Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Palestine Land Day?

Israel Earmarks 10% Of West Bank For Settlements

It has just come out that the Israeli military has earmarked ten percent of the land in the Occupied West bank for Israeli settlements. In addition, the Israeli government is moving forward with an outrageous plan that will mean the expulsion of tens of thousands of Bedouin citizensin the Negev desert. The context is the warning issued by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a 2010 government meeting that a Negev “without a Jewish majority” would pose “a palpable threat”.

You won’t be told about this by television news, your elected representatives, or the US State Department (in fact, when asked about the Negev displacement plan they dismissed it as an “internal Israeli matter”). But this is the inconvenient truth that prompted the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to recently issue what according to one expert was the most cutting “condemnation of a legal system of segregation since apartheid South Africa”. That is why Land Day, beginning with the struggle for the land, is now marked all over the world as the movement for decolonisation and equality in Palestine/Israel gains momentum.

March 30 is marked by Palestinians as Land Day, but many in the West are unaware of the origins and significance of this annual protest. It is an opportunity to shed some light on the significant issues marginalised by the mainstream discussion about the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

The first Land Day was held by Palestinian citizens of Israel (so-called ‘Israeli Arabs’) in 1976, as part of opposition to the expropriation of land by the state. Marked by a general strike and mass demonstrations, the response was brutal repression: six Palestinians were shot dead, as the Israeli government mobilised armoured vehicles and tanks to patrol villages in the Galilee.

In the aftermath, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet “unanimously commended the security forces for their ‘restraint’ in handling the strike and the ensuing disturbances”. It was a justified response, apparently, to what Prof. Oren Yiftachel described as “a head-on challenge to the Judaization project”. More


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tibet, India, China, and the Yearning for Freedom

Jamphel Yeshi was one of the hundreds of Tibetans who gathered in New Delhi earlier this week to demonstrate against Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to India as part of the annual BRICS summit. As the Indian police attempted to thwart their peaceful protest, Yeshi doused himself with kerosene and set fire to his body. Engulfed in flames, he charged through the street, screaming pro-freedom slogans – and joined the dozens who have immolated their bodies to draw attention to the brutal crackdown in Tibet by Chinese forces.

India spent the last decade trumpeting its democracy as it steered closer to the United States. And yet its response to Yeshi’s sacrifice would make a dictator proud. Eager to not offend the visiting Chinese head of state, India invoked a colonial-era law against the Tibetans in New Delhi. As of today, every Tibetan in the city is effectively under house arrest.

Students are holed up inside their hostels. Families are barred from leaving their homes. Children have been forced to miss school. Patients cannot visit the hospital. Any gathering of Tibetans – however small and whatever its purpose – is cause for arrest.

In America’s imagination, India often appears as the democratic counterweight to authoritarian China’s rise. “If America’s future competitor in the world is likely to be China,” Robert Kagan recently wrote in a celebrated essay, “then a richer and more powerful India will be an asset, not a liability, to the United States.”

In reality, it was a considerably poorer and weaker India that ever truly challenged China in the name of liberal democratic values. India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959 despite Zhou Enlai’s threats, and Beijing’s persistent demand that Tibetans be banned from protesting against China elicited a brief answer from India’s foreign office: “There is by law and Constitution complete freedom of expression of opinion in Parliament and the press and elsewhere in India”. More


Monday, March 26, 2012

South Africans recall their own history during Israeli Apartheid Week

This year’s Israeli Apartheid Week in South Africa created a buzz nationwide. BDS South Africa and other Palestine solidarity groups teamed up with trade unionists, political parties, student bodies, churches, youth organizations and activists in Gaza to reach out to a wide audience. Organizers used various means to inspire broad-based support for boycott, divestment and sanctions activism.

Huge billboards were put up to announce Israeli Apartheid Week. Durban-based GangsOfGraffiti inspired fellow street artists and graffiti writers to participate by creating works with “Free Palestine” as the theme. On walls in several cities, artwork appeared in support of IAW and boycott activism. In thirteen towns around the country, the film Roadmap to Apartheid was screened, including all major cities and in Soweto (“National film tour, 5-11 March 2012,” BDS South Africa ).

According to an article in The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli “Public Diplomacy Ministry” had sent a delegation to South Africa to “battle the apartheid label,” but Israel’s messengers did not succeed in changing the perception held by many South Africans that Israeli apartheid is similar to apartheid in South Africa (“Envoys to fight Israel Apartheid Week on campus,” 19 February 2012).

Fatima Gabru of the Palestine Solidarity Forum qualified the public relations exercise as “a stalling technique so that they [Israel] can continue with what they are doing: throwing Palestinians off their land, building walls, continuing human rights abuses” (“South Africa highlights Israeli apartheid,” Press TV, 9 March 2012). More


Monday, March 19, 2012

Afghanistan and American imperialism

Afghans have been excluded from the judicial process after the shooting that left 16 dead. No wonder anti-US feeling is growing

US army staff sergeant Robert Bales is accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan villagers, including nine children, and then burning some of the bodies. The massacre took place in two villages in the southern rural district of Panjwai. Though this horrific crime targeted Afghans on Afghan soil, Afghanistan will play no role in investigating the crime or bringing the perpetrator (or perpetrators) to justice. That is because the US almost immediately whisked the accused out of Afghanistan and brought him to an American army base in Fort Leavensworth, Kansas.

The rapid exclusion of Afghans from the process of trying the accused shooter has, predictably and understandably, exacerbated the growing anti-American anger in that country. It is hard to imagine any nation on the planet reacting any other way to being denied the ability to try suspects over crimes that take place on its soil. A Taliban commander quickly gave voice to that nationalistic fury, announcing: "We want this soldier to be prosecuted in Afghanistan. The Afghans should prosecute him."

Demands that the atrocity be investigated by Afghans are grounded in part by reports that Bales did not act alone. While US military officials decreed from the start that Bales was the lone culprit, eyewitnesses in the villages reported the presence of multiple attackers. Many Afghans simply cannot fathom how such a large-scale attack could have been perpetrated by a single shooter. Bacha Agha of the Balandi village told the Associated Press: "One man can't kill so many people. There must have been many people involved." He added: "If the government says this is just one person's act we will not accept it." President Hamid Karzai initially added fuel to those suspicions, notably accusing "American forces" of the attacks.

The suspicion that other American soldiers may have been involved, though unproven, is far from irrational. The notorious American "kill team"that deliberately executed random, innocent Afghan civilians (often teenagers) for sport, planted weapons on their bodies, and then posed with their corpses as trophies operated out a base in the same area. America's former top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, admitted: "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force." More


"The house is dark without them": Israel kills father and daughter as they water vegetables

Muhammad al-Hisoumi is mourned during his funeral in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya.(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Said al-Hisoumi lost both his father and his sister when Israel bombed the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya earlier this month.

“My father [Muhammad Awad] struggled throughout his life up to 12 March 2012,” al-Hisoumi said. “At noon on that day, my father and my sister Fayza were bending down, working in a greenhouse right here, when an Israeli missile tore their bodies apart.” As he spoke, al-Hisoumi pointed to the spot where the Israeli missile struck.

Muhammad al-Hisoumi, a 72-year-old native of Beit Lahiya and his daughter Fayza, 30, were watering vegetables when an Israeli drone attacked their greenhouse.

This was part of an Israeli air offensive on the coastal territory that left 24 Palestinians dead and 74 injured, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ weekly report for 8–14 March, and damaged or 32 houses, a school, a Palestine Red Crescent Society center and a workshop.

The Israeli assault began on Friday 8 March, when Israel carried out the extrajudicial execution of Popular Resistance Committee leader Zuhair al-Qaisi.

In retaliation, Palestinian resistance factions began firing rockets at Israel, and Israel escalated its attacks on the Gaza Strip until a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was reached four days later. More


Sunday, March 18, 2012

'Mr president, I want an answer': The World Should Demand An Answer

The Afghan president had no answers.

An emotional Hamid Karzai, flanked by his senior officials, listened patiently on Friday, as families of the 16 victims recounted the US soldier's pre-dawn shooting spree in southern Kandahar province.

The distraught elders, in heartfelt speeches, spoke of personal loss, hopelessness and demanded justice. Almost all of them insisted that, contrary to US military statements, more than one soldier was involved in the massacre.

After the meeting, Karzai echoed the elders' concern, seeming convinced by the stories he had heard.

"In his family, in four rooms people were killed - children and women were killed - and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do," the president told reporters.

Below is a translated and transcribed excerpt of some of the conversation during the meeting.

Karzai: "After hearing about this painful, heart wrenching incident, I called Assadullah Khaled minister of tribal affairs and special coordinator for south]. He said they were on their way, going to the scene of the incident… he and members of the provincial council… Million and millions of thanks to you that amid such [a] painful, heart-wrenching incident, you still accepted them and received them and talked to them… and many thanks for accepting my call and speaking to me. In such circumstances, where there is a government here, there is a system and a president here, and a foreigner comes and kills your children and yet you have the patience to speak to that president - it's a big thing… it humbles us.

Brother of victim Mohamed Dawood: "My brother, who the Americans martyred, we had left him behind to take care of our plot of land, irrigate it. For god's sake, think about it: he has six children. Hundreds of thousands of incidents like this have happened in Afghanistan. More


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Palestinians prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifeline

Israel is planning to demolish 'illegal' solar panels that are the only source of electricity for Palestinians in West Bank villages.

Two large solar panels jut out of the barren landscape near Imneizil in the Hebron hills. The hi-tech structures sit incongruously alongside the tents and rough stone buildings of the Palestinian village, but they are fundamental to life here: they provide electricity.

Imneizil is not connected to the national electricity grid. Nor are the vast majority of Palestinian communities in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank controlled by Israel. The solar energy has replaced expensive and clunky oil-powered generators.

According to the Israeli authorities, these solar panels – along with six others in nearby villages – are illegal and have been slated for demolition.

Nihad Moor, 25, has three small children. The family live in a two-room tent kitted out with a fridge, TV and very old computer. She also has a small electric butter churn, which she uses to supplement her husband's small income from sheep farming. "The kids get sick all the time. At the moment, because of a change in the weather, they all have colds. Without electricity I wouldn't even be able to see to help them when they need to use the [outdoor] toilet at night," Moor says. "I don't want to imagine what life would be like here if [the panels] were demolished."

Imneizil's solar system was built in 2009 by the Spanish NGO Seba at a cost of €30,000 to the Spanish government. According to the Israeli authorities, it was built without a permit.

Guy Inbar, a spokesperson for the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, explains: "International aid is an important component in improving and promoting the quality of life of the Palestinian population but this does not grant immunity for illegal or unco-ordinated activity." The problem for Palestinian communities here is that permission to build any infrastructure is very hard to come by. According to figures from the civil administration quoted by the pressure group Peace Now, 91 permits were issued for Palestinian construction in Area C between 2001 and 2007. In the same period, more than 10,000 Israeli settlement units were built and1,663 Palestinian structures demolished.

The Jewish settlements in Area C are connected to the national water and electricity grids. But most Palestinian villages are cut off from basic infrastructure, including water and sewage services. Imneizil, which borders the ultra-religious settlement of Beit Yatir, currently has nine demolition orders on various structures, including a toilet block and water cistern for the school. More


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hague sued over US extra-judicial drone killings in Pakistan

Human rights lawyers are to sue Foreign Secretary William Hague over the alleged use of intelligence in assisting US drone attacks in Pakistan.

Lawyers from Leigh Day and Co say civilian intelligence officers who give information to the US may be liable as “secondary parties to murder”. The case is being raised at the High Court in London on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a US strike.

The Foreign Office said it did not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Leigh Day and Co says Mr Khan’s father Malik Daud was part of a council of elders holding a meeting in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, when a drone missile hit the group. The lawyers, which include some from the international charity Reprieve, want to establish what official UK policy or guidance is with regard to assisting the US in such cases.

The firm said it had “credible, unchallenged” evidence Mr Hague oversaw a policy of passing British intelligence to US forces planning attacks against militants.

'Breach of sovereignty’

It will also point out that Pakistan is not involved in an international conflict. More


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hana Shalabi: A brave act of Palestinian Non-Violence

No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66 day life threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 24 days. Both strikes were directed by Palestinian activists against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the most hardhearted. She seems a young tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping.

She had previously been held in administrative detention at the HaSharon prison in Israel for a 30 month period between 2009 and 2011, being released in the prisoner exchange of four months ago that freed 1027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive,Gilad Shalit. Since her release she has been trying to recover from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normalcy she was re-arrested in an abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier. On February 16, 2012, the day of this renewal of her administrative detention, Hana Shalabi indicated her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end of administrative detention now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinian in prison. Her parents have been denied visitation rights, Hana Shalabi has been placed in solitary confinement, and her health has deteriorated to the point of concern for her life. Impressively, her parents have committed themselves to a hunger strike for as long as their daughter remains under administrative detention. Her mother, Badia Shalabi, has made a video in which she says that even to see food makes her cry considering the suffering of her daughter.

Despite the calls to Palestinian from liberals in the West these extraordinary hunger strikes have met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West. Israeli authorities declare that such a posture is a voluntary action for which they have no responsibility. The UN has not raised its voice, as well. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of Union of Palestinian Woman’s Committee: “The UN must be responsible for the whole violation that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights.” The plight of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the Israeli NGO,Physicians for Human Rights- Israel: “The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan, before is in my opinion a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings..It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.” More


Monday, March 5, 2012

Report Denounces Weapons to Israel as AIPAC Assembles


US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation