Briefing Paper June 2012

How BBC views Gaza through a Zionist looking glass

Amena Saleem The Electronic Intifada 11/04/12

According to the BBC, Palestinians in Gaza are accustomed to a state of constant siege.

Watching, reading or listening to a BBC report on Israel’s occupation of Palestine is like stepping through the Zionist looking-glass and witnessing not the reality of the situation, but Israel’s totally distorted version of it. In this inverted world, presented to us by a broadcaster with a huge global reach, we were recently told that the besieged people of Gaza have become accustomed to the relentless violence and deprivation of Israel’s occupation and siege, while the residents of southern Israel continue to feel anxiety and dread when crude rockets are fired into their neighbourhood.

These extraordinary claims are made in two juxtaposed articles published on one page recently on BBC Online (“Gaza-Israel clashes: The view from each side,” 13 March 2012).They perfectly encapsulate the BBC’s general attitude towards reporting on the occupation — reporting which, with sad regularity, lacks truth, honesty and integrity. Published just after Israel had bombed Gaza continuously for four days, killing 27 Palestinians including children as young as seven, the headline for the article about Gaza reads, “Gazans ‘inured’ to conflict.”

This incredible opinion — that the people of Gaza have become used to the mass killings visited on them by Israeli airstrikes, to the destruction of their homes by F16s, to the suffering caused by near-total blockade, to the restrictions on their freedom and movement, to the daily terror of drones flying overhead — is that of the BBC’s correspondent in Gaza, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes.

An experienced journalist, Wingfield-Hayes provides no evidence for his article from official sources such as the United Nations or Palestine Trauma Centre, which produce factual reports on the high levels of mental health problems amongst the population. Nor does he interview any Palestinians in Gaza on whether they have become habituated to the Israeli bombs which fall on their homes and incinerate members of their families in order to back up his headline-making claim. Instead, the basis for his assertion is that, while Israeli warplanes fly overhead as he sits in a building in Gaza City, “down below on the streets the cars kept passing, the shops stayed open, pedestrians kept walking home with their groceries.”

And so, because people continue trying to survive amidst the destruction, the BBC presents them as being “inured” to the violence and injustice that is rained down on them on a daily basis. This public broadcaster, paid for by the UK taxpayer, denies the Palestinians even the luxury of sharing the same human feelings of terror, frustration and longing for freedom that everyone else on the planet is allowed to possess. Described as being “inured” to a situation no sentient human being could become used to, they are, essentially, deemed less than human.

Wingfield-Hayes also renders invisible Israel’s five-year siege, with not even a brief description of the desperate situation currently facing Palestinians in Gaza, as supplies of fuel and cooking gas near exhaustion, electricity is available only six hours in every 24, hospitals cancel operations, schools and universities close, and families resort to candles for light and ancient clay ovens, lit with straw and wood, to cook food. Is this because reporting honestly on the siege and its effects might elicit sympathy, even understanding, for the Palestinians and clash with the image Israel wants the media to project of a terrorist population threatening its security?

Was a desire to present Israel’s singular view of international law also the reason behind the article’s original claim that the occupation of Gaza had ended in 2005? A written complaint from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign directing the BBC’s Middle East editor to UN resolutions on the matter resulted in a paragraph being added to say that Israel still maintains control over Gaza’s borders and airspace.   Astonishing and inept

Nevertheless, Wingfield-Hayes’ extraordinary questioning of an unfortunate Palestinian in Gaza remains in the modified article. “What do you mean when you say you are struggling against the occupation?” he demands of a man who does not have the freedom to move beyond an area of land measuring 25 miles by 4 miles, whose every aspect of life, including whether he will be allowed enough food to keep his family alive, is controlled by Israel. “After all Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005,” Wingfield-Hayes insists. This is quite astonishing and, taking into account Wingfield-Hayes’ failure to mention the siege which dominates this man’s life, journalistically inept. The subconscious message this article is sending out, by denying the desperate reality in Gaza in favor of groundless, unsupported theories put forward by the journalist, is that Palestinians in Gaza are ok, there’s nothing to worry about, you can look away.

This is in stark contrast to the article which runs parallel to it, headlined “Israel’s Iron Dome hopes.” In this piece, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly tells us how “normal life” in southern Israel is “severely disrupted” during periods of rocket fire. He provides us with emotive descriptions of the “anxiety” of the Israelis as they go through “grimly familiar rituals” on hearing “the mournful howling” of sirens and describes a young man running in fear for shelter. We learn about “that familiar sense of dread” experienced by the residents of southern Israel and their hopes that the Iron Dome missile shield will become an “instrument of deliverance” from Gaza’s rockets.

These are clearly not people, Connolly is saying, who are inured to conflict. So why, according to the BBC, do they still feel dread and anxiety and not the Palestinians? Are the Palestinians simply hardier, or are the F16s, Apache helicopters, armoured tanks and drones deployed against them just not as frightening as the homemade rockets which terrify the Israelis?

Connolly’s article focuses on the image of the Israeli state defending itself from the besieged, refugee population of Gaza. As with Wingfield-Hayes’ contribution to “the view from each side,” there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Israel illegally occupies Gaza, has held it under tight siege for six years, committed a massacre of 1,400 people there during three weeks in 2008-09, shoots from remote-controlled watchtowers at Palestinian children collecting rubble and from gunboats at fishermen trying to catch fish to feed their impoverished families, and no mention at all that Israel violates international law every single day of the year in relation to Gaza and the Palestinians.

Connolly talks about the levels of “military balance” between the Israelis (funded to the tune of $3 billion a year in military aid by the US) and the Palestinians (a people with no state and no army). Wingfield-Hayes implies, when he interviews a man whose house has been reduced to rubble by an airstrike, that the Palestinians have brought their collective punishment upon themselves by standing up to Israel and refusing to accept their occupation.

As a BBC journalist who has been asked to step through the Zionist looking-glass, he does not of course tell his audience that, under the Geneva convention, collective punishment is illegal or that international law allows an occupied people to resist their occupation. To do this would mean leaving Wonderland and stepping back through the looking-glass and into reality. This is something that the BBC, with its twisted, fact-free reporting of the occupation loaded in favor of Israel, seems incapable of doing. After all, this is the same organization which has declared that “Palestine doesn’t exist” while simultaneously warning that to claim it isn’t free is a contentious issue. And with the

BBC’s reach extending into every corner of the globe, this inability — or unwillingness — is something that should concern us all.

A lack of vision is making Israel a short-term state

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 15/04/12

Nobody is doing anything to stop democracy from rupturing, nobody is stopping Israel on its way to becoming a pariah, even more than it is already.

There’s no country like Israel. The United States is uncertain how many Americans will be unemployed and have health insurance in a decade; Europe is asking how many more immigrants will enter and whether the euro will exist by 2022. In Israel, the existential issues are immeasurably more profound and wide-ranging, but no one bothers to address them. The prime minister talks as if his problems were of the European kind (not including the Iranian nuclear hysteria), yet much more fateful issues remain open and somehow nobody discusses them. Israel is 64 years old and the issues remain pending, as if the state had been established yesterday and there are no answers.

Nobody can say what this country will look like in 10 years. Some people even doubt that it will exist by then, an issue not raised about any other country. But even the preoccupation with this groundless question is reduced to sowing fear and whining at Friday night dinner. All other issues, no less critical, don’t even come up. Does anybody know whether Israel will be a democracy in a decade? Can anyone promise that it will be? Will it be a secular state or one based on Jewish law? Will it be a welfare state or a capitalist one? How many nations will live in it in a decade? Who will be the majority in 10 years – another question you won’t hear anywhere else – and what will the borders be? That question, too, is raised only in Israel, the only borderless state.

Everything is open, fluid and alarmingly fragile. The three future scenarios for Israel as an occupation state – continuing the status quo forever, two states or one – appear groundless, and people have stopped addressing them, as if the absence of discourse will produce a feasible solution. But all other critical questions have no real answer either and hardly appear on the agenda, even though Israelis should focus on them. A state without a (clear) future, wallowing in the past and focusing on the present, is tantamount to a short-term state. Even on the eve of our national days of pathos, nobody asks what Israel will be like in a decade, which is no time at all in historical terms.

Last week I joined the pilgrims to Hebron on Passover eve. In the bus, one of them, using a derogatory term for Arabs, said loudly: “All the Arabushim should be sent to the stone crushers straight from the hospital, as soon as they’re born.” The whole bus roared with laughter. Some passengers muttered at us, a reporter and a photographer, the only secular people on the bus: “Collaborators, there are collaborators on the bus.” Nobody protested, naturally.

The thousands of pilgrims to Hebron, with their myriads of supporters, belong to another nation, with no connection or resemblance to the nation of Tel Aviv. Every society has an extreme right wing today, but in a small, fragile society like ours, this could become fatal. The United States can afford its dark Christian right and remain a democracy. Israel cannot. Can anyone guarantee that the hostile tone from the fortified bus to Hebron won’t turn into the prevailing tone? Clearly things are heading in that direction and nobody is doing anything to stop it.

Nobody is doing anything to stop democracy from rupturing, nobody is stopping Israel on its way to becoming a pariah, even more than it is already. Today, when 650 police officers will bravely storm a handful of human rights activists and harshly turn them away from Ben-Gurion International Airport, solely for seeking to visit Bethlehem in a display of solidarity, few people will protest or stop them. Neither the mobilized media nor the flaccid justice system will do anything to stop the disgrace.

This is how things stand regarding several other events and developments shaping Israel’s image, without any real discussion. The strong, not necessarily the many, triumph, battle by battle, and the majority, if it still is a majority, is silent. The question where we are heading remains unanswered.

Britain’s duty to the Palestinian people

Raed Salah The Guardian 19/04/12

I came to the UK to talk about the plight of the Palestinians but ended up fighting deportation. This is what I wanted to say:

In June 2011 I came to Britain to begin a speaking tour to draw attention to the plight of my people, the Palestinian citizens of Israel. The tour was meant to last 10 days. Instead I had to stay for 10 months in order to resist an attempt by the home secretary, Theresa May, to deport me – itself the result of a smear campaign against me and what I represent. I fought not just for my own sake, but for all who are smeared because they support the Palestinian cause.

Since 1990 I have visited the UK several times to speak publicly. On this occasion I was arrested, imprisoned, and told I was to be deported to Israel because my presence in the UK was “not conducive to the public good”. A judge later ruled that I had been illegally detained, but bail conditions continued to severely restrict my freedom, making it impossible for me to speak as I had intended.

After a 10-month legal battle, I have now been cleared on “all grounds” by a senior immigration tribunal judge, who ruled that May’s decision to deport me was “entirely unnecessary” and that she had been “misled”. The evidence she relied on (which included a poem of mine which had been doctored to make it appear anti-Jewish) was not, he concluded, a fair portrayal of my views. In reality, I reject any and every form of racism, including antisemitism. I have no doubt that, despite this, Israel’s cheerleaders in Britain will continue to smear my character. This is the price every Palestinian leader and campaigner is forced to pay.

My people – the Palestinians – are the longstanding victims of Israeli racism. Victims of racism, anywhere, should never condone or support the maltreatment of another people, as Israel does. The suffering of the Palestinian citizens of Israel has been ignored for decades. But there is today a growing awareness of it, which partially explains this smear campaign against me. In December 2011, EU ambassadors in Israel raised serious concerns about Israeli discrimination, noting that “not only has the situation of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel not improved, but it has further deteriorated”.

There are around 1.5 million Arabs in Israel. We make up 17% of the population, but we face a barrage of racist policies and discriminatory laws. We receive less than 5% of funds allocated by the government for development. Public spending on children in Arab municipalities is one-third lower than that of children in Jewish municipalities. The average hourly wage of Arab workers is about 70% of that of Jewish workers. Any Jew, from any country, is allowed under Israel’s law of return to migrate to Israel; Palestinian refugees are not allowed to exercise their right of return. While a Jew can live anywhere in Israel, a Palestinian citizen cannot. Jews can marry whoever they wish and live with them in Israel, Palestinian citizens cannot.

In the criminal justice system, a 2011 study commissioned by Israel’s courts administration and Israel bar association revealed that almost half of Arabs receive custodial sentences for certain crimes, compared to a third of Jews. While 63.5% of Arabs convicted of violent crimes were sentenced to prison, only 43.7% of similar Jewish offenders were.

Education is only one of several areas in which Palestinian citizens face discrimination in Israel. The Israeli government allocates less money per head for Arab children’s education than it does for that of Jewish children. One devastating consequence is that the drop-out rate from schools is three times higher among Arabs than among Jews. Nowhere is the injustice more striking than in the Negev. Living in poverty in “unrecognised” villages, the Arab Bedouin are ineligible for basic services such as water, electricity, and healthcare. The

Negev village of al-Araqib has been demolished 35 times by the Israeli government; on every occasion, it was rebuilt by its inhabitants.

Despite the Israeli policy of “transfer” – another term for ethnic cleansing – the Palestinians will not go away. The Israeli state can occupy our lands, demolish our homes, drill tunnels under the old city of Jerusalem – but we will not disappear. Instead, we now aspire to a directly elected leadership for Palestinians in Israel; one that would truly represent our interests. We seek only the legal rights guaranteed to us by international conventions and laws.

The Palestinian issue can only be resolved if Israel and its supporters in Britain abandon the dogmas of supremacy and truly adhere to the universal values of justice and fairness. Britain has a special responsibility in this, because it is uniquely responsible for our suffering: our national tragedy began with the Balfour Declaration. While Britain enforced the first part of the declaration, which promised Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people, but ignored the part that states: “It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

If there is any lesson to be learned from this sordid affair, it is that there is nothing to gain from putting false words into my mouth, or casting me out of the mainstream of public discourse.

First forced eviction of Palestinian family in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina to make way for Jewish settlers

Adri Nieuwhof Electronic Intifada 23/04/12

On 18 April, the Palestinian Natsheh family was evicted from their home in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighborhood in the north of occupied East Jerusalem The eviction was carried out by the Bailiff’s Office with police back-up. Beit Hanina’s first forced removal left two parents and nine children homeless.Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, immediately released a statement condemning Israel’s unlawful act. “Evictions of Palestinians from their homes and properties in occupied territory contravene international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should cease,” he said. A few days later, the European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah followed Gaylard’s example. The EU missions expressed their deep concern about the plans to build a new settlement in the midst of Beit Hanina, reported press agency AFP. The missions reiterated the EU position that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.

The eviction follows a court case brought against the Palestinian families by Aryeh King, founder of the right-wing settlement organization Israel Land Fund. King claimed that the property belonged to Jewish residents prior to 1948 and were purchased by a Jewish buyer 35 years ago. Palestinian owner Khaled Natsheh could not prove his ownership of his property because land transactions in Beit Hanina between Palestinians are generally not filed with the municipality, he told the Jerusalem Post. Members of the Natsheh family possessed the land as far back as the 1940s.

The Jerusalem Magistrate Court decided to grant ownership of the property to King’s “client.” Following the court decision one Palestinian family “voluntarily” left their home after King promised to waive the NIS 250,000 debt the court awarded to the Israel Land Fund for damages. However, the Natsheh family refused to move. “Even if [King] gave me a million shekels I wouldn’t give him the keys,” said Natsheh. “I’m not going to leave, I will die here. Whatever they want to do, they can do. Whatever they want, I’m not leaving the house. If they kill me, they kill me,” he told the Jerusalem Post.

The Israel Land Fund plans to build 50 apartments for settlers on the land which is located close to the Jerusalem Light Rail. King advertised the Israel land Fund’s illegal business in Beit Hanina on twitter on 28 March:

In Judaizing’ Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, with backing from Americans, Jeff Halper described the harassment of the Natsheh family:

Driving Palestinians out of their homes in “east” Jerusalem is, as you can imagine, a dirty business. But its not terribly difficult. The Palestinians are a vulnerable population, poor (70% subsist on less than $2 a day), completely unprotected by the law or Israeli courts, and targeted by determined Jewish settlers with all the money and political backing in the world – much of its coming, of course, from the US, mainly from orthodox Jews and Christian Zionists. Over the past few days settlers led by Arieh King have been harassing Palestinian residents of Beit Hanina, according to King, settlers will “very soon” take over four houses, plus an additional two houses in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where violent night time evictions aided by the Israeli police have become commonplace. The immediate target of window-breaking, curses, violent encounters and now a police search of the home “for weapons” is the Natsheh family of Beit Hanina.

The illegal practices in Beit Hanina of King’s Israel Land Fund are welcomed by the Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari. “The city of Jerusalem needs to remember that every government talks about a united Jerusalem, that means that Jews can build in every place, and we’ll continue to build through the entire city,” he told the Jerusalem Post. However, East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law and Israel has no right to demolish Palestinian property, to evict Palestinians from their homes or land, or to build on Palestinian land: no walls, no settlements and no light rail. To condemn these violations of the rights of the Palestinians is not sufficient.

The right to water: Water cistern demolitions in Hebron area

ISM 24/04/12

On Monday April 23, 2012, the Israeli occupation forces destroyed four water cisterns outside of the city of al-Khalil (Hebron). Two of the destroyed cisterns were located in the Abweire area, a small agricultural neighbourhood of 400-500 residents northeast of al-Khalil. The other two cisterns destroyed were located in Hal-Houl, south of al-Khalil. The demolitions came just one week after another four cisterns were destroyed in the Meshroona area south of al-Khalil.

Palestinians in these areas, who are located in Area C, are forced to depend on rain water cisterns for their crops and livestock because of unequal distribution of water resources to surrounding illegal, Zionist settlements. The destruction of such cisterns is part of a calculated strategy of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing in occupied Palestine. According to the Israeli organization Diakonia, water cistern demolitions over the past two years have directly affected almost 14,000 Palestinians, among whom several hundred have been forced to leave their homes because of lack of water. International law forbids the targeting of structures essential for the survival of the civilian population.

The day after their water cistern was demolished, activists with ISM visited members of the Ashfour family in Abweire in order to talk and survey the damage. The occupation forces did not stop with removing the top of the cistern, but actually smashed the sidewalls, rendering the structure totally useless. The occupation forces came without warning in four jeeps, an armored personnel carrier, an armored bulldozer, and another armored earth-wrecking machine, along with personnel from the Israeli permits and construction offices. They claimed that the cistern was constructed illegally, without the necessary permits, and began to destroy the cistern.

Within an hour, the Ashfour family’s hopes for irrigating their crops lay in ruins. According to Hisham Ashfour, the cistern had been built almost ten years ago and served not only his family but about fifty people in his neighborhood. The other cistern destroyed in Abweire was also rendered completely unusable, having been filled in with dirt by an Israeli bulldozer.

Slamming the door to justice on Palestinians

Ali Abunimah Electronic Intifada 07/05/12

Israel’s ability to commit crimes against Palestinians with impunity relies on international complicity.

Chicago, IL – There is a determined international effort to ensure that Palestinians are shut out of every legal forum where they could pursue justice for Israel’s crimes against them. Nothing illustrates this better than the horrifying case of the Samouni massacre. Last week, Israeli military prosecutors announced that no charges would be filed against the soldiers responsible for killing dozens of members of the Samouni family during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza.

Israeli officials decided, according to Haaretz, that “the attack on civilians ‘who did not take part in the fighting’, and their killing, were not done knowingly and directly, or out of haste and negligence ‘in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility'”. We ought to remind ourselves of what actually happened to put the claim that the killings “were not done knowingly and directly” in its proper context. The events are recounted in harrowing detail in the UN-commissioned Goldstone report, based on a thorough investigation.

100 civilians forced into house, then deliberately shelled.

On January 4, 2009, nine days into the assault on Gaza, Israeli soldiers invaded the Zaytoun area south of Gaza City. In an area named al-Samouni – after the extended family that lives there – the invaders entered houses by force, killing and injuring occupants in the process. They then forced about 100 civilians, mostly women and children, to gather in the home of Wa’el Samouni. Israeli forces forbade them to leave for a safer area and, as the UN report states: “There was hardly any water and no milk for the babies.”

“Twenty-one family members were killed and 19 injured in the shelling of just that house… Nine of the dead in Wa’el Samouni’s house were children, the youngest a baby of six months.”

On the morning of January 5, Wa’el Samouni and five other men stepped out of the house to collect some firewood. Israeli soldiers positioned on surrounding rooftops could see the men clearly.

“Suddenly,” the report states, “a projectile struck next to the five men, close to the door of Wa’el’s house, and killed Muhammad Ibrahim al-Samouni and, probably, Hamdi Maher al-Samouni. The other men managed to retreat to the house. Within about five minutes, two or three more projectiles had struck the house directly.”

Twenty-one family members were killed and 19 injured in the shelling of just that house. Others had been killed, injured and left to die in nearby homes. Nine of the dead in Wa’el Samouni’s house were children, the youngest a baby of six months. The dead children included Wa’el Samouni’s 14-year-old daughter, Rizqa, and 12-year-old son, Faris. Those who were able to, fled the house toward Gaza City to seek help. Children left for days among bodies of their parents

As if the massacre wasn’t bad enough, the Israeli army then repeatedly turned away several efforts by Red Crescent ambulances to rescue the injured. Soldiers even blocked an ambulance that had been thoroughly searched and sent it back to Gaza City empty. When ambulances finally reached the devastated area on January 7, they found 15 bodies and two seriously injured children in Wa’el Samouni’s house. The children, lying among the decomposing corpses of their family members, were dehydrated and terrified.

Israeli armed forces were in full control. The Israelis could not even use the usual excuse of “collateral damage” amid fierce fighting for this atrocity. The UN commission found that “already before daybreak on January 4, 2009 the Israeli armed forces were in full control of the al-Samouni neighbourhood”, and there was no fighting there. “Everything indicates that the Israeli forces knew that there were about 100 civilians in the house. Indeed, the families had asked to be allowed to leave the area towards a safer place, but had been ordered to stay in Wa’el al-Samouni’s house. The house must have been under constant observation by the Israeli soldiers, who had complete control over the area at the time,” the report added. Four days after the massacre, the Israeli army even denied publicly that any attack on the house of Wa’el Samouni had taken place. That’s the same army, charged with investigating itself, that has now concluded that no crime occurred.

Why did the Israeli decision come now?

“The decision to close the Samouni family case clearly indicates Israel’s genuine unwillingness to uphold the rule of international law, and highlights the urgent need for recourse to mechanisms of international criminal justice,” said the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which represents many Gaza victims. But it seems likely that Israel waited to announce this brazen whitewash precisely until it was certain there would be little chance of international courts pursuing the culprits.

“It is important to understand that such impunity is no accident; it depends on international complicity and determined joint action … to close every door to justice for Palestinians

” Last month, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), rejected an application from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Gaza because, the ICC prosecutor argued, it was up to UN bodies or ICC states parties to decide if the PA was a “state” for the purposes of joining the court. Amnesty International condemned the ICC prosecutor’s decision as “dangerous” and “political”.

The decision “opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC”, said Marek Marczynski, head of Amnesty International’s international justice campaign. “It also breaches the Rome Statute which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges.”

“It’s disgraceful but not surprising that the ICC has dismissed Palestine’s complaint against Israel,” said Michael Mandel, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. “It sat on the complaint for over three years, always proudly announcing that it was investigating it to give the appearance of impartiality.” Given what he saw as the ICC prosecutor’s biases toward the agenda of the United States – which is not even a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the court – Mandel concluded that the ICC “was a hoax from the start”.

The ICC prosecutor’s deeply troubling decision to let Israel off the hook sent Israeli authorities the signal that it was safe to close the file on the Samouni massacre. And if Israel saw no crime in that brazen case, then don’t expect Israel to hold itself accountable for any other killings. But it is important to understand that such impunity is no accident; it depends on international complicity and determined joint action – in effect a conspiracy – to close every door to justice for Palestinians.

At the head of all these efforts has been the United States, especially under the Obama administration. President Barack Obama’s then newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, told Politico in 2009 that one of her key tasks would be to battle “the anti-Israel crap”.

In fact, what Rice has done is lead a relentless anti-Palestinian crusade at the UN, which included efforts to discredit and bury the Goldstone report, blocking the Palestinian Authority’s bid for “Palestine” to be admitted as a full UN member (which I opposed for different reasons), cutting off funds to UNESCO for admitting Palestine, and most recently attempting to bully the UN Human Rights Council into abandoning a probe of Israel’s illegal West Bank colonies.

But these efforts go back further and rely on more than just the United States.

“Former prisoners and hunger strikers have said that even the smallest demonstration, the smallest acts of solidarity anywhere in the world – which those still in Israel’s jails might hear about on smuggled radios – make an enormous difference to their morale.”

Recall that a decade ago, survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut attempted to pursue justice in Belgium against Israel’s Ariel Sharon, who was defence minister in charge of Israeli forces occupying Lebanon at the time. Under US pressure, Belgium changed its widely acclaimed universal jurisdiction law just to protect Israel.

And after a UK magistrate issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni in 2009, for accusations related to her role in the attack on Gaza, the UK government rushed to change its laws, effectively taking away the independence of the courts as a venue for victims of international crimes to seek justice. Rubbing salt into the wounds of the surviving Samouni family members, UK foreign secretary William Hague welcomed Livni to London in October 2011.

“It was an appalling situation when political abuse of our legal procedures prevented people like Ms Livni from travelling legitimately to the UK,” Hague said of the effort to bring her to justice.

In fact the appalling abuse is the political interference to constantly change the legal rules to ensure Israeli impunity.

What can Palestinians do?

