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

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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Red Cross Twitter and the Czech Republic

I just received this in my comments:
British Red Cross head of international finance, Andy Brimelaw, is visiting the Palestine Red Crescent to report on how the money has been spent. He will be twittering about his
for anyone who donated money to the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Campaign as detailed in this post.

Also, hot on the heels of the Israeli military, after a two week investigation, declaring that there were no war crimes committed in Gaza, despite evidence to the contrary, and the testimony of their own soldiers (view this post and this post), there comes news that:
... Israeli policies have been criticised by the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency.

A planned EU-Israel summit is unlikely to take place in the next three months, Karel Schwarzenberg said on Tuesday.

"We are not happy with some of the steps of the Israeli government, namely construction works close to Jerusalem but also access to Gaza, which is today very limited," the Czech daily Lidove Noviny quoted Schwarzenberg as saying.
[My emphasis]
Well, good. Though many people say that the situation can only ever improve in Israel and Palestine if the United States comes on board, considering the huge amount of aid they provide Israel with, and the almost blanket support of Israel in that country's mainstream press.

Durban 2 -  Americans who want Obama to attend

This open letter was sent to President Obama from many concerned human rights groups and individuals in the United States who would like him, or his representatives, to attend the Durban 2 conference on racism. I would very much like Australia to attend, too, though it has threatened not to. America has said it will boycott. It was published in Ha'aretz. I will publish it in full:

Open Letter to President Barack Obama

This is a letter written by dozens of human rights groups and activists in the United States, urging President Barack Obama to rethink his decision to boycott the United Nations-sponsored anti-racism conference.

Why the United States Should Stop Refusing to Participate in a Global Conference on Racism

Dear President Barack Obama,We, the undersigned individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting racial injustice and promoting human rights domestically and globally received your recent decision to boycott the Durban Review Conference with profound disappointment.

Recognizing that your stated objections to the conference have been addressed, we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings scheduled to take place in April.

Refusing to Discuss Racism on a Global Platform is Inconsistent with a Policy of Engagement with the International Community

As you know, the Durban Review Conference is one of the most important international platforms for discussing the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. Given the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, your Administration has much to contribute to this discussion. A boycott would be inconsistent with your policy of engagement with the international community. A policy of engagement requires discussion with governments and institutions even if one does not agree with them as demonstrated by your statement last week to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran that your Administration is committed to seeking "engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect." How can your Administration engage in any manner with the international community if it has no representation at the discussion table?

The United States Should be Fighting for the Strongest Protections against Racism

The Durban Review process has offered a sophisticated and comprehensive framework for advancing racial equality including concrete guidelines for addressing the link between poverty, racism, sexism, and multiple forms of discrimination; advancing migrant rights; addressing youth violence; providing access to quality education, health care, and adequate housing; and advancing transparent governance in the fight for racial equality. We expect your Administration will not only engage in the process but will also work to ensure that the final outcome offers the strongest and most comprehensive framework for eliminating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. This is critical for progress in the domestic and global fight for racial and economic justice.

Specific Objections Raised do not Warrant a Boycott

We are concerned by the reasons put forth by your Administration for its refusal to engage in the conference. Notwithstanding that changes have been made to accommodate your Administration's specific objections, we do not believe that these objections should warrant a decision to boycott the conference. As we mentioned before, you recently demonstrated your Administration's willingness to engage in dialogue with governments with which you do not always agree such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we applaud that decision. Why would your Administration pursue a different policy now that it is time to discuss how to fight and eliminate racism for people in the United States and the rest of the world? How can the United States affirm freedom of expression - even for hate speech - if it refuses even to be present to listen to the views of others?

The United States Must Not Attempt to Ignore our History of Slavery

We are troubled that your Administration pushed for the withdrawal of language related to reparations, reference to the transatlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity, and the overall weakening of the efforts related to people of African Descent. We recall your own speech on March 18, 2008 that we need to "remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow." We also urge you to consider the bill H.R. 40 reintroduced by Representative Conyers in January calling for the establishment of a commission to examine the institution of slavery and current forms of racial discrimination, as well as to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies. We believe it will help illuminate the importance of discussing these issues both in the United States and globally.

The United States Must Engage the Global Fight for Racial Justice in Good Faith

It is regrettable that your Administration made its current decision on whether to participate in the Durban Review Conference based on one meeting. One meeting is inadequate for meaningful engagement in the process especially since the process has been ongoing since 2006 not including the time and preparation put into the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). The actions of your Administration leave the impression that you are willing to ignore an important opportunity to advance racial equality if it is politically expedient.

The Current Position of Non-Participation is worse than that of the Bush Administration

A boycott by your Administration would be the first time in recent history that the United States has refused to participate in a United Nations conference. This position is even more radical than that of the Bush Administration's as the former Administration at least attended the preceding conference on race before withdrawing. We hope that your Administration will not squander this important opportunity to push for racial equality on the global stage and will instead send a diverse and high-level delegation including representatives from the non-governmental community.

A United States Refusal to Discuss Racism Encourages Other Countries to do the same

The current decision by your Administration not only affects the United States, but also provides cover for other countries that are reluctant to engage in a meaningful discussion on advancing racial equality to boycott the discussion as well. A United States boycott would have a long-term damaging effect on the global fight against racism.

In closing, we are reminded again of a speech you made a year ago insisting that race is an issue that this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We applauded your thought-provoking speech then as it echoed basic American values of equality and fairness and reminded us of the importance of engaging in mature and constructive dialogue on race. We urge you not to ignore this global discussion on race. This is an issue that is extremely important for making genuine progress in the United States and advancing peace worldwide. It is also a priority for many of us who supported your campaign for change. Again, we look forward to your timely and substantive engagement in the Durban Review Conference.

The list of signatories, including the National Lawyers Guild, can be found in this Ha'aretz article. There is also commentary on it here. The Australian Jewish Democratic Society is urging attendance, pointing out that:
. . . only six of the 341 paragraphs on Durban 1 singled out Israel, while there was also a resolution stating that the Holocaust “must never be forgotten” as detailed in this post. I also talk about it here and here.

justice for none

Information on this photograph can be found at the ISM flickr photostream

Further to the post below:
Israeli military police have closed an investigation into soldiers' accounts of abuses committed in Gaza, saying they were based on hearsay Gaza soldier accounts 'hearsay', bbc, 30 March, 2009.
Right, all those human rights organisations lying yet again. Here are some of the original stories that were posted in Ha'aretz, and hereand here and here are posts on the smears that the stories then received. All the more reason that petitions such as this one from Amnesty International, urging Prime Minister Rudd to push for an investigation of 'alleged' war crimes committed in Gaza should be signed. The United Nations is very much pushing for investigations, too. Its wishes will probably be vetoed by the United States.

Note: Ha'aretz reports on the story here: Gaza probe / Either troops are liars, or the IDF is pure as snow, Amos Harel. You might also want to read a connected story by the same writer from the 19th of March when the testimonies first came out.

*2nd April, 2009: From Amnesty International on the above.

how a moral army should be investigated

Maybe there is not a single moral army in the world. More than likely, after all, the two concepts seem to kind of cancel each other out, but there are international laws that govern the rules of engagement, and recently a U.S. soldier was imprisoned for 35 years for the murder of prisoners in Iraq. This seems to be the kind of investigation that should be held into soldiers' actions, not the whitewash that promises an investigation, but never delivers, and which protects its members from investigation, or which only investigates them if there is more than enough of a public outcry, and even then, which often gives lenient or no sentences for crimes committed* (see end of this post). Spain is investigating crimes against humanity that it is alleged Israel committed in Palestine in 2002. The reason why Spain decided to pursue the investigation is due to the fact that Israel was not investigating it. B'tselem, the Israeli human rights watch, and other human rights groups issued this press release on the 19th of March, this year:
Circumstances point to the inadequacy of internal military investigations. The Military Advocate General only ordered the opening of an investigation by the Military Criminal Investigation Division following the publication of the Haaretz story, three weeks after the relevant materials reached the Chief of the General Staff. This tardiness follows a pattern of failures to investigate suspicions of serious crimes and illegitimate officer orders. Such partial investigation represents only a fraction of the necessary attention into this matter and raises suspicions that the norms of whitewashing serious crimes have spread across all ranks of the army. Read more.
Indeed, this infamous video from 2008 of a soldier shooting a handcuffed, blindfolded Palestinian detainee in the foot - was the only reason that the soldier supposedly got investigated. Strangely enough, it made it to international the news. I remember reading about it at the time. From B'Tselem:
According to press reports, the Military Police have opened an investigation and arrested the soldier who fired the shot. Apparently, until the video was aired, the army did not conduct a Military Police investigation, and settled for an operational debriefing. According to the reports, the debriefing reached the desk of the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Division Commander, who failed to inform the Military Police or the Judge Advocate General’s Office, or to take any measures against the soldier or the battalion commander. Residents of Ni’lin stated that, the day after the incident, they saw the soldier still serving in his unit.
I haven't read of any follow up. Maybe the fact that the Israeli Ministry of Justice lawyers have said:
“The State of Israel is at war with the Palestinian people, people against people, collective against collective”,
justifies every and all actions, though as stated at the beginning, democracies and signatories to the Geneva conventions and so on, surely have rules of engagement, particularly pertaining to civilians. Again, from B'Tselem:
... it is not correct to define the situation in the Occupied Territories as armed conflict. Some of the actions taking place in the Occupied Territories are indeed combat actions, but a significant number of IDF actions - at checkpoints, in dispersing demonstrations in which the Palestinian side does not open fire, in arresting Palestinians - are normal police actions of the kind that were carried out by soldiers in the first intifada. Furthermore, even if the situation is one of armed conflict, the army is still required to investigate attacks on civilians. Armed conflict, too, has rules, and intentional attacks on the civilian population are forbidden. To ensure that soldiers comply with these rules, such incidents must be investigated.
If you look at Alison Weir's video below, Off the charts, even before this Gaza offensive, the number of Palestinian children who died, or have been injured (losing eyes, shots to the head) is unbelievable and tragic, even in so called peace times.

The soldiers' testimonies from recent Ha'aretz articles which have been supported by human rights reports, Palestinian reports and AP reports, have been "debunked" in both the States, the blogosphere, and in elements of Israel as "hearsay", accusations of blood libel being thrown out - more likely heresy in that someone is speaking the truth. So why not investigate it, rather than throwing PR into full spin, and smearing everyone who speaks out? What is there to hide?

As an endnote, the sentences handed out to settlers who murder Palestinians are laughable, also.
...[E]mergency laws ... allow Israeli civilians residing outside sovereign state territory to be tried in Israeli courts under the purview of Israeli criminal law. In contrast, Palestinian citizens are tried in military tribunals that use a different set of laws and punishments.

As such, a settler may be released on bail and given probation for a crime that would land a Palestinian in custody until the end of legal proceedings, followed by a long prison sentence. Prior proposals to transfer some cases of crimes by settlers to military court jurisdiction were rejected under defense establishment pressure
*And this from a 2007 US Department of State report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, (which also details abuses committed by the western-backed Palestinian authority, and Palestinians), part of which details the [lack of] action taken against police and soldiers in the occupied territories when they commit crimes, or within Israel itself, so the same kind of leniency will be shown to the soldiers who fought in Gaza, I expect:

On January 19, a border policeman killed Nadim Milham, an Israeli Arab, while reportedly searching for weapons in his home. A family member reported that police beat Milham and shot him when he attempted to escape; the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel (Mossawa) claimed to have evidence that Milham was shot twice from behind. On November 21, the State Prosecutor's Office indicted the policeman for manslaughter; however, there was no further action by year's end.
On August 11, an Israeli Border Police soldier fired a rubber bullet at the head of Lymor Goldstein, an Israeli demonstrator protesting construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil'in, injuring him and requiring surgery to remove the bullet. No action was taken against the police.
There were no developments in the September 2005 case in which IDF soldiers forced residents of a home in Tulkarm to undress in the street or the November 2005 report that IDF soldiers assaulted Palestinian students in Hebron.
There are many more stories and much more information in the report.

Monday, 30 March 2009

200 metres, boycotts and orchestras

The fishermen were forced at gunpoint to strip naked and swim from their boats to the Israeli warships. After being taken to Ashdod they were all released within 24 hours. The Israeli Navy have however impounded all of their boats - 7 in total.


It is unclear what the Israeli military regard as the official “forbidden” area. There are no official channels of communication open between the Israeli Navy and the fishermen from Gaza. All the information regarding this that the fishermen have is delivered at gunpoint, and is inconsistent with the actions of the gunboat crews. Experience informs the fishermen that at any moment any portion of Gaza’s territorial waters can be deemed “prohibited” by the gunboat crews, no matter how close to shore, and irrespective of what the gunboat commanders have previously decreed (the status of these decrees as both arbitrary and illegal in the context of international law should also be noted).

This uncertainty is further compounded by what the fishermen say are unusually high levels of aggression by the gunboats. On the 17th March 2009 a gunboat crew shot Deeb Alankah, in the arm and the back. He was less than 200m from shore near Beit Lahia, and says that no warning was given to him nor demand made before he was shot. Other fishermen confirm that typically when the Israeli gun boats begin shooting at them, they now do so without warning.


Israel is refusing to return the 7 fishing boats - the sole means of income for fishermen already greatly impoverished by the siege on the Gaza Strip.Read more


Taking in the above, let's hope that this report is true, Economic Boycott of Israel Works: 21% of Israeli Exporters Affected and that boycotts are having some effect. I guess with foreign aid guaranteed, it might not make too much difference. __________________________________________________________________

Palestinian authorities have seen to the disbanding of a Palestinian Youth Orchestra who played for Holocaust survivors in Israel. A spokesperson said:

"The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves," Hindi said. "We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we've lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years."
It seems that no-one was in the know, except for their teacher and the charity which organised the performance. Too sad, especially considering the Ni'lin paid tribute to the Jewish victims of the in February by holding a well-attended exhibition.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


A great post at Tikun Olan comparing the difference between the Israeli Ha'aretz, and the Americn NYT's Ethan Bronner's reporting on soldiers' stories of their activities in Gaza, where civilian deaths far outweighed combatant. One soldier had this to say:
“What did you think would happen?” a senior officer wondered this week. “We sent 10,000 troops into Gaza, more than 200 tanks and armored personnel carriers, 100 bulldozers. What were 100 bulldozers going to do there?”
Read the rest of Richard Silverstein's story to see if you are even getting a quarter of the story that is out there. The original (or ongoing) testimony of the soldiers is here, this is the Bronner article, and this is the AP article which verifies the IDF stories with Palestinian stories. All can be found in the Tikun Olan post linked to above.

false claims

An update on the story featured in this post, Turkey allows access to its archives.
Officials in Turkey traced the documents the lawyers requested and provided affidavits that the settlers' land claims were forged. The search of the Ottoman archives, Mr Abu Ahmad said, had failed to locate any title deeds belonging to a Jewish group for the land in Sheikh Jarrah.
The settlers who wish to build apartments on the land, claim that it was bought by Sephardi Jews in the nineteenth century. Let's see what happens now. Mrs Kurd (63) who is living in a tent on wasteland near her former home (a tent which, incidentally has been torn down six times) to protest the evictions, will never get back her husband, who was chronically ill, and died shortly after eviction. 500 residents face eviction and demolition of their homes in the Sheik Jarrah area, which is close to the old city and Palestinian (and Jewish) holy places. The U.S., unusually, has protested the proposed evictions (and I guess, actual, if we take the case of Mrs. Kurd).
*Note: April 1, useful information: A layman's guide to home demolitions in East Jerusalem

the undemocratic stance of the democrats

...yet another indication of the Democratic majority's lack of concern for human rights. [More than] A few paragraphs taken from a Huffington Post report on the 2009 Omnibus Budget Bill in the United States. The complete article does not solely deal with Israel and Palestine, but a fair bit of it does and that is what I have chosen to feature. The emphasis below are mine (apart from headings).
Sabotaging a Palestinian Unity Government

As European governments and others, recognizing that some kind of government of national unity between Fatah and the more moderate elements of Hamas is necessary for the peace process to move forward, Pelosi and her colleagues are attempting to sabotage such efforts. This year's appropriations bill prohibits any support for "any power-sharing government" in Palestine "of which Hamas is a member," unless Hamas unilaterally agrees to "recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm, and accept prior agreements, including the Roadmap."

By contrast, there are no such provisions restricting the billions of dollars of aid to the emerging coalition government in Israel, which includes far right parties that have likewise refused to recognize Palestine, renounce violence, support the disarming of allied settler militias, or accept prior agreements, including the roadmap.

In short, to Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders, Palestinians simply do not have equal rights to Israelis in terms of statehood, security, or international obligations. The Democrats are willing to sabotage any Palestinian government that dares include — even as a minority in a broad coalition —any hard-line anti-Israeli party, yet they have no problems whatsoever in pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into supporting an Israeli government dominated by hard-line anti-Palestinian parties.

There's a word for such double-standards: racism.

Other Anti-Palestinian Provisions

Migration and refugee assistance are other areas where the anti-Palestinian bias of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders becomes apparent. There are dozens of countries in which the United Nations, assisted in part through U.S. aid, is involved in relief operations, including those dealing with Rwandans, Kurds, Congolese, Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, and other refugee populations from which terrorist groups operate or have operated in the recent past. However, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have determined that it's among Palestinian refugees alone that the State Department is required to work with the UN and host governments "to develop a strategy for identifying individuals known to have engaged in terrorist activities."

Pelosi's bill stipulates that not less than $30 million in funds for migration and refugee assistance should be made available for refugee resettlement in Israel. None of the other 192 recognized states in the world are specifically earmarked to receive this kind of funding, which is normally made available on assessment of humanitarian need. In recent years, successive Israeli governments have encouraged immigrants to live in subsidized Jewish-only settlements, illegally constructed on confiscated land in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights, in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. The inclusion of this funding is widely interpreted as an effort by Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers to encourage further Israeli colonization in occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory so as to decrease the likelihood of a peace settlement.

Only $75 million in aid is allocated to the West Bank and none of it is allocated to the Palestinian Authority itself. In contrast, annual U.S. economic assistance to Israel (which doesn't include the billions in military aid) goes directly to the Israeli government and has usually totaled more than 15 times that amount, even though the per-capita income of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is less than one-twentieth that of Israeli Jews.

Pelosi's bill contains lengthy and detailed conditions and restrictions on programs in the West Bank, with extensive vetting, reporting, and auditing requirements required for no other place in the world. This year's bill adds requirements that all funds are subjected to the regular notification procedures, also an unprecedented requirement. There are also a number of other stipulations not found for any other nations, such as the provision banning any assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation .

Despite all the additional administrative costs such restrictions require, the bill caps administrative expenses at $2 million; no such limitations exist involving aid to any other nation.

The Democrats' goal appears to be to make it all the more difficult for Palestinians — already suffering under U.S.-backed Israeli sieges — to meet even their most basic needs for health care, education, housing, and economic development.

One target of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is the Palestinians' desire to regain the Arab-populated sections of East Jerusalem, which have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. In addition to its religious significance for both Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims, Jerusalem has long been the most important cultural, commercial, political, and educational center for Palestinians and has the largest Palestinian population of any city in the world. Given the city's significance to both populations, any sustainable peace agreement would need to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city for both Israel and Palestine.

In an apparent effort to delegitimize any Palestinian claims to their occupied capital, however, Pelosi's bill prohibits any "meetings between officers and employees of the United States and officials of the Palestinian Authority, or any successor Palestinian governing entity" in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem "for the purpose of conducting official United States Government business with such authority." Even if the Israelis do agree to end their occupation of Arab East Jerusalem, Pelosi and the Democrats have inserted language that no funds could be used to create any new U.S. government offices in Jerusalem that would interact with the Palestinian Authority or any successor Palestinian government entity
But wait, there is some good news:
Most significant is a provision banning nearly all cluster-bomb exports to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, an initiative which had been defeated during the last session of Congress thanks to near-unanimous Republican opposition, as well as negative votes from such leading Democratic senators as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Obama — who, in contrast, voted in favor of the resolution — apparently helped to insure the inclusion of this provision in the bill, which has been applauded by human rights groups. [My note: Israel used cluster bombs in the war on Gaza; Australia signed a convention banning their use in late 2008]

Meanwhile, a number of additional anti-Palestinian amendments introduced from the floor by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) were voted down after vigorous lobbying by Americans for Peace Now and other liberal groups.[Yaaay! - me]
Conclusion (there is a lot more in the article)- I feel the last clause of the last sentence is the most pertinent:

It will be President Obama, and not the Democratic-controlled Congress, who will ultimately determine the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere in the coming years. Unfortunately, even assuming the best of intentions by a president who came to office in large part due to popular dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. policy in the region, he won't be able to fundamentally change the direction of that policy if Congress continues to pursue policies supporting militarization, occupation, and repression. Read more: The Budget's Foreign Policy Handcuffs.

a distorted issue

An older video, from 2006, I think, from an Independent American journalist, Alison Weir. She especially talks about what she didn't know, and why she didn't know more about the situation in Israel and Palestine. Like a lot of us, she used to just skip the stories, and accept the obfuscation. Her website, If Americans knew, on the side bar and contains a lot of statistics in a visual form. This was appearing to be the most distorted issue [she] had ever come across as a journalist.

Here is a direct link, if the video doesn't work . It seems to be sporadic, or it is also on youtube with expected rabid comments. I have now changed the above video to the youtube version.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

of Bedouins and broomsticks

This photo is not directly linked to the Bedouin story below, but the sentiment remains. Where is UNESCO? Where is the international community?

If it is not rampant colonialism, I don't know what it is. Though my ancestors were also rampant colonists, obviously, I hope I would have protested back then, though who knows. I can't justify it in modern times when those who know, and those who could help put a stop to it, do nothing.

On a similar tack, the Huffington Post yesterday reiterated Obama's position that said the detainees [of Guantanamo] have rights under the Geneva conventions. A former Bush administration official stated it was misguided for the administration to insist that the detainees were not subject to the Geneva Conventions or U.S. or international law.

One assumes that Obama agrees with this stance, given recognition of the rights of the detainees under the Geneva conventions was one of his first official acts. It would be nice if his government, and his administration, did less to enable a country (Israel) that flagrantly ignores the rights of the people on the land that it occupies, and did more towards working towards peace in the area by insisting, with deeds as well as words, that the declaration of human rights and other universal humanitarian resolves are not just the refuge of the occupiers and other western powers as a whole, or (hypothetically speaking) the refuge of those who might find themselves detained by a western power. That point of view is well outlined in this pdf, US/Middle-East Project: A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel Palestine Agreement, which, among other things, focuses on how much peace and goodwill adhering to United Nations resolutions would bring not just to Israel and Palestine, but to the region as a whole, thereby strengthening and supporting not only the security of the U.S., but the countries whose governments support the States. And it focuses on how time is running out. Action seems very unlikely, though, if one reads this early March article, Obama solidifies ties to Israel's military.

Links to those articles were originally found here at this British blog and at this Australian blog and at this American blog.

*Note: April 1, useful information A layman's guide to home demolitions in East Jerusalem

curious and curiouser

curious and curiouser, about the bombing of two separate vehicle convoys in Sudan in January and February of this year.

Below are some photos from the blog Tales to Tell. They show a dance troupe from Tunisia in Gaza. The resilience is amazing. The destruction of the theatre where the dance was held is distressing. There are more photos in the post, I am only showing the nicest ones which might not show you the full extent of the damage. Read more. Copyright obviously stays with the author of the blog on the photos.

Dukbe dancing

A dukbe dancer

Friday, 27 March 2009

piano lessons

I need to write at the moment. It's not crafted. It's good that I need to write. It used to be all I did and taught. Then I got back into teaching ESOL English, and it fell by the wayside. I'm not too burnt up about it. I got pretty far with my writing, including a contract with a major publisher, which they ultimately withdrew due to me mainly collapsing in on myself, I think. Now, I don't know if I have the fire that I once had to put in the hours, the sheer grit and determination it takes to write something good and long enough to make up a book that a publisher picks up. It was unsolicited, by the way. It's pretty rare that a book gets picked up that way, so yeah, I screwed up royally. But at the same time, others get back on the horse with relative ease, or never fall off, just dig their spurs in further (which makes the horse go faster, of course, or causes it to buck you off). That is the thing to do. Writing, like anything else, is practice. The yoga and meditation gurus will tell you that practice is everything. And it is. Practice and tenacity. Remember your piano teacher asking you if you had practised that week, and you always wondered how she knew that you hadn't? Well, pretty obvious, if you don't go through all the clumsy, knuckle-dragging, tedium-inducing exercises; if you don't attempt the refinement, the tinkering, you don't improve. You get rusty, clunky.

What the Net provides is instant print. Not really good. Writing becomes sloppy. Mine, anyway. I rewrite, but I publish first. So, it depends upon when you visit my blog as to whether you get the better version or not. I rewrite my non-political posts quite a lot, and the political ones too, sometimes. Even so, I know it is not the craft that it used to be. Not often. Not all the time.

This is how I wish I could draw

So, I haven't drawn any pictures for a while, either. When I stopped writing every day, I started drawing. They aren't great drawings, but they are okay. They consume my time, but I haven't really picked up my pencils for a year. I didn't have a television in Oman. I had a book of mandalas. I used to copy them into incongruent colours, and put them on the walls. And do jigsaw puzzles. Amazing German jigsaw puzzles. Laying out all the pieces on the cool floor, while goats ran up the cement stairs, and my neighbours from Kerala cooked up curries, and the Omani male students below watched loud videos, while the female students in the hostel beyond, which I could see from my roof, studied and gossiped.

How I actually draw. This mandala was done in Japan, not Oman.

Then, when I came to Japan, taking photos with the mobile was an even easier option. Drawing might be a craft. The photos involve a little bit of craft, but I am too lazy to produce something such as friends of mine, Amy and RunBabara, do, and then, I don't really have their eye. But, I can craft writing. But I don't. Yet, I am writing every day at the moment, and I have ideas. So, maybe I am practising, and maybe I will get around to sharpening that blade again. A friend of mine, who put out this book last year, said even if you are not writing, there is the act of observing. Maybe her comments give me a way to cop out, maybe there is a lot of resonance in them. Though, sitting in my apartment, often it is only my navel that comes under inspection.

The weather is not really warm enough, but today I bought about ten plants. Hot chocolate cosmos, pansies, lobelia, a pink one and another pink one. We have had a few semi-spring days, so hopefully they will survive and prosper. My mother's garden is always something to behold. She mainly plants natives and it is nearly always flowering. She never planted annuals, so they are about all I plant. I just have a small balcony, and I like to see them in bloom, and my mother lived in her house 36 years, intends to live in her new one until she no longer can, and I will shift out of this apartment in one more year. I think I have lived here 3 years, and I think that is as long as I have lived in one house since I moved out of home at age twenty. From writing to art to photography to gardens. There is craft in gardens, too, but sometimes the flowers bloom no matter how much you neglect them, and sometimes they die no matter how much attention you shower. I have shallow roots at the moment, I think, or shallow soil, stunted roots? Poetry is much more suited to living tenuously in tedium, and that, it seems, I can produce, every now and then. Maybe I will have to go home again to once more produce something of length. Sighing in the suburbs thinking of the lands, money, people and jobs well away from Perth.

the world's greatest lover

This one is doing the rounds, and it's too good not to re-post it. A letter from the Independent (U.K.)
Following Israel's self-appointment as the world's most moral army, may I appoint myself as the world's greatest lover. When after five minutes this claim is questioned and then ridiculed, I will aggressively question your editorial standards and bias.
Especially keeping in mind reports such as this incursion into a West Bank town, where over 150 minors and youths [were] arrested and questioned in the grounds of a school. A man was injured also. The Palestinian paramedics were called and nearby, but not allowed to enter. The Israeli forces saying they would deal with it, but they didn't. Journalists and a television crew were either denied entry, or escorted from the grounds. You might want to read this report on incarceration in Israeli prisons, too. I thought democracy was meant to be opposed to these kinds of actions.

A boycott call has gone out to Australian academics.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Turkey allows access to its archives

This story is from active stills org. If you really want to get an idea what the separation/apartheid wall looks like, and the encroachment of the settlements, take a look

An interesting story from Electronic Intifada over Turkey allowing access to its archives which can help prove Palestinian claims of land ownership, or disprove settler claims of ownership, or vice versa. Turkey has always been a strong ally of Israel, along with Egypt, (and recipient of U.S. aid) generally keeping the Palestinian plight well contained. This move is interesting and welcome, indeed.

A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighborhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey.

After the Israeli army's assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.

On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.

The families' unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership.

Interest in the plight of Sheikh Jarrah's residents peaked in November when one couple, Fawziya and Mohammed Kurd, were evicted from their home by an Israeli judge. Mohammed Kurd, who was chronically ill, died days later.

Meanwhile, Fawziya Khurd, 63, has staged a protest by living in a tent on waste ground close to her former home. Israeli police have torn down the tent six times and she is facing a series of fines from the Jerusalem municipality.

The problems facing Kurd and the other residents derive from legal claims by the Sephardi Jewry Association that it purchased Sheikh Jarrah's land in the 19th century. Settler groups hope to evict all the residents, demolish their homes and build 200 apartments in their place.

The location is considered strategic by settler organizations because it is close to the Old City and its Palestinian holy places.

Unusually, foreign diplomats, including from the United States, have protested, saying eviction of the Palestinian families would undermine the basis of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The help of the Turkish government has been crucial, however, because Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire when the land transactions supposedly took place.
. . .
Kurd said she would stay in her tent until she received justice.

"My family is originally from Talbiyeh," she said, referring to what has become today one of the wealthiest districts of West Jerusalem. "I am not allowed to go back to the property that is rightfully mine, but these settlers are given my home, which never belonged to them."
Read more.

Can you imagine that happening to your parents? From Mondoweiss, referencing a Paul Woodward editorial comment on the piece Labor joins Likud in Israel's unlikely new government,written for Time by Tim McGurk (25 March, 2009), comes the following quote, and really, it is what most of us are thinking, I would say:
If Obama really believes that the status quo is untenable then it’s up to him to demonstrate that he means what he says.

Netanyahu is clearly ready to get straight back to business as usual:
talking peace, building settlements.(my link insertion)
Note: April 1, useful information: A layman's guide to home demolitions in East Jerusalem
Jews-san-Frontieres has these two encouraging posts: Israelis dismayed as U.K. retains war crime laws, and Sweet news from Ireland: Cyprus refuses to grant asylum to Israeli vegetables.

Within Australia, too, Australians for Palestine and Women for Palestine report that their campaign which
is a major push to urge the Victorian state government to dump the contract with Connex which is coming up for renewal in November this year. Under the contract signed with Israel, Connex will operate a public transport service to Jewish settlements that Israel is continuing to build illegally deep inside the West Bank under its military occupation. The service will benefit some 450,000 foreign settlers while 2.6 million Palestinians are excluded
is going well. Time is of the essence, though, hence, I refer you back to Paul Woodward's comments about Obama.

shufflebottom shuffles out

An alternate title was going to be It's the death of death. I bet reporters (not that I am one) everywhere are having fun with this story :

Balls and Bottoms give way to the Wangs

Wednesday, March 25 03:18 pm

The number of people in Britain with surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and Shufflebottom -- likely the source of schoolroom laughter -- has declined by up to 75 percent in the last century.

A study found the number of people with the name Cock shrank to 785 last year from 3,211 in 1881, those called Balls fell to 1,299 from 2,904 and the number of Deaths were reduced to 605 from 1,133.

People named Smellie decreased by 70 percent, Dafts by 51 percent, Gotobeds by 42 percent, Shufflebottoms by 40 percent, and Cockshotts by 34 percent, said Richard Webber, visiting professor of geography at King's College, London.

"If you find the (absolute) number goes down, it's either because they changed their names or they emigrated," Webber, author of the study, told Reuters on Wednesday.

He said that in many cases, people probably changed their surnames as they came to be regarded as in bad taste. "It's because the meaning of words can change. Take the name Daft -- that as a term for a stupid is a relatively recent innovation."

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Daft meant "mild" or "meek" in Old English, whereas it means "foolish" today.

"That's why there are names which people think aren't really very pleasant names and you wonder why they persisted as long as they did."

Webber, whose work can be seen on the website, got his data for 2008 from credit card firm Experian and mapping service Geowise. He then compared it with the census of 1881.

Webber also discovered that the most popular names in Britain have not changed over the past 127 years. Last year, Smith, Jones, Williams, Brown, Taylor and Davies held the top five spots, in exactly the same order as they did a century ago.

Webber also found that between 1996 and 2008, the names Zhang, Wang, and Yang and experienced the fastest growth. Zhang rose by 4719 percent, while Wang grew by 2225 percent.

(Reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by Paul Casciato)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

a little bit of light

Ah, some good news: Gaza group wins world's largest prize for children's literature.

a chilling effect on discourse

An Israeli perspective on the withdrawal of the Obama selected Chas Freeman, who was appointed to chair the National Intelligence Council. From The Jewish World in Ha'aretz: The pro-Israel lobby - 'alive, well, and bipartisan?'

Tobin, speaking at a March 15 panel discussion at Queens College, said the lobby's show of force made clear that Obama will not "fall on his sword" to defend appointees perceived as anti-Israel. He said it also suggested that Obama would not spend political capital on fighting with incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Walt agreed. "The worst aspect of the Freeman affair is the likelihood of a chilling effect on discourse in Washington, at precisely the time when we badly need a more open and wide-ranging discussion of our Middle East policy," he blogged at

Rosen, who is now awaiting trial on charges of communicating national security information, and at the same time is suing his former bosses at AIPAC for more than $20 million, stressed that the lobby could not have succeeded in blocking Freeman if similar attitudes did not already exist in Congress.

"I was taught that AIPAC cannot do anything against the will of its friends in Congress," Rosen said, referring to his 23-year experience with the organization.

Critics respond that through their donations to congressional campaigns, organized Jewish contributors and a network of pro-Israel political action committees do much to help shape that will.
Read more.


Also, from In Gaza, very harrowing, but necessary read, on the deliberate targeting of rescue workers amongst other things, during the war on Gaza. She mentions that if a country or an army does something enough, it becomes accepted, other countries adopt it, people are desensitised. Australian politician, Julia Irwin also talked about this side-effect of letting Israel do whatever it wants. This is the first time Israel has attacked Gaza with such force, but it is not the first time it has deployed similar methods in various wars and incursions. Targeting of the rescue workers also reported in Ha'aretz.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

a wedding that won't be attended

My friend, let's call him Toufiq, his nephew is getting married. He has ten brothers and sisters, that is, not twenty, but a total of ten. I think there are four women and six men. The men are part of the great Palestinian diaspora, the women have married and still live in the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian Territories. His nephew is getting married this summer, that is, the son of one of his sisters.

Toufiq left the West Bank in 1984 to study overseas. He studied in both the Philippines and India, gaining a PhD in linguistics. He is close to my age. 40 something. He and his brothers all work in the Gulf countries: U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Oman. He was lucky to go to Jordan instead of Lebanon, so he got a passport, instead of indefinite internment in a refugee camp. I've spoken about him before. His family had money, so he and his brothers got an education, and maybe because of that, he never would have ended up in a refugee camp no matter where he went. The sisters had the option to study too, but they didn't take it up.

His parents died while he was in India. That would have been in the nineties or late eighties. Both were only sixty. First his mother died, then two weeks later, his father. They say he died of a broken heart. They were farmers. They made olive oil. His older brothers and sisters remember when the West Bank was under Jordanian control, and Toufiq remembers it only under Israeli. As for his parents, I am not sure.

Anyway, if you have not returned to Palestine for six years, despite being born there, and despite growing up there, the Israelis no longer consider you a resident. The only way he can visit his homeland is for his sister to write a letter to the Israeli authorities, and if all is quiet in the West Bank, then he is granted permission to enter as a visitor. He did this once in 1995. So, in twenty-five years he has visited his homeland once, and he is not considered Palestinian, I guess, according to Israeli law. Unable to return, and really, unwilling to return until conditions improve, he has lived outside of his homeland longer than within it, and as stated above, under the occupying power, he cannot return even if he wanted to. However, under international law, the right to return is sacrosanct, and is particularly pertinent in the case of the Palestinians.
Unable to exercise the fundamental right of self-determination during the period of a the mandate, although recognized in the Covenant of the League of nations as a provisionally "independent" nation, the Palestinian people have struggled to regain this right since 1947, when the United Nations became involved in the Palestine issue and recommended the partition of Palestine into two states – one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish. While Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, on the basis of the Untied nations partition resolution, war and politics (both Israeli and Arab) prevented the Palestinian Arab state envisaged in the resolution in the resolution from coming into existence
Instead, after Israeli declarations of independence in 1948, and the consequent annexation of about 70% of the land designated for the Palestinian state, many Palestinians fled. When the remaining lands were invaded and occupied in 1967, further ethnic cleansing and exodus occurred and is still occurring.
The right of a person to return to his home in his native country traditionally has been included among an individual's fundamental rights. Only in the case of criminals was its denial regarded as a justifiable punishment, exile or banishment being regarded as one of the more severe penalties.
Remember the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

"1. Everyone has a right to freedom of movement and residence without the borders of each State.

"2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to his country".
Israel does not adhere to these principles in relation to the Palestinians. It, on the other hand, has the Law of Return, [which was]...enacted in 1950, [and which]... gives Jews, those of Jewish ancestry, and their spouses the right to migrate to and settle in Israel and gain citizenship. At the same time, they can expel Israeli Arabs who are born in the state and raised there. Israel, in the past, has especially been scared of those promoting peaceful forms of resistance to occupation, stating: ''This nonviolence is a smart way to trigger Israeli violence and thus incite the uprising,'' which then triggers deportation in the case of the expulsion of a Jerusalem born and raised Arab who gained American citizenship. His story, linked to above, is one case among many. In the past, the current foreign minister, Lieberman, has suggested expulsion as a good policy for all Israeli Arabs, despite the generations upon generations they have lived on the land. He still seems to hold these views and they proved very popular at the recent elections.

Anyway, it is not necessarily safe for an adult male in the West Bank, and can anyone really bear the humiliation of check points, random strip searches and the constant presence of a foreign army nearby? The curtailing of movement and day to day life? The possibility of going to jail to join the other 10,000 Palestinians, many being held for many years without a trial, or worse? [T]en Palestinian legislative members and political leaders who are supposedly associated with Hamas in West Bank were kidnapped by Israeli forces the other day in relation to the breakdown of negotiations over the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat. There are many representatives of the Palestinian government, both Fatah and Hamas, in Israeli jails. Imagine how we would feel if New Zealand kept making incursions into Australia and kidnapping our members of parliament? Business as usual, I guess, and government representatives are the ones who make it into the news. There are many more who are not important enough to gain the few lines of print that newspapers allocate them. There are some who are dangerous. I doubt all 10,000 are. There seem to be just as many, if not more, dangerous IDF members. So saying, I wouldn't want my friend to take the risk of going to his nephew's wedding and possibly not coming back.

From Al Jazeera . Northern Ireland, anyone?
Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Umm el-Fahm, said a group of about 100 Israeli right-wingers wanted to march in the town, home to about 15,000 Palestinians.

He said the group's march followed a supreme court decision that allowed them [the Israelis] to "excerise their sovereignty over the city".

'Provocative decision'

"They wanted to come with Israeli flags and many people thought that was a very provocative decision," he said.

displaced marshmellows

As part of Habitat for Humanity, our Malaysian hosts organised a trip to an Iban longhouse. This involved a forty minute trip down the river. We stayed at the longhouse, safely ensconced in mosquito nets (kind of - some were pretty holey), and some of the students needed to double up, but they did not seem to mind. There is a certain discomfort in making a tourist item out of a people, but the Iban do economically benefit from the trip, and from our tour. Additionally, it did not seem they were totally dependent on tourism, as they had ricefields to tend, and many people went away to work. Our students, and of course, we teachers, also learn about different cultures through tours such as these. As Japan is a pretty homogeneous society, and prides itself on being so, this type of exposure is usually something new for the students. The Iban, too, see many different cultures. That can be viewed as good or bad, or somewhere inbetween.

The river trip was pretty special. We took 3 canoes to get there. Only ours had one person on the engine/rudder and the woman at the front. All others only had the guy on the engine. Ours was the heaviest, too, having me, and the other non-Japanese staff, and the fully grown bus driver who had driven us from Kuching, who was also Iban. Sitting there in our yellow puffed up life jackets made me, at least, feel like a displaced marshmallow. But meh, what can you do?

I got all artsy with this shot. It does not really reflect Malaysia, but is perhaps my favourite shot of the trip. I could cut out my jean leg and sneaker in the lefthand corner, but I think it might muck up the proportions. Perhaps.

Monday, 23 March 2009

the I that is I

I'm not so interested in 'I' - the 'I' that is 'I', though I know its strength as a narrative device. However, I am very interested in other "I's". During the two weeks I spent in Perth, I read about 14 books, a good percentage autobiography. A few fiction were in there too, but all told from first person perspective. That's not to say it is the only perspective. I still love Underworld, by De Lillo, which I think is mostly third person, but opens in second person: "He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful."
And the beginning of Jazz by Toni Morrison: "Sth, I know that woman. She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. Know her husband, too". Come in and share my story, maybe it is your story, too.

Below are some of the books I read. Some of them might only be available in Australia, and not all of them are new books by any means. But I think you'd enjoy them if you delved into them, or if not, just enjoy the cover art.

unimagined. I saw Imran speak twice at the Perth Writers' Festival, the first time with Alice Pung and James McBride, whose books are below. He was hilarious. His book is also funny, but poignant in a way that his performance was not. He is also on the board of British Muslims for Secular Democracy whose tagline is: 'No individual, group or gender should have any theological or regressive cultural values imposed upon them.'. He has a blog, here. I haven't looked through it yet, but the few bits and pieces I have read are interesting.

unpolished gem. Alice Pung is an Asian-Australian, or Australian-Asian whose family came from Cambodia. She was hilarious, too. This autobiography and the collection she edited, Growing up Asian in Australia (directly below) are important for sharing different points of view, to the mainstream Australian image. Plus, they tell damn good stories.

growing up Asian in Australia.

James McBride was the third of the three to present, and was also sharp, funny and caustic (Ahmad and Pung were not so caustic). I haven't included any links to his book, because it is very well known, and was released more than ten years ago. It's a great read, though: an African-American writer talking about growing up with his white, converted to Christianity, Jewish mother. Both her story, and his own, are fascinating, sad and heartening.

the rugmaker of mazar-e-sharif. I also saw this guy, Najaf Mazari speak at the festival. Talk about walking humanity. With him was Robert Hillman, who cowrote the book with him. Hillman has his own autobiography below. Mazari was a Hazara who had to flee Afghanistan. He was in detention in Australia for some time, as was the immigration policy at the time. He was one of two people in Australia with a working knowledge of how to make, repair, dye, and so on, Afghan carpets and rugs. He worked hard, and has a store in Phrahran, now. A very heartening story, and beautifully told.

the boy in the green suit.
Robert Hillman, who is the writer who Najaf above told his story to, has his own book. At 16 in 1965, with only two pounds and a one way ticket, he decided to embark on a journey to the Seychelles. He never made it, but he did wander through Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Kuwait, Iran and Pakistan. It is an amazing read that reflects on the incredible naivety, and therefore ability to undertake and do many things, that we have when we are young.

where the streets had a name - review. Randa Abdel-Fattah is Australian born of an Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father. She was not at the festival, but the topics of her books seem to tie into a recurring theme of the festival, which seemed to deal with a lot of issues revolving around religion, culture and the concepts, perceptions and history of the Middle East. She is a teen writer, but also a lawyer (as is Alice Pung), and a mother of two. I think she is only 30, so, of course I feel terribly inadequate, but, good luck to her.

I was, and am, as you can probably tell from my blog, interested in stories about people rather than the demonisation of them. All three of her books deal with being Muslim, the first two below, with being Muslim in Australia, and the one above of living in the occupied territories in Palestine. They are aimed at a teen audience. The writer seems to be religious, and is part of inter-faith groups in Australia. The discussion of religion seems to be a necessary part of describing the day to day that her characters face, though. The books are humourous and human. Lots of fun, particularly if you have kids, and want to present them with a more balanced view of the diversity that exists within multi-cultural societies, and in the world as a whole.

overview of Abdel-Fattah and book summary

White Tiger. Apart from the young adult reads above, this was the only fiction I read. White Tiger won the Booker, and is perhaps a good companion piece to Slumdog Millionaire detailing the underbelly of the emerging slick, fast and modern India. Easy to read. The writer did a fair part of his schooling in Australia.

my invented country. by Isabel Allende. I read this in Malaysia, actually. I really enjoy Allende's early work: House of Spirits and Eva Luna. This is enjoyable, too. She is a political beast, though maybe not enough for some. She covered far more of the time when she had to flee Chile in Paula, but there are still accounts within this. Paula is maybe the better book, but I still enjoyed learning more about her family, her country, and the sad history of Chile. This book is far from new, too.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


At one school, police and soldiers burst balloons in the colours of the Palestinian flag that the children were trying to release to mark the event.

Cultural events to celebrate occupied East Jerusalem['s] ...designation as "capital of Arab culture" for 2009 thwarted. A more detailed commentary here.


This is what the settlements look like. Pretty permanent, huh?

The Israeli writer, and ex-member of Knesset, Uri Avery's latest column. Not printed below, but within it, is the disturbing news that a law has been passed within Israel which states: the wife of an Israeli citizen is not allowed to join him in Israel if she is living in the occupied Palestinian territories or in a “hostile” Arab country. Since most of the Arab Israelis are from Palestinian descent, and many of their family live in the West Bank, Gaza, in refugee camps, it does not seem like a fair policy. Anyway, Avery is far more eloquent than I. Please read.

Below is his description of the expansion of Israel and the reason why justice will not be achieved in the area without intervention, or international pressure.
The simple reality is that 127 years after the beginning of the first Jewish wave of immigration, 112 years after the founding of the Zionist movement, 61 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, 41 years after the beginning of the occupation, the Israeli-Palestinian war continues along all the front lines with undiminished vigor.

The inherent aim of the Zionist enterprise was and is to turn the country – at least up to the Jordan River – into a homogeneous Jewish state. Throughout the course of Zionist-Israeli history, this aim has not been forsaken for a moment. Every cell of the Israeli organism contains this genetic code and therefore acts accordingly, without the need for a specific directive.

In my mind I see this process as the urge of a river to reach the sea. A river yearning for the sea does not recognize any law, except for the law of gravity. If the terrain allows it, it will flow in a straight course, if not – it will cut a new riverbed, twist like a snake, turn right and left, go around obstacles. If necessary, it will split into rivulets. From time to time, new brooks will join it. And every minute it will strive to reach the sea.

The Palestinian people, of course, oppose this process. They refuse to budge, set up dams, try to push the stream back. True, for more than a hundred years they have been on the retreat, but they have never surrendered. They continue to resist with the same persistence as the advancing river.

ALL THIS has been associated, on the Israeli side, with an obstinate denial, using a thousand and one guises, pretexts, self-serving slogans and sanctimonious untruths

Saturday, 21 March 2009

one shot, two kills

The latest t-shirts designed, ordered and worn by Israeli soldiers in their downtime, I assume. Pretty frightening.From the Ha'aretz article, Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009 .
Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!" A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants. In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit's commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, "We won't chill 'til we confirm the kill" were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn't exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan "Let every Arab mother know that her son's fate is in my hands!" had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit's shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

"It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town," he explains. "The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him." Read more.
This has found its way to Yahoo UK news.
From later in the Ha'aretz article, from a commenter:
There is less meticulousness than in the past [in the IDF], and increasing callousness. There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights, and therefore anything may be done to him."

I don't know if it will be highlighted anywhere else. Ha'aretz has a wide variety of opinions, and I do not agree with a lot of them, but I applaud it for bringing us the news that we should know if we are going to continue to support Israel without question.

Friday, 20 March 2009

still no decision

Still no Australian news on whether Australia will attend the Durban II conference against racism or not. I think we should go. I think we are sophisticated enough to know the difference between malevolence and rhetoric. I think that our policy should not so closely mirror U.S. and Israeli policy on certain matters, far more than many other countries. I wrote to our foreign minister, Stephen Smith, stating my opinion, but I don't think the opinions of the voters in Australia matter much to the government. There is background on the conference in this post, about half way down.

Note: The Australian Jewish Democratic Society is urging attendance, pointing out that:
. . . only six of the 341 paragraphs on Durban 1 singled out Israel, while there was also a resolution stating that the Holocaust “must never be forgotten”.

Note: March 21, Middle East Reality Check has also put up a post on this.

testimonies continued

The Israeli soldiers' testimonies continue. 2 short excerpts below, translated from Hebrew, on the Tikun Olam site. The story is longer, so why not pay it a visit?

In the beginning, our aim was to get into a home. We were supposed to go in with an armored vehicle and break through the door, firing within and then…I call this simple murder. Basically, we were supposed to go floor by floor and any human being we came into contact with we shot at. This is something that at the beginning I said to myself: “does this make any sense?”
The higher-ups said it was permissible because anyone left in the vicinity or in the city was a terrorist, because they didn’t flee. I couldn’t understand it. On the one hand, they didn’t have anywhere to flee to, and on the other hand they didn’t flee and therefore it was their own fault [if they were killed].
. . .

The military rabbis sent us lots of material and in these articles the message was clear: we are the nation of Israel. We arrived by a miracle in Israel. God returned us to the Land [of Israel]. Now we must battle to remove the non-Jews who disturb us in our conquest of the Holy Land. That was the main message. And the sense of many of the soldiers in this operation was that it was a religious war. From my perspective as a commander, I tried to talk about politics and various strains within Palestinian society. That no everyone in Gaza was Hamas and not every resident wants to conquer us. I wanted to explain to them that this war was not about Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying the name of God), but about stopping Qassam fire.

I don't think he felt too bad about it

So much has happened, as always happens, and which is sadly, business as usual, over the last week or so. I direct you towards Antony Loewenstein's blog, the Monoweiss blog and the Tikun Olam blog in the blog roll. Or just visit Haaretz if you want to know more than the little I write. From today's Ha'aretz, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories,Richard Falk, who is Jewish, and who was refused permission to stay in Israel or to visit Gaza or the West Bank just before the Gaza Offensive, has been reported as saying that:
...Israel's offensive against Hamas in densely populated Gaza appeared to constitute a war crime of the "greatest magnitude."

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk said.
The article goes on to say the following:
A Palestinian human rights group has released the names of 1,417 Gazans it says were killed in Israel's recent war on the Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Thursday that of those killed, 926 were civilians, 236 were combatants and 255 were members of the Palestinian security forces.
I think most of the world agrees with these numbers, or slightly less. The Israeli forces, the slimy Mark Regev, disputes the claim, and
contends that most of those killed were combatants or legitimate targets.
Considering Ha'aretz is also running testimonies from IDF soldiers who have this to say about a sniper who "accidentally" shot a woman and her children, as she did not understand the instructions given to her when leaving her house, and as he was not informed to not shoot her:
"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.
I am guessing that the woman and her children will become legitimate targets within Regev's assessment of the situation. There was nowhere for the Gazans to go.

House demolitions are still occurring, with a vengeance, in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Bombing of Gaza kind of took care of that "problem" for Israel, of course. Professor Jeff Halper (an Israeli) has been visiting Australia, trying to raise awareness over this issue. His organization tries to build a house for every house that is demolished. I listened to an interview with him on rtrfm the other day (select March 18, 2009). The number is up to 24,000 homes demolished since 1967, I think. The task is impossible, but they keep trying, which is wonderful.

The picture above and below is from the blog: Chroniques de palestine, the blog of a French photographer who is in the West Bank at the moment. I give her full credit for the photos, and apologise for lifting them. They tell a strong story though. The pictures are from people watching their houses get demolished, or sitting amongst the rubble of the same. Their stories can be found here, and here and here, and here. Those stories are mostly pictorial, so why not take a look? Houses have sometimes been demolished while people have been in them. Often Israeli authorities say they have been built illegally, within Jerusalem and within the West Bank, but they will not grant permits to build, either.

Still, one has to hope that there is eventually a way out of this madness. However, madness seems to be worldwide, or wilful and manipulated ignorance. Within Australia, a major Jewish newspaper refused to run adverts promoting Halper's tour, and a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald by Robert Magid, the publisher of the paper (AJN), drew a long bow between the organisers, female mutilation and Halper's tour, amongst other things. Supporters of Magid have stated that the houses were demolished in retaliation for suicide bombings. Sometimes this is the case. It is still called collective punishment, and I think that there has not been a Hamas-backed suicide bombing since 2005,and Hamas renounced suicide bombings in 2006*, so there should not have been a house demolition since then, either. In addition, look at the figures. You think there have been 24,000 suicide bombings in Israel since they took over Palestinian lands? It's a wonder there are Israelis left standing if that were the case(Iraq might be a different matter).

If you want to follow the Halper story, it starts here. Discussion on the soldiers' testimonies, and extra information can be found here and here and here.

*According to this report (p. 28), Hamas'suicide bombings were sparked by the massacre of Muslims at the al-Ibrahimi mosque.
Chest Doc in Palestine:
Ibrahimi Mosque massacre[occurred] in 1994 when a fanatical settler called Baruch Goldstein (a doctor) from the neighbouring Kiryat Arba settlement gunned down 29 Palestinians offering Fajr (morning) prayers while they were prostrating towards Mecca. 150 others were injured. It is not widely known that he was assisted by other settlers who reloaded his gun with further ammunition every time it ran out. He was finally overpowered and beaten to death by the remaining worshippers.

The Palestinians then turned on the Israeli soldiers who opened indiscriminate fire killing several more. In fact the soldiers entered the general hospital in Hebron and started shooting randomly, causing several casualties.

After the massacre the entrances to the shrine for Muslims and Jews were segregated. Baruch Goldstein's widow requested that the men who killed her husband be charged with homicide! A shrine to Goldstein has been erected in Kiryat Arba- a plaque there reads: "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel". It has become a pilgrimage site for those with extreme right-wing views.
this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr