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.