Given how determined the United States and its clients are to block all official channels for redress and justice for Palestinians, it is clear that Palestinians and those who support their rights must intensify their efforts by other means. This would include mass mobilisation, the option of resistance through all legitimate means and building international solidarity especially through the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

Right now the battle is being waged by more than 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike, subjected to a cruel system of prolonged detention without charge or trial, or conviction by Israeli military kangaroo courts, and to inhumane and illegal conditions of imprisonment. The most urgent cases are often hunger strikers, who are gravely ill and close to death, and who are still being denied family visits and access to independent doctors and lawyers.

The Susan Rices and William Hagues of the world are not only silent about these crimes, but fully complicit in them.

Former prisoners and hunger strikers have said that even the smallest demonstration, the smallest acts of solidarity anywhere in the world – which those still in Israel’s jails might hear about on smuggled radios – make an enormous difference to their morale. So we must not sit by in despair; it remains up to all of us to put as much pressure on Israel and its accomplices as citizens can.

Palestinian Prisoners’ Mass Hunger Strike Concludes After Agreement is Reached

Electronic Intifada May 2012

Ramallah, 15 May 2012 – After nearly a full month of fasting, around 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners ended last night their mass hunger strike upon reaching an agreement with the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to attain certain core demands. Addameer lauds these achievements of the prisoners’ movement and can only hope that Israel will implement any policy changes in good faith.

Addameer (Palestinian prisoners’ rights group) especially commends those individuals who engaged in open hunger strike for over two months, displaying remarkable steadfastness in the struggle for their most basic rights. The demands raised in the collective hunger strike, which was launched on 17 April, included an end to the IPS’ abusive use of isolation for “security” reasons, which currently affects 19 prisoners, some of whom have spent 10 years in isolation, and a repeal of a series of punitive measures taken against Palestinian prisoners following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, including the denial of family visits for all Gaza prisoners since 2007 and denial of access to university education since June 2011. Prisoners also called for an end to Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in administrative detention. Eight prisoners, including five administrative detainees, had already begun their hunger strikes as early as the end of February.

The details of the agreement signed last night by the prisoners’ committee representing the hunger strikers was recounted today to Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad in his visit to Ahed Abu Gholmeh, who is a member of the committee, and to Addameer lawyer Mahmoud Hassan during his visit to Ahmad Sa’adat in Ramleh prison medical clinic, who conveyed what he was told last night when members of the committee came to Ramleh to announce the end of the hunger strike.

According to Ahed Abu Gholmeh, the nine members of the hunger strike committee met yesterday with a committee consisting of IPS officials and Israeli intelligence officers and determined the stipulations of their agreement. The written agreement contained five main provisions:

-the prisoners would end their hunger strike following the signing of the agreement;

-there will be an end to the use of long-term isolation of prisoners for “security” reasons, and the 19 prisoners will be moved out of isolation within 72 hours;

-family visits for first degree relatives to prisoners from the Gaza Strip and for families from the West Bank who have been denied visit based on vague “security reasons” will be reinstated within one month;

-the Israeli intelligence agency guarantees that there will be a committee formed to facilitate meetings between the IPS and prisoners in order to improve their daily conditions;

-there will be no new administrative detention orders or renewals of administrative detention orders for the 308 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, unless the secret files, upon which administrative detention is based, contains “very serious” information.

For the five administrative detainees on protracted hunger strikes, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who engaged in hunger strike for a miraculous 77 days, their administrative detention orders will not be renewed and they will be released upon the expiration of their current orders. These five have been transferred to public hospitals to receive adequate healthcare during their fragile recovery periods. In regards to Israel’s practice of administrative detention as a whole, Ahmad Sa’adat further noted that the agreement includes limitations to its widespread use in general. Addameer is concerned that these provisions of the agreement will not explicitly solve Israel’s lenient and problematic application of administrative detention, which as it stands is in stark violation of international law.

Addameer has observed that Israel has consistently failed to respect the agreements it executes with Palestinians regarding prisoners’ issues. For this reason, it will be essential for all supporters of Palestinian political prisoners to actively monitor the events of the next few months to ensure that this agreement is fully implemented. As a human rights organization committed to the international standards of the rights of prisoners, Addameer will also continue to monitor closely the conditions inside Israeli prisons in order to assure that conditions meet compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

On the day commemorating 64 years since the Palestinian Nakba, it is regrettable that it has taken the near-starvation of Palestinian political prisoners en masse to call attention to their plight; it is therefore imperative to take this opportunity to not only applaud their achievements but also to push forward lobbying efforts on their behalf and demand a just and permanent resolution for their cause. Addameer extends its utmost gratitude to the dedicated activists and institutions, including members of civil society and the diplomatic community, who have supported the Palestinian prisoners in their campaign for dignity.

The Case for Sanctions Against Israel

Audrea Lim (Editor) Publication: 15/05/12

ISBN: 978 1 84467 450 3 – introduction by Ilan Pappe

I have been a political activist for most of my adult life. In all these years, I have believed deeply that the unbearable and unacceptable reality of Israel and Palestine could only be changed from within. This is why I have been ceaselessly devoted to persuading Jewish society—to which I belong and into which I was born—that its basic policy in the land was wrong and disastrous.

As for so many others, the options for me were clear: I could either join politics from above, or counter it from below. I began by joining the Labour Party in the 1980s, and then the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), when I declined an offer to join the Knesset.

At the same time, I focused my energies on working alongside others within educational and peace NGOs, even chairing two such institutions: the left-Zionist Institute for Peace Studies in Givat Haviva, and the non-Zionist Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies. In both circles, veteran and younger colleagues alike sought to create constructive dialogue with our compatriots, in the hope of influencing present policy for future reconciliation. It was mainly a campaign of information about crimes and atrocities committed by Israel since 1948, and a plea for a future based on equal human and civil rights.

For an activist, the realization that change from within is unattainable not only grows from an intellectual or political process, but is more than anything else an admission of defeat. And it was this fear of defeatism that prevented me from adopting a more resolute position for a very long time.

After almost thirty years of activism and historical research, I became convinced that the balance of power in Palestine and Israel pre-empted any possibility for a transformation within Jewish Israeli society in the foreseeable future. Though rather late in the game, I came to realize that the problem was not a particular policy or a specific government, but one more deeply rooted in the ideological infrastructure informing Israeli decisions on Palestine and the Palestinians ever since 1948. I have described this ideology elsewhere as a hybrid between colonialism and romantic nationalism. [1]

Today, Israel is a formidable settler-colonialist state, unwilling to transform or compromise, and eager to crush by whatever means necessary any resistance to its control and rule in historical Palestine. Beginning with the ethnic cleansing of 80 percent of Palestine in 1948, and Israel’s occupation of the remaining 20 percent of the land in 1967, Palestinians in Israel are now enclaved in mega-prisons, bantustans, and besieged cantons, and singled out through discriminatory policies.

Meanwhile, millions of Palestinian refugees around the world have no way to return home, and time has only weakened, if not annihilated, all internal challenges to this ideological infrastructure. Even as I write, the Israeli settler state continues to further colonize and uproot the indigenous people of Palestine.

Admittedly, Israel is not a straightforward case study in colonialism ,[2] nor can the solutions to either the 1967 occupation or the question of Palestine as a whole be easily described as decolonization. Unlike most colonialist projects, the Zionist movement had no clear metropolis, and because it far predates the age of colonialism, describing it in that way would be anachronistic. But these paradigms are still highly relevant to the situation, for two reasons. The first is that diplomatic efforts in Palestine since 1936 and the peace process that began in 1967 have only increased the number of Israeli settlements in Palestine, from less than 10 percent of Palestine in 1936 to over 90 per cent of the country today.

Thus, it seems that the message from the peace brokers, mainly Americans ever since 1970, is that peace can be achieved without any significant limit being placed on the settlements, or colonies, in Palestine. True, settlers have periodically been evicted from Gaza settlements and some other isolated outposts, but this did not alter the overall matrix of colonial control, with all its systematic daily abuses of civil and human rights.

The occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the oppression of the Palestinians inside Israel, and the denial of the refugees’ right of return will continue as long as these policies (occupation, oppression, and denial) were packaged as a comprehensive peace settlement to be endorsed by obedient Palestinian and Arab partners.

The second reason for viewing the situation through the lens of colonialism and anti-colonialism is that it allows us a fresh look at the raison d’être of the peace process. The basic objective, apart from the creation of two separate states, is for Israel to withdraw from areas it occupied in 1967.

But this is contingent upon Israeli security concerns being satisfied, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has articulated as the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and the rest of Israel’s political centre has articulated as the existence of a demilitarized future Palestinian state only in parts of the occupied territories. The consensus is that, after withdrawal, the army will still keep an eye on Palestine from the Jewish settlement blocs, East Jerusalem, the Jordanian border, and the other side of the walls and fences surrounding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Whether or not the Quartet, or even the present US administration, seeks a more comprehensive withdrawal and a more sovereign Palestinian state, no one in the international community has seriously challenged the Israeli demand that its concerns first be satisfied. The peace process only requires a change in the Palestinian agenda, leaving the Israeli agenda untouched.

In other words, the message from abroad to Israel is that peace does not require any transformation from within. In fact, it even leaves Israel room for interpretation: the Israeli government, apprehensive of the reaction of hardline settlers, was unwilling to evict them from isolated posts in the occupied territories. That even the weak Palestinian leadership has refused to accept this rationale has allowed the Israelis to claim that the Palestinians are stubborn and inflexible, and therefore that Israel is entitled to pursue unilateral policies to safeguard its national security (the infamous “ingathering policy,” as coined by Ehud Olmert). [3]

Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that the peace process has actually deterred the colonizer and occupier from transforming its mentality and ideology. As long as the international community waits for the oppressed to transform their positions, while validating those upheld by the oppressor since 1967, this will remain the most brutal occupation the world has seen since World War II.

The annals of colonialism and decolonization teach us that an end to the military presence and occupation was a condition sine qua non for meaningful negotiations between colonizer and colonized even to begin.

An unconditional end to Israel’s military presence in the lives of more than three million Palestinians should be the precondition for any negotiations, which can only develop when the relationship between the two sides is not oppressive but equal.

In most cases, occupiers have not decided to leave. They were forced out, usually through a prolonged and bloody armed struggle. This has been attempted with very little success in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In fewer cases, success was achieved by applying external pressure on the rogue power or state in the very last stage of decolonization. The latter strategy is more attractive. In any case, the Israeli paradigm of “peace” is not going to shift unless it is pressured from the outside, or forced to do so on the ground.

