Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) released the following statement today in the wake of last week’s horrific attacks in Norway:
Palestinian civil society, as broadly represented within the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), wishes to express its sincere condolences to and deep solidarity with the people of Norway and to Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF), the Norwegian labour youth party, in particular after the massacre of last Friday committed by a far right fanatic.
Palestinians stand with the people of Norway as they mourn the victims, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who have died.
This horrendous massacre serves as a grave reminder of the dangers posed by racism, hatred and intolerance. We are confident that Norway’s long tradition of peace loving, respecting diversity and upholding human rights anywhere in the world will stand up to this ugly test of fundamentalism and hate; we trust that the Norwegian people’s determination to fight xenophobia and its resultant disregard for equal human rights will be further strengthened.
These violent and horrific attacks cannot be viewed in isolation. There is a growing wave of officially sanctioned Islamophobia in several western countries, driven by misinformation, intolerance and right-wing Zionism, with strong links to Israel. Tragically, this racist and extreme rhetoric has been put into action with many Norwegians paying the price with their lives. The murderer, by his own admission, drew his motivation for this heinous crime from the by now widespread anti-Arab/Muslim discourse that dwells on a perceived “clash of civilizations” and a blind support for Israel and its crimes against the Palestinian people.
Palestinians deeply empathize and stand with Norwegians as fellow humans and as a people that has its own long experience of pain and grief. In Israel’s Gaza massacre alone, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, lost their lives. Homes, schools, UN shelters, university buildings, civilian infrastructure, hospitals, ambulances, sewage systems, power stations and more were ruthlessly decimated by Israel’s state terrorism in its assault on Gaza 2008-09. The noble humanitarian work and moving testimonies of the prominent Norwegian physician, Dr. Mads Gilbert, attest to the scale of the crime Israel has committed in Gaza and continues to commit on a daily basis with its illegal and immoral siege of 1.5 million Palestinians. It is often in times of great suffering, however, that human compassion and solidarity shine brightest.
We believe that these despicable crimes in Norway will only strengthen the resolve of all people of conscience around the world to pursue freedom, justice and equality and to join hands in combating racism in all forms.
We appreciate greatly the support for Palestinian rights and, specifically, for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as shown by members of the AUF summer camp. We deeply appreciate the support for a boycott of Israel from LO, the Norwegian labor federation, and from close to half the people of Norway, as shown in polls following Israel’s bloody flotilla attack last summer. We salute the Norwegian pension fund for divesting from three Israeli companies implicated in Israel’s occupation and colonization. We are proud of the brave decision taken by Norway to ban testing submarines destined to Israel and to support a military embargo on Israel. We stand by the friends and families of all victims at this difficult time.
We hope to honour their memory by working more closely together with the AUF and other partners in Norwegian civil society towards a more just world where there is no place for racism and hatred.
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
Monday, July 25, 2011
I sat in class this morning tapping my pen against a school desk, waiting impatiently for the morning fog to clear my head. The incessant tip-tapping continued all while students filed in sluggishly, sharing the same Monday blues – a plethora still attempting to rub the sleep out of their eyes.
Our professor made her way to the front of the class – fumbling through a stack of papers between her hands while I tapped.
Today we will discuss assumptions and conjecture as per Chapter 6 in our book. An example of an assumption is that, in light of recent events, the Norwegian mad-man was actually a terrorist. Many journalists, news-broadcasters and the like assumed the man was a terrorist when reality proved him to be a psychotic killer. A hypothesis was made based on shoddy information which lead to many assuming Anders Behring Beivik was a terrorist [...]
My pen had stopped tapping as I tried to hide my aversion. I turned around and noticed a few classmates were nodding in agreement while the rest were either still battling their drowsiness or looking on in shy bewilderment, attempting to shield their ignorance of current events.
What is a terrorist?, I charged. Are we basing a definition of the word on mainstream criteria which chooses to identify a “terrorist” as one belonging to a certain race or religion? I went on: The definition of terrorism is simply an act/set of actions meant to intimidate via the use of violence in order to accomplish a goal. How then can we hypothesize that Beivik was not a terrorist? His whiteness and his Christianity do not wipe away the fundamentalist history nor his perverse anti-multicultural militancy.
Only days after this tragic massacre of civilians in Norway we find the mainstream body of pseudo-experts and intellectuals questioning not Beivik’s actions or his villainous xenophobia but Islam and the role its vast body of followers play in today’s society. There has been a line drawn in the sand; Muslims on one side and the West on another. The term “terrorists” is attributed to the more brown and “Islamic” whilst accusations of mental instability are reserved for the lighter and much more Christian etc. The mainstream media has shamelessly designated the role of terrorists to Muslims, Arabs and the like.
Years ago I found myself falling prey to this boorish disposition, as I noticeably cringed one evening while reading the news – seeing the word “terrorist” make its usual debut, dreading the name I would find and the mention of his or her faith soon after. This lethal expectation implanted in day-to-day news became my own, all while not even noticing it. The question I pose now is: how many Muslims assumed the criminal behind the Labor Party Youth Camp shooting was a Muslim? I have read for pages and pages how many non-Muslims made this swift presumption but I must concede that due to the years of heightened Islamophobia Muslims are finding themselves isolated and continue to find it necessary to defend their faith and each other.
Terrorism, in accordance to US-based foreign policy, has a face and a religion and for many years Muslims have been forced into becoming the defense attorney’s of their faith and their religious community. Accusations of not being “American” enough in a post-9/11 world have sent many into a nationalistic tail-spin. They must hang an American flag on their door-step, sing-along to the national anthem, slap a patriotic sticker on their vehicle. They have to prove themselves worthy, to prove they are not “one of them”.
When Mosque’s are vandalized and burned the blame, some-how, is directed back at the Muslim community. Well why did they build a Mosque here? Why can’t they just pray at home? Do they have to have a Mosque here anyways?
The terms “terrorism” and “fundamentalism” are being used to scare entire communities into a corner all the while there are many profiting from this fear-mongering. From Pamela Geller to Robert Spencer. The “creeping Shari’a” crowd has been getting louder and ever more erratic. Even after the devastation in Norway Muslims are being dragged into the conversation, many having the audacity to accuse Muslims of being the reason behind his “madness” as Breivik was specifically hostile towards Islam.
Breivik’s recent statements to police and the court paint the picture of a man hostile toward multicultural societies and harboring strong xenophobic opinions, especially toward Norway’s more recent immigrants from Muslim countries.
It is important and arguably necessary to mark Breivik’s destruction and blatant disregard of innocent life as an act of terrorism. In the face of growing xenophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry this is a reminder that terrorism has no face, no color, and no religion by which one can simply apply a set of definite measurements. Breivik was a blonde, European Christian fundamentalist who did not commit an act of simple madness, no – it was a blatant act of terrorism.
Despite what many may pleasurably argue, terrorism is not one-size fits all.
GAZA CITY, Jul 25, 2011 (IPS) - "We could enter the Guinness book of records for the longest running weekly sit- ins in the world," Nasser Farrah, from the Palestinian Prisoners' Association, jokes dryly. Since 1995, Palestinian women from Beit Hanoun to Rafah have met every Monday outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Gaza City, holding photos and posters of their imprisoned loved ones, calling on the ICRC to ensure the human rights of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel's 24 prisons and detention centres.
Since 2007, the sit-ins have taken on greater significance: Gaza families want Israel to re-grant them the right – under international humanitarian law – to visit their imprisoned family members. This right was taken from Gaza's families in 2007, after the Israeli tank gunner Gilad Shalit was taken by Palestinian resistance from alongside the Gaza border where he was on active duty.
The sit-ins have grown, with over 200 women and men showing up weekly. On Jul. 11, ICRC and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) helped facilitate a demonstration from the ICRC office to the unknown soldier park, Jundi, to protest the ban on Palestinians from Gaza visiting their imprisoned loved ones.
"We can't send letters, we can't see him, we can't talk to him," says Umm Ahmed of her 32-year-old son. Ahmed Abu Ghazi was imprisoned four years ago and sentenced to 16 years in Israeli prison.
"Because we have no connection with him, every Monday we go to the Red Cross. But nothing changes. Last week we slept outside the Red Cross, waiting for them to help us talk to our sons and daughters," Umm Ahmed says.
"While our sons are in prison, their parents might die without seeing them again."
For Palestinian prisoner Bilal Adyani, from Deir al-Balah, such was the case. On Jul. 11, Adayni's father died, after waiting for years to see his son again. The ICRC reports that over 30 relatives of Palestinian prisoners have died since the prison visits were cut.
Umm Bilal, an elderly woman in a simple white headscarf, walks among the demonstrators, holding a plastic-framed photo of her son when he was 16. The teen wears a black dress shirt, has combed and gelled hair, and smiles easily to the camera.
"Twenty years, ten months, he's been in prison. I haven't been allowed to visit him in eight years," says Umm Bilal.
"The prison canteen should sell phone cards, clothes, or food, but Israel is making it difficult now. He wanted to study but in prison but he hasn't been allowed."
In December 2009, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled with the Israeli government to deny families from Gaza visitation rights to prisoners in Israeli prisons. Among the stated reasons for the Court's decision were that "family visits are not a basic humanitarian need for Gaza residents" and that there was no need for family visits since prisoners could obtain basic supplies through the prison canteen.
In June, 2011, Israeli Prison Service is reported to have taken away various rights of prisoners, including that allowing prisoners to enroll in universities, and blocked cell phone use.
"The world is calling for Shalit to be released. But he is just one man, a soldier," says Umm Bilal. "Many Palestinian prisoners were taken from their homes. Shalit was in his tank when he was taken. Those tanks shoot on Gaza, kill our people, destroy our land. Take Shalit, but release our prisoners."
According to Nasser Farrah, "there are over 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including nearly 40 women and over 300 children. Seven hundred prisoners are from the Gaza Strip."
Other estimates range from 7,500 to 11,000 Palestinian prisoners. "The ‘over 7000’ does not include the thousands of Palestinians who are regularly taken by the Israelis in the occupied West Bank, and even from Gaza, as well as those held in administrative detention for varying periods," Farrah notes.
Under administrative detention, Palestinians, including minors, are denied trial and imprisoned for renewable periods, with many imprisoned between six months to six years.
According to B'Tselem, as of February 2011, Israel is holding 214 Palestinians under administrative detention.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prevents forcible transfers of people from occupied territory. But Israel has been doing just that since 1967, and has imprisoned over 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children according to the UN.
Aside from denial of family visits, higher education, and canteen supplies, roughly 1,500 Palestinian prisoners are believed to be seriously ill, and are denied adequate healthcare.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Initial reactions to the attacks in Norway showed a "clash of civilisations" exists, but not in the way many understood.
The Norwegian terrorist who murdered more than ninety innocent civilians - many of whom were teenagers - did not act alone. Or rather, he acted within a cultural and political context that legitimises his fearful and hate-infested worldview. It is now clear that Anders Behring Breivik was exposed to large amounts of right-wing propaganda. This tragedy underlines the urgency with which normal people around the world must combat fundamentalist nationalists and chauvinists wherever they may be. But it also demonstrates the extent to which reactionary bigotry has infected mainstream thought.
Many reacted to the news from Oslo with wide eyes and a pointed finger. The most animated reactionaries took to the pages of the New York Times comment section to issue sweeping proclamations about the Clash of Civilisations and something called "the cult of death". In many ways, readers were merely reinforcing the paper's woefully editorialised reportage. As Glenn Greenwald helpfully pointed out, the editors of the NYT - America's allegedly liberal newspaper - reserve the word "terrorist" solely for use in conjunction with the word "Muslim".
When news emerged that the perpetrator of the murders - the terrorist - was a man whose religion and skin pigmentation closely resembled those of the editors of the NYT, the story changed. The terrorist became a deranged "Christian extremist" whose tactics clearly mirrored "Al Qaeda's brutality and multiple attacks". In that way, the paper linked the terrorist with Muslims, despite his strong antipathy for them.
Blame for the Western media's panting pursuit of a non-existent Muslim triggerman quickly focused on the feckless, credulous, overeager and inept source of the NYT's journalistic failure. Will McCants - proclaimed by one of his acolytes to be at the top of a "list of five terrorism experts you can trust" - was quickly discredited. In his defence, he only sought to affirm the confirmation bias that he and the editors of the NYT suffer from. The meme that underpins their worldview goes something like this: "Muslims are bad. When bad things happen, Muslims are responsible." This is a mainstream view in the US today; it cuts across party lines.
Shaping both sides of the narrative
That the purported American left maintains this bigoted outlook is an indication of how successful the right has been at constructing the stage upon which public debate is conducted. Two main anti-Muslim talking points are now taken for granted in this country: First, all terrorists in the West are Muslims; second, we are in the midst of a global civilisational war. These are the dual planks upon which Uncle Sam squats in his Afghani outhouse.
Objective sources have done an excellent job of discrediting the first of the two claims that inform the 21st century American experience. The second point however - that we are engaged in a war of civilisations - is one that I agree with. But the combatants are not Islam and the West. Instead, the war is between the normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God's Will at every turn.
Anders Behring Breivik, Mohammed Atta and Baruch Goldstein are all cut from the same rotten cloth. Anwar Al-Awlaki and Glenn Beck - the peddlers of the faith - all share the same core afflictions.
These men are insecure, violently inclined, and illiberal. The outside world scares them. They hate homosexuals and strong women. For them, difference is a source of insecurity. Their values are militarism, conformism, chauvinism and jingoism. Worst of all they seek to pressure us into compliance while they work frantically to destroy themselves - and the rest of us with them.
The war continues
All indications are that the hate-mongers - who are on the same side of this war, irrespective of religion - are winning in America. The unreflective, superficial, wan editors of the NYT are an indication of just how successful the right wing has been at eviscerating the left.
But not all liberals are created equal.
It is a credit to the Norwegian people that their prime minister did not respond to the terror attack with scorched-earth rhetoric or a carpet-bombing campaign. A real liberal with strong principles, he did not succumb to fear or vicious speculation.
Instead, he pledged to strengthen Norwegian democracy. This is what he said shortly after the terrorist attacks: "Our answer is more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence." His words illustrate the difference between a society that takes liberal principles as a foundation and one that treats them as an inconvenient luxury.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's words make it clear where Norway stands on the global war on right-wing extremism. Where does the US stand?
Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American freelance journalist based in Cairo. He was born in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Dismissing this murderous act as the work of "a lone madman" ignores a more detailed study of the killer's motivation.
A few years ago, the respected Cambridge scholar T J Winter, also known by his Muslim name of Abdal Hakim Murad, gave a fascinating lecture to Humanities staff and students at the University of Leicester. The title was "Islam and the threat of the West", turning on its head the more usual - then and now - "Islam and the threat to the West".
It was a novel approach which, in a nutshell, illustrated that, historically, aggression has been directed more from Europe to the Muslim world than the other way round. His evidence for such a view was impeccably sourced.
I thought about Abdal Hakim's talk this morning as I read the reports coming in of the dreadful bombing and shooting in Norway wherein, of course, there was speculation that these two events were "Islamic-terror related". No doubt we will learn more over the coming days, but the early signs are, in fact, that the perpetrator was a "blond, blue-eyed Norwegian" with "political traits towards the right, and anti-Muslim views". Not surprisingly, the man's intentions were neither linked to these "traits", nor to his postings on "websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies". Any influence "remains to be seen"; echoes of Oklahoma 1995.
Interestingly, this criminal is described by one unnamed Norwegian official as a "madman". He may well be, but this is one way that the motivations for heinous crimes can be airbrushed out of the story before they have the chance to take hold in the popular imagination.
Closing the book
In 1969, for example, an Australian Jew who set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem was dismissed as a "madman" and sent for psychiatric treatment; end of story. The right-wing Jewish fundamentalists plotting to destroy the mosque, and the nearby Dome of the Rock, lived to fight another day. I suspect that that is what will happen with the Norwegian bomber/shooter; his right-wing links and Christian fundamentalist contacts will be dismissed as irrelevant. This, we will be told, was the work of a "deranged" person "acting independently". Ergo, the only organised "terror threats" to civilisation are still "Islamic-related" and the focus of anti-terror legislation and efforts must remain in the Muslim world and on Muslim communities in Europe and the USA.
If we allow this to happen, we will be doing the world a great disservice, not least because the new right is on the rise across the West - and Oklahoma was proof that its followers are capable of immense destruction.
Neo-Nazi immigrants from Eastern Europe have even been active in Israel where the government, while deploring such far-right activity in its midst is actually edging ever more to the far-right on a daily basis. Ministers advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in order to purify Israel as a "Jewish state"; precious human rights for which the world has struggled are overridden in the name of "state security"; criminals in uniform are allowed to get away, quite literally, with murder.
All of this takes place with the collusion of Western governments which are themselves showing right-wing tendencies towards double-speak on matters of respect and tolerance for minorities. If you are even remotely "different" in Europe today, especially if you are a Muslim, you are eyed with suspicion and must go out of your way to "prove" your loyalty to a state which, if the truth was made known, would get rid of you if only it had the guts to pass the necessary legislation to do so. In some cases, such legislation is virtually in place in the guise of "anti-terror" measures.
All of this is backed by a vociferous and influential right-wing media which supports Israel right or wrong - and a pro-Israel lobby which acts as if it is untouchable. Given the political context across the West, it probably is.
Attacks against the left
It is significant that the target of the Norwegian "madman" appears to have been the left-leaning Labour Party, both in Oslo and on the island where the shootings took place. Across Europe, the left has been forming alliances with Muslim groups to fight fascism and racism of all kinds, and it cannot be a coincidence that a collection of essays from across the continent, published in 1997, concluded almost without exception that "the challenge" facing Europe was the presence of large Muslim communities in "our" midst. Anyone who claims therefore, that the perpetrator's "right-wing traits" and "anti-Muslim views", or even links with "Christian fundamentalist" websites are irrelevant is trying to draw a veil over the unacceptable truths of such "traits" and expecting us to believe that right-wing ideology is incapable of prompting someone towards such criminality.
Of course, that idea is nonsensical. Right-wing ideology was behind the Holocaust; it has been behind most anti-Semitism and other racism around the world; the notion of Europe's and Europeans' racial superiority - giving cultural credibility to the far-right - gave rise to the slave trade and the scramble for Africa leading to untold atrocities against "the Other"; ditto in the Middle and Far East. Ironically, it is also far-right Zionism - far from the socialist myths of Zionist pioneers in the 1930s and before - which has been behind the ethnic cleansing of Palestine throughout the 20th century, right up to today, as a specific policy to be pursued - by military means if necessary.
This is well-documented and yet ignored by our political masters. In the context of the latest apparently far-right atrocities in Norway, it is equally ironic that the word in English for a traitor who collaborates with an enemy power stems from Major Vidkun Quisling who ruled Norway on behalf of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
We dismiss this "madman" as a one-off "not linked to any international terrorist organisations" at our peril. If nothing else, history has shown us that such ideologies are trans-national across and beyond the West, with catastrophic effects on the rest of the world. We have been warned.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Native American Activist Leonard Peltier “in the Hellhole” of Solitary Confinement
July 19, 2011
American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier has been removed from general population and placed into solitary confinement at USP Lewisburg since June 27th. The 66-year old inmate has been ordered to spend 6 months in solitary stemming from various petty infractions, according to his attorney, Robert R. Bryan.[More information on Leonard Peltier can be found at http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/.]
Peltier, in a letter to his attorney, described the cell as a “cement steel hotbox” with little ventilation (a 1.5 inch slot under the door is the primary source of cool air). Due to the lack of suitable ventilation coupled with the heat of the summer, he has been “drenched in hot sweat” and indicated he had to stop many times while writing the letter due to difficulty concentrating in the cell. “My client has been put in the hellhole,” said Bryan.
Allotted five one-hour periods of exercise, Peltier spends 23 hours in a cell five days a week. The exercise is “in a cage” where water isn’t allowed. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, he is allowed to shower. For the other two days, he is in his cell 24 hours. He is not allowed any personal visits.
According to a note that Peltier had written at the time, he had been preparing to eat breakfast the morning of June 27th when guards entered his cell and began “disrespecting my religious items” and “threatened to lock me into solitary.”
According to the prison’s first incident report, dated 06/27/2011:
[T]his officer reviewed a letter being sent by inmate Peltier…In this letter, inmate Peltier has enclosed a bank note of 20 pounds, in Scottish currency. In the enclosed letter, inmate admits to receiving the bank note in the mail. It is obvious that inmate Peltier was in possession of money that was not authorized.
Peltier received a letter the previous day from a supporter in Scotland that contained a 20-pound note and had been inspected by the mailroom. Peltier had asked the mailroom to send back the enclosed money, but this request wasn’t followed up. He then addressed a letter to a friend and enclosed the note so as to send the money out of his cell and out of the prison, knowing that possession of unauthorized money was a violation of prison rules. This letter was intercepted at 8:00 a.m., prompting guards to search his cell at 9:45 a.m.
According to a second prison incident report, written the same day by a guard who searched Peltier’s cell:
[W]hile performing a search…I observed two wires protruding approximately 2 inches from the wall of the cell….The wires were located on the wall above the corner post of the upper bunk.. I attempted to pull the wires out of the wall. …As I attempted to pull the wire out of the wall my grip failed, my fingers slipped on the wire and contacted the bare ends of the wire. At that time I received an electrical shock through my right hand and forearm.
Peltier was deemed guilty of “destroying, altering or damaging government property having a value in excess of $100.” Peltier, however, did not sleep on the top bunk and the wiring was manipulated by a former cellmate. In addition, because of the guard’s decision to attempt to pull the wires out of the wall, Peltier was found to have engaged in “conduct which disrupts or interferes with security or
orderly running of the institution (Most Like) assaulting any person.” “Most Like” is a provision in the Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement that reads: “This charge is to be used only when another charge of greatest severity is not accurate. The offending conduct must be charged as ‘most like’ one of the listed greatest severity prohibited acts.”
Prison officials deemed Peltier responsible for the shock the guard received while pulling out the exposed wires, and deemed it an act “most like” an act of assault committed by Peltier. This is a “greatest severity level” violation, meaning an inmate can be placed into segregation for up to a year. The charge of destruction of property is a “high severity level” act which can result in up to six months in segregation, and the possession of unauthorized money is a “moderate severity level” violation and could result in up to three months in segregation.
Peltier’s punishment for possessing money he had refused and attempted to send away, for being deemed guilty for the actions of a prior cellmate, and for “assaulting” a guard who chose to touch live wires is only the latest of the injustices that Peltier has faced.
Peltier was convicted of the 1975 killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which took place at the height of the American Indian Movement’s efforts to gain public attention regarding the plight of Native American tribes, the abuses of the United States government against Native Americans, and a wave of unsolved murders in tribal territories. The subject of a 1992 documentary and a European Parliament resolution of support, Peltier has always maintained his innocence. Critics have raised serious questions about the fairness of his trial, and he is considered by many to be a political prisoner.
The United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg is the oldest prison in the federal system, and one of the most notorious. Since 2009, it has also been one of the most heavily locked-down. In the words of the Bureau of Prisons, Lewisburg is now being “run entirely as a Special Management Unit (SMU) institution to operate as a more controlled and restrictive environment for managing the most
aggressive and disruptive inmates from USP general population.” Peltier was sent there in 2008 not for any disciplinary infractions, but
because he was the victim of a beating by younger prisoners at another federal facility. “They’re hoping he’ll die there, that he’ll be forgotten there,” maintains his attorney.”
Peltier has been in poor health in recent years, suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and exhibiting symptoms of cancer. This is of particular concern given the vast literature pointing to significant detrimental effects of solitary confinement on both psychological and physical health, particularly when there are pre-existing conditions.
Peltier’s attorney has indicated that the placement into solitary confinement has slowed correspondence. A legal call has been delayed for several days and the prison has been slow to providing Peltier with the instruments necessary to write and send letters necessary for his legal proceedings.
Says attorney Bryan: “Prison officials are using this as an excuse to punish and torture my 66-year-old client. His health is poor because of decades of imprisonment. He needs to be placed back into the general population.”
Monday, July 18, 2011
Dignité on the last leg of voyage to Gaza: Small French ship carrying message that cannot be silenced
[ ATHENS] The Steering Committee of Freedom Flotilla II: Stay Human can confirm, that after anchoring in international waters overnight, the French-flagged ship Dignité / Karama has commenced the last leg of its voyage to Gaza. We wish all on board well and remind Israel to refrain from interfering with our vessel as it makes its way through the illegal and immoral sea blockade it has imposed on the Gaza Strip.
It is in large part because the Dignité commenced its voyage from a French port and the French government refused to interfere with this civilian human rights initiative that the ship continues its mission. The Dignité and its passengers – from France, Canada, Greece, Sweden, and Tunisa – represent a flotilla that was delayed by acts of sabotage and by an egregious act of complicity by the Greek government with Israel’s human rights violations and policy towards Gaza that the International Committee of the Red Cross determined to be “collective punishment.” But they also represent the steadfastness and determination of the flotilla movement to sail until the blockade is broken. The idea that Freedom Flotilla II could be stopped misunderstands the nature of this non-violent movement and its strength of purpose.
Despite most of the ships being unable to leave Greek ports, the flotilla nonetheless managed to highlight the vicious nature of Israel’s policy towards Gaza. Israeli leaders showed their willingness to use intimidation, lies, economic blackmail, threats of violence, and sabotage to stop boats that Israeli military officials admitted would not be carrying weapons. This clearly demonstrates that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is not based on “security”, but is meant to punish the Palestinian people, denying their freedom and keeping them cut off from the rest of the world.
Israel believes itself untouchable and continues its affront to humanity as a result of the international community’s failure to take tangible measures to defend Palestinian human rights. Indeed, as we have seen recently in Greece, some significant players – including the EU and the US – are even directly complicit in Israel’s crimes. This is why international civil society has mobilized to take direct action.
We cannot predict how Israel will behave as the Dignité approaches Gaza but we can say that – just as Israeli threats and violence have failed in the past to deter non-violent global solidarity with the people of Palestine – those on board this small French ship intend to reach their destination. The Dignité carries a message of solidarity and human empathy from the people of the world to the people of Gaza, and all of Palestine, that Israel’s violence can never silence.
While the Dignité continues to sail to Gaza, proving that the will of global civil society cannot be intimidated, the remaining ships in Freedom Flotilla II: Stay Human are regrouping to fulfill our obligations to the besieged people of Gaza and to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world who funded and organized this act of solidarity.
As long as the illegal blockade of Gaza remains in place, ships will sail to confront it; as long as Israel continues its occupation, colonization, and violent repression of Palestinians and our governments are silent about it, the global solidarity movement will mobilize to challenge it directly.
History shows that Israel is running out of options; we are only getting stronger.
For more information:
Huwaida Arraf (US): +1-202-294-8813
Alex Harrison (London): +44-759-485-7448
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein (Jerusalem): +972-547-366-393
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
It's official: on Tuesday, the Israeli government gave the Simon Wiesenthal Center the go-ahead to begin digging the foundation of its so-called Museum of Tolerance, a name that would be ironic if Israel's political discourse hadn't become so mutilated that words like"tolerance" had simply stopped meaning anything. The museum is set to be built on the site of Jerusalem's Mamilla cemetery, a storied Muslim burial ground that dates to the 7th Century. Already hundreds of graves have been dug up and desecrated to make room for the angled planes of the Tolerance center, and the museum's construction crews are now free to build on thousands more.
The news that Israel's Interior Ministry has approved the museum's building plans was not unexpected but it is still devastating. It is the final defeat in nearly a decade's worth of efforts by Palestinians, Israelis, academics, and human rights groups to stop the desecration. Or rather, it is the final nail in the coffin of a desperate bid to save a sacred piece of Palestinian history -- before that coffin gets dug up and re-buried, that is.
The historical and religious importance of Mamilla cemetery (originally the Ma’man Allah cemetery) is well documented. Situated half a kilometer west of the Old City's walls, the cemetery is reputed to contain the remains of some of Jerusalem's oldest, most celebrated families as well as those of religious leaders, pilgrims, officers and soldiers of Saladin's army, every-day Jerusalemites, and even companions of the Prophet Muhammad. In its graves lie the secrets and stories of centuries of Palestinian history, most if not all of which managed to survived Persian siege, Christian crusades, Ottoman conquest, and British rule. Indeed, it was only after west Jerusalem was absorbed into Israel in 1948 that the "indignities" began, as Rashid Khalidi explains in an elegant essay recently published in Jadaliyya. (Khalidi's ancestors are, or at least were, among those buried in the Mamilla Cemetery, and he has been a leader of the Campaign to Preserve Mamilla Jerusalem Cemetery.)
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
For years, Palestinian fishermen have been subject to routine attacks, shootings and arrests by the Israeli navy as they attempt to ply their trade in the seas off the coast of Gaza.
A month ago, Oliva, the first boat to monitor human rights violations in the Palestinian territorial waters, was launched. The project was organized by the Civil Palestinian Service (CPSGaza - CPSgaza.org) in cooperation with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Fishing and Marine Sports Association.
Mahfouz al-Kabariti, the president of the Fishing and Marine Sports Association, explained to The Electronic Intifada how the idea of this monitoring boat came to life.
“In the beginning, many international activists escorted Palestinian fishermen on six-mile voyages to break the siege enforced on the fishing area until Israel began sending waves of aggression against the fishermen and the international activists themselves. They arrested them and deported the activists,” he said.
Fishing boats were usually impounded for two to three months, al-Kabariti explained, “So we came up with the idea of establishing an independent boat entrusted to observe human rights violations and to help the Palestinian fishermen in cases of sabotage or accidents. We thought that having a civic, peaceful boat crewed by international observes will carry out the mission of documenting violations of human rights.”
According to the 1994 Oslo Accords, Palestinian territorial waters for the purposes of economic activity extend to twenty nautical miles offshore. However, Israel continues to break most, if not all, of the agreements between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, and between Israel and the international community.
Attacks by the Israeli navy
In fact, the twenty nautical-mile fishing area was unilaterally reduced by Israel to just three nautical miles in 2008, only exacerbating the crisis in yet another sector of the already-exhausted Gaza economy. This reduced the quantity of fish available to be caught by fishermen. Not only have the fishermen been deprived of their livelihoods, but they are also constantly attacked and arrested by the Israeli Navy, which frequently confiscates or deliberately damages fishing boats and other property.
The fishing industry is a main source of living in Gaza. A high percentage of the Gazan population depends on it to feed and shelter their families. However, the Israeli government, which claimed to have “disengaged” from Gaza in 2005, still controls exports, imports, movement and access to what are supposed to be Palestinian territorial waters.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Shir Hever notes:
whole article at link:
The hundreds of activists being deported from Israel’s airport, or denied the right to board the planes to begin with, are mostly European citizens, who have the same right which every Israeli enjoys when visiting Europe. As an Israeli citizen, I can take a plane to any European country without worrying about being denied entry. I don’t need to lie at the airport. Tens of thousands of demonstrators who fly to G8 meetings to protest them are also not denied entry. Still, European citizens visiting Israel and even more so if they are visiting the OPT, are interrogated, placed under surveillance and political controls.
The European Union has a reciprocity policy regarding countries whose citizens enjoy a free visa, and expects these countries to offer the same treatment to European citizens that Europe awards their citizens. So far, European governments (as well as the Canadian and US governments) do not concern themselves too much with the rights of their own citizens in Israel.
A proper response by France, Germany and the UK to the current mass deportations would be to suspend the visa agreement with Israel and demand that every Israeli citizen apply for a visa (like citizens of most countries in Africa and Asia), until Israel gives its reasons for expelling each and every activist who wishes to visit the OPT. Such a response is sure to remind the Israeli public that control over the Palestinian population in the OPT also carries responsibilities, and abusing those responsibilities carries consequences.
Friday, July 08, 2011
On Friday, Israeli troops attacked the weekly nonviolent protests in a number of West Bank villages. This week, protesters marched in solidarity with Freedom Flotilla 2 detained in Greece and the Welcome To Palestine participants.
Protests were reported in the villages of al-Nabi Saleh, Bil’in, and Nil’in in the central West Bank, as well as al-Ma’ssara in the south.
In Bil’in village on Friday, international and Israeli supporters joined villagers and replanted trees on land given back to local farmers after the army adhered to the court order and rerouted the wall around Bil’in, giving the village half of their stolen land back.
Also on Friday, one boy and a youth were slightly injured when troops fired tear gas at the marchers in the village of al-Nabi Saleh near Ramallah. Villagers and their Israeli and International supporters dragged a mock-ship they named “Popular Resistance Flotilla.” As soon as they moved outside of the village, Israeli troops showered them with tear gas. In addition to the two injured, many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.
Protests were held in Greece after the Greek government prevented the Gaza flotilla boats from sailing from its shores to Gaza. Passengers, mostly Americans, gathered in front of the U.S embassy in Athens to demand the release of the captain and the ships as well. The flotilla passengers stated their goal is to reach Gaza and bring to its population essential material, Israel forbids its entry to the besieged coastal region.
In the nearby village of Nil’in, where the residents and their Israeli and international supporters held the Friday midday prayers near the Israeli wall, protestors then marched up to the wall. Troops fired tear gas at protesters causing many to suffer from tear gas inhalation.
In the southern west Bank on Friday, villagers protested against the wall and settlements in al-Ma’sara village near Bethlehem. Israeli troops stopped villagers from reaching the construction side of the wall, and fired tear gas at them to force them back into the village.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Glenn's whole talk is great, but if you don't have an hour, tune in at minute 54 where he discusses the origination of the word "terrorism" and the affect its use has had on global politics.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Israel is indeed connected to the centers of power in the world. The predictions of a tsunami at present seem to be exaggerated, but nevertheless, before the victory ball, it is worth remembering – the Israeli occupation is the longest military occupation of modern times. The subjects of the occupation in its two forms – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – live under a brutal regime that few other occupations allowed themselves, without any law – the blockade and the morbidity rate among children, the roadblocks and the arbitrariness of the soldiers, breaking in to people’s homes (imagine your children being awakened at night by the shouting of armed men, breaking down doors and blinding them with flashlights; imagine living without any protection ), the prolonged occupation, a disaster for us and for the Palestinians – because Israel enjoys the support of the West.
The settlements have turned the occupation into something insolvable, at least in the next few decades, so that the occupation will not merely raise another generation of Israeli troopers, egged on by the rabbis of the rabble, but also a third and fourth generation of Palestinians without another kind of life.
The fact that the Gaza Strip has become an international symbol of cruelty is yet further proof of the stupidity of our leaders. Operation Cast Lead and the blockade of Gaza – both of them with broad national consensus – have turned Gaza into a symbol that no longer needs coordination on the part of the Palestinians. Israeli democracy appears as it actually is: In the name of the majority (six million Jews ) it is permitted to do to the minority (five million, in Israel and the territories ) almost anything.
The national minority in Israel has the right to vote but it does not have television of its own ; it has health insurance but also heavy unemployment and infant mortality rates that are much higher than among the Jews (8.3 compared with 3.7 for every 1000 births ). Tel Aviv, which sells itself to the world as a liberal city, is the only metropolis in the West that does not have a Muslim population. Its “coolness” is racist – the 20 percent minority does not appear at all in the life of the city. And it is advisable for propagandists not to point to Jaffa as proof of diversity – Jaffa with its yuppie immigration is a perfect example of apartheid carried out by “secular” and “liberal” Tel Aviv.
Official propaganda, too, will not help. The more pressure Israel brings to bear on centers in the West – countries and media giants – the more the wave against it grows, because the hatred of the occupation and of Israeli racism springs from the knowledge that what Israel does is funded by the West, gets assistance from the West, and from connections with the focuses of power – as a living memorial to colonialism. There is nothing better than the way in which the Greeks thwarted the Gaza aid flotilla’s departure to reinforce this. It was not just Greece that thwarted it.
The coalitions that are being organized against Israel in the West include members of the left. There are also many others and not all of them are humanistic. They are not always Jew-lovers. These coalitions will continue to grow as long as the western political community presents itself as “helpless” in the face of Israeli obduracy. Of course it is not helpless, and when it has actual interests, it is capable of behaving in typically western barbaric fashion, as it is doing now in Libya and in Iraq.
The loathing of Israel fits in with the growing anti-establishment wrath, within the context of politics where there is no difference between the parties. The protests in Greece are an example of lack of faith of this kind, which does not spring from the Israeli occupation but from the powerlessness of the masses to influence what is taking place in their countries – economics and war.
Israel is merely one subject out of several that the political – or the apolitical – complaining is busy with. Very few people join flotillas, but many more participate in sending them and even more internalize their oppression. The complaining and mumbling is part of a burgeoning anti-establishment consensus. The record of what is always known as “the hypocritical politicians” has been joined by the hypocritical attitude toward Israeli cruelty.
It is not surprising therefore that the blockade of Gaza is getting tighter in the form of a moral blockade of Israel. Slowly but surely, in a world filled with injustice and war crimes and racism toward minorities and migrants, Israel has learned, during decades of stupidity, how to become the symbol of injustice and these crimes. We are no longer the embodiment of progress, as we were trumpeted as being for a long time, but the exact opposite. And this is truly just the beginning.
Greece has offered to deliver any humanitarian aid contained on Freedom Flotilla boats to Gaza through “existing channels”. Israel as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have accepted this idea - except one thing - Greece’s offer misses the point.
Even if all the humanitarian needs of the population were relieved, the Israeli-imposed Gaza blockade would still violate the Gazans’ basic human rights.
The blockade does not target specific individuals, but collectively punishes the entire population which contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention. It violates the Gazans’ right to health (including access to clean drinking water and sanitation), education, work, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. It violates their basic dignity; their basic human rights.
The blockade is illegal and must end. Period. And Israel, as the occupying power (in effective control of area), is responsible for ending it. Israel is a sophisticated, militarily advanced country that should be able to effectively meet their national security needs without unjustly punishing an entire population.
World leaders have called the blockade “unsustainable” and have urged the immediate, unconditional opening of the crossings. A report written by the UN Human Rights Council-backed fact finding mission concluded that Israel’s raid on last summer’s flotilla was in violation of international law with investigators concluding that at least six of the killings amounted to extra-judicial executions, and the force used by the commandos was “unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate.”
If international consensus supports the immediate lifting of the blockade; international, independent NGO’s, including Amnesty and the International Committee of the Red Cross, consider the blockade illegal; and the Israeli raid last summer was deemed “illegal, excessive and inappropriate”, why are Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. leaders urging governments to discourage the Gaza-bound flotilla – calling the flotilla “provocative” and the participants dangerous?
Putting the onus of responsibility on the civil society activists is grossly misplaced. Leaders should be addressing calls of restraint from provocative, extreme actions to the party currently violating international law, likely to initiate excessive use of force (based on past actions) and legally bound to comply as a fellow nation-state. U.S. elected officials should be seeking ways to protect U.S. citizens, not giving a green light to Israel to do what they want because the U.S. appears to have withdrawn its protection.
The Obama administration did not just voice disapproval of the flotilla, but made veiled threats against U.S. citizens on the ‘Audacity of Hope’, saying their efforts may be violating U.S. law (see ‘Holder vs. The Humanitarian Project) by supposedly “supporting a terrorist organization“. U.S. congressman have stumbled over themselves putting out public statements demonizing flotilla participants and actually putting the security of a foreign power over American lives.
Amnesty International, the organization, takes no position on the flotilla initiative as a tactic, but as a human rights activist myself, I feel the question begs to be asked:
If governments turn their backs on those who have no voice or power; have had their economy decimated, homes destroyed, and basic human rights violated at every turn, including the ability to escape such harsh conditions, then doesn’t civil society have the right, if not obligation, to intercede?
Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Resistance to Civil Government’ argues that when government produces injustice, even disguising injustice behind laws, then it is the duty of every conscientious citizen to resist, disobey, stop the “machine”.
Slavery was once legal and those participating in the Underground Railroad were breaking the law, but today we celebrate Harriet Tubman. Only a few decades ago, thousands participated in acts of civil disobedience to challenge legalized segregation and Jim Crow laws in the south. Those civil rights heroes are now our neighbors and elected officials. These are not new concepts. When did they become “irresponsible and provocative”?
An even scarier question?
If governments do nothing or even protect immoral, illegal policies perpetrated on a weak, vulnerable population and civil society is not allowed to challenge these immoral, illegal policies – even through non-violent direct actions, then … what is there left to do?
Earlier this year we watched with amazement as hundreds of thousands of Arabs charged into the streets of their cities demanding reform. The uprisings led to the departure of several leaders who had ruled for decades and also tested (and continue to test) several others.
But what led to this outpouring is much the same as the motivation behind the flotilla initiative which seeks to challenge the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
When fundamentally unjust situations are left unaddressed by states, the people must step in. That is precisely what happened in Tahrir square when hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Egyptians lost all faith in the government's ability to reform.
That is also precisely what drives the flotilla and the activists aboard it. They have watched as the collective punishment of 1.5 million civilians lingers with no objections coming from states that can change the situation. In fact, the siege of Gaza has been supported by Israel, the United States and Mubarak's Egypt (though post-Mubarak Egypt promises to be different).
The blockade of Gaza is just one part of a multilayered siege on the Gaza Strip. The layers include control of land entry and exit points for commercial and humanitarian goods, control over the amount of electricity and water available to the people of Gaza, control of the air and sea lanes, and so on.
The vast majority of water in Gaza is not fit for human consumption. The vast majority of people live on less than $2 a day and rely on daily handouts from aid organisations due to rampant unemployment.
The Israelis try to whitewash the devastating effects of the siege by ignoring the exhaustive documentation by aid organisations and human rights groups, and by claiming they facilitate the entry of hundreds of trucks a day into Gaza. This is tantamount to justifying the encaging of an innocent person by claiming to shove some bread and water through the bars once a day.
In reality, the number of trucks getting into Gaza are far below what the UN believes is necessary to meet the minimum standards of the population.
Exports, which are commercial goods leaving Gaza, have been stymied as well. In fact, in 2005, Israel agreed to allow 400 trucks of exports per day out of Gaza by 2006 yet less than 200 trucks of exports were permitted exit throughout all of 2008-2010! There is yet to be any rational argument from the Israelis as to why they prevent exports from leaving Gaza, and the only plausible explanation is that they want to emaciate the Palestinian economy in the strip.
It should also come as no surprise that Israelis are working around the clock in an attempt to vilify the people on these boats, just like the when the Mubarak regime attempted to do the same with the Egyptians that challenged his rule.
But the passengers on the flotilla realise that nonviolent disobedience is key to the success of their mission to raise awareness about the unjust blockade. The Israelis have even been caught distributing fake videos accusing the flotilla organizers of homophobia, alliances with terrorists and even suggesting the passengers might use chemical weapons.
For a state that claims to be a "democracy", their response to nonviolent disobedience is as irrational as any neighbouring autocrat's.
Vilification is, of course, the first step to justifying violence, and there has been no shortage of violence used against nonviolent activists during the Arab Spring. It seems Israel is laying the groundwork to apply similarly repressive techniques against the good-willed passengers of these boats.
So what will the reaction be?
As the flotilla approaches Gaza, another January 25th moment presents itself. You either stand with members of civil society who have challenged the unjust practices of states, or you stand with those states and their unjust practices.
About 40 brave Americans have cast their lot with civil society by setting sail on the American-flagged ship to Gaza, the "Audacity of Hope". Among them are men and women, elderly, and many Jewish-Americans as well. They will be joined by about ten ships and 300 other activists. They simply refuse to sit idly by like their governments as the crime of the siege of Gaza continues.
As the collective punishment of 1.5 millions civilians persists, it's time to ask yourself: which side are you on?
Saturday, July 02, 2011
Press Release: Friday 7-1-2011- For the first time after nearly seven years of resistance and struggle by the residents of Bil'in, the people of the village and a large number of participants from neighboring villages could hold the Friday prayer on the land that has been retrieved 2 days ago.
Also, many Palestinian leaders, including: Abbas Zaki, member of the Central Committee of Fatah, Qais Abu Laila, member of the Democratic Front, Hisham Abu Raya, member of the Palestinian Liberation Front, Fadwa Barghouti, member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah and many of the leaders and supporters of the Palestinian national movement, as well as dozens of international activists and Israelis joined the celebration.
The local Sheikh spoke. After conducting the Friday prayer, he held a speech for the brave people of Bil'in, praising the strength of their will and their attachment to their land, shown by their resistance to the occupation army.
He said that the land can only be retrieved through resistance, patience and faith in the complete victory. He also praised the foreign assistance and continuous support for the Palestinian cause.
After the prayer, the participants in the march went to have a huge celebration in the natural reserve of Abu Lemon, waving Palestinian flags and banners of the various factions, and singing national songs to express their joy about the victory and the big dream to end the occupation of all Palestinian territories.
In a speech, Abbas Zaki, member of the Central Committee of the Fatah movement, encouraged the people of Bil'in and praised their heroic struggle during the past seven years.
This victory was the result of the sacrifices made by the people of Bil'in, he said. After they reached the protected area, and after removal of the wall,
they built the first house there.
After many years of not seeing any big groups of Palestinians so close to their residence, the inhabitants of the nearby illegal settlement were watching the celebration and the building of the first house with great attention and surprise.
The people of Bil'in are now planning to build more houses in order to protect the land from the greed of the occupation and the settlers.
Friday, July 01, 2011
The Victoria police have viciously attacked a peaceful pro- Palestine demonstration in Melbourne's CBD on July 1st. In the largest political arrest in a decade, twenty protesters were arrested during the action against Israeli-owned Max Brenner store. The chocolateria in the Queen Victoria Shopping Centre is owned by the Israeli conglomerate 'Strauss group'; a company that provides "care rations" for one of the most brutal sections of the Israeli military, the Golani brigades. The protest occurred as part of the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the apartheid Israeli state. The peaceful picket was 'kettled' before leading activists were individually targeted, in what seems to be a new tactic from Ballieu's riot squad.
***** Please distribute widely *****
Please join us to support our friends and colleagues on the Gaza Flotilla and to call for an end to the U.S/ISRAELI Gaza Siege!
When: Saturday July 2, Noon-2pm
Where: Westlake, 4th & Pine
For more information go to: http://ustogaza.org/
"Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone"