretching from the outskirts of Ramallah in the north to the edge of Bethlehem in the south, the Jerusalem the Israeli government foolishly concocted is larger than Paris. Its historical core, the nexus of memories and religious significance often called “the Holy Basin”, comprises a mere one percent of its area. Now they call this artificial fabrication ‘Jerusalem’ in order to obviate any approaching chance for peace.

Second, your attempt to keep Jerusalem above politics means divesting us of a future. For being above politics is being devoid of the power to shape the reality of one’s life. As true Jerusalemites, we cannot stand by and watch our beloved city, parts of which are utterly neglected, being used as a springboard for crafty politicians and sentimental populists who claim Jerusalem is above politics and negotiation. All the while, they franticly “Judaize” Eastern Jerusalem in order to transform its geopolitics beyond recognition.

Illegal Israel settlers move into a Palestinian home, whose family has been evicted. Outside the home lies all the Palestinian families possessions, thrown out by settlers.

We invite you to our city to view with your own eyes the catastrophic effects of the frenzy of construction. You will witness that, contrary to some media reports, Arabs are not allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem. You discover see the gross inequality in allocation of municipal resources and services between east and west. We will take you to Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to make room for a new Jewish neighborhood, and to Silwan, where dozens of houses face demolition because of the Jerusalem Municipality’s refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians.

We, the people of Jerusalem, can no longer be sacrificed for the fantasies of those who love our city from afar. This-worldly Jerusalem must be shared by the people of the two nations residing in it. Only a shared city will live up to the prophet’s vision: “Zion shall be redeemed with justice”. As we chant weekly in our vigils in Sheikh Jarrah: “Nothing can be holy in an occupied city!”


Just Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah) Activists

Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.

Banners in Sheikh Jarrah opposing evicts of Palestinian families from their homes.

Text of New York and Washington Post advertisements:


As published in The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on April 16, 2010 and in The New York Times on April 18, 2010:

It was inevitable: Jerusalem once again is at the center of political debates and international storms. New and old tensions surface at a disturbing pace. Seventeen times destroyed and seventeen times rebuilt, it is still in the middle of diplomatic confrontations that could lead to armed conflict. Neither Athens nor Rome has aroused that many passions.

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple. It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

Elie Wiesel

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

What is the solution? Pressure will not produce a solution. Is there a solution? There must be, there will be. Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security. Why not leave the most difficult, the most sensitive issue, for such a time?

Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart.”

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

- Elie Wiesel

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is the US-Israeli 'special relationship' in danger?

Dear friends,
my latest article from Direct Action.

In solidarity, Kim
Is the US-Israeli 'special relationship' in danger?
By Kim Bullimore
Direct Action 21, April 2010

If one were to believe the almost breathless reports coming from the Israeli, US and other corporate media, a major ruction in US-Israeli dealings had occurred and the demise of their “special relationship” was imminent. According to the media, this was triggered by the announcement on March 9, by Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, that Israel would build 1600 new Jewish-only homes on occupied Palestinian land. The announcement was made just as US Vice-President Joe Biden began a four-day “good will” tour of Israel.

The visit by Biden, a staunch Zionist, was widely seen in both the US and Israel, as well as internationally, as an attempt to boost the stalled Middle East “peace” process. Biden’s visit coincided with the March 8 announcement of George Mitchell, US envoy to the Middle East, that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel had agreed to resume “indirect” negotiations or “proximity talks”. Yishai’s announcement, which diplomatically embarrassed Biden and the Obama administration, exposed the sham nature of the US-led “peace process”, revealing that Israel has no genuine interest in pursuing peace. It also exposed the weakness of the Palestinian leadership headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.

American Vice President, Joe Biden, speaking at AIPAC

Abbas, whose electoral mandate as Palestinian president expired in January 2009, had previously stated that the Palestinian Authority would not engage with Israel until Netanyahu froze settlements. On March 3, Abbas sought political cover for his capitulation to US and Israeli pressure by seeking approval from the Arab League to engage in the indirect talks. However, the Syrian representative, Yousef al-Ahmed, pointed out that Abbas was simply seeking “political cover” for a decision that had already been taken. The announcement of the building of 1600 new Jewish-only housing units on Palestinian land exposed the weakness and capitulation to US and Israeli dictates of Abbas and the leadership of Fatah and the PLO.
No policy changes

Despite the media claims, there was no crisis in the US-Israel relationship. As long-time Middle East commentator Graham Usher noted in the March 25-31 edition of the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, “Rage is not policy”, and the so-called ruction did not translate into any change in Israeli-US policies. Usher noted: “... on 19 March Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Israeli bridging proposals were ‘useful and productive’. By 21 March US Envoy George Mitchell was back in the region to urge so-called proximity talks: indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians which the Jerusalem settlement scuttled but which Mitchell now wants ‘under way in full course’. And Binyamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation to meet Barack Obama in Washington on 23 March ...”

The clearest sign that the media speculation about a “crisis in US-Israeli relations” was hokum came a little more than two weeks after the Netanyahu government publicly embarrassed Biden. On March 25, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the US and Israel were in the process of sealing a new arms deal.

