Briefing Paper July 2010
Independent UN Rights Expert Warns Israeli Orders May Breach Geneva Convention
New York, April 10 2010 UN News
“The orders appear to enable Israel to detain, prosecute, imprison and/or deport any and all persons present in the West Bank,”.
Two orders by the Israeli military relating to movement in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) may reach the fourth Geneva Convention and violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an independent United Nations human rights expert said today. “The orders appear to enable Israel to detain, prosecute, imprison and/or deport any and all persons present in the West Bank,” said Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Mr. Falk said his concern was based on Israel’s new definition of the term ‘infiltrator.’ The term is defined as “a person who entered the Area unlawfully following the effective date, or a person who is present in the Area and does not lawfully hold a permit.” “Even if this open-ended definition is not used to imprison or deport vast numbers of people, it causes unacceptable distress,” the UN independent expert said in a statement, noting that “it is not at all clear what permit, if any, will satisfy this order.”
Mr. Falk said that “a wide range of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law could be linked to actions carried out by the Government of Israel under these orders, with particular gravity in the event that young persons become victims of their application.” He added: “Illustrative of the potential for cruel abuse is a provision of the order requiring the person deported to pay the costs of his or her deportation, and suffer confiscations of property if unable to pay.”
Mr. Falk warned that deportations under the two new orders could take place without judicial review, and that detained persons can be imprisoned for seven years, unless they are able to prove that their entry was lawful, in which case they would be imprisoned for three years. The special rapporteur recalled that Israel is party to the fourth Geneva Convention, which outlines its obligations as the Occupying Power in the West Bank. Article 49 of the Convention states that “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
Mr. Falk also noted that, despite the fact that Israel is party to the ICCPR, “the orders establish a system that allows Israel to deport people without having their right to judicial review properly fulfilled, or possibly not reviewed at all.” He stressed that “the orders do not even ensure that detainees will be informed in their own language that a deportation order has been issued against them.”
Academic freedom in Israel and Palestine
Steven Rose (professor of biology and neurobiology at the O U)
“Never in its history did the Senate of any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone protest over the devastation sowed there….”
Many readers of this journal will, like me, have Israeli colleagues whose research we respect, with whom we have collaborated, and among whom we have friends. Yet, these relationships have been overshadowed by the human rights abuses inflicted against the Palestinians, Israel’s flouting of UN resolutions and its indifference to international law. In 2002, this unease was given public expression with the call for European researchers to cease collaborating with Israeli academic institutions through the Framework Programme until Israel made serious moves towards a just and lasting peace. Hundreds of academics signed. Hanna Nasir, president of the leading West Bank university, Birzeit, sent a brief e-mail thanking the signatories: “We thought Europe had forgotten us.” In the years that followed, and especially after Israel’s invasion of Gaza, the academic boycott has become a small part of a growing movement of civil society who are angry, even despairing, at the failure of international institutions and governments to rein in Israel.
Some defenders of Israel oppose any suggestion of a boycott. Others are uneasy because it would threaten academic freedom. For supporters of the boycott, academic freedom is indeed precious, but they are unwilling to accept that it takes automatic precedence over human rights. Like an earlier generation of academics who boycotted apartheid South Africa, they choose human rights. How such a boycott is applied is a matter of personal ethics: it might, for instance, mean not participating in collaborative research programmes, shunning conferences in Israel and not refereeing grant applications.
Three arguments underlie the boycott: first, to support our Palestinian colleagues, whose academic freedom is infringed daily and who have called for a boycott; second, the complicity of many Israeli academics and institutions in Israel’s breaches of international conventions on human rights, and the refusal by Israeli academic institutions to recognize that the academic freedom of their Palestinian colleagues is curtailed; and third, a boycott and divestment campaign will help to put pressure on the Israeli government to negotiate a just peace.
Here are a few examples of the everyday denial of our Palestinian colleagues’ freedom to research, travel and teach.
An attempt to establish a collaborative research project with a colleague from Birzeit foundered when we were told that Israel would not permit the use of radioactive tracers.
A physiology lecturer at Birzeit is routinely stopped at a military checkpoint and prevented from giving his lectures; on one occasion, a soldier decided that as an ‘assistant professor’ he wasn’t qualified to lecture—only ‘full professors’ could cross.
Sometimes only men over the age of 45 or female students are allowed to pass checkpoints. Such harassments with their bizarre and humiliating justifications render Palestinian academic life precarious. The fact that some scientists manage to keep strong biomedical research profiles beggars belief.
In Gaza, the situation is far worse. The Islamic University, Gaza’s leading academic institution, was destroyed during Israel’s incursion. Education at all levels has virtually collapsed under the blockade. Bringing in books and writing materials is prohibited, and Gazan students are prevented from travelling to the West Bank and from taking up studentships abroad.
Nor is the situation easy for Palestinians in Israel itself. Recently, the Carmel Centre at Haifa University cancelled an accountancy course because, its spokesman said, a majority of students were Arab (Anon, 2009)
One might expect Israeli academia to protest against the abrogation of the academic freedoms of their Palestinian colleagues. Yet, with a few heroic exceptions, the response is silence and passive or active complicity (Rose & Rose, 2008). In the aftermath of the Gaza invasion, evolutionary biologist Eva Jablonka of Tel-Aviv University and her colleagues asked some 9,000 Israeli academics for signatures on a statement defending Palestinian academic freedom; only 400 or so responded (Fisch et al, 2009). The same is true of Israel’s supporters abroad; not one of the 450 presidents of American colleges, who denounced the boycott call, protested against the destruction of the Islamic University in Gaza (Gordon & Halper, 2008). As the late Tanya Reinhart, professor of linguistics at Tel-Aviv University, wrote: “Never in its history did the Senate of any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone protest over the devastation sowed there…. If in extreme situations of violations of human rights and moral principles, the academia refuses to criticize and take a side, it collaborates with the oppressing system” (Reinhart, 2003).
For Israel, its academy is second only to the military in national prestige. Being part of the European Research Area symbolizes Israel’s aspirations to be regarded more as a part of Europe than of the Middle East. But more than that, Israel’s science is a major economic force. Where governments seem unwilling to help move Israel into achieving a just peace with the Palestinians whose land it occupies, actions by individuals as part of civil society might be the only way forward.
Tel Aviv University (TAU) has participated in 55 joint technological projects with the Israeli army over recent years, mainly in electro-optics (Keller, 2009). TAU’s campus occupies the site of a demolished Palestinian village, Sheikh Muwanis, whose inhabitants were forcibly evicted in 1948. The staff club, the Green House, was once that of a Palestinian village elder. Twenty per cent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian, but only 1% of Israeli academic staff is Palestinian. Discriminatory legislation gives special benefits and credits to students from the Israeli Defence Force, which excludes Palestinian citizens of Israel. There are well- documented examples of racist harassment by professors and Jewish students of Palestinian students on the campuses of Haifa and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, or of Haifa University’s endorsement of a conference—from which Palestinian Israelis were excluded—focusing on the ‘demographic problem’ of the high birth rate of Palestinian Israelis and the problems this would present for the Jewish State. Think about how this would sound if a conference in New York on the demographic problem of the Jews excluded Jews.
A Cloud over Jerusalem (an extract)
Uri Avnery 01/05/10
Like dozens of other court decisions concerning the settlers, this one, too, is gathering dust.
At Bil’in village, the court was convinced that the Fence could be moved a few hundred metres without causing the security of the state to collapse and heaps of Jewish bodies to litter the landscape. So the Supreme Court accepted the plea of the villagers and decided to move the Fence and — nothing. The Fence has remained where it was. The government and the military just ignored the court order. In vain did the President of the Supreme Court admonish them that her decisions “are not recommendations”. Like dozens of other court decisions concerning the settlers, this one, too, is gathering dust.
The case of Bil’in is especially conspicuous, and not only because protesters – Palestinians, Israelis and others – have been killed and injured there. It is conspicuous because the motive trying to hide behind the Fence is so striking. Not Zionism. Not security or defense from the terrorists. Not the dreams of generations. Not the vision of Theodor Herzl, whose 150th birthday is being celebrated now.
Just money. Lots of money.
The area lying between the present Fence and the alternative path has been earmarked for the Orthodox settlement Modi’in-Illit. Giant corporations are to build many hundreds of “housing units” there, a business worth many millions. Everywhere, the areas stolen from the Palestinians immediately turn into real estate. They pass though mysterious channels into the jaws of land sharks. The sharks then build huge housing projects and sell the “housing units” for a fortune.
How is this done? The public is now receiving a lesson in the form of the Holyland affair, a lesson in instalments – every day new details emerge and new suspects turn up. On the site of an old and modest hotel by this name, a giant housing project has sprung up – a line of high-rise apartment buildings and a skyscraper. This ugly monster dominates the landscape – but the part of the project which can be seen from afar is only a fraction of the whole. The other bits have already received the blessing of all the relevant municipal and government authorities.
How? The investigation is still going on. Almost every day, new suspects are being arrested. Almost everybody who has had anything to do with the authorization of the project, up to the highest level, is suspect – ministers, senior government officials, the former mayor, members of the municipal council, and municipal officials. At present, the investigators are trying to trace the bribe money all over the world.Holyland is located in West Jerusalem (in what before 1948 was the Arab neighborhood of Katamon). The question naturally arising: if things are done this way in the West of the city, what is happening in the East? If those politicians and officials dare to steal and take bribes in West Jerusalem – what do they allow themselves in East Jerusalem, whose inhabitants have no representation in either the municipality or the government?
Only a few minutes drive separate Holyland from the village of al-Walaja. One could write volumes about this small village, which for more than 60 years has served as a target of abuse. Briefly: the original village was occupied and annexed to Israel in the 1948 war. The inhabitants were expelled and founded a new village on the part of their land which remained on the other side of the Green Line. The new village was occupied in the 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem, which was annexed to Israel. According to Israeli law, the houses are illegal. The inhabitants live in their own houses, on their own land, but are officially considered illegal residents who can be evicted at any time.
Now the land sharks are ogling this succulent piece of land, which is worth a lot of money for building projects. They follow the proven Zionist routine. First of all, the Arab name of the place is replaced with a pure Hebrew one, preferably from the Bible. Much as nearby Jebel-Abu-Ghneim became Har Homa, before the eyesore monster housing project was erected there, thus al-Walaja has now become Giv’at Yael. Clearly a place called Hill of Yael must belong to the Jewish people, and it is a divine duty to build another settlement there. So what if this necessitates the moving of the Wall? One can always find a used army officer who will justify this on security grounds.
Gaza Death Zone
Ann Wright 02/05/10
In the past four days, one young Palestinian man has been killed and two young women and a young man have been wounded by Israeli snipers as they protested the Israeli bulldozing of 300 meters of Palestinian land into an Israeli “buffer zone.” Four young Palestinian tunnel workers have been killed by suffocation and 6 injured as Egypt sprayed a crowd disbursal gas into a tunnel.
According to an Associated Press report, yesterday, on April 28, four young Palestinian men who work as tunnel diggers were killed by suffocation by some type of crowd control gas sprayed into one tunnel by Egyptian authorities. Six other tunnel workers were seriously injured by the gas. Other Palestinian tunnel workers have been killed in tunnels that collapse from Israeli aerial bombings and from contact with electrical wires that run the length of the tunnels that power an underground lighting system.
According to the Mezan Center, a Gaza Human Rights organization, five Palestinian men have died in tunnel collapses in 2010. In 2009-2010, Israeli aerial strafing killed 10 Palestinians in the tunnels. A total of 141 have died in the tunnels and 353 have been injured, including 4 children.
Gaza’s official border crossings have been closed by Israel and Egypt since 2007 when Hamas, considered a “terrorist organization” by Israel and the United States, seized control of Gaza following a Parliamentary election in 2006 in which Hamas won sufficient seats to control the Parliament.
The tunnels underneath the border with Egypt are the lifeline that provide a means of getting food and materials into Gaza since the Israeli blockade prohibits all but 44 items to come into Gaza. The Israelis maintain that the tunnels are used to bring weapons into Gaza that are used against Israeli forces. Once the underground steel wall is complete, the suffocation of the people of Gaza will begin in earnest, unless international citizen pressure forces Israel, Egypt, the United States and European Union countries to stop the collective punishment of the people of Gaza through this illegal blockade.
On Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Ahmed Salem Deeb was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper during protests against the Israeli military bulldozing of Palestinian farming lands in a 300 metre zone in Gaza that Israel calls a “buffer zone,” and a no-go zone for Palestinians. Up to 20 per cent of Gaza’s arable land is inaccessible to Palestinian farmers because it is now in the new “no-go” area. The Israeli “shoot to kill” policy is implemented in this zone in Palestinian territory. Palestinians have been shot by Israeli snipers as far as 2 kilometers away from the border.
Four days before Ahmed’s death, on Friday, April 24, 2010 at a peaceful, non-violent demonstration at El Maghazi, Deir Al Balah, Gaza, against the Israeli “buffer zone,” three people were shot by Israeli military snipers. Nidal Al Naji (18) was shot in his right thigh. Hind Al Akra (22) was shot in the stomach and had to undergo emergency surgery. Bianca Zammit (28), a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was shot in her left thigh as she was filming the protest.
During the events of April 24, approximately 20 Palestinians had gone to the “buffer zone.” Several carried Palestinian flags as a part of continuing demonstrations against the illegal action by Israel to create a 300 meter buffer zone in Palestinian land and declare it off limits to Palestinians.
Those who enter into the border area go there to gather rubble and steel for rebuilding homes, schools and clinics. 6,400 homes were destroyed or severely damaged and 53,000 other homes sustained lesser damage in the 22 day Israeli attack in 2009 on Gaza that killed 1440, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. The Israeli siege on Gaza has prevented construction materials from entering Gaza making the damaged construction materials found along the border area vital to the modest rebuilding efforts.
Prior to the April 24 incident, in late March, a Palestinian teenager was killed and 12 people were wounded, including children, as Israeli troops opened fire east of Khan Younis at “Land Day” demonstrators near the Gaza border. On March 26, 2010, two Israeli soldiers were killed inside Gaza during an exchange of fire with Palestinians who the Israeli military said were planting explosives along the security barrier on the Israel-Gaza border. Two Palestinians were killed in that incident and two others later the same day. It was the first time an Israeli soldier had been killed in Gaza since January 27, 2009, the end of the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza. Also on March 26, 2009, Israeli ground forces backed by tanks and helicopter gunships fired at Palestinians in a sparsely populated border area near the city of Khan Younis. The Israeli military said the action was a “routine defensive operation meant to protect southern Israel from militants who attack it with rockets and explosives.” Gaza medical authorities reported that eight civilians were injured in the fighting, including three hurt in an aerial attack.
According to the Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem, in the eight years from September 29, 2000 to December 27, 2008, 4791 Palestinians were killed in the Occupied Territories by Israeli Security forces (3,000 in Gaza, 1791 in the West Bank) and 69 Palestinians were killed in Israel by Israeli Security Forces.
During the same period, 245 Israeli security force personnel were killed by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (97 in Gaza and 148 in the West Bank) and 90 Israeli security forces were killed by Palestinians in Israel. 237 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians (39 in Gaza and 198 in the West Bank). During the same period, 490 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians in Israel.
During the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza from December 27, 2008 until January 18, 2009, between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinians (first figure is from the IDF and the second from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights) were killed. PCHR reports that this figure includes 960 civilians, including 288 children and 121 women and 239 police officers. 13 Israelis were killed during the 22 day period, 10 soldiers and 3 civilians. 5 of 10 Israeli soldiers were killed by friendly fire from other Israeli soldiers.
Bianca Zammit, who was wounded on April 24, 2010, arrived in Gaza in May, 2009, as one of 65 delegates from 10 countries who travelled to Gaza in a trip organized by CODEPINK: Women for Peace. Bianca, from Malta, wanted to go to Gaza to work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group of women and men from around the world who attempt to protect, by their international presence, Palestinians in Gaza and the Occupied Territories as they work in their agricultural fields, as they tend their sheep and goats and as they protect their homes from demolition by Israeli military bulldozers.
Bianca was shot as she was filming Palestinians as they walked in to the newly razed Palestinian land. Through her camera, Bianca was documenting what is happening in Gaza, documentation which the Israeli military apparently considered a threat to their security. Several international solidarity workers have been injured and killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank. On April 23, 2010, an Israeli activist protesting in solidarity with Palestinians in B’ilin, West Bank, suffered a broken skull and a brain hemorrhage after Israeli soldiers shot him directly with a tear gas projectile that hit his forehead at B’ilin.
On March 13, 2009, American ISM volunteer Tristan Anderson was critically wounded by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers near Nil’in. On September 6, 2007, ISM volunteer Akram Ibrahim abu Sba was killed by members of Islamic Jihad in Jenin. On April 11, 2003, American ISM volunteer Brian Avery was shot in the face and permanently disfigured by machine gunfire from an IDF armored personnel carrier while he was escorting Palestinian medical personnel in the street. On April 11, 2003, British ISM volunteer Thomas Hurndall was left clinically brain dead after he was shot in the head by an IDF soldier. Hurndall died in January, 2004.
On March 16, 2003, American ISM volunteer Rachel Corrie was killed as an IDF bulldozer ran over her as she attempted to block the destruction of a home in Rafah, Gaza. Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish ISM volunteer was shot by an IDF soldier in Jenin shortly before UNRWA relief works project manager, British citizen Iain Hook was killed by Israeli military gunfire. On April 2, 2002, Australian ISM volunteer Kate Edwards received severe internal injuries from Israeli shooting during a protest in Beit Jala.
What drives Israel?
Ilan Pappe Sunday Herald 06/06/10
The nature of this response is not being fully reported in the UK press, but it includes official parades celebrating the heroism of the commandos who stormed the ship and demonstrations by schoolchildren giving their unequivocal support for the government against the new wave of anti-Semitism.
Probably the most bewildering aspect of the Gaza flotilla affair has been the righteous indignation expressed by the Israeli government and people. The nature of this response is not being fully reported in the UK press, but it includes official parades celebrating the heroism of the commandos who stormed the ship and demonstrations by schoolchildren giving their unequivocal support for the government against the new wave of anti-Semitism.
As someone who was born in Israel and went enthusiastically through the socialisation and indoctrination process until my mid-20s, this reaction is all too familiar. Understanding the root of this furious defensiveness is key to comprehending the principal obstacle for peace in Israel and Palestine. One can best define this barrier as the official and popular Jewish Israeli perception of the political and cultural reality around them.
A number of factors explain this phenomenon, but three are outstanding and they are interconnected. They form the mental infrastructure on which life in Israel as a Jewish Zionist individual is based, and one from which it is almost impossible to depart – as I know too well from personal experience. The first and most important assumption is that what used to be historical Palestine is by sacred and irrefutable right the political, cultural and religious possession of the Jewish people represented by the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel.
Most of the Israelis, politicians and citizens alike, understand that this right can’t be fully realised. But although successive governments were pragmatic enough to accept the need to enter peace negotiations and strive for some sort of territorial compromise, the dream has not been forsaken. Far more important is the conception and representation of any pragmatic policy as an act of ultimate and unprecedented international generosity. Any Palestinian, or for that matter international, dissatisfaction with every deal offered by Israel since 1948, has therefore been seen as insulting ingratitude in the face of an accommodating and enlightened policy of the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Now, imagine that the dissatisfaction is translated into an actual, and sometimes violent, struggle and you begin to understand the righteous fury. As schoolchildren, during military service and later as adult Israeli citizens, the only explanation we received for Arab or Palestinian responses was that our civilised behaviour was being met by barbarism and antagonism of the worst kind.
According to the hegemonic narrative in Israel there are two malicious forces at work. The first is the old familiar anti-Semitic impulse of the world at large, an infectious bug that supposedly affects everyone who comes into contact with Jews. According to this narrative, the modern and civilised Jews were rejected by the Palestinians simply because they were Jews; not for instance because they stole land and water up to 1948, expelled half of Palestine’s population in 1948 and imposed a brutal occupation on the West Bank, and lately an inhuman siege on the Gaza Strip. This also explains why military action seems the only resort: since the Palestinians are seen as bent on destroying Israel through some atavistic impulse, the only conceivable way of confronting them is through military might.
The second force is also an old-new phenomenon: an Islamic civilisation bent on destroying the Jews as a faith and a nation. Mainstream Israeli orientalists, supported by new conservative academics in the United States, helped to articulate this phobia as a scholarly truth. These fears, of course, cannot be sustained unless they are constantly nourished and manipulated.
From this stems the second feature relevant to a better understanding of the Israeli Jewish society. Israel is in a state of denial. Even in 2010, with all the alternative and international means of communication and information, most of the Israeli Jews are still fed daily by media that hides from them the realities of occupation, stagnation or discrimination. This is true about the ethnic cleansing that Israel committed in 1948, which made half of Palestine’s population refugees, destroyed half the Palestinian villages and towns, and left 80% of their homeland in Israeli hands. And it’s painfully clear that even before the apartheid walls and fences were built around the occupied territories, the average Israeli did not know, and could not care, about the 40 years of systematic abuses of civil and human rights of millions of people under the direct and indirect rule of their state.
Nor have they had access to honest reports about the suffering in the Gaza Strip over the past four years. In the same way, the information they received on the flotilla fits the image of a state attacked by the combined forces of the old anti-Semitism and the new Islamic Judacidal fanatics coming to destroy the state of Israel. (After all, why would they have sent the best commando elite in the world to face defenceless human rights activists?)
As a young historian in Israel during the 1980s, it was this denial that first attracted my attention. As an aspiring professional scholar I decided to study the 1948 events and what I found in the archives sent me on a journey away from Zionism. Unconvinced by the government’s official explanation for its assault on Lebanon in 1982 and its conduct in the first Intifada in 1987, I began to realise the magnitude of the fabrication and manipulation. I could no longer subscribe to an ideology which dehumanised the native Palestinians and which propelled policies of dispossession and destruction.
The price for my intellectual dissidence was foretold: condemnation and excommunication. In 2007 I left Israel and my job at Haifa University for a teaching position in the United Kingdom, where views that in Israel would be considered at best insane, and at worst as sheer treason, are shared by almost every decent person in the country, whether or not they have any direct connection to Israel and Palestine.
That chapter in my life – too complicated to describe here – forms the basis of my forthcoming book, Out Of The Frame, to be published this autumn. But in brief, it involved the transformation of someone who had been a regular and unremarkable Israeli Zionist, and it came about because of exposure to alternative information, close relationships with several Palestinians and post-graduate studies abroad in Britain.
My quest for an authentic history of events in the Middle East required a personal de-militarisation of the mind. Even now, in 2010, Israel is in many ways a settler Prussian state: a combination of colonialist policies with a high level of militarisation in all aspects of life. This is the third feature of the Jewish state that has to be understood if one wants to comprehend the Israeli response. It is manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural and economic life within Israel. Defence minister Ehud Barak was the commanding officer of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, in a military unit similar to the one that assaulted the flotilla. That background was profoundly significant in terms of the state’s Zionist response to what they and all the commando officers perceived as the most formidable and dangerous enemy.
You probably have to be born in Israel, as I was, and go through the whole process of socialisation and education – including serving in the army – to grasp the power of this militarist mentality and its dire consequences. And you need such a background to understand why the whole premise on which the international community’s approach to the Middle East is based, is utterly and disastrously wrong.
The international response is based on the assumption that more forthcoming Palestinian concessions and a continued dialogue with the Israeli political elite will produce a new reality on the ground. The official discourse in the West is that a very reasonable and attainable solution – the two states solution – is just around the corner if all sides would make one final effort. Such optimism is hopelessly misguided.
The only version of this solution that is acceptable to Israel is the one that both the tamed Palestine Authority in Ramallah and the more assertive Hamas in Gaza could never accept. It is an offer to imprison the Palestinians in stateless enclaves in return for ending their struggle. And thus even before one discusses either an alternative solution – one democratic state for all, which I myself support – or explores a more plausible two-states settlement, one has to transform fundamentally the Israeli official and public mindset. It is this mentality which is the principal barrier to a peaceful reconciliation within the fractured terrain of Israel and Palestine.
How can one change it? That is the biggest challenge for activists within Palestine and Israel, for Palestinians and their supporters abroad and for anyone in the world who cares about peace in the Middle East. What is needed is, firstly, recognition that the analysis put forward here is valid and acceptable. Only then can one discuss the prognosis.
It is difficult to expect people to revisit a history of more than 60 years in order to comprehend better why the present international agenda on Israel and Palestine is misguided and harmful. But one can surely expect politicians, political strategists and journalists to reappraise what has been euphemistically called the “peace process” ever since 1948. They need also to be reminded that what actually happened.
Since 1948, Palestinians have been struggling against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. During that year, they lost 80% of their homeland and half of them were expelled. In 1967, they lost the remaining 20%. They were fragmented geographically and traumatised like no other people during the second half of the 20th century. And had it not been for the steadfastness of their national movement, the fragmentation would have enabled Israel to take over historical Palestine as a whole and push the Palestinians into oblivion.
Transforming a mindset is a long process of education and enlightenment. Against all the odds, some alternative groups within Israel have begun this long and winding road to salvation. But in the meantime Israeli policies, such as the blockade on Gaza, have to be stopped. They will not cease in response to feeble condemnations of the kind we heard last week, nor is the movement inside Israel strong enough to produce a change in the foreseeable future. The danger is not only the continued destruction of the Palestinians but a constant Israeli brinkmanship that could lead to a regional war, with dire consequences for the stability of the world as a whole.
In the past, the free world faced dangerous situations like that by taking firm actions such as the sanctions against South Africa and Serbia. Only sustained and serious pressure by Western governments on Israel will drive the message home that the strategy of force and the policy of oppression are not accepted morally or politically by the world to which Israel wants to belong.
The continued diplomacy of negotiations and “peace talks” enables the Israelis to pursue uninterruptedly the same strategies, and the longer this continues, the more difficult it will be to undo them. Now is the time to unite with the Arab and Muslim worlds in offering Israel a ticket to normality and acceptance in return for an unconditional departure from past ideologies and practices.
Removing the army from the lives of the oppressed Palestinians in the West Bank, lifting the blockade in Gaza and stopping the racist and discriminatory legislation against the Palestinians inside Israel, could be welcome steps towards peace. It is also vital to discuss seriously and without ethnic prejudices the return of the Palestinian refugees in a way that would respect their basic right of repatriation and the chances for reconciliation in Israel and Palestine. Any political outfit that could promise these achievements should be endorsed, welcomed and implemented by the international community and the people who live between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
And then the only flotillas making their way to Gaza would be those of tourists and pilgrims.
Scottish campaigner Theresa McDermott speaks to David Pratt
Sunday Herald 6 June 2010
He had described how when the Israeli soldiers came to the press room on the half deck of the Marmara, they walked straight up to the Turkish man whose job it was to coordinate facilities for the journalists, put a gun to his head and shot the man dead at point-blank range.
I was on Challenger 1, a 25-metre motor yacht that was the smallest in the flotilla. On board were 10 women and five men, among them a retired female US military colonel, two Australian journalists, four crew and the captain, Irishman Denis Healy. Our rendezvous point with the other ships was about a quarter of the way between Cyprus and Gaza. As night fell the ships pulled closer together around the Mavi Marmara, the largest of the ships in the Free Gaza flotilla. During the night we noticed four big ships, two on either side of our group. One of the guys on our boat who had worked for the coastguard back in Ireland identified one of them as an Israeli frigate.
Just after midnight on Sunday the Israelis radioed the Marmara, which in turn contacted us, warning the flotilla would not be allowed to proceed. It was around four o’ clock on Monday morning, while early morning Muslim prayers were underway on the Marmara, that the Israeli boats and commandos arrived. They walked up to the man co-ordinating facilities for journalists, put a gun to his head and shot him dead at point-blank range
Obviously, they had timed that raid to coincide with the prayers. To starboard we saw a row of lights appearing on the water as a group of small Israeli boats approached, while on the port side there were others, and we realised we were being surrounded. The fast inflatable Zodiacs with the commandos cut right through the flotilla, trying to separate us.
The Israeli commandos were finding it hard to board, with those on the Marmara using fire hoses to stop them. As soon as the Zodiacs got close enough they fired smoke and percussion bombs. Right from the beginning these weapons caused injuries. I’m assuming that at this point the Israelis were still using rubber bullets, but they definitely started firing live ammunition when the helicopter came in on its second attempt to drop off more soldiers.
It was all very loud, with people running around on the Marmara, which was shining its lights onto the helicopter. The crew even tried turning the fire hose on it but the downwash from the helicopters soaked everyone. I was told later by those on board the Marmara that the first two soldiers who abseiled down from the helicopter were overpowered and taken and searched by some of the Turkish activists.
On the commandos, they found plasticised detailed maps of the layout of every boat and pictures of people on board including MPs, bishops and other VIPs. Maybe these were the people the Israelis were trying to avoid harming. I was told there were those on board who really wanted to have a go at the Israeli soldiers who were being detained, but were held back by others. When the helicopter returned, more commandos came down and that’s when the live firing started, and some on board the Marmara told me that bullets were definitely fired from the helicopter. I was on the flydeck of the Challenger on watch along with the captain and two Australian journalists, and it was maybe fifteen minutes after they boarded the Marmara that they came for us.
The captain had opened up the throttle to try and put as much distance between us and the Marmara when we saw that things were getting heavy on its deck, but the Zodiacs came up alongside us and fired more smoke and percussion bombs. Our only resistance was to stand by the rail of the boat with our hands out, so they could see clearly, we had no weapons, and try to block them from coming on board. We had no intention of fighting back. One of the bombs hit the face of a Belgian woman, bursting her nose before exploding on the boat. She was in a bad way and started bleeding heavily.
At least 20 soldiers came on board and each had a number on the shoulder of his uniform. In charge was number 20, while a lower rank had the number one on his shoulder. They were all wearing ski masks and had on body armour and were fully armed and very aggressive. On seeing the female journalist on board, they Tasered her. I saw the electrical discharge shoot up her arm and she collapsed, vomiting, on the deck. At least three of the soldiers had Australian accents. Two of the women on board, Huweida Arraf, a Palestinian with joint US nationality, and a Dutch woman, Anna, who tried to block the stairs to the deck, were thrown to the ground, their hands cuffed with plastic ties that cut into their wrists and their faces pushed on to the deck that was full of broken glass. They were also blindfolded and hooded. We shouted at them: “Are you proud of this, is this what your army teaches you, beating up women?”
At one point when I was shouting and wouldn’t sit down and trying to get to the girls they were beating, one soldier cocked his automatic pistol and put the gun to my head and said he would shoot me if I didn’t do as I was told. I didn’t have time to be scared but realised it was probably time to back off and give him space. The level of aggression they showed was way over the top, with rubber bullets scattered everywhere. When bullets hit, they seemed to release a sort of dust that glowed, perhaps so they could be picked up by the commandos’ night sights.
When they took us into port in Ashdod, we were paraded from the moment we arrived and jeered at by the large crowd there. All the time they filmed us, especially when they gave us food. They even tried to distribute some of the captain’s beer but we didn’t drink because we knew it was a propaganda thing. We were processed through Ashdod and doctors there examined us, but never really treated us. When some of us pointed out the levels of bruising they told us it was just mosquito bites. They then searched us and gave us a bit of paper to sign that would allow then to deport us as illegal immigrants, but we refused.
We hadn’t entered Israel of our own free will but were kidnapped in international waters. We were moved to a jail in Beersheva, a new prison block apparently called LA block. It was so new that there was still dust and plaster on the floor. Here they continued filming us, and we eventually had our first food. I think the reason they put us here was because it was so isolated and there was no news for us to see about what had happened to those on board the Marmara and other ships. Later our embassy staff told us they had been kept waiting at the entrance since one o’clock that day having been refused access to us.
Separated throughout from the men, in the jail we began to get news from the other women of what had happened on the Marmara. Some of the stories were horrific. One Turkish woman had lost her husband. In our cell, there was also an Indonesian woman whose husband was a Turkish journalist on board.
He had described how when the Israeli soldiers came to the press room on the half deck of the Marmara, they walked straight up to the Turkish man whose job it was to coordinate facilities for the journalists, put a gun to his head and shot the man dead at point-blank range.
Two people who worked in the medical area on the Marmara also said they had at least three bodies, who had been shot in the head in what looked like an execution style.
Another thing the Israelis did that was particularly nasty while we were in the Beersheva jail was to take a woman into a room and ask her to identify her husband from photos they had taken after he was killed. Before leaving the Marmara the crew had time to clean and prepare the man’s body for burial. She was able to say her good byes then with his body properly wrapped and with the eyes closed. But in the photos his body had evidently been left to bloat virtually beyond recognition in the sun. She collapsed on seeing these and had to be comforted by the other women.
They were also extremely aggressive during our deportation to Turkey. We were woken at 6.30am and loaded into high-security wagons, two or three crammed into a tiny cell on board the vehicles. Though the journey to the airport was only an hour-and-a-half we were kept in the daytime heat in these cramped compartments for a whole five hours. One of the women, an Australian, was pregnant and we kept shouting at the guards that she was with us and that we needed the toilet, but they kept us there.
At Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, we were jostled and jeered by huge numbers of soldiers who surrounded us, and I saw a number of the men beaten up by soldiers. One Irishman who refused deportation to Turkey, was hauled from his seat kicked and punched on the body by a large group of Israelis.
During the many hours we were forced to sit in the one spot there without moving, our consular staff were kept outside and never allowed access to any of us. At the airport too I saw many of the injured and wounded forced to make their own way to the planes the Turkish government had sent to fly us out. Unless they couldn’t physically walk, the wounded had to struggle unaided to the aircraft, some carrying drip and drainage bags and with bloody dressings that looked as thought they had not be changed that often.
Now all I have to do is draw up a list of all the things the Israelis took from me as I left with only the clothes I wore when we were arrested. Through our embassy I’ll try to get my possessions back.
If I’d had the chance I would have gone straight back and joined the crew on the Rachel Corrie, the next ship that was going to try and get into Gaza. The behaviour of the Israelis has only made us all the more determined to carry on helping with the Palestinian cause. If this is the level of random violence and humiliation internationals received, can you imagine what they do to the Palestinians?
There Are No ‘Israelis’ in the Jewish State
Jonathan Cook (06/04/2010)
Israel refused to recognise an Israeli nationality at the country’s establishment in 1948, making an unusual distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality”
A group of Jews and Arabs are fighting in the Israeli courts to be recognised as ‘Israelis’, a nationality currently denied them, in a case that officials fear may threaten the country’s self-declared status as a Jewish state.
Israel refused to recognise an Israeli nationality at the country’s establishment in 1948, making an unusual distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality”. Although all Israelis qualify as “citizens of Israel”, the state is defined as belonging to the “Jewish nation”, meaning not only the 5.6 million Israeli Jews but also more than seven million Jews in the diaspora.
Critics say the special status of Jewish nationality has been a way to undermine the citizenship rights of non-Jews in Israel, especially the fifth of the population who are Arab. Some 30 laws in Israel specifically privilege Jews, including in the areas of immigration rights, naturalisation, access to land and employment.
Arab leaders have also long complained that indications of “Arab” nationality on ID cards make it easy for police and government officials to target Arab citizens for harsher treatment. The interior ministry has adopted more than 130 possible nationalities for Israeli citizens, most of them defined in religious or ethnic terms, with “Jewish” and “Arab” being the main categories.
The head of the campaign for Israeli nationality, Uzi Ornan, a retired linguistics professor, said: “It is absurd that Israel, which recognises dozens of different nationalities, refuses to recognise the one nationality it is supposed to represent.” The government opposes the case, claiming that the campaign’s real goal is to “undermine the state’s infrastructure” — a presumed reference to laws and official institutions that ensure Jewish citizens enjoy a privileged status in Israel.
Mr Ornan, 86, said that denying a common Israeli nationality was the linchpin of state-sanctioned discrimination against the Arab population. “There are even two laws — the Law of Return for Jews and the Citizenship Law for Arabs — that determine how you belong to the state,” he said. “What kind of democracy divides its citizens into two kinds?” Yoel Harshefi, a lawyer supporting Mr Ornan, said the interior ministry had resorted to creating national groups with no legal recognition outside Israel, such as “Arab” or “unknown”, to avoid recognising an Israeli nationality.
“Imagine the uproar in Jewish communities in the United States, Britain or France, if the authorities there tried to classify their citizens as “Jewish” or “Christian”,” said Mr Ornan. “The State of Israel cannot recognise an ‘Israeli’ nation because it is the state of the ‘Jewish’ nation … it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American, Hungarian or Argentine nations.” Mr Ornan said the lack of a common nationality violated Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which says the state will “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex”.
Mr Ornan said any official could instantly tell if he was looking at the card of a Jew or Arab because the date of birth on the IDs of Jews was given according to the Hebrew calendar. In addition, the ID of an Arab, unlike a Jew, included the grandfather’s name. “Flash your ID card and whatever government clerk is sitting across from you immediately knows which ‘clan’ you belong to, and can refer you to those best suited to ‘handle your kind’,” Mr Ornan said.
The distinction between Jewish and Arab nationalities is also shown on interior ministry records used to make important decisions about personal status issues such as marriage, divorce and death, which are dealt with on entirely sectarian terms. Only Israelis from the same religious group, for example, are allowed to marry inside Israel — otherwise they are forced to wed abroad – and cemeteries are separated according to religious belonging.
A similar legal suit brought by a Tel Aviv psychologist, George Tamrin, failed in 1970. Shimon Agranat, head of the supreme court at the time, ruled: “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people. … The Jewish people is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of diaspora Jewries.”
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