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Tuesday, 30 June 2009


I originally found the following article at Australians and Australian Women for Palestine. But it can also be found at the source, which is counterpunch online magazine Before I run with the story about the tunnels which are the mainstay for getting food and supplies, including baby milk formula and basic staples of life into Palestine, the Jewish Voice for Peace has sent an email saying that the New York Times has run a story on Ezra Nawai, a gay Israeli Jew from an Iraqi background who is fighting for Palestinian rights. He is to be sentenced for his efforts next month in Israel. He is referred to in this post. The surprising thing, of course, is that the New York Times ran the story at all. Things do seem to be shifting. Let's hope it's true.

Under Pressure in the Gaza Strip
by Emily Ratner
Today I went to the tunnels in Rafah. I climbed into a loop of rope attached to a wire on a pulley and was lowered 7 meters to the tunnel floor. When I stood up the man next to me signaled me to follow him into a narrow passage, maybe three times as thick as my torso. Soon I was walking, crouched, behind him. When I turned back I saw some of my friends beginning to follow. But the tunnel must have taken a bend a few meters later, because when I turned a second time I saw only the wire suspending small lights along the tunnel wall. My guide beckoned again, and again I followed, promising myself I would turn back at the next light. But when we got there I saw more lights ahead, and I thought maybe he was taking me to a room, or another chimney out of the tunnel, and I followed further.

We continued this way for I don’t know how many meters, and soon I couldn’t hear anyone behind me, only a murmur that might have been distant voices ahead. Each point of light held the promise of hot sun and desert air, but each time I arrived to find only more tunnel, and a hand imploring me to follow deeper.

Soon my legs were burning with wanting to stand. It became so dark in the long lapses between electric lights that my guide had to take my hand as we felt our way along. So many times I said “Khalas”—I have seen enough. But at each light he would signal that it was just a little further.

Finally, I was finished. I could not remember why I had followed, and why I had continued to follow. I’d lost track of how many lights we’d passed, and had no idea how far the journey back would be. My guide pointed to a light maybe 8 meters ahead, and this light was different. Brighter, and more yellow. I knew this time we’d almost reached our destination, perhaps the end of the tunnel and the relative freedom of Egyptian sun and sand, but I couldn’t continue. “Khalas,” I said, and this time he knew I meant it. I turned and began to feel my way back.

Soon I was tearing through the tunnel, tripping over the uneven floor and scratching my fingers on the packed dirt and sand of the walls. Craggy sections of the ceiling tore at my hijab but I would not slow. My guide grabbed my hips to steady me and force a more even pace, and so I dragged him with me. Finally he pulled me to my knees inside one of the occasional wooden box frames supporting the more than 20 feet of packed sand and dirt above us. He sat down next to me and pushed his open palms up through the air in front of his chest and then down, showing me how to breathe. “Shway,” he said, “slow.”

Nearly everyone I’ve talked to in Gaza has told me that the effects of the siege and the massacre have been worst for women and children and I believe them, but 7 meters below the rubble of Rafah and the rumbling of the tractors that push this endless sand away from the mouth of each new tunnel, my thoughts turn to Gaza’s men.

The guide kneeling beside me, and thousands like him, cheat death every day in these tunnels as they journey back and forth between Rafah, Egypt and Rafah, Gaza, one city divided by a border and a cruel siege. And nearly every day, at least one of these men loses his gamble and does not come home. The siege has kept out everything but a painfully short list of humanitarian items. Building materials, a wide variety of foodstuffs, ink and paper, and so many other necessities are not permitted to enter Gaza. If the people of Gaza are to have anything close to a life, to bathe and eat and rebuild and learn, they must purchase this contraband illegally, and someone must illegally import it.

The Israeli government claims that the tunnels must be bombed because they are used to smuggle weapons, but in reality the tunnels are almost always used for anything but. After the massacre the tunnels brought lions and tigers to replace the ones loosed by the attack on Gaza’s largest zoo (Can you imagine? Amid all the bombing and chaos, wild animals running through the streets of Gaza!) Many people have told me the next big project is to smuggle in cars, a necessity in a place where virtually every vehicle is subject to regular breakdowns.

The tunnels provide a necessary lifeline for the people of Gaza, but as my guide patiently awaited the end of my panic attack, I began to realize that they are born out of another necessity: The tunnels offer an opportunity for men to reclaim their place as protectors and providers in a society where occupation and siege make those roles virtually impossible.

A few days earlier, Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad Sarraj told me of a game he plays with his young nephew called “Arab and Jew.” In the game, his nephew would play a Palestinian, chasing Dr. Sarraj around the yard and pretending to throw rocks at him. Not long ago, they played the game again, but this time his nephew insisted on playing the Israeli. Shortly into the game the small boy leapt onto his uncle’s back and began to beat him as hard as he could. Once Dr. Sarraj was able to escape his nephew’s brutal attack, he immediately asked his sister about the change in her son’s behavior. She told him that the child had recently witnessed his father humiliated and severely beaten by Israeli soldiers. Dr. Sarraj tells this anecdote to illustrate a growing trend he’s seen in young Palestinians: As parents, especially fathers, are humiliated, beaten, arrested, and otherwise disempowered in front of their children by Israeli soldiers, they lose their status as protectors in their children’s eyes. Desperate for signs of strength in terrifyingly unstable and dangerous times, young Palestinians find a new role model: the Israeli soldier.

Dr. Sarraj finds the origin of this trend in the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, when Israelis began ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their land. Since 1948, the trauma of losing agency over one’s life and living conditions has become, in the words of Dr. Sarraj, “a part of the Palestinian psyche.” This trauma, which has grown with every violent incursion into Palestinian communities, strongly intensified with the first Intifada in 1987, when Israeli soldiers mercilessly beat children armed only with rocks, and also beat and arrested their parents. The psychiatrist notes that many of these children grew up to embrace more violent weapons in the second Intifada in 2000, a response to the brutal abuse and humiliation they’d witnessed. More than 45% of Palestinian children have watched Israeli soldiers beat and/or arrest their fathers, and the trend Dr. Sarraj describes has grown exponentially since the December/January massacre. Since the attacks, more than 75% of the youth of Gaza do not believe their parents can protect them from Israeli soldiers. Surrounded by the rubble of schools, hospitals, and whole neighborhoods, and with virtually no hope of employment upon graduation (the siege-induced unemployment rate is 80%), it is hard for the youth of Gaza to envision much of a future. And it is virtually impossible for their parents, highly educated but lacking agency and employment, to give them hope.

The trauma that is now part of the Palestinian psyche, that forces Palestinian youth to seek the new role model of the Israeli soldier, can be seen at its worst when these children grow up. Dr. Sarraj tells another story from a brief detention in a Palestinian prison. In the cell next to his, he heard a Palestinian guard interrogating a prisoner. The guard’s voice became louder and more frantic as his anger grew, until he began screaming at the prisoner in Hebrew. Dr. Sarraj later learned that the guard had been severely tortured in an Israeli prison. In this moment of uncontrollable anger, the guard became his tormentor.

Stories like these are all too frequent in Gaza, where weddings and graduations are celebrated with a soundtrack of constant Israeli bombing and shelling. My own such story came on a beautiful afternoon on the beach, while eating lunch with a large family. One of the older sons, maybe in his late teens, asked me to follow him to a small tent tucked behind the rows of family tents facing the Mediterranean. The son sat me down at a cheap metal table that had been transformed into a desk, decorated with a poster of young men murdered by Israelis, a couple of notebooks, and a mug holding some pens and a small Hamas flag. The man seated behind the desk and surrounded by young boys anxiously awaiting their next task made it clear that he would interrogate me, and sent one of the boys to find an interpreter on the beach. The son who had brought me beamed at my side, occasionally picking up the Coke my interrogator had presented me, encouraging me to drink more. After about ten minutes my interpreter arrived, another boy in his late teens. My interrogator spoke in a serious voice, but his questions were the same as those I’d received from students and families, curious about my country, a source of so much fascination and suffering for the people of Gaza. “What do Americans think of Palestinians? Who do Americans blame for the ‘war’ in December and January? What does American media say about the people of Gaza, and about Palestinians? What do Americans think of Bush? What will Obama do differently?” Throughout my “interrogation” I could not distract myself from the image of this authority figure, digging his toes into the sand, surrounded by a volunteer staff of young boys, protecting the beach by investigating a camera-toting foreigner from behind his make-shift desk and small Hamas flag.

This story is not representative of my experiences with Hamas. I do not know my interrogator’s official role within the government, if he actually has one, and I expect that the members of Hamas who were tasked with protecting and providing for our delegation would have been angered to learn of my unauthorized interrogation, an inconvenience they would have spared me. But this story stays with me because of the trauma Dr. Sarraj describes, which was palpable long before he described it to me. In detaining and interrogating a foreigner whose American passport can take her anywhere in the world and could have rescued her from the December/January massacre, this man momentarily seized his agency. In front of his young, eager audience, he claimed his place as their protector.

The phenomenon Dr. Sarraj illustrates is not only visible in individuals. One need only look at the devastated building of the Hamas-led Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to see the Israelis’ humiliation and abuse on a governmental scale. Of all of the destroyed buildings I’ve seen in Gaza, in some ways this one haunts me most. These walls housed a democratically elected government that has endured a vicious siege since 2006, fought off an attempted coup, and has struggled with great patience and flexibility to be seen as legitimate by the global community. All of these pressures combined are enough to destroy a government, but they are magnified exponentially by the horrific massacre that stole the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians and forced the PLC to meet in a tent behind their largely collapsed building. I think often of the meetings held in this vulnerable tent: I wonder if sometimes the pressures bearing down on these legislators simply become too much, and they are unable to breathe, to force their words out into the hot air of a Gaza parking lot.

Just as the task of protecting and providing for one’s children in Gaza is nearly impossible, the task of Hamas to fulfill the role of protector and provider for 1.5 million people is truly Herculean. Every day the leaders of this government wake up to regular attacks from one of the best-funded militaries in the world and a global misrepresentation as a terrorist organization that took power by force. Because of the horrific Israeli siege Hamas cannot provide rebuilding materials to the people of Gaza, or even feed the people who voted them into power based on the party’s history of providing necessary social services to the Gaza community. The vast majority of food aid that reaches Gaza comes from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), tasked with caring for Gaza’s refugees (80% of the population). While UNRWA supplies vital necessities to the slowly starving people of Gaza, their presence is a constant reminder of what Hamas cannot provide. It would be a lie to say that Hamas is loved by everyone in Gaza. But every action for which Hamas is condemned by western media must be understood in the context of the inhuman Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing, which have become so commonplace and expected we sometimes forget they exist. With the siege, their complicity in the attempted coup, and the December/January massacre, the Israeli government has stolen the agency of the government the people of Gaza chose.

While Dr. Sarraj’s explanation of the societal effects of trauma explains so much about my interactions in Gaza, about the youth who only want to be photographed pretending to shoot guns at my camera and the gaming centers whose violent advertisements are omnipresent on Gaza’s city streets, the brilliant professor and one-state activist Haidar Eid makes an important counterpoint to Dr. Sarraj’s theory. While Dr. Eid agrees with much of what the psychiatrist describes, he insists that by attributing every action Palestinians take to Israeli-induced trauma, one steals the last ounce of agency Palestinians have. When Palestinians take up arms against their occupiers, or smuggle food and tigers through tunnels, they resist the inhuman Israeli occupation and reclaim some of their agency. As a Palestinian soldier told a delegation member, “What else are we supposed to do? We cannot sit by when they come to kill our families. We have to protect them.”

It has been more than 12 hours since I left the tunnel, and I still can’t catch my breath. Dusty walls of packed earth occupy my eyelids, and whenever I near sleep the walls begin to crumble. When we finally neared the tunnel entrance and I could see real, natural light maybe 15 meters away, we heard a distant rumble. Bombs dropped from Israeli planes perhaps, or a partial tunnel collapse somewhere, or more mechanical digging. All of these things happen almost every day in Rafah, and then there are the near-daily silent threats, like the poisonous gas the Egyptian military releases into tunnel entrances before permanently sealing them. As I scrambled out of the narrow tunnel passage and into the loop of rope that would pull me up to the surface and back to a reality where my American passport and some patience guarantee my safe passage across the Rafah border, I watched my guide shrink below me, before ducking back into the bend of the tunnel and resuming his daily routine.
Emily Ratner is an organizer and mediamaker based in New Orleans. She is currently traveling in Gaza with a delegation of journalists, organizers and human rights workers from the US South.She can be reached at and

Friday, 26 June 2009


Glenn Greenwald, June 22nd. Same as it ever was, I guess, I just believe far less and less and less that there are any governments out there really keen on representing and presenting that which is fair and sound. At least there are very few governments out there which are in power, and which keep other governments in power, which are interested in this. Very few governments which want their people to know even a skerrick of the truth. I think our freedom and democracy, as seen by the huge focus and spin Michael Jackson's death will be getting for some time yet, is all about bread and circuses. The majority of reporters and news services are absolutely complicit in this. If it keeps us entertained, why not, I guess. It's just when our entertainment comes at the expense of other people's lives and livelihoods.

Glenn Greenwald is always worth reading.
These blatantly contradictory statements [from media pundits] aren't considered contradictions because of the core premises of our political culture: We don't really consider torture and mass pointless slaughter -- when we do it -- to be all that bad. Those who advocated, defended and ordered it are still highly respectable -- "honorable." Those who were so humiliatingly wrong that it cannot be adequately expressed in words still prance around, and are still treated as, wise experts, while those were right are naive and unserious. The U.S stands for freedom, democracy and human rights -- even when we don't. People who advocate unprovoked wars of aggression, torture and mass violence are irredeemable monsters --except when they're American or our allies.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

then again - connex campaign

Click on image to enlarge

But then again: A press release from Australians for Palestine, and Australian Women for Palestine. Campaigners have successfully campaigned for the Victorian government to not renew its contracts with Connex. Connex provides Melbourne with its train services. Their parent company, Veolia, is responsible for building a light rail in Israel which is going to, and which, cuts through occupied territories. Its use is not for the Palestinians. More information can be found at the web site here :

Sorry that the press release is a screen capture, but you can find similar news at the above website. It seems that people want things to change even if governments do not.

the shift in public opinion has no change on policy

Small and petty things might end up bringing down the Labor Rudd government in Australia. On many levels there are things they have done that both the business community and the general community are happy with. On Palestine, they seem to have no moral compass at all, and it therefore makes it very hard to trust any politician in the sphere, because, apart from Julia Irwin, and ex-prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, it seems that no politician has a moral compass at all. It is hard to watch them condone violence in Iran and other trouble spots when they endorse it in the occupied territories. This is the latest from Australians for Palestine and Australian Women for Palestine. Please take note, Pappe is an Israeli-born Jewish academic and writer. People say that his book, the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, is an amazing read, but a harrowing one which needs to be put down every ten pages or so to take in the horrors that it describes. A group of Australian politicians have just been on a junket to Israel, including our deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard. She did not have one word of condemnation for Israel's actions during Gaza. It kind of tells you which career camp she clearly stands in.

In light of our Deputy Prime Minister’s unfortunate remarks during her visit
to Israel, Ms Gillard does not seem to have listened, heard or understood
anything about the whole Palestine/Israel conflict. Gaza may as well be
light years away for all the interest she has shown in a people still trying
to make sense of the horrors they have had to endure since Israel’s
merciless bombing sprees at the beginning of the year. There was no
sympathy from Ms Gillard then, so we should not be surprised that she shows
none now. Surely though, one would think, human decency would override for just
a moment political opportunism and help Ms Gillard to remember the living
and not just the dead. However, we seem to be living in a different world
these days where even the veneer of principle and morality are no longer
deemed necessary.

So what is left to the Palestinians after we have stripped away from them
every right and refuse them even the dignity of belonging? What can they
hope for when people who should know better and could make a difference turn
their faces, and more insultingly, pander to the oppressors? Israeli-born
Professor Ilan Pappe urges the international community to begin cultural
boycotts as “the longest and one of the cruellest Occupations in modern
times” enters it 42nd year. Those who demand that “we leave culture out of
our political actions,” he says, “ provide immunity for one of the greatest
atrocities of our time.”

Certainly, no one thought to give Ms Gillard a briefing on Ilan Pappe’s
seminal work “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” as she erroneously held
Australia up for being ‘the first to vote in favour of Israel’s right to
full independent nationhood and its right to live securely within defined
borders in 1947”. She may have learned that Israel did not come into
existence until May 1948 and that the Park of the Australian Soldier at
Beersheba bequeathed by the late Richard Pratt had nothing to do with
“shared history” or “hard-won freedoms” because it was the Palestinians who
fought with the Australian soldiers in the First World War. But as long as
Israel is wooing Ms Gillard, she is unlikely to brush up on her history.

The struggle for freedom, justice and peace must come from the people and
boycotts are the most effective, nonviolent means to overturn what our
politicians are so loath to change.

You will find this article on our website
as well as many more of the latest articles and new items as well as reports,
studies, letters and educational material. Our website has been re-vamped
and it is now being updated daily.

- SK

The necessity of cultural boycott

by Ilan Pappe

Electronic Intifada
24 June 2009

If there is anything new in the never-ending sad story of Palestine it is
the clear shift in public opinion in the UK. I remember coming to these
isles in 1980 when supporting the Palestinian cause was confined to the left and in it to a very particular section and ideological stream. The
post-Holocaust trauma and guilt complex, military and economic interests and the charade of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East all played a role in providing immunity for the State of Israel. Very few were moved, so it seems, by a state that had dispossessed half of Palestine’s native population, demolished half of their villages and towns, discriminated against the minority among them who lived within its borders through an apartheid system and divided into enclaves two million and a half of them in a harsh and oppressive military occupation.

Almost 30 years later it seems that all these filters and cataracts have
been removed. The magnitude of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is well known, the suffering of the people in the occupied territories recorded and described even by the US president as unbearable and inhuman. In a similar way, the destruction and depopulation of the greater Jerusalem area is noted daily and the racist nature of the policies towards the Palestinians in Israel are frequently rebuked and condemned.

The reality today in 2009 is described by the UN as “a human catastrophe.” The conscious and conscientious sections of British society know very well who caused and who produced this catastrophe. This is not related any more to elusive circumstances, or to the “conflict” — it is seen clearly as the outcome of Israeli policies throughout the years. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu was asked for his reaction to what he saw in the occupied territories, he noted sadly that it was worse than apartheid. He should know.

As in the case of South Africa, these decent people, either as individuals
or as members of organizations, voice their outrage against the continued
oppression, colonization, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Palestine. They are looking for ways of showing their protest and some even hope convince their government to change its old policy of indifference and inaction in the face of the continued destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. Many among them are Jews, as these atrocities are done in their name according to the logic of the Zionist ideology, and quite a few among them are veterans of previous civil struggles in this country for similar causes all over the world. They are not confined any more to one political party and they come from all walks of life.

So far the British government is not moved. It was also passive when the
anti-apartheid movement in this country demanded of it to impose sanctions on South Africa. It took several decades for that activism from below to reach the political top. It takes longer in the case of Palestine: guilt about the Holocaust, distorted historical narratives and contemporary misrepresentation of Israel as a democracy seeking peace and the Palestinians as eternal Islamic terrorists blocked the flow of the popular impulse. But it is beginning to find its way and presence, despite the continued accusation of any such demand as being anti-Semitic and the demonization of Islam and Arabs. The third sector, that important link between civilians and government agencies, has shown us the way. One trade union after the other, one professional group after the other, have all sent recently a clear message: enough is enough. It is done in the name of decency, human morality and basic civil commitment not to remain idle in the face of atrocities of the kind Israel has and still is committing against the Palestinian people.

In the last eight years the Israeli criminal policy escalated, and the
Palestinian activists were seeking new means to confront it. They have tried it all, armed struggle, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and diplomacy: nothing worked. And yet they are not giving up and now they are proposing a nonviolent strategy — that of boycott, sanctions and divestment. With these means they wish to persuade Western governments to save not only them, but ironically also the Jews in Israel from an imminent catastrophe and bloodshed. This strategy bred the call for cultural boycott of Israel. This demand is voiced by every part of the Palestinian existence: by the civil society under occupation and by Palestinians in Israel. It is supported by the Palestinian refugees and is led by members of the Palestinian exile communities. It came in the right moment and gave individuals and organizations in the UK a way to express their disgust at the Israeli policies and at the same time an avenue for participating in the overall pressure on the government to change its policy of providing immunity for the impunity on the ground.

It is bewildering that this shift of public opinion has had no impact so far
on policy; but again we are reminded of the tortuous way the campaign
against apartheid had to go before it became a policy. It is also worth
remembering that two brave women in Dublin, toiling on the cashiers in a
local supermarket, were the ones who began a huge movement of change by refusing to sell South African goods. Twenty-nine years later, Britain
joined others in imposing sanctions on apartheid. So while governments
hesitate for cynical reasons, out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism
or maybe due to Islamophobic inhibitions, citizens and activists do their
utmost, symbolically and physically, to inform, protest and demand. They have a more organized campaign, that of the cultural boycott, or they can
join their unions in the coordinated policy of pressure. They can also use
their name or fame for indicating to us all, that decent people in this
world cannot support what Israel does and what it stands for. They do not know whether their action will make an immediate change or they would be so lucky as to see change in their lifetime. But in their own personal book of who they are and what they did in life and in the harsh eye of historical assessment they would be counted in with all those who did not remain indifferent when inhumanity raged under the guise of democracy in their own countries or elsewhere.

On the other hand, citizens in this country, especially famous ones, who
continue to broadcast, quite often out of ignorance or out of more sinister
reasons, the fable of Israel as a cultured Western society or as the “only
democracy in the Middle East” are not only wrong factually. They provide immunity for one of the greatest atrocities in our time. Some of them demand we should leave culture out of our political actions. This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the
occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct.
Eventually, one day the outrage from below, including in Israel itself, will
produce a new policy — the present US administration is already showing
early signs of it. History did not look kindly at those filmmakers who
collaborated with US Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s or endorsed
apartheid. It would adopt a similar attitude to those who are silent about
Palestine now.

A good case in point unfolded last month in Edinburgh. Filmmaker Ken Loacha message that this embassy represents not only the filmmakers of Israel led a campaign against the official and financial connections the city’s film festival had with the Israeli embassy. Such a stance was meant to send but also its generals who massacred the people of Gaza, its tormentors who torture Palestinians in jails, its judges who sent 10,000 Palestinians — half of them children — without trial to prison, its racist mayors who want to expel Arabs from their cities, its architects who built walls and fences to enclave people and prevent them from reaching their fields, schools, cinemas and offices and its politicians who strategize yet again how to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine they began in 1948. Ken Loach felt that only a call for boycotting the festival as whole would bring its directors into a moral sense and perspective. He was right; it did, because the case is so clear-cut and the action so simple and pure.

It is not surprising that a counter voice was heard. This is an ongoing
struggle and would not be won easily. As I write these words, we commemorate the 42nd year of the Israeli occupation — the longest, and one of the cruellest in modern times. But time has also produced the lucidity needed for such decisions. This is why Ken’s action was immediately effective; next time even this would not be necessary. One of his critics tried to point to the fact that people in Israel like Ken’s films, so this was a kind of ingratitude. I can assure this critic that those of us in Israel who watch Ken’s movies are also those who salute him for his bravery and unlike this critic we do not think of this an act similar to a call for Israel’s destruction, but rather the only way of saving Jews and Arabs living there. But it is difficult anyway to take such criticism seriously when it is accompanied by description of the Palestinians as a terrorist entity and Israel as a democracy like Britain. Most of us in the UK have moved far away from this propagandist silliness and are ready for change. We are now waiting for the government of these isles to follow suit.

Ilan Pappe is chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter.


Sunday, 14 June 2009

a request from gordon, klein and chomsky

From the wonderful Jewish Voice for Peace:

Every so often someone comes along who is so brave and so inspiring that you just can't sit by and remain silent when you learn they need your help.
We're writing to you today about one of these rare people.
His name is Ezra Nawi.
You've probably never heard of him, but because you may know our names, now you will know his name.

Ezra Nawi is one of Israel's most courageous human rights activists and without your help, he will likely go to jail in less than 30 days.
His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region. These homes and the families who live in them have been under Israeli occupation for 42 years.. They still live without electricity, running water and other basic services. They are continuously harassed by Jewish settlers and the military.
Nawi's friends have launched a campaign to generate tens of thousands of letters to Israeli embassies all over the world before he is due to be sentenced in July. They've asked for your help.

His name is Ezra Nawi.
We keep saying his name because we believe that the more people know him and know his name, the harder it will be for the Israeli military to send him quietly to jail.
And Ezra Nawi is anything but quiet.
He is a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent who speaks fluent Arabic.
He is a gay man in his fifties and a plumber by trade.
He has dedicated his life to helping those who are trampled on. He has stood by Jewish single mothers who pitched tents in front of the Knesset while struggling for a living wage, and by Palestinians threatened with expulsion from their homes.
He is loved by those with little power, to whom he dedicates his life, and hated by the Jewish settlers, military and police.

Now that you know Ezra, you have a chance to stand up for him, and for everything that he represents. Especially now, as Israel escalates its crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy activists.

He needs you. His friends need you. Those he helps every day need you. So please send a letter to the Consulate, to the media, to your family and friends.
Take just a moment to write your letter. Do it now. And then share his name with a friend. Do it for Ezra Nawi.

Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Neve Gordon

* Noam Chomsky photo by Donna Coveney, MIT

Sorry about the signatures above. I had to copy the email. But if you go to the Jewish voice for Peace site to send a letter, you can find the original information. The links are included all throughout the letter.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Peace Be Upon the Three of Them

I am impressed with this speech and it also went down well within the Arab world, apparently. Let us hope that the man is not just a man with a pretty turn of phrase. He is up against a lot, including the sentiments expressed in a video that was made by the guys at Mondoweiss (at the end of this post), who recently went to Israel (strong language and content warning) and Gaza. The below is from JTA, the Jewish news service. Go to the link to also get President Obama's comments on Iran. The whole speech is provided after that. The emphasis in the below is mine. Considering our own government is blithely ignoring the suffering in this area, and is in fact accepting junkets to Israel for its politicians, I suspect they are hoping to wait Obama out. Shame on them.
Here's the passage on the Israeli-Palestinian issue from President Obama's Cairo speech this morning:

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
I do note, that as always, Israel does not have to give up violence, ever, in the assessment of this situation by western powers. I guess, I hope, it is implied. The siege on Gaza is also not overtly mentioned, nor the incredible injustice and suffering of the Gaza massacre.

My Palestinian friend has also mentioned the many Jews, though not legion, who have lived in Palestine for longer than the Jews who currently live in Israel, who have also suffered in pursuit of a homeland. Of course, there are also many Israelis, such as the ones who belong to Active Stills, who run B'Tselem and other Human Rights Watch groups who protest, side by side, with the Palestinians.

Mondoweiss, and Loewenstein, as always, have good commentary. Mondoweiss has shout outs to the Angry Arab and commenters from many backgrounds, not just the progressive Jewish movement.

If Obama is allowed to have another term, then maybe there will be peace, or improvement, in much of the world, Pakistan and Afghanistan notwithstanding. Just to warn you again, this video has some pretty strong language and ugly attitudes. The people interviewed are
young Israelis and American Jews ...[and deals with] their reaction to the speech. [The Mondoweiss crew] encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel

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