This brilliant and brief documentary well reflects the irrepressible strength and creativity of the Palestinian people.
Regardless of what politicians say, people will dream and express their hopes, frustrations and fears one way or another. Graffiti art has always been a voice that cries out from the base of the community. In the West Bank that base runs broad and deep.
If you can’t view this video, click here
No surprises here. Despite an easing of restrictions on imports into Gaza, the goods Israel permits to enter the world’s largest open-air prison are still well below what is required for the sustenance of a full human life.
Moreover, the virtual ban on exports means unemployment rates – hovering at around 30% – continue to be the worst in the world. Add to this the impact of Israel’s bombing of the civilian infrastructure and it comes as no surprise that poverty levels in Palestine are amongst the worst in the world.
Ramallah: Poverty levels in the Palestinian Territories, and mainly in the Gaza Strip, have reached unprecedented levels with 11,626 families among a million Gazans officially approved by the Ministry of Palestinian Social Affairs as being in need of financial assistance, said a senior official.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Thana’a Al Khozendar, the Director-General of the Combat Poverty Programme at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza created more poverty and increased the list of needy families applying to the ministry for financial assistance.
“The Israeli military operation in Gaza added poorer people to their already long lists. The Israeli offensive also created richer people on the other hand,” said Dr Al Khozendar. “The tunnel’s business increased the numbers of rich people in Gaza and expanded the gap between rich and poor in Gaza.”
Israel’s blockade on Gaza has led to the flourishing of trade through underground tunnels between the strip and Egypt.
I remember a boxing promoter paying one of his fighters after a long, hard fight. He paid him only half of what they’d agreed upon. The fighter said “why are you doing this?” The promoter replied “because I can”.
I’m guessing that this is exactly the same reason why Israeli authorities are blocking Nour Joudah from returning to her school in Ramallah. They’re doing it because they can!
One suspects that Mr Obama is too busy ‘vowing his undying support’ for Israel (see this article) to take notice of the plight of one young Palestinian American.
One can only hope. The full text of Nour Joudah’s letter to Obama is below.
American teacher denied entry to Palestine calls on Obama to address Israel’s Jim Crow policies
For the second time in two months, Israeli authorities have prevented Nour Joudah, a Palestinian-American teacher, 25, from returning to her job at Ramallah Friends School in Palestine. After spending the Christmas holiday in Jordan, Nour was denied entry by Israeli authorities who demanded to know the name of every Palestinian she had associated with during her earlier service. The heartrending case has gotten scarce attention from US politicians and media. Joudah sent this letter to the president yesterday. Her friends shared it with us.
March 18, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write to you as a young Palestinian-American woman who was denied entry by Israeli officials twice in the last two months. My only wrongdoing was trying to return to my job at a USAID-supported school in the West Bank city of Ramallah. As you visit Israel and occupied Palestine this week, you should know that countless American citizens have been shut out.
I have been a teacher at Ramallah Friends School, an American-owned Quaker school, since August 2012. After earning a master’s degree from Georgetown University last year, I decided to step back from collegiate academia, and instead contribute by teaching high school youth before completing my Ph.D. However, after spending the Christmas holiday in Jordan, Israeli authorities denied me entry despite having a valid one-year multiple-entry Israeli visa. Shocked, I was sent back to Jordan, separated from my belongings in Ramallah and 90 energetic students who suddenly had no teacher for the second semester.
Determined to return, I hired an Israeli lawyer and contacted my representatives in Congress. They put me in touch with the Israeli Embassy in Washington, which advised me to try to enter Israel again. Taking their advice, I bought a ticket and landed at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv on February 25. I was confident because the embassy was advising me and I was carrying a supportive letter from a member of Congress. But I guess I was naïve. I was questioned for eight hours, held in a detention center overnight and deported to Jordan on the first flight out of Israel the next morning. This is the type of treatment law-abiding American citizens often receive at the Israeli border. Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. The State Department warns that Americans of Arab or Muslim descent may experience “significant difficulties” entering Israel or the West Bank. The Arab American Institute has documented hundreds of these cases, including Americans being asked humiliating questions, detained for hours, denied entry or strip-searched. Israeli authorities even mistreated an African-American U.S. Congresswoman before they realized who she was.