Protest billboard opposing US military aid to Israel

According to journalist Amos Harel, the deal would be “covered by American foreign assistance funds” and would involve Israel purchasing three new Hercules C130J warplanes “manufactured specifically for Israeli needs”, each plane carrying a $70 million price tag. Haaretz went on to note that a further arms deal, worth $3 billion, was still pending. It would have Israel purchase Lockheed F-35 warplanes, receiving them by 2014. United Press International noted that the deal revealed that the “U.S. commitment [to Israel] seems to be untouchable” and that the Pentagon was prepared to maintain Israel’s military dominance in the region. UPI added that the relationship was not a one-way street, pointing out that “much of the military aid [to Israel] is recycled back into the U.S. economy anyway”, and the C130 deal would be a major boost for the US arms industry.

Billions in arms aid

A report by Amnesty International on February 23 examined US military aid to Israel, making a link between foreign arms supplies and Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza. The report, Fuelling Conflict, noted: “Weaponry, munitions and other military equipment supplied to Israel have been used by Israeli armed forces to carry out direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate”.

While also looking at arms supply to the Palestinian resistance, the primary focus of the report was on the supply of weaponry to Israel by successive US governments. It noted: “Since 2001, the USA has been by far the major supplier of conventional arms to Israel”, bilateral trade agreements between Israel and the US from 2004 to 2007 including $1.3 billion in “arms and ammunition”. This figure, however, excludes US “gifts” of military equipment or “dual use” equipment and technologies. Furthermore, US administrations (both Democrat and Republican) have provided Israel with billions of dollars with which to procure arms.

Protest banners opposing US military aid to Israel

According to Amnesty International, US governments, including Obama’s, have supplied arms to Israel despite this being a direct violation of the US Foreign Assistance Act, which states, “No security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”, which includes “acts of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person”.

Common interests

In her March 22 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Hillary Clinton also clearly revealed that the supposed imminent collapse of US-Israeli relations was just wild speculation. Clinton spent much of her speech reiterating that the Obama administration was committed to continuing the US-Israel “special relationship”, saying that Obama “has supported Israel in word and in deed”.

Clinton pointed out: “Under President Obama’s leadership, we have reinvigorated defence consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance”. Clinton noted that US military aid to Israeli increased in 2010 and that Obama was looking to increase it even further in 2011.

US Secretary of State, Hillar Clinton speaking at AIPAC

Clinton candidly stated that the reason the Obama administration was displeased with Israel’s continued settlement construction in occupied Jerusalem, was not because it wanted to stop Israel’s settlement expansion or the stealing of Palestinian land or to ensure a just peace agreement and resolution. Clinton frankly pointed out that settlement construction exposed a tactical difference in the US-Israel imperialist alliance: It “exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to exploit”.Clinton went on that the United States has long supported Israel, not because of the efforts of the US pro-Israel lobby, but because “the United States has long recognised that a strong and secure Israel is vital to our own strategic interests”. Clinton did not mention that these “strategic interests” revolve around US imperialism’s attempts to dominate the Middle East economically and politically in order to control the massive oil reserves in the region. Ensuring control of the energy reserves of the Middle East has been the primary objective of US foreign policy in the region since the end of World War II, the US State Department in 1945 identifying these reserves as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history”.

Israel is US imperialism’s chief ally in the region, playing a strategic role in helping to ensure US dominance. The alliance is based on shared political interests — opposition to any form of Arab radicalism that would threaten Western economic domination. This is why Clinton went on to state in her speech: “... for President Obama and for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring and forever”.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

UC Berkeley divestment vote–it isn’t over yet

Dear friends,

as many of you will be aware on March 18 the UC Berkely Student Senate voted for divestment from two US companies that profit from Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian people. The vote was then vetoed by the Senate President on the grounds it "singled out Israel". On April 15, the Student Senate meet to debate and vote on the veto.

Below is Cecilie Surasky's very inspiring account of the 10 hour debate, which went all night (Surasky is the Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace).

For anyone wanting read more on the UC Berkely debate and campaign, I have also included a list of links compiled by UC Berkely student and supporter of the divestment bill, Matthew Taylor, regarding the divestment campaign.

Also include are two videos from UC Berkely debate, one is of UC Berkely students and senators speaking in favour of the bill and showing images from outside the venue of on campus support. The other video is of the very powerful speech from a visiting Palestinian student on the importance of the bill, the silencing of the Palestinian voice and urging the student senators to side with justice not power.

In solidarity, Kim


Visiting Palestinian student speaks to bill and importance of divestment


UC Berkeley divestment vote–it isn’t over yet
By Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace

Posted: 16 Apr 2010 08:12 AM PDT

Being a part of the tremendous coalition effort to pass a divestment bill at Berkeley was quite simply an ecstatic experience.

As my colleague Sydney Levy said, "The movement grew by an enormous leap today."

First, the vote itself: after the UC Berkeley Student Senate originally voted on March 18, by a margin of 16-4, to divest from companies that profit from the occupation, that vote was vetoed by the Senate president. The Senate needed 14 votes to overturn his veto, but early this morning, after an epic 10 plus hour meeting, senators found they had only 13 yes votes with one abstention. So the students tabled a vote to overturn the veto. This means the veto stands but can still be overturned later--there will be much continued lobbying and activism in the coming weeks. (Meanwhile, some weeks ago AIPAC openly threatened to take over the UC government to block the bill.)

But in many ways, the vote itself was not the star of this story. For anyone who was there last night and until 7:30 this morning when the forum ended, it was clear what the future looks like.

For one, the smart money is on the members of UC Berkeley's Students for Justice with Palestine (SJP), the group leading this effort. They are a remarkable multi-ethnic group that seemingly includes every race, religion and ethnicity including Muslims and Jews, and Israelis and Palestinians. They are just brilliant thinkers and organizers and driven by a clear sense of justice and empathy. They spent a year researching and writing the divestment bill, and I can't express how much I love and respect them and how much hope they make me feel. And there are students just like them on every other campus in the world.

Second, the feeling on campus and in the room was electric. We filled an enormous room that fits 900. Most stayed through the entire night. If you can imagine, the evening started with remarkable statements by divestment supporters Judith Butler, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, Richard Falk, Hatem Bazian and George Bisharat. And then the extraordinary parade of students and community members who spoke on both sides of the issue until it was past sunrise.

And though the final vote still hangs in the balance, the fact remains that the vast majority of the Senate voted to divest. The bill garnered the support of some of the most famous moral voices in the world, a good chunk of the Israeli left (9 groups and counting), nearly 40 campus groups (almost all student of color groups and one queer organization) plus another 40 US off-campus groups.

In addition, the room was filled with Jewish divestment supporters of every age including grandmothers and aunts and uncles and students. Our staff, activist members, and Advisory Board members like Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Daniel Boyarin, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Noam Chomsky each played critical roles in the effort. And of course, all of you who generated over 5,000 letters of support.

So much has changed since Gaza. Just 2 years ago we secured only 4 pages of Jewish endorsement letters for a similar selective divestment effort. This time, we put together 29 pages of major Jewish endorsement statements (which you can download here), and the list continues to grow by the day. We also made 400 bright green stickers that said "Another (fill in the blank) for human rights. Divest from the Israeli occupation" and gave every single last one away.

As attorney Reem Salahi said to me, "When I was a student here in law school 2 years ago, no one spoke about divestment. Now everyone is talking about it."

For those of us there, it was clear--the room was with divestment. The senators were with divestment. And given the endorsements that kept pouring in up to the last second, from Nobel prize winners, from Israeli peace groups, from leading academics and activists--it seemed like the whole world was with divestment.

There were a number of Jewish students who expressed seemingly real discomfort if the divestment bill should pass. (As it turned out, they were repeating these talking points almost verbatim, with histrionics encouraged.) Many said they wouldn't feel safe on campus, others said they would feel silenced, a few said young Jews would no longer want to come to UC Berkeley.

While feeling for their discomfort, it was difficult to watch how speaker after anti-divestment speaker seemed unable to distinguish between the discomfort of infrequent dirty looks, and rare nasty or bigoted name-calling, and the "discomfort" of having your home demolished or of having only toxic water to give to your family or of being shot or stuck at a checkpoint for hours in the sun.

They were unable to make the distinction between "feeling silenced" because the bill might pass against their wishes, and being silenced because you are jailed for your nonviolent activism or because you can't get a visa to travel or because your story is virtually invisible in film, in history books, in the mainstream media, everywhere.

I of course wasn't the only one who noticed this. Students of color, and one student senator in particular, beautifully articulated what it meant to come to campus "already marginalized." That is certainly a part of why so many student of color campus groups support the divestment effort, and why the links between being anti-racist in Israel/Palestine and anti-racist in the U.S. (and elsewhere) are particularly strong, clear, and important -- and these students know it.

Which makes the statements of the anti-divestment Jews all the more striking in juxtaposition to the statements of the many Jewish students who supported divestment, each of whom said, "I feel safe on this campus." And the progressive Jewish UC-Berkeley senator who said, "this divest bill will actually make me feel safe" and "this [bill] is creating space for Jews to have a community here. I've never been prouder to be a Jew."

And that, if anything, suggests the most exciting part of what happened here.

It's so clear to me how the organizing itself, and the ways it brought all of us, but especially Jews and Muslims and Arabs of every age together, is the solution. When peace happens, it will radiate outward from these relationships, mirrored in the Israeli-Palestinian relationships in places like Bil'in and Sheikh Jarrah. This was so apparent when I saw, on one side of the room, Jewish and Palestinian and Muslim students literally leaning on each other and holding hands for support--and on the other side of the room, a relatively small (and by their own admonition, fearful) group of Jews that seemed to mostly have each other. It was very jarring and poignant and deeply sad.

The future is clear and it's already here. It is a multicultural (and queer-integrated) universe bound together by a belief in full equality. Period.

Silence and apathy are the friends of the status quo. Sunlight, debate, facts, passion- these are what justice requires to grow. Open debates like the one UC Berkeley held last night simply must happen at campuses everywhere. The students of SJP have already won by making this debate happen. The whole campus is talking about Israel and Palestine. Last night's forum and vote will forever impact the lives of every person who was in that room. And the new connections made have strengthened the movement in ways none of us imagined.

No wonder Israeli Consulate General Akiva Tor stayed for the entire vote. If I were he and it were my job to protect Israel's occupation, I'd be worried. Very worried.

This morning, not hours after the meeting ended, I found an email in my inbox from an SJP group at another campus. "We want to introduce a divestment bill on campus and were wondering if you might assist us with speakers..."

Let this new stage begin.

Cecilie Surasky is the Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Students and student senators speaking to bill

Links to articles on divestment campaign and debate.
Compiled by Matthew Taylor, UC Berkely student

Here's SJP's very articulate response to the veto:

And check out JVP's 30-page document compiling all the Jewish support we received for the Divestment Bill:

Yaman Salahi and Sydney Levy: Attack on Berkeley divestment bill dishonest and misleading

Daily Cal's blog report on Desmond Tutu:

If you have liberal Zionist friends who are unsure whether to support BDS in the future, you might want to forward them this link:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Mother, the infiltrator

Dear friends,
many of you may have heard about the new military laws that have been drawn up the Israeli Occupation Forces to target "infiltrators" in the Occupied West Bank.

Below is an essay by Mohammed Alaasfin on the issue, which poignantly and beautifully address not only the absurdity of the military order but its outrageous premise.

The new military order, as awarding Israeli journalist, Amira Hass writes in Haaretz, enables "the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years".

The new military order has the potential to result in the "deportation" of thousands of Palestinians, includling those with Gaza IDS and Palestinians with residency rights in Jerusalem. In addition, it has the potential to result in the "deportation" of foreign nationals married to Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the USA), as well as international human rights workers/volunteers and Israeli citizens, whether Palestinian or Jewish.

It should be noted that under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention - which Israel is a signatory - this order is illegal (as are a great majority of the IOF's military orders) as an occupying power is not allowed to forcibly transfer any sections of the occupied population out of the occupied territory.

I have also included below, Amira Hass's Haaretz article outlining the political and societal impact that the new military order will have.

in solidarity,


My mother, the infiltrator

by Mohammad Alsaafin

My mother is an illegal infiltrator. She has infiltrated her hometown, where her parents were born and where she was raised. Her activities as an infiltrator are as varied as they are nefarious: She takes my sister to school, with the neighbor’s kids. She cooks and cleans her home. We actually purchased that home so that she would have a base to operate from once she had infiltrated. She goes to the gym (I suspect infiltrators probably do need to stay in shape). She visits her sisters; I can’t say for sure if they assist her illegal activities. I’m sure they provide moral support at least. She helps care for her brother’s young children. You see my uncle might have been an infiltrator. They kicked him out of his homeland too, said he didn’t have the right permit to live there. He actually did, but they didn’t want to renew it. He was kept away from his kids for years. Eventually, he was given permission to infiltrate again, but he died a few months later, before this ruling came into effect. So maybe he became an infiltrator posthumously. I don’t know.

White phospherous raining down on Khan Younis during Israel's 2009 Gaza assault

I’m not sure when my mother stopped being a member of the community she grew up in, or a resident of the town where she was raised. Maybe it was when she fell in love with a dangerous inmate. It wasn’t a maximum security prison back in those days-he’d actually been allowed to leave Gaza to study. They met in university: she the future infiltrator, he the future prisoner. They were in love, with each other and with Palestine. And love is what screwed them up.

They decided to get married, and you just can’t do that if you’re a Palestinian. It’s not up to you to decide who you marry and where you live and where your kids will be raised or if you can even live together in your own country. That’s all up to the Zionists to decide. So they went ahead and decided that my dad can’t live in the West Bank, because he escaped from that coastal prison. The same rule applies to me, because I was born in Gaza. I tried telling them I didn’t want to be born there, that I’d wanted to be born in Fallujah like my grandfather, but it didn’t matter to them. We were both born in Gaza, so Zionism had bestowed upon us Gaza IDs to prove it. They are in Hebrew. I don’t read Hebrew.

Graffiti on wall in village of Jayyous, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
photo by Kim

So my mother went back to where she grew up with her eight siblings and countless cousins and neighbors and friends and memories and all that. She went back and tried to live her life again there in the West Bank. But history always catches up with criminals; an unseen clerk in the vast monstrosity that is the Israeli occupation authority had found her guilty of marrying the inmate a couple of decades back. Her (Hebrew) West Bank ID disappeared. She got the Gaza ID instead. And suddenly, one night as she lay asleep in her bed, she became an infiltrator in her own home, her own town, her own country.

Now she is a criminal, but it only seems fitting that a Palestinian would be a criminal for living in their own home. It happened in the lands occupied in 1948, so why shouldn’t it happen in the West Bank? I haven’t seen her for a year, because I’m not allowed in and she can’t get out. And now a mother might get torn away from her kids and sisters and nephews and nieces and sent away, or maybe even thrown in jail for seven years.

