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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The personal story is second to the end.

Well, in the past Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush 1 and even Bush 2 have at times withdrawn aid or reduced loan agreements, prevented the export of cluster bombs, condemned or verbally disciplined Israel over many of its actions as can be seen in an Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU) report up to 2002, here. It seems Obama so far is not willing to enter similar waters. This reflection from an Egyptian columnist seems reflection he thinks wise to tune out (Why the Muslim World Can't Hear Obama, New York Times, Alaa Al AlSwany, Feb 7, 2009), though the article still holds some hope.

We saw Mr. Obama as a symbol of this justice. We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza. Even before he officially took office, we expected him to take a stand against Israel’s war on Gaza. We still hope that he will condemn, if only with simple words, this massacre that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians. (I don’t know what you call it in other languages, but in Egypt we call this a massacre.) We expected him to address the reports that the Israeli military illegally used white phosphorus against the people of Gaza. We also wanted Mr. Obama, who studied law and political science at the greatest American universities, to recognize what we see as a simple, essential truth: the right of people in an occupied territory to resist military occupation.

But Mr. Obama has been silent. So his brilliantly written Inaugural Speech did not leave a big impression on Egyptians. We had already begun to tune out. We were beginning to recognize how far the distance is between the great American values that Mr. Obama embodies, and what can actually be accomplished in a country where support for Israel seems to transcend human rights and international law
This was said of Colin Powell in 2001:
... perhaps more than other senior official [sic], Secretary Powell has recognized the deep resentment and anger in the Arab and Muslim world toward the United States because of the Palestinian crisis. Asked by the Jazeera television network six days after the attacks why America is hated in the Muslim world, Secretary Powell acknowledged that violence in the Middle East had created a ''sense of hopelessness'' and that terrorism is fueled by these ''grievances.''

In the interview, Secretary Powell stressed that it was ''essential to move quickly in order to jump-start the Palestinian economy again, let people get to work and remove the level of humiliation that exists in the region.'' That reality ''adds to the anxiety and the aggressive activity and behavior on the part of so many people,'' he said.
(Powell Poised To Announce New Strategy In Middle East, New York Times, November 15, 2001).
I wonder what happened to that strategy?

Earlier that year, in May 2001 the U.S. was voted off the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for the first time since the committee’s establishment in 1947. The AMEU claims that "The Financial Times of London suggest[ed] that Washington, by vetoing U.N. resolutions alleging Israeli human rights abuses, showed its inability to work impartially in the area of human rights. Secretary of State Colin Powell suggests the vote was because “we left a little blood on the floor” in votes involving the Palestinians (House Threatens To Hold U.N. Dues in Loss of a Seat, David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 9, 2001). The Financial Times articles only go back to 2004, but Powell's words can be verified through the New York Times, though the article hardly dwells on them.

It would seem that if some fairness were shown, especially in the Israeli-Palestine conflict, crisis, call it what you will, everyone would be a lot less at risk. Everyone.

Well, it's difficult to fight money, and it's difficult to fight fanatics (Kahane won, Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, February 10, 2009), and when the fanatics are fully backed financially, it's almost damned near impossible. This 2008 CRS report, U.S. aid to Israel, shows that there is little hope really to expect the U.S. to do little other than encourage the current conflict, whether that is their desire or not, it is the definite result. An interesting 2008 article here.

Encouragingly, there are some protests across the U.S. in the BDS movement, and also at some colleges. More so in the U.K. where the following has occurred:

Around the UK, thousands of students have occupied lecture theatres, offices and other buildings at more than 20 universities in sit-down protests. It seems that the spirit of 1968 has returned to the campus.

Beginning with a 24-hour occupation at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on 13 January, the sit-ins spread across the country. Now occupations have been held at the LSE, Essex, King's College London, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Manchester, Strathclyde, Newcastle, Kingston, Goldsmiths and Glasgow.

Among the demands of students are disinvestment in the arms trade; the promise to provide scholarships for Palestinian students; a pledge to send books and unused computers to Palestine; and to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza.

"This is something different to anything we've seen for a long time," ... "There is genuine fury at what Israel did."

Establishments that have not previously been known for their activism have also become involved. Fran Legg was one of several students to set up the first Stop the War Coalition at Queen Mary, a research-focused university in London, a month ago. Now they are inundated with interest
(Students are revolting; The spirit of 68 is reawakening, The Independent, 8 February, 2009).
Maybe there is hope. Anyway stories always tell the tale better. A bone of contention has always been the building of illegal settlements, and the development of the apartheid wall throughout the occupied territories. Well, at least they are things that the U.S. government has occasionally condemned and even withdrawn aid to Israel for, due to their development and spread. So here, after a little more rambling from me, is a story from a friend of mine.

I used to work in Oman, and I shared an office with him and another teacher for six months. He is Palestinian and grew up under the occupation. His parents had a farm in Qabatya. He did his undergraduate studies in Manila and his postgraduate studies in India. He now has a Jordanian passport, and that is where he returns on his holidays with his wife and children. He used to make me laugh a lot. He was a witty, generous and thoughtful friend. This is from an email he sent me a short while ago:

One time in 1986 0r 1987, I don't remember very well, when I was in Manila, my older brother (Shaheen), he is 2 years older than me, was driving his car in Qabatya town in the West Bank when an Israeli car deliberately crashed into him. He almost died. His two thighs (legs) were severely broken. The hospital in my district (Jenin) refused to admit him because of the seriousness of his case, so they transferred him to another city called Nablus. A doctor performed an operation on Shaheen. He stayed in the hospital more than six months. Belal [my friend's younger brother] was very young at that time. He left his school and stayed home all the time to look after Shaheen in the hospital. After Shaheen left the hospital he stayed in bed at my parents' house in Qabatya for more than a year. and then for more than a year he used to walk on sticks. The doctor who did the operation is the best doctor in Palestine his name is Dr. Mahmoud. Now Shaheen's legs are very good, and I guess he does not have any problem with them at all.
My friend's family is lucky it has money, I would say. The settlers are not gentle souls. The land they are on, is not theirs, though they will claim that God gave it to them. Yet, expansion into the lands is encouraged. Most are immigrants, particularly from Russia, and there are many Americans among them too. Probably some Australians as well, given their prominence as military mouthpieces at the moment. The CRS report linked before talks of them, and so do the blogs listed in the volunteers section of the blog roll, on the left, and the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem. I know we took land from the Aboriginal people, the Maori people, and the Native American people, and committed genocide left, right and centre. Does that condone these actions now? Doesn't time and human awareness march on and evolve? Plus, bad and shocking as that was, it was done without the gaze of the world, and the subsequent, more than likely, anger of a large proportion of the world. This is a fairly young crisis. Don't be fooled. 100, 60, or 40 years old, depending upon which standpoint you take your history from. The late 1880s were when the Zionists started coming into the area. The pictures below and above are of Palestinians being displaced from their lands, by the way, not of Zionists and displaced Jews (from Europe after the Nazi atrocities) coming into the land.

From the United Nations:
One of the two States envisaged in the partition plan proclaimed its independence as Israel and in the 1948 war expanded to occupy 77 per cent of the territory of Palestine. Israel also occupied the larger part of Jerusalem. Over half of the indigenous Palestinian population fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt occupied the other parts of the territory assigned by the partition resolution to the Palestinian Arab State which did not come into being.

In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the remaining territory of Palestine, until then under Jordanian and Egyptian control (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This included the remaining part of Jerusalem, which was subsequently annexed by Israel. The war brought about a second exodus of Palestinians, estimated at half a million. Security Council resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 called on Israel to withdraw from territories it had occupied in the 1967 conflict
The Palestinians don't call it Nakba (the catastrophe) for nothing.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

People can also donate to the American Friends Service Committee;

We've worked in Gaza for 60 years, and our staff members are re-evaluating our projects and overseeing the distribution of humanitarian supplies.

Our funds will also be used to help rebuild Al Ahli hospital.


this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr