Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Egyptian government denied access to the vast moajority of the marchers to Gaza to enter and tries to save face by allowing 100 to enter

From a friend being in Egypt trying to get into Gaza.

Why I stepped off the bus to Gaza today ...

Dear friends,

I'm writing with a heavy heart after a difficult morning for many of us in Cairo today. With few hours of sleep I along with many others arrived at 7am to 33 Ramses Street near the Egyptian Museum, intending to finally hop on buses to Gaza, designated for the 100-person subgroup from the Gaza Freedom March (GFM).

Some details on the last-minute Egyptian proposal brokered through President Mubarak's wife:

Upon arrival with a large group of people amassed there we all boarded two buses, but in the ensuing discussions together it became clear that many of us were deeply torn about the conditions under which we were being provided limited entry into Gaza by the Egyptian govt., for a 3-day trip leaving behind over 1300 GFM members, many still besieged at the French Embassy (camping there with riot police over the past 3 days).

Subsequent press releases by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry also cast their decision in very problematic terms for our ongoing work (saying that they chose only the peaceful humanitarian delegates for this trip). This was noted by many Palestinian groups and put the GFM organizers under a very difficult situation, making it more of a token gesture and highly divisive for all the groups working in solidarity over the past few months and the recent days of protests and hunger-strikes in Cairo.

While the discussions last night led us to feel it was an important opening by the Egyptian govt. through our concerted actions (though done under very tight timelines and conditions), many including myself now felt that going into Gaza as a limited "humanitarian group", with no change in the political situation for the Palestinians and a significant easing of the blockade, would be unproductive for our long-term goals as an effective force for political change.

We also heard from some Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, who felt we should not play into the hands of the Egyptian tactics but strive for continued pressure to end the blockade of Gaza, having all GFM delegates admitted to go there, and negotiate under better political terms.

So after much discussion and reflection, it was a painful and emotional decision to step off the bus finally as Egyptian riot police began surrounding both buses and all GFM members on the ground. Some people (roughly half) decided to stay on-board and proceed on to Gaza on their own accord, including Palestinians being reunited with their families and others seeking to deliver aid or take video footage while there.

In the heated chaos, I proposed to many GFM organizers and delegates a possible way to recast the trip on our terms as a "human rights and media advocacy" mission only, and having the humanitarian aid delivered separately by Red Crescent (undercutting the Egyptian tactics); however while many found that a good approach it was simply infeasible to gain consensus on a joint position quickly at that moment, with buses scheduled to leave within the hour.

By 9:45am GFM organizers released a statement (see below) indicating they would no longer support the deal, but left it upto the individuals to decide to go onto Gaza in the buses if they wished. All this was picked up in a great article by Al-Jazeera moments ago:

I personally decided to come here in solidarity with the larger GFM group and to help establish a youth media program in Gaza with psychosocial assessment conducted with local partners like UNRWA and UNICEF over time. I realized this would simply not have been realistic in the current situation under which we were being asked to enter Gaza.

I'm back at my hotel in Cairo and plan to work here over the coming days to pressure my own Indian Embassy to advocate for my entry into Gaza next week; the Ambassador happens to be away in India so it's a long-shot, but feels like a more politically appropriate strategy for me to undertake.

I also hope we will continue our solidarity work with local Egyptians against their own govt.'s repressive policies and keep the larger GFM group unified in building on much we've already accomplished in the streets of Cairo.

Critical articles in the Egyptian press and in the New York Times testify to the effect of this work on local and mainstream media already:

Stay tuned and hope to see you all in the New Year.

Feel free to forward this note to anyone interested.


Dear Gaza Freedom Marchers,

The GFM steering committee spent most of the night discussing the decision to accept the Egyptian proposal for a 100-person delegation to Gaza. Some of us felt that the restrictions demanded by the Egyptians were unfair and that due process (including full consultation with partners) was not followed. We all share a similar goal, we want to break the siege of Gaza. Allowing in a delegation of one hundred people into Gaza, while excluding everyone else for no apparent reason, seemed to many a strategy to divide us. Further deliberation has led us to believe that we made a mistake; we should not have been content with so little or contribute to whitewashing the misdeeds of the Egyptian government. Already most mainstream newspapers ran articles about GFM. Our message, even from Cairo, is reaching new audiences. We are determined to continue pressuring the authorities so that we all enter Gaza as we set out to do.

We apologize for the confusion and distress this may have caused. We are no longer sending a token delegation to Gaza. Let's renew the momentum we have created and show Egypt, Israel and our own governments that we will not be silent.

La lutte continue!

GFM Steering Committee

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crackdown on Popular struggle

Danger: Popular struggle
By Amira Hass

There is an internal document that has not been leaked, or perhaps has not even been written, but all the forces are acting according to its inspiration: the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces, Border Police, police, and civil and military judges. They have found the true enemy who refuses to whither away: The popular struggle against the occupation.

Over the past few months, the efforts to suppress the struggle have increased. The target: Palestinians and Jewish Israelis unwilling to give up their right to resist reign of demographic separation and Jewish supremacy. The means: Dispersing demonstrations with live ammunition, late-night army raids and mass arrests. Since the beginning of the year, 29 Palestinians have been wounded by IDF snipers while demonstrating against the separation fence. The snipers fired expanding bullets, despite an explicit 2001 order from the Military Adjutant General not to use such ammunition to break up demonstrations. After soldiers killed A'kel Srour in June, the shooting stopped, but then resumed in November.

Since June, dozens of demonstrators have been arrested in a series of nighttime military raids. Most are from Na'alin and Bil'in, whose land has been stolen by the fence, and some are from the Nablus area, which is stricken by settlers' abuse. Military judges have handed down short prison terms for incitement, throwing stones and endangering security. One union activist from Nablus was sent to administrative detention - imprisonment without a trial - while another activist is still being interrogated.

For a few weeks now, the police have refused to approve demonstrations against the settlement in Sheikh Jarrah, an abomination approved by the courts. On each of the last two Fridays, police arrested more than 20 protesters for 24 hours. Ten were held for half an hour in a cell filled with vomit and diarrhea in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem.

Israel also recently arrested two main activists from the Palestinian organization Stop the Wall, which is involved in research and international activity which calls for the boycott of Israel and companies profiting from the occupation. Mohammad Othman was arrested three months ago. After two months of interrogation did not yield any information, he was sent to administrative detention. The organization's coordinator, Jamal Juma'a, a 47-year-old resident of Jerusalem, was arrested on December 15. His detention was extended two days ago for another four days, and not the 14 requested by the prosecutor.

The purpose of the coordinated oppression: To wear down the activists and deter others from joining the popular struggle, which has proven its efficacy in other countries at other times. What is dangerous about a popular struggle is that it is impossible to label it as terror and then use that as an excuse to strengthen the regime of privileges, as Israel has done for the past 20 years.

The popular struggle, even if it is limited, shows that the Palestinian public is learning from its past mistakes and from the use of arms, and is offering alternatives that even senior officials in the Palestinian Authority have been forced to support - at least on the level of public statements.

Yuval Diskin and Amos Yadlin, the respective heads of the Shin Bet security service and Military Intelligence, already have exposed their fears. During an intelligence briefing to the cabinet they said: "The Palestinians want to continue and build a state from the bottom up ... and force an agreement on Israel from above ... The quiet security [situation] in the West Bank and the fact that the [Palestinian] Authority is acting against terror in an efficient manner has caused the international community to turn to Israel and demand progress."

The brutal repression of the first intifada, and the suppression of the first unarmed demonstrations of the second intifada with live fire, have proved to Palestinians that the Israelis do not listen. The repression left a vacuum that was filled by those who sanctified the use of arms.

Is that what the security establishment and its political superiors are trying to achieve today, too, in order to relieve us of the burden of a popular uprising?

Bil'in protest leader indicted over spent tear gas canisters
Published today (updated) 23/12/2009 14:07

Ma’an – Israeli prosecutors filed an indictment in a military court against Abdullah Abu Rahmah on Monday, a leader of popular demonstrations against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

The charges against Abu Rahmah included incitement, stone throwing and arms possession, according to his attorney, Gaby Lasky. The arms referred to in the indictment are spent tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army at protesters over four years of weekly demonstrations. In November, protesters gathered the canisters and launched them at Israeli troops in response to further tear-gas fire.

“The army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting presenting the remnants – they are persecuted and prosecuted,” Lasky said in a statement.

“What's next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?”

Abu Rahmah is the coordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee, the body that organizes weekly demonstrations against the wall, which Israel is building across the village’s land.

In 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the military to move the barrier surrounding the village so it did not cut though locally owned agricultural land, but the decision was never implemented. The International Court of Justice also ruled the wall illegal in 2004.

Abu Rahmah was seized by Israeli soldiers from his Ramallah home on 10 December and remains in prison.

Anti-occupation campaigners say the arrest was part of a wave of repression tactics aimed at popular resistance movements like the Friday demonstrations against the wall and illegal settlements.

Israel has charged numerous grassroots organizers with both stone throwing and incitement. In at least one case, that of Mohammed Khatib from Bil'in, the court found evidence presented on a stone-throwing charge to be falsified, according to a statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

It emerged on Sunday that another prominent campaigner, Jamal Juma of the Stop the Wall Campaign, had been arrested. He was charged in a Jerusalem court on Monday with suspicion of incitement.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

the ongoing repression of Palestinian protesters

Jonathan Pollak
Posted: December 18, 2009 12:03 PM

On a pitch black early December night, seven armored Israeli military jeeps pulled into the driveway of a home in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Dozens of soldiers, armed and possibly very scared, came to arrest someone they were probably told was a dangerous, wanted man - Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher at the Latin Patriarchate School and a well-known grassroots organizer in the village of Bil'in.

Every Friday, for the past five years, Abdallah Abu Rahmah has led men, women and children from Bil'in, carrying signs and Palestinian flags, along with their Israeli and international supporters, in civil disobedience and protest marches against the seizure of sixty percent of the village's land for Israel's construction of its wall and settlements. Bil'in has become a symbol of civilian resistance to Israel's occupation for Palestinians and international grassroots.

Abu Rahmah was taken from his bed, his hands bound with tight zip tie cuffs whose marks were still visible a week later, and his eyes blindfolded. A few hours later, as President Obama spoke of "the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice" upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Abu Rahmah's blindfold was removed as he found himself in a military detention center. He was being interrogated about the crime of organizing demonstrations. In occupied Palestinian territories, Abu Rahmah's case is not unusual - about 8,000 Palestinians currently inhabit Israeli jails on political grounds.

After more than fifteen years of fruitless negotiations, which have done nothing more than allow Israel to further cement its control over the West Bank, even the moderate and mainstream West Bank Palestinian Authority now refuses negotiations with Israel. Despairing over the futility of perpetual negotiations, figures like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are openly supporting a resumption of the strategies of the first Palestinian Intifada. This being a grassroots uprising, saying "Those who have to resist are the people [...] like in Bil'in and Ni'ilin, where people are injured every day."

Yet, Israel's occupation, like any other military operation, speaks only the language of violence and brutality when dealing with Palestinians, whether facing armed militants or unarmed protesters.

Fearing a paradigm shift to grassroots resistance, Israel reacted in the only way it knows - with violence and repression. And what places could better serve as an example than the symbols of contemporary Palestinian popular struggle - Bil'in and the neighboring village of Ni'ilin, villages where weekly demonstrations are held against the Wall, with the support of Israeli and international activists?

Israel's desire to quash the popular resistance movement is no hidden agenda, nor should it come as a surprise. Recent acts by the Israeli army point directly to this goal.

Over the past six months, 31 Bil'in residents have been arrested, including almost all the members of the Popular Committee that organizes the demonstrations. A similar tactic is being used against protesters in the neighboring village of Ni'ilin, which is losing over half of its land to Israel's wall and settlements. Over the past eighteen months, 89 Ni'ilin residents have been arrested.

Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky, who represents many of Bil'in and Ni'ilin's detainees, was informed by Israel's military prosecutors that the army had decided to end demonstrations against the Wall, and that it intends to use legal procedures to do so.

The Israeli army also recently resumed the use of 22 caliber sniper fire for dispersing demonstrations, though use of the weapon for crowd control purposes was specifically forbidden in 2001 by the Israeli army's legal arm. Following the killing of unarmed demonstrator Aqel Srour in Ni'ilin last June, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit, the Israeli army's Judge Advocate General, reiterated the ban on the use of .22 caliber bullets against demonstrators, to no effect. In addition to Srour, since the beginning of 2009, 28 unarmed demonstrators were injured by live ammunition sniper fire in Ni'ilin alone.

Unlike the battlefield, in the realm of public opinion, where political struggles are decided, gun-toting soldiers cannot defeat a civilian uprising. Israel is clearly aware of this fact. The night raids on the villages, detention of leadership and shear brutality on the ground are all a desperate and failing attempt to nip the renewed wave of popular resistance in the bud.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the Road- Brazil high security- sur la route- Bresil haute securite

(c), Natal/RN, Brazil, November and December 2009.

Everybody praises the growth of the Brazilian economy. Brazil has become the 10th world economy and the recent discovery of large oil sources establishes Brazil as one of the country on the rise on the international scene.
The economy is growing but so are the inequalities between the poorest and the richest. Security is one of main concerns of the population and the security industry is blooming. For the wealthiest, the choice of living in protected enclosed residential units (condominio fechado) is increasingly made. It really reminds me of the settlements in the West Bank, with all the fences, walls, cameras, and private guards. I was also shocked to hear that a Wall is being built around the favellas in Rio (). What a strange world we are living in, praising internet and the so-called globalization but yet with an increase number of people who live behind closed doors to protect themselves from what they think as "barbarians".
While walking around here, I also noticed that many houses use various signs and devices to try to prevent people to break in, even pieces of bottles on the walls.

I have decided to work on this issue while here so I will post more pics on this subject.

Tout le monde vante la croissance de l'économie brésilienne. Le Brésil est devenu la 10économie mondiale et du a la découverte récente de sources pétrolières importantes il s'établit comme une des grandes puissances sur sur la scène internationale.

L'économie est en croissance, mais comme le sont egalement les inégalités entre pauvres et riches. La sécurité est l'une des principales préoccupations de la populations et son industrie est en pleine floraison. Pour les plus riches, le choix de vivre dans des residences fermees (condominio fechado) est de plus en plus pris. Ces residences me font vraiment penser aux colonies en Cisjordanie, avec toutes leurs clôtures, les murs, les caméras et les gardes privés. J'ai également été choquée d'apprendre qu'un mur est en construction autour des favellas de Rio (
Quel monde étrange dans lequel nous vivons, louant Internet et la soi-disant mondialisation, mais avec un nombre de plus en plus élevé de personnes qui vivent derrière les portes fermées pour se protéger de ce qu'ils pensent comme etant des «barbares».
En me promenant autour d'ici, j'ai aussi remarqué que de nombreuses maisons (meme dans les quartieres populaires) utilisent des enseignes diverses et des dispositifs pour tenter d'empecher les gens de penetrer chez eux, même avec des morceaux de bouteilles sur les murs.

J'ai décidé de travailler sur cette question en etant ici et je vais mettre plus de photos sur ce sujet.

on the road- Brazil

(c), Baia Formoza, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

for a change of my usual pictures..a few pictures of Brazil, where I am having a break with my usual hectic life in Palestine. well...not a full break I might say. I am organizing some conferences and exhibits on Palestine here. It is actually important as Brazil is rising on the international scene and Lula proclaiming that he wants to be involved in the Middle East (see
Brazil was also the country which stopped an agreement between Israel and Mercosur (see

However, during the trip of Israeli president Simon Peres, some important economic deals seemed to have been made between Brazil and Israel, including arms deals:

This is why it is important to keep pressure on the Brazilian government and to inform the Brazilian public.

anyway i will continue to post some pics from here...before coming back to the usual action...

un changement de mes photos habituelles .. quelques photos du Brésil, où je fais une pause avec ma vie trépidante habituelle en Palestine. enfin ... pas une pause complète je dois avouer.

J'organise des conférences et des expositions sur la Palestine ici.

Il est tres important d'intervenir ici, alors que le Brésil devient de plus en plus influent sur la scène internationale et que Lula proclame qu'il veut être plus impliqué au Moyen-Orient (voir .

Le Brésil est aussi le pays qui a bloqué un accord entre Israël et le Mercosur (voir

Toutefois, pendant le voyage du président israélien, Shimon Peres, certains des accords importants économique semblent avoir été conclus entre le Brésil et d'Israël, y compris un important achat d'armement, le Bresil aurait achete pour 300 millions de dollars de drones.

C'est pourquoi il est important de maintenir la pression sur le gouvernement brésilien et à informer le public brésilien.

je continuerai à mettre des photos d'ici ... avant de revenir à l'action habituelle ...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Peace must begin with the plight of Palestine's refugees

Peace must begin with the plight of Palestine's refugees
Sixty years after the UN moved to address the fate of the dispossessed, we need to accept that the injustice endures
Guardian, Tuesday 8 Dec, 2009.
By Karen AbuZayd

Sixty years ago today the United Nations general assembly voted into existence a temporary body known as UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA's task was to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the dispossession of some three-quarters of a million Palestine refugees forced by the 1948 Middle East war to abandon their homes and flee their ancestral lands. Just two decades later, the six-day war generated another spasm of violence and forced displacement, culminating in the occupation of Palestinian territory. Today, anguished exile remains the lot of Palestinians and Palestine refugees. The occupation of Palestinian land persists, there is no Palestinian state, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which Palestinians are entitled under international law do not exist.
The occupation, now over 40 years old, becomes more entrenched with every infringement of human rights and international law in the occupied Palestinian territory. Political actors hold in their hands the power to redress the travesties Palestinians endure. Yet the approach has been, at best, to equivocate over the minutiae of the occupation – a checkpoint here, a bag of cement there – or, at worst, to look the other way, to acquiesce in or even support the measures causing Palestinian suffering.
From my perspective as the head of the agency mandated to assist and protect Palestine refugees, it is particularly vexing that the prevailing approach fails – or refuses – to accord the refugee issue the attention it deserves. Over 60 years, dispossession has faded from the focus of peace efforts. The heart of where peace should begin is absent from the international agenda, pushed aside as one of the "final status" issues, one which belongs to a later stage of the negotiation process. As forced displacements continue across the West Bank, as Palestinians are evicted from their homes in East Jersualem, I ask a simple question: is it not time for those engaged in the peace process to muster the will and the courage to address the Palestine refugee question?
On this regrettable 60th anniversary of the agency which I shall leave in less than one month, I wish to refocus the debate on the displaced and dispossessed, to put the refugees at the centre of peacemaking efforts.
Make no mistake, not a single conflict of contemporary times has been resolved, no durable peace achieved, unless and until the voices of the victims of those conflicts were heard, their losses acknowledged and redress found to injustices they experience. The precedents of recent peacemaking efforts and the methodology of contemporary conflict resolution affirm that giving high priority to resolving dispossession and the plight of refugees is a necessity, an international obligation and a humanitarian imperative.
The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is uniquely complex. Among its myriad dimensions, all of which require attention, the unresolved refugee issue is one of those most profoundly linked to the uncertainties of the regional situation and to the persistence of the conflict. Addressing it is, therefore, a sine qua non for making progress towards a negotiated solution.
Failing to engage with the refugee issue and consciously shunting it to one side has served only to disavow the refugees' significance as a constituency with a prominent stake in delivering and sustaining peace. This has left many with a dangerous cynicism about the peace process, thus strengthening the hands of those who argue against peace itself.
I refuse, however, to conclude my time in office on a pessimistic note. Instead I urge that we take steps to engage the marginalised. Let us confound the cynics. Let us create alternative realities to disarm those who favour violence. I call on the peacemakers to acknowledge, in their rhetoric and their policies, the need to address Palestinian dispossession.

Let symbolism and rhetoric give way to substance. On the anniversary of UNRWA, I call on the international community and the parties to the conflict to acknowledge the 60-year-old injustice as a first step towards addressing the consequences of that injustice. Let us build facts in the mind to create facts of a just and durable peace on the ground.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boycott El Al

Have Israeli spies infiltrated international airports?
Published today (updated) 23/11/2009 16:21

Nazareth – South Africa deported an Israeli airline official last week following allegations that Israeli intelligence agents had infiltrated Johannesburg's airport in an effort to gather information on citizens, particularly black and Muslim travelers.

The move by the South African government came after an investigation by local TV showing an undercover reporter being interrogated by an official with El Al, Israel's national carrier, in a public area of OR Tambo International Airport.

The program also featured testimony from Jonathan Garb, a former El Al guard, who claimed that the airline had been a front for the Shin Bet, Israel's intelligence agency, in South Africa for many years.

Over footage of the undercover reporter's questioning, he commented, "Here is a secret service operating above the law in South Africa. We pull the wool over everyone's eyes. We do exactly what we want. The local authorities do not know what we are doing."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry reportedly sent a team to South Africa to try to defuse the diplomatic crisis after the government in Johannesburg threatened to deport all of El Al's security staff.

Garb's accusations have been supported by an investigation by the regulator for South Africa's private security industries.

They have also been affirmed by human rights groups in Israel, which report that Israeli security staff routinely carry out racial profiling at many airports around the world, apparently out of sight of local authorities.

Concern in South Africa about the activities of El Al staff has been growing since August, when South Africa's leading investigative news show, Carte Blanche, went undercover to test Garb's allegations.

A hidden camera captured an El Al official in the departure hall claiming to be from "airport security" and demanding that the undercover reporter hand over his passport or ID as part of "airport regulations." When the reporter protested that he was not flying but waiting for a friend, El Al's security manager, identified as Golan Rice, arrived to interrogate him further. Rice then warned him that he was in a restricted area and would have to leave.

Garb commented on the show: "What we are trained is to look for the immediate threat – the Muslim guy. You can think he is a suicide bomber, he is collecting information. The crazy thing is that we are profiling people racially, ethnically and even on religious grounds. This is what we do."

Garb went public after he was dismissed over a campaign he led for better pay and medical benefits for El Al staff.

He and two other fired workers have told the South African media that Shin Bet agents routinely detain Muslim and black passengers, a claim that has ignited controversy in a society still suffering with the legacy of decades of apartheid rule.

Suspect individuals, the former workers say, are held in an annex room, where they are interrogated, often on matters unrelated to airport security, and can be subjected to strip searches while their luggage is taken apart. Clandestine searches of their belongings and laptops are also carried out to identify useful documents and information, they say.

But all of these practices would be in violation of South African law, which authorizes only the police, armed forces or personnel appointed by the transport minister to carry out searches.

The former staff also accuse El Al of smuggling weapons – licensed to the local Israeli embassy – into the airport for use by the secret agents.

A South African Jew, Garb said he was recruited 19 years ago by the Shin Bet. "We were trained at a secret camp [in Israel] where they train Israeli special forces and they train you how to use handguns, submachine guns and in unarmed combat."

Garb added that he was assigned to "armed security" in the early 1990s. "Armed security is being undercover, carrying a weapon, a handgun and at that time as well, sounds crazy but we carried Samsonite briefcases with an Uzi submachine gun in it."

He claimed to have profiled 40,000 people for Israel over the past 20 years, including recently Virginia Tilley, a Middle East expert and chief researcher at South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council. The think tank recently published a report accusing Israel of apartheid and colonialism in the Palestinian territories.

"The decision was she should be checked in the harshest way because of her connections," Garb said.

Tilley confirmed that she had been detained at the airport by El Al staff and separated from her luggage. Garb said that during this period an agent "photocopied all [her] documentation and then he forwarded it on to Israel" – Garb believes for use by the Shin Bet.

Israeli officials have refused to comment on the allegations. A letter produced by Garb – signed by Roz Bukris, El Al's general manager in South Africa – suggests that he was employed by the Shin Bet rather than the airline. Bukris, according to the program, refused to confirm or deny the letter's validity.

The Israeli Embassy in South Africa declined to discuss evidence that it, rather than El Al, had licensed guns issued to the airline's security managers. Questioned last week by Ynet, Israel's largest news website, about the deportation of the airline official, Yossi Levy, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said he could not "comment on security matters."

A report published in 2007 by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Nazareth-based Arab Association for Human Rights and the Centre Against Racism, found that Israeli airline staff used racial profiling at most major airports around the world, subjecting Arab and Muslim passengers to discriminatory and degrading treatment in violation both of international law and the host country's laws.

"Our research showed that the checks conducted by El Al at foreign airports had all the hallmarks of Shin Bet interrogations," said Mohammed Zeidan, the director of the Human Rights Association. "Usually the questions were less about the safety of the flight and more aimed at gathering information on the political activities or sympathies of the passengers."

The human rights groups approached four international airports – in New York, Paris, Vienna and Geneva – where passengers said they had been subjected to discriminatory treatment, to ask under what authority the Israeli security services were operating. The first two airports refused to respond, while Vienna and Geneva said it was not possible to oversee El Al's procedures.

"It is remarkable that these countries make no effort to supervise the actions of Israeli security personnel present on their territory, particularly in light of the discriminatory and humiliating procedures they apply," the report states.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi. It is reprinted here with permission.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bantustans and the unilateral declaration of statehood

Bantustans and the unilateral declaration of statehood
Virginia Tilley, The Electronic Intifada, 19 November 2009

From a rumor, to a rising murmur, the proposal floated by the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Ramallah leadership to declare Palestinian statehood unilaterally has suddenly hit center stage. The European Union, the United States and others have rejected it as "premature," but endorsements are coming from all directions: journalists, academics, nongovernmental organization activists, Israeli right-wing leaders (more on that later). The catalyst appears to be a final expression of disgust and simple exhaustion with the fraudulent "peace process" and the argument goes something like this: if we can't get a state through negotiations, we will simply declare statehood and let Israel deal with the consequences.

But it's no exaggeration to propose that this idea, although well-meant by some, raises the clearest danger to the Palestinian national movement in its entire history, threatening to wall Palestinian aspirations into a political cul-de-sac from which it may never emerge. The irony is indeed that, through this maneuver, the PA is seizing -- even declaring as a right -- precisely the same dead-end formula that the African National Congress (ANC) fought so bitterly for decades because the ANC leadership rightly saw it as disastrous. That formula can be summed up in one word: Bantustan.

It has become increasingly dangerous for the Palestinian national movement that the South African Bantustans remain so dimly understood. If Palestinians know about the Bantustans at all, most imagine them as territorial enclaves in which black South Africans were forced to reside yet lacked political rights and lived miserably. This partial vision is suggested by Mustafa Barghouthi's recent comments at the Wattan Media Centre in Ramallah, when he cautioned that Israel wanted to confine the Palestinians into "Bantustans" but then argued for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 boundaries -- although nominal "states" without genuine sovereignty are precisely what the Bantustans were designed to be.

Apartheid South Africa's Bantustans were not simply sealed territorial enclaves for black people. They were the ultimate "grand" formula by which the apartheid regime hoped to survive: that is, independent states for black South Africans who -- as white apartheid strategists themselves keenly understood and pointed out -- would forever resist the permanent denial of equal rights and political voice in South Africa that white supremacy required. As designed by apartheid architects, the ten Bantustans were designed to correspond roughly to some of the historical territories associated with the various black "peoples" so that they could claim the term "Homelands." This official term indicated their ideological purpose: to manifest as national territories and ultimately independent states for the various black African "peoples" (defined by the regime) and so secure a happy future for white supremacy in the "white" Homeland (the rest of South Africa). So the goal of forcibly transferring millions of black people into these Homelands was glossed over as progressive: 11 states living peacefully side by side (sound familiar?). The idea was first to grant "self-government" to the Homelands as they gained institutional capacity and then reward that process by declaring/granting independent statehood.

The challenge for the apartheid government was then to persuade "self-governing" black elites to accept independent statehood in these territorial fictions and so permanently absolve the white government of any responsibility for black political rights. Toward this end, the apartheid regime hand-picked and seeded "leaders" into the Homelands, where they immediately sprouted into a nice crop of crony elites (the usual political climbers and carpet-baggers) that embedded into lucrative niches of financial privileges and patronage networks that the white government thoughtfully cultivated (this should sound familiar too).

It didn't matter that the actual territories of the Homelands were fragmented into myriad pieces and lacked the essential resources to avoid becoming impoverished labor cesspools. Indeed, the Homelands' territorial fragmentation, although crippling, was irrelevant to Grand Apartheid. Once all these "nations" were living securely in independent states, apartheid ideologists argued to the world, tensions would relax, trade and development would flower, blacks would be enfranchised and happy, and white supremacy would thus become permanent and safe.

The thorn in this plan was to get even thoroughly co-opted black Homeland elites to declare independent statehood within "national" territories that transparently lacked any meaningful sovereignty over borders, natural resources, trade, security, foreign policy, water -- again, sound familiar? Only four Homeland elites did so, through combinations of bribery, threats and other "incentives." Otherwise, black South Africans didn't buy it and the ANC and the world rejected the plot whole cloth. (The only state to recognize the Homelands was fellow-traveler Israel.) But the Homelands did serve one purpose -- they distorted and divided black politics, created terrible internal divisions, and cost thousands of lives as the ANC and other factions fought it out. The last fierce battles of the anti-apartheid struggle were in the Homelands, leaving a legacy of bitterness to this day.

Hence the supreme irony for Palestinians today is that the most urgent mission of apartheid South Africa -- getting the indigenous people to declare statehood in non-sovereign enclaves -- finally collapsed with mass black revolt and took apartheid down with it, yet the Palestinian leadership now is not only walking right into that same trap but actually making a claim on it.

The reasons that the PA-Ramallah leadership and others want to walk into this trap are fuzzy. Maybe it could help the "peace talks" if they are redefined as negotiations between two states instead of preconditions for a state. Declaring statehood could redefine Israel's occupation as invasion and legitimize resistance as well as trigger different and more effective United Nations intervention. Maybe it will give Palestinians greater political leverage on the world stage -- or at least preserve the PA's existence for another (miserable) year.

Why these fuzzy visions are not swiftly defeated by short attention to the South African Bantustan experience may stem partly from two key differences that confuse the comparison, for Israel has indeed sidestepped two infamous fatal errors that helped sink South Africa's Homeland strategy. First, Israel did not make South Africa's initial mistake of appointing "leaders" to run the Palestinian "interim self-governing" Homeland. In South Africa, this founding error made it too obvious that the Homelands were puppet regimes and exposed the illegitimacy of the black "national" territories themselves as contrived racial enclaves. Having watched the South Africans bungle this, and having learned from its own past failures with the Village Leagues and the like, Israel instead worked with the United States to design the Oslo process not only to restore the exiled leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its then Chairman Yasser Arafat to the territories but also to provide for "elections" (under occupation) to grant a thrilling gloss of legitimacy to the Palestinian "interim self-governing authority." It's one of the saddest tragedies of the present scenario that Israel so deftly turned Palestinians' noble commitment to democracy against them in this way -- granting them the illusion of genuinely democratic self-government in what everyone now realizes was always secretly intended to be a Homeland.

Only now has Israel found a way to avoid South Africa's second fatal error, which was to declare black Homelands to be "independent states" in non-sovereign territory. In South Africa, this ploy manifested to the world as transparently racist and was universally disparaged. It must be obvious that, if Israel had stood up in the international stage and said "as you are, you are now a state" that Palestinians and everyone else would have rejected the claim out of hand as a cruel farce. Yet getting the Palestinians to declare statehood themselves allows Israel precisely the outcome that eluded the apartheid South African regime: voluntary native acceptance of "independence" in a non-sovereign territory with no political capacity to alter its territorial boundaries or other essential terms of existence -- the political death capsule that apartheid South Africa could not get the ANC to swallow.

Responses from Israel have been mixed. The government does seem jumpy and has broadcast its "alarm," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened unilateral retaliation (unspecified) and government representatives have flown to various capitals securing international rejection. But Israeli protests could also be disingenuous. One tactic could be persuading worried Palestinian patriots that a unilateral declaration of statehood might not be in Israel's interest in order to allay that very suspicion. Another is appeasing protest from that part of Likud's purblind right-wing electorate that finds the term "Palestinian state" ideologically anathema. A more honest reaction could be the endorsement of Kadima party elder Shaul Mofaz, a hardliner who can't remotely be imagined to value a stable and prosperous Palestinian future. Right-wing Israeli journalists are also pitching in with disparaging but also comforting essays arguing that unilateral statehood won't matter because it won't change anything (close to the truth). For example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened unilaterally to annex the West Bank settlement blocs if the PA declares statehood, but Israel was going to do that anyway.

In the liberal-Zionist camp, Yossi Sarid has warmly endorsed the plan and Yossi Alpher has cautiously done so. Their writings suggest the same terminal frustration with the "peace process" but also recognition that this may be the only way to save the increasingly fragile dream that a nice liberal democratic Jewish state can survive as such. It also sounds like something that might please Palestinians -- at least enough to finally get their guilt-infusing story of expulsion and statelessness off the liberal-Zionist conscience. Well-meaning white liberals in apartheid South Africa -- yes, there were some of those, too -- held the same earnest candle burning for the black Homelands system.

Some otherwise smart journalists are also pitching in to endorse unilateral statehood, raising odd ill-drawn comparisons -- Georgia, Kosovo, Israel itself -- as "evidence" that it's a good idea. But Georgia, Kosovo and Israel had entirely different profiles in international politics and entirely different histories from Palestine and attempts to draw these comparisons are intellectually lazy. The obvious comparison is elsewhere and the lessons run in the opposite direction: for a politically weak and isolated people, who have never had a separate state and lack any powerful international ally, to declare or accept "independence" in non-contiguous and non-sovereign enclaves encircled and controlled by a hostile nuclear power can only seal their fate.

In fact, the briefest consideration should instantly reveal that a unilateral declaration of statehood will confirm the Palestinians' presently impossible situation as permanent. As Mofaz predicted, a unilateral declaration will allow "final status" talks to continue. What he did not spell out is that those talks will become truly pointless because Palestinian leverage will be reduced to nothing. As Middle East historian Juan Cole recently pointed out, the last card the Palestinians can play -- their real claim on the world's conscience, the only real threat they can raise to Israel's status quo of occupation and settlement -- is their statelessness. The PA-Ramallah leadership has thrown away all the other cards. It has stifled popular dissent, suppressed armed resistance, handed over authority over vital matters like water to "joint committees" where Israel holds veto power, savagely attacked Hamas which insisted on threatening Israel's prerogatives, and generally done everything it can to sweeten the occupier's mood, preserve international patronage (money and protection), and solicit promised benefits (talks?) that never come. It's increasingly obvious to everyone watching from outside this scenario -- and many inside it -- that this was always a farce. For one thing, the Western powers do not work like the Arab regimes: when you do everything the West requires of you, you will wait in vain for favors, for the Western power then loses any benefit from dealing more with you and simply walks away.

But more importantly, the South African comparison helps illuminate why the ambitious projects of pacification, "institution building" and economic development that the Ramallah PA and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have whole-heartedly embarked upon are not actually exercises in "state-building." Rather, they emulate with frightening closeness and consistency South Africa's policies and stages in building the Bantustan/Homelands. Indeed, Fayyad's project to achieve political stability through economic development is the same process that was openly formalized in the South African Homeland policy under the slogan "separate development." That under such vulnerable conditions no government can exercise real power and "separate development" must equate with permanent extreme dependency, vulnerability and dysfunctionality was the South African lesson that has, dangerously, not yet been learned in Palestine -- although all the signals are there, as Fayyad himself has occasionally admitted in growing frustration. But declaring independence will not solve the problem of Palestinian weakness; it will only concretize it.

Still, when "separate development" flounders in the West Bank, as it must, Israel will face a Palestinian insurrection. So Israel needs to anchor one last linchpin to secure Jewish statehood before that happens: declare a Palestinian "state" and so reduce the "Palestinian problem" to a bickering border dispute between putative equals. In the back halls of the Knesset, Kadima political architects and Zionist liberals alike must now be waiting with bated breath, when they are not composing the stream of back-channel messages that is doubtless flowing to Ramallah encouraging this step and promising friendship, insider talks and vast benefits. For they all know what's at stake, what every major media opinion page and academic blog has been saying lately: that the two-state solution is dead and Israel will imminently face an anti-apartheid struggle that will inevitably destroy Jewish statehood. So a unilateral declaration by the PA that creates a two-state solution despite its obvious Bantustan absurdities is now the only way to preserve Jewish statehood, because it's the only way to derail the anti-apartheid movement that spells Israel's doom.

This is why it is so dangerous that the South African Bantustan comparison has been neglected until now, treated as a side issue, even an exotic academic fascination, by those battling to relieve starvation in Gaza and soften the cruel system of walls and barricades to get medicine to the dying. The Ramallah PA's suddenly serious initiative to declare an independent Palestinian state in non-sovereign territory must surely force fresh collective realization that this is a terribly pragmatic question. It's time to bring closer attention to what "Bantustan" actually means. The Palestinian national movement can only hope someone in its ranks undertakes that project as seriously as Israel has undertaken it before it's too late.

Virginia Tilley is a former professor of political science and international relations and since 2006 has served as Chief Research Specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. She is author of The One-State Solution (U of Michigan Press, 2005) and numerous articles and essays on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Based in Cape Town, she writes here in her personal capacity and can be reached at vtilley A T mweb D O T co D O T za.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Boycott Israeli goods

European Courts: No customs breaks for Israeli goods from settlements

Israeli goods produced in West Bank settlements are not eligible for customs benefits in the European Union, stated an advocate general of the European Court of Justice last week. Israel and the EU have a free-trade agreement that gives Israeli exports substantial customs breaks. The advocate general's non-binding opinion, if followed, could mean that goods produced in the occupied territories will be saddled with full customs duties. The opinion, submitted in a case in Germany brought by water purification firm Brita in 2002, could serve as a precedent in the EU.

The company was ordered to pay 19,155 euros in customs for equipment it imported from the Israeli firm Soda Club, whose factory is in the West Bank. German customs authorities asked Israeli authorities whether the goods were produced in the territories and, when no answer was received, Brita was ordered to pay customs duties. Currently, for goods from the territories to receive customs breaks, they must bear a certificate issued by the Palestinian Authority.

The disagreement with the EU over Israeli exports from the territories has been going on for a long time. At one point, the EU threatened sanctions against all Israeli exports if an agreement was not reached.

However, Israel refused to label or otherwise differentiate products from the settlements. Five years ago, Israel and the EU agreed that all exports would be labelled with the place of manufacture or the factory's zip code, and the EU customs authorities would then decide whether to levy customs. Israeli exports to the EU totalled $17.8 million in 2008.

Der Spiegel recently reported that a third of Israeli exports to Europe are made in part or in full in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Adapted from "EU court: No customs breaks for Israeli goods from settlements", written by Ora Coren and published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Nov. 3, 2009. For full text, see:

Distributed by PAJU (Palestinian and Jewish Unity)



PAJU (Palestiniens et Juifs Unis) no 457 le 13 novembre 2009

La Cour de l’UE refuse des avantages aux produits des colonies de

La cour Européenne a décidé la semaine dernière que les avantages douaniers pour les produits israéliens ne s’appliqueront pas à ceux qui viennent des colonies. Si cette décision est appliquée, ces marchandises exportées n’auront plus les avantages douaniers qu’elles avaient en vertu de l’accord conclu entre Israël et la communauté Européenne.

Cette décision pourrait servir de précédent dans l’Union Européenne (UE).Il s’agit de commerce en Allemagne qui concernait la compagnie Brita en 2002.On a demandé à la compagnie de payer des droits de douane de 19 155 euros pour de l’équipement de purification d’eau provenant de la firme israélienne Soda Club, dont l’usine est en Cisjordanie. Les autorités douanières allemandes ont voulu savoir si ce matériel était fabriqué dans les territoires occupés. Restant sans réponse d’Israël, la douane allemande a demandé à Brita de payer les droits de douane. Brita a fait appel de cette décision à la cour appropriée. La cour à Hambourg a demandé alors l’avis de l’autorité légale de l’UE. Pour recevoir actuellement l’exonération des droits de douane, les marchandises doivent être accompagnées d’un certificat de l’Autorité Palestinienne.

Le désaccord sur les exportations venant des territoires occupés remonte à loin. L’UE a même menacé d’appliquer des sanctions sur toutes les exportations venant d’Israël qui refusait depuis toujours de mettre une étiquette permettant d’identifier l’origine de la marchandise

Il y a cinq ans, Israël et l’UE se sont enfin mis d’accord sur l’étiquetage de tous les produits exportés, information détaillant le lieu de fabrication et le code de l’usine.

Les exportations israéliennes s’élevaient à 17.8 $ millions de dollars en 2008.Le magazine allemand Der Spiegel écrivait qu’un tiers des exportations actuelles était en fait produit, en tout ou en partie, dans les territoires occupés.

