West Bank

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More direct and prophetic words from Noam Chomsky!

I must say that I’m not used to Chomsky speaking in such an unqualified way. It seems that he’s tired of maintaining an appearance of academic impartiality. And why should he? The human cost of this tragedy is far too high to worry about professional protocols. This violence should make us angry – angry enough to pray with passion and to commit ourselves to non-violent activism for justice.

Father Dave

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

November 8, 2012

Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force.

And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where some 1.5 million people on a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land are subject to random terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade.

Such cruelty is to ensure that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed, and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement granting basic human rights will be nullified. The Israeli political leadership has dramatically illustrated this commitment in the past few days, warning that they will “go crazy” if Palestinian rights are given even limited recognition by the U.N.

This threat to “go crazy” (“nishtagea”) – that is, launch a tough response – is deeply rooted, stretching back to the Labor governments of the 1950s, along with the related “Samson Complex”: If crossed, we will bring down the Temple walls around us.

Thirty years ago, Israeli political leaders, including some noted hawks, submitted to Prime Minister Menachem Begin a shocking report on how settlers on the West Bank regularly committed “terrorist acts” against Arabs there, with total impunity.

Disgusted, the prominent military-political analyst Yoram Peri wrote that the Israeli army’s task, it seemed, was not to defend the state, but “to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim (a harsh racial epithet) living in territories that God promised to us.”

Gazans have been singled out for particularly cruel punishment. Thirty years ago, in his memoir “The Third Way,” Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer, described the hopeless task of trying to protect fundamental human rights within a legal system designed to ensure failure, and his personal experience as a Samid, “a steadfast one,” who watched his home turned into a prison by brutal occupiers and could do nothing but somehow “endure.”

Since then, the situation has become much worse. The Oslo Accords, celebrated with much pomp in 1993, determined that Gaza and the West Bank are a single territorial entity. By that time, the U.S. and Israel had already initiated their program to separate Gaza and the West Bank, so as to block a diplomatic settlement and punish the Araboushim in both territories.

Punishment of Gazans became still more severe in January 2006, when they committed a major crime: They voted the “wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world, electing Hamas.

Displaying their “yearning for democracy,” the U.S. and Israel, backed by the timid European Union, immediately imposed a brutal siege, along with military attacks. The U.S. turned at once to its standard operating procedure when a disobedient population elects the wrong government: Prepare a military coup to restore order.

Gazans committed a still greater crime a year later by blocking the coup attempt, leading to a sharp escalation of the siege and attacks. These culminated in winter 2008-09, with Operation Cast Lead, one of the most cowardly and vicious exercises of military force in recent memory: A defenseless civilian population, trapped, was subjected to relentless attack by one of the world’s most advanced military systems, reliant on U.S. arms and protected by U.S. diplomacy.

Of course, there were pretexts – there always are. The usual one, trotted out when needed, is “security”: in this case, against homemade rockets from Gaza.

In 2008, a truce was established between Israel and Hamas. Not a single Hamas rocket was fired until Israel broke the truce under cover of the U.S. election on Nov. 4, invading Gaza for no good reason and killing half a dozen Hamas members.

The Israeli government was advised by its highest intelligence officials that the truce could be renewed by easing the criminal blockade and ending military attacks. But the government of Ehud Olmert – himself reputedly a dove – rejected these options, resorting to its huge advantage in violence: Operation Cast Lead.

The internationally respected Gazan human-rights advocate Raji Sourani analyzed the pattern of attack under Cast Lead. The bombing was concentrated in the north, targeting defenseless civilians in the most densely populated areas, with no possible military basis. The goal, Sourani suggests, may have been to drive the intimidated population to the south, near the Egyptian border. But the Samidin stayed put.

A further goal might have been to drive them beyond the border. From the earliest days of the Zionist colonization it was argued that Arabs have no real reason to be in Palestine: They can be just as happy somewhere else, and should leave – politely “transferred,” the doves suggested.

This is surely no small concern in Egypt, and perhaps a reason why Egypt doesn’t open the border freely to civilians or even to desperately needed supplies.

Sourani and other knowledgeable sources have observed that the discipline of the Samidin conceals a powder keg that might explode at any time, unexpectedly, like the first Intifada in Gaza in 1987, after years of repression.

A necessarily superficial impression after spending several days in Gaza is amazement, not only at Gazans’ ability to go on with life but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university, where I attended an international conference.

But one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. Reports indicate that there is simmering frustration among young people – a recognition that under the U.S.-Israeli occupation the future holds nothing for them.

Gaza has the look of a Third World country, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, undeveloped. Rather it is “de-developed,” and very systematically so, to borrow the term from Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza.

The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters. By coincidence or not, that’s when Israel intensified its naval blockade. The favorable prospects were aborted in 1948, when the Strip had to absorb a flood of Palestinian refugees who fled in terror or were forcefully expelled from what became Israel – in some cases months after the formal cease-fire Israel’s 1967 conquests and their aftermath administered further blows, with terrible crimes continuing to the present day.

The signs are easy to see, even on a brief visit. Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine-gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza’s territorial waters and toward land, forcing them to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of U.S.-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems they destroyed.

The Oslo Accords laid plans for two desalination plants, a necessity in this arid region. One, an advanced facility, was built: in Israel. The second one is in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza. The engineer in charge at Khan Yunis explained that this plant was designed so that it can’t use seawater, but must rely on underground water, a cheaper process that further degrades the meager aquifer, guaranteeing severe problems in the future.

The water supply is still severely limited. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for refugees but not other Gazans, recently released a report warning that damage to the aquifer may soon become “irreversible,” and that without quick remedial action, Gaza may cease to be a “livable place” by 2020.

Israel permits concrete to enter for UNRWA projects, but not for Gazans engaged in the huge reconstruction efforts. The limited heavy equipment mostly lies idle, since Israel does not permit materials for repair.

All this is part of the general program that Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Olmert, described after Palestinians failed to follow orders in the 2006 elections: “The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

Recently, after several years of effort, the Israeli human rights organization Gisha succeeded in obtaining a court order for the government to release its records detailing plans for the “diet.” Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Israel, summarizes them: “Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day … an average of only 67 trucks – much less than half of the minimum requirement – entered Gaza daily. This compared to more than 400 trucks before the blockade began.”

The result of imposing the diet, Middle East scholar Juan Cole observes, is that “about 10 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under age 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. … In addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.”

Sourani, the human-rights advocate, observes that “what has to be kept in mind is that the occupation and the absolute closure is an ongoing attack on the human dignity of the people in Gaza in particular and all Palestinians generally. It is systematic degradation, humiliation, isolation and fragmentation of the Palestinian people.”

This conclusion has been confirmed by many other sources. In The Lancet, a leading medical journal, Rajaie Batniji, a visiting Stanford physician, describes Gaza as “something of a laboratory for observing an absence of dignity,” a condition that has “devastating” effects on physical, mental and social well-being.

“The constant surveillance from the sky, collective punishment through blockade and isolation, the intrusion into homes and communications, and restrictions on those trying to travel, or marry, or work make it difficult to live a dignified life in Gaza,” Batniji writes. The Araboushim must be taught not to raise their heads.

There were hopes that Mohammed Morsi’s new government in Egypt, which is less in thrall to Israel than the western-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship was, might open the Rafah Crossing, Gaza’s sole access to the outside that is not subject to direct Israeli control. There has been a slight opening, but not much.

The journalist Laila el-Haddad writes that the reopening under Morsi “is simply a return to status quo of years past: Only Palestinians carrying an Israeli-approved Gaza ID card can use Rafah Crossing.” This excludes a great many Palestinians, including el-Haddad’s own family, where only one spouse has a card.

Furthermore, she continues, “the crossing does not lead to the West Bank, nor does it allow for the passage of goods, which are restricted to the Israeli-controlled crossings and subject to prohibitions on construction materials and export.”

The restricted Rafah Crossing doesn’t change the fact that “Gaza remains under tight maritime and aerial siege, and continues to be closed off to the Palestinians’ cultural, economic and academic capitals in the rest of the (Israeli-occupied territories), in violation of U.S.-Israeli obligations under the Oslo Accords.”

The effects are painfully evident. The director of the Khan Yunis hospital, who is also chief of surgery, describes with anger and passion how even medicines are lacking, which leaves doctors helpless and patients in agony.

One young woman reports on her late father’s illness. Though he would have been proud that she was the first woman in the refugee camp to gain an advanced degree, she says, he “passed away after six months of fighting cancer, aged 60 years.

“Israeli occupation denied him a permit to go to Israeli hospitals for treatment. I had to suspend my study, work and life and go to sit next to his bed. We all sat, including my brother the physician and my sister the pharmacist, all powerless and hopeless, watching his suffering. He died during the inhumane blockade of Gaza in summer 2006 with very little access to health service.

“I think feeling powerless and hopeless is the most killing feeling that a human can ever have. It kills the spirit and breaks the heart. You can fight occupation but you cannot fight your feeling of being powerless. You can’t even ever dissolve that feeling.”

A visitor to Gaza can’t help feeling disgust at the obscenity of the occupation, compounded with guilt, because it is within our power to bring the suffering to an end and allow the Samidin to enjoy the lives of peace and dignity that they deserve.

Noam Chomsky’s most recent collection of columns is “Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Source URL: www.alternet.org…

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More updates from Bob Birch, currently stationed on a farm in the West Bank.

It is a tragic story, made all the more tragic by the fact that few in this country care about what is going on. Thank God for Australians like Bob who are making a difference.

Khalid

Khalid

Hi everyone,

This is Khalid, the owner of the khan and orchard where I have been staying lately. He is a very dynamic character, who speaks rapid-fire Arabic or his own special brand of English (“You, he go, stay, come my house, eat sleep, good, you come”) and so on. He is very hospitable and welcoming…….and also very tough. The settlers from Maál Shivona settlerment nearby want him out. They want his land, his orchards, his olive trees and his historic house, but most of all they want the spring which is on his land.