Israeli soliders invading Palestinian home
Photo: Palestine Monitor

This is life under the boot of Zionist population control. Going back to live in your hometown is now infiltrating. Marrying a Palestinian with the wrong ID gives the army the right to split up your family. You don’t decide where to live, or with whom. You can’t see your spouse or your children at will. And when someone in the occupation army decides to change the rules overnight, you know another aspect of normal living will have become criminalized.

Mohammad Alsaafin was born in the Khan Younis refugee camp and grew up in the UK and the US, before going back to Palestine for college at Birzeit.

Last update - 14:29 11/04/2010
IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank
By Amira Hass

A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.

When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.

Given the security authorities' actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip - people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children - or those born in the West Bank or abroad who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.

Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli military courts.

The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as "a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit." The order takes the original 1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states - Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

The order's language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.

The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.

Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request to delay the order, given "the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a tremendous number of people."

According to the provisions, "a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification." Such documentation, it says, must be "issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf."

The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.

The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given area, he "may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he infiltrated."

The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year sentences.)

The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.

The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.

According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation, since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since 2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the West Bank.

Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full PA control.

Another group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several years.

In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of Palestinians, however, remained classified as "illegal sojourners," including many who are not citizens of any other country.

The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion of people from their homes.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said in response, "The amendments to the order on preventing infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts' defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria. The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal sojourners in Judea and Samaria."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

BDS Legal Victory: Race harassment case against 5 Scottish Palestine solidarity activists thrown out of court

Dear friends,
the wonderful news has just come through that the case against the five Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) activists charged over their protest at a Jerusalem Quartet concert in 2008 have been cleared of all charges.

In an attempt to stop the BDS campaign, supporters of Israel have sought to intimidate Palestine solidarity activists through legal intimidation and abuse of anti-racism lawas. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS campaign notes, "This legal threat grew out of the lobby's desperation and repeated failures to stem the growth of BDS on the battlefield of logical, moral and political argumentation. Only bullying was left. And even that seems to be wearing thin, too!"

This is a substantial victory for the BDS movement and it is expected that it will have significant repercussions in relation to attempts by supports of Israel to try and criminalise legitimate protest and opposition to Israel's apartheid policies.

I have included, in addition to the article from the Edinburgh News regarding the case being thrown out, the initial report on the charges against the activists, as well as a statement issued by the five activists at the time of the charges being laid.

In solidarity,

Palestine group's race harassment case thrown out of court

Published Date: 08 April 2010

CHARGES of racially aggravated conduct against five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been thrown out by a Sheriff.

Around 60 of their supporters burst into applause when Sheriff James Scott delivered his judgement at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today.

Michael Napier, 63; Sofia Macleod, 39; Vanesa Fuertes, 35; Kevin Connor, 40; and Neil Forbes, 55, all of Edinburgh, were charged with having pursued a racially aggravated course of conduct which amounted to harassment of members of the Jerusalem String Quarter as they performed at the International Festival on 29 August, 2008, at Queen's Hall in Edinburgh.

It was alleged that, while acting together, on five separate occasions, they shouted at the players, made comments about the State of Israel which evinced malice towards them based on their membership or supposed membership of an ethnic group or nationality, disrupted the concert and struggled with security and other staff. Two alternative charges accused them of acting in a racially aggravated manner, causing or intending to cause the members of the quartet alarm and distress.

The case had been continued without plea on a number of occasions.

Mick Napier, one of the five Scottish PSC activists charged.

During legal debate earlier this year, counsel for the accused challenged the relevancy of the charges and claimed that under the European Convention of Human Rights the prosecution represented an unnecessary, illegitimate and disproportionate interference with their freedom of expression, speech and peaceful political protest. The Crown held that the charges were relevant and that the accused's rights under the Convention were "not unfettered" as the rights of one person might impinge of the rights of another.

It was alleged that during the concert there were shouts of "They are Israeli Army musicians", "Genocide in Gaza", "End Genocide in Gaza" and "Boycott Israel".

Sheriff Scott said it was clear the accused were engaged in political protest against the Israeli State and an organ of that state, the Israeli Army, concerning crimes allegedly committed by the Israeli State and its army in Gaza. The Crown, he said, claimed the accused were acting in concert on five separate occasions. He was unable, he said, to infer the five had been acting in concert and held that the disruptions had been carried out by the five individually in just under an hour during the same performance. Continuation of the prosecution was therefore not proportionate.

The Sheriff also stated that the protesters comments had been clearly directed at the State of Israel and Israeli Army. The State of Israel was not a person and the members of the quartet were not targeted as presumed citizens of Israel, but as presumed members of the Israeli Army. "It seemed to me," he said "that the procurator fiscal's attempts to squeeze malice and ill will were rather strained".

Sofia McLeod, one of the five Scottish PSC activist charged.

Sheriff Scott added that if persons on a public march designed to protest against and publicise alleged crimes committed by a state and its army were afraid to name that state for fear of being charged with racially aggravated behaviour it would render their rights under the Convention worthless. Their placards, he said, would have to read "Genocide in an unspecified part of the Middle East", "Boycott an unspecified state in the Middle East".

He said that the prosecution in its present form was unnecessary and, having concluded it was not necessary or proportionate and therefore incompetent it had to be dismissed. He discharged the complaint simpliciter.

Fiscal Depute, Graham Fraser announced that The Crown would be appealing the decision.


Activists outside of Sheriff's court

Scottish Palestine campaigners fight charges of “racial motivation"
Tuesday, 14 April 2009 17:27

Five Palestine supporters arrested last year for disrupting a concert by an Israeli group are due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday.

The campaigners, all members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), stood up during the Aug 29th Edinburgh Festival performance of the Jerusalem Quartet and made statements including “End the Siege of Gaza—Boycott Israel!”

The campaigners were originally charged with Breach of the Peace, and had been due to be tried on March 9th. However, at an Intermediate Diet one week before the trial, the Procurator Fiscal made a motion to desert that case and bring forward new charges that their Israeli boycott protest was “racially motivated”.

Sofia MacLeod, SPSC Secretary, and one of the five accused said,

“Given the absurd nature of a charge clearly designed to criminalise the growing campaign to boycott Apartheid Israel until it respects Palestinian human rights, rather than oppose the new charges, we welcomed the opportunity to highlight that to boycott Israel is the opposite of racist.”

Scottish Palestine solidarity activists

Late last year, the UN General Assembly President, Miguel d’escoto Brockmann, was condemned by pro-Israel groups when he described Israel as “apartheid” and recommended that the UN follow “the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign [to that used against Apartheid South Africa] of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”

Campaign chair and fellow accused, Mick Napier, said, “The International Court of Justice advised in 2004 that signatories to the Geneva Conventions (including the UK) have an obligation to act to ensure that Israel dismantles its illegal settlements and the Apartheid separation wall that steals yet more Palestinian land.

“With the complete failure by the UK and other governments to fulfill those obligations, Israel feels able to break international law with impunity. The devastating result is what we saw in Gaza earlier this year with a death toll in excess of 1300, including 300 children. If our government won’t act to uphold international law, the responsibility falls on ordinary citizens through our power of protest and boycott.”

No Jerusalem Quartet flyer

Local Jewish writer and journalist, and honorary president of the SPSC, Marion Woolfson, described the latest charges against her fellow campaigners as “ridiculous”.

“It would have been absurd to label Peter Hain and Desmond Tutu etc as racist for pushing the successful boycott of Apartheid South Africa; clearly they were anti-racist. Those who use boycott to pressure Israel are similarly anti-racist.”

Before the concert, Woolfson had called on Edinburgh Festival organisers to rescind the invitation to the Israeli musicians. In a letter to the Queen’s Hall venue, she wrote, “I simply cannot understand why you should have invited the representatives of a country that practices ethnic cleansing and a form of apartheid which even those who have lived in South Africa have said is worse than anything thought up by the former rulers of their country.”

However, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor condemned the action of the Scottish pro-Palestine group, telling the Jewish Chronicle “We must not give in to the attempts to sabotage the marketing of Israeli art and culture in Britain.”


Appeal for support by activists on trial for 'racism'!

An arrest warrant was issued at Friday's court hearing against Sofiah MacLeod, Scottish PSC Secretary currently in Palestine witnessing Israel's racist dispossesion of Palestinians. Sofiah will bring her recent experiences of Israeli state-driven racism when she goes on trial accused of 'racism'. Three of the other four accused will similarly produce evidence from first-hand experience of Israel's programme of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

On trial for ‘racially aggravated conduct’ are five Scots who responded to the Palestinian appeal for boycott of Israel. We protested a visit by the Israeli state-sponsored Jerusalem Quartet to the 2008 Edinburgh International Festival. Next appearance in Edinburgh Sherriff Court is on Thursday October 1st, when our lawyers will argue to dismiss the case against us .

The Scottish legal authorities will attempt to prove that shouting 'End the siege of Gaza', and 'Boycott Israel' equals 'racism'. We five will argue that boycott of Israel is a duty while that State violates every canon of international law.

This is a political show-trial, encouraged by the stated positions of the British Government, and is aimed at intimidating Palestine supporters. We shall certainly not be intimdated: last year we saw off some Zionist rascals from SCoJeC (Scottish Council of Jewish Communities) who were unwise enough to claim in print that Scottish PSC is anti-Semitic. They then had to pulp 6,000 copies of a book, Scotland's Jews, in open admission that the claim was without foundation and libellous.

We will show in our defence/attack that

* we are bound to oppose grave Israeli crimes and British Government complicity in those crimes, including political, diplomatic, economic and military support for Israeli Governments
* the nearest domestic political equivalent in Britain to the factions in the Israeli Government is the neo-Nazi British National Party (BNP)
* Israel is an apartheid state as defined in international law
* the Palestinian-inspired BDS campaign is a duty for consistent supporters of human rights, i.e. those who repudiate a racist attitude that Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans and others have a lesser entitlement that others
* the Jerusalem Quartet are indeed, as we claim, institutionally linked to the Israeli Army and its State, and thus to be boycotted by human rights supporters

Expert witnesses - Palestinians, Israelis and others - will show that the growing support for the Palestinian BDS appeal is justified by

* the history of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Zionist movement and its State from 1948 to the present
* the conscious determination of the Israeli State to continue with further criminal acts of ethnic cleansing
* the failure of the British Government to honour its international legal obligations to opppose Israeli apartheid, specifically the illegal Wall and settlement building

Witnesses who have agreed to give expert evidence or personal testimonies for the defence include:

* Leila Khaled, Palestinian refugee and resistance fighter, Member of Palestinian National Council
* Dr. Ghada Karmi, Palestinian writer and academic
* Omar Barghouti PACBI (Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott)
* Dr. Hisham Genayem, Palestinian refugee and surgeon
* Dr. Moshe Machover, Israeli academic and anti-Zionist political activist
* Dr. Michael Kearney, University of York (t.b.c)
* Dr. Keith Hammond, University of Glasgow
* Yael Kahn, Israeli human rights activist
* Marion Woolfson, Hon. President of Scottish PSC
* Liz Elkind, ex-President of the STUC, moved successful report and recommendation for BDS at STUC 2009 Perth Conference
* Tony Greenstein, (JBIG) Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
* Rt. Hon. Peter Hain MP, veteran anti-apartheid campaigner in the 70's, Chair of Stop All Racist Tours (awaiting reply)
* Members of the public who witnessed the protest during the performance
* BBC sound technicians who recorded the entire event (awaiting reply)

We are asking supporters to

* send letters of support to
* invite one of the accused to speak and explain the background and aims of the campaign to your trade union, political party branch, mosque, church or campaign group
* turn up outside, and inside, the Court on October 1st and later sessions
* make a donation to the campaign (Judge Horseburgh criticised the Legal Aid board severely for refusal to provide legal aid to one of the accused.)
* boycott everything Israeli, except those Israelis supporting Palestinian human and national rights
* join the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign to help us build this campaign

Friday, April 2, 2010

Israel continues illegal settlement building

Dear friends,
I have been a little slow in posting up my article from the March 2010 issue of Direct Action, due to be flat out since I returned from the Occupied West Bank.

The article looks at the issue of Israel's illegal settlement building, the Israel - Palestinian Authority "proximity talks" and Salam Fayyad's economic policies.

in solidarity, Kim


Direct Action Issue 20: March 2010
Israel continues illegal settlement building
By Kim Bullimore

Last November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his government would be implementing a 10 month “settlement freeze” as a supposed concession to calls by US President Barack Obama for a halt to the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) so as to clear the way for a resumption of “peace” talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Construction of such settlements are illegal under international law because they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, on protection of civilians in time of war. That document, adopted in 1949, specifies that the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. In May 28, 2009, Obama told Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas that his administration would press Israel to meet its obligations under a 2003 “road map for peace” endorsed by the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia, which included stopping the construction of new settlements and the expansion of existing settlements, which by that time housed close to 500,000 Israeli citizens in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Non-violent demonstration by the villagers of An Nabi Saleh (Occupied West Bank) about creeping settlement expansion and stealing of their lands. The illegal colony of Halamish is in the background.

According to a Settlement Watch report published in February 2010 by the Israeli Peace Now group there have been repeated violations of the supposed settlement freeze announced by Netanyahi. The report noted that in response to a parliamentary question, “Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai admitted that 29 settlements [had] breached the settlement freeze order”. 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 OPT, also noted that much of the illegal settlement activity was carried out under the cover of darkness.

Veteran Israeli journalist, Akiva Eldar, similarly noted his January 26 Tel Aviv Haaretz column that settlement construction had proceeded with little hindrance since Netanyahu announced the freeze. According to Eldar, “Two months after the government decision on November 26 to freeze construction in Jewish settlements for 10 months, you’d have to be blind, an idiot, or a member of the Yesha Council of settlements to use the term ‘freeze’ to describe the real estate situation in Judea and Samaria” (the Zionists’ name for the West Bank). Eldar went onto note that two days earlier, Netanyahu had planted a tree in the illegal Israeli settler-colony of Gush Etzion and promised to plant more trees in the illegal Ariel settlement block. Eldar pointed out that “in the case of Ariel, Netanyahu kept his word even before he gave it; as he was speaking yellow bulldozers were feverishly working on a new site for Ariel’s industrial zone”.

PA backdown imminent

Despite evidence that Israel has failed to halt settlement construction, the PA President Abbas and his unelected prime minister, Salam Fayyad, have made a number of public statements in recent weeks that indicate they are willing to succumb to pressure from Washington to resume the failed “peace” negotiations. On February 8, Haaretz reported that reliable sources in the PA had told it that Abbas had agreed to start “proximity” talks with Israel by the end of February. Such talks would mean that Israeli and Palestinian official negotiators would not meet face to face, but instead would engage in indirect talks with US officials acting as go-betweens.

Despite denials by Fatah and PA representatives that Abbas is prepared to renege on his previous stance that the PA would not engage with Israel until Netanyahu fully enacted a settlement freeze, Abbas has made a number of statements that indicate that he is prepared to return to the negotiating table without any preconditions. Thus, on February 9, while in Toyko, Abbas told the international news media that the “Palestinian side has not set any conditions in particular”, when he asked under what conditions he would accept the US proposal for “proximity” talks with Israel.

Appointed Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas

The failure of the PA to set any conditions on a return to negotiations, either direct or indirect, was also highlighted the previous day when Abbas’ unelected PA foreign minister, Riyad al Malki, made no mention of conditions when discussing the possibility of proximity talks. Instead, he stated that such talks should simply focus on border issues and be limited to a four-month framework. In its February 11-17 edition, the Egyptian weekly, Al Ahram, argued that “Abbas wants to use the ‘indirect talks’ in order to be able to claim that he is still clinging to his earlier stance, which precludes any resumption of talks in the absence of a definitive freeze in Jewish settlement expansion”.

Al Ahram went on to correctly note that “Abbas’s willingness to resume the talks with Israel as Israel expands the pace of settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank constitutes a clear retreat and a de facto admission of weakness and defeat” by the PA. According to Ahmed Hamdan, an independent Palestinian political commentator quoted in the Al Ahram article, “This serious retreat sends a dangerous message to the Americans and the Zionists which states that the Palestinian side can be bullied into making more and more concessions on the fundamental issues, and that when the Palestinians say ‘no’ it doesn’t mean that this is their final position.” This message was being heard loud and clear by the Netanyahu government. In an interview with Haaretz, published on February 22, Netanyahu told journalist Ari Shavit that he believed that the Palestinians “may be backing down” as there was “signs that negotiations with them will begin in the foreseeable future”.

Fayyad’s ‘economic peace’ policies

Abbas’ imminent back down and return to the failed peace negotiations will do little to advance the Palestinian struggle for national sovereignty. Instead his retreat, along with the economic policies currently being pushed by the Fayyad-led PA, will simply result in a deepening entrenchment of Israel’s illegal occupation in the West Bank. With the endorsement of Israel, the US and the EU, over the past year Fayyad has sought to implement a policy that reflects the call by Netanyahu in June 2009 to create an “economic peace”, while allowing Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian lands to continue unabated.

In a February 10 article on the Electronic Intifada website, Ziyaad Lunat noted that Fayyad’s economic policies were resulting in “a division being fostered between the urban and the rural populations. The Palestinians living in the 60 percent of the West Bank officially controlled by Israel, also known as Area C, are continuously dispossessed of their land and gradually being pushed to PA-controlled enclaves. The almost exclusive focus of Fayyad’s plan on the service sector, while ignoring the farming community, will inadvertently lead to acceleration of desertification of the rural areas as the young are pulled to new jobs in the city. The Bantustanization process is accelerating with the construction of Israel’s apartheid wall. The rural population, represented by the popular committees, is now leading resistance against Israel’s encroachment. They have been left without effective political representation, finding themselves in the front line of Israel’s annexationist policies. These two dichotomous realities, the urban and the rural, have left certain sectors of the population in urban centers like Ramallah to be completely oblivious to these struggles only a few miles away.”

Furthermore, the Abbas-Fayyad-led PA security forces are assisting tighter control by Israel of the West Bank. Rather than opposing Israel’s occupation, the primary role of the PA security forces today is ensure that any resistance to Israel’s occupation is squashed. In a February 13 article in Haaretz, Professor Sari Nusseibeh, president of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University, contradicted the developing PA-Israeli-US promoted myth that Fayyad is a Palestinian “Ben Gurion”. Instead, Nusseibeh noted that Fayyad’s policies have done little to build an independent Palestinian state but also done little to challenge Israel’s control of the occupied West Bank. Nusseibeh argued that “the PA should shut its offices and demand Israel annex the territories and give civil rights to the Palestinians”.

PA Security Forces try to break up non-violent Palestinian demonsration in Occupied Bethlehem

Having successfully used the PA and its security forces to disarm and squash the Palestinian armed resistance in the West Bank, Israel is now stepping up its attacks on the Palestinian non-violent resistance, arresting many of its leaders in recent months. Those arrested include Jamal Juma from the Palestinian Stop the Wall campaign, Abdullah Abu Rahme, one of the leaders of the Bil’in non-violent popular struggle, as well as other leaders of the Bil’in struggle, including Mohammed Khatib and Adeb Abu Rahme. Also arrested have been leaders of the non-violent struggle in Nablus and Mohammad Othman, a leader of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid campaign.

In recent weeks, Israel has also staged three illegal raids into Ramallah, arresting three international activists, including Australian Bridget Chappell, who have been working with the International Solidarity Movement. In Occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli anti-occupation activists campaigning in solidarity with Palestinians who have been evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood to make way for illegal Israel settlers, have also faced mass arrest at the weekly demonstrations in the neighbourhood.

Detained International Solidarity Movement activists:
Ari Jove Marti (from Spain) and Bridget Chappell (from Australia)