Sunday, December 30, 2007
Many of you will have the urge to comment on this very well written op-ed. I urge you to do so by clicking on the link following the article and posting your comments online so you can add to the lively discussion already underway.
Keeping all options open to end this nightmare for both Palestinians and Israelis,
Democracy: an existential threat?
Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti
December 30, 2007 10:00 AM
As two of the authors of a recent document advocating a one-state solution to the Arab- Israeli colonial conflict, we intended to generate debate. Predictably, Zionists decried the proclamation as yet another proof of the unwavering devotion of Palestinian - and some radical Israeli - intellectuals to the "destruction of Israel". Some pro-Palestinian activists accused us of forsaking immediate and critical Palestinian rights in the quest of a "utopian" dream.
Inspired in part by the South African Freedom Charter and the Belfast Agreement , the much humbler One State Declaration, authored by a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international academics and activists, affirms that "the historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status". It envisages a system of government founded on "the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens".
It is precisely this basic insistence on equality that is perceived by Zionists as an existential threat to Israel, undermining its inherently discriminatory foundations which privilege its Jewish citizens over all others. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was refreshingly frank when he recently admitted that Israel was "finished" if it faced a struggle for equal rights by Palestinians.
But whereas transforming a regime of institutionalised racism, or apartheid, into a democracy was viewed as a triumph for human rights and international law in South Africa and Northern Ireland, it is rejected out of hand in the Israeli case as a breach of what is essentially a sacred right to ethno-religious supremacy (euphemistically rendered as Israel's "right to be a Jewish state").
Palestinians are urged by an endless parade of western envoys and political hucksters - the latest among them Tony Blair - to make do with what the African National Congress rightly rejected when offered it by South Africa's apartheid regime: a patchwork Bantustan made up of isolated ghettoes that falls far below the minimum requirements of justice.
Sincere supporters of ending the Israeli occupation have also been severely critical of one- state advocacy on moral and pragmatic grounds. A moral proposition, some have argued, ought to focus on the likely effect it may have on people, and particularly those under occupation, deprived of their most fundamental needs, like food, shelter and basic services. The most urgent task, they conclude, is to call for an end to the occupation, not to promote one-state illusions. Other than its rather patronising premise - that these supporters somehow know what Palestinians need more than we do - this argument is problematic in assuming that Palestinians, unlike humans everywhere, are willing to forfeit their long-term rights to freedom, equality and self-determination in return for some transient alleviation of their most immediate suffering.
The refusal of Palestinians in Gaza to surrender to Israel's demand that they recognise its "right" to discriminate against them, even in the face of its criminal starvation siege imposed with the backing of the United States and the European Union, is only the latest demonstration of the fallacy of such assumptions.
A more compelling argument, expressed most recently on Cif by Nadia Hijab and Victoria Brittain, states that under the current circumstances of oppression, when Israel is bombing and indiscriminately killing; imprisoning thousands under harsh conditions; building walls to separate Palestinians from each other and from their lands and water resources; incessantly stealing Palestinian land and expanding colonies; besieging millions of defenceless Palestinians in disparate and isolated enclaves; and gradually destroying the very fabric of Palestinian society, calling for a secular, democratic state is tantamount to letting Israel "off the hook".
They worry about weakening an international solidarity movement that is "at its broadest behind a two-state solution". But even if one ignores the fact that the Palestinian "state" on offer now is no more than a broken-up immiserated Bantustan under continued Israeli domination, the real problem with this argument is that it assumes that decades of upholding a two-state solution have done anything concrete to stop or even assuage such horrific human rights abuses.
Since the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo agreements were signed in 1993, the colonisation of the West Bank and all the other Israeli violations of international law have intensified incessantly and with utter impunity. We see this again after the recent Annapolis meeting: as Israel and functionaries of an unrepresentative and powerless Palestinian Authority go through the motions of "peace talks", Israel's illegal colonies and apartheid wall continue to grow, and its atrocious collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is intensifying without the "international community" lifting a finger in response.
This "peace process", not peace or justice, has become an end in itself -- because as long as it continues Israel faces no pressure to actually change its behaviour. The political fiction that a two-state solution lies always just around the corner but never within reach is essential to perpetuate the charade and preserve indefinitely the status quo of Israeli colonial hegemony.
To avoid the pitfalls of further division in the Palestinian rights movement, we concur with Hijab and Brittain in urging activists from across the political spectrum, irrespective of their opinions on the one state, two states debate, to unite behind the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, as the most politically and morally sound civil resistance strategy that can inspire and mobilise world public opinion in pursuing Palestinian rights.
The rights-based approach at the core of this widely endorsed appeal focuses on the need to redress the three basic injustices that together define the question of Palestine - the denial of Palestinian refugee rights, primary among them their right to return to their homes, as stipulated in international law; the occupation and colonisation of the 1967 territory, including East Jerusalem; and the system of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Sixty years of oppression and 40 years of military occupation have taught Palestinians that, regardless what political solution we uphold, only through popular resistance coupled with sustained and effective international pressure can we have any chance of realising a just peace.
Hand in hand with this struggle it is absolutely necessary to begin to lay out and debate visions for a post-conflict future. It is not coincidental that Palestinian citizens of Israel, refugees and those in the diaspora, the groups long disfranchised by the "peace process" and whose fundamental rights are violated by the two-state solution have played a key role in setting forward new ideas to escape the impasse.
Rather than seeing the emerging democratic, egalitarian vision as a threat, a disruption, or a sterile detour, it is high time to see it for what it is: the most promising alternative to an already dead two-state dogma.
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Friday, December 28, 2007
The mere fact that the event below took place, as sad as the results were, is another crack in glass of occupation. The rising militarism in Israel (not to mention the world) is scarier than ever before.
On another note, I'd like to propose everyone start the new year by taking a simple action in their own community. Although I can take issue with their call for a Jewish-only state, I applaud Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, efforts in trying to educate Rabbis on the essence of the Israeli military occupation. If each community prints and binds copies of the below guide and hand delivers them to each Rabbi in your city, it would be well worth the effort. This could also be launched in your community as a public effort to be covered by your local media. Education is a big part of seeing the light.
"A Rabbinic Guide to 40 Years of Occupation"
Last but not least, remember you can always manage your subscription to ePalestine via the instructions at the end of every posting. You can also also pass the instructions to your friends to subscribe as well.
Saluting those speaking out with actions,
Commentary on current events
The Burden of Draft Dodging: 'I was a commander in the army - what are you?'
By Peleg Sapir
Translated from Hebrew by Daphna Levit
I want to relate an incident that happened to me and my friends, which clearly and disturbingly illustrates the violence that is developing over the issue of 'draft dodging' (I prefer the term 'evasion') and possibly predicts the future. This article was originally written as a letter to Gideon Spiro, but the decision was made to publish it in its entirety. Yesterday (Thursday, December 13th) a gathering was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv to launch the forum 'Parents for an Equal Burden', which primarily dealt with 'the danger of draft dodging'. Actually, it seems that their entire concern was with 'the danger of draft dodging', as appropriate to any proto-fascistic society. My friends and I came to the meeting to protest - the meeting was free and open to the general public. We entered with one of our friends bound in chains, shouting: 'Here, we caught a draft dodger! Teach him a lesson! Draft him!'
At first, the participants reacted with a mixture of derision and anger, which quickly turned into shouting and a somewhat justifiable (in my opinion) non-violent attempt to get us out of the hall. But a few seconds later, as we were on our way out, a commotion started. We had to move along the wall since there were chairs preventing us from going directly to the door, and some of the parents used this to block our progress, to push us to the wall and, simply, to pounce upon us. The first violent act - certainly not the last - was when one of the fathers (I later found out it was Shlomo Vishinski) grabbed a friend of mine, named Dan who, ironically, had served in the army, and turning red with rage, choked him vehemently shouting: 'I was a commander in the army -- what are you?!'
At this stage, the commotion was under way. Many of the people in the hall surrounded us, some of them shouting at us, some of them trying to hit us (one of my friends, Alex was pushed to the floor, another, Yonathan, was vigorously kicked). They looked as though they wanted to kill us, although I assume they did not intend to kill us, but they did want to show us their rage. Somehow we managed to drag the entire riot outside, while the more moderate among them - perhaps the mothers - shouting at us 'Shame on you! You are Scum! Etc.' At this time there was an attempt to prevent our exit by using the well known method of holding us to the floor and hitting us. I loath violence, am afraid of it, and I managed to run away more quickly, to get less of the violence and the beatings and to raise myself above the commotion to discover that the guards were not allowing us to exit. One of the organizers shouted to them to prevent us from leaving and they obliged by using force. The answer to my question: 'Is there no freedom of expression here?' was 'Freedom of expression? You will have none of that you scum! The police will show you what freedom of expression means!' or some similar response, which clarified that we as draft dodgers are entitled to nothing. I have no idea how my friends and I finally got out of the hall and the hotel. The security guards ran after us for a while but we escaped. The parents called the police, which had it functioned properly, should have arrested them for the attack. I had never before in my life seen an attempted lynch, and maybe that is why, one day later, I am still in shock.
The violence demonstrated by the parents astounded me - they were more violent and enraged then the soldiers I had seen in demonstrations in the occupied territories. My friends, all experienced 'fighters' against the police and other fascists at demonstrations - were all equally astounded by the response that was so totally out of proportion to our actions, which were, admittedly, provocative. On the other hand, whoever is leading a political campaign should be aware of the possibility of a response like ours, which was in no way violent. All in all it was a performance that exaggerates and ridicules the audience and the purposes of the forum. But, ironically, the participants took our performance as an exaggeration of their own behavior and realized it.
This morning, I was amazed to read in the newspaper (I am not sure why we are still subscribed to Yediot Aharont) that we are 'violent leftist activists' who hit a bereaved father (I think that was the man who attacked Dan and who was apparently hurt when prevented from beating and choking him to death) and that the forum of 'Parents for an Equal Burden' has no intention of pursuing draft dodgers. Furthermore, it appears that we verbally abused the parents, shouting things like 'Neo Nazis' etc. This is amusing since we are all the grandchildren of holocaust survivors and we avoid the usage of such terms in all our discourse. It was, in fact, one of the mothers who yelled at us 'you are the ones who sprayed the words neo-Nazi on my house yesterday! Which one of you did that?' In the MaAriv article we were identified as members of New Profile, which some of us are active in but we did not act here on its behalf.
While the violence I saw yesterday surprised me, the lies in the media destroyed the rest of my faith in people. We used no violence. Anyone who was there can testify that some of those present had to prevent the parents and other young people from injuring us more seriously, that enraged people pounced upon us to beat us up, that a group of people in the hall held Alex on the floor to prevent his escape, while they were punching him in the face with their fists, that they blocked our way out and altogether - the violence came from the parents.
Since this horrifying campaign began, under the leadership of the ultra-fascist Eliezer Stern, I am more horrified daily. Since the signs were placed on almost every third bus, at the cost of thousands of Shekels if not millions, I feel threatened. Since yesterday, I am afraid, really afraid. Because the violence of people who demand military service for all is insane. Afraid because when the parents for the draft are violent - we are described in the media as violent activists. Throughout my political activity I was convinced that the activist community has exaggerated the description of the behavior of the police, the soldiers and the nationalists. Yesterday I saw with my own eyes. On the contrary, the behavior has been softened. We must point out and shout about the real danger - people are becoming more violent and nationalistic. The country is being pushed - no, pushing itself - towards increasing fascism. Even today, many citizens of the State of Israel are under military authority, a large number has no equal rights. The day is not so far that we too will be in that situation.
I don't know if I have managed to entirely convey the horror I saw yesterday and I am sure that this is not news to some of the activist readers and even to some of my friends mentioned here. Nevertheless, I felt the need to write about the violence. (On the subject of the fascist campaign and militarism in Israel I still have a lot to say). I hope this story will arouse some interest.
I pray that the situation does not deteriorate, that we find ourselves in a saner society.
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Monday, December 24, 2007
[ePalestine] Press Release: Churches in Holy Land Latest Victims of Israeli Authorities' Travel Prohibitions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact: Rasha Mukbil, Coordinator
Churches in Holy Land Latest Victims of Israeli Authorities' Travel Prohibitions
Israel makes Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Church of Nativity off limits to Christian Clergy
(Bethlehem, Palestine - 24 Dec 2007) As the world celebrates this holiday season, Israel is blocking clergy from reaching their churches and Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the Holy Land. These Israeli actions are in blatant violation of international humanitarian law, block the right for religions to practice in the Holy Land, and defy every notion of basic common sense.
The Israeli authorities are arbitrarily denying entry to clergy and volunteers belonging to or working for Christian institutions and service providers. The clergy being harassed and denied entry to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) join tens of thousands of ordinary foreign passport holders of Palestinian and non-Palestinian origin who wish to be with their families, work or study, as well as tourists and pilgrims. This is especially sad at a time of spiritual reflection and reunion of families, friends and communities when major celebrations of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities coincide over the same period.
In a continuing demonstration of Israel's arbitrary denial of entry policy, and disregard for the Palestinian population’s right to practice their religion and worship freely, Israel sends a clear message to the international community that it has no intention whatsoever to use the recent political movement at the Annapolis Summit in Washington DC as a pretext to bring its actions in line with international law.
Furthermore, it appears that Israel has recently rescinded the year long multiple entry visas commonly given to Arab clergy for churches in both Palestine and in Israel (see Haaretz, “Israel Rescinds Arab Christian clergy travel rights in W. Bank, by the Associated Press, 27/10/07”). Under the new rule, clergy who are now abroad, despite their holding valid Israeli multiple entry visas, are being denied re-entry into Israel and the oPt, where many of their churches are located. Future travel by these clergy will have to be coordinated with multiple Israeli agencies in a process which can take more than a year to complete. The process is not transparent, efficient, or certain. Israel states that the request comes from “security officials” without citing any problems or infringements to justify the change, nor can anyone in the Christian community recall any such problems.
In addition, there appears to be a new policy by Israel to refuse entry or visa extension for foreign, primarily Western, Christian volunteers working with various Christian organizations here. This is affecting the viability of these organizations and the normal connection with their supporters and fellow Christians in the countries that contribute to the presence of these Christian workers. They represent mainstream Christian and faith-based groups, such as the World Council of Churches and the American Friend's Service Committee that advocate non- violence and brotherhood and are in no way a threat to the security of Israel.
A more realistic explanation of Israel’s new policy is that many Christian clergy and workers here have become extremely effective advocates for the Christian communities with the outside world, speaking to Christian and Jewish groups in the US and Europe and to the US Congress on the harm being done to local Christians by the separation wall and Israeli military occupation policies. It is more likely that the intent of the law is to silence these critics.
This has become an addition to Israel’s unannounced policy which accelerated in early 2006 of arbitrary denial of entry to the oPt for foreign passport holding family members of Palestinian ID-holders, educators, business persons, health professionals, humanitarian works and others active in civil society. To date, despite high level interventions by third state missions, international and human rights organizations, Israeli authorities have failed to provide a transparent policy on which foreign nationals wishing to enter or maintain their presence in the occupied Palestinian territory can rely. Instead, Israel has continued to pursue both policies and practices that fail to comply with International Humanitarian Law.
The Campaign calls on third states, religious leaders and congregations worldwide to protest Israel's actions harming the Church community and to demand a clear, transparent and lawful policy for all foreign nationals wishing to enter the Holy Land.
= = 30 = =
Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory(oPt)
A Grassroots Campaign for the Protection of Foreign Passport Holders Residing in and/or Visiting the oPt
Telephone: +970.(0)59.817.3953 Facsimile: +970.2.295.4903
Website: www.RightToEnter.ps Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sunday, December 23, 2007
by HENRY SIEGMAN*
[from the December 31, 2007 issue]
The recent Annapolis proceedings have taken the Middle East peace process out of its prolonged state of morbidity in three respects. First, they call for negotiations over “all core issues without exception.” Before Annapolis, Israel refused to consider negotiations on a final-status accord before Palestinians implemented their obligation, under the 2003 road map agreement, to disarm Palestinian militants. That demand constituted the mother of all oxymorons, since no Palestinian leader could end violent resistance to the occupation in the face of Israel’s refusal to reveal how much Palestinian territory it intended to retain. The Palestinians have lost to Israel fully half the territory recognized by the 1947 United Nations partition resolution as their legitimate patrimony. They are not about to renounce the right to fight, if necessary, to retain the remaining 22 percent of Palestine.
Second, by relinquishing Israel’s demand that Palestinian implementation of the road map’s obligations precede negotiations, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gained the right to demand that actual implementation of an agreement can come only after Palestinians have met those obligations, a demand that President Mahmoud Abbas accepted. This too was an important advance--provided an impartial third party monitors and judges compliance by both sides.
Third, the parties accepted the US decision to serve as that monitor, a role that until now Israel had arrogated to itself. A major obstacle to implementation of all previous agreements was the absence of a third-party monitor. Whether the United States can be an impartial arbiter remains to be proven. As indicated below, things have gotten off to a very unpromising start. These accomplishments are potentially important breakthroughs, even if they remain highly problematic. By themselves, however, they cannot overcome the failure of Annapolis to deal with a number of major remaining obstacles to an eventual peace accord.
In an effort to reassure the Israelis, the Bush Administration repeatedly declared that the US role will be limited to “facilitation.” Given the discrepancies in power, wealth and influence that mark the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, a final-status agreement is inconceivable if the United States refuses to redress the imbalances between the two through its active intervention. The notion that “facilitation” alone will enable the parties to bridge their vast asymmetries is patently absurd.
That no agreement is conceivable between such radically uneven adversaries without US intervention is underlined by Bush’s insistence--echoing Olmert’s--that the success of the Annapolis peace process depends on Palestinian willingness to match Israeli “concessions.” This demand is stunningly insensitive to the fact that Palestinians are a people under occupation. As such, they have little to offer Israel by way of concessions, other than their continued subjugation and dispossession.
Of course, Palestinians are obliged to do everything they can to bring violence under control. That is why, even after an agreement is reached, its implementation would have to be delayed until Palestinian authorities have established the rule of law in their area. As for Israel, what is expected of it are not concessions but that it meet longstanding obligations imposed by UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements with the Palestinians. To call these Israeli obligations concessions is to undermine the negotiations before they begin, for they imply that Israel and the United States can demand that Palestinians forgo their rights under existing agreements and international law if they are to deserve an end to Israel’s occupation.
The position of Olmert’s government has been--and continues to be even after Annapolis-- that Israel will not return to the pre-1967 border, that Israel will remain the sole sovereign in Jerusalem and that not a single refugee will be let back into Israel. Allowing that Palestinians will have to show flexibility in the implementation of their rights, particularly with regard to the demand for a significant return of refugees to Israel, it remains the case that these are indeed Palestinian rights, as defined by UN resolutions, the road map and international law. Israel is being asked to cease its violations of these rights, with its confiscations of Palestinian territory for settlements and outposts and housing projects that are intended to deny Palestinians a presence in any part of Jerusalem. For the United States to characterize Israeli demands for Palestinian giveaways as reciprocity for Israeli concessions is to add insult to injury--particularly since one would be hard put to identify a single concession Israel has made to the Palestinians.
These obstacles aside, Washington must abandon the fantasy that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement can be reached and implemented in the face of deep divisions between Fatah and Hamas, divisions that Israel and the United States have deliberately fostered. Palestinian acceptance of “painful compromises,” not to speak of their implementation, will be extraordinarily difficult in the best of circumstances. They are impossible without Palestinian unity. Instead of seeking to heal this Palestinian breach, the United States and Israel have sought to widen it, in the entirely unrealistic expectation that showering economic and other “gifts” on Abbas in the West Bank while strangling Gaza will lead to the defeat of Hamas.
For starters, promises to empower Abbas by removing obstacles and checkpoints that have shattered Palestinian life have been made repeatedly in the past, only to be repeatedly ignored by Israel’s security and military establishment. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has left no doubt this will not change. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis take these promises seriously any longer; if Bush still believes them, he is the only one who does.
Furthermore, continued strangulation of Gaza in the face of promised West Bank prosperity will only further weaken Abbas, who will be portrayed as a Palestinian Pétain, and fuel violence and terrorism that, at their first manifestation, will predictably serve as Israel’s pretext for abandoning negotiations.
Despite these formidable obstacles, optimists insist that if negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians proceed in good faith, it is possible that a more positive chemistry between the parties will somehow enable them to reach commonly desired objectives. Perhaps. But the problem is that instead of good faith, unimaginably bad faith has been manifested, even before the ink of Annapolis’s joint statement has dried.
Olmert and his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, repeatedly promised they would remove every last “illegal outpost” and freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank. It is the very first of several obligations imposed on Israel by the road map. To this day, Israel is in flagrant violation of those promises.
The only thing Olmert seems to recall about the road map--other than its requirement that Palestinians fight terror--is Bush’s 2004 opinion in his letter to Sharon that Israel should be able to hold on to its settlement blocs in the West Bank, the road map’s provisions to the contrary notwithstanding. But Bush has no more right to unilaterally alter an international agreement than has Olmert or Abbas.
Olmert solemnly promised in Annapolis to freeze settlement construction and dismantle the illegal outposts. This undertaking was a condition for the participation of Arab countries. But two days after the adjournment of Annapolis the Israeli daily Ha’aretz revealed that Olmert’s colleagues--several deputy prime ministers and cabinet ministers--are instead surreptitiously planning to “launder” the outposts’ illegal status, enlarge them and provide government support for their development into permanent settlements. As to the freezing of settlement growth, Peace Now and Israeli human rights groups have documented how Olmert gets around this inconvenience by simply attaching the names of old settlements to the new ones and calling them extensions of existing settlements.
Olmert’s government has also announced new construction in the Har Homa area of East Jerusalem, intended to close it off from its Palestinian hinterland. The government’s explanation for this is its intention to retain all Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, limiting negotiations to the Arab neighborhoods. This is in blatant disregard of the Annapolis understandings and in violation of the specific provision of the road map. Israel has no more right to determine unilaterally the status of any part of East Jerusalem than do the Palestinians.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the new construction in Har Homa “doesn’t help build confidence.” This breathtaking understatement, the failure to suggest that such violations may incur international sanctions and the Administration’s silence on the subject of Israel’s continuing enlargement of settlements and outposts should tell Abbas and the international community all they need to know about what kind of impartiality to expect from America in its new role of “monitor and judge” of the peace process.
It also exposes the fatuousness of the Quartet (the UN, the EU, Russia and the United States) and the innocence of those who lecture Palestinians about institution building. We know the half-life of the institutions Palestinians have already built: only their rubble remains, and it should serve as a reminder of the futility of such efforts in the absence of understandings that show some awareness of the Palestinians’ ongoing dispossession and respect for their political rights.
* Henry Siegman is director of the US/Middle East Project. He is also a research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Siegman served as a senior fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 2006.
This article can be found on the web at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071231/siegman
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Barenboim criticizes Israel after musician blocked from Gaza
2 days ago
BERLIN - Conductor Daniel Barenboim criticized Israel Monday for preventing a Palestinian musician in an ensemble that was to perform at a music festival from entering the Gaza Strip for a concert.
Barenboim said his group of about 20 musicians from England, the United States, France and Germany, as well the Palestinian musician, had been authorized by Israeli authorities to travel to Gaza for a baroque music festival, where they were to play on Sunday.
But the 27-year-old was stopped at the Israel-Gaza border and informed he needed individual permission to enter. The group was held for seven hours at the border, then cancelled its concert in solidarity.
"A baroque music concert in a Roman Catholic church in Gaza - as we all know - has nothing to do with security and would bring so much joy to people who live there in great difficulty," Barenboim said.
The Jewish conductor, who was born in Buenos Aires but grew up in Israel, called on Israelis to support humanitarian and cultural projects in the Palestinian territories.
Barenboim has for years been critical of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. In 1999, he founded the WestEastern Divan Orchestra for youths from around the Middle East.
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Thanks, but no thanks
Statehood does not offer the equitable and fair solution the Palestinian people deserve
Ahmad Samih Khalidi
Thursday December 13, 2007
The Palestinian state has now become the universal standard for all solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The international community applauds the concept. President Bush proudly proclaims it as his "vision". The Israelis have come to it belatedly, after years of steadfast refusal and rejection.
Today Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, not only supports the idea but proclaims it as an existential Israeli interest: without it, Israel is fated to disappear under dire assault from the ever-expanding Arab population in both Israel and the occupied territories. This apparent human tide may yet bring disaster to the Jewish state, by demanding equal civil rights to those of the Jews themselves.
But statehood as such is a relatively recent addition to Palestinian aspirations. The main Palestinian impetus after the disaster of 1948 was that of "return"; it was more about reversing the loss of Arab land and patrimony, than the fulfilment of classical post-colonial self-determination, via statehood.
Driven into national concussion by the catastrophic forced displacement of 1948 and up until the mid-1960s, the sense of a separate "Palestinian" national identity all but disappeared. This "lost consciousness" was only reversed by the emergence of Fatah under Yasser Arafat in the Arab diaspora in the late 1950s.
It was only after the 1967 debacle that a new Palestinian national identity began to take shape. At its core was the notion of the armed struggle as a galvanising force. Armed struggle, according to Fatah, restored Palestinian dignity and gave the Palestinians a say in determining their future.
Statehood and state building had no real place in this scheme. Indeed, the first tentative proposals to establish a state in Palestine (ie the West Bank) were rejected as defeatist and a betrayal of the national cause. This was certainly not an exercise in institution building, land acquisition and state building by stealth, as in the Zionist movement before 1948. After the 1973 war, Fatah's leaders turned to the notion again. This was largely the result of a realistic reading of the balance of power and a recognition of the limits of what force, on the part of the Arab states or Palestinian irregulars, was likely to achieve. Eventually, in 1988, Arafat himself backed the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders as a historic compromise; Israel behind these borders would get 77% of Mandatory Palestine, and the Palestinians would be reconciled to the remaining 23%.
Today, the Palestinian state is largely a punitive construct devised by the Palestinian's worst historical enemies; Israel and its implacable ally, the US. The intention behind the state today is to constrain Palestinian aspirations territorially, to force them to give up on their moral rights, renege on their history and submit to Israel's diktats on fundamental issues of sovereignty.
Its core is the rump Palestinian Authority that is now fundamentally sustained by the IDF presence on the West Bank. The PA is increasingly being turned into an accoutrement of Israeli occupation; its function is to serve Israeli security interests as designated by Israel itself and the US military teams that have been overseeing the buildup of Palestinian security forces.
It is very unclear how an independent state can be built on the spears of the very force that is occupying it. Or how state institutions can be constructed while the occupation continues to determine every aspect of Palestinian life.
The notion of a state was an offshoot of the Palestinian struggle and not its nodal point. Nonetheless, there was a period from the mid-1970s onwards when the state could have represented the point where Palestinian national aspirations met the boundaries of what is possible.
Now this concept is less attractive than ever. Olmert demands of Palestinians that they must give up their history. President Bush decides for them what their borders and rights must be. And Tony Blair wags a finger and tells Palestinians that they won't get a state at all unless, it meets his high standards (sic) of governance .
The temptation is to say, thanks, but no thanks. Under such circumstances, Palestinians may just opt for something else. They could evoke Olmert's worst nightmare and call for a more equitable and fair resolution that is built on a different basis; one of mutual respect, equality and mutuality, and a sense of genuine partnership in sharing the land.
Or Palestinians could simply continue to say no to a state that does nothing to address its basic needs. Either way, its hard to see how Israel can win this struggle in the long term.
· Ahmad Samih Khalidi is a senior associate member of St Antony's College, Oxford email@example.com
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
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Friday, December 14, 2007
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 01:18 15/06/2007
The twilight zone / 'Now you are paralyzed, as we promised'
By Gideon Levy
"We have to make you do a little sports," the Shin Bet interrogator said, launching four successive days of questioning accompanied by brutal physical torture. The result: Luwaii Ashqar can no longer stand on his feet. He sits in his wheelchair, dressed in a fashionable quasi-military suit, super-elegant, new Caterpillar-brand shoes on his paralyzed feet.
"I love this color," he says about his uniform. "It's the color of the soldiers who came to arrest me for the interrogation that did all this to me."
His smile is captivating, his Hebrew rich and incisive. He is a young man whose world fell apart. He entered prison sound of body and mind and emerged a broken man. For four days and four nights nonstop, he says, he was interrogated and subjected to torture of the most brutal kind. The result is the person we see before us in the wheelchair, in the elegant home high in the village of Saida, north of Tul Karm, which was placed at his disposal by a friend after he was released from Israeli prison a month ago.
Was there a judgment by the High Court of Justice? There was. It banned precisely the types of torture he underwent: the "banana posture," the "shabah" (body stretching with hands tied to a chair), "invisible" blows and the "frog posture" (being forced to stand for hours on the toes in a crouching position) - all the way to a vicious kick to his chest that bent his body backward while he was tied to a chair with his arms and legs, and which was the probable cause of the partial paralysis of his legs.
Throwing up with the vomit entering his nostrils, losing consciousness and being given only saltwater to drink, relieving himself in his pants, not sleeping or resting - all of that for four consecutive days and nights.
What does the interrogator Maimon tell his children when he goes home? What do Eldad and Sagiv tell their wives about their daily labors before they turn in? That they tortured another helpless prisoner until they turned him into a cripple? That they beat this charming young man brutally and that at the end of the interrogation he was tried for only marginal offenses? And where is the Supreme Court, which in 1999 prohibited precisely the chain of torture that Luwaii Sati Ashqar, 30, who was married three years ago, underwent in the Kishon detention facility?
Ashqar is not alone. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has just issued a new report containing the testimonies of nine torture victims (English version: http://www.stoptorture.org.il/eng/ ). As the authors of the shocking report say, the testimonies "paint a dismal picture in which can be discerned various categories of secret-keeping collaborators, who, in keeping silent, protect the [Shin Bet] system of torture." ...
On the wall is a picture, a fine drawing of a kneeling prisoner, his head between his knees. The caption: "I am in the darkness of the prison, living on your memory. I am far from you, lying in my bed, my spirit cruising your land all night. God will release all the prisoners, the strong will triumph."
Ashqar is sitting in his wheelchair, his left leg completely enclosed in a cast, his right leg shaking nonstop. When he tries to get up and lean on his crutches, he threatens to topple over. "I was married in 2004, and I started to work in aluminum in the village to provide for my new household. On April 22, 2005, at 2:30 A.M., the soldiers came and started to throw grenades and to shout for everyone in the house to go outside. They blindfolded me with whatever they use and handcuffed me. I was taken in a jeep to prison and I was examined by an army doctor. He looked over my body - no operations, doesn't take medication, no illnesses. Again I was taken in a military jeep, this time to Kishon. 'Yehuda, incoming,' the warder said and transferred me to the interrogation office. They opened my eyes: Good morning. An excellent morning. One of the interrogators, Maimon, told me: I am responsible for your file. What file? The one you were arrested for. This is the major, and this tall guy is the colonel, this is Sagiv and this is Eldad. Eight interrogators.
"They said: We have no time, it will soon be our Passover and you have to finish everything in a short time. Finish what? You have to tell us what you have. I don't have anything to tell you. I begged. They said: We know all that nonsense. We are talking about security. Plans for terrorist attacks at Passover. I said: I don't understand what you are talking about. They said: The suicide bomber was at your place. What suicide bomber?
"After two hours of talking they said to me: If you don't give everything you have, we will have to take it by a different way. What is the different way? Did you hear of a military interrogation? You might leave here with your body battered or crippled. I was taken to a military interrogation. Here you pray to God that you will die, they said, but we won't give you that. We will let you die only after you spill out what we are looking for. He gave me a prison uniform and I told him that if I was going to die, I preferred my own clothes.
"They sat me down on a square chair without a back, which was attached to the floor and had sharp metal ends [sticking up]. My legs were tied to the legs of the chair with metal cuffs and my hands were tied behind my back with metal cuffs. One interrogator sat behind me and the other in front of me. The interrogator opposite me said: We have to give you a little sports, so you will be able to hold out in the military interrogation. The sports was that they pushed me backward by the chest, a backward somersault, and I would hold myself so my bones would not break. After a minute or two I would automatically fall on the floor, but the interrogator behind me would put his foot on my chest and press, and the interrogator in front would grab my hands and pull and pull behind the chair. They kept on like that until I don't know what happened to me, heat in every part of my body, puking everything I had in my stomach and it would go into my nostrils. I would wake up when they poured water on my face. When I woke up, we went back to the same situation. It went on like this 15-20 times an hour.
"After that they made me crouch on my toes, not letting me lean on the back of my foot. I was in that position for 40-50 minutes, maybe an hour - that was my estimate - until I felt my soles swelling and they turned blue and there was tremendous pain. After that, stand up, and they tied my hands and pressed as hard as they could on the metal handcuffs until the metal dug into my hand. Here are the signs, you can still see them. Because of the pressure, the key of the handcuffs didn't always work and they would bring huge metal scissors, like they use in construction, and tear off the handcuffs and then bring new ones, to go on. The color of my hands changed to blue, and when they opened [the handcuffs] my hands shook. The interrogator stood on the table and pulled me with a chain of handcuffs. When I fell, they pulled me by the hair.
"I would cry, beg, shout, and they came back to me with words, that it was impossible to stop, only after you start talking about what we want. I said to them: Tell me what you want. Tell me I am responsible for the attack on the Pentagon, I am ready to confess to everything, just tell me what. I want to end this death."
"There were always four interrogators and two rotated every four hours, day and night. The new ones would tell me they were stronger than the ones before, that the ones before were a joke, we are the strong ones. And that was true. The new ones tied me and started to beat me all over my body. One interrogator pressed hard on my testicles and on my feet with his shoes. When they slapped me and I tried to pull back, the major would say: What are you doing? If you move back, I will break your nose, and if you move forward I will rip off your ear. Be strong and take it sportingly, because you are a soldier and a fighter. They broke this tooth."
Ashqar suddenly stops talking. He turns pale and his face is covered with beads of perspiration. His father, Sati, quickly wipes his face with a damp cloth. "Every time I try to remember I get dizzy, even when I am alone." Quiet descends in the room. It will take Ashqar another few minutes to pull himself together.
"I was taken into detention on Friday morning, and that was the last light of day I saw before the interrogation. I came out for the first time on Monday night or before dawn on Tuesday morning. On those long days I sat in a chair and did not even go to the toilet. So you won't kill yourself, they said. I urinated in my clothes, and a terrible stench started. For four days I didn't eat anything. They told me: If we give you something to eat, something will happen to your stomach and your intestines. Maybe they will explode under the pressure of the food when we push you backward. You will drink only half a cup of saltwater. That is what they gave me every time after they bent me and I vomited. Why with salt? I asked. Give me without salt. No, so nothing will happen in your stomach and intestines. I would drink it and vomit.
"On Monday evening, they told me that five witnesses had testified that Luwaii had transported a wanted man. I told them that there was a famous wanted man named Luwaii Sadi, but my name is Luwaii Sati, and maybe they had mixed us up. He said to me: Are you saying the Shin Bet is that stupid? We know exactly what we're doing, and it is all correct. I said: Put me on trial for whatever you want. He said: Ya'allah, sports again. He pushes me backward in the chair. I will help you become a story in Palestinian history. He is talking to me and my head is down below. He pushes strongly with his leg and presses on my chest. I felt something like an explosion in my body. Like something broke. After that I don't know what happened. I woke up and they were pouring water on my face. Again they pushed me backward and again I fainted.
"He said to me: Stand on your feet. I felt that my legs were cold, like pins and needles in the legs. I said: I can't. He said: Now you are paralyzed. I said: I guess I am. He said: That is what we promised you and that is what you want."
"I discovered I had a wound in the back and it was bleeding - because of the sharp chair - and one of my bones was protruding. Because of the blood and because of the urine of four days there was such a stench that the interrogator could not come close to me. He said: Why do you stink like that? I told him: That is your perfume. A warder took me to the shower and threw me on the floor and said to me: Ya'allah, you have two minutes to shower. I looked at the faucet up above and I could not reach it. I pulled down my pants and the underpants stayed in place. I tried to pull them down - I could do it in front but behind it was stuck to my back. The two minutes went by and the warder started to pound on the door. Time's up. I told him: Give me another two minutes, I can't reach the faucet. He came in and asked: What do you have on your back? I said: I don't know.
"He called the interrogator and said: Come and see the prisoner. The interrogator came and asked: What do you have, Luwaii? I said: I don't know what I have on my back, I can't pull the underpants down and I can't reach the faucet. He said: Ya'allah, we will go up and finish the story and take you to the doctor.
"Two warders took me in a Prisons Service vehicle to Rambam [Medical Center in Haifa]. In emergency, my hands and feet were tied and a Russian doctor asked me: What hurts you? I told him: My whole body hurts from the interrogation. The Druze warder said: Shut up. The doctor turned me on the side and stuck a finger into my ass. I asked him: What are you doing? He said: I am checking whether you have hemorrhoids. Why didn't you ask me first? I am a professional, he said. I said: What about the wound on the back? He put ointment there and dressed it. After 10 minutes I was taken back to interrogation. Again I was tied to the square chair. The bandage fell off and the wound started to bleed again. After that, they stopped the military interrogation."
He was interrogated for another two months, but without physical torture. He was told that his wife had been arrested because of him - a complete fabrication - and he was given a lie detector test ("the falsehoods machine," in his Hebrew). For two weeks he was placed in a cell with stool pigeons. In the end, he was indicted on only two counts, in Prosecution File 2157/05: assisting a wanted person to hide and using a forged document. No ticking and no bomb. Ashqar was sentenced to 26 months in prison and was released a month ago. In the meantime, his younger brother, Osaimar, disappeared. Soldiers came to the house looking for him, but he was not there. His family has not seen him since: He told them that he was not willing to undergo what Luwaii did.
Luwaii is now looking for a way to get medical treatment in Israel or abroad, after his physician told him that he would not be able to get rehabilitation in the West Bank. His lawyer told him that the Shin Bet will almost certainly prevent him from going anywhere.
This is the response received by Haaretz from the Shin Bet:
Luwaii Ashqar was arrested in April 2005, after serious suspicions were raised against him concerning his involvement in terrorism, including possession of weapons and assistance to wanted individuals - terror activists from Islamic Jihad.
One of the suspicions was that he had provided accommodation, ahead of a terrorist act, for Sirhan Sarhan, the perpetrator of the attack in Kibbutz Metzer, who murdered Revital Ohayon and her two children, Noam and Matan, of blessed memory.
The suspect was tried and convicted in a plea bargain, and sentenced to 14 months in prison and another 14 months in prison stemming from a pending conditional sentence, so that all told he was sentenced to 26 months in prison. In addition, he received a 28-month suspended sentence.
His interrogation was carried out according to the rules and directives, with constant review of the interrogation process.
During the interrogation, the above-named put forward medical complaints, which were examined and treated by the appropriate medical authorities, including an examination he underwent in hospital.
It should be noted that during the interrogation he did not cite medical complaints of the same seriousness as those mentioned in the query.
Complaints relating to his interrogation, from, among other sources, the Committee Against Torture and the Red Cross, were referred to the State Prosecutor's Office for examination, which ordered an examination by the Ombudsman of Interogees' Complaints.
The examination of the complaints did not turn up any excesses in the interrogation, and in the wake of this, the official in charge of the OIC in the State Prosecutor's Office decided to close the examination file.
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