Boycott israHell!

Boycott israHell!
Бойкот на израел и печелещите от окупацията! Boycott israHell and those who profit from occupation!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

End the Siege of Gaza: action in your community and news from Congress

Dear Milena,

Last Friday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.Res.867, calling on the Obama Administration to "oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration" of the Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the Goldstone Report. Currently, 43 Representatives already have signed on to the resolution as co-sponsors.

If passed, this dangerous resolution would instruct the Obama Administration to continue its attempts to shield Israel from accountability for the war crimes it committed, as documented by the Goldstone Report, before, during, and after its assault on the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009. The resolution also undermines the Obama Administration's rhetorical support for the universality of human rights and its stated commitment to holding human rights violators accountable. In addition, it contains numerous inaccuracies about and misleading characterizations of the Goldstone Report.

We hear that a vote on this resolution may take place as soon as next week. Please take a minute to contact your Representative and ask him/her not to cosponsor or vote for H.Res.867 by clicking here.

Now, with some Members of Congress attempting to shield Israel from accountability for the crimes it committed before, during, and after its most recent assault on the Gaza Strip, it is more important than ever to take action.

Now-December: Take Action with Congress

You can directly rebut Congressional attempts to bury the Goldstone Report in three ways. Take action now by emailing your Representative to tell her/him that the Goldstone Report is fair and worthy of further consideration and that s/he should not cosponsor or vote for H.Res.867. Click here to send this email. Next, join human rights advocates across the country in a Congressional Call-in Day on Tuesday, November 3rd. Call your Member of Congress and tell her/him to support human rights and accountability by supporting the Goldstone Report. You can reach your Members of Congress via the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202)224-3121; just ask the operator to connect you to your Representative's office. You can find out who your Representative is by clicking here. You can also meet with your Members of Congress in-person to discuss accountability and ending the siege of Gaza between now and December. Please use our Congressional action tools to request a meeting, prepare for the meeting, and share the results with national organizers working to end the siege of the Gaza Strip.

November 5th: Media Action Day

November 4th marks one full year since the Israeli military broke the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Use this occasion to get our message about ending the siege of the Gaza Strip into the media. Use our talking points and media resources as inspiration for your actions. Publicize your event using our guidelines for pitching a story to your local media outlets. Respond to stories in local media by using our letter-to-the-editor guide. Make your own media online using blogs and Twitter. Find resources for these suggested actions, and much more by clicking here.

November 2-8: Take Action in Your Community

Host or attend an event to raise awareness in your own community. There are lots of ways to educate your community and share options for action with your friends and family. You can host a film screening with a community organization or in your own home. You might prefer to show public support by planning a vigil or rally to end the siege of Gaza. Another option is to organize a panel or host a speaker to discuss the siege of the Gaza Strip. Click here for a list of experts willing to participate in panels and talks to end the siege of Gaza. Check out our other ideas and resources for hosting your own event by clicking here. If you don't have the capacity to organize your own event, click here to find out about events already planned in your area.

December 27-January 2: Take Action in the Gaza Strip

Join Palestinians and international human rights activists in the Gaza Strip on the anniversary of Israel's 2008/9 assault, dubbed "Operation Cast Lead." Internationals participating in the Gaza Freedom March will meet in Cairo on December 27th and cross into the Gaza Strip together. On December 31st, internationals will join Palestinians in demanding an end to Israel's blockade during a mile-long march for freedom. Click here to get more information about the Gaza Freedom March, including registration, fundraising ideas, and who else is going on the trip.

November 9-15: Week of Action Against Israel's Apartheid Wall

Keep the momentum going by participating in the 7th annual International Week Against the Apartheid Wall. While occupation is manifested differently in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, it is the root of the problem in all of these places. The call for the 7th annual Week of Action Against the Apartheid Wall was issued by a coalition of Palestinian village popular committees affected by the wall. Use this occasion, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to get Israel's apartheid wall into the media. Please check out our resources for action and education about Israel's apartheid wall by clicking here.

Israeli minister's speech disrupted at London university

Press release, LSE SU Palestine Society, 27 October 2009

The following press release was issued by the London School of Economics Student Union Palestine Society on 26 October 2009:

Students protested and disrupted a lecture tonight at the London School of Economics (LSE) by Daniel Ayalon, the controversial Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel.

More than 50 students and activists greeted Ayalon outside of the lecture on LSE's campus with placards and banners, while inside audience members heckled the controversial minister as a "racist" and "murderer" in relation to the illegal occupation and violence carried out by the Israeli state.

Ayalon was in the UK to meet British government officials and speaking at the LSE ahead of these talks in a lecture titled "The Middle East: The View From Israel." Security at the university was tight, with private security and police officers keeping a close watch on protesters. The minister began and ended his lecture amid boos and chants of "Free, Free, Palestine" while his speech was interrupted relentlessly throughout with audience members questioning Israel's atrocities.

The action was organized by the LSE Students' Union Palestine Society and the Palestine Solidarity Initiative. The London School of Economics Students' Union is officially twinned with An-Najah University [West Bank] and has previously voted to divest funds from those companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The motion also called on LSE to respect human rights and follow suit in embracing a divestment agenda with regards to such companies.

Mira Hammad who attended the lecture and is the Chair of the LSE SU Palestine Society said after the protest, "The Palestine Society at LSE has grown in support since the atrocities committed in Gaza which explains the huge turnout tonight. We will continue to support the growing international resistance against the occupation of Palestine until a just peace is achieved."

Merna Al Azzeh, a Palestinian masters student who was in the audience, added, "As an LSE student, I find it disgusting that LSE could invite a Minister to speak from a racist government that has been committing war crimes for the last 60 years."

"The recent Goldstone Report overwhelmingly condemns the genocide waged against Gazan civilians last winter and as a Palestinian I am reassured by the growing international resistance to Israeli apartheid."

Shot after photographing the Gaza sea

Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 28 October 2009

Ashraf Abu Suleiman (Eva Bartlett)
On 4 October, Ashraf Abu Suleiman, a 16-year-old from Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, went to the northwest coast town of Sudaniya to visit an ill school friend. The teen then went to the sea, where he rolled up the legs of his pants, waded into the water and enjoyed the late summer morning. He took some photos of the sea and of the area around him, intending to play with the photos later on Photoshop, a hobby he and his father share.

Minutes later, Ashraf was running in blind terror as Israeli soldiers in a gunboat off the coast began shooting at Palestinian fishermen. He was hit by an Israeli soldier's bullet which bore through his neck and grazed his vertebrae, fracturing C-4 and C-5, leaving him bleeding on the ground and unable to stand up.

"They were shooting at Palestinian fishermen in hassakas [small fishing vessels]," he said of the Israeli soldiers in the gunboat. "Some of the bullets were hitting near where I stood. I started to run north. I didn't think about where to run, I just ran."

He estimates he ran for a few minutes, soon approaching the northern border before an Israeli soldier's voice shouted over a megaphone for him to stop. Seeing an Israeli military vehicle in the distance ahead, Ashraf was afraid that the soldiers north of him would start shooting. He kept running, hoping to take cover behind a low hill nearby.

Then he was grounded, one of the bullets hitting him in the neck.

The Ma'an news agency reported, "an Israeli military spokeswoman says soldiers identified a 'suspicious Palestinian man' approaching the border fence, and fired warning shots in the air. After the Palestinian ignored warning shots, the spokeswoman said, the army fired at and lightly injured him."

At least eight Palestinians have been killed and at least 33 injured in the Israeli-imposed "buffer zone" along Gaza's border since the 18 January ceasefire. Three of the killed and 12 of the injured were minors, including many children.

The "buffer zone" was imposed by Israeli authorities about a decade ago, initially at 150 meters and now while Israeli authorities say the no-go zone runs 300 metres from the boundary between Gaza and Israel, it ranges up to two kilometers in some areas. The buffer zone renders off-limits approximately 30 percent of Gaza's most fertile agricultural land, as well as the land adjacent to it. Israeli authorities warn that anyone entering that area is subject to being shot by the Israeli army.

"I don't know how close I was, maybe less than 400 meters from the fence," Ashraf said.

Three Israeli soldiers approached him on foot, Ashraf explained. "An Israeli soldier kicked me in the mouth and told me to stand up. I couldn't, my legs wouldn't move."

According to Ashraf, an Israeli soldier dragged him by his arms over the rough ground. After another kick to the face, he was put on a stretcher and carried across the northern border to a waiting Israeli jeep.

After they checked his identity via computer, Ashraf said that the Israeli soldiers told him: "You're 16 years and one month old. You're a student." Although the soldiers realized that he was harmless, they continued to treat him with contempt.

"They put me in a jeep and we drove for a while, maybe 20 minutes, I don't know exactly. Then they transferred me to an Apache helicopter and flew me to a military base near Erez. I don't know the name but I know it wasn't so far from Erez. There was a small clinic there where they gave me a little first aid," he said, recalling that this treatment was at least 30 minutes after his injury.

"They put some gauze and bandaging on my neck wound," Ashraf said. He then was made to wait as a Palestinian medic negotiated his return to a Gaza hospital.

Hassam Ghrenam, a Palestine Red Crescent Society medic and ambulance driver, had approval to cross into Israel for two medical cases unrelated to Ashraf. While on the Israeli side, Ghrenam saw Ashraf and requested to take him back to Gaza.

Ashraf explained that Ghrenam wanted to bring three other men, to transfer him carefully as medical procedure dictates. The Israeli soldiers refused the request and Ashraf had to wait for more than an hour until the soldiers finally relented.

"There were maybe 30 Israeli soldiers around us. The ambulance driver kept saying, 'he's critical, very critical, take him to Israel,' but the soldiers just pointed their guns at him and did nothing," Ashraf explained.

Ghrenam noted that there was blood and signs that Ashraf was beaten or kicked in the face. According to Ghrenam, "The Israelis only put a bandage on his wound, no neck collar, no proper treatment. I immediately put a neck collar on him. Injuries to the neck and spinal cord can lead to paralysis."

At the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, Ghrenam passed Ashraf to a waiting Red Crescent ambulance which immediately transferred the youth to Gaza's al-Shifa hospital. He is now in the al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital, and doctors and Ashraf's parents wait to see whether his fractured vertebrae will heal well enough so he can walk again.

Ashraf's father is not optimistic. "Every day we wait I feel like his life is withering. I'm worried about his future."

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who arrived in Gaza in November 2008 on the third Free Gaza Movement boat. She has been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement and documenting Israel's ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. During Israel's recent assault on Gaza, she and other ISM volunteers accompanied ambulances and documenting the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

What does China's ascendance mean for Palestine?

Sarah Irving, The Electronic Intifada, 26 October 2009

It is not likely that China will offer an alternative to US hegemony regarding Palestine anytime soon. (MaanImages)

George Habash, the late leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), called China Palestine's "best friend." Indeed, he was on an official PFLP visit to China when the conflict between Palestinian forces and the Hashemite Kingdom erupted in Jordan in 1970, the events later known as "Black September."

Habash had good reason to appreciate China's friendship at the time. According to Dr. Yukiko Miyagi of the UK-based Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World (CASAW), one characteristic of the People's Republic's policy toward the Arab states and political movements in the 1960s was high-profile support for the Palestinian liberation movement.

"It was a matter of both ideology and identity," says Dr. Miyagi. The newly-formed Communist People's Republic of China identified with the Palestinian guerrillas and provided them with military aid and training, seeing them as fellow victims of capitalism and imperialism, as well as hoping to steer the Palestinian resistance down a socialist path. China recognized the Palestinian people as a nation in 1964 and was the first state outside the Arab world to give diplomatic recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It also refused to grant the same recognition to the State of Israel.

However, according to Dr. Miyagi, China's policy was not entirely altruistic. Even in the revolutionary heat of the 1960s and early 1970s, its support for Palestinian independence was also motivated by its desire to please other Arab countries, in the hope that they would recognize the People's Republic, rather than Taiwan, as the legitimate Chinese state. As Arab countries outnumbered Israel, they were considered more valuable as allies on the world stage.

Oil imports and peace processes

In the wake of the "Cultural Revolution" and the rapprochement with the US, China's political and economic strategies shifted in the 1970s. Its support for the Palestinian liberation movement also changed and it began to adopt a more "moderate" approach. Yet, it still refused to grant Israel diplomatic recognition, and in 1978 voted in favor of a United Nations resolution which classed Zionism as a form of racism. The Chinese leadership also criticized the UN's approach to Palestine, claiming that it unfairly equated the Israeli aggressor and the Palestinian victim. However, this didn't stop it from opening up informal and secretive contacts with Israel.

This rather ambivalent position has perhaps characterized China's attitude toward the Palestinian people's rights ever since. While China maintains support for Palestinian claims to self-determination it has also become a major trading partner with Israel. According to Dr. Miyagi, by the mid-1980s, Israel was the main supplier of high technology, including agricultural equipment and military technology, to China. In addition, China's geopolitical discourse also started to include positions like "Israel's right to security." Yet, at the same time, it called the 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut "Hitlerism" and supplied both aid and arms to Palestinian forces in Lebanon. Two years later, China gave the PLO's delegation to the Beijing embassy status and recognized Yasser Arafat as President, rather than the more commonly used title of Chairman of the PLO.

China as a player in Middle East policy?

China's public support for the Palestinian cause hit a new low in the early 1990s. After the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 it became an international pariah in political terms, but it remained a major exporter of consumer goods and importer of oil from the Persian Gulf countries. It abstained from vetoing the UN-authorized and US-led first Gulf War. By 1992, Beijing established diplomatic ties with Israel, without Israel having met any of the preconditions which China had originally demanded. Official visits to and by Beijing were balanced between Palestine and Israel, and China abstained from, rather than supported, a UN motion similar to that of 1978 condemning Zionism as racism. Moreover, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza were criticized as "harmful to the peace process," but the PLO was told that it should "respect Israeli security."

Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, and with China's growing international status, it has become more proactive on the issue of Palestine. The People's Republic's first Middle East peace envoy toured both Palestine and Israel in 2002, and Beijing has called for Israel to "unconditionally implement" UN resolutions for it to withdraw from occupied areas, describing settlements as "a violation of Israel's obligations under international law." In January 2009, China responded to Israel's winter invasion of Gaza with its "5 Points for an Immediate Ceasefire." It has expressed support for the Hamas government, and hosted Hamas' foreign minister in Beijing in June 2006. However, it also supported the Annapolis conference which excluded Hamas.

China's official press has also highlighted its aid to Palestine, with official press agencies calling its economic and humanitarian aid "an important expression of China's support for the Middle East peace process." Such statements, however, have often been disingenuous about the scale of China's donations. According to Dr. Miyagi, it gave just $11 million of the $7.4 billion pledged by the international community at the 2007 International Donors' Conference for Palestine.

To expect larger aid contributions -- or more action -- likely misinterprets China's intentions as a global power. Although China's increasing international stature has been the subject of considerable speculation, specialists on its foreign policy insist that it has few ambitions towards the kind of global interventionist role that the US has played as a superpower. While China has massive economic clout as a state, the everyday wealth of its people is still just a fraction of that of most Americans or Europeans. Rather, according to Dr. Miyagi, China's priority has become the maintenance of a stable world order which will supply it with uninterrupted raw materials and energy, and continue to buy its products.

If there are actors hoping that China might offer an alternative to US hegemony and pushing the international community into a more just position on Palestine, it is not likely to happen soon -- if ever. As Dr. Miyagi points out, Palestine occupies a symbolic position for both China as a former revolutionary state and for China's Arab economic partners. However, Palestine itself has no oil and only a tiny consumer market to offer. While China may provide balance to the US's constant pro-Israel positions at the UN and other international arenas, the days of its unequivocal support for Palestinian rights are, it seems, long gone.

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer from Manchester, UK. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06. She now writes full-time on a range of issues, including Palestine and the wider Middle East.

Monday, October 26, 2009

American Pediatric Dental Surgeon Completes Mission to Palestinian Camps in Lebanon

On October 10, Dr. Daniel Ravel from North Carolina arrived in Lebanon to being a week of treating special needs children from the Palestinian refugee camps. Dr. Ravel has led several past missions to Palestine and Lebanon for the PCRF and is very active is improving the quality of health care in pediatric dentistry for Palestinian children. Dr. Ravel screen and treated children in the Bourj Al-Shamali refugee camp, the Naher Al Bared camp, which was destroyed by the Lebanese army in 2007, and Al Badawi camp in Tripoli in the north, and in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Most of the children were operated on in Haifa Hospital in the Bourj Al Barajna refugee camp in Beirut. These special needs children are not treated through
traditional dentistry and the PCRF is dedicated to helping to provide them the care that they need, as well as to continue to train and teach the local dental professionals in helping to care for these kids, who require an OR setting and anesthesia. For more information about this project and the work of the PCRF, please visit our web site at:


ISM London received this message from IJAN (the International Jewish Anti-Zionsit Network). Please come along if you are in London this afternoon at 5pm.

LSESU Palestine Society call on people to join

Daniel Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister of Israel is speaking at the LSE at 5.30pm, Monday, 26 October. The chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Ayalon's party, has threatened to "execute" Palestinian Members of the Knesset, including if they "...declared Israel’s Independence Day to be ‘Nakba’ Day".

The LSE is withholding the location of the event until 4pm but the LSESU Palestine Society is asking people to assemble at 5pm in Houghton Street (the pedestrianised street off the Aldywch in the centre of the campus) and from there to walk to the location of the lecture to protest against his racist views.

IJAN will be going. Hope to see you there. Spread the word.

Citizen's arrest and mass disruption of former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in San Francisco Bay Area residents attempted a citizen's arrest of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while he gave a speech to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco on 22 October 2009. Twenty-two people were arrested for challenging Olmert directly and demanding he be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

See Electronic Intifada film here.

Protestors shut down Ehud Olmert speech at University of Chicago On 15 October 2009, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to give the annual King Abdullah II Leadership Lecture at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy. Outraged that a man responsible for war crimes in Palestine and Lebanon that killed more than three thousand people during his term of office, community members confronted Olmert inside the lecture hall effectively preventing him from delivering his speech.

See Electronic Intifada film here

Sunday, October 25, 2009

VIDEO: Peacefully Resisting Occupation: Teen Journalist Arafat Kanaan

Palestine Monitor
October 2009

In this short video, produced with the support of the NoVA Center For Social Innovation, Palestine Monitor would like to introduce you to Arafat Kanaan: an inspirational 16-year-old non-violent activist and filmmaker from the West Bank village of Nil’in.

Every week, Arafat films as his village non-violently demonstrates against the apartheid wall that Israel is building, a wall which has cut off the village from thousands of dunams of its lands, and which has turned Nil’in into a ghetto. Arafat has filmed as Israel imposed curfews on the village, staged military incursions, humiliated, beaten and assassinated villagers. During the protests, Arafat films as Israeli solders respond to non-violent resistance with teargas cannons, rubber bullets, live ammunition, sound bombs and sewage water. Despite harrassment from Israeli soldiers, who broke his camera while he was filming an assassination, Arafat continues to peacefully resist - and expose - life in his village under occupation.

VIDEO, click here...

Citizens arrest, disruption of Olmert in San Francisco

VIDEO: Citizens arrest, disruption of Olmert in San Francisco
Press release, Northern California Palestine justice groups, 23 October 2009

Twenty-two activists were arrested at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech to the World Affairs Council on 22 October between 6:30 and 7:30pm at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square in San Francisco. Inside the auditorium, activists began disrupting the event by placing Olmert under citizens arrest. Every couple of minutes, more activists disrupted his speech, barely allowing him to speak, by reading the names of the children killed in Gaza last winter, reading from the recently published Goldstone report and displaying banners that read "Lift the Siege on Gaza" and "War Crimes are Not Free Expression!" Activists were removed from the auditorium chanting "war criminal!" and taken to the Tenderloin Police Station where they are being held for citation. Ten additional persons participated in the action but were not arrested.

Olmert ordered Israel's brutal attacks on Gaza beginning in late December 2008, code-named Operation Cast Lead. Last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution endorsing the Goldstone report, an independent investigation into the Gaza operation, which found that Israel violated international law and possibly committed crimes against humanity.

"Israel is an apartheid state guilty of war crimes and its leaders should not be welcome in San Francisco," said Lisa Nessan, a Jewish resident of Oakland, who has traveled several times to Israel and Palestine, most recently in May. "For the past 60 years, under leadership like Olmert's, Israel has denied Palestinians their basic human rights, built settlements on their lands, and killed civilians -- all to force them from their homeland."

A lively protest also gathered across from the hotel in Union Square, where about 150 persons carried signs bearing the names and pictures of children killed during Operation Cast Lead. Olmert is making several appearances in the US this month, and has been met with strong protests at locations including the University of Chicago and Tulane University in New Orleans. "We join with people around the world who believe that Israel and its leaders must be held accountable for their actions. Israel killed 1,400 people during its attacks on Gaza last winter alone, and many more have died or suffered from the effects of siege, occupation, and apartheid on their daily lives," said Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian activist who lives in Fairfield and whose 21-year-old cousin was killed in Gaza in January.

Organizers also expressed outrage that US President Barack Obama has ignored the findings of the Goldstone report. The US has pledged more than $3 billion each year in unrestricted aid to Israel. "Israel's use of US aid and military equipment violates our own laws," said Rae Abileah, an organizer with CODEPINK whose father is Israeli. "Why are we giving aid to a country that is destroying people's homes and attacking civilians, while our own nation is struggling with unemployment and underfunded social services?"

Eduardo Cohen of San Francisco sums up the sentiment: "The war crimes in the Goldstone Report are not an exception, but a reminder that Israel's apartheid law is itself criminal. We must not only hold Olmert accountable, but all of Israel's leaders, our own elected officials, and other companies and individuals that profit from these crimes. Only then can true justice be reached."

The protest was sponsored by: Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid (BACEIA), CODEPINK Women for Peace, Friends of Deiribzi'a, Northern California International Solidarity Movement, Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), South Bay Mobilization, Stop AIPAC, CAL Students for Justice in Palestine, US Palestine Communities Network (USPCN), Bay Area Women in Black.

Video produced by The Electronic Intifada.

Why I disrupted Olmert

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 23 October 2009

Protesters demonstrated in the rain outside of the University of Chicago lecture hall where activists inside disrupted Olmert's speech, 15 October 2009. (Maureen Clare Murphy)

If former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had merely been a diplomat or an academic offering a controversial viewpoint, then interrupting his 15 October speech at University of Chicago's Mandel Hall would certainly have been an attempt to stifle debate (Noah Moskowitz, Meredyth Richards and Lee Solomon, "The importance of open dialogue," Chicago Maroon, 19 October 2009). Indeed, I experienced exactly such attempts when my own appearance at Mandel Hall last January, with Professor John Mearsheimer and Norman Finkelstein, was constantly interrupted by hecklers.

But confronting a political leader suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be viewed the same way.

The report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict last winter, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, found that Israel engaged in willful, widespread and wanton destruction of civilian property and infrastructure, causing deliberate suffering to the civilian population. It found "that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions" and that many may amount to "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." If that proves true, then the individual with primary responsibility is Ehud Olmert, who, as prime minister and the top civilian commander of Israel's armed forces, was involved in virtually every aspect of planning and execution.

The killings of more than 3,000 Palestinians and Lebanese during Olmert's three years in office are not mere differences of opinion to be challenged with a polite question written on a pre-screened note card. They are crimes for which Olmert is accountable before international law and public opinion.

Israel, unlike Hamas (also accused of war crimes by Goldstone), completely refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Mission. Instead of accountability, Olmert is, obscenely, traveling around the United States offering justifications for these appalling crimes, collecting large speaking fees, and being feted as a "courageous" statesman.

In their 20 October email to the University of Chicago community, President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum condemned the "disruptions" during Olmert's speech. "Any stifling of debate," they wrote, "runs counter to the primary values of the University of Chicago and to our long-standing position as an exemplar of academic freedom."

Was it in order to promote debate that the University insisted on pre-screening questions and imposed a recording ban for students and media? In the name of promoting debate, will the University now invite Hamas leader Khaled Meshal -- perhaps by video link -- to lecture on leadership to its students, and offer him a large honorarium? Can we soon expect Sudan's President Omar Bashir to make an appearance at Mandel Hall?

When I and others verbally confronted Olmert, we stood for academic freedom, human rights, and justice, especially for hundreds of thousands of students deprived of those same rights by Olmert's actions.

During Israel's attack on Gaza last winter, schools and universities were among the primary targets. According to the Goldstone report, Israeli military attacks destroyed or damaged at least 280 schools and kindergartens. In total, 164 pupils and 12 teachers were killed, and 454 pupils and five teachers injured.

After the bombing, Olmert and Israel continued their attack on academic freedom, blocking educational supplies from reaching Gaza. Textbooks, notebooks, stationery and computers are among the forbidden items. In September, Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, publicly appealed to Israel to lift its ban on books and other supplies from reaching Gaza's traumatized students.

Israel destroyed buildings at the Islamic University and other universities. According to the Goldstone report, these "were civilian, educational buildings and the Mission did not find any information about their use as a military facility or their contribution to a military effort that might have made them a legitimate target in the eyes of the Israeli armed forces."

Gaza's university students -- 60 percent of them women -- study all the things that students do at the University of Chicago. Their motivations, aspirations, and abilities are just as high, but their lives are suffocated by unimaginable violence, trauma, and Israel's blockade, itself a war crime. Olmert is the person who ordered these acts and must be held accountable.

Crimes against humanity are defined as "crimes that shock the conscience." When the institutions with the moral and legal responsibility to punish and prevent the crimes choose complicit silence -- or, worse, harbor a suspected war criminal, already on trial for corruption in Israel, and present him to students as a paragon of "leadership" -- then disobedience, if that is what it takes to break the silence, is an ethical duty. Instead of condemning them, the University should be proud that its students were among those who had the courage to stand up.

For the first time in recorded history, an Israeli prime minister was publicly confronted with the names of his victims. It was a symbolic crack in the wall of impunity and a foretaste of the public justice victims have a right to receive when Olmert is tried in a court of law.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. This article was originally published in the University of Chicago's Chicago Maroon newspaper and is republished with permission.

Book review: Shlomo Sand's "The Invention of the Jewish People"

Raymond Deane, The Electronic Intifada, 22 October 2009

In 1967 the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish published his poem "A Soldier Dreaming of White Lilies," only to be accused of "collaboration with the Zionist enemy" for his sympathetic depiction of an Israeli soldier's remorse of conscience. Forty years later that soldier has identified himself as the historian Shlomo Sand. He has translated his remorse into a book that has become a bestseller in Israel and France, where the award of the Prix Aujourd'hui has made the author something of a TV star.

Indeed, few recent books have aroused more interest and been more frequently reviewed in the US and Europe prior to the appearance of an English version. Translator Yael Lotan has chosen to follow the example of her French predecessors by telescoping the interrogative Hebrew title (When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?), which here becomes The Invention of the Jewish People, thus misleadingly and (deliberately?) provocatively implying that such inventiveness was unique to the Jews. However, Sand clarifies that worldwide in the 19th century "[t]he national project was...a fully conscious one...It was a simultaneous process of imagination, invention, and actual self-creation" (45).

Sand traces how Zionist ideology drove the project of Jewish nationalism by turning Judaism "into something hermetic, like the German Volk ..." (255). He argues that history and biology were enlisted "to bind together the frangible secular Jewish identity." Together, these engendered an "ethnonationalist historiography" which was typified by the mid-19th century German Jewish historian Heinricht Graetz and his friend Moses Hess, who "needed a good deal of racial theory to dream up the Jewish people" (256).

According to Sand, the destruction by the Romans of the Second Temple in 70 AD left the indigenous Jewish population of Judea and Samaria in place. "[T]he Romans never deported entire peoples. It did not pay to uproot the people of the land, the cultivators of produce, the taxpayers" (130). Furthermore, at that time there were already Jewish communities numbering up to four million persons in Persia, Egypt, Asia Minor and elsewhere (145). Palestine's status as the unique "ancestral homeland" of the Jews collapses together with the myth of David and Solomon's imposing kingdom.

Against the ethno-biological concept of a Jewish people -- a "race" -- whose linear descendants returned from exile to (re)found today's Israel, Sand posits a religious community proliferating throughout and beyond the Mediterranean region by means of proselytism and conversion. He offers a detailed rebuttal of the conventional wisdom whereby "Judaism was never a proselytizing religion," a view disseminated by historian Martin Goodman and others (150, note 42).

Most importantly, he concentrates attention on Khazaria, that "Strange Empire" that flourished in the Caspian region between the seventh and tenth centuries AD. By the eighth century the Khazars had adopted Hebrew as their sacred and written tongue, and "[a]t some stage between the mid-eighth and mid-ninth centuries, the[y] ... adopted Jewish monotheism" (221). Sand speculates that this conversion was calculated to save them from absorption into either the Roman or the Islamic empires. The Khazars, he contends, engendered those Askhenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe who would later invent the myths of Zionism to justify their colonization of Palestine, a land to which they had no "ethnic" connection and where they remain the dominant elite.

So if the exile was a myth -- fomented, Sand writes, by the Christian church as an image of divine punishment ("The Wandering Jew") -- what happened to the indigenous Jews? Sand's answer: they converted to Islam and survive as today's disinherited Palestinians. This seemingly radical thesis was once shared by, among others, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister who in 1918 still believed that (in Sand's words) "the ancient Judean peasants converted to Islam ... for material reasons ... Indeed, by clinging to their soil they remained loyal to their homeland" (186).

Ultimately, the case against the Jewish state cannot be based on an unseemly tussle for genetic primacy, but on a discourse of fundamental political and human rights. Sand turns toward such a discussion in the final chapter, describing it as the raison d'etre of The Invention of the Jewish People, which he admits essentially contains nothing not already found in the work of other historians and archaeologists.

Today's Israel is not a democracy but a "liberal ethnocracy" (307) that assumes its "growing and strengthening" Arab minority "will always accept its exclusion from the political and cultural heart" (309). Ultimately we may see "an uprising in the Arab Galilee, followed by iron-fisted repression," which would constitute "a turning-point for the existence of Israel" in the region. Hence, Sand states that the ideal solution would be the creation of a democratic binational state.

Sadly, Sand hastily dismisses this "ideal project." In terms all too drearily reminiscent of Zionist apologetics he states that to "ask the Jewish Israeli people, after such a long and bloody conflict, and in view of the tragedy experienced by many of its immigrant founders in the twentieth century, to become overnight a minority in its own state may not be the smartest thing to do" (311-312). Instead, he falls back on a sequence of rhetorical questions: "[h]ow many Jews would be willing to forgo the privileges they enjoy in the Zionist state?...will anyone dare to repeal the Law of Return...? To what extent is Jewish Israeli society willing to discard the...image of the 'chosen people,' and to cease... excluding the 'other' from its midst?"

What is behind this sorry post-Zionist anti-climax to a book that seemed to presage a heady anti-Zionist conclusion? In an interview Sand admitted that he "waited until [he] was a full professor" before publishing the book, adding that there "is a price to be paid in Israeli academia for expressing views of this sort." In providing the premises for radical conclusions without either drawing or excluding those conclusions, Sand has the best of both worlds with few if any consequences.

Ultimately, Shlomo Sand is a little like Moses, unable to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. The journey so far, however, is instructive, and very stylishly accomplished; one hopes that the "soldier dreaming of white lilies" may eventually be emboldened to complete it.

Raymond Deane is a composer and political activist (

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Every Kind of Weapon Was Used Against the People of Gaza

Ewa Jasiewicz, Free Gaza Coordinator in Gaza, talks in Berlin, Germany about
what she witnessed during the 22-day massacre of civilians in Gaza. Her
on-the-ground reporting of what she and seven others saw during that time is
heart-wrenching. Israel deliberately murdered 16 medics trying to do their job
of rescuing other injured Palestinians, targeting them directly. Ewa and the
other volunteers from Free Gaza and the International Solidarity Movement
accompanied thes ambulances, horrified at what they saw.
She also eloquently speaks about the people in Gaza, how they are trying to
make a living for their families as the Israeli Occupation Forces shoot to kill
the farmers and fishermen, long after Operation Cast Lead was supposedly over.

Listen to her speech, see the images from the people who were there recording
Israel’s use of phosophorus bombs and other deadly weapons that Israel
literally threw at a civilian populations. Families have been torn apart, 29
members of one family murdered in their home as they held a white flag of

As Ewas says, “Israel’s objective is to rid Palestine of Palestinians: drip
by drip, body by body, person by person, village by village.”

She as well as more than a dozen other speakers are available to speak to your
groups. You can contact us at ask for someone to come and talk about the voyages of Free Gaza movement,
the work in Gaza and witnessing the attempt by Israel to destroy a civilian
population with American money and weapons.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We have added a new feature to our website, a speaker bureau. If you are looking for speakers, please contact us at

If you are looking for speakers to talk about our history-making trip in August, 2008, we have them available.

If you want to find a speaker who can talk about the conditions in Gaza before and after Israel’s brutal massacres in December and January, we have volunteers who stayed in Gaza to work with the farmers and fishermen and who witnessed Israel’s brutality during Cast Lead.

If you are interested in listening to speakers who were on board the DIGNITY when it was rammed in December 2008 or the SPIRIT when it was hijacked in June 2009 when the passengers were kidnapped and thrown into prison, we have FG members who were on board those trips.

Our speakers are scattered around the world and speak several languages. They have been invited to present in front of Parliaments, activist groups, Palestinian solidarity groups and peace groups. They are available as keynote speakers, motivational speakers, and storytellers about what they have seen.

We ask for a $500 honorarium in the U.S., €500 in Europe or £500 in the U.K. All proceeds will go to the Free Gaza movement to continue to send the boats to Gaza. Please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and we will be delighted to help you.

Greta Berlin
00 33 63 142 7577

Friday, October 16, 2009

Israeli Settlers Cut Down Palestinian Olive Trees: You Can Help to Replant Them

October 15th, 2009

This month, Palestinian farmers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank will brave Israeli army checkpoints and curfews, apartheid fences and walls, and likely attacks by Israeli settlers simply to harvest their olives trees. As we feared, Stop the Wall reports that Israeli settlers hacked down 190 olive trees this month in Deir 'Ammar, and the Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bilin report that Israeli soldiers prevented farmers from harvesting their olive trees.

For centuries, these olive trees have formed the backbone of Palestinian agriculture. Yet as this 9-minute documentary below shows, as part of its illegal military occupation, Israel has systematically uprooted these Palestinian olive trees by the thousands to clear land for illegal Israeli settlements, apartheid fences and walls, and to dispossess Palestinian farmers of their lands and livelihoods.

Click on the picture above to watch the documentary.

You can help Palestinian farmers remain steadfast on their land and non-violently resist Israeli occupation by donating money to replant an olive tree. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is proud to partner with Zatoun and its Trees for Life program to replant olive trees in Palestine.

For every $25 tax-deductible contribution you make to support the work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we will replant one olive tree in Palestine. Donate $100 and we will replant five trees. Make your tax-deductible contribution today by clicking here.

Click here to make your donation.

After making your donation, the US Campaign and Zatoun will send you via email a certificate of replanting suitable for framing. You can replant a tree in your name or in honor or memory of a loved one. Just let us know how you'd like the certificate to read when you make your donation. (Please allow two weeks for us to get you your certificate.)

We've set an ambitious goal of raising enough money this month to replant 500 olive trees in Palestine. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we are more than 1/2 way to our goal. Can you please help us to reach this goal today by making your tax-deductible donation to the US Campaign by clicking here?

Remember that it is our tax-payer dollars, in the form of nearly $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel, that are financing the Israeli army's purchase of Caterpillar bulldozers and backhoes used to uproot these olive trees. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign today so that we can both help replant olive trees and continue our work to end U.S. support for these and other Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians. Make your tax-deductible donation today by clicking here.

Thank you for your generous support.

PS: If you'd prefer to make a tax-deductible donation to this campaign via a method other than Pay Pal, please call our office at 202-332-0994 to donate via credit card. You can also send a check to: US Campaign, PO Box 21539, Washington, DC 20009. Be sure to indicate that your donation is for our replanting olive trees campaign and the name of the person you'd like the trees to be planted in honor or memory of.

PPS: If you'd like to make an on-line donation of less than $25 to support our work, please click here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FIFA urged to give the red card to Israel

Press release, various undersigned, 13 October 2009

The following press release was issued on 7 October 2009:

FIFA's declared mission to use football to bring about "a better world" requires that clear signals be given to the apartheid state, Israel. The undersigned organizations call on FIFA to tell Israel it is off-side and to show it a red card for the World Cup.

Three Palestinian football players from the national team were killed during the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Because of the Israeli blockade and travel restrictions, the Palestinian national team there cannot practice with their teammates in the West Bank in their native land. They can only rarely take part in international competitions.

Palestinian athletes suffer constant discrimination and violent assaults. This is part of Israel's decades-long refusal to guarantee the Palestinians their rights, freedom, dignity and their physical and spiritual integrity. This policy should be called apartheid. It is not only a violation of international law, but also of FIFA's regulations against discrimination, and of the Olympic Charter.

South Africa's exclusion from the world sports community until 1991 helped to bring about the end of racial separation in that country. Now, almost 20 years later, the World Cup will be hosted by South Africa in 2010. Decency, dignity and sporting fair play towards the hosts and the participating teams demand that Israel be subjected to the same sanctions. Numerous organizations and personalities in Israel and world-wide hope that increased pressure on Israel will induce it to respect the rights of the Palestinians. This is a prerequisite for peace.

We challenge FIFA to live up to the letter and the spirit of its statutes and to seize this opportunity to prove to the world that it stands for a more just world by sending Israel an unmistakeable threat of exclusion. This would be an important victory for human rights -- not only for the Palestinian people, but also for the international football community.

No to apartheid!

Undersigned organizations: Basler Frauenvereinigung fuer Frieden und Fortschritt (BFFF), Bewegung fuer den Sozialismus (BFS/MPS), Collectif Judeo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Paix de Strasbourg, Collectif Urgence Palestine Vaud, Collectif Urgence Palestine Neuchatel, Frauen fuer den Frieden Region Basel, Frauen fuer den Frieden Region Biel, Gerechtigkeit und Frieden in Palaestina (GFP) Bern, Gesellschaft Schweiz-Palaestina (GSP/ASP), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) France, Juedische Stimme fuer gerechten Frieden in Nahost (EJJP Deutschland), Kampagne Olivenoel, Neue PdA Basel, Mahnwache Bern, Palaestina-Solidaritaet Basel, Palaestina-Solidaritaet Zuerich, Sozialistische Alternative (SoAL) Basel, Union Juive Francaise pour la Paix (UJFP)

Tony Blair and the business of covering up war crimes

Jim Holstun, The Electronic Intifada, 14 October 2009

Tony Blair on a visit to Israel's wall in Qalqiliya in the occupied West Bank, August 2009. (Khaleel Reash/MaanImages)

On 7 October 2009, Tony Blair gave a lecture at a New York university. In responding to an unexpectedly direct student question, he publicly joined, for the first time, the US and Israeli Zionist consensus rejecting the Goldstone report.

On 27 June 2007, Blair left his job as UK prime minister under the cloud of the war on Iraq that he had concocted with former US President George W. Bush. Just hours later, he assumed his new position as the Special Envoy to the Mideast Quartet (EU, Russia, UN, US). He had long been a Zionist and a member of Labor Friends of Israel, and he received heartfelt farewells-and-hellos from Ehud Olmert ("A true friend of the State of Israel") and Tzipi Livni ("a very-well appreciated figure in Israel"). Palestinians living under Israeli occupation did not find this a very a promising development.

Though Blair spends only a week a month in the Middle East, he has managed to keep busy. He maintains a grueling, globe-trotting schedule of lectures, for which he receives up to $500,000. On top of this, he has been at work on his memoirs, for which he received a $7.3 million advance. Consulting work brought him $3.2 million (including a bonus) from J. P. Morgan Chase and $800,000 from Zurich Financial Services. By October 2008, he had amassed at least $19 million, far outdistancing even the enterprising Bill Clinton. He is thought to be the highest paid public speaker in the world.

Blair's schedule has caused some concern in the Middle East. His office insists that his "current role in the Middle East takes up the largest proportion of his time," but in late 2008, a Western diplomat in Jerusalem wondered if "his overstretchedness has produced a tactical blunder," while a UN official in Jerusalem said, "There is a general sense that he is not around" ("Lectures see Tony Blair earnings jump over #12," The Times, 29 October 2008). In September 2008, a coalition of Mideast aid groups accused the Quartet of "losing its grip," adding that its "failings could have serious ramifications for implementing international law around the globe" ("Aid groups: Tony Blair faces imminent failure in Middle East," The Times, 25 September 2008).

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched the Gaza massacre, which it dubbed "Operation Cast Lead." Eight days later, when asked about Blair's reaction, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown explained, "Tony's on holiday at the moment." While Blair found time to attend a private opening of the new Armani store in Knightsbridge, he found none to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, thus recalling his silence during the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon ("As Gaza is torn apart by war, where is Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair? He's been on holiday," Daily Mail, 5 January 2009). In early January, Blair flew to Israel, but he did not condemn the Israeli assault. In February 2009, while Palestinians in Gaza were still digging themselves out and mourning their dead, he accepted a $1 million prize from Tel Aviv University as the "Laureate for the Present Time Dimension in the field of Leadership" (Press release, 2009 Dan David Prize, 17 February 2009).

On 1 March 2009, he finally made it to Gaza. He conceded "a huge amount of damage" and the deaths of "large numbers of civilians," but rejected as "not very sensible" any discussion of disproportionality in Israel's attacks ("Blair shocked at devastation on first Gaza visit as envoy," The Scotsman, 2 March 2009). Blair did not meet with Hamas leaders, and his visit to Gaza lasted only a few hours, for he had to make a pilgrimage to Sderot, the Gilad Shalit of western Negev settlements ("Middle East envoy Tony Blair in Gaza for first time," The Independent, 1 March 2009). In June, he visited Gaza a second time and, as proof of his deep humanitarian instincts, went so far as to say that the Palestinians were in a "tough situation" ("Former British PM Blair Visits Gaza Strip," Voice of America News, 15 June 2009).

On 15 September 2009, the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, issued its 575-page report entitled "Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories." For three weeks after the Goldstone report's publication, Blair said nothing about it in public. Then, on 7 October 2009, he spoke at SUNY Buffalo (UB), where I teach, to a huge audience in the university's Distinguished Speakers Series. I didn't hear the lecture, for I was outside in a free speech corral (the first one to have appeared on my campus) with a group protesting Blair's invitation and his enormous lecture fee of $150,000, as confirmed to me by his exclusive agent, the Washington Speakers Bureau.

We also protested the censorship of questions. For several years now, by requiring that all questions to them be pre-submitted and approved, the UB administration has protected from direct questioning those of our Distinguished Speakers whose resumes include war crimes in the Balkans and West Asia. This time, they packaged the censorship as "The Blair Student Question Contest": students pre-submitted questions for review, and the administration invited the lucky winners up on the podium to deliver their approved questions in person. When questioned about the practice, Dennis R. Black, UB Vice President of Students and emcee for the evening, told The Buffalo News that "there was no attempt at censorship and that the questions were merely moderated" -- an interesting distinction.

An audio version of the whole speech is available on the website of UB's public radio station ("UB Distinguished Speaker Series - Tony Blair," WBFO, 13 October 2009). It consists primarily of earnest platitudes and whimsical anecdotes, concluding, incredibly enough, with a story about a comical horse-betting Irishman, rendered in Blair's very best music-hall brogue. But things took a change for the better in the question-and-answer period. Nicolas Kabat, a UB political science major, co-founder of UB Students for Justice in Palestine, and member of the Western New York Peace Center Palestine-Israel Committee, was one of the lucky contest winners because of the slow-pitch, painfully bland question he pre-submitted. But at the microphone, he asked a hard-edged question about Blair's response to the Goldstone report, why he thinks the basic principles of international law are irrelevant to the Middle East peace process, and why the continuing siege on Gaza isn't also harmful to that process.

A video of the five-minute Kabat-Blair exchange is available on YouTube. I'm told by the UB student who recorded it that UB Vice President for Students Dennis Black (visible at the end of the clip) heard Kabat's unapproved question with vein-popping disbelief. Later, Director of UB Special Events William Regan wrote Kabat to chastise him for departing from the approved question, saying that he had "violated a trust that needs to exist for a contest like this to function properly." In a delightful Freudian slip, he added that "We are very disappointed with your ethical conduct." There is something exquisite about the righteous indignation of a befuddled censor.

Blair seemed at first to be thrown off balance by an actual, uncensored question. Though he eventually found his feet and began to concoct his classic blend of choirboy sanctimony and Machiavellian misdirection, he also seemed to wander unwittingly into a public rejection of the Goldstone report. Like most of its opponents, he failed to find fault with a single one of its factual claims but moved immediately into nostrums and whinging. Despite Kabat's clear statement that the report condemned both Palestinian armed groups and Israel, Blair brightly observed that "you have given one view, and the trouble is that there is another view. ... And one of the things you learn about conflicts like this ... is that you never solve these conflicts by taking one view and forgetting about the other. ... And rocket attacks came out of Gaza on Israeli towns. Now those rocket attacks have got to stop as well."

Like Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent speech to the UN, Blair failed to note the report's forthright and detailed chronicle and condemnation of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks, and its statement that they had all but ended during the lull of June-November 2008 (31-33, 71-82, 449-74). In fact, Hamas ceased all of its attacks and cracked down on firings by other groups, reducing them by 97 percent and Israeli casualties by 100 percent. This Hamas peace offensive was just too much for Israel to bear, so on 4 November 2008, a squad of Israeli commandos infiltrated Gaza and killed six Hamas soldiers, thus shattering the lull (78).

Blair also suggests that we must reject the Goldstone report as hopelessly partisan because it ignores provocations by Hamas: "The Israeli soldier that is kidnapped at the moment, Gilad Shalit, should be released." The problem here is that the report actually exhibits the usual disproportionate and tacitly racist concern for this lone Israeli detainee (on pages 25, 28, 57, 66, 288, 289, 291, 304, 371-73, 412, 415, 418, 486, 541, 551), though unlike Blair, it also discusses the 8,100 detained Palestinian men, women and children (27-29, 401-23).

The center of Blair's rejection of the Goldstone report, however, lay in his dismissal of international law as such. He genuflected briefly toward it, but added that we'll never get anywhere through "a debate over a report that is hotly supported on one side, hotly and deeply contested on the other." In other words, international law is fine until Israel disagrees with it, at which point we should abandon it. How, then, will the conflict be resolved? Israel needs "security" and the Palestinians need an "independent state," but first, there needs to be "an end to violence," which, of course, never includes the root violence of occupation. And most of all, we must "understand the pain on either side, get them to understand that they are not alone in their pain."

In short, Blair guides us gently away from the fussy, contentious, legalistic and impractical world of international law, which makes us throw our hands up in the air, Rashomon-style, and toward that warm and empathetic place where we feel each other's pain. This empathetic pain seems to be quite distinct from and finer than the everyday pain experienced by mere Palestinians in Gaza, as they bleed and die in particular places. In the classic mode of conservative ideologists, Blair insists that, if we ever hope to change social institutions, we must first change the human heart.

For all its faults, the Goldstone report never descends to this sort of vacuous moral idiocy. It combines an analysis of massive violations of international law with a chronicle of the human pain those violations have caused: the suffering of people in Gaza crushed in their homes beneath debris (239), wounded and denied medical care (232-33, 377), shot down while waving white flags (199-203), seared by white phosphorus (533), and left to sicken and die in a state of permanent siege (9-10, 22-25, 95-100, 335-71). And the ongoing reality of war crimes arising from an illegal military occupation pervades the report.

But of course, this is Tony Blair, so there's a cheery upside to things, too, thanks to the Palestinian Authority's neoliberal development projects and its West Bank security gang: "And just to tell you some good news out of Israel and Palestine this week. ... When I first became the Envoy ... I couldn't have gone to a city like Jenin or Nablus on the West Bank. Today, I go to Jenin or Nablus, where they opened a hotel in Nablus just the other day. I go to places like Qalqilyah, I go to Hebron, I go to Jericho, Ramallah obviously. In other words, I can go around the West Bank."

Who could ask for anything more?

Jim Holstun teaches world literature and Marxism at SUNY Buffalo. He has previously published< "Nonie Darwish and the el-Bureij massacre" and (with Joanna Tinker) "Israel's fabricated rocket crisis" for The Electronic Intifada. He can be reached at jamesholstun A T hotmail D O T com.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Israel's export of occupation police tactics

Jimmy Johnson, The Electronic Intifada, 9 October 2009

Israel's urban police tactics are being exported around the globe. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

Israel's specialized policing and fighting capacity, which it is currently exporting to other countries, including the US, began to take shape after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In the territories it occupied during the conflict, especially the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, the Israeli government wanted to lay claim, permanently, to specific parts of the occupied area. This desire ran into Zionism's longest-running problem, the presence of Palestinians. As Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote in 1923 about indigenous resistance to colonial projects, "The native populations...have always stubbornly resisted the colonists."

This resistance would have to be suppressed and the population pacified if the occupation of these lands was to be sustainable. Thus began an evolutionary relationship that continues to this day, that of the Palestinian resistance versus Israel's policy of permanent occupation. Architect Eyal Weizman lays out in great detail the study of urban warfare and urban police actions undertaken by the Israeli military in his book Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation. Importantly, he looks at the ways the army adapts to the dynamics on the ground, explaining that "Indeed, military attempts to adapt their practices and forms of organization has been inspired by the guerilla forms of violence that confront it. Because they adapt, mimic and learn from each other, the military and the guerillas enter a cycle of 'co-evolution.'" This reciprocal cycle of tactical evolution, and intertwined relationship of Israel's police and army, is proving politically valuable to Israel by helping to shape international norms on policing more like its own.

Israel participates significantly in areas of the international political and economic markets of arms, security and policing. It is especially renowned for having a highly developed arms industry. There are significant potential political benefits to be gained by participation in the arms trade, especially in the military interoperability that develops with using the same training and systems of war. Military interoperability often lead to the development of political alliances and close personal relationships between high level defense and commerce officials during the research, bidding and approval processes.

However, this trade rarely leads to policy change favorable to Israel by itself. Instead, the training of foreign police and security forces based upon expertise gained in 42 years of military occupation accomplishes this by creating advocates within local, regional and national security infrastructures. In Peter Andreas and Ethan Nadelmann's book Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations, the authors detail how the United States has shaped international policing and prosecution with regards to the drug trade. They explain that "US law enforcement agencies play an especially pivotal role in shaping a transnational police community and thickening intergovernmental law enforcement networks." This occurs by either providing or advocating for technical assistance and training for many foreign police officers. In addition, the US often advocates "for more intensive and systematic bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and prompting new initiatives in both criminal procedures and criminal legislation." Although Israel cannot do this with the same coercive power as the US, it is as proactive as possible in its outreach.

Israel is renowned as the center of training in the fields of policing, homeland security and related fields. In 2005 the then-chief of police of Washington, DC, a city that has adopted Israeli-style policing to an extreme degree, told The Washington Post that Israel is "the Harvard of antiterrorism." Israel actively lauds its expertise with ministries of commerce, public security and foreign affairs, advertising it in public pronouncements and their websites and the government offers support for exporting the expertise, whether done by private firms or public entities. The "Israeli method" blends together state security policing with that of other crimes. Systems put in place in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, for example, have private businesses linking their information with the Tourist Police and City Police who in turn, link with the National Police, the General Security Service (aka, Shin Bet).

Israeli police and security forces do not separate policing related to Palestinian anti-occupation efforts from street crime. The Palestinians represent both a political and armed opposition to a military occupation, and a disenfranchised underclass with criminal elements in an apartheid state. The Israeli army, which is charged with investigating crime in Areas B and C of the West Bank -- areas designated as such during the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s -- along with its strictly military functions as an occupying army and national defense force, is engaged, along with the Israeli police's car theft bureau, with investigating car thefts by Palestinians. Palestinian car thieves often work with Israeli organized crime families or individual Israelis seeking to defraud insurance agencies and investigation and prosecution falls under the jurisdiction of both the army and the civil police. It is the Israeli police's mandate to prosecute any Israeli citizens, while the Palestinians will be tried in an Israeli military court.

The Israeli army also patrols the northern border along with the drug police looking for heroin, hashish and other items smuggled from southern Lebanon. Inspector Gal Ben Ish, referring to participation by Hizballah in the trade, told the Associated Press in April 2009, "We know that it's not just criminal activity -- here there's always the aspect of national defense. We're helping the country's security." Some of the same Sinai Bedouin tribes involved in smuggling women for Israeli organized crime, which is investigated by the police, also smuggle goods, including weapons, to Palestinians in Gaza. According to a June 2007 report in Terrorism Monitor, this has led to the army patrolling 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip down the border with Egypt.

The training offered by Israeli police and security forces is exported all over the world. For example in India, Israel has drawn upon its experience in south Lebanon, rural West Bank and urban population centers in Gaza and the West Bank to help train Indian forces. According to a 9 September 2009 article in Defense News, the inspiration for these efforts came after New Delhi took "a keen interest in the homeland security operations, armaments and surveillance devices used by Israeli troops."

A 2008 declaration signed by then-Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day created a similar arrangement for Canada and Israel. According to the Israeli ministry's website, it allowed the countries to "share knowledge, experience, expertise, information, research, and best practices" and "facilitate technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises." In a 23 March 2008 press release, Minister Day stated that "The declaration seeks to establish a more structured framework for the continued cooperation on public safety issues between Canada and Israel."

Israeli police trained their Chinese counterparts for "possible scenarios involving terror and civil disturbances" prior to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. According to a 28 September 2008 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the commander of China's People's Armed Police Force "expressed an interest in continued cooperation between Israeli and Chinese police following the success of the course." Five years earlier Israeli police performed a similar task in Greece prior to the Athens games. The French government brought the head of the Israeli police's special forces to instruct their police in riot control.

However, no country in the world has a closer cooperation with Israeli police forces than the US. Just a sampling of US cities and institutions that have trained or are training in Israeli methods are Alameda County; Atlanta; Boston; Cambridge, MA; Commerce, GA; Detroit; Duxbury, MA; Georgia Tech University; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles: the Maryland Department of Transportation; Miami; New York City; Pembroke Pines, FL; San Francisco; San Mateo; Santa Clara; Seattle; Stamford, CT; Sterling Heights, MI; and Suffolk County, NY. Low-level bilateral relationships between city police, sheriff's departments and other agencies of order in the US are reinforced by arrangements put in place by high-level officials like the memorandum of understanding signed by former Minister Dichter and former US Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in 2007. A statement put out prior to the agreement and quoted by The Jerusalem Post stated "that there exists a vital need to promote operational, scientific and technological cooperation between the parties in the field of homeland security."

Israeli methods are sought out and adopted for their perceived quality, largely led by the government's marketing of them. But the relationships established between agencies of order, whether they be drug enforcement, civil policing, customs officials, tactical police units or any other, are done entirely outside the democratic realm. The citizens of Beijing did not vote for their police to study the repression of civil disturbance in Haifa's football stadium. Canadian parliament neither proposed nor endorsed the "Declaration of Intent Between the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Canada and the Ministry of Public Security of the Government of the State of Israel." The students of Georgia Tech University were not approached for their opinion about campus security adopting the tools that help sustain an illegal military occupation. This is the danger of agencies of authority going through processes of professionalization and integration with their foreign counterparts. It's often a strictly technocratic regime that can affect the public greatly but is done without its active knowledge or participation. As Andreas and Nadelmann argue, the efforts at professionalization are driven by the technocrats themselves, most often sanctioned by the governing authority, and it is this perceived technical neutrality that gives the efforts credibility.

This has been seen starkly in Washington, DC. The capitol police have long erected various checkpoints and barriers around the institutions of national government, especially the Capitol Building. In June 2008, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, who according to The Washington Post once stated "No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel," authorized checkpoints to be set up in the troubled northeast neighborhood of Trinidad, which had seen a spike in homicides and other violent crime. There are severe quality of life problems in Trinidad, including high rates of violent crime, and the disproportionate participation in street violence and the illegal narcotics trade by residents from and visitors to the neighborhood has strong links to socioeconomic exclusion of the poor in the US, especially in communities of color. The establishment of checkpoints in Trinidad was an attempt to address the former while neglecting the latter. Alternately put, it was a method of pacification deployed against resistance to and coping mechanisms of victims of structural classism and racism in the US. The Washington Post quoted one longtime neighborhood resident stating "I knew eventually we'd be a police state. They don't talk to us, they're not community minded."

Prior to Washington, DC police leadership receiving Israeli training they had no socioeconomic desk with which to work against the root causes of street crime, nor do they now. If the US government is no longer going to attempt to integrate all its citizens into its economic and political infrastructure (see for example, the removal of suffrage from convicted felons in many parts of the country) the adoption of Israel's system of blended civil and national security policing has a compelling logic. The, in effect, surplus population in the country will be only slightly less "foreign" to the government, and only slightly more represented in local and national planning, than the Palestinians are to Israel.

The dominant method of warehousing in the US is penal incarceration leading to a nation with about five percent of the world's population containing about 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population, according to Andreas and Nadelmann. As activist Jeff Halper has written, the methods of warehousing used by Israel against its surplus population, the Palestinians, are primarily geographic and structural, such as checkpoints and separation walls and fences, and bureaucratic, such as restricting building permits and ID regimes prohibiting movements between areas.

Similarly, the training of the Beijing police in controlling civil disturbance was largely used to exclude Beijing's slum dwellers, tens of thousands of whom were displaced by the Olympic games themselves, from access to the media, global attention and economic bubble that came with the games. As Mike Davis observed in Planet of Slums, like the US's disenfranchised, the slum dwellers of Beijing, largely economic migrants from the western interior of the country, have been almost entirely written off by the municipal and national authorities in China. And like the Palestinians, they are a surplus population to the government currently controlling their fates. The training of foreign police and security forces in the methods used to pacify resistance to apartheid, military occupation and the warehousing of the Palestinians should give pause as to what these tools of Israel's pacification industry will be deployed against in countries receiving the training.

Jimmy Johnson is an researcher, analyst and organizer with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He's based in Washington, DC and can be reached at jimmy [at] icahd [dot] org.

Al-Walajah, a symbol of Israeli ethnic cleansing

Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 9 October 2009

Palestinians retrieve their possessions after the Israeli army demolished their home in the West Bank village of al-Walajah, near Bethlehem, December 2006. (Fadi Tanas/MaanImages)

While American officials continue to claim that the mission of US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell is by no means over, and that he will still pursue his efforts to convince the Israeli government to agree to some sort of settlement freeze, Israeli plans for further colonization of Palestinian land continue undisturbed. The latest Israeli plans call for the destruction of the West Bank village of al-Walajah for the second time in six decades.

According to Israeli press reports, Israel is planning a massive new settlement in the vicinity of Jerusalem, on land owned by Palestinians of al-Walajah. The project, expected to be approved by the Israeli ministry of the Interior, could become the single most populous settlement built in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 according to the Israeli daily Maariv. The project plans prepared by the ministry of the Interior and the Jerusalem municipality call for 14,000 housing units for 40,000 settlers on 3,000 dunums of land which would require the demolition of al-Walajah residents' homes, according to the paper.

The original village of al-Walajah was located on the opposite side of its current location, on a mountain slope facing east, just about six kilometers south of Jerusalem. It was very close to Battir, the village in which I was born and brought up. The two villages were separated by a valley, with Battir on the opposite slope from al-Walajah, though a little further south and were very closely linked.

The railway from Jerusalem to the Palestinian coastal city of Jaffa ran right through that valley, which also marks the 1949 armistice line following the end of the 1948 war (also known as the "Green Line.")

During October 1948, Zionist forces attacked and occupied al-Walajah. Its roughly 1,800 inhabitants were scattered in every direction, sharing the fate of Palestinians from hundreds of other towns and villages ethnically cleansed in the same period.

I have strong memories of visiting al-Walajah as a young child, which was walking distance from my village. Often when I was dispatched by one of my parents to purchase something for the house from the only shop in our village, I was advised to try the shop in al-Walajah if the item was not to be found in Battir.

There was active social interaction and intermarriage between the small, tight-knit populations of al-Walajah and Battir. There were daily exchanges of visits and sharing of most kinds of public events. That also applied to many other villages which were within walking distance from Battir such as Beit Safafa, al-Malhah, al-Jawrah, Ain Karem, al-Qabou and Sataf; all were occupied and ethnically cleansed in that first war.

That kind of cozy relationship amongst the small populations of Palestinian villages was all but destroyed by the 1948 war. When the inhabitants of Battir returned home after several months of forced refuge elsewhere when the village during the war came under direct fire, al-Walajah, which used to bustle with life was now silent and deserted. The demarcation line delineated following the 1949 armistice had left al-Walajah just west of the line, on the Israeli side. Battir was barely saved with the barbed wire running through the village cutting most of the village agricultural land, some houses and the boys school. Later, we watched as the Israeli army started to demolish al-Walajah, house by house. We would see a cloud of smoke and dust shoot up into the air over a house, followed by the sound of an explosion, leaving nothing but a heap of rubble. Al-Walajah was completely destroyed before Israel built the settlement of Aminadav and a park where Israelis picnic on its lands.

Apparently the people of al-Walajah owned land across the hills to the east, well within the West Bank, and that is where they decided to settle temporarily for the awaited hope of justice and redemption from the United Nations, which like many Palestinians, they still thought would come.

But time passed and justice never visited them, so they started to build homes and created a new al-Walajah. This new town is the one now threatened with ethnic cleansing. Of course the standard Israeli excuse for destroying Palestinians homes is that they were built "without permission."

The irony is that the Israelis have all along permitted themselves to massacre, ethnically cleanse, occupy, confiscate, destroy and commit every sort of crime against their Palestinian victims while Palestinians are severely punished for building on their land in their country. Al-Walajah in 1948 and now, bears witness to Israel's insatiable appetite for Palestinian land.

Israel's brazen acceleration of settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land is unquestionably a result of international, and particularly American, policy failures and the refusal to hold Israel accountable under international law.

While we have constantly witnessed the so-called "international community" relentlessly tracking down alleged violations and violators in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Kenya, Burma and among Palestinians not affiliated with US-backed Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, Israel is offered unconditional impunity.

It doesn't stop there; Israel is not only exempt from punishment but routinely rewarded for its crimes. After six months of defiant rejection of American requests to stop settlement construction, the Americans were the ones who finally dropped the demand and put pressure instead on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to drop its conditions to restart "negotiations."

Last month's New York summit of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, hosted by US President Barack Obama, was Netanyahu's first great diplomatic victory. Following the growing public outrage at the PA's shelving of the Goldstone report into Israel's war crimes in Gaza, it emerged (according to the BBC Arabic Service on 3 October) that Abbas agreed in New York to drop the Palestinian effort to have the report forwarded to the Security Council for further action. This is a second major Israeli victory. Netanyahu, it should be recalled, had dwelled heavily on the Goldstone report in his address to the UN General Assembly rejecting the report as a serious obstacle to peace. Abbas on his part ignored any mere mention of the report in his own UN speech. This indicates that Abbas had already acquiesced to public and private American and Israeli demands to shelve the Goldstone report.

Israel's third victory is the revelation that the Obama administration, like all its predecessors, has agreed to help Israel continue to hide its nuclear weapons arsenal that threatens the region and all of humanity, while the US and its allies escalate their pressure on Iran in response to Israeli incitement.

All of these events are directly linked to what happens to people in al-Walajah -- and indeed all over Palestine from Galilee to Gaza -- who from 1948 until now, continue steadfastly and stubbornly to defend their rights and existence even as they still hope for international justice that has yet to come.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This essay first appeared in The Jordan Times and is republished with the author's permission.

The things that make for peace

Timothy Seidel, The Electronic Intifada, 11 October 2009

A Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, April 2006. (Inbal Rose/MaanImages)

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes." Luke 19:41-42

Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem is the name of a church and a site of pilgrimage for many Christian travelers to the "Holy Land." Literally, Dominus Flevit means "the Lord wept" in Latin and is remembered as the site where Jesus stopped to look out over Jerusalem to weep and ask this striking question to all who would follow him.

An unavoidable question: Do we recognize the things that make for peace? Are they right in front of us, hidden from our eyes?

The language of peace often surrounds us. In a place like Palestine, the language of peace gets thrown around on a regular basis. One can see it when surveying the expanding colonization of the occupied West Bank in recent decades, in particular during those times of "peace" process. Or when one passes through an Israeli military checkpoint and is greeted with "shalom" -- the Hebrew word for peace. And one also encounters it on the International Day of Prayer for Peace, where Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike gather to resist the daily violence they experience through prayer and protest.

When I read a text such as this one from Luke's gospel, I cannot help but feel like Jesus is speaking directly to me, to us. Indeed, these words are a challenge to all of us who would make use of the language of peace.

This is a subversive text. And it reminds me of a story about what the language of peace in Palestine-Israel looks like, a story from Hedy Sawadsky, a relief worker with the Mennonite Central Committee in the Middle East in the 1960s who was challenged by a Palestinian woman: "what you're doing here is fine, but it is only band-aid work...go home and work for peace and get at the root causes of evil and war."

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Since my return from Palestine, I cannot help but see the linkages to the work of peace and justice here in the US. Just as that Palestinian woman told Hedy, the root causes are too often rooted here.

I continue to struggle with not being cynical about the situation in Palestine and in Gaza in particular. It is not a healthy place for me to be, spiritually or emotionally. But the Gaza Strip is a heart-breaking catastrophe in so many ways and the people there have been suffering for so long. It makes me think about the ways that we in the US are irrelevant -- in the sense that it is less about what we need to do and more about what we need to stop doing. In other words, honestly looking at the ways in which we, the US, have made Gaza into a prison: through our tax dollars, our US military aid to Israel, which includes the military hardware used in Gaza, our US veto power that obstructs United Nations Security Council responses, or our US media representations of Gaza and Palestinians that too often dehumanize.

Honesty in our self-reflection should lead us to confession and repentance of our own histories of violence and injustice on this continent. I once heard quoted a Native American who argued that the best way for people from the US to address the terrible conflict in Palestine-Israel is to deal more seriously with our own history of colonization, dispossession and displacement and work for justice for the indigenous peoples in the US. This would not only address a serious and ongoing historical sin but in the process more effectively help our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters suffering in that broken land. This manner of systemic analysis recognizes that work for justice in Gaza should be part of the work for justice everywhere.

This has led me to seek a "thicker" definition of peace, one that emerges out of a deeper, more systemic analysis of violence and injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about these linkages, particularly in naming the connections between racism, poverty (classism) and war (militarism). Or put another way, recognizing that our work at anti-imperialism abroad must be complemented by our anti-racism and anti-oppression work at home.

Identifying the historical trends of colonization, dispossession and displacement in a place such as the Middle East, how might an accompanying peace issue look like in our communities? How might we identify these linkages? I would argue that immigration is such an issue, an issue all-too-invisible, or at least invisible to some. In fact, wherever you may be right now you would likely not have to look too far to uncover the plight of undocumented neighbors and discover opportunities to recognize "the things that make for peace" particularly as it relates to the biblical call to welcome the stranger (Lev. 19:33-34; Eph. 2:17-20).

Newcomers to the United States continue to encounter an unwelcoming hostility shaped by racism and xenophobia. They are too often met with suspicion, intimidation, isolation, militarized borders, raids and migratory documentation backlogs. In recent years, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) conducted some of the largest workplace raids in the history of the United States, causing fear, separating and terrorizing families, and disrupting entire communities and the lives of immigrants and US citizens. The ongoing construction of the US-Mexico border wall materializes this anti-immigrant sentiment. There are an estimated 12 to 16 million persons in the US with undocumented immigrant status. And the US immigration system continues to be dysfunctional, lacking programs for guest workers and increasing documentation backlogs, and proposing futile programs that do not address the root causes of immigration.

In this context, many Christian communities continue to be ambivalent about how it should respond to immigrants, and in its majority the church remains uneducated on the political, economic and social issues that cause immigration. For example, when coming to the United States individuals are looking for economic opportunities, means for survival for themselves and their families, and fleeing the dire situations that their countries are facing -- many of which are directly connected to foreign policies of the United States, including trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that could be understood to lead to the "colonization" of local economies resulting in a displacement that dispossesses whole communities and uproots persons. The economies of neighboring countries, such as Mexico, have been seriously affected by trade policies that promote economic disparity and dependence.

A genuine peace that speaks to all of these forms of violence and injustice is our challenge. This takes us beyond the all-too-familiar and omnipresent language of peace, recognizing that what is required is more than a word. More than holding another peace summit that provides the opportunity for another high profile photo-op. More than another gathering around a peace agency or a peace church.

Indeed, peace in its deepest, thickest, most holistic form always challenges the status quo that maintains the structures of violence that benefit the powerful and privileged. And so, a "thicker" definition of peace requires a thicker, more systemic analysis and approach to peace, accompanied by engaged and engaging theological reflection.

And this is one of the ways that we can engage this issue -- seeking a thicker definition of peace through biblical and theological reflection that is life-giving. Challenging nationalistic and chauvinistic biblical theologies such as Christian Zionism that legitimize the violence and oppression of these structures of dispossession and occupation that create a status quo of suffering for Palestinians, Native Americans, or the undocumented immigrant in our midst is crucial.

This sort of reflection and systemic analysis must lead to action and engagement -- whether in terms of education, political advocacy, boycott, divestment, or sanctions -- whose authenticity will be measured by the ways in which they challenge our lifestyles in a manner that requires we change, transform and heed the calls to confession and repentance that continue to echo from Palestine, Pine Ridge, and across the Global South.

Whether it is seeking a just peace in Palestine-Israel or radical hospitality for the stranger in our midst, how do we look with open eyes and listen with open ears and hearts so that we might see, that we might recognize on this day the things that make for peace?

Timothy Seidel works as Director for Peace and Justice Ministries with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) US He was a peace development worker with MCC in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from 2004-2007 and a contributing author to Under Vine and Fig Tree: Biblical Theologies of Land and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Cascadia Publishing, 2007).