Palestinian

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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…

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The following article appeared today on the website of the Kuwait News Agency. Palestinian negotiators are attempting to use their enhanced status to leverage some response from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

But what sort of response can they expect when the United States holds veto power in the UNSC? It’s not as if the UN is ever going to institute a campaign of sanctions against Israel as it does with Iran. It all looks like an exercise in futility. Perhaps I’m missing something?

Father Dave 

source: http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2296363&language=en

Palestine urges UNSC to advance achievement of two-State solution this year

Palestine urges UNSC to advance achievement of two-State solution this year

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 (KUNA) — Palestine on Monday urged the Security Council to advance the achievement of the two-State solution this year and to put an end to Israel’s “war crimes, acts of State terrorism.”

Palestinian Charge d’Affaires Feda Abdulhady Nasser said in a letter to Council President Vitaly Churkin of Russia “serious efforts are required, foremost by the Security Council, to uphold the law and to hold Israel accountable for its violations.

The immediate aim must be to defuse the current volatile situation and to foster a proper environment for advancing this year the achievement of the two-State solution.” This, she added, should be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative, and Quartet  Roadmap, “before the viability of that solution is completely destroyed by the occupying Power.”

She complained that the number of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel “regrettably continues to grow as the occupying Power has persisted with its arrest campaign, including of children and civilians partaking in protests against the occupation.” During the month of February alone, she noted, Israel arrested at least 382 Palestinians, including 10 women.

The Palestinian official also complained about the Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which pushed thousands to go on hunger strike.

“All these illegal Israeli practices are exacerbating tensions and casting grave doubts on Israel’s claims of commitment to achieving a peace that brings an end to this grotesque military occupation and ensures justice and freedom for the Palestinian people and peace and security between Palestine and Israel,” she said.

“For all of these war crimes, acts of State terrorism” and systematic human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people, she stressed, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

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Zionists are always keen to reject any suggestion that the state of Israel is practicing Apartheid. Indeed, in California it is illegal to even us the word ‘Apartheid’ in connection with the State of Israel!  Even so, it’s hard to think of anything that characterises an Apartheid regime better than a bus service restricted to one race of people!

The transport ministry claims, of course, that the intention of the new service is simply to ease congestion and that no one will be denied entry to the regular bus service on the basis of their race. Even so, according to this report from Ynet, Palestinians who choose to travel on the so-called “mixed” lines, will be asked to leave them.

Father Dave

source: www.ynetnews.com…

Ministry launches ‘Palestinians only’ buses

Transportation Ministry sets up designated bus lines for Palestinian passengers in West Bank; insists lines are for general public, but only Palestinian villages have been advised of their existence

by Itamar Fleishman

Racial segregation or transportation mitigation? The Transportation Ministry announced that starting Sunday it will begin operating designated lines for Palestinians in the West Bank.

The bus lines in question are meant, according to the ministry, to transport Palestinian workers from the West Bank to central Israel. The ministry alleges that the move is meant to ease the congestion felt on bus lines used by Jews in the same areas, but several bus drivers told Ynet that Palestinians who will choose to travel on the so-called “mixed” lines, will be asked to leave them.

While officially the new lines are considered “general bus lines,” Ynet learned Saturday that their existence has been made public only in Palestinian villages in the West Bank, via flyers in Arabic urging Palestinians to arrive at Eyal crossing and use the designated lines.

The Transportation Ministry defended the plan, saying it was the result of reports and complaints saying that the buses traveling in the area were overcrowded and rife with tensions between the Jewish and Arab passengers.

A ministry source said that many complaints expressed concern that the Palestinian passengers may pose a security risk, while other complaints said that the overcrowded buses cause the drivers to skip stations.

The ministry has also gotten reports of scuffles between Jews and Arab passengers, as well as between Palestinians and drivers who refused to allow them to board their bus.

The ministry reportedly considered several alternatives before deciding to opt for designated lines – knowing that the issue of so-called “Palestinian lines” would be highly controversial.

‘Buses meant to improve service’

Still, the ministry eventually decided to launch the lines, which will run from Eyal crossing – near the West Bank city of Qalqilya – to Israel.

Legally, however, there is no way to stop Palestinians from boarding “regular” lines: “We are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus, but from what we were told, starting next week, there will be checks at the checkpoint, and Palestinians will be asked to board their own buses,” a driver with Afikim – the company that holds the routes franchise for the area – told Ynet.

The volatile nature of the decision was not lost on the driver: “Obviously, everyone will start screaming ‘apartheid’ and ‘racism’ now. This really doesn’t feel right, and maybe (the ministry) should find a different solution, but the situation right now is impossible.”

Another driver said that, “Driving a bus full of only Palestinians might turn out to be tricky. It could be unnerving and it might also create other problems. It could be a scary thing.”

The Judea and Samaria Police is reportedly gearing for the move as well, and will deploy additional forces in Eyal crossing to maintain public order.

Police sources said that it is highly unlikely that Palestinians would be excluded from riding on existing bus lines, adding that the forces would “Do their best to execute the ministry’s decision.”

Afikim issued a statement saying that, “This plan aims to ease travel for Palestinian passengers and offer a solution that counters pirate bus companies that charge exorbitant prices. As for any question about removing Palestinian passengers from buses – that has to be addressed by the enforcement and security bodies.”

The Transportation Ministry issued the following statement: “The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.

“The new lines will replace irregular, pirate lines that charge very high prices from Palestinian passengers. The new lines will reduce congestion and will benefit Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

According to the statement, “The Transportation Ministry is forbidden from preventing any passenger from boarding any line of public transportation, nor do we know of a directive to that effect. Instating these lines was done with the knowledge and complete agreement of the Palestinians.”

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Father Roy writes: Please see my highlights in the article pasted below.  Note the concluding paragraph in particular.  This incident was not reported in the US media.  It was, however, reported by an Israeli daily newspaper.   Peace, Roy

source: www.palestinemonitor.org…

Palestinian woman subject of another Jewish hate crime in Jerusalem

On Monday, February 25 a Palestinian woman was attacked by a mob of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women in broad daylight at the light rail station in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian woman was punched by one passing Jewish woman in an unprovoked attack, before the Jewish woman’s friends joined in, managing to tear off the Palestinian’s headscarf off as they rained blows on her body.

The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv reported that the light rail security guard, in addition to around 100 religious Jewish men, stood by at the Kiryat Moshe rail station watching the beating and doing nothing.

Dorit Yardan Dotan, an eyewitness who captured the assult with her camera phone, told Maariv that she was horrified by the violence and that the security guard was even smiling.

There were more than 100 Orthodox Jews including Yeshiva students who watched an Arab woman being beaten," Dotan said. "She was escorted by an elderly man before a heated argument erupted and people shouted. I couldn’t understand the motive behind that, and all of a sudden they all attacked the Arab woman beating her severely."

Hate crimes are not uncommon for Palestinians living in Jerusalem or in the ’48 territories. Ynet reported that on February 24, a Palestinian man in his 40’s who works for the Tel Aviv Municipality as a street cleaner was assaulted by 20 Jewish youth, who targeted his head.

As a result, Hassan Usruf had to undergo surgery on his jaw while suffering injuries made to his eye socket, but no arrests were made and his attackers remain unpunished.

In August 2012, dozens of Jewish teenagers beat up three Palestinian youth in Zion Square, West Jerusalem. The mob relentlessly kicked and punched the Palestinians, and shouted racist slurs and chants such as "Death to Arabs!" over and over again as more than 100 bystanders stood by watching the lynching without interfering.

One of the Palestinian youth, 17 year old Jamal Julani, was beaten unconsciousness and had to be resuscitated on site after the mob ran away. Julani had to be hospitalized, and has no recollection of the incident.

In the aftermath of the lynching, Israeli police arrested several Jewish teenagers, the youngest being 13 year old. One of the suspects, a 15 year old, defiantly told the court, "For my part he [Julani] can die. He’s an Arab."

Nimrod Aloni, the head of one of Tel Aviv’s colleges for the Institute for Educational Thought said of the mob attack, "This is directly tied to national fundamentalism that is the same as the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, Taliban, and K.K.K. This comes from an entire culture that has been escalating toward an open and blunt language based on us being the chosen people who are allowed to do whatever we like."