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

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Sunday, 23 August 2009

who by fire? - amnesty international steps out of and up to the fray

Doesn't seem the right time to tour Israel, Leonard.
With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an institutional academic and cultural boycott. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Palestinian boycott calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.
An artist has to make a living, it is true. However, it seems that prominent artists (such as Ken Loach) and intellectuals (such as Naomi Klein) are lending their weight to the BDS campaign which is hoping to end the injustice occurring in Palestine due to the Israeli occupation. Our governments and mass media totally whitewash the situation in the region, and actively support the occupation with their silence in the face of human rights abuse, with their foreign aid, and with their support of all Israeli actions regarding Palestine, no matter the methods or the consequences.

Amnesty International has now withdrawn from a "Cohen concert initiative" which was to see some of the funds of the Israeli concert go to groups working towards peace in the area. Palestinian groups were supposedly represented, but according to the article linked to, were not. The Palestinian-Israeli group, Combatants for Peace, who were to be one of the beneficiaries decided to not participate in the initiative as they felt the action of boycott sent a stronger message.

Considering that Amnesty and any NPO is always hard-up for cash, the stand taken is not only quite admirable, but also indicative of the strength the BDS campaign is gaining. September is just around the corner. I guess Cohen's concert is going ahead. I think the right call to make at the moment is to boycott, but I also think that art and music can generally do much to remind us of peace. However, Cohen's songs are not going to bring about the end of the occupation or brutality, but a boycott would bring the issue to light in many (but definitely not enough) quarters.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

If we want to be a real ally to the US, if we want justice and peace, we have an opportunity

I mention ex-prime minister, Malcolm Fraser's article as published in the Age, August 11, 2009 and on the Australian All website, in the post below.

Seeing as I think that Rudd is hoping to outlast Obama, much to my chagrin and shame, though he doesn't seem to have any, I think it is worth posting Fraser's article in full. Considering deputy prime minister, Gillard and countless others take junkets to Israel and the media assists them in averting their eyes from what is going on in the occupied territories and Israel itself, people like Malcolm Fraser are one of the rarest of breeds in politics. A good man. Human.

Australia Can Take a Stand on Talks with Hamas
Malcolm Fraser
First published in The Age 11 August 2009

Barack Obama's election as US President was hailed around the world. He gave many people hope that the US would lead all of us to a new age of enlightenment.

Internationally, Obama has to deal with the fallout of Bush administration policies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also, more vigorously than any other president, tackling problems between Israel and the Palestinians. While the security of Israel must be inviolate, he has also made it clear that expansion of settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem must stop.

Too many Israelis believe that Muslims generally will not accept the fact of Israel's existence and that their objective is to establish a fundamental Islamic domination of the entire region, and thus the destruction of Israel. Such arguments exhibit a fatal hopelessness.

Even though Israel has defence guarantees from the US, it has not relied on that commitment and has instead pursued its own substantial nuclear arsenal.
Having refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel's nuclear program is not subject to international inspection, supervision or criticism. But its actions promote proliferation and have clearly influenced Iran.

There is significant debate within Israel itself about policy regarding the Palestinians. However, attempts by others to debate issues relating to Israel and the Palestinians, and most recently Israel's attacks in Gaza, often lead to a charge of anti-Semitism.

Those who believe Israel's policies are misguided should not remain silent and governments should not be locked into uncritical support of Israel. Let me give one example.

After Hamas won a legitimate democratic election in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel and the US led the international community to isolate Hamas and diminish its ability to negotiate by requiring the organisation to forswear violence and recognise Israel's rights before any talks could begin.

Obama has suggested he might have a different approach. He believes that the US should talk to potential enemies to see if some area of agreement can be reached. This is similar to the attitude that president Eisenhower and subsequent presidents took in relation to the Soviet Union. Little by little agreements were reached.

The Baker-Hamilton report in the closing stages of the Bush administration recommended that all parties in the Middle East be involved in a search for a peaceful solution. James Baker himself defended the need to talk to all parties and gave instances from his own experience where that had led to success.

The International Crisis Group, until recently led by Gareth Evans, also believes that the isolation of Hamas should be ended, and that peace will not be advanced under current policies. There are many Americans on the board of the International Crisis Group.

More and more influential people support such views in relation to Hamas. After the election that led to their total isolation, it would have been possible to say: ''From our perspective certain of your views will have to change but you have won a legitimate election, we welcome your participation in the democratic process and therefore we will get into the room with you to see if there are areas of agreement between us.''

But Hamas was isolated, violence - predictably - resumed and the whole region paid the price.

Israel and America also made attempts to strengthen Fatah, to weaken or destroy Hamas. Such attempts have failed. Fatah's leadership was not up to that challenge and too many Palestinians thought that Fatah was self-serving and incompetent.
What happens now? Does Australia have a role? Do we wish to advance the Obama agenda?

Australian governments have paid lip service to even-handedness between Israel and the Palestinians. We have spoken against the expansion of settlements, but along with the rest of the world we have not been effective.

Obama is showing more resolution: can we help him? Should we help him? Cessation of settlement expansion is critical to progress. Can the Palestinians legitimately be expected to negotiate when more of the territory they believe to be theirs is taken month by month?
If there were agreement on the boundaries of a Palestinian state, Israel would have no problem about recognition. If the boundaries that existed before the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967 were accepted, negotiations would clearly move forward. But that is not the case. Progress between Israel and Palestinians is critical to peace in the Middle East and important in combating terrorism worldwide.

Australia could urge, as others have done, that Hamas be brought in from the cold. But do we have the courage? In doing so, we would be a real partner of the US contributing to peace in the Middle East and removing an important source and inspiration for fundamentalist terrorists.

Fear of criticism from the Jewish lobby in Australia has so far prevented Australian governments taking effective action. If we want to be a real ally to the US, if we want justice and peace, we have an opportunity.
About Malcolm Fraser
Malcolm Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983.

darkly funny, funnily dark

Darkly funny, funnily dark. Via Ben White's blog, and Israeli T.V. Ben White is very pithy. Worth checking out.


Announcer: In 1948, Israel declared independence. The following day, IDF forces

entered the Palestinian villages.

Palestinian: Wa, salaam aleikum, my friend, good morning, mazal tov on the state,

have a great time.

Jew: Thank you, wise Palestinian. But we still don’t know where we’ll live.

Palestinian: Walla, take our village. Here are the keys. We were thinking of leaving

anyway; after all, we’ve got 22 more countries.

Tall soldier: Nice Palestinian, are you sure you don’t want to remain in your home?

We can live together; there’s enough room for everyone.

Palestinian: You know what we Palestinians are like. We’ve got an urge to wander.

What’s that we say? Hoo-wha, hoo-wha, a voice calls, to roam, to


Jew: Ok, if that’s the way things are we’ll honor your request and take over your

homes. Goodbye, wise Palestinian. (Read more, it doesn't stop there.)


Fraser, one of Australia's ex-prime ministers, has been urging a balanced role in dealing with Gaza and Israel and has urged Australians to support Obama on this issue, as Obama has come across as the strongest President, since Eisenhower on the issue of trying to stem somewhat human rights abuses in the area. Not trying to stem aid, though, of course.

He also questions Australia's blind support for Israel. Rightly so, to my mind.

The typical responses have been found in the letters pages, but positive ones also. If you visit either Australians for Palestine, or Antony Loewenstein's blog you will find the original article and the letters. The original article is also at Malcolm Fraser's website, Australians All.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

please Mrs. Clinton

A protest vigil with the evicted families of Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, 10/08/09
Demonstrators hold a sign as Israeli and foreign peace activists join Palestinians in a candlelight vigil in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah on August 10, 2009 to protest against the eviction of two Palestinian families from their homes. Israeli riot police evicted the Hanun and Ghawi families on August 2, defying international protests over Jewish settlement activity in the area.
Photo by: Keren Manor/
For more information on the housing demolitions Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions and A Layman's guide to Home Demolitions in East Jerusalem.


Also, an interesting story about Netanyahu protesting not only about the testimonies of IDF soldiers who belong to Breaking the Silence, but to the whole organisation itself: Netanyahu's attempts to silence breaking the silence. The report is from the Jewish Voice for Peace.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

necessary wars

Two Palestinian children were injured on Tuesday evening when ordinance left behind by the Israeli army exploded in Al-Bureij Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Palestinian medical sources identified the victims as ten-year-old Khamis Abu Arab and his brother, eight-year-old Muhammad. Khamis, according to the sources, was hospitalized at a specialist eye hospital while Muhammad received treatment for light wounds and was released.
this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr