Wednesday, June 6, 2012

نساء مخيفات..!

This article illustrates how women in Saudi Arabia, regardless of their age, are treated as minors legally. The phrase often used in this case is Gender Apartheid: separated but not equal.

Badriah Al-Bishr reports:

وأنت تعبر نقطة ختم الجوازات في أي مطار تكون قد اجتزتَ رحلة القلق وتركتَها وراءك من بحث عن حجز وقص تذكرة وإحضار كل ما يلزمك. عند هذه النقطة بالذات تكون قد تأكدتَ أنك أمام نقطة عبور نحو ما أنت بصدده، لكن تأخُّر موظف الجوازات في ختم جوازك وتحديقه الطويل في الشاشة أمامه وظهور تجعيدة على وجهه تجعل قلبك يسقط لتقول: ماذا هناك؟ هذا ما حدث لي في رحلة عودتي من الرياض إلى دبي، حيث أقيم. أعاد الضابط إليَّ جوازي، قائلاً لي: «آسف يا أختي، تصريح الموافقة على خروجك انتهت صلاحيته منذ شهر».
بسبب كوني امرأة فإن ولي أمري لا تلزمني موافقته على استخراج جواز سفر فقط، بل تلزمني موافقته عند كل خروج.
وعند كل خروج من بلادي فقط يجب أن أحمل ورقة صفراء تحمل موافقته، طالما كانت تثير موظفي الجوازات في البلاد الأخرى الذين يرونها ملصقةً بظهر جوازي، تفادياً لنسيانها. أخيراً قامت إدارة الجوازات بإدراج الموافقة إلكترونياً مع الجواز وألغيت الورقة الصفراء. لكني لم أنتبه وأنا أجدد جوازي منذ شهر لتجديد موافقة ولي الأمر أيضاً. قلت للضابط: «حسناً، سأجددها في المرة المقبلة، فزوجي مسافر، ولا بد من أن أعود لابنتي التي تنتظرني». قال: «لا. إنه النظام». قلت: «النظام على عيني وعلى رأسي وتصريح الموافقة كما هو مسجل لديك كان ساري المفعول حتى شهر، وزوجي موافق عليه، وأنا سيدة ولا بد من أني معروفة لديكم. لستُ مراهقةً أنوي الهرب وأنت تعرف ذلك جيداً». اعتذر مرة أخرى، وقال: «إنه النظام». لكنه تدارك الأمر، وقال: «لا بد من العودة إلى المدير الضابط، كي يحسم الأمر بنفسه». الضابط الأعلى تعامل بذكاء مع روح النظام، وبالطريقة التي شرحتها سابقاً، وجعلني أمرُّ. المرأةُ تجد نفسها دائماً في مواجهة موافقة ولي الأمر في كل حركة وسكنة، وهذه واحدة من حالات عدة تجد فيها المرأة نفسها خارج مفهوم المواطنة في وجودها في الحياة العامة، وعليها في كل مرة، وهي تخرج إلى مؤسسات الدولة أن تعود بورقة إلى منزلها، كي يضع ولي أمرها موافقته، لتحصل على فرصة التعلم والعمل، وكي تتاجر بمالها أو تفتح محلاً تجارياً أو تشتري شريحة هاتف أو تفتح حساباً بنكياً لها أو لأبنائها. النظام لا يتعامل مع المرأة كمواطن يتوجه نحوه بمشروعه التنموي أو في خدماته العامة، بل هي تابعة لمواطن آخر، لا بد من أن يسمح لها بالاستفادة، مهما كان عمر هذه المرأة ومنصبها الوظيفي واستقلالها المالي. مرة خرجنا كنساء لنشارك في مؤتمر دولي بحضور وزير التعليم العالي ورجالات دولة وسيدات منهن مديرة جامعة وأكاديميات فاكتشفنا أن كل هذا لا يكفي، إذ لا بد لعبورنا من ورقة مختومة من ولي أمرنا. وهذه ليست مشكلة المرأة وحدها، بل قد تصبح مشكلة الرجل أيضاً، فقد روى لنا مسؤول كبير وأستاذ جامعي، أن «الجوازات» لم تسمح له بخروج والدته «الثمانينية» معه في رحلة، لأنه ليس الابن الأكبر صاحب الولاية، فالأم التي توفي زوجها، وهي لا تستطيع أن تخرج مع ابن لها لا بد من موافقة الولي المكتوب اسمه في صك الولاية.
الطريف وأنا أتجه نحو الطائرة التقطتْ أذني صوت سيدة غاضبة تخاصم زوجها بصوت يمكن سماعه جيداً في حين كان الزوج يخفض صوته ربما خجلاً أو خوفاً. الله أعلم. كانت تقول له: «اسمع، أنا ما عندي استعداد كل مرة أمر من نقطة الجوازات يسألونني وين ولي أمرك بتطلع لي تصريح وأنت ما تشوف الدرب، غصب عنك وعن اللي جابوك». قلت في نفسي كيف سيحل النظام مشكلة هذا الرجل طالما أن ترتيب العلاقات في المنزل ليس بيده. ها هو ولي الأمر صار يسمع جملة «وأنت ما تشوف الدرب»... نساء تخوف بصحيح.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Israel: We Are Just Like America, the Tired Comparison Argument Scrutinized

One of the main arguments used and abused by pro-Israel politicians, professors, and PR and Hasbara bandits is comparing Israel to Western countries, the US in particular. Whether it is the flaws in the democracy, the US human rights abuse during the War on Terror or the US genocide of Native Americans (American Indians), the US and Israel are way too similar according to pro-Israel advocates.

 Unlike the US, Israel tends to have a more robust critical journalism atmosphere compared to the US when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict. There exist in Israel some brave and ethical journalists who shine against all odds and provide a sense of hope much needed in that region. Certain articles published in Israeli newspapers will never see the light in any newspaper in the US whether leaning to the left or the right.

 In the first article, Noam Sheizaf writing for +972 responds to Michael Oren’s, the Israeli ambassador to the US and the academic professor, flawed article in Foreign Policy. He dissects the article and responds to him argument by argument in a very articulate and legally and factually substantiated manner.

 A proper comparison according to Sheizaf would look like this:

So, following the ambassador’s suggestion, let’s imagine the Palestinians as the equivalent of American citizens living in Washington DC or in U.S. territories. But let’s take this analogy all the way: Imagine that those citizens are under military control, where no warrant is needed to invade their houses at night and arrest them. Let’s imagine that 7 percent of all prisoners are currently held without trial for months and years. That everyone, including children, are tried by military tribunals. That complaints of torture – there have been more than 700 of these in the previous decade – could be sealed at the order of an internal security officer.

Let’s imagine those citizens surrounded by walls and fences and a system of dozens of roadblocks, some of them permanent with many appearing and disappearing every day, between the various suburbs and towns, so a route that could take 10 minute to drive regularly turns into a journey of hours. Let’s imagine them unable to relocate or travel abroad without a special permit, notoriously hard to obtain, from the military authorities.

And on top of this, they can’t vote.

And now let’s imagine this unique situation applied to a third of the population under the United State’s control – say 100 million – for two-thirds of the country’s history, meaning over 150 years. This would be the proper analogy, if we were to follow Ambassador Oren’s logic. It doesn’t sound very democratic.


The second article is by Amira Hass, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, writing for Ha’aretz. She talks about the ludicrous comparison of Palestinians and Native Americans.



The question was, and is, how much more bloodshed, suffering and disasters will be needed until the Jewish regime of discrimination and separation, which we have created here over the past 64 years, crumbles.


I doubt I'll ever see a quote like this one in a mainstream US media outlet.
 
And here are the two wonderful articles:
 
Tuesday, April 10 2012

Noam Sheizaf


Omissions, half-truths, lies: Ambassador Oren in Foreign Policy


In a piece recently published, Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren rejected claims regarding anti-democratic trends in his country, and compared the legal status of Palestinians in the West Bank to that of American citizens in Washington DC and the U.S. territories. A response.




When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Professor Michael Oren – a historian and researcher at the conservative Shalem institute, author of a popular book on the 1967 war – as his ambassador to Washington, he was probably hoping to capitalize on the latter’s name-recognition and credibility, especially with the political establishment and the Jewish elites. And indeed, as criticism of the occupation and of various Knesset legislative initiatives intensified, Prof. Oren has published numerous articles in leading publications, defending his government policies. In doing so, he has enjoyed the credibility of the scholar, while doing pure political advocacy work.
 Ambassador Oren’s latest’s piece, titled “Israel’s Resilient Democracy,” is a good example of this fact. I decided to review some of the main problems with this text, due to the considerable attention it received, as well as the credibility people give to Professor Oren’s work.


Prof. Oren opens by citing some of the criticism over his government and its policies, before declaring his intention in writing this piece in an academic-like tone:




…are the allegations justified? Is Israeli democracy truly in jeopardy? Are basic liberties and gender equality — the cornerstones of an open society — imperiled? Will Israel retain its character as both a Jewish and a democratic state — a redoubt of stability in the Middle East and of shared values with the United States?


These questions will be examined in depth, citing comparative, historical, and contemporary examples. The answers will show that, in the face of innumerable obstacles, Israeli democracy remains remarkable, resilient, and stable.


So let’s go in depth.
_______________

One of Ambassador Oren’s major points is that democratic principles were upheld in Israel and minority rights were respected even in times of war. He writes:


Israeli democracy is distinguished not only by its receptiveness to public opinion but, perhaps most singularly, by its ability to thrive during conflict. Whether by suspending habeas corpus or imprisoning a suspected ethnic community, as the United States did in its Civil War and World War II, embattled democracies frequently take measures that depart from peacetime norms.


What Michael Oren doesn’t say is that Israel didn’t have to change its laws in wartime because it adopted upon inception – and still retains – the British Mandate’s emergency regulations, which allow the state to shut down newspapers, detain people in secrecy and/or without trial and much more at any given moment. The state of emergency was never lifted.


Furthermore, in the last 45 years (amounting to two-thirds of the country’s history), the Palestinian population in the occupied territories has been under military law, which grants the state even more power.


Israeli legal scholars I consulted on this matter tended to agree that habeas corpus, mentioned above, does exist under military occupation (due to the Supreme Court’s extended jurisdiction), but they also said that in the military court system, this fact is all but meaningless. Over the years, Israel has held between hundreds and thousands Palestinians under administrative detention at any moment (the current number is roughly 300), without trial. Detainees under administrative detention are brought before a military judge – an officer in uniform – only after seven days; the evidence against them is confidential and the hearing takes place behind closed doors. They are not tried, so they have no real way to defend themselves. At times, Israel also held Palestinians as “enemy combatants,” with even fewer rights. There is one person held with this status even now.


Even when Palestinians are brought to trial, the burden of proof resting on the prosecution in Israel’s military courts is extremely low, and the result is an astonishing 99.7 conviction rate. (It should be noted that the conviction rate in the Israeli criminal system is also in the high 90s; that’s not an excuse, but rather a different problem.) Again, these are not temporary measures, but the permanent system under which all Palestinians – including hundreds of minors – are tried. Their Jewish neighbors living in the settlements are tried in Israeli courts, where they enjoy full rights as citizens.


Professor Oren knows all this. He also knows, but somehow fails to mention, that upon its creation in 1948, Israel placed all of its Palestinian citizens under military rule, which was lifted only in December 1966. The six-month period that lasted from that date to the Six Day War comprises the only time in Israel’s history when a majority of the Arab population under its control was not subject to military rule.


“The litmus test for any democracy is its ability to protect the rights of its minorities,” writes Oren. But does subjecting millions of people – the largest minority under the state’s control – to the arbitrary and often abusive control of the army, and be that “the most moral army in the world,” constitute a success in this test?


_______________


The following paragraph is probably the most upsetting for me as an Israeli. Ambassador Oren writes:



In fact, Israel has tolerated acts that would be deemed treasonous in virtually any other democracy. Ahmed Tibi, who once advised PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat and recently praised Palestinian “martyrs” — a well-known euphemism for suicide bombers — serves as a member and deputy speaker of the Knesset.


Context: Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (Raam-Taal / United Arab List) was recently accused by a rightwing watchdog group of giving a speech more than a year ago in which he praised suicide attacks on Israeli civilians. When the full video of the speech was released, it turned out that Tibi was referring to Palestinians who were killed in protests and to civilians who lost their lives. The version released by the watchdog group was heavily edited to create a false impression.


As a result, journalist Ben-Dror Yemini of Maariv and The Jerusalem Post, a well-known critic of the Arab Knesset members and one of those who broke the shahid (martyr) story, retracted his accusation both on his blog and in the printed paper. Yemini even went on Israeli public radio, saying: “I admit I was wrong. We owe an apology to [MK] Tibi.” The leading Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth also published an apology for running this story in its printed edition.


Not only did MK Tibi never praise suicide bombing, he is extremely consistent in denouncing the killing of Israeli civilians. Tibi is also a passionate critic of Holocaust denial in the Arab world, and can often be heard saying that “there is nothing more immoral than Holocaust denial.” There are two options here: Either Prof. Oren knowingly repeated a blood libel against the deputy speaker of his own Knesset, or he failed to fact check the issue before repeating those accusations. Both cases say something of the nature of Prof. Oren’s work, and demonstrate how easy it is to demonize Palestinians in Israel today.


_______________

In the very same paragraph, Oren writes:


Israeli Arab parties routinely call for dismantling the Jewish state, yet only one party was ever barred from Israeli elections: Kach, a Jewish party that preached hatred of Arabs.


So many problems in one sentence: Israeli Arab parties call for a “state for all its citizens,” meaning equal rights for everyone; “dismantling the Jewish state” is not on the platform, to the best of my knowledge. And there is a difference between the two positions. Second, an Arab party called Al-Arth was in fact prohibited from participating in the elections to the 6th Knesset (a famous case and a strange factual omission, coming from a historian). It is also worth noting that Israel’s Central Elections Committee disqualified Arab parties Balad and Raam-Taal from participating in the last elections; the decision had to be overruled by the High Court. At the same time, the committee has stopped disqualifying former Kach members from participating in the elections, and one of them – Michael Ben Ari – is even serving in the current Knesset. These facts are omitted from Ambassador Oren’s article.

_______________
The main rhetorical method Ambassador Oren uses is citing one or two pieces of criticism against Israel – usually placing them out of context, ignoring the heart of the matter – and then responding, preferably by citing praise Israeli democracy won in the past.


Take, for example, the part in the piece is titled “Democracy’s Litmus.” Oren deals here with two issues, and briefly touches on a third. He writes about (a) the NGO bill intended to heavily tax the support of foreign governments to local human rights organizations, (b) the issue of sexual equality in Israel and (c) the infamous boycott law.


Issue B is a red herring. Its sole intent is to divert attention from more structural faults. Nobody seriously argues that the (very real) problem of sexual inequality, evident especially in ultra-religious circles, is what lies behind the recent criticism against Israel. The question marks around Israel’s democracy have to do with the occupation and the status of the Palestinian minority. By “answering” the criticism regarding sexual equality, Ambassador Orem tries to blur the center of the debate, and makes the people voicing concerns – or criticism – look less serious, if not completely ignorant.


Regarding the NGO bill, Oren writes:




European governments contribute more to NGOs in Israel than to similar groups in all other Middle Eastern states combined. Eighty percent of those funds are directed toward political organizations that often oppose the government’s policies or, as in the case of Adalah and Badil, deny Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state.


The first figure Ambassador Oren cites is an oral estimate given to a journalist by rightwing professor Gerald Steinberg, head of the highly politicized group NGO Monitor. The second number – the 80 percent allegedly directed at opposition organizations – simply does not appear in the text Ambassador Oren is linking to, so there is no way of verifying it. Even so, Ambassador Oren conveniently forgets the important part: European support for government-sponsored Israeli institutions, such as universities, exceeds the support for human rights NGOs. The support for several NGOs is part of an engagement with Israeli civil society, from which all Israelis benefit.

In all likelihood, this – and not “the keen debate” regarding the law Oren mentions – was the reason Netanyahu froze the bill. According to some sources who were involved in the behind-the-scenes discussion, foreign diplomats made it clear to the prime minister that if the bill was to pass, support for all civil society in Israel, and not just the human rights NGOs, would likely suffer.


As for the third issue – the boycott law – Ambassador Oren abandons the attempt to find equivalents in other Western democracies. After all, even the Knesset’s own research institute didn’t come up with any. He concludes the debate with a remark (hope?) that “the Supreme Court may yet pass judgment on the bill.”


Ambassador Oren also writes:


To call Israeli democracy into question because of one suggested bill that never made it into law is unjust. Democracies consider many laws, some of them imperfect, without compromising their democratic character. In Israel, as in America, legislation is tabled, deliberated, and often rejected without impugning the democratic process. In fact, that is the democratic process.


It’s not “one bill.” The erosion of democratic rights of Israeli citizens (Palestinian residents, it should be remembered, never had any) has to do with many recent and not-so-recent initiatives: The boycott law, mentioned above, which limits effective political opposition to the occupation; the Nakba law, intended to prevent Palestinians and Palestinian institutions from remembering their national catastrophe; the segregated communities law, allowing small municipalities to reject applicants based on race and religion; the legislation in process regarding the Supreme Court, meant to limit juridical supervision of government actions and Knesset legislation; and the Citizenship Law, forbidding Arab citizens from bringing Palestinian spouses to live with them in Israel, and ultimately breaking up families.


This partial list is mostly from the recent Knesset. It doesn’t include the structural discrimination of the Arab minority in citizenship procedures or in acquisition of land – for example the fact that the JNF, a quasi-government agency, controls 13 percent of the land in Israel and leases it only to Jews.


Regardless of all of Ambassador Oren’s mistakes and omissions, by discussing one law, one bill, and one unrelated issue, he is not engaged in an effort to answer real concerns over Israeli policies, but quite the opposite: He is part of an effort to hide, dismiss or blur them.


______________


“Anomaly or Non-Democracy” is the title of the part in Oren’s piece dealing with the occupation. Israel’s ambassador to Washington opens with a quote from Peter Beinart, before moving on to his response (the fact that Beinart got the Jewish and Israeli mainstream to discuss the occupation again is perhaps his greatest achievement):



“Israel,” argues Peter Beinart, “is forging … an entity of dubious democratic legitimacy” that bars “West Bank Palestinians … from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.” Beinart’s reasoning is based on the assumption that the West Bank Palestinians are denied democratic rights, legal recourse, or any say in their future, and that Israel has taken no serious measures to facilitate Palestinian statehood.


In reality, the majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank reside in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority. Together with the Palestinians living under direct Israeli control, they vote in the Palestinian elections. These were scheduled for January 2010, but have been delayed by the Palestinian leadership — not by Israel. The Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem, for their part, have also voted in the Palestinian elections.


Similarly, the legal situation in the West Bank cannot simply be reduced to democracy or non-democracy. Palestinian law applies to those Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority auspices. In Israeli-controlled areas and for Palestinians arrested for security offenses, Israeli military law, based on British and Jordanian precedents, is enforced. Such a patchwork might confound any democracy…


The denial of citizenship and all subsequent rights to Palestinians is not an “assumption” but a reality. Had Oren provided the entire story for his examples, this would have been clear.


As Oren says, Palestinians did get to vote for their elected council. International monitors stated that the procedures were fair and clean, but Israel didn’t recognize Hamas’ victory and imprisoned its elected officials. This is the reason elections weren’t held again – Israel will not let one of the two major parties participate. Regardless of what we might think of Hamas and the way to deal with it, the elections that took place and those that didn’t were the proof that Israel has the final – one might say only – word in the procedure. If this is a democracy, Ambassador Oren and the rest of the world have very different views of the word.


Furthermore, the president of the Palestinian Authority holds the title of an international leader but not the authority of so much as a United States mayor. Israel collects taxes for him (and keeps the money when it doesn’t like his attitude); Israel controls the territory between and around Palestinian cities and has the final word on every road that Palestinians want to built; Israel invades Palestinian towns and villages and carries out arrests; Israel controls the resources, and even electromagnetic frequencies. The PA was established under the Oslo Accords as a temporary body for the duration of the negotiations on the final agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, which were supposed to end in 1999. The sole sovereign in the West Bank is Israel. Palestinians have no say over their future. Correction: They have no say over their present.


Yet Ambassador Oren writes:


The existence of partially democratic enclaves within a democratic system does not necessarily discredit it. Residents of Washington, D.C., are taxed without representation, while those in the U.S. territories — Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands — cannot vote in presidential elections. Anomalies exist in every democracy, and Israel’s is not voided by the situation in the West Bank.


I am not very fond of comparing countries to one another, let alone Israel and the United States – which are different in almost every way, from political culture to legal system to civil society tradition – but this is the analogy that lies at the heart of Ambassador’s Oren’s text, which intends to portray Israel as a tiny America, a bastion of civil rights in a hostile and strange environment.


So, following the ambassador’s suggestion, let’s imagine the Palestinians as the equivalent of American citizens living in Washington DC or in U.S. territories. But let’s take this analogy all the way: Imagine that those citizens are under military control, where no warrant is needed to invade their houses at night and arrest them. Let’s imagine that 7 percent of all prisoners are currently held without trial for months and years. That everyone, including children, are tried by military tribunals. That complaints of torture – there have been more than 700 of these in the previous decade – could be sealed at the order of an internal security officer.


Let’s imagine those citizens surrounded by walls and fences and a system of dozens of roadblocks, some of them permanent with many appearing and disappearing every day, between the various suburbs and towns, so a route that could take 10 minute to drive regularly turns into a journey of hours. Let’s imagine them unable to relocate or travel abroad without a special permit, notoriously hard to obtain, from the military authorities.


And on top of this, they can’t vote.


And now let’s imagine this unique situation applied to a third of the population under the United State’s control – say 100 million – for two-thirds of the country’s history, meaning over 150 years. This would be the proper analogy, if we were to follow Ambassador Oren’s logic. It doesn’t sound very democratic.


_____________


There are many other problems, half-truths and misrepresentations in Ambassador’s Oren text. I didn’t touch here on his interpretation of the collapse of the diplomatic process (“Prime Minister Netanyahu has made the two-state solution the cornerstone of his diplomatic platform” – seriously?), nor his claims regarding the state of the Christian minority under Israeli control (see more here). In one of my future posts I might touch on the implications of some of the deeper arguments he makes – for example Israel being a unique historic case and at the same time a “classic” Western democracy.


Except for the story involving MK Tibi, in which the ambassador to Washington helped spread a slanderous lie about his own parliament’s deputy speaker, one could argue that Ambassador Michael Oren is simply doing the job he was hired to do. Yet this much should be clear: Professor Michael Oren would not have dared to submit his Foreign Policy article to a proper academic review. It is a propaganda piece in the service of the occupation – not “analysis” - and it should be treated as such.



Amira Hass
Israel must understand it cannot be like America



For the sake of hegemony, Israel is mortgaging the well-being of its children and the lives of its grandchildren, together with the well-being and lives of children and grandchildren throughout the region.




The labyrinth of interchanges and roads on the way to Jerusalem tells of planners, ministers, mayors and contractors who "think America." We have gotten used to dimensions that dwarf anything that is not asphalt - people and trees, for example. We have gotten used to "transportation solutions" that gobble up nature. Moreover it's as if, without meaning to, these so-called solutions are tearing apart the existing social fabric.



If it were only a matter of ministers, planners and asphalt, so be it. But thinking America has become a character trait. Thinking America guides Jewish-Israeli society in its policy toward our very own red Indians. Why should we be less successful than the United States, Canada or Australia, which, as they came into being and gained world eminence, wiped out - to differing degrees - the societies and communities that lived there before? When it comes to us, why should people not forget what they have forgotten about those countries, which now present themselves as bastions of enlightenment?


Now, when the remnants of the first peoples in those countries dare to demand rights, a share in resources and compensation, they no longer endanger whites and their hegemony. And this could be just as true for us. We will hold out another 20 or 50 years, continue robbing the goat and the hill and grinding down the poor, encouraging emigration, buying off and suppressing the leadership, arming and going to war. Until this nuisance of a national, cultural and political entity that is demanding its rights all but disappears.


This train of thought is so logical that most Israelis are not even interested in discourse about solutions. And of course most are not interested in any of the facts and details that are weaving together an obscene, despicable, contemptable reality of Israeli tyranny. What interests most Israelis is that their personal security is not threatened and, if it is, how strong the Israel Defense Forces is and how many Bible verses prove our ownership of the land.


But happily, and to our relief, the Palestinians are one people (unlike the hundreds that were in America ) and the process of Jewish settlement did not wipe them out. We are in a different age and a different region. Thinking big makes us forget that, unlike the model we admire and seek to emulate, we are a minority in the region. And the region is evolving and demanding a change in the rules of the game that have been so convenient for the United States and Israel.


The real question is not whether the solution is "two states" or "one state." History in any case does not recognize end points - every stage leads to another. Visions are also not lacking. The visions must develop and change during the struggle for equality and justice, otherwise they will become gulags. The question was, and is, how much more bloodshed, suffering and disasters will be needed until the Jewish regime of discrimination and separation, which we have created here over the past 64 years, crumbles.


The Palestinians provided us, the Israelis, a ladder that would have saved us the kind of suffering and loss that we have caused them. A ladder that we could have climbed to a historic rung where we could have been accepted in the region as neighbors who also have roots in this place and rights - not only as aggressive invaders. But successive Israeli governments, with the backing of their voters, have knocked the ladder over. They knew only too well why they must thwart the two-state solution (in its original, pre-1967 borders format ). It would have led to different ways of living together and sharing the land. But the basic logic of these ways of life requires giving up Jewish hegemony and superiority.


This must be said: For the sake of hegemony, Israel is mortgaging the well-being of its children and the lives of its grandchildren, together with the well-being and lives of children and grandchildren throughout the region.





Thursday, March 29, 2012

تفكيك "الحريم"..!

من حسن حظ الشباب أنهم ينتهون من شبابهم ويغادرونه بسرعة. الورطة على النساء اللاتي قدر الله عليهن أن يبقين نساء إلى آخر لحظة من الحياة



كلمة الشباب مضللة. لا يوجد شيء اسمه شباب بالمعنى المتداول. لا يمكن قياس الشباب بالعمر. عبدالرحمن الفاتح استولى على الأندلس في العشرينات من عمره. والصحابي أسامة عينه الرسول عليه الصلاة والسلام على رأس جيش في العشرين من العمر. الشباب يختلفون من واحد لآخر ومن سنة إلى أخرى. عند المتابعة ستلاحظ كأننا متورطون بفئتين: الشباب والنساء. من حسن حظ الشباب أنهم ينتهون من شبابهم ويغادرونه بسرعة. الورطة على النساء اللاتي قدر الله عليهن أن يبقين نساء إلى آخر لحظة من الحياة. الرجل عمره متغير. يمكن تفكيكه إلى مراهق شاب كهل شيخ مسن متعلم جاهل الخ.. أما النساء فنضعهن في كلمة واحدة هي الحرمة وإذا تفضلنا قلنا امرأة.. لا قيمة للتفاصيل العمرية أو العملية أو حتى الثقافية. فالمرأة لا تستحق أن تكون مختلفة عن الأخرى سواء على مستوى التعليم أو على مستوى الخبرة.يمنع سفر النساء يمنع دخول النساء يمنع خروج النساء يمنع سياقة النساء.



على المستوى الأخلاقي والديني والإنساني والتربوي هي التي أذنت له بالسفر للدراسة في الخارج. والده متوفى فقامت بالمهمة. هي ولي أمره الحقيقي. عندما أرادت ان تسافر وتطمئن عليه وعلى أحواله صار عليه أن يتصل بالجوازات ويأذن لها بالسفر. هذه حالة كوميدية حصلت أمامي. أتخيل أن أطلب من ابني في كندا اليوم أن يتصل بالجوازات ويأذن لي بالسفر لتفقد أحواله. أذهب لمراقبته ومتابعة سلوكه بإذن منه. هذه المرأة أم لشاب عمره عشرين سنة يدرس في الخارج. حاول ووسط لكي تسمح له بالدراسة في الخارج. سمحت له بعد أن ألزمته بعدد من التعهدات وأخبرته أنها سوف تزوره بشكل مفاجئ لتتأكد من سلوكه وحسن انتظامه في الجامعة. عندما قررت أن تذهب إليه لتنفيذ خطتها وجدت أنها أمام النظام مجرد (حرمة). عندما سمعت بالقصة اتصلت بالشاب وقلت له: لا تسمح لها بالسفر قبل أن تلزمها بعدد من التعهدات كما ألزمتك. مارس صلاحياتك. صرنا نتكلم مع بعض بشكل كوميدي.



جلست في صالة انتظار في أحد المستشفيات. دخلت امرأة وبصحبتها ولد لا يزيد عمره عن إثنتي عشرة سنة. في لحظة توازن نفسي خاطفة ظننت أن المريض هو الولد، وقد جاءت أمه بصحبته. هذا هو السياق الطبيعي الإنساني. تبين لي أن الحقيقة غير ذلك. هي التي كانت في حاجة إلى من يقودها لأنها ببساطة (حرمة). صار يعبئ الأوراق ويتحدث مع موظفي الاستقبال ثم طلب منها (بلغة رجل) أن تدخل صالة الحريم فذهبت لا تلوي على شيء.



المرأة في المملكة هي كتلة واحدة لا يميزها العمر ولا يميزها التعليم ولا تميزها الاختلافات الفردية أو العقلية. الفرق بين كلمة شابة وكلمة مسنة يكمن في الجنس فقط. لا يوجد قانون واحد يحترم المسافة بين مراهقة عمرها ستة عشر سنة وامرأة عمرها خمسين سنة.(كلهم حريم). شيء مؤسف أليس كذلك؟!



- صحيفة الرياض





Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Out of the Ballpark: Susan Abulhawa’s speech to the PennBDS conference

Susan, the author of the powerful Mornings in Jenin, give an openning speech at the last Penn BDS Conference. She demonstrating how the Israeli system is enforcing the occupation legally, through a list of racist and apartheid-like laws.




 on Mondoweiss reports:

Out of the Ballpark: Susan Abulhawa’s speech to the PennBDS conference



by Annie Robbins on February 15, 2012






Susan Abulhawa PennBDS Opening from PennBDS on Vimeo.






There is a reason Susan Abulhawa has the reputation of a dragon slayer, and it is not just for any one time event or the fact that Mornings in Jenin just happens to be an international best seller translated into 26 languages. With the precision of a surgeon she unmasks and infuriates her adversaries, always with poise and dignity. Forever grounded in truth she lifts us up and fills us with courage and a will to carry on.






Helena wasn't the only one saying it, Abulhawa's opening presentation at PennBDS reverberated throughout the conference, all weekend sometimes in hushed tones and knowing glances as if in code "Did you hear her speech?"






PennBDS recently released this video of Abulhawa's full speech. On request Susie has provided us with the text, we are publishing the last 17 minutes of her 43 minute presentation today. Here, the end is it broken down into 3 segments for those of you who may not take the time to listen in full.






A warning, be prepared. By the time she voiced "We are counting on the America that fought and killed pieces of itself to free an enslaved race.", I was in tears and I just listened to it again for the fifth time and it breaks me still.






Especially for students of the conflict this speech is a keeper (check the notes below). If you do not have time to listen today, save it. From start to finish..a keeper. We will be publishing further segments in the future for further discussion.






26:30






This process of destroying people to extricate them from their roots, does have an unfortunate precedent in history to which Israeli leaders have often eluded, betraying what I believe is their vision for a final outcome to this conflict.






I recalled one such statement from Benjamin Netanyahu – I couldn’t find it initially, but my friend Nima Shirazi helped me locate the actual quote. It was from a CNN interview in which Netanyahu described the United States affinity for Israel as “instinctive”, claiming that “America was the new promised land, we are the original Promised Land”.






I was struck by that when I first heard it because it confirmed what I’ve always suspected: that the project of stealing Palestine and getting rid of Palestinians is very much modeled after our own colonial past here in America, that all but obliterated the native American population. European settlers would sign agreements and treaties with native tribes.






Then, when it was convenient, settlers would break those agreements and take more territory, pushing Native Americans further off their land.






Settlers would systematically destroy their livelihoods and means of sustenance, like the mass extermination of the buffalo.






When Native Americans fought back, and sometimes they did so brutally, they were called savages. And for daring to resist the destruction of their societies, whole tribes were massacred, marched off their lands in death trails to prisons called reservations.






Today,






********






one agreement after another has been signed and broken by Israel, as they take more and more territory on a daily basis. Palestinian farms, trees and other means of livelihood are systematically destroyed. Palestinians are labeled terrorists as native Americans were “savages”.






For daring to resist or to vote the wrong way, Palestinians are met with wholesale slaughter, destruction and theft of their properties, and herded into open-air prisons called Gaza and Areas A,B and C, and refugee camps.






Even the earliest Zionists clearly had their eyes set on the plight of Native Americans as a model to follow.






************






(29:00)






Going back again to Ze’ev Jabotinsky: he recognized the indigenousness of Palestinians to the Holy Land when he stated in 1923 that “They [Palestinians] look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true favor the Aztecs looked upon Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie. Palestine will remain for the Palestinians not a borderland, but their birthplace, the center and basis of their own national existence." (Righteous Victims, p. 36)






But we are not living in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries, and Palestinians are not outnumbered to exist as a small minority in their own country. There are too many of us to ignore, to break, ignorize, subjugate, or imprison.






And so the institutional racism and the apparatus of occupation, are today more similar to the conditions of Apartheid South Africa than that of the Native American plight.






***************






Just like the Apartheid government considered and treated the native Black population as lesser beings, so does Israel consider Palestinians as such. Israeli leaders in the highest offices have referred to us as everything from grasshoppers, cockroaches, to beasts on two legs.






• You know, 98.7% of Palestinian children in Gaza alone suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with 61.5% having severe or very severe symptoms associated with exposure with Israeli bombing.






Maybe that’s what Yitzak Rabin meant when he vowed that "We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters"


Rabin's description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet. Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion's special adviser on Arab Affairs, 1960. From "The Arabs in Israel" by Sabri Jiryas.






One of Israel’s leading historians, a so-called intellectual, Benny Morris, had this to say:






"Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another."






Where have we heard or read about such things before?






There is something humiliating in perpetually having to prove that we are human. To prove that we exist. That our grandparents who died dreaming of their homes and olive groves in Lydda, Haifa, Ein Hod, Jerusalem, that they were real and so was their pain and anguish.






But I will say it nonetheless.






We are natives of that land. In every sense of that word. Historically, culturally, legally and even genetically.






But more importantly, We are not a lesser species that we should be treated thus. We are not children of a lesser God that we should be relegated to teeter and despair on the margins of humanity.






This monumental injustice, with all it’s cages, wholesale dehumanization of an entire people has not abated in well over 60 years. This dismissal, trivializing, and destruction of an entire ancient culture and heritage is not okay, even if it is nothing new in history.






And it is not, despite its many unique aspects. We’ve been here before in other times, in other places just in modern history.






We sang “We Shall Overcome”, and we refused to ride in the back of the bus.






We instituted boycotts and we marched in the streets with Martin Luther King.






We pumped our fists in the air to the anti-Apartheid slogan of “One Man One Vote” and when the camps were liberated, we vowed “Never Again.”






Never again will we sit idly by while one group of the people tries to annihilate another. Never again will we tolerate the ugly manifestations of notions of inherent racial, ethnic, or religious entitlement.






But here we are again. Again, a group of people is destroying another. Palestine and Palestinians are quite literally being wiped off the map. Take a look, the map – the land itself – provides irrefutable testimony to this fact.






(33:30)






Everything we have has been taken from us. We have lived the past six decades years going from one trauma to another.






One tragedy, one slaugher to another.






Our history, our heritage, our cemeteries, our mosques and churches, our lands and resources and ancient artifacts have been pillaged and appropriated. Even our story is being denied.






Again, it is all being done in the name of God. Again, the aggressors are claiming to possess divine favor. And again, the world has been sitting idly by. Or worse, cheering it on, as the President of this university has implied in her statements on this conferences.






World leaders have done little to stop it.






*************






We have a very large collection of UN resolutions. Grand words about justice and international law, that are hallow, bereft of voice or force.










So now we, like so many before us in other times, are refusing to sit by and do nothing. BDS is our non-violent response to this violence. It is a movement to give a voice to justice. It is a movement of ordinary people from all over the world who understand that we are on this earth to lift each other up.






**************






BDS is a minimal recognition of Palestinian humanity and our right to live with dignity in our own homeland.






Israel may be may be modeling it’s plan on America’s colonial past; But so are we modeling our struggle on America’s past.






Israel may be betting on the United State’s “instinctive” affinity for conquest; But we are betting on America’s “instinctive” affinity for fair play.






Israel is counting on the US that erased Native American presence and culture from the land. We are counting on the America that fought and killed pieces of itself to free an enslaved race.






Israel is counting on the American of Gingrich, Geller, Abrams, and their ilk who spew hatred and fear-mongering for political expediency and perpetual war. We are counting on the America that marched with Martin Luther King.






We’re counting on the America of Pulitzer prize author Alice Walker and Holocaust suvivor Hedy Epstein, and so many like them around the world – like Peace Nobel Laureate Miread McGuire of Ireland – who risk so much, including their lives to amplify the voice of justice for Palestinians






We are counting on a world that produced young men and women like Rachel Corrie, Vittorio Arrigoni, and Tom Hurndall, who paid the ultimate price trying to bring this horror to an end.






************






We are counting on Israelis of conscience, who refused to be oppressors, and who are breaking the silence on the crimes they witnessed or crimes they committed against Palestinians






We are counting on ourselves, on the indominable human will to wait and fight and struggle for freedom and justice no matter how long it takes






We are counting on the America in this room. Indeed, we are counting on a world filled with people like those in this room.






BDS is counting on people of the world who understand that God is not a vengeful deity who plays favorites with her children. We’re counting on people of the world who affirm, unequivocally, that it is not okay to measure the worthiness of a human being by his or her religion.






BDS is engaging this part of humanity, which I believe represents the greatest majority of people.






Because our greatest and most unstoppable power lies in our roots and the moral authority of a struggle for freedom and human rights. Because while the concepts of justice and fair play matter little to those in power, they resonate with masses.






As such, because justice and fair play are central demands of BDS, this movement is shifting power from the corrupt ruling elite to the masses by pulling back the veil so people can see what is happening before their eyes.






And that’s scary to Israel and Israeli apologists. Because Israel cannot sell notions of religious exclusivity and entitlement to informed masses. They can’t convince an informed people of the merits of walls, fences, sieges, checkpoints, theft, demolitions, destruction, and Jewish-only this or Jewish-only that.






That’s why they tried to shut this conference down. That is why they have gone into overdrive publishing lies to smear the speakers and participants in this conference.






But BDS is bigger than that because it affirms our common humanity no matter where or what we come from. While it is true that Palestinians don’t anywhere near Israel’s clout among the ruling elite of powerful nations, or major US universities, we are far from being powerless.






In fact, we are unrivaled in our power on the ground level internationally. The Palestinian struggle for freedom is the longest running and best known around the world.






**********






Referring to the liberation of Black South Africans, Nelson Mandela once said “We know all too well, that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”






BDS will only grow and grow, because now is our time.






It is our time to say that only free people can negotiate. It is our time to say that “our freedom is non-negotiable and human rights are non-negotiable”. It’s our time to take our seat on the bus and refuse to get up at another’s command. It’s our time to boycott. To divest. To proudly link arms together as Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindu, Athiests, Buddisht, gay, straight, Black, White and everything in between, in solidarity and in a march to freedom.






And to remember the solidarity shown to us, as our beloved Edward Said once said.






The lines of this conflict do not fall along religious divides. The lines of this conflict are even laid between Palestinians and Israelis because we recognize the sector of Israeli society that stands with us. The lines of this struggle are drawn simply between those who adhere to notions of exclusivity and state-sanctioned entitlement for particular groups and those who believe in equality in the eyes of the law of the state






It is between those who believe in inherent superiority and those who believe in the universality of human dignity






And so, with that in mind, I call on Israelis to abandon the path of violence and terrorism that you have employed against us for over six decades now.






I invite you to abandon the notions of inherent superiority and entitlement. Because you will never find peace nor security by annihilating us.






Because you will never break us, and your only hope is to break bread with us equals. Because despite what you have done to us, to our society, to our children, we can accept you as our equals, but never as our masters in our own land.






BDS is an opportunity for our Jewish brothers and sisters to reclaim Judaism from the grips of a racist military and apartheid political regime. It is a chance to be guided by the noble traditions of Judaism that have historically pursued liberation and justice, instead of pursuing power and domination over others.






To the University of Pennsylvania and universities everywhere, I invite you to act on the principles of equality, human rights, and international law. To take a definitive stand now instead of waiting to be a “me too” university that joins BDS only after others had the courage to take a moral stand first, however inconvenient it might be; because taking a moral stand when it’s unpopular to do so is the time when it really counts.






BDS is firmly rooted on moral ground and its demands reflect the most basic tenets of international law and universal human rights.






Just as the anti-Apartheid boycott movement brought to its knees a system that judged human worth by skin color. And so will this movement bring to its knees another system that judges human worth by religion.






Our demands for freedom and basic human rights are NOT POLITICAL BARGAINING CHIPS. They are self-evident truths that we should pursue without apology, without negotiations, without compromise, and without fear.






We are a proud people indigenous to the Holy Land, who have the capacity to forgive should Israel choose to atone for the sins it has committed against us. But whether they do or not, we aren’t going anywhere. We will continue wait and continue to struggle until justice is restored. And we will continue to dream and imagine a more gentle and human place – one that is inclusive and pluralistic, as Palestine used to be. One where a person is judged by the content of his or her character, not religion.






Thank you.






Susie ended her email to me with this final paragraph:






"I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world. I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports...." Rachel Corrie’s last words to her mother.










NOTES






• Section of 5 in the Law of Political Parties and section 7A of the Basic Law: Stipulates that any party platform that calls for full and complete equality between Jews and non-Jews, can be disqualified from any political post. The law demands that Palestinian Arab citizens may not challenge the state's Zionist identity.






• Law of Return: “Every Jew has the right to become a citizen no matter where they come from” while the indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants who were expelled in 1948 are expressly barred from returning to their homes






• Nakba Law: Penalizes any institution that commemorates or publicly mourns the expulsion of the native Palestinian population






• Anti-boycott law: Provides anyone calling for the boycott of Israel, or it’s illegal settlements, can be sued by the boycott's targets without having to prove that they sustained damage. The court will then decide how much compensation is to be paid.






• Admission Committees Law formally allows neighborhood screening committees to prevent non-Jewish citizens from living in Jewish communities that control 81 percent of the territory in Israel. In March 2011 Israel passed a law to allow residents of Jewish towns to refuse non Jews from living in their communities.






• Amendment to the Citizenship Law: Stipulates that an Israeli citizen who marries a Palestinian cannot live as a couple in Israel with his or her spouse. A Palestinian spouse can neither gain citizenship nor residency.






• 93% of the land, the vast majority of which was confiscated from Palestinian owners after 1948, can only be owned by Jewish agencies for the benefit of Jews only. One of these agencies is the Jewish National Fund, which, in its charter forbids sale or lease to non-Jews.






• Specified Goods Tax and Luxury Tax Law [art 26, Laws of the State of Israel, vol. 6, p. 150 (1952)] Authorizes lower import taxes for Jewish citizens of Israel compared with non-Jewish citizens of Israel.






• National Planning and Building Law (1965) Through various zoning laws freezes the growth of existing Arab villages while providing for the expansion Jewish settlements and creation of new ones. The law also re-classifies a large portion of established Arab villages as "unrecognized” and therefore nonexistent, allowing the state to cut off water and electricity as well as to simply appropriate that property.






• Appropriations are carried out under The Requisitions Law which allows a “competent authority” to requisition the land – called “land requisition order” – so that only he may “use and exploit the land” as he sees fit. This applies to “home requisition orders” as well, whereby another “competent authority” who can “order the occupier of a house to surrender the house to the control of a person specified in the order, for residential purposes or for any other use, as may be prescribed in the order. “






• In the education sector within Israel, as an example, the state spends $192 per year per non-Jewish student compared to $1,100 per Jewish student.






• There is a planned Mosque Law that will prohibit the broadcasting of the Muslim call to prayer, which has been sounding over that land since the beginning of Islam.






• Non-Jews living in the West Bank are denied access to the holy places of Jerusalem, which are only a few kilometers away from them.






• ALSO, for the first time in the history of Islam and the history of Christianity, Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank and Gaza are denied access to their holy Places of Jerusalem, even on the high holy days of Eid, Christmas, and Easter Sunday.






• Since Israel took the West Bank, the Christian population has declined from 20,000 in 1967 to less than 7500 today.






• Military Order 1229: authorizes Israel to hold Palestinians in administrative detention for up to six months without charge or trial. Six-month detentions can be renewed indefinitely, without charge or trial.






• Military Order 329 and 1650 effectively prevents Palestinians from being anywhere in the West Bank without a specific permit to be there, making it a criminal offense to go from one Palestinian town to another.






• Military Oder #92 and #158: gives the Israeli military control of all water resources in the West Bank, which belongs to Palestinians.






• Israel then allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, while unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies creating a reality of green lawns and swimming pools for Jewish settlers and a parched life for Palestinians, whose access to water, according to the World Health Organization does not meet the minimum requirements for basic human water needs.






• Furthermore, that fraction of confiscated Palestinian water is sold to Palestinians at 300% more than what it costs Jewish settlers in the same area. ($1.20/cubic meter vs $.40/cubic meter).






• Military Orders #811 and #847: Allows Jews to purchase land from unwilling Palestinian sellers by using “power of attorney”.






• Military Order #25: forbids public inspection of land transactions.






• Militar Order #998: requires Palestinians to get Israeli military permission to make a withdrawal from their bank account.






• Military Order #128: gives the Israeli military the right to take over any Palestinian business which is not open during regular business hours.






• Military Order #138 & #134: forbids Palestinians from operating tractors or other heavy farm machinery on their land.






• Military Order #93: gives all Palestinian insurance businesses to the Israeli Insurance Syndicate.






• Military Order # 1015: requires Palestinians to get Israeli military permission to plant and grow fruit trees. This permit expires every year.






• Through various military orders, according to the WHO, Israel has uprooted 2.5 million trees belonging to Palestinians, and which often represent their only means of sustenance.






And here are the numbers that scare me and break my heart the most. These are the cold prose of statistics pertaining to Palestinian children, that reflect the systematic destruction of Palestinian society:






• (UNICEF): “Conditions have rarely been worse for Palestinian children.” One in 10 Palestinian children now suffer from stunted growth due to compromised health, poor diet and nutrition and 50% of Palestinian children are anemic, and 75% of those under 5 suffer from vitamin A deficiency.






• Palestinian children are routinely imprisoned for months and years for throwing stones at Israeli jeeps, tanks, and soldiers. Many of them, as young as 12 years old, are tortured and held in solitary confinement.






• Meanwhile, for bludgeoning a 10 year old Palestinian boy (Hilmi Shusha) to death with the butt of his riffle, an Israeli settler received community service and a fine.






• A Palestinian man was convicted of rape and sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for having consensual sex with a Jewish woman, because he did not disabuse her of her assumption that he was Jewish






* These are Abulhawa's notes and they are not an exact transcript.



Susan Abulhawa PennBDS Opening from PennBDS on Vimeo.