Monday, 22 June 2009

President Obama - how about the Israelis practicing some non-violence

The article below highlights the fact that Palestinian farmers can only but offer nonviolent resistance in the face of a brutal armed occupation that puts little value on the life of a Palestinian. It's a daily struggle.

Non-violent resistance in the south Hebron Hills

Joy Ellison | Electronic Intifada

A couple of months ago I had the great pleasure of watching Palestinians successfully graze their sheep near Avigail settlement, on land where they are regularly attacked and harassed. The joy I felt in watching my friends and partners grazing their sheep on their ancestral lands was overwhelming. Sitting on the hill and eating lunch together felt like having a party.

As the day drew to an end, Mahmoud, one of the Palestinian elders, excitedly explained to me the strategy he had used in dealing with the Israeli army and settlers that morning. He told me how, even though the army had declared the area a closed military zone, he firmly stood up for his rights. He explained how he pretended to slowly begin to comply with the military order, all the while challenging the soldiers and insisting on his right to graze his sheep. Eventually, he said, the army lost control of the situation and gave in. When he finished his description, Mahmoud turned to me and grinned. “I read in a book that this is called nonviolence,” he said, laughing.

When US President Barack Obama called on Palestinians to practice nonviolence, I laughed just like Mahmoud. Palestinians like Mahmoud have never needed to be told about nonviolence. The English word may be unfamiliar but the steadfast, daily acts of resistance known as nonviolence are nothing new. In the south Hebron hills, Palestinians face Israeli soldiers and violent Israeli settlers who are illegally expanding their settlements and attacking Palestinians, including children walking to school. In response to this profound injustice, Palestinians are organizing demonstrations, refusing to comply with military orders, filing complaints against settlers, and courageously working their land despite the risk of arrest and attack. They don’t need President Obama to tell them to practice nonviolence.

Palestinians have practiced nonviolent resistance for the last 60 years. From the “Great Revolt” during the British Mandate to the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, to the loose-knit but powerful community-based movement of today. Certainly, it’s inaccurate to omit armed resistance from Palestinian history, but it is equally false to claim that Palestinians are unfamiliar with nonviolence. President Obama missed the point in his Cairo speech — Palestinians do not need to be admonished towards peacefulness. It’s radical Israeli settlers and the Israeli government who do.

Instead of preaching to Palestinians, Obama should insist emphatically on the dismantlement of Israeli settlements that violate international law and the enforcement of laws to prevent Israeli settlers from attacking Palestinian villagers, a frequent occurrence in the south Hebron hills. After 42 years of Israeli military occupation, it is time for an American president to call on Israel to stop its violence towards Palestinians.

Joy Ellison is an American activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that supports Palestinian nonviolent resistance. She lives in At-Tuwani, a small village in the south Hebron hills which is nonviolently resisting settlement expansion and violence. She writes about her experiences on her blog, “I Saw it in Palestine.”

Joy Ellison is an American activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that supports Palestinian nonviolent resistance. She lives in At-Tuwani, a small village in the south Hebron hills which is nonviolently resisting settlement expansion and violence. She writes about her experiences on her blog, “I Saw it in Palestine.”

Thanks to the International Solidarity Movement

Tony Blair wanted UK Iraq inquiry to be held in secret - to cover up his war crimes

Protest: Parliament debates the Iraq inquiry on Wednesday 24 June. Stop the War has called a protest outside parliament from 2pm to insist that the inquiry be held in public.

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were opened to the public, reports the Observer.

The revelation that the former prime minister - who led Britain to war in March 2003 - had intervened will fuel the anger of MPs, peers, military leaders and former civil servants, who were appalled by Brown's decision last week to order the investigation to be conducted behind closed doors.

Blair is believed to have been alarmed by the prospect of giving evidence in public and under oath about the use of intelligence and about his numerous private discussions with US President George Bush over plans for war. A spokesman for the former Labour leader would only say last night: "This was a decision for the current prime minister, not for Tony Blair."

More at Stop the War

US commentators call for talks with Hamas if Israel really wants peace

Joe Klein of Time magazine in an interview with Mashaal shortly after Obama's Cairo speech, calls on the US to start talking to Hamas.

See his article in Time magazine here.
So what are our options, given Mashaal's refusal to yield on any of the demands made by Obama? Hamas has some inconvenient facts in its favor: it exists, it remains strong in Gaza — as a direct consequence of the real social services it provides and its relative lack of corruption compared with Fatah — and it has a legitimate complaint. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is inhumane and outrageous. Palestinians are imprisoned behind a barrier wall that does not conform to the 1967 lines; they are forced to endure hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks whose purpose seems humiliation as much as security; their lands are slit by highways that only settlers are allowed to use; the settlements, populated by the most extreme Israelis, have doubled in size since the 1993 Oslo accords, gradually turning the Palestinian areas into Swiss-cheese cantons.

There will be no peace as long as this persists. And there will be no peace without Hamas as part of the process..

Iranian crisis splits ruling elite as 10 killed by police in weekend protests

Police get surrounded by protesters and escape with their lives. The UK cops, increasingly hated by protesters and general public alike, will probably soon be getting the same treatment

Press TV reported on Sunday that the authorities in Iran now agree that more votes were counted than there were voters in 50 Iranian towns and cities, creating a discrepancy of 3 million votes but the Guardian council is claiming it is not likely to have been decisive in determining the vote. I can't find the Press TV report on the website but there is more on this at the New York Times.

Meanwhile the President of Israel offered his 'support' to the protest movement which is a very foolish thing to do as it will make it easier for the regime to try and split the movement by pointing to further 'foreign involvement'.

The US and UK continue to deny being involved in the movement but they would say that wouldn't they. The US was/is so uninvolved that it ordered Twitter not to take down servers for maintenance overhauls as it might disrupt the attempts by protesters to co-ordinate action on the ground and get info out to the rest of the world.

The western media seems to be more astonished by the fact that people have computers in the Islamic republic, and no - very well - how to use them.

The western hypocrisy surrounding their 'support' of the the protests brings to mind both the US elections stolen by Bush and the fatal police violence executed to plan by the UK police at the G20 summit in London.

Veolia now dropped from Tehran transport project because of Israel links

In another major victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions, the mayor of Tehran announced that Veolia would no longer have a key role in city's urban transport system. This victory in Iran, along with others France, UK, Sweden, and Holland, has cost Veolia an estimated $7 billion in lost contracts and were key in pushing the company to leave the Jerusalem light rail project.

Veolia and Alstom are both active in Iran. The Tehran Municipality and Veolia had agreed to collaborate on the implementation of some projects concerning the environment and the development of the urban transport system. Alstom has a headquarters in Tehran and received a number of large contracts, including a 192 million euro contract with Iran's state railways in 1999 and a larger 375 million euro contract to supply 50 turbo compressors to Iran in 2002.

More at the Stop the Wall campaign

Demolition order issued to Palestinian villagers

On 31 May, demolition and eviction orders were given to the communities in al-Hadidiya and Khirbet ar-Ras al-Ahmar. Those living in ar-Ras al-Ahmar have been told to leave immediately, while families in al-Hadidiya have received various extensions. Several families were told to evacuate within 24 hours, four others were given 48 hours, and the remaining families have been given court summons to appear at the Occupation military court in Beit Il at the end of June. In total, 201 persons were given 48 hours or less to evacuate.

The entire community of al-Hadidya, with the exception of a single family, is in danger of being expelled. In ar-Ras al-Ahmar, a third of the community, 17 of the 45 families, will be displaced.

On 17 June, three residential structures and 12 other structures, among them animal structures, were leveled in Jiftlik. The owners were not present, as they reside in Jiftlik only in the winter season.

Bulldozers accompanied by soldiers also raided and leveled residential structures in Wadi Malih. Three families, among them 9 children and 3 elderly persons, have lost their homes. 12 animal shelters were also demolished, and animal fodder and shelter material was damaged after being run over by a bulldozer.

More at Stop the Wall campaign

84-year-old holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein likely attacked by Zionist thugs

An “inspirational” speaker for 15 years at the Missouri Scholars Academy was attacked this week after visiting the Columbia camp.

Hedy Epstein, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, was walking to her home from a Metrolink station in St. Louis on Wednesday when someone pushed her hard from behind. She fell to the ground and lay in a state of shock, bleeding profusely from her chin.

The attack occurred so quickly, Epstein said, that she thought she saw a man running but can’t remember what he looked like. She forced herself to get home and called a friend when the bleeding would not stop. At the hospital, doctors determined an artery had been nicked.

The attack might not have been random.

Epstein is part of a movement opposed to Israel’s treatment of Gaza and has received threatening messages.

After she gave a television interview earlier this year, someone left a phone message telling Epstein she should be ashamed of herself. In the message, the caller threatened to visit St. Louis and “give you a piece of my mind and spit on your ugly face. … We will find a way to deal with protesters of your type.”

more at the Colombia Tribune

Free Gaza Movement sending two boats to break siege on 25 June

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Activists campaigning for an end to Gaza's blockade by Israel will sail to the enclave from Cyprus in defiance of the Israeli navy, they said Thursday.