Adapté de « EU court: No customs breaks for Israeli goods from settlements » écrit par Ora Coren et publié dans le quotidien israélien
Ha’aretz le 3 novembre 2009. Text intégral :

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Palestinians symbolically dismantle sections of the wall Multimedia report, The Electronic Intifada, 10 November 2009

Multimedia report, The Electronic Intifada, 10 November 2009

"Tear down this wall!" then US President Ronald Reagan told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, demanding he tear down the infamous Berlin wall. Two years later, on 9 November 1989, media around the world broadcast images of crowds of Germans from both the east and the west climbing atop the barrier and tearing down large sections of the wall. For many, the event was highly symbolic as it was perceived as the end of the Cold War and the start of a period when the world was headed in a more just and peaceful direction, free of walls keeping peoples apart.

However, two decades later, walls of separation still exist throughout the world. Israel's wall in the West Bank is much bigger than the Berlin wall ever was, as it encloses more than two million Palestinians inside the occupied West Bank. This wall separates Palestinians from their families, land, natural resources and communities.

For years Palestinians in various West Bank villages, along with Israeli and international supporters, have led regular nonviolent demonstrations protesting the wall. In Nilin village, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah, protestors decided to do something different on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.

In a symbolic action, the protestors in Nilin on 6 November were able to knock down a section of the wall before the Israeli army arrived and fired tear gas at the crowd.

Nilin media activists reported:

One protestor managed to climb on to the wall and he raised the Palestinian flag, hereby sending a message to Israel that the Palestinian flag will always go up on Nilin's land. Even if the land is cut off from the village now, the people of Nilin will never give up the right to their own land. Simultaneously, a group of youth threw bottles with red paint at the Israeli soldiers, the red paint representing the blood of the martyrs in Nilin that were killed by these soldiers.

A small group of participants brought a jack that they placed under one of the concrete segments of the wall. After two hours, the concrete started coming off the ground, partially falling down. This was a strong message from Nilin, one protestor stated: "last Monday the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall was celebrated all over the world; now it's time for the apartheid wall to fall and this will start in Nilin. We in Nilin are most determined to get our land back, and we will break down this ugly wall."

In a similar action on 9 November dubbed "We are going to Jerusalem," near the Qalandiya refugee camp outside Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians along with dozens of internationals attached a rope to the wall as they used a truck to tear down one of the concrete slabs. As they demonstrated over the downed segment of the wall, Israeli soldiers arrived firing teargas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On the Road- Berlin

(c) Anne Paq/Activestills, Berlin, October 2009

On the Road- Berlin, looking for the Wall

(c) Anne Paq/Activestills, Berlin, October 2009, Mauer Park

On the Road- Berlin, looking for the Wall

(c) Anne Paq/Activestills, Berlin, October 2009

On the Road- Berlin, looking for the Wall

(c) Anne Paq/, Berlin, October 2009.

The Wall in Berlin has become a tourist attraction and an artists'gallery...wandering around, I could not help by thinking again and again about the Palestinians...when will the Palestinians will also sell pieces of the Wall that is now cutting their lives and territories into pieces? When will be the time when I will rush back to Palestine to take pictures of the fall of the Wall?

Le Mur a Berlin est devenu une attraction touristique et une galerie pour artistes...deambulant dans Berlin a sa recherche, je ne pouvais pas m'empecher de penser encore et encore aux Palestiniens: quand seront-ils eux aussi en mesure de vendre pour quelques dollars des morceaux du Mur qui est maintenant en train de detruire leurs vies et de diviser leur territoires? Quand viendra le temps ou je me precipiterai en palestine pour prendre des photos de la chute du Mur?

on the road- Berlin, change and gentrification

(c) Anne Paq/, Berlin, October 2009, Berlin, changes and gentrification

It has become harder and harder to find buildings in Berlin which did not get through gentrification. I walked for kilometers and only found a few, while some four years ago there were many. Some might say these building were all sad,grey and outdated, but I found that some of the soul of the city has also been lost in the process.

Il est de plus en plus difficile de trouver des immmeubles a berlin qui n'ont pas subi le processus de gentrification. J'ai du marcher des kilometres et des km, mais je n'en ai trouve que quelques-uns alors qu'ils etaient beaucoup plus nombreux lorts de mon dernier passage a berlin il y a quatre ans. Certains pourront dire que la ville est plus propres, que ces immeubles etaient gris, tristes et deprimants mais je trouve que dans le processus, la ville y a perdu beaucoup de son ame.

On the Road- Berlin, nightlife

(c) Anne Paq/, Berlin, October 2009, Nightlife in Kreuzberg

On the Road- Berlin

(c) Anne Paq/, Berlin, October 2009, Street Art

On the Road- Berlin

(c) Anne Paq/, Berlin, October 2009, Street Art

Anne on the road- Berlin

(c) Anne Paq/, Berlin, October 2009

Anne on the road- Luxembourg

(c) Anne Paq/, Luxembourg, October 2009.

Youth of Luxembourg began the workshops of the project Youth photographers without borders. During two sessions they document their way to school, as the young Palestinians did in the West Bank and Jerusalem. First impression: there is a strong contrast between the pictures they took compared to the ones from Palestine.

This project is supported by Anna Lindh foundation.

Les jeunes du Luxembourg ont commence leurs ateliers pour le projet "Young photographers without borders. Pendant deux sessions ils se sont appliques a photographier leur chemin de l'ecole, comme l'ont fait le mois precedent les jeunes Palestiniens en Cisjordanie (le camp de refugies de Aida) et a Jerualem (Silwan). Premier constat: Il y a un contraste saisissant entre leurs photos et celles des jeunes Palestiniens. L'univers des jeunes Luxembourgeois semble teinte de desesperance et de solitude. Leurs photos sont dures, centrees sur les objets. drole de contraste avec les photos des Palestiniens qui malgre une situation dure ont fait des photos teintees de douceur et de poesie, et d'ou emergent un fort sens de la communaute. Le defi va etre maintenant, dans l'echange entre ces jeunes d'horizons profondement different de construire une exposition commune

Ce projet est soutenu par la Fondation Anna Lindh.