I was raised in Tennessee, and grew up with stories of a Jim Crow past. The parallels of discrimination are ever-present in this type of treatment. Mr. President, what is your administration doing to stop this discrimination against U.S. citizens? I have received essentially no help from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. When you meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu this week, I urge you to ask him why an ally and the largest recipient of U.S. aid treats American citizens this way. When you visit Ramallah, you’ll be just a few blocks away from my students, to whom I cannot return. Instead of another closed-door meeting, I urge you to consider addressing them, many of whom are dual citizens, and their interrupted right to an education.
This recently-published video is a compilation of images of Bethlehem – the ‘little town’ that was the birthplace of Jesus.
Today as then, Bethlehem is a city under occupation. Jesus was only born there because the occupying power (Rome) ordered Mary and Joseph to travel there in order to complete a census. The current occupying power (Israel) is not so intent on increasing the population of Bethlehem but seems more interested in sealing it off from the rest of the world!
If you can’t view the video, click here
Uri Avnery raises the question that’s on everybody’s lips. Will the current turmoil in the West Bank continue to escalate? Is Netanyahu trying to foment that escalation? Is it all timed to strategically coincide with the Obama visit? These questions are difficult to answer, but, as Avnery points out, on one point we can be clear: while the Palestinian resistance is currently non-violent it cannot remain so for ever.
The First Intifada began non-violently. This is often forgotten. Ongoing imprisonments and aggression from the IDF eventually provoked a violent reaction from the Palestinians and hence the whole event is remembered as a virtual war. At the moment the Palestinian resistance is again largely made up of non-violent protests, hunger-strikes, and the world-wide BDS campaign. But continued provocations will eventually take their toll, after which the spin doctors will depict the uprising as an unprovoked explosion of Arab aggression!
Will Obama be able to leverage any positive influence in this process? It is doubtful, but while the influence of the US recedes into the background, the partisan support from the surrounding Arab nations and from the rest of the world is on the increase!
The Third Intifada?
by Uri Avnery
IS THIS the third intifada? This question was raised this week by a number of Israeli security experts. And not only by them – their Palestinian colleagues were almost as perplexed.
All over the West Bank, Palestinian youth threw stones at Israeli soldiers. All the 3500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons took part in a three-day hunger strike.
The immediate reason was the death of a young Palestinian man during interrogation by the Shin Bet. The autopsy showed no reason for the death. It was no heart attack, as first (and automatically) claimed by Israeli officials and their stooges, the so-called “military correspondents”. So was it torture, as practically all Palestinians believe?
Then there were the four prisoners on a hunger strike which has already lasted 150 days (mitigated by infusions). Since almost every Palestinian family has now – or had in the past – at least one member in prison, this generates much excitement.
So is this IT?
THE UNCERTAINTY of security officials stems from the fact that both the first and the second intifada broke out in an unexpected way. Both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships were taken by surprise.
The Israeli surprise was especially – well, surprising. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were, and still are, full of Israeli informers. Decades of occupation have allowed the Security Service to recruit thousands of them by bribery or blackmail. So how did they fail to know?
The Palestinian leadership, then in Tunis, was equally in the dark. It took Yasser Arafat several days to realize what was happening and laud the “Stone Children”.
The reason for the surprise was that both intifadas were completely spontaneous. No one planned them. Because of this, no informer could warn his handlers.
The trigger for the first one was a road accident. In December 1987, an Israeli driver killed several Palestinian workers near Gaza. All hell broke loose. The second was triggered by a deliberate Israeli provocation after the failure of the 2000 Camp David conference.
The Israeli army was quite unprepared for the First Intifada. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously exclaimed “Break their bones!” which some commanders took literally and carried out faithfully. A lot of arms and legs were broken with rifle butts.
Though the second intifada was also unexpected, this time the army was prepared for any event. Troops were trained in advance. No bones were broken this time. Instead, sharpshooters were placed near unit commanding officers. When a non-violent demonstration approached, the officer pointed out the ringleader, and the sharpshooter killed him. Very soon the non-violent uprising turned into a very violent one.
I don’t know what the army plans for the third intifada. But one can be certain that even if it starts as a non-violent mass protest, it will not stay so for long.
TWO WEEKS ago, the Israeli Channel 10 showed a documentary about Ariel Sharon’s manipulation of the Second Intifada.
It started when Prime Minister Ehud Barak allowed Opposition Chief Sharon to visit the Temple Mount, accompanied by hundreds of policemen. Since Sharon was a pork-eating atheist, there was no religious motive for the visit. It was a provocation, pure and simple.
When Sharon approached the Muslim shrines, he was greeted with stones. The police killed the stone-throwers with live ammunition. And lo and behold, the Second Intifada was on the way.
Arafat in far-away Tunis had nothing to do with it. But once the intifada had started, he embraced it. The local Fatah cadres took command.
Soon after, Sharon came to power. He did everything possible to stoke the fires. In the documentary, his closest assistants were interviewed at length and disclosed that Sharon did this quite deliberately.
His aim was to cause a general uprising, in order to give him a legitimate reason for re-conquering the West Bank, after parts of it were turned over to the Palestinian authority in the Oslo agreements. And indeed, a large number of suicide attacks and other outrages provided the necessary national and international legitimization for Operation Defensive Shield, in which Israeli troops re-entered all West Bank towns and spread death and destruction. In particular, the Palestinian Authority’s offices were systematically ransacked, including the Education and Social Services ministries. Arafat was surrounded and isolated in the Ramallah Mukata’ah (“Compound”), and kept a virtual prisoners for years, till his murder.
In the film, the advisors readily admitted that Sharon did not even contemplate a political initiative to end the intifada – his sole aim was to vanquish the Palestinian resistance by brute force. During this intifada 4944 Palestinians were killed, as against 1011 Israelis. (In the preceding intifada, 1593 Palestinians and 84 Israelis found their death.)
Israelis believe that Sharon’s brutal methods were a great success. The Second Intifada sputtered out.
WILL THERE be a Third Intifada? If so, when? Has it already begun or were the recent events only a kind of general rehearsal?
No one knows, least of all our security forces. There is no reliable information from the agents. Again, everything is spontaneous.
One thing is certain: Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s heir, is very much afraid of it. He waited for a few days, and then, once he was sure that this was not a general uprising, he ordered his American-trained police forces to intervene and put an end to the demonstrations.
More than that, he publicly condemned the outbreaks and accused Binyamin Netanyahu of deliberately fomenting them.
One of the causes for this suspicion was that on Friday the Israeli police did not prevent young Palestinians from reaching the Temple Mount (“Haram al-Sharif”), as they do frequently when there is the slightest suspicion of coming unrest.
I put the question to a circle of friends: Assuming for a moment that Abbas is right, what might have been Netanyahu’s motive?
One answered: He is afraid that Barak Obama will, in his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, demand the resumption of the “peace process”. Netanyahu will tell him that, in view of the new intifada, that is impossible.
Another volunteered: Netanyahu will tell the President that Abbas has lost his authority and therefore is not a viable partner.
Yet another: Netanyahu will tell the Israeli public that we have an emergency at hand, so we need to set up a Government of National Unity at once. All Zionist parties must be pushed by their voters to join.
And so forth.
BE THAT as it may, the pertinent question is whether a spontaneous outbreak is in the offing.
Frankly, I don’t know. I doubt if anyone does.
The absence of any genuine peace initiative makes another intifada probable at some point. How long can the harsh occupation continue without a serious challenge?
On the other hand, it does not appear that the great mass of the Palestinian people is mentally prepared for a fight. In the occupied territories, a new bourgeoisie has come to life, which has a lot to lose. Under the auspices of the US, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has succeeded in stimulating some sort of economy, in which quite a number flourish.
The prospect of another round of violence does not appeal to these people, nor does it attract poor people, who are already fully occupied with their daily survival. To get these people to rise up, you need an extremely provocative event. This can happen tomorrow morning, or within weeks or months, or not at all.
Abbas accuses Hamas of fomenting unrest in the West Bank, which is governed by Fatah, while Hamas itself, at the same time, is keeping the cease-fire in its own dominion, the Gaza Strip. Actually, both regimes, each in its own part of Palestine, are interested in quiet while accusing the other of collaborating with the occupation.
(A century and a half ago, Karl Marx denounced the efforts of his socialist adversary, Ferdinand Lassalle, to set up workers’ cooperatives. Marx asserted that once the workers had something to lose, they would not rise up anymore. If you want a revolution, Lenin is supposed to have said, “The worse things are, the better”.)
THE MORE people on both sides talk about the Third Intifada, the less it is likely to happen. As the Germans used to say, Revolutions foretold are not going to happen.
But if there is no end to the occupation in sight, the Third Intifada will break out one day, quite suddenly, when nobody has been talking about it, when everybody on both sides was thinking about other things.
read more wisdom from Uri Avnery on the Gush Shalom website