Two boats, including one carrying cement and building supplies -- materials not permitted by Israel -- will sail from Cyprus on June 25, the multi-national Free Gaza Movement said.

"We are taking 15 tons of cement, which is just a token of how much the Palestinians need, because the Israelis won't allow building supplies into Gaza," said Greta Berlin, a representative of the group.

The group started regular shuttles to Gaza from Cyprus in August 2008, but was turned back by the Israeli navy on its last journey in mid-January of this year.

Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the Islamist Hamas took control of the enclave, a sliver of territory that is home to 1.5 million people.

Israeli forces bombed and then invaded Gaza in late December 2008 in a bid to rout out militants lobbing rockets into Israel, devastating its already battered infrastructure.

Since then, Israel has blocked imports of steel, cement and other goods to the Gazan population, saying Hamas could use many items for military purposes.

(Writing by Michele Kambas, editing by Richard Williams)

Free Gaza Movement

Red Cross actions show Arab lives are worth less than other human beings

The International Committee for the Red Cross is calling on Hamas to allow Israeli prisoner of war Shalit to receive letters from his family. This is the same ICRC that has studiously failed to do the same for the hundreds of Palestinian families that have children languishing in Israel's prisons. Why do these western organisation always see Arab lives as cheap?

GAZA, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, expressed astonishment on Friday following the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls on Hamas to let captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to hold regular contacts with his family.

The Jerusalem Post daily has earlier quoted Yael Segev-Eytan, spokeswoman of the ICRC in Israel as saying that since Shalit has been captured, the ICRC has tried to deliver messages to Shalit from his family, but these efforts have not succeeded.

The Hamas-run ministry of prisoners' affairs in Gaza said in a written statement that "While the Red Cross makes such a request, it stands disable to organize the visiting timetable for Gaza families, who have their children jailed in Israel."

Through its contacts with Hamas, The ICRC is attempting to establish "regular and unconditional" family contact for Shalit, including the exchange of letters between he and his family in Israel.

In summer of 2006, Shalit was captured by Hamas and two other minor militant groups during a triple armed attack on an Israeli army base just outside southeast Gaza Strip. Shalit is now still held in the Gaza Strip.

Since then, Shalit had sent one letter to his family and to the Israeli government and received another letter from his father that was conveyed to him several months ago through foreign mediators.

"There are hundreds of families who were deprived from visiting or seeing their sons and daughters in Israeli jails for more than two years. The ICRC had failed to convey written letters from the prisoners to their families," said the statement.

Earlier Israeli reports said that Hamas and Israel will soon renew their indirect talks to finalize a prisoners' swap deal to release Shalit for releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. more

Settlers try to incinerate Palestinian villagers

Three Palestinians from a small hamlet near Yatta, south of Hebron, on Sunday narrowly escaped death after Israeli settlers set fire to a tent while they were inside.

Local residents told Ma’an that Israeli settlers from the nearby Susia settlement, which sits on Palestinian land, set fire to a large tent used as a meeting hall for the small village.

The tent belonged to Muhammad Nasr Nawaj’ah, and was about 50 square meters in size.

Local residents who were awakened by pleas for help hurried to extinguish the fire and administered first aid to the injured, who were identified as 22-year-old Abd Ar-Rahman Nawaj’ah, 21-year-old Yahya Nawaj’ah, and 22-year-old Ibrahim Nawaj’ah.

Thanks to Ma'an news agency

Israel's hegemony in the air threatened by resistance air defence missiles

The Israeli Air Force has brought a virtual trainer into service in order to train its pilots in the evasion of anti-aircraft missiles.

The Israeli military is increasingly concerned that it is in danger of seeing the deterrent force of having the most powerful air force in the region undermined.

An article in the Jerusalem Post this morning admits that Hezbollah and Hamas probably have shoulder held anti-aircraft missiles in their arsenal and that Iran is well on the way to installing the advanced Russian built - S-300 air defence system that can track up to 100 different aircraft simultaneously.

See our report on Iran and the Russian air defence system here

Prisoner swap talks make progress according to Arab media reports

Palestinian sources say there is reason to believe that significant progress has been made in talks on a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

Sources told the paper that both sides have presented serious proposals and that Hamas has shown newfound flexibility on the issue of relocating West Bank Hamas members to Gaza.

As part of a prisoner exchange for captive soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel is demanding that Hamas agree to absorb prisoners into Gaza rather than allowing them to return to their homes in the West Bank.

The negotiations, which are being mediated by Egypt, have been stalled since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took over the reins of power from his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.