They have offered him millions of dollars and a US passport to sell up. When he refused they stole his horse, injured his dog, stole his tools, wrecked his car, cut his electricity supply and broke into his house repeatedly, destroying all his furniture and leaving the place a shambles, with graffiti written over the walls. Finally, they attacked at night when the family was sleeping, beating all the family members and putting his wife in hospital. During the attack the eldest son, Jamal, used a hoe to defend his mother, wounding a settler.

When the Israeli police and army arrived they arrested Khalid and Jamal. (The script could have been written by Franz Kafka.) They were jailed and ordered to pay the equivalent of $10,000 in order to secure their release, leaving them virtually penniless. A jail sentence still hangs over their heads. Of course, nothing happened to the settlers; they appear to have total immunity.

Now a European Union NGO has put up the money to erect steel doors and window shutters so that the house can withstand further settler attacks – hopefully. ISM members maintain a vigil at the farm night and day, hoping by their presence to make it safer for Khalid and his family (who, for safety, now sleep in the village).

At night one is aware of the menacing presence of the Maál Livona settlement on the nearby hill. On the opposite hillside the lights from the huge settlement of Eli are strung out for 25 kilometres, testament to the unceasing land grab which is taking place. What is happening to Khalid is not an isolated incident; all over the Occupied West Bank similar stories can be told, stories of greed and brutality being met by courage and steadfastness.

As Khalid says, “America, Europe, Australia, the whole world knows our story, and they turn their backs on us. No-one cares. All I want is my land, my house and my trees. I will never leave.”

Bob

Khalid's son, Noor

Khalid’s youngest son, Noor, proudly posing in his new suit for Ëid


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This press release just in from Gush Shalom – the Israeli ‘Peace Bloc’.

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Press Release August 26, 2012

 At the Jordan Bridges border crossings, Israeli authorities prevented the entry of more than a hundred international activists
Gush Shalom: "The country’s border crossings are wide open to the international friends of the violent settlers"

About 7.30 pm, more than a hundred activists from all over the world arrived from Jordan to the Israeli border crossings at the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, telling that they on their way to Bethlehem at the invitation of its Palestinian governor and of civil society organizations there, and that they were carrying  with them notebooks and school equipment for Palestinian pupils about to begin their school year. However, their entry into the West Bank was denied.  In the Israeli-controlled area of the Allenby Bridge was seen a major alert of military forces, and journalists there were told that the area had been declared "a closed military zone".

"They did not even let us get off the bus," said Olivia Zemor of Paris, one of the organizers of the visit. "They collected our passports and a few minutes later returned them with each and every passport stamped ‘Entry denied’. The soldiers refused to give any explanation, they just said – that’s it, your entry is denied, go back to Jordan." Zemour noted that last year, when she and her fellows tried to reach the Palestinian Territories through Ben Gurion Airport, they were told, "Why don’t you come through the Jordan bridges?". "So we did try to get through the Jordan bridges, and now we got a definite answer from the government of Israel."

"Violent settlers, those who under the name of ‘price tag’ set olive trees and  mosques on fire, are all the time getting reinforcements from abroad. For the settlers’ friends, Jews and Christians, Israel’s border crossings are wide open.  From the airport they go to the settlements" says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson. "When the Palestinians living under Israel’s rule try to invite guests to come and visit them, the government of Israel instructs the army and police to block their way. The government has the power and the ability to act in such a belligerent and arbitrary way. But by so doing, the government ends up emphasizing and demonstrating to the entire world that – despite the so- called ‘judicial report’ which the government commissioned from Judge Edmond Levy –  the territory is indeed under an oppressive occupation".

Contact:
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom +972-(0)54-2340749
The organizers of the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign:  
Nicholas (contact in Europe) +33 6 73 38 24 84
Olivia (contact in the delegation at the bridge) +33 6 80 88 71 54

Video press conference held by the organizers prior to their departure from Paris – can be used with acknowlegement :
presstv.com… #. UDO8FphiaQs

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Father Roy writes:   Canada’s Jewish Community is “outraged”.  Pasted below and here are two posts which will explain.  My Allies and I regard Israel’s settlements policy as a “morally reckless path”.  See:  Jewish Settlers Part 1/5 – (08:31)   Peace, Roy

Nb. highlights are courtesy of Father Roy 

United Church of Canada votes to boycott West Bank products

Canadian Jewish organization ‘outraged’ over what it calls amorally reckless path

August 16, 2012, 4:32 am

The United Church of Canada voted Wednesday to boycott Israeli products made in the West Bank, drawing immediate criticism from the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

The center announced its outrage at the decision in a statement, adding that it was “equally offended by the Church’s expression of regret for previously calling for Palestinian recognition of Israel’s Jewish character. This decision represents a radical shift in the United Church’s policies, betrays the views of the vast majority of its members, and flies in the face of decades of constructive interfaith dialogue.”

The center’s statement called the decision to boycott a “morally reckless path” and said that it “was driven by narrow ideology rather than by a desire to faithfully represent the views of the membership