Newsletter 10 Aug 2008
Not much good news really in recent weeks. Below we carry some reports of non-violent resistance in Israel and the generally violent response it is evoking. Also news of the Break the Siege boat trip from Gaza to Cyprus, due to sail about now.
Meanwhile the occupation is extending its tentacles with the likely establishment of a new settlement (as opposed to the continued expansion of existing ones), the first in ten years, in the Jordan Valley. Also, yet more reports of restriction of entry to and from the West Bank.
The House of Commons International Development Committee (which monitors the work of the Department for International Development) has issued its Eleventh Report dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict.
JfJfP has been unusually diligent in writing to the press, but only one letter out of four was published (in the Independent). But as the letters are of general interest they are all included below.
The Guardian (30 July) publicised an Al-Haq report on Palestinians tortured by Hamas and Fatah forces (and supported by a Human Rights Watch report on the same topic).
Mohammad Bakri gives an account of his persecution for having made the film Jenin, Jenin in “My crime was to tell the truth
We include a link to Assaf Kfoury’s review of Joel Kovel’s Overcoming Zionism which makes some pertinent criticisms and an interesting intervention in the one-state, two-states debate.
Gershon Baskin of IPCRI (the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information) offers a sobering assessment of current developments in an article entitled ‘Is it all Lost?’
And finally, on an upbeat note, the Freedom Theatre and the Arab American University have just launched a three-year intensive Theatre Studies course in Jenin.
Plus two additions:
– a video of Richard Kuper speaking on behalf of JfJfP at the Manchester rally in June
– a press release: Ad Hoc Group Against Israeli Attack on Iran
1. Non-violent resistance; violent responses
Ten-year old Ahmed Husam Yousef Musa was murdered in Nil’in, a village West of Ramallah, in late July during the protest there against the construction of the Wall. A few days later, during during the funeral procession, Yousif Ahmad Amira, was shot twice in the head with rubber coated steel bullets from close range by Israeli soldiers in Ni’lin and killed.
At the weekly protest at Bil’in Musa’s death was a focus of protest. As usual protestors were met by a hail of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets – resulting in the injury of Imad Bournat as well as dozens affected by the tear gas.
See http://www.bilin-ffj.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=77&Itemid=1 with links to video footage on YouTube.
See the Jewish Voice for Peace report on 1st August under the heading “Israeli violence targeting children under occupation” which reproduces a number of related reports (at http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/).
Some of this violence is being captured on video and is becoming much more widely known. (Incidientally JfjfP has contributed funding and the odd video camera to assist this work.) In a graphic and hard-hitting film, carried on the Guardian website, Peter Beaumont speaks to Palestinians filming abuse from settlers and Israeli armed forces. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/30/israelandthepalestinians
A Canadian student Victor McDiarmid, a volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement, who took part in a protest against the security wall Israel’s building in the West Bank has been arrested and faces deportation.
Letters of protest were sent by JfJfP about the Musa killing to both the Times and the Independent on 30 July, but neither were published. They are reproduced here:
a) Letter to the Independent, 30 July
The killing of a 10-year old boy for throwing stones (Palestinian boy, 10, dies as Israeli troops fire following demonstration, July 30), although perpetrated by the same Israeli Defense Force unit that shot a bound demonstrator in the foot on July 7, is not just the action of an out-of-control unit. It is in accordance with what appear to be the de facto IDF Live Fire regulations.
The B’tselem website (“Use of firearms” section) discusses the absence of written regulations since the start of the Second Intifada, and describes the testimonies of soldiers and information published in the media which reveal de facto regulations. Four examples will indicate their nature. “The term “life-threatening” is expanded to include situations not previously considered life-threatening, such as stone throwing;” “The IDF is allowed to assassinate Palestinians suspected of having committed attacks against Israelis;” “Soldiers are allowed to fire live ammunition to enforce curfew;” “Soldiers are required to open fire whenever Palestinians enter places defined as “dangerous areas” (primarily around the Gaza Strip fence)”. (My italics)
Soldiers are thereby encouraged use live fire in ways that no civilised army would tolerate, including an apparent lack of discrimination between children and adults. Together with the thousands of killings of unarmed Palestinians, the killing of international activists and journalists and the many recorded beatings that I discussed on July 24, these de facto regulations show a pattern of gratuitous violence that can only come from the top of the IDF.
b) Letter to the Times, 30 July
Israeli spokespeople are wont to laud the IDF as the most moral army in the world. What morality, exactly, justifies shooting dead 9 year old Hammad Hossam Musa in response to the throwing of stones?
The villagers of Nil’in – where I visited last month and witnessed an earlier but thankfully less murderous demonstration – are protesting against the building of a barrier that has little or nothing to do with security and everything to do with illegal settlement expansion, something even Israeli courts have just this week begun to acknowledge. The ritual is well established: a peaceful march to the site of the barrier, followed by tear gas and rubber bullets and stone throwing. Employing slings, youths double the age of Hammad Hossam Musa most often fail even to hit the fence.
The killing occurred not in the vicinity of the fence, but in the village, after the protest was over. What were the IDF doing there? Why did they not simply withdraw to their positions once the protest had largely dispersed as they normally do? What was it that justified the use of live ammunition and the inevitable death that followed? Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land is illegal and a barrier to any peace agreement. It cannot be sustained through the killing of children.
All these events had been preceded by the filmed case of an Israeli soldier firing at close range at a blindfolded Palestinian on 22nd July.
A JfJfP letter on this topic was published in the Independent 24 July 2008:
Israeli soldiers escape prosecution over deaths of unarmed civilians (Independent’s title)
Your report (Bound Palestinian protester shot by soldier, July 22) shows yet another instance of the violence perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Force against unarmed people who resist the occupation. B’tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, has recorded 25 cases of beatings and/or abuse of Palestinians by the Israeli Defense Force between 2005 and 2008. Many cases involve more than one victim.
More serious are the thousands of deaths and woundings of unarmed Palestinians, and of some Israeli and international activists. According to B’tselem, 4,748 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces from the beginning of the Second Intifada (September 2000) to 30 June 2008. However, of these 2,219 (47%) were definitely not taking part in fighting, and there was doubt about whether another 871 (18%) were taking part. In the same period, 386 Palestinians were killed in “targeted killing” operations, but 154 (40%) were merely bystanders – “regrettable” casualties as the IDF would have it.
The high profile cases include the killing of the British and American students Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie; the British, Palestinian and Italian cameramen James Miller, Fadel Shanaa and Rafaele Ciriello; and the German doctor who was treating injured Palestinians, Harald Fischer. All were clearly identifiable as non-combatants.
The facts speak for themselves. There are far too many cases to be just the actions of a few undisciplined soldiers. At the very least, there is a culture of impunity in the IDF. At the worst, it is a culture of deliberate, intimidatory violence up to and including murder.
2. The Free Gaza Movement (see website at http://www.freegaza.org/) is sending two sailing boats to break the siege of Gaza. JfjfP is among the many groups that have endorsed this action. Around 60 Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals from 15 countries will sail to the Gaza Strip to deliver medical equipment on August 5th 2008
The Mission Statement of the Movement says this:
We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine’s right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, or otherwise.
What are we going to do?
We’ve tried to enter Palestine by land. We’ve tried to arrive by air. Now we’re getting serious. We’re taking a ship.
Jeff Halper is one of those who will be sailing. You can read his personal statement at http://www.icahd.org/eng/articles.asp?menu=6&submenu=2&article=502
Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein is another. She will be touring Britain in the autumn, reporting on the trip, and will be speaking at a JfJfP London meeting on 20th October. Yet another person on the trip is Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth!
3. The occupation’s grip tightens
a) A new settlement
For nearly three decades Maskiyot has been an outpost in the desert hills of the Jordan Valley functioning as a temporary respite for soldiers and religious students, but never the residential community intended by Israel when it approved in the 1980s, writes Joshua Mitnick in the Christian Science Monitor (31st July)
Now Israel’s Defense Ministry has approved plans to build 20 houses. If they go ahead it will be the first new settlement established in the last decade, in flagrant violation of Israel’s commitments under the Road Map…
b) Entry to and from the West Bank if being increasingly restricted
The Palestine News Network reports on the slow ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem with the story of a Palestinian born and raised there who went to the United States to study, leaving his wife and two children at home. Now he is denied the right to return to his home, and his wife told that if she joins him in Amman for a visit she will not be allowed to return…
There are thousands more cases like this, reports Rasha Mukbil, the Coordinator or the Right to Enter Campaign. One of those not allowed to return is the daughter of prominent Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.
c) Mohammed Omer writes about the harassment of journalists who tell the truth about the occupation, including his own experience at the hands of the IDF on his return from receiving the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London (Reported in our last mailing).
“In April, Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was killed by fire from an Israeli tank. He was in a car, clearly marked as press. According to Amnesty International, “Fadel Shana appears to have been killed deliberately although he was a civilian taking no part in attacks on Israel’s forces.”
Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Israeli military’s widespread “abusive behavior” of Palestinian journalists. And the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that journalists covering Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza “contend with perennial abuses at the hands of Israeli forces.” In 2007 alone, Israeli soldiers shot photographers from Agence France-Presse, Al-Ayyam newspaper and Al-Aqsa TV. The television cameraman, Imad Ghanem, fell to the ground when wounded. Israeli forces then shot him twice more in the legs. Both of his legs have been amputated…”
See his Truth and Consequences Under the Israeli Occupation at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080818/omer
4. The House of Commons Select Committee on International Development issued its Eleventh Report in July 2008. Critical of Hamas for its takeover of power in Gaza it nonetheless recognises the acute nature of the humanitarian situation there and believes that Israel has not met its obligations in that regard nor has the Quartet exerted ‘sufficient pressure on Israel to open the crossings’. It stresses the need for ‘Palestinians to be able to move around their own country for education, to receive healthcare, to visit their families, to work and to trade, irrespective of whether their journeys are regarded as strategically significant to international negotiations.’
And it argues that: ‘The current truce between Israel and Hamas offers the international community an opportunity to begin a dialogue with Hamas with the objective of moving towards its acceptance of the Quartet’s three principles and a functional working relationship with Fatah. Annapolis will not succeed without such progress. We urge the UK Government to seize this opportunity.’
Full report at http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmintdev/522/52202.htm
5. In an article in the Guardian (30 July) entitled The Palestinian torturers, Ben White publicises two reports that throw the spotlight on Palestinians who are detained without charge and tortured by Hamas and Fatah forces. Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, has detailed how more than 1,000 have been arrested in the last year, with “an estimated 20%-30% of the detainees” having suffered torture “including severe beatings and being tied up in painful positions”.
Al-Haq accuses both Hamas’s Executive Force, and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)’s Preventive Security Force of widespread maltreatment of detainees. And Human Rights Watch has also released a similarly-focused report which concludes that “the use of torture is dramatically up”.
Full report at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/30/middleeast.humanrights
JfJfP wrote to the Guardian (letter not published) in the following terms:
Your report “Palestinians ‘routinely torture’ rival detainees” (29 July) makes miserable reading. Al Haq must be congratulated for its brave and sterling work, chronicling violations of human rights in the occupied territories without fear or favour.
It is worth noting how Israel impedes Al Haq’s work where its own violations are concerned.
Al Haq’s Director, Shawan Jabarin, has been under a travel ban imposed by the Israeli military authorities since March 2006 in blatant violation of international law. This has prevented him from attending a number of international conferences and seminars, including an event to which he was invited by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights!
And only last week Al-Haq’s fieldworker, Yusuf Qawariq was detained for hours at the Huwara checkpoint The reason? As one soldier put it, he was “monitoring and documenting the actions of the Israeli military”.
As Al Haq concludes, these and other incidents “illustrate Israel’s attempts to suppress knowledge of its consistent violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT”.
In these circumstances Al Haq’s balanced reporting is especially noteworthy.
6. Mohammad Bakri, Israeli Palestinian actor and film director has been hounded since he made the film Jenin, Jenin in 2002. The film itself was banned by the Israeli film censorship board and it took him two years to get this overturned. Since then he has been dragged through the courts by five Israeli soldiers, accused of lying, defamation and destroying their “good names.” Their case has finally been rejected – but only on the grounds that it was not them Bakri defamed, but the Israeli army in general!
See Bakri’s spirited account in “My crime was to tell the truth”, The Electronic Intifada, 31 July 2008 at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9727.shtml
7. In a sympathetic but forensically critical review of Joel Kovel’s book, Overcoming Zionism, Kfoury takes it to task on many interesting grounds, but most notably hammering the point that Kovel’s one-state solution is simply not grounded in the preceding eight chapters of analysis.
Kfoury argues that “One-State is now an escapist fantasy, whatever form one would like to give it. Some may think that, though perhaps a fantasy now, it will nevertheless be an effective slogan for mobilizing and unifying supporters of Palestinian rights. But it won’t even be that, as it will probably be more a dividing than a rallying call for all those who are working against Israel’s expansion and settlement project. Worse in fact, it is already a rallying call for another kind of One-State advocate: the supremacists of the Zionist far-right, who also want a unitary state in all or most of Palestine but ethnically cleansed of its Palestinians.
To insist on debating the two options — as if much is at stake on settling the question now, or as if there is no other alternative to these two options for anti-settlement activism — will be gratuitously obscuring the priorities. There is plenty that can and should be done to help the besieged Palestinians without any prior commitment to One-State or Two-State.”
See the full review at http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/17030
8. In ‘Is it all Lost?’, published by the Arabic Media Internet Network, Gershon Baskin of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) offers a sobering assessment of current :
“It may not be too late to change the course of events, but radical changes in policies by Israel are required. Is there a leader in Israel that is capable of taking the risks now to make those changes? Probably not, but if there is, what needs to be done is quite clear: freeze all settlement building, including in Jerusalem, remove checkpoints and road blocks, free prisoners to President Abbas, strengthen the security coordination and cooperation without Israeli incursions, invite the US to mediate and present bridging proposals in the stalled negotiations and begin to transfer additional land and authority to the Palestinian government. If not, it is only a matter of time before the West Bank will turn into another Gaza.”
Full article at http://www.amin.org/look/amin/en.tpl?IdPublication=7&NrIssue=1&NrSection=3&NrArticle=47007&IdLanguage=1style=text-decoration
9. The Freedom Theatre, in cooperation with the Arab American University, has opened a Theatre School and offers an educational program in the Performing Arts.
The course is of a high professional standard and covers all aspects of theatre. Students enrolled on this intensive three-year study program will become familiar with various methods and approaches for entering into the world of theatre and the performing arts from around the globe.
10. Richard Kuper spoke on behalf of JfJfP at the Manchester Palestine Lives rally, Saturday 7 June 200
11. Press Release: Ad Hoc Group Against Israeli Attack on Iran
More than 100 hundred Israeli academicians and peace activists have signed the following declaration:
There is no military, political or moral justification to initiate war with Iran
A constant flow of information bears witness to the fact that the Israeli government is seriously considering attacking Iran, in order to disrupt its nuclear plans. We do not disregard irresponsible actions by the Iranian government – we also oppose atomic weapons in principle and support the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction from the region. However, it is clear that the main source of the immediate danger of a new, widespread war stems from the policies of the Israeli government and the flow of threats from it, backed by provocative military maneuvers.
After serious consideration, we reiterate our position that all the arguments for such an attack are without any security, political or moral justification. Israel might get caught up in an act of adventurism that could endanger our very existence, and this without any serious effort to exhaust the political and diplomatic alternatives to armed conflict.
We are not certain that such an attack will occur. But the very fact that it is being weighed as a reasonable option, makes it imperative that we warn and caution against the destructive results of an offensive strike against Iran.
Coordinating Group: Prof. Gadi Algazi; Judy Blanc; Prof. Rachel Giora; Prof. Anat Matar; Prof. Adi Ophir; Prof. Yoav Peled; Reuven Kaminer, Prof. Haggai Ram; Prof. Yehuda Shenhav; Prof. Oren Yiftachel.