Reports say Abbas to release Hamas detainees on West Bank

From the International Middle East Media Center

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah ordered Monday release of all Hamas detainees by reconsidering each single case, the Palestinian Maan News Agency reported

Maan said that head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc, Azzam Alahmad, confirmed that Abbas's orders include release of all Hamas detainees , except those who ' pose a threat to public security'.

"This move is intended to pave the atmosphere for the upcoming national unity talks in Cairo", aL-Ahmad was quoted as saying.

In addition to a recent release of 20 Hamas detainees, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will set free today 20 to 30 others. Yet, the PA will not release all those involved in law breaking, including those affiliated with Fatah.

The ruling Hamas party in Gaza has demanded that all of its detainees in West Bank prisons of the PA should be released as a perquisite for success of Cairo talks. Cairo is expected to push both parties to a conciliation agreement by July7.

Support Ahmad Saadat's hunger strike for freedom

For more information on the struggle to free Ahmad Saadat go to:

Ahmad Sa'adat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, is one of over 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. These political prisoners, men, women and children, are activists, organizers and political leaders of the Palestinian people.

Sa'adat was sentenced to 30 years in the occupation prisons on December 25, 2008. On March 18, 2009, Sa'adat was moved into isolation at Asqelan prison, facing serious medical consequences. In June 2009, Sa'adat engaged in a nine-day hunger strike against his isolation.

Sa'adat was being held in Hadarim prison. Sa'adat, with five other Palestinian prisoners, was kidnapped by the Israeli military on March 14, 2006 after a siege upon the prison in Jericho, where he was being held under a U.S. and British guard at a Palestinian Authority prison.

Protest to foreign secretary Miliband over Israels's abuse of Palestinian prisoners

Use the model letter below to send your protests to the British Foreign Office over the treatment of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners being illegally held in Israel's prisons:

Rt. Hon. David Miliband
Foreign Secretary, London SW1

Dear Mr. Miliband

Justice for Palestinian prisoners

I am writing about the plight of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners held by the illegal occupying power. There have been protests all over the Middle East to coincide with a hunger strike held by Ahmad Sa’adat, a prominent prisoner held in illegal detention by the State of Israel. The British government have an historic responsibility towards the whole Palestinian people, from the Mandate period to the present day. They have a special responsibility towards Mr. Sa’adat , whom they were jointly guarding on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and who they then allowed to be seized by the occupiers of his birth place.

Mr. Sa’adat is suffering from back pain, but true to form his captors have denied him medicine. He has also been kept in isolation, like many Palestinian prisoners, who include women and children in their ranks. Mr Sadaat is also a representative on the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC], as are several of the detainees including Mr. Aziz Dweik the Speaker of the PLC, and prominent Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Mr. Barghouti is being held for the murder of civilians inside the green line; murders which he did not commit or condone. All three men are prisoners because they defend the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israel’s illegal occupation.

If Her Majesties Government wish to be instrumental in bringing justice to the Middle East, the release of prisoners, beginning with the women and children in administrative detention, would be a good start.

The criminalisation of acts of resistance, including military operations against disproportionately powerful Israeli forces, is against the spirit and thrust of international law. Rather than label people as terrorists, they must be engaged as legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people. That is certainly true of Sa’adat, Barghouti, and last but not least Dweik, whose “crime” is to be elected as the Speaker of a democratic assembly.

If democracy is to championed as a universal right leading to a more just world, rather than a catchphrase suitable for certain situations, the scandal of Israel’s Palestinian prisoners must be rectified. The British people and their government must play its part.

Yours sincerely,

From the Palestinian Information Center:

GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of prisoners in Gaza on Sunday called on the popular and official institutions to organize wide campaigns in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails against the Israeli violations of their rights especially the attempts to force them to wear the orange uniform.

In a press release received by the PIC, Riyadh Al-Ashqar, the information director at the ministry, stressed that the prisoners must not be left alone especially by the media or else the Israeli occupation would dare to violate their rights further and apply its own arbitrary laws against them.

Ashqar added that the state of silence towards what happens to Palestinian prisoners encouraged Israel to commit further violations of international law against them, so it is necessary to intensify events and activities that highlight their poor incarceration conditions and the injustice inflicted on them and not just organize weekly sit-ins in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza.

The official pointed out that what happens inside Israeli jails is much worse and more brutal than the atrocities committed in Guantanamo prison, but the different media outlets failed or did not play a strong role to highlight the barbarism and war crimes taking place in Israeli prisons as was the case with Guantanamo.

The official appealed to all media outlets in the world to necessarily give greater attention and priority to the issue of Palestinian prisoners in their programs and media coverage in order to reveal the true face of Israel and thus pressuring it to stop its violations of prisoners’ rights.