Newsletter 24 Aug 2008
Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s national poet, died on 9 August 2008 as a result of complications following open-heart surgery and thousands turned out for his funeral in Ramallah.
The good news is that the two boats SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty have, to much surprise and acclaim, broken the blockade and reached Gaza
The Israeli government and army response to the killings of two children at Nil’in is not encouraging. We carry extracts from a disturbing press release by Al Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, on the issue which concludes that ‘The result, if not the intention, of this policy, is the cultivation of culture of rampant impunity amongst Israeli military forces.’ And in Ha’aretz Uri Blau reports that “Behind closed doors, police admit ‘turning a blind eye’ to settler violence”.
Meanwhile, to Israel’s dismay, the National Court of Spain has issued arrest warrants against six high-ranking military officials, including Doron Almog who, not that long ago, escaped justice in the UK.
It has been reported that the U.S. is putting brakes on an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Jewish Voice for Peace comments.
Meron Benvenisti has published a pessimistic analysis of the general situation in the pages of Ha’aretz; and the Magnes Zionist, commenting on this, adds to the pessimism – but nonetheless gives a reason why we must go on.
A Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-UK mailing went out recently. Your attention is drawn to some highlights within it.
And finally we have: a reminder of some interesting blogs on the Israel-Palestine situation, the latest of Gush Shalom’s weekly ads in Ha’aretz, and a very interesting and effective presentation called ‘Mapping an Occupation’ on the Guardian website.
1. Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, has died
They fettered his mouth with chains,
And tied his hands to the rock of the dead.
They said: You’re a murderer.
They took his food, his clothes and his banners,
And threw him into the well of the dead.
They said: You’re a thief.
They threw him out of every port,
And took away his young beloved.
And then they said: You’re a refugee.
Under the head “‘I am not Mine’, Mahmoud Darwish: The Expropriated Poet”, Serene Huleileh gives an introduction to his life and work on the Mahmoud Darwish website. ‘Born on 13 March 1941 in Al Birweh, a quaint village in the Galilee, Mahmoud Darwish went on to live a life that is a poignant example of how far talent and determination, combined with a precarious life, can carry an individual from a simple background into the international halls of fame. At the early age of seven, Darwish and his family were forced to flee to Lebanon to escape the ongoing massacres by the Israeli Army as it occupied Palestine and, in the process, destroyed the poet’s village (in addition to over 400 other Palestinian villages). Returning “illegally” to their country the following year, he and his family were subjected to military rule and emergency regulations of the State of Israel established over expropriated Palestinian land. They were given the status of “present-absent alien,” a status that will mark the poet from that point onwards, preventing him from ever finding his homeland, except in his language and his ever-loving audience.’ Full introduction at http://www.mahmouddarwish.com/english/introduction.htm
Peter Clark produced an obituary in the Guardian on 11 August, under the heading ‘Mahmoud Darwish Poet, author and politician who helped to forge a Palestinian consciousness after the six-day war in 1967′.
This was followed by Mourid Barghouti writing an appreciation of the Darwish he knew on 16th August after the funeral. It includes an extract from Darwish’s fine poem ‘The Dice Player’.
Uri Avnery, too, has devoted his column, ‘The Anger, the Longing, the Hope’ (16 August), to a warm appreciation of Darwish.
He comments: ‘Eight years ago, then Minister of Education Yossi Sarid tried to include two poems of Darwish in the Israeli school curriculum. This caused a furor, and the Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, decided that “the Israeli public is not ready for this”. This meant, in reality, that “the Israeli public is not ready for peace.” ‘This may still be true. Real peace, peace between the peoples, peace between the children born this week, on the day of the funeral, in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, will only come about when Arab pupils learn the immortal poem of Chaim Nachman Bialik “The Valley of Death”, about the Kishinev pogrom, and when Israeli pupils learn the poems of Darwish about the Naqba. Yes, also the poems of anger, including the line “Go away, and take your dead with you.”‘
2. End the siege of Gaza!
The boats have arrived! See David Ravid’s report in Ha’aretz (23/08/2008) at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1014462.html
Previously Amos Harel had reported (Ha’aretz, 17/08/2008) that ‘Israel may use force to halt boats trying to break Gaza siege’.
Defense officials favor forcefully blocking two boats which a group of U.S.-based activists plan to sail to Gaza to protest what they call “the Israeli siege on the Strip,” Haaretz had learned…
The two boats sailing to Gaza were named the SS Free Gaza, and the SS Liberty – in recognition of the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy ship, carrying 340 that was attacked by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats on 8 June 1967, assassinating 34 American sailors and wounding 170.
See the latest press release and other news about the trip on the Free Gaza Movement website at http://www.freegaza.org/
3. Right To Life of Palestinian Children Disregarded in Ni’lin as Israel’s Policy of Wilful Killing of Civilians Continues
Al Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, issued a press release on 7 August about its investigation into the killings at Nil’in at the end of July of two Palestinian children, Ahmad Husam Musa than, just after Musa’s funeral, of seventeen year old Yousef Amira.
The short report makes disturbing reading. Here are some brief extracts:
‘Al-Haq’s investigation reveals that neither of the children killed by Israeli Border Police in Ni’lin participated in stone throwing or other acts of civil disobedience when they were shot; rather, both boys were hiding. The boys were not armed and did not threaten the lives of the Border Police. …
The intent to kill is manifest in the circumstances surrounding Ahmad Musa’s death in which live ammunition was fired at the boy’s head from a close range of 50 metres. While in Yousef Amira’s case Border Police employed rubber-coated steel bullets – ostensibly intended to inflict superficial injuries in policing contexts – the boy’s death shows that they can be easily used to lethal effect… In Yousef Amira’s case Israeli forces aimed for the head… … The failure to hold the Border Police officers in question criminally accountable for the wilful killing of these two children is reflective of Israel’s policy since 2000 to not automatically launch independent, impartial investigations into Palestinian civilian deaths. The result, if not the intention, of this policy, is the cultivation of culture of rampant impunity amongst Israeli military forces.’
See full report at http://www.alhaq.org/etemplate.php?id=387
Behind closed doors, police admit ‘turning a blind eye’ to settler violence Uri Blau reports in Ha’aretz, 15 August, that: ‘Police, soldiers and military officers prefer to “turn a blind eye” instead of handling incidents in which settlers attack Palestinians in the West Bank.’
At a meeting last week the Shin Bet representative stated that settler violence has been “intentional and planned,” Army and police there make it clear that they prefer not to confront settlers.
But the meeting was balanced with a criticism of Palestinians for failing to ‘coordinate their farming plans with the police, which ends up causing friction with the settlers’!
4. Israel battles Spanish arrest warrants
To Israel’s dismay, the National Court of Spain (the highest Spanish judicial council), issued arrest warrants against the six individuals – Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Doron Almog, Moshe Ya’alon, Dan Halutz, Giora Eiland and Mike Herzog – accepting a petition from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that suggested they were guilty of war crimes in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2002.
The Israeli government is doing its best to overturn this according to a report in the Jerusalem Pot on 8 August, claiming to have information that ‘active negotiations between Madrid and Jerusalem were taking place to overturn the warrants’.
Full report at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1218104239557
5. War with Iran? Jewish Voice for Peace mailings
In a Jewish Voice for Peace mailing (14 August) Joel Beinen writes:
‘Israel has spent the summer beating the drums of war against Iran: public and highly provocative threats against Iran by Israeli Minister of Transportation and former defense minister and IDF chief-of-staff, Shaul Mofaz; a practice bombing run in the eastern Mediterranean; and a visit to Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to advertise its nuclear capacity. An almost pathological New York Times op-ed by new historian and cheerleader for ethnic cleansing, Benny Morris (July 18, 2008), signaled American public opinion that it would be better for the United States to attack Iran lest Israel go it alone.
After all this breast beating and opinion shaping, Ha’aretz columnist Aluf Benn reports that the Israeli government has received the message: the United States, at least for the moment, is not interested in a military assault on Iran and will not give military support for a solo Israeli effort. It is too soon to understand exactly what forces have shaped this position. But it does challenge the view that the Israeli “tail” always wags the American “dog” on matters of Middle East military policy.
The article, ‘U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran nuclear facilities’, by Aluf Benn appeared in Haaretz on 13 August and can be found at http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1010938.html
A follow-up mailing’carried the 7 August Jerusalem Post article on the Israeli academics and peace activists who ‘joined forces … to petition the Israeli government against attacking Iran, claiming that Israel should give more credence to current diplomatic efforts’. (the text of the petition was the last item in the previous JfJfP mailing))
‘Former provost for overseas students at the Hebrew University Reuven Kaminer, who signed the petition, said that the urgency with which Israel seems to be mobilizing for a strike mandated his speaking out.
‘Israel is doing this as a loose cannon,’ he said. ‘Israel is concerned that Obama will be president and there will not be the conditions for a first-strike policy: that if it has to be done, then it better be done while [US President] George Bush is still around.’
Kaminer feels that the petition is an important addition to the political discourse, because Israelis have a tendency to be hawkish in their thinking about Iran.
‘The average Israeli is so antagonistic regarding the Iranian regime that he has a tendency not to think logically,’ said Kaminer. ‘We don’t condone any of the state policies or thinking out of Teheran but we’re against the statement that [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] is a new Hitler. We don’t think war is inevitable.’
See http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/ for 18 August
6.Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will
Meron Benvenisti, in an article in Ha’aretz writes:
“This status quo, which appears to be chaotic and unstable, is much sturdier than the conventional description of the situation as a temporary ‘military occupation’ would indicate…
This explosive status quo survives due to the combination of several factors: fragmentation of the Palestinian community and incitement of the remaining fragments against each other; enlistment of the Jewish community into support for the occupation regime, which is perceived as protecting its very existence; funding of the status quo by the ‘donor nations’, which cause corruption among the Palestinian leadership; persuasion of the neighboring states to give priority to bilateral and global interests over Arab ethnic solidarity; success of the propaganda campaign known as ‘negotiations with the Palestinians’, which convinces many that the status quo is temporary and thus they can continue to amuse themselves with theoretical alternatives to ‘the final-status arrangement'; the silencing of all criticism as an expression of hatred and anti-Semitism; and psychological repugnance toward the conclusion that the status quo is durable and will not be easily changed.”
While Benvenisti manages to find room for some limited optimism, the Magnes Zionist, who quotes the above extracts from Benvenisti’s article before reproducing it in its entirety, finds none:
He writes that, according to Benvenisti: ‘The two-state solution is dead; the one-state solution is not going anywhere; the status quo will continue unabated, with periods of violence alternating with periods of relative calm…
‘My view is as follows: there is no solution, there is no possibility of justice or peace, there is no way to make a seismic shift. In situations like this, the task of any decent man and woman is to do what they can to alleviate the suffering – to support the activists and the NGOs, to publicize the human rights violations, to talk to our family and friends and let them know what is going on. This will not end the occupation, since the occupation cannot end. But fifty or hundred years from now, our children will be able to say to their children, “Your grandparents were not silent. They tried and failed, but at least they tried.”‘
We live in difficult times…
Two sobering and important commentaries, the Benvenisti piece is at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1013974.html ;
the Magnes Zionist at http://themagneszionist.blogspot.com/2008/08/meron-benvenistes-doom-and-gloom.html
7. FFIPP-UK newsletter, 11 August 2008
The most recent Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-UK Newsletter reports ‘on some of the more specific abuses of Palestinian freedom of education – in particular, the hundreds of Gazan students, still denied access to academic institutions that have offered them places to study; and welcome the murmurings of Israeli academic protest about the situation; we include an appeal for funds for education in Palestine, a reminder of how the checkpoints impact and give a concluding report from Ha’aretz on the ‘Israeli reign of terror’ in the Hebrew University Sociology Department, rightly highlighting the insidious effects of sexual harrassment there. If only the comprehensive ‘reign of terror’ so near their doorstep – inflicted by their army and their government on the Palestinians – were recognised and treated as seriously.’
You can read the newsletter here
And you can subscribe to it by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Some interesting blogs
There is an outpouring of material on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, generally likely to inflame you or make you feel you’ve hard it all before. Three blogs are rather different in temperament and in tone: always thoughtful and , for me at least, ever thought-provoking. Never hyping anything, and never ever encouraging a spurious optimism. And not to be agreed with on anything and everything. But really interesting.
9. Gush Shalom’s weekly ad in Ha’aretz, 22nd August 2008
|In military prison:
Udi Nir, 18,
Who refuses to serve
In the army that
Violates human rights
In the occupied territories.
10. Mapping an Occupation
The Guardian has a great map of the West Bank on which you can overlay various features of the occupation at the click of your mouse:
the green line;
the wall: built, under construction, approved, awaiting approval;
prohibition of Palestinian use of roads: complete, partial and restricted;
Israeli settlements, built up and less populated; areas under Israeli control; Israeli military bases;
Palestinian-administered-Israeli-controlled areas (you’ll be staggered at how large these are);
and – what’s left of it – Palestinian built up areas and Palestinian controlled areas.
It’s great fun (if that is the word) to add and subtract details – and truly shocking.
See Mapping an Occupation at http://www.guardian.co.uk/flash/page/0,,2088220,00.html