Even before one begins to define more specifically what such outside pressure entails, it is essential not to confuse the means (pressure) with the objective (finding a formula for joint living). In other words, it is important to emphasize that pressure is meant to trigger meaningful negotiations, not take their place. So while I still believe that change from within is key to bringing about a lasting solution to the question of the refugees, the predicament of the Palestinian minority in Israel, and the future of Jerusalem, other steps must first be taken for this to be achieved.

What kind a pressure is necessary? South Africa has provided the most illuminating and inspiring historical example for those leading this debate, while, on the ground, activists and NGOs under occupation have sought nonviolent means both to resist the occupation and to expand the forms of resistance beyond suicide bombing and the %ring of Qassam missiles from Gaza. These two impulses produced the BDS campaign against Israel. It is not a coordinated campaign operated by some secret cabal. It began as a call from within the civil society under occupation, endorsed by other Palestinian groups, and translated into individual and collective actions worldwide.

These actions vary in focus and form, from boycotting Israeli products to severing ties with academic institutes in Israel.

Some are individual displays of protest; others are organized campaigns. What they have in common is their message of outrage against the atrocities on the ground in Palestine—but the campaign’s elasticity has made it into a broad process powerful enough to produce a new public mood and atmosphere, without any clear focal point.

For the few Israelis who sponsored the campaign early on, it was a definitive moment that clearly stated our position vis-à-vis the origins, nature, and policies of our state. But in hindsight, it also seems to have provided moral sponsorship, which has been helpful for the success of the campaign.

Supporting BDS remains a drastic act for an Israeli peace activist. It excludes one immediately from the consensus and from the accepted discourse in Israel. Palestinians pay a higher price for the struggle, and those of us who choose this path should not expect to be rewarded or even praised. But it does involve putting yourself in direct confrontation with the state, your own society, and quite often friends and family. For all intents and purposes, this is to cross the final red line—to say farewell to the tribe.

This is why any one of us deciding to join the call should make such a decision wholeheartedly, and with a clear sense of its implications.

But there is really no other alternative. Any other option—from indifference, through soft criticism, and up to full endorsement of Israeli policy—is a wilful decision to be an accomplice to crimes against humanity. The closing of the public mind in Israel, the persistent hold of the settlers over Israeli society, the inbuilt racism within the Jewish population, the dehumanization of the Palestinians, and the vested interests of the army and industry in keeping the occupied territories—all of these mean that we are in for a very long period of callous and oppressive occupation. Thus, the responsibility of Israeli Jews is far greater than that of anyone else involved in advancing peace in Israel and Palestine. Israeli Jews are coming to realize this fact, and this is why the number who support pressuring Israel from the outside is growing by the day. It is still a very small group, but it does form the nucleus of the future Israeli peace camp.

Much can be learned from the Oslo process. There, the Israelis employed the discourse of peace as a convenient way of maintaining the occupation (aided for a while by Palestinian leaders who fell prey to US–Israeli deception tactics). This meant that an end to the occupation was vetoed not only by the “hawks,” but also the “doves,” who were not really interested in stopping it. That is why concentrated and effective pressure on Israel needs to be applied by the world at large. Such pressure proved successful in the past, particularly in the case of South Africa; and pressure is also necessary to prevent the worst scenarios from becoming realities.

After the massacre in Gaza in January 2009, it was hard to see how things could get worse, but they can—with no halt to the expansion of settlements, and continuing assaults on Gaza, the Israeli repertoire of evil has not yet been exhausted. The problem is that the governments of Europe, and especially the US, are not likely to endorse the BDS campaign. But one is reminded of the trials and tribulations of the boycott campaign against South Africa, which emanated from civil societies and not from the corridors of power.

In many ways, the most encouraging news comes from the most unlikely quarter: US campuses. The enthusiasm and commitment of hundreds of local students have helped in the last decade to bring the idea of divestment to US society—a society that was regarded as a lost cause by the global campaign for Palestine. They have faced formidable foes: both the effective and cynical AIPAC, and the fanatical Christian Zionists. But they offer a new way of engaging with Israel, not only for the sake of Palestinians, but also for Jews worldwide.

In Europe, an admirable coalition of Muslims, Jews, and Christians is advancing this agenda against fierce accusations of anti-Semitism. The presence of a few Israelis among them has helped to fend off these vicious and totally false allegations. I do not regard the moral and active support of Israelis like myself as the most important ingredient in this campaign. But connections with progressive and radical Jewish dissidents in Israel are vital to the campaign. They are a bridge to a wider public in Israel, which will eventually have to be incorporated. Pariah status will hopefully persuade Israel to abandon its policies of war crimes and abuses of human rights. We hope to empower those on the outside who are now engaged in the campaign, and we are empowered ourselves by their actions.

All of us, it seems, need clear targets, and to remain vigilant against simplistic generalizations about the boycott being against Israel for being Jewish, or against the Jews for being in Israel. That is simply not true. The millions of Jews in Israel must be reckoned with. It is a living organism that will remain part of any future solution. However, it is first our sacred duty to end the oppressive occupation and to prevent another Nakba—and the best means for achieving this is a sustained boycott and divestment campaign.

[The book features contributions from: John Berger, Slavoj Žižek, Angela Davis, Mustafa Barghouti, Ken Loach, Neve Gordon, Naomi Klein, Omar Barghouti, Ilan Pappe and many more.]


Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine

0141 637 8046

View all →