Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the daughter of Israeli General, Matti Peled. Elhanan’s daughter, Smadar, was killed in the 1997 Ben Yehuda Street suicide attack in Jerusalem. Despite all the above, she has become an outspoken critic of Zionism and Israeli apartheid.
Peled-Elhanan is currently professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a co-laureate of the 2001 Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and the Freedom of Speech, awarded by the European Parliament.
The following address was given to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine on March 4th, 2009
If you can’t view this video, click here.
Nurit Peled-Elhanan is an amazing woman! The daughter of Israeli general, Matti Peled, we might have assumed that she’d become a hardliner in the establishment. Moreover, with her daughter being killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in 1997, we would understand if she became contemptuous towards all Palestinians and their cause.
Somehow this amazing woman has not only overcome any bitterness towards her Palestinian neighbours. She has become a leading advocate of Palestinian rights. Her speech before the European Parliament, given on ‘International Women’s Day’ in Strasbourg, says it all!
Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).
However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my county are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R’aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries at the family`s strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.
When I asked the people who invited me here why didn’t they invite a Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion too localized.
I don’t know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact is always local, and real. Pain is local, humiliation, sexual abuse, torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.
It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe, In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is halfheartedly condoned by most people in Europe and in the USA.
This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.
Great France of “la liberte égalite et la fraternite” is scared of little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.
Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile, primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic, chauvinistic and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is a non-devout Jew.
I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a woman’s life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished , who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.
But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and enlightenment rob us of our children.
Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters. They are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may have various illustrious names–such as Democracy, Patriotism, God, Homeland–are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.
We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: `I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worth than a piece of land.`
All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.
And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.
I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals.
Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I live in, I don’t dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change their lives. I don’t want them to take off their scarves, or educate their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and their kind. I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in spite of the impossible conditions my world in putting them in. I want to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army, sponsored by my taxes.
Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism is, European indifference and co-operation is and Israeli racism and its cruel regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda and inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children for security reasons, it is the deepest disrespect for the other that allow American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that give license to Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without clean water or clean mattresses and to separate them from their breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot their trees and prevent them from cultivating their fields.
I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don’t know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers` cry is not heard because mothers are not invited to international forums such as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova–another mother who lived in a regime of violence against women and children–asked:
Why does that streak o blood, rip the petal of your cheek?
This is an extraordinary article from Nadezhda Kevorkova, and the first that I have read that champions Syria as upholder of Palestinian rights!
According to the Palestinians interviewed in Damascus, Assad is being punished for upholding the Palestinian right of return! This is hardly likely to be the full picture but if it does contain even a grain of truth it does raise the question as to why Khaled Mashaal is throwing his weight behind the Syrian rebels from his base in Qatar!
Something here doesn’t add up!
Syria is a battle for Palestine
One of the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command is located in a basement in central Damascus.
All secrecy measures are there: one cannot drive through the area; hidden guerillas everywhere, and several dozen CCTV cameras. This is the Palestinian group whose headquarters and weapons were seized in December last year by the Syrian militants in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria near Damascus.
Several people are sitting in a small room. These are: member of the PFLP GC Political Bureau Anwar Raja, editor in chief of the Palestinian Forward magazine, Tahsin Al Hаlabi, and about five other companions who come and go while we speak.
Anwar Raja was born in Jaffa. He was ten when the Palestinians were thrown out of the Holy Land. He experienced all the tribulations of the Palestinian struggle firsthand. And Tahsin Al Hаlabi was only 10 months old when his family had to leave their home.
‘I was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison for the right to see my home. During my time in Nablus prison I learned English, French, German, and Italian. And I speak Hebrew better than settlers in Israel’, he laughs.
‘In order to free him from captivity, we seized three Israeli soldiers’, recalls Anwar Raja.
The PFLP is the pioneer of all forms of the Palestinian struggle. The organization was founded in the 1960s, and it’s always relied for its support on refugee camps. They split with Yasser Arafat because they dismissed any negotiations, agreements or concessions with Israel. Starting from the 1960s, the PFPL managed to establish an expansive international front of struggle for Palestine, reaching out to groups like RAF and the Japanese Red Army. They were the ones who, long before HAMAS, would send out kamikazes on no-return missions. They invented what’s now widely known as suicide bombers. They were also the first ones to hijack Israeli passenger airplanes and Israeli servicemen to swap them for prisoners.
In Syria, most Palestinian training camps and bases belong to the Popular Front. They have always been the key arms suppliers to Palestine and Lebanon as they had networks and long-term experience of underground operations. They’re fundamentally against elections and party lists as they believe these are just irrelevant games while they remember that 7 million Palestinians remain refugees.
Until December 2012, the main PFPL GC headquarters was located in the Yarmouk camp, Damascus, and so was their main arms dump, which was seized by Syrian rebels. Yarmouk was the first Palestinian camp from which the Syrian militants threw out 150,000 Palestinian refugees.
The over 700,000 Palestinians living in Syria are the key target of political and military struggle. According to the PFPL, what’s happening today in Syria is meant to draw them into the conflict, to purge Syria of them, and to downplay the Palestinian issue.
‘Assad punished for refusing to turn away from Palestinians’
‘A very difficult time began for us. All these events will have major implications for Palestine’, says Anwar Raja.
He is really hopeful that Syria can withstand it, and that this is the only way for Palestinians to consolidate their positions. In his opinion, the conflict didn’t start two years ago. It had been predetermined by Syria’s fundamental position on the Palestinian issue. All countries of the region turned away from Palestinians and bargained with the US and Israel, whether explicitly or implicitly. Syria was the only one that didn’t give in, he believes.
‘By 2002 the Israeli flags were raised over all the Arabic capital cities except for Syria’, Anwar Raja comments.
‘The key demand of the Palestinians is the return of the Palestinian refugees. Israel will never agree to it as this would bring its end closer. In 2002, the so-called Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut declared the ‘land for peace’ principle. At that time, only Libya and Assad required introducing the return of the refugees clause’, reminds Anwar Raja.
He believes that following the invasion of Iraq, Qaddafi rejected any Palestinian support, but that wasn’t enough to save him. Bashar al-Assad didn’t turn away from the Palestinians, and that was the reason that the West directed the wave of militants against Syria and spread out the Islamic propaganda that Assad was the root of all their troubles.
‘And now Israel wants to abolish the Palestinian refugee term through the UN’, says the member of the PFLP Political Bureau.
‘Syria didn’t just allow us to stay here. All of our training camps were in Syria, including the Islamic Jihad. Even HAMAS was exercising here in our camps’, explains Anwar Raja. He reminds that at the PFLP reference, HAMAS was able to settle in Syria. ‘We told Hafez al-Assad that HAMAS were fighters, and he allowed them to come over’.
‘The West and the Arabs insist that the war broke out in Syria because the regime had failed to execute reforms. This is just absurd. Syria held the Palestinian issue on the table. Syria personifies the very idea of the refugees’ right to return. In any other country, the Palestinians are just forbidden to talk about politics’, he believes.
‘Palestinian camps in Syria were attacked. The attackers opened fire, provoked and abducted Palestinians. We told the armed opposition that we would not get involved in the armed struggle in Syria, as we were guests there. The Palestinians formed committees for the sake of the camps security. But George Sabra (the opposition leader) stated on TV that they considered Palestinian camps part of Syria. The militants broke into camps. Yarmouk was ransacked. We asked Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Abbas to talk to the opposition, but they never played the intermediary role,’ says Tahsin Al Hаlabi.
read the rest of this article here: rt.com…
Certainly Khaled Mashaal would not have been the most militant or anti-Israel of candidates for the leadership of Hamas, but this is precisely the problem for the Netanyahu government. Mashaal is a pragmatist who enjoys broad international support. He could make it more difficult for Israel to continue to block the path to a ‘two-state solution’. Moreover, he is well placed to build a unity government with his Palestinian rivals in Fatah.
His choice of Qatar as a base for operations is curious! Qatar has emerged as the avenue through which troops and guns are being channeled into Syria to aid the rebellion! Mashaal’s support for the Syrian rebels is well known, but such support compromises his relationship with regional super-power Iran, and one might have expected him to be a little more covert in his loyalties.
Hamas re-elects Khaled Mashaal
Qatar-based Palestinian leader wins four-year term capping a year of internal elections spread over several countries
The Islamic militant group Hamas on Monday re-elected longtime leader Khaled Mashaal, according to officials, choosing a relative pragmatist who has sparred with movement hardliners in the past over his attempt to reconcile with western-backed Palestinian rivals.
The secretive group did not issue an announcement, but Mashaal’s re-election was confirmed by two Hamas officials. The vote late on Monday capped a year of internal elections spread over several countries and shrouded in mystery.
Qatar-based Mashaal, 56, has led Hamas since 1996 and now has another four-year term. He ran unopposed and won the support of a majority in Hamas’s shura council, which has about 60 members, said the two Hamas officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss the secret election with reporters.
Mashaal enjoys the backing of Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, countries where Hamas’s parent movement, the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood, is influential.
It is not clear if his re-election will give him enough clout to pursue reconciliation or if hardliners, particularly those based in the Gaza Strip, will be able to veto a deal.
Hamas wrested Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas, the internationally backed Palestinian president, in 2007, leaving him with only parts of the West Bank. The rivals have established separate governments that have become increasingly entrenched in their respective territories.
Last year, Mashaal and Abbas, who have cordial relations, reached a deal whereby Abbas would head an interim government of technocrats in the West Bank and Gaza. This would have paved the way for general elections.
However, the deal never got off the ground because of opposition from Hamas leaders in Gaza and senior figures in Abbas’s Fatah movement. Hamas leaders in Gaza were particularly vehement in their objections, apparently fearing a deal would give Abbas a foothold in Gaza and weaken Hamas’s grip on the territory.
Last week, the emir of Qatar proposed holding a reconciliation conference in Egypt in coming weeks to set up a timetable for forming the interim government and holding elections.
Mashaal’s re-election could further distance Hamas from long-time patron Iran, which has supplied cash and weapons to the Hamas government in Gaza. Hamas broke with another long-time ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, more than a year ago, over Assad’s brutal crackdown on a popular revolt that turned into an armed insurgency.
Mashaal’s relations with Iran cooled after he refused to back Assad, an Iranian ally, and Mashaal last visited Tehran in November 2011.
Other senior Hamas figures continue to visit Tehran and ties have not broken off, but Mashaal has found a new home in Qatar, one of Iran’s regional rivals.
Hamas was founded in Gaza in 1987, as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It has four components: activists in Gaza, in the West Bank, in exile and those imprisoned by Israel. In the internal elections, each of the four groups chose local leaders as well as delegates to the shura council.
This council selects a decision-making political bureau and the head of that body – the stage that was wrapped up in Cairo on Monday. Details about the composition of the political bureau were not available Monday.
Mashaal is seen as a member of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas, in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He and others in Hamas insist the movement will not recognize Israel and renounce violence – Western conditions for dealing with Hamas.
Mashaal has suggested he could accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, though he has not said if such a state would end the conflict, or be an interim step to an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.
Mashaal has also come out in support of so-called popular resistance against Israeli occupation, a term Palestinians use for marches and stone-throwing protests. In previous rounds of conflict, Hamas gunmen and suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks.
This is a telling conference! The fact that such a conference was held in Gaza at all is a sign of the times! Certainly there is a major shift in power in the Middle East. Foreign super-powers are receding into the background and the Arabs and Persians are taking their future into their own hands.
The statement by Wadah Khanfar is particularly telling, I think: ”There are four nations in this region – the Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians.” It will indeed be a major turning point if (often artificial) national loyalties are replaced by traditional ethnic/tribal ones. Certainly there is little place for Israel in such an equation!
As superpower influence fades, regional security depends on Palestine’s
Participants at a major conference in Gaza have concluded that as the influence of America, Russia and the EU diminishes, regional security is depending more and more on Palestine’s. The shift has come about, said the gathering of academics and researchers, following the democratic change in the Middle East.
Those taking part in the Palestinian National Security Conference included the former Director-General of the Al-Jazeera Media Network, Wadah Khanfar, and Dr Mohsen Saleh from Al-Zaytuna Research Institute in Beirut. The conference was sponsored by the Political and Management Academy in the Gaza Strip.
In his keynote speech, Mr Khanfar said that the influence of the US, EU and Russia on the Arabs and Muslims is fading. “They will not be out of the game, but they can no longer affect the choice of presidents in the region,” he insisted. “This means that a new future is emerging. What was once believed to be our unavoidable destiny has become something in the past.”
Describing the civil unrest in the wake of the Arabic revolutions and the bloodshed in Syria as the “natural birth pangs” of the revolutions which may last longer than expected, Khanfar said, “This period is critical, as the region can be an area for blood and tears or an area of light and freedom. The decision is in the hands of the revolutionary parties and politicians.”
On security issues, Khanfar suggested that there is nothing called Palestinian or Egyptian or any other “national” security, but there is something called regional security. According to the veteran journalist, “There are four nations in this region – the Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians. All four have a common thread running throughout their history. As such, these nations have to work together to build regional security, and the work has to begin in Palestine, where the state of Israel was planted in our midst.”
He accused those who defame the Palestinians and their issue as being the enemies of the revolutions. “They want to distort the focus of their states at which point they will lose it altogether; they must accept that security in the region is centred on Palestine.
With regards to Palestinian reconciliation, Khanfar stressed the need for this to include all Palestinians, including those in the diaspora, to produce a comprehensive agreement.
The former political advisor of the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told the conference that there is no national security for Egypt without security for Palestine. Mohamed Saiful-Dawla expressed his respect for the Gaza Strip and described it as the “citadel” from where security for the whole region will spring. “This is the only citadel which refuses to accept the Israeli occupation and has achieved impressive victories,” he said.