israel and palestine articles

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It seems like the ultimate irony – a city that is known for food shortages producing it’s own cookbook – but here it is: “The Gaza Kitchen”! Moreover, as the title makes clear, the book does not try to hide its origins or shroud the fact that Gaza is a place we associate more with malnutrition than with culinary delight! Instead it blends recipe and narrative – tantalizing our taste buds while confronting us with the realities of the Israeli Occupation!

In truth, the combination of food and activism is an ancient one.  There is a saying in Arabic that translates roughly “how can you be my enemy when we have broken bread together”. If it were possible to introduce more Israelis to the Gaza kitchen, it might do a great deal for the cause of reconciliation and peace!

Father Dave

source: style.time.com…

Get a Taste Of Palestine in The Gaza Kitchen

By David Kaufman

Battered by Israel, ignored by Egypt and packed nearly as densely as Manhattan or Hong Kong, the Gaza Strip is among the most fragile flash-points in all of the Middle East. But this tiny sliver of land wedged between the stark Sinai Peninsula and the azure Mediterranean continues to prove that culture and tradition can exist even in the most challenging conditions. Case in point: The Gaza Kitchen, a new cookbook and that chronicles the role of cuisine in Gaza as tools for both sustenance and resistance.

Written by authors Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt—and partially funded by crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter—The Gaza Kitchen pairs photo-rich regional recipes with detailed accounts of Israel’s decades-long occupation and subsequent blockade. Filled with chef profiles and economic analysis, the book’s reportage is at once transportive and grim. But the recipes—pickled fruits, spice-laden salads, earthy vegetable stews, syrupy sweet desserts—are unquestionably mouthwatering despite their austerity.

With its focus on home-style cooking, rather than the region’s well-known street-food like hummus or falafel, The Gaza Kitchen humanizes a land and people often reduced to wartime cliche. “Gaza may be impoverished and under attack, but that doesn’t mean people have stopped giving importance to cooking and cuisine,” says El-Haddad, an author and activist who was born in Kuwait, raised between the Persian Gulf and Gaza and now lives in Maryland. “As Gazans struggle to transform rations and food aid into family meals, the dishes are testimony to the tenacity of a people still clinging to what’s good in life.”

read the rest of this review here

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I am encouraged by this article, not only because it lucidly rebuffs the equating of Palestinian activism with Antisemitism but also because it appeared on a University website (in Connecticut, USA).

It is important that these discussions take place on University campuses, and it is important that free speech be given full reign in these contexts. Students must be encouraged to pursue the truth about Israel/Palestine without being pilloried as racists for doing so!

Father Dave

source: http://www.dailycampus.com/commentary/column-pro-palestine-does-not-mean-anti-semitic-1.3008671#.UUXKhRxTCSo

Pro-Palestine does not mean anti-Semitic

By Omar Allam

The screams of an Israeli Air Force fighter jet ricochet through the barren lands of Gaza, as the sounds of explosions reverberate off the bones of 11 Palestinian children and women, who were charred to death during the air strike.

Almost 50 miles away in Tel Aviv, the Israeli military stated the target was a terrorist militant group in Gaza.

This was reported by the Huffington Post.

These air strikes were another part of the Israeli deterrence policy to create extreme preventive punishment and make any attack or retaliation too costly. U.S. media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza portrayed the war as an “endless conflict between two foreign entities” and claimed that Israel is justifiably “defending itself,” according to The Guardian.

One can only condemn the violence, as it is never the answer to any issue.

Nonetheless, western media has focused so much attention on Israel, and has ignored the Palestinian perspective on the apartheid system in the contested territory, that Americans have associated Palestinians as a terrorists and Palestinian support with anti-Semitism.

But, is someone really anti-Jewish if you criticize Israel?
To answer such a question, one would need to discuss the issue with a follower of the Jewish religion.

Stanley Heller is a semi-retired schoolteacher, and he is also a Jew. Heller, like most people, has no tolerance for Anti-Semitism. It “is a hideous crime; it’s a stupid blind hatred,” Heller said.

As Executive Director of the 30-year-old Middle East Crisis Committee, Heller also is a firm supporter in equality and human rights for all.

