Monday, December 28, 2009

[ePalestine] NYT: 'They Planted Hatred in Our Hearts'

New York Times

December 27, 2009 
‘They Planted Hatred in Our Hearts’ 

Written and illustrated by Joe Sacco 
418 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $29.95 

Joe Sacco’s gripping, important book about two long-forgotten mass killings of Palestinians in Gaza stands out as one of the few contemporary works on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle likely to outlive the era in which they were written. 

Sacco will find readers for “Footnotes in Gaza” far into the future because of the unique format and style of his comic-book narrative. He stands alone as a reporter-cartoonist because his ability to tell a story through his art is combined with investigative reporting of the highest quality. 

His subject in this case is two massacres that happened more than half a century ago, stirred up little international attention and were forgotten outside the immediate circle of the victims. The killings took place during the Suez crisis of 1956, when the Israeli Army swept into the Gaza Strip, the great majority of whose inhabitants were Palestinian refugees. According to figures from the United Nations, 275 Palestinians were killed in the town of Khan Younis at the southern end of the strip on Nov. 3, and 111 died in Rafah, a few miles away on the Egyptian border, during a Nov. 12 operation by Israeli troops. Israel insisted that the Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces were still facing armed resistance. The Palestinians said all resistance had ceased by then. 

Sacco makes the excellent point that such episodes are among the true building blocks of history. In this case, accounts of what happened were slow to seep out and were overshadowed by fresh developments in the Suez crisis. Sacco, whose reputation as a reporter-cartoonist was established with “Palestine” and “Safe Area Gorazde,” has rescued them from obscurity because they are “like innumerable historical tragedies over the ages that barely rate footnote status in the broad sweep of history — even though . . . they often contain the seeds of the grief and anger that shape present-day events.” 

Governments and the news media alike forget that atrocities live on in the memory of those most immediately affected. Sacco records Abed El-Aziz El-Rantisi — a leader of Hamas (later killed by an Israeli missile), who in 1956 was 9 and living in Khan Younis — describing how his uncle was killed: “It left a wound in my heart that can never heal,” he says. “I’m telling you a story and I am almost crying. . . . They planted hatred in our hearts.” 

The vividness and pace of Sacco’s drawings, combined with a highly informed and intelligent verbal narrative, work extremely well in telling the story. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how any other form of journalism could make these events so interesting. Many newspaper or television reporters understand that the roots of today’s crises lie in obscure, unpublicized events. But they also recognize that their news editors are most interested in what is new and are likely to dismiss diversions into history as journalistic self-indulgence liable to bore and confuse the audience. 

In fact, “Footnotes in Gaza” springs from this editorial bias against history. In the spring of 2001, Sacco and Chris ­Hedges (formerly a foreign correspondent of The New York Times) were reporting for Harper’s Magazine about Palestinians in Khan Younis during the early months of the second Palestinian intifada. They believed the 1956 killings helped explain the violence almost 50 years later. Perhaps predictably, however, the paragraphs about the old massacre were cut. 

American editors weren’t the only people who found their delving into history beside the point. When Sacco returned to Gaza to search for witnesses and survivors in 2002 and 2003, with Israeli forces still occupying the area, young Palestinians could not understand his interest in past events when there was so much contemporary violence. 

Sacco’s pursuit of Palestinian and Israeli eyewitnesses as well as Israeli and United Nations documentation is relentless and impressive. He details the lives of those who help him, notably his fixer Abed, and brings to life two eras of the Gaza Strip, its towns packed with refugees in the early 1950s as they are today. 

It was an atmosphere filled with hate. Few Israeli leaders showed any empathy for the Palestinian tragedy. But early in 1956, the Israeli chief of staff Moshe Dayan made a famous speech at the funeral of an Israeli commander killed on the border with Gaza. What, Dayan wondered, explained the Palestinians’ “terrible hatred of us”? Then he answered his own question: “For eight years now they have sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and have watched how, before their very eyes, we have turned their lands and villages, where they and their forefathers previously dwelled, into our home.” He added that Israelis needed to be “ready and armed, tough and harsh.” 

What this meant in practice became clear as Israeli troops took over Gaza six months later. The killings in Khan Younis were relatively straightforward, according to eyewitnesses and a few survivors. The men of the town were told to line up in the main square and were then systematically shot so their bodies lay in a long row. Some who stayed in their homes were killed there. 

The episode in Rafah was more complicated and took place over the course of a day, when people were summoned to a school so the Israelis could determine if they were guerrillas or soldiers. Here there were many more survivors than in Khan Younis; they describe how some were shot on their way to the school and others beaten to death with batons as they entered the school courtyard. The Israeli Army did order two officers to conduct an inquiry into the “Rafah incident,” as a top-secret communiqué called it. (The same communiqué said 40 to 60 people were killed and 20 injured.) Sacco’s researcher found no report in military archives. 

Gaza has changed radically since Sacco did his research. In 2005, Israel unilaterally dismantled Jewish settlements and withdrew its military forces, although it remained in tight control of Gaza’s borders. In 2007, Hamas seized control, and in 2008-9 the enclave came under devastating Israeli attack. In this bewildering torrent of events, Sacco’s investigation into the 50-year-old killings is one of the surest guides to the hatred with which Palestinians and Israelis confront one another. 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.” 


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

[ePalestine] Jonathan Kuttab: "Steps to create an Israel-Palestine" (LA TIMES)


Steps to create an Israel-Palestine  

A one-state solution in the area is not as farfetched as it might seem.  

By Jonathan Kuttab  
December 20, 2009  

For a while, it seemed that a two-state solution might actually be achievable and that a sovereign Palestinian state would be created in the West Bank and Gaza, allowing Jews and Palestinians at last to go their separate ways. But these days, that looks less and less likely. 

With Israel in total control of the territory from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and unwilling to relinquish a significant part of the land, it's time to consider the possibility that the current situation -- one state, in effect -- will continue. And although Jewish Israelis may control it now, birthrates suggest that, sooner or later, Jews will again be a minority in the territory. 

What happens at that point is unclear, but unless continued military occupation and all-out apartheid is the desired path, now may be the time for Israelis to start putting in place the kinds of legal and constitutional safeguards that will protect all minorities, now and in the future, in a single democratic state of Israel-Palestine. This is both the right thing and the smart thing to do. 

In recent years the idea of a one-state solution has been anathema to Israelis and their supporters worldwide. This has been fueled by the fear of the "demographic threat" posed by the high Palestinian birthrate. Indeed, many Israeli supporters of a two-state solution came to that position out of fear of this demographic threat rather than sympathy with Palestinian national aspirations. 

At the root of their fear was the belief that despite Israel's best efforts to push Palestinians from land and property and to import Jewish settlers in their stead, the Arab population would keep climbing. And that, when the Arabs reached the 51% mark, the state of Israel would collapse, its Jewish character would disappear and its population would dwindle into obscurity. 

Yet that scenario is not necessarily the inevitable result of either demography or democracy. Religious and ethnic minorities have successfully thrived in many countries and managed to retain their distinctive culture and identity, and succeeded in being effective and sometimes even dominant influences in those countries. Those who believe in coexistence must begin to seriously think of the legal and constitutional mechanisms needed to safeguard the rights of a Jewish minority in Israel-Palestine. 

It is true that the experience of Israel with its Palestinian minority does not offer a comforting prospect. The behavior of the Jewish majority toward the Palestinian citizens of Israel has not been magnanimous or tolerant. Where ethnic cleansing was insufficient, military rule, land confiscation and systemic discrimination have all been employed. The relationship was not helped by the actions of Palestinians outside Israel who resented losing their homeland or by the behavior of some Arab countries, neither of which accepted the imposed Jewish character of Israel. 

Yet it is possible, especially during this period when Jews are still the majority in power in Israel, to begin to envision the type of guarantees they may require in the future. Other countries have wrestled with this problem, and while each situation is different, the problem is by no means unprecedented. 

Zionism will ultimately need to redefine its goals and aspirations, this time without ignoring or seeking to dispossess the indigenous Palestinian population. Palestinians will also have to deal with this reality, and accept -- even enthusiastically endorse -- the elements required to make Jews truly feel at peace in the single new state that will be the home of both people. 

Strong, institutionalized mechanisms will be needed to prevent the "tyranny of 51%." A bicameral legislature, for example, should be installed, in which the lower house is elected by proportional representation but the upper house has a composition that safeguards both peoples equally, regardless of their numbers in the population. A rotating presidency may be preferable to designating certain positions for each minority (as in Lebanon). And constitutional provisions that safeguard the rights of minorities should be enshrined in a constitution that can only be amended or altered by both houses of parliament with a large (80%) majority. 

Both Hebrew and Arabic will be designated as official languages, and governmental offices will be closed for Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays. New laws will be enacted that strengthen the secular civil courts in personal status matters, while leaving some leeway for all religious communities to have a say in lawmaking, including Reform and Conservative Jews who currently chafe under the Orthodox monopoly over Jewish personal status matters in Israel. Educational systems that honor and cater to the different communities will give each a measure of control over the education of its children within a national system that maintains professional standards for all publicly-funded schools. Strong constitutional provisions will be enacted to prohibit discrimination in all spheres of life, while independent courts will be enabled to enforce such provisions. 

Many on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, will reject this line of thinking, and in all cases, it is clear that a lot of goodwill and much careful thinking is necessary. But as the options keep narrowing for all participants, we need to start thinking of how we can live together, rather than insist on dying apart. 

Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian attorney and human rights activist. He is a co-founder of Al                          
Haq and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners.


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Thursday, December 17, 2009

[ePalestine] American Public Media: One Year Later in Gaza ...a story from ground zero

American Public Media

Wednesday, December 16

North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC

One Year Later in Gaza

This month marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of the war in Gaza. While the conflict was short, the effects have been lasting.

Several times over the past year, Dick Gordon has spoken with Maha Mehanna. Maha lives in Gaza with her nephew Mohammed. They have access to basic supplies, but the closed border still means life has changed dramatically for them. Each month over the past year they have gained permission to cross the border into Israel to get medical treatment for Mohammed's rare immune disease. They've faced 6 hour long waits and even stray bullets while trying to cross, but for Maha those trips are like a holiday - her only chance to see life on the outside. Maha and Mohammed talk with Dick about life behind one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

LISTEN to the full interview at:

YESTERDAY, my dear Israeli friend wrote this about Maha:

If anyone is in a position to offer this family assistance contact Maha directly at: or via Deb at:

The Mehanna family are dear friends of my own family and these kids deserve our continued support.

Another Palestinian family determined to live, determined to see a future that is still missing,


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Monday, December 14, 2009

[ePalestine] Palestinian Christians call for end to occupation

For immediate release - 11/12/2009 16:12:00


A group of Palestinian Christians representing a variety of churches and church-related organizations have issued an animated and prayerful call for an end to occupation of Palestine by Israel. The call, issued at a 11 December meeting in Bethlehem, comes at a time when many Palestinians believe they have reached a dead end. It raises questions to the international community, political leaders in the region, and the churches worldwide about their contribution to the Palestinian people's pursuit of freedom. Even in the midst of "our catastrophe" the call is described as a word of faith, hope and love.

Referred to as "The Kairos Palestine Document" the call echoes a similar summons issued by South African churches in the mid-1980s at the height of repression under the apartheid regime. That call served to galvanize churches and the wider public in a concerted effort that eventually brought the end of apartheid.

The authors of the Kairos Palestine Document, among them Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem Munib Younan, and Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, have raised the challenge of the urgency for peace with justice to religious and political leaders in Palestinian and the Israeli society, international community, and to "our Christian brothers and sisters in the churches" around the world. They believe that current efforts in the Middle East are confined to managing the crisis rather than finding pertinent and long term solutions to the crisis.

Decrying empty promises

Expressing their pain, the signatories of the call decry the emptiness of the promises and pronouncements about peace in the region. They remind the world about the separation wall erected on Palestinian territory, the blockade of Gaza, how Israeli settlements ravage their land, the humiliation at military checkpoints, the restrictions of religious liberty and controlled access to holy places, the plight of refugees awaiting their right of return, prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons and Israel's blatant disregard of international law, as well as the paralysis of the international community in the face of this tragedy.

Rejecting Israeli justifications for their actions as being in self-defence, they unambiguously state that if there were no occupation, "there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity."

They argue: "God created us not to engage in strife and conflict but together build up the land in love and mutual respect. Our land has a universal mission, and the promise of the land has never been a political programme, but rather the prelude to complete universal salvation. Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or a theological question only." They reject any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice.

Declaring the occupation of Palestinian land as a sin against God and humanity, they steadfastly adhere to the signs of hope such as "local centres of theology" and "numerous meetings for inter-religious dialogue", recognizing that these signs provide hope to the resistance of the occupation. Through the logic of peaceful resistance, resistance is as much a right as it is a duty as it has the potential to hasten the time of reconciliation.

Asserting that this is a moment demanding repentance for past actions, either for using hatred as an instrument of resistance or the willingness to be indifferent and absorbed by faulty theological positions, the group calls on the international community and Palestinians for steadfastness in this time of trial. "Come and see [so we can make known to you] the truth of our reality", they appeal.

Poignantly, they conclude, "in the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God's goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here 'a new land' and 'a new human being', capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters."

The authors are:

• Patriarch Michel Sabbah
• Bishop Dr Munib Younan
• Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna
• Rev. Dr Jamal Khader
• Rev. Dr Rafiq Khoury
• Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb
• Rev. Dr Naim Ateek
• Rev. Dr Yohana Katanacho
• Rev. Fr Fadi Diab
• Dr Jiries Khoury
• Ms Sider Daibes
• Ms Nora Kort
• Ms Lucy Thaljieh
• Mr Nidal Abu Zulof
• Mr Yusef Daher
• Mr Rifat Kassis - coordinator of the initiative

Media contact in Jerusalem: Ranjan Solomon  +972-54-733-7857

Full text of the Kairos Palestine Document:

In English Palestine_En.pdf

In Arabic Palestine_Ar.pdf

Auf Deutsch Palestine_Ger.pdf

En français Palestine_Fr.pdf

For the list of signatories:

Churches in the Middle East: solidarity and witness for peace:

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

Kairos Palestine document:

Kairos Palestine website:


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

[ePalestine] Israel has made settlers of all its citizens (by Amira Hass)

Haaretz, Last update - 12:44 09/12/2009                                      

Israel has made settlers of all its citizens 

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent 

Would any of the settlers who opposed the Civil Administration inspectors this week be living in the territories had the governments of Israel not established and encouraged them? Would the Gush Katif evacuees have moved to mobile homes in Ariel in the expectation of spacious permanent housing had the government clearly declared that this was forbidden - because the settlements will be evacuated in the near future for a peace agreement - and that evacuation-compensation money would not be paid to anyone who moves to the West Bank? 

Do the settlers clashing with the forces of law and order not know that those who have committed crimes - from racist threats and blocking roads, to wholesale cutting down of trees, arson and beating and murdering Palestinians - have not been investigated or have been forgiven and forgotten with a wink? 

The settlers' feeling of betrayal is natural. Haven't the state and its institutions taught us that the settler is superior to everyone else? 

Yes. The settler, in fact, is us. 

The freeze orders will not change what exists now: an elite state for Jews and a sub-space for Palestinians - truncated, cut up, asphyxiated. 

The distinction in the mind nowadays between the state of Israel and the settlers is artificial. 

So is the distinction between the bad and the good, the violent and the law- abiding, the residents of the Migron outpost and the residents of Etzion Bloc settlements and the territories that have been annexed to Jerusalem, or those who live to the West of the separation fence. 

Those who laud the freeze orders are thinking about relations with the United States. 

The subordinated and occupied do not factor into their calculations. And indeed the land that was stolen from them in Beit Jala (for the benefit of Gilo) is like the land of Qalqilyah that Alfei Menashe coveted and is coveting. 

The legitimacy of the settlement blocs exists only in the Israeli consensus. In reality, it is these blocs and Ma'aleh Adumim that are destroying the chance of a fair peace, because they and their separated roads are laying the groundwork for a crippled Palestinian political entity. 

There is a lot of ingratitude in the media assault on the settlers, who have been manning barricades for the sake of a reality from which many Israelis are benefiting and accept as natural. 

Had the governments of Israel been interested in containing the Golem they had created on time, they would not have cynically exploited the Oslo agreement to accelerate building and lure more and more Israelis with settlers' benefits. 

Former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin would have evacuated the Hebron and Kiryat Arba settlers after the massacre Baruch Goldstein committed in the Tomb of the Patriarchs / Ibrahimi Mosque. 

His government and subsequent governments would not have strangled Bethlehem with the Tunnels Road and with the "moderate" settlement of Efrat that snakes and twists along the hills. 

They would have prepared the public for a just scenario by which to bring all the settlers back home and would have apologized for having lured them to transgression. 

However, in 1993 we missed a one-time opportunity to develop as an entity, the aim of which is not territorial expansion at the expense of another people - who were prepared for very painful concessions for the sake of its independence and for the sake of peace. 

We missed an opportunity to expel the deed of disposession from our state's institutional and mental chromosomes. 

It is no wonder the setters are saying there is no difference between Kibbutz Baram and Psagot, between Givat Shaul and Alon Moreh. 

Precisely in the shadow of diplomatic negotiations, Israel chose a policy of accelerated settlement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 

It is expelling Palestinian inhabitants from their homes there by various methods. 

In this way, Israel is drawing a straight line between Kiryat Shmona and Beit El, between Tel Aviv and Givat Ze'ev. It has made settlers of us all.


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Sunday, December 06, 2009

[ePalestine] GIFT IDEA: Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation (Kathleen & Bill Christison)

Dear friends, 

I hope all are well as we enter this holiday season.  This time of year is one where choosing gifts for friends and loved ones can sometimes be a challenge.  In the face of all the high- tech gadgets it may be a hard sell, but I would like to suggest a simple gift that will educate the recipient. 

Two dear friends and co-authors, Kathy & Bill Christison, have just released their latest book, Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation.  I recently finished reading it and want to strongly suggest you consider passing a copy of the book as a gift to those you would like to educate about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

The book is an easy read and in 182 pages of text and photos depicts all the key points in the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine.  The book intertwines historical context within accounts of today's tragedy. As someone who has read a fair share on this conflict, I can confidently say this is an ideal primer for anyone wanting to get the big picture, but with a human touch. 

I've spoken to the authors and they advise that individuals subscribers to this list, ePalestine, may contact them to order the book (and they will include a CD with color pictures of all the book's black and white ones) directly for $14.  The Christison's do not intend to take any profits from the book but will donate these to two or three Palestinian organizations that they feel most benefit the Palestinians. 

So just drop them an email at to order.  Get a copy for your congressperson, clergyperson, and public library.  It will be a gift that will last longer than the holiday season for sure. 

I pass my utmost gratitude to Kathy and Bill for taking the time to learn and pass on their knowledge. 

Happy holidays,


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