Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Sacred Right of Return

A sacred right

Salman Abu-Sitta

Why should I, a Jew from north London, be permitted to take up Israeli citizenship, when that right is denied to a Palestinian who languishes in a refugee camp in Lebanon? Especially when I acknowledge that a large majority of those that left in 1948 were ethnically cleansed by Israeli forces.

Those are the words of Alex Stein, writing for Comment is free last week. A commendable admission of injustice to Palestinians, you would say. But then he derives conclusions that are contrary to this premise; that the right of a Palestinian to return to his home is neither sacred, legal nor possible.

This split-personality theme has been infamously adopted by Benny Morris who pored over hundreds of declassified Israeli files. Morris confirmed in minute detail that, in 1948, Israeli invasion forces committed massacres, expelled Palestinians, destroyed their villages, looted their property, burnt their crops, poisoned their wells and shot on the spot any Palestinian who tried to return to his home. Referring to the remaining minority, Morris then solemnly declared that he was sorry that Ben Gurion "did not finish the job".

Both Alex Stein and Menny Morris escape from the fact, slowly seeping into the western conscience, that Palestinians were - and are today - subject to the most massive, comprehensive, meticulously planned and executed and continuous ethnic cleansing operation in modern history. This has long been denied by Israeli historians. A notable exception is a brave and honest Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe.

The sensation created by Benny Morris's revelation about al-Nakba, grudgingly accepted by some Jews, is a stark measure of how the west was taken in by the Zionist propaganda for several decades. The Palestinians do not know whether to laugh or cry, for the "revelations" are only some of what they have been saying all along since 1948. Hundreds of thousands of refugees gave graphic details of their plight but these were dismissed by the Zionist Europeans as "a figment of oriental imagination" until an Israeli historian found damning evidence in Israeli files.

Facts have a way of surfacing. The facts, documented on maps and records, show that in 1948 Israelis depopulated the Palestinian inhabitants of 675 towns and villages, that their land represents 93% of Israel's area; that half of all the refugees have been expelled in the last six weeks of the British Mandate, before the state of Israel was declared and before any Arab regular soldier set foot on Palestine to save its people from the invasion of Jewish European immigrants who had just waded into their shores to build Israel on the ruins of Palestine.

What is more natural than a person returning to their home? If Stein does not believe this is "sacred", he has to ask 6 million Palestinian refugees (two-thirds of all Palestinians) why are they still determined to fight for their right to return over a period of six decades and through three generations and many wars. That the right of return for Palestinians has been affirmed by the UN more than 130 times is enough to put this matter to rest. No need to spill more ink on that score.

If defeated on both counts, Zionists usually resort to their last defence: that the right of return is not possible to implement.

In a civilised society, if a crime is committed, its consequences must be reversed. The criminal should not be rewarded, and his crime should not be forgiven or even legitimised. The stolen property must be returned. Rights must be reinstated and reparation paid for material losses.

This is what the international community insisted upon, sometimes using military force, in implementing the return of refugees to Bosnia, Kosovo, Burundi, Cambodia, East Timor, Georgia, Guatemala, Mozambique, Ruwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

This is also what the European Jews rightly got when they returned to their former homes (if they so wished), recovered their property in Europe and received massive amounts of compensation for their suffering during the second world war, without the benefit of a single UN resolution.

The pretext that return is not possible because of the influx of Jewish immigrants to Palestine to replace the expelled Palestinians is not a valid one, morally, legally or politically. But we are spared the argument on this point. Here we have yet another one of the misconceptions designed to mislead and misinform the western public. It is not true that it is physically impossible to implement the right of return.

Palestine is the most documented among conflict-torn countries, certainly much more than Bosnia and Kosovo. We have complete UN-documented ownership records of every acre of land. Not a single Israeli Jew has an equivalent title deed after al-Nakba. We have detailed maps of what every acre was, what it is today and can visualise what it could/should be in the future.

We have a huge database of millions of Palestinians - where they come from in Palestine, and where they are residing today, their family structure and their ages. Today, 90% of them reside within 100 km of their homes, 50% within 40km and many can actually see their home on the opposite hill.

That is not all. The refugees' land is still sparsely populated. Eighty per cent of Israeli Jews still live in the same area they acquired during the Mandate and a little more, but 15% of Israel in total. About 18% of the remaining 20% of the Jews live mostly in half a dozen originally Palestinian or mixed cities, considerably enlarged. This leaves 2% of Israeli Jews who are the members of Qibbutz and Moshav.

This small number of population, in addition to the army, use and control 85%-88% of Israel's area, which is the patrimony of 6 million Palestinian refugees. To take an example, all the rural Jews in the southern district from Ashdod (Isdud) to Eilat (Umm Rashrash) are less in number that one refugee camp in Gaza. Their density is six persons per square kilometre while that of Gaza population - the owners of this very land - is 6,000 per square kilometre. These owners of the land are held captive by the occupier in a concentration camp called Gaza.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Silencing the Truth of "Israel"

an article on the struggle of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian political prisoner in the U.S...

By Charlotte Kates

Dr. Sami Al-Arian, Palestinian political prisoner, is held in a prison hospital, after a debilitating 60-day hunger strike seeking to draw the attention of the nation and the world to the injustice visited upon him, jailed for his commitment to justice and dignity for his homeland. This is not a scene from an Israeli jail, however, but from a U.S. prison in North Carolina. Al-Arian's hunger strike ended at the pleas of his family - yet without justice for Al-Arian, whose imprisonment is part and parcel of a U.S. government policy of targeting Palestinian activists, as well as the broader Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities, in an internal "war of terror" whose policies run parallel to that being waged abroad.

The case of Sami al-Arian is a story of persecution, perseverance, and, ultimately, the determination of those in power to criminalize resistance and punish Palestinian activism, subverting not only the principles of justice but also their own criminal justice system in order to do so. Sami al-Arian, 49, is a Palestinian refugee who has lived in the United States for over thirty years and has, for the last decade, alongside his prominent role as an activist and leader in the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities in the Tampa Bay, Florida area and nationally, his work as a professor of computer science at the University of South Florida, and his personal life as a husband and father to five children, waged a prominent battle to protect fundamental rights within the U.S. from an assault through secret evidence, racist detention policies, and an all-out assault on community organizing and solidarity work within targeted communities. Al-Arian has lived with over a dozen years of surveillance, and eight years of FBI agents shadowing his movements. Today, he is imprisoned, despite the fact that he was convicted of nothing by a jury, despite a parade of witnesses and years of harassment.

Continue to article...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Israel" Using Human Shields

Violating International Law is nothing new for the Apartheid State of "Israel"...

The Crime of Being Born Palestinian

Dawud Fakaah, father of six-month-old Khalid who died at Atara checkpoint outside Ramallah.

Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr 'Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son. Shortly after midnight on March 8th, my friend's baby began having trouble breathing. His parents quickly got a taxi to take him to the nearest hospital in Ramallah, where they hoped to secure an oxygen tent, which had helped him recover from difficult respiratory episodes in the past. As the family was rushing from their Palestinian town in the West Bank to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank, they were stopped at Atara checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier asked for the father's, mother's, and driver's IDs. Dawud explained to the soldier that his son needed urgent medical care, but the soldier insisted on checking the three IDs first, a process that usually takes a few minutes. Dawud's was the only car at the checkpoint in the middle of the night, yet the soldier held the three IDs for more than twenty minutes, even as Dawud and his wife began to cry, begging to be allowed through. After fifteen minutes, Dawud's baby's mouth began to overflow with liquid and my friend wailed at the soldier to allow them through, that his baby was dying. Instead, the soldier demanded to search the car, even after the IDs had been cleared. At 1:05am, six-month-old Khalid Dawud Fakaah died at Atara Checkpoint. As the soldier checked the car, he shined his flashlight on the dead child's face and, realizing what had happened, finally returned the three ID cards and allowed the grieving family to pass.

The article continued...

Samaa Fakaah, Khalid's mother, holds a picture of her baby who died in her arms at Atara checkpoint.

More "Israeli" Abuse

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Arab culture inferior’

talk about sounding like Nazis...

‘Marriage to an Arab is national treason’

Recent poll reveals steep rise in racist views against Arabs in Israel; many participants feel hatred, fear when overhearing Arabic, 75 percent don’t approve of shared apartment buildings

Roee Nahmias

Over half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason, according to a recent survey by the Geocartography Institute.

The survey, which was conducted for the Center Against Racism, also found that over 75 percent of participants did not approve of apartment buildings being shared between Arabs and Jews. Sixty percent of participants said they would not allow an Arab to visit their home.

Five hundred Jewish men and women participated in the poll, which was published Tuesday.

According to the survey, racism against Arabs has seen a sharp rise since a similar survey was conducted two years ago.

In 2006, 247 racist acts against Arabs were reported, as opposed to 225 one year prior.

About 40 percent of participants agreed that “Arabs should have their right to vote for Knesset revoked”. The number was 55 percent lower in the previous survey. Also, over half of the participants agreed that Israel should encourage its Arab citizens to immigrate from the country.

Over half of the participants said they would not want to work under the direct management of an Arab, and 55 percent said “Arabs and Jews should be separated at entertainment sites”.

'Arab culture inferior’

Participants were asked what they felt when they overheard someone speaking Arabic. Thirty-one percent said they felt hatred, while 50 percent said they felt fear.

Over 56 percent of participants said they believed that Israel’s Arab citizens posed both a security and a demographic threat to the country.

When asked what they thought of Arab culture, over 37 percent replied, “The Arab culture is inferior.”

“The Center Against Racism has set itself a goal to monitor all racial incidents against Arab citizens, and to fight racism as much as possible under the law through public action,” the center’s annual report said.

Bachar Ouda, the center's director, said the survey’s findings were worrisome, and urged the government to intervene in the situation.

“We call on the education minister to take the gloves off and deal with the issue seriously, because it is dangerous to coexistence. We call on the state prosecutions office, and the attorney general to take action,” Ouda said.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"Israeli" Terror

something the media wont show you..."Israeli" Occupational Forces unleash a dog on an elderly woman...keep Palestine in your prayers...

Existence is Resistance

the occupation is designed in a way that terrorizes every aspect of a Palestinian's life, so much that they are supposed to lose the urge to live in Palestine and leave in search of new land...

clever, but its not working...

Existence is Resistance
Anna Baltzer writing from Nablus, occupied Palestine, Live from Palestine, 21 March 2007

One week after I left Nablus I found myself again looking out across the city's majestic sunlit hills, this time from one of the highest mountains in the West Bank. In all my reporting on Israel's invasion and human rights violations, I never mentioned how beautiful the ancient city is, from the surrounding mountains to the enchanting Old City, so easy to get lost in. Both remind me of Damascus (one pessimistic Palestinian pointed out the comparison early on during my stay, claiming that the Nablus invasion was practice for an attack against Syria). My last day in Nablus I got to discover another one of the city's gems: An-Najah University. I immediately took to the old architecture mixed with modern sculptures on the main campus, but what inspired me most was watching thousands of students return to the frantic bustle of daily university life so soon after soldiers had released the city from hostage. Resilience is a defining character of Palestinian identity in my experience, and I was more impressed than surprised to see Palestinians asserting their determination to get an education even in the most difficult circumstances. Just another example of the ever-pervasive Palestinian nonviolent resistance.

The night before visiting I had passed by the empty campus -- abandoned since the army took over and classes were cancelled -- in a taxi driving home with the family that was hosting me. I had grown quite close to the warm family with Leninist communist leanings, and felt happy and comfortable in their home covered with posters of Che Guevara, David Beckham, Shakira, and others idolized by the three teenage daughters. As we were driving and chatting after having visited some friends, we were suddenly surrounded with jeeps driving through the city to and from seemingly every direction. We panicked. Was there curfew? Would we be shot for being outside? Screeching to a halt, we tried to back up to the neighborhood we'd come from, but jeeps were swarming in that direction as well. Where were we supposed to go?

The jeeps left as quickly as they had come. Apparently they were doing a practice invasion, presumably to train new soldiers, as they've been doing a lot recently in a village called Beit Lid near Tulkarem (even though nobody in the village has been accused of threatening Israel's security). I will never forget that feeling of being suddenly surrounded, the confusion and panic, the helplessness. There was something about sitting together to a cheerful family breakfast the next morning that felt like a kind of nonviolent resistance too: the insistence on ordinary life and pleasures no matter what havoc occupation forces are wreaking just outside.

I returned to the Nablus region a week later to accompany a teacher named Addawiya and her family to plow land they haven't been able to work for six years due to soldier harassment. The next plot over hasn't been plowed in 26 years for the same reason. There are Israeli military posts on all the highest West Bank peaks, among them the mountain where Addawiya's land lies. As we cleared away stones that had overrun the land over the last half dozen years, Addawiya told me about the day she was picking olives with her brother when the soldiers came and threatened to shoot her brother if he didn't leave the land immediately. He persisted in picking olives until the soldiers began shooting into the air to show that they were serious, at which point he ran off terrified. Addawiya was left alone, and on her hands and knees pleaded for her life, all along sure she was going to die. Her fear was not unjustified. Three years ago, Addawiya's sister was taking a walk on the family's land near the village with her husband when a group of soldiers popped out from the foliage and open-fired on him. The 33-year-old teacher died instantly.

The Israeli army came and apologized to Addawiya's family. Apparently they were intending to assassinate a wanted man and shot the wrong guy. Addawiya's sister, who was 23 and pregnant at the time, is now a 26-year-old going on 60. With nobody to support her and two young children to raise, she had to move back in with her mother. Incidentally, the mother invited me to move in too when we returned from plowing (as an unmarried, childless 27-year-old woman, I'm practically an old maid around here). I declined politely, and we began the journey back to Haris.

Our first stop along the way was Huwwara, the southern checkpoint out of Nablus city, where as usual hundreds of students from An-Najah and other universities were waiting unhappily, squished together like cattle as it began to rain and everyone squeezed under the roof to wait behind metal detectors and turnstiles to leave the city.

I remembered passing through Huwwara a few days earlier on a trip accompanying other farmers in the area. Since the solidarity effort was organized by the Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights, we were driving in an Israeli car with yellow license plates, so we didn't even slow down as we breezed through on the Israeli-only road parallel to the one where Palestinians had been waiting for hours if not days.

On the way back from Addawiya's land, a colleague and I decided to stay at Huwarra to do checkpoint watch, i.e., witness and document any human rights violations. There was already one sick man whom the army had refused to let pass and we took his story. At first the soldiers didn't seem to mind our presence, but after some time one soldier told us we weren't allowed to stand where we were. He pointed to a line drawn on the floor nearby and said we could stand behind it. We began to protest, but quickly realized a fight would translate into longer waiting time for the Palestinians being processed by the same soldier, so we walked a few paces to the other side of the line. Ten minutes later, a different soldier informed us it was illegal to be observing the checkpoint at all, so we would have to leave immediately. We didn't even dignify his absurd claim with a response. He stood next to us awkwardly repeating himself a few times and then eventually went away.

We were approached by a third soldier, speaking only Hebrew. When we said we couldn't understand, he told us in broken English that it was illegal to be there if you didn't speak Hebrew. This was a new one. Another soldier showed up to translate the soldier's original message, namely that in fact we could look but not take pictures. The soldier regretted to inform us that he would have to delete my photographs. At that point we decided we preferred to leave rather than lose the photos, so we began to walk away. As expected, the soldier didn't chase after the supposedly "illegal" pictures. Just before we left, we saw the sick man previously denied passage try his luck with a different soldier at a different machine and get through.

Israel claims that its checkpoints are for the security and safety of its citizens. What makes this claim so difficult to believe for those observing the institutions is how inconsistent and seemingly arbitrary the army's actions and "laws" so frequently are. The sick man got through on his second try. Had that failed, he could have sprung for an expensive taxi ride to an alternative checkpoint 10 miles north that is scarcely monitored at all (when we passed through on the way to Addawiya's land there were no soldiers in sight). The whole trip north and then around again would cost him several hours and paychecks, but he could exit his city with relative certainty. Anyone who's spent time in the West Bank knows that if you're desperate, you can get anywhere. There is always an alternative road, even into Israel, even with the Wall, which is full of holes so as not to disturb settlers commuting to Israel. Israel is not stupid. It knows that Palestinians can get around the army's blockades if they just drain enough energy and resources to do so. So why does Israel do it?

As our shared taxi from Huwwara to Haris left the checkpoint, the driver pulled up next to several drivers to ask how Zatara was. Zatara is a permanent checkpoint between Huwwara and Haris, but there's an alternative road through Jama'iin village, which drivers take when the checkpoint line is too long or slow. The ride takes much longer, and is painfully bumpy and curvy. When our driver chose the detour, the woman next to me grimaced and took out some plastic bags, which she spent the ride vomiting into. I rubbed her back, not knowing what else to do, thinking about the short, straight, paved road that could have eased her suffering if it were not rendered so endless for non-Jews.

The taxi eventually dropped us off near the Haris bus stop, which soldiers have surrounded with large concrete cubes leftover from the roadblock that used to block our village. The blocks mean that waiting Palestinians cannot easily get from the sheltered bus stop to the road, so at least one traveler must wait always wait on the road to spot and flag down cars, even when it's raining. Each time I'm forced to drench my backpack and jeans waiting to start a day's journey, I think about what Israel has to gain by making even a bus stop inaccessible without struggle, by rendering what could be a smooth drive home into a nauseating miserable ride. I think about why the roadblocks were set up to begin with outside Haris, when villagers either had to drive their cars to the entrance, park, walk around, and take a taxi the rest of the way to work or university, or they had to take their cars along a strenuous unpaved detour through the countryside to reach the same outside road. What's the point of making life so frustrating that people reconsider even going to work or school? What happens when daily life in Palestine becomes just too unbearable?

My questions are answered almost every day when strangers call or approach us desperate for help getting a visa to Europe or North America. They say they can't take it anymore -- first Israel took their land, then their sons, and now their dignity. What Israel wants more than anything isn't to harm Palestinians; it wants for Palestinians to leave. Israel is the first to admit that the "demographic problem" of too many Palestinians in an exclusively Jewish state threatens Israel more than any suicide bomber ever could.

Addawiya told me she wanted to leave as we were walking back from her groves. I asked her where, and she told me it didn't matter -- she wasn't going anywhere. "Because no country will give you a visa?" I asked, and she shook her head. "Because that's what they want us to do. They want us to flee as we did in 1948, so that the Jewish National Fund can again expropriate our land and reserve it for Jews only. But I won't leave. I will stay here because it's my right and it's my duty, to myself and to my children." For Addawiya, even staying in her village and working her land is nonviolent resistance, the kind almost every Palestinian partakes in. It's not the type of resistance that will make it onto headlines or the six o'clock news, but it is there, it is strong, and it is not going away.

All images by Anna Baltzer.

Anna Baltzer is a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service in the West Bank and author of the book, Witness in Palestine: Journal of a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. For information about her writing, photography, DVD, and speaking tours, visit her website at

Sunday, March 25, 2007


an article by an American questioning the U.S.'s relationship with the apartheid state...

All Hail "Israel"

by William A. Cook, a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California,

Like all patriotic Americans, I spend a portion of each weekend browsing through the “official” web sites of the Presidential candidates preparing myself for the 2008 run off between Republicans and Democrats, Republicrats for short. I now aggregate all of them because all pay homage, indeed a groveling obsequiousness, to AIPAC and to the Olmert/Leiberman regime in Israel. Such fawning is born of fear, as former congressmen Paul Findley, Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard can testify, fear that comes with crossing a powerful force, a force that can threaten the candidate’s standing in the polls. Yossi Beilin, former Labor Party Minister under Ehud Barak recognized this force: “They (AIPAC) have the threat of voting out (congressional) representatives. I never liked this leverage. It’s counterproductive.”

Yet it’s clear that the American Congress’ unrestrained support for the Sharon/Olmert regimes over the past six years, coupled to the Bush administration’s total capitulation to Israel’s dominance in Palestine, has created an untenable situation for America in the eyes of the world. America’s bondage to Israel is the overriding issue that can release America from its position as the target for the world’s hatred, yet all candidates but two grovel before AIPAC and the Olmert/Leiberman regime.

Why is bondage to Israel a concern? Because those who attack America, including Bin Laden, have told Americans that it is a concern; because our 9/11 Commission told us in Without Precedent that the dominant reason given to them for actions against America was our absolute and continued support for Israel; because Maershimer and Walt, in their report on AIPAC influence in our congress, presented to America an inventory of evidence that establishes America’s allegiance to Israel and the consequences of such allegiance; because Haaretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, has admonished Israelis and Americans that the perception in the Arab world and in the EU of America’s total commitment to Israel is unwise and will erupt in a blowback against Israel itself; because virtually every nation in the world understands what Americans cannot seem to digest, that support for a country that has systematically persecuted another people without letup for 60 years, has made America a pariah nation subject to the frustration, anger, and outright hatred of those who condemn the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians.

Why continue such unrestrained bondage to Israel? Why indeed. Why shackle America to a nation that has defied UN resolutions year after year (over 160 UNGA and 60 UNSC) since 1948 that calls for it to act humanely to the Palestinians, to return stolen land to the Palestinians, to recognize international law and the right to return of refugees driven from their homes? Why shackle America to a country that defies international law by occupying the land of other nations and peoples? Why shackle America to a nation that refuses to sign a mid-east nuclear non-proliferation agreement, develops its own arsenal of nuclear bombs (estimated at 200-400), then, with all brazen chutzpah, condemns its neighbor for developing such a weapon? Why shackle America to a nation that cries before the world its right to defend itself when it refuses to negotiate with its neighbors the borders of its own state as it occupies land belonging to others, then condemns the Palestinians for refusing to recognize what it has yet to declare publicly, where Israel begins and ends?

Why shackle America to a state that constructs a Wall that imprisons another people, using their land and stealing their water and farm land in the process, a Wall not unlike the Berlin Wall that America found so repulsive, a Wall that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice as inhumane and illegal? Why shackle America to a state that imprisons 10,000 people without charge and tortures many without regard or adherence to international law or the Geneva Conventions? Why shackle America to a state that contains in its government a vowed racist, Avigdor Leiberman, who leads his party and now the state to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population by transfer or slow starvation? Why shackle America to a nation that accepts as normal behavior the assassination of individuals on the say so of the Prime Minister or his subordinates denying them the rights provided by law in a civilized society, the right to be charged, to confront the evidence and/or the accuser, and trial by peers? Why shackle America to a state that determines for itself that the will of the people whom they oppress by occupation cannot democratically elect those who would govern them, deny the right of the government to exist, and then steal the tax funds that belong to that government? Why shackle America to the tax burden required to provide this state with 3 to 5 billion dollars per year for military and infrastructure development when it uses these tax dollars to construct illegal housing for immigrants to that nation, to build apartheid roads over stolen land, and to construct the heinous Wall that entombs the Palestinians?

Why indeed. Yet with only two exceptions, all candidates running for president in 2008 have obsequiously crawled before AIPAC to declare his or her unqualified allegiance to the Israeli state thus negating before they could take office the chance to bring peace to the mid-east. Anyone paying attention for the past twenty years or more understands that Israel alone can bring peace to Palestine, and Israel does not want peace as long as it believes it can continue to create conditions on the ground that confiscate more and more Palestinian land (read Jeff Halper’s “Matrix of Control” or Why Israel won’t Make Peace”). Why, then, should our candidates fall on their knees fawning before AIPAC and Olmert? Consider this observation by the editors of Haaretz:

“The conclusion that Israel can draw from the anti-Israel feeling expressed in the article (Mearsheimer and Walt article) is that it will not be immune for eternity. America’s unhesitating support for Israel and its willingness to restrain itself over all of Israel’s mistakes can be interpreted as conflicting with America’s essential interests and are liable to prove burdensome. The fact that Israelis view the United States support for and tremendous assistance to Israel as natural causes excess complacence, and it fails to take into account currents in public opinion that run deep and are liable to completely change American policy.”
If editors at Haaretz understand that America’s support can be detrimental to its interests, why must our candidates grovel before AIPAC, the far right organization that purports to represent Israel? Why shouldn’t they recognize that other Jewish voices also speak for Israel, especially those now forming that are meant to counteract AIPAC’s influence? (the “Soros Initiative,” and other Jewish organizations that do not agree with AIPAC’s dominance, Israel Policy Forum, Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Tikkun Community, Jewish Voice for Peace).

But grovel they must. Each has to outdo the other. Senator Biden states the Democrats support for Israel “comes from our gut, moves through our heart, and ends up in our head. It’s almost genetic.’ (October 5, 2006). “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that calls for its destruction, engages in terrorism and maintains an armed militia. Hamas must choose: bullets or ballots.” (January 2006). Obviously, Biden’s gut response never gets to his head. How can the Palestinians negotiate with Israel when its government does not recognize the right of Palestinians to have a state and calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land or imprisons them behind walls? How can Palestinians negotiate with a state that has been terrorizing them for six decades, relentlessly and brutally? How can Palestine negotiate with a state that maintains, not an “armed militia,” but the third to fourth largest military force in the world to occupy a small and undefended people? How can Palestine negotiate with a state that will not allow for a one-state solution that would allow for ballots not bullets?

Not to be outdone, Hillary proclaims at a Hanukkah dinner at Yeshiva University that “Israel is not only our ally; it is a beacon of what democracy can and should mean … If the people of the Middle East are not sure what democracy means, let them look to Israel.” Look indeed, look at the only people allowed to be citizens in Israel, Jews; it is in its declaration a state for Jews. There are Arabs (Palestinians in fact but can’t be called that in Israel) who have resided in the land granted to Israel by the UN and given Israeli citizenship, roughly 20% of the population, but they are in reality second class citizens and denied many of the rights granted to Jews. The very fact that it is a state for one people contradicts the premise of a democracy.

But Hillary goes on, goes on to negate the validity and the judgment of the International Court of Justice in its condemnation of the Entombment Wall as inhumane and illegal. She takes it upon herself to declare the ICJ as meaningless and its decision, after trial and evidence, null and void. But who is Hillary to determine anything of the sort? Hasn’t the United States signed the document that established the ICJ, and despite the illegal actions of the Bush administration, isn’t the US still legally bound to that document? She, like Bush, will rule without law and order when it comes to Israel.

Senator Dodd, like Biden, relates his support for Israel back through family blood, to his father before him, decades of support. He makes this observation: “For six decades, Israel has passed every day in the knowledge that its enemies are praying and plotting for its death. In the face of such hatred, we might have expected the people of Israel to answer with hate of their own. But they have not.” (AIPAC’s National Summit, 10/06). Unfortunately, the people of Israel, like Americans, are victims of their respective governments that have been all too willing to brandish their hatred and brutality on the Palestinians and Iraqis on behalf of their citizens. Indeed, the good Senator brags about being the co-sponsor of the Syrian Accountability Act, another example of Israel’s willingness to use our Congress to benefit its own interests while it locks out the possibility of working with the Syrians toward some measure of peace in Iraq, a direction, despite Dodd’s efforts, finally underway now.

John Edwards has resorted to endorsing Olmert’s “realignment” plan, a euphemism for more theft. But, as Edwards notes, “Israel is in the unfortunate position of having to act without an agreement.” Why are they without a negotiating partner? Because Olmert will not recognize the legitimate democratically elected government of the people of Palestine. Since he had already determined that Mahmud Abbas was too weak, and that the Palestinians did not recognize the state of Israel, stop the violence, and accept all agreements made by the PLO, positions Israel has not been willing to make to the Palestinians, they were left with no one to work with toward peace. That reality Edwards ignores.

Haaretz quotes Bill Richardson in its November 19th, 2006 on-line edition as saying “The partnership between our two countries has never been stronger. We are fortunate to have each other in the fight against terrorism and in advancing our common cause of a lasting peace in the Middle East.” This reflects the mantra that all extend to AIPAC, negating in its utterance the terror Israel inflicts daily and the almost universal acceptance of Israel as a terrorist state. (see Pew Foundation survey).

Finally, to wrap up the Democrats that have labored hard in the Israeli vineyards, we turn to the one man allegedly untainted by the influence of lobbyists if only because of his limited time in Washington, Barack Obama. Well, it appears that he’s been tainted. Haaretz quotes Obama in its March 3, 2007 on line edition: “My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.” Shmuel Rosner, the Haaretz correspondent goes on to say that “Obama passed any test anyone might have wanted him to pass. So, he is pro-Israel. Period.” AIPAC works fast. The one candidate that might have reason to be objective in light of his family’s experience, grovels before the oppressor, no doubt never having visited the plantation on the other side of the Wall.

Needless to say, all the Republicans are baptized in AIPAC’s largesse – McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Brownback and Hunter. Others like Hagel are testing the waters reluctant to wade in until the pool becomes less crowded. No need to quote these folks, let Haaretz do it for us. “Israeli panel: Giuliani is best presidential candidate for Israel.” That’s the headline. It reports on Israel’s new project, “The Israel Factor: Ranking the Presidential Candidates.” The panel will rank the candidates each month until the 2008 election. Giuliani scored best on the possibility of attacking Iran, followed by Gingrich (undeclared) and McCain.

Two candidates, only two, Gravel of Alaska and Kucinich of Ohio, offer balanced approaches to meaningful settlement of the crisis in Palestine. Gravel proposes that the US sponsor direct negotiations between Israel and all Palestinian factions including Hamas, support a Palestinian state alongside Israel, have the US serve as a guarantor for the demilitarization of Israel’s border with a future Palestinian state, commit itself to raising the economic standards of Palestinians comparable to that which it supplies to Israel, and disavow a nuclear first-strike policy.

Let me conclude this romp through the candidates with Dennis Kucinich’s statement on the issue, a statement issued in September of 2003: “The same humanity that requires us to acknowledge with profound concerns the pain and suffering of the people of Israel requires a similar expression for the pain and suffering of the Palestinians. When our brothers and sisters are fighting to the death, instead of declaring solidarity with one against the other, should we not declare solidarity with both for peace, so that both may live in security and freedom? If we seek to require the Palestinians, who do not have their own state, to adhere to a higher standard of conduct, should we not also ask Israel, with over a half century experience with statehood, to adhere to the basic standard of conduct, including meeting the requirements of international law?”

What more can be said? Gravel’s proposals provide an avenue toward peace that respects both Israelis and Palestinians, and Kucinich’s statement, from the least likely candidate to gain credibility with the American public, offers the American voter a route to a moral resolution of a conflict that has brought it, because of its unrestrained support for Israel and its illegal actions as an occupier of Palestinian territory, international censure and denunciation. All other choices lead to a continuation of the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians and the residue that is the consequence of our allegiance to Israel’s brutally aggressive treatment of the Palestinians. How can American voters trump the power of AIPAC and its allies for Israel in determining the future policy of this nation toward Israel if AIPAC has our candidates

Thursday, March 22, 2007

U.N. envoy likens "Israeli" actions to Apartheid

some more "bold" statements from the UN human rights envoy...

U.N. envoy likens Israeli actions to apartheid

Israel calls South African's comments and report 'unreservedly biased'

Updated: 12:46 p.m. PT March 22, 2007

GENEVA - A United Nations human rights envoy on Thursday likened Israeli treatment of Palestinians in occupied territory to apartheid, and said its settlement policy amounted to colonialism.

South African lawyer John Dugard warned Western states they would never rally support among developing nations for effective action against perceived abuses in Sudan's Darfur, Zimbabwe and Myanmar unless they tackled the plight of Palestinians.

"This places in danger the whole international human rights enterprise," he told the U.N. Human Rights Council, a Geneva-based watchdog agency.

Dugard, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said restrictions on movement and separate residential areas gave a sense of "deja vu" to anyone with experience of apartheid.

"Of course there are similarities between the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory) and apartheid South Africa," he told the council.

But Israel, which Dugard has regularly confronted since taking up his appointment in 2001, dismissed the statement and his regular report to the Council as "one-sided, highly selective and unreservedly biased".

"The resort to inflammatory and inciteful language does nothing to contribute to the process of constructive dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians," said Israel's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Itzhak Levanon.

Dugard said Gaza was an imprisoned society, with the situation in the West Bank little better.

"Settlers, largely unrestrained by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), subject many Palestinians to a reign of terror — particularly in Hebron," he said.

He said some 500,000 Israeli settlers were now living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War.

"Apartheid and colonialism are contrary to international law," he said.

Starvation of Palestine Continues

the world asks the Palestinian people to democratically elect a government of their choice and last year when they do...the world turns their back on them and systematically punishes them with an illegal embargo that has lasted for over a year now...

U.S., Israel join forces to starve Palestinians
3/22/2007 4:42:00 PM GMT
By:Tarek Khalili

A coalition of European, American and Israeli forces has decided to starve the Palestinian nation.

As a result of the unjustified cut of international aid that followed the official rise of Hamas with the Palestinian legislative elections in January last year, and the economic sanctions Israel imposed on the extremely poor population, the Palestinians were left to suffer the worst ever rates of poverty.

Israeli sanctions included the monthly theft of $50 million in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, on which the PA depends for at least 30% of its budget. Withholding such amount of money affected the salaries of approximately 140,000 teachers, nurses and other civil servants, as well as the 60,000-some members of the Palestinian police and security forces.

Sanctions also included enforcing severe security checks on the few Palestinians allowed to enter Israel for work, and baring Israeli companies from doing business in Palestine.

To sum up, Israel adopted measures that severe economic ties, which while benefiting Israel, allowed Palestine's fragile economy to teeter rather than topple.

United international efforts, comprising of Israel, the U.S., and European states sought to isolate Palestine from the world, further destabilize Palestine's already weak government, and to remove it from the international network on which it depends.

Last year, the United Nations issued a report painting a bleak image of the situation in Gaza and the entire occupied Palestinian territories, warning that the Palestinian population is facing a humanitarian catastrophe, due to lack of food and the inability of the UN to deliver food to families.

It also said that about 9% of Palestinian children under age five suffer from malnutrition-induced brain trauma.

It painted a sad picture of the impact of the economic sanctions imposed against the Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the United States and the others, including Britain.

The House of Commons International Development Committee has published a report describing the situation in Palestine.

Among the report’s findings was the fact that the real GDP declined by 9 percent in the first half of 2006 and was predicted to fall by 27 percent by the end of 2006, with personal income falling by 30 percent.

The report also said that at least 70 percent of the Gazan workforce is unemployed or doesn’t get paid, and 51 percent of the Palestinians have become dependants on food assistance (a 14 percent increase on last year)

The report also said that about 160,000 public sector workers have not been paid since March last year, affecting the lives of 25 percent of the population.

According to the report, infant mortality in Palestinian has risen to 25.2 per 1,000 live births, and under-five mortality has reached 29.1 per 1,000 live births. It also warned that Palestinians have become unable to pay hospital fees, and, as a result of closures imposed by Israel, non-payment of salaries which led to repetitive strikes by staff, the supply of medication and equipment couldn’t be delivered to assist Palestinians.

The average number of births in Hebron is believed to be about 600, the report said, but last September, only 100 babies were delivered in public hospitals, while 200 others at private or NGO hospitals, and three hundred others were home deliveries.

The report also said that 25 percent of Gaza’s residents do not have sufficient access to water. As a result of the destruction of Gaza’s power plant by Israeli bombardment in the offensive the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) launched last June, access to water has been further reduced, badly affecting hospitals and resulting in noticeable increase in diarrhoea, particularly among children under three.

But the Palestinians’ sufferings are unlikely to be lifted even after the formation of a new government, which, shortly after being set up, Israel called on the world to boycott it.

The Palestinians hoped that the formation of the new Fatah-Hamas alliance would lead them out of international isolation.

But Washington quickly began to answer Israel’s calls, and is likely to be followed by other European states, who’ll be pressured to follow the suit.

The U.S. announced yesterday cutting funds it used to send to the security forces of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, arguing it fears the money might reach the hands of Hamas.

The move was described by many analysts and political experts as the beginning of a similar move Israel, joined by the U.S. and Europeans, took last year to isolate the Palestinian government.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Day of Remembrance

Anti-Racism Day: "Israel is guilty of apartheid and colonization"
Report, BADIL, 21 March 2007

Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the world comes together to reaffirm that racial discrimination is an assault on the foundation of the human rights system - the principle of equality. On this occasion, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, "a society that tolerates discrimination holds itself back, foregoing the contribution of whole parts of its population, and potentially sowing the seeds of violent conflict." She added that despite the fact that many states have accepted to fight racial discrimination "a reality check demonstrates that formal commitments are not enough."

Thirteen years after the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and in Israel still face multiple forms of racial discrimination, including occupation, apartheid and colonization.

In the past few weeks, Israel has come under criticism from both the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT for its regime of institutionalized discrimination.

Since 1948, Israeli laws have been shaped not only to prevent the return of about 7 million Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons, but also to change the demographic composition of Israel and the OPT. This population transfer is aided by the Israeli Law of Return, which allows any Jew in the world to 'return' to Israel and be granted citizenship. According to CERD, the denial of the rights of many Palestinians to return and possess their homes in Israel "is discriminatory and perpetuates violations of fundamental human rights." CERD also applied the concept of apartheid to some of Israel's practices towards Palestinian citizens of Israel, notably in the managment of land and resources.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT, Prof. John Dugard concluded that Israel's discriminatory practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid and colonization. Since 2002, thousands of Palestinians have been displaced by the construction of the Wall and its associated regime, something that Dugard criticized saying that "the "closed zone" is gradually being "cleansed" of Palestinians, where land will in due course be transferred to land-greedy settlers." He called upon the International Court of Justice to rule over the legal consequences arising from the Israeli regime of occupation in the OPT, as was done in the case of apartheid South Africa.

Similarly, in the pursuit of its discriminatory policies against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Israeli government confiscated over 12,000 dunams of Kafr Bir'im village inside Israel refusing to allow the residents, who were forced out in 1948 and are now internally displaced, to return to their village. The same applies to the Palestinian Bedouin of Arab As-Shubeih whose lands were and continue to be nationalized for the purpose of exclusive Jewish settlement and development.

Israel's policies aim to create a Jewish majority through the de-Palestinization of Palestinian land, a fact concluded by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2003 which said that "Jewish nationality" is ground for "exclusive preferential treatment" resulting "in discriminatory treatment against non-Jews, in particular Palestinian refugees."

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, BADIL asks states to act according to their obligations and to ensure Israel's respect for humanitarian law and human rights, because in the words of Dugard, "if the West, which has hitherto led the promotion of human rights throughout the world, cannot demonstrate a real commitment to the human rights of the Palestinian people, the international human rights movement, which can claim to be the greatest achievement of the international community of the past 60 years, will be endangered and placed in jeopardy."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gaza Beach Massacre

a follow-up story about Huda Ghalia whose family was massacred while having a picnic on a Gaza beach...

heres video of the massacre...

'I try to forget - but i can't'

She was the 12-year-old girl filmed crying alongside her father and siblings as they lay dying - victims of an explosion at a family picnic. But what happened to Huda Ghalia next? Rory McCarthy meets the shy, teased girl who became a symbol of Palestinian despair

Saturday March 17, 2007
The Guardian

It was a Friday afternoon in June. The sky over Gaza was a broad wash of purple blue, and along the seafront the surf was breaking into small whitecaps. Ali Ghalia was on a day off from his work as a farmer and decided to take his family for lunch on the beach at Beit Lahiya, a few minutes' drive from their home. The beach on the Mediterranean, with its rolling dunes and dry grasses, is a rare delight in a stretch of land ground down by poverty, overcrowding, militancy and decades of military occupation. It is free to the public and barely touched by development - just a few half-built hotels are dotted along the 25-mile coastline, the shadow of a tourist industry that never was.

Ghalia had two wives, as is still sometimes the custom in the Palestinian territories, and both were with him on the beach that day, along with their dozen children and their beach kit: several plastic armchairs, plates of food and cooking pots, flasks of tea, plastic toys, blankets to sit on and a small cot for the baby. They ate lunch and lazed in the sunshine, and were still on the beach shortly after 4.30pm.

Although it was a Friday afternoon, others in Gaza were still at work, among them Zakariah Abu Harbeed, 37, a cameraman with Ramattan, the leading Palestinian news agency. He is based at the agency's 10th-floor offices in Gaza City, ready to report breaking stories. Often in Gaza that means covering the conflict - dozens of times he has filmed the dead and the dying, and he has been shot at and wounded in the process.

That Friday, Abu Harbeed had been to Beit Hanoun, a town close to the northern border of the strip, to film the scene of an Israeli attack on a group of suspected militants. On his way back, he ran into another story. The Israeli military had just destroyed a car that they also suspected was carrying militants. He filmed that scene, too, and went to the hospital to get footage of the injured. It was, for him, an ordinary day's work. It was shortly after 4.30pm.

Then he took a call from a contact in the ambulance service: the Israeli military were shelling the beach at Beit Lahiya and there were casualties. He called his driver and they jumped into the car.

That afternoon at the beach, Abu Harbeed shot about 10 minutes of film for which he later won two awards. He arrived just in time to record the aftermath of a terrible explosion that had killed most of the Ghalia family. Seven were dead: Ali Ghalia, 49, and one of his wives, Ra'eesa, 35, together with five children: Haitham, five months old; Hanadi, 18 months; Sabreen, four; Ilham, 15; and Aliya, 17. Several others were injured, some severely, including more children from the family.

Much of the film Abu Harbeed made that day is so graphic it would never be broadcast on television in the west. One clip, however, was broadcast repeatedly that day and in the days that followed. It showed Huda Ghalia, aged 12, distraught and sobbing by the body of her dead father. It was an image distilling Palestinian despair, one that recalled the film of Mohammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old boy who died in his father's arms in Gaza in a hail of gunfire six years ago, at the start of the intifada.

Abu Harbeed talked me through the footage in a cramped video editing suite at the Ramattan offices. It begins as they drive up to the beach, the film shot from the passenger seat through a cracked windscreen with the blare of a siren in the background. There is one ambulance, its back door open, and half a dozen men shouting and panicked. Between them they uncover one limp body after another, dragging them out quickly and either placing them on a stretcher or running with them to the ambulance. They don't have time to notice that several of the bodies they are carrying are dead, the wounds horrific, impossible to survive. One of the men reaches for a girl, grabs her black clothes at the shoulder and places her on a green canvas stretcher. Her left arm has been blown off just above the elbow. She is pale, unconscious and looks dead, but in fact she survives. I learned later that her name is Amani. Somewhere among the bodies is her sister, Ayhaam. She, too, is badly injured but survives.

As this was going on, Abu Harbeed just stood still and filmed. He is a professional just doing his job, and methodical. "You can see I'm not getting close to the bodies," he said, "that's too much for the audience. I'm getting the wide picture. But then I felt there was someone alive nearby, as if there was some life coming out of this death. Suddenly Huda imposed herself on this massacre."

Huda is at the corner of the screen, watching the men remove the bodies. She stands still, her arms by her side. She is in a blue T-shirt, her black hair curled down to her shoulders. As the last body is removed, Huda turns around and starts to run, her hands reach forward, the fingers splayed. Abu Harbeed follows her with his camera. "I couldn't tell where she was going. I just followed her." Huda reaches a dune, stops running and clasps her arms across her chest. She begins to scream: "Oh father, oh father", and the screaming continues even as she throws herself into the sand. The camera pans back to show her lying next to the body of her father, Ali Ghalia, broad-shouldered with a grey moustache and lying on his back. His mouth and eyes are open, but he is dead, his pupils rolled up under his eyelids. Huda is still screaming.

By now Abu Harbeed was quietly crying in the editing suite. After a minute he looked up. "I don't like to see these pictures. They make me suffer," he said simply. "I wanted people to see that this is a family that did nothing to anyone. There are no weapons, no military uniforms, just a picnic."

Beit Lahiya is a poor neighbourhood in the far north of the Gaza Strip. Many of the householders used to work as labourers in Israel, but since a clampdown on permits for work that income has dried up. Most now make a living farming the fields that lie just to the north, between the town and the concrete wall and steel fence that marks the border with Israel. But Gaza's farming industry is also struggling, thanks to Israel's repeated closure of the major crossing points out of the strip. Those closures have so damaged farm exports that many no longer bother investing in the seeds to plant cash crops such as strawberries and cherry tomatoes in the first place. Israel says the closures are justified on grounds of security. In effect it means that poverty levels have risen (unemployment in Gaza is running at 40%, according to the UN) and many families, like the Ghalias, have run up credit at local grocery stores which they hope to pay off in the future.

The Ghalia family house is unexceptional: a two-storey breeze block structure that looks at least partly homemade. It has a red-tin door, and next to it a spindly cactus that rises up to the height of the first floor and bows under the weight of the family washing line. Outside, there is a constant noise of children playing and the occasional donkey-drawn cart that passes by: the first has a boy with a loud-hailer advertising his tray of freshly caught fish; a few minutes later another cart goes by with baskets of live chickens. The family live on the ground floor, in a couple of empty rooms furnished only with mattresses and blankets that are rolled up and stacked against the wall each morning. Huda shares a bare bedroom with her two younger sisters, Hadeel, eight, and Latifa, seven.

In the months after the explosion on the beach, I went to visit Huda and her family many times, to listen to the story of a household struck by a tragedy, a family that captured the headlines and then dropped from sight. I ate with them, went to school with them, drove with them to see relatives and visited their injured in hospital.

The first time I met the Ghalias, they were sitting on plastic chairs in the sunshine outside the front door of the house. Ayham, 20, the oldest son, receives visitors. He is quiet and surly, and like most of the men in the family he smokes, though not in front of his mother or uncles. Since his father's death, he has become responsible for taking a lead in family decisions. He also works as a part-time guard at a local UN office and has begun a two-year secretarial diploma at the Islamic University in Gaza City. The university is affiliated to Hamas, the Islamic militant movement elected into power a year ago, and the course is to be paid for by Hamas: one of a small number of official contributions made to the family since what they call simply "the incident".

After a while, Huda appeared. She was barefoot and dressed in a black cloak with a white veil on her head. A gold bracelet hung from her wrist. She was quiet and monosyllabic: still visibly affected by what had happened. Huda and her two younger sisters have started at a new school, a Hamas-run girls' school in Gaza City, their tuition another gift from Hamas. She said she preferred the new school. "I have new friends now," she said. "I don't see the old friends any more." She had just returned from a visit that she, her two sisters, her mother and her aunt made to the United Arab Emirates. "It was fine," she said. It was her first time out of Gaza.

Some weeks later, Huda produced a photo album of that trip. The visit the family described to me was part political and part medical. Huda's mother, Hamdiya, 41, who had been badly injured in the right hand, was treated in hospital, as were Latifa and Hadeel. The film of Huda on the beach turned her into such a symbolic figure that many Arab officials queued up to see her. One photograph shows Huda standing with her fingers in a V for victory salute, in front of a poster of Abbas and the late Yasser Arafat. Another shows her sitting on a sofa in a pink dress and wide-brimmed hat, talking to the deputy prime minister of the Emirates. But the pictures the children most enjoy show them incongruously dressed in red ski outfits and helmets, holding plastic sleds at a vast indoor ski centre in Dubai.

In Gaza, Huda had already met Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Both spoke of adopting her, as did other dignitaries she met. They meant that loosely - not taking her into their families to bring up as their own, but offering her moral and financial support. They were public gestures, singling out a girl suffering a private grief.

On their return from the Emirates, Huda crossed back into Gaza through Israel with a special VIP pass. Her mother and the rest of the family had to cross from Egypt, through the Rafah crossing, which is frequently closed and always overcrowded. They had no special passes. With so much attention paid to the young girl, it is perhaps not surprising that the family began to feel a degree of frustration.

For one thing, their neighbours presumed that this political attention, international travel and talk of adoption would translate into great financial wealth for the Ghalias. Hamas stepped forward to pay for the children's education, and a Qatari charity paid for the rebuilding of a house for Amani, the eldest daughter, married with two children, who lost most of her left arm in the incident. President Abbas provided around £1,000 and there appears to be the promise of money from the Emirates to pay to rebuild the family house - although eight months on from the incident, no work has begun. But there has been no more than that. Only after some time did it become clear to the neighbourhood that the Ghalias were still living as precariously as everyone around them.

Secondly, there was the extraordinary attention Huda received. Although she featured prominently in the footage shot on the beach, she was only lightly injured. The family was upset by the iconic status she had been given and angry that the others, who suffered much more serious physical wounds, had been overlooked. Huda's younger brother, Adham, 10, suffered serious shrapnel wounds to his stomach and mouth, and was eventually transferred to the US for treatment. He is still living there, looked after by a series of expatriate Palestinian families who ensure he receives the medical care he needs and that he is attending school. He calls home several times a week. Huda's two elder sisters, Amani and Ayhaam, who were the most seriously injured, have been in and out of hospital, and still have months of serious operations ahead of them.

"Huda was seen on television, that's all," said Hassan Ghalia. "But it is not only Huda, believe me. She is the one who saw everything and was seen by the world, but other people lost so much and nobody saw them." Hassan, 33, is one of Huda's uncles, the thinner and younger brother of her dead father, Ali. Of the several uncles who live nearby and take care of the family, Hassan is perhaps the most mature. He, too, is a farmer, but can't afford to plant this year and has no other work. He is carefully spoken and always points out that though he blames the Israeli military for the explosion, he does not blame the Israeli people, with whom he hopes the Palestinians will one day find peace. He told me, "The Palestinians firing rockets at Israel are doing it out of ideology. The Israeli military who fire at us are doing it out of ideology. And we are just crushed in the middle."

In the months ahead, it was Hassan who volunteered to look after his niece, Ayhaam, accompanying her on the trips to hospital in Israel and taking care of her physiotherapy on her return. And after all, he said, this was not the first crisis to hit the family. A year and a half earlier, in January 2005, several of his nephews were involved in another, equally traumatic incident: seven children, all under the age of 18, were killed, and seven other people, including five more children, were severely injured when they were hit by Israeli tank shells. The children, most from the Ghaben family, were in farmland just north of Beit Lahiya, picking strawberries. Witnesses said militants had been firing mortars from the fields over the border into Israel that morning, but disappeared as the Israeli shelling began. The Israeli military said it targeted a group of masked men preparing to fire more mortars. Three of the children lost both their legs - including Issa Ghalia, now 15, who is a regular visitor to Huda's family. He was treated in Israel and later in Iran. He was fitted with a pair of prosthetic legs, but prefers not to use them and instead would swing through the gate, up the steps and on to a chair using his arms alone. "The legs are good, but sometimes I just get tired of them," he said one day as he sat listening to the family's news. It is attacks such as these that have discouraged farmers in northern Gaza from going anywhere near their fields by the border.

On a Saturday morning I went to Huda's new school, the Dar al-Arqam, which is large, clean and imposing. Three newly-painted buildings stand on three sides of a large concrete playground. It has been open since August 2003 and around 1,500 children, aged between five and 15, study here. Nearly all are girls, although there are temporarily a small number of boys, too, because their school was damaged in recent fighting. All the teachers are women. "It is our kingdom," the deputy head, Eman Nassar, 34, told me. She took a degree in biochemistry at an Egyptian university and spent six years as a kindergarten teacher in Gaza before coming to the school.

Around a third of the children are loosely termed "orphans", meaning one or both of their parents have either died during the conflict or are among the 10,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Like Huda and her sisters, they do not pay school fees. In addition, any child in the fourth grade or above who scores more than 95% in their end of year exams is exempt from school fees, which range up to 320 Jordanian dinars (£240) a year.

The school is openly affiliated to Hamas - although the teachers are at pains to insist that does not make them signed-up members of the movement - and there is a strong religious element to the teaching. Qur'anic learning is a key part of the children's curriculum, as are Arabic, English, science, maths, geography and history, all taught from government textbooks. Almost all the girls wear a uniform of a black cloak and a white veil over their hair. At home I noticed Huda now almost always veiled her hair, though her hair was not veiled that day at the beach.

"We work for God, not for Hamas or Islamic Jihad or anyone else," said Nassar. "We work for God and we want our children to be the best." The children themselves are not all from Hamas-supporting families - the Ghalias, for example, are almost wholly divorced from politics and show no particular loyalty to any of Gaza's political factions.

Nassar said the goal of the school is to teach the children to think, not to prepare them for any set role as women or in politics. "Everyone has to learn. But how you use that knowledge, that's what's important," she said. The teachers are all well-educated and the school is in far better condition than government schools in the area. The school day is longer, and the class sizes smaller. Huda, with her government school background, found herself well behind other girls of her age. Her English was particularly poor and she was extremely reluctant to speak up in class. It didn't help that she was teased a lot by the other children, and even now in between classes she plays with her sisters more than her classmates. "The other children would run after her saying, 'Huda Ghalia, Huda Ghalia', and, 'Oh father, oh father', just like they'd seen on television," said her teacher, Nadia Shurafa, 25. "Her response was to be shy and not talk to anyone. She tried to forget about what happened, but no one lets her forget. She just wants to be normal."

The conflict in Gaza has such a huge impact on all the children's lives that the school does its own psychological work. There are several others like Huda who have seen members of their families killed in front of them. Sometimes it is a matter of stepping in to prevent fighting in the playground. "They fight very easily," said Nassar. "They form themselves into different militia groups and act out what they've seen. Or they play 'I'm a Jew, you're a Palestinian'. You have to keep your eyes on them and try to get them to talk about what they feel. And sometimes you just have to accept what they do."

One teacher, Asma'a Obaid, 24, runs one-on-one sessions for the most traumatised children, including Huda. She encourages them to talk through their experiences and to draw scenes from the incidents they have been through. Obaid flicked through some of the most recent paintings on her desk. They show pictures of dead children, helicopters firing missiles into buildings and key events in recent Gazan history, including the killing of the Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "Sometimes the children say they want to kill the person who killed their father, or brother, or whoever it was," Obaid said. "We tell them it's better to educate themselves."

She often asks the children to draw a happier picture than the violence all around them ,and she produced one painting drawn by Huda that showed a large, multicoloured house next to a row of trees, with flowers and seven people in the garden and a smiling sun in the sky. "A specialist psychologist visited the school and saw this and said this represents where Huda wants to be, this place of stability and sunshine," Obaid said.

Huda's days are spent at school, or playing with brothers, sisters and cousins at home or the house of one of two uncles, Hassan and Yahya, who both live across the street. Every few weeks she is driven down to the south, to a house in the sand dunes near Khan Yunis, to see the woman she knows as her grandmother, who for 20 years has acted as a spiritual healer.

I went with her once and watched as the old woman talked to Huda, reading to her from the Qur'an and feeding her a sweet-smelling juice made of amber and musk, a potion rumoured to have special remedial properties.

"This helps to push out the fear," said the 70-year-old woman, Um Khalid, the mother of Ali Ghalia's second wife, Ra'eesa, who was Huda's stepmother and who was also killed in the beach explosion. "Thanks to God and this liquid, everyone gets better. I have a connection with God, you see. I just make the treatment and it all comes out of her. She calms down and she has really improved over time. They will forget eventually."

One afternoon, Huda was standing on the roof terrace of her family house in Beit Lahiya, picking passion fruit off a vine with her mother and younger sisters. The terrace looks over the back garden, which is small but full of trees: figs, oranges, lemon, a date palm and a banana tree that needs cutting back. It was several months after the incident on the beach and Huda was slowly beginning to open up. She was still shy, but less withdrawn than when I first met her. We talked about the new school, which she seemed to prefer. She talked about perhaps being a lawyer in future - this is what Sheikh Hamdan, the deputy prime minister in the Emirates, had suggested: "Become a lawyer, defend your rights." She talked about the television - the footage of her still reappears occasionally on the Arabic news channels. "We don't have a television and I won't go to any house that does have a television," she said. Her teachers say she is too frightened to look at any photographs of herself. "I remember that day and what happened," Huda said. "I can't forget it and sometimes I dream of it. I am trying to forget, but I can't."

As is often the case in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the cause of the explosion that afternoon on the beach is much disputed. The Ghalia family and others hold the Israeli military responsible for the blast, saying an artillery shell hit the family. The Israeli military had fired thousands of shells into Gaza in the preceding weeks, aimed at preventing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns, and admitted firing a number of shells from the sea and the land on that Friday. But the Israel Defence Force denied responsibility at the time and, in a written response for this article, said the explosion that killed the Ghalias was "without a doubt, not caused by the IDF". This conclusion was based on "intelligence analysis, Palestinian claims, media coverage of the incident and IDF filmed footage that documented all IDF activity during that day". It admitted the Israeli military had fired six artillery shells: the IDF could account for where five of those shells landed, but not the first shell, which it said was fired at 4.30pm. "The possibility that this shell landed in the area of the incident is close to zero," it said. The IDF concluded, based on clips of video footage, that the blast happened some minutes later and not before 4.57pm. The IDF also said that two pieces of shrapnel taken from two of the people injured at the scene did not come from 155mm IDF artillery shells. In its written response, the IDF offered no other possible cause for the blast, though in the days after the incident it suggested there had been a coincidental separate explosion on the beach at that time in the afternoon, caused either by a buried old shell or a mine planted by Hamas.

Several human rights groups and press reports at the time raised points of difference with the IDF account. In particular, a detailed article by the Guardian's Chris McGreal on June 17 showed that the timings noted in hospital records, and by a doctor and an ambulance driver, indicated that the blast happened some minutes earlier than the IDF maintains - so challenging the IDF's central claim that its shelling had stopped by the time the Ghalias were killed. The article also cited a former Pentagon battlefield analyst working for Human Rights Watch who believed that the crater size, shrapnel, types of injuries and their location on the victims' bodies (particularly to the head and torso) pointed to a shell dropping from the sky, not explosives under the sand. Witnesses spoke of hearing other blasts at the time, consistent with a pattern of shells falling at the beach.

It happens quite frequently that severely ill or injured patients in Gaza who cannot get adequate treatment in the strip's hospitals are allowed to cross into Israel. And so it was with Huda's two elder sisters, Amani and Ayhaam: shortly after the incident, both were taken to hospitals in Israel. Amani, 23, whose left arm had to be amputated above the elbow, was taken to hospital in Be'er Sheva and travels back and forth from Gaza on a regular basis. Ayhaam, 17, suffered severe injuries to her shoulders, chest, throat and legs, and for many months was confined to a wheelchair. Of all those on the beach that day, she was perhaps the worst injured.

Six months after the incident, Ayhaam was back in hospital in Israel, sitting on a metal-framed chair in a third-floor room at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre, near Ramla. With her was her uncle Hassan, who spent every day and every night in the ward at his niece's bedside. It was his first time in Israel since 1993. He spoke little Hebrew, the doctors spoke little Arabic, but he could talk to the cleaners, most of whom were Arab Israelis. He found many of the Jewish families in the hospital welcoming. "It's more human than political," he said as we sat together in the ward. "Most people we've met are compassionate. Their reaction is: 'We suffer in the same way you suffer.'"

It was Ayhaam's third time at this hospital, and when she had arrived about two weeks earlier, the doctors had been deeply concerned and advised an urgent operation. The problem was with her windpipe, which had narrowed so much that she was having difficulty breathing. It wasn't clear to the doctors whether the narrowing was caused by a shrapnel injury, or was the result of a long intubation in another hospital, or whether a small opening in the windpipe had become infected. Whichever, Dr Ilan Bar, one of Israel's leading cardio-thoracic surgeons, concluded that he needed to cut away the narrowed section of the trachea and then reconnect the remaining ends.

In a small office off the wards, Bar opened his textbook to show me the procedure. "You pray to God that it doesn't disrupt," he said. "It is very rare and very risky."

For the first few hours after the operation, it appeared to have been successful. Then, when Bar was out at a Saturday night football match at his Tel Aviv local club, he was called back to the hospital: Ayhaam's condition had seriously deteriorated.

"That Saturday night the doctor told me there wasn't anything more they could do," Hassan said. "We were just waiting for her to die." But by the Sunday morning Ayhaam had recovered. "For now I can say the procedural technique was successful," said Bar. "Now I want to take care of all the other problems she has, like walking and movement, clearing her lungs, healing her bladder. Our procedure was life-saving; now let's deal with the other problems that can make her life whole."

On the Tuesday after her operation, Ayhaam was sitting up, alert, in her room. Her feet, sunk in a pair of pink slippers, had been gently taped to a simple pedal machine to begin the first stages of physiotherapy. Bar, on his morning rounds, seemed pleased with her condition. "Today for the first time I saw her smiling," he said. "Before, she used to just lie on the bed like a sack of potatoes."

I asked him about the politics of the case, but he was dismissive. It was not the first time he has treated Palestinian patients: seriously injured children are quite often sent to his hospital and he has once visited Gaza to meet doctors there.

Two weeks later, Hassan and Ayhaam travelled back to Gaza by ambulance. The driver stopped at a hospital in Be'er Sheva to pick up another Palestinian patient, an elderly women in the final stages of cancer who was heading back to Gaza to die at her family's side. But the woman was sicker than the doctors had thought and she died in the ambulance. The driver had no choice but to carry on his journey. They passed quickly through the Erez crossing into northern Gaza. At that point, Hassan noticed, the driver suddenly speeded up and took a corner too quickly. The ambulance lurched over and toppled on to its side, throwing Hassan, Ayhaam and the dead woman on top of each other across the vehicle. The pair were bruised but not badly hurt, and as he told the story later, Hassan shrugged as if this sort of bad fortune was something they had come to expect.

The last time I saw them, Ayhaam was sitting on the porch of Hassan's house, warming herself in the afternoon sun. Most of the rest of the family were around her, apart from Adham, who was still in the US. Huda, who had just finished her end-of-term exams, was there, along with her younger sisters and her mother, as well as Amani, back briefly from hospital in Israel and soon to be fitted with a prosthetic arm. Her husband and their two children were with her. The family were laughing among themselves, and it was the first time I had seen them like this. They were happy to have the two elder girls home, and celebrating the news that another of Huda's uncles, Yahya, 38, had finally got himself a job working as a gardener for the municipal authority. It was to pay him just 1,000 shekels a month, but this was the first time he'd had work for many months. Yahya, who is always quick to make light of their lives, joked that he was so important at work, he'd soon be able to supply bags of flour and food for the family. "Ask God not to fire him," said Hassan, feigning a look of despair. He talked about Ayhaam and her slow recovery, and finding suitable medical care for her in Gaza, which has now become his main responsibility.

As the family chatted, there was no mention of the day on the beach last summer. I asked Hassan what he felt now about that day. "Eight months have gone by and nothing has changed," he said. "I know life goes on, but the scars are still deep." Ayhaam was soon to start physiotherapy, and to demonstrate her recovery she took a dozen uncertain and uncomfortable steps across the courtyard, supported by Hassan. Huda walked alongside, holding Ayhaam by her fingertips.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Israel's" Right to be Racist

a must read article...

Israel's right to be racist
Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 15 March 2007

Israel's struggle for peace is a sincere one. In fact, Israel desires to live at peace not only with its neighbours, but also and especially with its own Palestinian population, and with Palestinians whose lands its military occupies by force. Israel's desire for peace is not only rhetorical but also substantive and deeply psychological. With few exceptions, prominent Zionist leaders since the inception of colonial Zionism have desired to establish peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs whose lands they slated for colonisation and settlement. The only thing Israel has asked for, and continues to ask for in order to end the state of war with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours, is that all recognise its right to be a racist state that discriminates by law against Palestinians and other Arabs and grants differential legal rights and privileges to its own Jewish citizens and to all other Jews anywhere. The resistance that the Palestinian people and other Arabs have launched against Israel's right to be a racist state is what continues to stand between Israel and the peace for which it has struggled and to which it has been committed for decades. Indeed, this resistance is nothing less than the "New anti- Semitism".

Israel is willing to do anything to convince Palestinians and other Arabs of why it needs and deserves to have the right to be racist. Even at the level of theory, and before it began to realise itself on the ground, the Zionist colonial project sought different means by which it could convince the people whose lands it wanted to steal and against whom it wanted to discriminate to accept as understandable its need to be racist. All it required was that the Palestinians "recognise its right to exist" as a racist state. Military methods were by no means the only persuasive tools available; there were others, including economic and cultural incentives. Zionism from the start offered some Palestinians financial benefits if they would accede to its demand that it should have the right to be racist. Indeed, the State of Israel still does. Many Palestinian officials in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation have been offered and have accepted numerous financial incentives to recognise this crucial Israeli need. Those among the Palestinians who regrettably continue to resist are being penalised for their intransigence by economic choking and starvation, supplemented by regular bombardment and raids, as well as international isolation. These persuasive methods, Israel hopes, will finally convince a recalcitrant population to recognise the dire need of Israel to be a racist state. After all, Israeli racism only manifests in its flag, its national anthem, and a bunch of laws that are necessary to safeguard Jewish privilege, including the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State's Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 temporary law banning marriage between Israelis and Palestinians of the occupied territories.

Let us start with why Israel and Zionism need to ensure that Israel remains a racist state by law and why it deserves to have that right. The rationale is primarily threefold and is based on the following claims.

Jews are always in danger out in the wide world; only in a state that privileges them racially and religiously can they be safe from gentile oppression and can prosper. If Israel removed its racist laws and symbols and became a non-racist democratic state, Jews would cease to be a majority and would be like Diaspora Jews, a minority in a non-Jewish state. These concerns are stated clearly by Israeli leaders individually and collectively. Shimon Peres, for example, the dove of official Israel, has been worried for some time about the Palestinian demographic "danger", as the Green Line, which separates Israel from the West Bank, is beginning to "disappear ... which may lead to the linking of the futures of West Bank Palestinians with Israeli Arabs". He hoped that the arrival of 100,000 Jews in Israel would postpone this demographic "danger" for 10 more years, as ultimately, he stressed, "demography will defeat geography".

In December 2000, the Institute of Policy and Strategy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre in Israel held its first of a projected series of annual conferences dealing with the strength and security of Israel, especially with regards to maintaining Jewish demographic majority. Israel's president and current and former prime ministers and cabinet ministers were all in attendance. One of the "Main Points" identified in the 52-page conference report is concern over the numbers needed to maintain Jewish demographic and political supremacy of Israel: "The high birth rate [of 'Israeli Arabs'] brings into question the future of Israel as a Jewish state ... The present demographic trends, should they continue, challenge the future of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel has two alternative strategies: adaptation or containment. The latter requires a long-term energetic Zionist demographic policy whose political, economic, and educational effects would guarantee the Jewish character of Israel."

The report adds affirmatively that, "those who support the preservation of Israel's character as ... a Jewish state for the Jewish nation ... constitute a majority among the Jewish population in Israel." Of course, this means the maintenance of all the racist laws that guarantee the Jewish character of the state. Subsequent annual meetings have confirmed this commitment.

Jews are carriers of Western civilisation and constitute an Asian station defending both Western civilisation and economic and political interests against Oriental terrorism and barbarism. If Israel transformed itself into a non-racist state, then its Arab population would undermine the commitment to Western civilisation and its defence of the West's economic and political interests, and might perhaps transform Jews themselves into a Levantine barbaric population. Here is how Ben Gurion once put it: "We do not want Israelis to become Arabs. We are in duty bound to fight against the spirit of the Levant, which corrupts individuals and societies, and preserve the authentic Jewish values as they crystallised in the [European] Diaspora." Indeed Ben Gurion was clear on the Zionist role of defending these principles: "We are not Arabs, and others measure us by a different standard ... our instruments of war are different from those of the Arabs, and only our instruments can guarantee our victory." More recently, Israel's ambassador to Australia, Naftali Tamir, stressed that: "We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not -- we are basically the white race."

God has given this land to the Jews and told them to safeguard themselves against gentiles who hate them. To make Israel a non-Jewish state then would run the risk of challenging God Himself. This position is not only upheld by Jewish and Christian fundamentalists, but even by erstwhile secular Zionists (Jews and Christians alike). Ben Gurion himself understood, as does Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, that: "God promised it to us."

"Zionism and Israel are very careful not to generalise the principles that justify Israel's need to be racist but are rather vehement in upholding it as an exceptional principle"

It is important to stress that this Zionist rationale is correct on all counts if one accepts the proposition of Jewish exceptionalism. Remember that Zionism and Israel are very careful not to generalise the principles that justify Israel's need to be racist but are rather vehement in upholding it as an exceptional principle. It is not that no other people has been oppressed historically, it is that Jews have been oppressed more. It is not that no other people's cultural and physical existence has been threatened; it is that the Jews' cultural and physical existence is threatened more. This quantitative equation is key to why the world, and especially Palestinians, should recognise that Israel needs and deserves to have the right to be a racist state. If the Palestinians, or anyone else, reject this, then they must be committed to the annihilation of the Jewish people physically and culturally, not to mention that they would be standing against the Judeo-Christian God.

It is true that Palestinian and Arab leaders were not easily persuaded of these special needs that Israel has; that it took decades of assiduous efforts on the part of Israel to convince them, especially through "military" means. In the last three decades they have shown signs of coming around. Though Anwar El-Sadat inaugurated that shift in 1977, it would take Yasser Arafat longer to recognise Israel's needs. But Israel remained patient and became more innovative in its persuasive instruments, especially its military ones. When Arafat came to his senses and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, he finally recognised Israel's right to be racist and to legally discriminate against its own Palestinian citizens. For that belated recognition, a magnanimous Israel, still eager for peace, decided to negotiate with him. He, however, continued to resist on some issues. For Arafat had hoped that his recognition of Israel's need to be racist inside Israel was in exchange for Israel ending its racist apartheid system in the occupied territories. That was clearly a misunderstanding on his part. Israeli leaders explained to him and to his senior peace negotiator Mahmoud Abbas in marathon discussions that lasted seven years, that Israel's needs are not limited to imposing its racist laws inside Israel but must extend to the occupied territories as well. Surprisingly, Arafat was not content with the Bantustans the Israelis offered to carve up for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza around the Jewish colonial settlements that God had granted the Jews. The United States was brought in to persuade the malleable leader that the Bantustan solution was not a bad one. Indeed, equally honourable collaborators as Arafat had enjoyed its benefits, such as Mangosutho Gatcha Buthelezi in Apartheid South Africa. It was no shame to accept it, President Clinton insisted to Arafat at Camp David in the summer of 2000. While Abbas was convinced, Arafat remained unsure.

It is true that in 2002 Arafat came around some more and reaffirmed his recognition of Israel's need for racist laws inside the country when he gave up the right of return of the six million exiled Palestinians who, by virtue of Israel's racist law of return, are barred from returning to the homeland from which Israel had expelled them while Jewish citizens of any other countries obtain automatic citizenship in an Israel most of them have never before seen. In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Arafat declared: "We understand Israel's demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns." He proceeded to state that he was looking to negotiate with Israel on "creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel's demographic concerns". This however, was not sufficient, as Arafat remained unpersuaded of Israel's need to set up its racist apartheid in the occupied territories. Israel had no choice but to isolate him, keep him under house arrest, and possibly poison him at the end.

"Several other Palestinian leaders were so convinced that they offered to help build the infrastructure of Israeli apartheid by providing Israel with most of the cement it needed to build its Jews-only colonies and the apartheid wall"

President Abbas, however, learned well from the mistakes of his predecessor and has shown more openness to Israeli arguments about its dire need to have a racist apartheid system set up in the West Bank and Gaza and that the legitimacy of this apartheid must also be recognised by the Palestinians as a precondition for peace. Abbas was not the only Palestinian leader to be beguiled. Several other Palestinian leaders were so convinced that they offered to help build the infrastructure of Israeli apartheid by providing Israel with most of the cement it needed to build its Jews-only colonies and the apartheid wall.

The problem now was Hamas, who, while willing to recognise Israel, still refused to recognise its special needs to be racist inside the Green Line and to set up an apartheid system inside the occupied territories. This is where Saudi Arabia was brought in last month in the holy city of Mecca. Where else, pondered the Saudis, could one broker an agreement where the leadership of the victims of Israeli racism and oppression can be brought to solemnly swear that they recognise their oppressor's special need to oppress them? Well, Hamas has been resisting the formula, which Fatah has upheld for five years, namely to "commit" to this crucial recognition. Hamas said that all it could do was "respect" past agreements that the PA had signed with Israel and which recognised its need to be racist. This, Israel and the United States insist, is insufficient and the Palestinians will continue to be isolated despite Hamas's "respect" for Israel's right to be racist. The condition for peace as far as Israel and the US are concerned is that both Hamas and Fatah recognise and be committed to Israel's right to be an apartheid state inside the Green Line as well as its imposition of apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. Short of this, there will be no deal. The ensuing summit between Condie Rice, Ehud Olmert and the exalted PA President Abbas was spent with Olmert interrogating Abbas on how much he remains committed to Israel's need for apartheid in the occupied territories. A minor replay summit was concluded on the same basis a few days ago. Abbas had hoped that the two summits could coax Israel to finalise arrangements for the Bantustans over which he wants to rule, but Israel, understandably, felt insecure and had to ensure that Abbas himself was still committed to its right to impose apartheid first. Meanwhile, ongoing "secret" Israeli-Saudi talks have filled Israel with the hope and expectation that the Arab League's upcoming summit in Riyadh might very well cancel the Palestinian right of return that is guaranteed by international law and affirm the inviolability of Israel's right to be a racist state as guaranteed by international diplomacy. All of Israel's efforts to achieve peace might finally bear fruit if the Arabs finally concede to what international mediation had already conceded to Israel before them.

It should be clear then that in this international context, all existing solutions to what is called the Palestinian-Israeli "conflict" guarantee Israel's need to maintain its racist laws and its racist character and ensure its right to impose apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. What Abbas and the Palestinians are allowed to negotiate on, and what the Palestinian people and other Arabs are being invited to partake of, in these projected negotiations is the political and economic (but not the geographic) character of the Bantustans that Israel is carving up for them in the West Bank, and the conditions of the siege around the Big Prison called Gaza and the smaller ones in the West Bank. Make no mistake about it, Israel will not negotiate about anything else, as to do so would be tantamount to giving up its racist rule.

As for those among us who insist that no resolution will ever be possible before Israel revokes all its racist laws and does away with all its racist symbols, thus opening the way for a non-racist future for Palestinians and Jews in a decolonised bi-national state, Israel and its apologists have a ready-made response that has redefined the meaning of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is no longer the hatred of and discrimination against Jews as a religious or ethnic group; in the age of Zionism, we are told, anti-Semitism has metamorphosed into something that is more insidious. Today, Israel and its Western defenders insist, genocidal anti-Semitism consists mainly of any attempt to take away and to refuse to uphold the absolute right of Israel to be a racist Jewish state.

The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. His latest book is The Persistence of the Palestinian Question; Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians. This commentary was originally published by Al-Ahram Weekly and is reprinted with the author's permission.