He explained that, “Jews were once viewed as inferiors, sub-humans, disturbers of the peace and not only by Nazis, but by lots of people and, ironically, Palestinians are facing the same type of discrimination, today.”

In Israel, there is “an ever-deepening apartheid. … Palestinians are being driven away from their homes. In addition, there is aggressiveness against any type of resistance, violent and non-violent,” Heller said. Palestinians are now confined to walled ghettos.

In Gaza, they’re subjected to a blockade of essential basic necessities, and are facing economic sanctions placed by Israel.

Heller, however, is not the only Jew advocating for basic human rights for Palestinians. There are many Jewish groups pushing for Palestinian human rights such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism, Rabbis for Human Rights, etc.

A cable released by Wikileaks showed that the officials in U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv wrote, “as part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed (…) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”

The vidence supporting human right violations against Israel is overwhelming; nonetheless there has been limited coverage over the worsening human rights conditions that Palestinians face.

Adam Antar, founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine, a newly founded organization on campus, stated, “the asymmetrical burden of casualties on the part of the Palestinians is one of the most widely acknowledged injustices across the globe. There is nothing racist about advocating for peace and justice for the Palestinians, who have been targeted simply for their existence and identity. In fact, criticizing Israeli policies supports equality and combats racism.”

The state of Israel has laws dictating the segregation of Palestinians from Israelis pertaining to where they can work, where they can live, to what bus they can get on. Similar laws were created in the post-Civil War era in the U.S. to ensure the denomination of African Americans. The Civil Rights movement is justifiably the story of our greatest American heroes, those who stood up for equality and justice. But when Palestinians try to stand up for the same goals, they are labeled as troublemakers, terrorists, and racists.

So to the question, “is someone really Anti-Jewish if he or she criticizes Israel?” The answer is clearly no.

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The following article appeared on the Press TV website but is largely a commentary on one that appeared in the Jerusalem Post on Friday.

It appears that the Israeli government is getting increasingly frustrated with the shift towards Palestine that is being exhibited across Europe.

The Israeli government’s concerns are not without foundation. This week two more countries have made moves to upgrade Palestine’s official status:

  • Tuesday, March 5, Ma’an News Agency broke the news on that Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, Turkey’s consul general in Jerusalem, will be accredited as Turkey’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority (full story here).

  • Thursday March 7, 2013; with an overwhelming vote of 299 to 20, the Swedish Parliament upgraded the status of the Palestinian representative office in the country to a full status, granting the mission the title of ’embassy’ (full story here).

The international isolation of Israel is progressing steadily. How long will the USA be willing to stand against the tide?

Father Dave

source: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/03/08/292472/eus-propalestine-tilt-irks-israel/

Tel Aviv frustrated by EU’s pro-Palestine slant: Israeli official

An Israeli official says the Tel Tel Aviv frustrated by EU’s pro-Palestine slant: Israeli officiaviv regime has been increasingly frustrated over what it considers as the European Union’s pro-Palestinian tilt, a report says.

According to a report published by the Jerusalem Post on Friday, an unnamed Israeli official criticized the EU over its “negative” policy toward Tel Aviv.

The Israeli official said there was “no positive agenda between Israel and Brussels, only negative.”

“There are only sticks, no carrots,” the official stated, criticizing the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, for certain issues such as pushing the EU members on February 22 to enforce restrictions on products from the illegal Israeli settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Even the Netherlands, which is one of the strongest allies of Israel, followed Ashton’s advice and recommended that the business owners effectively label products from the Israeli settlements, the official said.

“When it comes to Israel they are very vocal. When it comes to the Palestinians, they are very timid.”

The Israeli official also pointed to the internal report by the EU heads of mission in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Ramallah on February 27 which was leaked to the media.

The report said the EU programs should not be “used to support settlements and settlement-related activity, including funding for research, education or technological cooperation.” 

“Every year they put out a report that is critical of Israel, even though their mandate is to strengthen ties with the PA (Palestinian Authority),” the official stated. 

The Tel Aviv regime has increased its illegal settlement expansion following an upgrade of Palestine’s status at the UN to a non-member observer state on November 29, 2012. 

Many countries, including some of Tel Aviv’s allies, have condemned the Israeli plans to construct illegal settler units in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

On December 10, 2012, the 27-nation European nation said it was “deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli” plans to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

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Here’s another wonderful offering from Uni Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc). It’s his review of the now famous “5 Broken Cameras”.

I haven’t seen this movie yet. Hopefully it will start appearing on Australian screens soon. In terms of influencing public opinion, a good movie can achieve more than a thousand pieces of media propaganda!

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

“Ich bin ein Bil’iner!”

THIS DOES not happen every day: a Minister of Culture publicly rejoices because a film from her country has NOT been awarded an Oscar. And not just one film, but two.

It happened this week. Limor Livnat, still Minister of Culture in the outgoing government, told Israeli TV she was happy that Israel’s two entries for Oscars in the category of documentary films, which made it to the final four, did lose in the end.

Livnat, one of the most extreme Likud members, has little chance of being included in the diminishing number of Likud ministers in the next government. Perhaps her outburst was meant to improve her prospects.

Not only did she attack the two films, but she advised the semi-official foundations which finance Israeli films to exercise “voluntary self-censorship and deprive such unpatriotic films of support, thus making sure that they will not be produced at all.

THE TWO documentaries in question are very different in character.

One, The Gatekeepers, is a collection of testimonies by six successive chiefs of the General Security Service, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, variously known by its Hebrew initials Shin Bet or Shabak. In the US its functions are performed by the FBI. (The Mossad is the equivalent of the CIA.)

All six service chiefs are harshly critical of the Israeli prime ministers and cabinet ministers of the last decades. They accuse them of incompetence, stupidity and worse.

The other film, 5 Broken Cameras, tells the story of the weekly protest demonstrations against the “separation” fence in the village of Bil’in, as viewed through the cameras of one of the villagers.

One may wonder how two films like these made it to the top of the Academy awards in the first place. My own (completely unproven) conjecture is that the Jewish academy members voted for their selection without actually seeing them, assuming that an Israeli film could not be un-kosher. But when the pro-Israeli lobby started a ruckus, the members actually viewed the films, shuddered, and gave the top award to Searching for Sugar Man.

I HAVE not yet had a chance to see The Gatekeepers. In spite of that, I am not going to write about it.

However, I have seen 5 Broken Cameras several times – both in the cinema and on the ground.

Limor Livnat treated it as an “Israeli” film. But that designation is rather problematical.

First of all, unlike other categories, documentaries are not listed according to nationality. So it was not, officially, “Israeli”.

Second, one of its two co-producers protested vehemently against this designation. For him, this is a Palestinian film.

As a matter of fact, any national designation is problematical. All the material was filmed by a Palestinian, Emad Burnat. But the co-editor, Guy Davidi, who put the filmed material into its final shape, is Israeli. Much of the financing came from Israeli foundations. So it would be fair to say that it is a Palestinian-Israeli co-production.    

This is also true for the “actors”: the demonstrators are both Palestinians and Israelis. The soldiers are, of course, Israelis. Some of members of the Border Police are Druze (Arabs belonging to a marginal Islamic sect.)

When the last of Emad Burnat’s sons was born, he decided to buy a simple camera in order to document the stages of the boy’s growing up. He did not yet dream of documenting history. But he took his camera with him when he joined the weekly demonstrations in his village. And from then on, every week.

BIL’IN IS a small village west of Ramallah, near the Green Line. Few people had ever heard of it before the battle.

I heard of it for the first time some eight years ago, when Gush Shalom, the peace organization to which I belong, was asked to participate in a demonstration against the expropriation of some of its lands for a new settlement, Kiryat Sefer (“Town of the Book”).

When we arrived there, only a few new houses were already standing. Most of the land was still covered with olive trees. In following protests, we saw the settlement grow into a large town, totally reserved for ultra-orthodox Jews, called Haredim, “those who fear (God)”. I passed through it several times, when there was no other way to reach Bil’in, and never saw a single man there who was not wearing the black attire and black hat of this community.

The Haredim are not settlers per se. They do not go there for ideological reasons, but just because they need space for their huge number of offspring. The government pushes them there.

What made this first demonstration memorable for me was that the village elders emphasized, in their summing-up, the importance of non-violence. At the time, non-violence was not often heard about in Palestinian parlance.

Non-violence was and remains one of the outstanding qualities of the Bil’in struggle. From the first demonstration on, week after week, year after year, non-violence has been the hallmark of the protests.

Another mark was the incredible inventiveness. The elders have long ago given way to the younger generation. For years, these youngsters strived to fill every single demonstration with a specific symbolic content. On one occasion, protesters were carried along in iron cages. On another, we all wore masks of Mahatma Gandhi. Once we brought with us a well-known Dutch pianist, who played Schubert on a truck in the midst of the melee. On yet another protest, the demonstrators chained themselves to the fence. At another time, a football match was played in view of the settlement. Once a year, guests are invited from all over the world for a symposium about the Palestinian struggle.

THE FIGHT is mainly directed at the “Separation” Fence, which is supposed to separate between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In built-up areas it is a wall, in open spaces it is a fence, protected on both sides by a broad stretch of land for patrol roads and barbed wire. The official purpose is to prevent terrorists from infiltrating into Israel and blowing themselves up here.

If this were the real purpose, and were the wall built on the border, nobody could fairly object. Every state has the right to protect itself. But that is only part of the truth. In many regions, the wall/fence cuts deeply into Palestinian territory, ostensibly to protect settlements, in reality to annex land. This is the case in Bil’in.

The original fence cut the village off from most of its lands, which were earmarked for the enlargement of the settlement now called Modi’in Illit (“Upper Modi’in”). The real Modi’in is an adjacent township within the Green Line.

In the course of the struggle, the villagers appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, which finally accepted part of their claim. The government was ordered to move the fence some distance nearer to the Green Line. This still leaves a lot of land for the settlement.

In practice, the complete wall/fence annexes almost 10% of the West Bank to Israel. (Altogether, the West Bank constitutes a mere 22% of the country of Palestine as it was before 1948.)

ONCE EMAD BURNAT started to take pictures, he could not stop. Week after week he “shot” the protests, while the soldiers shot (without quotation marks) at the protesters.

Tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets were used by the military every week. Sometimes, live ammunition was employed. Yet in all the demonstrations I witnessed, there was not a single act of violence by the protesters themselves – Palestinians, Israelis or international activists. The demonstrations usually start in the center of the village, near the mosque. When the Friday prayers end (Friday is the Muslim holy day), some of the devout join the young people waiting outside, and a march to the fence, a few kilometers away, commences.

At the fence, the clash happens. The protesters push forward and shout, the soldiers launch tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. The gas canisters hit people (Rachel, my wife, had a big bruise on her thigh for months, where a canister had hit her. Rachel was already carrying a fatal liver disease and was strictly warned by her doctor not to come near tear gas. But she could not resist taking photos close up.)

Once the melee starts, boys and youngsters – not the demonstrators themselves – on the fringes usually start to throw stones at the soldiers. It is a kind of ritual, a test of courage and manhood. For the soldiers this is a pretext for increasing the violence, hitting people and gassing them.

Emad shows it all. The film shows his son grow up, from baby to schoolboy, in between the protests. It also shows Emad’s wife begging him to stop. Emad was arrested and seriously injured. One of his relatives was killed. All the organizers in the village were imprisoned again and again. So were their Israeli comrades. I testified at several of the trials in the military court, located in a large military prison camp.

The Israeli protesters are barely seen in the film. But right from the beginning, Jews played an important part in the protests. The main Israeli participants are the “Anarchists against the Wall”, a very courageous and creative group. (Gush Shalom activist Adam Keller is shown in a close-up, trying out a passive resistance technique he had learned in Germany. Somehow it did not work. Perhaps you need German police for it.)

If the film does not do full justice to the Israeli and international protesters, that is quite understandable. The aim was to showcase the Palestinian non-violent resistance.

In the course of the struggle, one of Emad’s cameras after another was broken. He is now wielding camera No. 6. 

THIS IS a story of heroism, the heroic struggle of simple villagers for their lands and their country.

Long after Limor Livnat will be forgotten, people will remember the Battle of Bil’in.

President Barack Obama would be well advised to see this film before his forthcoming visit to Israel and Palestine.

Some years ago, I was asked to make the laudatory speech at a Berlin ceremony, in which the village of Bil’in and the “Anarchists against the Wall” were decorated for their courage.

Slightly paraphrasing President John Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin, I proposed that every decent person in the world should proudly proclaim: “Ich bin ein Bil’iner!”

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While the west continues to lecture Palestinian resisters for their ready resort to violence, more hunger-strikers approach death in Israeli prisons.

Why are these courageous people going unnoticed by the rest of the world? Why isn’t their treatment sparking international outrage or at least prompting a debate?

Father Dave

Palestinians in Hebron march in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike

Palestinians in Hebron march in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike (picture courtesy of the “Palestinian Solidarity Project”)

source: www.miftah.org…

When Lives Hang In The Balance

By Joharah Baker

“Silence is complicit”, read one of the signs raised by protesters in front of UN offices in Ramallah. The young men and women in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers were sending a message to the UN and to the world: your silence could kill them.

In a way, that is very true. The lives of four Palestinian hunger strikers are hanging in the balance, teetering between life and death. Two in particular – Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh have crossed the 200-day mark without food. The sheer number of days is staggering, difficult for any person to wrap their heads around. And still, the world is more or less disgracefully quiet.

The Palestinians have a right to be angry. The Palestinian prisoner issue has been shuffled aside, ignored and sidelined for years now. International human rights organizations have admitted that grave violations of human rights have taken place behind Israeli bars but Israel has never been held accountable.

While tens of thousands of Palestinians have suffered in Israeli prisons over the decades since the Israeli occupation of 1967, recently, a heroic few have brought this issue back to the fore. Last year, Khader Adnan waged a 66-day hunger strike to protest Israel’s administrative detention policy, which allows Israel to imprison Palestinian political prisoners without charge for an indefinite period of time. Adnan’s strike, which ended in his eventual release and an Israeli promise not to renew his detention, encouraged others silently suffering the same fate to walk in his footsteps.

Today, Samer Issawi, on hunger strike for over 200 days, is most likely dying. Medical reports and lawyer visits tell a haunting tale of a man who has lost more than half of his body weight, is suffering from excruciating muscle and joint pains and who can no longer stand on his own. Ayman Sharawneh is also in grave medical condition, having been rushed to Israel’s Soroka Hospital after days in isolation in a Beer Sheva-area prison. Tareq Qadan and Jaafar Izzedin are also on hunger strike, weak but determined.

In a letter to his people, Samer Issawi shows that despite his weak body his is still strong-willed.

“My message is that I will continue until the end, until the last drop of water in my body, until martyrdom…I say to my people: I’m stronger than the occupation army and its racist laws. I, Samer al-Issawi, son of Jerusalem, send you my last will that, in case I fell as a martyr, you will carry my soul as a cry for all the prisoners, man and women, cry for freedom, emancipation and salvation from the nightmare of prisons and their harsh darkness.”

Samer, freed in the Shalit prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel in October 2011, was re-arrested in July 2012 on a technicality. Issawi, who was ostensibly banned from entering the Jerusalem-area town of Al Ram, was ‘caught’ there and detained for violating the terms of his release. Israeli prison authorities informed him he would have to serve out the remainder of his original sentence of 20 years. And so, he stopped eating at the beginning of last August, refusing to accept the unjustness of his situation.

It has even taken Palestinians too much time to rise up in protest. Since the prisoners began their hunger strike, there have been solidarity activities, tents and confrontations with the Israeli army in their name, but it has not been until recently that the real protests have begun. Khader Adnan declared his own hunger strike in solidarity, holed up in the Red Cross office in Ramallah and Ayman Sharawneh’s family have all stopped eating in solidarity with their son.

But, with the exception of the few and far between statements of ‘concern’ for the lives of the prisoners, the international community has said nothing. And so, coupled with their genuine concern for the lives of their brothers, husbands, sons and comrades, the Palestinians are enraged that the world would sit back and watch these good men die. Even if one of them perishes, the Palestinians will surely hold the world accountable for not stepping in and saving them.

Those who have not lived through such a struggle and under such harsh and inhumane circumstances cannot fully understand the significance of this act. These brave men are not starving to death just for their own sakes. For most, that would never be enough. But for those dedicated to the cause and to Palestine, this is the price of freedom they are willing to pay.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH) . She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org…